Friday, July 31, 2009

Trivia day 5: We're spending more than $1 trillion on our militaries

Ever wondered how much money the world spends fighting wars? Well, wonder no longer - the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute keeps track of such things. In 2008, according to SIPRI, combined global military spending reached an astonishing $1.4 trillion, or about 2.4% of the world's total gross domestic product. That amount, up 45% since 1999, was a new record.

For the most part, it's an American story as nearly two-thirds of the increase came from the United States. U.S. military spending increased 10% in 2008 to $607 billion, or 42% of the global total, while China was second with a relatively paltry $84.9 billion. The United States spends so much on its military that the Pentagon's secret "black budget" of $50 billion is more than the entire defense budget of most countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Japan, and more than triple Canada's.

China was actually second in spending for the first time in 2008 - usually it's the U.K. that follows the U.S. Fear not, though. Defense experts don't believe China is gearing up for a war, but rather modernizing its military, which still consists largely of 1950s Soviet era weapons.

Some alarmists would have people believe that a war between the United States and China is inevitable but if you ask me, it's highly unlikely given how interwoven the economies of the two countries are. If war broke out between them, the flow of goods to the United States would completely stop while China would lose its biggest market. That would mean utter and total economic meltdown for both countries and thereby the world. Like it or not, the two countries are inextricably linked and must therefore maintain some level of civility toward the other.

That said, this interwoven-ness is clearly not stopping anyone from spending on weapons. The bright side of that is that a lot of the money is going into researching new technology, which of course ultimately flows to the every-day Joe in the form of cellphones, microwave ovens and GPS devices.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Trivia day 4: Photo booths, a magnet for flesh

Odds are, at some point in your life you've taken a picture in a photo booth. The odds probably increase the older you are - they were, after all, quite the rage back in the fifties and sixties.

If you have taken a picture in a photo booth, odds are also fairly good that you've done something naughty for the camera, whether it's stick your tongue out or flip the bird. Many, many people have gone a step further, either by flashing the camera or performing an illicit act with another person.

Why? Well, there's something about the photo booth that brings out the inner exhibitionist in all of us. Even in an age where every cellphone has a camera, the photo booth provides a quiet, discreet means to record ourselves doing whatever we want. And because the photos are printed instantly with no copies kept, it's a very private act.

In fact, director Brett Ratner - of Rush Hour fame, and also of the ruining-the-Xmen-franchise fame with the atrocity that was Xmen 3 - in 2003 published a book of pictures he had taken of his celebrity friends with a photo booth he'd installed in his house. What did all those celebrities do for the camera when left to their own devices? "There were a lot of middle fingers, a lot of people with their tongues out," Ratner said. "There was also a lot of flashing, although I didn’t publish those."

These days, photo booths are almost obsolete because you can replicate everything they do with your home computer. But in the days before ubiquitous digital camera technology, they were pretty much the only way to take a photograph without having someone else see it (the Polaroid would have been the other way).

In a less sexually-liberated age, if you took a picture of someone in the nude and tried to have it developed at the local photo mart, you could get arrested. The photo booth provided a means to take such pictures without running the risk of getting charged for obscenity. Booth manufacturers knew this and encouraged it. One American maker, Auto Photo, gave out pamphlets at a fifties imaging convention that showed a women exposing herself, with the caption, "Make sure he remembers you! Send a foto to your boyfriend."

This actually became an issue for some people. Woolworths started getting complaints that there was too much whoopie going on its photo booths, so the department store decided to remove the curtains from them. I'm sure the booths were used considerably less after that happened.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trivia day 3: Super soldier creation headed by McDonald's executive

The most shocking bit of trivia I came across in my research involved some of the biological experiments being done by DARPA, the U.S. military's high-tech lab, in creating super soldiers. Wired has a good story that details some of the stuff DARPA is working on. A few examples include a program that has seen mice continue to live after having 60% of their blood drained (scientists believe the process can be replicated on humans), and a nifty "glove" that simulates the effects of steroids by rapidly supercooling the body's muscles.

While all that stuff is interesting, what I found most shocking is who Tony Tether, DARPA's boss during the Bush administration, brought in to head up bio-research: Michael Goldblatt. What kind of experience prepared Goldblatt to lead the agency into its hitherto uncharted territory? Why a career at McDonald's, of course.

Yes indeed, prior to joining DARPA, Goldblatt spent 12 years at McDonald's, where he had risen to the post of vice-president of science and technology. The same man who was responsible for developing McD's low-fat burger was now in charge of creating stronger, faster and better soldiers. How's that for scary? The good news is, when I eventually get around to writing a science-fiction novel, I've got some pretty good inspiration for who the villain will be.

