Thursday, July 24, 2008

APPLE TV UPDATE


Oh happy day! The 2.2 update did it--I can listen to internet radio on the Apple TV without having to stream it from my computer. I'm blasting with the big speakers any music that the vast sea of the Internet can provide. You do have to create a playlist of radio stations on iTunes, since there still isn't searching available for radio like with podcasts and YouTube. Get on it, Apple! And while you're at it, could I have an iPod Touch with 80 GB of storage for less than $300? Especially now that LastFM is available on it. That'd be great, thanks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

STILL HATING ON MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS

Jason had an insightful post on newspapers in the Internet Age on his blog wherein he suggested we donate to keep the watchdogs of the press going. In an aside, he mentioned subscriptions for music:

To be honest, it's the same thing with music downloads. I've been screaming for monthly subscriptions for years now, and they're still not here. (At least not on the scale of an iTunes or Amazon.)
Of course, I had to respond.

Jason:

I'm sorry to hear you've been screaming for years--you must be very hoarse. I believe the service you're looking for is called Rhapsody. I don't know what counts as "the same scale", but they have ads on TV. I don't know why anyone would pay $12.99/month to rent music, though. I want to own my music, I don't want some company to be able to take my access away or jack up the price at a whim. Rhapsody's main market must be people who don't own much music, have a lot of electronic devices but no interest in learning about podcasts or Internet radio, and have tastes that change on a monthly basis---AKA teenagers. Podcasts are free, internet radio is free, LastFM is free, Pandora is free, Songbird is free, making any streaming Internet audio into a podcast is one-time cost of $15, so why pay $156/year to sample new stuff?

If an internet radio station is good enough, make a donation. Radio stations also add news, personalities, tour dates, and other added value in addition to the songs themselves, so that's another aspect worth rewarding. I admit I am very anti-subscriptions. I don't have cable and I won't get a PVR because of the monthly fees. I will buy the occasional TV show on AppleTV. Netflix and certain magazines are the only subscriptions that are worth it on a quality-vs-cost basis.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

BIG VALLEY, THE ANTI-WESTERN



I'm not a big Western fan, they tend to be too conservative for a big liberal like me. The strong, silent good guy is the best shot, so he kills the bad guy, saves civilization and marries the schoolmarm (My Darling Clementine, Gunsmoke). I tend to prefer the "adult" Westerns of the 50s like Man of the West, The Unforgiven, 3:10 To Yuma, Johnny Guitar and Warlock that acknowledge that there was sex, racial tension and moral ambiguity on the lonesome prairie. Another interesting variation was Western family drama, like Broken Lance, Duel in the Sun, or Giant, where a powerful paterfamilias was respected throughout the county but had trouble with his own family (Bonanza is a watered-down version).
The Big Valley is the closest TV came to the adult Western. Of course it was constrained by censorship compared to the movies, but it was daring at the time to have a main character be an illegitimate son of late paterfamilias who is accepted by the family as one of their own (after some conflict, of course). Also, the prostitutes were actually whores, not the fresh-scrubbed "dance hall hostesses" of Bonanza.

Unlike the usual powerful ranching families in movies and TV, the Barkleys were headed by the strong-willed Victoria as played by the great Barbara Stanwyck, who after the first few episodes took to wearing an all-black cowgirl-dominatrix outfit reminiscent of Joan Crawford in Johnny Guitar. Instead of ruling the valley with an iron fist and fearing change, the Barkleys were the 19th-century equivalent of "limousine liberals", always helping the less fortunate, whether they are poor farmers, black ex-cons, prostitutes, Mexican revolutionaries or inmates of a women's prison (Victoria goes undercover and endures beatings in order to expose its inhumane conditions). Unlike the many movie Western heroes who are embittered ex-Confederate soldiers, like John Wayne in The Searchers and the many versions of Jesse James, son Jarrod was the captain of a black Union regiment. Still, they are often resented and even kidnapped due to their wealth. Poor Audra, the daughter of the family, was always being threatened with rape, most memorably by a psychopathic Civil War vet played by Adam West.

The Big Valley has something for everything with its three brothers: smart, sophisticated lawyer Jarrod; hot-headed diamond-in-the-rough Nick; and quiet, brooding friend-of-the-underdog Heath (Lee Major looks and sounds a great deal like Elvis Presley at this point, which I assume was intentional). Not to mention the uncannily lovely Audra and the intriguingly butch Victoria. There are many great guest stars: having only seen the first DVD of the first season, I've already enjoyed Andrew Duggan as a charismatic-but-warped Civil War general who tries to get the ranch hands to turn to crime, and Jeanne Cooper as the murderous Lady MacBeth of a dying Gold Rush town.

My other favorite TV Westerns, The High Chaparral and Maverick, are sadly not on DVD, but the 10 discs of The Big Valley, Season 1 should get me through summer reality-show hell.