Friday, November 30, 2007

The New York Times Does Videogames

This sort of thing drives me nuts because (a) the videogame industry isn't that hard to cover and (b) it's a big enough sector that it deserves semi-serious coverage of its business aspects. But here's Joystiq on a NYT story:

First the Old Gray Lady says Gran Turismo 5 is "a hyper-realistic, high-speed journey, [and] is one of the best sellers for [the] Sony console." One little problem, the game isn't out yet. Next up they say the PlayStation 3 is $299, which would be awesome and perhaps the Times has some incredibly privileged info about Sony's holiday strategy, but we're pretty sure the system is going to be starting at $399 for a while. Oh, but they're not done yet. Did you realize the PS3 and Xbox 360 are both powered by the Cell processor? This is being reported by the venerable New York-freakin'-Times, so it must be true, right?

Goodness knows there's nothing wrong with making a mistake in writing a story. And maybe these errors were inserted by copyeditors and not the reporter. But these errors are so elementary that they suggest that the writer knows very little about the business and is just kind of parachuting in because someone assigned the story to him.

How hard would it be to have one guy on your business staff whose job was to keep half and eye on videogames while he went about his other beats?

Most European Headline Ever

"Britain Schemes To Come In Fourth"

The Empire really is dead, isn't it?

Worst Movie Pitch Ever

KSK is doing a little gag trying to come up with terrible movie pitches. No offense to Big Daddy Drew, but his list is really only a jumping off point. The real gold is in the comments section:

* Bryan said...

We all know Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this film presupposes is: what if he didn't?

* Rob I said...

Air Bud IV: There Will Be Bud

* Robert said...

Face/Off 2, starring David Schwimmer and Adrien Brody.

The Jerry Bruckheimer adaptation of Care Bears: The Movie.

Stephen A. Smith: The Musical


Knight Rider Returns, Pluse Justice League Stuff

And there are now pictures of the new K.I.T.T.

Also, if you care, Warner Bros. seems to have cast the role of Wonder Woman for Justice League. It's an unknown Australian model, which is actually as a good a way to go as any, provided shes (a) tall and (b) kind of regal/imperious.

What's that? You want pictures of her? Fine here. And if you're NOT AT WORK here.

(M.G. you should be in the clear.)

Charles Nelson Reilly--The Movie

Call me crazy, but there's something intriguing about The Life of Reilly.

You can catch the trailer here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Writerly Life

The Great Jane Espenson has an interesting post on the difference between writing jokes for 30-minute sitcoms and hour-long shows:

Half-hour comedies favor what are called "hard jokes." Here's an example of a hard joke, which I adapted from an old episode of Family Ties:

JENNIFER: I told you to run a down-and-in. You were supposed to go to the pole and stop!

SKIPPY: I did. I stopped when I hit the pole.

You'll notice that it's very structured, very lean, and it's all about the words. The set-up HAS to have the words "pole" and "stop" for the punch line to land.

The distinction between this and a soft joke isn't as clear-cut as some writers would have you believe. The same punch line, if spoken with a self-aware wince, would be at home in many comedic hours.

Take out the constructed-sounding wordplay to soften it further. Now can you imagine it in an episode of House?

INJURED PLAYER: I was supposed to stop at the goal post but I didn't.

Dr. HOUSE (examining contusion): Actually, I suspect you did.

The simple fact that House makes a dry joke of it makes it softer. This is another example of that general principle which I've laid out before: broadly comedic characters tend to be serious in their intent. More complex, "dramatic" characters are often consciously making a joke. It's my favorite writing irony.

No Country For Old Men

Saw it yesterday and have some semi-spoileresque thoughts. Please don't read on if you don't want spoilers.


First of all, it's pretty good. I haven't read the McCarthy novel, so if you're a devotee of his, you might have a very different outlook on the film as an adaptation. But taken just by itself, it's a fine piece of moviemaking and one that I suspect will improve on repeated viewing.

