Category: Brilliant Ideas

If I Ran the Academy


The Oscars are coming up this weekend (Sunday night) and although I do like Anne Hathaway and James Franco (who are hosting) I can’t really say that I’m looking forward to watching.

It’s annoying to see the entertainment news show hosts fawning over the celebrities and talking to them like they’re friends who hang out on a semi-regular basis (“Angelina! How are Brad and the kids!”) It’s excruciating to suffer through the awful, fumbling speeches, most of which seem to consist of long strings of names I’ve never heard of, and vicariously embarrassing to watch the winners get practically dragged off the stage because they wouldn’t shut up when the music started. And it’s boring to see the same pretentious bigwigs win over and over again when plenty of good movies never even got a chance at an award because they don’t fit into a category.

Barring a few interesting spots of entertainment (remember the shadow statue people?) it’s pretty much always the same thing, because you can only become the head of an organization like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by being around forever, by which time you have become an old fuddy duddy who is married to tradition.

If there was a young(er) person in charge (for the sake of argument, let’s say… me!) they would shake things up a bit. Here are the new rules I would make if by some hell-freezing chance I actually became the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

No watch? No vote!

Currently there’s only one category where the members actually have to have seen the movie before they can vote: Best Picture. That leaves every other category open for guessing, sucking up, nepotism, and general idiocy. In my regime, if you haven’t seen every movie in the category, your vote goes in the shredder. No exceptions!

No speeches!

Yeah, yeah, a lot of people helped you get where you are. But the only people interested in hearing you sob out a list of names are the people on that list of names, not the millions of people who now have you on mute at home. So type up your speech and hand it to the web director, who will post it on the live blog. Anyone who cares can go read it. Save your sucking up for the after party and maybe we can get this thing down to less than nine hours.

No distribution, no nomination!

Sorry, indie filmmaker. That film you made in your garage might be the best thing ever made in the history of ever, but if it never made it into the big theaters, no one has seen it, therefore no one cares whether or not you win. In the new world order, only movies people have had a chance to see get on the TV broadcast. Everyone else can have their own little ceremony. Perhaps held in the garage.

No obscure categories on the air!

This means you, Documentary Short Subject. It’s the same principle as the distribution rule. If no one has ever been given a chance to see the short films you’ve made, your whole category is going to go by while viewers are in the kitchen making nachos in preparation for Best Actress. So either start putting your little shorts in front of feature films like the animated ones do, or you’re getting bumped to the off-air awards night.

Explain your frikking category, Oh My God.

Film people know about film, but if we’re going to broadcast your category’s awards for millions of people to see, you’d better make damn sure they actually know what you do. What, for instance, is the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing? Where is the line between Cinematography and Art Direction? People have no idea, so they zone out for your category. Make up a skit, do a blog entry, or just get up and talk about it, but explain yourselves, people. That’s an order.

Comedy gets a category. Deal with it.

Yeah, yeah, in insider circles comedy is about as respected as an armpit fart prodigy at music school, but comedy matters to everyone else. When they’re having a bad day, or a bad month, what do they want? Not your depressing dramas. They want a comedy that will make them feel better. A movie that can do that deserves a little respect. Obviously you can’t compare apples (drama) with oranges (comedy) so they’re getting their own category.

No more consolation prizes!

When there are two or more films with a pile of nominations each, one will win all the big awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, etc.) and the other will win something piddling (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, etc.). because you felt bad and you wanted to give them something at least. Well stop it. Vote for who you think is the best. No sympathy. No loyalty, no compromise.

Only one nomination for best pictures!

Big movies that get nominations in the double digits are taking up space in categories that could otherwise have accommodated a less than perfect film with stellar work in that category. So from now on, any movie that’s on the Best Picture list is not allowed to be nominated for anything else. It will be considered worthy in all categories, and everyone who worked on it shares the award, not just the producers.

I realize that my edicts would quickly piss off the members of the Academy enough that they’d form their own very-well-dressed lynching party, but if I could squeeze just one Oscar broadcast past them before I was run out of town, I think all the little people watching at home would appreciate it.

Go ahead, film snobs, feel free to bombard me with your dissenting opinions, but I warn you, I will not be swayed!

