250 reviews of time travel TV, movies, books right here

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ben Relles - Obama Girl producer - Talked To My Class Tonight At Fordham

And Ben revealed some great nuggets - about how the Obama Girl videos came to be, and what we can expect in the future ...

1. The Obama Girl video (I've Got a Crush on Obama) began as "I've Got a Crush on Jack Bauer" ... but real politics hit Ben as the better way to go. I urged to him eventually do the Jack Bauer video anyway - I'm always looking out to help fans of 24...

2. Ben and his team scrutinized YouTube before embarking on the project - they discovered that, with all the attention the comedy skits get, the most popular videos were music. Hence the catchy songs in both the "I've Got a Crush on Obama" and "Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl" (Debate 08) videos.

3. Leah Kauffman wrote the first drafts of the lyrics. They were much hotter than what made it to YouTube (which are pretty hot, anyway ... "I want Giuliani on me...")

4. Ben also told the class what the next release will be in the Obama Girl series. In fact, we saw a rough cut of it. I'm sworn to secrecy - but stay tuned here for very first word of it.

5. Obama Girl (Amber Lee Ettinger) will also be appearing as an interviewer of some of the Democratic candidates in the YouTube/CNN debates last week. These are interviews with some of the real candidates that she conducted last week in South Carolina. My favorite bit: an interview with Dennis Kucinich, who appears ever briefly in "Debate 08" (Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl).

It's never been more fun being a professor, and teaching a course in Propaganda and Persuasion.

If Obama is elected President - or Vice President - or even gets the Democratic nomination for President or VP, Ben Relles and the impact he's having with the Obama Girl videos will deserve part of the credit for that.

See also

The Barely Political Revolution

and BarelyPolitcal.com Goes Meta!

Big Love 2 Episode 8: Polygamy and Misgivings

A powerhouse of an episode of Big Love on HBO tonight, that shook the series to its polygamous roots. And it did this with some of the hottest scenes so far, and a shocker course-changing ending.

It began with the seemingly innocuous: Bill falls asleep and misses his night with Nikki. She's of course unhappy, and Bill concludes from this that maybe one night a week off - from sex with his wives - would be a good thing for him and the family. The reason, presumably, is stress at business. But nothing is innocuous in this intensely loving tinder house of a family.

Nikki assumes the reason is her. Margene's ok with it, at first - reasonably pointing out that the wives have plenty of nights off, so why shouldn't Bill. Unlike Nikki, Margene is happy and secure in her sexual relationship with Bill.

But the most profound and revealing reaction is Barb's: she's furious about this request, because she's already seen her seven nights a week whittled down to fewer than three.

And Barb's misgivings about polygamy become even more clear when Ben announces that he wants to marry Brynn - so as not to let his lust and love be sinful - and answers his parents' concerns that he's too young to make such a decision by assuring them he can take another wife later, in addition to Brynn, if he feels so moved.

Barb is horrified, talks to Brynn and tells her about Ben's scenario. Brynn (played by the beautiful Sarah Jones) breaks up with Ben - who is furious at Barb for talking to Brynn-

But the deeper story here is Barb and her complex, conflicted feelings about polygamy. Whatever she may say and even feel about herself, she certainly does not want this for her son - that's crystal and painfully clear.

On the bright side, we see the hottest scenes so far with Bill and each of his wives...

But the business with Roman and the Greenes is reaching a boiling point, and I won't tell you the ending, in case you haven't seen it.

Suffice to say that Big Love has moved on to a new, more dangerous and violent level...

See also reviews of other episodes: Big Love Resumes ... 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 11. Family in Crisis ... 12. Polygamy and Great Performances Confirmed

Monday, July 30, 2007

Tom Snyder: Progenitor of Cable and YouTube

A note to mark the passing of Tom Snyder into the realm of the ultimate rerun. He died on July 29, at age 71.

Synder was of course best known for his work on NBC's Tomorrow show, from 1973-1982. Synder was brilliantly spoofed by Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live, did lots of work on radio, and even showed for a while on local TV news here in New York.

He was easy to laugh at, but, in his own way, was probably more important than Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and any of those classic network news guys. This was because Snyder showed, on The Tomorrow Show, that there was a powerful appetite for new news and cutting edge interviews in the middle of the night - or after Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

If that sounds familiar, or commonplace now, that's because you see it every night on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC - not to mention ABC's Nightline. All of that and more are the progeny of what Tom Snyder brought into being.

Indeed, by stretching the notion of the possible in television news and interviews, Synder not only set up our world for cable, but for YouTube, Obama Girl videos and all that makes our current news world so vibrant.

God speed, Tom. My wife and I saw you on the first Tomorrow show in 1973, and we'll all be poorer for your leaving.

John from Cincinnati: Episode Eight: Shaun, John, and bin Laden

A taut, tension-filled eighth episode of HBO's John for Cincinnati this evening, with some great dabs of humor - but everyone understandably worried sick about Shaun, given John's pronouncements that "Shaun will soon be gone," and his making a terrorist-style video message to make his point.

Best line of the show, apropos the terrorist angle, comes from the "ball busting" Cissy - referring to the video message, before she sees it, "like that fuck bin Laden"? Not only the best line of the show but Rebecca De Mornay's best line so far.

Also in the best line department, in the runner-up return engagement category, we get Butchie saying "dumping out" and "boning" as he describes John's peculiar speech pattern.

But Shaun's not yet gone - he's just off to Sea World with Tina (who again has the honor being referred to as "whore" by Cissy).

In the end, he also signs a contract with Linc, with Cissy signing, too.

But not to worry, we have two episodes left, and we're nowhere near a happy ending.

In fact, quite to the contrary, John is not letting up on Shaun soon being gone, and in the coming attractions everyone seems to be saying that he is ...

But I'm stubbornly holding on to the prediction that Shaun being "gone" may not be bad.

Great song as usual under the closing credits of this weird-ass but compelling enigma of a series ... "When Love Came to Town"... U2 and B. B. King's rendition of the B. B. King classic.

See also reviews of other episodes ... Some Thoughts on John (from Cincinnati) ... Episode Two ... Episode Three ... Episode Four ... Episode 5 ... Episode 6 ... Episode 7 ... Episode 9 ... Episode 10

See also John from Cincinnati: The Meaning in a Sentence or Two

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dummy in the HOV Lane

So, I just got back from a drive in an HOV lane, and was laughing because of a story I saw a few months ago, about a guy on Long Island, NY who was arrested for driving with a dummy in the HOV lane...

Is there anyone who's driven in or near an HOV lane who hasn't thought of that? Our daughter used to have an oversized penguin. Many's the time we put a straw hat on its head, and left it to guard the car, in the driver's seat, in a mall parking lot.

The guy on Long Island had a more lifelike figure - a CPR practice-mannequin with a moustache and hair and everything. And this got me wondering - what exactly is the difference for HOV purposes between a life-like dummy or a very quiet person sitting next to you? Or maybe a sleeping person, or a not very bright person you might call a dummy. Come on - we've all driven with such dummies, from time to time.

I guess a quiet person could start talking, a sleeper could awaken, and a dullard could say something intelligent every now and then - even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, as they say in the South (at least, that’s what someone who isn’t a dummy once told me) - and this sets the tongued-tied and the shy, the sleeper and the dullard, apart from dummies, and makes them lawfully countable as a passenger for HOV (high occupancy vehicle) purposes.

