Humorous Harry

A humourous look at what you might expect to find out about Harry Potter in the new book. No spoilers. No, really, there’s no spoilers – the book is being kept quite secure. No I’m serious, there are NO SPOILERS AT THAT LINK – just go darnit and have a good laugh.

I know, I know..I didn’t want to know anything about the new book either, I wouldn’t have clicked on the link if I thought it had any information about the new book for real. Yes, I understand the need for not seeing spoilers, but I really think that clicking on the link is OK. There are no spoilers. None. Absolutely. You can tar and feather me if you see any there. SO go. Click it. It’s funny.

–*Rob

Jack Jack Attack

(or – “Creating Our Own Hits”)

Not sure if anyone has noticed – but a new radio format is on the rise in the U.S. It’s called “Jack” – though it goes by other names, usually male. In our radio listening area we have “Jack” in New York and “Ben” in Philadelphia – but I’ve seen “Doug”, “Mike”, and others used.

The concept behind the format is that they will “play anything.” They go from Genesis to Pink to Air Supply to any other hit under the sun. It’s interesting, and sometimes they compare themselves to “an iPod on Shuffle.”

Listening to one of these stations is certainly an exercise in tolerance. See, here’s the thing about that format. It is a last ditch effort by radio to get people to come back to them who are disnefranchised – people who think radio is just a repetitive jukebox that plays the same songs over and over. They’re right – that’s probably one of the things people hate about radio – but listening to a “Jack” station isn’t much better.

Why?

Because in spite of their playing a wider variety of songs – the format is still “engineered”. The music is still picked to appeal to that key group of 25-45 year olds to whom the music they play is most familiar. It’s been called “an inch deep and a mile wide”- that is to say – they play the most popular and familiar music from the most popular and familiar artists. The music has still been “tested” for what will score highest. I meantion tolerance above because frankly – you’re going to have to sit through some songs you hate to get to the ones you love – which actually would happen less on a tightly formatted stations. Also – it is still a format that lacks any sort of passion for its music. And – since most of these stations do not use DJs – all personality is lost completely. Now that is an important factor – because while we go to the radio for music – we stay for the personalities. Growing up I remember listening to a slew of morning “zoos” – both from NYC and Philadelphia and even though they were playing music that I liked – I stayed because I liked the people on the radio. I connected with them. Now – I rarely turn on any radio station because of the music – and so I don’t even get sucked in long enough to check out a personality. I’ve found other personalities (more on that in a minute).

The comparison of Jack to an iPod has been debunked by many people already. It’s pretty simple to understand – the station is basically someone ELSE’s iPod on shuffle. Not your own. See, because everyone has in their own music library – whether it’s on your iPod, or just your CDs or even tapes and LPs – everyone has stuff that pretty much no one else likes. Or that very few of their peers like. That’s not just old stuff either – we’re talking about new music too. I have a new music playlist on my iPod with stuff most of my friends have never heard of. I’ll bet if I look at their library, I’ll see the same thing. Stuff gets moved on and off the new music playlist at various intervals – but essentially I have created my own hits. It’s like my own station – the music is all MINE, and I have my own “Top 40”.

So what about personality – I mean it’s all well and good to play all my own music – but where’s the personality? Podcasts folks…podcasts. (Yeah you knew I’d be sneaking that in somewhere didn’t you?) Seriously though – Adam Curry, Madge Weinstein and Dave Slusher have replaced the likes of John DeBella, The PST Wake Up Crew and whoever else is on regular radio. But here’s an interesting phenomenon – Z-100 New York’s morning show has a podcast feed – so while I’m not tuning into the station anymore – I can still hear their celebrity interviews and their “phone taps.” So I’m basically creating my own hits – and now – my own radio station elements. It’s totally personalized and tailored by me, for me.

And that – is a really cool thing.

–*Rob

Being Poor is Expensive

Last week I listened to John Edwards’ podcast – which was a “bookcast” – that is, an interview with the author of a book they are talking about in the site’s forum.

The book they were talking about is “The Working Poor” by David Shipler. It is really interesting and worth listening even just to the bookcast because they bring home some points that are really smart about the poor in our country.

The best one they’ve made so far – is that being poor is damn expensive. The example they gave was a single mom who was working two jobs. This caused her to have inadequate daycare and medical insurance. A chain reaction effect occurs. See, her son was hurt in an accident in the home, so he had to be rushed in an ambulance to the hospital. What insurance she DID have covered the hospital bills themselves, but not the ambulance. So she had to go into debt for that cost. She tried and tried to pay it off, but when faced with eating and paying rent or paying for an ambulance bill, she had to let it go. It went on her credit record, and even when she eventually pai it off, it was still there as a bad mark. Flash forward – she now has enough for a downpayment on a small house, will be able to make ends meet but not much more. She’s already high risk for a mortgage, but the bad mark on her credit pushes her over the line into a higher risk category. Her interest rate of course becomes even higher. Her son comments on how they can’t get a break and that “being poor is expensive.”

