31 January 2010

January's End

The first month of the new decade will close today. And like every month, it has flown by with little fanfare for me. Sure, we've had some terrible things happen - the earthquake in Hati being the obvious. But locally, I've seen my job future become more perilous. My company continues it downward spiral, the third consecutive quarter where sales disappointed. Its fate now hangs on a knifes edge, with only a slip to either end it, or recover to become what it can be. I will, as always, continue to work for the better, putting in the (reduced) hours they give me. But I will admit a certain trepidation with them giving us a universe size amount of work to accomplish (Make titles, the RPL and Customer Service) on the needle head of time they've allocated to do it in. Some see that as a challenge (and to a point, so do I), but like a poor marksman, they keep missing on how to save this company.

I did have some time off, the first time I've taken time off of work since September of 2008. It was nice to be away, and was able to read two books during that time, and finished a third one yesterday. It's been a while since I could say I read three books in one month!

I also purchased a new TV and Blu-Ray DVD player. This has been a big back and forth with me. I wrestled with the logic of buying a new TV when my viewing time was decreasing. And my old TV, a 32" tube, that I bought in 2001 was still fine. But I was not getting any clear channels anymore, a lots of ghosting and what not. This TV should hold up, though I'm unsure how long an LCD TV is suppose to last. I hope to get a good 8 years out of it like my old one. The blu-ray was just to replace my cheap DVD player I bought in 2003 or '04. It was never that good, and had a heck of a lot of time dealing with burned movies.

So, I guess 2010, like the last three years, will be a difficult year. But its one I hope and pray turns out better.

30 January 2010

Books: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

There is a lot of good stuff (and bad) in Swedish authors Stieg Larsson’s little mystery, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The novel is about a disgraced journalist named Mikael Blomqvist. He is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece Harriet. Henrik suspects that someone in his family, who are a powerful, rich and dysfunctional, murdered Harriet over forty years ago. But soon Mikael realizes that Harriet’s disappearance is not a single event, but rather linked to series of gruesome murders in the past. Late into his investigation, he crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, an asocial punk and most importantly, a young woman driven by her vindictiveness. Together they form an unlikely couple as they dive deeper into the violent past of the secretive Vanger family.

The novel, while not complex (unless you try to keep track of all the various Vanger family members), is a well paced thriller with an interesting main character and odd ball, asperger syndrome type girl. Then again, there is the more than obvious fact that the late author sort of makes Swedish men -mostly 60 and over - out to be misogynist assholes.

The novel does take a long time to set up the meeting of Lisbeth and Mikael, and you get a great look in Swedish economics and libel cases. I found that part interesting, but most of its dropped in the middle for the “locked room mystery” that Mikael is trying to solve. Only the last part is disappointing, as the novel evolves into a boring account of Blomkvist’s effort to take down the executive who originally won the libel lawsuit mentioned at the start of the novel. The story of his revenge is dull and completely implausible, relying heavily on lazy e-mail exchanges between characters.

Still, this won’t stop me from reading the second novel in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

16 January 2010

Leno and O'Brien: ratings versus margins

This only partially about who’s funny and who’s not (although I sense the Leno supporters are mostly older folks, probably 50 and above. That being said, for man folks that were in their teens when Leno took over for Carson back in 1992, grew up with Leno as the host of The Tonight Show. Like the anxiety of younger Doctor Who fans who saw Tennant regenerate into Smith, for those younger Leno watchers he was their first host of that legendary show).

This is all about NBC and their margins versus ratings. The truth of the matter is, for NBC (and its investors), Jay Leno could have a million viewers at 10pm and the network was still rolling in money. What NBC failed to understand -because it was running itself like a cable network - was how low ratings would effect the NBC affiliates -some who were locally number 1 when Leno started, only to plunge to 3rd.

Plus, you add the burden of O’Brien’s renewal contract six years ago. While it’s true that O’Brien does not have that cross appeal broadcast networks want, he does attract the 18-49 demographic that the advertisers want. That was what NBC feared 6 years ago, that if O’Brien left the Peacock, he would land at another network, and steal the all important advertising buck. So they promised him The Tonight Show -despite the fact that Leno was still ahead of David Letterman in then ratings and was still printing money for the broadcast network. They just figured that by 2009, they would figure out what to do with Leno, but really hoping he would retire.

But as NBC head Jeff Zucker started treating the network like a cable channel (something they did not consider when O’Brien’s contract was renewed 6 years ago) which focuses more on margins than ratings, he realized that keeping Leno would be a financial boon for them. That even if the 10pm version of The Jay Leno Show failed ratings wise, money would still pour into NBC. But in doing so, as noted, the ratings slide his show took effected the local late news, and probably, The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.

To me, the ratings tumble was more a domino effect and not a simple “I think Jay Leno is funnier than Conan O’Brien.”