Ok, so how about a dead person? I know, a cop would likely pull you over if you had someone dead sitting next to you, anyway. But if it wasn't your fault, could you still be cited for an HOV violation?

I'm not sure, but I have a feeling you would not.

So what's wrong with a dummy?

The alert cop who nabbed the daring Long Island driver said the passenger's head was tilted in a strange way ... hmmm ... stranger than a drunk's? Maybe the driver has a case against the company that made the mannequin - "I thought it was supposed to be lifelike, your Honor! They never tested the neck!"

But, getting back to drunks, sleepers, idiots, and quiet people - I think maybe the key is that the passenger has to be alive. But is the key, then, humanly alive? How about a dog, an ape ... a big snake plant? (I also read recently that someone discovered a band of chimps making spears - seriously. Ok, for me this means they are definitely human enough to count as passengers in HOV lanes. I wouldn't be shocked to learn that chimps are subject to road rage, too.)

On other hand, chimps can't really talk, and some dummies can – no, I don't mean people who are dummies, I mean ventriloquist's dummies...

Ah! Long Island man, here's your defense, if it’s not too late: bring your dummy to court with you. When it comes time to plead your guilt or innocence, have the dummy make the plea.

If the judge can't see your mouth move, you should be found not guilty - assuming the judge is not a dummy.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Ties That Happily Bind

I love a good tie. Not that I get dressed in a shirt and tie all too often, but when I do, it's the tie that does it for me. I tie them in a Double-Windsor - that's what my father taught me, and what I taught my son - and I'm feeling good and ready to take on anyone, including Bill O'Reilly.

That's why I was so pleased to find Belisi.com - with ties as distinctive as you'll find in London, at much lower prices. There are a lot other cool fashion and lifestyle items on the site - silk scarves, pocket squares, and check out the Handbags shop by Belisi Fashions - great for gifts.

And speaking of gifts, a portion of every purchase you make at Belisi - regardless of how large or small - is donated to your favorite cause. That's what I call paying forward, to borrow Robert Heinlein's term. I really like that, and it's why I decided to write this post.

Belisi Fashions was started by Peter Belisi, who was bartending in Palm Beach, Florida, and struggling to make ends meet with a newborn baby and wife. A real rags to silk tie story!

this is a sponsored post

Friday, July 27, 2007

Republicans Now Thumb Noses at YouTube as Well as Evolution

What do you expect? Remember that three of the Republican Presidential candidates - Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo - don't even believe in evolution. You expect them to understand the advantages of YouTube?

The Washington Post reported yesterday that only John McCain and Ron Paul have committed to the September YouTube/CNN debates. Ron Paul makes sense. As I've said many times, he is far and away the best of the Republican candidates. He is a rarity in both parties, because of his devotion to the U.S. Constitution. This makes him unaccepting of the FCC and Congress's attempts to trample the First Amendment, and to going to war without the required declaration.

Ron Paul's supporters have also shown considerable Internet savvy - and I expect we'll be seeing even more in the months ahead.

I'm glad John McCain sees the value of the YouTube debates. It's easy to be cynical, and say McCain is so desperate that he'll try anything, but he still deserves credit for recognizing this step forward in democracy.

As for the rest, and in particular the other front runners, Giuliani and Romney? Giuliani is said to be leaning against participating, and Romney (who is acting more than ever like a Cylon) offered this gem of wit, according to the Washington Post: "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman." (This presumably was a reference to the global warming question asked in the Democratic YouTube/CNN debate).

If these Republicans fail to come around to the YouTube debate, if they thumb their noses at all the questions YouTube will no doubt get for them, they will only be greasing their downhill skids.

I predict that most if not all of the recalcitrants will come around on this. Democracy is moving forward this summer. It will be a very interesting August for the Republicans.

See also - July 26, 2007 article in the Houston Chronicle - "Debate Praised as Fresh and Original", in which I and other media commentators rave about the success of this first YouTube debate...

First YouTube/CNN Presidential Debate

Is Mitt Romney A Cylon?

Three Republican Candidates Deny Evolution

How About We Look for the Best Candidates in Both Parties? (discovering Ron Paul) ...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television

Not much plot motion in the second episode of AMC's Mad Men tonight, but that's ok, because the show's unique ambiance continues to shine...

Where you else can you hear people talking about People Are Funny, and a guy in the office (Paul played by Michael Gladis) doing a "submitted for your approval" riff on The Twilight Zone, and lamenting that CBS might be cancelling it?

The show is such a trip to the '50s (pardon the '60s expression) that even some of the real ads - when the show stops for commercials - are integrated into the Mad Men mix. In addition to providing historical tidbits about various aspects of advertising history, Mad Men also provides a tidbit about Orkin, the exterminator company, before showing an actual Orkin ad (the tidbit: Orkin's first TV ad dates to 1954).

And the smoke and sexism reign supreme. As I mentioned last week, I was a kid in 1950s, and I remember the television all right, but not people smoking this much. On the other hand, I wasn't in the advertising world.

On Mad Men, smoke is a common denominator, shared by just about every adult. Men hitting on women in the office are ubiquitous, too, but some women, notably new girl in the office Peggy (played by Elizabeth Moss) are just beginning to confide their objections to other women. Why are we always the dessert after men take us out to lunch, Peggy asks office manager Joan (played by Christina Hendricks).

Fair enough - but, I gotta admit that, as much as I like Peggy, it's a little hard for me to sympathize after she indicated to Paul - about his Twilight Zone routine - that she doesn't like science fiction! Apostasy!

There is one bit of worrying action: Don's wife Betty (January Jones - that's the actress's name - a name from the 1950s if ever there was one) is having trouble with her hands, as in they're not working quite right. She's off to the shrink - they were probably at the height of their trendiness then - but I have a feeling this is something more serious...

More next week ... it's good indeed to be back in the late 1950s, again -- especially since the smoke doesn't go through the screen...

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) - in which we discuss what Harry and the characters are really smoking on Mad Men - at Light On Light Through

great interview with Peggy (Elisabeth Moss)...

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarettes and Nixon Coming ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Obama Girl in Old and New Media

I wanted to mention a fascinating and instructive episode in the BarelyPolitical.com Obama Girl revolution - which I didn't get a chance to mention, last week.

It's from the four divas on The View, discussing the first Obama Girl video a few weeks ago. Most of it is good fun. But, at the end, Joy Behar opines that, because Amber Lee Ettinger, the actress who plays Obama Girl, said "I don't know who I'm voting for," this is an example, according to Behar, of "hookerville ... she's an actress".

Now this has received a lot of bemused commentary, and Amber Lee has since said she has considered all of the candidates, and she indeed expects to vote for Obama, but ...

There are several important points which deserve to be remembered in this episode:

1. Behar's point was inane even before Amber Lee announced whom she was supporting. She's an actress - as Behar recognizes. This means that everything she says and does in the videos is part of a role she's performing. It matters not in the slightest who the actress supports - any more than whether James Gandolfini thinks the mob is a good way of life. I would bet anyone in kindergarten or higher understands this.

