Archive for the 'Television' Category

TVs are bad for kids

June 27th, 2006

This time the concerns about TVs are not because of the content, or excessive viewing time. No. It’s because TV sets can physically fall on small kids[1] and injure them.

On the face of it the claim does make some sense. TVs, especially ones from home-cinema sets, are big and heavy. But they’re not so big that a child climbing on them won’t have an effect. So if a kid climbs on the TV set the TV can fall, and it will likely fall on the child. That, in turn, can certainly cause an injury.

But this ignores what I think is a pretty big problem. The child, and a very young and small child at that[2], has to climb on the TV set first.

In order to do that the child will have to be able to reach the TV. From a position they can start climbing from. Assuming the average toddler can’t pull him/herself up without at least a little help from the leg muscles, that means the TV set will have to be placed very low.

And TV sets aren’t placed very low. People usually watch TV sitting. Sitting in chairs or sofas, not on a mat. And not just lying on the floor. So having a TV located at a height and location where a 3 years old kid can climb on it… sounds highly unlikely.

And somewhat negligent from the parents’ side, who otherwise probably went around baby-proofing nearly everything else in the house. True, a TV isn’t exactly the knife drawer, but parents should notice any piece of furniture with a top low enough that the kid could climb on.

Beyond that, these two articles include some more puzzling and suspect statements (emphases in quoted text are mine).

Contrast one article:

An estimated 2,300 children each year are injured by falling TVs and are sent to the emergency room because of their injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

With another:

U.S. emergency room doctors treated 2,600 children younger than 5 who were injured by falling televisions in 2005, said Arlene Flecha, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The numbers, allegedly coming from the same source, don’t match up. Those are 300 kids who are either invented, or unaccounted for, straight up. With this level of accuracy here, how reliable is the rest of the info supposed to be?

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studied data on ER visits for 26 children – aged 1 to 7 years old – admitted to the ER after being hit by a falling television between November 2003 and October 2004. One-third of the children sustained injuries serious enough to be admitted to the hospital and stayed for between one to four days.

Wow. Those researches studied a huge data pool of hundreds and hundreds of cases, and… No, wait, scrap that. 26 cases? That’s supposed to be research??

How big is the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center? According to the homepage:

UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians conduct more than 2.1 million outpatient visits and treat thousands in our affiliated hospitals.

So out of more than 2.1 million patient’s records, they had a whooping 26 cases of kids injured by a falling TV? Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they had a similar number of patients who were struck by lightning.

Though of course there are two different, and mutually exclusive, problems with this tiny amount. Either these are not all the kids hit by falling TVs that they had, in which case whatever analysis they do on this group probably tells us nothing, or these are all the kids they had who were hit by falling TVs, in which case there are too few of these altogether in order for the analysis to tell us anything.

Although nearly two-thirds of the TVs in the study were in the 20-inch to 30-inch range, the researchers said they could not determine whether size had anything to do with the hazard.

” ‘The bigger the TV, the worse the injury’ makes sense, but we don’t know,” Ota said. “We don’t have enough cases.

Of course they couldn’t determine anything. Which didn’t prevent them from releasing all sorts of statistics. Lots and lots of factoids, all meaningless. Remember, with this sample size every kid is almost 5% of the cases. It’s not realistic to infer any sort of connection from that.

Eighty-five percent of the TVs fell from a height of between two and five feet above the floor.

The range between two and five feet[3] is huge. They may as well just say that the falling TVs… fell.

It’s also disconcerting. 0.6 meters is very low for a TV. And 1.5 meter is taller than the average 7 years old kid, so how did the kid climb on the TV exactly? If a kid climbs up to a 1.5 meters high table, the kid can fall and get injured regardless of whether there’s a TV there or not.

It also makes me curious about the other 15% (almost 4 whole kids) who were injured by TVs allegedly located either even lower than 0.6 meters above the floor, or higher than 1.5 meters above the floor. That’s very high, so it would be even harder for the kids to reach. And quite uncomfortable to watch, requiring cranking the neck up towards the screen, from most chairs.

“More aggressive education to warn parents about the risk of injury must be implemented so that more families will take the time to display their televisions safely,” researcher Dr. Robert Todd Maxson, an assistant professor of pediatric surgery at UT southwestern and medical director of the pediatric trauma service at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, said in a prepared statement.

Yes, because there aren’t plenty of other things for parents to worry about. Things that actually have a statistically insignificant chance of affecting their kid.

The Dallas researchers propose that warning labels be put on TVs to make more parents aware of the hazard.

Because nothing looks better, or more relevant, on a TV set than a big label stating “WARNING: Climbing on this television can be hazardous to your health”. Sure. I’m convinced.

