Law & Order: More Cowbells

Posted in Music, Pop Culture, Television on April 28th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: It is another late night. I am very restless. Just finished a lovely phone call with a good friend in Florida; it’s nice to visit on the phone, with someone who lives far away and talk about whatever. Tomorrow I am driving to Jasper to attend the ALC, where I am co-presenting a session on blogs with Geoff.

:: This is hilarious: Cindi posted a link to The Cowbell Project, a growing database of songs that feature a cowbell. Inspiration for this idea seems to have come from the infamous and brilliant SNL parody of Behind The Music, about the recording of Blue Öyster Cult‘s Don’t Fear The Reaper, which featured Christopher Walken as a high-powered record producer encouraging Will Farrell Will Farrell to play with more passion, advising him that “I need more cowbell

:: Last night’s episode of Law & Order: SVU starred Marlee Matlin as a researcher who is put on trial for helping someone commit suicide. While being interrogated, she tells Detective Munch that she “has a blog”. What fascinated me was no further explanation is offered in this scene, i.e., neither Munch nor Tutuola asks, “what’s a blog?”

It’s another small piece of evidence that blogs have entered the mainstream of pop culture, and the term “blog” has entered the vernacular. The episode authors decided that spending airtime having Matlin’s character explain blogs to the detectives wasn’t warranted – fans of the show would understand, or ignore the reference.

Speaking of Law & Order and blogs, The Ledger is a blog devoted primarily to the flagship series at the moment. The site’s creator is working on writing “detailed summaries for each of the 320 (and counting) episodes of the original series.” When this is completed, he’ll turn his “the 170 episodes of SVU and Criminal Intent I haven’t written about yet.” He’s written summaries of at least 170 episodes from the original series so far. Having started in December 2003, that’s a lot of work in a short period of time.

Jerry Orbach is leaving the original series :-(, but he will be appearing in the third spinoff, Law & Order: Trial by Jury., hopefully as Lenny Briscoe. The Gothamist was there when he filmed his final L&O scenes. Also referenced is this amusing article on being addicted to All Things Law & Order.

Various

Posted in Blogging, Television on April 26th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Today, Geoff and I completed revisions to an article we wrote, for the journal, Science & Technology Libraries. The article is about applications of blogs in an STL environment. As well, Geoff is fine-tuning a presentation on blogs, which we are co-presenting this Saturday at the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper. I was amazed as I watched a short animation that he designed and embedded into one of the powerpoint slides, which demonstrates how to create a simple blog entry using Moveable Type. The computer we use for our session will not be wired to the Internet, so the animation will suffice nicely in its place.

:: Deadwood has quickly become my favorite show on television. Sunday night, with The Sopranos and Deadwood back-to-back (at least in Canada), has become the definitive night for quality television viewing. The language on Deadwood is graphic enough so as to make comparisons with The Sopranos moot. The actors are outstanding, with Ian McShane as Al Swearengen and Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, giving career-defining performances week after week. The colourful language (to put it mildly), combined with the actors’ deliveries of their lines, provide for much “water cooler discussion” every Monday at work with my friend Debi, and the HBO website for the show has a list of the “Best Lines” from each episode to date.

HBO continues to present most of the best television on television, if you will. But in Canada, we are not permitted to subscribe to HBO, but instead to limp, lame Canadian cable stations that advertise themselves as “The First Home of HBO in Canada.” Problem is, no station IS the first home of HBO in Canada. We haven’t seen the third or fourth seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Real Time With Bill Maher is not broadcast in Canada on any cable station.

Ghosts in the (Indentity) Machine, and Being Out of It

Posted in Pop Culture on April 23rd 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: The previous entry about graphics makes reference to a problem I am having on my home machine. My web hosting service, Blogomania, provides a very nifty control panel feature, which includes an option to prevent other web sites from linking directly to files on my site, thus using my bandwidth. The problem is, when I activate it, it works fine for all URLs assigned to my web site, on any computer I’ve tried, except the machine in my house, my primary computer! I’ve played with the settings, and Keith offered a few suggestions, but in the end, I chose to disable it, while waiting for advice from the Blogomania helpdesk.