2. But there's also a deeper, media-evolutionary point here: old media, and their stars and proponents, are frequently hostile to new media. This can take many forms. D. W. Griffith, one of the great pioneering filmmakers, considered himself a prostitite (hookerville...) for not working in the legitimate medium of his time, the theater. Stars of silent movies lashed out at talkies (in some cases, understandably, because their voices didn't match their faces).

In the current, fast-moving realm of audio-visual narrative media, we have new media (YouTube), middle-aged media (all-news cable), and old media (the networks - on which is The View). Not surprisingly, the BarelyPolitical.com team and Amber Lee have done very well on Fox News. CNN is clearly very aware of YouTube (doing the YouTube Presidential debates), and MSNBC is, too (though MSNBC missed an important beat, I think, in not getting those YouTube debates on its air).

But old media - of which Joy Behar is a classic expression - just don't get it. Like the sinking CBS Evening News, the networks are sliding downward, and anything really cutting edge will fly and flourish off it...

In the meantime, here's the entire 2 and 1/2 minute clip from The View, for your viewing pleasure...

See also The Barely Political Revolution

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fire Ants...

They seem like something out of a horror movie - and, in a sense, they are ... They look like the kind of ants you find in your garden, on a picnic table, in your house ...

But these things sting, causing fiery blisters, which can get easily infected.

The fireant entered the southeastern part of the United States after World War II. They're now in residence in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia - and they're starting to show up in California.

Whether you live in one of those states or a nearby area, or are a science fiction writer on the lookout for a horror story that's quickly coming true, you'll find lots of useful information on www.controlfireants.com - how to control them, recognize their mounds, be ready for them. In this case, as in so much else, knowledge is power.

this is a sponsored post

Meadowlands: Episode 6: Jumpin' Jack Wrath

MeadowlandsReal reveals on Sunday's Episode 6 of Showtime's Meadowlands - the best episode since the debut.

Plays on words and people were what made this episode tick. Does "Cape Wrath" sound like "Jack's Dead" to you? Maybe, a little. But that's what Freddie uses to try to get Danny to forget about Cape Wrath, which, we learn by the end of episode (Samantha tells Danny) is the name of the overall project of which Meadowlands is a part. So now we can see why the name of the show is Cape Wrath in the UK and Meadowlands in the US - America is, in the long perspective of world culture, part of the British realm of creation.

But back to the show ... Freddie is hoping to get Danny to forget about Cape Wrath by associating that name with Jack's Dead, something Freddie and we know Danny would love to forget. These mind games, it turns out, are what Cape Wrath and Meadowlands are all about.

Danny asks Samantha, near end of the episode, if he's brought his "family to hell". You've brought them to heaven, Samantha answers, because Meadowlands is witness protection-plus - that is, witness protection plus psychological manipulation to make all the criminals who got there feel ... good.

Which brings us to Samantha, and her back story, which is the other key to what's really going on in the show. Samantha goes to London to see her dying father, Professor Campbell (played by Clarke Peters, last seen as Detective Lester Freamon on The Wire, one of the best characters in that all-together spectacular series). Campbell is an eminent neuro-scientist, Samantha was his first experiment in reconstituting shattered souls, and ... now it all begins to make some sense. Of course Samantha is the person heading the Cape Wrath project.

The question, of course, is how sane is Samantha now, and therefore how seriously can we take her claim to Danny - assuming she wasn't lying - that he and his family are truly in the best place they could be....

Well, Dr. Yorke and wife Abigail are in interesting place, that's for sure. Abigail wears a dress Evelyn picked out for herself, gets the good doctor to call her Evelyn and they have a good time together in bed - but the doc feels guilty afterwards. My advice to the doc: get over it, enjoy it, Abigail played by Emma Davies is all right.

And I think Meadowlands is all right now, too - or at least fully back on a good, tingling track ...

reviews of other episodes: Meadowlands Opens ... with Tongues and Grooves ... Episode 2 ...
Episode 3 ... Episode 4 ... Episode 5 ... Episode 7 ... Episode 8

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Those Old Cell Phones...

I haven't done any surveys, but I'd bet cell phones are the most frequently replaced little technologies in our culture today. I know I get a new model every one or two years - more often than getting a new car, and, unlike the car, there's not much of a market for "pre-owned" cell phones.

CellForCash.com has stepped up with an option - a site that pays you for your old cell phone. Rather than putting your old phone in a drawer somewhere, with just a few old socks for company, you can sell it to CellForCash. You search on the manufacturer, put in a model number, and up pops the money offer. Hey, if you'd rather just donate your phone, you can do that, too. That surely also beats leaving your phone to the mothballs in your drawer.

The site itself is really fun, and easy to use. It has a ticker running at the bottom with cell phone models and the cash they can bring you. If you like the cash offer - hey, what's not to like, even a small amount of cash is better than none, and some of the models command $50 or $60 - CellForCash can send you a free postage-paid box for you to mail your phone to them and receive your cash in return. It's that easy to sell a cell phone to CellForCash.com.

They also have giveaway promotions on the site, referral fees if you recommend other people who want to sell their old cell phones, and all kinds of other goodies. I've never needed a reason to be on the verge of buying a brand new cell phone, but now that I know I can sell my old cell phone to CellForCash, I'll be unstoppable...

this is a sponsored-rev post

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Big Love 2 Episode 7: Margene's Mama

Margene continues to the shining star of this year's Big Love, and last night didn't disappoint. Margene's mother, a real piece of work played by Bonnie Bedelia, pays an unexpected visit.

There was something especially hilarious and satirical about this - how many times have moms made unexpected visits in sit-coms, soap operas, and what have you since the 1950s. It was nice to see Big Love's unique take on this, since, of course, Margene's mom doesn't know about the polygamy.

Nikki played an especially interesting role in this. Disowned just a few weeks ago by her own mother - Roman's wife - Nikki is needy of mothering, and is glad to have her sister-wife's mother around. She sees Bill kissing Barb, gets drunk, makes a pass at Bill, and passes out. Ozzie and Harriet this show is not, and that's of course its charm.

Meanwhile, Bill's way of dealing with the hideous Hollis - setting Hollis and Roman on a collision courses - may not be the best move, after all. Bill's mother and brother and sister-in-law, after all, are still in residence on Roman's compound. (So was Barb for a while, don't ask.)

So, too, again, is Bill's father, played by Bruce Dern. He's frightening to just about everyone - though Bill's mother Lois takes no guff from him.

Hmmm ... would be interesting to see a confrontation of Hollis versus Roman, with Frank (Bill's father) tipping the balance ...

See also reviews of other episodes: 1. Big Love Resumes ... 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis ... 12. Polygamy and Great Performances Confirmed

Harry Potter and Obama!

Yes, and speaking of Harry Potter and Barack Obama - as I've been doing here for the past few days - I just came across this YouTube clip (on Facebook) in which the Obamas talk about Harry ... (July 10)...

The Obama Girl videos, he reads Harry Potter with his kids ... getting big points in my book....

see also The Barely Political Revolution

and Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

Monday, July 23, 2007

John from Cincinnati: Episode Seven: The Halo Effect

Last night's John from Cincinnati on HBO - Episode Seven and the next to last - was the most upbeat (until the very end) and my favorite so far.

