Last Chance

Maggie and I spent way too much time and money at the Toys R Us going out of business sale.

I’m not glad to see them go. I’m certainly not looking forward to the near future day when our only retail choices are Amazon and Walmart. And dedicated toy stores are just plain fun, even if you’re not buying anything.

Without TRU, where are we going to buy loud toys with easy-to-step on sharp edges for our nephew? It’s just not the same buying a properly sibling-annoying Seussian instrument online. It’s hard to get a good sense for just how loud it will be and how many rooms of the house it’ll fill.

But I digress.

The sale is a wonderful experience in that “piles of stuff you never knew you needed at prices you’ll never see again” way that’s normally only found in bottom-of-the-line junk shops.

And I do mean piles. Nobody’s reshelving anything. Small items wander all over the store, and larger ones migrate three or four aisles away from their starting places before people decide they’re too heavy and dump them.

Don’t assume all the items on a hanging rack are the same, because they’re probably not. Check the back of the bottom shelf. Check between the shelves. Don’t bother looking for prices. Most of the shelf tags are missing; just assume whatever you grab is going to be cheap.

Like 2-inch Kawaii Cubes, normally $5, now $0.98 to $2.

03-1
“Crossy Roads” Penguin–who doesn’t love a purple penguin?–and “Teen Titans Go!” Starfire make a nice couple, don’t they? (I was hoping for a Raven to go with Starfire, but no such luck. Pengy-san is a reasonably adequate Plan B.)

03-2
How about a Star Trek trio: Lt. Uhura, Spock, and an Orion Slave Girl.

I got a matched set of six-inch Ren and Stimpy plushes for $3 each (normally $8). But I turned down a Powdered Toast Man. Which should concern me more: that one can buy a PTM plush or that all these years later, I still remember what “PTM” stands for?

The “SpacePOP: Not Your Average Princesses” board game, which I think I’ll use to horrify my friends at next month’s games night.

03-3
More Powerpuff Girls and DC Super Hero Girls figurines than I should really admit to having–though I think the Wonder Woman poster from last year’s movie redeems my taste somewhat.

03-4
I couldn’t resist Poison Ivy’s sly, cynical smirk.

And several other things I can only describe as “random shelf flotsam”.

So, if you’ve got a small, tchotchke-shaped empty space in your soul, hoof it on over to your local Toys R Us before the lock the doors later this week.

And if you find a cuddly, cubical Raven, grab it for me, would you? Thanks.

No. Just, No.

My apologies for starting the new year on a negative note, but there are dark clouds on the horizon*, and it’s best to buy umbrellas before the rain arrives. Bear with me while I point out a few things that need to be stopped before they become problems.

* That’s figuratively speaking. Literally, the clouds are here and so is the rain. California still needs water, but it’s nice to see the fill line moving up instead of down.

BBC America is about to start rerunning the latest season’s episodes of Doctor Who. I’ve got no problem with that at all. What I do take exception to is the plan to overlay the show with fan art, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook posts (I presume the latter two will be heavily edited for length), and BBC-provided nuggets of information (or, my cynical side suggests, “blocks of text superficially resembling information”).

There’s a place for tweets and blog posts. That place is on their original services. If I need to find out which random people I’ve never heard of want a new sonic screwdriver–and yes, that is one of the examples in the promotional announcement–I’ll go to Twitter myself. Ditto for pen and ink drawings of the guest stars–another example.

Before you dismiss my concern by telling me to just not watch the reruns, consider (a) the desperate need for network executives to continually come up with new ways to “engage” viewers, and (b) the popularity of live tweeting TV shows. If BBC America’s little experiment is anything but an abject failure, how long will it be before every new episode has one or more designated live tweeters’ output overlaid on the broadcast? Hint: the new season won’t start for several months (anywhere from three to seven if recent history is any guide). That’s plenty of time for the BBC to choose their torturerstweeters.

Please, don’t watch these so-called “Doctor’s Notes” and urge your friends not to watch them as well. Only a ratings disaster can save us from this potential scourge.

Moving on.

It’s probably too late to prevent this one. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is being remade for TV. And, lest you think this isn’t as stupid an idea as ever was thought, yes, it’s a remake of the movie, not a televised production of the stage musical. That latter might actually make some sense, in the spirit of the recent live TV productions of other musicals.

As I said, this one’s probably unstoppable. It’s been in the works long enough that the stars’ identities are being released. In fact, the first release was back in October. (Damned if I know how I missed that announcement.)

Let’s get real, here. Much of the appeal of Rocky Horror is its interactive nature. Even if the script is rewritten and updated (a repellent concept in itself), how is Fox going to encourage viewers to interact with the production? Are they taking notes on BBC America’s little experiment? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

If you think I’m being alarmist, consider how many people use pay-per-call 900 telephone numbers to vote on talent-based shows. Think Fox wouldn’t consider a “Text your joke to see it in a banner at the bottom of the screen” approach if they could charge 99 cents a message? Anyone think they haven’t already considered it?

End of civilization–to the extent that television is civilization–approaches.

Moving on again.

News out of CES is that Harman and Microsoft are collaborating to put Microsoft Office-based information in automobile information/entertainment systems.

Apparently we’re not talking spreadsheets and word processors here, fortunately. But the last thing the any driver needs is more distractions. I long ago gave up counting the days in which I wasn’t nearly killed by another driver doing something stupid: there just weren’t enough of them for me to keep track. Now I count how many times I’m nearly killed every day*. Give those drivers the opportunity to listen to e-mail, dictate replies, schedule meetings, and participate in Skype meetings and nobody will ever be safe on the road again.

* The current average is a smidge under one near-accident for every two miles driven.

I’m probably killing my chances of ever again finding gainful employment by saying this, but there is not a single job in which distracting drivers by sending them meeting reminders and requiring them to participate in the meeting while they’re on the road could possibly be important enough that they should be allowed to risk my life. Regardless of what passengers might do, for the person behind the wheel, the job has to stop until the car is parked with the engine off!

Let’s end this on a cheerier note.

Gizmodo–home of the reasoned response–is up in arms over an announcement by Fisher-Price that they’ll soon be selling a toy to teach preschoolers how to code.

Sounds horrid, doesn’t it?

The reality is rather less dreadful. The “Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar” is a motorized toy that can be programmed to travel different paths by rearranging its segments, i.e. a forward arrow segment will send it forward for a set distance, then control will pass to the next segment; if that’s a “turn left” piece, the critter will–surprise!–turn left.

According to Fisher-Price, this will teach kids “thinking skills, problem solving and sequencing”. Apparently, it will also teach them to omit commas, but I digress.

I’ve got news for Gizmodo: toys like this have been around since my long-vanished teen years. I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve taught anyone “thinking skills”. My nephew is too old for the Code-A-Pillar (and not quite old enough to be interested in hacking one), but if he were several years younger, I wouldn’t hesitate to get him one–and see how long it took him to deliberately program it to fall down the stairs.

Frankly, from a “won’t somebody think of the children” perspective, I’m more concerned about Magis’ Me Too My First Office. Do we really need to turn pre-teens into cubicle dwellers?

I Shall Have My Revenge

Yuki and The Knife

Yuki held the catnip knife tightly.

“I shall have my revenge,” he thought. “I have no idea what I’m taking revenge for, but I shall have it.”

He licked the handle again.

“As soon as they go to bed, I’ll… I’ll…”

Another lick, just to sharpen his memory.

“I’ll leap onto the bed and fall asleep on their feet! Yeah, that’s it! That’ll show them!”

He began to drool on the knife’s blade as he drifted off in a catnip-scented doze.