thinglets: I am not a number. I am a free man!

The Prisoner was hands-down one of the best television shows of all time... and it only lasted 17 episodes. Don't ever think that quantity equals quality. Sure, the look is a bit stylized and kitsch by today's standards, but the thematic interplay and character development set this show apart. If you have a chance to purchase the box set of the series (which can be found for relatively cheap prices these days) or borrow them off a friend... or go torrent diving... check it out. And, above all, give it a chance past the first 10 minutes when it sometimes freaks people out due to sheer weirdness. "Who is Number One?"

lovehate: how it ends

It's becoming clearly evident that the older I get, the more willing I am to accept the unusual in the art that I view, listen to, or otherwise consume. Actually, I'm hoping for unusual these days. It's with this view that I revel in the unexpected. From Samuel L. Jackson "biting it" in Deep Blue Sea to the school bus take out in Mean Girls, I almost want to get up and cheer when the truly unique happens. And sure, I'll admit that just going weird for its own sake can come across as contrived, and going persistently weird for its own sake gives you the name of David Lynch.

One of the things I've hated for years was songs that fade out. That artists can persistently allow producers to rob them of the ability to find creative endings to songs is deplorable. I get the fact that being "radio-friendly" demands a no-nonsense way for even the most inattentive DJs to figure out when to start turntable number two, but the fade is quite simply the most uninventive and banal way to finish a song. I'll concede that there may be rare times that a fade can be used as a thematic device, but certainly not on 90% of every song recorded since the 50s. In fact, the first recorded fade was used in "Neptune, part of the orchestral suite, The Planets, by Gustav Holst.  Holst stipulate[d] that the women's choruses [were] "to be placed in an adjoining room, the door of which [was] to be left open until the last bar of the piece, when it [was] to be slowly and silently closed", and that the final bar (scored for choruses alone) [was] to be repeated until the sound [was] lost in the distance." Apparently the thought of the fade didn't cross Holst's mind as a way to provide a smooth segue into the Eye in the Sky traffic report during afternoon drive time.

But there's a strange corollary for every song that I wish could be wrapped up and finished, and for every photograph and painting that has neither beginning nor end, and every television show or series that ends unsatisfyingly derivative. I want the musician to complete the thought, even though the ending may be abrupt or odd. I want the director and screenwriter to complete a vision that suits theirs and not my sensibility. No one questions the painter for taking a slice of life and allowing the viewer to interpret the story before and after. So why does mainstream "art" have to be wrapped up in a neat little packages to be acceptable. Must we demand from our art and entertainment a sense of completion that does away with the snippet of real life that film or television represents?

Beckett explored the the existential reaches of redundancy with Waiting for Godot and is celebrated 50 years later. Joyce completed an esoteric wraparound in Finnegan's Wake with a final sentence that "riverran" flawlessly into the opening sentence. Bob Ezrin contructed Pink Floyd's The Wall with a soft voice that began the disc with "...we came in?" and finished it with "Isn't this where...." The Coen's adaptation of No Country for Old Men had a brilliant understated conclusion that surely pissed some people off, but in its open-ending was more satisfying and thematically-pleasing than any contrivance that might have made for a happy audience.

After all, such neat little wrap-ups are the essence of Shakespearean comedy and children's stories. The evil get screwed, the good get rewarded, the fools get their ass kicked and run away, and the true lovers get married. Beyond this genre, I fail to see why we should have any right to expect any specific ending for a story or a song. The concept of poetic justice has trained our collective media minds to expect the bad to get punished, the good to triumph and all loose ends to be wrapped up - but this is not reflective of life. If art is supposed to be a reflection of life, let's allow for art to include the strange, the bizarre, the unexpected, the flawed and the needlessly tragic. If we can't find beauty in representations of ALL aspects of life, we are shortchanging ourselves some of the greatest stories that can be told... or, more realistically, that can be bankrolled in order to be told.

lovehate: Cable News Technology

It's now been about a week since I had to suffer through Wolf Blitzer talking to a fuzzy hologram during CNN's election coverage. During the very short snippets I caught, several things became very clear:

1) The next gen. hologram techonology employed by CNN looked like someone didn't how how to set up proper anti-aliasing when creating a mask in Photoshop.

2) That CNN thought ANY member of a pop group, much less the Black-Eyed Peas, deserved any airtime during the so-called "most intriguing election of our time" was yet another example of media gone mental.

3) The "team" of tech wizards at CNN that actually thought it ground-breaking and appealing showing a fuzzy 3D hologram of a person that we were watching on a 2D medium need their heads examined by a doctor around the world using the same fuzzy holographic technology.

How different is this from the days we used to make fun of television ads that asked "does your TV look this good?" outlined the laundry list of technology that was necessary to have this groundbreaking effort brought to my screen.

• 35 HD cameras pointed at the subject in a ring
• Different cameras shoot at different angles (like the matrix), to transmit the entire body image
• The cameras are hooked up to the cameras in home base in NY, synchronizing the angles so perspective is right
• The system is set up in trailers outside Obama and McCain HQ
• Not only is it mechanical tracking via camera communication, there's infrared as well
• Correspondents see a 37-inch plasma where the return feed of the combined images are fed back to them. Useful for a misplaced hair or an unseemly boogar
• Twenty "computers" are crunching this data in order to make it usable.

