Monday, March 28, 2011

The new talent is on YouTube

I enjoy music like most everybody else. I like the old stuff but I also like to hear new acts and talents. Most of them sing covers. Depending on the song, they can sing them like the actual singers do or do their own version. I like watching American Idol for that. I skip the first half of the season, where to go around and do auditions. All sorts of people come to these auditions. And the producers probably let them on to make good TV. But it's not about the music so I skip that part. Even then, the contestants on American Idol have been not so good the past few seasons. There was Crystal Bowersox but she was the odd one out.
Another place for new talent is of course, YouTube. Not a month passes by without YouTube making someone famous. Rebecca Black is one but for the wrong reasons. The song is irritatingly catchy. She is an OK singer but with coaching she could be another possible contestant on American Idol. Which she doesn't have to be now that Simon Cowell wants to see her. So can you see how YouTube is making American Idol redundant. While American Idol has to cater for pop music, there are so many other types of acts on YouTube.
One of my favorite YouTube stories is about Arnel Pineda. He was picked by Neil Schon to become the lead singer for Journey after Neil saw him on the YouTube. You can literally follow his story on YouTube. There are videos of him singing before Journey and interviews with Ellen and Oprah afterwards.
But for every Arnel there are those on YouTube who enjoy a little less success. I thoroughly enjoy listening to delawellsoulmusic. The guy can play the guitar really good. He even has an album out now.

After watching one of his videos, there came a link to KellyIsMusical. Kelly is still a teenager but can she play. Checkout her licks on Kelly's 25 best guitar riffs. Any guitar player will start with covering other people's work. But Kelly shows potential in coming out with her own riffs. Kelly is part the group Say Chance and they have original music out. These girls have talent. All they need now is a bit of luck.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On my WDTV: NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams

Update: Mediafly no longer provides this service anymore. NBC Nightly News is available via RSS.

My days as a news junkie are far over. CNN Headline news was the vessel and the juice was the Balkans conflict. Since then, the world of 24 hour news has changed a lot. At first, we thought that the constant stream available across multiple channels will open the airwaves to news that was not normally available or couldn't be included in the nightly news. It's limits of time and the need to have a local news portion will make the producers choose one important news item over another. We wouldn't know.
However, despite the 24 hour-news monster's huge appetite, it's still fed the same basic diet. Only there is a lot of it. The same story get covered over and over again. The same ground is gone over and over again by experts and news celebrities, those who are celebrated by viewers but don't really add anything substantial.

There is something to be said about thoughtful discourse. Rather than telling people what they want to hear, why not focus on the facts, clearly noting what is opinion and what it fact. If there is something to be discussed, why not do it a calm manner and let us the viewer decide. Boring TV? I'm sorry but it's the news. It's supposed to be boring. The interesting part of the newscast is the news, not the showboat trying to generate a higher rating. This is not pro wrestling although some news shows are starting to look like them, shouting and all.
Which brings me to NBC Nightly News. I don't watch it on-air anymore. Simply my life is structured in a way that makes it difficult. And while I know videos are available online, if I am online, I get the news faster by reading the news myself. Then came along my WDTV Live  and Mediafly. Now I can watch it anytime I want on the TV. I know I sound like I'm gushing but to those of you who are watching on their computers, to have it on the TV (where it belongs) courtesy of the WDTV Live, you begin appreciate why traditional broadcasters are concerned. 
I know of Brian Williams previously only when he makes an appearance on the Daily Show with John Stewart. To see him in action and contrast that with his appearances on the Daily Show makes him human, more relateable. On the Daily Show, he is affable, can take a joke and is able to zing one back. On the Nightly News, he is all business. On the Nightly News, he brings us news and information and facilitate the experts to inform us. On the Daily Show, he can take digs about he Jersey background and reminds Stewart of how important his role is as media watchdog/court-jester. I was watching him and NBC Nightly News in the earthquake and tsunami in Japan coverage. There was a measure of calm but urgency in his delivery. He carefully noted what was fact and what was guesswork. While there were some concerns with issues like the nuclear power plants, the newscast always brought home the impact of the natural disaster up to a personal level.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The World of Starship Troopers: A Utopian Dream?

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Neil Patrick Harris, Director: Paul Verhoeven
Category: Sci-Fi, Action
Warning: The post is political. If that offends you, please don't read the rest. I am not usually political but the intrigue and maneuvering between the Republicans and Unions in Wisconsin in the news triggered my mind to an an old unfinished post. The main part of the post below was originally written many years ago but was never finished. I just went over it once over and posted it.
Starship Troopers was viewed as a popcorn action movie starring teen movie actors when it came out. It was more notable as a special effects extravaganza of it's day. Looking back, director Paul Verhoeven also brought to life the world of Starship Troopers. Starshup Troopers and it's world was first thought up by it's author, Sci-Fi legend Robert Heinlein. Verhoeven added his visual touches, bringing the world to life. But if you look past the Nazi-like uniforms, you will find both a world that are heading for as well as a world that we already in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

NextNewNetworks is now YouTube Next

, youtubeIf you have read my recent post on the great WDTV, I wrote about the Internet media experience with services like MediaFly and Flingo. I also mentioned that a part of this was the high quality content on NextNewNetworks (delivered by both MediaFly and Flingo). Apparently someone else also agrees because now they are part of YouTube as YouTube Next.
You can read the gory details here. Will the Internet/YouTube eventually break the big 3?

