Monday, May 08, 2006

David Fury on Lost, 24, Buffy

David Fury needs little introduction, which is a) something I don't like having said and b) true. He wrote over 25 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He wrote the only real genius episode of Lost, "Walkabout." He was the puppet of the evil puppets (literally) in the Angel-is-a-puppet episode of Angel's fifth, final and best season. And now he writes for 24.

There's a particularly interesting interview with him here. It gets a bit too "fandom-y" for me at times, but there are some choice insights into his head.

Like on 24 and it's runaway train-ness:
The first four episodes are generally worked out in advance, then it's completely made up as we go. The closest thing to planning is if someone has a good idea for a set-piece (i.e. Jack has to kidnap the Pope), Howard [Gordon] or Joel [Surnow] will say, "We'll do that in a couple of episodes." Ultimately, or at least often, those ideas change once we get there. And we make something else up on the spot.
Or on genre shows:
But, yeah, I miss genre shows. I miss writing allegory and metaphor. That was the fun of writing those shows. Saying something. 24 is about doing. And it's great. But there's nothing to say about it, except "that was cool."

This is nice...

...because it neatly sums up everything I've been blogging about. Also, it comes from a reputable source.

The story is in the NY Times about Colbert Report and CSPAN pulling the video from YouTube.

Key Quote:
Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner nine days ago has already created a debate over politics, the press and humor. Now, a commercial rivalry has broken out over its rebroadcast.

On Wednesday, C-Span, the nonprofit network that first showed Mr. Colbert's speech, wrote letters to the video sites and, demanding that the clips of the speech be taken off their Web sites. The action was a first for C-Span, whose prime-time schedule tends to feature events like Congressional hearings on auto fuel-economy standards.

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Officials Respond

So when CSPAN took down the Colbert videos last week, things seemed a bit sketchy to me. Isn't CSPAN video a public service in the public domain? Aren't they non-profit? Shouldn't they be happy to be receiving such massive exposure via YouTube? Why can I still get the video on Google Video? Why does this video still exist?

It was perplexing, to say the least. So, I put on my funny press hat (which is the only reason I would ever consider being a journalist) and sent off a few emails to some YouTube and CSPAN officials to try and get some answers.

Turns out, I got just that, answers. First, Julie Supan (Senior Director of marketing at YouTube) directed me back to their blog. She also added this, in an e-mail:
We received a DMCA notification letter from CSPAN on May 3 identifying more than 40 URLs for the Colbert Report video along with a dozen other videos to which they claim the copyright. The Colbert Report video received 2.7M views in under 48 hours from the first upload.
Then, I heard from Jennifer Moire (Media Relations Manager at CSPAN) who sent me an official statement from the network to clarify their position. In short:
  • The video is available on Google through a special arrangement.
  • The only CSPAN video in the public domain is the special coverage of the House and Senate chambers.
  • The videos were taken from YouTube to "respect the busieness that allows [CSPAN].
  • There are three CSPAN channels! THREE!
So here, as per Jennifer Moire, is the entire statement:
Thank you for your comments about C-SPAN’s coverage of this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner featuring remarks by the President and by Stephen Colbert. That coverage is available for free of charge viewing at C-SPAN’s website along with a vast amount of other public affairs information. Our coverage of the dinner is also available on Google Video by special arrangement with us.

C-SPAN’s coverage of this dinner received a lot of attention after we asked several websites to stop hosting the video of our coverage. Many of our viewers and Internet users complained that C-SPAN did not have the right to prevent others from using the coverage of this event.

We want our audience and others to understand that C-SPAN public affairs programming is protected by copyright in the same way that the video news coverage of any other network is protected. [An important exception is the Congressionally-produced video of the Senate and House floor proceedings which C-SPAN distributes - the video of the legislative chambers is in the public domain.] As would any other network, we assert our copyrights when third parties improperly use our video, in part to maintain our editorial integrity and to protect our business. While some people understand that C-SPAN is a non-profit organization, they don’t always understand that it is also a private business that relies on selling its product to cable systems and satellite services to remain in business. C-SPAN does not rely on taxpayer funds, and never has.

Our business allows us to provide thousands of hours of public affairs video and other information to millions of American households by means of C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, C-SPAN3, C-SPAN Radio, and several websites including When we stop others from using our video, we don’t do it to limit access to public affairs information. On the contrary, we believe our job is to make as much information about government available to the public as possible. As we serve that mission, we must also respect the business that allows it.

