Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More NAB pics

Kevin put up pictures from NAB, and I pulled one that showed more accurately than anything I put up what NAB is like:

2 million square feet of convention space, and all of it looks like this. As Kevin noted in his blog, it was a pretty exhausting. I kept trying to find places to sit down, so I sat through a couple extremely boring demonstrations in order to just rest my feet.

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Quincy Theme Song

This will certainly lead to a trend of people singing lyrics over instrumental theme songs (I'm cringing at the idea of someone doing it for "The Office" already), but here's the "Quincy" theme song, with lyrics sung over it. Absolutely fantastic.


Top 50 Comedy Sketches

Just for fun, here's a link to IFC's list of 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches. Naturally it's a little SNL heavy (having 30 straight years will do that), but it bounces all the way from "Who's On First?" to "Monty Python" to "Chappelle Show." Great fun. My favorite discovery so far was Chappelle's "Racial Draft" bit (#12). That show was always up and down, but they never pulled punches and I loved that. I also loved Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase doing word association (#15).

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Friday, April 18, 2008

If this were an NAB session, it would be called "Telling The Story With Pictures," and it would be boring.

Alright, here's what the Vegas adventure looked like:

My hotel room and flight were booked on Thursday night, and Monday night I found myself at the Signature at the MGM Grand. HD TV, polished wood details, complete kitchenette (blender and toaster! Has anyone ever stayed at a hotel and said to themselves "if only I had a blender here, that would be something!"), and all the other comforts of home. Not my home, of course, someone's home much nicer than mine.

Much, much nicer. Notice the completely useless glass divider separating the couch from the bed. I tried to think of a good reason for this divider and could not.

"Say, mind if I stay up and read?"
"Go ahead. With this glass divider between us, the light won't bother me."

Plus, it had a little TV in the bathroom so I could watch "Family Guy" or ESPN highlights while showering. I now cannot use a bathroom without constantly being entertained. I can't go back. I won't.

The problem with events like this is that when the floor closes at 6 every night, the 100,000 people at the conference try to become the 100,00 on the monorail back home. Here's what that looks like in the maddening crush to get on the monorail.

And here's what that looks like once you get inside.

After our first day at the conference, we took a couple cabs over to Fremont Street to see the sights. Kevin and I recorded the event for posterity.

There, we took the sort of pictures that last a lifetime of blackmail.

It looks a lot like an album cover, doesn't it? One of those CDs in a record store where you say "who would buy that?"

People weren't kidding about that light show. That thing was a sight to see.

NAB is a strange place. There's people in motion capture suits performing in digital environments.

Also, models hired to sit in stage-like environments and pretend to talk to each other for eight hours abound. I remained perpetually weirded out by this, since viewers are given the option to operate the surrounding cameras and zoom in to extreme close ups on the models faces, and then make suggestive comments (that's probably not what the cameras are there for, but sometimes it was hard to tell) . You haven't seen awkward until you've seen a bored, tired out model being unsubtly hit on by dozens of paunchy gentlemen in polo shirts.

Both this and important multi-million dollar purchasing decisions are helped along by the presence of beer carts.

But nothing trumps the weirdness of the Technologies For Worship stage, which had a full-time worship band playing "This Is Our God" to an audience of no one. I had never once seen someone play a worship set so that people could see how it looks on camera and how the in-ears work. Words can't describe it. It would be like someone putting an entire church on a stage and having everyone worship just so people in the audience could stand back and say "so that's what worship looks like with the True Color lighting system."

Well, that's all I was able to document. I tried to get pictures of some of the other more interesting bits - the largest HD television in the world, Ultra-HD, and the habit of vendors hiring extremely attractive girls to demonstrate their equipment. Let me just say that while I completely understand this system and agree that it is very effective, when I have a camera question, I want to talk someone who has operated that camera and is very familiar with its mechanisms, not someone who memorized a set of talking points over the weekend. Panasonic, I'm looking at you here, since you're the group that took this one step further and also hired what appeared to be the cast of an all-male revue to bring in the 7% of conference attenders who are women. I could not find a single person who knew what they were talking about at your booth.

One way or another, I'm extremely glad I went to NAB this year - I got to run into a few old classmates and go out to dinner with a few of my old professors. I learned how to play blackjack well (though, unfortunately, not in time to help myself), and best of all, I finally got to see Vegas for the first time. All in all, a pretty good week of work.

