Thursday, December 31, 2009
Many media organizations have put out summaries of the decade, which has been called the 2000s or the Aughts.
Here is an aggregation of mostly technology, business and entertainment top 10 lists from the decade:
Phillip Niemeyer, an art director at design studio Double Triple, created a simple picture-grid chart that sums up the past decade. See above, by way of the New York Times.
AFP published a good article called “Curtain falling on ‘Digital Decade’” on Dec. 27. It sums up the decade that started with the Y2K computer glitch and dot-com bubble and has since brought us iPods, iPhones, Flip camcorders, Kindles, and GPS navigation devices. The decade also brought us Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube.
Yahoo interviewed fourth-grade students in Orange County, Calif., for their perspectives on the decade. The students were all born in 2000. Yahoo then made a video called “The decade according to 9-year-olds.” It’s by turns sad, enlightening and funny. The video is part of Yahoo’s “Decade in Review.”
Newsweek has a fun article called “Unknown in ’99, Indispensible Now” that’s written by guest writers. Actor William Shatner raves about airline self check-in.
Time magazine published a list of “The 10 Biggest Tech Failures of the Last Decade.” Of course, Microsoft’s Windows Vista leads the list, followed by PC maker Gateway and losing high-def movie format HD DVD.
In a similar vein, Gizmodo compiled a list of “The 50 Worst Gadgets of the Decade.”
Huffington Post put together a photo essay called “12 Things That Became Obsolete This Decade.” The list includes fax machines and landline phones.
On a positive note, PCmag.com saluted the most important technologies, products and services in its “Best of the Decade” article. The most important products included Google, and Apple’s iPhone and iPod.
PCmag.com also picked its “Most Influential People of the Decade,” starting with Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
I also liked John McCrea’s post “Silicon Valley: Top 10 of the 2000s.” He includes the dot-com bubble collapse, Google’s IPO, YouTube and Facebook, among others.
From the entertainment beat, here are some other lists summarizing the decade that was:
Movie critics Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott of “At the Movies” list their “Best of the Decade Top 10.”
GeekTyrant runs down its “Top 30 TV Shows of the Last Decade” and “11 Incredibly Talented Breakout Directors of the Last Decade.”
Celebuzz has “The 20 Greatest Celebrity Mug Shots of the Decade.”
Huffington Post has “Sex Tapes Of The Past Decade: A Look At The Noughties’ Naughtiest.”
Time magazine has compiled what it calls “The Top 10 of Everything.” Among the topics are the top 10 news stories, heroes, scientific discoveries, medical breakthroughs, apologies, and scandals.
Thankfully Time has included a full list on one page so you can see a summary of its picks.
I also liked Time’s photo essay “Stores That Are No More.” Photographer Brian Ulrich’s images explore the haunted shells of America’s devastated retail landscape. Circuit City and Linens ’N Things are featured among the shuttered retail stores.
The website Good put together an interesting graphic that shows the biggest news stories of the year. It visually shows which stories held the public’s attention the longest and got the most coverage.
Techmeme compiled its list of the “Top 10 objectively biggest tech stories of 2009.” It leads off with the introduction of Google’s Chrome operating system.
TechCrunch posted an article at Seeking Alpha on the biggest tech acquisitions of the year. The biggest – Oracle’s $7.4 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems – is still pending regulatory approval.
On the entertainment front, the Nielsen Co. released a list of the top 10 most popular TV shows, movies, music, books and other media for 2009. Particularly interesting were the top 10 time-shifted TV shows (“Battlestar Galactica” was No. 1) and best-selling non-fiction books (“Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships Intimacy, And Commitment” by Steve Harvey was tops).
Netflix revealed the top 10 most rented movies on its service. (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” was No. 1.)
Flixster users rated the best movies of the year, with “Avatar” coming in first.
TorrentFreak compiled a list of the top 10 most pirated movies of the year. “Star Trek” came in first with nearly 11 million illegal downloads.
Turner Classic Movies released its annual end-of-the-year memorial tribute video to all of the actors and industry professionals who passed away during 2009. It’s posted on GeekTyrant.
Certainly one of the top news stories of the year was the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Here’s a March 2006 photo of my father-in-law, Albert Eisele, telling then Sen. Obama, D-Ill., a joke outside the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau. Eisele, a veteran political reporter, is editor at large with The Hill.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Google Analytics is an awesome service by the way.
1. First Lingerie Football League game gives fans a wardrobe malfunction (Sept. 5, 2009)
2. Top 10 cat names Apple hasn’t used yet for its Mac software (Aug. 26, 2009)
3. ‘The 800-pound gorilla in the room’ is probably more like 400 pounds (Sept. 11, 2009)
4. Quit stalking me, Summercusp (Dec. 12, 2008)
5. Sugar Stacks: Graphically shows you how much sugar you eat (Aug. 29, 2009)
6. DJ Tiësto rocks Microsoft party in New York (Oct. 7, 2009)
7. Google’s book scanning is a public service (Sept. 1, 2009)
8. Netflix instant-viewing queue gets slashed (Dec. 28, 2008)
9. Portrait of a forgotten pop rock band: Wild Blue (July 12, 2009)
One Stop Video
1. ‘Saturday Night Live’: Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley as Chippendales dancers (Sept. 17, 2009)
2. U-Create Music television commercial (Nov. 11, 2009)
3. ‘Saturday Night Live’: Dateline (March 24, 2009)
4. ‘Firelight' – ‘Twilight’ parody with Frankenstein twist by SNL (Nov. 9, 2009)
5. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ opening with music performed by student orchestra (Oct. 10, 2009)
6. Garmin 2009 Holiday Ad (Nov. 19, 2009)
7. Autotune controversy (Sept. 20, 2009)
8. “Twilight’ spoof by G4’s ‘Attack of the Show’ co-hosts (Oct. 5, 2009)
9. Levi's 501 Jeans commercial: Lola (March 29, 2009)
Chicago Bliss quarterback Elle Cartabiano of the Lingerie Football League
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The problem of cinematic bloat is spreading in Hollywood. Big-name directors have a hard time delivering movies that are two hours or less in length any more. They seem to think longer is always better.
