Tag Archives: television

YouTube vs television: I’m such a geezer

Since Stephen Colbert took over The Late Show, we’ve been recording it on our DVR to watch in the morning. Unfortunately, that means that we missed most of Thursday’s show because of football, so I only caught part of his segment with PewDiePie on YouTube:

Age-wise, I’m firmly Generation X. I was born in 1970, which means I surfed into adulthood along with video games, personal computers, and the Internet. Gnarly to the max, like totally! When I was a kid, the family room was the only entertainment source on most evenings and I’d watch whatever my parents were watching, sometimes over the top edge of the book I was reading. The Captain and Tennille, Sonny and Cher, Starsky and Hutch, Bonanza, Battle of the Network Stars, Soap, All in the Family, Three’s Company, The Rockford Files, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Dallas, Dynasty, and so on. Once I hit my teens — and cable TV didn’t get to my town until after I left for college — I had other things to do in the evening, but I’d stay up for Friday Night Videos and Saturday Night Live. My parents let me have their old black and white TV in my room so I could watch series that didn’t interest them (which is why I didn’t know Star Trek was shot in color until I got to college).

I’m still very much a television watcher, though almost all of it is time-shifted via DVR or VOD. In fact, except for news in the morning and Formula 1 races, I only watch live TV when the DVR is empty and I want background noise, like DIY shows on lazy weekend mornings. I like stories and I can appreciate good writing, costuming, and camerawork. Sometimes I just like a goofy comedy, too. My parents are certainly of a different generation of TV watchers; they don’t understand their DVR and still arrange their schedule around live programming, which I can’t imagine doing.

But now, I’ll go full geezer: I don’t love YouTube. Sure, I watch things there, including PewDiePie sometimes. He’s funny and charming. I like Rob and Corinne over at Threadbanger, catch up on Get Germanized now and then, and enjoy some short educational series. I’ll watch tutorials or put on playlists of music videos while gaming on my other monitor. But, the content of big YouTube stars isn’t relevant to me. I can see how it might appeal to teens and people in their early 20s, but watching those would be like my mom reading Tiger Beat in the ’80s. I also find it annoying to listen to appeals for subscribers, comments, Patreon support, and views on subchannels and affiliated channels. Combined with unskippable ads, that’s like the worst of both public and commercial TV channels, with less content between the ads. I think it’s fantastic that any creative, enterprising individual could build a following on YouTube, but the monetization model is grating to me.

Do you have a favorite YouTube channel that would change my mind? What should I check out? Prove me wrong!

In the meantime, I like being able to curl on the couch with my laptop and dog, watching scripted programs with decent production budgets on a large-screen TV. Sometimes we stream Netflix to the TV over our Chromecast, and I suppose we could stream YouTube shows too. Meh.

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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Usage Patterns, Video


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A is for android and ArcheAge

Wouldn’t you know it: just after I posted about ArcheAge last week, praising the female plate armor for not being revealing, I got the next set as a quest reward and presto! Metal bustier (with leather and chain mail hot pants and metal garters). I suppose I should be happy that the metal armor doesn’t have extreme breast physics, like it does in TERA, and that it has a decorative element shielding her from chest wounds:


Notice anything else surprising in that screenshot from a Korean MMORPG? My avatar Tsofia is standing in front of the entrance to a public farm, which is capped by rural images including… hey, wait!  Is that the Bremen Town Musicians, from the Grimm Brothers story? Yup. In my early years of college I was interested in international fairy tales and folklore, and this is a nice example of how a story can travel and be put to use in another form.

Over the weekend, my patient husband watched Futureworld with me. Its a terrible movie from 1976, starring Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner as reporters investigating a rebuilt amusement park where androids staff, and are, the attractions. It was a sequel to Westworld, a much more successful film. Westworld stayed close to Michael Crichton’s meme of powerful technology having a disastrous vulnerability, whereas Futureworld strayed into mad scientists and world domination. The trailer gives away the big twist, but shows Delos (the overall park, of which Futureworld and Westworld are sections) in some of its cheesy glory.

