19
Oct
2009
Written by  |  under Cartoons, Reviews, TV  |  No Comments

the batmanThe Batman was yet another series based on the Caped Crusader, but how does it measure up against other animated efforts to bring him to the small screen?

Following up on my overviews of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond comes the early 21st century animated version of Batman, a series simply entitled The Batman.

Running from September 11, 2004 to March 8, 2008 on the Kids WB animation block for five seasons, The Batman was faithful to the source material while also finding a way to do a  re-imagninaing of the character all at the same time.

Confused?  Don’t worry, so was I.

While the series kept the basics of Bruce Wayne being Batman and Alfred as his butler, pretty much everything else was turned topsy-turvey by this series: The Joker was a barefooted wild man, the Riddler had numerous henchmen and a different origin, Clayface was a police detective that was a childhood friend of Bruce and so on.  There were also changes such as Batgirl appearing on the scene before Robin which threw me for a total loop as that is so outside of the normal timeline.

The animation style took some getting used to (example to the right), since I had come to love the slickness and stylized versions in Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond, this was by far the most “cartoony” looking.  Does it mean it was bad?  Of course not, just had more of a “kid friendly” vibe to it, which is why I think a lot of people skipped it.

Of all the animated Batman series of the past two decades (not counting Brave & The Bold since I have seen a whopping one episode), this was my least favorite, but that isn’t to say it was bad, it was just the most inconsistent.  Characters came and went with no real rhyme or reason (Det. Yin had a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of season 2, and then we never saw her again, although she was mentioned in a “future” episode as being the new police commissioner), continuity seemed secondary and in general the writing was very uneven.  It was still watchable despite these nitpicks, but if you have to pick just one series to watch, I think it will always be Batman: The Animated Series coming out on top.

Disclosure: Hey, FTC, no one gave me a flippin’ thing to write this up, and I paid for the DVDs out of my own pocket.  To my readers, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read about it here.

18
Oct
2009

cbs hateIf this rant sounds familiar, it’s because it is.

Last December I ranted about how Sunday football games were constantly throwing CBS’ Sunday night programming into chaos.  At that time I was complaining about a 32 minute delay to the evening’s programs, but that was nothing compared to tonight’s whopping 71 minute delay.  Thank you New York Jets and Buffalo Bills for throwing the game into overtime and then changing possession 500 times!

So,CBS has opted to play 60 Minutes in its entirety, meaning that Amazing Race, the show I’m waiting on, will not start until 8:11 my time.  Well, my TiVo still shows it as airing from 7 – 8, and that is when it will record, leaving me without one second of the show.

Well, I’m lucky in that I also get West coast channels, so I can still catch the show at its specified time, but since I wrote the original rant, I have learned of something that exists that would fix all of this.  Apparently there are signals that channels can send out in some countries and tell the DVRs that a show is running late and it will shift the schedule on your DVR for you automatically.  So say a show is starting 5 minutes late, the network sends out a signal and your DVR will change the settings from 7 – 8 to 7:05 – 8:05.

Why don’t we have this here?  I can’t imagine it is the complicated to do, and the technology already exists, so why isn’t it here?  Instead, people that watch any show on Sunday night on CBS are totally hosed if they set their DVRs and left their houses for the evening.  DVRs are now accounting for approximately 39 percent of all television viewing, so shouldn’t a bit more concern be given to making sure they record at the right time?

18
Oct
2009

writingOnly 31 articles this week … I must have been slacking.

Photo.BLORGE.com

SeanPAune.com

SiliconANGLE.com

SitePoint.com

StarterTech.com

Tech.BLORGE.com

17
Oct
2009

ftc_logoIt seems it isn’t only myself and a few others who are beginning to take issue with the FTC.

It was really beginning to feel like that Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself were the only ones crying “FOUL!” over the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for bloggers, but this past week a few major groups have spoken out against them, going so far as to call them “unconstitutional”.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which I feel was slow to react to this case, has stated:

EFF believes that bloggers ought to have the same legal protections and privileges as traditional journalists. We urge the FTC to rethink and clarify the problematic aspects of these new rules.

Well, it’s about time someone with some juice stood up and said this!

Then the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), a group representing large players in the interactive advertising business such as Google, MSN and AOL, issued an open letter to the FTC:

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) today called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to withdraw recently issued enforcement guidance regarding the opinions and commentary of bloggers and other participants in social media, saying the rules unfairly and unconstitutionally impose penalties on online media for practices in which offline media have engaged for decades. In an open letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, Randall Rothenberg, the President and CEO of the IAB, called the FTC’s distinction between offline media and online media, “constitutionally dubious.”

