Saturday, August 18, 2007

Waiting for the Netflix Killer

Someone's got to come along and do Netflix better than Netflix. Seriously, Internet DVD rental is such awesome idea, but these guys are mucking it up.

I outlined some of my problems with Netflix in this post from May. Basically, if you rent from them too much, and your account ceases to make a satisfactory profit for them, they begin to tinker with your queue, sending movies that you want to other, less obsessive users first or even holding back on sending your new rentals for a day. The site's Terms of Service make note of these tactics (because of a lawsuit), but it's one of those fine-print jobs that no one really looks into.

So that's annoying, but it's still worth having Netflix because of the convenience and the depth of their library. (They always have something around that I want to watch.) In fact, I'm busy enough between Mahalo and writing that I've been watching fewer movies, and I've noticed lately that I tend get movies from the top of my queue rather than 1/3 of the way down. So at least they've made their Fuck Over Cineastes System (or FOCS) self-correcting.

But this week, the Red Envelope's really starting to try my patience. Kenneth Branagh's 4-hour full-text version of Hamlet just came out on DVD on Tuesday, and I haven't seen it in years. (Laser Blazer had a laserdisc version, but I never got around to watching it.) So I made sure to keep it at the very top of my queue, hoping to get it quickly. And I did...but only Disc 1, which is the first 2.5 hours of the movie.

Now, I know that Netflix sleeves usually hold just one disc, and that they divide up 2-disc special editions into two rentals. (Like, you'd get the film first, then the special features later if you wanted them...I usually don't bother...)

But I had no idea they would go so far as to do this with movies divided between two discs. That is completely asinine. When I rent a film, I feel it's safe to say that I'm renting that entire film, not the portion that fits on a standard single DVD. (You could make the case that mini-series, placed on 3 or 4 discs, would count as separate rentals. But one long movie?)

There's two problems here:

(1) Sending customers one half of a movie at a time is a ridiculously stingy, bullshit practice that's going to do nothing but engender mistrust and derision from the general public. Considering that Netflix turnover is about 4 days even if you watch the film as soon as it arrives in the mail, they're basically asking me to watch a single movie spread out over a week.


(2) Netflix felt no need to inform me in advance that they planned to split up my rental this way, giving me no opportunity to return two films in anticipation of watching Hamlet all at once.

Failing to correct #1, they should really do something about #2. I wrote them a very nice e-mail saying so, as a matter of fact...LAST WEEK, and they have thus far felt no need to respond.

So this is why I'm thinking that someone should figure out how to do Netflix better than Netflix. I don't know what that way is...but there has to be a way, right? Charge a bit more, but guarantee you'll get the movie you want? They just cut my rates by a dollar, which is nice and all, but I'd rather they keep that dollar and improve their service. I'd probably give them a few more dollars a month, actually, if it would guarantee that I'd have the three movies (COMPLETE movies, preferably) I want at any given time.

And also, hire a customer service department that can actually deal with customer service issues in a semi-timely fashion. Firing some of the developers and designers they've obviously hired to turn their site into yet another redundant social network no one wants to bother with would be a good place to start. Why can't the movie rental site just rent goddamn fucking movies? Why does it have to be Facebook Films?

You're a video rental service. I don't want complaints about the films you've sent me dealt with two weeks later. I clearly wanted to watch this movie now. That's why I have ordered it from you in advance. Grrr...

Headline Rubes

So, I'm here at Mahalo HQ, where the News Department has just added a nice, big widescreen HDTV which we keep tuned to CNN Headline News. Unless "Big Brother" is on.

They just did a story about the USC Trojan Football Team, and I shit you not, the anchor said this:

"Much like their namesake from Greek mythology, the USC Trojans..."

Um...excuse me? Greek mythology? I mean, yes, the Trojan War provides the backdrop for much of Homer's writing and all, but CNN Headline News is aware that the Trojans were an actual group of people who really did exist, right? I mean, this would be like saying "the mythical Ancient Greeks." The Ancient Greeks often interact with their own mythology (Zeus, in particular, was fond of disguising himself and bedding their nubile young persons), but that doesn't mean they were themselves mythological. A-duh.