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  1. assuming these small kids actually try to climb on the TV set.[back]
  2. The articles discusses kids younger than 7 years old, median age about 3.3 years.[back]
  3. about 0.6 to 1.5 meters.[back]

No animals were harmed during the writing of this post

October 23rd, 2005

It’s a very old tradition. Whenever a movie, or a TV show, had a scene involving a hurt animal, the end-credits included a message stating that no animals were hurt during the shooting of the movie. Never mind if the plot included some person actually hurting the animal, or if the scene just included some animal which was dead or wounded, this disclaimer was shown.

Personally I always found it somewhat ridiculous. It seemed quite natural to me that if a scene showed a horse slipping during a chase, and later on the horse was shot to take it out of its misery, no real horse got its legs broken and no real horse was actually shot. But apparently just because it makes sense to me doesn’t mean it makes sense to all viewers.

At least, I assume these things came about as a result of complaint by actual people who didn’t have a clue. Since getting all those complaints must have scared everyone’s legal departments, they must have felt they had to either put on those disclaimers, or put some of the complainers out of their own misery. And the second option (merit notwithstanding) was not exactly practical, or legal.

Some actually took it in good stride. I remember some TV series in the past using this as a source for jokes, claiming things like that no actual ants and flies were hurt during the filming (or maybe it was that flies were hurt, I’m not so sure). I recall once seeing a disclaimer that no actual unicorns were hurt, as well.

There was also a great joke in the computer adventure game The Secret of Monkey Island. After giving poisoned meat to a bunch of guard dogs (vicious piranha poodles, in this case. Yes, this was a crazy game), a message popped up stating that no animals were hurt during the making of the scene, and that the dogs are not dead but only sleeping. Or something to that effect, it’s been more than a few years since I played the game last.

I’ve gotten used to it, and while notifications that no animals were hurt are still appearing on movie credits, I tend to just ignore them. I assumed almost everybody else tended to just ignore them as well, and that this was just being added as lip service without anyone paying too much attention

I was wrong. Things have escalated. The simple days when some brain-dead people merely required being reassured that no animals were actually hurt are passed. After all, what’s to prevent a studio from actually killing and torturing those poor animals, and then telling everyone they didn’t? People need some protection from those conniving movie studios and lying TV execs. There has to be a way to make sure. Some supporting evidence, or maybe a third party that would monitor all scenes including animals. Someone who would give support to the claims that it’s all really faked… Right? Wrong. Err… right.

end credits message about how no animals were harmed, this time with a name of a group that can verify itPersonally, I was very very surprised to find this out. But here I was, taking a few extra seconds after this episode of House ended, and what do I see on the screen? A statement letting me know that no animal was harmed during the making of the episode (I’m not sure if they were referring to the few very quick seconds that were supposed to involve cockfights, or to the few very quick seconds showing a dead rat in a mousetrap). But this time with a twist. This is not just asserted by the studio, no.

The scenes were monitored by a third party. By no less than the American Humane Association. I think that these people have way too much time on their hands if they can do that. Seriously so. Does anyone really think it’s a good idea to spend time and money on this? To have someone monitor dead rats to make sure they’re not really rats, or not really dead? Or to have someone monitor a few chickens, to make sure they don’t get any actual chance to peck each other for a moment?

I think they, or rather whoever think these functions of them are necessary, should have some sense talked into them. Or knocked into them. Or maybe just to be put out of their misery. It would be the humane thing to do, after all. Just as long as no animals (no other animals, anyway, but let’s not go into the whole evolution issue now) are harmed in the process.

LAPD, the United States Court House, and bail

October 12th, 2005

In the previous post we finished with the Japanese gardens in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, and started to head back to the car.

Along the way, us bunch of criminal came along to no less than the LAPD building. Naturally, none of us really care much about the LAPD, or their building. Could be some of them are doing a stellar job, I’m not saying anything against the LA police, just that police departments by definition are not that much of a tourist attraction, right? Generally speaking, if as a tourist you get to know the police too well, it’s a very strong indication you have a problem.

But in this case there was a different cause for excitement, mostly on account of V, my partener for the trip.

Any of you watches the TV series The Closer? If not, check it out, a really good police drama. Good scripts, except for the pilot episode that had a paper thin mystey. But it’s less a procedural, and more about the main character, Brenda, which is being excellently acted by Kyra Sedgwick. In any case, the series takes place in LA, where their made up Priority Murder investigation unit is located inside the LAPD building, and they show pictures of it sometimes on the series.

Surprisingly enough, in real life the building looks exactly like it does on the series. Amazing, eh? So, in any case, police be here. We didn’t wander inside, mind you.

And we got another fun legal experience on the way back. Actually, I can’t remember if it was in front of the LAPD building, or later on in front of the United States Court House.

Which is, regardless of whether it was there or not, a big big building. I mean, big. Scary to think how many judges, legal aids, and other people it can contain. Even if some of the space is reserved for actual courts.

