Mininova, Jodie Sweetin, Canadian Please, Degrassi High.

Posted in Personal, Uncategorized on November 30th, 2009 by byronkho

Mininova died, following the court order to take copyrighted material down. This actually covered 20% of the torrents on there, but I guess rather than continue the fight, they just upped and died. Oh well. Another behemoth gone, and tons of tiny guys to take up the slack. As long as the scene is still around to get the stuff I wouldn’t otherwise buy…

I love Pixie Lott’s new single Cry Me Out. The video is nice – black and white – but man, can’t get that song outta my head. Wonder if she’s as good live? Who knows. She kinda looks like Miranda Raison from Spooks with her hair up and the excessive mascara.

Jodie Sweetin got a boob job… haha. Good to see my favorite Tanner still around! Even though she’s still on and off booze, meth, and clearly high on something in that video. She married then divorced some dude that looked so much older than her. What was she thinking?

Canadian, please. I dunno what these two do as a career, but they clearly have a lotta fun doing it. Their other songs show they’re a) having fun, b) have some music and video skills and c) are really good friends. Plus, from some of the other videos he has up, Andrew clearly has some other really hot friends. Though looks like Julia is the most talented otherwise. They could work a little on the writing on some of their other songs – the lyrics are kinda vapid, and they could use some more work on the music production side. They have all the equipment they need (sound quality and mixing turned out pretty well) so it’s really just a matter of getting a producer to clean it up and maybe add a little more bounce. STILL being a Canadian (blame the US government for making it excessively hard for me to become a citizen), I have pride in all the other Canadians that get out there and do some quality work. Give these guys a little more money and time, and they could do some good stuff! Note to self: find these two and get them to make content for us. And get her phone number.

Just watched Pandorum. Different from what I thought it would be, and actually not bad. Even if somewhat archetypal and stereotypical with some of the setup, it still was a thinking movie. Though I hate the rule of thumb that the minority always dies, no matter how much they do to prop up the safety of the other characters. Noble sacrifice indeed… the Vietnamese dude was killed by a mutant kid. Who says you shouldn’t kill murderous freak children? If their parents have eaten all your compatriots, then you probably should have a heart of stone if you don’t wanna be food.

Ever watch Degrassi? Another Canadian production. Its offspring show airs on MTV in the States. To make fun of it, this clip pretty much covered the crazy shit that is Degrassi. Pretty high production values, and Kristin Findley, yeah. Cutty Emma and Mandy! The dudes have really styled hair. That’s sort of hmm… gay. Both productions are funner shows than My So-Called Life, which kinda tries the same thing in a much different way.

The real Degrassi.

Back from Toronto!

Posted in Personal, Uncategorized on November 29th, 2009 by byronkho

Exhausted. Just returned from Toronto… pigout time for realz! Real Cantonese dimsum and all you can eat hotpot, plus 4 Harvey’s burgers… and lots and lots of Sour Cherry Blasters, and bags of Ketchup, Dill Pickle and All Dressed chips! I really hate how ketchup and dill pickle are only limited edition releases and then they disappear from the shelves basically forever around here. I sometimes have huge cravings and can’t get them – and nothing tastes the same as my Hostess Ketchup, or my Ruffles All Dressed… these companies sell down here but can’t be bothered to sell in the US, where there’s a huge customer base that can get used to the new flavors? Sigh.

UK Acts

Posted in Uncategorized on November 25th, 2009 by byronkho

Goin thru the current top 40 from the UK… Pixie Lott, ladies and gentlemen. Her voice is fine, but the songs that she does are so cookie cutter. She’s writing songs for all the talent show winners, and I’m sure it’s exactly the same vibe – here’s the new Pussycat Dolls, Esmee Denters, blah blah… good enough singers but made so, SO bland. If I want my girlpop, I’ll always have my All Saints. (Well, this song isn’t too bad.) Ke$ha is pretty good, I guess. Club act, whatever… though I hate when the producers use Autotune unnecessarily. Her voice doesn’t suck such that they have to put so much of it in. Damn man. X Factor is such a bad influence… Alex Burke and JLS, bleh.