The sad reality of the end result of this endeavor is that the subjects would have looked far better using just ONE HD camera and putting up a split screen. These people have never looked so bad on television. Until they can figure out a way to get the hologram into my rec room, the technology as used on TV is useless.

Yet, all this said, I admire that the network is at least thinking of pushing the envelope. This idea was truly noble in conception if not in execution. After all how many ways can a screen be broken up to accommodate a dozen or more pundits? How many more touchscreens or crazy new-fangled telestrator technologies must we be subjected to so that the sidekick, young "hip" analyst can drag and drop so many objects and statistics around like a green screen weather man with a god complex?

I have, on many occasions, wished for advancements in holographic technology like the kind we were poorly exposed to on CNN. The advancements, however, need to happen at the end-user level before there is any purpose in integrating such technology into broadcasting. Give me a home unit that can do simple stuff like show 3D maps, animation, or simple content that will prove the medium as a useful home entertainment device.

To sum up the pros and cons of cable news and its continuing efforts with next gen technology:
Pro - Wanting to push the envelope is never bad.
Con - 3DTV is the next frontier and after that holographics is really NEXT next gen, let's at least get the order right.
Con - Selling any program, much less election coverage, on a half-assed, poorly-executed concept is beyond lame.

It's not just a CNN problem. Instead, networks need to stop hiding their ineptitude behind fancy graphics and "cutting edge" wishlist technology and providing real reporting, inciteful commentary and content that transcends personality, graphics and glitz. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of home holographic technology on the horizon, but I hate that persistent weak attempts at such advancements may do more to discourage development instead of enhance it.

cnn hologram

thinglets: Paul Lynde, Center Square

Paul Lynde

Okay, I'm showing my age a bit here, but I remember Paul Lynde from the center Hollywood Square for many years. I also remember him as getting way too many laughs for jokes I didn't understand as a very young child. That said, in reading some of his best lines in retrospect, either this guy, the writers, or a combination of both were comical wizards when it came to one-liners and double entendres. Often set up by Peter Marshall 's questions, I now get why Lynde was so loved for so many year.

As a side note, I always thought the voice for Roger the Alien on American Dad was a dead ringer for Lynde... kudos Seth. Here are some of my Paul Lynde favorites:

Peter Marshall: In "Alice in Wonderland", who kept crying "I'm late, I'm late?"
Paul Lynde: Alice, and her mother is sick about it.  

Peter Marshall: According to Tony Randall, "Every woman I've been intimate with in my life has been..." What?
Paul Lynde: Bitterly disappointed.   

Peter Marshall: What is a pullet?
Paul Lynde: A little show of affection...  

Peter Marshall: Prometheus was tied to the top of a mountain by the gods because he had given something to man.  What did he give us?
Paul Lynde: I don't know what you got, but I got a sports shirt.  

Peter Marshall: It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps.  One is politics.  What is the other?
Paul Lynde: Tape measures.   

Peter Marshall: True or false, the navy has trained whales to recover objects a mile deep.
Paul Lynde: At first they tried unsuccessfully with cocker spaniels...   

Peter Marshall: When you pat a dog on its head he will usually wag his tail.  What will a goose do?
Paul Lynde: Make him bark.  

Peter Marshall: Burt Reynolds is quoted as saying, "Dinah (Shore)'s in top form.  I've never known anyone to be so completely able to throw herself into a..." A what?
Paul Lynde: A headboard.   

Peter Marshall: In one state, you can deduct $5 from a traffic ticket if you show the officer...what?
Paul Lynde: A ten dollar bill.  

Peter Marshall:  If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
Paul Lynde:  Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.  

Peter Marshall:  What did James Watt invent after fooling around with his wife's tea kettle?
Paul Lynde:  James Watt Jr.  

Peter Marshall: It is the most abused and neglected part of your body-- what is it?
Paul Lynde:  Mine may be abused but it certainly isn't neglected!

Peter Marshall: In the Bible, who was found in a basket among the bulrushes?
Paul Lynde: Colonel Sanders.

Peter Marshall:  Now listen carefully, Paul...during the time of the hula hoop, the yo-yo, and Davy Crockett hats, who was in the White House?
Paul Lynde:  I'll say the yo-yo!

Peter Marshall:  Eddie Fisher recently stated, “I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for them both.”  Who or what was he referring to?
Paul Lynde:  His fans.

Peter Marshall:  According to the old song, "At night, when you're asleep, into your tent I'll creep."  Who am I?
Paul Lynde:  The scoutmaster!

Peter Marshall: Is it possible to drink too much water?
Paul Lynde: Yes, it's called drowning!

Peter Marshall: True or false, Guatemala once declared war on Germany.  
Paul Lynde: Yes, and it's a good thing Germany never found out!

Peter Marshall: Paul, why are forest rangers in remote locations ordering goats as standard equipment?
Paul Lynde: Because the sheep are wising up?

Peter Marshall: You have a bunch of unwanted hair. According to Dr. Thotusen, what is most often the cause of unwanted hair? A bunch of it?
Paul Lynde: Running over a llama.

thinglets: not good pumpkins... a great pumpkin!

As much as I slagged Hallowe'en in my last post, here's one of the few great aspects of the holiday. The tragic self-esteem of Charlie Brown. The dependency issues of Linus. The fawning infatuation of Sally. The repressed sexuality of Lucy. The denial of Peppermint Patty. The pressured prodigy of Schroeder. The tacit understand that every adult only speaks gibberish and that the only cool character is a dog - enjoy! ... btw... I got a rock.