Monthly Archives: September 2010

Review: The Event – Week 2

Last week I made a couple of observations about the premiere of The Event. I made two “predictions/requests” of the show:

  1. Cut back on the jumping around the timeline.
  2. Have the prisoners be time travelers as opposed to aliens.

So how’d it go this week?

They cut back a bit on the time jumping. I think there was only one jump per act, or thereabouts, which I can live with. So that’s one point in favor of me continuing to watch the show.

SPOILER BELOW:

We learn that the prisoners are not human. While that’s exactly what I asked them not to be, I do think they handled it well. First off, going into the DNA explanation gave them both some credibility and somewhere to go with the plot that hasn’t been done to death. So I’ll give them credit for that. I’m also not completely ruling out time travel as a plot device in the show. Even if they are aliens they can still be from the future – and even from a future Earth. We’ll see how it goes in the coming weeks.

As to how the story itself is going… a couple of interesting things going on, but not quite as gripping as the premiere (which is fine).

I will say this – if this is being played by ear and not planned out to a defined ending, it’s going to fail miserably. Too many balls in the air for this to not be going somewhere specific.

Found on Facebook

Facebook is a place where absolutely nothing of importance happens. But you do get to see some funny, or at least interesting, posts from time to time. Here are some of the better ones I’ve seen recently:


Demotivational Profile Graphics and Comments


(That was actually from fellow Coalition of Awesomeness member Dan’s blog, but I saw it through a post on Facebook, so it counts.)

OK GO has some great videos. Easily some of the most inventive stuff out there, from what I’ve seen.

And then there’s this tap-dancing for paraplegics video.

So there you go… the best stuff from my Facebook friends over the last few days. Don’t you feel better now?

The Event

The main “event” around here lately is that this website was down for two days while we switched servers. Apparently there were issues with the process. I’m not convinced everything is back to normal yet, so let me know if you experience problems.

There was also a TV show that premiered last night called The Event. I watched it. It intrigued me enough to keep watching, but I’m still annoyed about the failures of the last few sci-fi tinged shows that were cancelled … Heroes, Journeyman, FlashForward, etc. … and I’m wary about getting involved in another one only to have it pulled out from under me.

Minor spoilers and a major guess follow.

The gimmick in The Event is that it is told (at least in the pilot) by jumping around a character’s timeline. For example, we start in the present with Sean on a plane being chased by what appears to be the government, and then pulling a gun, apparently hijacking the plane. Right after he pulls the gun we jump back to 23 minutes earlier, and shortly thereafter to 11 or 13 days before that. Then it’s back to the present, but from a different character’s perspective, and we jump through his backstory as well.

We’re introduced to about 6 or 7 main characters in the episode ranging from “everyman” Sean to the President of the United States, some apparently covert military personnel, and military prisoners who have been held for years in Alaska. The prisoners seem to know about the coming “event” but don’t want anyone in power to know.

There is a sci-fi component to the show that isn’t obvious until the end of the episode. There is no evidence one way or the other at this point, but I’m going to guess that the element is time travel and that the prisoners are the travelers. It fits with the gimmick of telling the narrative by jumping around the timeline for each character, and it could explain how the prisoners seem to know something is coming. Frankly, I hope I’m right. I don’t think the show will be nearly as interesting if it turns out to be aliens or something like that. And if it is time travel, that still leaves the door open for plenty of surprises.

I do hope they cut back significantly on the narrative format of jumping around the timeline, though. It worked for the pilot, but I think jumping around as much as they did here would get seriously annoying week to week. I can take a couple of jumps per episode, but 8 or more in a half-hour is getting excessive.

Did you see the premiere? What did you think? Does it earn a spot in your viewing queue? What new or returning shows are you most looking forward to? (For me, it’s Smallville’s final season. I’m a bit of a junkie.)

Shocking news! Distraction causes lack of focus!

Recently a study looked at students who had Facebook on (even in the background) while studying vs. those without Facebook use, and compared their grades. Facebook users came out with 20% lower grades.

As stated on MSNBC:

The psychologist said the study wasn’t about whether Facebook’s good or bad, but goes more to the stereotype that younger people are fluid multi-taskers —sending text message, listening to music, reading a book, all at the same time, for example — without any problems. … “Our study, and other previous work, suggests that while people may think constant task-switching allows them to get more done in less time, the reality is it extends the amount of time needed to carry out tasks and leads to more mistakes.

I don’t know about you, but I think this is shocking. Just shocking.

It’s shocking that this study has to be done. Again. It’s been done for years, and proven for years. Decades, even. When people get distracted, their performance decreases. As the psychologist said, this really has nothing to do with Facebook. In the big picture, this is just another example of distraction. Facebook, Twitter, cell phone, talking with a friend, listening to the TV in the background, thinking about why you aren’t outside playing with your friends, wondering how long you have until the next meal… ANYTHING that distracts you from the task at hand decreases your speed and accuracy at that task. Facebook is just an extremely popular example right now.

