Fool.com: Lemony's a Lemon for Viacom [Motley Fool Take] December 31, 2004

Fool.com: Lemony's a Lemon for Viacom [Motley Fool Take] December 31, 2004

The Lemony Snicket movie underperformed.

Major bummer for the franchise including the video game my ex-studio produced.

Everybody is looking for the next Harry Potter, but of course, the next Harry Potter is going to be the one written by J.K. Rowling.

I really like the Snicket franchise and in fact it was my idea that Amaze try to get the Snicket gig. (Amaze ended up getting the gigs for five SKUs: PC, GBA, Xbox, PS2, and GC - that's very unusual for a single company to get so many SKUs!)

I've had a hypothesis for some time (the last couple of years) which the Snicket experience confirms: while there are a lot of "tween" books (and a vibrant "tween" market for books) there are very few "tween" books that translate into other media. I think it's because those "tween" books have a certain voice that no one has figured out how to translate to movies or games.

Certainly the Snicket books are all about language - they are almost a parody of themselves. The Unauthorized Autobiography of Lemony Snicket contains an index that is hilariously self-referential. How do you translate that to images?

Anyhow ... it's the kind of movie that will do great on video, I think. Maybe that will give the franchise a second wind.

(Note: January 10, 2005 - Snicket movie is up over $100m now.)

The Picture of Everything

Jack Brummet sent me this link. Scroll down and choose "The Picture of Everything." There is no direct link.

It's an enormously detailed poster with, well, if not everything, then certainly a lot of stuff.



(This is definitely my most popular blog entry.)

I managed to visit every Disney theme park around the world in one year. (Plus I saw "the big model" of the new Hong Kong park at Walt Disney Imagineering.)

I thought it would be cool to post a picture of each castle from Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.

However, since I'm originally from California, I take Disneyland somewhat for granted, so I never took a picture of the Disneyland castle!

Here are the other castles as photographed during my travels.

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom:

Walt Disney World Cinderella Castle (C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

Tokyo Disneyland:

Tokyo Disneyland Cinderella Castle (C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

Paris Disneyland:

Paris Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle (C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

The Paris castle was designed by my friend since second grade, Tom Morris (not the golfer), and it is spectacular, so it deserves another picture. This next picture looks (to me) like a picture of a model but this is the real castle.

Paris Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle (C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

Here's a picture of the top spire of the Paris castle, which has been broken (tilted) for many years. It was broken in a big windstorm that hit the park in 1999.

Paris Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle Broken Spire (C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

[Updated 2008 01 21]


Finally! A picture of the castle at Disneyland. Indeed, I finally dug through my pictures and found one of the Disneyland Castle, from 2004. That castle is pretty hard to photograph because it's pretty small and so it's easy to get a lot of other objects in the picture. I  decided to quit fighting it, and got the "Partners" statue in the foreground to solve that problem.

Picture of Disneyland Castle by DrStephenCW

(Click for bigger picture.)

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


CD Quality

My wife gave me a couple of Christmas CDs for Christmas and so I popped them into the DVD player for some background music while we opened presents.

I realized this might have been the first time in a couple of years that I had listened to a CD without ripping it first and then listening to the MP3!

I even listen to MP3s in my car, which has a CD changer and doesn't know anything about MP3, because I create mix CDs from MP3 sources! Or I listen to MP3s via a portable device and a cassette adaptor ... or I listen to my Duo-Aria which is an MP3 player that goes straight into the cassette deck!

Regardless, it's been a _l_o_n_g_ time since I listened directly to a CD.

I honestly couldn't say if they sound better than the MP3s. I think it would take a listening test with headphones or a listening lab to hear the difference, if there is any.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


The Right Game

It's Christmas Eve and as I reflect back on all the cool games that came out from Christmas this year how important one single thing is:

Making the right game for the market.

I love Ratchet and Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal. I think it's a perfect game. The levels are great, the weapons are awesome, the pacing is great, the character control is great, the cut scenes are funny, and it's only $40.00 besides.

I'm enjoying playing Halo 2 as well - it's a lot fun but the execution is no where near as good as Ratchet and Clank - the graphics pop, the cut scenes slow down (a lot) and this in spite of being on twice as powerful a machine.

Nonetheless, Halo 2 is going to sell in the high millions while Ratchet and Clank will sell well but not as well as Halo 2.

Which just goes to show - more importantly than execution is making the right game for the market - and Halo 2 fits the Xbox demographic perfectly.

And it also goes to show that even a perfectly executed game aimed at kids instead of older teens just can't compete.

As the realism of the next generation becomes apparent, kid-oriented or family games will have an even tougher time in the market.

