"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Fashionable Bee 

The current record for a "beard" of bees is wearing 350,000 bees weighing 87.5lbs. Just in case you're wondering.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Death of a Daggett 

I don't mean to turn this blog into a TV Land obit page, but one of my all-time favorite character actors just died: John Fiedler.

Fiedler was often cast as the meek wishy-washy type (12 Angry Men) or the henpecked husband (The Bob Newhart Show), but almost as often he was cast against type as a surprise killer (Star Trek) or an unexpectedly aggressive punchline (True Grit). Here are my picks for his top 10 roles:

1. Juror #2 in 12 Angry Men (1957, his film debut)

2. Mr. Hengist in the "Wolf in the Fold" episode of Star Trek (1967)

3. Patient Emil Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show (1973-1978) hear audio clip

4. Piglet (1962-2005, various media)

5. Lawyer J. Noble Daggett in True Grit (1969)

6. Stage manager Woody Deschler on the TV series Buffalo Bill (1983)

7. Vinnie in The Odd Couple movie (1968)

8. Building manager G. Martin Duke in the "Security Arms" episode of The Odd Couple TV series (1972) hear audio clip

9. Traveling salesman Leo Gorwald in the "Incident in a Small Jail" episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1961)

10. Hugo, the bad manager for Silver the Wonder Dog, in "The Dog Story" episode of The Odd Couple TV series (1974)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Huber Hitler Road" 

Hitler Rd. Residents Get Strange Looks:
Larry Harris is used to the confusion when he tells people he lives on Hitler Road.

The Circleville resident says after 30 years, he's used to the weird looks and questions. But the three rural roads and the cemetery that bear the Hitler name were around long before the German dictator.
And I thought people living on "Violante Court" near where I used to live in New Jersey had an odd-sounding street name.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Weird Pickup Trick 

I've unintentionally stumbled upon a very bizarre way to get attention from the ladies. I certainly don't recommend that anyone intentionally try it. Ever. The potentional harm is not worth the positive.

But if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I do invite your observations in this regard.

First you must get severely sunburned on your arms. Then wait until your skin begins falling off, and voila! Certain women will lavish you with very unexpected attention: they will want very strongly to peel the flakey skin pieces off your arm. I'm totally serious.

This happened to me, and today at work three women were obsessed with my peeling skin. One even offered to have me sit on her lap while she removed skin flakes. It sounds a little twisted and creepy, but these were not twisted and creepy women. One described her odd obsession as an uncontrollable grooming instinct.

Whatever the source of this behavior, it was surprising and fascinating.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Gen. Burkhalter died 

Missed this story 'til now...

'Hogan's Heroes' Actor Leon Askin Dies:
Leon Askin, the actor who played Gen. Albert Burkhalter in the 1960s television comedy "Hogan's Heroes," has died, Austrian officials said Friday [6/3].

The actor was 97. Neither city officials nor the Vienna hospital where he died disclosed the cause or date of his death.
Here's his IMdB filmography. Askin's official website appears to be down. Here's his bio via Google's cache. Some tidbits:
That is why I was known among my colleges and to my producers as an accent actor and I was condemned, if one could say so, to wait for roles where a Russian, French, Arabian, Rumanian or Chinese accent is expected, but no American. I never became a superstar, yet in the TV series 'Hogan's Heroes' I played the starring part of General Burghalter. I also played a very important part in the first Cinemascope film 'The Robe' with Richard Burton. I had the great chance to play in this film. I played the traitor Abidor and I also was in the 'Virgin Shot', the very first scene, of this important first Cinemascope film.


Another example how easy it was to work with great stars was Allan Ladd. One evening, after a day of shooting had come to an end, I waited in brooding heat for the company car to bring me back to the quarters. It was an extremely hot day in the desert, about 113° Fahrenheit. Suddenly Allan Ladd's car came by and he saw me and said to me: 'What the hell are you waiting around for in that heat?' And as I answered: 'I am waiting for the company car!', he said: 'Nuts, get into my Rolls, it is faster!'


