Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some SYTYCD Love

SYTYCD did pull in nominations for Outstanding Makeup For A Multi-Camera Series Or Special (Non-Prosthetic) Episode #421/422A - which I'll have to triangulate to sort which ep it is. And, more importantly, in Outstanding Choreography:
So You Think You Can Dance • Bleeding Love • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Tabitha D'umo, Choreographer
Napoleon D'umo, Choreographer

So You Think You Can Dance • Mercy • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Mia Michaels, Choreographer

So You Think You Can Dance • Adam and Eve / Silence • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Tyce Diorio, Choreographer [can't find a good video - but it's Will and Jessica's contemporary from Season 4]

So You Think You Can Dance • A Los Amigos • FOX • Dick Clark Productions and 19 Entertainment
Dmitry Chaplin, Choreographer
I'm surprised that NapTab got the nod for Bleeding Love rather than No Air, but both were superb. I think it's great - and we all know Nigel will think it's great - that a Season 2 finalist now has a choreography nomination under his belt. Pretty cool! Other nominees in this category come from Dancing with the Stars and the Oscars. I hope neither wins and one of the SYTYCD dances does. 'Cause I'm super biased. The Oscars usually walk away with too many Emmy Awards, however. Which is baffling. Especially the Directing award.

It's My March Madness: TV Awards Season!

The Emmy nominees were announced today. The biggest snub? No nom for Cat Deeley of SYTYCD. Booo! She's so good at hosting! The show should get a nom too, but whatever.

Let's move on to the interesting stuff - comedy and writing nominations. Another huge year for 30 Rock - with nods in most comedy categories and a near lock on the writing award with 4 episodes nominated (Mamma Mia, Apollo,Apollo, Reunion, and Kidney Now). A lone Flight of the Concords ep rounds out the category.

Speaking of writing, however, what's up with the late night writers? How very . . . male they all are. I'll highlight the names of writers below who, from name only, seem to be or could be female:
Late Night With Conan O'Brien • NBC • Broadway Video, NBC Studios, Conaco
Mike Sweeney, Head Writer
Chris Albers, Writer (but not likely)
Jose Arroyo, Writer
Dan Cronin, Writer
Kevin Dorff, Writer
Andres du Bouchet, Writer
Michael Gordon, Writer
Berkley Johson, Writer
Brian Kiley, Wrter
Todd Levin, Writer
Brian McCann, Writer
Guy Nicolucci, Writer
Conan O'Brien, Writer
Matt O'Brien, Writer
Brian Stack, Writer
Andrew Weinberg, Writer

Late Show With David Letterman • CBS • Worldwide Pants Incorporated
Eric Stangel, Head Writer
Justin Stangel, Head Writer
Michael Barrie, Writer
Jim Mulholland, Writer
Steve Young, Writer
Tom Ruprecht, Writer
Lee Ellenberg, Writer
Matt Roberts, Writer
Jeremy Weiner, Writer
Joe Grossman, Writer
Bill Scheft, Writer
Bob Borden, Writer
Frank Sebastiano, Writer
David Letterman, Writer

Saturday Night Live • NBC • SNL Studios in association with NBC Studios and Broadway Video
Seth Meyers, Head Writer
Doug Abeles, Writer
James Anderson, Writer
Alex Baze, Writer
Jessica Conrad, Writer
James Downey, Writer
Steve Higgins, Writer
Colin Jost, Writer
Erik Kenward, Writer
Rob Klein, Writer
John Lutz, Writer
Lorne Michaels, Writer
John Mulaney, Writer
Paula Pell, Writer
Simon Rich, Writer
Marika Sawyer, Writer
Akiva Schaffer, Writer
John Solomon, Writer
Emily Spivey, Writer
Kent Sublette, Writer
Jorma Taccone, Writer
Bryan Tucker, Writer

The Colbert Report • Comedy Central • Hello Doggie, Inc. with Busboy Productions and Spartina Productions
Stephen Colbert, Writer
Allison Silverman, Writer
Richard Dahm, Writer
Michael Brumm, Writer
Rob Dubbin, Writer
Opus Moreschi, Writer
Peter Gwinn, Writer
Jay Katsir, Writer
Frank Lesser, Writer
Tom Purcell, Writer
Glenn Eichler, Writer
Peter Grosz, Writer
Barry Julien, Writer
Meredith Scardino, Writer

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart • Comedy Central • Central Productions, LLC
Steve Bodow, Head Writer
Jon Stewart, Writer
David Javerbaum, Writer
Josh Lieb, Writer
Rory Albanese, Writer
Kevin Bleyer, Writer
Jason Ross, Writer
Tim Carvell, Writer
John Oliver, Writer
Sam Means, Writer
Rob Kutner, Writer
J.R. Havlan, Writer
Rich Blomquist, Writer
Wyatt Cenac, Writer
Elliott Kalan, Writer
Rachel Axler, Writer
Wow. WriterFail for most aside from SNL. Some credit to the Comedy Central programs. To my memory - Letterman is the greatest offender as I know this is at least the third year with no credited female writers. Conan? I expect better. WTF, guys?

