Friday, May 30, 2008

Harvey Korman

For as big a fan of sketch comedy as me, there are few thing better than the Carol Burnett Show. Four brilliant comedians made up a cast that could make anything funny. And, it was clear they had a lot of fun doing it. Harvey Korman, one of those cast members, died today.

Harvey is probably best remembered for being unable to keep a straight face during the antics of Tim Conway. His laughter made the audience laugh even harder.

This was a guy who really understood how to be funny. In tribute, I offer the video below. We can only hope that his passing will motivate more access to these great old shows.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I've seen the future, and it ain't cable tv!

I recently joined the 21st century and signed up for Netflix. Seemed like the only sensible thing to do since they have put all the video stores out of business. And thanks to that, I can see clearly the future of home entertainment. And it has little to do with mailing DVD's in cleverly designed envelopes.

In the last week or so, I've watched the last 2 episodes of “House” on, the classic Thanksgiving promotion episode of “WKRP” on, and now, thanks, to Netflix, a few episodes of “Weeds”. All on demand, when I had nothing better to do, on my computer. ( This service is included in your Netflix membership) These shows downloaded quickly and looked great (ok, WKRP only looked OK, but that is because it was shot 27 years ago). All were better than what was available on my 200 channels of DISH at the time. The only drawback is that I had to watch on the small screen on my laptop, instead of my big TV.

It is clear that within a few years, we will be watching video on demand via the internet. Cable will be dead. DVD's will be dead. Netflix won't be dead, as long as they have exclusive rights to delivering quality programs with quality video and sound. But they won't be using the mailman anymore.

The only step missing here is the connection between the PC, or the internet in some other way, and that really good TV in your family room. While certainly possible today, that connection doesn't exist in most of our homes yet, but I'm sure it will be here soon. Most of us keep our computers in one room and our home entertainment system in another. That will have to change. Also, it will probably require upgrading high speed internet in this country to the levels that Europe and Japan now enjoy.

If I weren't a sports fan, I'd be looking into a way to hook the TV to my computer now and dumping the DISH. But I still watch TV mostly to watch sports, and I must admit I do love the mindless, late-night exercise of passively flipping through the channels, remote in one hand, beer in the other. But, it is now clear to me that the writers who went on strike last year knew damn well what was coming, and it's going to make our choices better, and life tougher for traditional TV delivery methods.

Now, I'm going out to shop for a TV with a USB connection to a laptop.

Progressive Insurance Pet Poop

I've seen this ad from Progressive Insurance several times on TV. They say they now will cover your pet under your auto insurance for no extra cost. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't a pet in your car already be covered by your auto insurance, just as your golf clubs or computer would? Seems to me this is classic marketing you a benefit you already had.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CGI Hasn't made movies better.....why?

I saw the new Indiana Jones movie yesterday, and while it wasn't awful, it was not great either. Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon. But here is the bigger question: Since the first 3 Indy movies came out, special effects technology has advanced by great leaps. But the first 3 movies are far better, with much more cleaver scripts. Same for the Star Wars movies, the last 3 being no where near as good as the first 3, despite the new technologies......or because of them!

Has Hollywood gotten so enamored of its new gizmos that is has forgotten that a good movie requires a good story, interesting characters, witty lines....the same things that made Casablanca the greatest movie ever made. If they made Casablanca today, they would likely add about 30 minutes of Bogey dodging slow motion bullets fired by an army of CGI nazis. "Here's looking at you kid" would be edited, because we wouldn't be able to hear it over the exploding planes in the background.

I blame The Matrix, the most overrated movie since Rocky. People went gaga over the special effects in this boring piece of crap, and failed to realize the story made no frigging sense ( and, by the way, if Keanu Reeves is the best hope for humanity, we don't deserve to exist!). Now, everyone figures they can save a movie with a bunch of cool effects.

Personally, I know I'm spending a lot less money at the movie theater in recent years. The price is up, and the quality is down. There are too many other good things to do around here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Smartcars at Costco and other stuff

I went to Costco yesterday, and there was a Smartcar in the parking lot. AT COSTCO! Now I'm all for Americans driving smaller, more sensible cars. In fact I think we should have been taxing SUV's for years. But how are you going to fit the booty from a trip to Costco in a Smartcar .....hell, it would fit in one of the shopping carts at Costco!

There has been a lot of economist-bashing in the past few weeks, mostly from the Clinton camp. They are trying to kill the messenger for delivering the bad news that a gas tax holiday is a silly idea. Hillary doesn't seem to think economists are qualified to make decisions about economics, at least not as much as a lifelong politician. Maybe she's right, because if economists ran the world, here is a few crazy things they would do:
  • Abolish the wasteful $300 Billion farm subsidy bill now in congress

  • Abolish international trade barriers, thus boosting many poor people worldwide out of poverty
  • Do a benefit/cost analysis on the war in Iraq, which would likely lead to us getting the hell out of there

  • Balance the budget

I could go on and on. Bad politics trumps good economics every time, not the other way around!

