A study recently determined that organically-grown food doesn’t contain more nutrients than conventional food. Um… okaaaay… I don’t think I’ve ever seen any advocates of organic farming making that claim. I’m sure there are a few, but the major themes generally seem to be:

  • More sustainable in the long term (less negative impact on the environment).
  • Less unhealthy residue from pesticides, fertilizers, etc.
  • Better taste.

And, of course, none of these points were addressed by the study.  In short, it’s a classic straw man fallacy.  Sure, I’ve got problems with the terminology used by the organic food sector (foremost: overloading the term “organic”), but this is just missing the point.

(Hat tip to Katie for pointing this one out.)

Saw a commercial for the upcoming Nancy Drew movie. Apparently they don’t think they can sell the character as a teenage detective. They’re selling her as a makeover story, pulling the same fish-out-of-water concept used for the Brady Bunch films.

Admittedly I haven’t read the books, but I did go through a phase as a teen when I read all the Hardy Boys books I could find, including crossovers between the two series. The then-current books weren’t all set in the 1920s, and they weren’t about the title characters being anachronisms. They were updated for modern audiences. Modern techniques. Modern equipment. I remember one book in which Frank and Joe end up training for a mission on the space shuttle.

Logically, Nancy Drew should be enmeshed in the world of cell phones, bugs, web research, and spy cameras. Veronica Mars without the angst. Making her an old-fashioned fixer-upper is missing the point of the character, and turns her into a metatextual parody of herself.

But then, if VM’s ratings and cancellation are anything to go by, today’s audiences don’t actually want to see a story about a modern teenage girl detective. And makeovers, extreme or otherwise, are what’s popular.

OK, I appreciate that eBay has a dedicated email address for reporting phishing attempts. I appreciate that their abuse department is a lot busier than I am, and therefore has to rely heavily on form letters. And I appreciate that they’re making an effort to educate the public on how to spot phishing and avoid getting caught.

But when I forward them a message with the comment, “Here’s a sample of a blatant phish,” is it really necessary to reply with the full two-page notice explaining, “This is a spoof, we didn’t send it, here’s how to avoid it, blah blah blah” and the entire body of the original message, complete with the links to the phishing site?

I’d think in this case a simple, “Thanks for the report, we’ve notified the authorities” note would be sufficient, especially since the “how to spot a phish” stuff is already in the auto-response. All it takes is giving their abuse staff an extra choice for the form letter.

And under no circumstances should they be including the full, original text of the phish. At best, it’s asking for the response to get lost in a spam box or blocked outright. At worst, it’s a security risk waiting to happen (since this copy really did come from eBay). Somewhere in the middle is the risk of mucking up adaptive filters as they try to reconcile the original message, which was spam, with the new message, which isn’t.

Apparently the movie industry is trying to come up with an ad campaign to get people back into theaters. The LA Times doesn’t seem to take the idea terribly seriously, as they’ve suggested the slogan, “Movies: Just like DVDs, but Larger.” Meanwhile, theaters and studios are blaming each other for the decline in attendance:

Theater owners blamed Hollywood for making inferior (and overly long) movies, studios worried that theaters were turning the multiplex (with its barrage of pre-show commercials) into as much of an ordeal as an escape.

How do you figure out who’s right? Oh, wait, that’s easy: Both of them.

Make better movies, and more people will brave the long lines, high prices, 20 minutes of annoying big-screen commercials, 15 minutes of previews for movies that aren’t terribly interesting, people yakking on cell phones, people narrating the entire @%!# movie for their friends 30 seconds ahead of the action, etc.

Clean up the theater experience, and people will be willing to go for movies that look kinda interesting instead of really interesting.

It’s not just the big screen and immersive sound. Watching Serenity at home lacked the intensity of watching it in a theater full of fans (even the second time, when we knew what to expect). Neither canned laughter nor a studio audience can compare to dozens or hundreds of people laughing together in the same room. And it’s hard to match the collective “Oh, $#!7” that swept the theater in each showing of Return of the King when Shelob showed up again after Frodo thought he had escaped. The communal experience strikes a chord that you just can’t reach with a couple of people and a TV set.

People who talk through the entire movie aren’t just distracting you from the movie, they’re interfering with that communal experience. There’s only so much theater staff can do, short of kicking people out, but at least we know in the future they’ll get to inhabit a special level of Hell. 😈

It looks like the media is still viewing Disney’s acquisition of Pixar in terms of 3-D computer animation vs. 2-D hand animation. I still think they’re missing the point.

Disney’s new golden age started with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ran through The Lion King in 1994. Pixar’s unbroken string of hits started with Toy Story in 1995. Disney has continued to release at least one animated movie each year, but hasn’t had a hit on the same level. It’s tempting to say “Well, Disney’s doing 2-D animation and Pixar is doing 3-D animation, so that must be the reason.” But Disney’s own Chicken Little did only passably well at the box office.

I’ve maintained all along that the issue isn’t the animation style but the quality of the movie as a whole. Yes, Pixar is very good at 3-D animation, but they’re also very good at story. Let’s look at Disney’s recent films for a moment—just the films, not the competition, and not the box office take. Has anything from Pocahontas onward been as good as Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin? Or has the quality dropped off? I don’t mean just the animation—the animation is still top-quality in the ones I’ve seen. I mean, is the story compelling? The characters? The premise? Would the average moviegoer look at Home on the Range and say, “I have to see this!”

I think there’s plenty of life in both 2-D and 3-D animation. Disney’s in-house animated features didn’t “lose” to Pixar because they were 2-D. They lost because Disney got boring. Switching from hand animation to computer animation isn’t going to change that.