Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Assignment #10: Wild Card

Karaoke - Past, Present and Future

INTRODUCTION Karaoke was invented in Japan in the early 70's.  The first karaoke machines were in piano music in jukebox format, and then they developed karaoke machines that played 8-Track and cassette tapes. They were audio-only (no video). Lyrics were printed on paper.  Originally, karaoke was mostly in karaoke bars or karaoke "boxes" (bars with private karaoke rooms).  Eventually, they made karaoke machines for home use as well. Nowadays the home machines are cheaper, but they're mostly aimed and kids, families and parties. They're not as good as the old Singing Machines they used to make in the 90's and 2000's. Vocopro was another good brand for home use.  Laser disk karaoke came about in the late 80's, from Pioneer Electronics. They not only had the words to the songs on the screen, but videos that told a story as well. These were very popular, especially in Asia. They were very well made, too, and you can still buy them on ebay. Then they soon came out with karaoke CD+G's, which are a type of CD that puts the lyrics on the screen; and then they came out with karaoke VCD's and DVD's. Of course, long before karaoke, they had other singalong shows and records, such as "Sing Along with Mitch." Singing is fun, and singing with someone else, or with a backing track, is fun and makes you feel safer if you don't want to sing solo. For those of us who do sing well, singing with a backing track is almost like having a band. Of course, karaoke is much more interactive than just singing along. A little more history....

My Entertech Magic Mic

Gaming, early computers and streaming Nintendo and other companies also came out with karaoke games in the 80's.  Early home computers also had karaoke software.  I had an old Commodore 64 given to me by my brother that had karaoke software. The program played the MIDI background music and put the words on the computer screen. Here's a recording I made in the 90's using that software.  A company called EnterTech made a Magic Mic that you could not only plug in to your TV, but it rated you or your friends when they sang, so you could compete. You could buy chips that would give you many more songs. Someone gave me one of those as a gift, and it was pretty fun.  None of these had ways for you to record yourself singing. It was just fun singalong.  Once high speed internet was developed, streaming karaoke became popular, not only with people at home singing online, but with karaoke hosts (KJ's), instead of CD's and other fragile hardware. DISH Network and other TV cable companies have karaoke channels where you can sing along at home.  ROKU has one as well. Karaoke Revolution is a popular karaoke game that can be played across all gaming platforms: Nintendo, Wii, Playstation and X-Box.  The same software was used to create the ultra-popular video game Rock Band. Here's a list of many karaoke video games. Video

Some of my karaoke tapes

Why It's Still Around Karaoke is a thriving business worldwide.  Although many people make fun of it, bar and restaurant owners like karaoke, when it's successful, because it brings in customers on nights where they might otherwise have very little business. Unlike a live band, a karaoke host doesn't cost very much, so the venue makes a lot of profit.  Karaoke is no guarantee to bring in customers, however. It depends on whether the venue advertises enough, where it's located, how good the host is, when they hold it, and other factors.  The reason that people make fun of karaoke is that there are a lot of people who don't sing very well, yet they get up there and sing, anyway. Also, there are a lot of people who get way too drunk before they sing. Bad or drunk singers are easy fodder for comedians.  The fact is, though, that many people enjoy singing, and they enjoy watching others sing.  I predict that karaoke isn't going anywhere soon, despite some people's irrational hatred for it. Karaoke is not cool or hip -- just fun.  People are encouraged to sing, whether they sing well or not.  Everyone is supposed to clap loud for everyone, no matter what they sound like. It's very egalitarian entertainment. I always enjoy singing. The applause is great, too. Late night talk show host James Corden has made karaoke somewhat cool again with his Carpool Karaoke. Video

karaoke lyric sheets

Karaoke Online I started doing karaoke in public in the late 80's. We had a college bar down the street from our apartment, that started having karaoke weekly. Since I'm a singer, I loved it right away, even though I had a lot of stage fright at first.  Then I received a used karaoke cassette machine from my sister-in-law, so I started recording with that.  Many home karaoke machines have a cassette recorder, or another way to record your singing. Recording really helped me work on my singing and improve.  Karaoke tapes and disks weren't cheap, so I also found MIDI karaoke software such as VanBasco online as well as other MIDI karaoke sites.  Then I found some sites online about karaoke and got really into it. Karaoke.com used to have a great message board named JOLT. That's long gone, but most of us from JOLT still chat a little bit on a Facebook group. There was also a mailing list called Karaoke Universe on Yahoo. Some of the people on there were very nice, and others were not, so I left after having too many arguments.  This just goes to show you that people on the internet can argue and get angry about any subject, even karaoke! 😁  There were many other karaoke boards/groups/lists as well.  One of the main karaoke sites that developed was Karaoke Scene, which also has a magazine.  They're still around and operating, too, although not as busy as they once were. I post songs there regularly and have written some articles in their forums about singing, and for their magazine.  I've met some of my online karaoke friends and have sung with them all over the country. I have a section in my website about karaoke as well that lists many of many favorite karaoke venues and websites.

