The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Here's a thought. Since The New TNN's revamp is pretty much based around animated programming, they should bring back one of the funniest animated shows of the last twenty years.

I am speaking, of course, of Beavis & Butt-head! God, I miss that show. The patter between them when they were ragging on a Michael Bolton or Poison video would have me rolling! I wish they would rerun them. Consider: Since Viacom is the owner in both cases (of TNN and MTV, which owns B&B), this should be a snap to accomplish.

One qualifier: If they rerun the old episodes, and they should, they must include the video segments! Get the licensing rights to make it happen, but by all means, make it happen. Otherwise, there's no point in airing the abbreviated episodes. And it goes without saying that any new episodes should include them critiquing today's videos in front of their creaky television set.

The question that comes up is, are those two little dweebs man enough for "the first network for men"? I say, if Ren and Stimpy's "You're the pitcher, I'm the catcher" routine qualifies as men's fare, then Beavis & Butt-head should be no problem.
A notebook computer battery that lasts for 40 hours? Leave it to corporate Japan to come up with the next generation of battery technology.

I've said before that the main reason mobile devices like cellphones have only a limited impact right now is because battery power is so puny. That's the key. All those neat-o games and data functions that wireless carriers and phone manufacturers are forever pushing aren't catching on because no one wants to squander battery life on that crap, to the sacrifice of talk time. If this new battery power extends to mobile devices, then I foresee all those extras suddenly taking off in a huge way. So methanol batteries might usher in a whole new era of gizmo utility.
How does the brain process language? It's probably one of the most complex exercises we put our grey matter through, and it's even more complex if you speak a tonal language like Chinese.

As far as I can understand this, tonal languages--those that rely as much on sound inflections as on context and pronounciation--run you through a two-channel mental process. Therefore, you utilize more of your brainpower on a regular basis.

The "ma" example is the one I remember most vividly when I was first exposed to Chinese language studies. Never in a million years do I think I could pick it up well enough to be fluent. I find Japanese and Korean to be hard enough, and they're non-tonal (like English and the rest of Europe's languages).
John Gaffney wants to know why telemarketers are upset over the National Do Not Call Registry. He argues that the Registry's purpose--to allow consumers to omit their phone numbers from indiscrimate cold-calling--makes telemarketers' jobs leaner and meaner, resulting in more qualified leads.

Here's why the average telemarketing executive is not too happy: The entire telemarketing business is based upon the denial of qualified leads. It's purely a volume business, as much as a hotdog stand or a taxicab service. People who oversee direct marketing don't want small, targeted lists of potential customers--at least, not only targeted lists. If they're not working with mass-market lists, they feel they're not expanding their net as widely as they can. More importantly, their bosses think that, and that's who they have to answer to when projections start coming up short.

I think it's foolish to speak of qualified leads when it come to telemarketing. That business subsists on a shotgun-marketing approach, pure and simple. The people they're going to be left with that don't sign up with the Registry are going to be those who aren't aware that they can opt out--ill-informed and stupid people, basically. Those high-yield individuals who direct marketers most crave were among the first people to opt out, and everyone knows that.

Oh by the way: My attempted registration on the Registry last week never did go through. Looks like Yahoo did indeed incinerate my confirmation notices. So I re-registered this morning, using a non-Yahoo address. Bingo! Got the confirmation emails, replied to them, and now my phone numbers are free from annoying sales calls (to a certain degree) until 2008. Golden.
damn them born damned
Looking to replicate the success of the musical-to-movie adaptation of Chicago, the big wigs at Miramax are going to take a swing (pun intended, thankyouverymuch) at a remake of Damn Yankees.

Now, I'm sure many purists will take these words by Miramax main man Harvey Weinstein with a painful groan:

"I see us updating Damn Yankees, modernizing it, and really having fun with the role of the devil," said Weinstein in a released statement.

Especially the "modernizing" part. But let's face it, unless they want to make a period piece--and I'm taking "modernizing" to mean that they don't--it makes little sense to keep the no-longer-in-existence Washington Senators in a new version. (Qualifier: The Senators do indeed still exist, but in entirely different uniforms and surroundings.) Of course, there are some people who think the D.C. area will once again have a baseball team to call it's own, perhaps by the time this remake hits theaters. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn't put any money on it.

But, let me make a modest proposal--assuming this didn't already occur to Weinstein and his boys. There happens to be an American League team that's proudly carried on the old Senators' tradition of ineptness. A team that not only shares the same division as the Yankees, but also shares the same hometown as me. And to top it off, the team nickname just happens to have the word "Devil" in it. (If all that doesn't clue you in, take another gander at the second logo at the top of this post... I'll wait...)

Yessir, it's a natural. A 21st Century version of Damn Yankees, with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as Lucifer's team! How can this not come to pass?

There are certain obstacles to overcome. One is, believe it or don't, the Rays try not to emphasize the "Devil" part of their name. Why? They don't want to seem family-unfriendly, and they don't want to turn off any more fans than their stinky play already does. (It makes you wonder why they opted for "Devil Rays" in the first place; the name was unpopular with the fans from the get-go, and they even halfway considered going with "Stingrays", "Manta Rays" and even just "Rays" before sticking with it.) Also, it's not like the D-Rays are such a popular team that they'd add much to being in the movie. And there's always the possibility that MLB won't want to play ball (yes, I'm full of puns tonight).

But I think it would be a boffo idea, baby. Consider this, on top of everything else. If this happens, it would give the Rays not one, but two major motion pictures based on them: Damn Yankees would join 2002's The Rookie in plastering Tampa Bay's boys of summer all over the silver screen. Imagine! The Bucs may have their Super Bowl championship, but they can't say that!
thank you, thankyouverymuch for the tip
If you ever should find yourself staying in quaint Pasco County, Florida, there's one thing you absolutely must do. You must call up Elvis Pizza, order a Jailhouse Rock pie, and then get your camera for when a genuine Fat Elvis comes a-knockin' at your door with piping-hot goodness at hand.

My friends, Tom and Amber (shortly to be man and wife, this Saturday), happen to live in Pasco. New Port Richey, to be specific. I'll have to ask them how the pizza from this place is. And to send me a copy of the delivery photo.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Yesterday I went to my friend Tom's bachelor party. He's tying the knot this coming Saturday. It was an intimate affair, with ultimately seven of us total.

Off the bat, we had to go with Plan B. The original plan, an afternoon/night beach crawl (basically, a bar-intensive stroll up St. Pete Beach), was canned because of the strong threat of inclement weather. Instead, we met up at a sportsbar, filled up on some wings and drinks while playing pool, then headed to friend JC's house for the rest of the night.

Unlike the hedonistic romps of generations past, this gathering was pretty tame: No strippers, no porn, no sexual debauchery at all (other than insults lobbed back and forth). This is the style of the times, as more bachelors are eschewing debauchery in favor of mellow-time. The only thing that boosted our party's rating from PG to PG-13 was the copious amount of alcohol we consumed all day and night; I guess the liberal cursing would edge us all the way to an R.

It was a good time, overall. Played some poker (which I'm not into, but what they heck; I even won one pot), played some videogames, got into some energetic conversations, laughed a lot, and collapsed into a short night of sleep. The festivities were closed by late morning with a big group breakfast at Lenny's, an area institution (I had the Gator Omelette, which was indeed an omelette with cajun-seasoned alligator meat in it; it was okay, and I got a little rubber alligator toy as part of the order!).

As always, you pay for these things later. I've been feeling like a tired piece of crap all day long. I guess I'll recover in my sleep tonight, then barrel on into an abbreviated work week (with Independence Day coming up).
Or so one would think. The Supreme Court ruling that knocked down the anti-sodomy law in Texas provided an added cause for celebration for this year's gay pride parades across the land.

You can always count on the conservatives to throw cold water on the party, as Senate majority leader Bill Frist is backing a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages. The amendment is a preemptive strike, since the Court ruling, along with related moves (including the residual influence of the legalization of gay marriages in Ontario), obviously paves the way for legal unions between same-sex partners.

