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Exit ArchiveArchive for November, 2006

I’ve pretty much enjoyed the Get a Mac ads since their inception, but not since the Angel and Devil ad have I felt the need to post about them here (except the very funny Japanese versions).

Now comes a new ad where the PC tries to sell PCs from within the Mac ad itself. Subversive! I’m not sure how often in the history of advertising Company A has let the competitor’s “product” pitch itself without actually coming out and saying how product A is better. Here, Mac just lets PC look silly and seems dissapointed that their little friendship is being used for such tawdry hucksterism. It’s fun.

Get a Mac: PC Sales Pitch

Thanks to an apostrophe in the subject line, this did not get posted yesterday, as I’d intended. Ah, PHP! But now that I’m back home, here it is:

High over the coastline

Here is the view from Lorraine and Al’s condo in Boca. The blue ocean here makes one realize how dirty the ocean is in L.A.

Me skimboarding

Today is Swanky Private Boca Raton Beach Club day, wherein I learned (sorta) how to skimboard. Thanks, Jake!

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Two coincidences today.

1: Phillip mentioning the Monty Python “Wafer Thin Mint” sketch before going to see Stranger than Fiction, which has that clip in it.

2: Molly starting today’s wet willy barrage, then seeing this restaurant next door to the theater:

Sign for Wet Willie's
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Molly and Jake play pool

Jake, 13, and Molly, 10, playing bar pool. Don’t call Child Services.

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A rhinoceros in Florida

We’re on a safari. In Florida. It’s pretty neato.

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Molly gives me another fancy hairdo

To relive my first year of Thanksgiving with the Reicherts in 2003, Molly gave me one of her signature hairdos.

UPDATE: She also got to me this summer…

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A Florida Thanksgiving

As the title says.

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Inside a mobile home

For the first few nights, Marcy and I will be staying in this trailer. Yes, this is a trailer! It’s monstrous.

SIlly signs in airport gift shop

I’m off to Florida for Thanksgiving this year instead of New York. Here are some signs they’re selling at an LAX shop. Yes, that’s L.A. for you! Hicksville.

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Well, this was a maimed phone posting. But I have come back to fix it, add to it, and include more pictures, the quality for which I make no apologies. These were all taken during set-up for the event, not during the event itself. I mean, you seen one Hollywood star-studded next-gen gaming console late-night launch party, you seen them all.

PS3 Launch West Hollywood Best Buy

Tonight, following my third Walt Disney Concert Hall concert in under 2 weeks, I’ll be at a PS3 launch event in the street behind Best Buy West Hollywood.

PS3 Launch Dave Navarro

I was there for part of the setup, and got to see Dave Navarro doing a sound test. Besides being one sexy mo-fo, he’s also a pretty good guitarist.

PS3 Launch Blu-ray Dome

Disney was in the Blu-ray dome, where four studios showed off high-def movies playing from a PS3. Had the dome been a contest, we would have won, because we had an awesome set-up with costumes and props from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies beautifully displayed amongst plants and netting and all manner of piratey decoration.

PlayStation 3s were set up all around so you could play some of the games. PlayStation play stations, if you will.

PS3 Launch PlayStation Play Station

The game makers had some pretty cool set-ups to show off their games. I have no pictures of those, though, because I obviously took pictures of the most boring stuff. So here’s one of the non-consumer test units, and a trailer with games inside and out.

PS3 Launch Test Console

PS3 Launch Truck

Stan Lee and Tony Hawk were there. I saw Rick Schroder and Kevin Dillon, and Mr. Navarro, now shirtless, played with all kinds of famous people I didn’t really know. Except Slash.

And the food kicked ass. BBQ sandwiches, pie, corn dogs, Jamba Juice, Krispy Kreme, hot pretzels, chili bar…

I played some of the games, but they were all just about normal, and some of them were distinctly not high res. One driving game looked like it was playing off a PS2. (Maybe it was a PS2 game playing in the PS3?) Frankly, the best game I played was Loco Roco, and that was on a PSP in the trailer.

Part of me would love to have a PS3, mostly because it plays Blu-ray movies. But it does not play BD-R discs, which, like DVD-Rs, you burn from your own computer. Not that anyone can do that yet, but it’s a bad limitation that will one day cause distress. It’s being mumbled that the PS3 does not display 1080i. Since my TV is not 1080p, this would be bad. Maybe both these problems could be fixed with firmware updates, but why take that chance?

When the event was done and I took off, about 12:45, I walked by the line of people who had been waiting to get into Best Buy to buy their PS3s. There were still a lot of people there, but they were being let in, one-by-one, to buy their precious box.

The Zune. In Brown.