We need more US artists like N-Dubz… they got the right MC voices plus catchy hip-hop beats, a hottie for the more melodic vocals, and of course the weird weird style. Dappy wears those ridiculous hats in like every video I’ve seen him in, and really what’s it doin in a ghetto fab video? Should hear them live though, they’re awesome. You don’t know how many US hiphops acts I’ve seen live, who have like no skillz… can’t sing, their rapping is subpar, their rhymes tired and the “fun” entirely dependent on turning up the bass every time the crowd gets bored. Kidz in the Hall might have been the worst one (besides, their name is stolen from an awesome Canadian comedy show… which has no connection to them in any degree). And their Uncle B is another “Byron”. Holla.

Company post-mortem, Rest of the Year, Hallelujah, Lindsay Davis.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23rd, 2009 by byronkho

Post-mortem today for Company. A lot of good comments from people, and a few more or less naive ones. Especially the too many runs thing… I am a fan of doing less runs and replacing it with “finding more spontaneous moments” practice, but not giving days off. I am lazy and would probably rather be sitting around, but in an artistic sense, I know it’s not a good idea – especially in a production schedule of 2 months or less. It’s tough to keep doing the same thing every day and to continue to make it interesting… but that’s the nature of the beast. If these students move to professional theater, the tedium of a 2-3 month show run (instead of 3 days) will be a major issue. If you can’t handle a week’s worth of runs, you’ll be miserable becoming an actor. Student theater is where you try to approximate as much as you can a professional setting, and finding out what it’s like so you can decide whether or not a career in theatre is for you.

After Thanksgiving, lots of stuff planned. A beer tour of the Philly suburban breweries, seeing Hal Prince speak, hearing Amy Regan play at Fergie’s, MT’s bday, Tria with the artistes, chill-out with the of-agers at Dock Street, and hopefully a concert or two before heading off to the Netherlands. Speaking of Thanksgiving, I’ll be leaving in 2 days for Toronto, where I can enjoy some great Chinese food. I’ve been jonesing for some good yam-cha for a while now… Speaking of Amy Regan, I just randomly found her music on AmieSt (which I also just found). Pretty cheap to get newcomer tracks… $1 for 6 songs? Nice. A crapload of free stuff which I’ll listen to later, hopefully they’re good. Anyway, just thought I’d mention that Everybody Needs Somewhere to Go is pretty freakin amazing, as is Some Kind of Blues. That’s probably because I do like my folksy bluesy pop. It’s a weird category with lots of strange quasi-suicidal sad-eyed female singer-songwriters… Tori Amos, Chantal Kreviazuk, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Priscilla Ahn, etc. Regan’s just starting her career, and to me, it’s kinda cool watching somebody devote their twenties to building a career as a musician. Such a hard road, and so few make it. And of course, they’re a dime a dozen in New York, where it looks like she lives. Random sidenote: man, the prevalence of awesome musicians and live gigs around NY is for me the only good reason to move down there.

I keep listening to Alexandra Burke’s cover of Hallelujah… it’s kind of a sellout version since they add all this over-production stuff and of course, it’s a talent show winner doing it. It’s more like an Amy Grant Christmas special for the middle third… I just like her voice doing it, but I could do without the dramatic Muzak super inspirational re-arrangement. I don’t like Rufus Wainright’s version of it, but I do like John Cale’s cover, Leonard Cohen’s original (which sounds way different from all the subsequent covers) and the definitive Jeff Buckley version (who died, rather tragically, in a drowning… he always looked the sort to go out early, and he did). After trolling through YouTube, I found a crapload more covers, some of which are not too bad: Chris Cole, Stan Walker (though it did start really weird), Kate Voegele, Allison Burke. Paramore’s special intro to their own Hallelujah is pretty nice, though the concert I heard it at first was better sounding (that concert hadn’t been uploaded by anybody) – though of course, that’s reliant on an audience that can sing and better recording quality at an outdoor concert from a handheld camera, which is kind of impossible. It’s also kind of cool introducing such an old classic to a new generation without it being an exact cover. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Vitamin String Quartet: Wonderwall, Mr. Brightside, Stairway to Heaven and Paramore’s Hallelujah again. They do string quartet covers of popular songs, and though I think they’re kinda tool-y for doing what they’re doing, I like listening to it anyway. I feel like they’re doing it because it’s easy and there’s no competition in the niche, and sometimes the numbers could just be run through a computer… they don’t really have to be live recorded versions!

