The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

BOLD MOVE IN THE NYC NEWSPAPER MARKET
shine on
A well-funded upstart paper, the New York Sun, is aggressively trying to carve out a spot for itself in the ultra-competitive New York City area. Only a paper that's got huge bags of money behind it can afford to cut its cover price down to 25 cents and survive to tell about it. And it's not like they've got chumps working there: Michael Kinsley and Andrew Sullivan aren't chopped liver.
COP CAR BILLBOARDS
Those who enjoy watching the continuing creep of advertising into bold new territories will love this one. A company has cooked up a scheme to provide police cars to cities free of charge, in exchange for plastering a bunch of advertising on those cars.

It's a good deal for the cities, I suppose. I'm not sure I see where the conflict would be; it's not like a cop won't haul in a law-breaker just because he paid for some advertising patch on his car.

I just question who would want to buy ad space on a cop car. The bailbondsman market is the likeliest, and along with shyster lawyers and other low-end marketers, probably the only ones who'd bite. So instead of having Microsoft or Kraft as advertisers, it's much more realistic to see Lou's Tattoos and Barney's Pawn Shop. Which in turn will make these cars look pretty tacky.
R.I.P. JAM MASTER
the big beat blaster
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I read the news early this morning, and for a second just couldn't believe it. Jam Master Jay, a founding member of the seminal rap group Run-DMC, was shot and killed early this morning. He was only 37.

I didn't know him. Not even close. But the music he helped create and popularize will stay with me forever. You left way too soon, Jay.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

UNFRIENDLY NEIGHBORS?
What's a deportation or two among friends? Well, plenty, according to Canada, which issued a once-in-a-blue-moon travel advisory for some of its citizens regarding the United States.

This is basically a protest by Ottawa over the ham-handed way in which the U.S. is handling its homeland "security". It's a joke. The only criteria being used is the color of a person's skin, their dress, or their language. I realize no one likes to call it racism, but that's what it boils down to. And when the next terrorist action happens, the only reaction will be to redouble these ineffective measures.

Since the end of World War II, Canada has often been described as being the conscience and apologist for American foreign policy. I'd say this role is being reprised. Whether it has any effect, we'll have to see.

Update: Well, that was quick. The U.S. today said it would ease up on the treatment. Of course, saying it and actually doing it are two different things. We'll see. And we'll see if this leads to some retrenchment in a general sense domestically.
THREE-YEAR-OLD SANDWICH--YUM!
chomp!
Nothing's too good for our soldier boys. The U.S. Army is hard at work developing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that will retain edibility for up to three years, even in adverse conditions. Sign me up! Actually, I don't like PB&J, specifically the J part. I do like the occasional peanut butter and honey sandwich, though.
REALITY CHECK: NO LIZA SHOW
freakshow!
Darn! Looks like the world won't be treated to a Liza Minelli reality show. The fly in the ointment was Liza's husband, David Gest, who VH1 decided was too big a pain in the ass with which to deal. Too bad; I was looking forward to the episode where Liza would come home early one day and find her David administering an oral exam on some handyman. Who's wearing surgical boots, of course.

Oh, about the photo here: it's from the couple's wedding day. How many thousands (millions?) of dollars of investment do those faces represent? It boggles the mind.... And, considering the calendar, I think I'll also dub this my Halloween contribution. BOO!

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

RIPPER, EVERMORE
jack?
Over a hundred years after the fact, Jack the Ripper continues to inspire morbid fascination. There was the recent big-budget movie, which was an insultingly dumbed-down adaptation of an exceptional, if far-fetched, book (which I heartily recommend). There are bunches of so-called Ripperologists, people who spend lots of time combing over mountains of information--some factual, some not--in an effort to formulate theories about the identity of the killer and zero in on targets. And where there's bunches of people with the same interests, there's going to be a few clubs, like this one.

Well, thanks to modern DNA identification technology, all that fun might be an endangered species. A writer claims to have genetic material from a long-dead artist named William Sickert, who the writer believes was Jack the Ripper. I imagine the tests will be conducted soon, and regardless of the outcome, there's little doubt that other suspects will soon get the same treatment.

Coincidentally--or perhaps not?--the DNA solution is also being employed to crack the unsolved Zodiac Killer murders from 30 years ago.

In the wake of the DC-area sniper hysteria, it's perhaps appropriate that the first big-time serial killer of the modern era makes it back into the news. It's amazing, and not in a good way, how fixated people become on serial killings. I liken it to a social disease: a sick fascination with a faceless killer, which see-saws between obsession and revulsion. I think it's ridiculous to blow up a killing streak of around a dozen people into some sort of national crisis, when you consider that thousands of people around the country are killed every day in much more anonymous--and thus, less titillating--situations.
BY GEORGE!
oh for an hour of dilfer
Jeff George has returned to the NFL, signing up for backup duty with the injury-depleted Seattle Seahawks.

Some things are too bizarre to fully comprehend at first blush. But I'll say this: it should make the staid Seahawks a fun story. I predict George will start pissing off the entire locker room inside of three weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2002

REALITY CHECK: THE WILL
Here's another of life's little watershed moments that's become fair game for the reality TV format. ABC is planning on debuting "The Will" sometime in 2003. That's "will" as in "last will and testament", rather than, say, a rumination on the human capacity for diligent purposefulness or determination.

I wonder, though: if there turns out to be no winner in this little contest--and let's face it, no one really wins when participating in a reality show--would the final episode then be titled, appropriately enough, Triumph of the Will?
NEWS CONSOLIDATION
Some waves were made a couple of weeks back about CNN and ABC planning to merge their news departments and then spin off that merged entity as a separate company (owned about equally between the two of them, naturally, with a minority partner being brought in at about a 15% stake to avoid regulatory concerns). That turn of events could still happen. This piece gives an overview of the benefits of such a move, and what it means for rival media companies, particularly CBS News.

Although much of the analysis here is intriguing, I think there's an element of shouting fire when there's not even smoke. The scenario presented here is that CBS News would be left high and dry with no cable outlet possibilities. This isn't really true: CBS' parent company, Viacom, owns a huge chunk of the cable spectrum, including MTV, Nickleodeon, CMT, etc. If Viacom wanted to get their news operations into the cable mix, they could easily launch or buy a channel, and leverage it onto most cable systems by holding their established channels as bargaining chips (a common tactic when trying to get a new cable channel off the ground).

Sunday, October 27, 2002

JEWS AND THE WORLD'S FUNNIEST JOKE
A little while back, researchers in Britain announced that they had determined the world's funniest joke ever, out of over 40,000 in the running. To the dismay of many observers, there was a distinct dearth of Jewish jokes in the mix. Which begs a serious question: are Jews still funny?

Well, okay, it's not a serious question. And not much of a question at all. I don't think the Jews have to worry about a humor deficiency anytime soon. After all, Adam Sandler is still making movies, right?

It was good to hear from Alan King. I liked his "greatest priest, minister and rabbi joke", although I heard a funnier version once:

"A priest, minister and rabbi go into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, "GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!!!"

Hmmm... it's funny, but I think it's much funnier if you and/or the joketeller are drunk.
I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT MY RAD--ER, WINAMP
Looks like I should consider getting an MP3 player, or something. I spent most of the day at the office today, getting a lot of work done toward my annual big project. I decided I needed some music to pass the time, and rather than lug a bunch of CDs, I just took my computer--and its hard drive with some 28 hours of MP3s in it--and used it as my jukebox. It was no big deal; the whole reason I bought a notebook computer is the easy portability factor. But looking back on it, it seems kind of silly that the only reason to take my machine with me is for tunes!