I’ve had my Dell Dimension 4400 for two years, and it has given me few headaches. Like the one described above, the problems seem to be endemic to my machine, and can’t be replicated elsewhere, making it hard to determine what causes them. At 2 years of age, I can sense that it has already jumped the shark, and is past its prime. Given the speed at which computers supercede themselves, its prime, most likely, was for a very short period in 2002. My Intel processor is 1.56GHz – the chips in the new Dell computers run between 2.8 and 3Ghz. However, my old 4400 is going to get a lot more use before it retires to the Home for Wayward Computers, sometime later this decade.

:: A few days ago, I was startled to learn that someone was using a link to an image of me, from this site, as part of an Out-Of-Office Assistant message. More than a little concerned, I removed the image from my site, which was the picture of me with part of my face covered by a piece of paper. It was in the right hand column on my homepage. I’ve also removed the contents of the Personal page from my site, for the time being.

There is much talk of identity theft these days – criminals cloning one’s identity and then using it for illegal purposes. An article in today’s Edmonton Journal talks about “tombstone shopping”: a criminal searches for the death of a child, trying to find someone who was born in one Canadian province and died in another, because vital statistics are not shared between provinces. The criminal then applies for a birth certificate in the province in which the dead child was born. Using that documentation, a new individual can be resurrected on paper, and the information can be used to apply for credit cards, government documents, health care coverage, and so on. Our mail is also open to theft. There is credit card skimming, dumpster diving (for personal information), and social engineering.

I am not nor have ever been concerned about being located by someone trying to find me, just because I have a public web site. My home address and phone number are given on this site, and my phone number is unlisted anyway. Why am I not concerned? Even without a website, if someone wants to find me and they search my name on the web, the results will include a number of University of Alberta Libraries pages with information about me, including my name and office phone number. What’s important here is that if you are someone who doesn’t want to be found via a web search, don’t work for a public institution.

A number of friends from my past have discovered me via a web search, and it’s great to be back in touch with them again. As for my personal information page, it will be back when I have time to get to it, but scaled down somewhat from its first incarnation.

:: Out of it. I use that expression often. Betty Rollin wrote a great column about being out of it, about not being in the pop culture loop, and not caring about the consequences. It’s a refreshing look at not giving a rat’s ass about J-Lo, Donald Trump, or Friends:

I know who J.Lo is, but I don’t want to know. In fact, she is largely responsible for my new goal because I decided that something is wrong with my life if I know who she is or isn’t on the verge of marrying. And it’s not just J.Lo. It’s everyone in showbiz. I have nothing against them personally. I just feel my head can absorb just so much information and, now that I’m getting older, I’m pickier about what’s in there.

I’ve always been interested in All Things Pop Culture. But I have my limits. I hate the American/Canadian Idol phenomenon, the whole “star making machinery” bullshyte, and have never watched either program. I guess being a musician for 37 years makes me suspicious of people who think they can be instant rock stars. I have no use for Survivor, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, Fear Factor, and any other so-called reality show. I feel the same way about not wanting to know about the existence of these shows, as Rollin does about Jennifer Lopez’s relationship problems.

What Rollin describes in her column, the desire NOT to know about crap like The Apprentice or JLo, reminds me of the Zsa Zsa Gabor moment. In 1989, she was arrested for slapping a Beverly Hills policeman. When I read (or heard) about the incident, I thought, “Who gives a sh*t?” Why is this incident considered news? Why must I know this happened?

Rollin is dead on about cellphones:

I don’t have a cellphone. Perhaps, if I had a car, or a child, I’d have a cell. But I have neither and I don’t live in the jungle — there are public phones everywhere — and I don’t understand the people I see crossing the street against the light, phone to their ear, arranging a business deal or having a fight with someone who, in my opinion, they should remove from their lives.

I am still cell phone-challenged. This evening, while working out on a cross-training machine at the Y, I heard a voice next to me loud enough to be heard over the Pearl Jam CD in my headset. I turned to look, and the guy two machines over from me was talking on his cell while working out. Enough already.

Graphix

Posted in Uncategorized on April 19th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Yes, I know the graphics and pictures aren’t uploading to the site. They will return soon. – Randy

Various

Posted in Blogging, Music, Observations, Research on April 15th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Recently I joined Foster Parents Plan, and information on my sponsored child arrived in the mail last week. Her name is Welalo, she lives in a village called Lama Tessi, in Togo, and is in third grade primary school. She lives with her sister and mother, in a small brick house with a straw roof.

