Friday, February 29, 2008

MMA Comes to the Networks

No surprise. Except that it was CBS to take the plunge. (Although that's not a surprise either, since they were testing the waters with Viacom-owned Showtime airing MMA.)

The real question is whether or not this will force ESPN to cover MMA once CBS starts airing it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Non-Newtonian Fluids

This is what happens when you mix cornstarch with water:

If I was in high school, I think I'd spend the entire summer constructing one of those things in the backyard.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

Sean Salisbury, gone from ESPN. Now, if only they'd dump Stephen A. Smith . . .

When Darth Met Cobra

Occassional Superheroine, the blog of Valerie D'Orazio, is one of my new favorite stops in the morning. Partially because she's very funny, and partially because she gives us pictures like this:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dr. Jones

Galley Friend M.R. sends us this link to a version of the Indiana Jones IV trailer, cut as though we were still in the '80s.

Call me crazy, but I think I like this better than the real one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

That about sums it up

"George came up to me on the set one day during my first 'Star Wars' and said something that I never fully understood until after we were done filming. He said, 'As an actor, you have to think of yourself as a ditch digger.'... What he was implying was that on his movie, I needed to think of myself as a ditch digger, because it wasn't the proper arena for actual creative expression. This was his thing. It was all very thought-out in his head, and I needed to show up to make his wants a reality. And so really, what he was saying to me, was: 'Don't let this experience discourage you from what acting can really be about, because that's not what this is.' I just wish I would've figured that out a little sooner."

-Hayden Christensen in the Washington Post on his experiences with director George Lucas.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Look Into the Mind of the NFL

Remember a while back when EA Sports became the exclusive holders of the permission to make video games using the NFL? Remember how everyone thought this was an example of EA trying to big-foot smaller game makers? Turns out the whole thing was the NFL's idea:

remember it wasn't EA that demanded the exclusive relationship. The NFL requested it and did a research process for exclusive bids and so EA bid, as did other companies, and we were very fortunate to be able to get that exclusive arrangement. So, I want to make that very clear because I think there are some misconceptions sometimes that EA demanded the exclusive licensing for the National Football League and nothing could be further from the case.

I wonder why the NFL would want that.

Update: Incredibly astute Galley Reader J.T. sends in the following thoughts, which seem persuasive to me:

The NFL's desire to have an exclusive game studio producing NFL titles
gives it fewer licensing agreements, in exchange for greater unity of
game play. By having one shop, the NFL can maintain more control over
the product, and should they choose to bring the game development in
house, they only have one organization that they need to absorb.

The NFL Network is a more visible effort of the same strategy. Because
television networks have more perceived control of branding than video
game studios, the effort is more protracted and necessarily slower. I
would expect the NFL to move in the direction of software development
within two to three years. They will still be transitioning to
exclusive NFL Network production of games ten years from now, but the
ultimate goal of the NFL is to get all media in house, to fully
appreciate the benefits of a vertically integrated business model.

That's just my hunch. The NFL has always been much better at marketing
and giving exclusive control of channels to single entities seems a
smarter strategy of developing brand power and maximizing the marginal
revenue within that channel. If my eventual goal was controlling the
means by which consumers consume my product I would familiarize them
first with exclusives (like DirecTV). By requesting an exclusive
partner for game development, the league continues that trend. The
imbroglio surrounding the Pats-Giants regular season game on the NFL
Network was a setback for that strategy, but the game itself was what
the NFL is shooting for. A must see game, under their exclusive control.

Well That Was Fast

I've been really remiss in following the HD DVD meltdown of recent weeks, which came to a spectacular close a couple days ago. I wish I had some insight into what happened, but I don't, really. I'm like the aid to Walter Mondale who, on election night in '84, famously turned to a friend and said, "I don't understand--everyone I know voted for him."

Seriously: I know maybe two-dozen people who've bought hi-def players. Only one of them bought a Blu-Ray. The HD DVD was superior as a set-top box, had a better set-top intalled base, had a better tie-rate with discs, was selling for half or a third of the price of Blu-Ray, and, as of early December, looked to have about equal software support. Oh, and its discs were cheaper than Blu-Ray, too. That was the state of affairs as of December 1, 2007. If I had told you then that Toshiba would be announcing their abandonment of the format 10 weeks later, you would thought I was crazy.

