Archive for February, 2010

Pizza that’s two meals in one

February 26, 2010 1 comment

Every now and then, a fast-food company will come along with a new creation that is just a marvel to look at. Such is the case with Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites Pizza. To check out the photo, click here.

If you’re like me, your first reaction is awe, which is quickly followed by questions. Here’s one: why? What exactly is the purpose of this thing, which can only be called a giant, cheesy mon-sauce-ity? (I’m trademarking that by the way.) Was having the cheese inside the crust just not enough?

Obviously not. The food magicians in Pizza Hut’s labs must have figured that having the cheese hidden inside the crust just wasn’t good enough, and that people really wanted to have dozens of little mozzarella sticks attached to the pizza itself.

It appears this Cheesy Bites pizza thing is relatively new in Canada - I only became aware of it after a colleague got an email promo for it. But it’s been available in the United States for a few years, with variations in other countries (including Malaysia). Here’s a U.S. commercial from 2006, starring the lovely Jessica Simpson:

All of this brings us to the next question: how exactly do you eat this thing? It sure looks like you have to eat your way to the pizza by going through the Cheesy Bites first. In that sense, Pizza Hut has created the first pizza with its own built-in appetizer.

Maybe the next step is to build a little reservoir of ice cream into the centre, there giving you a full three-course meal in one go?

Categories: food, pizza

Fun with robots - a megagraphic

February 24, 2010 Comments off

Today’s post comes courtesy of a site called Online Schools, which says its goal is “to create a series of curated schools by producing, collecting and cataloging the vast array of visually stunning academic content circulating throughout the internet.” I’m not sure what that really means, but what they’ve done so far is created a nice collection of infographics. And they’re even embeddable.

Many of them are neat, such as the history of Lego, how 3-D works, and even “Facts about Your Farts.” The one I’ve chosen to spotlight here is “The Wild World of Robots,” mainly because the graphic creators seem to “get” it. If you have a gander at their graphic, which is full of nifty facts, you’ll probably get the impression that two forces are driving robot development: the military, and sex. Given that a whole chapter of Sex, Bombs and Burgers is devoted to that very idea, they’ll get no disagreement from me.

Most of the facts in the graphic look correct, although I’d point out two things. The graphic says most commercial robots are lawnmowers, vacuums or sex bots. That’s not entirely true as - to my knowledge - there are no truly fully functional sex robots as of yet, only a few semi-functional early attempts such as Roxxxy.

The graphic also says that South Korea has just opened Robotland, its robotic amusement park. That’s definitely not true - the park isn’t scheduled to open until 2012 or 2013. What is open, however, is its website, which fortunately has an English version. I’m hoping to get to South Korea later this year and check out the goods on this project, so I’ll hopefully have more to report later this year.

Check out the graphic below. I’ve changed its size so that it fits better, but it may not look right on all browsers. You can see a fuller and larger version here.

The Wild World of Robots
Via: Online Schools

Categories: korea, robots, sex, war

Why banning porn is good for porn companies

February 24, 2010 Comments off

A funny thing occurred to me after writing up yesterday’s post, which was basically all about the many ways in which governments and companies are trying to block porn. It dawned on me that with the industry going down the crapper thanks to the internet, many of these porn companies are probably begging the authorities to ban them. As the cliche goes, people want what they can’t have. Or, more specifically, they are willing to pay big bucks for that which they cannot easily obtain.

Consider that many porn producers became rich when it was relatively hard to get their product. Playboy’s rise, covered in Sex, Bombs and Burgers, came at a time when it was pretty much the only game in town, nudity-wise. To get Playboy, and its later progeny such as Penthouse and Hustler, you generally had to surreptitiously grab it from the top shelf of the store - if the store sold it at all - then pay for it before anyone could see, then sneak it home in a non-descript brown paper bag.

When VCRs and DVDs came along, it was pretty much the same story. If you wanted your porno movies, you had to take a trip to the shady part of town (you just had to look up “tattoos” in the phone book to find them; the porno shops were usually next door) and hope you didn’t catch anything communicable. Either that or you had to order them from the back of the aforementioned magazines and hope that your spouse didn’t check your credit card bills. This is how companies such as Vivid, now the biggest American porn producer, rose to prominence.

Throughout all this, many of the porn companies worked hard at broadening their mainstream appeal. The logic was pretty clear: more exposure meant a bigger potential audience, which meant more money coming in.

But then the internet came along and blew that plan up in a pretty ironic way. All of a sudden, porn became incredibly easy to obtain - as the internet went mainstream, so did adult entertainment. Free porn is now one of the easiest things to get on the internet. You could say it’s the most mainstream thing there is online.

The music, movie and newspaper industries all wish the cork could be put back in the bottle, and that we could all go back to a pre-internet time when their business models still made sense. The problem is, it’ll never happen. Technology has permanently redefined those industries, and people have gotten used to getting their news and entertainment for free. New models will have to take that fact into account.

Many in the porn industry also wish the clock could be turned back - the difference is, they very well could get their wish. As an industry that’s always been persecuted for its erosion of supposed social morality, porn has the one weapon the other industries don’t: obscenity. Rather than fighting persecution and blocking and banning at every step like they’ve done for decades, porn companies could decide it makes better business sense to go with the flow - to simply allow themselves to be labeled obscene, and then banned.

