Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Priorities

Hey y'all. Long time no blog. This post is the first in a series I'll be making over the next few months, highlighting my experiences as I move across the country on a new adventure.

Yep, that's right. I'm moving. To Washington state.

I've been "trapped" here in Maryland for a little over six years now. Originally, I moved here for what I thought would be a long term career move. That didn't work out. Then I found another potential long term career move, right here again. And well, that didn't work out either. Since then, I've been doing my own thing and enjoying it. But that thing is not tied to any specific geography, and laziness, intertia, ennui, and absolute HATRED of moving has kept me from going anywhere other than here. I'm in an overpriced apartment and most of my nice furniture is still, six years later, in storage in Georgia. Other than one dear friend, the only things I really like about the region are the crabcakes and the new Wegman's. Is that enough reason to stay in a state you don't really care for? No, didn't think so. And even though The Wire was filmed here, I also love Buffy and Star Trek, but I'm not moving to Sunnydale or Space anytime soon. (Although I'd probably move to Risa, if it existed).

So, why Washington? That's a post for another day, but suffice to day, it's a new adventure. My choices were between going back to Georgia and moving out to Washington, and after sampling the Pacific Northwest during the holidays, I thought it would be a place I could really love. I made pro/con lists. I got moving estimates. I scoured real estate sites. I looked at tax implications. I considered the ramifications for my UGA season tickets (that's also another story, but I will definitely be going back for at least six of the seven 2014 home games). After all the analysis, I went with more of the "why the fuck not?" and less of the "been there, done that."

Once the decision was made, my first priority was to look through my "TV Spreadsheet." (Of course my first priority was TV). I originally made this spreadsheet way back when I upgraded from an SD DVR to a new HD DVR. I couldn't "move" or "transfer" my season passes to a new box, so I made a spreadsheet to help me keep track of them. There were also two other reasons to keep things so tightly documented: Even with a two-tuner box, there were countless conflicts that had to be managed, especially on high volume of good show nights like Thursdays or Sundays. What should you set a season pass for? What should you seek out on Hulu? What could you find on a later airing or west coast feed? Second, DirecTV's DVRs had a limit of 50 on the number of season passes you could set. That may seem like a lot, but when you have (at last count) twenty shows to season pass on Sunday alone, well, you run out of space fast. So I had to delete some season passes in the off season and add the new ones in, and manage those precious spots like a post-season pitching rotation. A spreadsheet made this easy to track.

I've since upgraded to the Genie, and this splendid motherfucker with 5 tuners and an abundance of storage space has eliminated many of these problems. But now that I'm moving, I'm glad I kept the spreadsheet because once I get out to the land of coffee and hippies, I'll have to reprogram (at least) all my season passes for new west coast network feeds.

Yeah, yeah. I'll get a new drivers license and health insurance and a place to live. BUT I CAN'T MISS MY STORIES, Y'ALL. PRIORITIES.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 15 TV Shows of 2013

It was SO hard to narrow down my best of TV to a mere 15 shows. Why 15? Because if I capped it at 10, then there wouldn't have been room for the late, lamented Bunheads, a show that I never would have thought I'd become attached to. RIP Bunheads. Sniff).

What also surprised me is how many network shows -- five, and several from CBS -- that I wound up including. Speaking of five, there were also five new shows on this list.

My top TV of the year:



In case the pictures don't work for you, here's a list:



1.    Game Of Thrones
2.    Breaking Bad
3.    Justified
4.    Mad Men
5.    Hannibal
6.    The Americans
7.    The Good Wife
8.    Person Of Interest
9.    Boardwalk Empire
10.    Orange Is The New Black
11.    Orphan Black
12.    Masters Of Sex
13.    Elementary
14.    Bob’s Burgers
15.    Bunheads

Agree? Disagree? What were your top shows of the year?

Top 15 New TV Shows of 2013

2013 was a really good year for television. There were exciting experiments in form, like the return of miniseries (or, as they are called these days, "limited run events") and the rise of non-traditional outlets, like Netflix and Hulu.