If anyone would like to drop a cool $300 on an Apple iPod for me for the upcoming holidays, I'll gladly accept it! They make them Windows-compatible now, and they're even sold at Target.
FOR DA BIRDS
It must be that time: when the birds from up north start showing up in force here for the winter. I was just out for a walk, and all I heard was incessant squawking and chirping. Looking up, I saw big swarms of dark birds flying everywhere. I'm no bird expert, but it looked like swallows, robins, and other garden-variety types.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

WHEN BARKING IS A CRY FOR HELP
get me a valium!
Canine compulsive disorder. No, that's not some chemical imbalance that causes a person to obsessively pet a dog. Rather, it's the state of affairs for the estimated one in 50 dogs that have some sort of emotional problem. So if your pooch is always barking for no reason or licking the fur off his skin, it's time to check his noggin.

The article states that the best way to cure an afflicted dog is to take him for frequent walks and to re-train him from scratch, in order to re-orient his mental processes and perk him up. Both these methods are rather time-consuming, so I'm betting that pretty soon, we'll see anti-depressant drugs for doggies on the market for the quick-fix crowd.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S WEAKEST LINK
I love hockey. I read almost every piece of sports reporting on it, and even, when I'm totally brain-dead bored, take peeks at the vast wasteland that is sports message boards. And yet, it's been over a year since I've read anything in Sports Illustrated's hockey coverage section. Why? Because it's easily the worst-written and worst-edited section of the magazine/website (and that's saying a lot, because I think SI overall is nowhere near as good as it was even ten years ago).

But I just took a look at the hockey section of their site, because I was curious about their reaction to the NHL season's early going. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who was SI's pick to finish dead last in the league this year, have gotten off to a torrid start at 5-0-2-0, the league's only undefeated team. It doesn't mean that they'll win the Cup, but it does make the magazine's prognostications look a bit weak. Especially when most other media outlets were picking the Lightning to do at least a little better than last year, at around the middle of the pack. Bringing more attention to the situation is that Tampa Bay's GM publicly criticized the prediction and announced that he's cancelling his subscription, citing lazy work on SI's part.

So, Kostya Kennedy, SI's head (and really only, as Darren Eliot and Jon Dolezar don't count) hockey writer, offers up his rebuttal to the whole thing.

Kennedy is a hack of the first order, and his unbearable writing style is what finally made me ditch SI. This piece is a pretty fair example of the lousy job he does, on a grueling schedule of 2-3 articles a week. Just a couple of the mistakes he makes:

-He refers to the team's leading scorer, Martin St. Louis, as "a jitterbug of a center". Nice compliment, except that St. Louis has been playing right wing all year.

-He says "they play in a Palace by the sea". I guess he didn't get the message, that was extensively reported over a month ago, that the former Ice Palace is now named the St. Pete Times Forum.

-The over-reliance on checking last year's stats betrays how little real hockey sense this guy has. Any idiot can can make surface judgements by looking at the numbers; if that's all there was to sports reporting, it'd be as simple as looking at the payroll list, the stats from the previous year, and you can fill in the standings in October. A real reporter uses some deeper insight. I get a strong feeling that all he does is flip through the stats book and doesn't bother with watching any games or actually, God forbid, interviewing anyone.

The overall tone of the article comes across as petulant and whiny, as if he shouldn't be criticized for his earlier comments. He himself alludes to how early it is, but instead of keeping his mouth shut and letting the season unfold, he offers up this weak defense. The fact that he's still employed shows how little SI cares for this section of the magazine. I'm betting even the editing is done by some incompetent boob.

Friday, October 25, 2002

DIG IT, A NEW MAGAZINE
Avast ye, a new publication off the port bow!... Well, not for a couple of months yet, but you get the picture. DigIt is a new tech lifestyle magazine that's being launched around the holiday season. Sounds mildly interesting, especially with Herbie Hancock in the first issue. I'm not sure it's interesting enough for me to pick it up or seek it out, though. And you have to have rocks in your head to launch a new magazine in this crappy market.... although it might be smart to start at a time when things can only go up.
FITTINGLY, THE LAST WORD ON THE BARBERSHOP CONTROVERSY
chop shop
I've been sorta following this whole Barbershop thing from the day it started. I've made my views on it pretty clear. Now comes news that the barbershop union is taking Jesse Jackson to task for the whole thing and is demanding an apology from him. Hilarious! I think the threat of a lawsuit is pretty frivolous, but it's just such an amusing course of events. You couldn't have scripted it better.
HOCKEY PUCK, INDEED
i'm full of hate!
This is a weird one, and coming from me, that's saying something. This columnist from the Washington Times devotes his whole space to a fictional dialogue between him and Don Rickles, on the subject of hockey. Some people have the cushiest jobs, I swear...

Thursday, October 24, 2002

SOAP SCAM
So using that antibacterial soap gives you a nice, warm fuzzy feeling, right? Figure you're safe from all those nasty germs out there? Well, here's some sobering news: the antibacterial stuff is a bunch of poo-poo.

Of course, for most people, the illusion is more important than the facts. It's the same dynamic at work when we put flimsy tissue paper cover over a public toilet when we do our thing, thinking that we're really protecting ourselves from cooties.

The article mentions that alcohol is a safer bet for killing those germs. I agree.
FREEDOM OF THE PRESS INDEX
code red
Which country has the greatest freedom of the press? Wouldja believe Finland? Reporters Without Borders has just released a report ranking most of the world's countries on the freedom and safety of journalists to do their jobs without fear of reprisals. The map above is a breakdown of those rankings; white means pretty wide-open media liberty, dark blood red means reporter road kill.

The United States, which includes the birthplace of freedom of the press in New York City, places at No. 17. Not bad; heck, 17 is my lucky number!

The article makes a big to-do about richer nations and democracies not necessarily having an automatic high regard for the Fourth Estate. That's not really so shocking; respect for free-standing institutions has more to do with a country's political culture than anything else. Prosperity, or lack of it, doesn't necessarily play into that (although like anything else, it has some influence).

Incidentally, Reporters Without Borders has its share of critics.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

MO' ON THE MESSIAH'S BRO
Well, it's just follow-up night here at the Eye. The recent discovery of an ancient ossuary box purportedly of James, brother of Jesus Christ has, as you'd expect, caused quite a stir. I particularly like the images of the original script, and the family tree.
LAMENTING THE DEATH OF MAGAZINES
Michael Malone provides some personal insight to the recent demise of two tech business mags, Upside and Forbes ASAP. Good recounting from an industry veteran.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

MORE ADULT SWIM!
numba one in tha hood, g
Alright! Cartoon Network has decided to expand the Adult Swim block of shows to five nights a week. Not that I'm excited about Futurama being added to the schedule, but I relish the chance to watch Home Movies more often. Not to mention Aqua Teen Hunger Force! Plus, I'd like to check out some of the anime shows.
ARLI$$ NOW A FREE AGENT
After seven seasons, HBO has decided to end Arli$$.

Arli$$ was once one of my favorites; I'd make a point of watching each new episode, and, along with reruns of The Larry Sanders Show, was the only reason I bothered to keep subscribing to HBO/HBO2. A show that combined not only comedy and sports, but the business of sports--man, I was in heaven! Yeah, the guest spots by most athletes were pretty dreadful, especially with the obligatory dialogue intro for each (e.g., "Hey John Randle, how's the terror of the gridiron doing?"). But in many cases, the script and the plot and the pacing was so crisp, it was a pure pleasure to watch. If you're a sports fan, it was a show that just did it for you in terms of blending realistic sports scenarios and comedy (unlike, say, the ridiculously overrated SportsNight).

