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8 posts from September 2009

September 25, 2009

TV Bad

Modern Family
The Forgotten

Yeah, okay, I tried to watch some new show pilots last night. Couldn't get through the first two. Modern Family (new half-hour sitcom about three families) got some good reviews, but I don't find it funny when writers/producers simply humiliate characters in a scene. That makes me squirm. There has to be something more than just humiliation in there. Too many people are hung up on The Office and think that making an audience really uncomfortable is all you need to do to be good. Ugh.

Mercy (trauma nurse hospital drama) was just bad. Bad acting, bad writing, bad conceptualization, bad stereotypes. Dumb. And extra bad points for gratuitous, exploitive use of Iraq. Didn't stay for the whole thing.

The Forgotten
(ex-cop leads a volunteer group seeking the identities of John and Jane Does once their cases have gone cold) was watchable. That one I got through. It's Jerry Bruckheimer, and it shows. High concept cop procedural, basically. Even if the writing and acting are bad (and they are), there's still the mystery to pull you through. I might watch again if there's nothing else on, but I won't seek it out.

I totally avoided Cougar Town, which has gotten some bad reviews anyway, because I just don't like being marketed to in that egregious way. I'm not on The Schedule as it is, and being told who I'm supposed to be at my age (apparently a divorced mother of 2 who wears skirts and heels and fucks young men) makes me itch. So instead I went to the other women-of-a-certain-age wish-fulfillment vehicle: Eastwick. Fun! There's a cougar in this one, too, only they just call her a "slut." Plus a Miss Moneypenny and a doormat housewife. The Slut turns out to be clairvoyant, the Miss Moneypenny to be a hypnotic vamp, and the housewife is, OF COURSE, an earth goddess.

But how can you say no to witches? I love witches! I love the (literal) female empowerment that's inherent and inevitable in a witch-centered story. I hate to admit it, but Practical Magic is still one of my favorite movies (and yes, I know it's the Sarah McLachlan of movies.) No matter how cheesily you approach it, if you're making witches your protagonists, they will be women, and they will be active agents of their own destiny. You can't have a passive witch. (oo! plot of novel #10: the passive witch! Watch her sit in her La-Z-Boy! See her make cookies and daydream! It'll be a best seller!)

Anyway, Eastwick is supremely cheesy, but I'm loving it already and have subscribed to it on Hulu. One outta five ain't bad.

September 23, 2009

Idea That Will Save Journalism: Required Reading

Every once in a while I get an Idea That Will Save The World. No, really. If people would only listen to me and do exactly as I say!

Anyway, like everyone else I've been wondering how to save journalists in an age when people are more likely to read/view ignorant fame whores who will do something funny or undignified for free online. The latter are everywhere and two will rise up to take the place of the one whose fifteen minutes is up.

Yet we all know that internet money is controlled by page views. So the real question is: how do we get page views for reading oatmeal when everyone just naturally clicks on reading/viewing froot loops?

My solution: "Required Reading," a membership website that sets standards for fields of expertise and publishes user-selected "required reading" lists of online content.

There will be required reading/viewing lists in all fields of knowledge, broken down by academic discipline and by professional field. These will be designed to be used specifically by schools, universities, and employers. Members will not be individuals, but rather institutions: schools, universities, and companies. Individuals within those institutions will get accounts under their institution's membership, but will not themselves be members.

To gain membership, an institution must be accredited or have some sort of formal recognition in their field. (Pilot members will determine what these are for each field.) Members can, of course, have more than one field. Members then will caucus annually online to select a single, but tiered or branched, "required reading list" for their field. It will not be done by voting alone; the process will include discussion and require a level of consensus. The list will be limited by number of sites (perhaps three maximum for each list branch), and will include a general list, lists for different levels of readers (middle-grade, high school, undergrad, graduate studies, and professional, for example), and sub-lists for sub disciplines.

The purpose of keeping the lists very short is that all members pledge to require their students/employees to read the list throughout the year, for as long as they are members. And yes, this will be enforced.

The process of selection will be short, and designed to enable the content producers who end up on the list, to use their list-status to leverage advertising money. They will stay on the list for a year, and the selection process will be set up so that, even if they fall off the list in the following year, they will appear on the following year's list as "previous year's list" so they'll still get a high hit count, and so that their income won't disappear completely if they happen to fall off a list for one year and return to it the next. Again, this is all designed so that the content producers can leverage the lists in a way that makes sense for their presumably freelance practices.

