2013-02-24

Movies Complimentary to Argo

I really enjoyed Argo (probably going to win the Best Picture later tonight; rentable in iTunes and the PS3 video store). It's not too often that you get such a tense geopolitical thriller. The story is more or less accurate and, obviously (hopefully), the Iranians featured in the film are not reflective of the entire population.

To get a more balanced impression of Iran, I highly recommend the following films. Unlike Argo, most are quite slow.

-Crimson Gold (about a pizza delivery man).
-Persepolis (a historical cartoon)
-Offside (a girl trying to get into a soccer stadium).
-The Queen and I (about the wife of the Sha, living in France)

2013-02-23

Health Care and Education Over the CBC, Via and Useless Weapons

The CBC and Via Rail are not huge budget items, but I submit in 2013 they should not be budget priorities. Worse, they are being used to inspire bundling. A billion for the CBC as long as we spend 40 billion on national defence.

CBC
In the age of advertising supported television, the CBC was the alternative. But now the alternative is pay TV and the Internet. Is there an audience that isn't served? I enjoy programming on the CBC, PBS and the BBC that arguably wouldn't exist without subsidy. But the opportunity cost is high. I submit we should lower taxes to allow poor people to purchase the shows they want to see or spend the tax dollars on more valuable services like education and heath care. 

Via Rail
It's the fourth way. Almost all Via Rail destinations are reachable by car, bus and plane. In many places, Via actually competes for rail space with suburban rail. Most Via Rail trains compete for space with freight trains. Heavy trucks damage roads and cause deadly accidents. The more freight transported by rail, the better. The bus is cheaper, driving more convenient and flying usually faster. Intercity rail is such a niche service that it really doesn't deserve to be subsidized.

National Defence
Canada is a big country. But what country would invade Canada? Imagine the logistics involved in taking over Wood Buffalo and exploiting the tar sands. We could outsource the defence of Canada and save a fortune. At the very least we should downsize the military until we get a credible enemy. We need a few ships to protect our fishery and ports. But tanks?


2013-02-19

Queen of Versailles is a Must See Doc

 If you live in the UK, I highly recommend you load up your BBC iPlayer and watch Queen of Versailles (Canadians can rent it for $5 via iTunes). It is an incredible story about about a time share magnet making money, and then not making as much, as the world recession roles through.

Everybody involved is nouveau-riche. You don't want the nouveau riche as your neighboors, but they are fun to watch on TV. Queen of Versailles is no exception.

 

2013-02-15

Meteorite Landings Are Not Random

Here is my hypothesis: The location of meteorites crashes are not random. They are not spread out equally around the world. What do I base this on? The map.

Look at it!

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The Chelyabinsk region is like the surface of the moon! Perhaps there is a logical explanation: lazy map makers, beavers, Soviet engineering... But man, does it ever look like a bunch of meteorites crashed in to the region.

-What Do We Know about the Russian Meteor?
-Meteorite Hits Russia, Causing Panic (in case of WSJ paywall, Google the title)
-Videos of Russian Meteorite Captured by Bystanders

Alberta and Florida Driver's Licences Are Illegal

This is the Alberta driver's licence. Do you see "Permis de conduire"? 

Model Driver's Licence according to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic:

ANNEX 9. MODEL DRIVING PERMIT

Dimensions: 74 x 105 mm. Colour: Pink

1. The permit will be drawn up in the language(s) prescribed by the legislation of the State.

2. The title of the document "Driving Permit" will be written in the language(s) prescribed in 1 above and will be followed by the translation in French "Permis de conduire".

3. The inscriptions should be written (or at least repeated) in Latin characters or in so-called English script.

4. The additional remarks, if any, by the competent authorities of the issuing country will not apply to international traffic.

5. The distinguishing sign as defined in Annex 4 shall be inscribed in the oval.


Outside pages


Reserved for endorsements by the competent authorities of the issuing country and including periodic renewal.


[Name of country]


[Seal or stamp of authority]


2013-02-13

Grand Canyon Trails Now in Google Street View!

If your iMac is getting dusty, or worse, wasted on tax software, now you have a great excuse to use it: the Grand Canyon in now is Google Street View!

