My friend Jim did the voiceover for a new iPhone ad that Apple launched this weekend. I think it may mark one of the first times that the iPhone ads have broken from the one "iPhone guy" voice and feature a first-person perspective from Joe iPhone-user.
We took a brief trip to San Diego this week. Dana hadn't been to Sea World in around a year, which meant it was time.
This wasn't Jessica's first trip to Sea World (we went last summer), but of course she could appreciate many things in a whole new way now. She really liked all the shows, and visiting many of the animals. (Note to self: take a video of Jessica demonstrating how penguins waddle for the blog.)
One highlight was "Breakfast with Elmo". Jess has never watched a full episode of Sesame Street, but she has watched a number of the short Sesame Street video podcasts, and she has many books and other toys through which she has been introduced to Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Zoe, Big Bird, etc.
She was so excited to see these characters walk around during breakfast. When she first saw Elmo, especially, her eyes just about popped out of her head, and she repeated his name in some register only dogs (and furry monsters, perhaps) could hear.
In her typical cautious fashion, while Jessica was super excited to see these friends and watch them interact with other children, she wasn't crazy about the idea of getting too near any herself, much less getting her own hug. We did get some pictures with Elmo and Big Bird, though being that close to them made Jessica too anxious to really smile.
While Jessica was sitting in a high chair at the breakfast table, though, she had nowhere to run when a character approached. She leaned back a bit, but did very well during some interactions with Zoe, Cookie Monster, and Bert (who were all very friendly and handled it very well). Bert picked up a napkin and wiped Jessica's mouth. She gave a smile, and Bert gave her a hug.
I don't know that I can explain this fully here, but let me sum up: Joss Whedon (Buffy) and friends got together during the writers strike and this is what they came up with. It's an internet-distributed show in three acts of around 15 minutes each. It's a musical. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a would-be mega villian with a crush on a lovely ingenue. Don't miss Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, a superhero, and Dr. Horrible's nemesis.
I'm not doing it any justice, so I'll say "it's lots of fun" and leave it at that. Visit Dr. Horrible directly or download the acts from iTunes.
This weekend I took the TV that sits in my office and hauled it to the hazardous waste drop-off in El Segundo.
This small TV set has been in "my room", wherever that has been, for something like 18 years, give or take a year: I can't seem to remember exactly when I first got it, and there was a period of 9 months or so during my freshman year at Occidental where the TV was still in my room in Colorado. Still, we've been through a lot together. Good times, good times.
Why did I decide to get rid of it? I've been on a kick lately (albeit a sporadic one) to purge my space of stuff. I realized that in the past year or two that TV has seen maybe an hour or two of use. It was classic CRT, and took up a big chunk of space on top of my dresser. The remote hadn't worked for years. What I realized is that I could get rid of the TV (for which I would probably need a converter to use next year anyway) and get better use out of that space. If I do decide that I miss having a TV in the office, then I can either use an alternative on my computer and the Internet, or I can get a new TV. If I'm not picky about high-end stuff, I could get a small LCD TV for not too much money, and it would take up less room than the old one did.
So one of the landmarks of my personal space for the past decades is no more. It's a good thing. Besides, I still have this blue desk lamp that's been in "my room" for about 26 years.
Here's a video the WGA put on YouTube describing the reasons behind their strike. Obviously this presents only one side of the dispute, but if you're unclear on what this is all about, this might help.
Over the weekend, the WGA took the DVD issue off the table, essentially saying, "Fine, we'll stop fighting you on this point, so now maybe you can give a little on this other point." Nothing doing, at least not yet.
I've heard two arguments against producers giving residuals for Internet distribution, at least as it pertains to this strike. The first is that Internet distribution is really just promotional, and not, I suppose, true distribution. This seems just silly to me. Maybe if you never paid $1.99 on iTunes to get a TV show, or if no ad space were sold on web sites that distribute the shows. But you do pay on iTunes, and ads are sold. That's distribution, not promotion.
