Saturday, July 31, 2004

507 Channels and Nothing On

Here's a simple question...why can't we just buy the cable channels we want to watch instead of buying 50 channels for the one we want? Why do I have to have the Golf Channel if I want the Scifi Channel? Couldn't I just buy the Scifi Channel and HBO for a dollar a channel and leave it at that instead of scrolling through a hundred channels I never watch to get to them?
As with everything involving profit, it's a simple problem with a simple solution with massive opposition to the solution. The truth is that the cable companies known darn well that 99% of their audience will not buy lame channels like the Grass-Growing Channel unless it's forced upon them, so they use popular channels like ESPN to subsidize them. People like the women's channel Oxygen defend the system as a way of building an audience. Personally, I think if your channel couldn't survive without that system, then there's no point in airing it. Just because you make a channel doesn't mean we have to watch it. Read about the current hearings on the issue going on at the FCC and then send a nasty email to your cable company.


Not really...but ever hear news reports about postings or videos on "al-Qaeda's website?" Well, I found myself wondering, where exactly is the official website of Osama bin Laden? It turns out the story is more interesting than I expected, and Wired did a good piece on al Neda, the official website of al-Qaeda. The interesting thing is that, obviously, there is no set location for the site, since the US and other governments keep shutting it down. It functions like a virus; its owners hack into other legitimate websites and upload the files, then announce its new location on bulletin boards and mailing lists. When it gets shut down, they just move it to a new location. Just like the organization, the al-Qaeda website is decentralized. And they say terrorists are stupid.

Friday, July 30, 2004

That Babe From "The Transporter": Shu Qi

I rented a movie called So Close, a martial arts movie from Hong Kong about these two sisters who are tech-savvy assassins. The plot was really complicated and I didn't understand most of it until I read the summary on the official website. Nice action sequences, though, and the women were very easy on the eyes. But imagine my surprise when I recognized one of them as that Chinese babe from The Transporter.

Turns out it's the current Hollywood tradition of giving small bit parts in American movies to huge foreign mega-stars (see Monica Belucci in Matrix: Reloaded). Her name is Shu Qi, and she is one of the biggest actresses in Hong Kong cinema. She is also, in my opinion, the second most beautiful female celebrity in the world next to Angelina Jolie, but I digress. What surprised me most about So Close is that she played a hardcore assassin, completely unrecognizable compared to her mousy role in Transporter. I found a great article in Time Asia about her that made me understand her more and like her less, but there's no doubt she's a hottie. And it's nice to know beautiful women with screwed-up careers aren't just a Hollywood phenomenon.

McDonalds Suffocates Children...For Safety

I picked up a flier at my local McDonalds about their "community service." Usual PR stuff but I noticed a reference to a high-tech safety device they designed called McBaby, which I had to investigate. It turns out they created a multi-million dollar mannequin called McBaby that simulates the breathing system of a child. It's supposed to allow toy manufacturers to test to see if their toys are a choking hazard.

I'll be the first to say this is a great idea and will help save lives...but am I the only one who thinks it's a little creepy for Ronald McDonald to hand scientists a lifelife child and say "Go ahead, stuff whatever you want down its throat! Just try and kill it!" Watch the video clips of scientists working with McBaby. If it doesn't make you at least a little queasy, you're a stronger man than I am.

The Average Catwoman Movie Review

"Catwoman" is a tail that is less than "purr-fect!" The fur flies when Berry and her "cat-star," Sharon Stone, get into a catfight over beauty products. Soon, Berry is shaking her tail as the superhero Catwoman! Did the director expect us to take this seriously? They must be "kitten!" While Halle Berry might be catnip to her fans, she would have "tabby" Garfield to save this pile of kitty litter. With special effects that are more like a hairball, there's nothing that keeps this one out of the doghouse! Berry should have paws-ed before she took this project or at least put an escape "claws" in her contract. This "meow-vie" is a "cat-astrophe!" Cat, cat, cat, cat. Cat.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The Glare

Finally found some great pictures of Maria Sharapova's glare at Imagine being on the receiving end of this, this or this right before she rears back to hit the ball.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I, Hollywood

NPR's Weekend Edition did a good overview of the new "I, Robot," why it stinks as a tribute to Asimov's stories, and a bit of history about Harlan Ellison's infamous script. I personally thought Ellison's version was pretty good, but I agree it would have been really complicated.

