Sad tidings for Trulili

August 5, 2006

It was the happiest day of the calendar year in the city of Hovaji. It was the one-hundredth anniversary of when the city was founded. And ever since then, the city has grown and flourish. In fact, it recently made Hour magazine’s top 200 list of the best vacation destinations! Hovaji knew how to throw together a celebration, too. There was not one, but two parades. There were bands playing all over, food booths, carnival games, street vendors and re-enactments of when the city was founded. And best of all, the day was capped off with a fantastic fireworks display. For residents of Hovaji, it was the best day you could ever ask for. Except for one young girl named Trulili.

You see, Trulili wanted nothing to do with the celebration at hand. What point is there, she wondered, when all the other days of the year are very boring? Isn’t a celebration just a farce to cover-up the fact that we are a boring city? She sat inside her room, looking out her picture window onto the festivities lining her street. Tired of sneering at the revilers, Trulili pulled up a chair and started to read a book. This will be more edifying than partying, she reasoned.

Swinging the front door open, Tralalilia, Trulili’s mother, beamed with excitement. “Trulili, you’re missing the best day of the year!” she yelled. “I’m not coming out!” Trulili yelled back. “All that pomp and circumstance for what, to celebrate us? And you’re always saying, ‘Trulili, stop being such a self-absorbed brat!'” “I have never used those words, young lady,” Tralalilia snapped. “Whatever, mom. I’m not coming out.” Frustrated, Tralalilia went back outside to rejoin the festivities, leaving her daughter to sulk.

While walking around, Tralalilia noticed Glu-Glu walking amongst the crowds. “Hey, Glu!” she smiled. “Hey, Tralalilia.” Glu-Glu noticed that she wasn’t her perky old self. “Why are you upset, and on this day, no less?” “Oh, it’s my daughter. She thinks that she’s better than everyone else and that there’s no reason to celebrate, ever.” “How terrible!” Glu-Glu observed. “Not only that, but she finds Hovaji to be an extremely boring city, and that these celebrations are nothing more than a mockery of the fact that we have nothing to offer people the rest of the year!”

Concerned, Glu-Glu started to walk towards the house to talk some sense into Trulili. “It won’t do you any good,” insisted Tralalilia. “I’ve already tried. She’s so set in her ways, it would take a miracle to make her change her mind.” Understanding, Glu-Glu turned around. “She’s still a teenager, right? She’ll grow out of it.” he said. “Yeah, probably.” she said longingly. “Hopefully.”

As the day went on, the festivities got louder and louder. Eventually, it was too much for Trulili to bear. In a flurry of anger, she stormed down the steps, swung open the front door and marched outside to the streets. “Some of us are trying to have some quiet time here! If I’ve had to sacrifice my quiet afternoon for you folks, now all of you can sacrifice the rest of your day so I can have some peace and quiet,” she declared, folding her arms across her chest. “It’s a fair trade.”

Bemused, the people of Hovaji started to laugh at Trulili. “It’s not funny, you guys!” she insisted. “I’m trying to read a book!” The crowd kept laughing. “I want some peace and quiet!” “Girl,” said one townsperson. “You say that the town is boring every day, but when there’s actually some excitement you start complaining?” “Yeah, that doesn’t seem that right.” shouted another person from the crowd. Soon, everybody was murmuring in agreement. “Guys, please.” said Trulili, her voice starting to break up. “I want some quiet time now.”

Unbeknownst to Trulili, there was a man peddling cotton candy right behind her. He had been pushing his cart all day, every year at the festival for all of his life. In the same cart, too. He was as synonymous with the Hovaji celebration as the parades, bands and fireworks. He was never tired of walking around the city, but his cart was. At that moment, it began to sputter and shake. Sensing possible danger, the man put the cart down and walked away. Everybody in the crowd backed up, except for Trulili, who was too focused on her own demands to even notice something even bigger going on.

BOOM!

In the flash of an eye, Trulili was covered from head to toe in cotton candy. Amused, children ran up to Trulili and started to pick the cotton candy off of her and eat it. Trulili started to cry. “This city is so stupid!” she balled.