In the meantime, our coverage of the White House Correspondents Dinner remains widely and freely available from us and from Google, and is introducing many people to C-SPAN and our public affairs offerings for the first time. We welcome the attention because it allows us to do a better job for more people.
I got every answer I was looking for, except why CSPAN video can still be found on YouTube. The only answer for that, I can assume, is that CSPAN missed it.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Verbivores or Verbiphages?

Logophiles, each and every one of them. (Does anyone else see the irony in my spellchecker not recognizing the spelling of words about words? Is it even ironic? Did I actually just misspell them?)

I didn't mean to get so off track with that last post. I apologize. TV good! All I wanted to do was to post one, simple story about ABC running the National Spelling Bee and then comment.

Key Quote:
For the first time in its 79-year history, the National Spelling Bee — the original "reality TV" — will go prime time for next month's drama-filled finals. Thanks to recent movies, books and even a Broadway musical, young spellers are suddenly hot. After 12 years of showings by the sports cable network ESPN, the final rounds of the two-day Scripps National Spelling Bee will be shown live Thursday evening, June 1, on the ABC network.
Comment: this is, uh, partly awesome.
Required viewing: Spellbound.

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Words, Language, Television

I don't want to defenestrate everything in my blog. I still stand by about 8% of it.

But I just watched an absolutely fascinating documentary called
Word Wars about "professional" Scrabble players, and it proved to me two things:
  1. My Scrabble skills - while perfectly moderate and acceptable enough to beat my friends - need work. (Today I played 'uniquity' for 104 points.)
  2. The Discovery-Times channel, the channel that produced the documentary, is a marvel.
Here is a channel that consistently produces exciting, engaging, and educational documentary programming. It's like PBS, if PBS had more money. Honestly, the people at this channel -- who, if I remember correctly from my sole excursion into "journalistic integrity," have a passing relationship with Durham's also-remarkable Full Frame Documentary Festival -- are awesome. Way more awesome than that last sentence, which is about as terrible Time-Warner Cable not carrying Discovery-Times.

Honestly, I am going to call someone about that. We deserve the Discovery-Times channel. We deserve television programming that isn't afraid to confront what Murrow called "the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live."

I don't mean to advocate losing everything on TV, here. Hell, I kind of like some of it. I devoted my blog to covering it. But this is not a recent problem, television being worthless, but it's nice to see that someone is out there doing something more than most.

"The main thing," Murrow said "is to try."

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

...and now the videos go silent. (2/2) (updated)

...and now the videos go silent.

The videos of Stephen Colbert's fantastic performance Saturday night used to be widely available on the internet via YouTube. Now, they are nowhere to be seen. They've been taken down.

I was near ready to cry about a vast government conspiracy, but as it turns out, CSPAN demanded they be removed because of copyright.

As per YouTube:
The videos were not removed due to the content or any political bias. They were removed at the request of CSPAN, who claims to be the copyright owner. A number of you have inquired about whether or not the speech was considered 'public domain' and therefore exempt from copyright protection. Unfortunately, CSPAN has asserted that the video footage uploaded was broadcasted and owned by them.
Kind of makes you wonder. Well it kind of makes me wonder. Especially, since in about three minutes, I found this CSPAN video also on YouTube; also critical of the President, but from the Congressional Correspondents' dinner.

The video has been up for THREE WEEKS. And since we know that YouTube only takes down videos it is asked to take down, no one has asked for this video to be taken down. Not even CSPAN.

What kind of politics are at play here? At YouTube? At CSPAN? These I have no explanation for.

The only explanation I have is that this speech was delivered by Frank Caliendo, unfunny and un-famous. (Who?) Which, of course brings me back to my original question: Would we even be paying attention had it not been Stephen Colbert?

Now, though, we have an answer: of course not.

The more pressing question is how long this video will last. So maybe we should ask CSPAN.

The video is now currently available from Google Video. I don't know how long it will last, but you can find it here.

I am looking into what CSPAN has to say about being available on Google.

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More Colbert and a silent audience (1/2)

On the relative lack of mainstream media attention:

Seems like The NY Times decided, finally, to run something about Stephen Colbert's performance Saturday night. I really don't understand how it took that long, since the internet has been buzzing for days.

