Category Archives: Nattering About Television

Mind Reading Makes You Stupid

It’s clear that, whatever other benefits you gain from being able to read minds, you also become thick as a giant slab of concrete. If Sherlock Holmes had been able to read minds, he might have solved some of his cases faster, but he’d also have been more like Inspector Clouseau.

For proof, I only need point at Heroes. Matt Parkman can read minds, but he can’t seem to do anything useful with that information. And then we have last night’s episode. Continue reading Mind Reading Makes You Stupid

A Second Life PSA

One of our readers, Joel Dahlquist, asked for my thoughts about a new obesity-prevention PSA from the Ad Council. Hopefully this will be the start of a new trend, since reader requests mean I don’t have to think up what to write about and can spend my time more productively by playing Portal.

Anyway, here’s the PSA in question.

There’s a whole series of these PSAs where people come across lost body parts that are mostly fat, and now that I just typed that, I realized that there’s undoubtedly a CSI episode with this premise.

This Second Life-themed PSA does several things right. Its gentle tone goes well with the subject matter. Strident PSAs don’t work as well, though they can be fun in an over-the-top way. It doesn’t take the really cheap shot and say that you might lose weight if you spent less time sitting and dinking about in Second Life. The conceit of people finding lost body parts is a good one, and this PSA goes one step further by having an actual joke to go with the conceit, unlike the other PSAs in the campaign.

It’s a shame the joke’s not very good. The core joke, that people choose wacky online avatars, isn’t making a new observation. Anyone who’s spent time on LiveJournal or a forum like SomethingAwful’s should know that people use weird names and avatars. Worse, it’s the obvious joke to make, since one of the few things non-players might know about Second Life is that people make strange avatars.

Who’s the audience for the PSA? It’s not pitched to kids who actually play Second Life. The joke’s an outsider’s observation. It’s like making a joke about how slow the action is in a baseball game and expecting baseball fans to find it funny. Kids who don’t like Second Life aren’t likely to be that entertained because the whole PSA feels like a parent trying too hard to relate to those kids today with their Xboxes and their Hannah Montanas. Adults who aren’t interested in computers or the internet aren’t going to get much out of the joke. That leaves, well, people like me. And I’m just not that impressed.

What good do PSAs do, anyway? When I was a kid, I thought they were stupid. Now that I’m an adult, I think they’re useless. Has anyone here ever seen a PSA and been moved by it to change their behavior?

My Favorite Day of the Week

I posted about hating Fridays after the lightening strike and how I had previously had problems with Sunday evenings. It made me start thinking about what my favorite day of the week might be.

It’s Tuesday.

It seems odd to like Tuesday better than say, Saturday, but I have a long history of enjoying Tuesdays. It started in 1985 with a tv show called Moonlighting. Moonlighting came on Tuesday nights. I looked forward to that show all day at school. It was my hour’s vacation from the rat race of junior high. That show was the beginning of my love for Tuesdays.

This is the point in the story where I admit here to you, my reading friends, that I am a Bruce Willis fan. All I can tell you is that I’ve loved David Addison, Jr. since that first Tuesday episode. And while his career has certainly had it’s ups and downs, he is a big part of why I loved Tuesdays.

Another show started up in 1987 on a Tuesday, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future. I can’t exactly remember but I think that for a while my two favorite shows were even running head to head, so to speak. I remember quite a bit of anxiety about VCR tapes, so that’s why I think they might have run in the same time slot. And yes, I had a thing for Edison Carter as well. Can’t you see how nicely my choice of spouse played out? A wise-cracking smarty who is somewhat, ahem, hair-challenged?

But I loved Max for a different reason as well. I was fascinated at the glimpse of the “future” in the show. Live broadcasts everywhere, instant communication, cutting-edge computer graphics. I love that that future is finally here now. Especially without the 1987 fashions.

So now why do I love Tuesdays?

Recently Tuesday was the gathering day for our friends here in town,the locals, or as I like to call them: the nerd herd. Everyone piled in at our house and we watched TV or movies or just sat and talked and ate and enjoyed a break in the work week. We’ve taken a hiatus because of Liza’s birth and I’m hoping that we’ll get back to it soon. It probably won’t be on Tuesdays anymore because there are too many nerd herd children now, so we’ll likely move it to Saturday or Sunday afternoons.

I love Tuesdays because it is the day that Eli and Liza both go to school and I get to take a breather for a bit. I get just enough time to myself that I start missing them and then I’m glad to see them when I pick them up. Once again, Tuesday is my day of oasis.

This is the part of the story where I tell you I was born on a Tuesday. Except I wasn’t. But wouldn’t that be great if I could say that? So I’ll just close by saying I have many a fond memory of Tuesdays past. Maybe today will be a fond Tuesday memory for you as well.

Stephen Talks Science at Dragon*Con

I’m going to be on three science-oriented panels at Dragon*Con, pretending that I know things. If any of you are there, stop by and say hey. My talks are:

RETURN TO SPACE PANEL: Ask The Experts
Friday, 1:00pm
Forsythe (in the Hilton)
The President says we’re going back to the Moon and then to Mars AND with manned crews. How hard will it be to get back to where we were when NASA ended the moon missions? How close are scientists to all the technology that will be needed to get to Mars and back? All your questions answered on plans to put man beyond Earth orbit – again.

Bose-Einstein Condensates, Fermi Superfluid Gases, and Other Weird States of Matter
Friday, 5:30pm
Henry (in the Hilton)
How you can cool atoms, make quantum fluids, and win a Nobel Prize. Note: Nobel Prize not included with talk.

Can This Hubble Be Saved?
Sunday, 2:30pm
Forsythe (in the Hilton)
We all love the Hubble Space Telescope, but it’s been sick for a while now. What are NASA’s plans for it, at least right this minute, and what can be done to make it easier to fix later?

I’m still giggling over being considered a space expert, but other than that, it should be fun. And look! I even have a bio up for the talks.

My New Religion

The week before Liza was born my mom took pity on us and came out to save our sanity. While she was here the first Sunday night, she asked if she could watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I laughed because I thought it was a bad reality show but said we could Tivo it so she could watch it.

I am now totally addicted to this show. I think about it all week and wonder what the situation is going to be on the show. How many kids will be in the family. How much extra stuff they will manage to cram into their homes/garages that these families need. If there will be scholarships for the kids.

I don’t know if it’s because there’s nothing else right now on tv to watch or if it’s the best kind of train wreck, a situation that robs me of my ability to look away, but I can’t stop watching. And I suppose it’s better than being addicted to The Sopranos.