Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why streaming video beats DVDs

The other day my daughter wanted to watch a Disney movie on DVD. So I popped the disc into the DVD player, waited for it to boot up, then navigated through screen after screen of commercials, previews and FBI warnings before getting to the main menu.
It was a frustrating experience. And one I’ve been through hundreds of times before.
All I wanted to do was hit play and for the movie to start. But Hollywood studios see home video as another opportunity to sell stuff.
That’s why the experience of streaming online video, such as Netflix, is so much better. You find the movie you want, press play and the movie starts. It’s that simple.
The stark comparison reminded me of an infographic I saw a while back about why people prefer pirated movies to authorized movies on DVD. (See article on BoingBoing.) With the pirated version, you get to skip all the filler before the movie starts.
So I took that graphic and edited it to compare streaming vs. DVDs. (Click on the image above for a larger view.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The scourge of online incivility

Many people say things online that they would never say to others in person. Check out message boards and comment sections on news articles to see what I mean.
They’re often filed with insults, profanity and hate speech.
Where is the intelligent discourse, the fruitful exchange of ideas and common courtesy?
The Internet has given millions the chance to interact around the world. But often what shines through is how rude and mean some people are.
It reminds me of a great comic by Tom Tomorrow called “If Real Life Were More Like The Internet” from his This Modern World series on Salon. (See above. Click on image for full-size view.)
Tech analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates in January took Yahoo to task for not policing the comments on its news articles. He described many of the comments as “odious.”
In a follow-up article, Kay noted that Yahoo had closed the comments section on a news story about the sexual assault of CBS correspondent Lara Logan in Egypt. In a later article, he noted more progress by Yahoo in managing its comments sections.
That’s good news.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zero tolerance for offensive comments online

In the Internet age, if you say something that offends people, an apology won’t suffice. The offended parties will want you fired from your job, forced to drop out of school or tarred and feathered.
In the days before social media and around-the-clock news cycles, if someone said something offensive in public they could apologize, take sensitivity training or other corrective action. They’d have a chance to redeem themselves.
In Internet time, people want blood. They want dramatic action - Now.
Twitter, YouTube, blogs and news comment sections often carry offensive comments, untruths, profanity-laced invectives and other unpleasant dialogue. In the case of comments on articles and videos, they’re usually anonymous.
In the free marketplace of ideas, people have to be willing to permit speech that they disagree with. The thinking is that even disliked opinions can contain kernels of truth or convey widely held beliefs that need to be discussed. That’s a tenet of the First Amendment. Of course, there are legal limits to free speech.
And online news services and Web portals can edit their discussion areas to remove hate speech, insults and other base comments.
But what about gray areas like attempts at humor that go wrong or ignorant statements posted online by clueless people?
The same tolerance that allows free speech should apply to giving people who say something offensive the chance to do right. If they do so, we all should move on and not dwell on it.
However, that doesn’t seem to be happening now.
On March 9, an employee with a social media agency accidently posted a message to Chrysler’s Twitter account that he meant for his personal account. It contained the F word.
He apologized for the tweet, but Chrysler fired the agency, costing 20 people their jobs.
The tweet read, “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”
Also this month, UCLA student Alexandra Wallace posted a 3-minute video blog to YouTube where she tried to poke fun at Asian students who talk loudly on cell phones at the library. She apologized, but was forced to withdraw from the college because of death threats and harassment.
I think we all need to be more forgiving in cases like these.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Charlie Sheen parodied in porn movie – What took so long?

