Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Psychic predictions, LFL women, fairytale art lead most popular blog posts of 2013

Web surfers visiting Tech-media-tainment most enjoy articles about year-ahead predictions, LFL wardrobe malfunctions and fairytale art.
What follows is a list of the most popular stories on TMT in descending order from 2013.
  1. Psychic predictions for 2013: Barack Obama’s life ‘in grave danger,’ Joe Biden diagnosed with senile dementia. (Jan. 1, 2013
  2. New LFL uniforms, same wardrobe malfunctions. (May 7, 2013
  3. Fairytale art for adults. (Jan. 29, 2013
  4. 10 entertaining websites, including You Had One Job! and Blackboards in Porn. (June 30, 2013
  5. Lingerie Football League is finished, replaced by Legends Football League. (Jan. 27, 2013
  6. Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2013. (Jan. 3, 2013
  7. Public treats porn performers, nude models like criminals. (Jan. 17, 2013
  8. The 12 best LFL players. (Feb. 17, 2013
  9. Sexy Tinker Bell art. (July 26, 2013
  10. Sexy Cinderella depictions. (July 25, 2013
  11. U.S. maps showing movie and TV show locations. (June 6, 2013
  12. ‘Wizard of Oz’ alive and well thanks to the public domain. (March 7, 2013
  13. Yahoo Mail has gotten really slow and buggy lately (May 22, 2013
  14. Fun art inspired by ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ (March 8, 2013
  15. Tumblr terminated my account, killed my three blogs. (May 20, 2013
  16. Porn parodies of Oscar-winning movies. (Feb. 24, 2013
  17. Bonnie McKee’s ‘American Girl’ could bring waves of foreign men to U.S. (July 21, 2013
  18. 10 celebrity-related Tumblr blogs. (May 17, 2013
  19. Fairytale princesses reimagined as superheroes, college students, sloths. (July 28, 2013
  20. Absurd morality against sexy women who model extends to Europe. (Jan. 18, 2013
I neglected to do a list of the top blog posts from 2012. So here they are:
  1. Best uncensored Lingerie Football League wardrobe malfunction photos. (Dec. 3, 2012
  2. Pop culture artists love to reimagine fairytale characters. (Feb. 1, 2012
  3. Lingerie Football League uniforms aren’t functional; Wardrobe malfunctions continue. (May 29, 2012
  4. YourVersion targeted by Chinese hackers. (Dec. 1, 2012
  5. Google prudish about Lingerie Football League. (Sept. 3, 2012
  6. TSA agents can’t keep their hands off porn stars. (May 24, 2012
  7. Tiger Woods is back … and so are businesses capitalizing on his fame. (March 30, 2012
  8. Adam Levine, Kyra Sedgwick, other celebs talk about getting felt up by TSA agents. (May 23, 2012
  9. Cee Lo Green’s cat, star of ‘The Voice.’ (March 27, 2012
  10. Top 20 celebrities predicted to die in 2012. (Jan. 1, 2012
  11. Funny TSA graphics, cartoons and photos. (March 21, 2012
  12. Lego ‘Finding Bigfoot.’ (March 5, 2012
  13. TSA agents like to pat down pretty ladies. But why? (Dec. 11, 2012
  14. ‘Finding Bigfoot’ – a guilty pleasure TV show. (Feb. 29, 2012
  15. Lego dioramas of reality TV shows, including ‘The Voice’, ‘AGT’ and ‘Wipeout.’ (Oct. 7, 2012
  16. More Lego recreations of reality TV: ‘Billy the Exterminator’ and ‘Hillbilly Handfishin’.’ (March 25, 2012
  17. McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger with Bacon: Advertising vs. reality. (May 21, 2012
  18. The intersection of art and porn. (Sept. 9, 2012
  19. Science fiction, horror and fantasy stories in the public domain. (Feb. 6, 2012
  20. Leap Motion, 3D printers and Google Glass predicted to be hot products in 2013. (Dec. 29, 2012
Photo: LFL standout and beautiful woman Liz Gorman. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Respect for lawyers and other oddball predictions for 2014

Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard thinks people in 2014 will suddenly stop hating lawyers and treat them like heroes.
Yeah, right.
In a story in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Allard predicted that 2014 will be a “rebound year for law schools, their students and the profession.”
Here are two of his predictions for the New Year:
  1. Ten years from now, people will look back at 2014 and say it marked the start of the new world of law: a renaissance where the respect and reputation of lawyers and law schools began to rise by measurable benchmarks.
  2. Significantly, in 2014 the ABA will lead the way to restoring the national reputation of law as an honorable, noble profession. For example, next year the ABA will begin a national two-year conversation around its activities to celebrate the upcoming 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Even children will learn that we are a nation of laws, and many will be able to answer the trivia question: “Who signed the Magna Carta on a grassy field in Runnymede in 1215?” Answer: “No one – it was ‘sealed’ by King John.”
2014 food trends 

The National Restaurant Association issued its forecast for what will be hot in 2014.
For starters, it says ethnic-inspired breakfast items (e.g. Asian-flavored syrups, chorizo scrambled eggs, coconut milk pancakes) and traditional ethnic breakfast items (e.g. huevos rancheros, shakshuka, ashta) will be big in the New Year.
Leading the top trends for restaurants are local-sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce and hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens).
The top ethnic cuisines and flavors of 2014 will be Peruvian, Korean and Southeast Asian (e.g. Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian).
Trends showing big declines include Greek yogurt, sweet-potato fries and organic coffee, the restaurant group said.
Restaurant consultant group Baum + Whiteman LLC expects Hipster Asian, Jewish Fusion, Filipino dishes, Mexican sandwiches and Mideast cooking “beyond Spain and Greece” to emerge in the New Year.
Better-for-you dining, including the acceleration of the Paleo diet, will continue to grow, the consultants say. The Paleo diet focuses on food from the Stone Age, such as meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm, predicts that the rising cost of beef will mean that chicken will be big again in 2014, but so will pork. Restaurants will be “pushing the parameters of proteins” next year, Technomic said. Pork is “the latest protein star … appearing in regional barbecue items, in Hispanic and other ethnic fare, in charcuterie and as pulled-pork sandwiches. Also getting time in the spotlight are lamb and game meats, from duck to bison.”

Hot music acts 

Music discovery app Shazam issued its list of acts expected to have break-through years in 2014.