It’s also very elegant. I guess they think justice should not only be done, but also should be seen. Although, of course, it’s been a long long time since law and justice referred to the exact same things. I mean, that’s what lawyers are for, right? Sometimes to keep the two as far apart as possible. OK, OK, not fair, lawyer jokes. But I’m allowed.

So what is the funny event that transpired there, you ask? When we were standing there (And thinking about it some more, this was at the LAPD building, not the court house. But hey, the court is nice, so I’ll leave the pictures and narrative here anyway) we got approached by some guy who gave each and every one of us a band/keychain. Taking a look at them, they each had printed on them, in large letters, a phone number for a bail bond company. A 1-800 number, even.

It was even more amusing for me, because we don’t really have that whole bail bond concept here. I mean, I think we must have something similar in concept, but you don’t really have those very visible companies offering those services of paying your bail money for you. It’s not a large business like it is in the states.

They put people to stand outside the big central police station, and give everyone a phone number for the company. So heck, if we’d have gotten arrested for our crimes , we’ll have an obvious source to turn to when trying to arrange bail. Ha, as if I’d ever do anything so small-scale that a sane judge would allow me to be released on bail. Dream on.

We told the guy we’re not getting arrested at the moment. And that we don’t really count on needing bail money any time soon. But he gave them anyway, saying his instructions were to give one to each and every person passing nearby. Cute.

New TV Science-Fiction shows

August 6th, 2005

All of a sudden many TV networks decided they want to do SF shows. The recent excitement is being largely attributed to the success of Lost. for some reason. It’s not like there weren’t plenty of both good and bad SF shows on the past, so I’m not sure why this is supposed to be the trumpet call, but whatever.

The new line of planned shows all seem, as is easily noticeable by anyone beyond those making them, to be quite similar, sharing too many aspects. Which probably mean either they’ll all be duds, or that after seeing one which is, the others will get automatically classified as more of the same without getting proper attention.

Because, you see, the shows really do seem to be very similar. Which is why the recent poll I saw running on Sci Fi Wire really cracked me up. They constantly run a poll there, and change them pretty often. And while occasionally they seem to take themselves seriously, they are often used to make subtle, or not so subtle, jokes about what is happening in the industry.

The one I’m talking about (which is still running at the time when this is posted, but will probably be replaced soon) goes:

Each of the broadcast networks is adding its own science fiction show to its fall schedule. Which do you want to see the most?

  • CBS’ Threshold, about a possible alien invasion.
  • NBC’s Surface, about a possible alien invasion.
  • ABC’s Invasion, about a possible alien invasion.

Anyone else seeing the similarities?

Contacting TV advertisers

July 21st, 2005

There is a new planned feature for TiVo devices that will allow a viewer to notify the TV advertiser of the commercial being viewed that they are interested in more info about the advertised product.

Under the new system, consumers can select an option to tell TiVo to release their contact information to an advertiser. For example, after watching an ad for an automobile or family vacation, users can use the remote control to request that a brochure be sent to their home.

From the advertiser’s side some of the benefits are obvious:

  • Most people using the new feature are interested in the products, so any sort of brochure that will be sent will have a good chance of generating a sale.
  • Normally a viewer interested in an ad will need to invest some effort. Such as memorizing a phone number, and calling it. Probably some sales are currently lost because people often don’t bother, or decide to wait until later and then don’t follow through. But pressing a button on the remote is easy.
  • Sales pitch are often most effective when they’re fresh. The ability to decide to ask for more info while watching the ad, means that many people may decide to do it. Including people who wouldn’t have asked for more info even a few minutes later, not to mention much later when a different opportunity rises.
  • Many people will consider the procedure a simple button press, rather than an interaction involving providing a business with personal details. This is information which is valuable to business, and anyone asking for more info will provide the entire set of details which are guaranteed to be correct and to belong to an actual person.

From the consumer side there are some advantages as well. Mainly the ability to actually ask for details on product which seem interesting. But there will also be some big disadvantages:

  • The details sent to the advertiser will probably be a fixed set, including at the bare minimum anything needed to mail a valid information packet, and possibly more. In most other cases of responding to ads people can give a lot less info. When making a phone call it is possible to get details during the conversation, without giving up anything. On a web ad, it is possible to go to a page listing the details, without needing to provide any personal information, or at most having to provide an email address. And email addresses can be disposable. Real names and home addresses aren’t.
  • It’s easy. So if someone is interested, they may indeed press the button instead of finding out other ways. This isn’t a problem per-se, it’s actually an advantage, but it does make the other problems worse. it can be so easy that people won’t bother thinking about the costs.
  • Ads are going to change to attract more and more attention. Just as with web ads, this is a method to get an equivalent of an accurate click-through rate. As the direct number of requests for brochures is easy to measure, unlike actual effectiveness in promoting sales, this will become a major decision in designing and choosing ads. And just like enough people are clueless enough to click on the more annoying flashing and pop-up web ads to keep them a viable concept, so it will happen with the TV ads.