Some thoughts, in no particular order:

* Tommy Lee Jones deserves an Oscar for his performance. Or maybe a Grammy for "spoken word," because what he does in No Country he does almost entirely with his voice. That may not sound like much, but he's given terse, old-timey Texas words and he delivers them like poetry, only believably. It's kind of amazing. (In particular, Jones is saddled with the movie's opening voice-over narration. It's so hard to keep this device from looking like a device, and the script he's working off of here would sound really precious coming out of anyone else's mouth. He delivers it perfectly.

* There's no score. Until the closing credits roll, the only music in the entire movie is from a mariachi band that walks through the frame at one point. After the movie was over, I found myself keenly aware of how manipulative music can be in the hands of filmmakers who use it to try to spark in viewers emotions that their camera and story can't fully evoke.

* Also, the soundscape is pretty wonderful and made all the more so because of the lack of background music.

* God bless Stephen Root. Is he the most talented guy in Hollywood never to make it really big? I say, maybe yes.

* Kelly Macdonald--you know her from Gosford Park is from fracking Scotland. Here she pulls off a pitch-perfect trailer-trash housefrau. All shades of awesome.

* There's a scene where Josh Brolin is being chased across the open range at night and there's a flash of purple lightening in the distance. It's stunning. Either cinematographer Roger Deakins got unbelievably lucky, or this is the best, least obtrusive, use of CGI this year.

* Anton Chiguhr really is as iconic a character as everyone says. And my favorite bit of writing for him is the scene where he shows up in the gas station, flips a coin, and tells the old proprietor to call it, heads or tails. You've seen this in the trailers, friend-o. Well this is the first time in the movie he flips a coin for someone's life and the off-the-shelf way to write the character is to have Chiguhr kill the first person whose life he flips for. This establishes him as the heavy. (Again, SPOILERS!) Instead, the fellow in the gas station calls it right and gets to live. And if anything, it serves to make Chiguhr scarier and more interesting. It's a great writing decision.

* There's a key scene at the end that takes place entirely off-camera. The movie-geek websites have been debating whether or not this is a cheat or too self-conscious. For me it really works. A lot of things in No Country take place off-camera. In fact, nearly every important plot-point does. (That's one reason I think the movie is probably going to age well.) This big, off-screen payoff feels perfectly in keeping with the rest of the movie.

* Yes, there is one coda too many. But only one. And no flying saucers appear. So that's something.

* Ummmm, where's John Goodman?

* I won't be surprised if No Country and There Will Be Blood are the two heavy Oscar favorites.

Update: Ross Douthat complains that Tommy Lee Jones shouldn't get an Oscar for No Country because he's the third (or fourth or fifth) best performance in the movie. I'd both agree and disagree with him. Josh Brolin should get at least a nom, and Javier Bardem deserves one, too--but I'd put both of them in the Lead Actor category. Jones's performance was, to me, anyway, a supporting role, albeit one that anchored part of the film. Brolin and Bardem are also fabulous.

Also, the further I get from No Country, the more I like it.

Dumbest Get Rich Quick Scheme Ever?

I've been hearing ads on the radio for this for the last few days. You can click through the link if you want, but I'll save you the trouble: It's Armando Montelongo's detailed blueprint on how to make a fortune . . . flipping real estate!

Armando's page advertises a free DVD but doesn't tip us off to how much his "system" will eventually cost. This site suggests the package will ultimately cost $997.

Are there really people that stupid out there? Wait, don't answer that . . .

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

If you care--and it's Christmas time, so you might--scroll through the comments section on this post for some funny (and some interesting) bits.

Carson Daly . . .

Weird relic of the '90s, or scum-sucking scab?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

DCI Tennison vs. Agent Huang

I don't know how it got past me, but here's Malcolm Gladwell getting medieval on criminal profiling.

Not to oversell the piece, but if Gladwell is right, then nearly a third of NBC's prime-time lineup could come crashing to the ground!

Update: Based on the comments, I should make clear that the Gladwell piece is about FBI profiling, not racial profiling. Hence the Agent Huang in the header. And if you read the piece you'll see that Gladwell rests his case on a kill-joy Brit inspector. Hence the DCI Tennison and . . . never mind. Just read it. It's short and it's good.

