Archive for the 'television' Category

Craig Newmark on Fact Checking

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I enjoyed this item that Craig Newmark (the Craigslist guy) posted to his site recently: Fact-checkers are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. I particularly liked it because it called my attention to the full version of Chris Wallace’s interview of Jon Stewart that happened a while back. Making this version particularly interesting is that it’s the full interview, with a dimming/brightening effect used to show which parts were edited out or included when the interview aired on Fox. (Not trying to suggest that there was anything particularly nefarious or dishonest in the editing process. I just think it’s an interesting layer on top of the already-interesting discussion.)

Anyway, here’s part one:

And here’s part two:

The Other (Other) L-Word

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I thought this was cute: Cable news coverage, as summarized by TPM, in which newsfolk try terribly, terribly hard not to say, of Paul Ryan’s convention speech last night, “He lied.”

Olympics Opening Ceremony #nbcfail

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

I’m not sure what bugs me most: That NBC had commentators talking over many of the best parts of Danny Boyle’s Olympics opening ceremony; that they cut out what looks like it was, in some ways, the most moving part of it (see Here’s The Opening Ceremony Tribute To Terrorism Victims NBC Doesn’t Want You To See); or that they replaced the 7/7 victims tribute with a Ryan Seacrest interview.

I could really do without Ryan Seacrest interviews, generally.

Also #nbcfail-worthy: Making a joke out of Tim Berners-Lee’s obscurity.

I look forward very much to being able to view a version of the opening ceremonies that has those mistakes corrected. By which I mean, a version that just gives me the audio and video feed as it was intended to be seen, without added inanity.

Why Don’t I Hate Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’?

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

The response to Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series The Newsroom has been, as they say, “mixed.” I knew that going in, and yet, I’ve kinda liked it. I see the things that the haters are complaining about, and yeah, I guess they bother me a bit. But I find myself really enjoying the show anyway.

Here are some people who have panned the show:

Here, on the other hand, are some people who enjoyed the show:

Among the people who hate it are several of whom I think pretty highly. In particular, Emily Nussbaum, whose anti-Sorkin views were published in the New Yorker, earned my undying affection when she wrote a love note to back in the days of the Winona Ryder trial. So when I called this post, Why Don’t I Hate Sorkin’s ‘The Newsroom’? I really did mean it as a question. It wasn’t Why I Don’t Hate…

So, why don’t I hate it? I’ve come up with a few theories:

  • I never watched The West Wing, or Sports Night, or any other Sorkin TV shows, so for me the rapid patter and walk-and-talk and smart-sounding people speaking wittily and earnestly to each other haven’t gotten old. Many of those criticizing The Newsroom accuse Sorkin of self-plagiarism; since I don’t know the original material he’s cribbing from, it doesn’t bother me.
  • The sexism and assorted other insensitivities Sorkin is being accused of have tended to go over my head, since (like him) I’m a white, privileged, hetero male. If I were viewing the female characters on the show as stand-ins for myself, rather than as potential romantic interests who (according to detractors) exist mainly to be comically inept, then gaze admiringly at the show’s male characters with tears in their eyes, it probably would bother me more.
  • I’m not a journalist, so I’m less sensitive to the ridiculousness of the over-the-top fantasy Sorkin has constructed. For viewers who are actual journalists, having his characters re-enact recent-past news stories, honing in with preternatural skill on the precise truth that took days to uncover in the real world, comes off as being either laughably unrealistic or insulting or both. But for me it’s not such a big deal. I get that it’s a fantasy, and a morality play, and Sorkin at times is revealing the limits of his own knowledge, in the same way The Social Network (which I did see) occasionally felt like a caricature, given my experience at Internet startups. But I enjoyed it anyway, because the human story was interesting, even if the setting sometimes felt less than completely real.

Reality is great. I love a nice, realistic portrayal on screen. But I also can enjoy a more stylized presentation. I’m a sucker for a big emotional arc, and can forgive a certain corniness in pursuit of it. In his interview with Terry Gross, Sorkin talked about that when Gross asked him about his time in rehab:

SORKIN: …as you mentioned, I got to this place, and there are these, as I call them, fortune cookie sayings on the wall like one day at a time, and, of course, the 12 steps, and that kind of thing. I’m not susceptible to that kind of thing. I have a much narrower mind than I ought to. But it was just going to be 28 days of penance.

What I wanted to be was a, you know, a good patient. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I didn’t want to have to stay extra days. I was going to do whatever they told me to do and do it well so I got out in time. But maybe 10 or 11 days into it, I just really started liking it, and it was really working, and I was just getting it.