Heck, it really is crazy.

So what happened? Toronto's Globe & Mail has some good reporting on the subject, including a claim that Sony paid Warner Bros. $400 million to switch sides.

(If that figure is correct, I wonder why Sony didn't just lop $200 off the price of the PS3 to start with. That would have had the same effect of ending the format war AND it could have preserved the health of its game division. As things stand now, Sony may have sacrificed this generation of game console to win the hi-def format. I'd be interested to know, from a dollars-and-cents perspective, if that was a good trade off for them. Particularly if digital downloads like Apple TV really are both soon and next. Something I'm not convince of, btw.)

But there must be more to the story than this. The Blu-Ray shift seems to have started with the Christmas shopping season, before WB switched. And the rapidity with which Netflix and Wal-Mart jumped is also kind of startling. Particularly Wal-Mart, a mega-company that isn't accustomed to turning on a dime like that.

I'm sad to see HD DVD go. I was fortunate not to get burned too badly--I only bought it because I needed a new player and if I had bought a Blu-Ray, it would be obsolete already anyway (another fact which amazes me). Yesterday's USA Today carried a story which reported that the Blu-Ray camp was trying to figure out some sort of program to help HD DVD owners switch over. I can't understand what their incentive would be to do that, unless they see the victory over HD DVD as only the first war and are already gearing up to fight digital downloads.

If you see more on this, please drop me a note or leave a comment; it's all very interesting.

P.S.: Galley Friend B.W. says, Je ne regrette rien!

Toshiba's deputy general manager of HD DVD Olivier Van Wynendaele stated that it "wouldn't change anything that it did," and continued on to say that "circumstances saw to it that [Toshiba] had to make the decision not to continue, but that doesn't mean [the company] did anything wrong."

Really? Something tells me that Olivier may find that the culture of Japanese business executives takes a somewhat different view.

Update: CNET has some interesting numbers on disc and player royalties, hinting at how much Sony has to gain from Blu-Ray. So that's a fuzzy look at one side of the picture. Next we'd need some good guestimating at how much the PS3 flop has cost them.

Shaq Terrified of Phoenix Suns

Galley Reader D.H. sends along this excellent piece from the Onion's sports page:

TEMPE, AZ—Claiming he was initially excited at the prospect of playing for a legitimate championship contender, new Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O'Neal admitted Monday that, upon reading about the phenomenon of massive stellar explosions popularly known as supernovas, he is now terrified of the entire organization.

"I have emerged from my astronomical studies a much more educated man, a learned man, and yes—a frightened man. I am now a sage of the supernova," O'Neal said during a combination press conference and PowerPoint presentation at an Arizona State University lecture hall. "If I would have known being a Sun meant being a part of a system where gravity could collapse, causing my radiant celestial body to explode in an event 10 times brighter than an ordinary Phoenix Sun—or worse, dematerialize into a neutron star or possibly a black hole—I would have never agreed to the trade."

"I have a family to think of," continued a visually tense O'Neal, who later stated that, because supernovas occur in our galaxy once every 40 to 50 years, the Suns, having joined the league in 1968, are "due for a big one."

While O'Neal said that simply being a part of the Suns' runaway-nuclear-fusion-reaction style of play would be frightening enough, he added that learning how an aging supergiant star typically ends its life cycle in a violent explosion was a profoundly terrifying experience. The 35-year-old center, who considers himself a super-giant star in the twilight of his career, has refused to go anywhere near his new teammates.

"Like Superman, I receive my energy from the Suns," O'Neal said. "I'm scared I will not be able to flourish in an environment where there is a risk that the Suns' supply of hydrogen could be exhausted, which would cause the core of the Suns to collapse into the center—in this case, me—and create a rise in temperature and pressure that would become great enough to ignite helium and then start a helium-to-carbon fusion cycle."

"Not even electron degeneracy pressure is enough to stop a supernova when that happens to a Sun," O'Neal added. "I don't even know what that means, and I am the Big Astronomer. But it scares me."

There's more . . .

