Archive for February 2003

 
 

Small businesses switching to Linux

I’d love to work at a place that doesn’t use Windows. I want to work somewhere that uses Linux servers AND Linux desktops. It’s cheaper, easier to upgrade, and just more cool.

USA TODAY has a great writeup on the trend of small companies and schools doing this to avoid paying outrageous licensing fees to MicroSoft, which becomes more creatively bankrupt by the year.

$500 for MS OFFICE 11? No thanks.

Lessons learned from Survivor tonight (No Spoilers)

Heidi, besides having one of the largest upper bicuspids of any mammal I’ve ever seen, is one of the most conceited and self-centered annoyances ever to hit reality television. First, it was her contempt for Christy, the deaf tribemate, who she quickly ostracized for being difficult to communicate with. Tonight, it was her division of the “pretty girls” and the “older girls.” Someone has a pretty high opinion of herself. Don’t worry, though, as she’ll tell you that it’s all tricks of editing. Riiiiight.

Speaking of all that, here’s one quick lesson for future female SURVIVOR contestants: Paradoxically, the more you bare, the less the TV cameras can show. In one extended sequence tonight, the producers felt the need to show us the three “pretty girls” bathing. Extensively. With plenty of closeups, and background music that sounded like it escaped from a wannabe porn movie. So the girls take off their tops, attempt to cover their chests with one arm, and wash with the other. In the end, we see more breasts (on a network show at 8:30) than if they had just walked around buck naked and let the digitizing do its darnedest. Maybe it’s the shyness in front of the cameramen more than the camera itself. (And wouldn’t it make sense to have a few female camera operators this season?) I don’t know.

One last lesson learned from tonight’s SURVIVOR: Sweeps is over. Everything else was in reruns. And everything next week is in reruns. One of the reasons that reality TV does so well, I’m convinced, is that they DON’T program themselves strictly for sweeps periods. They build from week-to-week. They don’t show 4 episodes, and then take a month off. You know SURVIVOR will be on for however-many straight weeks, perhaps with a break for the Final Four one week or something special. You know BIG BROTHER 4 this summer will air 2-3 nights per week, and that you’ll NEVER get a rerun. And while shows like JOE MILLIONAIRE and AMERICAN IDOL may pad out their episode numbers (4 groups of 8 instead of 3 groups of 10? C’mon!), they’re still new productions every week.

ABC to drive nail through Drew Carey Show

There’s more network doublespeak B.S. in this news story than I care to think about. The long and short of it is this — there are 10 episodes of THE DREW CAREY SHOW left in the season, and they’re not going to show them until the summer. At that point, the series will be in its 3rd or 4th time slot of the year, the ratings will be flushed away completely, and ABC probably won’t honor its contract for next season in the series. Disgusting.

Let’s hope this doesn’t kill WHOSE LINE along with it.

In brighter news: ALIAS and 24 both got picked up for third seasons. There’s some hope.


Cover tunes running rampant

Sixpence None The Richer’s new song is a cover of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”

Counting Crows (with background help from Vanessa Carlton, I believe) are covering that Joni Mitchell song (that Amy Grant once covered) about paving paradise and putting in a parking lot.

The Dixie Chicks have a pretty big hit with a cover of Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

Just coincidentally, one of my favorite songs on Vanessa Carlton’s album is a cover of “Paint It Black.”

Are these all coincidences? Are cover hits the next trend? Or have they always been there, but I’m just noticing them now?

Discuss.

META: Updates at VariousAndSundry

The most obvious is the new menu item on the right. As part of the stats tracking for this web site, I can see what the top keyword searches are on the search engines that lead to this site. Under the header of “Popular Keywords,” I’ve linked to those posts that people are most often looking for. I make no value judgments of people based on those keywords. (“Cathy Rogers nude”?!?) Because this is a dynamic site, though, the items they’re looking for often bubble off the top page fairly quickly. This section is an effort to correct that.

Secondly, special thanks to Mark Evanier, who recently added this blog to the list of blogs linked at his web site. I read through his News From Me section every day and borrow a link or two on occasion from there, so it’s an honor to be linked back.