Granted, if you read the Google Maps blog, you already knew that. But for everybody else, this is exciting news. Enjoy!




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2013-02-12

Monorail, Monorail, Monorail !

My little sister just returned from Orlando and advised me she didn't get me the Disney Monorail toy. So this blog post is my consolation gift to myself.

So far, I've ridden the monorail at Disney World, the one in Seattle, the one at Newark Airport, the one at Montreal's La Ronde and the one at the Granby zoo. Please do not confuse a monorail with an elevated train (like the ones in Scarborough and Vancouver). You could also argue that the train at Toronto's Pearson airport is a monorail (that I have ridden), however, for aesthetic reasons, I don't consider it a monorail.

The Simpsons Monorail Song from Marge Vs. the Monorail.


Disney Monorail Toy


Lego Monorail


Lego Monorail II


Seattle Monorail


Sydney Monorail


Mumbai Monorail


Newark Airport Monorail


The Shainghai Maglev Monorail

2013-02-06

A Maximum of 20 million People Have Viewed House of Cards


I previously called House of Cards a hit, but that was based on comments on Twitter. I've introduced some fuzzy logic. Psy's Gangnam style has been viewed 1.2 billion times, yet has only received 7 million ratings, or 0.59%. For each rating, the video has been viewed 168 times. Part of the explanation for that is many people will have watched the 4 minute video over and over, yet only rated it once. As well, I'm pretty sure you have to be logged into Youtube to rate a video. With Netflix, few if any people will have viewed House of Cards 20 times and only rated it once. Also, you have to be logged into Netflix to view a video, so there is one less step to rating.

The Netflix experience is probably different than Youtube. I suspect the average viewer per Netflix account is significantly higher than one. An account is, after all, $8 a month. You can only rate once per Netflix account. An other defence of House of Cards is that many people will wait until they have finished the 13 episode season before rating the show. Only the insane have already viewed the 11 hours of House of Cards made available by Netflix 5 days ago. Still, you can rate the series, or even an episode, without having viewed the entire series. I suspect it is more than 0.6% that have done so.

So with that disclaimer out of the way, here is my conclusion: Best case scenario, 20 million people have viewed 1 or more episodes of the 2013 US version of House of Cards. 
Math: 120,000 X 168 =  20,160,000 people. Since the average rating for House of Cards is 4.6 stars out 5, we can assume most of those viewers will eventually view each of the 13 episode.

These days, you usually need a karaoke machine to reach 20 million people an episode. 

I Need to Talk About House of Cards

I'm suffering from House of Cards withdrawal. But they haven't even filmed season 2 of House of Cards yet! Depending on if you count the credits, so far I've watched about 22 hours of House of Cards in 2013 (British version + American version). So yeah, the show has had an impact. 

Firstly, humans are social animals. You can't watch that much TV without having the overwhelming urge to interact. I'd talk with someone about their cat at this point. But only briefly, because I want to talk about House of Cards. You may have noticed, I created a new label: HOC. The label should be at the bottom of each of my House of Cards posts. Apparently I'm not the only one with this urge to talk about House of Cards.

If, and only if, you have seen all 13 episodes of the American version (Netflix) of House of Cards, then you can allow yourself to read House of Cards, Watched Entire series, by Josef Adalian. That got rid of my urge to read about House of Cards. :)

I honestly can't wait until House of Cards is available in France. I just know we French speaking people will have interesting discussions on the subject of House of Cards. Oddly, the House of Cards show doesn't seem to have caught on in Quebec, yet. They were probably busy watching Superbowl commercials

House of Cards is good, but it isn't Rubicon good. And that AMC show got cancelled. So I'm kind of obsessed with the popularity of House of Cards. The people involved in the 1990 British version of House of Cards are probably dead by now, so the American version of House of Cards is all we got.

So far the newspapers have found a way to talk about House of Cards because of the marathon angle (you can watch all 13 chapters, like you would with a new book). Twitter is spitting out about a tweet a minute, 24/7. The vast majority are positive. So far, 120,000 people on Netflix have given the show an average 4.6 out of 5 star rating. But that 120,000 number would be fairly disastrous if it is anywhere close to the actual number of people who have watched House of Cards. Network shows in the US typically get an audience of about 10 million people an episode. 