Tralalilia was devastated. “Look what they’re doing to my poor daughter!” she cried. “Look what your daughter did to these people,” said Glu-Glu. “She was selfish, prideful and demanding. She wanted to ruin a fun day for thousands of people because she wanted a ‘quiet afternoon’. And it was her own selfishness that led to her not noticing what was going on, leading to this.” Glu-Glu said, pointing at the cotton-candy outline of Trulili. “But, but, they’re treating her like a spectacle!” said Tralalilia. “Only because she made herself out to be one, whether she realized it or not.”

Unable to move much due to the volume of cotton candy forced upon her, Trulili fell down onto the ground. Sighing, Glu-Glu started walking on over to help her. “I guess you can say that pride went before that fall.”

One post is worth at the very least a hundred words

August 4, 2006

“A long time has passed since this site was updated.”
“At least we have vivacious video to entertain ourselves here.”
“Do not be absurd, those random videos are not funny.”
“At least I am not speaking at ten words per sentence.”
“That’s true. You spoke with eleven, you sly fox you.”
“And now I will speak with nine. See how!”
“This exercise is pointless and proves nothing. Move on already!”
“Why should I move on? It’s fun and spontaneous! FUN!”
“It’s awkward to read and doesn’t make any sense, weirdo.”
“Fine. It was getting kind of tiring counting out words.”

ABC’s online experiment to expand in the fall

August 4, 2006

This past spring, ABC.com launched a online video player that allowed internet users to watch full episodes of some of their most acclaimed primetime programs. The free service allowed people to watch episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Alias and Commander in Chief, all with limited commercial interruption. In fact, you would only have one sponser per episode. So you might have to sit through a 15-60 second ad between breaks, that’s all the commercials you would see. According to new data released by ABC, the online streaming experiment worked – with great results. And as a result, a new version of the broadband player will come out in the fall with even more programming available.

According to ABC, viewers will see a slightly longer commercial inventory, but it won’t hamper the “great consumer experience” that people were accustomed to seeing. In addition, episodes of programs will be available only four weeks after they originally aired. “Most people watch because they missed the episode, and that happens mostly within a discrete period of time,” said Albert Cheng, executive vice-president of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group. “Once you let it sit there, it doesn’t get that much usage down the line.” Most viewing of a particular episode was done within 24 hours of the original telecast.

During the two-month test, more than 5.7 million request for episodes were made and 16 million video streams were served. Each episode contained four separate streamed, which were proceeded by an ad. Not surprisingly, Lost was the most popular show in the test run, while Commander in Chief was the least-watched. Focus group studying showed that most viewing was done because users didn’t watch the episode on TV. And a surprisingly large number of people – eighty-seven percent – could recall the advertiser.

By comparison, there have been six million downloads from Apple’s iTunes service form ABC, Disney Channel and ESPN combined.

Not only is the ad recall percentage great for advertiser, the median age is demo-friendly as well. According to ABC, the average age of the video-streaming user was 29. ABC’s average age during the May sweep was in the mid-40’s.

No details have been announced yet on which programs will be available online when the service resumes in the fall, except that Lost and Desperate Housewives are expected to return. (Alias and Commander in Chief were cancelled and will not come back to the broadband service.) (Read the full article)

Overseas company to market odor-eating walls

August 4, 2006

In something that could very well impact your life, Japanese lavatory equipment maker Toto Ltd. is ready to launch the industry’s first odor-decomposing wall material on August 10. This special material can absorb the “toilet odor” for photo-catalytic decomposition, according to Todo. The company said that tests confirmed that the material can reduce residual ammonia to one-sixteenth of the original amount. The wall cost about 210,000 yen, or, about $1,825 dollars, and is available in white, beige or pink. Why spend money on a high-tech air freshener when your wall can do all the work for you? (Read the full article)

HarperCollins makes a big online push

August 3, 2006

Book giant HarperCollins announced on Thursday that it is rolling out a beta version of a service that will allow potential book buyers to read a few pages of each title over the Internet. The new service is called “Browse Inside” and features books from ten featured authors including Michael Crichton, C.S. Lewis, Rick Warren, Paula Coelho and Isabel Allende. Within one year, ten more authors will be added.