Finally, there’s one feature this blog is missing that so many others have. There’s no list of other blogs here. Why is that? To tell you the truth, all of the blogs I read are comic book-related, and I try real hard to keep the comic book side of my on-line writings separate from everything else, i.e. this blog. Mark Evanier’s site is perhaps the only one that ventures far enough away from being strictly comics to be included here. I don’t want to start a list for just one site, though. Still, I keep looking. As always, the “Suggestion Box” is open on the menu to the right, if you’d like to suggest one. Your name is optional. The URL is not. That would be kinda pointless, don’t you think?

The Grammys, Part 2

I watched the 9 p.m. to 10:30 section of The Grammys last night throught the wonder of TiVo. More random thoughts:

* I love Avril Lavigne’s album. I think she’s a lot of fun to watch on stage. I’m just not sure she can carry a tune live all that well. Maybe it was just stress and too much touring and not enough rest. Does anyone know what was written on the inside of her jacket? She started off wearing a jacket that she held wide open and quickly discarded. The camera purposefully stayed behind her for that, but when she threw the jacket away, you could see a couple of letters taped onto the inside. Anyone know what it said?

(UPDATE: The jacket says “ROCK ON.” Here’s a large photo of it.)

* The New York Philharmonic was a joy to watch. But then they got dragged down by Coldplay, a group of amusical monotone fools. What a sad waste of an orchestra.

* The Springsteen performance was amazing to watch. Amazing job. Made me wish he had won more. And I’m not even that big a Springsteen fan, which is heretical when you’re born and raised in NJ, like I am. I was impressed, though. The only nagging point was Bruce’s face. He looked in pain. I didn’t think a person could sing while stretching their mouth that far into the back of their face. Wowzers.

* Erikah Badu (or however you spell it): wow. I’m not sure whether I should jump ugly at her hair or her inability to read the teleprompter. But given the number of other presenters who seemed to be WAITING for the teleprompter to scroll, I think it’s her fault that she couldn’t keep up. Poor BB King had to stand next to her through that.

* Robin Williams is hilarious.

* I couldn’t sit through Nelly, though I thought he showed remarkable timing in producing a show complete with pyrotechnics just a couple of days after nearly 100 people died from them…

* The backlash against Norah Jones has already begun. She’s not the “flavor of the moment,” despite selling 7 million albums over the course of a full year. That’s a rather long moment. The comparisons to Christopher Cross have been flying, but all those references leave out one very big thing: Cross was a victim of MTV. The year after he won all those Grammys, MTV changed music from being something about melodies and musicality and into something about looking skinny and good on cable television. Music has never recovered.

American Idol: What Went Wrong?

AMERICAN IDOL is fast in danger of becoming a parody of itself. The judges have nobody but themselves to blame, either. How they let through so many of these contestants to this round of the competition is astonishing. With a couple of exceptions, they all sucked.

Ashley, the beautiful 17 year old, got slammed down so hard by EVERYONE (including Ryan Seacrest) that I wanted to give her the pity vote. Sheesh, there was nowhere for her to hide. When you’re told, “Sorry. Thanks for coming.” You’re in trouble. If it’s Paula saying that given your singing talents, you should consider acting — you’re in trouble. And when Ryan has nothing left to say after that, go home. I felt bad for her. The strange thing is, she started off OK. Not great, but not bad. But that song took her places that she should not have gone.

Aside from the Marine, Joshua Gracin, I didn’t care for any of them. Corey Clark was OK, but I wouldn’t have given him a standing ovation. Patrick Lake was my one hope for Rock N Roll, but he missed a couple of notes and his voice cracked a couple of times. Still, I’d vote for him to go through, just to bring some diversity to the competition that’s filled with warbling. (My god, even Steven Grant points it out in his column today.)

The really sad thing is that there are at least four contestants from the first two rounds who DESERVE to be in the Top Ten who didn’t make it, while there are at least 3 currently in the Top Ten who shouldn’t be, while two more will go through tonight (and most likely one won’t deserve it.) Now I’m just rambling.