live band karaoke

Live Band Karaoke Another popular type of karaoke is live band karaoke. A band will play for a few hours. They know certain songs, which they put on a list from which people may choose.  The singer comes from the audience and sings with the live band.  Usually there's a monitor (TV) where you can read the lyrics while you sing.  Some bands will only play the songs on their list, but others will give it a try if you ask them to sing a song that they might know.  Live band karaoke is really great fun. It's almost as much fun as singing in your own real live band (which I've also done). I've done live band karaoke a few times in Vegas and San Diego so far, but they have it all over the country.

JOLT Forum hat

JOLT Projects Some of us in the JOLT board used to make tape projects. One person would say, "I'm going to do a project about (a particular idea or musical genre)" and then those of us who wanted to participate would record some songs and send them to that person via the mail. This was before high speed internet.  That person would then make a playlist of all of our songs and record them onto tape or CD, and then he/she would send everyone a copy. Usually they would make a nice cover or liner notes as well.  This was somewhat low-tech. The quality of the singing and recording varied widely.  It was just for fun. Our projects included music from the Beatles, Country Music, songs with a color in them, songs about the weather, and one song from each decade. Choosing a particular type of song is fun and forces you to try new songs that you wouldn't necessarily have tried otherwise.

Singer's Showcase

Online Audio Karaoke Karaoke Scene started a section of their site  named Singer's Showcase, where singers could upload their mp3's (music files of them singing along with karaoke backing).  It still exists, and some of us still submit songs to it regularly. There have been a few other similar sites besides that one, that come and go, such as DareToSing, ThisIsKaraoke and KantStopKaraoke.  Only the last one is still around. It was gone for a while but came back last year.  When you listen to the songs, they're streaming.  They're audio-only, though.  Most of these sites don't make very much money, even though they may charge you for more storage space or other benefits. There are also music sites like SoundCloud, where you're supposed to only upload original music, but many people do upload their covers or karaoke songs.

Online Video Karaoke Once we could stream videos online, the site SingSnap appeared.  You can sing live or record karaoke on that site. They have many backing tracks. You sing along with it, in your home, and you can save it if you want, for just yourself, or for others. You can choose to have audio-only, or with video.  It's a very popular site.  There are a few other sites now, too, that do the same thing, such as Sing! 

My YouTube page

Karaoke on YouTube Once YouTube appeared, people started taking videos of themselves singing with karaoke, or instruments they play, etc.  Some sing their own original music, and other sing karaoke songs (covers).  Some now-famous singers got their start doing this on YouTube. They gathered enough fans that they were signed by a record company.  You can also find many karaoke backing tracks available on YouTube. One might argue that the popularity of shows like "American Idol" and "The Voice" encourage young people to sing more online.  Everyone wants to be a star! Technology changes over time and we find ways to make karaoke easier or to sound better. I first used the karaoke machines to record my songs, but now I use software called Cool Edit Pro to record directly into the computer and mix my voice with the backing track, which makes the finished product sound better. I have many karaoke CD+G's that I bought over the years, but now it's just easier to find a track online. I don't even have a karaoke machine any more. The cheap ones have poor sound quality or no way to record, and the better ones cost a lot. When friends visit and want to sing karaoke for fun, I just hook up my laptop to the TV via the HDMI, and we can sing using YouTube or SingSnap. I connect the microphones to my guitar's amp to give it that real live karaoke bar feel.

copyright notice

Copyrights One of the problems of streaming karaoke online is copyright lawsFor KJ's who don't care about legalities, they can host karaoke with thousands of songs, which means that they'll get more singers (especially those who want to sing obscure songs).  The KJ's who buy the CD+G's or DVD's and use them legally can't easily compete with someone that has 20,000 songs.  However, the owners of the songs and recordings sometimes will sue the KJ's or their venues.  They've made examples of a few KJ's.  There are thousands of KJ's, though, so it would be impossible for them to find them all.  The companies also sue each other for copyright violation because some of the companies that manufacture CD+G and DVD disks don't have permission to use the songs or recordings, or they sold the disks in countries where they don't have permission to do so.  Because of all of these problems, fewer companies make karaoke disks, which is not good news for those who like karaoke and want to use actual karaoke disks, rather than download illegal tracks. Discussion about karaoke copyrights.

 old buttons from karaoke.com

Homemade Karaoke Many of the karaoke sites, such as SingSnap and Sing!, now allow users to put up their own (supposedly) homemade backing tracks, so at least that means that someone is making karaoke versions of the newer songs.  I don't know why this is legal, though, or whether the copyright laws just haven't yet caught up with the technology.  Many of these are also put up on YouTube.  When I say "homemade," I don't mean amateurish. They're very well made and sound a lot like the real karaoke tracks.  Today's music-making technology makes this very easy.