Star Wars Stuff

Galley Friends M.G. and M.C. stumbled across this link, a story (and pictures) about maybe the best collection of Star Wars toys in the world. It's very nearly pornography.

And in the same vein, I stumbled upon a little comic called Tag & Bink over the weekend.

I can't possibly recommend it highly enough. It's basically Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead set in the Star Wars universe. Except, that in addition to being completely grounded in continuity and laugh-out-loud funny, it also performs the function of filling a bunch of Lucas plot holes. In fact, Tag & Bink is so perfectly conceived that I the Star Wars arc doesn't even really make sense any more without it. Enjoy.

Brief Political Aside

So am I the only one who sees some similarities between Obama and Saruman?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Webster's Is the Best

Really, if you're not reading Webster's Is My Bitch, then you're only hurting yourself. Here's a brilliantly funny post on Molly Ringwald:

Molly Ringwald turns 40 years old today, and if that makes you feel old, then you probably are, gramps. In her 40 years on Earth, however, Molly has much to be proud of: She was voted by VH1 the best teen star of all time, she's been on the cover of Time, she's had a great song written about her, she's appeared nude in a film, she's been in a critically adored television series, she's dated Anthony Michael Hall, and, more importantly: She has a beautiful four year old daughter.

Your move, Jennifer Aniston.

So LiLo, John Cena, Floyd Maywweather, and Shane McMahon walk into a bar...

No, seriously. I defy you to explain this picture:

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Michael Bay, Celebrity Pitchman

Galley Friend K.N. sends us a link to this new Verizon FIOS spot featuring . . . Michael Bay.

Sure, it's self-parody, but it maybe kindof the self-parody where he's making fun of himself--but not really? You be the judge. I'm not sure it reaches the mad genius of the Wes Anderson Am-Ex spot.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dept. of Jealousy

We all know that John Chait hates George W. Bush, but is it okay to hate Chait for having the best headline of 2008 (so far)?

PS: I'm not commenting on Chait's piece itself because I can't get to the actual text . . .

"It's Karate Kid, meets Ultimate Fighter!"

Oh yes, it is. Here's the write-up:

Set against the action-packed world of Mixed Martial Arts, NEVER BACK DOWN is the story of Jake Tyler, a tough kid who leads with his fists, and, often, with his heart.

Somewhere, a disgruntled Yale English major is taking his quiet revenge on his employers at Summit Entertainment. Sweep the leg!!!

Website of the Moment

Galley Friend M.L., who is only white on the outside, sends us to Stuff White People Like. It is, I'll admit, pretty excellent. Consider:

#60 Toyota Prius and #59 Natural Medicine.

To which Galley Friend S.B. replies, "Go check out White Whines." Here's a sample:

Complaint #150

“The real problem with ‘A Mighty Wind’ is that Parker Posey is barely in the movie at all!”

-Whine by Alabaster Sanchez

Doctor Jones

Galley Friend M.R. has a nicely formated version of the new Indiana Jones trailer.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dept. of War Games

My friend Robert Messenger has written a brilliant piece about "The German Way of War." Here's a short excerpt:

The history of the Prussian and German state through 1945 is one in which war is the main outcome of national policy. It was the country's principal export over two centuries. War was more than just "politics by other means"; it was, as the Comte de Mirabeau noted in 1788, "the national industry of Prussia." Though he formulated it most neatly with his quip that: "Where some states possess an army, the Prussian army possesses a state."

The operational excellence of the German and Prussian general staffs is the stuff of hundreds of excellent military histories. But this brilliant style of war, shaped by geographic and historical circumstance, masked an unhealthy strategic shortcoming: an inability to see national war as the last resort, sometimes even an unnecessary one.

But as wonderful as Robert's piece is, I think he overlooks one crucial factor in Germany's attraction to war: their early access to half-price barracks improvements. Its an advantage that practically begs for militarism.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Design Theory and the iPhone

Noting my obsession with interest in the iPhone, Galley Friend R.S. sends us this exceedingly interesting link to a serious designer's thoughts on how the iPhone uses screen space. It's terribly interesting, particularly, the short video presentation embedded in the page.

