Friday, December 5, 2008

Four things for Friday.

Today at work, I heard someone use the phrase “I don't want to open a can of worms," assuming that whatever she was about to do would have dire consequences. I’ve used it myself, but when I hear others use it, it makes me think about what would happen if I opened an actual can of worms. I guess they’d just wriggle around and maybe one or two would get out, but I’d guess that most of them would stay inside, squirming amongst themselves. I can think of worse things.

The NHL suspended Sean Avery 6 games for using the phrase “sloppy seconds” when describing his last girlfriend. Six games without pay. It isn’t an obscene reference, doesn’t particularly offend large numbers of people and doesn’t inflict physical harm. It’s an odd punishment for a league that allows a player to physically beat another player and receive a punishment of 5 minutes.

We’re getting our first wintry blast this weekend. Temperatures are going to be below freezing, and the dreaded snow flurries are in the forecast. That was enough for local weather geek Glen “Hurricane” Schwartz to say “... but what about the snow?” during his promos on Thursday night. What about the snow? It’s going to snow about as much as what you would get if you emptied an ash tray in a stiff wind. Panicked viewers no doubt tuned in for the 11pm newscast to hear the apocalyptic forecast. Suckers.
There’s something about rotten weather that makes me think about all the things I could be doing if the weather was nice. When the weather is nice, however, none of those things come to mind. This weekend, I’ll be fretting over all of the interesting activities I’m missing out on because it’s too cold to enjoy being outdoors. I can’t think of any of them right now, because it’s about 50 degrees today. Ask me tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The more you get, the more they want.

I paid off a credit card yesterday - I know, but it ain't so much - and today this little e-mail announcement came in my in-box. My credit line has been increased. Whoopie-Wo.
The more you pay, the more they want.
Then, I started thinking about the car companies and how they have their greasy hands out for some of our (it's ours) money. Even Avis has gotten into the act. The more they owe, the more they think we want to give them, as though their former spending habits and bad financial decisions won't return.
It's hard to blame them. The government prints the money, and they'd be foolish to think that they couldn't print some more. I think there's a form to fill out, but it's pretty easy nonetheless.
Maybe our government will give them money or maybe they won't. I'm thinking that the government is like us - they can't control themselves, so they just finance everything - as though Citibank sent them an e-mail saying, "Hey, you're good for another 20 trillion." Suckers that they are, they sign up for the big money.
I dream of the day I don't have to pay anything to anybody whose name is on a plastic card. As Jules Winnfield said in Pulp Fiction, "It could be you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that. But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd."
As for me, it's one at a time.
As for you, government. Try real hard to be the shepherd.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I'm looking California, feeling Minnesota.

Animals are smart. Bears especially. They sleep through the winter when some of us are miserably awake.
My cat sleeps about 20 hours a day, and when he isn't sleeping he's either thinking about it or finding a place to do it.
A particular goal of mine would be to find an escape route and leave civilization from November to March, thereby escaping what the masses call the "holiday season."
It's either a reason or an excuse. When you want something done and it doesn't get done, "the holidays" will be blamed. Afterward, I suppose it's simple neglect or incompetence, but from Thanksgiving to New Year's day, it's the holidays.
Television goes into repeats (or as they say now, "encore performances" - but I know what it is), shopping centers are jammed and those of us on the outside looking in are constantly reminded of what we're missing - or told we are missing. It's a miserable time to be alive and I'd sleep through it if I could.
It's the holidays.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's eve and Valentine's Day (Christmas's illegitimate child) feast on our conscience and remind some of us of what we don't have rather than what we do. I like to be able to choose what to do rather than have it chosen for me, and I've always felt that the winter holidays were foist upon me, and it makes me uncomfortable.
I fully realize that I'm a square peg, but I wonder how many people are subjected to the holiday nonsense that would just as soon be left alone? They do it either out of guilt or obligation, and if left to their own devices would ignore it and let it pass. But society tells us we are supposed to act a certain way, and the sheep that we are (most of us), we follow along.
It reminds me of a particularly snowy day (before global warming) and as I drove home I realized that the tracks that the cars left in front of me were guiding me around a long curve, but the tracks weren't in the travel lane, they were in the lane of oncoming traffic, but because the snow was so deep, I couldn't escape the impression left by the others, and it took a lot of work to get out of the deep groove and move back into the proper lane - where I belonged. Being dragged along by the masses often takes us into the path of oncoming traffic. How's that for a metaphor?
What do I want for Christmas? Peace of mind.
Wake me in March.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Must (not) see TV.

