Archive for September 2002

 
 

The new fall season so far

The new TV season is a couple or three weeks old now, so what do we have?

I’m trying really hard not to add too many new shows to my viewing schedule this year. BOOMTOWN might, indeed, be a great critically-praised darling. But my Sunday nights at ten are spent finishing off my column. Many of the other shows are easy to skip – I’m not in the mood for a doctor show right now. The last one I liked I lost track of and then got cancelled. It’s the one with Andre Braugher (sp?) from a couple of seasons ago. I’ve forgotten its name already, but it had the awful time slow of Monday nights at 10.

ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION looks like it might be good, but who has the time? FASTLANE might be a good check-your-brain at the door show, but even with reruns airing soon on MTV, I can’t get the energy up to bother with it.

I did watch CSI: MIAMI. It has potential, but right now the actors and writers are still getting used to the show. The punchlines that Gil Grissom pulls off with such ease are absent from Horatio’s mouth. And I like the Vegas backdrop more than I do the Everglades. Give me a poker table and a desert anytime. CSI’s opener was strong that way, even with a couple of bits of grossness. I mean, they pulled a guy’s face off on camera. Ick. (I hear ER was bad that way, too. I gave up watching that show after its third season when I realized I had a stack of tapes with about 6 episodes on it that I hadn’t watched yet.)

I still like SCRUBS, and its premiere was strong. Took me a while to get into the show last year. It seemed to get sidetracked every time it went for a romantic plotline entanglement.

FRIENDS is great, but you will want to strangle all the characters real fast. Every problem and plot twist that was set up in its first episode could be easily solved if everyone sat quietly in one room and let one person talk at a time to explain themselves. It’s not as bad as it looks. But this is a sit-com, so you won’t get anyone talking or explaining. Just lots of shouting, blown opportunities, and frustrating malapropisms.

THE IN-LAWS isn’t a bad sit-com, but I don’t know if it’ll age that well. After six episodes, will we get past the point that Dad loves daughter and hates son-in-law for taking her away from him?

I like FIREFLY, but I don’t think it’s going to last past its initial half dozen episodes. The ratings are sinking. Another Friday Night At 8 p.m. disaster. Didn’t BRISCO COUNTY/MANTIS/VR.5/HARSH REALM teach FOX anything? (And, yes, I’m sure I’m forgetting another 3 or 4 failures from that time slot.)

AMAZING RACE starts this week, and I can’t wait.

BIG BROTHER 3 has ended, with Danielle overplaying her hand to the voters at home and blowing it all.

SURVIVOR is looking good so far, and the upcoming third episode promises some sex and violence. Whoo-hoo.

The season opener of ALIAS was a desperate grab to bring in new viewers, but they had a lot of explaining to do about the first season ender, so it worked well for me. The next few episodes should be interesting, now that Sidney’s mother is a presence.

And we haven’t started 24 or BOSTON PUBLIC or MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE or THE SIMPSONS yet.

I just need to pace myself and realize I won’t be watching any of those DVDs stacked up in the corner anytime soon.



Menus and Easter Eggs

At the beginning of the year, I worked on a couple of sample columns for a pitch for a DVD web site. It never went anywhere, but today I’m presenting the second column for one and all to read. This isn’t a complete column, but the nuts and bolts of my point are there. With a little extra time, I would have added more examples and ranted a bit more, I’m sure.

- – -

I donít understand the bells and whistles of menu designs.

They can be cute, but it seems that more and more often they just slow you down in an effort to look fancy and win design awards. I want a DVD menu that pops up right away, gets me to the option I want the quickest way possible, and wonít have incomprehensible labels to slow me down.

SHREK annoys me. After I click on a menu option, I have to wait for Donkey to fly off the screen to get to the next screen. When I get to that menu, I have to wait for the Gingerbread Man to say his piece and have a cute bit of animation to go along with it until the menu pops up.

