Friday, June 28, 2013

Will we soon be encouraged to text and tweet during movies?

The financial incentive for movie producers to allow texting and tweeting during their films is obvious: free, broad spectrum advertising. 

The only reason they aren't encouraging it already is fear: many people will complain that the distraction takes them "out of the story." This fear will wane as mobile sharing becomes more ubiquitous in other entertainment venues.

The fact is, if we were given the opportunity to text or tweet during a theatre production or a movie, many people would - without hesitation. Many already are! Few theatres have ushers anymore so you can either complain or take matters into your own hands. Both options may make the situation worse than simply missing out on part of the show.

Theatres have been considering allowing texting for a few years now. An article on the website suggested that some entertainment execs are considering easing up on texting in theatres and possibly even encouraging mobile communication during certain movies (i.e., those aimed at a younger audience.)

Perhaps the first widespread adoption of live tweeting will come from live theatre. A recent NPR article discussed how a new theatre production is hoping to draw a larger audience by capitalizing on its patrons spreading the message during the show. The show, appropriately  called #HASHTAG is about "the daily struggle to stay engaged in the present moment." Its texting policy has already paid off by garnering nationwide exposure in an article on NPR (not to mention a tiny bit more exposure through this blog post.)

While we may not see this policy implemented on Broadway anytime soon, other theatre venues should see that the benefits can outweigh the risk.  For instance, the use of mobile devices would not substantially add to the many distractions that occur during outdoor productions. All outdoor productions, therefore, should consider announcing the following statement before each show:

"We encourage you to tweet and text during this production of (insert play title here!) If you laughed or cried, tell your friends right away while the feeling is fresh. Also feel free to use Vine or Instagram video to share a short clip of the production. Be sure to include our hashtag so we can link all of these great comments and videos to our website!"

This could be the slippery slope that persuades movie companies to ease up and allow similar behaviour  during films. I think under some circumstances it wouldn't be that bad. For example, if the movie is already a flop, or perhaps if all indications are that a soon-to-be released big budget film will most likely flop (as has been suggested of the new movie Pacific Rim), then the studio should make every attempt to boost attendance, including encourage texting, short video clip sharing etc.

Would you have a problem with that?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jerry Seinfeld returns for coffee: great characters, no acting

Better than any sitcom on television: you will love Jerry Seinfeld's latest show. 

Unscripted (for the most part), off-the-cuff, and original, CCC (Comedians in Cars getting Coffee) is hilarious.

Seinfeld is more popular now than ever. On a recent episode of Jimmy Fallon (see below for video) Seinfeld walked on stage to deliver a short stand-up routine and was greeted by a prolonged standing ovation. He looked at the host and commented, "very nice. It's nice!" Genuine, truly genuine gratitude.

That's could be the hallmark of his new web video series. Several hours of recorded video is edited down to about 15 minutes of honest conversation, clever observations and touching reveals by Seinfeld and his guest.

It's original! The concept is simple. Jerry asks a friend, usually a comedian, to accompany him for a cup of coffee. Jerry then drives to his guest's house in a car specifically chosen to match the personality of each guest. (Part of the fun is to discover what vehicle Jerry has picked out for that day.) They drive to a coffee shop and talk.

Describing the show doesn't do it justice. You have to check it out for yourself. My favourites are the episodes with Michael Richards (Kramer from Jerry's sitcom) and Mel Brooks. The show just started its second season - the first show of the new set featured the hilarious Sarah Silverman.

I can't wait for today's show which features David Letterman. Check it out. The series is only available on the website - that's right, you don't need cable, or pay channels, just the internet. And all past episodes are still there for you to enjoy, free!

After you watch a few episodes, let me know which one was your favourite.

Seinfeld on Jimmy Fallon (June 17, 2013)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NASA’s Grand Challenge: Science or Politics?

NASA just announced an initiative to collaborate with scientists and citizens around the world to 

1. search for asteroids that may threaten Earth and

2. develop an asteroid action plan. 

Is this a good thing? While reading the announcement I couldn’t help but think that something isn’t quite right here.


Is this “Grand Challenge” truly a new thing? Prior to today, how did NASA deal with announcements of a near Earth object from external agencies?

Farmer in Kansas: Hi NASA, I just spotted a previously unidentified asteroid on a trajectory that will put it between the moon and Earth? It may be heading straight for us!
NASA receptionist: That’s nice. (click!)

Will the Grand Challenge force this receptionist to put down her nail-file and press the red button to sound the alarm? Unlikely. I suspect NASA already has a long history of treating any credible observation of an asteroid with the respect it deserves. A new Grand Challenge isn't going to change that. 

Additionally, the options for dealing with an imminent threat from space are continuously being explored in science and fiction. I am sure members of NASA watch movies just as much as I do. They must have seen the elaborate attempts at diverting asteroids in films like, “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon.” Some of the brilliant minds at NASA have probably already “Mythbustered” these attempts to determine which of them are “Busted” and which are “Plausible.”


In the announcement NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver states that “we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth's orbit.” This sounds like a number they just made up. After all, how could they know that the number of asteroids they currently have identified is equivalent to 95% of the total, without knowing the total?   Even as an estimate, 95% seems irrelevant given that just last week a truck sized asteroid was detected one day before it reached its closest point to Earth. Are we supposed to feel warm fuzzy comfort because only 5% of these extinction level asteroids have yet to be found?

The announcement included a statement from the White House deputy director for technology and innovation Tom Kalil that “… finding asteroid threats, and having a plan for dealing with them, needs to be an all-hands-on-deck effort.” What does that mean? If the White House truly believed that an all-hands-on-deck effort was needed, they would increase NASA funding so more experts in mathematics and physics could systematically search the skies, rather than rely on unpaid, unsystematic, haphazard stargazing.
NASA’s Grand Challenge simply reflects certain truths about space exploration and the current political climate: 
  • Giving space exploration more money is politically not feasible (after all, in the USA, even allocating money to health care is controversial)
  • While getting hit by an asteroid would be bad, getting hit by an asteroid without previous posturing about trying to stop it would be worse.
  • More eyes looking to the skies for an asteroid is a good thing, more eyes doing it for no more money is a better thing
  • Until someone proposes a full-proof plan for destroying or deflecting a near Earth object, with a working prototype of proposed technological innovations and test case data demonstrating efficacy in a real-world situation (in other words until someone actually saves the Earth on their own dime) the four letters that we will turn to when an asteroid is on a collision course will not be N A S A, they will be H O P E.

Monday, June 10, 2013

So Excited! Apple just announced iBooks for Mac

This is exactly what many Apple customers have asked for. Textbooks, magazines, and of course novels purchased through iTunes will soon be accessible, searchable etc. on your computer.

I've been waiting so long for this announcement. So far you could only read books downloaded from Apple's iTunes bookstore on a mobile device like iPhone, iPad or iPod.

This has been a pain since I spend much more time on my Macbook than on my phone. Also the full screen allows for an easier, more pleasant reading experience. Lastly, it just didn't make any sense for an innovative company like Apple that provides an incredible user experience to neglect user preference to read iBooks on their home computer. The soon-to-be released new OSX Mavericks operating system will include iBooks for Mac.

To celebrate, I will soon be making all of my books available on the iBookstore again. I had made them exclusive to Amazon to capitalize on Amazon's kindle select program. That promotion will be over at the end of the week so readers will then be able to download all four books of my scifi series, Socialite 1, onto their Apple devices. Similarly, my murder mystery Good Gladys, which continues to get rave reviews from bloggers around the world, will also soon be available at the iTunes Bookstore.

Read more, live longer!