House of Cards Was Awesome

The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Feb. 25th issue. (link)

When Netflix announced that it would be create its own original television series, releasing the entire season at once, there was hope that this could change the way we watch TV over the internet.

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” said Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer. If these new shows were hits and brought in new subscribers, many thought it would prove the future of television was already here.

The first show to be rolled out by Netflix was the Americanized version of the BBC’s 1990s series of the same name, “House of Cards.” The show was pitched to HBO, Showtime and AMC, but Netflix grabbed distribution rights to the first two seasons, 13 episodes per season, for a rumored $100 million.

Originally signed on as creators of the show were David Fincher—the director of movies including “Fight Club,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network”—and Eric Roth, the screenplay writer of movies including “Forrest Gump,” “Benjamin Button” and “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” The screenplay writer and co-producer of “The Ides of March,” Beau Willimon, was added soon after that.

By the time Netflix planned to announce the new series in March 2011, the show had signed on Kevin Spacey as the lead character, Frank Underwood, a Democratic U.S. Representative from South Carolina and House Majority Whip. Underwood’s wife is played by Robin Wright, who played Jenny in “Forrest Gump,” Princess Buttercup in the “Princess Bride” and countless other characters in many great films.

Underwood had been promised a prominent cabinet possession in the White House for his help in the campaign, but it was taken away from him. He claims that the slight from the White House did not bother him, but in reality he is working against the White House by working for them.

A general rule in acting is to avoid looking into the camera, yet Spacey often stares out of the screen to inform viewers what the person opposite him will do next. As the English teacher might have said, “Show, don’t tell,” a habit that works perfectly for Spacey’s character. Underwood is a great politician and is able to predict the moves of his rivals.

During the final episode of the first season, the show becomes very emotional. Mrs. Underwood has trouble continuing to project her tough personality, while freshman representative Pete Russo is having trouble at home. Some viewers will have tears.

All thirteen episodes of the first season were published to Netflix’s website at the beginning of February. Many jumped on to Netflix to start watching the first episode and could not finish until they had watched all 13.

Yet Netflix is not releasing ratings for the show because they “don’t want to give ratings, because it is a real apples-to-oranges comparison with network ratings,” but has said that “House of Cards” is now its most watched show in every country in which it operates.

One analytic firm estimated that on Feb. 1, up to 2.7 million watched the show and that possibly one third of House of Cards’ viewers finished it during the first weekend in which it aired. It is now the most popular television show on IMDb based on the website’s algorithms, which take into account “public awareness and interest” as well as ratings.

This show is worth watching. For those who do not have Netflix, it offers a month-long free trial. Students should probably wait to finish the first round of college tests and papers, because they will certainly waste a weekend with the show.

ESPN Is Fox News

If you begin your television sports viewing day between 7am and 9am (Eastern), you get a show called “The ‘Lights” (short for highlights, get it?). It harkens back to what was the best thing about classic SportsCenter on ESPN in that it consists entirely of rapid fire highlights with a sprinkling of pertinent sound bites from all the previous night’s games in all sports. The show is a half hour long and repeats over two hours. That means you’re never more than 30 minutes away from the highlights from any particular game.

(via NBC Sports Network fills a long-empty void for NHL fans as a legitimate alternative to ESPN)

NBSNC has not filled the void of ESPN… yet.

I think the reason hockey fans disliked ESPN at first is because they tossed us aside and we ended up on OLN. That just feels like we’re being told our sport is not good enough to even be on a real sports channel.

But I think the reason we are less happy with ESPN now has evolved. We are still annoyed that they don’t consider us a sport good enough for the “World Wide Leader In Sports.” But I think more hatred has come from how SportsCenter has changed over the years. The Clark J. Brooks, the author of the article, says The Lights is like the old SportsCenter.

There are no feature stories but there are also no talking heads behind a desk practicing schtick and catch-phrases. Best of all, there’s no contrived debates with pundits shouting their “takes” at each other, something that seems to dominate ESPN these days.

