May 24

Friday Crap Roundup XV

Friday night and I feel like total ass. But hey, I got some much-needed housework done. Now it’s time to enjoy a cold one and write the Friday Crap Roundup.

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No Trotsky Treats today. I’m watching my girlish proletariat figure.

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May 17

Friday Crap Roundup XIV

It’s Friday, and I’m tired of writing about Wyoming. I’d much rather share this giant, larvae-filled ant colony Beachy and I found in Grandpa’s backyard this evening. It was pretty awesome.

The ants were not amused. They’ll be even less amused when Grandpa goes to spray them.

How’s that for an intro to this week’s FCR?

It Shouldn’t be THAT Difficult

My good friend Trevor Dodge, a fellow 2T refugee and an accomplished snarkologist in his own right, came across this little slice of heaven this week.

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At the library, no less.
Image credit: Trevor Dodge

Now while I suppose there’s a market for such privileged information in case of a rapture (or more likely, an eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano), I really don’t see how one could write a whole book about it. After all, if what happened in Europe after the Black Death is any indication, all you’d have to do to prosper is show up.

Oh yeah, you might want to avoid Wyoming too. Just saying ….

Service With a Sneer

I normally don’t pay attention to reality TV, but when someone genuinely makes the likes of Gordon Ramsay look as calm, rational and unbiased as Walter Cronkite, it’s hard to look away.

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“Non-stick. And that’s the way it is.”
Image credit: Blofeld Dr.

Of course, I’m referring to Ramsay’s now-infamous encounter with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Amy’s Baking Company as depicted on his series, Kitchen Nightmares. The utter lack of civility, decorum and common sense demonstrated by these restauranteurs – whom Ramsay declared beyond help – is breathtaking.

While there’s a great deal of speculation regarding Ramsay’s work in reality TV, specifically as to how much of it is actually “real,” that’s beside the point here. Among other things, no one in their right mind opens a sit-down restaurant and refuses to let servers keep their tips.

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I don’t know about Arizona, but in Philadelphia that would get real ugly, real quick.

Sadly, the YouTube clips I watched were taken down. Still, I encourage you to find and watch the full episode rather than just the highlights. Absolutely stunning.

Track of the Week

While martinis can be made with vodka, purists argue this classic cocktail should always be made with gin.

Yes, I’m sure. Even in Wyoming.

May 12

A Message From the Cats

Hi there. This is Djoser. Lane isn’t back from Wyoming yet, so I’m writing today’s post for him. Yeah, I know I don’t have opposable thumbs and all, but I found this feline voice recognition software on The Pirate Bay which allows me to blog. It’s pretty sweet, and who the hell is going to sue a cat?

Sneferu and I have been chilling this weekend. He even took time out of his busy schedule of dropping things in the toilet to help me clean up around here. I hope Lane appreciates all the work we did.

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I think we did a good job.

Last night we got on Netflix and checked out this movie called Cats & Dogs. Disgusting. Kids’ movie my furry, tabby ass! I can’t believe they let kittens watch this speciesist, canine supremacist filth. Once I’m done here I’m sending a big, nasty hiss to Netflix. If any dogs out there are reading this, you should do the same if you have any sense of shame whatsoever.

This morning we got up early to play some Blinx on Lane’s old Xbox. Sneferu is really, really good at this game. It’s those fast reflexes he has. He made a point to take a picture of my shame after he humiliated me. “Hey, where did you get that camera?” I asked.

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“Don’t worry about it, D. Don’t worry about it.”

I hope Lane gets home soon. The food bowl is almost empty, and Sneferu is not fun to be around when that happens. Frankly the box needs changed too. We’ll definitely bring that to Lane’s attention when he gets in.

I’m starting to get hoarse from all this meowing, trilling and purring, so I’d better wrap this up. Why can’t humans communicate by smell and expression like we do? Oh well. Peace out to all Toms and Mollies worldwide!

