Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Fight.Boredom's Terrible Twos

View our top ranked article - Terry Tate, Office LinebackerView our second ranked article - The CogView our third ranked article - Giving the Mitt the Finger
Another year of Fight.Boredom.

Cloudjammer’s humble online webzine has continued to serve the studio both as a creative vocal outlet and marketing tool. New clients have come into the fold after visiting the zine and the traffic to the site has surprised and delighted everyone involved in making each issue a reality. As of this writing, an average of more than 1,600 unique visitors grace Fight.Boredom each month – almost 20,000 total visitors between May 2003 and May 2004 – their numbers continuing to rise!

Indeed, hot topics covered on Fight.Boredom drew volumes of traffic we had never before seen. Our design critiques of Reebok’s Terrible Terry Tate online film campaign (issue 2003.08) and Honda UK’s award winning commercial “The Cog” (issue 2003.07) have together brought more than 3,000 unique visitors to Fight.Boredom.

Fight.Boredom also welcomed guest writers into the fold for the first time in 2003. Matt Francis, CEO of InterScape, Inc, criticized our local chamber of commerce (issue 2003.06) and Will Homiller, of Troutman Sander’s, discussed the love/hate relationship the Atlanta Braves have with success (issue 2003.10).

But for the most part, we stuck to our guns and wrote about what we know. Or at least what we think we know. And the feedback has been encouraging. Our critique “Visual Communication of Grief” (issue 2003.02), regarding the manner by which editorial cartoonists respond to tragedy, specifically the Columbia disaster and 9/11, earned us some of the most considerate and rewarding feedback we’ve ever received. Critique “The Department of Homeland Panic” (issue 2003.04) proved our sometimes irreverent, and always dry, senses of humor were not isolated ones. And our opinion “What’s Missing from the Antiwar Argument” (issue 2003.04) earned us some very aggressive, though not mean-spirited, responses.

But not every topic we’ve covered was a hit. Or even tolerated, for that matter. Our 2003.08 issue, with its opinion article regarding homosexual clergy and a review of Bravo’s "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” actually earned us our first hate mail. Hate mail! I guess this means we’ve made it. Boojah!

What does 2004-2005 hold for our favorite online medium? Changes are in development to expand Fight.Boredom. We’re not going to give it all away here – the upgrades will be phased in one at a time over several months – but we can say this: You’ll have more reason than ever to keep visiting.

We’ll see you there. fb

Some Good News, Damnit

We've had enough.

War. Scandal. Crime. Abuse. A premature election. We just couldn't take it anymore. It's been so bad we can't even watch the evening news anymore.

So we decided to do something about it. We decided to dig up some good news, damnit:

Shrek (not the ogre) – Patrick Greer

I went in a search of a story that could express good news or at least a joyful moment. I wandered around the web looking for stories about puppies or children – or better yet, children hugging puppies (the key to world peace, by the way) – but,
alas, none were to be found. I began lamenting, "Where have all the puppies are gone?" Then I remembered a story that had recently brought a smile to my face. A story of heroism. A story of courage.

The story of a sheep.

Shrek the sheep – named for the loveable Dreamworks movie monster of the same name – was born 10 years ago but only spent the first four years in human hands. It was then that he managed to escape from Bendigo Hill Station on the south island of New Zealand. He lived in a cave in the hills, evading capture and public notice, for six years. Recently, though, Anna Scanlan came running down the hill after seeing a huge shape move near her. Shrek was captured shortly thereafter. After six years in the wild this huge ram's fleece was estimated to weigh 50 lbs – one third as much as the whole sheep!

There was only one thing to do. They called in a master Shearer to remove the fleece. By now Shrek has become an icon of sorts. Pride was found in this giant sheep and the world wanted to see what was to going to happen to him. His shearing was televised as far away as Japan.

When the 50 lbs of raw wool was pulled away, Shrek was reduced to a quarter of fleeced size. The wool, enough to make 20 suits, is going to sold at auction – the proceeds to benefit a Children’s Cancer fund to buy the children puppies. Well, probably not puppies... but I can still dream of world peace. fb

Apple (not the computer) – J.D. Jordan
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin recently named their daughter Apple, adding one more strange child moniker to the overwhelming list of bizarre celebrity baby names.

