Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chicago only U.S. city nominated as one of the “seven wonders of the world”

Chicago, the so-called “Second City,” is No. 1 by one measure: It’s the only U.S. city nominated in a competition to become one of the “seven wonders of the world” in the city category by New 7 Wonders.
The organization announced its 28 finalists for the honor on Oct. 21. The group will be winnowed down to 21 on July 7, 14 on Oct. 7 and the official “seven wonders” on Dec. 7, 2014.
The Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation previously selected new “seven wonders” of the world for man-made structures and nature. The cities category is its third competition.
The cities competition started last year with more than 1,200 nominees in over 220 countries. That was cut to more than 300 earlier this month, then to 77 and the current 28. A panel of seven experts trimmed the nominees after online voting in the qualification phase finished.
The 28 finalists are Athens, Greece; Bangkok, Thailand; Barcelona, Spain; Beirut, Lebanon; Casablanca, Morocco; Chicago, U.S.A.; Doha, Qatar; Durban, South Africa; Havana, Cuba; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Istanbul, Turkey; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Kyoto, Japan; La Paz, Bolivia; London, United Kingdom; Mendoza, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Mumbai, India; Perth, Australia; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Prague, the Czech Republic; Quito, Ecuador; Reykjavik, Iceland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Seoul, South Korea; Shenzhen, China; Vancouver, Canada, and Vigan, the Philippines.
You can vote for your seven favorites among the finalists online at the New 7 Wonders Cities website.
I voted for Chicago, London, Barcelona, Casablanca, Seoul, Kyoto and Mexico City.
Chicago deserves to be named one of the municipal wonders of the world. It’s a beautiful city with a rich history, amazing architecture, great parks and culture. I have a soft spot for Chi-town because I grew up in the north suburbs of the great city.
In 2005, the Chicago Tribune conducted a poll to determine the Seven Wonders of Chicago.
They are:
  1. The Lakefront 
  2. Wrigley Field 
  3. The “L” 
  4. The Sears Tower (now renamed the Willis Tower) 
  5. The Water Tower 
  6. The University of Chicago 
  7. The Museum of Science and Industry 
Other nominees included the Chicago River, Millennium Park, Chicago blues, the Chicago hot dog, the Chicago theater scene, and Lower Wacker Drive.
For a primer on Chicago, check out Wikipedia.

Photo: Chicago skyline from New 7 Wonders website.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Public domain works flourishing on TV: Dracula, Sleepy Hollow and more

Movies and TV shows based on literature in the public domain are flourishing. At the same time, the public domain isn’t being refreshed with additional works like it should be.
I’ve written many times about how copyright extensions are harming the public domain. (See “Why you should care about the public domain.”)
Hollywood capitalizes on public domain works while it tries to starve the public domain of fresh works.
Governments give authors and other artists a limited period of exclusivity for their works through copyrights. Once that protection period is over, those works enter the public domain where others are free to use them, adapt them and build upon them. But those periods keep getting extended by legislators beholden to large media companies.
Thanks to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, derisively known as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” works since 1923 have been kept locked up under copyrights.
What follows is a list of TV shows in production based on public domain stories and characters.
Three new network TV shows are based on off-copyright works: Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” a modern-day retelling of the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving; ABC’s “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” based on the 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll; and NBC’s “Dracula,” based on the 1897 horror novel by Bram Stoker.
They join four returning network shows: the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” inspired by the traditional fairy tale first published in 1740; NBC’s “Grimm,” inspired by “Grimms’ Fairy Tales”; ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” based on assorted fairy tale characters; and CBS’s “Elementary,” based on the Sherlock Holmes detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The BBC also has a Sherlock Holmes show called “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It is set to air its third season in the U.S. in January.
Other shows are based on historical events or figures, which, by their nature, are in the public domain. They include “Da Vinci’s Demons,” a fictionalized account of the early years of inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, on Starz; and the “Hatfields & McCoys” mini-series on the History channel.
More TV shows are coming soon based on public domain stories.
NBC has “Crossbones,” based on the legend of the pirate Blackbeard, starring John Malkovich; a modern-day take on the Hatfields and McCoys, from executive producer Charlize Theron; and a drama about Egyptian queen Cleopatra, written by Michael Seitzman (“North Country”).
NBC’s mining of the public domain for familiar stories even prompted a recent CollegeHumor article titled, “NBC’s Exciting New All-Public-Domain 2014 Lineup!
But NBC isn’t alone in this practice.
In December, the History channel plans to run a two-part movie “Bonnie & Clyde,” based on the crime spree of the legendary outlaws. It stars Emile Hirsch, Holliday Grainger, and William Hurt.
Starz is developing a series called “Vlad Dracula,” which it describes as a “unique spin of the classic tale, blending the historical facts of the 15th century Prince of Wallachia, with the fictional Dracula whose story is known around the world and continues to fascinate audiences.”

