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Oh Dear! Notice Anything Funny About This Collection of Presidential Hopeful Ties?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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An online retailer Bows-N-Ties.com is planning to create a collection of ties in honor of the 2016 presidential race. According to the company’s president and founder, Hendrik Pohl, they’re taking a poll and the Top 5 most popular ties will go into production. Voting ends April 30th. Currently Christie, Clinton, and Paul are in the lead.

There’s only one problem…

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Genius! You Can Now Order Toilet Paper Directly From Your Toilet, Thanks to Amazon

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

With the Amazon Dash button, reordering your favorite consumable products has never been easier. Simply attach the new adhesive button to a handy location in your kitchen, laundry room — or bathroom — and press the button when you’re running low on a product. Voilà! Your order is placed instantaneously. No more emergency trips to the store when you’re running low on laundry detergent or toilet paper.

Amazon says the Dash Buttons are currently only available to Prime members who receive an invitation by email. They currently have 225 products listed as available for use with a Dash Button, including toilet paper, baby food, paper towels, diapers, and macaroni and cheese.

It’s entirely possible that in just a few short years you’ll be sitting on the toilet, realize you’re running low on toilet paper, and with the press of a button you can have a fresh case delivered to your front porch via drone in a matter of hours. How great is America?

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Today’s 10 Best Online April Fools’ Jokes

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

April Fools’ jokes have gone high tech and websites have upped their game this year, going to great lengths to create fake but realistic-looking ads and stories that cause customers to do double-takes. Here are some of the best on the internet today:

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1. Google Actual Cloud Platform

“Literally a cloud. Introducing Google Actual Cloud Platform, the world’s first public cloud running on servers in the troposphere.”


2. Dog on a Stick Selfie Stick from Petco

Now your dog can have a selfie stick, just like President Obama’s!

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3. Think Geek’s Do It YourSelfie 360° Selfie Rig

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4. Birchbox Mail-Order Beard Box

“Life’s far too short to spend months growing a beard. This kit features everything you need to debut a robust facial mane, all in mere moments.”

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5. Uber Lions in D.C.

“Today, we’re partnering with Nat Geo Wild, the network from National Geographic, to bring you the wildest campaign yet—UberLIONS—on-demand lion cubs! That’s right, with just a tap of a button you could be petting and playing with a real live lion cub. Enter the code LIONCUBSDC today and request LIONS between 9am – 12pm for your chance to snuggle with lion cubs!”

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6. MS-DOS for Mobile

And it really works!

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7. Samsung Smartknife with Smartphone Capabilities

“Galaxy BLADE edge features a set of sensors and algorithms that analyze your grip, dexterity and strength, setting the weight in optimal proportion to create the perfect rhythm and inertia.”

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8. The Reddit Button of Doom

Reddit has been swarming with people speculating about the mystery button today. Should you press it or not press it? Will the world end or the nukes be launched if reddit users stop pushing the button? The world waits for answers.



9. CERN Researchers Confirm Existence of The Force

“Though four fundamental forces  – the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force and gravity – have been well documented and confirmed in experiments over the years, CERN announced today the first unequivocal evidence for the Force. ”

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10. Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko to Settle Differences with a Single Combat Match

“Vladimir Putin has until the end of today to consider a one-off proposal from Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s embattled president, which could end the fighting in the Donbas and set a template for conflict-resolution elsewhere.”

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You Do Know That American Apparel Hopes Their Racy Ads Will Get Banned, Right?

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard


From the UK Daily Mail:

Bosses at trendy clothing firm American Apparel have been rapped for a ‘too sexy’ advert showing a female model wearing a ‘thong bodysuit’.

The firm, which has more than 270 stores across the world, regularly has its raunchy ads banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

In 2012 the firm had a string of ads banned in four different rulings after using photos of women exposing their breasts, showing off their bare bums and posing with their legs spread in its ad campaigns.

At American Apparel, banned ads (and the free publicity that follows) is baked into the company’s marketing plan.

Ryan Holiday, former director of marketing for American Apparel, explained the strategy in his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator:

When I design online ads for American Apparel, I almost always look for an angle that will provoke. Outrage, self-righteousness, and titillation all work equally well … If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites.

Holiday goes on to explain that he would invest a small amount of money to run a racy ad on a low-traffic blog, knowing that it would be picked up by other blogs and, eventually, the mainstream media. “The publicity from the spectacle generated tens of thousands of dollars in sales, and that was my intention all along,” writes Holiday, adding that he had “substantial data” to back up his claim that the controversy led to an increase in sales of whatever the ad was hawking.

You’ll notice that I didn’t provide a picture of the ad, or even a link to it because I am not willing to give American Apparel free advertising. Here’s a suggestion: when you see an outraged article about the banned ad in your Facebook feed or on your favorite website, vow not to share it if the article includes the racy picture of the adolescent-looking model in the thong. Let’s stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated and stop rewarding them with free advertising.

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Those GoDaddy Superbowl Ads, Cruel Click Bait, and Other Ways Media Manipulates You

Sunday, February 1st, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard


Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last week,  you’ve probably seen the controversial GoDaddy ad where the lost puppy returns home only to find out he’s been sold online. The ad has been pulled from the Super Bowl lineup and the online version was removed after vocal protests by PETA and other animal rights groups. Now viewers are waiting with eager anticipation to see the replacement ad (which will no doubt feature a large-breasted, scantily clad woman who is not talking about the product GoDaddy actually sells).

“This was not a stunt,” a representative for GoDaddy told FOX411.

That might be a credible statement if GoDaddy’s entire marketing strategy wasn’t built on controversial ad campaigns.

GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons explained in an interview with Inc.com how his company’s strategy originated:

“I decided to advertise nationally, and the Super Bowl was coming up. I thought, That would be a hell of a debut, but how do I get a bunch of drunk people’s attention? If we explained what we do, we’d be dead in the water,” he said. “So then I thought, be outrageous. It doesn’t take Harvard Business School to figure that one out.”

