Entries for June 2009

June 22, 2009

Animated Manhattan: Wonder Pets

Part 21 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry to the Animated Manhattan series, but I’m bringing it back with a look at the most adorable cartoon to feature New York so far. It’s called Wonder Pets, and it’s produced completely in New York City by Little Airplane Productions.

Wonder Pets uses animated mixed media to tell the stories of three preschool pets — a guinea pig, duckling, and turtle — who leave the schoolhouse after school to save animals in peril. In an episode called “Save the Pigeon,” the pets travel to New York to save a pigeon perched perilously on the Statue of Liberty’s nose.

The episode starts in the schoolhouse, where it’s clear that kids have been learning about New York. Lots of nice New York details can be found in the classroom.

A few more classroom details (including a King Kong reference):


As the Wonder Pets arrive in Manhattan, the music references Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.


Finally our heroes reach the perilous pigeon, who has fallen out of her nest and is afraid to fly back up.

I don’t want to ruin the ending for you, but I’ll tell you that I learned a valuable lesson about encouragement and believing in one’s self.

As night falls over Manhattan, the Wonder Pets make their way back home:

This show is sewiously the most adorable program I’ve seen in a while, and the New York episode is available from iTunes if you’d like to check it out.

June 16, 2009

Idea: The Outlet Wall

Instead of hiding your outlets behind furniture and worrying about the mess of wires tangled behind your entertainment center, consider making an entire wall that’s nothing but outlets. Then you can artfully plug in your appliances wherever the cords look pleasing to you.

Imagine no more crowded outlets or multi-plug adapters.

Of course you don’t have to actually wire all the outlets on the whole wall for electricity, but you’d better come up with a good way to remember which ones are live.


June 10, 2009

The Death of TV on the Radio

Note: This post is not about the band TV on the Radio.

This Friday, June 12, TV stations nationwide will cease broadcasting analog signals and switch to digital-only broadcasts. That’s fine with me. I have a digital television, and I have cable anyway, so it won’t affect me. At least that’s what I thought. Only recently did I realize that one of my favorite ways to enjoy television will go away. Starting Friday, I can no longer get TV on the radio.

As a kid in the 1980s, I enjoyed the same TV shows my friends did. But I also loved listening to old time radio shows, most of which I checked out from the library on vinyl records. I especially enjoyed comedies like Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, Abbot and Costello, Jack Benny, and the Great Gildersleeve. I couldn’t get enough Dragnet, or Dimension X. In my head, as I pictured whatever action was happening in the show, I also imagined the studio where it was recorded, the actors with their microphones, the audiences at the comedy shows, and the sound effects man simultaneously adding door slams and footsteps in real time. Theater of the mind was so great, I wished I could have been around when these shows were still on the air. The library only had a few episodes of each program. Why didn’t radio networks do this sort of thing anymore?

For my Bar Mitzvah, someone gave me a gift certificate to the Sharper Image. There were so many cool gadgets to choose from, I had trouble deciding. I considered the telephone in the shape of a bulldog whose mouth moved in sync with the person you were talking to. That would have been a riot. But then I saw the Sony Tap Tunes Shower Radio that received AM/FM and TV Audio. A radio that gets TV signals? I had to have it.

I didn’t use the radio in the shower as it was intended. Instead, I put it next to my bed. At night, I went to sleep listening to Johnny Carson or, if I stayed up late enough, David Letterman. During prime time, I could stay out in the living room and watch TV with my siblings, or I could retreat to my bedroom and listen to a sitcom while I did my homework (on those rare occasions when I did my homework). It’s true that some jokes or plot twists didn’t work without the visuals, but I could make sense of most shows. It was never my prime way of enjoying television, but it was a great supplement.

Years later, when I moved to New York, the radio came with me. I lived in a tiny apartment without a TV for the first couple years and the radio was the only way I was able to enjoy TV programs. When I took up running, I bought a walkman so I could listen to music while I exercise. I was pleased to discover a walkman model that received TV signals. I sometimes brought it to work and listened to Ed Koch on The People’s Court during my lunch break. (Unfortunately, daytime TV is just as bad without the visuals).

Today, that original Tap Tunes shower radio is still with me in my apartment. I’ve finally moved it to its intended destination, the bathroom, where it mostly plays the local NPR station while I shower. It’s rarely tuned to TV. But I also have a bedside alarm clock that gets TV audio, so I can still tune in at night. In the two weeks that Conan O’Brian has been hosting the Tonight Show, listening to him as I go to sleep has already become a tradition, and I only have a few days left to enjoy it before all my TV radios stop working.

Is there a future for TV on the radio? There are already so-called “HD” radios that receive digital broadcasts over AM and FM. Could they be expanded to receive TV audio as well? And if so, what kind of reception could I expect without needing a rooftop antenna just for my alarm clock radio?

This wi-fi clock radio by Aluratek may be my best compromise. It gets thousands of internet radio stations, and allows you to add your own, so I could listen to one of the streaming Old Time Radio stations found on-line and pretend that I live in the 1950s. But even with all the options that internet streaming provides, I’ll still miss the ability to listen to live TV on the radio.

Previously: Idea: “CSI: Drive Time”

June 1, 2009

The blog post picture from beyond the grave

I don’t know who first asked what chairs would look like if our knees bent the other way, but that old question may have been in the back of my mind a couple years ago when I found myself wondering how things would be designed differently if our middle fingers bent the other way. Would that make life more difficult? Or would it make certain tasks easier? What would musical instruments look like? What about computers, or eating utensils? Is there any way that having a backwards middle finger would be useful?

I considered writing a blog entry pondering this question. As I like to do, I came up with a photo-illustration to accompany the blog entry. I took a couple photos, played around a bit in Photoshop, and accidentally ended up with an image that is so bizarrely disturbing that I can actually feel my brain having trouble making sense of it. I could not in good conscience subject an unsuspecting reader to this photo. So I killed the whole post.

I just came across the file now, and it still disturbs me. But I hate to let a good disturbing image go to waste, so now with the proper context, and a build-up designed to minimize the shock, I present the photo illustration that I killed two years ago. Click on the pixelated version below and get ready to look away:

Backwards Finger