Saturday, December 13, 2014

Facebook Won't Beat Google

This past week a few sites published articles expressing the idea that Facebook''s new search (which it purports will search posts) somehow presents a challenge to Google. No less than Time published an article entitled "Facebook Just Took a Huge Shot at Google", proposing that Facebook's new search could not only hurt Google, but even kill Google's social network Google+. An article on the site InvestorPlace, not only puts forth the idea that Facebook's new search could be a threat to Google, but to sites like Yelp and Angie's List as well. This is not the first time that various sites have behaved as if Facebook somehow presented a serious challenge to Google, much less other sites. When Facebook came out with Graph Search in early 2013 there were actually a few articles that behaved as if Graph Search would be a real threat to Google. We all know how that went.

The truth of the matter is that Facebook has never handled searches very well. Those of us who have been on Facebook for quite a while know that there was a time when one could have trouble even locating one's friends on the site, let alone anything else. Facebook's once much vaunted Graph Search was not much of an improvement over the old search. My brother was among those who first got Graph Search (he signed up for it) and, even with his low expectations, he was disappointed. Among his many complaints was that one could not refine searches. Facebook's search has changed since Graph Search first rolled out in March 2013, but at  no point has it improved to the point where it could challenge Google. There is no reason to think it will now.

Of course, even if Facebook's new search proves to be functional and useful, there are some other, very good reasons to think it will not challenge Google. The simple fact is that people use Facebook and Google for different things. Quite simply, Facebook is a social network; Google is a search engine. Let's say that I want to look up the history of the TV show The Avengers. I would go to Google to do that. Or let's say I want to look up restaurants near my home. I would use Google to do that as well. The majority of people I know use Google, or at least some other search engine, to search for nearly everything. They do not use Facebook. And there is a very good reason for that. Facebook's search is pretty much limited to what is on Facebook (and what is posted publicly on Facebook at that). While I doubt Google has access to all of the Web, it has access to a good chunk of it, as do the other search engines. If one wants to find something then, they are better off, well, googling it.

As to the possibility that Facebook's new search could kill off Google+, I don't believe that for a moment. For one thing, it seems to me that the majority of Facebook users have their privacy set so that only their friends can see their posts (I know most of my friends and I do). For example, none of my posts would come up in the results of a search conducted by a total stranger.  While I cannot be absolutely certain, from my experience it seems that the majority of Google+ users post publicly or at least make posts that can be seen by extended circles (basically including followers in one's circles' circles--sort of "friends of friends", if you will). Because of this, then, I suspect any search conducted on Google+ will have more results than the same search conducted on Facebook.

For another thing, even if Facebook's new search is as good as that of Google+, there is much more to a social network than the ability to search posts. People don't just use Google+ because its search is superior to that of Facebook. We use it because it has a better, easier to use interface. We use it because it gives us more control over the posts we see in our stream than Facebook does. We use it because it gives us more control over our own privacy. We use it because our posts on Google+ are more likely to be seen than they would be on Facebook due to FB's filters. We use it because Google is more responsive to what users want than Facebook ever has been. Quite simply, we use it because we believe Google+ is better than Facebook. It would take a lot more than a new search for Facebook to kill Google+, more than Facebook can possibly do.

It seems to me that for a long time there have been those who consistently overestimate what Facebook can do. With every new feature, every new development, they behave as if Facebook will somehow trump Google, Twitter, or whatever other sites they might perceive as rivals to FB.  In the end they are a bit like the boy who cried wolf. They constantly cry "Facebook will win! Facebook will win!" and in the end it never does. Will Facebook's search be better than its old search? I don't know, but I can tell you one thing. It won't be a credible threat to Google. Heck, it won't even be a threat to Bing.

