Thursday, December 29, 2005

Are you a 'Frazz' or are you a 'Get Fuzzy'?

X-Box 360s are sold out everywhere. No matter, unless you have a major guilt complex and need to buy your kid a $400 system to prove your love, most gamers know that the first generation systems are never a wise bet. Far better to a) wait a year when the price drops and b) have a superior product because that system will have many of the fixes that gave people major headaches when they first opened the XBox 360. I remember being one of the lucky ones to get an XBox in 2001. The result? I had to send it back to get a new hard drive. Six months later, it still wouldn't play most of my DVDs and games that just came out of their wrapping were deemed 'dirty' and unreadable. I eventually had to buy another XBox.

Can you imagine - wanting something like an XBox 360 so bad. Standing in line - even camping outside of Target overnight to get one of about 20 that came into the store. Shelled out $400 and an extra $200 in accessories. Spent another few hours finding a home for it. And then - the sonofabitchin' thing doesn't work?

I was reading that even with an XBox360 (keep in mind, this was probably a trade magazine), you would still need a high-definition television to fully bring the amazing graphics to life. You will also need a home entertainment system with a theater-type sound system so you can hear the cars coming behind you in one of the racing games. So, breaking it down... $2000 for the Hi-definition tele, $1000 for a serviceable stereo system. $3000. Which is the same price (after figuring in the XBox 360 price) as this comic about a songwriter/janitor who is an avid road biker and triathlete:

Frazz - by Jeff Mallett

Frazz has a car that barely runs. A 40-mile bike ride for him is a warm-up. Many of Mallett's strips revolve around people with sedentary liftstyles (usually depicted as dim or uncool) and active lifestyles (Frazz, most of the kids in the elementary school where Frazz works). If the words 'watching the football game' or 'playing video games' is in the strip, most likely, it's going to be a dig against engaging in either activity. It's a great motivator - especially during those weeks where I'd rather do nothing else but veg and watch a House marathon.

Before you praise Frazz, honestly - $3500 for a bike is sort of frivolous. Bike shops love guilt-ridden people who come in after New Year's, shell out $1500 for a bike (where a starter $400 would do just fine) - go on a few bike rides, and see their bike slowly turn into a coat rack. Another comic character, Rob from Get Fuzzy , is more likely like most of the people I know: honestly tries to be active (we see him running, playing basketball, following his beloved Red Sox), but more times than not, we see him vegging in his apartment with his pets and watching the tube.

Which (finally) brings me to the point of this Blog - if you had $3000 of totally disposable income, what option would you choose (assuming you had to choose one or the other) : $3500 bike, or $3500 home entertainment system. I know what one I would choose and I know what one I should choose. The entertainment center will forever keep you on the couch and honestly, during blizzards and punishing heat waves, can be a nice option. The bike will obviously keep you away from the couch and make sure you spend your time outside and give you opportunities to socialize with other biking enthusiasts - and get your self-esteem battered when your out of shape body gets put to the test in the first race you enter. Still, this is one of those purchases that separates people into two distinct categories. Both are nice, but deep down, most people have a strong feeling in their gut what option they would purchase.

Off subject - Wil Wheaton did an amazing article about the supposed 'War on Christmas' for Salon. Here's the link: The Real War on Christmas .

Current listening selections:
My Morning Jacket - Z
Blackalicious - The Craft
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane over the Sea
The Appleseed Cast - Low Level: Vol. 1

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No, it's the people...

I was watching TV last night and I caught what may be the last episodes of Kitchen Confidential and Arrested Development. Kitchen Confidential is produced by Darren Star, best known for Sex in the City. The pilot held some promise, the cast was good, but the writing just never took off. Most of the meat from Anthony Bourdain's best-seller that the show was based on - was not there. The moral lesson voiceover at the end of most episodes was also annoying (sort of like a vulgar One to Grow On). Last night's episode - in which the head waitress sleeps with the rival chef of the main character (Bradley Cooper playing Jack Bourdain), you got the feeling the writers were getting desperate. You could almost hear the group of writers nervously pitch their ideas to the FOX execs before the ax fell "more sex! people are bound to tune in if we promise them more sex - and more sight gags!"

At the end, Kitchen Confidential deserves a dignified death. I'm still hoping for the movie version of Bourdain's book with David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club) directing.

It's with a heavy heart that Arrested Development goes. Seriously, there is no reason FOX needs to pull this show. If FOX can find a room for The War at Home, they can find a home for Arrested Development. While the show doesn't do well rating-wise, it certainly isn't a ratings bust. In addition, AD brings in a ton of positive press from fan devotees and critics to FOX. Its season collection DVD collections sell well, bringing in more revenue to FOX. It also practically guarantees a few Emmy nods for Comedy for FOX. Can The War at Home do that for the network?

It's true that Rupert Murdoch deserves a special suite in the sixth circle of hell for unleashing FOX News, but FOX broadcasting isn't entirely to blame for Arrested Development's demise. When the show was on regular rotation (before baseball season and Prison Break), FOX advertised the show as well as The Simpsons and House. The show received plenty of publicity for its quality from the print and Web media.

Frankly, the failure of Arrested Development lies with *gulp* viewers. As powerful as the networks are, they cannot force us to watch According to Jim, Stacked and The Swan. FOX had a great series out there for almost two years. People were given ample time to warm up to it. Sadly, like Freaks and Geeks, people simply chose the simpler sitcoms.

I watched Good Night, and Good Luck a few weeks ago. Looking at the broadcasts in the movie and studying Murrow's broadcasts in the 50s, it stunned me how much intelligence and focus were in those news broadcasts. The vocabulary and complexity of some of the news broadcasts would never fly for today's nightly news broadcasts from the major networks. At the same time, the TV shows of that era did not have near the sophistication of shows like Arrested Development, 24 and Lost, so you can't look back on the era of Murrow as an era of lost intellectualism. Some networks, like FX and IFC, reward viewers with quality programming, and viewers reward them back by tuning in regularly. Let's home that Arrested Development finds a home on such a network.

Current listening selections
De La Soul - 3 Feet igh and Rising
U2 - Zooropa
Sigur Ros - Takk