 Smule app

Karaoke Apps Sing! is not just a website, but an app for your phone or tablet. There are many karaoke apps. Some are audio-only, and some have video. The sound quality of the phone recordings have really improved, too, over the past few years. Sites like Sing! and KaraokeAnywhere are the wave of the future because they allow you to do karaoke literally anywhere, with just your phone. You can even add reverb and other effects, or duet with strangers. I've even seen KJ's who use their phone and one of these apps to host karaoke. If you can just use your phone, and login to a site, instead of having all of that equipment, that's a very low cost overhead for a KJ. Singing with your phone is now an international craze.

futuristic Maru Bar in Koreatown, NY

Future of Karaoke Videos  Although apps are very popular right now, it's hard to say what will happen with karaoke in the future. Trying to pinpoint the next fad or technological change is difficult.  There are some places, like Hawaii, where I think they'll always have live karaoke because it's just part of the culture. Some companies try to come out with new karaoke machines, like this high tech wonder. Virtual Reality is big now, and this company thinks that karaoke fits well into that. Karaoke robots may be next. Who knows? I'll be there, whatever it is, trying it out...at home and in public.

me singing at karaoke

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Assignment 9: Classmate Blog Critique

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
I'll be honest: I have a hard time reading other people's writing (except for professional writing that's been published, and thus proofread and edited) because rather than focusing on the content of what's being said, I start to automatically proofread what I'm reading. I get bothered by bad punctuation, grammar, spelling, writing style, etc. That's partly because I was an English teacher for a while. It's a hard habit to break. I have a lot of writing on my web site by volunteer writers, too, and I don't like to read theirs, either, because otherwise I'd spend all of my time proofreading and doing nothing else.

However, for the class blog, I tried very hard to read my classmate's blogs without focusing on these things.  I skimmed through all 13 of the blogs (well, it's really 12 since one student is not finished with most of hers).

Jamia's Blog

Quite a few of the blogs were well written; these students write much better than I did back in the '80's when I was their age and in college the first time. I especially like the blogs written by Lauren, Jamia, Forest, Justice and Houston. I think they write the best of all of the students.  However, the background graphic of Jamia's blog makes it really hard to read.  The same with some of the others' blogs. The busy background makes the text too difficult to read. (At least on my laptop) Despite that, I enjoyed Jamia's writing style because she's very humorous.

Houston's blog

All of these students write very well and in interesting styles. All five were very expressive. You could tell they were really writing from their own point of view and were passionate about the subjects. They all had a lot of interactivity and photos, too. I think some were a little short and could be longer, but I understand that not everyone is as long-winded as me.  Sometimes I, too, have trouble reaching 500 words until a "brilliant idea" strikes me!

Some of the blogs have font styles that seem to change mid-way through, or they center the text in some cases but not in others. This is a little bothersome, but not that big of a deal.

Forest's Blog

I thought Forest's design layout was the best and most readable of all of the blogs.  Blogger and Wordpress make it pretty easy to pick an attractive and readable design template.  I also enjoyed what Forest wrote about because he definitely has completely different tastes in movies and TV than I do, so it was interesting to read. Also, I like how his background was a play on words for his name "Forest."

blog cartoon
I'm glad that most of the students were able to keep up on their assignments; all but one student seemed to have all their blogs done. On the other hand, here it is, 1am the night before, and I didn't see this assignment done on anyone else's blog! Hopefully they will all finish writing it before class time and be all caught up. I know that it's hard to find time to write all of these blogs, put in the links and videos, and find photos, etc. I think they're all full-time students. I'm only a part-time student, but I do work and have other responsibilities. Today I finally got around to finishing the links for my binge-watching blog (there were a lot).  That was 2 assignments ago!

I wish all parents and schools would teach their children to start writing blogs, journals or diaries as early as possible. For one thing, it comes in handy later on when you want to remember something from your past or your childhood. You'd be surprised how easily you forget the details of your life as you get older.  I've only been doing my personal blog since 2004, but it's been very helpful whenever I try to remember when something happened or where I went.  My husband has a very good memory (way better than mine), but sometimes even he forgets, and then I consult my blog to find the answer.

Encourage writing no matter the age

The other reason that parents and teachers should convince children to start diaries/blogs/journals is that the more you write, the easier it gets, and the better you get at it. I wish I had started it back in elementary school. I briefly wrote a diary in high school. I wish I'd kept it up.  If you start writing at a young age, then you will be even better by the time you reach college, which is really invaluable. I had a hard time, believe it or not, when I was in college. I didn't have a very good education before college and had not done much writing, so it was very tough to learn how to write papers and essays for exams.  Now, writing is very easy because I've been doing it on computers since the 90's. Every little bit helps, whether it's blogs, papers, emails, fictional stories, or whatever. Just write and it will get easy. I think it also helps if you type really well, but not everyone does that. I know some excellent writers who still use two fingers to type.

