flotsam/jetsam


Wikipedia’s List of International Faux Pas by jimmycanuck
November 12, 2006, 9:15 am
Filed under: links, lists

Over in the Smart Canucks forums, Boo Radley has posted a link to a really great find on wikipedia – a list of proper ettiquette and cultural anomolies in every major region of the world.

By far, the most interesting part for me was the list for Canada.  It’s amazing how many things you assume are hard and fast social rules around the world are really just localized to your area. 

A few highlights from the Canadian list;

  • – Canadians are extremely polite when it comes to mild physical faux pas such as stepping on feet or bumping into others. Often both parties will briefly apologise, including the person who was bumped. Use of the word “sorry” in this context is equivalent to “excuse me”; it should not be considered a submissive gesture.
  • – Failing to hold a door open for another person is seen as very impolite, especially when doing so would require no special effort.
  • – The common American custom of responding to a thank-you with “uh-huh” is very disconcerting for Canadians. In Canada, “uh-huh” is a colloquial way to respond to a yes or no question; in any other context it is a sarcastic response. For example, to use it in response to a thank-you implies disbelief, or that the person saying thanks is not sincere. For English-speaking Canadians, the only correct response to “thank you” is “you’re welcome”. [This can become annoying if you are an American server in a restaurant with Canadian customers. They will thank you for every water pour; every moment of attention you give them.] Although uttering “Uh-huh” is a regionally acceptable American substitute for “you’re welcome” this is considered very rude to Canadians.

The list contains just about every part of the world you can think of  – definitely a fun read for a Sunday morning.  I love how polite we Canadians are.  🙂



20 Things You Didn’t Know About Sesame Street by jimmycanuck
November 11, 2006, 6:32 pm
Filed under: lists, tv

Sesame street workshop

I had a little spare time this afternoon, so I got to surfing around wikipedia and learned a ton of neat facts and trivia about everyone’s favourite childrens program.  20 great facts below;

1. Baby Bear is Jewish.

2. The Count is nearly two million years old.

3. The Count’s laugh after counting each number was discontinued over concerns of it frightening children.

4.  In 1985, Snuffeupagus ceased to be a creature only Big Bird can see.  The reason?  Concerns that adults not believing Big Bird about Snuffy would lead to children being afraid to speak out about sexual abuse.

5.  In the first season, Grover was brown, not blue.

 

 

6. Cookie Monster predates Sesame Street by 3 years.  He began his life as “The Wheel Stealer” in an unaired General Foods commercial, and went on to become involved in an IBM training film and a commercial for Munchos, where he went under the name “Arnold the Munching Monster.”  Back in these early days, he had a big set of sharp teeth and seemed a little more terrifying to kiddies than the friendly blue monster we all know and love.

7. During his first season in 1979, Telly was known as “The Television Monster.”  He had an antenna on the top of his head and his eyes would spin around whenever he watched TV.  In 1980 he was revamped into the worrywart we’ve all gotten used to.

8. Rosita, the only Hispanic Muppet on Sesame Street, is actually a fruit bat.

9.  In the first season, Oscar the Grouch was orange, not green.

10. In 1970, a single was released of Ernie singing “Rubber Duckie.”  It reached #16 on the Billboard chart.

 

11.  Bert and Ernie aren’t gay.  Get over it.  Sesame Workshop has gone on record about this.

12.  The pilot episode of Sesame Street that was screen tested in front of a number of families in July 1969 featured only one Muppet sketch.  It involved Bert and Ernie.  This was the only part of the show that tested well, so the show was retooled to focus more heavily on the Muppets, and to have them interact with human characters as well.

13.  After Jim Henson’s death in 1989, only a handful of “News Flash” segments, which prominently featured Kermit the Frog, were created.  In 2001, the sketches, both old and new, were abandoned completely.

14. Guy Smiley’s real name is Bernie Liederkrantz.

15.  The fat blue muppet that always plays a customer to Grover’s waiter has a name befitting his appearance – Fat Blue.

 

 

16. In 2002, a the South African version of Sesame Street, an HIV-positive muppet was introduced in 2002.  Kami is a five year old girl that became HIV-positive through a blood transfusion as an infant.  Her name is derived from the word “Kamogelo,” which means “acceptance” in several African languages.

17.  Contrary to popular belief, Big Bird is not a canary.  He’s a Golden Condor.

18.  Although the character of Elmo didn’t debut until 1984, the Elmo puppet was used regularly as a background Muppet since the early 1970’s.

19.  Barkley was originally intended to be an acrobatic ape rather than a sheep dog.  As well, he was called Woof Woof at first, only being called Barkley after several appearances.