Now NBC has put two hosts in this position with the audience now dividing themselves between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. This schism that they caused will effect both Leno and O’Brien for a long time. Leno will get back The Tonight Show, but he’ll probably never regain the ratings he once had (but he’ll still be making money for NBC no matter what, so I’m sure Zucker will be satisfied with that). Conan O’Brien will probably move to FOX, getting an 11pm show. Will his ratings approach Jay Leno ones? Probably not, but (once again) the 18-49 demographic will support him over Leno.

The idea that this is all about Jay Leno’s and Conan O’Brien’s ego is silly and manufactured. NBC was shortsighted at best, and now they have to figure out how to save face with its viewing audience. Until the broadcast networks go away -which they will - the networks have to understand that not everything is about the investors and its not all about money (though, I know it is). At the end of the day, it’s giving the viewing audience what it really wants.

And if its Jay Leno hosting The Tonight Show at 11:35pm, then so be it. I sincerely believe Conan O’Brien can be a success if he moves FOX. Both of them are funny, even if they appeal to two different age groups.

12 January 2010

Pope Palpatine said that gays "endanger" humanity. Controlling the Transmissions says shut the frak up.

The End.

Why Jay Leno should resign

At this point in time, NBC cannot save face for Jay Leno or Conan O'Brien. One of them will have to leave, and despite what some will say, it's Jay Leno who should resign and head over to any network that will have him. As pointed out by O'Brien in his open letter (below), this began five years ago when NBC was faced with keeping him or losing him to another network. To keep him, he was to get The Tonight Show. While many thought this could be a problem -after all it pushed Leno out after only 17 years as host of the classic series, but he was still beating David Letterman - no one could have foreseen the problems of today. Or if the did, they were like people who buy a new furniture set with payments plan deferred for year, and hoping by the time they have to pay, they'll have come up with the money. So the proverbial situation has come home to roost. And NBC has epically failed at solving the problem created five years ago.

While Conan is not every ones cup of tea, he does deserve a chance as host of The Tonight Show. Forcing the show back a half hour so Jay Leno can air an abbreviated version of his unfunny prime time show is pointless.

So the only idea situation is let Leno go and let Conan O'Brien do what was promised to him five years ago. And being in fourth place, was does NBC have to lose further? It has a crapfest of a schedule, it gets rid of shows that are doing good (Chuck being one of them; and they had to backpedal on that one), and everyone knows Southland was directly canceled because of The Jay Leno Show. Sure NBC says the ratings were the cause of the shows demise (cut even before it could start airing its second season), but it was creative, smart and better than all the Law & Order series put together.

Sure if Leno resigns, the odds are he'll be picked up by FOX or ABC to star in another late night talk show which would air opposite of The Tonight Show. It's something NBC feared five years ago, but time and tide is now forcing this to happen. What it clearly says about NBC's feeling about Conan O'Brien is they don't think he can be a ratings success that Leno was. And that's got to hurt O'Brien.

Conan O'Brien, in a letter released to press, finally talks about the situation at the 4th place network:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I
want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second
feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I
love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky.
That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my
bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight
Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson
every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant
everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed
up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally
hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the
future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would
have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of
ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting
audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months,
with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their
terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their
long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight
Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years
the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I
sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to
accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider
to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight
Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move
I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David
Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot.
That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be
unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy
hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is
for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably
hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The
Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its
destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the
Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I
believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set
the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have
no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this
quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of,
for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair;
it's always been that way.


10 January 2010

Books: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)

In The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman’s second foray into children's literature behind Coraline, is a riff on Kipling’s The Jungle Book. A young boy survives an attempt on his life -his father, mother and older sister are murdered by the man Jack - and is brought up by the ghosts in the graveyard down from his home. Among the dead are teachers, workers, wealthy prigs, romantics, pragmatists and even a few children -so it takes a graveyard village to raise a child. Here Nobody Owens -Bod for short - has adventures as grows, making friends with in the cemetery -some who are not dead - and learning about his past and his future.

Over the years, he encounters hideous ghouls, a witch, middle school bullies and an otherworldly fraternal order that holds the secret to his family’s murder. As arrives into his teens things change, and the story picks up as he learns why he’s been in the graveyard all this time and what he needs to do to leave.

At times magical and terrifying, it is filled with breathtaking adventure. And while Bod makes quite a few careless and sometimes thoughtless mistakes, you don’t feel particularly inclined to throttle him because of them. And while it’s a fantasy for young adults, this sly story will enthrall anyone who wants a good book

05 January 2010

Books: The Book Of Joe by Jonathan Tropper (2004)

Right after high school, Joe Goffman left sleepy Bush Falls, Conneticut and never looked back. Then he wrote a novel savaging everything in town, a novel that became a national bestseller and a huge hit movie. Seventeen years later, Joe is struggling to avoid the sophomore slump with his next novel when he gets a call: his father's had a stroke, so it's back to Bush Falls for the town's most famous pariah. His brother avoids him, his former classmates beat him up, and the members of the book club just hurl their copies of Bush Falls at his house. But not all of his old friends hate him, and so with his dying friend Wayne in tow, and delinquent nephew adding to his troubles, Joe discovers that coming home might not be all bad -because sometimes there are second chances.

