January 24, 2006

Provocative Suggestion [11:36 pm]

Not to mention offering up a way to satisfy my jonesing for a continuation of TWW: Reincarnating The West Wing - Could the canceled NBC drama be reborn on iTunes?

In the days since the ax fell, my mind has been running through fanciful scenarios in which the condemned gets a reprieve. NBC television chief Jeff Zucker is ousted in a palace coup. The fictional election in this season’s storyline becomes so exciting, audiences flock to it. Pigs fly.

Then a more interesting scenario came to me: Why not continue the series on iTunes and cable/satellite pay-per-view? Make the chronicles of the new administration (whoever wins the fictional election, Matt Santos or Arnold Vinick) a download-only experience. I know it sounds absurd, but stay with me for a moment.

Writing in Slate last year, MIT media analyst Ivan Askwith suggested that dead or dying shows might find an afterlife on iTunes. I can think of no current TV show better placed to blaze this new distribution model than The West Wing.

later: followup article - West Wing-ers Unite!

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Correlation, Causation and Commensuration [10:31 am]

Silly Sundance fallout: Cracking the code [pdf]

“Our engineers were thinking that determining whether a movie is good or bad could be similar to determining whether e-mail is spam or not,” said Unspam Chief Executive Prince, 31, who loves the festival and uses it as a recruiting tool. “We had the last 10 years of the festival’s film guides, which are like inputs, and then a bunch of outputs, like how many people saw a film, did it win anything at Sundance, did it have commercial success. If you could figure out the pattern between the inputs and the outputs, then you could actually predict future winners.”

[...] The most entertaining part of Unspam’s analysis is the deconstruction of the film descriptions in the festival’s program written by selection committee members. Prince and his crew came up with two lists: words that “make you golden” or are “the kiss of death.”

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Life in the Spotlight [10:23 am]

Whether you like it or not: I’m Feeling . . . Surveilled [pdf]

Google has the ability to track an individual’s searches — to record where your mind wanders when the boss isn’t looking, what political commentators you read, what you’re thinking about buying and what price you’re willing to pay, even what kinds of fantasies you entertain late at night.

Google is able to know too much, and I guess it’s no surprise that the Bush administration wants in on the action. The Justice Department’s demand to see an entire week’s worth of Google searches looks to me like an attempt by the administration to get its foot in the door, and if I’m right, it’s even more of an Orwellian threat than the National Security Agency’s snooping on phone calls and e-mails. The NSA snooping is illegal and unforgivable, to be sure, but the spooks want access to communications, and when we communicate with another human being we always censor ourselves to some degree. When we ask a question of Google, it’s akin to being in the privacy of the confessional. We lay ourselves bare.

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