Boardwalk Empire at the National Archives

So a few months back, talking TV shows over a few beers, my buddy TJ recommended the HBO Series ‘Boardwalk Empire’ to me. I had a vague notion it was a period gangster type of thing, and having recently read a few good books about the prohibition era, TJ’s endorsement pushed me over the edge to check it out. Because who doesn’t have time for another TV show in their life? Fortunately, modern life means missing a show doesn’t mean missing it forever, or even waiting for reruns. We can consume our TV on demand. And so I’ve been binging on Boardwalk Empire lately. No one else in the family is watching it, so it’s either late night solo shows, or commuter episodes snuck in on my iPhone on the bus (thank you grandfathered unlimited data plan!).

Anyway, I’m halfway through season 4 of the 5 season show and really loving it, when I got an email from the National Archives about a free ‘behind the scenes’ discussion with the author of the book that inspired the series, the writer who developed it for HBO, two actors from the show, and the visual effects supervisor from the show. It was a very interesting and entertaining event, and much to the Archives credit, the whole thing was live on YouTube and remains there now. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll really enjoy watching this. But you had to be there to get a signed copy of the book ­čÖé

The 80s

I entered the 80s as a high school freshman. I exited them a married homeowner awaiting the birth of my first child. In between came those formative years of education; high school, college, and a trip to Europe where I met the wonderful woman that I married. It’s safe to say it was a formative decade for me. So when I saw that National Geographic had a six-part program called,┬áThe 80s: The Decade that Made Us┬ácoming up, I was quick to turn to my iPad and add it to my DVR schedule. My interest only grew when I learned the program was based on a book written by a friend and former (90s) intern of mine from days in the US Senate, David Sirota. Hurry now and buy your copy here like I did…Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live in Now–Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything

Thinking about ‘decades’, it can be tricky. To me, the 80s feel like they just happened. They are a very recent part of my personal history. My three kids were all born in the 90s. The 80s are to them, what the 50s are to me. Weird. My kids aren’t as old as me. I expect my parents have an even thinner connection to the 20s.

So yeah, the 80s, I lived them. And I’m enjoying the flashback from the show, and looking forward to reading David’s book. I bought it online tonight and faced a dilemma. The book’s available for $14.99 as an iPad edition, cheaper than a print version. But I’m old school enough to hope someday I might get David to sign my copy, and that can get messy on an iPad. I’m buying the hardcover.

 

Apple TV Update

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In the world of Apple enthusiasts, there is an annual event called the Macworld Expo, at which our Macleader, Apple CEO, offers a keynote presentation and tell us, the Mac-minions, what cool new hardware gadgets and software upgrades we can expect from Apple computer. Usually, it is all very drool-worthy, but from time-to-time, even Apple offers up something that is widely considered to be a flop.

One of the announcements at this year’s MacWorld was a software update for AppleTV, called ‘Take 2’. I have an AppleTV, and it serves primarily as a tool to turn my basement Manspace TV into an iTunes juke box. It’s also serves some purpose for viewing digital photos, and exploring YouTube on a big screen. And while I have yet to ever purchase a movie from Apple’s iTunes Store, I have purchased a few music videos. And it’s in this area that Apple TV lacks an obvious feature.

When playing music, AppleTV provides an option to ‘shuffle songs’, randomly playing selections from your library, playlist or album. But when playing music videos, there is no ‘shuffle videos’ option. You must select a video, and play it. If you want to view another video, you must select and play it. Repeat until you’re bored.

AppleTV Take 2 has some nice new features, including connecting now to Flickr and .Mac galleries, in addition to iPhoto pictures. And AppleTV Take 2 is a serious pimp for the iTunes store, in every menu putting options to search and buy content above the choice of perusing your own libraries. A bit cheesy, but not the end of the world. I have yet to try out renting a movie from iTunes, I’ll explore that option later.

But why, oh why, no video shuffle? It would be sooooo cool to to have a video jukebox, why must music videos be played one at a time? After that, my next wish for AppleTV would be that it turn my TV into an external monitor. I count on the fact that Apple has labs full of technicians working to make that happen. Help me. Write to Apple TV Feedback, and tell them that this was a nice small step forward, but there’s some major fixes that they missed.

for further reading…

Wired
Apple TV’s ‘Take 2’ Update Is Finally Ready

MacWorld
Hands on with Apple TV, Take Two

iLounge
Apple Inc. Apple TV Take 2

Grey’s Anatomy Jumps the Shark

greys_anatomy.jpgMy wife and I first watched Grey’s Anatomy after last year’s Super Bowl. It was a re-cap episode that essentially caught us up with everything that had happened since then, and we’ve been hooked since. The show has ‘must see TV’ status on our Tivo. But tonight the show has surely Jumped The Shark. The hints were all there last week, when Meredith drowned, and the episode ended with her waking up in a hospital room surrounded by some of the key ‘previously departed’ from the show. My neighbor TJ saw it coming then, stating firmly last weekend that the show had jumped.

