Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Stand, playing out on Twitter

I'm a big fan of Stephen King's The Stand - part sci-fi, part horror, mostly a wonderfully engaging view of what happens to a few survivors of a man-made apocalypse. I've read the book at least four or five times - never for the story itself, but to be immersed in a world of characters you want to spend time around. King's gift has always been his ability to draw out his characters - particularly through inner monologues - and The Stand remains his best stand-alone book.

As I mentioned last month, I'm in the midst of re-reading the Dark Tower series. I finished book 3 this morning (The Waste Lands), and mentioned on Twitter how magnificent the series is, even a second time through. Shortly after that tweet, I was followed by @LeadDealer, a brand new (started yesterday) Twitter account of the Dark Tower's protagonist, Roland Deschain. Intrigued, I checked out some of @LeadDealer's recent tweets... and saw references to a slew of characters from The Stand: @VegasWalkinDude (Randall Flagg), @MotherAbigail, @MOONtomcullen. Another tweet replied to @KingdomSearch, personal account to researcher Dirk Rensmann who runs The Stephen King Research Project, a remarkable full-text archive of all of King's works, along with lots of other links and materials.

Checking out @KingdomSearch, it turns out that a whole bunch of fans of The Stand are re-enacting The Stand on Twitter. Why would they do that? Well, the event that triggers the apocalypse in The Stand is a virulent strain of the flu known as "Captain Trips" - and the emergence of swine flu as this week's news story du jour gave the fans all they needed to get started. Other characters on Twitter - one-hit wonder Larry Underwood (@digyourman), professor Glen Bateman (@glenbateman), Nadine Cross (@nadine_cross)and poet-gone-wrong Harold Lauder (@haroldlauder). Wow.

This is going to be fun.

Update: Roland points out that The Stand isn't the only story playing out. Ka is a wheel, indeed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Music rights are killing good TV shows

DVD cover for the first season of WKRP in Cinc...Image via Wikipedia

Mike Masnick at TechDirt has repeatedly identified cases where the difficulty of obtaining rights to music played in TV shows is either holding up or killing attempts to reissue those shows on DVD. WKRP in Cincinnati is probably the best-known example, but more recently this meant that the claimed "complete" release of Beavis & Butthead on DVD was in fact an edited version of the show with all of the music videos removed. Why? Because the shows relied heavily on music at the time, and the difficulty of obtaining all of the necessary rights to display the music in the episodes proved to be too cumbersome (or too expensive).

Well, now we have a less egregious but no less disappointing example: MTV is reissuing The State on DVD. That's a good thing: The State and Beavis & Butthead were two shows that were much-needed comic relief while I was in law school. And there was no better sketch from The State than Barry & Levon and $240 worth of pudding:

Cool, right? Well, not so much. Turns out that MTV has completely edited the original sketches, removing the Marvin Gaye music (and presumably other music) due to licensing problems/costs. Check out the first comment on the post:
Where's the original Marvin Gaye music? Don't tell me you didn't get all the orginal music rights for the DVD release, if that's case, then it's a big NO SALE for me, and many other fans. There must be 4 or 5 Barry and Levon skits in total, and one where they even mention Marvin Gaye ("I'm starvin' for the Marvin..I got the Gaye in a bad way"). So would these be redubbed versions? The inflections in their voices sound off too....
What a waste. The rights-holders of the Marvin Gaye music end up without promotion to an entirely new generation of people who might find that they like Marvin Gaye (and who would then, oh, I don't know - buy his music), members of The State, like the hilarious Michael Ian Black, end up seeing their work modified (and rendered less effective), and fans of the original show don't have a legitimate source of re-experiencing the works they enjoyed the first time around.


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

If I swing like this...

... you might think I actually knew what I was doing. Actually played a lot better than I thought I would, which made it a lot more fun. In all, we played 4 rounds of golf, playing the Fazio course, Arthur Hills course, Robber's Row course, and Oyster Reef. Needless to say, these courses are well above my station - but I had enough good shots to make the trip feel like I held my own.

Happy birthday, Dad!
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Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Golfing" for the next few days

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC - APRIL 16:  Ernie Els ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Last summer, my brother and I told our Dad that we'd take him golfing for his 60th birthday. The weekend in which we actually deliver on that promise is upon us... and the reality that I will be soon defiling courses of incredible beauty is finally setting in.

To the thousands of golfers who will undoubtedly be paying higher greens fees on Hilton Head island as a result of my "golfing" this weekend, I apologize in advance. Please know that this was not done for my own edification, but for my Dad's enjoyment.

(That image to the right is of Ernie Els, who is among the many golfers competing in the Heritage Tournament this weekend right around the corner from where we're playing. I think we're going to get to watch the final day's play on Sunday, which may be as much for the courses' benefit as our own enjoyment.)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Posting to my blog via SMS is rather cool.

Nintendo DSi is a big hit

Both boys had birthdays last month (nine and seven!), and they set their sights on the new Nintendo DSi. That was a bit pricey, so we gave the boys a chance to earn some money towards their gift through extra chores. When the DSi finally came out a month after their birthdays, we picked up their new gifts.

Have to say - I'm really impressed. Here's what I really love:
  • Built-in cameras. The kids have had a ton of fun snapping pictures with the built-in cameras (there's both a user-facing camera as well as a camera that faces away from the user) and using the DSi's image editor to distort the pictures. (Nothing quite like a 7 year-old's face stretched to three times its normal width.)
  • Wireless gameplay. There's actually three different ways for the DS to play wirelessly. Having seen it in operation with two kids, it's great. 
    • Certain games - like Brain Age, Mario Kart DS, both of which we have - give multiple players with a DS the ability to wirelessly download a companion version of the game and play together. (On the game boxes, this is called wireless multi-player download, details here.) This requires you to only own one game card, but multiple players can play.
    • Other games support multi-card wireless play mean that if every player owns a copy of the game, they can connect to each other to play head-to-head. We haven't bought them the same game yet, so we haven't played with this version yet... now it's up to the boys to decide if they want to spend their gift cards and chore money on copies of the same game. :)
    • Nintendo WiFi Connection. Yet other games can play head-to-head over the Internet. My nieces both have DS Lites; with copies of the same game (say, Mario Kart) the cousins can all play together over the net from 3,000 miles away. That's pretty darned cool.
  • DSi Shop. If you connect the DSi to a broadband connection before October 5, you get free points to spend on free games from the DSi shop. The boys picked different games, and the quality isn't bad for free games. There's not much to pick from right now, but I'm sure there's more coming.
Also, a final plug for GameStop. The boys were able to trade in some unused Wii games to stock up on a couple of DS titles they wanted. Not bad.

Final note on the DSi - if you're looking for a little more info, IGN has a great walk-through:

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