iPods — the New Barbie

When Barbie was “born” into the Mattel family of toys in 1959, she wasn’t just a doll. She was the epicenter of a retail revolution.

When parents bought their baby-boomer girls a Barbie, they were agreeing to an unspoken but implicit contract with the toy store to return time and again and buy stuff – lots more stuff – for Barbie.

That’s how Mattel envisioned her. A kid wouldn’t be happy with just the Barbie and some clothes like any earlier doll would offer. Nope, Mattel created an entire fantasy world, with price tags attached to every damned thing in that world, from friends like Midge and sister Skipper, and of course, the sexless boyfriend Ken (whose irony-drenched advertising slogan was “Ken…. He’s a Doll!”) to Barbie houses, Barbie Sports cars, carrying cases, closets, apartments with Barbie-sized furniture, picnic sets and even a tiny Barbie Doll for Barbie to own! Continue reading

The AOL-izing of RSS

(Note: I worked for DenverPost.com from 2003-2006.)

No, don’t barf. I know a lot of people — especially the kind of people who read blogs, who I think are by nature technologically savvy and opinionated — hate even the concept of AOL and everything the company stands for.

But hear me out, because I truly believe that without AOL and its millions of users, the Internet wouldn’t have evolved as quickly as it has into an everyday part of our lives.

Washington Post technology writer Robert MacMillan wrote today in his “Random Access” column about RSS feeds, and how RSS is too complicated and technical to become mainstream, even though there’s a huge buzz about it in the online media.

I agree completely with him. RSS is bogged down deeply in geek quotient. Continue reading

Know-nothings

What do critics know?

I was a rock critic for years, and I always knew my opinion was just one crabby person’s opinion – nothing more, nothing less. Yeah, sure, I felt like I knew more than a lot of other people about rock and roll, and that gave me the right to spout off about my good taste.

But really, I knew I wasn’t gonna change anyone’s mind about a group they hated or liked. I figured the best I could do was to introduce new and little-known groups or artists or genres to people who hadn’t heard them before, and hopefully they’d like them as much as I did. Continue reading

Playlist tidbits

Every day’s bus ride from the Westminster Park and Ride is like listening to the weirdest radio station imaginable — a lot weirder than even the heyday of “underground” radio of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

And every ride, I hear gems out of the 10,064 tracks on my 40GB 4G iPod that make me smile, or take me back, or get me to notice something new and cool that I didn’t know or notice before. That’s the beauty of shuffling through the music. Continue reading

History in the Northwest

11:00 a.m.

Here I sit in my rental car, mere yards from the water. I’m waiting for the Bainbridge Island Ferry in Seattle — I missed the last one by just seconds and the next one leaves in an hour.

Bainbridge Island is the place captured poetically in the book and movie, “Snow Falling on Cedars” (which means, come to think of it, that it snows in Seattle, at least sometimes). Continue reading