Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ke$ha: Not the greatest role model

My 4-year-old daughter likes to prance around the house singing pop songs. Recently she’s been singing lines from “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha.
It’s odd to hear a preschooler sing a line like “I … brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack. ’Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back.”
Yeah, it’s a little disturbing to hear a youngster sing about brushing her teeth with whiskey. But hey, whatever it takes to instill good dental hygiene, right?
But seriously, Ke$ha is just the latest in a long line of young tramp singers acting rebellious to sell records. That’s her cultivated image, her shtick. And after so many other bad girl singers, it’s frankly pretty uninteresting.
Ke$ha or Kesha is the stage name of Kesha Rose Sebert, 22, according to Wikipedia.

Related links:

Her official webpage
Her MySpace page
Her YouTube channel

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lingerie Football League nears end of inaugural season; Playoffs next week in Hollywood, Fla.

The Lingerie Football League ended its first regular season on Friday and now heads into the playoffs next Thursday, with the championship game on Saturday Feb. 6.
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to tell how well the LFL did in its inaugural season. The main reason for this has been the lack of media coverage.
The mainstream press treated it like professional wrestling – more entertainment than sport.
And bloggers haven’t stepped up to provide a good overview of the sport, its star players and the business behind it. I’ve seen no independent blogs that provide regular coverage of the LFL. Plenty of blogs like to post pictures of the attractive players and their skimpy bikini uniforms.
For the LFL to make progress in its second season – assuming there is one – it will have to make some changes.
First, the LFL needs to overhaul its website.
If it wants to be taken seriously as a sport, it needs to play up its coverage of the games. That means game summaries in stories, statistics, photos and video highlights. It means game previews with key matchups and analysis.
The LFL scheduled 20 regular season games, but only played 18. I can’t find an explanation on the LFL website about why two scheduled games were not played. That doesn’t look good for the league, no matter what the reason.
Even the Lingerie Bowl, which gave birth to the LFL, has had a rocky run.
While this year’s LFL championship game is called Lingerie Bowl VII, this will only be the fourth such game played. Lingerie Bowls IV, V and VI (2007-09) were canceled because organizers couldn’t get their act together.
Second, the LFL needs to boost its media exposure. This will be tougher in the second season because the novelty will have worn off.
The league should develop closer relationships with key bloggers who can provide the in-depth independent coverage that the fledgling league needs for legitimacy. The mainstream media likely will shy away from the sport, not wanting to risk criticism and because they’re increasingly short-staffed.
The biggest coup for the Lingerie Football League so far was being featured in a storyline on the popular CBS drama “CSI: NY” for an episode that aired on Jan. 20.

Related links:

Bleacher Report: “All We Are Saying Is: Give the Lingerie Football League a Chance!” (Jan. 30, 2010)

Lingerie Football League official website and blog LFL Unlaced.

Photo of LFL players from the Chicago Bliss (3-0), who are in the playoffs this week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why can’t Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 save bookmarks with certain punctuation?

Hey, Microsoft, I’m a PC and Windows Internet Explorer 8 was not my idea.
If it had been, I’d be able to save bookmarks that have colons or question marks in their names. (See screen grab above.) It makes no sense that I can’t. And it doesn’t sound like a hard problem to fix either. Unless you’re working with needlessly complicated software.
Speaking of complaints about IE8, I’m with the other whiners who can’t understand why IE8 always defaults to the main “favorites” folder when saving bookmarks.
I use a lot of subfolders and work on many projects at once. So if I’m saving a bunch of web links on a subject, I have to manually pick the subfolder I want every time I save a bookmark. Why can’t I instruct IE8 to remember the last folder I was using and make that the default until I change it?
Previous versions of Internet Explorer would remember where I was storing bookmarks last and would stay there until I changed it.
Both of these things are annoying inconveniences that might make people switch to competing web browsers like Firefox, Google’s Chrome or Apple’s Safari.
Have you guys seen your market share in web browsers lately? It looks like you’re already losing a lot of Internet Explorer users.

Why websites love lists

Websites looking to attract curious visitors can always count on numbered lists to draw clicks.
People love lists. The idea that things can be organized into top 10 lists is fascinating to people. They inevitably want to read the list to see if it conforms to their worldview. Lists of the best or worst in a category generate passionate debates among readers.
For instance, when the Jan. 29 issue of Entertainment Weekly listed what it considered “TV’s 50 Biggest Bombs Ever!” I had to complain on Twitter about one of its picks.
At No. 23, it selected “The ‘Lost’ rip-offs of 2005: ‘Surface’ (NBC), ‘Threshold’ (CBS) and ‘Invasion’ (ABC).”
First off, these weren’t “Lost” rip-offs. They were science-fiction shows that attempted to tap into the public’s desire for something other than lawyer shows and police procedurals. None of the three were remotely like “Lost.”
I’m not going to stand up for “Surface” and “Invasion,” but I will say that “Threshold” was one of the best shows of the last decade. It was exciting, thought-provoking and original. Unfortunately, it didn’t find an audience and was cut short in its first season.
But I digress.
My point is that lists get people interested and, in some cases, worked up.
That’s why they’ve become such a staple on the web.
There are websites devoted to aggregating interesting numbered lists (such as Listverse) and others that do it on a regular basis (such as the Huffington Post, CNet and Oddee).
I’m going to curate some of the lists I find most interesting here at Tech-media-tainment.
Here’s the first batch, which I call …

