Konichiwa! Pasocon desu!

It finally happened: An Apple commercial made me laugh. It may have something to do with the fact that it’s in another language, and that Mac doesn’t come off like quite the annoying prick he does elsewhere. But I give them credit — this is a funny ad.

The whole Japanese campaign works better for me than the obnoxious North American/UKnian one. Mac isn’t held out to be some ultra-hip asshole, and PC isn’t such a shocking loser. The problem is that you can’t brag about your accomplishments and your strengths in Japan, so you have to be more subtle about it; basically, what the campaign is saying is that Mac is a much calmer, more relaxed, more enjoyable person, while PC is a bit like your excitable younger brother. Mac isn’t the condescending jackass he is in North America; PC isn’t portrayed as such a fucking loser. (I could also talk about the different ways the two refer to themselves (the Japanese language has a lot of different ways to say “I,” most of which come into play through the various ads), but that’s a bit out of my depth — I don’t speak Japanese that well.) The subtleties of the interaction will be lost on a lot of non-Japanese speakers, but it’s very clear that the spirit behind this series of ads is one of harmony rather than superiority.

I still think the ads themselves are bogus. The premise is essentially flawed — it’s a technology choice, not a moral question. But this is a much less irritating way of making the case. I like it.

(As if that opinion carried any weight whatsoever…)

Hey! iPhone fanboys! Over here!

This is a really good question:

I don’t understand why Apple made the iPhone deal with AT&T, since AT&T is – and I’m just going to say this [-] the company rightly most notorious for giving the worst people in the federal government an extra-legal spinal tap into our communications systems as part of project so massively unconstitutional and, almost certainly, abused, that lawsuits by the ACLU and EFF can’t even penetrate the protective layers of paranoia that protect it from disclosure. …

AT&T won’t see another dollar in my life unless it’s drawn involuntarily from me. But I’m obviously not in good company. How many people have contributed to EFF and bought an iPhone? How can the early adopters, the people how are most eager to see the future, see the beauty in the gadget and not the ugliness inherent in their purchase? How can people camp out, looking forward to a product that won’t happen, and not see what happens when privacy comes at only at the discretion of the least ethical credentialed federal agent? How can you spend money to be guaranteed that your every communication through that device is being monitored?

Yeah! (pumps fists)

Yeah, but the SOFTWARE…

It has come to my understanding that Apple software contains no cryptic error messages:

I mean, the platform is error-message neutral. What they’re really trying to say is that Apple software does not contain cryptic error messages, that their error messages are helpful and informative.

Oh yeah? So do you think I could get iTunes to explain to me exactly what the hell “Disc burner or software not found…” means? Or maybe (and this might be my favorite, ever) this:

The last failed audio CD burn had error code -128(0xffffff80). It happened on drive on -128(0xffffff80) media at speed 0X.

Yeah, not so much. WTF?

Seriously, Apple? Go shove that sanctimony right up your Firewire port, ok? Ok.

Dr. Hazmat,
(should note the actual windows burning applications work just fine, thanks)

You guys are in big trouble

is going through a discovery of the absolute total brilliance of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. I’m having the same experience. It’s awesome. Part of me wishes I could forget I know about the show so I can experience it again from scratch, it’s so good. Battlestar Galactica is like.. dramatic crack. Better than Babylon 5. Way better than Star Trek. Vastly better than the original Battlestar Galactica which, let’s face it, was kinda cheesy like all TV from that era. It’s a modern parable in ways that B5 never could be, mostly because — while I love jms — it isn’t being written by J. Michael Straczynski.

All of you who knew about its brilliance but failed to tell me about it are in a big, big trouble, assuming I can figure out who you are.

Coming up next: Massive BT traffic spike on the dochazmat home network as I aggressively download all of Season 3 to get caught up. Woo!

(PS: Does anyone know of a decent command-line BT client that doesn’t require 8,518 packages? Or maybe just a god BT client for *nix in general that won’t require me to install 8.518 other packages? PPS: I hate python.)

This just in: UK census identifies 390,000 fanboys as demographic group

Daily Mail: Jedi Knights demand Britain’s fourth largest ‘religion’ receives recognition:

With their vast intergalactic knowledge and ability to harness the Force, the task of convincing UN officials to recognise their cause should be a walkover for a pair of Jedi Knights.

But self-proclaimed Jedis Umada and Yunyun, better known as John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law, have adopted a more conventional approach in their pursuit of recognition – delivering a protest letter.

The unconventional pair are calling for the UN to acknowlegde what has become Britain’s fourth largest ‘religion’ with 390,000 followers.

The UN International Day of Tolerance, which takes place annually on November 16, is aimed at emphasising the dangers of intolerance and promoting integration and cohesion across the globe.

Part of me wants to ascribe Britain’s national ills to this phenomenon, but I can’t. It seems far too difficult to think that almost 400,000 people are weird enough to (a) believe that pretending to be a Jedi leads to a better life and (b) actually put that on their census forms. It’d be like finding out that a million Americans listed Oprahism as their faith — you want to make a joke, but can’t quite bring yourself to pick on them because you suspect they have other, uh, problems.

I wonder when the Star Wars Trek will begin in earnest?

The most wonderful time of the year?

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, “Bah!” again; and followed it up with “Humbug.”