May 11

Those Damn Ads

I’ve been on the Internet in some form for nearly 20 years. Back then the World Wide Web looked like this:

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“Graphics? Are you mad? You’ll crash the entire campus with those!”
Image credit: Russell Boltz

I often miss those days. Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was in ASCII text. Social networking? That’s what a Telnet-based BBS was for. I still have an account at one. You should go visit them. They’re lonely.

Before 1996 or so there was a definite Wild West feel to being online, especially if you didn’t tie yourself down to some heinous monstrosity like AOL. If you knew what you were doing there were plenty of ways to interact with interesting people worldwide on a completely noncommercial basis.

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And you were never, ever short on coasters.
Image credit: techfun

Sadly, those days are long gone. While I’m all for making a buck online, I find it amazing that corporate America is still so bloody clueless about it all these years later. Banner ads? No one looks at those anymore. Pop-ups? Just about any decent web browser can block those. Video spots? Better keep those under 15 seconds, or we’re outta there.

Take YouTube as an example. Given that approximately 99.97 percent of the population clicks that “Skip Ad” button as soon as they see it, I wonder why people bother paying to put up ads upwards of two minutes long, knowing damn well virtually no one will watch more than the first five seconds.

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“What were they selling? Who knows? Who cares? Play ‘Gangnam Style’ dammit!”

Some advertisers have grown wise to this and (I assume) plunk down more cash so YouTube will run their entire 15-second ad without a skip option. To YouTube’s credit I haven’t seen them force anything longer, at least not yet. Fifteen seconds is at the upper end of my tolerance, I’ll say that.

If you want something really irritating, check out those sites linked at Cracked and elsewhere which feature articles such as “15 Celebrities Who Are Living with Serious Medical Conditions.” You know, those sites so chock full of ads they take forever to load only to provide you with an absolute bare minimum of content? I had to sit through an entire Wendy’s commercial today, just to find out Kim Kardashian has psoriasis.

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Sneferu has more fulfilling moments when he’s licking my hair out of the bathtub.
Image credit: David Shankbone

I keep hoping technology will eventually allow us live in more enlightened times and that we’re just in a state of transition now. But damn, it’s a painful transition.

May 10

Friday Crap Roundup XIII

It’s the 13th installment of the Friday Crap Roundup! Like its predecessors, it’s more cheesy than scary.

Prediction: Total Crap

Although he can be a bit of a crank, I’m a fan of James Randi and his efforts to expose people with “supernatural” powers for the frauds they are. Earlier this week he called out noted “psychic” Sylvia Browne over her latest epic fail. To wit, on national TV in 2004 Browne told Jouwana Miller – mother of the long-missing Amanda Berry – that her daughter was dead. The problem is Berry was found earlier this week, traumatized but very much alive. The worst part is her mother died several years ago.

I try to keep an open mind about everything, but Randi’s logic is sound. There is simply no scientific evidence whatsoever supporting supernatural phenomena. If someone proves otherwise, great. Until then, can we please dispense with all these idiotic ghost hunter shows?

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And for a variety of reasons, don’t even get me started on the goddamn Blair Witch Project.

Accentuating the Positive, or Something

Tuesday’s post on regional accents was a big hit if my stats mean anything. I wrote that post on a spur of the moment basis after seeing the map on Facebook. Funny how topics like that become popular, while posts I plan days in advance get fewer views than an Abe Vigoda striptease.

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You’re on your own with the visuals.

I was hoping for a response from Rick Aschmann regarding my southern Idaho speech sample by now, but a couple days after my post The Huffington Post ran a story about his site too. Since they get a few more hits than I do, I suspect he’s pretty inundated at the moment. No fair! I wrote about it first!

In response to Duke’s comment, people are telling me things like that all the time now. Perhaps they feel sorry I’m turning 40 in a few weeks. Who knows?

Track of the Week

Since I’m on the road today (this FCR was written in advance), I figure some good travel music is in order:

Fitting, given that Atomic City is on the itinerary.

May 09

SB is Wyoming Bound!

The time has come. Tomorrow morning I leave the Command Center for a couple days to go on my annual pointless vacation. Last year, it was to Salmon, Idaho. This year: Thermopolis, Wyoming.