Internet Famous!

Check this Fast Company video about Mahalo. That's my brother they interview about halfway through talking about bacon placemats!

I'm so proud...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why did this randomly pop into my head today?


Just weird. Haven't heard this song in years...

I take back everything bad I ever said about Christians...

Okay, not everything. In fact...nothing. But this is still pretty hilarious, though I'm not certain it's hilarious in quite the way that was intended:

Brand Reps and Impacts

So, someone got to my blog today by doing this Google search: way to switch from impact to model at abercrombie%3F&hl=en&star

"Switch from impact"? What could this mean? Here was the CBI post, or rather, string of posts, that randomly came up in this Google search. In it, I insinuate that Conor Oberst tries intentionally to resemble an Abercrombie and Fitch catalog model. Later on in the page, I mention the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Double Impact. Such is Google...

This sort of this happens fairly often. But there was something about this Google search that just struck me as creepy and ridiculous in equal measure. What could it mean?

God Bless Wikipedia:

Abercrombie & Fitch brands offer three main part-time positions: Impact Team, Model (formerly "Brand Rep"), and Overnight. Impact are responsible for the back stock rooms, Models primarily interact with customers on the store floors, and Overnight associates are in charge of floor sets and store recovery (maintenance and presentation of merchandise for the following day).

This is not just another example of how retail environments become insane little pockets of delusion. Very different, sometimes very odd individuals thrown into a very small, social environment for 8 hours a day, five days a week will form little communities and then they will all slowly go absolutely mad together from dealing with the inanity and frustration of customer service, until they become like the two girls from Heavenly Creatures, dreaming of the days when they didn't have to act friendly and take extra special care of obnoxious, needy strangers and secretly plotting during every extra moment the delicious pleasure of savaging the establishment on their final days of work. This is standard.

But Abercrombie actually seems to nurture this kind of environment, to encourage its employees to turn on one another in fits of paranoid, uber-competitive self-aggrandizement.

This blog post is one of the first you see if you search for Abercrombie impact models. (NOTE: I'm assuming that the term "brand rep" in the post and the term "model" in the search are referring to the same position. This NYT article seems to confirm that assumption.)

here's such a tension between brand reps and impacts at my store! brand reps tend to be cliquey (it's a second high school) and act like they are superior than the impact people. i'm a brand rep myself, but other brand reps have this "we're brand reps because we're hot, and impact people just fold in the back" attitude. i feel so bad because brand reps generally stand around and talk while impact people do all the work. when there's an attractive impact person, i hear brand reps say, "why is HE an impact?" as a result, impact members hate their job and don't last long.. we're always short of impact people. does this happen in other stores too!?

Sometimes, reading a blog can be like watching someone in the shower. I could never write dialogue like this, hard as I might try. I don't have the kind of creative mind that could invent the phrase "Why is HE an impact?," though I plan on peppering it into my daily conversation from this point forward.

Anyway, you have to feel for whatever person performed this initial search. Clearly, they work in an Abercrombie child pornography studio store as an "impact" and has observed the same trend as this blogger: impacts have the shitty jobs and get disrespected, while brand reps get to lounge around and not do much.

The searcher performed this Google search, I'm sure, hoping for good news. Maybe a post on someone's personal blog who had made this transition. But, no, instead they found very little helpful information - including my blog, which had information about JCVD movies and overrated singer-songwriters - save a blog post about how their boss finds them physically unappealing. Weak...

I Hate the Bizarros

What must it be like to go through life as Blogs for Bush writer Mark Noonan?

I'm kind of a neurotic, self-aware kind of guy, so I can't really conceive of leading an unanalyzed life. Whether I want it to or not, my internal running monologue just keeps going, all day long, picking apart everything I do, breaking it down, considering it and then reconsidering. I wasn't always certain everyone's mind functioned in this way, in fact, but now I'm fairly certain they do. At least, the somewhat intelligent, functional minds.

