Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Got Indy Fever? Reconsider That Fedora Purchase.

Always on the look out for a great new site that artfully blends Geek and Almost Naked Women, Asylum tops my list this week. Tracking a DIGG post, I found out about this site for the first time. This post had me immediately reconsider my recent purchases. But then again, a fedora on your brass bedpost may make your wife happy. (She might think Harrison Ford stopped by for a visit.)

Read the article about why you shouldn't buy a replica of the most famous fedora in film history on the Asylum website.

Monday, July 28, 2008

They’re Made Of Meat

This short film was adapted from Terry Bisson’s short story “They’re Made Of Meat” by Stephen O’Regan. I thought it was a pretty good interpretation of the story, which you can read here.


On vacation for a week in Tennesseee. Enjoying the mountain air. Back in a week.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flame On

There is no way we’ve heard the last from this dude. The last we hear from him will be “AAAHHHHHRRRRGGHHHH!” as he burns his face off.

By way of Gizmodo.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets - Part V

By Lon S. Cohen

In this not so distant future there will be three types of movies made:

1) The Major Leagues. Most of the money will get thrown at great big 3-D, digitally filmed, computer enhanced, epics, period pieces with a cast of thousands, and great, big, honking, dramas. These will have the wide releases in all the big, lush theaters. Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and George Clooney all will sit comfortably on top of the heap.

2) The Minor Leagues. Then there will be the little guys: The zany comedies, the drippy romances, and the action-adventure movies. They will be ghettoized into direct releases, the digitally delivered films, pay-per-download or on-demand release. It will probably ruin a few careers in the process because those who can’t make the cut to the big guys, will never degrade themselves to the release formerly known as “direct-to-video.” But there will be room to grow as just with baseball, the big league will draw talent fromt his proving ground. Whole studios will be created just for the purpose of making movies for this format.

3) The Middle Class. Where does the middle class always get its fill of entertainment when it can’t go to the movie theater? (Remember a family of four can still easily cast $100 if you count gas and snacks in with ticket prices, which are over $10 per in most markets.) If you said television, you’re right. Just like now, television will provide the middle ground between going to the theater and the direct to video market, only the swell will get larger. Even now television is poised to take over the middle with superior technology available for large screen viewing and high quality surround sound. And it will only get cheaper to outfit your livingroom with an entertainment center as time goes on and more and more people see what is coming down the pike. It will be either adapt or die (or at least adapt or live without a decent way to watch a movie.)

4) Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know that I said there will be three types of movies but I always throw in a wildcard into my lists. The fourth dimension consists of video games. Every year reports come out to show that gaming outstrips movies and other types of video based entertainment in dollars spent. While, the state of gaming is light years ahead of what it was when I started gaming with the original home based Pong that featured such exciting variations as Doubles Tennis Pong and Handball Pong, there is a sort of standard template of game with more and more interesting plotlines layered over them. Sure, you can interact with a world and story in Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto II if you choose to but the difference between another variation of first-person shooter and the next Lord Of The Rings Trilogy is still a little ways off. But things are changing fast.

My kids play X-Box 360 using the online network—called X-Box Live—through our WiFi against people all over the world. This shared experience has a crossover aspect and many great writers, directors, voice actors, CG programmers and artists have found a place at the table of gaming. Some like to overlap gaming with movies (which is why I make mention of it here) but I think gaming, while an alternative to watching movies, is not in direct competition. It’s like saying that when video books become popular it will then and only then become a competitor to movies, because it uses a screen.

Sure, television took a great big bite out of movie attendance in the 1950s but that was because you essentially got an identical passive viewing experience in the home as you got going to the theater—except possibly for the Technicolor, full sound system and the fact that television was mostly done live back then.

That said, gaming does provide a very good alternative to movies, but the concept of active engagement in a cool looking game and the passive act of having a movie storyline unfold before your eyes are two vastly different experiences.

5) O.K. O.K. I failed math in high school, so sue me. There is an even wilder wildcard out there, the beginnings of which are being seen in IMAX theaters, and that’s Virtual Reality (VR). Take the 3-D experience a step further and you have the ultimate in science-fiction plot devices, VR. Once VR gets to the point where it’s seamless, a new alternative may become available. VR will be able to enhance both movies and gaming (and the porn trade, but that’s another article entirely.)

