Archive for June, 2009

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Rest In Peace, Michael Jackson…

[ 1 Comment ]Posted on June 25, 2009 by admin in Music

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

…there was none left for you here on Earth

Although for most of us Michael Jackson’s death won’t have the “what were you doing when” impact of JFK’s assassination or 9/11, I for one will never forget, because a friend of mine called and asked, out of the blue, “Is Michael Jackson dead?”, to which I replied with something like “I almost hope so, for his sake”, thinking at first that my friend was being flip. Since I don’t have TV, I spent the next few minutes on the web watching the news unfold, switching between,, yahoo news, and Wikipedia. What I’ll never forget is that Wikipedia listed him as dead before any of the news sites had committed.  I personally felt an odd sense of relief rather than anything like remorse upon finding out; I mean, what kind of life could the man possibly have left to live? My first experience with caring much about Michael Jackson as an artist was when his song “Beat It” – which strongly resembled my band’s song “No Soul” – was released, much to our irritation, because record labels on several occasions used the comparison to say we weren’t original though our song was written well before his. Although over the years one couldn’t argue his undeniable talent, the fact that his most meaningful relationships seemed to be with children, aging glam queens, and monkeys named “Bubbles” tended to diminish his credibility. My personal feelings about him vacillated quite a bit over time; although I was definitely in the camp that would gleefully make fun of his quirks for many years, a friend pointed out something to me in the late 80′s that gave me pause, which was the fact that on top of any stories of his father’s abusive behavior, his child stardom had put him some pretty strange situations with adult women, and his insular lifestyle simply made it impossible for him to mature in anything like a normal fashion. This left me feeling a bit sympathetic toward him for a long time, That is, until it turned out that he ultimately was a 40-ish child molesting multimillionaire who refused to give up fairyland, and whose best friend remained a monkey. Thanks for your music, and rest in peace, Michael Jackson. I’m sure you had no peace left here on Earth.

Top Ten Disappointing Technologies, Part II

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on June 24, 2009 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

In part two of our list of Top 10 Disappointing Technologies, we find out why it’s cheaper to communicate with the Hubble Space Telescope than to text your mom.

See part one of this list here

American Cell Phones

Can you hear me now?

I have a friend in Chicago that can only use his iPhone in a four square foot area at the edge of his dining room that I call his “iZone”. Just today, my Verizon service repeatedly dropped calls and failed to send text messages in a major urban area. On the other hand, I’ve been in the middle of the bush in Kenya and had crystal clear, uninterrupted conversations with Europe. What is it that makes cell phone service in the states such a joke? Apparently it’s the plethora of protocols that are supposed to encourage competition, which is supposed to benefit the consumer. Which, as an occasional victim of the binding and punitive agreements providers feel compelled to enact because even they know their services suck, is definitely not what ends up happening. In fact, texting is four times more expensive than downloading data from the Hubble space telescope, which apparently amounts to a 4900% markup. Does anybody have the number for NASA’s sales department? I think I’m switching providers.
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Carnie Knowledge

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on June 23, 2009 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I hate corn dogs and enjoy regularly bathing, but still, I dream of being a carnie.

But do I really want to sleep in a trailer
with someone like this every night?

I have a few recurring fantasies. One is to head to Las Vegas in a red Cadillac with the top down, my lawyer, and a trunk full of booze and drugs to re-enact Hunter Thompson’s trek in Fear and Loathing. This is problematic, since I don’t do drugs or drink. I’d also love to run off and join the circus, but only if it’s a giant puppet circus. And then there’s my broad array of fantasies of living off the grid, one of which involves becoming a Carnie. I have no idea what the allure is; I don’t have Carnie Hands, I don’t like my food on a stick, and I rather like bathing on a regular basis. Still the allure remains. I think it stems from the almost surreal childhood memories I have of the weird mixture of excitement and creepy disappointment that seem to hover quietly but menacingly around a carnival as a summer day ends, the sun goes down, the rides light up, and emaciated, tattooed guys with teeth missing start inappropriately scoping the teenagers. It’s like the scary clown thing I guess. In any case, if you’ve ever shared this fantasy, real employment opportunities exist. Companies like Modern Midways, Wade Shows, and Strates Shows all have colorful and inviting employment pages. They seem to leave out some of the possible downsides of carnie employment though; for some “behind the midway” insights, check out this hilarious letter that a National Review reader and former carnie sent to John Derbyshire, who apparently had made some unflattering remarks about carny people in an article. The letter explains, for example, things like “Carnie Teeth” with colorful brevity: “….the smoking, the sugary diet and the poor dental habits account for the rotten baked beans your average carny man calls his teeth…” and gives a well-rounded view of why carnies are the way they are in general.