I also think I'm finally beginning to get at least a little of what this is all about: the frothiness and invigoration and power and pitfalls of surfing - whether the ocean or the Web.

Butchie is back in the water and beginning to regain his prowess. Kai has saved his gear, rather than sell them for the cash that Butchie needed for his drugs. All of that is great.

Also good is what Dwayne tells Butchie - the web hits on Butchie's page have jumped to 1244 in 24 hours (hey, Infinite Regress gets twice that on good days, thanks to all of you John from Cincinnati readers, which I truly appreciate), and Dwayne suggests that Shaun should get a site of his own. It's all part of the halo effect, Dwayne explains - not John's sort of halo, but all the publicity about Shaun's miraculous recovery drawing people online to Butchie's site (actually, that does have to do with John's recuperative halo, doesn't it)... Butchie, as usual, gets in some good lines, including a comment that Shaun's already on "MyTube" (good synchrony, I just posted a rave review of the first YouTube/CNN Presidential debate).

Meanwhile, back on John from Cincinnati, Linc's Stinkweed media-surfing company is trying to get him to see the merits of the Web. Linc resists, with apt comments about what the Web's most popular commodity (porn). But by the end of this thread, Linc may be a millionaire, and have Tina (Shaun's mother) along with him, too.

See, I told you it was an upbeat show. Even Palaka recovers after getting a raging infection from a tattoo.

But near the very end of the episode, John remarks, "Shaun will soon be gone..."

This means, what? John's powers of healing are only temporary? Shaun will have another fatal accident? Or maybe - if the series can end with at least a little hope - Shaun will be going on to have some great career that will take him away from Imperial Beach....

You know, I'm really beginning to warm up to this insane show and its pace and characters, and will miss it after the next weeks.

Including its fine music. The show ended tonight with a great rendition of John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels" by Matis Yahu - one of my all-time favorite Lennon songs.

See also reviews of other episodes ... Episode One ... Episode Two ... Episode Three ... Episode Four ... Episode Five ... Episode Six ... Episode 8 ... Episode 9 ... Episode 10

See also John from Cincinnati: The Meaning in a Sentence or Two

First YouTube/CNN Presidential Debate!

The first YouTube/CNN Presidential Debate - this one with the the Democrats - just concluded. I said I would wait until I saw it, to say how much of a revolution it was. Having seen it, I think it was revolutionary indeed - and, in fact, as much a leap forward in the debates and democracy as the first Presidential debates on television in 1960.

I don't ever recall seeing a debate in either party with such a refreshing, humorous, frank, and incisive a series of questions. The people asking the questions in the YouTube videos were far more on the money than any panel of experts.

And the candidates rose to the occasion with honest and important answers.

Barack Obama, when asked about whether he is a legitimate African-American candidate - given his access to power - quipped, "Ask the New York cabbies!" (African-Americans unfortunately have a tougher time getting a cab to stop for them and pick them up than Caucasian New Yorkers - I'm Caucasian, I've lived in New York all of my life, and maybe this problem has gotten a little better but it still exists).

Hillary Clinton, responding to a question about the election of Bush in 2000, responded that, actually, Bush was not elected President.

John Edwards, on health care, gave an impassioned plea for the need for all Americans to have it - he did this even though he had exceeded his time, and Anderson Cooper was trying to cut him off.

Joe Biden answered a YouTube question about gun control, asked by someone who was armed with an automatic weapon which he called his "baby". Answered Biden: if that's your baby, you need help....

And that's just a sampler.

Even Anderson Cooper, who did seem to unfairly cut off the minor candidates - such as Mike Gravel - more than the major, was in fine form tonight. The final questioner asked each candidate to cite something liked and disliked about the candidate to the left. Kucinich quipped that they there was no one standing to his left on the stage (true). Cooper replied - we tried to find someone to your left but there was no one...

There's nothing like the fresh of democracy to energize a debate, and give people clearer choices. There was concern, before the debate, about CNN exercising too much control in choosing the YouTube questions to be shown - I don't see how the choices could have been any better.

I'm looking forward to the Republican rendition of this fine experiment - which will become the norm - in September.

but added July 28: Republicans Now Thumb Noses at YouTube as Well as Evolution

And here's a July 26, 2007 article in the Houston Chronicle - "Debate Praised as Fresh and Original", in which I and other media commentators rave about the success of this first YouTube debate...


Hey, I'm a critic, and I rant and rave a lot, and so I'm always on the lookout for kindred souls and sites.

CriticsRant.com is just such place. It has movie reviews, of course, and movie discussions. And reviews of lots of tv shows, too.

How much is lots? I just was over at the site, and saw five reviews posted today. And, oh yeah, they rant about DVD releases, too.

There's so much going on in movies and television, today - as I've often said, we're in a new golden age of television - that no one site can possibly keep up with it. But if you like short, pithy reviews, and a chance to discuss, and even win a prize or two, CriticsRant.com does a good job of it.

this is a sponsored-rev post

Iran Is Reading My Squirrel Novel...

So, a report in Friday's Washington Post, by way of a BBC translation of an Iranian editorial entitled "Spying Squirrels," reveals the following -

A few weeks ago, 14 squirrels equipped with espionage systems of foreign intelligence services were captured by [Iranian] intelligence forces along the country's borders. These trained squirrels, each of which weighed just over 700 grams, were released on the borders of the country for intelligence and espionage purposes .... Fixing GPS devices, bugging instruments and advanced cameras in the bodies of trained animals like squirrels, mice, hamsters, etc, are among modern methods of collecting intelligence.

Holy cow! I'm not really surprised - in fact, flattered - because that's exactly the scenario of my 2003 science fiction novel, The Pixel Eye! (There are reviews etc here.)

Now, according to folks in the intelligence community (I never thought I'd be using that phrase... ), the Iranians frequently do this sort of thing - they make up preposterous cases of spying, to keep their people on edge, and to be able to claim victimhood in the world community.

I'm going to talk to my agent about whether I can get the Iranians to send me a royalty .... Now, if I hear that they think we're spying on them via chairs in dining clubs that time travel, I'll know they're really on to me...

The Pixel Eye

And yet more danger from squirrels...

Online Furniture

I don't know about you, but I find shopping for furniture the old-fashioned way, in stores, a real pain. You have to drive to the store, of course. You see a sofa or an arm chair you like - but another customer is sitting in it. You can stretch out on a bed, but, let's face it, you can't really sleep or even nap on it in a store. And, if you're lucky to find something you like, you have to make arrangements to have it delivered.

On of the great things about Web shopping, and about Furniturefromhome.com in particular, is you can look at sofas, chairs, beds, anything you sit, relax, or dream on, as fast or as leisurely as you like, at your own pace. Whether you're looking for furniture for the home office, bedroom furniture, or bar stools, it's all there online for you.

You can browse and shop by room - living room, game room, dining room, bedroom, etc. You can specify your color preference - cherry, brown, black, neutral, and more. And can look at styles and categories - like bookcases, which I can never seem to get enough of at home or in the office.

The bar stool selections are especially cool - I counted over 90 items for sale. I wouldn't mind grooving in a swivel bar stool, jiggling a glass of ginger beer and lime, right now.