Monday, March 07, 2011

I love my WDTV

Western Digital WDTV Full HD Media Player - Recertified(Update 21 Sept 2015 - scroll down) Some while ago I bought a Western Digital WDTV Live. Its a box that I bought to connect to the TV to play movies files, show pictures and play MP3s. What I didn't expect was an Internet media experience. When I had bought it, I saw reviews praising it for it's ability to access YouTube. It does what it says on the tin but with a few exceptions. YouTube, in it's efforts to appease media publishers, added an attribute to videos that it streams to limit where it can be played. So, a few media publishers who allow YouTube to stream their content have limited them to be played only on the computer. Which means some content on your YouTube playlists may not be playable on the TV. I understand the existing concept of charging separately for content that is broad-casted on TV. The model is that a media publisher, usually movie studios and primetime TV networks, make money on distribution or syndication. The more times they can sell a show to show on TV, the more money they make. The Internet throws a spanner in this machine, especially YouTube. The media publishers haven't figured out what to do with them yet. They saw what happened to the music industry and don't relish the same fate. So in this mess, the result is that you can watch a video on YouTube on the PC but not when you connect it to a TV. I have been thinking about this for some time now and I think I'll get back to it later in another post.
Western Digital WD TV Live Plus 1080p HD Media PlayerLike I said earlier, the WDTV Live provides a rich Internet media experience. At least it is one half of the puzzle. I also just got a high speed Internet access, running in multi-megabits per second. This made other Internet services that came with the WDTV came alive, most notably Mediafly and Flingo.
Mediafly is a site that allow you to find and manage podcasts, both video and audio. It provides a way to build a list of favorite podcasts so that you don't have to wade through a huge list every time you want to listen or watch your favorite show. The site divides the list of podcasts into categories to make them easier to find. However, this does not make finding one that you tune in regularly to easier to find because the list shows the most recent show first. So the playlist feature is useful. It also provides community interaction so that you can recommend your favorite podcasts to others. There are lists for this like Most Recommended by categories. The kicker is that I can "link" my WDTV to my account on Mediafly and have the same lists appear on the box. Which is like making up your own channel. With the high speed Internet link, the wait is almost nil and almost no buffering. Point to show and it comes on. - Updated: Unfortunately, MediaFly is no longer available.
Another surprise is Flingo. While it also organises podcasts, the content available is now expanded in to other media publishers, including Internet-focused on like and Revision3. I do know that those are also available via podcasts and directly on the browser. But to have it on the big screen TV is a lot of work. It means hooking up the laptop to the TV (cable tangle alert). I even have a MythTV project completed and later abandoned. In short, compared to the standard TV experience, it is a chore. The WDTV reduces the entire process to a. crash on couch and b. click the remote. Flingo behaves more like a cable or satellite service. The channels are set by them, you can't create a playlist. But you can set up your favorite channels. To make up for this, you can 'fling' videos or links to the WDTV when it is on 'Flingo-mode' from the PC. It's like the thing they do on NCIS LA.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Jonah Hex. More like Jonah Heck

Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox
Category: Action

Jonah HexSome graphic novels want to be movies. The art form, although dependent on the theater of the mind (aka your imagination), lends itself to be the closest thing the written word can be to the multimedia extravaganza today's Hollywood movies are. In fact, movie storyboards, which is a key tool in planning and developing movies, resembles a graphic novel without dialog.
Judge DreddSome movies want to be graphic novels. Why? Why try? The graphic novel is powered by imagination. How ever the director tries to create something to replace your imagination, you can probably imagine something more. More stylish, more beautiful and more action-packed. All a director can aim for is to distill the essence of a graphic novel and work with that, perhaps extending it a bit more in one or two directions. Case in point: Hellboy. Director Guillermo del Toro understood the Hellboy backstory and focused on known and loved traits of the character. He then added the love story with Liz Sherman. The movie was both a tribute to the novels as well as bringing the story to people who would not normally buy a graphic novel. But distill a graphic novel too much and you end up with Judge Dread. Some graphic novels are simply not just film-able as exemplified in the Punisher movies.
Wild Wild WestWhich brings us to Jonah Hex. To say the movie went everywhere is a kind statement. It was schizophrenic at best. It could not decide whether to be stylized western (Danger! Wild, Wild, West area) or a comicbook super hero movie. It jumped from superpower show-off scenes to supposedly dramatic encounters to animated flash backs to dream-while-awake sequences to Wild E. Coyote-esque set-ups (I was genuinely looking for the Acme logo on the boxes of explosives). At some point, I was thinking, "How many people were directing this movie?"
What a waste of talent this movie was. Most reviews blame Megan Fox but I think she was just a victim as Josh Borlin and John Malkovich was. An actor never really knows how the movie will look like once it is edited and CG are added. For them, the gamble was lost.
For us, what could have been a great story is lost.