This seems to be the way it’s going. Time to calculate all those tickets you’ve been shelling out for movies and save the dough for a better home system. Once you get used to the shape of things to come, it’ll be a lot easier to accept. With gas pushing four dollars a gallon and tickets creeping up to thirty-five dollars each, it’s going to take a while, but maybe if your home equity ever comes back, you’ll be able to afford to take the family out to see that next summer blockbuster.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets - Part IV

By Lon S. Cohen

I don’t expect to dole out $35 to see the next Wil Ferrel comedy vehicle, I might do it for one of the other upcoming releases this summer, ones that have enough umph to require a massive screen and gigantic sound. I also may want the energy of a hundred other human beings in the same room, watching the film along with me.

If this model of bigger is better pans out, we may see a fractioning of Hollywood marketing, even more so than today. Despite the fact that the word on the street is that the end to the movie theater is nigh, the rumors of its death may, in fact, be highly exaggerated.

IMAX has already proven to be wildly popular. Look only as far back as the recent Miley Sirus, 3-D movie for evidence of that. The movie did so well that Disney stripped its limited engagement status in favor of an indefinite release.

Variety reported on its website that three major investors have come together to build up to 50 upscale theaters nationwide. The all-inclusive experience will offer 3-D movies, a lounge and valet parking. “Upscale” and “affluent” is how investors described their target market.

This brings back the idea of the event movie experience, when a night to the movies was a night out on the town. What has to happen is that movies will have to match the plush trappings they are projected within. For thirty-five bucks, I’m not taking any chances, and neither will anyone else. They want to know that the movie they will be seeing is inline with the price paid for the ticket.

And this is where the marketing fissure will occur. Sure, the movie theater will not completely go away. Home theaters still pale in comparison to your neighborhood Cineplex, but as the price point for a movie ticket pushes perilously close to the consumer’s upper limit, some may decide just to stay home. The middle will fall out.

What you have left are the great big event movies that draw crowds into the theater no matter what the price, and then there will be the rest. Hollywood doesn’t like to lose money, at least not for very long and when it sees a trend, it tends to move in that direction. (Is it no wonder that we get seasons filled with movies that are clones of the last success?)

Next Part V

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets - Part III

By Lon S. Cohen

The age of the summer blockbuster spawned the multiplex and the commoditizing of the movies began in earnest. The movie became a better vehicle to sell toys, cups games, and every other chotcka they could think up than Saturday Morning Cartoons. Like Mel Brooks said as the all-powerful Yogurt in movie Spaceballs, “Merchandizing! Where the real money on the movie is made.”

What directors like Lucas and Spielberg did, by glamorizing the adventure serials they both grew up watching and lovingly paid homage to in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, was to raise the bar for movies almost too high. Whiz! Bang! Became Art. Pop culture became, well, culture. Not since Andy Warhol painted Tomato soup cans did something that was meant to be throwaway and commonplace, become so elevated and expensive to attain.

When duplex theaters became triplexes, which then cloned into so many units in one building we stopped counting and called them multiplexes, our goose was truly cooked. In order to fill all those “plexes,” Hollywood had to churn out enough crap to put in them. Hollywood is nothing if adept at serving up crap when crap is called for.

One can argue the ratio of crummy movies to actual greatness produced year over year from 100 years ago to today, but the fact is that today we do not lack in film quantity. In fact, nowadays with the permutation of digital files, one can fill an iPod to the brim with more video entertainment than there are hours in the day to watch it all. DVDs, iPods, DVR and On-Demand are quickly making even those once modern multiplexes into nostalgic, weed filled expanses of naked blacktop.

So is the movie theater doomed? Maybe. Maybe not.

Next Part IV

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets - Part II

By Lon S. Cohen

Back in the day (A.K.A. the Seventies) when maverick directors were inventing the summer blockbuster, they set in motion a good run of decades long movie seasons where you just had to get to a theater to have the full experience. My little RCA television just couldn’t cut it back then.

Advances in home theater technology have mitigated that experience somewhat but what they haven’t taken away is that awesome shared experience of going to the movie theater to see something great on the big screen. Movies are funnier when everyone is laughing. Movies are more exciting when hundreds of people are all on the edge of their seats. Movie musicals are more musical when everyone is snapping their fingers to the same beat.

What happened? Why does the news media keep crying about the death of the entire movie industry, ala the current crisis in the music industry?

When I was a kid, my mother took me to see Star Wars in the movie theater and we waited on line for hours to get the tickets. For a birthday one year, my father took my sister and I to see a Lassy movie at Radio City Music Hall and during the intermission they had a collie come out and do some tricks. The magic was in the majesty and drama of the actually being in a theater (or outside of one in the pouring rain waiting to find out just what the heck was so good on the inside.)

Both experiences are burned into my brain, and for different reasons, both of which have been lost in the current movie market—not be brought back by sushi and reclining seats. It’s the experience that has gone out of the movie going experience, not the trappings.