More on other categories later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Here Are Some Super Stupid Ways For Palin To Rationalize Her Super Stupid Decision

This lady's advice frequently strikes me as demonstrative of everything wrong with the current generation of blog-thought driven media and culture. A new high point: how Palin's resignation inspires Penelope Trunk. Especially stupid: the notion that ideas rather than experience or knowledge is what matters. It's a PR, big thinkin' world, y'all, and we're just living in it!

People are hired based on their qualifications and skills, both of which are demonstrated on their resumes, which give concrete examples of how they employ said skills. It's not enough to just have ideas. What the hell have you done with these ideas? Anything? Do they work? Can they work? Ever tried to make them work? And Trunk says that putting in hours gathering knowledge isn't important anymore? Oh come on, lady. In a pinch, sure, you can get away with knowing where to FIND the information you need, but we live in a short media-cycle world. Even in Trunk's fantasy land, you're better off knowing something than having to waste time looking it up.

And I expect my upper level leaders to, like, know stuff, take pride in knowing stuff, not be afraid to learn new stuff, etc.

Palin made a immature decision on par with a junior high kid who, mad at the school or a teacher, writes up a petition and gets classmates to sign it. Yeah, that's something I did in junior high. Because I was in junior high. I now know that's a pointless waste of time. So is walking off in a huff and making a point with a stomp of your foot. Grow up, Sarah Palin. Wake up, Penelope Trunk.

(Did I mix plurals and singulars above? I hate that. But it's that kind of day.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What Do We Want From Our Photographs?

Even before Photoshop, picnik, or a myriad other image altering programs came into being, people have messed with photographic images. Sometimes the alterations intend to deceive, sometimes they intend to portray another meaning, transform the underlying image, become art.

A new NYT controversy has emerged over a photo essay of construction projects abandoned because of economic hardship. It seems, despite the introduction to the series specifically saying no photos were altered, they were . . . altered. A lot of mirroring, some cloning, much of it to little overall effect, but some to create images more sweeping, it seems, than what may have otherwise been there to be captured.

Is the real sin here not in the manipulation but in the introduction? Don't tell us the haunting, vast photos are the result of long exposures if they are the result of long exposures and some clean up work.

Where's the line between cleaning up and fabricating an image?

Back in the darkroom ages, I recall using various sticks and circles to correct for dust and threads in images - trying to get the right shadows under the enlarger to burn or mask the technical problems I hadn't corrected in the camera.

Is a portrait photographer lying if she removes a blemish from a subject's face? What if the subject has acne? What if the blemish was a once-in-three-months aberration? What if the photographer carves her a more pleasing nose? Touches up her roots? Removes her under-eye baggage?

From the moment he gave me my first SLR, my father taught me that great photography happens in the camera, not the darkroom - or, nowadays - on the desktop.

Should we draw a line between color correction and exposure fixes and using cloning, etc, to correct compositiion? What about leveling horizon lines? Is that a lie or is it a truth? A slightly larger print and a matted frame could fix the horizon as well as picnik's tool, so is there a harm?

Of course, photography itself is a bit of a cheat. Photos (and video) don't deliver to the viewer the entire story. They can't. The best convey emotion and a truth particular to the viewer or the photographer (depending on your interpretation, I suppose). But I'm manipulating the view from the moment I frame the shot and click the shutter button.

Are you a photographer, though, if the images presented come solely from the processing, the manipulation, after you capture the initial image? Maybe you're an artist instead?

I think the problem arises because, culturally, we generally ascribe more truth-telling powers, more objectivity, to the photographer. Our interpretation of what we see will be influenced by whether we think we're looking at art or at a photograph - even though that distinction is probably a fiction.

Do I Feel About Texas's Justice System The Way Other States Feel About Cali's Finance System?

And doesn't that still put Cali on a higher moral ground than Texas? Like, for instance, in this case. Here, an 18 year old with the mental capacity of a second grader, and no history of anything bad, was caught by a neighbor fondling her 6 year old stepson. Yes, without question, that's a heinous thing to happen to a child. The DA called it a "violent" sexual offense - but there's no other evidence in the article as to what made it violent or how violent it was. Dude had a crap lawyer who never even called a witness on the kid's disabilities. And the judge stacked the sentences he received for the 5 criminal counts. Three 30-year sentences and two 5-year ones. That's 100 years.

For a kid with an IQ of 47.

Is The Scientific Method Obsolete?