Furniture from Home has lots of sale items, too. I saw a Vanilla White Leather Living Room Furniture Set, a Cherry King Queen Sleigh Bedroom Furniture Set, an Espresso Dining Room Furniture Counter Height Table Set, and a lot more.

All from the convenience of the rocking chair I'm now sitting in and writing from. Shopping for Furniture from Home. I can't think of a more relaxing and effective way to go shopping. Score another real convenience for the digital revolution.

this is a sponsored post

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: A Review, for Starters (Mild Spoilers)

The final Harry Potter novel sold over 8.3 million copies in the United States in its first day of publication. It deserves every one of the sales, and many more.

My wife and I purchased our copies, and one for our daughter, a few minutes after midnight on Saturday, at a Barnes and Noble a few minutes from our house (our son and his girlfriend bought their copies around the same time, in the city). When we left the store, kids with their copies were sitting in front, eagerly reading. I should have taken a picture.

I finished the novel around 5 this morning. My family had finished about a day earlier (hey, I had to leave a little time for watching television - but I also like to read at a leisurely pace).

There were so many things I loved about the novel. I'll go over some of them here. But consider this review a work in progress - I'll be back with more.

The interactions among the magical species were better than in the any of the previous novels: The banking, swordmaking goblins, in particular, were fleshed out, and played a crucial role in this story. So did house elves, and the giants and centaurs put in good appearances, too. Harry, Hermione, and Ron even got a chance to fly on another dragon.

All the beloved elements of the series got a great workout: Whether you like Patronuses or Nearly-Headless Nick or the magic of wizardry painting (enabling the people in portraits to talk to viewers, move to other frames in their vicinity, or even migrate to other portraits of themselves, wherever they may be - as a media theorist, I especially enjoy that) - they're all here.

It was good to see radio in the picture: Harry, Hermione, and Ron spend an amount of time on the run, cut off from knowledge of what is happening to their friends and enemies. As I was reading a heart-warming, riveting section in which Ron is able to tune in a pirate radio station - Potterwatch - I realized that only someone from Britain could write this so effectively. When that country teetered on the edge of falling to the Nazis at the beginning of World War II, it was Winston Churchill's voice on the radio that kept it going. Harry Potter is in many ways a uniquely British contribution to the world - at once British and universal. Much like the Beatles, it reflects the special genius on the other side of the Atlantic for entertaining and educating the world.

Lots of good details that explain oddities in our world: For example, why you sometimes walk or drive down a street, and notice the numbering on the houses has missed a beat - as if a number was accidentally skipped or left out. (This was probably in earlier novels, too, but it was good to get that little insight again. One of the best things about science fiction and fantasy is their offering exotic but logical explanations for everyday oddities.)

My favorite line: Molly Weasley, dueling with Bellatrix: "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" Yeah, all caps, and deservedly so.

Life and deaths: With a few exceptions, all warranted, and deeply satisfying.

Quibbles? Inevitable - no story, even the one J. K. Rowling has given us, can be perfect for every reader. But they're so few - indeed, just three, really - that I can put them here in one little paragraph: (i) Several good people died at the end, who didn't need to, or whose deaths were too off-scene and therefore didn't seem motivated. (ii) I don't get why Harry, Hermione, and Ron refrain from using killing curses on the villains, and confine themselves to stuns, etc. (iii) There was an unnecessary Epilogue.

But these are small reservations to an extraordinary ending to an extraordinary series.

And I'll be back here with more in the days, months, and years to come...

Enjoy a 15-minute (free) podcast: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The View from New York

See also about Harry Potter:

Harry Potter and Obama

The New York Times Spoils Harry Potter - A Little, But Still Too Much

The Elite Attack on Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the 3-D Phoenix movie review

Harry Potter and Spoilers: An Occasion for Basking

Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Cape Cod's the most beautiful place on Earth. And, though I haven't been off this planet as yet, I suspect the Cape would be hard to beat out in the cosmos, too. We go there every year. We just returned from a splendid month on the bay.

Part of the charm of the Cape is that it has both ocean and bay shores. The ocean has waves to rival Maine's. The bay is peaceful, with sunrises setting in the water and not to be believed.

The bay and the ocean merge in Provincetown, at the very tip of the Cape. It's the tip of a magic wand, but the spells it casts are its bounty of restaurants, galleries, bed-and-breakfast places in Provincetown - all in addition to the shores, of course.

There's so much to do in Provincetown - whether watching whales on a boat off the shore, or dining on the finest tuna, cod, or clams you ever tasted in your life - that it always helps to have a menu of opportunities before you get there. That's where http://www.provincetownlive.net comes in handy - you can get there on the web, or via http://ptownlive.net on the cell phone. It has 75 listings for restaurants alone ... (yeah, I love that seafood).

So give yourself a treat. Take a drive, take a fast ferry from Boston, get yourself to Provincetown. And before you do, or even while you're on the way, check out what's in store for you at provincetownlive.net - hey, the whales were really in fine form in June!

this is a sponsored post

YouTube-CNN Democratic Presidential Debate Tomorrow Night

Today - July 22 - is the last day you can submit your videotaped questions to YouTube for the Democratic Presidential debate which will take place on CNN tomorrow - Monday. I'm about 2/3rds finished with the 7th and final Harry Potter novel, but I wanted to take a few minutes away from the wizards and witches to comment on this media milestone.

I've been thinking a lot about this debate. It's an imperfect step forward in the democratization of Presidential debates, to be sure - no reporters, no buffers between the people and their questions for the candidates, but CNN will still have to choose which videos make the light of airtime on Monday evening.

But a half or whatever percentage of a loaf of new democracy this is, it is surely better than none.

In contrast to the traditional Presidential debate format, where we have to hope that the reporters at the table think enough along the same lines as you and I that they ask questions of real interest to you - in contrast to that profoundly indirect hit-and-miss process - on Monday night at least some small percentage of you, if not I, will get to have your faces and voices and questions put right there to the candidates. And you won't have to be in Charleston, South Carolina in some crowded audience tomorrow night, either, to ask your question. You could have uploaded it already, or can still, sometime today, from any place.

And that's progress, laudable progress, I think.

But is it revolutionary, along the lines of the first televised debate between JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960?

That debate was extraordinarily important only in retrospect, after the debate, in a very close election. Polls of radio listeners reported that Nixon had won. Polls of television viewers liked JFK. Many many more people watched the debates on television, and the rest was history....

So the proof of the pudding, or loaf of democracy tomorrow night - whether it's half or much less or much more - will be in the viewing, and in the aftermath.

I'll be back here shortly after with a report.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter and iPhone

Blackfriar's Marketing reports that buzz about Harry is not quite as much as the continuing buzz about iPhones, as of earlier today.

What's more significant is the enormous amount of buzz for each, which is no coincidence. What is iPhone, after all, if not an embodiment of some of the magic of Harry Potter, that any muggle with half a grand can carry right in hand?

The two, in other words, go hand in hand, as expressions of our yearnings for magical powers over time and space - in fiction and our everyday lives.

More about this in the latest episode of my Light On Light Through podcast - Harry Potter and the iPhone ...

And as soon as I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - I should have the novel in hand in less than two hours - I'll be back here with a review...

