A miscellany of opinions and views (capo 3)

For all you texters out there….

Posted by gclectic on Monday, July 2, 2007

Grammar Cat

Both the original image (from  shaymus022) and this “remix” are licensed under creative commons:
AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved.

Posted in Geek Chic, Humor, Photo | 1 Comment »

Acer Laptop and Sony Batteries — Recall Done Right

Posted by gclectic on Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It seems that, like many other laptops from a variety of manufacturers, my Acer Aspire 5670 came equipped with the HCF (halt and catch fire) model of Lithium-Ion battery from Sony. In my case, I didn’t experience any actual flames or even catastrophic overheating — just a “scorched plastic” smell and a very sudden failure of the battery to accept a charge. This, however, was certainly enough to lead me to check whether there were known problems with Acer batteries and, sure enough, I found that Acer had announced a replacement program. My battery checked out on their list as dead center of the affected batch — there was a frightening degree of congruity between the serial numbers and batch numbers in their sample photo and those on my battery — so I sent off for a replacement.

It should be noted that Acer very strongly suggests that you not run the machine with any battery affected by the recall, so I was a little bit concerned that I would be bound in place by a power cord for the 3-5 weeks that they claimed the replacement might take. Thus, you can imagine my pleasure when the replacement battery arrived on my doorsteps exactly 3 days after I filled out the appropriate web forms. The new battery is in place, and is working perfectly.

Acer handled everything well, supplying the replacement without quibbles; paying for shipping of the old battery; and supplying postage, packing, and pre-addressed labels so the old battery could be returned for proper disposal. Given that all of these problems were unforeseen at the time that the machines were manufactured, and affected a wide variety of vendors, I can find no fault with Acer for the problems with the machine, and am very pleased with the way they handled the replacement. If you purchased an Acer laptop anytime between late 2004 and late 2006, I’d recommend you check out their site and see if you should do as I did before you’re affected by any potential failures. Acer should do well by you.

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

Want 5 (Free) New Songs Every Week?

Posted by gclectic on Monday, May 21, 2007

Maybe you’ve run into the concept before, or may not. Jonathan Coulton was the most famous with his “Thing a Week” (now ended), but many people appear to have taken on the challenge: write one brand new song each and every week and give it away to whoever is interested. Why would anyone take up this challenge? The usual reasons seem to be fairly consistent:

  1. To get wider exposure for your music.
  2. To hone your songwriting skills.
  3. To be able to sell “best of” compilations on a periodic basis.
  4. Because it seemed a good idea at the time.

In the case of Coulton’s effort, it seems to have been highly succesful. His Thing a Week ran for the scheduled year, producing 4 albums and several internet hit songs — notably Code Monkey and Re: Your Brains — and vastly increasing his name recognition. (Of course, the recent write-up in the New York Times isn’t going to hurt him either.)

I knew that several other people were attempting the same experiment, but had no idea how to find all of them. Given that there was no organized list, I figured it was time for me to try to fill in the gap. These are the people (or groups) that I could find who are making a current effort to put out brand new songs on a weekly (or near weekly) basis for public consumption. I believe that they all allow free downloads, although they may encourage you to voluntarily support their ongoing efforts, or buy the final albums. (I too encourage you to support them if you like their stuff. If more independent musicians can make a living, we may start to escape the stranglehold of the major labels.)

  • Various: The FuMP: The FuMP is”The Funny Music Project” — a collective of 7 primary artists, 6 supporting artists, and assorted hangers-on who produce what is best described as “Dementoid Music”. This means that the style might be folk, rock, rap, or metal, but it’s always designed to make you laugh. (Given the wide range of styles, you are probably going to find that you hate at least some of it, but I’m not going to try to guess which songs you’ll like and which you won’t. Your mileage will vary, but on the average you’ll still come out ahead.) Given the number of artists contributing, these folks seem to have little trouble keeping to their schedule of two songs a week, and have just released their second semi-monthly album. For some classic examples, check out Don’t Shoot and 99 Words for Boobs.
  • Tom Smith: iTom — Tom specializes in tremendously funny music, though he’ll sometimes surprise you with a sad or scary song that will tear out your heart or your spleen. He’s been keeping to a weekly schedule since August 2006, and has just finished his 3rd compilation. Each album in the set explores a different theme: “And So It Begins“, “Transitions“, “True Love Waits“. For highly contrasting examples from his first album, check out Lars Needs Women and The Here and Now.
  • Various: Song Fight!: Song Fight isn’t quite the same deal as the other offerings. Instead its a (roughly) weekly challenge. Somebody proposes a title (and album art) and folks are encouraged to submit songs to match the title. Thus, you’re likely to get one song title and 24 instantiations of that title as actual songs. The quality will be highly variable, but the gimmick is hard to resist, and there can be some very pleasant gems hidden away amongst the hunks of gravel.
  • Tom Flannery and Lorne Clarke: SongaWeek: Flannery and Clarke have been providing at least one folk song a week since early 2003. Their subject matter is almost exclusively political, and will likely offend you if you don’t agree with their politics. However, whether you agree or not, you must admire their dedication to chronicling the news of the week. For examples of what you might expect, check out two comments of the same event, 9 months apart: Katrina and Re-Electing Nagin.

