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Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

FiOS TV Still Sucks

Posted by Fred on June 5, 2008

I’ve written before of my customer service nightmare with Verizon’s FiOS TV service.  To recap, we were forced to cancel the service when we moved to a house a couple of miles away that was not in the haphazard FiOS rollout area. I returned the equipment to the contractor Verizon sent, and then we started receiving collection notices claiming we owed $600 for unreturned equipment. I thought it had been resolved when all was quiet, but then I received this in the mail (click for a bigger version):

How nice of them to offer to “settle” for 80% of the cost penalty Verizon charges for failure to return the equipment I already returned.  Just in case there is any doubt that I am right and they are wrong, I have a receipt:

Stay away from FiOS at all costs.  The service is fine in my experience (although we did lose it once when their contractor cut the fiber optic cable while working down the street), but it’s like the Hotel California – cancel any time you like, but you’ll never be free.

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Lost Season 4 Finale: Forward and Back Again

Posted by Fred on May 30, 2008

I’ve never really been one to recap the TV I watch – after all, if you wanted to watch it, you would have watched it yourself.  Last night’s season four finale of Lost, however, truly begs for comment.  At times in season three, the show appeared to be wavering, unable to find its feet, lost in the Should We Stick With This Nikki and Paulo Storyline or Kill Them Because the Fans Hate Them shuffle.  Last season’s ratings suffered as well, perhaps as a consequence of deviating from what the show does best.  This season, the producers found their feet again, with the freighter story arc introducing some great new characters (and introducing them in a way that discouraged fan backlash).  Lost may well be the series that suffered the most from the writers’ strike – clearly the writers wanted to do a lot more with Daniel Faraday, Charlotte Lewis and Miles Straume.  With all three presumably present wherever (or is it whenever?) the rest of the survivors who are not part of the Oceanic Six happen to be, next season should be able to explore all the questions last night left unanswered.

This is still not a recap – go read Jeff Jensen at EW, which you really should be doing anyway.  I come not to recap Caesar but to praise him, or something. Here, in no particular order, are the Wow Moments from the finale that were of particular note (needless to say, if you haven’t seen it yet, fire up your DVR or watch it online):

  • Sun’s anguish as she watched the freighter blow up with her husband presumably still aboard was perhaps the single most impressive acting moment in the four seasons. It takes some effort to pull off the wail without veering sharply into melodrama, but Yunjin Kim pulled it off. The difference between that moment and the flash-forward where she confronts Widmore was impressive.
  • Ken Leung had my favorite line delivery of the entire series when Straume retorted to Charlotte Lewis “yes, what do I mean?”  Plus, I really want to know the answer to the question.
  • That John Locke is/was the mysterious Jeremy Bentham is both obvious (the man in the coffin had to be either Ben or Locke) and loaded with symbolism. Locke could have picked any pseudonym he wanted to, and would have been better hidden had he not traded one philosopher’s name for another.  Nothing on the show is without meaning, of course.  Jeremy Bentham was a British philosopher most famous for the Panopticon, a cylindrical prison designed in such a way that a single observer can watch all of the prisoners without the inmates knowing they are being observed, and for the Auto-icon, a wooden display cabinet in which Bentham’s body (with a wax head in place of the original) is displayed to this day at University College London. Both have obvious connections to the show – the Dharma Initiative’s Pearl Station embodies many of Bentham’s principles, although it is not clear whether the Pearl staffers were the observers or the prisoners.  Locke/Bentham is now in his own version of the Auto-Icon, although one presumes he will keep his original head.
  • The real Bentham and Locke were not contemporaries, but Locke’s view of self, that man is born with an empty mind (a tabula rasa), to be shaped by experience, had obvious influence on Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism, with the influence even more apparent in Bentham’s successors, such as John Stuart Mill.  Locke believed that sensations and reflections are the source of all our ideas, deviating sharply from both the Augustinian (man is innately sinful) and Cartesian (man is innately logical) view of self.  At first glance, Lost’s Locke appears to be less Lockean than his counterfoil Jack, but his change of self based on his experiences on the Island is in keeping with the philosophy.  Is the post-season 4 Locke thus a utilitarian?
  • Although Locke, Bentham and Mill are associated with ideals of individual liberty, some modern critics say the utilitarians were really collectivists. Does this presage Locke’s leadership style now that Ben is in a Tunisian desert ten months later?
  • I loved all the ice on a show set in the tropics.  Michael tried to freeze the bomb’s battery, but ultimately ran out of nitrogen, leading to a visit from your favorite harbinger of death, Christian Shephard. Ben somehow made his way from a lab located deep under a tropical greenhouse to a ice-covered chamber containing a frozen donkey wheel.  This may explain the polar bear that showed up on the Island and in Tunisia.
  • What’s with all the ghosts?  Good thing we have a fake/not fake psychic phenomena investigator in Miles.
  • At the same time the narrative was jumping forward (presumably “the present” is now the time of Caveman Jack and Dead Locke, and not the Time To Which The Island Was Moved), the episode itself was replete with allusions to earlier episodes.  Jack rescuing Desmond after the helicopter crash recalled Jack rescuing the middle section survivors in the pilot. The appearance of Penny’s boat was virtually identical to The Others’ tug appearing out of the mist in first cliffhanger.