Below are my picks for the 15 best new shows of the year. Among them, you will find shows that enjoyed surprising success with a new take on existing material (Hannibal, Bates Motel, Masters of Sex, and the this-can't-possibly-work-but-yet-it-does Sleepy Hollow), emotionally gripping procedurals (Broadchurch, The Fall, Top of the Lake), genre delights (Orphan Black and In The Flesh), pure unadulterated pulp (Banshee), and the return of the cop comedy (Brooklyn 99).


(click to embiggen)

In case the pictures don't work for you, here's a list:

1.    Hannibal
2.    The Americans
3.    Orange Is The New Black
4.    Orphan Black
5.    Masters Of Sex
6.    Broadchurch
7.    House Of Cards
8.    Sleepy Hollow
9.    Banshee
10.    Bates Motel
11.    The Bridge
12.    In The Flesh
13.    Top Of The Lake
14.    The Fall
15.    Brooklyn 99


 What are your top new shows of the year?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Game of Thrones Podcast: Season 3 Wrap Up


The final Season 3 episodes of the Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast that I do have been posted.

In these last two episodes, Wendy, Jesse, and I chat about all things Season 3, including Season MVP, Season LVP, Best Actors, Favorite Characters, Favorite Storylines and much, much more. Spoilers, obviously, for the televised S3 but not for anything from the novels outside of what has already been depicted on screen.

For the link to the Tuning in to SciFi TV page for the podcast (where you can direct download and/or play in your browser), go here:

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast Season 3 Wrap Up, Part 1

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast Season 3 Wrap Up, Part 2

For the entire Tuning in to SciFi TV podcast feed in iTunes, you will find it here.

Many thanks to the Tuning In To SciFi TV gang for putting together these GoT podcasts, and having me as a guest.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Game of Thrones Podcast: "The Rains of Castamere" and "Mhysa"


The latest episodes of the Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast I do have been posted.

Once again, there was a LOT of material to cover with Wendy, Lou, and Christine, so we broke it up into two episodes vs. the normal one.

For the link to the Tuning in to SciFi TV page for the podcast (where you can direct download and/or play in your browser), go here:

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast (Episodes 3.09 and 3.10), Part 1

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast (Episodes 3.09 and 3.10), Part2

For the entire Tuning in to SciFi TV podcast feed in iTunes, you will find it here.

Also, if you just can't get enough of listening to me ramble on about Game of Thrones, there's at least one more Hound-sized podcast episode coming, where we wrap up and reflect on all of the stellar season three.




Saturday, June 1, 2013

Game of Thrones Podcast: "The Bear and The Maiden Fair" and "Second Sons"


Just in time for the return of the show tomorrow night, the latest Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast I do has been posted.

Actually, I should say "podcasts" plural, since we had a lot to say, and it's been broken into two episodes. Host Wendy and fellow guest Jesse and I chat about the two most recent episodes, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" and "Second Sons."

For the link to the Tuning in to SciFi TV page for the podcast (where you can direct download and/or play in your browser), go here:

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast (Episodes 3.07 and 3.08) PART 1

Tuning In To SciFi TV Game of Thrones Podcast (Episodes 3.07 and 3.08) PART2

 For the entire Tuning in to SciFi TV podcast feed in iTunes, you will find it here.

Also, a friendly suggestion for tomorrow's penultimate episode, "The Rains of Castamere:" watch it live.



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Game of Thrones Podcast: Valar Dohaeris and Dark Wings, Dark Words


My latest podcast with the Tuning In To SciFi gang is now up!

We cover the first two episodes of season 3: "Valar Dohaeris" and "Dark Wings, Dark Words."

