Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year End Top Ten

For the end of the year and to indulge in a little self-admiration, I have compiled what I think are my best and most representative posts over the past year. Since I have only been blogging seriously for five months, this should have been easy, but I'm so narcissistic I managed to actually fit 13 posts into the Top 10 list. It’s kind of cheating, but it puts all my favorites in one place where I can easily find them for future reference. Click and enjoy.

Stroke my ego and let me know if there was something else I wrote this year that you liked better than these lame attempts. Or shamelessly plug the favorite post that you wrote in the past year.(Please link directly to your post, not just to your blog. Even I have my patience.)

10. What Makes A Good Blog?

A naïve early post full of earnest advice I should pay more attention to. Obviously a rhetorical question I haven't quite found the answer to yet.

9. Supreme Court Options
Dubya should have taken my advice.

8. Fine 70’s Cheese
The definitive list of bad hits from the 1970s.

7. Alligator Mouth, Hummingbird Rump
My single-handed, and so far unsuccessful, attempt to make lame Gil Thorp dialog a pop-culture catch-phrase.

6. Hottest. Columnist. Ever.
My profession of lust for brainy, beautiful, and bitterly funny Maureen Dowd.

5. Rock Is Dead What Else Is New?
Pop-culture commentary about the current state of rock music.

4. Giving Thanks
A post that is both sincere and heart-felt. Very atypical for me.

3. The Foobiverse Saga.
My four-part and growing deconstruction of For Better Or For Worse, inside and out. My number one traffic generator. Snarking about foobs is like blogcrack to to a Sitemeter addict like me.
History of The Foobiverse, Part 1. Saves you $16.95 (CDN$24.95) on Suddenly Silver as a quick recap of the Patterson clan over the years.
Meet The Foobs. Dissections of the major characters. Definitely not the official bios.
Attack Of The Foobs. More about the minor characters than you care to know. And more than I should admit to knowing.
A Tour of Foob Central. A wide-eyed look at the FBorFW website. And I mean wide-eyed in the worst possible way.

2. Hottest. Woman. Ever.
The true-life story of when I stalked Angelina Jolie. Every blogger should write at least one post about AJ just to keep all the HornyGooglers® busy. Oh, and misspell her name at least once so you get the hits from other people with poor proofreading skills.

1. 100 Things About My Dog
This is my favorite post of the year because it takes standard blog clichés, like "The 100 Things About Me" post and pictures of pets, and subverts the paradigm by following the formula, but ridiculing it at a metablog level at the same time. At least that was my intent. If you’d just like to learn about my dog, that’s fine too.

Happy New Year! I guarantee more snark in 2006.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

The Meme-ing of Life

When I post a meme or run across one on someone else’s blog, someone inevitably asks “WTF is a ‘meme’?” You can google “meme” (rhymes with 'dream', not 'see me') and it will lead you to a lot of very jargon-laden psuedo-scientific sites that are complete gibberish to the average blogger, including me. The word itself was created by Richard Dawkins, a controversial zoologist and science writer, who asserts that genes are the basic building block of evolution and that survival of the individual or the species is unimportant as long as the gene survives.

As best I understand it, the concept of memes (which is a meme in itself) is an analogy between human culture and evolutionary biology. Memes are the ideas that transmit behavior and concepts from one person to another. Like genes, beneficial memes get passed along and dangerous memes get eliminated or countered by other memes. My favorite meme is the Golden Rule. Nothing in our biology makes us follow it, but it is such a universal truth that all major religions have some variation of it.

A meme can be any idea, large or small. Capitalism, Nazi-ism, and the infield fly rule are all memes. Political parties are organized by people that believe a common set of memes. Organized religions are constantly splitting apart from disputes over which memes are most important. Many memes are directly contradictory and require people to pick and choose which ones to believe. Does haste make waste or is there no time like the present? Pro-choice or pro-life, evolution or creationism, and toilet paper over or under are all competing memes. I leave it to you to come up with other examples.