Posted in Filk, MP3, Music | 1 Comment »

5 Great Albums from the Science Fiction Community

Posted by gclectic on Monday, May 14, 2007

Creativity seldom follows just one path, so it’s hardly surprising that science fiction fans should develop a thriving sub-culture of accomplished musicians and songwriters. This includes many published authors, starting with old school masters like Poul Anderson, Gordy Dickson, and Peter Beagle, and continuing through Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman, and Mercedes Lackey.

Some of the music you’ll find in the community falls into the peculiar folk music sub-genre known as “filk“, or variants such as “filk-rock”, while other examples are just plain good music that happens to be performed by genre devotees. In any case, if you tune in, you’ll find that “the literature of ideas” tends to spin off some very inventive music.

Divine Intervention — Julia Ecklar

Divine InterventionThis is perhaps the most ambitious filk music album ever created. The arrangements are highly orchestrated — rumor held that they hired a substantial fraction of the Pittsburgh Symphony — and the sound is incredibly rich. Combine this with Julia’s incredible voice and an excellent assortment of songs and you have an album like no other. The songs are inspired largely by literature such as The Book of the New Sun and The Silver Metal Lover and movies such as Ladyhawk and Karate Kid (as well as unwritten novels by soon-to-be John Campbell award winner Ecklar herself). They also include songs by top filkers such as Cynthia McQuillin and T.J. Burnside-Clapp.


Keepers of the Flame — Phoenyx

Life’s FlameThis album, from 1990, combined the fantastic writing and performing skills of Heather Alexander with a talented crew of San Francisco musicians, producing a synergistic mix that has never quite been duplicated in her later work. Featuring two electric violins, along with guitars, drums and a full complement of vocalists, Phoenyx produced hardcore filk-rock at a level of energy that could not be matched. Unfortunately, they broke up soon after the album was recorded, and the album has long since become a collector’s item.

EnchantmentThe songs concerned themselves with fantastic peoples and beasts, from the folk of Elfland to Moorcock’s Stormbringer to various unnamed creatures that you certainly wouldn’t want to meet on a dark and stormy night. This was Celtic music and Celtic myth brought through the fannish tradition into the modern era with a healthy infusion of driving rock.

Luckily, many of the album’s best tracks have been released on newer albums, and if they don’t have quite the energy of the older recording, they are still worth having in your collection. Creature of the Wood and Stormbringer may be found on Life’s Flame, and Yo Ho!, Black Unicorn, and Up in the Loft can be found on Enchantment, by her new band “Uffington Horse”.


The Last Hero on Earth — Tom Smith

Every year, the 24 Hour Comics Day asks cartoonists to create complete comic books in just 24 hours. Since Tom Smith is a songwriter, he doesn’t bother drawing — he just produces comical songs. However, in 2005 he decided to create a complete musical comic book — a comic opera — in 24 hours. He handicapped himself in every way possible, by getting other folks to propose the names of the characters (“The Waffle”, “Sir Wilfred P. Huffelbaggins III”) and the titles of the songs (“With Great Power Come Great Power Bills”, “Warning! Wimbledon!”, “Hey, Didn’t You Die?”), and still managed to come up with a coherent plotline; complete lyrics; singable tunes; and a happy ending. All of this, in 24 hours. Not only is it a marvel of high-speed craftsmanship — it’s just plain fine craftsmanship in general. If you are a fan of super-hero comics, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.


Less Than Art — Ookla the Mok

Less Than ArtI’ve reviewed Ookla’s latest album elsewhere, but Less Than Art is actually their first studio album, released about 10 years ago. It’s out of print at the moment, but I have it on good authority that it’ll be re-released “real soon now”. It shows more of a fannish bent then their latest album, with two songs based on Star Trek; one on Aquaman; and one on classic horror movies. There’s also nostalgia, TV, romance and just plain great rock music.

I love where Ookla have gone with their music in the last 10 years, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this first album, and it should have a place in everyone’s collection. (Heck, this is the album that should have gotten them discovered and enshrined next to They Might be Giants and Barenaked Ladies. Fannish or not, I think the songs are that good.)


