Netflix needs to offer subtitles on instant titles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Movie renting has changed dramatically in a short time. Video rental stores are a dying industry, and online viewing is surely the future of movie-watching as TV and internet continues to become more and more integrated.  One thing that will never change, however, is the need for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to be able to enjoy movies and TV shows the same way other people do.

Netflix, which lets you rent DVDs by mail, also provides “instant watching” – according to Netflix.com, 66% of its users used the instant watch feature in the third quarter of 2010.  Only 41 percent used it a year before, so that number will only increase (and could, conceivably, be the only way to rent movies one day).

According to InstantWatcher.com, Netflix currently offers 11,619 titles to watch instantly.  That’s 11,619 movies and TV shows that you can watch online (with a computer, Wii, XBox or PS3) with a Netflix account.

According to this blog, only 300 of those titles offer English subtitles (also known as “captions”) for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  The list gets updated often, and as someone who’s tried to watch numerous movies instantly on Netflix, I’d have to say it’s very accurate.

To put it simply – only 2.5% of the instant watch titles can be viewed with subtitles.  In other words, 35 million deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans can only enjoy 2.5% of the movies Netflix offers instantly.

Since 1993, the FCC has required all televisions to have built-in closed captioning readers. Federal law also requires American film distributors to caption all movies prior to their release. And don’t try and tell me that online streaming video is different. Last year, even YouTube started offering subtitles for its free video-sharing site including “automatic captioning” for users that don’t provide their own subtitles.

Netflix has promised to offer more titles with subtitles, but in seven months have only improved from 100 titles to 300.  Not good enough, Netflix.  2.5 percent of all movies and TV shows is an abysmal amount.

Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin posted a video on AOL asking the 35 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people in America to “make noise” and be heard. Matlin, among other roles, was the deaf tennis lineswoman in an episode of “Seinfeld.”

“If you see something isn’t right, if there’s a law out there that doesn’t make sense,” said Matlin, “do anything you can to speak your mind to it, don’t be alone… make yourself heard.”

I’m making myself be heard, Netflix.  If you’re going to offer movies as instant titles, you need to offer them in a way that everyone can enjoy them – with subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  Thank you.

Happy 25th anniversary, Calvin and Hobbes!

On November 18, 1985, the very first “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip appeared.  25 years later, it’s still a funny and relevant strip whether you’ve been a long-time fan or if it’s your first time discovering Bill Watterson’s magic world of a six-year old and his tiger.

As a tribute, I’ve put together a list of 25 awesome facts and links from Calvin and Hobbes:

  1. Calvin is named after 16th century theologian John Calvin who believed in predestination, and Hobbes is named after 17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who had a dim view of human nature.
  2. In the very first strip, Calvin and Hobbes met when Calvin set a tiger trap using a tuna sandwich.  Watterson later said he regretted it, saying it was unnecessary to show how they met.
  3. When the strip first ran, it appeared in only 35 newspapers – not even Watterson’s hometown paper. It would later appear daily in over 2,000 newspapers.
  4. Author Bill Watterson has never given licensing permission for “Calvin and Hobbes” to be turned into stuffed animals, cartoons, t-shirts, stickers or other merchandise.
  5. The only officially licensed “Calvin and Hobbes” items were two calendars (1988-1989 and 1989-1990) and, earlier this year, a U.S. postal stamp.
  6. It’s been theorized that the movie Fight Club is a grown-up version of “Calvin and Hobbes,” where Edward Norton’s character is an adult Calvin and Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden is his pseudo-imaginary friend Hobbes. This site makes a pretty impressive case, including suggesting that G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS) is a precursor to the actual men-only fight club.
  7. Is Hobbes real? From Calvin’s perspective, the comic strip shows an anthropomorphic tiger that has his own thoughts and actively participates in Calvin’s shenanigans. Other characters simply see a stuffed tiger.
  8. “Calvinball” is the made-up game that Calvin and Hobbes play often.  Watterson has explained the rules very simply: you make them up as you go, and you can’t play with the same rules twice.
  9. Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie and the “Noodle Incident” are referred to in the strip, but never explained or elaborated. Use your imagination.
  10. Calvin has three alter-egos: intergalactic hero Spaceman Spiff and film noir detective Tracer Bullett are both daydream manifestations; the third, Stupendous Man, is Calvin in a mask and cape doing battle with schoolwork, parents or his babysitter Rosalyn.
  11. Watterson wrote many hidden jabs at high art and academia, illustrated through Calvin’s “suburban post-modernism” rants or his “avant garde” snow sculptures.
  12. Many of the Hobbes illustrations are based on Bill Watterson’s cat, Sprite.  The famous “I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long. If we’re in each others dreams, we can play together all night!” strip was written to cope with Sprite’s death.
  13. Watterson fought with newspapers quite a bit, struggled with deadlines, and tried to get Sunday strips to break free of the box format to allow for more artistic creativity.  Much of this is revealed in the Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book.
  14. There are 18 “Calvin and Hobbes” books which encompass every strip that ever appeared in a newspaper as well as some originals created solely for the collections. Altogether, 45 million copies have been sold.
  15. To Calvin, a cardboard box is multi-purpose: it can be used to sell things (like a “swift kick in the butt”), it can be a Transmogrifier (he turned himself into a little tiger) and it can be a Duplicator (where he tried to duplicate himself and make the double do his homework).
  16. Calvin has several enemies: Susie Derkins, Moe the bully, Miss Wormwood, Mr. Spittle the principal, baseball coach Mr. Lockjaw and the babysitter Rosalyn.
  17. Contrary to popular belief, Bill Watterson says he was nothing like Calvin as a kid.
  18. For a quick refresher of some of the great strips, ProgessiveBoink.com has posted what they consider the 25 greatest strips, including the Raccoon story and the Transmogrifier.
  19. Many newspapers still publish reruns of “Calvin and Hobbes” that can also be seen daily at GoComics.com.
  20. Before “Calvin and Hobbes,” Bill Watterson worked in advertising and occasionally drew political cartoons.
  21. An Asian kid recreated every image from the strip of Calvin’s hilarious school potratits – see the pictures.
  22. Mike Lee compiled a list of advice & wisdom quotes from “Calvin and Hobbes,” including classics like “Reality continues to ruin my life” and “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.”
  23. Actor David Spade has a tattoo of Calvin on his upper arm done by Sean Penn.
  24. Earlier this year, in his first interview since 1989, the reclusive Watterson told Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, “I think some of the reason ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it. I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.”
  25. The last strip ran December 31st, 1995 with Calvin and Hobbes on another snowy adventure and the last lines, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!”

What do you remember/love most about Calvin and Hobbes?

Trust issues? 60 percent of women regularly check their partner’s phone

A British survey of 3,000 women between the ages of 18 and 45 has revealed that, as technology grows, perhaps so does our distrust of our loved ones.

Six out of every 10 women regularly check their significant other’s phone for racy messages, inappropriate emails and overly flirty comments on social networking sites.

One in 20 have actually caught their partner sexting or sending/receiving inappropriate photos.  Look out, Tiger Woods.  (Does this mean one in 20 people sext outside the relationship?  Or does this mean only five percent get caught doing it?)

And this is particularly interesting – one in six women have gone so far as to test their relationship by creating a fake account, messaging their significant other and setting them up in a “honeytrap.”  In other words, if given the opportunity to cheat, would they?

Is sexting cheating?  Is flirting online wrong?  I’ve known guys who would say anything goes, as long as you don’t physically cheat – they think there’s nothing wrong with asking another girl for naked pictures.  However, 90 percent of women don’t think it’s “just harmless fun” and eight out of 10 girls would break up with their partner if they caught them sending inappropriate messages to a rival.

Some more interesting results of the survey:

  • Half of women know their partner’s email and Facebook passwords
  • 10 percent have hacked their partner’s email and Facebook
  • Two-fifths of women don’t even feel guilty about checking the other’s phone regularly
  • 28 percent ask about phone calls from unknown numbers
  • 38 percent snoop around their partner’s computer every chance they get
  • One in five question it when they see a text with a kissy-face :-*
  • 45 percent would watch a conversation to see how it plays out before saying anything

Do you check your significant other’s phone?  How often?  Would you go so far to create a fake account and start messaging them, testing to see if they would actually cheat?

Do lesbians make the best parents? Study finds child abuse rate to be 0% in lesbian households

A new study reports that zero percent of lesbian couples abuse their children.  Zero.