Of course, it didn't stay good for long. Best as I can recall, it started to slide after the third season, and by the fifth season it just reeked. I remember finally turning it off in the middle of one episode that was really sucking hard; it had to do with the ethics of using American Indian figures as sports mascots, but the writing and plotting were so terrible that it became unwatchable. I can't really comment on the shows after that point since I never saw them, but let's face it, it's not like a series ever gets better once it starts to slip.

Still, here's hoping that we can enjoy the series in syndication someday, like Larry Sanders now.

Monday, October 21, 2002

BEST NAME SINCE THE MACON WHOOPEE
menacing
I don't usually go for non-standard team names. Keep it simple, I say: Cougars, Lions, Giants, etc. All perfectly acceptable, to me. That said, I like the name of the East Coast Hockey League's Lexington Men O' War.

According to the press release announcement, the team name is in honor of the late, great Man O' War, one of horseracing's finest steeds. (I wonder, then, why the team mascot isn't a horse??)

By the way, the ECHL is about to expand (the release neglects to mention that the joining teams consist of the soon-to-be-defunct West Coast Hockey League). And with new teams in places like Fresno, California and--believe it or not--Anchorage, Alaska, it's a sure bet that the expanded league will be looking for a new name soon.
CHRIST'S BROTHER
An archaeological, historical, and religious bonanza, all in one shot. That's what the discovery of an ancient burial box some think contained the remains of Jesus' brother, James, is. Yep, that Jesus.

Probably the first reaction for most would be, "Since when did Jesus have a brother?" (Even the box's owner was reported to ask, "'How could the Son of God have a brother?") That's a whole other hornet's nest of controversy, especially as far as the Catholic Church is concerned. I found this Straight Dope rundown on whether or not Jesus had any siblings quite succinct and informative. The most relevant Biblical passage, from the Book of Matthew, Chapter 13 Verses 55-56, can be found here.

In the early going, the most outspoken skeptics of the veracity of this discovery are those scholars who doubt that Jesus the man ever existed in the first place. That's an odd viewpoint--regardless of religious bent, I figured that most people had taken it as a given that the historical Jesus was real. But I guess even there, the evidence is somewhat circumstantial. The independent accounts of the stories of Jesus' life are made some 100-200 years after his death, so it could be that those accounts are just repititions of myths or legends.
GET DOWN WIT' CHA ROOTS
this space for rent
I found this banner ad sometime over the weekend. I learned long ago to effortlessly ignore banner ads and other Web-based advertising, along with the rest of the world (which is why advertisers are finding new ways to get their message across). But this one caught my eye, and I thought it was mighty funny. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 20, 2002

COLUMBINE CLOSE-MINDEDNESS
Well, I like this. Michael Moore, of Roger & Me fame, just premiered his new flick Bowling For Columbine in Denver. Denver, of course, is really close to Columbine, Colorado, so some of the parents of the kids killed in the school shootings were in town, and some caught the film. Some didn't.

The reviews were mixed. But check out this quote:

"I doubt there's much of a redeeming quality to that movie," Brian Rohrbough said Friday. "This is just a guy trying to capitalize on the tragedy of others."

Rohrbough, whose son, also named Daniel, was among the dead, had not seen the film."
(Emphasis added by me.)

So, this guy doesn't want to bother to watch the film, but he'll go ahead and trash it anyway? Must be nice to be able to make up your mind ahead of time. What's going through his head? And the only other negative reaction came from another Columbine parent who also didn't see the movie. Good move, mountain folk; can't be too careful, or else you'll actually expose yourself to some new concepts.
NEW LOOK FOR PERRIER
perrier meets 7up
Well, it turns out that, on a global level, this is not so new. But it's the first time I've seen this new plastic, soda-like bottle for my favorite sparkling water, Perrier. Just bought a four-pack while grocery shopping yesterday.

Apparently, the move was made after years of research, and the determination that the younger demographics prefer plastic bottles over the traditional but fragile green glass. The package does often make the product. I like that little green bottle. But I can live with the plastic too, I guess.

I wish I could've found a good picture of the new look online. This was the closest I could find. I had to take the above picture myself and do a so-so job cropping it. It actually came out better than I thought. I'm using a cheapie digital camera (like $40 retail). Not bad, considering.
IN GREECE, APPLE IS RAINBOW
meelo
Just for the heck of it, I visited the Apple Computer website to see what was shakin' in Mac-land. Seeing that Apple has several international sites, I looked through the list and saw that there's a Greek site. I noticed right away the "www.rainbow.gr" URL, and wondered if, for some strange reason, "Apple" had been transliterated to "Rainbow" for the Greek-speaking market. A couple of minutes of fishing around revealed this was not the case; Rainbow is simply the name of the exclusive Apple/Mac reseller in Greece.

(In case you're wondering, "apple" is pronounced "meelo" in Greek. "Rainbow" is "oorano toexo", which means, roughly, "sky sickle".)

Anyways, the site is pretty slick. It gets around using the Greek alphabet fonts (for the most part) by using either images or stylesheets.
ALL GREEK TO ME
In an attempt to stem the creeping progress of English in their country, Romanian legislators have passed a law mandating the use of Romanian language alongside commonly-used English phrases.

It's the usual xenophobic fear, along with concerns about losing some cultural identity. And certainly, it's not something you can just attribute to Romania's "backwardness", as there are similar laws on the books in France, Quebec (both against widespread English use) and, yes, various regions in the U.S. (versus Spanish). Of course, we all know that the official language of the United States is... nothing. There is no official, under law language in the U.S.
BIG HOCKEY MONEY IN RUSSIA
In a reversal from recent history, pro hockey players may soon leave North America for the lure of big money in Russia.

There's a LOT of background needed to make sense of this one... The NHL is the premier pro hockey league in the world, especially when it comes to salaries, so it's common for the best players in Europe to leave their home countries and try to strike it rich in North America. This has led to some resentment in Scandinavia and Russia (the main hockey hotbeds outside of Canada and the U.S.). So now in Russia, it looks like some pro clubs have decided to ante up to bring some players back, with the chief enticement being cash payments up front (and it is in U.S. dollars, not rubles; the American currency is a much stabler and more valuable money than most).

The mention of a "lockout" is interesting, as it shows how many people are taking it as a given that there will be a lockout in the NHL when the current labor agreement expires in 2004. A bit pessimistic, but certainly a strong possibility. And that's where this Russian development gets interesting: if players are locked out by then, many could decide to sign in Russia, which would prevent them from playing in the NHL that season. So for the short term, there might be a slight talent drain in the NHL.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

WHO LIVES IN A PINEAPPLE UNDER THE SEA?
absorbent is he
Fans of SpongeBob SquarePants, rejoice! Your goofy little yellow hero will be in a big-screen major motion picture in about a year and a half. Touchee, Bob; Ren & Stimpy can't say they ever got themselves a movie deal.

I've watched a few SpongeBob episodes; I just can't get into it. I'm a big fan of goofball humor, but this show is just a little too silly for me. And that's saying something.
SEPARATED AT BIRTH?
hey now!now, hey
Dr. Phil, the byproduct of Oprah, is the latest boffo hit on the daytime talk show scene. Why? Because he helps people, dammit. Or, maybe because he's a dead ringer for "Hey Now!" Hank Kingsley!

If anyone has, or knows where I can find, a .wav file of Hank saying "Hey Now!", I'd be very appreciative if you'd tell me. Heck, I'll even pay for your membership in the Kingsley Queens. Or, if you prefer, in Andrei's club.

Friday, October 18, 2002

THEY CALL HIM THE STREAK, EH
time to shine!
As if proving that Canada won't take a back seat to the US in the obnoxious-fan department, this hoser stripped down and jumped onto the ice at a recent Calgary Flames game, only to slip instantly and crack his head. I guess the red socks he was wearing didn't provide enough traction...

