March 29, 2007


You're a single dude. The NYT wants to do an interview with you about dating. They've brought a photographer.

You may think, "Cool! I'm gonna be in the paper. I'm finally gonna make good time with the ladies."

Sadly, however, the correct response is to resign yourself to a life of celibacy. The Old Gray Lady has decided that your humiliation is needed to sell papers, so you may as well use yesterday's Style section to wrap up your penis and ship it off to midtown Manhattan.

Better yet, use the Circuits section you wonky, unfuckable geek.

Exhibit A
: Tom Ryan of Denver interviews with the NYT for an article about modern-day marriage. The article appears under the headline "Facing Middle Age With No Degree, and No Wife." It features a picture of him strumming away on his lonesome guitar followed by the caption:

"Tom Ryan used to share a home outside Denver with a girlfriend but now lives alone, enjoying the ability to keep the house as he pleases. That includes a hat rack covered with dozens of commemorative baseball caps.
Can I get you a box of tissues and some hand lotion, Mr. Ryan?

Exhibit B: Bob Strauss writes dating advice for He agrees to appear in a story about how women respond to the apartments of potential mates. His picture appears in today's Home & Garden section with a red REJECTED stamp emblazoned across his belly.

What's more he's holding a stuffed baby seal that's sporting a studded leather collar. The caption explains: "Bob Strauss refuses to 'blandify' his apartment by getting rid of his stuffed baby seal, even though it puts some women off." D'you think, Bob? Do you have to be a professional advice columnist to know that some women aren't into "baby animal taxidermy"/"fetish gear" mashups?

As if the photo weren't enough, the article goes on to state that the baby seal "is displayed along with Mr. Strauss’s South Park and Sonic the Hedgehog figurines and Lego collection."

Well played, New York Times. I think you've succeeded in making sure that even internet porn will turn down sex with Bob Strauss.

March 27, 2007

Music Supervision

Spoilers: this post talks about the Season 3 finale of BSG and Jason Sutter's wrinkly bits.

So, yeah. They need to finish this whole series up. Not that it's completely unenjoyable - in fact, there were a number of solid moments last night. But at this point it wouldn't be surprising to find out the whole thing is some Matrix-like simulated reality.

And, increasingly, they're making some questionable artistic choices.

Regarding the finale, I actually started shouting 'No' at the screen when Tigh muttered "Said the joker to the thief." The idea that the Final Five Cylons are picking up on transmissions from modern-day Earth is a perfectly serviceable sci-fi concept. I just can't believe they went with such a hokey, overused song.

Heather Havrilesky's reaction in Salon is pretty accurate:

"Oh my God! My stoner boyfriend from high school wrote the season finale of 'Battlestar Galactica'! Why did Ronald D. Moore take a break and hand over responsibility for the finale to a guy who spent most of his time doing shots of Bacardi 151 Rum and noodling Hendrix on his guitar? Was that wise, really?"
No, it wasn't wise. By using this hackneyed tune, it makes the underlying concept seem weak ... which is a shame. Just as a for instance, what if that scene had been written like this:
Chief: I can’t seem to face up to the facts.
Tigh: I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax.
Anders: I can’t sleep because my bed’s on fire.
Tory: Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire.
It works better on basically every level.

Obviously, I'm picking on one detail. But this was the sort of thing that used to just work in BSG. Starbuck returns to her apartment, turns on the radio and Philip Glass pours out. Or, you know, the first time Apollo defied his father and renounced his military obligations.

At this point, I think we're either revisiting old territory (cancer!) or paying off new story arcs in a hacky way (Starbuck lives!). Time to wrap it up.

(Regarding Sutter's balls: Like BSG this season, I hinted at a compelling story arc but failed to deliver. Unsatisfying, isn't it.)

March 24, 2007

Making it Up

Salon has an interview with BSG creator, Ron Moore. There are a couple questions they ask him that I find interesting.

First, they ask about the difficulty in keeping an audience for a serialized drama. How can you pick up new viewers when it's essentially impossible for someone to start watching from the middle.

When asked how they deal with this challenge on BSG, Moore says "I don't. It's a genuine problem I have no solution for ... It's certainly not something [the network is] in love with." And he goes on to say "We've done a few stand-alone episodes here and there, and they're almost never very successful."

True that.

Second, they ask about how planned out the season arcs are and how much is changed on the fly. While the major story arcs are planned "as you do it you find that there's this other more interesting path." When asked for an example of something that resulted from this organic approach, he says "In this season's finale, I decided on the fly to give Laura her cancer back."

Boo! Just slapping someone with the cancer stick at the last minute is some weak-ass soap opera bullshit.

But more importantly, HBO's The Wire has shown there's a better way to deal with serialized drama. You treat the whole season as a single piece and tell one, 12-hour story. No one gets cancer at the last minute and you don't have stand alone episodes.

