Thursday, March 12, 2009

Swinging computer generated blog

A Mom speaks out.
The Fearsome Wife sent me a link to a conservative mommyblogger’s review of WATCHMEN. She didn’t like it much. It’s bad for children.

She also wrote, re WATCHMEN: “…[T]he Soviets are about to nuke America. It's 1985 and Nixon is President. We've won in Vietnam. Oh, and Henry Kissinger has a Russian accent. And Ronald Reagan is thinking of running for President in 1988. Wow, isn't that cool that they got it wrong on purpose? I'm so amazed at this ‘high-brow art’ of deliberately getting dates and timelines wrong, you know, just to be ‘artistic,’ and get the drooling of the critics. That is sooooo genius. Like way totally cool.” Apparently, she has difficulty grasping the concept of “alternative reality.” And she also didn’t notice that critics, by and large, far from drooling over WATCHMEN, pretty much all hated it.

She also used the phrase “computer generated penis” three times. Disapprovingly. That is to say, unlike the vast majority of Americans, she does not approve of computer generated penises. When it comes to computer generated penises, she’s against them and doesn’t care who knows it.
Oh, the first time she refers to Dr Manhattan’s “swinging computer-generated penis.” The second time: “computer generated penis swinging about.” The third: “…terrible computer generated images (including the penis).” I wonder: if it had not swung, but remained perfectly still, would she have cut the penis a little more slack?

Anthony Lane, in The New Yorker, on WATCHMEN:
“Last and hugest is Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), who is buff, buck naked, and blue, like a porn star left overnight in a meat locker.”

My daughter, on WATCHMEN:
“It was awesome.”

The Ongoing Crisis
Right after 9/11, you’ll recall, President Bush urged us to get out and shop. I found this a curious way to respond to the murder of hundreds of people, but by coincidence I did find myself going to Macy’s on September 12. I needed a pair of pants. There was nobody in the men’s department except me. There were two clerks. As one was ringing up my order, I noticed the other clerk, way down at the other end of the men’s department, marching around his workstation to the strains of patriotic music that was blaring over the store’s sound system.

Well, we have a new President now, and he’s urging us to, I don’t know really, cut down and spend at the same time, kind of.

I’ve been trying to wrap my poor brain around the whole economy thing. I’m not good with money, but I always thought I knew what it was at least. Now I realize that nobody knows what money is. Anybody who claims to know what money is is a fool or a liar.

I’m reminded of a minor digerati phenomenon, the Singularity. This is a belief that at some point (the Singularity) machines will achieve self-awareness, and either destroy us utterly, or usher in a new epoch in which we actually become machines ourselves. It’s kind of the geek version of the Rapture.

Maybe that’s what happened with money. Money has become so complicated and opaque that is has achieved its own reality and its own volition. In the future, we won’t spend money any more. It will just spend us.

Bubble gum 2.0
I sometimes think that modern day product development is focused on one central question: “What don’t we need right now? Let’s make it.”

Take Topps, the bubble gum card company. I don’t think the cards come with gum any more. Remember that gum? It was like pink cardboard sprinkled with sugar. You chewed it for roughly three minutes before it turned into a mass with the consistency and taste of tile grout, or spackle. And you were left with a picture of an athlete you’ve never heard of. Luckily, you had a friend who collected the things. You’d swap him the card for a plastic cowboy, or a marble, and he’d put the card carefully in a shoebox, where it would be alphabetized, and coded by team, and he would grow up to sell his collection on eBay for thousands of dollars, providing him the seed money to start his own company that would eventually earn him millions of dollars.

You wouldn’t think Topps would mess with that system, would you? Well, profits are down. Baseball cards, once a billion dollar a year business, now pull in around 200 million a year. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that the player stats so beloved by baseball fans can be easily found online. Another is, perhaps, that baseball players are so pumped up on steroids that the stats are meaningless.

Be that is it may, Topps, which is now owned by former Disney chief Michael Eisner, has come up with a new baseball card. If you point a webcam at it, a 3D avatar of the player on the card shows up on your computer screen. Rotate the card and the player on the screen rotates. You can use your keyboard to animate the figure to perform simple batting or pitching actions. Wow, apparently.

The trouble is, this new card requires a webcam and a computer to work. How many eight year old boys have those things, and if they do, are they really going to spend their free time watching some cartoon benchwarmer strike out? No. They’re going to make a video of themselves lip-synching to a bubble gum pop song, and post it on YouTube. They’ll be famous for two months, and then sink back into bitter obscurity, without even a shoe box to show for their trouble.

I think Topps should focus on the gum. Surely, with today’s technology, you can create a piece of gum that actually has flavor, for one thing, and maintains that flavor for longer than thirty seconds. And if you want to create little 3D baseball players, why not put them on the gum itself? The act of chewing will animate the player. Kids, amaze your friends! Open your mouth, and everybody around you will see a little tiny A Rod, for example, balanced on your tongue, and swinging a bat. And even if the technology doesn’t quite work, the animation fails, and you have a little dead baseball player in your mouth, you can still say, “Ha ha! Made you look!” And that, my friends, is what childhood is all about.

From an old notebook.
"Mycroft Fonzarelli."

The Fonz’ smarter brother, I think. I was going to do something with that, supposedly, but never got anything done beyond writing down the name. Sometimes, perhaps, that suffices.


Blogger Unknown said...

Mycroft Fonzarelli could also be the Fonz' reclusive cooler brother. Actually, didn't he appear in that episode where Fonzie was trying to defuse an atomic bomb that was going to blow up Arnold's? I love that one.

9:10 PM  
Anonymous cheap computers said...

That is sooooo genius.

3:19 AM  

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