For the link to the Tuning in to SciFi TV page for the podcast (where you can direct download and/or play in your browser), go here:

Game of Thrones Season 3 Podcast - Episodes 1 and 2

For the entire Tuning in to SciFi TV podcast feed in iTunes, you will find it here.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Updated UGA Brand Identity

Earlier this week, UGA unveiled an updated brand identity. The official announcement is here, complete with some video, press release verbiage, and PDFs of the updated imagery and wordmarks. The laser-focused UniWatch blog even felt compelled to comment on it here.

Judging from twitter and Dawg blog reactions, the general consensus seems to be "Why?" I can understand that. People are resistant to change. And there's probably no group more steeped in appreciation for "tradition" and "status quo" than southerners, particularly southern football fans. Plus, the fact that Nike was involved left many rending their garments (no pun intended) and fearing that we were going to Oregon ourselves up and look like an Arena Football team on acid (like those horrific Pro Combat unis we trotted out vs. Boise State a couple of years ago). Thankfully, the changes were fairly minor, all things considered.

As for the "why," left me offer a few thoughts. I'm a proud UGA grad, fan, and season ticket holder. I've also worked in branding, marketing, and advertising for over two decades, both from a strategic and creative viewpoint. So I think I have a pretty good understanding of all aspects of this situation.

Most folks don't consciously realize it, but there is a tremendous value in a brand. When you mention a product category -- cars, electronics, soft drinks, restaurants, beer, apparel...you name it -- you instantly think of a brand. And the brands that rise to the top of your consciousness and preference are typically the ones that do the best job of branding. An important part of branding is consistency. Every time you walk into a Home Depot, or see an ad for Coke, or pick up an Apple product, you get a brand experience, complete with consistent logos, colors, typefaces and "brand identities." This stuff can be subtle, but it's critical to reinforcing what the brand stands for and how it is represented. A good brand looks the same no matter where you see it: on the web, on a billboard, on an ad, on a uniform, or on a golf shirt.

90% of what UGA did this week was bring some consistency to how "our" brand is represented. Think about our sports teams and their unis. At a glance, you might think the football, gymnastics, baseball, hoops, track, and other sporting teams had consistent unis. There was red. And black. And silver. And grey. And white. But were they all the exact same versions of those colors? Not always. And really, there were many different fonts going on, for both letters and numbers. The words "Georgia" and "Bulldogs" were also shown different ways. Now there's one primary way to do it, and I think it looks quite nice:



That also doesn't take into account how UGA was represented on official documents and websites, which had their own inconsistencies. And we won't even get into the world of officially licensed products (Just look around your tailgate: how many different logos, fonts, and versions of the color red are on your shirts, coozies, flags, chairs, and other merchandise?).

Why would we NOT want all these things to be consistent and reinforce the UGA brand identity? Why wouldn't we want to put our best foot forward and make our public-facing brand the very best it can be? College athletics and team branding is a multi-billion dollar business, and wouldn't we rather be an Apple instead of a BlackBerry?

So looking over the new brand standards, I applaud what was done. Going forward, the typefaces for virtually everything will be standardized. The PMS colors will be standardized. When you see one Georgia team, you will get the feeling that they are an extension of a larger whole, and that's a good thing.

Here's the important thing: The "G" isn't going anywhere. It's not changing. One of the most recognizable logos in college sports is staying the exact same. Right there in all the brand materials it is called our PRIMARY athletic mark:



Probably the most controversial aspect of the branding initiative was the creation of a new "bulldog" logo, which will replace the old version as the SECONDARY athletic mark:

New Bulldog

Old Bulldog


We all grew up with the "old" version. It is beloved. It currently adorns many items in all of our homes. I love it.