“Constitutionally dubious.”  Really?  You don’t say.

The letter goes on:

“What concerns us the most in these revisions is that the Internet, the cheapest, most widely accessible communications medium ever invented, would have less freedom than other media,” said Mr. Rothenberg, “These revisions are punitive to the online world and unfairly distinquish between the same speech, based on the medium in which it is delivered. The practices have long been afforded strong First Amendment protections in traditional media outlets, but the Commission is saying that the same speech deserves fewer Constitutional protections online. I urge the Commission to retract the current set of Guides and to commence a fair and open process in order to develop a roadmap by which responsible online actors can engage with consumers and continue to provide the invaluable content and services that have so transformed people’s lives.”

Will the FTC listen to any of this criticism?  Doubtful if their reply to FastCompany is any indication:

“Although the [Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)] contends the FTC’s Endorsement Guides are unconstitutional, the Guides apply only to marketing and they attempt to illustrate some of the factors relevant to distinguishing advertising from editorial content,” says Mary Engle, the FTC’s director of the division of advertising practices, in an email statement released today. “If particular communications do not in fact constitute advertising, as the IAB appears to be suggesting, then the Guides do not apply. Where the message is advertising, however, disseminators have an obligation to ensure it is not misleading. This includes, when it is not otherwise clear from the context, identifying when the endorser has been paid for the endorsement. Although IAB may disagree with the policy, nothing in this approach is unconstitutional,” Engle re-iterated.

What a surprise reply from the FTC.

The FTC is now trying to say that this is more about keeping the advertisers in line than it is the bloggers, but that doesn’t ring with the least bit of truth.  As FastCompany rightly points out:

He points to the oft-cited book review example, in which books received by bloggers are considered a form of compensation and as a result would have to be disclosed. “By saying, ‘Don’t worry, bloggers, we’re going after publishers,’ it’s saying it’s okay to send those books to magazines and newspapers but not to a blog or a social media site or someone who’s known to review on Amazon. It’s saying if publishers send these books to someone who reviews things for Amazon.com, the publisher can be penalized. But if you send them toThe New York Times or The Atlantic or freelancers who does contributing to Publishers Weekly, you do not face the threat of penalty.”

And going back to the open letter from the IAB for a moment:

“They—and we—are not arguing that bloggers and social media be treated differently than incumbent media. After all, most newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television networks, in recognition that Americans are embracing new forms of social communications, have established their own blogs, boards, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and the like. Rather, we’re saying the new conversational media should be accorded the same rights and freedoms as other communications channels.”

And that hits the nail on the head.  New media is not asking to be treated any differently than traditional media, but yet that is exactly what the FTC has done.  They have set one set of standards for legacy media, and a completely different set for new media.

Many people have said to me, “If you have nothing to hide, why not disclose?”.  Well, I am perfectly willing to disclose, but I just want an even playing field for both old and new media.  The example of review books is the easiest one to deal with, and it is the most direct.  Why should my reviewing a book require a disclosure that old media gets to skate totally over?  The FTC has said it is because those books are assigned by editorial staff, and it is not sent directly to the writer, but that isn’t always the case.  There are times where the books are sent directly to the writers, and they do in fact get to keep the book, just because they are writing in a print publication they are somehow exempt from any semblance of wrong doing, but because I write for a blog, I am immediately assumed to be of some sort of lower moral fiber and I have been potentially bought off with the book.

Currently sitting on my desk is a stack of six books I have been sent by publishers.  I did not request any of these books, and I honestly don’t know why I got them as I have never reviewed a book on any site, but there they are.  The letters that come with them always say that I am under no obligation to review the books, but that they hope that I might.  I have not chosen to review them, or even read them, because they really aren’t my style of books, but if I did ever choose to review any of them, that would be my choice.  It would not be because I feel some moral obligation to do so, and it would certainly not be because I feel indebted to the publisher for “giving” it to me.  Under these new guidelines though, I would be obligated to tell my readers that I had been given this book because I can’t be trusted to write a fair review in the eyes of the FTC.  My feeling is this would lessen the impact of anything positive I would say about a book that I genuinely liked as it obviously motivated me enough to write it.  It would bring my standards into question with my readers because they could go, “Well, obviously Sean went overboard with his positive feelings because he was given this book.”

Oddly enough, when you read the full guidelines from the FTC (PDF link), it sounds as though you only have to disclose if you give a positive review, and no time does it state that disclosure is required for negative reviews.  So, apparently if I hate something (I know … that’s so unusual for me) I am free of any questionably moral actions on my part.