Actor Charlie Sheen has had a longtime affection for porn starlets. So I’m surprised it took this long for “Silicone Valley” to make a parody of his life.
“Charlie Shein’s Vegas Pornstar Party,” released March 22, was in production before the troubled actor’s latest meltdown, which got him fired from his CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.” But the filmmakers had a lot of material to work with. Sheen has been tabloid fodder for some time for his wild parties with porn actresses and all-around strange behavior.
“Charlie Shein’s Vegas Pornstar Party” follows the Feb. 24 release of “Not Charlie Sheem’s House of Whores XXX,” a compilation of sex scenes with adult actresses with whom Sheen has reportedly had relations. “Vegas Pornstar Party” comes with a similar compilation called “Charlie’s Girls.”
Sheen is the latest public figure to be pilloried in a porn parody. I keep a running list of porn movies based on real-life events or public figures on Flickr. I’ve documented at least 58 such movies to date.
Up next are porn parodies of singer-actress Jennifer Lopez, the Beatles, the Rat Pack and martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New logo for Tech-media-tainment

After nearly two-and-a-half years, Tech-media-tainment is finally getting a logo.
Since the start I’ve used the generic text header provided by Google’s Blogger platform. But I recently decided the website could use some sprucing up.
So I hired some high-priced consultants and an expensive graphic design firm, right? Of course not. I came up with the art myself.
Well, you get what you pay for.
My challenge was coming up with art that captured the themes of my blog: things like technology, entertainment and popular culture.
I eventually decided to alter a photo of the Chicago skyline (my hometown) to make it look like it was made of colorful Lego blocks. I used an Apple iPhone app called Lego Photo by the Lego Group.
Like artist Shepard Fairey and his Barack Obama “Hope” poster, I took someone else’s online photo and made it my own through art. I believe it’s a fair use application. At least my source material isn’t as recognizable as the AP photo Fairey used.
The typeface I used in the header is Comic Sans MS, a popular font with a lot of detractors. (See WSJ article and Wikipedia article.) But it was the one that worked best with the Lego background and the themes of my blog.
Sorry, font snobs.

March 24, 2011, update: I've just posted logo 2.0 for Tech-media-tainment. The first one had too much yellow and was giving me a headache. I'm all about trial and error.

Photos: Alternate Lego-style picture of the Chicago skyline (top) and what Tech-media-tainment used to look like.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Public domain favorites a safe bet for Hollywood

Hollywood likes to market movies that have pre-sold audiences, which is why you see so many remakes and sequels coming out of Tinsel Town these days.
It’s also why Hollywood dips into free-to-use works in the public domain for inspiration. With tens of millions of dollars at stake, Hollywood studios want to minimize their risks. So they make movies based on TV shows, comic books, toys, theme park rides and now even popular board games like “Battleship” and “Monopoly.”
Director James Cameron (“Avatar” and “Titanic”) recently decried this trend in an interview.
“Everyone in Hollywood knows how important it is that a film is a brand before it hit theaters,” Cameron said, according to Movieline. That’s OK for Spider-Man or Harry Potter, but the supposed franchises are getting ridiculous, he said. “We have a story crisis. Now they want to make the Battleship game into a film.”
GeekTyrant made a similar argument bemoaning the fact that Universal wouldn’t green-light a daring movie based on H.P. Lovecraft’s horror novella “At the Mountains of Madness,” but wants to make another movie based on the video game “Doom.” (Also see EW story.)
GQ hit a lot of these same points in its article “The Day the Movies Died.”
Media companies see public domain works as a safe bet because they are easily recognizable properties. Even if they use only the title and basic story as a starting point to creating an entirely new work, they’re still benefiting from the free-to-use public domain property. Recent examples include “Gnomeo & Juliet” (loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”), “Beastly” (based on “Beauty and the Beast”) and “Red Riding Hood” (inspired by the traditional folktale “Little Red Riding Hood”).
Here are some more current examples:

‘Jane Eyre’

The latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel “Jane Eyre” (1847) stars Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) and Michael Fassbender (“Inglourious Basterds”). The movie opened in theaters Friday.
The 2011 film version of “Jane Eyre” joins at least 22 other movie and TV adaptations of the novel.
More adaptations of classic literature are on the way, including the works of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.