In its most general sense, a meme can be a catch-phrase, or a popular song, or a style of dress. Any idea can be expressed as a meme. Because of it’s trendy intellectual cachet, the very concept of memes is an increasingly popular meme.

Somehow in the blogging world, the word “meme” has come to encompass all these little chain-letter-like quizzes and tests and writing assignments that get passed around. The best memes don’t even need to be passed around. People see a “100 Things About Me” or a “Thursday Thirteen” or “Half-Nekkid Thursday” post and say, “I should do that.” Ergo, the meme has been passed. There is even a guy with a site that lists dozens of popular memes. Judging by the ones I run across, his list is just the tip of the iceberg.

Using the biology analogy, some memes are spread by using “tagging” as a transmission vector. The recipient is only obligated to follow-up on the tag out of a sense of loyalty or duty or curiosity. The pass-along memes that are too hard or too personal or not clever enough will eventually die out. Unfortunately, at the current rate of meme generation, in a year or two, half of all blogposts will be people responding to being tagged by a meme.

I hope I have cleared things up in my very unrigorous, completely untechnical way. So, everytime you run across someone asking about memes, post a comment linking back to this post. And spread this meme.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas In Paris

Two years ago, my wife and I boarded a plane on Christmas Eve and fulfilled a life-long fantasy of hers. No, neither of us are in the Mile High Club, as far as I know. Besides, that would be my lifelong fantasy, not hers. Christmas morning we landed in Paris. The only thing we did to spoil the fantasy glow was to take along our surly, moody teenager. I know, those adjectives are redundant when describing teenagers.

We arrived early Christmas morning Paris-time to a nearly deserted Charles DeGaulle Airport and took a shuttle service to our hotel in Arrondissement Seven. To say that our room was small would be to say that the Louvre has a few paintings. Our triple room, which was hard to find in this hotel class (further discouraging any future of taking teenagers along), was a skinny double bed with about 1 foot clear on each side and a roll-away bed blocking the door to the bathroom. Still, we were in Paris.

Since we still had most of the day ahead of us we decided to walk the few blocks to the Eiffel Tower just to have a look at it. The Eiffel Tower does not disappoint. I don’t know what fake partial scale replicas you may have seen in Vegas or at Kings Dominion, the real thing is just plain huge. We swooned and gawked and then noticed there were people in line at the base.

Travel Tip: The Eiffel Tower is open Christmas Day.

We spent most of the afternoon going all the way to the top and slowly descending the tower. We took picture and wandered and just soaked in the atmosphere. At dusk, we took a water boat tour up and down the Seine, just like in Before Sunset, and took more picture of the Eiffel Tower. In all I think I took over three dozen picture of the Eiffel Tower or parts therof that trip. The one on the right is from the only clear sunny day we had that trip.

The weather was cold and usually gray, but nothing can take away that magic of having been in Paris on Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas

The Yellojkt Clan.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Non-Denominational Winter Gift-Giving Holiday Greeting

My blogroll is a pretty eclectic collection of links that I have picked up in the last few months. There are a lot of very interesting people in the blogosphere and I know I have only scratched the surface of the great blogs out there. I have picked them up from the Comics Curmudgeon site, out of the mommy-blogger heavy camp-followers of Michele Agnew, and the rather brainy group that are attracted like intellect-seeking mosquitoes drawn to the Achenblog. Getting to “know” other bloggers has been the unintended benefit of my blogging. These are only a few of the great people I never would have run across in the real world, but I’m glad I have found here.

Trusty Getto is a really great guy. He’s a lawyer, drives a fancy car, lives in a gorgeous old house, and has the two most adorable blond moppets I have ever seen on the web. Plus he writes witty blogposts, serves as a school board official and flirts shamelessly with mean girl. Some people are too perfect.

Princssis doesn’t blog very much, at least nowhere near as often as her friend Blond Girl, but she was the very first person to add me to her blogroll, and you never forget your first. Even when she is blogcationing, I go by and look for news.

Plain Jane is one of the newest people on my blogroll and I am kicking myself for not finding her blog earlier. Funny, sassy and in tune with life.

