Monday, June 15, 2009

Dangermouse

It's Monday, the start of a new week, and in the summer weather, that always manages to bring frustration to those of us who have to get up and go to work (and don't get to count to the end of the school year). Let's do something a little fun this morning, in that case. Let's talk about Dangermouse!

If you've never seen the cartoon (I recently picked up the entire series at Amazon.com) then let me explain for a moment. You have a white mouse, with an eye patch, who is a secret agent, fighting crime with his side kick Penfold (who I believe is supposed to be a hamster). The entire series is set in Britain, and DM even lives on Baker Street (for the Sherlock fans out there). His nemesis is an evil wheezing toad (yep) named Greenback who is supported by a crow henchman named Mafiosa. True quality!

The show is somewhat corny, mocking James Bond, and doing it all with British sense of humor, which doesn't always appeal to Americans, I admit. My brother and I used to watch it religiously on USA Network, occasionally preceded by Bananaman. You always knew that DM would find his way out of trouble, and Pinfold would always do something incredibly silly to get himself INTO trouble... which Dangermouse eventually pulled him out of. And while I'm not doing the show much justice here, I'll rely on our good friends at YouTube to help me show you the fun:



See, wasn't that great? The animation isn't top notch, but it was the 80s. The voices aren't tough to follow, and the foolishness of the show is just plain fun. The sheer fact of Pinfold, for instance, chained up to a ball that is almost as large as he is, to keep him in prison. And the flying car - isn't the flying car just the coolest? Oh come on, you know it is.

Look, do yourself a favor. Go on YouTube and watch a few episodes. Consider even supporting the economy by purchasing a season or two on DVD. If you have kids, nieces and nephews, or just know some small fries, consider passing this on. Dangermouse is perfect for any kids, and they deserve to see it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Century

Lately there has been too much bad news in the news, from GM to the newspaper industry to all sorts of issues in the global political arena. The worst part is, I've been talking about it just as much as everyone else. That said, today, I'm going to do a happy Friday blog, and I'm going to do it by wishing a happy birthday.

Donald Wood of Sparta, NJ, just celebrated his 101st birthday on Sunday May 31st. Working at a local funeral home, the man only just retired at the age of 97. How about that for longevity? I suppose the fact that my gramps is 85 and doesn't really feel like retiring yet gets a little support here. According to the CDC, the life expectancy for Americans is just under 78 years old. Despite all of our modern medicine and technology, we still sport a C+ as a nation. Donald is busting the curve.

So let's wrap this up on a quiet Friday morning by wishing Mr. Wood L'Chaim, and wishing good health to all of you. Keep healthy, eat a little better, stay strong, have fun and be like Donald!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The New Pepsi

Interesting item from yesterday. I was at a friend's house last night and they had the new Throwback Pepsi. Essentially, isn't sweetened with high fructose corn syrup like other sodas, it actually goes back and uses real sugar. From what I gathered, the concept is to create a healthier Pepsi, with a "throwback" taste. We all remember what happened with New Coke (and if you're too young, click on the link and read the article). It was a flat out disaster. People hated it. Why? Hey, new products are good, but wholesale change in simple items... well, we're humans, we don't dig that.

I have another issue with it. I kind of LIKE the flavor of High Fructose Corn Syrup! Alright, maybe not exactly. There is no way that I can pick it out of a lineup. Snapple gave it the boot as well, and I have to admit that I might not want to drink Snapple anymore. See, I'm a tea drinker (no coffee, thanks though), and I only use real sugar in my house these days because it's what my roommate bought, and I feel like it would be a waste of money to maintain two sweeteners in the house at one time (plus the space in the cupboard is limited. Hey, I like to cook). In the diner, I'm a sweet n low man. Don't have the pink stuff, get me an Equal or Splenda. What can I say, Sugar just doesn't do it for me. I like the artificial sweeteners. Even if they are bad for you.

