And this is why Japan is the coolest…

SLP spent a semester in Japan in college, and a high school friend of hers moved there permanently. From the stories I’ve heard from them, along with things like the restaurant where you get what the person before you ordered and, of course, Turn It Around!! I’m left with the distinct impression that in Japan weirdness is embraced in a way that would delight me, but which seems to be beyond the tolerance (or perhaps the comprehension) of the average American.

Anyway, that big set-up was just to say that if you asked me to name a country where someone might train a pet penguin to wear a backpack and walk to the fish market every day to pick up dinner, I’d have a pretty good guess.

The strangest thing to me about this video (well, aside from the obvious, which is… all of it) is that when they interview the woman in the shop, what she says is dubbed into English, whereas the rest of the video doesn’t even have English subtitles. (Then again, and I don’t know my Asian languages very well, it doesn’t sound to me like the reporter is speaking Japanese. Maybe this video has been dubbed multiple times.)

iPad: Son of Newton

There’s some buzz going around concerning Apple’s new iPad commercial and its similarity to one Apple produced for the Newton two decades ago. Though I’m not the first to comment on this, I have a few thoughts of my own, so here goes…

First, let’s watch both commercials. I did not remember this (apparently) “classic” (in John Gruber’s words) ad for the Newton:

Now, watch Apple’s new iPad ad:

Wow. Homage indeed. I doubt very many people remember the Newton commercial, but the iPad commercial is stunningly similar. This had to be deliberate, but I’m wondering what exactly that deliberateness is supposed to mean.

Well, I’ll tell you this: watching the two ads back-to-back, I’m left feeling that a) the Newton really was way ahead of its time, and b) the Newton ad seems like one of those futuristic concept videos Apple (among other computer makers) seemed to love producing in the 1980s.

Newton was a vision of the future. iPad is the reality. That Newton actually became a shipping product says a lot about Apple’s ability to realize its vision (compared to the long line of never-to-be-made concepts that have come from Microsoft over the years, most recently… well… this). But the Newton was too far ahead of its time. Then again, it ushered in the PDA era, which ushered in the “smartphone” era, which led to the iPhone and now the iPad. So maybe Apple was really seeding (if you’ll pardon the pun) its own future with the Newton.

There are two key lines that for me define the difference between the two ads:

“Newton can receive a page and sends faxes and, soon, electronic mail.”

“(iPad is) 200,000 apps and counting. All the world’s websites in your hands.”

Granted, paging and faxing were still relevant technologies when the Newton was released, but they were already doomed, and the best Apple could say was that “soon” Newton could handle “electronic mail” (even then, using a soon-to-be-antiquated term). In contrast, the iPad hits the ground running, leveraging the existing success of the iPhone, and with forward momentum for future technologies. Newton was about what could be, but iPad is.

The Shining: happy version

Apparently this brilliant mock trailer for the “happy version” of The Shining has been on YouTube for 3 years, but I just discovered it in a post on Brand New, cited as an effective metaphor for the horrible decision of the merged United and Continental airlines to simply merge their logos as well.

Anyway… wow. This trailer really messed with my brain. Watch:

The most disturbing part for me was that for most of it, I believed it was a real trailer. I was too young when The Shining came out to be able to remember the marketing campaign for it, but I’ve seen enough late-’70s and early-’80s movie trailers as bonus features on DVDs to recognize the dippy narration as de rigeur for the era.

It wasn’t until I heard a brief snippet of my favorite piano motif from the soundtrack of The Shawshank Redemption that I realized it was fake… and then moments later, when “Solsbury Hill” (a song that at least existed when the movie was made) came in, the conceit went over the top — funny, but obvious.

Regardless, this is a brilliant piece of work. In addition to being hilarious, it shows how you can twist an assortment of brief clips from a movie to tell just about any story you want. (It also helps explain why trailers can be effective in selling tickets for a crap movie… which The Shining, of course, is not.)

The coup de grâce is the way the voiceover says “Shining” at the end.


I was never into KISS back when it was “cool” to be into KISS. I never had any of their records as a kid, no lunchbox or any other merchandise. Yet somewhere along the way (specifically, it was on a Minneapolis public access channel in late 1998 — I remember because it was during the month after I had moved back to Minneapolis from California but SLP had not yet joined me) I saw this old clip of them performing “Deuce” live in 1975 and was strangely captivated by it. I think it’s the synchronized head-bobbing thing Gene and Paul do starting at around 1:53 in this clip. Ridiculous, yet infectious: that’s the magic of KISS.

I was listening to some KISS this morning (I have their 4-disc IKONS boxed set), and when this song came on, I just had to seek out the video I remembered so well.