In case you haven't heard, Tim Kring, executive producer of NBC's onetime hit drama "Heroes," got himself in hot water with recent comments about viewers and DVRs. Kring said that DVRs are making it tougher for serialized shows like "Heroes."
At a screenwriting conference earlier this month, Kring said of the serialized trend:
"It's a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now, because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming. The engine that drove [serialization] was you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired]. Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on air. So [watching it] on air is related to the saps and dipshits who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way."
I used to like television. Back when it was free and the shows weren't infested with advertising. You might not be old enough to remember when that happened. Last week, while watching one of my favorite shows ("Heroes" on NBC) I thought that it was my imagination that the show was continually interrupted by advertising, so this week I decided to take notes while I watched the show. That's not a bad idea anyway, since there are so many characters it's like listening to an economics lecture and harder to keep track of. But I digress.
Monday night's "Heroes" (which besides featuring the longest solar eclipse in history) which NBC tells us is an hour-long drama, contained a grand total of 39 minutes of content. That's 21 minutes of commercials, or for you math majors, 35% of the allotted hour. The highlight (from my copious notes) was at 9:21, when 8 minutes of program was followed by 5 minutes of commercials and another 5 minutes of program followed by 4 minutes of advertising. From 9:21 to 9:43 (22 minutes) there was 13 minutes of the actual program.
Besides ruining something called continuity, it makes it difficult to follow the story when it's interrupted every 6 to 8 minutes by ads. In serialized shows, it's important to be able to remember what happened and not be distracted by continuous interruptions. The longest run of program content was 8 minutes (twice) and the shortest was 5 minutes. That's right, 5 minutes of program sandwiched between 9 minutes of commercials. In the hour, there were 5 commercial breaks...
... and 39 minutes of the program. Seriously.
But the evidence for Kring's claim doesn't look very strong. Nielsen stats for the week ending November 2 show that "Heroes" was among the most-time-shifted shows on television, with nearly 40% of its total audience watching on a non-live basis. Only CW's "90210" and NBC's "The Office" got bigger bumps from DVR usage.
Hey Tim: Maybe it isn't the DVR, but the amount of commercials you choose to sell on your show that makes people time-shift it and skip over the ads? Who's the dipshit now?
NOTE TO NETWORK TV PEOPLE: You are in danger of losing even more viewers to DVDs and pay cable. Sunday night's Showtime episode of "Dexter" (the unofficial best show on television) ran almost the entire hour, uninterrupted by advertising. Of course, it costs money to watch it, but given the alternative I think the cost might be worth it.
Hey, maybe that's what they're up to? The networks will frustrate us by adding more and more advertising to shows until we finally scream that "We're as mad as Hell, and we're not going to take this anymore!" So, in a show of good faith they allow us to purchase commercial-free network television.
How long will it be before that happens? With this digital conversion happening in February, they're taking another step toward taking free television completely away from us.
There's an old saying: Once the camel gets his nose under the tent, it isn't long before the whole camel is in the tent with you.
He'll have both feet in by February.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The goings-on in a rather mundane life.

Today was one of those wasted days - I have a lot of those - the kind where it's so rainy and cold that all I can think to do is bunker-up at home and watch the television. It makes me glad that I spent some money on a nice TV but sad that I wasted an entire day at home staring at the TV and my cat, who doesn't seem to know the difference. I'm also glad that I don't keep snacks in the house, because I would have sat here all day munching potato chips, and that wouldn't be good.
I watched a football game, because that's what Americans do on Sunday. Later, I watched a documentary on the History Channel about Albert Einstein and his struggle to develop and prove his theory of relativity. We were told that, at the time, the theory and it's proof were viewed as historic by people in general, and after it was proved, Albert Einstein became a celebrity and a household name. I wondered when we started talking about smart people as being "Einstein's" or started mocking stupid people by saying, "Nice going, Einstein." The documentary didn't go into that.
There was an ad for one of those drugs that is supposed to make you stop doing something. This one was excessive urination, which is odd because we are told to drink more water. Now, we're peeing too much. The drug had several side effects which included fainting and decrease in semen. That's bad, I guess. Why is it that drugs never have positive side effects? Couldn't there be a drug that would make your blood pressure drop and would also make you more interesting at parties? I'd take that one.
Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg at a night club in New York. Outside of the legality of carrying a loaded weapon into a night club, I wonder about why high-profile athletes carry weapons. Have you ever read about an athlete who interceded in a crime, saved a life (or his own) or generally helped anyone because he had a gun on him? No. All you read about are guys being shot or killed and athletes going to prison and losing a lot of money because they were carrying a weapon.
60 Minutes did a profile on Michael Phelps tonight. They said he's going to make "hundreds of millions of dollars" hyping products and generally lending his image to junk that people sell. So far, I've only seen him on those Rosetta Stone ads and I must say, I'm not impressed. He's obviously a great athlete and a nice guy who loves his mom and all, but I'm not motivated to buy anything because he tells me he uses it, which leads me to believe that Subway and the other companies who are paying him those millions are wasting their money.
I don't see Phelps as being all that charismatic, and I'm not sure he's a very good investment. I think that any company who gives large sums of money to any celebrity endorser would be better served by telling us that they're dropping the price of the product by 3-percent. That would sell a lot more stuff than having some famous face attached to it.