Friday, December 12, 2014

TCM Remembers 2014

Every year since 1998 Turner Classic Movies has produced annual tributes to those in the film industry who have died the past year (actors, directors, writers, producers, et. al.) under the heading "TCM Remembers". Turner Classic Movies released this year's TCM Remembers yesterday. The song playing during the clip is "All I Want" by Kodaline. As to those featured in the clip, I rather suspect most classic film fans would recognise the majority of them. Sadly, this year saw the passing of many classic film and television stars, including Eli Wallach, Mickey Rooney, Lord Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., and James Garner, among many others. Like most years I suspect most classic film fans will have difficulty watching TCM Remembers without breaking into tears at some point (for me it was when they hit Russell Johnson).  Anyhow, without further ado, here is this year's edition of TCM Remembers

Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Joel, the Lump of Coal" by The Killers

Each year since 2006 The Killers have released a Christmas song, as well as a video to the song. All profits from these singles go to the Product Red campaign to to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa. This is this years Christmas single by The Killers, "Joel, the Lump of Coal". The song was written by The Killers with Jimmy Kimmel and Jonathan Bines. Jimmy Kimmel directed the video, which made its debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on 1 December 2014. I have to say that, along with "Don't Shoot Me Santa" and "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball", "Joel, the Lump of Coal" could be my favourite Killers Christmas single. Anyhow, without further ado, here is the video for "Joel, the Lump of Coal".

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Godspeed Mary Ann Mobley

Mary Ann Mobley, actress and former Miss America, died on 9 December 2014 at the age of 77. The cause was breast cancer.

Mary Ann Mobley was born on 17 February 1937 in Biloxi, Mississippi. She grew up in nearby Brandon. She attended the University of Mississippi, where she was a majorette and a member of the Chi Omega Sorority. It was in her senior year there, in 1959, that she was crowned Miss America.

It was following her reign as Miss America that Mary Ann Mobley launched her career in show business. She was a regular on the short lived 1960 variety show Be Our Guest on CBS-TV. In 1962 she appeared on Broadway in Nowhere to Go But Up. Miss Mobley signed a contract with MGM and made her film debut in Get Yourself a College Girl (1964). She co-starred with Elvis Presley in Girl Happy (1965) and Harum Scarum (1965). In the Sixties she also appeared in the films Young Dillinger (1965), Three on a Couch (1966), The King's Pirate (1967), and For Singles Only (1968).

While Mary Ann Mobley appeared in several movies during the decade, she may be best remembered for her work in television. She appeared in five different episodes of Burke's Law, playing a different character each time. Miss Mobley was also the original "girl from the U.N.C.L.E.". The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode "The Moonglow Affair served as a backdoor pilot for the spinoff series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. In the episode Mary Ann Mobley originated the role of U.N.C.L.E. agent April Dancer. Unfortunately the role of April Dancer was recast with Stefanie Powers for the series. She was also considered for the role of Batgirl on Batman, although the part eventually went to Yvonne Craig. Miss Mobley also guest starred on such shows as The Smothers Brothers Show, Perry Mason, Mission: Impossible, Run for Your Life, The Virginian, Iron Horse, Custer, Irnoside, and To Rome with Love. Miss Mobley also appeared on several variety and talk shows in the Sixties, including The Mike Douglas Show, The Milton Berle Show, The Pat Boone Show, and The Joey Bishop Show.

In the Seventies Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of ColourSearch; The Sixth Sense; Love, America Style; The New Perry Mason; Police Story; Born Free; The Fantastic Journey; and Flying High. She appeared on such game shows as Match Game, Tattletales, To Tell the Truth, and Card Sharks. From 1977 to 1979 she appeared in each edition of the yearly Circus of the Stars.

In the Eighties Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on such shows as Matt Houston, Fantasy Island, Hotel, The Love Boat, and Designing Women. She was a regular on Diff'rent Strokes and had a recurring role on Falcon Crest. She was a regular panellist on the game shows Hollywood Squares, Body Language, and Super Password. She was the host of the documentary series Wedding Day.

From the Nineties into the Naughts Mary Ann Mobley guest starred on the shows Hearts Afire, Hardball, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Dead Like Me. She appeared on the competition programme Cupcake Wars in 2012.

