Tag - movies

NHL on Google Video

As a proud Canadian (which, being translated, means “rabid hockey fan”) I could not be more delighted to see the NHL on Google Video. (More about it on the Google Video blog, ZDnet)

This is kids-cereal-tiger-yelling great.

It looks like it might take a couple of days for new games to get uploaded (last night’s Vancouver Canuck’s vs. Colorado Avalanche game is not yet up).

But full games are up, quality is just a little north of YouTube, and audio is excellent.

As far as the funny little bouncy-ball kids game where if someone runs into you when your feet happen to be moving, you get a penalty (OK, foul), I couldn’t care less if it’s no longer on Google Video.

Sorry, my prejudices are showing.

[tags] nhl, hockey, video, google, nba, john koetsier [/tags]

U-Tube, YouTube: potential pot of gold

I’m sure you’ve heard about U-Tube suing YouTube by now. Not intelligent. Not intelligent at all.

U-Tube has been handed a check for millions of dollars and they’re not smart enough to cash it.

Here’s the problem:

They complained a few weeks back that the site was being downed by heavy traffic as users looking for YouTube landed on their site instead, presumably by typing the wrong domain name. This downtime cost them a great deal of money in lost customers, they said. How big was the traffic spike? They claim unique visitors went from 1,500 to over 2 million per month. UTube has had to move hosts 5 times to cope with the traffic, with bandwidth bills increasing by a factor of 100, they claim. They registered the domain way back in 1996, so they have every claim to it – what’s more, they also argue that the UTube name is strongly tied to their identity.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Change company URL. Inform all clients about 10 times.
  2. Put u-Tube.com on Google’s AdSense for Domains
  3. Watch the money roll in

Side benefit: Google will even host it for you.

Update: Sounds like U-tube wants a LOT of money:

On Monday, Girkins told Reuters an intermediary who said he was acting on behalf of YouTube had offered $1 million to buy the Internet address, but he turned down the offer and was holding out for $2.5 million to $3 million.

[tags] u-tube, youtube, legal, money, AdSense, google, john koetsier [/tags]

Long tail success: The Office on iTunes

Looks like the long tail saved The Office … check out this Ars Technica post and the original Newsday story.

“I’m not sure that we’d still have the show on the air” without the iTunes boost, says Angela Bromstead, president of NBC Universal Television Studio, which owns and produces “The Office.” “The network had only ordered so many episodes, but when it went on iTunes and really started taking off, that gave us another way to see the true potential other than just Nielsen. It just kind of happened at a great time.”

As a love-it-when-I-see-it fan of The Office who no longer watches much TV, this is great.

And it’s a validation of the long tail theory: when you have great tools enabling distribution of a large variety of [movies/TV shows/socks/anything] to just about anyone, you get greater variety. Add filters to help people identify and find things they’re interested in, and success can go way farther down the chart.

[tags] long tail, itunes, the office, nbc, john koetsier [/tags]

Machiavellian isn’t the half of it

Want to get an insider’s view of the YouTube/Google deal? Check out Mark Cuban’s blog: Some intimate details on the Google YouTube Deal.

Includes such gems as:

The media companies had their typical challenges. Specifically, how to
get money from Youtube without being required to give any to the talent (musicians and actors)? If monies were received as part of a license to Youtube then they would contractually obligated to share a substantial portion of the proceeds with others. For example most record label contracts call for artists to get 50% of all license deals. It was decided the media companies would receive an equity position as an investor in Youtube which Google would buy from them. This shelters all the up front monies from any royalty demands by allowing them to classify it as gains from an investment position. A few savvy agents might complain about receiving nothing and get a token amount, but most will be unaware of what transpired.

Cuban doesn’t know if it’s true or not, but it sure appears to be.

[tags] google, youtube, gootube, tv, tv2.0, mark cuban, collusion, antitrust, john koetsier [/tags]

Yet more TV 2.0 news

survivortv.jpgTV is racing to becomewhatever it will become.

I happened to actually be watching some last night – a relatively rare occurence these days – and noticed ads for this service: GlobalTV online.

Beats my expectations
I checked it out today and it’s fairly cool. Cool in that I’m “watching” TV while I’m posting this. (Survivor, actually.)

Fairly cool in that they’re using a Flash-based player, so you don’t have to download some proprietary – or worse, Windows-only – video player.