“But Lane,” you might say, “you’re a city guy. Why the hell would you drive eight hours to a small town in Wyoming where you don’t even know anyone?” Well, the main reason is because I’ve never been there before. While I’m unquestionably more city than country, I also like to go off the beaten path every now and again. Why did I go to Salmon last year? It was because it was the largest city in Idaho I had never been to. I believe that distinction now belongs to Orofino.

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Home of the Maniacs (and a state mental hospital too).

Speaking of crazy, that’s main reason I chose Thermopolis this year, because of its crazy name. Of course, the town is actually so named because of the hot springs surrounding it. It’s in Hot Springs County, after all. Duh. I should have realized hot springs make the place somewhat touristy, which in turn means lodging in the area is a bit pricey. The best rate I could find was $70 a night, and that was at one of those places where I suspect the mattresses are older than I am. Yeah, I don’t want to go THAT bad.

Nevertheless, I’m still going to Thermopolis. I’m just not staying in Thermopolis. Instead, I’m setting up camp at the Motel 6 in the lovely town of Riverton, about 50 miles away. That’s as large as I wanna live right now.

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Yee haw.
Image credit: MoEaFaTi

So what am I going to do there? Same thing I did in Salmon last summer: avoid the touristy areas and just hang around. I’m pretty easy to entertain.

What has me really jacked about the trip is the route I’m taking. Instead of going through the 2T, I’m taking a more direct route through locales such as Fairfield and Arco. I’ll be visiting some places I haven’t been to in nearly 20 years and others I’ve never been to at all.

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Gives you kind of a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?
Image credit: Squelle

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for real-time snark updates. A full travel diary will appear next week.

Apr 30

Repulsed by Radio

A couple days ago I regaled you with my thoughts on 1980s TV. I suppose it’s only fitting I make a few comments about 1980s pop music as well.

My fascination with music can be traced directly back to 15 July 1984, my 11th birthday. As a gift I received a small “boom box.” This in turn led me to an obsession with the weekly Top 40 show as hosted by Casey Kasem and later Rick Dees. It aired on at 4 pm on Sundays on the local Top 40 FM station, and I often taped the whole frickin’ thing.

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There’s no cheese like the Dees.
Image credit: lax.hyundai

I freely admit I liked a lot of the stuff they played on Top 40 radio back then. Still do. However, as time wore on I increasingly came across songs I didn’t like. That’s to be expected, of course. Even so, there were some tracks I found so loathsome that just a few notes would compel me to turn the radio OFF until the offending audio went away.

The following are some of the worst offenders.

Anything by Prince

At roughly the same time I embraced the Top 40, a Minneapolis-based singer/songwriter named Prince Rogers Nelson released a film called Purple Rain, along with a soundtrack album of the same name. For approximately the next three years, Western civilization wouldn’t shut up about the guy. At certain times Prince seemed to be more overexposed than the King of 80s Cheese himself, Michael Jackson.

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I’d post a YouTube clip, but he’d probably have it taken down before I hit the “Publish” button.
Image credit: Yves Lorson

Why I hated it then: When I was 11 years old there were two things in this world I absolutely despised: Cabbage Patch Kids and Prince. There was no single reason for my loathing of the diminutive Minnesotan, but it probably had to do with his eyeliner, his ruffled shirts, a bouffant which put Kim Jong-il’s to shame, his repeated dissings of Weird Al Yankovic, and the fact he seemed to be everywhere for a very long time. Whatever it was, I couldn’t stand the guy.

One Christmas during this period there was a present for me under the tree which was clearly in a cassette tape box. For several days I feared some well-meaning but profoundly uninformed grownup bought me Purple Rain. As it turns out, it was The Best of Spike Jones. My sense of relief was enormous.

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Possibly the only time in recorded history anyone was so relieved to receive a Spike Jones album.

What I think of it now: My view of Prince has moderated considerably over the years. He’s an undisputed musical genius, and I have to to admit even today “When Doves Cry” is a hell of a dance track. Nevertheless, I still haven’t seen Purple Rain (or any of his other movies, for that matter).

“Always” by Atlantic Starr

If there ever was a song written specifically to be played at wedding receptions, this 1987 track is it. Apologies in advance if this is “your” song.