According to the AFP, this new program allows people to read six pages of Allende’s novel “Zorro”, while Amazon.com’s similar “Search Inside” feature allows you to read four pages of the same book. Plans are to have this program roll out on a much, much larger scale over the next year, “extending the application to all books globally.” You can test the service out yourself by going to HarperCollins.com and clicking on a featured author’s book. The “Browse Inside” button will appear underneath the cover art. (Read the press release) (Read the AFP article)

Court puts Moussaoui trial exhibits online

August 3, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the September 11, 2001 attacks, was on trial for two months. And in those two months, the prosecution and defense submitted 1,202 items for exhibit. And now, the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia has released all of the exhibits to the public on their website. According to ABC, this is the first criminal case for which a federal court has provided access to “all” exhibits online.

In the documents available online, you can watch video clips, telephone and 911 phone calls and pictures presented before the jury. Some of the pictures are gruesome to look at, as they show body parts being recovered following the September 11th attacks. In also includes memos and information from the FBI, CIA and NSA concerning Moussaoui and other hijackers.

Now, this isn’t “all” of the exhibits… There are still some classified reports shown to the jury, plus some videotapes dispositions of Moussaoui’s roommate Hussein Al Attas and Faiz Bafana, a senior Jemmah Islamiyah member who discussed Moussaoui’s dreams to fly a plane into the White House. Those tapes are viewed as witness testimony and will not be released at this time. (Read the full article)

Click here to view the exhibits on the court’s website. (Viewer/listener discretion is strongly advised.)

Flee the box office! Four b-grade films premiering

August 2, 2006

It’s another week, another day to write a Weekend Preview column. Oh joy unbounded! So here’s the deal: we’ve got another week where four films are opening up at the box office. And they all look uninspired. (Did all the creative talent in Hollywood really make the jump to television?) Whatever. It’s still hot and muggy at TDIN headquarters where the Weekend staff works. I mean, having the entire nation acting as a giant sauna is nice in theory, but the novelty wears thin after a few hours.

So we do stocks first? Is that it? So wait a second… We do the business angle, which nobody cares about, first? And we bury entertainment at the end? It’s like a local newscast, making you wait a segment or two before you get the weather forecast (which is why most people watch anyways). Fine. We’ll be snotty like that. For now. Some stocks were up, some where down. That’s all you chose to get out of business stories anyways, isn’t it? Oh, you actually want substance? Fine. Apparently, this week the market is nervously trading in anticipation of more information from the Fed. Happy? HAPPY? (No, I haven’t taken my chill pill yet, thanks for asking!)

At the sound of the closing bell on Wednesday, here’s what the three major US markets looked like:
Dow Jones: 11,199.93
NASDAQ: 2,078.81
S&P 500: 1,278.55
(Note: The Weekend Recap maintains exclusive rights to the fancy graphics for the stock market. So we can’t use them during mid-week. There’s something about contracts and “not being able to find a loophole” and all of that.)

Movies! Alright. (We’re feeling less crabby now, thank you. We think the humidity dropped a bit. We estimate it’s now at a cool 179%.) This week, we’ve got a bit of something for everyone. We’ve got another family-friendly animated movie, keeping up our one-a-week quota. We’ve got a suspense/horror/slasher film, a dark drama, and a Will Ferrell comedy. Basically, Hollywood is saying that you have no excuse not to go to the movies this weekend. Except… let’s take a closer look at the movies, shall we?

Barnyard – Remember in Toy Story when the toys “came to life” whenever humans weren’t looking? Same principle, except with barnyard animals instead of action figures. And the cows can even stand on two legs! And have incredible brain power! And watch television! And, and… be cows…? So the plot of the film is that Otis, the practical joker, is being pushed to grow up and be more responsible. The responsible cow is taken out of the picture and Otis must lead the barn! But he doesn’t have leadership genes! HILARIOUS! And then the farmer finds out about the secret, coyotes plot to eat everyone… I bet you can guess the ending. For children who really enjoy fiction. Starring the voices of Kevin James, Courtney Cox Arquette, Danny Glover and the omnipresent Wanda Sykes.

