Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A day without road accidents

In Israel yesterday a private initiative calling for 'a day without road accidents' had ended with another sad addition to the statistics - 3 casualties, 149 accidents. While I don't want to dicuss this specific initiative, I would like to discuss some ideas it represented.

Two axis of reference
One of my thoughts over this was that we can picture two axis of reference to 'how to handle road accidents'.

The first axis will be about the plane of the actions and will scale from the Physical on the one end to the Perception (or Cognition) on the other. An action such as 'making people believe that there will be no accidents if they just want to' (the way the 24/7 initiative was perceived by many) will be at the Perception end entirely. An action such as 'building wider roads with more lanes' will be at the Physical end entirely. An action such as 'police enforcment of speeding limits' will be in the middle, as it combines a physical element (actual policeman with a speed tracker, actual reports) with a preception (such enforcement is used mainly to deter drivers from speeding, after all you can't track all drivers who cross the limit).

The second axis will be about the actors and will scale from the Governmental\Public on the one end and the Private on the other. A actor such as the 24/7 initiative is purely Private, not endorsed or funded by any governmental institute. An actor such as the legislator who leads a law requiring seat-belts is purely governmental. An actor such as as the 'Or Yarok' lobby is in the middle, as it's organized by a ombination of private people and public personas (such as Mayors, former legislators and former policemen, professors and doctors).

A magic quadrant or an equal spread?
What will we get if we try and place current efforts to minimize road accidents on a graph with these two axis? This is the graph that I came with, where the size of the circle represents the presence the activity has in the public eyes (IMHO):

So, is this graph an analyst 'magic quadrant', where the axis has direction and so one of the quadrants is the best to be in, or is it just a map of activities and the desired outcome would be a more or less equal spread of circles all around?
Well, assuming that the resources are limited (both governmental and private), I would like to see a more equal spread, but I think the public yearns for the 'magic quadrant' approach for two main reasons - physical actions are more real and short-term proving than perception actions, and the public wants the government to take responsibility over everything.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Theaters at a loss

Last Saturday I went to see 'Die Hard 4.0'. 'Went to see' encapsulates quite an effort - getting out of the house, driving to pick up my wife's friend, driving to the first theater only to find there are no tickets to the show we wanted, driving to a second theater and then waiting in the Tel Aviv hot afternoon until the doors were opened. Then we found out the movie is playing the smallest hall, with a screen not much larger than a plasma TV, at a slight right angle, and to cap it all the seats were smelling of wet rags and still dirty with previous shows popcorn bags.
For this dubious service, we had to pay 31 NIS each (approx. 8 bucks). We got up and left the theater, getting our money back.

This makes me wonder how can theaters complain the drop of their income on the one hand, and keep neglecting the service on the other hand. Another example of this is ticket ordering on the Web - the theaters are charging me an extra 4 NIS (1$) for it, even though it actually saves them the costs of cashiers!
Don't they realise they become less and less advantageous compared to my home TV\DVD? The same movies are available for 'almost' immidiate download, and many more are available as well. Why would I suffer the ordeal of going out?

On the same subject, I also went to see the 5th Harry Potter movie (alone, this time). While the expereince was much better (in spite of a flawed sound system), and although the movie is quite good IMHO, the original plot was so long that the director had to viciously cut scenes. With the 4th movie the same thing had a devestating affect, making it hardly comprehensible. And that is kind of another question about the future of cinema halls. DVD additional content gives the viewer the option to include more scenes (at the price of a lengthier movie, but what of it, when I'm at the comfort of my home and in full control of the movie flow). When DVD is offering tailor made movies, the theater forces both the director and the audience to settle for the common ground, usually not enough for any of them.

Could the movies industry handle these issues? I'd like to try and suggest some prespective by a different example. On Thursday night I've been to a rock concert by Yoni Bloch (yes, a busy weekend for me, happily). I have both his albums and know most of the songs. Yoni was 'discovered' when publishing his songs (not just the lyrics, actual home made recordings) on a public Web site. But once he had his place in the 'regualr' industry, he didn't stop publishing songs and drafts on the Web. A lot of these made their way to the P2P sharing networks. The result was that on his shows he performs songs that were not released on any of his LPs, and the crowd knows them and loves them, even if it's their first time at Yoni's concerts (or 2nd time, like mine).

Can this be a way for the movies industry as well?

I'm thinking of the follwoing:
  • The studios keep shooting and editing as they do, but instead of leaving a lot of scenes for the DVD release a year later, start pushing mini films into the net. They can directly publish the mini films on their sites and\or indirectly distribute them through the P2P networks. These mini films will be complete by themselvs (meaning you won't need to see the whole movie just to understand the specific min film), 5-15 minutes. These are not trailers! It's much closer to the kind of films you get on 'short film' festivals.
  • Mini films will cause audience to develop and attach itself to the movie. Free access to those mini-stories and mini-scenes will make excelent publicity and will likely make more people want to see the full movie. Sure, a lot of them will still download it, but hopefully good quality free content will make them want to see the same quality in the full content, and appriciate the effort, just like with Yoni Bloch's music.
  • Going to the theater now is much less 'adventerous' - I know the type and quality of the show I'm about to see, and can anjoy a shorter yet still more complete movie (completed in my mind by the scenes already released). They will still have to improve their service and cut down on prices, though.
This is of course just one suggestion as I'm sure there are plenty of other ideas. But it will be really cool to work out an appetite for a movie!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Life on Mars, Culture from England

Irit (my wife) and I had recently completed watching the masterpiece BBC show 'Life on Mars'. On the same note, I'm embrassed to say that I'm awaiting the 7th Harry Potter book. Lastly, a while back I'd been to a 'Abbey Road' tribute concert, done by Israeli musicinas. The underline conncetion is that all are very much English culture items.

'Life on Mars' portraits Manchester of 1973, where police is corrupt, workers are abused, women are harrased and everyone smokes (especially at the office). The language is such that anyone outside of Manchester is likely to need subtitles (although 'guv' is now heard frequently at my home).

Harry Potter is written by an english woman, built upon the famous boarding school tradition of english education, portraits social classes and relations in british society and so forth.

The cover of 'Abbey Road', the Beatles best album (ever. don't argue), is showing the group going over the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road studios. The album songs (especially the Sun King medley) portratis some of the most interesting, very british, characters the Beatles were so good at capturing.

So the question is - why would a 30 years old Israeli (such as myself) find interest in all of these? Are the stories told by these pop items are so much beyond the cultural context that anyone can relate? Or is it something to do with the British mandate, once governing Israel and still affecting its culture, laws and politics?
I would suggest yet another view: the American culture is the dominant one these days, but it has little of its own and much burrowed or developed from the British culture. It is perhaps similar to the Romans, mastering the greatest empire of their days while spreading the Greek culture. So, when USA influence Israel, it is in fact promotes English traditions and culture.


My first entry!

Just my first blog post, not much to say.
I would like this blog to be a little prism into my thoughts, my days, my friends and the things I like. You are sure to hear a lot about TV shows, books, technology and that rare combination of Philosophy and night-time tuna sandwitches (which I contemplate in the picture).

See you,