Shakespeare adaptations

Actor Ralph Fiennes makes his movie directorial debut with Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” the tragic tale of a Roman soldier. The film co-stars Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. It’s expected to be released in U.S. theaters in November. (See articles in EW and GeekTyrant.)
In pre-production now is a movie version of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” that will give the story a science-fiction thriller spin. Due out in 2012, the movie, called “Henry5,” is slated to star Michael Caine, Derek Jacobi, Ray Winstone, Vinnie Jones and Gerard Depardieu. (See GeekTyrant and IMDb.)

Dickens adaptations

Director Mike Newell is working on a big-screen version of the Dickens classic “Great Expectations.” It’s set for release in 2012, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney’s Marvel Entertainment is coming out with a comic book this spring that gives Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” a zombie twist, according to Agent M. The comic book is called “A Zombie Christmas Carol.”

‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’

Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 parody novel “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” which adds zombies to Jane Austen’s 1813 novel “Pride and Prejudice” is still in line for a movie adaptation. The last word was that director Craig Gillespie was circling the project, according to New York magazine.

To be continued.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lingerie Football League coming out with player trading cards

Among the factors that can push a fringe sport into mainstream popularity are: uniqueness, television coverage and star players. Add to that list another factor: player trading cards.
The Lingerie Football League floated the idea of LFL player trading cards today in a post on its Facebook page. It included the front of a sample card featuring Jennifer Bock, wide receiver for the San Diego Seduction. (See above.)
The LFL didn’t provide any details, except to say the cards were “coming soon,” according to the league’s MySpace page.
The Facebook post asked fans which LFL trading cards it would want the most, including rookie cards, All-Star Fantasy player cards and team sets. Also among the possibilities listed are "kiss" cards and uniform fabric swatch cards. This sounds similar to the trading cards sold by Bench Warmer, which feature models in bikinis or sports garb and gear.
I’m curious as to what kind of “stats” the back of the cards will have. Will it be game statistics or physical measurements?

Monday, March 7, 2011

10 interesting websites

The Web is full of fun, time-wasting diversions.
Here are a few that I’ve come across in my travels that I’ve enjoyed:

The Great Gatsby for NES

The literary classic “The Great Gatsby,” written by my cousin F. Scott Fitzgerald, is adapted as an 8-bit video game in the style of Nintendo NES. (See articles at The Creators Project and

Shit My Kids Ruined

As a parent, I can appreciate Shit My Kids Ruined, because my kids have ruined carpets, broken mirrors and glassware, and committed other acts of destruction. The photo website is the work of Julie Haas Brophy.

My Kid Is Gifted

My Kid Is Gifted is a website based on the fact that kids say the darnedest things.

The Nine Eyes of Google Street View

The Nine Eyes of Google Street View is a website by Jon Rafman that curates interesting photos taken by Google Street View cars.
The only flaw with the site is that it doesn’t say where in the world the photos were taken.

Hanzi Smatter

Hanzi Smatter is a website dedicated to pointing out the misuse of Chinese characters in Western culture, usually in bad tattoos.

Born This Way Blog

One of the rare websites selected by Google’s Blogs of Note that I think is truly notable. “Born This Way” Blog is a photo/essay project for gay adults to submit childhood pictures and stories (roughly ages 2 to 12), reflecting memories and early beginnings of their innate gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender selves.

Asians Sleeping in the Library

Asians Sleeping in the Library is an odd photo blog on Tumblr. The description reads, “They’re better at life and they get better grades than you for a reason. Pictures of Asian students from universities sleeping in the library and lecture halls.”


SolarBeat is a beautiful website that shows the relative speeds in which the planets and dwarf planets of our solar system obit the sun. For each solar year elapsed, the planets strike a note. The effect is like a music box.

The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator

The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator lampoons the author of so many best-selling business management books. The website is a hit-and-miss series of fake book covers, but Gladwell is ripe for satire.