He said the scantily clad GoDaddy girl was his idea. He told the ad agency, “I want a really well-endowed, good-looking gal in a tight T-shirt, with our name right across her breasts.”

GoDaddy bought two slots that first year, but because of the uproar, the network pulled the second one. “I was doing interviews for days,” Parsons said. “The media called the ad inappropriate, which got even more traffic to our site. Our market share shot up to 25 percent, and my mother’s very proud that I’ve established a standard for indecency in broadcasting.”

Every time I see a story like this I’m reminded of a book by Ryan Holiday called Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. In the book Holiday, the former director of marketing for American Apparel (a rather liberal-leaning guy), describes how he would intentionally create provocative ads designed to generate controversy and outrage.

“If I could generate a reaction, I could propel the ad from being something I had to pay for people to see (by buying ad inventory) to something people would gladly post on the front page of their highly trafficked websites,” he wrote in the book.

He described the time he ran a series of completely nude ads featuring a porn star on a couple of low-budget websites.

“A naked woman with visible pubic hair + a major U.S. retailer + blogs = a massive online story,” Holiday wrote.

Predictably, the ads were picked up by Nerve, BuzzFeed, Fast Company, Jezebel, Refinery29, NBC New York, Fleshbot, the Portland Mercury and others.

“Some blogs wrote about it in anger, some wrote about it in disgust, and others loved it and wanted more. The important part was that they wrote about it at all,” Holiday said. “It ended up being seen millions of times, and almost none of those views was on the original site where we paid for the ads to run.”

He said he had “substantial data” to back up the fact that “chatter” over such controversial stories resulted in increased sales. He claims his guerrilla marketing tactics rocketed online sales at American Apparel from forty million dollars a year to sixty million in three years.

And so we have two examples of how viral marketing works and how public opinion is manipulated for profit.

Fair enough, you might say. It’s the word we live in and besides — go capitalism!

And you’d have a point. Questionable (and sometimes outright dishonest) sales tactics have been in use for as long as people have been trading. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware and all of that. If you’re the type of person who chooses your web hosting company based upon the breast sizes of the models in the commercials, more power to you. I wouldn’t want my business associated with a company like that, but it’s a free county.

This isn’t really hurting anyone, is it?

Unfortunately, the same tactics used to propel a brand into the national spotlight can also be used to destroy someone’s life.

Holiday describes the phenomenon of online “degradation ceremonies” in his book:

Their purpose is to allow the public to single out and denounce one of its members. To lower their status or expel them from the group. To collectively take out our anger at them by stripping them of their dignity. It is a we-versus-you scenario with deep biological roots. By the end of it the disgraced person’s status is cemented as “not one of us.” Everything about them is torn down and rewritten.

You may remember the congressional staffer who dared to write something critical about the Obama daughters on her personal Facebook page. The young woman wrote about Sasha and Malia’s eye-rolling at the White House turkey pardoning ceremony and criticized what the first daughters were wearing at an official event. One of her Facebook “friends” leaked the post to someone who knew exactly what to do with it.

The story (which I’m not going to link to because I don’t want to give it more air) went viral. You couldn’t open up Facebook or any website that covers news (or even entertainment) without seeing her picture and reading about what a terrible person she was. The young woman quickly apologized for her Facebook post and resigned from her job, but that wasn’t enough to quell the rage of the mob. The broadcast networks devoted an astonishing 14 minutes over two days to this non-story about a mid-level congressional staffer’s personal Facebook post. The Smoking Gun ran a story about an alleged arrest when she was 17 years old (but neglected to provide any documentation, which calls into question the veracity of the story). There were allegations that Obama staffers were complicit in pushing the story out.

The young woman criticized the first daughters — and by proxy, the president —  and she needed to be destroyed.

Holiday described in his book how the process works. He said that blogs (by which he means all online publishers) level accusations on behalf of an outraged public. “If you don’t feel shame, then we will make you feel shame,” Holiday says. “The onlookers delight in the destruction and pain.”

Another recent example is the young woman who became a Twitter sensation after posing with a Bible and a gun in front of a Chick-fil-A. A blogger (who claims to be a conservative and who I won’t bother to link to) thought it would be a great idea to expose a moral failure in her life from a few years ago. The blogger bragged on Twitter that he had outed her and exposed her sins to the public. (A week later the same blogger attacked conservative talk radio host and Blaze contributor Dana Loesch, which is ill-advised, at best).

Holiday wrote,

Blogs lock onto targets for whatever frivolous reason, which makes sense, since they often played a role in creating the victim’s celebrity in the first place, usually under equally frivolous pretenses. You used to have to be a national hero before you got the privilege of the media and the public turning on you. You had to be a president or a millionaire or an artist. Now we tear people down just as we’ve begun to build them up. … First we celebrate them, then we turn to snark, and then, finally to merciless decimation. No wonder only morons and narcissists enter the public sphere.

These days, anyone can become a target and a victim, whether because of a craven quest for page views or because of a more sinister motive — a deliberate attempt at character assassination. Your risk increases exponentially if you do anything that puts you in the public eye (especially if you’re a conservative), but there are plenty of examples of people who were leading perfectly normal lives and became overnight viral YouTube sensations because they woke up one day and said or did something stupid (or brilliant, or controversial, or funny). Suddenly, through no real fault of their own, they’re famous and they’re a target.

And there’s not a thing you can really do to prevent this from happening to you, except for perhaps unplugging completely and heading for the bunker. And even that won’t really protect you (but at least you won’t have to endure the public humiliation).

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The 10 Most Terrifying Public Service Announcements from the 1970s

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Back in the 1970s, most Americans only had a few TV channels. In the pre-DVR era, there was no fast-forwarding through the commercials, so when the networks ran public service announcements, everyone watched. Apparently, someone in a position of influence thought that fear was a great motivator, especially for small children and their parents, so many of the TV spots were downright terrifying. Is it any wonder that the kids who grew up watching these PSAs became the parents who overprotected and coddled their millennial children, raising a generation of pajama boys?