Science oddities

10 Most Fascinating Natural Phenomena (Oddee.com)

7 Man-Made Substances that Laugh in the Face of Physics (Cracked.com)

Photo: The mysterious moving stones of Death Valley, from Oddee list above.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aggregating is out; Curating is in

The hot new word for websites that collect interesting articles, photos and videos from around the web is “curating.” Forget aggregrating. That’s so last year.
Aggregrating implies that websites just pull a bunch of stuff together from other sites and let the reader decide what’s interesting. Curating implies thoughtful selection of items to present only the best. It’s quality over quantity; subjectivity over objectivity. A curator is judged on their taste in selecting items and not wasting a web visitor’s time with junk.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a “curator” as “one who has the care and superintendence of something; especially … one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit.”
Sounds impressive.
An article on the New York Times tech blog Bits by Nick Bolton discusses how people are using Twitter to curate noteworthy items from across the web. They find interesting items and post links on their Twitter accounts.
“We are no longer just consumers of content, we have become curators of it too,” he writes.
A good example of an Internet curator, the article notes, is Maria Popova of Marina del Rey, Calif. She posts her finds on Twitter at @brainpicker.
Unfortunately the term curate is being overused now. A New York Times piece last fall reported that “curate” was also being used by retailers, nightclubs and restaurants.
I think there’s a need for a level above curator on the Internet – someone who’s even more selective in their choices of what articles, photos and videos to spotlight. For lack of a better term, I call these people Internet connoisseurs. Their sites would be known for highlighting only the best of the best, so web surfers don’t have to waste their time clicking on marginal links.

Photo: A traditional curator: Eric Shiner, the first Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. (From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites

These websites all have been featured on Tech-media-tainment. So they bear the TMT stamp of approval.

1. My First Dictionary (myfirstdictionary.blogspot.com)
2. Fail Blog (failblog.org)
3. Sugar Stacks (sugarstacks.com)
4. Future Rock Legends (futurerocklegends.com)
5. Asian Poses (asianposes.com)
6. Visited Countries (douweosinga.com/projects/visited)
7. Historical Tweets (historicaltweets.com)
8. I Am Bored (i-am-bored.com)
9. AngryJournalist.com (angryjournalist.com)
10. Someecards (someecards.com)
11. Steak House or Gay Bar (steakhouseorgaybar.com)
12. Accidental Dong (accidentaldong.blogspot.com)
13. ZooBorns (zooborns.com)
14. The Superficial (thesuperficial.com)
15. I Don’t Like You In That Way (idontlikeyouinthatway.com)
16. Stiffs.com (stiffs.com)
17. This Is Priceless (thatispriceless.blogspot.com)
18. Boston.com: The Big Picture (www.boston.com/bigpicture)
19. The Big Storm Picture (bigstormpicture.blogspot.com)
20. Copper Counter (coppercounter.blogspot.com)
21. Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)
22. Box Office Mojo (boxofficemojo.com)
23. Box Office Guru (boxofficeguru.com)
24. Rotten Tomatoes (rottentomatoes.com)
25. Netflix (netflix.com)

Update (6-27-10): AngryJournalist.com ceased operations in late January, but the archives are still available. The last post for Asian Poses was Dec. 5, 2009, so it looks like that specialty website is dead as well, although the archives are still active.

Update (3-17-13): My First Dictionary ended its run on June 10, 2012; the Asian Poses and AngryJournalist websites are no longer available; Copper Counter is closed to the public; and Accidental Dong has not been updated since Feb. 27, 2012.

Update (2-17-14): Steak House or Gay Bar is offline. Asian Poses says it is “Coming Back Soon!”

Update (6-15-14):  Steak House or Gay Bar is back online. Asian Poses still not back yet. AngryJournalist.com archives no longer available.

Art: Sample from My First Dictionary.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Running from Camera: Photos of man doing just that

Google’s Blogs of Note feature today spotlighted a pretty unusual blog. It’s a photo blog called Running from Camera.
The blog’s description says it all: “The rules are simple: I put the self-timer on 2 seconds, push the button and try to get as far from the camera as I can.”
The blog is the work of a man identified only as Muggezifter, who lives in the Netherlands. His photos are oddly captivating and sometimes beautiful. He’s been playing this game with his camera since June 2006.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tablet computers and online paid content schemes offer hope for print media

Two developments have given the beleaguered print journalism industry reason for hope. Both involve the potential to sell news articles and features to consumers in digital form.
They are tablet computers, such as the one Apple is poised to announce next week, and website pay walls to access content, such as the New York Times is planning.

Light at the end of the tunnel

After a couple of years of unremittingly bad news, 2010 has offered a ray of hope for the print media.
The New York Times Co. announced Wednesday that it plans to charge for access to NYTimes.com content at the beginning of 2011. It plans to institute a metered business model, which will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number. New York Times home delivery print subscribers will continue to have free access to NYTimes.com.
The Financial Times has a similar metered business model for its online content.
News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal restricts full access to its content to paying subscribers.
Newspaper executives are hoping that news junkies who have abandoned paid newspaper subscriptions will be willing to pay up for digital content.
Another potential bright spot for the news industry is the emergence of e-readers and tablet or slate computers for consuming written content. Amazon.com’s Kindle e-book reader got the ball rolling by offering newspaper and magazine content.
Apple is widely expected to trot out a tablet computer on Jan. 27 that will act as an e-reader, mobile Web browser and more. Apple hopes its tablet will do for newspapers, magazines and books what its iPod did for music. In other words, it wants to revitalize those markets by creating a new business model and a new experience for consuming old media.
Another bit of good news came when Editor & Publisher resumed business this month under new ownership. E&P restarted Jan. 14, just two weeks after Nielsen closed the print and online publication, known as the “bible of the newspaper industry.” The new owner is Duncan McIntosh Co., an Irvine, Calif.-based magazine and newspaper publisher.

