Archive for the ‘hollywood’ Category

I love Robin Williams.

Robin Williams is a hero of mine. But that’s not really a deep enough concept to express his role in my life. I have absolutely shaped my approach to life around what I perceived of him as a hero. I never met him. I never received fan mail back from him or did a stand up routine next to him. I don’t have any remarkable story about him – except that I stayed up late, rented, borrowed my way into every piece of work he put out. From Mork and Mindy to the Comic Relief stuff to all of his movies to every late night appearance… I took in all of it as some source-book of how to interact, how to think, how to absorb the world so fully you can be in all of those situations and BE REMARKABLE.

As a high school senior I thought deeply about the idea of Julliard because of him. I imagined a future in which I could go out to the world and say things he said… not because I rehearsed it but because I was speaking honestly in my synthesis of everything I was taking in. I wanted to be that good only better… even faster on my feet. Even quicker with my wit. Even deeper with my knowledge. Anywhere, in any circle, at any moment.

And make no mistake, I’m not delusional about Performance vs. Real Life. I read anything I could of his non-performance experiences – from his activism and social engagement to his personal struggles to his ideas about comedy to his appreciation of J. Winters. Robins Williams life, in all its facets, speaks profoundly to me.

For most of my life the person I’ve been mostly compared to in my approach to everything, even from my own mouth, is Robin Williams. (and I not only don’t hate it, I love it. I want to be that.) I’m drawn to this engagement with the world:





10000000 jokes (ideas) is bound to deliver 1 GOOD ONE, SO KEEP GOING




Yes, Dead Poets Society is one of my top 5 movies. Good Morning Vietnam is also in the top 5. Good Will Hunting is such an important movie to me….. …. …. All these things are quite obvious. Robin Williams dealt with and engaged and seriously considered the entirety of the human experience. For me he is the ultimate synthesis of this absurd and beautiful world.

The vortex that is postmortem analysis will never change the strange loop that lives on through me and others. Posit what we want about mental illness and depression and comedy and hollywood or whatever else we will try to make it all tidy, it doesn’t matter. Robins Williams is a buddha. He’s one of those rare convergences of vitality that infuses many other souls with purpose. I love you, Robin. Thanks for helping make me, me.

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Latest data has Oscars Ratings up about 6% (see here and here), a little above 30 million viewers.

This was inline with what I imagined.

If you’re looking for Winners and actual info on the show, here ya go and here.

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Update 2/23 – Oscars Ratings up about 10% (see here and here) putting the ratings around 33 million. Not a great bump from recent trends…  Review the last 50 years of ratings here.  

Certainly the show was better than in the last decade, but as someone commented below… the movies nominated largely had small fan bases and Hugh Jackman, though very talented, also has a smallish fan base. To get the extra 5-10 million viewers above the base of 30 million  it really does appear that the fan base size of the nominated pitches matters – biggest years feature some of the biggest movies (and movie stars) or all time – See Titantic, Forest Gump, Ghandi, Braveheart.  Recession and raging wars seem to dampen viewership – see 1968, 69, 86,87, 2003.  (in 2003 it was held in march and competed with first Operation Iraqi Freedom mission and March Madness basketball).

All that said, the households tuning into the Oscars is largely unchanged in 50 years.  Some 21 million plus homes watch it every year.  Only in the year of Titanic, the most popular box office film ever, was the telecast audience significantly changed.  The issue of Oscar ratings comes down to the expectation of growth.  I can’t find a telecast, other than the SuperBowl, maintaining this size of an audience for so long.  Perhaps an interesting question might be why we expect the Oscar audience to grow when the movie going audience hasn’t really grown and the Internet’s dominance in celebrity has (see below).

If you’re looking for results, here ya go and here.


It’s about 2 hours to showtime.

The ratings will be down again, despite efforts to liven up the show.  The ratings troubles have nothing to do with the show nor do they even reflect the public overall interest in the Oscars.  

Somewhat related to my post yesterday, the Internet is destroying any media franchise that draws audience primarily on gossip, pics of celebrity and “results”.  The Internet provides all of that better than TV does (like Time’s live blog), without the 4 hours of TV commitment and annoying commercials.