And by my 27th of my 28 days, I was saying to my counselor: Are you sure it’s OK for me to go home? I can stay longer, if you want. And he told me to get out.

GROSS: But I’m kind of interested in, like, OK, so you don’t believe in fortune cookie sayings. You’re not susceptible to that stuff, but things like one day at a time took on a meaning for you. Did you learn anything as a writer about that, that things you might dismiss as being cliche, corny, a bromide can actually have meaning, have value?

SORKIN: Yeah. And I think that I – I think that that’s present in so many things that I write, that I will – I mean, I write corny, you know? But I feel like if you can execute corny well enough, you can still strike a chord in people. You’re taking a big swing at the ball. You’re swinging for the fences. So if you miss, you’re going to look bad missing, you know. And a lot of what I write about could be considered fortune-cookie wisdom.

The corny stuff in The Newsroom mostly works for me. For example, I really liked the “Fix You” montage at the end of episode 4. The emotion they went for in that sequence took a big risk. On some level, sure, it felt weird watching Will fist-pumping and exultantly shouting the F-word during coverage of a mass shooting (a queasiness that is even stronger in the aftermath of the Aurora killings). But it worked, at least for me.

The Newsroom often feels like a guilty pleasure, like a show that’s right on the edge of jumping the shark even though it’s only four episodes in. The love triangle between Maggie, Don, and Jim, for example, is so thoroughly evocative of Pam-Roy-Jim from The Office that I can’t help but think it’s intentional. (As does Rainn Wilson, apparently.) The Office didn’t invent that storyline, I realize, but there’s so much about The Newsroom’s version that is so close to it (the way Maggie and Jim are styled to look so much like Pam and Jim; the similarity of the name Jim Harper to Jim Halpert; the almost shot-for-shot fidelity to the earlier show in the sequence when Jim was walking over to comfort the sad Maggie, only to have Don swoop into the shot ahead of him, leaving us to watch Jim watching Don and Maggie in each other’s arms) that I could see myself almost writing it off as too cynical and manipulative to be valid.

Almost. But so far, that feeling hasn’t been able to overcome the crush I’ve had on Alison Pill since Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. If a show is going to give me Kim Pine finally having a chance to get the guy, I’m there. Just don’t make me wait too long for the proposal in the rain at the roadside rest stop.

For a more age-appropriate romance for this 50-year-old viewer, I’m also there for the Will/Mackenzie storyline. Like with Maggie/Kim/Pam, I think on some level I’m sucked into wanting to see the “perfect girl” from Notting Hill (another guilty pleasure) finally have her chance.

Anyway, my wife won’t let me talk about The Newsroom anymore, so I gushed here. You might hate it, you might like it, or there might be some of each. If you’ve seen it, I’m curious what you think.

Picard’s ‘Measure of a Man’ Speech

Friday, March 16th, 2012

A comment by shcb made me remember this scene, and it makes for a nice comparison with Valorie Curry’s Kara performance I posted a few days ago. From writer Melinda M. Snodgrass, as delivered by Patrick Stewart:

Valorie Curry’s Kara

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I avoid running stuff straight from Boing Boing, since I figure you’ve already seen it (just like I used to avoid running stuff from Slashdot, before I got tired of wading through the junk and stopped following them myself). But I’ll make an exception for this one, since it’s so cool:

One of the most impressive things about Avatar, for me at least, was Zoe Saldana’s acting. And maybe the technology of live rendering on a PS3 doesn’t allow for quite the same level of realism for Valorie Curry’s Kara, but it’s a powerful performance.

AMPAS sure better figure out how to start bestowing some acting Oscars on actors whose bodies aren’t actually visible on-screen. Acting has always been about making the unreal believable, and whether it’s John Hurt as The Elephant Man or Andy Serkis as a chimpanzee, it doesn’t matter whether you see their actual skin as long as the performance works. Motion capture clearly has reached the point where that can happen.

From Martin Robinson’s article at (Introducing Quantic Dreams’ Kara):

“In the past I was the main actor,” says [Quantic Dream CEO David] Cage. “In Fahrenheit I was Lucas Kane – I did the motion capture myself, but I’m not a very good actor. In Heavy Rain the quality in what we were trying made that impossible. We needed real actors, because we needed people with talent because the technology’s reached the point where you can tell if someone’s an actor and someone’s not an actor.

