Monday, January 28, 2008

Dreamtime catchup

The blog/podcast that just keeps on going is at Episode 49 with a show on Blossom (Dearie) and Jack (Sheldon), two jazz artists with a mutual Schoolhouse Rock! connection.

I made several changes in late 2007, finally creating a domain, cloaking the blog - which is still hosted by blogspot - under the aegis of that domain, and moving the then-45 podcasts away from my original host, Solidcasts, over to their new Dreamtime home. The transition went relatively smoothly, except for iTunes. Note to any burgeoning podcasters out there - do not let your RSS Feed out of your control.

WARNING - Heavy geek weather ahead: Unfortunately, when I originally signed Dreamtime up in the iTunes directory, I used the direct Solidcasts RSS Feed. While Solidcasts had the benefit of creating/updating the feed through a simple form entry system, they provide no way for you to manually update the feed. Thus, no way to redirect to a new feed location. Plus, when you kill the Solidcasts account, they simply delete the feed. As far as I could determine, I had about 150 listeners who were subscribed through the iTunes directory, so I had to create a special show giving them instructions on how to find episodes when I moved. Most seem to have made the transition. But the old Dreamtime listing - now pod-dead - still sits in the iTunes directory, the iTunes' team ears deaf to my pleas to redirect the listing to the new feed.

The solution to the problem - if you care at this point - is to 1) make sure that your original feed is under your control so you can create a feed redirect if necessary, and 2) Use Feedburner as the feed address for all podcast listings, including iTunes.

End Geek Storm.

Now Master of my own Domain, I'm getting better tracking of audience stats: Dreamtime the blog gets about 4-5,000 a month visitors a month, about 60 percent of those coming from a referring site, such as Expecting Rain, which is my #1 supplier of visitors. #2 is "Night Time in the Big City," more-or-less a TTRH mp3 download site, and #3 is usually the TTRH Wikipedia article.

About 30 percent of visitors come through some sort of search, and the remaining 10 percent hit Dreamtime directly. And that pretty much reflects my subscriber base. I seem to have about 500 subscribers to the podcast, a smaller - but I think, more accurate - figure than the numbers reflected by Solidcast's stats. And I have a slightly higher number of regular readers at the blog itself.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Evolution Explains Why Lolcats Control Your Mind

My rule about LOLcats is only to post the ones that make me, in fact, LOL. And this one did.

My new favorite place - i09 - has an article on why we find LOLcats fascinating, as well as a couple of other great images. I'm not sure I buy the argument, though. I think a commenter's theory, that we all just likez cheeseburgerz, is as likely.

2b? Nt2b?*

"... Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels [in Japan], five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels. What is more, the top three spots were occupied by first-time cellphone novelists, touching off debates in the news media and blogosphere." - via the New York Times.
There are moments - happily still few and far-between - when I can feel myself ossifying. Reading Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular, an excellent article in this past Sunday's NY Times that I commend to your attention, was one of the moments. I still feel fairly hip, but there's an entire generation behind me whose thinking and ways of communicating are as different from mine - and probably yours - as a Spider from Mars. It took me a long time to learn that part of my difficulty in understanding my father was that I was dealing with a man whose basic adult attitudes and prejudices were mostly formed in the `20s and `30s, as mine were by the `60s and `70s. It's the rare person who can overcome the world picture you grew up with.

*the title, btw, was meant as a joke, as I remembered reading several parodies of classic novels redone as text messages. But, of course, speaking of ossifying...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Small Stakes Poker Game Busted in CA

This may already be all over the poker blogosphere, but since I only read two blogs of said sphere and have seen it in neither, here it is.

From Reason Magazine...

"...If California is like most states (and I believe it is), a poker game is only illegal if the house is taking a rake off the top. In this case, it looks like that "rake" was the $5 the extra the hosts asked from each buy-in to pay for pizza and beer.

Police also took a 13-year-old girl out of the home, away from her parents, and turned her over to child protective services. In addition to the charge of running an illegal gambling operation, the hosts are also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Good thing the poor girl was saved before slouching toward an inevitable life of crime..."

... and a first-hand account here.

The New Black is the... New Black

via Reuters:

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. researchers said on Tuesday they have made the darkest material on Earth, a substance so black it absorbs more than 99.9 percent of light.

