Saturday, October 30, 2010

To @LarryChiang, a direct complaint regarding the "Reverse VC Pitch Party" #reverseVC

I went to Larry's Reverse VC Pitch Party at SXSW 2010. It was one of the worst events I have ever attended. The expectations for the event was set early, right on the registration page.

VCs are here to charm you.
Normally, you pitch VCs. Well at this event the VCs will be pitching you. Think of it as Sadie Hawkins night for entrepreneurs.

From the quote above and the name of the event I thought, for some strange reason, that VCs would pitch me. If you don't know what a VC is check out this Wikipedia entry:

In general the VCs invest in young companies with the hopes that when they grow up the companies will make them a lot of money. So really if all goes well it's a win-win situation, theoretically.

Now back to my experience. I paid close to $60 for my ticket for this event. Seeing as I wanted to get my money's worth I showed up about 20 minutes early. The Pitch Party was held in the back room of Roy's, a restaurant next to the Austin Convention Center. As I made my way to the back room I noticed Larry Chiang sitting in the restaurant with several women. I figured he was finishing up a dinner meeting before the party. At the registration desk there where two lovely ladies that help me sign in.

Neither of them knew what the agenda was for that night. That's because it was never given to them. I figured I was early and that Larry should be in shortly to give all of us the skinny. As I waited, more and more people showed up. We talked and we ate the food that was provided, but nothing other than that was going on. After 15 minutes after the start of the event I decided to talk with the registration desk again. There was no new information, but it was suggested that I speak with Larry, who was still sitting at his table in the restaurant.

I took their advice and walked up to the table. Here is what transpired.

Me: Larry I just have a quick question.

Larry: No! You had plenty of time to text me before this! This is my time now!

Me: I just wanted to know...

Larry: Give me a minute. Give me a minute! Give me a minute!!! GIVE ME A MINUTE!!!!

He was obviously going through something, so I walked away. I waited by the registration desk and gave him a minute. I waited another 15 minutes, and he never approached me. While I was waiting two women came out of the event and join me at the registration table. I over heard them talking. One wants to leave, and one wants to stay to see if any others will show up. That's what happened, one left and one stayed.

I chatted up the lady that stuck around. Turns out that she was one of the sponsors for the Reverse VC Pitch Party. She was part of a group that supports women entrepreneurs. She wanted to see if any more of her members would show up. She was not at all happy with how things were going. We discussed weither we should leave or stay. That's when I chose not to just sit back and take it. I was going to go back  into that room and make VCs pitch me, and she was with me.

I came up with a plan. Walk up to the attendees and if they where a VC to go to the front of the room, and if they where an entrepreneur to go to the back of the room. That's just what I did, and told them that the pitching would start in 15 minutes. I was almost done with talking to everyone in the whole room when I felt someone grab my arm. It was Larry.

Larry: What are you doing?

Me: Organizing your event.

Larry: When you throw your own event then you can organize it. This is my party. VCs are telling me that they are going to have to start pitching. I told them that they wouldn't have to do anything.

Me: Well isn't that the point?

Larry: Either stop what you're doing now and we can be friends, or leave now.

Me: I came to have VCs pitch me, and that's what I want to happen.

Larry: Did you pay?

Me: Yes.

Larry: How much did you pay?

Me: I don't know, about $60.

Larry: I'll give you $100 to leave right now.

Me: Um... Okay.

Larry: Fine, here's $100. Now leave.

(He then grabs my arm again and pulls me towards the door)

(I wiggle free)

Me: Hey! You don't have to man-handle me. I said I'll leave.

Larry: Then leave.

(I start to work my way through the crowd, then I remeber my helper. I really need to tell her I'm leaving.)

Me: Oh, I need to tell...

Larry: No leave now!

(He puts his hand on my back and pushes)

Me: Okay, okay!

(We make it to the front desk. I lean over and say...)

Me: Thank you for all...

Larry: LEAVE!

(He grabs me, and now we are on our way through the resteraunt. A few feet from the front door, he jolts me to a stop.)

Larry: Let's take a picture.

(There was a photographer in the lobby and she takes a picture.)