NetFlix Redux

Remember that rant I gave a while back? Well, I should have read the FAQ:

Q: Why are the expected arrival dates different for movies shipped on the same day?
A: We try to ship you movies from your closest shipping center. If a particular movie is not available at your closest shipping center, we will ship it to you from another location. This can increase delivery time, and therefore, it may have a different expected arrival date.

Ahem...I take it all back.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Randomlynx: Free Kungfu

Earthlink's newsletter is surprisingly good. They included a link to this website with a Flash Kungfu fighting game. Looks like it's made by a guy who just wanted to put himself and his friends into an online Street Fighter II.

The Next Steven Wright?

NPR did a profile on Demitri Martin, a truly unique and very funny comic who also writes for Conan O'Brien. They have some bits in his interview and on their website, and he's really funny. Reminds me of Steven Wright in that he's a comedian who lives in our world, but sees things in a completely different way.

Beer Wars

I don't know if you've seen or heard the latest Miller or Budweiser ads, but if you have you might have noticed something strange. They're less about beer and more about insulting each other. It's true, Miller and Budweiser have been launching attack ads against each other. Adrag has a good overview of the conflict. It's very unusual, since advertisers have had an unwritten pact against mentioning each other in their ads. I think it's rather petty myself. Remember when Jack-in-the-Box launched a campaign challenging Burger King over microwaving its meat? I didn't see Burger King responding with "their spokesman is a guy with a plastic bubble on his head!"

Solo's No Good To Me Dead, Mate

Why won't George Lucas leave his movies alone?! Now is reporting rumors that on the new DVD, Boba Fett's voice will be changed to have a New Zealander's accent, like the actor in the new movies. This is not a good sign.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


There was a very interesting show on NPR last week about group-thinking (I forget the official term they used). Basically, it's the fact that groups of people can often make decisions better than individuals, especially in a betting situation. For instance, Las Vegas odds often predict the winners of sporting events, and the audience almost always gets the right answers in "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire." This is one reason the U.S. government wanted to set up a betting pool on terrorist attacks.

I decided to test the theory with the Hollywood Stock Exchange, one of the most popular prediction markets. My subject is Catwoman. It's kind of hard to read, because it's not set up as a predictor, but I decided to use other superhero movies as a baseline. Spiderman 2's stock price is at $326, Batman Begins is up to $190, and Catwoman is at $47. Not good, but still abstract. But there's a handy feature that lists upcoming movie weekend releases in a group. By their ratings, Bourne Supremacy will beat the pants off Catwoman on their opening weekend. Bourne has a price of $92. I'm still not sure if I'm reading this right, but hopefully I'll figure it out.

On a personal note, I admit that the Catwoman trailer makes Halle Berry look really sexy, but that's what bothers me. Take Halle Berry out of this movie, and it looks like it would go straight to video. Can she carry the movie? We'll see. But check out her career bond...I wish it was detailed enough to see what caused that huge nosedive. I'm guessing Swordfish.

And is it just me, or is Catwoman Barbie just plain wrong?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Trouble With NetFlix

Okay, I'm on the verge of taking back all the good things I said about Netflix. That's because I think I've discovered their little secret. For the first two weeks, they've established a pattern. I mail them a DVD, it takes a day to get there and for them to process and ship out the new DVD, and a day to get it back. That was a three-day turnaround.

The two-week trial period has expired, and lo and behold, things have changed. Stay with me. I mailed out one DVD on Saturday morning and two more on Sunday. The first one should have gotten there Monday and the other two today. I check my email to find out when I get my next DVDs. For some reason, the next DVD in my queue isn't coming until Saturday, four days from now, a week after I mailed it. And if you think that's normal, then explain why the second and third DVDs in my queue are coming on Thursday, two days before the first one, even though they arrived at Netflix later.

