My life, my card, my pretension

Ad space for the Academy Awards broadcast, though not quite at the premium of Super Bowl airtime, is normally pretty costly. This year was no exception - ABC received about $1.7 million per thirty seconds of adtime (I wonder if ABC uses the oft-quoted but quite dubious figure of “over a billion people” that watch the broadcast when selling that ad time).

That figure provides me with further puzzlement over the fame enjoyed by M Night Shyamalan, star of tonight’s high-concept, fittingly pretentious American Express ad.

Though I have absolutely no use for The Sixth Sense, I am fully aware of the magnitude of that movie - I’m reminded of it every time I hear a critic blurb for a subpar thriller like, “…with an ending that will shock you.” Put garbage on the screen for an hour and a half, but if you can trick the audience you’re golden (also known as Usual Suspects syndrome).

But what has he done for anyone lately? It seems to me that every live sex chat movie he’s made since has buckled under the immense pressure the hype machine. His latest movie, The Village, not only couldn’t live up to the hype but didn’t seem to be much enjoyed by anyone. Through it all his last two films, The Village andSigns, were marketed in the possessive M Night Shyamalan’s _____. While I can appreciate that all his movies have been almost solely his vision (except for the screenplay credit he received for 1999’s Stuart Little - I dare say it might be his best work), I cannot think of any other movie maker except for Quentin Tarantino who bills themselves in that way. My own personal bias aside, I dare say Tarantino wins the cultural importance battle there hands down.

But I guess Shyamalan is not quite as, well, scary as Tarantino. And I guess moments from his films are a little safer for network television. In a way I can be a little less critical of Shyamalan’s films if all his inspiration is indeed coming from the same restaurant. I wonder if he had a hand in Waiting…

No-frill, no-seat airlines

Those who travel in coach know the feeling: being paraded past the paradise of first and business class on your way to your impossibly narrow seat, the anachronistic ashtray a distraction from the very recent “enhancements” made to ensure a profit for the airline and a trip to the chiropractor for you. You swear you can hear the flight attendants taunting you for your thrift - this could be yours - between the pleasantries. If that article is to be believed however, one day you may be able to sneer at passengers passing you on their way to their standing-room only area.

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none has agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to seating experts who have seen a proposal. Airbus has denied the reports of such a proposal, though it sounds to me like a thoroughly embarrased man landing on jest after a very serious menage suggestion.

I’d have to imagine that even if the jasmin live proposal is real that no one is thinking about trying this plan out on long-distance flights. So it’s pretty odd to see the traditional airlines finding every which way to pack as many passengers on their planes as possible, while low-cost airlines like Southwest here and RyanAir in Europe are saving their passengers money without requiring a greasing-down before seating. On RyanAir right now, I could book a flight from London’s Luton Airport to Stockholm’s Vasteras for a grand total of about $65 (converting from UK pounds) round trip (I should note that the total fare is approx. $9 - the rest of the cost comes from taxes and such). The lowest fare available for that same trip on Expedia right now is $117.

(I was inspired to check out RyanAir by an article in the April 24th issue of The New Yorker - you can’t get that issue on the site right now, so go find it on newsstands or wait until I link to it.) Obviously there are plenty of things you pass up on the low-cost airlines, but I will certainly give up my mini-can of Coke and glorified Chef Boyardee meals before I am hurtled across the sky strapped to a backboard.

Perhaps they’ll next consider cargo seating. The wheel wells for the aircraft’s landing gear probably have space for a person or two, though results aren’t usually favorable.

Davis comes alive

Jim Davis‘ campaign continues to out the internet to good use - Congressman Davis participated in his second live online chat on http://www.livejasmin.cc, the culmination of his town hall tour that began about a week ago. Unlike the last time I was able to participate in this one, missing only the first couple of minutes.

The chat itself did not bring much in the way of surprise. The fact that the question I submitted made it into the chat made me feel good that this was probably not one of those Dubya ego-stroking sessions described as town hall meetings. The chat is moderated however, so there is very little chance for a curveball.

The questions were about 70% serious issues, 30% fluff (Coke or Pepsi?). I was impressed that a fair majority of the answers were direct rather than a dance (though the Coke/Pepsi answer was Cuban coffee). But ultimately the mere fact that the chat even took place is encouraging. And for a candidate fighting against personality and visibility questions, it’s a pretty shrewd strategy.

The most interesting thing I learned? Jim Davis, candidate for the position of governor in the state of Florida, has a dog named Georgia. I’m not so much bothered by the incongruity - were it not for the intervention of my father in law, my wife’s name could have been Georgia as well. Endless questions about how often I sing that Ray Charles song, the prospect of the throes of passion sounding like a geography bee, and now this - yeah, I’m glad that name didn’t stick.