One other thing: Shut up, shut up, shut up, you arrogant foolish children. It’s not cool to argue with the judges. We’re all sick of it. Juanita — you suck. Go home, you diva wannabe. Randy Jackson can sing better than you. The British have more teeth than you having singing ability, so stop picking on Simon.

Last night was a complete train wreck, saved only by USMC man.

I’ll go “out on a limb” and say that Josh and Corey will go through. They probably were the best of the overall pathetic night.

The wild card competition will be this show’s saving grace. Sadly, at least two will be left behind.

DVD Releases 2.25.03

Thanks, as always to The DVD Journal for maintaining the best release list of them all. This list is excerpted from their complete list.

Amadeus: The Director’s Cut: Creative Design Gift Set (1984)
Ocean’s Eleven: Creative Design Gift Set (2001)
Superman: The Movie: Creative Design Gift Set (1978)


I guess if you’re a REALLY BIG fan, it might be worth it. I just don’t get these sets, but I lost the collector mentality a long time ago in the world of comics. A special “limited edition” frame from a print of the movie doesn’t do much for me.

Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World (2003)

…as Disney continues its steady decline.

Drôle de Drame (1937)

I think I’m boycotting the French. ;-)

Knockaround Guys (2002)

The long-delayed Vin Diesel movie that came and went just as quickly as SWEPT AWAY in 2002.

Michael Winslow: Comedy Sound Slapdown! (2002)

Good to hear he’s still alive. POLICE ACADEMY was a great movie. He was also excellent in his small bit part in SPACEBALLS, but I imagine he got typecast pretty quickly as the “sound effects guy.”

Red Dwarf: Series I (2-disc set)
Red Dwarf: Series II (2-disc set)


I regret only that I put this on my birthday (March 3) list for relatives who had no idea what to get me. So I have to wait an extra week or two before buying it on the off chance that someone else does. Words has it that they plan to release two seasons ever February for RED DWARF. I wish they’d release them faster, but I guess beggers can’t be choosers.

Rich Little: The Presidents (2002)

Speaking of typecast comedians…

Road to Perdition (widescreen/DTS) (2002)
Road to Perdition (widescreen/DD) (2002)
Road to Perdition (pan-and-scan/DD) (2002)


It’s the release of the week, as far as I’m concerned. I’m going with the DTS soundtrack in widescreen, assuming that it doesn’t mean all the bonus material gets chopped off the disc. The most important thing with this movie, though, is that the picture looks great. Conrad Hall’s cinematography on this one has been universally hailed. It’s one of the most beautiful-looking movies I’ve ever seen.

The Tuxedo (2002)

Who’da thunk it? Bad Jackie Chan.

The Twilight Zone Collection #5 (9-disc set) (1960-64)

These sets are so nice, but so expensive and unnecessary in my life. After I win the lottery, though, they will be mind.

I also read in the paper this morning that there’s supposed to be a Norah Jones in Concert DVD out today. If that’s true, I’ll be picking it up. The CD makes for some nice background music while blogging or e-mailing. The DVD would be nice because I like watching people play the piano. There’s nothing cooler in music for me. Not drum solos. Not Eddie Van Halen guitar riffs. Just one person behind the piano and the fingers flowing. Love it.

Play records on the computer

A student in Israel has come up with a program that can play records — I mean actual vinyl LPs here — just by scanning them in and letting the computer read the images. It’s not perfect. But it’s an interesting concept.

Now THAT’S seriously cool.

CHEERS!

It always amazes me how much I liked this show as a kid. Whenever I catch the reruns on cable now, I see whole new layers to the series. I couldn’t possibly have understood half the innuendo on the series when I was 10 or younger, right? So I’m very excited that the first season of CHEERS now has an official street date of May 20th. The first season is on 4 discs, and includes all those great openers with Harry Anderson playing tricks on poor Coach.