U.S. Congress understandably got a little nervous a few years ago about all the bio-experiments DARPA was doing and ended up canning Goldblatt. The agency was told to dial back some of the experiments. So did DARPA stop experimenting on humans? As a great man once said, "shyeah, and monkeys will fly out of my butt." The agency simply told scientists to keep quiet and changed the names of some programs to sound less ominous. "Metabolic Dominance" became "Peak Soldier Performance" while "Augmented Cognition" became "Improving Warfighter Information Intake Under Stress." Let's face it, McSoldiers are inevitable.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trivia day 2: Fresh produce = chemical goodness

You may have heard before that if you want to eat healthy, you shouldn't buy anything from the middle aisles of the grocery store. That's where all the heavily processed foods are. The good stuff, the fresh stuff, is on the outsides of the store in the produce and meat sections.

That's true, but don't fool yourself for a second into thinking that the good stuff is somehow free of technological processing. No sir. First of all, much of the produce is the result of hybrid breeding; scientists have spent decades mixing and matching different strains of seeds to come up with those that produce the perfect potatoes and green peppers. More and more of what you see today is also genetically modified, where genes from one organism are inserted into another, creating a super-charged version of the plant. Some of the vegetables we're buying in the store secrete their own pesticides while others are resistant to chemical sprays. Other super powers, such as the ability to withstand drought, are on the way.

Speaking of chemical sprays, the bananas, tomatoes and just about any other fruit that starts out green gets a healthy dose of ethylene gas before it hits the shelves. That's because such fruit is difficult to transport if it's left to ripen on the vine or branch naturally; it gets too soft and ends up getting banged around during its long journey to the store. Bananas and tomatoes are therefore picked while still green and firm and shipped to the stores, where they're sprayed with ethylene, which artificially ripens them. No need for concern, though - these fruits normally produce their own ethylene, which is how they ripen naturally. Still, it's a nifty technological trick for getting consumers firm, ripe fruit.

Then there's the wax on the apples. Apples also produce their own natural wax, but it usually wears off when they are picked and cleaned. Apple producers thus apply a new wax coating to make the fruit nice and shiny and which health authorities tell us is safe to eat. Maybe so, but some of that wax comes from the lac bug found in India and Pakistan. Mmm... bugs...

How about the meat aisle? Well, many people don't know that meat isn't really red, it's grey. A thoroughly unappetizing grey. It's turned red though the application of a chemical known as sodium nitrite which, again, is apparently harmless. Too much of it, though, can be toxic. Mmm... toxic beef...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Trivia day 1: Ikea founder was a Nazi

Just because I'm off on vacation for the next two weeks doesn't mean this blog is taking a holiday. No sir - thanks to the wonders of Blogger's scheduled publishing, there'll be posts up every week day as usual. And, just as was the case while I was in Britain back in June, I'm proud to present two weeks of Cliff-Clavin style trivia. Feel free to crib this stuff and use it to amaze people at cocktails parties! With no further ado, let's get to it...

If you're like me and hate overpaying for furniture, you've probably got some stuff in your house from Ikea. The cheap and relatively easy-to-assemble goods with the weird Swedish names are often a much better option than the expensive stuff found at smaller independent stores.

Well, it turns out those Billy bookshelves have a dark past... or more correctly, the man responsible for them does. Ingvar Kamprad started Ikea in 1943 when he was just a teenager. He initially sold household goods like matches and nylons out of a shed and delivered them by milk truck and only got into flat-packed furniture in 1956, whereupon his business started to flourish.

But the teenaged Kamprad had some rather extreme right-wing views and was friends with Per Engdahl, a Swedish fascist politician. Kamprad and Engdahl were buddies through World War II and onward, with the Ikea founder attending the politician's wedding in 1950. The relationship was exposed in 1994 when Swedish journalists found the deceased Engdahl's correspondences from the era.

Kamprad was mortified when the connection became public and swore up and down that his affiliation with the Nordic Youth, Sweden's version of the Nazi Youth, was the biggest mistake he ever made. He claimed that he didn't remember whether he was actually a member, although that sounds pretty fishy - how do you forget whether you were a Nazi or not?

Kamprad was further criticized by Jewish leaders for the fact that despite Ikea's international expansion, as of the late 90s there were no stores in Israel despite a number of outlets in Arab countries. Coincidence? Company executives tried to say so, but come on...

