Sunday, October 10, 2010

Family Guy: Return of Rush Limbaugh

Remember in the film Dogma where Ben Affleck’s head explodes at the sound of Alanis Morissette’s voice? I was amazed that the film’s writer and director, Kevin Smith, pulled off what appeared to be heckling Morissette pretty much right to her face. At the time I thought to myself, did she really not put that one together? However, since her appearance on Curb Your Enthusiasm in 2002, it’s clear that she probably just has a really healthy sense of humor.

It would appear that the emperor of conservative talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, takes a similar approach to cameo appearances in television. I like to think that Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane alludes the above mentioned style of celebrity-referencing humor in Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest, his sensational spoof on Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In Blue Harvest, Limbaugh is heard via space-AM talk radio attempting to debunk the claims of the “liberal galactic media” that the ice planet, Hoth, is melting and criticizing the black Lando Calrissian (portrayed in the original film series by Billy Dee Williams) as only being prosperous due to affirmative action. Like him or not, in this, Limbaugh exhibits his undeniably disarming sense of levity. I‘m not really into the whole far-right thing, but I gotta admit the guy cracks me up (he smiled for his mugshot when he was arrested in April of 2006 for drug charges). So you can probably guess that I’m excited to hear that he’ll be reappearing in Family Guy Presents: It’s a Trap!, MacFarlane’s upcoming spoof on Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Limbaugh will appear as the Rancor, the Goliath to Luke Skywalker’s David in the beginning of Return of the Jedi.

So the big question: what are the circumstances under which the admitted liberal MacFarlane would allow a cameo appearance to Limbaugh, a guy so right-wing that his name alone practically implies it? Limbaugh was a featured guest on a recent episode of Family Guy which aired Sunday October 3rd, and MacFarlane and Limbaugh are reported to have gotten along just fine during Limbaugh’s time spent at the studio. In fact, Limbaugh allegedly was greeted by a couple of conservatives on staff who both thought they were the only ones of their political persuasion in the building. In his own words, Limbaugh implied that he was invited to contribute to Family Guy and pretty much just plain anticipated to have a great laugh, and admits that he did. But don’t take his word for it; go watch the recent episode entitled “Excellence in Broadcasting” now at Fox’s website (…navigate yourself, webheads). Trust me, it’s funny, and you might be surprised at how brightly Limbaugh’s undeniable sense of humor shines.

So there you have it. Simply put, MacFarlane remains open minded to any high jinks which will preserve the show’s freshness. Love it or hate it, it is undisputable that Family Guy is effectively scandalizing, and these recent shenanigans of MacFarlane’s caught me COMPLETELY off guard, smiling, shaking my head and clapping. I’m joyfully fascinated with guessing how Rush’s big Star Wars scene will go down, if Luke will be dropped into the Rancor’s lair to find him sitting at a microphone with glasses and a collared shirt and torturing Luke with far-right remarks, or will the writers sneak in some caricatural quip poking fun at Rush, perhaps involving drug abuse, that he may not have seen coming while recording the dialogue? Mind you, Rush was offered to provide script approval of the episode, but let the Bush/Cheney bumper stickers on the backs of the imperial cruiser in Blue Harvest remind us of exactly what clever minds such as those behind Family Guy are capable of.

by Jack Burr

Jack Burr is a musician and actor from Oak Park, IL and currently residing in Chicago. He has performed at local venues including Double Door and Subterranean and at greater Chicagoland area venues such as Pete Miller's in Wheeling and Morgan's Charhouse in Winfield, and he will be featured in an upcoming wave of independent Chicago film productions.
Read more from Jack Burr by visiting his WordPress Blog

Monday, September 27, 2010

What 2 Hear: Volume One

Welcome to yet another completely non-ground breaking, but new, Byte Down feature we've punnily (new word alert) named "What 2 Hear". In each volume of "What 2 Hear", we will recommend two podcasts for your listening pleasure. One podcast will be tech/gadget/video game orientated and the other will be of a different category. As the internet is quickly becoming the new conduit for audio and video entertainment, we want you to experience the very best. And if you don't mind us saying, we know what's best for you. Don't make us find that belt. 

Tech Related

Tech News Today
Podcast RSS Feed (Not available, but you can get to the find the episode guide here)
Website (See link above)
Approx. Running Time Per Episode: 30-45 minutes
'Tech News Today' is hosted by tech journalist Tom Merritt, who you may or may not know from CNET's 'Buzz Out Loud' or from various areas of TechTV before it was destroyed and devoured by Comcast's G4 network. This podcast is an excellent source of daily tech news; covering everything from iPads and digital cameras to technology in politics and tech related news stories. The podcast is recorded every day, so you can be sure that you are getting the most recent news stories. Lots of information, fun conversation, and it's only 45 minutes long. A must listen for the tech enthusiast. 

