Dog News Round-Up

November 17, 2011

The most interesting articles that have lately accumulated in my saved bookmarks. . .

‘Pet Industry Booming, With Sales of Gourmet Treats’ from The New York Times

‘A Birth Control Pill for Dogs?’ from The Week

A nicely designed infographic from Hunch, Woof vs. Meow, What Our Furry Friends Reveal About Us

Owney the Postal Dog, one of several dogs that traveled on mail trains in the US and England during the great steam engine days, was honored by a ‘forever’ stamp this year. Owney is considered an unofficial Railway Mail Service Mascot. From the Times-Union

‘Dogs can instinctively sense a friendly face’ from The Telegraph

A fine art photobook of chewed dog toys has been published, Chewed by Arne Svenson and Ron Warren. It contains 140 exquisite color photos of “lovingly destoyed canine playthings.” From The New York Times

‘5 Surprising Facts about Dog Walking’ from The Week 

Canine DNA is being used to trace owners who don’t pick up after their pets in ‘Tracing Unscooped Dog Waste Back to the Culprit’ from The New York Times

‘The Phenomenon of Grieving Dogs’  An article that demonstrates the truth of Mark Twain’s saying, “Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.” From the The Week


George Plimpton’s Video Falconry and John Hodgman

November 17, 2011

Screenshot of an opening scene in George Plimpton’s Video Falconry.

I’m pretty much eliminating all those people in my life who don’t share my worship of John Hodgman. If you’re asking yourself, who is John Hodgman? There may still be hope for you.

John Hodgman is a minor television personality  and author. He was the PC in the “I’m a PC” – “I’m a Mac” commercials for Apple. (Justin Long was the always-triumphant Mac). He makes monthly appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and shows up a lot on the Rachel Maddow Show. He has a podcast,  Judge John Hodgman where he delivers rulings on problems brought before by ordinary, non-famous people. It is hysterically funny.

But I encountered him first as the author of The Areas of My Expertise (2006), a compendium of fake complete world knowledge. This work spawned a sequel, More Information Than You Require (2009) and now, the final book in the continuously paginated trilogy, That Is All (2011).

Here are two opinions on the new book taken from the listing on Amazon’s site:

“Sit in public laugh out loud smile to yourself funny literature.”

“I liked his appearances on the Jon Stewart show, but this book is not one bit funny or interesting. Thanks goodness I ‘acquired’ it at a local library and didn’t buy it.”

Now who can take the opinion of a person who steals books from a local library seriously? Need it be said that I agree with the ‘laugh out loud funny’ review? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, mention was made in the Judge John Hodgman program and the book That Is All of an obscure 1983 ColecoVision videogame, George Plimpton’s Video Falconry.

Intrigued, game programmer Tom Fulp took up the challenge to first, locate a game cartridge – it cost $500 – then spend the 31 days necessary to port the game to play in the web browser of your choice. Go here to do that. It’s free and actually fun to play. Claw grab. Beak grab. Claw grab. Claw grab. Claw grab.

It also has one of those  monophonic looped 8-bit electronic scores.

If you lived through that era nothing brings you back more vividly than those maddeningly elliptical soundtracks. You can also watch a video and learn the whole twisted story, from  George to John to Tom and how a 28 year old video game is resurrected.

In turns out that George Plimpton’s Video Falconry was especially obscure because most of the product wound up being junked due to conflicting endorsement deals Plimpton had made. Only a few cases of the games actually made it onto store shelves.

And that is more information than you require about George Plimpton’s Video Falconry.

The takeaway: these are serious and difficult times and the country cries out to its scores of deranged millionaires, make sense of it all for us. Or if not that, entertain us. John Hodgman is one of the few deranged millionaires to actually take up this challenge. If you have any discretionary income at all, get the economy moving again and buy one of his books.