Archive for June 2007

 
 

The Hottest Night Club At The Mall

Just got back from the Palisades Center Mall in West Nyack, NY. It’s a huge four level mall that’s always busy, particularly on a weekend afternoon.

Apple LogoI passed by the Apple Store, of course, to take a look at the new signage and displays and see what was going on. I chuckled at first when I saw the stansions and the black velvet rope still outside the door for the iPhone line. I stopped laughing when I realized the Apple employee blocking the entrance was minding the line to get in the store. It didn’t matter what you wanted in the store — they were too busy. They were letting people inside in smaller groups of six or so at a time, presumably after an equal number of people left. I didn’t stop to ask if they had sold out of the iPhone yet, but there was a large group of people in the front right corner of the store where the iPhone display was. At the very least, they had a display model for people to play with.

Madness.

Meanwhile, John Gruber has an early review of the device. He likes it.

As does Kottke.

Thought for the day

There’s nothing scarrier than a blank slate, whether you’re writing or programming. Where to begin, where to begin. . .

Second thought for the day: Posts like this are why we have Twitter.  Ah, well.

Diabetic Man Kicked Off Train Found Alive

Diabetic Man Kicked Off Train Found Alive – Local News Story – KPHO Phoenix

A 65-year-old St. Louis man who Amtrak personnel kicked off a train in the middle of a national forest in Williams has been found dehydrated and disoriented two miles from where he was dropped off. Amtrak officials said train workers followed policy when they put off the train a man they thought was drunk, but the man’s family says he was in diabetic shock at the time.

iTunes Update

I updated iTunes tonight because I’m a masochist, not because I’m buying an iPhone or an Apple TV.

I just started it back up and it’s spending a lot of time “Determining Song Volume” on close to 600 tracks.  So far, they’re all podcasts.  Is all that grousing about volume limiting and kids going deaf getting to Apple now?  UGH

Well?!?

The iPhone has been out for 10 minutes now on the East Coast.

Where are the unboxing pictures?!? ;-)

Welcome, iPhone Users!

Today is truly the first day of the rest of your life. With that in mind, Various and Sundry has been designed from the ground up to be fully compliant with your new telephone, i.e. it renders in Safari.

Please enjoy your web surfing experience, and please leave a comment via your phone. We’re all curious to see if you can type straight on the virtual keyboard.

Bad Timing

Amazon just sent me an e-mail offering special deals on AT&T BlackBerry phones.

Uhm, if anyone wanted a data phone from AT&T today, they wouldn’t be looking at a BlackBerry. . .

Mac Home Theater

The HDTV has a plug in the back for “PC input.” It just dawned on me that I have some HD podcast content on my Macbook laptop. And with the glory of Front Row, it should be easy to pop it up on screen with the remote.

Does that work with the Mac? Does anyone have any experience with this? Is it just as easy as picking up a wire to connect the two?  What do I need?

Diabetic Man Kicked Off Train, Now Missing

Diabetic Man Kicked Off Train, Now Missing – News Story – KIRO Seattle

A 65-year-old St. Louis man is missing after Amtrak personnel, mistaking his diabetic shock for drunk and disorderly behavior, kicked him off a train in the middle of a national forest, according to police in Williams, Ariz.Police said Roosevelt Sims was headed to Los Angeles but was asked to leave the train shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday at a railroad crossing five miles outside Williams, reported KPHO-TV in Phoenix. “He was let off in the middle of a national forest, which is about 800,000 acres of beautiful pine trees,” Lt. Mike Graham said.

Crossing our fingers for him. . .  I’ve always said it: the closest I’ll ever come to being drunk is having low blood sugar.  The similarities are surreal. (You know, from what I’ve heard about what it’s like to be drunk. . . )

‘Big Brother 8′ announces cast

Variety.com – ‘Big Brother 8′ announces cast

CBS is making “Big Brother 8″ more interactive than past editions, plotting a twist in which one of the game’s players will be controlled by the whims of the American public. Net’s annual summer sudser, which kicks off July 5 at 8 p.m., has also locked in its cast. It’ll once again be a young bunch, with most of the 14 players in their 20s– and the oldest contestant just 44. And, in a nod to a past “Big Brother” theme in which players were surprised to find out that their ex-flames had been recruited, this year’s cast will include a few pairs of players with unresolved beefs. The biggest twist, however, is a game element called “America’s Player.” In a nutshell, that contestant will have the chance to win extra sums of money– but only if they carry out certain actions mandated by viewers via internet or text message voting. Chosen player might be asked to vote somebody out of the house or something more personal, such as flirting with another player. Eye is hoping the twist will give viewers more of a stake. . .

