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I realized I haven't written much about the one movie site that I access almost daily and have been the most active on: iCheckMovies. Sure, Letterboxed has been getting a lot of press for its social networking features, and GetGlue/TVTag has its fans, but when it comes to cold, hard, data crunching, I haven't found anything better than iCheckMovies. This is a no-frills, Web 1.0, cinephile-centric site that gets the data I want in front of my eyeballs faster and better than all the rest.

There are two things I use the site for primarily. The first is keeping track of what I've been watching. The second is finding more movies to watch. Plenty of sites use the checkbox approach that let you indicate the movies that you've seen, usually with an option to rate them. IMDB is one example. Letterboxd uses the film diary approach, which insists on tying viewings to specific dates. Film diaries are good for some viewers, but in my case I don't keep track of the dates that specifically. In my own records, I only so go far as to indicate what year I've seen a film. I can usually pin down the approximate month I've seen a film because they're listed by viewing order, but I rarely have any need to know anything more accurate. iCheckMovies keeps track of the particular date I checked a movie, which is often helpful, but doesn't assume that's when I actually watched it the way that Letterboxd does.

More importantly, iCheckMovies allows me to sort everything by various criteria that I don't keep track of myself. For example, if I want to profile a particular filmmaker for a "Great Directors" post, my first step is usually figuring out how many of their films I've seen. iCheckMovies will pull up a list of everything someone has directed and show me which titles I've checked off. It's harder to do this in Letterboxd, which uses an interface that shows you poster icons for each movie - and with older and foreign classics it often takes some work to figure out which poster goes with which title. You can also sort the iCheckMovies lists by year or name or how often they show up on the site's collection of movie lists.

Ah yes, the lists. One of the main features of iCheckMovies is that they offer a collection of Top Lists, such as the IMDB Top 250, the various AFI Top 100 lists, and more ambitious ones like the They Shoot Pictures Don't They Top 1000 list and the BFI Sight & Sound lists. There are country-specific lists, genre-specific lists, lists of highest box office grossers and cult classics, and more. Currently there are 155 official Top Lists, and one of the main metrics for how movies are ranked and sorted is how often they appear on the lists. "Citizen Kane" shows up on 31 lists. "Dumb & Dumber" shows up on three: The Empire Magazine Top 500, The All-Time Worldwide Box Office, and the iCheckMovies Most Checked lists.

It's convenient having all of these various lists in one place, with the ability to sort and order the entries. I've been working on the They Shoot Pictures Don't They list, for instance, and keeping track of my progress is a breeze. I can see the whole list ordered by date or title or popularity or runtime. I can filter out the titles I've already seen, or the ones that I haven't. All the individual movies have their own pages with basic info and links to IMDB. The site may lack visual sophistication, but it's extremely user friendly and useful. It also has a particularly devoted user base that is instrumental in checking for bugs and data errors, alerting people to updates, and creating a wealth of great unofficial lists.

I find the site a great source for recommendations. iCheckMovies not only keeps track of all the movies you have seen, but all the movies that you haven't seen, and will order them for you by how often they appear on the official Top Lists. When I'm at a loss for what to watch, sometimes I'll just open up that "Unwatched" list and scroll through the titles until I see something that looks interesting. This obvious isn't going to work for everyone, and I suspect it takes a certain breed of movie nerd to really get the most out of the site.

And I'm certainly one of them. At the time of writing, there are only two official lists out of the 155 on iCheckMovies where I haven't seen any of the entries. One is a Top 100 Korean films list that doesn't have any entries later than 1970, and the other is the list of winners of the Stallion of Yennenga prize from biannual Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO).

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It's been a while since I've checked in with the state of internet streaming services. Last time around I was bemoaning the state of Hulu, which has become so user unfriendly and clogged with commercials that I took it out of my streaming rotation. Netflix suffered some setbacks after splitting their service, but they got a boost by successfully launching original content, notably "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black." Amazon, Hulu, and a few others have tried to follow suit, but their series haven't attracted nearly as much attention. Netflix looks to be back on top of the streaming game and entrenching itself ever more firmly into the media landscape while the traditional networks continue to decline.

I'd mostly ignored what Amazon Prime was up to, having concluded that most of the content mirrored what was on Netflix. Their movie selection in particular hasn't been impressive. However, a couple of recent incidents have changed my mind. First, my significant other got himself hooked on FX's "Justified," which just finished its fifth season. Amazon Prime has exclusive streaming rights to the series, and currently offers the first four seasons. He's been marathoning them all month. Amazon Prime is also the only place where you can catch up on "Orphan Black" and "Hannibal," two shows in their sophomore years that are quickly moving up my list of current favorites. Netflix has its own exclusives, notably Disney movies and the AMC shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," but Amazon Prime is quickly stepping up its game in the content arms race.

And then the bombshell hit today. HBO, which vocally refused to have anything to do with Netflix in the past, announced that they have licensed a nice, big chunk of their older programming exclusively to Amazon Prime. Soon you can go binge on all the episodes of "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under," and "The Wire" you like. Alas, no "Deadwood," which was the next show on my "To Watch" list. For those hoping for a standalone HBO Go service, no such luck either. New content is strictly off limits, so don't expect the ravenous hordes of "Game of Thrones" fans to flock to Prime for their fix. Still, this is a big win for Amazon, and a clear sign that the studios are becoming more and more willing to do business with the streaming services.

Full disclosure - I still own a couple of shares of Netflix stock, but as a media junkie, I couldn't be happier that they now have a real competitor in Amazon Prime. It keeps both companies healthy and on their toes. I don't expect Netflix is going to make another mistake like Qwikster anytime soon, because the stakes have gone up so high. Amazon will also have more incentive to make some much-needed improvements. Their user interface and queuing features remain pretty atrocious. Just look at the way they've both been handling pricing announcements. Amazon Prime recently bumped up its yearly fee by $20 a year, making it slightly more per month than Netflix currently. And Netflix just announced that their prices will go up a dollar or two per month in the near future, but for new customers only.

I'm happy to continue subscribing to both services, which together cost less than half of what I was paying for basic cable five years ago. I do miss Netflix's streaming and DVD combo plan, but swapping out between one and the other has been working pretty well for me. Keep in mind that I'm still watching mostly films on these services, and most of the big deals that have been coming down have been geared toward securing licenses of television shows, so their impact on me has been fairly limited so far. Ironically, the only time that I've really gotten excited over new content being available through a streaming service was back when Hulu landed a big chunk of the Criterion Collection. However, Hulu's treatment of it has been so poor that I'm now biding my time, waiting for the license to expire and for the titles to go somewhere else when Hulu inevitably folds.

That's the biggest fallout I can see from Amazon becoming a big streaming player. Netflix won't be going anywhere, having established themselves so firmly. Amazon has the ambition and the deep pockets to compete with them on even terms. However, Hulu is owned by a collection of the networks, and they have consistently been unwilling to give their customers not only what they want, but what they have come to expect from online streaming content. The fact that they're not only still running commercials on Hulu Plus, but have increased them to the point where the service is almost indistinguishable from regular television, is maddening. I really don't see them lasting much longer.
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Another chapter of online media fandom is about to end, fellow media junkies. The beloved website Television Without Pity (TWoP), that had a big hand in creating the TV recapper culture we know and love today, is scheduled to be shut down in April, with its famously boisterous forums following at the end of May. It's an old, familiar story by this point. A media website attracts a loyal, fervent following for a few years, they're acquired by a major company that doesn't really know what to do with them (in this case NBC Universal via their Bravo unit), the original folks responsible for the early success moved on, and the site slowly withered away until the plug was finally pulled.

I wasn't a very consistent visitor to TWoP, but I did visit fairly regularly for a few years. A lot of people did. What drew me to the site wasn't the recaps, which have now become industry standard, but the forums. I have a long history of loving obscure little genre shows that have almost no fandoms to speak of, and no matter how obscure a show was, the TWoP forums could be counted on to have a thread for nearly everything you could think of. Even if it was a single one-season reality show, late night time-filler, or a foreign cult import, if it was airing somewhere on American television, someone on TWoP was talking about it. On the other hand, it was also the only place I regularly found a decent level of discussion going on for shows that didn't really attract traditional media fandoms - the crime procedurals, the family sitcoms, and even news programs.

So the TWoP forums were where I went to look for reactions to new episodes of dubbed late night anime (from viewers who weren't part of the usual anime crowd), "Law & Order: SVU," "Project Runway," and occasionally even "60 Minutes." It was where I went when I first started working my way through older shows, because I could follow along with the archived discussion threads simply by keeping track of when posts were made relative to the original airdates for the episodes I was watching. I always preferred old fashioned message boards to social networking based sites for media discussions for this reason. It was so much easier to find things. And, of course, there were always far fewer technical glitches than with "talkback" style comments like Disquis.

I also appreciated that the participants were mainly casual viewers like me. There were certainly big fandoms on the forums, often with their own separate subforums and subcultures that generated lots of activity, but I tended to stay away from those. Certain media fandoms are notorious for generating drama, and I was always wary of getting too involved with them. I also knew where to find forums and message boards devoted to specific shows, like "Project Runway," but they tended to be more insular and myopic about their particular fandoms. The TWoP crowd could be counted on to be a more laid-back, more eclectic crowd that was interested in a variety of different shows.