To Touch the Stars — Various

To Touch the StarsScience fiction fans have been writing fictional and non-fictional songs about the space program for longer than there has been a space program. Many fans were inspired by a classic filk music tape entitled Minus Ten and Counting, which is now long out of print. But Prometheus Music has come to the rescue and produced To Touch the Stars, a new album with some of the classic songs that inspired many of us, including Hope Eyrie, Fire in the Sky, and Witness’s Waltz; along with newer songs that reflect a new generation of dreamers, such as The Pioneers of Mars and Dog on the Moon. It also includes a truly excellent track by Christine Lavin — If We Had No Moon — that is a must for every science geek.


Legal Update: It is my belief that my inclusion of album art, whether by deep linking to the sites of the album retailers or via hosted thumbnails is appropriate fair use in promotion of albums. Certainly no harm is intended. If either the hosts or the copyright holders have any cause for complaint, I ask them to please contact me and I will promptly act to satisfy your requests.

Posted in Filk, Music, Science Fiction | 4 Comments »

Overheard at the Dinner Table

Posted by gclectic on Thursday, April 5, 2007

I seem to fall into some pretty odd dialogs on occasion.  This exchange, for example, struck me as being somewhat interesting:

  dinner companion: “Now she’s going off to college to become a lesbian.”
  me: “I don’t believe that actually requires a formal education.”

Posted in Quotes, Sarcasm, Society | Leave a Comment »

Valentines cartoonograms

Posted by gclectic on Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Well, it’s time for yet another Hallmark Holiday and given the awful weather outside, I’m celebrating by staying inside and sending all of my readers some virtual holiday cheer in honor of Valentine’s day. However, I’ve always been ambivalent about the holiday. Thus, I present two views.

I’m a romantic at heart, and appreciate the happy couples who can spend the day celebrating the most powerful attractive force in the universe. This brings me to my first celebration of the holiday, to the left of this paragraph. If there are any non-geeks in the viewing audience who find this a wee bit confusing, you are invited to study up on Newton’s law of universal gravitation. If you still find it a wee bit confusing, you can just assume that I’m not only a geek but have a warped sense of humor.

On the other hand, I also spent an awful lot my life viewing Valentine’s day as an annual ritual which rubbed romance in the noses of those who weren’t romantically involved, and can state with confidence that the holiday doesn’t look much fun from that side. So for everyone who is stuck celebrating a solitary Valentine’s day, I give you the dark (chocolate) side of the force, off to your right. Again, because I delight in excessive obscurity, I invite those who experience confusion to resort to their reference materials and study the wonders of that food of the gods, Theobromine. Ultimately, you may find that it delivers many of the benefits of romance, with fewer lasting side effects.

Posted in Food and Drink, Humor, Society | 1 Comment »

Super Bowl XLI — Live-Blogging the ads

Posted by gclectic on Sunday, February 4, 2007

As promised, I’m set to start live-blogging tonights big game. As I sit typing, it’s 15 minutes to official game time, and I’m prepared to say that I’ll call it my official commercial kick-off. Hopefully I’ll be able to cover every new commercial that happens between now and the end of the game. As I did last year, I’ll also try to mention (down at the bottom) any other folks I find live-blogging the game.

So here’s the commercials:

  1. McDonald’s — Ronald McDonald house: A bit of promotion for a very worth charity, but they felt the need to throw in their very hokey slogan along with it. I’ll give them marks for public service, but “I’m loving it” really spoils the mood.
  2. Ford — F-Series Trucks: Short and sweet. This makes a nice teaser for a new product, though I’m not the right market, so I don’t know if the feature list matters.
  3. Ghost Rider: I personally don’t care about movie ads in the Super Bowl. I think that we get enough ads for them in regular programming. I’ll likely see this movie, but I really didn’t pay attention to this ad.
  4. NFL Network: Chad Johnson’s Super Bowl party showcases a bunch of stars and somehow implies that if you get “NFL Total Access” you’ll attract similar people. Really, it’s pretty forgettable, but this round of commercials is going for “short and sweet”, so maybe they’ll build on it later.
  5. Norbit: I had no interest in the movie before the commercial, and 2.6 million dollars later, I still have no interest.
  6. Pizza Hut — Cheesy Bites: Maybe I should know the starlet who’s pushing the product, but they’re all indistinguishable at this point. The gimmick — “nothing’s more important than the return of cheesy bites” doesn’t do badly. Maybe I’ll actually remember to try them out someday because of the commercial, and really that’s got to be counted as a success.
  7. Blockbuster — Total Access: A ho-hum commercial which gets worthy information across. I think it should have had more of an interesting hook to justify the price, but we’ll see how they build upon it with later commercials.
  8. Ford — Edge: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this same commercial on regular broadcast. It’s a pretty good commercial in its own right. It’s clever; it get’s your attention; and it ties in nicely with the name of the product. I’d normally give it good marks, but I expect new commercials for my Super Bowl viewing.
  9. Ford — F Series Trucks: Okay, Ford is going heavily on the “from the inside out” concept. I kind of like it, although to me it just says “somebody is selling high tech trucks”. Will I remember tomorrow that it was Ford? I honestly don’t know. Remember that “brand identification” is more important than “clever” in this game.
  10. Bud Light — Rock, Paper, Scissors: This is classic Bud Light. This line of commercials always goes for the humor, and their starter is cruel, but funny. People will remember it, and presumably keep the brand recognition because everyone knows that “the Bud Light commercials are the good ones”. You may forget the message of “anything is fair if it’ll get me the last beer”, and that’s probably just as well.
  11. Doritos — Live the Flavor: This is, I believe, the first of the consumer generated commercials that’s been the new theme of this year’s crop. Frankly, I’d call it a very nice commercial. It’s smooth, funny, and connects very well to the product. I think it would be memorable without the “consumer generated” gimmick, and with it we have a definite winner. This is a solid commercial break all around.
  12. Blockbuster — New Mouse: A truly funny commercial, which has been floating around for quite a long time now. As I said before, I expect new commercials for the Super Bowl, so this one gets downgraded. It also depends upon us connecting the cute animals and their antics with Blockbuster, which doesn’t necessarily work. All together, it’s not the home run that they might want. (Sorry for mixing my sports metaphors. Call it a gain of half a yard, perhaps.)
  13. Sierra Mist Free — Beard Combover: Okay, so the idea is that somebody who is a total freak in every way likes this product, so we should go out and buy it. Either they should push the “it shows your good judgement” angle, or the “non-conformists choice” angle. Put them together and I just go “huh”. Besides, you could substitute any other soda and it would be the same commercial.
  14. Saliesgenie.com: Okay, this is a 1960s commercial for a 21st century product. Maybe their target audience will go for it, but I just call it “lame”.
  15. Sierra Mist — Martial Arts: Two Sierra Mist commercials in the same break. Apparently with enough commercials they’ll impress their logo on our subconscious minds and the ads won’t have to make sense, or have any quality. Who knows, maybe it’ll work, but it’s not scoring on the “likeability” grade. (As I recall, they had the one ad last year that offended me enough that I was tempted to boycott the product, so I’d have to say that memorability might backfire for me.
  16. Toyota Tundra — One Happy Ending: A solid car commercial, but somehow it doesn’t distinguish itself from the pack for me. Unlike the Edge commercial above, I probably won’t be able to tell you tomorrow whether the commercial was for a Ford or a Toyota.
  17. Fed Ex — Moon Office: Normally, I like a clever Fed Ex commercial and don’t much care that they are based on laughable science. (I loved last years caveman commercial.) This one just offends me by violating every rule of physics for no reason at all. Maybe if it were as clever as last years, I’d forgive, but it isn’t. On the other hand, it preserves the Fed Ex meme — “we’ll get it there, even if it’s impossible”, so it’ll probably pay off for them even if it isn’t all that good.
  18. Bud Light — Auctioneer: What can I say? They keep coming up with clever new ideas, and they always hit the same themes: “the only thing that matters is the beer”. They are fun to watch, and presumably the folks at the home office know by now whether it’ll pay off. In any case, keep ’em this amusing, and I’ll keep watching.
  19. Snickers — After the Kiss: The basic commercial is so-so, and could be a generic ad for any product. The gimmick is that there is a website (afterthekiss.com) which lets you choose an ending. It’ll increase the mileage of their ad spend, perhaps, but I still will want to see proof that it’s got some brand identification. Thus far, it’s ho-hum.
  20. Schick Quattro Titanium — Test Lab: This is an okay commercial with two problems: 1) I’ll never remember the product name because any razor would work as well for the gimmick; and 2) the commercial is ancient. Bad use of your ad spend, guys.
  21. Pride: It’s a movie ad. It’s not even an action move, and there are no exciting moments.
  22. Chevrolet — Old Songs: This one is different, and it’s definitely got brand identification, along with a good slogan: “People who love cars, love Chevy”. It’s not the best commercial, but it’s a very solid showing.
