Everything I need to know…

Have you ever seen those posters that start out with “Everything I need to know I learned in <insert school grade/movie/book>…” that list all these wonderful little truths about life that everyone knows but nobody really pays attention to? I have my own version of this poster. Everything I need to know I learned from anime. The difference between American cartoons and anime (or Japanese animated television shows) is a large gap of maturity and true life lessons gleaned from character development. I find more meaning in one episode of, say, Gundam Seed than in the entire run of Scooby Doo.

There is a huge difference in mentality when our respective countries approach animated works. Americans by and large consider the animation medium as something childish and only fit for the most shallow of pursuits. The Japanese approach animated work as a serious art that can convey even the most complex stories with better efficiency and cost than a live-action and special effects ridden behemoth that one would expect from Hollywood. They do not demean the medium because of silly preconceptions. Some great dramas can be conveyed through animation. I speak of stories and characters with real depth and real growth over the course of the story arc. Characters are often flawed and dealing with inner turmoil that can cause what would normally be a minor situation to turn into a major catastrophe. These same characters make human mistakes and suffer consequences for said mistakes.

The writers have a goal to tell a story. This is true regardless of what country a writer hails from. Stories that are written without regard to what kind of budget the studio has to offer are far better than those crammed into cookie cutter sized generic flavored snack batches that Hollywood is so famous for spewing forth onto the masses. Using animation as a medium, suddenly the cost of that planet exploding or those slow motion effects have no monetary difference from that scene of two guys sitting at a table and talking. This gives the writer the ability to truly delve deeply into the tale he or she wishes to weave for the audience so that they might share some of what the writer has put into the work. But I stray from the subject…

Some of the things I have learned from anime:

  • Choices have consequences both good and bad. I must take responsibility for my choices and actions. [Gundam Seed]
  • It may be far easier to do nothing, but it is far more rewarding to stand up and take action. [DBZ, Gundam, most action anime]
  • Stereotypes are misleading. Everyone is different so give everyone a chance. [Witch Hunter Robin, Inuyasha]
  • Never give up on a dream. [Gundam Wing, Outlaw Star]
  • Money is not the most important thing in life. [King of Bandit Jing]
  • Love conquers all. [Chobits, Appleseed]
  • People can change. [Elfen Lied, Rurouni Kenshin]
  • Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. Just take those times and deal with them the best that you can. [FLCL]
  • True friends will be there for you. [DBZ, Rurouni Kenshin, Outlaw Star, Dual!]
  • Every day is an opportunity to learn to understand myself better. [Noir, .Hack]
  • Everyone needs help sometimes. True friends will be there for you. [Yu Yu Hakusho, all Gundam]

I could continue this but the point is made. Unlike most American animated shows, anime offers something deeper and more meaningful…something that can provoke thought and understanding. So don’t just shrug off Japanese animated shows as “kiddie stuff”. Give them a chance and you may be surprised at how well written the stories and characters actually are. Just avoid things like Colorful and Bo-bo-bo. After all…every genre has a few bad seeds.

A Comcast Summary

For those of you that have been following my Comcast saga, you can jump down to the last paragraph. Newcomers, you are being treated with a brief summary of the previous trials. More in-depth information can be found in the posts tagged Comcast…just hit up the search feature.

The whole thing started about nine or ten months ago with some poor picture problems. I have a 50″ Samsung plasma television and subscribe to Comcast’s HD service complete with DVR. I figured it would be a fairly simple thing to call them up, run through their troubleshooting script, and get a tech to stop by and fix whatever was messed up. I figured wrong.

Over the course all these months I have been calling Comcast almost weekly with the same problem. Standard definition channels are so fuzzy that they look like I’m watching them on my old Zenith television hooked up to rabbit-ears and HD channels giving me the Max Headroom treatment if they come in at all. I have had no less than a dozen techs at my house over this time all trying to figure out what was going on. They ran a new cable to the house and replaced all the cable ends and splitters where the feed comes in. Nothing helped. I replaced the receiver which was constantly locking up on me (thus losing all my saved programs) and that did nothing except maybe make my problems even worse.

So I blogged it. Lo and behold my little blog which got less than twenty hits a day at the time got a response. In less than four hours after posting my first Comcast rant, I got a comment from Melissa with Comcast’s Social Media Outreach group. Thus ensued a series of emails (which are blogged here) and phone calls with the “local leadership” in an effort to fix my ongoing poor service. More techs were sent and more problems just weren’t fixed. But Customer Service was a pleasure to deal with. Every last one of them was helpful and sympathetic. Their techs consistantly sucked. Insert more blog postings, emails, and phone calls.

Eventually I got a response via Twitter from Melissa’s boss, Frank (@comcastcares). He was very excited about my opinion on how his group was helping me get something done but was just as frustrated at their tech’s inability to fix it. More time passed with steadily worsening service. It literally became unwatchable cable. Finally, Melissa ran across my more recent postings (the one’s with Star Wars-esque names) and decided it was time to up the ante. That got me the head of the local support center and a visit from one of his top engineers. Yep, engineer…not tech. He fixed the problem in less than two hours. Turns out when the cable ends were replaced, the one that went to my DVR had some of the ground braiding touching the center conducter wire. Way to go tech guys.