Need writing help?

Another thing that can help with writing is to get help from other writers. For instance, here at SAU there are two writing labs, from what I'm told. One is the Writing Center. I believe the other is the Academic Enrichment Center. Some think that college students don't learn to write very well, and that may be the case. If you really want to be a writer, though, then the answer is to write, write, write! And get help if you need it.  This site gives a list of the top blogging sites.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Assignment 8: Predictions

Predictions: The Future of TV

It's probably foolish to try to predict what will happen with television.  So much has happened in the past 5, 10 and 20 years that really couldn't have been predicted with any degree of accuracy.  For a long while now, I had predicted that television networks would make all shows On Demand.  In other words, there would be no more scheduling of shows.  You would be able to watch any show, any time.  Maybe someday that will be true, but it isn't here yet. Video
TV Remote

What I could not have predicted was broadband access, streaming television, and Netflix, among other advances.  Right now, television is in a state of flux.  Besides watching shows on your actual physical TV, you can watch them any time on various devices and from various companies.  For instance, on my DISH network, I can view many broadcast and cable shows On Demand.  However, it's not all of them.  For instance, if I want to watch current ABC shows, there will only be a certain number of episodes available.  If I want to watch CBS or CW shows, I have to subscribe to CBS All Access and watch it on another device (not the television).  To watch some cable networks, or older seasons of shows, or older shows, I must subscribe to Netflix, HULU, Amazon Prime, or another service.  Or, I can download a show on iTunes, or buy a DVD.  None of these are free except for On Demand (which comes with my DISH service). You can watch most of these on a device such as a ROKU, but you still have to pay for and subscribe to each of them separately. Unless you want to buy all of these services, it's easier to just record your shows on the DVR from your cable or satellite service.  Hopefully, one day they will stop fighting each other and make things much easier for the consumer to find their favorite shows. Video

Couple watching TV

Those who can afford all of the services still have to put up with figuring out how to get them all to work.  There are just too many choices.  Good shows go on the air, but there are so many good shows that no one can keep up with them or figure out which ones they want to watch.  The shows don't get the audience that they should because no one knows about them.  Then there are people who, for one reason or another, can't afford cable, DVR or broadband streaming.  This means that fewer people are able to watch the shows that are not on broadcast networks.  Most people have a TV and can reach the basic broadcast networks.  However, that doesn't mean they're going to pay for all of the rest.  If you want to watch TV, you want the convenience of just turning on the television and changing the channel.  You don't want to figure out how to watch your ROKU, or watch on your laptop, or watch on your phone...  Especially if you're over 40.  That's why shows like NCIS are so popular.  As a TV fanatic, it makes me sad that some people can't watch shows that they would really like, if only they had the access. Video

people watching TV in a mod house

Netflix may be the closest thing we have to all On Demand shows because they have no schedule.  You can watch all of their original shows/movies any time, as well as many other TV shows/movies that have aired on other networks, or in theaters.  HULU, Amazon, and the others are doing similar things, but Netflix is in front of the pack.  They try to personalize viewers choices and predict that one day, subscribers will watch the shows tailored just for them.  It may be the end of the commercial, or it may mean fewer commercials that are more personalized.  It'll be interesting to see how it all turns out.  I hope it improves in my lifetime! Video

watching on phone

 I think that there are very few people who like to watch movies, and some TV shows, on their phone. Even the largest smartphone screen is just too small. I think most probably use their tablet or computer. I hope that one day they'll come up with a tablet or phone that has a folding screen so that you can have a small phone but then unfold it to a large screen. LG has been working on one for a few years.

woman with interactive TV

Some people think that the future of TV involves apps.  Being from an older generation (ahem), it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the integration of television with the Web and all of the apps.  To me they're separate things, even though I know you can watch TV shows on the Web and via apps.  To a younger person, there isn't much distinction.  This Techcrunch article predicts that apps are not the future of TV.  The article makes some very good points and tells us that not many people have actually cut the cord.  It shockingly points out this very obvious thing: people watch their shows because of the show itself, and not what network or device it's on.  It also suggests what the future of TV might look like if the consumer has a say (but I'm not sure we do). The Turner TV network executives seem to think that they're ahead of the game, but the content of their bad shows tells me that they're fooling themselves.

woman in futuristic chair

This article, from two years ago, suggests that the future of TV will be a combination of all the things we see now: live, On Demand, streaming, broadcast, etc., but easier for us to watch without all of the trouble and costs that we have now.  I hope these predictions are all true, so that we all get good TV, cheaper, whenever we want it, and easily.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Assignment 7: Binge-Watching

