7/29/2008

Dr. Horrible now on hulu

Joss Whedon has made Dr. Horrible available online at hulu and you can watch below:



I'm still glad I paid for this, because I hope there will be more like it in the future. I think you can even watch this in Canada now, which is good. Some of the jokes make sense in Canadian, too. If you've not seen this and you have about an hour to kill, go ahead and do so.

An open request to ABC

Dear ABC,

I'm really happy that I can watch every single episode of LOST online, in streaming HD. It's fantastic. I'm re-watching Season 4 again, and the interface is pretty spectacular.

However, we have to talk about the advertisements. Please figure out a way to advertise to me somehow in a way that is non-invasive. I recommend maybe figuring out some mix where local companies can sell me an ad during that time, perhaps with the local affiliate serving as the ad broker.

I'm 34. I don't have any need for Cialis, don't need anything produced by Astra-Zeneca, and really, I don't have Fibromyalgia. So, please, stop reminding me that my future is going to be filled with a whole series of pills and side-effects. I know that's coming. But, have you noticed, I'm trying to watch LOST? That means I'm seeking escape. When the ads are jarring, it's much less likely I'll get used to coming to your site. I'll be more likely to go to hulu, where I can pretty much find something I can watch within a couple of minutes, even if it is an episode of I Dream of Jeannie.



Really, can you imagine I am embedding Barbara Eden on my blog? How would I even begin to explain that to the 9-year-old me that watched this show every single day?

Anyway, I can't embed LOST here, and maybe I don't want to. But, I would like people to go to your site to watch, and I'd like ABC.com to become a successful business model so that people like myself can continue to watch high-quality entertainment. It's a troubling time for everyone in the media business as human behavior continues to shift before our eyes. How do we turn the Internet into something that can sustain us, inform us, educate us, connect us, and entertain us?

Looks like we've already done that, to some extent, at least for those of us connected. But, I fear your days are numbered if you keep telling me I'm soon to expect medical fun. At least tell me to exercise, and maybe get out from the computer every now and then!

Yours Truly,
Sean Tubbs

The Joys of Wikipedia #1: The A428 Road


This likely will not become a series on this blog, but you never know. Maybe blogs should do series, which is what many people do. Maybe it helps people focus on what to write. Gives them something to say.

In any case, I came across this article on the A428 shortly after reading an article on Negativland. I hit random once, and got the name of some German occultist, before settling on the above article. I skimmed it quickly, spent about five seconds scanning whether I knew any of the towns or not, and then had a brief thought about how much I thought it would be interesting to develop Wikipedia articles for our roads here, to personalize them in a much nicer way. Would that be something people want to see? The article, as you can see in this print-screen I made quickly lists all of the various places the road goes, followed by the various intersections it comes across. There's a tremendous sense of love and order that comes along with this, something that seems so fundamentally English, but yet, it's a sense of way-finding that produces a more intimate feeling then what we have here. Ultimately, in these maps, people can get around better.

After all, I've driven from my parent's home in Lynchburg to here in Charlottesville many, many times. I've never seen a map like the one you can see above, borrowed from Wikipedia in the interest of public service.

7/28/2008

Thoughts on Cuil, or maybe we need another search engine

All over the world, thousands of bloggers are dumping on Cuil, the search engine launched today by former employees of Google. The release got a lot of press, as I read many press reports of its creation, which is backed by about $33 million in venture capital. So, after I read the fifth one, I decided to check it out this thing, which is pronounced "cool."

I googled Charlottesville Podcasting Network, and a lot of stuff showed up. I was pleased, and I was also pleased with the look of how the site displayed the results. Instead of listing it with pure text and a very brief abstract, Ciul displays three columns of paragraphs, and takes a picture from somewhere on the web and makes a little in-line photograph.

The organizers of Cuil say they're searching more sites than any other search engine out there. That's supposed to the beauty of their start-up. They also claim to not collect any of your search information.

But, they had issues today. For starters, I have no clue what image they're using to describe my site, which by 11:11 PM has claimed the top left hand entry. I assume that is their top spot. Earlier today, that search didn't even hit the first page of the site.

Second of all, I have no idea what picture they've pulled to illustrate my site. It appears to be a picture of a woman speaking at a conference. I do not recognize it. It certainly says something about my site, but I'm not sure what.

More interesting are the results Ciul pulls up. Google pulls up mentions of the site on other places, such as this introductory note from cvillenews back in 2005. Ciul seems to be picking up and highlighting a lot more of the re-feeders that splog my content on a somewhat legitimate basis. But, in any case, it brings up different information for whatever reason. Perhaps it hasn't learned yet. Or perhaps its slightly different methodology would provide more interesting things, putting people in touch with a wholly different set of topics or perspectives on topics?