Non-tech related

The Retroist Podcast 
Podcast archive
Approx. Running Time Per Episode: 20-35 minutes

This is probably our favorite podcast and one of the reasons this feature was created. Hosted by The Retroist himself (his identity is a secret, like Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk), listeners are taken on a audible journey through our recent past. Topics covered include retro video games, classic TV shows, and even products and marketing ideas that no longer have a place in today's pop culture. Each episode is packed full of personal antidotes from The Retroist's own childhood, sound clips, and history. The show is definitely targeted toward the 25-40 age range, but younger listeners who have a yearning for learning about their pop culture ancestry will no doubt enjoy what is offered. A quality experience that is not to  be missed if nostalgia is your thing. 

Thanks for checking out What 2 Hear. Got a favorite podcast? We'd love to take a listen! Chime in below in the comments section or drop us a line at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time For Someone to Google Themselves a New Job

It seems that Google just can't catch a break when it comes to stories involving horrific acts of privacy violations. If their not taking pictures of your home while you are dancing nude in your window, they are going through the personal emails and voice accounts of minors. The latter is just such the case for now former Google employee David Barksdale. 

Nerd Jesus is not only jobless,
 but he's also single, ladies.
Google fired Barksdale from his engineering job this past July for, as Google's press release states, "breaking [Google's] strict internal privacy policies". The reason sounds pretty vanilla on paper. In reality, what is really behind his firing is amazing (but mostly creepy and pathetic). Apparently, the bright white skinned computer whiz's position at the base of the most powerful force on the internet went to his pointy little head and made him do some things that'll probably make your skin crawl a bit. Or at least make you change your passwords a few times. 

When not writing the screenplay to the next Matrix film whilst sipping flavored coffee in the back of his local Denny's establishment (assumption, of course), David enjoyed befriending 15 year old boys and girls in a popular Washington based tech chat room.Twenty seven year old David became so attached to his new brethren that he, on four separate occasions, thought it proper to use his mystical Google powers to hack into his young friend's Google email accounts, chat logs, and even their Google Voice accounts. If you were to de-friend David on a particular service, he was known to hack his way into your account and reverse the de-friending. 

In one particularly creepy instance, David became upset when one of his 15 year old e-friends refused to give the name of his new girlfriend. Not one to be denied such information, Barksdale snooped through the boy's various accounts, got the young lady's phone number, and threatened to call her. The boy went to his parents for help with the aggressively creepy internet god, who then contacted Google. Several other parent-to-Google phone calls eventually led to the eventual  termination of Barksdale's employment (and his World of Warcraft budget, we're afraid).  

It's also reported that David would invite his young buddies to meet up and catch a movie.
While none of the incidents seemed to be worthy of Dateline's 'To Catch a Predator', it's enough to make any Google user a little weary of how much and with whom they trust their personal information. And it certainly makes you wonder who your kids, or perhaps youself, are talking to in those instances where the name comes before the face here on the world wide creepy web. 

Good luck to you in your search for employment, David Barksdale. We understand Facebook is always looking for people who share similar respect toward piracy. Just don't expect us to accept that ominous friend request. Then again, we just might be a little out of your age range.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Unfermented Deal: Final Fantasy XIII for $20!

Today's Unfermented Deal is going to be short and quick, unlike the the video game of which the deal is on. How clever are we!

For an unknown amount of time, is selling Final Fantasy XIII for $19.99 (shipping will be extra). The only caveat is that it's only for the Playstation 3 version of the game.

If you love the Final Fantasy series, you probably already own the game, thus making this deal useless. If you've been curious about the game but just didn't want to shell out the $59.99 retail upon release, now is your time to buy.

The PS3 version of the game garnered a Metacritic rating of 83, which is like akin to a high "C" grade if one were in grade school. The game lasts most players over 45 hours which comes out to about $.44 per hour of game play. Ha!  Take that, forth grade math class!

As always, clicky the linky for quicky's belowy. Sorry.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Use a 360 Controller to Play PS3 Games! (kinda)

Microsoft burned you twice this week, you say? You aren't too keen on the upcoming $10 increase to Xbox Live! and you feel betrayed by the software giant for their expecting you to buy a new and improved Xbox 360 controller for $64.99? Are you one of the enraged gamers threatening to ditch "Micro$oft" once and for all and make your gaming bed in the Sony camp? Well, Nyko is trying to make the transition a bit easier for you.

Nyko, maker gaming peripherals such as the Nyko Intercooler, knows that the reason some gamers prefer the Xbox 360 controller over the PS3 controller is the all important comfort factor. Like the Blackberry thumb before it, PS3 gamers often complain about thumb strain after hours of gaming do to the placement of the Dualshock 3's analog sticks. That's what they claim, at least. Sinners.

Doesn't hurt that it also looks like a Bat-a-rang.
Nyko claims that, besides looking like an ancient rune of evil, the controller will boast a bunch of features that gamers actually care about. 