So You Think You Can Dance 28 June 2007

It’s a very brutal show this year. They’re cursed with talent, no clear dancer jumping ahead of the pack, and some bad luck with viewer voting. It was particularly disappointing to lose the female dancer we did this week, just because we never heard why. I agreed with Nigel — none of them danced very convincingly for their life this week. The one I thought was interesting, at least, was the one they tossed. And Nigel just dismissed her without saying anything else. I know they were running a little short on time, but perhaps they should have accounted for that earlier in the show. I can’t blame her for being upset and unable to say anything.

Cedric making it through another week was almost predictable. Given that the judges had already given him a hanging sentence the previous night, anyone who cared one bit for the kid was going to vote for him ten times over. No dance scholarship at Debbie Allen’s school will soothe the pitchforks as they storm the castle.

Speaking of whom, Debbie Allen was mostly useless. She fulfilled the usual Guest Judge role of loving everyone. I think there was only one exception on the night. Too bad.

And Pasha did well with the partner he was given at the last moment. Obviously, some of the moves had to be changed at the last minute, but he was a real trooper and danced with the doughiest dancer ever seen on TV.

Due to a foul up, I watched the performances on standard def TV, zoomed in and stretched out to fit the screen. It was like watching video over the Real player in 2000. Just painful. Not quite as jerky, but definitely just as much washed out and pixellated.

The results show I got to watch on FOXHD, and the difference couldn’t be clearer. The images were clear, the colors were solid and bright, everything jumped right off the screen. I can’t wait to see performances next week in the higher definition format.

Your Favorite DVD Demo Discs

Here’s an old chestnut of a question:

What DVDs do you use to demo your home theater set-up?

It might be a bit far-reaching to call what I have a home theater as I don’t even have a surround sound system, but it’s always fun to discuss this one, as times have changed since last I asked it.

The Rock - Criterion Collection

My answer is still the same, though: THE ROCK, specifically the car chase scene through the streets of San Francisco. I know it inside and out by now and know what the look for.

When I was anticipating the new TV, I also grabbed STAR WARS Episodes 1 and 2, TERMINATOR 2, and X-MEN 2. I figure that, if nothing else, I could write about X-MEN 2 in Pipeline. I probably should have dug up THE FIFTH ELEMENT, too.

A PIXAR movie is a must, as previously discussed, and so I watched CARS over the weekend.

I’ve pulled out LORD OF THE RINGS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and EMPIRE STRIKES BACK to test out tonight. . .

What discs would you recommend to show off the new TV screen?

Next Gen DVD War and “fire sales”

HD DVDRecently, the big sales on HD-DVD players and their movies have been used as proof that the HD-DVD format is losing to the Blu-Ray format. The big sale prices are proof, some say, that the HD-DVD camp feels the need to give away the store in order to attract consumers. This might even be their last push.

Some or all of that might be true, but let’s be honest: It’s the same thing the DVD format did a decade ago. (Wow, can you believe it’s been 10 years already?) Warner Bros. was the big proponent of the format back then, and did everything they could to put more discs in more hands, and more players on more shelves. My first DVD player came with three free movies. And Warner Bros. ran the promotion for the first couple of years, as I recall, where you could collect your proofs of purchase and get a free movie for every three that you bought. That’s how I picked up DARK CITY, for example, which is still in my collection and a favored flic.

