The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

DARWIN AWARDS FODDER
Since there was no loss of life, as required by the rules, I guess the Darwins don't really apply here. But the spirit of those awards that celebrate human stupidity came to my mind when I read that a state politico in Arkansas lost his job as a result of an objectionable email he forwarded to his employees.

How stupid-slash-ignorant do you have to be, in the year 2003, to not be aware of general workplace common sense on stuff like this? Is the impulse to be funny so overwhelming that you shut down your brain? Does someone like this reach such a comfort level at work that he forgets he is at work? I dunno. Maybe it's a generational thing: Some of these older coots are still mesmerized by email, so they show off their "forward-all" skills every chance they get.

I am ignoring the subject of the "Illegal Poem" itself. The usual dumb assumptions have been used in it, and the usual suspects have been outraged over it; I feel no need to comment on the same-old same-old there. That someone would actually cook his own goose by forwarding it indiscriminately is what I find more noteworthy.
BRING ON THE CARTS
On the way into work this morning, I saw an abandoned shopping cart on the sidewalk downtown. That's a rare sight; I'm not sure I've ever seen one in the middle of downtown St. Pete before. Other parts of town, near grocery strores and strip malls, sure. But nowhere near my office building.

Then it occurred to me: There are brand-new Publix and Eckerd stores being built in the heart of downtown, set to open by the end of the year. Both those stores will have shopping carts galore. With all the elderly and disadvantaged residents in the area, it's a sure bet that we're going to see shopping carts scattered all over the place. It'll be an eyesore and a pain in the ass.
DA COACH, DA PILL
roar?
It's come to this: Iron Mike Ditka will be pitching impotence drug Levitra to the NFL viewing public this fall.

Oh, I just cannot wait to get my fill of Coach Ditka yammering about his limp wang on NFL Sunday afternoons! Kill me now.

On a serious (sorta) note: Does it occur to anyone else that some of these sports are going a little too overboard on the old-man target audience advertising? In the case of Viagra and other tool-booster remedies, the NFL now joins Major League Baseball and NASCAR in including erectile dysfunction to their advertising stable.

You go where your stronger demographics are, and where the ad dollars originate, naturally. Still, in my mind, I think all three sports run the risk of identifying themselves too much as programming exclusively tailored for an older generation. If I'm a kid watching an NFL game, the constant stream of commercials for medications, lawnmowers, etc. tells me that I'm in the minority of viewers, i.e. those who aren't 35 and above. Short-term, it's no problem; longer term, the risk is a dwindling next-generation fanbase, who decide early on that other sports, including X-Games, are more their speed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

BYE BYE BUG
hitler's insect
The end of an era today as the very last Volkswagen Bug rolled off the production line in Mexico. Yes, Mexico, as opposed to the logical Germany (although in this age of globalized economy, there's no real logic as to where a particular make of car is actually manufactured; still, a car as distinctively German as this one...).

This is the original clunker Bug that's passing away, as opposed to the new-style Beetle.

I had always heard that the Bug was still being produced in Latin America, Brazil specifically. I guess all things must come to an end eventually.

Personal memories of da Bug: I'm a bit too young to have experienced these cars in their 70s heyday in America. However, the first movie I can remember seeing in a movie theater was a re-release of Disney's The Love Bug, starring Herbie, that sentient little bug-ger. Later in life, in my freshman year of college, I actually drove one for the first and only time on a group outing to Ybor City (my first one ever, back before it got hot). Finally, I remember, that same year, passing by some junkyard in Tampa that was filled for yards after yards of nothing but Bugs; it was quite the awe-inspiring sight!
DEAD MAN WRITING
dead dead dead
I'm sure you've caught wind of the death of Bob Hope earlier this week. The New York Times decided to commemorate this death by using an obituary written by Vincent Canby--who has been dead himself since 2000.

"He wrote the piece a few years ago," said [Times interim executive editor Joe] Lelyveld, "and not much has happened in Bob Hope's life since."


Hey, it's hard to argue with that. Fact is, if it hadn't been for the hoopla surrounding Hope's 100th birthday a couple of months ago, Hope's death would have been the first time he'd made news in ages.

A big part of this is the New York Post taking a swipe at its cross-town rival while it's still reeling from the Jayson Blair fallout. But undoubtedly, the Times did itself no favors by running Canby's piece, even with the ahead-of-time disclosure of his two-year-old passing. (Jeez, I'd love to be getting bylines posthumously!)

In all seriousness, the Times really didn't need this. Despite the common practice of preparing celebrity obits way ahead of the actual demise (remember the CNN.com snafu back in April, when they posted ready-set obits of Ronald Reagan, the Pope and even Bob Hope?), the simple story that will remain in people's minds will be that they allowed a piece by a dead writer get published. Plus, the presumption will be that it was a goof-up.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

LARA CROFT SINKS HER MOVIE
Cross-media convergence is fascinating to watch. Especially when it's videogames and movies in action. Videogames are starting to look like an eventual successor to the motion picture, if the theories about a greater desire for interactivity among audience members can be believed.

It's with this in mind that I considered the news that Paramount Pictures is blaming the weak opening of Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life on the poor reception of the latest Tomb Raider videogame sequel.

What a switch! In the 1980s and 90s, a movie might have a videogame as a merchandising spinoff, and if the movie tanked, the game would probably go down as a result. Now, it's reversed, improbably so.
DSL DANGLES THE GAMING CARROT
Looks like Yahoo and SBC are really trying to push their co-branded DSL service. To entice new signups, they're offering free access to Yahoo Games on Demand Unlimited for a month.

Sign me up! Actually, this is good, unique thinking. DSL lags well behind cable for broadband access in the U.S., so it's got to offer a combination of price breaks and content incentives. Why is cable so far ahead? I think it's done a better job of impressing upon people that it really is faster than dialup, and distinctly different from dialup. DSL still uses a phoneline, so technically, it might not be distinct enough to convince people that it's as good as cable.

Monday, July 28, 2003

NAPSTER 2.0
nap attack
It's co-opt time as Roxio Inc. is rolling out the second coming of Napster. Roxio bought up the assets of the defunct Napster at auction for $5 million. I seem to recall that some online porn company was intending to buy them too; I wonder if they drove up the price?

I can't help but marvel at how the former scourge of the music industry is now going to serve as one of its legitimate sales channels. It's kind of like if Mao Tse-tung or Lenin suddenly were hired as sales directors for General Motors.

The mention that there's some lingering "nostalgia" for Napster seemed strange to me at first, but upon thinking about it, it makes some sense. Napster built up a good amount of brand identity while it was around; indeed, for tons of people, "Napster" became synonymous with downloading free music. By bringing it back as a pay-for service, it could attract former users who have been cool to other digital music sales. Not only that, but when those users see that Napster is no longer free, it could impart upon them that paying for music is the new way to play when getting music online. Services like Pressplay were born "dirty", in that they were pay-for to begin with, and that helped keep people away from them (that and the idiotic use restrictions they placed on their music files). But Napster's "bad boy" roots probably gives it the street cred it needs to be successful ultimately, even in it's legitimized reincarnation. (Keep in mind, I'm talking about the effect on those filesharing users who are not particularly tech-savvy, and don't follow the industry news; it's easy to forget, but those people are the market majority.)

Obviously, if Napster 2.0 is successful, that could make it more appealing for other filesharing services like Kazaa and Grokster to sell out before the noose closes on them. With the RIAA stepping up its efforts to stamp out filesharing, things could get untenable for those services in the near term, in two ways:

- The services themselves would be targeted by the industry with neverending legal challenges, which even if won, would be a big drain of time and money;

- As more users start to abandon the services (out of fear of litigation), the very thing that makes those services work would dwindle--i.e., a large number of computers with large numbers of files available for copying; if the number of Kazaa users logged on at any one time drops from millions to tens of thousands, or less, the library of songs available shrinks drastically.

Given this, it would make sense for their owners to bail out in the best possible scenario; that would be to sell to someone who would want to emulate the Napster 2.0 model by trading on a well-known brand that has millions (in the case of Kazaa) of users. Even if most of those users don't fall for the shift from free to pay, there'll still be a significant number of users that will, and it's better than starting from zero.
WHEN TELEMARKETERS ATTACK! (OR SUE)
leave me alone
One month after the National Do Not Call Registry opened with resounding success, the telemarketing industry is launching suits against the Federal government, attempting to abolish it.

You can't blame them for trying. And the thing is, they've got a point. Technically, there is no right to privacy, while the First Amendment enshrines the right to free speech. Whether or not commercial "speech", like advertising and marketing pitches, is covered by the First is a topic that's been deliberated in the courts for a long while now, and the argument on that isn't over. The Registry, in fact, is a step toward delegitimizing such speech.