It’s a sign of a good show that the summer seems like a punishment.  What are Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse going to do know that they have six main characters, a toddler and a corpse on the mainland and all the rest who knows where? Are they going to screw up the wormhole/time travel storyline, rife as it is with paradox? Is Jin dead or alive? Where was Charlotte born? What’s the connection between Widmore and Mr. Paik? How did Walt get so big? What happened to Sawyer’s shirt and is he going to rebound with a rum-sodden Juliet?  I want to know all of these things and I want to know them right now.

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AFA: We hate gay people so much we won’t even use the word gay

Posted by Fred on May 7, 2008

It’s no secret that the Tupelo Troglodytes at the American “Family” Association hate homosexuals. They call for boycotts of any corporation that tries to sell things to gays and lesbians, or who acknowledge that homosexuality exists, or who fail to promote Christianity as the one true faith. But now, apparently, they have some sort of vendetta against vowels:

Following its support for the h-mos-xual agenda, Procter & Gamble established a toll-free number for people to register their opinions for or against P&G’s promotion of the g-y agenda, including open mouth kissing between g-ys. It gave a toll-free number which was heavily promoted on g-y Web sites for a week to give those favoring the promotion of h-mos-xuality an opportunity to call. Monday, after AFA had put out the word that P&G wanted to hear from AFA supporters, P&G abruptly ended it.

AFA is encouraging supporters to call P&G and ask the company why it is promoting the g-y lifestyle and why it quit using the toll-free number to receive opinions only after AFA notified AFA supporters about it. We urge you to spend a few cents to register your complaint with P&G. Here is P&G’s corporate number to call: 513-983-1100. (Please get others to call P&G at this number!)

P&G has added h-mos-xual lovers to its soap opera “As the World Turns.” The soap opera now includes scenes of h-mos-xuals with passionate open mouth kissing. The motive behind P&G’s push is to desensitize viewers, especially younger viewers, to the h-mos-xual lifestyle. The ultimate goal of h-mos-xual activists is h-mos-xual marriage.

That’s amazing – they’re so offended by homosexuality that they can’t even write the word.  For what it’s worth, that particular soap introduced the first gay character twenty years ago. They were the first daytime drama to include a homosexual kiss, and the P&G action the AFA is up in arms about resulted from a movement among fans to get the show to include more kissing from the two gay characters (the producers cut back on such scenes almost completely, in the hopes of appeasing people like the AFA, who almost certainly never watch the show). Because the AFA protests things that they don’t actually watch, they miss the sorts of content that could be legitimately troublesome:

Webber and Newcomb said they’ve been more bothered by other things they have seen on the soap, like when a 14-year-old boy shot a man who was attacking his mother. One character is so desperate for a baby that she slept with her ex-brother-in-law, and was nearly caught having sex in an elevator. Another woman led her children and ex-husband into believing she had a brain tumor, just to get him back.

Apparently that’s all OK; just don’t acknowledge that homosexuals exist.