Monster mash-ups

Next year, Showtime will run a new series called “Penny Dreadful,” starring Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green. “In Penny Dreadful, some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters – including Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula – become embroiled in Victorian London,” the network said.
The monster mash-up has been compared to “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” a popular comic book series written by Alan Moore. It also features characters from classic fiction and was adapted into a feature film starring Sean Connery in 2003. Now Fox is looking to turn it into a television series.
And three makes a trend. ABC is developing a sexy, Gothic soap set in the present day that weaves together a mythology that incorporates the legends of Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, among others.
ABC also is developing a limited-run event series called “Esmeralda,” centered on the beautiful Gypsy street dancer in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo. “Esmeralda” is being written by Evan Daugherty, who wrote the script for “Snow White and the Huntsman,” another public domain-inspired work.
ABC is developing a TV series called “Finn & Sawyer,” a contemporary take on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884). It is described as “an adventure-themed reinvention that revolves around the two famed literary characters who re-meet as young men in their 20s and form an investigative firm in a bustling and steampunk New Orleans.”
CBS is developing a series called “Dorothy,” which is described as “a medical soap based in New York City, inspired by the characters and themes immortalized in The Wizard of Oz.” The show is from writer Emily Fox (“Ghost Whisperer”) and executive producers Carl Beverly and Sarah Timberman (FX’s “Justified” and CBS’s “Elementary”).

Up next: Public domain works used for movies.

Photo: Promotion for NBC’s “Dracula.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Zombies as popular in commercials as they are in movies and TV shows

Zombies usually are used for scares in movies and TV shows. But in commercials, they’re used for laughs.
The living dead are frightful in “World War Z” and “The Walking Dead,” but are funny in recent TV ads.
Here are links to 15 ads using zombies. They’re posted on sister site One Stop Video and curated from YouTube.
I’ll lead off with the funny zombie commercials for Sprint’s “unlimited for life guarantee” on talk, text and data plans.
Other sets look at zombies in car commercials (Ford Escape, Honda Civic, DieHard batteries), junk food commercials (Snickers, Doritos, Starburst), tech commercials (Toshiba notebooks, Microsoft Windows 8), and commercials for FedEx, Axe and other products.

Photos: Stills from Sprint’s zombie customer commercials. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Funny penis enlargement e-mail pitches

Like most people, I get a lot of spam email. Thankfully, modern spam filters used by Yahoo, Google and others dump this junk into a spam folder. These emails include mostly shady promotions for mortgage refinancing, fake Rolex watches, work-from-home scams and hookup services to find “local sluts.”
They also include pitches for products claiming to enlarge penises. I find these e-mails funny because they shamelessly exploit men’s insecurities, make wild sex claims and are written in poor English.
What follows is a sampling of e-mail pitches I’ve found in my spam folders, including misspellings.

A babe-filled life awaits you
Rock her hard on your first date
Your lady will be clamoring to copulate with you every night

Smell sweeter below the belt
Get all the bed action you have ever dreamed of with your brand new pecker.