Plus, I think the DVD format had more education to impart upon the general populace than the following generation. Remember that DVDs were, for many, their first experience with widescreen movies on their home television sets. (Some cable networks had begun advertising widescreen movie presentations at that time, but they were an oddity.  Sci Fi was probably the first.) Sadly, we still have “full frame” releases today, but there was some initial opposition to DVD just because — ugh — the picture didn’t fill the screen. We had to teach those people about original aspect ratio. Following that, the value of anamorphic compression became a big deal. There was also the trouble with DIVX, but Circuit City and friends gave up that ghost soon enough.  I still own one of those that I picked up for a buck when the format when belly-up, just so I can show it to my grandkids and show them the fun they missed.  The disc, of course, is completely unplayable, but it’s a quaint novelty. What’s the difference between HD-DVD’s actions now, and DVD’s actions then? The players are still just beyond most people’s comfort zone. (Actually, I think the price point of high definition players today are well above where DVD players were in 1997-1998, but go with me on this one.) The movies are still around $30 a pop. Market share is still fairly low, but growing slowly.

Now, it could very well be true that everything I wrote in the first paragraph is the gospel truth. But let’s not kid ourselves: This is S.O.P. for businesses trying to gain a competitive edge. They give away things. They market heavily. They create alliances. (See Microsoft, Google, etc.) They try to push stuff into more stores. DVD had Best Buy; Blu-ray or HD-DVD has to court Wal-Mart. Blockbuster’s already made their decision. Perhaps they were premature, but we’ll soon see.

Blu Ray DiscsThis format war has done nothing to help the world of optical discs. It came at a particularly stupid time, as high speed internet connections are making digital downloads a desirable thing. Many will skip this generation of content, and just leap ahead to the Amazon Unboxes or the Xbox 360 stores or the iTunes of the world. If Microsoft and Sony and all the rest had just agreed on something two years ago, I think it would be a different market today. High definition discs still rely on a large installation base of HDTVs, but that rate is picking up every year. And this should be the time for a single new format to thrive.

But it’s not going to happen.

In the meantime, don’t believe the fight is over yet.

Now, if you asked me to predict the future, I’d place my wager on Blu-ray winning. Consider that just a snapshot for this moment of time. I thought the pick-up of the HD-DVD format would have been greater after the Xbox 360 drive release last year. It doesn’t appear to be happening. Perhaps HD-DVD is a format that will best be used as a PC backup, and not a movie format? We’ll see. . .

The iPhone Service Plan

Wow, that’s a lot better than I thought it would be, and will speed up service at the store when you buy one:

The iPhone Matches Most of Its Hype – New York Times

For example, once the phone goes on sale this Friday, you won’t sign up for service in a phone store, under pressure from the sales staff. You will be able to peruse and choose a plan at your leisure, in the iTunes software on your computer. Better yet, unlimited Internet service adds only $20 a month to AT&T’s voice-plan prices, about half what BlackBerry and Treo owners pay. For example, $60 gets you 450 talk minutes, 200 text messages and unlimited Internet; $80 doubles that talk time. The iPhone requires one of these voice-and-Internet plans and a two-year commitment.

New DVD Releases, 26 June 2007

Full List.

My list is once again underwhelming:

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Collection Vol. 11

The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: The Complete Series

High School Musical, The Concert - Extreme Access Pass

Shooter (Widescreen Edition)

  • The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3: The Complete Series (3-disc set)

Now you can officially call me a fanboy, if only because the cover image made me giggle.

  • Disney’s High School Musical: The Concert Extreme Access Pass

At least it’s not just another special edition of the same old movie yet again. It’ll sell a gajillion copies or two, also.

  • Monk: Season Five

I include this here not because I think I have any interest in it, but rather because I think this is the future of more of my television viewing habits. With the HDTV, standard TV just looks like crap now. I want more shows in widescreen goodness on DVD, if I can’t get them in High Def to begin with.

I’m seriously considering getting back to CSI after taking a couple of seasons off, just to enjoy the crisp HD goodness.

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. 11 (4-disc set)

Can’t ever go wrong with Mike or Joel and the bots. This one features the excruciating Horrors of Spider Island from season ten.

  • Shooter (widescreen) (2007)

I don’t ever remember seeing so much as an ad for SHOOTER, but it came out earlier this year and starred the likes of Danny Glover, Mark Wahlberg, and Rhona Mitra. Antoine Fuqua directed it, and he’s done some nifty stuff in the past. (I’m one of the few who thought TEARS OF THE SUN was a really good, if depressing, movie.)

Next week: Since it’s the July Fourth holiday week, the list is very very short. I don’t think there’s any highlights in there at all. Maybe THE COMPLETE BATFINK? Yup, it’s just that bad.