[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Saturday, 2013-06-01

Stephen Fry In America: The Deep South

Filed under: Television,Travel — bblackmoor @ 14:02
Stephen Fry In America

In episode two of this charming series, Fry visits the South. He has such an obvious affection for what makes us distinctive, including our friendliness and our love of our history (celebrating the good and transcending the bad).

I can’t help but wish that more Americans had as few prejudices about the South as Stephen Fry does.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

Sunday, 2013-05-19

Review: Logitech Harmony Ultimate

Filed under: Home,Technology,Television — bblackmoor @ 11:19
Harmony Ultimate

I received a Harmony Ultimate from Logitech because I own several Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote remotes and have recommended them highly. I was looking forward to the Harmony Ultimate, since I had given an unfavorable review to the Harmony Touch, and I was hoping that the Harmony Ultimate would correct the design deficiencies of the Harmony Touch. It does correct some problems, but it also introduces new ones. Here are some good things and bad things:

Good things:

  1. The removal of the number buttons to make the Harmony Ultimate a more convenient size was a good move. The on-screen numbers are easy to find, when they are needed.
  2. Overall, the size of the Harmony Ultimate is convenient and comfortable.
  3. Most of my settings were successfully imported from one of my Harmony One settings, so that saved me some time during set-up.
  4. Having a dedicated button for the DVR and for the four colored buttons is a great addition.
  5. The remote comes with a “hub” and a pair of “IR blasters”, which one could place in a cabinet to control concealed electronics. That’s nice, I suppose.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few things that make the Harmony Ultimate a bad fit for my living room experience.

  1. The location of the play-stop-forward-reverse buttons to above the screen makes using the Harmony Ultimate more awkward than using the Harmony One, even though the Harmony One is significantly larger. Using the play-stop-forward-reverse buttons on the Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote can be done one-handed. On the Harmony Ultimate it requires awkwardly shifting the position of the hand, or using two hands. This is a significant step backward in usability. However, what’s worse is….
  2. Putting the touch-sensitive screen between the play-stop-forward-reverse buttons and the up-down-left-right buttons is a terrible design. I was constantly hitting the screen when trying to use the play-stop-forward-reverse buttons, causing all sorts of mayhem. This rendered the remote useless.
  3. The addition of “favorite channels” is a needless complication. Every DVR has favorite channel lists built in.
  4. The Harmony Ultimate itself does not control a Roku box. The remote *only* sends commands to the Roku box through the “IR blaster” widgets. For me, this would require putting the Harmony Ultimate “hub” in my already crowded entertainment cabinet and re-arranging it so that the Roku box can face one of the “IR blasters”. Why not just have the remote itself send the commands? That’s what the Harmony One does,and it works perfectly. Even the Harmony Touch was able to get this right. This is a bad design.
  5. The Harmony Ultimate does not have physical buttons for “skip forward” and “skip backward”. To activate those frequently-used commands, you have to hold down the “fast forward” and “rewind” buttons. This is a bad design.
  6. There is no obvious way to access the commands for Devices, in order to send a command directly to one of your components. On the Harmony One, the “Devices” button is always easily accessible at the bottom of the screen. On the Harmony Ultimate, the Devices button is hidden in an on-screen sub-menu.
  7. After the activities are set up, they are listed on the screen, much like they are on the Harmony One (a great improvement over the Harmony Touch). However, the on-screen button for the bottom-most activity is located *behind* the on-screen “Menu” button for the remote itself (this menu is where the “Devices” menu is hidden). This makes accessing that fourth activity … difficult.

Conclusion: in a world where the Logitech Harmony One Advanced Universal Remote had never been invented, the Harmony Ultimate would be a nice addition to any living room. However, the Harmony One does exist, and has existed for years. That being the case, there is really no excuse for the flaws in the design of the Harmony Touch.

Suggestions for the Harmony Two, or the Harmony Ultimate Plus, or whatever the next version will be called:

  1. Put all of the physical buttons, including the play-stop-forward-reverse buttons, below the screen, where the user can reach them with one hand.
  2. Have physical buttons for “skip forward” and “skip backward”, located beneath the “fast forward” and “rewind” buttons, as the Harmony One currently does.
  3. Do not put any physical buttons above the touch-sensitive screen.
  4. Eliminate the “Favorites” screen and replace it with a list of the user’s “Devices”.

Sunday, 2013-03-31

Stephen Fry In America

Filed under: Television — bblackmoor @ 20:05
Stephen Fry In America

I’ve started watching Stephen Fry In America (on Netflix). I’m scarcely 13 minutes into the first episode (there are six episodes, I believe, and each of them an hour long), but I am already charmed by Fry’s affable approach and his obvious affection and admiration for what is best about the people and places he visits. In a world with so much cynicism and so many reasons to be bitter, it’s really quite lovely to see someone visit the USA and find reasons to like it.