Not out of the woods yet

Instituting pay-for-content business models is iffy with online news, however.
People have gotten used to getting news for free online. There are multiple sources of news online, so readers might dump a fee-based site for a free service in a heartbeat.
Also, bloggers and news aggregators might do such a good job summarizing the news on pay sites that readers won’t feel they have to pay up.
Asked what they would do if their favorite news site suddenly began charging, 74% of respondents in a poll by PaidContent and Harris Interactive said they would “find another free site.” Some 8% would use the site’s free headlines only. Just 5% said they would pay to continue reading. The rest weren’t sure what they’d do.
E&P columnist Steve Outing wrote a thought-provoking column on the subject titled “Your News Content Is Worth Zero to Digital Consumers.”
MarketWatch and WSJ.com writer Brett Arends had a pretty gloomy assessment of the industry in his article titled “Will the news survive?” He points out the challenges facing news media firms trying to monetize their online content.
His article included a chart, reproduced by Silicon Alley Insider, showing that newspaper employment has collapsed in the last 15 years, with employment now at the same level it was in the mid-1950s.
More than 15,000 newspaper employees lost their jobs in 2009, according to media industry watcher News Cycle.
At least 142 daily and weekly newspapers shut down in 2009, a nearly threefold increase over the number of titles succumbing in the prior year, according to Alan Mutter at Reflections of a Newsosaur.
More ugly stats: In 2009, 275 new magazines were launched while 428 ceased publication, according to MediaFinder.com.
Here’s to hoping that 2010 will yield some more positive statistics for the news media.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Twitter growth rate continues to slow

The news today that Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates had signed up for a Twitter account was akin to hearing an older, unhip person use an expression that has gone out of style with young people.
It’s like Gates had said “you go, dog” or “that’s for shizzle.” You just have to shake your head and feel sorry for him.
You see, Twitter was really hot last year. Millions signed up for accounts to give 140-character microblogging a try, especially after Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities tried it. But lots of people quit the service, failing to find utility in it or were frustrated by spam and service outages.
A study by Web analytics company HubSpot finds that Twitter’s growth rate in signing up new users has slowed dramatically since last fall. In its latest “State of the Twittersphere” report, released Tuesday, HubSpot says Twitter’s growth rate dropped to 3.5% in October compared to 13% just seven months earlier.
Meanwhile, traffic to Twitter has plateaued.
I find Twitter useful for news feeds and web link sharing. But I can see how others would be unimpressed.
As for Gates, he probably thinks Twitter is “off the hook.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The worst movie blurb whores of 2009

Just 30% of top critics gave positive reviews to the big budget musical “Nine,” but movie blurb whore Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine couldn’t say enough great things about it.
A report by Hollywood Bitchslap says Travers led all comers for critics’ quotes used in advertisements to sell movies to audiences last year. In 2009, movie studios used 77 quotes from Travers to promote their flicks.
I once got suckered into watching a crappy movie – “Smoke Signals” (1998) – based on a glowing quote from Travers. I learned my lesson the hard way. This guy either has no taste or writes in breathless praise of movies in order to get quoted in movie ads.
Consider Travers’ review of the Weinstein Company’s “Nine,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Most critics (70%) gave it negative reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes. But Travers heaped such praise on the flick that he generated five quotes for ads promoting it:

“Dazzling!”

“Rob Marshall's work is visionary and electric.”

“Daniel Day-Lewis acts like the maestro he is and Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman and Fergie are smashing! Penelope Cruz is sizzling! Marion Cotillard is perfection! Judi Dench is a sassy delight! Sophia Loren is the iconic face of Italia!”

“A hot-blooded musical fantasia full of song, dance and simmering sexuality.”

“Nine fires on all cylinders!”

Coming in second to Travers last year in Hollywood Bitchslap’s annual Criticwatch report was Pete Hammond. His reviews have been published in Maxim, Hollywood.com, Boxoffice Magazine and Backstage Magazine.
The studios used 49 quotes from his reviews to promote their movies last year. And most of those movies were bad. Hollywood Bitchslap says 29 of the 49 films for which Hammond was quoted on in 2009 received a “Rotten” rating by Rotten Tomatoes.
Here are samples of his work:

Old Dogs – “Riotously funny!”

G-Force – “Hilarious! Pure family fun: Action, laughs and heart.”

Hotel for Dogs – “One comedy (that) will have you begging for more!”

17 Again – “Zac Efron shoots and scores!” “Hilarious and heartwarming.”

Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Begins – “Perfect family entertainment.”

Confessions of a Shopaholic – “Confessions is a nonstop laughing spree.”

You get the idea. The guy is shameless.