These “guidelines”, which are effective as of Dec. 1st, will end up in court folks, and my gut tells me that a judge is going to tell the FTC that it’s either a level playing field for all, or nothing at all.

16
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven Hodson and I discuss how social media seems to not only be full of sexism, but people looking to deny free speech to others as we look at what happened with Penelope Trunk, Meghan McCain and Jan Moir.  (thanks to Steven for digging up the following relevant links)

Penelope talks miscarriage – gets slammed, Pulver talks penis – gets patted on back
Don’t Call Me a Slut
Meghan McCain twitter photo is hot, draws haters
Jan Moir, the Web, Free Speech and the Wisdom of Mobs

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

16
Oct
2009

Scattercast is 65 … WOO-HOO is it retirement time yet?

- Okay, yes, the SNL DVD set rant was probably a bit much, I admit it.

- Christopher Columbus is finally being treated properly by schools … about time.

- Okay, seriously, someone explain to me why Meghan McCain wearing a tank top is such a horror? (Warning: If you don’t feel you can deal with a man talking bluntly about breasts, but in a none sexual way, you may want to skip this episode)

- A brief follow-up to the whole FTC Guidelines (PDF link) debacle.

- An even briefer discussion of ebooks.

Here’s

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

for those who wish to download it, subscribe to Scattercast via iTunes.

15
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and Steven Hodson discuss how bloggers attending Blog World Expo seem to have forgotten that they are “bloggers” and not “Twitterers”.  Also, big boys such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation are finally saying, “Hey, FTC, you need to look at these guidelines again … they’re too much.”

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

15
Oct
2009

meghan mccain twitter

It seems if you are the daughter of a former Republican presidential candidate, you are expected to dress a certain way when even in your own home, staying in for the evening.

Megan McCain, the 24-year-old daughter of John McCain, has set off a veritable storm of controversy when she chose last night to post a picture to her Twitter account of the book she was staying in and reading for the evening.  It wasn’t the book that caused the uproar, but the fact that she was wearing a tank top.

Oh no, the horrors.

What Ms. McCain that was a perfectly innocent and fun photo led to an evening of her being called a “slut”, and in turn, her having to defend her choices of what she chooses to wear in her own home.  What follows is her responses to her followers, strong language left intact for impact (if they seem broken up, remember you are only allowed 140 characters per message, or Tweet):

so I took a fun picture not thinking anything about what I was wearing but apparently anything other than a pantsuit I am a slut, this is

why I have been considering deleting my twitter account, what once was fun now just seems like a vessel for harassment

I am going to take some more time to think about it but seriously I was just trying to be funny with the book and that I’m a dork staying in

when I am alone in my apartment, I wear tank tops and sweat pants, I had no idea this makes me a “slut”, I can’t even tell you how hurt I am

ok I am getting the fuck off twitter, promise not to delete my account until I sleep on it, thank you for the nice words supporters

I do want to apologize to anyone that was offended by my twitpic, I have clearly made a huge mistake and am sorry 2 those that are offended.

mccain victorianI guess I can clearly define myself as not being a prude at this point. Was the tank top tight? Yes. Is her choice to wear this in the privacy of her own home validation for calling her a “slut”? Not even close.

Yes, she opted to take a picture of herself and share it with her 60,000+ Twitter followers, but big freakin’ deal. I have a news flash for every one out there: Meghan McCain is a female and females have these things called “breasts”, and sometimes, just sometimes, they are partially visible.  Just because a woman’s breasts are visible does not instantly equate her with being a “slut,” although it would seem that some people have a hard time with this concept.

To be honest, I wasn’t even aware Ms. McCain had a Twitter account until this morning, but I’m following her now.  Why?  Because anyone who gets verbally attacked like this over something as simple as opting to wear a tank top (while staying in for a night to read a book … I can’t get over that part) deserves support.  This is the 21st century folks, not Victorian times where cloth doilies were placed around the feet of furniture because it might remind men of a woman’s bare ankle.  (Think I’m kidding?  Look it up.)  Shall we return to a time where women wore floor length skirts so men would never see something as scandalous as a woman’s foot?

Kim LaCapria over at The Inquisitr said it well:

… and here’s to hoping Meghan comes around and sees the criticism for what it really is and doesn’t quit Twitter. None of us like pantsuits, Meghan, and we need women like you to kill them good and dead for the rest of us. You can never Spanx away big tits and a curvy ass, and whole nation of voluptuous women need you to not apologize for your breasts so we don’t have to apologize for ours. Keep fighting the good fight!

True, I don’t have the “voluptuous” problem Kim mentions here, but I agree with her overall point.  They’re breasts folks, they aren’t going anywhere, stop acting so shocked when you see them.

