Been & Going

[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Bonk Your Friends

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Jersey Joe checks out the new app from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where you can create hilarious photos of your friends.

THE 411

Name: Bonk app

What: social media app to create fun photos of you and your friends

Released: August 2016


A great free app that allows you to take hilarious photos of you and your friends.  Definitely worth the download.  Let’s see how long it takes until the show starts sharing these photos on the air!


[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Does Anyone Pay Attention to Those TV Rating Icons?

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Recently, I posted a question on Twitter asking if anyone paid attention to those rating icons that appear on the corner of the screen during TV programs and promos in the United States…and nobody responded.  Do you?  Do you even know what they all mean?  With 44 different icons that are used, the system gets a little confusing.


The TV parental guidelines system was established by the United States Congress and went into effect on January 1, 1997.  The ratings were developed after concern about the amount of violence and sex on TV and how easy it was for children to watch.  Congress gave broadcasters a year to develop the system under an Act passed in 1996.  The ratings were created jointly by the National Association of Broadcasters, The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America.  The system was set up similar to the MPAA movie rating system.

TV PG letterman

A TV-PG rating icon appears during the opening of the Late Show with David Letterman.

Although the rating system is voluntary, most broadcast, cable, and pay TV networks jumped on board.  Several online services including Hulu, Netflix, ITunes store, and Google Play also use it.


When first created, all programming was classified under 6 general ratings:


tv y smallTV-Y kids programming not expected to frighten young kids.


tv y7 smallTV-Y7 designed for kids 7 and over, more comedic, and may have scenes that could be frightening to youngsters


tv g smallTV-G suitable for all ages


tv pg smallTV-PG may contain scenes that parents will not find suitable for younger children


tv 14 smallTV-14 not suitable for children under 14 years of age


tv ma smallTV-MA originally labeled as TV-M, basically sex and violence on TV


A fairly simple system that’s quite easy to understand and something similar is currently in use in Canada and several other foreign countries.  But, unfortunately that wasn’t good enough. And in August 1997, the powers that be in our government had to make it harder by adding 5 more subcategories:


The more advanced rating icon with subcategories.

The more advanced rating icon with subcategories.

D – suggestive dialogue

L – course language

S – sexual content

V- violence

FV – fantasy violence, only used in kids programming


These 5 subcategories appear under the main rating while the icon is displayed on screen.  (Only FV is used in kids programming.)  While the original system was just fine, the addition of these 5 subcategories makes it confusing to the viewer.  Does anybody really understand the difference between “suggestive dialogue” and “sexual content”?  Couldn’t they mean the same thing?  The system worked just fine with the 6 main categories.  They don’t use a ton of subcategories for movie trailers, right?


The simplified Canadian TV ratings system.

The simplified Canadian TV ratings system.

The guidelines affect all programming except news, sports, and commercials.


While most rating icons are similar in appearance to the original set issued in 1997, some networks have created their own font style, shape, and color although they retain the general feel of what was already established.


THE 411


What:  TV parental guidelines ratings system


Debut:  January 1, 1997


Number of different rating combinations: 44




A TV-PG icon appears at the beginning of this NBC promo for The Office.

A TV-PG L icon appears at the beginning of this NBC promo for The Office.

The six basic icons are good enough.  The six subcategories just add to the confusion.  If they were so needed, the MPAA would have required this system to be adapted to feature films shown on the big screen.  Even the video game rating system is simpler.


Ask your friends, parents, and neighbors – can anyone fully explain what the meaning of each of these?


Broadcasters also need to be aware of the first few minutes of a show and where appropriate placement on the screen is.  There are times, where large icons will cover up the action of a show.  There’s enough junk intruding on screen during a show, with the rating, the logo bug, twitter hash tag, and those giant animated lower third promos that overlap everything.


I agree, TV does need a rating system.  It’s great that the studios and networks have taken it upon themselves to warn parents about sex and violence that is showing up more and more on the airwaves.  While most broadcast networks, generally stay away from TV-MA shows, its good to have a system that will allow parents to block the shows or watch when the kids are away.  The system just needs to be simplified.  There are 44 different ratings icons in use today, wouldn’t 6 be easier to grasp?  Simple is better!