Sean Taylor, 1983-2007

This morning Sean Taylor died after losing massive amounts of blood when a bullet severed his femoral artery. Under the murkiest of circumstances, authorities will only say intruders broke into his home in Florida where he was sleeping with his girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter. But as others have now spoken out, it is clear this was far from a typical break-in. Taylor's house was previously broken into and the intruder placed a kitchen knife on the bed. (Taylor also had a machete nearby in case of such a break-in.) Stay tuned for more details.

JVL here: Galley Reader, Commonwealth Resident, and Redskins Super Fan P.G. writes:

This is like Jerome Brown: Both were in their primes and both were pro-bowlers destined for greatness. Both from Florida, both played at Miami, both died in Florida in the same area they grew up. Both were well known for something they did at the Fiesta Bowl, Brown for his famous “walkout” at the Fiesta Bowl dinner, Taylor for the phantom pass-interference penalty that gave the title to Ohio State.

It’s days like today that I wished I didn’t love football so much, because this would just be another tragedy in a world of tragedies, it wouldn’t be like losing a friend.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Eagles-Pats (In Game)

This is like watching a live-action version of Madden '07. I've never actually seen an NFL game like it. Almost no punting, or running. Going for it on 4th downs instead of kicking the field goal. Onside kicks. A flea-flicker. A phantom offensive interference penalty. Tons of deep balls. Real NFL games aren't supposed to go like this.

And what about the Eagles? I can't imagine they're going to win. But here's a thought about that line on the game, which crept up to 24 points by last Thursday, the biggest non-expansion team spread in NFL history:

As just a casual observer, I would have probably taken the Pats and 30 points. But if you were a serious gambler, that line should have jumped out at you for one reason:

The line was moving away from the Eagles even though their starting quarterback was unknown. That just doesn't make much sense. If the line was tied to reality, and not just Bradymania, shouldn't it have been in flux depending on whether the Eagles were going to start McNabb or Feeley? It just makes no sense that the line was moving like that without people knowing which QB would start. Because if you thought the Pats were 24 point favorites with McNabb starting, then how many points would you have given them knowing that Feeley would start? (And vice versa.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Honky Tonk Man

Galley Brother B.J. and I were talking about him the other night, and were wondering if his heel-turn was the greatest turn of all time, or just part of an elaborate plan from the very beginning.

Those who remember Honky Tonk (his Wiki page is engrossing) will recall that he was introduced as a face and not just as a normal face, but as the personal friend of Hulk Hogan. I remember the WWF making a big push to sell him as a face, but it just didn't work. The spots were cheesy and cloying. People hated him, almost from the very start. Really, really hated him.

And then, in relatively short order, they turned him into a heel. (And boy, was he a great heel. He was such a great bad guy that he was able to put Jake the Snake over as a face, which is saying something.)

So was that improvised writing on the part of WWF, seeing a story that wasn't working and going in a new direction? Or was the plan to make him a heel in place from the very beginning? Surely someone out there knows where the definitive account of Honky Tonk is written.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

That Heroes Chick, Star Wars, the "Special" Storm Troopers

Jenny's manservant gives us perhaps the best photo caption of all-time. I beg you to click through the link and read it. Espcially you, Matus. And you, M.G.

Brief Politics Aside

Galley Friend D.B. sends us this story, which should put undecided GOP primary voters over the top: Ric Flair is endorsing Mike Huckabee. On the heels of this Huckabee ad, I'd say we have a winner:

So who would the other logical wrestling endorsements be?

* Brooklyn Brawler endorses Giuliani

* Mr. Perfect (may he rest in peace) endorses Obama

* Hacksaw Jim Dugan endorses McCain

* Honky Tonk Man endorses John Edwards

* Vince McMahon endorses Hillary

* Ted DiBiase (in his Million Dollar Man gimmick) endorses Romney (so does Ted DiBiase in his evangelical Christian gimmick)

* Mic Foley/Mankind/Cactus Jack endorses Ron Paul

Surely you have others . . .