Meanwhile, 26 percent of all adolescents report being physically abused by their parents or guardians, and 8.3 percent of children are sexually abused.  That’s a lot – a scary amount, in fact.  But none of the children in a 24-year study of lesbian couples reported any abuse whatsoever.

From Huffington Post:

The Williams Institute, a research center on sexual orientation law and public policy at UCLA School of Law, has announced new findings from the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running study ever conducted on American lesbian families (now in its 24th year). In an article published today in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were asked about sexual abuse, sexual orientation, and sexual behavior.

The paper found that none of the 78 NLLFS adolescents reports having ever been physically or sexually abused by a parent or other caregiver. This contrasts with 26 percent of American adolescents who report parent or caregiver physical abuse and 8.3 percent who report sexual abuse.

What does this mean?  Nothing conclusive, given the small number of participants in the study, but consider the possibilities.

Maybe only men are to blame for abusive households.  Maybe heterosexual relationships are more prone to bad environments for children.  Maybe gay couples make better parents – after all, they can’t “accidentally” get pregnant, so it would stand to reason that every child they have would be well-planned and provided for.

And for the close-minded critics who claim gay parents will “make” their children gay, the study also found only 2.8 percent of the children of these lesbian couples actually grew up to be gay.

I would love to see more studies like this that would hopefully convince more people that being gay is not something to be afraid of, nor is it something that should have a negative connotation.  It could also convince more states to legalize gay marriage, even.

Portia DeGeneres is currently in talks to be in the first same-sex dancing couple on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” which could mean another barrier broken and another stereotype eliminated in the near future.  Portia recently changed her name from De Rossi after her marriage to Ellen DeGeneres.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll find that lesbian couples make better dancers, too!

Nintendo doesn’t want you to say ‘It’s on like Donkey Kong’ anymore

Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii

Donkey Kong Country Returns hits Nintendo Wii on November 21st

Donkey Kong is, indubitably, a pop culture icon and has been a recognizable character since he first appeared in 1981, throwing barrels at a simple plumber named Mario.

You’ve also surely heard (or even said) the phrase “it’s on like Donkey Kong” at some point in your life.  The phrase might have first come from a 1992 song by Ice Cube called “Now I Gotta Wet’cha” but has now become a staple of modern expression for when it’s time to throw down something fierce, appearing in movies such as American Wedding and even songs like Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”

No more monkey business, though.

Now Nintendo has filed to trademark the phrase, meaning you won’t be able to say it without their permission anymore. (You could likely get away with saying it in conversation, but some trademarks become an issue if you publish it even in something as simple as a tweet or utter it in a YouTube video.)

Not coincidentally, Nintendo has their latest Donkey Kong game coming out this month – Donkey Kong Country Returns hits the Wii on November 21.  A press release even said “it’s on like Donkey Kong.”  Of course the game’s updated for the Wii system, but the most fun improvement is that you can now play it as two-player, side-by-side – you can be Donkey Kong, and your friend can be Diddy Kong as you fight evil Tikis and go banana huntin’ on Donkey Kong Island. [Read the review at IGN.com]

According to Wikipedia, the Donkey Kong character has appeared in countless video games and sold more than 49 million copies.  Nintendo Power ranked him the 8th most beloved arcade hero of all time.

The game looks like fun, and the phrase is certainly fun to say, but is this just a stunt to bring some attention to the new game? Or does Nintendo have a case?  Apple managed to trademark “there’s an app for that,” so stranger claims have certainly succeeded with the U.S. Patent & Copyright Office.

Getting married? 5 tips for picking your wedding music (from a DJ).

The Gloss came up with some great tips for wedding do’s and don’ts on Facebook, including how much information to post and how often.  So it made me think, where else could future brides and grooms use some advice?  Music.  I’ve DJed a good number of weddings, and here’s my advice to you:

1. For your first dance, pick a short song.
It doesn’t have to be a slow song, but you should be able to move to it. This is your first time dancing as a married couple, so the song should obviously have special meaning to you two – it doesn’t have to be “your song,” but pick something that represents you, your relationship, and your personalities.  If your first date was at a Green Day concert, that’s fine, but pick something a little more romantic.  Keep in mind that everyone at the wedding will be watching you, so try to pick something that’s 3 minutes or less – otherwise it’ll get boring (and awkward) for you, your partner, and everyone watching.  If your song is 4:15, talk to the DJ about editing the song to a shorter version – make a custom edit with one less verse or a fade out, especially if it’s a song most people won’t know. (I’ve seen people start clapping halfway through a five minute song all too often.)  And practice dancing to it – you don’t need to take lessons, but if you can do one or two little “moves” to entertain the people watching, that’s huge.

