Monday, February 20, 2017

Viacom Viacan't: Regressive corporate strategies in entertainment media

This just in, Viacom invents time-machine, gets stuck in 2005. 

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has announced that some Viacom programming, most notably so far The Daily Show and @Midnight, along with The Colbert Report and Tosh.suck, will no longer be available on streaming services such as Hulu.  Now, to someone who reached the zenith of their professional career in 1998, this kind of strategy makes sense because they never bothered to learn how cord cutters worked or what kind of market they will inevitably create.  The reason is that there was no such thing as a cord-cutter in 1998, and people still had subscriptions to AOL dialup internet service.  If 1998 were a person, they'd be old enough to drink in most countries, and could have voted in the last election.  It seems obvious that  applying the same corporate strategy from that era, or even from something like 2005 is a bad idea since they would be woefully outdated, but that doesn't usually occur to the entity that is the CEO (they're not people).  Enter the long suffering baby boomer executive who knows exactly how to market and design pull-strategies for other baby boomers sitting on folding chairs in Boca Raton just waiting around for their prostates to swell up to the size of a soccer ball and complain about how the waitress at Applebee's (who is working her way through medical school) is part of a super self-centered generation that "fails to adapt" while making their grand-kids check their email on their phone for them because they're "too old" to learn that new-fangled technology that's been around since 1971   Yet for some reason this same baby boomer executive is somehow surprised that the same strategies that work on boomers, somehow don't work on this product of society they've invented which they call "Millennials."

No, old TV guy, I am not going to go sign up at Time Warner or Comcast (two companies that have about the same approval rate as the Nazi Party, or worse, Electronic Arts), just so I can watch one show or another which I could easily pirate, and mostly pirate out of spite at this point.  Not only is this another confirmation of the downright uselessness of "The CEO" as a concept, but how they are now a downright malignancy to otherwise healthy and sustainable companies, dragging them down like the world's most expensive boat anchor.

Some could argue that the only function of a CEO is to make sure investors stay comfortable paying the corporation's allowance, which would only be a salient argument if their ability to run the place into the ground through complete ignoramical idiocy wasn't so palpable. When police make some little kid with cancer a member of the SWAT team for the day, it makes for great PR, but even they are smart enough to know he's just a mascot and shouldn't be given an AR-15. CEOs surround them with environments they feel comfortable in.  In modern America, your environment is a commodity to be purchased.  Don't have a lot of money?  Enjoy the one that comes with life in a trailer-park and a job that probably involved a blue vest, khaki pants, a time-clock, and the need to look at your odometer to see if your car needs an oil change, or make a decision between paying your phone bill and getting a haircut.  Have a shitload of money?  Congratulations, you will never ever have to know what it's like to wash your own dishes or wait for something to go on sale before you can buy it.  But if you are a CEO there is definitely one specific type of environment you are going to buy.  One where you will never be exposed to the word "no."  You'll love it in there.  Surrounded by people getting paid barely enough to make their rent who are going to be so terrified of putting you in a negative emotional state, that they'd skip their own funeral to make sure you have enough of that stationary you like.  Wearing even the most luxurious blinders still means you have every chance of getting t-boned when your confidence is a product of an echo chamber.  Don't believe me?  Do you think Jar Jar Binks would exist at all if The Phantom Menace was George Lucas's first or second movie?  Yeah, someone would have told him "no George, that's not a good idea," but now he bought himself an ecosystem where that will never ever happen.

The end result is that people in these outdated power positions end up having an outdated idea of how things work, and do not stay current with changes that effect their own industry.  This problem sustains itself because they live in a world where absolutely no one is going to make them address those shortcomings either.  They just stop knowing how stuff works because said "stuff" has significantly changed.  Stuff like TV viewing.  TV doesn't work the way it used to, even as recently as 5-10 years ago.  I don't need Animal Planet, the Home Shopping Network, or a whole bunch of other channels that air too much fake reality house hunting shows or make me watch even one second of any Guy Fieri or Rachel Ray (yuck).  If History Channel is going to make a show about alligator murder then I really don't need to pay for that, because it's not a product I really want to buy (although alligator tastes good by the way, if you want some I got a guy.  You want alligator meat I can get you alligator meat by 3oclock). 