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as the current benchmark of blackness.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why We Strike

Robert Elisberg has a tongue-in-cheek but very accurate FAQ about the Writers Guild of America strike...

I hear that the directors are more mature than writers, which is why the AMPTP corporations are negotiating with them?

Some people believe that third-graders are more mature than writers, but it only appears that way because writers rarely see daylight or other humans very often. The AMPTP corporations are negotiating with directors because it's what they've wanted to do since Day One. You see, directors hate striking for anything. In their entire history, they have struck once, for five minutes. Literally. Actually, it was more a clerical error. How far will directors go to avoid striking, even for something worthwhile? In 1984, Gil Cates negotiated the royalties for home video down by 80 percent, to the whopping 4 cents that artists get today. If you were the AMPTP, who would you rather negotiate with? The WGA was a nuisance that had to be tolerated until the directors were finally available. But now, writers have created so much attention about New Media that even the DGA knows it can get something good, if it tries.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Symbolic Analyst

While many commuters dream of working at home, telecommuting, I happen to know what it's like to work that way.

I never could stand to commute or even get out of my pajamas if I didn't want to, so I've always worked at home. It has its advantages and its disadvantages. Others like myself also have been drawn into the online world because they shared with me the occupational hazard of the self-employed, home-based symbolic analyst of the 1990s -- isolation.

The kind of people that Robert Reich, call ``symbolic analysts'' are natural matches for online communities: programmers, writers, freelance artists and designers, independent radio and television producers, editors, researchers, librarians. People who know what to do with symbols, abstractions, and representations, but who sometimes find themselves spending more time with keyboards and screens than human companions. ~ Howard Rheingold
via 43 Folders, as Matt Wood, also notes, "I’m curious to see [Rheingold's] updated thoughts on isolation of the self-employed, “symbolic analyst,” because as someone whose daily companions are usually a toddler and a dog, I can tell you that it still exists 16 years later.

As it does. 90 percent of the time, I can't imagine ever going back to "go-to-work" work. But the isolation - especially in the Winter when I tend to cocoon more, finding any excuse not to go out - does get to me occasionally. And, as much as I love them, two cats provide little intellectual stimulation. Emotional and even physical, as I chase the whooping Bear around the house, yes. Intellectual, no.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

David Lynch on Watching Films on Effing Telephones

I love my new iTouch above all things, and have even occasionally watched some short videos on it, but Lynch is right. Just as the experience from theatre to living room TV, watching a movie on the small screen of a phone or video player diminishes the experience.

Bob Dylan makes a similar argument about how bad music sounds today compared against older recordings, another diminished experience for the audience. You wonder how far it will go. Will their be a lash back sometime in the future where a jaded audience demands quality over technology? Or will anybody care?

via Iggy, whose blog I yes still read through its RSS Feed - which come to think of it could be argued as a diminished experience itself. Is reading blog snippets through a Reader a lesser experience than actually going to the blog and reading the full post?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It's Another One of your Spooky Do's

The most intelligent science fiction series of 2007 - plus lotsa shagging and snoggin' - is back for Season 2.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Waiting for the Detectives

Will we finally watch the Watchmen? Maybe. The current word is a March 2009 movie release. In brief:

They are in production, filming and doing CGI. Dave Gibbons is on board and enthusiastic. Alan Moore, predictably, is neither. Zac Snyder - he of 300 - is directing. The script is by Alex Tse, reportedly a rewrite of one of the earlier David Hayter scripts, and also reportedly script doctored by both Snyder and various others. Notably, Tse's name currently appears nowhere on the official Watchmen web site; and as an ironic side note, neither does Moore's, the producers apparently having learned something from the V for Vendetta debacle.

From all reports, and from the early production stills, the movie is going to closely follow the graphic novel's plot - which is both good news and bad news, in my opinion. Bad news, because I share the opinion of Moore, Terry Gilliam and others. I'm not sure Watchmen can be made into a movie... at least a movie that makes sense or is entertaining to anyone but superhero fanboys. Good news, because I'm more than willing to be proved wrong.