One reason is that you can find kid and/or family games for free on the Internet. Who needs a $150.00 console to play those?

Another reason is that kids don't have discretionary money - older teens and young adults do. And they aren't going to buy Ratchet and Clank 3 in the same numbers as Halo 2.

Parents who buy games for their kids only do so once or twice a year - at Christmas or a birthday, whereas older teens and young adults buy games all year around.

So, it's tough times for kid games and family game in the console market.

To be sure, a couple of games a year break through, for instance a Sponge Bob game.

But in general, even licensed family games are a tough sell today and it's only going to get harder.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.




This is a new free program from some kids at the Washington State University EECS program.

It's a huge improvement over the incredibly old "MS Paint" program that comes with Windows.


Savoir Flair by Polly Plat

Savoir Flair by Polly Platt

I just received a Skype call from an old friend Sang Han who normally lives in Korea but has spent the last year in France finishing an MBA. Sang published an article at my Above the Garage web site in 1999.

He reminded me that the French are known for being very difficult to get along with!

My wife and I went to France to celebrate 20 years together and we were recommended the above book Savoir Flair by Polly Platt.

It was a life saver. We followed most of the rules in Savoir Flair and had a terrific time. The French people were incredibly nice and helpful.

Here's a picture of the Eiffel tower (at night, of course) from our trip:

Eiffel Tower at Night


Long Long - Using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC)

Long Long - Using the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC)

This is awesome. On Windows they have DWORD (for double word) and QWORD (for quad word).

The rest of the world (I think this is a standard) has "long int" for a double word and (this is the great part) "long long int" for a quad word.

I think it would be cooler if it was called "really long int", because that extends into the future better.

For 128 bit platforms, you could have "really really long int", and so on, forever. That's much better than "long long long int."



Skype is a free internet phone service. My friend Colin called me from France. Skype is free for calling from one Skype client to another. You run the client on your PC and then use the mic and speakers from your PC or laptop (or your cool Bluetooth headset).

The amazing thing is that Colin called me on my home number. I didn't have Skype installed. For just a few pennies a minute Colin was able to make an international phone call. According to Colin you just deposit about $10.00 with Skype and then you can make cheap calls to regular telephones.

Skype, and even Vonage, which I learned is supposed to be pronounced "Von'-Edge" (emphasis on the first syllable) - are great examples of viral marketing. They are so cool that you want to get your friends in on it. And the more friends you get in on it, the cheaper it gets, because any Skype-to-Skype or Vonage-to-Vonage phone call is free.

Likewise for most cellular services these days - in service calls (calls that stay within the cellular service) are free.

The thing is ... over 50% of American households now have broadband.

And there is really no reason to pay crazy long distance charges when you can use Vonage or Skype.

Regular telephone service is dead. It's just a matter of time, and not much time at that.

The complete destruction of a business is going to be something to see - it's going to be 10x worse than anything that is hitting the airlines now. It's as if matter transporters were invented. That would be the end of the airline business. Internet telephony (actually, any kind of packet-based telephony, including modern cell service) is destroying the old telephone business.

I have a friend that is spending $500.00 to $1000.00 a month on business calls. He switched to Vonage for the business rate of $50.00 a month. That's a 10x or 20x improvement! It was a no-brainer for him to risk the setup fee and try it out - he ordered it and a week later called me on his Vonage line.

It's incredible.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



Jack Brummet is posting poetry at his blog.

For instance, this one.

I wrote a poem in college. I've been searching for the original but I can't find it.

The poem went something like this:

The Ivory Tower

It glistens from afar

Shiny and inviting




You can see it’s

    c r u m b l i n g

And peopled by ants.

For some reason the professors I worked with didn't like it.

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


TV reruns need to be online.

I'd love to be able to watch shows in order, at my convenience, and I would even tolerate commercials to do so.

Comcast OnDemand claims to provide this, but the fact is they only have a subset of a series' shows online.

It is easy to modify Windows Media Player to have only a pause button (you need that, of course!) and to disable fast forward. Of course, leave rewind intact, and add in "8 seconds back" like on TiVo.

Get to work people! I have shows I want to watch!

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Miss Digital World

Somehow I missed the Miss Digital World contest.

I designed a female person once.

It's hard work.

This is the female person I designed and implemented (with 1996 technology [PowerAnimator]):

Cindy with short hair

At one point in time she had longer hair, but hair algorithms are a major pain-in-the-ass. Here she is flipping her hair:

Cindy flipping her hair

Her name is "C.I.N.D.-E" (pronounced Cindy). C.I.N.D.-E stands for "Computer Intelligence, Non-Deterministic - Experimental."

© 2004 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.