“In Heavy Rain that was definitely the case. In Kara, you can’t imagine the same scene having the same impact as someone who’s not a talented actor. Technology becomes more precise and detailed and gives you more subtleties, so you need talent now. I’m not talking about getting a name in your game – I’m talking about getting talent in your game to improve the experience and get emotion in your game.”

I didn’t realize at first why this scene looked so familiar, but Robinson’s article pointed out the obvious connection to Chris Cunningham’s video for the coolest woman on the planet:

Oh, and speaking of cool young women, and Avatar, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pass on this clip, called to my attention by yet another extremely cool young woman (and depicting still yet another):

Untitled from rachaelwsz on Vimeo.


Update: Since Nickelodeon has seen fit to yank the Korra video, I’ll make it up to you with this: David Cage of Quantic Dreams talking about the making of the Kara demo:

Garbage In…

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

I have to confess, taking a deep dive into the comment sections of some conservative blogs over the last few days as part of following the Heartland story has been educational, if fairly off-putting. It brings home to me something I already knew, but had tended to wall off from my day-to-day existence: The more-rabid parts of the conservative blogosphere are a pretty horrific place. I’m sure the rabid lefties are bad, too, but man, it’s ugly out there.

I realize it’s not just the blogs; this is a phenomenon that cuts across all media. Case in point: Fox News, where the willingness to just outright lie without shame is fairly striking. Take this example: Fox News apparently ran a segment about how rising gas prices represent a political problem for Obama. They wanted to illustrate the segment with a chart of gas prices, so they consulted the dataset represented by the following graph:

Gas prices are certainly rising, but the visual impact of the image, with last year’s bump prominently above the current price, wasn’t quite punchy enough for them. No problem: They just cherry-picked their way around the troublesome datapoints, and displayed the information via this graph:

There you go; much better. Also, completely misleading. More at Media Matters: Fox Still Struggling With Basic Chart Concepts: Gas Price Edition.

Given the tendency of modern Republicans to trust and obtain their information only from Fox, is it any wonder that their view of things like climate science is completely FUBAR?

Oh, while we’re on the topic of gas prices, Stuart Staniford’s take on this is informative. See: Life on the Plateau.

I can confidently predict that any resulting political debate will have very little to do with the actual causes – the plateauing of global crude oil production since 2005. But none the less the story does vindicate those of us who’ve been saying for a number of years that this would be an effect of the plateau – whenever the economy starts to improve – as it has in the last quarter – oil prices would have a tendency to increase and start to choke off the improvement.

In particular, this means that future growth in the US economy is highly contingent on it becoming more oil efficient.

Reading Staniford is like a breath of fresh — depressing, but fresh — air after being down in the fever swamp for a few days. God, I’m glad I spend most of my time in the reality-based community.

The Great Media Conspiracy

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Speaking of alleged scientific conspiracies, I came across a cool item yesterday: A recent study published by the British Journal of Social Psychology: Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire. Here’s the abstract:

We advance a new account of why people endorse conspiracy theories, arguing that individuals use the social-cognitive tool of projection when making social judgements about others. In two studies, we found that individuals were more likely to endorse conspiracy theories if they thought they would be willing, personally, to participate in the alleged conspiracies. Study 1 established an association between conspiracy beliefs and personal willingness to conspire, which fully mediated a relationship between Machiavellianism and conspiracy beliefs. In Study 2, participants primed with their own morality were less inclined than controls to endorse conspiracy theories – a finding fully mediated by personal willingness to conspire. These results suggest that some people think ‘they conspired’ because they think ‘I would conspire’.

I wonder if this is a factor in things like the Republican propensity to argue that we need poll restrictions (that just happen to benefit Republicans) because of voter fraud (that turns out not to exist), whilst the cases of actual voter fraud that turn up frequently involve Republicans rigging the game for their own benefit. In other words, they may be inclined to believe there is a Democratic conspiracy to cheat them at the polls precisely because they know that they themselves are willing to cheat.

I suspect this is a factor in the Great Media Conspiracy as well. You probably heard about that recent poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP) that gauged respondents’ trust vs. distrust of different media outlets. Kevin Drum ran a nifty chart last week that highlighted a key part of the results: that Republicans tend to trust Fox News and distrust every other media outlet, while Democrats and Independents believe the opposite, that media outlets are generally trustworthy except for Fox. I liked Kevin’s chart, but I wanted to see the Democrat and Independent numbers in the same format, so I made my own version:

The numbers show, for each media outlet and party affiliation, the percentage of respondents who trust that source minus the percentage who distrust that source. I’ve arranged them in descending order of Independent-voter trust. There are a few interesting things that strike me about this:

  • Independents really like PBS. Apparently Jim Lehrer’s reassuring drone really works for them.
  • Most Republicans these days apparently buy into the grand conspiracy theory of Sarah Palin’s “Lamestream Media”: It’s not just that a particular media outlet is biased against them; it’s all of them (except Fox).