Therefore, this action by the American Teleservices Association signifies the industry going on the offensive, before all hope is lost. From their perspective, why not? Think about it: What's their motivation to not call you? So that a business can earn the goodwill of a non-customer, that won't buy from them, and likely will continue to not to buy from them because they're not aware of what they have to offer? Given this, intruding on people and pissing them off is really a no-lose situation.
HIGH ON HUH? AND NADA
If you think every e-business consulting firm out there is full of nothing but snakeoil, then you should check out huh?

I'll bet their invaluable advice helped in the development of NaDa.
BLOGATHON 2003: THE DAY AFTER
zzzzzzzzz
Well, I made it. I read through most of the 53 (that's right, 53--five more than the proscribed one-per-half-hour; and I could have done a couple more) posts that went up on Saturday and Sunday, and I have to say, I think I performed pretty well. Not a whole boatload of typos, as I feared (there are a few, which I'll leave unaltered, warts and all). General and grammatical structure suffered a bit more, but what can you do under such constraints? Plus, I obviously wasn't going for any long, thought-out essays; given the format, I didn't even consider attempting them.

Anyway, it's back to normal here at the big 'I'. I will keep the "blogathon 2k3" subtitle and the button link up for the rest of today, as the opportunity to contribute is still available through tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9AM Eastern.

Given that, why don't you slide on over to my Blogathon contributor page and drop a little donation action for the American Library Association? You'll get a warm, fuzzy feeling. I guarantee.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

BLOGATHON 2003: FINISH LINE!
(blogathon 2003)
hit the hay
IT'S OVER! It's been an experience. I think I'll be able to expand on that better tomorrow.

As I expect this will be my final posting for this Sunday, I'll just wrap up by tossing out a few acknowledgements of thanks to various people and things:

- My sponsors
- Microsoft (for the Xbox, the OS, and all that)
- WMNF's Our House show (which helped immensely in getting me through the imperceptible pivot)
- Brighthouse Networks, for the cable television entertainment
- My ISP, for not giving me the connection problems that I experienced the previous two weekends
- Sega Sports, for NHL2K3
- Apple, for the iPod
- My aquarium fish, for providing me with some much-need non-electronic distraction at timely intervals
- Cat at Blogathon Central, for setting this all up in the first place

And now, to sleep...
EDUCATING WRITING
(blogathon 2003)
A few months back, I took note of the sorry state of writing skills among U.S. students. At the root of the problem is an educational system that just isn't equipped to solve the problem. In order to up the quality of writing, which in turn spurs the development of critical thinking and competent decision-making, teachers have to dedicate more time to the subject, and supplement it heavily with lots of reading assignments.

More recently, the latest test scores from all grade levels in public schools showed some improvement, but still a lot to be desired. Most appalling to me, as it was last time, was the sorry state of writing skill for high school seniors. Those students that are about to head off to college or the workforce can barely write a coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph. Their communicative ineptness threatens to cripple us all. I wish there was an easy solution.

Since a lot about blogging has to do with writing, I thought this, my last topic-dedicated post, should touch on the basis of blog activity (I realize this doesn't apply equally to all blogs, especially photoblogs and the like). The enduro contest that writing at 30-minute intervals for 24 hours especially, I think, can go a long way toward exercising your writing skills. I hope those participating in this revealed to each blogger how they size up in the writing category.
BLOGATHON 2003: FINAL HOUR
(blogathon 2003)
down to minutes
And down the stretch they come! It's been a wacky ride. I'm definitely feeling the fatigue; I'm thinking it won't take more than a couple of minutes after my head hits the pillow to fall into a dead sleep, and stay in that state for several hours.

I've noticed a sharp decrease in visits to the site, starting after midnight. Even I stopped cruising to other Blogathon sites around that time. I guess the gruelling effort started to take it's toll that way.

Only two more posts, and I'm done!
EARLY RADIO INNOVATIONS... OF THE FUTURE!
(blogathon 2003)
Media and information services companies have been going ga-ga over the money-making possibilities the Web has opened for them. All sorts of content delivery--from specialized financial news to music downloads to movies on demand--are either currently being offered or are on the drawing board. Also, direct marketing also has several new approaches, promising more targeted audience penetration, thanks to the supporting role of the Internet.

It may surprise the execs at these companies to learn that a lot of the stuff they're trying to push tody was attempted, and even successfully implemented, a century ago via that era's new-age invention, the telephone. The ideas have been around for over a hundred years; it's just the packaging that's different.

United States Early Radio History is a fun site to explore, especially if you like reading about technological history. The site's title is misleading, as it covers other countries aside from the U.S.

All during the dot-com boom, when the Net was being touted as a wholly unique medium capable of things that nothing else before or since could hope to emulate, I kept a skeptical attitude. My basic question to every whiz-bang claim being made was, "What sort of vital information does the Net have that can't be obtained with a phone call?" Especially during the mid and late 90s, this question had a lot of validity. To an extent, it still does.
TO COMBAT SPAM, THINK OF THE CHILDREN
(blogathon 2003)
We all hate spam. It's hit me how much I actually get when, in the course of this Blogathoning, I would get called over to my computer at least once an hour to respond to an incoming mail message that, more often than not, ended up being spam. I figure I got anywhere between 25 and 30 spams during this 20-hour period.

There are all kinds of proposed solutions. I think it's going to take some drastic, egregious event on the part of spammers to get a solution instituted. In what area of most people's lives does any pertinent action bring on a quick and fevered response? That's right, anything perceived to be harmful to the children.

So reports that 80% of young children regularly receive inappropriate, even pornographic, spam has got to raise somebody's dander. That in turn will raise the dander of elected officials, who will be obliged to take action. (That dander is some powerful stuff.)

Simply put, if spam starts to be perceived as something that comes into harmful contact with the kiddies, that might be the needed additional spark necessary to really start cracking down on the huge volume that gets sent out. It's a simple-minded rationale, but for once, the "won't-somebody-think-of-the-children" routine could have a truly positive effect for us all.
GREAT MOMENTS IN GAMING HISTORY
(blogathon 2003)
game on
Videogames are a billion-dollar industry, and are poised to compete with Hollywood's offerings in a serious way. How did it get to this stage? Obviously, someone somewhere was doing something right. Something smart, you might say.

A lot of these case studies really took me back. Among my favorites are the rise of Sega in the late 80s and the birth of arcade-quality games for the home console.

And, because for every yin there is a yang, other people (sometimes those same smart people) were doing some pretty dumb things in gaming, too.
HOUSE TO GOSPEL
(blogathon 2003)
Our House ended a few minutes after 6AM. Gospel Classic Hour came on right afterward.

There's something very odd about hearing high-tempo dance tracks with lyrics saying "Rock your body/Move your body" one second, and the next hearing a church congregation harmonizing about Jesus.

Then again, that typifies the weekly transition from Saturday to Sunday; sin to penance. Or something. I dunno, I'm running on no sleep here.

I hear the first bird of the morning, chirping his head off. Sun should be coming soon; in about thirty minutes, according to the appropriate information sources.
ESPN.COM PIONEERING NEW WEB STANDARDS
(blogathon 2003)
From the start of their online presence, ESPN has had nothing but success on the Web. Sports has a built-in audience of highly devoted, stats-crazy devotees who crave what online content can deliver.

That being the case, ESPN has a large vested interest in making sure its online properties are on the bleeding edge, development-wise. The replacement of fundamental Web design components like tables is just the first step in engineering their sites for the latest and greatest online content delivery.

This interview with ESPN.com Associate Art Director Mike Davidson sheds a lot of light on the online thinking approach up in Bristol.
NEW BLOOD AT SEVENTEEN
(blogathon 2003)
revive or die?
The other shoe has finally dropped at teen mag Seventeen. Three months almost to the day after they bought the title, Hearst is doing a clean sweep of the editorial staff and installing Atoosa Rubenstein as the new head of the magazine. Rubenstein is only 31 years old, and already has an impressive notch in her belt over her successful launch and guidance of CosmoGIRL!.

While this is being interpreted as a move to jumpstart Seventeen, I think it's more likely the start of about a year or two of market experimentation, using the long-established mag as a testing ground. That's the best use they can get out of Seventeen right now, without damaging their other publications. After this, they'll likely shut the mag down and merge subscriber lists.
REVISITING A DANGEROUS MIND
(blogathon 2003)
chuckee baby
I notice recently that Confessions of A Dangerous Mind, Chuck Barris' "unauthorized autobiography", will be re-released to theaters in the next week or two. I guess the thinking is that it will break through the clutter of summer blockbusters and perform better than it did during the post-Christmas season. With recognizable big-time stars in the cast, maybe it'll work. Then again, those stars didn't boost it the first time.