J. Po is one of the funniest of the Comics Cardinals and he has started a blog for his non-comics related observations. Ginzu-knife sharp wit with a grounded sense of family life Thank goodness there are so many people so much funnier than me.

Read-Think-Live who goes by reader on the Achenblog is usually good for a little mental stimulation. Books, art, and philosophy are all in her cultural reference quiver and it shames me when she makes a Vonnegut reference quicker than I do.

Claude aka ccradio is a fellow Baltimoron who has the thankless burden in life of working for City of Baltimore Public Schools. I like having someone on my blogroll I can make inside regional jokes with.

On the other side of the world is one of my many international readers, Mooselet, whose fascination with hunky Australian rugby players borders on the obsessive.

If you aren’t on my list here, I haven’t forgotten you. I appreciate everyone that reads my blog at any frequency they desire. Just check your bloglogs and you know I am a loyal reader visiting your site way too often as well.

I want to send everyone on my blogroll, in my favorites list, and filed away at my site a very happy holiday wish that they can use for whatever religious/secular/pop-culture festive occasion they choose to celebrate or ignore. And I know I have already missed Winter Solstice for the pagans/Wiccans/whatevers out there. Harvest some more mistletoe next year for me.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Foob Fallout

Last week I published one of my occasional snarky posts about the comic strip For Better or For Worse. As I presumptuously tend to do, I posted a message in the comments of the Comics Curmudgeon site to siphon off some of Josh’s fan base. I try not to abuse this privilege, but it’s a pretty reliable traffic generator. As a tongue-in-cheek joke, I lured them in using the promise of a picture of a “nearly naked April” who, if you don’t know, is the teenage daughter character in the strip.

The stunt succeeded beyond my wildest imagination. I got over 300 visitors in one day from that link, drowning out my normal readership which consists of about a dozen dedicated blog friends and a lot of Googlers™ looking for Angelina Jolie in a backless dress. You could practically sit there and watch the sitemeter spin.

The picture I was using as blog bait is on the April Paper Doll page, which is not nearly as tawdry as I made it out to be, which is of course part of my point. One of my regular readers, Mooselet, caught on to my unstated hint that this is not perhaps the most benign image to put into the hands of anybody that can use the right click menu of the browser. Ellcee also chimed in that it was perhaps naïve on the part of Foob Central to think that the world is not the happy safe place it ought to be.

I am certain some photoshopper somewhere has already airbrushed off April’s bra and panties for some hentai-style parody. And no, I do not want to know where I can find it. I have seen enough images of Belle or Ariel doing very un-Disney things to not want that image seared into my brain.

Even more amusing to me, as well as frightening for the general public, is that I sprinkled over two dozen links to various pages on the FBorFW website and the most clicked-on link was the one to “topless toddler April.” It’s that sort of prurient curiosity that makes you the target of FBI sting operations.

Of the nearly 500 visits I got over the three-day surge of traffic, I am most intrigued by the half dozen or so I got from Sudbury, Ontario. It seems I had drawn the attention of the Lynnions. I have no idea whether it was Stephanie Van Doleweerd, or Lynn herself, but someone at Foob Central took the trouble to check over my past foobish posts as well. Hopefully I have passed muster in my avoidance of any intellectual property infringements or bandwidth incursions (a hundred clicks from me is a drop in the bucket of their 500GB monthly traffic), and I can continue to make my gentle jabs in the future.

The biggest disappointment in my ratings sweep-week stunt was that I didn’t get any more comments than normal. I guess everyone was too red-faced to admit they had been suckered to own up and comment. And Steph (may I call you Steph?), If you swing by in the future (since I am now on your watch-list) and I have stepped over some boundary, leave me a comment and we can discuss it like civilized people by e-mail. No need to tap the lawyers’ retainer. I’m a reasonable person. Don’t worry about leaving the e-mail address; I’m sure I can find it.

Finally, if Josh could let me know how many visitors read the comments on December 12, we can calculate the click-through rate and figure out how lucrative links to underwear-clad underage comic strip characters could be. Let’s see, there is Luann, Paige Fox, Agnes, Nancy….

