Half Inventing Stuff Part 3, or Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something Part 3

barbfume_thisone1
The Bar-B-Fume bottle design and logo from an infomercial I did as a class project in 2002. Graphics designed by Rob Edwards.

So back in 1998, I had an English oral presentation to do in which I’d be selling a made-up product. After racking my brain for hours, my thought process went as follows: “What do teenage girls want? Answer: Guys. Then what do teenage guys want? Answer: Meat. So the way for a girl to get a guy would be by smelling like meat.” The presentation went fantasticly. I had charts and prototypes (sort of… bottles of cologne and body-wash with crudely designed logos). For the women who didn’t want to have to smell the Bar-B-Fume, I invented the “Scent Remover 5000”, which was just a clothespin to put on your nose. I demonstrated how to use the body wash (which for my purposes was just barbecue sauce in a soap dispenser) by smearing it all over my face. And I finished with the tagline, “Ladies, truly the way to a man’s heart is now through his stomach.”

Two years later, the product was revived as an info-mercial for a TV studio production class I was taking, but this time with way better logo design and a killer intro. I can’t attest to the quality of the rest of it. I haven’t watched it in years. You see, I can’t find the tape with that semester’s projects on it. To make matters worse, I can’t even find the tape that has the original speech on it. I have most other semesters’ projects, and I have the other speech we had to give that year in high school, but as it stands, right now the only tangible evidence of Bar-B-Fume existing is the logo I saved.

What makes this important is that Burger King just started marketing a meat-scented fragrance called “Flame”. Here‘s the website. Granted, it smells like the Whopper and not like barbecue sauce, but it’s still enough to have me shouting “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”. I guess I just need to follow through more.


I’m pretty angry.

Calling Out Northwestern on National TV

It’s not often that colleges get called out negatively on TV. Usually, writers namedrop the college they attended in passing: “These guys were frat brothers of mine from my time at Northwestern” (a sort of quote from an episode of Andy Richter Controls the Universe); it’s not really an endorsement, but it is a type of plug, I guess the screenplayer writer‘s to hanging one’s diploma on the wall at work. Anyway, aside from some Simpsons jokes making fun of Yale (because there was a time when many of the Simpsons writers had come from Harvard), college namedrops are neutral at worst.

NU
Hollywood doesn’t like you!

But, when watching tonight’s episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip“, the following dialogue was exchanged:
note, this is more of an “I think this is what they said” than a pure transcription

Matthew Perry’s Character: I’ll write you a letter of recommendation.
Bradley Whitford’s Character: Speaking of which, against my better advice, my nephew is applying to Northwestern, and he needs a letter of recommendation, too.

Not that big a deal, I know, but in a way, my non-donating-alumnus status just got a high five from Hollywood! Now, I guess it could be rationalized away by the writers by saying, they were getting at: “there are better such and such programs at some other college than Northwestern,” but I feel like I’m part of higher educational history: The first(?) prime time dis’.

****½

Calling Out Northwestern on National TV gets four-and-a-half stars for being the first negative namedrop of a college, with that 1/2 being deducted for the episode of “Studio 60…” being a perfect example of everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with the show. *note: I don’t really have any negative feelings towards Northwestern or anything like that, but considering how rarely it’s brought up in pop culture, the fact that it was a negative (or pushing towards negative from neutral, at best) mention makes it quite newsworthy.

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

The Degree Navigator Class Registration System


They kinda look like the Azores.

With the one-year anniversary of my college graduation taking place on May 16th, I figured I’d write something about my college experience, something that the few of you who read this that went to Ithaca would be able to relate to and feel nostalgic about. I decided early however, that I wasn’t just going to do a review on my college experience, as that would seem too “Dear Diary” for me. I wasn’t going to complain about the “food” in the Campus Center Dining hall ad nauseum, because I’m sure that’s been done to death… and most people move off campus or to the Circle Apartments and don’t deal with the “Double C” for their last year or two. I wasn’t going to complain about the curriculum, mostly because those issues have been dealt with, starting with the class after me, and they’re much better off for it. Lastly, I wasn’t going to offer warm and fuzzy memories of how great all my friends were, the teachers were, the facilities were, and my extracurricular opportunities and the semester in L.A. were.