  23. Bud Light — Language Lesson: Funny; name recognition; classic Bud Light. It’s solid. It’s not going to go into their hall of fame, though. Keep ’em coming.
  24. GoDaddy.com — Marketing: These folks bank on pure name recognition for their ads, along with the controversy of occasionally being banned. It works for them — it’s gotten me to check out their product. This commercial is fine for that purpose, though no longer in any way innovative.
  25. Coke — Give a Little Love: I think this is a very well written commercial. It turns around the conventions of violent video games; it harks back to the whole “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” vibe; and it’s just plain well made. It does okay on the brand identification since Coke already has a history with this style of commercial. The big downer is that I’ve seen it before. Can’t you guys keep the big commercials under wraps any more?
  26. Budweiser — Dalmatian: I love the Budweiser clydesdale commercials, but this one doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s personal taste, or maybe they are in a slump. As for the Bud Light commercials, you know what to expect, and it has nothing to do with actually telling you about the product. I will, however, remember that Budweiser and their clydes know how to tug the heartstrings. Just tug a little better on the next one, guys.
  27. Garmin — Mapasaurus: It got my attention, and it does an okay job of selling the idea that GPS navigation will help you out. However, until the last 2 seconds I assumed it was advertising a different company than Garmin, and there’s still no brand recognition after those 2 seconds. I think this commercial may have helped TomTom’s bottom line just as much as Garmin’s
  28. CareerBuilder — Another Training Seminar: It’s a nice commercial, and I think does appeal to folks who are unsatisfied with their current jobs. What’s more, it’s an interesting change from monkeys. I think I like it, and hopefully it’ll do okay on the brand recognition front. I’m not sure though.
  29. Doritos — Cleanup on Register 6: Doritos consumer generated commercials are sticking to theme and being genuinely clever. I think they’ve got a series of winners here. Who knows, maybe I’ll even take another look at their products as a result. Thus far these folks are the breakout winners for this bowl.
  30. Chevy — Guys can’t keep their hands off it: This is another consumer generated ad, and was lauded for the fact that it’s “one for the ladies”. Well, I’m not a lady, and maybe that’s why I think it’s just lame. Sorry, but the consumer generated gimmick isn’t enough if the commercial doesn’t work, and this one doesn’t work for me. Thumbs down.
  31. Bud Light — Slap: Okay, that’s the first Bud Light commercial that has, IMHO, outright sucked. Thus, I predict that it’s the one that will be the smash-hit success that everyone will be raving about tomorrow. It was just pointless.
  32. American Heart Association — beatyourrisk.com: An actual public service announcement, and I’d say that it definitely gets its point across. Not only that, but it’s clever enough to keep jaded audiences watching. I’d call it a low-key winner.
  33. GM — Robot: This one was hyped pre-Bowl, and I was hoping we’d see some point to it. Now we see the punch-line, and it’s not bad. The pre-hype actually does have me remembering whose ad it is, and now I know they’re proud of their warranty, so I guess they sold their point. Not bad, not great.
  34. Coke — Black History: Associating civic pride with the product name is a classic strategy, and this was a classy commercial. Will folks appreciate the message or be offended by Coke trying to cash in? I couldn’t say for others, but I like it.
  35. Wild Hogs: Yawn. Maybe I’ll see the movie.
  36. Sprint Broadband — Conectile Dysfunction: It’s cute, but I’ll never remember which company was the good one and which was limp. I don’t think it’ll pay off.
  37. Doritos — Who’s Winning?: This is a nice puff piece, and apparently not consumer generated. They are going for good-will and brand-recognition on this one, and I’d say doing okay with it. (On the other hand, they are close to trespassing on Coke’s territory. Will confusion result?)
  38. Coke — Never Had One: It’s got a new slogan: “The Coke Side of Life” and a very nice hook. It’s a nice commercial overall, but with a change in style, it runs into brand recognition problems — you could substitute any other soda (or foodstuff for that matter). This one only gets partial credit.
  39. local commercials: I’m not going to report on these.
  40. Toyota — Celebration: This is a generic non-superbowl commercial. I suspect this was actually a local slot that was filled with whatever they had lying around.
  41. Half time show: I’ve got nothing against Prince, but this is the first break I’ve had since the game started. They are packing in a lot of commercials this year. It’s rest-stop time for me.
  42. CBS: I haven’t been blogging CBS’s self-promotion. Obviously it’s cheap for them to advertise their own stuff. On the other hand they sure seem to be finding a lot more time for it. Did all the advertisers assume they’d better buy in the first half because the game would be a blow-out? Inquiring minds want to know.
  43. Honda Trucks — Innovation to every adventure: I think it was a commercial. It was just such a generic car commercial that my overloaded mind couldn’t take it in. You need more than that to keep our attention at this point. (This may have been another local commercial slot.)
  44. Cargill: A pleasant but low-key commercial. Since this is an established company who is probably just trying to get their name a bit better known, this is probably not a bad sort of approach. It’s not exciting, though. (This whole block seems like local stuff, so you may not have seen this one.)
  45. Meet the Robinsons: It’s a nice enough movie commercial, but you’ve got months to advertise this, and are the kids you are advertising through really watching the Super Bowl at this point?
  46. E-Trade — Getting robbed by your bank: This one makes its point very nicely, and I think I’ll remember the sponsor (especially since they already have a name for themselves). It’s a bit derivative of Capitol One Bank, but still I’d give it high marks for reminding us that these guys are still around.
  47. Coke — Fantasy Coke Machine: It was innovative, and had us spending a lot of time looking at the Coke logo. It was also fun and clever. I’d call it a winner all around.
  48. Bud Light — Gorillas: Maybe I’m getting burned out on Bud Light. There was nothing really wrong with that commercial, but it seems that I didn’t really get Budweiser’s 2.6 million dollars worth. It was just “okay”.