There is a wealth of research on the correlation between distraction and performance (including the very important sub-area of safety). I’m not aware of any study that says performance was increased – or even level – on any task when the performer was distracted by something else. And in most cases, the person being distracted felt subjectively that there was no decrease in their performance. In other words, they didn’t realize they were doing worse than when focused. I’ve even heard of people saying they perform better on tasks while multi-tasking (which is really a form of distraction, it’s just more intentional than others). That has been proven wrong time and again.

The focus of these studies lately (at least the ones I’ve seen reported) has been in the areas of cell phone use, particularly when driving, and social networking. Years ago, before the internet, I’d seen these studies applied to the ultimate multi-taskers, mothers. When I’d bring it up around women, I’d usually get pretty impassioned responses – sometimes downright vitriolic. I never understood that (though I thought it pretty amusing, to be honest). It’s simply fact. Multi-tasking decreases performance. There’s no arguing it, it just is. That’s the way the brain works – one task at a time.

Sure, there are times when you have to multi-task. No doubt about that. Recognize, though, that your performance is degraded by it, even if you don’t think it is. It’s universal. It applies to you and it applies to your kids.

So what do you do about it? What do you do with this information?

Take advantage of it! We live in an overstimulated world. Turn some things off. The TV does not have to be on 24/7, or the radio for that matter. If you (or your child) is studying, get rid of as many distractions as possible. Shut down the computer, if possible, or at least Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Chat, Instant Message, cell phone, Pandora, TV, MP3 player, and other electronic distractions. Go all out and remove the Etch-a-sketch and crossword puzzles from the immediate vicinity, too. Focus.

Kids aren’t going to do this on their own, by the way. They, like many of you, think it doesn’t affect them. They, and you if you agree, are wrong. As parents, it’s your job to teach them (and model) how to do your best job. If you’re cooking, stop watching TV and talking on the phone. If you’re driving, DRIVE. Get your head in the game.

If anyone calls me while driving and I realize it, I will yell at you. I’ve hung up on people who do that. (Don’t even talk to me about texting while driving. Bodily injury may result, even if you safely arrive at your destination.)

All that other stuff will still be around when you finish whatever task you’re doing. The MP3 player isn’t going to dissolve while you’re studying. Facebook isn’t suddenly going to delete itself while you’re having a conversation with your kids. That person on the other end of the phone will probably still be alive when you get to your destination. You can call them back. If it’s really important, you can pull over.

What about you? Do you think that you can sustain the same level of performance while multi-tasking as opposed to focusing singularly on your task? Does this kind of research really matter? Do you (or will you) let your kids study with the radio blaring while the TV’s on and they’re on the cell phone while IMing with their friends? How often do  you multi-task? Is it possible to cut back on that a bit? How much more could you get done if you focused on one task at a time? And the toughest question for most… are you willing to shut the phone off while driving?

Throwing spaghetti on the wall

This post is going to be like throwing spaghetti on the wall: I’m just gonna toss a lot of stuff up here and see what sticks. It worked for Oscar Madison (okay, that was linguini – work with me).

Movie prices

According to Slice-of-Sci-Fi

The weekend closed out the books for the summer season and while ticket sales were up to $4.35 billion, the highest total ever for a summer season, overall attendance was down. Attendance this summer was 552 million, the lowest total since 1997.

So basically, they’ve raised movie ticket prices to the point where they’re not just making up for low attendance in an effort to stay afloat like the rest of us, they’re gouging us to the level that they’re breaking income records, despite the fact that almost no one is showing up! And they’re still producing mostly crap. That’s just rude.

Websites

Dan, one of the fellow contributors to the Coalition of Awesomeness, has started a new blog called Kids Telly. The blog is meant to provide a perspective on pop culture aimed at kids, including movies, books, TV, music, and kids’ websites. The first website he’s reviewed is a real winner, I think, for the young crowd (Preschool/Early Elementary). Poisson Rouge is a site that kids can use without adult intervention, for the most part, and it’s educational and fun. Here’s how Dan describes it:

The outstanding feature of Poisson Rouge (or Red Fish for any fellow francophonicphobes out there) is it’s simplicity. There are no unfriendly menus, no instructions to follow, and most importantly no need to be able to read to use it. The numerous games are varied, intuitive, and elegant; but above all the site is a great deal of fun.

Check it out if you’ve got young ones… and by ‘it’ here I mean both Poisson Rouge and Kids Telly.

And speaking of the Coalition of Awesomeness, there’s some good stuff going on there as well. For my part, I’ve talked about the failed Babylon 5 sequel, Crusade, plus five other shows cancelled too early, and posited Kermit the Frog as my answer for “who would you entrust the safety of the world?” Later this week (I think) you’ll get to read my defense of a Nicholas Cage film. Check out the site later in the week to find out which one. [Update: here it is.]