What else could there be to complain about/praise? Well if you haven’t guessed by reading the title, I’ll put it bluntly: The method of registering for classes that we used.

Let me preface this all by saying that before computers were used, I have absolutely no idea how a class registration system could be fair. I can assume that people wrote down on a piece of paper the classes that they needed, and the classes that they wanted and turned it in and waited for the results… sort’ve like in high school, where your guidance counselor spent 25 minutes convincing you to take a bunch of extra classes that you didn’t come in wanting, (of course, taking some time out in the middle of the meeting to take a call from his real estate side-job) only to find that when your schedule arrived weeks later, you weren’t enrolled in any of the classes anyway. Maybe that was just me. But by handing in forms that said what you wanted your schedule to look like, how were students to be guaranteed that those were the classes they were going to get? What if classes were filled? What if new sections that students were switched into conflicted with other classes the student wanted to take? How did the administration decide what order to take individual registrations? Obviously by credit amount, but what about students who were at the same grade level, with the same amount of credits?

island” view, which conveniently showed you what your different requirements were (as in communications, non-comm, liberal arts [a phrase whose meaning still eludes me], and the various requirements within each major) shown in the form of colorful islands floating on a bright blue background. When you rolled your mouse over them, it showed what you had completed and what you were still required to take. I believe that those might’ve been shown in pie chart form, but I could be wrong.

You would go to the registrar’s website, and there would be a link to register for classes. Clicking on it would open the application, as sort’ve an advanced pop-up window with forms. This was the degree navigator. You’d go over to the selection tab, type the course number into the spot for it, and hit enter. The course description and section times would come up, and you were allowed to add the classes to your schedule. You would then have to go over to the side where all the selected classes were and individually finalize the registration for each class. If there were island” thing, which was more for telling you what classes you had done and what you needed to do, rather than for registering.

The problem was in the actual method by which the whole student body was meant to register. It happened during the course of a week and a half every semester. A different group registered every day, starting with students in the honors program (i don’t know that i ever met any of them), then freshmen, then seniors (yes freshmen got to register before seniors), juniors, and sophomores… of course all of those were divided up into first and second semester students, via credits. So each day of registering saw students within about a 12-18 credit window signing up at the same time. Not too huge of a problem. We weren’t a terribly large school, so it wasn’t like there were more than a few thousand people registering per day. There was no breakdown however, within each day, and so you had a couple thousand people trying to get on the system at the exact same time. That shouldn’t’ve been a problem… after all, there’s at least four times that amount that use the internet at one time, any other time of day or year. The problem however, was that our residential computer network was incredibly unstable to begin with (blamed by the people in charge on the proliferation of computer viruses on the network…. cause I’m sure that other schools don’t have to deal with viruses, and they manage to be epic disaster. The residential network just couldn’t handle the sheer number of people attempting to log on (if you managed to open the program prior to the start time you could open the application, just not log on to actually register). And of course rather than just telling us that we couldn’t be logged on because something somewhere along the line was too busy, it just kept trying to log everyone on. Of course, in the best possible scenario of it not working, the program froze. In the worst, it caused people’s computers to crash, freeze, and quite possibly be thrown out of windows in fits of frustration.

In fact, only serving to exacerbate things more was the registration time. Because classes started at 8 a.m., and the people in charge wanted to make sure that everyone had the same opportunity to get to classes before the seats were filled, the registration window opened at the extremely early 7 a.m. That’s right. Imagine thousands of frustrated college students pissed off at the idea of being shut out of classes and screwed over by the system, dealing with a program that isn’t going to work correctly, having to reboot their computer numerous times, and on top of that, having to get up before 7. At least we had the opportunity to register from the comfort of our own computers, if we could ever get this demon program to operate correctly.