The second is something that seems less insane, but doesn't really make a great argument: the studios say they don't make any money on Internet distribution. This could be true; at this still early stage of internet video distribution, broadcasters (or should I say "distributors") are spending plenty in development costs just trying to figure out what models are going to stick. Seems quite credible that thus far these ventures are money losers.
But the thing is, some will eventually make money. If the distributors didn't believe that, they wouldn't be investing the money up front. That's just logic.
So say the you're developing one of these online distribution ventures. You probably lose money, but say you have, or hope to soon, managed to work hard and build up so you start to turn a profit, even if it's just few percent of revenue. Obviously you aren't going to thrilled if you have to pay a few percent in residuals to writers (and, soon, actors and directors). Those could add up, and significantly hamper the growth of a venture that is experiencing fragile beginnings.
To be clear, I ultimately side with the creative folk here: of course they need to get residuals from distribution of content; TV or internet shouldn't really matter. I wonder if there isn't a compromise that allows the broadcasters to have the flexibility to grow these new ventures, but guarantees the appropriate residuals will kick in, perhaps after a set period of time, or after some revenue or profit target, etc.
I don't know the business side of the industry well enough to conjecture any further. Specifically, I'm a little unclear on the producer/distributor relationship here. If you're reading this and have any additional insights, or additional facts, please add them in comments.
My good friend (and former roommate of 9 years) Jim Cashman just got a writing credit on last week's Saturday Night Live!
Here's the background. Jim is a member of the Groundlings sketch and improv comedy group in LA. A number of Groundlings have gone on to be SNL cast members, including, quite recently, Kristen Wiig. One of the sketches she and Jim wrote together at the Groundlings was on SNL last week, when Alec Baldwin was the host.
This is third hand info by now, but apparently Alec was a big fan of the sketch from the table read through rehearsals. It made it into the live show, and in the first half, which is usually where the better material goes.
Unfortunately, there is a problem with permissions to re-distribute the two pieces of music that appear in the scene. This means that the sketch is missing from the digital version of the show you can download from iTunes. Ah, well. Thanks to Jim for recording it and getting it online.
Congrats to Jim. It's pretty wild, and I'm sure a sign of more success to come.
Every year the Museum of Television & Radio hosts the William S. Paley Television Festival. For about two weeks, a dozen or so evenings are presented, each celebrating a different modern or classic TV show or personality. The evening includes a screening of an episode, typically, followed by a panel discussion with the creative team behind the show, which typically includes the show's creators, producers, and some of the cast.
We couldn't go to any of last year's festival, but this year we made it to three evenings: Battlestar Galactica, Medium, and My Name is Earl. All three were fun. The Earl evening was probably the most lively, though the Battlestar Galactica crowd was pretty vocal (and they knew their trivia). For Earl, they screened a couple of as-yet-unaired episodes, and the panel was lively and funny.
Any of you reading this is LA, the Paley festival is something I recommend taking advantage of. It's pretty much the first two weeks of March every year. I've gone to 7 or 8 evenings all told, and I always enjoy it. I've never gotten there early enough to watch the press meet-n-greet with panelists, or stayed late enough to go to the stage and try and talk with any of them, but that's also possible, if that's something you'd like to do.
You may have already heard that Don Adams passed away this week. He was, of course, best known for playing Maxwell Smart, of "Get Smart". I know I watched a number of Get Smart episodes in syndication (for some reason I associate the memory with being home sick from school). Liked them. Always thought the opening sequence was clever.
However, Adams' passing hits me more, believe it or not, because he was the voice of Inspector Gadget. The show was really kind of awful in a lot of ways, but it must have been kind of fun, because I'm pretty sure I watched it all the time for a good stretch. Maybe it was just on at exactly the right time; right as I was ready to leave for school, or right when I got back. Anyway, I, the Chief, Penny, Brain, and even Dr. Claw, will all miss you, Gadget.