So, do the rating icons affect what you watch?

[Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Bitstrips Blues

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me bitstripsIt’s great to be back and at my new home here on Been & Going!  It’s been a few months since we’ve chatted and we’ve got lots to blab about.  Apparently, so do many of my friends.  Have you noticed all of those personalized cartoons popping up all over your Facebook timeline?  They’re part of the new online craze – Bitstrips.  I decided to animate myself and see what all the hype is about!

bitstrips joe make comics all day

Bitstrips is a free Facebook and mobile phone application that allows anyone to design their own cartoons with them as the star.  Bitstrips calls itself “the most customizable avatar-creation tool on the Web.”


The company is based in Toronto,  Canada and has 10 employees.  Bitstrips went from 0 to 10 million users in 7 months.  It all started with $0 funding!


The main Bitstrips app avatar design menu.

The main Bitstrips app avatar design menu.

The app is extremely simple to use.  You are presented with multiple choices for body type, hair color, wrinkles; the list goes on and on.  You can even show your true feelings with an emotion.  So, if you have a sour stomach – it’s easy to tell your friends!


The Bitstrips app scene menu.

The Bitstrips app scene menu.

After you have your body design down, you can then need to choose a wardrobe, which is broken down into six categories.  One of the weaknesses of the app though, is that you have limited customization options on the wardrobe.  While there are tons of choices you have to start with six basic categories.  I’m usually wearing my Yankees jersey and cap and was hoping to find something similar.  I doubt they will get the rights anytime soon to use MLB logos, but at least have something generic.  I went with a hoodie and backwards baseball cap, which I again wished I could customize further.  It also seems easier to locate the additional customization options on the desktop Facebook app.  On the mobile app, I couldn’t easily find simple controls such as changing the color of a shirt.


After creating your character, you then choose from a predesigned scene and you can also import the image of a friend.


While there are many scenes and comics to choose from, here is where another limitation creeps up.  There are more than a thousand to choose from with more being added every day, but scrolling through my timeline most of my friends have already taken the best scenes.  Plus, there are very little customization options, so you are basically stuck using the same scenarios as your friends.  The more people that use this, the less unique it will become.  Each scene needs more customization options, such as adding furniture or moving your character around.

bitstrips joe time magazine

The app also gives you the option of saving your cartoon or publishing it straight to Facebook.


With the choice of creating a simple cartoon, a greeting card, or even just posting how you feel at the moment, you can see how this has exploded in popularity.


The Bitstrips website boasts 11 million unique users, 55 million shared, and 3 billion viewed!  TV networks would love to have these ratings!


bitstrips joe hamburger headSome of my online friends have lost their restraint however and upload cartoon after cartoon, really clogging up my Facebook wall.  Other users have taken to Twitter to express their outrage over all the hype.


Bitstrips launched on Facebook in December 2012, but it wasn’t until the IPhone app was released in October that the popularity skyrocketed.  It was the number one download app for both IPhone and Google last week.  The large demand has caused the app to run slow at times and the site is often down often for crashes and maintenance.  Millions of users at once will overload just about any server.


According to an interview with, Bitstrips VP of marketing Shahan Panth says the company is exploring adding more premium content, including ads and special clothes that you can unlock for a fee.


He also states  “We’ll also be bringing your Bitstrips character into the real world with plush toys … the next big brand is you and your friends.”


But, unlike many Facebook trends – this one you can turn off.


Find one of the Bitstrips posts that show up on your Facebook wall.  Click on the blue arrow in the upper right hand corner of the post and select HIDE ALL FROM BITSTRIPS option.


Forget the old fashioned emoticons – it looks like Bitstrips is here to stay!

bitstrips joe TV scene

THE 411


Name: Bitstrips


What: cartoon pics for social media and to share with friends


Cost: Free






It’s cool that you no longer need a pen and paper to create a cartoon of yourself and this app is super easy to use.  I’m sure it will make many school art teachers cringe, just another thing that can be done on the computer!


Just please control yourself and not upload a zillion cartoons at once, unless you’re in the mood to drive your friends nuts!