Entries for March 2007

March 29, 2007

Idea: Develop an F-Bomb

The term “F-Bomb” is used often these days to describe what we used to simply call The F Word (mp3). Specifically, it describes the F Word when it’s used unexpectedly. For example, if a caller on a radio show uses the F Word, the host might chastise him for “dropping the F-Bomb.”

F BombWith that in mind, I think that if I were an evil dictator in a country developing a nuclear weapon, I would name my new weapon “The F-Bomb.” Then I’d get a little giggle every time it was reported in the news that my country is threatening to drop the F-Bomb. As in, “Ironicsansistan tested a long-range missile today, heightening fears that it will follow through on its threats to drop the F-Bomb on South Ironicsansistan.”

March 26, 2007

Idea: The Kotter Family Tree

Kotter Family TreeNearly every episode of the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter began or ended (sometimes both) with the main character Gabe Kotter telling a really corny joke about a family member. It usually started with him and his wife sitting around, and he asks, “Did I ever tell you about my Uncle So-and-so?” When I was a kid, I loved this show. I found it hilarious. Now, not so much. But I’d still like to see a definitive list of Kotter family members and the situations they found themselves in. I think there’s a Wikipedia article somewhere waiting to be written. I’ve done a little bit of research, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Uncle Carl was a hunter out hunting game. One day, he shot a beautiful girl in the woods because she told him that she’s game. (Season 2, Episode 11)

Uncle Max was a barber. He once hired a private investigator to follow a man who kept coming in the barber shop, asking how long the wait was until the next haircut, and leaving. The investigator followed the man and reported back to Max that the man was going to Max’s house every day. (Season 2, Episode 11)

Aunt Brenda believed in reincarnation. After Uncle Sidney died Brenda went to a seance where Sidney’s ghost revealed that in the afterlife he has a lot of sex before and after every meal. He explained that he is not in heaven — he has been reincarnated as a bull in Montana. (Season 3, Episode 5)

Uncle Eddie was a thief. He used bricks to break windows of stores so he could steal precious items for his girlfriend. When she got too annoying about all the things she wanted, Eddie asked her if she thinks he’s made of bricks. (Season 3, Episode 5)

Uncle Julian was raised by wild dogs. Eventually he was brought to civilization and became a mailman. He was fired for biting himself on the leg. (Season 3, Episode 24)

Uncle William was a pharmacist. He was fired for trying to fit bottles into a typewriter in order to type information on the labels. (Season 3, Episode 24)

Uncle Milton was a famous spiritualist who held seances every Friday night. One night Milton felt the presence of a spirit named Max who in life made a living as a waiter. Milton asked Max’s spirit to come closer to the table. Max refused, as Milton was not at one of Max’s tables. (Season 3, Episode 25)

An un-named uncle went to an Italian restaurant where he noticed a Chinese waiter who speaks perfect Italian. He asked the restaurant owner why. The owner explained that the waiter has only been in the country for two months and is under the impression that the owner is teaching him English. (Season 3, Episode 25)

Uncle Melzer was a navigator. He once removed a thorn from an elephant’s foot in Africa. The elephant was so grateful that he picked Melzer up in his trunk and placed him in his second floor hotel room. A year later, at the circus in Pittsburgh, the elephant picked up Melzer in its trunk and flung him into the balcony, breaking his legs. It was a different elephant. (Season 4, Episode 3)

Uncle Nezbit had no friends, but he brought his dog everywhere, including to the movie theater. The dog enjoyed a particular movie, which surprised Nezbit, because it hated the book. (Season 4, Episode 4)

When Gabe was young, his father told him that the local bully Tommy O’Shaughnessy was a coward. So Gabe told Tommy that, prompting Tommy to beat up Gabe’s father. (Season 1, Episode 2)

Young Gabe’s mother told him to ignore kids who made fun of his big head. But when she sent him on an errand to the supermarket, she suggested he could carry all the groceries home in his hat. (Season 1, Episode 2)

Anyone have more to add?

March 20, 2007

A mattress commercial I’d like to see

Princess and PeaA mattress company should do a commercial playing off the “Princess and the Pea” story by Hans Christian Andersen. In the original story, a prince seeking a princess to marry is visited by a young woman claiming to be a princess. Not sure whether or not she is telling the truth, the prince’s mother tests her by giving her a bed to sleep on with 40 mattresses, and puts a tiny pea under the bottom mattress. In the morning, the Queen asks the girl how she slept, and the girl complains that there was something hard under her mattress so she got a very poor night’s sleep. The queen knows that only a princess would have skin so delicate as to feel a pea through the mattresses, and marriage ensues.

