Paying for good TV

I grew up glued to the TV and could have never imagined a time when I watched almost nothing on the boob tube. But here we are. Almost no regular viewing since starting my news fast. The one exception is the ABC sitcom, Modern Family. I find the writing so fast and flawless that I have to watch each episode twice to get all the jokes.

This week it occurred to me that we didn’t start watching until the third or fourth season so I went searching for earlier shows and wound up buying the first season (24 episodes) for $30. This might be the first time I’ve done that. (I’m not counting Netflix) $1.25 per episode and no commercials. That’s a good deal in my book. Going forward I see myself (willingly) paying for more of what I watch and listen to. And I’ll be more discriminating. I already have the sense more and more of the good stuff requires a subscription. The crap will come loaded with commercials.

Be Impeccable with your Word

While waiting for my car to be serviced yesterday morning, I watched a few minutes of a CBS News feature on how patients in the early stages of ALS are preparing (to the extent that’s possible) for the later stages of the disease.

“Before her speech becomes severely impaired, Hubner turned to speech pathologist John Costello at Boston Children’s Hospital. He gives patients a voice recorder and tells them to think of phrases that reflect who they are.”

As I watched the woman making notes and recording simple statements I found myself thinking about all the things I say during the course of a day (“Hey, Lucy. You want to go outside?” “Hattie! Come sit to the couch and get some loving’” “Have I told you today how much I love you?”) and what it would be like if I could no longer say those things.

In the CBS piece they entered the patient’s recordings into a computer so she could play them back with a keystroke. As I watched I wondered what would I want to say if I could no longer speak the words. Whew.

A list of things I take for granted would be too long to list here, but the simple act of speaking would be high on the list. How many spoken thoughts have I wasted? What would I say if today was my last day to speak?

The woman in the news story was writing down things she wanted to record. Not a lot of negative or mean things on that list, if I had to guess. Probably not a lot of political comments or complaints about waiting in line.

In an ancient blog post I imagined getting a printed transcript of every word I uttered in during the course of the day. With a red pencil I crossed out everything that didn’t need to be said. What would I be left with? If I could say only 20 things tomorrow, what would I choose?

Coif Commandos

I have an idea for a reality TV show but before I tell you about it, you have to buy into the idea that the only ‘reality’ in Reality TV is in the genre name. It’s all scripted and rehearsed to *look* spontaneous and off-the-cuff. We good? Great. Here’s my idea:

A team of hair stylists (with support personnel) cruise around in a Winnebago that’s been outfitted as a hair salon. When they spot a woman (let’s call her Bernice) with a really awful haircut (camera zooms and freeze-frames like a Predator Drone locking onto a target), a couple guys leap out, grab the woman and pull her into Winnebago where she’s strapped into a salon chair and handed a Mimosa.

The Coif Commandos (working title) leap into action as the Winnebago goes careening through traffic. A quick shampoo and the colorist transforms that mousy mop from dryer lint brown to a color better suited to the woman’s skin tone. Then the stylist snips and clips and gives her a cut that’s right for her face (and age). The clock is running and so are the commandos. They drop the freshly made over madam in front of Nordstrom’s and squeal away.

(commercial break)

We next see Bernice talking to the cops at the local precinct, describing her horrific experience.

Detective: And you say they didn’t actually harm you?
Bernice: Yes they harmed me! Look at my hair!!
Detective: (glancing at his partner) Uh, it looks pretty good to me. What did it look like before?

(cut to line-up room where the Commandos are under the lights. Some opportunity to go for cheap gay vamping laughs here.)

Bernice: That’s them!

As we segue into the next commercial break we watch a montage of Bernice’s friends and co-workers trying to be tactful as they talk about how much better she looks with her new coif.

(commercial break)

The courtroom scene consists of bitchy but hilarious testimony by the Commandos (“I’m sorry, but bangs at her age? No, no, no.”) and a series of before-and-after images. Don’t really have a good ending because the series depends on an acquittal in every episode.

