The Long Tail in My LR

Fried from a long day, then with a client until 11:00, much-needed couch time. Overwhelmed myself with Olympic opening ceremony last night, couldn’t take more. Then remembered – wasn’t Tivo about to grow a YouTube gland? Checked in and sure enough, a bazillion new vids were there, waiting to be inhaled.

As expected, video quality isn’t great blown up to HDTV size, and audio is sometimes out of sync with the video, but the range of human experience at your fingertips is mind blowing. Started with a few Captain Beefheart clips, moved on to Django Rheinhardt, then to Jacob Kaplan-Moss talking about Django at Google HQ in 2006. I’d never watch an hour-long video at the computer, too restless for that, but this works.

The long tail is in my living room.

P.S. Thanks to the WordPress dev team for creating the WP posting client for iPhone, which I’m tapping away at now – wallowing in luxuriant tech.

“The ink is never dry on these babies.”

Winky Dink and You

Winky-Tv Great talk by futurist Paul Saffo tonight (sorry, he declined to be webcast at the last minute). Covered a lot of ground, with both inspiring and depressing intersections for journalists, but I especially enjoyed his romp through early “new media” technologies, including what must have been the first interactive television program, Winky Dink and You. Kids hung a piece of clear acetate with a connect-the-dots or other puzzle over the TV screen, and got to “rescue” Winky Dink by drawing a ladder, rope, or other device right on the screen at the right moment (subversive 50s kids apparently drew anvils or bombs to sabotage him instead). Clues given through the show led to the spelling out of a secret message.

Of course, it goes without saying that scores of kids without the kits drew on the television screen itself, ruining many a family’s first television set. “I remember that my Mother didn’t want to buy me a Winky Dink screen,” Charlie Jamison writes, “That was not going to stop me from helping my old pal Winky Dink, I just used a permanent marker! The next week, I had a Winky Dink screen.”

Also enjoyed Saffo’s collection of early remote controls (everyone still has a relative alive who calls it “the clicker,” right?

Also could relate to his “Bakelite” metaphor – when plastics first hit the scene, they worked hard to make new products look like wood or tortoise shell – the new tech was using itself to emulate the old. Since I’ve been dealing with two separate faculty members who want to put up web publications in a Flash “page turning” interface because they “just like the feel of print,” the Bakelite analogy resonated perfectly.

Other examples: The Gutenberg Bible looked just like an illuminated manuscript – print was introduced and the first thing it did was emulate the old hand-styled presentation method. And when TV was introduced, for years it just did stand-up radio shows, but with a camera on the hosts.

Music: Thelonious Monk :: Monk’s Point (Take 1)


David Pogue:

What if I told you about a new product that could improve your TV picture, eliminate one of your remote controls, simplify your home-theater setup and save you money every month? And then what if I told you that your local distributor wished, in its heart of hearts, that nobody even knew about it?

On July 1, the FCC passed a ruling requiring cable companies to supply set-top boxes that come with a removable CableCard. Even better, many new televisions include a CableCard slot that lets you eliminate the set-top box altogether. With a CC-enabled TV, your cable goes straight into the TV, letting you declutter the space, ditch a remote, free up a wall receptacle, and eliminate an analog-to-digital conversion step. Oh, and it’s cheaper (usually around $1.50/month to rent from your cable company, compared to around $6 for a set-top box). Finally, it will soon be possible to slip your CableCard into other devices (like laptops, hand-held units, etc.)

So why don’t the cable companies want you to know about the card? Simple: CableCard communication is one-way, meaning you can’t order movies on-demand through them, and they can’t send stats on your viewing habits upstream to the mothership. No wonder you’re not seeing your local distributor pushing these in the Sunday paper.

The FCC made the right call on this one. Now all I need is a bit of time to watch TV.

Music: Grateful Dead :: Infared Roses

iPhone Ads

Apple has started pushing the iPhone on TV. Probably nothing you haven’t seen already, but damn, the presentation is sooooo fine. The Calamari ad ties it all together with silk — portable video, geolocation, maps as bridge to… the lowly phone call (it can make phone calls too? Damn!)

Music: Paul McCartney & Wings :: Mamunia

Pancake Mountain

New on Stuck Between Stations this week:

Fear the Reaper: Me, on a dying meatspace record store and the technologies that replace tangible recording formats.

Return to Pancake Mountain: Roger Moore on the little-known, but dynamite sounding music show for the kids of hipster parents (George Clinton on a kiddy show? Need I say more?)

When Romantics Collide: Finn, Sorkin, & Dana’s Panties: R. Sal Reyes’ take on the greatest TV show / pop music collisions.

Nick’s Knobs: Me, on the crazy-ass home-built synth played by Nick Collier of Sheffield’s psychotic sextet Pink Grease.

Music: Baguette Quartette :: J’attendrai