Saturday, January 30, 2010

Senator, I Know Saint George. And You Are No Saint George.

And so, it's here. And as usual, the fanboys are getting like Hans Gruber towering over Nakatomi: "when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept - for there were no more worlds to conquer".

Perhaps if Hans Gruber had been a more literate man, he would have realised that that's one of those lines that people use when they want to sound edgeycated, but that bears only passing resemblance to the original text. But let's be honest, most lightweight McIntellectual readers don't care. They have their little quotable lines that make them sound smart ("Alas, poor Yorrock! I knew him well!") and they can move on, happy in the knowledge that they've thoroughly impressed the girl with dyed red hair and thick-rimmed glasses sitting across from them at Starbucks with their literary abilities, in between talking about how subversive and confucian South Park and The Daily Show are. Those are the people who are crowing over the iPad being the "Kindle Killer".

Give me - as my Kindle-loving friend Paul Higginbotham would say - a small, personal break.

Does the iPad look impressive? Well... yeah. In a way. I have an iPod Touch, and it's an amazing little device. Restricted in some areas, sure, but bloody powerful given its size. I can listen to podcasts, watch videos, dial around live radio, catch up on tv episodes, and I can check my email or Twitter or Facebook to my heart's content, all on something that's small and light enough to carry in my pocket (or my mouth, when I need both hands). I was knocked over by it, and continue to be knocked over a good six months after it floated gaily into my life. Does that mean that a really really big iPod touch with a bigger screen is going to be better? No... it means it's still going to be a pretty amazing device, but points deducted for being so damned cumbersome. And not so easily carried orally.

Not so long ago, I downloaded the free Kindle app to my iPod. I don't use it a whole lot, and I only ever really download free books onto it. Partly because I'm a cheapskate, and partly because it's just so tiring to use as an eBook reader. As you can imagine, for a cheapskate such as myself, the thought of spending money on a book that's going to give me a headache when I read it hardly fills me with joy. The iPod screen lends itself well to informational use, quick scanning of websites, the odd check of TweetDeck, that sort of thing. Even video is easy to watch - the screen isn't too small to have to squint and it's sharp enough for detail. But for plan old text...? No. Not on your nelly. There's something about a dense block of words (any font, any size) mixed with a backlit screen, that makes you go boz-eyed after a while. It just doesn't work. Exponentially so in low light.

The Kindle, on the other hand, is astonishing. This e-ink thing that it uses... I don't understand it. I can't grasp the technology and I have no idea how it works. All I know is that it does. It's so incredibly easy on the eyes that in some ways, it's even better than printed text. There's no fold shadows, no dog-eared corners where some philistine has marked their place (really - mix in a receipt or something), no smeared words or missing pages leading to life-changing frustration trying to find out who Johnny Oxford pointed his finger at in "Lady Don't Fall Backwards". Oh sure, the iPad can compete measure for measure when it comes to things like being able to wirelessly download books at speed, bookmarking, note-taking and highlighting the rude bits for a later re-visit. Where it fails is the biggest part of reading a book - readability.

So, don't expect the Kindle to roll over and its many fans to convert. It ain't gonna happen. Will the iPad be a roaring success, and its eBook reader be used daily to find miniscule portions of the classics so that pseudointellectuals can impress each other? You betcha. Is the war on? Absolutely. So, iPad... Lead on, MacDuff. Let's see which device real readers think is better. To me, the answer seems elementary, my dear Watson.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Food Club" Brand at Big Bear Supermarkets. (Or "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Spend Countless Hours On The Internet Trying To Date A Milk Jug.")

Oh, hello! It's yourself!

Here's the story so far: My house in Charleston is about to be put on the market for a third time. It's a lovely house; three bedrooms, nestled comfortably in the Edgewood area. Hey - if you know someone that's looking for a beautiful starter home with the original 70 year old hardwood floors lovingly restored to their original glory by a professional, a great neighbourhood featuring an award-winning gardener and a finished half basement that used to be home to the studios of the Taskerlands Radiophonic Workshop (responsible for many professional radio productions, including Rock 105's April Fool's Day parade, The 4th annual awards ceremony and the nationally (UK) syndicated 'Spike Nesmith Rage Machine') let me know before any estate agents get involved, so we can cut a mutually beneficial deal!