(Okay, by "terribly interesting," I mean that if you have an iPhone, this will border on porn. If you don't, you should probably skip it, unless you are really keen on interface design.)

"Get in that ass."

A clip of modest genius from Galley Friend M.E.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Triumph of the Wii

Yep, that's Gen. David Petraeus taking time out of crushing the insurgency to play the Wii.

(The article doesn't say it's a Wii--they just say it's a "computer-simulated" game--but if you look closely in the accompanying photo, you'll see it pretty clearly.)

Quote of the Week

“Safe sex or no sex?... Teens find out the hard way.”

--Heidi Collins of CNN, introducing a segment this morning on sex education in middle schools (and in an apparently unintentional homage to Rodney Dangerfield)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Good Reading Week

Watch your mailbox: This week you'll be getting a brand-new David Grann piece in the New Yorker plus the latest issue of First Things featuring Andy Ferguson AND Jody Bottum AND Ramesh Ponnuru. (Not to mention RJN.)

Five of the best working writers, all at once. It's like Christmas in February.

CNet on Blu-Ray

In case the (probable) coming demise of HD DVD has you contemplating a Blu-Ray player, CNet gives several good reasons not to get one just yet:

1. Nearly all current Blu-ray players are obsolete: The Blu-ray standard is still evolving. Most models currently available use the original Profile 1.0 standard, while some newer models use Profile 1.1 (which adds the ability to show picture-in-picture commentaries). Later this year, the first Profile 2.0 players--which add the ability to deliver online special features (BD Live)--will become available. Ironically, both of these are designed to bring the Blu-ray standard in line with HD DVD players, which have long been able to deliver these features.

A couple of the most recent Blu-ray players (the combo players from Samsung and LG) can be updated from Profile 1.0 to 1.1 with a downloadable firmware update. But the PlayStation 3 is, supposedly, the only existing Blu-ray player that will be fully upgradeable to Profile 2.0. So if you don't want your Blu-ray player to be obsolete, the PS3 is your only choice until 2.0 models--such as the Panasonic DMP-BD50--hit later this year. . . .

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Matus Gets the Goods

Because I'm a lousy friend and colleague, I missed Matus's outstanding WSJ piece on the fight over foie gras when it originally ran. In case you did too, here's a taste, with Anthony Bourdain going after Wolfgang Puck for taking foie gras off of his menus:

"I think he should stop worrying about cruelty to animals and start worrying about all the customers he's flopping his crap on at airports," says chef Anthony Bourdain, the author of "Kitchen Confidential" and the star of the TV series "No Reservations." Mr. Bourdain elaborates: "He does a lot of business in California. He got squeezed and pressured and phone-called from all angles, and like a good German shopkeeper he folded and sold out the people hiding in the cellar next door. I got no respect."

So hot.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Galley friend M.G. asked if I'd seen a video called "two girls one cup." I claimed ignorance, at which he pointed me to this discussion of it on Slate. M.G. then urged me to watch it for myself, saying he is not easily shocked and this shocked him. Well, I thought, how bad could it be? After all, I did pay money to see Hostel in a theater.

Just finished viewing it.

Easily the worst thing I have ever seen.

Come with me if you want to live.

Remember, I come to everything 2 months late these days, but I've finally gotten around to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and if you haven't tuned in, well, you're missing out. With BSG on hiatus/near retirement and The L Word locked away in premium cable, Sarah Connor may be jumping straight to the head of the class.

The biggest compliment I can pay it is that Josh Friedman (yes, that Josh Friedman) has made the show that David Eick's Bionic Woman should have been. Sarah Connor is smart, fast, and engrossing. Friedman has done a really masterful job of setting up a complicated scheme of well-designed characters who seem capable of driving the series in any number of interesting directions.

Also, Friedman has finessed the Terminator mythology enough that Sarah Connor is simultaneously (a) deeply grounded in the stuff and (b) pointed in a new, intriguing vector. Really, I don't think I can overstate how well written the first handful of episodes have been. To recreate a franchise like this is a remarkable accomplishment.