Most of the write-ups I've been reading about the end of TWoP have focused on the recaps, naturally, on the snarky, obsessive, yet refreshingly self-aware brand of criticism they helped to popularize. It helped the mainstream to realize that there is an audience for good television writing, and that even the most heinous pieces of pop culture detritus could be good material for serious dissections. There have also been some inches devoted to the site's brushes with fame over the years, as various TV showrunners have dropped by to engage with their audience directly over the years, with mixed results.

The obvious successor to Television Without Pity has been the A.V. Club, which takes a more curated approach to television recaps and reviews, and has also nurtured a great little community. However, it hasn't got quite the same verve or the same breadth of coverage as Television Without Pity. Few media sites do. That's why there are still a significant number of regular users on the site, and they're debating over where to migrate the community next. This is a common occurrence now, fandoms moving from platform to platform and site to site as the internet chugs along.

I can't say I'm going to miss Television Without Pity. Though I had the site bookmarked for ages, I haven't been by in years. I'm far too busy to follow along with message board discussions of the shows I watch anymore. However, in its own way TWoP was an institution, one that gave TV fans a place to be TV fans for well over a solid decade and changed the way a lot of us watch and engage with television.
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I didn't see last Thursday's edition of "The Daily Show" until last night, so I'm a little behind on the newest political meme that has apparently taken the internet by storm - well, at least in certain circles. House minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently released what's essentially two-and-a-half minutes of B-roll footage, just shots of him looking patriotic and competent without any dialogue or narration. The intention was for any pro-Republican PACs and super PACs out there he's not supposed to be coordinating with to to use the footage to generate supportive ads independently. More on that in a minute.

Anyway, "The Daily Show" found the footage and had so much fun setting the bland, boring visuals to a variety of pop songs, including Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence,” Salt-n-Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” that they devoted a whole segment to it. Then Jon Stewart put up a "#McConnelling" hashtag and invited his audience to join in the fun. The internet hasn't disappointed - my favorites so far include ones set to The Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy," and the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" theme song. McConnell does look strangely like cartoon turtle from the right angles. Another tactic has been to stick McConnell into the credits of old TV shows as a featured guest star. I expect we'll be getting a compilation of the best videos when "The Daily Show" comes back from break next week.

Media reactions have been fairly muted. The meme is silly and tame enough that it would come across as pretty ridiculous to try and take any offense. McConnell's people have embraced McConnelling, even adding links to some of the blander mashups on the Congressman's official website. I'm not sure that he understands that he's being mocked, though. Most of the successful McConnelling videos are playing on the total incongruity between McConnell's milquetoast appearance and songs full of sex and angst and ninja turtles. And I don't think that many of the participants really understand the full implications of what McConnelling has done.

The internet, at the instigation of "The Daily Show," has essentially appropriated the footage meant to be used for some fairly shady campaigning and made it impossible to take any of it seriously. I don't know that I'll be able to watch at any ad using this footage with a straight face. And there's a pretty good likelihood that future Mitch McConnell ads are just going to be mined for more material if this meme sticks around through the next election cycle. However, I don't feel too badly for the guy because he essentially brought this on himself by putting the original footage out there, and making it pretty obvious what it was intended to be used for. He can't really complain about McConnelling being appropriate because the ads they were intended for are hardly appropriate in the first place.

There have been lots of spoofs of political ads over the years, and election seasons practically demand them. One of my favorites to emerge from the internet was a fake John McCain ad from back in 2008, where a couple of clever filmmakers put together a campaign spot as if it had been directed by Wes Anderson, complete with a Bowie song and captions in Futura font. However, I think it's telling that McConnelling happened almost spontaneously, outside of the context of any serious campaigning going on. Most McConnelling videos are almost aggressively apolitical, and I expect that any attempt by either side to inject any politics won't be well received.

Consider the wider implications of this. The internet culture is now moving so fast now that we're essentially spoofing political ads that don't exist yet. This should be a good wake-up call for everyone that was scoffing about President Obama doing the "Between Two Ferns" appearance on Funny or Die last week. It doesn't matter if you don't engage with the Millennials because the Millennials are eventually going to engage with you, and good luck trying to keep control of the message when that happens.

I don't think that McConnell is going to be too successful if he tries to capitalize on his newfound fame with the meme-generating set. Fortunately, I don't think he has much interest in doing so. Responses in interviews regarding the McConnelling phenomenon have included the usual requests for help with fundraising, but mostly his people have been pretty quiet, which is probably for the best. Politicians who have tried to capitalize off of memes haven't had a very good success rate.

Remember the "Janet Reno Dance Party" sketch from "Saturday Night Live"? Yeah, now do you remember the "Janet Reno Dance Party" fundraiser when she was trying to run for governor of Florida back in 2002? Not the best idea, as it turned out.

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That damn owl. No matter what I do, I can't get past "Dreamworld" Level 101 without odious Odus the Owl and his little moon scale tipping over and ending my games. Usually I'm pretty good about keeping the colors even, but this level requires using lots of combos to remove lots of pieces at once, so it's nearly impossible to keep them in balance. I have plenty of boosters in reserve, but they're not very helpful. What I really need is some kind of booster that knocks the bug-eyed little twerp out for a couple of moves so I can execute my combos without worrying if I'm going to knock out too many candy pieces of the wrong color. Sorry, I'm rambling.

Yes, readers, I've succumbed to Candy Crush Saga addiction. If you read my previous iPad post, you'll know that I started playing the beloved match-three mobile game just after Christmas and I've been at it ever since. Whatever bug was preventing me from using the Facebook version finally resolved itself so I've been using it to play the online version. I've currently worked my way through two hundred of the regular levels, and I'm waiting out the multi-day timer to move on to the next section of the game. You can either pay or bother your Facebook friends to move ahead without the waiting period, neither of which I've been inclined to do. I've also beaten one hundred of the recently released Dreamworld levels that essentially puts you through levels you've already played but adds restrictions governed by that damn owl. No timer on those yet. I'm just stuck playing Level 101 over and over.

So I've been on Facebook daily, crushing those candies, usually for about an hour in the evenings or longer on weekends. I've gotten good enough at it that I can play a level while simultaneously watching "The Daily Show" or "The Big Bang Theory." I've given up my previous casual gaming addiction, Pepper Panic, though I've tried the new Pepper Panic Saga on Facebook and liked it. However, I've beaten all the available levels and the game developers aren't releasing new ones fast enough to get me to really invest much attention. Candy Crush Saga, however, has been another matter. The most recent levels I've been playing don't depend on skill to beat them, but often dumb luck. The only way to solve some of the puzzles is if you get the right configuration of candies from the start, which can take dozens of attempts. I've been stuck on some levels for days, particularly in Dreamworld because the margin for error is so much smaller. However, the illusion that skill might affect the outcome of a game keeps me playing.

I've seen other players rant about elements of Candy Crush that don't bother me much. I honestly don't mind the timer restriction that only lets you attempt to pass a level five times before you have to wait a half hour for another turn - it's actually what has gotten me to put the laptop down and do something else in a few cases. The level advancement timer isn't much of a hassle either, though I wish the wait times weren't so inconsistent. I also like that the vast majority of the time there's no timer for the actual gameplay. I can abandon a game to go eat dinner or answer the phone and pick up right where I left off an hour later. The Flash player that runs the game occasionally crashes, eating one of my lives, but it doesn't happen very much.

I'm also not at the stage yet where I'm obsessing over tips and strategies, though I find the culture that has developed around the game is fascinating. I admit that I've browsed through Etsy more than once looking at all the Candy Crush inspired merchandise. It's a lot more fun than the paltry selection of official items I've been able to dig up. Frankly I'm stunned that we're not seeing striped candy pieces and color bombs emblazoned on everything the way we are with the Angry Birds. We're only just starting to see actual Candy Crush branded candy in circulation. I'd consider buying a stuffed Odus toy just to be able to pummel him when I get frustrated.

Oh well. In a couple of days Level 201 on the regular game should be available and I can spend some time playing levels that don't involve watching that little purple punk freak out after every other move. And eventually I'll luck out and have a good game where everything goes right and I can finally move on the Dreamworld Level 102. Maybe by that time they'll release another set of Pepper Panic Saga levels or some other mobile game will have attention. Even though I'm a Candy Crush devotee now, these infatuations have proven to be all too fleeting.
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Funny or Die is not part of my usual media consumption rotation. Sure, I watch their videos occasionally when they go viral and I get linked to one. I've seen a couple of installments of "Between Two Ferns" too, the site's no-budget anti-talk show hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis where interviewer and interviewee exchange insults with each other in stark contrast to the love-fests that most celebrity interviews have become. Actually, I've seen more memes spawned by the show than the actual show, particularly the one with Jennifer Lawrence mocking Galifianakis's weight.

And then yesterday, President Obama (identified as a "Community Organizer") showed up and took a seat between the ferns and everyone went nuts. He was plugging the Affordable Healthcare Act and Healthcare.gov, of course, and specifically targeting the young internet-loving demographic that comprises Funny Or Die's core audience. And the great thing was, he was in on the joke. He and Galifianakis lobbed some relative softballs at each other, but there were still a few zingers on sore subjects - birth certificates, basketball, and "Hangover 3" among them. The tone was right, the comedy wasn't compromised, and both the site and the president came away from the outing looking great.