If you so desired, you could go buy a Zune today. Why? Well, if you’re an anti-iPod person, for one, or if you think Microsoft is da bomb, for another. Maybe if you’re a glutton for punishment. But if you think Microsoft is da bomb, you are, then, by definition, a glutton for punishment. Or maybe you had a bad experience with service at an Apple Store and somehow think Microsoft would provide better service for their more-likely-to-fail product.

So far, it seems the Zune is mostly not such a great device. Well, I take that back: the device is okay, but the software is not. How unlike Microsoft! Engadget, which is a pretty impartial site, says installing the Zune sucked. They weren’t the only ones.

In watching the videos and looking at all the still shots of the Zune in action, I have come to the conclusion that Microsoft has, once again, overdone things. Walt Mossberg liked the interface and said that there are a few cases where the Zune was easier to use than an iPod. But when you actually listen to how many menus and clicks it takes to get to some of the features on the Zune, it’s a tangled mess. The Zune is another product designed for people who get and enjoy using technology instead of for just people.

The more aggravating thing might be the over-use of transparency in the UI. On the iPod, nothing gets in the way of the information on the screen. But on a Zune, the text is displayed over wallpaper. The wallpaper can be the current album art, or your own pictures… but the text, regardless, is not exactly going to be easy to read in some of those situations. If you’re trying to navigate the Zune while you’re driving, say—yes, a very bad idea, but there you go—it’s going to be impossible over some wallpapers to quickly and efficiently see the text. I do not know if there is an easy way to tell the Zune to just print text over a solid background, but no one’s going to bother doing that.

The Zune software UI on Windows suffers from the same problem. It sure looks very sleek and stylish to have all that text and all those dialogue boxes over professionally-captured images of professional models having professional fake fun, but for an actual UI, where you need to interact with the computer, it’s not such a great idea. For a print ad or television commercial or something, sure, do anything you want. But for a UI, it’s simply poor design. Windows Vista, which starts shipping in January, is filled with hard-to-see interface elements, thanks to the overuse of transparency.

The Zune, of course, has an uphill battle, but we’ll see what happens. I won’t mention that the “click wheel” on the front is not a wheel at all, just a round navigational-type button ring. I also won’t mention that though the Zune has a bigger screen, it’s the same resolution as the 5th gen iPod. Nor will I mention the Zune store uses points, not dollars, so though songs seem to be 79¢, they are really 79 points, which comes out to about 99¢. And you have to buy the points in blocks. You can’t just buy one song.

There are a lot of other things I won’t mention.

Well, good luck to the Zune. May its presence in the market spur Apple to even greater heights with the iPod.

UPDATE: Here’s a funny vid from CNN where two co-anchors keep ruining the Zune’s moment in the spotlight. Andrew Ross Sorkin from The New York Times is presenting the Zune and all the CNN peeps can do is make disparaging comments. The one lady even pulls out her new iPod Shuffle, and a few moments are spend gawking at the gorgeous gee-gaw. Says the other anchor about the Zune: “Why don’t they get some decent design people to make things look better? You know, I mean… It’s clunky. It’s clunky stuff.” “No comment,” says Andrew.

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Laptop battery explosions have been all the rage with the trendsetters these days. Are you too untrendy to have had your laptop battery explode and catch fire? Then do watch the video below to see all the fun you’re missing.

Speaking of Apple, said company has posted Japanese versions of the Get a Mac ads, which feature what appears to be a funny translation of John Hodgeman next to what appears to be a cue-card-reliant Japanese Justin Long.

Get a Mac in Japan

Now, the Japanese like some pretty bizarre stuff, so maybe they will find this kind of thing a bit too tame. Though, to me, it looks hilarious.

(Because I know you care, previous posts on the Get a Mac ads are here and here.)

Steve’s gonna hate me for this.

About a year and a half ago, my sister gave me an iPod mini. Lime green. Love the thing. Yeah, it’s outmoded and old-fashioned now, what with its black-and-white screen and all. But, still. (I since got a 30-gig iPod, which is nothing by Steve’s standards, and it has become my primary one, but I still use the old green sucker.)

So, a few weeks ago, after several weeks of not being in operation, the iPod mini displayed a “sad iPod” when I turned it on. Now, I’m not Mac savvy, having not used a Mac since leaving Disney in 2001, but I know enough to recognize that a “sad” anything is very, very bad in the Mac world. (Does anyone actually call it “Macintosh” anymore?!)

Hoping that the little guy was still under warranty, I went online to see if I could send it in for service. Nope. Warranty’s expired. How convenient — a year or so after purchasing it, it collapses and the warranty just happens to have recently expired! The website says that my options are to send in the iPod for evaluation, but since they’ll have to see it to know what’s wrong with it I won’t know how much it will cost to get it fixed until they receive the gadget.

Or, the website says, I can take it to my nearest Apple store.

That’s what I did today.

What a nightmare.

