May 18th, 2013

Just One More Thing

The Princess And The Peeve

Let's talk about the "informed attribute."

Bad movie watchers know this inside and out, but regular movie goers aren't as familiar with it.  You have to think of the movie She's All That, where Rachel Leigh Cook is the ugly girl who is going to be transformed into a prom princess.  No one watching the movie thought she was ugly.  But the movie told us she was, because without this piece of information being accepted as gospel, the movie would fall apart.  The informed attribute is something that the audience has to believe is there even when it is blatantly obvious it is not and they have to be told it is there because they would never guess otherwise.  It's basically a subset of It's In The Script.

Last fall, Disney announced a DTV animated flick called Sophia The First that would have been their first Latina princess character. Those involved had to flat out state she was because nothing seemed to indicate she was Latina, just a generic character.  On the one hand, people are more alike than they are different, so under other circumstances, this might be okay.  But this was the leadoff hitter, the first Latina character, so making her more of a celebration of the culture instead of just, "Take our word for it, she's Latina" was important.  Jaime Mitchell, the executive producer of the flick, flat out stated in an interview, "She is Latina."  But Disney eventually caved to the protests of tokenism.  Sophia is now just a regular little girl with Latina overtones.

When it comes to money-making opportunities, Disney is nothing less than mercenary.  They recently applied for a trademark to Dia de los Muertos, but eventually bailed, saying the movie's name had changed.  Quasimodo from Disney's version of Hunchback...Disney's America...Disney wants money, and doesn't give in to anything very easily.

But it does give in eventually.  And I'm pleased to report it has done so on the subject of Merida from the girl-power rally film Brave and her Disney Princess makeover.  Disney is denying it ever put the images up, and only a few of them are valid, anyway, just to include the character, she isn't going to be an integral part of the Disney Princess collection.

Spock Win

Now, what about Princess Leia from Star Wars?  She is technically a Disney princess at this point....

This Is America. What Do You Expect Other Than Protectionism?

Techies are familiar with Tesla Motors, which makes all-electric sports cars.  They're a big deal because the cars actually work, they respond well, the design is top notch (Consumer Reports gave the car very high marks), and it doesn't look like the only tool the designer had to hand was a ruler.  It has recently announced its first quarterly profit.

Tesla has been making, you should pardon the expression, serious inroads in selling its cars.  It uses an Internet-based model to sell the vehicles.

Naturally, the gate keepers car dealers aren't happy about it.  And they have turned to that old standby, political lobbying, to get their way.

In Raleigh, NC, this past Monday, the state Senate passed a bill unanimously amended its definition of the what a car dealer.  As such, it requires car manufacturers to sell their cars through the state's system of 7,000.

In other words, Tesla can't sell their electric car without partnering with a dealer network that will price them into oblivion.

Tesla is lobbying to change the bill to allow an exception for zero-emmission, electric cars.  Tesla is out of state and not only doesn't contribute to the state economy, it actually takes business from the state economy.  The dealer network is 7,000 citizens who vote, are local, and can no doubt provide any politicians who happen by with a great deal.  I think we know how this is going to go.  The bill is now on the way to the House where it is expected to pass.

Remember the Golden Rule -- he who has the gold makes the rules.
Pichu Taunt

Shopping For The Truth

I want to go back to my days of the Stress Puppy comic strip for a moment.

Raff, the central character, had one tech toy that Holly was insanely jealous of.  On his Palm Pilot was an app that enabled him to track the locations of other employees inside the ITG building.  If the employee had their cell phone on, the different antennas could detect it, and based on strength and how many others saw it, could triangulate almost exactly where whoever it was was in the building.

It was a plot device that I needed to advance the story.  I had just started learning about wifi networks at the time, and the thought about triangulation hit me.  Naturally, this also increased my own paranoia about technology, prompting me to keep my wifi antenna on things like my tablets and such off until I wanted to use them.  After all, this meant that I could be used as research data.

Fan mail was split on the issue.  Some people, who clearly weren't tech savvy, said Raff's Marauder's Map was bullshit and I was cheating with the story.  Others said, yeah, it was possible, but you aren't transmitting identifying information, so don't be so paranoid.