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Strike Stuff

I've written a short piece about the WGA strike and the Democratic presidential candidates elsewhere. In response, one of my WGA friends sent the following email, with some interesting tidbits:

As one of the thousand or so writers who voted not to strike, I can't believe I'm going to [clarify] some of your stats that actually support your argument. While it's true that the Guild minimum is $100G or so for a big-budget script, there's also a fee of about half that for a low budget film; and a lot of writers agree to the lower figure even though they know they're writing a film that's going to be budgeted much higher than the stated budget. The big guys, of course, don't work for minimum, just as the DVD and download revenue streams are written into their contracts at rates far exceeding the minimum being demanded.

Further, the "average" of working writers may be $200G, as you say, but that figure is wildly [skewed], given that there are many, many writers working for several million per script and sometimes three-quarters of a million PER WEEK on uncredited punchups just before production--the kind that the movies that were canceled/postponed recently hadn't yet gotten. So in a guild of 12,000 members, those dozens and dozens of millions will wildly skew the averages.

Then, too, my guess is that no more than a thousand writers are working at any given time. So my estimate is that the average writer (if you throw out the high and low, as in Olympics scoring) earns about $60K--which you'd concur with, I think, if you saw the cars parked on the side streets around the picketing locations.

Herc on SNL and the Great Michael Cera

This is great:

Michael Cera hosted. Yo La Tengo was the musical guest. Horatio Sanz and Rachel Dratch returned alongside Kristen Wiig, Darrell Hammond, Seth Myers, Amy Poehler, Kenan Thompson, Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte for super-dirty sketches written by the SNL writers.

It was broadcast nowhere. Proceeds from the live event went to support “Saturday Night Live” crew members laid off due to the 2-week-old writers strike.

Talk you off what, Pop-Pop?

NFL News and Notes

Still working on that Heroes post . . .

But in the meantime, a couple NFL thoughts. First off, I don't think Chicago should be worried in the least about Donovan McNabb's health. He's going to be ready to start for them next season, and, unlike this season, he'll be at 100%.

(Pained aside: Over the weekend, I mentioned to the Galley Wife that McNabb left the Miami game with an injury. The Galley Wife knows absolutely nothing about football. She replied, without missing a beat, "Well, it is that time of year." Ouch.)

But let's back up and talk about next week for a second. What's the line on the Eagles-Pats game going to be? +20? +25? Would you take the Birds +27? I wouldn't. And here's my great hope for the Pats: At the end of the regular season, when they set their playoff roster, they cut the punter. That's right. Go into the playoffs without one on the team. Pick up an extra fullback, maybe. Maybe just leave the slot open. Whatever. It would be the perfect punctuation point to end this statement season and would cement Belichek, officially, as the most hated coach in the history of the game.

Also, it would be kind of awesome.

Finally, on the way to work this morning, Redskins talk radio was buzzing about the team's second straight division loss, which dropped them to the .500 mark and might have put them out of the playoffs. The overall impression from hosts and listeners was . . .

*What a great game!

*The Skins are better than we thought, even!

* Except for those three long TD passes, they totally shut down Dallas's offense, which is amazing! (This is nearly an exact quote from one of the analysts.)

The general mood was giddy excitement, with most of the people I heard predicting that the Skins would use this as a springboard to run the table the rest of the way.

I'm from Philadelphia, so I obviously don't understand what "normal" is, but this strikes me as at least as psychotic as booing your team during the first quarter of the first game of the season.


This is a strange story. Who knew they needed writers to make Justice League?

Friday, November 16, 2007

More Strike Stuff

A WGA reader just pointed me to this site dedicated to imploring both the writers and the studios to just "get back in that room" because of all the collateral damage the strike is causing to non-striking employees.

On the one hand, the site's anonymous author has a point. Negotiation is good, bargaining is good, there certainly seems to be a small window over the next couple days for a compromise before the logic of the conflict points toward a long, dug-in standoff.