Going to a movie was an event. Theaters were cavernous, screens were Bunyonesque and the seats were big cushy things; the floors were carpeted and the curtains were drawn, only to be opened for the newsreel. The theater itself suggested the magic soon to be played out on screen.

Next Part III

Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Show on PBS

This New York Times story is about Neil DeGrasse Tyson's PBS show. I did an extensive email interview with Dr. Tyson last year fora a website but it never went anywhere, unfortunately. I found him to be extremely friendly, forthcoming, gracious, smart and informative.

He has quite a back story. While I read his autobiography and found some of it to be not so interesting, I thought that his early interest in science was fascinating, especially since he grew up in Manhattan.

One of the things he said that I felt was very interesting was that you can sky gaze from anywhere, even Times Square. I think that his point was that you shouldn't let anything stop you from enjoying the passion of looking up at the universe in wonder, no matter what. At least that seems to be the lesson of his life.

He also has a great story about rooftop sky watching through a telescope as a kid in the Bronx. Some neighbors, suspicious of his activities, called the cops. As ended up well when he showed the cops Saturn's rings through the telescope.

Only in New York.

Perhaps some editor wants me to write the story interview for a news article? If so, call me. We'll do lunch on your expense account of course.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

We Thought That It Couldn't Get Worse Than Episode III

My newest social media buddy turned me on to this. I wish he didn't because, deep down I am still in love with Natalie Portman and want to think of her as that little girl, Padme I inappropriately lusted after in Episode I...

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You: $35 Tickets – Part I

By Lon S. Cohen

With the decline in people going to an actual movie theater in favor of home based entertainment, the future of movie making will become highly fractured. Soon investors will be building luxury theaters that will cost $35 per ticket. Better hope that the real estate market comes back so you can tap into that equity to take the kiddies to see the next summer blockbuster.

So you think that the price of gas is getting ridiculously high? Well, a few investors think that the movie going public could have a little wiggle room left in their pocketbooks and imagine the day that you will shell out three and a half ten dollar bills for the experience. Of course you will be getting more bang for the buck, with reclining leather seats and state of the art projectors (3-D!) They will also be offering concierge service serving culinary delights such as sushi, all for an added price of course. What with the living room home video and sound systems rivaling anything that the local $2 could ever offer, most people opt to stay home instead of venturing out to watch a movie.

And who could blame them? After financing that large television screen and surround sound, then factor in the price of their DVD (or HD-DVD) collection and then put in the price of gasoline per gallon, it hardly seem economical these days to get your fat butt of the couch.

The investors involved in these luxury chains are betting that a superior experience inside the theater will do the trick. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that what’s on the screen will be crap nine times out of ten. How pissed would you be if you paid $35 at the door and your date then ordered the steak tartar only to be exposed to less than two hours of entertainment and said entertainment was “Drillbit Taylor?”

You’re starting to see the big picture here aren’t you? The problem is less that the movie going public doesn’t want to go to the theater because their home system is too good (though I will admit that is a major part of the issue at hand), it’s that there seems to be less and less actually on the big screen that needs to be seen, well, on a big screen.

A few event movies will grab people out of their homes and practically make them put their butts into an actual theater, no matter if there is some illegal prerelease “For Academy Consideration Only” version available at the latest Bittorent site or not.

Next Part II

Colonizing Venus With Floating Cities

Did you know the temperature and pressure on Venus at 50 km is the same as Earth? A NASA scientist thinks we could build a floating station there. Fraser Cain and Pamela Gay talked about this on their podcast Astronomy Cast. Glad to see that Fraser's website made it a full article. Very cool. Once again, science proves that Star Wars is cooler than we ever imagined. Now if I can only learn to play Sabbacc.

read more | digg story

If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone

Would-be innovators can sign up online to compete for prizes for solving diverse problems from around the world in a variety of disciplines. That is according to a New York Times story. Once again I'm being lazy and blogging directly from DIGG but I had to share this story about how real scientists use social network (of a sort) to solve problems and (most importantly) make some cash for themselves. While the concept has been around forever, the speed and connectivity of the internet have made this type of intellectual sharing expedient and efficient.

read more | digg story

New York Times, LinkedIn and Jon Erik Hexum - Serendipity For All!

TechCrunch reports on a story about the New York Times paring with LinkedIn to target users for story headlines based on their profiles.

I like it. I've been using LinkedIn for a long time and was wondering when it would start adding a little more "added-value" to the service, so to speak. Again, the dissemination of news across multiple platforms by large news sources like the New York Times seems the way to go in the new media age. My news follows me, instead of the other way around.

