Classy Advertising!

Bell Canada has a discount cellular division called “Solo”. In an apparent attempt to be “hip” and “edgy”, the company approved a series of billboards with a “punk rock girl” on them. Unfortunately for Bell Canada, the “punk rock girl” was wearing a bunch of buttons… one of which said “Belsen was a Gas” – the name of a Sex Pistols song.

Belsen was a gas

Belsen was, of course, a Nazi death camp. The title of the song is a play on the old slang term “gas” meaning something fun (“That movie was a gas!”) and the Zyklon B gas that the Nazis used to kill millions of innocent people. The title of the song is meant to be ironic (the song is vehemently anti-totalitarian), but the distinction would understandably be lost on people who didn’t know better. Because of this, Bell Canada has decided to scrap all of the ads – which included several billboards and “around 30” smaller displays (such you’d find on busses), which were cropped and didn’t show the button. In any case, it’s hard to believe that no one at Bell Canada or its ad agency didn’t catch this.

My Next-Door Neighbor Died Last Night…

So last night the missus and I were sitting in bed playing Point (a card game similar to Briscola) when we suddenly heard the “beep-beep-beep” of a “reverse gear alarm”… you know, the kind usually found on big trucks. Since we weren’t expecting a construction crew in front of our building at 11PM, we got up and looked out the window… only to see two ambulances, a North Carolina state trooper and several civilian cars with emergency lights on their dashboards.

Apparently the old man next door had died. Members of his family soon showed up, one of them in almost uncontrollable tears. Eventually a small white minivan pulled up. I’m assuming that it was the medical examiner, since the guy driving the van got out, pulled a gurney from the back of the van, and then put an empty body bag on the gurney and wheeled it in the neighbor’s townhouse. Eventually he came back out with the body and put it in the back of his van.

So after this happened last night, I was itching to write a post about it. Originally, it was going to be something along the lines of “ding-dong the witch is dead” from The Wizard of Oz. I say that because back when the Old Man first moved in, he and I went around and around about my “noise”. If, after 11:00PM, I decided to watch a sedate BBC documentary about birds – much less anything with explosions or car chases – you could always count on the Old Man to bang on the wall, or come over the next day to complain. One time he even came over and challenged me to a fist fight over my so-called noise (even though he couldn’t specify what noise or when it happened). That instance was so bad that I wrote a letter to the HOA. Apparently the letter set off a chain of reactions that led to him getting his medications changed; after that he ceased giving us so much trouble.

So instead of saying something crass, or something that I don’t really mean, allow me to just say requiescat in pacem, Old Man. I hope you’ve found peace, wherever you are.

Microsoft Killed Autopatcher! You Bastards!

AutopatcherFor almost four years now, the folks over at Neowin have offered an awesome free utility called Autopatcher. In a nutshell, it was a program that installed all the latest patches and updates from Microsoft.So if you wiped your hard drive and reinstalled Windows from scratch, Autopatcher allowed you to install all the available updates from a CD, rather than having to download them directly from Microsoft. On a brand new system, this could save you lots of time, and Autopatcher was especially handy when you were reinstalling Windows at a friend’s house that was still on dial-up.

Sadly, Microsoft put the kibosh on the whole thing this week. Of course, it’s not entirely unexpected that Microsoft would want to protect its intellectual property; indeed, as far as copyright law goes, MS might have be forced to put the DMCA on Autopatcher. But the mystery is why Microsoft let this project go on for almost four years before shutting it down. Officially, Microsoft has said that Autopatcher was pulled because there was the possibility of malware being shipped with Autopatcher’s updates. Conspiracy theorists think it might have to do with Autopatcher allowing users to install patches with Windows Genuine Advantage. In any case, Autopatcher’s gone.

Hey Microsoft – why don’t you do something that will, you know, actually help your customers. You could whip up something like Autopatcher in what… a day? As someone that often has to reinstall Windows on crappy old computers, Autopatcher was a godsend for me.. why can you man up and make your own version???

Cool stuff from Lifehacker!

Lifehacker has been on a roll as of late, with even more cool articles than usual:

– A guy sawed his video iPod in half and added a hinge, so it can bend up for easier viewing.

– Got a Linksys router? Learn how to power it using only an Ethernet cable!

– Lastly, here’s a cool (and useful!) Firefox extension: Mr. Uptime monitors a non-responding website and lets you know when it’s back up, so you don’t have to leave an empty tab open and refresh the page manually!

Another Music Legend Passes On…

Tony WilsonAnthony (Tony) Wilson passed away from cancer today. He was 57.

Wilson was a reporter for Britain’s Granada Television in the early 1970s. Hearing that the Sex Pistols were going to play Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, Wilson decided to attend the show. The concert inspired him to start his own record label, Factory Records. Factory would be the driving force that created the “Madchester” scene in the late 1980s; the label would put out records from such iconic British bands as Joy Division, New Order, A Certain Ratio, The Durutti Column, Happy Mondays, James and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Factory also opened The Haçienda, the famous Manchester nightclub that became ground-zero for the Madchester scene, just as Studio 54 was the capital of the disco “movement”.