Yes, of course, competing media, the recession and general lack of Oscar marketing isn’t helping the ratings.

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And the 2009 Oscar Nominees are…. (see last years review last years nominees)

Best Picture:

  • Benjamin Button
  • Frost Nixon
  • MILK
  • The Reader
  • SlumDog Millionaire

Main points of note: Heath Ledger gets a nod, Slumdog Millionaire is still the darling, Meryl Streep is up yet again, Dark Knight didn’t get a nomination. get the rest of today’s nominees here.

blah blah blah

The Academy Awards are such a funny thing.  Like blogs, it’s content about content.  It’s not really “content unto itself”.  Content about content is bound to the quality and audience sway of that underlying content it makes commentary on.  In that way, the Academy Awards have a difficult situation in trying to seem legit in honoring truly remarkable films while attending to the facts that a diminished awards show audience doesn’t want to see a show all about indie films and no names.

As CNN notes:

Either way, the Oscars could probably use the ratings help a box office success can bring to its broadcast. In recent years, the Academy has nominated several independent or low-budget films for top awards, many of which didn’t crack the $100 million mark at the box office. Oscar ratings have tumbled; last year’s numbers for “the Super Bowl for women” — as the Oscar broadcast is known by advertisers — were the lowest on record and a far cry from 1998, when more than 55 million people watched all-time box office king “Titanic” take home the top prize.

Again, very similar to blogs and web traffic.  If I don’t blog about the oscars or post pictures and stories from the ceremony, my blog will get buried. Any website that doesn’t talk about the Oscars will get slightly less traffic today than those that do.  Perhaps that doesn’t seem like such a big deal, except when you consider what a dog fight it is in the publishing and media industry to get advertisers right now.  And getting those ad dollars is directly correlated to daily traffic numbers (ratings!).

Perhaps more blogs and media outlets should try to create original content and develop first party audience.  Unfortunately, it’s too expensive and has a very low probability for success.  The data demonstrates this.

There’s a fine line to ride here and more often than not it’s crossed on blogs, in newspapers, and the Oscars.  Some purists and critics will cry fowl, but in the end, money talks.

Useful coverage:

more coverage from Washington Post

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I am so disappointed.

Mysticism returns to prime time TV with this inane crime stopper series “LIE to ME*” heralding the star (Tim Roth) and his team’s ability to read people’s faces to tell when they are lying about what. Crimes are just the medium for the law enforcement to clean up with all that legal mumbo jumbo.

Forget the advance science of real life CSI groups who offer empirical data as evidence supporting suspicion of involvement or not that is shown or implied in other TV dramas. Too many big words and too much emphasis on logic over folklore. That was wayyyyyy to tough to understand.

So, I guess the Vietnam war injury from a concussion grenade will not get mentioned in the villain’s arraignment. We’ll be able to tell if President Obama really is going to address the issues of the day and, most importantly, whether or not he is embarrassed to have a middle name of “Hussain” after all.

Working with this fantasy, think of where it could all lead: you are successful based on not being able to terse your lips or raise an eyebrow due to Botox.  No more need for matters as suspect as a ‘Twinkie defense.’  It was a facial tick that sealed the doom that the Olympian was using banned substances… Or, your movie is given the green light because you looked the producers in the eye and your nose didn’t flare at the same time…

If only we knew what to look for before Columbine and West Virginia events… And all along those media mongrels were leading down the path of science, contingency management and stem cell hope. But no more…

Enter the latest version of phrenology** and voodoo*** for prime consumption.

I am so disappointed.

* Not the absolute blues-grunt-rock of Jonny Lang’s live version of “Lie to Me”

** Phrenology: a defunct and debunked field of study, once considered a science, in which a person’s personality was first implied and then determined by experts “reading” bumps and fissures in the subjects skull.

*** Voodoo: religion based on mix of Roman Catholic teachings and West African beliefs that there are numerous deities subordinate to a greater god spirit (who does not traffic in matters or events of mere humans). Prayers and incantations to lower gods who show their work by symbolism in everything from tea leafs to smoke – only coincidently related to the smoke from a sacred chimney announcing a new Pope.