Many moviegoers are speaking out about “Avatar” on Twitter. More than 300 people have posted messages on Twitter since it opened Dec. 18 saying that the movie, which runs 2 hours and 42 minutes, is too long, especially for 3-D.
More than a dozen have complained about headaches and how uncomfortable it is to wear 3-D glasses for so long.
My favorite comment was from “JerryMeehan,” who said Avatar “took out my eyes and stepped on them.”
Another Twitter user, “kdando,” said “Avatar” was spectacular, but way too long – “almost punishing length.”
Before “Avatar,” the movie people most complained about as being too long was disaster flick “2012.”
In the last month, at least 28 people on Twitter have posted notes about “2012” being too long at 153 minutes. Since the movie opened on Nov. 13, at least 265 people have complained about “2012” being too freaking long.
Other movies getting complaints from moviegoers about their length include “Sherlock Holmes” (128 minutes) and “Invictus” (134 minutes). On home video, movies registering complaints from viewers include “Funny People” (146 minutes and 153 minutes unrated), “Inglourious Basterds” (153 minutes), and “Public Enemies” (140 minutes).
Twitter user “energyface” summed up the feelings of a lot of people on Dec. 12 when he tweeted: “Dear Film Directors: When was the last time you heard anyone say ‘that movie was too short'? That’s right, never. No one has EVER said that.”
Monday, December 28, 2009
Plus, the stories are free to use because they’re no longer covered by copyright restrictions.
Movie makers usually put a twist on these older works to make them interesting to modern audiences. They can make them dark and nightmarish, sexy and exciting, updated to modern times, or done as period pieces with today’s technology.
This past weekend, the big-budget movie “Sherlock Holmes” raked in $62 million in U.S. box office receipts. Not bad for a property in the public domain that any studio could produce. Holmes debuted in 1887 in the short story “A Study in Scarlet” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Writer-director Guy Richie and star Robert Downey Jr. revitalized the old London detective story by making it a gritty action thriller with a sense of humor.
Techdirt writes that Sherlock Holmes is popular in large part because the character is in the public domain. CNN.com writes about the many portrayals of Holmes and company.
Due out March 5 is director Tim Burton’s movie “Alice in Wonderland.” The fantasy story, based on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865) by Lewis Carroll, is – like Sherlock Holmes – in the public domain.
Comic book artist, writer and toy designer Todd McFarlane has talked about doing a twisted remake of “The Wizard of Oz,” which is also off copyright. See article on GeekTyrant.
Film director Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”) plans to make a 3-D movie version of “The Three Musketeers.” It would be based on the 1844 tale by Alexandre Dumas. See report by The Hollywood Reporter.
One of my favorite movies based on a public domain work was Steven Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” (2005). He told the story of an alien invasion of Earth from one family’s perspective. It was based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 science fiction novel “The War of the Worlds.”
I’d like to see a movie based on the 2009 graphic novel “Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer.” Read the description of the story on GeekTyrant. It’s a takeoff on the classic fairy tale “The Adventures of Pinocchio” (1883) by Carlo Collodi.
This article is part of a series on copyrights and the public domain. To read more, click here.
Poster from Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Sherlock Holmes”
Poster from Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Electronic Arts plans to release “Dante’s Inferno” on Feb. 9, 2010. It is loosely based on part one of the “Divine Comedy.” EA’s “Dante’s Inferno” is a third-person action-adventure game. The game takes players on an adventure through Dante’s nine circles of hell – limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery.
Because Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is in the public domain, anyone can freely make a creative work based on it. You could write your own version of the story or make a movie, TV series or a comic book based on it, things Dante could never have dreamed of in the Middle Ages.
EA is actually working with DC Comics on a comic book mini-series based on “Dante’s Inferno” the game.
Alexandre Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers” (1844) is another work in the public domain that has been turned into many creative works. Most recently, it was used as the basis for a video game in October by Legendo Entertainment for Nintendo’s Wii console.
In September, Mattel released “Barbie and the Three Musketeers,” where the women are the protagonists. Video games by Activision based on the animated movie followed.
One of the benefits of works going into the public domain is that creative types can give older works new life through different media and expose them to new audiences.
A great example of public domain works adapted into a different medium is “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” a comic book series written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill.
It features characters from novels in the public domain. They include Mina Harker from “Dracula” (1897), Captain Nemo from “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1870), Allan Quatermain from “King Solomon’s Mines” (1885), Dr. Jekyll from “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886) and Hawley Griffin from “The Invisible Man” (1897).
Another excellent example of revamping a public domain work is “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (2009) by Seth Grahame-Smith. His literary mash-up combines Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1813) with a comedy horror story featuring flesh-eating zombies.
This article is part of a series on copyrights and the public domain. To read more, click here.
Cover art for EA’s “Dante’s Inferno”
Cover of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I bought the book from MyPublisher. The Valhalla, N.Y.-based company has made it easy for people to create coffee-table photo books with their own pictures. MyPublisher says it’s sold more than 5 million photobooks since 2002.