Here I should add all the usual disclaimers that though I voted for Obama last time around, I do not agree with all of his positions and policies, the actions of his administration, and certainly not his approach to handling some very serious issues. As a campaigner, however, he's rarely made a wrong step. From a marketing standpoint the "Between Two Ferns" appearance was a shrewd move, right up there with Richard Nixon's cameo on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." There aren't many other politicians I can imagine going toe to toe with Galifianakis. When they do feature in comedy bits like this, it's usually something like Stephen Colbert unleashing absurdity on a member of Congress in a "Better Know a District" segment of "the Colbert Report," where the politician plays the straight man (or woman). Or Ali G. maneuvering poor Pat Buchanan into making an idiot of himself.

This also signals a big moment for new media. Sure, Twitter has become a default talking point, and a Reddit IAMA session has become a regular stop on press tours, but you rarely see the mainstream really participate in the internet culture of viral videos and mash-up parodies made way outside the bounds of the traditional production system except to point it out or comment on it. Funny or Die might be considered a borderline case, as it has many famous contributors and backers, employs a professional writing staff, and recently partnered with HBO briefly to produce a short-lived sketch. However, by and large it has remained largely a web-based phenomenon that follows the anarchic, DIY, bare-bones aesthetic of most user-generated web content. In fact, the last time I checked the site, a good chunk of the Funny or Die website's content was still user submitted.

I'm right at the upper age limit of the intended target audience here, so I can appreciate what Funny or Die is doing while recognizing how alien the approach is to outsiders. The rules and the expectations of web content are very different. The set of "Between Two Ferns" consists of the two ferns, a few chairs, and a table, and the graphics package that looks like a relic of the early '80s, purposefully evoking the feel of an old public access show. The celebrities who appear don't behave they would on a regular talk show, engaging in ironic self-mockery with the understanding that they're playing to a very different audience. We're starting to see the same kind of humor appear on late night talk shows and in commercials, but there's still a significant divide between web culture and the mainstream media. That divide got a whole lot smaller when Obama dropped in for an interview. The President of the United States is about as mainstream as it gets, and exudes legitimacy.

It's been fascinating to look at the reactions to the appearance. Right wing pundits have been predictably outraged, though past presidents have employed similar tactics in the past. Capitol Hill stalwarts have been confused and worried about whether the appearance was appropriate or the best use of Obama's time, considering everything else that's going on in the world right now. The general public doesn't seem to care all that much one way or the other, and many remain completely unaware that the POTUS deigned to grace a lowly comedy website with his presence. However, the results are clear. Healthcare.gov got a healthy boost in traffic thanks to the "Ferns" interview after millions of people watched it on Funny or Die, and some of the visitors signed up for plans.

I have to wonder if a traditional marketing campaign would have been remotely as successful.

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And now for something completely different again.

For fun, I've put together a second Youtube playlist of various television and movie (and related) clips that have a strong musical element involved. It’s a mix of clips from movies and television shows, a couple of shorts, various obscurities, tie-ins, and one fan video. They have absolutely nothing in common except that I enjoyed them and thought they were saving the links to and worth pointing out for recommendation. Hopefully, you'll find something in the mix that you’ll enjoy too.

Flash Gordon Opening Titles - Still one of my favorite opening title sequences to any movie, that pays homage to the “Flash Gordon" comics while revving the audience up for oncoming action and fun. The theme song by Queen is, of course, immortal, and I was thrilled when it popped up in “Ted" as part of their extended “Flash Gordon" homage.

Science Fiction: A Montage - Initially I was wary of putting any fan-made videos into this list, but I couldn’t pass up James Van Fleet’s tribute to science-fiction cinema, set to the Jupiter movement of Gustav Holst’s Planets suite no less. Unlike most of these tribute videos I’ve seen, there’s lots and lots of clips from older films like “Forbidden Planet" and “Metropolis," and a real focus on the science-fiction elements instead of just action or effects shots.

The Adventures of Chip ‘n’ Dale - Back in 1959, an episode of “The Wonderful World of Disney" was devoted to Chip ‘n’ Dale cartoons, which included specially animated intro segments and an incredibly catchy theme song. I’ve included the opening number here, which shows off some nifty integration of the 2D animation with a real world environment.

Signal in the Sky - Former kids of a certain age will remember the Cartoon Network “Groovies," a series of shorts in the form of music videos, each devoted to a particular cartoon on the Cartoon Network roster. The best of them, and the one that they seemed to play the most often was “Signal in the Sky," featuring The Powerpuff Girls and music by Apples in Stereo. Though the girls appear in their usual animated forms, most of the short was actually live action and puppetry, created by the Will Vinton studios.

That Steve Martin Number From “Little Shop of Horrors" - I’ve refrained from using the more famous title of the song in case you’ve never seen it before, because it would spoil the surprise. The first time I saw “Little Shop of Horrors" I had absolutely no idea what was coming, laughed so hard I missed half the jokes, and I still can’t watch this without a ridiculous smile on my face. It’s my favorite thing that Steve Martin has ever done in his entire career.

Broken Circle Breakdown - A quick teaser trailer featuring the most wrenching number from the film. The full version has been posted up in a few places, but there are some major spoilers that come with it, and I think it really needs the context of the rest of the film to get the full effect. Still, I do want to acknowledge one of the best musical moments in film that I’ve seen this year, so the teaser will have to do.

Please Mr. Kennedy - From “Inside Llewyn Davis," this is the other entry from a current film on the list, and frankly it’s a shame the song wasn’t eligible for the Oscars.

Time Warp vs. Shake Your Groove Thing - “The Drew Carey Show" remains much beloved by its fans though sadly forgotten by most TV viewers. They had a particular love for elaborate musical numbers, such as this one, where “Rocky Horror Picture Show" loving Drew and his pals have a standoff with mortal enemy Mimi Bombeck and her “Priscilla Queen of the Desert" minions. It’s a camp-off of pure delight.

Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight - It’s a shame that the opening sequence of the “Lodoss War" television series is really the best thing about it. You can really get a sense of the scope and the grandeur that they were going for, but failed to achieve. Thanks to the Yoko Kanno’s “Sea of Miracles" and some really killer high fantasy imagery, this remains one of the best bits of the whole franchise, and I’d put it up there with the best anime openings of all time.

That’s About the Size - Bud Luckey is one of the great unsung animation greats. He’s currently a character designer at PIXAR, but had a long career in commercials, and during the ‘70s created many beloved animated segments for “Sesame Street," writing, animating, composing, and providing voices and songs for “Ladybug’s Picnic," “The Alligator King," and “Penny Candy Man." His “That’s About the Size" remains one of my favorites.

Noi Siamo Zingarelle - I saw this gorgeous stop-motion short on PBS when I was a kid in the early ‘90s, when it was used as a time filler between programs, and spent years trying to track it down. Finally, after I got to college, success. It’s one of the segments of “Opéra Imaginaire" a European animation anthology, where all the shorts are set to pieces from famous operas.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - Because I can’t think of a better way to end anything in all of cinema.
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I finally managed to ditch Comcast internet service a few months ago because I had moved into an area where a local provider offered competitive prices and I was no longer in an apartment that had made a deal with them for service. I didn’t have too much trouble with Comcast, probably because there were always several local options that kept them on their toes. Still, they did manage to cause their share of headaches. I’ve moved around a lot the past couple of years and had to disconnect and reconnect service repeatedly. At one point I could only access my current bill by going to an old account number and pulling up the electronic statements online - though customer service swore that the old account had been terminated.

Other people in the U.S. don’t have it so lucky, stuck with Comcast or Charter or Time Warner or Cox as their only real option in a geographic area for internet service, and their customers tend to hate their guts. These are consistently among the lowest rated service providers in consumer satisfaction polls. Constant complaints of poor service, high prices, and crummy broadband speeds have been lobbed at them from all sides. The United States currently has average internet speeds that are less than half of what you find in countries like South Korea and Romania. Some put-upon tech geeks are so frustrated by the limited options that they’ve been pinning their hopes on Google Fiber, which has been ever-so-slowly rolling out service that is exponentially faster than the average broadband speeds offered by the big companies.

So surely the announcement that Comcast is buying Time Warner Cable for $45 billion should set off the anti-trust alarm bells, right? These are two of the largest internet providers in the country. And with so many people already complaining about the near-monopoly these companies have in some places, surely the Justice Department and the FCC aren’t going approve this merger, are they? Well, Comcast and plenty of financial analysts are betting they will. Comcast has announced that it’s willing to let go of as many as 3 million subscribers in order to make sure the new company has less than 30% of the broadband market, the maximum market share that a single company can control before it runs afoul of antitrust regulations. They’ll probably do this by selling off part of Time Warner’s cable business to another company.

They’re still facing a steep uphill battle though. The merger is deeply unpopular, and public interest groups have been up in arms about the impact on consumers. They predict higher prices, service disruptions, and little incentive to fix the problems that customers have complained about for years. Moreover, the merged company would potentially have the clout to affect content providers and other media companies. Apple TV and Netflix are among the potential losers here, content platforms that were trying to negotiate deals with Time Warner before the merger was announced. Now that the courts have dealt a blow to Net Neutrality, Comcast and Time Warner controlling up to a third of the market reduces the VOD services’ leverage and could put them in a very bad position. Time Warner shareholders aren’t happy either. One of them has already filed a class action lawsuit trying to put the brakes on the deal moving forward, though it’s not expected to be much of a hurdle.