2. Mother/son and father/daughter dances should be short, too.
The first dance is special to the bride and groom, but it’s also special to everyone at the wedding – they’ll love taking pictures and gushing over how “in love” the newlyweds look. Most weddings will typically have a dance for the groom and his mother, as well as the bride and her father. For these, the crowd is again expected to stand around and watch, but let’s be honest – these moments are special only to the people in them.  The bride, the groom, their parents.  Here, it’s better to pick a song the crowd will know (and can sing along with) and even more important to pick a short song or make a custom edit.  2 minutes may sound short, but it’ll cover two verses and two choruses (usually) and will give everyone their “moment” without wearing the patience and attention of your audience.

3. Dinner music is for the background.
Obviously no dance music should occur when people are trying to eat, chat and (probably) have a few drinks to loosen up for dancing.  Here, more classics and romantic tunes would make the most sense, but don’t assume it should be all Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart.  Picking songs for this part of the night isn’t as important as simply giving a few suggestions, and that’ll let the DJ know how much variety to throw in here.  This part is all about atmosphere, so sweet and gentle pop tunes work best.  Cliché songs like Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat’s “Lucky” are actually good here.

4. Pick music for everyone to enjoy – a little of this, a little of that.
At the average wedding, the guest list age range is from 2 months to 92 years old.  If you like one particular kind of music (say, country) that’s fine but make sure you’re still picking a few oldies that grandma will like, maybe a couple Disney-pop tunes for younger nieces and nephews.  In other words, play a little something for everybody – for different age groups, different genres; a little new, a little old; some fast, some slow.

5. Do NOT pick every song that you want played – let the DJ choose some music for the dancing hour.
Who’s the professional here?  You may love music (who doesn’t?) and make great iPod playlists for road trips, but how much experience do you have picking music for 100+ people?  Do you know what everyone wants to hear?  And when?  If you’ve hired a good DJ, they’ll know when to play Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson, if they’ll like swing, or if a new hip-hop song will work for the crowd.  A good rule of thumb is to come up with three lists – 1) songs you definitely want played, 2) songs you absolutely do not want played (i.e. “YMCA”), and 3) a general list of songs you’d like to have played. Then give the DJ the freedom to choose when to play the songs, take requests, and to read the crowd or play different music not on your lists – again, if you’ve hired a good DJ, they’ll know what to do to make you happy and entertain your guests.  It’s your day, but you want your friends and family to have fun on your day, too. There’s more to a good party than free food and drink.

Looking for a DJ? I’d love to DJ your event, and I’d also be happy to answer any questions or make suggestions to make your wedding the best possible experience for both you and your guests.

Think you’re tired? This man didn’t sleep for 40 days.

Who needs sleep?  Well, you’re never going to get it
Who needs sleep? Well, you’re never going to get it
Who needs sleep? You should be happy with what you get
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second World War
– Barenaked Ladies, “Who Needs Sleep”

Photographer Tyler Shields had trouble sleeping.  More so than you, buddy.  He recently claimed to set a world record by going without sex sleep for 40 days and nights.  Guiness won’t confirm it because it’s a) difficult to prove/disprove and b) dangerous to try.

Side effects of no sleep for 968 hours?  Fevers, headaches, vision trouble and even temporary paralysis of his legs.  He continued to work as a photographer and people around him said he acted like he was hung over.

The biggest benefit of this sleep-deprivation marathon is that “No one will be like, ‘I’m exhausted,’ they just can’t say that to me anymore,” he told AOL News.

The only other benefit is that this 28-year old photog can get a little attention – Shields previously did a stunt where he shot a man with a gun to promote a gallery opening.  Stupid.

In other words, don’t try and do this at home unless you’re desperate to get in the news.  And even then, there are less ridiculous things you can do for attention.