In large part the details will depend on the actual implementation, both by TiVo, and by all the rest of the PVR devices which will probably rush to copy the concept.

They should set standards that will allow to transfer the minimal amount of personal information actually required. But the minimum is still a lot, and has to be. It is very unlikely that PVR companies will branch to provide the brochure mailing services themselves, and it’s not a good idea even if it was.

As for the effect not the actual ad content and design, I doubt there is much that can be done. It is not the job of TiVo, or any of its competitors, to decide which ads are appropriate for the service and which aren’t. They may do so at first, but it will be due to the technical reason of it being a new service and the need to individually handle each supported ad. But as a long-term solution, ad censoring isn’t something they’ll want to do, not something they should do.

There is another issue here, though I cannot predict what the effects will be. Currently ad pricing, and positioning, depend on things like the awfully crude viewer ratings, and on general estimates about the viewer demographics of each show. But if this thing catches on, there immediate follow-up on ads has a big chance of becoming the (or a large part of) new method of determining ad pricing and placing. The rates of people asking for more info on the ad will probably be perceived as directly related to the ads effectiveness. And if the same ad works differently on different shows, it may be considered to be related to the popularity of the show. There are plenty of possible ramifications, both on ads, and on network choices about the shows they broadcast.

It’s a good concept overall, but given the world we live in I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a mess.

TV Pilots

July 1st, 2005

You all know the concept behind TV pilots, right? If a show idea isn’t scrapped to begin with, the crew shoots a single episode, to see how it looks like. It then goes to whoever needs to decide whether to finance and broadcast the show, so they could look it over. Then they have the difficult task of trying to guess if viewers are going to like the show, or not. And as can be easily seen by, well, simply opening up the TV, sometimes they guess right, and sometimes they guess horribly wrong. Though this is not a very good measurement, since we can’t see the shows that were never aired. So lots of false positives, which they discover, but only after they already invested lots of money in the show.

And that doesn’t solve the problem of false negatives. The decision makers may scrap a show even if that show, had it been aired, would have gotten a big enough audience to justify production.

But since there is no way to know whether viewers like the show before it’s being broadcasted on TV, that’s a moot point. Can’t be done. Right? Well… wrong.

Someone leaked the pilot episode of the show Global Frequency, that the WB network discarded and decided not to produce. The pilot received plenty of reviews, mostly good, by people claiming (There are some copyright issues after all) that they didn’t really see it, but that’s what they would have thought had they seen it…

The number of people who downloaded it isn’t huge, but it’s quite large. Certainly matching the number of people downloading plenty of very popular show which are airing. The way WB sees it, this is a violation of their copyright. The way I see it, they just stumbled on one of the best ways ever to evaluate a pilot, and should embrace the opportunity.

Yes, the show is their property, and releasing it is as illegal as releasing any other TV show. Except that, copyright aside, if they’re not going to air it then there is no possible loss whatsoever to the network. They can’t even make claims about commercials, selling distribution rights, and so on. WB are not going to do anything at all with that pilot episode, except keep it locked someplace. So if someone sees it, WB incur no losses. It’s not like a personal journal, that they may have a legitimate reason to keep out of the public. It doesn’t do anything for them if it’s not produced. Which places them in a winning position, since they can either make nothing with it, as they already plan on doing, or manage to make money out of it, which is bound to be an improvement

Now they can (though that’s not likely) come to their senses, change their minds, and air it. They already know that they will have viewers, and that there are plenty of people who like the show. And this huge public exposure test didn’t cost them a dime, people volunteered. This would mean that the pilot distribution will cause whatever damages the downloading of other TV series may do (a lot less, if at all, than what the TV networks claim, but that’s a different topic), but that is surely offsetted by the fact that they wouldn’t have made anything at all without it.

I do hope that someone will realize the point, someplace. And that new pilots will be placed by the networks themselves for public evaluation. It doesn’t cost them, and gives them better approximation of viewers than the guesses of the relevant people working for them.

True, that’s not perfect. The viewer pool in that way is biased towards people who have some computer knowledge. But that changes very rapidly, and many people who are completely computer illiterate already know how to download files if they want to. Plus, even if the bias was strong, it would only mean that a small viewership isn’t indicative, but a large one would still mean plenty of potential viewers.

As a final note, had I actually done something like downloading that pilot and watching it, which I of course would never imagine doing, I’d have probably said that it was pretty good. Very idiotic, but then again it is derived from a comic series. The story of the pilot, and the premises they lay for the series, are, allegedly, full of holes and make little sense. But it still would have been lots of fun to watch, and would have provided good entertainment. They also left plenty of open threads on the larger plot elements, so it could improve. Probably not enough for me to shell money on getting the DVD, but enough to warrant the time of watching it on TV.