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Every Ornament A Memory

set up
our tree up a
while ago. I pulled
all the boxes Mardi Gras jester
of ornaments outs and got all
the lights on. And then we had an
idea. Rather than put on all the ornaments,
Bear lets just put on the ones with special meaning
to us. Every time we visit someplace we tend to buy a Christmas
ornament or two. They make nice inexpensive Paris Santa souvenirs
and someone has to keep all those tacky tourist Christmas shops
in business. We were otherwise distracted during our honeymoon and
didn’t think of Myrtle Beach buying any then. But while still newlyweds,
we went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and found an ornament in the
shape of a jester head and colored purple and green. Hence a tradition
started. We have a couple of dozen Hatteras and Paris of these things with
something kitschy about the place. For Hawaii, we have some hula
dancers. San Francisco is represented by a trolley car. New York City is
an apple and upstate New York is an Adirondack chair. For Myrtle Beach
it’s a golf club on a sand dollar even though Money wreath we don’t golf.
A lot of them seem to have an ocean theme. Charleston is a shrimp with
a Santa hat. Maine is a lobster trap. Orcas Island is a ferry boat. Some
are less kitschy than others. A gorgeous brass cutout of Ryman
Auditorium Ryman Auditorium represents Nashville. The Space Needle from
Seattle is also classy. Sometimes we end up with more than
one. Mt Ranier Amish Country in Pennsylvania is represented by a
horse and buggy as well as a hand made “plain” doll. Baby's First Christmas We
also have a few ornaments for special occasions like the crystal
“Baby’s First Christmas.” There is also a cocker spaniel to represent
my dog, and my wife even repainted it IMG_0337 to make it look
more like him. The tree isn’t as gaudy as it is some years, but it’s
nice to just stand in front of it and bask in the warm memories
on each

For more of my ornaments you can see this Flickr set.
Let me know about special memories you have on your tree.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Geisha Chic

According to this Washington Post article, there are geisha experts that are critical of inaccuracies in Memoirs of A Geisha. They claim the movie takes liberties with the history and style of the era and creates false impressions of geishas. Of course it does, it’s a movie. The geisha is a strange cultural touchstone. They evoke a bygone era of elegance and grace while extolling women that are demure and deferential. The geisha image plays into a lot of stereotypes about the exotic Far East. The complicated and perhaps deliberately ambiguous sensual nature of geisha culture has always fascinated and perplexed Westerners.

The geisha is a nearly extinct career, a victim of modernization and changing tastes. While some traditional geishas remain, they exist largely as an anachronistic leftover. In modern Japan, the role of the geisha has been replaced by the hostess girl.

When I was in Japan this summer we took a tour that visited the Hondo Sensoji Buddhist shrine in Tokyo. Part of the complex has a long row of vendors and booths that are popular for shopping. Here there were a wide variety of people including more than a few groups of girls dressed as geishas. They were obviously not real geishas, but I still can’t quite figure out what makes people dress up in the middle of the day in period costume and go out in groups. I keep trying to come up with an American analogy to this hobby, but the closest I can come up with are Civil War re-enactors, but they don’t go out in public in costume. At least I hope not.

I think the image of the geisha has outlived the practice. It connects modern Japan to its traditions and culture and reminds them of a gentler, less hectic, romanticized past. Like the American cowboy, geishas and samurai are symbols of a life that never really was. That Japanese girls, and some boys, find dressing in exotic costumes entertaining is perplexing, but then Japanese pop cultural fads have always been, to use a term loaded with potentially offensive connotations, inscrutable.

Whether Memoirs of A Geisha is a compelling period piece or just exploitive Orientalism can be debated. I just feel it’s important to note that even in Japan, the age of the geisha holds a mysterious allure to this day.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?

From the Washington Post:
Human Brain Cells Are Grown In Mice

Now we know exactly why he is called The Brain.

"What are we going to do tonight, Turd Blossom?"
"Same thing we do every night, Dubya. Try to take over the world."