Also, the author is certainly correct that lots of working folks are going to get squished by this strike and that's both unfortunate and unfair.

The only problem with the "pox on both their houses" approach--although maybe this is better described as "can't we all just get along"--is that it imputes a certain moral equivalence between the two sides that doesn't really seem to exist. In some cases, the studios have been playing games to get out of paying writers what they're owed (with streaming broadcasts labeled "promotions"). In others, they're trying to roll-back the residuals writers get on the next generation of delivery vehicles (by giving writers less on downloads than they get from DVDs). There's no economic justification for this--it's simply an assertion of the power of oligopoly. Imploring "both sides" to get back to the table is a little like asking "both sides" of a mugging to stop fighting. That's an incredibly bad analogy, but you get what I'm driving at.

There is one way, however, in which both sides are responsible--in the game theory sense of the word--for the strike. The WGA is right, but in a strategically weak. The studios are wrong, but in a strategically strong position. The dynamics of this sort of encounter alway, always beg for confrontation. Both parties have incentive to confront and disincentive to compromise.

Best AICN Headline Ever?

"Hulk BANG Portman & Johansson!!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fly, Eagles, Fly

Phil Sheridan notes, with all appropriate irony, that the Eagles' next two opponents have a combined record of 9-9.

Scribe Vibe

In case you're interested in following the WGA strike, Variety has a blog set up specifically for it: Scribe Vibe. It's pretty good inside baseball.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tales from Variety

I've never gotten the Rachel Nichols thing--she seems like an inert actress, and not so overwhelmingly hot as to demand attention. In the course of reviewing P2, Variety's John Anderson remarks:

Nichols . . . has been chloroformed and put into a sheer white evening dress by her abductor--who must have anticipated that his captive would try to escape in an elevator, which he could then fill with water. (Nichols' considerable physical attributes, henceforth, seem to occupy most of the screen.)

Is she the next Jennifer Love Hewitt?

Star Trek, Fetishes, etc.

Hot Jenny Morrison (from House) has been cast in the new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie. She should immediately displace Jolene Blalock as the world's #1 source of Federation-related masturbatory fantasy. Bonus points if she wears the ears. Double-bonus if she wears a vest. Triple if there are tribbles and/or Data involved.

Sigh. Since I'm already out here on a limb, why not go all the way: Who's third on the list? Lt. Tasha Yar? Or Marina Sirtis?

I mean, like I have any idea who they are.

Radio Head

Yesterday the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, David Rehr, came to the Weekly Standard offices to discuss, among other issues, the Fairness Doctrine and the possible merger of XM and Sirius satellite radio. First off, as I told Rehr, I still cannot understand why he would leave his previous job as president of the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Secondly, what does he think would happen to XM subscribers like myself if there was a merger?

Rehr thinks subscription rates would most certainly go up and to enjoy the more than 300 channels that would result from the merger, I would have to purchase a new receiver. And you can bet on commercials (already more on Sirius than on XM). Rehr gave props to Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin but obviously disagrees with him on the issues. We ended up discussing a vicious cycle: Finding an FM station that plays good music with few interruptions. More listeners tune in and the commercials increase. Then having to go elsewhere, finding a new alternative station, until the cycle begins again (and ultimately turning to satellite radio).

Rehr says studies show the average radio listener will tolerate approximately 12 minutes of straight commercials before switching off. (And he does admit there are some really obnoxious ones out there.)

A friend in the industry tells me all this is pointless since eventually all of our music will be accessed through the Internet. Rehr grants this point but sees this happening between 10-15 years from now.

Finally, after learning game show host Bob Barker is being inducted into the NAB Hall of Fame, I lobbied Rehr to seriously consider inducting swordsman/inebriate Richard Dawson, aka Damon Killian. (Go to YouTube and watch some of the Match Game episodes. A legend in our midst!)

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Strike

Jane Espenson, one of my writing heroes, has been keeping a nice diary about the strike over at her blog. It makes for good color.