TV.com – What CNet did with TV-Tome

June 20th, 2005

TV-Tome was pretty much the site for information on American/British TV series. Actor information, episode information, broadcast times, and so on.

Unfortunately it seems that they didn’t do such a good job on the financial front, and the site kept showing more and more ads, to no avail. Around last week it went away, and now redirects to TV.com (What is it with site operating companies feeling the need to have the “.com” as a part of their names? I thought everyone already realized this was a bad idea, no?), which seems to have all the TV-Tome content.

TV.com is a part of the ever growing CNet conglomerate. I never visited TV.com before, so I don’t know what they did with it before TV Tome died. Right now it seems to be aligned along very similar lines. The most obvious difference is the high amount of screen area taken for community activities, like comments, forums, and ratings.

Saving the content and functionality that TV Tome provided is good, and CNet is in no danger of going broke in the near future. That said, they felt the need for a redesign, which is perfectly understandable, and some of the things they did were not so good.

The new design itself is probably supposed to feel slick and modern. Which it does, but that’s very different from the more warm and friendly design that TV-Tome had, and the drastic change is a bit alienating. Just my own initial impression here, and YMMV.

The fact that they seem to have totally missed the concept of putting content in the page, and design in the CSS, doesn’t help much either, if you know a little about web design. They have plenty of elements whose class/ID do not represent function but style, such as class=”f-bold f-medium f-white”. And take a look at a just a few bits, from long lists in the same vein, inside their CSS files:

.ml-5 {margin-left:5px;}
.ml-10 {margin-left:10px;}
.p-0 {padding:0px;}
.p-5 {padding:5px;}
.ls-1 {letter-spacing:1px}
.ls-2 {letter-spacing:2px;}
.f-off-white {color:#ffc;}
.f-lt-gray {color:#ccc;}
.lh-12 {line-height:12px;}
.lh-14 {line-height:14px;}
.f-xbig {font-size:16px;}
.f-xxbig {font-size:18px;}
.f-normal {font-weight:normal;}
.f-bold {font-weight:bold;}
.f-verdana {font-family:Verdana;}
.f-arial {font-family:Arial;}

Makes you want to cry when this is in a big site, from a big company that specializes in computer related stuff, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’m not really concerned about the colour scheme, that’s just eye candy, and as long as they don’t do something horrible like put tons of huge pictures, or turn the site into Flash, I’m good with it. Having the information easily accessible is more important.

And they missed a few on that front as well. Two problems are with the episode list feature. Formerly this was a single page containing the order and titles of all the episodes in all the seasons of a series. An excellent thing if you were looking for an episode by name, or wanted to quickly locate several episodes in the series’ timeline. Now the list is broken by seasons. Each season is in a seperate page. And that drastically reduces the functionality of episode list. Unless this was a way to ensure people will go to epguides.com instead, I have no idea why they did that.

In addition, the episode list which was previously directly accessible through a link on the main show page, now requires two steps to get to. I’d say this makes it less comfortable to use, but since it’s no longer useful, maybe that doesn’t matter

Another bad design idea was on the episode guide page. This is a page that lists information (guest actors and their characters, plus a plot summery) on all episodes in a season. Seperating these into individual seasons does make sense, it’s plenty of information, and is also the way it was before. But now there is a maximum amount of episodes which are shown in a single page. So now a full American season may be split over two pages. This is again highly annoying, and makes it much less simpler to do things like search for a guest actor across a season (yes, following to a second page is not just a minor annoyance, because it effectively doubles the time it takes, and requires searching inside a page twice). Plus, the page links on the top, for a series with 1-2 seasons, look similar enough to how you’d expect a season link to look, and I personally saw someone going to the second page of the first season, thinking it was the second season. Not fun, and very easy to mistakenly do in the current design.

Another problem is with the main show page. The new one is built to show all sorts of information at a glance, but it comes at the expense of not showing a complete anything. The previous design had at least included the full show summary. Now seeing a summary for an unfamiliar show requires one extra click. I know that this is a trade-off, people who already know the show do want the page as an index, and do not need the summary. Yet practically every single viewer who is not yet familiar with the show will want to see the summary, to know what the show is about. And this way requires more work, or gets people to decide based on less information.

The uniformity of the design of the main show page is also a problem . The first few sections are textual ones, and look exactly the same, but the kind of sections change from series to series. The uniformity is alright if you can get used to it, knowing that summary will always be followed, for example, by previous episode (their name for recently aired episode, I think). But it’s like that on some shows, while other shows have first episode followed by last episode, and yet other shows something else. This forces you to read the headers in order to know what’s there. Not terrible, but poor design. The visual cues should be clearer than that.