Larry: Now that's what it looks like to be kicked out of my party.


I left. That was the first time I have ever been thrown out of a party. I was mad, but at least I got a story out of it, and made money at the same time. I moved on to the next party. I talked to some people later that night that knew Larry. I wanted to get their take on the guy. The person I talked to had some mixed feelings about him. He was described as really bad at times and great on other occasions.

The next day I was back in the Convention Center. I was in the hallway talking to one of the SXSW volenteers when around the corner Larry comes around.

Larry: Did you like that?

Me: Like what?

Larry: Me kicking you out of my party.

He then walked away. That was his last words to me. His Reverse VC Pitch Party was not as published. It was just an unstructured networking event in which he charged VCs, entrepreneurs, and took money from sponsors. To me, that sounds like a scam.


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Friday, October 29, 2010

Thank you @Klout for the shirt

Last month I was one of the winners of a twitter contest run by Klout. You can see the rest of the contestants that won here:

I have had nothing but good experiences with Klout. They are very responsive via twitter and e-mail. If you don't already have a Klout account i would get one today. Sign up here:

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Baby Works iPad Perfectly. Amazing Must Watch!

Talk about a manufactured artist - This Rocking Lead Singer is a 3D Hologram (video) | Singularity Hub


Hatsune Miku isn't real, but her popularity is.

The internet is such a big place that sometimes I stumble onto huge trends that I’ve never even heard of before. Case in point: Hatsune Miku. She’s a Japanese pop diva who’s just started to play massive stadium concerts to sold out crowds. Her hair is blue, she dresses like Sailor Moon, and she’ll only appear in concerts via a 3D ‘hologram’. Oh, and did I forget to mention that she’s completely fictional? Created by Crypton Future Media, Hatsune Miku is a virtual singing avatar that you can purchase for your PC and program to play any song you create. She and her virtual colleagues have gone on limited tours in Japan and virtual avatar song writing is a growing trend all over the world. Surprising? Perhaps, but the thing that really blows me away is that I actually like her songs. Check out Hatsune Miku’s performance of Stargazer in the video below. Not bad for JPop.

Watching Miku sing live is pretty amazing. The 3D ‘hologram’ isn’t that impressive, it looks to be a modern version of the pepper’s ghost illusion we’ve seen before, but the crowd reaction is intense. I’ve been to concerts where the band’s fan base was considerably less enthusiastic. How must it feel to be a musician and see this virtual character getting way more love than you? Hatsune Miku and her ‘friends’ may only have played a few tours, but there’s little doubt that these guys are rock stars:

In order to create a character that sounds believably human, Crypton uses a real person’s voice as the basis for the avatar’s distinct singing style. The adaptation of someone’s singing voice into a character that a user can program to sing anything has lead to controversy. Real musicians have been loathe to step forward and submit their voices for fear that they’ll be replaced by a virtual copy of themselves. Instead of professional singers, Crypton has hired cartoon voice actors to provide the basis for their avatars. Miku is reportedly created from the voice of Saki Fujita.

The technology for Crypton’s Hatsune Miku program comes from Yamaha’s Vocaloid software which provides the means to create a realistic synthesized singing voice. You can hear samples of the raw Vocaloid synthesizer (which hasn’t been styled to fit any particular character like Hatsune Miku) on its website here. Miku and other avatars retail for ¥15,750 (~$193) and allow users to compose music and connect it to vocals note by note. You can share the songs you create via sites like Piapro (JP). Writing music for virtual avatars has become so popular that Crypton has established a music label, KarenT, and you can see many of the associated music videos for these songs on their YouTube channel.

It’s hard to quantify how large of an impact Vocaloid software is having on popular music. Yamaha doesn’t directly market the software itself, instead relying on licensed developers like Crypton (in Japan) and Zero-G (in the UK) to sell various products based on the technology. There are many sites like Piapro where users can share their work, and many simply skip forums and go straight to YouTube. There are various blogs and sites dedicated to discussing the Vocaloid phenomenon (I recommend you start with Vocaloidism), and there are karoake and music-composing video games featuring some of the most popular avatars.