Swedish journalists never did dig into whether any of Kamprad's money went into Nazi causes, or whether any Nazi money filtered into Ikea. And even though I don't believe a person should be held responsible for their entire life for the stupid mistakes they made as a teenager, all of this does make you think twice about getting that cheap dresser, doesn't it?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Austrians are the most promiscuous people in the world

Dutch electronics maker Philips has launched a website to promote its new "sensual massage" devices (for men and women!) that's kind of neat. The site has some interesting European sex statistics, such as a measure of how satisfied people are in various countries with their sex lives. The British are, ironically, the most satisfied and the least satisfied. Clearly, it's feast or famine in Britain.

The site's other neat feature is a live feed from Twitter that tells you how many times "sex" has been mentioned that day on the service (today it's up over 28,000 as I type this), as well as what's actually being said. The only downside is that clicking on the individual comments doesn't actually take you to Twitter - you'll have to do a search for it if you're interested.

This sort of thing is getting to be common among purveyors of mainstream sex products. Durex, the condom maker, started doing a global sex survey a few years ago to help promote its products. The survey is pretty comprehensive and I ended up using some of the stats in my book. A sample from the latest survey:

-Austrians have the most sex partners in their lives: men 29 and women 17. Malaysians have the fewest at 2 each.
-16 to 24 year olds spend an average of 24 minutes having sex. The average married or co-habitating couple spends 16 minutes.
-21% of people worldwide use vibrators.
-Greeks have the most sex while Nigerians are the most satisfied.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are you ready for the Coke machine of 100 flavours?

Here's a neat new technology from Coca-Cola. It's called the Freestyle beverage dispenser, designed by a Bellevue, Wash.-based company called Bsquare. The machine, which looks identical to a vending machine, holds up to 100 different brands of Coke-owned beverages, from Diet Coke to Dasani flavoured waters to exotic flavours previously unavailable in North America, like Fanta Peach.

It's able to dispense so many different kinds of drink (normal vending machines can only hold up to about 10 types) because it mixes them on the spot by using water, often carbonated, and micro doses of flavouring. So all you do is pick the drink you want using the touch screen, hit the "pour" button and the machine mixes and dispenses your fountain pop. The Freestyle is being tested in select U.S. markets with Bsquare eyeing a roll-out to restaurants. Here's a video with a very wide-eyed British guy explaining how it all works:

I can see two problems with this machine. Firstly, in checking out Bsquare's website, it turns out the Freestyle's software is supplied by Microsoft. That's funny because when I was watching the video, I couldn't help but notice how slow the reaction time was on the touch screen. Speaking from experience, with Microsoft software in there, slow touch screens will ultimately prove to be the least of Bsquare's problems (I wonder if the Freestyle will be prone to the Red Ring of Death and how soon it'll be before it's full of security holes?).

Secondly, I can't help but wonder what the market for this machine is? I'm of the belief that consumers prefer pop in a bottle or can versus a fountain-dispensed version because it's less watered down. Meanwhile, I can't see it being very practical for the places that do dispense fountain pop, which are mainly fast-food chains. Traditional fountain machines are hooked up to kegs of pop, which suit the high-volume needs of fast-food restaurants. If you replace those machines, I can see the restaurants having to constantly refill the flavour cartridges, which are obviously much smaller than the kegs that traditional fountains use. It would be kind of like having to constantly refill your inkjet printer.

I have a feeling this'll turn out to be one of those "neat" technologies that doesn't amount to much more than a novelty.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The manuscript is done, praise the lord!

Yesterday was a monumental day for me as I finally finished off and submitted my manuscript, where it is now subject to the tender mercies of my editors. All in all, the manuscript represents nearly two years of work which, for much of the past year, has been round the clock. Needless to say, I breathed a huge sigh of relief right after hitting the "send" button. Copious amounts of alcohol will follow now that I'm on vacation until August 10, whereupon I'm back on the job at the CBC.

What happens next? Well, my editors at Penguin Canada and Allen & Unwin in Australia are going to read over the manuscript and, in a few weeks, get back to me with their thoughts on how it can be improved. From there, I'll have some time to revise, rewrite and improve, then resubmit. My agents over at Westwood Creative will also at that point send it out to American and British publishers in hopes of securing deals in those countries.

Assuming everything is fine at the point, I'll get some paychecks and the manuscript will go to copy editors, who will tear into it and lambast me for any poor uses of grammar or style that turn up. Once it's been fine-tuned the book will go to print, which I'm told will happen around December. I haven't really asked as to what happens after that because, to be honest, I just haven't been able to think that far ahead. My guess is it'll go out for advance reviews before finally hitting stores in March.

One thing I do know is that the book won't be called Bombs, Boobs and Burgers in Australia and New Zealand. Allen & Unwin doesn't believe that title will sell Down Under so it's slated to get a new name. What will it be? At this point, I have no idea. I don't particularly agree with the decision, but hey, what can I do?