Ransom Note Generator

Type some text in the Ransom Note Generator, hit enter and voila! you get what looks like a ransom note with cut-out letters from magazines.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Results from Tech-media-tainment’s first and last ad campaign

Last week, Tech-media-tainment ran its first, and presumably last, online advertising campaign.
It was made possible by $100 in free advertising from Google AdWords. With this play money, I got 49 clicks on my ad, which directed people to Tech-media-tainment.
My ad popped up in 47,869 search results, which Google calls “impressions.” But I doubt my text ad made much of an impression. Even when I asked a couple of people to search for my name in Google and tell me what they saw, they didn’t notice the ad on the right side of the page until I directed their attention to it.
On its own, Tech-media-tainment gets more than 14,000 visits a month. So another 49 doesn’t make much of a difference.
It might make sense for an online retailer or local businessman to run an ad campaign with Google AdWords, but not TMT.
Of course, I knew that going in.

Friday, March 4, 2011

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’, ‘Red Riding Hood’ show the value of public domain works

Hollywood studios have a love-hate relationship with the public domain.
They love to adapt literary and artistic works in the public domain because they’re free to use and have a built-in audience and recognition factor. At the same time, they hate the idea that any of their properties could fall into the public domain and be adapted by others.
So media conglomerates like the Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner continue to press governments for longer and longer terms for copyrighted works. This is wrong and needs to stop. Our culture is built on the ideas of others and the public domain needs to be refreshed with new works of art for others to create from.
I post articles regularly citing current examples of entertainment based on public domain works.
Here are the latest examples:

‘Gnomeo & Juliet’

“Gnomeo & Juliet” is very, very loosely based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” (1597). It’s an animated comedy featuring garden gnomes. It takes the young lovers and feuding families of Shakespeare’s tragedy and puts a family friendly, feel-good spin on it. By playing off the familiar literary title, “Gnomeo & Juliet” lets audiences know basic plot and that it has a sense of humor
Audiences seem to like it. The movie, distributed by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, raked in more than $76 million in U.S. theaters since opening Feb. 11.


“Beastly” is the latest retelling of the traditional fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” first published in 1740. This version is aimed at tween girls. It stars Alex Pettyfer as a New York teen transformed into a hideous monster because of his arrogance and must find true love to break the curse. It also stars Vanessa Hudgens and Mary-Kate Olsen. It opens today.

‘Red Riding Hood’

The traditional folktale “Little Red Riding Hood” is the springboard for a new movie about a werewolf starring Amanda Seyfried. It opens March 11. “Red Riding Hood” was directed by Catherine Hardwicke, who also directed “Twilight” (2008). The movie is co-produced and distributed by Time Warner's Warner Bros. unit.

To be continued.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to waste $100 in Google AdWords

Google recently sent me a coupon for $100 in free advertising through its Google AdWords program.
I’m a blogger on Google’s Blogger network, but have no reason to advertise my personal blog. So I decided to blow the money “Brewster’s Millions” style.
First, I created an ad for my coverage of Lingerie Football League wardrobe malfunctions, the topic that generates most of the traffic for my blog.
Then, I created an ad to inflate my self-worth and boost my personal brand.
Both text ads were immediately flagged by Google’s automated screening system. They remained “under review” for a week or so before I decided to change them.
I later decided I was getting enough traffic for LFL wardrobe malfunctions on my own, so I canceled that pending ad campaign. It wasn’t going to get approved with words like “nip slips” and “bare butts” anyway.
My original “Patrick Seitz, Tech business journalist” ad (see photo) had the sub-headline “Sex symbol.” But the word “sex” is a no-no with Google, so I changed it to “Women want him; men want to be him.” That’s what they used to say about James Bond.
That ad started running Monday.
You can see it if you search for “Seitz” and “Patrick and Seitz,” but not simply “Patrick Seitz.” Strange.
The ad won’t be up very long because I’m burning through my funny money pretty fast.
My first day of AdWords cost $12.26. I got eight clicks on my ad at $1.53 each.