The Descent – So the movie’s official description introduces the main characters as “six girlfriends”. Interpret that as you will. The description also points out that the movie is set “one year after a tragic accident,” which isn’t brought up again at all during the press release. Losers. So the leader of the pack has discovered the one unexplored cave in the Appalachians, which no hikers or nerds playing with Google Earth has ever found. And as such, nobody can rescue them from the creepy humanoid creatures living underneath the cave! This film is brought to you by some of the people who worked on the Saw movies and Hostel, so you know that when they die, it’s going to be gruesome. And gory. Very, very gory. Starring Shauna MacDonald (who?), Natalie Mendoza (who?), Alex Reid (who?), Saskia Mulder (who?), and Nora-Jane Noone (who?).

The Night Listener – So there’s this late-night radio show host called Gabriel Noone. He develops an “intense relationship” with a young listener named Pete and his adopted mother, just as his own domestic life is undergoing changes. The release tells us that “when a troubling question arises regarding the boy’s identity, it causes Gabriel’s ordered existence to spin wildly out of control as he sets out on a harrowing journey to find the truth.” Ah, but I know the twist! The young listener is an acclaimed writer who is dying of AIDS! Stars include Robin Williams, Toni Collette Sandra Oh, and Rory Culkin. Joe Morton also stars in this film.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Rick Bobby – Ricky Bobby is a NASCAR sensation who “wins at all costs”. He’s a national hero. He has loyal friends and family who encourage him onwards. But then a flamboyant French Formula One driver, Jean Girard, who “challenges him for the supremacy of NASCAR.” Being threatened, Ricky Bobby must face his own demons and fight for his place as racing’s top driver. Basically, it’s an excuse to do a “Will Ferrell comedy”, which, like an Adam Sandler film, you know exactly what you’re getting when you go into the theater. And it’s gift-wrapped with NASCAR, so people will flock to it! You studio executive geniuses you… Starring Will Ferrell, Sascha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, Michael Clarke Duncan and Amy Adams. (We checked… No Wanda Sykes in this film as far as we can tell.)

Predictions! We’re gonna have to make a graphic for this part of the column someday… We think that the most logical choice for the no.1 slot at the box office this weekend is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s got the broadest appeal of any of the films, plus, Will Ferrell can bring in the dough. But in this current economy, he won’t bring in alot. I think the film will get between $30 to $35 million. Nothing shabby, but nothing exceptional either.

The Descent will come in at second place with $20-25 million. Pirates 2 will come in a close third with $20-25 million. Miami Vice and John Tucker Must Die will come in fourth and fifth respectively, with $15-$20 million each. And the total box office income for the weekend? $108-112 million.

Folks, that’s it for this week. Hopefully, the heat index will be below 100 by the time we meet again this weekend! Until then, stay safe, dry and hydrated!

The name “Miami Vice” still attracts eyeballs

July 30, 2006

Weekends. It seems like they only come once a week. Maybe Congress could change that. Hi there, everyone. I’m Charles Jurries, your writer this week for The Weekend Recap. Have you noticed that since this weekly feature was re-launched with new graphics that we have not tweaked them once, in terms of fonts, colors and backgrounds? Not once. That is possibly a new record for this site, a place where graphics seems to have an expiration date hidden on them and must be replaced accordingly.

Say, this week we’re going to keep up with the traditional Weekend theme, where we bring you a stock update, then we give you a report on what happened at the box office. The stocks encompass the work week, while the box office encompasses the weekend. So in this tiny little feature, you get a weeks’ worth of material summarized for your personal convenience. Go ahead, print this feature up, fold it into a neat little square and tuck it away in your shirt pocket. The convenience of an entire week is now in your power, right in reach of your fingertips.

Welcome back to your weekly stock update. I’m still Charles Jurries, your host for this week. (Budget cuts, you know. We can’t afford a whole range of correspondents and guest writers anymore.) Stocks as a whole were great this week. There seems to be a overall sense that the economy is slowly, but surely, improving. In a surprising announcement, General Motors actually had a good report this week. ExxonMobil and other oil companies revealed very strong numbers (not surprisingly), while other manufacturing firms reported strong earnings as well.