Various Blog Coverage:

TV Addict

Chicago Trib


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John Bryant observes:

A combination of factors affecting this year’s Academy Awards viewership show on Sunday:

  • Gruesome /dark nature of many of the top films up for awards
  • Number of non-traditional film subjects
  • Writer’s strike got us away from TV too long and we didn’t come back that Sunday
  • Host was a wing-affiliated effete snob cable guy that was not popular with networks
  • Poor results at theaters for all but twenty movies during the past year
  • Campaign’s were more interesting than what anyone was allowed to say on air Sunday
  • Lack of interest in the pretty people now that we are moving due to bankruptcy
  • Read that there would be a 15 sec delay so to screen inappropriate comments
  • Decided four hours was better spent watching contestant humiliation game shows
  • Ran out of interest during Regis’ red carpet prattle with people that are boring in real life
  • Was hooked on one of 38 reality shows catapulted to prime time for last 4 months
  • 14% decrease in views = 14% increase in ticket cost of movies receiving homage

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John Bryant writes:

At the 80th Academy Awards Sunday Feb. 24th, 2008, an actress stood up and said that her award is an “accident” because she didn’t know how she got up there to receive her Oscar. No one can attend to the how this particular Oscar award came to be.  Besides “accident” being monocausalitis (see definition below) itself, she was probably responding to reality for her.  There are so many variables and interactions involved in winning an Oscar it is very hard for a person to ‘understand’ with any empirical certainty how it did happen!   That loosely translated to her as an “accident”.  Giving it a ‘cause’ like fate, luck, Buddha or alignment of the stars is preposterous.




Yes, it is a made up word but it represents a very serious brain freeze. Humans drift to monocausalitis whenever possible.  Quick links between one event and another are reinforced by others due to…


Û competition

Û access

Û information

Ü absolutism

Û # of approaches

Ü data validation


Simply put, “one problem; one solution” can also be seen as one event, one reason; one effect, one cause.  Very MBA-driven and very superficial science. 


Ernst Poppel coined the term in an Edge.com paper as far as I know.  Ernst is the neuroscientist and Director of the Institute for Medical Psychology, University of Munich and says that humans are victims of “evolutionary heritage being satisfied only if one and only one cause for a solution to a problem is identified.” I think that conclusion is bunk but it is an interesting launching point.


Single causes are simple, complete and represent closure in a life that seems increasingly complex and that escapes both understanding and conclusions. 


I am not sure that evolution is involved in monocausalitis as Poppel has suggested other than that detection of things in the environment is part of selection by consequences.  The consequences for finding a single or major ‘cause’ are almost universally reinforced.  Thus, the strategy that goes in that direction is repeated over and over; taught, mimicked, and copied. You see it all the time:

  • Book of the month revealing…
  • Cop shows… Game shows… Law and order brands…
  • Guru solution for…
  • Stock on the move due to…
  • Magic cures…
  • What the government (doctor, lawyer, baker, hair dresser, etc.) doesn’t want you to know…
  • Reasons for this, that, or the other thing…


The behavior of organisms is frickin’ complex.  Simplistic connections between behavior, world hunger, war, peace space exploration or a Super Bowl win are junk despite being the daily fare from Foxy talking heads cleverly passing themselves off as “newstainment.”  Move on.  Even the relationship between a PowerBar and getting homework done is not 1:1.  Fill your head with something you can count on: multi-causal relationships.


The scientific basis of the behavior or organism’s hasn’t advanced much for a zillion or reasons.  the ease with which we can claim a person is ‘evil’, talented, dumb, biased, towel head, female, liberal, fundamentalist, ADD or this and that dilutes any substantive understanding of behavior by helping to keep behavior ethereal rather than tackling its existing complexities.  


Don’t take my word for it!  Test monocausalitis for yourself.  If you can find a ‘single cause’ for anything send it to this sight.  We’ll post it and any information you can provide for others to rejoice in.   Believe me, it will be a big deal and the start of some awesome conversations.


If you see the telltale signs of monocausalitis anywhere, be suspicious, be very suspicious.  If you can, dig deeper.  In science, trust is not a virtue. 


Understand that the idea of ‘cause’ itself is not exactly cogent with what we know about how things work in the universe.  For 5 decades ‘cause’ has been a very low credibility concept of a mechanistic or Newtonian ilk.  Poppel’s appeal to end it in everyday usage is refreshing but improbable.  As a way of speaking, and thus thinking, it is too well established to have it go away swiftly.

