Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Bumper Crop Year

Most years, when the fall premiere season arrives, it is a safe bet that a majority of the shows will land with a thud. For some reason, only one or two shows will stick in a given year, but then along come these bumper crop years where the small screen is suddenly awash with brilliance.

This year is one of those years.

For some time now, TV pundits have spoken at length about the death of the sitcom. One of my favorite TV critics, Jamie J Weinman, whose blog Something Old, Something New gained enough of a following that Macleans Magazine snapped him up as their TV guy, made a very prescient prediction back in 2004.

In a nutshell, he posited that the single camera comedy was going to replace the traditional multi-camera format.

For some time, this prediction seemed like the yammerings of a yahoo, as networks kept on cranking out the multi-cam shows, like According to Jim, Til' Death, two failed Kelsey Grammer projects (Back to You, Hank), and any number of other, unmemorable wastes of time.

In the past several years, only two multi-camera shows have reached the level of hit status - Two and a Half Men, and The Big Bang Theory. And while these shows are definitely hits with audiences, creatively they are somewhat hit and miss.

But this year we hit the jackpot. Shows like Community, Modern Family, The Middle, Glee (Not a sitcom, but pretty darn funny), and Seth McFarlane's latest franchise "The Cleveland Show" have been hitting all their marks, breathing life into what had appeared, for some time, to be a dying, or even dead, genre. All of these shows, as it happens, are single camera shows, with no laugh track, not shot in front of a live studio audience. Kind of like Corner Gas... Actually, exactly like Corner Gas.

I'm not sure if Corner Gas had any influence on this trend (and it's a long shot that it would have), but just as Corner Gas recharged Canadian TV, especially Canadian comedy, shows with the exact same format, such as 30 Rock (which is probably what sparked this trend in the US) have done the same in the US.

WHatever happens, it will be interesting to see how this trend grows and develops.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mac to the Future

At a school in Dubai, where I spend my days banging out the rent, an educational experiment has begun that will have interesting, and perhaps long term effects on education in the region.

You see, I'm tapping out this post tonight on a new computer. When I first joined my school, I was told that every teacher was given a laptop, which turned out to be the case, and I became the (proud?) holder of a Dell something or other. To be fair, while I never stopped grousing about the Dell, and casting a covetous glance on all the nicer byte candy out there, I had been using and and abusing that Dell for three years. I had it on almost 24 hours a day, every single day, using it to make documents, create movies, edit and produce audio, you name it. I filled it to the brim with free, open source software that let me do thing only people with much deeper pockets usually could. I burned out two power adapters during the course of my stewardship, and two weeks ago I had to finally bow to the inevitable...

It was time to get my grubbers on a new MacBook Pro.

That's right. That sweet, grey bit of byte candy became mine. I had been eyeing such a purchase for years, dreaming about the day when I would own a Mac again, but always aware that the price was a little too stiff for my family-man means.

It is a good thing I did not buy one in the end, because over the summer vacation, I learned that my school had given up their contract with Dell, and had signed a deal with Apple. Every teacher at my school system's five high schools and multiple tertiary institutes was being supplied with a MacBook Pro 13.1", loaded with a kings ransom in software - Microsoft Office 2008, Final Cut Pro, and iWork. In addition, these machines were given dual boot capability, so in addition to Mac, we retained Windows, and the suite of software we used there.

Some lucky few, or so I hear, are also getting the Adobe Creative Suite, professional version.

Yes we teachers are being spoiled by getting these fancy new machines. But so, it turns out, are the students.

Every student at my school is getting a shiny new MacBook Pro. What that will mean in the classroom remains to be seen, especially considering the powerful multimedia recording capabilities of these machines.

A few high schools in the US and Europe have already implemented a laptop-per-student policy, but usually that means a generic Windows laptop. I don't think I've heard of a similar program where students received top of the line MacBooks usually only used by creative professionals and pretty much every actor on television.

Is it overkill? Will the power and possibilities of these machines be put to good use? How will it affect the on the ground situation in the classroom?

The money being thrown at this program is staggering, and the deal itself was high profile enough to make the national news. The no.2 man at Apple himself flew down to Abu Dhabi to seal the deal.

Whatever the cae may be, I'm just happy that I finally got my own little bit of byte candy. Whatever else is whatever else.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interlude: Those Winter Sundays

In addition to the poetry I write, I think I am going to start posting poems I come across that really have something to offer. I came across this poem, by Robert Hayden, on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached from labor
in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze.

No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm,
he'd call, and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

I read the news today...

I read the news today, oh boy.

A few items that popped out at me today. The first was when I opened my copy of the Khaleej Times this morning and saw the gratis copy of PC "Magazine." The one thing I love about this part of the world is how generous they are when naming things, ascribing virtues that they simply do not possess. Flipping through, I soon saw that the magazine was just an advert for Gitex, the large tech expo. What I soon noticed, however, was not the plethora of manufacturers and software developers hawking their wares, but the relative paucity of such. I don't know if this is true or not, but apparently there are only two peripheral makers at Gitex. If it is true, then I'd find a greater variety of tech vendors at the Emarat on the corner than I would a Gitex.

It says something. I'm not sure what. But something.

And on to other news. Two fascinating items of note.

The Germans have stumbled on a new way to "raise" environmental consciousness. Apparently, if you ride a bike or take the bus to Berlin's "The Maison d’Envie," one of Germany's many, legal, brothels, you get a 5 Euro discount on services.

In other news, an interesting item from Britain. You see, I'm a loyal follower of the BBC Radio 4 Friday Night Comedy Podcast. It's usually very good, and most of the shows are well done. A good portion of thw humor seems to stem from taking potshots at the BNP -

"The BNP is forming an alliance with the Green Party. They want to ring the island with windmills, which they hope will also blow away the immigrants"

I figured that the BNP was a conservative party akin to Canada's Reform party from the late 90s and early 00s, and that the cheap shots were just that - a somewhat unfair tarring of what is a legitimate and serious political party.

And then I read this -

The ultra-right-wing British National Party has agreed to amend its constitution to allow the very people it loathes—visible minorities—to join. The UK Equality and Human Rights Commission had launched court proceedings against BNP leader Nick Griffin and two of his deputies, arguing it had a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to prevent discrimination by political parties. In a plea deal, Griffin has agreed to present his all-white membership with a revised constitution at a general meeting next month. Then they will sing Kumbaya.

Awesome. Really. It's 2009, and they're taking a serious look at desegregation. Do they still use computers the size of a bus? How are Brylcreem sales doing in BNP strongholds?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Boy Howdy

It's about time to get back on this thing and get some writing done. Some time about the end of the summer, and during the first bit of the school year, I felt a bit of a fugue come over me, some sort of lazy unwillingness to get back on the wagon again.

I think it was the poetry. Perhaps I'll have to be a bit more sporadic on that. I'll still try to keep it up, but my one a day goal is probably a mite unsustainable considering my current circumstances.

Which brings me to the good news. There's a new O'Hearn in the world, and I've officially become candidate for King Lear-ship. We've had three daughters in four years, which means they'll all be teenagers at the same time at some point, which also means that I'm going to have to move to a district that let's me own a shotgun, and doesn't get too fussy about me using on my own private property.

But enough of that. I had something to show you. A bit of joy to share.

Leah Melissa O'Hearn

Moments after birth...

Cleaned up, seeing the sun for the first time...