Friday, August 27, 2010


When Hulu announced their Plus plan, I heard the same conversation at least 3 times.

"Hulu Plus still has ads? I'm not paying to watch ads!"
"Well you've paid for cable right? And that has ads."
"Oh yeah . . . "

I think we'd have to score that exchange:
Haters: 1
Keepin' it Real: 0

But it is weird, when you think about it, paying someone to show you ads. So why do we accept it so willingly with cable TV?

The fact is, for a long time most media was one-way communication. There was no way for viewers to give feedback, to stop one show and go to another. Ads could be a part of the experience because the users had no other choice.

But the internet is all about choice, it's entirely driven by the choices of the viewer. So once something is online, we have different expectations about how it's presented.

How interesting then, that Hulu (which is owned by TV Networks) contains traditional ads, while other services like Netflix Instant (which is in the DVD business, where users have more control of the content) do not. 

I think this is called a paradigm shift.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I might have made most of these up

You may know that a 50th anniversary traditionally means a gift of gold, while the 25th is silver. And you may even know that paper is for a one-year anniversary. But did you know that there are even sub-year gift designations?

1 year-paper anniversary
9 months-ice cream
6 months-fish
3 months-coffee mug
1 month-silly dance
3 weeks-bread
2 weeks-action figure
1 week-compliment
1 day-funny joke
12 hours-compliment
1 hour-wave
30 minutes-fist pound
1 minute - high five*

*Usually while walking out of the church, that's why you never see it. But watch the time closely during the reception, you'll see the bride and groom discretely fist pound.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buggin' OUT!

I don't think I need to justify my position if I say that "kittens are adorable." Most of the internet that you're using to read these words is supported by a solid tier of cute feline content, and most modern routers are built with a protocol that prioritizes kitty media and pushes it out on its own frequency.

Ok, that last bit I probably made up.

But I've realized something from watching these two grow up:

One of the reasons that kittens are so cute is that they're basically little superheroes. Like Peter Parker waking up the morning after the spider bite, kittens come into this world with incredible powers that they have absolutely no idea how to use.* In a few months, a kitten will become the dominant predator of its environment—fast, agile, stealthy, adaptable—the complete package. As a species, it's clear that house cats have done a bit of min-maxing, sacrificing intelligence and size for a comprehensive suite of movement abilities. Then there's the heightened hearing, night vision, retractable climbing claws—superheroes wish they had that kind of tech. The only reason cats can't shoot webs is that they used up their last ability slot with that thing where they flip over in mid-air.

But until a kitten gains control over their powers, they're basically just little hilarity factories.
Jumping up onto the pass-through window for the first time? Not quite buddy!
Taking a hair-pin turn around a door frame? Bonk! Mew!
What just went "splash"? Oh, right, left the toilet open.

Lesson learned kitten.

*With great power comes great responsibility. And here, that responsibility is defined as "end the lives of as many bugs as possible."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Na-na-naaa, Na-na-naaa, Na-na-naaaaaaa

If you were born after 1987, you likely never saw a movie called "The Never Ending Story."

If you were born between 1975 and 1987, you likely gasped when you read the sentence above.

If you were born before 1975, you likely just wondered why anyone would gasp over that weird, awful children's movie.

Stories that involve escapism tend to wield a powerful hold (with big, strong hands I guess), and this is an escapist story about the escapism of stories, so if you saw the movie when you were the right age to identify with Bastian then I guess you're bound to love it.

Now as it happens, we live in the future, so if you'd like to experience a cultural fixture of the "NES Generation" (and here I'm using that to stand for both "Never Ending Story" and "Nintendo Entertainment System") you may do so right now on YouTube. Go on. It's ok. I'll just be here, deconstructing my childhood beat-for-beat.

Some thoughts on watching the film now, all these years later.

I know I said it was "awful," and it kinda is, but to be fair there's some good stuff here. First of all, when Bastian says "I had another dream Dad, about Mom," there's a pretty incredible emotional beat. We don't need any more explanation. One line into the movie and we instantly know who this kid is, what he's dealing with, and how strained his relationship with his father is. That's eloquence itself. And you know what really brings it home? Gerald McRaney, there in the background, stopping right before cracking that egg. That pause sells the whole moment.

That being said . . . does Bastian's dad really crack an egg into a blender full of orange juice, then drink it? Ugh. So gross. And while we're on the subject, doesn't it seem like a lot of 80's movies had scenes with a character drinking raw eggs? I know Rocky did, and I'm thinking maybe the older brother in Goonies as well. Was that how you showed that a character was a big strong guy back then?

Another aspect of NES that really stands up is the large scale puppetry. Before I revisited the movie I doubted whether Morla, Rock Biter, and Gmork were going to look as good as I remembered, but they're all stunning even today.

Generally I'm not in the "it was better the way they used to do it," "old man shaking his fist" camp, but I have to admit that CG versions of those characters wouldn't be as good as these. The designer's craftsmanship was simply too fine, their work too polished by the challenges of physical materials.

But um . . . Falcor I do have to take up with them. He um . . . He looks kind of phallic okay I said it now let's move on.

Of course I couldn't mention those enormous characters without giving a nod to the excellent actors that gave them voices. Or rather, actor. Yeah, they were all done by the same guy, Alan Oppenheimer, and if the NES Genners will take a moment to review the man's resume, I think they'll find that they love him dearly.*

One final tidbit about the film, it left an interesting linguistic mark on the NES generation. I have always thought of an "oracle" as a statue. The whole time I was reading about the "Oracle at Delphi" in Greek mythology, I imagined it as a big stone carving. But it wasn't, the Oracle at Delphi was a person as oracles usually are. So why do the NES Genners get it wrong? Because they were introduced to the word by The Never Ending Story, which includes a "Southern Oracle" that's represented by a pair of huge statues.

*Because he was also Skeletor!