We watched the film before I knew that HBO is turning Westworld into a series. Guess I’ll have to let my DVR pick that up in September and hope that it’s good. I’d like to see a series take a more optimistic view of robot/human interactions, though. Maybe not as Utopian as The Jetsons, but more like Almost Human; man and machine in a sometimes flawed partnership.

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Gaming, Our Robot Overlords, Video


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A few short thoughts

I thought that the solitude forced upon me by a broken leg might be a great opportunity to write. How wrong I was! I don’t know if it’s constant exhaustion fogging up the sharper edges of my intellect, but I have a pile of half-finished, unpublished posts. I’ll spare you those until I can refine the thoughts.

There are two TV series airing now that would seem to be my bailiwick: Mr. Robot on USA Network and HUMANS on AMC. Basic themes: hacker vigilantism, androids that feel (and human interaction with lifelike bots). I’ve read glowing reviews of Mr. Robot, but we watched part of the 2nd episode and thought it was terrible. The acting, the characterizations, the script, everything. Am I missing something? On the other hand, HUMANS is intriguing so far. It makes my husband and I wish we had a Synth to help around the house, especially while I’m partly out of commission.

Tomorrow I visit my surgeon to remove the staples from my leg, x-ray it, and see how my healing is progressing. Of course I hope to hear, “My god! I’ve never seen someone heal this quickly. Kay, forget staying off that leg for three months. You can walk now. Hell, do a jig if you want! You’re practically the female Wolverine, with that healing speed!” What I expect to hear is, “Looks good. No weight on that leg until September.” I’m surprisingly upset by the immobility and restrictions of this surgery. I usually stay home alone, contentedly, all week, but knowing that it is impossible for me to leave the house without assistance makes it feel like a prison. I find it ironic that a relatively common injury like a broken leg is more debilitating than cancer or a hip replacement were for me. I’m sure it will be better when my leg is healed enough for me to sleep and sit upright more comfortably. It’s certainly strange to have Jakob sending me sympathetic emails and worrying about my health, and I remind myself frequently that my condition is temporary and before I know it, I’ll be ok again.


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Sharing simultaneous experiences around the globe

The spread of technology allows people around the world to participate in events simultaneously. It’s remarkable to me how little this utilized. Why are we locked in our geographical containers for so many things? Time zones play a role, and language, but too often the barriers are broadcast rights and access restrictions. I think humanity is stronger and more tolerant when we share experiences and interact across boundaries. I seize the chances I get.

I had one on Sunday morning, when I went to my local art film theatre to watch a live simulcast of a play from the National Theatre in London. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is due to open on Broadway later this year, so it felt like an American sneak peak of a play that won 7 Olivier awards last year.

The next one I’m excited about is a production of Medea (with music by the duo otherwise known as Goldfrapp), to be simulcast on September 4th. Even if it’s not the same as an in-person experience, for $12.50 I can sit in a theatre near Detroit and watch a live show from London. The feeling is immersive enough that several people burst into applause at the end of Sunday’s performance.

Multinational sports also give us an opportunity to share experiences beyond borders. Americans are tuning in to the World Cup games in record numbers, to the dismay of some small-minded folks. Watching games while chatting with a friend in Germany, I’ve noticed a US broadcast delay that gives me psychic powers: he cheers the goal, giving me time to focus on the TV and see the entire play leading to the goal, though the surprise is ruined. We also share Formula 1 broadcasts. These seem to be shown without a delay, perhaps because fewer fans bother to flash their breasts at drivers speeding by at 200 mph. The Olympics don’t work out well because US networks time-shift and rebroadcast the events.

Video games and virtual worlds provide shared experiences, though not always without controversy. I’m not aware of international conflict in Second Life, where I can visit virtual Norway with my German partner, then go to a salon where the participants are signed in from the US, England, the Netherlands, Greece, and beyond. MMORPGs are another story. In Perfect World there were conflicts that involved Pinoy vs American groups, and in TERA and other games there is continual Brazilian/American fighting. Cultural differences combined with online history and being in approximately the same time zone don’t always work out well. Check out the Know Your Meme entry for Huehuehuehue (spelled “Huahuehuahue” there, but I’ve never seen that elsewhere) for more details.