Om nom nom

This isn't going to cost Viacom much money at all.  Remember this is the company that invented the concept of deliberately not paying freelancers being counted as a viable revenue stream.  On paper, from an accounting perspective, pulling programming is mostly innocuous.  Entertainment media isn't really a tangible commodity, so limiting it's availability isn't really going to drive the price up, that only works with Game of Thrones and Disney movies (come on home where your video's waiting).  But those same intangible assets are what are going to take the hit.  Goodwill (let's be clear, Viacom has no goodwill and doesn't need it, but the shows themselves, as individual brands have tons and more importantly their success depends on having it).  Properties like that are going to take a straight kick in the nards once people who pay for streaming services all of a sudden can't get what they previously could get.  It's not that something just isn't coming to streaming services, it's that something is being taken away (huge difference).  That kind of thing makes people angry, and angry people won't give a shit if pirating something hurts Summer Redstone's ability to buy another yacht to get to his bigger yacht on his private island which is made of even bigger yachts all tied together.

I couldn't find an image of a yacht going to an island made of bigger yachts tied together so...

There's a light, over at the Amazon place.
Thankfully Amazon seems to be doing the opposite of this.  Bolstered by the popularity of the New Top Gear I mean The Grand Tour, they have announced they really want to be the big fish when it comes to entertainment media streaming.  And you know what?  That's fine, that's great, you go for it.  I remember in the days of VHS you paid money to rent the things, so paying a small amount to watch something you want to watch (but now you don't even have to leave the house) isn't such a weird concept.  Jeez I have a premium Crunchyroll subscription and I'm only following 3 shows.  Don't be a friggin idiot you people, Crunchyroll Premium is a great value.  ...Hey Crunchyroll, open an NYC office and hire me, I'll make your dreams come true.  I filmed you guys for a!Pon in Tokyo and you don't owe me anything but, BUT, you can pretend that you do.  See how easy that was?  Yeah.  Just re-imagine that in the Rick Sanchez voice and it sounds way better.

Anyway, Amazon's streaming service is mostly cool.  But the downsidessesseses be that they rarely have things that Netflix doesn't have (High Man in the Castle isn't really that great) and their user interface could use a lot of work.  But those two things are fixable.  There's nothing that's fundamentally wrong in the DNA of Amazon's streaming that would make it impossible to like for the majority of consumers. If they have done anything it's that it has proven that perseverance and sticking to your guns can still be a viable business strategy even if every finance major from here to Bangalore is only capable of thinking a maximum of 5 quarters into the future.  Oh, and they use wage-slaves.  Lots and lots of wage-slaves.  But, that's not gonna stop you from logging in and ordering the next time you need new underpants or whatever Danganronpa figure you happen to really really like.

Did... did I have a point?  Oh yea, cord-cutters are not going to jump ship and sign up for Direct TV or Satan-Serve or whatever  just because any show or even every show is no longer available on streaming services.  No Optimum, I don't care if I can still remember every word from your TV ads from 10 years ago, it's not gonna happen).  Things like Network Decay/Channel Drift have become so prevalent and intense in their ability to devalue content providers, that the required willingness to pay among media consumers has withered and become a most fragile thing.

I mentioned it really recently that cord-cutters are heavy on certain demographic metrics, more-so than telecom/cable/satellite customers as a whole.  Than which means that certain types of properties are going to be more of a draw than others, certain advertisers are going to have more success, and they are mostly what old people would call "tech-savvy," you know, like your Aunt when she found out you knew enough html to change the font on your eBay listings and then thought you could repair her printer.  That means that finding the show online is going to happen one way or another, and you, Mr. Entertainment Company Executive gotta deal with it.  Mimeograph manufacturers got fucked by Xerox, that pesky horseless carriage put farriers out of business, and RCA isn't making many record players anymore, so if you want to succeed, put your ego in check, realize that the massive amounts of knowledge you've built is going to lose its value at the same rate as bananas go bad, and get your shit together and keep up with "the now" as they used to say. 