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Yeah, it’s all the rage in agency/vc/online publisher land but Online Video and Online Video ads is not going to get very many people rich really quickly, not like search ads and domain squatting.

Yes, youtube and other video outlets are growing like weeds still but their revenue is not even close to their costs.  Their infrastructure providers aren’t even making a profit.  Users are consuming content but not ads and advertisers aren’t buying.


There are some very specific reasons why:

  • The cost of serving videos is anywhere from $1-5 cost per thousand.  That’s 10-50x higher than text and text ads (the major of online business)
  • The consumption of video is very low relative to other content like emails, ims, stories, blogs, comments, news and photos
  • Viral activity is limited – You can’t email full videos to each other and certainly not wrapped in ads like emails and stand alone webpages
  • The cost in time, money and creativity to make watchable video and video ads is 10-100x greater than text copy and text ad copy
  • The targeting mechanisms suck to the point that they are worse than no targeting at all
  • over 95% of video isn’t monetizable easily (pump and dump like text ads).  Most consumption is in bad home movies, porn, music videos and highlights from TV.
  • The video experience is catastrophically altered by video ad pre rolls and other intrusive ads.  We all can easily ignore banners that surround text, we can’t ignore pre rolls that keep us from the content.  We could all get over that as consumers if the content were good quality/engaging and exclusive a site, but its not and won’t ever be
  • Media Entropy – there’s no possible way for us to aggregate video and a/v experiences like we did when only the boobtube pumped out content on 3 channels.  Consumers are everywhere and no where – at least 10 major aggregator video sites, 10,000 legit video publishers, embeds on every blog, cell phones, slingboxes, set tops, video game console on demand, TV, and LCD screen everywhere we go
  • Video Ad Rates have NO CORRELATION to transactional nor brand value, not even audience size gets you much.  The rates are all over place and are overly high, only because the costs are high.  Rates will drop faster than costs making online video damn near impossible to do at high margins. (I know this FIRST HAND and would love show data… but that data will become apparent as the market matures)
  • Hollywood types have been asked to the party.  Yup, the first Internet explosion was built by a totally new crop of thinkers.  it was devoid of most of the hollywood gimmick and a lot of traditional agencies and publishers didn’t participate.  Now the stakes are so high that everyone is involved and the level of raw creativity has gone down a lot – Or the raw creativity is being washed out by all the white noise from everyone who ever had a thought, good or bad.  Barrier to entry is so low with all these great toolsets, cheap hosting and complete anarchy in copyright law.

Personally, I love this.  the complete destruction of all rules.  the annihilation of former schedules.  It’s not going to get less complicated.

Certainly tons more to say on this and tons more to talk about when i say search ads are still where the money’s at……..


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Quick hit here…

Companies are finally aggressively marketing alternatives to TV and using the writer’s strike as user chum.

This is an economic problem for TV that will not be evident for many months.  Here’s why:

Ad rates online are at least 1/3rd lower than TV/Print rates.  Migrating the same viewership online cuts your revenue by 2/3rds at minimum.  Even if the writers get back to work, a good chunk of viewership has been lost for a long time.  That is, that viewership will take months to come back and the TV rates will drop as a result (no reach, no high CPM).  With less money at the studios and internet companies already on the cheap for original content development, writers will lose money.  networks will lose money.

where does all that money go then that would have gone to TV ads?

utilities:  search, email, social networks.  new site development.

in otherwords, it will be spread way out between 1000s of media properties and technologies.

in fact, like global warming, it’s already happening and any change now will simply lessen the damage.

Writers – just go work on the internet now.  get in before the rush of all the underpaid writers comes in late 08/09.

Studios –  better figure out this online, iptv, and mobile thing quickly.  Expect to need alternatives (subscriptions, itunes, huge archived downloads, live programming, more hd, straight to tv movies, etc. etc.) to overpriced tv spotsto subsidize underperforming concepts, shows and departments.

users/viewers – better learn to write and produce.  UGC stinks now and the quality of entertainment – in terms of excellent creative output relative to noise – is very low.

anyone read brave new world recently?



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