Yes, because there is so much damn data now:
Petabytes [worth of data] allow us to say: "Correlation is enough." We can stop looking for models. We can analyze the data without hypotheses about what it might show. We can throw the numbers into the biggest computing clusters the world has ever seen and let statistical algorithms find patterns where science cannot.
Or no, because correlation is NOT enough and we shouldn't be satisfied with that sort of relationship? Isn't that the human folly we must overcome in the pursuit of scientific discovery: the need to fit everything to a pattern, to force one where none exists? Doesn't chaos theory explain the problem with pattern-based science? A break in the pattern at the smallest levels mean there can't be a pattern on a higher order.

I wonder if this piece is satire when I read the following:
The best practical example of this is the shotgun gene sequencing by J. Craig Venter. Enabled by high-speed sequencers and supercomputers that statistically analyze the data they produce, Venter went from sequencing individual organisms to sequencing entire ecosystems. In 2003, he started sequencing much of the ocean, retracing the voyage of Captain Cook. And in 2005 he started sequencing the air. In the process, he discovered thousands of previously unknown species of bacteria and other life-forms.

If the words "discover a new species" call to mind Darwin and drawings of finches, you may be stuck in the old way of doing science. Venter can tell you almost nothing about the species he found. He doesn't know what they look like, how they live, or much of anything else about their morphology. He doesn't even have their entire genome. All he has is a statistical blip — a unique sequence that, being unlike any other sequence in the database, must represent a new species.
Is this a modest proposal on the abandonment of scientific method in favor of just writing stuff down? Does writing stuff down teach us anything?

Update: This comment is the closest to a rational support I can sort-of understand -
To me this "Google" approach is a very exciting extension to the cycle of knowledge.

Today's research is largely hypothesis-driven, which totally relies on pre-existing knowledge. The problem here: In this way nothing new can be discovered, because the answer is always already formulated in the question.

Then there is the non-hypothesis driven approach. Most great discoveries were actually INITIATED in this way. Darwin had no hypothesis in mind when he started his investigations. Mendel had no hypothesis to test. Nuesslein-Volhard had no hypothesis to test. Newton also had no hypothesis- how could he??

Non-hypothesis driven science starts with an idea or theory, and, after doing the right experiments/data analysis, allows one to then formulate a hypothesis which can then be tested and support the theory. The problem with the non-hypothesis driven approach is that one still only can find things out about what one can formulate and think of (after Wittgensteins: "The limits of my words are the limits of my world").

Then there is a third approach, which (not surprisingly) is not at all considered part of the cycle of knowledge: it is the accident. The list of accidental discoveries is long, famous examples being Radioactivity, Penicillin, and (closer to my own research in developmental biology) the Spemann organizer. The researchers had something completely different in mind, when either the outcome of the experiment surprised them or something went wrong.

In these cases there was obviously no theory at hand. The researchers were just sufficiently awake to formulate one and start the cycle of knowledge.

And this is where the “Google” approach (or whatever Anderson calls it) kicks in. The only thing this Google approach does is to force the luck by sifting though these gargantums of data and providing previously unthought-of correlations and- based on those- come up with theories. This is perfectly valid and will surely lead to many many new discoveries which will allow us to formulate new Theories.

Very excitingly to me, this is approach allows to integrate “luck” into the cycle of knowledge and provides a rationale means of entering it without any preconception. It surely does not put the “old-fashioned” theory and hypothesis aside.
I still find it, however, potentially very dangerous to abandon method to data madness.

And back to my original point with this post on confounding variables. I think that Anderson's original piece, like intelligent design, sounds so cozy and easy that it's a real danger to scientific progress. It's the second biggest danger. The first is America's lack of emphasis on math and science education.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Food For Feminist Thought

From an article on Maria Shriver:
[Shriver] said that after years of mulling whether to seek political office, such a move isn't suited to her goal of encouraging activism and volunteerism among women across the nation.
What do we think of that statement, team.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speechless At This Guy's Debt, Educational History, Prospects

So a guy took out 32 loans to put himself through community college, college, and law school, took tries to pass the NY bar, but never made a payment - not a single one - in 26 years. Accordingly, the New York State Bar refuses to admit him.

And hey look, he was a Hastings student. But he left in his third year to begin an LLM in London? What? So did he graduate. What the hell is wrong with this guy. He has some tough breaks but over $400k in debt and he didn't make a payment for 26 years? I don't think they should deny him a license, but they should hang a photo of him in college dorms across the country with a caption reading "don't let this happen to you."

A series of fees and disputes and, one assumes, interest, took his debt from over $200k to over $400k. Even at $200k, however, I just have to ask: "is it worth it?" They say it's good debt - but, is any debt really good?