This post is inspired, to the point of being actionable, by bc's hilarious take on the news of human brain cells being injected into fetal mice.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Plane Nuts

Udvar-Hazy CenterLast week I had the opportunity to go with a group to the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This is quite a mouthful to say, but I guess when you give the Smithsonian 65 million dollars, they don’t care how hard your name is to pronounce. Anyone who has ever visited Washington DC knows about the Air and Space Museum. It’s the most popular museum on the Mall and has the original Wright Flyer, The Spirit of St. Louis and a lot of other rare planes and space craft. What they don’t know is that the Smithsonian owns tons of stuff it can’t display. A lot of it stays hidden in warehouses in suburban Maryland.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is right next to Dulles Airport in Virginia and puts on display a lot of the airplanes that aren’t historic enough or just plain (no pun intended) too big for the main museum. A few years ago, the NASM put the original Enola Gay on display in the museum on the mall, but only the fuselage fit. In the new place, the whole thing, fully restored, fits with room to spare.

Enola Gay

The other signature military plane in the exhibit is the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane ever built. These things never fail to impress.

SR-71 Blackbird

The last Concorde to ever fly is also on display. It also is in the “How did they fit that thing in here?” category. It is nearly impossible to get an angle to take a picture of the whole thing at once.


I was most impressed with the wide variety of WWII planes they have. A lot of planes are hung from the ceiling and there are catwalks around and through the hangar that let you get a closer view. Here is a Flying Tigers P-40 flying right at the camera.

P-40 Flying Tiger

Many years ago I had a job that occasionally took me to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, so I have been up-close to Space Shuttles before, but the Enterprise on display here is still an impressive sight. That’s me in the foreground.

Space Shuttle Enterprise

When I got home and went through the photos, I counted 69 pictures after I deleted the duplicates and out-of-focus shots, which sounds like a lot, but I only scratched the surface. If you want to see more check out this Flickr set for the full set of my pictures. Or view them all as a slide show.

And if you get to the DC area take a half day and head out to the Udvar-Hazy Center. Like all Smithsonian museums it’s “free”, but parking is $12 a vehicle or you can pay for a shuttle from the Mall. And just go plane nuts.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Tour of Foob Central

It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Foobiverse. I have previously talked about the history of For Better or For Worse and its major characters as well as the supporting cast. Today I will take you on a guided tour behind the scenes of Foob Central, also known as Lynn Johnston Productions, Inc as operated by Entercom Canada Inc (ECI). The FBorFW website is a wealth of information and entertainment that takes foob fandom to a whole new level. So, let’s go!

Lynn JohnstonThe first stop is logically enough a tour of the Foob Art Studios. Running an internationally syndicated comic strip is a big job requiring lots of highly skilled artists and business people. Well, at least 6 people. We have Lynn and her assistants that do the grunt work Lynn doesn’t care to, like inking and lettering, and colouring and five people to handle the business end.

For our purposes, the most important person is Stephanie Van Doleweerd, the webmaster of the entire site. She is responsible for making sure the opening splash page has a seasonally relevant theme, getting the monthly letters posted, updating all the fun and games (which I’ll discuss later) and keeping the Strip Fix archives up to date. A unique feature of CyberFoobWorld is that in addition to a very deep archive of recent strips that goes back to January 2003, there is a separate nostalgia archive for the older strips, so you can decide for yourself if the strip was funnier back when it was more sloppily drawn and less strident.

Comics are a big business and there a lot of licensing issues to insure that characters and artwork are properly paid for and that copyrights are protected. I’m not sure which of these people is in charge of websearching for bloggers that cut and paste the strips onto personal websites, but that person does one heck of a job.

Ending our tour of the backstage area, is a series of pages devoted to Lynn’s charity work with sick animals, background on her fascination with First Nation culture, and details about the animated version of the strip. Thanks to Canadian content broadcast laws, the audience in the Great White North can catch it on Teletoon. Yanks have to buy the DVD to catch all the drama and love of the Pattersons in full animation.

