Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Friday, September 19, 2008

More On Microsoft Ads

So having recently found the whole "surprise, we replaced your Folgers with Windows" concept a bit odd, Microsoft changes up their ad strategy again with a new "I'm A PC" ad. Quite obviously a direct response to Apple's fairly successful "Get A Mac" ads, this has a large number of people reminding everyone that the monopolistic operating system is, in fact, still being used by people.

In some ways, to be honest, I kinda like the ad. It's modern in that it plays off the YouTube generation concept of "video as a dialogue" without being overly "I'm so 2.0" (and yes, this post will break new records for "using quotes") that fills my life enough these days. There's potentially more personalization of the rather impersonal than we were getting with the Bill and Jerry comedy minute.

But sorry if it still feels like a bit of a cry for attention. Do we really need reminding that people use Windows? The fact that most of them are more or less forced to use the operating system seems to work against the premise. The real distinction here between "I'm a PC" and "Get A Mac" is that Macs (or Nix's) aren't invited on stage. We don't know why random person by his pool uses a PC for whatever it was, just that he does. For all we know it's because he lives in Wallalla, Boondocks and they don't have an Apple Store yet. Or, like what happened to my mom - he went into a Best Buy to get a Mac and got a ten minute FUD speech about how bad they were.

Some companies use advertising merely to shore up brand appeal. Most of us don't really needed to be reminded that Nike exists, for instance. We're familiar with the shoes and every store sells them (and often displays them prominently). Nike spends plenty on advertising to enhance their overall appearance. Apple does this as well with their iPod ads (and you can tell the difference in content between the iPod musical ads and the "Get A Mac" comedy ones).

If anything, though, Microsoft just keeps reminding us that they kinda suck - but that people still use their stuff. Or that they can be tricked into using it. With this ad they seem to be going with empowerment, but fall pretty darn short of it.

Not that anyone in Redmond will listen to me - but why not a brief history of the epic timeline that is the company? I'm no Microsoft fan, but they have come along way from that command line OS they probably stole from someone else.

Oh right, they'll have to edit that kind of stuff out...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yes, Palin's Use Of Yahoo Is A Big Deal

I don't normally talk politics on this blog since I prefer to keep it a zone of fluffy goodness - I think the revelations about how Palin uses email is technical enough in nature to merit a mention.

Naturally McCain's campaign is making this out as a serious violation of privacy and law. Which - it is. Absolutely. This was an illegal grab of someone's private communication. There is no doubt about that.

And if the McCain campaign can point me in the direction of the Russian mafia hacker who actually gives a damn about all that, I might give a damn as well. The truth is they don't and neither does any other criminal out there trying to find out what our country's leaders are talking about.

And let's be specific here: the best guest is that the hacker group Anonymous used the most basic method possible to access Palin's account. They simply kept guessing until they got it right.

Should we vote for a ticket which could well put the keys of our nuclear arsenal into the hands of someone whose password may very well have been "password"? I don't think so.

Clamatius had it right:

As detailed in the postings, the Palin hack didn't require any real skill. Instead, the hacker simply reset Palin's password using her birthdate, ZIP code and information about where she met her spouse -- the security question on her Yahoo account, which was answered (Wasilla High) by a simple Google search.
-- Palin E-Mail Hacker Says It Was Easy

And naturally that's all on top of the fact that simply as a matter of policy, Palin shouldn't have had the account in the first place - at least not for any official usage. Why should we trust someone in such an important office who can't follow such a simple rule?

Nor do I think we should vote for the man who put her dangerously close to that situation either. Perhaps McCain should have spent a little longer googling before choosing his running mate.

Microsoft's New Commercials

OK, so any confusion about the Gates-Seinfeld adds should be put into perspective with the fact that I just saw a TV spot where Microsoft has to trick people into using Vista and then brags that they actually liked it.

Sorry Redmond - that's just sad. And when you put it next to Seinfeld, you just look like you're flailing.

(And yeah, I know the "Mojave Experiment" is about a month old ... but it hadn't crossed my tube just yet)

TV Watch: Fringe

We caught the series premiere over the weekend. It has the feel you would expect: a "J.J. Abrams takes on X-Files" slant which is bound to come about when J.J. Abrams takes on the X-Files.

The good: high production values, solid acting and some impressive juggling with the script when it comes to lining up characters and concepts into a viable premise. The premiere feels like it could have used a full two hours to breath, but the show handles what room it has quite competently.

The bad: while the show kicks off with enough of a start to warrant a second viewing, it's a little hard to grab onto it wholesale. There's something specific about trying to find a mysterious disease for your partner (and lover) which makes it a little harder to translate into some kind of new paranormal unit.