My 10 favorite movie news and info websites

For news and opinion on movies and the movie industry, there are many websites for which to turn.
Here are my 10 favorite websites dedicated to movies:

1. Internet Movie Database

IMDb is the granddaddy of movie information sites. It’s been around for 19 years and even predates the first Web browsers.
IMDb founder and CEO Col Needham says the service started on Oct. 17, 1990, as a series of Unix shell scripts to let users search the Usenet bulletin board rec.arts.movies. It wasn’t called Internet Movie Database until four years later.
You can read a history of IMDb here.
E-commerce giant Amazon.com bought the site in 1998.

2. Box Office Mojo

Box Office Mojo is the top website for finding out how well movies are doing in the theaters. It’s got tons of interesting data (per screen average, % change in box office receipts from the previous week, estimated budgets, etc.)
Movie analyst Brandon Gray founded Box Office Mojo in 1999.
Amazon’s IMDb bought Box Office Mojo in July 2008.

3. Box Office Guru

For another perspective on the weekend’s box office returns, I turn to Box Office Guru. The website is edited by Gitesh Pandya of New York City.

4. Rotten Tomatoes

There are two big online aggregators of movie reviews – Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. But Rotten Tomatoes focuses only on movies. Metacritic aggregates reviews of movies, TV shows, video games and music.
I like the way Rotten Tomatoes is organized and the quality of the information it presents. It also provides an interesting mix of news and features along with the reviews.
Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Flixster, which bought the website from IGN Entertainment earlier this month.

5. Netflix

A subscription to online movie rental service Netflix is a must for movie fans.
But in addition to delivering movies via DVDs by mail or streaming online, the Netflix website has a good movie recommendation engine.
I also like Netflix’s Friends section, which it keeps hiding. I guess Netflix’s efforts at social networking among movie fans have been a bust. Otherwise, why hide this section? I especially like the members’ top 10 lists.

6. At the Movies

The revitalized “At the Movies” is one of the best shows on TV right now. The half-hour syndicated movie review program is informative and entertaining. The repartee between the two critics – Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune and A.O. Scott of the New York Times – is a hoot.
The website offers exclusive video shorts where the critics answer viewer questions and discuss actors, directors and films in greater depth.
“At the Movies” is owned by the Walt Disney Co.

7. Apple iTunes Movie Trailers

It’s rare that a good movie has a bad trailer. A bad trailer generally means a bad movie.
So Apple iTunes Movie Trailers is a good place to decide what upcoming theatrical films are worth paying attention to. Of course, some bad movies have good trailers. So moviegoers beware.

8. I Watch Stuff

I Watch Stuff is a snarky movie news website from the folks that do my favorite celebrity news website, The Superficial.
I Watch Stuff is owned by Anticlown Media.

9. Hollywood Bitchslap

Hollywood Bitchslap is a good website for finding out about interesting independent movies, especially those on the film festival circuit.
Hollywood Bitchslap also has a fun feature called Criticwatch, where the editors track hack movie critics who crank out positive blurbs used in movie advertisements. The top quote “whores” for 2009 were Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers (77 blurbs), Pete Hammond of Maxim (49) and Jeffrey Lyons of “Reel Talk” (27).

10. Geek Tyrant

A recent addition to my favorites list is Geek Tyrant. It focuses mostly on movies for guys – superhero, horror, action adventure and comedy movies.
The subject matter is fun and the writing has a lot of attitude.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Copper Counter: Things Left Behind On A Coinstar Machine

I’m fascinated by bloggers who obsessively cover one niche subject.
U.K. blogger James Watson writes about things left behind on a Coinstar change counting machine near his home. His blog is called Copper Counter.
“It’s almost a modern form of archeology,” Watson told BBC Radio 4’s Money Box. “You’re looking at people’s rubbish. You are picking up these coins and washers, tablets and ringpulls, and to me it’s just fascinating. I want to know more about the people behind them. I want to know their story.”
At his local Sainsbury’s supermarket, he regularly checks the Coinstar machine and documents the stuff he finds left behind. Watson finds lots of discarded foreign coins and assorted junk that people had tossed in their change jars.
Watson frequently links to his Flickr photo sharing site. In his set titled “Coinstar Finds,” he included 757 photos of leftover coins and discarded bits and pieces. Stuff left behind included coins from at least 38 countries (such as the U.S., France, Ireland, Spain, Czech Republic, Brazil, Thailand, Kenya, Nigeria and Japan), plus safety pins, hairclips, paper clips, screws, washers, pens, batteries and golf tees.
Watson says he’s found 31.34 Euros in coins ($45.07) so far.
Watson hasn’t updated his blog since Nov. 9, 2009. So he might be taking a break or perhaps he’s ended his Coinstar experiment.
I hope he returns.

Photo: Screen shot of James Watson’s “Coinstar Finds.”

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Big Storm Picture: Awesome photos of storm clouds and tornados

Yesterday I spotlighted the Boston Globe’s photo blog, The Big Picture, as one of Tech-media-tainment’s favorite websites.
Continuing on the theme of great photography, today I’m going to focus on a weather photo blog called The Big Storm Picture.
Photographer and storm chaser of Ryan McGinnis has been posting oversize photos of his adventures to his blog since November 2008. He chases tornados on the Great Plains of Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Missouri and Iowa. His work is amazing. Many of the approaching storms he shoots are as beautiful as they are scary.
High resolution prints of his photos are available for purchase online and can be licensed for commercial use.

