Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 2 January 2012

Top 10 Things Nobody Cared About in 2011 -

Top 10 Things Nobody Cared About in 2011 - 


It’s the end of year, which means it’s the time for all good columnists to whip out their “best of the year” lists. Or, if they’re feeling impish, their “worst of the year” lists. Often both because, hey, two columns.

However, I march to the beat of a different drummer. In fact, he may not actually be a drummer at all — I think he’s actually the guy I hired to fix my water heater.

Nonetheless, rather than probing the heights or descending the depths of the past year, I’m going to talk about the top 10 things nobody cared about in 2011.

10. Google Spark
Google+ rose from the shallow, smelly end of the San Francisco Bay to become, if not the Godzilla of social media, then at least Gamera: awkward and ungainly, but beloved of a cadre of really intense nerds. Few people remember that along with Google+ came another feature that was supposed to revolutionize something or other: Google Sparks. The idea is that you entered in words? And then it collected articles for you? Or something? Sparks still inhabits the left content bar of Google+, but it is generally thoroughly ignored.

9. Windows for Tablets
Windows is like the Mission: Impossible movies: We know another installment will be around sooner or later, but it’s increasingly difficult to figure out a reason to care. iOS startled a complacent world, Android unlocked the potential of such an interface in a more open context, and Windows for Tablets opens Word documents pretty OK. Supposedly Windows 8 is going to bring Windows to the tablet in a spectacular way. Also, supposedly Zunes were going to not suck.

8. Spotify
At long last, the Eurodarling of streaming music came to the United States. Trumpets blew, horses reared, children did that thing with ribbons that children do in old paintings, and people did not care. The music industry is like Popeye in that old cartoon where termites are eating the house faster than Popeye can repair it, and there is no can of spinach in sight. Ten years ago, $10 a month for millions of free tracks would have been a great deal. Now, with so many of the nation’s younglings perfectly comfortable grabbing music for free, for 10 bucks you’d better have Lady Gaga show up in person wearing a dress made of live geckos.

7. 3-D TV
Avatar showed the world what can be done with 3-D, and the world promptly ignored James Cameron’s shining sci-fi example and extruded an endless series of movies into a crappy, unconvincing version of the third dimension. 2011 was supposed to be the year of the 3-D television set, but faced with high prices, clunky glasses and the aforementioned crappy cinematic selection, it ended up being the year of not caring about 3-D television even a little bit.

6. The Adventures of Tintin
Hey, here’s a brilliant idea. Take a comic book series nobody in the United States cares about except as an answer to a trivia question about ’80s band The Thompson Twins, and make a movie about it. But here’s the brilliant bit: Completely ignore the amazingly understated and clear linework that the six people who do care about Tintin admire, and instead clench out another mo-capped CGI-fest. Now everyone’s alienated! Fans briefly made outraged noises when the trailers for The Adventures of Tintin came out, and have since settled into ignoring the movie and instead renting the Gerard Depardieu version of Asterix and Obelix.

5. R.E.M.
The archetype of both “bands people liked until they became famous” and “bands that people liked after they became famous, but only until they released that one song about Kenneth,” R.E.M. has been schpritzing along for years with the odd album filled with jangly guitars and frontman Michael Stipe’s intensely bored voice. In 2011, the band finally broke up. And nobody cares. We’re still going to have to listen to “Stand” and “Shiny Happy People” another 4 million times before we’re laid to rest or the Earth implodes, so the fact that the Athenian Alternatives aren’t pounding out another 12 songs about anomie and disaffectedness doesn’t really impact our lives in any substantial way.

4. Tech IPOs
Ah, remember the late ’90s, when any tech IPO was treated like the GPS coordinates of El Dorado? Man, if you picked up some of that sweet, sweet Ask Jeeves stock when it was still below $60 per share, you were already deciding between Aspen and Vail for your resort home in your head. Nowadays, heavy hitters like Pandora (named after a figure from Greek mythology who unleashed all evil and pain upon the world) and Zynga (named for a figure from Greek mythology who was always bugging her friends to harvest her turnips) are hitting the public market and the excitement is palpably absent. We’ve seen this story before, we know how it ends, and we hated having our Lexus repossessed.

3. Joe Biden
When Biden was picked for vice president, those of us who write jokes were hoping for a wonderfully gaffe-filled administration. At first he provided great material, conjuring an alternative universe that would make Harry Turtledove proud, one in which Franklin Roosevelt appeared on television in 1929 to reassure Americans that the sack of Carthage would not affect their cellphone plan. But since then he’s taken on the sacred duty of vice presidents since time immemorial: To barely exist in the public consciousness.

2. The Simpsons
First, The Simpsons was funny. Then, making fun of The Simpsons for not being funny anymore was funny. Then, for about three minutes in April of this year, making fun of how it’s no longer funny to make fun of The Simpsons for not being funny was funny. And now nothing’s funny. Somewhere out there a minor character is making a wry comment referring to the events of an actually entertaining episode circa Season 6, and I won’t know about it because I, like so many people who once lived for Thursday, don’t care.

1. Groupon
Groupon started out awesome, offering deep discounts on stuff I wanted to buy, or at least wanted to try. Great deals on great meals, fun activities and useful services. And then, very rapidly, the gravy train dried up, replaced by something closer to a broth bus. The daily deals started being dominated by alternative-health treatments that were clearly just to get you to sign up for the full flight of nasal fern therapy or whatever, and offers like “$14 for $28 worth of merchandise from Household Items Made of Gold and Cocaine.” I passed middle-school algebra, Groupon. I know that 50 percent off the first 10 percent of a purchase equals crappo to the negative crappo power.

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Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London about to erupt? -

Is a super-volcano just 390 miles from London about to erupt? - 
If the Laacher See eruption is as powerful as the last one, volcanic material could land over 600 miles away

A sleeping super-volcano in Germany is showing worrying signs of waking up.
It’s lurking just 390 miles away underneath the tranquil Laacher See lake near Bonn and is capable of ejecting billions of tons of magma.
This monster erupts every 10 to 12,000 years and last went off 12,900 years ago, so it could blow at any time. It covered 620 square miles of land with ash and rocks and several small earthquakes in the region last year indicate that it could be awakening from its deep sleep.
Experts believe that if it did go off, it could lead to widespread devastation, mass evacuations and even short-term global cooling from the resulting ash cloud blocking the sun.

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EEOC: High school diploma requirement might violate Americans with Disabilities Act -

EEOC: High school diploma requirement might violate Americans with Disabilities Act - 

Employers are facing more uncertainty in the wake of a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warning them that requiring a high school diploma from a job applicant might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The development also has some wondering whether the agency’s advice will result in an educational backlash by creating less of an incentive for some high school students to graduate.

The “informal discussion letter” from the EEOC said an employer’s requirement of a high school diploma, long a standard criterion for screening potential employees, must be “job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.” The letter was posted on the commission’s website on Dec. 2.

Employers could run afoul of the ADA if their requirement of a high school diploma “‘screens out’ an individual who is unable to graduate because of a learning disability that meets the ADA’s definition of ‘disability,’” the EEOC explained.

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