Rick Ankiel made an amazing 300 foot throw in Coors Field the other night to kill a Rockies rally. If you follow baseball at all, you know Ankiel was a Cardinals pitching phenom who suddenly lost the ability to throw strikes, and worked his way back to the bigs as an outfielder. So how can a guy who couldn't hit the catcher from 60 feet throw a perfect strike from 300?

The Rocky Mountain News has a Boardroom Sports column every Saturday. Today's column was about the apparent move of the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City. Seattle refuses to pony up the money for new luxury digs for the rich owners and rich players. Oklahoma City is happy to do that. The authors of the article seem to think fans should understand the cost of keeping a team in their town. I say that this shows that the people in Seattle are just smarter than those in Oklahoma City. No surprise there!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A few cool things I discovered.

Got 200 channels and nothing on? Tired of "reality shows", even on TV Land, which was created originally to bring us classic TV? Then check out This site allows you to watch TV shows and movies online for free, with very limited commercials.

I first became aware of it a few months ago, and there was not much there to watch then. But a check back this week reveals classics like Mary Tyler Moore, the Bob Newhart Show, WKRP and others. And a lot more recent stuff too. If you never watched Arrested Development, a great show, you can do so here. They seem to be adding more stuff constantly......we can only hope that Taxi and Get Smart show up soon! The download is very good, and the picture is ok. Still, better than watching Steve Guttenberg on Dancing With the Stars.

Also, thanks to the Freakonomics blog, I discoved Indexed. I'm afraid I'm not a good enough writer to describe it, so just click the link. Very cool.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Case Where W. is Right....and other stuff

  1. I have never found much good to say about George W. Bush, other than that he's in good shape for his age. In fact, I am sure history will view him as one of the worst Presidents of all time. However, there is finally something we can agree on: Bush is trying to get Congress to cut the size of subsidies to farmers. Read here
  2. Are your local politicians trying to take your money and build a stadium? If so, click here for a detailed discussion of the value of stadium subsidies to taxpayers (hint: not good!).
  3. A few weeks ago, "Nova" on PBS did a show about the car of the future with Click and Clack, the Car Guys from NPR. I didn't see it then, but did watch it on line. Some very interesting stuff coming along, some of it not too far away. Watch it online here.
  4. Finally, I see that W. gave the commencement speach at a high school in Kansas that had been destroyed last year by a tornado. Haven't those poor kids suffered enough?
  5. Peter Forsberg has probably played his last game in the NHL. It is appropriate that on his last shift, he was clearly tripped by Johan Franzen, and there was no call. Forsberg spent his entire career being mugged by far less talented players, while the officials looked on and shrugged. He deserved better, and so do the fans who pay the NHL's exoribtant ticket prices. The league is again backpedaling on enforcing the rules, and I'm sure we will be back to wholesale clutching and grabbing next year.

That is all!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Olympic violence

Will this summer's Olympics in China be a disaster? The chances keep looking better that something awful will happen before or during the synchronized swimming.

Of interest is a piece in the Economist about the Mexico City Olympics back in 1968. It talked about how the Mexican government at the time violently put down a protest shortly before the games started. I had never heard about this before.
Read the story here:

Beer and Ignorance

One of my favorite places to enjoy a beer on a sunny afternoon in Boulder is the Pearl St. Pub. It is the last place in Boulder you can just grab a beer and head out to the patio and take a seat. And, it is one of the last places on the Pearl St. Mall that hasn't been completely gentrified. There are a lot of weird characters to be found there.

Tuesday I was there enjoying a Sawtooth, reading The Economist, watching the traffic on the Mall, and overhearing the conversation at the table next to me (Can I multi-task or what!). An older foreign couple, origin unknown, was sitting with a local man who had the popular bald-guy-with-big-beard look. As I sat down I heard Bald Beard say that the US Government was going broke because of illegal aliens, and getting nods of agreement from his table-mates. “Just another moron”, I thought.

A few minutes later, Bald Beard, who I guess is an expert on everything, pronounced to his audience, with great authority, that banks like to give mortgages to people who can't make their payments, because they make more money. How, you might ask, if you're not a complete idiot? Well, it appears that they repossess the house, sell it for a profit, then write another loan that won't be paid and keep repeating the cycle. This, he said, is how Fannie May is set up to operate.

At that point I restrained myself from yelling “THAT IS THE MOST IGNORANT THING I'VE EVER HEARD!!!”. Didn't say anything, in fact, which isn't easy for me. Maybe it was because Bald Beard looked like killing me wouldn't be his first crime.

What is sad about this is that we live in an age where almost any information is easily accessible. We should be the best informed, most knowledgeable people who ever lived. Yet, it seems that our access to information is just making us dumber. The internet should cause us better informed. Instead, it is a tool for idiots like Bald Beard to find and spread this kind of nonsense. And, of course, if it is written on the internet, it must be true! It seems people love to believe a crazy story, and are just too lazy to bother to find out if it's true (remember the emails about the Bud truck driver who pulled his beer out of an Arab-run convenience store after 9/11?).