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Tuesday, November 30, 2004
|Study: Cigarettes Cost Society $40 a Pack:|
Cigarettes may cost smokers more then they believe. A study by a team of health economists finds the combined price paid by their families and society is about $40 per pack of cigarettes.That breaks down to about $33 coughed up by the smoker (pun intended), $5.44 by their families, and $1.44 by others. The research came from health economists from Duke University and a professor from the University of South Florida.
Of course, logical entreaties for people not to smoke seemed doomed to fail. Do smokers general make a decision to smoke? Does someone sit around one day and say, "You know, I think I'll start smoking!"?
It seems to me (a non-smoker who knows a lot of smokers or former smokers) that people start smoking to satisfy an unrelated need (e.g., to fit in with a social group), and therefore logic probably won't help dissuade them from starting. What has seemed to be effective is to create opposing social pressures.
It also seems to me that when you use a variation of the word "smoker" nearly a dozen times in two thin paragraphs, the word start to sound ridiculously funny.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
|Newspapers Should Really Worry:|
Young people just aren't interested in reading newspapers and print magazines. In fact, according to Washington City Paper, The Washington Post organized a series of six focus groups in September to determine why the paper was having so much trouble attracting younger readers. You see, daily circulation, which had been holding firm at 770,000 subscribers for the last few years, fell more than 6 percent to about 720,100 by June 2004, with the paper losing 4,000 paying subscribers every month.If it were the music industry, they'd sue those who were sharing their news for free on the internet--except in this case, it's themselves.
So there you have it--the 21st Century Media Conundrum in a nutshell. You need internet distribution or the competition will capture that audience and you have no future. But the internet's competitive environment creates savage downward pressure on prices (in the case of newspapers, free). Meanwhile, you will have to fight a never ending war against new technologies changing the lanscape beneath your feet, as RSS feeds are doing (of course, that's not entirely true--the war can end. With your demise).
It seems to me that one of the following is likely to happen:
|Oil Spill Threatens Del. River Wildlife:|
A tanker spilled 30,000 gallons of crude oil into the Delaware River between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, creating a 20-mile-long slick that killed dozens of birds and threatened other wildlife, federal officials said Saturday....Sheesh, I thought he'd at least get to serve out his Senate term.
Thursday, November 25, 2004
|Tonight I celebrate my 20th anniversary of being on the radio.
November 25th in 1984 was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I had just returned to Ithaca College from my New Jersey home after the holiday break, all geared up for my very first airshift. I was going to be filling in on the "Blues Progressions" overnight, which probably began at 2am (technically Monday morning). It might have been midnight--I forget. Memories over decades tend to stretch and bend like the Sunday comics pressed onto a blob of Silly Putty.
But it was definitely the Sunday-into-Monday overnight right after Thanksgiving 1984.
I was an eager freshman hoping to land a time-slot deejaying one of the non-specialty shifts playing what everyone just called "new music," our catch-all term for the '80s brand of college rock which would eventually morph into the modern rock of the '90s.
But I was no music snob--I was into radio as much as I was into the music. Perhaps even more so. I listened to radio drama on "The CBS Radio Mystery Theater" and a call-in talk show called, simply, "The Opinion Program" on Rochester's WHAM as early as age 9 or 10, and I didn't begin listening to rock radio until junior high (although, I must admit, before rock music I tuned in to "Dr. Demento").
So, while some of the other freshman would-be DJs were more interested in getting on the radio to play the music, I was more interested in getting on the radio to play the music.
Prospective DJs had to serve a brief period of apprenticeship to learn WICB's procedures and equipment--usually as a "phone slave," someone who would answer the remarkably busy request line and act as gofer for the DJ, an upperclassman who seemed impossibly cool and knowledgable. I was a phone slave for not one but several DJs, reflecting my eager nature.
One was Brian Corona, who was then WICB's Music Director. Brian was, to my freshman eyes, the apex of that Impossible Cool--he was energetic, fun, always dressed in up-to-the-minute fashion, and was notably well-versed in all of the "new music" that the station played. Instead of "Music Director," his title would better be described as the music's Chief Evangelist. He was indefatigable at promoting the new bands that emerged from the punk and New Wave explosion in the late '70s, always trying to steer the station away from playing classic rock or the mainstream rock that was then dominating rock radio--Journey, Loverboy, and .38 Special were bands he always mentioned as icons of the mainstream that WICB should steer clear of, in favor of bands like XTC, Ultravox, OMD, Heaven 17, and their fellow standard-bearers for a new way of envisioning pop music.
I also "phone-slaved" for Ray Ackley, a laid-back music devotee who was a fan--and borrowed the look--of Marshall Crenshaw. Ray had a manner of speaking, on the air and off, that was paced very deliberate and implied a thoughtful intensity. A simple gesture from Ray, like readjusting his Crenshawesque glasses or merely crossing his legs while seated, and he could transform himself from a central New York college student into a classic European intellectual.
