Archive for August, 2006

The Time of the Season

August 23, 2006

Wow. This is too cool. A video that accompanies one of my favorite songs from the psychedelic 60s, Time of the Season by the Zombies:

That video is WAY ahead of its time, long before MTV and music videos were standard in the industry. Check out the fashions, some of which would still look good today. Then remember that many of those nice looking models are likely grandmas by now. Ha.
(By the way, the song was recorded at Abbey Road studios the year before I was born and then released in 1968, the year of my birth.)

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Bill Watterson Rarities

August 21, 2006

I have loved Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes from the first time I read it (a day or two after it first ran in 1985) up to the present; my wife even got me the hard-bound Complete Calvin and Hobbes collection for Christmas last year.
So I was really tickled to check out this collection of Watterson rarities that Lynn found. It’s neat to see his pre-Calvin work, as well as examples of the only couple of authorized Calvin and Hobbes items that Watterson ever licensed.
My sons both love these books, and I wish I could get them an authorized t-shirt to keep the characters alive as they were intended to be seen, not as some peeing or praying little boy sticker planted on the back of redneck pickup trucks.

Halo Lego Videos

August 15, 2006

I love the “narrowcasting” enabled by the ubiquity of television channels and the internet. But d-i-y videos can be a hit-or-miss proposition. So I’ll do a little filtering for y’all. A “value add,” if you will.
Hit:
A nicely done reenactment of the Halo 2 trailer using stop-motion Lego animation:

Miss:
A mixture of live action and crude stop motion to tell an original story set in the Halo universe:

If I had a few more hours a day to goof off, I could see the fun in putting something like these together. And now there’s a global audience ready to consume whatever is posted for their viewing pleasure. Maybe someday…

Welcome Back, Mr. Green

August 14, 2006

Stephen Green, the “Vodkapundit”, has returned from an extended hiatus during which his co-blogger, Will Collier, did a great job of filling in. But Steve is a blogger with a unique voice that stands out in the cacophony of the blogworld.
Go welcome him back.

Legacy of Heorot For the Xbox?

August 14, 2006

Saw this at Jerry Pournelle’s place a couple weeks ago: apparently Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle recently had lunch with some folks from Bungie.
If you’re not a gamer AND a science fiction geek, you’re probably wondering about the significance of this. Well, Larry Niven is the SF author who dreamed up and described a “ringworld” in his suitably-named, bestselling, and [Hugo and Nebula] award-winning novel. And Bungie is the software company that developed one of the greatest first-person-shooters of all time, Halo, which takes place on the surface of a ringworld.
What I wouldn’t have given to be a fly on the wall at that lunch. Geek heaven.
The really cool scoop? Pournelle relates that he and Niven were talking about stories of theirs that could be adapted by Bungie for new games, especially The Legacy of Heorot. Back in college, a buddy of mine who was into film (he makes videos for a living now) thought that Heorot was a natural for adaptation to the big screen. I strongly agree. But if it can’t be a movie, I would love to see it come to life in a video game medium. The rich interactivity of a well-designed game brings many more hours of entertainment to me than all but a very few movies and TV shows.
Pournelle touched on this interactivity in Halo with Bungie:

One interesting item: I wondered why, when the Skipper gave the Master Chief his pistol, he said it was unloaded.
They pointed out that I didn’t know gamers. Give the gamer a loaded pistol and he’ll shoot the commander. Give the commander bodyguards, and the gamers will start with the bodyguards. It gets more and more complex; easier to simply make the hero leave the room and close the door behind him before he can find any ammunition. Interesting. But I still don’t find it very realistic that the commander would carry an unloaded pistol. Ah well.

The funny thing is, at that scene in Halo, if you go back and kill the skipper, the Marines will storm the bridge, lock you in and attack you until you die. The Marines become invincible. It’s kind of fun in a twisted way to see how long you can last.
In any case, I hope this project is made. I’m holding off on the purchase of an Xbox 360 until Halo 3 ships, but if this came out before then, I would upgrade in an instant.

The Substance of Style at McDonald’s

August 13, 2006

Today’s Business section in the Dallas Morning News tells the story of Ed Bailey, whose ownership of 61 McDonald’s locations in the ultra-competitive Dallas dining market has made him one of the most successful restaurant franchisees in the world.
Mr. Bailey’s success as an entrepreneur began in the fashion business. Having first worked as a traveling dress salesman, Mr. Bailey soon opened and ran a successful men’s designer clothing store in Cincinnati for 10 years. When he got his first franchise from McDonald’s in 1984, he moved his family to Plano (a great place to live!) and was successful enough in the difficult Valley View Mall food court location that he obtained a second franchise within a year. Over the next 22 years, he added 59 more stores to his portfolio.
His story could have ended there as a great tribute to the American Dream lived by so many successful small business owners. But as the article points out, there’s a special angle to Mr. Bailey’s success. In the early 1990s, Mr. Bailey decided to distinguish his franchises by spending money to make them more aesthetically pleasing at the same time as his corporate management was pushing cost controls:

In 1992, Mr. Bailey opened unit No. 7 at Preston Road and Royal Lane just as McDonald’s was entering its low-cost era….
It was the most expensive McDonald’s built in the United States that year, with a $650,000 tab. A company-owned unit less than three miles away was the cheapest, costing half as much. The regional vice president chastised Mr. Bailey severely for this perceived folly.
“Two and a half years later, I bought that store because McDonald’s wasn’t making any money,” he says, stating fact more than bragging. “I was doing 40 percent more in sales in basically the same trade area.”

Mr. Bailey knew then what Virginia Postrel would later identify as the “aesthetic imperative.” In Ms. Postrel’s words:

Aesthetics–the look and feel of people, places, and things–is increasingly important as a source of value, both economic and cultural….
Aesthetics shows up where function used to be the only thing that mattered, from toilet brushes to business memos to computers and cell phones. And people’s expectations keep rising. New tract homes have granite countertops, so hotel rooms have to have granite countertops too. Family restaurants used to be all about price and food, but now they have to worry about their decor. We’ve gone from Pizza Hut to California Pizza Kitchen. If you’re in business, you have to invest in aesthetics simply to keep up with the competition.

Or, as Mr. Bailey’s experience showed, to beat the competition.
For more in the same vein, check out Ms. Postrel’s The Substance of Style. And be sure to read the entire Morning News article about Mr. Bailey.

Star Trek Motivational Posters

August 10, 2006

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Many more available here.
(via GeekPress)

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream

August 9, 2006

Blue Bell’s Tin Roof Ice Cream is simply the best ice cream flavor in the world.
Followed closely by Baskin RobbinsChocolate Fudge.
Email me or leave a comment on your favorites and why. I’ll expand on this.

More Meme Therapy

August 9, 2006

Be sure to check out Meme Therapy’s great-looking new site.
While you’re there, check out your humble author’s continued ruminations in another recent Brain Parade that tackles this question: Science Fiction often presents a coded commentary on the present. What current work of science fiction do you think delivers the most relevant/poignant message with respect to our present geopolitical situation?
Check it out and let me know what you think. Let Jose at Meme Therapy know, too.
Update: Kudos to Rosie for her excellent design work.

Must-See YouTube

August 8, 2006

I wonder if the officer giving this speech, LTC Randolph C. White Jr., has read Heinlein’s Starship Troopers? This is powerful stuff. Makes me feel somewhat “lesser” for never having served in the armed services. But at the same time thankful for everyone who has. Watch the whole thing.

(Seen almost simultaneously at INDC Journal and Target Centermass).