Jacob Zinn :: journalist + photographer

Stuff Your Dad Likes: (Senior-Friendly) Technology

Posted in Stuff Your Dad Likes by Jacob Zinn on February 27, 2012
Jacob Zinn can’t give you fatherly advice, but he can eat your share of the leftover pizza.

There is often a generational gap when it comes to understanding high-tech gadgets.

Generations Y and Z have mastered touchscreens, state-of-the-art video game consoles and lightspeed texting. But the older you go, the more computer illiterate people become.

Most everyone born during the Reagan years knows how to surf the Internet (or, at the risk of sounding dated, even how to program a VCR), but there are curmudgeonly Baby Boomers who don’t even know how to use a microwave.

The truth is, my dad is a rather tech-savvy individual. As an engineer, he uses a powerful PC for the array of drafting software required for his day-to-day assignments.

Except he has the resolution set to 800 x 600.

Even with his prescription glasses on, he likes the large, easy-to-see desktop icons. He magnifies the text on websites, awkwardly stretching and skewing the images.

He doesn’t have time to squint at smartphones, either. It’s not to the point that my dad’s cell phone is a Jitterbug, but it’s a near-future possibility. The tiny keys on a Blackberry just weren’t designed for his stubby, stubborn fingers.

Set the default text size to 20 points, with a legible font like Helvetica! (Maybe that’s why so many seniors are using iPads – to them, it’s like a jumbo-sized iPhone.)

I fear that as my dad gets older, he may need more 65-plus technology. I picture him flipping through Sears catalogues from the ‘80s in search of LifeAlert or the Clapper, quoting the original prices over the phone and giving the customer service representatives a headache. To stay active in retirement, he may buy a Nintendo Wii and only play Wii Sports – the game that came with the Wii.

But at some point, my parents won’t be able to look after themselves, and there’s no amount of readily available senior-friendly technology to enable their future lifestyle. So allow me to sign off with a quick letter to my father:

Dear Dad,

Sorry you had to find out this way, but if you become incontinent and there’s no technology to help that, I’m putting you in a home. (One with a Nintendo Wii hooked up to a Clapper.)

Your Son,

Jacob Zinn


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FOX in talks for Simpsons Channel

Posted in Opinion, The Simpsons, TV & Film by Jacob Zinn on September 18, 2011
I

nstead of Itchy & Scratchy, the Simpsons could soon be watching themselves on their outdated, purple rabbit-ear television.

FOX is reportedly considering launching a 24-hour Simpsons network. Non-stop, ’round-the-clock gut-busting, laugh-out-loud, yellow hilarity–but is there enough for an entire channel dedicated to Homer, Marge and the kids?

Adding Up The Simpsons


22 Seasons on FOX (and counting!)
486 Episodes spanning 178 Hours
15 Seasons on DVD
1000+ Springfieldians
337 Guest Stars as of Season 16
$400,000 Salary of Simpsons voice actors–per episode
27 Primetime Emmys
24 video games from NES to iPhone
2,151st Star on the Walk of Fame
12 7-Eleven’s turned into Kwik-E-Marts
8th -Highest Grossing Film worldwide, taking in $527,068,706
#1 TV Series of the Century as named by TIME magazine


The Simpsons is the longest-running sitcom, animated program and primetime scripted television series in America. With 486 episodes spanning 22 seasons and a full-length feature film, they have a lot to choose from.

The Simpsons is one of those shows that you’ll watch on syndication as you flip channels on a Sunday afternoon, even if you’ve seen it before and you know how the episode ends. But a channel based on reruns that have been rerun for 22 years could get tiresome, and quick.

It would be fascinating to learn the viewership for different episodes; classics from the golden era of seasons three through nine may be the most watched while newer episodes from the last several seasons might plummet in ratings.

It seems obvious that the network would run promotions during different months for holiday-themed episodes: October would run Treehouse of Horror marathons, December would air Christmas and Hanukkah episodes, and specific episodes that coincide with other occasions.

B

ut to stay fresh, the network would need to offer some original programming, like Simpsons documentaries or vignettes with writers, producers and voice actors on their favourite episodes, characters, chalkboard and couch gags, guest stars, et cetera. Off the top of my head, the network could run 30-minute to one-hour specials on:

  • Film Homages: Pulp Fiction, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Graduate, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather and Indiana Jones (to name a few)
  • Musical Guest Stars: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, Metallica, NSYNC, Smashing Pumpkins, Ted Nugent, The White Stripes, blink-182
  • Professional Athletes: Joe Nameth, Dennis Rodman, Ken Griffy Jr., Elvis Stojko, Tom Brady, Michelle Kwan, Oscar De La Hoya, Tony Hawk
  • Perfectly Cromulent Words in Pop Culture: D’oh!, meh, embiggen, kwyjibo, cheese-eating surrender monkeys
  • überfans Worldwide: A collection of interviews with self-proclaimed biggest Simpsons fans from around the world.
  • Religion in The Simpsons: A special that explores Ned Flanders’ fundamentalist Christianity, Lisa’s soul-searching Buddhism, Apu’s faithful Hinduism, Krusty’s Jewish upbringing and other beliefs in The Simpsons.

They already have themed DVD releases for Hollywood tributes and religious beliefs, so they wouldn’t have to look very hard to compile these specials.

Groening and the rest of FOX could further break down the subcultures, sociology and psychology of Springfield, even to go so far as to analyze the use of Pavlov’s Theory or the Infinite Monkey Theorem in the show. Heck, they could run a full hour of Homer’s annoyed grunts and still get ratings.

T

he trick here is to appeal to all fans at once. A casual fan who hasn’t seen every episode might watch anything on a Simpsons channel, but someone with Comic Book Guy-level Simpsons fandom might skip newer episodes in favour of “The Lemon Tree” or “22 Short Films About Springfield.”

The Simpsons might be enough to lure viewers in, but at some point, that collection of episodes could rerun itself out. If FOX seriously intends to launch a Simpsons channel, prepare some documentary-style shows filled with interviews and history that will appeal to Frink-type nerds, Wiggum-type simpletons and the Simpson-type typical American family.


Don’t get swindled by the Kindle

Posted in Books, Electronics, Opinion by Jacob Zinn on August 14, 2009

The Amazon Kindle sucks.

It’s ugly, it’s bland and it fits in your pocket about as well as a portable record player.

But Amazon must have thought there was a nerdy market for this because the first Kindle sold out within five and a half hours of its release.

Before Kindle, ebooks never caught on, but after 21 months on the market, the Kindle has. Kinda.

Obviously, it comes with features that you can’t get with books. It has a web browser, reads .PDFs, and for a price, you can group your book collection with your daily newspaper.

You can adjust text size, but you can’t change the typefaces and its monochrome display can only make reading tedious.

Not to mention the iPhone–on top of all its other features–has a free ebook reader. There’s an app for that.

But the obsession to have everything we read on a screen is absurd. If I have to plug in and charge an electronic device to read something better suited to paperback, there must be something wrong with me.

There’s no sentimental value on digital books. When you have a hard cover copy of a book, you can feel the material, the texture of the pages. If you meet the author, they can sign it. You can lend it, sell it, donate it and it can be reused over and over again.

Oh yeah, and with the recent withdrawl of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from the Kindle library, you can bet other content restrictions will be put in place. (Believe it or not, Mein Kampf is available on the Kindle.)

Amazon’s Kindle hasn’t changed how we read the way Apple’s iPod has changed how we listen to music. Digital music works; digital reading doesn’t.

At least, not on that poorly-contrasted screen…

Extra Reading Material: this webcomic by Penny Arcade. Not compatible with the Kindle.

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