Of course not.

I think that much like Verizon lately realizing that not offering "unlimited" data is a bad idea, Viacom is going to look around in a few months and be all like "oops" and then you will be able to see The Daily Show on Hulu again.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Zelda Goes Paid DLC: A step forward or a step back?

Steps Backward; It's never a good thing.

The once unthinkable has happened.  For generations the people told themselves that such madness would never come into positions of power which would allow such sweeping changes to the fundamental dynamics of the world in which we live to be implemented by the personification of abject madness that seems naught but a relic of a bygone age.  I speak of course of the contamination of the Legend of Zelda universe by DLC via a Season Pass or as Nintendo calls it, an Expansion Pass ...which does not make it better.  My god, this is the worst thing to happen... oh, wait.

Hold on, don't cry and hide under your blankets kids, just remember this is NOT the worst thing to happen to Legend of Zelda
Before you were born, something way worse happened.

Unlike 98% of all anime, the Japanese video game industry actually does have to care about international markets quite a bit.  While throughout the world DLC and expansion packs have run the gamut from a lauded grand-slam of awesomeness, to crimes against humanity that need to be tried in The Hague, some long running institutional properties seemed to operate in a world separated from such things where "no, not that one, we don't do DLC with that one" was an explicitly understood unwritten rule.  Such separation is no more. 

How earth-shattering is this?  Well with even Forbes covering it, and with still-fresh memories of some significant blunders shaking up the industry in general, such as No Man's Sky, Duke Nukem Forever, Doom, and a few others, this Zelda release is going to be the focus of a lot of a lot of attention.  Video games are a big industry.  The thing is, DLC was all the rage in 2005, but that was a long time ago.  We have since learned that (like just about every technological advancement) it isn't some magic pixie-dust that you can just sprinkle on literally everything to create boundless improvement.  It only is a positive if other conditions are right, and Zelda Breath of the Wild is missing one component that usually helps DLC fit into the "value added" category of purchases and not the "why the hell am I going to waste my money on this?" category.  Multi-player mode.  Unless it's some incarnation of Smash Brothers, Link and Zelda should never ever be in anything that's "multiplayer," which is something that anyone who has actually played the games before would instantly realize so succinctly that it would just be one of those second-nature thoughts like "don't try to breath underwater" or something like that.  Deep down in your brain, you aren't seeing the DLC as an extra thing you buy, you are seeing it as part of a game you already bought that's now behind a pay-wall.  It's going to be the source of some consumer hostility, passive-aggressive or otherwise.  Somewhere in your head there's that little voice looking at Nintendo, saying "I thought we had a good thing going?" to which Nintendo turns around and, shrugs, and keeps giving an hand-job to its preferred stockholders.

That's not to say that DLC can't be successful without multi-player mode, but it is known to provide customers motivation to buy DLC, and so this game isn't going to have that, and will need to create a motivation by other means.  Those other means are going to have to be premium game design, a story you simply can't look away from, and a few bells and whistles so addictive that they become in-game staples for all future releases.  Or they could just throw in a Hot Coffee Mod and hope for the best now that Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton are out of the limelight.

I wouldn't hold my breath of the wild for that last one.

So is this really a regression rather than Zelda joining many other more modern game franchises?  I think it is.  It hearkens back to a way of thinking that paid DLC can be shoehorned into anything and everything.  This was very prevelent between 10 and 12 years ago.  I am sure there was once an idea of paid DLC for Tetris where you get more long ones if you buy the "expansion pack."  We have since seen enough to know that there is a right way and a wrong way to do this, and  there are some red flags here.  Most notably that the "hard mode" is part of the expansion and not part of the regular release.  What could possibly be the reason for that?  If it were free DLC then ok, it means they missed a deadline or something, but making you pay for it would only be justifiable if "hard mode" meant that a completely new type of enemy would now be included in the game where it previously was not.  The second red flag is that they're including in-game clothing...  That's lazy.  I know that sounds like a standard, but when a company throws a a whatever on a character it seems like they are using a very cheap solution to compensate for a significant shortcoming.  It's like someone giving you a free iPhone in the hopes you don't notice that they crashed your car into a tree.  With Nintendo being tight lipped and only releasing a vague "please trust us" video, there is not much to go on.  Furthermore, there is always the looming all-encompassing peril of an incongruity of sensibilities between Japan and the rest of the world.  What might have Japanese consumers ready to go into "shut up and take my money" mode, might have virtually no effect in other markets around the world.  I think they're making the right choice to make the expansions more of the same thing as the game, you can never really get enough Hyrule, it will probably be a moderate success.  But with Nintendo's world-famous ability to piss away success like a freshmen on spring break in Mexico pisses out used Corona, they've probably pinned all their hopes on this one thing, that just will not be big enough to carry it all.  It might be  helpful new revenue stream, but in the grand scheme things it's like bringing a garden hose to a house fire.  Yes it will spray water on it, but without something fundamentally different, that house is burning down.