The commercial should tell a 30-second version of the story, except in this one we see the girl lay down on a Sealy (or whatever brand) mattress, and when the girl wakes up she says she got a great night’s sleep — perhaps even the most comfortable night’s sleep in her life. To her dismay, the queen kicks her out, accusing her of being a commoner posing as royalty. We see the girl go sadly back to her own castle, so we know she was really a princess. It was just that darn Sealy mattress, so comfortable that even a princess couldn’t feel a pea.

March 18, 2007

Joost Invitation Contest - Part II

Congratulations! The winner of the first Joost invitation contest — the person who came up with the best idea for a second Joost contest — is “Bill”, who suggested a rebus competition. In Bill’s entry, he suggests that entries must contain the word “Joost,” but I’ll be a little more lenient and just say that the second contest is as follows:

To win a Joost invitation, come up with the best rebus for a TV show or movie title. For example, an entry might look like this:

Eye = I
Clover - C - R = Love
Lou + Seahorse - Horse = Lucy

The answer to this rebus, then, is “I Love Lucy.”

To enter, use the “Contact” link in the sidebar to e-mail me your rebus, or put it on-line somewhere (flickr or elsewhere) and link to your entry in the comments. Make your entry creative, but solvable. I’ll accept entries until midnight Monday (tomorrow) and announce a winner on Tuesday, and I’ll post the best entries. Have fun!

Update: We have a winner! RichM submitted my favorite Rebus entry:


I like it because he could have made it much easier by putting a picture of a Beetle plus a picture of Juice. But he took the long way and had fun with it, and even included Nico. Good job. Congratulations, RichM!

March 16, 2007

Joost invitation contest - Part I

joostaward.jpgA few people have asked me if I have any Joost beta invitations since I recently wrote about Joost’s missing feature. Well, I do have two invites to give away. But instead of just giving them randomly, I decided I should have a contest to decide who gets them. But after thinking about it for a few days, I haven’t come up with a good idea for a contest. So here’s what I’ve come up with instead:

There will be two separate contests. The winner of the first contest is the person who comes up with the best idea for the second contest. I tend to favor creativity, so if your suggestion is “You should pick a name out of a hat,” you’re not as likely to be in the running as if you write “You should give it to whoever comes up with the funniest cartoon involving a platypus and a hyena.” The second suggestion sounds like a much better contest.

To enter: Submit your suggestion in the comments below. You must enter your e-mail address to enter, but I won’t be using it for anything other than sending an invitation to the winner. One entry per person, please. Only entries submitted before midnight Eastern time on Monday March 19 Saturday March 17 [I’ve just learned that unused Joost beta invitations will expire on March 22, so I’m shortening the contest to allow sufficient time for the second one] will be considered. I will make a decision on Sunday and announce the winning contest for the second invitation. Have fun!

Update: The contest is over. You can find Part II of the contest here.

March 15, 2007

The fine print

I saw this ad yesterday:


It seems pretty straightforward. If I join their club, I get to use these other services for free. Then I got closer and saw the fine print:


What definition of “free” are they using, exactly?

March 12, 2007

Mauling Helena

The Table CentaurA new mall called The Domain opened this weekend in Austin. The bizarre photo at right has been chosen to represent the mall in advertisements, brochures, and directories. Seriously, this might be one of the strangest photos I’ve seen used for something commercial. Or at all.

Boxing FennWhat has happened to the poor woman in this photo? What story does it tell? Has she had her legs cut off by an obsessed madman who’s keeping her captive on that table, like Sherilyn Fenn in the movie Boxing Helena?

Or maybe she’s one of those exotic mythical table-centaurs, with the body of a woman and the legs of a table. Wasn’t there one of those in The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe, the Desk, and Other Furniture?

Very bizarre. But she does make a lovely centaur-piece.