Posted in Politics, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stargate Worlds accepting beta applicants

Posted by Fred on May 1, 2008

stargate_worlds

FireSky Entertainment, a subsidiary of Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment that bills itself as a producer of SNAP games (Social Networks at Play), is now accepting applications for its closed beta of Stargate Worlds.  Stargate Worlds, scheduled to launch in Fall 2008, is a MMO online game set in the universe of sci-fi series Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis.  The screenshots certainly look interesting, and I duly put my name in the hat even though I’ve never really gotten into the whole MMO scene.

SG-1 has never broken through to the mainstream the way the Trek series did or the way Battlestar Galactica has, but it’s been on the air since 1997, making it the longest-running US science fiction series (Doctor Who, which ran from 1963-1989 and again from 2005 to present, is the overall winner in that category by far). It’s also one of a handful of shows that were derived from movies but transcended their source material. Stargate, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and M*A*S*H are all better on the small screen than they were in long form (sorry Kurt Russell and Kristy Swanson, but Richard Dean Anderson and Sarah Michelle Gellar have you beat).  I love science fiction, but I just never got into Stargate in any of its various forms (SG-1, Atlantis, or the straight to video Ark of Truth and Continuum). The new Terminator series, Firefly, The 4400, BSG and the various Star Trek spinoffs (except for Enterprise, which sucked), yes.  Stargate? Not so much.  The game does look pretty cool, but I’d still prefer one set in the worlds of Admiral Adama or Mal Reynolds.

[via Game | Life]

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Firefox 3 Beta 5’s secret robot page

Posted by Fred on April 9, 2008

If you enter about:robots in the FF Beta 5 address bar, you get a page about actual robots:

robots

The title tag for the page is Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!  So you get references to The Day The Earth Stood Still, Isaac Asimov, Blade Runner, Futurama, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Battlestar Galactica.  Click the Try Again button and you get a button labeled Please do not press this button again.  Robots are cool. Except for the Evil Scary Robots, which are evil and scary. Except some evil scary robots are actually good, which makes my brain hurt.

[via Lifehacker]

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BSG, UNC and KU. Oh My.

Posted by Fred on April 4, 2008

This is going to be a great weekend of television.  If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then here are 3,000 words explaining why it’s going to be great. Tonight, we get this:

bsg3

The geeks, of course, love Katee Sackhoff’s Starbuck, and now that there’s the whole is she alive, is she dead, is she the final Cylon thing going on, we get more Starbuck than there are Starbucks.  But she’s never been my favorite – I prefer one who we’ve known is a Cylon since Season 1:

https://i2.wp.com/www.scifi.com/battlestar/images/gallery/season04/30.jpg

If you don’t agree this is a big deal, then go watch What The Frak Is Going On With BSG (“Starbuck and Apollo like each other, so they beat each other up.” “Bad Boomer.”).  Like, right now.

Then, as if that weren’t enough excitement, on Saturday night we get this:

 

https://i0.wp.com/media.lawrence.com/img/photos/2006/02/08/robinson_pass_t600.jpg

Unfortunately, much as I’d like it to be otherwise, I suspect Benedict Williams will drive a stake through the hearts of the Jayhawk faithful again (let’s call it UNC 84, KU 76).  Still, a great weekend of television.

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Yes, A La Carte Cable is a Sucker’s Bet

Posted by Fred on April 1, 2008

Chris Albrecht at NewTeeVee asks whether a la carte pricing for cable is a sucker’s bet:

“A la carte” pricing for cable has been a hotly-debated topic since… well, since people first looked at their cable bill and cursed their provider. Yankee says the average cable subscriber pays $60 a month for basic cable, and Nielsen Media Research said that the average cable subscriber pays for 85 channels and only watches 16.

The implied question here is why pay for 69 channels you don’t watch (or, conversely, why pay $3.75 per channel you do watch).  Phrased that way, it sure sounds better to pay $22.67 for the 16 channels you like and tell the cable company to pound sand.  It is, however, precisely the wrong question (which Chris probably realizes).  What we need to know is the net cost to run the network (overhead-non subscriber revenue) and the number of people willing to pay for it.  Add some margin to A and divide by B, and you have a nice a la carte price.