Now I recognize that this is just a prime-time medical soap opera. Others have joined and left our list, we used to watch ER, I guess that stopped when Dr. Green died. We currently watch House pretty regularly, but it is much more of a medical-CSI, while Grey’s is ALL soap.

Anyway, so tonight after her body lay cold on the table for most of the episode while she’s talking to the dead, her own dying mom shows up to tell her she’s proud of her and talks her back into living. And then the kicker, Dead Denny gets his farewell to Izzy… pu-leeze! My wife doesn’t want to admit it, and I’m sure we’ll continue watching the show on it’s inevitable downward spiral (which is further evidenced by the announcement of pending spin-offs), but TJ was right. This show has jumped.

Screwed by our Tivo!

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I love my Tivo. It may sound wrong to love a product that’s only purpose is to help you watch TV. But the reality is, Tivo helps you to watch TV efficiently, on your schedule and terms.

But now and then, Tivo can let you down. Last weekend ours let us down in a BIG way.

We’re big fans of the CBS Reality show Survivor here at the Casey house. It’s one of the few shows on Television that we watch together as a family. In between seasons, we look forward to the premiere of the next show with anticipation. We have a ‘Season Pass‘ set on our Tivo so that it automatically records and saves Survivor so that we can watch it together as a family. Sometimes that means on Thursday nights, when we might start watching about 20 minutes after the show starts so that we can skip past the commercials. And frequently, due to many schedule conflicts, an episode sits on our Tivo waiting for such time as we can all watch it.

That was the case last Thursday. Jenny’s folks were visiting, and her and I were both out at evening events. The show recorded, and we eventually caught it. But somehow we missed the fact that the 2-hour season finale and reunion show would be on Sunday night rather than the regular Thursday night. And here’s where Tivo dropped the ball, it DIDN’t record the season finale for us! It was only by accident we discovered this fact and manually started the recording more than halfway through the show. So we caught the last 45 minutes, and the subsequent reunion show.

I love my Tivo, but I feel like it’s a friend that let me down. Maybe I’m an idiot who can’t work his toys, it’s happened before. But I don’t think that’s the case this time. Regardless, I’m sure I’ll forgive and forget.

Tivo Wishlist Roulette

Rick Klau has shared a fun idea he found in The Onion, Tivo Wishlist Roulette. Pick a word and enter it as a Tivo WishList set to auto-record any matching programs. Then sit back and enjoy the anticipation while waiting to see what your Tivo will find.

Looking for a purely random experience, I didn’t want to pick my own word, so I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary: Word of the Day page to find mine. Today’s word: slant.

Stay tuned for the results! (I can hear you now, “Get a life Chris!”)

Update: Oh the irony! In looking for something random, I got what I already had. The only program that the keyword ‘slant’ added to my Tivo’s ‘To-Do’ list was The Daily Show with John Stewart, a program I already Tivo and watch religiously. The reason? The show’s description says it provides a ‘humorous slant’ on daily news. There you have it.

Chris Wins Survivor

SurvivorI’m doing a lot of reviewing lately, and tonight my topic is Survivor. When this show aired it’s first season, we didn’t watch it. And for weeks among family and friends and the water cooler we found ourselves left out of the biggest TV buzz of the season. And so, determined not to let that happen again, our family has become dedicated Survivor fans. Tonight, Chris has won the 9th season, Survivor Vanuatu, overcoming long odds from his balance-beam choke on episode one, to being the only guy left in a tribe full of woman.

What’s the staying power of this show to us? For one, Survivor has become the only must-see family television in our house. It’s a shared family pleasure to watch regular (and often irregular) people compete and scheme against each other for the chance to be on television and the possibility to win some serious money. We chose our favorites, and boo the villians, and it’s a good time.

The show is also a lesson in life. Strangers are thrown together, all there to play a game they know to be cutthroat, and they want to win the money. Yet over the days together, competing as teams, and working together in alliances, they form relationships, good and bad. And by the time the final vote comes about, there’s always a major boilover of emotions that cracks me up. Sure, it’s gotta hurt to be on the jury, coming so close and now having to chose which of the people that beat them will get the money. Some handle it well, and graciously acknowledge the victors. But others pull out the bitterness… boo hoo, you lied to me, I thought we were friends, you would say anything for the money… waa waa waa…

Certainly real relationships can develop on Survivor, hell, Rob and Amber are getting married (but that may have been Rob’s ultimate post-game play, right?), but to the Survivor cry-babies out there I’d like just say, “Get a grip. You were out-played, out-witted, and out-lasted. So save the tears and be a good loser”.

OK, so maybe I should get a life, but Survivor provides some harmless escapism and fun family TV time, and we’ll likely keep watching as long as they keep churning ’em out.