Thursday, June 21, 2007

TIVO and that

Justine Shapiro... Rowr!
I now own a TiVo unit, but I only have basic cable extreme. That means I get about 40 channels, but most of those are local programming (high school TV) or home shopping channels. One of the reasons why I got it is because we do get Discovery Health Channel, which shows lots of great trauma unit shows (real life, in the OR trauma unit shows) overnight, and I wanted to record those and watch them in the morning. Nothings more fun than sitting down to breakfast while someone's getting a 2x4 removed from their ribcage.
Problem is, there's a weird discrepancy between the cable channels I actually get, like on my TV, and the channels I'm supposed to get, which I'm suscribed to on my TiVo. I've no idea why, but I can't TiVo Discovery Health. I can TiVo CNBC, but we don't get that on my TV. We get USA on my TV, but not on my TiVo, etc. Very frustrating.
Of course now, what that means is I record a lot of stuff from PBS. Documentaries, Globe Trekker (I now officially have a crush on Justine Shapiro, and they need to get Cristina LaMonica on more, too), Doctor Who... You know, educational stuff. Luckily I do get TBS, which shows a lot of movies overnight, but I never time to watch them, unless I wake up in the middle of the night (like 3.30am, which I'm sonetimes wonet do these days for some reason). So I get to watch movies at 4am, like Deep Impact and, two days ago, Dark City. Deep Impact was mostly stupid, but man, I'd forgotten how cool Dark City was, and how its overriding themes were totally destroyed by the Matrix, which filmed in the same studio on some of the same sets right after DC wrapped. Any hoo, last night I managed to sleep the whole way through. Maybe tonight I'll setmy alarm for 4 so I can catch up on Doctor Who, and two episodes of original Battlestar Galactica I have saved.
I keep looking at upgrading to regular cable, but can never find a real guide to which channels I would get if I did. My cable provider lists pretty much all the channels, but I've no idea which ones are premium. Annoying. And the real question is, do I really want all those channels? Of course, the answer is no. One day, we'll get a proper service which allows us to pick and choose which channels we receive. I have no interest in the E! channel, or Cartoon Network, or the frigging Golf Channel, forchrissakes. Why can't I just get the broadcast channels, PBS and Sci-Fi? Oh, and Comedy Central, so I can keep up with the Daily Show and Colbert Report.
Next subject please!

Stonehenge at dawn - June 21, 2007
Today is the Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year. It's so weird that the sun sets here a full hour before it does back in Camden. Sure we can get some pretty stunning sunsets, especially where I live, as the orange light refracts off the smog trailing from New Jersey's industrial wasteland to the east, nature just don't make colours like that. But I miss the long, light evenings, sometimes, though I mostly miss enjoying those long light evenings in beer gardens. Well, I miss beer gardens.
Let's face it, I miss getting drunk and watching the sun go down. Is that so wrong?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On UK/US Patriotism and Symbology

Another post originally made on This was in response to an article on about British Students in the USA and their impressions of patriotism and flying the Stars and Stripes in the USA. Many thought it was "very peculiar". I've had similar reactions myself, but after much thought came up with this conclusion on the subject.
Okay, this ended up a lot longer than I was expecting. If you don't feel like wading through the whole thing, here's the breakdown. Americans wave the Stars and Stripes as it is one of the only things that binds all Americans together. Brits don't need to wave a flag, as we have been acting as a family unit for the better part of 100 years. So here's the long version.

My take on the issue is this. Unlike Britain, America was founded much more on notions of individualism and personal freedom. In the early years of the Union, people were aligned with their individual home states rather than with America as a nation. The American Dream is to arrive poor and prosper on your own merit, leaving a legacy for your children. During the Civil War, the Federal government had gained much more control over the state governments, and afterwards there was a concerted effort by the Federalists to shift the allegiance of the people from their home states to the nation state of the USA.

In order to do that, you need symbology that people who are living as individual family units can look at and feel part of a greater group: Old Glory, the Bald Eagle, Uncle Sam, Chevy Silverados, etc. You may notice that the further you get from the big cities of the coasts (of course there are exceptions to this, as always) the more symbolic that patriotism becomes; the need to show a group identity becomes stronger due to a more insular local community, rather than the extended community of a larger city. So, the way I see it, Americans look at the Stars and Stripes with pride in the accomplishments of the nation they belong to and for the founding principles which it symbolises. Remember that the Pledge of Allegiance asks us to pledge first to the flag, then the nation itself. The flag has become the USA in the minds of many Americans.

<deep breath!>

In Britain, however, we are far more used to the idea of the British nation being a kind of family unit. Rather than leaving others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, we would prefer to help those of us in need as a nation. Most of us (excepting those who were born during Thatcher's reign) grew up in an era of nationalised industries, working for the nation as a whole, with a national health service, a free comprehensive school system, grants for those who were otherwise unable to afford to go to University, free school milk, etc. We knew what is was to be British, because we were part of the system, whether you believe that is right or wrong.