The worst year that I remember was the second semester of my freshman year, registering for sophomore year. It was early April probably, and it was also probably really cold and rainy outside. I just remember sitting at my computer, my comforter draped over me, waiting, complaining to neighbors across the hall and next door. I sat there, knowing I was going to miss my 8 a.m. class. Everyone that I had recently added to my AIM buddy list was in the same boat as I was. People had away messages up about how much they hated the degree navigator, how they wished it would die, and how they were so tired and pissed off in general. Having just gone through a phase of creating new screennames and harrassing people with them, I saw this as an opportunity to pose as the Degree Navigator through IM, asking people why they hated me so much. I was THAT bored and pissed off. People who managed to log on were offering to register other people for classes via phone, but others were skeptical about giving out their registration password for fear that their schedule might be tampered with. It wasn’t until 10:15 that I was able to log on and register, making me late for my 10:25 class. Of course, I got the bottom of the barrel when it came to classes that weren’t course requirements. I can’t remember what I had, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t anywhere near what I had in mind the night before.

The following semesters were much of the same, but not taking as long, as more people in my class (year) decided to move off campus, or use the computer labs, which were on a different network, to do their registration. Knowing that I’d probably have to wait in line to use a computer for as long as it would actually take me to register from my room, and not wanting to get dressed at 6:50, and instead go back to bed when I was done, I decided for next few semesters to just ride out the storm in my room. Unlike the people in New Orleans, my decision wasn’t really all that detrimental to my health. Sure it took forever to get logged on, but none of the future attempts took more than an hour. Still, the away messages were up, the people were complaining across the hall, and there was a feeling of bonding.

Without a popular sports team to rally behind (save the one game a year where the entire school went crazy for the football team, mostly because it was an excuse to get drunk at 8 a.m.), or, fortunately, some tragic event that effected everyone at the school (save the September 11th stuff), the universal hatred of the degree navigator registration system brought everyone together. In fact, I’d wager that had somebody decided to sell T-shirts that said “I survived Registration ’02”, they’d probably make enough money for the school to fix the actual problem. To prove my point even more, I typed in “Degree Navigator”+sucks in google, and these are the first two pages it came up with: here and here.

Of course, what this 7 a.m. east coast egistration time meant for me when I was in L.A. was that I had to register at 4 a.m. Pacific Time….and we didn’t have the internet in our apartment. I’m not sure how we got around that, but I know I didn’t walk 3 blocks at 4 a.m. to register at the Ithaca L.A. student center.

The Degree Navigator was a good system in theory, but they say the same thing about communism. There were bigger problems that everyone pretty much blamed on the Navigator, giving it a bad rap.

***½
The Degree Navigator program itself gets three and a half stars. It was mostly easy to navigate, and I’m sure it was a bit more fair and, yes, less of a hassle, than however they did it before it was done by computer. It was pretty much the scapegoat for the entire student body’s issues with registration, and served to bring them together with something unified to complain about.

*
The actual process of class registration gets one star for not having the foresight to see, especially after it happened numerous times before, that the network would get log-jammed by allowing so many people on at once; for not allowing people to get into classes that they needed; and for intruding on the sleep of thousands of students who schedule their earliest class at 11 a.m. for a reason.

Block I of CUCVM, the Human Ribcage (1984 model), and Misc.

Note: I originally rated my final subject as a 1.5 star performance due to what I felt was excessive plagiarism. However, before I could publish this, our dictator chose to steal my triple-review format (though he admits this freely). Therefore, I awarded myself another half-star. Damn, Commies.

Okay, I’ll be honest…I’ve been slacking it on this website. Many (meaning the eight dedicated readers we have) may remember when Nate even semi-demanded me to start posting. Maybe it was because I was a little too proud (probably not), but mostly it was due to time constraints and the simple fact that I have very little occurring in my life that I consider worthy of rating or that I could make it remotely entertaining. Now that I’ve graced the pages of this website, does this mean that I’ve overcome these obstacles? Absolutely not. Unfortunately for all of us, this probably won’t stop any of our readers from continuing. So, now that I’ve managed to take advantage of what little downtime is so rarely presented to me during my endless pursuit of a respectable career, what have I chosen to review? I knew my topic had to be gripping, with bouts of violence, wit, romance, all while being constantly intelligent and entertaining. Of course, I threw all of these notions out the window when Dan decided to yet again pansy-fy me publicly (again, having readers in the single digits makes it no more public than usual, but it’s the principle that the public could eventually read it). So gather ’round as Adam recounts his version of the story.