Binge-watching was a phrase coined by Netflix to mean: watching many episodes of a TV show or shows in succession (such as over a weekend or in one day). The phrase has only been around for about 5 years.  I don't really like binge-watching. I'm just used to the old-fashioned way we watch TV - one episode per week. I'm too busy, most of the time, for binge-watching, unless my DVR is almost full and I'm trying to watch stuff just to get it off there. For example, I try to keep up on everything, but I record 2 soap operas, "General Hospital" and "Young and the Restless," and I'm behind on watching both. I like all the soaps, but they're not so good that I want to watch them every day. I'd rather watch Primetime shows, so they usually take priority. If I'm caught up on all of my other DVR shows, I do try to watch "General Hospital." VIDEO

Star Trek Beyond poster

As you may remember from my first blog post here, I watch a lot of TV.  Before streaming videos were common, you could only binge-watch if a TV network was showing a marathon of shows, or if you bought a videotape or DVD set, or (later) if you recorded a whole season on the DVR.  I still buy DVD's and have a DVR, so that's where I do most of my binge-watching. I don't watch TV on my phone. The screen is way too small. I really don't even like watching on my laptop. I use my ROKU to watch Netflix, Amazon, HULU, et al.  Although I'm mostly discussing TV shows here, people also do binge-watch movies, and they binge-read as well. There are a lot of movie series or franchises and a lot of book series. I don't go to the movies much, but I love to watch any movie with a superhero in it, or any "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" movie. I also loved all of the "Hunger Games," "Mazerunner," James Bond and "Divergent" movies. I don't have much time to read, but in the past decade I did binge-read the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, The Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins, The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, the Hammarby series by Carin Gerhardsen,  the Harper Connelly mysteries by Charlaine Harris, and all of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Teen Wolf cast

In the past, there were some shows I binge-watched on DVD, or on a late-night marathon, long after they had started airing: "Highlander (92-98)," "Revenge (2011-15)," "Desperate Housewives (2004-12)," "Homicide: Life on the Street (93-99)," "Dawson's Creek (98-03)," "Dynasty (81-89)," "Eureka (2006-12)," "Mad Men (07-15)," "Queer As Folk (2000-05)," "Curb Your Enthusiasm (2000-present)," "I Married Joan (52-55)," "Teen Wolf (2011-17)," "Dexter (2006-13)," "The Closer (2005-12)," "Joan of Arcadia (2003-05)," "Laugh-in (67-73)," "Car 54, Where Are You? (61-63)," "Poltergeist: The Legacy (96-99)", "Forever Knight (92-96)," and "Medium (2005-11)."  These are all that I can remember right now; there are probably others. Before I had a DVR, I would watch many re-runs late at night, usually on cable.

There are some shows that I watched when I was younger, but I can always watch them if I see them now in re-runs, like "Hogan's Heroes (65-71)," "The Flying Nun (65-70)," "M*A*S*H (72-83)," any of the "Star Trek" or "Law & Order" franchises; "Two and a Half Men (2003-15)," "Fawlty Towers (75-79)," "The Bob Newhart Show (72-78)," "Seinfeld (89-98)," "Twilight Zone (59-64)," "Monty Python's Flying Circus (69-74)," "Designing Women (86-93)," "Night Court (84-92)" and "Barney Miller (75-82)." They never get old to me. I can always laugh or enjoy them.


