Friday, March 30, 2012

Fantasy Baseball Time is Here!

It's that time of the year again.  My annual addiction disease has returned.  It's fantasy baseball draft week!

Every year since I was about 13 I've done fantasy baseball.  As each year passes I tell myself I'm only going to do one team... So far this year I have 5 teams, 4 of which were live drafts, one of which was a 20-person, 31-man-roster auction draft. (which, if you're familiar... is insane.  It held me in front of a computer for a good 5 hours)... It's a problem.

For those who aren't familiar with the 'fantasy' craze, you draft a team of players who you think will have good statistical seasons, which in turn earns you the most fantasy points.  There are two main kinds of drafts: snake and auction.  In a snake draft, there is a draft order, and team owners make picks from the total pool of available players in order 1-10, then backwards 10-1, and again until all of the teams' rosters are full.  In an auction draft, there is no real order, just an order to nominate players for bid.  Each team owner has a set amount of money with which to bid on players, and anyone can bid on any player if they have the money.  An auction draft takes a little more strategy.

Fantasy football is great because pretty much all the games are played one day a week, so it's not much of a time sink...

But fantasy baseball is a 162-game season.  Games every day.  Constant roster changes.  Over that large a sample size statistical analysis becomes much more reliable.  Which gets into why the drafts are so much fun.  With a little work, you can try to find the guys who are undervalued, the 'sleepers', and any guys who are primed for a breakout season.  But sometimes it's fun too just to go by a 'gut' feeling.

I could go on and on about this, but I'd guess most of you probably aren't interested and have already stopped reading.  Sufficed to say I'm well versed in this subject, and if you are interested and want any sleeper picks... let me know in the comments.

And if you have an addictive personality and love sports, STAY AWAY

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Viacom's Profits Tumble as NIckelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central Ratings Fall

Viacom's revenue fell 3% in the last quarter of 2011, and that trend looks to continue into 2012.  Such a concern was this trend, that in an investors meeting CEO Phillippe Dauman pledged to spend $3 billion on programming this year.  Key concerns seem to be Viacom's biggest 3 cable networks: Nickeloeon, Comedy Central, and MTV.  A look at the numbers shows Nickelodeon ratings down 28% in the first quarter this year in the age 6-11 bracket, MTV's Jersey Shore falling from 8 million viewers down to 6, and Comedy Central's primetime ratings down 15% in the first quarter.
(Source: NY Times, NY Post)

What are the causes for these trends?

Well I think the easiest to fix is MTV.  People got sick of Jersey Shore.  That's it.  The show has been on too frequently, moving the cast from Miami, to Italy, and back to Jersey in the span of a year.  Oversaturation.  'Jersey Shore' is now on hiatus, and MTV is planning several spinoffs centering around the more likeable characters.  Which I think will work.  Viewers got tired of the rehashed drama between the housemates, so taking a few of the characters out of that element should provide new entertainment value with familiar characters.

And yes, people always complain, MTV doesn't have any 'music tv' at all.  They don't show music videos anymore".  But the reality is, it doesn't make sense to use ad-generating air time to show music videos that I can go find on youtube in a matter of seconds.  They realized this back in the mid-90's, then killed it off when 'Total Request Live' ratings finally started to tank.  The Internet won that battle.

Comedy Central just can't find any programming to fill the times between last night's episodes of 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' (6:00 pm) and tonight's episodes of 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' (11:00 pm).  They rely mostly on syndicated repeats of other network's shows (30 Rock, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia).  Don't get me wrong, I like those shows and will watch some of the repeats if there's nothing else on, but they can't carry ratings for a network.  Comedy Central's original programming is very hit-or-miss.  Recently, Tosh.0 has fallen off ratings-wise after a strong first and second season.  South Park is still a draw, with Ugly Americans a decent draw after, but the network hasn't been able to build a solid block of programming around only a few performing shows.  (Workaholics is also fantastic, almost slipped my mind)

And don't get me started on Futurama.  I loved the original run of that show.  Something about the new episodes is just off... They managed to get all of the original voice cast back, which is great, but not all of the original writing cast... which made those actors' dialogue great.  I still watch, but mostly in deference to the original show.

The biggest contributor to Viacom's falling revenue is Nickelodeon, which has long been Viacom's cash cow.