On another note, I don’t quite understand GDP growth yet, but according to analysts, a recent report suggest that there is no indications of a sharp slowdown in the economy. As a whole, stocks closed on a positive note for the week, with the Dow Jones taking in some major gains over last week’s numbers. The NASDAQ and S&P 500 were also in similar situations. Here now is your fancy graphic for the week:

(Source: Yahoo! Finance)


This weekend at the box office, nobody saw movies. Honestly. If you divide the estimated ticket sales for the top-selling film, Miami Vice, by $7.41 (the estimated average price for a movie ticket in America), you get somewhere around 3.4, maybe 3.5 million people who went to see the no. 1 film this weekend. (TV shows with viewership that low are easily cancelled.) In fact, there are low numbers all across the board this week. And it speaks volumes about the quality of new films being released when Pirates 2 is still in the top two, even after being out a month. Is it because it’s just that great of a film? Sure, maybe. Or maybe there’s just not that many alternatives that look more appealing. We’ll let you decide for yourself, by letting you look at the scoreboard for the weekend of July 28 through July 30, 2006.

(Source: BoxOfficeMojo)


Here’s the part where we use syngergy with The Weekend Preview, published mid-week. I did accurately predict that Miami Vice would get between $25-30 million. I just expected it to come in second place.
All my other numerous predictions for the weekend, all of which seemed fairly reasonable? Total and complete junk. Let us not be discouraged, however, for such blind predictions have proven true before. So please join us again later on when we predict how well next weekend’s releases will fare at the box office. Until then, I’m Charles Jurries, wishing you a safe and happy weekend. And remember, friends don’t let friends mail letters without proper postage!

Government Efficiency Act shot down on House floor

July 29, 2006

What if we could significantly cut down on government waste? On all the pork barrel spending that goes on in Congress? But what if the price for such accountability was a new position that being decried by critics as possibly unconstitutional? Enter the Government Efficiency Act, a proposed congressional bill that would create new independent review commissions to evaluate whether certain federal programs should be continued, reorganized or abolished. Shot down on the House floor on Thursday, sponsors of the bill said that Congress is just plain too busy to have such commissions of it’s own. Critics said that the bill was tantamount to outsourcing Congress’s constitutional oversight role.

The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KA), said that simple politics prevents Congress from making meaningful cuts in spending. “Every government program impacts someone else’s constituents,” he said. “A commission recommendation on government efficiency would go through the regular committee process on an expedited schedule. Committees could amend the recommendation before it goes to the full body for a mandatory vote.”
According to the Wichita Eagle, the proposed law would “let either Congress or the president create federal commissions to evaluate specific federal programs and make recommendations for how they could be changed or abolished to reduce duplication or wasteful spending.”

However, critics saw the proposed bill in a far less favorable light. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), who currently serves on the Government Reform Committee with Tiahrt, said that the outsourcing that the bill call for was unnecessary. “A schedule that has us out of Washington so much of time is not efficient or economical,” he said at a hearing last week. “But… a potentially unconstitutional delegation of our jobs is not necessary to fix this inefficiency.”

Ultimately, the critics won out as Republicans pulled the bill from the floor. “We didn’t have the votes we needed,” the spokesman for Tiahrt, Chuck Knapp, told the Wichita Eagle. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says that the bill failed because Republicans failed to take the bill too seriously, and says that the Democrats plan to make their own announcements on how to reduce government waste. “I’m all for looking at waste, fraud and abuse,” she said.

While the Democrats plot their counter-bill, Tiahrt isn’t done, yet. If he can get it on the calendar, he plans to push the bill for a House vote again in September.

Sources: ABC’s The Blotter, Wichita Eagle, Supporters of bill, Detractors of bill

I covet, even more

July 28, 2006

For those who have been visiting us for a while might remember a while back I was talking about a camera that looked really, really nice. Well, as we all know, life as a funny way of connecting all of life’s dots. I am currently looking at buying a new camera (I’m in no immediate hurry, but I have my reasons why it’s necessary.), and while I was at Best Buy, I jotted down the model numbers of some of the nicer-looking, yet somewhat-reasonably priced cameras that they had.

It turns out that one of the cameras that I thought looked really, really nice was the same one that I wrote about a while back. It would be, of course, the ultimate irony if I wound up buying that exact same camera.

UPDATE: The ultimate irony, it would seem, is that the camera from my past has not won my heart. The Canon PowerShot S3 IS has. And in a big, big way.