As they'd say in Rubicon, I need more data!

My previous House of Cards posts:

Remember to click on the HOC label below so you don't miss any of my newer House of Cards posts.

2013-02-05

Wonderwall

The 1995 song Wonderwall was featured at the end of episode 4 of Girls (HBO, 2013).



Toronto concert. Skip to 1:30.


The gitarist and singer Noel Gallagher suffered 3 broken ribs. 48 year old David Sullivan of Pickering, Ontario, plead guilty and received a sentence of 1 year house arest. His wife left him, no doubt in part because Sullivan was about to lose all his money. As they had to cancel a few shows, the band sued Sullivan for 2.5 million dollars. The band disbanded shortly after this video was taken.

Some say Noel Gallagher's absence from the closing ceremonies ruined the 2012 London Olympics. Ok, I made that last part up.

See for yourself. Note the absence of Liam Gallagher's brother Noel.


Today, back pusher and rib breaker David Sullivan... (insert content here when finished stalking him).

Dispite his injuries and the end of the band Oasis, Noel Gallagher returned to Toronto in November 2011. No word if David Sullivan, a free man by then, showed up at the concert.


2013-02-04

Mad Men Love House of Cards

Mad men had terrible ratings. Why? Well, people are interested in different things. And with CSI and American Idle being so popular, perhaps we live in the age of stupid. On the other hand, we are talking about TV, shouldn't smart people be reading books?

With literacy rates sky high, an interesting phenomena in the English speaking world are books aimed at the stupid masses and TV shows aimed at an intelligent audience. Both are fairly fragmented niche markets. Most stupid people still don't read much and, when they have jobs, the educated don't spend that much time in front of the idiot box. You, for example, have access to 150 TV channels, and yet you are reading this blog.

When shown with no ads, perhaps shows like Mad Men and House of Cards make even less sense. Assuming their target audience does indeed watch less TV, you'd think they could attract a premium from advertisers. On the other hand, educated smart people tend to earn more, so perhaps they are the ones willing to pay more for AMC and Netflix. Apparently, even in the age of digital video recorders, product placement still isn't that lucrative.

The problem with intelligent TV is that most of us get tired, drunk or surround ourselves with ignorant people (our children, for example). We can also surf the net, tweet, or read a magazine while watching TV. So we can watch stupid TV. However, it takes alot of effort to watch something when you don't quite get it. Try watching something in your second language. There better be a lot of nudity, because without subtitles, you are going to be reaching for the remote. And even when there are subtitles, most of us are at least slightly put off when presented with a movie or series in a spoken language that is going to require alot of reading. Watching smart TV requires a certain level of alertness on your part and that of your partner. It is generally not advised in the presence of stupid people (aka your teenagers). At any given time, smart TV has a limited audience.

To be fair, neither Mad Men nor the House of Cards require a particularly high knowledge level or intelligence to be enjoyed. And if I still have your attention, you are probably not that smart either (nor am I, as my B.S. degree attained with a C+ average attests).

So what's the conclusion? Frankly I've lost interest. Now where did I put that US IP address?  I need to watch Prisoners of War (Israeli version of Homeland) on Hulu before my contact lenses dry up. 
 
Shortcut to this blog: j.mp/slugline 

Photo stolen from

2013-02-03

House of Cards: Netflix Execs Have Balls of Steel



New shortcut to Altavistagoogle: j.mp/slugline .
 
I liked the 11 hours of the 1990 to 1995 British version of House of Cards (currently on Netflix). Silly, dark and about politics, what more could you want? However, it never would have occurred to me to make an American version. Even less to make what could (should?) be a low budget TV show and turn it into a Waterworldesque 100 million dollar production.

This is, after all, a show based on characters that are completely amoral. And just in case you are amoral yourself and start to identify with them, the authors of the American version made one of the male characters bisexual. An other had 3 abortions. Despite this (or because?), the 100 million dollar American version is quite watchable. Hopefully it provides escapism for most viewers and perhaps even educates a few on how a bill becomes law. Oh, and there are numerous references to zoning and easements.

