Aug 21, 2005 - entertainment    No Comments

Reality TV = Lotto with Ads

NBC had a “Fall Preview” show on this morning.  Really nothing more than all the ads for their shows played back-to-back (nothing deeper, no “behind-the-scenes” stuff, nothing) with Vanessa Marcil and Nikki Cox (from Las Vegas) hosting (aka “eye candy”)… in other words, the same pointless, mindless, useless fluff the networks have become known for.  I see Martha’s dominion is back in full swing, becoming the next Apprentice franchise (leave it to Martha to key into something with the word “franchise” attached) … and that put me back into my ongoing internal rant over the entire concept of “reality TV”.

Then it hit me:  reality TV is the next Lotto.

Our society has been preoccupied with the concept of accumulating excessive wealth for centuries.  Along with that has come both the hucksters and the “hucked” of one get-rich-quick scheme after another.  Look at some of them from the last decades:

  • Publishers Clearing House
  • Amway (and all the MLM or “MLM-like” derivatives that preceded and followed)
  • Day trading
  • Real Estate (I’m talking about the more speculative side)
  • Beanie Babies
  • The “dot-com” boom (more of a ka-boom, as we saw)
  • the Lottery (gambling from the comfort of your gas station)

Some may say “Hey!  Real estate is a real investment!”  To them I reply “you’re absolutely right … assuming you know what you’re doing and are willing to accept the consequences (e.g. financial loss) if you don’t or are wrong”.  Problem is, many people don’t accept the responsibility of failure … we just go hunting for someone to sue (another bullet to add to the list above:  lawsuits).

My point is this:  look at the trends that have driven some of the greatest crazes of our time, and they all come back to the same things:  money or fame (or getting famous because you won money … or getting more money because you’re now famous).  And we’ll do anything we have to to achieve that fame/money … including reality TV.

And the cool thing about reality TV is you don’t have to be what they’re looking for on the show, you just have to be willing to do anything for the cash.  In “Hell’s Kitchen” (Gordon Ramsay’s entry into realTV from Fox), half of the “chef wanabees” didn’t even work in the food business (out of the 12 there were 3 chefs, 1 baker, a culinary student and a server … the rest were outside of the food industry).  Who won … a chef (go figure) … but, hey, at least someone who’d never worked a line in a restaurant had a chance.  Like the lottery … there’s always a chance.

And the networks will gladly create this schlock, because advertisers will pay to have it created … because we will watch it.  There’s money to be made.

I wonder what would happen if someone tried to combine reality TV with politics?

Just a thought …

What’s that about "those who forget history …"

Remember the great (one could almost say venomous) enthusiasm with which the Department of Justice went after Microsoft last decade?  Our government was convinced that Microsoft was an unfair monopoly, pushing it’s weaker competitors (like Sun and Oracle … yes, there is sarcasm there) out of the market … remember?  No?  Good lord, where have you been?  Really?  Hmmm … in that case, I’ve got this great concept for an internet startup and I’m soliciting venture capital.  It’ll make you positively rich, what with the internet boom and all.  What’s that?  Hell, yeah, the boom’s still on!

Ok, Ok … all sarcasm aside.  That was then … this is now.  That was the DOJ … this is the FCO (Federal Copyright Office) … and apparently, while the DOJ found Microsoft guilty, the FCO seems to think they’re they only solution for interacting with their online copyright registration process.  At least, they’re asking “would y’all mind it if we required IE?”.  Apparently, the FCO never got the memo (or memos, when you factor in all the security issues).

If I wasn’t so flabbergasted (and, sadly, not surprised) by this, I’d blog more.  In the meantime, check out Aunty Spam’s article on it and draw your own conclusions.

And now for a word from our sponsors …

Having worked in technology for as many years as I have, insomnia has become an “occupational hazard”.  From time to time, I still find myself running full tilt in the middle of the night, unable to slow down or relax enough to sleep until sunrise.  In the past, I used to rely on late-night television to help me shift gears … wind down.

