Archive for July, 2009

Things Come to Those Good People Who Wait

I was the only kid I knew who refused to “sneak a peek” at presents, even when the opportunity presented itself without fear of getting caught.  Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy surprises.  And if nothing else, I hated the thought of wasting my genuine state of shock and happiness on myself.  I believe the person who put effort and resources into giving me a gift should be the one witnessing my true surprise and not just some 2nd rate re-enactment.

Fast forward to adulthood.  My views on receiving presents haven’t changed.  And those same feelings have carried over to the everyday, trivial aspects of life.  When I start up a television show I’ve recorded on my DVR, I’m baffled as to why the first 5 minutes are spent showing me what is going to happen.  Newsflash: I am already watching your show… I no longer need to be “sold.”  What is the point?  The only explanation I can come up with is they didn’t have enough actual content to fill the whole time-slot.  In which case, I (and reason) would argue to work a little harder to generate that additional 5 minutes, or at least put in some extra outtakes or background footage rather than showing me what I will eventually see anyway in the next 25 or 55 minutes.

Unfortunately, television doesn’t hold a monopoly on this insanity.  When I receive a movie in the mail from my good friends at Netflix, at least I can (and of course do) ignore the entire plot that is inscribed on the DVD sleeve.  I’ve already added the movie to my queue and had it mailed to me.  I think it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m committed to watching it at this point.  The only result that can come of reading the CliffsNotes is to spoil surprises.  And I’m not just talking about unexpected “O Henry” endings.  This applies to major events that happen right from the start but still catch you off guard.  I trust the director can deliver his vision to me just fine without reading your synopsis prior.

To give an example (and yes, the following is a spoiler so skip to the next paragraph if you haven’t seen it): I received Reservation Road starring Joaquin Phoenix in the mail a while back.  Avoided the DVD sleeve, started watching the movie, and I was completely shocked to see a child get hit unexpectedly by a car.  This plot line didn’t occur at the middle or end of the movie, it happened at the beginning and was the foundation for the entire movie.  And, you guessed it, it was written clear as day on the DVD sleeve (I always read the sleeves afterward so I can see what would have been spoiled for me).  So, if you read this paragraph or the DVD sleeve before watching Reservation Road, sucks for you.  You knew it was coming and were probably even on the lookout for it.  You’ll never truly feel the genuine surprise that scene produces.

But the DVD sleeve is only the beginning.  I’ve recently noticed a few movies that force you to watch an abridged version of the film during the menu screen.  Just so we are clear A) this cannot be by-passed, this happens between the time you hit “menu” and the option to select “play” comes on the screen.  B) though admittedly short, a chronological series of images and sounds from the film from start to finish is still in my opinion the movie.  My only options were 1) spoil the movie by watching the 20-second version of the it, or 2) divert my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and hum.  Obviously, I chose the latter.

Bottom Line: A movie shouldn’t be a scavenger hunt, simply trying to find what you read in a preview.  I’m a big boy now.  If the show or movie that I’ve already committed to watching sucks, I’ll stop.  Don’t waste my time or make it suck by revealing it for me before I even start.

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July 30, 2009 at 11:02 PM Leave a comment

Intelligent life found in Cincinnati

Who needs SETI?  I just found proof of alien lifeforms hovering over Cincinnati, OH.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=39.287796%2C-84.33406

(don’t forget to view “Satellite” mode, and zoom in)

July 14, 2009 at 6:31 PM Leave a comment

Free TV episodes are great… but sometimes you get what you pay for.

I’ve been watching television shows online for as long as networks have gotten a clue to start offering them.  In the past several years I’ve encountered networks that wanted to make things difficult (ie downloading special software/plug-ins for their “superior” media player).  But in the end it was just a simple download, maybe a browser re-start, and the show would play just fine.  That is until today.

Of course the claim for these “indispensable” downloads is that it provides the best picture, though I never saw an advantage over standard plug-ins.  I suppose their idea of a “better viewing experience” is the ability of their enhanced media software to embed impossible-to-avoid ads.  Which is understandable, because they need to make money somehow to keep it free for the user.

But when this enhanced software is so convoluted that it doesn’t work, nobody wins.

Which leads me to today.  I’ve watched shows on abc.com as recently as a few weeks ago, and it worked just fine.  Long story short, I tried 3 different browsers (firefox, safari, IE) on 2 different machines (PC, Mac) and everyone of them resulted in the same thing: a blank gray page.  Any required plug-ins were downloaded and installed, even restarted the browsers and the computers.  Still didn’t work.

So I watched hulu. ABC_LandingPage_WITHBETA

Bottom Line: I’m not the type to be beaten (especially when it comes to technology), so I went back to abc.com and scrolled down a bit and saw the “New Full Episode Player BETA.”  The beta option was beneath the default player and in a smaller font size, with a note claiming that I am one of the first in America to see it (which is better than the alternative of no one in America seeing anything on the standard player).  The beta played just fine.  Note to ABC developers: spare America the frustration and make the beta the default.

July 13, 2009 at 10:26 PM Leave a comment


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