So is the book any good? Well, it's definitely full of interesting facts and stories, as well as what I think are some thought-provoking observations about history, technology and culture. Like every writer, I've gone through ups and downs while working on this thing and at this point, I'm definitely too close to it to make a judgment. Hopefully my vacation will allow me to get back to it with a new set of eyes. I'll also have the input of my editors to help judge.

The biggest hill has been climbed, but there's still a ways to go. In the meantime, bring on the booze!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

George Costanza loves the McDLT

Remember the McDLT? I sure do - not only was it a burger, to a young preteen in the eighties it was also a fun game because it came open-faced in two halves in a giant styrofoam container. Half the fun in ordering the McDLT came from folding the container and thereby flipping one half of the burger onto the other. It made eating at McDonald's just a bit more fun - little did I know that a) I was doing the employees' jobs for them by assembling my own burger and that b) the mammoth amount of styrofoam used in the packaging was helping to destroy the environment.

I'll tell you who else definitely remembers the McDLT - it's Jason Alexander, better known as George Costanza on Seinfeld. You have to check out this McDonald's commercial from the early eighties wherein George does a full-out song-and-dance shill job for the McDLT. Not only does he have hair, he's also wearing a Don Johnson-style blazer with sleeves rolled up. Ooh, how cool!.

The McDLT, by the way, was discontinued in 1990 when McDonald's realized that packaging each burger in 20 pounds of styrofoam was probably not very environmentally friendly, despite how much fun kids like me were having assembling it themselves. The burger has been repackaged in several forms and currently lives on in some markets as the Big 'N Tasty. Alas, it's now served in a boring, biodegradable, non-flippable package.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Was Superman into S&M? Probably

It's almost not a surprise anymore to learn that someone who became famous for creating a mainstream sensation also had a secret dark side or some kind of sordid past. I cover several such folks in the book, including Jack Ryan, the Mattel engineer who created Barbie but who also led a private sex life that, as his ex-wife Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, would have shocked Penthouse readers. Then there was Patrick Naughton, who was integral in designing the Java computer language. Naughton was later busted in an FBI sting for trying to solicit sex from an underage girl.

We can add Superman co-creator and Toronto native Joe Shuster to the list of people who indulged their sexual fantasies in clandestine ways. Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-Creator Joe Shuster, released earlier this year by New York design firm owner Craig Yoe, has just been optioned as a movie. The book tells all about how Shuster, aside from drawing Superman, used to draw comics depicting everything from sado-masochistic sex to brutal torture for an underground magazine called Nights of Horror. Yoe happened across Shuster's dark side through some detective work that would have made Batman proud.

I haven't yet read the book so I'm not sure whether Shuster's was motivated to draw these comics by a need to express his own experiences, or whether he simply needed the money. If it's the former, he can be counted among the likes of Ryan while if it's the latter he'd be more like Johannes Gutenberg, who had to resort to producing erotica like the Canterbury Tales on his newly invented printing press in order to pay the bills.

Shuster and his cohort Jerry Siegel eventually got screwed by the company that became DC Comics from earning any real money for co-creating one of the most successful fictional characters of the 20th century so it wouldn't be a surprise if he was forced to draw sex comics for a living (although it's kinda sad).

I do wonder one thing, though. Yoe came across his discovery after noticing the artistic similarities in Superman and Nights of Horror. I think it's a pretty safe assumption that Shuster would have, privately and in his own spare time, combined the two in his doodles. I'm willing to be that some day, someone will unearth Shuster-drawn comics depicting Superman and Lois Lane engaged in some freaky sex - perhaps a three-way with Lex Luthor? I'm also willing to be that someone will pay big, big money to acquire that art.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Obama axes plan to build dragon-shaped tank

We all knew that Barack Obama was bringing some much-needed sanity to U.S. defense spending, but this is going too far. Best line from this video: "Was the atomic bomb or karate developed in five years?"

God bless The Onion. But seriously folks, as the story implies, Obama is actually cutting spending on ridiculously bloated and over-budget projects like the F22 stealth fighter, in favour of lighter and smaller stuff that troops need to fight insurgents in urban areas and mountains. The U.S. did spend an astounding $600 billion on its military last year, and stealth fighters aren't going to do much against a bunch of crazies holed up in a cave somewhere.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Saved By the Bell, porno edition

One of my favourite things to do while camping with friends years back was a fun game we liked to call "porno names." You know what I'm talking about, because just about everyone has engaged in some form of it. It's where you take turns coming up with porno versions of mainstream movies. A few of the best ones I can remember are Glad He Ate Her, The Legend in Bagger's Pants and, of course, Star Whores.

