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Friday, March 18, 2011

The VCR Repairman: A Dying Breed

As yet another sign of the times, DeVry announced earlier today that they are officially nixing VCR Repair from their vocation college.  As of the 2011 fall semester, the program will no longer be offered as a major, nor will any of it's prerequisites (including the freshman-favorites "how to turn on a tv," and "where's this black rectangle go?").  Several universities like Vadderot College and ITT Tech are expected to follow suit.  Though many anticipated the announcement of a DVD player or Blue-Ray Player Repair major to be made at the same press conference, no such plans have been made public as of yet.
The always elusive black rectangle
"The thing is," DeVry dean Marchie Clamatto said following the press conference, "DVD players are so cheap these days, it's more cost efficient to just throw it out and buy a new one than it is to have it repaired.  I mean, this isn't 1989, right? ... No, seriously.  It's not 1989 is it?  I've been in a coma." 

It's not, dude.  But we get what you mean.  And it's a sad commentary on the manufacturing industry as well, especially when one considers how much of this fragile planet's natural resources we waste when we create, package, and ship cheap products that are designed to last less than 2 years. But that's not the point today.  The point is that our little world keeps changing, and sometimes the most direct way we can see that change is through technology (or lack thereof).  After Sony officially said goodbye to the Walkman earlier this year*, it only paved the way for VCRs to be the next to go.  It was just a matter of when.

That "when" was today.  And though it's only natural to see the numbers of skilled VCR craftsmen dwindle as time passes, what will they move onto?  Many early-adapters have found work in the past 20 years converting old VCRs into bastardized copies of Johnny 5 from the popular film franchise Short Circuit.  But as the robot craze enters hysterics, and technology gets smaller and smarter, Johnny 5 too has been left in the digital dust.
Just think of the possibilities!

"We're all kind of wondering where to go from here.  Nobody wants a Johnny 5.  Most kids don't even know who or what he is.  So what do I do?" Dan "VCR Guy" Browning said as he waited for his unemployment check.  "Do I become a DVR repair man?  A Blue Ray dar detector or whatever those egg heads do?  Or do I become so consumed with sadness that I slowly destroy my body with pills and alcohol like every honest American should when they face failure?"  All good questions, none of which have an easy answer.

Time will determine the fate of these former technological frontiersmen.  For now though, they can only move forward one step at a time.  Mainly because the lines at unemployment take forever, but also partially because most VCR repairmen have really weak legs on account of the fact that they started sitting on their asses almost two decades before the rest of the country did.  Shin splints or no shin splints, they truly are part of the Greatest Generation.

For Great Scott!, I'm Great Scott!, reporting live from Bahrain.

*wait, they didn't?  Then what was all that hub-bub about?  Oh, they're not discontinued, they just won't produce them anymore^, gotcha.
^In Japan.  But don't worry, China will still make them.  They make everything!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mythbusters Copycats Destroy Home

 They say art imitates life.  But what happens when art imitates art that was imitating art?  People get confused, that's what.  Take National Geographic's new show "How Hard Can It Be?" for example, an rerun of an idea that has already perfected by the guys Mythbusters over 8 seasons*, but was still unnecessarily duplicated by the folks at National Geographic.  A part of me can't help but think of all those disclaimers one sees before shows like Jackass reminding the audience to never try any of these stunts at home.  Mythbusters issues the same warning.  And today many Americans are asking the same question: why then, didn't you heed the warning?

Percy Hill of O'fallon, IL wonders the same thing.  "I'm sitting here bathing my game leg when all the sudden the roof of my house gets ripped off!"  Several residents of the greater O'fallon County area reported similar incidents.  One man's phone line was ripped clear from his house.  Another woman's clothes line (and all her delicates) were picked up and flown about like the tail of a kite.  And as she stepped outside to see her panties were strewn about the town like over-sized snowflakes, she finally saw the culprit: a flying house.

