Unmistakable Marks

Warranted Genuine Snarks


So, according to this Washington Post article (via Matthew Yglesias), Dick Cheney gets most of his news from Fox News:

“It’s easy to complain about the press — I’ve been doing it for a good part of my career,” Cheney said. “It’s part of what goes with a free society. What I do is try to focus upon those elements of the press that I think do an effective job and try to be accurate in their portrayal of events. For example, I end up spending a lot of time watching Fox News, because they’re more accurate in my experience, in those events that I’m personally involved in, than many of the other outlets.”

So, if I’m following the flow of information here, it goes something like: The Republican party puts out propaganda -> which is picked up by Fox News and dressed up as fact -> and is then given back to Cheney as his main source of information about the world -> who then passes it along to Bush, who prefers to get his news from trusted sources than that damned, unreliable media.

This explains a lot, actually.

Comments | April 30, 2004

Users Lie

Jeff Lowery has a great article about working with users when designing a new system, including this critically important piece of advice:

“Always” and “never” are really tricky, because people often overlook the rare exception in analysis sessions, and accounting for these later can have profound consequences for the data model and logic of an application. “Always,” for instance, can change to “almost always” when further questions are asked. That’s a large difference in a computing system. Usually, the exceptional case occurs rarely enough that nobody will notice the error in requirements until sometime after the system goes live, when it can be expensive to change. What’s worse is that often what distinguishes “always” from “almost always” is a whole unexplored use case with even broader ramifications for system redesign.

I can’t count how many times I’ve found this to be true. If you question people thoroughly enough, every assertion that something is always true is eventually followed by “Well, except when...” These days, I mentally translate “always” to “usually”, and then go on to find out the circumstances when the thing that’s always true isn’t.

Comments | April 30, 2004

Today’s Sign That We Are Living in the Future

Miss Manners weighs in on whether IM participants are required by etiquette to type “brb” before going off to answer the phone.

Her next column: Is it rude to direct your blog readers to a site whose intrusive registration process wants to know your job title and income level?

Comments | April 28, 2004

Paper is Obsolete

Well, maybe not, but paperback books damn well should be. From what I hear, they’re not doing so hot for publishers these days. And from what I see, they’re no great deal for the reader, either.

Consider this: Back when I was in junior high and buying books at that amazing new WaldenBooks that had just been put up in the mall, hardcover books were typically $19.95, and paperback books were typically $4.95. And if they weren’t bestsellers (which most of the books I read aren’t, and weren’t), they were sold for straight-up cover price. Net result: I could get four paperbacks or one hardcover.

Now, though, things are a bit different. The default bookstore for me (and, I suspect, most people who buy any significant quantity of books) is Amazon, where they discount nearly all hardcovers 30%. So for a typical new release, a hardcover costs $17 and a paperback $7.99. Net result: Just over two paperbacks per hardcover.

Conclusion: Paperbacks are lame. They’re not good for publishers, they’re not good for authors (who get a fraction of the royalties they get on hardcovers), and they’re increasingly not good for readers. Based on this incisive analysis, the industry should instantly quit making and selling them.

Furthermore, albeit tangentially: Budweiser is lame, too. It’s too expensive to be the bargain alternative to real beer, and too lousy to be the premium alternative to Milwaukee’s Best. It’s really just utterly pointless, and I expect that once word of this logic gets to Anheuser-Busch, they’ll shut down production promptly.

Further industries will be revolutionized as events warrant.

Comments | April 22, 2004

The Magazine Test of Political Junkiedom

I realized recently that I can arrange The American Prospect, The Free Republic, The Nation, The National Review, The New Republic, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report in left to right ideological order without so much as a second thought.

That bothered me, but what bothered me even more was not being sure where The Economist should slot into the line-up.

Comments | April 7, 2004

TV Shows as DVD Fascicles

Joss Whedon has stolen my life.

Over the last few months, I’ve spent approximately 90% of my free time going through his corpus of TV shows — Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and now Firefly — as collected on DVD. And after watching all that collected television, I’ve come to a realization: The DVD boxed set is to TV as the graphic novel is to the monthly comic book. Consider why people buy both graphic novels and DVD boxed sets:

Just as the rise of graphic novels transformed comics (say “decompression” to a comics fan, and they’ll know what you’re talking about), the rise of DVD is starting to transform TV; and Whedon is one of the first TV people to really make use of TV episodes as an initial serialization of the DVD set, rather than just writing a TV show that happens to be collected on DVD. In traditional episodic TV, nothing’s allowed to change between episodes, plots are fully resolved every week, and casual viewers are allowed to dip in and out of the series as they like. A Whedon show allows no such luxury. Plot points stick around for months of TV time; subtle clues will be made clear weeks later, long after casual viewers have forgotten them; a missed episode can leave you completely unable to understand what’s going on.

It’s lousy television, frankly; I can’t imagine watching one of his shows on actual television as it’s being broadcast — particularly when the network people fuck with the order of the episodes, as they insanely did with Firefly. But it’s superb DVD, offering a long form video narrative that neither conventional TV nor movies can deliver (with the possible exception of The Lord of the Rings, which is still only twelve hours, compared to the hundred or so hours of Buffy).

So, everything’s all hunky-dory, and we’re witnessing the birth of a new art form, and that’s cool. Except for one problem, the same one the comic book industry is facing: Making a good DVD box set, like making a good graphic novel, is expensive, and the only practical way to finance it right now is to serialize it out, and get the money in installments up front. But how do you convince people to buy a monthly comic, or watch a weekly show, when doing so isn’t nearly as enjoyable as waiting for the inevitable DVD or graphic novel?

I haven’t the foggiest. But if you figure it out, tell the networks, because all Whedon’s shows are cancelled at the moment, and I’m a bit cheesed about that. Give the guy some money, people!

Comments | April 6, 2004

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