Clearly, not everyone has this kind of running mental commentary track. Some people say or do the most ridiculous, appalling things and never give them a second thought. They're creature of pure impulse, like squirrels that have somehow grown to human height and mastered some basic English phrases. Many of them, if not most, become politicians, TV pundits or right-wing bloggers.

How else to explain this Noonan post, which I will now cite in its entirety:

Congratulations, Jenna Bush

Good news for the Bush family:

CRAWFORD, Texas - Is a White House wedding in the works?

Jenna Bush, one of President Bush's twin daughters, is engaged to be married to her longtime boyfriend, Henry Hager, the White House announced Thursday.

Asked if the two were getting married in the Rose Garden, Sally McDonough, press secretary for first lady Laura Bush, replied: "They have not set any details, date or place."

Jenna Bush, 25, and Hager, 29, were engaged in Maine on Wednesday, she said.

The two have been dating for several years, and Hager is often seen at Jenna Bush's side at family Bush functions and formal events, such as a White House dinner in November 2005 in honor of Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Hager will be returning to school this fall to complete his master's degree in business administration at the University of Virginia. He has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University.

Hager, who has been a White House aide and worked on Bush's re-election campaign, is the son of John and Maggie Hager of Richmond, Va. His father is chairman of the Republican Party in Virginia, former assistant secretary of the Education Department's office of special education, former lieutenant governor of Virginia and former director of Virginia's Office of Commonwealth Preparedness.

We here at Blogs for Bush want to extend our congratulations to this young couple as they start their life journey together. We ask the blessings of God be on this union and that love and happiness be their portion for all the days of their lives.

Note to liberals: This is your chance to just say something nice.

[Italics mine]

Can it be that Noonan doesn't realize the ludicrous, self-defeating hypocrisy of this statement? He's a guy who writes blog posts every day and it doesn't occur to him? He's mocking the way his political enemies turn even a happy event into an occasion for criticism and vitriol by turning a happy event into an occasion for criticism and vitriol.

"Hey, liberals, why are you always criticizing us, you lousy stupid jerks!"

I would say he should make swift use of the "stop hitting yourself" defense, but I'm pretty sure that was deemed unconstitutional in the landmark case of Rubber v. Glue. But I'll have to check my files to be 100% sure...

The only other option is that Noonan's aware of the stupidity of that statement but makes it anyway, because it sounds kind of pithy and condescending. And maybe, just maybe, the composition of 100,000 straight blog posts in that exact tone of voice, which would most likely qualify as a new Guinness World Record, is his only real aim in the blogosphere.

Either way, it doesn't reflect well on the man, nor his capacity for rational thought.

And while we're hanging at the B4B, here's a post of Noonan's from today that may very well represent the complete, polar, 180 opposite of a Crushed by Inertia post. Mark Noonan is Evil Lons. Or Bizarro Lons, depending on your preferred division of nerditry.

Your Prayers for Me, if You Please

Later today I shall undergo a colonoscopy - a general look at the innards to figure out a particular problem I have. I ask your prayers that it will all go smoothly and that nothing serious will be found.

I'm a firm believer in the philosophy that blog readers don't generally tend to care about the author's physical well-being unless it's extremely dramatic. As in, the blogger is dying. (Preferably dying of something trendy or sexy. I doubt tales of gout slowly leaking away a writer's will to live would drive a ton of readership to a blog, even though I'd probably subscribe to the RSS feed.)

Otherwise, I feel like people who don't know me personally but enjoy my occasional film/political commentary would just as soon I keep that kind of shit to myself. I wouldn't regale my mother with tales of my own colonoscopy, let alone anonymous readers of the Internet worldwide.

Other things Noonan does here that I would not do:

- Ask anyone to "pray for me," adding the caveat "please," as if these sorts of conversational niceties could convince someone who wouldn't do so otherwise to clasp his hands in prayer. "Well, normally I would never do this...but Jesus, can you save Mark's colon? He said please!"

