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Tag Archives: tv

Last Sunday, we caught the opening episode of CBC’s new reality series Over the Rainbow which is the quest to find Dorothy in the new Mirvish production of Wizard of Oz. We’ve watched some of the other CBC reality TV shows in the past, specifically Battle of the Blades and thought that it would be fun to be part of the live audience, but that particular one had an issue since we couldn’t both get out to the Hershey Centre by the time the taping started.

Over the Rainbow was taped at their downtown studios, which is a much easier location to get to. We got tickets to the Monday show, which was the results show where one of the original 10 Dorothys would be leaving. As this was our first live TV taping, it was a fun and interesting experience. We saw the stage crew getting things ready (they Windex-ed everything, a lot) and various hosts (the real one and an in-studio one) rev up the audience. They even practice introducing and announcing the judges even though the judges didn’t do anything that evening.

The actual show was fast, as it was 30 minutes with 3 commercial breaks (and some pre-filmed scenes). They did their intro song number as a group, and one new group song. Then they announced the two contestants who were on the brink and had them do a sing-off. Andrew Lloyd Weber, without much fanfare, picked one of them to save and the other was eliminated. The best part was that the loser had to sit on a moon that sailed over the sky as she sang Over the Rainbow. Since this was the first results show for this series, we didn’t know it was going to happen so that was surprising and emotional!

It was a fun experience to go to a taping, although there was a lot of waiting in lines before the show. I was also surprised that they did everything live, there were no retakes or practice. They also didn’t enforce a lot of rules on the studio audience (although we behaved); I suppose I could’ve brought in a better camera with a telephoto too! The next day, they posted the episode on CBC and I could check if we made it on TV. There were glimpses of us several times, but the above is probably the best shot when they panned the audience.

  • The Perfect Milk Machine
    This article is about how Big Data has transformed the dairy industry in a short 50 years. Using a couple of simple metrics (not even genome sequencing) across a large number of bulls and cows, dairy farmers are able to unequivocally determine which bulls can father the best milk-bearing cows.

    No matter how you apportion the praise or blame, the net effect is the same. Thousands of years of qualitative breeding on family-run farms begat cows producing a few thousand pounds of milk in their lifetimes; a mere 70 years of quantitative breeding optimized to suit corporate imperatives quadrupled what all previous civilization had accomplished. And the crazy thing is, we’re at the cusp of a new era in which genomic data starts to compress the cycle of trait improvement, accelerating our path towards the perfect milk-production machine, also known as the Holstein dairy cow.

  • With Friends Like These
    Excerpts from a new book about how Friends came to be. Not sure if it’s entirely true or whether those that are involved are just painting a picture that makes the show look good.

    LORI OPENDEN: Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry were technically not available. We had second position [on both]—we were taking a gamble that the show in first position wasn’t going forward.

    We auditioned other actors for Jennifer’s part, but nobody else was good enough. It was a pretty big risk. Her show was a comedy for CBS. They’d shot 10 episodes and had them on the shelf for six months. They still had the rights to air it.

    JAMIE TARSES: Then we had Jennifer Aniston crying to Les Moonves [then president of Warner Bros. Television, which produced Friends] to let her out of the CBS show she was on.

    WARREN LITTLEFIELD: I remember watching Muddling Through, Jennifer’s show. It was bad. I thought, They won’t pick up this horrible show just to fuck us, will they?

    PRESTON BECKMAN (former executive vice president of program planning, NBC): I put Danielle Steele movies on opposite the Jennifer Aniston show on CBS. I killed it.

  • Oh My God — We’re In Bed With The Vampire Squid!
    The tale of how Goldman Sachs lost the lead position on the Facebook IPO
  • How The Chicken Conquered The World
    More about farm animals, this time the chicken. This article’s a look at how the chicken became the common denominator of meat in the world.