Ray inadvertantly shared a very important lesson with me one evening. He had just finished playing Romeo Void's provocative "Never Say Never"--with its chorus
I might like you better if we slept togetherI answered the request line, and someone was offended by the song's implication of casual sex. Since I was just learning much of this brave new world of music--and had no experience in dealing with such complaints--I turned the call over to Ray, and he politely suggested that the caller had misinterpreted the song and that, before complaining, the listener should take a closer listen to such a song. It seemed like a polite brush-off, but damned if the same person didn't call back soon after and apologize. He said he had thought about the song lyrics further and "realized" that the chorus' "slept together" really meant platonic sleeping. The song had been, therefore, magically transformed in this listener's mind from a sleazy ode to lasciviousness into a courageous paean to abstinence. I'm not quite sure exactly what I learned from this incident--except maybe that people can take away from most music what they ultimately want to--but it made a powerful impression on me.
I also spent some time answering phones for John Webber, who hosted a punk rock specialty show called "Radio Waves." The show was a vestige of when WICB was primarily played mainstream rock and "Radio Wave" was the only outlet for that weird new wave and punk. Thanks to Brian's evangelism, though, the whole station played the new music and the mainstream rock was becoming--much to the chagrin of a dwindling old guard of DJs--the exception rather than the rule. So the "Radio Waves" show was making a transition to being more about the harder punk and its "hardcore" variant.
John was a natural on the radio--hip, infectiously passionate about the music he played, always at the ready to drop some hip or obscure pop culture reference, and endlessly charismatic. In fact, there were only perhaps two other people with whom I've worked in the subsequent 20 years for whom listeners responded with the same fervor.
He could even turn an on-air disaster into something fun and exciting. I saw him more than once open the microphone in a flurry of behind-the-scenes chaos only to realize he no record cued up to play. Other DJs faced with this situation would fumble for a tape cartridge and play a station promo or a public service announcement, and quickly throw a record on in the 60 seconds while the "cart" was running. Not John. He do something like calmly telling listeners that he was going to show them how DJs cue up vinyl records, and then proceeding to do it live on the air--narrating the process like a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary. I remember witnessing this lemons-into-lemonade process once, and no sooner did he close the mic and I congratulated him on his skills at gaffe-recovery when a listener actually called up to thank John for explaining how it all worked! (John would have made a good Tom Sawyer)
While all of the freshmen enjoyed being phone slaves for the Brians, Rays, and Johns of WICB, we all couldn't wait to get our own turns in the "Air Chair" and be piloting all that was cool and exciting and revolutionary among musical tastemakers in 1984 Ithaca, New York.
For there was a change in the air--or, at least, in the airwaves. The radio environment was changing and music itself was undergoing a slow sea change, and the the WICB radio studio was crisp with electricity as these waves broke onto shore. Rock radio on the FM dial had become bloated and stale as the Freeform FM days of the late '60s and early '70s had given way to consultant-guided "innovations" that limited DJ choice, narrowed radio libraries, and sought out bland, derivative recording artists. Meanwhile, the arrival of MTV in 1981 had provided a new avenue of discovering music. The channel broadcast a disproportionally high number of videos from artists who were largely being ignored--or given severe short shrift--by mainstream "Album Oriented Rock," or AOR, radio stations, as well as the even less hip pop stations. There was an awful lot of enthusiasm for these new artists (which actually began among the musical cognoscenti in the three or four years immediately prior to MTV's arrival on the scene), and it formed the nucleus for a new lifeform--one that would eventually grow up and become alternative rock.
To get on the air, a prospective DJ had to sign up for time in a production studio and record a demo tape of themselves simulating an hour on the radio. The Program Director would listen to these tapes and decide whether the would-be DJ was acceptable to go on the air or not. DJs whose tapes that didn't pass muster would be told to try again; sometimes it would take three or four tapes to do a good enough job to achieve the status of being "air-approved."
Being the eager radio enthusiast, I realized that there was a much shorter waiting list to get on the air in the handful of WICB's specialty shows. Most of the freshman want to play the new music, but there were also opportunities to play jazz, blues, reggae, and a few other musical niches. I figured blues would best suit my knowledge and abilities, so I made a blues demo tape in addition to my efforts to get air-approved for new music shifts.
I was air-approved for blues on my first try (even though it took about three passes for the new music approval). I think, in retrospect, that scheduling headaches worked in my favor--the station simply needed someone to cover the blues overnight in the wee hours of the Monday morning after the Thanksgiving break. "Kid, ya wanna stay up all night to play the blues your first day back from break? Well, ya got the gig!"
I have no firm recollection of what I played that night, but I ended up covering that blues overnight in multiple weeks and I distinctly remember playing Johnny Winter's "Lights Out" (from his then-new Guitar Slinger album) and a bunch of Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as discovering Taj Mahal, Rory Block (I think I recall playing her Rhinestones & Steel Strings album), Lightnin' Hopkins, and host of other great players.
So right now the song "The Things That I Used to Do" by Stevie Ray Vaughan is playing (despite the song not yet being released when I was at WICB) and I'm being thankful about what a great time I've had over the past 20 years. And what amazing, talented, and entertaining people I worked with over those two decades.
If you are one of the people who has been part of that, as colleague or listener, I thank you. And, even if you're not, thanks for reading this brief sketch of my early radio exploits.
And I am just as eager for another 20!
UPDATE: I put together a quickie montage of the past 20 years on the radio. Actually, it only represents 1986-1998 and it's by no means "The Best Of"--as a matter of fact, it's fairly run-of-the-mill stuff. Download it (about 900k) or stream it. And yes, I used a vocoder for the year transitions.