Reading some more Lindsey Davis. Love her books… she wisecracks with a continually developing set of characters through a HUGE number of books. Amazed she can keep going with the same set this long without getting bone tired of them. Oh well, I’m fine with reading everything she puts out as long as she keeps doing so. It’s a convergence of my two favorite book fields, historical fiction and mysteries. I especially like Roman Empire historical fiction, though I’m no stranger to Victorian gothics, Medieval capers and Eastern Bloc/WWII political dramas (which easily blend into spy fiction).

Crazy for you.

Black and Gold, Katy Perry style

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22nd, 2009 by byronkho

An unrelated cover: Katy Perry, “Black and Gold” by Sam Sparro. She hawt.

DNA, BBC, Youtubing While At Work (YWAW)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22nd, 2009 by byronkho

Law enforcement goin for a shakeup: DNA evidence can be faked. So youc an fake DNA evidence and can get somebody wrongfully convicted. However, the company says that their new tests can tell the diff between real and faked DNA… if every single criminal locked up on DNA evidence alone files for appeal or wrongful conviction based on this material, the company could make tons of money from having to run their test on all those cases. That’s a lot of dough. Sucks for the DA’s office.

I love the BBC. Later with Jools Holland, and then Live Lounge. If we had a nationally respected and syndicated shows in the US that serves the exact same function… and sucks that scandal that got Jo Whiley off the air! Now there’s somebody new taking over the slot. It could also be the fact that she’s 44 and the new host is 27… well, there’s a reason to not like the BBC, but I can get over that.

Paramore, “Ignorance”. How to be a fan when all the other fans are Twilight preteens… hmm.

Lily Allen, “Naive” by the Kooks. I thought this was hers at first, but nice. Found “new” song by the Kooks.

Newton Faulkner, “Foundations” by Kate Nash. Love the quirky original, but this dude does a good job.

Sam Sparro, “American Boy” by Estelle. Of course, this version is super-gay (as intended). But funky nevertheless!

McFly, “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. Love Katy, but this version hits the spot.

The Noisettes, “When You Were Young” by the Killers. Strange remake, but works.

N-Dubz, “About You/With You” by Sugababes/Chris Brown. These guys are great live.

Natasha Bedingfield, “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane. I like Keane’s sound but I like the accompaniment for this. Piano. Hot. (Bedingfield too!)

Leona Lewis, “Run” by Snow Patrol. Same vein.

Pendulum, “Violet Hill” by Coldplay. NICE. I should probably try and listen to some other Pendulum stuff.

La Roux, “Bulletproof”. Her voice is hard to replicate.

Daniel Merriweather, “In For the Kill” by La Roux. Love this song, I like the piano (again) and the extra chording put in. Brr.

Dizzee Rascal, “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings. When whatsherface was in love with Dizzee while we were mates at the Video store, I didn’t get it. I thought she was being too cool for skool. And then I got it.

Autotune, Ninja Assassin, Curtains.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20th, 2009 by byronkho

Off The Beat’s Lollipop is such cheating. It’s entertaining, yes, but somehow it’s no longer a cappella. Because of their popularity and subsequent fundraising ability, they have too much money to spend on high production values, drum machines, voice filtering and autotune for their recordings. Drum machines are somehow a betrayal of a cappella, as is AutoTune. Of course, AutoTuns is doing the Lil Wayne song like Lil Wayne does it… but that begs the question, are you covering the song, or doing an exact remake? As far as I can tell, the track is a remake in all ways except for not having Lil Wayne perform it. If they use AutoTune on any other track, shame on them. Nuff said.

Saw a screening of Ninja Assassin yesterday. Movie execs want you to see advance screenings and then post positive, glowing reviews that drive people to see the movie when it finally comes out. So are they going to get that from me? Hell yes. I can actually see how downloading it and watching it at home would have subtracted from the movie experience. Simple enough story, but the exposition was done well enough that it wasn’t painful. Most ninja movies come out bad. This one had some top-notch backing so they had lots of money to pay for nicely choreographed and CGId fight scenes, including one on a highway. A little ludicrous that ninjas would get that desperate, but I guess if they’re losing their cover…