And fairly cool in that while advertising is present, it is not ubiquitous.

But it’s not perfect
While the quality is probably a bit better than your average YouTube show, it’s small. The screenpic at the top of this post is full-size. I expected a little bigger.

And a couple of times when I paused the show, I had to actually refresh the page to get the show playing again, since it refused to restart when I pressed play.

And missing a couple of opportunities
But the TV station is really missing out on a couple of opportunities.

First of: why not put a sharing mechanism in place like YouTube or Revver? Let bloggers put TV shows on their sites with some cut&paste code. This would certainly increase viewership and ad revenue from pre-show, interstitial, and post-show advertising.

Secondly, if I was putting TV show up, I’d forget the pre and post ads, and just run occasional ads underneath the show – not obscuring it, but just taking up a bit of extra space below it.

That way you can not waste people’s time, ensure that if the show is seen, your ads are seen, and (potentially) show more ads in more innovative ways than the traditional 30-second spot. Plus, you don’t have to worry about giving fast-forward and rewind control

Not a TV “station” anymore
A little more social media marketing awareness would really help this take off, but one TV station on its own will not be compelling as one place that offers all or virtually all available shows.

After all, it’s not like they can only broadcast one show at a time anymore.

[tags] tv, global, survivor, social media, john koetsier [/tags]

HDTV a life-changer

642563_cows.jpgDave Winer just got HDTV and says it’s a life-changer:

Yesterday they had a camera on a cow farm in Vermont. No voice track, no narration, just the sounds of nature and cows grazing. Incredibly captivating. This is TV as a meditation medium.

My friend, my friend. You need to get out more.

If watching a farm on HDTV is a life-changer, just think what actually being there might do. I think I get what he’s saying … the clarity and beauty induced him to chill, relax, and enjoy simpler things. That’s all good.

You can, however, achieve that without spending X number of dollars on a what is essentially a low-tech virtual reality rig.

[tags] hdtv, dave winer, john koetsier [/tags]

$1.65B for YouTube is cheap

By now, everyone knows that Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. On the one hand, that’s a holy-mother amount of money. On the other, it’s cheap.

After all, Google just handed MySpace $900 million for adspace – and they didn’t even get any ownership! If Google’s buying the space for almost $1 billion, they’re probably hoping to make at least $2 billion.

Well, in buying YouTube they just cut out the middleman … and should make up the premium they paid in a few years at most. Besides which, YouTube offers far more interesting advertising opportunities … interstitials, before-the-vid-plays, product placement ads digitally inserted after the video was uploaded … you name it.

$1.65 billion? Cheap!

More on the story: Read/Write Web, GigaOM, Paul Kedrosky.

[tags] google, youtube, ads, adwords, adsense, video ads [/tags]

What’s on iTV: Google, YouTube, iFilm, Metacafe …

Marshall Kirkpatrick on TechCrunch is reporting an Engadget story that Apple and Google may be snuggling up with a movie. (Apple, of course, had just pre-announced it’s iTV streaming-media-from-the-web-to-your-TV product.)

OK, I think I just found a reason to buy one.

Add to this all the other video aggregators and purveyors – or at least a significant chunk of them – and you have something very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

All that user-generated content and all that “DRM-optional” content on:

can now stream easily, beautifully, and cheaply into living rooms all over the world. Out of the home office/kitchen/bedroom ghetto at last.

I smell a monetization opportunity – an amateur hour monetization opportunity. Don’t you?

I’ll bring the popcorn.

[tags] youtube, apple, itv, google, ifilm, metacafe, john koetsier [/tags]

Is your ad YouTube-worthy?

It sucks when your company gets youtubed. Or does it?

Sometimes you want to be youtubed:

And if you don’t suck, good things can happen.

Now, whether that ad will actually sell anything I haven’t a clue. But it sure made thousands and thousands of people sit up and take notice.

And you can’t really sell anything if you don’t get noticed, can you?

[tags] ads, youtube, youtubed, advertising, attention, john koetsier [/tags]

PR fiasco: getting youtubed

Reason #379 to have an open and honest corporate structure that is designed to encourage questions and act ethically on the answers: getting outted on YouTube.

Like Lockheed Martin and the US Coast Guard:

Note: the actual video is boring and longish, though it deals with potentially critical design flaws in coast guard ships. And I can’t vouch for its veracity, although the individual who put this out certainly seems credible.

