I’m Watching QVC

Lisa Robertson is on my TV selling an initial tag leather bracelet. I’m not buying. This show isn’t aimed at me.

Helaine has QVC on for much the same reason I watch MSNBC, noise.

I usually don’t watch. Tonight, it has my rapt attention.

I’m probably not going to say what you think.

Wow. This is the most slickly produced live production on TV. Full stop.

It’s not just Lisa Robertson I’m watching. It’s the Lisa Robertson Show!

As I understand it, QVC’s operation is more soundstage than studio. It is brightly lit and full of weighty looking furniture and furnishings.

Yes, they are selling and selling hard. Lisa, the product’s on-camera rep, Josie and a few models are currently rubbing some sort of cream on their shoulders and exposed clavicles. Surreal.

A jewelry segment used a camera with a shallow depth of field–maybe a DSLR. Nice touch.

There was a special feature earlier on up-and-coming fashion designers. Yes, there was an ulterior motive in producing and running this. Still, the package was well put together. Slickly put together.

Many of the production techniques used could have been accomplished for less with a nearly equal result. They spend the extra buck.

The camera shots move smoothly. The direction is tight. There are models aplenty.

There’s nothing on TV done live that comes close. Wish I knew why?

For The Love Of Coffee

Each of the mugs we had hanging around the house had some design flaw (and always a different design flaw) which made them difficult to drink from without occasionally getting some coffee spillage.

coffee-mug.jpgWhen Stef graduated college, moved home and began to work, Helaine started making coffee every morning. Even with Stef’s job finished (“Deal Or No Deal” produced their 130 episodes in the blink of an eye) Helaine has continued to brew coffee every day.

Now, instead of stopping at Dunkin’ Donuts on my way in to work, I bring my coffee in a thermal mug.

Do you miss me Dunks? We’re still using your beans, but I know you feel scorned.

I was going to say it’s pretty neat–except it hasn’t been neat for me. Who knew thermal mugs had so many design problems made worse by my personal klutziness?

Each of the mugs we had hanging around the house had some flaw (and always a different flaw) which made them difficult to drink from without occasionally getting coffee ‘spillage.’ Thank heavens no one see me at work.

Today Helaine handed me a new mug and though I winced a little when I saw how much they cost (I wanted to make sure they were available online before I wrote this), it seems to solve most mug problems!

  • The coffee’s warm
  • There was no dripping in the car
  • There’s a button which opens the drinking spout allowing me to get a good flow of coffee with none on my shirt!

It’s a Contigo mug which Helaine bought on QVC. I usually find QVC to be a higher priced vendor, but their service is unquestionably excellent and it was very convenient for Helaine to order there.

OK–this is not a total love fest. As with most mugs this one has a bad shape/height combo. In my car’s drink holder this mug is too tall… too top heavy. I don’t think it’s going to fall out, but I can’t guarantee that.

Isn’t the size of mugs and cups something that can be standardized?

Atlantic City Observations

I was going to continue my trip report on Atlantic City, but too much time has passed and I don’t have notes. There are some observations I still want to make.

Atlantic City is not Las Vegas. With the exception of Borgata&#185, where we stayed, all the hotels looked shabby and worn. Most were decorated in a style that implied glitz thirty years ago, but no longer does.

Donald Trump’s name is held high over a number of the hotels. I doubt he’d want us to judge him by these facilities.

Most of the hotels in AC, if they stood in Las Vegas, would be scheduled for demolition!

We had a few really excellent meals. I’ve already written about Wolfgang Puck’s place (excellent pizza, half filled bowl of chowder), but we also grazed at the Borgata buffet for breakfast, Old Homstead (excellent steakhouse) and The Metropolitan, Borgata’s equivalent of a Vegas coffee shop.

At the Old Homestead, I ordered the house special – the first time I’ve ever ordered a steak I couldn’t finish!

Beautiful restaurants were very pricey. There’s no way around that.

If you’ve read the blog any length of time, you probably know I don’t drink anything alcoholic (except Bailey’s, which is spiked chocolate milk. I’ll have a Bailey’s once or twice a year). My traveling companions, Rick and Dennis, were ordering “Gray Goose Martini, dirty” at every opportunity.

Finally, I asked to take a sip – the curiosity was killing me. It was very tasty, pleasantly briny and surprisingly without the alcohol burn I expected.

I’m already up to my eyeballs in vices. We’ll keep your resume on file.

Rick and Dennis had the hotel reservation before I came on board and the room only had two beds… so Rick brought a blow-up mattress. Perfect. In fact, on the second day, the maid actually made that bed along with the two others.

You see all sorts of characters when you’re playing poker. Character is the correct characterization. Many try and take on a distinct persona by their dress and manner. Poker is, after all, a game of psyching out one’s opponent.