The journalists in Vienna and Austria and also in Germany call me a legend. I'm a man who lived through difficult times. I'm a man who survived the monster of all times, Adolf Hitler and I'm still, at my high old age of 93, successful in my profession and that is the pride with which I live and survive.
We've learned a lot today, kids. A pioneer in Cinemascope acting. Allan Ladd is easygoing. And the journalists call Askin a legend.

One final quote, from the AP obit:
"Beverly Hills school children would call after me, 'Klink, Klink!'" Askin wrote on his Web site. "People driving through Beverly Hills who saw these children raising their arms in the Hitler salute couldn't continue out of sheer shock and amazement and brought traffic to a standstill."
Well, there you go.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Who Let the Dogs Out to 43.2317963/-86.1994553? 

Now, high-tech Fido finders:
A 5-ounce gadget that attaches to the dog's collar uses global positioning system technology to track pets. Users create an invisible electronic fence - up to hundreds of miles - where the dog is free to roam.

The moment the pooch crosses the invisible boundary, a message is sent - a text message or an E-mail - with the animal's exact location.
Let's just hope the email doesn't say your pup is anywhere near these guys.

SIDEBAR: Just for giggles, here's a map of above co-ordinates.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Crippled CD Update 

CDs to Restrict Copying of Songs:
Executives at EMI Group on Monday said they planned to begin rolling out CDs with technology designed to limit copying. The technology allows buyers to burn onto CDs only three full copies of a disc's songs, and the burned discs cannot be copied.

Sony BMG is heading even faster down the same road. About half the discs it releases in the United States today have the three-copy limit, and it plans to have a similar restriction on all its U.S. releases by the end of the year, said Thomas Hesse, president of the company's global digital music business.

The new CD technology still has some compatibility issues — most notably, the songs on the discs cannot be transferred directly to Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPods. Such limitations are one reason that the two other major record companies, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group Corp., have yet to make the switch to "secure" CDs.
This has been the record label's Holy Grail for some time: to be able to restrict CD burning in addition to ripping to mp3 or other compressed files.

But how can such a scheme work? It seemed to me that all CD burning software would have to cooperate for this to be successful. A Slashdot post offers this insight:
The First4Internet CD copy protection technology destroys the registry keys (driver device names) associated with your CD-ROM devices. Then a monitoring app allows or disallows access to the device.

The monitoring app is buggy. If it stops running or loses your device references, you will have to reinstall windows to make your CD-ROM devices work again. [emphasis in original]
First4Internet is the company which has developed the technology that Sony BMG is using.

Clearly, this is monumentally bad for consumers. Not only will this prevent these CDs from being used in an iPod, but many legal and fair uses would be hampered or stopped altogether under such an approach. For example, I rip my legally obtained CDs to mp3 (not lousy WMV) files for quicker and easier retrieval and I would no longer be able to do so with this software.

But by messing with your computer's registry, it occurs to me that this system will run afoul of anti-spyware legislation. California's 2004 Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act reportedly "makes it illegal for anyone to install software on someone else's computer and use it to deceptively modify settings."

Federal legislation is also brewing, including the "Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act" (a.k.a. the "SPY Act";although the acronym technically makes it the "SPY ACT Act," just as "TCBY Yogurt" was technically "The Country's Best Yougurt Yogurt"--but let's not quibble) which was passed in the House would "require any software to give clear notice before it installs" and also bans "computer hijacking."

I have no concrete evidence how this First4Internet system works, but to work properly, it can't allow users to simply click "no" and not accept its draconian terms. I wonder if it will clearly diclose what it is actually doing to your computer. However, if it doesn't I suspect someone will have a good case to file a lawsuit against its use.

We'll see.

UPDATE: According to the Mercury News (registration required, but the google trick works), "On the PC, a message appears that asks the buyer for permission to install a piece of software on the desktop. Answer no, and the disc is ejected. It won't play." The article also asserts, "Now, half of Sony BMG's new releases -- including the Dave Matthews Band's million-selling Stand Up -- are protected."