The serious side to this (if there truly is one) is that it reminded some of the fan attack incident against a Kansas City Royals coach in Chicago.
A THREE-LEGGED DOG
While out earlier walking, I passed by a black three-legged dog, taking his master for a walk. His front right leg was the missing one, which gave him an odd gait. What a weird sight. The dog looked happy and active enough, although he shied away when I tried to pat his head.
RETURN OF ROSEANNE
blech
The artist(?) formerly known as Roseanne Barr, and now known as just Piggy--uh, I mean, Roseanne--is returning to the small screen. Seems like she's taken some time between her last marriage and her next one to plan a TV comeback in the form of--what else?--a reality TV show. I thought the reality series category had the fatso white-trash bitch slot covered with Anna Nicole Smith, but hey, maybe the market will be big enough for another.

I fully plan to watch this show as much as I watched Roseanne's old sitcom. That is to say, not at all.
NEW LAD MAGS ON THE HORIZON
Just what the world needs: more tittering tease magazines, aka "lad mags" (I really dislike that term). I admit I am intrigued to see what that this Ramp magazine is like, which positions itself as sort of a "bridge" publication between the excessive goofiness of the traditional lad mags and the more upscale GQ and Esquire.

One interesting quip in this article: it notes that this magazine category suffered a noticable decline in readership in the UK recently. That's not necessarily a sign of things to come in the US, but it's possible. Could be the readers of these magazines are getting somewhat older and wiser, and the generation behind them isn't moving in to fill in the vacuum.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

NOW, THE CD IS OBSOLETE
Around about 20 years ago, the compact disc was lauded as the ultimate audio media format. It was indestructible, the record companies claimed. Wave o' the future.

Well, it looks like it's on the way out, if the music business has anything to say about it. So much for a timeless medium. Consumer resistance will be somewhat high, although not so much over a clinging to CDs as much as the unwillingness to pay $30 or so for these no-real-extra-benefit discs. MP3 and other non-physical media types are the real future; this new format is probably going to have the same fate as the dead laserdisc.

I should also say, all the talk about being able to detect levels of sound quality are, to me, bullshit. If you blindfold these so-called audiophiles and make them listen to the same music on a vinyl disc, audio cassette, and CD, I bet you anything they couldn't tell the difference. They just like whatever's shiniest and newest.
IT'S OFFICIAL: HE'S GONE
bummer
As I mused below, it's now a done deal: Steven the goofy Dell Dude is out of a job. He had a good run while it lasted. Truly the end of an era.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

WHO???
I guess just about anyone can get a TV show in the Age of Reality. Take this guy, for instance, who's got a six-episode deal with E! Network. I've never heard of this guy, yet he's getting celebrities like Gerald Ford and Jay Leno to appear on his rinky-dink local cable show in Nowheresville, Indiana. Something just ain't right.....
MORE CHECKOUT MAGS!
But not all publishers are constantly cutting back! Readers Digest is about to launch a bunch of mini-magazines to be featured at supermarket checkout counters, with topics like recipe guides and such. (Here's another take on this development.) No, it's not much, but hey, it's a sign of expansion for once.

Something bugs me about these little digest-size-and-smaller mags. Everyone notices them at the grocery stores. I'm wondering who ever actually buys some of these things. The Readers Digest clones I can understand, but what about those little credit-card sized things on horoscopes, pet behavior, spirituality and other nonsense subjects? Strictly impulse buys, yet I've never once seen anyone pick on up! I always thought that a neat live webcam location would be in the racks of these magazine-lettes, just to observe who exactly buys them.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WOMEN: GAME OVER
Sheesh, seems like there's at least one magazine being killed off every day. It is fallout out time, I guess: the rotten ad climate has taken it's toll. Sports Illustrated Women is the latest knockout victim. AOL Time Warner is shuttering magazines right and left, it seems.

SI Women really was a tough venture, I think. In it's original incarnation, it did mirror Sports Illustrated in that it covered major women's sports, mainly on the college level but also the pro ranks in tennis, golf and the fledgling WNBA. This was a fairly unique product that had no real competition, but it was soon apparent that the reason there was no competition was because there was not much demand for this type of content. It quickly switched gears to include an awful lot of personal fitness/individual athletic training stuff. The problem there was that there are already a plethora of established mags out there that are devoted to just this--Self, Shape, etc. In the end, SI Women was a hybrid that was too difficult for readers and advertisers to really define.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

NEW KMART, SAME KRAP
like polishing a turd
Embattled Kmart has rolled out a redesigned logo as part of a step toward remolding itself. The choice of this particular logo tells me that Kmart is destined to be Wal-Mart's whippin' bitch for a long, long time. Who on earth thinks that GRAY is a color conductive to openness and invitation, which you presumably are going after as a retailer? Gray signifies bland and unexciting. Juxtaposed with lime green and that cutsy-cursive "mart".... ugh. Looks like a post-modernist pop-culture toss-off. How much you want to bet that the dunderheads in charge of this joke of a corporation paid some consultant five figures to come up with that thing?

It's getting almost too easy to poke at this half-dead horse. Changing their image after so many years of substandard service is definitely a good idea, but the approach they're using it just dumb. Maybe they're intentionally tanking.
VIDEO GAME BANNED
Following up on the news that some video games now feature nudity and cussin', some retailers are reacting predictably by saying they'll ban said game(s). My bet is it's talk... if the game really takes off, they'll start carrying it and just limit its sales to 18 and overs.

This quote from a Wal-Mart drone was funny:

"We're not going to carry any software with any vulgarity or nudity -- we're just not going to do it," Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams told Reuters.

Big words, and appropriately family-friendly. Too bad he's lying, as Wal-Mart has surely already carried several software titles that have plenty of vulgarity: Leisure Suit Larry and countless others that have been around for ages. And while we're at it, what real difference is there between software like this and movies? They all have ratings, they're there to cover idiotic situations like this.

Another classic example of confusion media and genre. The assumption is that video games are strictly kid's stuff, therefore all the content in them should be appropriate for kids. Dumb assumption that ignores the basic fact that a video game is a form of media, and like any media, you can put anything on it, targeted toward any audience you want. It's like saying that all movies must be documentaries because they're all on film, or all books are mystery novels just because.
DELL DUDE DONE?
dude, i'm getting the want ads
Maybe you've noticed some new ads for Dell Computer on the boob tube lately. What stands out about these ads is the absence of Steven the Dell Dude, who's been the company's sales mascot for the last couple of years. Turns out that could be a sign of the young lad's imminent departure as computer pitchman.

Says there that this likable goofball has inspired a fanbase, to the point where Dell came out with clothing with Steven's face and phrases on it. I can't say that I've ever seen anyone wearing any of the stuff--to the point where I've noticed, anyway. But I must say, if I did see anyone walking down the street with this stuff on, I'd have to kick their ass, on principle alone. :)

Further Thoughts: You know, if poor old Steven really is getting unceremoniously dumped by Dell, the best revenge he could get--not to mention generate a TON of buzz for him--is to do one of those Apple/Mac "Switch" commercial spots! How funny would that be? "Dude, I'm getting a Mac!"
NO POINTS OFF FOR BEING DEAD
A French woman who recently died trying to break the world record for free diving will go down as the official record-holder. Normally, such an attempt is recognized as a record only if the diver resurfaces safely, but the sanctioning body is waiving that rule here.

Forgive me for sounding crass, but shouldn't a basic requirement for setting a world record be that you live through the experience? Any idiot can try to, say, long jump over the Grand Canyon and plummet to his death. Does that mean that moron should go into a record book as holding the record for best attempt? I understand the sympathy factor for the diver, but come on.
QUE SURTAIN SURTAIN
fins
What's in a name? If you're Miami Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, it's an extra "i". He tells us that his last name should be pronounced "sir-TAN", not "sir-TANE". With his name being announced incorrectly every week on national TV, it's gotten to the point where even his wife says "sir-TANE".

Here's an idea: if you really want people to pronounce it with a short "a", how about just changing the spelling? With the "ai" in there, it's a natural in English to assume it's a long "a" sound. It's always going to be mispronounced, so it's a losing battle to keep that spelling. (And yes, I realize the irony of someone with my last name giving that advice.)

Monday, October 14, 2002

NEW FISH, NEW DYNAMIC
the new kids
I had a feeling when I bought my aquarium that it would be an interesting experience. While fish are somewhat lacking compared to more hands-on pets like dogs and cats, the behavior they display in the environment you maintain for them is a more than a fair trade-off.

Case in point: last week I decided to change things in my tank by removing the little school of danios I had (giving them to a friend) and replacing them with rummy-nose tetras. (I don't feel like hunting for definitions tonight; here's a referring post with links to a fish directory site.) The rummys made themselves at home rather readily. What surprised me was how the other fish changed their swimming and schooling patterns so dramatically. The glowlights and black neons are now ranging all across the tank, from top to bottom; before, they'd stick to one corner or the other, usually near the plants. I guess I never realized how much of a disruptive force those hyperactive danios were. Now that they're gone, the more timid tetras feel freer to spread out.

The bigger denizens of the tank--rainbow shark, apple snail, bristlenose pleco--haven't changed much at all in the transition. The shark's still the boss, the pleco hides from the light and the snail does his thing.
WHITHER THE SEAHAWK SILVER?
seahags
I'm watching Monday Night Football, San Francisco at Seattle. I've been trying to figure out what's so different about the Seahawks' uniforms this year. It just now hit me: they've gotten rid of all the silver! All that silver that used to be so prominent in the helmets and uniforms has been replaced by a dark, like cobalt blue (actually, it might still be some shade of silver, but from a distance it looks blue).

Can't say I like it; the uniforms make them look almost like a high school team, in my opinion. Then again, I'm not a Seahawks fan, so what do I care.
THE SCIENCE OF SMALL
It's been a while since I've posted anything about nanotechnology. So here's a double-shot: researchers have found a new source for building-block nanocrystals in an unlikely place, while tiny microbes have become a primary suspect in aiding the formation of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns. (Well, okay, so microbes aren't technically part of the field of nanotech; but heck, they are small.)

I can't say for sure why nanotech fascinates me so. Maybe it's because "nano" sounds somewhat reminiscent of "nanoo". As in, "nanoo-nanoo".

Sunday, October 13, 2002

FUNNY FUNNY SPORTS QUOTES
Something emailed to me from a friend. I adore good quotes, and even corny ones like some of these. I'm sure at least a couple are entirely cooked up, and it's not as good when the quotes are anonymous. But they're good for a chuckle anyway:

1. Weightlifting commentator at the Olympic Snatch and Jerk Event: "This is Gregoriava from Bulgaria. I saw her snatch this morning during her warm up and it was amazing."

2. Ted Walsh - Horse Racing commentator: "This is really a lovely horse and I speak from personal experience since I once mounted her mother."

3. Grand Prix race announcer: "The lead car is absolutely, truly unique, except for the one behind it which is exactly identical to the one in front of the similar one in back."

4. Greg Norman, pro golfer: "I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father."

5. Ringside boxing analyst: "Sure there have been injuries and even some deaths in boxing - but none of them really that serious."

6. Baseball announcer: "If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again."

7. Basketball analyst: "He dribbles a lot and the opposition doesn't like it. In fact you can see it all over their faces."

8. At a trophy ceremony for the BBC TV Boat Race 1988: "Ah, isn't that nice, the wife of the Cambridge president is hugging the cox of the Oxford crew."

9. Metro Radio, college football: "Julian Dicks is everywhere. It's like they've got eleven Dicks on the field."

10. US Open TV commentator: "One of the reasons Arnie Palmer is playing so well is that, before each final round, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them. Oh my God, what have I just said?"
MUDDLED MESSAGE?
There's a Public Service Announcement (PSA) that's been running across the TV spectrum lately that tries to illustrate the problem with domestic violence. It starts off at a crowded, noisy lunch counter, focusing on a dad goofing around with this sons. Everyone's laughing and having a good time, when abruptly, a guy in the back shouts at his companion, "DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!!" and slams the table. The whole room freezes and becomes quiet while this guy keeps shouting, saying he'll hit the girl and so on. No one looks back, but everyone else is uncomfortable and looking down at their plates. Finally the guy shouts that he and his girl are leaving, and he storms out dragging her with him. The ad ends with a tight shot on one of the sons' faces, who looks really upset. The closing message is something like "Teach your boys that violence against women is wrong"--get them young, basically.

Now obviously, the message is a good one, and I admit the ad does a good job at drawing your attention. But I'm wondering if the message is crystal clear. I mean, does the scene suggest that the dad should have intervened in the argument? That would've been unlikely in any situation, and probably done more harm than good: the abuser might've backed down then, but he only would have taken it out on the woman later. And the woman probably would've rallied to her man's side, since people who are in abusive relationships are in them because they don't know how to live any other way. Then again, the non-reaction doesn't seem like a good response either. So I'm not totally sure that the scenario makes anything clear. I guess you can assume that afterward, the dad has a talk with his sons that this behavior was wrong....

I'm not saying it's a bad commercial, but it's a bit ambiguous. On the other hand, like I said, it catches your attention, and breaks through the clutter of ads. So I guess in that way, it did its job.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

"RULES" RULES
the rules
Just saw the new movie The Rules of Attraction today. Loved it! I was giggling throughout the whole show (much to the consternation of others in the theater, I think). I had somehow gotten the impression that it would be set in the mid-80s (like another movie based on Brett Easton Ellis' writings, American Psycho; and in fact, Rules features the brother of American Psycho's main character), but once I saw it wasn't, I adapted quickly. The soundtrack was primarily obscure 80s songs, and was pretty cool, so I guess that made up for the chronological update.

I think the best part was seeing TV's Dawson doing unspeakable things, the highlight of which was him masturbating to the groovy sounds of Starland Vocal Band's Afternoon Delight. Priceless!
THE LOST ART OF BARTENDING
bottoms up!
I don't know if this is something that happens just to me, or just in this area, or if it's true throughout the U.S.

I go out to bars and clubs fairly regularly--about once a week at least. I don't drink beer, so it's mixed drinks all the way for me. I pretty much stick to the same boring choices: gin and tonic, vodka tonic, whiskey sour, whiskey and water, an occasional martini. I don't necessarily do this by choice, although I like all the drinks I just mentioned. The reason I go for these basics is because I've found that most bartenders around here can't handle anything more complex.

Part of the fun of going out to drink, sometimes, is to try something different. That means I'd like to belly up to the bar and order a zombie or gimlet or rocket fuel, instead of the usuals. Yet whenever I ask for something like that, I get blank stares back from bartenders in the Tampa Bay area. Heck, I've even had a couple of bartenders look at me funny when I ask for a simple screwdriver, for Christ's sake!

So, what's the deal? I mean, if you're a bartender, shouldn't you know how to make a variety of drinks? I realize that 99% of the orders they get are for draft beers or basics; but shouldn't a basic knowledge of mixology be part of the job description? Maybe I can see how bartenders at dance clubs wouldn't know shit--they're hired for their looks, not for their drink-making repertoire. But I've run into this ignorance everywhere: restaurants, hole-in-the-walls, martini bars, etc.

What I really hate is when, after getting the blank stare, the bartender then asks me how to make said drink; and when I say I don't know, it almost makes me look dumb. It's ridiculous. Just because I like a drink, it doesn't mean I know exactly what goes into it. I like going out to eat at restaurants, and enjoy many dishes they serve; it doesn't mean I know what each dish is made up of. Same thing with drinks.

I guess I'd like to know if anyone else has experienced this, in Florida or elsewhere. Has the bartending profession really slid this much? Or am I living in the 1950s or something?
RIOTING OVER FALWELL?
send me money
Is it possible that Jerry Falwell has this much wide-ranging influence? His idotic comments about Muhammad being a terrorist has caused deadly riots in among Muslims in India.

Something doesn't add up here. Why would anyone in India--Hindu or Muslim--give a hoot about Falwell, a Christian fundamentalist hate-monger? It's not like he has any sway there. Even if people were upset over his spewing, I don't understand why they'd riot over it; or why it would incite violence between Hindus and Muslims instead of between, say, Muslims and Christians (not that there are many Christians in India). Even if Falwell were seen as representing the American public's opinion, I still don't see why Muslims would respond by lashing out at Hindus. Doesn't make sense.
COMIN' ATCHA CHICAGO: RED EYE
In an attempt to ensnare that precious 18-34 agegroup, the Chicago Tribune is launching a separate daily newspaper dubbed "Red Eye". It'll be a full of color, minus jumps (those "continued on page 5" deals, although we'll see how long that lasts), and distributed at non-conventional newspaper outlets like gyms and coffee bars.

It's a bold move. It's also an indirect admission that the Tribune's primary product is failing to deliver to an important demographic; but that's not reallly news, as a lot of dailies struggle with this. It could change the face of the newspaper industry. I'm guessing subscriptions will be a tough sell for this type of publication, so newsstand sales will have to be brisk.
STARS FOR SALE
dallas
Pssssssst. Wanna buy a hockey team? Then get ready to cough up, because the expected upcoming sale of the Dallas Stars is expected to go for an NHL record. Considering the half-interest in the new Dallas arena that's part of the package, a sales price in the $300 million area is likely. And that'll ratchet up the franchise value for the rest of the teams. Which, contrary to common knucklehead assumptions, is actually a good and healthy thing for the NHL.

Friday, October 11, 2002

DEATH BY SPACE INVADERS
it's a killer!
...or whatever he was playing. A homeless man in South Korea videogamed himself to death. Talk about addiction.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

RUMBLE IN THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL JUNGLE
i have a headache
Man or ape? That's the central question about this fossilized skull as one group of anthropolgists squares off against another. The intriguing twist in this one is that a member of the pro-ape camp stands to lose her bragging rights as the discoverer of what had been the oldest known hominid bones.
ANDY ROONEY SHOOTS OFF
didja ever notice i'm still alive
It's Andy Rooney time! America's favorite curmudgeon has a problem with female sideline reporters at NFL games. He later tried to backslide by saying he was joking, but not before catching a little flack from the usual outraged types.

I've never fully understood the appeal of Looney Rooney. Then again, I've never understood the appeal of 60 Minutes, of which I've never seen a full episode in my life.
THAT'S ADVERTAINMENT!
Because infomercials as soooooo passe, it's time to roll out the next generation in advertising-centric programming: advertainment. We've seen plenty of examples of this already: The BMW Films series, and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, which is lousy with this stuff.
MEN'S JOURNAL MAKEOVER
Moving away from its rock-climbing/wakeboarding/skydiving staple, Wenner Media's Men's Journal has brought in a former New York Magazine editor to gear up for a challenge to GQ and Esquire.

I thought the move away from adventure-story content was an odd move, because traditionally it drew strong advertising numbers. Things must have changed in a hurry, though; the last two paragraphs of the referenced article tell the story. Men's Journal numbers are down, and GQ and (to a lesser extent) Esquire are up. Thus the retooling by Wenner.
MOVIES BY MAXIM
i'm soooo naughty
First, it was hair dye for men. Now, that bastion of sophistication (heavy sarcasm, in case you missed it) Maxim Magazine will begin slapping its winning brand onto sure-to-be terrible movies. Can't wait for Maxim-brand potato chips to come out next.
THE BURDEN OF THE 13TH GENERATION
After a brief bright spot known as the Dot-Com Boom (circa 1998-2001), it looks like Generation X is once again on the skids. Fortune Magazine is talkin' about my generation, and it's not a pretty picture. Our inherent slacker-ocity is catching up with us, as we're saddled with credit-card and college-loan debt that puts a damper on other aspects of life. Not to mention the scourge of Generation Y nipping at our heels. Sigh.

As for "13th Generation": it's an alternative term to the more popular GenX, one which I doubt many remember anymore. It refers to the determination that this group is the 13th American generation to be born since the Revolutionary War. I've never really understood how the boundaries of a generation are determined, anyway.
AIEE, PRODUCT-PLACE THIS
badda-bing
Any company looking for some family-friendly programming in which to feature their products need look no further than The Sopranos. Because, you know, it's all about the family. "The family", get it?

Well, even if you don't, plenty of others are. The show's popularity has made it a fertile breeding ground for extensive product placement. Apparently, the usually touchy subjects of extreme violence, foul language and teasing sexuality lose their taboo-ness when it's on pay cable.

Speaking of friendliness to the family... The Family Channel, back before it kept getting purchased by other networks, used to use the tagline that said it was "a friend of the family". I loved their use of a phrase that, thanks to the popularity of the Godfather movies, more often evoked thoughts of the mob than the nuclear social unit. Whenever I heard the promo, I'd repeat it right away in a low, Brando-esque whisper, whenever anyone else was present (or, often, not).

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

YAHOO AND THE HOLLYWOOD MOGUL
yeeha!
What does the future hold for Yahoo, the one-time darling of the Internet Age? It looks like the attempts at monetizing its business model are failing both externally and internally.

At the height of the dot-com craze, Yahoo was seen as a future economic juggernaut. I even remember some wild rumors, shortly after the AOL purchase of Time Warner, that Yahoo was gearing up to buy Disney! Now, it's looking more and more likely that Yahoo will become the acquired by some old-media concern.
CELL PHONE NATION
Seems like you just can't shut people up. A new study determines that over half of the residents in U.S. metropolitan areas now own a cell phone. Yakety yak.

WIRED WEAR
This has been the Next Big Thing for a long time now... the International Symposium on Wearable Computers is showing off all the neat-o computer gadgetry they can sew into your clothes and strap onto your body. I have a hard time buying this. Cellphones and PDAs are one thing, as long as they're pocket-sized and easily movable (or even fashioned as neck jewelry). But an MP3-playing jacket? Just how are you supposed to clean or wash such clothing items? Worst than dry-clean only....

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

SUCK IT IN, CHUBS
part of the problem, not the solution
No big surprise here: We are a nation of big fat-asses. But the numbers are a bit startling--59 million adults, or about one-third of the U.S. population, consider themselves obese. I say, let's hook up the gigantic liposuction machine and flip the switch!

Just for the hell of it, let's all calculate our body fat. We can do it while we're snacking on some delicious low-carb food and drink.
MORE MAGAZINE MACHINATIONS
The hits just keep on coming in a magazine world mired in an advertising slowdown. Tech showcase Upside Magazine is ending a 13-year run. And over stage left, Wieder Publications is looking at selling its magazine stable, which includes Men's Fitness, Flex, and SHAPE.

All the numbers keep pointing to a rebounding ad market, and a stong magazine industry in position to exploit that. Hard to believe. On the other hand, thinning out the ranks will make it better for the survivors.
HOCKEY JOKE
laffs
Just found this funny funny joke. You could apply it to any hockey team, but here's the way I heard it:

Q: Why are the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Titanic alike?