The importance of legalizing gay marriage lies in the idea that such unions would have more legitimacy if they were recognized, and by extension endorsed, by the state. It would also promote greater stability and monogamy for gay relationships and gay society in general (which, I think, is a source of debate among gay people; does "legitimacy" and gay culture really go together? Or is this perceived incongruity merely the result of so many years of stigmatization of gay culture?).

But is this really a good thing? Despite its enduring popularity, recent findings show that monogamy, from a survial-of-the-species perspective, ain't all it's cracked up to be. Why embrace a lifestyle that could lead to the reduction of your type? Of course, procreation might not be a huge priority within the gay community; I can't speak with any authority on that, though.

In fact, in light of that, I'd say we should be moving in the other direction on the legislative front: Instead of legalizing additional forms of marriage, let's de-legitimize all marriages, period! Propigation of the species!

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Speak of the Devil. Just a day after I posited that games might soon no longer be included as built-in freebies on cellphones, news that T-Mobile will be deleting the games off its Sidekick PDA device via remote firmware update comes up as a precursor.

The reason for this move is over licensing fees. I'm not sure how real the threat is that's being extrapolated from all this. For instance, Damien Barrett seems to think that this would allow a wireless carrier to erase everything off a device, including the critical address book. Check out the comments for word (unsubstantiated by me) that you can opt out of this auto-update.

I guess this could be a preview of things to come. I myself submitted to a firmware update to my cellphone just a couple of days ago; it was supposed to improved the reception. I haven't noticed a change, and I haven't noticed any other effects.
Wireless networking was all over the news the last couple of days:

- In Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley, the local public school district was found to be lacking in wireless security, as a local reporter was able to log on to their network and access all kinds of personal information on students.

It's almost comical how lax these networks are. I've been tempted to cruise around town here with my notebook computer and wireless card, and see if I could tap into any networks. I did this the last time I went to the University of South Florida in Tampa; I was able to access the wi-fi network, but wasn't able to log on without having a student or faculty ID. Pretty good security, I guess, although I don't know how well it would hold up to a hack attempt (which I can't do).

- Meanwhile, security concerns aside, wi-fi is being promoted by the United Nations as the standard for the developing world to adopt in getting with the digital times.

This reminds me of the other wireless trend in the developing world: Pervasive mobile phone penetration. The idea is that, because traditional landline wires weren't extensively built in much of Africa and Asia (or even Latin America), cellular technology offers a way to leapfrog past the older infrastructure. Pretty interesting trend to watch.

- Then again, not everyone is sold on wi-fi, especially since it's taken so long for it to roll out and catch on. Forrester Research predicts that wi-fi is shaping up to be the next dot-com-style bust, to be overtaken by Bluetooth and other standards.

Intriguing. However, I think this underestimates the impact the new Intel Centrino chip, as it becomes a standard in notebook computers (and perhaps, in a few years, in all computers). Even though performance and connectivity are cited as the chief reasons why wireless hasn't caught on, I think it has more to do with the lack of built-in functionality. With the Centrino, that all changes.

If wi-fi in its current form does get left behind, there are other contenders on the rise. Wirless local loop (WLL) is looking very promising.

- Blended into all this is my own tinkering with setting up a wireless network at home. I've finally gotten my wireless gateway configured and working. The final challenge is to get it working with my browsers. I think it's a good option for experimentation tomorrow.
For someone who's supposed to have been holed up in the Witness Protection Program for the rest of his life, Henry Hill is certainly keeping a high profile. Still building off the iconic status of Goodfellas, Hill has now come out with a city guide for his favorite town in the whole world, New York.

I love the concept! I hope he included a section on preferable whacking locales...

Somewhat more seriously, I wonder if Hill isn't due to be on the receiving end of a whacking. Even if most of his contemporaries are out of commission, there are still a few around. Not to mention their friends and relatives. Memories can be pretty long on these things.
Patrick Dennehy, a transfer student from New Mexico who was set to debut for Baylor this coming fall, has been missing for over two weeks, and now Waco police think some of his new teammates are involved in the disappearance.

Here's the official statement from Tom Stanton, Baylor's athletic director.

This is already bizarre. Was Dennehy killed in some out-of-hand hazing incident? Or perhaps some more mundane accident? And did his teammates cover the whole thing up to avoid getting tagged? All speculation at this point, but I have a feeling this is going to be some story.

Friday, June 27, 2003

later earlier
Did anyone else, going strictly by the title alone, think that the new movie 28 Days Later... was a sequel to the Sandra Bullock comedy-drama 28 Days? Boy, would my face have been red taking a date to the new movie.
off the hook
The long-awaited National Do Not Call Registry was finally rolled out this morning. It shouldn't surprise anyone that some 370,000 phone numbers have already been registered, and that more than 60 million people are expected to eventually sign on.

You better believe I plugged my phone numbers in. I've actually gotten to a point to where I can block telemarketing calls most of the time on my home phone, and thankfully, I haven't gotten any on my mobile number (yet). But nothing wrong with a little insurance.

The name of the registration site,, is pretty good. However, to truly capture the spirit of those fed up with years of obtrusive telemarketing screeds, they should have called it "".

Update: D'oh! I've been waiting since this morning for the confirmation emails to arrive at my Yahoo address so that my registration can be finalized. Guess what? Yahoo is blocking the confirmation emails being sent by the site, recognizing those emails as spam. What irony! Apparently they've found and fixed the problem. As of this writing, I have yet to receive the emails. However, I've got 72 hours to respond to them, so hopefully this glitch will be solved well before then.
Well, I have been known to lose my patience rather suddenly. So it was with the Klink Family's BlogOut commenting system, which until this morning graced this blog. It went down for maintenance yesterday, was still down today, and I decided to just replace it with something that was working. That something is HaloScan, which was what I had until it starting acting too buggy. I've been monitoring HaloScan's progress the last couple of weeks, and it appears they've stabilized things. We'll see. Also, I kind of missed HaloScan's functionality, especially the ability to view if there were any updated comments without having to actually visit this site.

So, I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to rely on this commenting system for a long while. Next order of business: Add their button on the left.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

business as usual
If you want a good example of delusional thinking, head over to, or and read just about any story concerning itself with the impending free agency period in the NHL. In just about every case, the editorial slant falls hook, line and sinker for the lies put out by NHL owners. They keep talking about how dire the league's finances are heading into the last year of the current labor agreement, and that this year's free agent market will prove this out by resulting in a lot fewer big-money deals being signed.

What a load of garbage.

This year's going to be the same as any other. If anything, the prospect of a lockout (which, most forget, is not a certainty) after the 2003-04 season will only spur teams to load up bigtime this year, cost be damned, in the interests of winning it all.

All the talk about not qualifying some overpriced Group II players? Big deal. Every year there are a few that don't get qualifying offers. They're the bottomfeeders; teams can afford to cut them loose because there's little competition for their services, and there are better options to fill their slots (I love how the Atlanta Thrashers' letting go of Andrew Brunette and Steve Staios is held up as a great example of teaching the players a "lesson"; oh by the way, the Thrashers stink, and letting go of players that could lend stability doesn't improve things). Nobodies like Trevor Letkowski and Jonas Hoglund getting set loose is meaningless, and routine. Any Group II worth a damn will get qualified, and that's that.

Let me end the mystery: When July 1 hits, the big-name players will indeed get the big money. Derrian Hatcher, Brian Leetch, Sergei Federov and Teemu Selanne, among others, will get deals pretty close to what they wanted. The next tier of free agents will get something, and will probably end up with substantial salary increases thanks to the bidding process. Just like any other year, essentially. And the idiot fans and pundits will, as usual, take the salary numbers as an affront to their sensibilities.
Do you have a simple, convenient email address at your workplace? Something like ""? Are you so happy with its spare elegance that you've taken to giving it out to all your friends and loved ones, and even non-work-related business contacts, as your primary email address? If so, you're asking for trouble, whether you leave your current job or not.

First thing that came to mind from all these case studies in the article was: Are they idiots? Are they still living in the '90s? Back when the Internet was coming forth, and you probably had access to it only at work and not at home, it was reasonable to use your work address as your contact point for everything.