The idea, of course, comes from the porn industry itself, which has made an art of coming up with such titles, from On Golden Blonde, American Booty and, my personal favourite, Saturday Night Beaver. There's actually a website devoted to these fine examples of cinematic excellence (which is not entirely safe for work).

In recent years, Hustler has made a name for itself by producing spoof versions of everything from Gilligan's Island to Star Trek. Well now, the company is finally getting around to producing a porno version of Saved By The Bell, that nineties show that starred Zack, Kelly, Slater and of course, Screech.

"Much like Happy Days, SBTB is a feel-good show centered around young, good-looking people hooking up ... which makes it a perfect candidate for a porn parody," says director Axel Braun (yeah, like that's his real name).

On the one hand, this is really intriguing. I must admit to having a certain teenage crush on and always wondered if she and Zack ever really got it on. On the other hand, Jessie Spanno has pretty much already done porn, what with and all. And what about ? I always thought he was kinda creepy - now we're going to see just how creepy.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ice cream that doesn't melt? That's crazy!

If you're like me, the best way to beat the summer heat is with some dee-lish ice cream (my personal favourite is the Turtles kind you get in the grocery store - I'm having some as I write this... mmm...). Ice cream is about as sacred and connected to summer as swimming pools and baseball, and with considerably fewer steroids! That's why I was shocked to learn that someone had actually meddled with it to come up with ice cream that doesn't melt.

It's true - food scientists at Cold Stone Creamery, based in Arizona, have come up with a way to use gelatin to keep ice cream solid longer. When it finally does melt, it doesn't turn into a gooey mess but rather a sort of soft pudding. Of course, they've partnered with Jell-O in rolling out Jell-O flavoured ice cream, like vanilla, fudge and banana.

Where can you get Cold Stone Creamery ice cream? There's a whole bunch in the U.S. and even one in Puerto Rico, which you can find with . In Canada, Cold Stone announced a partnership with Tim Hortons back in February and is in the process of rolling out co-branded stores.

I happened across one a few weeks at Bay and Bloor here in Toronto and thought the whole Cold Stone situation was weird. They slap your ice cream down on a marble counter and then add a whole bunch of stuff to it, like candies and sauces, etc., before scooping it back into a cup. I didn't end up trying it and I don't actually know if the non-melting kind of ice cream is available at the Tim Hortons stores, but now I'm particularly curious.

Has anybody seen any other outlets or tried this stuff?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Recession layoffs hit Japan's robots too

The New York Times has an interesting story on how the recession is affecting robots in Japan. Just as human beings are getting laid off left, right and center, so too are the machines. Since people are buying less stuff in general, the industrial robots that make all that stuff are having to sit idle. That of course means Japanese companies are buying fewer robots, and so on.

The Times story also points out that some Japanese robot makers were having trouble even before the recession started. Sony's discontinuation of its Aibo robot dog in 2006 is mentioned, as are some of the industry's other flops, like the Pleo - which is funny because the company behind the robot dinosaur Pleo, Ugobe, filed for bankruptcy protection shortly after the RoboBusiness show back in April, where I filmed . The owner of a robot store that has closed down probably sums it up best: "In the end robots are still expensive, and don’t really do much."

The story (and quote) illustrates well the difference between Japan's robots and American robots, which are certainly not seeing any sort of a slow-down in sales. Japan has traditionally been focused on pushing robot technology as far as it'll go, hence all the walking, talking and violin-playing robots. All of this cutting-edge tech is extremely expensive, though, and hardly affordable to the average family. American manufacturers, on the other hand, are virtually all working for the military. They're under pressure to provide useful robots at a decent price, which is why companies such as iRobot are able to make robots for the home - like - that actually do something, and that don't cost a fortune.

Those military customers are also very important for the bottom line; although iRobot saw its overall revenue shrink somewhat in 2008, sales in its government division increased a whopping 69 percent. Military robot sales are also expected to continue to rise dramatically over the next few years, particularly with the spending shift by the Obama administration away from big stuff like tanks and jets toward and smaller and lighter fighting forces, i.e. robots. Perhaps it's time for those peaceniks in Japan to start building for the military?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Joanna Angel talks porn and the 'net

In wrapping up porn week, we've got a special treat today. I chatted yesterday with Joanna Angel, who's not your average porn star. In 2002, she started her own website at (not safe for work, although if you want to read about Joanna here's her Wikipedia page), and helped kick off a movement called "alt porn."