I wish I had time to catch up on so many shows that I had to quit watching due to lack of time; Either I have most of these on DVD, on VHS, or they're available online: "Runaways (2017-present)," "The Gilmore Girls (2000-07)," "The Good Fight (2017-present)," "Star Trek: Discovery (2017-present)," "Orphan Black (2013-17)," "Stranger Things (2016-present)," "The OA (2016-present)," "Unreal (2015-present)," "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-present)," "Torchwood (2006-11)," "Outcast (2016-present)," "Travelers (2016-present)," "Mr. Mercedes (2017-present)," "Luther (2010-18)," "The Americans (2013-present)," "Fargo (2014-present)," "Lost (2004-10)," "Person of Interest (2011-16)," "Mr. Robot (2015)," "Humans (2015-present)," "The Fosters (2013-present)," "The Expanse (2015-present)," "Stargate SG-1 (97-2007)," "Stargate: Atlantis (2004-09)," "24 (2001-10)," "Alias (2001-06)," "Arrow (2012-present)," "Covert Affairs (201-14)," the older "Doctor Who" franchise (1963-1989), "Glee (2009-15)," "Grey's Anatomy (2005-present)," "Hollywood Heights (2012),"
"Nashville (2012-present)," "The Good Wife (2009-16)," "Sleepy Hollow (2013-17)," "True Blood (2008-14)," "V (2009)," "The Vampire Diaries (2009-17)," "The Originals (2013-present)," "12 Monkeys (2015-present)," "Empire (2015-present)," "Greenleaf (2016-present)," "The Royals (2015-present)," "Impastor (2015-16)," "Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (2015-16)," "Damages (2007-12)," "Riverdale (2017-present)," "Bloodline (2015-17)," "Altered Carbon (2018-present)," "Mindhunter (2017-present)," "The Punisher (2017-present)," "Atypical (2017-present)," "Atlanta (2016-present)," "Victoria (2016-present)," "Archer (2009-present),"   "The Exorcist (2016-present)," "Midnight Diner (2016)," "Van Helsing (2016-present)," "The Librarians (2014-present)," "Queen Sugar (2016-present)" (OWN), "Outlander (2014-present," "Lucifer (2015-present)," "The X-Files (93-02, 2016-present)," "The Magicians (2015-present)," "Bull (2016-present)," "Younger (2015-present)," "Beyond (2016-present)," "Mary Kills People (2017-present)," "Castlevania (2017-present)," "The Durrells in Corfu (2016-present)," "Top of the Lake (2013-present)," "Deadwood (2004-06)," "The Good Doctor (2017-present)," "The Sinner (2017-present)," "The Tick (2016-present)," "Timeless (2016-present)," "Designated Survivor (2016-present)," "Scandal (2012-present)," "People of Earth (2016-present)," "Friday Night Lights (2006-11)," "ER (94-09)," "The West Wing (99-06)," "Genius (2017-present)," "Saving Hope (2012-17)," "Extinct (2017-present)," "Knighfall (2017-present)," "Vikings (2013-present)," "Electric Dreams (2017-present)," "Counterpart (2017-present)," "The Alienist (2018-present)," "Indian Summers (2015-16)," "Jane the Virgin (2014-present)," "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2015-present)," "The Shannara Chronicles (2016-17)," "Night Manager (2016-present)," "Sense8 (2015-18)" "Rome (2005-07)," "Nurse Jackie (2009-15)," "Prime Suspect (91-06)," "Entourage (2004-11)," "Continuum (2012-15)," "The Son (2017-present)," "The Glades (2010-13)," "Grimm (2011-17)," "Transparent (2014-present)," "Poldark (2015-present)," "Mr. Selfridge (2013-16)," and "The Night Of (2016)."  There are many others, I'm sure, that I just haven't thought of.  Since I try to watch every new fiction show on TV, I usually will just watch one or two episodes for the review and then not watch the rest due to lack of time.

I've heard that these shows are very good, but I haven't seen them at all; I would probably like them: "The Wire (2002-08)," "Game of Thrones (2011-present)," "The Crown (2016-present)," "House of Cards (2013-present)," 'The Handmaid's Tale (2017-present)," "Six Feet Under (2001-05)," "Call the Midwife (2012-present)," "Black Mirror (2011-present)," "Rectify (2013-present)," "Endeavor (2012-present)," "Episodes (2011-17)," "The Knick (2014-15)," "Shameless (2011-present)," "Grace and Frankie (2015-present)," "True Detective (2014-present)," and "Orange is the New Black (2013-present)."

Jessica fighting a bad guy

This week I've been trying to watch "Jessica Jones" Season 2, in between my DVR shows.  There are just way too many good TV shows, and I'm not that picky, so I always have way too much that I want to watch.  Here are the shows I regularly binge-watch when they come out on Netflix with a new season. I love them, so I make time for them: "Longmire (2012-17)," "Daredevil (201-present)," "Jessica Jones (2015-present)," "Luke Cage (2016-present)," "Iron Fist (2017-present)," "The Defenders (2017-present)," "The Killing (2011-14)," and "13 Reasons Why (2017-present)." Also, I watch any standup TV special by Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black, Anthony Jeselnik or Ricky Gervais.   On Amazon, I always watch any new episodes of "Bosch (2014-present)" and "Red Oaks (2014-17)."  All of the other shows I watch regularly are on broadcast or cable network TV.

Last week I binged-watched the entire season of "A.P. Bio (2018)," since I was interviewing two of the show's cast members. I was pleasantly surprised at how funny it is.  Last year I binge-watched the Netflix limited series "Alias Grace (2017)," which was really good, until the end, which was very disappointing. I also binge-watched Amazon's "I Love Dick (2017)," which was very good.  You can't always tell if a series is going to turn out OK or not.  I wish I had time to re-watch some of my favorite series, such as all the Star Treks, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer (96-03)," "Angel (99-04)," "Constantine (2014-15)," "Remington Steele (82-87)," and "The Dead Zone (2002-07)," as well as all of the "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" movies. No matter how I binge-watch, I enjoy doing it. I just wish I had more time!

Some research indicates that binge-watching might be bad for you. It might cause heart problems or insomnia. Well, like any good thing, it should be done in moderation. You can't binge-watch and neglect your job, your studies, your family, your health, etc.  It's like anything that "they" say is bad for you: If you do it too much, you might go blind!