Earlier today, I did an experiment on the DMB's Stand Up and was able to rip mp3s of the entire album with no trouble. To bypass the built-in CD crippler, one can disable CD autorun (highly recommended) or utilize the shift key while inserting the CD.

So I guess we've seen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Summer Vacation Tip 

New Sight in Chernobyl's Dead Zone: Tourists
Much had also changed. Now there is rot, broken windows, rusting bed frames and paint falling away in great blisters and peels. And now there are tourists, participating in what may be the strangest vacation excursion available in the former Soviet space: the packaged tour of the Chernobyl exclusion zone, scene of the worst civilian disaster of the nuclear age.
This puts the idea of a holiday "hot spot" into a whole new light.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Marty Daniels: Clean. Christian. Ohioan. 

Not since Vulcan Willi, Der Deutsche Spock have I seen such an interesting attempt at showbiz branding.

This time, it's comedian Marty Daniels. But he's not just any sort of comedian. No. Others have taken that path, and our Mr. Daniels has found it wanting. He's Marty Daniels, Clean Christian Comedian.

Admittedly, his branding is subtle. He barely mentions the religious nature of his comedy on his home page, except in its HTML title: "Clean Christian Comedy by Ohio Christian Comedian Marty Daniels."

Note to Marty: I think "Ohio Clean Christian Comedian" is lacking in showbiz ring. I suggest a move to Connecticut. Nothing screams "entertainer" like alliteration, and how can you top "Connecticut Clean Christian Comedian" without putting dental work at risk?

Anyway, where he really cements the mighty wall of his branding is in his website's page names. That's where Marty Daniels' marketing acumen comes out to shine, like botox at the daytime Emmys.

See, his downloadable "Media" page is named "christian_comedian_media.htm."

The link to his promised-but-not-available podcast page is "christian_comedian_radio.htm."

And his booking page is named "christian_comedian_booking.htm."

Now that's what Ries & Trout were all about. That's one of the Immutable Laws of Marketing. That's the way to make sure you're properly POSITIONED.

And there's more. His page about church is named... yup, you guessed it: "christian_comedian_church.htm."

That's the Marty Daniels we all know we can count on.

"Sure, Mike," you're saying, "Of course we can count on Marty Daniels to sneak 'christian_comedian' before any page of his website. But is he funny?

Rest assured, Marty Daniels has quite a few tricks up his comedy sleeve. With topics ranging from "Christian Hair Doo's" to "Cool Christians" to even "charging addmission [sic] to an 'outreach to the lost'," the yuks never stop with Marty Daniels.

Did somebody mention corporate events? A simple glance at christian_comedian_corporate.htm will tell you all you need to know, including that Marty Daniels' clean Ohio Christian comedy will "Motivate your team. Instead of being bored and lethargic, your sales people will be energized, pumped up, and ready to sell."

What more can this life ask of Marty Daniels? As his website says, "Marty's comedy concert can fill your pews with the curious friends and family of your congregation who are wondering if the Christian life really can be fun, exciting and relevant."

Seriously though, Marty. Consider the Connecticut move. Once that piece of the puzzle is in place, it's guaranteed christian_comedian_stardom.htm!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Mad cow? 

Reuters: The USDA reported late on Friday that an animal tested positive for the brain-wasting disease...

[cue dramatic music]


I find the vaguely ominous cow photos which inevitably accompany these sorts of stories quite humorous.

Oddly, according to the caption, this file photo was taken in Alberta, Canada. A bit strange that a stock shot of a U.S. cow wasn't used. Unless editors were trying to find just the right threatening image.

"Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!" ~~Troy McClure. You might remember him from such educational films as "Meat and You: Partners in Freedom" on The Simpsons.