So we were playing football the day after Thanksgiving. There were about ten people there, which is a pleasantly complete number, as any larger might encourage Dan to set up real offensive and defensive lines and eventually result in a lot of cussing. All of the Goletz siblings were there: Greg(g), Dave, and Tim. The significance being that they all share the same genetic foundations and therefore it can be inferred that Dave and Tim possess judgement skills about on par with Gregg. Dan duffed a pass (not unusual in the cold) as I was crossing over, but not looking in the general direction of the play. Following my QB’s directive I picked up what I thought to be a fumble and was quickly pushed down by my defender, one Josh “Barney” Clark (notice that had it been a fumble, I would have been ruled down by contact at that point). Landing flush on my right side, I took a moment to make sure the ball was secured, only to see Tim Gloetz run up, and jump into the air before landing on my left arm and pushing it into my chest.

To say the least, the pain was exquisite, but seemed well-focused in the upper left of my ribs, much more so than just having the wind knocked out of me. The downside to having completed the anatomy intense portion of a sorta-medical program and having not yet started the physiology intense portion is that when an injury occurs, you automatically think of everything that may have gone wrong, but have no idea how to definitively diagnose it. Big words like atelectasis, hemomediastinum, and pneumothorax began running through my head, though I couldn’t quite remember what any of them meant. Anyway, I shook off the pain after a few plays of minimal movement and went on to have Barney fall on my chest as well as Gregg, during a sports-blooper reel-worthy post-interception clobbering.


Ouch…my pride (though it looks more delicious as it is tenderized)

Skip ahead to the following Tuesday. By this time, all of my bruises had healed, yet the chest pain persisted. Worse yet, it had seemed to intensify beyond my perception of a deep muscle bruise and prevented me from accomplishing much in the department of physical activity.

All of this lead to the following conversation between a physician and me:

Dr (compressing 3rd rib): Does this hurt?
Me: Yes.
Dr (4th rib): Now?
Me: Yes.
Dr (5th rib, as I watch my chest push inward): Now?
Me: Christ! Don’t do that again!

So…yeah. I broke my left fifth rib about three centimeters from the sternum; my first professionaly-confirmed broken bone. It hurts like Hell and never seems to get better given that both treatments for it only seem to worsen the condition. Local heat, meant to increase blood flow to the area and thus facilitate healing, also increases pressure on the chest. Icing the area, meant to bring down the swelling, does so but results in the bone becoming more mobile, irritating the area and swelling yet again.

***½

Block I (the Animal Body) of Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, receives 3.5 stars for it’s ability to cram 1.5 years of anatomy into a 2.5 month curriculum and still manages to assist students in retaining the information. Unfortunately, the program loses points due to its questionable layout in teaching students locations and relationships of organs and body systems, but waiting to explain functions/dysfunctions of said systems until well into the students second year. This inevitably leads to worry over the numerous conditions that may occur without having any information or knowledge to confirm or disprove those worries.

***

The 1984 model of the human ribcage receives 3 stars, based purely on its stellar reputation for protecting vital organs, yet its apparent (and hopefully rare) failure to hold its integrity after only 21 years of use. 3 stars may seem like a generous score for a product that, in all honesty, failed to meet my expectations. It’s also a scary thought to consider that the first component of the structure to fail was located in an area that, had the break been more serious, could have compromised my trachea, esophagus, heart, and lungs. However, it gains a few points given that its only failure to this date was at the hands of the Goletz brothers…who, as history has proven, serve only to destroy all that is good and bring misery to the world.

**

Adam’s first review receives 2 stars on account of its complete lack of focus and inability to capture the true, judgemental spirit of this website by serving to tell a story more so than constructively reviewing a topic. I mean (come on!), what’s with all the cheap shots at the Goletzs-es? Throw in the blatant plagiarism of Dan’s earlier post in an attempt to mock him, and you’ve got a pretty piss-poor review. It’s only saving grace is that it was a decent inaugural effort and displayed a touch of originality in its (once) unprecedented uber-triple-header format. Let’s hear it for obnoxiousness.