There has been talk about the serendipity of reading a newspaper story that you may never have found if you weren't holding a print paper. Cycling news stories based on user generated profiles expressing their interests people can receive these "targeted" stories that interest them, eliminating the waste. In my opinion, there is really enough serendipity on the web as it is...

For example, how many times have you been lost in the links? You start on a webpage and then follow around all these linked stories and links to other sites until finally you're on somebody's homage page to Jon Erik Hexum?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kun Fu Panda

Did you see Kung Fu Panda? I did and I liked it. I wrote a review for it for the BSFA.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rant About The Poor Big Newspaper and Music Industries

This is an expanded rant to my comment over at paidcontent.org to a post titled, “Craig, Please Save the Newspapers; Here’s How” by Rafat Ali

Why should Craigslist even care about the problems at newspapers. If the Newspaper website want to become profitable they should invent their own, better classified sites (which despite Craigslist’s ubiquity may not be hard to do considering it ain’t perfect). Newspaper classified were a very profitable portion of their business but Google and eBay also portioned off the ad dollars from Newspapers. A consortium of newspapers can come up with a better Craigslist if they tried. The tools to disseminate information and advertising have never been easier and more relevant than today, why don’t they get it?

Ditto the music industry. People aren't stealing music to be profitable, they steal it because they can't see spending $1000s for back catalogues that essentially fit on a 250 gig harddrive. If I were Universal or one of these others, I'd be selling back catalogues with extras like old footage and images, newspaper write ups and liner notes, etc. at discount prices and add in the price of the hard drive storage for cheap and people would be clamoring. The Rolling Stones catalogue can be put on a small USB drive with all the extras, lyrics, album covers, interview, concert footage, archival info for a premium price and people would fall all over themselves to get it. Put it on a cool Rolling Stones looking drive and they'd be going nuts. What the record/newspaper/magazine/book industry is a new media marketing perspective not a litany of lawyers. Like I said, if you don't like how Craigslist is siphoning off your customers, invent your own or change the model to match the times, but don't cry like a baby!

Here is a company that is getting it: Netflix. They dominated the DVD by mail department with not a concept but a technological application that let's me list, re-list, browse and empowered me like never before. It's called the Queue. Now that they have gotten into the set top rental market they may just dominate again. What they realize is that for a subscription fee most people will pay to watch what they perceive as unlimited movies per month. Acusations of "throttling" aside, I feel that I can watch about as many movies as physically possible per month. Heck the Queue itself is worth half the price of the subscription, because of the fun I have managing it. And guess what, I'm not locked into any long term contract. If one month I choose to not watch so many moviews I just lower my membership for the next month, no questions asked. They even listen to their customers, seeing how they presevred the multiple Queue accounts after members cried foul when Netflix announced they were deleting multiple Queues per account.

Granted, newspapers and music are much different than movies but the concept is the same. Allow me to access media on a rolling subscription basis. With music there are even more possibilites, as pointed out above.

Many other options are available if they put some marketing thought into it. The industry seems to be lead around by the nose by attorneys and very old-school executives. The number of artists with the wherewithal to do it have begun their own labels, seing 360 degree control of their product and image as the only way to make any money int he industry these days. You can market, distribute, tour and sell merchandise all on your own. Who needs the big guys anymore?

Garage bands have been doing all that by themselves for years. It's only when the process gets too big to handle that they have to turn the reigns over to the big corporations. What is that doesn't have to be the case? Too late, it's already happening with companies like Live Nation seeing the light early on.

Radiohead, NIN and Lil Wayne have all lead the charge by offering free music on the internet. Letting fans pay what they thinkt he music is worth as Radiohead did, just emailing out a message saying come to the site to get your free music in multiple formats (ala NIN) or offering multiple mixed tape-type downloads on the web that garnered press and created a following before the release of a major album (Lil Wayne).

Just like the kids and teens of today who think that it is their god-given right to just download music rather than buy it, but shell out big bucks for concerts, t-shirts and ephemera add-ons to corporate tie-ins, we Generation X-ers feel that a newspaper is just information that I should and must be able to access for free, at least online. Subscriptions for magazine and newspaper services online seems redundant and wasteful, especially when a quick Google search or a decent news aggrigator will get me the same basic information I need.

Granted, I want to read the newspapers of record on the web, but if forced to pay, I'd forgo my favorite publication in favor of >GASP< bloggers. Here is someone who got it right int hat world, Huffington Post. Like or hate it, she's built one of the first Blog Empires. To my knowledge she's done it without classified ads. (Though I hear her bloggers are less than underpaid.) Still with success comes the eyeballs and with the eyeballs come the advertising and with the advertising comes the larger paychecks. That much is still true.