Stores are already implanting cameras in the mannequins to track customers around the store.  Now, they don't even need that.  The New York Times has revealed a company is called Euclid, and they make technology that tracks customers based on their cell phone, tablet, or netbook signals, sort of like IRL Google Analytics.  They have 100 stores using their service, and they brag that they have tracked 50 million devices in 4,000 locations around the US.

Now, they, both Euclid and the stores, claim that the tracking is anonymous, so don't worry.  Although Nordstrom realizes that people are skittish about this -- they've dropped Euclid since May 8.  Or so they say.  And let's face it, they can always hire another company, you know Euclid isn't the only one out there.

So, let's hear from the enemy.  This is Tara Darrow, a Nordstrom spokesperson.  "Sensors within the store collect information from customer smartphones as they attempt to connect to wifi service.  The sensors can monitor the departments you visit and how much time you spend there (I told you so -- G).  However, the sensors do not follow your phone from department to department (no, but you can build that data from simple analysis -- G), nor can they identify any personal information tied to the phone's owner."  Euclid says they can track three data points -- the number of people who walk into the store, the percentage of people who buy (the "conversion rate"), and the average size of the purchases made by the tracked (the "basket size").  Does that sound very anonymous to you?

Rarity Bullshit

Oh, here's another piece of data for you -- hedge fund investors have been on Euclid to tell them who uses the technology so they can buy stock in those companies.  Euclid kept their mouth shut.  Nordstrom didn't.

Nordstrom had a sign at the entrances of the store saying they were doing this and if you wanted to opt out of the "market research," you had to turn off your phone or disable wifi.  They started doing it in October 2012.  Home Depot experimented with it, but didn't get much in the way of results and dumped the program.  Euclid charges $200 per month for each sensor, not counting the cloud technology that analyzes the data and spits out the results.  Usage has jumped over 11,000%.  That's an eleven with three zeroes at the end.

"Everybody here's a number, not a name."  And a wallet, too.  And that's all anyone cares about.

The Ten Commandments Are Apparently Negotiable, And I Didn't Get The Memo

Spider Man Applejack

"They have kept us in submission because they have talked about separation of church and state. There is no such thing in the Constitution. It's a lie of the Left, and we're not going to take it anymore."

"That [separation of church and state] was never in the Constitution, however much the liberals laugh at me for saying it, they know good and well it was never in the Constitution! Such language only appeared in the constitution of the communist Soviet Union"

"The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society."

"You say you're supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist."

(On the subject of South Africa and apartheid)  "I think 'one man, one vote,' just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise. There needs to be some kind of protection for the minority which the white people represent now, a minority, and they need and have a right to demand a protection of their rights."

"To see Americans become followers of, quote, Islam, is nothing short of insanity. Terry, you know, I've been in Africa many, many, many, many times, and you see people over here learning Swahili, for example. Swahili was the language of the slave traders. The Islamic people, the Arabs, were the ones who captured Africans, put them in slavery, and sent them to America as slaves. Why would people in America want to embrace the religion of the slavers, and the language of the slavers?"

The above quotes are from the special kind of crazy that is Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist, televangelist, failed Presidential candidate, and the man who puts the "mental" in "fundamentalist."  If democracy is the right to say what you think, even if you don't think, Robertson is the poster boy.

Stupid people with media followings usually make me nervous.  Jenny McCarthy, Tom Cruise, lots of noble narcissists who have figured it all out and are going to save us poor heathens from ourselves, are dangerous because they can influence public policy, whether on an individual level (McCarthy getting people to not vaccinate their kids because she claims it can trigger autism) or on a national level (Cruise getting the government to try Scientology's purification process on 9/11 responders).  But Robertson?  Robertson hasn't been a serious threat to anyone since the Fall Of The Televangelists, when Jim and Tammy and Jimmy Swaggart and others were found to have lots of skeletons in their closets and no one could take them seriously as representatives of God anymore.  As a result, Robertson has gone further off the deep end.  If it weren't for the money he made on his ministries, he'd be the guy talking to himself on the back of the bus.  Need proof?  Here's another fun quote:

"The key in terms of mental ability is chess. There's never been a woman Grand Master chess player. Once you get one, then I'll buy some of the feminism."