Would this face lie to you?
Of course not, he's not saying anything of substance at all.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jan-Feb 2017 Recap and Leftovers

I can see clearly now... well not really but it's better.
So I've been having some eye procedures done.  In about 2006, my vision went from regular bad to borderline legally blind, and there was really not much to do about it until recently when some new technology was invented.  It isn't gonna fix anything but it will stabilize things to keep anything from getting worse and then maybe I can start wearing contact lenses (regular glasses don't fix what I have).  So being legally blind in one eye and having difficulty with the other, it's hard to read small print and impossible to drive at night.  The treatment I got leaves your vision blurry for a while, so that is why I haven't posted anything or been doing much keeping up with stuff. The effects have worn off and my vision having returned to what it was previously, I can get this going again, so lets see what's what.

I seeeeeeeee you

Mostly everyone knows the incident involving Richard Spencer at this point.  From Kotaku to to those busy-body hippie SJWs over at, everyone seems to be weighing in on this by asking the absolute wrong question:  "Is it ok to punch Nazis" "Is is right to punch Nazis" "Can we punch Nazis"   These are all the wrong questions, because terms like "ok" "right" and whatever the third question implies, all bring the matter of subjectivity to the situation.  Subjectivity in this matter means that if you ask 20 people you are going to get 20 different reasons for one of 2 answers. The question that should be asked is simple and explicit: "Is it legal to punch Nazis?" And in case you haven't guessed it, the answer is no, you can't just go up to someone and punch them even if they are espousing Nazism or something that is generally thought to be deplorable in ways both socially and morally.  Again, I think this is the 5th time I've had to bring up the Supreme Court case of National Socialists of America v Village of Skokie which affirms that equal protection under the law applies to everyone, even if they are supporting something you don't like. 

And what's not to like?

So yes, out in public, if Nazis are saying Nazi things in their little Nazi outfits, then physically assaulting them, or stealing their stuff, is indeed a crime.  No matter how deplorable the message of someone, it can not decriminalize your own actions.  Is it good to punch Nazis? Yeah.  Is it rewarding and a source of pride to punch Nazis?  Of course.  Is it legal?  Lots of fun things aren't legal, so for better or worse their right to not get punched in the face legally supersedes your own butthurt. Deal with it. Like. An. Adult. For fucks sake. Very few people in the fandom seem to be approaching this with a true impartial logic based on American Case Law and Constitutional Values, but some have.  It's worth a read.  So is its sequel.

It's OK to be a grown adult and like Dragon Maid.
Dragon Maid is an anime.  It's what it sounds like, a dragon becomes a Maid (this is Japanese pop-culture "Maid" and not someone paid minimum wage to clean up your nasty ass hotel room after that conference you went to which had an open bar).  Now it sounds like a ridiculous premise, but our linchpin character in this series is a working adult.  No, not a high school student, no, not some magical girl from a different universe, and no, not some alien with superpowers.  She's a regular working stiff, like lots of other grown adults out there.  Yep, that's the game-changer.  If you're a grown adult and you watch a series about stuff happening to other grown adults, you might find it easy to relate to.

And....... you're hooked.