Of course this is all pie in the sky pinko, hippie, cyberpunk, information wants to be free, type of stuff.

Boots on the ground marketing is the only way to see if the new models work but thankfully, the Internet is a very forgiving medium.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Describe a Podcast

I also answered a question about how to describe a podcast in 25 words or less. Here is what I came up with:

An episodic audio or visual performance delivered to your computer on a subscription based as a compressed file and playable in a portable device.


Web 2.0 Question?

On LinkedIn, I wrote an answer to a question posed by one of my contacts, Bruce Chamoff. His question was, "When you think of the current Web 2.0 trend, what exactly comes to mind?"

Here is my answer. It's not perfect but that's ok:

I wrote an article on the subject for Banking New York Magazine. My description was focused for a banking professional audience, but it applies to Web 2.0 in general.

That article can be found here.

I would add that Web 2.0 takes browsing and creates an element of addition to the equation. Instead of simply receiving information from a central resource, Web 2.0 is a collectively increasing based on user interaction and content creation rather than encyclopedic-like entries. Web 1.0 was just like your set of encyclopedia on the bookshelf. It was a terrific resource and very useful but it did not allow for opinion or discussion within the pages. Some would say that's a good thing, considering the integrity of the data based on peer-review and vetting of facts that are not open to debate or influence by non-professionals. Others say that this creates an elitist academic attitude and that a collective knowledge may add information or perspectives previously unavailable or unfathomed at any other time in history.

For example, many field researchers or professionals on the front lines of any industry simply do not have the time to directly submit their expertise to the collective knowledge because previously writing up their knowledge in a format acceptable for publication was too time consuming. Many expert opinions were lost or were vetted out of a database of knowledge. Now the ease and accessibility of the Internet allows for free transfer of information springing directly from the mind to be accessed to anyone.

Web 2.0 allows peer-to-peer transfer of information without a self-interested filter in between changing or influencing that data.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Abrams Vs. Lucas

Someone's photo flickr account has this photo on it of George Lucas and J.J. Abrams facing off. Great photoshop job. Check it out in original form here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Movie websites fight back against the trade magazines

When Latino Review posted about Variety stealing its scoop, the bloggers weren't mad that Variety co-opted their story, they were mad that Variety blatantly disregarded the source. The article traces the backlash and some comments by movie site bloggers. Does MSM ignore bloggers at their peril? Or does it even matter?

read more | digg story

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is Journalism As We Know It Dying?

There was a very good Opinion piece in the New York Times on the state of Journalism and Newspapers. I am in communications and a writer so I have a vested interest in this debate. A very good version of this discussion took place on Episode 121 of the Cranky Geeks podcast very recently. On that show they debated whether bloggers need professional journalistic training or would the market (and lawsuits) sort them all out. That is still open for debate but as I read in July/August 2008 Poets & Writers citizen journalists are doing what those gonzo journalists used to do in politics but now they do it in real time. It creates an interesting off-shoot of the creative non-fiction genre, especially when the author of the article cites how the scene is being filtered through individual opinion and POV.

Calling George Orwell, It's 2008, you missed us by 24 years!

A decision by a judge in a case of Vicom vs. Google reported in a Wired blog post is lighting up the internet. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Tech Crunch, CNet, Techmeme, Search Engine Land and Wired are all reporting that Google is being forced to turn over every record of every single video watched by You Tube users!

As Search Engine Land’s blog post title read, “WTF! US Court Declares You Have No Privacy On YouTube”

Wired reports:

Google will have to turn over every record of every video watched by YouTube users, including users' names and IP addresses, to Viacom, which is suing Google for allowing clips of its copyright videos to appear on YouTube, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Yeah! WTF, indeed!

Click on the links above to read the respective posts and article.

Then write anyone and everyone to express your absolute horror that big corporations can get important data about your online viewing habits this easily.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

How To Turn A Hot Chick Into A Geek

From doubleviking.com, a self described men's entertainment website. They have a post about how to get a hot chick to become a geek, thus securing yourself a lifetime of envy from your friends. Not only will she be hot, but she replaces "Frak!" for that other word.

I found this on my Twitter feed from Digg, from which I then hit the Blog It tab an voila! instant blog post for today. Life couldn't be easier (or more lazy) than this. No wonder mainstream media hates us.

By the way, this post describes the exact way I got my wife to marry me.

From the site:

Getting a hot chick to go out with you is a difficult thing and countless books, websites and TV shows have covered the topic. So let's say you follow the advice to the letter and, shockingly, it works. Now you're a geek going out with a super hot chick and the two of you have absolutely zero in common. Let's change that, let's turn her into a Geek...

read more | digg story