Comcast insists that the merger will be a benefit to consumers, that the efficiencies of scale will allow them to build faster networks and offer new products. However, single companies controlling large market shares tend to do the opposite. I can’t help thinking of the monopoly Comcast affiliate NBC currently has over the coverage of the Sochi Olympics, and the utterly appalling job they’ve been doing. No live broadcasts. Not nearly enough hours devoted to coverage. Horrible editing and obnoxious packaging of events. And, of course, invasive, inappropriate reporting tactics that reduced a bronze medalist to tears over the weekend. The NBC coverage was so bad at the London Olympics two years ago, I haven’t even bothered to try watching any of it this year, catching a few of the CBC and BBC highlights on Youtube instead whenever something newsworthy comes up.

If you want the full coverage, though, it’s NBC or nothing. And if you want broadband internet in some parts of the country, it’s going to be Comcast/Time Warner or nothing. Internet access is such a major necessity in my life now that I’ll be keeping a close eye on how this situation plays out. There are rumors that Charter might be going after Cox if the Comcast and Time Warner merger is approved. And if I move again in the future, having a choice of service providers may end up being one of the deciding factors.
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And we're back with another semi-regular Miss Media Junkie Blog follow-up post, to provide you with updates on topics I've previously written about, but that I don't believe require an entire new post to themselves. The original posts are linked below for your convenience.

The State of My To-Watch List - I'm down to about 30 films left for 2013. Several of the indies like "Under the Skin," "Night Moves," and "Narco Cultura" have been reclassified as 2014 films because their theatrical releases have been pushed forward to this spring. Of the remaining ones on the list, it's most foreign films like "Stranger By the Lake" and "Like Father, Like Son," which are only getting theatrical releases now, and some of the studio pictures I haven't prioritized like the new "Hobbit" and "Hunger Games" movies. Expect reviews eventually, but not until they hit the in-flight viewing or rental rotations.

"Batman" without Batman? - Oh dear. Looks like "Gotham" is going to be a more a "Batman" prequel than we thought. At a recent TCA press tour panel, Fox Broadcasting chairman Kevin Reilly confirmed that a twelve-year-old Bruce Wayne will regularly appear in the "Gotham" series, and early versions of Joker, the Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman are among the "Batman" villains we can expect to show up too. This means that we're going to be hammered over the head with references and allusions to the future "Batman" continuity, exactly what I was hoping "Gotham" would try to avoid. Prequels only work if they can stand independent of the originals, and it's only going to be harder with so many familiar faces.

Making Peace With the Rumor Mill and The Obligatory Ben Affleck is Batman Post - And while we're on the subject of the DC comics universe, I suppose I'd better say something about the casting of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. This is one of the only positive bits of news about the new movie I've heard so far, a really daring choice that indicates the "Batman v. Superman" creators are trying to move in a different direction. Luthor was always the embodiment of the evil businessman villain of the 80s. The 2010s equivalent of that would be someone more akin to Mark Zuckerberg, and Eisenberg was pretty good at playing him. Nearly everyone else involved still has me worried, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Is This the End of Facebook? - And speaking of Mark Zuckerberg, let's check in with Facebook. The video ads I discussed previously finally rolled out in December, and honestly they haven't been too intrusive. I've been on Facebook more often lately, and though the bandwidth drain has been noticeable, the actual ads are fairly easy to skip over in the newsfeed. This week marks the tenth anniversary of Facebook, and there have been a new round of doom-and-gloom articles discussing the company's dimming future prospects. Younger users are abandoning the site in droves, apparently. However, Zuckerberg being Zuckerberg, I wouldn't count them out yet.

The 2015 Showdown Looms - Despite the "Batman v. Superman" movie, "Independence Day 2," "Pirates of the Caribbean 5," "The Adventures of Tintin 2," and "Finding Dory" moving to 2016, and a couple of other projects with indeterminate status, the 2015 slate has gotten even more crowded. New entries into the fray include the delayed "Fast & Furious 7, Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland," and PIXAR's "The Good Dinosaur." Plus the "Poltergeist" and "Mad Max" reboots, Kenneth Branagh's "Cinderella" "Fifty Shades of Grey,"and Neil Blomkamp's "Chappie." At least the summer slate looks more manageable at the moment, with the big titles more spread out over the year.

An All Female "Expendables"? - This one looks to be in limbo. There's been no news about the project since August, when it was announced that "You're Next" star Sharni Vinson was joining the cast along with Gina Carano and Katee Sackhoff. Considering that these are the biggest names that the project has managed to land so far and there's no director attached, don't expect to see this one in theaters soon. Also, there's now a competitor project with the same premise, "The Expendabelles," from Millennium Films, the production company behind "The Expendables." They're aiming much higher, having landed Rob Luketic as a director and trying to court Meryl Streep.

My "Adventure Time" Problem - Finally, I've been watching more of "Adventure Time," and wanted to put down a few follow-up thoughts that don't merit a full post. My position hasn't changed. I like the series and admire what it's accomplished, but it's not one of my favorites. I do like Finn and Jake much more as characters, though not quite as much as their distaff counterparts. One thing that bothered me about the Fionna and Cake episodes was that they were so romance-heavy, but it made sense after going back and seeing all the episodes about Finn's relationships with Bubblegum and Marceline. I've also done a 180 on Lumpy Space Princess. A little of her goes a long way, but when she's done right, she's priceless.

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I've gone on something of a movie theater binge over the last couple of days, thanks to a couple of gift cards I got for Christmas and an unusually strong Oscar season. Expect the flood of film reviews to continue over the next few weeks. However, there's also the very strong likelihood that this is the last Oscar season I'm going to be able to really be able to fully participate in for quite some time. You see, I've got a major life change coming my way this year that's going to mean my ability to go out to see movies in theaters is going to be drastically, drastically curtailed. I'm looking at my once-a-month habit going down to maybe one or two special trips to the theaters a year for the next couple of years.

This doesn't bother me too much, really. I've known it was coming for a long time now, and there really aren't all that many movies that I'm anticipating so much that I feel I have to see them in theaters. I've been going out less and less often anyway. Ticket prices have been going up in my area again, to the point where the cost of my usual morning matinees finally broke the $8 mark - that's a month of Netflix or Amazon Prime, remember. On the horizon, the next "Star Wars" movie in 2015 is probably the only title I'd seriously consider making an effort to see in a theater with a big audience. And in that case, thanks to Disney's content deal with Netflix, I expect it should show up on the usual streaming services no more than two years later, before the inevitable sequel comes down the pipeline.

Or there are always rentals, which I've been depending on more these days. Netflix and Redbox discs have been a pretty good substitute for Blockbuster. Itunes and I have been getting along, though I still have some quibbles about their selection. Most mainstream films are available by disc in four to six months these days, though as always the indies and foreign films take much, much longer because of different release patterns. However, more and more I've seen the proliferation of VOD, the "second pay window" that lets you watch a relatively new film from home for roughly the same price as a theater ticket (the first pay window is the theatrical run). I expect that this is how I'm going to end up watching a lot of the movies that I usually go to see in theaters - PIXAR and Disney films, superhero movies, and science-fiction spectacles.

Initially, I didn't really understand the appeal of VOD, but it does provide a nice middle ground between going to the theater and waiting for rentals. It didn't make sense to me not to wait an extra few weeks for a movie to hit the rental shelves that I didn't care enough about to see in theaters. However, I've found that I do place a value on seeing certain films in a timely manner. Oscar season's no fun if you haven't seen a good chunk of the major contenders and have the knowledge to form your own opinions and argue them. There aren't many movies that become real cultural touchstones anymore like "Inception" or "Avatar," but when they do appear, they tend to get cycled through the media and people's conversations at a much faster rate these days. If theater trips are out for the foreseeable future, then VOD is the next best thing. Waiting three months for a VOD release isn't too bad of a delay, but six months? Everyone else has moved on, and extra vigilance is required to avoid spoilers people will assume are common knowledge already.

Am I even going to be able to stay at all current with the media landscape though? Is it worth it to try? Probably not. I'm not even sure I can continue this blog in its current form once the major life change happens. Updates are probably going to be drastically reduced and irregular for a few months, but I am determined to keep this blog going, if only to keep my writing skills up. I don't think there should be much of an impact on the content though - I don't review many new movies and shows to begin with, and older content is often much more rewarding to write about than the blockbuster of the week. I'm usually not current with the television posts anyway. The more general media gossip isn't hard to keep up with, and speculation requires fairly little context if you've got a solid idea of how the industry works.

So watch this space for more changes, and be assured that though your friendly neighborhood Miss Media Junkie has some real life to deal with, she is still going to be hanging around in some capacity.
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2013 is almost over, and for my last post of the year, as is traditional for this blog, I'm recapping some of the highlights of my year in blogging along with some of the highs and lows in the media that I've written about.

The top three traffic-generating blog entries that I wrote this year, once you factor in the bots, were as follows: In third place, The Jonathan Rhys Meyers Post, where I looked at the career of the Irish actor and my brief time as one of his fans. The post was linked to by at least one of his major fansites, which helped to generate a good chunk of the hits. In second place, which came as a total surprise when I compared the numbers, is The Top Ten Cowboy Bebop Episodes, which I wrote in honor of the watershed anime series' tenth anniversary. There were no direct links that I could find, but this seems to be a pretty popular search, and there aren't many other Top Ten lists out there for the show.
The top entry though, by a vast margin, is Why Can't I Watch "Black Mirror"? which bemoaned the lack of US distribution for the British science-fiction anthology that began in 2012. The traffic really picked up when American reviews of the series started appearing in November in conjunction with DirecTV airing the series Stateside on its Audience Network. However, lots of viewers are still searching for alternative ways to watch it, which is why my post continues to rack up hits. No Region 1 home media or streaming release information has been made available yet, but it should only be a matter of time.