All of which brings me back to that study I was talking about at the beginning: I wonder if Republicans are willing to believe that all those different media outlets, with their hundreds of nominally independent reporters and editors and producers, are engaged in a colossal conspiracy against them, mainly because Republicans themselves (or at least, the people who run their preferred media outlet) are so clearly willing to twist the truth in the service of ideology.

Drum on Standing Up to Glenn Beck

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Reading this made me think of J.A.Y.S.O.N., whom I believe has a dad who consumes a fair amount of Fox News: Standing Up To Glenn Beck.

I know this is whistling into the wind, but it’s long past time for the adults in the Republican Party to speak up about this. Glenn Beck is the Father Coughlin and the Robert Welch of his generation rolled into one, and his brand of noxious conspiracy theorizing isn’t something to be tolerated just because it produces a few useful idiots. It’s time for this to end.

Boehlert on Anonymous Insider on Fox News

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

I am shocked — shocked — to find out there is gambling going on in here! FOX NEWS INSIDER: “Stuff Is Just Made Up”

CNN’s Abbie Boudreau on James O’Keefe’s Would-Be Pickup

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

James O’Keefe comes off as quite the putz in this write-up by Abbie Boudreau of O’Keefe’s would-be video sting operation, in which he would have “seduced” her in his floating “pleasure palace”: Our Documentary Takes A Strange Detour.


Given my recent series of posts about telegenic blondes, I especially liked this observation by Boudreau:

They don’t know anything about my work ethic – my history – my dedication and commitment – and my love for reporting. They just saw my blonde hair. And the ironic thing is that I’m really a brunette.

Colbert Testifies Before Congress

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Stephen Colbert testified before Congress today. In character:

I feel like we’ve crossed some sort of boundary here, and I’m not sure I’m completely happy about it. But then, I kind of am (completely happy about it).

I especially liked the way the guy in the gallery just left of Colbert’s head never cracked a smile. I’m curious what that guy thinks about what he just saw.

Colbert got a little more serious in response to questions. (Interesting how for him, “getting more serious” means “smiles and loosens up”, since his character is normally so bombastic.) Here he is giving his take as a committed Christian (which I understand the real Colbert actually is) on why he chose to speak out on this issue in particular:

HuffPo’s Craw on O’Reilly vs. Coburn

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Ben Craw at the Huffington Post has some fun video of Bill 0’Reilly taking Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to task for telling a town hall audience that they shouldn’t believe everything they hear on Fox News. In particular, Coburn told the town hall they shouldn’t believe it when Fox tells them that Obama wants to put them in jail for failing to buy health insurance. “We researched to find out if anybody on Fox News had ever said you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance,” said O’Reilly. “Nobody’s ever said it.”

I bet you know where this is going. Roll the tape!

Seeing Is Believing, Part 3

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Continuing the series of posts containing videos that are (not) real, here’s Leo LaPorte interviewing Craig Allen and Eric Kallman of Wieden + Kennedy about the making of the Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, which aired during the Super Bowl.

The bottom line, for those who don’t want to watch the video: It’s real. It’s all one take (albeit, take fifty-six on day three of shooting), and with two exceptions, it’s all “practical” effects — no computers, no in-camera trickery.

The two exceptions are this: The part where the tickets in his hand turn into diamonds, then into a bottle of Old Spice, was composited in. And the mechanism they used to move him onto the horse was painted out in the final wide shot. Everything else — the bathroom, the boat, and (yes) the horse — was real. If you were on the set, it would have looked just like what you see in the commerical.

With the possible exception of the Saints’ come-from-behind win and the way the game was still on the line in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, this was my favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday. Of course, effects notwithstanding, it’s mostly actor Isaiah Mustafa’s delivery that makes it work. Christie D’Zurilla, writing in the LA Times’ Ministry of Gossip blog (It’s the guy in the Old Spice commercial: Isaiah Mustafa), says:

The Old Spice body wash audition was like any other except …

… the night before, he called a college buddy, quarterback Jake Plummer, most recently of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, to shoot the breeze. Jake wasn’t home, but Jake’s answering machine was — so Isaiah, schooled in improvisation, did an over-the-top mini performance of the script he had in hand…

“I just did it for him, and I did it extra big, and then when I hung up, I thought, ‘Maybe I should try it that way and see if they like it.’ ”

They did.

