September 25th, 2005



We Have To Take A Stand And Say NO To The Forces Of Darkness

Friday night, CBS and Chevrolet decided to distract audiences during Threshold and perhaps NUMB3RS by embedding the new Chevy Impala logo into screens and background for the purposes of a contest. What is infuriating to me is that I like what CBS has been doing to their TV offerings and I've not only owned nothing but Chevy vehicles, I've actually had two excellent car rental experiences with recent Chevy Impalas -- and were I to actually buy a car, the Impala is one of the few I would consider. And then they have to mess directly with the integrity of my SF shows. Especially one like Threshold where searching for a particular fractal pattern on every computer and TV screen is "important" to the story. I hate begin manipulated. And distracted.

Has it come to this? For the past several years we have been subjected to intrusions on the periphery of our TV screens. At first it was just semi-transparent network and station logos floated into the corners. Okay, that's reasonable. Especially in an era of all these channels on cable, to say nothing of the presence of VCR and DVD recordings.

Then it was the weather. Sidescrolling tickers announcing severe weather alerts and such are no longer good enough. We now have to have mini-maps of the affected regions and they're getting bigger and bigger.

Next came the intrusive announcements for other shows. Little pictures, logos and times weren't annoying enough, so we started to have announcement "packages" which had to unfold, display and fold back up again, as if we wanted to watch Law & Order solely to see some damned animation for something irrelevant like Fear Factor. Finally, even as these displays have gotten bigger, they had to include sound during the show or movie. I seem to recall one a few months back that had a helicopter flying, hover and rumble, then fly off. Twice I couldn't hear the dialogue from the unimportant drama I actually wanted to watch. And you can forget trying to read credits or subtitles.

To be a successful ad, you have to remember what its for -- not that it was intrusive. For the most part, we aren't interested in the other shows they want to flog. And now, with the magic Impala logo, we're beginning to see a more intrusive product placement. What, dear God, is going to prevent the networks from rolling intrusive commercials during the programs?

This is a very, very, very bad precedent and needs to be nipped in the bud. Bad enough that I get "commercials" with my beloved movie previews before movies in both the movie theatre and DVDs.

The Interference Continues

And then in the NUMB3RS Season Premiere, a crucial bit of info was half obscured during the opening by the TV ratings logo. Don't they test these things? Doesn't CBS check to see what it is/will be broadcasting? It's not like the ratings logos were only invented last week.


It's like the original pan-and-scan VHS version of George Lucas' THX-1138, where one whole visual joke was lost because, though we saw the legend on the console which said something about NUMBER OF (robo) OFFICERS IN SERVICE, the actual number was clipped from the left of the shot.


Dr. Phil Giveth Praise And He Taketh Away

I am particularly frustrated because just the other day I was saying such nice things about CBS and their Friday night lineup of genre-ish shows. But screw around with the screen image I'm watching and I'm not so forgiving. I trust CBS to show the show, not implant false advertising/contest images.

CBS is now on my Rant Watch List

"For the world is hollow and I have touched the sky..."

The Truman Show was running on TNT during Saturday evening. One of those "we're running this over and over again" scheduling deals. Hadn't planned on watching it -- hadn't even noticed it in the schedule. But I ran across the ending as I flipped channels around. Then ran across it again on another run-through and watched more of it. I am not a huge Jim Carey fan, but when he's serious, as in The Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he can be very good. Emma Thompson, who started out doing comedy, has observed that comedians understand timing -- and that it is easier for a comedian to do serious drama, than for a dramatic actor to do comedy.

Dr. Phil
  • Current Mood
    angry angry

Katrita Blows

When writing science fiction which has connections to our own culture and history, as opposed to imaginary places and races divorced from Earth, I am forever worried about the bolts out of the blue which one cannot anticipate. Strange, because it is so-ooo naive to think one's work should never be rendered obsolete by something as small as, like, oh, history? But I think Asimov got the concept right in Foundation -- individual events cannot be predicted, only aggregate trends. So one sets a story in 2012 and mentions the World Trade Center. Except... Or search for a hurricane name for 2027 and call it "Katrina". Except...