What is alt porn? According to Joanna, it's what it sounds like - alternative porn that is more or less outside of mainstream porn. Many of the people involved are tattooed, have piercings and look like every-day people, rather than the ultra-vixen, bleach-blond breast-implanted porn star image everybody is familiar with. She describes her website as more of a social-network-like community where visitors can communicate with each other and the girls in the photos and videos, as opposed to a straight-up online video repository that's solely meant for wanking. Think Facebook meets Debbie Does Dallas.

We chatted about a bunch of topics including the downturn hitting the porn industry and the potential of untapped markets like China. In the short clip below, we talk about how porn has influenced society and its attitudes towards sex. Check it out:

We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Porn biz cutting back on screen writers

Ever wanted to be a screen writer for porn movies? "Hey, did somebody here order a pizza?" Well, your chances may be fizzling as the porn industry is shifting away from full-length movies with plot and dialogue to shorter internet-ready clips that contain only action, according to a story from the New York Times.

With DVD sales down a whopping 50 per cent since 2006, according to the story, studios like Vivid and Digital Playground (those links aren't exactly safe for work) are cutting down on the number of full-scale features they're making. They're instead focusing on three- to five-minute clips that will go online and that they can sell access to. That means they're also cutting back on many of the things needed for full productions, including script writers. That's got some producers, like Vivid head honcho Steve Hirsch, a little teary-eyed. "It's almost like we're back to the late '70s or early '80s when the average movie was eight minutes and just a sex scene," he says.

Over at Slate, there's a nice explanation of just what screen writing for porn involves. Apparently, the typical porn screen writer only has to produce a script that's about 25-28 pages long, rather than the 90-120 pages that mainstream movies usually muster. (I'm going to guess Michael Bay movies usually clock in around 30 pages as well.) Writing for porn is also not particularly lucrative, with the writer usually only getting around $1,000 versus the potential of hundreds of thousands in the mainstream.

I can understand why this shift in the business has some producers depressed. Some of them strongly believe that what they're doing is art. Ali Joone, who went to film school at the University of Southern California before starting Digital Playground, told me back in January about the advantages of working in the adult business. "I can make any movie I want. Adult is the last place where you can do independent film making. You can make any movie you want as long as it has sex in it. As a creative person you're boundaries are huge," he said.

Looks like plot and characterization are on the way out and the pizza guy is in.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Motion-synced movies have arrived

Our week of porn continues, although today's post is only tangentially related to adult entertainment. Last night I had the pleasure of checking out a demo from D-Box, a Montreal-based company that is adding motion-synced seats to the movie-viewing experience.

I first had a chance to learn about D-Box at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas back in early 2008. At the time, the company was only making seats for home users, with theaters just an ambition. Well, D-Box is now hitting the big time. They've already installed seats in theaters in eight different U.S. markets and, with the opening of the new movie on July 15, we can add Canada to that list. The Queensway Cineplex in Toronto has added a row of D-Box chairs, 18 seats, to one of its theaters.

The seats use motors to simulate the motion happening in the movie, which has been coded to work with the chair. I first experienced it in Vegas with a short clip from while last night's demo was about 15 minutes of master thespian Vin Diesel's latest car porn movie, . Both times, the experience was really cool. A motion-synced movie is pricey, $7 extra, but I'm betting tickets at the Queensway will be impossible to get. Here's a short video showing what it looks like at home, although it is considerably more fun than the guy in the clip makes it appear:

It's great to see a Canadian tech company starting to make it - I'm betting D-Box's seats are going to spread like wildfire, especially considering that theaters are looking for ways to lure people away from pirated downloads. The technology will be really amazing when it's combined with 3D, and yes, D-Box CEO Claude Mc Master says that's coming.

The porn connection comes from the fact that both mainstream and adult movie studios are working on beefing up the viewing experience in order to fight piracy. While the mainstream is going with un-pirateable technologies like 3D and motion-sync, porn producers are going with teledildonics, like the Real Touch, which I've . Regardless of what kind of films we're talking about, they're all becoming far more interactive. Now how about they bring back Smell-O-vision?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Porn supposedly overloading Japan cell networks

Welcome to day two of the "all-porn week" (also known as a desperate attempt to draw traffic in the face of a summer slowdown) here at Bombs, Boobs and Burgers. Today, some interesting news out of Japan: porn is reportedly overloading the country's mobile phone networks.

According to Bloomberg, Japan's mobile carriers - who are light years ahead of their North American peers in technology - are starting to complain about how much their customers are using the networks. Some of that use, they suspect, is coming from people who are using their phones to download movies, particularly those of the adult persuasion. According to a spokesman for KDDI, one of Japan's biggest mobile companies, "We can't see customers' data but can surmise the biggest portion of it is probably movies. We can't deny the possibility those movies include adult content."