As I've said before, I'm a long, long way from seeing all the films of 2013 that I feel I need to see before making any kind of definite list of my favorites. However, I've seen enough that I'm comfortable putting out a preliminary list. If I had to pick the top ten films of 2013 today, they would be Before Midnight, Upstream Color, Stories We Tell, Leviathan, "Wadjda," Frances Ha, "The Selfish Giant," Museum Hours, The Place Beyond the Pines, and "The Spectacular Now." Some of those are titles I binge-watched over the weekend. Reviews are forthcoming. The Act of Killing is being counted as a 2012 film, and is currently the frontrunner for my saw-it-too-late "Plus One" spot on the eventual final version of this list

On to biggest surprises and disappointments. I wasn't expecting much from Monsters University, but PIXAR delivered a solid film I like a little better than the original. I also got a real kick out of Michael Bay's Pain & Gain. However, two of the big budget summer movies I had been anticipating, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Elysium, were duds. I knew J.J. Abrams had a mixed track record, but I'm really disappointed in Neil Blomkamp, whose sophomore feature was so bad, it made me rethink how much I liked his last film, "District 9." And then there was Nicholas Winding Refn's follow-up to "Drive," the deeply unsatisfying Only God Forgives. And I just don't understand the positive notices for This is the End.

I can't even attempt to be a completist about the television of 2013. There's way too much of it. My favorites include a lot of the old, familiar names: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, a much improved third season of Game of Thrones, Venture Bros., the fiftieth anniversary special of Doctor Who, the Avatar Wan episodes of Legend of Korra, and the final (for now) episodes of Futurama. Newcomers that won me over include Orange is the New Black, Top of the Lake, Utopia, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I also want to single out Person of Interest for most improved show, not that it was too shabby to begin with.

The best surprise of the year in TV was Hannibal, which I didn't like as much as many other viewers, but turned out to be so much better than I was expecting. I'm firmly rooting for its success, and I'll continue to watch it to the bitter end. Netflix becoming a major new content producer was also something I don't think a lot of people saw coming. It wasn't just that the content was good, but that watching the new shows online was so quickly embraced by so many people. So far it's a trick that none of the other streaming providers have managed to pull off to nearly the same degree. Disappointments? Mostly avoided. I didn't have any real hope for dreck like Dads, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is pretty much what I thought it was going to be. However, I regret giving that positive review to Under the Dome after only a few episodes. It went south in a hurry, and I didn't bother finishing the season.
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Finally, I offer for your casual perusal some of my favorite analysis posts that I wrote this year. These weren't the most popular or the most topical pieces, but they were the ones that I thought came out the best, and that I enjoyed researching and putting together the most.

"21 and Over" is Two Movies in One
What's a Chick Flick?
Any Worthwhile New Streaming Services?
800 Words on the Boston Bombing Coverage
Kindle Worlds and Legal Fanfiction
Don't Sweat the Statisticians
Will Aereo Kill TV?
Are the Disney Princesses a Problem?
Worst Screening Ever
Let it Be For Kids

Thanks for reading, everybody. See you next year.
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Congratulations Missmediajunkie, you are now the co-owner of a brand new iPad, alongside your much more tech-savvy significant other. You had no particular desire to own an iPad or really any Apple product aside from the iPod shuffle that you listen to podcasts on. But you had no idea what to get him and he had no idea what to get you, so when he suggested getting an iPad jointly, it seemed like a perfectly good idea, so you said yes.

And you have no idea what you’re going to use this thing for. Oh sure, it’s handy to have around. Just today, you took it with you while visiting relatives so you could set up a Skype call with some other relatives on the other side of the country. And it sure is nice to be able to take your media with you wherever you go, without having to lug along your heavy, six-year-old laptop that barely squeezes into its laptop bag. However, you can’t imagine browsing the web regularly with the iPad because the keyboard input is so difficult to use, really no better than the smart phone that your SO already lugs around. And you definitely can’t imagine typing out blog posts or doing any significant amount of work with the thing. It’s just not practical. The mobile-friendly versions of popular websites that have been driving you crazy over the last few years certainly make more sense for an iPad or iPhone user, but they’re still infuriatingly compromised.

However, the iPad is a great time waster. All the most popular games like Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga are tailored for it. You’ve played through 33 levels of candy Crush Saga already, and it’s only been two days. Your SO has latched on to Plants vs. Zombies 2. You’ve started getting a pretty good look at the way these games are monetized. Some companies ask you to watch ads to build up the credits to continue playing some games. Others ask for subscriptions to turn off or reduce advertisements. The dollar amounts are small, and it’s so much more tempting to pay up to get more or better gameplay than it is when you’re on a regular computer. You’re already willing to pay a dollar or two for useful map and phone apps, so it’s not much a leap to pay a dollar or two for games. Or a dollar or two for other media.

The thing is, of course, you’re a cheapskate. Always have been. Always will be. You’re always extremely careful and selective about paying for anything entertainment-related online, so it surprised you that you were looking over the lists of cheap games, contemplating which ones might be a good buy. You realized that you were looking for something to do with this new iPad, a big shiny new piece of technology that seemed to be so full of interesting possibilities. However, the more you looked at it, the more you realized that the iPad is really designed as an entertainment consumption device. It’s difficult to create your own content or do much work beyond writing simple notes and text messages. You’re sure it would be helpful for education - Duolingo is one of the best regarded apps you’ve found - but the main event is clearly games and media. iPad is currently the only device you own that came pre-installed with the players for Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant, the three streaming services that you subscribe to regularly.

To an extent you’re okay with that. You knew before you bought the iPad that it was most likely only going to be a toy, certainly not anything you planned to do anything specifically practical with. However, you can’t get past the nagging feeling that we probably could and should. You already consume plenty of media without the iPad’s help. Right now you’re still getting to know the device itself. You love that the battery life allows you to spend hours on Candy Crush Saga without having to worry about a recharge. The navigation still trips you up, but you’re getting the hang of the super-simple commands. You have yet to watch a movie or television episode on the iPad, but your SO has already gone through a few anime episodes on Amazon Instant without any trouble. The screen size is big enough that you think watching a full film on it would be fine - once you get a stand for it. You probably should have gotten one of those Smart Covers at the Apple Store.

Oh well. You did manage to do something really neat with that Skype call, and you’re sure you’ll find other ways to justify the purchase of the iPad in the future. It really is a nifty machine, and once you get better with it, you’ll probably find more things it can do for you.

Assuming you ever get it away from your SO.
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In a recent study on who younger moviegoers trust for recommendations about which movies to see, the top choice was their friends. There was no group of critics out there who came closer to that than the guys of Spill.com, led by animator Korey Coleman. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the Spill gang was most well-known for their Flash animated movie reviews, where Korey and his real-life friends, known under the names Leon, Cyrus, Carlyle, and the Co-Host 3000 would discuss recent movies in very down-to-earth, unpretentious, and often hilariously off-color, R-rated terms. The highest grade a film can receive is "Better Than Sex," and the lowest two grades incorporate expletives. There is no doubt that these guys are professional critics with good taste and years and years of experience doing this - Spill is the continuation of their long-running Austin public-access television show, "The Reel Deal" - but they're also far more casual, personable, and relatable than the majority of critics out there. And that's why it comes as such a shock to hear the news that Spill.com is shutting down at the end of December.

Of all the new media style film reviewers out there, I thought that Spill had the best chances of long term success. They have a small but loyal fanbase, and produce massive amounts of content. In addition to the video reviews, they also do longer audio reviews for all the major releases, and some of the limited releases in the Austin area too. They have several long-running weekly podcasts featuring various combinations of the hosts. I tune into "A Couple of Cold Ones" every week, which involves about an hour of Korey and Leon shooting the breeze and talking about whatever is on their minds before delivering commentary on the past weekend's box office winners. They've also recently started doing "The Daily Spill," which presents their take on the entertainment news, and "Spoiled!" which morphed into a "Breaking Bad" reaction podcast for the duration of the show's last season, and has now turned its attention to "The Walking Dead." There have been call-in shows, convention coverage, awards season heckling, and loads of specials. And then there are their real-world events, like the yearly Spill Dot Con, international gatherings, and bar crawls.

The details have been sparse, but it looks like the difficulty in monetizing Spill's fanbase spelled its end. The site was bought by entertainment news and ticketing company Hollywood Media Corp in 2009. There were several major changes, including the removal of Spill's video game content and the cancellation of several podcasts, including the long-running "The League of Extremely Ordinary Gentlemen," devoted to geek culture. I found Coleman remarkably candid and about all the changes. Many of the sites users were angry, but he set up a series of call-in shows for everyone to vent, including himself. After the news broke about Spill being shut down, he's been doing call-in shows every night. What I've found really remarkable about Coleman is the way he's been so open and willing to talk. Whenever he's had doubts about his career or the site, he hasn't hesitated to discuss it in great depth and detail. I've never met Korey Coleman, but listening to him share so many personal stories and private thoughts week after week make me feel like I know the guy, and I've grown to like him very much - even though he does cop-out too often, letting mediocre movies slide with a "Matinee" grade."

