September 16, 2011: Lisa Randall

September 20, 2011

Lisa Randall is a stone cold bitch if there ever was one.  She’s condescending, domineering, and intimidating.  She’s also a scientist.  And she’s sort of hot.

Is there any wonder she has made five appearances on the Charlie Rose Show?

In this interview, much like the others, she barely contains her contempt for Charlie’s (let’s admit it) far inferior intellect under a thin veneer of politeness.  She gently congratulates him on each of the questions she considers “good” and redefines all the questions she considers inane.  So we get stuff like this:

Conclusion: Lisa Randall really needs to knock back a cocktail or two before any future appearances on CR.  She’ll enjoy the experience way more.  Charlie will enjoy the experience WAY more.  We the viewers will be privy to television GOLD.


May 4, 2011: Reed Hastings

May 5, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Reed Hastings, the co-founder and CEO of Netflix is passionate about a good many things: technology, the internet, streaming video, fiber optic cable, business models, business growth, and his bottom line.

If there’s one thing he’s not passionate about though, it’s movies.

In this interview, there was not one mention of movies, good, bad, or in between.  Except that Mr. Hastings mentioned Netflix’s collection of some 10,000+ titles.  He said that the focus is on increasing the catalogue and that his company offers “the best movies from 1950’s up to last year”.  Which sort of begs the question: does Reed Hastings know when film was invented?  Does he know what his catalogue has to offer?  I personally have movies from the 1910’s and 20’s in my DVD queue and my instant queue, and I’ve watched movies from even earlier via Netflix.

The thing is, Netflix’s web site in many ways reflects this corporate culture in which the product itself comes second.  For one thing, there is no way to contact Netflix with ideas about their web site or content.  [N.B. this is not the way it used to be: there used to be a place where you could recommend movies that they should get.]

Here are some free ideas to improve the Netflix site:

1) Make the categories sortable in the Queue.

Here’s what I mean.  Let’s say I got to my Netflix instant queue, and I don’t know what I want to watch, but I’m in the mood for a comedy.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could click on the “Genre” button and have all the movies sorted by Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Action, etc.?

I frequently make use of such functionality on iTunes:

And, perhaps more to the point, since it’s also a web site, Wikipedia:

Wouldn’t that be so convenient and nice?

2) Also an idea from iTunes – on iTunes, I can randomize my playlist, affording me an endless set of surprises and delights.  Why not let me randomize my DVD queue?  I’m sure I’m not the only person who would thrill to the surprise of getting an unexpected DVD in the mail.  See, when I add stuff to the queue, I usually do it in batches.  That is, I’ll add everything by a certain director or actor (more on this in a second).  And sometimes, I’d like to watch those movies in a linear fashion.  But most of the time, I’d just like to have a fun, surprising mix show up in my mailbox.

3) Why, oh Why, Netflix, will you not add said information to your database: SCREENWRITER, COMPOSER, CINEMATOGRAPHER??

OK, I know that I’m one of only a few film score geeks out there who would find it useful to collect titles under that rubric.  But screenwriter?  Hello?  Aren’t you guys always trying to “improve viewer recommendations”?  For all those algorithm contests, you’d think someone would have piped up and said, “Hey, you know, the person who writes the movie has something to do with the content/tone/style of it.  Maybe we should take that into account.”

Also, why can’t I click on “Swedish”?

OK, Reed, that’s it.  I just gave you three great ideas for your site that would make movie lovers love it even more.  I’m fully expecting that, even in the unlikely chance you find out about this post, you will take no actions to incorporate my suggestions.  Because you really don’t care about movies.  Too bad.

The only other thing to say about this interview is that Charlie exhibits an astonishingly naïve misunderstanding of every principle of Market Capitalism, ever:

Reed: “What we focus on is the greatest video service.  It’s only 8 bucks a month, so it’s very low price, large scale, and we’re just making it better and better and better.”

Charlie: “And it’s gonna cost more and more and more.  I mean, with all this competition in video, why wouldn’t the price just go sky high, almost making it – just cutting your profit margins way down?”

You don’t need to be Murray Rothbard to figure out that scale and competition drive prices down.  No wonder Charlie hasn’t been able to monetize his online streaming content….

Charlie Rose: dumb, but pretty


Subscribe to our New Pay Wall!

March 17, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

Interesting that the announcement of the New York Times’ pay wall should follow so closely on the heels of this interview.  David Carr, of the Times and Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal, both weigh in on the iPad 2.

We find Walt Mossberg pretty blowhardy and generally not techy enough to write about tech, so we’re glad to see that his criticisms of the iPad have drawn criticism of their own.  David Carr is a point of contention among your editorial board – the Chicago Bureau Chief finds him a very entertaining interview, both for his weird, wide-mouthed, downhome midwestern accent and his baggy fitting suits.  And he doesn’t get any better than in this interview, live from SxSW where he looks and sounds like he scored some high grade coke from Bob Rodriguez right before the cameras started rolling.  (“When someone is described as the love child of a Hell’s Angel and a Sioux Indian, you’re gonna want to be able to hit that name and see that person with they’re big long hair and their feathered earring and have them talk you.”  Maybe peyote…)

But what’s we find most interesting re: the New York Times subscription plan is a lexical point.  David Carr – of the New York Times – tells us that the future of paying for news content will be delivered by Apps, which is “a sexy and wonderful word” – not subscriptions, which is a “terrible word”.