March 6, 2007

Idea: Joost’s missing feature

Joost LogoI’ve been participating in the beta test of a hotly anticipated new program called Joost. It’s essentially a video-on-demand service from the people who brought you Kazaa and Skype, which uses proprietary technology to make high quality video over the internet as instant as your TV. Unlike video sharing sites such as YouTube, you won’t get to upload your own videos to Joost. They will provide the content through contracts with various TV and movie companies, and show the programs in appropriate Channels. For example, they might have an NBC Channel where you can catch up on episodes of Heroes. Or you might go to the Warner Brothers Movie Channel to watch the movie Batman.

While still in beta, the content is pretty limited. I can watch some National Geographic documentaries, a few episodes of the World’s Strongest Man competition, some Canadian music video programming, and that’s about it. But while Joost is working on adding new content and improving the video technology, I’m still left wondering where the feature is that will make me want to watch video on demand with Joost instead of with, say, my local cable company or other on-demand service. Is it enough that the video starts in 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes like with other high-quality streaming video services? Maybe. But my cable box is even more instant than that. There’s a real opportunity here to make Joost something different and better than television, instead of something that’s as close to TV as possible. That’s where my idea comes in.

I imagine a feature that combines all the best elements of social websites like Digg, the humorous style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the educational aspect of DVD commentary tracks, the user-contributed spirit of a Wiki, the format of Pop-Up Video, and integrates it all with Joost. It could make even the dullest content interesting and fun to watch, and make the best programming even better. Here’s how it works:

If I have the yet-to-be-named feature turned on, I can choose to use Joost in one of three modes: Writer Mode, Voter Mode, or Viewer Mode.

Writer Mode
Joost Writer ModeIn Writer Mode, whenever I pause the program I’m watching, a window pops up that I can type in. Joost uses a time stamp to remember where I was in the program when I wrote this comment, and also remembers where on the screen I’ve put the window. Then I can type in any comment I want. Preferably, it’s either informative about the particular scene (e.g. “This scene was filmed at Maine North High School in Chicago”), or it’s a funny comment on the scene. I can tag it appropriately as “funny” or “informative” so Joost knows how it’s intended.

Voter Mode
Joost Voter ModeIn Voter Mode, I watch the movie with a window overlaid in which all the comments people left scroll up automatically. I get to vote every comment up or down based on whether I agree that it’s funny or informative or neither of the above. In my illustration, all the comments are white, but perhaps they would be different colors to specify funny or informative. If there are too many comments to reasonably vote on so quickly, I can tell Joost to not show me every comment so that it’s more manageable. I can set the pace myself. Or I can just vote on the ones that jump out at me, ignoring the others.

Viewer Mode
Joost Viewer ModeIn Viewer Mode, I can watch a program or movie with comments turned on. They will show up where and when the commenter specified, and then disappear after a few seconds. Because people read at different paces, I can control how many pop-ups I want per minute. If I say I want 12 per minute, only the 12 highest rated pop-ups will be shown in each minute of the program. I can specify if I want to see just the funny comments, or just the informative comments, or both. I can choose to read the highest-rated comments of all time, or just of the last month or week or day. I could watch the same program week after week and experience it with a whole new set of commentary. And at any time, I can switch to a different mode if I think of a new comment to add or if I want to vote down a lame comment I just read.

It’s possible that someone might have written a highly-rated comment that only makes sense if you’ve read a particular earlier comment that isn’t as highly rated and may not be shown. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the writer can indicate his comment is a “reply” to a specific earlier comment. In this way, a “reply” comment with enough votes to be shown automatically bumps up the earlier comment so it’s also shown.

This could be a lot of fun. Imagine watching a show like Heroes once, and then watching it again with comments turned on to see what other people caught that you missed. Also, this has potential to make programs appealing that people wouldn’t otherwise watch. Joost could worry less about making deals with content providers, because even free content like old copyright-expired movies become entertaining in a whole new way. So much of what makes Web 2.0 great is the community-generated content, and right now Joost offers no new way for the community to interact with its product except passively.

Sure, it does have an integrated chat window, but that’s nothing new that I can’t already do with any of a dozen IM programs. And because Joost offers video on demand (as opposed to live broadcasts), it’s unlikely that I’d be watching in sync with anyone else in a chat room anyway, which limits the usefulness of channel-specific chat. This idea could solve the problem of commenting in real time, and makes sure all the best comments rise to the top.

March 5, 2007

Binder clip

Yip Yip Clip

“Binder clip.”

Yip Yip Clip

“Binder clip. Yip. Binder clip. Yip yip yip yip.”