I'm not the target audience for Spill.com, which is young, male, and very sophomoric. There have been a couple of podcast discussions, particularly about the skeevier side of the guys' bar-hopping bachelor lifestyle that have been uncomfortable to listen to, and I didn't last a week on the site's forums, which can get downright female-unfriendly. Still, I found myself listening to more and more of the Spill.com shows as time went on. I had just started getting hooked on "The Daily Spill," which may not be very current with its news items, but I liked hearing them discussed and dissected by a couple of passionate nerds who have been around long enough to offer some real perspective, and irreverent enough to find the humor in anything. I can't think of anyone else out there like these guys, with their multicultural mix, with their backgrounds, and with their attitudes.

I'm really going to miss them, and my only consolation is that Korey Coleman is far too talented and too big a personality to stay down for very long. He's bound to pop up again somewhere, and I expect the site will continue to live on in some form. There are already rumors and rumblings about what might be next after Spill.com closes up at the end of the month. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out.
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Dear Hollywood,

This year for Christmas, I want:

For a few major franchise films to tank so that we can stem the ridiculous tide of sequels and remakes that have been inundating multiplexes. I'm resigned to 2014 and 2015 being swamped in high-numbered sequels that nobody really wants, like "Transformers 4" and "Resident Evil 6," but so many of these series have outstayed their welcome and need to be put out to pasture. Why do we need another "Die Hard" movie? And another "Jurassic Park"? And are they really rebooting "Robocop"?

For more diverse superhero movies. With the superhero trend showing no signs of slowing down, we need to get black and Latino and female superheroes on the big screen eventually. It's inevitable at this point. I'd love to see those rumors of a Wonder Woman movie finally come true, or I'd even be happy with a Black Widow spinoff at this point. And did you see the fanart of Idris Elba as the Green Lantern that's being passed around the internet? John Stewart was the Lantern I always liked best anyway.

For next year's crop of original science-fiction movies to do well. We've got several prominent titles coming in 2014, including Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar," Wally Pfister's "Transcendence," and the Wachowskis' "Jupiter Rising." I'm hoping that the success of "Gravity" was a harbinger of sorts, ushering in a new trend of more daring, more interesting science-fiction movies. Now that the price of the special effects has come down, we've been getting some very interesting new entries to the genre. And the future successes of these movies would mean a higher chance of Hollywood taking chances on future ones.

For more adventurous CGI animated films. 2013 has been a pretty dull year for animation so far, with too many too familiar characters, stories, and visuals. There are more franchises than ever before, and "Planes" in particular was a low point. I'm baffled that Dreamworks came out with two original properties this year, "The Croods" and "Turbo," while most of the other major studios were pushing sequels or prequels or spinoffs. With Miyazaki threatening to retire for good this time, and PIXAR having setbacks, this is a good opportunity for other animation producers to step up their game.

For the "Scandal" effect to keep on rolling. Some point to the "Obama effect," which has lead to prestige pieces featuring African-American stories like "12 Years a Slave," "The Help," and "The Butler," but I attribute the recent spike in minority lead actresses on television directly to Shonda Rimes and Kerry Washington. Thanks to their success, we have Nicole Beharie on "Sleepy Hollow," and the upcoming reboot of "Murder She Wrote" with Octavia Spencer. It's a good sign that the Golden Age of Television won't have the same problematic racial and gender representation issues as mainstream films.

For the continued rise of the web series revolution. I don't just mean on Netflix, but the original shows coming on Amazon, Hulu, Funny or Die, and other streaming content providers. This is the crux of the new media upheaval, and the new distribution models means that there is a fresh opportunity to do shows as no one has done them before. The variable running times, the new emergence of shorter form series, and more have resulted so far. There aren't many concrete rules yet, so creators should enjoy the freedom of the new frontier while they can.

For an uncut North American release of Bong Joon-ho's "Snowpiercer." There are rumblings that test screenings of the Harvey Weinstein cut haven't gone well, and the bad press can't be doing the Weinsteins Company any favors. The original cut of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Mood Indigo," which is also being edited for international release by a different company, is probably much less likely to reach the U.S. for some time because of some of the reviews I've seen, but "Snowpiercer" should have a much better shot.

For all the shows that disappointed me this year to do better, and for the good ones to keep up the good work. And for some of those high-numbered sequels to surprise me next year. I know nobody sets out to make a bad movie, except Friedberg and Seltzer, purveyors of the worst movie spoofs in the history of movie spoofs, who need to ask themselves if this is really what they want to be doing with their lives.

For a good fifth season of "Community." I'm not holding out for six seasons and a movie anymore. Right now I just want Dan Harmon to be able to close out my favorite sitcom the way he wants.

For a more user-friendly Itunes. Seriously, I feel like I'm only still using the service because I can't cash out my remaining gift card balances.

And good luck to Peter Capaldi, perhaps the sexiest man to play "Doctor Who" to date.

And a pony.

Happy Holidays!
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The comment hosting service Disquis has long been one of my mortal enemies. Many versions refused to load comments properly, or resulted in so many script problems it would often freeze or crash my browsers. At a certain point I got so fed up that I had to block the platform entirely for a few months. The trouble is that Disquis has become a default for many sites like CNN and Wired. A.V. Club uses Disquis and recently went through a design upgrade that rendered the comments inaccessible for me from Internet Explorer and Firefox. They still work on Chrome, for the time being.

Then there's Slate, a webzine that recently decided to make itself more mobile friendly and decided to go with a layout that makes it look positively godawful on a desktop. Seriously, is it that difficult to host different sites for mobile and web browsers? Anyway, one unintended consequence was that the Slate comments section is also kaput for me, specifically on the version of Internet Explorer on my work computer. Slate has their own site-specific commenting system, but every time I try to use it, the text box and scroll bar elements come up in the wrong layer. I can see how many comments should be there, but I can't actually see any comments. It's been frustrating, to say the least.

I've realized since losing the comments sections on these sites how important they are to my experience with them. A.V. Club in particular has one of the most well-moderated, well-behaved communities I've ever seen on a media review site. There are joke and pun threads, but you also get good, solid, serious discussions that can go into much greater depth than the review or article that it's commenting on. It's often difficult to find articulate, intelligent fans who have something interesting to say about any particular show or movie, but A.V. Club regularly attracts hordes of them. And you're as likely to see them debating "Adventure Time" as much as the latest episode of "Homeland."

The Slate commenters tend to be more hit-and-miss depending on what the topic is, but I find them invaluable for some of the regular features like the "Dear Prudence" advice column written by Emily Yoffe. For "Prudence" the commenters often provide a fascinating counterpoint, debating the value and the applicability of the offered advice, questioning if situations have been misinterpreted, and pointing out possible alternatives. It makes for a far more interesting read than the column by itself. So when the comments section became impossible for me to use, I became less inclined to read the latest installments of "Dear Prudence."

And then there's Deadline Hollywood, which is overrun with minor show biz minions sniping at each other, but it's fascinating to watch them try to construct these elaborate, ridiculous narratives that push their own agendas. The weekly box office reports are always a good source of entertainment, thanks to them. Or there's the perpetual war between Republican and Democratic commenters on any FOX News story, which tend to be more illuminating than the actual content. Social media sites like Reddit and Twitter can be viewed as just one big comments section for content from all over the web.

"Letters to the Editor" have existed long before the internet, allowing individuals to correspond with the content providers and resulting in plenty of interesting discourse in major newspapers and magazines. However, the internet has really turned the feedback into an integral part of the way many people consume content. Now it's not just carefully selected letters that get published, though some sites like the New York Times online edition still curate their comments, but everything that makes it through the spam filters and the mods. You get a much more accurate sampling of reactions, and quicker too.

You'd think that I'd be pretty active in these comment sections considering how much importance I place on them, but I'm not. I had a Disquis account at some point, but only used it very rarely. I never signed up for an account at Slate, and for most of the websites I have signed up and gotten verified for, I almost never actually use the comment sections. These aren't forums that I feel very comfortable expressing my opinions in, though I'm glad for the commenters who do.

You see, when I get fired up about an article or a review enough to actually want to share any comments, my responses tend to get way too long and involved to be appropriate for the average comments section. They tend to turn into essays. They tend to turn into blog posts. And the feedback turns into legitimate content. And I guess that's just how the internet goes around.

Well, except for Disquis. That's definitely still broken.
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Big things are afoot in the world of television criticism. Rotten Tomatoes, the now ubiquitous movie review aggregator site, just announced that they would be creating a Tomatometer for television reviews. Seasons rather than individual episodes will be rated, and only scripted series will be covered. Reality shows need not apply for now. Over at the AV Club, they've announced a new TV Reviews section, specifically to provide reviews that match this criteria, instead of their usual episode-by-episode analyses.

The logistics are going to be more complicated than with film reviews. In the Variety story announcing the expansion into television, the site's editor-in-chief acknowledged that ratings would be more fluid and subject to change, especially in the case of series that are currently airing. Because standard network television seasons run for eight months and roughly two dozen episodes, a show has plenty of time to go from being great to ghastly, or vice versa. The TV Tomatometer's launch coincides with the start of the new fall season, and the reviews for new shows will be based on the handful given to critics early. Many of those initial grades could be completely different by midseason in December.