Mary Ann Mobley was also active in many charities. She produced documentaries about poverty stricken and starving children in such places as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and the Sudan. She raised money for both the United Cerebral Palsy Association and the March of Dimes. For her work on behalf of children's health the Mary Ann Mobley Paediatric Wing at the Rankin General Hospital in her hometown of Brandon, Mississippi was named for her.

I must confess that I have always had a crush on Mary Ann Mobley. I thought she was spectacularly beautiful, one of the most beautiful women in the world. I thought she was also exceptionally graceful and that she had one of the sexiest voices I had ever heard. Of course, many actresses are beautiful, as are many former Miss Americas. What Mary Ann Mobley had that is lacking in many other actresses was real talent.

While she was best known for playing rather sweet women (much as she was in real life), she did play a variety of other roles. In the film B-movie Young Dillinger she played Dillinger's moll Elaine, a part rather far removed from the sweet natured women she usually played. In For Singles Only Mary Ann Mobley does play a rather sweet woman, but one who is willing to pretend to have been seduced by a male friend so that he can win a bet.  Of course, given Mary Ann Mobley frequently appeared on television, it should be no surprise that many, perhaps most, of her best performances were on the small screen. Two of the best came from the TV show Perry Mason. She played a good natured, but flighty blonde in the episode "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza", and a rather less good natured, scheming model in "The Case of the Misguided Model". On Designing Women she played a rather caustic head of a local historical society, a character as sour as Miss Mobley was sweet in real life.

Not only was Mary Ann Mobley exceedingly beautiful and very talented, but she was also a true lady, the ideal Southern belle. She worked tirelessly on the behalf of many charities over the years. She raised money for the the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She raised money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. She even served on the National Council on Disability. From those who had the honour of meeting her in person it has been reported that she was one of the sweetest women one could ever meet. She always had kind words for her many fans and always treated them with dignity. Ultimately it would seem that Mary Ann Mobely was a true rarity. She was a woman who was as sweet and charitable as she was beautiful and talented.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ken Weatherwax R.I.P.

Ken Weatherwax, best known for playing Pugsley on the 1960's TV show The Addams Family, died on 7 December 2014 at the age of 59. The cause was a heart attack.

Ken Weatherwax was born on 19 September 1955 in Los Angeles, California. He came from a show business family. An aunt on his mother's side was famous musical actress and dancer Ruby Keeler. Frank and Rudd Weatherwax, the trainers of canine star Lassie, were uncles on his father's side. His older half brother, Joey D. Vieira, played Porky on the first three seasons of Lassie.

Ken Weatherwax started his acting career in commercials. He was 8 years old when he was cast as Pugsley on The Addams Family. On the TV show Pugsley was the eldest child of Morticia and Gomez Addams. He had a streak of inventive genius, capable of creating such things as a disintegrator gun and a computer. Along with his younger sister Wednesday he showed an interest in such things as dynamite and venomous spiders. He also kept a pet octopus named Aristotle.

While appearing on The Addams Family he made a guest appearance on the TV Western Wagon Train. After The Addams Family ended Ken Weatherwax found it difficult to find other roles due to typecasting. When he was 17 he enlisted in the United States Army. After his stint in the Army he provided the voice of Pugsley in the 1973 Saturday morning cartoon The Addams Family and later appeared in the 1977 reunion movie Halloween with the New Addams Family. He also went to work as a grip at Universal Studios and worked as a set builder as well. As a grip he worked on such Hollywood films as Unlawful Entry (1992).

Ken Weatherwax's acting career was very brief, but as Pugsley Addams he left his mark. In many respects he was the ideal Pugsley. As played by Mr. Weatherwax, Pugsley was in some ways a normal, somewhat congeial little boy, albeit one with interests that tended more towards the macabre. He was in some ways a contrast to the other Addamses (especially Wednesday), who tended to be a bit more sombre. Ken Weatherwax played the role very well, creating a memorable character in a cast of memorable characters. While he may not have played a large variety of roles in his acting career, Ken Weatherwax will be remembered.