Watching a few of these PSAs may help to explain why so many parents are so afraid of… basically everything.


1. Anyone can share VD with someone nice as you!


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“VD is for everybody. Not just for the few.  Anyone can share VD with someone nice as you!”

The takeaway from this PSA is that venereal diseases were lurking around every corner, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting individuals who were just minding their own business. The nice-looking boy who plays the violin, the friendly local grocer, your 3rd grade teacher, the school librarian – any one of them could be surreptitiously carrying ”the clap” or chlamydia and could at whim pass it on to an innocent bystander.

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Morality, For Sale at a Store Near You

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Leslie Loftis


Preparing for the Houston Ice Storm 2014, Part Deux, I hit the grocery store. I was in that ready-alert state of mind that allows a person to see details usually missed. The promotional-items section at the front of the store caught my eye, as Kroger has designed it to do. They featured a new brand, Simple Truth. I think the product was potato chips, but I don’t recall because the name grabbed my attention.

A bunch of ideas came to my mind. One, the name reminded me of the Innocent  and Honest juices that annoy me so. These juice brands show up at parties, and when kids are running amok, tattling and the like, the names make me wonder if the branding is some sort of wishful thinking. Innocent even has a little halo in the logo. Honest goes for word play with Honest Tea, Honest Aid, and Honest Kids. The kid juices come in an annoying punch pouch that supposedly catches spills but actually makes the pouches almost impossible to puncture with the plastic straw. I avoid Innocent and Honest brands as a rule.

Two, I got an ear worm from Jonah Goldberg. I have a few of his old articles about consumer morality memorized. (I started reading him back in the days when one still had to print, rather than bookmark, favorite articles. I read them more than once.) The Simple Truth triggered this quote to playback:

Perhaps it was when Nietzsche pronounced God dead that so many decided to do His job themselves. Today, we are our own priests. Our truths are own “inner truths.” Our morality is bought retail.

I’ve seen this morality bought retail everywhere from furniture to fashion to food. A few years ago, I blogged about a WSJ article on triple-figure designer jeans. I wrote, “For the hefty price tag you get a pair of jeans and a public statement that you have enough money to afford such jeans and that you care about workers and the environment. … Fab jeans and good works for a couple hundred bucks–no actual action required.” I got comments about how cool this was. My sarcasm went largely unnoticed.  

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Boycott, Divestment & ScarJo: Pop Culture Questions #BDS

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg


The boycott/divestment/sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel has been the stuff of universities, investment groups and the American Jewish community until now. Thanks to the stardom of Scarlett Johansson the BDS battle has made its way into the mainstream. While pop culture addicts more attuned to the size of Kim Kardashian’s rear end will pass by the politically fueled story, chances are that the more intelligent among us, including ScarJo’s Avengers following, may take a second look at the morality behind the latest #BDSFail.

The players in this story have drawn a more definitive line in the sand than Walter Sobchak, with left-wing Jewish American sources like the Forward throwing early punches at Johansson’s presumed first move into the political realm:

…Johansson would do well to realize that “normalizing” the Israeli occupation is a bad use of her celebrity.

Justifying the sucker punch with statistics from the openly biased “Whoprofits.org” (“a project that researches and exposes ‘the commercial involvement of Israeli and international companies’ in the occupation”), the Forward got its own slap down from the Israeli leftist paper Ha’aretz, which lives too close to the facts to avoid them completely:

It is true that SodaStream employs hundreds of Palestinians under terms they probably wouldn’t get at a similar Palestinian firm and Birnbaum, to his credit, was willing even to embarrass the Israeli president in defence of his Palestinian workers.

ScarJo’s decision to leave OxFam was the star’s reaction to BDS movement leaders who demanded the international non-profit organization cut ties with the SodaStream spokeswoman who defended the Israeli company, saying:

SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights.

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Mix Soviet Posters with American Pin-ups, Get 2014 Olympics Calendar

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 - by Oleg Atbashian
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Andrei Tarusov

When a young illustrator from Moscow, Andrei Tarusov, decided to picture how the Winter Olympics might have looked in the old USSR if the erstwhile Soviet government hadn’t been so zealous in suppressing the sexuality of its citizens, he let his imagination run wild. The result was an off-the-wall calendar that creatively combined Soviet propaganda poster art with vintage American pin-ups: scantily clad retro-babes in classic pin-up poses but with Soviet enthusiastic fire in their eyes, engaging in winter sports with athletic equipment from the 1940s and 1950s. The pictures were accompanied by rhymed slogans, written by the artist’s friend in the traditional propagandistic style with a new, ironic twist.

Tarusov contacted the Olympic Committee hoping it would sponsor his project in promoting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether the committee was protecting its reputation or it feared attacks from feminist groups, the answer was a definitive “nyet.” That’s when the artist decided to go solo with “crowdfunding” and posted the calendar, stripped of any official Olympic trademarks, on the Russian version of Kickstarter.com. His goal was to raise 120,000 rubles (USD $3,554) to cover the printing costs, but the result exceeded his expectations: donations from 1,493 people totaled 1,453,900 rubles (USD $43,060).

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How to Make Your Book Look Important

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it's important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it's important to look like a bestseller.

Just like when setting out to claim your kingdom it’s important to look like a princess, when setting out to look for bestsellerdom, it’s important to look like a bestseller.

Selling your Writing in 13 Weeks, Week 10

Yes, I know, it sounds like I’m always saying more or less the same thing: “you have to give the impression that you are traditionally published if you want to really sell.”

Unfortunately, this is true.  The public still views traditionally published books as better.  Though there is an interesting effect happening, maybe because I’ve talked so much about indie publishing, in that some of my fans are contacting me about typos and issues with my traditionally published books, forcing me to say “well, there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

But in general, you want to look like the traditionally published books in your sub-genre.  (Minus the typos – which frankly happen in any publishing, and, yes, will happen to you too.)