"And the DJ spins his records
See full lyrics here.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
|Oh, man, nothing pisses me off like business who try to eliminate contractually that "pesky" First Amendment...
Fine Print Has Homeowners Scared To Discuss Damage:
"It's there in black and white. The customer should read his or her contract thoroughly before they enter into it," said Patrick Roche, Mercedes Attorney.When I read that lawyer's quote, the phrase "smug motherfucker" comes to mind.
I know, I know--I apologize.
That phrase is way too tasteful and understated to describe such behavior. Later, I'll think of a stronger, more appropriate epithet.
I can understand gag orders in some court cases. I follow the logic of non-disclosure agreements when it comes to trade secrets. But eliminating basic freedoms by "gotcha" contracts, like the ability to call attention to shoddy work and poor business practices (if the shoe fits), is beyond the pale.
Would contractual clauses in which a customer signs away their protection from racial or religious discrimination be acceptable? Clearly not.
So why is it acceptable to contractually sign away First Amendment speech protections? It shouldn't be, and let's all hope the verdict in a class action lawsuit proclaims this. And maybe breaks this company's back in the process.
|China's supersized mall:|
It takes about two days to explore Beijing's new Golden Resources Shopping Mall - the world's largest. Minnesota's "Mall of America" is 4 million square feet. Golden Resources, built in an impressive 20 months and opened Oct. 24, is 6 million square feet.
|Since Plymouth, Thanksgiving Day has seen its share of controversy:|
Thanksgiving attracted controversy again in 1939 when President Franklin Roosevelt decided the official holiday should be held a week earlier. Merchants lobbied Roosevelt hard for the date change to give people an extra week of Christmas shopping. But the traditional date had been so ingrained in American culture that the move to a week earlier caused rancor among some citizens, who began calling the new date "Franksgiving." In 1941 Roosevelt flip-flopped, admitted he had made a mistake, and signed legislation that set the fourth Thursday of November as the official date.More:
The National Retail Dry Goods Association was delighted to get the date change they had lobbied for. The head of Gimbel Brothers Department Stores crowed, ". . .it is an American tradition to begin Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving." The president of Lord and Taylor's predicted that the extra holiday sales week would pump an additional one billion dollars into the economy.Great. Blue and Red holidays?
|I knew it! The lack of moral values and the destruction of our social fabric is all the fault of Bollywood Liberals!!
Bollywood accused over suicides:
A leading ethnic Indian politician in Malaysia has blamed Bollywood films for encouraging many in her community to commit suicide or turn to alcohol.If we can only get Shilpa Shetty and Bobby Deol and those other Bollywood stars to butt out of politics, everything would be hunky dory!
|As a Selective Luddite*, I thought I should warn you...
Exploding Cell Phones a Growing Problem:
Curtis Sathre said it was like a bomb going off. His 13-year-old son Michael stood stunned, ears ringing, hand gushing blood after his cell phone exploded. Safety officials have received 83 reports of cell phones exploding or catching fire in the past two years, usually because of bad batteries or chargers.Meanwhile...
Comcast to raise cable television rates:
Comcast Corp. is planning to raise cable television rates in New England by as much as 5.9 percent starting in January. Actual increases will vary by town. In Boston, consumers will see the smallest rate hike in 15 years. In Massachusetts, the average monthly price for standard cable service will rise to $45.95, up from $43.39.Oh, you don't live in New England? Perhaps the Northwest? From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Comcast cable TV subscribers should get ready for another rate increase next year. The state's largest cable company announced yesterday that it was jacking up rates for most of its 1.1 million customers here. The company's basic cable service, which includes channels such as ESPN and CNN, will increase an average of $2.81 a month beginning in January. That means customers now paying $39.48 a month for basic cable will pay $42.29.How about New Jersey? From the Asbury Park Press:
Customers of Cablevision Systems Corp. will see their cable TV bills go up next year, the company said yesterday. The company said it is raising customers' cable bills an average 2.8 percent across all levels of service. With the increase, a typical subscriber will pay about $58 a month, compared with about $56.40, the cable company said yesterday.Don't worry, this road show will be stopping in every town before long. And having a provider other than Comcast will probably only delay the inevitable.
* Selective Luddite - someone who smugly shuns certain newer technologies while contradictorily embracing others. Yours truly currently shuns cell phones and cable TV yet the 3-computer home LAN disqualifies me from full rights and privileges of a Full Luddite.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
|Stressed Out? Have Some Cold Vegetable Soup:|
Volunteers who ate vegetables consistently for two weeks as part of a nutrition study showed a significant increase in blood levels of vitamin C and a decrease in key stress molecules associated with health impairment. The findings from this study funded in part by the Agricultural Research Service appear in today's issue of the Journal of Nutrition.That news is gazpacho soup for the soul! (I think I just infringed on a book franchise's copyright)
|Kennedy's doodles add more to assassinated president's archive:|
Some of the 135 pages that will be added on Tuesday to an existing archive of doodles are grim reflections on the day's top policy issues, while others are whimsical drawings and sketches. Still others are indecipherable scrawls with no hint to their meaning.Well, since she made the unfortunate "smoking gun" word choice, let's add this item...