    Chickens arrived in Egypt some 250 years later, as fighting birds and additions to exotic menageries. Artistic depictions of the bird adorned royal tombs. Yet it would be another 1,000 years before the bird became a popular commodity among ordinary Egyptians. It was in that era that Egyptians mastered the technique of artificial incubation, which freed hens to put their time to better use by laying more eggs. This was no easy matter. Most chicken eggs will hatch in three weeks, but only if the temperature is kept constant at around 99 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity stays close to 55 percent, increasing in the last few days of incubation. The eggs must also be turned three to five times a day, lest physical deformities result.

    The Egyptians constructed vast incubation complexes made up of hundreds of “ovens.” Each oven was a large chamber, which was connected to a series of corridors and vents that allowed attendants to regulate the heat from fires fueled by straw and camel dung. The egg attendants kept their methods a secret from outsiders for centuries.

  • The Devils in the Details
    I posted a quick Whitney Houston article shortly after when she died, but that was from an old magazine issue that someone dug up. Here’s a more complete and researched look at Whitney.

    He met her in her home in Alpharetta, in the final days of her marriage. Her image was shot, her career was in the toilet, and Gary and Pat Houston, her brother and sister-in-law, were hovering around like nurses in an emergency ward. “My voice is stuck in my throat,” Whitney told Catona. “I try to sing, and nothing comes out.”

    “She looked thin. Her hair was a little messy,” he says. “She looked like someone who had gone through some kind of emotional trauma.”

    Yet, there was a spark. Singing was in her bloodline. The great Aretha had told her, “I’m passing the baton on to you.” Catona continues: “Everyone was relying on her to make a comeback, not just for financial reasons but for her well-being.”

    Catona demanded her full commitment, and she agreed. “She wasn’t a crooner,” he explains. “She had to sing at the very top of the capacity of the human voice. She was also an alpha female, domineering, commanding, and people were scared of her.”

    After a few months of Catona’s daily exercises, Whitney rented a house in Orange County, California, determined to live with her daughter and without her husband. “She blossomed,” says Catona. “She was the most devoted student I ever had.”

    She focused on her health and tried her best to quit smoking. “Once, I forgot my keyboard, and she thought I had left,” says Catona. “I went back in, and she started coming to the door with a cigarette in her hand. She hugged me, and I saw her flick the cigarette over her shoulder.”

As I have been watching more How I Met Your Mother lately, I’ve come to realize that it is the new Friends. You have a group of friends (duh) who always hang out at a local hangout and well, that’s all I thought about so far; except – I tried to match up the characters together. I thought that Ted is the new Ross – he’s the guy that most people in the audience are rooting for and have difficulties finding a spouse. Marshall is the new Chandler – an pretty normal guy with some eccentricities. Lily is the new Monica, a home-ly wife and partner of Chandler Marshall. Robin is the new Rachel, who is a more trendy woman. Finally Barney is both Phoebe and Joey – because those two are basically the same weird character.

I find that I don’t find this show that funny, but end up watching it because it reminds me of the lifestyle and experience of Friends.

This April, I spent a great deal of time cleaning up around the house. When we moved, we had a lot of boxes that we left in our spare bedroom, and I started going through them and finding places for their contents. This meant that we had huge garbage and recycling days! We also have been having gnat problems in our house due to somehow attracting them into our plants, which I solved by putting a layer of sand on top of the soil on all our plants. I packed away my Rock Band stuff, which I haven’t played in probably a year (and probably won’t again – what do I do with all of these plastic instruments). In fact, I probably haven’t played XBox360 in a few months (but it works well as a media center)!

We started the month with an early Easter, and we went to Chicago with a group of our friends. I haven’t blogged a lot about it because we didn’t do anything particularly exciting, but it’s fun as it is like spending a night out with friends which lasts 96 hours! After we got back from our trip, we returned to winter weather as the temperature plummeted from the 20°Cs we were seeing down to near freezing. Here’s hoping that Spring comes (again) in May.

I’ve been watching a little bit more TV this month as well. I caught the Saturday Night Fever/Disco Glee tribute episode and have been watching more of How I Met Your Mother and 30 Rock. When I started watching 30 Rock, it was a bit odd; but it is better now – I guess it’s an acquired taste.