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Advice for People With No Valentines, Which I Have Learned From Watching Movies

Last year I wrote a list of unconventional Valentine’s Day movies to watch with your boyfriend or girlfriend, but if you’re like me, you have no Valentine for the upcoming holiday. When Monday rolls around, people like you and me have two choices. We can sit around going “boy, I sure hate Valentine’s Day” or we can get off our asses and go get ourselves a partner. How does one go about landing a boyfriend or girlfriend? Well, conventional wisdom states you should internet date or hang out in bars. But instead, try one of these sure-fire, guaranteed to work methods that I have learned from watching movies.

Get Fired

As movies like Morning Glory and How Do You Know show us, the instant you get fired from your job (as long as you work very hard, are not at all appreciated by your boss, and are fired through no fault of your own) you will immediately get a new and better job where there will be attractive people to date, or at least someone rich that you meet on a street corner who is willing to support you while you ponder your life choices.

Crash a Vehicle

This never fails. Crash a car, crash a plane, crash a train, crash a dogsled…you don’t even have to be driving it. All you have to do is be on it and a hero/heroine will swoop in out of nowhere a la Speed and sweep you off your feet. Or, if you happen to crash on a deserted island, whichever man/woman you happen to be traveling with or near will automatically become your boyfriend/girlfriend by the time you get back to civilization (see Romancing the Stone, Six Days, Seven Nights).

Move to the Middle of Nowhere

Persons with common sense would naturally assume that the bigger the city they move to the bigger the dating pool and therefore the greater the chances that they find a compatible mate. But these people are wrong. You need to move to the most godforsaken corner of nowhere in order to find your soul mate. It happened in Twilight, it happened in New in Town, and it will happen to you.

Kill Your Friend

Experience (gleaned from watching Life As We Know It, No Reservations, and Raising Helen) says that if you bump off your friend/relative and his/her partner, they will leave you their child and automatic pass into the land of significant otherdom. You may end up falling in love with a person you hate right now, but them’s the breaks.

Go on Vacation

This is probably the easiest one to accomplish on short notice (remember: Valentine’s Day is on Monday). It doesn’t have to be anywhere exotic or expensive, and you don’t even have to go alone. But leaving your home country is guaranteed to get you a hot partner, even if you don’t really want one. It worked in Eat, Pray, Love, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, French Kiss, and Letters to Juliet, so it must be true.

Become Terminally Ill

Sadly you’ll only get a couple of months of couples bliss out of this one, but it never fails, at least if you believe Nicholas Sparks. A better bet would be to try and get on the other side of the equation by hanging around sick people in the hospital. It worked for Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs and for Izzy on Grey’s Anatomy, though the trade off is usually having to look after them and then be sad when they die.

Become Embroiled in an International Conspiracy

This can be difficult to accomplish if you don’t work for the “State Department” (and by that I mean the fake State Department, the one that employs CIA agents), but if you believe Knight and Day, RED, and every James Bond movie ever made, all you have to do is hang around doing the things you normally do, like traveling on planes, answering phones in a call center, or being a nuclear scientist, and a hot secret agent will one day just fall into your lap accompanied by a whole lot of trouble. If you’re lucky, the hot agent will stay and the trouble will leave, not the other way around.

Act Like An Idiot

This one works especially well for men, particularly fat and/or ugly ones who like to tell jokes. As movies like Just Go With It, Hitch, and The Invention of Lying suggest, the more you act like a hopeless tool the more irresistible attractive women will find you. It even sometimes works for women. Just look at When in Rome. She acted like a lunatic and she landed Josh Duhamel!

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New Words for Movie Reviews

If I hear one more movie described as “a high-octane thrill ride” or “laugh out loud funny,” I’m going to gnaw off my own arm in annoyance (not really. I need two arms to type). I’d lambaste the movie reviewers who keep using the same reviews for everything, but I can’t really blame them. A bjillion movies come out each year and most of them are not appreciably different from the ones that have come before. There are only so many words in the English language to describe the same thing (yes, I know they’re called synonyms, smart ass) and we’re running out, throwing the movie criticism industry into crisis.