JFK murder game condemned:
A new computer game which allows players to recreate the assassination of John F Kennedy has been condemned as "despicable" by the former US president's family.
|Follow-up to an earlier post...
Bidding Ends at $28K for Cheese Sandwich:
A woman who said her 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich bore the image of the Virgin Mary will be getting a lot more bread after the item sold for $28,000 on eBay.Who bought the supposedly "blessed" sandwich? An online casino:
GoldenPalace.com, an online casino, confirmed that it placed the winning bid, and company executives said they were willing to spend "as much as it took" to own the 10-year-old half-sandwich with a bite out of it.
|Kit Williams knew it. Sherlock Holmes knew it (he retired from detection to tend bees). And now scientists are coming around. Bees rock!
Bees survived dino extinction:
New evidence shows tropical honeybees survived the devastating nuclear winter 65 million years ago that is thought to have helped kill off the dinosaurs.Bees are actually a super-intelligent network of biological probes from the future which, ironically, tend us. Or, at least, that's what my invisible rabbit friend Harvey told me.
|Sumner Redstone, CEO of Infinity Radio's parent comany Viacom: "I have nothing but good wishes for Mel [Karmazin] and Howard [Stern]" in their respective future roles at Sirius Satellite Radio. (from CNBC via insideradio.com)
"Nothing but" good wishes for the people departing/departed from your company with the stated intentions of destroying same? Ha!
If true, that would be a serious breach of fiduciary duty and Redstone should be forced out immediately.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
|Stumbled across an interesting project and its website today. Here's how the participants describe it:|
We recently quit our corporate jobs and decided to travel across America to capture a true sense of what this country is about. To force us to slow down, take a different road, and capture people's attention, Josh Caldwell is riding a Segway HT from Seattle to Boston. After we're all done, the stories we discover and the experiences we have will culminate in a feature-length documentary that is being directed by Hunter Weeks. This project is independent of Segway and plans are to find more ways to encourage approaching life at 10 mph in the future.Sound like an interesting film, if a less dramatic variation on The Straight Story (based on a real-life story itself).
|Futuristic 'Smart' Yarns On The Horizon:|
In a collaborative effort, scientists at CSIRO Textile and Fibre Technology (CTFT) have achieved a major technological breakthrough that should soon lead to the production of futuristic strong, light and flexible 'smart' clothing materials.Oooo, I want a fluorescent sweater!
|Letter from Lincoln's killer sells at auction:|
A letter written by President Lincoln's assassin two months before the 1865 slaying sold at auction Sunday for a record price.And, in case you were wondering, the 55-year-old Powers Boothe has recently been a recurring character on HBO's Deadwood. He's only done about three feature films since 1995. So he's no longer the juggernaut star he was in Red Dawn.
|Space tourism legislation makes comeback:|
The bill, designated H.R. 5382, was approved through a 269-120 roll-call vote. That margin wasn't as overwhelming as it was when an earlier version of the legislation was cleared by the House in March, but it satisfied the two-thirds majority needed to suspend House rules and move the bill along in the final days of the session.I'm just patiently waiting to get a postcard from space--I surely won't have the lettuce to buy space flights any time soon (outside of Disney World's very excellent Mission: Space ride).
Saturday, November 20, 2004
|Very interesting article on the issues, implications, and possibilities of automobile data recorders. One of the more alarming passages:|
While we might appreciate a call from an OnStar adviser if we're upside down in a ditch, we might not always want someone looking over our driving shoulder. But forget about the urban legends — what can all this stuff really do?Great. Your OnStar (or similar service) operator can be listening to you sing along with Prince's "Purple Rain" as you cruise the highways and byways.
Makes you want to go back to a horse and buggy. The horse might still not appreciate the singing, but at least he won't understand the conversations.
|Dodgeball Questions Raised in N.Y. Court:|
The high-energy school yard game of dodgeball is getting kicked around a New York courtroom, where questions are being raised about whether it's just too dangerous for young children to play....Translation of the NASPE statement: the game is too Darwinian.
Are those above-named variations, only variances in the name (like the "murderball" I mentioned) or are there rule variations? And is there "Dodgeball According to Hoyle?"
UPDATE: According to this site, the game is played with one team as throwers and the other being dodgers, with the throwers outside a circle trying to nail the dodgers with a ball. In my dodgeball days, it was played with two teams on opposing halves of the gym. Each team could simultaneously be dodgers and throwers (multiple balls were usually used to make for a faster-paced and a more complex game). So, yes, there are rule variations.
|The New York Times tells the tale of ol' Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, the Massachusetts landmark with the longest place name in the U.S.A., and a name which just might break this website's table width.
(NYT registration required; "vasref" and "cornaro" work)
|Church air is 'threat to health':|
Air inside churches may be a bigger health risk than that beside major roads, research suggests.This puts Pascal's Wager in a whole new light.
|FCC Pooh-Poohs a la Carte Cable:|
Federal regulators rejected on Friday the idea that allowing cable TV subscribers to pay only for channels they want would lower high cable bills. Consumer groups said the analysis was flawed.My household will remain steadfastly cable-free. So, to quote from an estimable comments poster here, "Shove it, cable."
Sure, an equipment box lid with its reinforced corners and handy carrying handles works just fine as an ad hoc booster-box.