That said, I do like that the main page directly link to actor pages, and to recent news article relating to the show. I’m not sure how the headlines are selected, though, since I did see plenty of relevant news articles out there which were not on the list. I also don’t like that they open the articles in a frame inside the TV.com site, and not providing actual links.

The search results page is clearer, and the new version provides a short exerpts from show summaries, which can help when confronted with a list of several similarly named shows. On the other hand, an upper limit of 10 results per page is very limiting. And now the results for shows and persons are intermingled, which makes no sense, since usually a searcher only wants one of those. Luckily it’s easy to filter for only one kind, but for most seaches it does mean a little extra work, which a simple grouping of the results would have spared. The results also seem tweaked to show the more popular/likely hits on top, which is good, and very useful for common searches. Yet for cases with many results, the ability to choose alphabetical sorting would help tremendously.

TV-Tome, and now TV.com, also allow users to add and edit content. This makes a lot of sense, since there are plenty of people who care about series that they watch. But the new design puts “edit” button everywhere, which are only relevant for registered, and logged in, users. Pressing the button takes you to a registration page, which do not contain a special area for logging in as an existing user. This is alright, since a login form is placed near the top of every page, but if I were a registered user this would have annoyed me. As someone who isn’t a registered user, I think it would be a lot better to simply not show the edit buttons to anyone who isn’t logged in. That’s not critical, though, since currently the buttons blend well with the background colour, and are not very conspicous. Hiding them would also prevent the pages from being simple static pages, so will probably incur a lot of work for the web team.

Another advantage of the old design was that the TV-Tome URIs often had a simple structure, consisting of the show name, and page name. It was sometime easier to navigate by entering the address directly, or changing the one of the existing page, instead of searching and clicking links. The new design contain things like numerical IDs in the URIs, which removes this possibility.

As an interesting note, the redirects from old TV Tome pages sometimes work well enough to deliver the matching page on TV.com, and sometimes just go to the home page. This applies to pages of the exact same kind and same structure, so I don’t know what’s the rule.

As a second interesting note, and a bit of sheer speculation, a new TV.com Mycroft search plugin for FireFox became available recently, just at the switch was taking place. Since getting something to show up on Mycroft can take a long long time, this was either a very lucky coincidence, someone planning ahead, or someone maybe using money or connections. For the speculation part, the search plugin is made by a web design company, Matt Austin, which does not strike me as a regular FireFox enthusiast user. Are they related to CNet, and maybe did the design for them?

Tamblyn breaks self inconsistancy record

May 24th, 2005

What can I say? I find the whole What does Amber Tamblyn think about Joan of Arcadia issue very amusing, considering that she covered pretty much all possible angles. And in just the time span of half a season or so. The girl has her own well formed opinions, and is willing to stick to them for ever and ever. Or at least until the next headline, anyway.

Originally the show was doing great, so Amber was really bored and threatened to quit. Then they started to seriously consider the possibility of stopping the show, and Amber was incredibly interested in going on for another season, like she strongly believed the show deserved.

It may feel like she covered the whole range of opinions right there, but no. Now that the show is officially cancelled, she sings yet a different tune:

Amber Tamblyn is philosophical about the cancellation of her CBS series “Joan of Arcadia.” “I loved it for what it was and it’s gone and that’s sad, but that’s the way it goes,” said the 22-year-old actress, who portrayed a teen who performed godly chores for those revealing themselves as God.

Not to mention that:

Tamblyn said she was happy to do two seasons of “a really incredible show than like eight years on a mediocre, not-so-good show.”

So not bored with the show, considering that she loved it, and that the show was incredible. And not thinking that the show deserves another season, and wanting it bad enough she could taste it, considering that that’s the way it goes and if it had went on longer it would have likely turned mediocre and not-so-good.

Had I been a cynical person I might have assumed that this sweet and charming young women was saying, in chronological order, “I want more money”, “I want money for more time”, and “I don’t want to hurt chances of getting money elsewhere”… But I’m not, so I won’t.

Please don’t ever let the boredom stop

April 26th, 2005

This is fun, seeing how consistent press releases from the TV world are.

Take for example, the star of Joan of Arcadia, Amber Tamblyn. Less than a week ago, when it’s unclear if the show will go on for another season, or will be cancelled, she expresses her preferences quite clearly:

“We deserve a chance for one more season,” Tamblyn says. “I want it so bad I can taste it.”

Not too many different ways to read this. She likes the show, and really wants the show to go on, and to keep playing Joan. Right?

Flash back three months, and you’ll see that Tamblyn again expresses her opinion about the show quite clearly. This time when the season is still in full swing:

“Joan of Arcadia” star Amber Tamblyn is so bored with the CBS series that she’s threatening to quit. “I like to be challenged,” she tells TV Guide’s Mary Murphy. “If I am not challenged, I get bored. I am here today and I could be gone tomorrow. That could be my choice.”