However, from a marketing standpoint, I can understand the need and desire to create something "new." I haven't seen any of the creative briefs or brand rationales. However, I can imagine that there's some dialogue in them that sounds something like this:

  • The old bulldog is asymmetrical. Facing left. We should probably have something that is centered, balanced, facing forward, and looks the same from every angle.
  • The old bulldog logo is hand drawn, and contains many, many small lines and details. This makes is difficult to reproduce accurately across different media and applications and sizes, particularly on apparel that has to be stitched (depending on the vendor and their equipment). We need something that can be consistently executed across all materials and media.
  • The different weighting of lines, shadows, and detail also makes the old logo appear differently at different distances. By simplifying and moving to more clean and bold lines, the new logo will stand out and present a consistent representation  up close and at a distance.
  • Younger fans have grown up in an era of apps and symmetrically presented icons for buttons, labels, and badges.  This will appeal to them and more easily integrate into the digital world.
  • It would be nice if the new bulldog more closely resembles the world's best live mascot, too. 
  • We will still keep the old bulldog as an "Additional Athletic Mark" and we can develop merchandise around it as a line of "classic" products.
  • We can sell new logo'd shit.

Well, I'm sure that last point wasn't put in a brief for public consumption, but we all know that's part of it, right? And I've got no problem with it. This is a business, after all.

And you know what? I don't dislike the new logo. In fact, after sitting with it for a few days, I actually kind of like it. That doesn't diminish my affection for the old one. I'll still proudly wear my apparel with the "classic" logo. Having something new doesn't threaten having something older, too (unless you're talking about marriage). I like strips and ribeyes. I drink Crown and Makers. I played around and made a quick iPhone 4S wallpaper with the new elements, and it's not that bad:



The one aspect that still rubs me the wrong way is the treatment of our "silver britches." Over the years, they've gone from silver to "dull grey." McGarity even addressed that here:

"As new technology comes up, as new fabric becomes available, you'll see that morph into maybe more (like) our silver britches," McGarity said. "It all has to do with what kind of fabric and color these people do. You know, kind of like the (Dallas) Cowboys wear? That's the kind of silver you'd like to get, which is kind of like what we used to have, which had kind of a shine to them. It just depends on how fast they can get that material. ...
"That'd be the goal, to get it back to the silver britches. That's the overall goal. And Nike's one of the few that can do that, because they've got some of it in the NFL now."

Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2013/04/02/2421536/georgia-adopts-a-bulldog-bold.html#storylink=cpy

I understand that "metallics" is one of the hardest things to represent consistently, given that it needs to appear on various types of cloth, of paper, of plastic, and digitally. But invoking the Cowboys doesn't fill me with confidence:






Look at the pants and the helmet above. Would any rational person call those THE SAME? Fortunately, our scheme doesn't require the same metallic color represented in two different materials, but how fucking hard can it be to create silver britches?

So at the end of the day, I really like and endorse what we've done. We're still Red and Black. We're still committed to the G. We still have the Arches. We're still the Dawgs. We still have the G as our primary logo. We didn't go "Full Oregon." We tweaked. We refined. We streamlined. We strengthened our brand. And in the long run, I think that's a good thing.

Go Dawgs. All of them.






Saturday, March 30, 2013

Game of Thrones Podcast: Season 3 Preview



Guess what? Winter is still coming. And so is season 3 of Game of Thrones.

I joined the Tuning In To SciFi TV Gang to discuss Season 2 of Game of Thrones, and preview the upcoming Season 3 which starts tomorrow night.

For the link to the Tuning in to SciFi TV page for the podcast (where you can direct download and/or play in your browser), go here:

Game of Thrones Season 3 Preview Show

For the entire Tuning in to SciFi TV podcast feed in iTunes, you will find it here.



Friday, March 29, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Pick Me! My Doug Loves Movies Signage

Surely everyone listens to Doug Loves Movies, right? It's my favorite podcast, and if you're not already a regular listener, here's a quick overview from Wikipedia:

In 2006, comedian Doug Benson began hosting a weekly comedy podcast, titled Doug Loves Movies (Formerly I Love Movies with Doug Benson), which is recorded in front of a live audience at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. The show typically tapes weekly, and is later archived on iTunes for fans to listen to for free. Benson and guests talk about movies and comedy both. Benson's guests have included such notables as John Lithgow, Leonard Maltin, Brian Posehn, Joe Rogan, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Adam Carolla, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Scott Aukerman, Adam Scott, Bill Simmons, Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Shue, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Cera, Edgar Wright, Paul F. Tompkins and Jordan, the baseball-toting superfan.