At the time Dipshit said this, the Chess Federation of the US had already declared two women Grand Masters (they both came from Georgia.  Take that, all you people who like to make fun of Southerners).  And since then, three more women have become Grand Masters.  So, obviously, if there is anyone who deserves my "Did Not Do The Research" tag, it's this mental midget.

So, you're probably thinking that Robertson said something really fucking stupid and I'm about to rip it to shreds.  I have to admit, you're very perceptive.  On Wednesday, May 15, Robertson was doing his shtick on The 700 Club on his Christian Broadcasting Network.  Like many media conglomerates, the network puts portions of the show on YouTube for people who couldn't be bothered to watch who missed the broadcast.  One segment Robertson does is "Ask Pat Robertson Bring It On" where viewers write in and he responds, whether to challenges to his philosophy or just asking advice.  On this day, the writer was a woman seeking marital advice:

"I've been trying to forgive my husband for cheating on me.  We have gone to counseling, but I just can't seem to forgive, nor can I trust.  How do you let go of the anger?  How do you trust again?  God says to forgive, but it's been so hard to.  I want to forgive, so we can get on with our lives. ~ Ivy."

You are advised to stop drinking whatever you have in your hand at the moment.  Robertson's advice?  Get over it, it's the nature of men to cheat.

"Here's the secret -- stop talking about the cheating.  He cheated on you.  Well, he's a man, OK?  Begin to focus on why you married him in the first place, on what he does good, providing a home to live in, food to eat, clothes to wear, is he nice to the children, is he handsome?  Essentially fall in love with him all over again.  Give him honor instead of worrying about it.  Recognize also, like it or not, males have a tendency to wander a little bit.  What you want to do is to make a home so wonderful that he doesn't want to wander."

Every done puking?  Great.  Let's move on.

This isn't the first time Robertson has done this.  He was defending General Petraeus for his extramarital affair just this past November.  And never mind that it is insulting to all of us guys who don't and won't cheat on our committed girlfriends (or boyfriends, it covers everyone regardless of religion or orientation).  Oh, and never mind that most affairs don't stem from a lack of satisfaction at home, but the thrill of meeting and dating someone new while keeping a mint condition love at home to fall back on (basically, the Madonna-whore complex writ large).  It's the wife's fault.

Now, some of you may be thinking that I'm about to bring up Robertson quotes about Bill Clinton and his adultery back when he was President.  But I'm not.  Too easy, that shit's for pussies.  Instead, I'm going to go with a few more choice Robertson quotes:

"[The] feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." -- a fundraising letter, 1992.  I would think a husband cheating on his wife would encourage a woman to leave a lot faster than feminism.

"There will never be world peace until God's house and God's people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world. How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy moneychangers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?"  -- from his book The New World Order (1991), page 227.

On the subject of Planned Parenthood -- "It is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism -- everything that the Bible condemns."  -- 1991

So which is it, Mr. Robertson?  If it's wrong, why are you changing your stance?  If it's right, why are there millions of men who don't cheat?

Or are you just an asshole who can't wait to throw the first stone?

I know what I'm putting my money on.

Ooooo, That Smell! Can't You Smell That Smell?

We humans like to claim that our vision or our hearing are our greatest senses.

But the truth is, it's our sense of smell.

The smell of fresh popped popcorn.  'Nuff said.

I can smell something that reminds me of a former girlfriend and time will stop as memories rebuild themselves in my mind, enabling me to live those days again if only for a moment.  You can have a will of iron about making your Lenten sacrifice of no meat, but if the scent of a hamburger hits your nostrils, you have a struggle between your will power and your desires taking over.

Restaurants are aware of how smells can simply weave around all kinds of resistance, and make sure they ride that wave if they can.  And those that don't still find ways.

The key thing about advertising is you can't be subtle.  Subtlety gets you ignored.  And while there are plenty of places to test market concepts in the US like Atlanta and Ohio, if you want to try experimental advertising, Brazil is where you want to go.  Among the products tested there were Huggies diapers that were wifi-enabled (they sent a Twitter message to you when the kid filled the diaper) and Budweiser "buddy cups," wifi-enabled beer mugs that, when you clinked with another Buddy Cup, you two automatically friended each other on Facebook.  And you thought serial adders were bad.

