There’s only one zombie story…and it sucks

After much hype and to-do, I decided to give AMC’s new zombie show, The Walking Dead, a go.  54 minutes into the 1 hour & 6 and I was already bored to death of the headshots, raspy whispers and groaning, and the “ohmygod the last bastion of hope is actually full of zombies but no one knows!!!”

Dude.  I like horror.  I watched the Nightmare on Elm Street series when I was in early elementary school.  But what is it about zombies?  I mean, seriously.  Here’s a synopsis of every fucking zombie story ever:

– You wake up from a coma
– Everyone is dead
– There are zombies
– Also, there are a few survivors who know wtf is going on
– There’s some place that is supposed to be safe from zombies
– It isn’t

I figured that, you know, you’re going to run a TV show about zombies, there has to be more to it than that, right?  Some kind of new twist?  How the hell are you going to run an entire 13 episode series on the premise of “everyone’s dead, some of the dead are zombies and they want to eat you.”  At least in 28 Days Later there was the whole “humanity is worse than the zombies, maybe we deserved this” thing going on – morbid and makes you want to slit your wrists, but at least it’s something else.  And it suddenly occurred to me that the thing about Cherie Priest’s zombie steampunk book Boneshaker (a freaking awesome book, btw) that was awesome, wasn’t the zombies.

So, then I think, wtf?  Why are zombies so popular?  They aren’t sexy like vampires.  They don’t have the whole Jekyll/Hyde thing like werewolves – a metaphor for angsty men who need some kind of justification for not being able to control their anger.  They’re just dead people.  Who aren’t.  The whole zombie meme came out of – oops! – accidentally burying people alive (usually said people had some sort of disease which gave them the semblance of death, like a coma, until you buried them and they woke up in a coffin and tried to claw their way out.  This also may have had a bit to do with the whole superstition that graveyards are haunted).  Zombies are like the least interesting horror creation, ever.  Are they trying to play on our fear of our own mortality?  Because I’m totally freaked out that I’m going to die and come back as some undead version of myself intent on eating my progeny’s flesh.  Yep.  I don’t know.  I don’t get it.  Zombies suck.

SoftBank is my new favorite company in the world

how can you not love a company that not only has a talking dog, and an American woman screaming something aggressive and samurai-ly in Japanese, but also has Quentin Tarrantino doing some crazy ass shit?

that not convince you?  maybe these two ads with brad pitt co-starring as a sumo wrestler’s personal assistant may help:

and what’s up with the soundtrack in the brad pitt ones?  i feel like i’m watching deadwood again.  except in japanese.  and totally not deadwood.  and in japanese.

the not-so-hidden value of netflix

netflixi’m pretty much completely in love with netflix.

it started with some casual experimentation through a friend during college.  he had a netflix subscription and we’d often get triple features of obscure asian action flicks (digging deep in the early career of jet li with the once upon a time in china series — which i highly recommend, btw) and post-modern art films like  eXistenZ and naked lunch (and pretty much anything else by david cronenberg).

after graduation, netflix and i drifted apart, and i spent more time with the cult classics, indpendent and anime sections at hollywood video.

all that changed when erin and i had kids.

what used to be a simple 20 minute trip to see what we haven’t watched already and browse the new video releases, suddenly became: “do we take G with us?  should one of us go alone?  this sucks…maybe we can just download something…”  suddenly, netflix was not only a great library of obscure videos, but a welcome replacement for what used to be the friday night trip to the video store.

sure there’s the fact that you don’t get your videos right away.  but i think that’s just a matter of retraining your brain.  rather than expecting you’ll hit the video store on friday, if you already have a queue set up of stuff you want, one that you’re watching and updating in between deliveries, you’re guaranteed that when friday (or whenever) hits, you’ll have something you know you want to watch.  and the recommendation engine really is pretty good (most of the time).

but even that isn’t what makes netflix a comcast- (or insert-cable-company-name-here) killer.  no, the real secret (that isn’t really a secret) of netflix is their instant viewing catalog.