I caught it in the theater the first time around. I'd go see it again, easily. Especially considering the dearth of worthwhile stuff that's come out so far this summer.
LATELY DISCOVERED FAMILY ORIGINS
(blogathon 2003)
Being in my family can drive you crazy. If you grew up in a culture that places a premium on extended family members, you know how you can't make a move without hearing from twelve different people afterward; and the kicker is, you'll hear pretty much the same thing from all of them.

In a unit like that, you tend to treasure the secrets you can keep. I know I did. And that extends up and down the family tree, from youngest to oldest. Often, those secrets are pretty inconsequential, and are the result more of omission than outright lying. Still, they stay hidden for so long, that when they're discovered, it can come as a shock.

Case in point: While chatting with my mother about nothing much a couple of weeks back, she casually mentions that her father, my grandfather, did not arrive in the United States from Greece. Since he was Greek, and was born in Greece, I naturally was puzzled. Where did he come from, then?

Turns out, he came over here from Egypt. He left home when he was 13 to hook up with some connections in Cairo and Alexandria to work there. He was there for about 5 or 6 years before he got on the boat (this was back in the 1920s) and ended up in New York.

Like I said, not terribly earth-shattering. But still something of a jolt to learn this at this stage of the game. It's typical of the kind of stuff that goes on in the insane asylum I call a family.

By the way, I tried to find my grandfather's immigration information through the Ellis Island database. Knowing his country of origin was Egypt instead of Greece helped. Still, no dice. I guess the database isn't 100% complete yet (it may never be).
TELLING CANCER TO JERK OFF
(blogathon 2003)
I know several Blogathoners are dedicating their efforts toward various cancer charities. While it's great that they're depriving themselves of sleep in exchange for helping find a cure, it's possible that, for some forms of cancer, the solution is literally in the palms of their hands.
BARNEY MILLER AND A COP'S LIFE
(blogathon 2003)
I'm watching Barney Miller, which is shown only in the dead of night on TV Land. It's an episode from later in the series run, but still an okay one.

I've always liked this show, even when it got ridiculous over the last couple of seasons. Good interaction among the main characters, and an entertaining rogues gallery of perps. Also a good mirror of the late 70s and early 80s.

Only a couple of years ago, someone did a survey that asked cops around the country to name the one police TV show that was truest to the real police officer experience. Instead of the dramas NYPD Blue, Law & Order or even Hill Street Blues coming out on top, as expected, it was Barney Miller that was most often cited as being most like a typical day in the life of a cop. The day-to-day filing and paperwork, ordinary pickups and general routine punctuated by crises captured life working in a police station. Pretty funny.
VERY VERY VERY FINE HOUSE
(blogathon 2003)
It's 3AM, pretty much the middle of the night for my purposes. I'm still coherent, I think, but starting to feel fatigue--although not in a linear fashion. I'm reminded of the "imperceptible pivot where two AM changes to six AM" from the opening lines of Jay McInerney's "Bright Lights, Big City". Then again, that pivot only occurs when you don't want it to...

In any case, I've got the groovin' house tunes of WMNF's Our House playing on the radio. It's less techno than I prefer, but I like what they're pumping out so far. It's giving me a detectable energy and helping me to plow on ahead.
SHRINKING PHONECALL CONTAINMENT
(blogathon 2003)
With the prolferation of cellphones, we've all encountered people who seemingly have no concept of personal space--that is, they think nothing of making and receiving calls, and carrying on noticably loud conversations, in full earshot of complete strangers. It become one of those minor annoyances in modern society.

I considered how this represents a visible progression over the decades in the reduction of personal space devoted to public phone calls. Consider: When the first public phones appeared around the turn of the last century, they were housed in these huge, all-wood phonebooths, where you could practically sequester yourself while you made your call. There was usually even a little bench where you could sit down while you talked.

These morphed gradually into phonebooths that were much more cramped--just enough room for a person to stand up in. Even more telling, they were made most of glass and/or clear plastic, so now the caller was clearly visible to people outside the booth. So a certain level of privacy was now taken away. And even though you could shut the doors on the booth, it was often possible to hear some parts of the conversation taking place.

After this, by the late 80s and into the 90s, these enclosed booth was eliminated altogether, in favor of a phone kiosk that consisted of nothing more than the phone itself and a little bit of an overhang. Now, there was pretty much no private space from which to carry on your conversation. Anyone walking by could pick up on your conversation.

From there, we get to the cellphone, where you literally have no enclosure space at all. You could even take it a step further with headpiece attachments, so that you don't even have to take your phone out to start and carry on a conversation.

What's the next step? Telepathy, maybe? That would certainly bring back the containment factor, to the ultimate degree.
WIRED TEENS, OR MILLENIALS
(blogathon 2003)
Fascinating stuff from a recent study, commissioned by Yahoo! and Carat North America, of media consumption patterns among today's youngsters: the average person aged 13-24 spends far more time on the Web than any other media, including television; and even when they do expose themselves to other media, it's usually as part of a multi-tasking effort between two or more different types, i.e. watching TV while cruising Internet chat rooms.

Some choice items from both articles:

Researchers found that young adults preferred the Web, mainly because they liked the control it gave them over their media experience. The study also found that, instead of being intimidated by a wide variety of media offerings, as older adults tend to be, today's young adults welcome the influx and are more likely to use multiple media sources at one time than any other generation.


Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo!'s chief sales officer, said too often marketers have not changed their media habits to match those of "Millenials" -- the name some have given folks in this age group.

"Marketers have been using the same media strategies since television became the primary medium for most market segments back in the 1950s," she said in a statement. "It's time to rethink."


In all, the study found the Millenials turn to the Internet for its limitless possibilities for entertainment, information and community -- and for the feeling of control it gives people. Focus group participants complained that TV was too structured.


On this last one, I wonder just how realistic the reality is, compared to the perception. The Web is just as "structured": Someone on AOL pretty much traverses the AOL-branded part s of the Internet; someone who relies on Yahoo! does the same. This applies even to general genre or lifestyle. It could be that using the mouse/keyboard gives a false appearance of more control than a TV remote.
CONGRESSIONAL FCC ROLLBACK
(blogathon 2003)
I can't believe I didn't get around to this earlier in the week, but the House of Representatives improbably voted to nullify a component of the FCC's recent media ownership rules reforms. The increased cap of network ownership of broadcasting stations from 35% to 45% was rolled back; despite efforts to reverse the cross-ownership rules concerning newspapers and television stations in the same metro market, that one remained in place.

While the 45% rule is viewed as the most crucial component of the FCC's changes, I have a feeling that, ultimately, the cross-ownership one will be the most impactful. It's almost like the 45% rule is being offered up as a sacrificial lamb--with even the threat of a Presidential veto in the background--to deflect attention from the other provisions.
PAPERCUT-LESS SOCIETY
(blogathon 2003)
Remember the paperless office, and by extension, the paperless society? Even though it's apparently becoming a part of our "old" future, you've gotta wonder: Would the coming of this epoch also bring about the papercut-less society?

Imagine a world free from the dreaded papercut... You know how much those suckers can sting!

(Thanks to Kirby for suggesting this.)
BLOGATHON 2003: CROSSING DAYS
long day's journey
Well, the Saturday portion of the Big Blogathon Enduro Challenge is completed. On to Sunday!

So far, so good. I'm definitely not as fresh as I was 15 hours ago, but I am awake and functioning. I had a feeling that I would have enough material to go the distance, and I've gotta say, I think I do. One of my biggest challenges has been resisting the urge to post more stuff. Have to space it out.

Let me give a shout out to the other Blogathoners checking here: How are you holding up, in terms of endurance and material to blog about? Are you holding up as well as you'd like?

Saturday, July 26, 2003

KRAKATOA AS AN HISTORICAL FAULTLINE
(blogathon 2003)
Who figures you can write a whole book about a volcanic eruption? It looks like Simon Winchester pulled it off with Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded. Based on a surprisingly wide-ranging review at CNN.com, I'm tempted to pick it up.

Winchester manages to present the famous eruption, taking place in 1883 in what's now Indonesia, on both a macro- and micro-cosmic scale. The motion set forth throughout the world as news of the event spread signified how much the West was advancing:

"The fact that people in Boston were reading about it the following morning, whereas in 1865 it had taken two weeks for news to reach London, was, to use a somewhat overworked phrase, a paradigm shift," he says. "The world changed around the 1880s, and Krakatoa was the event and the cables were the agency of this change, I think."