FborFW is one of the few comics that actually has a dedicted website. Others in this rarified realm include Garfield and Doonesbury. For comics large enough to merit grand stand alone websites, instead of dinky templated web pages from their syndicate, they all have on an odd fascination with silly games and stunts. Considering the target age of Garfield fans, this is understandable. But if you want to play chess on-line why does it matter if you play against Mike, when chess is nearly ubiquitous on the web? John’s little Flash game is particularly strange. And why is Deanna the word search maven? If you don’t want to play games you can look at unpublished artwork, or scroll through all the fan-submitted photos and letters on April’s Blog (the official one, not the "real" one.

And if you have ever wondered what April looks like in her underwear, and I do not want to know if you have, the April Paper Doll page is where to go. They have both topless toddler April and teen April, kind of like the choice between young Elvis and fat Elvis.

And every tour ends with a stop at the gift shop. Here is where you can put your wallet to the test. There is a huge branded CafePress outlet where you can get your choice from about a dozen daily or Sunday strips put on about every style of clothing and tchotke that CafePress sells. Unfortunately, the strip selection doesn’t have the famous “roadside gig” episode that would be the immediate bestseller. You can get an autographed copy of it for $45. I dare you. At the higher end there are animation cels, autographed books, and bunny jewelry. They even have Christmas gifts for all your foob-friends.

This is the end of the guided tour, but feel free to wander around some more and try to find Ned. There are lots of places to explore that I haven’t even touched on. In the near future, I will draw back the curtain and we will peer straight down Mt. Foob.

Foob Lawyers: I know that on your site you say: “All of the copyrights and trademarks on this site remain the property of Entercom Canada Inc. Any unauthorized use of these images is strictly prohibited.” I have linked to images from the website according to my right for fair use. All the links are altered in size from the original and refer back to the original source. I have not “copied” or “stolen” anything from you. If you put something on the web, I can link to it. It’s that simple. If you don’t believe me, the folks at the EFF can set you straight.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Light Peer Pressure

We were out of town either visiting relatives or stalking sitcom actors most of Thanksgiving weekend, so we were a little taken aback to come home Sunday night to find three of the units in our townhouse group already had Christmas lights up. And like the gap in a redneck’s smile, our plain unlit house sat in the middle of them.

We had been rather Grinch–like the past two Christmases because we were traveling over the holidays and didn’t want the hassle of putting up and taking down decorations when we wouldn’t be around to enjoy them. Last year my son just duct-taped off a corner of the living room as the “tree” so we would have a place to put the presents for him to rattle.

The peer pressure got to me, so on the next Saturday, in near freezing weather, I dragged out the box of lights and started hanging. Fortunately, there is not much that needs to be done to light the front of a townhouse. I hung icicle lights from the bay window over the garage and put rope light through the railings and around the front door.

Since it’s not Christmas without spending money, my wife bought two strings of very fancy holly lights that use small red bulbs for the holly berries. Each box had two spare bulbs and when we got the lights on the railings, there were five dead lights already. Rather than hunt down spare bulbs, we found, on sale, a string of 70 lights that use the exact same bulb. We now have a lifetime supply of spare red pearl lights in case anyone needs some.

When we threw the switch my newest neighbor came out and congratulated me on getting with the spirit. He’s a little gung-ho and I was glad my lights met with his approval. In the picture, his house is on the right and has two moving reindeer and a “pond” of blue lights in his front yard. The neighbor with the end unit adds something every year and is now up to a reindeer-drawn sleigh, a lighted angel, and an inflatable Santa. I’m happy just to stick in the middle and not try to keep up with the Griswolds.

I call our little group of houses “mini-Hampden” after the Baltimore rowhouse neighborhood that goes completely bat-crap beserk with decorations every year. Baltimore Diary has a good post about the Hampden phenomena and there are plenty of pictures on Flickr of this block long extravaganza. The pictures cannot possibly do justice to this garish yearly phenomena.