The point, however, is this: right or wrong, you don’t want to fight quality or ethics battles in public. You want to deal with these issues the right way, internally, before someone gets so frustrated they youtube your company.

Unless you like washing your underwear in public, of course.

. . .
. . .

(I just noticed this had been previously covered on boingboing. And here’s the original story at the Washington Post.)

[tags] youtube, PR, social media, lockheed martin, US Coast Guard, john koetsier [/tags]

Paris & YouTube: not hot?

I subscribe to LabelNetwork‘s Global Youth Culture weekly emails on pop culture. In this week’s was an interesting take on the recent YouTube and Paris Hilton mashup:

Even though Warner Brothers’ head of new media, Robin Bechtel, thinks that YouTube and Paris Hilton are both “pop culture phenomena” and therefore are meant for each other, it’s questionable if they really understand who’s on the site and just why it’s popular. Not to mention how over people are of Paris, and therefore by having her as the first spokesperson, appears woefully out-of-touch.

More details here.

LabelNetworks is fairly 1.0 in terms of the web, but they are incredibly hip to emerging teen and 20-something culture. Interesting.

[tags] paris hilton, youtube, culture, pop, music, video, labelnetwork, john koetsier [/tags]

LOTR, a retrospective: the highlights and lowlights

I recently read the Lord of the Rings books for probably the tenth time in about 20 years. And then I watched the movies for the third time in about five years.

Now, a few years after their release, I think I have a pretty good sense of what the highlights – and lowlights – of the movie version are. All of my comments are based on the extended-version films that came out on two DVDS.

Here are the highlights of the movies:

  • Setting the scene in Hobbiton
    The beginning of the movie wonderfully sets the scene of an idyllic, happy, bucolic, somewhat silly, but very lovable Shire. This sets the stage; this is what is worth protecting; this is what will vanish if the Sauron wins.

  • Arwen’s future, as foreseen by Elrond
    Arwen is persuaded to leave Middle-Earth and her love, Aragorn, by her father’s vision of her future – even if the Dark Lord is defeated. She will linger long past Aragorn’s death, bereft of husband and family. The music and imagery – Aragorn’s funeral stone statue, the falling leaves, Arwen’s dark translucent funeral veil flowing over her face in the wind, Arwen almost drifting through bare wintry trees in long dark robes – are absolute, wonderful, amazing magic.

  • Faramir’s Folly
    Though this was not in the books, the haunting juxtaposition of Pippin’s song, Denethor’s gluttony, and the suicidal charge of the knights of Gondor is just too heart-breaking not to mention it. Beautiful and futile.

  • Charge of the Rohirrim
    The charge of the Rohirrim as they break the siege of Minas Tirith is awe-inspiring. The horses thunder through the army of Orcs like a semi truck smashing through a parade of Smart cars.

  • That still only counts as one!
    Gimli brings some needed humor into the movies along with his characteristically dwarvish pessimism. Along with the “nobody tosses a dwarf” in Moria, and the “you’ll have to toss me” at Helm’s Deep, this moment lightens up the whole series. Gimli and Legolas continue their orc-slaying contest, but when Legolas brings down the immense Mumak single-handedly – a feat Gimli cannot duplicate – he yells “That still only counts as one!” Good for a laugh in a mostly comedy-free series.

  • Frodo deciding to keep the ring
    The cinematography of pentultimate scene right within the caldera of Mount Doom is breathtaking, as the lava-light plays over Frodo’s face, making it at turns sinister and golden. Reminiscent of other scenes in which Peter Jackson tries to show the immense power of the ring to warp minds and passions, such as Bilbo’s refusal to give up the ring in the first movie, Bilbo’s orc-moment of desire in the second, when he sees the ring again, and Boromir’s ongoing uneasy lust for the power of the One Ring. In no other scene, however, is the power and the beauty and the evil and the lust so brilliantly conveyed.

  • Picking up the threads
    The movie has a bit of a slow end, as all the battles are over, the wedding is complete, and the hobbits return to their homes. But the highlights aren’t over. This scene starts in the Green Dragon Inn where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin come for a drink, and find themselves so changed that their homecoming leaves them with the realization that home is not really home any more. Then – after Sam reintegrates into Shire life – Frodo wanders his empty home, Bag End, wondering how to pick up the threads of a previous life. This sets up his final journey with the Elves to the Havens wonderfully, in addition to being an extremely poignant moment in itself.