I waited in line for 15 minutes at the cashier, only to be told that I needed to upstairs “and turn to the left.” (There are no signs that direct you to “service” in the store — there are no signs, really! It’s much too hip and cool for that.) Already exasperated (couldn’t they have had, oh, I dunno, a sign?!), I trod upstairs, turn to the left … and a hip and trendy, perky and cool employee says, “What can I do for you?” When I showed her my iPod and said, “I need to get this serviced,” she frowned. Like the sad iPod … call her the “sad employee.” She pointed. “Oh, you need to go to the Genius Bar.” (Emphasis mine.) That’s all. No further explanation. She turned and walked away.

Across the crowded upper level — an Apple seminar was being held — sits the “Genius Bar.” There’s no explanation of what this place is — explanations are, no doubt, far too 20th century for Apple. There’s a computer, though, that says, “Sign in here for the Genius Bar” on its screen. (Or some such wording.) There are two rows of images, with small words underneath like, “Apple Service,” “Creative Advice,” and other stuff.

So, I clicked on “Apple Service.” Then I got a screen that said, “Please enter your name and cell phone number to reserve a service appointment.” Wait a second, I think … an appointment? I enter the required information and click “Submit.” Then a nice little notice appears on screen. “The next available appointment is at 3:50 p.m.” I look at my watch … it’s half-past noon. Three and a half hours just so I can say to someone, “Can I send this in for service?”

I flagged down a way-too-cool employee. “Excuse me,” I say … already sensing I am losing my sanity. “I went onto the Apple website and it told me to come to my store to get my iPod service,” I explain, waving Little Lime in front of him. “Now I’m told I need to wait three and a half hours for an appointment?” He smiles at me, one of those smug smiles that people always smile when they have bureaucratic power over you. “Yes, that’s the way it works.”

At this point, thinking back to the screen that suggested I might hang out at the “Genius Bar” for “Creative Advice,” I’m envisioning Mr. I’m-Hot-You’re-Not Apple Employee hunkering down with a goth chick from Noe Valley, yammering on and on about how her nephew’s bar mitzvah invitation could look so much better with just a few sparkles around the Star of David.

I’m trying to be very calm, but I know I’m not going to succeed. “Well,” I say, “I drove here 20 miles from Oakland, and I just paid $16 to park downtown because the website told me to come here but didn’t say anything about needing an appointment to drop off my iPod for service.” He smiles again:

“You don’t drop it off. We need to look at it.”

“How am I supposed to know this, exactly?”

“I don’t know.”

“Neither do I,” I say, starting to fume, “but it would have been nice if someone had explained to me that I needed to make an appointment; I’ve only ever done that for my car.” I flash the iPod at him again, as if to underscore the point that a $35,000 automobile and a $199 electronic gadget are not equal in importance, even if Steve Jobs insists on having us believe that they are.

He smiles. A long smile. Frankly, a “f**k-you” smile. He tries to add a tiny frown and a little shrug, as if a non-verbal, “Oh, well, it’s your fault, not ours,” will placate me.

At that point, I turned and walked away. “Forget it,” I said.

That got him. Mr. Techno-Cool suddenly got worried. “Wait a moment,” he says. I don’t turn back. “I can get you in in about five minutes.”

I still don’t turn back, but I’m thinking: If he can see me in five minutes, why does this so-called Genius Bar need an appointment system? Is it the 2006 version of the old ’80s “wait in the bar” admonishment at trendy restaurants? Is it just another way to try to be in-your-face with hipness?

The noise level in the store is unbelievably high, primarily with Bittersweet Symphony filling the air from various iPod speakers being tested. “Sorry,” I say. “I’m not playing that game.”

I start to walk down the stairs, waving my hand at him to give him my own non-verbal signal that I’m not up for this smug coolness. The last thing I heard him say was: “Actually, I could see you now, sir.” Then: “Sir? I can take you now!”

To no one in particular as I descended the stairs, I shouted out, “You’ve lost a customer.”

Whether I mean it, I’m not sure. But for now, Little Lime will just be a very expensive paperweight, until I can figure out a way to get it repaired that doesn’t remind me of what a tragically unhip 40-year-old I have become.

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While there might be much to say about the results and the fallout of yesterday’s elections, a quick, concise, amusing picture with a geeky Mac twist is all that’s needed.

I got a real, honest-to-goodness, paying voice-over job yesterday. It was awesome. I was in and out of the joint in ten minutes. It was, without a doubt, the easiest money I’ve ever made. I like this voice-over thing!

The V/O was for HIT Entertainment’s DVD Auto-Play feature, which begins playing the DVD automatically after a short interval (and after my short announcement). I had to record two versions of the announcement, both of which ended with a single-word sentence: “Enjoy.”