A regular feature of the podcast is the Leonard Maltin Game, which has been described as Name That Tune with movies instead of songs. The game consists of Benson reading the cast of an unknown movie in reverse order (star of the movie comes last) from Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide to his guests, who attempt to guess the movie.

The bare bones DLM site is here. And you can find the podcast in iTunes here. If you like movies, games and fun, go subscribe right now.

The show typically opens with Doug and guests talking about movies, and then segues into the "games" portion. Before you get to the Leonard Maltin Game, there is often a round or two of warm up games, which can include "Build a Title," "How Much Did This Shit Make?" and/or "A-B-C-Deez Nuts."

The celebrity guests compete not only to advance to the season-ending "Tournament of Championships" (an ultra-competitive "Super Bowl" of the Leonard Maltin Game), but also for fans in the audience where the podcast is being recorded. Each guest picks one audience member to play for, and if that celebrity wins, their corresponding fan wins a prize pack of items brought by Doug and the panel. Fans wanting to be picked by a guest hold up signs, almost always relating to movies, with their names on them.

I've never been to a DLM live show, but if I did go, I put together what would be my sign. Not only is it one of my favorite movies, it also lends itself well to incorporating my name:




Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Google Reader Apocalypse: First Reactions

Last night, Google announced they are going to "retire" the beloved Google Reader, to narrow their focus to products like fucking goggles and self-driving cars.

A feelings collage of my initial reactions:






 From some corners of the internet, there was a collective shrug. "What's Google Reader?" To those people, I ask:

HOW THE HELL DO YOU READ THE INTERNET?

No, seriously. How do you read information on the web? Do you just visit your favorite sites again and again, clicking on the "refresh" button waiting for new content to magically appear? Do you go through your bookmarks on some kind of regular rotation, hoping you catch what your favorite author or blogger has written? What about on your mobile device? How do you keep up to date with info on those? Do you actually visit websites on those tiny screens and pinch and scroll to read a post?

I just can't fathom that.

To understand how awful this development is, I should probably share exactly how I use RSS feeds and Reader. Google Reader is my home base.


I subscribe to things I want to read. As noted above, I have 104 subscriptions that I read on a daily basis. Sometimes, it's to a entire site with a narrow focus (like something on UGA football). Other times, it's to a particular author on a site where I don't want the rest of the content on that site (like Alan Sepinwall at HitFix). Some feeds publish 30+ items a day. Some publish once a week. Regardless of the schedule, when they do publish something, it shows up in Reader. 

Then I have choices. I can read it then, inline inside Reader. I can click it and make the post expand to a full tab on the author's site. I can mark it read. I can "star" it and save it for later. It's great, and I feel completely in control of my news feed.

I keep a tab for Reader open and locked in my browser 24/7.  I'm constantly aware of it, and that's my primary method of consuming news and content.

I also group feeds in folders. There are folders for "General Sports" and "Dawg Sports." There is a catch-all "Entertainment" folder, and one for my preferred, top shelf TV writers. There's one for "Tech & Toys" and one for "Marketing." And so on. All organized to suit my individual tastes, and coming to me without my having to go click around and find it.

Also, the primary collection of all these feeds (now housed and operated by Google) not only comes into Reader, it also feeds third party apps, such as those I use on my iDevices. Personally, I prefer Reeder. Different people use different apps, but the scary thing is, most are all fed by the Google monster, which is going away in a few short months.

I was happy to see "Google Reader" trending on twitter last night along with widespread web outrage over the company's decision to sunset one of their very useful and utilitarian products. (Yes, we all like GMail and search and maps -- but who the hell uses their social network?)

Look, this is Day One of the death march towards July 1. So my complete panic and freakout may be premature. Google may change their mind. Someone may come up with a seamless way to transition. Someone may create a tool that functions exactly like Reader. Surely folks are ready to step into the void.