You might be saying to yourself, "yeah, but there's dragons and fantasy and other totally unrealistic things in there so how can you call yourself an adult and like it?" to which I would respond, "Is that Game of Thrones your talking about?" ...yeah, shut up.  Not for nothing but I'd feel better having Dragon Maid on in a room with children than Game of Thrones. 

HaHa.... boobs.

Disturbingly or not-so-disturbingly depending on your own personal feelings, this is a major reason why there are so many adult fans of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic.  Almost all the characters (especially the main characters) are very much adults.  They don't live with their parents, they are well out of school, they own their own businesses, they have employees, deadlines, some have the highest level of government security clearance, they go on diplomatic missions, one struggles with a clear case of schizophrenia, and one is a member of the military and also a member of the most elite flying squadron in the entire Air Force.  They are pretty much all late 20's if not older.  So people in their late 20's can relate to those characters. When combined with a well-written and technically well animated TV show, you've got something interesting, even if it did grow out of a terribly made 30 minute toy commercial from the 1980's.

Owns 3 boutiques, manages 10-20 employees, deals with a shady land lord, is a celebrity designer.
You don't do that when you're 13, you do it when you're 33.

There is no shortage of anime and manga made about and made for adults who work at companies, are home-makers, or creative professionals, but they often get overlooked for the traditionally popular genres of "ninjas" "mecca" "magical girl fill-in-the-blank-moon-card-captor-blah" "High School X" "my girlfriend is a vampire" or "boobs ...totally boobs"    ...that's a lot to deal with just there, so something about an overworked ad executive who finds a moment of Zen in a small park in Osaka one day during a sunset isn't gonna catch a lot of attention, but there are plenty of people who that would resonate with.  Enough to make it worth licensing?  No probably not.  But this segment does exist and it's only going to get bigger.

 HaHa.... boobs again.

That's fan-art by the way, not a scene from the actual show.

 Crunchyroll is having their own convention.
Slippery slope fellas.  It's sexy but not a money maker.  Get ready for some loss-leader deductions for 2017.  Also it's in California so ...meh.
Can't you just feel that excitement.

Annoying Prince Trumperdink.
So there's this thing where you are supposed to write postcards to The White House and address them to "President Steve Bannon" and Trump gets mad and stuff.  I have no idea if that's really what happens but as a committed troll I am so gonna do that.  DON'T use your good anime postcards.  #1) you will wish you had kept them.  #2 They are going to go straight into the shredder with an anime image on them, think for a minute junior.  What I am gonna do, is I am going to go to Columbus Circle and get some post cards that have Trump Tower on them... that way maybe he will actually want to see them then right?  Either way, I went down to my local US Post Office and bought a sheet of these stamps to use.  Hopefully the symbolism will get through.

Man the 90's sucked for American Comics.

Anyway, I don't think he's doing a good job as President.  So I am going to voice my concerns.  If anyone wants to know specifics then we can have it in the comments section.

I'll be wearing my Xmas gift while I write replies.

When Life Gives You Lemons
So I am continuing to have everything implode all around me and it's just about 100% of my own doing.  Sure there's the occasional unexpected thing breaking or bad weather messing something up, but the shitstorm of my life is pretty much my fault at this point.

You ever get one of those realization moments when you know you should just throw in the towel?  Mine came over Christmas, when I was hoping to get some alone time to shape up and do the warrior under the waterfall thing you always see and get my shit together (not an easy task but still had to try).  Instead I got a depressing talk in the woods in an entire situation I had actually convinced myself a few weeks prior I was going to be able to avoid.  I always play along but somewhere in the background I heard the game-ending buzzer go off and looking at the scoreboard I was way behind.  Did I feel the need to get some overtime and make things right and finally stop being so terrible?  Yes.  Was it enough to make me do anything?  No, clinical depression is kind of like a boat anchor that keeps you from doing anything for an irrational and indistinct fear you're just going to make it worse or just continue the parade of fail that has become your life.  Hell, my house could be on fire right now (from the lemons) and I probably wouldn't even bother getting up and leaving. I'd just take the batteries out of the smoke detectors so they would stop making that annoying sound.