It seems clear that virtual characters like Hatsune Miku are on the upward swing of their popularity. Crypton’s avatars have played several live concerts in the past year. Miku’s first ’solo’ performance took place on March 9th, and was titled Miku no Hi Kanshasai 39’s Giving Day – this is where the Stargazer performance was recorded. DVD and Blu-ray copies of the performance are set to be released globally, and there have been screenings of the concert in San Francisco and New York. The tour coincides with the release of the Hatsune Miku Project Diva video game from Sega.

Having just been introduced to the Vocaloid scene, I’m sort of in awe. Not by the quality of music – some of it is good, but mostly it’s pretty generic mainstream stuff. No, I’m impressed by the possibilities created by such virtual avatars. YouTube is already full of videos where users mix and match songs to various pieces of art, and remixing/sampling is a global music phenomenon. Now, these secondary source musicians have a whole other tool in their belt. They can have high quality virtual characters sing whatever they want. Modern technology is merging producers and consumers of art into a new being – the prosumer. Avatars like Hatsune Miku are accelerating that process, allowing us to generate more quality content on our own, and share that content with anyone via the web. In the future we will all be a part of this exchange of creative prosumerism. Ask not for whom the 3D hologram pop star sings – it sings for thee.

[image credit: Segabits]
[video credit: Miku39GivingDay]
[sources: AnimeNewsNetwork, Crypton, Vocaloidism]

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finally!! A Look At Chris Evans In His CAPTAIN AMERICA Costume!! -- Ain't It Cool News

The cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly brings us a look at Chris Evans as Captain America - in costume.

The images originates HERE, where EW previews what you can expect from their upcoming coverage.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Walgreens Sells Android Tablet for $99 : AndroidSPIN

Walgreens, the pharmacy that acts as a last minute shopping stop for Christmas, is now going to be known for selling a cheap Android tablet. Maylong, famous for their GPS units, has introduced the Maylong M-150 Android tablet. This tablet is only available for purchase online for a whopping $99 from Walgreens.  The Android based tablet will have a 7 inch LCD resistive touch screen.

M-150 Specs

  • Android   1.6
  • Cpu ARM9(VM8505+)
  • Memory    256MB DDR
  • WIfi  802.11b/g
  • Display  800×480 pixels
  • Built in speakers
  • Sd card slot, not micro sd.
  • Weight 12oz.

For more information on the M-150 tablet, check out the Maylong Group website.  Sources are saying this tablet will not see anything more than Android 1.6, but that is not for sure. If you are interested in more information please check out the source below.


What do guys think, is it worth the $99 price tag or will it just be another gadget that collects dust?

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Synapse-Phones Introduces configure and build to order Android phones

Synapse One

299,00including VAT
The Starting Specs are:
Operating System:
Android 2.2
10.16cm, 4,0-inch SuperLCD multitouch-sensitive screen with 480x800 WVGA resolution
Three built-in microphones
(Telephone, camera and noise-reduction)
Proximity sensor
Ambient light sensor
Accelerometer sensor
Four capacitive buttons under the screen
Power button
Two volume buttons on the left side
Camera button on the right side
Expansion Slot:
microSD memory card(SD 2.0 compatible)
Up to 32GB card support.
Body material:
Aluminium with ambientlight
In Box Content:
Main unit
Battery (as selected)
MicroUSB Cable
Charger (Voltage range/frequency: 100-240V AC, 50-60Hz)
RF Brochure
Product Safety & Warranty Statement
Quick Start Guide

3 years worldwide warranty
Shipping starts in the middle of Q1 2011.
We are shipping to the EU, U.S., Canada.
And now it is your turn to select the Hardware you want.

How it works

Step 1:

Think about for what you use your smartphone and what you will do with it. For example if you are someone who loves to take thousands of pictures, you can choose the 12MP camera and a xenon flash for taking pictures at night or under bad lighting conditions or if you want to store your whole music collection on your smartphone just choose a high amount of memory.

Step 2:

So now that you know what you want, go to "Configure/Preorder now" and select everything you need.

Step 3:

And this is our turn to build your smartphone and deliver it to you.