Then there's Abrams. His shows always start with lots of promise but sometime devolve into confusion (Alias) or get expanded into, well, confusion (Lost). He's clearly talented and his shows always bring something unique to the table. Will he be the one to try an X-Files type premise without it turning into ... the X-Files?

For Sunday: PURE Tricks Trailer

Looks like we're getting a review for PURE lined up, so here's a sneak peek at the title:

Ah, for a segue

It occurs to me that the kind of things I normally write about here at Cathode Tan don't lend themselves to follow up a memoir of a good friend and teacher easily.

I wouldn't consider this post a decent segue - but let's compromise and call it a buffer zone.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

For Dave

It took me a while to accept Dave was actually a genius writer. I met him through my old college roommate and when I finally met him in person I don't entirely recall being stricken with the notion of unbridled talent from the man. He dressed more like I did than my professors, he wore a bandana as if there was never a time not to wear one, at times he seemed awkward and shy and others he seemed glaringly intense. I think one of the earliest memories I have of Dave was watching Braveheart at our place, which he was rather excited about being a Wallace and all.

This is in part because Dave wasn't simply modest - he lived in a near delusional state of denial about his status in the world. At least, he tried to maintain such a state. If there was ever a time his abilities were undeniable, it was when he was reading his own material. This was an invitation back into the world you thought you knew - translated as he was uniquely capable of seeing it and when you hear his words in his own voice you also get a feel for this connection he had with his work. Dave saw incredibly complicated concepts in even the simplest of things and while you could bring this out in conversation depending on his mood - when he did a reading everything was laid out for you to witness.

Dave let me attend one of his writing classes at ISU despite not officially being a student there. Or even unofficially a student there. It was easily the high water mark of my academic career. Sure, he chewed tobacco all through class - quite possibly one of the worst habits for someone trying to talk to a group of people could have ... but nothing could detract from the relationship Dave had with the written word whether it be his or yours. Without Dave I would never have been able to measure the gap of what my writing was versus what it could be with enough work and discipline. Engaging Dave into a conversation about writing was about as good as conversations are capable of being.

He once told me two key things to writing for a living. One was to live with rejection because it will become an unwavering section of your life. Second was to write every day, no matter what. That second statement is one of the reasons I started blogging. It's the reason I do NaNo every year. Writing may not be my profession - but I don't want to find myself without that muscle, as Dave would put it.

Ironically, he was one of the influences which lead me away from trying to write for a living. I didn't go to grad school, I didn't seek out a professorship and I didn't try to write the Great American Novel. This was because he gave the most sobering and realistic account of such a path and taking the risks required for it wasn't where I wanted to be. I was leaving the protective sphere of college and one of my main concerns was being able to have a paycheck.

I never told Dave this fact because I knew that wasn't his intention. This wasn't some tough love speech. This wasn't some "I had to track in the snow to get to where I am" speech. The night we had this conversation, which for some reason I recall taking place outside of a Steak and Shake which doesn't even exist anymore, he was offering to help. If I was willing to write it, he was willing to read it.

And I wasn't in some exclusive club here. I may have known a more personal side to Dave - but that was not why he extended the offer. Always the teacher. Only real requirement was a shared love for writing. This is where this tragedy becomes a black hole for me. Something dreadful and incomprehensible. The loss of talent I can't speak towards. Not as well as others. I didn't analyze Dave's work. I never even finished Infinite Jest. The loss of such a great teacher is immeasurable, however. Dave wasn't just a genius writer - he was trying to help make new ones.

Every time I read that his death was an apparent suicide, I jerk a little. I know what they mean, but to me there is nothing apparent about it. There is nothing apparent about why someone would do that. This is enough by itself to creep into the dark corners and reside. I'll remember Dave's massive dog, Obedient Drone. I'll remember that he once painted his study black, as part experiment and part joke. I'll remember his theory about talking to children like adults - also part experiment and part joke. Now, though, I'll remember that I lost contact with him years ago and then somehow, somewhere, the turns in his life took him to this point.

I'll regret not trying to contact after he moved to California, knowing that I probably wouldn't get the chance to see him again. But what's really haunting is the loss this means for future students.

Dave, you are missed. You are mourned.

And for the record:

This was not my first draft.

But yes, it still needs work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

For Sunday: David Foster Wallace Reading

Via the National Post.

David Foster Wallace Found Dead

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 novel "Infinite Jest," was found dead Friday night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.

Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the department, said Wallace's wife called police at 9:30 p.m. Friday saying she had returned home to find that her husband had hanged himself.

-- Writer David Foster Wallace found dead

Damn. I knew Dave when I lived in Bloomington. I'm a bit at a loss for words - which is at least something I know he would appreciate.