But you'd think that at the Presdiential Cabinet level, they could plan a little better for photo ops at appointment press conferences than this.
(for photo context, see original article)
|Shocking Riot Ends Pacers-Pistons Game:|
Just when it appeared tempers had died down, Artest was struck by a cup thrown from the stands and jumped up and charged into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.Although this blog does not often venture into sports commentary (except for the occasional municipal boosterism), a few comments here.
Friday, November 19, 2004
|Geography lesson for Mike. I never knew prior to reading a BBC story that the Great Lakes in and around Michigan, Ohio, and New York aren't necessarily The Great Lakes but merely A Great Lakes.
For East Africa has its own Great Lakes: Lakes Victoria, Lake Malawi, and Lake Tanganyika.
I was wholly ignorant of such a fact, and even grew up near our Great Lakes' Ontario.
|U.S. archives offer digital look at America's past:|
The government promises anyone with a computer will have access within a few years to millions of pages from old newspapers, a slice of American history to be viewed now only by visiting local libraries, newspaper offices or the nation's capital.The better access we have to our past, the easier it'll be for people to learn about it.
Let's face it, we now live in an instant-data society. We've been training ourselves to, at least partially, factor in ease and speed of access into our value of information.
For most people, forget about going to the library to look up information when going beyond a couple of pages of Google results is beyond the threshold of tolerance.
|Remember when all hyperlinks were often referred to as "hotlinks"? I guess they've cooled off by now. Regardless of temperature, here are some links of note...
Thursday, November 18, 2004
|Hey, screw those video game shoot 'em ups. That moose may soon be just a mouse click away:|
[John] Underwood, an estimator for a San Antonio, Texas auto body shop, has invested $10,000 to build a platform for a rifle and camera that can be remotely aimed on his 330-acre (133-hectare) southwest Texas ranch by anyone on the Internet anywhere in the world.I just wish someone invented an internet method for shooting those little head-floating light bulbs sometimes.
The target shooting is actually a pretty interesting idea, although there are obvious safety issues--what if a visiting relative or lost non-virtual hunter wandered into the kill zone? If a virtual target shooter killed a hapless person in the wrong place, how would that case be charged/prosecuted? Murder? Manslaughter? Accident? One shudders at the worst-case scenarios.
I have big problems with "remote-control hunting," though. I have no problems with hunting in general, but I do with pure sport hunting (at least use what you kill)--which remote-control hunting would clearly be.
SIDE NOTE to NOTHING SPECIAL ALUMS: What was that sketch where I was the video-cam-toting surrogate at the slumber party? Is that just around the corner for real?
|Lately, I've had occasion to quote John S. Hall's piece "Garbage Party." A lot. I tried to find it somewhere on the web, but wasn't able to, so I transcribed it myself from his now unavailable Real Men album. All paragraphing is mine.|
Twenty years ago, they had a great big garbage party.Interested parties should check out Hall's band King Missile or pick up his book Jesus Was Way Cool.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
|I don't want to alarm anyone, but do you realize that we're practically a sneeze away from cresting the halfway point of this decade?|
|Pacman breaks out of the arcade:|
A group of Singapore-based researchers are taking Pacman out of the arcade hall of fame and setting him loose on the streets.This is not to be confused with Pac Manhattan.
|So, ABC aired a cross-promotional vignette before Monday Night Football this past Monday featuring Desperate Housewives star Nicolette Sheridan wearing a towel and then dropping it for Philadelphia Eagle Terrell Owens. Her bare back (gasp!) was shown, implying nudity.
People apparently complained. ABC apologized. A tempest raged inside a teapot.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, in a paroxysm of drama, stated, "While ABC may have gained attention for one of its other shows, the NFL and its fans lost."
"Lost"? Is he trying to cross-promote another ABC show?
|"After looking at it a second time, there's nothing to indicate that the seller isn't willing to give up this cheese sandwich to the highest bidder," he said.
That's an eBay spokesman commenting on their decision to shut down an auction of "half of a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich whose owner claimed it bore the image of the Virgin Mary." They later changed their mind and allowed the auction to continue.
This auction has inspired others, including:
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
|Oh, jeepers! Can we just put the they're-really-crying-inside myth to bed?
Actor Geoffrey Rush, in an interview about the Peter Sellers biopic he's flogging:
Well, I think the writers...picked up on this element because his own life seemed to be filled with multiple aspects of his own very interchangeable personality. Because away from the celebrity and the legendary status that he has as a film performer, behind the scenes there was a very turbulent and troubled and rather sad kind of existence.Yes! Some funny people are really sad. And some of the professionally funny class are--gasp!--happy and well-adjusted!
Guess what? They're people, with all the wide range of moods and personality types just like the non-professionally funny.
|Senate May Ram Copyright Bill:|
Several lobbying camps from different industries and ideologies are joining forces to fight an overhaul of copyright law, which they say would radically shift in favor of Hollywood and the record companies and which Congress might try to push through during a lame-duck session that begins this week.That last graf refers to a section that cheerily calls itself the Family Movie Act of 2004. It will give you the right to use technology to skip "limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture," presumably for sex/violence/language objections, yet specifically proscribes skipping "commercial advertisements, or to network or station promotional announcements, that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture."