Tonight (well, actually writing the day after), saw a pretty good production of Curtains. Pretty good Singers’ productions… I’ve seen some terrible shows over the years. This one was supposedly a gigantic “hot” mess but cleaned itself up Wednesday. If that’s true, then kudos…. Whoever lost his/her temper and gave the “clean this shit up already” speech should be given a pat on the back and a pay raise. Cassidy was wonderful (always in those fancy gowns… typecast as the ingenue a lot?), as was the lieutenant and his approaching-Boston accent. Veronica Decker was great, and I think I’d like to see more of her. Everybody else did solidly competent jobs and the singing and pit was quality. Nice job, Anastasia. She had bitched about it for weeks and she pointedly told me to go drunk, which I did, and fortunately for them, I didn’t actually need to be. It was fine. Rivera was the straightest I’ve ever seen him (and I’ve seen him far too many times in just underwear), and HALF my cast was in this show. Stupid Singers, stealing my cast (or lucky us, from another perspective). Singers will be in trouble if Anastasia leaves, or if there are any more morale issues… hopefully putting on a good production will solve some of those so they can hold on till next year, when they can clear away the old and in with the new?

BING! And another milestone.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19th, 2009 by byronkho

Dudes attempt to pose on a beach in the Caribbean. Fail.

Cruise crew, minus Norvia.

Lok-ka from Glee Club asked me to consult on a project he was doing on Bing. I wrote him a reply, pasted below.

While we are not an advertiser, we utilize search marketing on behalf of advertisers. It is unlikely that Bing will overtake Google, even though Microsoft has deep pockets. Noting last quarter profits, Microsoft made more than double than Google. That money making ability has not bought it any traction in the search market… they weren’t able to merge or purchase (ie, failed bid at Yahoo) their way into the market, so they finaly sat down and built some new technology to compete with Google. Without looking at the technology, we can see from numbers that its reach is impressive thus far. It has almost 10% of the market, according to a Comscore report from yesterday. Its next highest competitor, Yahoo, is only 8 points higher and is losing traffic to Microsoft. As a contender, Microsoft can possibly overtake Yahoo.

What does this mean for advertisers? All advertisers care about is that their sales go up after investing in advertising. As a marketer for these advertisers, I care about being able to place the ads in front of as many people as possible in order for the probability and overall volume of sales driven by me to go as high as possible. Thus, we pay Google and Yahoo to place our ads/search results on their engines, and rely on the bid system to get as fair a market price as possible. While we shouldn’t compare to Google, we can compare to Yahoo which, again, is closest to Microsoft. We, and other search engine marketers, do a lot of business with Yahoo and make a lot of money from it. If an up and coming contender like Bing has volume approaching that of Yahoo, we can use that as a parallel for our possible earnings – probability dictates that we can earn a converse amount from Bing.

Now, online advertising is only possible if Bing continues to allow search advertisers to bid on advertising placement. If that part is ever removed or changed in certain ways, it can make Bing an unprofitable place to market. For example, look at Facebook. They recently disallowed certain kinds of mobile and certain kinds of health and financial offers from being advertised on Facebook. They have to cater to their own particular set of members, so it may have been in Facebook’s best interest to remove offers that would make Facebook seem like a low quality environment – but for those advertisers, Facebook suddenly became a pretty crap place to try and advertise. Policy changes like that on Bing would affect profitability. Bing is unlikely to limit in the same way that Facebook does, but you can compare to what Google already does. In China and in other countries that request such cooperation, Google doesn’t show certain search results that are politically sensitive or illegal, etc. Yahoo cooperates to an even higher degree. This, of course, limits profits, but it is a more practical alternative than being banned by the government of those countries.

Bing should work on building their search technologies further, and spend as much money on advertising as they can. They have tons of useful tools that Google doesn’t have. For example, stock quotes are not a Google property and so search results do not reflect what a stock investor wants to look for. Embarrassingly, Google has to go and display Yahoo’s Finance page as a search result for one to go delve into the right material. Instead, Bing immediately shows you the current quote plus other indices that an investor might look for after typing in the stock symbol into the search box. There are other things they can fight Google on, including stuff like celebrity indices (that’s a top search category), current headlines, translating services (into even tiny, odd languages), social network updates (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc.), references, etc. Bing HAS to build all these up and persuade users to try these services at least once, even if they have to incentivize people to do so. I use Google’s new language translator a lot, as it’s the only tool out there that works in all the languages I need it to. If there was something even minutely better, I’d switch.