Good stuff. And real!

Here’s just the commercial, if you’d prefer your Isaiah Mustafa with no Leo LaPorte:

Update: Heh. From reddit user seraphseven:

Hello voters! Look at your rep, now back to me. Now back to your rep, now back to me! Sadly, he isn’t me. But if he stopped voting with his head up his ass, and switched to the Democratic Party, he could vote like he’s me. Look down — back up. Where are you? You’re at a rally, with the pol your rep could vote like. What’s in your hand? — back at me. I have it! It’s a bill, with appropriations for that thing you need. Look again — the appropriations are now health care. Anything is possible when your representative votes like a Democrat and not a lady. I’m on a horse.

Stargate Studios’ Chromakey Reel

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Just a small reminder: Seeing is believing. Except when it isn’t.

Romm’s Illustrated Guide

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

From Joe Romm: An illustrated guide to the latest climate science.

Annual global temperature anomaly

It has lots of neat graphs for those who want pretty pictures, and links you can follow to the actual science for those who want to chew on the details. (You’ll need to click twice, since the first link in most cases is to an earlier item where he summarized a particular study. But from there you can find links to the original papers, some of which are behind paywalls.) The thing I like most about it is how it demonstrates that there are many different reinforcing lines of evidence that the globe is warming. The evidence doesn’t consist of a handful of cherrypicked stolen emails containing intemperate language, or a few carefully selected assertions from a lengthy UN report. It is a whole body of actual science, published in reputable journals, representing research by hundreds of different teams approaching the problem from different directions, using different techniques, all arriving at a similar conclusion. That’s what an actual scientific consensus looks like, and when you ignore it, you put yourself in the same category as toddlers who believe they can wish some unpleasant fact away, that they can cover their eyes and thereby make it so no one else can see them.

We live in a free society, in which people get to speak their minds regardless of the care they have taken in arriving at their conclusions. But free speech isn’t free. As a society we pay what I’ve come to think of as a “bullshit tax” every time someone who is demonstrably wrong publicly proclaims their demonstrably wrong views. When a Fox News anchor crows, “Here’s your 24 inches of global warming, Al Gore!”, we as a society pay a price. When a commenter on a blog constructs an argument that follows some esoteric detail down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole and eventually proclaims, “See? That’s why I don’t believe the science,” we pay a price.

Tea Party activists aren’t the only outraged taxpayers. I’m outraged that we as a society are paying this bullshit tax. I don’t want to do away with free speech, but I am deeply resentful of those who use their freedom to impose this tax on the rest of us.

Rosen’s Simple Fix for Sunday TV

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Jay Rosen thinks the Sunday politics shows on TV could be improved: My Simple Fix for the Messed Up Sunday Shows:

The beauty of this idea is that it turns the biggest weakness of political television–the fact that time is expensive, and so complicated distortions, or simple distortions about complicated matters, are rational tactics for advantage-seeking pols–into a kind of strength.  The format beckons them to evade, deny, elide, demagogue and confuse…. but then they pay for it later if they give into temptation and make that choice.  So imagine the midweek fact check from last week as a short segment wrapping up the show the following week. Now you have an incentive system that’s at least pointed in the right direction.

This assumes, of course, that the Sunday chat shows are interested in fostering truth for its own sake. I get the feeling that news divisions at the networks have been moving in a different direction for a while now. But maybe calling people on their B.S. would be good for some ratings?

I actually don’t think more than a handful of people actually watch those shows. But since that handful includes lots of bloggers and politicians, maybe putting Rosen’s truth incentive in place would still have some sort of impact, at least among bloggers and/or politicians?

Dobbs/Stewart in 2012!

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

The part they aired on TV was pretty good, but I really liked the Internet-only portion of the Lou Dobbs interview on The Daily Show. It pains me to say it, but I don’t think Jon scored any better than a draw on this one. But regardless of winners and losers, there were some real nice moments.

Part 1:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Part 2:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Part 3:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive – Lou Dobbs Extended Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Jon Leaves It There

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Oops; I almost forgot my pledge to make consist of nothing but reposted videos. Here you go: The Daily Show fact-checks CNN’s fact-checking operation:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

Shawn Johnson, R.I.P.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

I know it’s kind of sick, but I did laugh at this:

As usual with the Onion, it’s not just the idea. It’s how they follow through on it.