The Shazam team selected the artists by starting with qualitative industry tastemaker selections and then ranked them using quantitative data from Shazam queries of those artists.
The performers expected to make headlines in 2014 are:
  • Action Bronson – Queens native Bronson lists early influences as Wu-Tang Clan. He launched his first album 2011 but gained huge Shazam tags in 2013 after releasing several hotly tipped mix tapes. 
  • August Alsina – August’s single “I Luv This Shit” has been one of the most Shazamed rap tracks of 2013 and his mix tape tracks are also gaining traction with hip-hop heads. 
  • Banks – Born Jillian Banks, she started writing music as a teenager in suburban LA and released an acclaimed EP in 2013. 
  • Jhene Aiko – Collaborations with Drake and Big Sean thrust her into the public eye in 2013. Now, after releasing a mix tape, “Sail Out,” Aiko looks set for big things. 
  • Kid Ink – XXL Magazine listed Kid Ink among artists like Danny Brown and Macklemore in its 2012 Freshman Class feature. Signed with RCA/Epic, Kid Ink is set to release his first album under a major label this year. 
  • Lucy Hale – Best known for her role as Aria Montgomery on the ABC Family series, “Pretty Little Liars,” Hale is set to be the next country star. 
  • Martin Garrix – Dutch DJ best known for his track, “Animals,” Garrix is the youngest person ever to top the Beatport charts. (Pictured above.)
  • Rich Homie Quan – Georgia native and artist for the Island Jam label, Quan has been named by the New York Times as one of “Atlanta’s rising generation of rappers … who deliver lines with melody and heart, like singers on the verge of a breakdown.” 
  • Sam Smith – London-born Smith contributed the soaring vocals on Disclosure’s 2013 hit, “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La.” He prefers the raw soul style in the vein of his favorite artists, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin. 
  • Vance Joy – Originally from Melbourne, Vance Joy has already achieved success in his native Australia with his single, “Riptide,” and is set to break globally this year. 
Music industry executives at the 10th annual Advertising Week conference in New York City were asked to make predictions about notable trends in 2014, Billboard reported.
“Music sponsorships in North America will pay artists and record labels more than Pandora, Spotify and YouTube combined,” Marcie Allen, founder/president, MAC Presents, said. MAC Presents creates sponsorship programs among top artists, fashion labels and brands.

Political predictions 

Republican political consultant Karl Rove made his annual predictions. Chief among them is fallout from President Barack Obama’s problem-plagued Affordable Care Act rollout.
Here are some specifics:
Mr. Obama’s Gallup disapproval rating will end higher than this week’s 53%.
Republicans will keep the House with a modest pickup of 4-6 seats.
The GOP will most likely end up with 50 or 51 Senate seats.
Tens of millions more Americans will lose their coverage and find that new ObamaCare plans have higher premiums, larger deductibles and fewer doctors. Enrollment numbers will be smaller than projected and budget outlays will be higher. The White House will blame insurers and Republicans for the law’s continuing failures. At year’s end, Kathleen Sebelius will still be HHS Secretary. Support for ObamaCare will drop below 30%, causing congressional Democrats to clamber for major changes and delays. The administration will resist most such ideas, except lifting the individual mandate penalty for 2014.
Outside of politics: “Duck Dynasty” will set another cable viewership record. Miley Cyrus will fade as a cultural phenomenon. Sandra Bullock will win an Oscar for “Gravity.” Peyton Manning will win a fifth MVP award and the Seattle Seahawks their first Lombardi Trophy.

Photos: 2014 art from ChristmasStockImages.com; Mexican breakfast photo by Ricardo (rvacapinta on Flickr); Dutch DJ Martin Garrix (photo Jasper K from Wikimedia Commons).

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Psychic predictions for 2014 about royal family, celebrities

For those who believe in this sort of thing, psychics are in agreement about England’s Prince William and Duchess Kate having another baby soon.
Three psychics say Kate will become pregnant with her second child in 2014. Two say it will be a girl.
Here are some predictions for the new year by four notable psychics:
Los Angeles psychic Judy Hevenly gave her annual predictions to the San Bernardino County Sun.
  • Kate Middleton pregnant with second child. 
  • Last year of reign for Queen Elizabeth. 
  • Pope Francis hospitalized for lung infection. 
  • Academy Awards swept by “12 Years a Slave,” winning Best Movie, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor/Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score. 
  • Chelsea Clinton announces pregnancy and has baby boy. 
Hollywood psychic Christian Dion made a bunch of 2014 predictions, according to ONTD.
  • Royal couple William and Kate: “A great year and toward the end of this year and the beginning of next one the new baby announced. Little girl.” 
  • Late-night talk shows: “When Jimmy Fallon goes to the Tonight Show, he will be an amazing success, (given time). Good year for Kimmel. Not so good for Conan. Leno, on his way out, but not without a fight. It’s going to be really tough for Seth Meyers, but I do think in the end will be ok.” 
  • “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm: “His year for an Emmy.” 
  • Heart-throb actor Ryan Gosling: “So broken up from Eva Mendes at the moment, but they’ll be back together! Then engaged.” 
  • Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: “I see a really bad year for these two including a break up.” 
  • Reality TV family the Kardashians: “Believe it or not, this year sees the beginning of the end for the trailer trash morons.” 
  • Prince Harry: “Royal Engagement, Cressida Bonas.” 
Celebrity psychic Thomas John gave his predictions and was featured in the Hollywood Reporter and Life & Style magazine.
  • Jessica Biel is pregnant. 
  • Blake Lively is pregnant. 
  • Katy Perry and John Mayer split. 
  • Sharon Stone makes a huge comeback in a great picture and is given many awards. 
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie: I just don’t get a warm feeling from this couple, and my sense is that they are on their way to a breakup. Strangely, I see another child coming to Angelina, too, in the next two years. I feel there isn't much chemistry here, and the connection is basically based on the kids. I definitely see them growing apart. A split and separation is definitely in basically inevitable for these two in the next two years, and I feel it could happen in 2014 or early 2015. 
  • Miley Cyrus: She is going to enter rehab at some point next year, but her career is going to remain strong. 
  • Prince William and Duchess Kate: They are already planning a second pregnancy, which I predict will happen by the beginning of 2015 – we will likely (hear) rumors in 2014 about it, and confirmation of it towards the end of the year. The second baby will be a girl, and make a great playmate for baby George. I also see William being announced as the King of England in 2014. 
Sidney Friedman, the “Mentalist to the Stars,” made his 2014 predictions in a press release.
  • Edward Snowden will return to the United States and will NOT face trial. 
  • Pope Francis announces plans for a visit to North America. Chicago will be one of the destinations. (And although it’s been revealed the Pope will visit the Middle East for two days, the trip actually will extend to four days.) 
  • Kanye and Kim’s wedding will be televised live. Some of the revenue will go to charity. 
  • Snow falls in southern Florida. 
  • The Chicago Cubs will make it to the World Series. 
Photo: Prince William and Kate Middleton announce their engagement on Nov. 16, 2010. Photo by UK_repsome.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Business cliches are ‘table stakes’

Lately I’ve seen a resurgence of the business cliche “table stakes,” a term used to describe something important to a company.
As a search term on Google, “table stakes” spiked last month. In November, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly described price competitiveness as “table stakes” for the consumer electronics retailer.
Just last week, I saw the term used by an online advertising researcher in an article titled, “Programmatic Is Table Stakes.”
NPR reported in June that the term seemed to be popping up all over the place. It’s one of many gambling terms favored by business executives, along with “double down” and “go all in,” NPR said.