Some of the analysts quoted in the Bloomberg story, however, are saying the issue is more serious than the carriers are letting on. "Pornography will eventually open a debate about how carriers should modify their business model as data traffic swells," said one telecommunications analyst in Tokyo. "It may prompt even tighter access restrictions."

Now hold on a second. Those sorts of statements tend to set warning bells off for me. It's ironic that Bloomberg, a pro-business newswire if there is one, would run such a story on the very day that Canadian telecommunications regulators convened a public hearing into net neutrality, kicking off the debate on how much control internet providers should have over the services they provide to customers. According to reports, the issue of whether net neutrality rules should apply to mobile phones came up at the CRTC hearings. On day one, a couple of the companies that make the network technologies for Canadian carriers, namely Sandvine and Juniper Networks, argued that yes of course, mobile companies should have the right to manage traffic as they see fit. That means limiting it or slowing it if they think it's necessary.

It sounds like some of the analysts quoted in the Bloomberg story are drinking the same Kool-Aid. Speaking from experience, many telecom analysts are shills who put forward the agendas of the companies they cover. In exchange, they get business from the telecom companies. It sure looks like that's what happened in the Bloomberg story, which is one lazy piece of reporting and editing. Never mind the factual errors, like the suggestion that Japan may be the first country to impose mobile download limits (hello, anybody used a cellphone in Canada, lately?) or the preposterous claim that Japan produces about 17,000 adult titles a year, an output that would vault it ahead of L.A.'s San Fernando valley - the porn capital of the world - and its paltry 14,000 or so films a year. The story, quite simply, is misleading and, I think, the product of an agenda. What bugs me most about it is that these analysts are stealthily trying to use porn, that old boogeyman, as an excuse for future net neutrality violations.

Perhaps the thing that angers me most about the telecom industry is how it sells internet access. First, the providers charge a lot of money and suck in only those people who absolutely must have it. Then, they lower prices and capture the mass market. Once the customers are there and find they can't live without it, the carriers start complaining that their customers are actually using the service, and they try to restrict it in various ways. It's completely disingenuous. If you're going to sell a service, you'd better be prepared to have your customers use it. Otherwise, don't bother.

If there's one quote that can be believed in the Bloomberg story, it's that from a Japanese porn executive who said that while mobile porn is growing, the market is "still relatively untouched." As I've posted here before, porn producers about the potential of mobile porn and the , but it'll be a long time before it overloads anyone's network.

By the way, if you're wondering why there's a picture of Godzilla in this post, it's because no story on Japan is complete without one.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Teacher accidentally gives sex tape to students

Last week I promised a porn-a-palooza, and I intend to deliver. Let's see those traffic numbers spike, people!

This bit of news from over the weekend is almost too awesome for words. A fifth-grade teacher in Sacramento decided to make a DVD for her students as a keepsake of their year together. The DVD included footage from class discussions and trips, but it also had some interesting "extras" that surely made fifth grade a lot more memorable for the students.

If you check out the news report below, you'll get the gist of what was on the DVD. One second, there is footage of a class discussion on screen. All of a sudden the scene shifts to a butt-naked Crystal Defanti, the teacher, writhing on a couch while her husband gives her lower extremities a tongue-washing. None of the students were really expecting their sex education to begin in such a way:

Okay, so I'm sure this may have been traumatic for some of the kids and very awkward for the parents, who all of a sudden had some 'splaining to do. Ms. Defanti was also reportedly mortified when she discovered her mistake. But come on, if this isn't comedy at its finest, I don't know what is.

Possibly the funniest part is Defanti's request for all copies of the DVD to be destroyed. Yeah, as if. It's already circulating on the internet and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends being the next "1 Night in Paris."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Photos from my visit to NASA

Well, summer's heating up and internet traffic is cooling down. Seriously, where did all my readers go? Traffic has fallen off a cliff. It's a comfort to know that just about every website experiences the same thing in the dog days of summer, so I won't take it personally.

But don't worry, I won't desert my hard-core readers. You just may not get the long rants that take me hours to do. Instead, how about some photos to help you waste some time at work until the weekend starts?

Here are a couple of pics from my visit to NASA in Houston back in April. I posted a video of with Michele Perchonok, one of NASA's food scientists, shortly after I got back, but I never did put up any photos. So here goes (you can click on any of 'em for a bigger view):

This here's the historic mission control, which was used for all the old missions including the Apollo moon landing. Nowadays, it looks like a set from the original Star Trek show. Note the red phone: it does not connect directly to the Batcave, but rather to the Pentagon. Not that this room is in use anymore, it's only there for tourists to gawk at.