A few music styles by All Music Guide 

  • "Sophisti-Pop" - e.g., Sade, Style Council, Everything But the Girl

  • "Sadcore" - e.g., American Music Club, Red House Painters, Elliott Smith

  • "Twee Pop" - e.g., Belle & Sebastian, Shonen Knife, Beat Happening
Frankly, I've only heard one of these "in the wild" (so to speak), sadcore. The rest seem to be critical constructs.

Perhaps the all-time best musical description I've read is, I believe, from Rock On by Norm Nite. In the entry on John Denver, Nite describes him as "ecology rock."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

"The greatest movie of my life!" 

Ay Caramba! "Simpsons" Movie Going:
Get ready to toast your Flaming Moes to some excellent news.

The Simpsons movie is off the drawing board and in preproduction.

"You know what? We've just done the table read for The Simpsons movie, so although we've been promoting that we're going to do it, now we're actually doing it and are in production," Nancy Cartwright, who gives voice to Bart Simpson, told BBC Radio 1 this week.
The article, by the way, refers to show fans as "Homer honks." I think I like this description.

Let me first say that this film will probably be disappointing. Let me second say that I can't wait for a feature.

I say "disappointing" since such a film will have a hard time living up to the expectations of, to steal from South Park, being bigger, longer, and uncut. Can a Simpsons feature have enough requisite "betterness" than a series episode to justify itself?

Maybe. But the odds are long. Either way, I'll be there opening day with a large packet of Pork Rinds Lite and a Buzz Cola.

BTW, the title of this posting refers to Lisa's description of the Itchy & Scratchy movie.

"And then he's gone.....like that!" 

The internet pulled a "Keyser Soze" today at work. Not the masterminding of thefts and killings, but the vanishing act without anyone knowing what was going on.

So we had no email and no web, and to top it off we were doing an on-air fundraiser where web pledges play a vital role.

Things got even weirder when we set up the ONE computer in the office with dial-up capability to log on to a personal AOL account and we STILL couldn't access the web!

Makes you wonder what can be done as a backup in case of future outages....

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


MSNBC's White Ho Reporter

(via FishBowlDC)

Dopey Ad Music 

Good bit in Slate featuring reader suggestions for inappropriate songs used as TV commercial soundtracks. A sample:
The big winner, submitted by dozens and dozens of you, is Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, which used Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" in a series of spots. As my reader Andrei put it, "Nothing says maritime comfort like a song about shooting up junk." A sampling of other e-mails I got on this mismatch:

"Love the tune, but did the cruise folks actually think about the lyrics? 'Here comes Johnny Yen again/ With the liquor and drugs/ And a flesh machine/ He's gonna do another strip tease.' Somewhere between the drugs and the strip tease, it hits you: Yeah, this is way more than an ordinary vacation."
Despite the increasing frequency of artists selling their music out to commercials, my attitude to these artists is still the same: if you do so, you're just a jingle writer.

People like Iggy Pop and Pete Townshend have now been revealed as jingle singers without them or their fans admitting it. At least Barry Manilow was was upfront about his status as a jingle composer. In my view, someone like Moby is no different than Manilow in his artistic integrity.

That's why I have so much respect for guys like those in Negativland. They were offered the chance to sell out, even despite their minimal sales, and turned it down:
[Ad agency] Wieden & Kennedy's aggressive strategy to craft "anti-commercials" reached a level of absurdity earlier this spring when the agency contacted Mark Hosler.

Hosler is the brains behind a San Francisco-based self-described "media guerrilla" music group called Negativland, known for mocking the commercialism that saturates American culture. Negativland's latest release is a single called "Truth in Advertising." It features the voices of panicky callers on a consumer hotline asking questions about impulse buying.

Asking Hosler to work on a TV commercial is like asking Andrea Dworkin to pose for Hustler, or Bill Sizemore to collect signatures for a property-tax increase. It violates the basic laws of the universe. Jeff Kling tried it anyway.

"We love you guys," Kling told Hosler over the phone after barraging him with e-mails and faxes requesting his help on the Miller campaign.

"I asked them," Hosler later told WW, "'Do you really listen to what we do? Can't you tell that we're in opposition to the world you're creating?'"