Meanwhile, the impact of the eruption would have a permanent effect on the region then controlled by the Netherlands:

In one chapter, "Rebellion of a Ruined People," Winchester describes how the aftermath of the eruption spawned a rising anti-Dutch sentiment, culminating in the slaughter of 24 colonial workers and their families on July 9, 1888, by "hajjis." "It was essentially the beginning of the end of Dutch rule," Winchester says, "and the beginning of the beginning of what is now the most populous Islamic state on earth, Indonesia."


It should be noted that for most of the 19th century, as Europeans carved up Asia and Africa, the Dutch East Indies were considered to be the "model colony", so called because the native peoples were kept largely free from outside influences that caused disruption in other colonial holdings. Krakatoa was an event of such magnitude that it helped bring about a sea change in attitudes in a colony that had been docile for a couple of centuries before this. Although I think "beginning of the end of Dutch rule" is stretching it a little (Indonesia didn't win indepence until after World War II), you can certainly look at that period as laying the roots for future development.

Like I said, it makes for a compelling read. I usually avoid historical tomes, because they tend to be dry, and the author tries to compensate for this by focusing on key characters, which usually backfires and makes the whole thing a difficult read. But I think focusing on a natural event, and how it made its mark on human society, avoids those pitfalls.
BALL HOCKEY
(blogathon 2003)
The combination of thinking about college buddies below, and just catching a segment of Jackass where they were knocking croquet balls into some guy's jockstrap-protected groin, brought back memories of ball hockey.

During my junior year, for about two or three weeks straight, a group of us in the dorms got bored to the point where we came up with a simple game. One guy would stand at one end of the hall, facing directly ahead. The other guy was at the other end, and had a hockey stick and a street hockey ball. The goal was to nail the unprotected guy with the ball, with as much velocity as possible. First one to peg the other guy in the balls would win.

Talk about entertainment! I got a few welts on my legs, but fortunately, never got hit in the scrotum. I don't remember if anyone did; our shots weren't of the highest accuracy.

But I'm proud(?) to say that we, unlike those wussies on Jackass, never resorted to the unmanly act of using a cup! So there.
THE CURSE OF THE OLDIES
(blogathon 2003)
This one is by special request from my college buddy Pete, up in Pennsylvania.

Pete is aghast that the early 80s music like U2, The Cure and The Clash, stuff he grew up on (as did I, to an extent; I never really "got into" music to the extent my peers did, and still don't to this day), is now slowly but surely joining the ranks of the oldies. It really hit him when he recently saw a billboard for some radio station up there that featured a picture of Bono from U2, and promoted it as Classic Rock.

"Since when is U2 Classic Rock?!?!?!" he wrote me. "CCR, Cream, Stones, etc. can all be Classic Rock, but not U2! That's our music - damn it! Who decides what's classic?"


"They" do, Petey--whoever they are. It was bound to happen at some point. I'm not going to worry too much about it until the day Britney Spears turns up in the Classic Rock bin.

But I'll go you one better with my own, similar experience in this pop culture zone:

There was a radio station here in the Tampa Bay area a couple of years back that was heavily promoting its new format (I think they changed formats since then--I wouldn't know for sure, as I gave up listening to commercial radio years ago). It's name was Jammin' Oldies FM. It used catchphrases in its marketing like "Get your morning JO", etc.

Guess what musical era they were tagging as the "Oldies" in "Jammin' Oldies"? That's right: 80s music! I was disgusted, even though I realized that it had to happen at some point.

But you know what? If you're going to do that, don't try to soften the blow in such a craven way. To wit: You can use "Jammin'", you can use "Groovin'", you can use "Wild" even; but no matter what "exciting" adjective you stick in front of it, it doesn't hide the fact that you're now tagging the music from my childhood and adolescence as OLDIES! Christ!!
RERUN'S FALSE CATCHPHRASE
(blogathon 2003)
hey hey no
This has been bothering me for a little while. Fred "Rerun" Berry has been onscreen a lot lately in promos for E! Star Dates. During his screentime, he's been using the phrase "Hey hey-hey!", like it was his own personal catchphrase.

Does he think we, the What's Happening!! faithful, have forgotten that "hey hey-hey" was NOT Rerun's catchphrase? That is was, in fact, Dwayne's? I don't think so!

What's the deal? I mean, this is the equivalent of Michael from Good Times swiping J.J.'s "DY-NO-MITE!!" line! (Actually, I think I heard that Jimmie Walker copyrighted that phrase, so he owns it now... strange but true.)
"TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW, BUTT-HEAD"
(blogathon 2003)
huhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh
I'm sure I'll be accused of starting to crack under the 24-hour strain, but I don't care. I present for you now my favorite comedy routine from the dearly-departed Beavis & Butt-head:

(The boys are sitting in front of the TV, watching some music video.)
Butt-head: Boy, this video really sucks.
Beavis: Um, yeah; I know that, Butt-head. Tell me something I don't know.
Butt-head: Uhhhh... Okay. You know when you went to the bathroom before? While you were there, I hocked a big loogie right into your Coke. And then, when you came back, you drank it! Huhuhuhuhuhuhuhuh, huhuhuh...
Beavis: Um... uh... No I didn't.
Butt-head: (still laughing) Yes you did... Huhuhuhuh...
Beavis: (unconvincingly) I, um, spit it out when you weren't looking.
Butt-head: No you didn't, I saw you, and you drank it. HUHUHUHUHUHUHUHUH!
Beavis: Shut up, Butt-head!! I took a dump once on a cracker you were eating! Hehehehehe...
Butt-head: Huhuhuh... Yeah, I remember that. But I didn't eat it.
Beavis: Hehehe, yeah, but you, hehehehehe, you ate the cracker... HEHEHEhehehe
Butt-head: Yeah? I took the turd off, and then I ate the cracker.
Beavis: HEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE!
Butt-head: So what?
Beavis: HEHEHEHEHEHE! So, hehehehehe....
Butt-head: So anyway, this video really does suck.
Beavis: Yeah, I know. Tell me something I d--um, uh, uh... Yeah, this video sucks.
Butt-head: Huhuhuhuh...
Beavis: Hehehehehehe...
(SUCCINCT) ODE TO KRISTIN DAVIS
(blogathon 2003)
you go, girl
GOD DAMN, Kristin Davis is hot. Just thought I'd share that.

If you want to check out her hot-uosity, you can tune into VH1 right now, where she's hosting some inane countdown pop-cultural countdown show.
BLOGATHON 2003: HALFWAY!
(blogathon 2003)
half on, half off
Well, it's 9PM, meaning I've been abloggin' for 12 hours. Now we head down the hill.

It hasn't been very grueling so far, really. I mean, I would have liked to have gone out and about a bit today, especially when it was so nice outside earlier. But I'm hacking it. And I really haven't struggled much to find stuff to write about. Not much has been deeply substantial, but I think I've delivered enough good pop-culture bites to interest the average browser.

The challenge now, of course, is to stave off sleep. I figure I'll be okay at least until 2 or 3AM; after that, we'll see.
WEATHER ALERTS AND LONG NECKS
(blogathon 2003)
Well, the stormy weather has largely passed. That's life in my part of Florida--the vicious lightning storms roll in quickly, then roll out just as quickly. It was pretty bad for the 30-45 minutes it lasted, though. It felt like the lightning was right on top of us here; a couple of bolts shook the whole building, so I know they had to be damn close. In fact, the power did go off for about a second. Luckily, I had restored battery power on my notebook before the heavy stuff started moving in. No disruption!

Even now, I can hear really distant thunderclaps. Sure hope there are no giraffes out there.
THE END OF FILE-SWAPPING
(blogathon 2003)
Although lots of techies are in deep denial about this, it's pretty clear to me that the recent legal actions taken by the RIAA, consisting of subpoenas served to select users, pretty much will stick a fork in the era of free, downloadable music.

The argument that the music industry can't sue the millions of people who use Kazaa, Grokster and the like, and therefore can't totally stamp out the filesharing movement, misses the purpose of legal action like this. The aim is not to take millions of people to court; the aim is to target enough of them, stick them with such onerous financial penalties (thousands of dollars worth), and publicize it extensively enough, that it gives the majority of other users pause enough to stop using the programs. Naturally, once enough people stop participating, the filesharing networks will be less usable, because there'll be a lot less content on them; plus, when the active users dwindle to a relative few, it'll be that much easier to target each of them individually. It's like nailing people for speeding on the highway: The cops know they're never going to get everyone, but by nabbing a few, that deters the majority from doing it (at least to an excessive extent).