TOY STORY pleases me, if only for the insert that comes with it to show the layout of the menus. All of the special edition Disney DVDs have that today and itís greatly welcome. When you have as much material on a disc to pour through as that, itís a great asset to be able to know where youíre going and whatís there. And if you donít have the foldout in front of you, the menu labels are pretty easy to follow.

This runs contrary to THE ABYSS, which is so insufferably pleased with itself that the menu options have a nautical theme, but are absolutely meaningless to someone who just wants to get to the scene selections.

Furthermore, I donít need a ton of animation on my menu. I certainly donít need spoilers running in the background of the menu for the movie Iím about to watch as I wait for the menu to load. No, wait. The menu isnít loading. The options on it are slowly fading in to the music. ARGH! People have no problem complaining about the FBI Warning slowing them down, but they donít say Ďbooí when it comes to menu designs that slow you down.

About the only fancy piece of menu animation I enjoy is the scene selection menu. That menu works best when small clips of the movie are included with each chapter.

The scene selection in Disneyís FANTASIA DVDs is the most annoying and tedious thing Iíve ever used on a DVD. Say you want to get to the 10th scene stop. You have to cursor down past the first nine scenes to get there. It wouldnít be so bad if it werenít for the fact that each time you cursor down thereís a noticeable blip while the disc loads the image and title of that scene.

While Iím at it, letís kill the Easter Eggs. Why are they there? Half of them arenít hidden all that well, and the other half are so impossible to find you need a guidebook to get to them. If it werenít for web sites like this one, how would you even know to look for one? It gets even better when the press releases from the studios brag that easter eggs will be found on the disc. Why not just add the bullet point to the back of the packaging and include the bonus ďfeatureĒ on the menu properly? If you want to keep with the spirit of the easter egg, then just include the item in the menu and donít mention it on the packaging. Itíll be a pleasant surprise for those who buy the disc, but wonít cause them any heartache in typing in lengthy codes to get to see an entire alternate version of a movie. (TERMINATOR 2, anyone?)

Minute By Minute: LIRR Shooting

I got caught up watching A&E’s Minute By Minute program this afternoon, where they unfurled the events of the Long Island Railroad shooting. The thing that stuck out to me the most is that this guy got off more than two dozen rounds of ammo across two train cars over a minute and a half or two minutes. And nobody thought to tackle him until AFTER he ran out of ammo?

Maybe I’m just spoiled after September 11th, and I know that you’ll never know what you’d do until you’re in that situation, but –

I don’t know. I’m just disappointed by that.

-Augie

Beat the Geeks Random Thought

Why do the contestants get all pissy when the Geeks put them down? Don’t they KNOW that it’s going to happen? Don’t they know that it’s all part of the schtick (sp?) for the Geek to make a crack at their expense? Don’t they watch the show before they appear on it as a contestant?

Or is it that they’re so egotistical that they want to get their full 15 minutes and get as much face time as possible? The only time it ever worked was when the TV Geek early in the first season said the contestant who had just challenged him looked like Pacey from Dawson’s Creek. Those two went back and forth for a minute and it was hilarious.

Everyone else? Just sad.

I hate people.

Sundry Thought #2

This is probably one of those stupid guy questions, but what the heck.

What makes it so comfortable for a woman to walk with her arms folded in front of her? I’ve never seen a guy do it. Is it anatomical: Does it prevent extra bouncing or something? It seems to be the skinnier women I see doing it more often than not, but I’m not sure if that has any impact on this. When I walk in a straight line, I swing my arms at my side, or stick them in my pockets or something. Granted, women often wear clothes that don’t have those convenient pockets to them and, to be quite honest, they’re also the first to get cold. Maybe it’s a warmth thing?

I’m curious. No, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things one bit. It’s just one of those things I’ve noticed. Anyone have a clue?

Curiously yours,
-Augie

Keywords for VandS.com

One of the many wonderful statistics tracked by my generous hosts at Boiling Point is the keywords that bring people here. When you go to Google.com and type in keywords that lead to a link to this site, the words you searched on to lead you here get caught by our servers. So if you type in “Various and Sundry” in Google and it leads you here, I’ll know that.