That reminds me of the funniest part of that Snapple article I just handed you. They depict this as something that "health conscious moms" don't like. Now, a little bit of anything won't negatively effect your health, unless you have an allergy. So, what about a lot of the HFCS? Honestly, if you are giving your kids soda and Snapple regularly, I'm fairly certain that you lose the mantle of "health conscious" mom. At the moment, I'm boycotting the stuff, even if it is the best stuff on Earth, and I'll be happy to see Pepsi go back to normal (not that I drink nearly enough soda to truly care). Has anyone out there in webby land had either? Drop a comment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Condemnation

I honestly cannot do more than shake my head at this one. The Boston Globe has been in danger of closing, and it's union just flipped off the attempts of its parent company (The New York Times) to try and save it. The Globe has been hemorrhaging cash, and the Times has tried to institute wage cuts and roll backs in order to save it. We aren't talking about being down by a couple of hundred thousand dollars, either. The 137 year old paper lost $50,000,000 last year and is on pace to lose even more this year. The Times has even hired an investment bank to facilitate a possible sale of the paper, but no one has expressed interest yet. With such deep losses, and a union that has fought against continual existence, can anyone be bold enough to want to take this on?

My mother and brother are teachers. One of my closest friends is a teamster. I understand that there are unions in this country, and that they were originally put into place to protect its constituency, but there has to come a point when there is a little give. The union is wrong! Listen, the market is tough out there. Jobs aren't as plentiful as they were just a few years ago. I've been in the market. I have friends who are out of work and searching. The union of the Boston Globe sounds like they would rather their entire staff be tossed into the streets than take a pay cut.

Let me back up a sec. Pay cuts are awful. In fact, I had to take one while moving from a job that was laying off entire division to another job. It has been difficult, and I am working on re-budgeting myself, figuring out how to tighten the belt, and just putting more enjoyable aspects of my life on hold until better times. The thought of shaving my head to save on haircut costs has crossed my mind multiple times (and may happen in the next month). Still, unemployment doesn't pay you very much, definitely not enough to pay a mortgage. That being said, it is quite possible that the Globe feels that nothing will actually happen, and it will continue to endure for time everlasting.

Look around. Stores like Circuit City are gone, snatched up at deep discount and re-opened as nothing more than a website. Businesses both local and global have made massive cutbacks or shuttered completely. GM has closed dealerships and plants, and extended summer dark periods on other plants, just to save money. Looking to the newspaper industry, members of the Rocky Mountain News have actually launched a new website to take the place of their paper. indenvertimes.com had to crop up because their paper closed. Shuttered completely. So, yes, Globe union, this can happen, and if you keep fighting efforts to save the company, it will happen.

I have read a great deal about the decline of the newspaper industry. The story-line is everywhere, including in the papers themselves. It would be the next major catastrophe after the Detroit issues, costing the jobs of far too many, and effecting massive changes. The union of the Globe may have just cut off their own noses, sadly, and they only won by twelve votes. Maybe it's time for something else to change around this nation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Human Litters

There is an interesting article on The Daily Beast today talking about the Octo-Mom and John & Kate plus eight. It mentions that a litter of six should be enough to get you on television these days.

A litter??

Listen, and listen carefully. Dogs have litters. Cats have litters. Humans, we aren't supposed to have litters. I understand full well that some drastic measures need to be taken when you are trying to get pregnant, and are failing at it. I understand that the average woman has many more eggs than she will ever use, thanks to the concept that adulthood doesn't begin until law makers say it does, as opposed to when nature (also known as puberty) decides it as so. (Interesting side-thought: the concept of what G-d wants seems to be bandied about a lot by the far right wing, but isn't G-d the one who decided that adulthood began around thirteen? Interesting case of cherry picking. Not that this gives anyone permission to go near my cousin.)

