EVENTS - Black Friday in CT

checked out the feeding frenzy at Walmart on Black Friday starting at 5am...

While I didn't have my heart set on any deals in specific, I love (and I mean, LOVE) the adventurous spirit of the early morning shoppers. This year, flat screen HD tvs were the big sellers at all the stops (target, big lots, kohls...). It was my pleasure to witness adrenaline fueled housewives impressively swiping up and swinging 42" tvs through the air and to the registers with speed, stealth and determination.

It's truly amazing the lengths with which people will go for steals and deals. And the early morning Black Friday culture is growing. While 5am historically marks the beginning of the shopping extravaganza, other chains are rising to the occasion and turning it into an all-nighter (making the most of the groggy-headed). Kohl's, Best Buy and JC Penny's opened their doors at 4am, while some stores started as early as 3am! There is such an interesting dynamic in the early morning of Black Friday. Target had a bit of a later opening (6am), but also neglected to offer spectacular savings for the early-to-rise. Guess they were banking on being the last stop on the sweep. On that note, Target was like an oasis in comparison. Much less crowded, much more organized, cleaner, etc....all that we've grown to expect by the leader of the masstige movement.

(Above: quick candids at 5am....note the 42" plasma in the air behind the lost and confused shopper)

TOYS - Plush-born illness

this is quite hilarious. They're giant stuffed diseases, bacteria, microbes, viruses, etc...

- GIANTmicrobes -

We make stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes—only a million times actual size! Now available: The Common Cold, The Flu, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Cough, Ear Ache, Bad Breath, Kissing Disease, Athlete's Foot, Ulcer, Martian Life, Beer & Bread, Black Death, Ebola, Flesh Eating, Sleeping Sickness, Dust Mite, Bed Bug, and Bookworm (and in our Professional line: H.I.V. and Hepatitis).

Each 5-to-7 inch doll is accompanied by an image of the real microbe it represents, as well as information about the microbe.

They make great learning tools for parents and educators, as well as amusing gifts for anyone with a sense of humor!



HUMOR - GotchaBox!

Gotta love The Onion's new 2007 set of GotchaBox containers. These fake boxes are perfect for gift giving. Witty and funny and make me giggle. LOVE. Set of 3 for $17.99.

[The Onion Store]
[via Gizmodo]



HUMOR - 24 in 94

Very funny...spoof on 24, 1994 style.

24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot: Jack Bauer saves the world with AOL 3.0.



RANT - Why illegal downloading just burns me up (sometimes)

And while we're on the topic of illegal downloading....

We're all guilty of doing it sometimes...here and there....all the time? I claim no innocence here. It's just so easy. And why not? Well, I've got something to say about it, and I'm going to yell it from the rooftops. Ok, I'm not actually going to yell, but I'll blog about it and hope that someone's bored enough at their desk to listen up.

While Radiohead has a huge fan base, and honestly doesn't need a major label backing them for publicity or sales or notice, there are still plenty of small, more obscure, struggling musicians trying desperately to get notice. And as the infrastructure now stands, these musicians need the labels (more importantly, label's money) to do this for them.

Musicians are artists. And if people are enjoying their work and are touched by their work, the artist shouldn't go without compensation. I've heard a lot of anti-corporate talk thrown around from people who download music illegally without reservation. And yes...evil corporations do of course stand in the way (in most cases) between the artist and the consumer. However, those 'evil' corporations are the very same gatekeepers who give musicians a fighting chance to make it. The less support consumers give to the music industry, the less likely labels will be to take risks on new artists, or keep signed artists that haven't generated massive moolah, leaving them to fend in the world alone, without representation, leaving their creative vision unrequited in a world of only Top 40 hits.

Music can be such a personal experience. If an artist makes something that touches you, give back just a little, and support them, even if you don't necessarily support the system. It's the only system we have right now...And I say give artists a chance to live off of their craft, especially if you have the means to do so. Just cause you can get it for free doesn't mean it comes without consequence. I want to make sure that my favorite musicians continue bringing me new music. Now, I like my Top 40, but if we're not careful in this state of flux, the top 40 pop charts could be the only determining factor of what gets made.

Now, some personal exceptions:

-Spreading the word: Hey, if I'm trying to convince a friend to get into a new artist or album, sometimes I'll buy it for them...Sometimes I'll copy it for them. I can justify it if I know i'm expanding an artist's fanbase. I'm like free PR. There's something that has to do with karma in there somewhere.

-Just checking it out: If there's something new out there, and I'm intrigued but not too sure, maybe I'll download it, give it a listen. After I check it out, if I'm moved, maybe I'll buy the album. Or alternatively, maybe I'll spread the word by buying the album for someone else.

-Mixing: Now this one I'm not too sure about, but I tend to go down the dark path of downloading top hits that I'm going to put into a mix...something I know I'm not going to listen to obsessively, or for a long time to come, but maybe there's something catchy in-the-now that I'm vibing with. I just need to hear that gosh darn catchy, "umbrella, ella, ella, ella" a few more times at the gym and then i'm through with it, over-saturated. The level of experience I'm going to have with the track isn't worth my 99 cents in the long run. Don't judge, I never said I wasn't guilty of downloading illegally... Ok, maybe i did buy Rhianna's 'Umbrella'. It's a hot track!

Basic jist: Sticking it to the 'Man' is also sticking it to the artists....And as an music buff and artist surrounded by artists, that's just not cool.

End rant here.

MUSIC - Radiohead's 'failure' still a success

While the news media has questioned the success of the whole free Radiohead album situation, citing it as a possible failure, I beg to differ.

All along, this was an experiment...a smart one at that. And why, you may ask, do I think it was so smart?

While a reported 62% of people who downloaded "In Rainbows" opted not to pay for it, they still went to the official Radiohead site to get it (the official site had 1.2 million hits in October). Meanwhile, of those who did pay for it, $6 was the average payment (about $3 more per album than an average band's cut when releasing an album through a record label). And again, that's 1.2 million people who probably wouldn't have gone to the official site had they bought the CD on iTunes or at a store, or furthermore illegally downloaded it....talk about generating traffic! There has to be some sort of advertising/money-making opportunity in that alone...

(Let's also not forget that the physical album is still awaiting release in '08.)

Cheers to Radiohead for trying something new. The music industry is failing at best in the new digital landscape of the 21st Century. This experiment helps bring understanding and new perspective to what else is out there; a search for new structure for the shaky music industry. The only thing that will actually save the music industry long-term is thinking outside of the box. Honestly, nobody else is coming up with anything better, and meanwhile, Radiohead is probably making about what they would have had they charged regular prices, after record label cuts. Meanwhile they've succeeded at simultaneously thwarting the illegal downloading of their tracks.

Oh, and by the way, the album is kick ass.



TECH - Online Guide to Travel

Some of it's obvious, some not so much, but Adam Pash, senior editor for Lifehacker has built a creative and valuable "Power Traveler's Checklist" on the blog. Quite the resource.

While we've been using sites like Farecast and SeatGuru for some time now, online resources like The Universal Packing List and MileMaven are nice new additions to the travel planning regimen.