Archive for June, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Seasons 1 & 2

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I’m back to my usual habit of spending all summer watching all of a particular TV show in order. Actually, it is not really just a summertime thing. I started it the summer I lived alone in Columbus for an internship and I always had a show I was watching all of until I finished How I Met Your Mother, in February. I didn’t pick up another show after that. I guess I actually had things going on for the last five months and didn’t need a show.

Anyways, I recently started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I tired to watch all of it with a girl in college, but we got through about 2 episodes before that fell through. This time I’ve managed to finish off nearly 34 episodes in two and a half weeks. There are some problems with blogging about a show that went off the air 5 years ago. Mostly that anything interesting, like cameos by people who went on to do other things are well documented on imdb and pretty much anyone else who might care about the major plot points already knows them. With that in mind there are still some things that surprised me.

I’ve seen the show before, enough to know that I’m going to most readily identify with Willow. That is at least until she comes into her own in the latter seasons. What surprised me more was how I identified with Jiles, the library/watcher and the relationship story line with another teacher, Jenny Calendar. In fact, I was sort of surprised to see that kind of thing at all. It is somewhat unorthodox for a parental figure in a teen drama to have such an important relationship so early in the show. But they did it well, and made it much more important that it seemed; a hallmark of good story telling.

Although, I know know why I was unaware of the story line. *Spoiler Alert* She dies in episode 217, the first real character that they kill, who stays dead at least. I generally hate shows that kill of real characters. I suppose that is because I like character development driven shows, and it seems silly to waste the capital built into an already beloved character. But one goes into a show like this with an open mind.


Sunday, June 29th, 2008

This spring I decided to replace my usual generic sweet treat of some sort of ginger based cookies with strawberries. It was a great idea, they are so tasty. Unfortunetly they don’t last as long as the cookies and so they probably end up costing more. Without the guilt associated with such an unhealthy snack holding me back I can fish off a batch in two nights. The other week I had the great idea to go strawberry picking, which would net me enough strawberries to last a pretty long time I bet. But now, I’m told, the season is pretty much over around here. Anyways, HealthPoints++; for me.

Fireworks Outside My Window

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

somerville independence day fireworks, 2008
Updated to a photo from this year by the same user, old one here

There were fireworks outside of my window tonight. Somerville may very well be the only city in the country that celebrates the Fourth of July in late June on an annual basis. This did make it somewhat easy to find pictures from last year’s event on flicker. Another, non CC one here. The fireworks are supposed to be viewed from Trum Playground, a few block to the northeast of my apartment, but I never actually remember to go; although, I did read about them in advance this year thanks to the Davis Square Live Journal Group. Last year I was just really surprised when there were random fireworks.

The view from the front windows of the house isn’t so great. There are lots of trees in the way, and some of the shots don’t make it over the roofs of the houses on the other side. But there are plenty that do make it high into full view. There is something different about watching fireworks from your window. I mean other than that it’s a perfectly acceptable, unique, and anti-mundane activity to do alone, in the house, when no one else is home, as was the case tonight. Totally worth pausing, in this year’s case, Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch.

Perhaps I’m just nostalgic. You see in 1994 when I lived in Mobile all summer long there were fireworks outside my bedroom window on Friday nights. There was a non-major league affiliated professional baseball franchise, the Baysharks, playing at the local college field. After every Friday game they would launch fireworks, win or lose, and my bedroom window was the best seat in the house.

It was then, and probably still is the best thing about baseball. I’m actually sad that the Red Sox don’t do anything like that. Now, they clearly don’t need fireworks to sell our their stadium like Baysharks did, but I still think fireworks would be a good addition. I especially like the idea of shooting off fireworks under only certain conditions. Like when they win the game. That way the whole city can instantly know the good news without turning on their television. Last summer I was at a roof deck party and everyone was trying to check the score on their cell phones as the game ended. We could see the lights at Fenway, if they launched fireworks on a win, we could have enjoyed ourselves a little more and relied on high technology a little less – a welcome reprieve.