Checking on the stats today, I also found two other searches that led people here:

“24 disappoints kiefer” and “ascii art of jennifer garner”

I find the latter one amusing. As much as I like to help people out, I can’t find any specific ASCII ART of Jennifer Garner, either. However, there are programs that will let you take a JPG and turn it into ASCII ART. Try doing it yourself for fun. =)

Bleeping out on the radio

I’m reprinting this from the old LiveJournal site because (a) I figure a lot of you didn’t read many entries from there and (b) I have a very interesting update to make to it afterwards. So if you’ve seen this already, skip ahead to the end of the entry and all is forgiven.



The thing that makes the ratings system for movies such a joke is the way it is so selectively applied. No two R’s are the same, and one movie’s R would be another movie’s PG-13. There is no standard. That’s what drives moviemakers crazy.

Then there’s the world of adult contemporary radio stations. My local favorite, WPLJ, is playing Pink’s new song. I don’t know the title. It’s the one she sang at the VMAs last week. You may remember the visual of her in skimpy leather punctuating every usage of the word “b!tch” with a raised middle digit.

Well, PLJ plays the song now, but blurs out the naughty word. Of course, after the previous lines end with “itch” and “stitch”, it’s fairly obvious what word is coming next. These are songs written for MTV. What else would you expect? So “b!tch” gets effectively censored.

I actually don’t have much of a problem with this. I understand there are rules under which radio stations much live. And I can understand trying to keep the station kiddie friendly. After all, the target demo for most music these days are the teenagers. They’re edited other songs so well that I never would have realized they were edited without hearing the original versions off of Napster. (Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Private Life” and Three Doors Down’s “Kryptonite” spring to mind.)

Here’s my problem with the Pink song being edited, though. The same radio station gleefully ran the CD into the ground for Meredith Brooks’ “B!tch” without a second thought. And I’ve heard them play Elton John’s “The B!tch Is Back” repeatedly. I’m sure there are three or four other more recent songs we could put into this category.

I guess the excuse would be that the word is used as an expletive and not a descriptive sense, but jeez… It’s just very very weird to me.



Update: I heard the song on the radio again this morning. Song rotation on the radio these days is so slight that I’ve gotten good at predicting which songs would air before they do. I just knew they’d play the Pink song after the news this morning, and so they did. (There was a 20% chance they would go with “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne, instead, but they didn’t.)

They don’t drop the audio out on “b!tch” anymore. It’s not squeezed out, edited out, dropped out, or censored out in any way. The word is there now.

I wonder what changed their minds? Weird.

Great Physics Experiments

The New York Times has an excellent article about the Top 10 Physics Experiments of All Time. What makes this article so great is that all of these experiments can be done by anyone with a curious mind and some patience. For example: In the third century B.C., Eratosthenes measured the earth’s circumference to within 5% merely by measuring shadows.

Interesting stuff.

Celebrity insanity and weirdness

It might be time for a license to bring up children. Melanie Griffith is the latest Hollywood dingbat without a clue. Click on the link to see why. I don’t know whether to laugh or just shake my head at this one.

And Angeline Jolie gets even weirder in this story from — of all places — the Hindustan Times. It seems her stunt double for TOMB RAIDER 2 is a man.

Viral Wireless? The lilypad solution

Stolen from Slashdot is this link about wireless communications forming a viral worldwide network that could fly beneath the radar of the telephone companies and without any of the hassles of other spectral broadcasts. Pretty cool concept.

Emmys question

Did anyone catch Ellen DeGeneris on the Emmys telecast last night? Let’s take bets: Was she drunk, high, or a mix of both? She had to have been stoned, right? She rambled nearly incoherently for thirty seconds before the director cut her off.

I haven’t seen one word written about this yet on any of the web sites. Is there an explanation, or is it just being brushed under the carpet? If you see anything on the web about it, could you please post it in the comments section here? Thanks much.