Other forms of entertainment can be tricky. Numerous websites will teach you how to convince Netflix that you are in a different country, so you can see the same video list as a foreign friend. I’ve seen attempts at web-based movie theatres but none that were successful. I used to watch movies with a friend on Arkansas by using a video chat program on one monitor and Netflix on another. We’d do a countdown so we both pressed “Play” at the same time, but differences in buffering, processors, and network speed often got us out of sync in the first half of a film. Legally shared music and video can run into problems with broadcast restrictions; to share a YouTube music video, I sometimes have to link to a user-uploaded version rather than the official copy which is blocked in my friend’s country. One fun experiment I’ve seen in online music was, where themed rooms would allow people to DJ by playing music from their own machines, while listeners could chat and vote on how much they liked the tune. The room there was fantastic. Unfortunately, they changed their business model and shut down the service, in favor of hosting large concert experiences someday.


As we think about the future of virtual worlds, perhaps these shared experiences are something to keep in mind. Virtual worlds are not just the content that originates there (though there are many fun things to do with friends in-world), but can also provide a shared space for presenting or discussing outside content. I’ve seen notes about World Cup watching parties in SL where the game itself is not necessarily streamed in-world, but people gather to discuss the game while watching it in another medium. Movie theaters and dance clubs with DJs exist in Second Life; video or music can be shared with others (location restrictions can still interfere for video), while sitting or dancing as an avatar makes it more immersive. Some conferences take place simultaneously in SL and the offline world, occasionally taking questions from avatars during the Q&A sessions. Those might be more mainstream applications for a virtual space.

Speaking as an American, we’ve gotten used to our culture — though rarely the best parts —  being exported to other countries. Ages ago when I was an exchange student in Spain, my host family relaxed after lunch by watching El gran héroe americano (The Greatest American Hero), which was mind-blowing to me. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten a reputation as idiots who can’t read subtitles, tolerate dubbing, or understand even the slightest cultural differences. Foreign TV shows, movies, and non-English speaking movies aren’t very available here and are often re-edited or remade for us. The truth is, we’re a lot smarter than we look. We can handle exposure to other cultures and it might even help us understand them, especially if there are opportunites for discussion with others who share our interests. These shared spaces and experiences make the world connected, informed, and more tolerant, a little at a time.

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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in Culture


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Lewis Black rants about life extension biotechnology

If you haven’t had your dose of sarcasm and hyperbole today, here’s Lewis Black talking about breakthroughs in life extension from last night’s The Daily Show:  Back in Black 14 May 2014

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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Research, Transhumanism


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Betty Rubble in a Jetsons world

What is the lived experience of increasing home automation?  I’ve been thinking about this since reading the Popular Mechanics article “I Automated My Apartment — And It Kind Of Creeped Me Out” and “The Plug-and-Play Luxury Home” from The Wall Street Journal. Is it a relaxing techno-utopia where needs are anticipated, security is improved, and tedious tasks are automated?  Is it a nightmare of intrusive technology gone wrong or leaving us weak and helpless?  As with most things, I suspect reality is somewhere in between.


I tend naturally toward naive optimism rather than cynicism in this arena, perhaps the result of childhood vacations gawking at the “future” scene in the Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World. I want automation to simplify my life and I believe it can. Yet when I think about some of the devices already in my home, the results are mixed.

For example, the DVR. I was an early TiVo adopter and I’ve had a digital video recorder for about 14 years. Life changing! Far more than VCRs, DVRs allowed us to snip the restraints of network program schedules. We could watch programs that were slated to compete against each other, rather than choosing one or the other.  The DVR I have now allows 4 non-HD programs to be recorded simultaneously, which we use to full capacity on Sunday nights even with some creative prioritization. It is a treasure in an era of split seasons and staggered start dates, like having a media butler who obediently records “Robot Chicken” though the previous episode was eighteen months before. But, it’s not all wine and roses. The DVR uses metadata about each program provided by the network, and if the data is flawed or incomplete, the DVR appears unreliable.  Because of lousy metadata, my DVR kept recording Masterpiece Theatre even after the last episode of Sherlock aired, until I remembered to delete it from the schedule. Forget recording anything that might be delayed; the DVR isn’t smart enough to recognize that a football game has finally ended and “The Amazing Race” has begun.  As a technology, DVRs have played a role in fragmenting popular culture (along with cable television, the Internet, satellite radio, and mobile devices). Now we try to watch the most surprising shows or spend the next day dodging spoilers, but I’m old enough to remember when everyone could talk about the previous night’s big shows. Of course we all watched Magnum, PI on its debut night, not because of shocking spoilers but because that was the only time to see it until summer reruns (remember those?).