Larry Walters, the OG Balloon Boy
The crew's general negligence notwithstanding, the experiment makes sense given the past couple years of American pop culture.  From Falcon, the balloon boy, to the movie Up, a new generation of Americans are discovering the whimsical concept of engine-less flight.  But hasn't this been done before?  Didn't Mythbusters cover this exact same set up based on actual scientific evidence?  Wasn't it their pilot episode?! They did and it was.  That's why I was building it up so much.  Larry Walters attempted this stunt many years ago in Southern California, and before being arrested for his antics, he made national headlines.  Or something like that.  Years later, Discovery TV gave Mythbusters the shot to duplicate the same thing.  And the results were successful, to say the least.  So successful in fact, that Discovery green lit the series.  They have since tackled virtually every urban or scientific myth imaginable often times yielding legitimate results. 

The point is that not only had this idea been done in real life, it had also already been imitated by a group of specialists many would call "masters of their craft."  Why then is a boutique network wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars developing the exact same thing again?  Cause it's a house instead of a chair?  Give me a break.  Are we, as American TV viewers, so brain-dead by this point that they can repackage a show with a much nerdier host^ and we'll still devour it as if we've never seen it before? 
Unfortunately that seems to be the trend.  Top Chef bred ChoppedDeal or No Deal bred Million Dollar Money Drop.  The list goes on and on.  Here at Great Scott!, we can only hope that as our society gets dumber and dumber the explosions and colors improve to compensate for it (see: 3-D TV).  Because if you're turning on your TV in 2011 for unique and original unscripted content, you've come to the wrong planet. 

*And unless they got canceled (which they didn't) there is absolutely no need for this show.  Period.
^ I didn't think it was possible either.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Account Dracula or Bank of Transylvania

In a not so surprising announcement today, Bank of America will be introducing several changes in an attempt to tap into to the multi-billion dollar cash camel that is America's youth.  The strategy involves cross branding their banking services with what they call, "culturally influential pop culture" in their redundant press statement; a fairly common move by many large corporations that seek to reconnect with society and draw new, younger customers.  And while many simply expected a stadium to be renamed or the likes thereof, Bank of America has different plans in mind that has many heads turning.  Young and hip plans, not unlike that Oscar ceremony last weekend.  This will mean many sweeping changes for the mega-bank from a corporate perspective including new protocol, lower age restrictions on accounts, and several new account types, each more incessantly themed than the last.  Though the bank only rolled one of their new ideas today, apparently it affects every one of their personal banking customers nationwide.

"We call it the Twilight account, and we think you're really going to like it... and quite frankly, even if you don't, too bad," C.E.O. Fancyleather Goldman, III said in the press conference this morning.  He then climbed back onto his platinum rhinoceros and demolished the back wall to exit the building.  Before the roof gave way killing several press members, we were able to gather this much: the new account features one distinct, if not obvious change from your old account: higher fees each month.  Now up to $8.95, Bank of America boasts the highest customer account fee per month of any major bank in the United States. 

In lesser news, the bank has also embarked on a record-setting one-billion dollar philanthropic effort for 2011, demolishing their most recently tabulated effort of 200 million in 2008.  While many people are overwhelmed by their tremendous generosity, we here at Great Scott! can't help but be a bit annoyed.  After all, we too donate to worthwhile causes, many of which are near and dear to our hearts: the puffin research center of Anchorage Alaska, the silversmith's union of greater Branson, Missouri, and the often overlooked loggers of Brazil without whose efforts, the world would be junk mail free.  The point is that we like to see where our money goes rather than having it slowly sucked dry without us being able to do anything about it.  And we like to take credit for donating it ourselves too, thank you.  Uncle Sam does too.  He gives us a pat on the back every year and says, "why not have a little for yourself now."  And we do.  It's a square deal, I tells ya.

So before Bank of America announces they are fighting pirates or cleaning the garbage out of the pacific ocean- something world changing- we'd like our $8.95 back, please.  And we'd like you guys to be a lot more like the vampires of old and a lot less like the vampires of new: instead of passively taking our money and improving your image like an Edward or a Jacob, use it on the bank like you're supposed to.  It's how Dracula saved up to get that castle.  He flipped houses for a while, appreciating the work as he did it.  He reinvested in himself and look what it got him?  A mountain, and a castle, and fear respect from everyone below.  Now it's your turn, guys. Put up or shut up.

Good talk.