Where Mr. and Mrs. America turn to the mundane, our celebrities, home-grown and international, look farther afield for unique baby names. For instance, take a look at this list provide by the Social Security Administration of America's favorite baby names:

Top 10 girl names, 2003:
  1. Emily
  2. Emma
  3. Madison
  4. Hannah
  5. Olivia
  6. Abigail
  7. Alexis
  8. Ashley
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Samantha
Top 10 boy names, 2003:
  1. Jacob
  2. Michael
  3. Joshua
  4. Matthew
  5. Andrew
  6. Joseph
  7. Ethan
  8. Daniel
  9. Christopher
  10. Anthony
source: Social Security Administration

Some of these names have great staying power, too. Emily has been the fast favorite for girls for eight years. Jacob has been the most popular boy name for four years (supplanting Michael's reign in 1999). And while these names may be popular, they are a bit boring. Which might explain these celebrity children:
Child : Celebrity Parents
Apple : Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin
Audio Science : Shannyn Sossamon
Banjo : Patrick and Rachel Griffiths
Betty Kitten : Jane Goldman and Jonathan Ross
Blue Angel : Dave Evans (U2's 'The Edge')
Chastity : Sonny and Cher
Denim : Toni Braxton
Dixie Dot : Anna Ryder Richardson
Dweezil : Frank Zappa
Elijah Blue : Cher and Gregg Allman
Elijah Bob Patricus Guggi Q : Bono
Fifi Trixibelle : Paula Yates and Bob Geldof
Freedom : Ving Rhames
George (Jr, III, IV, V, and VI) : George Foreman
Georgetta : George Foreman
Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily : Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence
Jermajesty : Jermaine Jackson
Kyd : Tea Leoni and David Duchovny
Moon Unit : Frank Zappa
Ocean : Forest Whitaker
Peaches Honeyblossom : Paula Yates and Bob Geldof
Pilot Inspektor : Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf
Pixie : Paula Yates and Bob Geldof
Prince Michael I : Michael Jackson
Prince Michael II (Blanket) : Michael Jackson
Racer : Robert Rodriguez
Rebel : Robert Rodriguez
Reignbeau : Ving Rhames
Rocket : Robert Rodriguez
Satchel : Spike Lee/Woody Allen
Seven Sirius : Erykah Badu and Andre Benjamin
Speck Wildhorse : John Cougar Mellencamp
Sonnet : Forest Whitaker
True : Forest Whitaker
Tu Morrow : Rob Morrow
Zowie Bowie : David Bowie

But celebrities are not alone in their quest for unique (if not inane) monikers. It was two ordinary Americans which legally changed their names to Trout Fishing in America and Optimus Prime. One father even named his child v2.0. fb

Face Off (not the movie...sorta) - Fleming Patterson
Did you ever watch the movie “Face Off,” starring, John Travolta and Nicholas Cage? If you did, you'll remember when John Travolta’s character lifted off someone else’s face and surgically attached it in the place of his own, ultimately changing his appearance and taking on someone else’s identity. At the time this movie was released this idea was unheard of but – like so many movie and television concepts before it – it was destined to become a reality.

At the University Of Louisville School Of Medicine a team of 16 to 17 doctors are prepared to do the impossible. They are willing to forge ahead and perform the world's first face transplant. There is just one catch: They have to be approved by several boards before the transforming surgery is done. The doctors in the University of Louisville team are further ahead then most of the competitors and expect the needed approvals within the next year.

Why someone would want to have a face transplant? In Hollywood you may want to change your identity, but in the medical world there are many cases where patients were mauled by dogs, severely burned, or somehow disfigured. These patients are striving to regain a normal life, a life they once had that has now been so dramatically changed.

Are there psychological consequences for face transplant patients? This is one of many ethical questions hindering this surgical advancement. Of course, one may have problems coping with the thought of having someone else’s facial tissue grafted on, replacing the face they were born with. But the benefits of this surgery are endless when a patient wants to lead a somewhat normal life.

Is it truly possible to lift someone's face off and implant it identically on someone else’s skull? At present this form of procedure is impossible – nor is there any medical doctor who publicly wants to accomplish it. Individual skeletal structures are very different from person to person – when facial tissue is reapplied you would get a much different look.

A similar procedure has been done before. The findings were published in the May 29 issue of "New Scientist." A patient’s face had been disfigured but was successfully reattached. With this precedent, doctors began to explore the possibility of attaching facial tissue and blood vessels from a donor cadaver to a new live patient in much the same way.