  • Layout similar to that of the Xbox 360's controller 
  • 25 hours of Lithium-Ion battery life (charged by mini-USB)
  • 25 foot wireless range (with use of wireless USB dongle receiver)
  • "Soft" coating for comfort
  • Rumble support for all of your rumble needs 
  • Tilt controls (think Sixaxis......not too loud or Sony will sue)
  • Easy to use tilted/angled triggers
For under $35, you could probably do worse. You could try to stuff a PS3 controller's innards into a 360 controller's shell. But trust us, it's not as easy as you'd think. If we may speak farm to you for a moment, picture the outcome of trying to mate a pig with a goat. Seems like a good idea, but in the end, it's a hideous bastard of misalignment.

It's available until the end of the month (August 31). If you want to give it a whirl, we've included a link below to set you on your way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Unfermented Deal: LittleBigPlanet 2 Pre-Order

Since the dawn of home console video games, gamers have often dreamed of the game they would create if they were given the tools to do so. Some games had scaled back level creation tools, but nothing that gave the user the sense of ownership that they desired. Computer development tools became available, but often just lead to horrible flash games and uninspired mods of current games.

British Game developer Media Molecule changed all of that with 2008's PS3 exclusive, LittleBigPlanet. The game not only introduced to the world to Sony's newest part-time mascot Sackboy, but also introduced the ability to create an entire platforming adventure world that you could create, play, and share with friends and the world through Sony's online service, Playstation Network. The game was an immediate hit when it was first announced at Game Developer's Conference in 2007 and eventually sold over 4.5 million copies world wide (as of post date). Media Molecule looks to push the envelope this holiday shopping season with LittleBigPlanet 2.

LittleBigPlanet 2 promises to deliver everything that it's predecessor offered times 10011. That's huge. We don't even know what that number means because we just made it up. But we can just from what we know that if you enjoyed the first games, you have a ton of reasons to be excited about this sequel. It's not even fair to call it a sequel. It's a whole new ball game.

If you can think of the genre, you can create it. Create an army of sackboys to destroy the strongholds of your enemies in a RTS game. Blast away at undead sackboys in your own FPS. Buy the game at a store or have it shipped by UPS. Alright. That last one is not a game mode. But it's punny. What's not funny is the pre-order we're about to drop on your sack, boy!

Amazon is offering up some bonus content and free shipping (release day delivery for a fee or for free for Amazon Prime members) if you pinky swear to buy it from them. You'll lock in the probably-won't-change-by-release-day price of $59.99 (which you will not be charged for until the game ships) and you'll get some sweet little exclusive extras for your downloading pleasure once you receive the game (download codes will be emailed after game's release). 

Amazon will be giving you 6 Sackboy skins, two of which are Ratchet and Clank, the comical heroes of the aptly named Ratchet and Clank game franchise. Use them to create your own Ratchet and Clank game or make them food for the Rancor beast that you're sure to create to destroy every environment your twisted mind imagines. 

If you're ready to hop on board the Imagination Creation Station, we've included a handy picture link below to hold your hand and get you started. We can't wait to horrify you with our creations on Playstation Network this fall. LittleBigPlanet 2 will create their monster in your living room on November 16th.                                

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On Z Tip: How to Re-Purpose Your Spare Monitor

This year alone, over five hundred thousand computer monitors will be replaced with newer, shinier, larger, higher resolution models. They will go from YouTube and World of Warcraft displaying glory to closeted, dust covered disgrace; banished to the hell fire of obsolescence. Some may even find themselves perched on top of a dumpster with a crude hand drawn sign reading "*Free* Still Works". Some will find their fate in said dumpster; never to see the light of a desk lamp again.

If you have one of these monitors sitting in your closet or waiting at the front door for garbage day, we have caught you just in time! This installment of On Z Tip is going to show you how to sap a little more life out of that monitor by giving it a new function that you just may not have considered. Think of us as the ASPCA for outdated tech.

Turn it into a television!!

There are three televisions in the average home. If you currently have less than three, this trick will get you closer to the status quo. If you already have three televisions in your home, prepare to be the above average citizen your mother always bragged you were. And you'll do it for a quarter of what a small LCD TV costs.

You can convert your discarded computer monitor into a fully functioning boob tube with a few small and easy to purchase components. Here is the recipe:
  1. External TV tuner with VGA output (VGA input is standard on most computer monitors)
  2. VGA cable (we recommend 6ft for adequate space)
  3. Cheap computer speakers (expensive if you wish)
Connect your cable/satellite or antenna (get cable already!) coaxial cable to the external TV tuner, connect the speakers to the 3.5mm  speaker output on the TV tuner, and link the TV tuner to the monitor via VGA cable and WHAMMO! TV for under $75. And you saved your poor monitor for an uncertain fate. Good for you! Captain Planet would be proud.

Most external TV tuners will have inputs RCA or S-video inputs. You can use these inputs to connect a DVD  player, video game console, iPod/portable video player (with recommended cable---see manufacturer), camcorder, and anything else that outputs audio and video through analog signal. Keep in mind that analog to digital conversion (analog to VGA) is not always as smooth as you'd like, so expect some minor picture degradation. As long as your expectations are in check, we think you'll be happy with your conversion/recycling project.

We're Byte Down, and that was On Z Tip.