Back to backing in

I can think of no more fitting way for the Tampa Bay Lightning to earn a a playoff spot - tonight’s loss by the Atlanta Thrashers means that the Bolts will (technically) have a chance to go Back to Back, as the team has marketed this first post-Stanley Cup season (wouldn’t Back to Lockout to Back be more like it?). Yes indeed, though our boys in black did manage at least 92 points this season, they are officially in the playoffs through no effort on their part.

And now the Lightning are left with an all-important question: who will they face in the first round? As it stands now they are one point behind #7 Montreal, which means they will face the team they played to two overtimes in two games this weekend, the Carolina Hurricanes. Considering the Lightning’s season record against the ‘Canes (5-3) and their other potential playoff opponent Ottawa (0-4), it would seem like the Bolts would want to throw this last game against Washington to ensure a matchup against Carolina. Unfortunately only one point separates Carolina and Ottawa with one game left, so that seeding is not set in stone.

I was present for the Lightning’s overtime win against Carolina on Saturday night. The 5-3 record and a win notwithstanding, I’m not sure exactly what the Lightning is hoping to accomplish in the playoffs. Two of their three goals could easily be attributed to big Hurricane mistakes (in one case a Carolina player falling down in his own zone), and the other was on a 5-on-3 power play. With the exception of that 2-man advantage, the power play was pretty awful. The team spent a better part of the game simply chasing the puck.

Even the crowd seemed off their game. Perhaps they were just too enthusiastic for their own good, but there were far too many 2-on-4 and 1-on-3 rushes by the Lightning that elicited great cheers from the fans. I’m not entirely sure what anyone was hoping would happen on those plays, but the predictable puck dump never failed to disappoint.

But none of it matters if John Grahame and Sean Burke don’t stop confounding Tortorella and the Tribune with their maddeningly erratic play. I say bring on next season.

The first picture show

The media fast is long over, and while I learn to be more accepting of my mass media intake there is one particular source that has taken a back seat to most others.

My last visit to a movie theatre was in October to see A History of Violence - the appeal of the Saturday morning showtime did not catch on. I have received and watched a grand total of five movies from Netflix since the beginning of the year (fortunately the multiple queues on one account option from Netflix has allowed the wife to pick up the slack - she gets home at least two hours before I do). Basically the idea of sitting down for two hours - just sitting! - in front of the TV was far too passive a prospect for my hyperactive brain. It was far better to sit in front of the laptop or Xbox for two hours - at least then I was involved.

After briefly considering Ritalin I decided I just needed to force myself into rediscovering a media habit I had once loved. Friday afternoon brought a trip to the local multiplex for Thank You for Smoking. Showing up over twenty minutes late to miss all the ads and trailers, plus a moderately amusing satire, made for a positive experience. Saturday night brought a Flix airing of Last Tango in Paris - if ever there was one film to prove that my attention span was not entirely hopeless, Bertolucci’s slow but intriguing ode to bloated Brando bonking is it. Sunday night was Netlix night, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Constant Gardener, which gives director Fernando Meirelles as good a pair of first features as any I can think of.

I should at this point mention that the weekend also brought a mysterious crapping out of my internet connection. But the connection is obviously back now, and I have to say all I watched today was the last half hour of Spellbound. Perhaps I’ll stay on/off (which is it again?) the film wagon, though I have a feeling Netflix poses my best hope for a while - dig this weekend’s box office top ten and play Who Greenlit That? (minus #8, of course) for your best opportunity at entertainment with that set of movies.

Sticks of Cincinnati

I’ve made no secret of my distaste (only slightly in good fun) for the city of Cincinnati. I must however give props to Mr. Brian Griffin, who maintains a blog dedicated to all things Cincinnati.

And I must say it’s not all that bad. The subject rarely strays from local fare. The writing seems occasionally clever (though certainly not as clever as Tampa’s favorite superhero blogger). He seems to be doing a good job encouraging comments.

Now about that name. Cincinnati Blog. Wikipedia lists six different nicknames for the city, though I think “Cincinnata” is more of a mispronunciation. Surely one of these could inspire a better name. My personal favorite is Porkopolis, a nickname it earned in regards to its past status as the hog packing center of the country, when “herds of pigs traveled the streets.”

Perhaps Not Quite Rome - another nickname for the city is “The City of Seven Hills.” So you’ve got seven hills and you’re indirectly named after a Roman general - let’s not get carried away. But who am I to question the naming of a blog?