Gotta love that consistency.

BTW, I do think she’s an excellent actor, and does a wonderful job there. And she’s not the only one of that show’s cast who does. Not the kind of series I normally see, but it’s very well made, and well acted, so I do.

Healthy Cookie Monster?!

April 17th, 2005

Sure, the local version of Sesame Street isn’t quite identical to the
US one. And sure, I haven’t seen the show for years and years (and
years). But we had a cookie monster here, just like there. And they’re
now turning it healthy.

The Cookie Monster – Healthy… Imagine that… It’s not supposed to be
healthy! It’s supposed to eat cookies! The traditional chocolate chip
cookies!

But not any more. It will recommend moderation, only eating cookies
occasionally. And it will switch to healthier kinds of cookies.

Yea, sure, the Americans keep complaining that they become more and
more… metabolically challenged. But what, are kids really eating
cookies like crazy, just because the cookie monster does? Give me a
break…

On a side note, 36 seasons, that’s impressive.

Maybe I should start watching more MTV

March 24th, 2005

Again from the long line of people who have too much free time on their hands, so are wasting it doing idiotic research.

The latest one? Checking how much sexually explicit content is there on the MTV channel.

In 171 hours of MTV programming, PTC analysts found 1,548
sexual scenes containing 3,056 depictions of sex or various forms of
nudity and 2,881 verbal sexual references

And they found a lot. So much so that it’s absolutely ridiculous.

And it is. I don’t really watch the MTV
channel on television. But occasionally I do get to to tune in for a
clip, or have it open for a little while in the background when I’m
doing something else. And there really isn’t that much sex there.
Seriously.

Heck, I doubt hard-core porn channels have so much sexual scenes on
them. Makes me wonder what MTV channel they were watching, since it’s
certainly not the one I have on TV…

Two silly TV-related studies

March 21st, 2005

Why do people keep coming up with these silly studies, don’t they have something better to do? And if not, can’t they at least make the same nonsense research in a proper way?!

Cable tuner menus and updates

March 9th, 2005

Our cable company recently updated the menus used by it’s "digital"
tuners. The regular tuners for analog channels were simple boxes with
channel selection, and frankly, most TVs could very easily receive all
the analog cable stations by themselves anyway, so no problem.

But all the newest channel are sent as digital channels, and you need
special digital receivers/tuners from the cable company. Ideally it
wouldn’t matter, but it does. You see, these tuners offer special
features. You can get a short description of the show you’re watching
(not including something like original name in English, since nobody
there apparently thought anyone would want it. As if any extra details
whatsoever are searchable based on the stupid Hebrew translation of the
name), timetables, and so on.

I don’t mind the extra features, some of them are even useful. But channel switching is slow.
When you enter a channel number, it takes a few seconds for it to
switch. Just browsing channels by going up and down is impractical and
as annoying as hell, it’s just so slow. But that’s it.

In any case, a few weeks ago the cable company decided to upgrade the
design and functionality of all the menus in the digital tuner devices.
So for a while they sent the updates over the cable connections. And
everyone got the new menus. Which look worse than the previous ones,
and offer reduced functionality. But are more similar to what the
competitor, a satellite TV company, is offering. I thought the idea
was that the player with the worse offer copied the better one, but I
guess it doesn’t work like that around here.

Anyway, since I rarely watch the digital channels, and I needed an
extra power outlet for a while, the tuner in my own room was not
working during the time they sent the updates. So now I still have the
old menus. Which work fine.
As long as they don’t decide to roll a second update, I’m a happy
camper. And I seriously consider keeping the thing disconnected when
I’m not using it, despite the simplicity and ease of leaving it always
on…

Multiple broadcasting franchises on one TV channel

March 3rd, 2005

Most TV channels here are purchased. Many from the US, and some from
European and other countries. But there are a few local channels.

Only one of them is fully a commercial channel. Several different
broadcasting companies wanted a channel, of course. But only one is
allocated. So they go by the odd way of giving the franchise by days of the week
rather than by channel. There are three different companies that divide
the days of the week between them.

This of course starts endless bickering over the days. Someone will
get more, or less, viewers simply by getting "better" and "worse" days.
So as a compromise, they just change the schedule once in a while, and
switch days. This is supposed to be fair.

And for the broadcasters, I suppose it relatively is. For viewers, it can sometime be very annoying.

First, you have the regular amusing occurrences. Someone having
Friday can create a program called "Friday Evening" and have it on
Fridays. Imagine the fun when it starts to be showed on Thursdays
instead… Things like that can really give you a few WTF?! moments when you look at the daily TV schedule…

Then there’s the problem of shows changing days. Purchased, and even
local, series don’t have the same lengths, and aren’t always started at
the same time. Even more, the day switching dates aren’t dependant on
the broadcasting schedule of shows. So if you’re used to having a show
on a specific day, it can up and switch some week, and it won’t be on
season’s end.