  49. Revlon Colorist — Sheryl Crow: Not flashy, but I’d have to call it pretty effective. I think it’s a good solid Super Bowl commercial if the target audience is watching. How about it ladies? Do you watch the Super Bowl for the hair product commercials?
  50. CareerBuilder — Survival of the Fittest: They are keeping to the theme, and I came into this commercial looking forward to the plot. I think they’ve got their water cooler moments, even without monkeys. Good show, folks.
  51. Taco Bell — Lions: I think I want the chihuahua back. This just didn’t have any life to it, and I’m not going to remember the product. Maybe I’ll remember the brand, but I won’t have positive associations. It was just mediocre.
  52. Van Heusen: I’m not sure what they should have done here. If they really do make products for metrosexuals, they’re just stuck with the fact that metrosexuals are out. If they have more variety than that, then they are backing the wrong horse. In other words it didn’t work for me, but I am not the target audience.
  53. Toyota Tundra — 10,000 pounds: Note what I said about the previous commercial. It’s a big truck, but am I going to remember whose big truck?
  54. Emerald Nuts — Robert Goulet: I saw last years Emerald Nuts commercials and immediately forgot the name. I have no idea if I saw the product on my store shelves or not. This one is almost as weird as last years, and will probably be exactly as effective. Why are you bothering?
  55. T Mobile — My Five: I can’t keep mobile phone incentive plans straight, and this isn’t going to help me remember T Mobile or their plans. You will sell me cell phone service by providing reliable coverage, good phones, and good customer service — and I’ll figure out whether you’ve done those by asking all of my friends. I’d rather you spend money improving those than running forgettable commercials.
  56. Fed Ex Ground — What’s in a Name: This is much better than the previous one. It may have water cooler potential, and it does a reasonable job of promoting a particular service that they haven’t pushed before. I’ll probably remember to check out the service.
  57. Nationwide — Federline: This one got amazing hype before the Super Bowl, and doesn’t seem to have changed from the pre-release form. That said, I’d say that it’s pretty decent. It got the buzz; it makes its point; and most importantly, it incorporates the product name and slogan into the rap. Unlike last year’s efforts, I’m likely going to remember that it was Nationwide advertising. Whether that will translate into sales, I don’t know, but it’s a step in the right direction.
  58. Bud Light — Hitchhiker: Bud light is definitely keeping to theme, and this one is better than the last. I give it extra points for a decent ending, but I still think they may be on a downward slide. Time for a new agency?
  59. local commercials: There are more of those in this half, as well as fewer commercials overall. It does seem like all their sales were in the first half.
  60. Budweiser — Crabs: Oh, I get it! King of crabs; king of beers. It’s all name recognition, and at least this one was fairly clever. I would have called it as a Bud Light style, but then they couldn’t tie into “king of beers”. A lesser work, but solid enough for today’s field.
  61. Prudential — Rock Solid Retirement: “A rock can be….” It’s a nice extended metaphor, and with their long-standing “piece of the rock” slogan, it ties well into their brand identity. Not the top spot of the day, but a solid showing which could well pay off, and didn’t waste my time. Good show.
  62. Honda CR-V — Burning Love: C’mon guys. This is another generic commercial that could be about any car ever made. Why are we going to remember your product’s name tomorrow after experiencing more than 50 commercials and maybe even a football game?
  63. HP — Orange County Choppers: “The Computer is Personal Again.” Between the nice slogan and the audience appeal of Orange County Choppers, this has the potential to give HP some “cool factor”, and maybe differentiate them from the Dells and Gateways of the world. Or maybe not. But it was definitely a nice little commercial.
  64. Izod: Pure name recognition, from a company that I thought was already pretty well established. Apparently they want to get themselves noticed by a new generation, or some such. If so, the commercial wasn’t a bad attempt.
  65. Budweiser Select — holotable: Maybe it ties in with the “expect everything slogan”, and I assume there was some star power making the commercial interesting to someone, but my reaction was between “huh?” and “who cares?”. Budweiser is still a power in the Super Bowl, but I think they are slipping. (And if I don’t get a decent Clydesdale commercial soon, I’m gonna be pissed.) Update: Nope, I didn’t see a classic Clyde commercial this year. The dalmatians did not qualify in my book. That makes it official to me. Budweiser needs a new agency to help them remember their old values.
  66. Flomax: What can you say? It’s not going to be a popular commercial, but maybe they know the demographic. If it sells product, it’s fair, but it certainly isn’t what we tune in for.
  67. E-Trade — One finger: This one is clever, fairly memorable, and not too bad for brand association. E-Trade is an old hand at this game, and I think they are making a solid showing today.
  68. Hannibal Rising: Movie. ‘Nuff said.
  69. CareerBuilder.com — Team Building: This keeps building on the previous ones with, I suspect, and excellent water cooler impact. I think people will be remembering the name of careerbuilder.com, and will know why they want to keep it in mind. These folks are winning the game.
  70. Honda — Most Fuel Efficient: This is the first Honda commercial that seemed worth the trouble. They are advertising worthwhile things — overall reliability and fuel efficiency — and it seems that I might remember that it’s a Honda ad. It’s still not great, but it’s at least okay.
  71. GoDaddy.com — Marketing (repeat): It’s a repeated commercial. These are the first folks to stoop so low. Do they think we skipped the first half of the game and need a reminder? C’mon.
  72. Snapple Green Tea — EGCG: Not a bad commercial. It definitely harks back to classic Mountain Dew, except that it’s actually talking about the useful properties of their product. Unfortunately, it’s more a commercial for tea than for Snapple, so we’ll have to see if it pays off.
  73. End of game. Officially, they aren’t Super Bowl commercials any more, so I’m not going to bother covering them. I can’t imagine anyone is showing their A-list any more.