But this is 2003, people. Even if you don't have the Web in your house, you have so many options for getting your own email address--Yahoo, Hotmail, Excite, etc.--that there's absolutely no excuse for not doing so. Can't get the ideal ""? Tough. And who cares? Who needs to memorize an email address these days anyway? Just save the address to your address book, or, if you're really lazy, just keep a copy of the latest correspondence from that person and keep replying to it. This isn't rocket science.

On top of all that, you have to be brain-dead to think that workplace email is at all private. It's not meant to be. If you're looking for a new job and you use your office's email system as the means of communication, you deserve to get burned. Use your brain.
One thing I consider to be a sign of my getting older is how much the videogaming world has left me behind. Whereas I once would play my brains out on everything from Atari 2600 through to Sega Genesis, I now find the latest and greatest game productions, with their superadvanced graphics and gameplay complexity, to be just too complicated for me to get into. It's not that I couldn't figure them out, if I devoted enough time and concentration to them. The thing is, I don't view them as being worth that investment, because ultimately, I don't get that same level of enjoyment from them that I used to from simpler videogames.

I should qualify all this by noting that I do own one of the newest game console systems, an Xbox; but I use it far more often as a DVD player than as a gaming machine. The reason for this is that I just don't enjoy making time to play videogames, like I used to. I'd sooner write, or read, or watch a movie--plopping down for videogaming is pretty low on the things-to-do list.

Currently, the devices I use most often to play videogames are my cellphone, with its two built-in games ("Flying Tight" and "Run For Money") in addition to games I'll sometimes play over the mobile Internet, and my iPod, with its single built-in "Breakout" game (although, if they ever update the firmware for the Windows iPod, I'll be adding a couple more game options). The common thread here is that I play games on them while I'm out of the house and need to kill some time. Rather than dedicate time to playing a game, I consider the game a convenience, something to keep me occupied until the next appointment.

Apparently, there are lots of people like me, who make good use of on-the-go gaming. Whether or not they supplement this gaming with more traditional console or PC gaming isn't known. But casual gamers are getting to be a big segment of wireless phone users, and that's caught the attention of the cellphone industry.

The carriers, particularly Verizon Wireless, have really been pushing these downloadable games, along with ringtones, as the neat-o bells and whistles that come with their service. While many see these things as trinkets meant to distract from fundamental voice/data service shortcomings, there's little doubt that these things have big potential to generate dollars for the carriers.

I can see a dark side to all this. If these casual games, delivered via downloading, are now viewed as revenue producers for the wireless carriers, then it makes business sense that they should no longer be considered throw-ins that are automatically built into mobile phones. Currently, just about every phone you buy has at least one or two simple games loaded right into the firmware. They may not be very complex games, but they are very useful as time-killers. I myself take the games that come with a phone seriously enough to consider them significant sales purchase factors (I know that sounds idiotic, but consider: All the other features on a phone are pretty much the same, as far as battery life, performance, capabilities, etc.; it really does come down to aesthetics like look and feel, and the exact extras). Now, with the re-conception of these games as commoditable products, including any on a phone would undercut that business. The trick is for the wireless providers to convince the phone manufacturers to stop building these gamelets into the phones; but I don't think that would be a problem.
Well, you can't detect it from this endproduct, but they've finally ported me over to the new, improved Blogger interface. About time.

It's a snazzed-up new design. I can't see much substantial difference, with the exception of access to archive management. Fortunately, it appears that the archiving problem of the past couple of months is now fixed. Great news! Now I no longer have to manually republish my archives after every post. Of course, if that problem somehow crops up again, then I'm stuck. I'm crossing my fingers.

Of course, as soon as one thing gets fixed, something else busts. As of this writing, the commenting system is on the fritz. It's supposed to be down for just one day. Hopefully it'll be back up soon.
muy, muy robusto
In anticipation of my friend Tom's bachelor party this coming Saturday (which I previously alluded to, briefly), I took a stroll from my office over to a cigar shop here in downtown St. Pete. By special request, I picked out a half-dozen Cuesta-Rey Pyramid No. 9 cigars. At right is a life-sized picture of one of these babies. I actually cleaned the store out of all they had on display!

Notice the descriptive language applied to this quality smoke:

The No. 9 treated my taste buds to a polished symphony of flavors: mocha, woods, and cream. The smoke is thick yet remains mild without any of the expected sour grassy flavors I typically associate with shade wrapped Dominican cigars.

Muy terrifico.

I am by no means a cigar afficionado. I enjoy a good stogie, but I doubt I partake more than four or five times a year; and most of those times are special occasions like weddings, births, New Year's Eve, etc. And while I enjoy them, I'm not at all into making a hobby out of them. Despite the actual ups and downs of the habit, I still kind of think of cigar-smoking as a bit too trendy to take seriously. The infrequent puff and savored aroma is more than enough for me. It's almost akin to becoming a "beer buff".

One interesting thing about the cigar shop I went to just now. They had on display something they called "legal Cuban cigars", for only $6 a pop. Since, last time I checked, the Cuban embargo was still in effect, I asked the clerk there what the deal was. I half-expected there to be some catch to it, like the cigar paper was from Cuba, but the cigars themselves were made in Tampa. As it turns out, they were pre-embargo cigars, meaning they were 40-plus years old. But if they were so aged, why were they so cheap (as a point of contrast, another set of pre-embargo Cubans, only a couple of shelves over, were selling for minimum $60 each)? The clerk explained that the six-buck ones were all no-name brands, and thus were available for relative peanuts. I was tempted to pick up a couple, but declined. Maybe next visit.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I really shouldn't dignify any of the junk email I get with acknowledgement. But once every 10,000th spam, I do get one that manages to catch my eye. If I actually clicked through and bought something off one, that would be adding to the problem, so I guess just commenting on it is harmless enough.

Anyway, this morning I got a spam that was trying to cash in on the Hulk. It was selling a Hulk-brand wristwatch or something. What made me notice it was the name of the sender: None other than Bruce Banner! (Actually, it was ""; I guess Dr. Banner didn't stake his name-claim early enough.) Nice to know the Doc is making money off his popularity spike.

I bet if I got more email from the likes of Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent, I'd respond to a lot more unsolicited inquiries. Are you listening, spammers?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

What is the ultimate role of blogs in news media? I've argued in the past that blogs fall short as true originating news sources, because the majority of bloggers present their information as second-hand sources: That is, from wire and other news sources that on-hand reporters cover. They play more of a punditry role, which can range from strict fact-checking (after the fact) to counter-ranting.

Angelina Sciolla, writing for Media Bistro, takes that a step further, and posits that blogs can play an active role as a power check on the news media--a Fifth Estate, as it were (which, I guess, is less catchy than her "Blog Estate", but makes more sense to me). It's a very good piece, putting the whole blogging movement into context. I like the expansion of the angle that the further consolidation of big media, and the distrust it breeds, leads to the necessity of blogs. She manages to cover a lot of ground in a concise package, including David Winer-Martin Nisenholtz blog bet:

Harvard and Userland's Winer has a longterm bet with Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, in which he suggests that by 2007, the year's major news events will be more covered by blogs than by the Times.

But Nisenholtz isn't buying. Does he think blogs will take over? "The question is a red herring," he says. "I don't view blogs as competition for journalistic organizations such as the Times. I see them as fundamentally different. Blogs allow people to publish their views on the Internet. This is highly useful, but it in no way precludes the use of a professionally edited form of journalism."