"It was depressing," Hosler says. "What we do is about tearing that world down. [Wieden & Kennedy] are the blob that we are shooting arrows into. Here they were, trying to absorb us. I was depressed that they even thought to call me."
Sadly, many artists who are lower on the music world food chain will license their music to commercials in a desperate bid for exposure--since most radio stations won't play much new music anymore (especially if it's not a clone of something else they're already playing).

But these bands/singers are building their artistic castles out of sand. And castles made of sand, as Hendrix pointed out, fall into the sea. Eventually.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The Gopher Update 



Oh, and please--PLEASE!--don't forget: Grandy!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Wagging the Dog 

Gadget Promos Creep Into TV Shows:
Jeff Greenfield, executive vice president at 1st Approach, a Dover, New Hampshire-based marketing firm, has been shopping Black & Decker's new AutoTape product to TV writers. At the push of a button, the battery-driven AutoTape automatically extends and retracts a measuring tape.

"There's a comedy element to it," he said. "It could poke somebody. There could even be a sexual connotation. It's funny."
Personally, I have a huge problem with product placement in media such as movies or novels, the ones that have traditionally been user-funded (at least nominally so). It's similar to why I have a huge problem with commercials at movie theaters.

In advertising-based media environments, I don't have much of an ethical problem with product placement (as long as it's legibly disclosed). I may not continue to watch, especially if the placement is clumsily heavy-handed or intrusive, but I don't have much of an ethical objection to the practice.

However, I have to chuckle whenever I read about this current trend for broadcasting to slowly creep towards to its roots of individual shows being created by and for individual advertisers.

It might have worked fine back in the '40s when Jack Benny's announcer Don Wilson would wax poetic about why Lucky Strike cigarettes taste better, cleaner, fresher, and smoother. But viewers are so much more cynical today that this approach will tend to discredit the program more than it will aid the sponsor.

Call it the Clean Hands Doctrine of Marketing in the Age of Cynicism: over time, dirt tends to clog the clean, rather than cleaning the dirty.

All of which is simply a roundabout way of saying, "Fuck you, Jeff Greenfield," the self-described expert of "undercover marketing." Pitching the "comedy elements" of your client to get written into a script is comedy itself.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Live 8, July 2nd 

official site

London - U2, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Oasis (maybe), Elton John, R.E.M., Madonna, Sting, Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox, Dido, Keane, Mariah Carey, The Cure, Velvet Revolver, The Killers, Stereophonics, Joss Stone, Scissor Sisters, Razorlight, Snow Patrol, Muse.

Philadelphia - Dave Matthews Band, Will Smith, Bon Jovi, P. Diddy, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Keith Urban, Maroon5, Rob Thomas, Sarah McLachlan, 50 Cent, Kaiser Chiefs.

Berlin - Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lauryn Hill, Brian Wilson, A-ha, Bap, Die Toten Hosen, Peter Maffay.

Paris - Jamiroquai, Craig David, Youssou N'Dour, Yannick Noah, Andrea Bocelli, Calo Gero, Kyo, Placebo, Axelle Red, Johnny Halliday, Manu Chao, Renaud.

Rome - Duran Duran, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Irene Grandi, Jovanotti, Nek, Laura Pasini, Vasco Rossi, Zucchero.

Deep Throat 

I'm such a geek with Watergate stuff, so it's quite exciting to finally have the identity of Deep Throat revealed as Mark Felt.

Here is, as the Reuters caption states, a "view of the room from where five men spied on the Democratic Party headquarters across the street in 1972, in the Watergate hotel in Washington" taken June 17, 1997.

I've actually stayed here (it was a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, although I believe it's now a dorm for George Washington University) simply because of its connection to the Watergate story, although I didn't stay in THE room (#723).

If you want to brush-up on your Watergate history, here's the best, bar none, documentary on the subject. It's a bit pricey but worth it (of course, I have dubs from the TV broadcast). Hopefully, they'll get with the times and release it on DVD.

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