Some reviewers have tried to work around the rapidly evaporating pool of witty criticisms by simply comparing new movies to old ones:

“[insert name of move that came out this year] is this year’s [insert name of similar movie that came out last year]!”

EXAMPLES:

Observe and Report is this year’s Bad Santa!”

“Iron Man 2 is this year’s Iron Man!”

Other reviewers make claims that whatever new movie they’ve seen is the best of some genre (just not any genre that’s already been topped by a movie that’s actually good.) A tightly confined, made up category, usually further narrowed down by being limited to the current year:

“[insert name of movie] is the best [insert four qualifying adjectives] of the year!”

EXAMPLES:

Tangled is “Disney’s best non-Pixar animated movie since 1994!”

“Dinner for Schmucks is the best awkward dinner comedy starring a former Daily Show correspondent of 2010!”

The smart ones, however, realize that it’s not going to take very long for people to notice a pattern in their obvious contortions to say something new and complimentary that will end up on the DVD box. These savvy but still panicked critics often resort to using random, semi-applicable dictionary words that nobody understands.

Duplicity is an “effervescent espionage with two irresistible forces”!
TRANSLATION: Duplicity is lively and exhilarating and it has two sexy people in it.

Babies is a “joyous and buoyant new documentary”!
TRANSLATIONS: Happy babies float in water?

Since all of these movie critics seem to be having so much trouble coming up with things to say, I thought I would help them out by appropriating, mutilating, and outright inventing new words that can be used to describe common facets of moviemaking. Hopefully they’ll put off the impending crisis for a few months until the new urban dictionary comes out and everyone can switch to street slang, yo. I’ll list them for you here along with their definitions. I’ll even use them in a sentence, like this is a spelling test.

Hyperventalatory

From the verb “to hyperventilate,” which means to breathe so quickly you can’t get enough oxygen. In this context, it means a movie that causes extreme excitement and/or fear.

EXAMPLE: “A Perfect Getaway is a hyperventalatory thriller that has made me afraid to go on vacation.”

Volumized

A made-up word usually used to describe the eyelash engorging effects of mascara, but in this case it means a movie that has less substance than it appeared to have, often because of an unusually good trailer.

EXAMPLE: “The Dilemma has been volumized to the point where a great idea for a five minute sketch was drawn out into a terrible ninety minute movie.”

Ectopic

A term that is usually used in medicine to describe a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus and must be aborted. In this case it describes a movie that is based on an extremely out of the box idea that just didn’t work.

EXAMPLE: “I was expecting it to be fun, but Michael McGowan’s Score: a Hockey Musical turned out to be ectopic.”

Thicktastic

From the root “thick,” a slag term used to describe a stupid person, it describes movies for muscle-bound thickos that are actually good or at least fun to watch, usually starring former sports players.

EXAMPLE: “Sylvester Stallone’s thicktastic new movie The Expendables will find a home on my action shelf.”

Antihesive

An invented antonym (opposite) to “cohesive,” which means something that makes sense or fits together well. It describes a movie that just can’t seem to keep itself together.

EXAMPLE: “Resident Evil Apocalypse turned out to be extremely antihesive, bouncing between plot points that had nothing to do with each other.”

Unicornacious

From the root “unicorn,” which is a magical horse-like beast with a horn on its forehead. It describes a film that is impossibly awesome and sharp, but that looked, at first glance, to be something ordinary.

EXAMPLE: “You could be excused for getting Easy A confused with Postgrad, but make no mistake: Easy A is extremely unicornacious.”

Luciferian

From the root “Lucifer,” one of the many names for the devil. Used to describe movies made by people who seem to hate their audiences.

EXAMPLE: “In a luciferian attempt to cause uncontrolled bleeding in viewers’ brains, David Fincher let Zodiac run on for nearly three hours before pulling the plug on its inconclusive plot.”

Fossicker

From the verb “to fossick,” a mining term from Australia/New Zealand which describes looking for gems and minerals in the scrap heap from an old mine. It is used to describe a director or writer whose Blockbuster movies are based on ideas stolen from other people’s reject files.

