Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Good News... Bad News...

Good News: I found the tube of chap stick I had lost...

Bad News: ... when I was taking the clothes out of the dryer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Avenue Q

I know you've been waiting for it... and had I read my season tickets correctly I would have had this review published LAST Wednesday, but alas, I'm an idiot and looked at my calendar, not realizing my tickets actually said the week before. Alas, all worked out and I still did see the show. Did I mention I'm an idiot? That said...

What a show! Avenue Q is Sesame Street for those entering the real world. In fact, the writers of the show claim to have meant it to be a homage to Jim Henson and Sesame Street, though they specifically disclaim any connection to either. The parallels, however, are abundant and hilarious. The integration of puppets and real-life characters is seamless, though in this case no effort whatsoever is made to hide the puppeteers. In fact, the puppeteers are simply extensions of the puppet characters.

There are certainly some risque scenes, and certainly the majority of which you'd never find broadcast on PBS. But what really takes this show over the top is the music.

It's rather disappointing that by far the most popular song in this musical is the cultural-crossover blockbuster "The Internet Is For Porn," as this sorely discounts some of the more poignant themes and outstanding lyrics in several other songs. Certainly "Everyone's A Little Bit Racist" really encapsulates the current generation's frustration with the epidemic of political correctness of society today.

Additionally, I thought the song "I Wish I Could Go Back To College" is probably one of the most brilliant songs in the show, and solidly demonstrates the writers' connection to basically anyone who went to college in the past 10 years. With references such as "Sitting in the computer lab / 4 A.M. before the final paper is due / Cursing the world that I didn't start sooner / And seeing the rest of the class there, too!" and "I wanna go back to my room and find a message in dry-erase pen on the door!" it's a certainty that any recent undergrads need to see this show, if only to wax nostalgic. Sadly, I can only assume that this show will eventually date itself and become a cultural relic of Generation X.

What's probably most amazing is that the entire cast consists of just 7 actors, 3 of which are purely human characters, and 4 puppeteers who seamlessly perform, voice, and constantly hand-off about a dozen puppet characters. To discount the skill and coordination to required to do this as they do would be impossible.

It's refreshing to see a musical that avoids the cliche of a cast of under-educated youth struggling to survive in a horrible, drug-filled world, and instead focuses on the difficulties and struggles undertaken by college-educated folks entering the real world of today.

As for the ratings:

Script: 4-stars. A brilliant overall concept, though bowed a bit too the cheap laughs at points. Cast: 5-stars, simply brilliant puppeteer/actors.
Music: 5-stars, every song worth listening to. A must-have soundtrack.
Technical: 4-stars, no gimmicks necessary with the rest of the supporting pieces.
Overall: 5-stars. See this everytime it comes to town. In my case, next time it's in town I'll be putting a group together to go see it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Evolution of an Address

The "internets" have taken over the world! It's interesting to notice how advertising has adapted to and embraced the internet as their best marketing tool. No longer do they have a 30-second spot to tell you everything they do, all they need is to convince you they do something big and important, and throw their web address at you to find out more.

One of the interesting things is that I've been around to see the entire progression of this over time.

1) The .com address. First it was just the really techie companies that had these, then everyone realized how easy it was. You got your name, stuck a www. before it and a .com after it, and you're set.

2) The world got smarter. People started to realize, "Hey, if I don't know the address of a company, I can just put its name with a www. before and a .com after, and that's probably it!" Well, that worked once in a while, until the .com namespace became so polluted that new companies had no choice but to call themselves

3) The .notcom addresses. People found that if their .com address was taken, they could just get the .org, .net, .us address, or whatever. Easy! Or not... they publicize their address as and everyone punches in instead going to their evil competitor (or more likely some completely unrelated company with a similar name).

4) The world got smarter. They realized the world isn't all .com, and they adapted. But what do companies do then? They make sure to register .com, .org, .net, .everything so that whatever ending we put on the name will take us to their website. Genius. Now all the common root domain namespaces are polluted.

5) Google. Forget about addresses, what we need is a phone book. Aha! Hello, Google. Now we can punch in the company's name, and it'll TELL US what the address is. Brilliant. Except that I really don't want all of these other web sites that come up. Or do I?

6) The AOL Keyword. Or the keyword. This was a short-lived bogosity. Force someone to go to some easy to remember website (ala and then once that page comes up (and you stare at all their appropriate advertising), type in some keyword you could have just typed on Google in the first place, and get where you need to go. A vain attempt at a "user-friendly web" which failed miserably.

7) The world got smarter. Now not only can they advertise their .com address. They can advertise complex addresses that include all kinds of dots and slashes. The techies love this. We can get to exactly what we want to get to without having to wade through pages of navigation.

Which brings me to a side rant. The slash (or is it a backslash?). You no doubt hear this on the radio all the time. Some announcer is reading off a web address, and says "Visit mywebsite dot com, backslash idiot, for more details." Certainly backslash sounds really big and important... I heard some IT guy at work using it last week... all the cool kids say it. Well folks, I hate to tell you, but THERE ARE NO BACKSLASHES IN A WEB ADDRESS! They are ALL, ALWAYS, WITHOUT-FAIL, simple old slashes. Something slash something. End rant.

The nice thing about the whole evolution of it is that it's entirely backwards compatible. You can always go the hard way and keep clicking until you find something you want, or just take shortcuts along the way.

The evolution will continue. Next comes direct advertising of IP addresses... no, not IPv4, but IPv6 addresses. Just like a 32-digit telephone number, with 16-digits on your phone dial. Piece of cake, right? Well, maybe we'll just continue to use Google instead.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fun, Fun, Fun

Is it just me, or is "fun" one of the most overloaded words in the English language? Most people would sit there and think, "what are you talking about? Fun means only one thing, it's one of the basic building blocks by which other more complicated words are defined." But not only is it used as a noun, adjective, and verb, it's also used to convey positive and negative, good fun and bad fun, craziness and absurdity.

How many times have you been told, "You're no fun," just because your idea of fun is counter to someone else's? How many times have people used the excuse "I was just having fun," in response to being caught doing something they shouldn't.

Contrarily, spending times with your best friends is "fun", as is doing good things you like to do. Pretty soon we'll be saying things like:

"I had a fun time playing games outside, but had way too much drinking fun, and
now I'm having fun being sick."
People, hear me now... using the word "fun" is a short way to waste a lot of words.

More interesting to me is the usage note in the American Heritage Dictionary regarding the adjective form of "fun":
The use of fun as an attributive adjective, as in a fun time, a fun place,
probably originated in a playful reanalysis of the use of the word in sentences
such as "It is fun to ski," where fun has the syntactic function of adjectives
such as amusing or enjoyable. The usage became popular in the 1950s and
1960s, though there is some evidence to suggest that it has 19th-century
antecedents, but it can still raise eyebrows among traditionalists. The day may
come when this usage is entirely unremarkable, but writers may want to avoid
it in more formal contexts.
Don't get me wrong, there are legitimate uses of the word "fun", but let's try to keep it the way it was intended to be. The next time I hear someone use it in an absurd way, I will be compelled to beat them over the head with a rubber chicken...
... yeah, that'll be fun!

Name That Show - Answers

The answers to the Name That Show quiz:

1) Hawaii 5-0
2) Mission: Impossible
3) Sesame Street
4) SportsCenter
5) Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous
6) Matlock
7) Magnum, P.I.
8) Let's Make a Deal
9) Knight Rider
10) The A-Team

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Staycations

With a term sure to make 2009's annual Banished Words List, the mass media has glommed onto the only way to describe the country's response to the current state of the economy for summer travel: the "Staycation."

With airfares going through the roof, and the nickle-and-diming by the airlines becoming dollar-and-quartering, the prediction of a major downturn in summer travel is not unlikely. As expected, United announced today that it will be matching American's $15 charge each-way for the FIRST checked bag on flights. While I understand that the airlines have taken a huge hit on fuel prices and are hemorrhaging money, it's understandable that luxuries once commonplace on flights should be eliminated or require an extra charge. However, CHECKING A BAG IS NOT A LUXURY! These charges amount to nothing more than extortion of the customer. Most customers will have no choice but to pay the extra $30 roundtrip fee, or if they have the option choosing to fly on a different airline.

Of course, I'm one who usually takes my chances and checks a bag, even though my suitcase is technically suitable to carry on the plane. For $30, I would certainly change that viewpoint (as would many others, I expect) and attempt shove my bag in the already non-existent space in the overhead bins. I predict congestion at the gate, necessitating many bags to be checked gateside, thereby holding up flights and costing the airlines more than they're taking in from the increased baggage charges. But what do I know? If anything, this may help increase flyers on those lower-cost airlines who don't need to charge the extra fees. Seems to me the MBAs at American and United who determined this is a money-making plan may have the foresight of a mosquito just moments before it encounters my cars windshield at 60 MPH.

On the other hand, I think this increase in cost for air travel may actually come out in the wash for consumers. Resort destinations are predicting the trickle-down from a downturn in air travel hurting their bottom lines, with their only resolution being to reduce rates accordingly. A bit of creative planning and flexibility on the airfare side (or cashing in some of those frequent flyer miles) could easily equal an overall cheaper time to vacation travel than we've seen in the past few years. Las Vegas casinos are becoming desperate for visitors, and other resort destinations such as Disney parks in California and Florida are expected to be increasing their discounts and promotions to fill their lacking capacity. Empty hotel rooms don't make anyone money.

The one thing still working for the travel industry is international visitors, who are certainly capitalizing on the lousy US Dollar. But if that alone is enough to overcome the increased difficulty navigating airports and increased border security remains to be seen.

Roadtrips don't do much better, with gas over $4/gallon. Perhaps it's time to enjoy what there is to see and do around home. Enjoy your Staycation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Name that Show!

If you've never flipped through the TV listings on the digital cable, you've probably never noticed some of the funny descriptions for classic (and not-so-classic) television shows. Rather than just highlight some of my favorite, try yourself with one of my random quizzes. Try your hand at figuring them out and I'll post the answers in a future blog.

1) Book 'em, Danno. This is one of the longest running crime dramas in TV history.

2) Elite special agents undertook top-secret assignments in crackerjack episodes.

3) A landmark series set in an ethnically diverse urban neighborhood where every day is a sunny one.

4) A hip, Emmy-winning daily scrapbook of homers, touchdowns and slam dunks.

5) Exotic locations and unapologetically shameless adoration of celebrities.

6) Grandpa Simpson's favorite series: a courtroom drama about a cagey Atlanta defense attorney.

7) CBS reworked its successful "Hawaii Five-O" formula into a hit spun around a charismatic private investigator.

8) Ludicrously costumed contestants from the studio audience "dealt" with host Monty Hall for prizes.

9) A former cop gets a new identity and teams with a talking supercar to fight crime.

10) An adventure series about soldiers of fortune with bad attitudes and firepower to burn.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Google Earth, meet Disney

What happens when the marketing gurus as Disney start talking to the techies? They come up with this:

Walt Disney World in 3D

Disney has designed a complete 3D rendering of Disney World, every attraction, every building, every hotel, everything. The detail they put into these renderings are amazing.

Perhaps I'm just too easily entertained. Despite the fact that it takes quite a while to load (and my computer suddenly gets rather warm trying to draw the whole thing), it's well worth a look. Almost makes you feel like you're visiting.