One way to put the fear into the Joe/Jane Average who don't realize they're doing anything illegal is to show off a sampling list of Kazaa user names that have been sent subpoenas. Of course, they can do this with Grokster, BearShare and all the other public fileswapping programs out there. Obviously, stripping the illusion of anonymity when using these programs is the key step in putting a stop to this.

The underlying justification to fileswapping is a very basic credo: It's possible and easy to do, so why not do it? Driving home the point that just because it's doable doesn't make it right, and consequence-free, is another thing that the music industry has only started to get across successfully. You could compare it to hacking: That's relatively easy to do and very possible once you're online; nobody's arguing that that's legal or right.

So anyway, I'm just looking forward to Apple's iTunes Music Store being available for Windows soon. I can afford to blow 99 cents for a song.
BUGS BUNNY SUPERSTAR
(blogathon 2003)
I'm watching Bugs Bunny Superstar, a documentary about the Warner Bros. animation studio during the 30s and 40s, when the animators there created and developed their most famous characters: Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Tweety, Foghorn, Sylvester, etc. The film includes a bunch of full-length cartoon shorts. I'm glad to say that I recognize all of them, having been weaned on them through my entire childhood.

I think everyone who grew up watching TV from the 50s through the 80s have fond memories of the Looney Toons cartoons that were aired repeatedly on weekday afternoon. I'm amazed at how clearly I remember a lot of them; when I see any today, it takes me only a few seconds to remind myself of that particular storyline.

I don't think it's necessary to justify the enjoyment of these cartoons for their own plain comedic value; nothing like gratutious slapstick violence in the form of a cat smacking a mallet over a bulldog's head!

Still, in addition to that, these cartoons were the first source from which I can consciously remember being exposed to classic musicical pieces. I know I'm not alone when I say that whenever I heard Wagner's Flight of the Valkeries, I'm reminded of Elmer Fudd singing "kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit!" in time.
WHAT IS A MONDEGREEN?
(blogathon 2003)
Yes, I know you were wondering all this time.

monĀ·deĀ·green - n. A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric. For example, I led the pigeons to the flag for I pledge allegiance to the flag.


It's an obscure word, but considering how often you, or people you know, screw up song lyrics, it should be in wider use. The thing is, etymologically, it's not a word that has particularly good flow. I think a substitute word should be devised for us hoi polloi.

Dr. Ink, while not being swift on identifying the word, does offer some amusing musical and non-musical examples. In addition to revealing the mystery, feedback comments include more examples.

Now, 'scuse me while I kiss this guy--er, kiss the sky.
BOOK BIZ BLUES
(blogathon 2003)
Publishing is a tough game these days, whether your in the skin trade or not. The book trade is crying about their troubles, despite lot of high-profile success stories.

Book publishing is a field I've kicked around getting into. I even lined up some freelance editing assignments a couple of years ago, but had to give them up. Freelancing might be a more viable option these days, considering the publishing houses are laying off staff.

In today's synergistic media landscape, books still play a key role. Within the context of other media, books serve as source material (the bestseller that gets made into a movie) and corollary product (the post-movie novelization book). Even without those connections, books are a prime information/entertainment media; I'd like to think there'll always be a market for them, even if it's not on paper (e-books, audio books, etc.).

I guess the issue is, can publishers justify paying millions of dollars in advances for the latest hot-topic book? I'm always skeptical when ownership cries wolf over stuff like that; there are all sorts of post-publication revenue streams that you seldom hear about that, I suspect, more than cover advance payments.
NUTRITIONALLY SPEAKING... FOR CHRISTIANS?
(blogathon 2003)
I just flipped through some channels, and came across a promo spot for Nutritionally Speaking, some kind of holistic nutrition show. I was surprised to see it was on the Christian Television Network.

How does the usual televangelism match up with a cooking/food show? I realize that lots of dedicated-subject networks are now trying to broaden their base with different programming, but why would the donation-driven CTN do that? Are things that bad on the God front?

I was intrigued by the possibility that this was some kind of Christianized food show. Maybe the extent of the unique nutritional advice was an admonition to stay away from devil's food cake, devilled eggs and other hellishly-inspired foods? Proper nutrition for your eternal soul??

Unfortunately, I can't find anything like that online. In fact, the host of the show, Dr. Ward Bond, has even written a sexual aid book! I'd have thought that alone would have blackballed this guy from CTN.
DISCOVERED PLAYBOYS
(blogathon 2003)
Getting back to the subject of pornography... Actually, as I commented below, I think the word loses some of its meaning when you apply it to publications as different as Playboy and Penthouse. As far as I'm concerned, Playboy features lots of sex jokes, innuendo and lifestyle news, along with nude photos and art. What it doesn't have--at least, the last time I looked, which was years ago--is actual photos of sex acts. Penthouse and Hustler, among others, crossed that frontier long ago. To me, that's the key difference. Playboy and Maxim and Stuff are all pretty much on the same level, in my mind, with Playboy's content being a distinct notch higher.

In any case, I was moving some furniture last night, and uncovered a stash of about 30 issues of Playboy, circa 1996-98, left behind by an ex-roommate. I haven't had a chance to look through all of them, but I have skimmed a couple. The pictures aside (of course), the articles and interviews do make for some worthwhile reading. I'll have to absorb them for a while before I re-stash them.

Actually, I would get rid of them, but it seems like such a waste. Probably won't happen until I move out of here. I wonder if they're worth selling?
FULL REALIZATION OF SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATER
(blogathon 2003)
Look for this on NBC next season:

Short Attention Span? Try One-Minute Movies

NBC said Thursday that it plans to introduce a new feature called One-Minute Movies (or 1MM) beginning this fall that will run during commercial breaks. NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker described the concept at a news conference attended by members of the Television Critics Association. who are meeting for their annual summer tour in Los Angeles. He said that ten of the one-minute movies have already been shot. "NBC has always backed challenging storytelling and this compact concept will push the parameters of television in so many ways," Zucker said. The shorts are being produced by John Wells and directed by Paris Barclay.


Wild concept, huh? Actually, I'm sure these things will be nothing more than glorified commercials. Still might be worth a peek; then again, I never watch anything on NBC to begin with, and unless they pick up the NHL television contract for next year, that's not likely to change.

Still, the first thing that came to mind when I read this was the old, old Comedy Central flagship show Short Attention Span Theater. It's so old, in fact, that no one has commented on it at IMDB. Sheesh.
WEATHER ALERT
(blogathon 2003)
Dang it. I was hoping there wouldn't be any potentially adverse weather throughout this whole Blogathoning, but I knew that would be wishful thinking. I'm hearing the rolling thunder now, getting louder every couple of minutes.

I'm not too worried about a power outage, although that's always possible. My bigger concern is power surges. I've got a surge protector, but don't really trust it. Worse, I'm not sure I can rely on my battery backup, considering how it screwed up earlier today.

Have to play it by ear.
ROCKY VI: GAME OVER, ALREADY!
(blogathon 2003)
maybe he'll fight george foreman
I caught Sylvester Stallone making an appearance on a late-night talkshow a couple of days ago (it was either Letterman or Conan, I don't remember which right now). He was on to plug his current flick, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, in which he plays the villianous Toymaker; I heard the movie sucks, though Sly doesn't suck any worse than anyone else in it.

After he was done plugging, he did divulge that the dreaded Rocky VI was getting closer to reality. Rumored months ago to be in development, Stallone revealed that the script is done, and now they're moving forward.

God! It's got disaster written all over it.

I mean, if Stallone wants to remake his old stuff so badly, he should do it with Death Race 2000. I'd pay to go see that!
A SHORT STROLL, PART 2
(blogathon 2003)
Just had my second jailbreak of the day! Another little walk, this time to the mailbox. Hardly worth the effort there: Just a single junkmail catalogue, which went straight to the trash. It was nice to get a little fresh air and sunshine, though. Realllllly nice day out.

Got a call from my friend Tom a bit earlier. He and Amber were spending the day hunting for maternity wear, and other errands. But he made a pitstop at home long enough to check on my progress here, and to kick in a donation. Kick-ass!

Now, I'm making myself a very late lunch of pasta, because I just got hungry. I'm thinking I'll have to order a pizza later tonight for dinner.
PENTHOUSE OUT OF BUSINESS?
(blogathon 2003)
A visit to a fellow Blogathoner, One Man's Opinion, yielded the story of skin magazine publisher Penthouse being on the verge of shuttering its business.

Actually, I think the possibility of Penthouse closing up was first reported several months ago. I could have sworn I had blogged about it, but I can't find the post in my archives; I distinctly remember sending an email about it to some friends, though.