What's it all mean? Call it a conspiracy theory, but I think they have a secret way of cutting costs. How do they stop people from getting too many DVDs per month and costing them in postage and DVDs? Just ship out DVDs at a slower pace. I think they saw how quickly I was getting DVDs and something kicked in to slow me down. I don't think there's anything in my contract with them that says how quickly they send me stuff. I'll check. But I think technically, they don't have to send me another DVD all month if they feel like it. It's up to them, and I'm very upset. I had big plans for those DVDs.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Resistance is Futile

Star has produced an awesome documentary on the Borg called (surprisingly enough) "The Borg." I've only seen the first part, but it's impressive stuff. Nice overview of their greatest villain ever.

Phantom of the Movies

Did you know they were making Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera" into a movie? I sure didn't, until I saw this trailer for it. It looks awesome. Reserve your tickets now.

Anna Kourni-Who?

With one stroke of the racket, Maria Sharapova became the winner of Wimbledon two weeks ago. She also made everyone forget about Anna Kournikova. In fact, to me, she makes me wonder why Kournikova was ever popular. Sure, Anna was cute, but she rarely won her tennis matches. It was more about her appearance, not her skills. With Sharapova, not only is she beautiful but she has the Wimbledon trophy to prove her skill. She's the whole package, and I have a huge thing for her now. The only downside is that Sharapova was raised in America, so she doesn't have a Russian accent. Just as well. That might've been too much for me.

I saw her beat Serena Williams and it was a thing of beauty. Truly one of the great matches of all time. The idea of this hardcore American tennis pro like Serena being beaten by a relatively unknown Russian teenager was epic. Serena Williams versus Maria Sharapova...that was a match not only for the eyes, but the senses. The fact that I hate Serena Williams added to the flavor.

I'll never forget the cold, narrow-eyed glare that Sharapova gave Serena right before the hit the ball on her serves. It was a look of "I'm gonna get you," as if Sharapova were about to punch Serena instead of whack a ball at her. I wish I could get a picture of that. But contrast this photo of her on the court with this photo of her at a fancy dress ball, and you'll see the amazing combination of beauty and drive that she has.

I liked this combination gallery and profile of Sharapova best.

Mr Six

I'm guessing you've seen the new Six Flags commercials with the old, bald guy on it. Turns out his name is Mr. Six, according to the official website. But have you seen the very first one? I saw it when I taped Century City one time and thought it was the funniest thing I'd seen in a long time. Turns out it's on the Six Flags website, along with all the others.

In a side note, I don't know why more companies don't put their commercials on their websites. They should be grateful someone actually wants to see them, instead of just putting up with them. In that sense, Burger King's Subservient Chicken website is a step in the right direction. Who needs television ads when people download them themselves?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Cosby Goes "Barbershop"

It seems like Bill Cosby is tired of being the genial black comic, because he's taken on a new people. He did this in the past, but now he's making people mad. Check out his comments at the commemoration of Brown vs. Board of Education on how some African-Americans talk, raise their kids, make crude music, etc. Personally, I think it's hysterical, almost like a comedy routine. But I also admit that if these things were said by a white comedian, they would be absolutely racist.

So Close, and Yet So Far

I think this is the definition of least according to Alanis Morrisette...I have to go to the Arizona Republic to look at pictures of Avril Lavigne's performance at Fiesta Mall, despite the fact that I was literally inches away from seeing her in real-life. I don't think I'll ever get the fact that a horde of screaming teenage girls were the only thing stopping me from seeing her live for free. As if that wasn't enough salt in the wounds, she looks so cute in the photos. She's playing here in November, I may try to get tickets for real.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Randomlynx: Mr T vs. Everything

Once upon a time, someone said "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we made a cartoon out of photographs from the A-Team called Mr. T vs..." Years later, the torch has been carried until we have Mr. T versus Everything, a collection of over 300 Mr. T comics. Why Mr. T? Probably because he's the quintessential bad-A. You could imagine him taking on everything from O.J. Simpson to the Paperclip from Office, and people have. Plus, his dialogue is so unique that it's funny to read by itself. This is a great collection, but with a lot of dead links. I guess the only thing that can stop Mr. T is the cost of web hosting.

There's even a site that tells how to make your own Mr. T comic. The only question is...what hasn't he already taken on?