People tend to forget that even though things may be “Hollywood” that certain dreams and depictions may become a reality. The great reality of this situation is not that one could change their identity but that a real patient can get their identity back without having to hide from the normal life they once had. fb

How Launch Beat Me

Yahoo has tried many ways to get my money.

It tried selling me advertising and sponsored results on their search engine (the pre-Google best-of-the-web). It tried to get me to subscribe to their myriad game services, a delightful collection of small web-based games that, alas, won’t run on my Macintosh (shame, shame…)

But they finally got me. I fell for it completely. In one moment I went from bitter online cynic to an ideal e-commerce customer.

The culprit: Launch.

Once sales of advertising on Yahoo's web sites, the company's biggest revenue-source, began to decline in 2001, the company looked to generate more revenue from subscription services, such as their online games. In early 2003, after settling a copyright infringement lawsuit with Sony Corp.'s music unit, Yahoo released the current incarnation of Launch, a service that allows users to stream music and music videos over the Web using Microsoft’s Windows Media Player format.

Launch offers users the chance – for free – to customize their own Web radio and music-video stations and tune in to 24-hour programming on a wide variety of niche channels devoted to everything from show tunes to one-hit wonders. A subscriber-based commercial-free version of Launch's Internet-radio service is offered for $3.99 a month ($35.99 a year).

The site is designed to appeal to users who listen to more than 30 hours of music per month – and it appears to have hit home. By the end of 2003, already logged 12 million listener-hours per month with its free radio service alone. In the same period Launch delivered over one billion music videos over the Internet – nine million monthly users streaming more than 110 million music videos each month.

Damn. Kinda smashes Fight.Boredom’s visitation stats…

But our interest in Launch lies not in what it promises or how often it is used. We’re interested in how well it works and how they transformed us into an ideal online customer so effortlessly.

We have few complaints about how well it works and is designed. The login process is painless and, amazingly, returns you to the very page (even if it is in another window) you had to leave to login. We’re glad to see that Yahoo, with its tens-of-millions of subscribers, has nailed this one on the head.

Creating new radio and video stations is effortless. For the free radio station, an initial checklist of genres and artists establishes your basic preferences. And they can be as varied as you like – mixing Led Zeppelin, Louis Armstrong, Nirvana, Gypsy Kings, Weezer, and Glenn Miller was no trouble.

The music video system skips this step but both video and radio stations are intuitive in their customization once they start playing. As a song or video plays you have the option to rank it both by artist and song in a spectrum of preference extending from four stars to “never play again”. This dual choice allows for powerful customization. It even allows me to have Britney’s “Toxic” (artist rank, “never play again”; song rank, four stars) in my list without getting a flood of her squeaky pop on my screen.

If you want to find out more about an artist, every video and song allows you to visit their Launch artist page, in another window, where you can access their complete library of songs and videos.
But the site is not without detractions.

The free video player, for instance, runs for about an hour and then will inexplicably stop (requiring a “refresh” to get it started again. You’re also likely to suffer through the same Miller Lite commercial two or three times an hour. As for the radio service, it has a wider variety of music than the video station but will eventually crash your Internet Explorer, requiring you to return to launch and login again. Oh, and did I mention that this service isn't Mac compatible? (Damn you, Yahoo...)

So much for its design. Here’s how Yahoo’s Launch whipped me:

I signed up for Launch’s free service using my existing Yahoo account (which I’d totally forgotten about) and began creating my custom music video station. Lo and behold, as I worked all night on (insert client name here)’s website a music video came on that I’d never seen before: “Dark of the Matinee” by Franz Ferdinand. I’d heard of them but had never listened to their music. I liked it.

Here begins the roller coaster of online commerce.

I clicked to Launch’s artist page for Franz Ferdinand. I watched another video and an interview. I linked directly to their website and read about the band. I found out about their new album. I checked their tour dates. I linked from the band’s site to Ticketmaster and (despite Ticketmaster’s pure dark evil and poor interface design) found tickets for their June Cotton Club gig in Atlanta. I bought two tickets, bounced back to Launch (which was playing the whole time in the background), and waited for the next new artist to pop on screen.

It took less than ten minutes. If only they’d linked up with the iTunes music store I could have had the album too (Best Buy came to my rescue, there). And it wasn’t an isolated instance either…only self-restraint kept it all from happening again the next day when I discovered Death Cab for Cutie.

That’s how it happened. That’s how Yahoo beat me. Watch out. They’ll get you too. fb