Grammys: Hour One

I haven’t watched anything past the first hour of last night’s Grammys yet. TiVo took the rest. But some initial impressions:

* Was John Meyer stoned or something? I’ve never seen a person look so awkward while performing a song, and his acceptance speech right after that was a rambling and incoherent mess. Maybe it reads as “deep” on paper, but watching him was another thing all together. I heard his performance on the radio this morning, and it didn’t sound quite so bad as I remembered it last night. Ah, the power of video. Still, he was eating all his words as he sang them. Weird.

* Everyone’s talking about how off-key Vanesse Carlton was. I didn’t hear it, but that’s probably because the mix on the music seemed off at that point, and I’m a piano fanboy: I just kept waiting for the piano riffs and kept my eyes and ears tuned for those. Didn’t listen much to her singing. I’ll have to rewatch it later to hear that.

* Simon and Garfunkel harmonized once or twice. The rest of the time they looks horribly uncomfortable standing that close to each other, and they obviously need more practice if they’re going to be singing together. They sung all over each other. Ack

* I did catch part of Avril Lavigne’s performance in the second hour. I love her album. Live, though, she needs work. She might just be one of those people who needs to be produced to sound good. What a shame.

* No Doubt started off good, but then they went up-tempo, Gwen Stefani ripped off her jacket, and things went down hill. We do, however, now have proof that Stefani has not had a boob job.

* Good for Norah Jones.

* People who wear micro-skirts shouldn’t bow their legs while singing, spread their feet, and bend back during high notes. Are you listening, Faith Hill?

* Dustin Hoffman: Is he always acting, or is he just that insufferable normally?

* Kim Catrell and P. Diddy: I got the joke the first time, guys. No need to repeat it twice.

* The old “if you perform, you win right afterwards” thing certainly went 3/3 in the first hour, didn’t it?

Covering up commercialism

On the other end of the scale, I have to laugh at the extent to which reality TV shows go to cover their butts. I think it was the JOE MILLIONAIRE finale where billboards in Times Square were blurred out. (And don’t tell me you weren’t watching it. I know 41 million people saw it. Don’t play coy.)

On Surreal Life a few weeks back, a guy was seen on the show with an Angels baseball cap. After the commercial break, a piece of red tape was placed over the logo. What, they didn’t want to offend Disney?

I can understand MTV blurring out the F word on Ozzy’s t-shirt on the OSBOURNES, but aren’t they going to ridiculous efforts now to block out Times Square billboards?!? How much longer before THIS OLD HOUSE blurs out the contractors’ t-shirts? (Nevermind; the contractors give TOH price breaks in exchange for a little free t-shirt advertising. Meanwhile, your tax dollars help to pay for it. Like TOH couldn’t survive on Home and Garden Network or elsewhere. I digress mightily now.)

Is it hypocrisy?

I caught up on Dawson’s Creek this afternoon. Watched the surprisingly good episode where Pacey and Joey were locked in a K-Mart overnight. This is the second episode in a row with blatant commercial endorsement. The previous episode (or was it two episodes prior?) started with an extended scene at Best Buy where Pacey was looking at a new television set.

It hit me today, though: If they had dome some stupid name games to make it a fictional store (“Q-Mart” or “Better Buy”), we’d all be sitting here making fun of their stupidity. We know what they mean. Wink wink, nod nod. Why bother with the subterfuge?

Instead, they’re honest about it and you see a few K-Mart and Best Buy signs around and the first reaction is, “What crass commercialism”?!?

Is this hypocrisy? Where’s the dividing line?

Myself, I’d much prefer to see real places.

Nigerian E-mail scam claims first victim

I’ve always been amused by those spam mails asking me to invest a small fortune to help [insert African country's name here] reclaim its lost fortune in diamonds, gold, and whatnot. I’ve been amazed that anyone might fall for it to the point where anyone saw the money in it.

Sure enough, not only do people fall for it, but one person went to the Nigerian Embassy in the Czech Repbulic with a gun, prepared to do something about it.

(Thanks to Adam at BlackDagger.com for pointing this one out to me this morning.)

Behind the Scenes @ The Smoking Gun

Not much to add here. Just a fun little article about the popular web site.