MyPublisher’s easy-to-use software is quick to download and makes producing personal photobooks a breeze. My first book cost $29.80, plus I got a second copy for free as a new customer.
I’m already thinking about making future photobooks. It’s a great way to use some of the many photos I have stored away on my computer and on Yahoo’s Flickr service.
Friday, December 25, 2009
The Huffington Post did a list of the 10 funniest Christmas movies of all time. I agree with some – “A Christmas Story” (1983), “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989), “Scrooged” (1988) and “Trading Places” (1983). But I hated “Bad Santa” (2003). I haven’t seen “The Ref” (1994), but will add it to my Netflix list.
AOL’s Moviefone ran a list of what it considers the 15 worst Christmas movies ever. I’ve avoided all but one on the list and that movie I actually liked – “Jingle All the Way” (1996) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Go figure.
Moviefone also did a list of the top 25 best Christmas movies of all time. I’m glad they included “Love Actually” (2003) and thought “Die Hard” (1988) and “Gremlins” (1984) were interesting choices. But I have to strongly protest the inclusion of “Bad Santa.” It also included “Christmas in Connecticut” (1942), which I watched recently and thought wasn’t so hot.
It was a good Christmas for the kids in our house this year.
Christopher, 6, got three Nintendo Wii video games (including the hard to find “Mario Kart Wii”) and a Wii remote stand and battery charger. He also got a Nerf gun and some Star Wars Legos.
Aerin, 4, got this year’s must-have toy a Zhu Zhu Pets hamster, a chattering, scattering robotic hamster from Cepia LLC of St. Louis, Mo. She also received a bunch of Disney princess toys.
Santa was good to the kids, but he let me down again. Hey, Nick, I’m putting in my request early for Christmas 2010. I’m attaching a photo of what I want below.
Top: Star Wars Legos set and Zhu Zhu Pets hamster
Bottom: Model with sexy Christmas wear by Costume Alibi
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Works coming off copyright provide an opportunity for new artists to reinterpret and improve upon them. Popular works in the public domain have a built-in audience of people interested in seeing new interpretations of familiar stories, music and artwork.
Walt Disney built his media empire by refashioning fairy tales in the public domain as full-length animated movies.
Once in the public domain, artists are free to reimagine works as they see fit without having to get permission from the original creator, their heirs or rights holders. Artists can turn classic stories upside-down with surprising results. They can add contemporary themes or give them life in a new medium.
I’ve touched on this topic in a few times before.
Example 1: Modern artists turning classic fairy tales like Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty into R-rated entertainment for adults.
Comic book illustrator J. Scott Campbell gave some of these stories a sexy spin by turning the heroines into gorgeous vixens. (See above sample and earlier post.)
Artist Jeffrey Thomas gave stories like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Pocahontas a dark spin. He reimagined these stories as horror tales full of sinister and gruesome elements. (See earlier post.)
Example 2: Old Christmas songs in the public domain can be given new life by musicians and singers.
Consider “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings” (2004) by the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan or “Christmas Canon” (1998) by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Both new versions are excellent. (See earlier post.)
Another favorite of mine is James Taylor’s 2004 rendition of “Deck the Halls.” He gives the carol a Renaissance fair flavor that brings it back to its roots. “Deck the Halls” is a Welsh tune dating back to the 16th century. (Check out the song on YouTube.)
Recent examples of older works getting new life are everywhere.
Now playing in movie theaters is “Disney’s A Christmas Carol,” based on “A Christmas Carol” (1843) by Charles Dickens. The film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, previously directed “Beowulf” (2007), based on the Old English heroic epic poem, which dates back to at least the early 11th century. Both stories are in the public domain, so anyone can make a movie, play, comic book, painting or other work of art based on them.
The hit Broadway musical “Wicked” (2003) and the book it’s based on are derived from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900) by L. Frank Baum. Author Gregory Maguire took the public domain book and created a back-story in “Wicked” about the witches of Oz. By doing so, he made some interesting statements about beauty and female relationships.
The benefits of creative works entering the public domain are many.
The public benefits by being exposed to works that otherwise may have been forgotten. The culture benefits from reexamining creative works from different angles to reveal hidden truths.
These things likely wouldn’t happen if artists had to secure the necessary approvals and pay fees and royalties to rights holders for their use.
The public also benefits by not having to expend taxpayer dollars to protect an ever expanding body of copyrighted works, largely held by big media companies.
Unfortunately the works in the public domain are those published before 1923. Everything after that is locked down by copyright extensions.
And the public suffers.
J. Scott Campbell’s sexy reinterpretation of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”;
Poster from the Broadway musical “Wicked”
I’ll cite other examples of new works based on art in the public domain in upcoming posts.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The online service is littered with accounts set up as jokes.
Search LinkedIn and you’ll find multiple accounts for “Star Wars” characters like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Admiral Ackbar, Darth Maul and Boba Fett.
I spent a couple of minutes today searching LinkedIn for fictional names from pop culture as well as historical figures and came up with dozens of fake accounts.
On LinkedIn, you’ll find accounts for characters from “The Simpsons” like Homer Simpson and Montgomery Burns. There also are accounts for other cartoon characters like Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Tweety Bird and Porky Pig.
Type in movie and TV character names like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and Jack Bauer and you’ll find them on LinkedIn.
Same thing for historical figures. Osama bin Laden, Charles Manson, Elvis Presley and Jesus Christ are on LinkedIn.