Only you don’t want to look like just any books in that subgenre.

Look, in the bad old days the publishing houses had to limit their resources. This meant that most of the books got thrown out into that big, cold world with barely enough work put into it to look decent and professional.

For instance, at a panel at a con, a friend and I were discussing her just-accepted book with the two editors who, supposedly at least, worked on it, and it became obvious to us they’d only read the proposal and never the completed manuscript.

This is because my friend’s book was a second novel, and had been slated to be released with as little support and fanfare as possible.

Now, you’ve gone out and got yourself a publishing house name, and you have a publishing house webpage (don’t do what I do, and forget to update it/not settle on a theme for months on end) and you – frankly – look professional.

So… are you going to just release your book out there, with minimal work/support, like any other mid-list book?

I can hear you protesting now.  “But Sarah, you say, I am a shoe-string operation with exactly one editor and one writer.”

Yes, of course, and we will talk about compromises you can and have to make, but there are also things you can do to make it look like the book is “high list” and important to the house.

“But I can’t make all my books look high list!” you say.

Um… why not?

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Launching Your Book Off Right

Saturday, December 7th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

Selling your writing in 13 weeks, week 9

Launching a book is like launching a rocket.  You make sure you built it right and have the right fuel mixture, and then you hope it won't blow up in your face.

Launching a book is like launching a rocket. You make sure you built it right and have the right fuel mixture, and then you hope it won’t blow up in your face.

There is something magical about taking a book you finish and letting it out into the world. There is something very scary too.

Back when I was doing only traditional publishing, or as I call it non-Baen publishing (since of all my traditional publishers Baen is the only one I continue to work with because they aren’t like the others) the process often resembled taking your infant and feeding him to the volcano god.

In the later days of the push model – before Amazon forced bookstores to stock in accordance with what was selling and not what the publisher said would sell – you often submitted a book in order to see it endowed with the most absurd cover or edited by a process that made Smashwords’ meatgrinder look good.  And then…  Nothing.  It just vanished without a trace never to rise again.

To call the process soul-killing is to understate the truth. For those of us making a mid-list living and often feeding three or four books – or more – a year into this machine, it became an abusive situation that gave us a feeling of combat fatigue. I found, recently, while looking over my books delivered towards the end of that period, (i.e. when I’d been doing it for a long time, and there was no prospect of indie in sight), that I’d started playing elaborate games with myself, such as including some outrageous detail and wondering if anyone else would notice it. This was, in retrospect, reckless and often stupid behavior. (And no, they were never discovered by the publisher, but that means now I need to discover them myself. No, I didn’t remember most of them.)

So – thank heavens for indie, right?  Where that never will happen?

Well, to quote a line from one of my favorite movies (Independence Day) “That’s not entirely accurate.”

Hence the comment about how putting the book out there is very exciting… and very scary also.

Anyone who has put a few stories or novels out there has experienced the weird release that just won’t sell.  This is particularly puzzling when you have a following that – generally speaking – will buy at least a few copies of anything you put out.  You put the short story or novel up on amazon and… nothing.

Sometimes this is a temporary condition, fixed later as the novel starts selling. And sometimes it just stays that way, and you have no idea why.

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Kmart Takes Shaking Your Package to a Whole New Low This Christmas

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Who still shops at Kmart?

This advertisement is a pathetic cry for help. It’s even less effective than an 8 year old “acting out” to get his parents’ attention and then ending up with a time-out in the corner.

Kmart is the commercial version of that kid. Once the darling of the American family, it fell into obscurity after its bout with porn a couple of decades ago.

In the early 1990s, Kmart, through their Walden books stores, was one of the largest retailers of pornography in America. Kmart refused to take porn out of their bookstores. Walden then sued the American Family Association (AFA) for meddling in their backdoor profits. So AFA let the rest of us in on Kmart’s dirty little secret and called for a boycott.

It only took a few months for Kmart to feel the heat. By 1994, while Walmart and Target sales saw healthy gains, Kmart had suffered consistent and continuing profit decline and announced plans to close 110 stores.

This year a new boycott is being threatened after Kmart announced that its stores will remain open from 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday. The uproar is over the company’s apparent lack of concern for its employees’ ability to spend time with their families over the holidays.

Perverting Christmas by showing men tinkling their testicles in public is one thing, but perceived corporate greed is the unforgivable sin of our new Marxist economy.

H/T  Todd Starns

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Why Digital Rights Management is a Bad Idea

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
From whom are you protecting that content?

From whom are you protecting that content?

Or The Fine Art of Making your Customers into Criminals

It must have been in 2000 or around there, when I had just three short stories out and electronic books seemed a thing of the distant future or perhaps of the shady present, that I for the first and last time endorsed some form of digital rights management and donated money to Harlan Ellison’s quixotic attempts to hunt down pirates.

Within the year I’d realized not just the futility of these efforts and that I’d not lose any money – not real money I might have earned – to these acts of piracy, and might in fact acquire some new readers (though given the demographics of pirating and reading, this is not highly likely either.)

It didn’t take me much longer to understand the dangers of applying digital rights management to your property and thereby not only making it difficult for the customer to purchase it and enjoy it, but also implicitly accusing your customer of intended dishonesty.

Lest anyone accuse me of endorsing piracy or even having pirated books: I will confess somewhat shamefacedly that I have never in my life attempted to pirate or copy a book that wasn’t legitimately mine.

I am in fact so ridiculously aware of how little most writers make, and how much pleasure they give me that I often try to compensate them for books they were already paid for.  Back in the days when I was dead flat broke and could not afford even a paperback without feeding my family pancakes for dinner for a week, I cruised the “rejects” of the used bookstores nearby every week.  This was the bookshelf where books that were either too battered or too strange to be saleable were abandoned by former owners who couldn’t trade them in for credit.  I spent the early nineties happily reading tattered gothic romances and nineteenth century biology manuals, because it was better than not reading.  Yes, most of those books were awful – but every once in a while I found one that seemed exceptionally well written.  If the author was still alive, I would send a fan letter to the publisher, and inside it a dollar bill, for the pleasure the author had given me.  (I never got an answer, and I wonder how many authors I confused.)