These “debates” seem to be what one might find on Fox News (or MSNBC). The network focuses on the stories which benefit their business, bring in people to discuss the topic. Either the analysts agree with the network or the two debate. But the debate is usually between a stronger debater, for the network, and a weaker debater, against the network. And, of course, the network introduced the topic in their own favor and provide more time for their side; not provider enough time for the opposite side to clearly respond and rebuke their points.

When we had that ass who shall not be named claiming the Blackhawks streak was tainted by ties, we got to see how the network works. We never heard in the first bit anything for the ESPN anchor correcting said ass. Finally we get Barry Melrose – who can just thrown ass into the ground – yet he does not. I’m stumped. I think the easiest thing Melrose could have corrected was parity in the NHL vs the NBA. That day, 4th-8th in the west was tied at 24 points.

Darren Pang mentioned that 4th-14th in the west was only separated by 4 points during yesterday’s Blues @ Kings game. That man is awesome. Panger got it. Why doesn’t Melrose? Melrose was swamped trying to fix all of the things ESPN let slide before he got the chance to correct such horrible lies. The ass also seems to just talk way over his opponents. Also, maybe one too many hits to the head for Melrose.

This just reminds me of the crappy thing we call cable “news.” Once upon a time, news had integrity and only the facts meant to enter the discussion. Journalists told us what happened. They questions and got answers. They did not work to prove their point and make money for others. Then cable news showed up and we got arrogant asses yelling at other arrogant asses; literally repeating the same thing 24 hours a day (except on weekends. That is the time for lockup documentaries).

ESPN’s SportsCenter used to show highlights of all the day’s games without injecting opinion into the mix. We saw the beautiful plays in sports and got a summary of all that happened. If there was news, SportsCenter would investigate and get us answers; hold the leagues and players accountable. Now we get people making up crap to prove their sport is better.

Cable news and ESPN are simply propagandist machines. They say what some part of society would like to hear simply to help themselves. Their is no actual journalism; there isn’t even documenting the day’s events. They simply discuss one topic to an extreme to drive home what is important to the network; hopeful that their viewers will trust the network and come along too.

That is why NHL fans hate ESPN even more. We hate news which is not actually news. We want to know the news of the sports world. SportsCenter once provider that and now they only share one sided opinions for their benefit. It has worked for ESPN the same way it worked for Fox News and MSNBC. People like to be be told what they believe is true to an extreme. Until enough people think hockey is just as good or better than the NBA or the NFL or those few college sports teams, hockey won’t be on ESPN or SportsCenter.

NBC Sports Network might be nice, but it is the MSNBC to the Fox News of sports, ESPN. NBCSN will tell us what we want to hear, but most people will be stuck on ESPN. I need to check out this The Lights though. If it really is only highlights, I would love it. The reason I once watched SportsCenter every morning before school.

Maybe if someone can ever finally disrupt the television industry (please do it, Apple!), a Pandora of highlight reels can come to exist. Know the sports and teams we like. Show the popular and truly impress highlights from outside our comfort zone. Build from there to show us the clips we want to see. Might isolate us even more if done incorrectly, but Pandora-like services are great for discovery if done right. I can dream.

PS Cox needs to bring NBCSN to our dorm. The other dorms get NBCSN, but we don’t.

TL;DR: ESPN’s SportsCenter no longer has the sports journalistic integrity it once had by excessive talk on a single subject, weighted debates and a lack of top plays in all sports. ESPN took the cable news path by trading journalistic integrity for money. This expands the reason hockey fans hate ESPN, but still is not the only reason.

EDIT: Sports journalism is real and analysis should exist. Just check newspapers. But ESPN, like Fox News, acts as news while expressing a partisan issue. Unlike The Daily Show and Colbert Report, both of which act as news to parody the news (particularly cable news), outlets like ESPN and Fox News act like news to express an opinion.