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Kinect for Xbox 360 - The official launch TV ad campaign.

Will the changes in Google Groups move people to Facebook Groups?

Google Groups feature changes

Google Groups owners have received an email from Google today that details some changes that are going to happen in a few months. And sadly there are no feature additions -- they're all things that Groups will be phasing out.

So, starting in January 2011 you will no longer be able to create or edit customized welcome messages, pages or files. Such content already on your groups will become read-only. By February, these features will be turned off altogether.

Google has created an easy way for you to export all this content into a ZIP archive. You can do so by going to your pages or your files homepage on your groups and clicking Download all pages or Download all files.

As for alternatives, while you clearly won't be able to find one for customizing welcome messages, Google does recommend using Google Sites for page creation and Google Docs for file storage. Pages made in Google Sites and files uploaded to Docs can be shared with the members of your groups. While these solutions probably require a bit more work than the features that are in Groups today, and may not integrate as well with Groups, at least they're still under the Google umbrella -- if that's worth anything to you.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

VA Textbook Claims Blacks Fought For South In Civil War. Source? The Internet. : NPR

civil war memorial

The American Civil War Memorial. It carries the names of over 208,000 African American Civil War veterans. They fought for the Union.

A new Virginia textbook for 4th graders claims that "thousands" of African Americans fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War, a claim that nearly all historians of the era reject. From the WP:

The issues first came to light after College of William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff opened her daughter's copy of "Our Virginia" and saw the reference to black Confederate soldiers.

"It's disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship," Sheriff said. "It concerns me not just as a professional historian but as a parent."

The writer of "Our Virginia: Past and Present," Joy Masoff, defends her work. When questioned by the Post on her sources her publisher provided three web links. All of them citing work by Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Tennessee group that has long claimed Blacks fought for the South in large numbers. Their argument is really based in the idea that the war was not about slavery, but rather southerners defending their homes and way of life. Huh.

It is only one sentence in the book, "Thousands of Southern blacks fought in the Confederate ranks, including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson." Every single historian contacted by the Post found the claims, well, repellent.

"It's more than just an arcane, off-the-wall problem," said David Blight, a professor at Yale University. "This isn't just about the legitimacy of the Confederacy, it's about the legitimacy of the emancipation itself."

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson of Princeton University said, "These Confederate heritage groups have been making this claim for years as a way of purging their cause of its association with slavery."

Now, I'm not saying the Internet doesn't know everything, but when you're writing a history textbook, checking your sources might be a good idea. I'm just saying.


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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

‘Diminished reality’ software removes objects from video in real time | KurzweilAI

Diminished reality: before and after (Technische Universit├Ąt Ilmenau)

Researchers at Technical University of Ilmenau in Germany have developed “diminished reality” software that can delete an object from live, full-motion video.

The software first reduces the resolution of the object, removes the image, and improves the result (similar to using a smudge tool in Photoshop), then incrementally increases the resolution, improving the result, until the original resolution is restored.


To remove an object from a video, just draw an enclosed loop around it (from video by Jan Herling)

It repeats that for each frame of the video in real time, delivering the final image in 40 ms.

Applications include city planning, interactive film and television, and engineering design. The software is initially available for Windows.

It will be introduced at the International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR) in Seoul, October 13 to 16.

Adapted from materials provided by Technische Universit├Ąt Ilmenau

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Friday, October 15, 2010

OpenPandora: The hand-held console emulator


Welcome to the official website of the Pandora Handheld

The most powerful gaming handheld there is.

  • ARM® Cortex™-A8 600Mhz+ CPU running Linux
  • 430-MHz TMS320C64x+™ DSP Core
  • PowerVR SGX OpenGL 2.0 ES compliant 3D hardware
  • 800x480 4.3" 16.7 million colours touchscreen LCD
  • Wifi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth & High Speed USB 2.0 Host
  • Dual SDHC card slots & SVideo TV output
  • Dual Analogue and Digital gaming controls
  • 43 button QWERTY and numeric keypad
  • Around 10+ Hours battery life

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Official Google Blog: Google says Goodbye to: 1-800-GOOG-411

Back in 2007 we launched 1-800-GOOG-411, a voice-powered directory assistance service that connects you quickly to businesses across the U.S. and Canada. On November 12, 2010, we will shut down the service.