My first run in with Digital Rights Management was not in books, but in music.  I can no longer remember the details, so bear with me.

Like most writers, I often need a specific piece of music to write to.

As I was trying to write the opening of a novel, I realized the “soundtrack” at the back of my mind was of a British album that I’d last heard in the middle eighties.  I also realized having the album would make the chapter easier to write.  So, I start hunting for it, to find it, both used on Amazon in CD, and for download in this small music service that had just been acquired by one of the giants of the field.

I hated spending the (extra) money to have it in electronic right then, but I wanted to send the proposal to my agent the next day.  So I bit the bullet and bought the album electronic.

It downloaded, DRMed and with a password that would supposedly unlock the album.  I tried it.  It wouldn’t unlock.  I tried again.  Still wouldn’t unlock.  I called customer service and was told “so sorry, with our being bought those codes are messed up, so here is the new code.”  I tried that and, ta-da, the album opened, revealing the song titles.  I thanked the customer service representative, hung up, and cued the music to play on the computer.

The first song starts and a pop up appears – the code isn’t right, so they think I pirated the album, and are locking up the rest of the album.

I call customer representatives again.  “It shouldn’t be doing that.”

Two hours later, I realize I will not be able to listen to that music or finish my chapter that day, tell them I want to return the album for a refund, and I order the (much cheaper) used CD from Amazon.

In my mind that experience will always stand for “the joys of Digital Rights Management” and I will always remember my fury at being accused of stealing something I’d in fact gone through a great deal of trouble to purchase.

I’ve heard of people who have gone through the same experiences with books.  In fact, I’ve found myself frustrated trying to buy a digital book that was only available for a device I didn’t own.  If the book has no digital rights management software it is possible to buy it and to convert it to the device you do have.  Otherwise, the book is inaccessible to you and might in fact disappear forever if your device breaks down.

Audible, which I adore, has pulled this sort of thing on me, by their “three devices” rule.  Since they insist on downloading into my computer’s player (where I do not want them) this restricts me to two of my mp3 players, and when one of those broke on me, I had to go through a great deal of trouble to activate another one.

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Why Liberals Hate Tim Tebow

Sunday, September 1st, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


In January 2012, Tim Tebow was the darling of the marketing world — he was marketing gold. Then quarterback of the Denver Broncos, Tebow had led the team to several come-from-behind wins and threw an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of an overtime game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a first-round playoff game. The game drew a stunning 49% more viewers than the year-earlier match-up.

Ad Age reported at the time, “The game on CBS averaged a 25.9 household rating/43 share, according to Nielsen, the highest-rated first-round NFL playoff game in 24 years.”

They said that Tebow ranked among the top 85 celebrities in the world in the Trendsetter attribute, “on par with George Clooney, Rihanna, and Justin Timberlake.” According to Ad Age, “In terms of influence, Mr. Tebow is now in the top 40 of 3,000 celebs in the DBI, on par Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Aniston and Steven Spielberg.”

Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, said that Tebow was then likely at the $10 million a year level in marketing potential. “As a marketer, you want somebody like that.”

Now you’d think that any team with half a brain, or even a modicum of greed, would have seen the potential — a decade of Tebwomania with the accompanying marketing bonanza. Jerseys, posters, shoes, ticket sales, TV viewers — dollar signs. They would have immediately put a team of the best coaches, trainers, and former quarterbacks on Team Tebow to do whatever it takes to transform his Heisman Trophy college skills into NFL-worthy abilities. But the media had to have its say.

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Three Random Observations on the Mad Men Season Six Finale

Monday, June 24th, 2013 - by James Lileks

Short version: nicely done. The obligatory animated gif is at the end of this piece.

Long version follows.

1. Pretentious Observations Written Before Watching the Exciting Conclusion

The season began with the face of a doctor looking down with concern, a lobby light fixture behind his head like a great cold modernist spider.


Some thought Don Draper had a heart attack — not inconceivable, since numberless Lucky Strikes and rivers of liquor and the incessant stress of the office no doubt made his ticker thrum like the wings of a hummingbird. Everyone expected something bad for the show’s wretched hero; it’s been a bad patch for Don, and he isn’t looking good. Why, he’s sweaty. He barfed at a funeral. His position at the office is changing. True, but hardly different: recall the season where he threw up at the office, lost an account, left his suburban house, lived in an apartment that had one light bulb, furnishings from the Barton Fink collection, coupled with a hooker he paid to slap him, and had a really bad hallway.

That last item matters. Hallways. Don’t you see the importance of hallways in this show? People have business conversations in hallways; Don stops in the hallway of his swank pad and cannot go in to the house because . . . well, I forget why, but there were drinks and sadness and the wife-thing and the mistress. Oh! He used the back hallway to wait for his mistress. The Mammy Burglar came in through the back hallway. Sally tries to retrieve an embarrassing letter . . . by using the back hallway.

What is series creator Matthew Weiner trying to say with all these hallways? Could it be, perhaps, that he sees the sixties as a corridor through which his characters pass, unsure what waits behind the door at the end? After all, when Don goes to California for a wild party and dies for a while and sees dead people, it’s in a modern house with no hallways in the traditional sense.

California, and the sixties, represent the future of America. You’re free to chose your path; you’re not limited to the doors that line the hallways. There’s no binary state in this world, where you’re outside the room or inside. This, of course, raises the other theme of Mad Men: the public face vs. the private face, another binary concept. Bob Benson is two people. Megan is two people — a boring wife and a boring soap star. Pete Campbell is two people — a fellow full of prissy fury in private, and a fellow who expresses smaller amounts of prissy fury in public. And so on. Don’t you see what this show is about? Identity. And Hallways.