It's not that I want to call it quits either.  But looking at the wall of insurmountable uncertainty, one can simply freeze in a mild panic which metastasizes into a process of thought which becomes as second-nature as breathing or blinking.  Then you just live there hoping for change from outward force, which never comes.

So for all of you people out there who don't like me, take solace in the fact that I am doing way worse than you and will probably stay that way.

Third time's the charm maybe...

Do you smell that?
Ramen is oft-maligned as cheap, un-creative, yuck-food that only college students and Naruto eat on a regular basis.   Sure some big cities have actual Ramen shops where you can get the real deal, but they tend to be crowded and more expensive than they should be.  To that end, I now give you a recipe that anyone can make anywhere in America that will rival the best corner dives of Tokyo.

 Om nom nom

How to make TanTanMen:
You will need:
1 brick of cheap-ass Maruchan or Nissin ramen (throw away that soup packet.  Never use the soup packet).
Ground Pork (cheat code; Ground turkey works fine, AND so does sliced roast beef from the deli if you want to save time, but if you use roast beef you still have to cook it all the way through in the pan until it gets all nice and shriveled).
Assorted veggies (whatever you want really.  Recommendations; show-peas, bean sprouts, thin sliced carrots... never broccoli).
Half an onion finely chopped.
Mashed garlic (boiling it before-hand makes it very easy to use.  Smooshes up just like toothpaste).
Worcestershire sauce
Soy Sauce (dark, like San-J Tamari)
Pepper flakes (pepperoncini like they have at the pizza place works just fine)
Oil (olive or sesame ...or whatever, just not 40weight)
Hot sauce (Louisiana red works great.  So does sriracha but that stuff can be expensive).
Beef bullion cube or beef broth
Big bowl
Hot water

OK so oil up a frying pan and start cooking your meat, pepper flakes, and onion (leave out the garlic for now).  We will be intentionally over-cooking it so just make sure you don't burn things.  We are drying out the meat so it can absorb the flavorful soup base later.  At the same time put the brick of ramen in your bowl and start your kettle or boil some water.  Once it's boiling, pour it on top of the noodles and they'll soften up after a few minutes (they're already cooked, remember).
While the meat is cooking, add worcestershire and soy sauce.  Add a bit more than you think you need since we're going to make a soup out of this. 
Once the meat is dried out, add veggies (we don't want to overcook those), and garlic and mirin to taste.
Drain the ramen.
Pour the whole contents of the pan on top of the ramen and then add hot water, a third of the bullion cube, and hot sauce to spice it up.  Top w/ sriracha if you really like hot stuff.  Throw a shot of sake or vodka into the soup  and it will really help the flavor.
Eat the thing.

1 pan, a few minutes, and cheap eats that don't suck.

If you're looking to cut salt, ditch the hot-sauce for more dried pepper flakes and just use worcestershire, with a low-salt beef broth.
If you're looking to cut calories, leave out the ramen itself (I know, blasphemy), and replace it with shredded cabbage.  It's not the same, but it's nice and filling with way less carbs.
If you don't like spicy (I know, blasphemy), then swap out the pepper flakes for something like mushrooms or sweet potato or whatever, and use your favorite BBQ sauce, a teaspoon of molasses, and a shot of whiskey along with the water and soup stock (if you are using beef not pork, then use a shot of Tequila).  I've never tried that but it sounds like it would be pretty boss.

Next time I'll show you how to make your own teriyaki come out just like it does at the restaurants because you know you're doing it wrong.

Remember the Alamo
If you live near an Alamo Drafthouse, they are still celebrating the works of Hayao Miyazaki with cinematic screenings.  Most of the major hits are on the menu like Totoro, Sen/Spirited Away, Nausicaa, Mononoke, and I think some locations have Ponyo.  Conspicuously absent seems to be Porco Rosso for some reason. Keeping kosher I guess?

Don't worry, we still love ya you glorious fat bastard..

The Alamo Drafthouse is really movie-going as it ought to be.  And I will sure as hell be bringing my trusted cell jammer with extended battery life for the shows I have tickets to.  Seriously as I've said before, some people just don't know how to behave in public.  So you still have time in some places.  See it before your eyesight goes, it might happen faster than you think.