You know the drill:  you’re flipping through the channels and come across a movie you’ve seen before, yet still like.  So, you hunker down to watch (the visual equivalent of reading a book, except you’re not really interested in retaining anything) … and, just as you’re getting “into the groove”, both with the program and your circadian rhythm …

… and it’s time for a commercial …

… actually, it’s time for a crapload of commercials.  Worse yet, these are (more than likely) the same commercials you just saw during the last break, which was only 5-10 minutes ago.  Maybe the first or second time, you tolerate it … but then, you get pissed … really pissed.  How many people are going to remember in the morning that they should go out and check out the local auto dealership, because they saw some local shmuck’s face a hundred times in a 2-hour span the night before?  Heck, even the infomercials these days suck.  I remember the “good old days” of infomercials … the dude with the whacky sweaters and amazing discoveries … like spray-can hair (yes, spray-can hair, not hairspray) … those were good commercials.  The sad thing is, it doesn’t put me to sleep, it just pisses me off … here’s an example of what our society has become:  they won’t air something someone hasn’t paid for, meaning that some company has actually paid to have their product power-plastered into the minds of insomniacs.  I just bugs me … but it doesn’t stop with TV …

… it’s now begun to spread into podcasting (yes, this goes back to my rant the other night about monetization).  With Apple’s latest iTunes release, more people are able to easily (well, that’s a relative thing … depends on who you ask) subscribe to podcasts … meaning more people are podcasting.  Let me rephrase that:  more entities are podcasting … people, couples, organizations … corporations … and radio stations.  Yep, we’ve got radio stations repackaging their programs and making them available as podcasts … and in many cases commercials included.

Food is one of my passions, so I tend to watch “food things”:  websites, blogs, podcasts, etc.  I can handle (to a point) the ads that websites splatter across their pages to help offset cost … but I just finished listening to several podcasts of food programs that I thought would be interesting … but were really no different than what’s available on-air:  segments of content limited in scope because they have to play so many ads within a given period of time.  And, we’re talking ads that mean absolutely nothing to me:  stores advertising products or events in cities I don’t live in or near, other radio programs on stations I can’t listen to, you name it.

Why?  Because a large chunk of those exploding onto the podcasting scene have no clue what podcasting really is … to them, it’s merely another way of distributing content, gaining “ears” so they can sell more ads.

Ads aren’t content.  Content is content.  Somehow, we need to remember that.

Aug 5, 2005 - software, technology    No Comments

An "A" for creativity … but …

I came across a new article over at CodeProject, and I couldn’t help myself.  In a nutshell, the author was trying to solve the following problem:  How can I get rid of those irritating ORA-xxxx errors that are thrown when I attempt to INSERT records into the database and the field data violates a key constraint?

I’m all for creative, “out-of-the-box” thinking … but the solution proposed (which would word) is a heck of a lot more work than necessary:  by storing additional information in the database that you check against before you attempt to insert the data.  Not necessary, as you can use those ORA-errors to help you get the job done:  Trap the errors in a PL/SQL exception block and deal with them inside the database.  No additional tables, no additional tests, better scalability.

At any rate, if you’re interested, check out the article.

"… 43 people were injured, but amazingly no one was killed …"

So it was said on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, during a story on the Air France accident in Toronto yesterday.  While it’s great news that no lives were lost, the word “amazingly” struck me as odd in the sentence the anchor was reading.  It was as if there was a bit of disappointment in the fact that even though the plane split in half, that there was fire, lightning, rain, panic, and plenty of fodder for the “experts” to be questioned on (I just love our media:  when there are no more facts than have already been presented, fill the time by asking the same questions to one expert/analyst after another, providing them with their 15 minutes of broadcast fame) … no one died.

I’ve always found the English language both intriguing and amusing, and I’m probably picking nits, but since we are a people who are so focused on the words used (in spite of the meaning … or, maybe, because of the potential multiple meanings and our desire to know exactly what was meant), there are other words what would have had less of a “damn, no blood” feeling.  Such as “fortunately”.  Try this:

“… 43 people were injured and, fortunately, no on was killed …”

No “crap, it’s not a horrendous catastrophe” sentiment.  Ok, ok … someone could argue that “fortunately” is “editorialising”.  I’d argue that “amazingly” is just as much editorialising, but in a negative way.

Such is our species:  we’re drawn to catastrophe, and bored by fortune (unless, of course, that fortune comes in the form of a lottery ticket that we are holding).