I don’t remember what I thought about while I watched the fireworks from my windows as a child. Perhaps I was just dazzled, but I remember making it a point to watch them all. Granted they were short shows, shorter than tonight’s which must have lasted half an hour to forty-five minutes. Tonight I just thought about how much better it’d have been had my admittedly long shot plans panned out and I could use the event as yet another in a broad sequence of fun activities to impress my girl, stretching out from June through August. And how, my team winning an award at work – with an accompanying awards dinner – wouldn’t suck because it gives me exactly 28 days to find a date. *gulp*

Low Probility Events

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Last Sunday while playing a game of Settlers of Catan with Knights and Cities my friend Post rolled a corner. I went on to win the game of settlers, but we gave Post an honorary win for the dice roll. Which really, will be more memorable than the game. Of course, if it ever happens again I’m going to have to buy some new dice.

I mean, statistically speaking, it should be the most exciting thing that happened all week. This was of course a week in which the Boston Celtics won their 17th NBA Championship, Tiger Woods won the US Open in some sort of playoff sudden death thing, and I went to the beach after having dim sum for the first time. All somewhat unlikely things, but without crunching the numbers I’m going to go with the dice roll as the rarest event of the four.

It’s a good thing all those sporting events happened last week or that list would have been really short. Things with me have been pretty normal, following the familiar patterns of which I have grown tired. My new mantra, of sorts, is that I am moving in September.

I have, however, failed to make friends with enough people to avoid moving in with some more craig’s list randoms. Last week I started looking and I found a seemingly low probability find (aka it sounded awesome). They responded quickly, to say that they were busy and would let me know when they’re free. I’m thinking that was a line since I haven’t heard anything. But I’m not jaded on the housing search yet, hopefully I find a place before that happens.

Senate to the Rescue?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Now that the house has passed the disastrous Protect America Act/FISA replacment “compromise” bill, it goes back to the senate, where senator Feingold has promised to filibuster it. Of coruse, the senate already passed the origional replacment bill, so I don’t hold out much hope that they will stop it this time around. Exspecially with Senator Obama flip flopping to the wrong side of the issue. This excerpt from an interview by Democracy Now with Senator Feingold shows that at least someone has got it right:

AMY GOODMAN: Who do you feel is in charge right now? Is it the Democrats or the Republicans?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, you know, on the domestic issues, the Democrats are doing pretty well, except for when we run into a filibuster. So we have been able to get some achievements. But whenever you come up against one of these national security issues, the President and the fear of Democrats of standing up to the President and the Vice President still have the trump card, and they seem to always win, on whether it be the Iraq issue or the Constitution or the civil liberties issues, because Democrats are still afraid to stand up and say, “Look, we know you’re using fear as a tactic, and we’re not afraid of it.” But unfortunately, they still have the trump card, despite the very low popularity of the President and the fact that it’s a lame-duck administration.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Feingold, will you filibuster this bill?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: We are going to resist this bill. We are going to make sure that the procedural votes are gone through. In other words, a filibuster is requiring sixty votes to proceed to the bill, sixty votes to get cloture on the legislation. We will also—Senator Dodd and I and others will be taking some time to talk about this on the floor. We’re not just going to let it be rubberstamped.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you filibuster, though?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: That’s what I just described.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Barack Obama last year said that he was opposed to granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms, but he has now indicated support for the FISA deal. Your thoughts?

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Wrong vote. Regrettable. Many Democrats will do this. We should be standing up for the Constitution. When President Obama is president, he will, I’m sure, work to fix some of this, but it’s going to be a lot easier to prevent it now than to try to fix it later.

I’m disappointed with Obama on this. It probably won’t come back to bite him because anyone who cares about this issue doesn’t really have any other choice to begin with. I realize that he needs to “sprint to the right” to pick up the votes of the mainstream Americans, who for some reason don’t want their rights to be protected as much as they want their bodies/lives to be protected. It’s still sad to see how willing he is to throw us all under the bus to accomplish this. Of coruse, McCain and Hillary don’t offer anything better, they voted wrong, or not at all last time.

Telecom Immunity Up For Debate Again

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I can’t quote or link to the AP story (There is now a story I can link to over at Arstechnica on the new compromise.), but the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives have agreed upon a compromised Protect America ActFISA replacement bill that includes telecom immunity. This ends 4 months in which the House did nothing instead of doing a bad thing. They have not yet passed this bill, so those outside of the committee that drafted compromise may still not pass it. There can be no compromise on telecom immunity for the reasons I outlined before.