Their ratings have just been dropping like a rock, tied to an anchor, tied to Lindsay Lohan's career (We'll always have Mean Girls).  Outside of pre-school age, Nick's programming is tanking lately.  Not entirely sure what to chalk it up to.  I know my cousin (age 9) loves the Cartoon Network shows 'Adventure Time' and 'Regular Show', but he doesn't really watch any Nick cartoons.  Frankly, I think Spongebob has run its course and become very stale.  On top of that, its core audience has grown up a little too much to continue to be reliable viewers.  Beyond that it seems most of the other Nick cartoons are awful movie tie-ins: The Backyardigans, some Kung-Fu panda show.  Those seem like bad ideas from the word 'go'.  You'll never build an audience with shows like that, only draw off the popularity of the movie and nothing more.  They're short-lived ratings boosts at best.  On top of that, Nick has to pay for the rights to those characters, instead of more cheaply trying to invent some original content to build into a hit (like Spongebob).

I know my cousin does at least watch those live-action shows: ICarly, Victorious, and (sigh) Big Time Rush.  The Dan Schneider shows.  They're not all bad to be honest, just mostly bad.  The first ep of ICarly I watched with my cousin had a reference to 'The Wire' in it.  I think my brain shut down in shock for a good 5 seconds after I saw it.

Despite the fact that the formula for those shows is extremely stale, they continue to draw ratings.  I'm not even sure if these shows are really that cheap to produce since they create "stars" quickly, who I'm sure demand a "star" salary.  The only other thing that drives me crazy is that they're all music shows.  The main characters all seem to sing/be singers.  They must do well with record deals I suppose.  Oh, and on iCarly, all the characters seem to shout all their lines... all the time.

It would be nice to see a live-action show on that channel that follows a different formula.  Get away from Dan Schneider a bit.  Maybe bring back a show like 'Are You Afraid of the Dark?'.  Anything really to change things up a little.  I understand the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy, but there is a downward trend, albeit a slow one.  Kids like familiarity, but curiosity and excitement over something fresh and new is there too.

Then again, maybe the larger overarching issue here is the rise of streaming services cutting into tv ratings.  If that's the case, I'm not sure much really can be done for the large cable companies at all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Doctor Who Season 7 Trailer Released

Last week, news broke that a new companion has been cast for Doctor Who.  So that means at some point in the upcoming series, we'll have to say goodbye to lovely Amy Pond and the constantly-dying Rory Williams. :( But I am excited for the new companion, Jenna Louise Coleman... who can only be described as "hot".

Anyway, in addition to that news, the BBC released a trailer for the next season/series today.  Looks like it brought back the western theme a bit from last season (Stetsons are cool).  Except this time it's actual cowboys in the actual old west.  Fun idea, the episode looks cool.  There's also a few snippets from a winter/arctic setting, maybe from a different episode.  

Also, (for better or worse) Daleks!

Either way it's nice to get a sneak peek of the new season so early into production.  Enjoy.

This reminds me I still need to watch the Christmas special... and buy a Fez

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mad Men Season 5 Premiere: Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women

In honor of Mad Men returning to tv tonight after a 17-month hiatus, I wanted to share this skit from Jon Hamm's first time hosting SNL (He's a fantastic host).

Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women

...Remember to drink and smoke, constantly.

Lots of questions for tonight's premiere.  Don didn't actually get married, did he?  Did Joan have the baby?  Can't wait to see what the gang at SCDP has been up to.

Previously Unpublished Kurt Vonnegut Novella to be Released Exclusively on Kindle

A 22,000 word novella called 'Basic Training' is set to be released for the Amazon Kindle by RosettaBooks.  It was written over 60 years ago while Kurt Vonnegut was working in the publicity department for GE, and predates his first published novel 'Player Piano', released in 1952.

A statement by RosettaBooks described the novella as a book that demonstrates Vonnegut’s “trademark grand themes: the lunacy of kings, the improbability of existence, the yearling hero’s struggle with duty and love and the meaning of heroism.”

The release will cost $1.99.

I'm a big fan of Vonnegut, and have read over 10 of his books.  If I absolutely had to pick a favorite, it would probably be 'Cat's Cradle', which is also the first Vonnegut I read.  I know that he has countless unpublished works kicking around, and I'm glad that some of the are starting to se the light of day.  I'm also glad that the stuff getting released seems to be some of his earlier writing, which I prefer to the material he released later in his career.  I've also always enjoyed his short stories, so I'm really looking forward to this novella.

I've you've never read Vonnegut, I'd highly recommend that you do.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Much Would You Pay for the Universe?

I've had very little time to post recently, but I came across this video and wanted to share it.