20.  Ken Kwapis, the director of the 1985 Sesame Street film “Follow That Bird,” went on to be involved in the creation of such cultural TV landmarks as The Larry Sanders Show and the The Office.



The 8 Greatest TV Openings of All Time by jimmycanuck
November 11, 2006, 12:03 pm
Filed under: lists, tv, youtube

It’s been feeling a little video gamey around here lately, so I thought I should try and break up the monotony with a little trip to TV Land.  And so without further adieu, I give you the 8 Greatest TV Openings of All Time, in no particular order, as picked by me.

 

Knight Rider

Did anyone catch The Hoff on America’s Got Talent?  Turns out he’s legally retarded.  How in the fuck did we not see that one coming?

 

Sesame Street

Despite the 8 million Sesame Street videos on youtube, apparently the only opening they had in English was the vintage 1969 one.  All the rest were in freaky European languages you’ve never heard of – like Swedish, and Dutch.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself.

 

The Brady Bunch

Ever since I learned that Robert Reed died of AIDS, I’ve been calling it “a case of the Mike Brady’s.”  It may seem mean, but hey – that’s what you get for fucking around on Florence Henderson in bus station bathrooms.

 

Transformers

Giant. Fucking. Robots.  If you need to question why this is on the list, I hope your car turns into a gun-toting goliath of steel and glass and crushes your meaty little body during the transformation.

 

The A-Team

If I was a Vietnam vet on the run for a crime I didn’t commit, I’d go to Mexico and bang hookers like Willem Dafoe in Born on the Fourth.

 

The Flintstones

I don’t know who decided that turning a show about beating your wife into a stone age cartoon was a good idea, but if I ever find out I’m going to give that man a hug.

 

The Muppet Show

Seriously – what the fuck was Gonzo?

 

Doctor Who

“And the award for TV Opening Most Likely to induce Seizures goes to….”  Listen – it may be a trippy mess, but the opening to Doctor Who has one of the most memorable TV theme songs EVER.  I was lucky enough to stumble across this video on youtube that ties every Doctor Who opening, from first to last, together in one clip.  Enjoy!

 

Disagree with the list?  Let me know what you think.



Best of the Wii – Top 8 Launch Titles by jimmycanuck
November 5, 2006, 1:19 pm
Filed under: gadgets, gaming, lists, shopping, youtube

Early adopters of the Wii are in for a real treat. This system boasts more launch titles than any other day one in the history of gaming – 26 games to be exact. But that doesn’t mean all of them will be good. From sloppy ports to bad licenses, this launch has it all. We’re going to try to help you sort though all of the trash. What follows below are the 8 best titles you can walk in to stores and bring home with your brand new system.

I’ve broken them up into two categories – A-list games and B-list games. A-listers are the title’s that are really being pumped up as the best of the best on day one. They’re filling a niche that every gamer wants filled, or are getting the push from Nintendo to get into your console on day one. B-list games are definitely one’s worth considering bringing home, but whether because of skepticism on the part of the gaming public or a lack of a push from their publisher, probably won’t fly off store shelves. I’ve posted video’s of each. because as you’ve no doubt realized, gameplay speaks louder than words. Some of the videos are from demonstrations, others are trailers, and other’s are just videos of gameplay. No matter what the content though, these videos should give you a better peak into the world of each game than any words ever could.

The A-List

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – This is a game that needs no introduction. It’s the very, very, very long-awaited next entry in the Zelda franchise, and according to those in the know it’s the best in the series. Even better than Ocarina of Time, a game that many people consider the best game of all time. This is the Wii’s Halo – a must-own title that no gamer will be leaving the store without. I’ll actually be pre-ordering my copy today just to make sure I get one.

Red Steel – Best described as a first person samurai game in the world of modern day Yakuza, this title is a lot closer to Kill Bill in atmosphere than say, Seven Samurai. For a while there, it looked like this was going to be an overhyped dud, but Ubisoft took the complaints people were voicing about the game after E3 to heart, and have put together a game that seems to be surprising all of the people who had previously been disappointed with it. As such, Red Steel has gone from a game that had fallen off of a lot of gamers radar completely to being one of the top picks in the launch day line-up.

Excite Truck – The spiritual successor to the NES classic ExciteBike doesn’t seem to have much in common with it forefather. To be completely honest, it doesn’t even look that good. Like a fast paced but incredibly forgiving racer – something ideal for the 8 year old gamer demographic. It’s been getting a huge push from Nintendo, and as the only other first party title available at launch, I’d expect nothing else.