So if you are offended by most advertising (as any frequent reader of this blog knows that I am), your sensibilities are not protected by the "Family Movie Act of 2004." But, under this proposed law, you should be able to skip General Patton telling his men in a WWII movie, "I don't give a fuck for a man who's not always on his toes. You men are veterans or you wouldn't be here. You are ready for what's to come. A man must be alert at all times if he expects to stay alive. If you're not alert, sometime, a German son-of-an-asshole-bitch is going to sneak up behind you and beat you to death with a sockful of shit."
Let's hope this bill dies.
UPDATE: In a move unrelated to the Congressional action, TiVo will "no longer skip past advertisers"; instead, "viewers will see 'billboards,' or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads." I'm glad I haven't bought a TiVo yet.
|Former G.I.'s, Ordered to War, Fight Not to Go:|
Months ago, the Army said some of the former soldiers would be needed to play the French horn, the clarinet, the euphonium, the saxophone and the electric bass as part of the military's bands, but the notion drew criticism from members of Congress who questioned the need to order people to give up their civilian lives to play instruments. Colonel Hart said the Army has since filled the musician jobs with volunteers.Individual Ready Reserve callups to fill a goddamn band?
Sunday, November 14, 2004
|New claim on location of Atlantis:|
American researchers claim to have found convincing evidence that locates the site of the lost kingdom of Atlantis off the coast of Cyprus.Patrick Duffy cannot be reached for comment.
|Students Fight Copyright Hoarders:|
Students at a dozen colleges around the country are organizing to teach their peers about the consequences of overly broad copyright law, hoping to prevent creative freedom from being stifled.The "teach-in" is back!
Meanwhile, take a listen to a related (and hilarious) new track from the always interesting Negativland.
|Wednesday, 10:00PM EST.
NBC  Law and Order. In another ripped-from-the-headlines story, a lawyer sues an aging TV series for allegedly basing an unflattering character on him. Sam Waterston, Dennis Farina, Jesse L. Martin, Fred Thompson. Rated TV14 for strong language and mild Escherism. Closed Captioned.
|...41 year old song is a threat to the republic!|
The students told ABC News affiliate KMGH-TV in Denver they are performing Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" during the Boulder High School Talent Exposé because they are Dylan fans. They said they want to express their views and show off their musical abilities.Sheesh, haven't they ever heard that song yet? Hello, it's on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan! That album kicks ass. They must only have Greatest Hits.
In case you needed a refresher, here's the key verse, directed towards the titular masters of war:
And I hope that you die
|Pat Robertson must watch a lot of Nick at Nite:|
When asked who his pick for the Supreme Court would be, Robertson said, "I tell you, I think the most wonderful, delicious irony would be if Erik Estrada, who has been abused so badly by the Democrats on the Judiciary Commission--Committee, was picked and went onto the court. He's a superb candidate, brilliant guy."He's almost surely speaking of Miguel Estrada. You know, the obscure cinematographer?
Saturday, November 13, 2004
|...as opposed to the Alfred kind, which would be scary and disturbing. Instead, my recent Robyn Hitchcock encounters have been whimsical and delightful.
The first Robyn Hitchcock song I remember hearing was "Strawberry Mind" in late spring of 1985 (from his Fegmania! album), playing it--and many, many subsequent songs--on the air at my college radio station.
I saw him live several times, both solo and with his backing band The Egyptians, from 1990-1991 (like, for example, this show or this one), and met him for the first time in the fall of '91 when he came by WHTG for an interview and in-studio performance. As one might guess from his wittily obscure lyrics, he's both witty and obscure in person.
He was playing a show this past Tuesday here, and he played many terrific new and old songs, but he was his usual sharp wit between songs. A momentary distraction led him to begin his show with covers of Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?" and Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" and to declare that the '60s were still going on, he was the same 16-year-old he was in 1969, and that the current year was actually "1960-44." His choice of old material was terrific: "Swirling," "She Doesn't Exist," and "Queen Elvis," particularly.
When he concluded the main set, he announced that he would be performing the encore in the lobby of the theater (a converted movie house). Naturally, we thought it was another Hitchcock whimsical statement, but damned if he didn't play a four-song encore on an old baby-grand in the lobby with the entire audience crowded around.
Following those four songs, he dashed back into the theater proper, grabbed his acoustic guitar, and played another two songs with no amplification whatsoever: "Sleeping With Your Devil Mask" as a sing along and the terrific new "Full Moon in My Soul."
A great show all around, but that wasn't the last of my week's Hitchcockian experience. I was on the air yesterday, and at about 4:30 someone was calling the studio line.
"Hello, WYEP?" I answered.
Pause. "Oh, hallo," a confused British voice spoke. "Uh, hi this is Robyn Hitchcock."
Shocked and stunned, I goggled at the phone. "Um, Hi, Robyn!" I replied, "This is Mike Sauter, the music director." Since we had just met again on Tuesday when he came by WYEP for an interview/performance, I felt confident he would remember me (though he has a memory like a steel trap, I wouldn't have assumed he would remember from our previous meeting in 1991).
"Hi, Mike," he continued in a bemused and slightly sheepish tone. "I was just trying to ring my record label, and I rang you instead!"