The other big part of the compromise is that the government may not invoke war powers or other authorities to supersede surveillance powers in the future. Of course, they are already bared from doing this, hence the lawsuits they have incurred by doing it. Who is to say that yet another law against it will stop them in the future. You know what would stop them? If the people/companies in a position to enable the surveillance were so frightened of the repercussions for violating the law that they refused to help! I wonder how we could cause them to shake in their boots so? Oh maybe we could not provide them immunity from past actions, and make them pay for what they did. That way, next time they will know not to do it. End result, liberty is preserved; those who seek to destroy it, in this case the Bush Administration, are thwarted. Liberty must be protected against all enemies, not just the ones with guns.

Update: They passed it, see the ars story here. All I can say is fuck you Nancy Pelosi (and the other 104 democrats who voted for the bill), apologies and comparing it to an even worse bill don’t protect my liberties. Props go out to Denis Kucinich and Mike Capuano (my congressman) who did not vote for the bill. With everything else that happened this weekend I’m so disillusioned right now I can’t even comprehend it.

The You Tube Stars

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

The You Tube Stars

There was so much good discussion in this panel that I didn’t want it to end. They started off talking about everyone’s first videos. iJustines’s first video was born out of quitting her job by making a dvd as a parting gift for her boss. Brookers’ first video was just a introduction for her mySpace page. This was, back before either mySpace or you tube were big. I hadn’t realized exactly how far back she was involved.

Brookers was, apparently, the first break out star of you tube. She realized this when she moved from getting constructive criticism to hateful comments. She has not made any money due to not selling out. I randomly clicked on some of her recent videos after ROFLCOn and discovered that I really don’t like her videos. However, wth Brookers unable to list the video she was proud of Mike steped in to suggest Cell Block Tango, which – I must say – is somewhat enjoyable.

In person she is very cute in the perpetually embarrassed shy kind of way. It is very strange for someone who is a performer. I guess that’s what you get from the internet. This was just what I picked up from watching her movements and expressions on the video and in person at the event. She later corroborated this story saying:

“In my town where I’m from in Holden. When I was in High School I didn’t exist, like I was so quiet I remember when half way through the year like sophomore year I raised my hand to goto the bathroom and everyone turned around, their like ‘who is that?’ like it was crazy so its really funny cause I have a few friends still from holden and everyone and everyone talks about, ‘hey did you hear some girl is like famous but nobody knows who I am.”

In the first few minutes Michael Buckley of the What the Buck show really sold himself. He described two different scenarios in the course of the development of his show where he received some positive feedback and just ran with things in that direction. This is how he moved from cable access to you tube and arrived at his one take, fast spoken format. I have actually seen his stuff, and enjoyed it, without knowing about him, or following him. That’s not true of any of the other panelists, what that’s worth.

Of course there was the necessary discussion about making money. Rhett & Link are all about selling out in order to do their work full time and support their families. Somehow I can respect them for this while holding it against Jib Jab. I suppose that I am familiar with the low level of quality coming out of Jib Jab, but I’m not familiar with Rhett and Link and as such I can’t actually compare. They are, however, still interested in managing user expectations, something Mike spoke to. Myabe this also plays a part in respecting their decision to sell out. The big revelation is that all the people who complain you’ve sold out still watch.

There were three things that I learned that surprised me. First, You Tube has a live component called YouStream? What? Apparently people don’t believe that it is actually live. I know I wouldn’t. Of course they make silly requests to prove it is live. Second, there is not much loyalty to You Tube with respect to other internet video sites. iJustine and Mike use other sites regularly. Rhett & Link have their own site. Brookers remains the most true to you tube, but not exclusive. Everyone was very adamantly opposed to leaving the internet for mainstream media, which was one of the first things Mike’s former agent suggested. Although, they are not very keen on all the random cat video’s that get all the attention on you tube. Finally, Both Mike and Rhett & Link cited recent videos they made about Hannah Montana. Is she really that big?! I mean this isn’t mainstream this is you tube personalities. I guess people are searching for it, so if you want people to find you, talk about what they are searching for, but it seems like pandering.

Some Quote Highlights:

“A lot of people enjoy it so I can’t really worry about the people who don’t.” – Mike

“Our family members don’t really understand how to watch you tube videos.” – Rhett and Link

“If you truly, like really, absolutely love what you made it doesn’t matter what anybody else says because you like it and that’s, you know.” – Brookers

“My family likes it because sometimes I forget to call home, so they can always just check my twitter to see if I am alive or check my rss feed.” – iJustine
“So they get to talk to you less” – Moderator

“I don’t think they [the mainstream media] know what to do with us.” – iJustine

You may think, that as I have done before whenever possible, that I’m going to go with a girl, Brookers or iJustine, for the standout panelist. Despite their great contributions I am not. Mike Buckley of What the Buck was by far and away the panelist who contributed the most. I may even start watching his stuff. I really enjoyed this panel. It was driven by the unique and interesting personalities of the performers.