But Friedman also got lucky with Summer Glau. Brown Coats have been fawning over her weird, but beautiful work in Firefly and Serenity. She's equally brilliant with her physical business here, which is two-thirds of the role. But she brings with her some wonderfully off-kilter line reads and beautifully subtle reaction work. The show belongs to her character already. I suspect the only danger Friedman is going to face is the temptation to neglect John and Sarah Connor in favor of spending more time on Glau's forbidden-fruit machine.

Oh, of course there's the other danger--that the networks will destroy the show before settling with the writers. But I'd like to think that so many people have money tied up in the Terminator franchise that it will survive the strike.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Bowl Thoughts Updated!

* I'm surprised, like everyone else is, that the Giants won. But in retrospect, should we be? The Patriots have looked totally mortal since week 12 with the Eagles. They got pushed to the limit by a bunch of inferior teams--like, for instance, the Eagles. Now on the one hand, they kept winning, even though they played like crap most weeks. But on the other hand, they kept playing like crap. Plus, they were due for a lose. Plus, plus, Randy Moss didn't touch the ball until the 4th quarter. The greatest offense ever was impotent.

And maybe the NFL should have a No Celebrity Girlfriends At the Game Rule.

* I bet a lot of people lost a ton of money on this game. Without bothering to look up the numbers, my guess is that most people saw the Pats and the Over as the value plays of this game. I bet they didn't work out that well.

* Another great halftime show. Maybe it's just me, but the halftimes I remember from my youth were nothing but empty spectacle with some Top 40 Act of the Moment. Having Prince last year and Tom Petty this year was brilliant and actually very entertaining.

Plus, they seem to have done away with the "crowd for hire" rushing the field to be next to the stage. Maybe the camera was deceiving me, but those folks looked like normal people.

* I loved the gimmick of having the Fox Robot fighting the Terminator. Couldn't get enough of it.

* Most annoying family sports dynasty: the Williams sisters or the Mannings? Discuss.

* Ordinarily, I root against New York teams by default, particularly the Giants. Really, I can't stand the franchise.

But I was kind of thrilled to see them win this game because of recently departed Galley Friend Bryan Sierra, a monster Giants fan who passed away 10 days ago and wasn't able to hang on to see the game. At least, not here. For Bryan I say, go Big Blue.

Update: Galley Friend S.B. sends along a story saying that bookies actually got killed last night. Huh?

According to The Spread, 64 percent of the money bet online was placed on the Giants. Considering that the Super Bowl is traditionally the biggest betting event of the year and that's a whole lot of payouts for Sports Books.

Friday, February 01, 2008


Galley Friend Ulf Gartzke is associate producer on a new documentary called War Child. It's about the life of Emmanuel Jal, who was a child soldier in Sudan who later became a big-selling rapper in Europe. I haven't seen the movie yet, but the trailer is interesting and, best news of all, War Child has been accepted to the Berlin Film Festival.

More updates to follow as War Child makes its way to the States.

Brief Political Aside

Not that you care, but I did a semi-long interview on the state of the 2008 contests here. This may be as close as I ever get to a Slate Breakfast Table.


Have I mentioned how desperately I want one? Well here comes David Lynch to throw a little saltpeter at me:

"It's such a sadness that you think you've seen a film on your fucking telephone. Get real."

For me, the best part is his using the word "telephone" at the end. So very hot. But seriously, can Naomi Watts and Laura Harring be properly appreciated on the iPhone's screen? Research must be done . . .


In other gaming news, this piece on the history of porting video games to board games (and vice versa) is totally fascinating.

And did you know that "Asteroids" and "Berzerk" were turned into family board games? You really won't believe the list. And it's possible that you conned your parents into buying one or two of them . . .

The Anti-Capitalist

Fabulous story on Dr. Kawashima, the inventor of the Nintendo DS game "Brain Training." It seems that Kawashima is a professor at Tahoku University in Japan. He's made something like 2.4 billion yen in royalties from sales of the game he designed. University rules stipulate that the school gets half the money, but Kawashima gets to keep the rest.

Except that he doesn't want to.

"Everyone in my family is mad at me but I tell them that if they want money, go out and earn it," says the 48-year-old professor . . .

But instead he has poured his own half into funding research into ageing and cancer and is happy to live off an annual salary of around £50k.