Monday, July 28, 2008

Stupidest design of a home page ever?

You decide.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"...and I'll whisper, 'No.'"

The new WATCHMEN trailer, the best evidence to date that the movie will cleave closely to the graphic novel. I like the word "cleave" as no matter which definition you use, I'm right.

Some fanboy impressions, in no particular order...

  1. Osterman in the intrinsic field vault. His body dissolving parallels the panel in WATCHMEN IV, Page 8.

  2. Archie the Owl Ship emerging from the Hudson: WATCHMEN X, Page 11.

  3. Random scenes of the Silk Spectre and Nite Owl. The Comedian tossed out his window. Ozymandias in front of his world video monitoring station.

  4. Dr. Manhattan. This appears to be a scene from Manhattan's origin, when he was still learning how to rebuild his body, possibly replicating WATCHMEN IV, Page 9.

  5. Archie descending through flames, possibly to the Sing-Sing riot. Rorschach improvising a flamethrower (WATCHMEN V. Page 26).

  6. The Silk Spectre. Dr. Manhattan x 3 in that infamous scene where Laurie cries out:, "Jon, be one person again!" (WATCHMEN II. Pages 4-5).

  7. Nite Owl in a very Batman-like pose. The Comedian's funeral. The Comedian in Vietnam. The Vigilante riots. (various from WATCHMEN II) Voice-over, "God help us all." The last is probably a reference to the quote in WATCHMEN IV, "God exists, and he's American." A chilling prospect, when you think about it.

  8. Manhattan appears after successfully reconstructing himself. (WATCHMEN IV, Page 10). Note the full frontal nudity. Manhattan and Laurie kiss (WATCHMEN IV, Page 18). The Comedian smashing a wall, possibly after discovering the secret that would lead to his death, Rorschach throwing someone (Moloch?) against a wall. Ozymandias fighting off an assassin (WATCHMEN V, Pages 14-15).. Nite Owl screaming and Manhattan incinerating a Vietnamese (the two unrelated, The latter from WATCHMEN IV, Page 20).

  9. More vigalante riot footage, this obviously parralleling WATCHMEN II, Page 16.The Rorschach voiceover is a variation of the statement in Rorscach's journal entry which opens the WATCHMEN series, which reads in part: "The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up against their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout 'Save us!'... and I'll look down and whisper, 'no'."

  10. The Martian clock tower.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Dreamtime Trucks Along With Episode 56

Time for a Dreamtime plug, which I haven't done in a bit. We're up to Episode 56 and about 3,000 regular listeners, as far as I can tell, which ain't bad for an amateur podcast.

It's Summertime, the living is easy, and our July Twenty-Ought-Eight show is all about solar rays and happiness, direct from the sun and fun capital of the world, Merrimack, NH.

Featuring Eric Burdon and the Animals from the Summer of Love, Mickey & Sylvia, (with a sidelong look at Dave "Baby" Cortez and The Rocky Fellers), Bob Denver (in-between gigs as Maynard G. Krebs and Gilligan), thoughts on the Man Who Walked on Water, our favorite Disney girl, Annette and her seldom-seen belly-button, a visit to the racetrack, and winding up with a hip-hop version of Cruel Summer. Plus Dreamtime favorite Summer movies, and a few jingles thrown into the mix.

Episode 56 - Ho Daddy! The Summer Surf and Turf special

The Miami Beach audience is the greatest in the woild - Jackie Gleason

Life's Too Short for High Cholesterol

A new issue of my favorite web comic is out.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Forget Kindle - I Wanna Readius!

Well, maybe.  The thing about the Interwebs is that bird in the bush always seems more attractive than the one in the hand - not that I have a Kindle in hand, just that I would like one.

Well, maybe.  The NY Times had an article on an interesting new "mobile device" this past Sunday, the Readius, billed as the first pocket eReader. Like the Kindle, you'll be able to read books, subscribe to newspapers, read email, and receive other content - such as podcasts amd mp3s - on the Readius.  Unlike the Kindle, the Readius uses a flexible display, one that can be literally unfurled from the pocket-sized device.

Fueled by way too many science fiction novels over the years, I've had this vision where someday I'll have this thing that looks like a sheet of blank paper, newspaper of magazine-sized, that I'll simply tap, and voila - I have the front page of the Times, or the Globe, or Wired. Or anything I want to read.  That vision has probably been best illustrated in a throwaway scene from the movie Minority Report, as described in this 2005 article from The Washington Post:

In the scene we're interested in, a Metro passenger is reading a USA Today. It LOOKS like a USA Today in that it's a full-page newspaper (called a "broadsheet") but instead of a handful of papers, it's a paper-thin video screen, thin enough to fold up and put under your arm. Instead of static photos and text, it's constantly changing text, video and perhaps sound. Think of it as a combination paper, television and Internet, presumably wirelessly connected to a futuristic Wi-Fi, perhaps the next generation of the new Wi-Max super hotspots that are rolling out and cover several square miles instead of several square feet.