See also about iPhones: Hats off to George Hotz ... iPhone Arrives - I Predicted It in 1979 and iPhone Boosts Literacy and History Lesson: iPhone Sales Will Exceed Expectations and New York Times' David Pogue Sings "I Want An iPhone" to "My Way" and iPhone: Not Better iPod but New Species Media ... Mouth-Watering iPhone Commercial and the Real World ... Nano-iPhone and the Dymaxion Principle ...

See also about Harry Potter:

The New York Times Spoils Harry Potter - A Little, But Still Too Much

The Elite Attack on Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the 3-D Phoenix movie review

Harry Potter and Spoilers: An Occasion for Basking

Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

The Kill Point this Sunday on Spike TV

Hey, hostage negotiator movies have always been among my favorites - from Pacino's Dog Day Afternoon to Clive Owen and Denzel Washington in the superb Inside Man last year...

So I'm looking forward to The Kill Point with John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg in a Pittsburgh on Spike TV starting at 9pm this Sunday.... (hey, it has to be vastly better than The Nine)....

I'll be back here with a review on Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, try out your skills as a hostage negotiator in this Kill Point game...

Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon Coming

Mad Men debuted on AMC television a few hours ago. My wife had seen a write-up of the show in The New York Times. A smart friend, Zach, mentioned it a comment on my "Barely Political Revolution" (Obama Girl) post in this blog. Matthew Wiener - a Sopranos Emmy winner for his producer work - is the Executive Producer. So we gave it a try - and we weren't disappointed. Not at all.

The show was quite good.

The setting is the New York City advertising world in 1960 - the "Mad Men" are Madison Avenue advertising men, which according to a squib on the show, was a name they gave to themselves.

Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, an advertising guy pretty close to the top of his game in his company. He looks like a young Robert De Niro, and dresses a lot like James Bond in his second and third movies. Not too shabby. His main problem is that one of the company's main clients is Lucky Strike Cigarettes - and this is a time when the Surgeon General and the media are first waking up to the real dangers of smoking.

The ambiance is superb and accurate. There's a high energy in this era, which I can still recall from when I was a kid. It somehow got sapped a little by everything that happened in the 1960s and after.

There's also a lot of smoke. Everyone smokes, all the time, including the doctors. Male chauvinism is rampant. And the music is spot-on perfect for the time and feel of the era.

The only possible error I caught was what looked like a sleek new IBM Selectric just brought into the 1960 office. But that revolutionary model - with no carriage - was introduced in 1961, in our reality. Well, maybe the typewriter in the office was some kind of test-run model...

But there was nothing else test-run about this show. The secretaries, clients - women as well as men - bosses and assistants are all vibrant and believable.

And Mad Men has an attractiveness all its own. It's certainly not like anything I've ever seen on the networks, and doesn't feel like an HBO or even an edgy off-beat Showtime entry. It has a pace and style that's somewhere between an Arthur Miller play and a Playhouse 90 production - meaning, good, and something you don't see too often if at all these days.

Affairs are simmering, and next week our hero may take on a new client - Richard Nixon, who may be running for President.

Cigarette companies and Nixon as clients - you gotta love it. I'll be watching.

See also reviews of other episodes: Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad Men 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through

6-minute podcast review of Mad Men

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Emmy Oversights!

The Emmy Nominations were announced today - I'm delighted that The Sopranos did so well, and Weeds and Jack Bauer got some due, and Heroes, too ...

But here, in classic television-watcher tradition, are some howls of protest from me about egregious oversights:

1. Nothing major for HBO's Rome - including nothing for one of the best performances on television, ever - better, even, than most of what you see on stage and screen - by James Purefoy as Marc Antony. And nothing at all for HBO's The Wire, easily one of the best shows now and in the history of television.

2. Nothing major for Showtime's superb Brotherhood, and nothing major for Showtime's Dexter, including nothing for Michael C. Hall, who gave a great performance. And nothing major, either, for Showtime's The Tudors.

3. Nothing major for Battlestar Galactica or Lost - but not surprising - for some reason, award-givers have glass eyes and tin ears when it comes to most things science fiction.

4. Nothing for NBC's Kidnapped. It was cancelled by NBC, finished its run online, and I predict it will come to be recognized in the future as the great show that it was.

By "nothing major," I mean no best series, no best actress or actor, etc. An "Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series" nomination, as Dexter and Lost received, is excellent for the editor but all but meaningless in the general popular culture.

Network for network, Showtime took the worst oversights. But, awards are like sugar-fixes, anyway. In the long run, what counts are the engagement of the viewers, which Showtime is doing a fine job in building....

And here are AP writer Frazier Moore's views on the matter, with some nice clips ...

The New York Times Spoils Harry Potter - A Little, But Still Too Much

The Evening Standard in London asked me to write a small piece with my reactions to The New York Times' publication of a review, this morning, of the 7th and final Harry Potter novel. That piece, which will be a shorter version of what follows, is being published in the Evening Standard even as we speak (actually, as I'm now writing).

For anyone who hasn't been living on Alpha Centauri (since I'm a science fiction writer, I usually use that as an example, rather than "under a rock"), J. K. Rowling and the Potter publishers have been taking great pains to prevent leakage of any story details. Now, I usually do not get all that upset about spoilers - see my other pieces on spoilers listed below - especially when the spoilers are little more than what any reasonably creative person could predict.

But this Harry Potter business in
The New York Times is something else, and much worse, and I think ... well, here's what I wrote about an hour ago for the Evening Standard...

We live in a spoiler-crazed culture – whether for a television show, movie, or novel, everyone wants to know the ending as soon as possible, before anyone else. The problem with this, however, is that once I know something of interest about a story beforehand, you may end up knowing it, too – whether you want that or not.

The New York Times’ publication of Michiko Kakutani’s review today of the final Harry Potter novel has taken this media abuse to a new level. It is one thing when some private citizen publishes a spoiler on the Web, and it goes viral. It is quite another when the American "newspaper of record" publishes a review with spoilers two days before the public release of the work.

True, The New York Times’ review did not include any major spoilers – I guess we can be grateful for that. But the publication of any review of a novel as significant as the final Harry Potter – a review which contains even the slightest giveaways of plot, which this one does – is ethically unacceptable, and only feeds the taste for more.

Because a spoiler published anywhere is inherently viral. People read it, talk about it, write about it, in an escalating cycle which has the inevitable effect of getting spoiler information to people who do not want it – readers who, in the case of this final Harry Potter novel, were looking forward to finding out each detail, in the order J. K. Rowling intended, on a sofa or hammock this weekend.

John Stuart Mill is famous for saying that people should have absolute freedom to swing their arms, as long as they don’t hit anyone’s nose. Publication of spoilers endangers everyone’s nose – it threatens the narrative satisfaction of every reader and viewer.

In the end, I don’t know what can be done about this. Certainly publication of spoilers is not a criminal offense, and the last thing we want is any government involvement in matters of the press and the media.

But in the case of The New York Times and Harry Potter we have a major insult to public taste and trust. I'd be happy to see the New York Times and every purveyor of spoiler unhappiness publicly condemned. The scoop on this story is that they owe the world an apology.

PS - I'll be posting a review of the Deathly Hallows as soon as I finish the novel - which I expect will be at some wee hour of this weekend...