I'm inclined to side with Nisenholtz. And there are plenty of folks who, noting how much the blogging community has slowed down with the onset of summer, wonder whether or not blogging is a novelty that's come and starting to go. I don't know about that. I do know that anything as self-motivational as a blog depends on ongoing interest by both the author and the audience; and it's more a challenge for the author to maintain momentum. Perhaps acceptance into mainstream (read: paycheck) media, like Salam Pax with The Guardian, is one way to achieve that.
bass-boomin' baby
Hot damn! There's nothing like getting an unexpected bonus. Remember the Baby Anne - Mixed Live: Ra Las Vegas I picked up last week at that benefit sale? I took it out today to listen to it for the first time, and I discovered the case held not one, but two discs! And not two CDs, but one CD and one DVD! I scored not only the music album, but also a promo DVD full of club-video graphics! Plus the album tracks, plus some bonus upcoming-artists videos. All for two bucks! Excellent.
How are newspapers around the world performing, business-wise? Not too badly, according to the World Association of Newspapers. Note the penetration of free (no cover price) newspapers. The high readership in developed/affluent societies shouldn't be a surprise, unless you consider the corresponding penetration of the Web in those same areas. Considering how much news is available for free from the Internet (not considering the ISP bill, of course), why would those same people also pay for newspaper content? I'm thinking that an affluent populace is also fairly well-educated, and so is willing to pay for quality content.

More on WAN's World Newspaper Congress here.

Monday, June 23, 2003

muy fina
Meet Thalia. With the release of her first English-language album (following 9 Spanish ones), she's primed to become the next Shakira. Muy caliente!

What's with Tommy Mottola marrying these budding songstresses? First he married Mariah Carey, helped her get to the top (or close to it), then she dumped him and helped bring him down. What makes him think Miss Thalia won't turn around and drop his ass as soon as she's arrived? Oh right, this time it's true love...
Nothing like getting back home. Could have done without the rainstorm that greeted my return, but still.

It's funny. The second I stepped through the door, I was very much at ease. Relaxed, and ready to decompress (decompose?) from what was, at best, a pretty boring weekend, punctuated with short, stressful moments. As far as visits to the familial hometown go, this one was far from the worst. But the thing is, it was just so crushingly dull.

I really have forgotten how little there is to do in a small town like that. There's not even a movie theather in town anymore--you have to go to the next town over for this little 8-screen multiplex! Unbelievable. My cousin did take me to the waterfront bar scene, and that was alright (the non-stop rainy weather kept the crowds lower than what they normally would be on a Friday night), but hardly a hot, happening scene.

Beyond all that, I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was out of my element, and just couldn't get comfortable, no matter what. I love my relatives, but really, I don't feel like I belong there anymore. Really, I'm not sure I ever felt like I belonged there.

Oh well. Back to business around here. Looking forward to this week: Work, some partying, and a bachelor party this weekend (crossing my fingers that the weather is good--it's going to involve a lot of beach-crawling!).

Sunday, June 22, 2003

I was so bored yesterday afternoon, marooned by incessant rain, that I caught "The Daily Show with John Stewart" for the first time in years.

It sucked. Sucked hard. Really really bad.

I used to consider this show to be bullet-proof, because it had news and current events as reliable comedic source material. Something ludricrous happens every single day, so naturally a news parody show should have an unending supply of material to work with.

Unfortunately, the writing has to hold up, and at this point, the writing just plain stinks. They pick up on some Bush press conference or public appearance, then proceed to milk it far longer than they have to, just because they don't feel like doing more than a couple of news items. Stewart doesn't help; he's pretty much going through the motions. And the live studio audience is a hindrance in my eyes; they prod them to go nuts over absolutely nothing, so Stewart feels compelled to showboat for the crowd. All adds up to pretty lukewarm stuff. Even the Moment of Zen sucked!

On the plus side, the one-on-one interview was pretty good. Stewart seems to do really well with that; it's a natural flow when he chat it up with his guest, and doesn't seem as scripted as other talk shows (although I'm sure it is to some extent). But it's not nearly enough to carry the whole show.

I'll admit, I liked the show a lot more when Craig Kilborn was on it in the first couple of years, when they had all those odd components to it like Godstuff. I don't think it has to morph back to that. But right now, the writing sucks, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before I waste another 30 minutes of my life watching this dreck.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

odd couple
They said it wouldn't last. And they were right. Pam Anderson's current celebrity relationship with Kid Rock is apparently over. Nothin' left to believe in, folks.

Maybe he got mad that she got her implants removed (although as you can tell from the above photo, she doesn't need them). Maybe he disapproves of her upcoming role in "Stripperella". Or maybe she came to the realization that Kid Schlock's 15 minutes of fame are over (let's face it, he's been overshadowed in his white-trash schtick by Eminem) and she now wants to trade up.

Does this comment from Ms. Anderson raise any red flags for anyone?

"Assume what you want about a wedding... I'm here with family and friends. That might be a hint."

The way I'm reading this, she can't be thinking about being with her man while she's with family and friends. In other words, being in a relationship and being with family/friends are two mutually exclusive things; she can't handle both at the same time. Like a lot of women, she probably subsumes herself into her man's life, to the point where she alienates everyone else in her life; and eventually, she can't take that anymore, and she ends it. With a pattern like that, she can't ever stay in a relationship for any length of time... at least not while her looks are holding up. Very telling.
Like I said, just adopt a black cat as the new mascot and put an end to it. That looks like the best recourse to me for the mess that The National Network/Spike TV has become. Now, the injunction against its name change can't be challenged until September, which may or may not alter Viacom's plans.

Interesting how the spin here is that they're pushing ahead with the rebranding as a concept, sans the name label. Between this controversy and their promo spots, it might work; I know I've been noticing their new push campaign. The revival of Ren and Stimpy certainly gets my vote of approval, although I'm a bit wary. At least it appears that John Kricfalusi is back on board.

I found this interesting:

Even some people at Viacom who don’t particularly like the name believe anger over the court decisions has solidified internal commitment to Spike TV.

Funny how Lee's challenge would galvanize the network. A seige mentality in television marketing? A funny twist.
So, I was watching the MSG Network earlier, and I caught the tail-end of a segment called "What If". Basically, each of the resident pundits (made up of NYC-area sports reporters, apparently) presented their top three premises on how certain key events in sports history would have gone differently, and what that would have meant longer-term. For instance: One guy asked, "What if Harry Frazee didn't need the money?", meaning the owner of the Boston Red Sox back in the early part of the 20th century would not have sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for money he'd use to open a Broadway play. No curse of the Bambino. Get it?

They asked for submissions from viewers, via this here page. Since I'm a HUGE fan of alternate reality scenarios (mainly non-sports, but I'll play along), I jumped at the chance. I submitted the first ones that came to mind. Here they are, for your edification:

What if:

... Bobby Hull hadn't joined the WHA? The rival hockey league might never have gotten off the ground, players' conditions would still be miserable, players like Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky would have been drafted instead of getting their starts in the WHA as undrafted pros.

... Curt Flood didn't challenge MLB's reserve clause? His challenge was the beginning of the end of business-as-usual for owners in all the major sports.

... Mark Messier didn't guarantee, and deliver, his famous Game 6 win in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals? The Rangers 1940 Cup drought might still be going strong, and we would be looking at a confirmed, instead of a questioned, Devils dynasty.

Pretty creative, if I do say so myself.

And if you think I'm posting this at 1AM in the morning in order to guarantee a confirmed post for Saturday, you are correct.

Friday, June 20, 2003

I'm in New York State, at my parents house. Got here about eight hours ago. Have done pretty much all I can do.


Then again, my cousin Bill just called, says he's on his way to take me out for a couple of drinks. Why not? I think he also wants to talk about some weighty issues--about me or him, I don't know. I'm slightly curious.

My brother Bill is coming into town tomorrow. We're supposed to head to my cousin Adrianna's house, to see her newborns. Then, I dunno, maybe we'll go catch The Hulk. Later tomorrow night, probably go out with cousin Bill again. Sigh.

My blogging schedule will be lightweight for the next few days. I'll still post something every day, but probably not until late night, and probably nothing too earth-shattering. Back to normal once I get home.

Update: A fair night; the crappy weather didn't help. Turns out the "weighty issues" are pretty serious, and they involve Bill and his home life. All brand-new to me.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Earlier today, I bought myself a few books and CDs at a scholarship benefit sale. For a good cause, and it was under 20 bucks. Would you like to know what I got? Sure you do:

- Baby Anne - Mixed Live: Ra Las Vegas: Baaaaad-ass techno DJ artist, from just up the road (Orlando).
- Aphrodite - Urban Junglist: Techno/house/and so on compilation.
- Bio Ritmo Salsa Band - New Mixes 2003 (sampler): Upbeat moderna salsa.
- Tommy Guerrero - Soul Food Taqueria: Blend of alternative, Latin rhythms and trip-hop, from a renowned skateboarding impresario (I'm not sure, but I may be too old to know that).