But I Want To Pay

There are lots of things I want that I can’t have because I lack the resources like a Viking range, a BMW X5 and washboard abs. Doesn’t mean I’m allowed to go out and steal them. Same goes for music, movies and video games. Just because I want the content and it’s convenient to steal doesn’t mean I should.

(via Studios Need To Replace BitTorrent, but users have to stop stealing)

There are two types of pirates: those who steal because they do not want to pay for the content and those who pirate because they do not have access to the content. If I wanted to go and buy a BMX X5, I’m pretty sure that BWM would be happy to “Shut up and take my money.”

I am still waiting on MLB to let me watch St. Louis Cardinals baseball from Tulsa, Oklahoma. At least they are on the local TV down here, so all I would need to do would be purchase a TV, but I have a computer. I would love to subscribe to HBO starting March 31st, but they won’t take my money either. Living in a dorm, I cannot just get a cable subscription run into my room. I also cannot subscribe online. 

I do not care to wait a year to watch the next season after Twitter spends Sunday nights spoiling each and every episode. John Gruber said this nice little bit about Apple’s business.

I have long argued that Apple’s business model is simple and seemingly obvious: make high-quality products that people want to buy and sell them for a profit. 

(via Apple as Bumblebee)

I would like to add that Apple makes it easy to buy stuff. Most everything on TV is crap, but there are some shows which I am willing to buy (and I do. Check my bank account). I still do not understand why I television networks and cable providers are against making great products and selling them easily to users (including me) for a profit….like Apple. 

Yes, I brought this back to Apple. Shut up.

Crashed Ice Is Awesomeness

The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Feb. 11th issue. (link to article coming soon)

I was skipping through the channels a couple of years ago when I came across a strange event on NBC that caught my eye. Four people dressed in hockey gear wear flying up and down hills, over jumps and around tight corners.

The sport is called downhill ice cross and the event is called Red Bull Crashed Ice, part of the Red Bull Signature Series. The goal of downhill ice cross is similar to those of ski cross and snowboard cross: the athlete’s aim is to race along a fixed downhill path on skates. The sport is barely more than a decade old, having begun with Red Bull sponsorship. The first Crashed Ice event was in Stockholm, Sweden in 2001, and one event was held annually following.

Red Bull has been a fantastic sponsor for the sport. They have negotiated a TV deal with NBC which helps spread awareness of the sport, and have paid to build the custom tracks. Red Bull goes even farther by not only abstaining from charging an entry fee, but also paying the travel costs for all contestants, including cash award prizes for the top eight finishers. This allows many people to participate in the sport who otherwise could not have.

Cities also seem to love the event. The New York Times reported that the 2012 St. Paul event brought in $20 million for the city.

Beginning in 2010, multiple events were held each year, with points awarded by place finish in an event. After the end of each downhill ice cross season, a world champion is crowned by points won. The current ice cross world champion is Kyle Croxal.

There will be five Crashed Ice events this year. The first was held on Dec. 1 in Niagara Falls, Canada, the second is St. Paul, Minn. on Jan. 26 and the third event in Landgraaf, the Netherlands last Saturday. The fourth will be held in Lausanna, Switzerland on March 2nd and the final event for the year will be held in Quebec City, Canada on March 16.

Events last for three days, the first two of which serve to filter down the number of competitors to 64 skaters. Each heat features four skates; the first and second place finish in each heat advance to the next round. The final day’s event lasts about two hours. At St. Paul this year, about 115,000 people showed up for the free event to cheer on the many Americans, many of whom were, unsurprisingly  from Minnesota Only 80,000 people showed up for the Crashed Ice in St. Paul the previous year.

Even though Red Bull has a deal with NBC to air the Crashed Ice events, the events do not air live on NBC, but rather are streamed live on NBC aired the event held in Niagara Falls, Canada the afternoon before the Crashed Ice event in St. Paul was held. The victor of the Niagara Falls Crashed Ice was the current world champion, Kyle Croxal.