What else can they do? As Microsoft has a lot of money, they can work on ad campaigns to chip away at Google’s “do no evil” mantra, much like they’ve done with Apple and their Too Cool for You image problems. They have to keep buying out smaller search engines, and most importantly, they have to make a concerted effort to buy up search marketing companies so they have a power base on the other side of the table as well. By leveraging their volume to other search engines like Yahoo and Google, they can start bending things their way. AOL has a lot of online leverage not because of their old ISP capabilities, but because they bought into online advertising early on, and they’ve rebuilt some of their presence by utilizing the volume of traffic towards better deals with the search engines and increased access to premium advertisers. The added advantage of learning the gameplay from the marketing side is that the parent company will then know how to compete… they can change their rates and methods to apply to what the marketers need most, and the advertisers may be more likely to work with Bing if they’re comfy with Microsoft’s marketing agencies having done well for them with other search engines.

In other news, my first 30-something last week. HOLLA.

Zynga and Facebook.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18th, 2009 by byronkho

Nancy and I at HOTPOT! DROOL!

Overseeing Company rehearsal!

This article has me peeved: Class-action lawsuit against Facebook and Zynga.

Essentially, the setup is this. To get in-game cash on one of the Facebook apps (which can be used to buy in-game content, like costumes for your character, or particular items), these game app designers utilize offers from outside advertisers. If User A does offer X, then advertiser A pays $Y for that lead… and a portion of $Y goes to pay for the in-game content, the rest being profit. This is how the Facebook apps monetize. The “problem” is that the offers the user is given the choice of doing tend to be mobile offers, in this case an IQ quiz. The IQ quiz makes you answer a few questions, and then register your mobile number to get your IQ results. This costs $9.99 and is auto-recurring monthly, two particular terms that are laid out on the IQ quiz landing page if you choose to read it. Which most people don’t. The issue with this lawsuit is that the Facebook app provider (Zynga in this case) and Facebook did not WARN people it would cost $9.99 on the Facebook end. EVEN THOUGH you have to leave Facebook and the app in order to do the offer (click on the link, and you go to a third-party site), and then the offer itself has the terms laid out there. So essentially, not only does Facebook and Zynga have to treat users like idiots and explain every single thing, but they also have to take responsibility for items on a third-party site (which happen to be within the bounds of the law and pretty clear). It’s like that McDonalds coffee lawsuit… now all the cups have to say WARNING: This Coffee is HOT. As if the coffee would be cold otherwise.

Since I am involved in affiliate marketing, I am a little biased on this issue. I deal with these offers all the time, and yes, sometimes thes advertiser fails to make the terms clear, or makes it impossible to find, or does something tricky like white text on a white background so that the user won’t notice it’s there. However, when the terms are clear as can be and only require you actually take the time to read it, that becomes the user’s fault. On the Internet, we have to have several assumptions about our users. First, we assume they’re not idiots and can read. (A side issue is whether all sites should have audio-enabled or Braille-enabled on certain computers, for blind people. But setting aside that issue…) Second, we assume that the users are of age. There’s only so far marketers can go to ensure that visitng users are over 13… are you 13 or older? Check this box to agree. Are you 18 or older? Click this link to proceed. Therefore, if you get to the mobile number entry page, we assume a) you can read and b) you’re old enough. Additionally, you need to submit a PIN to agree, so that ensures that the user owns the cellphone in question and therefore has agreed to all the terms. This is the process, and this is the area where users actually sign up for the recurring charge they supposedly may not have agreed to. So who is responsible if the person gets random charges? Of course the IQ Quiz provider. But who’s getting sued in this case? NOT the IQ Quiz provider. Did the class-action lawsuit allege they were in any way responsible? Hmm, no. If this was a fair lawsuit, then the IQ Quiz provider should be named as a co-defendant since they’re the ones that are actually directly responsible for the charge. Some people would mention that the Facebook app provides in-game cash so they’re responsible for something… well, the Facebook app gets informed by the advertiser’s systems that user A completed the offer, and thus they can go ahead and provide Reward Z to user A – so here too, it’s the advertiser (IQ Quiz provider) that is directly responsible for informing of lead completion. So why aren’t the advertisers being named?