Last night, I investigated several alternatives. Everyone's needs are different, but mine are basically:

  • Keep all my feeds flowing, without interruption and with minimum hassle, now and beyond July 1.
  • Provide the ability to keep my folders/groups of feeds.
  • Give me the chance to easily "mark as read" in a variety of ways: an individual item, all the items in a folder/group, or even all the items that are current in all my folders/groups.
  • The ability to "star" or "save for later" an item.
  • The ability to easily manage feeds (delete them, put them in folders, etc.).
  • The ability to easily add a new feed when I'm on an interesting new page or blog.
  • The ability of all my feeds to easily flow into whatever app I'm using on my iPhone and iPad, and synchronize back (reads, stars, etc.) so that I can seamlessly pick up where I left off when I pick up a new device.
  • Have different reading modes: seeing only headlines so you can skim, or being able to expand with full content and graphics.
  • And hopefully, be visually interesting.

First, a quick reaction from IOS app Reeder:



So that's cool.

I also investigated a bunch of other options. Lifehacker published a list of alternatives. So did a variety of other publications. I imagine as the crisis continues (seriously, surely this deserves more attention than all this Pope nonsense), we'll get a slew of pieces on just what those of us with the ReaderFever should do next.

I did pick up one app to beta test alongside my current Reader/Reeder set up: Feedly. The primary reason I picked this one, is that it promises a smooth and seamless transition of all your current feeds to their service: now and when Reader goes dark. For more on that, see this post:
Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader. This is something we have been expecting for some time: We have been working on a project called Normandy which is a feedly clone of the Google Reader API – running on Google App Engine. When Google Reader shuts down, feedly will seamlessly transition to the Normandy back end. So if you are a Google Reader user and using feedly, you are covered: the transition will be seamless.
The web version installs an add-on to your browser (I use Firefox. There's one for Chrome, too). It takes you to a page with all your stuff. Visually, it's quite different at first, and will take some getting used to. Same for the IOS app (which is free, and for both iPad and iPhone). There are options and settings which allow for customization, but I'm still exploring those. It's very clean and pretty:


What I most appreciated is that they seem eager to welcome new users, and make things as easy as possible. (Also important -- if you currently use Google Reader, the addition of your account to Feedly couldn't be any simpler, and they assure us that via their cloning of the Reader API, we won't even notice an interruption in service once Reader goes dark). They've also published a handy guide for new users (though eventually I'll want a more detailed and comprehensive "how to"):

Tips for Google Reader users migrating to feedly

Welcome to all the new Google Reader users migrating to feedly. Here are some tips on how to adapt to the feedly desktop interface.
So for the next few weeks, I'm going to run both Reader and Feedly simultaneously to see how they work, and see if I can orient myself to a whole new world. Thus far, I'm pretty impressed with Feedly, and we'll see how they react to a flood of new users coming their way with very specific needs and wants. And I'm sure new RSS Champions will step into the void.

So what about y'all? Is Reader as much a part of your daily life as it is mine? Did you treat yesterday's news like the coming Apocalypse? Have you already experimented with some of the alternatives? Can we all take a deep breath and get through this together?





Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Talking "Echo," The Original Dollhouse Pilot


Saturday, I had the chance to guest on John Pavlich's SOFA DOGS podcast to discuss the original, unaired pilot of Dollhouse, "Echo."

I had a great time during my previous visit to the podcast to chat about another Whedon property, the sublime Cabin In The Woods, and this time was no different. Things we covered: Dollhouse would have made a great FX show. Is Eliza so criticized as an actress that she's actually underrated? A comparison of the two pilots and which one is actually better. FOX is not the evil empire and killer of genre shows. And of course, how fucking awesome is Olivia Williams/Adelle DeWitt? (on this I will brook no disagreement. The answer is "really fucking awesome").

Here's the page on the SOFA DOGS site where you can find the podcast.