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Even among middle-aged engineeers, fashion matters.

I’ve returned from the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas, and here’s what I learned: there is a very, very exact dress code allowed at the NAB. What you wear makes a powerful statement about who you are, and there are only 4 acceptable outfits available.

I tried to get pictures of each, but people at the convention may be awfully used to cameras, but they are decidedly not used to people take their picture with a camera phone. I'm sure you're imagination will take you there, though - here’s what each NAB outfit says about you.

1. Dark blue suit, striped power tie. Hair optional but not recommended. Wire-rimmed glasses preferable. This says:

“I am an important business executive wandering aimlessly through the Convention halls quizzically looking at satellite dishes for something I can recommend purchasing to justify my spending $6,000 to travel to this convention.”

“I am a Japanese CEO who has inexplicably flown from Tokyo to Las Vegas to look at Sony flatscreen televisions.”

2. Dark blue suit, pastel dress shirt, no tie. Those without a Blackberry Pearl or an overly quick walking pace need not apply. This says:

“As you can see from my gutsy decision to not wear a tie, I am a creative executive type. The wave of the future! I will be making a number of uniformed, passionate decisions over the course of this convention, all of which will be disregarded by my boss over there squinting at that satellite dish.”

It is not wise to stand too near these individuals, as they will constantly having short, loud conversations with people on their Pearls ironing out the details of important decisions that will be overturned in 48 hours, as soon as the paperwork is filed.

3. Dark-toned polo shirt with stitched logo on the left, tucked into dark-toned, pleated Dockers. This one is the most terrifying, because it says:

“Allow me to engage you in a conversation about color timing!”

Do not attempt to sidle away from these individuals, as they will attempt to follow you, which will signal to other polo shirts that a conversation about color timing is taking place. Once they smell blood in the water like that, there’s no getting away.

4. Lightly-patterned dress shirt tucked into Levis. Out-of-style sneakers - especially New Balance - preferred. Small wirebound notebook for confused note-taking a must.

“Hey, my church let me fly out here to learn things about media! Care to explain your product very slowly?”

You’re sure to see these individuals constantly texting and calling back to their church pastors to tell them that they are learning an awful lot and traveling to Vegas was a very excellent investment. Here's one right here:

You'll notice behind him you can see a Category One calling back to inform the Senior VP that they'll be purchasing a satellite dish that afternoon.

A fun game to play is to walk around the Convention Center and count people who don’t fall at least roughly into one of these categories. If you discount vendors, you can make it a good 15 minutes. Even counting vendors, you’re sure to make it at least ten.

I’ll try to post more tomorrow before I leave for New Hampshire. More pictures to come.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Matt Brouwer EPK (4:30 AM)

If you get in a car accident and have some minor whiplash, staying upright all night does not help.

It is now 4:30 AM and I leave for Vegas tomorrow, but I'm still up finishing up Matt Brouwer's EPK for him to take to the GMAs tomorrow. He's finally finished recording his record and is back in town to go over everything with me, which is a much easier way of going about making these videos - we've invested way too much time into cuts that never saw the light of day.

Apparently Matt's being considered to open for the Counting Crows, so he's got meetings all this week about tour dates and promotions and whatnot. This video will be shown there, as well as news stations when he gets interviewed. Here's the video:

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Lord, I was born a ramblin' man

I'll be out of commission for a bit, but I'll be sure to post some pictures in the next week or two. Here's my current lineup for where I'll be the next week and a half:

Tonight I leave for Dallas, I'll be returning late Saturday/early Sunday in time to work the early morning services. Monday I hop a flight to Vegas for the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show, which can be scoped out here. You better believe that I'll be going to the sessions with Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse ("Lost"), and Barry Sonnenfeld's ("Pushing Daisies," Men In Black).

Thursday night I fly back, and then Friday I fly home for the christening of my goddaughter, Emily, and then I'm finally back on Monday night.

In the meantime, here's my current favorite xkcd:

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008


My goal for this year's March Madness bracket was to finish above #1,000,000 in the Facebook bracket. Sadly, Facebook discontinued their global ranking, so I could only compare myself to my other friends, and I only knew where I stood if I ended up in the top 5. It was a shame.