I assured him it was no problem, and took the opportunity to tell him that everybody who went to the concert was buzzing about his unexpected encore lounge act. We chatted briefly (I think he was conversing until the achieved a politeness threshold when he could get off the line and make the call he really intended to make).
It wasn't until I said goodbye and got off the call that I put the two-and-two together: his U.S. record label is Yep Roc Records and we're WYEP. He must've scanned down his cell phone's stored numbers, saw our studio line phone number (which he was given in case he got lost while trying to find the station--a frequent scenario in Pittsburgh), and hit 'send.' A simple mistake, but also somewhat amusing in its improbability.
Thus was my Hitchcockian week.
"The past is over, and the present will be, sadly." ~~Robyn Hitchcock, "Full Moon in My Soul," Spooked, 2004
|Now your printers and scanners might be spying on you. At least, they might if you use products from Lexmark.
Spyware charge levelled at Lexmark:
Allegations have been swirling around an online newsgroup this week that printer manufacturer Lexmark has been installing spyware on its customers' computers.I'm glad I have my printer on a network computer with no internet gateway (of course, my printer's an HP, so I hopefully woulndn't have to deal with this B.S. anyway). With this sort of setup, it's probably possible to not only track usage statistics but to sample actual printed content.
Remember those sepia-toned days when what you did in your home was your own private domain? Now your computer is tracked and your digital cable is monitored. Just wait until all your home electronics converge into one networked system. Look for a combined Nielson/TRW/Arbitron to sell all of your activity data to all comers.
|Coin Toss Determines Winner in Fla. Race:|
The state that is the king of bizarre election finishes added another page to its quirky electoral history Friday: a city council race decided by a coin toss.Ladies and gentlemen, we have just glimpsed the future. This is how it's going to be.
Friday, November 12, 2004
|Evangelicals Want Faith Rewarded:|
"Business as usual isn't going to cut it, where the GOP rides to victory by espousing traditional family values and then turns around and rewards the liberals in its ranks," said Robert Knight, who heads an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative advocacy group.Robert Knight? Concerned Women for America? WTF?
He's apparently the director of the "Culture and Family Institute" of the Concerned Women for America. That's one concerned woman!
Thursday, November 11, 2004
|The Steelers are rockin'.
Thank you. That is all.
|After the FCC got post-Janet's-breast tough on the broadcast indecency front, it seems a number of television stations are striking back in a very persuasive and plausible way.
TV Stations Cancel 'Saving Private Ryan':
Several ABC affiliates have announced that they won't take part in the network's Veterans Day airing of "Saving Private Ryan," saying the acclaimed film's violence and language could draw sanctions from the Federal Communications Commission.And, according to the article, ABC is contractually prevented from editing the film.
This is a perfect protest for these stations. This broadcast's motives are unimpeachable--showing this film for Veteran's Day, even in its decidedly raw unedited form, is clearly not being shown for shock value. The movie has been shown in this manner for the past two Veteran's Days with not a peep from the FCC.
And the stations can't be accused of grandstanding. This is a very real threat--targetting a respected war film being telecast for Veteran's Day is the last thing the FCC would like to do but if they receive formal complaints, they might have to for consistency's sake. Though ABC has offered to pay any fines incurred by individual stations, the protesting broadcasting companies plausibly counter that the FCC could take actions beyond simple fines, like license revokation.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
|The New York Times has an interesting article describes a situation that's been increasingly worrisome as most of our lives become digitally archived (registration required; feel free to use "vasref" and "cornaro"):|
"To save a digital file for, let's say, a hundred years is going to take a lot of work," said Peter Hite, president of Media Management Services, a consulting firm in Houston. "Whereas to take a traditional photograph and just put it in a shoe box doesn't take any work." Already, half of all photographs are taken by digital cameras, with most of the shots never leaving a personal computer's hard drive.The only current solution, as it seems to me, I'm sure makes hardware manufacturers smile. As storage media capacity grows, one must keep copying files forward to the larger media to prevent data loss from the older, smaller media.
Personally, I've had files migrate from small hard drives to floppies to Zip disks to CD-Rs to large hard drives (internal and external). And I'm sure that files have been corrupted along the way.
The problem isn't so much outdated file formats, although that can be an issue with more obscure programs which save data into unique or proprietary types (the key is to always save backup copies of files in wide-usage formats, like text files; even if the data is unformatted and ugly, at least it's retrievable). The more frequent problem is outdated media (like those couple of 5.25 floppies I still have but can no longer access) or degraded/corrupted media (as in a CD-R scratch or a fatal hard drive crash).
And the solution is a Sisyphusian constant copying of one's digital life into larger storage media.
So that WHTG-FM radio interview I have on tape with the late Kirsty MacColl was taped onto audio cassette, converted to mp3 preserved on CD-R, and now resides on a hard drive. If data from either the hard drive or the CD-R becomes irretrievable, I can recopy from the other. My only issue is whether I keep the analogue tape copy (an option increasingly unavailable, as the article points out, as more and more archives are digital in the first instance).
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
|I don't have cable anymore. By choice.
And if my cable TV "friends" send me one more mailing with a "deal" for a month or two of "cheap" cable service before they jack up the rates to their current astronomical levels, I shall undoubtedly become a "crime statistic."