Like what happened right now, which prompted this post. See, the
thing is, they did announce the day change a bit on the channel. I think. But
I’m not the kind of person who sits all days in front of the TV. I only
watch the very specific shows I know I want to see. This limits my
ability to notice those announcements. They also might have shown them
a few times during commercials, but not all the time, and like I say I
don’t watch that many shows. More so, in this channel they have too
many commercials. Way too many. So I tend to ignore them altogether.
[Note to broadcasters: Less commercials will improve the effectiveness of those that you do show! Seriously!].

First time I learned that they exchanged days this month, was this
evening when my parents told me there was a show on which I usually watch. I was a
bit surprised, since it’s usually on Sundays, not Thursdays. I asked
what gives, and was told that they probably( probably. Both my
parents didn’t notice the alleged announcements either, and they’re in
front of the TV much more than I am) changed days.

Why is that a problem? Well… There was a show I wanted to watch which is later Thursday night (Alias, but that’s beside the point). Surprise, surprise, it’s there no more. It moved to Tuesday. Starting from this Tuesday. Yep, the one that just passed… And no, no reruns.

This is very annoying. Sure, I could always download the episode
from the Internet, and watch it like that. Legislature here is less
insane than in the US about it. But what if I was less Internet savvy?
Should a broadcasting company really count on the ability of the
viewers to download episodes from the Internet in a legal grey area?
Not everyone can, even if they wants to…

Hebrew on the TV series JAG

February 27th, 2005

The lead character (or the second lead, depends on who you ask) in the series JAG, Sarah MacKenzie (played by the excellent actress Catherine Bell), is fluent in many languages, including supposedly Hebrew.

In the recent episode "Straits of Malacca", when searching for
information on a captured pirate, one of the characters gets
information from a contact in Israel. But the information is in Hebrew.
He asks Mac how is her Hebrew, to which she answers "Not as good as my
Farsi" (The character, and the actress, speaks very fluent Farsi), but that she can
handle it.

She then stands in front of a computer screen, and with a look of
concentration starts to translate the information contained in the
email about the pirate.

They showed the computer screen, and the email. And it wasn’t even close to the alleged content.

First of all, the text was reversed, in a LTR direction instead of the Hebrew RTL
one. So when I tried reading it, it took more more time than it took
her to "translate" it. She must be a very fast reader. To illustrate, try reading the following:

noitcerid gnorw eht ni si ecnetnes siht

Fun, right? Very legible.

Second, it wasn’t a personal dossier, it was a news bulletin, copied from the website of the Israeli government.

And it doesn’t talk about a pirate. It is an announcement that the
site of the Ministry of Health has opened a new on-line forum on
paediatric preventive medicine. The text on the bulletin, and in the
email shown on screen on the show, talks about childcare: vaccines,
nutrition, and so on.

I do have to hand it to her, Catherine Bell is a very good actress.
The translation scene looked very convincing. She made all the right
facial expressions and gestures of someone reading a text in a foreign
language.
Of course, not being able to actually read what’s on the
screen, she probably didn’t find it harder than any other acting chore.
Someone who can read Hebrew would have had an hell of a time trying to avoid
bursting out in laughter.

And I really don’t get it. JAG has a huge amount of viewers, both in
the US and worldwide. They know some of them can actually read Hebrew.
They went to the effort of finding text in actual Hebrew letters, but
not of getting relevant text.
I’m not sure how they did it. Did they
just found someone, told him "Go find a text, any text, in Hebrew" and
he went and found something? Decided that the likeliest place is the
government’s website, and picked the first news link there?
If the
episode was shot on Jan 4th (the date in the news bulletin, which is also
visible in the email message on the show), it could be. But it’s just
dumb. It’s too dangerous to show random real text. If you don’t care that the text is
totally unrelated, it’s safer to make a random jumble of letters.

But why have unrelated text? It seems very unlikely that they
couldn’t find anyone who can read and write Hebrew. Hebrew speaking
people are not that rare. How much would someone possibly charge to
write an actual page of text that looks like the beginning of a
personal dossier? Heck, they can turn to some fan of the show in
Israel, and have it done for the price of a name in the credits.

Hey, DPB :  I’d do it myself if you need any Hebrew text for future episodes. No problems. Seriously.
If you don’t like me, I can find other people here who will.

Putting a not-relevant text, and letting a main character treat it
as something else, looks very ridiculous and unprofessional. I don’t
like to use words like pathetic, but, well, if it quacks like a duck…
And if the text was indeed picked without any screening (which must be
true, since why use it if you have someone capable of screening it?)
that’s just poor judgement. You might have gotten a text about
anything. That’s very very risky. For a new low-budget home indie film,
that would have been understandable. But for a very serious,
successful, and high-profile series?!