Today I was thinking of assembling together a Home Theatre PC. I’ve avoided trying to do this for a long time because my XBOX actually serves this purpose quite well; I can stream media from my PC on to my TV. But I’m looking for more flexibility so that I can transfer arbitrary media and run Windows programs on my TV.

Surprisingly, there are a lot of lower power, slim devices available now and you don’t have to build them yourself. The ones I were looking at are kits that come with a case, motherboard and processor. All that you have to add is some RAM ($30-$40) and a 2.5″ HD ($130?). Unfortunately, this pushes the price to almost $400.

That’s still a bit expensive unfortunately, especially for a device that may not work as expected. Particularly, I’m worried about 1080p playback on a low power CPU. I don’t want to spend $400 for stuttering.

Sometimes we get lazy after watching Jeopardy and keep the TV on CBC and the Rick Mercer Report comes on. Rick Mercer, the star of the show, actually has a really great job. He gets to be a celebrity, although only maybe F or G-list (B-list in Canada though) and he spends his time travelling around and doing wicked, interesting things. I’ve seen him take rides in air show planes, be a lumberjack, etc. Things that normal people wouldn’t have access to, but might if you were rich – except he gets paid to do it! Even though he is pretty much restricted to places and activities within Canada, I think that’s still pretty awesome in my book.

Earlier last month, we started watching Glee from the pilot. I’ve caught Glee various times on TV, but have not watched it religiously. It’s entertaining enough in a fan-of-music type way that I was willing to watch the entire series.

Halfway through the pilot, I had a sinking feeling that Glee was not actually that great – but surprisingly, it redeemed itself by the end of the episode. I think it was because there was a strong positive message that tied up the character introductions. But as I am watching through the rest of the season now, I’m growing to become ambivalent about the show. Perhaps one reason is that without the artificial delay of weekly telecasts, you end up suffering from an overload of Glee (and it’s not like we watch a lot, just an episode a day).

In the first few episodes, many of the characters exhibited odd quirks; but I think as the season wore on, this werid moments lessened and the themes became mainstream again. This helped to lessen the appeal, if it’s just a high school drama I can watch 90210! Second, the music is too varied. I don’t really have an interest in Broadway, so after the 5th Broadway number it just feels like wasted time. Same for a lot of other songs I haven’t heard about or enjoy. Then, beyond the initial appeal of random teenagers dancing and singing to a song you know, I end up only being interested in some of the performances (and isn’t watching Glee mostly about hearing them sing?)

(Is it bad that two of my favorite Glee clips are washed-up early 90s boyband-esqe artists?)

Finally I get the most fed up with the fact that most of the time when they sing, there have these goofy smiles on their faces. Granted, it might be a show choir requirement to wear a smile mask; but seeing them do this in every song, even when rehearsing in their classroom, makes it a farce. Are we supposed to imagine that music solves all problems? Or only that this opportunity to sing in the classroom is the one moment of absolute joy for the Glee kids?

This month I started playing and thinking about Android games. I suppose it’s mainly because I’m tired of XBOX360 games. I ended up getting and completing Plants vs Zombies (free from Amazon) and Game Dev Story (~$2.50).

Around the house, we spent some time “gardening”. I use the term loosely because we haven’t dug up our backyard and instead of a bunch of plastic pots and planters from Dollarama. We have a variety of plants, although many of them are struggling. We also started watching Glee from the beginning. It’s good, but I think that there is such a thing as too-much-Glee and it begins losing its edge.

There hasn’t been much summer (or even late Spring) weather this month. I think the hottest this year was when we went to Washington DC in May! This month has been quite manageable, with weather in the mid-20s and even some heavy rain (and hail). Because the weather wasn’t too hot, we were able to spend some time riding our bikes. We had trips from Union to the end of Tommy Thompson park and back, and from Edward Gardens down to Queen and back.