Until the end of August, we had no inkling of a hurricane named Katrina... or Rita. FEMA was an agency which came to the aid of those going through natural disasters. New Orleans showed up on the radar screens a couple of times of year, including college football bowl season, New Year's and Mardi Gras -- if your professional organization wasn't heading there for a national convention, that is. Three dollar a gallon gasoline would only occur in a financial meltdown. While someone in charge thought for the last couple of years that the best use of our National Guard troops was halfway around the globe from their respective states.

And only a crazy person would suggest that in a span of three-and-a-half weeks, we'd have two Gulf hurricanes which showed up on a chart as two of the five strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. Yikes.

Hurricane Rita Has Certainly Played A Cagey Game

Rita blew up to a Category 5 storm faster than Katrina, grew to fill most of the Gulf of Mexico, but coyly wasn't making its intentions clear for a long time. Still had a Cat 3 rating when the eyewall hit land -- right near the Texas-Louisiana border where a minimal number of people live. Direct storm didn't destroy Galveston or even hit New Orleans as bad as it could've, except that the levies so recently repaired failed, flooding the 9th Ward which had just been pumped "dry". No doubt we'll hear some sort of story in the next few weeks about the environmental damage to the great marshes. Meanwhile, Rita's been less of a villain than Katrina. Together, though, "Katrita" has been quite the one-two sucker punch to underbelly of America.

The call for evacuation went out early this time -- and left the roads clogged. Too long a delay before contraflow initiated, meant gas tanks and gas stations went dry. One city had a five-year-old contract for bus and ambulance service to help evacuate, only to have someone (FEMA?) commandeer the vehicles for bigger city evacuations. Boy, sometimes you can't win for losing...


It is unreasonable to expect either minimal damage from such savage storms or perfect performance from everyone pre- or post-event. But you know that the microscope is going to be on your ass during Rita following Katrina... will the bloodletting be capricious and arbitrary? Or will just those too stupid to learn in two weeks be hauled up on the damp carpet?

It sounds like we were singularly lucky with Rita and singularly unlucky with Katrina. I hate having to depend on "luck". In classical physics, we have a very deterministic view of the universe. In modern physics, probability becomes such an issue that Einstein grew frustrated enough to utter his "God does not play dice" quote. Probabilities aren't the same as gambling & luck, though, because there's no definition of "winning" and "losing." Those are human responses -- in this case the weather doesn't care.

Dr. Phil
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful

Little Joys

Just Received My Author's Copy Of The Anthology

Cris DiMarco, editor of Northwest Passages, writes of selecting twenty-five stories from over nine hundred submissions, covering a range from fantasy to hard science fiction:

With those stories at either end of the spectrum, so to speak, I looked for work to flow between the myth and the science. Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon's lovely "The Pulse of the Sea," ... are examples of these "bridge" stories whose ideas incorporate both science and uniquely human experiences such as faith, hope and loss.

Gee, that sounds nice. (grin) I can get used to see my words showing up printed on bound pages...

To All Ap-pear-ances

I believe I mentioned the other day that pear season had arrived, just before we start getting serious about the fall apples in Michigan -- and that I don't like shopping for pears, because I am too often disappointed.

Well, it turns out I can have pears without having to shop for them. My father-in-law appearantly (sic) wanted to send a belated birthday present, so ordered one of the Harry & David gift stacks which arrived safely on Friday. It included two pair of pears (grin) well protected in their foam-lined packaging. Harry & David is one of those institutions which I have a love-hate relationship with. Fanatical devotion to quality means you get great, but no doubt overpriced, fruit from the Pacific Northwest -- which growing up in the Niagara Fruit Belt in Western New York State and now living along the similar moraines of the Fruit Ridges of Michigan means that they are "from the enemy". ("pear" of grins) Actually, I noted that the box was pre-printed with a note saying the apples were from Washington state and the pears from Oregon -- except a sticker overlaid informed that the apples were from New Zealand. Don't you just love the global marketplace? Probably reasonable giving the order/shipping date just before the prime Washington state apples have arrived -- thank goodness!

Anyway... I just had one of the pears with my lunch and it was bloody wonderful -- everything one wanted in a pear, without a bitter aftertaste from the skin. (sigh) (yum-mmm)

Dr. Phil
  • Current Mood
    satisfied tasty!