So hard you can break an egg
Discover the secrets of thousands of satisfied men worldwide

Supercharge Your Sex Life
Fantastic results for length and girth
I didnt know a simple herbal remedy like this could make my life wonderful again.

Your love tool is set to thrill
Enlargement pils Free trial
Bang harder and longer, come harder and shoot further with our revolutionary pill.

COCKZILLA is the word
Enlargement pils Sample
Available now for a limited period – Men’s supplement to gain extra inches, results assured

Wonder pills for thrills
Penis Growth Free Sample
She will be yearning to lie in bed with you every night

She will surely pounce on you
Sample enlargement
A pill that is like no other

Promo enlargement
I did not dare to date girls until I managed to upsize my little pecker.

Solution to your intimacy probs
Do you want to please your girlfriend at night?

Enlargement pils Free trial sample
Rock her world, and she will rock you all night long, try our herbal formula today.

Every cunt is tight after having that size
The biggest secret for men on the internet revealed here

Get your hard long one today
Promo Men’s Supplement
Impress all in the locker room

Free Sample Men's Supplement
I regained confidence in Eva Longoria after 2 months on herbal supplements

Sexy girls will look at you differently
Enlargement supplement Free trials
Leave a lasting impression

She loves it bigger and longer
Enlarge with Free trial
Become a female mag sex fantasy

Attract the RIGHT girls with wonder pills
Enlarge with Free Sample
Cuum for much longer with express herbals

Solution to your intimacy probs
Do you want to please your girlfriend at night?

Photos: T-shirt reading “My pen is huge.” Singer Morrissey and “Penis mightier than the sword” play on words.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In defense of streaking

“Streaking,” the act of running naked through a public place, has gotten a bad rap.
Too many people in authority get up in arms when it occurs at public events. They treat it as a serious criminal offense. But come on, folks, it’s a funny prank, a lark, an unexpected humorous surprise. It can liven up a sporting event or other occasion.
That’s what happened on Oct. 6 at the Presidents Cup golf tournament in Dublin, Ohio, when a nearly naked 23-year-old woman ran across the 18th fairway. (See coverage by Fox Sports, Compleat Golfer, Huffington Post, Ride the Pine and
The woman, Kimberly Webster, was charged with disorderly conduct and fined $100. That seems fair. You don’t want to encourage such behavior, but you also shouldn’t treat it like a terrible crime against society.
Now look at the case of Christian Adamek, 15, who committed suicide less than a week after streaking at a high school football game in Alabama. The high school principal threatened the boy with expulsion and legal charges that would make him a registered sex offender, as TechDirt reported.
Clearly Sparkman High School and the Madison County, Ala., legal system overstepped their bounds on this one.

Web resources on streaking:

Streaking entry on Wikipedia.

Sports’ most stunning streakers (Photo gallery)

Photo: Kimberly Webster streaks at the Presidents Cup golf tournament on Oct. 6, 2013.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How many inactive accounts does Twitter have?

When Twitter filed for its initial public offering on Oct. 3, it stated that it had 218.3 million average monthly active users in the three months ended June 30.
What it didn’t reveal was how many total accounts it has. Without that figure, we can’t determine how many people have signed up for the service and quit.
All Things D reported last month that Twitter has more than 1 billion registered accounts and that only a quarter of that number are repeat Twitter customers. That’s a lot of Twitter quitters.
One problem with its monthly active user figure of 218 million is that an unknown number of those are spam accounts or multiple accounts of individual users.
I’ve had four Twitter accounts in the past (two for work and two personal), but now I’m down to one personal account.
Then there are the problems of spam accounts and fake followers.
Many Twitter accounts are set up by people, often shady, to sell products and services. These spammers show up as followers, in mentions and when you do searches of popular subjects.
Some businesses even sell fake Twitter followers so people can appear to be more popular, as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported.
Twitter says “false or spam accounts” make up less than 5% of the social network’s monthly active users. If it’s close to 5%, that would be nearly 11 million fake or spam accounts.
A group called StatusPeople created an app for determining how many of your Twitter followers fake or inactive.
Of my 661 Twitter followers, 76% are real, 8% are fake and 16% are inactive, according to StatusPeople.