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been one of the most vocal supporters for NASA in the mainstream media.  He has even testified before the Senate on the importance of NASA in space exploration and scientific advancement in general.  NDGT is an excellent writer and speaker.  He is probably the closest thing in astrophysics today to Carl Sagan.  I've read a few of his books, which are fantastic.  He just released a new one about a month ago, Space Chronicles, which sits at the top of my 'to read' list.


This video is a compilation of many of Dr. Tyson's statements on the subject, and it makes a very compelling case.  The video was put together by Scrunchthethird on Youtube.

It is truly amazing to think about, that in less than 10 years during the decade of the 60's, the US went all the way from forming NASA to landing a man on the moon...  And just this year the US stopped manned space exploration.

It should be noted, that the recent bank bailout would have funded NASA's entire budget for the last 50 years.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale (Spoilers)


2 words.  2 words to set up season 3...

Michonne.  Prison.

They introduced her badassery perfectly

And just off in the distance

Anyone who read the comics knows what's coming

Great finale.  I'll do a more in-depth on the episode tomorrow.  Just couldn't contain my excitement 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's a song to sum up my average St. Patrick's Day evening... the chorus anyway...

actual title: 'Irish Drinking Song'

Bonus for any fans of 'The Wire' out there

Happy Drinking Day to you all!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tim Burton's 'Dark Shadows' Remake Movie Trailer Released

Tim Burton's latest movie is a remake of the late 60's-early 70's vampire soap opera 'Dark Shadows'.  And guess who stars in it... go on, guess... Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter!  Shocking.  Additionally, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Chloe Moretz also star.

Depp as Barnabas Collins and an uncharacteristically blonde Green as Angelique Bouchard

My first gut reaction to the trailer was, "Wow, this looks awful".  My mom was a huge fan of the original show.  I've heard her talk about it before, and have even watched a few of the original series' episodes thanks to Netflix.  Based on her recollections of the show, and the episodes I saw, I have to say that this trailer is pretty off the mark.  The original show may have been unintentionally funny at times (boom mics popping into shots, some really bad dialogue), but the show was at least trying to be a serious, scary vamp drama.  The official synopsis:
In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America. But even an ocean was not enough to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued their family. Two decades pass and Barnabas (Depp) has the world at his feet–or at least the town of Collinsport, Maine. The master of Collinwood Manor, Barnabas is rich, powerful and an inveterate playboy…until he makes the grave mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Green). A witch, in every sense of the word, Angelique dooms him to a fate worse than death: turning him into a vampire, and then burying him alive. Two centuries later, Barnabas is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better, each harboring their own dark secrets. Matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Pfeiffer) has called upon live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), to help with her family troubles. Also residing in the manor is Elizabeth's ne'er-do-well brother, Roger Collins, (Jonny Lee Miller); her rebellious teenage daughter Carolyn Stoddard (Moretz); and Roger's precocious 10-year-old son, David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). The mystery extends beyond the family, to caretaker Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) and David's new nanny, Victoria Winters, played by Bella Heathcote.

From the trailer, it looks like the movie ramps up the intentional comedy... which I don't like.  Once that music kicked in the trailer totally lost me.  

Depp as Barnabas Collins

I find this odd because Johnny Depp has been quoted in interviews saying he has wanted to play Barnabas Collins in a big screen adaptation for a long time.  And on a first-take, the trailer seemed to be pretty disrespectful to the source material.

But, I watched it again and paid a lot less attention to the music.  Putting that aside, the footage itself looked pretty good.  And if you ignore the framing of "Bang a Gong" and "My Everything", you can see some of the classic, creepy Tim Burton come out.

I'm willing to give this a chance.  Hopefully they downplay the uber-camp in the next trailer.  It just seemed like overkill in this one.  

And I think people are starting to get a little tired of the Burton/Depp/Bonham Carter trio.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Diablo III Release Date Announced (Finally)

Stay a while, and listen...

Blizzard has announced that the long-awaited Diablo III will be released on May 15, 2012, and is available for digital pre-order right now.  Whether you like the announced changes from Diablo II or not, it's hard not to be a little excited for this one.

Diablo II was released in 2000.  12 years ago.  I used to play that game nonstop, and still probably end up reinstalling it once a year.  I always defaulted to blizz/orb sorc.

I haven't played the beta, but from what I've read and seen, Diablo III does have some major changes from D2.  The character classes are a little different.  Gone are the paladins and sorceresses.  The new game will have 5 classes: barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, and demon hunter; but this time you can choose their gender.  From the gameplay footage I've seen, it seems like they've tried to keep the dark atmosphere from the earlier games, but at the same time used a lot of the WoW character design, which has always been a little cartoony.