And here’s a partial list of live-bloggers:

  1. The most hyped blog this year is superadfreak.com which is really a meta-blog gathering posts from various big-name bloggers posting on their own blogs. If you want the professional marketer’s view, it’s probably a good stopping point.
  2. FilteringCraig is mostly blogging the game itself, but he has some commentary on the commercials themselves. I’m impressed, ’cause I can barely keep up with just the ads — I’ve got no time for the game.
  3. It’s a short list thus far, but BusyMom is trying to keep up with very short reviews of the commercials: I watch Super Bowl Commercials so you don’t have to.
  4. Emma Grant is just listing her faves, but as a result she is keeping up with the rush pretty well, and has some nice concise commentary.
  5. Mark McGuire at Times Union is doing a series of posts by quarter. For example, here is his second quarter post. He’s splitting them by commercial break and giving them letter grades. Worth checking out.
  6. Kalisah at Overdressed and Re-employed is Live Blogging the Super Bowl Commercials. The reviews are short but sweet, and she’s keeping up.
  7. Bill Green at Make the logo bigger. is featuring Super Bowl thoughts., in which he divides the commercials into categories such as “funny”, “not funny”, and “mediocrity has a new name”. It has some pretty good summaries, even if he seems to disagree with me on almost everything.
  8. Adland is doing a series of posts by quarter. For example, here’s the Second Quarter post. These are very detailed descriptions, including production notes, along with the poster’s opinions on the ad quality. These look like must-reads.
  9. Dan Shanoff is actually watching some football with his commercials, but he’s got some good comments on the ads too.
  10. Hal Boedeker at the Orlando Sentinel is also blogging the commercials quarter by quarter. Here’s his Third Quarter post.
  11. More quarter-by-quarter from Ken Hanscom at Some Life. Here’s his Third Quarter post.
  12. Eric Siegmund at The Fire Ant Gazette also has his posts divided by quarter. As in this 4th Quarter” post all posts rate individual commercials from 1-4 ants, with pretty good detailed reviews.