Related article: 

9 Buzzwords That Can Make You Sound Dumb (American Express Open Forum; Nov. 25, 2013)

Photos: Poker chips by Play Among Friends.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Google robots dominate DARPA competition

Two robot-makers recently acquired by Google dominated the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials, held Dec. 20-21 in Homestead, Fla. The competition is a lead-up to the DRC Finals, which will be held sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.
The purpose of the competition is to advance the development of robots that can aid in disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011. The contest is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Robots at last week’s event had to drive a vehicle, walk over rough terrain, climb a ladder, remove debris, open a door, cut through a wall, close three types of valves, and carry and connect a fire hose. Sixteen teams took part in the robotics trials.
Schaft, a spin-out of the University of Tokyo that was acquired by Google in recent months, won the contest with 27 out of a possible 32 points, MIT Technology Review reported.
The teams that came in second and fourth used a humanoid robot called Atlas, built by another Google-owned company, Boston Dynamics. Those teams from IHMC and MIT, respectively, developed software to run the robots. The third-place team was from Carnegie Mellon University.
The eight teams with the highest scores will receive up to $1 million in funding to prepare for the final round, where a winner will get $2 million.

Related articles: 

Japanese Team Dominates Competition to Create Generation of Rescue Robots (New York Times; Dec. 22, 2013)

Google’s Schaft robot wins Darpa rescue challenge. (BBC; Dec. 23, 2013)

Photos from DARPA: The S-One robot from Schaft raises its arms in victory after successfully climbing an industrial ladder at the DRC Trials (top); Ian, an Atlas robot with IHMC Robotics, successfully cuts a hole in a wall.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The public domain: Hollywood’s go-to source for movie ideas

Hollywood often recycles stories for movies. And among the best stories to use are those in the public domain.
Studios love to make movies that have built-in audiences, where people are already familiar with the stories and characters. Many such stories are in the public domain and therefore are owned by everyone. They’re part of our shared culture, just like our history.
Public domain stories also are free for anyone to use and for artists to experiment and play with. The creators were compensated during a limited period of monopoly protection and now the public at large can benefit from them.
Two major motion pictures in theaters now are based on public domain works. Disney’s “Frozen” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” (1845). The historical drama “12 Years a Slave” is based on an 1853 autobiography by Solomon Northup.
What follows is a list of movies in production or awaiting release based on literature in the public domain.
  • The Bible: At least six movies based on the Bible are coming to theaters soon. “Noah” stars Russell Crowe as the Old Testament ark builder. Will Smith is working on “The Redemption of Cain,” based on the story of Cain and Abel. Warner Bros. is developing a movie called “Methuselah,” based on the biblical 1,000-year-old man. Christian Bale is set to play Moses in the Ridley Scott film “Exodus.” Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus in “Son of God.” Brad Pitt is looking to play the title role in the Warner Bros. film “Pontius Pilate.”
  • Plays by William Shakespeare: This fall saw the release of two films based on Shakespearean plays: “Much Ado About Nothing” from director Joss Whedon and “Romeo and Juliet” starring Hailee Steinfeld. Coming soon are “Cymbeline” starring Ethan Hawke and Ed Harris; and “Macbeth” starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
  • Classic fairy tales: After the success of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Hollywood took a renewed interest in fairy tales as source material for movies. Angelina Jolie is playing the evil fairy in “Maleficent,” based on the “Sleeping Beauty” story. Director Kenneth Branagh is making “Cinderella,” starring Lilly James and Cate Blanchett. Two movies of “Beauty and the Beast” are in the works, one from director Christophe Gans and starring Vincent Cassel and the other from director Guillermo del Toro and starring Emma Watson. Disney is making a live-action musical “Into the Woods,” which features such fairy tale characters as Rapunzel, Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. Filmmaker Henry Selick is set to direct a live-action version of “A Tale Dark and Grimm,” which features Hansel and Gretel and other Brothers Grimm characters. Meanwhile, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 2,” a sequel to the revisionist fairy tale is in the works.
  • Classic children’s stories: Robert Downey Jr. is set to star as Geppetto in a live-action “Pinocchio.” (A stop-motion animation adaptation of the work by director Guillermo del Toro is on indefinite hold.) Disney is making “Alice in Wonderland 2,” a sequel to its 2010 hit. Disney also is doing a live-action movie of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” Two Peter Pan origin story movies are in the works: “Pan” from director Joe Wright and “Peter and the Starcatchers” from director Gary Ross. Director Guy Ritchie is working on a new version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate tale “Treasure Island.” Several Wizard of Oz movies are in the works: the sequel to “Oz the Great and Powerful,” the animated “Dorothy of Oz” and possibly “Twisted Land of Oz” from Warner Bros. Director David Fincher is developing an adaptation of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
  • Charles Dickens stories: Director Mike Newell’s adaptation of Dickens’ classic novel “Great Expectations” was released in select theaters last month. It stars Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Robbie Coltrane. Red Bull Media House is making “Twist,” a parkour action version of the Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.” Sony Pictures is making “Dodge & Twist,” based on the characters Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger.
  • Sherlock Holmes: Warner Bros. is developing a third “Sherlock Holmes” movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as the famed detective. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures is remaking “Young Sherlock Holmes,” which depicts Holmes and buddy Watson as teenagers.
  • Tarzan: Director David Yates is directing a live-action “Tarzan” for Warner Bros. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ King of the Apes also is being adapted as an animated movie featuring Kellan Lutz called “Tarzan 3D.”
  • Frankenstein: Frankenstein’s monster is the subject of several upcoming movies. First up is “I, Frankenstein” starring Aaron Eckhart, which is set for release Jan. 24. Paul McGuigan is directing an update of “Frankenstein” for 20th Century Fox, starring James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe. The Fox version of Mary Shelley’s 19th century novel is told from the perspective of Igor, played by Radcliffe. This year also saw the release of “Frankenstein’s Army.”
  • Dracula: Universal Pictures is making “Dracula Untold,” which is described as an origin story for the famous vampire. The film stars Luke Evans and is directed by Gary Shore. Tom Cruise is slated to star as Dracula’s nemesis in the Universal film “Van Helsing.”
  • Classic literature: David Goyer plans to direct an adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas revenge tale “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Actor Johnny Depp is working on a big-screen modern-day re-imagining of “Don Quixote” for Disney. Paramount Pictures is developing a “Huck and Finn,” a modern-day interpretation of Mark Twain’s most famous characters. MGM wants to make a new movie based on the 1880 novel “Ben-Hur.” Screenwriter Albert Torres is working on a feature adaptation of the Dark Horse graphic novel “The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde,” which is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.”
  • Legends and mythology: Two Hercules movies are on the way. First up is “The Legend of Hercules” starring Kellan Lutz as the Greek hero. It’s set for release on Jan. 10. Next is “Hercules: The Thracian Wars” starring Dwayne Johnson and directed by Brett Ratner. DreamWorks has teamed with director Scott Waugh to make a Robin Hood movie called “Merry Men.” Warner Bros. is making a live-action movie “Merlin” about the wizard from Arthurian legend. Warner Bros. also is developing “Arthur & Lancelot” from the same legend.
This is just a sampling of upcoming movies based on public domain literature. I’ve listed other examples in previous articles on the subject. They’re almost too numerous to mention at this point.

Related reading: 

15 years ago, Congress kept Mickey Mouse out of the public domain. Will they do it again? (The Washington Post; Oct. 25, 2013)

Why you should care about the public domain. (Feb. 22, 2012)

Public domain works flourishing on TV: Dracula, Sleepy Hollow and more. (Oct. 25, 2013)

Photos: Posters from “12 Years a Slave” and “Frozen.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame slowly inducting actual rock acts

In recent years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has seemed more interested in inducting pop music acts than traditional rock groups.
For instance, it chose disco queen Donna Summer, Swedish pop group ABBA, crooner Neil Diamond and top 40 artist Madonna.
True to form, this year the hall selected Hall and Oates, Linda Ronstadt and Cat Stevens.
But surprisingly they also picked some actual rock music acts: Nirvana, Kiss and Peter Gabriel. The 2014 class of inductees was announced Tuesday. (See article by Reuters.)
There are still lots of deserving rock bands who have been passed over for recognition, including Yes, Chicago, Journey, Boston, Cheap Trick, the Cars and Def Leppard.
But they’re making progress.

Photo: Cover of Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind.” 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are Amazon and Google trying to make the robot apocalypse happen?

Internet giants Amazon and Google have taken a serious interest in robotics lately.
Amazon is developing a fleet of flying delivery robots called Amazon Prime Air. It also is increasing its use of robots in its warehouses, using technology it acquired from Kiva Systems.
Meanwhile, Google is working on self-driving cars. Plus, on Friday, Google revealed that it purchased Boston Dynamics, maker of robots that resemble mechanical pack mules and Terminators.
Boston Dynamics made Atlas, a 6-foot 2-inch tall, 330-pound monster that walks on two legs and is the stuff of nightmares. It was designed with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to help respond to disasters, such as the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan in 2011. But it looks like the killer robots from the Terminator movies.
Atlas and a bunch of similar robots will be competing in a DARPA competition this week in Homestead, Fla.
The New York Times reports that Google has purchased eight robotics companies in the last half year. Google isn’t saying exactly what it has in mind with the technology.
Advancements in robotics have some people wringing their hands about safety and security.
Robots also are making it more cost effective to do manufacturing in the U.S. again. For instance, Apple’s new factory in Texas to make the Mac Pro computer is highly automated.
Quite a few articles were written this year about the potential for job losses related to increased use of robots. (See articles by the Huffington Post, Associated Press, New York Times and Mindflash.)
Welcome to the future.

Related reading: 

Meet the real life Terminator: Most advanced robot ever is able to walk through battlefields as bullets fly and even nuclear disaster zones to rescue the injured. (The Daily Mail; July 12, 2013)

Amazon unveils futuristic plan: Delivery by drone. (CBS; Dec. 2, 2013)

Amazon Tests 30-Minute Delivery Via Helicopter Drones. (IBD; Dec. 2, 2013)

Before Amazon’s Drones Come the Robots. (Wall Street Journal; Dec. 8, 2013)

Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android. (New York Times; Dec. 4, 2013)

Photos: Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics; Amazon Prime Air drone. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What does 2014 hold for post-apocalyptic movies?

2013 was a banner year for post-apocalyptic movies.
At least eight movies were released theatrically that dealt with life on Earth after apocalyptic events, including “Oblivion,” This Is the End” and “Pacific Rim.”
And 12 more such themed movies are still awaiting their U.S. premieres. They include “Snowpiercer” starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, which takes place in a new ice age.
Scheduled for release in 2014 are the alien invasion film “Edge of Tomorrow” starring Tom Cruise, apes-take-over-the world flick “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and zombie apocalypse film “Resident Evil 6.”
Then in 2015, the latest movie in the Mad Max series premieres, “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
I count at least seven more major Hollywood movies in production that take place after apocalyptic events.

Photos: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” poster, and Tom Hardy as Mad Max in “Mad Max: Fury Road.” 

See also: Comprehensive list of post-apocalyptic movies.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show: Soft-core porn or mainstream entertainment

There was a difference of opinion in my household tonight about whether the “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” is legitimate mainstream entertainment.
I think it is, but my wife called it “soft-core porn.”
Although the annual show contains no nudity or sexual situations, the idea of attractive young women prancing around in underwear creates the impression that it only appeals to prurient interests.
The show, which is basically a one-hour commercial for the Victoria’s Secret lingerie brand, is packed with pop music and crazy fashions that marry haute couture with Las Vegas showgirl wear. It’s a spectacle of sights and sounds.
This year’s show, which aired tonight on CBS, featured musical performances by Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, A Great Big World and Neon Jungle.
Standout performances included Swift and Fall Out Boy joining up for the latter’s hit single “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” and Ian Axel of A Great Big World singing “Say Something.”
In years past, the show featured some great song mash-ups, but they’ve mostly given way to live performances recently. I did enjoy the use of the (censored) Miley Cyrus tune “F.U.” and the David Guetta track “I Wanna Go Crazy” with Will.i.am this year.
I like the combination of pop music, stage theatrics and over-the-top costumes with wings, feathers and lace. And yes, the pretty ladies are nice to look at too. But it’s not soft-core porn.

Photos: Behati Prinsloo struts past singer Taylor Swift (top); models Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel and Prinsloo at the 2013 “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lego ‘Tanked’ diorama

Continuing my hobby of making Lego dioramas of reality TV shows, here are a couple of photos of my toy depiction of Animal Planet’s “Tanked.”
It’s a mixed media diorama since I could only find a few boring silver Lego fish to use. So I brightened it up with some miscellaneous plastic toy fish.
“Tanked,” now in its fifth season, follows the operations of Las Vegas-based Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, owned by brothers-in-law Brett Raymer and Wayde King.

Related websites: 

Animal Planet’s website for “Tanked.”

Wikipedia entry on “Tanked.”

Sunday, December 1, 2013

TV midseason report card: Passing grades for ‘Almost Human,’ ‘Agents of SHIELD’

TV networks are at the midyear mark of the 2013-14 season. So it’s a good time for reflection.
Among the new shows I started watching this fall, Fox sci-fi cop series “Almost Human” and ABC comic book-hero drama “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” are keeping my interest, but barely. Both are competently made, but lack the must-see factor of some of the serial dramas I watch.
On “Almost Human,” the pairing of Karl Urban and Michael Ealy as human and android cop partners is the best thing about the show. The actors have great chemistry. I wish the plots were a little darker and deeper though. There needs to be some through line or story arc for the series otherwise it’s just a cop procedural set in the future. Yawn.
And for the love of God, give something more substantial for supporting actors Lili Taylor and Minka Kelly to do. They’re both wasted on this show. They just walk around the office and relay information to the main characters.
As for “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD,” it’s a favorite of my 10-year-old son, but I could take it or leave it. It needs more danger and better villains.
I tried watching “The Tomorrow People,” but it got old fast. A few episodes in and the show felt redundant and pointless. I didn’t care much for the protagonists either. I was hoping for more of a “Heroes” or “X-Men” vibe, but the characters were vanilla and they all shared similar superpowers. Boring.
I also canned Lifetime’s “Witches of East End.” I enjoyed watching the lovely Julia Ormond, Madchen Amick and Jenna Dewan-Tatum, but the show moved at a glacial pace. It kept hitting the same notes over and over without advancing the story. Viewers need regular payoffs to keep watching. I didn’t feel rewarded.
Among returning shows, I crossed off my watch list CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” now in its fifth season. Too many characters dying and coming back to life. Too many doppelgangers (actress Nina Dobrev had three look-alike roles at one point). Too many of the same angsty conversations. I had had enough.
I’m frankly pretty sick of vampires at this point. I declined to watch new vampire shows “The Originals” on the CW and “Dracula” on NBC for that reason.
My favorite returning shows are “The Walking Dead” on AMC, “Supernatural” on the CW, “Revolution” on NBC and “American Horror Story” on FX.
Shows I like to watch with my kids include NBC’s “The Voice,” Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot,” Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” and Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time.”
Midseason replacement shows on my potential watch list include the CW’s “The 100,” NBC’s “Crossbones” and “Believe,” and ABC’s “Killer Women.”

Photos: “Almost Human” promotional art. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The link between President Obama and post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows

Art imitates life when it comes to Hollywood entertainment.
During the Red Scare after World War II, movies addressed fears about the rise of communism in the U.S. (See “The Red Scare: A Filmography” by the All Powers Project.)
When nuclear war was a constant concern after the Cuban missile crisis and before the fall of the Soviet Union, Hollywood depicted the public’s fear of an attack. (See “From Atoms to Apocalypse: Film and the Nuclear Issues” by Mick Broderick at NuclearFiles.org.)
Now, partway through the second term of President Barack Obama, we’re seeing an unprecedented number of movies, TV shows and video games that take place in a post-apocalyptic world.
These forms of entertainment reflect our nation’s psyche after the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession.
The number of post-apocalyptic dramas has increased significantly under President Obama. Perhaps Americans feel like our country is now great wasteland ruined by U.S. government policies, which have put the nation deeply in debt and stuck with high unemployment.
With the NSA spying scandal, the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare (a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act) and a lame-duck president, Americans have become even more pessimistic about the future of the U.S.
Since Obama took office, five post-apocalyptic TV series have premiered. During the two terms of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, three premiered, including one from the U.K. Four post-apocalyptic TV dramas are currently airing. AMC has “The Walking Dead.” NBC has “Revolution.” TNT has “Falling Skies.” And SyFy has “Defiance.”
Two more post-apocalyptic TV shows are set to air next year. The CW has “The 100,” which takes place 97 years after nuclear Armageddon destroyed civilization on Earth. TNT has “The Last Ship,” which takes place after a global pandemic wipes out 80% of the world’s population.
Plus, there are at least seven more post-apocalyptic shows in development.
AMC is working on a spin-off of “The Walking Dead.” It will feature a new cast of characters dealing with the zombie apocalypse.
AMC also is making a series called “Galyntine,” a post-apocalyptic tale about a society that eschews all forms of technology following a global disaster.
HBO is developing “The Leftovers,” which concerns a small town dealing with the aftermath of a global Rapture-like event.
SyFy is hoping to do a TV series based on the movie “Waterworld,” which takes place after the polar ice caps melt and flood the Earth.
SyFy also has ordered a pilot for a TV series based on the movie “12 Monkeys.” The story “follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race.”
Plus, SyFy has ordered a pilot for “Dominion,” a drama based on the 2010 movie “Legion.” The show is described as “as an epic supernatural action drama set 25 years in the future after a war between an army of angels and mankind has transformed the world.”
And “X-Files” creator Chris Carter is developing a post-apocalyptic drama series for Amazon.com called “The After.” I’m not sure television can survive so many end-of-the-world programs.
I’ll update post-apocalyptic movies soon.

Related articles: 

Post-apocalyptic TV dramas proliferating. Part of Obama’s legacy? (Aug. 14, 2012)

List of post-apocalyptic TV dramas (Aug. 16, 2012)

Another post-apocalyptic TV drama coming. (Oct. 15, 2012)

Post-apocalyptic TV series are spreading. (July 9, 2013)

Video game industry embraces the apocalypse. (July 12, 2013)

Photos: Promotional art and still from the upcoming CW series “The 100.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

Persecution of sexy women continues

Here we go again.
A couple more cases have cropped up of female teachers being fired after the discovery of sexy photos unrelated to their jobs. America needs to just chill out and be more tolerant of such things.
Last month, Cristy Nicole Deweese, 21, was fired from her job as a high school Spanish teacher in Dallas after administrators found out she had posed naked for Playboy while in college.
School administrators deemed her past inappropriate. One parent told the Dallas Morning News that the revelation would be a distraction for her 16- and 17-year-old male students who wouldn’t be able to look at her without picturing her nude.
News flash: Teenage boys would do that with or without photos, especially since she’s a beautiful young woman.
(See additional news coverage by the Daily Mail, Huffington Post, New York Daily News and Fox News.)
Also in October, Laraine Cook, a girls’ basketball coach in Pocatello, Idaho, was fired for racy photo posted to her Facebook account. In the photo, Cook is wearing a bikini and her fiance has his hand on her right breast. The school considered the photo immoral.
Meanwhile, her fiance, a football coach at the same high school, got off with a reprimand.
Sounds like a double standard to me.
(See news coverage by the Huffington Post, Business Insider and the New York Daily News.)

Photos: Cristy Nichole Deweese (top) and Laraine Cook and fiance (bottom).

Related stories:

Being a porn actress isn’t a crime, so women shouldn’t be harassed because of it (April 3, 2011)

Public treats porn performers, nude models like criminals (Jan. 17, 2013)

Absurd morality against sexy women who model extends to Europe (Jan. 18, 2013)

America continues to punish sexy women (June 5, 2013)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My pampered cat only likes drinking water from dripping faucets

My cat Sherpa is spoiled. He has given up drinking water from his pet fountain in the kitchen and now demands fresh water from a dripping faucet in the bathtub.
The recycled, filtered water in his cat fountain doesn’t suit his refined tastes. He wants his water fresh from the tap.
My cat, a 12-year-old Himalayan, might have some genetic memory of drinking glacier melt water. I don’t know. All I know is that he will pester me in the bathroom until I turn on the tub faucet. (See photos above and below.)
I like to write about cats when this blog hits milestones. This month, Tech-media-tainment reached two milestones. It reached its five-year anniversary and surpassed 1.5 million visitors. Thanks for all your support!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sex slang: The latest juvenile gotcha

There’s a scene in “Wayne’s World” (1992) where the two protagonists trick a fuddy-duddy adult into answering to the name of a dirty body part.
“Ass sphincter says what?” Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) asks.
“What?” a confused Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray) replies.
“Exactly,” Wayne says.
Ha-ha. Gotcha.
Lately social media has been busting news anchors and other public figures for unknowingly saying sex slang. But at least one of the recent examples involves pretty obscure slang.
On Oct. 31, the Rev. Joel Osteen, best-selling author and pastor of megachurch Lakewood in Houston, made an embarrassing post on Twitter.
“A true friend walks in when everybody else walks out. A true friend doesn’t rub it in when you make a mistake. They rub it out,” he wrote.
That message sent social media atwitter and Osteen deleted the post. I guess I’m not up on my slang, because it turns out that “rub it out” is slang for masturbation.
Oh, gotcha.
And that expression has been used before. See the photo (and Internet meme) below of a sign outside Grace Baptist Church.
In another instance of accidental sex slang, a commentator on a Fox News broadcast said President Obama and his wife enjoy “fisting.” She meant to say “fist bumping.” Whoops. See the YouTube video here.
Or how about the news anchor in Canada who didn’t know the definition of “canoodle”? See that YouTube video here.
Frankly it’s getting pretty hard to keep up on all the slang. I’m always looking up unfamiliar slang words online, especially on Urban Dictionary. So have your giggles, people, and cut these folks some slack.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chicago only U.S. city nominated as one of the “seven wonders of the world”

Chicago, the so-called “Second City,” is No. 1 by one measure: It’s the only U.S. city nominated in a competition to become one of the “seven wonders of the world” in the city category by New 7 Wonders.
The organization announced its 28 finalists for the honor on Oct. 21. The group will be winnowed down to 21 on July 7, 14 on Oct. 7 and the official “seven wonders” on Dec. 7, 2014.
The Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation previously selected new “seven wonders” of the world for man-made structures and nature. The cities category is its third competition.
The cities competition started last year with more than 1,200 nominees in over 220 countries. That was cut to more than 300 earlier this month, then to 77 and the current 28. A panel of seven experts trimmed the nominees after online voting in the qualification phase finished.
The 28 finalists are Athens, Greece; Bangkok, Thailand; Barcelona, Spain; Beirut, Lebanon; Casablanca, Morocco; Chicago, U.S.A.; Doha, Qatar; Durban, South Africa; Havana, Cuba; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Istanbul, Turkey; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Kyoto, Japan; La Paz, Bolivia; London, United Kingdom; Mendoza, Argentina; Mexico City, Mexico; Mumbai, India; Perth, Australia; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Prague, the Czech Republic; Quito, Ecuador; Reykjavik, Iceland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Seoul, South Korea; Shenzhen, China; Vancouver, Canada, and Vigan, the Philippines.
You can vote for your seven favorites among the finalists online at the New 7 Wonders Cities website.
I voted for Chicago, London, Barcelona, Casablanca, Seoul, Kyoto and Mexico City.
Chicago deserves to be named one of the municipal wonders of the world. It’s a beautiful city with a rich history, amazing architecture, great parks and culture. I have a soft spot for Chi-town because I grew up in the north suburbs of the great city.
In 2005, the Chicago Tribune conducted a poll to determine the Seven Wonders of Chicago.
They are:
  1. The Lakefront 
  2. Wrigley Field 
  3. The “L” 
  4. The Sears Tower (now renamed the Willis Tower) 
  5. The Water Tower 
  6. The University of Chicago 
  7. The Museum of Science and Industry 
Other nominees included the Chicago River, Millennium Park, Chicago blues, the Chicago hot dog, the Chicago theater scene, and Lower Wacker Drive.
For a primer on Chicago, check out Wikipedia.

Photo: Chicago skyline from New 7 Wonders website.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Public domain works flourishing on TV: Dracula, Sleepy Hollow and more

Movies and TV shows based on literature in the public domain are flourishing. At the same time, the public domain isn’t being refreshed with additional works like it should be.
I’ve written many times about how copyright extensions are harming the public domain. (See “Why you should care about the public domain.”)
Hollywood capitalizes on public domain works while it tries to starve the public domain of fresh works.
Governments give authors and other artists a limited period of exclusivity for their works through copyrights. Once that protection period is over, those works enter the public domain where others are free to use them, adapt them and build upon them. But those periods keep getting extended by legislators beholden to large media companies.
Thanks to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, derisively known as the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” works since 1923 have been kept locked up under copyrights.
What follows is a list of TV shows in production based on public domain stories and characters.
Three new network TV shows are based on off-copyright works: Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” a modern-day retelling of the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving; ABC’s “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” based on the 1865 novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll; and NBC’s “Dracula,” based on the 1897 horror novel by Bram Stoker.
They join four returning network shows: the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast,” inspired by the traditional fairy tale first published in 1740; NBC’s “Grimm,” inspired by “Grimms’ Fairy Tales”; ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” based on assorted fairy tale characters; and CBS’s “Elementary,” based on the Sherlock Holmes detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The BBC also has a Sherlock Holmes show called “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It is set to air its third season in the U.S. in January.
Other shows are based on historical events or figures, which, by their nature, are in the public domain. They include “Da Vinci’s Demons,” a fictionalized account of the early years of inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, on Starz; and the “Hatfields & McCoys” mini-series on the History channel.
More TV shows are coming soon based on public domain stories.
NBC has “Crossbones,” based on the legend of the pirate Blackbeard, starring John Malkovich; a modern-day take on the Hatfields and McCoys, from executive producer Charlize Theron; and a drama about Egyptian queen Cleopatra, written by Michael Seitzman (“North Country”).
NBC’s mining of the public domain for familiar stories even prompted a recent CollegeHumor article titled, “NBC’s Exciting New All-Public-Domain 2014 Lineup!
But NBC isn’t alone in this practice.
In December, the History channel plans to run a two-part movie “Bonnie & Clyde,” based on the crime spree of the legendary outlaws. It stars Emile Hirsch, Holliday Grainger, and William Hurt.
Starz is developing a series called “Vlad Dracula,” which it describes as a “unique spin of the classic tale, blending the historical facts of the 15th century Prince of Wallachia, with the fictional Dracula whose story is known around the world and continues to fascinate audiences.”

Monster mash-ups

Next year, Showtime will run a new series called “Penny Dreadful,” starring Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green. “In Penny Dreadful, some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters – including Dr. Frankenstein and his creature, Dorian Gray and iconic figures from the novel Dracula – become embroiled in Victorian London,” the network said.
The monster mash-up has been compared to “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” a popular comic book series written by Alan Moore. It also features characters from classic fiction and was adapted into a feature film starring Sean Connery in 2003. Now Fox is looking to turn it into a television series.
And three makes a trend. ABC is developing a sexy, Gothic soap set in the present day that weaves together a mythology that incorporates the legends of Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein and Dorian Gray, among others.
ABC also is developing a limited-run event series called “Esmeralda,” centered on the beautiful Gypsy street dancer in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the 1831 novel by Victor Hugo. “Esmeralda” is being written by Evan Daugherty, who wrote the script for “Snow White and the Huntsman,” another public domain-inspired work.
ABC is developing a TV series called “Finn & Sawyer,” a contemporary take on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884). It is described as “an adventure-themed reinvention that revolves around the two famed literary characters who re-meet as young men in their 20s and form an investigative firm in a bustling and steampunk New Orleans.”
CBS is developing a series called “Dorothy,” which is described as “a medical soap based in New York City, inspired by the characters and themes immortalized in The Wizard of Oz.” The show is from writer Emily Fox (“Ghost Whisperer”) and executive producers Carl Beverly and Sarah Timberman (FX’s “Justified” and CBS’s “Elementary”).

Up next: Public domain works used for movies.

Photo: Promotion for NBC’s “Dracula.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Zombies as popular in commercials as they are in movies and TV shows

Zombies usually are used for scares in movies and TV shows. But in commercials, they’re used for laughs.
The living dead are frightful in “World War Z” and “The Walking Dead,” but are funny in recent TV ads.
Here are links to 15 ads using zombies. They’re posted on sister site One Stop Video and curated from YouTube.
I’ll lead off with the funny zombie commercials for Sprint’s “unlimited for life guarantee” on talk, text and data plans.
Other sets look at zombies in car commercials (Ford Escape, Honda Civic, DieHard batteries), junk food commercials (Snickers, Doritos, Starburst), tech commercials (Toshiba notebooks, Microsoft Windows 8), and commercials for FedEx, Axe and other products.

Photos: Stills from Sprint’s zombie customer commercials. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Funny penis enlargement e-mail pitches

Like most people, I get a lot of spam email. Thankfully, modern spam filters used by Yahoo, Google and others dump this junk into a spam folder. These emails include mostly shady promotions for mortgage refinancing, fake Rolex watches, work-from-home scams and hookup services to find “local sluts.”
They also include pitches for products claiming to enlarge penises. I find these e-mails funny because they shamelessly exploit men’s insecurities, make wild sex claims and are written in poor English.
What follows is a sampling of e-mail pitches I’ve found in my spam folders, including misspellings.

A babe-filled life awaits you
Rock her hard on your first date
Your lady will be clamoring to copulate with you every night

Smell sweeter below the belt
Get all the bed action you have ever dreamed of with your brand new pecker.

So hard you can break an egg
Discover the secrets of thousands of satisfied men worldwide

Supercharge Your Sex Life
Fantastic results for length and girth
I didnt know a simple herbal remedy like this could make my life wonderful again.

Your love tool is set to thrill
Enlargement pils Free trial
Bang harder and longer, come harder and shoot further with our revolutionary pill.

COCKZILLA is the word
Enlargement pils Sample
Available now for a limited period – Men’s supplement to gain extra inches, results assured

Wonder pills for thrills
Penis Growth Free Sample
She will be yearning to lie in bed with you every night

She will surely pounce on you
Sample enlargement
A pill that is like no other

Promo enlargement
I did not dare to date girls until I managed to upsize my little pecker.

Solution to your intimacy probs
Do you want to please your girlfriend at night?

Enlargement pils Free trial sample
Rock her world, and she will rock you all night long, try our herbal formula today.

Every cunt is tight after having that size
The biggest secret for men on the internet revealed here

Get your hard long one today
Promo Men’s Supplement
Impress all in the locker room

Free Sample Men's Supplement
I regained confidence in Eva Longoria after 2 months on herbal supplements

Sexy girls will look at you differently
Enlargement supplement Free trials
Leave a lasting impression

She loves it bigger and longer
Enlarge with Free trial
Become a female mag sex fantasy

Attract the RIGHT girls with wonder pills
Enlarge with Free Sample
Cuum for much longer with express herbals

Solution to your intimacy probs
Do you want to please your girlfriend at night?

Photos: T-shirt reading “My pen is huge.” Singer Morrissey and “Penis mightier than the sword” play on words.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In defense of streaking

“Streaking,” the act of running naked through a public place, has gotten a bad rap.
Too many people in authority get up in arms when it occurs at public events. They treat it as a serious criminal offense. But come on, folks, it’s a funny prank, a lark, an unexpected humorous surprise. It can liven up a sporting event or other occasion.
That’s what happened on Oct. 6 at the Presidents Cup golf tournament in Dublin, Ohio, when a nearly naked 23-year-old woman ran across the 18th fairway. (See coverage by Fox Sports, Compleat Golfer, Huffington Post, Ride the Pine and Joe.ie.)
The woman, Kimberly Webster, was charged with disorderly conduct and fined $100. That seems fair. You don’t want to encourage such behavior, but you also shouldn’t treat it like a terrible crime against society.
Now look at the case of Christian Adamek, 15, who committed suicide less than a week after streaking at a high school football game in Alabama. The high school principal threatened the boy with expulsion and legal charges that would make him a registered sex offender, as TechDirt reported.
Clearly Sparkman High School and the Madison County, Ala., legal system overstepped their bounds on this one.

Web resources on streaking:

Streaking entry on Wikipedia.

Sports’ most stunning streakers (Photo gallery)

Photo: Kimberly Webster streaks at the Presidents Cup golf tournament on Oct. 6, 2013.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How many inactive accounts does Twitter have?

When Twitter filed for its initial public offering on Oct. 3, it stated that it had 218.3 million average monthly active users in the three months ended June 30.
What it didn’t reveal was how many total accounts it has. Without that figure, we can’t determine how many people have signed up for the service and quit.
All Things D reported last month that Twitter has more than 1 billion registered accounts and that only a quarter of that number are repeat Twitter customers. That’s a lot of Twitter quitters.
One problem with its monthly active user figure of 218 million is that an unknown number of those are spam accounts or multiple accounts of individual users.
I’ve had four Twitter accounts in the past (two for work and two personal), but now I’m down to one personal account.
Then there are the problems of spam accounts and fake followers.
Many Twitter accounts are set up by people, often shady, to sell products and services. These spammers show up as followers, in mentions and when you do searches of popular subjects.
Some businesses even sell fake Twitter followers so people can appear to be more popular, as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported.
Twitter says “false or spam accounts” make up less than 5% of the social network’s monthly active users. If it’s close to 5%, that would be nearly 11 million fake or spam accounts.
A group called StatusPeople created an app for determining how many of your Twitter followers fake or inactive.
Of my 661 Twitter followers, 76% are real, 8% are fake and 16% are inactive, according to StatusPeople.