LinkedIn claims to have over 53 million members in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. I wonder now if that figure is inflated.
If the Mountain View, Calif.-based company wants to be taken seriously and present a truthful image to potential investors, it needs to clear out the many bogus and empty accounts on its service.
That’s especially true if the company wants to do an initial public offering.
I’ve noticed a lot of abandoned accounts for presumably real people that have zero connections. LinkedIn needs to weed those out too. Same thing for users with multiple accounts.
LinkedIn needs a way for users to flag bogus, duplicate or abandoned accounts. Twitter has such a tool for flagging spam accounts. So come on, LinkedIn, get on the ball.
Screenshots of fake LinkedIn accounts.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
With the World Series of Beer Pong V right around the corner, I thought I’d share a post from The Badass Geek, a 20-something married man living in central Maine.
He wrote Dec. 11 about how a CVS store and a grocery store in his town were selling ping pong balls along with the beer. Maybe these stores are tapping into a big market for people who like to play the drinking game beer pong, also known as Beirut. I don’t know. But I’ve never seen this in Illinois or Connecticut.
The World Series of Beer Pong, the largest and longest running beer pong tournament in the world, is being held Jan. 1-5 at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas.
I’ll bet there’s a good team from Maine going for the $50,000 grand prize.
Photo from The Badass Geek showing ping pong balls for sale next to some Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in central Maine.
Monday, December 21, 2009
The campaign makes a statement about the popularity of online social media (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and suggests that in-person connections are so much more satisfying.
The Dentyne billboards show photos of people hugging and kissing with captions like “Friend request accepted” and “The original instant message.”
Another Dentyne ad explains the campaign with the following text: “Power down. Log off. Unplug. Have mercy on your thumbs. Browse the world wide something else. Send some not-so-instant messages. Undo. Hit cancel. Make face time.”
Check out the print ad campaign at the Dentyne website. The video ads unfortunately don’t have the same charm.
The ad campaign has been running since at least August 2008. But hey, it’s new to me.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Maybe the sexuality was always there, under the surface. Who knows?
But what I do know is that these characters are in the public domain so artists can do whatever they please with them. And that’s a good thing. Artists can reveal something interesting about another’s work that way.
J. Scott Campbell and his 2010 calendar
Consider comic book illustrator J. Scott Campbell. He’s known for his highly sexualized drawings of beautiful women and kinetic action sequences.
He’s done a 2010 art calendar featuring sexy reinterpretations of fairy tale classics such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.
His artwork is amazing. Check out Campbell’s website (and online store) for more samples of his work.
Sexy fairy tale illustrations from artists, including Campbell, can be found in this post on AcidCow.com.
Brazil’s Platinum studio and its integrated digital photography
Platinum Image Conception Studio of Rio de Janiero recently got some publicity after stories about its art were posted on blogs Geek Tyrant and Spot Funs.
The studio, founded in 1991, specializes in combining photography and digital retouching. Platinum pioneered a concept called “integrated digital photography.” This technique mixes photos, illustrations and computer generated imagery in a seamless way.
The results are stunningly detailed and hyper real. The studio has reinterpreted such fairy tales as Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood with this technique. Check out the company’s website.
Platinum was founded by artist Leonardo Vilela. The award-winning studio now has a staff of 13 artists, including digital artist and graphic designer Flavio Albino and illustrator Luciano Honorato.
Top: Two samples of illustrations by J. Scott Campbell: Snow White and Alice in Wonderland; Bottom: Two samples of digital art from Platinum studios in Brazil: Snow White and Rapunzel.
I refuse to go to Perez Hilton’s gossip site anymore. I can’t put up with his preening and obnoxious behavior. The guy comes off as a major jackass. I also hate the way he doodles on pictures. I wish more people would boycott his site. There are way better options for celebrity news and photos.
The Superficial and I Don’t Like You In That Way are similar in their approaches. They love running photos of gorgeous models and actresses at the beach and on the red carpet. The authors are pretty adolescent, highlighting photos of “nip slips” and “side boob” exposure.
They’re also frequently very funny when insulting reality TV stars and self-important celebrities like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow. Other favorite targets include Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and Tara Reid.
I’ve checked out a lot of celebrity-oriented websites (there are tons of them), but these are my two favorites. They don’t have intrusive ads or NSFW (not suitable for work) ads. Their websites are clean, uncluttered and easy to navigate.
The Superficial is published by Anticlown Media, which is based in Southern California.
I Don’t Like You In That Way is a property of CraveOnline Media, a division of Los Angeles-based AtomicOnline.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.
Friday, December 18, 2009
But the Swedish pop music group was selected Thursday for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once again, the hall tossed aside merit as a criterion and voted in favor of making money on the induction ceremony.
As the years go by, it’s clear that the hall isn’t about rock and roll, but pop music in general. If the trend continues, I have no doubt that Britney Spears and other artists of questionable merit will be inducted based on popularity alone.
I happen to like ABBA. Their greatest hits album is a treat. One of the first albums I ever owned was ABBA’s “The Album” (1977), which I received as a gift shortly after its release. That album contains the hits “Take a Chance on Me” and “The Name of the Game.”
Even when the group was still active, they were the height of uncool. Their music is dorky. Any straight teenage boy at the time would have been too embarrassed to admit liking ABBA.
Now here we are three decades later and ABBA is joining the ranks of the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Beatles.
The members of ABBA – Anni-Frid “Frida” Lyngstad, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Agnetha “Anna” Fältskog – haven’t performed together in public since December 1982, according to Wikipedia.