Netflix question

Anyone around here use Netflix these days? I’ve used it a couple different times in my life, but always dropped it because the mail-in turnaround took too long. Mailing a DVD to California and waiting for a new disc to come back took too long.

Someone told me that they have a mail-in center located on the East Coast now, which would greatly reduce all the shipping time and possibly make the subscription service attractive to me once again.

Can anyone confirm this? Anyone still using it?

Emmys: SNL wins?!?

SNL just won for best writing over the teams from The Late Show, Conan O’Brien, and The Daily Show.

And I’ll just say it right now: The other three shows are funnier on their worst days than SNL on its best. I was rooting for The Daily Show.

Ah, well.

In the meantime, I like the job Conan O’Brien is doing hosting the show. The audience may be too hip for him, but he’s cracked me up plenty of times already tonight. The telestrator bit was a real highlight…

Latest Pick-Ups

I haven’t watched any of these discs yet, but I felt the need to share, anyway:

MONSTERS INC.: It’s the big release of the week, and Disney found a way to work the numbers to make it the biggest single day release of all time. It’s a terribly cute movie, perfect for the kids. It has some great moments in it. I picked it up at Best Buy this week for $16.99. Can’t beat that for a two disc set with a load of extras on it. There’s a new short cartoon, MIKE’s NEW CAR, a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff for process junkies like myself.

Putting aside the feature, the short cartoon which precedes it, FOR THE BIRDS, is one of the funniest and best directed cartoons in a while. It’s got the insane pacing and comeding timing of all the old Warner Bros. shorts, and deservedly won the Oscar last year for Best Animated Short Film.

Best Buy also has a series of special two-disc sets you can pick up for the extraordinarily low price of $15.99. There aren’t too many winners in there. If you’re a CROW fan, you’ll probably appreciate being able to buy both of those movies together for $16. PHANTOMS and REINDEER GAMES get packaged together for the same price.

The deal that I went for was the John Cusack special, GROSSE POINTE BLANK and HIGH FIDELITY. The latter is a great movie, the former is one I haven’t seen yet, but have had plenty of recommendations for. Plus, there’re lots of 80s references in it from what I hear. It’s right up my alley.

Finally, Amazon.com delivered (for free, no less) my copy of SNL: THE BEST OF STEVE MARTIN. Steve Martin is one of the all-time funniest people alive. He’s probably the best comedian they ever had on SNL, and I don’t think he was ever even a cast member. He was just on so darn much. But the “Theodoric of York” sketches are personal favorites, and when I saw two of them on the DVD, I had to have them.

Emmys Tonight

Hey gang,

The Emmys don’t start for another six and a half hours, and E! is already broadcasting live from the red carpet. I don’t ever want to hear complaints about the SuperBowl having too much pre-game coverage.

(I laugh about this in particular just after my local newspaper had an article that talked about the lack of coverage and respect the Emmys get. Don’t think poorly of it author, columnist Virginia Rohan, though. She’s gotten an amazing number of things right over the years, including interviewing little ol’ me years ago when I was the “media relations director” of an internet group organized to try to save the TV show VR.5.)

As for the awards tonight, I’m rooting for 24 and ALIAS. Do I think that Kiefer Sutherland and Jennifer Garner are really the best actor and actress on television right now? No, probably not. But they’re two of my favorite series from last season and I want to see them win. The critics have their bets placed on SIX FEET UNDER, it seems. Not having HBO, I can’t judge the show, but it always worries me when one show gets as many nominations as SFU did. My “Root For The Underdog” gene kicks in.

What REALLY disappoints me about the Emmys is that Dr. Cox from SCRUBS didn’t get nominated for anything. To my mind, he’s the funniest character on TV today.

I’m glad to see FRASIER didn’t get it’s usual tidalwave of nominations. This past season was forgettable, and it’s to the point now where I’m not disappointed if I miss an episode. I think the show has, to use the cliche, jumped the shark.

-Augie