Then again, they are also using the rather lame excuse "He wasn't funny, so we ignored him."

According to a Salon editorial, I whole heartedly agree with:

Colbert's deadly performance did more than reveal, with devastating clarity, how Bush's well-oiled myth machine works. It exposed the mainstream press' pathetic collusion with an administration that has treated it -- and the truth -- with contempt from the moment it took office. Intimidated, coddled, fearful of violating propriety, the press corps that for years dutifully repeated Bush talking points was stunned and horrified when someone dared to reveal that the media emperor had no clothes. Colbert refused to play his dutiful, toothless part in the White House correspondents dinner -- an incestuous, backslapping ritual that should be retired. For that, he had to be marginalized. Voilà: "He wasn't funny."

This is a battle that can't really be won -- you either got it Saturday night (or Sunday morning, or whenever your life was made a little brighter by viewing Colbert's performance) or you didn't. Personally, I'm enjoying watching apologists for the status quo wear themselves out explaining why Colbert wasn't funny. It's extending the reach of his performance by days without either side breaking character -- the mighty Colbert or the clueless, self-important media elite he was satirizing. For those who think the media shamed itself by rolling over for this administration, especially in the run-up to the Iraq war, Colbert's skit is the gift that keeps on giving.

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A TV Crossover: Pearl Jam (updated)

Suddenly, I get to involve my love for Pearl Jam's new eponymous CD, if only because the band will be on tonight's "Late Show With David Letterman."
But, not only that, this afternoon, will broadcast (via the web) thirty minutes of Pearl Jam concert, live from the Ed Sullivan Theater. They are on at 5:55 P:M here.

Following in ABC's footsteps, CBS has launched into online broadcasting. They're calling it Innertube.

Key quote:
CBS Corporation has launched a free ad-supported broadband channel called Innertube. The channel, which debuted Thursday, will focus initially on original series for the Web and extra content for existing CBS-branded shows. Advertisers who have signed on to support innertube include Cadbury Schwepps, Pier 1 Imports and Verizon

For now, Innertube will not program full-length streaming videos of current CBS series, in part because the network needs to hammer out deals with affiliates to involve them, financially or otherwise, in the broadband venture. The site is slated to add full-length episodes in the future, as well as webcasts from its library of programming.
Interesting announcement, if you ask me. Because it looks like the technology is finally catching up. Even Microsoft, who wanted to start it ten years ago, has jumped back into the fold, planning to offer original web shows.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More from Saturday night (updated)

These videos no longer work.

Going to try something different, since I realize any linkage to Stephen Colbert at the Whitehouse Press Dinner might have been lost.

Here's a link to a video of excerpts.

But, more importantly, here is the actual thing:

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Stephen Colbert, part two: Comeuppance

ColbertWelcome to the big leagues, Mr. Stephen Colbert. Thanks for showing up. You made my weekend.
In part 1, I tried to lay out just what our man Stephen Colbert was up to on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. What I forgot to mention was that Stephen Colbert had, beyond that one incident, a hell of a weekend.

Among things, he was:
So, if none of that was enough, Amelie Gillete at the Onion A.V. Club writes this piece, wherein she says:

I realize that this is comedy blasphemy to some, so I'm going to say it as gently as possible: The Colbert Report is certainly funnier than The Daily Show.
And you know, maybe she is right, if only because on the increasingly infrequent times I'm watching The Daily Show, I feel less and less that Jon Stewart still feels like he's doing anything worthwhile. Sure, he's really good at cutting through the BS of most everyone on TV. And for the people who get it, it works. But some people don't. Especially when The Daily Show lacks the ballsyness of The Colbert Report.

Or, as per Jon Stewart himself:
"It was balls-alicious," Stewart said. "Apparently he was under the impression that they'd hired him to do what he does every night on television" -- that is, make fun of conservatives, public officials, and the press in the guise of an O'Reillyesque talk show host.

"We've never been prouder of him, but HOLY ----," Stewart added.
And the manliness that it took for Colbert to do that act in from of President Bush? Awesome.

Over at his blog, Global Dissolutions, Jonathan Kime writes a little piece about using celebrity for humanitarian causes. I can't help but to agree with his point, and it only makes me wonder:

Would anyone have paid attention last Saturday had Stephen Colbert not been Stephen Colbert?

So, thanks, Stephen Colbert. Really.

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