Her village has no electricity, and her home has no plumbing. In lieu of a washroom, her family must use and open field or public area for their needs. Welalo’s family gets their water from a open well approximately one kilometer from their home. To cook their food, they use an open fire, fueled with wood, and their house is lit with kerosene lamps. Despite the foregoing, the documentation sent to me indicates that the familes in Welalo’s community live a rich cultural life, telling and listening to stories, talking with friends, and listening to the radio.

Needless to say, as I sit in front of my Dell computer, with lights on, drinking cold water from the fridge after eating a satisfying meal of meatloaf with fresh vegetables and bread, reading about how Welalo lives puts my life in a perspective I hadn’t considered before reading about her and her village. I really, really don’t know how good I have it, living in Canada.

:: I mentioned previously that my friend in Winnipeg, Tony, began a blog a couple weeks ago. Tony is in the midst of difficult times, and he is showing great courage in detailing this on his site, something I’m not sure I could do myself. I have avoided writing about Certain Things on this weblog since its inception, issues too painful for me to write about publicly. Tony is choosing to do so, and I applaud him for his effort, as I believe it can’t be the easiest thing to do. However, writing can be cathartic, and whether or not one chooses to do it publicly, shouldn’t change that. I’ll leave it there. When a friend is in pain, one shares that pain with them – I wish him and Claire well, at all times.

:: The Harvard/UNC study on downloading, mentioned earlier, is in the news. One of the authors, Koleman Strumpf, an economics professor at UNC, thought the paper, The Effect of File Sharing on Record Sales: An Empirical Analysis, written with Felix Oberholzer of the Harvard Business School, would be of interest to a handful of academics, and nothing more. Instead, its release, in draft form, has touched off a flurry of responses and uproar, most of it coming from the music industry. The RIAA released a six-page response (which, despite my best searching efforts, I cannot locate on their web site anywhere), saying that “The results are inconsistent with virtually every other study”, and asking “”If illegal downloading is not the cause of the precipitous decline in sales of recordings, what is?” Well, duh. Where does one begin? From newsobserver.com:

There could be many causes for the decline, Strumpf said. The economy is weaker. More entertainment choices might be drawing consumer dollars. Radio consolidation has reduced variety.

He says the industry’s response amounts to, ” ‘We have 20 studies, they have one.’ If 20 or 100 or 1,000 people say the sun revolves around the earth, it doesn’t make it so.”

Two years ago, Strumpf and Oberholzer-Gee set out to research the matter. Strumpf’s interest was piqued by the Napster trial, where the recording industry alleged copyright violations that led to the demise of the pioneering Web site in 2001. In the testimony, experts argued that music downloads had to be the cause of slumping sales.

Strumpf read the studies they cited. They were horrible, he said.

“I was like, ‘Boy, this is pretty amazing,’ ” said Strumpf, a Philadelphia native. “Nobody has done a serious study.”

Translation: Strumpf and Oberholzer read the industry-sponsored studies, and realized that they were a collective crock of shyte, most likely scientifically unsound. Strumpf also notes that his paper is not complete, and the reason it was released was so that the two researchers could get feedback, which is happening in spades. Of course, one other reason that sales have dropped is that so much of what the Big Labels release these days is CRAP!

:: This small, unassuming blog posting, about a tag with washing instructions in French and English, has generated at least 354 comments, and 86 trackbacks.

Scotland Road

Posted in Random Thoughts on April 12th 2004 by Randy Reichardt
painting the wall the colour of Scotland Road

The wall has been painted. It is done. The work is complete. With the considerable help of my friend, Kathryn, the wall, covered in pink wallpaper for over a decade, is now a lovely shade of green, from Behr, known as Scotland Road. The kitchen is still a warzone, and needs to be cleaned up, but not for a few days. The white cupboard will be repainted as well, and the baseboards need to be reinstalled. Also, for those who remember, the pink face plates for the outlets and light switches in the kitchen have also been replaced, with plates of a grey colour.

Click on the picture to see a set of photos detailing the blessed event.

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