- "The Porno Girl: and Other Stories" by Merin Wexler: Short story collection from a first-timer, promoted as some sort of new-wave feminism. I actually read the first story out of this, and have already turned around and given it to a friend who I thought might enjoy it.
- "The Afterword" by Mike Bryan: This looks like a neat little one, from another first-timer. It's framed as a lengthy afterword essay about a non-existent best-seller. What really attracted me to it was the book and jacket design: Miniature and irregular shape, cool binding and typesetting (I'm a sucker for unique book design).
- "Junky" by William S. Burroughs: A bygone classic, delightful decadence. Another cool book design, for the 50th Anniversary Definitive Edition.
- "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen: Yeppers, this is the same book and the same author that gained infamy by snubbing the great Oprah. It's funny; just before that controversy broke, I remember I was browsing through a bookstore and came upon this book. It had a "Recommended by Oprah" tag on the jacket, and I gotta tell you, the fact that it had Oprah's seal of approval really turned me off, so I didn't buy it that day. I figured if it was recommended reading for the Oprah crowd, then it had to be utterly banal. Obviously, this is the impression that Franzen sought to avoid by disavowing the Oprah touch. But with the passage of time, and the fact that is was for sale so cheap, I decided to take the plunge.

I'll point out that I haven't heard or read any of the above. So I'm looking forward to experiencing them all. Hope they're all to my liking.
on lease
Got yourself a hip little salon or cafe? Need continuous, ambient background music, but hate the idea of polluting your space with Muzak? Sounds like you need to rent an iPod filled with hours of hip tunes.
I still remember where I was when I first heard about the AOL-Time Warner merger. I was sitting at my desk at my old gig, just firing up the computer and getting my first jolt of caffeine that morning. Got online, got my first early-morning bunch of press releases in the email. There it was, the big announcement.

And my very first thought was: This has got to be a hoax. Some little weasel somehow managed to concoct the whole thing and got it past the wire services, and in a matter of hours, the joke would be revealed, and things would be back to normal.

Well, AOL Time Warner Inc. was eventually born out of this, which leads you to believe there was no hoax. Then again, considering how the company's prospects have soured since the big merge, perhaps it was a great big hoax after all. That's pretty much the contention of Washington Post reporter Alec Klein, in his new book "Stealing Time".

These behind-the-deal treatments can be either very interesting and absorbing, or else deathly dull. Klein is a good reporter; we'll see if he's a good book author. Since the industry subjects are two of my favorites--media and technology--this book arleady has a leg up on my interest barometer.
organized, yet not
A momentous day in history today:

June 19, 1846: The New York Knickerbocker Club played the New York Club in the first baseball game at the Elysian Field, Hoboken, New Jersey. It was the first organized baseball game.

I wonder where Abner Doubleday was that day?

The New York Knickerbocker Club, of course, after playing this historic game, went into hiding. They finally emerged from their underground existence 100 years later, slightly retooled as a basketball team. I understand Patrick Ewing played in that Elysian Field game.

Also on this day, connected to the above in some way I haven't yet been able to determine, Paula Abdul was born in 1962.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

in happier times
I know I'm not the only one who still wonders whatever became of Chuck Cunningham, Richie's older brother on "Happy Days". Indeed, it's one of the deepest, darkest secrets in all of television history. All of it, I say!

Well, not really. The simple, banal answer is that he was a seldom-used character, basically supplanted by the Fonz, that didn't warrant an explanation for being written out of the show.

The real mystery there is, why didn't the writers at least try to account for his departure? How hard would it have been to have Mr. C or somebody casually mention that Chuck was off at college, or in the Army, or something? It's not like they had to show him visiting home later or anything. And didn't the writers and producers figure that when the show went into syndication, these questions would come up (in which case, they should have just edited Chuckie's scenes out of those old episodes)? Then again, since the show struggled so much in the first couple of years, maybe they figured it wouldn't last long enough to make it to syndication.

Some people have come up with... interesting... explanations to account for the missing Cunningham son. Interesting and drop-dead funny. Like this anonymous post from Jump The Shark, which neatly ties up the whole "Happy Days" storyline into a King Lear-esque rumination on the life of Howard Cunningham:

You poor deluded fools. Everything that went "wrong" with Happy Days was actually a brilliantly conceived story arc from day one. It all began when Mr. Cunningham caught Chuck stealing money from his hardware store. He hired a local thug, Arthur Fonzarelli, to have him quietly executed. "Fonzie", as he is known, killed Chuck and dumped the body in one of those big lakes over there. Then he was to leave town and never return. Fonzie blackmailed Mr. Cunningham into letting him stay at their house permanently, otherwise he would expose Mr. Cunningham and prey upon his family. Mr. Cunningham swore revenge. He readily allowed Fonzie to stay, but secretly was determined to destroy him by undermining his persona. This took many years, but in the end he succeeded. In another thread which history will eventually show as being on the threshold of genius, an time traveller named Mork from "Ork" (actually Stockton, CA) arrived from 1980. His sole purpose: to avenge his father's death. Yes, Chuck had a son before he was slain, that was why he was stealing money. Although he was defeated in a spectacular battle against Fonzie at Al's, he tricked everyone into thinking it was a dream. He fled back to 1980 and devised another fiendish plot. He sent a young criminal mastermind named Chachi back in time to infiltrate Fonzie's life. His real goal: to destroy Fonzie, he must destroy the culture around him. Hence the feathered hairdo and other anachronisms. He later also found out that Mr. C originally hired Fonzie to do away with Chuck, so he seduced his daughter Joanie. So between the slow erosion of his soul from Mr. C and the Machiavellian plotting of Chachi, Fonzie was doomed. He grew morose. He eventually became that which he most feared, a washed up middle-aged loser, a mere shadow of his former self. Chachi's agenda eventually doomed everyone around him except for Richie, who escaped. It is also interesting to note that Laverne and Shirley fled Milwaukee to Los Angeles. Connection?

My God. It all makes perfect sense to me now...
A chief argument made for the easing (or elimination, even) of media ownership rules is that we're experiencing a proliferation of media avenues, wherein even the average person can express him/herself and reach thousands, even millions, of people. Since the preservation of a diversity of voices and opinion is the raison d'etre for media regulation, the rise of the Internet is presented as a viable alternative to traditional (print, broadcast) media, and one that will get only more potent. This, and economic considerations, were rationale used by the FCC earlier this month as it amended its rules in favor of less regulation.

It's an interesting theory. I think it overestimates the influence of the Internet. But then there are people like Rafat Ali at, who sees the coming consolidation in the media industry not as a harbinger of doom, but rather as an opportunity. He's set to become a one-man media source. Hopefully, he won't end up like Matt Drudge.

The independent journalist is an idea with lots of potential. I found Christopher Allbritton's Back In Iraq 2.0, about his adventures in-country during Gulf War II, very engaging.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

hola, señor spice
In a move that can most accurately be characterized as the latest chapter in the Castilian-Catalonian cultural rivalry, English fuuuuut-bol (or soccer) star David Beckham was sold, chattel-like, to Spanish soccer club Real Madrid, thus spurning rival Barcelona. Just as well, since Mr. Spice-Girl wasn't hip to learning Catalan.
Do you watch television EVERY-SINGLE-NIGHT and always think, "Shit, I could write a better show than this crap!!" Oh, don't we all. You have two options: You can head to Hollywood and pound the pavement looking for a break; or, if you live in Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas or New York, you can just drag your lazy bones to Pilot Project Live Pitch!™ City Tour and try to wow them. Get your script all nice and printed up!
It's no secret that the "phones" we carry around in our pockets and purses are behaving more and more like handheld computers. I'm not talking about just PDA/phone combos either; let's face it, even a no-frills Nokia is packed with plenty of computing power for trinkets like an address book, notepad and a videogame or two. And with all that, there's still room for more.

