Katamari takes over your brain.

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A month or two ago, we were walking through a parking lot on our way to Fresh Choice when we walked by a young sycamore tree. There were a few sycamore seed pods lying on the ground: Small, round, hard green things with spikes sticking out all over.

Clara said: “Look, a Katamari!”

Mind you, this kid has seen (and helped play) Katamari Damacy maybe twice, and that was back in January. It obviously made a big impression. There must be something in the game that locks into our brains, like an enzyme clicking into a protein or something.

She picked up her “katamari” and carried it with her through the salad bar and buffet line at Fresh Choice. I briefly considered encouraging her to use it by rolling up peas, corn, lettuce, and other tidbits, which abound at Fresh Choice. But I restrained myself. I didn’t want every trip to Fresh Choice turning into a foodie game of Katamari Damacy. But maybe that’s just my parental conservatism showing through.

BTW, the picture on this post seems to be a more mature seedpod. The one Clara picked up had fewer spikes, and they were hard and pointy, like little thorns.

More evidence of Katamari brain control: xkcd – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language – By Randall Munroe

Katamari takes over your brain.

Comebacks for adoptive parents.

One of the minor irritations of being an adoptive parent is the probing, too-personal questions that strangers feel like they’re entitled to ask you. I usually find these questions easy to deflect, but some parents get really upset by them.

So, if you’re an adoptive parent and you get angered by these kinds of questions, here are some things you might say back to people who did not adopt their kids. Don’t blame me if they blow up in your face, though.

  • So, you had a baby the natural way? Did you have to have sex a lot before you got pregnant?
  • What kind of sex did you have when you got pregnant?
  • Do you know the father? Are you sure?
  • Did you take drugs during your pregnancy?
  • You had a baby! Oh, that’s so great. I think it’s just wonderful when people decide to carry on their genetic line. Good for you.
  • Your baby is so lucky that you decided to keep her.
  • How much did it cost?
  • So, I guess you didn’t qualify to adopt a child?
Comebacks for adoptive parents.

What YouTube should learn from Napster.

The similarities between YouTube and Napster are uncanny. Copyright-infringing content, sudden popularity, a seeming direct connection to the pulse of popular youth culture, scandals, a San Mateo address. (I’m not the first one to notice this.) But the similarities run deeper.

YouTube is architecturally similar to the early Napster service, in that it’s a peer-to-peer service in function only. Yes, it’s user-driven, and yes, the power of YouTube is that it lets people share videos, make unexpected connections, and find cool stuff.

Underneath the hood, though, YouTube is a big, centralized server farm, just like Napster.

This was Napster’s downfall, because it gave the record companies a target to go after. Truly peer-to-peer services that came later, such as KaZaA, have proved much more resilient because it’s harder to stamp out illicit copies when they’re distributed all over the world. With Napster, though, you only had to bring your court order to a single address: Napster’s.

In the end, this made Napster’s legal troubles unavoidable. There was no where for them to run when the hammer of the law came down, and they had no choice but to knuckle under.

And that was a shame, not only for Napster’s users but for the record companies, who lost their last big chance to connect with their biggest fans in a single place.

Media companies should pay attention to the Napster story when they consider YouTube. Sure, the company is an easy target for legal action. YouTube knows this, and by all accounts, responds quickly to claims of copyright infringement by removing the offending videos. But as quickly as they remove videos, people post more. Let’s get real: A vast amount of YouTube’s content almost certainly violates someone’s copyright, and is only on the site because no one has complained about it yet. That’s not exactly a sustainable situation, and unless it’s checked, this problem will catch up with YouTube within the year.

That gives the TV and movie companies just about twelve months to figure out how to get YouTube on their side. Instead of going after bootleg videos, outfits like Saturday Night Live should be posting their own skits–with embedded advertisements, as Calacanis suggested awhile back. They should be reaching out with special offers to YouTube users who have favorited their videos. They should be watching YouTube’s traffic (and its rising stars, real as well as fake) to figure out where their next hits are coming from.

In the meantime, YouTube needs to keep going after copyrighted material. They need to play up the substantial non-infringing uses of the service. And they need to develop more ways for content producers to engage their customers within YouTube, in order to make the site a channel not only for video, but for marketing.

Because if the hammer comes down, all that opportunity is going to evaporate. Good luck trying to do marketing over BitTorrent. Two years from now, YouTube may look like it was television’s best friend.

What YouTube should learn from Napster.