My problem is that, much like the debacle that is reality TV (also known as "acting far from reality"), having full on litter of babies can now make you rich and famous. Raising Sextuplets just started on WE. The Octo-Mom has received massive attention (and government money) for her brood. Weren't we supposed to just be having children because we want to pass on our legacy? Having them because we love kids? Having them because we just wanted children of our own? When did it become about finding a way to turn procreation into profit? I can't help but find it sad. Personally, I'm hoping that, when the time comes, I am lucky enough to have two children. It provides them a life-long friend. Also, while growing up, it provides the younger someone to terrify, and the older someone to beat up. That's harmony.

Let me stop for a moment and make myself clear - I have no issue with large families. I have known people who come from groups of three, five, and even six. My issues comes with the concept of six at one time being motivation for a mini-series, or even a long running show. The previously mentioned groups were born out of love from their parents, have been raised well, and were quite honestly affordable to the parents... not a device to cash in.

Besides, I have to honestly ask, when those sextuplets are fourteen, obnoxious, and the television deal has long since pulled out, what happens next? Do we start a new show called John and Kate Hate Eight? When the money has run out... when the family has trouble affording food... when two of the kids are on drugs... when John finally gets his divorce (apparently he's been looking for one). Tell me, what happens to the family then? Now that is real life drama, and yet, it was still fabricated by Hollywood. Just without the TV rights.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Amazon Under Foot

Chickenfoot will release their actual jewel case album in a couple of days, but there is actually a deal on Amazon.com to download the album for only $3.99, from now until the 8th (yep, that link will take you to the deal). Of course, I jumped on the offer, already plunked down my $3.99, and the album is currently downloaded to my PC (they have special functionality for MACs and Linux as well). As my car can play mp3s, I am just ripping a couple of the other albums I recently bought, and putting all 5 CDs onto one disk to bring in the car today.

I am very excited about Chickenfoot's album, as most folks know, but I am more excited because this is my first Amazon.com CD purchase. Strangely, I have never actually gotten into the iTunes aspect of things, and have generally opted for jewel cases. I understand that the music industry is changing. As a musician who is selling his own CD (Lighting the Dark, $9), I also have my music listed on several mp3 services, including an iTunes listing. You would think that I would have jumped on this whole Amazon thing by now, but I just hadn't. So, assuming that the quality is good, and that I don't actually miss the jewel case in my collection (I did back up the download on my external hard drive), this might become my new way of music purchase. I'm actually excited... now I just need to remember how to hook an mp3 player up to my car, and I won't even have to burn CDs anymore!

I'd love some comments from folks who have actually bought via Amazon, and their take on it. Actually, anyone who has an attitude on the downloading versus the jewel case, I'd be curious to hear from. Did anyone make the switch to only downloading? Anyone try downloading and decide that its jewel cases or its nothing?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Facebook's Payment

This morning I opened up my Facebook account and noticed that I was invited to a new group named "We Will Not Pay For Facebook!" The tagline said that we needed to get as many users to join the group as possible. This leaves me with three questions:

1. Why do people believe that Facebook will begin charging?
2. Why are people so adamant against paying for it?
3. Why do people think a Facebook group to protest Facebook charges would work?

First off, there was a rumor that circulated MySpace a few years ago. It talked about MySpace deleting accounts of people who didn't respond to some chain post, or of people who weren't willing to pay for the service. MySpace makes their money from advertising, and I'm certain that you've seen ads on Facebook as well. The way that you sell advertising on the Internet (this is one of my areas of expertise) is to increase the amount of unique users that you have, and increase the amount of overall page views that you have every month. Cutting your user base in half (or worse) by choosing to delete people randomly (as was the MySpace rumor), or forcing everyone to begin paying or suffer deletion (per the new Facebook rumor) would destroy revenue, and likely cause one of these social networking sites to die off. MySpace, you will recall, was king before Facebook seemed like the better place to go. Another social networking site will pop up eventually, and Facebook will be in for a fight - why would it chase off members prematurely?

