The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, September 30, 2002

NEWS BY GOOGLE
goo-goo-googly
The new Google News service is certainly kicking up some dirt. Media analysts everywhere seem enthralled by the fact that Google News uses no human editors to serve up its links, with the natural--hyperbolic, of course--conclusion that this will "forever" change the way people access news.

In a word: no.

Coming from a news junkie, the service as it now stands--and I realize it's still in beta--is not very impressive. The layout isn't particularly reader-friendly to me: it's somewhat cramped and generally unappealing for eye-browsing. Aside from that, I've yet to see much compelling news placement. It seems like a big chunk of the news that's pulled comes from international (UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand) sources. That's not necessarily bad, but it's ridiculous when the latest, say, NFL or NHL news comes via London's Guardian. Whatever programming algorithm they're using really needs some work, if it's able to be tweaked correctly at all. It doesn't convince me at all that human editors are about to lose their jobs; even less so for reporters (which should be obvious, but to most of the masses, isn't).

Frankly, like many things Google, this is something that's much less than the hype would have you believe. They must have a fantastic PR machine, because everyone just gushes every time this company does even the most routine thing. For the record, I think the Google search engine is an above-average utility, but by no means the best; for that to be true, it would have to handle basic things like phrases, which it doesn't do very well. And there's a big difference between "relevance" and accuracy; we've already seen how relevance can be manipulated to the point where it's meaningless. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who spends large portions of his workdays doing extensive research on a variety of subjects.

The image search is alright, although like any keyword-based search, it's probably never going to be a perfect beast.
TEAMS FOR SALE IN HOTLANTA?
hockey  basketball  beisball
The scuttlebutt is that embattled media congolmerate AOL Time Warner is looking at selling off its major pro sports franchises. All three are based in Atlanta: the NHL Thrashers, NBA Hawks, and MLB Braves.

This is a natural reaction for a public company whose stock value has plummeted recently; Disney is doing the same with its sports teams in Anaheim. They have to demonstrate in some way that they're working to shore up the bottom line, get "back to basics", etc.

The thing is, this is a very short-sighted sacrifice--and the management likely knows this. The sports teams, and the related businesses (arena/stadium, merchandise, etc.) are far from a problem for AOLTW; this is really a symbolic gesture that, ideally, will give the stock price a boost, but for purely artificial reasons. As is noted in this article, pro sports franchises are a unique commodity, and practically a natural around which to build programming content. If this sale does occur, the company will wind up regretting it.
NOSTALGIC FOR BUCCO BRUCE
bucs  re-bucs  league
In the aftermath of yesterday's NFL games, the St. Pete Times' Gary Shelton points out how much today's Cincinnati Bengals resemble the Tampa Bay Bucs of the '80s and '90s. (All apologies--and condolences--to those Bengals fans out there.)

I know Gary's not the only one who views the Bengals, and indeed games at Cinergy Field, this way. I myself had the same feeling watching last year's Bucs at Bengals game (which Tampa Bay nearly blew, until the Bengals typically coughed up the ball on their own 2-yard line). It's the same sensation you'd get watching those terrible Bucs teams: you were just certain that they'd find a way to kill themselves by a million cuts. And yet, your heart still sank when the inevitable happened. In some ways, I kinda miss those days.... sorta. :)

Sunday, September 29, 2002

MOVING DAY
Ugh. I spent the better part of the day today helping my friends Tom and Amber move into a new apartment. I'm feeling beat down. Reminds me why I hate moving so much--even if it is moving someone else's stuff. I won't be moving out of my place for awhile; my lease runs through March. But eventually, I think I'll have to find new digs. I'm paying way too much for this apartment, and I really need a change of scenery anyway.
LOUNGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
say cheese, baby!
I just discovered Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine. If you were a fan of Bill Murray's "Nick the Lounge Singer" act on the old Saturday Night Live, then this is a dream come true. Nothing better than a good lounge lizard set.

Hightail it to your file-swapping program of choice and listen to Richard (or "Dick", as he prefers :) ) perform the Dead Kennedys classic "Holiday In Cambodia," with a Christmas theme. May want to do it quick, though, as he may be in litigation soon.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

ONE, TWO, MANY SADDAMS
live or memorex?
For those who couldn't get enough of just one, a forensics expert in Germany claims there are three body doubles that Saddam Hussein uses for public appearances. What a job that must be.

Considering this, wouldn't it be a bitch if Bush does carry out an Iraqi invasion, and they wind up killing not the real Hussein, but one of his doppelgangers? Even better, the real Hussein does get smoked, but one of his doubles emerges claiming to be the real one and takes power? Good thing cloning hasn't taken off yet...
SHE'S HERE!
Arrived yesterday, in fact. My friends Kirby and Angela had their firstborn, little Dayna, who comes in at 7 pounds, 4 ounces. Cute little bugger.

I, along with several friends, hereby become a surrogate uncle. I guess that means the kid can count on me to slip her a couple of bucks for candy and other things mom & dad won't let her have to excess.

Incidentally, I've also got a little surprise present for her. She won't be able to make much use of it now, but perhaps in the future. Her parents can tend to it in the meantime.
MORE BARBERSHOP
It's not that I'm obsessed over this mini-controversy. But I find the whole thing so compelling, that I can't help but keep track of it. Here's some analysis on the Barbershop mess that largely reflects my thoughts about the dynamics at work here. It is very much a generational divide, which is linked to the reality that Sharpton and Jackson have in many ways lost their support base and they are reduced to dumb stunts like this.

The final paragraph is especially telling to me. Walter Latham, a co-producer of The Original Kings of Comedy (great flick), says:

"It's so hard for black filmmakers to get films made in Hollywood and TV shows on the air. Why is it that we are knocking our own success? They're going to impede our progress - the same progress they've been fighting for all along."

Friday, September 27, 2002

"MICKEY MOUSE PRESERVATION ACT"
disney's worst fear
Good summation here of the upcoming Supreme Court case regarding copyrights terms and their impact on our culture. The law in question, the Copyright Term Extension Act, or CTEA, is derisively called the "Mickey Mouse Preservation Act", as it's chiefly been pushed by Disney so they don't lose exclusive ownership of Mickey and other charcters. (This article makes a good point about how Disney became what it is thanks to the lack of copyright protection.)

Copyright extension really mainly benefits corporations, which, strictly speaking, are not innovative. People who work for corporations can be innovative, and corporate structure can be designed to encourage openness and creativity. But really, a corporate culture almost by nature is a stiltified atmosphere, one that better fosters automation and groupthink. So to me, it's foolish to consider this from the corporate interest side. To quote from the article:

"'What the Supreme Court must answer is whether the intention of copyright is to protect economic value or to promote science and the arts,' says Peter Jaszi, a professor of copyright law at American University Law School....

In the end, the battle is much larger than Mickey Mouse. 'The real concern isn't that Mickey or Happy Birthday [enter the public domain] but all the other stuff -- classical music, little-known films -- that gets incidentally restricted in order to protect a few valuable, perennial works,' says American University law professor Peter Jaszi.
VIDEO SEX, CELLPHONE DATING, AND JAPANESE BASEBALL
A glimpse at the future and the past, simultaneously, in the Land of the Rising Sun. Following up on his last missive, Fortune's tech adventurer checks out singing robots and catches a baseball game.

He also finds time to speculate on early adoption of video-enabled cellphone technology by the porn industry, resulting in a brand-new kind of phone sex. Yowza. In the meantime, others are using current technology to flirt shamelessly.
WHEN A 12-YEAR CONTRACT ISN'T
McNabbeaglesleague
Like this linked ESPN.com article, headlines around the country will read simply: "McNabb To Sign Biggest Contract In NFL History". Unlike this one, they probably won't point out that Donovan McNabb will never see all of that $155 million. Yes, he gets the guaranteed $20 million signing bonus, and his career in Philly is likely to continue for a good long time. But this is the NFL. Contracts are not guaranteed, meaning the Eagles could cancel it tomorrow and not pay him anything aside from the signing bonus (the so-called "dead money"). And the way football is, McNabb won't be in an Eagles uniform for 12 more years. Players switch teams all the time, and at some point, McNabb won't be a good fit in Philly. In the meantime, there's this weekend's games coming up...
IN COME THE OBSERVERS
In a move that many would say is overdue, county commissioners in Miami-Dade are bringing in independent election observers to help ensure the November vote goes smoothly. The Center for Democracy has monitored elections in other banana republics like El Salvador and the Philippines; Miami now proudly joins their company!

I like this quote from one of the dissenting commissioners, Natacha Seijas:

"I don't want to be part of establishing a precedent that would allow us to be seen as people who cannot take care of what they should be taking care of."

Um... news flash, Ms. Seijas: the whole WORLD already sees you that way. Actually, the whole world sees the entire state of Florida that way. So it's a bit late to worry about that.

This also reminds me of a comment that, I think, Fidel Castro (or some Cuban official) made during the 2000 Presidential election mess down here. He offered to send impartial election observers to Miami-Dade and Broward counties to oversee the recounts. It was meant to be galling: that the U.S., which pumps itself as the world's greatest democracy, couldn't run an orderly national election. (Washington declined the offer.)

Lest you think that my home state is a total backwater, The Center for Voting and Democracy points out that the problem is a national one, and is embarrassing compared to other countries.

Thursday, September 26, 2002

DOWN WITH SACRED COWS!
chop shop
Things like this really piss me off. The makers of the new movie Barbershop are being lambasted by Jesse Jackson for the jokes in the film about Rev. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

Apparently, Jackson has spoken to the King and Parks families and relays they both are very upset by the jokes. Does it seem to anyone else that this is akin to a kid crying to his mother and then letting everyone know that mom's upset? But I digress...

The thing is, the families have a right to be upset. So does Jackson. But they don't have the right to demand the jokes be expunged from the film, now or when it's released on video. The reason the jokes are funny is because they are poking fun at revered individuals. Being able to joke about them keeps them more human, instead of making them unattainable god-like figures. The idea that King and Parks and any other civil/social leaders are untouchable is ridiculous. Even the assassination of King doesn't make him immune from this treatment, no more than Kennedy or Lincoln is. And the upshot is, all this squawking does nothing but detract from King's and Parks' legacies.

Gladly, not everyone agrees with this view. In fact, some think Barbershop may open the way for more broadbased comedies with primarily black casts.

Update: The studio has told Jackson to blow it out his ear, as they will not be editing the movie for video release just to suit his tastes. That stance is emboldened by the movie's success, of course; but still the right thing to do.

I really don't understand what Jackson and Al Sharpton have to gain from this. It's not great publicity, it advocates censorship, and it's doomed to failure. Either they're really desperate for some camera time, or else they owe the King and Parks families a favor.
MORE ON PEACOCKS
we prefer the term 'peafowl'
That peacock sighting I had yesterday has really piqued my curiosity about any symbolism these birds may have. (I'm not particularly superstitious, but I like to hedge my bets.) So I did a little quick research last night. Here's what I dug up, I forget the source text:

"According to ancient Greek legend, the peacock was sacred to the goddess Hera. She directed Argus, the creature with 100 eyes, to spy on a rival. When Argus was slain, Hera placed his eyes on the tail of her favorite bird...

One of the earliest mentions of peacocks in Western literature was in the play The Birds, written by Aristophanes in 414 BC...

Early Christians are believed to have used the peacock to symbolize the resurrection of the body of Christ and the immortality of the soul."


So, no bad-luck overtones. Which is to be expected, since it's such a brightly-colored bird, which doesn't lend itself to many negative associations like, for instance, owls. I remember a few years back, when I was working for a local investment banking firm, a client company unveiled a new corporate brand that included an owl as their symbol. The company owner said that when he told a friend about it, the friend said it was a bad move, as in China the owl is considered a symbol of bad luck. The owner laughed it off, and said that if they ever expanded to China, they'd switch to a panda.
ZEN AND THE ART OF SUBLIMINAL SUGGESTION
zen symbol, no idea what it means
What is it about a Zen garden that makes peace within you? Apparently, it's the subliminal mindplay that the setting sparks. The arrangement of rocks and plants at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto, Japan--a world-famous Zen meditation site and big tourist attraction--has been studied by some scientific types recently. They found that, when viewed from the proper perspective, the subtle pattern that emerges suggests a wide-branching tree, which symbolizes many positive qualities in the human brain.

The Ryoanji Temple has an impressive history too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

BIRTH AND OMENS
Well, it's time. My friends Kirby and Angela are about to have a bouncing baby girl. Angela's decided to induce the birth sometime tomorrow, mainly just to get it all over with. Kirby called me at the end of the day today about it, as I was heading home from work.

Funny thing: shortly after getting off the phone with him, I saw a rare sight on the side of the road: a peacock! A big sucker, too. That's not such a strange thing: There is a large population of wild peacocks near here, in Clearwater (also some near Tampa). I suppose a few stray into St. Pete every so often, but in the 12 years I've been living here, it's the first time I remember seeing one. Wild.

So, I guess I'll take the peacock sighting as a good omen for the Palkoner baby's birth.

And of course, I'll read nothing into the abandoned old couch I saw some 10 seconds after the bird....
NEW-LOOK BLOG
The tweaking never ends. I've just rolled out a modified layout for the ol' blog page. The old one was alright, but I got tired of having the text and pictures sorta squeezed into that middle column. This spreads things out a bit. Plus, I wanted to expand the Archives links out some, and this gives it (barely) enough room to do so. I'll continue with small changes.
STEEL CENTER
one helmet side only!
I like analysis pieces like this. In the wake of Hall-of-Famer Mike Webster's death, the AP noted that since 1964, the Steelers have had only four players play center for them. Talk about longevity, in a sport where the average career is only 4 years long.
KITAEN'S REVENGE
Tawny Kitaen, best known as a mid-'80s wannabe sex symbol, is suing her soon-to-be ex-husband for 12 million big ones, on the claim that she gave up her career to be his stay-at-home wife. (Her husband is pitcher Chuck Finley, currently with the St. Louis Cardinals, who initiated divorce proceedings after she got into a fistfight with him while she was strung out on prescription medications.)

And what a burgeoning career she gave up. I had the misfortune of seeing her "act" in The New WKRP in Cincinnati, as well as the Tom Hanks classic Bachelor Party. Believe me, the world is MUCH better off for her decision to leave this field behind.

I guess she was holding out hope that her other ex-husband, David Coverdale, would reunite Whitesnake for a grand reunion tour, and showcase her fat ass on stage. And I do mean fat. I caught Ms. Kitaen on a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit video special about 2-3 years ago, when they were doing a husbands-and-wives feature. That's the first time I had seen her in ages. Talk about a shock! She was in baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad shape. All puffy and fat, and over-tanned skin that looked like a saddlebag. Ewh.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

ABOLISH COPYRIGHTS?
With the proliferation of online music swapping--which, technically, makes all participants pirates--and other issues, there's been quite a bit of haranguing over the protection and implementation of intellectual property rights. In the UK, the government assembled the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights to come up with some intriguing proposals for fostering innovation on a global level.

Basically, the Commission suggests that things like users' agreements on software (that long length of text that you don't bother reading before installing a program on your computer), reverse engineering, and even traditional copyrights should be severely curtailed. The idea is that restricting the use and modification of technology and ideas is stifling, and even (especially in the case of the developing world versus the developed countries) oppressive. This excerpt is especially thought-provoking, I thought:

"Most developing countries, especially the smaller ones, are net importers of copyrighted materials and the main beneficiaries are foreign rights holders, who are overwhelmingly based in rich Western nations. International treaties such as the Berne Convention call for flexibility in copyright enforcement to allow some copying for personal educational use--this is the 'fair use' concept that all copyright laws contain. Sadly, fair use is being eroded by media and software industries too arrogant to believe that laws and international treaties apply to them."

The problem, of course, is that "fair use" is a pretty nebulous term. I think use limited to one person is probably a given, but does that then mean that that person can't share it with friends? The neighborhood? A classroom? From a business standpoint, companies would be very happy to design their intellectual property products for single-use only, forcing everyone to buy their own copy--the equivalent to a household of five buying five newspaper subscriptions, five cable services, etc. (Heck, the real ideal is to chop up the product pie even further: payment per use, per item, and so on.)

Despite this, I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect inventors, creators, and companies to accept minimal rights over their creations. Even though the patent/copyright/trademark structure is more often used as a sword than a shield these days, the intention behind it is still valid: to ensure a reward for innovative thinking and incentive for further creative work. There has to be a middle ground.
HOW MUCH COCKTAIL SAUCE DO THEY GET?
Talk about being mortified. I can't think of how else Kenneth Kristensen, soccer player in a Norweigan third-division (minors) soccer league, should feel after he was traded in exchange for his body weight in fresh shrimp.

Hope this type of trade doesn't cross the Atlantic. I can see it now: "Cincinnati Bengals on Monday traded left tackle Joe Schmo in exchange for his body weight in creatine."
AH, THE PASSION
director
Now here's an odd one. Hollywood megastar Mel Gibson is planning to direct a flim called The Passion, about the last 12 hours of Jesus' life, entirely in unsubtitled Latin and Aramaic. He hopes that understanding the precise dialogue won't be necessary, and that he'll achieve a "filmic" storytelling style that will be understandable to all.

Usually I'd poke lotsa fun at something that looks so celebrity-ego-driven. But I gotta say, I admire Gibson for having the balls to experiment like this. I don't think it'll come off--he can't convince any studio to take it on--but it's his show, and I applaud the effort to try something different.
ROBO SOCCER
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!
Yes, it's futbol, robot-style. Or BattleBots meets soccer, if you prefer. Whatever. Some really smart guys set up a soccer tournaments consisting of robots playing against each other. Can betting and Las Vegas odds be far behind?

Considering how slow and patterned these players are at the dawn of robotic soccer, it brings to mind the old handheld Mattel Electronic Soccer game. Even though I'm sure my old one is buried somewhere in my parents' house, I sure would like to buy one of those right now.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

MORE SPORTS BIZNESS
Yeah, more; indulge me. This one is about the near-constant debate over whether or not college athletes should be paid. The article could have used a little more polish, I think. But it capsulizes my thinking on the subject: namely, that these "student"-athletes get a little something called a scholarship as compensation. Same as other college attendees. From the article:

"The notion that a full scholarship isn't a fair exchange for athletic services provided to a university -- regardless of how much money an athletic department generates from those services -- is ridiculous... Do you know what people around the world would be willing to endure for a chance to be educated at one of our institutions of higher learning? Hell, people are dying on makeshift boats damn near every day just trying to sneak over here and live in one of our 'slums.' And I'm supposed to feel sorry because a university is selling a jersey and not kicking back a few of the dollars to Joe Running Back?"

That about sums it up for me.

I've had a small running argument with my friend Chris over this. If he's reading, I'll be glad to read his rebuttal.
THE GAMES THEY PLAY
Here's a solid summary of how the NFL and its teams pit city against city to subsidize their business. Also includes links to the Forbes list of major-league sports franchise values and major-league stadium naming rights deals.

This has been going on for a while, at least since the late '80s. And as noted here, most concrete studies have shown no real economic benefit from a city being home to a team. It really does come down to a status symbol: there's some psychological cache in being able to boost a city as being a "major league town", which brings with it wide (if niche) media coverage. Getting that status symbol is more important for mid-tier cities like Nashville, St. Louis and Sacramento than it is for truly world-class cities. Thus Los Angeles can easily live without an NFL team.
NEWS JUNKIES
Employers can stop worrying about their websurfing employees checking out the porn and gambling sites. A new study suggests that those goofing off at work are more likely to be cruising the news and sports sites.

This is a natural, and frankly, I think that's always been the case. All those stories we heard early in the Internet Age about officeworkers checking out porn were, I think, exaggerated. Who's dumb enough to do that in an office with other people around? Even if they're in an out-of-the-way cubbyhole, its risky. And with cookies, monitoring, etc. it's obvious as to what they're doing when they visit a site like that.

Now visiting news sites, on the other hand, is more of a gray area. Depending on your job, it might be part of your regular research. Even if it's not, it's hard for a business to object to a glance at the headlines during the day. Sports sites are probably harder to justify.
NAKED VIDEO GAMES!
charge!
Parents, pay heed to those ratings they put on video game boxes. That way, you won't squawk up a storm when you unwittingly buy one of these risque PlayStation 2 games for your eager adolescent. Some of these titles, aside from including the usual anti-social behavior, feature real DVD-quality video of exotic dancers stripping.

All I can say is, we've come a long way from Custer's Revenge.

Further Thoughts: Looks like video game prices have come a long way too. Capcom will be releasing a game in November that'll retail for $200. That includes a custom-built, 40-button controller. The funny thing is, it'll probably sell pretty well.

Saturday, September 21, 2002

CUTFLICKS
The Directors Guild of America is mad as hell, and is not going to take it anymore. I guess. The guild is siccing the law against a number of video-rental stores that "clean up" objectional material in Hollywood movies, and market these remade copies as family-friendly. Says guild President Martha Coolidge:

"It is wrong to cut scenes from a film, just as it is to rip pages from a book, simply because we don't like the way something was portrayed."

Well said, and a great sentiment. However, I wonder how they can then justify edited versions that are shown on TV. I'm sure that's the practice that the video stores will cite as a precedent. Of course, it boils down more to getting permission from the directors and studios to mess with the product, which the broadcasters do.

Further Thoughts: I guess there's a remote chance that this could come out badly for the studios, while being great for the directors. If a ruling comes down that movies for sale can't be altered without a director's permission, that would hamstring the studios as well. They'd have to pass all edits for broadcast through the directors. This could also apply to TV shows, putting an end to the constant cutting done to episodes in syndication. This could shape up into a landmark decision.
MAKES THE 15 MINUTES OF
TRAILERS LOOK TAME

Now this is some way to get your point across. A Hindu activist group in India is expressing its outrage over the screening of an American-cultural-reference-laden movie by threatening to release poisonous snakes in theatres showing it.
ANARCHIST SCAVENGER HUNT
Oh those whacky anarchists! They've raised the hackles of the Washington, D.C. police over a little scavenger-hunt game they've posted online in anticipation of the upcoming meeting of the World Bank and IMF.

I had intended to make the site that has these scavenger hunt rules on it the lead in this item. However, as of this post time, it's down. Could The Man have taken it down?? Or perhaps this news story got so many visitors to check them out that it overloaded their servers, and it'll come up later.

In the meantime, perhaps you'd like to visit the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the Washington-based group that is organizing the protests.

Friday, September 20, 2002

MIKE TYSON, INAPPROPRIATE
SPOKESMAN? NAH...

yum!
It looks like there are some lines Fox Sports Net won't cross, in spite of the break-the-rules image it likes to project. The network has pulled a promo commercial featuring Mike Tyson as a babysitter with an implied taste for... well, baby food. If you catch my drift.

Some vintage Tyson quotes from the past in this one:

"(I wish) you guys had children so I could kick them in the (expletive) head, or stomp on their testicles, so you could feel my pain, because that's the pain I have waking up every day."
- to a group of reporters.

"I want your heart. I want to eat your children."
- to Lennox Lewis in 2000.

I have a modest proposal for Fox Sports Net: keep running it. Who are you worried about offending anyway? I'd bet a good 95% of the network's audience is male anyway, and they should be prepared to get their sensitivities hurt watching that channel.
REACHING THE CAMPUS CROWD
MTV has joined the fray in what appears to be the increasingly competitive college broadcasting market.

Interesting stuff. I wasn't aware that campus-based programming had come so far, but it makes sense. It's a captive market in many ways, and a very attractive one, especially in terms of acquiring brand loyalty at a fairly young age.

I'd love to see this for myself; wonder if my alma mater runs one of these networks? As it happens, I ran into my long-lost friend AJ today, who works at the school. I should take him up on a campus tour.
OPEN-AIR NHL GAMES!
preseason has begun!
They did it at Michigan State, so it was only a matter of time before the big leagues considered it. The National Hockey League is thinking about staging an outdoor regular-season game between the Oilers and Flames, starting in 2004 and possibly making it an annual thing.

Wish I could get there to see that! And let's face it, it's HIGHLY unlikely they'll ever try to do this in Tampa. Although, they did pull it off in Vegas...
HILLBILLIES STRIKE BACK!
hoo-whee!
The proud mountain folk of Appalachia and the South aren't taking too kindly to CBS's plans for a reality-show revival of The Beverly Hillbillies. Actually, I think the frequent guests on The Jerry Springer Show probably do more regular damage to the rural community than some reality show would.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

GO AHEAD, BLAME I.T.
I found this little whine amusing, not to mention an exercise in fantasy living. I'm surprised so many of the reader responses disagreed; I often get the impression that ZDNet's readership is mostly techies. But honestly, if anyone's wishing that they could "live in a fishbowl", I know it's the I.T. crowd. They wish all those dumb users would just go away so they could have their pristine, high-end systems run perfectly.
FRANKENFISH
Looks like a bunch of people and businesses aren't going for biotechnology-produced fish that should hit the market in a couple of years.

What I liked about this story is that it demonstrates why the social/political system in the U.S. works so well, warts and all. Those concerned got together and built a broad coalition among industry workers and consumers to get their point across. Everyone found a common cause.

I'm sure that all these claims of producing infertile animals through bioengineering is dubious at best. Life is a resilient sucker, and one way or another these things will find a way to reproduce and crossbreed. Look at the biotech corn that found it's way into open fields. I do agree with the corporate schlub in that the companies deserve a chance to make their case fully, though.
WHEN BRAINS BETRAY
No, that out-of-body experience you had was not your ghostly wraith floating in the aether. At least not according to the scientifical types who found that such visions might be attributable to misfiring synapses in the noggin. (Dang, and I just put a down payment on my very own astral projector, too.)
BEHOLD, THE DIGITAL CITY
Here's a short interview with Anthony Townsend, who's been tapped by the South Korean government to design a city that's planned completely around a high-technology-enabled population's lifestyle. Some fascinating stuff on how communications advances of the past decade are changing the basic ways we function, especially as it relates to social interaction and distance. Also some brief overviews of the evolution of city planning, from the dawn of the Automobile Age to the present (and the foreseeable future).
FROM PASSION TO FASHION
how blue was my jacket
Doug MacLean, the general manager of your Columbus Blue Jackets, tells us that all the big-league sports options in North America these days has squeezed out the little man, to the leagues' detriment. He actually makes some good points regarding the growth of sports entertainment, but then, as a typical management type, he lies through his teeth regarding a supposed "disconnect" with the fanbase. Not to mention increased salaries (check out the reader response from SASKHAB regarding that, well said). For all the bitching the average chunkhead does about how many millions this or that athlete makes, he'll still watch that athlete play every chance he gets. And that is the point.
THE MOUSE IS TURNING JAPANESE
m-i-c....
Disney has decided to cash in on the anime craze with Spirited Away, its Americanized version of Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi. I love how they felt the need to dumb it down a degree for U.S. audiences. And the assumption implicit in this piece, as always when an animated movie is the subject, is that this is children's material gone awry.
COMMENTS UP!
In case anyone's noticed, the comments feature here wasn't working for the last couple of days. I'm happy to report that the problem has been fixed, and hopefully for good. So feel free to talk at me!