I can just imagine the Netflix exec, enraptured by the separation of powers, the federalism (all 4 levels of government) the bill writing and the people blogging, jump in excitement when he realizes the show would include: FLIRTING VIA SMS!

Like I said, I liked it. I should say them, because after watching the 11 hours of the British version, I did watch the 13 hours of the American version. Since the launch of the show Friday morning, Twitter is averaging a positive review every 30 seconds. Even with this, I still have my doubts. Just like when the iPad first came out, part of me wants to believe this will be a monster hit. But people are weird. They like CSI and American Idle. This is a show about public policy and writing law.

Netflix execs are brave (or stupid) people. First thing Monday you should probably buy some Netflix stock, because the subscribers signups will be HUGE. Or not. I don't know.

Oh, and offering a free month subscription? Aren't you worried people will sign up, watch the ENTIRE SERIES, and then cancel before their free month is up? Maybe you shouldn't buy Netflix shares. Just get a good mattress. 

-House of Cards is a Hit!

I assumed part of the 100 million dollars went to build this peach monstrosity. Turns out it exists in real life!
 


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2013-02-02

House of Cards is a Hit!

You might think House of Cards is an excellent series, but I couldn't possibly comment.

New shortcut to my blog: j.mp/slugline .
 
Who am I kidding? The show is great! The people of Twitter have spoken: way too many product placements and very awkward references to the Internet. Well actually those are the two only negative comments I have found. Everybody else seems to like it.

Interestingly, few people seem to have seen the 1990 British version, despite it also being available on Netflix. Personally I though the British version was quite good and I'm kind of perplexed that someone found a need to Americanize it. The British parliamentary system is perhaps easier to understand for Canadians, although the MPs choosing their leader is a thing we don't do in Canada. If you weren't a newsjunky in the 90s, you might miss some of the current events references (Margaret Thatcher spied on her MPs, Cyprus, prince Charles' meddling obsession with architecture).

House of Cards is worth watching, even if most of your $8 goes to the series this month. Either version or both. The first episode of both versions is kind a slow, but it gets better, honest. 

Other series i quite enjoyed recently on Netflix Canada:

-Breaking Bad
-Mad Men
-IT Crowd
-Top Gear

Not on Netflix, but I recommend them anyway:

-The Promise. Hulu in the USA; In Canada, TVO has been sitting on it for over a year:

 Thank you for contacting TVO.  We haven't yet set a date for the broadcast of The Promise, but I have shared your message with our Programming department. 

-Homeland with Claire Danes. Showtime in the US. Super Channel in Canada. The excellent spy show is based on the Israli, Prisoners of War (Hulu USA). 
-Sons of Anarchy (FX in the US, in Canada: Super Channel for recent series, FX Canada for older seasons). A couple of shows were filmed in Northern Ireland!
-The League (Hulu USA). A show about fantasy football. As silly as it sounds. 
-House of Lies (Showtime in the USA, The Movie Network in Canada). A show about consultants. 

If you don't have cable, you can find some seasons of Homeland and Sons of Anarchy on iTunes. Your PS3 video store also has interesting shows.

If you've never subscribed to TMN/HBO, now might be the time. The back catalogue available via Internet (get a password from a close friend or relative) include 6 seasons of The Supranos (New Jersey crime, often involving local government) 3 seasons of The Wire (Baltimore politics and police work), Bordwalk Empire Season 3 (Atlantic City crime and political corruption during prohibition). The Newsroom (with Olivia Munn as the hottest economist ever). Luck ( a well acted show about horse racing that was officially cancelled because horses kept dying. Oh, and the ratings were terrible). I watch Girls, but I can't recommend it. I think I like it because it features New York City and 2 very attractive women (Including NBC news anchor Brian Williams' daughter).

People on Twitter have commented that House of Cards reminds them of Boss (Mayor of Chicago losing his mind). Starz had it in the USA. Super Channel in Canada. iTunes has season one. Ratings (not reviews, ratings) were terrible, so it was cancelled after 2 seasons. I have not seen it. 
 
My list of network TV favourites:

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