What we talk about when we talk about Conan O’Brien

New York magazine has a great piece up detailing the final days of the Conan O’Brien regime at “The Tonight Show” that includes this insightful passage:

By the time O’Brien signs off tonight, with a $33 million buyout and a green light to jump to a rival network as early as September, it will be on a wave of populist support. A younger, tech-savvier constituency—one that was more likely to watch TheTonight Show on DVR or Hulu and was now tweeting its allegiance to Team Conan over Team Jay more than 50 to 1—had remade him, with viral swiftness, into something he had not sought to be and, as a fantastically wealthy Harvard-educated showman, did not exactly match: a folk hero for the downsized age.

The phrase “folk hero for the downsized age” made me think, is there even more going on here than that? I think it’s a generational thing: Conan O’Brien represents the collective angst of Generation-X’ers and Y’zers who have had to sit patiently while a generation of Baby Boomers stubbornly refused to pass the torch. And Jay Leno’s continued willingness to stick around long, long past his cultural sell-by date could just be the perfect metaphor for the self-involved, decreasingly-effective generation of Boomers that continue to hog up the top slots in our nation’s workforce.

The sole bright spot likely to emerge from this entire embarrassing affair may turn out to be the uncharacteristically optimistic, final words from O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” broadcast:

All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.

Let’s hope amazing things happen for Conan much sooner than later, and let’s hope Jay Leno gets crushed by a Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental.

how to ditch cable

no cable equation
One of the questions I get asked quite often is if there is some way to get television shows from the internet without paying 50$ a month for cable*. My answer is that, yes, I have heard, this guy I know told me that there is a way, but it’s kind of hard to explain. But the question comes up again and again and again, so it occurred to me that it might be useful to write it all down once and for all.

To get television off the internet, you need three things:

  1. You need to be able to find a torrent file of the show.
  2. You need to be able to use the torrent file to download the video file of the show.
  3. You need to be able to watch the video file of the show.

Luckily, this process has recently been made a lot easier by three quite excellent Mac OS X programs:

  1. Finding the torrent: There’s an app called TVShows that takes pretty much all the sting out of this task. It’s a ruby app that parses the feed from tvrss.net and presents the user with an excellent interface to subscribe to their favorite shows.

    tvshowsint.jpg

    One or two clicks and you’ve got the torrent files corresponding to your favorite shows automatically downloaded to your desktop. You can even set TVShows to start downloading the files automatically:

    tvshowsint2.jpg
  2. Downloading the video file: Now you’ve got torrent files, but they just point the way to the video files — you’ll still need to download the video files themselves. There’s an excellent torrent client for Mac OS X called Transmission that can help you do that. It’s lightweight and not over-encumbered with features. This is what will download the video file that the torrent file points to. One of the things I like most about it is if you have a relatively recent router (for example, a “white” Airport Extreme router or later), Transmission has an option to automatically map the port for you:

    mapport.jpg

    Without a “mapped and open port”, BitTorrent clients don’t work very well, so it’s handy that Transmission has the option to talk to the router and make this happen auto-magically.

  3. Watching the video file: Most television shows on the internet are in a format called “DivX” which is not supported natively in QuickTime, so you’ll need to find a way to open and view the file. There’s a Quicktime plug-in called Perian which can do this, but I find the most foolproof way to do watch downloaded video is via an application called VLC. VLC will pretty much open and play everything. Once Transmission downloads the video file (and this typically will take a while! I’m told!), drop the video file on VLC to play it.

~Jeff

* NOTE: This is probably illegal.

planet earth

planet_earth.jpg

Now, I’ve gotten by pretty well without an HD TV. The issue really is that when i do buy one, it’ll be rather large. And require upgrading my main stereo receiver. And Tivo. And likely my speakers. So the whole thing quickly spirals out of control, and as a result, i stay pretty happy with what I’ve got.

But Planet Earth on Discovery has really, really made me think i should start pricing TVs. Lord, it’s pretty.

andy barker, p.i.