It's quite a shocker. Penthouse was always simply there, a dirtier version of Playboy, a pillar of pornography. It's hard to believe it could be going down due to gross mismanagement and the impact of Web-available porn.

If it really is the end--and if the publications have been pulled from circulation and the staff told to stay home, then I gotta believe it is--I'm betting someone will buy the assets and re-launch. Penthouse has brand recognition as solid as Playboy's, and that alone is worth tons. Maybe a company like Miami-based Score Group can use this as a way to expand quickly. (I know of Score through my research at work. Honest. ;) ).
COMPLEX PARTY
(blogathon 2003)
My apartment complex just got a new management company this month, so to kick off their presence, they threw a catered affair last night at the clubhouse. Pretty darn good food: Loads of sushi (I especially liked the salmon rolls), coldcuts, vegetables, shrimp, chocolate-covered strawberries, and champagne to top it all off.

I went mainly for the food. The place was far from packed, so I didn't get to see too many of my neighbors; mostly it was the older residents with nothing else to do. There were a couple of cute girls I hadn't seen before, and even a couple who weren't attached. Didn't get or exchange any phone numbers though; not really motivated enough. I think I spent about 25 minutes there total, up until they started the live music.
NHL 2K3-CHALLENGED
(blogathon 2003)
game on
Just played a game of NHL 2K3 on the Xbox. Got beat playing as the Lightning versus the Oilers, 1-0.

Looking back through my archives, I was surprised to find that I've had this game for seven months now. I haven't played it as much as I thought I would, because it's hard. This is nothing like the old Sega Genesis hockey games I used to play, where you could deke out the goalie and hold onto the puck no matter what. This game fucks you up at every turn. It's incredibly hard to score if you can't move the puck, and it's incredibly hard to move the puck without coughing it up to the other team. You'll probably never hear me say the word "FUCK!" as many times as you will while I'm getting my ass whipped by this game.

Well, 1-0 is not too bad; coughing up 53 shots is. Oh to be a student again, and actually have time to waste toward mastering a videogame.
BLOGGING FOR ANIMALS
(blogathon 2003)
chucklehead
In the one-good-turn-deserves-another category, I direct you to Jaynee at Animal Action, aka Cootie Hog. She's rustling up dollars for the critters.

She linked to my site extensively today, and even included a photo of my office pet, Phil the Betta. That inspired me to put up my own picture of the little creep.

A betta is a pretty ideal office pet. They're very low maintenance (but don't interpret that as "no maintenance"; still gotta change out about half the water once a week), tend to have tremendous attitude, and are nice to look at. I find a lot of humor in Phil's typical behavior: He swims up to the surface super-quick to check you out, then gets into fighting mode. When I stick my finger in the tank to give him a fight, he instantly wusses out and tries to get away (although I notice not too fast; I think he's made the whole thing into a game).

I'm sure the little Chucklehead gets lonely over the weekend. The only excitement he gets is when a security guard walks along ever couple of hours.
A SHORT STROLL
(blogathon 2003)
Just stepped outside for some fresh air. Also to go to the pool area to get a Cherry Coke out of the vending machine, grab a copy of the Weekly Planet (it largely sucks now, but it still works as an entertainment guide, and besides, I enjoy reading The Straight Dope and Ask the Advice Goddess out of it), and take a surreptitious glance poolside to see if any hot women are out there. Alas, no; just a couple of old ladies and a dumpy couple with their baby (baby was cute, if a bit pale; but had startingly ice-blue eyes). From the window, I saw some girls out there earlier, around noon; I guess they packed it in for the day.

I needed to feel the sun on my skin. I'm getting a bit too cooped up in here. I'll be stepping out again later this afternoon, to check the mail.
ALL-CONSUMING BOOKS
(blogathon 2003)
I ran across this a little while back: All Consuming is a site that aggregates mentions of books across the blogosphere. It looks like it's still a work in progress. I hope it gets refined, because it's a neat idea.

You can see the book references from this site right here. As far as I know, it's accurate, although I might have referenced more without linking them to Amazon,and so they wouldn't have gotten picked up by this. I'll be adding at least one more book reference during the course of this session.
RADAR STILL ON THE RADAR
(blogathon 2003)
There's no telling how much longer Radar Magazine will still be around. The need to scrounge up an extra $50 grand to meet payroll is not a great sign. Still, it's an interesting adventure in magazine publishing.

I'd like to get ahold of a copy while it's still publishing.
CHEECH & CHONG: TOGETHER AGAIN
(blogathon 2003)
Get out your bongs, America: Cheech & Chong are reuniting for another movie.

Despite all the news here of a continuing--and expanding, even--fanbase, I'm not sure I'm convinced that there's such a big audience for this revival. I don't sense as much nostalgia for Cheech & Chong as I do for other classic comedy acts like Monty Python or Kids in the Hall. But that could be because I was never very much into Cheech & Chong; I'm not sure I've ever watched any of their movies all the way through.

I'm surprised Cheech Marin would want to reprise his stoner role. He's been spending the last 20 years distancing himself from it, after all. But like he says, he figures it's been long enough to establish himself as versatile. Plus, getting a slice of the money is too good to pass up.

I see here that Tommy Chong is a native Canadian. Yet another Canadian entertainer that hit it big in the States!
THE GREATEST FOOTBALL MOVIE EVER MADE
(blogathon 2003)
Well, not really. Probably not even close. But I'm watching The Best of Times on Comedy Central, and I honestly can't think of another one that's more satisfying. Not Any Given Sunday, not North Dallas Forty.

Then again, it's hard to make a direct comparison, not the least because Best of Times is more a pure comedy than the other two. It has a definite cheesy quality. It's not a shining moment for Robin Williams, or any of the other actors. In fact, this flick was one of a string that Williams made in the post-Mork & Mindy glow of his career that went nowhere and threatened to make him a has-been.

Still, I've grown fond of this middling little movie. The whole small-town malaise getting lifted by a pointless re-play of a high school game is entertaining. I could watch this again and again.
UPDATED IPOD FIRMWARE
(blogathon 2003)
new, improved?
So, yesterday I found out that Apple finally came out the long-awaited iPod Software 1.3 Update. I had been looking forward to loading it up on my iPod.

I installed it yesterday, opting for a full restore that would erase all the song files off the iPod. I did so because there were several corrupted files on it that I couldn't get rid of otherwise. I also intended to volume-level all the tracks so that I wouldn't have to repeatedly adjust the volume during playback, but I didn't get around that this time. Maybe next week.

Anyway, the overall results:

PROS
- The restore did kill out the corrupted files, and more importantly, the disk space they took up. So now, I've got more room to load up my own mp3s!
- A nice feature is the ability to turn the unit's backlight on and off from the main menu. You used to have to dive through a bunch of submenus to do that.
- More auto-sleep options, so you don't completely drain the battery by leaving it on without the "hold" switch in the proper position.

CONS
- NO EXTRA GAMES! As you'll see from my earlier post on this, one of the main reason I was looking forward to this was to add a couple of games to the built-in Breakout. As I understood it, the Mac version of this update includes the extra games. Apparently, that's not the case for Winpods. Bummer!
- They really didn't improve the interface much; most of the enhancements had to do with battery performance and such. Things like the browsing capabilities, on-the-fly playlists, picking next tracks to play in advance, and other things could have been beefed up (but I guess omitting just impels people to buy a new, state-of-the-art 3rd generation iPod).
SONOFABITCH COMPUTER!
(blogathon 2003)
It absolutely figures! I've had no problems at all with this computer after untold months of 7-days-a-week use, then the one day that I really need it to perform without a hassle, it bombs on me. Unbelievable.

I'd love to blame the usual culprit, Windows, but it appears (from a very hasty diagnostic) that the real problem was with the battery. I removed it, and was able to start the machine up again no problem. That's good, but also bad, since I laid out a couple of hundred bucks for this damn replacement battery! Not happy.

Anyway, hopefully that'll be the only snafu for the remainder of this trip.
BLOGATHON MAP!
(blogathon 2003)
This is unique: Someone's cooked up an interactive location map of participating Blogathoners around the world. Check out all the Floridians!
VIRAL MARKETING AND TOKITOS
(blogathon 2003)
What a time to be in marketing! Things like guerilla marketing, viral marketing and Buzzmarketing make the whole thing seem like a bold, kick-ass adventure.

Buzzmarketing is a company that made its mark by cutting a deal to put advertising blurbs on the backs of Chinese restaurant fortune cookies. So now, not only do you get your life-altering fortune message, you also get a pitch to check out Monster.com for your life-altering career change. (What the hell, no more Lucky Lottery Numbers on the reverse side anymore? Now I'll never be a millionaire!)