With these incredible – and many other really wonderful moments, it seems almost a shame to mention the lowlights. But there were lowlights, for a true Tolkien fan, and these get my vote:

  • Ride out and meet them head on
    Gandalf urges Theoden to ride out and meet Saruman’s army head-on. It’s not in the book, and for good reason: they’d be slaughtered. Helm’s Deep is a strong fortress that will allow a numerically inferior force to defend itself against a stronger invader. It makes perfect military – and plot – sense. After all, if by the time they get to Helm’s Deep they only have 300 fighters, how on earth would it have been better to ride out and meet Saruman’s 10,000 Uruk-Hai head-on? Not smart – and not needed for the story line. My only guess is they put it in so as to make Theoden’s eventual decision to ride to the aid of Gondor a stronger story-line … the defensive king switching to the riskier, offensive strategy.

  • Aragorn falling over the cliff
    In the second movie, Aragorn falls over a cliff while battling a Warg and Orc force attacking the people of Rohan (who are fleeing to Helm’s Deep). The whole attack is not in the books, and for good reason: it’s unnecessary. It seems to be in the movie primarily to make Eowyn’s growing love for Aragorn a stronger plotline. Silly.

  • Gandalf meeting the witch-king
    In the book, Gandalf meets the witch-king of Angmar at the gate of Minas Tirith after Grond has burst through. And he prevails – or at least it’s a draw. Why, then, do they meet higher in the levels of the city, and why does the leader of the evil Nazgul best Gandalf, destroying his staff? My only guess is that this makes the victory of Eowyn, who kills him, even more intense. (Which in itself is annoying, because it’s actually Merry’s blow that kills him in the book – not because it was a fatal blow, but because Merry’s sword is an ancient and powerful weapon created to fight just such demons.) This scene is part of a trend to denigrate Gandalf in favor of Aragorn, who after all is better looking than the old bearded wizard.

  • Aragorn as senior strategist
    Continuing on the same theme, in the movie it is Aragorn, not Gandalf, who counsels that the armies, victorious at Minas Tirith, should take the fight to Sauron’s front door. Now Aragorn is the enemy of Sauron – instead of Gandalf, who has fought him for 300 lives of men? Ummm … no.

  • Faramir taking Frodo to Osgiliath
    Faramir does not take Frodo with him from Ithilien to Osgiliath in the books. His “quality” is demonstrated almost immediately, as soon as he knows the truth of Frodo and Sam’s mission. The Osgiliath detour is unnecessary, diversionary, and annoying.

  • Sappy, sappy “Sam” moments
    Most of these lowlights pale in comparison to this one, the most annoying feature of all the films. And that’s the incredibly sappy and sentimental sotto voce “Sam” moments between Frodo and Same. OK, they’re friends. OK, they’re best friends. OK, they’re very close. Do they need to gaze in each others eyes interminably? Hug for tedious minutes? Does Frodo need to say “Sam” or “Sum” in a quasi-English accent every ten minutes? Irritating. This is the Lord of the Rings, not BrokeBack Mountain.

That’s it – my seven highlights and six (should I try to find one more?) lowlights of the series.

I still love it both in book and film, and nothing great is ever perfect. I’m just thankful that Peter Jackson and company did as great a job as they did, overall.

But noting beats the books.

[tags] LOTR, lord of the rings, tolkien, peter jackson, movies, books, highlights, lowlights, review, john koetsier [/tags]

The End of the Spear


You are a woman with a young child in the jungles of Ecuador. It’s 1956 or so. Your husband and four of his fellow missionaries have just been murdered by a vicious tribe known for murdering others at the slightest provocation.

Do you flee – go home? Do you run to the city? Or do you take your child and go live with the tribe that murdered your husband?

Last night Teresa and I watched The End of the Spear (and here). I had some familiarity with the story, having read Through Gates of Splendor almost 15 years ago.

The widows and their children elected to go live with the tribe that killed their husbands. Slowly, through their work, and through the work of one of the tribeswomen who had lived with them outside the tribe for some years, the Woadani tribe accepted the Christian ethic of love, and the Lord of that ethic, and the murder rate dropped 90% over a few years.