Photo: Ryan McGinnis photo of a storm front in central Kansas taken in May 2006.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Big Picture: Incredible photography captures the tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti

The Boston Globe’s photo blog, The Big Picture, has done a stellar job showing the tragedy of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
It posted 48 heartbreaking images on Jan. 13 of the death and devastation caused by the temblor, which measured 7.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. The photo essay was called simply “Earthquake in Haiti.”
The Big Picture followed up that posting with “Haiti 48 hours later,” which contains 33 photos.
The Big Picture was created in June 2008 by Boston.com web programmer and blogger Alan Taylor. You can read about his inspiration and work on the site in the “About” section. He also gave an interview to Waxy in June 2008, shortly after launching The Big Picture.
Other recent subjects of The Big Picture included images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Dakar Rally in South America, and the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That Is Priceless: Art’s greatest masterpieces with funny new titles

That Is Priceless is a humor blog based on a simple idea: Take classic works of art in the public domain and post them online with funny new titles.
It’s the work of Los Angeles-based television comedy writer and producer Steve Melcher. Once a day, Melcher posts a work of art – usually a painting – and gives it an alternative name.
The above sample is a 1913 series of paintings by John William Godward that Melcher renamed "Effects of Alcohol on Model's Willingness to Pose Nude.”
Melcher’s humor is often topical in nature, poking fun at the likes of Roman Polanski, Conan O’Brien and Matthew McConaughey.
That Is Priceless was selected as one of Google’s Blogs of Note on Dec. 28, 2009, and featured in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 6.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-media-tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3-D porn is on the way

The adult entertainment industry is quick to respond to the latest news (consider the upcoming satire “Tiger’s Got Wood”) and technology (home video and the Internet). So it should come as no surprise that the porn industry is interested in 3-D TV.
At the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas, TV makers announced plans to roll out 3-D television later this year. They also plan to sell 3-D Blu-ray Disc players. Broadcasters, including ESPN and the Discovery Channel, announced plans for 3-D channels.
Over at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, which runs concurrently with CES, a San Diego-based company, Bad Girls in 3D, was hawking a 3-D entertainment package for $4,000. It includes a 60-inch 3-D HDTV, a media PC, proprietary software, two pairs of 3-D glasses and a monthly subscription for 3-D adult content streamed over the Internet.
The market for 3-D erotic video is not new, but has a limited history. The adult content produced in 3-D to date has been pretty bad, says Steven Hirsch, co-chairman of adult studio Vivid Entertainment.
In September, Pure Play Media released “Tommy Gunn's Cummin’ At You!” in 3-D on DVD.
Lance Johnson, a producer with Bad Girls in 3D, told PC World that the potential for 3-D adult entertainment was proven by the 1969 soft-core 3-D film “The Stewardesses.” Produced on a budget of just over $100,000, it went on to gross more than $27 million, according to Wikipedia.
Other 3-D movies of a sexual nature include “Love in 3-D” (1973) and “Emmanuelle 4” (1984).

CES 2010 in review: 3-D TV, e-readers, smart phones and living room videoconferencing

Here’s a recap of my coverage of the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from Investors.com, powered by Investor’s Business Daily.

“CES To Put Focus On Another Dimension” (Jan. 4, 2010)

“For Consumer Electronics, Lack Of Radio Spectrum Called Top 2010 Challenge” (Jan. 4, 2010)

“Nifty Gadgets, But Consumer Electronics Sales Seen Flat” (Jan. 6, 2010)

“Mom In L.A., Dad In N.Y., Kid In S.F. To Meet Via TV” (Jan. 7, 2010)

“Latest E-Reader Claims A First: Business Focus” (Jan. 7, 2010)

“Qualcomm Puts Its Stamp On Smart Phones, Smart Books, More” (Jan. 8, 2010)

“Adult Industry Eyes Videoconferencing, 3-D” (Jan. 12, 2009)

Photo: LG Electronics booth at CES 2010 by CEA.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My scene with porn star Raven Alexis

I went one-on-one with porn star Raven Alexis the other day.
I had the chance to interview her at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas. What? You thought I meant something else?
Taking a break from the Consumer Electronics Show, I stopped by the AVN show to ask some executives for their thoughts on 3-D TV, living room video conferencing and other hot topics from CES.
At the Digital Playground booth I met Alexis, 22, who signed on with the adult movie studio last August. She’s a tech geek and a gamer so I thought I'd gauge her opinion of new technologies and other topics.

3-D TV

Alexis says she’s been told that Digital Playground is looking into making 3-D adult movies.
“I would hope that it would come soon. I really think that it could be amazing,” she said. “To bring a viewer into a porn that intimately and make them feel involved in it like that would be incredible.”
Producing a movie in 3-D also could help combat online piracy, she says. But production budgets would surely increase as well.
“What I’d really like to see is a holodeck from ‘Star Trek,’” she jokes.

The porn piracy problem

Alexis owns her own production company separate from Digital Playground and manages two Web sites with erotic content.
“Where I run into a problem as a business owner has been when people take my website content and they put it wherever and then I don’t see any proceeds,” she said. “Piracy is a huge problem.”

Video games

She has played “World of Warcraft,” the popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game, for six years and she’s quite good at it.
“People don’t even know who I am in the game. I remain anonymous,” Alexis said. “It’s more of just a way to relieve stress. There’s something very cathartic about going into the game and you have your big sword and you can beat people up and they don’t know you’re a girl, they don’t know you’re a porn star.”
She’s looking forward to the next expansion pack, “Cataclysm,” expected this summer from Blizzard Entertainment, a unit of Activision Blizzard.