Think about it: what would happen if the U.S. or Canadian government, for example, enacted an outright ban of porn on the internet on the grounds that it is too easily accessible by minors? And what if this ban was policed heavily, with backing from the producers themselves? The likely result is that those declining DVD and magazine sales would turn around overnight and the old business model would suddenly work again.

Don’t believe me? Well, yesterday’s post touched on it; how can China, which has a stern ban on all kinds of porn, be the world’s biggest market for it by revenue? It’s simple economics: when a product is plentiful, it’s cheap (or free), but when it’s rare, it’s pricey. Someone is selling porn in China, and getting rich doing so.

It makes you wonder whether porn companies, despite publicly arguing for free speech and the right to choose whatever entertainment you want, are quietly supporting further bans on their content. It sure would be smart business to do so. And on the other side of things - if authorities really want to stomp out porn, should they just let it flourish for free and watch the industry implode?

Categories: internet, sex, vivid

This week in porn

February 23, 2010 Comments off

With all the book-related news I’ve had recently, it seems I’ve largely neglected reporting on what most people come here for: porn! There’s lots going on with porn and technology, so let’s get to the wrap-up, shall we?

First up is a big crackdown on porn in China. The country’s big wireless operators, including China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom (those are some really unimaginative names, by the way) have been ordered to “examine the quality of business partners,” according to Hong Kong newspaper The Standard. Internet providers have also been ordered to shut down websites that use unusual tactics, like changing their domain names and IP addresses frequently.

I’ve touched on this before - there is a belief out there that China’s firm anti-porn stance has little to do with the “healthy growth of the next generation” and more about being able to crack down on dissent. (Make no mistake: that excuse is being used by so-called democracies as well). One thing I found interesting in researching Sex, Bombs and Burgers is how China is estimated to be the world’s biggest porn market in terms of revenue despite the government’s heavy-handed ban on it. I believe these two issues are linked and it’s something I’m looking into further. More on that at a later date.

Speaking of oppressive regimes cracking down on porn, let’s not forget Apple. The hottest tech company around has sacked a reported 5,000 adult-themed iPhone apps, supposedly after receiving a number of customer complaints. The move is exposing the company to charges of hypocrisy - while the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue app was still available, swimwear retailer Simply Beach got the axe. The retailer, understandably, was none too pleased and had this to say:

Apple’s cavalier behaviour is not helpful; we had no consultation, just a ‘we removed you e-mail’. We are as keen as anyone to protect children but the images on the app are no more sexual than you would find in any Sunday newspaper, and there is no age restriction on buying those.

Despite the success of Apple’s iPhone, and the fact that it is awesome device, the company is really creating an opening for other, less restrictive phone makers - such as those using Google’s Android operating system. Heck, I’m even starting to consider ditching the iPhone in favour of Motorola’s sexy Milestone, or Google’s Nexus One, if it ever officially comes to Canada.

And finally, there are reports that Wal-Mart is buying online video provider Vudu. Vudu provides video streaming of movies and shows over the internet, so this is Wal-Mart’s move to counter the ever-increasing business going to similar companies such as Netflix and Hulu.

One interesting catch to the deal is that Vudu also sells porn in the form of the Adult Video News channel. Will Wal-Mart, the champion of all that is safe and sanitized in America, continue selling movies from the likes of Vivid and Hustler? Somehow I doubt it - but the company will lose what is probably one of Vudu’s biggest income streams if it sacks the AVN channel.

Alright, consider yourself all caught up on the world of porn technology!

Categories: apple, china, internet, sex

Download the first chapter for free!

February 22, 2010 1 comment

I got my very first copy of Sex, Bombs and Burgers the other day, and if you can forgive the slight exaggeration, it was like seeing my child born. In the two-and-a-half years so far, all the hard, continuous and often obsessive work I’ve poured into this project has really only existed in an electronic ether.

But with the bound, printed pages in my hands, I was finally holding on to something real - the tangible goal I’ve been looking forward to for so long. Of course, I couldn’t help but feel immense pride, as many parents must feel (or so I imagine) when their actual children enter the world. Over all, it’s very satisfying.

There’s only about a week or so before the book hits stores, so I’m getting a little nervous about how it will be received. In the meantime, though, there is still that electronic ether: if you want to check out a sneak preview of Sex, Bombs and Burgers, Penguin Canada is featuring the first chapter on its website as a free download. The chapter, “Weapons of Mass Consumption,” takes a look at how the Second World War launched a revolution in consumer living, with a specific look at how the microwave oven and a number of new plastics came to be. A complete chapter listing is here.

And if you’re wondering - the downloadable preview does not appear to be geo-blocked. I had a friend in the U.K. test it and it worked, which means you should be able to download it wherever you live. That’s a good thing because I’m all for disseminating a sample to as many people as possible, but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if the universal availability might somehow run afoul of one of my other publishers’ rights in a different country.

That’s not necessarily something I would have to worry about, as it would be sorted out between them. But the whole issue of country-by-country versus universal and global copyrights is a pretty complex one that I’ve been thinking about for some time. It’s a big can of worms that I’ll get into eventually, but I’ll save that for another post. In the meantime, I think my baby’s crying… I have to go feed it!

Categories: books, internet, penguin