I sat next to a guy at one table who wore very shiny gold jewelery. It was overly shiny, if that’s possible. Imagine the kind of ‘star filters’ they put on the cameras at QVC and HSN to make everything glitter, but in real life.

On his left wrist he wore a gold Rolex, diamond encrusted. The second hand swept around the face smoothly. Fake! Real Rolex’s tick each second individually. I understood more of him than he could ever know.

In poker, it’s called a tell.

There are lots of young people in their twenties playing cards. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. When you’re in your twenties, how much discretionary income do you have? They’re not all winning.

There’s no doubt poker’s popularity is still on the rise. Borgata has a huge room. Other casinos have enlarged their poker areas too.

We came with a list (compiled by Dennis) of potential poker tournaments to play. There’s no shortage of those either.

As always seems the case, the weather was awful. It was either raining, or threatening to rain. I can’t remember the last time I saw Atlantic City framed against a blue sky. Maybe next time.

&#185 – I had referred to this hotel as The Borgata, but their own signage says, “Welcome to Borgata.” They should know.

Clicky To The Hospital

Helaine and Stef went to a concert Saturday night and took “Clicky,” my Canon 300D “Digital Rebel” with them. Unfortunately, not one of the photos Stef took came out!

It’s not her fault. This is a well documented design flaw in the 300D. Sometimes it happens while the camera’s in warranty. In my case, it waited over 18,000 shots and a few years before it broke.

This afternoon I went to the attic and my stash of bubble wrap. “Clicky” is now safely ensconced in an old QVC box, ready for his trip to New Jersey.

In a way I’m happy this happened now. In October, Helaine and I are going out west. It will be a trip made for photography. Imagine if the camera would have broken then!

I’ve actually been anticipating this moment and worrying it wouldn’t happen until October.

After around a week, and with more money than I’d like going to Canon, “Clicky” should be back home. From what I’ve read, once this fix is made, the camera will live a much longer and healthier life.

In the meantime, I was able to manually set the broken piece for one last photo.

Is There No More Broadcasting?

It’s Saturday and Helaine and I have lots of time to spend together. The weather outside is frightful with lots and lots of (correctly forecast) rain. This is a big day in front of the TV.

Here’s what I’ve rediscovered. Outside of primetime, we almost exclusively watch different TV channels.

I say rediscovered because I noticed this earlier with Steffie.

Helaine likes QVC and FoodTV with scattered sojourns to HGTV the ESPNs.. I mostly hit the news channels, documentary niche channels (all the Discovery digital services) and old movies (is Steven Segal on tonight?).

How will this affect the future of TV? We’ve already seen the disappearance of “specials” and variety shows. There’s not enough audience to justify the high cost.

Luckily there are still some shows we can watch together. Still, if TV gets sliced and diced too much, production values and content will follow. Yes, a thousand channels, but of what?

Barry Diller And Michael Eisner

I’m watching Michael Eisner, former Disney CEO, interview Barry Diller. This is one of those things you stumble on with digital cable. It’s on a channel high enough (106) that oxygen masks should pop out of the overhead.

When I originally posted this I went on without explaining who Diller is. I have second thoughts about his notoriety outside ‘the business.’

From Wikipedia: Barry Diller was raised in Beverly Hills and began his career in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency. He was hired by ABC in 1966 and was soon placed in charge of negotiating broadcast rights to feature films. He was promoted to vice president in charge of feature films and program development in 1969. In this position, Diller created the ABC Movie of the Week, pioneering the concept of the made-for-television movie through a regular series of 90-minute films produced exclusively for television.

Diller served for ten years as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Pictures Corporation starting in 1972. With Diller at the helm, the studio produced hit television programs such as Laverne & Shirley (1976), Taxi (1978), and Cheers (1982) and films ranging from Saturday Night Fever (1977), and Grease (1978) to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and its sequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) to Terms of Endearment (1983) and Beverly Hills Cop (1984).

From October 1984 to April 1992, he held the positions of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox, Inc, parent company of Fox Broadcasting Company and 20th Century Fox. Diller quit 20th Century-Fox in 1992 and purchased a $25 million stake in QVC teleshopping network. Diller resigned from QVC in 1995.

Diller is currently the Chairman of Expedia and the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of IAC/InterActiveCorp, an interactive commerce conglomerate and the parent of companies including Home Shopping Network, Ticketmaster, Match.com and Citysearch. In 2005, IAC/InterActiveCorp acquired Ask Jeeves, marking a strategic move into the Internet search category.

In 2001, Diller married fashion designer and longtime friend Diane von Furstenberg

Eisner is subbing for Charley Rose. This rerun of a rerun is on Connecticut Public Television’s tertiary channel!