For anyone interested in viewing a new sport on the rise, there are many great compilations on YouTube, and the event from St. Paul will be aired on NBC this Saturday at 3 p.m.

Service Day a vain attempt to impress

The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Feb. 18th issue. (link to article coming soon)

Few people will admit to doing something something good for a bad reason. Many of the University of Tulsa’s students will be participating in Service Day this weekend, but doing so for motives other than simple altruism.

Community service should not be about four hours of work coupled with the promise of free food, a sweatshirt and making oneself look better on paper to employers. It should also not be about making the university look better in the eyes of prospective students and outside groups judging our school.

Many of the students working to make Service Day a success genuinely believe they are making our neighborhood a better place. Unfortunately, other motives exist. My skepticism about the ulterior motives of Service Day comes from two places: my own experience volunteering and the length of Service Day.

In the summer of 2010, I volunteered at the Magic House, a children’s museum, for several reasons. The first was that my lawn care work dies down in the summer as the heat rolls into town.

I did not have a summer job, and I had been told that volunteering at the Magic House was a great way to earn a job the following summer. Other people had used this strategy, and it worked for them. I am clearly not the only person to have volunteered to boost my employment prospects.

Another reason was to put community service hours on my college transcript, something many people do to improve their college applications. If you were not one of the people who did service for the sake of application, and doubt that others do this, just search “community service college application” on Google. A week of community service was required in eighth grade and a month of was called for in the month before graduation.

I did other volunteer work because it sounded like a good—and also fun—thing to do. I have collected cans and been a buddy at the Special Olympics. There are many hardworking volunteers who spend countless hours of their time making the world a better place, but I know most of my community service work was for more for my benefit than for others.

A person preparing for Service Day only commits to four hours of work. In addition, some other organization set it up, as opposed to the person discovering an organization in which he or she already sees value. By finding a service opportunity independently, a person demonstrates a conviction that the organization deserves service time, and often commits to volunteering free time for months, if not years. I cannot help but think of my own volunteer work and compare.

Service Day is too full of people working to get free things, to look better in the eyes of others and convince themselves they have helped the community. I see our university sponsoring this day because it makes the school look better to outsiders. The caring students supposedly help create a nicer community around the school and possibly a safer campus.

The way we think about community service has changed from helping others to helping ourselves by helping others. This should not be the reasons we do a Service Day. In fact, I say Service Day should not exist. Rather, the school should do more work to help students find volunteer work in and around our community whenever possible.

Hockey Is Back


The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Jan. 28th issue. (link to article coming soon)

The National Hockey League returned to the ice on Jan. 19 after owners locked out for 119 days because the league and players could not agree how to share revenue. This was the third stoppage—one of which wiped out an entire season—since Gary Bettman left the NBA to become the NHL’s league commissioner in 1993.
Following the  2004-2005 lockout that which wiped out the entire season, fans were angry, and some teams in non-traditional hockey cities had trouble bringing them back. In the seasons following the second lockout, attendance has returned and TV ratings and revenue have dramatically increased.

Credit has often been given to Bettman for bringing hockey back to broadcast TV, leading the league into a better financial standing and increasing the sport’s popularity.