Sleeper Hits of the Internet

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Sleeper Hits of the Internet

This “panel” was easy to watch and a refreshing change from the rest. Primarily this was due to it’s format as a collection of videos. There was some good original stuff from Bread Pig and Jib Jab. I’m not familiar with Jerry Time, so I did not appreciate their world premier short. I was intrigued by Respectably French’s Gunther teaser, but it really was just that a teaser trailer for their website. They showed these world premier videos and then went into a moderator selected playlist.

The Jib Jab stuff crossed the spectrum from good to interestingly stale. The first thing Jib Jab showed was a parody of a snoop dog music video with the faces of John McCain, Condoliza Rice, and Hillary Clinton. What in the world Condy was doing in the video I have no idea, but the other pairing is by now irrelevant. Of course, maybe it was not irrelevant in late April a week or so after Pennsylvania when this video was shown as a world premiere at ROFLCon, but not really. More likely this video had been in development so long as to come out far too late for it to even matter. This is a common problem with the old broadcast medium and current topical humor. Some shows, SNL, The Daily Show, and South Park have short enough production cycles on TV that they can get things out before they are too late. This problem is not generally associated with new internet media, and the fact that Jib Jab is suffering from this problem really indicates exactly how backwards they are with respect to how things are done on the net. They also had some public service announcement videos for the internet, titled “The Stuff You Learn.” The first two of these were spot on and the second two totally missed it. I really think Jib Jab has no idea what they are doing they just sometimes hit upon something, and most of the time not.

Standout Videos:
These are the best of the videos show, in no particular order.
Still pretty good.
Cool but Long:
These video’s failled to really keep my attention despite their quality.
Too Short:
More would be better of these.
I don’t Get it:
I can admit when I don’t understand what they are going for, and as such I can’t say weather or not the video is good or dumb
Just Dumb:
Like many videos on YouTube these are just too dumb to be worth watching.
Too Long and Dumb:
These are the worst, not only are they dumb, but they take more of your life away than the shorter version. These are the worst, yet the longest list – it is internet video after all.

Pwning for the Good of Mankind

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Pwning for the Good of Mankind

Pwning for the Good of Mankind

This panel was the worst so far for a variety of reasons. The moderator, Lana Swartz, failed to have the guests introduce themselves properly. Also, there was no real theme to bring this group together. They did start out with a brief explanation of what Pwning for Good means, but even this topic lacked definition and depth. The lack of focus was probably making the moderator’s job much harder. Only 23 minutes in she was grasping for questions to ask. This could be more of a sign of the lack of in depth discussion on any topic than the moderator’s fault. Once the panel was opened to audience questions, the focus did not narrow, but the questions and the answers got more interesting.

There was a brief, light discussion of net neutrality and how close the impending doom of a non-neutral net may be. The ALCU guy suggested that internet celebrities could coalesce around the issue and convince people to contact their representatives it could make a “stupid crazy difference.” Questioners kept circling back to this topic, indicating a good candidate for a panel next year. The ALCU guy ended up driving a lot of the discussion, which tended towards issues under his wing. He was able to provide insight, which the other players, beyond iJustine and to a lesser extent the Bert is Evil guy, did not even attempt.

There was some good discussion with regard to the making money on the internet panel. The Bert is Evil guy talked about how he didn’t make any money because his server went down and the meme turned into a web of mirror sites, some of whom did the usual money making t-shirt thing. But he never saw any of that money. Of course, he wasn’t in it to make money in the first place. iJustine revealed that she does do some projects that she has been paid for, but she does not want/will not let money to change what she does because it is primarily for fun. “A lot of the reason all of us are so successful is because we’re doing it out of passion.” Towards the end there was a discussion of astroturfing, attempts by the media usurp the power of the internet for their own benefit.

Throughout the panel, on the chalkboard, was a note saying “18:03 Exam Today.” At that time someone yelled out, it’s exam time. This was possibly the best part of the talk. Not that these other issues aren’t important, but they were not covered well.


Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I think that blog post frequency, like thorough forethought is inversely proportional to temperature. I just don’t care about much of anything when its this ridiculously hot.