Besides the shows I mentioned here, here are some other really good shows that I recommend you watch.  Dramas: "The Mentalist," "Mad Men," "Leverage," "Veronica Mars," "Castle," "Suits," "White Collar," "Men of a Certain Age," "Royal Pains," "Numb3rs," "Terriers," "Queer As Folk," and "St. Elsewhere."
Sitcoms: "The Larry Sanders Show," "Blackadder," "Police Squad!," "Frasier," "Big Bang Theory," "Will & Grace,"
Sci-Fi/fantasy: "Babylon 5," "Haven," "Fringe," "Once Upon a Time," "Supernatural," "Arrow," "Battlestar Galactica," "Jericho," "Revolution," "Falling Skies," "Eureka," "La Femme Nikita," "Being Human," "Lois and Clark: The Adventures of Superman," "Farscape," "American Gothic," "Medium," "Firefly," "Dollhouse," "Earth Two," "Heroes," "Alphas," "Wilfred," and "Sliders."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Assignment 6: Global Trends

U.S. Films - Including Netflix Features - Clean Up at International Box Office

Avater poster

When the average person in the U.S. talks about how well a movie does at the box office, they usually ignore success in other countries.  Most of us lead very U.S.-centric lives and don’t really think about the billions of people in other countries.  Movie studios, however, care very much.  Not only do many regular theater films do well in other countries, but many U.S. movies that are "direct-to-video" releases also do well there.  Those movies are usually not the kind that most of us see (aside from a few popular animated superhero movies).  Now there are original movies on streaming services.  Netflix has been doing original feature films for a while, but now they have many successful ones (at least, as far as we can tell - Netflix doesn't release their viewing statistics).  Most of their successful films do really well internationally. "More than 52 million of its 104 million subscribers now come from outside the US.," according to the Guardian.  Video Clip

Black Panther

Action films do the best overseas because it doesn't matter if the audience understands English or can relate to the nuances of the characters. These movies have likable characters and plenty of fights, car chases, shoot-outs, and crashes to enjoy (not to mention plenty of special effects).  For instance, "Black Panther," based on a comic book, is making almost as much money in other countries as it has domestically. It's making 900 million dollars already, worldwide, in its first week overseas.  If we look at the 100 top-grossing films worldwide of all time, they're all films with plenty of action, and most are from this century (aside from the original "Star Wars"). Video Clip

Netflix chart

In an age where borders often seem non-existent, due to the internet, people from other countries can see many of our shows and movies easily, and vice versa (sometimes not legally).  Netflix reaches almost every country in the world, making it easier for anyone to watch TV shows and movies on any device. Their content varies for each country, due to copyright issues. Of course, you can watch the most Netflix content in the U.S.  International viewers used to be able to use a Virtual Private Network to watch U.S. Netflix, but Netflix figured out how to block VPN's. There are other ways, of course, and I'm sure that there always will be. No matter how you block one type of invasive software, there are going to be people motivated enough to come up with another. Video Clip

poster for the movie Bright

Some of our American action heroes, like Will Smith, are even more popular internationally.  Netflix's scifi/fantasy/action movie "Bright," which starred Smith, pulled in 11 million viewers internationally in the first 3 days.  Not long ago, in 2015, film studios were worried that Netflix movies were not doing well, but that is no longer true. A lot of these films, including “Bright,” are panned by the critics, but viewers love them (including non-U.S. viewers). Netflix is already planning to make a sequel to "Bright." Major movie studios, like Paramount and Universal, can now choose to sell their films directly to Netflix, rather than showing it at the theaters. A few years ago, they may have put the movies in the theater at a time when they wouldn't have made much money, and then sold the DVD's, or did "ancillary sales," such as to TV or Pay-Per-View; now they can sell it to Netflix instead.  Some in Hollywood think that this will hurt the movie business in the long run. Only time will tell. Check out this list of the best original Netflix films. Video Clip

Although some of the successful Netflix feature films get poor reviews from Critics, others are loved by them, just like "regular" films in the theater. Some are critical successes, and some are box office successes, and few films are both. Netflix won their first Oscar this year for Best Documentary Feature (for "Icarus") and several of their films were nominated as well.  Amazon Prime, another streaming service, won Oscars last year for "Manchester by the Sea" and "The Salesman" (Best Foreign Language Film). Having conquered TV, it appears that streaming services are now a force to be reckoned with for feature films, both in foreign and domestic sales. Video Clip

Netflix original films

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Assignment 5: Surveillance or Law Enforcement

Racial Bias in Facebook Video Posts

interracial hands

We know there is racism, or racial bias, in society.  There are literally millions of examples. I think that we're all a little bigoted about something, or somebody, at some point in our lives. It's part of being human, to notice differences between yourself and others, and to want to say that your group is somehow superior than another group.  It's how we deal with this bigotry in our hearts, our minds, and our actions that matter.  Morgan Freeman agrees with me.   He's an actor, of course, not a scientist, but there are many articles that support this idea.  The tribalism we all have can lead to racism, war and many other bad things. It dates back to ancient times.   Although many of us are horrified about racial bias, it seems unavoidable in these troubled times. Video

We see each other as equals until a parent or society tells us not to
Social media is a segment of our society.   Some argue that it reflects the worst of society, including racism.   For better or worse, when you're on social media, you may see many of your friends, neighbors, relatives and/or acquaintances saying things that are racially biased.