Still, at the end of it, I did pretty well. In my first bracket I carefully thought out each matchup, went with coaches and programs I felt strongly about, and chose UNC as my title pick. Unfortunately, you can't import brackets across Facebook, so every time you join someone else's pool, you have to fill out another bracket (it's like we're back in the Stone Age, filling out our brackets with pencils). Three or four times of filling out the same bracket, I finally got bored and said "Screw it, I'm doing a new one," and made a new bracket that went against all my instincts. Naturally, that bracket dominated, as my more offhand decisions ("Davidson for two rounds? Why not?") all panned out, plus I chose Kansas as the national champion (against Duke, unfortunately). The bracket ended up racking up 1350 points on Facebook scoring, as opposed to 870 points for my normal bracket, and good for second overall among all my friends.

In other news, my cat is undergoing a combination neutering/hernia surgery today, a procedure that is supposed to cost me $550, bring the total cost of the cat up to $1100. I'll remind you, until we brought this thing in for a checkup, this was a free cat. Now he's a bigger investment than 75% of all the cars I've ever bought.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

I don't actually send these letters, in case you're confused.

An open letter to the writers of “Greek,” currently embarking on your second season.

Greetings. As I am sure you are in no way aware, upon viewing your pilot last year, I wrote a short paragraph saying, in short, that the show was a knockoff of “Undeclared” and John Hughes movies, but I found the two leads quite charming. Your series launched, my attentions went elsewhere, and I didn’t think about it again.

With “Greek” launching a new season last week, I thought I’d pick up the first season and see if you let it live up to its potential - or delved into the inviting world of trite, idiotic dialogue that ABC Family originals seem to adore so much (I’m talking to you, “Searching For David’s Heart”). You didn’t, though, your show is engaging, fun, and addictive, I appreciate shows like that. Television is splitting itself into two serious camps – the pointless nothings of most of reality television (I’ll shamelessly reference “Dance War: Bruno Vs. Carrie-Ann” one more time to back up my point) versus the polarizing extremism of cable-based shows like “Dirt” or “The Tudors;” most television in the future will be swinging in one of those directions. I’m glad to see that there are shows that are still willing to be frothy and fun without thinking that occasionally being clever is something that might drag down your ratings.

Of course, being who I am, I have some notes on how to improve the show. And these are the sort of bon mots I assume you aren’t getting from the network, since your network is ABC Family, a channel that once made “Everything You Want,” a movie about a young woman who couldn’t chose between her imaginary boyfriend and the possibility of a real boyfriend, and thought we’d buy the concept of an imaginary boyfriend on which a girl goes out on dates as a cute quirk and not a sign of severe mental instability.

1. Your show is about a geeky guy who comes to college and wants to learn to become cool (the exact plot of “Undeclared,” but never mind). When you have a character like this, there are two storylines you are not allowed to flub – the guy finally landing a girlfriend story, and the guy losing his virginity story. You flubbed both. The geeky guy-awkward girl storyline is a cute one, and both actors are well cast, but it was kind of a disaster for a few episodes (ironically, things finally straightened up in the season finale, and then they broke up. Nice). They never made eye contact at the right moment, they never seemed comfortable around each other, and most importantly, you didn’t allow them enough time to be awkward and uneasy around each other early on so that everyone gets to say “oh, I totally bet they get together!” It all happened in one episode: they have a very small hijink together, during which they display no chemistry, she confesses her longtime crush (though they seem to have met for the first time at the beginning of the episode, so this seems bogus) and they kiss, but at that point I don’t even think they’d made eye contact yet. Strange and awkward. Two episodes later, he confesses his love to her, and not only is it a little early, it seems unlikely that he’s even learned her last name yet. Not only don’t they have any chemistry – they don’t even seem to talk about anything; they should have a couple moments of witty, fun banter with each other about their childhood pet or their love of classic movies or embarrassing camp experiences that makes everyone say “aw, they’re perfect for each other.” That’s a softball pitch in television writing and you missed it.

And don’t get me started on the losing-virginity story – you never spent any time on it, so why should I? I don’t even like losing-virginity stories, and yet there I was, lying on my couch saying “I wish I coulda had a crack at that.”