The demographic who are opening the fortune cookies are a gold-plated one: 18-to-34-year-olds who are big consumers of movies, alcoholic beverages, wireless telecom and consumer electronics, [Mark Hughes, Buzzmarketing CEO] notes.

The word-of-mouth factor, Hughes said, is one of the most powerful methods of marketing "on the planet" if it can successfully be pulled off.


To follow up on this pioneering ad placement on ethnic foodstuffs, Buzzmarketing is now going to spread its word through the Tex-Mex circuit by matching messages with tokitos.

What are tokitos, you ask?

A Tokito can be described as a sweet and crunchy dessert cookie, with a hint of cinnamon. About three inches long, it is shaped like a small taco.

For Tex-Mex food aficionados, it should be noted that Tokitos are not to be confused with the similar sounding Taquitos, which are an appetizer, usually with a meat or seafood filling wrapped in a small tortilla.


Glad that's cleared up. Perhaps I'll encounter one of these little babies next time I go to Tijuana Flats.

I wonder, though: Is this a superior idea to that of Egg Ads Media and their ad-tattooed eggs?
WHEN MARRYING A GAY MAN DOESN'T WORK OUT
(blogathon 2003)
freak out!
Gee, no one ever saw this coming. Barely a year after getting hitched, Liza Minnelli and David Guest are separated and likely to divorce. How fragile is love.

It's too damn bad that proposed reality show on VH1 about the Minnelli-Guest union never came off. I mean, what better finale for a show like that than to have the couple split up? It'd have been ground-breaking, I tells ya.

Perhaps they found they were incompatible, fashion-wise:

The suit said Gest spent "well over 30 times" more than his wife on his wardrobe.


I'm just glad this news item came through today. It gave me a solid excuse to once again use that freaky-deaky wedding photo, above.
REALITY CHECK: CHEQUE DE LA REALIDAD
(blogathon 2003)
I'm sure that's not an accurate Spanish transliteration of the phrase "reality check", but it's as close as this gringo can get. So much for three years of Spanish Honor Society study in high school.

Anyway, for as much as I've said that the reality TV craze is winding down, it appears that the most successful variant of it might have some lasting power. The dating "reality" show, with all its Bachelors/Bachelorettes/Cupids etc. and the soap opera-ish trappings, looks like the most successful formula. I'm guessing it'll even outlast the original king of reality, Survivor.

How popular is this soap reality format? Enough so to inspire a Spanish-language entry from NBC's Telemundo, with the requisite Latino socio-cultural adjustments.

It's going to be called "La Cenicienta", Spanish for "Cinderella" (I wonder if that means the girl will be down-and-out, or homely? An underdog, at least?). They're really going to pump the telenovela (soap opera limited-run series) angle on this.
LET'S GET IT ON: OPENING POST!
(blogathon 2003)
it begins...
It's 9AM, so let's start the insanity, folks! I'm primed up for 24 hours of blogging like there's no tomorrow! Of course, I'm just woken up from a good seven and a half hours of snooze--about optimal for me. Well see how I fare into the 22nd, 23rd and 24th hours. What a long, strange trip it'll be.

First thing on tap: Tune into this week's rerun of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Their subject today will be The Phantom Planet; a decent episode.

Friday, July 25, 2003

BLOGATHON EVE
twas the night before
Well, tomorrow at 9AM, it all goes down: I start blogging every half-hour, on the half-hour (actually, I just have to post within each half-hour interval; it doesn't have to be exact, and I'm not going to constrict myself to that). I'll have to get some sound sleep tonight; I'm kind of tired, so it shouldn't be a problem.

I've got a couple of sponsors, which thrills me no end. If I didn't have any, I'd have felt pretty dumb doing this. Hopefully I'll pick up a few more in the course of the big bloggin' event, and immediately afterward.

I'm considering putting something on the site template to signify the event. It might be the above image, or something as simple as tagging on "Blogathon Edition" to the blog title on top. Also, I might include "BLOGATHON" to the title of each post tomorrow, strictly for future archiving purposes (don't have anything more advanced to rely on here; this ain't Movable Type!).

I've had to resist the urge to post my usual ramblings here today. Figure I should save them for tomorrow!
RSS AWAY!
The things you discover by checking an FAQ. I just perused the notes relating to the new Dano build of Blogger. Turns out that they've added built-in RSS feed support for use Blogger/BlogSpot lowlifes! But, the trick is, you've gotta insert the code into your template yourself. I suppose brand-new users will get it automatically.

I pasted it in. Maybe this will lead to a healthy boost in traffic here. I wonder if I still need to manually ping my updates to blo.gs and Weblogs.
THE CRITICAL AY, AY, AY AY
feel the burn
Just got back from lunch at Tijuana Flats. I normally don't go for Mexican food, but I was meeting some friends, including Amber, (Tom's wife) and she was craving Mexican food, so I went with the flow.

Tijuana Flats has a huge selection of hot sauces. Tom decided to sample some, and like a fool I did too. I tried only one, the hottest one he could find; don't remember the name of it, but it consisted of pretty much nothing but Scotch bonnet peppers. I put too much a dab on my steak quesadilla, and my mouth was on fire for a good 10 minutes straight. It's not the worse hot sauce pain I've ever experienced--far from it--but I wasn't really prepared for it, so it did a number on me.

Tijuana Flats is a funky joint. It's tres popular, being just north of downtown St. Pete; always packs in a big crowd for lunch. The decor also has a distinct hippy sensibility to it.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

WORDS AND PICTURES (AND REACTIONISM)
The news that the Secret Service is going after a political cartoonist over a thinking-man's Bush cartoon is enough to chill my blood. Even disavowal of the incident from the highest reaches doesn't make me feel better.

I could get into the insane environment that helped this come to pass. I could point out that the fault in these instances doesn't lie with the Secret Service, FBI and CIA, who are carrying out the functions they are rightly built for; but rather with their civilian overseers, who are obviously dropping the ball. I could point out that the fact that the cartoon was meant to show support for Bush shouldn't matter any more than if it was anti-Bush. I could expound on lots of related things.

Instead, I'm going to invoke the picture-worth-a-thousand-words clause. I present the well-known (although apparently, not well-known enough) photo from 1968 Vietnam that helped shape U.S. public opinion on that war, alongside the offending cartoon that used the photo as inspiration. You be da judge, if you dare.
reality
perception
ANTI-FAME
i'm gonna live forevah
The AP's Lynn Elber is fast becoming one of my favorite columnists. Her take on the convergence of instant entertainment, reality TV and pre-annointed fame is an entertaining read.

I especially like the concepts of PAC (Pre-Achievement Celebrity) and Unheroic Heroism (see: Kobe Bryant).

I don't think it's such a mystery as to why people like The Hilton Sisters are so famous for not doing much. They're rich, they're strikingly beautiful, they're always out at the choice hotspots--do they need any more reasons? That's nothing new. It could be that it just seems that way thanks to media convergence. Ten years ago, someone like Paris might never have gotten a TV spot, movie deal, modeling gig, etc.; but now, instead of being pigeonholed into just the debutante gossip newshole, she's working her notoriety for all its worth. Why not?

Actually, the famous-just-for-being-famous mystique applies a lot more appropriately to others, in my opinion. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, an alleged Hollywood "power couple", comes to mind first. What have either of these two done lately, other than garner tabloid fodder? Every flick that Pitt makes with him as the featured player ends up with a mediocre box office performance; her movie career is nowhere, and she's only one of six contributors to the Friends success (there I go trashing Friends again!).
BLOGATHON 2003 UPDATE
up up up
Good ol' Blogger seems to be having some hiccups tonight. Too damn bad, as I had quite a few things to post. Maybe I'll try again later tonight.

As far as the upcoming (this Saturday!) Blogathon: I'm happy to say that I've gotten a couple of sponsors! Jaynee at CootieHog took pity upon me, and kicked off the donations. One good turn deserves another, and so I donated to her thang. I'll even give her a plug here so you, too can give to her cause.

I'd give a plug to my friend Kirby's site as well, since he also opened up the wallet, but he is blog-less at present.

I'm expecting at least a couple more donors to come through. So, I guess I'll have to go the whole 24 hours now...

That's about it. I'll have to get some extra sleep the next couple of nights so I'll be refreshed for Saturday-Sunday. It'll be dope.
JOEY WITH NO FRIENDS
If you're still watching Friends in the year 2003, you need to be shot. It's really that simple. I mean, the show was barely bearable in the early years; for the past five years, it's been running on fumes. Suck City, I'm talkin'.

Still, the ratings indicate there must be enough idiots watching this crap to keep it on the air. And when they finally put that dog down after next season, those idiots can continue the self-mutilation with "Joey", the planned Matt LeBlanc spinoff that will arise from the ashes of cancellation.