Unique viewer numbers are virtually impossible to obtain.  Suffice it to say, a highly rated cable program would be an abject failure on network TV.  Beloved darling BSG averaged 1.8 million viewers last season, according to this week’s Entertainment Weekly. Recently-canceled Internet cause célèbre Jericho drew about 6 million for its March 25 episode.  And no, that doesn’t mean there are 1.8 million people who would pay a la carte for SciFi Channel (the actual number is n-x, where n is the total number of unique viewers and x the number of cheapos who won’t pay for it – I have no idea what n or x is).  Dividing net cost by (n-x) is certainly more than $1.25.

So what would you pay for a la carte cable?  Almost certainly more than you pay for a bundled package, wherein you subsidize me watching Katie Sackhoff on Friday nights (or whenever I get around to watching the recorded show on the DVR), and I subsidize you watching The Hills.

NewTeeVee thinks (duh) that the answer is New TV:

Of course, proping [sic] up cable companies and their dying business models isn’t a good reason to keep a la carte around. But go ahead, keep fighting; we’ll be over here watching Hulu.

Now I like Hulu as much as the next guy, but how much did NBC-U get for the “limited commercial interruptions” in the 2-part BSG Season 3 finale?  Certainly not enough to pay for the production costs, even if all 1.8 million descended on Hulu and crashed the stream.  Hulu is also a poor substitute, given the paucity of its library and the limited number of episodes for shows that are there.

Eventually, cable may go the way of the buggy whip, but not yet.  Internet-only video is still somewhere between Adequate and Sucks Ass.  Internet distribution of Old TV is still hamstrung by content providers and bandwidth.  So we suck it up, pay The Man, and complain about our miserable fate.

Posted in economics, TV | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Comcast makes crappy HD signal even crappier

Posted by Fred on April 1, 2008

comcastdegrade.jpg

You may have wondered how Comcast planned to get the bandwidth to add all that new HD content they keep promising. Throttling BitTorrent use? Apparently not, given their agreement to work with BT.  Adding capacity? You’ve got to be kidding.  No, they are apparently just going to compress their already compressed signals even more.  The image above show the difference between Verizon’s fiber-to-the-premises system, which doesn’t compress video signals, and Comcast’s coax network, which does.  That sucks. Big time.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, your only HD options are Comcast or an over-the-air HD antenna.  There’s no FiOS in my neighborhood, even though I had the service more than a year ago but a couple of miles away.  Verizon’s March construction schedule doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, either. The neighbor’s trees block the view of the sky, so no satellite.

None of this is likely to change, so I’m resigned to making rude gestures in the general direction of Philadelphia:

comcasthq

[via BB Gadgets]

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AFA condemns P&G, Verizon for sponsoring TV shows that people like to watch

Posted by Fred on February 21, 2008

The Stoning of Saint Stephen by Rembrandt (1635)

The American “Family” Association is continuing its Sisyphean struggle to drag society to a place where gay people aren’t allowed to buy stuff and corporations aren’t allowed to sell them stuff (assuming, of course, that they don’t convince us to kill, deport or convert the homosexuals first).  Today, it’s a list of the top “pro-homosexual” advertisers, led by Proctor & Gamble, Verizon and Target.  What, precisely, makes these companies so suspect?  They advertised on one or more of the following programs:

What’s a red-blooded, America-loving, gay-hating troglodyte to do?  Apparently, watch game shows and reality TV.

Every time I see one of these AFA releases, I simply say “Wow”. How dare gay people have clean teeth, talk on cell phones or buy semi-fashionable yet affordable products?  Then again, there’s little risk to your average AFA member in boycotting toothpaste, 21st century technology or Michael Graves home furnishings.

Posted in religion, TV | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Elmo Live is cool but scares me just a little

Posted by Fred on February 19, 2008

elmoterm

I believe that Elmo Live is the first step that will lead inexorably to SkyNet. Seriously, the little red dude is freaky.

Posted in Technology, Toys, TV | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »