Steve Carrell is ‘Get Smart’

Growing up, one of my favorite shows had to be Get Smart starring Don Adams. The silly exploits of the hapless spy from CONTROL tickled my funny bone like nothing else. Turns out that Get Smart is the latest television property to be turned into a big screen feature, this time starring the hilarious star of The Office, Steve Carrell. The trailer looks funny enough, but I suspect they are saving the best bits for the actual release. I can only imagine Carrell’s riotous take on my favorite Smart gag, the Cones of Silence. I refuse to get my hopes up too high however, thanks to film disasters like The Dukes of Hazzard, Bewitched and Starsky & Hutch. I pray that Carrell will pull if off, if for nothing else but to save us from all of the reviews that will no doubt start with “Missed it by THAT much!” if he fails. I guess we’ll find out this summer.

Hat tip to Imagication for this post.

Oh, Me of Little Faith!

A couple of weeks ago, during a particularly nasty losing streak, I had pretty much given up all hope for my beloved Red Sox of ever making the finals this year. I watched as their 14+ game lead in the A.L. East slowly, but surely dried up. At one point, those damn Yankees managed to pull within 1 game of the lead, and so I had had enough. I brushed Boston aside and tried to focus on other things, all the while keeping one eye on Beantown.

Reverse psychology never worked so well! Tonight, Boston’s win over the Twins combined with the Yankees 9-10 loss to the Orioles in extra innings means that the Sox have won the A.L. East title for the first time since 1995. Just minutes after the Yankees game ended, the A.L. East entry over at Wikipedia was updated with the Red Sox’s achievement. Their win means that the Yankees’ stranglehold on the division is finally over and the Sox’s stunning victory over the Bronx Bombers in 2004 is now “complete”.

I have to hand it to these self-proclaimed “bunch of idiots”, they never gave up. Despite horrendous performances by Eric Gagne, badly timed injuries to Manny and Youklis, and a New York team that seemed at times, unbeatable, the Red Sox have emerged as this year’s champions. The Sox claimed the lead of the division way back on April 18th, and amazingly enough, never gave it back. The entire Red Sox Nation can now look forward to the post-season and take a small, but needed, sigh of relief. Next stop, the playoffs, and this time I promise not to look away!

AAPL Hits $150. Scott Mortiz Weeps.

I long ago gave up trying to predict how Wall Street rewards stocks. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, along comes a day like today and you’re back to oval seven. Today, Apple Computer’s stock hit a 52 week high of $153.18 for what appears to be no good reason. In fact, this occurred in spite of the fact that Amazon launched what could be considered the first real competition for the iTunes music store, Amazon: MP3. Do investors believe that Amazon’s entry into the market space will spur competition and keep Apple “thinking different”? Did Phil Schiller’s casual remark about unlocked iPhone’s becoming “bricks” bolster investors? Or perhaps they have begun to see the reporting of clueless “experts” like theStreet.com’s Scott Mortiz, as the fabricated bullshit that it is.

No matter what the cause, the $150 goal for AAPL has been met and suddenly $200 doesn’t seem all that impossible. The Christmas buying season is just around the corner. The iPhone is about to launch in European markets and there is now an entire new line of iPods in the channel. Despite some recent miss-steps, Apple has seemingly stayed ahead of competitors (Zune 2.0? Please!), scared the bejezus out of the cell phone carriers and given Mac users even more reasons to drool over hardware. Let Mortiz and company try to short the stock. Apple’s innovation along with revenue from this year’s product releases will push the stock to new heights. You can bank on it.

Disclosure: If you have not figured it out, yes, I own stock in Apple Computer.

UPDATE: On December 26th 2007, AAPL closed the day traded above the $200 a share mark for the first time. It took exactly 3 months for Apple Computer’s stock to break this milestone. Amazon’s DRM free competition has definitely been a mixed bag for Apple, but it has not suppressed the stock price one little bit. Get ready for the annual MacWorld stock drop however. Happens every year and I expect this time around to be no different.

Just Don’t Touch the Sink

I don’t always concur with Will Shipley’s take on things, but after reading his latest post entitled “Bush & Sons, General Contractors.“, I found myself shaking my head in total agreement. His clever allegory for the war in Iraq is all too true. I especially like this bit:

“I know I threw that party for my boys and said we were “done” years ago… but that really needs to be put into context, you see. When I said “done” I meant “done with the hard part,” which was convincing you to let us tear up your bathroom. I mean, we knew once we got in there wasn’t going to be any finishing for years. No, in retrospect, I guess I could have been clearer about that. But that’s ancient history, now. I mean, you’ve got a new toilet to look forward to, someday! Right, and a shower, if we get to it.“

The comparison of the Bush Administration to an inept bunch of pseudo-plumbers is an apt one. They scared us with false threats of leaks that could become floods at any second. When no cracked pipes were found, they justified further “repairs” with feeble arguments that they said weren’t apparent until they ripped up the floor. Unlike Will however, I believe the worst part of the entire affair isn’t the cost involved, but rather the horrendous number of people who have lost their lives on the “job”. Iraq long ago became the ultimate fixer-upper from hell for all involved.

Hat tip to Airbag for this post.

It’s Just Another Shooter People!

You’d think with amount of mind-numbing hype coming from Redmond these last few weeks that Halo 3 was the second coming of the video game industry. But then you’d be wrong, that was called the Wii. So unless Bungie has been keeping a really big secret, Halo 3 is just another first person shooter. Am I wrong? Can someone please tell me why Halo 3 is such a big deal?

I get the fact that Halo 3 is probably the most popular thing that Microsoft has ever “embraced”, which is sad in its own right, but do I have to have the Master Chief stuffed up my ass every minute of every day? This must be what it was like for all of those people who were sick of hearing about the iPhone in the weeks leading up to the launch. I guess one man’s plague is another man’s present. Go figure.

In Defense of Kid Nation

Let me just say that I do not have children of my own. If I did, my view of the new reality based television show from CBS about 40 tykes in the New Mexico desert might be different, but I doubt it. Having watched the premiere episode, it seems obvious these brave kids have taken on an adult-sized challenge with courage and passed with flying colors. Kid Nation just might be poised to become the next big hit, as well as do something that TV seldom does – enlighten and inspire its audience. Unfortunately, the production was criticized as soon as the premise leaked. Critics alluded to violation of child labor laws, blamed greedy parents and warned of potentially life threatening situations even before a single minute had aired. Newsweek’s Joshua Alston has said that Kid Nation is an example of “how low popular culture can go” and made the inevitable comparison to William Golding’s 1954 classic novel, Lord of the Flies. A group of children, left to fend for themselves in the wilderness with no adult supervision. What will happen? Will chaos ensue? Will the children turn on each other and start dropping boulders on kids they want to “vote out”? As it turns out, chaos yes… boulders on kids, not so much.

Although we see the occasional bouts of anarchy (hey, these are children), what shines through is how well the children adapt. Led to an abandoned town in New Mexico, these 40 kids learned how to function as a society for 40 days without the benefit of parents, teachers or even guardians. The adult host and the camera crew would appear to be the only supervision given, but the show’s producers also provided for instant, around the clock medical attention and counseling for any child that required it. Reports do indicate that several minor injuries occurred on set including a sprained ankle, a burn due to cooking with hot oil, and one child ingested bleach accidentally. Ask any parent and I’m sure they’ll tell you that a single injury is one too many, but in exchange each child got a guaranteed $5K, chances to win $20K more, plus a once in a life-time opportunity to learn responsibility, make new friends and challenge themselves.

Kid Nation succeeds because it has just enough structure to keep the children focused running the town and working towards those coveted golden stars. Prizes and challenges aside, best part of the show is the kids themselves. The parents of these children should be proud, and with good reason. Sophia, age 14 helped feed the entire posse even though she’s never cooked before. Greg, age 15 helped another child who had a muscle spasm onto the back of a wagon and pulled him into town. Michael, age 14 stood up during a shouting match and lent a calm opinion to the town’s ruling council. And Taylor, age 10, resisted the urge to return to her family, and instead helped lead her yellow team to victory over older and stronger kids to become the town cooks. All of these children are remarkable and I’m delighted that their parents have allowed us to get a sneak peak at their pride and joys.

I’m sure in the weeks ahead, it won’t all be teamwork and high-fives in Bonanza City. Problems will arise, just as they do in real life, and these resourceful sons and daughters will have to figure out how to deal with them. They have already shown the type of resilience that many adults can only dream of. If I did have children of my own, I would let them participate and gain as much from the experience as they possibly could. Today’s kids are coddled, fawned over and more often than not, spoiled. Kid Nation might be a game show, but at the end of the day, these young ones will take home much more than just prize money. They will have the satisfaction of knowing they were a part of something life changing. They will look at themselves and other children in a different light, and perhaps all of us watching at home will too. I suspect TV viewers will see the good parts of the show, forget the burn and the bleach, and reward CBS with a winner. Nothing would be a more fitting tribute to these kids’ brave nation.

Digg It!

Colicchio, Please Pack Your Knives and Go

It may seem to the casual reader that I have a bone to pick with cooking shows, but that’s just because they deserve it so much. I happen to think Bravo’s Top Chef is one of the best reality TV shows going, but even I’m having a hard time swallowing what head judge, Tom Colicchio, has been serving lately. This season, Colicchio’s behavior has gone from endearing to simply annoying. He’s been freaking the contestants out with his tendency to hover in the Top Chef kitchen while they are cooking. His criticisms of their food will go from “that was bad” one moment to “that was the single worst thing I’ve ever eaten” the next. He tends to think that no challenge is unfair, even ones that have little, if anything to do with a restaurant chef’s day to day job. And call me crazy, but any classically trained chef that doesn’t know how to properly hold a knife and fork, has no business telling others how to do their job.

There are large parts of Colicchio, and his participation on the show, that I enjoy. He apparently knows his stuff when it comes to cooking and is not afraid to be blunt with the contestants. If things are going south, he’ll let you know, and generally he’s pretty fair when it comes to who is performing and who is falling behind. His presence “grounds” the show from its inherent affected nature and lends credibility to its production. But at the same time, his level of patience has decreased while his need to critique has skyrocketed. The slightest flaw in the contestant’s cooking now has a tendency to set him off. On last week’s episode CJ’s brocoolini turned out to be the worst thing he’d ever eaten on the show. Never mind the fact that none of the chefs had ever used an oven on a commercial airliner before, or even prepared meals that had certain height requirements (yes, you read that right, height requirements). Colicchio seems to be becoming more and more jaded with each season, and I fear his likeability is suffering. It’s easy to sit in judgement on other people’s creations, and since I’ve never actually seen him cook, I don’t know if he’s just talking out his ass, or he has the truffles to back it up.

I’d like to suggest that Bravo inject a bit of humility into Top Chef by announcing a “Contestant’s Revenge” episode. I propose that for one episode, Colicchio, Padma, Gail and any other guest judges who have the courage, compete in their own mini challenge. They’ll get an impossibly small budget to work with, a miniscule amount of time in which to prepare and compete, and then be forced to serve their concoctions to the Top Chef contestants and a few snotty food critics thrown in for good measure. They say you don’t really know a chef until you’ve sauteed a mile in his pan. How about it Tom, can you take it as well as dish it out? I think we’d all like to see. In the meantime, I know a great place you can go and hone your table manners. I hear they have an opening.

20 Flicks for a Deserted Island

Ever put serious thought into what your favorite top 20 movies of all time are? Neither had I until a bunch of us decided to get together and do a group blog post about the subject. The theme we decided upon was “20 Movies for a Deserted Island” along with some “guilty pleasures” thrown in for good measure. Corey Marion, David Miller, Anthony Piraino and I all brainstormed and came up with a list of our current favorite 20 movies. We made our lists without each other’s knowledge, but given our similar likes and interests, it doesn’t surprise me to find some duplicates among our choices.

The movies on my list are films that I have watched many, many times and never get tired of. If I happen to spy one of these movies while I’m flipping TV channels, I usually get sucked into watching until the very end. I hope some of your favorites are on my list. Be sure to post your picks in the comment thread if the mood should strike you, then hop on over to the guys’ pages and see how their list compares. Without further ado here is my list in descending order:

• • •

20. Terminator 2

What do you get when you pack amazing special effects, time travel, California’s rippling governor and the baddest liquid robot in the history of film? The answer is one of the best action flicks of all time. Terminator 2 has just enough plot to rise above the average shoot-em-up, but not enough to take away from the sheer cool factor of seeing Arnold rip into a dozen police cars with a mini gun. The strongest of the three Terminator films by far and one of Cameron’s best.

• • •

19. The Emperor’s New Groove

The “black sheep” of the Disney family, The Emperor’s New Groove hit problems from the very moment of production. What was planned as a sappy epic dealing with ancient Mayan Incan culture ended up instead as the single funniest film ever to come out of the Mouse House. Patrick Warburton as Kronk is my favorite Disney side kick of all time, as is Eartha Kitt’s Yzma in the villain category. Packed with one-liners and tons of heart, New Groove always delivers.

• • •

18. Shawn of the Dead

The people who made Shawn of the Dead love action and horror movies to death. No pun intended. The black comedy in this UK sleeper hit is cranked way up, which is what makes it just so much fun to watch. More than just a zombie movie, Shawn takes typical horror conventions and turns them on their smashed and bloody head. The result is dark, brooding and hilarious.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

17. Raising Arizona

All of the classic Coen brothers techniques are in full force in Arizona. Snappy, memorable one-liners mix with a warped world view to tell the story of H.I. McDunnough and Ed’s misplaced efforts to “adopt” a child. Nicholas Cage’s deadpan delivery combined with clever camera work and a memorable score, all make for a movie well worthy of a deserted island.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

16. Aliens

The first time I saw Aliens in the theater, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire first 30 minutes. I knew what was coming, it was only a matter of when and how. I love the dark, hopelessness of the movie, its intense action sequences and Sigourney’s rock solid performance. The original Alien is a masterpiece of horror, and Aliens builds on that suspense and throws in a healthy dose of “kick ass” for good measure.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

15. When Harry Met Sally

My favorite romantic comedy of all time. Nora Ephron’s writing is sublime in When Harry as are the performances by both the lead and the supporting casts. This movie also helped me court my wife long distance, so it holds a special place in our home. The film is also a veritable fountain memorable quotes including “Baby fishmouth!” and the previously posted “Sheldon can do your income taxes.” If I ever need a good laugh, I can always count on When Harry Met Sally to come to the rescue.

• • •

14. Se7en

This dark thriller grabs you and never lets go. More than most suspense movies, Se7en’s locations become just as much a part of the story as the main characters. It always seems to be gloomy, raining and gritty in this horrific world of sin and death, which only adds to the intense drama. The movie marches relentlessly towards its inevitable and climatic conclusion that is just as disturbing now as it was the first time I saw it. Great flick.

• • •

13. Mulan

Of all of Disney’s animated tales, Mulan is the one that strikes the perfect balance between drama and comedy. The Lion King comes close, but I love the Asian setting in Mulan as well as it’s core themes of family and honor. The songs are catchy and the art direction can’t be beat. The Japanese ink sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

• • •

12. The Matrix

The Matrix was such a watershed moment in American film that even Keanu Reeves can’t keep the film down. It is a perfect blend of archetypes, modern day paranoia and Hong Kong style action. Throw in Carrie-Anne Moss clad to the hilt in sexy black rubber and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith and you have a sci-fi classic for the ages. As an FYI, the other two Matrix films wouldn’t even make it into my DVD collection let alone on my deserted island. Yes, they are that bad.

Also picked by Anthony and Corey.

• • •

11. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Coen Brothers have an uncanny knack for creating memorable characters, locations and dialog. No where was this more apparent than in the hit film O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Like his ancient Greek counterpart, Ulysses Everett McGill finds himself on an amazing journey in which he meets all manner of characters including an oracle, a cyclops and a set of seductive sirens. The film also makes special use of music as it even becomes an integral plot point. About the only thing I don’t like about the movie is when Babyface shoots the cows. “Not the livestock George!” Other than that, I can’t complain.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

10. Star Wars

The original. Not the re-release or the CGI special edition, or even the re-re-release. Before there were the ultra-crappy prequels there was this space opera for the ages. The first, best and only true Star Wars. The only thing that even comes close to Episode IV is Empire, but even that is a pale shadow of the original. May the Force be with us!

• • •

9. Young Frankenstein

A comedic spoof for the ages from the one and only Mel Brooks. Brilliant performances by Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman are just the tip of this hilarious iceburg as we watch Brooks send up every aspect of the classic horror genre. Clever dialog and a respectful homage to film’s black and white era only add to the piles of funny that are stacked up like so many of Frederick’s body parts. My favorite outright comedy.

• • •

8. The Incredibles

It was tough picking just one PIXAR movie for this list, but The Incredibles wins by a nose. I’m a sucker for good super hero movies, and this combined with the fantastic family theme proved a winner for Brad Bird and company. I love Edna ‘E’ Mode and her passion for super fashion, Frozone’s arguments with his wife and the tilted humor found throughout the entire picture. I’m not much for sequels, but I think The Incredibles is one PIXAR franchise that is indeed worthy.

• • •

7. To Kill a Mockingbird

I remember the first time I saw To Kill a Mockingbird back in grade school. The film, told through the eyes of a child, was easy to relate to but also told the powerful story of a man, the family he loved and racial injustice in the Depression-era South. Gregory Peck’s quiet and determined performance as Atticus Finch won him the Oscar in 1962, and rightly so. I still get goose-bumps watching the last 20 minutes of this movie, even to this day. When Boo steps out of the shadow in Scout’s room, a big part of my childhood jumps right out with him. I love that about great movies, they can transport you. Mockingbird does it to me every time.

• • •

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Say what you want about George Lucas, but the man can create memorable characters. Indiana Jones is perhaps one of cinema’s most recognized heroes and that is in no small part to George Lucas. The story is a direct take on the serials that played in movie houses across the nation in the 40′s & 50′s and it single handily spawned the modern action era. Harrison Ford is perfect in the role of Indy, the locations are epic and the score by John Williams positively soars. Throw in a good helping of evil Nazis, the mythical Ark of the Covenant and an unforgettable showdown in a crowded Egyptian marketplace and you have one of the top movies of all time.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

5. The Princess Bride

It’s strange but when I think of The Princess Bride, I don’t really think of it as a comedy. It’s more like a tilted fairy tale, an obvious inspiration for more goofy movies like Shrek. Of all the films in my top 20, this one probably has the most memorable quotes, and there are lots of them. The dialog, pacing and performances all add up to a fan favorite that many people tell me is on their list of personal favorites. No matter what you think of Princess Bride, the film’s creators must have done something right to be loved by so many.

Also picked by Corey and Anthony.

• • •

4. Kill Bill Vol. 1

I love this movie. Let me say it again so I’m perfectly clear. I love Kill Bill Vol. 1. I love pretty much everything about it. Here are some things in no particular order that I think are particularly good: Uma Thurman, Hong Kong style action, anime sequences, the House of Blue Leaves super-long camera pan, Zamfir and oh yeah, Quentin Tarantino. I also admire the movie for what it is, not what some people say it is not. It is not pretentious and full of itself like Tarantino’s often touted Pulp Fiction. It is not a deep character study and it is certainly not a movie that all people enjoy. It is a kick-ass homage to martial arts films, pop culture and TV of the 70′s and I will watch it any time and any place.

Also picked by Corey.

• • •

3. Saving Private Ryan

Our parents have Bridge over the River Kwai and The Longest Day, we have Saving Private Ryan. The sheer fact that Spielberg decided to start the movie with the Battle of Normandy and not end with it, speaks volumes about the story to come. We embark on an epic journey to find a lone private caught somewhere in the allied invasion of France. The film brings rich characters to life and confirms the raw talent of Tom Hanks as cinema’s “every man”. Veterans have said that Ryan is about as realistic as combat gets for the movies, and watching the skillful direction it’s easy to see why. Saving Private Ryan may be cinema’s definitive war movie, and for that, it deserves a place in the roster of my deserted island movies.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

2. The LOTR Trilogy

Yeah, so technically this is three movies, but I don’t view them that way. I see the trilogy as three parts of one story that all inter-connects (hey, isn’t that the definition of a trilogy anyway?). The depth of the various plot threads and the level of character development give new meaning to masterpiece. Peter Jackson and company pay tribute to Tolkien in so many ways, from costumes and makeup to music and set design, the entire trilogy is one giant labor of love to the late author. I remember how hard it was to wait in-between releases of these films and I still enjoy every single minute of them on DVD now.

Also picked by Anthony and Corey.

• • •

1. The Shawshank Redemption

What makes Shawshank so brilliant is the way it weaves what really are a series of small vignettes into one, wonderful story arc. Take any one of them by itself and you have great story telling and compelling drama. Follow the entire series over the course of two hours and you have one of the best movies ever made. The tale told by Morgan Freeman is one of hope and despair, of freedom and imprisonment which leads to one of, if not the most, satisfying endings in movie history. I think I’ve watched Shawshank about 30+ times now and it never gets old or boring. The look on the warden’s face when he pulls down Andy’s poster is priceless. A great film.

Also picked by Anthony.

• • •

I define “Guilty Pleasures” as movies that you love, but wouldn’t necessarily admit to loving in mixed company. I’d sure as heck take these movies to a deserted island if there was room on the boat, but I might watch them in a cave on the other side of the lagoon, far away from the judgmental eye of the tribe. :-)

Starship Troopers – This cheesy excuse for a big-budget sci-fi flick has it all: big overblown sets, method acting, scene chewing dialog “You’re some kind of SMART BUG!”, and Doogie Howser! Top it all off with a dash of Denise Richards, and a side helping of Michael Ironside and you’ve got the perfect guilty pleasure. It’s so bad, it’s good.

Legend of Boggy Creek – Sure it was shot with a 16mm handheld camera, employes the entire Crabtree family and has one of the sappiest love songs about a swamp monster you’ll ever hear, but it still ROCKS! Boggy Creek is by far the best of the 70′s docu-dramas about Bigfoot you’ll ever see. It’s regular viewing in my home and the Iconfactory in October. I take pride in the knowledge that I have hooked all the guys at the office on this super bad, super scary, low-budget number from my childhood.

Zoolander – Ben Stiller hams it up to perfection in this goofy flick about a model idiot. Filled with cliches and snappy pop tunes, Zoolander is nothing more than trashy, bubble gum fun, but it always brings a smile to my face. The exchange between Derek, Hansel and Billy Zane is classic, as is Derek’s one look – The Magnum.

Ghost – To say Ghost is sappy is an understatement. It’s so corny, that I can’t even get my wife to watch it, my WIFE! I’ll admit that it pushes a bit too many stereotypical buttons, but when that penny floats across the room to land in Molly’s hand, damn if I don’t tear up every single time! Sometimes you just gotta have a good cry, and so there’s Ghost.

FM Talk 101.1 Dumps Fox Noise

Imagine my surprise when I tuned into Brad & Britt this morning and the familiar Fox news bumper with the laughable “Fair and Balanced” tag line was replaced with the soothing tones of ABC News. Yes, it seems that FM Talk 101.1 WZTK has opted out of their contract with Fox to supply them with their on-air news updates in favor of the “World leader in news.” I called the station to confirm and they indeed told me that their contract with Fox was done.

I never personally heard an on-air Fox report on 101.1 that seemed overly biased, but I have witnessed it many times on Fox News. Personally, any company that decides to deny Rupert Murdoch even the tiniest piece of our world’s media inter-web, is okay by me. Now if we could just get them to do something about Michael “Weiner” Savage…

Another Reason RFID Sucks

As if massive privacy concerns and identity theft were not enough reasons to worry about the wide spread use of radio frequency identification technology, now comes word that it it may also cause cancer. It seems that a series of veterinary and toxicology studies from the mid-1990s, found that RFID chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats. Although the FDA has officially approved the chips for implanting in pets and limited use in humans, these studies found that lab mice and rats injected with microchips sometimes developed subcutaneous “sarcomas”, or malignant tumors, most of them encasing the implants.

Although the research is ongoing, I’m seriously thinking about having the RFID chips in our pets removed. Some people think all this FUD is hogwash, and that RFID is perfectly safe and secure. To them I say, have you ever had chemotherapy? I have, and let me just say it’s no day at the beach. If you’d like to gamble with an aggressive form of cancer that can kill you in as little as 3-6 months just to prove your pet theories, be my guest! The chips are even mentioned by bible enthusiasts as one of the signs of the end times for Pete’s sake! Do you really want to portend the apocalypse AND go through localized radiation therapy? No, I didn’t think so.

Earlier this month, California passed a law forbidding companies from forcing their employees to have RFID chips implanted in them. I plan on writing our representatives and asking them to support the very same measure here in NC. The chips pose serious threats to security, personal liberty and now, health. As far as I’m concerned, they can’t be banned fast enough. Now excuse me while I finish that Book of Revelations.

iPhone Dithers Images

I first noticed a problem with how the iPhone was displaying synced images while working on user interface comps for MobileTwitterrific. I would export a 24-bit PNG image and place it in iPhoto to view the picture directly on the iPhone at 1:1. This would allow me to see how controls and text held up on the high resolution display and adjust the UI elements accordingly. To my dismay I noticed that once synced, all images placed on the iPhone displayed dithering artifacts. The same thing happens when you sync any of the free wallpapers available at the Iconfactory via iTunes and iPhoto.

I didn’t pay this problem much attention at first, but yesterday I noticed the so-called “Icon Factory Wallpapers” pack that popped up on Nullriver’s AppTapp installer from Conceited Software. After having installed the wallpaper pack, I noticed, as did an observant user named Keith Rhee, that these images did not suffer from the same 8-bit dithering as other user installed images. Keith’s done some digging and discovered that either iPhoto or iTunes compresses all synced images down to 8-bit pngs using a custom algorithm that neither he nor I can re-create with Photoshop. Apple obviously did this to save precious storage space on the iPhone, but depending on the image, sometimes the results can be less than spectacular (see above).

Keith was good enough to come up with a manual work-around for this problem that you can use if you want your iPhone wallpapers to appear as smooth and silky as they possibly can. Of course, neither Keith, myself nor the Iconfactory take responsibility for any potential damage done to your iPhone as a result of these instructions. Here is the process:

1. Use AppTapp to put Nullriver’s Installer on your iPhone.

2. Using Installer, install the BSD sub-system and the SSH client/server.

3. Under your phone’s wi-fi settings, look up the current IP address.

4. Use an SFTP client (Keith used Interarchy) to access the iPhone at the aforementioned IP address. The default username/password for an iPhone is ‘root’ and ‘dottie’ respectively. (Unless the owner of the iPhone has changed the username and password for his/her iPhone.)

5. The official Apple wallpapers are located at /Library/Wallpaper. Two files are required for all wallpapers that you install in this directory:

* The wallpaper itself – 320×480 pixels
* The thumbnail file that shows up in the wallpaper browser – 75×75 pixels

If the wallpaper is named foo.png, then the wallpaper thumbnail needs to be named foo.thumbnail.png.

Apple obviously took great care to design on-screen elements that look as good as they possibly can. The high resolution touch-sensitive screen has been hailed by critics and users alike as being unmatched on any mobile device. Apple’s default wallpapers are positively gorgeous, as are the individual apps, window elements and controls. But when it comes to our photos and wallpapers, Apple has decided they need to be dithered and compressed to save space. Some will say the visual difference is negligible, and most of the time this is true. The real bummer here is that we have no choice if synced images are dithered or not.

I’d like to suggest that Apple gives users the option to decide if we want to save that space, or display our family photos and wallpapers as we intended them, in all their 24-bit glory. If you agree, head on over to Apple’s iPhone feedback page and tell them a pixel is a terrible thing to waste.

Schadenfreude ala Apple

Ask Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch or anyone who’s dared to stick their neck out on Survivor, and they’ll tell you being at the top is a dangerous place. As often happens in technology, industry and reality TV, the higher you dare to reach, the more people will want to see you fall. Judging by the flurry of negative reports published this week about Apple, Steve Jobs must be doing something VERY right. The sheer number of “analysis” by so-called experts, dealing with the iPhone price cut has reached deafening proportions, and almost all of them take pot shots at my favorite computer company.

How bad can it be? That’s what I asked when the usual suspects published their typical bullshit about Apple following the “Beat Goes On” special event on Wednesday. TheStreet.com’s Scott Moritz was back in classic Apple bashing form with this whopper:

“The move will add more evidence to the speculation that the iPhone, while causing quite a buzz, may not be selling as rapidly as some optimists had expected.”

Lest he forget, the only “optimist” that said Apple would sell more iPhones than were expected was Mortiz himself. A fact that he’s never actually admitted to or apologized for. TheStreet.com was just getting started however, as this piece from Marek Fuchs proved:

“Now, if you can name a product in the annals of commerce that was introduced to great fanfare and shortly afterward had its price slashed to ribbons where that worked out to be a good thing, well, do let me know.”

I hate to break the news to you Marek, but there are plenty of examples of similar price slashing, and one even comes from the cell phone industry. The ultra-popular Motorola Razr dropped more than 1/3 in price within the first six months of its debut, and although the iPhone dropped faster, I suspect it’s simply because the iPhone was ten times more anticipated (and sold ten times better) than the Razr.

I’m pleased to write that it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Apple this week however. In an enlightend piece from NYT piece on Friday, Saul Hansell cuts through the crap and actually discovers the real reason for the iPhone price cut:

“The central rule of technology is that the unit price drops sharply with volume. If Apple sold more than it hoped, then it would achieve scale faster and would be able to drop prices sooner. Apple’s introduction of the iPod Touch, using many of the same parts as the iPhone, gives it an even bigger checkbook to brandish in Taiwan to secure good supplies at good prices.”

Hansell aside, it’s a sad state of affairs that outsiders like John Gruber and myself, have a clearer picture of what’s going on here than the people that write for Wall Street’s largest publications. Apple set the iPhone’s launch price high because they knew gadget lust would be ridiculous. It’s the basic law of supply and demand, and Apple played it perfectly. They knew that people would bitch about the price of the iPhone prior to launch, but that hundreds of thousands would pay it just the same.

With the successful launch of the iPhone, Jobs was able to reduce the iPhone’s entry price to levels below any similarly equipped smart phone on the market. These new price levels virtually guarantee Apple a very merry Christmas buying season. Despite this clear and agressive strategy, all Mortiz, and others such as Dvorak and Robinson can come up with is “The iPhone is DOOMED!”. This second rate analysis is almost as funny as Britney Spear’s supposed come back.

So all you so-called “experts”, do me a favor and keep publishing those Apple hit pieces. Your collective efforts drove AAPL down far enough that I could pick up more shares that will eventually, inevitably rise to $150 and help pad my retirement. Steve and I thank you.

UPDATE: Gruber thinks Mortiz is shorting Apple stock, and I agree 100%. He’s got another tissue of lies masquerading as factual reporting today. Moritz says that “Optimists had figured the price cut and product shuffle, while sudden, was part of a bigger plan to make way for a higher priced 3G iPhone on the eve of the holiday buying season.” Wanna take a bet as to whom the “Optimists” are in this scenario? Can’t be Apple or any real customer base, because no one has ever said that 3G would be available on the iPhone this year or even next. That leaves one person… Scott Mortiz. Break out your duck boots people, we’re knee deep in bullshit.

Sweet Zombie Jesus!

“Everyone always says they’re in favor of saving Hitler’s brain. But as soon as you put it in the body of a great white shark, ooohh! Suddenly you’ve gone too far!”

Just another friendly reminder that all-new episodes of Futurama are coming to Comedy Central in November. I don’t regret telling you this, but I do both rue and lament it.

He’s Pissed, and I Don’t Blame Him

I love how this ad takes Bush’s “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” rhetoric and turns it on its head. The climate deniers seem to respond to black and white vs. levels of gray, so maybe spots like this will penetrate their thick, thick skulls. We can only hope and pray. There isn’t much time left.

Nothing to See Here

Global warming is a hoax. Just remember that simple “fact” as you watch the news this week. Temperatures in parts of the United States have hit triple digits for the second straight week, California is suffering rolling blackouts due to the extreme heat and Felix grew from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane in just 27 hours. None of this matters you see, because evidently there is no empirical evidence to suggest that man is causing climate change.

I know what you’re thinking. You thought the argument was that the climate wasn’t changing AT ALL, not that man was causing it. Well, those skeptics seem to have given up on that lame defense and are now admitting that climate change is real, it’s just not humans who are causing it. It has to do with the wobble of the earth, or sun spots, or water vapor or cycles or… or… whatever! Just not increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. No, there is no evidence of that what-so-ever.

So as you bake in your blacked out or windswept home in the days and weeks ahead, just keep repeating to yourself that man isn’t to blame and there is nothing we can or even should do about it. If you say it enough times, it will be true. At least in your own head.

Greensboro Gets StreetSmart

Mercedes-Benz and Smart are currently touring the country to give eager fans of the Smart Fortwo an early look. Various models of the automobile have been a hit in Europe since it debuted in 1998. Its micro size gives the car an ability to park almost anywhere, which tends to come in handy on the narrow streets of European capitals. The “StreetSmart” tour, as is being called in the U.S., finally came to Greensboro this weekend, and so my friends Talos & Rachel Tsui and I packed up and headed out to the Shops at Friendly center to get a good look and test drive the Fortwo.

The sign-up and waiting period for the test drive lasted 2 full hours. Thankfully the weather was cooler than it’s been in recent memory, with gray skies that kept the beating sun off of us and the hundreds of other people waiting to get their hands on the wheel. We queued up through a high-tech trailer lined with safety videos and technical illustrations of the car as we wound our way out back, closer and closer to the car. The entire event reminded me of being in line for Space Mountain at Disney World, except there were no screaming kids and it was free.

The Fortwo has what Smart calls “automated manual transmission”. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Once inside the car, the Smart representative informed me that the transmission does more work for you than a manual, but I quickly found it isn’t an true automatic either. With the push of a button, you can leave the car in “automatic” and it will shift in and out of the appropriate gears. However, at any time, you can begin to shift manually using either of the paddle shifters nested on the steering wheel, or via the more traditional shifter on the floor. I quickly found that shifting manually was not only more fun, but resulted in a smoother drive as well. I’m told the car is still geared for European roads and the shift timing will be improved for automatic mode prior to its official launch.

Overall I was surprised at how roomy the car was. I’m a big guy, and yet I had enough space to be comfortable, and was able to see out over the ultra-small hood and side windows easily. I had the pleasure of driving the cabrio convertible, which was especially fun on the streets behind the Shops at Friendly. According to Smart, the car will start at prices under $12K and should get an average of 40 mpg in the city, which is pretty good. The European market also has the option of a diesel engine, which I’m starting to get keen on thanks to more info from my friend Corey. No telling yet if the diesel version will be available in the United States.

All in all, the Smart Fortwo was a pleasure to drive and look at. Although the visual design of the Smart can’t help but bring a toy to mind, the car itself does not feel toyish in any way. The controls, materials and handling are all what you would expect from Mercedes-Benz. As an in-town commuter car, I think it would be ideal. Trips to work, the grocery store, and errands would all shine with the Fortwo. Obviously I’m not sure how it would hold up on long trips, or extended drives on highways crowded with impatient drivers. It was encouraging to see so many people waiting in line to test drive the Smart. Given the ever climbing price of gas, and the U.S.’s seemingly endless need for huge SUVs, the Smart may very live up to its name and help bring Americans, driving stylishly, into the 21st century.

So You’re an Idiot Then

From Think Progress:

After his plane was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid rocket-propelled grenades while taking off from Baghdad, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said “he watched through the window as the grenades exploded near the plane. He said he felt the blasts.” Asked if he was frightened, Inhofe responded, “Not a bit. I was kind of excited.“

Not only is Inhofe the biggest partisan hack in the history of the U.S. government, but to him, almost getting shot down over Iraq is like riding Space Mountain at Disney World. It’s enough to give new meaning to the term, Fastpass.