I think I did a good job, and was very professional. But I had trouble on that last word. Mentally. A tiny flag went off in my head each time I came to that word. But I read it anyway, and in the most tranquil tone possible. Yes, folkarinos, it seems I’ve become part of a recent trend that has been growing in obnoxiousness in recent years. It’s the Enjoy Entreaty.

Just take a listen as you go about your life. Purchasing a yummy chicken sandwich at Wendy’s? Listen for the cashier to say “Enjoy” as she gives you your food. Acquiring a small souvenir for yourself at a little gift shop in the lobby of some touristy hotel in a vacation paradise? Notice how the smiling lady in the trifocals and the flower print shirt tells you to “Enjoy.” Buying a tiny plastic jar of chemical glop to apply to your hair for the perfect coif? Witness the purveyor urging you to “Enjoy” your new hair goop.

It seems that no matter what you go to do these days, someone is inviting you to Enjoy. They are doling out the Enjoy Entreaty. But why? How did this come to be so prevalent? Is corporate marketing to blame? Did it start with some new mandatory guideline at some mass market chain somewhere that required salespeople to say “Enjoy” to each and every customer? Or is it some kind of personal choice, where each individual salesclerk and serviceperson has decided that “Enjoy” is rather pleasant and wants to pass the delight on to others?

There’s nothing wrong with being told to Enjoy something. On the surface, and used sparingly, the word Enjoy is infused with positive vibes. It’s a comfy, cozy word. The key, though, is that “sparingly” part. When I am being hit with Enjoy at nearly every purchase, the word moves from the kingdom of Pleasantry to the dictatorship of Annoyance.

Perhaps the issue is that Enjoy is being used improperly. Really, when I purchase a movie ticket, should I be told to Enjoy? “Enjoy the movie,” yes, but just simply “Enjoy”? When I’m being handed my bag full of brand new cargo shorts, is it truly the correct suggestion? “Enjoy?” When I listen to the podcast of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! every week, should I be urged to “Enjoy” at the end of every cut-and-paste intro?

Here’s when Enjoy should be used. It should be used for food. Treats, preferably. Enjoying food is an accepted part of our lexicon. Boy, I Enjoyed that steak. Boy, did I Enjoy that marshmallow sundae. Did you Enjoy that homemade, oven-hot chocolate chip cookie? Boy, I sure did!

Beyond food, Enjoy needs qualifiers. Certainly, one can Enjoy a vacation. But the ticket lady at the garishly lit airline check-in counter should invoke the word in a phrase such as “Enjoy your flight!” or “Enjoy your trip!” She should never just say, “Enjoy.” Enjoy what? The trip? The ticket sleeve? The soon to be tedious immersion into ineffective security protocol? You may find the fit and comfort of your new clogs to be Enjoyable, but the clerk at Shoe Boot Shoe Shoe Boot Shoe should not say, nakedly, “Enjoy.” He should say, “Enjoy your new clogs!” The policewoman who so kindly pulled you over for speeding, thus sparing society an assuredly damaging and expensive accident, must take it upon herself to say, “Enjoy this financial deterrent to future misbehavior,” because a simple suggestion to “Enjoy” would exude a hint of smugness and righteousness.

My life is being made less Enjoyable by being constantly reminded to Enjoy the things I have myself sought out to Enjoy. “Enjoy” is so innocuous, so benign, so friendly, that to have it consistently misused and unwarrantedly thrust upon us is akin to a small child who, though adorable for a few minutes, becomes a nuisance when he simply will not turn around in his seat and stop staring at you while you Enjoy your Fatburger.

And so I take it upon myself to give you this apology. The voice-over that you may soon begin hearing before your new Barney, Bob the Builder, or Angelina Ballerina DVD bursts into spontaneous playing will invite you to “Enjoy.” It’s unfortunate and wrong. Am I telling you to Enjoy the video? To Enjoy the bonus features? To Enjoy the actual auto-play feature itself, movie be damned? What the hell does Enjoy mean at the end of the auto-play announcement? Nothing. It means nothing. So I’m sorry for being a part of the problem. I’m sorry I have been a party to the Enjoy Entreaty.

Well, I certainly am glad I got that off my chest. Thank you for listening, and have a nice day.

Speaking of Steve Jobs, I have always loved how he does the slides for his presentations. Being in the presentation business myself, I am constantly peeved by the horrible amount of bullets and crap that the BVHE folks throw onto their slides. Our sales meetings would be so much more interesting if our presenters sounded more natural, created a story out of their information, and let the slides behind them be their visual support, no their visual crutch.

And so it is observed at an interesting place called Presentation Zen. In fact, there are a few interesting, if older, observations about the presentation styles of Steve Jobs vs. Bill Gates at Presentation Zen.

The first is Bill Gates and Visual Complexity. The second is Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic.

Bill Gates and his Complicated Slide Aesthetic

Just look at those messy Microsoft slides! The morass on those slides is a wonderful visual representation of the mess of Microsoft software.