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  • Michael Krakovskiy 8:56 am on February 12, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Akio Morita, , Betamax, brand electronics, , famous brand-name electronics, , Masaru Ibuka, , MiniDisc, , PlayStation, , Sony Canada, Sony Trinitron, , technology cooler, Tokyo, Trinitron, , Walkman   

    Sorny 

    [3F11] Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield

    Homer: [gasps] Look at these low, low prices on famous brand-name electronics!
    Bart: Don’t be a sap, Dad. These are just crappy knock-offs.
    Homer: Pfft. I know a genuine Panaphonics when I see it. And look, there’s Magnetbox and Sorny.

    People often ask me why I refuse to buy Sony products. Indeed, I boycott Sony, and I am not the one to hold a grudge against evil multinational corporations. The level of incompetence on the high levels of Sony’s management disgusts me.

    I used to be inspired by the story of Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita starting a company in bombed Tokyo, and growing it from a radio repair shop into a giant corporation. I loved my Walkman, and thoroughly enjoyed the Playstation. I used to buy Sony Trinitron monitors which were brighter and sharper than the competition, but had visible horisontal lines formed by support wires made out of tungsten.

    Over they years I felt that the quality of Sony products declined, while the company stopped to innovate and instead began to rely on brute force. They mostly missed the MP3 revolution. Instead they started to figh format wars.

    The MiniDisk, the Memory Stick, Blu Ray: Sony would stop at nothing to control the format. They won with the CD and Blu Ray, lost with Betamax and just about everything else. None of these formats made me want to buy Sony products, and I’m very grateful that I don’t have to.

    Sony would not stop at what’s legal – they even resorted to hacking their users’ computers – some Sony CDs installed rootkits on Windows machines in the name of copy protection! This is equivalent to breaking into your apartment just to make sure that you haven’t stole anything.

    Normaly Hanlon’s Law is in effect, but I highly doubdt that things like these are benign byproducts of Sony being a large corporation. It seems like lawyers are doing a lot of thinking at Sony, and they aren’t thinking about winning people over.

    Instead of trying to make their technology cooler, Sony through its lawyers started sending cease and desist letters to people who did things like making handmade iPod cases or toy racing cars out of outmoded Walkmen (I can’t find the original article mentioning the lawsuit about the racecars, but I remember reading it).

    Then came the last drop. My wife runs a website about pipe organ event that she coded herself. She included an Amazon store that randomly showed different music-related items – it was a proprietory piece of software over which she had a rather limited control.

    Sony employs a company called Net Enforcer that sends out DMCA takedown notices whenever they think they see any unauthorized “retailers” selling Sony products. My wife’s store’s algorithm used to include some Sony products sold by Amazon. Rather than dealing with the offending items, Dreamhost simply took down the whole store and notified me.

    NetEnforcers would have you believe that they are protecting Sony’s brand, not letting various riffraff sell Sony products. I had to spend a good deal of time trying to figure out how to fix my wife’s store and not include any Sony products. As a result I refuse to buy any Sony brand electronics. I’m pretty sure this is not what Akio Morita would approve of.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:18 am on October 3, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chankonabe, Chorizo, , Hot pot, , , , Nabemono, Restaurant, Sapporo Lion Beer Hall, , Stew, Sumo wrestling, Tokyo, ,   

    Deadprogrammer Visits Japan Part VIb : My Three Favorite Meals in Japan 

    I’ve had three exceptional meals in Japan. The first, and probably my favorite was in a little restaurant located on the grounds of Ryōan-ji, the famous temple with the rock garden. The restaurant is sitting in the middle of a gorgeous garden that is open only to the restaurant patrons. They serve beer and yudofu, a vegetarian stew with tofu and seven herbs.

    I am not a fan of vegetarian dishes, but this one completely blew me away by it’s simplicity and clean flavor. I can see how the monks could spend their entire life eating like that.

    You eat sitting down on tatami, the traditional way.

    We ordered a yudofu set that came with numerous side dishes, of which this is one. It wasn’t cheap at about $60, but was totally worth it. Maybe seeing the rock garden prior to eating this had something to do with it, but this was my favorite meal in Japan.

    My second favorite meal was in a little restaurant in Ryogoku, Tokyo’s sumo district. They serve chankonabe, stew traditionally eaten by sumo wrestlers. That was probably one of the most filling and healthiest meals that I’ve ever eaten in Japan – it was mostly protein.

    The restaurant was filled with trochees, memorabilia and pictures of sumo wrestlers, many in the restaurant itself and together with their families.

    Chankonabe is a meat, seafood and vegetable hot pot. It was prepared right in front of us.

    It’s eaten piping hot. I need to cook this at home more often.

    Our last meal in Japan happened in a rather famous place, the Sapporo Lion Beer Hall in Ginza. It’s the oldest Japanese beer hall that opened its doors in 1899.

    The interior has huge vaulted ceilings, Art Deco and Gothic decor. There’s a huge mosaic over the bar depicting a harvest scene.

    The selection of beer is as good as can be expected in a place like this. My favorite was Yebisu Black, which I sadly can’t locate here in the US.

    The selection of appetizers was huge too, and we tried several, including this awesome sashimi appetizer. Sadly, despite my advice, my wife ordered a chorizo(!) appetizer (it was the only thing that I did not have that night) and got a bad case of upset stomach later that evening. I was fine, so I guess a historic Japanese beer hall is not a great place for chorizo.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:56 am on August 27, 2006 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asahi Beer Hall, Asahi Breweries, , , , , metal buildings, , Political geography, Samurai Jack, Sapporo, , Tokyo   

    Deadprogrammer Visits Japan Part V: Japanese Architecture 

    Pilot: Welcome to Japan, folks. The local time is…tomorrow.
    The Simpsons, Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo

    If you want to know what Japan is like architecturally, go watch Samurai Jack cartoons. The future world created by Genndy Tartakovsky looks a lot like present day Japan.

    I picked some photos of buildings to give you a general idea of what I have seen. Here’s a Habitrails-inspired otaku-infested electronics shop in Akihabara.

    Here’s a very elegant Stalinist-style skyscraper somewhere in Tokyo.

    Philippe Starck blemished Tokyo skyline with a giant golden turd on the top of Asahi Beer Hall. It’s supposed to symbolize a flame that in turn is supposed to symbolize the company spirit of Asahi. Giggling tourists take a lot of pictures with creative shot framing. By the way, I’ve tried a lot of different beers that Asahi makes, and they all taste like, uh, flame. I, personally like Sapporo much better.

    The Japanese society is highly stratified. For instance, in the hotel complex where I was staying there were at least 5 different classes of buildings (each of a different prestige level) and the ANA plane in which I travelled also had 4 or 5 types of seating. On this picture you can see two layers of Japanese society: well-designed plastic huts built by homeless with a backdrop of what I’m told is company-provided employee dorms.

    Here’s an amazingly eclectic little building (I think it’s a firehouse). It combines elements of Art Deco, Modernism and traditional Japanese architecture.

    And this building is pretty typical of modern designs. I love the huge wrap-around windows, the dna-like staircase and the efficient use of space.

    I was most shocked by architecture in Kyoto’s Gion, the geisha district. Near all-traditional Japanese buildings there was a number of super-futuristic mostly metal buildings that looked like spaceships. I think they were nightclubs of some sort. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else.

    Many building tops had antenna clusters, one more cyber-punkey than the other.

    As we all know, land is pretty tight in Japan. Here’s a pretty typical small house somewhere in Kamakura (I think).

    What makes construction in such tight quarters possible is this marvel of technology: a cute pocket-sized excavator.

     
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