Sadly, even though Factory artists were extremely successful, and although The Haçienda was one of the most popular clubs in British history, Wilson didn’t make a lot of money from the ventures. New Order’s “Blue Monday” was the most successful 12″ single in history, but the record’s complex packaging led Factory to sell each copy at a loss. The Haçienda was popular initially because of its cheap cover charges and drinks; once Wilson increased The Haçienda’s prices, the drug ecstasy took off… and people stopped drinking alcohol.

Much of the Madchester scene was documented in the popular 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, of which Wilson is a main character. Much of the film is filled with anecdotes and rumor, so don’t take everything in the movie as gospel.

An interesting tidbit about the Sex Pistols show Wilson attended: only around 40 people showed up for the show… however, the crowd was perhaps the most influential audience in history. People known to have been there include Wilson, Howard Devoto, Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle (all of The Buzzcocks), Morrissey, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (of Joy Division and New Order), Martin Hannett (famous record producer), Mark E. Smith (of The Fall), Paul Morley (a music journalist with New Musical Express) and Mick Hucknall (of Simply Red). The audience was so amazing that a book – I Swear I Was There: The Gig That Changed The World – was written about it.

News for 08/09/2007

It’s been a while sooooooooo… let’s do the news!

– Richard Branson’s Virgin America had their inaugural flight last week. The airline, which focuses on quality service and amenities more than cheap fares, will initially have service to and from New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Washington DC. This guy has posted a walkthrough of some of the neat technology the airline uses (example: there are 3000 mp3s stored on board each plane; you can use the in-flight entertainment system to make playlists, and the system is tied in to their frequent flyer database, so you can have the same playlist on the way back as you did on the way out). Be sure to check out his Flicker album from the tour.

– In a related note about airlines, Italian airline Alitalia is apparently up for sale. The CEO of Irish-based Ryanair told reporters on Wednesday that he wouldn’t take the airline, even if were free.

– Have you heard of Jeffrey Chodorow? People outside the NYC area might know of this restaurateur from NBC’s The Restaurant, where Chodorow constantly butted heads with celebrity chef (and prima donna employee) Rocco DiSpirito. Anyway, China Grill, Chodorow’s flagship Manhattan restaurant, was recently closed by order of the NYC health department. Nice!

– Speaking of food, a recent study suggests that blue corn tortilla might have important health benefits. Specifically, they are high in antioxidants, have more protein that white or yellow corn tortillas, and are lower in starch than their cousins.

– Here’s a neat trick to avoid the fee CoinStar charges you to change coins into dollars: most CoinStar machines charge you around 8.9% to convert change into “real” money; however, most machines also allow you to convert your “balance” to an Amazon gift certificate without the fee. So what you do is select an Amazon gift certificate as your payout, but then you reach around to the back of the machine and unplug the phone cable. The CoinStar machine will then attempt to connect to an Amazon server (but won’t be able to ‘cos you disconnected the cable). It will then give you an error message and give you the full amount in cash (well, it’ll give you a receipt that you can take to the service desk to exchange for cash). I don’t know how legal this is, or how long it’ll be before CoinStar updates the firmware on their system to prevent this, so handle with care. This “hack” apparently scared the folks at Engadget enough to remove the instructions from the original post.

– Elton John is still an idiot. Now he wants to shut down the Internet.

– Speaking of rock stars, Keith Richards is writing a book about his life. I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Can you imagine the stories he’d have to tell?? The mind reels!

– If you think Wal Mart’s bad here, you should see how they operate in Mexico! The company is accused of using 4300 unpaid teenagers as baggers in their stores. The kids apparently work for tips only, and Wal Mart actually has the hubris to call them “volunteers” instead of “unpaid workers”!

– And lastly, some fun stuff: this guy shows you how to pimp your credit card with any design you want (NSFW WARNING: one of the cards he pimps has a nude picture of a young Marilyn Monroe on it). It’s always fun to see what Chinese knock-off brands are on the market these days! And let your dog get even with the Michael Vick Dog Chew Toy! (Sadly it looks like the NFL Trademark Police have gotten to the owners of the site; the toy used to have Vick in a near-perfect copy of a Falcons uniform… now it’s just a generic black jersey with a “7” on it).

News for 07/25/2007

Wow – nothing but randomness today:

  • Fox announced this week that the producers of Bones will solve the mystery of the canceled show Vanished in an episode this season. This is, as you might guess, somewhat unusual. Characters and plot lines from spin-offs sometimes intermingle with the original show, but as you probably know Bones and Vanished are completely unrelated. It’s nice of the Bones people to wrap up the loose ends from Vanished, though. Read all about it here.
  • Sad news: the Weekly World News will cease publication in August. I used to read the WWN in high school; it was unparalleled in sheer entertainment value. I haven’t bought it in years, and the times I flipped through it in the stores, it seems that the “quality” has dropped off greatly in recent years. Oh well… Ed Anger, we’ll miss you!
  • Bricklehampton, England is the longest isogrammatic place name in the English speaking world. An isogram is a word in which each letter appears only once.
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