They last appeared together for the Swedish premiere of the movie “Mamma Mia!”, which features their music, in July 2008. At the time, Ulvaeus said there was nothing that could entice them back on stage again, according to an article in the U.K.’s Telegraph.
I’ll bet the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will try to convince them otherwise.
If not, it still will be fun to see modern performers put their spin on some ABBA classics at the induction ceremony.
ABBA will be inducted into the hall on March 15 along with Genesis, the Hollies, the Stooges and Jimmy Cliff at a ceremony in New York City. (See article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.)
ABBA photo from the Associated Press
Thursday, December 17, 2009
ZooBorns is a website for people who can’t get enough photos of baby polar bears, pandas, porcupines and penguins.
The authors of the site are Chris Eastland, an artist living and working in New York City, and Andrew Bleiman, who also runs a cool zoology blog called Zooillogix.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Does the creator of this blog devoted to photos of things that look like penises have an unhealthy fixation on male genitalia? Or is this just a little harmless fun?
The website’s creator and its contributors see penises in cactuses, building design, food and many other things.
Some of the pictures do look like phallic symbols. Others, not so much. Even Dr. Freud once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.
Monday, December 14, 2009
His statement caught me by surprise.
“Why not?” I asked.
The first grader then said, “I’ve seen pictures of the north pole. No one can live there.”
I asked him if kids had been talking about Santa at school and he said no.
At a parent-teacher meeting a few days later, I told his teacher about this and she was taken aback. Normally kids stop believing in Santa in the second grade, she said.
Christopher told his teacher that he wanted to be a scientist.
Well, my little man of science figured out the truth about Santa on his own.
In hindsight, I do remember him asking the typical kid questions about how Santa can stop at every house in one night and why Santa delivers the same toys you can buy in stores. True, the gifts do say “Made in China” not “Made by elves at the North Pole.”
Flying reindeer also didn’t pass muster with my little nature buff. Then there are all the fake mall Santas around.
The science didn’t add up.
At the meet-Santa event, Chris asked me point blank if I believed in Santa Claus. I balked and said, “I do if you do.”
The truth is, I don’t want to lie to my son about anything. When our cat died, I didn’t say she went to live on a farm in the country. When he asked me what B.S. meant, I told him what it was short for, but that the second of the two words was considered dirty.
So I probably should have been more forthcoming about Santa. But I think he got the idea.
Apologies for the gratuitous photo of a young Jenny McCarthy and a very lucky Santa Claus from the December 1996 issue of Playboy. At least I censored the photo.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Hopefully E&P’s archives will end up in good hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google showed some interest. E&P's archives would add more than a century of articles to Google's search database.
Google is interested in archiving historical material and already has put many old magazines online.
E&P's archives seem like an obvious target for Google.
As for Editor & Publisher, it will be missed.
When I graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1984 with a B.S. in journalism, the E&P classifieds were one of the best places to look for a job in the trade. But those job listings moved online starting in the mid-1990s.
The best quote about its passing was from Dirk Smillie of Forbes, who wrote, “If your industry’s leading trade journal disappears, what does it say about your trade? Nothing good, obviously.”
“Editor & Publisher to Cease Publication After 125 Years,” E&P
“Media Cover Sudden Demise of 'E&P' – Readers Express Shock and Broad Support – Hope Remains?” E&P
“Q&A: Editor & Publisher’s Greg Mitchell, E&P’s editor-in-chief on the magazine’s sudden demise,” Columbia Journalism Review
“Editor & Publisher To Close, After Failed Attempts To Sell It,” PaidContent.org
Thursday, December 10, 2009
A pilot for the show, then called “Me and My Friends,” was filmed but rejected by Nickelodeon in favor of a new show called “Dora the Explorer.”
Backyardigans creator Janice Burgess told me recently that four of the five characters in her 3-D animated hit “The Backyardigans” were in “Me and My Friends.” The failed pilot also featured original music and dancing just like “The Backyardigans,” she says.
I interviewed Burgess for a Leaders & Success profile story in Investor’s Business Daily. You can read the story at Investors.com.
“The Backyardigans” premiered in 2004 and is now in its fourth season. When this season is over, Burgess will have produced 80 episodes of the half-hour show.
Burgess gets her inspiration for the adventures on the show, which is made for preschoolers, from Hollywood action movies.
Here’s what she said on the subject:
“I really enjoy a big adventure. I think ‘Die Hard’ is one of the greatest films ever, not to mention ‘Terminator 2.’ I love those big films. The first ‘Transformers’ was ‘Wow-wee, now we’re talking!’ I love high stakes. And I love their fantastical nature.
Obviously you’re never going to land on an island populated by reanimated dinosaurs and have them chase you around. But, hey, if you did, it would be really thrilling.
So I enjoy that. And I wanted to bring some of that to young children, but to do it in a way that is safe, hopefully not scary, and not imitatable except in your head. Like if you’re 2, you’re probably not going to fly a helicopter, drive a car, or drive a stagecoach through the Old West.”
Each episode features music from a different genre. And the show’s creative team isn’t running out of musical genres yet, she says.
When the show started, musical director Evan Lurie came up with a list of about 30 musical genres, she says. But this season alone they discovered that they hadn’t done ragtime or American country, for instance.
Thanks to the Internet and music services like Apple’s iTunes, Lurie can study many styles of music that wouldn’t have been readily available to him 10 years ago, Burgess says.
Brown Johnson, president of animation for Nickelodeon and MTV Networks Kids and Family Group, says “The Backyardigans” will be around for a long time.