Perhaps the best-known single by this upstate New York R&B group, “Always” is four solid minutes of the most concentrated shlocky sweet cheese produced to date. Repeated exposure to this track is bound to cause hyperglycemia in just about anyone. Consider yourselves warned.

Atlantic Starr was responsible for many, many awkward high school slow dances.

Why I hated it then: This sort of thing is exactly what a sexually confused 13-year-old boy DOESN’T want to hear, especially in heavy rotation. Sweet YHWH this was a painful experience.

What I think of it now: OK, OK, they were a talented group and it’s crystal clear why newlyweds gravitated to them. Still, if I ever get married again I’d much rather hear Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” at my reception.

“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister

In 1986, someone at the Top 40 station in the 2T must have really, REALLY liked Mr. Mister, as they tortured the whole of south-central Idaho for months with these guys. Overplayed doesn’t begin to cover it.

Remember styling mousse? They do.

Why I hated it then: If it weren’t for the excessive overplay, Mr. Mister would have likely merited little more than a footnote in my memory. But once the damage was done, there was no holding my rage back.

What I think of it now: I still don’t miss it.

“Hippychick” by Soho

If you’ve never heard of this one-hit wonder or their reputed “hit,” you’re forgiven. “Hippychick” was released in 1990, did its requisite tour of the Top 40, and then was quickly forgotten. Or at least I wish it was.

In 1996, some years after I swore off the Top 40 (more on that in a moment), I was a regular listener of an “alternative” radio station out of the Sun Valley area called KSKI. At the time KSKI was an independent, free-wheeling station which wasn’t afraid to play good music, even after an infamous incident involving “special brownies” among the morning drive crew.

Good music, with the glaring exception of “Hippychick.”

Gah!

Why I hated it then: This song is essentially a clumsy sample of Johnny Marr’s iconic guitar riff from “How Soon is Now?” followed by a crappy dance tune. That alone is bad enough. What really set me off is that it was broadcast on KSKI, a station one could reasonably expect to actually play The Smiths. But instead of Morrissey’s plaintive wailing, you were presented with this. Gotcha! I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be KSKI’s idea of a practical joke. If so, I sure as hell didn’t find it funny.

What I think of it now: No wonder why Queen fans hate Vanilla Ice.

“Do the Bartman” by The Simpsons

When The Simpsons premiered in December 1989 it was a big deal. I liked it. Possibly you liked it. In any event, it’s a TV show that’s still in first-run prime time nearly a quarter century later. It’s clearly a groundbreaking series.

Which is why we can almost forgive them for dropping the festering turd known as The Simpsons Sing the Blues on us a year later. “Do the Bartman” was the lead single.

I don’t care if he’s dead. I still want to bitchslap Michael Jackson for writing this.

Why I hated it then: Although by the time “Do the Bartman” came out I had given up on pop music (again, more on that in a moment), my hatred for it was nearly automatic. Unlike Mr. Mister, it didn’t need to be overplayed. Being the most ham-handed attempt to cash in on a fad since the advent of The Archies a generation earlier, there were plenty of other good reasons to despise it.

What I think of it now: Yeah, it still makes me want to go out and break stuff.

“Just a Friend” by Biz Markie

Oh my, this is the granddaddy of them all. Not only did this track elicit an immediate, visceral response, it also triggered a significant watershed moment in my life. For a variety of reasons, including some of the aforementioned songs, by the time the Biz hit the radio in late 1989 I was already quite disgruntled with the whole pop music thing. Then one fine day I was presented with this:

Absolutely stupefying.

Why I hated it then: As I recall my initial reaction was something to the effect of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?!?!?” Don’t get me wrong, I like old-school rap. At this point I was the proud owner of Run-DMC and Public Enemy albums. But this … this made Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” sound like Sgt. Pepper.

It was at that moment I shut off the radio and resolved never to willingly listen to a Top 40 station ever again. Over 20 years later I continue to make good on that promise. Not long after I started discovering the good stuff, including Living Colour, R.E.M., The Police, Jane’s Addiction, The Dead Milkmen, Erasure, the Pixies and – of course – Rush.

