This post was not written in the form of a question

February 15th, 2011 / #observations, #television

Tonight, for the second time in as many days, IBM’s Watson will battle the brains of a couple of the best Jeopardy! contestants of all time, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

I’ve been reading about this for months now. For some reason, I subscribed to Forbes in late 2010 and their story about artificial mind power on syndicated television game shows is the only thing from the publication I’ve read to date. Turns out I’m not really a Forbes kind of guy. Surprise, right?

Anyhow, all of this talk of digital daily doubles got me thinking: Who (or what, as it were) should I root for? Humans? Robots? It’s an epic clash of man and machine.

On the one hand, to root against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter would be traitorous to my own kind. On the other, if Watson can eke out a victory against the best of the best, it will prove the technological prowess of our species. But is it acceptable to cheer progress, even if it is at the expense of real men?

After thinking about where my priorities are, however, I came to a conclusion: I can’t stand human Jeopardy! contestants. From their obnoxious little mannerisms to their uninteresting and tedious personal stories after the first commercial break, there are few players I can actually tolerate. And when Ken Jennings was on for 74 days in a row? It was like watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island: you know how it’s going to end, but it’s 7:30, I just ate, and the remote’s all the way over there. A recipe for disaster.

The computer doesn’t have any of those characteristics. No personal quirks, no faux humility, no propensity to be an annoying sack of bones. It’s for this reason – not because of the wonderment of a technological tomorrow – that I hereby endorse Watson in this contest.

Christmas time was here

December 29th, 2010 / #christmas, #observations, #television

I realize it’s sacrilegious to criticize American icons like this, but since no one reads what I write anyway, let’s get down to business.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, while charming, is really terrible.

I understand that part of the allure of gathering the tots around the tube every yuletide is to reflect back upon memories of simpler times while appreciating the historical significance of the cartoon, but c’mon: the production value of the thing is just awful.

Whenever I catch a Charles Shultz biography or similar documentary, they are quick to point out that, in a radical move uncommon to the industry, Charlie Brown cartoons used actual kids rather than grown-up voice actors for the audio track. Neat idea, I guess, but did they have to use the least convincing children on the planet for the job? The lack of trained child voice actors in the heyday of animation results in Shultzian quirks that, thanks to broadcast television’s annual promotion, remain with us to this day: long, awkward pauses; weird voice inflections; and a final speech by Linus that’s delivered so quickly it seems like he has to pee or something.

Also (and this is an aside not solely related to the original Christmas show), using child voiceovers necessitates whole new casts for future iterations of Charlie Brown cartoons. After they air A Charlie Brown Christmas, they air I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown! with an entirely different cast. I realize that the latter was made decades after the former and that it would be nearly impossible to use the same cast for both, regardless of age, but something tells me it would be easier to emulate the original voices had they been well composed by professional voice actors. Just my two cents.

However silly these kids sound, though, I still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year (in all its terrible glory). I don’t know, maybe it’s that I’m a sucker for convention and to watch Peanuts cartoons on major American holidays is the most conventional way a middle class white kid can spend his youth. Maybe my relatively newfound discovery of jazz music has drawn me once again to the cartoon’s soundtrack. Or maybe I just like to watch for the purpose of participating in the greatest of all American pastimes, rampant and unfounded criticism.

Look out for my Christmas post next year, in which I attempt to discern the origins of this new-fangled “Rerun” character. That kid sucks.

"I’m a simple man. I like pretty, dark-haired women and breakfast food."

February 15th, 2010 / #awesomeness, #pictures, #television

At first, I respected and admired Ron Swanson more than any man in the world. Then I found out he married Karen Walker from Will & Grace. Then, I found this, and it erased any doubts I might have developed about Ron Swanson’s awesomeness.

Is not Oasis the greatest British band since the Beatles?

September 10th, 2009 / #observations, #politics, #television

Just a quick thought on the Twitterverse fodder of the day: I think Joe Wilson is doing a great service to America by gradually introducing a House of Commons type discourse to the Congress. If we could get anything half as entertaining as the Prime Minister’s Questions, CSPAN could well become a legitimate factor during sweeps week this year.

Oh wait, it would be going up against Jay Leno’s new show. Never mind, I think Congress is more entertaining as it is.

A rare retraction

August 20th, 2009 / #apologies, #observations, #television

Okay, so I was wrong about the whole Billy Mays being Jesus’ right hand man thing. I imagine I should have realized something was going on when he got so excited over the iTie. No one should be that pumped about an article of men’s fashion.

Billy Mays, we hardly knew ye

Well, a couple of weeks have gone by since the King of Infomercials passed on. And you know what? I am pretty well peeved by the fact that the death of this true American hero was overshadowed by the untimely(?) death of some eccentric white woman with an affinity for little boys.

Billy Mays, you deserved better than this. In the wake of Michael Jackson’s trip to the preteen farm in the sky (or, as it were, deep below the ground in the special section of Hell), your passing garnered nothing more than a footnote in the media.

