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"When we tested this new name, the thing that we got back from our 18-to-34 techno-savvy crowd, which is quite a lot of our audience, is actually this is how you'd text it," Mr. Howe said. "It made us feel much cooler, much more cutting-edge, much more hip, which was kind of bang-on what we wanted to achieve communication-wise."

Umm, okay. I'm not sure that rebranding is the best answer to a network's "best year in history." But they seem awfully confident about it.

Pure Runway Gold

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I could watch Project Runway for the rest of my life, and I'm not sure I would ever see a scene as simultaneously hilarious and cringeworthy as Kenley trying to explain to Tim Gunn the hip-hop outfit she was making for Leanne. There's just no way that that was going to work. None.

1. Less than 2 hours waiting in terminal
2. Seats wide enough to accomodate typists whose arms don't originate in their rib cages
3. Tray tables capable of holding more than 1.6 lbs.
4. Leg room enough to lower said trays
5. Outlets, outlets, outlets
6. Sad bags of peanuts replaced with free office supplies
7. Spill-proof beverages
8. Replace in-flight advert-zine with copies of Getting Things Done or bound archives of 43 Folders
9. Merlin Mann is my co-pilot
10. Enough with the stupid commercials

A shadow of doubt?

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Yes, I must admit that being down 2-0 has somewhat affected my personal conviction that the Cubs will win the World Series this year.

Yes, I must admit that I thought that Hung would win, even despite all the transparently mercenary bullshit about soul and love he was trotting out during his in-game interviews. And I must admit as a corollary that Dale appeared to be a better chef than I was ever capable of crediting. But I have to ask: what chef, knowing that the final is in Aspen, doesn't understand that cooking is different at high altitudes? In a competition for 100K, that's a detail that I wouldn't expect a top chef to overlook.

Yes, I must admit that Pushing Daisies will either be a really intriguing show (Seuss noir) or another in a long line of half-season DVDs added to my collection.

Yes, I must admit that that is all I've got today.

You have to understand that, for whatever reason, I think of NBC as my "home" channel. When I go back to Iowa to visit, we still watch the NBC affiliate for local news. KWQC cares for me, after all.

Anyhow, I don't know that they're necessarily any denser when it comes to dealing with cable and net than the other biggies, but I seem to notice it more quickly. And so, when they do something right, it's only fair that I point that out too. To my surprise this week, I discovered that the pilots for all of NBC's new fall shows were being offered for free on one of our OnDemand channels. So I've already seen the first episodes of Bionic Woman, Chuck, and Life, and I'll probably give Journeyman a try this weekend.

The only one I was guaranteed to watch was BW, which is done by the same folks who brought us the BSG reboot, but after having seen the others, I might give one or two of them a try as well. And that's how it's supposed to work, I think.

So long, Miami

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I neglected to mention last week that I had a Top Chef dream. I don't remember much of it anymore, except to note that I was a Season 3 contestant, but somehow got bailed out of totally misunderstanding a challenge by Season 2's Elia.

Anyhow, my top picks keep losing. At the beginning of the season, if I had had to pick who I thought would make it to the final 4, I would have chosen CJ, Tre, Lia, and Hung. And as I mentioned to Derek today, if you gave me Tre, Lia, and CJ, I'd put that team up against any combo of the folk who are left.

It's been a weird season, and no one's rise to "success" has been more symptomatic of that than Brian, I think. You'll recall that, during the after-party challenge, he spent most of his time grabbing customers. During the 2 weeks of restaurant wars, he was in the front. And on the boat, he was coordinating most of the time. What saved him last night from elimination was the Dread Broccolini. By my count, that's like 4 or 5 episodes in a row where he hasn't exactly earned the right to stay on the show. And now he's one elim away from the final 4? Hmm. It's not that I don't like him or anything, but I'd have a tough time arguing that he's a better chef than those who've packed up their knives and gone.

We'll see, I suppose.

Rules for Restaurants

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As luck would have it, there was a mini-marathon of Ramsay's show on BBC America on Monday, and so I put it on in the background for a few hours as I read. And as a result, I am now prepared to offer to you the 5 Golden Gordon Rules of Resuscitating Restaurants:

1. A restaurant is a business, not a family, a hobby, a lounge, a home, or anything other than a business.

2. Quality is far more important than novelty (I suspect that Ramsay wants to kill the person who coined the phrase "Wow factor").

3. Traffic, traffic, traffic, traffic. Oh, and traffic.

4. Five adjectives that should describe the food: local, organic, rustic, clean, honest.

5. Finally, in a bad situation, there is almost inevitably one or more persons whose talent is going unexploited, and one or more persons whose talents are wildly overestimated. Kitchen nightmares are made, not born.