14
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and I discuss the T-Mobile/Danger situation as some new rumors have cropped over what happened with everyone’s Sidekick … as Mark sits in a KFC waiting for his chicken. Then tragedy strikes Mark which must be heard to believe! What choice will he make that could make or break his dinner?!?

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

14
Oct
2009

snlsetsI really wish DVD releases would just stick with a design through a logical stopping point.

I just picked up Saturday Night Live season 4 on sale, and while moving all of my TV show DVD sets to a new shelving unit, I popped it in its rightful place next to Saturday Night Live season 3 … and immediately cursed.

When I had received the set from Amazon I thought something felt “off” about it, and I was right.  Not only is the package of a cheaper material, it’s shorter.  I can understand wanting to save money, but couldn’t you have waited until a more logical changing point like season 6 (no original cast members remained after season 5)?

Other series have done this to me over the years, and it has always been annoying.  You like some uniformity to your sets, you like them to look like they belong together, but then they change up the appearance with no rhyme or reason, and you’re stuck.  The worst case of this was when the X-Files went from their original “fat packs” to the “slim packs” in the later seasons.  They were so radically different that it made them difficult to store together at all, let alone look nice.

So, feel free to change packaging when there is a major shift in the show, like when Simpsons season 1 – 5 had one look, and with season 6 they went on to another design.  That was fine, that made sense, this just seems random, and an obvious grab to save a few cents at the expense of the consumer who pays the same price for each season, and now has a totally random looking shelf.

Think about these things video companies, it will make your customers feel a lot less slighted.

(And, yes, I am aware only season 1 is unwrapped … I’m getting to the others eventually.)

13
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven Hodson and I take a look at transparency in the world of social media and how the term is abused.  We also spend some time talking about the snobbery of certain parties in the space and that they just need to get over themselves.

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

13
Oct
2009

appledisneyWhat do you do when you need to rebuild your retail stores with a new direction? You call a computer maker, that’s what.

The Disney Store retail locations are in bad shape. By 2004 the chain had expanded to over 600 locations, but was losing around $100 million a year. Disney sold off the chain to Children’s Place Retail Stores that year, but after numerous consumer complaints about the condition of the stores, Disney feared its brand being tarnished and took back a large portion of the chain in March 2008. The remaining 100 stores were closed, and Disney set about trying to figure out how to relaunch the retail brand in a way that would appeal to consumers again.

Someone must have gotten a brain flash and remembered that Steve Jobs of Apple sits on the Board of Directors.  You know, the Steve that turned a nearly bankrupt Apple around and launched the mega-successful Apple Stores retail chain?  Yeah, wonder how they forgot they had access to him.

According to The New York Times, Disney approached Mr. Jobs about getting his help with retooling the retail stores, and he gave them access to the Apple Store designers and blueprints.  The stores may be rebranded as “Imagination Parks”, and will feature a more interactive experience.  Imagine seeing a trailer for the new Disney version of A Christmas Carol and you suddenly start smelling Christmas trees in the store, you walk past a video screen with a princess tiara in your hand and Cinderella will appear and talk to you about it, video conferences with stars of Disney Channel shows and so on.  All told the renovations will cost $1 million per store and will begin with the locations in Southern California, Long Island and Madrid. (editor’s note:At one point the source article implied all the stores had been closed, but then also said stores would be renovated, so who knows which is correct)

As if the $1 million per store wasn’t enough, Steve Jobs insisted that they must build a prototype store to see how everything worked. Disney balked at this expense at first as they were talking about a fully functional store with complete stock, but Jobs insisted it was a necessity, so somewhere in Glendale, CA is a nondescript warehouse with a full Disney store in it.  However, Mr. Jobs was correct, and this prototype store is what finally convinced the board of directors to move ahead with this plan.

The source article is much more in-depth, and a fascinating read actually.  I always have an interest in business stories like this, but rarely write them up simply because they bore most people to tears.  I think this is a fascinating move for Disney, and one I think malls should welcome.  The story says at least one mall manager wasn’t too interested in giving Disney any sort of breaks, but upon seeing the prototype store their attitude seems to have changed.

Malls are dying slow, painful deaths at the moment.  They are in desperate need of “destinations”, stores that cause people to go to the mall as opposed to just browsing them as they walk around.  If Disney can create an atmosphere that makes kids beg their parents to take them to these stores, the entire mall will benefit from it.  If these stores prove to be as successful as I suspect they may be, malls should be begging Disney to open them.

Image of the prototype store from The New York Times, click for a larger view.

newdisneystores