More on spoilers and the enjoyment of narrative:

Harry Potter and Spoilers: Am Occasion for Basking

Spoilers for 24: Did They Lead the Producers to Change the Ending?

Lost Spoilers vs. Passions of Curiosity

More on Harry Potter:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: A Review, for Starters (Mild Spoilers)

Harry Potter and iPhone

The Elite Attack on Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the 3-D Phoenix movie review

Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Barely Political Revolution

Actually, the title is misleading - I couldn't resist the play on words - but the political revolution being fomented by the delightful BarelyPolitical.com Obama girl videos is far more than barely, even though that's good, too. But I think the revolution is major - and the fun of the videos makes it all the more so.

Here's why:

1. The satire in addition to being falling-down funny is sharp, biting, even Swiftian (not Swiftboatian - Swiftian). In the Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl vid released on Monday (formally titled Debate 08), for example, the Giuliani Girl tells us she wants to be "number four". She pushes a perp up against the wall (he's littering), as she extols Giuliani's crackdown on crime. And Obama Girl tells her - "Giuliani girl just stop your fussin', at least Obama didn't marry his cousin". Those are deep-slicing political cuts. (See the video with my initial commentary here.)

2. But Giuliani's people should be thrilled about this - as of course should Obama's. We all know how disinterested anyone under 30 - maybe under 20, who cares, you've heard this story - is in our elections. The Obama Girl BarelyPolitical.com videos are appealing to precisely this group (though I love them, too). But which is more likely to get people more active and sensitive politically? Some boring public service ad that lectures you, or a juicy Obama girl video?

3. The great work at BarelyPolitical.com also amounts to a very significant revolution in media presentation. Up until very recently, the only real political skit satire could be found on Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, occasionally Jon Stewart and Colbert (who are really something a little different - pseudo-news commentators), and the rare movie. But consider this evolution:

Last year, SNL hit big with its "Dick in a Box". Actually, it was inanely muted on its television showing to "Special Treat in a Box," but went huge on YouTube under its original name. Ben Relles and the Obama Girl team came back with an answer video(Leah Kauffman co-wrote and sang, before she did the same for "Crush on Obama") -"My Box in a Box". That was released straight to YouTube and viral video. And now we have "Crush on Obama" (Amber Lee Ettinger is the actress) ... "Debate 08" (or Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl - with Amber Lee continuing her part as Obama Girl) ... and Hillary Clinton and The Sopranos (also hilarious, produced by Hillary's campaign) in the middle.

I'd call that a profound sea change - or, as the Chinese say, a change of sky. More evidence that the cutting edge of our population is looking less at television and more at YouTube.

It was only in retrospect that political and media analysts realized how that dopey little "I Like Ike" cartoon - the first political commercial with a jingle on the then-new medium of television - helped Eisenhower win the Presidency so handily in 1952. He was a popular general, and would no doubt have won anyway, but that cartoon on television made it a shoo-in.

There's little doubt that the Obama Girl videos will help Obama, by getting more people under 90 to the polls.

There's no doubt at all that what BarelyPolitical.com is doing will change the nature of political campaigns forever - and for the better.

See also Obama Girl Applauded in My Class at Fordham This Afternoon (with photo)

BarelyPolitical.com Goes Meta!

Ben Relles - Obama Girl Producer - Talked To My Class at Fordham Tonight

and First YouTube/CNN Presidential Debate

and Obama Girl in Old and New Media

and Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl

and Harry Potter and Obama

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

new video: Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl!

Hey, the latest from the fine folks at BarelyPolitical.com

The Obama Girl is back ... this time to face off and trade lines with the Rudy Girl ...

Great lyrics, deft and hilarious political jabs, fine body parts shakin', as always...

I'll tell you one thing, the debate in this video is a lot more interesting than most of the actual Presidential debates ... it even features a pretty hot moderator ... guaranteed, if you have a heartbeat, you won't fall asleep...

See also Battle of the Videos: Hillary Clinton and the Sopranos vs. Obama Girl

Big Love 2 Episode 6: Just Lust

Margene continues to be emotional powerhouse in Season 2 of HBO's Big Love - played with sweet, innocent, but somehow savvy perfection by Ginnifer Goodwin.

Bill continues to pursue the Serbian waitress Ana (played well by Branka Katic). Margene, as we saw last week, knows about this. But far from being jealous, she's happy, even thrilled, that Bill might be thinking about a fourth wife. She's almost starting to fall in love with the waitress, too, as a sister-wife. Margene loves Bill so much that his attraction for the waitress imbues her not with jealousy but almost love for Bill's almost love interest. It's really an amazing dynamic - one which I don't recall ever seeing in a story - and it makes perfect sense, really, given the nature of Bill's family.

But Bill finds he doesn't really love Ana - it's lust, he says at the end, not the "Spirit" moving him. Margene is at first hurt by this - Bill's realization will deprive her of the sister-wife she was beginning to love. But, in the end, she begins to realize how even more special her and Bill's relationship is - not just just lust. Bill tells her this, and we can see in Margene/Ginnifer's eyes that she's just beginning to appreciate the depth of this.

I was getting to like Ana, too - but the ending of the relationship we saw last night was really more revealing and satisfying.

Otherwise, the rest of the episode was firing on all cylinders - Rhonda continuing on her warpath, Bill almost getting branded in that computer-game acquisition deal ... and branded not in the marketing sense.

This season has a pace somewhat different from last year, and I like it.

Next week - Bruce Dern returns!

See also reviews of other episodes: Big Love Resumes ... 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis ... ... 12. Polygamy and Great Performances Confirmed

John from Cincinnati: Episode Six: Time Well Spent on Honey?

"Time well spent" - that was the last line of last night's John from Cincinnati (Episode 6, Day 5 - please, don't ask me why). A part of me was hoping maybe I had misunderstood the count of episodes and "Days" of John's visit on the show even more than I have, and maybe that was the last line of the last episode of the series, which I had somehow just seen On Demand tonight, but ... no such luck ... no, no, I'm only kidding ... well, maybe not completely but at least partially, I think...

Tonight's episode featured: no Mitch (Bruce Greenwood had the Day off), Cissy a little less shrill, Cass looking better than ever in those blue jeans, Tina looking good, too, and everyone else in fine form (though I have to say, Shaun's deadpan character is beginning to wear thin ... though I don't know Greyson Fletcher's acting well enough to say whether it's his fault or the writing and direction ... hmmm... didn't this come up with Hayden Christensen and George Lucas about Star Wars?)

The plot, as usual, can be summarized in two minutes: Cissy feels bad that Shaun hears her badmouthing his mother Tina, and puts Butchie up to getting her back to see Shaunie after all. There are some profound family reveals (but not really surprising for this family) and deep currents of guilt. John also saves another soul - Cissy - in her case, from possibly committing suicide. John tells her to "baptize the pistol," a good line.

And the dialog, as usual, was excellent in parts, and this episode features a brilliant riff-sermon from John, who is finally speaking and not the "human parrot" that Bill says he is (correctly, until last night).

You can read it somewhere over on hbo.com - it's one fine piece of writing. It even has John saying stuff about the Internet - and the "zeroes and ones" in Cass's (digital) camera ...