GOOG-411 was the first speech recognition service from Google and helped provide a foundation for more ambitious services now available on smartphones, such as:

  • Voice Search - search Google by speaking instead of typing.
  • Voice Input - fill in any text field on Android by speaking instead of typing.
  • Voice Actions - control your Android phone with voice commands. For example, you can call any business quickly and easily just by saying its name.
Our success encouraged us to aim for more innovation. Thus, we’re putting all of our resources into speech-enabling the next generation of Google products and services across a multitude of languages.

If you don’t use a smartphone, and you’re trying to call a business, you can send a text message with the name and location of the business to 466453 ("GOOGLE") and we’ll text you the information, or on Gmail you can use the new phone-calling features to call any U.S. business free of charge. Also, if you don’t have the free voice search app pre-installed on your phone, you can download it here.

Thanks for all the calls, and keep an eye out for all the innovation to come.

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AT&T’s early upgrade smartphone program detailed. Spoiler: they made it $125 more expensive « Boy Genius Report

Here is what we have just found out… AT&T recently modified their early upgrade program for smartphones, and due to smartphones becoming “increasingly more sophisticated” — and the cost of the devices increasing — AT&T has increased their $75 early upgrade fee to $200. That means a BlackBerry Bold 9700 that would have cost you $275 will now cost you $399. Quick messaging and basic phones are not subjected to the new change. AT&T told employees that, “This change to our exception pricing is necessary to maintain our ability to provide customers with the best selection of devices and maintain our leadership in the Smartphone category.” And hey, with Verizon charging a $350 ETF for advanced devices, it was only a matter of time before AT&T started exploring their options.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cricket Changes the Game with Low-Cost High-End Android Phone

Android phones come in two flavors: high-end and low-end. High-end phones usually end up with a price tag between US$500 and US$600 off-contract. If you want them cheaper you can generally get them subsidized when you contract with your carrier for two years. Generally that brings your price down to the US$150 to US$250 range.

Low-end phones can be had for around half the price of their high-end siblings.

On the larger carriers, that two year contract generally includes signing up for a data plan, which is likely going to cost you around US$50 to US$70 per month, plus voice, plus text, plus some "privilege of being their customer" fees.

Cricket, on the other hand, is a different kind of carrier. They don't force you into a contract, and they have a flat monthly cost. The catch? The phones aren't subsidized and the coverage isn't as broad as the larger carriers.

Regarding the phones, generally Cricket phones have been regarded as "cheap". They get the job done, but that's it. Why? People don't generally want to fork out a big chunk of change when they sign up for a phone -- apparently they'd rather have much more than that squeezed out of them over time.

What does this have to do with Android? According to Market Watch, Cricket is changing the game with their newly announced phone, powered by Android.

The phone in question is the Huawei Ascend, which is being touted as "the first low-cost Android device to hit the Smartphone market in the United States".

The Ascend will be available in mid-October for around US$149.99. That doesn't sound all that great until you realize that it's off-contract. You don't have to commit two years of your life to a carrier that you may end up hating. You're free to leave at any time. Additionally, your monthly bill will be astoundingly low: US$55, which gives you unlimited talk, text, 411 information, navigation, and unlimited 3G data.

The Ascend sports a 3.5" HVGA touch-screen, WiFi, 3.2MP camera, and runs on Android 2.1.

I've got to admit, I'm impressed.

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Firefighters watch as home burns to the ground | WPSD Local 6

Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - Mark Owen

OBION COUNTY, Tenn. - Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won't respond, then watches it burn. That's exactly what happened to a local family tonight.

A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.

The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late.  They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.

Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton.  But the Cranicks did not pay.

The mayor said if homeowners don't pay, they're out of luck.

This fire went on for hours because garden hoses just wouldn't put it out. It wasn't until that fire spread to a neighbor's property, that anyone would respond.

Turns out, the neighbor had paid the fee.