So fire up that Java coder and start hacking into your cellphone, you geek aspirant you. Just don't come running to me when you fry the CPU and have to junk the phone.

Pretty fun stuff. I'm not sure I need to convert my phone into an all-purpose diagnostic tool and utility, but it's an intriguing idea. As it happens, I'm going to be buying a new phone shortly (my contract is running out, and I might as well get a new phone, as I don't really like the one I've got). I've decided I'm going to go fairly basic on the new model, though, so even if I were inclined, I don't think I'd be able to monkey with it. Using the old phone as a guinea pig is one idea, but I doubt I'll be capable of loading anything onto it.
Yup, as mentioned below, today's my birthday. Thirty-two years of madcap frenzy. Well, maybe not.

No big celebratory plans today; a Tuesday birthday tends to limit your options when you're a grown-up (assuming I am one). I'll be going out to lunches this week, then heading up to New York for an extended weekend, and pretty much leave it at that. I've gotten a couple of presents already, which is a nice sentiment. Oh, and I treated myself to a back massage this morning, which I needed regardless of the date.

I can't help but wonder, though, if I can net more birthday goodies somehow. Like by presenting a link to my Amazon Wish List, for instance. (If I had thought ahead, I would have loaded it up with plenty of high-priced items; oh well...)

Monday, June 16, 2003

I'm thinking June is the primo month for a birthday! Especially the middle of the month. Look here, NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day is eight years old today; it's still one of the few sites I visit every single day. Everyone's favorite fat orange cat, Garfield, is coming up on his 25th birthday (and counting it down in a refreshingly different way, for once).

And of course, sandwiched between those two heavyweights, there is my birthday. Only a quarter-hour from now, I'll hit the big 3-2. Certainly a surprise to be seeing it come around.
bats pucks hoops tackles
Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion had a little something to say today about Roger Clemens and his desire to be inducted into Cooperstown as a Yankee, or else not at all. I added my two cents in the comments. Since then, the subject has been on my mind, and rather than make a pest of myself with another comment posting over there, I'll present my further thoughts here.

I'll start off with the caveat that most of what I'm going to talk about is not really a controversy at this time, and may never be; Clemens isn't retired yet, and his feelings might change over time. Plus, I'm not aware of anyone else having a major problem with how the Hall runs things. This should go under the "food for thought" file.

As I noted, my feeling is that if Clemens does get inducted (and as things now stand, he'll certainly be), it'll be his little corner of the Hall with his name on it, just like every other Hall member. That being so, I think he has every right to decide for himself which team he'll represent when he gets there. It's not like he's going to be misrepresenting himself; his career stats aren't going to be selectively edited to omit his tenure in Boston (or Toronto). The whole story of his baseball career is going to be available in the Hall. But of course, there is a symbolic impact connected to which cap the player has on, it being the first image someone sees when viewing the exhibit.

The surface argument, that he spent over half his career with the Red Sox and so logically should go in the Hall as a Boston player, is not really the main issue here. In fact, I don't consider that an issue at all, since it's irrelevant. Since the player is the one getting the honor, I don't see why he should be denied the option of being immortalized as a member of the team of his choice (with the only requirement being, obviously, that it be a team he actually played for).

Why should the Hall be the authority on which years of a player's tenure in the league best encapsulate his career? The notion at work here is that allowing the players to pick their own caps would denigrate the Hall's hallowed nature, because they might choose teams with which they spent little time with but want to represent for sentimental reasons (i.e., the Wade Bogg-Devil Rays thing). In this sense, the Hall has a point. But as I mentioned in my comment at Off Wing, there's a real simple way out of this mess: Get with the times--which are now over quarter of a century old, by the way--and stop making the team designation a part of Hall induction. Sticking to it didn't make sense anyway, since even future Hall of Famers got traded; now that players can move around more readily than ever, it makes even less sense. It's an antiquated idea from the 19th, not the 20th, century.

Really, at root here is an arrogance from the old-line baseball establishment that says, "Hey, we don't really want you in the Hall, we just want your achievements". Screw what the player wants, we're going to honor him the way we want. In other words, just feel lucky that we're letting you in, shut up and smile.

I think what would get people most worked up over this is that Clemens should dare to challenge an institution that's considered so venerable as the Hall of Fame. Eric himself alluded to this by saying "No one person is bigger than the Baseball Hall of Fame..." I'm not sure how asking that you be presented the way you'd like makes you "bigger" than anything; who's getting honored here? But that's devotion to the Hall for you. The Hall is a place that's often seen as the last sanctuary of "purity" in a sport that seems preoccupied by money/business issues. I'm not even going to get into the faulty logic there...

Last thing on this rant... It occurs to me that another, more radical way around this is to induct entire teams (championships, dynasties, record-setters, whatever) into a hall of fame, rather than individuals. Everyone always insists that it's a team game first and foremost; this elevates that idea from mere platitude to enshrined honor. Plus, it would bring untold numbers of role players the recognition they'd never otherwise get. Of course, player movement during the season puts a wrinkle into this. This is a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, but something to consider.
... we just live in it. That's the conclusion that Slate's Daniel Gross comes to, as he argues that the retailing behemoth's weekly sales reports serve as a national economic indicator. Sound far-fetched? Consider this snippet from this Fortune article:

Wal-Mart is not just Disney's biggest customer but also Procter & Gamble's and Kraft's and Revlon's and Gillette's and Campbell Soup's and RJR's and on down the list of America's famous branded manufacturers. It means, further, that the nation's biggest seller of DVDs is also its biggest seller of groceries, toys, guns, diamonds, CDs, apparel, dog food, detergent, jewelry, sporting goods, videogames, socks, bedding, and toothpaste—not to mention its biggest film developer, optician, private truck-fleet operator, energy consumer, and real estate developer.

As if there aren't enough reasons to hate Wal-Mart, huh? Actually, "hate" is rather strong. With size comes strong opinions, not to mention huge socio-economic impact. And Gross does a good job of pointing out that even with all its reach, Wal-Mart's influence has limits. Still, it's a fascinating notion that a retailer that originated in Arkansas (and is still HQed there) is a modern-day General Motors.
whip smart
I was listening to Liz Phair's "Supernova" on the way back from work today, and it reminded me of the news that the former poster grrrl of indie rock is making a comeback. Says the fair Phair:

"I didn't want to be some '90s act that was great in my 20s and never did anything else," the 36-year-old musician told Entertainment Weekly for its May 30 issue.

Well, that's the way it's looking so far. Becoming a featured VH1 performer probably doesn't help, either. Far as I'm concerned, "Supernova" was her only real hit. I also liked her high-energy cover of "Turning Japanese", but I don't think that qualifies as a hit.

"Supernova" remains a song that I like a lot. It's also the only song that I can remember making me noticably uncomfortable. How? Phair's lyrics are the first I can remember that forcefully delivered a woman's raw assessment of sexual desire. What's more, they successfully objectified a man as a mere sexual creature, in a deconstructive way:

You walk in clouds of glitter
And the sun reflects your eyes
And every time the wind blows
I can smell you in the sky
Your kisses are as wicked as an F-16
And you fuck like a volcano
And you're everything to me

(Christ, I'm posting song lyrics here now! What am I, 14 years old??)

Hearing these lyrics, for the first time I understood how women felt when they complained of being reduced to a set of body parts: Nice legs, great tits, good hair, etc. I always understood what all that meant, on a rational level, but the squirming feeling those lyrics, set to a beat, gave me really made it hit home. Phair does this with the guy she's singing about, and it's supposed to be a positive; yet I get a clear sense that she's turning the table on guys in general, letting them know how it feels to be objectified. I'm sure this flew over most people's heads, but that's the experience I had.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

bloody hell have to get a real job
One of the early successes of reality TV (if you ignore the genre's ur-series of the '90s, "The Real World"), "The Osbournes" has been a hip view of celebrity disfunction and helped bring MTV some monster ratings. But this party might be over for Jack, Kelly, Sharon and the Ozzman, as the show seems to be losing its audience-drawing ability in its new season.

This article seems to isolate the lack of numbers for the show on the show itself; the mention of the Osbourne family members getting some media over-saturation suggests that the viewing public is tired of seeming them, specifically. But in reality (pun intended, thanks), I think it's as much about people tuning out reality programming in general. The bubble has popped. Advertisers are bailing out, and audiences aren't as enthralled with the shows anymore. I think "The Osbournes" dip is a harbinger of what's going to happen this summer, the time when reality shows have usually been strong. Outside of "Survivor" and a couple of the "Bachelor/Bachelorette" strains, I think it's close to curtains time for this fad.
who's watching?
It goes without saying that nobody likes an NBA game unless the two teams combine to score at least 200 points. That's being proven out with the current NBA Finals, which are sucking fumes ratings-wise. ABC, which is in the first year of its valued NBA contract, is so disappointed in the lousy numbers that it's hoping for a forced Game 7 in order to dump off its advertising commitments as painlessly as possible.

We'll know after Game 6 tonight if there'll be another game, and if there is, the conspiracy theories can start then.

As an NHL fan, I feel better about my sport in light of this. Let's see, the NHL ratings have been sucking for the entire five-year run of that league's broadcasting agreement. Then, the first year the NBA gets on board the Mouse networks, their ratings slide. So it wasn't the NHL's fault for those cruddy ratings, it was Disney's! (Only kidding, folks; the NHL perennially has low ratings, no matter which network has it; and the NBA should recover from this next year.)

It's funny. It's always perceived by media reporters that the networks aren't happy unless there are big-market teams in the playoffs/championships. Note I said "perceived", as I don't think broadcasters care about that as much as reporters imagine they do; a big game is a big game, no matter who's in it. Of course, the performance by these hoops finals seem to confirm the lack of appeal of smaller-market teams. I think the level of play, i.e. lack of offense, has more to do with it in this instance.

Still, I always thought that, if the TV numbers are so paramount, they ought to just tailor-make the postseason to suit the networks. Just change the rules so that, no matter who gets into the postseason and who makes it to the championship round, just have New York play Los Angeles play for the trophy, no matter what. I mean, that'll make fans of the two largest markets in the land happy, and their eyeballs should make the network execs happy, right? The greatest good to the greatest number of people. Let's do it. Screw the competitive playing field! There are dollars at stake!

Update: Well, no Game 7 this year, as the Spurs beat the Nets. This set off a chain reaction of the following events: San Antonio enjoys its second NBA Championship; David Robinson, a 14-year NBA veteran and career-long Spur, retires a champion; the Nets miss a chance to make the Meadowlands/Continental Airlines Arena the home to two champions in one season (the Devils having bagged their Cup only a week ago); and finally, ABC execs hanging themselves.
Hey men, get at least two sets of your muscles ready for the year 2011. That's when Pfizer's patent on Viagra runs out, and when the William Wrigley Jr. Company will come out with its generic Viagra chewing gum.

Nothing says "Let's get it on, honey" quite like popping a stick of gum in your mouth mere minutes before getting your bone honed.
Earlier today I took a crack at doing two things that, I think, could not be more unlike one another. One was installing Linux onto an ancient (circa 1996) Macintosh Performa 6360CD. The other was repotting a little cactus plant (my only remaining houseplant, as I ditched the others) into a larger pot.

Guess which procedure went smoother?

The cactus thing was a snap. I was worried I'd prick myself bad when doing the actual transplant, but it turned out to not be a problem. As long as you handle the plant carefully, you won't get stabbed. Hopefully, the thing has plenty of room to root out now and get nice and big. I just hope the soil is right for it; seems too rich for a plant that requires so little water. But I don't know much about plants except how to kill them, so what the heck am I talking about?

The Linux install... sheesh. It's been a pain from day one. As it turns out, the Mac doesn't have some utility programs on it that, these days, are considered fundamental. What I'm missing, at the moment, is Stuffit. A version that works with System 7.6.1, mind you. And that I can get onto a computer that has no Web access (it has a modem, but it'd be a nightmare to get it set up). In order to avoid driving myself up a wall over it, I've confined my fiddlings with that Mac strictly to free Sunday mornings, and only a couple of hours at a time. I figure I'll make a Linux machine out of that thing in, oh, another couple of months or so.
Depending on their experience, Mac users have reason to either mourn or rejoice the end of Microsoft's development of Internet Explorer for the Mac OS.

Microsoft is discontinuing development for Internet Explorer in part because of Apple's new Web browser, Safari. Apple is in a unique position of having unfettered access to the operating system that no other developer has.

Cute how much people are making of this, since Microsoft is notorious for hoarding its OS code and thus putting third-party developers at a disadvantage. It's characterized as MS getting a dose of its own medicine; it is, but in little more than principle. Microsoft isn't going to be hurting from this move.

What's curious is how this news is being reported out of the context of Microsoft's earlier announcement that they would stop issuing IE as a standalone program altogether, instead thoroughly embedding it into future versions of the Windows OS. In other words, in the near future, you want to use IE, you gotta have a computer that runs on the latest version of Windows. And if MS has it's way, websites (or, more specifically, website developers) will incorporate more and more IE-specific functions, thus making Windows a near-prerequisite for using the Internet. Very clever, Mr. Bond.

Of course, the Big Redmond Machine has been backpedalling a bit on their future browser plans, but unless someone stops them, I'm sure this will come to pass.

My question is, what was the point of all that legal wrangling during half the 1990s if MS is going ahead with this? This is the ultimate in browser integration. Aren't they supposed to have been barred from doing anything resembling this? I realize the Bush administration signalled early that it would lay off on the prosecution, but what about MS's business rivals? If I were them, I'd be raising the red flags non-stop.

Naturally, there are plenty of free browsers available out there. I use one of them regularly. But the fact that they're available is pointless. Without promoting their existence to the mainstream (i.e., non-computerheads), they'll always live in the margins. And there's no way they can compete with an embedded program.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

$20? MAKE THAT $12.63
So, you may recall the class-action lawsuit brought against the music industry for CD price fixing, and how anyone could sign up to be part of it. I even provided you a link to join in. But of course, I bet you were too darn lazy to do it, weren't you? Despite buying all those Madonna, Blink-182 and Luther Vandross discs for ungodly prices, you didn't feel cheated enough to take a chance at getting back 20 bucks.

Well, guess what, sucka? WE WON! That's right, I'm identifying with the whole class-action thing. The music industry has been found guilty, and now they gotta cough up the dough. Stickin' it to the man!

Some might consider the estimated $12.63 that's expected to be rewarded to be minor chump change, all things considered. And it certainly is. But all I know is, I got $12.63 for sitting on my butt doing nothing, and you didn't. What do you say to that? Yeah, I didn't think so.
not just for tree huggers
If you're ever at EVOS, be sure to try the Crispy Thai Trout Wrap. With air fries, naturally. It's da bomb.

Friday, June 13, 2003

This one takes the phrase "fly-by-night" to unheard-of levels. A 19-year-old college student apparently made up an airline pretty much wholly online, took ticket deposits, and now is in legal hot water for fraud.

Luke Thompson, the man behind the fictitious Mainline Airways (I wish he had named it Mainline Airline; it would have made for a sweet headline here: "Inventing Mainline Airline, Online"), is insisting his operation is for real, but it doesn't look good.

Is this really an elaborate scam, or a case of someone getting way too ahead of himself in setting up a business? Either way, I'd say this dude is screwed.
The bizarre misstep that is TNN, aka The National (not Nashville) Network, is floundering once again. Much-ballyhooed plans to rebrand the network as male-centric Spike TV are in danger, thanks to the objections of Spike Lee. Claiming that he's got some level of exclusivity on the name "Spike", Lee successfully got the courts to suspend the promotion of the network's new name until a trial can be held. (I notice TNN is in no hurry to pull down the Spike TV material off their website; as of this writing, it still has that name all over it.)