The highlight of the tour is the visit to the giant hangar where they've got complete scale replicas of the shuttle and space station set up for astronauts to train in. You'd need a pretty good wide-angle lens to capture it all - I only had my trusty Nokia N95. Here's a couple astronauts taking a lunch break with a replica of the Unity module from the International Space Station in the background.

Here's the food court of the visitor's center, which has a bunch of outlets with cheesy space-themed names like "Moon Wok" and the two seen here, the "Blast Off Bistro" and "Solar Salads." I had to take the photo since I was there to eat real astronaut food.

This one may actually be from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California... I can't exactly remember. In any event, it's a model of the "Robonaut," a robot that NASA and DARPA are working on that will be able to perform maintenance tasks in space, thereby saving astronauts from having to make lengthy, grueling space walks.

Maybe these pics'll spike traffic? Somehow I doubt it. Next week may just have to be a big porn-a-palooza with hard-core sex videos every day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Robot hummingbird to spy on insurgents

Those wacky folks at DARPA have always got something crazy on the go. Try this one on for size: how about a hummingbird-like robotic unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)?

Yes indeed, according to defense blog Ares, the folks at California-based company AeroVironment are experimenting with a small bird-like UAV that flies not with rotors or jets or fans, but by rapidly flapping its wings. Check out a (soundless) video of the Mercury, as it's called, performing its tests:

The project is getting funding from DARPA, which hopes it will result in a small reconnaissance drone that can go where others can't. The agency believes a small bird-like drone outfitted with cameras will be able to scout out the insides of buildings, or situations where satellites are largely useless.

I can only imagine how freaked out Iraqi insurgents would be if they saw one of these fly into their hideout. What would they do? Could they even shoot it down? Could it be outfitted with weapons, like maybe a sonic immobilizer?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Long live Canada and Old Media!

Happy Canada Day! As our country celebrates its 142nd birthday, this blog also celebrates its fourth month of existence! Yeehaw!

In that vein, I thought I'd delve into the Google Analytics and share some interesting readership statistics for Bombs, Boobs and Burgers (blog edition). Listed below are the top ten most-read posts over the past four months:

1. The main page

There you have it: fully 70% of my most-read posts have been porn related. Should this come as a surprise to anyone? Hardly, but it did get me thinking about a rant I've been wanting to go on for a while now.

There is a very vocal, pro-social media movement out there on the web, especially on . I've listened to these folks take shots at and tear down "old media," i.e. newspapers and TV news, for months now. Old media are "gatekeepers of information," they don't "get it," they're elitist, out of touch and arrogant. No wonder newspapers are going out of business left, right and center, they say. Old media should be more interactive with its readers and "crowd-source" more of its content, or let the readers be part of the stories by contributing their own stuff, like comments, pictures, tips, and so on.

But then I look at my statistics. Left to their own devices, what sort of news and opinion is the crowd on the web gravitating to? Clearly on my site, it's porn. Web-wide, celebrity gossip sites like TMZ and buffoons like Perez Hilton are flourishing while excellent sites like the New York Times are still trying to figure out how to make a decent buck.

I've worked at several newspapers and have been part of the "gatekeeping" of information. It's true that a handful of people are responsible for deciding what is and isn't important, and which stories get on the front page while others get buried in the back. But unlike what many of the social media peddlers desperately want us to believe, this is not a bad thing. The fact is, if you always go with what's going get the most readers - and online that means traffic, which often translates into advertising dollars - you might as well start running all celebrity nonsense or, better yet, get into porn.

That's a decision I have to make every day on this blog: "Hmmm... should I run a porn item today and watch my readership numbers spike, or should I run this interesting bit on robot pizza ovens?" It is Bombs, Boobs and Burgers, not Boobs, Boobs and Boobs, after all, so I have to exercise some self control in just how much readership I want to attract. It's therefore boobs only every couple of days. Maybe some day, if I want to go for the big bucks, I'll start a porn site or write a book exclusively about porn...

Although I sometimes too bristle against the arrogance of so-called old media, I'm actually glad there are gatekeepers of information. For the most part, these are intelligent and experienced people (with some exceptions, of course) who can see the world's bigger pictures and issues and make decisions on what to cover accordingly. Heck, the most-read story I've ever written was about CNN's fake holograms during the Obama election. The story took all of 15 minutes to put together and, while interesting, it was certainly nowhere near as important as other, less-read stories on issues such as net neutrality or copyright.

This is not to say that big media, which is often interchangeable with the term "old media," need to be ignorant of what their readers or viewers want covered. But I do believe we need "gatekeepers" to prevent the public from getting too distracted by stuff that really doesn't matter. Either that or we should just put Perez Hilton in charge of the New York Times. (Shudder)
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