In Britain, it's the rapid descent of the empire which created these national programs, in some ways bringing the people closer together as a unit, and as we became more of an extended community, we found we didn't need to cling onto the cultural symbols of the nation as a whole, such as the Union Jack. We don't need to hang the flag outside the door to show our Britishness, because we are inherently living out our Britishness everyday. If this is the case, then it's feasible to say that only those who felt threatened by this new socialist(-ist) society, who believed that Britain was some kind of group of individuals rather than a collective family needed that kind of symbology. Not needing the flag to feel British anymore, we let the NF take it for themselves.

Now it's interesting that in recent years, as the social system is slowly being torn apart from within to a more Americanised value system, and more and more people are feeling threatened by immigration and fear of terrorism, AND Britain is becoming less of a family unit and more divided, with Scotland and Ireland gaining their own parliaments, and national independence parties gaining more and more seats and popularity, that NOW there are calls to 'take back the flag' as it were, to reclaim the symbol that many consider 'stolen', but was, in fact, let go as an unnecessary object.

Of course, I could just be talking out of my arse.

Upon the Death of Bernard Manning

So you're going to see a whole bunch of posts from me today, seeing as I've figure a way around my work's blocking of blogger. Here's a post I made on on the subject of whether Bernard Manning was a racist.
Bernard Manning was a racist. Said so himself in an interview with, of all people, Mrs Merton.

MRS MERTON: "... some people say you're racist."
MANNING: "Yes. Yes, I am. Some people I like, some I don't like. These people think they're English because they're born here. That means if a dog's born in a stable, it's a horse."

He then got into an argument with Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew) and said "Where were the Pakis at Dunkirk and Monte Cassino?"

Which would have been been fine were it not for the fact that the first troops into Monte Cassino were the guard of the Maharajah of Jaipur. In fact 2 Indian divisions fought at Monte Cassino. Moreover, 2.5 million Indians volunteered (not conscripted) to fight on the Allied side during WW2. It was the
largest volunteer force raised by any nation for that war. They even won 30 Victoria crosses.

Personally I never cared for him, and I'm no bleeding heart liberal. Never found him funny, and I won't miss him. But here was a bloke, who served his national sevice and became an entertainer, I can't fault the guy for that. Different strokes, etc. I can't bear a person, however, who bases his views of large swathes of people on inaccurate information. We can tell all the racist jokes we want, and we can keep our prejudices all we want, as we do all have them, that's Psych 101. Just base your prejudices on facts, because comedy is much more funny when it's true.

I... I Want Him Buried...

As soon as Judge Larry Seidlin started his overwraught, chest-thumping, alligator-weeping ruling over the burial-place of Anna Nicole Smith back in early 2007, everyone knew he was playing it for the cameras. This was the ultimate ending to the downward-spiraling circus of Smith's life; like a kid in a world of fairground carnies, she span around face up to the sun until finally she fell down, too dizzy to notice anything, and died. Not content to let her live her life in the spotlight, others flocked around her trying to get in there, from the family of the multi-millionaire she married, to the Judge called in to preside over the custody battle that ensued for months over her body. In the real world, Judge Seidlin would have had his name in the newspaper for the duration of the trial.
This, however, is the USA, and he wasn't dealing with a habeas corpus writ on A.N. Onymous, this was Anna Nicole, the Marilyn Monroe of our generation, meaning she didn't actually have to create anything or do anything of any major worth to become famous. And, in the same fashion, all Judge Seidlin had to do was throw a wobbly in front of the world's press in a Florida courtroom and he was known around the world. In Andy Warhol's world, he'd be famous for 15 minutes.
This, however, is the USA, and there's a kind of national lottery that people who have made it onto TV can win if they play the game properly, get the right agent, and hang on for the ride. Cable TV is filled with ex-cast members of MTV's The Real World and Road Rules, a Tv show about a tanning salon is quickly making the Olly Girls famous, Chris Daughtry somehow has a recording career despite NOT winning American Idol... And now we hear Judge Larry Seidlin has been picked up by CBS for his own Judge Seidlin show. Not content with having Judge Judyand Judge Joe Brown fouling up the daytime TV slots, the powers-that-be at CBS actually fell for the ANS performance and are ready to give him an afternnon time-slot, should his pilot show do well. He has already quit the court he worked in Florida, but his show won't debut until Fall 2008. 18 months is a long time in Entertainment News here in the USA, and sitting on that Fame Lottery ticket for so long may be his downfall. Remember Reuben Studdard?
No. Neither do I.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A test

Erm... Is this thing on?