This is an amazing story, and I really recommend the movie – and the book.

[tags] end of the spear, christian, woadani, movie, john koetsier [/tags]

Urban deer

We live on Glen Mountain, which is a part of Sumas Mountain, in Abbotsford, BC, and often get deer in our yard.

This spring, a young doe had two fawns which we’ve been seeing quite often. Here is a quick video taken with my digital camera of one of the young deer just below our deck:

Johnny Cash: genius

I picked up The Legend of Johnny Cash the other day and have been listening to it ever since.

Very simple, Johnny Cash was a genius.

His song Hurt is absolutely incredible – it blows me away. The honesty and stripped-down baring-his-soul nakedness is out of this world authentic, emotionally true.


(Teresa and I recenty watched Walk the Line, which stimulated my interest in Cash and led me to pick up the CD.)

. . .
. . .

[ update July 8 ]

I didn’t know at the time I wrote this that Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails had actually written that song …

Why Apple sold PowerSchool

The rumors had been around for some time: PowerSchool was on the auction block. Now it’s official.

But why? Why did Apple sell PowerSchool? It appears that the division was not profitable enough for Apple, and there were always rumors of issues around the development of new versions of PowerSchool.

But I think there are two key reasons.

One: Not selling more Macs
One is that PowerSchool did not actually help Apple sell more Macs.

When Apple bought the company, PowerSchool had about 10,000 school clients, if memory serves. (I did a research project on student information systems (SIS) for my company about 5-6 years ago.)

The theory was that with PowerSchool as the foot in the door, Apple would be able to sell more Macs to education. And the magic of bundling would also make selling PowerSchool easier in schools that already had a significant Mac prescence.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, unfortunately, there is.

Apple’s penetration in education has at best held even over the past 5-6 years. More likely, it’s trended down. In fact, PowerSchool didn’t help Apple sell more Macs.

In retrospect, it’s not too hard to see why.

First of all, schools make buying decisions on SIS systems maybe every 10 years. It’s like buying Oracle. You don’t switch to DB2 next year just because somebody gives you a 10% off coupon.

Secondly, they are purchases made with two significantly different audiences. The people making buying decisions on SIS systems are principals, districts, and states. On the other hand, classroom teachers often have significant input into instruction computer buying practices.

And third, it’s not a works-better-together scenario. Because it’s web-based, PowerSchool will work for anyone with any modern computers: Windows, Mac, Linux, you name it. Have web browser, will travel. Same thing for most of the other modern SIS systems on the market. That’s as it should be: back-office and front-office applications are de-coupled and independently upgradable.

Two: Educational content on iPods
But the piece of the deal that’s most intriguing to me is the committment on the part of Pearson to bring their educational content to iPod.

There is no bigger company in educational technology than Pearson. They already have the leading SIS software in the market, SASI xp. But that’s not all they do.

Pearson is a quintessential international megacorp, with businesses all over the world. However, they’re biggest in publishing. In educational publishing, they make textbooks, they publish novels for age-targeted audiences, and more – particularly, curriculum-related products. As they so modestly state:

We are the leading pre K-12 curriculum, testing, and software company in the US, reaching every student and teacher in that country with one or more of our products and services. We offer a wide range of solutions that integrate our instructional, assessment, and reporting capabilities. These instructional offerings include basal and supplemental programmes, and technology-delivered adaptive learning solutions.


What if you were a company that had a strong historical presence in education with slightly declining market share, but also had an incredibly hot product in the general consumer market that can display text, play audio, and show movies?

You might try to make that incredibly hot product the basis for an educational trojan horse. If so, you’d probably be a well-known fruit-flavored company.

In fact, that’s just what I predicted three weeks ago. After, just for the heck of it, I put one of my company’s courses on my iPod, the lightbulb went on and it became clear to me that the iPod is a perfect vehicle for mobile, personalized course content delivery.

Not so good for interaction, necessarily. And not something that will take the place of discussion, teachers, and all the other needed accoutrements of school. But certainly an excellent way to distributed course text, images, audio, and video.

Education has been looking for e-books for some time now. Maybe the iPod … particularly a next-generation model with a larger screen … is precisely that, but we never realized it until now.

Hmmm. Starts some bells ringing, doesn’t it?