But it's a frustrating plot line, which I know from personal experience, because I even tried my hand at writing a script adaptation, breaking down about 75 script pages into the story. You have multiple characters and multiple storylines. Do you follow that and confuse the audience by switching from character to character, story to story, from the present to flashbacks and then back again? From the Earth to Mars and back again? Do you focus the story on one character - Manhattan, Dreiberg, Rorschach - and build up that story at the expense of others? And what do you do about the so-called "murder mystery" plot, which is the weakest part of Watchmen? It's a character- not plot- driven novel, and I don't see how that's going to translate to the big screen.

Me, I focused on Manhattan, as I've been as fascinated as Moore with the question as to what would happen if the superman ever really walked the face of the Earth (short answer: nothing good). And predictably, independently I came up with the basically the same story and same end to my story as did Sam Hamm, who wrote one of the first Watchmen scripts. "Predictably," because it's an obvious conclusion, and not very good.

But, Moore's plot and ending itself isn't very good or believable. But Watchmen - the 12-issue comic or collected graphic novel - is a work of genius, overcoming those weaknesses. Few people finish Watchmen and reflect that Ozymandias' Outer Limits-like scheme doesn't appear to be the brainchild of the so-called "smartest man in the world." They think of Jon Osterman, of Dan Dreiberg, of Walter Kovacs, of Laurie Juspeczyk, and of their various aliases, faults, triumphs.

Can the movie pull that off? We'll see.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Thinking about Christmas 2008 - Part the 1st

This would be a great addition to the Mini...

Product Description
SUPER LOUD attracts attention with its 118 Decibels of power. Each unit has a heavy duty 12 volt maintenance free compressor and durable plastic trumpets. Kit comes complete, nothing else to buy. Instruction in English / Spanish.

Product Description
Calling all Trekkies... replace your existing vehicle horn with this Wolo Star Trek Air Horn! 5 air trumpets play the most easily recognized notes of the "Star Trek" song at the touch of a button... getting attention instantly with 118 decibels of power! Electronic compressor wires directory to your vehicle's battery to replace your existing horn, no air tank or valve needed. Set includes a heavy duty 12 volt maintenance free compressor and impact-resistant durable plastic trumpets, tubing, relay, mounting hardware and instructions. Easy to install. Powered through your vehicle's 12 volt cigarette lighter. Order yours now! Wolo Star Trek Air Horn

via Amazon.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Entering a Brave New 2008

A potpourri of stuff...

Two things to add to my 2007 list below...

(Other) Best Techno toy: TomTom 720, which I still strongly suspect is Peggy's bastard Borg love child.

In our trip up to Lopstick Cabins in Pittsburg, NH, the Tommy led an unsuspecting Fred and Peggy down a dirt road leading to what we thought would be paved highway that eventually would take us to the Rangeley Lakes in Maine. Ten miles later, as we still proceeded - alone with nothing but scrub brush and trees on either side - along a washboard road, I finally realized as a Big Scary Truck filled with Maine Pine advanced directly at us that the TomTom had found a direct route to Rangely - a direct route that involved taking a logging road across the two states, a road untrod by man or beast except for those paid to haul the big wood... and, of course, us.

It was an interesting trip, equal to the one where Peggy led us through the middle of a cattle drive in Nevada, as cows mooed forlornly through my car window and cowboys solemnly tipped their hats to Peggy as we glided by, pretending that we belonged there.

And added to the best out-and-abouts - Newport RI and and the Chanler at Cliff Walk, which foggy-headed Fred totally forgot about, lo those 10 months ago. I'm doubly-shamed, as we also had one of the best meals of our lives at the Chanler's restaurant, The Spiced Pear.

While putting together the list, I was thinking how few books, music, and movies impressed me in 2007. Here's hoping 2008 has more of interest.

And, finally, if you actually visit fhb versus using some sort of reader, you'll note that some blogs have come and many have gone on the ol' roll for 2008. Doesn't mean I hate you - or even dislike you - if you're gone, just that I'm ah, not reading you through fhb anymore. But I still get a summary of most who were on the roll through Google Reader. You join a select company of "who Fred used to have on the blogroll," which includes Neil Gaiman and William Gibson among others. Chalk it up to changing tastes and ever-dwindling time. It's just faster to read summaries than bop all over the Web.

The ones on the right are the ones I still take the time to visit, albeit irregularly. The new ones have intrigued me enough to add them on the roll, at least for a time.