Monday, February 05, 2007

The moon in June, crazy as a loon

Crazy stories from the crazy world of space.

First, a space trash catastrophe in the works as thousands of tiny pieces of debris orbit Earth. When one of these pieces hits something larger — like an abandoned rocket — the collision creates more tiny pieces of debris. If this chain reaction reaches critical mass, space becomes too dangerous for new crafts.

Second, a space trash catastrophe in the works as one astronaut drives 1,000 miles to confront the girlfriend of her astronaut crush: “Nowak — who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer — was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, and latex gloves in her car, reports show. They also found diapers, which Nowak said she used so she wouldn't have to stop on the 1,000-mile drive. Reports show that after U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman's flight arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport's Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman's car and then doused her with pepper spray.”

Third, Google Copernicus Center is hiring.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Laugh all you want

NBC does not have a single show with a laugh track in its current line-up.

The laugh track is slowly being replaced by hand held cameras in comedies like “The Office,” a little bit in “30 Rock,” Fox’s now-canceled “Arrested Development,” and the drama “Friday Night Lights.”

This seems like a cultural moment. It’s a shift in the language of television.

The laugh track aids imagination by location. It allows the home audience to pretend to be somewhere else: part of the studio audience, watching actors play characters. The hand held camera effect aids imagination by content. It allows the home audience to pretend to watch real footage in the comfort of their own home.

Where viewers once wanted to be taken to a magical place, they now want to see magical glimpses of the real world, even if they aren’t real.

The next step is “life tracks”: underneath hand held footage would be the sounds of other living rooms. You’d hear people opening cans of soda, whispering about the action, making out, sitting in creaky chairs, gasping at shocking moments. Maybe a phone rings.

Eventually, audiences become sophisticated enough to follow concurrent plot lines: the visual one on screen and the audio one on the life track. The characters in the living room on the life track would have story lines, possibly relating to the shows they watch. Maybe the life tracks would be different from show to show.

The DVD commentary would be maddening: show, topped by life track, topped by commentary, topped by life track commentary. Television fans would be immediately recognizable on the street: they are the ones walking around with one eye off in space, muttering to themselves, trying to unravel that thick knot of information.