21 April 2010

Hulu to start a subcription fee this May

According to a Los Angeles Times report, Hulu, the online video site second only to YouTube in monthly video streams in the U.S., will roll out a subscription service as soon as May 24.

The site will continue to allow users to watch the last five episodes of the series they carry for free. If viewers want to watch beyond that, though, they would have to pay $9.95 per month.

Owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and the Walt Disney Co., the site has earned more than $100 million in advertising revenue.

Apparently, that is not enough for these media giants, though. Also, it appears that they feel the recent bouts with collecting transmission fees from cable companies such as Time Warner and Cablevision are making it impossible to justify offering the same programming online for free.

Ultimately, the report says, even the few commercials aired on Hulu will increase to match those of network TV.

17 April 2010

The Tea Party of the Misinformed

A recent NYT’s poll showed that the Tea Party people were predominantly white, predominantly male and over the age of 45 and who were more conservative than most people and who made substantially more money on average and were better educated.

I found this very interesting, if only because they have accused, in the past, that President Obama is just too smart for the Average Joe’s of these great United States of America. Yet if the poll numbers are true, then they not just a smart as Obama? So what’s the deal here?

There is also an interesting bit in the poll that seems to indicate to these people that Obama is helping black people over whites, which further proves these Tea Party people are a bit on the racist side, even though they try to deny it (and even though such as a group like these Tea Party people would historically be very anti-black). Take for example, a Washington Post article about the demonstrators who gathered at the Freedom Plaza in Washinton this past Thursday. One of the guys there, Jerry Johnson, 58, a lawyer from Berryville, Va. was asked why he was there by the Post. Johnson expressed opposition to Obama by saying "It's not just because he's black."

So, did you get that? It’s not JUST because he’s black.

These people, while probably well meaning in some regards, wrap themselves in the American flag, claiming they are patriots with roots that go back to the Founding Fathers (as flawed as they were, being slave owners and all). However, much like the Catholic Church I was brought up in, when you poke around their history, when you show their logic has no merits, when you shine the light of truth into the dark corners of their reality, they become nothing more than bullies trying to protect what they’re not really losing (such as this Forbes article on taxes).

I do think my Commander and Chief should be smarter than the average bear. But I fear the Republicans and the Tea Party people want to bait and switch the people of USA into electing a leader -whether it be Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney - who can easily manipulate the less educated into thinking that it does not take brains to run this country, just some good all know-how taken from a Martha Stewart magazine article or a pretend world of the 1950s where black people knew their place, where the homosexuals where deep in the closet, and where the reality never even came through your TeeVee.

I have seen the enemy, and they cannot spell, or think for themselves. It will be a sorry, sad world, if these brain trusts get the keys to the kingdom.

Books: Candy Everybody Wants by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

After the success of his memoir I Am Not Myself These Days, author Josh Kilmer-Purcell takes a left-turn into fiction for his follow-up book, Candy Everybody Wants. The novel, I guess, is a sort of fantasy/alternate universe story about a fifteen-year old boy named Jayson, who is gay, out and proud in the early 1980's, growing up in the Midwest who wants the same fame and fortune that he see’s on TV.

While waiting for that fame, he spends his time writing, directing, editing and acting (along with his neighbors) in short films inspired by his love of such then hit TV shows as Dallas and Dynasty. While his mother is a free spirited, an artist and occasional lesbian, she sends her son off to New York to live with his father (whom he has never met) when one of his antics gets out of hand. It is here, that Jayson goes on some very odd adventures (well, the whole set up is pretty odd also).

As with most coming-of-age stories, the hero is pretty screwed up, but his family is even more dysfunctional than he is, which is very true here. Then you add on some bizarre plot turns and an pretty predictable, fairly unsatisfying ending and you get a novel that has merits - I could understand Jayson’s fascination with 1980s pop culture - with Kilmer-Purcell’s sharp wit and honesty, but never achieves anything beyond being a quick read that you’ll not remember after putting it down.

I’m not disappointed with it, just worried on how I can juxtaposition this novel between two great memoirs - I Am Not Myself These Days and the forthcoming Bucolic Plague. Kilmer-Purcell could be a great satirist, but his real-life is more fun than this one.

11 April 2010

Doctor Who: 05.02: The Beast Below

The Doctor and Amy arrive aboard the Starship UK, a giant spacecraft that's become the post-apocalyptic vehicle for the entire British nation after the planet suffered a catastrophic solar flare. The Doctor immediately sense a police state, becoming suspicious of gargoyle-like "Smilers" that sit inside booths keeping an eye on the population, while Amy discovers a strange tentacle inside a cordoned off area and a peculiar "voting booth" where the horrific secret behind Starship UK is made known to its citizens every five years, before giving you a choice to "protest" - and risk the wrath of the Smilers or "forget" and have the burden of knowledge erased from your memory.

This is an odd-ball episode to be sure, reminding many times of the weakness of Russell T. Davies: grand ideas, with a little bit of moral posturing on the side all wrapped in some rather cheap production values due to the expense of previous episodes.