That’s all folks. I’ve seen the commercials; I’ve scanned the blogs; I’ve downed the sodas; and soon I’m going to back up and see what the score was. (I think the Equines won, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.) I hope you enjoyed the ad-fest as much as I did, and for you pigskin watchers — you missed an interesting match.

Posted in Live-blogging, Sports, Super Bowl | 2 Comments »

Superbowl Ad Warm-up

Posted by gclectic on Saturday, February 3, 2007

Okay, we’re counting down to the big moment when we get to see whose commercials win the big game. (Anyone who thinks the Super Bowl is going to be a contest between overmuscled Ursines and Equines clearly isn’t going to be watching the same game as me, even if they will be tuned to the same channel.) As I start typing, there are 22 hours and 24 minutes of prep time left, so I’ve got to tune up my couch potato skills. I’ve got the soda; I’ve got the chips; there are 4 remote controls within easy reach of my comfy armchair — I think I’m gonna be ready. We have HDTV for the first time here at stately Gclectic Manor, so we will hopefully be able to see all of the subtle nuances of the advertiser’s art.

I hope to once again live-blog the ads, so in preparation I’ve been considering the question of what qualities make a perfect commercial, especially for the critical Super Bowl time slot. I think I’ve got it down to just a few vital qualities:

  1. Brand Identification: This one can’t be stressed enough. If I come away from the game saying “I like that commercial with the aardvark — I think maybe it was for some soda company”, then the advertiser has wasted its money. (The big losers in this category last year were Nationwide and Ameriquest. I had to look up last year’s entry just to remember which companies they were. All I could remember was that they had to do with banks or insurance.)
  2. Memorability: The cliché here is that everyone should be talking about the commercial around the water cooler on Monday. For bonus points, they should still remember it come next Super Bowl when your new ad references the old one. (This can be especially important for infrequent purchases. It was 10 months after the last years Bowl that I went looking for web hosting at GoDaddy.com, but they still got the sale. And this was even after I gave their commercial a poor grade. They mostly got my attention on the strength of their 2005 commercial. Now that’s memorability.)
  3. Likeability: Some folks would say that this is optional, and that you win if people remember your name, regardless of the context. However, I remember the name of Parks Sausage from 30 year old commercials, and continue my resolve never to buy any product with that name. Likewise, I buy Wendy’s products in spite of the famous “Where’s the beef” commercials, not because of them.
  4. Information: If you are a big brand, this one really is optional. Nobody needs to be told what Pepsi is, or see brand X comparisons. Pretty much everyone on earth knows their base product. On the other hand, if you are selling a relatively unknown product you really do need to tell us why we should be interested. (Remember “herestobeer.com” from last year? I still have no idea why they wanted me to go to that site, or whether they have something to sell.)

So basically, there are three major criteria and one minor one. (Likeability may be optional from the standpoint of sales, but I’m still going to down-check any commercial that I hate. I’m the blogger here, so that’s my prerogative.) As for the actual commercials, we’ll soon see (in 21 hours and 41 minutes) whether any of them meet these exacting standards.

Posted in Live-blogging, Sports, Super Bowl | Leave a Comment »

I’m tired of these martyr faking scorpions….

Posted by gclectic on Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I’m not the only one who saw the story on Yahoo:  "Man OK after airborne scorpion bite".  Aside from the inevitable comparisons to recent Samuel Jackson movies, it was a pretty interesting article.  I would suggest that the author study up on scorpions though — I don’t think that they even have teeth, much less that the man was suffering from "bites" rather than "stings". 

What really interests me, however, is that this was apparently just one of two different "scorpion on a plane" incidents in the last day or two.  Unlike the above report, which concerned a passenger flying from Chicago to Vermont on United Airlines, the Toronto Star article "Scorpion on a plane to Pearson" is about a passenger flying from Costa Rica to Toronto (by way of Miami) aboard American Airlines.  At first glance you’d think that they were misreported versions of the same story, but they clearly are not.

Now, once might just be a glitch in the system, but twice in as many days seems like unwarranted carelessness.  The powers that be would have you believe that no unscreened tubes of shampoo will make it on board American flights, but apparently poisonous arthropods don’t rate the same scrutiny.

Posted in Current Affairs, Travel | Leave a Comment »

Ism x 3

Posted by gclectic on Monday, January 8, 2007

Symbolic Power

Symbolism: 2 of these symbols were created by Roman priests more than 2000 years ago; one was created by an ISO standards board less than 100 years ago; and the accompanying notation was invented by Descarte in the 17th century. Yet the stylistic elements all work together quite nicely.

Egotism: I’m no sort of artist, but I think that the above rendition came out very well. Therefore you may see my trying my hand at simple cartoonograms in the future. Be warned.

Commercialism: In fact, I was pleased enough with how this came out that I went and tossed a couple of the panels onto t-shirts. If they happen to tickle your fancy, you can go pick up your own copy at the Geek Power shop. How’s that for selling out? If you ain’t interested, that’s fine too. I haven’t quit my day job.

(Update: apparently typepad isn’t happy with images above a certain width, so I’ve had to put in a thumbnail pointing to the full-sized image. Do click through to see the real thing.)

Posted in Geek Chic, Humor, Society, Technology | Leave a Comment »