It’s a perilous issue since there are many items in play. First of all, the FTC and attorney-generals of several states have proceeded against ringtone and other mobile content providers for the last decade for false or misleading advertising. That’s why all the current ringtone and mobile content pages in the US all have the disclaimers with warnings of cost and recurring, and why the word “free” is no longer banded around in relation to ringtones. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. So the lawsuit can’t actually hold the IQ Quiz provider responsible if they’re in line with current FTC statutes. Second, the mobile phone companies would prefer that these outside providers not exist so they could be directly responsible for all ringtone purchases and such. They can limit customer complaints, and not have to deal with reversing charges for stuff the content providers did that they’d have to keep tabs on. They haven’t been able to do that yet, but the day is coming – many mobile content providers have ahd to slowly limit their US operations to deal with enormous fees the mobile phone companies are leveraging on them or the regulatory issues forced on them by certain mobile phone companies. The point is, it wouldn’t do to muddy the waters by having mobile content providers held liable for stuff that the mobile phone companies would want to do for themselves later! Third, it comes down to personal responsibility, something that the class-action lawsuits have a hard time at managing. Mostly, I think these class-action lawsuits are just taking advantage of the law for easy bucks.

It is a given fact that a common trend in current US society is for people to have their hands held all the time, and sue at every opportunity to ensure somebody is always at fault except for me (the general me, not ME). This is a mindset that I generally do not like, as the original American ethic contains elements of individuality and personal responsibility. As a culture, we lose a lot if everyone is responsible but me (well, guess where we are!). Let’s blame credit card debt on the credit cards and advertisers…those sneaky enablers. What is advertising doing making me want those sneakers I can’t afford or that plasma TV that will bankrupt me?). Let’s blame our foreclosures and loan default on the mortgage salesmen who forced me to get a house I can’t afford. Let’s blame my getting cancer on those cigarette companies who made it seem so cool. Let’s blame McDonald’s for serving coffee so hot that I burned myself while driving with it in my lap. Yes, these people fooled you with their slick words and their mass appeal, but as a consumer, are you an idiot? Don’t you have a sense of personal judgment, and a lick of common sense? Shouldn’t you review your finances before making dumb purchases? Shouldn’t you know that hot food and drink is hot, so therefore, be careful? Why does somebody else have to be responsible if you’re an idiot? So this comes back to why do people need to be told explicitly that a mobile offer will cost them $9.99 on Facebook’s and the social application’s side, when all they need to do is click to the offer landing page and read it for themselves?

Well, if you did notice – there are certain other trial offers listed as part of the “scams”. Granted, these can be greasy as stated… the issue is usually not that they didn’t inform of the costs, but that it’s almost impossible to cancel. That, however, is also a matter for the advertiser of that particular product. FOr example, if I click on a Blockbuster ad on the New York Times website, and I get cheated by Blockbuster, do I sue or file customer complainst with the BBB against the New York Times for running the Blockbuster ad? No. I would sue Blockbuster, as they are DIRECTLY responsible (this is just an example, Blockbuster is not guilty of anything by my knowledge). You can’t sue every person in the chain as an enabler… if you could, you’d tangle up the system with all sorts of frivolous lawsuits and make the marketplace very unfriendly to any innovation whatsoever. God help us if that was ever the case. In this case, the New York Times profited because I clicked on the ad from their site – but was it that to me? Can they do anything about my being cheated (other than pulling the ad)? No. I’d be a profiteering ass. This runs parallel to Facebook and Zynga being sued because they profited off of running the advertising. They SHOULDNT run scammy advertisers, if the advertiser is indeed pulling a scam, as their reputation would rightfully suffer… but they can’t be legally responsible for it. In any case, the $5 million would probably mostly go to the lawyers, and then cheated users, if they could get to enough of them, would get like a $2 return. WOOHOO.

One last thing: I mentioned cigarettes and cancer earlier. While most people would think, oh, well they certinaly led to the cancerous deaths of millions of people and added to health costs in our underwater nation… that’s beside the point. In the first half of the 20th century, every major media organization AND the American Medical Association (plus other still highly regarded medical journals or owners of medical journals) ran advertising that said that cigarettes were cool, cigarettes were HEALTHY for you, that DOCTORS smoked cigarettes so you should to, that cigarettes were PURE as the water you drink (if it were as pure as the Hudson…. blecch.). So as another parallel, if Facebook and Zynga should be held responsible for trials and mobile offers shortchanging people because they profited off the advertising… then perhaps we should sue every major media organization and the American Medical Association for profiting off of cigarette companies who sold cancer-causing products? Balls, you would say. You can’t win that one. And even if you did, what would you achieve? Nothing. Except the lawyers would get a lot of dime.