Perhaps not.

But, I do know that it's worth checking out over the next few weeks as it develops. I'll likely get bored because Google works quickly and is efficient, which is mostly what I want out of a search engine. That's why I and you quickly adopted our habits less than ten years ago, because it worked quickly and cut through all the clutter. Both by having the best algorithm, but also for presenting it in the most efficient way possible.

I don't think Cuil has sorted that out yet. Doesn't mean they can't, but judging from today's poor showing, I don't think they're going to get many people going back for a second chance. One article I read said that if you had the safe filter turned off, you were likely going to have pornographic images adorning your search results, and you'd never know why.

By the way, searching for the above link really indicated one thing I don't like about Google, or at least, how information is spread over the web. So many of the results for "examiner cuil" lead to the same AP story being duplicated again, and again, and again. I can understand a need for that in the old days, when locally generated media products were likely to supply 100 of your news diet. But, now? Shouldn't those organizations be doing something different with their time?

Anyway, speaking as a very small media outlet and aggregator, I would like to say that I am not ragging on Cuil in any way. I am also someone who promised a magnificent public service, and I'm still in the early days of building it. If you've not been to the Charlottesville Podcasting Network for a while, please do visit the site, and sign up for our e-mail if you don't do the RSS thing. Or, if you do do the RSS thing, sign up for the e-mail anyway.

NASA turned 50 today?

Okay, I'll admit, I don't read the mainstream newspapers like I used to. Instead, I periodically skim the news through news-feeds via Bloglines. I'm mostly focused on what's happening here in Central Virginia, though I try to stay on top of what's going on in transportation policy, urban design issues, and my pop-culture interests.

So, it's at the end of reading through my third-tier search (English media) that I came upon this gem in the Independent listing 50 things that we can thank the space program for. The article was posted as part of NASA's 50th anniversary.

A quick scan of news.google.com reveals it's not a big story here. Fifty years of amazing and tragic history, and there don't seem to be too many articles celebrating it. Do we have so little pride in our accomplishments? Is this not judged to be of interest to people?

I did see some other articles of interest, though, on the Discovery Channel's Space Diary. Burt Rutan is preparing SpaceShip2, in collaboration with Richard Branson and his quest to conquer low-orbit space for tourists. A probe being sent to the moon to create a new lunar map is being delayed until February because the military wants to use the rocket it is scheduled to fly out on. But even this blog doesn't mention the 50th anniversary of NASA.

I guess it could be argued that no one celebrates the foundation of a government bureaucracy. NASA does have a page dedicated to its own birthday, but even it's buried on its homepage.

But, it takes a British newspaper to package something that feels so useful - a simple list of innovations we owe to the space race. Anyone know of anyway to calculate the return on investment for that sort of thing?

7/27/2008

Negativland News

If not for Negativland, there would be no Charlottesville Podcasting Network. I grabbed onto this collective in my first year of college, when listening to WUVT my dorm-mate telling me he couldn't believe the station would play a lot of noise, a comment prompted by a Negativland track. Just before then, I read a note in the Record Exchange's Music Monitor that U2 was suing Negativland for copyright infringement. Then, my friend Jeffry Cudlin let me borrow Dick Vaughn's Moribund Music of the Seventies, a radio show in which Negativland pretended to convert KPFA, a Pacifica station in San Francisco, into a 1980's Top 40 outfit called the California Superstation.

Those three pieces of evidence led me to conclude that the band was worthy of further study. Of course, this was back before the Internet, when music stores often were your only source of information on something you were interested in outside the mainstream. So, I walked to the Record Exchange on Main Street in Blacksburg fairly often and stocked up on fantastic collages that made me think about sound in a very different way. Sometime on a trip to Charlottesville in 1992 or 1993, I visited Jeffry, who lived with Tyler Magill on Valley Road at the time, and got to borrow several excellent CDS from Tyler on infinite loan. As in, I still have them - I think he thought I lived in town.

The lessons from Negativland: Sound was something to be manipulated, language could be subverted through subtle puns, and that culture could be jammed. And it could all be done with somewhat good humor, by geeks and misfits. I have hours and hours of my own sound collages that I put together in the same fashion. The skills I learned to do that paved the way for my radio career and now podcasting career.

Negativland came here last year for a very interesting two-hour live radio show at the now departed Satellite Ballroom. It was the only show I attended there. I had a great time, even though the material was 100 percent new to me. Part of the joy of recorded Negativland is that you must listen to it three or four times to see the patterns and to get the jokes. I had hoped that the show, which was about religion, would be made available as a CD.

Today, I found out that there is in fact a new album. However, it's a new album of songs, actual songs, as opposed to sound collages and archives of their experimental radio programs. That's much better, in a lot of ways, and much more ambitious.