On the other hand, many of us don't consume television the traditional way anymore. Thanks to streaming services, many viewers discover shows online after several seasons are already completed. I started watching "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad" through Netflix. Television series, not films, have become the major engine behind the success of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu, with all three now producing their own original series to keep feeding their content pipelines. In a week, we're about to witness the first Emmys where web-exclusive shows like "House of Cards" are in contention for major awards.

A TV Tomatometer makes sense now where it hadn't in the past, because now we have ready access to so many seasons of so many shows, and have the ability to pick and choose between them. Many of us already do - watching "The X-files" up to season six only, for instance, or skipping over year four of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," where she was dating a non-vampire. I expect that it'll also be helpful with the new fall premieres, helping to give a boost to the critical favorites, or even the mostly trashed shows - FOX's "Dads" has been marketing itself on the basis of its most unfavorable reviews lately.

Of course the biggest winners here will be the television critics themselves. A TV Tomatometer gives them a new kind of clout, putting them on equal footing with their movie reviewing counterparts. And this is yet another sign that television and movies are now just about on the same level of relevance in the popular culture. There aren't many television critics who are household names, though there are certainly some worthy of discussion, and this might provide the impetus for people to start paying more attention to their oft-overlooked species, if only to start complaining about them.

And more importantly, serious television criticism itself is getting more attention. Because of all the challenges with variable review formats (Are they reviewing by episode? Season? The whole enchilada?) and the time commitment necessary to fully review a show, it's always been more difficult to provide reader-friendly analysis of a television series. However, some of the most interesting media conversations in recent years have been about television, about Tony Soprano and Hannah Horvath and Stringer Bell, who loom larger than any movie counterparts in recent years you could name.

I, for one, welcome our new tomato overlords, though I'm well aware this experiment could turn out to be a bust. Tomatometer scores have always been reductive and problematic, but they've had their impact. The Tomatometer is more accessible than any of the individual columns or publications that the best TV critics write for. Rotten Tomatoes alternative, Metacritic, has been offering television reviews for years, but never got much traction with them. Maybe it's because Metacritic is a smaller and less trafficked site. Maybe it's because TV criticism hasn't quite caught on yet.

The only real negative that I'm worried about here is that because Rotten Tomatoes has chosen to focus on season reviews, it might incentivize some critics to spend less time on individual episode reviews, which are by far my favorites. I read the Alan Sepinwall, Matt Zoller Seitz, and Todd VanDerWerff recaps after I've finished off my own write-up of the new "Breaking Bad" episodes every week. Then again, the AV Club is choosing to keep their episodic coverage and expand into season-long reviews, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case with most outlets.

Mostly, though, I'm excited that the Tomatometer will provide a good conversation starter for future discussions of TV, just as it has for the movies.
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I count myself as a gamer, though one on the very bottom rung. Not the kind that bemoans the practices of EA, or whose ears prick up at the mention of Steam sales, mind you. I only know titles like "Assassin's Creed," "Word of Warcraft," "Uncharted," and "Red Dead Redemption" by reputation. I've watched my SO play through the "Portal" and "Mass Effect" games the way I watched by brother play through Mario installments when I was a kid. I appreciate the artistry and evolution of video games as a medium, but personally I stick to the very basic puzzle games. All I was ever interested in playing as a kid was Tetris.

So as an adult, my favorite time-wasters are casual games like Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga. And then there's the current one I'm obsessed with, Pepper Panic. The game mechanics for all of them are very similar. You match the gems or candies or peppers into rows of three or more to clear them from the screen. Some combinations give you boosters or result in neat-looking effects. Pepper Panic's gimmick is that you can set off big chain reactions to rack up points more quickly. By itself, it's no more satisfying to play than the later versions of Bejeweled or Candy Crush Saga, but there's the little matter of how I'm playing Pepper Panic.

Europe-based gaming company King specializes in these time-wasters, and is the producer of Candy Crush Saga, Pepper Panic, and dozens of other games. They're the biggest game producer for Facebook, and also have their own site, King.com. Once you sign up, you can access virtual pinball machines, bowling, pool, card games, and several other variations on the puzzle matching game. Like many of these sites, they offer free versions of many games, and incentivize the user to pay for access to premium content. I first went to King.com trying to find an alternative way to play Candy Crush Saga, which is only available through Facebook or mobile apps. No luck. King.com only offers the older version of the game, Candy Crush, which has the same basic mechanics but none of the carefully designed and progressively more difficult levels to play through.

Still, the bare bones version was better than nothing. I stuck around on King.com to play Candy Crush. And eventually I noticed the progress meter at the top of the page, telling me how many jewels I'd earned. It turns out that you can unlock features on the site by playing the King games to earn the site's form of currency, jewels. Play a game once, earn a jewel. Beat someone in a tournament game, earn two to five jewels. Play in a progressive tournament game, and earn up to 64 jewels if you beat opposing players six times in a row. Achieve a certain score threshold in a game, and earn more jewels - five, ten, twenty, thirty, and fifty depending on how high the score. Paying for a membership not only unlocked features, but sped up the rate of jewel collection.

And to my chagrin, it was the damn progress bar that got me. The accomplishments are meaningless, but I found myself working to hit each new jewel threshold. I get inexplicable psychological pleasure out of collecting achievements and leveling up, so I kept looking at the jewel count and trying to figure out ways to make my totals increase faster. I played through most of the other games on the site to collect the easiest achievements for them. Some games were easier than others, or had more opportunities for jewel collection. The most popular games offer Jackpot options. It's a tournament you can enter multiple times, and those with the highest top scores in the end walk away with a piece of a large jackpot of jewels, determined by how many people are playing for them. I wasn't good enough at Candy Crush to get much out of the Jackpots, but I was pretty good at Pepper Panic. With a little luck, I could come out of the Jackpot tournaments with 100-200 jewels at a time.

And this is why I've been playing Pepper Panic while watching "The Daily Show" for the past week. And while watching "Orange is the New Black." And while I'm waiting for the dryer cycle. And right before bed. I've gotten obsessed with similar games before so I know that this isn't going to last. I'll get bored enough with the game eventually that the progress bar will stop being such an incentive. I've nearly hit the jewel threshold that gives you the same features that a paying user would have, and they're really not much to talk about - fancier avatars, digital bling, and access to a few more games that look an awful lot like the free ones.

I should mention that you can play some of the games on King.com for actual money, including Candy Crush and Pepper Panic. There are versions of the Jackpot that would award a few dollars as well as jewels to the winners, but you have to pay to play. So not all of my fellow Pepper Panic addicts are playing for solely psychological rewards. I however, am hooked on the totally intangible gratification.
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There is so much to talk about with Netflix dramedy "Orange is the New Black." I could discuss how it features such a diverse cast of female characters - lots of black and Latino actresses, old and young, straight and lesbian and bisexual, and even a transgender male-to-female inmate. It puts the spotlight on the women who you rarely see on television in any meaningful roles. I could talk about how in examining the ins and outs of the prison experience, it tells the stories of those on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, those most affected by drug use, mental health issues, alcoholism, neglect, and abuse. Or I could talk about the depiction of prison life itself, unglamorous and unpleasant, where the system is rife with dysfunction, and the guards and administrators often seem as trapped as the prisoners.

But where I want to start is with Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), the default Caucasian, educated, middle-class woman who is our entry point into this universe. Chapman is sentenced to eighteen months in a federal penitentiary, Litchfield, for transporting drug money for a former girlfriend, Alex (Laura Prepon), a decade prior. In the first episode Piper and her supportive fiance, Larry (Jason Biggs) arrive at the prison, trying to face their long separation bravely, and Piper having prepared by reading all the right books. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Piper is not prepared at all, for the infuriating bureaucracy, for the dehumanizing loss of basic privacy and trust, for the apathetic and abusive authorities, for the loss of the amenities she's taken for granted, and for a prison culture that is defined by a set of hard rules that Piper keeps running afoul of.

Very quickly it's apparent that Piper is the one who is in the minority, the odd one out, who has to confront the fact that she's had all the advantages and is far, far luckier than the majority of the women in Litchfied. And though the series keeps her at the center of the show, and follows her difficulties with prison life, the scope grows to examine the lives of other characters. There's Red (Kate Mulgrew), the Russian who runs the kitchen with an iron fist, but also looks out for her some of the younger inmates she has adopted as her "daughters." There's the hostile Latina mother and daughter pair of Aleida (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and Daya (Dascha Polanco). There's Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba), who is a little unhinged and wants Piper to become her prison wife. There's religious fanatic Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning). Their's Lorna (Yael Stone) and Nicky (Natasha Lyonne), girls who Chapman eats her meals with. There are best friends Poussey (Samira Wiley) and Taystee (Danielle Brooks), two highly opinionated and exuberant black women. There's Sophia (Laverne Cox), who funded her sex-change with stolen credits cards. It's easy to confuse allies and enemies, those who are truly mean and hurtful with the damaged, the misunderstood, and those just trying to survive.

Makeup is in short supply and all the inmates are in orange or tan prison garb, so the women look more like real, genuine women than they so often do on television, and their personalities are more distinct. The close quarters of the prison force them all to interact with each other, and the interactions are often hostile, full of posturing and threats to maintain the pecking order. They curse frequently, make bawdy jokes, and small offenses can trigger big reprisals. They stringently delineate lines between races, cultures, and classes where they can, but ultimately everyone is in the same boat, and everyone hates Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber), the slimebag guard with grabby hands. So there are also the friendships and the romances and the little moments of shared hilarity. We get to know these women intimately, a motley collection of people on the lowest rung, trying to recover from one mistake too many. Flashbacks are a big part of many episodes, filling in character details, and providing vital context. Sometimes we learn what crimes they committed and sometimes we don't, and it doesn't matter.