So, how many lights are too many lights? And how early should decorations go up? Jumping up after Thanksgiving dinner to hang lights strikes me as too soon, but with all that peer pressure around me I knew I had better get with the program and set my house aglow ASAP.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sony vs Sony

I visited Japan as part of my vacation this summer and the one must-do pilgrimage for my PS2 loving son was to the Sony Center building in the Ginza district of Tokyo. Here they have seven floors of showrooms with every product Sony makes: computers, camcorders, cameras, televisions, DVD players and the like. The “home theater” room where they had a Blu-Ray DVD of Spiderman II playing on a 12 foot wide screen was just stunning. Sony has a lot of very cool electronics.

Right as we walked in the door the first display was the MP3 players. I thought I was getting a glimpse into the future. The iPod sized players came in a bunch of designer metallic covers and had a cool screen that can be used in landscape or portrait mode. The red model is pictured here. Little did I know that they had been on sale worldwide since April. When we visited Electronic Town (Akihabara), these little Sony devices were as common in the vendor stalls as iPods are in the US. iPods were also available everywhere and often just a little cheaper than their Sony equivalent.

But don’t go looking for one of these Sony players (which go by the rather un-catchy name of Walkman® Hard Drive) in your local Best Buy, because they are not there. Sure, you can buy them online or special order, but they are not featured in sales flyers and are definitely not on the showroom floor with the iRivers or the Toshibas or the other wannabes in this category. It’s like Sony doesn’t really want to be selling them.

You can find some of the Sony flash memory players on the blister pack racks at Best Buys, like this Network Walkman® which is a 1GB flash memory player with this cool twisty control on the end and a one line display which makes it nicer than the iPod Shuffle but not as neat as the iPod Nano.

I was reading the fine print on the Network Walkman and it seems that it converts any MP3 files to Sony’s proprietary ATRAC3 format before loading it onto the player. It even warns that it is not compatible with WMA files. Now if you remember my rant from a few days ago about my Foo Fighters album fiasco, the only format the songs on this Sony/BMG release can be ripped as are WMA files.

Here is where Sony is a complete basket case. Its music division is locking its music away from its music player division. The music players don't play industry standard formats and require you to use crappy Sony software. Until they can come to some sort of truce between the warring factions, Apple is going to continue to gobble up both marketshare and mindshare.

Sony has a new British CEO, Howard Stringer, that comes from the music and movies side of the conglomerate and he has bold plans to unite the company. Wired Magazine did a puff profile of him in the last year that seems to have vanished Ministry of Truth-style off their archives. Now people are calling for his to resign or be fired over the DRM rootkit flap.

Sony needs to decide who their customers are and sell them what they want whether that is MP3 players or music albums. Continuing to cut off their nose to spite their face is not a good business strategy.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No You May Not

I like to back track memes I get tagged with to see if I can follow them to the source. When trusty tagged me, he had been tagged by Patricide who had been tagged by Cooking by Anne who had been tagged by Dandelions and Roses who had been tagged by Mrs. Diamond. That's where the trail went cold. It seems you need a username and password to get into that blog. I've never been to a gated cyber-neighborhood before, but I know when I'm not wanted.

Here's the actual meme which has stayed intact for at least five generations:

List 5 things people may not know about you and tag 5 people to do the same.

I'm going to play fussy obtuse grammarian and subvert the paradigm here. I'm going to tell you five things you MAY NOT know about me, not five things you MIGHT NOT know about me. There is a difference.
  1. My real name. I prefer to use yellojkt as my nom de web. Not that the clever person can't figure out my real name, but it's fairly common. Common enough to get lots of wrong numbers over the years. As far as I know, there is only one yellojkt.
  2. My address, social security number, mother's maiden name, or PIN number. There seem to be a lot of curious people from very obscure banks that want to know this. Not to mention the fine folks at eBay and PayPal that keep threatening to freeze my account.
  3. My IQ. Mostly because I do not know it. My mother had me tested in high school to get me eligible for all sorts of programs I had no desire to be in. I refused to be told what it was. These are meaningless numbers.
  4. My SAT scores, GPA, or class rank. These numbers I do know, but that was over twenty years ago. Anyone still gloating or bitter over these things needs to get a life. Statistically insignificant differences in these numbers seemed very important to a lot of people at the time, but haven't impacted my life in any way in a long time.
  5. My shirt size. Not that I care if you know, but without the information in items 1 and 2, you are not going to be able to buy me any new shirts for Christmas.