A: They both look good until they hit the ice.

Monday, October 07, 2002

THE MAGAZINE SHUFFLE AT TIME
Drastic times, drastic measures. Sort of. The magazine ad slump continues on all levels, even at mighty Time Inc. In response, the company will shutter the recently-acquired, but adpage-allergic, Mutual Funds magazine, and then reassign the top dogs of Money, People, and Teen People magazines.
SPORTS TEAMS AND A BUYERS' MARKET
Here's a solid roundup of the current climate for buying and selling major pro sports teams. Worry not, we'll soon see a franchise sale price of $1 billion dollars--that's billion, with a "b"--probably for an NFL team. And all the attendant oohs and ahs will follow.

There are a lot of things in life I don't understand. One of them is the perception among sports fans that the high prices (hundreds of millions of dollars) being commanded in sports team sales means that a sport/league is in trouble, presumably because there aren't enough big-money individuals around to buy these teams. Fundamental supply-and-demand tells you the opposite is true: high demand from many suitors results in high prices. Wise up, folks!
FEDEX FOLLIES
fedense
You know those FedEx drop-boxes that are strategically situated throughout the urban landscape (including in most post offices)? You may have noticed that they have a little indicator window on them that tells you whether or not the day's final pick-up has been made--something like "Today's pick-up has (or has not) been made". That's a good idea, right? If you're running out of work at the end of a day, it's good to know if you should bother dropping that important package into the box around the corner, or, if that box has already been emptied, then going on to find another.

Well, a colleague of mine recently made an interesting discovery: Those little indicator windows are time-activated, with the delivery/pick-up guys having no control over them. That means that the message they display automatically goes to the "Today's pick-up has been made" at the end of the day, whether or not the FedEx guy gets there on time or not. In other words, that indicator window is completely useless.

Does this seem like a stupid idea to anyone else? I mean, if you're running out the door right at the delivery time, the box will tell you that the pick-up has already been made--even if the pick-up guy is running five minutes late. Conversely, if the guy is a few minutes early, you could drop your package in the box thinking you made it in time, when in fact your parcel will stay in there for a whole day.

I just don't understand the rationale. If you're going to have those things on the box, then make them accurate. They need to be changed by the pick-up guy, only.
PLANETARY DEMOTION
dog star
We all know Pluto as the most outlying planet in our little solar system. But maybe not for long! The discovery of a celestial object just beyond Pluto's orbit has called into serious question the classification of what's now Planet No. 9. Note this quote:

"It's pretty clear, if we discovered Pluto today, knowing what we know about other objects in the Kuiper Belt, we wouldn't even consider it a planet."

Talk about a smack-down! What's Pluto ever done to anyone to deserve this?

Well, if that tiny rock way out there is no longer considered a planet, it may be best to find a new name for it.
HUMAN CONDUCTIVITY
Did you know the human body can conduct electricity? Of course you did. So does the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. in Japan. The company has developed a way to transmit data between electronic devices by means of skin-to-skin contact as simple as a handshake. So you could exchange phone numbers between cell phone address books, or touch your hand to a locked door to decode the house alarm, etc. Wild stuff.

Skin-to-skin contact.... hmmm... plenty of ways to accomplish that, right? :)

Sunday, October 06, 2002

MORE ON CELLPHONE EXTRAS
Here's a good roundup of some of the issues I talked about earlier regarding the prospects of 3G offerings in the U.S. (and even global) markets. There's going to have to be a killer app for these services to be in great demand, and so far it's nowhere to be found. You could argue that the only killer app that works here is voice communications, which obviously is already covered.
AFTER THE LAST WHISTLE
not for long
Nothing like wasting a Sunday watching football all day. I love the NFL product, as do millions of others. Most of those others don't like to consider what happens to the guys who play the game, both while they're playing and after they're done. If they did, they'd see how badly players wind up after spending the first 30-odd years of their lives taking a beating at all levels of the game. If all those loudmouths who bitch about how overpaid players are considered how finite a pro ball player's career is--about 4 years on average--and how fraught with peril it is, maybe they'd shut their holes.

I've mentioned that 4-year average career stat in conversation before, and people often refuse to believe it. They always bring up the star players who have been around forever: Emmitt Smith (12 years), Brett Favre (11 years), Bruce Smith (17 years), and so on. What people don't realize is that for every one of them, there are hundreds of players no one's ever heard of, who get to play maybe 20 games and then call it a career. It's not like most other professions, where you could work for 20, 30, 40 years. In pro sports, you're lucky to get 10 years, and the physical toll will be with you for life. That's why they strive for and get the big money.
FUN WITH NUMBER THEORY
Remember the spooky coincidence this past September 11th, when one of New York State's lottery games had winning numbers of 9-1-1? I'm sure it fed the grist for plenty of conspiracy theorists. It turns out that the real wonder about such occurrences isn't that they happen, but that they don't happen more often.

It's been ages since I've read Arthur C. Clarke, one of the first authors I hooked onto as a kid. I loved Rendevous With Rama.
DISAPPEARING FISH
Unbelievable. I went out just this morning to get a little group of rummy-nose tetra for my aquarium (I made room for them by giving my danios to my friend Tom; I wanted to try something different). I bring them home, float the bag, and finally release them. I released three of them into the tank. Now, only half an hour later, one's missing. I see no sign of him at all. Either he's hiding really, really well, or else he's dead (either from somehow jumping out or at the bottom somewhere). I suppose there's a chance he'll turn up later, but I spent about 10 solid minutes looking in every nook and cranny, and I can't find him anywhere. Damn. It's frustrating. Guess I'll just have to get another three to fill out the school of five I'm planning. And hopefully the other two will be alright.

Update: I finally found the missing rummy. He's holed up deep in the plants, apparently hiding. He's not moving around at all, just stuck in the foliage. It could be a bad sign; his brothers look to have adjusted quite well and are swimming around exploring. Maybe he just needs more time to settle in. I'll cross my fingers.
STITCH ME UP AND LET'S PARTY!
vous le vous
This one's a bit bizarre. The mayor of Paris was stabbed during a city-wide party, and he insisted that the party keep rolling while he got fixed. Who knew French Socialists were such party animals?

I'm not sure why such a point is being made over the mayor being a Socialist. Socialist parties are quite widespread and common throughout Europe, part of the political establishment and regularly hold office on all levels. Could be American bias in this report, as it's hard to imagine a Socialist party (by that name, anyway) taking off in the U.S.
LIVE FROM MIAMI, IT'S SABADO GIGANTE!
hola!
There can't be a Univision without it's signature show, Sabado Gigante ("Giant Saturday", to you gringos). And at the center of that Saturday maelstrom is emcee Don Francisco, whose real name is--of all things--Mario Kreutzberger. The show's been around forever, and it and Don have become cultural icons for the Hispanic community in the U.S.

As a kid, I'd tune in to this and other shows on Univision for a minute or two, to try to dope it out. The programming can be pretty surreal. It's like watching an old Milton Berle-type variety show, but with lots and lots of female skin.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

WIRELESS INTERNET: FUTURE OR BUST?
A recent survey says that some 10 million Americans use the wireless web capabilities on their cell phones and PDAs. I'm one of them. I sprung an extra $5 a month on my cellular calling package this year for WAP-enabled surfing. I find it to be a good time-killer, although not as good as the built-in videogames in the phone. It hasn't made my life easier, although I suppose it could at some point.