Well, it seems that the editorial board of the Times (our chief rival) didn’t consult Dave before they sent out this e-mail:

The editors of BATT wholeheartedly endorse freenyt on Twitter, the first of many easy and obvious solutions to this pay wall.


CharlieTech

March 14, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

This is a story about Charlie Rose.  This is a story about technology.  This is a story about stories.

A Thought Experiment

Let’s imagine for a second that you are Charlie Rose.  You’re the doyen of Manhattan Society.  Why?  Because you know everybody.

You count among your friends the world’s millionaires and billionaires.  Yet you pay yourself a wage barely sufficient to maintain respectability in their circles.  You run your broadcast on a shoestring budget, and even that you have to go begging and schilling for.

You own little: a few tailored suits, an oak table – not even a pair of cuff links.  So what’s your most valuable asset (aside from your charisma)?

Thousand upon thousands of hours of filmed conversations with the greatest thinkers of the past twenty years.  You’ve invested your entire life into them.  You own the most interesting real-life stories narrated by the people who lived them.

There’s little doubt that you want – nay, deserve to convert such a coveted asset into bankable cash.  When TV was the only game in town, there was little you could do about it.  Your broadcast is hardly broad enough for widespread commercial syndication.  Plus, you’re on PBS.  The best you could do was to sell transcripts, VHS tapes, and then DVDs of your conversations.

But then the internet came around.  You’re Charlie Rose.  You’re no dope.  You’re obsessed with technology, to the point that you’re willing to sacrifice your body for a gadget.  You’re aware of every impending development, and you’ve asked all the right people what each advance means for your future.  You know, for example, that online streaming video could mean big business for a man in television.

But let’s not forget: you’re Charlie Rose.  You’re almost a public intellectual.  You’re a celebrity, but only among celebrities.  You come from humble roots in North Carolina and you yearn to cast a wider net.  Maybe it’s not the Common Man who you want to include in your discussions, but it’s sure as hell every last Good Ol’ Boy you can find.

You yearn for popular appeal.  You yearn for elitist inclusion.  Which wins out?  What do you do?

Here’s what the real Charlie Rose did:

A Chronicle of Recent Internet Technology as it Relates to Charlie Rose

January 25, 2005: Google Video is launched.  Its primitive functions offer only to searches the closed captions of various TV programs as well as the TV schedules in local markets.

April 23, 2005: The first video is uploaded to YouTube.

August 9, 2006: Charlie launches his YouTube channel with a five minute “Preview of Interview with YouTube Co-founders“.  It is a provocative move on Charlie’s part to publish this new material on YouTube two days before it airs on PBS.  Maybe.

The project of uploading episode previews, always CR’s primary YouTube strategy, continues to this day.

August 11, 2006: The full interview with YouTube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen hits the PBS airwaves.

October 9, 2006: Google purchases YouTube.

Sometime during 2007*: Charlie Rose’s first upload of a full-length broadcast to video.google.com.  He continues uploading his archive to Google Video for the next two years, clearly feeling that he has finally found a home for his vast fortune of material.  Viewing is free to the internet public.

*video.google.com obfuscates the details such that we are unable to provide an exact date for this upload.

August 24, 2007: Through a special arrangement, Charlie Rose begins uploading full-length episodes to YouTube.  Curiously, this begins with a 1996 interview with Harry Belafonte.  The quality of the uploads is decidedly mixed, the audio consistently losing sync with the video about a quarter of the way through each broadcast.

The effort of uploading full CR episodes to YouTube seems to be abandoned just a few days later, after a total of about 10 episodes have been posted*.  No rhyme, reason, or strategic thought can be discerned in the choice of episodes for this experiment.

*The editors of BATT.com, however, do recall there being many more full interviews on YouTube at one time.

September 20, 2007: The first inter-bureau e-mail including a link to a CR interview on Google Video is sent by the Los Angeles Bureau Chief.  It announces a particularly combative interview that Charlie conducted with Francis Ford Coppola in 1994.

January 14, 2009: Google Video announces that within a matter of months it will no longer allow user uploads.

We Know Not When: charlierose.com launches.  It includes embedded video clips.

July 7, 2009: The first inter-bureau e-mail to include a direct link to charlierose.com is sent by the New York Bureau Chief announcing an interview with Guillermo Del Toro.  It is hosted by Google Video.

July 21, 2009: Charlie interviews the stunningly obnoxious-yet-entertaining Chris Anderson (the WIRED Mag guy, not the other one).  During their boisterous conversation, Charlie laments his ability to monetize his media holdings.