If you were Apple, wouldn’t that be something you wanted? You bet. And how would you get it? You might start by partnering with one of the largest education curriculum and supplemental materials producers out there.

You might start, in other words, with Pearson Education.

How to publish a course on iPod

Friday nights, Friday nights. Friday nights are supposed to be for fun. For long dinners and late movies, and then a little nightcap before going to bed.

Except for geeks.

I’m only a mini-geek, so I only spent about 3 hours fiddling with technology.

But this past week Friday I got my first course up and running on an iPod. And it’s unbelievably simple.

The course consists of a series of text components – which can be basically any text you want – and some audio tracks. You access the course via the Notes menu in your iPod, and when the audio tracks are referenced, you simply click the middle select button on your iPod to play them while you continue reading the note.

How to publish a course on iPod
iPod speaks a subset of HTML – a very small subset, as far as I know. (Oddly enough, the files you transfer to your iPod have to be simple text (.txt) files and not HTML (.html) files.)

The syntax will be very familiar to anyone who has any experience with HTML:

  • Page titles: <title>this is the title</title>
  • Links: <a href=”link.txt”>this text is a link</a>
  • Line breaks: the standard <br>
  • Paragraphs: the standard <p>
  • Song/audio links: <a href=”song=My Unique Song Name”>Link to song</a>

There’s a few more – check Make Magazine for details.

Here’s a critical one, though, if you want to link audio into your course but do not want users to leave the environment of your course. Use the song/audio link mentioned about, but add the following meta tag to the top of your page: <meta name=”NowPlaying” content=”false”>. That will make the song (or audio track with training content) play while the text content remains on the screen … which is what I wanted for my little app.

All-in-all, very simple, and very cool.

My kingdom for an installer
There is one shortfall, however: no installer app or standard installer procedure. Apple needs to build something in for automatic installation.

Right now, the install procedure is as follows:

  1. Drag song/audio tracks to iTunes
  2. Sync
  3. In iTunes preferences, enable Disk Mode
  4. Drag notes bundle into iPods Notes area

That probably involves connecting/disconnecting the iPod twice, not to mention futzing with preferences. Dragging the notes bundle into the iPod notes area is dead easy, but I’ve seen way too many dead easy procedures on a computer give … umm … inexperienced users fits to believe this this is not a problem. And I haven’t even listed the part about re-connecting your iPod and disabling Disk Mode so that you can sync your music again.

Realistically, I think Apple sees the potential of iPods as learning devices with both audio and video content. Hopefully that will impell them to create some sort of mechanism that is drag-n-drop friendly for users – for example, download a zipped course, drop it on iTunes, and based on some metadata, iTunes just knows what to do with it.

Probably, however, Apple will create some kind of solution based on the iTunes Music Store.

And this is how I think they’ll do it.

More, more, more
As far as I can find out, however, there is no way of affecting either the font or size of the text you publish on iPod.

That would be a very nice feature, since (as you can see in the screenshot above) the default iPod Notes text is rather thin and spidery. I’d like to be able to beef it up a bit … make it bold or something like that.

In terms of courses, adding assessment is always a nice feature – even if it’s just self-assessment for the learner.

Currently, the only way you can add assessment to an iPod course is via branching: asking a question with a number of answers, each of which is a link. By following the link of the selected answer, the user both selects an option and (by virtue of what you put at the linked file) finds out if he/she is right or wrong.

Summing up
Adding a course to an iPod is incredibly easy … and will probably get even easier.

It would be nice if Apple would publish some specs on what you can or can’t do with Notes (in terms of tags that are supported). I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like that in the medium-term future.

But I can already see that iPod could become a very strong e-learning platform over the next 2-4 years.

Marketing to kids & teens: YouTube

I’ve just started on a marketing project that will be aimed at kids/teens.

I don’t like the word marketing … let’s put it this way: I want to create some really cool stuff that people (young people) will be interested enough about that they’ll want to talk about, share, and, yes, buy. Both online and off. Marketing in the Pinko Marketing sense.

(Sorry for the vagueness of “stuff,” but it’s too early to chat about it yet.)

So, in the interests of understanding teens, I went to YouTube a couple nights ago and spent some time clicking through videos. Found this “hot” one:

Hotel California

Just finished watching Walk the Line, the life story of Johnny Cash.