I also spent a lot of time this month on the phone with Bell. We don’t have any Bell services, but because of the discontinuation of the analog signal, my parents had to convert their existing Bell TV to IPTV. It was a long struggle, first to negotiate a good package, and then to get Bell to fulfill the existing service until the transfer date, and then do the actual installation. Do you know that in order to receive TV service from Bell, you need to subscribe to their Internet as well? That’s a very unfair business practice, and we had to cancel the cheaper and better TekSavvy in order to get this to work.

I didn’t blog as much as I thought I should have this month. Mostly because there were a lot of little things that I didn’t feel warrant a blog post – although I think I captured them well in this recap!

This week, Jeopardy had a 3-day special where two of the best Jeopardy players of all time played against an IBM supercomputer named Watson. It is an interesting news story that has been picked up by mainstream media, and marketed at work this week, but I also have interest in it from a hobbyist AI point of view.

At a high level, what Watson does doesn’t seem difficult (at least from my couch). It takes a variety of words from the answers and other factors (like previous answers in the category and category name), and then determines what other words belong in the cluster. Then it constructs a question out of the highest confidence result, which if high enough, it will buzz in and say. I’m sure the specifics are much more challenging but that’s why you have a team of people and money to fund them.

With Watson in the news, AI has become a hot topic. I have a little AI challenge of my own going on, which is to come up with competent opponents for Condado. More on that in another post.

Randomly I catch Battle of the Blades on TV. It’s CBC’s take on Dancing with the Stars with a distinctly Canadian touch – dancing on ice with hockey players! It’s strangely entertaining to see brute hockey players like Georges Laraque do ice acrobatics and lifts. It’s not all hilarity, some of the performances are really good!

Start watching at 1:50, and watch their expressions. He also does jumps!

I have some good ideas for the show though, they should have a special season where the don’t just match hockey players, but goalies! Or do a role reversal and have the male figure skaters skate with women hockey players.

One worry I had moving to where we are now is that our OTA TV wouldn’t be as great as it was previously. Before we got a great number of stations: NBC, CBS, CW, CTV, Global, City, Omni2, CHCH, SunTV and a couple of ones I can’t remember now. We were lucky because we had a window that faced partially east to the CN Tower, and partially south to get the US stations.

Now, we’re almost directly north of the CN Tower and facing east. I fully expected that we couldn’t get any channel (except maybe CTV which broadcasts from McCowan/401). Well we do get some! We still get CBC, CBC (french), CTV, Global and Omni2. The important one is CBC really because then I can watch uncompressed full HD hockey! CTV and Global are bonus which means we can catch up on our sitcoms and dramas too.

What’s better than badges? More badges! Well, not Foursquare ones, but Miso.

What’s Miso? It’s kind of like Foursquare, except instead of checking in at locations, you check in when you’re watching TV shows or movies. Everything else is pretty much the same. I would have signed up earlier, as I have badge OCD, but I don’t watch TV that much. Now that I’m back with my parents, I don’t have too much to do so that means a lot of TV time (and they actually have cable!).

It seems like all the TV shows nowadays are crime or hospital dramas. There are two Canadian cop shows that are on now, Flashpoint and Rookie Blue. I’m not really interested in Flashpoint, but watched an episode of Rookie Blue. It’s pretty obvious from the settings and conversations (wedding in Rosedale etc) that Rookie Blue is situated in Toronto!

What is strange is that I watched Rookie Blue on an American channel, ABC! Apparently Rookie Blue has been too (although it doesn’t seem that interesting to me). Wow, Toronto will be famous, just like Seattle in Grey’s Anatomy.