Well, that was about three weeks ago and I am happy to say that I have been credited for service that was nigh unusable and since the engineer’s visit, my service has been really good. I still get occasional pixelation, but I can live with it. Besides, who on Comcast doesn’t have quality drop on HD every now and then? It took every ounce of patience I had to keep them around long enough to get a fix. This was in large part because of my reluctance to give up Food Network and Good Eats. Alton Brown is the only reason I have cable to begin with and my addiction to his show is the only reason Comcast is still getting money from me. So I have to thank AB for giving me a reason to see it through to a finally happy conclusion. I cannot express how much I appreciate everything that Frank and Melissa did for me. That group deserves positive press regardless of whatever the rest of the Company From Hell is doing. So Frank and Melissa, thanks again and keep up the great work. With luck you won’t hear from me any more unless you want to talk about random topics.

Home Media Makeover Part One: DVD Library

Technology abounds in every aspect of our lives. Computers are usually the center of a great many media types that we experience throughout the day. You can buy a computer pretty much anywhere these days for really reasonable prices. So the question on my mind has been, why are most people still using the old components of yore for their home theaters? Why not leverage some of this wonderful computer technology and versatility for the home theater experience?

Yes, I know there are HTPC options out there. Most of them run well over $1500 for the base model. I also know you can roll your own HTPC/DVR for about the same price. What I’m talking about is using a more distributed model, preferably leveraging systems you already have in place…just extending them to the HDTV in the living room. For my personal project, I have a 20″ iMac on my desk and a Vista laptop that usually sits on the coffee table. There’s a 50″ Samsung plasma TV in the living room that I really want to use to watch my media such as streaming video from the web with an XBox360 under it.

Ideally, I want to get rid of the DVD player and replace the set-top box from Comcast with my media system so I can drop the cable television service and thus save myself over $1000 a year. Now I realize that for my particular desires, I will not need a PVR/DVR setup and can thus skimp on some hardware. Actually, for step one of my media center makeover, I just want to stream ripped copies of my DVD library so my 360 will play the part of extender. For this setup, storage will be the biggest concern with network bandwidth running a close second. With today’s prices for hardware, neither of those should be a challenge to satisfy on a budget.

Continue reading “Home Media Makeover Part One: DVD Library”

Comcast Episode Three: Revenge of the Box

Another week and still the high signal issues persist. I figured that since the tech that came out Saturday was one that had been there before and managed to get me fixed back then, I would see some satisfaction. I was wrong. While attempting to watch Good Eats last night I got frozen frames, pixelated video, trilling sound…the full Max Headroom treatment…that culminated in a nice box in the middle of the screen once again informing me that I needed to subscribe if I wanted to watch Food Network. Come on guys, it can’t be that hard to fix a signal problem. Continue reading “Comcast Episode Three: Revenge of the Box”

Right here on Hippie TV!

I normally reserve my eco/green posts (read “hippie ideas”) for The Energy Farm site. The only problem is that I have to put more of a journalist-like feel to the article. Now I don’t consider myself a journalist. I’m more of a hobby blogger because I like to share my ideas with anyone that will listen. Yes, sometimes I talk a lot. Anyway, the point is I ran across a neat little article about a new cable channel launching next month and I wanted to share some thoughts. I just didn’t feel I could really express myself well in the more sanitized environment of the other site.

Let’s get to it. Apparently Discovery is launching Planet Green next month. It will be focused on eco-friendly lifestyle programming. The resurgance of the “hippie movement” seems to be in full swing. I’m okay with that. I’ve always thought people were, in general, far too wasteful. In the 80’s it seemed like the “in” thing to get as much as you could and do as little with it as possible. Heck, I remember a truck customizing magazine I used to read that had a special on a souped up Chevrolet 4×4 that got….1 mile to the gallon. You read that right…it had a 1:1 ratio of gas to distance. This was the centerfold truck of that issue. For years now that memory has stood out in my mind as the true representation of our wastefulness. Continue reading “Right here on Hippie TV!”

I Think We Should See Other Providers

It already appears that my new HD-DVR is a much more stable than Tom Cruise, unlike my last one. But I am still dealing with HD channels suffering from what I call “Max Headroom Syndrome”. This is where…oh if you don’t know who Max Headroom is, hit Google and Youtube for a little much needed education. Between that and the screen and sound just blanking out every minute or so during Poker After Dark, I’m less and less pleased with my new Comcast deal. Continue reading “I Think We Should See Other Providers”

This isn’t just science, it’s…..

Good Eats.

Alton Brown’s new book Feasting On Asphalt: The River Run is out and he made a book signing stop in Jackson today. Alton hosts several shows on The Food Network including Good Eats and Iron Chef America. He has added to this list a new show that he works on from time to time called Feasting on Asphalt. The first season he hopped on his motorcycle and cruised the backroads of America from the east coast to the west coast. Along the way he discovered lots of down home diners that hearken back to the “good ole days” of going out to eat. With the success of that he went on and did a second season where he started down in Louisiana and rode his way up the mighty Mississippi River looking for more of those hidden gems of dining. Continue reading “This isn’t just science, it’s…..”