Call of Duty 3 – Call of Duty 2 became one of the first must-own titles of the XBox 360 launch, and it looks like Activision is trying to repeat that success. Being the only true first person shooter available at launch (Red Steel is more of a first person adventure with occasional gunplay) they’ve got a pretty good chance. After all, having your wiimote double as a Luger is what it’s all about for some gamers.

The B-List

Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam – Branching out into new territories isn’t something the Tony Hawk series is famous for. That’s why it’s such a surprise to see that Downhill Jam, unlike previous entries in the series, is actually a racing title. The premise is neat, and I’m all for trying new things, but breaking formula like this is risky business. It could either turn out to be a dud, or worse yet, it could be a great game that no one tries because they’ve pre-judged it as a bad idea from the start.

Trauma Center: Second Opinion – Atlus games has committed one of the worst crimes against humanity in the last hundred years. They’ve coined the term “wii-make.” Expect to hear this awful pun for years to come, anytime anything gets ported to the Wii. The original Trauma Center is one of my favourite DS titles – it’s basically a surgery simulator with a bit of an X-Files-ish storyline. It’s one major flaw was it’s insane level of difficulty. In bringing it to the Wii Atlus has added more cases, new tools, and best of all, included several difficulty options that should fix this. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a great game – but the chances that many people will be bringing it home are slim to none.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz – People either love or hate the Monkey Ball series. It’s basically Marble Madness for the 21st century with a helpless monkey trapped in a ball. And since nobody calls the ASPCA on virtual critters, the series has continued to see moderate success in several installments. The controls – you tilt the world around the monkey to roll him in the direction you want – seem like a perfect fit for the Wii. Even those of us who weren’t partial to the series before might want to give it a try – but chances are we won’t. This is definitely a title that makes good use of the wiimote, but as an established series with it’s own fanbase and haters already in place, I don’t see the sales numbers changing much from what they’ve been previously.

Rayman: Raving Rabbids – Despite how much this video makes it look like a fairly standard platformer, most reviews have lead me to believe this is a title made up various minigames, all strung together. Maybe there’s a little platforming in between? I don’t know. Everything I’ve seen and read makes me want to play this game, but there’s a part of me that thinks it will have a hard time living up to the moderate amount of hype it’s been given. I’ll be waiting to hear the reviews on this one before I pick it up, and I’m sure a lot of other gamers will too.

Honorary Mention

Wii Sports – I had to include Wii Sports on this list because, even though it’s a free game that’s packed in with the console, I would’ve gladly paid good money for this on day one if it hadn’t been. A first party title that includes a variety of sports – tennis, boxing, bowling, baseball, and golf – and makes some phenomenal use of the wiimote, it’s hard to not want to include this in your library. Would it have been an A-list game? B-List? It’s hard to say – just because I wanted it in my collection doesn’t mean everybody would. During E3, everyone was excited about this game, but overtime people have begun to treat it with a smattering of disdain that all pack-in games tend to get. Hopefully when they all get it home and try it out, they’ll be just as excited as me.

For a complete list of everything available at launch, check out this post over at Kotaku.



Leading the Google Driven Life; A List by jimmycanuck
October 23, 2006, 6:06 pm
Filed under: links, lists

I’ve recently read a post over at LifeHacker that’s inspired me. It’s a list of the top 10 open source applications. A very cool idea, and it got me to thinking – what other great free programs and services do I use on a regular basis that I can let everybody know about?

As it turns out, an awful lot. Over the next few days I’ll be making a number of posts listing the best free everything on the web. I wasn’t too sure where to start, and Google seemed as good a place as any.

Obviously you know Google. Chances are it’s been your search engine of choice for years. But do you know about all of the awesome things they offer besides searching the web?

1. GmailGoogle’s answer to Hotmail. It’s web based email with a twist – everything you’ve every received is taggable and searchable! Believe me, once you get used to just archiving everything you read and doing a keyword search to find it again later, you’ll never see mail the same way again. Plus when you have it open, it integrates it’s own miniversion of their next great product right into your browser…

2. Google TalkGoogle’s answer to instant messaging. Up until now, like most Canadians, I’ve sworn by Live Messenger (better known as MSN Messenger to those of you that don’t update.) But now I’m slowly but surely moving over to Google Talk. Not only does it seems less obstructive visually (that commonplace sleek minimalist google design is present here as with everything they touch), but Google Talk can tell me when I have new gmail and even make gmail my default mail program! Up until now I’ve had to use third-party programs to get that sort of functionality, but thank to GoogleTalk I don’t have all of those extras cluttering up my system tray. Oh – and did I mention that you can leave people voicemail with it too?

