Well, MSNBC has now joined the esteemed group of websites with home pages that play audio and video on page load, without any user intervention, one of the more user-hostile things I can imagine a site doing. When added to the awful embedded IntelliTXT ads that are now appearing throughout most MSNBC.com news stories, it seems that the entire site took a major turn to brazen suckery sometime over the past few weeks. That actually makes me sad — I used to use CNN’s website as my default for news but moved to MSNBC when CNN decided on providing most of the news on the website via video snippets that can’t be played on non-PCs. The video-without-my-requesting-it problem was enough to get me to stop using ESPN’s website for all but a scant few things; now it looks like I’ll have to find a replacement for MSNBC, as well.

For a while, I’ve been pretty irritated that the ESPN home page has a video and audio block (part of ESPN Motion) that starts playing without any intervention on my part and blares ads and sports highlights through my speakers. This morning, while looking for this weekend’s NFL playoffs schedule, my second pageview of the site launched a pop-up ad in a way that managed to defeat the pop-up blockers in both Firefox and the Google Toolbar. At this point, it’s clear that ESPN.com is too hostile to users for me to use; there are way too many alternatives to make it worth my blood pressure to deal with the desire of ESPN’s site designers to subvert their users’ preferences.

Jeff Gates made a good pickup in the DC Metro system, where he noticed an oddity in all the Blue Cross/Blue Shield ads on the train platforms: the pupils of all the people’s eyes in the ads have been Photoshopped to reflect the BC/BS logo. Now that I know what to look for, it seems that the same thing was done to the ad at the top of this page, the info about the new federal vision benefits program; I can’t find similar ads on any other BC/BS websites, so Jeff is probably right that the ads are related to the new vision offerings. It’s a bit freaky, and despite the fact that I go through Metro Center twice a day, I never caught this. Weird!

I’m sure that there are people who find them annoying, but I think that the new Washington, D.C. Metro advertisements are pretty damn cool. It’s a format that the ad design folks can probably be pretty creative with, and it’ll be neat to see little movies outside the windows of the train…

Watching the NBA Finals (can the Spurs please just play like they did at home all season, and finish this damn thing off?!?), I can’t help but recognize that the fine folks in Golden, Colorado want to mercilessly kill me with their insufferable “Love Train” commercial for Coors Light. I can’t imagine that there’s a lucky soul in this country who’s managed to escape the ad; it starts with a crew of bundled-up Arctic day laborers packing a shining silver train full of cases of Coors Light, and then the train rockets off into the distance. Next thing you know, the train has exploded onto the scene at a beach volleyball match, then shows up racing on a NASCAR track, and even blows through a Hollywood red carpet event, each time causing snow to fall from the sky and bringing icy-cold pisswater to the poor, unenlightened masses in its wake. I mean, this might just be the worst commercial in the history of people trying to shove their uninspired drivel directly into my temporal lobes; I’d rather take a baker’s dozen of Chili’s Baby-Back Ribs commercials, and top ‘em off with one or two locally-produced furniture warehouse ads. And sadder still, Ice T makes a cameo in the spot, making it hard for me to watch SVU without starting to hum “Love Train” and then want to use an ice cream scoop to remove any bit of my memory centers that might be holding onto that pain.

Of course, what else should I expect from the same company that claims their beer is the “coldest-tasting beer in the world”? WTF? That’s a claim so stupid it defies comprehension. “Try my widget; it’s the bluest-smelling widget on the market!” “Switch to our brand T-shirts — they feel saltier than any others!” Idiots.