I think this might be the result of a flashback from the 2003 series on Bravo, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. And my deep conviction that I could improve on most haircuts with a pair of garden shears.

Feel free to run with this pitch as your own. If you get picked up, send me a tee-shirt.

The Passion of St. Dilblert

I stopped keeping up with Scott Adams when he went wall-to-wall Trump stuff, but Google still slips me a link to his blog from time to time. In a recent post he complains that Twitter “throttles back my free speech when it doesn’t fit their political views.” He insists this only happens with “Trump-related content.”

Sounds a little paranoid to me but who the fuck knows anymore. And then there’s this near the end of the post:

“I’m trying to get my channel on YouTube running smoothly for after Twitter’s collapse. I’m still having massive and unpredictable hardware/software issues. You’ll see my A/B testing over at this link. Keep it handy in case I suddenly disappear from Twitter.”

I find this interesting from a social media perspective. It sounds like he’ll switfh his social media efforts to YouTube if/when Twitter makes him “disappear.” I watched a few minutes of this “A/B testing” on YouTube although I’m mystified why one would post such a test. Does he expect people to watch long, crazy-head YouTube rants?

Watch a minute or two of this video and you’ll see this rich, semi-famous guy sitting in a dark room in his California mansion, switching back and forth between webcams.

The Expanse – Season Two

Fans of the SyFy series The Expanse might enjoy recent episodes of Decrypted, Ars Technica’s TV podcast. The February 1st episode included an interview with Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the authors of the books (under pen name James SA Corey).

I’ve watched the first three episodes of season two and suffered only mild dissonance between my mental images of characters and locations from having read the novels. They discuss this at some length in the podcast.

And it’s really niggling things like Bobbie Draper’s combat suit. It was… bigger and played a bigger role in the books. And the damned ceilings are too high. By that I mean the living spaces just seem unnecessarily large. The spaces on the Rocinante are just larger than they need to be (like I know how to design spaceships). Same for Tycho Station. It looks like a gigantic shopping mall. This seems “off” to me. Spacers wouldn’t be so wasteful.

It’s a mistake, in my opinion, to expect the TV series to hew to the details of the books. And, yes, I recommend reading the books first but other can make a case for the other way.

Anyhoo, if you like the books and/or series, you might enjoy the podcast.

A boy’s idea of a man

Washington Post political columnist Richard Cohen (February 6, 2017):

“My friend has a teenage son. He’s a good kid, well-behaved, impeccably mannered and exasperatingly unpredictable, as many teenagers are — a man one minute, a boy the next. My friend has schooled his son in the verities of life — be truthful, be reliable, be civil, be patient and, above all, be humble. Now, though, my friend does not know what to say. Donald Trump has left him silent.

There are many reasons to loathe Trump. His policies are mostly wrong, and even those that are right have been chaotically announced or implemented. He prescribes barroom oaths for an economy that needs thought and creativity. He would let the Earth bake rather than take the most rudimentary of steps to moderate global warming. He alienates allies and friends, embraces enemies and indulges in a noxious moral relativism in which, somehow, Russia and America are on the same level.

But it is my friend’s dilemma that best evokes what is so repellent about Trump. He is the winner who was supposed to lose. He is the bully in the fourth grade who never meets his match. He is the liar whose lies somehow don’t matter. He is the braggart who is never humbled. He refutes what Johnny Tremain was told and every child once instructed: “Pride goeth before a fall.” No, with Trump pride goeth before everything .

Donald Trump is the most un-American of presidents. Think of Abraham Lincoln — “Honest Abe.” Will anyone ever call Trump “Honest Don”? Will he be known for his humility or for his lust for knowledge? Will tales be told about his industrious work habits or, as with Lyndon Johnson, his furious desire to end racial discrimination? What will Trump overcome?