I also can't understand why people are so opposed to paying for Facebook? To be honest, I would be willing to plunk down $10 a year, or some other similar number, to use the service if it really came to that. Facebook has put me back in touch with people that I haven't seen in years, enables me to maintain an easy contact with the youth group that I run via our Facebook group, allows my friends and I to swap photos, and has provided a lot of fantastically entertaining games for me to procrastinate with. There are many, many people addicted to the Gang Wars, Pet Pupz and Dragon Wars games, alone... with so many other applications that people use. These games would generally cost $30-40 in the store, or require some sort of online fee, or some sort of investment even three years ago. Now, you can play them for free. There is a strange sense of entitlement from people who use a free service. They expect those who created and maintain the service to do so, and make improvements, indefinitely without making a profit. Why? Arrogance, I suppose. Foolishness, possibly. Whatever it is, no one seems to think that through. If your boss turned to you today and said, "I absolutely refuse to pay you any more, but you damned well better not start slacking off, I expect you to continue performing at your highest level," how long would you stick around?

The last thing that cracks me up is the concept that a Facebook group could protest Facebook charging if they decided to do so. Let me get this straight: Facebook (in this theory) has decided that, for the good of it's business, the economic model must include a charge for its services. It cites various reasons for why they feel Facebook is worth charging for. To protest this, instead of leaving the site to prove that you could go elsewhere any time you like, you start or join a group on Facebook enabling you to swap messages and photos and bulletins, and stage a protest utilizing several of Facebook's features. That's like protesting a price hike at Starbucks by sitting around and drinking their coffee, sitting in their shop and discussing how unfair it is.

At the end of the day, I simply wish that people would use some common sense.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Goodbye Mr Eddings

I was very sad to open my email this morning and learn that David Eddings had passed away. One of my favorite authors, and one of the greatest Fantasy writers of all time, Eddings will be deeply missed. His series The Belgariad is so well thought out, so deep and detailed of a world, that I was compelled to complete the entire five book series in nine days. So deeply drawn in was I, so full were the characters, that I can still picture young Garion in my mind and imagine what further exploits he might be undertaking. I think about Polgara, and how it might have been to have her as my aunt. When I discovered The Malloreon, the five-book sequel series, and the other books written in that universe, I was in heaven. Finding his multiple series on the character Sparhawk made life even better.

If you are not a fan of the science fiction and fantasy genre, that is just fine. It doesn't even matter. If you simply like good literature, quality stories, I implore you, pick up one of Eddings' books. Just go pick up The Diamond Throne, the first book in The Elenium, of the three book Sparhawk series. The three book collection is less of an investment, which is for the best, as you will quickly want to buy the other two books. Heck, if you know me outside of the virtual world, and want to borrow my copy of any of the Eddings books, I will gladly lend them to you - or try your library, as I'm certain he's in there.

We had lost a great writer, and a great contributor to society. Mourning is deserved, but reading is essential.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not So Stanky

More than just The Reason, a popular song about five years ago, Hoobastank has a fantastic sound that mixes melodic vocals and harmonies with fantastic technical musical skill (much like Journey), solid lyrics and story-lines within their songs (much like The Who), and a good, strong power punch in their non-ballad tunes (much like any good rock band). Much like Nickelback, Hoobastank has a penchant for including highly sexual matter within their lyrics and song inspiration, best utilized in their more powerful Inside of You

With the release of their fifth album, For(n)ever, the band has pushed beyond the realm of the one hit wonder, and established a catalog of quality rock n roll music. The strongest of the albums is easily Every Man for Himself, although The Reason was undeniably the most popular. From their debut album at the turn of the century, on to their latest at the end of the decade, this fearsome foursome delivers simple, flat out, no nonsense rock n roll.

I wanted to display the video for Born To Lead, but the embed is disabled, so you'll just have to click on the link. (Kind of a cool looking video, as it is). Instead, I decided to go with this cool acoustic version of "Crawling in the Dark" that I found, because it actually showcases Doug's voice well: