For Rent

Product placement is so prevalent in films, hardly anybody notices anymore. What's a Coke here and a GM truck there among fans?

But every once and awhile a director or movie is so egregious that you feel that you've stepped into a shopping mall, not a theatre.

Cracked has put together a list of the 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History, including films such as ET, Transformers and Minority Report. They got it right, expect for Michael Bay's The Island, which only landed at #3 on the list whereas it should have topped the list with ease.

I saw it with a group of friends three years ago and we laughed throughout it. It's not a comedy. Aside from the bad script and terrible acting there was product after product, ad after ad: AmEx, Speedo, Cadillac, Microsoft MSN, Ben & Jerry's, Apple, Mack trucks, Chevrolet, Budweiser, Michelob, Nokia, TAG Heuer and Calvin Klein, to name a few

But see for yourself and then check out the rest of the list.

The Hockey Song

A couple of months ago I was blathering on in my regular, ill-informed manner about how the CBC would never walk away from the theme music of Hockey Night in Canada. There are several million reasons that can explain how I got that one wrong.

I also called the idea of a contest to find a replacement "trite," but what do I know? And now that a friend has submitted his version, promising me free ice cream if he wins (free ice cream, people!) I'm all behind the contest.

So vote, vote like it matters!

Olympics: Faster, Higher, Brickier

Almost more than Michael Phelps's Olympian-sized breakfasts, TV commentators have been obsessed about the grandeur of Beijing's Olympic venues. They rave about the complexity of the Bird's Nest, the luminescent brilliance of the Water Cube and so forth.

To be sure, they are fascinating structures, but what better way to understand their complexity than building Lego replicas, right? That's the task that the Hong Kong Lego User Group set for themselves, using more than 300,000 Lego bricks and 4,500 Lego people. The model measures 8m x 3m and includes models of the Bird’s Nest, the Water Cube, the Equestrian centre and took 100 hours of work.

These are just some examples of their designs. Be sure to see their gallery for high-res versions of the building process and the incredible attention to detail.

Of course if you're not impressed by that, than how about the Bird's Nest, entirely built out of playing cards? World Record cardstacker Bryan Berg recreated the Bejing Olympic Village using 140,000 playing cards over 20 days.

...And You Act Like One Too

Four years can be a lifetime in pop culture, more so for a blog. So Happy Birthday Popped Culture, which turned four today.

When I started this small corner of the digital world, Tom Cruise had yet to jump the couch, Britney Spears had only been married once, Pierce Brosnan was still James Bond, George Lucas had yet to unleash his final mangling of Star Wars and Lost had yet to redefine TV dramas.

I hadn't really even heard of blogs when my friend Ryan Trotman said I should start a blog, ending up in Popped Culture's first incarnation as an AOL Journal. I've since moved on to Blogger and how it looks now. I'm pleased, but I won't say it isn't work some evenings. But I figure a fourth year deserves a fifth and perhaps a redesign. We'll see about that.

If anyone wants to get me a gift, I'll take a link from boing boing, Digg, Neatorma or Slashdot would be cool. But comments are nice too.

See you out there...

Where My Bees At?

Bees are disappearing and nobody can really pinpoint why. It's called Colony Collapse disorder and could be caused by disease, a virus, genetically modified crops or even cell phones.

And now it's seeping into pop culture, so you just know it's serious. As in losing one-third of our fruit and veggies serious.

When a honey bee returns to the hive after finding a good source of nectar, it will perform a unique dance for its hive mates, detailing the distance, quality and quantity of the new food supply. Here’s what really goes on:

Learn more at

Jessica Hagy over at indexed is perplexed as well. As she says, what really is going on?

Isaac Hayes: Can You Dig It?

"It would be a shame if Isaac Hayes, who died yesterday at 65, were remembered only as the guy who voiced the cartoon character who sang Chocolate Salty Balls," reads Entertainment Weekly's tribute to Hayes.

While it wouldn't be the only thing I'll remember, it is my favourite and one of the best moments from South Park. It embodies both the show's clever yet juvenile humour and Chef's sexualization of just about anything.

Both Chef and Hayes will be missed.

Madden Men

While our regular Popped Culture guru is kicking back with a beer and some loons in northern Ontario, we thought we'd illuminate one of his
Cultural Blind Spotswith this post.

John Madden is old for a video-game star. He has coached a Super Bowl champion, spent 29 years in the broadcast booth covering the NFL and at 72 years of age will help kick off the 20th anniversary edition of Madden NFL 09 when it arrives Tuesday for Xbox 360, Wii and DS handhelds and Sony's PlayStations.

The Madden NFL franchise published by Electronic Arts has become a benchmark that allows us to measure how far the fidelity in video-games has evolved since 1989 when it first appeared on the Apple II computer. The fidelity is both visual and visceral. Sound, music, instant replay, on-screen graphics, statistical info and the in-game play-by-play announcers are now to the point that they have surpassed the real deal we see on the network TV on Sundays. It is to my mind, mind boggling.

Because the problem for EA developers to solve hasn’t changed for 20 years it’s easy to see the progress almost like a scientific experiment. 11 players on offense, 11 players on defense, (Madden insisted on this little bit of reality when he originally signed on), and the rules are set by the NFL. Enhancing what we see and hear on the screen is the only problem to solve. And good lord how it’s evolved.

The artificial intelligence has gotten to the point where the current version will adjust its difficulty level based on how well you perform a series of tests via a weirdly disconcerting hologram program with Mr. Madden taking the part of Princess Leia, (strangely hologram technology has yet to evolve in the least since Star Wars episode 1). It looks like a weird window on how Madden’s role will be presented in future games after he’s, um, gone.

On a more personal note, I am big hater of Brett Favre who happens to be the cover boy this year. You may have heard of the “Madden Cover Curse”. Well considering the way Green Bay fans have turned on Brett in recent weeks the curse appears to live on despite the fact that he had officially retired when EA made their choice. If you’re a Favre hater like myself check out for alternate covers that you can cut and paste over the official version as well as more beautiful screens and vids. And for those that can’t wait until Tuesday to get started, has an excellent series of tutorials to prep before kick-off - and there is of course now a Facebook-like community space for like-minded football geeks at Even if you’re not a huge football fan you owe it to yourself to download the demo from XBL or the Playstation Network if only to see John in all his holographic glory.

David Duncan is a graphic designer, game geek and die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan living in Toronto.

5 Reasons Entertainment Lists Suck

I recently had the displeasure of leafing through Entertainment Weekly's list of the "New Classics." It reminded me instantly of why I don't watch or read anything entertainment-related from the month of November to February. (A teaser: in the TV section, The Real World, Miami Vice and Arsenio Hall are all mentioned, and rated highly in some cases.) No two people will ever entirely agree on lists, but all too often, lists are simply a means to get on Digg, or in the case of a printed edition like EW, to get some mindless content on the page in absence of actual commentary or criticism.

I now present to you the Five Reasons Why Entertainment Lists Suck:

  1. They usually reflect whatever people are likely to remember from the last 5 months. Case in point: E! Channel's endless round ups often are a clearing house for films which have been released in the last calendar year. As much as "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" might be deemed by them as a top ten funniest film of all time, most of us beg to differ. Perhaps the writers in question don't have much of an attention span, or perhaps they are just lazy (or perhaps both, Adderall's a bitch.) It simply does not live up to "definitive."
  2. There are no surprises, or controversial choices. AFI is the worst perpetrator of this. "Citizen Kane: best film of all time." O RLY? Whilst it was a significant departure at the time from traditional stories, and it was an huge leap technologically, there are several films that are every bit as good, if not better. (Though I might not agree completely, STORY Author Robert McKee argues quite effectively that Casablanca was the best film ever made.) You also know that someone at EW was phoning it in when number three in their New Classics list was Titanic. Mmmmm Treacle. It's excellent on buttered toast, but absolute shite on a film screen.
  3. Often based on buzz or box office receipts. Some of the best films of all time did not make bank. Some films' box office receipts have not been corrected for inflation, and thus languish at the bottom of the pile. No one is really that interested in the highest grossing films of all time, in the context of reading an article about it, or watching a one hour, glossy special on the television. We care about why an author has chosen these particular films. Why did they choose "Saving Private Ryan" over the infinitely better "The Longest Day?" If the answer is solely in the cash register, the whole exercise is lost.
  4. Lack of Insight. Whilst AFI lists supposedly have established "criteria" for judging the films in their lists, they, along with E! and EW don't give much sound reasoning to their choices. This dovetails to the problem with controversial choices. The Breakfast Club made EW's New Classics list. This is a common film which is bandied about as "Best of the Eighties." I would argue fiercely that Sixteen Candles is the best Molly Ringwald movie of all time, because it is a great send up of everything it means to be a teen, whereas the Breakfast Club is a bit of a dirge which slows to a near halt in the second act. I would argue the best teen movie of the Eighties is Fast Times at Ridgemont High, because of its deft weaving of actual issues into the fun and insanity of what it means to come of age. This is the type of insight lacking in most entertainment lists.
  5. Kissing Up. In every list published, or presented on television, there is a high percentage of kissing up to certain people who these parties need to interview to shift their product. There is another insidious method of including certain entries to look "with it" or "well read." (Entries which will always appear which fall under this category include Schindler's List (a fine movie, but gets used for political reasons) Anything by Woody Allen (I love his films, but he's the indicator that the person mentioning him can be taken seriously) and anything which is a BBC Co-Production, or period piece. (For which, I will use my all time favourite jackass quote, from one Mr. Johnny Depp, when asked if he was romantic. He replied "Am I a romantic? I've seen Wuthering Heights 10 times. I'm a romantic." Asshattery at its finest, folks.)

Not all lists suck, but lists shouldn't exist on their own without some proper work, examination, and criticism thrown in for good measure. (C'mon, kids, you can use that expensive English degree!) It is not enough to assemble a bunch of shit you scribbled on to a napkin that time when you smoked the good weed, and publish it. You are in a privileged position to add some colour to your articles, and turn the average boob on to some truly excellent entertainment. Come on guys, step it up.