Virtual Reality Shopping Remains A Virtual Reality

[ 2 Comments ]Posted on June 22, 2009 by admin in Editorial & Opinion

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

This week’s Monday Demotivators focuses on something much more important than Flash games and puzzles: SHOPPING!

If you’re here for the Flash games & puzzles usually featured in our Monday Demotivators, our apologies. Today we’re going to talk about something much more important: shopping! Soon to be featured in part two of my list of disappointing technologies will be virtual shopping. As someone who loves trying on glasses with friends, but really loathes trying them on alone at a revolving drug store display, this tool for trying on Silhouette sunglasses struck my fancy yesterday, and got me thinking: whatever happened to that future full of virtual reality shopping they promised us back in the nineties? Well, apparently, not much. While there are moderately functional sites like H & M’s Personal Dressing Room, which at least lets you add your own photo, there are many more sites (Land’s End, Sears, Levi, etc.) which only let you drag clothes around on a generic avatar-like model, usually using the third-party tool My Virtual Model. A couple of years ago we had the epic fail of, which looks like it was constructed from Lawnmower Man out-takes. And more recently, developers like Holition are working on interesting ideas like a virtual mirror. But in terms of an actually useful tool, most retailers seemed to have abandoned the concept, focusing instead on quirky virals like Ikea’s Dream Kitchen, which is kind of like “Bullet Time meets This Old House”, or The Gap’s Watch Me Change, which is really just a customizable cartoon strip show (especially if you forget to choose an outfit, like I did). Know of any interesting virtual reality shopping tools? I really couldn’t find much….

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Sleepwalking Through the Mekong

[ Comments Off ]Posted on June 21, 2009 by admin in Popular Media

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Just when you thought you’d hear it all, some Cambodian Pop comes along. Yes. I said Cambodian Pop. Eat your heart out, MIA, this is actual music.

View the Trailer for Sleepwalking
Through The Mekong

Just when I’m pretty sure I’ve exhausted the more interesting and obscure pop music fusions from around the world, someone has to come along and show me otherwise. The other day a photographer friend of mine mentioned the film Sleepwalking Through the Mekong. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a unique treat. Shot in a casual documentary style, the film follows the LA band Dengue Fever on a tour through Cambodia, explaining how five American musicians hooked up with a Cambodian singer in LA to form a band to play 60′s Cambodian Pop. And before you laugh at the idea of Cambodian pop, give the stuff a listen; it jumps on the wave of 60′s surfer psychedelia and takes it to the tropics with a sort of plaintive island sound that’s probably unlike anything you’ve heard before. The film also explores a painful aspect of Khmer music and Cambodian pop; since many of the original stars of the genre (Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron , Ros Sereysothea) were were creating their music in the years just prior to the Pol Pot massacres, they all are presumed to have been killed in the mass slaughter of Cambodia’s legendary Killing Fields. I frankly cried during a profoundly bittersweet moment in the film in which a music teacher who was alive – but of course unable to sing Khmer pop music during the Khmer Rouge regime – was able to see her young students gleefullly performing the happy pop songs she was denied. And ironically, with a group of Americans who have a genuine passion for Khmer culture rather than a passion for carpet bombing their country and looking away as a demented leader slaughters nearly a third of their population. By the way, Dengue Fever not only serves up some heartfelt and authentic pop, they’re apparently commited to assisting the wildlife of Cambodia.

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