But, as like the season opener, the story is saved by Matt Smith’s continued growth into the role as the Doctor. Also, in what is perhaps the best part of the story, Amy (the increasingly interesting Karen Gillan) figuring out the solution long before the Doctor.

The Smilers come off more creepy than scary, and what was the purpose of Mandy, the little girl who accompanies Amy and the Doctor?

But at the end of the day, it’s Gillan’s Amy that shines through this rather dull episode, and if Moffat and the rest of the writers continue her growth, she could become the best companion the series ever produced.

Books: I Am Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Long before Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs, and his other memoirs, became the “it” books to read and before James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces made the world realize that sometimes memoirs blurred the line between fact and fiction, I understood that some of the stuff that happened in these people lives were not possibly true. Especially Burroughs, as I remember getting about half-way through that book and saying to myself this stuff was too outrageous, that there was a lot fiction in those passages.

Now, thanks to Frey, memoirs come with a caveat, with the authors basically having to protect themselves with notes indicating “names of characters” and other “details” have been changed. That all the characters are “composites” of many people and that this is how the author remembers the way it was, which means some of it I made up to make the flow of the story follow a linear plot.

After reading Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s forthcoming June memoir The Bucolic Plague: From Drag Queen to Goat Farmer, about him and his partner Brent’s take over of a two-hundred year-old mansion in upper New York, I settled in to read his first memoir, I Am Not Myself These Days. This is the tale of his life before Brent, before becoming the Beekman Boys and a no-holds look at his days as an award-winning drag queen at night, and an award-winning advertising man by day. It is also a tale of his relationship with Jack, a high end hooker.

Like Burroughs, like Frey, Kilmer-Purcell’s life is one absurd escapade after another. His tales of being the 7-foot-tall drag queen named Aqua, always looking for the next fella to buy him a vodka, and sometimes waking up in places he doesn’t remember (or waking up on the train on a Sunday morning with a family obviously bound for Church, who stare at him with indiscreet fright and probably curiosity) are sometimes too outrageous to believe in (and I’ve never understood some peoples mind set that they don’t really feel alive unless they’re doing something that could bring them to the brink of death). Yet, we are sort of told from time to time, that this all did happen.

And through 3/4's of the book, you either laugh at the hokey adventures and lessons of Aqua, Josh and Jack, or cry with envy that you (the reader) could never dream of living a life of self-destruction -even though it came with money and a beautiful apartment.

It’s the last quarter or so of the book that becomes even more surreal. Love is messy, and at times, you never see the forest for the trees. While I know both Josh and Jack loved each other, the drugs that Jack took -especially his crack addiction - were bound to cause their eventual split-up. It is here, that Kilmer-Purcell’s life becomes interesting, insomuch as his denial that Jack’s drug use, his high end male escort life, was never going to interfere in their love for each other. It is here, that the fundamental truths of human emotions comes out, and with a lot of wit, sharp and unforgiving, I Am Not Myself These Days transcends the memoir genre to become more than exaggerated story of a drag queen and his hooker boyfriend.

04 April 2010

When writers sell their souls

So, it was announced this past week that Stephenie Meyer will release a novella this June called The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, a character introduced in the third novel in the vampire series, Eclipse. Told from the point of view of Bree, it chronicles the newborn vampire army's journey as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens.

This seems just pandering in many ways. While Meyer has chosen not to write another novel in her Twilight series for a while, someone threw a lot of money at her to write this what is probably forgettable tale of a minor character who appears in the upcoming third film due this June. This reminds me of Ann Rice, who got stuck writing one vampire novel after another. Every time she tried to write something else, her vampire reader fans turned their heads. So, she just started writing vampire tales based on other characters to make her fans happy. While that's not so bad, it does show that perhaps sometimes its best not to listen to them all of the time.

Meyer, who by the way, has never explained how much money she's giving to the Mormons to suppress gay rights in the US, seems to be heading in that direction. While her adult sci fi novel The Host did well, it never reached the level of her four book Twilight series.

What's next, a vampire tale about an unknown Cullen cousin?


So, while filming our Star Trek fan series on Sunday, we all felt the 7.2 earthquake that rattled Baja, California. It was not severe by the time the wave hit here. It felt like a soft ride on roller skates -this being a "rolling" quake. Anyways, it did not last long -maybe all of 10 seconds, but it was another reminder of where I chosen to live. Like 4.4 earthquake we had here two weeks ago that was just about 10 miles from here, I find them interesting. Sadly, it is also a reminder that if we were to have a strong, damaging quake, this house is not ready for it.

They say we should have water and food stuff, batteries, a radio and what not for several days after a quake. If the water got cut off, along with the gas and power, we would be pretty much screwed. So, in many ways, these two rumbles of the land are telling me to get prepared.

Fun thing is, I was in the foothills surrounding Pasadena when we felt the quake. My house mate -just 25 miles east of me, in a relatively low area of La Verne (well over a 1,000 feet above sea level), did not feel it.

Friends in Santa Monica did not feel it either.

And not wanting to sound like something is going to happen, but only 9 minutes after the Baja quake, a 4.1 quake rattled Santa Rosa -about and hour or so north of San Francisco.

Strange frequencies.