Xbox games

Alexis also likes to play games on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.
“With the recent scandal, it’s kind of funny, but I play “Tiger Woods Golf” a lot. I’m waiting now for the next version to have hookers come out and service you between rounds and then your wife beats you up,” she says with a laugh.
In addition to Electronic Arts’ “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10,” she plays EA’s driving game “Need for Speed: Shift.”
She bought the special bundle of Activision’s “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” with the night vision goggles, but was disappointed with the game. She completed the game in just three hours.

Her crossover dreams

“I really want to rise to the top of the industry. I want to do some work to break down stereotypes that exist between mainstream and the adult industry,” she said.
What are her goals?
“I want to do magazine covers. I want to do clothing lines. I want to do anything that allows mostly women, but in general, American audiences, to see that we’re normal people. We’re not scary. Sex isn’t scary. We don’t really do anything different than you or anybody else walking around here does. We just do it on camera, you know. It is very exciting and it is very empowering. I think if people realize that then that can make a big difference in how our society views sex.”
Much as I’d like to agree with her point about her not doing anything different than the rest of America, most of us aren’t having crazy hot three-way sex all the time.
Alexis sees fellow porn actresses Jesse Jane and Jenna Jameson as role models for their crossover success.
I mention Sasha Grey (star of Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 movie “The Girlfriend Experience”) and Alexis responds that she filmed a steamy scene with Grey in the upcoming Digital Playground movie “Fly Girls.”
“I play a security guard. And I’m supposed to be holding Sasha and Manuel Ferrara, a male performer … I’m supposed to be holding them in a cell, but unfortunately my lust takes over. I do other things other than holding them.”

Photos:
Top: Photo of Raven Alexis from Digital Playground
Bottom: Raven Alexis with a reporter at AEE 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

CES 2010 ends on a bright note: Attendance up from last year, not down as expected

The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas drew more than 120,000 industry professionals, the trade show’s producer reported Sunday night.
Attendance was up 6% from the 2009 show, when 113,085 attended. Before the four-day show, which ended today, organizers were expecting 110,000 attendees, or a decrease of 2.7%.
The 2010 attendance estimate is based on preliminary registration figures, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, producer of the CES. More than 5,000 reporters, analysts and bloggers attended this year’s show, the CEA said.
Final verified attendance figures will be released in the spring after an independent audit.
So the final numbers could change, especially if they counted pop music diva Lady Gaga multiple times by mistake. Lady Gaga was everywhere at the show. She launched her own line of headphones with Monster and was tapped to be creative director at instant-photography company Polaroid.

Photo: Lady Gaga speaks at the Polaroid press conference at CES 2010. Photo by CEA.

The best and worst of CES 2010

Best technology demo

Cisco Systems gave a kick-ass demonstration of a living room video conferencing system under development during a press event at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.
The networking gear maker showed how its home telepresence product would offer more than just video chat with distant friends and relatives. Cisco executives provided a slick, live demo of applications such as home health-care consulting and distance learning with a math tutor.

Worst technology demo

LG Electronics demonstrated its living room video conferencing product that uses Skype, the popular online voice and video communications service for PC users.
Unlike the flawless Cisco home teleconferencing demo, the LG demo was plagued with blurry, herky-jerky video and an annoying audio and video delay. The event speaker and the person on the video screen kept talking over each other. They could barely get a word in because they kept stopping when they realized the other was speaking.
LG blamed a poor Internet connection for the lousy service quality, but the speakers didn’t look like they rehearsed the call. A big turnoff for the product. Not a good experience.

Worst managed press event

Coming into the show, Plastic Logic had one of the most anticipated new products, an e-book reader called the Que proReader. It's been billed as a potential Kindle killer.
But the company’s press event at CES was a mess. For starters, the venue was terrible. Plastic Logic tried holding the event at its booth on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center before the exhibits opened for the day.
But the floor was noisy and the press had to stand for the lengthy presentation. Plastic Logic CEO Richard Archuleta took forever to get to the point about the Que proReader, spending way too much time on the background of the company and the technology. What the press really wanted to hear about was pricing and availability for the Que and its standout features.
For a device that’s supposed to display electronic newspapers, Archuleta buried the lede.
Plus, the presentation suffered from technical glitches, like microphone feedback and poor audio and video.

Best managed press event

Palm put on an excellent press conference. It was well paced and had a plethora of newsy announcements, led by the new Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus smart phones for Verizon Wireless, available later this month.
Palm also introduced its mobile hotspot technology that will turn the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus into mobile Wi-Fi routers. The app can provide wireless broadband access for up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as notebooks and netbooks.
Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein and his team did a fine job detailing improvements to Palm’s smart phones and pointing out their advantages over other devices on the market. (Over-the-air software updates, support for the Adobe Flash Player in the browser, etc.)

Best celebrity cameo

Singer Taylor Swift’s performance of “Love Story” at Sony’s press conference was a show highlight.
The 20-year-old singer-songwriter helped kick off the Sony event and was filmed in 3-D for the occasion.
You can watch the performance here.

Coolest new devices

My favorite new products at the show were:

Sanyo’s Eneloop bike. The $2,300 bicycle features an electric motor to assist in pedaling. The bike, which has a lightweight lithium-ion battery, would be great for city commuting and suburban riding. (Sanyo is owned by Panasonic.)