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

ROSIE MAGAZINE--KAPUT

Ah, to mourn the loss of celebrity-driven media outlets. Light a candle for the soon-to-be-shuttered Rosie Magazine--and, preferably, hold it under every copy you can lay your hands on so none will survive to horrify future generations ;)

Don't ask me why, but I found myself skimming through a couple of issues once. (Yes, I was really that bored.) I must have missed the parts that were "too extreme for a mass audience". All I remember is a fluffy, bubbelah-type interview Rosie conducted with her pal Johnny Travolta, and an article piece on Phylicia Rashad. Perhaps she kept the controversial stuff out of those particular months. Or maybe I'm not a mass-enough audience to have realized how shocking this little ego pill was.
TECH ADVENTURES IN JAPAN
Although a bit disjointed, this Fortune missive from Japan was pretty enlightening. I was very surprised to learn that the Japanese, along with Europeans, weren't automatically jumping on the 3G bandwagon, like everyone expected them to. Seems like they have the crazy notion that their phones are primarily communicative, rather than media, devices. Go figure. And if they aren't going for it, there's practically zero chance that Americans will.
APPLE AND SCHOOLS
schools out?
Here's a good piece from BusinessWeek on Apple's suddenly-eroding market share in the education market. Haddad is right on the money on the causes: basically, the herd mentality when it comes to computers.

What kills me is why people are still bamboozled about supposedly irreconcilable differences between Macs and Wintel machines. IT'S THE SAME THING, PEOPLE. The interfaces and major applications are just about identical. What difference does it make what you use, or what your kids use? I work with both at work, and to me there's scarcely a difference. The thing is, the majority of people out there are deathly scared to even touch a Mac, so they never realize it.

Definitely a subject for a dedicated post, later.
THIS JUST IN: CONTENT IS KING
If the president of News Corp. (parent company of Fox Network, among other stuff) proclaims it, it must the straight dope. Peter Chernin sends a timely I-told-you-so to the other megalarge media companies over their investments in Internet delivery systems/channels instead of focusing on creative development. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course. But it's true, the real power behind News Corp., Chairman Rupert Murdoch, never went gung-ho over the Web during the dot-com boom. His company took a fairly conservative approach during that period, and as a result it doesn't have the problems that its rivals Vivendi and AOL Time Warner now do.

I found the part where he advocated "decentralizing decision-making to foster hit programs, movies and books" a nice offer. I'll believe it when I see it, though.

The message seems like a no-brainer, although tech-heads continually miss the point. You can pack your website with all the XML-enabled bells and whistles you want, but if there's nothing compelling there for visitors to read, see or hear, it ain't gonna fly. And by compelling, I don't mean user-created content like messageboards or--I realize the irony here--blogs. I mean well-crafted content that appeals to all kinds of audiences. Here's to hoping.
LET'S GET THE IBF ON THIS
and in this corner....
It's been discovered that black holes, once thought to be of only one type, actually occur in a variety of sizes. These variations could help explain things like the nature of black holes themselves, and specifics about stellar/galatic formation.

I like the idea of weight classes for these mysterious objects. Featherweights, which couldn't suck soda out of a straw, all the way up to Mike Tyson-like heavyweights! Heh heh.
ROYAL CONNECTIONS
hot durn, do I get to be king now?
Did you know that the Prez himself is distantly related to Winston Churchill and British royalty? Well, if you were around during George W.'s daddy's administration, you might remember that the same nugget of information was announced back then. So no big surprises here. Plenty of juice for the conspiracy theorists though, especially those who subscribe to the idea that perfidious Albion societies secretly rule all.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

"DEAD MONEY" OR "PHANTOM MONEY"?
the league
This one is a couple of months old, but it's a good one for anyone interested in sports business (like me). ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli writes up a pretty good overview of the so-called "dead money" NFL teams have to work around thanks to the salary cap. Since the introduction of the NFL cap back in the mid-90s, a whole specialized job field has evolved dealing exclusively with cap management, or capology. I believe practically every team in the league employs a dedicated capologist.

HOWEVER.... I feel there's one vital point that Pasquarelli doesn't make clear: is any of that "dead" contract money actually paid out to the players? Or is it purely a book figure, one that prevents teams from spending X number of dollars but doesn't actually come out of the owners' pockets? If that's the case, it seems to me that a more proper name for this is "phantom money"--really an additional cap roof that ends up saving a team money (at least on a short-term basis). In effect, the cap forces them to not spend money--money that they indeed have.

Obviously, I'm no capologist. But as I understand it, base salary amounts can be spread in any way--backloaded, frontloaded, etc.--across the life of a contract. In the event the player is cut and the contract thus voided (which among the Big Four sports, is the case only in the NFL with it's non-guaranteed contracts), that contract's cap figure is accelerated to a single season (a common thing with loads of players getting released each year). But--and this is significant--even though the cap figure hits against the team cap, that money never gets paid to the player; the team not only keeps that money, but they're prohibited from spending it anywhere else.

Again, I'm not at all sure about this, and I'd be happy as a clam if Len would like to comment on it. But it seems to me that dead money is actually favorable to a team, in terms of strict dollars and cents: they're forced to save even more money than the cap limits them to, in effect. Of course, the negative impact is on the field, in that the team presumably has to field lower-quality talent because it can't pay for better players. But it looks to me like the money involved is a phantom figure, and really another way the teams come out ahead in this system.
SHADDUP, KID
sho' nuff!
Admittedly, I've spent very limited time playing with this, but so far I can't see anything particularly remarkable about it. Still, the development types behind SmarterChild will tell you that this little bot is a breakthough in the march toward creating true Artificial Intelligence. With the Web as its core, to boot. If you'd like to contribute something to this forward progress, check out the Open Mind Initiative and drop some knowledge on them.

One interesting feature is the WAP-enabled portion of this site. I tried it on my phone, and it was a pretty neat little time-killer.

Still, I'd be willing to put up good money that SmarterChild can't hang with Ralph Wiggum.

(Does anyone else quickly devolve to crude remarks and insults when using these bots, out of playful frustration over their senseless replies? I doubt I'm the only one...)
WAR, THE SEQUEL
I've seen some scattered references to the upcoming war in Iraq as "Gulf War II". First impression to this term is that it's odd and even a bit irreverent, reducing a major military operation to the level of a movie sequel (like Stuart Little II!). Then I remembered the obvious historical precedent created with "World War II" (much more used term than the stuffier "Second World War").