Old Mysteries, Paris 36, TV. Sarah Polley makes a cameo…. not really.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 17th, 2009 by byronkho

Media consumption this week: Almost done Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Not bad video game actually, though story-wise a bit skimpy. Not sure about replay value either… if it were longer, had more choices within the player arc and perhaps some melee rounds available, this might have been a solid title. Just finished John Dickson Carr’s The Emperor’s Snuff Box. I read a lot of classic titles that can be pretty hard to find – and thank god for Amazon’s sellers. Without some of these people with extensive old paperback collections that they’re trying to unload, I wouldn’t be able to read some of this stuff. Edmund Crispin, John Dickson Carr, Cyril Hare, Christianna Brand… all these AMAZING mystery writers (better than a good majority of the current “big” mystery writers) are OUT of print and have been for at least 15 years. Some titles have been out of print for 40-50 years or more, and these are US editions I’m talking about. I have no idea about the rest of the world. That kind of annoys me that some media content should be SO hard to get.

I can find polka recordings from the 1930s much more easily than I can some of these old books… though of course there are priceless recordings that I’ll never be able to get either. I read this article a few months ago about the difficulties of audio file transference – cultural historians were attempting to preserve old wax recordings of opera that were in the basement of the Paris Opera House, and the problem was that one attempt to read the wax would also destroy it. Talk about your limited use license. I felt a little pang of loss after reading that article. Amazing performances of operas as conducted by their composers, and some LOST operas as well, and I will probably never get to hear them. But imagine being the people in the room when they play it for the first (and possibly only) time in a century!

Back to the book. Very simple case, but extremely tight plotting and every single clue is out in plain sight if you pay attention. THe ending is genius and a surprise, and it actually benefits one to go back and re-read the evidence. Everything is there… and doesn’t rely on any tricks or gigantic leaps of faith. It also has the benefit of being in a 1940s setting, a well-defined location and a very insightful psychological and sociological analysis of sexual and emotional double standards. Relationships in most detective novels are very thin, stereotypical affairs – more of a device than a character of the story. But here, we actually have a realistic treatment of a woman’s affair with two solidly different type of men, and this accuracy and relatability have a very direct effect on how the plot develops and why-dunit. Very good, and not very long either… a nice and quick one-day read.

Re-listened to the soundtrack of Paris 36. That movie is still pretty unknown – even though it did have enough cred to come out at the Ritz here in Philly, where almost no one went to see it – and it does deserve some recognition. It won awards, yadda yadda, but even more than that, it’s a GOOD musical movie. THere are few of those, and the ones that are out there spend so much on celebrities that the music and the direction suffer for it. The story has some rote elements, but that’s to be expected in a feel-good musical (movie). What’s most interesting to me is how the movie transitions in and out of the musical bits, and if it’s very obviously a different part. In some musical movies, it really seems like two separate parts edited together (read: Chicago, not that Chicago wasn’t enjoyable). It’s also very audibly the actors voices doing the songs, very well, without any autotune, standins or over-production. Ahem, Glee (for such an awesomely talented cast, why do they HAVE to use so much Autotune on the numbers? It’s just a little ridiculous… and the fact that they only introduced Broadway numbers starting episode 8. And a tangent on Lea Michele: here’s her doing Life of the Party from one of the best musicals of the last 20 years, The Wild Party.). In my spare moments, I imagine staging songs I like, and the one impossibility of doing Paris 36 as a stage show (even if we could get any rights) or even as one-off solo numbers in not-for-profit concerts, is that WHERE can you find as talented an accordionist as you do in the movie? I mean, they don’t grow on trees. It also helps that “Douce” is hot. One of the most joyous big cheesy musical numbers is in this movie. Of course, its done tongue in cheek (they’re doing a big cheesy stage number in the movie, so there’s the “awareness” factor).

Sarah Polley from Avonlea and Nora Arnezeder from Paris 36.