I don't see how WAP is a high-growth medium. Unlike the convention Internet, you really can't place any advertising into this format, as the screens and the devices are too small. Plus, people simply don't surf on their phones like they do at home, for obvious reasons: it kills the battery life (thus decreasing the utility of the device, especially phones which are primarily needed for calls), and mobile web use is best used for quick, direct information retrieval rather than idle browsing. Until the industry can figure out how to convince the U.S. market around these basic limitations, I can't see it taking off.

It might not take off much further anywhere else, either. Seems that consumers in Europe and Japan, who are usually ahead of the curve, aren't biting on the new 3G devices and services. Even if they did, they wouldn't get any more benefit from them than they do with their current services.
IS FILESHARING WRONG?
At the root of the whole music downloading debate is whether or not such practice is illegal, or at least immoral. (Or should that be the other way around?) I'm kind of torn on the issue myself. I work in media, and I'm acutely aware of the value of intellectual property, along with its vulnerability and, therefore, need for protection. While I realize that fair use provisions are a fact of life, I'm not at all sure that those provisions include the right to copy and distribute works to a global audience, without any compensation for the creator. The X factor is convenience: Basically, as long as it's so easy to download music (and other) content for free, and transfer it to other devices via CD burners and MP3 players, people will keep doing it. At the same time, it's more convenient for many to just plunk down a twenty and buy the CD and save a lot of time.

In any case, I must say that those who cry loudest over the right to fileshare come up with some kooky justifications for it. This piece by the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association strikes me as one big excuse for shady practices. To argue that electronic information is not "real property" that can be stolen is specious reasoning. It's real, all right; it's not like all these songs came into being through spontaneous creation; people make their living doing it. It's like saying that you have the right to pluck a couple of grapes off a bunch in the grocery store, because you're just trying to decide if you like them enough to pay for the whole product.

Moving beyond music files, there is some evidence that short-term waiving of copyright rights can help build a market where none exists. Would this apply to the music issue? Hard to say.
TO GO BOLDLY
ad astra
I've revealed in previous posts how gripped with fascination I become when it comes to space and space exploration. That's why this little peek at NASA's long-range plans makes me salivate so.

The feasibility of it is questionable, but at some point all the elements reach critical mass. No way around government(s) being the lead catalysts, either directly or, less likely, offering big incentives to private enterprises. Historically, all colonization efforts have been achieved through heavy investments and direction from central governments.

Friday, October 04, 2002

THE FEEDBACK LOOP
A fascinating article on the study of systemic-wide feeback loops, which engender self-correcting processes and can have a tremendous impact on several facets of business, society, and life. The presentation here feels a bit overblown, but as far as I understand this all, it's an area whose surface has barely been scratched.

Good work by Forbes ASAP, the quarterly tech-focused special publication. Too bad it's about to be shut down.
THE SHAPE OF THE INTERNET
I found this a bit over my head, but interesting: The Internet is, to a degree, mapable. The methodology derived from this knowledge can help research in other, non-computer tech areas.
ONLINE DEATH CHAT
I'd say this qualifies as a cry for help... An Indiana teen posts his impending suicide attempt on a message board, and as a result is rescued. Could be that the kid didn't realize he could be traced through is IP address. More likely, he probably knew that he was revealing himself. Whether his being saved is good or bad, he'll have to figure out.

Funny how detachedly I can talk about suicide attempts....
THE FUTURE OF TV RATINGS?
it's alive!
Lots of people think that digital video recorders (DVRs), like TiVo and ReplayTV, are primed to take off, replacing the VCR. It hasn't happened yet, but if it does, it will change the way the television industry measures programming popularity. Witness this matter-of-fact report on which recent broadcasts were most popular with TiVo viewers. Even though it doesn't come right out and say it, it's pretty obvious that if DVRs can accurately measure which programs are being recorded, then the approximation sampling done by the Nielsen Ratings becomes obsolete.

At issue is the perceived invasion of privacy, with TiVo monitoring viewing habits; makes some (but I'd bet, not many) people antsy. The other issue is the ability of viewers to skip over commercials. In any case, I doubt DVRs will take off until they become an integrated part of cable TV services.
"< japanese >GODZILLA LOVES ALL CHILDREN!< /japanese >"
howaya!
Wouldn't anyone kill for a chance to be a panicked, fleeing extra in a Godzilla movie? This reporter got that chance, and lived to write about it.

I knew that the Godzilla franchise had been chugging along in Japan for years, with a new B-quality movie released every year. Sometimes, you can catch these latter-day masterpieces on the Sci-Fi Channel. There's something kind of weird about the newer movies; somehow seem out of their proper context, i.e. the 1960s.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

CNN HEADLINE BLING-BLING
numba 1 in tha hood, g
Ever wonder what's the dopest news chizz-annel on the set, dawg? Gots to be Headline News, um... bizzatch? Yeah, anyway... a leaked memo reveals that the cable news channel's management is encouraging its anchors to show off their street cred by using hip-hop slang, in pursuit of key demographic ratings. Mos' def. :)

I'm betting those on-air personalities need some help in this area. They could use a primer in the rap lexicon. G.

Y'know, I always thought my semi-frequent use of such lingo was amusingly ironic. But I've found that a LOT of others use it too. So much for being fresh.
NO HEAT
Nertzo. I made some pork stir-fry for dinner tonight. I decided to go superhot on it, and used what I thought was an over-generous dose of curry. Even some black pepper to boot. I cooked it, and got all set to experience the extreme sizzle. But nothing! Barely a flavor. I did use some cumin, which might have blunted it; but I didn't think it was that much.
MOSEX? YES, PLEASE
mo better
A museum about sex? Yessiree. Right where it belongs, in New York City. (Well, I suppose San Francisco might've been as appropriate a site.) As expected, the imminent opening of this institution is stirring all the right pots.

The last paragraph interested me:

Noting the peep shows still in Times Square, the Catholic League's [Louis] Giovino said: "It'll be interesting to find out if anyone wants to pay $17 when they can get the same thing for a quarter on Eighth Avenue."

Aside from completely missing the point--that the museum is not exactly targeting porn addicts, and not everyone going there will be a sexual deviant--I wonder how it is that Mr. Catholic League knows so much about Times Square to make such cost comparisons.

All I know is, it'll be on my tour stop next time I visit the City. Price is no object; besides, 17 is my lucky number.

By the way, be sure to check out the museum's website. It's got a very, very interesting layout and navigation design, never seen the likes of it.
A'TUMBLING DOWN
the battering ram
The Federal Communications Commission under Michael Powell seems hell-bent on, essentially, dismantling itself. I mean, what else would be the logical conclusion if all the de-regulation in ownership rules being proposed actually goes through? The FCC would have little to do in such a radically changed media business landscape.

Some observers note that the resultant industry consolidation would be bad business for advertisers and (by the way) consumers. And for a microcosm study, the radio industry is a good place to start. (Of course, you could argue that new competition would emerge from other avenues, ala satellite radio.)
RUNNING TO STAND STILL
life, liberty, and i don't wanna pay taxes
It's getting closer to election time, and covering just Democrats and Republicans can get downright dull. Enter the Libertarians. While Florida has a healthy slate of LP candidates running this season, it appears many of them aren't doing much to make it known.

Now, I fully understand the value of running as a "trademark candidate", to borrow the phrase from the Times article. A third party needs to establish itself, get visibility, etc. And even the Big Two parties run sacrificial lambs all the time in local, state, and federal contests where the the outcome is obvious. Still, I couldn't read this piece without thinking that this un-campaigning approach to running for office almost perfectly encapsulates the general Libertarian philosophy--do as little as possible, from the very start! Yes, I know that's an unfair representation. Sue me.

All in all, these Florida pseudo-candidates just don't have the panache of Libertarian bad boy the Spittin' Politician.