So, I guess it's all good. Carry on.
A JOLLY JOLIE
now Billy-Bob-free
It's official: Angelina Jolie is now Angelina Jolie. Uh.... that is, she's legally dropped her real last name, Voight. Newly single, and feudin' with daddy, tsk tsk.

I don't find this all that noteworthy. But I'll jump at any excuse to look at Angelina Jolie. ;)

Monday, September 16, 2002

"WATCH IT, SUCKA"
fish-eyed fool!
This just in... LaWanda Page, best known for playing Aunt Esther on Sanford and Son, has died. She was 81.

Betcha couldn't guess that Aunt Esther started out in showbiz

".... billed as 'The Bronze Goddess of Fire' because she lit cigarettes with her fingertips, swallowed fire and touched flaming torches to her body."

R.I.P.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT RIGHTS, PIXELATED
it's in the gameso is thisthis too
Any fans of The Sims out there? Get ready to have your little lemmings scarf down mass quantities of Big Macs and mess around with Wintel boxes. Electronic Arts, the video game publisher behind Sims, has completed advertising agreements with McDonald's and Intel to feature their products in the next edition of the game. I love how the article says that having the characters eat McDonald's food will "improve their standing within the game"--too bad that's not the case in real life, lol.

This reporter seems to think that this sort of product placement is a new phenomenon:

"The deal is the latest step in the game industry's trend of moving its business models closer to the Hollywood model. While product placement is relatively new to games..."

Perhaps this is true as far as scale, i.e. the breadth of the partnerships and the dollars involved. But I've been playing video games since I was a wee young'un, and I remember plenty of commercial tie-ins and product placements in games going all the way back to Atari 2600 carts. Sports games are the most prominent examples of this: not only were they licensed by the sports leagues themselves, they also often featured sports-related ad placement.
"THE NEW JEW REVIEW"
Love the concept behind this one. An enterprising young editor, who somehow knows Steven Spielberg, has launched Heeb, a magazine (my headline above is its subtitle) that celebrates and features ethnic/cultural Jews in pop culture. The title is an exercise in defiance: a reappropriation of what has been an ethnic slur.
BIZ SENSE FROM THE FOSSILS OF ROCK
Mom and Pop
I loved this Fortune article on the business side of the rock band that just won't quit, the Rolling Stones. Be sure to check out illuminating interviews with both Mick and Keith.

I'm not much of a fan of the Stones myself. I like quite a few of their older songs, but nothing after the early 80s. And I wouldn't be caught dead at one of their concerts (all apologies to my friend Tom, who's excited about seeing them in Denver later this year).
THE BLACKLIST, 50 YEARS LATER
Interesting report on a soon-to-be aired documentary about two men's experiences with the McCarthy-era blacklisting in Hollywood, and the invective it incites to this day. I'm looking forward to watching it tomorrow. I can't believe they didn't decide to air it tonight, opposite MNF; that usually seems to be the case, I get screwed out of catching something I'd normally watch because I'm a sports addict. :)

If this period of Hollywood history interests you, you should rent the comedy/drama movie The Front. Woody Allen stars, although it isn't a "Woody Allen movie", as he didn't write or direct it. A very nice touch is at the very end; as the credits roll, the people involved with the movie who were blacklisted in real life are listed, along with the year they were blacklisted.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

BAD DAY FOR WEEKES
the manthe team
At Carolina Hurricanes training camp today, contending No. 1 goalie Kevin Weekes had to be taken to the emergency room for a seizure stemming from dehydration. Poor Weekesie; he used to play here in Tampa Bay.

The 'Canes coach said Weekes doesn't have a history of this. I guess not this severe, but I remember over the year and a half he played here, he often had to take IVs for dehydration, much more than a player normally would.
THOUGHTS ON FALLON, SNL
I'm a geek!
I caught Jimmy Fallon on a recent episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Does it seem to anyone else that Fallon is pretty much doing a poor man's Adam Sandler? (I'm not all that enamoured of Sandler either, especially since he does basically the same movie over and over again.) He does the same nice-guy nerdy, shy type, with a hint of naivete. Total lift, you ask me. (Then again, maybe it's just a Brooklyn thing; they're both from that borough.)

This was my first exposure to Fallon, believe it or not. I haven't watched SNL in, literally, 7 or 8 years. It's so far off my radar screen now, I don't even consider it an option to turn to when I'm home on Saturday night (which, lately, is quite often).
KINDER, GENTLER SINGAPORE?
Could one of the more repressive regimes on the planet be lightening up? Talk is cheap, but the Singapore government has said it would like to see what cultural benefits may come from loosening some of it's social controls. All in the interests of resulting economic benefit, of course.

The basic flaw in such an effort is the top-down approach. It's a natural to do it this way, as the political culture is accustomed to the government providing social impetus. This overrides even the concerns over whether or not a controlling government is willing to open the door enough to allow meaningful freedom of expression.

Also, it is important to understand what an authoritarian regime really involves. Ultimately, the spirit of social/political regulation has to enjoy the endorsement of the people in order for it to work--a self-policing, basically. Singapore's strong economy and standard of living help keep things calm in that city-state, although in many ways I think it masks more underlying problems. Then again, you could say that about the United States too, which, 50 years ago, Hannah Arendt noted was perhaps the exemplary authoritarian state in terms of stong popular investment in the political culture. This is of course taking a stricter definition of the term "authoritarian" than what we usually see.
FILTERED LOGIC
Start of a new school year, and of course the children need to be protected from that vile Internet smut! Because I'm sure they have no idea it's out there.

To borrow a quote from the referenced article: "Filters are imperfect and give parents and students a sense of security that really is not there." That pretty much sums it up. Every one of those filtering programs are straight crap. All they do is look for metadata, domain names and other keywords--the key being keywords. You can't set up a smut filter, period. Not to mention that I'm not wild about censoring kids' access to information.

I do tons and tons of research on the Web, at work and at home. I use lots of the same search engines that the rest of the world does. You know what? I rarely come across porn or objectional sites unless I want to (and of course, sometimes I want to). By "rarely", I'm talking about maybe a couple of times a week. So to me, filtering programs are employed to do a job that really doesn't need to be done, and to top it off, they don't work right anyway.
RANKINGS, SCHMANKINGS
As always, the release of the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings are accompanied by a whole lotta bitchin'. Rightly so, since everyone puts so much weight on them. The appeal is simple: the cache of a respected news magazine, and a nice simple shorthand that says what it says--"We're No. 3 in the whole nation!" I'm not saying it's right, and indeed any student who makes the rankings a central part of his decision on where to go will get what he deserves.