EXAMPLE: “When Michael Bay took the brief, aborted inclusion of human beings in the Transformer cartoons and turned them into a whole trilogy of big budget movies, he went down in history as Hollywood’s biggest fossicker.”

Strychnatic

Based on the root “strychnine,” which is a bitter alkaloid poison. It describes movies that have been made by bitter, angry filmmakers.

EXAMPLE: “Michael Moore’s strychnatic documentary, Farenheight 911, blames everyone and their dog for the trouble the country is in.”

Ecliptic

Usually used in astronomy to describe the orbital paths of celestial bodies. In this case it refers to a movie that goes around and around the point but never gets to it.

EXAMPLE: “Legion’s maddeningly ecliptic plot was supposedly about a modern day Mary but kept detouring away for monster battles and angsty reunions between angels.”

Bonobous

Based on the root “Bonobo,” which is a species of great ape previously known as the Pygmy Chimpanzee. It is used to refer to a movie which was obviously made by monkeys.

EXAMPLE: “Leap Year is the most bonobous excuse for a romantic comedy since a monkey actually got hold of of a film camera and taped itself picking nits off its girlfriend.”

Dystrophic

A word usually used in medicine to describe the degenerative effects of faulty nutrition. In this case it refers to a franchise that has been slowly disintegrating due to poor writing.

EXAMPLE: “The Clone Wars is just the latest entry in an increasingly dystrophic series of Star Wars spinoffs designed solely to sponge money from nerds with OCD.”

If you’re stuck on a review, feel free to use the above words to make it more original. At least until enough people start using them for them to become cliched, and then it’s back to the drawing board. After a few years we’ll be doing all our descriptions in Portuguese.

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Pre-Grief Counseling for Writers

Writers are, by nature, control freaks. When they’re writing a book or a screenplay, they’re in total control. They create the characters, decide on the setting, invent the plot, and just generally bend the story to their will. A lot of writers will give you that “oh, my characters have control, really” spiel, but that’s just their overactive imaginations talking. They created the characters (consciously or not) and only they are allowed to tell them what to do. They get very anxious when anyone else tries to horn in on their territory, such as an editor or a producer or even (especially) another writer.

How then, do movies get made? With a great deal of pain and suffering on the part of the writer, that’s how. Once all the various people get their filthy mitts on the original story (agents, editors, publishers, screen writers, ghost writers, producers, directors, actors, etc.) it barely resembles itself at all, and by this point the writer is nearly out of his or her head with agony. (If you don’t believe me, read this).

Without writers, movies can’t get made. But they can’t get made without directors and producers and all the rest of them either. So what’s the solution? I call it “Pre-Grief Counseling for Writers.” I imagine it would go something like this:

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A Parliament of Flames

As the owner of a movie related website, I frequently have cause to look up information on IMDB. Whenever I do so, I always make a point to scroll down to the bottom to look at the message boards, just for a laugh. I’ve found some pretty ridiculous thread titles, but the funniest part is always how even the most reasoned debates eventually degenerate into two people hurling insults at one another. This thread was so funny I had to read it out loud to my brother in its entirety. It was on the Sam Worthington boards, but it doesn’t matter which actor/movie you look up, there’s always a thread like this. Here are a few choice snippets:

rajak1: What you see as subtlety in your little fangirl world is a lack of acting talent in the real world.

Athena21: People in the biz obviously see him as talented. Someone like you (someone with the maturity of a two-year-old) will never understand why they do – but that’s ok because people are allowed their own opinion and retarded people like you are always given extra leeway anyway.

rajak1: I think you are the only one here on this board not able for a serious discussion, cause your behaviour on this (and other boards) is like a hormone-driven drama queen.

Athena21: You wouldn’t know a serious discussion if it bit you on the arse. For one thing, you don’t debate. I often do… I can’t decide whether to think of you as a kid that has lost their favorite toy or a hormonal thirteen year old. Either way you are someone who is a complete joke.

rajak1: If you cannot stand the critism here on this board, maybe you are too much a pantywaist…

Athena21: …you are a troll, and trolls aren’t welcome.

Two people with no idea how to debate debating over their (in)ability to debate… did your brain just explode? I think mine did.