Yes, this is probably only sustainable for the shorter seasons that premium TV allows. But I'd be so much more happy with BSG if they'd kept to the momentum they had back at the end of season 1/beginning of season 2.

In short, the way in which to make serialized drama work is to not treat it as a serial. Consider the whole thing long-form fiction and make a complete (if slightly shorter) story out of a single season.

March 22, 2007

Dumb spam

Top story on Digg states "75 per cent of Google's blogspot blogs are spam."

The dugg story is a post from reporting on a post on WebMasterWorld reporting on a wire story on Yahoo! News reporting on joint project from Microsoft Research/UC-Davis to study web spam.

Unsurprisingly, some details got lost in translation ... literally, I think, as I'm gonna give the infoniac poster the benefit of the doubt and assume that no native English speaker would write "what would happen if certain World Wide Web structures, among which Google, Yahoo and other search engines, didn't fight spam?"

In any case, it turns out that the study didn't look at all URLs and count the spam. They took a bunch of commercial keywords like "prescription drugs" or "cheap tickets" and looked at the percentage of sites that were spam for specific domains. It's not terribly surprising that a high percentage of spammy sites would be found.

But that's far different than saying 75% of all sites are spam.

Update: As Kevin points out in a comment, what the study actually found was that 75% of blogs likely to be spam actually were spam.

March 21, 2007


In which I finally disgust Jason Sutter so much that he refuses to talk to me (took 12 years):

March 19, 2007


I worked with Lorna and Michael at the Googs and thought they were a swell bunch of kids.

This past weekend they were all ready to purchase a new car but had to put the kabosh on the whole plan at the very last minute. The dealership has a policy of collecting and keeping buyer thumbprints for a period of 7 years and Lorna and Michael weren't willing to go along with that.

I'm sitting here wearing my EFF t-shirt and even though I know that this policy is totally ridiculous, I'm 75% sure I would have gone along with it. I've got a lot of respect for Mike and Lorna's willingness to walkaway when it didn't feel right.

Chow time

Except for the allegation that the US Attorney firings were somehow connected to voter fraud investigations, that whole controversy strikes me as one of the least sensational Bush administration scandals.

(Anyone remember when our man in Iraq, Ahmed "You may remember me from such films as: The State of Union 2004" Chalabi got arrested under suspicion of working with the Iranians? Good times.)

But is it really surprising that they'd fire political appointees who didn't agree with administration policy mandates? For crissakes, these are the people that outed a covert agent because they were pissed at her dude.

But given that Congress can't seem to keep us from working on Operation: Tehran, I'm cool with whatever trophies they're able to bring home these days. So the other side gets the perpetual war, amendments I, IV thru VIII, the tax cuts and the personal blessing of God's only begotten son ... we (probably) get the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. Seems fair.

There are other consolation prizes. Like this gem from the White House press briefing last week:

Mr. Snow:Loyalty to the President means doing your job and faithfully carrying out the priorities of the administration. I think I laid it out, when you're talking about U.S. attorneys, that means following the priorities within the Department of Justice; it means doing your job -- doing it faithfully, all.

Q: How about the oath to office?

Mr. Snow: We believe in that, too. Chow time. (Laughter.)
Man's gotta eat.

March 14, 2007

Bigger in Texas

Tony Pierce did a video interview with some of us Twitter folk down at SxSW. Here's a taste of the sloppy, late night life in Austin:

March 09, 2007

Soul Stoned

Eddie Van Halen is using dark magicks to unnaturally prolong his life.

March 07, 2007

Move the chains

The folks behind Battlestar Galactica have long been trying out some smart stuff in terms of engaging their audience via the web. For example, the director's commentary podcast for each episode (I listened to a bunch of them, but gave up at some point). Also, the pre-season three webisodes (great idea, turned out they weren't that compelling).

I'm pretty excited about their latest venture, the Videomaker Toolkit. They've released a whole bunch of digital assets (video clips, audio, graphics) and have encouraged folks to make 4 minute battlestar videos of their very own.

I love this. Television and movies have long been these monolithic forms of media that are only meant for the masses to receive, not participate in. Battlestar know which side its dorky bread is buttered on and is putting some of its IP in the hands of the fans. Hot.

My quick read of the TOS suggests they've got the right idea in that they stress that the fan-creators retain ownership over the videos they create ... altho' you grant SciFi the right to make money off of what you produce.

The only truly bonehead move is that they don't want you posting your video on YouTube. Given that you're obliged to include a promo clip at the end of your video (which seems reasonable to me) why wouldn't SciFi want these videos distributed as widely as possible. What benefit do they get by keeping them all on where, I'm guessing, approximately 95% of visitors are already fans of their flagship show.

But still, progress. It's only a matter of time until Baltar starts blogging.

March 06, 2007

Good times

This whole blog customization thing is a total hoot. Big kudos to the folks at Blogger for helping me in my transition off the old version. I paid for my service with links to naked Harry Potter photos. Which, in retrospect, may not have been professional.