At my gig, we're getting ready to print the biggest schools in Florida lists. In an associative way to the U.S. News list, the schools in this state pay lots of attention to TopRank Florida rankings. Too bad they aren't so cooperative in coughing up information.
THE SPITTIN' POLITICIAN
life, liberty, and I don't wanna pay taxes
So much for the Libertarian Party projecting a warm and fuzzy image. I wonder where projectile saliva fits into the Libertarian doctrine? Or is it strictly a California thing?

Saturday, September 14, 2002

WAY TO GO, DAD
What does a concerned father do when his son is cut from the team? Well, if you're Angelo Seccaspina, the president of the junior-B hockey Carleton Place Kings near Ottawa, you fire the whole coaching staff.

Yep, like kiddie sports in the U.S., hockey from atom-level all the way up to junior in Canada is full of overbearing parental units. Too bad the kids can't just find an empty field or frozen pond and, I dunno, have no-consequence fun for once. In fact, all this regimentation at an early age--not only in sports, but in school and other social facets--could have unsavory consequences for these kids as they come of age.
WHY I DON'T MUCH CARE FOR STAR TREK
to boldly split infinitives
Not that anyone's asked lately, but I'd like to highlight one of the things about Star Trek that really annoys me, and prevents me from getting into the show(s) to any degree. (Not that I'm looking for an excuse to become a trekkie, or trekker, or whatever those geeks want to be called.)

A common gimmick used in the newer shows like Next Generation and Deep Space 9, and that seems to appear in those rare episodes I get stuck watching, is where some sort of device is used to bring a mass-murderer or dictator of the past to holographic reality. This holographic doppelganger walks and talks just like a real-life person, and is intended to be a true-to-life automaton of the (usually) deceased bad guy, based on the futuristic computer ability to store and render such information. So if you wanted to talk to, say, Adolph Hitler, this hologram would give you the opportunity to do so, for arguments, interviews, etc.--keeping in mind that you're talking to what's essentially a brought-to-life encyclopedia entry.

Now, whenever one of the Star Trek dudes call up some past villian who slaughtered a couple of solar system's worth of people, it's in the presence of one of the last few survivors of that genocide. As soon as the hologram comes up, the survivor automatically freaks out, and starts yelling and screaming about not being able to handle having such an evil person around who did his people so much harm. Even when the others try to reassure him that it's not really him, but a hologram, the guy's still a basketcase. He'll then proceed to argue with the hologram. By the end of this scene, the survivor is shaken. Cut to commercial :)

So what's wrong with all that? Plenty. Remember, these shows are taking place some two or three hundred years in the future. It's a galactic community, whose denizens are used to all kinds of technological advances that we can't imagine, affecting things from how they eat to how they travel to how they process information. It seems to me that things like holograms would be pretty commonplace, like photographs and video are to us today. So why would someone who's used to that level of technology get all whacked out by something he knows isn't real? Even if it is of a person who did him great harm, there's just no way that reaction is at all realistic. Again, it's pretty rare for anyone nowadays to get totally bent out of shape from seeing a person move around on a video monitor ("Oh my God, he's really here!! How Martha???") It just smacks of gratuitous drama thrown in there, and it completely turns me off.

I realize that television is television, and there's a need to inject emotion into a storyline. But it strikes me as a really, really dumb way to do it--cheesy even. It's one of many examples of how Star Trek just isn't realistic. And I know that it's a tall order to predict human (or other) behavior in the 23rd century, but the way I see it on Trek, it's just downright silly. Anytime I watch it, I'm acutely aware that the characters are essentially modern-day people thrust into a futuristic setting.
A HOODED CONTROVERSY
Sashay, Chantay
Fashion show meets S&M in Madrid. Oh those wacky designers!

Here's the Magritte painting, titled The Lovers II, that was mentioned as the designer's inspiration:
a kiss

Friday, September 13, 2002

FLICKS IN TORONTO
straight from T.O.
Not in the mood to write much tonight... kinda tired. I'll be foaming at the blog this weekend, so tonight, screw it.

In the meantime, edify yourself by checking out these capsule previews from the Toronto International Film Festival.

Thursday, September 12, 2002

CORPORATE FOREIGN POLICY
Here's a matter-of-factly outline for how a multinational can protect itself in times of crisis. (Requires free registration; it's worth it).

I guess I'm still a little surprised that most people don't understand the active role multinational companies play in global politics. Of course, most Americans haven't been on the receiving end of corporate strong-arming (in a realistic way). But it's still fascinating to me how developed some corporate cultures are vis a vis their operability and maneuverability in the international system. I recall reading in (I think) Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers ages ago of Mitsubishi Corp.'s attitude in the case of war involving one or more of governmental clients: that basically, it's loyalty was to itself first and foremost, and there was no patriotic prerogative to support a home country (not that large corporations really have one).

Aside from this, the referenced article here calls to mind other issues: does the setting of standards different from those of the host country constitute de facto extraterritoriality? The corporate entity holds the cards, especially in poor countries but even in richer ones; they could always say they're tired of it all and move out, leaving depression and resentment aimed at the government in it's wake.
DATA AND THE LACK OF PERMANENCE
A whole field of research has cropped up surrounding the problem of long-term data accessibility. For instance, how do you know that the diary, term paper or photo album you've saved today on some Microsoft program is going to be available to you some 30 years from now? As it now stands, lots of files that were created in old BASIC, WordPerfect, WordStar and even early versions of Windows apps are now pretty much impossible to open unless you have the original hardware and software. This lengthy but engaging article looks at the leading methods being used to ensure data will be preserved for future generations. There's a nice summation chart at the end too.

I particularly liked these two paragraphs:

In any case, it’s rarely the goal of the new program to simulate the old one exactly; it’s far more common for programmers to want to improve upon the past. That’s a goal that keeps computer science advancing at an exponential rate, and it probably also explains why the technical problem of preserving the past has received so little attention from those who helped create the problem in the first place.

“Computer scientists are in a profession where there is virtually no need for historical information,” says Abby Smith. “They don’t need information from the 1650s or the 1940s. They are used to things superseding what came before. For those in the humanities, there is no such notion. They work by accumulation, not replacement.”


This piece touches on the "nomadic data" phenomenom, where keeping a document, music file, etc. usable involves shifting it from one program, or even medium to another. Outside of the computer model, the music medium is an obvious example: from 78 lacquer records, to 33 vinyls, to cassette, to CD, and now to MP3 and other digital formats (I'm sure I missed a few steps there). Basically, preservation seems to hinge on a constant "jumping" from one format to the next.... unless a broader solution is reached.