I think Lee's claims stretch credibility a bit. Since when is he the only Spike on the entertainment block? There's fellow filmmaker Spike Jonze, as well as the late, great Spike Jones. And let's not forget Elvis Costello, who released an album entitled "Spike" years ago.

Then again, if corporate parent Viacom were smart, they would have headed this off early by bringing Lee in and offering to showcase his work, including new projects, on Spike TV. It would be a fit they could've exploited to great effect, helping them to rope in hip black and urban audiences. Of course, it could be that Spike Lee is too black and urban for what the network hacks have in mind for this new-again channel. Who knows, perhaps the final settlement will have Lee join the channel in some capacity.

Geez, if I were Viacom, I'd be sorry I ever touched this God-forsaken channel. Nothing goes right with it--unlucky every step of the way in trying to establish itself. At this point, I'd adopt a black cat as its mascot, seriously. Barring that, just shutter the damn thing. Nobody outside of a couple of Trekkies will notice.
in the biz
Shameless Plug Territory, coming up: This year's Florida Small Business, from the publishers of Florida Trend, is out. I've got a short piece in it.

The genesis of this item was my notice of all these little mom-and-pops cropping up around town, and how they seemed to shutter up only a couple of months after opening. The one thing I sensed they all had in common was that they did squat for advertising and promotion; it's as if they were sure they could rely on friends to be steady customers, or word of mouth, or (even more foolhardy, in this car-centric metro area) walk-up traffic. And so I decided to delve into it a little, hopefully for the benefit of anyone out there who's setting up shop for the first time on a shoestring budget.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

m.c. optimus primo
All you Cybertron freaks, hold onto your hats. A live-action Transformers movie is in the works. That's right, live-action, not animated. I'm sure there'll be CGI effects aplenty.

It occurs to me that there are unimaginable automobile product-placement possibilities here! This flick will appeal to an amazingly broad male demographic: Not only to kids who are likely to enjoy the action, but also Gen-Xers who grew up with the original cartoons! Auto makers can reap benefits immediately while also laying the foundations for the future. Double-shot power!

How much you wanna bet that they work a Mini Cooper into this as one of the robot-cars? Undoubtedly as one of the Autobots, a.k.a. the good guys. I mean, the little runt-cars have been prominently featured all over the silver screen lately. This one should be a natural. I'm sure the marketing people are on the phone right this second, working out a deal.

I think it's safe to say that this guy will be among the first in line for this flick, whenever it comes out.
A note to all you fellow Blogger/BlogSpot users: The archiving/permalink utility is not working. In order to have your posts instantly archived with permanent linkage (which is ideal, since that allows you and others to hyperlink to your brilliant scribblings), you have to republish your archives every time you blog something.

It's a pain in the ass, I know. I'd be surprised if Blogger wasn't working to fix this bug; hopefully it'll be patched up soon. If you really can't take it anymore, you can always take Dean Esmay up on his offer.
Inc. Magazine presents a short little piece on the effectiveness of blogging as a dedicated marketing tool for businesses.

I find it very hard to believe that Coudal Partners "has never purchased a print ad, mounted a direct-mail campaign, or produced an infomercial". You simply don't stay in business for over a decade like they have without doing some marketing. Also consider, if the firm is 13 years old as stated, that's well before the Internet developed into a mainstream medium. I suppose the firm could have started out as a small shop with a handful of regular clients, and word-of-mouth. But there's no way they didn't promote themselves, even if it was only at targeted tradeshows and publications, etc. This is an ad agency we're talking about; the reporter should know they'd stretch the truth.

I've seen various pieces on utilizing blogs as business promotion tools. Not a radical concept. On a basic level, every blog--from Coudal's to the average 14-year-old girl's--is a marketing vehicle. Even if it's a personal journal, the fact that it's being published on the Web and accessible to all (or even some) means the author is putting it out there for exposure. That's marketing. The purposes of that marketing can vary, from the satisfaction of seeing the words on screen to trying to make a connection with others to selling something. It's all relative.

Whenever I read about blogs in relation to marketing, or any pure business purpose, I think of the Raging Cow blog viral marketing experiment.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

You ask me, if they didn't want you to drink while driving, they would have invented pop-tops. Or twist-off bottle caps. Or bottles, cans, etc. It's a conspiracy, I tell you!

Fortunately for drunks on the go, there are places in this great land where you can quaff your fermented beverage of choice while cruising the roadways. So if you live in Mississippi, Montana or Wyoming, get the car keys and bottoms up!
Oh, to be a kid in grade school again. Especially in modern-day Maine, where, of all places, the public school system is a pioneer in equipping students with individual computers, thus transforming their learning experience.

Sheesh. I feel positively ancient. When I think of what I used when I was in school: Paper, pencils, outdated textbooks... might as well have been sticks and stones at Bedrock Elementary School, fercryingoutloud.

Still, this is heartening, especially the value that parents and lawmakers put on keeping the computers in class. I wonder if the students are allowed to take the Powerbooks home? Probably not; although how would all the kids be able to do their homework assignments (presumably not all the kids' families would have computers)?

I'm also a bit surprised that those are Apple notebooks they're using. The education market has traditionally been one of Apple's strongholds, but I though Wintel machines had been making strong headway, especially on something like this. It's a good sign.
all singin', all dancin'
It's gonna be Middle Earth mania on London's fabled West End as Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy will be adapted to the stage as a "lavish musical".

Golly, I wish I knew more about LOTR, so that I could really riff some jokes off this. I think I saw the original 1978 animated version (some really interesting trivia behind that one) when I was a kid, but it never really captured my imagination. My loss, I suppose.

Screw that "lavish musical" crap. If they insist on embarking on this madness, I say they should go all the way and make it a hip-hop/rap musical! Lord of the Bling-Bling, baby! "Who's the man? Saru-man!" It'd be the shizzle, drizzle.
I don't know why this came to mind. Sometime in the mid-1980s, I was watching some lame sitcom; all I remember about it is it involved a single woman and her snooty butler(?) and that it was cancelled after a small handful of shows (which makes its persistence in my memory banks even more remarkable). At the end of one episode, the butler offered the woman some advice (paraphrasing somewhat here):

Butler: A wise man once said, "Never trust a man who has three names".
Woman: Who said that?
Butler: Sugar Ray Leonard.


I realize that quote has been around for a while. I'm not motivated enough right now to track down who originally said it (if you'd like to enlighten me, comment away). I thought it was a good joke when I was a kid, and I still think it's a good one. Looking back, this joke may have been my first real exposure to ironic humor, and so helped shape my funny bone into what it is today.
Back to sports for a bit, and the bestest sport of them all: Hockey! It occurred to me early this morning that, at the start of the playoffs, I pointed out how researchers at the University of New Brunswick came out with a study that confirmed what had been apparent for the last few years: That the highly-touted home-ice advantage going into the playoffs was no advantage at all. How did these findings hold up during this year's postseason?

Lower-seeded teams did very well for themselves. Without working out the numbers (they're readily available elsewhere), obviously the Ducks showed their disdain for home-ice, making it all the way to the Finals as the lower seed and, therefore, the starting road team each series. Of course, the Quackers took out three of their four Western series in sweeps, so you could argue that they never allowed the long-term effects of home-ice advantage to kick in. On the other side, the Devils did prevail in the Eastern Conference Finals against the higher-seeded Senators, capped by winning Game 7 in Ottawa. So for the bulk of the playoffs, the boys at New Brunswick were proven out right.

Then came the Cup Finals, where that theory was blown apart front-and-center. Like a script, every game in the series was won by the home team, and won in pretty convincing fashion (there were a couple of close contests, but in all cases the home teams played noticably better). The home teams were so much better in those games that, by Game 7, I had little doubt that New Jersey was going to win it (although I was hoping for an Anaheim upset).

Not only did the Finals series reinforce the primacy of home-ice, the Devils themselves showed how much it mattered in their run. Not only did they go a record-breaking 12-1 at home, they also became the first team since the 1974 Flyers to win a Cup with a losing road record (4-7). So I guess that, when it comes to championship crunch time, home-ice really does count for something after all.