If I may step back a bit: all that is nonsense. I don’t believe a word of it.

This is not a show about any of that stuff. There’s no theme, no message, no moral, no point to Mad Men. This is an exceptionally well-written, well-acted, well-directed story about talented people in a creative industry with a dress code and a need to conjure fables to generate money. Before seeing the finale, I can say with assurance that no one dies, shoots himself, has a heart attack, asks for a divorce, or any other soap opera trick. Everything will just go on for better and for worse, like life.

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Remember the end of last season? Megan is getting successful! Don leaves the set and there’s James Bond music, “You Only Live Twice.” And then he’s in a bar and a girl asks him if he’s alone. Don — Draper — Is — Back. Uh huh. Well. What’d we get? An affair. Been there done that. A few brilliant ad pitches, because he’s good at that: been there done that. Betty complications: been there done her, and while the sequence added to the story of those two and called back to the early days, A) it didn’t mean anything, and B) the scene where Betty and Don enjoyed their son’s happiness at their mutual presence reminded you of early scenes of domestic happiness, which also didn’t mean anything in the end. Don Draper’s life consists of powerful emotional interludes that do not add up to anything except retrospective remorse.

He’s making it up as he’s going along. Perhaps the writers are, too. Mad Men observes  its characters with affectionate contempt and selective indulgence. It lets the viewers find meaning and symbolism and recurring motifs in the banal elements of daily life — say, hallways — and this makes viewers construct plots and arcs where none exist. It’s a Rorschach blot. It’s not a soap. It’s not Dallas. It’s not a novel. It’s a series of connected short stories, each with its own tone.

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Food Idolatry: Why Our Lust for Cheap Food Will Kill Us

Sunday, May 26th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

It’s complicated.

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the industry. It really doesn’t matter who or what you point to. The evidence is everywhere: the vast majority of Americans have a fantasy relationship with food.

What we eat is an extremely intimate, personal relationship with ourselves. It is precisely how we maintain the partnership between the soul that we are, and the body we live in.

It took half a century for me to grasp the fact that the stability of my mind, vitality, and longevity all depend heavily on what I eat.

It’s the same for you. Although our diets vary vastly, that statement still holds true.

However, like most people, I always thought of my diet, only in the narrow terms of “dieting.” Rather than the food we routinely eat, let alone its nutritional value.

Our weight and overall health is, more often than not, a direct reflection of our high expectations and extremely low standards of the food we eat.

Without realizing it, the manufactured food we crave, even desire, is carefully designed to reach our “bliss spot.”

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TUESDAY NEW RELEASES: Ke$ha’s Warrior and Hinder’s Freakshow Battle Good Taste

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 - by Jonathan Sanders

Tuesday New Releases in Music

Though hip-hop star Wiz Khalifa and rockers Hinder hope to prove otherwise, this week’s expected sales leader, Ke$ha, controls her own fate with sophomore album Warrior. Despite an excited fan-base, the question remains: does anyone really care? Last week Rihanna’s album Unapologetic went to #1 as expected, but massive week-to-week sales drops by veterans Aerosmith, Green Day and Soundgarden proved more interesting.

Whether these sales woes reflect greater shifts in how people consume music, or merely showcase the “Holiday Album” effect on post-Thanksgiving sales, one truth endures for so-called legends: either bring your best, or stick to the reunion circuit. Heading into 2013, no such thing as a “guaranteed” hit exists.

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Blur – Parklife: Special Edition (Virgin Records)

Dream Boat – Eclipsing (Cloud Recordings)

El Perro Del Mar – Pale Fire (The Control Group)

Swedish artist Sarah Assbring’s melancholic lo-fi indie pop shines on her fifth LP Pale Fire, particularly on the fluid groove of “Walk On By,” her strongest single yet. From Blurt Magazine:“All ten tracks evoke surreal circumstance, given a delivery that’s atmospheric, amorphous and hypnotic.”

Flogging Molly – Live at the Greek Theater (Side One Dummy) – 3 LPs + DVD

Gary Clark Jr – Blak & Blu (Warner Bros.) – Vinyl

Hinder – Welcome to the Freakshow (Republic Records)

Jacob Morris – Moths (Cloud Recordings)

Ke$ha – Warrior (RCA)

Rolling Stone says we owe Ke$ha a debt, as she’s given us so many cancerous earworms. Otherwise how would we ever fill our heads with anything remotely catchy? With Warrior, she sets herself up for what befell Lady Gaga, who dared take pop too seriously. Drowned in Sound puts it more nicely: “Warrior is never dull, always fun, and frequently a thrillingly unpredictable ride.” Check out “Die Young” if this sounds like your cup of tea.

Memory Tapes – Grace / Confusion (Carpark Records)

Mogwai – A Wrenched Virile Lore (Sub Pop)

Olly Murs – Right Place, Right Time (Columbia)

Paloma Faith – Fall to Grace (Epic)

It took six months for this sophomore effort from English singer-songwriter Paloma Faith to get a US release. Fall to Grace combines elements of pop, soul and R&B, solidly showcased by lead single “Picking Up the Pieces,” (see video above) which puts her squarely in the realm of “the next Adele” competitors.

Raime – Quarter Turns over a Living Line (Blackest Ever Black)

Shackleton – Music for the Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ (Woe to Skeptic Heart)

Scott Walker – Bish Bosch (4AD Records)

Sigha – Living With Ghosts (Hotflush)

The Bergamot – Static Flowers (Both Records)

This South Bend, Indiana, duo blends the folk-tinged pop smarts of Elliott Smith with hints of “mainstream Americana,” crafting the harmonious sounds of Static Flowers, the band’s debut. They also won “Best Unsigned American Band” in a competition sponsored by Bud Light, for what that’s worth. Standouts include “Smoke & Fire” and “Amy.”