There are two Nest thermostats in my house and I’ve really enjoyed them in the past few months.  Enjoyed thermostats?  Yep. We had programmable thermostats before that and had our heating and cooling on a schedule, but life is rarely so predictable.  Our energy bills made my stomach hurt. The Nest takes some active attention and that awareness has an interesting result: there is an element of game-playing that encourages the user to adjust the Nest to save energy. I’m the Nest controller in my household and more than once, I’ve turned the temperature down an extra degree to see the green leaf “saving energy” symbol appear.

Motion-sensitive lights seem to be gaining popularity for home use and many of us have experienced them in offices or public restrooms. How convenient: saving energy without stubbing your toe in the dark. Maybe they work nicely for many people, but as someone who works quietly at a computer much of the time, these result in the Light-Activating Flail, flopping my arms around like an inflated man or Dee when the lights turn off and leave me working in pitch black office.  It made me frustrated and ill at ease, anticipating the next moment I would be left in the dark.  I’d rather not have the same experience when trying to relax in a hot bath. I’m sure motion-activated lights are a good solution for some, perhaps for hallways, laundry rooms, or other places where we don’t spend a lot of time. We have one light on a timer, but that requires regular intervention too: manual resets as the seasons change.

I also think about our reliance on electricity for all of these things and how we behave when we don’t have it. Backup batteries will keep a biometric entry switch working for a while, as long as they have a charge, but I feel more comfortable with analog options for core functions. The power grid in the US is unreliable and where I live — amid 100 year old trees, high winds, and above-ground power lines — losing electricity is common in any season. I think I’d rather have backup power supplies for my appliances than have them communicate to each other (why the hell would I want my refrigerator to send a recipe to my oven, as mentioned in this article? Skip that effort and move straight to the replicator.) Having a high-tech home means keeping the low-tech stuff around or being helpless, not just in event of emergency but in the event of temporary inconvenience. Most days I watch movies on a big TV, connect to the Internet with numerous devices, and fall asleep to the glow of my Kindle, but I’m still comfortable lighting an oil lamp and pulling an old favorite book off the shelf. For me, living a Jetsons life feels more secure if I keep some Flintstones skills.

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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in Side Topics


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View-Master as VR headset

Ha!  Apparently Chris Hardwick and/or his writing team on Comedy Central’s @midnight had a similar reaction to the current Oculus Rift design as I did in yesterday’s post.  Hardwick opened last night’s show with a bit about Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus and then proceeded to show “what the new Facebook will look like”:

Chris Hardwick on @midnight

Chris Hardwick on @midnight

Here’s the full episode, if you want to check it out.

As a postscript, the View-Master is made by Fisher-Price.  I grew up near their headquarters and have a lifelong affection for Fisher-Price toys.  When I went to the website to see if they’re still making the View-Master, I was surprised to see some the cute new viewer designs. That Darth Vader mask is pretty cool for a wannabe Jedi youngling!



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Our changing concept of virtual worlds

A few days ago, after a mention of the Second Life 10 year anniversary, io9 put together a memory-jogging post about how our concept of virtual worlds — as seen through movies and television — has evolved in the past 40 years. It’s worth a look and some thought. Below: Anthony Hopkins in Freejack (1992), a film I think was under appreciated.

hopkins_freejackI can’t think of any movies or shows off-hand that show the actual evolution of virtual worlds in that timeframe, from chat rooms to 2D avatar-based chats (I worked on a short lived project using avatar presence at a major internet provider 17 years ago) to MMORPGs and 3D virtual worlds and online video hangouts.  There must be some… any ideas?

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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Virtual Life in Pop Culture


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