We're getting closer to that vision all the time. As Andy Ihnatko notes in his review of the Kindle (warning: Ihnatko's site always takes a tremendously long time to load every time I visit it, I dunno why), the world-changing thing about the Kindle isn't that it's a very cool eBook reading device, which from all reports it is. But the ultimately cool cool thing about the Kindle is that it's a very good - and since its Internet connectivity is subsidized by Amazon, very free - portal to the Web.

"At its core, the Kindle is a light, compact device that (metaphorically) contains the Wikipedia in its entirety; the complete text of every RSS-enabled site that you care to follow through Google Reader or Bloglines…as well as tens of thousands of commercial titles" - Andy Ihnatko

That's what the Readius could become.  Well (all together now), maybe.  Someday.  we'll see.  For the moment, the Readius is an announced but not-shipping product, first to be released in Europe for an unknown price, and scheduled for U.S. rollout sometime in 2009.  Again, price unknown, although the Readius CEO notes in the Times that it will be priced higher than the Kindle - currently at $345 U.S. And it's unlikely that the Readius will have a free Internet connection either.

But we're getting there.  First the Kindle.  Next the Readius.  Someday - maybe someday soon, the Minority Report "broadsheet."

Below, a video of the Readius (somewhat) in action:

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Me & My FlashMic

As I've mentioned before, I recently got back from a gig in Vegas where I acted as producer and general ringmaster for a "live" podcast series from a business conference.

It's something I've wanted to try for awhile, and we were able to sell the clients on the idea that it'd be as close to live as we could make it without streaming - which I wasn't willing to tackle as a first attempt - and that we'd keep it to a guerrilla effort - fast, cheap, and if not out-of-control, at least not needing much oversight from our clients.

We did get about as live as you would want, posting most of the dozen shows we produced a few hours after recording, more than acceptable everyone agreed, given that we weren't doing breaking news. If necessary we could probably had the stories on the Web an hour after recording - the biggest bottleneck I ran into was the so-called high-speed internet connection offered by the hotel, which was neither high-speed nor provided much of an internet connection.

I eventually ended up posting most of our podcasts around 3 a.m. each morning, the only time I could seemingly get a consistent and relatively fast connection. In the hotel's defense, it did waive the $10 a day charge after I complained, but I still noted that a venue billing itself as a high-end business conference resort - which The Palazzo is in most respects - really needs to upgrade its internet connectivity for customers even if they have to charge more.

Because it was a guerrilla effort, there were only three of us: a reporter/industry analyst who did the bulk of the interviews; our client contact, who helped with all the necessary executive arranging/scheduling/handling; and lil ol' me, who outside of being the producer, also acted as engineer.

Most of the business podcasts I produce are phone interviews or roundtable discussions, most conducted through a traditional landline conference call, sometimes through Skype, recorded, edited, posted by me right here from the kitchen table. Since we were doing in-person, live interviews from the Vegas conference, I needed some sort of mobile recording equipment. All I was sure of was that based on experience I wanted as little gear as possible. The more gear, the more to haul around, the more to lose or break.

After some research, and discussion with fellow podcasters, I hit upon the HHB FlashMic, pictured above, and one of the coolest pieces of technology I've run into in quite awhile. It's nice when something not only lives up to your expectations but exceeds them. Resembling a wireless microphone, the FlashMic is an all-in-one recording studio. It runs on two AA batteries. It has a built-in 1GB flash drive. It has a professional-grade microphone - think broadcast or NPR-quality. One button to turn it on. One button to record. Plug it into Mac or PC with a USB cable and drag-and-drop your files over.

That's it. The FlashMic worked like a dream. Our reporter/analyst would do an executive interview and hand the FlashMic to me when finished. I'd download the .WAV file (the FlashMic can also save/transfer as an mp3) to my laptop, add our stock bumpers and do some minor editing in the freeware sound editing program, Audacity, and save it out as an mp3 for later uploading to the Web.

All done. You can listen to some examples if you check out the link above.Our client liked the FlashMic so much that she took it to the show floor for some "man-in-the-street" interviews, which I dutifully added on to our podcast series. Even the execs we interviewed dug the FlashMic, one noting that he had just come from another podcast interview which was an Old School mobile studio set-up... a room filled with mikes, soundboards, cables and equipment. The exec. thought he had walked into the wrong room when all he saw in our set-up was no set-up at all. Me, my laptop, our reporter and the FlashMic.

The price for the FlashMic can be off-putting. Street price ranges from $999 to $1200 (I got it for the lesser price through Amazon). But the equipment is a perfect example of the ol' "you get what you pay for" maxim. Would I recommend the FlashMic to the hobbyist podcaster? Probably not unless the hobbyist has money to burn. Can you put together a good, professional mobile recording platform for less than $999? Sure. My alternative - a digital recorder and a high-end mobile mike - would have run around $600-700 total, and if you're on a budget, you could pull together something for significantly less than those figures.

