Scotty: Beamed Up For the Last Time

Rest in Peace:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” TV series and motion pictures who responded to the apocryphal command “Beam me up, Scotty,” died early Wednesday. He was 85.
Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) at his Redmond, Washington, home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease, he said.

I did not know James Doohan but I knew Scotty! There was never an insurmountable challenge for him. A model we’d all do well to follow.

Nielson Media

The Modulator family received a card today from Nielsen Media Research telling us

…that your household has been chosen to be a “Nielsen Family” …for a one week TV survey.

Cool. We’ll probably do this. We appreciate that they contacted in advance and, of course, their positive response rate is probably much higher than if they did not send the card.
For instance, I did not respond well to the outfit that called a couple weeks ago asking me to participate in a survey about current issues. They called while we were eating dinner and wanted to ask 80 questions. Yea, I’m going to sit there and answer 80 questions for a complete stranger and they didn’t even offer any compensation for my time.
I’m not going to ask Nielsen to pay for our time. However, their customers are not going to be real happy when our TV viewing habits are projected nationally. In the past week TV has garned 5 hours of my time and 2.5 of those were watching the PBS showing of The Grateful Dead movie a couple nights ago, .5 for the Canadian version of Antique Roadshow, 1 for 2 editions of Jeopardy and the rest for portions of the NBA finals. By the time we get set up for their survey the NBA will be done and, well, we probably won’t watch much.
On the other hand the Tour de France will have started and we’ll watch a couple hours/day.

Dinosaurs Seek Protection

When a whiff of competition appears on the horizon what do bussiness in the American free market economy do? Why, of course, they head over to the nearest government regulative or legislative body to seek some form of protection:

Verizon Communications and SBC Communications’ plans to wire American homes with high-speed fiber connections may encounter regulatory roadblocks, members of Congress suggested Wednesday.
Both companies are spending billions on fiber links that can carry everything from Internet service to voice and video. Verizon’s Fios service already boasts speeds of up to 30 megabits per second with a digital TV package expected later this year……
These forays into digital TV are alarming television broadcasters and some cable companies, which view fiber service as a competitive threat. This week, for instance, Verizon announced that it plans to carry all of NBC Universal’s channels on Fios TV.

“Stations would lose audience share and advertising dollars, and these dollars fund local programming that makes broadcasting valuable,” Greg Schmidt, a lawyer speaking on behalf of the influential National Association of Broadcasters, told a House of Representatives panel on Wednesday. The NAB represents local radio and TV broadcasters.
Congress should prohibit SBC and Verizon from offering digital TV unless the companies follow an extensive list of government regulations, Schmidt said.

Now, some of you may find the relatively content free local news valuable but, really, if that stuff is the core value of broadcasting we are in deep trouble.
Read the whole article. It is full of fine whining, groveling and populated by congress critters who, seemingly only too eager to feed their patrons, should be put out to pasture.
Oh, and please don’t get me wrong, Verizon and SBC are not really good players here. They are companies who have drank heavier than most from the protected from competition by regulation trough over the last hundred years.

Blocking Fox

Television news is some of the worst of the poor material generally available around the dial. Is is usually devoid of adequate context, sophomoric in analysis, and biased. This is pretty much guaranteed by the limited time available to present any particular story or subject.
So, while the Foxblocker is entertaining when viewed from a partisan stance I’d carry Jazz’s suggestion “that you may want to get one if you have children” just a bit farther.
If possible, do not allow your children to watch any television news. If you can’t stop it entirely then make sure you are with them and that you discuss each story in detail. Treat it pretty much like any other X-rated material.
One caveat to the above: when there are major events that are given continous extended coverage most of the news channels seem to do a pretty decent job (the networks tend to go back to regularly scheduled programming too soon). It is best, even during extended coverage, to switch networks regularly. Spend 5-15 minute at each stop. You can learn from both the differences in commentary and camera shots and this can provide plenty of fodder for family discussions.