You may want to watch Andy Richter’s new show as soon as possible, because it couldn’t be more doomed to cancellation if it were named “Cancellation Island”. It’s good to see Tony Hale again too.

I don’t hate the NBC flash player. It’s nice and big and, for what it is, well-designed. They make you watch one commercial — for TurboTax, appropriately enough — per ten minute segment, which seems about fair.

~jeff

ignorance is strength.

War is Peace.

Well, Dubya’s at it again. Whenever given the choice, he’ll opt for corporate warfare over human welfare, and his primary method is to silence all opposition irrespective of its rightness. His certainty is sure indication of his contempt for the truth.

In this case, he wants to eliminate public broadcasting. That’s right, the people who brought you Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, and the Electric Company, because they teach people to read, must go. This follows his attack on NASA where the administration changed the mandate of NASA so that it is officially no longer concerned with the health of the Earth. It follows his attack on the US school system — terrible though it is — by slashing funding to the poorest districts.

The Republican goal in this country is to eliminate all thought. If you’re anything but a corporate-funded billionaire, it’s in your interest to stop these people. If you are a corporate-funded billionaire, well, hi there, thanks for reading our blog, and could I have a million dollars? It’s only .05% of what you’ve got and I’ve got some causes I’d like to fund.

Fortunately, there’s something, however small, that we can do. MoveOn is having a petition signing so you can show your disapproval to your congressfolk.

(If this works, maybe NPR could grow a second testicle and give us some punchier news. I’m lucky enough to get some Pacifica Radio programming where I live. If you don’t know what they are, check it out.)

worst. rerun. ever.


I just saw an ad saying that on September 11th the Today Show will be re-broadcasting their show from September 11, 2001.

I didn’t want to see it the first time, even though I couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. Being a native New Yorker with family still there, and living in between Dulles Airport and the Pentagon at the time, I was mostly concerned about what the hell was going on in both both places. If I thought I needed to see the frequently faulty coverage (on the DC stations at least) of 9/11 again, I would have TiVo’d it and run off some DVDs for some card-carrying masochists.

What NBC is doing feels no different than ESPN Classic replaying past World Series games. I just don’t understand why anyone who was either in the thick of the attacks, who couldn’t have cared less, or who was somewhere in the motional middle would want to see this.

So if you happen to be watching NBC Monday morning and see planes hitting the Twin Towers, it is not, I repeat, not a Civil War re-enactment type of deal, but I’m sure we can look forward to that next year.

best will ferrell sketches of all time


…”Cracked” Magazine — of all places — counts them down and I suspect you won’t disagree. It’s great to be able to see lost favorites like “The H. is O.”, “Infinite Frontier”, and “Robert Goulet Coconut Banger’s Ball”; to this day I can’t see a Dodge Stratus without thinking of Ferrell’s furious dad character.

(WARNING: cruddy YouTube video quality)

~jeff

snl shakeup


Due to “budget cuts”:

IN: Jason Sudeikis as the anchor of Weekend Update, taking over for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I… guess? I miss Tina Fey already.

OUT: Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch are leaving for their own sitcom — “30 Rock”, about a thinly fictionalized Saturday Night Live type show — and Lorne seems to be giving the boot to Darrell Hammond, Chris Parnell, Horatio Sanz and Kenan Thompson… no big deal here. I always found Hammond’s impersonations to be technically correct but essentially soulless, Horatio Sanz is still cracking himself up in the middle of everything he does, and Kenan Thompson never got very funny but nobody does deadpan like Chris Parnell.

(Thanks to ‘Topher for the clip!)

~jeff

guild of calamitous intent revealed


Found via a link on “Venture Bros.” writer Jackson Publick’s livejournal:

The background image is the Venture Compound’s austere press conference room, where Jonas Sr. no doubt unveiled many a startling, fantastic invention to an eager public in bygone days, and where he probably negotiated “Rusty’s Law” with the Guild of Calamitous Intent. As for the characters, those whom you don’t recognize, your guess is as good as mine…but you’re probably wrong.

…I’m dying to know about the pink dolphin.

~jeff