The movie was great, Joaquin Phoenix was amazing, Reese Witherspoon was really, really good. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. And the soundtrack was way too good – I couldn’t believe Phoenix and Witherspoon were doing the signing.

One thing that caught our eye was an umbrella at a hotel that Cash and company were staying at during a tour, early in the movie. It was exactly the same as one we just saw on our recent California road trip. Made of metal, with alternating blue and white stripes:


Retro cool – these things must last forever!

. . .
. . .

By the way, this movie must have been hard for Phoenix in at least one way: while Johnny Cash lost a brother at a very young age, he lost his brother River a little later in life … to the same kind of drug-fueled whirlpool that Cash became trapped in at one stage of his life.

All Canadians are criminals, officially

As you know, we are all criminals in Canada.

We steal music, ripping it from the skinny hands of starving artistes, leaving them and their 5 children and 3 spouses to the (rather tender, actually) mercies of the Canadian welfare system.

That is why the Copyright Board of Canada is re-introducing a levy on the sale of all blank media. It’s the least we can do for all those poor singers and songwriters out there. If they benefit even a tiny bit, we are happy to pay double or triple the actual cost of our CDs and DVDs:

As prices have dropped, however, the levy now frequently comprises a significant percentage of the retail price. Consider the purchase of 100 blank Maxell CDs. Future Shop retails the 100 CDs for $69.99. The breakdown of this sale is $48.99 for the CDs and $21.00 for the levy (even worse is a current Future Shop deal of 200 blank CD-Rs from HP, which retails for $59.99. The levy alone on this sale is $42.00 (200 CDs x 21 cents/CD) which leaves the consumers paying $17.99 for the CDs and $42.00 for the levy).

Since all Canadians are criminals, we’ll just charge them all right up front.

Bloody thieves.

Where have all the years gone: Allan King’s Memory

I watched Allan King’s documentary Memory last night with my daughter. What a heart-wrenching experience.

You are your memory. Lose your memory, and you lose your self. Memory reveals the agony of the dissolution of the identity in residents of a Toronto old age home. I can’t watch this sort of thing without thinking of my parents, who are now 70 and 71 – though they are still in great health.

Parents who no longer remember their kids. People who no longer remember whole swaths of their lives – the ultimate theft. And one resident, Claire, who could not remember the death of her dearest friend, Max, just a few short days ago.

I have to say, watching something like this quickly disabuses you of any notions that the things that matter in life are money, outward success, beauty … any of the litany of things that are must-have components of the lives of the rich and famous.

If you get a chance to see this documentary, don’t miss it. It’s worth the expense of two hours.

It really made me think about maximizing the time I do have with my family. One woman who was being filmed said the familiar “where have all the years gone?” For her, with her tattered memory, that question has a double meaning.

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Find out more at Allan King’s website. It’s all-Flash, so I can’t link directly to the specific page, but it’s easy to find. There is a concept PDF available.

I previously saw another of Allan King’s documentaries, Dying at Grace, a private look at the dying days of a number of terminally ill patients. Also highly recommended – but very emotional.

Viewers prefer free TV to ad-free (or, Survey uncovers huge market for paid TV)

Macsurfer recently carried a link to a recent study published by a TV industry publishing company which poo-poos the whole buy-video-content-for-your-iPod thing:

When asked if they missed their favourite TV show and could watch it online or order it through cable or satellite, 62% of the 800 respondents contacted by phone in November said they would prefer getting it for free with commercials. Just 17% would choose to pay US$1.99 to avoid commercials, although 21% were undecided, researchers Points North Group and Horowitz Associates revealed.

“Video downloads for US$1.99 will have limited appeal. Consumers will grow tired of having their credit cards charged US$1.99 every time they download a rerun of CSI,” said Craig Leddy, a Points North Group analyst.

In the coveted demographic of consumers aged 18 to 34, 68% chose free, ad-supported shows, against 26% who favoured paying, and only 5% were undecided.

If you read between the lines and perform a simple calculation, you’ll find that what they’re actually saying is that there are 75-85 million people in North America who are willing to pay for commercial-free downloadable and saveable TV.

Interesting! That sounds like a pretty large market to me.

The question is, who sponsored this research? And why?

Seems obvious, doesn’t it … old media dinosaurs, or hangers-on of those dinosaurs, who are seeing another comfortable niche start to get eaten away.