Great idea, NBC. Take the least appealing, least developed character from the mothership show, and try to build something watchable around him. Played by an actor who to describe as "limited" in range is to pay a compliment. I'm pretty self-assured in saying that this turkey will be gone after one painful season.

Then again, it worked with Frasier. NBC is betting its balls that lightning will strike twice.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

BABY NAME NOMINATIONS!
My friend Tom and his wife Amber have just found out that they'll be having a little baby girl in around six months. The fun begins!

Tom tells me that they had a bunch of choice names in mind for a boy, but not for a girl. So he's asking, I think somewhat tongue-in-cheek, for suggestions for girl names. Talk about being careful over what you wish for...

Maybe he should do like Morty Fineman did in The Independent, and run a "Name My Baby!" contest. Of course, his baby boy ended up with the name "Rat Fuck", so it's a dicey proposition. That's democracy for you!

Back to reality. First thing that comes to my mind: Since "A" is for Amber, and "T" is for Tom, it makes a certain amount of sense to zero in on the letter in the English alphabet that's mid-way between those two; that would be the letter "J". Plenty of possibilities there: Jennifer (which I like, and is the name of Tommy's sister, which would make her happy), Jessica (another favorite of mine), Julia, Janet, Joanne, Jill... and so on.

So, I'll open it up to the blog-reading peanut gallery. Any suggestions, serious or otherwise, comment below, please.
MAPPING GRAVITY
Did you know that the Earth's gravitational pull is stronger on certain parts of the globe than others? This neat animated GIF map shows it.

If you're looking to lose weight without doing anything, it appears your best bet is to live in Indonesia, Tibet, central Turkey, or Idaho. Dim choices!
DITCHING "SOUTH FLORIDA"
geographically challenged
I live in the Tampa Bay area, which is located in west-central Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. It's a big metro area, so naturally it would be home a major state university. Moreover, you'd expect that university to have a name that was distinctive to the area.

So why is Tampa the home of the University of South Florida?

It's a misnomer that struck me as soon as I moved here, close to 15 years ago (wow!). If you're even a little familiar with the Sunshine State, you know that when you say "south Florida", you mean the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach megalopolis. Tampa Bay is a good 4-5 hours away by car. So it's not even close.

Nearly half a century after getting the name, the school is finally taking steps to remedy the situation by launching a campaign to emphasize its brand identity as "USF", simultaneously starting a slow phase-out for "South Florida".

It's an interesting approach. I'm not sure if they can pull it off. Off the top of my head, UTEP (University of Texas-El Paso, home of the "UTEP two-step" in college hoops) and TCU (Texas Christian University, home of... nothing in college hoops ;) ) are the only schools I can think of that have successfully, fully superseded their full names in favor of the initials (from a marketing standpoint). It's tough.

Not mentioned in the article is the potential wrinkle of USF's St. Pete campus breaking away and forming its own university. The name of that school would be, naturally, the University of St. Petersburg.

As for new names for USF, the possibilities are limited. The obvious choices, University of Central Florida and University of West Florida, are already taken (in Orlando and Pensacola, respectively). The quaint little University of Tampa already exists. Maybe Tampa Bay University, or TBU, would work.
A TALE OF TWO TINY AIRPORTS
Who would have thought St. Petersburg and Chicago would have anything in common? Howard Troxler tells us how the two burghs are handling issues surrounding their respective municipal airports: Albert Whitted in St. Pete, and Meigs Field in Chi-town.

I don't know anything about the pro-airport movement in Chicago, other than what I read in the above column (although I think I did read something else about it at some point, in passing). If it's anything like the "Save Albert Whitted" thing here in St. Pete, it's unfathomable. I cannot understand why there's such a fervor over keeping an antiquated, tiny airport running. There can't be that many small plane owners around!

I found the tidbit that Chicago had offered its Northerly Island, the home of Meigs Field, as a proposed site for the United Nations to be interesting. The UN in Chicago? What a wacky concept.
HELLO WACHOVIA CENTER (I GUESS)
This was something I was wondering about the past two years. As part of the remaining re-branding efforts following its 2001 merger, banking giant Wachovia will finally be changing the name on Philadelphia's First Union Center.

Lord knows why it took these guys over two freakin' years to finally shed the First Union name. I mean, they were so anxious to get rid of it after they bought Wachovia. In a move that will forever confuse people, First Union bought Wachovia and then adopted the acquired company's name. Naturally, on the surface, one would assume that it was Wachovia that bought First Union, since Wachovia is the name that survived the merger. But no, First Union was the buyer, and it decided to assume its prey's identity (I think the acknowledged reason, different from the spun official one, is that First Union became so infamous for its shoddy customer service throughout the 90s, that it was eager to take on a new, "cleaner" name). I'd have to say, though, that stop-and-start approach points to a case study on how not to re-brand.

In any case, after the deal went through, I'd always think about it whenever I watched a hockey game broadcast from Philly. Often, I'd wonder if ESPN and/or its announcers didn't simply mess up and use the old name, only to discover that the holdup was from the bank's end.
SPORTING NEWS, FOX SPORTS MERGE ONLINE
In an effort to become only one also-ran, instead of the current two, behind ESPN.com, SportingNews.com and FoxSports.com have agreed to combine their online operations. They'll stay separate in the offline world, naturally.

I see from from this related release that Sporting News' President and CEO is one Rick Allen. The magazine and related properties happen to be owned by Microsoft co-founder, and all-around rich guy, Paul Allen (through his Vulcan Ventures fund). Strictly speculating here, so take it for no more than that, but I'm wondering if Rick is related to Paul.

While this move should benefit both parties, I don't see it raising their profile to the level that ESPN now has. Let's face it, Bristol is the first thing you think of for general sports media. Sports Illustrated can't even match them online. I doubt this combined entity will either.

For Fox, this is the latest in a long line of cheap-o approaches to their online presence. Until recently, they've had their website co-hosted and co-branded with Lycos, at "foxsports.lycos.com" (it appears they've ditched that now for their own URL). Even more heinous, they recently fired their entire reporting staff and have taken to putting the opportunity to report on sporting events up for bid on eBay; so that rather than having to pay writers, Fox gets amateurs to pay for the privilege of covering an event! Unbelievable.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

SEEN ON THE WAY HOME TODAY
It's been a miserable month for smokers in Florida, as they've had to snuff their butts in public places.

It's been fun to hear them bitch. While in principle I'm not too high on any government regulation like this, in actual practice I'm not sorry to see less tobacco smoke wafting around. Far as I'm concerned, they can reintroduce public smoking the second they introduce no-exhale cigarettes.

In any case, for the short term, the bar business in the Sunshine State is taking a hit, as people can no longer light up while they down a few. On the way home from work today, I spied this message on a bar billboard, which I think sums up their feelings:

SMOKERS WELCOME
UNFORTUNATELY, CIGARETTES AREN'T
NET TV NETWORK TAKES OFF
Screw cable access, streaming video over the Web is the way to go. Outside the U.S., anyway. While streaming video is made available for 56K speeds, it's a pain in the butt when it's that slow.

Interesting point at the end of the article about the uneven deployment of broadband Internet in the States hampering the spread of this kind of programming. I'd like to see what's happening in this regard in, say, South Korea, where broadband penetration is something like 80 percent.

Monday, July 21, 2003

DEATH OF THE 18-49 DEMO?
Funny. Just a couple of days after noting the possibilities inherent in extended lifespans, a media study is released that suggests the long-prized 18 to 49 demographic audience is not as valuable as is assumed. Instead, a new sweet spot of 25 to 54 year-olds is said to be more lucrative, in potential and, based on what advertisers are already buying, in fact.

I believe I participated in this survey. It's hard to remember, as I get asked to participate in a lot of them, both at work and at home. But I believe I got an advanced confirmation of the study's completion yesterday, and an invitation at a sneak peek. I declined, since I was in the middle of something else.

Note that the study's results are being promoted by CBS, who's audience skews older than average; naturally, the Tiffany Network would love for this to be true. So there's the grain of salt.

Still, when you consider that the average lifespan is getting longer (even discounting that earlier report, people are living incrementally longer), it makes sense that the earning and spending power is moving up a few years. The 18-49 grouping has been around for, what, 30 years? I'd say it's time for a revision. It might as well be 25-54. In fact, lots of ratings analysts already use it alongside the 18-49 grouping; I've never understood why, other than because some media outlets' numbers look better using one or the other.

Plus, let's face it, we're all getting older. It's nice to know that I won't be lumped in with the senior-citizen set for an additional five years!