Back in August, I read Jonathan Tropper’s latest novel This Is Where I Leave You. I loved the book, for its look at small town life and dysfunctional family. This earlier work , The Book Of Joe, takes on same themes, but its really about a man coming of age. The only part, he’s 34 and not 18. Tropper has a great conversational tone and gift for character inflection that make for some of the books funniest moments. Some of it can fall into sitcom style, but you can forgive him for that, as you laugh out loud to some of the antics Joe gets into. It’s hoot of a book, sentimental and wicked look at small town life and the secrets they try to keep.

04 January 2010

Omens and Portents

I guess, at my heart of all hearts, I’m a bit superstitious.

So, today as I start my vacation from my much troubled company, I discover that thing (above) stuck in my rear passenger tire. Well, actually, all I could see was that rounded bit at the top sticking out. And when I say sticking out, it was smooth with the tread. At first, I thought it was a nail. Simple repair job.

But for Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice -and most everyone else - it’s a simple patch job and I’m out $30. But as proven in the past more often than not, Dave’s problems are never simple and when it comes to a repair job on his car, well what is easy for others is simply not for me. As an example, last year when I needed to renew my license plates, I needed a smog check. Sure, it’s like 30 bucks. But as they’re doing the smog check, they discover a hose to my engine that has basically collapsed, so that was an additional $45.

So after I leave my tire there, they call me latter to say that they cannot patch the tire> Reason being this 4" pick (for lack of a better description) has damaged the steel belt with in the tire, making a repair pointless. So instead of being out $30, I’m out $108.

Despite the fact I’ve earned my time-off, like any Catholic (lapsed or not), I feel guilty for doing it. Especially now, as Borders continues to slash hours forcing people to work harder, with less hours all while never changing the amount of work that needs to get done; as a matter of fact, its increasing. With its more than likely chapter 11 bankruptcy coming in early February -Borders fiscal 2009 ends like January 31 - and high expectations for the two RPL (book language for returns) - my taking a vacation at a time when manpower is needed most is filling me with more doubt.

While this flat tire would’ve not stopped me from going to work today had I needed too, it sure as hell would have pissed me off at 7:15 this morning. I would have been delayed at least a half hour. Then I would waste time at a tire repair place after work and blah, blah blah. So on one hand, I’m fortunate it did happen today, because I had no real plans. But it still burns that I’m out 108 bucks.

03 January 2010

New Years Eve and other things

Spent New Years with Rob, Simon, Carol, Heather, Richard and Rick Pike.

We had dinner, a few drinks and then ventured out to the Rose Parade area on Colorado to see the floats that were finished - or near finished - for the parade on Friday. We got there at 12:30 and then proceeded to walk around the area for the next two-hours and fifteen minutes. I finally got home at 3:55 am and tried to sleep, for I was up in less than three hours to go to work.

Friday was long day, even though work was not that busy. Still, I feel I did not accomplish much shelving - and it does not help I was the one one there to do it. I kind of dread what the place will look like when I return after my vacation.

Saturday was spent recovering a bit from Friday. I stayed in bed way past my usual time, watching nothing on the TV. I went to Starbucks about 11 to really start reading The Book of Joe, then went to Kohls in Glendora to see if I could spend any of the gift card my mom sent for Christmas. I could find nothing I really liked, of that matter, needed. Still, I'm sure I'll find something eventually. It's not like I have to spend it right away. Still, Mom will ask about it everytime I talk to her.

Came home and tried to find the second part of The Doctor Who finale on Youtube. I did watch it, even though the DVR was going to record it. The went out to WeHo with Rick, JayTee, Adam, Stephen and his friend James.

I'm so feel out of place at the bars, these days. Though I admit I was never one to go to them. And WeHo, much like Chicago's Boys Town area, is overrated and filled with too many genetic lottery winners all in search of the same kind of guy. I drew little attention. But I still had a fun time, as I enjoy spending time with Stephen, JayTee and Adam. Rick is hoot and is turning into a good friend.

So that brings us to Sunday. Since I got to bed at about 2 this morning, I did sleep past my normal wake-up time. Still, I woke at 5:30 out of some odd dream I was having and had to piss. Went back to bed, and slept anther two hours, and then just layed there like a lump until nearly 11, where I went and repeated my Starbuck/book run from Saturday.

I'm off the next week from work, taking advantage of time-off that I've earned. No plans in particualar, though I need to update my resume (which I bought a book for) and cleaning some areas of the house that are long over due -like my bathroom and the kitchen.

Maybe take in a few movies, as I want to see Avatar, It's Complicated, perhaps Sherlock Holmes and a few others. We'll see, but at least nice weather will be with us all week long. Temps in the mid to upper 70's in January. That's the kind of winter I like.