Interesting that it's a song-based album, and listening to the first
song (can't speak highly enough of Rhapsody) it sounds like Escape
from Noise
. In any case, I'd rather have songs than pure noise. I
think this is why I don't tinker at all with any sound any more. I'd
rather have order, and some sense of structure, perhaps leading up to
a purpose. There's no sustaining joy in the purely random.

The album, called Thigmotactic, starts strong with a sample-heavy track called "Richard Nixon Died Today" but then stumbles fast with "Lying on the Grass" which makes me wonder if Mark Hosler should be writing all the songs.


The second song ("Lying on the Grass") and the third song ("Extra Sharp Pencils") are kind of embarrassing and make you wonder if one member of the collective should be allowed to take over an album like this. But then, somewhere in that third song, something kicks in, and yeah, this feels like Negativland, in a very fresh new way that I'm glad to hear. The fourth song ("It's Not a Critique") sounds like Negativland-of-old, with a mix of
samples from music and talk shows, put together in a way that sounds
almost musical. The content is the same call-to-media-awareness, with an updated delivery
style.

And then, as the songs proceed it's very clear that this is a welcome addition to the Negativland catalogue. "Virginia's Trip" is a lot of fun.

But, then, as I continue to write this article, I realize that the live show is also available, but there are not many copies left. My wife found out I paid to download Dr. Horrible. I guess this is where I should say, no, there's no way I'm buying it, honey.

Let's just hope she doesn't use my computer.

7/21/2008

Free video = $6 for Joss Whedon and Dr. Horrible

So, I watched Dr. Horrible twice when it was online. My wife watched it once. I thought it was absolutely tremendous, and the songs have been running through my head all day. It was great entertainment, and I really admire the way this experiment has turned out.

But, today, it's gone. The easy-to-play buttons that a clean iteration of hulu were gone, replaced with links to favorable press about the three-act project. I spent about an hour today reading through these accounts. Whedon wrote the story during the writer's strike, and then made it afterwards on his own dime. Spent something in "the low six-figures" according to Variety, all part of his master plan.

Taking it down is genius. What was once available is now gone. Scarcity is created. Desire is created. Demand rushes in through the only available pathway - paying $6 to purchase the whole thing from iTunes. Now, in a few minutes, I get to watch it again. A very small amount of disposable income easily spent in the interests of my self-gratification.

I'll stop short, however, of buying the DVD, though I hear extra content is being created for it. After watching this thing several more times, will I need to see something new? Will I pay to the special commentary track they're developing, complete with a new song?

Who knows? But, anyway, no more blogging. Time to watch.

7/20/2008

The Age of Video

If you stop and think about it, it's pretty amazing that I can pull up nearly any video I want. And, that it can be very easy for me to watch something that someone tells me I should. I'm listening to Radiohead's House of Cards after being told by another blogger, Corbin at I'm Spatial, which has me really digging this band for the first time. I've never been much of a fan, but this song is kind of catchy.

The way they captured these images is interesting, given that it's all made up of data as near as I can tell. We'll come back to that at one point, but this video seems pretty important to me because of the way it is introducing the concept of visual representation by pure data to a wide audience.



And now I'm listening to an interview with a young Jimmy Page, thanks to this blog, playing some skiffle. The blogger might not know it, but skiffle is the name given to what was played in Liverpool, this style of taking the blues by way of the early rock and roll that was going on at the moment. Maybe some day I could interview my dad for a podcast about this, given that he's in the same cohort as the Beatles, who started off as a skiffle band.



If I were an academic or if I had a slightly more organized mind, perhaps I'd write more about skiffle. I could take research projects to England, to visit Liverpool. I've not been in over ten years now. I had hoped to go this year, given that they're the European City of Culture.

But, back to the James Page thing. Yes, I would love to do some sort of musical study of this music, given that Led Zeppelin ended up being some of the best evolution of the blues Robert Johnson could have asked for. I recently snagged a lot of original Led Zeppelin on vinyl, and I've been revisiting all of that. I know why it's important, but I lack the vocabulary and the discipline to write about it in such a way that might be interesting to people. In the past, I would have thought a radio piece might work, but I'm not sure about that anymore. I don't really know how to tell stories anymore. Have I lost my chops?

Anyway, James Page became Jimmy Page, and to prove the ridiculous claim I made above about Zeppelin and the Blues, I present this:



Do what I do - just listen. Surf elsewhere while YouTube is on. It's kind of fun that way for so much of this stuff.

You must watch Dr. Horrible

I sound like a bad salesman or a spammer with a headline like that, but time really is running out for you to watch Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, for free, through hulu. It may be availabe through iTunes for a couple more day, but this free three-part musical by Joss Whedon has to be seen to believed. So, you must go and watch if you want to see something incredibly fun, somewhat sad, and ultimately sort of moving.