But for around $300 more I got what I wanted, quality, ease-of-use, and convenience. If you're doing podcasts as a business and if you want to be able to just wander around and capture interviews, ambiance, and sound for podcasts with a touch of a button you couldn't do better than the FlashMic.

Probably the best testimonial is that the other two members of my erstwhile Vegas team - client and reporter - have ended up buying FlashMics for their own projects.

Technical glitches

Blogger is in the midst of a major upgrade, meaning that things work, sometimes work, don't work, or stop working. Among the "sometimes working" is my access to Blogger itself and formatting stuff such as paragraphs and HTML links... that's just the stuff I've discovered so far. So, if my posts look a little funky during this period, that's probably why.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Lady Vanishes

I've been following with interest - and with the certain fascination you have viewing the aftermath of a particularly messy accident - the ongoing story of Boing Boing's "unpublishing" of blogger/columnist Violet Blue. The 411 for those not familiar with the story...

  1. Blue, a self-styled "sex educator," is a fairly well-known Web celebrity. Like most Web celebrities, Blue is also a tireless self-promoter, and has been publicized several times on the pop culture site, Boing Boing.
  2. According to Boing Boing, the group's columnists* decided to remove all past postings concerning Blue from their site "a year ago." They did so without announcement and without notice from the Web at large, until Blue and several of her friends began posting about her disappearance from Boing Boing in late June 2008.
  3. Boing Boing eventually responded on July 1st. Noting that yes they indeed had "unpublished" Blue (their term, without any apparent sense of irony); that it was a private matter between Boing Boing - either individually or collectively - and Blue; and that it was their blog to do with as they wanted.
End of story, or so BB hoped. This being the InterWebs, it, of course, wasn't, and close to 900 comments - including one of mine - have currently been added to in support of, or critical against, or used as a foundation to argue their own agenda, on the Boing Boing statement.

Boing Boing hasn't helped their case any by making several serious errors in the ongoing story. One of the Boingers - one who in fact had been a close friend of Blue's - implied that she was akin to a "piece of shit" that needed to be removed from the Boing Boing virtual household (the comment was later edited to remove the analogy). The BB moderator, while criticizing Blue and her supporters for lying, made several factual errors herself, including claiming that Blue had never written for Boing Boing - even though there is incontrovertible evidence that she did. And Boing Boing refuses to clarify the reason why they "unpublished" Blue, while ominously hinting that Blue "behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her," and that they had no wish to embarrass her.

So enough of the reporting and on to opinion. Like every blogger, I've had to deal with the differences in writing on-line vs. Old School. Back in the day, you couldn't "unpublish," you couldn't edit after publishing. Once out there in print, you owned the words. Me, I deal with the issue of how to correct something I've written while giving notice that it is a correction by strike-through or an UPDATE notice. The only time I change a post without notice is to fix a typo. I've never taken down a post, and hope I never have to consider doing so. I've occasionally left posts in draft for several days - even weeks - and sometimes deleted them without posting. That's what the "Draft" button is for.

fhb doesn't provide the multitude of links of a Boing Boing, of course. I occasionally change my Blog Roll to reflect what I happen to be reading at the time. Blogs disappear - sometimes they reappear. At least one blog fell off my blog roll because I found I didn't like the blogger's writing and attitude anymore. But even with that, I couldn't see going through my blog and purging all references to that blog, of which there are still several, as distasteful as I found some of the blogger's later posts.

"Unpublishing," outside of being a nightmarish term, is a bad idea, imo. You shouldn't have the ability to rewrite history, no matter what the reason. Boing Boing, of all blogs, should know that. As many commentators have said the "Violet Blue thing" would be the natural meat of a Boinger like Cory Doctorow, if it had happened on some other site. Doctorow, by the way, is notable by his absence from the ongoing debate.

So, speculation, which Boing Boing has also made fair game, in my opinion, by their coy references to whatever Blue did to trigger the "unpublishing." Blue herself claims not to know. There is speculation - especially with all the references Boing Boing has made to "embarrassment" and given Blue's avocation - that it may indeed be a personal matter. The Web consensus seems to be that Blue's attempt to trademark the "Violet Blue" name (apparently her legal name, but not the one she was born with), and her 2007 suit against a porn actress also using the same name triggered Boing Boing's group decision, Great Critics of Copyright that they are.

Who knows? As in most of these stories, the cover-up - or in this case the "unpublishing" - has become a bigger story than the original.

*UPDATE:: In an interview with the LA Times, Boing Boing columnist Xeni Jardin (the one who had later made the "piece of shit" analogy) noted she had unilaterally removed the posts/references to Violet Blue, also noting again that her reasons were a prinate matter between her and Blue.