Diller is a guy I had only heard about (and, years ago when we bought stock in QVC) invested in. He’s not just a genius, he’s an amazing genius… though from what I’d always heard, maybe ‘evil genius’ is a better characterization.

Look at him and you see the physical polish that comes with money. His suit, tie and watch are impeccably stylish and reek of money. When you listen to him, you hear words from a man much younger than he.

It is obvious, when it comes to technology and where the mass dissemination of programming is going, Diller gets it. He is about 63. The promise of technology’s future has moved beyond all but a few 63 year olds.

It is a shame for Eisner, who is undoubtedly bright, that he’s sharing a stage with Diller. Anyone would seem dimmer in comparison.

If you see this interview coming in yet another rerun of a rerun of a rerun, make sure you catch it, if only to further scope out Barry Diller. This is another of those moments when, after the fact, I realize how little I know and how much more I have to learn.

Pfffft Goes the TV

I came home from work, turned on the TV and began to watch Countdown with Keith Olberman (yes – I’m the one). I wasn’t more than 10 or 15 seconds into the show when I heard “pfffft” and the picture went out.

I approached the TV cautiously. There was the very distinct smell of fried capacitor. Without looking, my guess is the power supply is gone.

In the good old days that wouldn’t be a major problem. We’ve progressed beyond the good old days. This TV is now ready to be thrown away! I took a piece of notebook paper and some Scotch Tape so I could attach a hand written sign that says, “TV Dead.”

It is a Zenith projection TV, probably 45″ picture. In this day and age it’s small for a projection TV. The picture is OK, not great. Years ago, not long after we got it, someone scratched a small portion. It’s only visible from obtuse angles.

Helaine is prone to watch QVC for hours on end. Sometimes, especially on solid colors, you can see where QVC’s standard screen is burned into the display.

Now comes the interesting part.

Back when we bought the TV, maybe 10 or so years ago, we had a cabinet in our family room built around it. They still make TVs with 45″ screens, but now they’re 16:9. Our is 4:3. In other words, sets are wider and shorter. It will be interesting finding one that fits.

Once we find the proper size, we’ve got to decide whether to get HDTV or standard definition. Should it be another rear projection or a new technology like plasma&#185 or LCD?

The shopping starts later today, I suppose. I really hadn’t planned on forking out the cash for a new TV. This sucks.

&#185 – It is my understanding plasma is very susceptible to burn in (like our current set) while LCD is burn proof.

My Shopper’s Weakness

My wife watches QVC for entertainment. I’ve actually walked in and seen her watching a presentation of crucifixes. Considering we’re Jewish, that’s probably a purchase she won’t be making. But, it gives you an idea of how dedicated she is.

From time-to-time the UPS man pulls up to our front door and drops off something that caught her fancy. Most of the time, I think she watches because she enjoys looking – even when she’s not buying.

I think I’m the same way when it comes to electronics and computer items. I go to techbargains every day and scan the list to see if anyone’s giving anything away. Sometimes they are!

Within the past few weeks I have gotten a free (after rebate) copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator and am waiting for my ‘not-for-resale’ free copy of Visual Basic net – a programming language I’d like to learn.

When I’m really bored, I go to Amazon and look for books on tech subjects I want to pursue. It is amazing how many times I’ve seen a ‘new or used’ price to the right of Amazon’s, clicked the link, and found it’s a new book that’s been remaindered. Usually the price is a tiny fraction of what Amazon is selling the item for. Of course I wouldn’t buy it otherwise.

I look and lust after things I don’t need and won’t buy. I just like looking.

Today, two catalogs came in the mail. I will pour over both, and probably not buy a thing. The first is TigerDirect. Their catalog has computers and components like motherboards and hard drives (I’d like a new hard drive for my Linux machine, if the price would come down, and if it was really cheap… even though I’m nowhere near filling the current drives). I will look at this catalog and then look again… and probably again after that. I have bought at TigerDirect, and their stuff came quickly and was what was promised. I have read their rebates are v-e-r-y slow. I’m waiting for one now.

The second catalog came from DiscMakers. This is a company that duplicates and packages CDROMs and DVDs. In the past I have done some multimedia authoring. I would like to do more. I think there’s a great market in producing multimedia material on disk. It is a very powerful and misunderstood medium, which brings many of the benefits we expect from ‘true broadband’ today.

Considering prices begin in the hundreds of dollars range and only go up from there, I won’t be shopping at DiscMakers right now. But, I could see going to them later, because I’m sure sometime in the near future, I will come up with an idea that needs to be on disk.

In the meantime, window shopping online and in catalogs is fun.