Photo: My Twitter follower report from StatusPeople.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Twitter problem: Dealing with tweet overload

I find Twitter to be a very useful service. I use it primarily as a news feed that provides weblinks to articles of interest to me.
To make my Twitter feed manageable, I only follow 20 accounts. Of those, nine are tech and media news sources, four are entertainment news sources, three are comedy sites, two are friends and two are companies I follow.
I find it curious when I see people following hundreds or thousands of Twitter accounts. It’s not possible to stay on top of what all those people are saying. Most are doing reciprocal following to boost each other’s follower counts. Follower counts are a superficial metric. They’re a popularity poll, not a sign of Twitter’s utility. It’s a carryover from Facebook.
TechCrunch writer Josh Constine wrote a thoughtful article that touches on the problem of following too many people on Twitter. He called it the “unfiltered feed problem.” If you follow too many accounts, the service becomes less enjoyable and useful and might cause many members ultimately to quit.
Some commenters suggested that Constine didn’t give enough weight to Twitter Lists. But the Lists feature is buried. It also doesn’t carry the same weight as “following” someone. Including someone on a Twitter List is like stealth following them.
I agree with the commenter who suggested that Twitter copy Google’s Gmail setup and create tabs for following different categories of Twitter accounts. That way, I could keep my main Twitter news feed and add tabs for family and friends, tech analysts, colleagues, and favorite celebrities.
Yes, I could put those people into lists. But that’s a chore and I wouldn’t check it very often.
Twitter’s advertising business wants you to follow as many companies, news organizations, subject areas and celebrities as possible, so it can get a better idea of what ads to pitch to you. However, the more sources you follow on Twitter, the worse the experience is. Twitter is stuck in a catch-22.

Photo: A great propaganda-style poster for Twitter by artist Aaron Wood.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Time to end the use of Roman numerals

Advertisers, marketers and designers are the only ones still using Roman numerals. Apparently they think it adds an air of class or an epic feel to their works. But using the numerical system of ancient Rome today is just stupid.
The National Football League uses Roman numerals to identify each new Super Bowl because the players are like gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. But the numbers are getting ridiculous and force readers to do math.
The 2014 Super Bowl is called Super Bowl XLVIII. Quick, what number is that?
It’s 48.
X is 10, but, in this case, you subtract it from L or 50 to make 40. Then you add V or 5 and III or 3 to make 48. Yeah, that’s a whole lot easier than calling it Super Bowl 48 or Super Bowl 2014.
Hollywood is one of the worst offenders for using Roman numerals. They use them to make their movies sound more important. So we have “Rocky V,” “Rambo III,” “ Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan,” and “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” Etcetera etc.
Thankfully the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t use Roman numerals for the Oscars. Next year’s Oscars will be the 86th Academy Awards.
The matter of whether to use Roman numerals came up recently for me when writing about the video game “Grand Theft Auto 5” and several Samsung smartphones.
Take-Two Interactive Software calls its game “Grand Theft Auto V,” but the packaging also spells out “Five.” Gamers refer to the title as “GTA 5” for short.
As for Samsung, they’ve been inconsistent with product names. Sometimes they use Roman numerals in marketing and other times they don’t. The company was calling its latest smartphone the Galaxy S IV, before it wised up and renamed it the Galaxy S4. Presumably they realized that S IV looked too much like “Siv.”
Some hard-line editors will say that a name is a name and that’s it. I disagree when it comes to Roman numerals.
The AP Stylebook even says that Roman numerals should be used “sparingly,” primarily when referring to wars and to establish personal sequence for people. It also can cover some legislation and for Super Bowls, the reference guide says.
Personally I’d be in favor of changing all Roman numeral usage to today’s Arabic numbers.

Photo: Screenshot from “Grand Theft Auto 5.”