Gratifying ... I've been saying for years that immortality would be digital code somewhere out there in the cosmos that describes our DNA and our lives.

Actually, there are a bunch of better lines on the show - not in John's riff - but in Butchie talking about Tina sucking ... but I'm trying to take the high, or at least, academic road here, folks ... so good for John for recognizing the digital revolution.

There was also some dead guy that John pulled out of the motel - I'm not sure who he is ... John's father? Maybe it's a good thing this wasn't the finale, so we can find out who this guy is ... Dead, but he delivered a stronger performance than one or two of the others ...

I'm still liking that intro theme song a lot. If you want the honey, don't kill the series....

Wait - maybe the whole Day Six - Episode Seven - next week will be just 60 minutes of silence and black ... and then-

See also reviews of other episodes ... Episode One ... Episode Two ... Episode Three ... Episode Four ... Episode Five ... Episode Seven ... Episode 8 ... Episode 9 ... Episode 10

See also John from Cincinnati: The Meaning in a Sentence or Two

Monday, July 16, 2007

taping for Forbes.com Video Network tomorrow (rescheduled)

[Ooops - the following taping has been rescheduled - I'll keep you posted on the show date.]

Hey, I'll be interviewed (taped) on Forbes.com Video Network show The Download tomorrow at their Times Square studios...

The show will go live on the Web on Wednesday - I'll post the specific url then, but you can just go to http://www.forbes.com/video/

I'll be talking about what's still needed in mobile phone technology ...

I'll try to subtly wave or smile to all InfiniteRegress.tv readers.

In the meantime, here's another look at what I had to say about the cell phone's past, present, and future, on a Discovery Channel show this past December (actually taped back in June 2006)...

The Elite Attack Harry Potter

With the publication of what is said to be the final Harry Potter novel just a few days away, the self-appointed experts on the future of literacy have their knives out for him.

The New York Times, for example, published Potter Magic Has Limited Effect On Youngsters' Readings Habits on its front page last week.

The "evidence"?

A few surveys report that a majority of kids are saying they don't read too much for "fun" (presumably they read for school). In other words, "proof" that Harry Potter is not having an enduring effect is based not on sales of novels in the future - which of course has not happened as yet - but on what kids say they are or will be doing. Anyone with even a preliminary knowledge of surveying and statistics knows that it is the weakest kind of evidence - all but meaningless.

Meanwhile, buried two-thirds into the article is this: "In a study commissioned last year by Scholastic, Yankelovich, a market research firm, reported that 51 percent of the 500 kids aged 5 to 17 polled said they did not read books for fun before they started reading the series. A little over three-quarters of them said Harry Potter had made them interested in reading other books."

So, even in the reporting of inclinations, the results of the the surveys are mixed.

Why, then, the misleading headline from The New York Times? (If a student came in with a story like this for a university newspaper I was advising, we would have a long talk.)

Maybe the Times was basing its headline on an interview reported in the story with an avid Harry Potter reader, Kara, who concluded, "I probably won’t read as much when Harry Potter is over."

Well, that's rock hard evidence that Potter magic is having a "limited effect," isn't it...

Here are the facts:

Academics and guardians of our literacy have been unhappy about the course of our popular culture for more than a hundred years (see Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy for references). They started their attack on motion pictures, then moved on to television, and most recently the Web.

Harry Potter came along and knocked their unfounded fears for a loop - as The New York Times correctly reports, "the series has sold 325 million copies worldwide, with 121.5 million in print in the United States alone."

In the process of providing highly enjoyable reading for hundreds of millions of people, J. K. Rowling has written in letters across the sky: literacy is alive and well and thriving.

All you have to do is write a story that people enjoy.

Enjoy a 15-minute (free) podcast: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: The View from New York

See also about Harry Potter:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: A Review, for Starters (Mild Spoilers)

Harry Potter and iPhone

The New York Times Spoils Harry Potter - A Little, But Still Too Much

Harry Potter and the 3-D Phoenix movie review

Harry Potter and Spoilers: An Occasion for Basking

Harry Potter and the Refutation of Illiteracy

Digital Framez

Media evolution proceeds in spurts - some parts of new media progress faster than others. Digital photography has revolutionized the ease of taking photographs. But the display of our photographs has either remained in the pre-digital age, when we print out our photos and put them in static frames, or has relied upon the awkward procedure of everyone who wants to see a photograph or an album craning their necks around a computer.

Digital Framez has a solution - a digital photo frame, which can display either single photos or albums. You can set the time you would like the photo to display, and the transition time from photo to photo in your digital album. You can place the digital picture frames on any wall, or set them on your coffee or side table.

The great snapshots from your digital cameras and camera phones need no longer be hostage to the past. They can be displayed in a manner in tune with the digital age. You can display a digital movie in your digital photo frame, too.

I wrote about something I call "digi-prints" in my science fiction novel, Borrowed Tides. You can see a similar magic in Harry Potter's photographs.

Now you can begin to enjoy something like this for your own photographs in Digital Framez.

this is a smorty-sponsored post

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Meadowlands: Episode 5

MeadowlandsSome gripping, instructive moments in Showtime's Meadowlands tonight ... we learn about Tom Tyrell's reasons for being there (he's an investigative reporter whose wife was blown up in car that he was supposed to be driving), find that Dr. York is willing to bend his professional "ethics" and lie for Evelyn (though he's hoping to get something back in appreciation from Evelyn, which I'm thinking he will), and hear Zoe talking about "metaphor" (which is almost nonexistent on television)...

"One's reach must exceed one's grasp, or what's a metaphor?" - actually, that's not what Zoe said, but some witty Victorian in Dickens' time. I just wanted to work that in...

But back to the show: We are finally beginning to see a little of what's really going here, or at least how things work in Meadowlands. Danny killed Jack. The powers that be don't want this to be the way that happened - especially after they sent Ormond in to do that job. So Jack's body is dug up, left on the street, taken into custody - all so Ormand can be properly implicated. His motive is that Jack raped Ormand's sister. Jack then foolishly left Meadowlands, which allowed Ormand to find him. (Ormand also had something to do with the fire that burned down Danny's house.) As Wintersgill explains to the assembled citizens (without of course revealing the above), Meadowlands must look perfectly normal to the outside world, not crawling with lunatics everywhere you turn. And they get the additional, oft-repeated lesson: don't leave Meadowlands, it's dangerous outside.

I'd like to see even more of this story line - and one of the problems with Meadowlands is that it's a little low on plot and high on somewhat unclear crises ...

And couldn't they get a real American to play Tom, rather than Scot Williams? Hey, it's not Scot's fault, he was born in Liverpool, he was excellent as Pete Best in Backbeat - his accent just doesn't work too well on Meadowlands (unless there's yet another secret about him - he's really a spy left over from the Cold War, taught to speak "American" in Moscow).

On the other hand, there was another good moment when Zoe kisses Scot to lift a key out of his pocket, and as long as long as our suspension of disbelief isn't lifted too much further, it should all work out fine ... and unsettling.

Intriguingly Miasmic Meadowlands

reviews of other episodes: Meadowlands Opens - with Tongues and Grooves ... Episode 2 ... Episode 3 ... Episode 4 ... Episode 6 ... Episode 7 ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book