Piper unravels further in prison, confronted with her own demons as she learns to survive in Litchfield. A big chunk of the narrative is devoted to her, and to Larry trying to cope with her absence on the outside. Larry's scenes often feel tedious, because his problems often come across as so insignificant and petty next to what's going on the prison, and Piper's do too, to a lesser extent. However, they are necessary to ground us, to remind us of the accepted, mainstream conception of prison life, and how that contrasts with the actual reality of it. "Orange is the New Black" is surely not and entirely accurate picture of what goes on in a federal women's prison, though it's based on the memoir of a real former inmate, but it does such a good job of highlighting so many parts of the experience we never think about. It's closer than anyone else has ever gotten. We get the POV of the guards, the strained family and friends waiting on the outside, and so many different inmates who have so many different experiences. And they're all fantastic.

What I really appreciate is how jarring, how blunt, and how direct the writing is. This is an issue-based show that embraces the fact, and has plenty to say about its subject matter. Underneath the laughs and the melodrama and occasional poor music choices, there is pointed commentary about the state of prisons and the treatment of prisoners that has an unusual amount of impact. It helps that this is a stellar production, top to bottom, stuffed with great characters, strong performances, and twisty storylines that help to humanize each offender. The show was created by Jenji Kohan, most recently of "Weeds," who has a little experience with finding the lighter side of criminal activity.

I keep coming back to the word "different" to describe "Orange in the New Black," because I have never seen anything else like it, nothing with a POV that comes anywhere close. The networks and most cable channels would never have shown this. It might have found a home on HBO and Showtime, maybe, but its premiere on Netflix signals that the streaming service has truly arrived as a producer of quality programming. "Orange in the New Black" is a breakthrough, instantly up there with the all time greats. And I can't wait to see more.
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The fourth season of "Arrested Development" is unique for many reasons. It’s the first Netflix "semi-original" show to be distributed by the streaming service, one of the most high-profile so far. It’s one of the few shows to be brought back after such a lengthy hiatus with most of its original cast intact. Also, because it was conceived for streaming, the fifteen new episodes aren’t subject to the usual constraints of broadcast. Each of the episodes runs roughly half an hour apiece, but some are longer and some are shorter. Commercial breaks no longer exist, though there are act breaks that could easily be turned into commercial breaks if this season is ever broadcast, perhaps in countries where Netflix is not yet available.

The new episodes also a break from the form of the earlier seasons of "Arrested Development." Instead of Michael Bluth being the lead character, each of the individual episodes follow a specific member of the Bluth family, and tells a story from their point of view. All of the different stories intersect in various ways and look at common events from different perspectives – most prominently the trial of Bluth matriarch Lucille, and an eventful pre-Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Newport Beach pier. Loose ends are left everywhere, that aren’t explained until later episodes. For instance in the first episode, told from Michael’s POV, there’s a quick encounter with his brother Gob, who has just had a one-night-stand with someone. You don’t find out who that is until one of the Gob-centric episodes. There are lots of these little moments in this season, and the show pulls off some great reveals, reversals, and throws in some red herrings for good measure. It isn’t until close to the very, very end that you get the whole picture.

"Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz has clearly lost none of his ambition. The episodes are as dense as ever with layers of jokes, in-jokes, puns, and call-backs. Newcomers to the show can’t just pick up with the new episodes and expect to understand what’s going on, so Netflix has wisely made all the previous seasons available for new viewers to catch up on. However, even if you are a fan and know all the running jokes, the early episodes are on the rocky side. There’s a lot of exposition and tedious groundwork that has to be delivered up front, because the show has to fill in seven missing years in the show’s timeline and set up a lot of the later jokes. Also, less interesting characters like Lindsay and George Sr. get their featured episodes first. It’s obvious who had more time available for the show and who didn’t – George Sr., Lindsay, Tobias, George-Michael, Gob, and Michael feature in two episodes apiece, while Lucille, Maeby, and Buster only get one. And boy did I miss Buster, whose feature episode was far and away my favorite.

There are also gust stars galore, including Isla Fischer as Ron Howard’s fictional daughter Rebel, Terry Crews as a local politician, Maria Bamford as a new love interest for Tobias, Tommy Tune as Lucille 2’s brother, Mary Lynn Rajskub and John Slattery as desert commune members, Kristen Wiig and Seth Rogen as the young Lucille and George Sr., and Andy Richter playing himself and his four fictional identical quintuplet brothers. Most of the old guest stars are back too, though mostly for cameos. They even lured newscaster John Beard back from the east coast to keep a running joke running a little longer. The detail-oriented nature of "Arrested Development" continues to be astounding. Even though some of the gags don’t really work, like all the flashbacks having watermarks from fake pirated editing software, or all the meta references to production company Imagine Entertainment, you have to give them credit for trying.

So while I didn’t find this set of episodes to be as satisfying as the previous ones, I was happy to have them. After I got past the first run of iffy installments, the punchlines started landing better, and the repeated gags started to really compound on each other, and I really enjoyed it. I appreciated that the characters did grow and change. Michael became less sympathetic and more obviously another screwed-up member of the family. Maebe’s downfall was spectacular. I’m actually rooting for some of the characters that left me cold in the past, like Gob and Lindsay. And I’m so glad Michael Cera worked out whatever deal he needed to, because George Michael had some of the best material this year.

I thought the ending wasn’t what it could have been, but it does nicely leave the door open for another season of the show, or that "Arrested Development" movie that everyone’s been discussing for years. Here’s to many more merry misunderstandings to come.
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My laptop decided it was no longer interested in functioning like a rational computing machine a few days ago, requiring me to upgrade my operating system to something more current. In the process I had to move everything off my hard drive, which has around 100 GB of storage capacity, to a spare removable drive that was around 32 GB. I was 20 GB over, and didn't have the time to try any alternate online options. This meant I had to clean house.

As you might expect, video files were responsible for the bulk of the clutter. I have some personal videos, but the real problems is that I have a habit of saving videos from the internet I like, especially when it's not certain that I'll be able to access them again. I've got a pretty big collection of fan-made Anime Music Videos (AMVs) from my otaku days, for instance. There's no formal distribution for these things and creators can disappear off the face of the earth without warning, taking their content with them. Because of the legal gray area these works exist in, a fan-made video posted on Youtube might get suddenly pulled down or rendered unwatchable on without any warning. I've made Youtube playlists to bookmark interesting fan videos, and came back after a few months to find half of the entries removed. There are a couple of dedicated archives devoted to AMVs and fanvids and mash-ups, but these can disappear quickly too. The only way to be sure you'll be able to access to fan-made content whenever you want is to hold on to a copy, just in case.

Of course, I didn't just save fan-made content. I kept a brief four-minute clip from a 2005 episode of "The Daily Show," where one of my old employers made an appearance (incorrectly identified, to our office's amusement). It's currently available through the Comedy Central website, but who knows for how long? The clip is part of a rambling opening monologue, not the kind of content that can be bundled onto home media and sold, as "The Daily Show" has done with some of their other pieces. Viacom could decide at some point that it's not worth their while to keep the eight-year-old clip online, and I'd lose the proof of a near-brush with fame. Lots of other memorable content is ephemeral and often hard to access after the initial broadcasts - commercials, award ceremony clips, idents, news reports, talk show segments, specials, local programming, and more. And there are always those obscurities that never make it to home media, or quickly go out of print. "Mickey Mouse in Vietnam," the famous 1960s underground anti-Vietnam protest cartoon resurfaced online a few months ago after decades of rumors and whispers about who might still have one of the rare prints. Better make a backup copy, before it disappears again.

Then you come to the realization, as I did, that this is hoarding behavior. Most of my fears about losing access to all this content are unfounded. The Internet has done a great job of preserving all sorts of unlikely media bits and pieces, just waiting to be stumbled over and rediscovered again. More and more old movies and shows find their way to some kind of official release every day. With the new prevalence of streaming services, the costs have come down across the board. Many of the long-forgotten shows I watched as a kid are on Netflix and Hulu right now. The fan-created content has also been making plays for increased legitimacy, and it's exceedingly rare that something worthwhile will disappear without a trace forever. In fact, I keep coming across kids sharing older AMVs that have been in circulation for over a decade by now.

So I commenced the long-overdue purge of my hard drive. I dumped the clips I knew I was never going to rewatch. I dumped everything that was high-profile enough that I was confident I'd be able to find them online again, with a little digging. Official music videos, movie trailers, election season parodies, and most of the commercials went into the Trash Bin. Goodbye, epic Blackcurrant Tango advert. So long, "Mickey Mouse in Vietnam." I still kept that "Daily Show" clip, though, and a good chunk of the AMVs - many of them unlabeled or mislabeled to such an extent that reassembling the collection would have been a massive undertaking. In the end I cleared out enough to transfer the rest to the external drive with a lot of room to spare.

Inevitably I'll fill up the hard drive again, and I'll have to clean it all out again at some point in the future. But considering how much fun I had this round, going back and revisiting all that content, I'm not too worried about it.
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