“Backyardigans is going to be on Nick Jr. and Nickelodeon for probably at least another five years,” she says. “Maybe forever.”
Gregg Kaplan, one of the founders of Redbox, shared that tidbit and others about the early days of the company in a speech Nov. 10 at the KioskCom Self Service Expo in New York City.
I had the chance to interview Kaplan, now president and chief operating officer of Coinstar, after his speech. Coinstar purchased Redbox in February and Kaplan joined the parent company. We discussed movie studio issues with Redbox and Coinstar’s future in automated retail. Read the story at Investors.com.
Redbox officially launched in 2004. But during two years of beta testing, it experimented with every aspect of the business, including its name. It tried Tik-Tok EZ Shop and Tik Tok DVD Shop before settling on Redbox.
“In the first two years, we went through probably about 50 different business models,” Kaplan said. The company experimented with pricing, selection, locations and the user experience for automated DVD rentals.
“We tested 99 cents a day, $1.50 a day, $1.98 for two days, $2.97 for three days, and by the way, even today we’re testing different price points,” Kaplan said. Today it rents movies for $1 a day.
The selection of DVDs in its machines ranged from 28 titles to 300 in the early years. Redbox eventually settled on 200 titles per machine.
In addition to grocery stores and McDonald’s restaurants, Redbox tried placing machines in office buildings, hospitals, apartment buildings and busy street corners. Since then, it’s tested machines in airports and casinos.
It didn’t have many machines in the early days. It ended 2002 with 12 kiosks and 2003 with 35 kiosks. Today it has more than 21,000 kiosks nationwide.
Kaplan, who was chief executive of Redbox, pushed to make the user interface on the machines as simple as possible.
Early designs for the touch-screen interface included flashy graphics (namely a rampaging dinosaur), but those were spiked in favor of big buttons.
Kaplan recounted the development process:
“When we first designed the GUI (graphical user interface) for Redbox, we had a very creative graphic designer come in. We described what we wanted; he went away for three weeks and came back (and showed us what he came up with).
There was a red dinosaur – a T-rex – charging towards you as the user, a la ‘Jurassic Park.’ And there at the bottom were two little buttons that said “Rent here” and “Return here.” And I looked at him and said, ‘What is this? What’s with the dinosaur?’
And he said, ‘Well, you know, this is a movie concept like ‘Jurassic Park’ and I thought it would be exciting and it would be cool’ … and he said ‘Isn’t that great?’
And I said, ‘Well, we’re trying to convert users here. We’ve trying to get people comfortable with a kiosk. How about we make those buttons a little bit bigger?’ And he said, ‘Alright, I’ll come back.’
So another two weeks go by (and he shows us what he’s done) and the same damn dinosaur is still charging on the screen. The buttons have gotten slightly larger … By the way, we’re running up against deadlines to get these machines out into the field … So I turned to him and said, ‘Alright, you’ve got to get rid of the bleepin’ dinosaur. This has to be so easy that my grandmother can use this. And first of all, my grandmother is going to be scared by the scary dinosaur. And my grandmother can’t see all that well and if you have buttons this small it’s not going to happen. I want big buttons and all it should say is “Rent here” and “Return here.”’ And that’s essentially how we started.”
Since then, Redbox has added another button for “Online reservation pickup.” But the main screen is still very simple.
“If the GUI and user experience feels like an airline cockpit, it’s probably not going to work. It’s hard enough to convince a consumer to use a machine to begin with,” Kaplan said.
Redbox is now testing the rental of high-definition Blu-ray Discs and video games.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
It’s harder than it sounds.
The website Steak House or Gay Bar is based on that simple premise. Check it out at steakhouseorgaybar.com. It’s pretty fun.
A similar quiz website is Cheese or Font. It’s even harder. Visit it here.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.
Monday, December 7, 2009
For these major events, the people who lived through them all have an answer to the question “Where were you when …?”
In honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day today, I asked my parents for their recollections of Dec. 7, 1941.
My father, James, was 12 at the time and living in Fairchild, Wis.
“When that event occurred we were sitting at the table (huddled around the radio) listening to all the things that were going on. It was a shocking thing,” he said.
Many Wisconsin families were out and about when the attack occurred on that Sunday morning in Hawaii. Many people were at church or socializing.
“At that time of year, many of the men would be out (deer) hunting,” Dad told me.
“But as soon as it became known – there was no question – everybody hung around the radio to find out what in the Sam Hill was going to go on,” he said. (Sam Hill is one of my Dad’s favorite expressions – a polite way of saying “what the hell?”) ”Of course, the draft was really promoted from then on.”
Nobody had televisions back then, so the radio was the most immediate way to get information.
My mother, Alice, was 8 at the time and living in Jim Falls, Wis.
“When I first heard about it, I said, ‘Where’s Pearl Harbor?’ I was just a little girl. And Hawaii was not a state. It was a territory,” she said.
Hawaii didn't become a state until Aug. 21, 1959.
One family story, likely apocryphal, had Alice’s cousin, Philip, overhearing chatter on a short wave radio about the impending attack. Philip was into electronics, she says.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote that the date of the Pearl Harbor attack “will live in infamy” still has power today, she says. The attack killed 2,402 and wounded 1,282.
For more on the attack on Pearl Harbor, read the entry on Wikipedia.
Photo: Damage to the USS West Virginia in Pearl Harbor. (Credit: Wikipedia)
We’re listening mostly to WALK 97.5 FM out of Long Island, N.Y., as well as some favorite CDs. Last year, when we lived in Chicago, we listened to WLIT 93.9 FM.