That comes close to summing up most of the episodes I've seen, only with a lot more swearing and bleeping, although BBC America doesn't, apparently, find "shithole" a necessary bleep. More than one episode demonstrates this fact.

That is all.

Top Chef, Season 3

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It's a slow summer for my various telefetishes, and thus best suited to picking up disc by disc of shows that didn't make first cut. For example, I've knocked off one season of Bones and two of Weeds over the past month or so.

But thanks to Bravo, the summer's not quite a wasteland. The only show I watch right now religiously is Top Chef which, along with Design Star, according to Laura, "should be required viewing for people who must work in teams or committees because they often reveal quite clearly how and why teams work or don't work." I couldn't agree more, but partly because I too am hooked on shows like that.

I've blogged before about how much tougher it is with TC, given that we can't actually taste the results, and have to trust the judges' decisions, but I've had less problem this season. Not sure why that is, but I wonder if it's not that the challenges aren't designed a little bit better.

For instance, last night was the Restaurant Wars episode, where the 8 folk left were put into teams of 4, given a garage space, and then given about 6 hours to plan, design, and prepare a 30-person service. At first, I was a little shocked at how little time they had to do it, but the difficulty of the challenge really made it obvious where the teams' weaknesses were, and that clearly translated to the judges' disappointment with both teams. This season's challenges have been less about sitting back and creating a pretty plate and more about things like timing and planning (and the pretty plate doesn't hurt). The result is that it's easier to tell who's excelling and who's not.

We'll see if they can keep it up this season--last season's 4-person finale was really poorly edited, such that it was really difficult to tell why the winners won and the other didn't, and I hope that that's not the case this year.

That is all.

Chains of love

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It's one of those weeks where my waking moments are filled with thoughts best left unblogged, for any number of reasons. But I've been meaning for the past couple of days to link to an entry over at Tim's joint. He's speaking mostly about the whole Edwards campaign kerfuffle, but for a paragraph, he references a conversation over at Laura's about whether or not she planned to continue blogging. It motivates some reflection on the double standard operating in some folks' conceptions of blogging. On the one hand, they want what happens in blogspace to matter in the larger world; on the other, they don't always seem to want to be held accountable by that larger world. But I was especially interested in the finally paragraph (gently pruned for your consumption):

This is not just about blogging: it’s about history. The more you write, the more your writing is both burden and expectation, a second self whose permission is required before you do something new–or whose betrayal is necessary should you wish to be free of your shadow....When I write it–even in a blog–it has, and ought to have, some greater weight. If that weight becomes like Marley’s chains, forged in life, it’s up to me to do the hard and complicated work of unlocking, not to complain that what I wrote was read.

I mentioned in the comments thread at Laura's that she'd articulated something that I've been experiencing lately as well. And I think that it's that notion of what I write here as a second self. When I'm feeling especially transparent, the blog doesn't feel all that separate from what I do. I don't feel like I have to police it for polysemy, worrying about whether or not what I say will be taken up in unintended ways. Which isn't to say that it's weightless--I hope that there is some weight to what I write, at least on occasion. But when it becomes a second or a third self--if my private and public meat/selves are the first two--it takes me that much more energy to tend to it. And that much self-maintenance can wear me out after a while. Right now, I'm feeling that fatigue. Part of it's the weather, part of it's the time of the year, and part of it's just the junk that happens.

What prompted this entry tonight was a conversation with D about last night's ep of Lost, which didn't jazz me quite as much as the week before. I'm worried that the writers of that show have decided not to "do the hard and complicated work of unlocking" their narrative, opting instead for more plot, more characters, and more distractions (assuming that Jack's tattoo was one of the "big mysteries" solved last night), and hoping that those of us who loved the show through the first two seasons will simply let it slide. Lost is no longer the must-see it was for me those first two seasons, and while I'm willing to ride it out a while longer, I'm beginning to feel a bit betrayed by the fact that I've watched regularly, closely, and with interest. I wonder how much the writers are longing to be free of the shadows of those first two seasons.

That's not to compare my humble blog to a show like Lost. But I had a much more concrete sense after that conversation of how even a labor of love can begin to feel like a unshakeable shadow. That's all.

And that's really all I have to say tonight.

Yes, I am a hardcore Mac enthusiast, but to be honest, I find the Mac vs. PC ads hit or miss. Part of it is that Justin Long (Mac) is a little too smug, and I think that John Hodgman (PC) is high-larious. But the new Vista commercial makes me laugh. It's a simple concept, and in a few lines, they manage to boil down a difference between the two operating systems in a really clever way. I'm certain that it's more complicated than that, but I almost don't care. Nothing in the commercial is wasted, from the visual minimalism to the final, mournful "Allow..."

Anyhow, I spend (it seems) an entry a month bemoaning the idiocy that passes for marketing these days, so it seems only fair to point out the good on the rare occasions that I come across it.



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