I'm watching it now for the second time this weekend, and there's a chance I may watch it a third time. Of course, I have two other computers I'm working on at the same time, and the music is pretty catching. Performances are good, and it's a neat way to distribute something like this.

So, go watch! Did you watch? What did you think?

7/13/2008

Addams Family Pinball Promo

The world is a better place with YouTube. Or at least, it could be if we could use the Internet to change the world. Or, in this case, to at least figure out a way for me to play some more of my favorite pinball game of all time - Addams Family. When I was a waiter at a pizza place in Nashua, New Hampshire in the fall of 1997, much of my life revolved around wanting to just play that game. The game is successful because it combines a lot of great elements into an entertaining pinball machine that you just want to play and play and play. I mean, any game where you get bonus points for hitting Cousin It with the ball is worth fifty cents a go. There was a certain rhythm to the game and I was up to the point where I could play for half an hour on one play. I could get free game after free game, and knew how to work the various mini-games to my advantage to score a lot of points. I'm not usually very good at video games, but I seemed to own the game.



When I lived in Calgary, Alberta, a few years later, we used to walk downtown to Eau Claire Market to play it at the cinema there. Many a Canadian quarter would be placed in those things, because it reminded me of being in another strange place away from Virginia.

Actually, I can't remember if Canada has quarters. It's been a long time since I've been there. I can't even bear to look at the Wikipedia link I posted above because I don't want to be reminded of the greatness that was and likely still is Calgary. If I could live anywhere else in the world, I'd like to try there. Certainly, if I was going to go to school at some point in the future, I might give it a shot again.

It's been eight years now since I've been there. I've not kept up with anything there, and whatever local politics and sense of the media I gathered together is now gone, except for a vague sense of geography. A city of nearly a million people at the time, it felt like a good example of how to grow well in that everything was planned out, with an appropriate grid system, interconnected with a series of high-capacity highways. Of course, the TransCanada more or less grinded to a halt, as it seemed to do in every other western Canadian city it passed through.

I miss Canada, and I miss Calgary, but I doubt I'll ever go back there. It's too risky these days to consider moving far away. I think of my son very far away and I'm struck by how much further away he seems now that transportation costs keep rising.

Since Calgary, I've been more or less not in regular contact with a copy of Addams Family Values. The only exception is the arcade at Smith Mountain Lake, on the Franklin County side of Hales Ford Bridge. I do manage to play there about twice a year, but it's not quite the same. I'm distracted there because the arcade is mostly about collecting tickets to exchange for small to large trinkets, and not really about the pinball. Still, all three balls are in service, meaning that the multiball Jackpot can work to its full effect.

If you've never played the Addam's Family Pinball game, I strongly recommend that you give it a shot. Where is the nearest one to Charlottesville? A bar that purchased this game would have me as a daily customer.

In the meantime, after watching several Calgary-themed videos, I thought I would go with this one:



Oh, okay, I'll post another one. I bailed on the above after a few minutes. It seemed fun for a minute, though. The one below has a few clips from the Devonian Gardens which was this fantastic urban park.



I forgot it was the oil capital of Canada, to be honest. I wasn't really connected to what was going on there at the time.

7/01/2008

I will not apologize for Rush

I am sitting here doing my bills, and feeling pretty low about my finances as the reality of buying a house settles in a bit. But, then suddenly "Finding My Way" from Rush's first album comes on and there's Geddy Lee singing in that weird Canadian way. Suddenly, I'm cheered up and I feel like I can do anything. Anyone can do anything if they have such a jaunty bass line playing counterpoint to that tough-guy songbird voice that Geddy Lee was able to do back in those days.

I will not apologize for liking Rush. I keep seeing them listed as a huge joke, but at best, I'll give you "tongue in cheek" joke, as seen in their marvelous opus "The Trees"



And after watching that, I feel a little bit of relaxtion creeping through my veins, at least, breaking free from the worry for just a second. Because, come on. The above is one of the silliest songs of all time, and it's definitely something that can cheer me up. I wish I could grow a mustache like Neal Peart in this one. Also, I'd take his drum kit. And, the rock opera quality of the middle parts really make me feel like heading out into a wilderness somewhere to support the rights of Maple trees everywhere.

Where is the Rush musical? I want a full-fledged depiction of this marvelous song. I'll take it animated. I'll take it done with sock puppets. A Lego version. Anything.

Of course, I just realized this whole thing could be a veiled threat against the United States. Maples versus Oak trees. Interesting. So, on that note, I close this entry by simply saying that it is Canada Day, so that's my tribute.