Government Helping the Needy

I know some of you have probably forked over big bucks for that new HDTV set and are enjoying some excellent picture quality. I haven’t and have yet to see one at a size and price point that makes me say, “I have got to have that.” And, I also haven’t seen the value in buying that digital cable package. Basic does just fine for the few hours a week that I watch TV.
Since there are apparently a lot of other folks like me out and about our ever helpful federal government is accelerating its work on behalf of big electronics:

It’s one of the biggest technical changes in television since color TV: the digital transition. And because many Americans remain in the dark about it, federal regulators began an education campaign Monday to enlighten them.
Remind me, please, just why it was congress needed to set a target date for “all digital” and why the FCC needs to be spending tax money to act as the marketing arm for the electronics industry in what seems no more than a wealth transfer exercise.
When the perceived value hits the right point people will buy the stuff in droves.

Fox News Amazing Success

Well, not really. Here’s the story:

For the first time in its history, Fox News Channel beat the combined competition in primetime during the third quarter of 2004, with major headlines of the summer including the national political conventions and a brutal string of hurricanes.
According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 1.8 million viewers, while CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and Headline News averaged a combined total of 1.7 million. The quarter ended Sunday.

Paul, posting at Wizbang, tells us:
I’ll probably have to defend this point later but this really shows that FoxNews is not the “far right wing” that the liberals love to call it. In fact, the opposite is true. When a single news source gets over half of all viewers, it is, by definition, in sync with the population at large.
He’s right a little defense is in order.
Let’s see, the US population is somewhat over 294 million. About 1.7 million watched Fox. That works out to a little over 1/2 per cent of the population. Hardly what I’d call “in sync with the population at large” and clearly Fox, while large in comparison to other cable news channels, is serving a pretty small niche market. It is not at all unreasonable to think this audience is primarily of one particular persuasion.
Update (9/29): Paul defends by saying “…the defense writes itself.” I don’t see any sign of it though….

Olympic Bitching

Well, the Olympics have barely started and world class complainers are already at it.
I admit to near hating the coverage of the past two Olympics. But early on I have no complaints at all about this one.
First, if I had not been at work this morning I could have watched the opening ceremonies live on CBUT. Since I wasn’t I watched large chunks on NBC/CBUT tonight. The two networks were enough out of synch with each other that if we missed something on CBUT we could switch over to NBC a bit later and see it. I thought the ceremonies were fine. Excellent music, fine artistry, great graphics and lots of athletes. It was just fine.
Second, I’m now watching live rowing. Hey, I’ve been watching live rowing for 1.5 hours now. This is more live rowing then, I think, have been shown in the last two Olympics combined. The announcers have been ok, if a bit slow keeping up with the action on the course. Oh, there has not been a single long human interest story yet.
If to today turns out to be exemplary of the rest of the coverage I’m going to be very unhappy about being on a traveling vacation over the next week instead glued to the TV. I will, though, enjoy the vacation.
PS: Yea, I agree with Tim Duncan’s assessment of the NBC announcers. But, hey, we just went to other coverage when they got too misdirected.

TV Creativity

Kudos to Fox for pointing out the obvious:

NBC and ABC have accused Fox of stealing their ideas, and Fox has fired back, saying it’s just part of the game.
Lawrence Lessig suggests that this copycat activity will make for better shows:
Competition over derivatives only makes the derivatives better.
I suppose there is something to this argument. Especially when considering the starting points:
NBC won the rights to “The Contender,” a reality show about boxing. Two months later, Fox launched a similar show called “The Next Great Champ.”
ABC has a program called “Wife Swap,” in which two wives switch houses. Fox then launched a series called “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy.”
And who can forget “Popstars” and “Making the Band,” which all came before the even-more successful “American Idol”?
Yes, the latter may have been superior to its precursors and some of you may like this stuff but I’m quite happy to have temptation so dramatically reduced by the fine quality of this material. It seems not that many years ago that I watched 2-3 shows every night (Saturday usually being the most difficult to find something interesting) and now its down to 2-3 shows per week and shrinking.
I must admit to a bit of prevarication here. Over the past two weeks I have spent a couple hours daily watching OLN’s somewhat flawed Tour de France coverage (of which, more in another post later this week).