As long as internet message boards offer users the ability to hide behind screen names and there’s zero possibility of “debaters” ever having to meet in person, this sort of thing will continue to happen. People have to let off steam somehow. It makes me wonder, though: what if the internet style of debating bled over into politics?

Currently, parliamentary debates in Canada are boring. Their discussions on renewable energy go something like this:

ALBERTA MP: Blah blah oil blah blah prosperity blah blah taxpayers blah blah deficit blah.

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: Blah blah climate change blah blah future blah blah biomass blah blah responsibility blah.

If, however, we let the politicians wear little paper bags over their heads…

I move that anyone who disagrees with me has to wear a PLASTIC bag

…. and pick out nicknames for themselves, then their debates would sound more like this:

Iluvtrees: We need to stop burning coal and oil or the environment will be ruined in only, like, twenty years.

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Twenty years, pff! Who cares?

Iluvtrees: U should! I care!

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Yeah, only cause u r like, married to a tree, you dirty hippie.

Iluvtrees: U should talk, what do u do with all that oil, ne way greaseball? Bathe in it?

Icecapzsukmaiballz: Shut up, u r so immature. We r supposed to be having a debate and u r just insulting me. U r so stupid, ur brain cellz must be dead from all that patchouli u r sniffing.

Iluvtrees: I m not debating??! U r the one who callz ppl dirty hippiez when they have legitimate concerns. Maybe if u wernt getting it up the bum frum the oil companies we could have a real discussion!

Icecapzsukmaiballz: I m not gay!!!!! Ask ur mom, I gave it to her last nite and she loved it.

Iluvtrees: F*** you, a**hole.

…and at this point the censor would have to step in, since these things are usually televised, but wasn’t that more entertaining? It’s like C-SPAN crossed with Jerry Springer. Apparently Australian parliamentary debates go something along these lines. Bill Bryson, in his book In a Sunburned Country, says it’s well worth the trip to Canberra to hear them go at each other. I’m totally putting that on my list.

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Casting Bond 23

bond 23 poster

With MGM up for sale and Bond 23 on indefinite hiatus, current James Bond actor Daniel Craig has jumped ship in favor of the English adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, leaving the role of James Bond potentially open for casting once things at MGM have been settled.

Before Craig was cast for Casino Royale, Australian actors Hugh Jackman and Sam Worthington were also being considered for the role, leading me to believe MGM was interested in reaching new audiences (i.e. Australian ones) with their choice of Bond. They didn’t go for it, obviously, since they chose Daniel Craig, but perhaps when MGM has a new head they’ll actually try to reach out. They won’t choose Jackman or Worthington, of course. The new head of MGM will want to put his or her “stamp” on things, so they’ll choose someone else entirely. Someone British (some things never change).

I have some casting suggestions for the James Bond role based on which new audiences MGM wants to attract to the theaters, hopefully solving the studio’s money problems.

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Trailer Spoilers

I have a brilliant idea, and it goes something like this: when movie trailer makers put the entire plot of a film into the preview, they should be required to slap it with spoiler warnings. The MPAA could look after this. After all, they already make filmmakers post warnings if there’s going to be sex or drugs or bad language.

Spoliers are a danger to youth as well, because it teaches them to have short attention spans. Why would they spend two whole hours sitting still and paying attention to a film when there’s a two minute version available? Some companies aren’t making trailers anymore, they’re making movie Cliff’s Notes.

To illustrate my point, I will pick on one of my favorite targets: Leap Year. Note that I will warn you now, before you press play, that watching this trailer will make it unnecessary for you to see the entire film.



As you can see, this trailer covers the entire plot structure:

– main character’s life before (Anna expects to get married)
– the problem (Jeremy doesn’t propose to Anna)
– inciting incident (Dad suggests she follow him to Dublin and propose on Leap Day)
– refusing the call to adventure (“I’m not going to Dublin!”)
– accepting the call (going to Dublin)
– trials and obstacles standing in her way (weather, diversions, bad shoes)
– meeting love interest (Irish guy… Declan I think he was called)
– road trip (“I need to get to Dublin”)
– fighting with love interest (over sandwiches and cows)
– road trip obstacles (car in a pond… how original)
– pretending to be married to fool innkeepers (again, so original)
– discovering their attraction (kissing for the innkeepers)
– getting along (shower, jokes)
– confusion over choice of man (lying in the same bed)
– forced to choose between men (Jeremy proposes)

The only part they don’t show is who she chooses, but from the type of movie that it is (romantic comedy) and the type of endings these movies have (happy ones) and the fact that she’s spent the entire movie with Irish guy (Declan), it doesn’t exactly require a degree in rocket science to fill in the blank.