I haven't written anything substantive about the strike, mostly because I've been contemplating a giant, super-geeky Heroes post. But it seems to me that we should be pulling for the writers, for several reasons:

* Unions aren't always the greatest things in the world and often they're quite destructive and the source of tons of inefficiency. That said, they can be the provider of important protections and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

* In this particular fight, the Writer's Guild has a pretty reasonable position: There is an emerging delivery system for content in the form of digital downloads. Under current terms, the studios classify revenues from downloads not as money derived from the airing of creative content (which would mean that it would have to be shared with the creators), but as ancillary income from the promotion of content. In other words, they classify the downloaded content as a commercial for the broadcast content, just to get around paying royalties.

We saw the ur example of this last summer when Battlestar Galactica filmed mini "webisodes" of original content to be aired on the Sci-Fi Channel's website. Sci-Fi contended that these webisodes weren't "content," per se, but were simply long, extended commercials. That had actors. And scripts. And special effects. And plot continuity that tied into the series.

* The WGA wants to reserve a portion of that revenue stream for when/if digital delivery becomes profitable. The studios insist that it isn't profitable now, and probably won't be in the future. But if they really believed that, they'd give the WGA what they want, since 5% of nothing is nothing.

* So the studios are being less than fair and honest on at least two points. From a moral perspective, then, the writers are on the side of the angels.

* But who cares about them! For us, the consumers, our selfish interest in having better entertainment also lines up with the writers.

* There are three pillars to filmed entertainment: writers, directors, and actors. The writers have always been the least respected of the troika, but in recent years, that disrespect (seen in terms of salary) has actually increased. Writers make a lot less money in comparison to directors and actors than they used to. And the less money you make on a project, the less control you can exert over the creative process.

* And I think it's safe to argue that, in general, the more control writers have on a project, the better it generally turns out. (By better, I mean both commercially and artistically.)

* The importance of writers in TV is, I think, self-evident. They trump everyone else (except the showrunner, but on good shows, the showrunner is normally a writer, too) in terms of their contributions to the success or failure of the finished product.

* But the same is true for film, too. With the exception of franchises, I would argue that good writing contributes at least as much as the acting to the success of the movie.

* Essentially, I'd make the following analogy: Actors are quarterbacks, directors are running backs, and writers are offensive linemen. That's about how they contribute to the product, and how they're paid. And just like it was a welcome change when left tackles finally started being compensated more closely to their value a few years back, I think we should be happy to see writers moved a tiny bit closer to their real value.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray (cont.)

I have no idea what to make of the following:

In a recent Variety story on Indie distributors and the high-def disc format war, we learn that some of the indies are going Blu-ray, some HD DVD, some both, and some neither. Nothing surprising there.

Then we learn that the Weistein Company is HD DVD exclusive. Why is that surprising?

Because a year ago the Weinstein Company announced a deal where Blockbuster would be the only place to rent their discs and . . .

Earlier this summer Blockbuster announced that it would only carry Blu-ray discs.

Are the Weinsteins just hedging their bets? Couldn't blockbuster or Sony beat them into sticking with the program? Or is this just another sign of the SNAFU culture at Sony where things that should be easy to control get overlooked?

Or maybe something else entirely?

Oh, the Humanity!

Dustin Rowles goes Hacksaw Jim on the lovely Katherine Heigl.

Fabio vs. Clooney

Give me odds on the fight?

“Clooney started on ‘ER’ and Fabio was going to send him back there,” a manager for the 6’4”, 220-pound Fabio’s manager told Access.

KSK on Larry Craig

The KSK boys get to the deep truth of the Larry Craig incident:

I don’t give a shit about the politics of Craig’s situation. What I care about is the fact that, in order to get laid, all Craig had to do is hop on the Internet, find a good “hot spot”, then walk into a shitter and tap his feet.

Are you fucking shitting me? That is AWESOME.

I wish I were gay.