3. BloggerGoogle’s answer to web-hosted blogging. Blogger has everything a novice blogger might want and more. The only things it was lacking which lead to me choosing wordpress.com over it – tagging, point’n’click customization, etc.. – seem to be getting their kinks worked out in the new Blogger Beta. Plus, it’s the only web-based blogging service I know of that will let you get down and dirty and fiddle with your blog’s code to get things looking exactly how you want.

4. Google Web AcceleratorGoogle’s answer to your nano-second-like impatience. When it first debuted, Web Accelerator got a bad wrap. There was a lot of talk of flaws in the system that could expose the innermost secrets of your surfing history – credit card numbers, etc – and as a result, a lot of people wisely steered clear of it. Well, those early days ended pretty quickly, and Web Accelerator has been a solid and stable addition to my desktop for ages. A great way to shave a few seconds off of every page load – and it even keeps track of how much time you’ve saved! Before I switched over to my laptop, I was well over 30 days saved. Really adds up, doesn’t it?

5. Google MapsGoogle’s answer to MapQuest. Not only does Google Maps offer the same basic functionality as every other web-based map program out there (find locations, directions, etc..), it’ll even act as your yellow pages. Want to go out for pizza tonight? Just pop open Google Maps, go to your area (which you can set as a default), and enter “pizza.” You’ll see every place in the area, all with tooltips to give you address, phone number, and a website link if applicable. How we lived before Google Maps, I’ll never know. Plus — there are thousands and thousands of cool user-created hacks involving Google Maps. Everything from finding cheap gas to getting bus schedule information. It’s everything the internet is supposed to be about.

6. Google Docs & Spreadsheets Google’s answer to Microsoft Office. Have you ever been working on a paper or been organizing a budget and wished you had access to it somewhere else? How about a document or a spreadsheet you were working on with others, and you want somewhere central to store it where everyone can work on it? Yep – Google’s got you covered.

7. PicasaGoogle’s answer to amateur photography. Picasa is a strange little program – it does a lot of things, but at the same time it doesn’t do a lot. This may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but really, it is. When it comes to dealing with photos online, I think the “Keep-It-Simple-Stupid” school of thought really rings true for most people. Picasa offers some basic photo editing, basic organization, and basic web albums for sharing online. It’s definitely geared at the entry-level camera owner, but it’s slick presentation and and simple organization of photos offers something that even advanced photo junkies can appreciate.

8. Google DesktopGoogle’s answer to widgets. For one little program, Google Desktop offers an awful lot. So much so that it can be a little overwhelming at first. The reason for this is simple – Google has tried to roll two very different programs into one, and for the most part, it works. First and foremost, Desktop is a search engine for your PC. It automatically searches and stores every nook and cranny of your computer, so when you’re looking for that one file, or just wondering if you’ve ever written down that recipe for Raisin Bread (one loaf of bread, one box of raisins, one hammer) – the information will be at your fingertips. In addition, Google Desktop is also trying to steal some thunder from Konfabulator, aka the widget people. A widget is basically a teeny tiny mini application that does one thing, does it on your desktop, and does it well. Want a laundry timer on your desktop? Done. Want a clock? A weather update? A to do list? Done. Widgets make all of life’s little things more visible, and now Google’s tackled them. With all of that being said, I have Desktop installed for one reason alone – when I double-click CTRL, it brings up a google search bar that’ll search my pc and the web simultaneously. You just can’t beat that level of convenience.

9. Google ReaderGoogle’s answer to newsreaders. Hands down, the best web-based newsreader out there. Not only can you both tag and share your incoming feeds and articles, but Google Reader gives you a snazzy little summary of everything that’s new for you right on the main page. Plus, it comes with it’s own little audio player built in for listening to podcasts.

10. Google GroupsGoogle’s answer to 1992. Remember newsgroups? Places where people got together with like minded interests to chat it up? Places with names like “alt.goats.sex”? Well, they never actually went away, and Google’s made taking advantage of them super easy. I actually went back to newsgroups earlier this year when trying to track down some info on building a home arcade. Nowhere else in the world could I have gotten the quality expert advice I got from rec.games.video.arcade.collecting. On top of newsgroups, Google Groups also offers services similar to those offered by MSN Groups, so if you’re looking for somewhere to find like minded folks to talk about whatever with, this is a good place to start.

Conclusion – There are so many great Google programs that I didn’t have room to list all of them here. Expect a Part 2 to follow one of these days. In the meantime, this should be a good list to get some of you out there exploring the world…as brought to you by Google. 😉