I watched Jackson’s memorial yesterday. Mariah Carey and Lionel Ritchie performed. Thousands flocked to see his gold casket. They closed down a Los Angeles freeway for his funeral procession, for Christ sake. People seem to forget the fact that mere months ago, this dude(?) was a monster in the eyes of society. I know it’s not kosher to speak ill of the dead, but in my defense Michael Jackson looked like he died 15 years ago. His heart was just catching up with the times.

But Billy Mays? There had never been a bad thing to say about this bastion of capitalism. He never slept with children. He was never a weird guy. The closest he ever came to buying a chimp named Bubbles was doing that TV show with Anthony Sullivan. He was just an honest man with a timeless beard that peddled mighty products that helped Americans every single day.

America, you sicken me. Sure, Jackson may have busted a move now and again. But his legacy seems vastly overrated. His music, in my opinion, was all right. But it was nothing compared to the stain-fighting powers of OxyClean, the adhesive abilities of Mighty Mendit, or the absorbency of Impact Gel.

In the end, though, Billy Mays’ celebrity status caught up with him. Because when God called the toll-free hotline for Michael Jackson’s kicking of the bucket, he threw in the passing of a television legend absolutely free. Just paid shipping and handling.

One Awesome Thing And One Not Awesome Thing

Awesome: Pitchmen on the Discovery Channel. Just in case 30 seconds of Billy Mays screaming at the top of his lungs and smiling like a forty-something housewife at a Botox treatment is just too short a time to fully appreciate his greatness, this is for you. And he’s based out of Tampa, which makes it the second ridiculous show like that to come about in my backyard, after the short but hilariously ill-fated Hogan Knows Best.

Not Awesome: Daytona Cubs Centerfielder Anthony Campana. Ian and I went out to the Clearwater Threshers game last night, and after 13 and a half innings, the score was tied. After walking two batters to load the bases with one out, Clearwater’s Fidel Hernandez flied out to centerfield, where Campana did a double-pump and never even parted with the ball, allowing the man on third to tag up, score and win the game. I know this isn’t particularly interesting, but I looked and there doesn’t seem to be a formal account of Campana’s epic failure on the Internet. I just feel that this should be documented lest he ever become anything in the realm of baseball.

Dirty Laundry

November 17th, 2008 / #complaints, #observations, #television

You know, because I am in the Journalism school day in and day out despite my complete ignorance on the subject, I have come to grow fond of journalists. I am surrounded every day by notepad-wielding soldiers of the army of the written word. I guess more than anything, I respect them and their abilities of talking to complete strangers. Maybe if I could do that, I would be rolling in the ladies. Journalists are admirable, to be sure.

But I have also developed a pet peeve regarding the field. It used to be that when you would watch the news and something of great importance happened, they would cut away to an anchor who would tell us all about the “breaking news.”

Now, though, it seems that they have completely bastardized the phrase. Now, I can watch CNN for an hour in the morning and everything they’ve got for me is all of a sudden “breaking news.”

That group of elementary school children stacking cups for charity? “Breaking news.”
That lost dog from Florida that showed up in Canada a la Homeward Bound? “Breaking news.”
The Kansas City Royals suck? “Breaking news.” I think you get the point.

See, back when breaking news was rare and actually meant something, it was like a little treat during an otherwise bland and unexciting newscast. Now, however, they throw the term around like it’s a vowel, for God’s sake. Personally, I think that the term “breaking news” should have to meet three requirements:

First, someone’s gotta die. Yes, it is a sad reality, but when the news flips up “breaking news” about Sarah Palin adopting a polar bear or whatever it is she does, my heart flutters and then sinks. “Breaking news?” That’s hardly news!

Second, the newsworthy event has to be able to occur instantaneously or within a very short period of time. “Breaking news” that is merely an update on a developing story isn’t news. It’s a clarification of a prior news item and therefore terribly boring and lame.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the event must not happen often. Listen, I don’t want a barrage of “breaking news” at all hours of the day. I think that “breaking news” should be limited to once a month at least. “Oh, the President of Mexico was killed by a flock of albatrosses? Sorry, we used our opportunity up last week. I knew we shouldn’t have run that story on packing peanuts!”

Maybe my cynicism is what’s kept me out of the major.

Laugh Tracks and You

November 8th, 2008 / #observations, #television

When watching sitcoms on TV and they put in a laugh track, I think that the loudness and exuberance of said laughter is way too extreme.

No show is that funny.

Not meant to be funny, this is my gripe of the day

The Devil Rays, in an attempt to expand their regional fan base, relocated their series this week with the Rangers of Texas to Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando. This distresses me, partly because I likely would have been in attendance to at least one of these games had they taken place at the Trop in St. Pete. But this isn’t really what annoys me about this series.

The front office says they want to increase their fan base across the state by bringing in the Rays, in sort of a traveling circus type atmosphere, to everywhere they need some television viewers, merchandise buyers, and bad bullpen lovers. This is all well and good, since I’d love to see more and more people live and die with this team like I do, but I think a rational move before actually temporarily relocating the team would be o give fans across the state access to TV broadcasts of every game.

In Gainesville, for example, I get to see about a third of all the games. Luckily for me, I’ve come home to eat my parents’ food for the summer, but had I stayed in Gainesville, I would be up the creek without a paddle. Or a bullpen.

  • Who I Am

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