Facebook racism

I want to focus on racial bias on Facebook, particularly the racial bias shown when people share surveillance and other videos. I have 976 Facebook friends and belong to many Facebook groups.    The average number of Facebook friends is 338. I only know about 25% of my Facebook friends from real life. However, I have a very diverse group of friends, both in real life and on Facebook. They come from all different ages, genders, races, areas, and classes.  Sometimes I will see a Facebook friends post something that I don't agree with, and sometimes they share videos or other memes that I don't like. Even worse, if I'm on a group, someone on that group will sometimes share a video or meme that I find highly objectionable. For the most part, I ignore it, or even welcome diverse points of view. However, when it's something that's bigoted or sexist, I often do argue with the person who posted it. Sometimes it's cost me some Facebook friends who are acquaintances or distance relatives. I try not to argue too much on Facebook now about politics, but I feel that if you don't speak up when someone says something terrible, then you're sanctioning it.

A jury of your peers should look like your actual community.

In my 19 years on Facebook, I've noticed that often, someone will post a video that they think is funny, or the video shows someone caught doing something terrible. Either that person is being arrested, or stealing something (in a surveillance video) or they're causing a big public scene, etc.  Of course, people of all types can get in to trouble when caught on video, and you can find most of these videos on YouTube or other video sites.  I've noticed, though, that oftentimes, the comments from the video (the person who originally posted it) will say something very nasty and racist about the person in the video, especially if that person is black.  Then the comments below the video are often even worse.

freedom - equality - fairness - justice

Seeing these shared videos makes me highly suspicious that the individuals sharing them are doing them for one main reason: to make fun of African-Americans, to call them names, to say racist friends, and to get their friends to do the same. Their attitude is, "Look how terrible this black person is acting!" as if to reinforce their racist beliefs.  Even if the person posting it doesn't mean to be sharing it in a racist way, by sharing it, and allowing their friends to say racist things, they're reinforcing that racial bias.

Many of these videos are surveillance videos. Apparently I'm not the only one to feel this way because the Bay Area Rapid Transit System has stopped releasing any video footage from its surveillance cameras of assaults that happen on their trains because they feel it creates racial profiling and bias.  The media, which can also have racial bias, shows a lot of these type of videos, too, but without the type of openly racist commentary that we see on social media.  Racial bias seen on media, or social media, can impact other people's opinions and lead to more racial bias.

There is so much racial bias on Facebook that a Congressman has asked Facebook to do something about it, particularly when it comes to fake posts from Russian sources.    We know from recent news events that Russians spread discord on social media during the 2016 elections, including racial discord.  Facebook turned a blind eye to a lot of these fake posts, and now they're getting flack for allowing them to happen.

racism everywhere

Still, it seems that there's very little stopping the average person from posting these terrible videos and spreading racial bias. One of the actors I follow shared this one, and you can see from both the person who originally posted it, and the comments below the video, that some delight in calling the person in the video "ghetto trash". "Ghetto" is one of the code phrases racists use to mean African Americans, along with "thug" or "urban." (My actor friend was not posting it for racist reasons; he posted it for pro-vegetarian reasons. Still, I don't think he should have posted it.)

Here's another racist post I found easily, about famed boxer Floyd Mayweather and some Scottish boxer.  Here's a post that just attacks Michelle Obama, and you can still find plenty of attacks online about her and the rest of her family, even though they're no longer in the White House.  If you go to Facebook and search on "ghetto" or "ghetto trash" or the N word, you will find way more horrible posts and videos than you should. You can find many on YouTube as well.  There are many people, like this horrible racist, that post these type of videos, or makes comments using the words "ghetto," or worse. This guy even advocates violence against African-Americans. Fortunately, Facebook did remove some of his worst posts since yesterday....
no racism
I wish I could show you more research about the racial bias on social media as shown by shared videos, but unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much that I could find. I did speak with my friend Dr. Utz McKnight, who's an expert on African-American studies. He's the Chair of the Department of Gender and Race Studies at the University of Alabama.  I asked him for any research or articles about these topics, but he didn't know of any. He replied, "I think your point is correct. That the sharing is itself an attempt to promote racial differences. ...Sorry I can’t be more helpful.  I can’t think of an article on this that stands out. But you are certainly correct."

Utz and Elizabeth McKnight