Ahem. Commercial over.

The kitchen worktop has been torn off so it can be refinished with something new, shiny, modern and sexy, and one of the few treasures yielded from underneath was an old milk jug bearing the "Food Club" brand.

Sorry for the rubbish quality of the photograph, we can thank the world's worst phone for that. There's a really good reason that Sprint give away the Motorola Krazers for free: they're shite.

Anyhoo, I had never heard of the brand, and thanks to some fantastic detective work on Facebook from my friends Ryan and Joel, we've managed to figure out that although the store Food City currently distribute 'Food Club' products as their own-brand, both Giant Eagle and Big Bear supermarkets carried it as their store brands at some point, too. It just so happens that there was a Big Bear supermarket very close to my house before the company went tits-up in 2004. It's an enormous Big Lots now, but it was a Big Bear up until 2002 or 2003 and, in fact, you can still make out the bear logo etched in dirt on their roadside sign. So we know where it's from... but when is this jug from? The best before date says "Mar20", but there's no year. I'm assuming because it's plastic and has a barcode that it's not March 1920, but this is where we hit a roadblock. Here's some anecdotal factoids that could help:

  • I did some digging on the internets and I found this on Flickr, a Food Club peanut butter jar bearing the same red logo (it's different now). The Flickr account says it's from the seventies.

  • I've also found evidence on Flickr that the logo was being used in the 1950s, but my elite research team (some bloke on the internet) suggests that the square plastic milk jug wasn't in wide use until "somewhere in the mid 70s", but could be as early as the late 60s.

  • Barcodes were introduced for commercial use in 1966, but it wasn't until after 1974 that the first products were able to be optically scanned, and it was the 1980s that they gained popularity.

  • I didn't move into the house until 2001, and this is the first time the worktop has been lifted. Plus, I didn't shop much at Big Bear when it existed - I usually went Krogering.

  • This picture of a 1998 can of Food Club Cola bears a similar logo, but the font appears to be different. The letter F has a tail, where mine does not.

  • The logo on a box of Food Club cereal from 1985 looks like it's the same (check the side, not the main logo), but it looks slightly taller and fatter than the logo on my milk jug. Is it a tweaking of the logo, or perspective? Also, the design of my logo looks older... or is that the dirt?

  • I have way, way, WAY too much time on my hands and, quite honestly, I'm shocked that you even read down this far.

And so, in conclusion, we can probably date it to within a ten year period, taking into consideration that the milk jug is at least 23-24 years old, but no older than 33-34 years. If we split the difference down the middle, assuming that the earliest it could be is 1974 and the latest 1986, basing our assumption on the existence of the barcode and the non-curly F logo, we could probably surmise that the jug dates from around 1982.

Furthermore, given the evidence that we have uncovered today, we can safely assume that my life is empty. So very, very empty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Danger: Low Flying Chairs

Oh sure, Springer is always good for a laugh. Maury's zoo-like atmosphere generates a giggle or two... but Steve Wilkos is, chair for chair, simply the best daytime talk show out there right now. Here's why:

Cheeky comedy gold. Love it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Best Policy: Honesty (Or Comedy).

OK, so here's the deal. I am unknowable. An enigma. I know this, because some people be all up in my grill, assuming that I'll agree with them on some point or other, and clearly they don't not know me at all.

So, here's your chance. In this here box, you can ask me a question. Any question at all. Personal, professional, serious, funny... whatever you like. You can tag your name on it, or you can make it anonymous. Just type it, send it, and I'll get cracking on the answers. And yes, I'll be as honest as I possibly can.*

So.... get asking. In a week, I'll post the best questions and answers and maybe we'll do it again.

*unless your question inspires an amusing answer, rather than an honest one. Well... come on. Sometimes a joke is better than the truth, right?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Ear (and other stolen body parts)

Here's one for the real movie buffs, it's been a hundred years since the first film version of Frankenstein was made.

Previously thought lost, it was rediscovered (in a right old two-and-eight) sometime in the mid 1950s. What a shame it's not in better condition, particularly since this week, the BBC made a big deal of unveiling the fruits of their labour, having put gawd knows how much time, money and resources into restoring the colour to the pilot of "Are You Being Served", FFS. Lazy snatch jokes are more important (or lucrative) than cinematic history, I guess.