Or George Washington. Could there ever be an equivalent of the Parson Weems tale about Trump’s honesty: “Father, I cannot tell a lie”? No, it would have to be “Father, some Mexican cut down the cherry tree.” Or Dwight Eisenhower and his chain-smoking determination on the eve of D-Day, or Ronald Reagan and his affable demeanor with a bullet in him, or George H.W. Bush, who left his cushy country club life and volunteered for war at the age of 18, or Franklin D. Roosevelt, standing on atrophied legs, the braces digging into his flesh, or Barack Obama, whose dignity in the face of Trump’s revolting “birther” taunts is now so sorely missed. Trump repudiates them all. He will leave no myth, just an odor.

Myths have a certain staying power because, really, they are aspirational — not always who we are, but always who we want to be. We see ourselves as good and generous. We believe we are a virtuous nation. There is no monarchy or dictatorship in our past. We have always been a democracy, and even our presidential palace is sometimes called “the people’s house.” I am aware, of course, of slavery and Jim Crow and enduring racism. I am aware, too, of the near-extirpation of the American Indians and the raw anti-Semitism that doomed many Jews fleeing Hitler. All of this is unforgivable, unforgettable too.

As a kid, I was a paperboy, and the walls of the place where we picked up our papers were plastered with pictures of former paperboys — some sports figures, some presidents, some military officers. Ike was one. Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher, was another and so was the “G.I.’s General,” Omar Bradley, the last of the five-stars. I used to study that wall, wonder about those men and whether I could ever be like them. I envision it now. There is no room for Trump there. He does not qualify. Never mind that he was never a paperboy. More important, he is no role model.

A father instructs. He raises a child to be good, to be honest, to tell the truth, to be humble, to be fair, not to be petty, to respect women, to accept fair criticism, to protect the weak and not to injure the injured, such as the bereaved parents of a son who died heroically in Iraq and a reporter with a physical disability. Trump teaches otherwise. He shows a boy that the manly virtues are for suckers, that the narcissism of youth should be cherished and that angry impulses have to be honored. Lots of men have failed as presidents, as Trump surely will, but few fail so dismally as role models. He’s a boy’s idea of a man. He’s a man’s idea of a boy.”

WordPress Media Library

The screencast below is about one of the under-the-hood features of WordPress. So it’s going to be of zero interest to anyone who doesn’t have (or has had) a blog or website using WordPress as the content management system.

WP is great for searching. I have 5,000 posts going back 15 years but if I can remember a word or phrase, WP will find all references in a matter of seconds. If you include media (photo, video, audio) with your post, WP puts it in the Media Library. I had more than 1,600 pieces of media in my library but I couldn’t search because I hadn’t taken the time to give the media a useful name or any other metadata. This 6 minute screencast shows how I cleaned that up and why.

As I’ve experimented with various online tools for managing media (iCloud, Google Photos, Flickr), I’ve found myself drawn back to my WordPress blog. Let me hasten to point out almost nobody visits my blog. That’s been true since the beginning. It’s always been more journal/archive.

But when I put images online, I try do so in some context. If I have 50 photos of my mother as a young woman, I’d rather include those (as a slideshow or gallery) as part of blog post that might include links to other posts and images. You get the idea.

For me, the stories behind the images (if I know them) are as important as the images themselves. A blog works well for this. And because it is self-hosted, I don’t have to worry that Yahoo! or Google or Facebook might one day kill it.

A profile on every American adult

idiCORE combines public records with purchasing, demographic, and behavioral data and has built a profile on every American adult. (Bloomberg)

“Personal profiles include all known addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses; every piece of property ever bought or sold, plus related mortgages; past and present vehicles owned; criminal citations, from speeding tickets on up; voter registration; hunting permits; and names and phone numbers of neighbors. The reports also include photos of cars taken by private companies using automated license plate readers—billions of snapshots tagged with GPS coordinates and timestamps.”