Wiz Khalifa – O.N.I.F.C. (Atlantic)

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Last week nearly 50 holiday-themed albums jockeyed for position among the Billboard album chart’s 200 individual entries. And since we haven’t highlighted any of the festive albums this season, there’s no better time to get into the Christmas spirit. These twenty albums offer all the jingle you’ll need for any end-of-year celebration.

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PJ Lifestyle Seeking Freelance Technology Writers

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle

PJ Lifestyle plans to continue expanding in many directions after the election — hopefully along with the rest of the economy! Over the coming months we’ll be seeking out new voices to complement our usual team of humorists and cultural critics. (Keep an eye out for future openings for new writers and bloggers.) Today we’re looking for freelance writers with experience and skills to review products.

Gadget Gurus and Tech Thinkers.

With the holiday season approaching we’re looking for people who can highlight the must-have gadgets and gifts: laptops, phones, tablets, stereos, cameras, TVs, and all manner of electronics. Can you compare and contrast different products? Rank which is the best to worst TV, phone, or tablet? Also seeking software and video games reviewers.

We’re also interested in people who can look at the tech industry in the broader perspective, arguing not just if you should buy the new Apple or Google product, but whether either company’s new move is good or bad, and what the future holds as the two contend with Amazon.


Please email your resume, introductory letter, and urls of writing samples to PJ Lifestyle’s managing editor David Swindle: DaveSwindlePJM@gmail.com

Click here for more writing positions open at PJ Lifestyle

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Conservative Song Gaining Popularity

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 - by Rayburn


“Keep The Change” is a catchy little Country Rock tune penned by Rayburn, a band hailing from Little Rock, Ark. Recorded at Ocean Way studios in Nashville, Tenn. by Grammy award-winning engineer, Ben Fowler (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rascal Flatts, Hank Williams Jr.), “Keep The Change” is an up-tempo number that perfectly captures the current mood in a moment of our country’s history where change is on everyone’s mind.

This tune punches and tickles at the same time, using upbeat rhythms that drive the song forward while lyrically exploring some very pointed views on the powers that be. With a thought-provoking lyrical take on a certain well-known political slogan, the song contains no objectionable language.

“Keep The Change” gets straight to the point, making use of upbeat rhythms and a catchy hook to drive home its message. The song is available for download for free here. It is also available for download on iTunes.


Keep The Change Lyrics



You got your fingers in everybody’s pocket, and you won’t take responsibility,

You’re dangerous spending all that money, taking away our children’s destiny,

You call your own shots breaking every law, burning down what our fathers built,

You’re a rock star savior to the masses,

A wolf in sheep’s clothing got the world in dark sunglasses,

Your power and your glory paid for by lies and deceit,

Sit high on your throne, it won’t last long, tell me how’s that view staring down at me,


Keep the change – your change is too strange,

Keep the change – your change is deranged,


You don’t get it, division means derision of everything that we hold dear,

We’ve got the answer – answer to your cancer, gonna make it disappear,

The words from your mouth are slick and too proud,

Moving forward ain’t a merry go round – round and round,


Keep the change – your change is too strange,

I said keep the change – your change is deranged,


Take from who’s got and give to who’s not, And take a little more,

we’ll all be poor – poor for sure,


Keep the change – your change is too strange,

I said keep the change – your change is deranged,

Keep the change…keep the change.



The messages contained in this article are the viewpoints of its sponsors and may or may not be the opinion of PJ Media, LLC.

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PJ Lifestyle Seeking Expert Critics and Product Reviewers

Monday, October 29th, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle

PJ Lifestyle plans to continue expanding in many directions after the election — hopefully along with the rest of the economy! Over the coming months we’ll be seeking out new voices to complement our usual team of humorists and cultural critics. (Keep an eye out for future openings for new writers and bloggers.) Today we’re looking for freelance writers with experience and skills to review products.

These are some of the areas we’re looking to fill:

Gadget Gurus and Tech Thinkers.

With the holiday season approaching we’re looking for people who can highlight the must-have gadgets and gifts: laptops, phones, tablets, stereos, cameras, TVs, and all manner of electronics. Can you compare and contrast different products? Rank which is the best to worst TV, phone, or tablet? Also seeking software and video games reviewers.

We’re also interested in people who can look at the tech industry in the broader perspective, arguing not just if you should buy the new Apple or Google product, but whether either company’s new move is good or bad, and what the future holds as the two contend with Amazon.

Food and Cooking Experts

We’d like reviews of appliances and kitchen products, especially top 10 lists. We’d also be interested in How-To recipe articles explaining which products one needs to go about preparing various dishes. Those capable of supplying their own photographs or custom-made images for reviews are especially appreciated.

We’re interested in both the healthy, organic diet advocates and also the junk food apologists. Experts in Tobacco, Alcohol, and Wine also should apply.


Men’s and Women’s Fashion Experts

From high fashion to the casual and practical, what do we need to know to look and feel good no matter the occasion? And who offers the best deal?

What are the top 5 trends in fashion this season?

Also interested in experts in jewelry, purses, watches, and other fashion accessories.

Health and Hygiene and Make-Up Specialists

Best razors? Best deals this week on make-up? Are there new vitamins and supplements we should consider?

Outdoor Enthusiasts

We’re interested in reviews of sporting equipment, fitness gear, garden and lawncare supplies, and home improvement tools. Also: survival gear, hunting, self defense, and gun experts.


Please email your resume, introductory letter, and urls of writing samples to PJ Lifestyle’s managing editor David Swindle: DaveSwindlePJM@gmail.com

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The Politics of Shopping

Friday, July 13th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

As Americans become more politically polarized will we choose to patronize or avoid a store, brand, product, or restaurant based on that corporation’s political activity?

For example, if you are an active Democrat would you avoid Walmart if you knew that their corporate contributions lean towards Republicans?

You could go to Target instead, but their contributions also help fill the GOP coffers.