When the first games were canceled for the 2012-2013 season, fans were worried and upset that the entire season would be missed once again. Only seven seasons had been played since the last lockout, and neither league nor players seemed to want to work with the other.
As is typical with hockey fans, worried and upset quickly transformed into angry. The players received unhappy remarks for being well-paid yet fighting for money, but most of the criticism was directed at Bettman and the owners.
The attacks went so far that one fan tweeted “can I get a RT for wanting Bettman dead?” which was retweeted by Dave Bolland of the Chicago Blackhawks. Bolland quickly deleted the tweet, apologized and said “It was a mistake, I never meant to retweet that out.” Clearly, though, there was anger with Bettman and the league.
Other than death threats to Bettman, responses have included fans threatening to leave the league. A group of fans from Los Angeles created “Just Drop It,” a pledge backed by over 21,000 people on Facebook to boycott the same number of NHL games canceled since Dec. 21, in hopes of creating an organized and easier-to-follow “eye for an eye” retaliation than an indefinite boycott.
Both sides had finally come to an agreement on Jan. 6, and completed a deal on Jan. 12, followed by the immediate release of a 48-game schedule, reduced from the regular 82-game season. The “Just Drop It” pledge stated fans should miss ten games before returning to the NHL. The league and players had to hope fans and sponsors would return.
A few sponsors have, and some, such as Molson Coors, are looking to be recompensed for missing nearly half of the season. Luckily for the NHL though, it seems that hockey fans have returned without demands. Granted, we are only through the first week of games after a long lockout, but high attendance records were set opening weekend in traditional hockey and non-hockey cities.

As of Jan. 26, 21 of the league’s 30 teams have sold out, and 12 of the 21, including non-traditional hockey cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Anaheim, Calif.; and Los Angeles have over-sold all home games played. Only Phoenix is below 90 percent attendance.

Excluding the Winter Classic, NBC’s opening-day coverage was the highest-rated hockey game ever on the network and highest since ABC carried the NHL in 2002. Local broadcast records were set on NBC in Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Chicago.

The Kings raised their Stanley Cup banner in the Staples Center to the highest rating since 2007. The first Blues vs. Predators game was the highest-rated Blues game on Fox Sports Midwest ever.

It is unlikely the league can keep attendance and ratings this high until the playoffs in May and June, but teams have been offering discounts on tickets, merchandise and concessions among other incentives to bring back fans and keep them.

Aaron Swartz

The crazy people at the Collegian, the student paper at The University of Tulsa, let me write stuff. This article below was featured in the Jan. 21st issue. (link to article coming soon)

The Internet was abuzz Jan. 12 with the news that 26-year-old Aaron Swartz was found dead in his apartment. He had hung himself the day prior.

Swartz was born in Chicago to a father who worked in the computer industry. He became interested in computers at a young age. One of his first achievements was co-authoring the RSS 1.0 specification—a tool for publishing blogs, podcasts and more to the web—at the age of 14.

Swartz’s work gives more people a voice on the Internet. In 2010, he founded Demand Progress, an organization to help organize a fight again PIPA, SOPA and other acts from the government and private groups which would censor the Internet.

Shortly after the acquisition of his company by the publishers of “Wired” magazine, he was forced out of the company because, as he wrote in 2007, “I was miserable. I couldn’t stand San Francisco. I couldn’t stand office life … I got sick. I thought of suicide.”

Swartz struggled with depression, and many people were aware of his illness. His death has started to get people in the tech industry to discuss depression more openly in hopes of being better able to support others suffering from the condition. Sam Altman, current executive vice president of Mobile at Green Dot, said that depression is “a major issue, and it’s one of the least talked about things in the Valley.”

Swartz was willing to speak publicly about his depression, but help was inadequate. The time for people in Silicon Valley to more openly acknowledge depression should have started long ago, but at least it seems they are learning from the mistakes of the past. Hopefully the words will turn into long-term, meaningful actions.

But talk of depression is not the reason the Internet was abuzz these last few days. Rather, people were furious with the federal government, particularly with Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts, and Stephen Heymann and Scott L. Garland, assistant U.S. Attorneys in that district.

The Attorney’s office charged Swartz for crimes including, but not limited to “Recklessly Damaging a Computer,” “Theft of Information From A Computer” and “Computer Fraud” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act from 1986 and with “Wire Fraud.” These charges could have landed Swartz in jail for up to 35 years and earned up to a $1 million fine.

After Swartz’s death, these charges were dropped, but they should never have been brought against Swartz to begin with. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said the charges stemmed from Swartz “downloading too many free articles from the online database of scholarly work JSTOR.”