- Refer to a colonoscopy as a look at "the innards"

- Use the terms "colon" and "go smoothly" in the same paragraph without the requisite quotation marks to render them non-disgusting.

Now, and I'm just thinking aloud here, but if you prayed to Satan for things to go really well for Mark, would he then die during this routine procedure? What if a Satanist prayed to Satan? What if a Christian, using reverse psychology, prayed to Satan for things to go horribly awry for Mark? Is Satan too clever for that sort of trick? Maybe...and bear with me here...but maybe Satan doesn't answer prayers at all, because he's completely evil, so praying to him would do nothing but make God angry. BUT if your prayers angered God, maybe he'd do the exact opposite of what you wanted, so praying to Satan that horrible things befall Mark during his colonoscopy would actually have the effect of saving his life!

I'm not suggesting you should really ask Satan to make something go really wrong with Mark's colonoscopy. Really, I'm not. But if you did, it just might save a life...Think about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Oh, this one really chokes me up...


In a memo to senior producers this afternoon, FNC's SVP of programming, Bill Shine announced the network "will not continue the Half Hour News Hour beyond its current 15 episode run." Shine did leave the door open, however: "we are considering ways to retool the show for future scheduling needs."

Naturally, I have some suggestions...

(1) You've got to open big. Put your best foot forward. This...

is no way to open a comedy show. It's a little grim. This is, however, a way to open a B. Dalton Red-Sticker Clearance Sale.

(2) Try to be a little less forceful and a little less predictable. Everybody already knows how your "comedy" is going to come down every time. Feminists are ugly, libruls are pansies, gays is queers, immigants should go back t'where they come from, etc. Throw us a curveball now and then.

(3) Write much better jokes.

I hope this has been helpful.

The TV news satire show which airs Sunday nights, stars faux anchors Kurt McNally, played by Kurt Long, and Jennifer Lange, played by Jennifer Robertson.

They were using fake names? That's weird...I didn't even realize that these anchors were fictional characters. Does that mean they don't necessarily believe all this crap? Can you imagine if Kurt Long were himself...a librul? Working undercover as a right-wing hack at GOP-TV? Did I just give away the best comedy pilot idea I'll ever have?

Much to my delight, Mediabistro has graciously published the Fox memo killing the show. It's the Crushed by Inertia Corporate Document of the Day!

August 14, 2007

TO: Senior Producers

FR: Bill Shine

RE: Half Hour News Hour/Weekend Programming

I'd like to share some news with you about weekend programming.

What a drama queen. News about weekend programming.

"Some news about our weekend programming. Some recent...unfortunate...unpleasantness concerning a show we all...thought we knew. It turns out, "The Half Hour News Hour" pregnant. But we'll get it taken care of quickly. Fortunately for us, our efforts to criminalize the required procedure have...thus far failed. I'll leave you now."

Joel Surnow and I have mutually decided that we will not continue the Half Hour News Hour beyond its current 15 episode run. The last show will be presented on September 16th.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Joel and his team. He is a visionary in this business and he created a contrarian program that fulfilled an untapped niche in the comedy genre.

Joel Surnow of course being the hi-larious producer of America's wackiest TV series, "24," a wonderful satire of contemporary America in which constant, shocking terrorist threats loom over major American cities while a loose cannon government agent with a penchant for "extreme" interrogation methods heroically races around saving the day. Surprising that one should could be such a ludicrously campy comedy hit while the other languishes in hiatus. Go figure...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

You've Got to Admit, It's Getting Better

It's getting so much better all the time...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Been Listening to This a Lot Today

I have no idea where I stumbled across this Lily's song, "Black Carpet Magic," but it came up in my iTunes here at work today and it's really really good:


That is all...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Evil Dick

Hey, look, Dick Cheney's speaking sensibly about Iraq! Somehow, goodness has prevailed and...

oh, no, it's from 1994. We're still fucked...

Never mind. He's still crazy, everybody. We're still fucked. As you were.