This brings me to a discussion I had the other day with a former Y&G delegate. She's smart - very smart - motivated, was raised well, and has the kind of confidence to take her wherever she wants to go in life - once she figures out where that is. Though she's only a sophomore (soon to be, anyway) we talked about what she'd like to do after college. She guesses that half of her family will be thrilled she finished college and be happy with whatever she does. The other half will be similarly thrilled and happy, but expect her to attend graduate school - doesn't need to be law, but needs to be something.

My advice to her: don't rush to graduate school unless you're sure you want to go. The reason? The debt. Debt - whether from student loans or a housing purchase - is a freedom-killer. Or it's a fair trade, depending on your point of view and your relative satisfaction in life. My undergraduate student loans - fair trade. Loved the experience, learned a lot, use it everyday. I think readers know how I feel about my legal degree, however - and I got off cheap on that one.

I probably wouldn't have framed the question in terms of debt v. freedom, had she not made the following comment: "Some of those jobs pay so much better if you have a graduate degree."


What I didn't consider when I went to law school and then failed to leave it when I realized it wasn't my bag is that: yes, the jobs pay more. Your overhead, however, increases at about the same rate. So I could make less money if I had fewer bills to pay. I could probably have more wealth and freedom generally without the loan debt there (same goes for housing debt, but that's another post).

As ever, my point is not that students truly enamored of law or graduate studies opt not to pursue them out of debt-fear. I would just like to see students be more circumspect and take a bit more time - even if it's just a year between college and whatever-else - to think about what they want to do and why they want to do it.

The debt doesn't leave. And grad school will always be there.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Palin's Full Of It, Plus, A Theory

Slate offers a close reading of Sarah Palin's Facebook message to the nation. Jezebel offers a line-by-line analysis of the resignation speech (which is so much worse than I expected it to be. Seriously, wow).

Anyway - here's the theory. It's a Freaky Friday!

Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford have switched places. It's the only explanation for why he keeps talking and she resigned. Seems an incomplete switch, but at least a good percentage, right?

Friday, July 03, 2009

McCain, I Fear You Have Awakened A Sleeping Giant

Or someone who thinks she is a giant, anyway. I mean, really. Really? Really.

There's a particular kind of person out there who gets a high or believes such behavior gives them power and mystery to refrain from saying anything. There's winking and "oh, I know what's coming, and it's good." You know what? That's B.S. It's lame and narcissistic.

But the better question is: what's coming? Who dumps this news on July 3 (a Friday) during the still MJ dominated news cycles?

Oh, also narcissisitc: thinking you can serve better or whatever outside of the Governor's office. Never fear! She doesn't need a stupid office to keep working for you. By doing. Stuff. Or whatever. But she had to go! She's not one to be lame:
"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road. They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that," she said.
WHAAAAAA? Also, should Alaska shorten its terms? If she's leaving soon, isn't she a lame duck now. There must be something skeletal in a closet, right? Because this first potential reason is just awful and incredibly insulting to Alaskans. Does she think she can win by calling some states - like her HOME STATE - irrelevant? I doubt she'll use this as a talking point.
"Alaska is an isolated stage from which to operate if you want to figure in American national politics. I don't know what she has in mind. Some TV show or some national radio show. There are opportunities for her, I'm sure."

But political analyst Larry Sabato, in Charlottesville, Va., said Palin's announcement left many confused.

"It's absolutely bizarre, and I think it eliminates her from serious consideration for the presidency in 2012," he said.

Palin said her family weighed heavily in her decision.

"I polled the most important people in my life, my kids, where the count was unanimous," she said. "Well, in response to asking, 'Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?' It was four yeses and one 'Hell, yeah!" And the 'Hell, yeah' sealed it."
But see, she's just got too much to do to have a full time job:
Fred Malek, a Republican strategist who has advised Palin over the past year, said Palin was "really unhappy with the way her life was going."

"She felt that the pressures of the job combined with her family obligations and the demands and desires to help other Republican candidates led her to decide not to run again. Once that decision was made, she realized, why not do it now and let the lieutenant governor take over and get a head start on his election," Malek said.
Back to narcissism: the other Republicans need her too much and it would be selfish for her to limit her winning influence to Alaska. She'd have to stay home to work on Alaska stuff. Awful!

I can imagine the Fox News soundbites on this and I think if I listen to them, my head may explode.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

So Much To Say

State government is crumbling around us. They are going to in-act themselves into either a part-time initiative that will pass because the ten voters who show up will be a combination of ignorant and wrong or - the best case scenario - a Constitutional convention because maybe we'll still have a government at the end.

Soooo much to say.

Maybe a quick mention: Don't elect Meg Whitman. Government finance and administration is not the same as business finance and administration. California if you go down this road again, then you get what you deserve. Now is a time for expertise - focused, specialized expertise. Attention to detail, procedure, process, respect for institutions.