A big difference between the two radio stations is that WALK plays “A New York Christmas” (2003) by Rob Thomas and the Chicago station wouldn’t dare.
Anyway, here is my list of the top 10 best Christmas songs for 2009. Half of the tunes are from movies or TV shows.
I decided not to pick any songs I selected for last year’s top 20 best Christmas songs list, all of which I still love. So the 2009 list is all new.
1. “Happy Holidays/It’s the Holiday Season (Medley)” (1953) by Andy Williams
2. “Believe” (2004) by Josh Groban from the soundtrack of “The Polar Express”
3. “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” (1959) by Perry Como
4. “Sleigh Ride” (1959) by Leroy Anderson
5. “Somewhere in My Memory” (1990) vocal version by John Williams from the “Home Alone” soundtrack
6. “Carol of the Bells” (1990) by John Williams from the “Home Alone” soundtrack
7. “Jingle Bells” (1943) by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters
8. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (2006) by Sarah McLachlan
9. “Christmas Is Coming” (1965) by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
10. “O Tannenbaum” (1965) by the Vince Guaraldi Trio from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The 2009 list includes several carryovers from last year.
Without further ado, here’s the 2009 list of Christmas music clunkers:
1. “The Christmas Shoes” (2000) by NewSong
Comedian Patton Oswalt does a great job ripping apart this sappy song. Check out a video of his routine on One Stop Video. I wrote about my dislike for the song last year on this blog.
2. “A Soldier’s Silent Night” (circa 2004) by Ted Berndt
This one topped my list last year. Check out my critique here.
3. “The Chimney Song” (1990) by Bob Rivers
I like a twisted joke as much as anyone. But a joke gets less funny every time you hear it. And this song, about Santa’s rotting corpse stuck up the chimney, gets played a lot (at least in the New York City metro area). Plus, it’s really gross if you think about it.
4. “Santa Baby” (1987) by Madonna
Madonna is as good at Christmas songs as she is an actress. This is a repeat from last year.
5. “Same Old Lang Syne” (1981) by Dan Fogelberg
Aside from a brief mention of Christmas Eve, this really isn’t a Christmas song. It’s a slightly sleazy song about a musician meeting a former lover in the grocery store. She’s married now, but she drinks beer with him in a car and they share stories about the old times on Christmas Eve.
The late Fogelberg based the song on a true incident in his life. (Read the account on Wikipedia.)
6. “Frosty the Snowman” (1964) by the Beach Boys
Another encore from last year’s list. Their version of “Frosty the Snowman” is wretched. It sounds like the group is racing through the song to get it over with. Plus, the production tries to jazz up the clunky tune with horn flourishes. Just awful.
The Beach Boys are responsible for another Christmas turkey in “Little Saint Nick.”
7. “White Christmas” (1999) by Elton John
Sir Elton dropped a stinker with this one. First, the song doesn’t fit him well. Second, the track is overproduced to make it bigger, when it shouldn’t be. Yuck.
8. “Love on Layaway” (2000) by Gloria Estefan
I like Estefan. Her albums “Cuts Both Ways” and “Abriendo Puertas” are excellent. But she’s responsible for some terrible Christmas songs – this one and “Christmas Through Your Eyes.” Her otherwise pleasant voice is irritating in these numbers.
9. “Silent Night” (1987) by Stevie Nicks
If I’ve learned anything from watching “American Idol,” it’s that song choice is extremely important for a singer.
I’m a big fan of Stevie Nicks, both her solo work and career with Fleetwood Mac. But she sounds awful here – like a wounded goat.
The addition of Kenny G on saxophone adds insult to injury.
10. “Christmas in Hollis” (1987) by Run-DMC
I put this annoying track in the novelty song category along with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” (1979) by Elmo & Patsy and “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” (1958) by Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
“New Moon,” which clocks in at 130 minutes, opened on Nov. 20. “Funny People (146 minutes and 153 minutes unrated) was released on home video on Nov. 24.
I track “movie too long” as a search phrase on Twitter. That search phrase provides a good sampling of chatter on the subject.
I think a lot of Hollywood movies could use some serious editing. Movies need a good reason to be over 2 hours long. Some shouldn't be over 90 minutes.
Since “New Moon” was released, 22 people have posted comments on Twitter that the movie was too long. (Four tweeted that it was “too short.”)
Twenty people have tweeted that “Funny People” is too long. Many more complained about its length when it was released theatrically on July 31.
But neither of those two movies can top the reigning overlong movie: disaster flick “2012.” Since it was released theatrically on Nov. 13, at least 237 people have tweeted about it being too long. That movie is 153 minutes long.
2012 is too damn long! The earth is damn near gone & still 40 minutes left in the movie!! : (
2012 .. Umm, was the year supposed to be 2012 when I left the theater too? That movie was long!!!
Friday, December 4, 2009
Coke created the Facial Profiler application to promote its Coca-Cola Zero no-calorie soft drink. It believes consumers won’t be able to tell the two beverages apart. Get it?
The Facebook app uses facial recognition software, similar to what law enforcement officials use, according to the Wall Street Journal.
I uploaded several photos and the results weren’t so hot. I got three different matches for three different photos, none of them very close. The software tends to choose matches based on facial expression as much as anything.