What I think of it now: In all seriousness, I think today is the very first time I managed to listen to “Just a Friend” the whole way through. In an odd way, I’m almost thankful to Biz Markie for delivering the coup de grâce to my Top 40 habit.

Damn, I feel dirty now. I think I need to take a shower and listen to Permanent Waves for awhile.

Apr 28

A Vast Wasteland

I find few things more irritating than the arguments of traditionalist scolds, especially the tired old tropes of “what about the children?” and “the good old days.” Generally speaking, with a bit of guidance children are quite capable of making their own decisions. Also, “the good old days” is often code for “nostalgia for an imagined past.”

I’ve been told Beachy sometimes watches television too mature for her. While I agree at her age she certainly shouldn’t be exposed to such things as graphic sex and violence, I assure you what she watches is much, much better than what I grew up with.

Seriously, would any children’s channel today air programming depicting this? (Click the image caps for video)

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This isn’t Porky Pig! Shocking!

Or this?

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No Curly? Outrageous!

Or this?

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No Sgt. Slaughter? Disgu … nah, this is still pretty hot.

Guess what? I watched all of the above and more during my formative years. Repeatedly. I didn’t even have to sneak in any Cinemax to do it.

Growing up in the 2T in the early 80s, where locally-produced kids’ programming was little more than a foreign legend, on a typical weekday morning you essentially had two options: soap operas or game shows. Guess which one I took? Yeah, there’s nothing like beginning an unexpected day off than with an hour with Bob Barker.

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“Cutting school again, eh Lane? Well, don’t forget to have your pets spayed or neutered.”

And that’s the high water mark. I was born in 1973, so for the sake of argument let’s say my prime years for children’s programming were between 1980 and 1985. Fine. Here’s what the world was like back then:

Children’s programming was limited to certain hours (usually school hours) on weekdays. You had Saturday morning cartoons which ended by 1 pm, and on Sunday you were flat out SOL. The golden age of animation was dead and buried by the mid-70s. There was no Cartoon Network or DreamWorks Studios. In short, no one was catering to kids very well. Even the pre-Pixar Disney spent about a decade dropping turds on theaters every couple years before they finally realized they should stick with fairy tales.

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And Martha Raye’s Polident ads were more entertaining than the early Disney Channel.

With few exceptions, children’s programming of the day fell into one of three categories:

-Prime time reruns and old short films not necessarily intended for children in the first place, including I Love Lucy, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Flintstones, The Little Rascals (or Our Gang, whatever), The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. Throw in Leave it to Beaver and The Beverly Hillbillies too. What the hell.

-Reboots of old cartoons and TV shows, including The All-New Popeye Hour, The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show, Laverne & Shirley in the Army, The Real Ghostbusters, the (apparently fake) Ghostbusters and various incarnations of the Scooby-Doo franchise.

-Shows which amounted to little more than hard-sell commercials, including G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Saturday Supercade, M.A.S.K., Challenge of the GoBots, and anything involving Care Bears, Shirt Tales, Teddy Ruxpin, Cabbage Patch Kids, Popples, He-Man, She-Ra, the ThunderCats or Lazer Tag. It’s a wonder some nitwit TV executive didn’t greenlight a show about a fad puzzle game.

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Oh wait, they totally did.

So in addition to the torture, alcohol abuse and risque content noted above, what else did these shows depict to kids of the day? How about misogyny, gender and racial stereotypes, juvenile delinquency, frequent armed conflict, gratuitous violence, dangerous stunts, glorification of war, animal cruelty, terrorism, elder abuse, unrealistic life expectations, attempted genocide, reward for misbehavior and/or incompetence, borderline plagiarism, and commercialism so crass and over the top it would make even Vince Offer wince?

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Yeah, plagiarism. The Flintstones blatantly ripped off The Honeymooners.

I and millions of others suffered through long years of this drivel. Watching this stuff again just makes it worse, as one notices the shoddy production values one disregarded as a kid. Bright spots were few and far between. Off the top of my head I can only think of one animated series from the era that was contemporary, genuinely funny and not a 30-minute commercial for a piece of plastic.