Domino's Pizza finds itself in an odd position.  Few people don't love pizza.  Most people can be sold on a pie very easily.  But if you are a delivery place, how do you trigger that suggestion when not only are people not in your kitchen, but live miles away so they can't smell it outside of the building?  Well, the people in Brazil have come up with an idea.  They have partnered with ten DVD rental stores to rent special DVD's.  These discs have a special ink on them.  The laser and electronics in a DVD player can get quite warm.  The heat causes the ink to release a scent like fresh pizza.  If it doesn't waft out of the player, you get hit with a full blast when you open the disc tray to remove the disc.  Oh, and the heat also darkens the ink so that it spells out a message -- "Did you enjoy the movie?  The next one will be even better with a hot and delicious Domino's Pizza."

The test just started rolling out this week.  How will we know if it's a hit?

...keep watching the RedBox.
Ariel Is Ready For Her Close Up

Snap Judgments: My Little Pony -- Equestria Girls

Equestria Girls posterHello, and welcome to another installment of Snap Judgments, where I look at something that is in the works to be unleashed upon the world and take a wild ass guess as to what it's going to be like.

This installment is going to be an odd one.  I had run across the occasional reference to its name, but always dismissed it as a fanfic or fanon like Double Rainboom or Cupcakes or Fallout: Equestria.  (Or, yes, even Doctor Whooves.)  It's for My Little Pony -- Equestria Girls.  I thought it was fanmade.  Even the title sounds like a fan project.  It made me think of Katy Perry's California Gurls.

But it turns out, it's real.  The proof was how Entertainment Weekly wrote it up.  EW broke the story that, at the end of Season 3, Twilight was going to become an alicorn princess.  So yeah, I think we can take this to the bank.

The dirt:  it will supposedly premiere at the LA Film Festival on June 13, and start a theatrical run on June 16 (on a Sunday?).  I can't find any further information than that.  I don't know if it will be a limited or wide release, how wide, anything.  IMDB lists the movie itself, but doesn't feature it on their "Coming Soon" page.  Like I said, I was really debating if this was real or not.

So, before we go any further, we might as well watch the trailer, since that is what I'll be basing my opinion on.  Here we go:

So, what we have here is what happens to a lot of things when they cross lines like this.  Human girls?  I mean, the show can lend itself to a longer narrative, they've done it before.  I guess I should just be thankful that they aren't doing the standard origin/in the beginning story that movies based on other things feel obligated to start with.

First thing that hit me is a little bit of confusion.  The ponies on the show are adults, either just out of high school or there for a while (Cheerilee is a teacher, Pinkie has a job at the bakery, Fluttershy has a successful animal rehab practice, Twilight is a grad student, etc.).  And yet, this is in high school.  Just saying it's a tiny little inconsistency.

Twilight is clearly the focus, the others are operating around her, as her surprise to see Pinkie shows.  So, Twilight is the viewpoint character.  We see her dealing with a crush (why do I suspect that isn't an underage human but another pony who came over as well?), being socially awkward, and, of course, the school's Queen Of Mean.  In other words, it's looking like a cliche high schooler empowerment movie along the lines of Bratz and other such flicks.

Of course, this is immaterial.  The bottom line is, MLP-FiM was never intended to be enjoyed by a 41 year old male.  It is a tween girls comedy.  They are the target audience, so they get a story they can identify with.  It's a happy accident that I can enjoy the series, but the fact is, it wasn't supposed to happen.  So I have no reason to bitch about this.

That said, the movie does appear to have the formula down.  The show itself has cliche situations and Important Life Lessons, nothing you don't see on dozens of other shows.  But what makes it click is the energy.  The characters are unique and fun (Rainbow Dash is an asshole, after all, but that doesn't stop her from being fun).  The first sign in the trailer that this could work was when Twilight runs into human Pinkie and the balloon starts blowing her lips back (plus the characters clearly have Twilight's back). It's only going to be 72 minutes, so it won't overstay its welcome.

Some misgivings?  Sure.  But it's just possible that this Elseworlds tale might deliver some laughs and a good time.