Monday, December 7, 2009

Sucker Game of the Week: Discount Gift Cards!

Yet again, my local daytime news broadcast has brought me word of an amazing opportunity. A site is hosting auctions for gift cards. The auctions start at a dollar and can be for gift cards worth fifty dollars or more. Whenever a member bids, the site adds one minute and fifteen seconds to the auction, so don't expect to put any of your mad ebay sniping skills to work here. Still, it's worth a shot if five really can get you ten, right? Not so fast bargain hunter. It'll cost you three bucks to enter each auction, (win or lose) and if you do win they charge you five to mail you the .01 ounce gift card. Still, with such substantial profit margins in play, an eight dollar fee might seem worth it. This is the same logic that leads a person to buy multiple, five dollar scratch-off tickets every day. The hundreds of lost dollars vanish in the mind of the chump who's thrilled to find that he's just won thirty. And that guy's an economist compared to the one who gets really excited when he sees a discarded scratch-off in the street, and just has to look to see if it's a winner.
This isn't the first time that I've seen one of my local network news programs openly advocating something that anyone with a basic knowledge of carnival games would steer well clear of. In most cases, I really don't think that there's any bribery or conflict of interest at work. I find it much more likely that the reporters are just as gullible as these people's victims. I once saw a newscaster do a five minute segment about her numerologist. I'm not saying that it wasn't instructive. She helpfully showed us how to determine our individual "Life Numbers" and was more than happy to do some personalized mathamagic for anyone who swings by her parlor and is actually willing to pay money for it. The piece was actually a not-so cleverly disguised promotion for the, then, new series NUMB3RS, but the fact remains that a news personality presented a numerologist to the viewing audience as something other than a con artist who is too lazy to even have a good cold reading act.
Psychics selling happiness aren't the thing this year though. This season's sleazy come-ons will all promise to save or make you money in this troubled economy. Whether it's with a service that sells your address to the catalog companies or just a nice lady who tells you what numbers to play, that's the hot message now. When you hear it, run.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Rifftracks for Transformers ROTF Review

Whether you like a movie, dislike it or consider it an affront to God and all of His works, Mike Nelson and the crew at RiffTracks do a great job of making their after-market commentary tracks a good time for anyone with a sense of humor and a basic ability to press two PLAY buttons at the same time. However folks reluctant to confront difficult concepts like the location of the Great Pyramid, the actual travel time by car between North Jersey and Washington DC or the simple non-existence of Megan Fox's acting abilities, the RiffTrack for TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN might best be avoided.
For those unfamiliar with Rifftracks, they function like a some-assembly-required Mystery Science Theater 3000 for films that the crew on the satellite of love could never have afforded to license in a million years. The audio files are purchased and downloaded from the Rifftracks site and played along side of the DVD (video file, VHS, what have you). Audio and video are manually kept in sync with audio cues from Disembaudio, a robotic voice that occasionally speaks a line along with the film to show you how far out of sync you are even though you started playing exactly when they told you to.
I became aware of Rifftracks when the first Bay Transformers movie became available for Riffing. I plunked down my four bucks via secured third party internet escrow service and had myself a listen. The improvement was remarkable. Suddenly there were three professionals shouting at the screen for me and I'm not ashamed to admit, at a much higher level of funny. Sometimes. The second time around is just as good. Kevin Murphy, who played Tom Servo throughout the run of MST3K, has mellowed slightly in his need to simply berate Megan Fox for her general lack of ability and likability, and this time goes for elegantly giving voice Michaela's deep and unspoken thoughts. "Where's my lip gloss..? Do you, do you guys have any lip gloss?" It's with more insightful observations however that the track finds it's deeper meaning. Mike muses that the film makers seem to be under the impression that adults going to see a movie about giant robots will be entirely unfamiliar with marijuana and it's effects. ("Randomly attacking people, that's a common side effect of pot!") Just watching the movie all the way through again, I was struck my the sheer amount of harsh swearing in a film marketed to toddlers, but it took the Riffers to point out the me the surprising similarity of massive killing machine Devastator to not only a big, silly, slobbery puppy ("Who's a cute puppy? Oh yes he is! Yes he is!") but also the the contents of Fred Sanford's junkyard.
Keep your Rifftrack playing through the credits to take in Disembaudio's full rendition of Linkin Park's New Divide. As with the film, it's something that fans and people who hate it so much they can't stand to be in the same room with it can both get something out of.
And don't try to download the files through more nefarious means. Mike and his boys have littered the torrents with booby trapped files. There's nothing dangerous in them, but you might wish for a nice normal Rick Roll after listening to what you've downloaded. Believe me, Rifftracks are absolutely $3.99 worth of entertainment.