See – it’s not that it’s any more expensive to pay rent or buy food, but everything else about being poor starts this chain reaction that is difficult, if not impossible to stop.

Sure is expensive.

–*Rob

The Looneys are ready to leave….

I read with interest Andrew’s post about the medical marijuana defeat in the Supreme Court. Naturally, I was saddened that it was interpreted this way. Many people are, and many more could be helped by medical uses of marijuana. To see the Supreme Court taking a hard line on their prosecution is just awful. That someone with cancer could be prosecuted and jailed for up to two years is horrible – and to expect family members to rat people out? Now that’s just going way too far.

The folks at Looney Labs (the games company that makes so many great games – like Fluxx and Chrononauts), seem to have had enough. Instead of staying to fight on, they have decided to pack up and move to Canada. They have been contemplating this for a while, so it’s not that much of a surprise. But I have to wonder, how many people feel the same way about the defeat, but aren’t willing to move to Canada for something they believe in? I still think we can make a difference in the long term, even if this short term defeat seems to be insurmountable. I still have hope for this and other issues.

I wonder though, if I’m too optimistic.

–*Rob

Banner Movie Weekend

This past weekend Brenda and I managed to watch three movies. This is an amazing feat considering all the other chore and stuff we had to do.

First – We finished watching the bulk of Cold Mountain that we had started earlier in the week. It was good, a very bittersweet ending, but I recommend it as a study of “war is hell.” It occurred to me that the Civil War was probably the only time we had a mass war on American soil and it really did tear the country apart, a lot more then what we might read about in our history books.

Second – we watched About Schmidt. I thought it was an interesting quirky look at life after retirement. It had its moments but I wanted a little more humor in it. Just a touch more would have made it a lot better. It’s one of those movies like The Royal Tenenbaums that has this quiet, subtle humor but never really gets past that. I like a little more, just a little more to laugh at.

And finally – we saw Revenge of The Sith. (NO SPOILERS – you are SAFE if you have not seen it yet). It was an enjoyable, fun ride. I wouldn’t call it the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, but it does make up for Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones. It completes the puzzle, and it answers some other questions – as to “why this was this way”, etc… I thought it came closest to being like Eps 4-6 – maybe because of the transformation, and maybe because we start to see the seeds planted for the next three films. Its dark tone is very much like Empire Strikes back – and that was a really good thing.

I was reading an article about the movie in Entertainment Weekly and George Lucas was quoted as saying that for the three movies – Sith was supposed to contain 60% of the story, and the other two would take 20% for each – so he’s basically admitting that the first two had a lot of filler, and he had to play with them to make them more balanced. That’s probably why in Menace, we have this huge film about a little boy – when it probably didn’t need to be so long. But he had to fill 2 1/2 hours, on probably what he could have done an hour at most. Again – Menace shows Anakin as a teen – and he also could have spent an hour on it – but there again – it’s not a full movie. So they got stretched into these epics with extra plotlines and filler. I think you could probably do a nice four hour “extra long” movie cut together from all three – and it would tell the story of Anakin rather nicely.

It’s also funny that he says that the films are a character study of Anakin – because before seeing Eps 1-3 – you basically think they are centered around Luke and Leia. If it was really a character study of Anakin Skywalker – then why was he openly talking about how the series is a 9 part series? Vader dies at the end – so where does the story really go?

Even if you absolutely HATED Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones – you should go see Revenge of the Sith. It’s worth it.

And here are my spoilers (white text, just highlight to read them):

I liked the many connections they made: Chewbacca having met Yoda before, the reason for Yoda’s exile, Commander Antilles (at the very end of the movie) – it made it all part of the Star Wars pantheon – finally. I loved the scene where Anakin is “put back together” as Darth Vader. Putting on the mask was great, and when he’s finished – the whole Frankenstein’s monster-ness of the table he is on rotating down. VERY cool. I definitely want to watch it again – maybe on DVD so I can pause and catch all the other interesting bits. There were so many times I was like “oh man – can you back that up about 10 seconds so I can check that, or see that again?”

If you want to comment on a spoiler, comment in white text please, so there’s no spoilers in the comments (or email me your comments and I’ll put them in, in white text myself).

–*Rob