Though prosecution maintained Swartz had intended to illegally distribute these free articles, he had not shared them and JSTOR was not seeking that charges be filed, yet Swartz was still charged.

According to Swartz’s attorney, Heymann was “pursuing federal charges against Swartz to gain publicity,” and was “very, very difficult to deal with.” Swartz’s father has even gone as far as to say that his son was “killed by the government.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office was pushing a sick man into a corner. Because of their thickheadedness, we lost a brilliant individual who has contributed to keeping the Internet open for all and providing a voice for those who once did not have one. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a man with whom I rarely agree, plans to do the right thing and investigate how the attorneys involved handled this case.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has proposed changing Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to be less broad and contain less severe punishments, and is drafting a new bill she calls Aaron’s Law, that would contain “broader measures to improve copyright law that are separate from” the bill to amend the CFAA.

It is important to let our representatives in Washington know that we do not support the actions of these attorneys, our attorneys, in this case. Let them know that we do not support these laws which can restrict our access to free and open works. Make sure that they understand that we will not tolerate trials for politics. A death like Swartz’s should never happen again.

Big 12 ADs discuss 10-team structure, possibilities | Tulsa World

Big 12 ADs discuss 10-team structure, possibilities | Tulsa World:

Forbes recently projected revenue conferences would generate this school year through network television deals, bowl games and NCAA tournaments. The Big 12 is expected to earn $262 million, which averages to $26.2 million for each of the 10 schools – the highest per-team average of any conference. 

(via The Tulsa World)

Honestly shocked that the Big 12 is making the most per school in the TV deals.

Bowlsby said there is evidence that dictates the league stay at 10 schools, and other that suggests getting bigger.

The question becomes, “Who else could the Big 12 add even if they wanted to add teams?” The Big 12 would want a school with an athletic program which can bring in more revenue and one which would not lower the quality of play in the conference. A bonus to the conference would be one which is also good academically. Any team which qualifies the necessary requirements to join the Big 12 has already moved or was already in the conference which best fits them.

This leaves schools from the Big East and below. I am still not sure where those Big East basketball only schools are going, but it is not the Big 12. Granted, with time and revenue from the Big 12’s media deals, a school could provide a higher quality team, but it is still unlikely that it would then have an increase in revenue enough to please the conference.

Stick with the ten teams the conference has now. Stay open to expansion if another school’s athletic program begins to approach the revenue and quality of play the Big 12 needs, but do not go hunting for something that is not there.

**I have more thoughts on this and reasons I believe these things, but each time I typed them on my computer, they did not seem to come out perfectly. I figure it would be best to get my point across followed by a discussion on Twitter or Facebook discussion whether or not people agree with my ideas and give me time to better formulate my ideas. This also gives me a chance to see if others are thinking the Big 12 should not expand as I do.

It’s Not About the Numbers

Apple’s Q1 Earnings: It’s Not About the Numbers | InvestorPlace:

Ironically, the least important aspect of Wednesday’s numbers are the numbers themselves. What the market really needs to see with Apple now (after the stock’s nearly 30% drubbing since mid-September) is that it has a compelling future rather than a desperate one — one with a new, hot, innovative product rather than a rehash of aging products.

(Via. Crazy People)

I did not know that iPad has been out for so damn long. It has not even been three years since the release. Most companies do not release something completely revolutionary every year. There was three years between the iPhone’s release and the iPad’s release. There was six years between the iPod and the iPhone. I think Wall Street needs to learn about patience.

Even if Apple was ready to release new things, it is not a great idea to release a bunch of new stuff all at once. For one, there is a ceiling for how much people can spend on Apple products at once. Even if there was more to be spent, maybe Wall Street just wants Apple to have more money in the bank, so that Apple can just dish it out to investors. I think they want Apple’s $140 billion now, rather than over time.

Greedy bastards.