One thing I'd like to chime in: paper is regarded as the most permanent fool-proof preservation solution (no doubt why the much-heralded paperless office is nowhere in sight). I'd say that concerning a large chunk of the 20th century, that's not the case. Pulp paper processing came into vogue in the 1900s, which made possible the explosion of publishing of all types. The problem is that pulp paper, unlike better grades of paper (like bond), wasn't made to last. It degrades pretty readily, becoming brittle and yellowed in only a couple of decades.
QUOTE O' THE DAY
''If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more.'' - Harriet Tubman

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

SEPTEMBER 11, CODA
One HELL of a coincidence! The evening New York State pick-3 lottery drawing for tonight was--get ready--9-1-1! Unreal. Check out the results here and here. And it hits the wires here at Yahoo!
FREE-RANGE BOOKS
on the loose!
At first blush, this looked like a kooky idea, but as I toured the site, it grew on me. BookCrossing.com is a labor of love that encourages people to get rid of their old books by leaving them in a public place, in the hopes that appreciative somebodies will pick them up and read them. The catch is that the books can be labeled with a tracking number and instructions to go to the site to reveal where the book's ended up and with whom. It's amazing the range of locales some books have reached; Antarctica even! (I'm surprised Florida has so many, more than New York.) You can even get in touch with the book's previous owner(s). It seems to have sparked a legion of fans who are addicted to the whole process.

I wish I had known about this nearly a year ago. I was getting rid of a bunch of books, was able to sell only a couple to a used bookstore, and wound up dumping the rest off at the library. That was worthwhile, but this would have been a lot more fun. I'm tempted to sign up on this anyway; I probably have at least one or two books I can part with for the sake of fun!
DROPPIN' SCIENCE ON THE WAVE
...And here's the perfect subject for the below-referenced big-screen science-based blockbuster! A driven University of Hungary professor, working tirelessly, unlocks the mathematical mysteries behind doing The Wave at soccer, baseball and other sporting events. Thus fulfilling mankind's overwhelming curiosity.

I can see it now, De Niro playing a brilliant Hungarian in picturesque Budapest....
DROPPIN' SCIENCE FOR DE NIRO
Are you an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter? Figure you've got the next Beautiful Mind or Pi in you? Then get ye to a computer, wordsmith, and get cracking, because Bobby De Niro's Tribeca Film Institute is looking for science-themed scripts. (No science fiction pitches need apply, you pathetic geeks you! ;) )

Odd how this is presented as a news article when it's really not much more than a press release, or a work-wanted ad, really.
GAME ON! IN GREECE
Update: That dumb-dumb-dumb anti-electronic-game law in Greece has been overturned, thankfully. So my ancestral homeland was a laughingstock for only about a week.

Y'know, as much as I stress to people that I'm an American first and formost, in thought, culture, activities, etc., I have to admit that events concerning Greece do hold a deep interest to me. Same as events in my home state New York, but then NY is always in the news anyway. I've only been to Greece once, when I was a kid; and although I have loads of relatives there, we aren't very close. But still, it when something good or bad happens there, I feel it sort of reflects on me a bit. And the country has been in the news with regularity lately: The recent November 17 arrests, preparations for the upcoming Summer Olympics, and of course, being indirectly compared to China in terms of techno-backwardness.
SEPTEMBER 11
Well, it's that day. The first anniversary of a day that was supposed to change everything. I can't say that I've noticed that... My life has changed quite a bit, but that's more to do with my suicide attempt in May than the Sept. 11 events. For me, it's been a remarkably short year; the World Trade Towers and Pentagon attacks seem to have happened not so long ago. Certainly not a whole year.

In any case, a few websites are doing special things to observe the day. Yahoo's front page has gone gray, Lycos has a tribute front, Hoover's is running a tribute list in place of ads, and Amazon has a nice collage of images. (These will only be up today, of course; you can take a look back at them with the Wayback Machine.)

It's inevitable that the question of whether or not Sept. 11 should be designated a holiday come up. I think it will, in time. But it's interesting that right now, the polls show something like 57% of people saying "no". I really expected at least a two-third majority to be in favor of such a holiday. I guess it's still too soon. And most people see a holiday as a time to celebrate, or at least indulge in laziness, which at this point seems sacriligeous. Still, I'm surprised.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

PUEDE SER EL K-MART?
Another example of the increasing profile of the Hispanic media market in the U.S.: K-Mart is launching a Spanish-language magazine.

Hey, any magazine that debuts with the mystico Walter Mercado in it is OK in my book.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT RUN AMOK
I've heard a lot of talk about the imminent demise of the traditional commercial spot and its replacement by product placement embedded in programming. The effectiveness of that type of advertising, I think, works best subliminally, and gets less effective with more exposure. MIT's Technology Review presents this brief case study. It argues that it'll be a rough ride on the way to hitting upon the most effective way to get across an advertising message in the age of TiVo.

Perhaps a more direct route is in branded content, as defined by the creator of Nike's "Just Do It" campaign.
BROWSER WARS REDUX
Zilla! the default
Salon takes a look at the current state of the browser market, how it got there, and where it could go. Even though it starts off on a rather dull note with the fairly recent news of IE accounting for 96% of the market, it improves considerably by delving into the origins of the browser, the promise of Mozilla as a platform, and adaptability for the future. Pretty well done.
DAMN, I'M STILL DOWN WITH BETA
A lot of this is almost no-duh kinda stuff, but it is a nice little presentation by Forbes of the next consumer electronic shifts. (Be sure to take note of the control panel-like links near the top of the popout box).
A LUNAR LANDRUSH?
like a big pizza pie
Looks like we're present at the beginning of intensive commercial exploration and exploitation of the moon. Yippee! Just promise me that nothing as infernal as Pluto Nash is created as a result.

It's fascinating to think of how quickly this could ramp up. As noted in the article, Luna is only 4 days away by current methods. The next logical step is to build obiting stations/platforms, from which lunar shuttles can take off at a fraction of the amount of fuel needed for terrestrial takeoffs. As far-fetched as it sounds, we could be looking at an established industrial/mining sector on the Moon within 20 years. After all, it's pretty much a big rock full of all sorts of minable metals and other materials, just floating up there for the taking.

Of course, it's never that simple. The concept of the U.S. government granting permission for a private moon mission implies American sovereignty over that territory. I'm sure the rest of the world won't see it that way. You could re-spin it as the Federal government having the right to hold back a U.S.-based company from undertaking a mission, but that's a real stretch: it doesn't really have that authority now. Plus, it's launching from Kazakhstan anyway.

In addition, NASA has put a lot of thought into long-term Moon projects, including plans for a Moon hotel.
QUOTE O' THE DAY
"When in danger, or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout."
- Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, September 09, 2002

THINK I'LL THROW TOAST AT THE SCREEN
Bedtime, children
Because you know you wanted it: Family Affair gets reborn. I could not imagine a creepier choice for Mr. French than Mr. Rocky Horror himself, Tim Curry.