To its credit, the software did admit the matches weren’t the best. The highest match accuracy it gave for my selections was 57%. It might do better if there were more photos in the database.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
As I wrote last year, I love the spectacle of the show – the music, the staging, the art direction. This year’s show was one of the best in recent memory because of the music, which included live performances by the Black Eyed Peas and club mixes of Kings of Leon and the Police, among others.
Great music and gorgeous ladies striding confidently on stage in fantasy clothes are a killer combination. I’m a sucker for those angel wings.
The 2009 show wasn’t perfect though. The first set of outfits, which were space-age themed, were ugly. Some of the models looked anorexic. I also could have done without the competition for the next Victoria’s Secret angel.
All I want to see is the show itself, with some backstage action for good measure.
Victoria’s Secret, a subsidiary of Limited Brands, started its annual fashion show in 1995. The show was broadcast to the public starting in 1999 with streaming video on the Internet. It was an Internet event for two years. Then it made the leap to network television in 2001.
I’d love to see a DVD featuring the best of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Shows.
For a good history of the show, check out the Wikipedia pages on Victoria’s Secret and the Victoria’s Secret models, as well as this TVAcres.com retrospective.
You can still watch the 2009 show online at CBS.com and at the Victoria’s Secret website.
Photo: Marissa Miller at the 2009 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” in New York City.
Executives from big media companies call news aggregation websites “parasites” and “thieves.” While that may be true, what they do is legal under fair use.
Old-school media companies are probably kicking themselves for not beating these new media upstarts, such as the Huffington Post and Google News, to the punch.
The goal of news services, be they newspapers or Web portals, is to compile the most comprehensive and/or appealing set of news stories and commentary to entice readers and keep them coming back.
Some websites push the limits of fair use by summarizing copyrighted stories to such a degree that no one need click on the link to the original news or feature story. The Huffington Post is notorious for cherry picking the best parts from an article and summarizing the rest. You get the gist of the story by reading the HuffPost condensed version.
The result is that HuffPost and similar sites get the Web traffic – and the associated advertising dollars – not the news services that expended the resources to investigate and write the story.
Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp., which owns the Wall Street Journal, has been a major critic of news aggregators. He plans to put content from the Journal and other publications behind pay walls.
But I don’t think you can stop the aggregators.
Even if you erect pay walls around your content, aggregators can still get subscriptions and then write short summaries of the content contained there. Many people will find that that suffices.
The growth of news aggregators is evidence that people want convenient one-stop sites for articles, photos and videos on subjects that interest them. They want others to condense the relevant news and highlight the truly important things. People no long want to slog through long feature articles. They prefer the condensed versions.
There are quite a few news aggregators I turn to for specialty subjects such as entertainment and technology. They provide a service for readers by combing the web and looking for and summarizing newsworthy articles.
A good example is the Poynter Institute’s media industry column by Jim Romenesko. Romenesko scours more than 150 websites every day looking for news of interest to journalists. He summarizes the stories and provides links to the original articles.
As an aggregator, he provides a valuable service to his readers.
What gets media companies upset is it’s their content that generates the news and gets referenced by the aggregators. And the big media companies aren’t the ones who benefit.
Maybe the media giants should do a better job with their websites and become aggregators themselves. If you can’t beat them, join them.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
We all know that Rudolph went “down in history” for helping Santa Claus deliver toys through that storm. But what about those big city dailies?
They are the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Mail (U.K.), Daily News (New York), New York Herald Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle.
Here’s a postscript on them:
The headline on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times at the start of the Rudolph special reads: “We’re Frozen.”
I’m sure the newspaper wishes its circulation was frozen too.
Instead the Windy City daily has seen its weekday circulation drop 49% to 275,641 since “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” first aired 45 years ago. Its Sunday circulation is down 63% to 251,260, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
In March, the struggling newspaper filed for bankruptcy protection. In October, Jim Tyree bought the Sun-Times and its 50 suburban Chicago newspapers for $25 million.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail has a daily circulation today of 2,178,640, down 4% from last year. The Daily Mail looks to be holding up fairly well though. Its circulation was 1.9 million in the early 1980s.
In “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” New York’s Daily News flashes the headline “Tough Going! Sanitation Army Digging Us Out.”
It’s been tough going for the Daily News. And the sanitation army isn’t going to be able to dig them out.
The Daily News has seen its weekday circulation fall 75% to 544,167 since “Rudolph” first aired. Sunday circulation is down 81% to 603,671.
New York Herald Tribune
The New York Herald Tribune shut down in 1966.
San Francisco Chronicle
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But I’m not sure there will be a San Francisco Chronicle much longer.
The newspaper’s circulation fell precipitously after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. Management has made major cuts in operating costs and newsroom staff since then. The paper has sustained losses in every year since 2001. It lost more than $50 million last year.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a weekday circulation of 251,782, down 27% from 1964 when “Rudolph” debuted. Sunday circulation is 306,705, down 17%.
Maybe someone should call Yukon Cornelius. He might be able to help.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
One of them featured an illustration of two old geezers with the caption: “May you live long enough to shit yourself.” It was crude and rude, but likely to get a smile out of my friend. At least I hope it did.
The e-mail greetings from Someecards could be described as blunt, offensive, inappropriate and in bad taste. They come with old-fashioned illustrations that are out of place with the tone of the messages. The mix of charming pictures and inappropriate messages are what make the e-cards funny.
Someecards has greetings for birthdays, Christmas, flirting, friendship, encouragement and other occasions. They also can be quite topical. See the greetings above that reference the White House party crashers and Tiger Woods’ domestic problems.
A similar Web site for e-greetings is OneLineCards.
Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-Media-Tainment’s favorite Web sites.