2. There’s dropping pop culture references and then there’s placing pop culture references, the latter’s no good and you guys are decidedly the latter. I’m going to pay to send you all to a weeklong power session with Amy Sherman-Palladino until you learn your lesson.

When you have a joke or reference that you aren’t sure people will get, you either set it up differently or you eliminate the reference. You can have someone look around a hotel room and say “It looks like Hostel in here,” or “this place looks like an Eli Roth movie,” but you can’t say “this place looks like that movie Hostel,” because then the line reading becomes “I am reading aloud a joke by referencing this film. It’s funny, because that film was very grungy and scary.” When you place jokes on silver platters, they don’t become jokes anymore. If people don’t know that “Jagged Little Pill” is an Alanis Morissette album, then don’t explain it to them in the next line. The people who got the joke the first time are going to feel patronized; the people who didn’t aren’t going to laugh when they have it explained to them.

And the self-referencing has got to be watched. It was a little funny when Spencer Grammer said “hey, “Frasier” is on” because, ha, yes, her real-life dad is Kelsey Grammer. It wasn’t funny the second time. It was a more funny when someone asked Jessica Rose if she had an accent, because, ha ha, she used to play LonelyGirl15. It wasn’t at all funny when Jessica Rose said “it’s like living with LonelyGirl15!” because, yes, seriously, we know she used to play LonelyGirl15. I adore self-reference because it’s usually a joke that plays on two levels – it’s clever to the detached viewer while still being funny within the confines of the show. These jokes are always aimed at the detached viewer, they never work within the construct of the show. They’re winks at the audience, and they’re very broad winks. Careful.

3. If you have essentially the same show every week, it’s easy to lose interest. This one’s Writing 101 – if you write a show mostly centered around two main characters who happen to be brother and sister, it helps for you to have them interact from time to time. Having them run into each other 11 minutes into each episode, say something judgmental, continue on separate storylines, and then get together and apologize at the very end of the show and walk off into the sunset together, well, that works. Once or twice. But out of the 10 episodes from your first season, that structure happened exactly 10 times. There’s a difference between comfort food and lacking the ability to structure your show in a creative way, and you’re toeing the line.

4. Finally, keep a closer eye on your characters. You wrote broad sketches of characters, then let the actors who took the roles define them, just as you should. But sometimes you don’t seem to really know what all those characters are for. If Scott Foster’s through line is that he’s not-so-secretly still in love with Grammer, when he decides to go for the suddenly-no-longer-manipulative (what happened there, by the way?) Dilshad Vadsaria, why don’t we get to see it from his perspective? Instead, we see it from the viewpoint of our geeky main character, who seems betrayed by it for no particular reason. And why does Foster decide to apologize to him, anyway? For what?

Also, if you’re going to have a redneck, racist, Southern Baptist snobbish geeky vengeful fetishist roommate, why cast someone as accessible as Clark Duke? Or more importantly, if you have someone as accessible as Duke, why make him a racist geeky fetishist? Why give him so many strange, unlikable quirks if you want to play up the friendship between him and the main character? Why have a character like that in the first place? The Christian jokes are fun – I especially enjoy his “Darwin Lied” band – and Duke’s great regardless of what content you give him. Why give him so many handicaps to make him unlikable when we’re supposed to like him?

And why give Jake McDorman so few if we’re supposed to dislike him? In a romantic triangle, you’re supposed to root for two of them to be together. Instead, we spend half the season focusing on getting McDorman and Grammer back together. The viewer’s not supposed to like McDorman – why spend so much time trying to get us to root for him? It just makes things more complicated when the inevitable Grammer-Foster romance finally starts up?

In the span of only ten episodes, you’ve managed to raise a great deal of unnecessary questions. These are basic building blocks of TV writing – the romantic triangle with the stuck-up rich boy and the fun, loose slacker competing for the heart of the perfect girl, the geeky boy finding love and acceptance, two people who are completely unlike each other finding friendship.

Mess up the small stuff sometimes, but don’t miss the big picture. That’s why people keep coming back.

Best of luck with the new season. I have great hopes for you guys.


A TV viewer with too much time on his hands

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Matt Brouwer - Surrender (live)

I'll explain more about this later, but for right now, here's the first of three or four Matt Brouwer videos:

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