"I thought they'd come out and put it out, even if you hadn't paid your $75, but I was wrong," said Gene Cranick.

Because of that, not much is left of Cranick's house.

They called 911 several times, and initially the South Fulton Fire Department would not come.

The Cranicks told 9-1-1 they would pay firefighters, whatever the cost, to stop the fire before it spread to their house.

"When I called I told them that. My grandson had already called there and he thought that when I got here I could get something done, I couldn't," Paulette Cranick.

It was only when a neighbor's field caught fire, a neighbor who had paid the county fire service fee, that the department responded. Gene Cranick asked the fire chief to make an exception and save his home, the chief wouldn't.

We asked him why.

He wouldn't talk to us and called police to have us escorted off the property. Police never came but firefighters quickly left the scene. Meanwhile, the Cranick home continued to burn.

We asked the mayor of South Fulton if the chief could have made an exception.

"Anybody that's not in the city of South Fulton, it's a service we offer, either they accept it or they don't," Mayor David Crocker said.

Friends and neighbors said it's a cruel and dangerous city policy but the Cranicks don't blame the firefighters themselves. They blame the people in charge.

"They're doing their job," Paulette Cranick said of the firefighters. "They're doing what they are told to do. It's not their fault."

To give you an idea of just how intense the feelings got in this situation, soon after the fire department returned to the station, the Obion County Sheriff's Department said someone went there and assaulted one of the firefighters.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Samsung Intercept Hits Virgin Mobile Today for $249

As expected, Virgin Mobile has dropped all the juicy price and release details for its first Android handset, the Samsung Intercept. First seen bearing the Sprint logo earlier this summer, the 3.2-megapixel, WQVGA Intercept is a landscape-oriented QWERTY slider that will retail for $250 (no contract subsidies on pre-paid networks, folks) on any of Virgin's three service bundles (all of which include unlimited text messages and data usage). Virgin's Samsung Intercept goes on sale today at Target locations around the country, and will roll out to other retailers throughout the remainder of the month.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

BlindType acquired by Google, Android typists grin uncontrollably -- Engadget

The note's short and sweet, but it confirms that Google's buying spree is still on -- BlindType was just acquired by the Big G. If you'll recall, we were wowed back in July by the software's ability to predict words regardless of how text was inputted, and it seems as if a few bigwigs within Google were as well. It's unclear what Google's Android team plans to do with its newfound IP, but you shouldn't have to strain your imagination too hard to hazard a guess. As for the BlindType team? They're "excited to join Google, and look forward to the great opportunities for mobile innovation that lie ahead." Likewise, folks... likewise.

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Mary Carillo's Badminton Rant During Athens Olympics Is EPIC (VIDEO)

In 2004, while anchoring the Summer Olympics in Athens, sportscaster Mary Carillo began explaining to the audience, during a break in the action, the differences between the badminton that families play in their backyard and the sport that the "bad boys of badminton play" at the professional level.

It's all rather innocuous until Carillo reaches the differences between the shuttlecocks that the two groups use. It's then that she experiences some kind of nightmarish shuttlecock flashback and the whole broadcast starts to unravel very quickly.

For Carillo, playing badminton with your family is not a fun summer activity in the yard. It's a horror show.

Someone's turned on the hose. Suddenly, badminton's a water sport. They're trying to get this thing down with the hose. And somehow, mothers from all over the neighborhood hear that badminton is being played at Mary's house; they're dropping off their kids -- they know it's an all day affair! They know it's going to involve 17 other sports. They're dropping off their other kids; they're leaving skid marks! Ok? You've got Colleen Clark in the tree, trying to get down a Sponge Bob Square Pants beach ball with a hockey stick. There's pool sticks flying through the air like javelins and you hear yourself saying somebody's going to poke an eye out. It just never ends!

The best thing about this is that the producers just let her ramble on and on as she loses her grip on reality. This is a rant for the ages.

WATCH: (via Kottke)

I am a big fan of Mary Carillo. She is one of my favorite commentators of all time, but when I saw this I knew I had to post it. I feel that her personality makes all the difference in the world, and that's why she's awesome.

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