I originally wanted to write one grand blog recapping this decade. That failed because I ended up waxing philosophically about my life and technology. Here is a new, simpler try; a list of things that I felt were monumental in this decade (in somewhat chronlogical order):

  1. 9/11 (wherewereyoumoment? just starting work at my coop)
  2. A lot of Warcraft and DOTA
  3. Bomber nights at UW
  4. Google Maps and driving directions
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Starting listening to “indie rock” (later known as post-punk revival)
  7. The iPod yelled NOOB!! and fragged the discman. It’s teammate the digital download started owning the CD as well.
  8. I stopped watching TV (real and eventually the downloaded variety).
  9. Celebrity minutia became popular, driven by reality TV “stars” and stars-for-no-reason (Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian)
  10. Everything in this decade was made from China
  11. I would argue that there is now a greater fear of super bugs (SARS, H1N1) and transmittable diseases.
  12. “Music stores” either closed up or became “Media stores”, selling DVDs and video games
  13. The cellphone replaced the watch for many people
  14. Al Gore and the environmentalism movement
  15. Gas prices were up to 130¢/L at one point…
  16. American Idol et al were the top TV shows of the decade. Instead of writing scripts to mirror reality, they filmed reality and scripted it.
  17. Got engaged, planned wedding, got married
  18. First US black president (bonus: with a name so close to Osama)
  19. Blogging my life here.

Unfortunately, this list was still difficult to write because I can’t fit a decade in my head at one time. I’m sure there are things that I missed but I guess I will update if I think of anything important (and get around to updating…)

I haven’t been taking advantage of my HD, and it’s a shame. When I’m flipping through the channels, the clarity makes boring shows interesting! The best is sports, especially hockey.

I’ve been watching the playoffs, drawn like every one else, by the Crosby vs Ovechkin matchup. It was quite entertaining, with lots of end-to-end rushes. Ovechkin is the flashier player, and a lot of people like him. But I prefer Crosby. He doesn’t get involved with the puck as much, but when he does, his skill and strength make an impact.

I’ve also watched a bit of the Vancouver-Chicago series, to cheer on Mats Sundin (and Kyle Wellwood). That series was really exciting because of the Blackhawks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chicago in the playoffs! I watched game 6, the elimination game, go from 3-1 for Vancouver to 7-6 for Chicago in two periods! If the Pens and Chicago both make the final, it’s going to be really entertaining to watch.

Last week, I was over at the local Rogers TV station after work because Pauline was getting interviewed for the local high school sports show. Her badminton team won the local trophy and two students from her team had to fight for #1, which made for an intruing storyline I suppose.

I had a chance to watch in the control room as they were filming and it was an interesting experience. It wasn’t live, but it seemed like they wanted to get through as quick as possible. There was one time when the host asked a question twice, the producer yelled stop, rolled back the tape to an earlier point and continued recording. There were multiple cameras rolling at once, and I guess they pick the best one (i.e., close up when someone was answering a question). What you don’t see on TV is the host fidgeting with his ear piece when the interviewee is answering a question.

Because her badminton team did well, Pauline is off to balmy Sudbury for OFSAA for the rest of this week. That means I need to try not to burn down the house!

After going to Morimoto a few weeks back, this reporter’s story of an Iron Chef America taping makes more sense. I haven’t actually watched an episode of Iron Chef in its entirety, but my faith in TV expects that this sort of thing happens in reality tv all the time.

Several things slowly dawned on us as we watched the taping. The participants went about their tasks methodically but unhurriedly, as if they had all the time in the world. There was none of the huddling and dialogue among team members that we expected, even though they had to develop a menu from scratch using an unknown ingredient. Like a lightbulb coming on over our heads, we realized that the chefs had known the identity of the main ingredient all along, just as they had known ahead of time which Iron Chef would be paired with the challenger. How else to explain the utter nonchalance displayed by the sous chefs, who fetched ingredients and blended them; toasted, fried, and roasted them; then plated them like they were enjoying a relaxing holiday in the country. The Food Network has admitted as much, saying in the past that the contestants are given a short list of possible secret ingredients ahead of time so the reveal isn’t a total surprise. But I wonder if that list is really longer than one or two items.

What’s the difference between watching reality TV and real fictional TV? At least you’re not being fooled that what you’re watching is Real Life™.