There's no lan capability anymore, any multiplayer must be done online.  And they've cut the max players per game from 8 down to 4, which sucks if you have more than 3 friends.  No more 8-man Baal runs :(  But as you can see from the gameplay videos, more than 4 would be madness on the screen.  Oh, and PvP is confined to an arena now.

I think the most interesting change has little to do with actual gameplay.  There will be an in-game auction house to buy and sell your items.  And even more game-changing is a real money auction house.  No more need to make an "occy for pul" game, or resort to D2JSP.  I'm still not sure how I feel about this, as it wasn't part of the beta.  I'm a little curious to see it in action.  I just hope the real money auction house doesn't get run by Chinese gold farmers like WoW.  And part of me is worried about the item schemes.  I hope they're more like D2 and less like WoW.  I'm all for set items and their bonuses.  And runewords.  Like, I played Torchlight and couldn't stand their item system.  I want to be able to reach top-tier gear, not have the gear available be ever-changing to match my level.

In any case, I can't wait.  I'll be playing D2 in the meantime.

And there better be a secret cow level somewhere in there...

I know what you and your kind are planning...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mass Effect 3's Multiple Endings Depend on Multiplayer Play?

At this point, it shouldn't be a surprise that there are multiple endings for Mass Effect 3.  What may surprise you is that to obtain the "best" ending in the game, you probably have to play multiplayer.  The ending you get depends on your war assets and readiness level, which multiply to determine your effective military strength.  This leaves a sour taste in my mouth for a "single player" experience. 

You can get enough war assets through single player to obtain the ending, but it is very difficult.  You basically have to complete every quest in the game.  Essentially, the game forces you to play multiplayer co-op in order to complete your single player experience.  This tactic seems a little underhanded.  Maybe it's a way to drive the sales of unlockable multiplayer items.  I don't know.

It is possible to get the best ending in single player without playing multiplayer, but it’s hard. All your war assets only count for 50% of their potential value. The biggest gains in War Assets come from a culmination of your decisions in the previous games and your decisions here.  If you’ve helped a race before, and you help them in this game, you can get their full support and resolve their conflict... possibly even getting someone else on your side.
In other situations, a wrong call somewhere along the line or a Paragon or Renegade score too low to pick the right thing to say, can mean a character dies, a race is demoralized, and if they fight for you at all they’re worth much less to the war effort.
All this isn't to say that Bioware didn't make a great game.  They did.  A lot of the complaints over this readiness and ems issue seem to stem fro the fact that people just aren't happy with the game's ending in general.  I just wish the culmination of your single-player efforts didn't depend on a multiplayer experience.  I'd rather just see a focus on the story.  It seems like another strike against EA/Bioware that has already come under fire for things like Origin restrictions on the PC, DRM issues, and the day-one-DLC fiasco. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Game of Thrones Season 2 Trailer: Seven Devils

HBO is really ramping up their promotion for the new Game of Thrones season.  The dvd for season 1 was just released on March 6, and HBO is slowly releasing more footage to draw in viewers for the season premiere April 1.

This trailer was just released today, and shows the most in-depth footage of the upcoming season yet.  A lot more emphasis on Robb, as he is to become a major player in the main arc.  The upcoming season looks fantastic.  The production team has really outdone themselves with setting.  And it seems like the mainstream success of the show has enabled the producers to expand their budget to get some of those exotic locales.  And hopefully get some large-scale battles in, since they seemed to avoid those in season 1.

I really can't wait.  

In the meantime, I'll probably re-watch season 1... Or at least the crown of gold scene.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Valve Said to be Working on Secret "Steam Box" Console

Numerous reports are out this week that Valve is working on a "Steam Box" Console.  This could shake up the console world severely, as Steam relies on digital distribution for its games where the current gen consoles still use copies of physical media.  The Steam model has revolutionized PC gaming, and could prove to be a portent for the future of console gaming as well.

I love Steam even though I'm not a huge gamer in general.  I think the Steam sales and user interface are great for driving sales and making playing with friends very easy.  I see no reason why this model wouldn't succeed for console games as well.  It could even solve the "used game problem" that current development and distribution companies seem hell-bent on solving.
Full Story at The Verge

On top of this news, I saw these photos floating around of the supposed "Steam Box"

Turns out these are just pics of a fan-made PC case-mod... which was a triumph.  But I could see a Steam console having some sweet design, or even interchangeable shells.