Bubble Watch

If you own property in Northern Virginia, then this should scare the crap out of you:

The house in this post (12850 Fleetwood Drive, Nokesville, VA 20181) was built in 2006 and sits on 10 acres in Nokesville in Prince William County. It was featured on this blog when it was first listed for $730,000 on 08/31/07 (13.5% less than its purchase price on 6/5/2006 for $843,920). It was subsequently reduced to $660,000 by 11/05/07, for a 22% reduction over its prior sales price.

The NoVa Bubble Blog reports then on a person who offered $256,400--remember this for a place that sold in June 2006 for $843,920. The place was in foreclosure, and the bank rejected the bid, but was interested in negotiating. The couple who made the offer walked away. As the NoVa Bubble Blog notes,

For those of you who find something you really like, I hope it encourages you not to be daunted by the list prices. This couple initially offered 70% off of the prior sale and 66% off the county's assessed price, and the bank was willing to continue negotiations.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

James Marsters on acting and the inherent limits (and advantages) of TV

He's pretty insightful:

JM: What's weird is that all the Buffy writers - I talk to them every once in a while - they're all in hugely popular shows. They're working on CSI, on Grey's Anatomy, 24, you name it, they're all on the big shows, and they all have the same complaints. They say, "God, I'm bored. I want to have a big demon jump out and rip his throat out. I want something big to happen, something special. We're just sitting here talking about nuclear weapons and it's boring." There is something free and liberating about sci-fi and fantasy.

To tell you the truth, when Buffy went down, I had wanted to get into a quality procedural cop show because what had frustrated me about Buffy, and television in general, is that when characters reveal themselves they just talk about themselves, usually near a kitchen sink.

BN: There's a lot of expository dialogue.

JM: Exactly. That's the way that you do in television because to do it through action, which is the better way, is too expensive. It takes too long to write, it means your characters are on the move more and you just can't shoot that in a week. What I like about these procedurals is they don't talk about their feelings; the writers just rip that part out and trust that the actors will put that into the performance. I think it's a brilliant recognition of television to realize what they can do and what they can't, and if the actors know their lines and are willing to reveal themselves, they still get the character stuff across anyway.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Get Your Fresh CulturePulp!

M.E. Russell interviews Jerry Seinfeld, and renders it into comics form.

(With a supplemental transcript here.)

WGA Strike

Herc has a pretty good roundup of what's going on at the good shows on TV.

More G.I. Joe News

Galley Friend B.W. sends us word that Hasbro has released a statement not entirely concurrent with what Paramount has said the new G.I. Joe movie will be about:
Hasbro's G.I. Joe Team wanted to take this opportunity to clarify some of the facts regarding the G.I. Joe live-action movie that we are developing with Paramount Pictures.

First and foremost, we are not changing what the G.I. Joe brand is about. The name "G.I. Joe" will always be synonymous with bravery and heroism.

The G.I. Joe brand has enjoyed a successful 43-year history, spanning two key generations. The first was the line of 12-inch "realistic military" figures that were popular with kids in the 1960s and 1970s.

The second generation, was created in 1982, and is based on a cast of fictional heroes and villains that make up the "G.I. Joe vs. Cobra" fantasy. The premise of this fantasy is the story of the G.I. Joe team, led by Duke, and their "fight for freedom wherever there is trouble" against the evil Cobra Commander and his Cobra force. This storyline was an instant hit with kids in the early 1980s, spawning a highly popular 3-3/4-inch action figure line, comic book collection and animated series.

This movie will be a modern telling of the "G.I. Joe vs. Cobra" storyline and its compelling characters that Hasbro created 25 years ago. The G.I. Joe team will not be based in Brussels. Instead, they will be based out of the "Pit" as they were throughout the 1980s comic book series. And, in keeping with the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra fantasy, the movie will feature characters and locations from around the world. Duke, the lead character and head of the G.I. Joe team, will embody the values of bravery and heroism that the first generation of G.I. Joe figures established.

High-Brow Celebrity Smack

Galley Friend Dustin Rowles, the brains behind Pajiba, has started a new site to cover the celeb circuit in a high-toned manner: Webster's Is My Bitch. He's off to a good start with posts like this about Jessica Alba's dark secret: She's a nevernude.

It's worth a read.