While I’m plugging sites, check this out. Amadio Artworks is a great find if you’re looking for unique handcrafted home and garden art. I can’t call myself an expert, but I’ve seen this stuff in person and it’s really, seriously, good. My aunt got this started and sucked in the rest of her family. She’s been in some pretty prestigious art and craft shows and always does very well. Give it a look.

Good comics and bad adaptations

Last night I watched the movie version of The Losers. I had read the comic book about a year ago, and absolutely loved it. Really well done action book that just screamed out to have a movie made of it. It’s one of those rare books that I’d actually read with a big geeky grin on my face like I’d just watched a really good Zorro or Jason Bourne film. The action was great, if a little over the top (though that was part of its charm), and the characters and plot were well drawn. The movie I watched last night was, sadly, a pale reflection of that story. I totally recognize that the length of a movie couldn’t cover all that happened in the books, but this film started at just about mediocre and then went downhill. It wasn’t horrible – it could be enjoyed as a brainless action flick – but it just never pulled it together enough to even be something I cared about. I’d put it right about the same level as Fantastic Four. Skip the movie. Read the comics.

These days I’m reading the The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. I’m on book 4 at the moment, and I’m just now starting to enjoy it. I actually kind of disliked the first book but kept going due to it’s reputation. Books two and three were noticeably better, but I was mostly reading it as mildly entertaining. Book four now is starting to feel more cohesive and worth my time. It’s the first hint I’ve gotten that it might live up to its reputation. I’ve also just read that Warner Brothers is in negotiations to make a TV series of the story. That’s the kind of news that has fans hopeful, but with a huge – almost overwhelming – fear that they’ll screw it up. Honestly, I can’t see network TV doing it justice, even though I’m only about halfway through the story. Maybe something like HBO (who are also mentioned as pursuing the idea) could pull it off, but not a network. They’d have to go too mainstream.

Music

A few nights ago on Facebook someone posted a video of “Birdhouse in your Soul” by They Might Be Giants. I really like that song, and it managed to pull me into a YouTube session for a couple of hours. The last time that happened, I ended up revisiting some of my favorite Homestarrunner.com bits. This time I ended up going a different direction and exploring some of the kid-focused music of TMBG and Barenaked Ladies… and a little Animaniacs. Here are a couple of the highlights:

Here Come the Geese – Barenaked Ladies (I couldn’t find the album version)

Meet the Elements – TMBG

The Alphabet of Nations – TMBG (love the piano)

Nations of the world – Animaniacs (a classic)

There were a lot more in that session, but that’s a decent representation. Fun and educational! :)

Well, I think that’s enough for now. This turned out to be a little longer than I thought, and didn’t even get to the frustrating Doctor Who news (they’re splitting the next season in half – dumb, dumb, dumb!).

I gotta go clean up the spaghetti I used as the inspiration for this post. In the meantime… what’s on your mind?

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

So we’ve got a new look here at the old blog. Not too drastic, but updated. I’m not finished tinkering, so things might change again soon. See if you can catch them as they happen. And let me know what you think of it. Did anything break? It feels a little more cramped than the last theme, so I’m probably going to work on that next.

Anyway, to celebrate the new look, I’ll tell you a story of change.

My 5-year old just started kindergarten a couple of days ago. She loves it. She’s only going in the afternoons, so we (and by “we” I mean my wife) have to drop her off after lunch. The bus brings her home. She’s extremely excited about the whole thing. I don’t think she notices that it’s an adjustment for everyone else, too.

My wife is hit the hardest. She’s been able to set her own schedule, mostly, for the last 5 years. Now she has to get our daughter to school within a 5 minute window. They don’t open the doors until 12:42, and you’re considered late at 12:47. That’s a pretty short window, especially with so many parents dropping off the kids at once. And then she has to remember to be at the bus stop a few hours later. Being on someone else’s schedule is a pretty big adjustment for my wife – and that’s just the logistical adjustment.

She also has to deal with separation issues and letting go, which isn’t easy either. She’s doing a good job, though. She didn’t lose it that I know of… at least until that stupid commercial came on with the mother talking about how she couldn’t be there for her school-age daughter anymore and blah, blah, blah, and buy our product so you feel better. That broke her. That’s some heartless marketing department, right there.

My other daughter, the 4-year-old, has been lamenting for months that her sister gets to go to school. The reality is that this is really the first time they’ve been apart for an extended period, so it’s understandable that it’s a bit tough on her. She’s beginning to realize, though, that it’s pretty cool to have Mom’s undivided attention for a few hours in the afternoon.

On the whole, it’s a pretty exciting time. We’re entering a whole new world of friendships, activities, schedules, and fundraising. And that can be stressful. But ultimately it’s good. It means our daughters are growing up and learning to be a little more independent.

I hate that.

But I also love it.

Off to the first day of school