“Don’t be cross, uncle!” said the nephew.

“What else can I be,” returned the uncle, “when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas! What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,” said Scrooge indignantly, “every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!”

This is normally how I feel about this time of the year, more or less. Cranky and bitter, mostly, and deeply sympathetic to the people who find this an enormously stressful time of the year. This year, though, there’s a lot more sympathy and a lot more sap, and a lot less self-pity. Driving home from work thisyesterday morning, Scott Walker was talking about people who get nothing for Christmas, and while I’m sure the story was about the homeless (I got home and went to bed and didn’t hear how the actual story related to the teaser), I felt kind of weepy at the thought of people who spend this time by themselves and who have few real friends out there. And then I felt kind of lucky, because I’m not one of those people. And then I felt like a shit, because I should really point that out to my friends more often.

Maybe there’s a reason Thanksgiving and Christmas are so close together in the US. I dunno.

Because this is an odd year for me, in terms of how I feel about The Season, I’m doing some strange things. Like, I’m in the midst of putting together an album of Christmas tunes. It’s an interesting project: Not the world’s biggest fan of Christmas music, and therefore not owning a whole bunch myself, I’ve been using — I can’t believe I’m about to type this — iTunes to build the album up. And, much as I hate to admit it, Apple’s got a bit of a winner on their hands with the damn thing.

Admittedly the interface sucks, and it took me an hour to figure out how to do anything. Fr’instance, why the hell do I need to import files into my library, and then copy them over into a playlist? This isn’t rocket science; Notmad gets this exactly right — you present a unified view of the file library, and use context menus to allow people to move files back and forth. (Notmad, by the way, is hella awesome; you must own a copy if you have a Creative player.) Or you use drag and drop. Neither of which work in iTunes, so far as I can tell. You have to select, copy, then paste. Yecch. Also, because I had to import all 10-something GB of my music library in to make the thing go properly, I’m now absolutely terrified of making any changes to the library for fear that I’ll accidentally blow something away on my hard drive. Part of me understands how this works — iTunes is actually doing a good thing here, in that it’s divorcing data management from the filesystem, and for 99% of users I think that’s probably to their benefit. But in my case, because my data management tool is the filesystem, I’m not so thrilled.

Anyway. Interface and data model annoyances aside, it was quite cool to sit down for a few hours, pour through ITMS’ selection of Christmas music, and pull the stuff I thought I wanted. Ended up with a couple of duds that were obvious within about five nanoseconds of listening to the full track (rather than just the 30 second extract), which pissed me off mildly, but whatever; it’s not that big a deal. The convenience is hilarious. I fear, though, that the convenience lead me to make some pretty odd selections of artists I normally wouldn’t even let come within 500 yards of my speakers: Michael Buble? The Ronettes? Andy Williams? Some people — hi, mom! — will be highly disappointed with some of my choices, including picking Holly Cole’s version of “Santa Baby” over Eartha Kitt’s “authoritative” version, or Charlotte Church’s cover of “The Christmas Song” over Nat King Cole’s original. I did, however, stick with Elvis’ version of “Blue Christmas,” since, well, everyone else’s sucks.

One track I did go back and forth on, for quite a while actually, was “The Carol of the Bells.” This is maybe one of my top five Christmas songs, but for reasons I don’t fully understand, the only version I could think of was.. you guessed it, Mr. Mackey’s. You know, the one that goes, “Hark hear the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say “ding-dong mm-kay.”” What can I say? I am that much of a loser. And I think the reason I love this song so much is because of the way it builds and builds and builds, and seems so damn menacing, when in reality it’s not menacing at all. (Most people don’t know that it’s actually a Ukranian carol, based on a Slavic legend that every bell in the world rang upon Jesus’ birth.) When you hear it in a cathedral, with a full orchestra blasting away, it’s damn impressive — one of the few pieces of Christmas music that can actually move me to tears, and I can’t figure out why. And, weirdly, I didn’t own a copy, other than Mr. Mackey’s, and you can’t put that on a serious Christmas album. So I went hunting. It took me about 45 minutes test out different versions, and I finally settled on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s version from Joy to the World, which is Just Right. Not too quiet, not too slow, not too watered-down.. it’s great. I’ve listened to it a half-dozen times since it arrived on my hard drive, and while I might have made some compromises elsewhere in the album to get the variety I wanted, I feel 100% certain this one was the right choice. Highly recommended.

It's still a damn cult

I’ve lately become more and more pissed off at my collection of computers and have been, in my more idle moments, contemplating throwing them all into a swamp and buying a Mac. Then I wake up, shake off the dream, and realize that (1) I don’t want a Mac, (2) I don’t want a Mac, and (3) A Mac won’t play Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t want one. (An XBox would, but I don’t want an XBox, either.) It’s been a while since I said anything disparaging about my least favorite toy computer, or any computer, really, so it was nice to come across a damn funny article about Apple, media hype, and, uh.. well, that’s about it. Bonus points:

The Apple Polishers
Explaining the press corps’ crush on Steve Jobs and company.
By Jack Shafer
Posted Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005, at 7:04 PM ET

Download the iPod-ready audio version of this story here, or sign up to get all of Slate’s free daily podcasts.

Isn’t machine-generated templating great? Oh yeah.

Jack Shafer is a seriously funny bugga.