The Gilderoy Lockhart of the Outdoors

So it seems Bear Grylls really is a fraud. It's only 45 seconds, so watch it all the way to the end.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Rat's Chance

Rick Weiss recently had an interesting piece in the Washington Post on how our sleep patterns are affected by artificial light. He then mentions the brain's internal clock, known as the SCN (suprachiasmatic nucleus): "a tangle of neurons in the hypothalamus connected directly to the eyes.

"The SCN controls the ebb and flow of hormones that influence sleepiness, alertness and hunger. Prime among them is melatonin, levels of which rise each evening, easing the onset of sleep, and then fall before dawn in advance of awakening.

"Rats whose SCNs are surgically removed become unhinged from time, sleeping at odd intervals. And when one animal's SCN is transplanted into another's brain, the recipient takes on the donor's wake-sleep schedule."

Umm, could you repeat that last part? And can we assume that if mad scientists have done that kind of sick experiment, they probably have already done brain transplants involving dead criminals and patients in vegetative states? Or the hands of killers? And what about healthy patients who are intentionally put into comas? And Devlin MacGregor, maker of ProVasic?

What is "Nerdcore"?

Glad you asked.

Blogs Are Over-Rated, #16,462

Galley Friend J.E. sends us this wonderful link on the sales of Gawker's book, The Gawker Guide to Conquering All Media. Between Oct. 2 (when it went on sale) and Nov. 1, the book sold--can you guess the number? I bet you can't. Go ahead and pick a number, I'll put the answer below in inviso-text:

242 copies

That's right. As Portfolio admits, that number may be an undercount by as much as 25%--but still. And for that, Gawker snagged a $250,000 advance. I don't get it. Are book publishers just stupid? That's what I've always suspected. Either there's a hidden logic to the industry which completely escapes me, or publishers routinely hand out giant advances to projects which have no chance of be being profitable, even when there's lots of prior history shouting, "Danger! Danger!" I mean, it's not like we haven't seen this before. The publishing industry seems about as rational as the music industry.

Pats, Colts


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Fly, Eagles, Fly

The good news is that they held Dallas scoreless for almost 3 minutes.

Suck it, Jenny.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pajiba News

While I was away, some interesting bits on Pajiba:

* Joss Whedon makes his triumphant return to TV. Awesome. Let's hope they treat his new show better than they did his last one.

* Coincidentally, they also give us a list of great screen heroines. You can guess who leads the list.

* Also, they say Black Book is a pretty good flick. Galley Friend M.G. should put this on his Netflix queue right now. Do it, M.G., I'm watching . . .

It's New to Me

One of the joys of growing up with the Wershovenist Pig was that he had, even at age 14, an astonishing grasp of the music scene. While I was still playing with G.I. Joes, the Pig was buying the Sugar Cubes' first album and thoughtfully remarking that he thought something big might come of their lead singer. In high school and college he got even deeper into cool-kids music, picking up on Hüsker Dü before the Indigo Girls made them famous, championing New Order and Bob Mould and about a billion other acts I'd hear of only through him. He was like Lester Bangs, only cooler. Normally, I knew my place and I'd just try to absorb his coolness, but every once in a while I'd think I'd found a new band that I'd try to introduce him to. I was always about two years too late.

Which is exactly what happened a couple weeks ago, when I asked him, "Hey, this Feist chick is kind of interesting, have you heard her?"

The Pig rolled his eyes. Canadian bands have always held a special place in his heart and it turns out that he's been tracking Leslie Feist and Broken Social Scene for like six years. Guh.

But even if you've heard Feist and her single "1 2 3 4," I urge you to watch the video she shot for it. Yes it's infectiously happy, yes it's bubble-gum pop at its most endearing--but my God, this looks like it was amazingly hard to shoot. All in one take, and, in particular, the trick at the beginning getting the dancers concealed behind her as the camera turns, well, that's just sick camerawork. But my favorite thing about the video is that it doesn't advertise how show-offy it really is. Instead, it looks simple and fun, as if they just kind of threw it together.