If this information leaves you feeling in a blue state and you want to shop that way, then head on over to COSTCO where Democrats receive 99% of all contributions.

How about if you are planning a trip to Disneyland and discovered that so far in the 2012 election cycle Disney has made $575,000 in political contributions with $411,000 or 77%  going to Democrats.  Would you change your travel plans?

Is it important for you to know whether the company you are supporting is an R or D before you hand them your hard earned after-tax dollars?

If so, Open Secrets, a unit of the Center for Responsive Politics, makes it easy for consumers to discover just how much corporations are donating to a party and/or candidates.

Besides donations, does the relationship between a company and the President of the United States affect consumer behavior?

A few years back when shopping for a new car, I refused to even consider a GM model because in no way was I was going to support “Government Motors” any more than my tax dollars already had.

It turns out I was not alone in this thinking. Recently the New York Times revealed that in the first quarter of 2012, in a survey of 30,000 Americans shopping for new vehicles, 32 percent said they would not consider a GM car because of the 2009 U.S. Government bail out.

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The Photoshop Effect

Sunday, July 8th, 2012 - by Ed Driscoll
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Last week, when I linked to the video from McDonald’s Canadian division that explained why food almost always looks better — and typically bigger — in a photograph than in person, YouTube suggested the above video, titled “The Photoshop Effect” as a recommended choice at the end of the McDonald’s clip. It’s from 2008, but it’s still a relevant topic, especially considering how much more powerful Photoshop has gotten in the years since, including its new CS6 edition.

But arguments as to “is it fair” that supermodels and A-list Hollywood actresses have teams of skilled Photoshoppers making their already well-toned bodies and well-defined facial features look even better seems to be a rather specious argument. Celebrities want to look their best when they’ve got a new film to hawk, Sports Illustrated wants their swimsuit edition to jump off grocery counter checkout lines, etc. Does it promote a false ideal for women, as the young woman in the above video asks? Well no more than the physical fitness of models and actresses, who have hours blocked out of their day to spend at the gym with expensive personal trainers.

Funny though that no one complains that when Bruce Willis jumps off a 100-story skyscraper or fist-fights his way through a thousand heavily-armed terrorists, what we’re really seeing is a stuntman and plenty of CGI. But even if they did, in a way, that complaint, and the ones heard in the above video are somewhat akin to the arguments floated when massive amounts of overdubbing first took off in popular music in the mid-1960s. The early Beatles, at their best, were a tight little rock group, as can be heard on their first album. I believe all of those backing tracks were cut live, and only minimal overdubbing was done to patch up their vocals. But the time of the Sgt. Pepper-era, the Beatles were bringing in session musicians skilled in unusual instruments, whole orchestras, hiring outside arrangers, and their producer George Martin was developing new recording effects and increasingly complex strategies to push the equipment inside EMI’s Abbey Road studios to the very limit of 1966 and ’67-era recording technology. That the Beatles were a cash cow for EMI made it all possible.

20 years later, during the height of the MTV-era, Paul McCartney would release a stripped down, relatively low budget video shot in the London subway tubes to accompany his song “Press” and justify it during interviews by complaining about so many up and coming groups who would simply hiring the trappings of success — expensive cars, flashy clothes, dancing girls, and exotic locales for a day or two worth of video shooting, to make themselves look more successful and wealthier than they really were.

To which, as often is the case, the proper response is…”So?” (Though occasionally, too much Photoshopping can produce rather humorous results when compared to the real thing. But again, so what?)

(Photoshopped into the PJ Lifestyle blog from Ed Driscoll.com.)

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On Atari’s 40th Birthday: The 10 Greatest Atari 2600 Games

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 - by Bryan Preston

On June 27, 1972, Atari Inc. was incorporated in the state of California. That makes today the 40th birthday of the company that pioneered coin-op gaming, and six years later Atari would unleash the Video Computer System, later renamed the 2600.

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The console gaming industry was for all intents and purposes born with the Video Computer System, and home entertainment would never be the same. The console with the one-button joystick and the game cartridge changed everything and introduced some great interactive entertainment along the way. Here are my Top 10 Atari 2600 Games.

10. Realsports Football. Atari’s first football game was horrible. It was barely football at all. But with Realsports Football, Atari tried and mostly succeeded in creating a decent football sim. You only had a Pop Warner size team, but the players looked pretty good and you could do most of the things you could do in the real sports world: Breakaway runs, first downs, passes, interceptions, punts and so forth. The AI was pretty stupid, and before long every player had figured out how to blow it off the field 99-0. But Realsports Football and the other Realsports games foreshadowed the massive Madden, MLB, NBA and FIFA simulation franchises that dominate today.

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9. Missile Command. Defend Cities. ‘Nuff said.

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8. Star Raiders. This game required a pad separate from the joystick to control all the various functions of your space ship. It was way ahead of its time for its complexity and replayability.

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Vitamin Water Needs to Use Porn to Get People Excited to Drink It

Sunday, May 27th, 2012 - by Dave Swindle

I took this photo this morning while out walking Maura:

Last month a pastor in New York City objected to the same billboard in his neighborhood and managed to get it removed:

This offended the eye of pastor Freddy Wyatt, whose Gallery Church operates out of a loft across the street. “I was angered and brokenhearted,” sayeth Wyatt in the New York Post. “This ad takes something that’s pure and precious and just strips it of its value.” Pure?! Ever tried Vitaminwater, Reverend? It’s unholy water. Kidding, of course. He means the nearly naked model. Wyatt appealed to a higher authority, by which I mean he tweeted at the advertiser, asking that the billboard be cast out of the neighborhood. And lo, on April 3—Good Friday, no less—his wishes came to pass. “This is a respectable, honorable, and classy decision on the part of Vitaminwater,” Wyatt says. “Here’s four tweets from a random pastor, and without even a conversation, they took it down.” The advertiser beheld the publicity stemming from its decision, and saw that it was good. Say amen, somebody!

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