i’ve been using the watch instantly feature a lot lately.  much more so than the dvd rentals themselves.  often, we’ll forget to put the dvd’s in the mail — something that was completely unfounded a couple years ago.  but i don’t beat myself up over losing value in the membership with netflix by hanging onto dvd’s longer than we need to anymore.  and the reason is that there are hundreds — if not thousands — of titles i want to watch that i can check out right this second.  my 4 year old just finished the full run of the original astroboy series, which he’s been working on for the past several weekends.  we watched wall-e for the first time streamed through netflix, and then for the second and third times.  we’re not really  huge on dora the explorer, but the fact that you can stream the full first and second seasons means that if and when it comes up, we can play it for the kids and not have to own the dvds.  and we’ve discovered great new kid shows like kipper and the rubbadubbers that we wouldn’t have found otherwise.

watch instantly is perfect for hermetic parents like us, who are more likely to buy books on amazon than hop in a car to barnes & nobles or a used book store because the latter means making oneself look vaguely presentable to the outside world, getting the kids’ jackets and shoes on, remembering to take the kids to the potty, making sure to take the dog outside to pee…by the time all that’s done, it’s time for lunch (or dinner, or bed, etc…).  i’d love to be able to go see new movies, but being able to see new-ish rentals streamed via netflix isn’t too bad, either.

it’s all thanks to their recent partnership with starz, a premium cable channel like hbo and showtime that honestly, i’d never even heard of before i read this article in wired.  but i’m sure glad they forged the deal, because all of a sudden, netflix exploded with streaming options the like of which longtime subscribers had never seen before.  and not just the weird, obscure, b-movie indie-type films like cannibal: the musical or B.U.S.T.E.D.(both of which you can stream, by the way, and i recommend both of them).  no, as previously mentioned, mainstream — and top selling — flicks like wall-e and bridget jones’s diary can be streamed as well now.

how netflix pulls it off involves a complex system of who has access rights for broadcasting films that i only understand half of.  i recommend reading the previously mentioned (and linked) wired article for a better explanation than i could begin to articulate.  what i do know is that it’s one thing to rent out dvds (or cds, or videos) because ownership law states that once you own something, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it shy of reproducing copies of it yourself and profiting off it — which includes renting out your copies of the originals.  once you decide to stream content — this applies to any content, be it video or audio — you enter into a whole different world of copyright law as it applies to broadcasting and who gets what royalties.  by partnering with starz, starz essentially deals with the legal stuff — because they already have that in place.  netflix shares starz’s access to new (and old) movies, and passes along the streaming content to its’ subscriber base.  i only hope that eventually hbo and showtime decide to stop fighting netflix and jump on the boat, because it shouldn’t matter to them — either way they’ll get their paycheck, and i’m guessing a whole bunch more people will jump onto netflix if netflix has a vast new library that includes everything hbo or showtime has access to.

this, of course, makes netflix public enemy number 1 in the eyes of the other content providers for movies and television — your cable company.  it will be interesting to see how things play out, but already there’s momentum to move stuff online and content providers will need to think (and act) more like isps to keep their users.  soon it will be hulu + netflix vs. cable tv with hbo.  i know what side i’m on: i may have a cable subscription, but it’s not tv that’s running through that coax — it’s data.

hulu desktop app — needs work

i’m sure i saw it on twitter, but i don’t really remember.  at any rate, hulu has released a new desktop application for windows and mac osx.  i’m a huge fan of hulu.  this is my equivalent of television, and i am looking forward to more shows being cast on hulu.  hulu and tivo, in my opinion, are the future of television.  we will no longer be bound by scheduled times, and the alternative will no longer be setting the vcr to record a specific program at a specific time.

so the new desktop app is exciting, and more exciting still that it has a media player interface that rocks.  not so hot, though, is the streaming quality — it’s still smoother to go through the website, the video playback is choppy.  that said, it’s still in beta, so presumably it will get better.  i’m excited to see where it goes because it’s definitely a great start.  props to nbc for commissioning hulu, and letting them do their thing.  it is quickly becoming the best shiz ever, and, if all television is ultimately available through a web service, pirates like me without real tv won’t need to resort to bit torrents for shows, and hulu could easily make additional margin by lumping dvd sales of the shows you are watching onto the pages for those shows (and, you know, i’d buy).