Evolution Robotic’s Mint automatic floor cleaner. The Mint dusts and mops floors with the press of a button. It uses popular cleaning cloths such as Swiffer and Pledge dry and wet cloths to remove dust, dirt and spills off your floor. Available this fall, the $250 device is likely to give iRobot’s Scooba some serious competition.

Tivit mobile digital TV receiver from Valups. The $120 device allows you to watch local broadcast digital TV shows on your Wi-Fi enabled smart phone or notebook computer. Available this spring, the portable device is smaller and lighter than a deck of playing cards.

Photo credits: LG Electronics booth at CES 2010 by CEA; Taylor Swift at Sony press event by Wired.

Apple makes its presence felt in Vegas for CES

Apple doesn’t attend the Consumer Electronics Show, preferring to host its own events for Steve Jobs & Co. to unveil new products. That includes a possible tablet computer in a few weeks.
But the Cupertino, Calif.-based company obviously didn’t want CES attendees to forget about it either. Apple’s presence was felt at the 2010 CES through advertisements around town.
Most notably, Apple’s building wraps and video advertisements dominate the front of the Fashion Show shopping center on the famous Las Vegas Strip. You couldn’t miss it.
Apple has used the Fashion Show video billboards to advertise its products for at least the last three years.

Photo: Apple’s video billboards at the Fashion Show shopping mall in Las Vegas at night on Jan. 5, 2010.

Bloggers take the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show by storm

This was the year that bloggers really took over the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and pushed aside the mainstream media.
The Consumer Electronics Association, producer of the CES expo, said about 4,000 media representatives attended the show. CEA spokeswoman Tara Dunion estimated that about 400 were bloggers, or about 10% of the media. Or course, that doesn’t include reporters from mainstream news organizations who blog.
This year, CES officials handed out different badges to those it classified as press or bloggers. Gizmodo noted that the selection process seemed arbitrary and called the white blogger identification tag a “badge of shame.”
But bloggers got their own lounges at the Las Vegas and Venetian convention centers. They got front-row seats at major press conferences. And they filed articles at a rapid pace from press events and the show floor.
The four-day CES ends today.

Photo: Opening day of the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas Convention Center main hall on Jan. 7, 2010. (CEA photo)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Time to boot Microsoft from the opening keynote slot at the Consumer Electronics Show

The producers of the Consumer Electronics Show should give serious consideration to awarding their high-profile opening night keynote speech next year to a company other than Microsoft.
Microsoft has had that slot for many years at the annual trade show. It made sense when the speech was given by Microsoft co-founder and visionary Bill Gates, one of only a handful of rock stars in the tech business. But he’s since retired from daily operations at the company to focus on his philanthropic work.
For two years in a row, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has given the speech. Ballmer is a powerful business figure, but he doesn’t have the iconic status that Gates does.
Microsoft’s keynote on Wednesday was a lackluster affair, highlighted more by taped comedy bits from “Saturday Night Live” comic Seth Meyers than by killer products or concepts.
The tech world just doesn’t revolve around Microsoft like it used to.
Compare Microsoft’s keynote with those of Intel CEO Paul Otellini and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs at this year’s CES, which ends Sunday. Intel and Qualcomm showed how they are creating platforms and enabling technologies from which many other companies can benefit.
And those Intel and Qualcomm technologies nailed all the hot technologies at the 2010 CES: netbooks, web tablets, e-readers, smart phones, 3D TV and mobile digital TV. They paraded a host of new products and partner companies out on stage with them.
Intel and Qualcomm each demonstrated how they are creating ecosystems around their technologies that could drive the consumer electronics industry forward.
Microsoft offered little to excite attendees this year.
Its biggest announcement was an exclusive deal with Hewlett-Packard where Microsoft’s Bing will be the default search engine on new HP PCs and Microsoft’s MSN will be the default web homepage.
Ballmer teased the audience with a slate PC prototype from HP, but didn’t offer specifics or conduct an in-depth demo.
Microsoft also disclosed holiday 2010 availability for its previously announced Project Natal motion-detecting, controller-free interface for the Xbox video game console. But no pricing was revealed and no new demo offered. (Its original demo of Natal last June wowed the crowd at the E3 video game show in Los Angeles. They’re probably saving the next demo for E3 2010.)
Ballmer discussed the success of Windows 7, Microsoft’s latest PC operating system, released in October. But that’s nothing new or surprising.
In hindsight, a much better choice for the opening keynote would have been Google CEO Eric Schmidt and/or co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Google is rocking the consumer electronics world now with its Android operating system for smart phones and web tablets, its Chrome OS for PCs and its innovation around web software. Plus, it’s grabbing headlines for its massive book digitization project and the growth of its YouTube video website.
Microsoft is a powerful company and a big exhibitor at CES, so they might not take kindly to losing the kickoff keynote.
But CES organizers need to choose keynoters from companies having the most impact on consumer electronics today. Being able to generate excitement among attendees is an important consideration as well.