So keep this story in mind as the current gen consoles reach the end of their runs.  Could be there's a new champ by the time the next gen gets released.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Walking Dead: "Judge, Jury, and Executioner" (Major Spoilers); The Many Faces of Shane

First, I just have to get this out of my system

"He is not Judge Judy and Executioner"



I'm sad, just a few short weeks ago I made this post about one of my favorite characters on the show, Dale, and his ridiculous facial expressions.  And now, after winning his battle to get the group to spare the life of their prisoner, he gets killed by a zombie.

Not bitten mind you... he managed to fight off the walker's bite, only to have his gut ripped open by the creature's hands.  At least it was Daryl this time who finished someone off.  Seems like Rick ends up having to do the dirty work most of the time.

Special shout out to Carl.  His screwing around with the stuck-in-the-mud walker lead directly to Dale's attack.  Let's get this straight...Sofia wanders off, gets lost, becomes a walker, yet Lori and Rick still let Carl wander off in the woods alone.  Maybe the hat protects him...  And let's not forget his comment to Carol, Sofia's mom.  Way to emotionally torture the severely depressed lady Carl.  It's crazy how much I liked Carl in the comics compared to how much I dislike him on the show.

At least it seems like Dale's death will make the group tighter, which is ultimately what Dale wanted.

But I can't help feeling a little responsible for Dale's untimely death.  I made a post about him and his expressions, and lo and behold, he dies 2 episodes later.  Who's next?  I think it'll be Shane.

With that in mind, I now bring you The Many Faces of Shane:

"I just killed Otis and got a sweet new haircut" Shane

"Pondering Geopolitical Instability in the Middle East" Shane

"Extreme Closeup" Shane

"Angry Flowing Locks" Shane

"I'm Soooo high right now" Shane


Mega Ultra (Future) Spoiler Image Alert!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game of Thrones: Season 2 Casting

Season 2 of Game of Thrones, based on the Song of Ice and Fire book series by George RR Martin, premieres on April 1 on HBO.  One of the hallmarks of the books has been the introduction of new characters.  Following that trend, season 2 of the show will introduce some major characters central to the plot.

The production staff did a very nice job with the casting for the first season.  It seems like they've done it again here with the new cast members.
Here are Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre

Stannis is played by Stephen Dillane, who played Thomas Jefferson on the HBO miniseries 'John Adams'.  Melisandre is played by Carice van Houten.  She is somewhat less well-known.  However, she was in the underrated movie 'Black Death' with none other than Ned Stark himself, Sean Bean.  I believe that movie is still available on Netflix instant for those interested.  I think both of these choices work well.  Van Houten was good as a pseudo-witch in 'Black Death', so she should have no problem with Melisandre.  Dillane is a superb actor and was great in 'John Adams'.  Part of me wishes the actor for Stannis would have been a little more imposing, but I'm sure Dillane won't disappoint. 

Davos Seaworth is being played by Liam Cunningham
Davos Seawoth

Cunningham is an Irish actor, maybe best known for his role in the remake of 'Clash of the Titans'.  He's no stranger to the genre however, as he has had roles in the movie 'Centurion' and the tv series 'Camelot'.  He doesn't quite fit the picture I had in my mind's eye, but I've liked him in past roles.

The big contentious role as far as casting goes, has been the choice for Brienne of Tarth.  The production crew needed a tall, muscularly-built woman with a face that could be made up to be ugly on tv.
Brienne of Tarth

The result was actress/model Gwendoline Christie.  The actress stands 6 foot 3 inches tall.  She had a supporting role in the film 'The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus', but isn't as experienced as her fellow new cast members.  I think her physical profile matches up very well for the role. (Jamie Lannister actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau stands 6'2)

All in all I love the choices and can't wait for the new season.

As a bonus, and because I've been to and love the city of Dubrovnik, here's a video about season 2's production in Croatia.  The showrunners have decided to use Old Town Dubrovnik as the setting for King's Landing.  I love the choice.  You'll see why in the video.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

LEGO Execution: Things Were Gentler In Medieval Times

Busy week with work, and a heavy errand day today.

Came across this cartoon earlier this week.  Comes from Truck Bearing Kibble.  Definitely check out that site, bunch of funny stuff there.  Don't think they update it anymore, but there's a small archive.

The punishments weren't too harsh in the Medieval LEGO world.  And everyone did it with a smile.

Burning at the stake was horrific though... melted plastic everywhere