Since I am being a smart-ass, I am not going to bother to tag anyone, but if you want to carry on my cause, feel free to do so. You may want to include your weight, the name of your first lover, your favorite sexual position, the reason you are in the witness protection plan, or a lot of other things people have no reason, right, or need to know.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Show Killer Strikes

New episodes of the deathwatched television show Kitchen Confidential as well as the last few episodes of "Arrested Development" start Monday night, but they both will soon be gone because shows I like are inevitably cancelled. I have a twenty-five year long record of killing promising new series. My liking a show is usually enough to doom a new series. Here is just a small list of shows that never stood a chance. All links are to the IMDB summary in case you want to check cast bios or get more info.

Breaking Away (1980). This television series adaptation of the bicycling movie starred a post-Hardy Boys Shaun Cassidy with a lot of the movie cast including Jackie Earle Haley. While the show caught the spirit of the movie, it never found an audience.

Square Pegs (1982). Before Sarah Jessica Parker found sex in the city, she was a high school geek trying to get in with the cool kids. This show was set in the early 80s and had a great New Wave musical vibe. The show was notoriously uneven in quality largely because the producers, writers, crew, and possibly some of the cast where constantly coked up. Perhaps a perfect meta-metaphor for the 80s.

It’s Your Move (1984) Jason Bateman was a scheming teenager in a feud with the nebbish guy across the hall trying to date his mother. Snarky comedy too edgy for the family friendly times.

Max Headroom (1987). The US version of the British talk show spoof. Twenty minutes into the future was a little too far for this ahead of its time satire of a ratings-obsessed 24-hour news channel.

Ferris Bueller (1990) This TV adaptation of the movie classic lacked everything the film did. Ferris’s sister played by a young Jennifer Anniston survived this turkey long enough to find some Friends on a better show.

The Flash (1990). Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of the Tim Burton Batman movie, this noirish series had good production values but zipped around the schedule so much an audience had no chance of finding it. Mark Hamill guest starred as The Trickster.

The Single Guy (1995) Jonathon Silverman starred as a twenty-something ready to settle down because all his friends were married. The show was one of the better ones stuck in the 8:30 Thursday NBC deathspot but it still wasn't Must See TV.

Sports Night (1998) A behind the scenes look at an ESPN-style sports news show. I blame the bad acting. These actors have gone onto dreck like "West Wing", "Six Feet Under", and "Desperate Housewives".

Freaks and Geeks (1999) This show about a math nerd in the early 1980s that starts hanging around the school stoners was so true to life that I have considered legal action. Cruelly cancelled and burned off in summer reruns, watching the DVD box set is one of my goals this winter.

Action (1999) Jay Mohr takes the slimy guy schtick he perfected in Jerry McGuire and uses it in a Hollywood behind the scenes spoof ala The Player. Bonus points for having a Warren Zevon song for theme music.

Undeclared (2001) Judd Apatow took some of the cast of Freaks and Geeks and set them in a contemporary mid-level state college dorm. Despite the much higher sexual content, this show also failed to find an audience. The episode where Lizzie keeps denying hooking up with guest star Adam Sandler is a classic.

Arrested Development (2003-2005) Wait, you say I can’t take credit for this since it lasted for more than one season. True, but I quit watching it about six episodes into the first season when I couldn’t keep track of when it was on. It then won six Emmys and got nominated for ten more over the next two seasons. It was only when I started watching the third season that the plug got pulled. Sorry.

For fans of quality television everywhere I apologize for my curse. Let me know what new show you like so I can avoid it for you. Or let me know what short lived series you really miss. I may have killed it too and just overlooked it here.

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