Photo: Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer demonstrates a Hewlett-Packard slate computer prototype Wed. Jan. 6, 2010, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Photo by Microsoft.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

My sexy Twitter followers


It’s time for another one of my occasional posts on my sexy Twitter followers.
I’m not talking about the many attractive PR women who have chosen to “follow” me on Twitter because of my day job as a tech reporter for Investor’s Business Daily.
I’m referring to the accounts set up by marketers that use photos of beautiful, sexy women as their Twitter profile photos.
They don’t follow me for long, but I appreciate having good-looking ladies on my Twitter follower list. Even though they’re just an illusion.
I’m talking about Twitter follower Lisa with her cleavage-baring top or Rachel G in her sexy black and red lingerie.
Thanks for stopping by, ladies.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Device forces you to estimate how badly you stunk up the restroom


On a recent visit to my parents’ new home in Illinois, I took an interest in a lighting and fan control fixture on their restroom wall.
In addition to the on-off switch for the light, it had a column of buttons for the ceiling fan. The fan buttons were labeled with the number of minutes the fan would operate before shutting off. The fan times listed were 5, 10, 15 and 30 minutes.
In effect, these buttons force the bathroom user to determine how badly he or she stunk up the place. Mild stink? Five minutes. A little worse? Ten minutes. Oh, my God, what died in here? Fifteen minutes. Hazmat zone? Thirty minutes.
In the future, I can envision automated systems that determine how long the fan needs to run. But in the meantime, these machines will require truthful assessments by the user.

Photos:
Bathroom control switch at my parents’ home;
Jim Carrey exits the bathroom and says, “Do NOT go in there!” Screen grab from “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994).

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Steve Jobs channels Jean-Luc Picard


I haven’t seen so many tablet computers, or at least concepts, since “Star Trek” was running new episodes.
Apple is rumored to be coming out with a tablet computer this year. Other tech companies, including Dell, HP and Lenovo, are following Apple’s lead and developing tablet computers as well.
The mockups I’ve seen look pretty familiar. That’s because they look like props from the science-fiction series “Star Trek.” The mockups are being done by media organizations that want to illustrate their Apple tablet rumor stories. The digital artists are probably “Star Trek” fans – tech geeks often are.
Maybe Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a fan of “Star Trek” too and channeled Captain Jean-Luc Picard to get his underlings to make a tablet by saying, “Make it so.”

Photos:
Mockup of an Apple tablet next to an iPhone by Gizmodo.
“Star Trek” tablet computer called a PADD, short for personal access display device. See description and photos on Memory Alpha.

Friday, January 1, 2010

10 people who are predicted to die in 2010

The wagers are in and Billy Graham is the odds-on favorite to die this year.
The 91-year-old Christian evangelist ranks No. 1 with players in this year’s Stiffs.com dead pool contest. Following close behind is Cuban leader Fidel Castro, 83.
Both men were on last year’s Stiffs.com top 10 picks list, but have moved up. Graham was ranked No. 6 last year and Castro No. 4. Graham has been on the top 10 most likely to die list for five straight years. Castro has made the list four years in a row. Eventually the dead pool players will be right.
Five of last year's top 10 picks croaked, including U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, actor Patrick Swayze, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, politico Eunice Shriver and columnist Bob Novak.
Contestants in the Stiffs.com dead pool pick 10 public figures they think are likely to die in the year ahead. Players list the people in order of certainty, with the one they think is most likely to die in the No. 1 position. Points are awarded according to position.

Top 10 picks in the 2010 Stiffs.com dead pool
  1. Billy Graham, 91, Christian evangelist

  2. Fidel Castro, 83, Cuban leader

  3. John Wooden, 99, basketball coach

  4. Zsa Zsa Gabor, 92, actress

  5. Chemical Ali, 68, former Iraqi minister awaiting death sentence for war crimes

  6. Ronnie Biggs, 80, British criminal famous for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963

  7. Ernie Harwell, 91, American sportscaster

  8. Seve Ballesteros, 52, professional golfer

  9. Robert Byrd, 92, U.S. senator from West Virginia

  10. Art Linkletter, 97, radio and TV personality

14 predictions for 2010

With 2009 over and 2010 beginning, lots of folks have come out with predictions for the New Year.
Here are some of the more interesting predictions:

  1. Microsoft buys AOL. (James Altucher, a managing partner of Formula Capital, on the Wall Street Journal blogs)

  2. Microsoft pushes out Steve Ballmer. (Newsweek)

  3. Facebook goes public. (Newsweek and ReadWriteWeb)

  4. Other possible IPOs in 2010: LinkedIn, Tesla Motors and ZipCar. (Minyanville)

  5. Palm is acquired, mostly likely by Microsoft or Research In Motion. (Computerworld)

  6. Carol Bartz is ousted as Yahoo’s CEO by the end of 2010. (Computerworld)

  7. Google faces an antitrust suit. (Newsweek)

  8. Apple unveils a tablet computer. (Newsweek)

  9. Magazine and newspaper publishing bounce back as consumers rediscover paid subscriptions for e-books and tablet computers. (BusinessWeek)

  10. Google partners with a large PC manufacturer in Asia to launch an inexpensive netbook powered by Chrome OS in the U.S. (ReadWriteWeb)

  11. Apple announces an iTunes web service, thanks to its Lala acquisition. (ReadWriteWeb)

  12. Brands that will disappear in 2010: Newsweek, Motorola, Palm, Borders and Blockbuster. (24/7 Wall St.)

  13. Magazines that will die in 2010: Entertainment Weekly, Ebony and Jet. (Paul Armstrong of TheMediaIsDying, writing in Folio)

  14. Celebrities who will die in 2010: Dick Clark, Larry King and Courtney Love. (Holy Taco
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