I finished watching Battlestar Galactica last week. I felt like I waited forever for it to end, because season 4 got split over something like 3 years thanks to the Writer’s Strike. Finally it did, and I kind of feel that I finished it due to guilt over everyone else watching and raving about it, and to support Sci-fi on TV (of course I didn’t watch it on TV…)

What had been a great thing, started getting old and usual. This was a space opera, and even though it was gritty and in your face (there are a lot of intimate camera shots), there still felt like there was a lot of unnecessary drama. It was just Too. Tense. All. The. Time.

The second thing that started turning me off was the religious overtones. There are a lot of themes in BSG, and I can see where religion could fit in. But when the conclusion was revealed, driven by the religious allegory, it was just too fake and far from reality for me to believe. For a series that attempted to realistically portray the surviving human race, the events in the fourth season destroyed their initial efforts. I was really disappointed in this.

Part of the reason of the turnaround was that there was no consistent story arc from the beginning of the series to the end. I’ve read somewhere that they changed the direction after one of the seasons and they even rewrote the second half of the last season. In particular, I didn’t like how the denouement was handled. Being a character driven show, with a large number of support characters. They only explained how a couple of the characters turned out. It felt like they drove into a brick wall of time and then had to stop.

BSG was unique and entertaining, but I kind of feel that it limped across the finish line.

As part of my partial boycott of Rogers, we don’t get Cable. TV is pretty expensive for something that is easily replaced by DVDs, torrents or gaming. We can get a lot of other entertainment that supports time-shifting for the $50/month that we would have to pay for digital cable (and box, and pvr etc etc).

But, it’s nice to have TV sometimes, to watch the news (isn’t there something happening in Mumbai?) or Smallville (wait no, I’m officially weened off the series, I haven’t seen one episode from Season 8. It was bye Lana, bye Luthor and bye Kevin). So our solution was to buy an antenna for our TV (since it already has a ATSC tuner).

Getting a pair of rabbit ears is a bit odd to go with cutting edge HDTVs, but it does work. And not only with the analog channels of old, but with 1080i digital channels. I ordered an antenna from Dell back on September 26, and it finally got delivered on Friday. A good two months later (I seem to have some trouble with order delays). We can get City, Global, CTV, CBC and a couple of Buffalo stations all in HDTV.

It’s not the perfect solution (although it was cheap, ~$40 which is less than one month of cable); because our suite faces NE, I can’t get a line of sight to the CN Tower (or Buffalo for that matter) so the signal strength varies a bit. Unlike analog, when the signal drops to low, the picture just doesn’t update anymore!

We made it on TV on Saturday when we were at the hockey game! Here’s a screen cap from TSN:

You can kind of see Pauline’s face and features through the video compression. I was unfortunately wearing black, tall and dark; and messing around with my black camera so am not as recognizable. If you don’t believe me, here’s a full-size shot, or you can view the video on TSN at around the 25 second mark.

Next time I’ll wear a red shirt, like that kid that wore a Calgary Flames jersey to the game.

I was in Montreal this past weekend due to this. We booked the Intercontinental Montreal for $85/night on Priceline, but were unlucky because by the time we got there, we weren’t able to get rooms with 2 beds. Fortunately, we were only 3 per room this time. The hotel was weird for two reasons: 1) their bathroom was huge (separate tub and shower stall) for a downtown hotel (and it had a speaker for the TV, although the one in my room didn’t work), and 2) the lobby and the actual hotel were separated by 9 floors (we were on floor 20, which was really the 11th floor).

Watching TV once we got there, we saw the weirdest Larry King Live ever. It really was Larry King Live, with a real live Larry King, but the topic they were debating was Do UFOs cause Missile Missfires?. The guests included Bill Nye, the Science Guy, a movie producer, a physicist that wrote a book about UFOs, and some other PhD. When did LKL become Jerry Springer?

I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica season 4 now that the Hollywood Writers’ strike is over. After avidly following the series for the first two seasons, I was somewhat disappointed with the third season as there were several throw-away episodes. But the end of the season 3 brought about another dramatic plot twist and has made the start of season 4 pretty interesting. Either that or my quality meter has been severely depressed by Smallville.