Still watching TV on my desktop. Why do I bother having a TV? For Rock Band only, at this point. I finished watching the last episode of Glee and that inspired me to look for some numbers regarding commercials. It’s already pretty common news that each episode is around $3 million. Apparently, each 30 second spot costs advertisers somewhere around $127k given the number of viewers (7-8 mill), so advertising revenue for that slot is $4.3 mill… pretty sweet profit on that. Comparatively, most shows are $2 mill or less, and take 7 days to shoot an ep rather than Glee’s 10 days… which obviously goes to choreography and recording the numbers in the studio (which they then lipsync to on set, I hear). Still, they’re getting less viewers than old standbys CSI and The Mentalist who each have 15 mill a week. CBS is doing a lot of traffic with those great old shows, and their Survivor Samoa has the top viewership in the 8 PM slot. Which just boggles me. Celeb buzz shows like Gossip Girl get 2 mill, which is pretty peanuts. But then again, they have much more social impact than the crime shows, which usually benefits older people or working people who like something comfy to watch that doesn’t make them feel out of their league or angry at those hippies on their lawn. What did bug me was that Fringe gets less than 2 mill per ep and Greys Anatomy, which was a good show until it turned soap opera, gets 13 mill. Rewarding crap. Bah! Flash Forward is a reasonably decent show which gets a nice viewership every week. I like these mildly scifi shows… though as a rule, I don’t tend towards geeking out the more scifi it gets. In that spirit, I like V – not because there are aliens, but it’s aliens in a human setting. It’s human drama with identity, loyalty, honor as the main issues. The aliens and future tech are sidelines, not the focus.

Why do I watch The Mentalist?

I’ve also picked up foreign shows because some are really good… I like cop shows, so Rush from Australia and The Fixer were two new quality entries for me. I also like a little drama (bc they usually have hot chicks of course) so Being Erica from Canada is on the list (oh man, Erin Karpluk in all her various forms, bam bam BAM), Trinity from the UK (which has some Skins actors and is BASICALLY Skins for private school nobs), Being Human from the UK (loves the vampires… and ghosts… and werewolves… in anonymous British suburbs!) and still one of my fave shoes, Spooks UK… they do the spy thriller justice, even though I hate that their seasons are short. There’s also Regenesis from Canada, which is the only successful drama (in my mind) to seriously take into account high science developments, current events and politics. You’ll actually come out better informed about the state of science today, and it had really interesting storylines, like the one about smallpox exposure due to digging up a frozen corpse (which… actually did happen). Of course, the show is gone now but it was exactly as described during its run. That’s something Canadian shows have tended to do better: blend political and social conflict into serious TV dramas… so if you haven’t, watch Flashpoint, The Border and Intelligence. There’s also other gems, like Road to Avonlea (mmm, Sarah Polley, had a crush on her when I was 6 or 7 and I guess I still do… watch Siblings if you haven’t, or Go. Drool. I have both.), Trailer Park Boys, Corner Gas (pretty hilarious… sitcom about a bumpkin town), Robson Arms (bc I used to live in Vancouver and like seeing shows that USE the place… re: Intelligence again), Degrassi. Even The Listener, which was kind of like The Mentalist but the hero could actually hear your thoughts… that one was pretty amusing during its run. It was also obviously Toronto. I like that, when cities are not standins for other cities. Though honestly, most TV shows and movies these days are being filmed in Vancouver or Toronto so it’s pretty hard to get away from that tendency. I wanna catch more Australian stuff but it’s just hard to find, even for someone that downloads a lot of stuff (all legal, of course).

Intelligence and Hustle.

I might have monologued about some of these shows before, but it’s always worth ranting :) And there’s so many more! Hotel Babylon from the UK: such a well-acted and visually very interesting show about the doings of a boutique hotel in London catering to the rich and famous. Helps that it’s hilarious and classy (the extremely elegant thing is just not done in US shows, or perhaps not liked by US audiences… the storylines always end up getting too tawdry, ahem Dirty Sexy Money, and elegant usually implies cold douchebag whenever a character of the sort appears). Hustle from the UK was great for the first 4 seasons. I love crime shows, and one with clever criminals that do classy crimes of wit… well, you got me. Oh, and Later… with Jools Holland is always a must-see. Great live shows, and ALL for music, so not little interludes like on the Morning Show or late night talk shows. Oh man, their lineups are awesome. Take one lineup from a few weeks ago: Maxwell / Stereophonics / Diana Krall / Wild Beasts / The Unthanks / Ellie Goulding & Starsmith. Or Priscilla Ahn / Lily Allen / Depeche Mode / Raphael Saadiq / Sonic Youth / Taj Mahal. Or Fleet Foxes / Al Green / The Killers / Little Boots / Monkey: Journey to the West / Pendulum. Man… thank god for the BBC, I say. One day, I want to attend Hootenanny. Sigh. Live music… some days I wish I was in a band again.