This message brought to you by the American Council on Cable TV Bill Rage, in conjunction with the Citizens for Needless Quotation Mark Usage.
|Businessman Loses Pumpkin-Hurling Title:|
A businessman's effort to defend his pumpkin-hurling title literally fell short.I knew something was missing from the Olympics this summer!
|Jim Belushi sues Julie Newmar for harassment:|
Actor Jim Belushi has filed a $1 million lawsuit against his next-door neighbor, veteran actress Julie Newmar, accusing her of a "campaign of harassment" designed to drive Belushi from his home.Is Newmar pulling a Margot Kidder? Or is Belushi, indeed, "sick"?
Or should they, along with the Olsen twins and ALL entertainment reports and photographers, be repeatedly flogged for crimes against taste, decency, and the public order?
Find out in the next exciting--and increasingly curmudgeonly--installment of Mike's Minutiae vs. Everyone!
Saturday, November 06, 2004
|That's perhaps the most unsavory-sounding blog entry title I think I've ever written. But it's not what you think. It's just this...
Kermit and friends get US stamps:
Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and other Muppets are to be honoured with their own US stamps next year.
|In case you were wondering, Ron Palillo is available for personal appearances.
For those not familiar with Ron Palillo, he did a voice on the enormously popular The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley with the Fonz Show.
That and Welcome Back, Kotter.
As for the other Sweathogs:
Friday, November 05, 2004
|Drought Uncovers Memories of Neb. Village:|
The Schlitz beer can was all Warren Plummer needed to get his bearings.Reminds me of Deliverance. Only without the sodomy.
|Fighter jet strafes New Jersey school:|
The target was an object on the ground well within the confines of the Warren Grove firing range, a 2,400-acre scrub pine expanse used by the military to train pilots in bombing and strafing techniques.The next step up from detention: 20mm strafing.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
|At the end of October, the New York Law School and Yale Law School co-sponsored the second annual "State of Play" conference, at which you could've attended such panel discussions as "Avatar Rights, Virtual Liberty and Free Expression in Virtual Worlds" and "Virtual Property/Real World Markets: Making a Living in a Virtual World."
It might sound a little goofy at first glance, but some of the issues inspiring the conference are weighty, including:
Should we import copyright and trademark into virtual spaces? Can we exclude them? What should be the relationship between real and virtual world economies? Should legislatures protect virtual world property? What are the possibilities for using virtual spaces to practice the activities of real world democracy? Should virtual worlds be treated as separate jurisdictions with their own evolving norms and forms of dispute resolution? What is the potential for using virtual worlds to promote democracy and self-governance?A Wired article reports on the conference and gives some concrete fr'instances of issues.
|'Regency House Party' plays the 1800s dating game:|
What kind of reality dating show is right for PBS? One with impeccable manners, of course, and a British accent.Although this one doesn't sound very interesting personally (perhaps a little too Merchant/Ivory for me), I was very impressed with Frontier House two years ago.
|Cornucopia of dangers:|
"This was an extremely dangerous thing for him to do. If he had continued to cling in there with the aircraft taking off at over 200 miles (320 kph) per hour, he might have fallen out and could have been sucked up by an engine," she said.So says a spokesperson for LAX, after an angry Canadian man stripped, dashed onto the tarmac, and entered a moving plane's wheel well.
|Farmers tackle pests with colas:|
For farmers in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh it is cheaper than pesticides and gets the job done just as well. The product? Pepsi or Coca-Cola.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
After months of quasi-public brooding on the whys and wherefores of the disastrous beating he absorbed last November, McGovern seems finally to have bought the Conventional Wisdom -- that his campaign was doomed from the start: conceived in a fit of hubris, born in a momentary power-vacuum that was always more mirage than reality, borne along on a tide of frustration churned up by liberal lintheads and elitist malcontents in the Eastern Media Establishment, and finally bashed into splinters on the reefs of at least two basic political realities that no candidate with good sense would ever have tried to cross in the first place....To wit:
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
|Shuttle Enterprise takes center stage, at last:|
Space shuttle Enterprise was born to be an astronautical bridesmaid, never a bride.I remember watching with great interest Enterprise's test flight on February 18, 1977.
In a bizarre twist of art imitating life imitating art imitating life, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the Star Trek ship, which was named after real-life ships named Enterprise.
Then two years after the shuttle test flight, Star Trek: The Motion Picture featured a remodeled starship Enterprise, and depicted it with a gallery of past namesakes, including the space shuttle.
"All these ships were called Enterprise," actor Stephen Collins intoned to the former Miss India, the late Persis Khambatta.
On a semi-related note, Stephen Collins continues the long tradition of Star Trek actors with questionable forays into recorded music. Download Mr. Collins' music here.
William Shatner's and Leonard Nimoy's old releases are perhaps the best known in this notorious genre (btw, Shatner's new Ben Folds-produced album is quite entertaining), but let us not overlook the bad country of Tim Russ or the weak standards of Brent Spiner.
|So far today, I've spilled coffee grounds, sugar, and the actual liquid coffee itself. It's been a regular slapstick comedy-fest around here.
If I end up pulling a lever I don't intend in the voting booth, I'm gonna have to put the hurting on someone.
Plus, I've got a cold. Yeesh. Terrific.