Photo: My Twitter follower report from StatusPeople.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Twitter problem: Dealing with tweet overload

I find Twitter to be a very useful service. I use it primarily as a news feed that provides weblinks to articles of interest to me.
To make my Twitter feed manageable, I only follow 20 accounts. Of those, nine are tech and media news sources, four are entertainment news sources, three are comedy sites, two are friends and two are companies I follow.
I find it curious when I see people following hundreds or thousands of Twitter accounts. It’s not possible to stay on top of what all those people are saying. Most are doing reciprocal following to boost each other’s follower counts. Follower counts are a superficial metric. They’re a popularity poll, not a sign of Twitter’s utility. It’s a carryover from Facebook.
TechCrunch writer Josh Constine wrote a thoughtful article that touches on the problem of following too many people on Twitter. He called it the “unfiltered feed problem.” If you follow too many accounts, the service becomes less enjoyable and useful and might cause many members ultimately to quit.
Some commenters suggested that Constine didn’t give enough weight to Twitter Lists. But the Lists feature is buried. It also doesn’t carry the same weight as “following” someone. Including someone on a Twitter List is like stealth following them.
I agree with the commenter who suggested that Twitter copy Google’s Gmail setup and create tabs for following different categories of Twitter accounts. That way, I could keep my main Twitter news feed and add tabs for family and friends, tech analysts, colleagues, and favorite celebrities.
Yes, I could put those people into lists. But that’s a chore and I wouldn’t check it very often.
Twitter’s advertising business wants you to follow as many companies, news organizations, subject areas and celebrities as possible, so it can get a better idea of what ads to pitch to you. However, the more sources you follow on Twitter, the worse the experience is. Twitter is stuck in a catch-22.

Photo: A great propaganda-style poster for Twitter by artist Aaron Wood.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Time to end the use of Roman numerals

Advertisers, marketers and designers are the only ones still using Roman numerals. Apparently they think it adds an air of class or an epic feel to their works. But using the numerical system of ancient Rome today is just stupid.
The National Football League uses Roman numerals to identify each new Super Bowl because the players are like gladiators in the Roman Colosseum. But the numbers are getting ridiculous and force readers to do math.
The 2014 Super Bowl is called Super Bowl XLVIII. Quick, what number is that?
It’s 48.
X is 10, but, in this case, you subtract it from L or 50 to make 40. Then you add V or 5 and III or 3 to make 48. Yeah, that’s a whole lot easier than calling it Super Bowl 48 or Super Bowl 2014.
Hollywood is one of the worst offenders for using Roman numerals. They use them to make their movies sound more important. So we have “Rocky V,” “Rambo III,” “ Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan,” and “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” Etcetera etc.
Thankfully the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences doesn’t use Roman numerals for the Oscars. Next year’s Oscars will be the 86th Academy Awards.
The matter of whether to use Roman numerals came up recently for me when writing about the video game “Grand Theft Auto 5” and several Samsung smartphones.
Take-Two Interactive Software calls its game “Grand Theft Auto V,” but the packaging also spells out “Five.” Gamers refer to the title as “GTA 5” for short.
As for Samsung, they’ve been inconsistent with product names. Sometimes they use Roman numerals in marketing and other times they don’t. The company was calling its latest smartphone the Galaxy S IV, before it wised up and renamed it the Galaxy S4. Presumably they realized that S IV looked too much like “Siv.”
Some hard-line editors will say that a name is a name and that’s it. I disagree when it comes to Roman numerals.
The AP Stylebook even says that Roman numerals should be used “sparingly,” primarily when referring to wars and to establish personal sequence for people. It also can cover some legislation and for Super Bowls, the reference guide says.
Personally I’d be in favor of changing all Roman numeral usage to today’s Arabic numbers.

Photo: Screenshot from “Grand Theft Auto 5.” 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Studio tries to trademark ‘Dorothy,’ other public-domain Oz characters

My 7-year-old daughter got a Wizard of Oz toy with her McDonald’s Happy Meal the other day and I was shocked to see that Dorothy and other Oz characters were listed as trademarked.
The toys are to promote the Oct. 1 release of the musical “The Wizard of Oz” on DVD. And while that film is copyrighted, the characters from the original 1900 story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum are in the public domain. As such, artists, theater companies and others are free to produce versions of the original work.
Baum’s classic story included all the main characters used in the 1939 MGM movie starring Judy Garland. That movie is now owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Entertainment Co., both units of media conglomerate Time Warner.
The lawyers at Time Warner will make the case that how the characters look in their version of the story is copyrighted, such as Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers. (In the original book they were silver shoes.) But there’s no way they can trademark the names Dorothy, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.
Those characters belong to everyone now because they are a part of the public domain.
It’s distressing to see the big TM trademark symbol next to their character names on the toys themselves and on McDonald’s Happy Meal website.

Art: Screenshots from the McDonald’s Happy Meal website showing the trademarked toys. Click photos for larger view.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lego ‘Gold Rush’ diorama

My son, Christopher, and I made a Lego diorama of the Discovery Channel series “Gold Rush.”
As readers of this blog know, we like making Lego dioramas of reality TV series. Most recently we did one on NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.”
The top photo shows Todd Hoffman panning for gold with crew member Dave Turin holding a gold bar and a giant gold nugget.
The photos below show the Hoffman mining operation and the wash plant or sluice at work.
Discovery Channel says season four of “Gold Rush” is “coming soon.”

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was wrong about financial crisis documentaries

Netflix makes a big deal about how carefully it picks movies and other content for its subscription streaming video service.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings likes to say his company into a “curator of select programming,” including its own original series and specials.
In a manifesto on the future of television, called “Netflix Long Term View,” Hastings wrote that the company would select a wide variety of content and he offered a very specific example.
“As we’ve gained experience, we’ve realized that the 20th documentary about the financial crisis will mostly just take away viewing from the other 19 such docs, and instead of trying to have everything, we should strive to have the best in each category,” Hastings wrote. “As such, we are actively curating our service rather than carrying as many titles as we can.”
But it turns out that Hastings was wrong. There’s always room for another documentary about the financial crisis of 2008.
On Monday, a feature-length documentary on the financial crisis focused on then U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will begin streaming exclusively on Netflix. “Hank: Five Years From the Brink” was produced by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Related stories: 

To Recount the Financial Implosion, a Magazine Turns to Film. (New York Times; Sept. 8, 2013)

Editor’s Letter: Five Years From the Brink. (Bloomberg Businessweek; Sept. 12, 2013)

Image: Poster from “Hank: Five Years From the Brink.”