I also saw a very neat episode of Stargate Atlantis this week. The premise was that Sheppard and McKay had found an Ancient game similar to Civilization on the Atlantian computers, and had been playing it in their spare time. They then came upon a planet where it turns out that their actions were being carried out in real life, the results sent back to their screens via satellites, and they were considered oracles! A very neat, meta-, and geeky episode all in all!

While I don’t enjoy Atlantis as much as the original Stargate (the writing is not as funny), they do try and please their geeky audience. There was another episode this season where they had an entire conversation about World of Warcraft (the chick had to distract the nerdy scientist you see, while her conspirator gained access to a restricted system).

I’ve been watching Smallville for awhile, even though it sucks, because it’s based on comics. There have been a couple of cool things this season, for example Black Canary, but the back story has deviated so far from canon that as a comic book fan, the series seems like it should just be “inspired by Superman”.

At this point, it’s very difficult to get past the horrible writing and lame-o stories. After 6 seasons, the writers have simply run out of ideas and have to stage complex scenarios in order to bring something new to the show. I mean, Superman only has so many flaws and those were played out 3 or 4 seasons ago. The story has truly become Dawson Creek, I don’t even remember the last time Superman Clark Kent used his powers to do something other than save his friends. Plus, Lana is a robot now or something. Anyways, I could go on and on, but the point is that I may finally stop following this gay series.

The Writers Guild of America strike has been going on since October, which is an incredibly long time for one of America’s favorite past times, but aside from the the recent news of the Golden Globes’ cancellation (due to the Screen Actor Guild’s support of the writers — not the actual strike), there hasn’t been a lot of movement. And even that was just duly reported.

I am shocked at the ambivalent attitude to this strike. I’m not significantly affected because the sci-fi shows that I follow started and finished their seasons early, while the only mainstream shows I watch are Smallville and Pushing Daisies. I’m thankful that there is a writers strike so I don’t have to watch any more Smallville stupidity. I am intrigued, however, as to why the American public haven’t caused a ruckus about losing one of their national past times. The closest comparison would be when Baseball went on strike, but even then you could watch other sports.

I wonder what people are doing instead? Is the DVD industry sky rocketing? Or are people reading books now? Maybe people are going outside and socializing!

I caught bits of Phenomenon on TV the other day. Phenomenon is a new reality TV series hosted by Criss Angel where they compete not to be an idol, but to be a magician. So as you expect, instead of singing, they perform feats of magic. Whenever I see magic tricks or sleight of hand, I feel the need to figure out how they do what they do. Usually it’s pretty tough because the acts are polished for performance. I suppose that this didn’t happen in Phenomenon because it was fairly obvious how things were done.

The first trick I saw involved a poster in a locked safe, three blondes with paint ball guns, and a wannabe magician in a jumpsuit. The guns were equiped with laser sights, and the blondes were invited, in turn, to shoot the magician with their different colored paints at a position of their discretion. After some forced hilarity of aiming at certain anatomical parts and missing, the magician ended up with three stains on his jumpsuit, and when the poster was revealed; lo-and-behold the splotches were in the exact same spots! Impressive, except that on the highlights, you could see that the laser sight and where the paint ball ended up didn’t match. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out the details of the trick.

The second trick I saw was more clever, provided you didn’t take chemistry. It involved a brunette hiding a beaker of water amidst 7 beakers of hydrochloric acid. After a brief demonstration that HClO3 was corrosive, the wannabe magician took the brunette’s hand and used his ESP to determine that 5 of the 8 cups were acidic (and dropped a tin foil ball in each to show the reaction). Now he had 3 cups left, and he was going to drink one of them and not melt. After a lot of melodrama that put the onus of his life on the brunette, he drank a cup and…survived! Can you believe that? I could, because if I did this trick, I would’ve just had 8 cups of water and some element within the tin foil that reacts with water! But since this show is shown in America, I suspect that 95% of the audience didn’t catch that, and were AMAZED.