The sites will be aggregators, of course, so students/employees will be required to log into the sites to access their required reading. This is so that both the site and the schools/employers can check on frequency and length of reading to help enforce the requirement. It's up to each member, of course, to decide on what the requirement actually consists of (reading every day vs. reading once a week or once a month.) The site will, of course, keep stats on usage and offer field/industry/sector ratings to help content producers predict how much traffic a required site will actually get.

And Req Read will throw out users who don't get any or enough usage from their students/employees. Members have made a pledge after all. It's up to them to decide the level of their commitment, and how to enforce it. But if they fall significantly below their commitment, or are obviously not using the site the way it was intended, then the site don't need 'em.

Of course, the site will also offer a general aggregator that each user can use if they wish, to both entice them to use Req Read's aggregator everyday (the required lists will be big and bold at the top of the aggregator page), and to give Req Read access to stats on users' general reading habits. (A user leaving a member institution can export all their subscriptions to a free general aggregator ... but all subscriptions only, not pick and choose.)

And the site will also offer each member their own page and the option to create institution-specific sub-pages. Universities, for example, can offer each professor a Req Read page for a class, i.e for half a year only. Corporations can create a Req Read page for a department during a period of professional development. Institutions can also zero in on individuals; a manager being groomed for promotion can be given her own page of required reading.

Content producers will have free (or low fee) user accounts and can log in and see what lists they are on at any time. They can access extensive stats on the traffic and usage the lists they are on get.

Let's be clear, though, there will be a temptation to use this site as a bookmarks page for static information. The site must be set up to discourage this. The purpose of the site is to enable web journalists, not print writers whose work ends up on the web; and to enable access to and promote use of specialized online journalism in expert fields among people who should be, but aren't, using it.

If this site exists already somewhere, please tell me! If it doesn't and somebody with the know-how and money to get this off the ground is inspired by this idea -- take it! (Just mention me on the "about" page and throw me a free junket every now and then. ;) )

September 22, 2009

Hear, hear! Save Big Insurance!

September 20, 2009

Readin' Update

Finished a friend's novel MS (not the final draft), both of which shall remain nameless.

Finished (re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin, the sequel to Cycler, in which a teenaged girl has to come to terms with turning into a boy once a month, instead of having a period. (Which raises the question: will she ever be able to have kids? And if not she, then will he?)

Review verboten since Lauren's a friend, but go read it!

September 15, 2009

Domestic Violence Is A Preexisting Condition

I often act outraged when I'm really just angry. But this is outrageous. Call your representative today and tell them to do something about it. Public Option Now!

September 09, 2009

Reading Update

Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin

Read it for a review I wrote for Hyphen. You'll have to buy Issue 19 to read my review. Short version: not a good book.

September 08, 2009

Can't Afford To Wait For The Public Option

I took part in this Moveon.org action about a week ago, in which they had folks take pictures of themselves with these signs saying who in their lives "can't afford to wait" for the public option. Then they made a video of it. If you watch all the way through, near the end you can see the truly unflattering picture of me I took. I'm bummed because I went with the unflattering picture because it was the only one out of about 25 I took that included the whole sign I wrote. Then they went and cut off the bottom of my sign anyway. But I guess it made its point.

Please call Congress today. Really, none of us can afford to wait.

September 03, 2009

Embarrassingly Effective Viral Video

Oh my god, this is so awesome it actually made me cry. And I hate weddings. I hate the whole pageantry of it, the symbolism of the white dress and the procession of the wedding party and the minister officiating. The whole thing. If I ever get married (and that's always been a big if) it will be in jeans, by Elvis, in Las Vegas, in front of total strangers. And it will be ritual only, not legalized until everyone can get married.

But this ... this is totally awesome. Why aren't more weddings joyful affairs? When people say "I'll dance at your wedding," why don't they ever mean literally, during the wedding? Why shouldn't the bride and groom dance down the aisle to their song?

I also love that they've made this video a portal to making donations against domestic violence (since it was a Chris Brown song they danced to.) Yes, I am a sentimental soul.

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