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Even if he did drive on the wrong side of the road.

So there you have it. Programming on today’s children’s cable networks isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was 30 years ago. What’s more, I turned out just fine, and today’s world isn’t an amoral, dystopian void after all.

Indeed, I’m glad I wasn’t sheltered and allowed to watch only “wholesome” crap like Superbook and The Flying House. I probably would have shot up a Taco Bell by now.

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“More like, ‘Live No Más’ bitches! HA HA HA!”
Image credit: Coolcaesar

Apr 27

Lane Has Some Mystery Crap to Share With Their Friends!

Beachy is more proficient with the computer with each passing day. All in all, this is a good thing. She’s relatively comfortable with Windows now, and she’s finally stopped calling the mouse the “remote.”

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Which I think she did to annoy me.
Image credit: Jim Rees

Surprisingly, we made it through the day without watching a single Smosh video. That’s because Beachy remembered she had some Facebook games going. So, we spent the better part of the morning playing YoVille and Café World. This is a slow, painful torture for me, not only because of the surfeit of cutsey tween crap in these games, but also because Grandpa’s DSL connection has all the pep of a Trabant 601.

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“DAAAAADY!!!!”

As you’re probably aware, YoVille, Café World, Mafia Wars, FarmVille and several other Facebook games are created by an outfit called Zynga. While these games have many diverse themes, the basic gameplay is the same. To wit, click to get and/or make stuff, click to annoy friends to give you stuff, complete “quests,” and experience Sisyphean labor firsthand as Zynga constantly bombards you with new tasks and features without giving you time to master the existing ones.

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Their logo should be a coked-out hummingbird.
Image credit: Mdf

This last bit is important, because Zynga offers a myriad of features and labor-saving utilities by charging you credits. That is, credits you buy with real money. Yes, people buy said credits by the millions. However, they comprise fewer than 10 percent of those playing Zynga games overall. This, along with the games’ inherently annoying qualities, probably explains why Zynga’s stock today is worth roughly one-third of what it was when the company went public in December 2011.

I admit these games are addictive to the uninitiated. I played a few of them myself for a time. Finally I got tired of the aggravation, as well as the never-ending Facebook wall posts to loan a hoe here or taste a pie there. So a few months ago I uninstalled all the apps and set my game notifications to “ignore.”

Here’s the rub. Even though I don’t play anymore Zynga still has all my game profiles loaded on their servers. Yeah, you can still visit my CityVille town or plow my FarmVille fields. Beachy still has me as her Café World “employee.” Before I stopped playing she took the liberty to “dress” me.

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Which I KNOW she did to annoy me.

Apr 19

Friday Crap Roundup X

Woo hoo! We’ve made it to the 10th Friday Crap Roundup! What’s the anniversary gift for that? Ah yes … iPads.

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Just be glad it’s not spyware behind Door #3 … this time.

Quite Simple, Really

SB is not a soapbox for me or anyone else, so I try to keep the political comments to a minimum. However, this graphic I came across on Facebook earlier this week is too good not to share.

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No caption necessary.

Hey, What About …

Longtime readers have no doubt noticed I haven’t said much about Cracked or the gym recently. The reason is quite simple. I haven’t done anything with either. Doing something about that is on my agenda for the next few days. No, really. Trust me.

A Word on Phnom Penh Nightlife

Since I started this blog around 10 weeks ago I’ve deleted nearly 550 spam comments … and kept four which were legitimate. It’s obvious these people don’t read the posts. Case in point: one guy told me, “I like Your Post about Khmer Karaoke Celebrities.” Um, WTF?

SB has covered some 1,250 topics since its inception, but I’m pretty sure “Khmer karaoke celebrities” isn’t among them.

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Yup … pretty sure.
Image credit: dalbera

I would have kept the comment, but I don’t want to encourage the bastards. Let them hawk their fake Nikes and Dutch porn sites elsewhere.

Track of the Week

Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this week, an egregious slight finally rectified. Let the lobbying for Mojo Nixon commence.

About damn time.