He says, while visiting Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont, “In a hard and harsh and unpleasant world, we need ice cream. That’s my feeling.” Well, in a hard and harsh and unpleasant world, I think we need Stephen Fry.

Wednesday, 2013-03-27

10 tips to improve the quality of television

Filed under: Television — bblackmoor @ 18:40
family watching twelevision

Here are ten tips which you can use to drastically reduce the quantity and increase the quality of your television viewing:

  1. Do not watch “reality” shows unless you have a friend who is on the show.
  2. Do not watch game shows unless you have a friend who is on the show.
  3. Do not watch award shows unless you have a friend who is on the show.
  4. Do not watch sports unless the broadcast is live.
  5. Do not watch television shows that have a “laugh track”.
  6. Do not watch television shows that feature musical numbers.
  7. Do not watch movies that have been “formatted to fit your screen” (i.e., pan and scanned).
  8. Do not watch movies that have been “edited to run in the time allotted” (i.e., butchered).
  9. Do not watch movies that have been “edited for content” (i.e., censored).
  10. Do not watch movies that are interrupted by commercials.

Monday, 2013-03-04

Slings & Arrows

Filed under: Friends,Television — bblackmoor @ 22:41
Slings & Arrows

I have been watching Sling & Arrows, a Canadian show about the theatre. It’s like Glee, but with better writing and no musical numbers (which also makes it better than Glee). It reminds me a great deal of Smash, although it has no musical numbers (which, again, makes it better than Smash). Here’s the thing: that camaraderie the cast feels on the completion of a successful show… I have felt that. Not often. Not after the conclusion of a successful convention (I was on the staff of a local SF&F convention for most of its history). The last time I felt that esprit de corps was probably back in the late1980s, after a successful performance of Rocky Horror (in which I was a cast member for a few years). I imagine (rather, I assume) that it’s the same feeling that members of a sports team feel at the end of a good game. It’s a good feeling. Even then memory of it is a good feeling.

Thursday, 2013-01-10

The Time Tunnel

Filed under: Television — bblackmoor @ 21:48
The Time Tunnel

I’m watching the first episode of The Time Tunnel, a show I have heard of but never actually seen. Two observations: 1) you don’t see this combination of sets, forced perspective, and miniatures on TV anymore — the early scenes of the facility are breathtaking on a 46″ screen, 2) I think fully half of the passengers on the Titanic must have been time travelers. Seriously, the Titanic is to time travelers what Kinkaku-ji is to Japanese tourists.

By the way, when I say 46″ screen, I do *not* mean that I have the image stretched to the whole screen (why would anyone do that? STOP DOING THAT). This is the equivalent of a 37″ screen on an old-fashioned 4:3 television.

Sunday, 2012-12-23

My favorite Christmas specials

Filed under: Family,Friends,Movies,Mythology,Television — bblackmoor @ 15:01

I am imposing a unilateral un-grimmening! No more grim tidings for at least one week. Time for Christmas cheer and good will.

As a start, here are my favorite Christmas specials and movies, in no particular order. Some are great. Some are just terrible. Some make me laugh. Some make me cry. I love them all.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (the real one, not the Jim Carrey abomination)
Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
(Mexican) Santa Claus
Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
Silent Night, Deadly Night
Bad Santa
Star Wars Holiday Special
Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 2012-06-20

What the Orion pirates (and slave girls) call themselves

Filed under: Television — bblackmoor @ 17:59

Orion slave girlFun fact: in the Star Trek animated series, where the Orion pirates first appeared, their name is pronounced “OR-ee-on”. Even the Orion pirates themselves pronounce it this way. And all of these years, I’d thought it was pronounced “or-EYE-on”. Live and learn.

Friday, 2012-06-15

Kristin Chenoweth death clique

Filed under: Dreams,Television — bblackmoor @ 12:51

I dreamed last night that I was in a Glee type universe where my best friend Susan was being heartlessly verbally abused by a bitch played by Kristin Chenoweth, until I put my foot down and told Kristin Chenoweth that she was going to stop or I would stop her. At which point Kristin Chenoweth attacked me with her deadly kung fu death strike, because SURPRISE she was secretly a deadly kung fu master. But then DOUBLE SURPRISE I casually blocked her death strike with ridiculous ease because I was also a deadly kung fu master. After trying and embarrassingly failing to kill me several times, Kristin Chenoweth and her clique walked away in a huff.

Sunday, 2011-12-25

Merry Christmas 2011

Filed under: Music,Television — bblackmoor @ 10:35

Merry Christmas from the Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend

Here are some Christmas songs from the Monarch and his merry band.

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