This isn’t a promotional trailer. Promotional trailers are supposed to give audiences a taste so they pay for the whole thing. This is a pitch, like you would make to a producer or a studio to get them to give you money to make the film. They need to know the whole story to figure out if it’s worth making… but it’s a video pitch… because they already made the film… so we’re supposed to, what? Admire its (totally unoriginal) structure? Be spoiled on the full length film, more like.

But in a perverse way, they’re actually doing you a favor by ruining the movie for you. They’re keeping you from wasting two hours and ten bucks (five now, it’s on DVD) on a piece of crap.

Buy Leap Year on DVD

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Chain Yourself to Your Cell Phone

Helium Digital cell phone chain
If you’re not familiar with Empire Theaters, they do this little pre-show (that I think they buy from a theater chain in Ontario) before the movie so you don’t get bored. One of the sections is called “Gear Guide with Mark Saltzman” and is nothing more than a series of ads for whatever’s new in electronics. This month they’ve been pimping this thing called the “Helium Wristband Communicator”. It sounds like they’ve finally perfected Penny’s communicator watch from Inspector Gadget but really all it is is a wireless headset that you can wear on your arm so you can pretend you’re in the secret service or something. Lame.

The really hilarious part is that it vibrates whenever you get more than a few feet from your phone. The tech reviews describe is as a “godsend for businessmen” but really all it’s doing is chaining you to your cell phone by an invisible wire. I dunno about you, but I though the whole point of cell phone was that they didn’t have any wires.

chained to your cell phone

Get More Useful Electronic Gadgets

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Brilliant Ideas in Digital Camera Design

I was looking through the flyers this week (or as I like to call it: “perusing the retail news”) when I came across this brilliant design for a digital camera.

Olympus Stylus Tough 600 - camouflage version

the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000, aka the world’s most losable camera



I say “brilliant” because it’s a great idea for the Olympus company. They’ve latched onto the “customization” idea the luggage people had a few years ago when they realized everyone had the same silver digital camera and it was easy to get them mixed up at parties. Then they pushed the envelope to a place where they can force you to buy a replacement model every time you accidentally drop your camera in a pile of leaves. Genius.

From the consumer’s point of view, however, this is the dumbest idea ever. Like you really needed MORE help losing your camera. Maybe next year they’ll come out with a series of models that are patterned like your sofa cushions so you can lose your camera INSIDE too.

Check out some non-crappy digital cameras

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iPod Stereo

The folks at Apple have spend millions (billions?) of dollars convincing us that we’re not cool unless we buy their products. Toward that end, they’re constantly coming out with newer, shinier, more unnecessary objects that suddenly everyone can’t live without (example: iPod). Why do they do all this? Because they want our money, of course!

Well Apple, if you want money, what’s better than having every teenager in the world buy an iPod to watch teensy tiny movies on? That’s right: having every teenager in the world buy TWO iPods to watch teensy tiny movies on!

How will we accomplish this, you ask? Simple. Modify the new iPods so that when two iPods are placed next to one another, they are able to simultaneously play the same video. If the viewer places one iPod in front of each eyeball: voila!

I call it: iPod Stereo. Like a pair of binoculars, it creates a 3-D like effect in your brain – the illusion of depth!  This is doubly appropriate because Apple likes to create the illusion that their products have depth (i.e. usefulness) when in reality they’re only meeting a demand that they themselves created through marketing the product (though there are possible exceptions for arty pursuits). And what’s more, you can even charge them extra for a little pair of plastic glasses to mount their two iPods in.

So I say to you, Apple, scheming money out of magpie teenagers: there’s an app for that!

Buy an iPod… or two

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