Books: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (2006)

Author John Connolly is know more for his crime fiction than fantasy novels, but with the 2006 release of The Book of Lost Things, he adds his name to the list of writers trying to cash in on the popularity of the genre for young adults. However, I don’t think this book is really a kids book, more a book about childhood.

Set in England during World War II, 12 year-old David is facing changes in his life: his mother has died of cancer, his father has remarried and has a new son with the stepmother, has moved into a new home and most of his friends - well besides his books - have left London due to the almost nightly bombings from the Nazi’s.

But the new house does have a sunken garden and a forest behind it, and it is here one day where David spies something moving around his room. But when his dad and him search the room, they discover a magpie has somehow gotten in. But David, who along with his late mother, adored fairy tales and the Greek legends of myths and monsters, knows something sinister is going on.

Later, while laying in bed, he swears he hears his mothers voice calling to him. Sneaking out, he stumbles into the sunken garden where her voice is coming from. While he explores the garden, he notices lights in the sky and realizes that a German bomber is falling straight towards the garden. With no where else to go, he climbs into a crack in the walls of the garden and into another land - a land that he becomes trapped in.

In this new world, David befriends the Woodsman who promises to take him to the King, who possess a great object called the Book of Lost Things (ala The Wizard of Oz). With this great book, the Woodsman thinks David can get back to his home. But the journey will prove dangerous and deadly as David is confronted with his fairy tale books come to life.

What is most evident in this novel is the retelling of traditional fairy tales. Anything from Snow White to Rumpelstiltskin is fair game for the author. However, none of the tales are the ones we all grew up on. Snow White is now overweight and mean-spirited and no longer charming; her dwarves are attempting to get rid of her (in perhaps the oddest part of the book, insomuch as it’s the most light hearted section of the it). Little Red Riding Hood is no longer an innocent girl visiting her grandmother, but a seductive temptress who gives birth to the first loup (wolf-human). And figures such as Rumpelstiltskin serve as the inspiration for the most despicable character - the Crooked Man.

Still, this novel is an engaging, often magical, and very thoughtful read.

03 April 2010

Doctor Who: 05:01: The Eleventh Hour

I want to say put your fears away, that Steven Moffat has successfully taken Doctor Who into a new era. That he has, in the season opener, put some doubts on how -and if he could- make the show work after the four year, successful run of both Christopher Eccelston and David Tennant as the Doctor. That he could replace Russell Davies as show-runner.

You could say that he has.

With The Eleventh Hour, the fifth season begins just after the events of the fourth season finale, The End of Time. The Doctor, having regenerated, is trying to save the TARDIS, which is plunging towards Earth, out of control and severely damaged by said regeneration of the Time Lord. The TARDIS crash lands in the back garden of seven year-old Amelia Pond in the small English village of Leadworth. Amelia takes him inside and helps him satisfy his strange food cravings before taking him upstairs to show him the crack in her bedroom wall. There the Doctor discovers a crack in time and space itself, and on the other side is a prison run by the Atraxi. The Atraxi deliver a warning to the two: “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”

Pondering the situation, the Doctor thinks this Prisoner Zero is somewhere in Amelia’s house, but before he can help further, the TARDIS Cloister Bells go off, and he warns that if the engines of his TARDIS are not stabilized, it will incinerate. He promises Amelia he will return in five minutes, and leaves. She packs and begins to wait for him. Unfortunately, 12 years pass and Amelia Pond -now known as Amy - is working as a kissogram when she encounters the Doctor again.

Realizing that Prisoner Zero has been hiding in Amy’s house, the Doctor also figures out that he has 20 minutes to save the Earth.

From the word go, Matt Smith’s take on Doctor is familiar -he has the same sort of energy of David Tennant’s version - yet he also makes him a bit more kooky, I guess. There is the mad energy of the second and even the fourth Doctor, but there is some sweet whimsy of the ninth Doctor as well.

Then there’s the near perfect introduction of grown-up Amy, played by Karen Gillan, as the Doctor’s newest companion. The actress brings depth and warmth to Amy, and she never shy’s away from the apparent "mad man with a box" that has come into her life. And while Rose was also pretty much fully realized companion in the first season, Amy’s is done much better here and one hopes they’ll make her even more fully rounded as Rose eventually became.

There are some weaknesses, though. Mostly with the visual effects. The Prisoner Zero in its true form is rather disappointing, and the story itself is rather pedantic. But, perhaps, that was not what this season opener was about. Moffat’s seems to have decided to concentrate of the characters of both the Doctor and Amy, and there he is more successful.

Finally, I must comment on the new opening and theme. It’s a rather jarring difference between the fourth and fifth season title sequence, with a more darker look to it. Gone is the bright oranges and reds of Eccelston’s and Tennant’s eras, replaced by angry clouds and lightening and a huge flow of yellow energy. The score returns back to the early days of the original series, bringing back the ghostly whistle of that era (and reminding me of where The X Files theme came from).

In the end, that is what makes Doctor Who unique: it’s ability to change as the years pass, to renew itself, to be different, yet the same. Its comforting that after 47 years, the show can still surprise you.