July 31, 2009: Charlie Rose’s final upload to video.google.com

August 1, 2009 – a few weeks later: Charlie Rose goes silent on the internet, Google Video’s 7-month warning proving insufficient notice for his staff to locate a new server*.  The blogosphere bemoans the loss.

*We suspect it was insufficiently personal as well: would it have killed Sergei to call Charlie personally?  Even a text would have been helpful.

August 3, 2009Charlie interviews Jason Kilar, CEO of hulu.com.  He mentions that Hulu has approached the CRS about being included on the site.

Sometime in August 2009: charlierose.com adopts Flowplayer for video streaming.  Flowplayer, a technology that had just gone public in March of ’09, is a free, open-source software which allows streaming of videos hosted by the client*.  It is also used by the Berlin Philharmonic, the Internet Movie Archive, and Spunkvideo.com.

August 21, 2009: The first inter-bureau e-mail to include a link to a charlierose.com interview with the flowplayer technology is sent by the Los Angeles Bureau Chief announcing a new interview with BATT favorite Quentin Tarantino.

January 3, 2011: Charlie interviews David Carr, technology writer for the New York Times, about technological developments to come in 2011.  Charlie publicly states that one of his technology goals is to create a forum to “continue the conversation” beyond the walls of his studio.

January 7, 2011: BackAtThisTable.com is born, a web forum dedicated to continuing Charlie’s conversations where he left off.  It is the passion project of three geographically scattered Bureau Chiefs with a penchant for e-mailing one another links to Charlie Rose episodes.

February 25, 2011: hulu.com begins offering regularly broadcast Charlie Rose episodes.  Each episode is preceded by a commercial.  Commercial-free episodes are still available on charlierose.com.  The future is uncertain.

Postlude

In the end, this was a story about love.  About Charlie’s love for technology and for his audience.  About our love for Charlie.  And like so many love stories, it’s not clean or clear-cut.  In fact, it’s a total mess.

In addition to charlierose.com, Google Video, YouTube, and hulu, there’s a gaggle of secondary hosting sites all over the world that now hold CR broadcasts.  There’s also the fact that Google Video crapped out before Charlie could get around to uploading all of his old videos, and that Mr. Rose (or Ms. Vega) seems to have no interest in finishing the job.

Like all great love stories though, this one lives on happily ever after, day after day, as we all bask in Charlie’s grace.  Because honestly, he never even had to upload that first YouTube video in the first place.


Highlights from the Charlie Rose Brain Series, Jan. 27, 2011

January 28, 2011

By the Chicago Bureau Chief

The Brain: the eternal mystery of natural creation, the great frontier of Western medicine, the perfect subject for The Charlie Rose Show.

Why’s that?  Because the brain’s inherent mystery brings out the child in Charlie.  I maintain that Charlie’s attitude toward’s science in general is about the same as a child’s towards magic – he believes in it fervently, in spite of not understanding its underpinnings.  He’s endlessly entertained by it.  The Brain Series is like Charlie putting on his own 1st – 12th birthday parties and engaging the entertainment at his own expense.  Isn’t he just precious?

The big challenge of the Brain Series for Charlie and his staff has no doubt been dealing with the tremendous volume it represents.  Twelve episodes, usually a panel of four or more guests, each episode an hour long.  It’s obvious from the editing in the original episodes (and yes, I did watch them all as they hit the airwaves) that the conversations likely went on for at least twice the broadcast time.

So how to choose the “Best Of”?  How to take 12+ hours of material and reduce it to 60 minutes that somehow work as a narrative and present the most interesting insights offered on the series?

I won’t pretend to know whether or not this was the best possible version of the Brain Series Redux, but it was sure as hell good TV.  Right up there with the best clip shows of all time.  It was also one of the most visually stimulating episodes in Charlie Rose history.  There were robots,

sea creatures that eat their own brains,

and even Sumo-wrestling houseflies.

Charlie chose as the centerpiece of this episode the self-described psychotic episodes of two women: one a manic-depressive, the other a hallucinogenic schizophrenic.  Their accounts are as riveting as the best in Freud.

Overall, the staff at the CRS could have made a hundred possible great episodes out of the Brain Series, and this was certainly one of them.  Snappily paced, wide ranging, thought-provoking.  But what did we expect?

What we (or at least I) didn’t expect was that Charlie would announce Year 2 of the Brain Series to start this spring!  Your editors are frothing at the proverbial mouth with excitement.

Overall score: 95 points

Sartorial analysis

This being a clip show, we will not endeavor to describe Charlie’s many costumes throughout the 12-part series.  We do offer an analysis of the outfit he chose for the purposes of “hosting” the event:

Charlie’s suit: His go-to plain purple suit, double-breasted (as always, perfectly altered from the Ralph Lauren collection)
Charlie’s tie: bluish, horizontal white cross-stitching.
Charlie’s shirt: Plain, crisp white; button cuffs, very definitely unbuttoned.

Let us not neglect to note the always nattily dressed Eric Kandel, Charlie’s co-host in this series:

and Charlie’s first-ever corporately sponsored guest, Oliver Sacks:

(which, actually, if you watch that episode, is explained.)


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