Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Grumpiest Blog that ever ever was

David Lazarus
Great name, huh? He covers money for the San Francisco Chronicle, and wrote an article last week about the fate of newspapers in the digital age. This week, he visited the topic again.

“I wasn't surprised that my recent column on the need for newspapers to charge for online content drew heated reaction from cyberreaders and bloggers. What did surprise me was the sense of entitlement many of these people exhibited when it came to benefiting from other people's work, and the dismissive attitude shown toward the importance of reporting-based journalism.”

One reader wrote: "Content is no longer worth paying for. Going forward, it will not be possible to charge for content ... and any industry which relies on trying to make people pay for content will collapse."

To which Mr. Lazarus responded: “Content that's not worth paying for -- nice paradigm.”

Tim Goodman
He covers television for the San Francisco Chronicle. He weighed in last week on the Viacom/YouTube dust up.

He begins: “Figuring out whom to root for in the battle between Viacom and YouTube is pretty simple, particularly if you own a computer: Turn it on and play. YouTube, with its library of archival television and music clips and its array of user-generated video oddities, is one of the truly great gifts of an invigorated, inventive Internet. That Viacom is suing -- for a chilling $1 billion -- the former startup now owned by Google is likely to give YouTube devotees the willies. All those cool clips -- potentially gone.”


“And yet, figuring out who is right in this lawsuit is also a no-brainer: Viacom. Is there even a gray area here? YouTube is profiting (or, theoretically could profit) from artistic content that it didn't create. It's taking something that was developed by Viacom, namely a number of popular television shows, and offering them free to YouTube users. Call it what you want -- say, an infringement on our mindless fun and viewing pleasure -- but it's essentially stealing. Fair use? Uh, no. Stealing.”

My two cents…
It pisses me off that I can no longer make a living at being a pissed-off guy, because everybody and his dog is a pissed-off guy these days, and are willing to vent for free on the Web. Where can this lead? A world without newspapers, a world without television, a world without movies, a world without books or magazines, a world where the only things being read are the semi-literate ramblings of smug boneheads. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Anna Nicole Smith’s Diaries
Two of them have been sold on eBay for over half a million dollars. Can I move to a different planet now? For free?

Shocking revelations.
Ms. Smith didn’t like sex.

Kevin Federline
Remember him? No? Well, he has a search engine that offers prizes, including an autographed picture of him, his latest CD, and a tee-shirt with his face on it. Knock yourselves out.

Outsourcing subtitlers!
People who write subtitles for movies are rising in protest! According to the Times (London), “Subtitler Kenn Nakata Steffensen, of London, said that in one film, translated from English to Danish, the line ‘Jim is a Vietnam vet’ became ‘Jim is veterinarian from Vietnam’. In another film, ‘flying into an asteroid field’ became "flying into a steroid field", and in a television program, ‘she died in a freak rugby accident’ was translated into ‘she died in a rugby match for people with deformities’. He said: ‘Experienced subtitlers are being replaced by inexperienced and unqualified translators who produce poor work for incredibly low pay.’”

Craigslist job offer
“Quick! Who is Pete Doherty and what's his f'in problem? How many times did Britney check in and out of rehab in a 72-hour period? What's the latest American Idol scandal and have you seen the photos? How many washed-up rock acts are stepping back into spandex for reunions in 2007?

I need a pop music junkie. Yes, I said *music*... but as we all know, pop music is the sort of carnival that demands a good sideshow. So you gotta be on top of the gossip, too.

The job is 20 hours a week at minimum wage. You'll work from home, reposting juicy news tidbits with occasional commentary. It's easy and fun, and only has one requirement: you=fabulous.

If you're interested, send me (1) a resume, (2) a writeup of NO MORE THAN 200 WORDS on why you're the one I should hire, and (3) the name and phone number of a reference who can vouch for your reliability.

By the way, do not apply if you're not reliable. I fire people over missed shifts. Thank you, xox.”

Dear xox
So you’re offering minimum wage for the opportunity to pay attention to Britney Spears? You want a fucking reference? And an essay? You’ll fire the writer if he or she happens to sleep through AMERICAN IDOL? Can I move to a different planet now? With free cable?

Faced with declining tourism, Cuba is thinking of building a theme park.

I know nothing about cricket, except when I see it featured in British mysteries. It’s a sport that seems to require a great deal of commitment from spectators (matches can last up to seven hours); on the plus side, it also seems to require crust-free sandwiches and wine. Apparently, however, cricket is very scandal-ridden, with bookmaking, doping, and game-throwing. And now: murder. Where’s Miss Marple when we need her? This sort of thing just isn’t cricket.

Content is king?
NYT: “MySpace, the Web’s largest social network, has gradually been imposing limits on the software tools that users can embed in their pages, like music and video players that also deliver advertising or enable transactions.”

“MySpace says that it will block these pieces of third-party software — also called widgets — when they lend themselves to violations of its terms of service, like the spread of pornography or copyrighted material. But it also objects to widgets that enable users to sell items or advertise without authorization, or without entering into a direct partnership with the company.”

MySpace is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

We’re idiots
Anne Appelbaum, writing for AEI (for free?): “The Daily Telegraph, normally the most pro-American newspaper in Britain, wrote that it hardly mattered whether Mohammed was guilty, since whatever conclusion is drawn by the military tribunal that will try him, ‘the world will condemn the procedures by which the verdicts were reached.’ Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung concluded that ‘the Bush administration has nobody but itself to blame for the fact that the actions and motives of the perpetrator are now playing second fiddle to the practices used by the Americans in fighting terrorism.’ In many places, the confessions, which took place nearly a week ago, still have hardly attracted attention.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Anniversary Blog

It was the fifth anniversary of married bliss for Your Correspondent and his Wee Wife. We celebrated with Mexican food, and the rentals of (a) QUATERMASS, a British mini-series from the 70’s that I had not heard of, but features one of my all-time favorite characters, Professor Quatermass, who is always finding aliens where you’d least expect them. John Mills starred in this incarnation (you know, Hayley’s Dad?). He was joined by Simon (MANIMAL) MacCorindale. Excellent! And (b) the second season of LITTLE BRITAIN, which was somewhat disappointing. Some new characters, but mainly the same characters from the first season, with the same jokes, only not as funny. Tom Baker as the narrator really cracked me up, but the narrator shouldn’t really be the funniest thing on a show, in my opinion.

I accompanied the Child Bride to the hair salon today, so we could explore the neighborhood and spend some quality time together in the presence of a good looking young gay man, Seth, who cut her hair. He’s also Hunx in a band called Gravy Train, a band my daughter adores. Small world!

The new do is very stylish and French, by the way, and the Bride loves it, as do I. It’s way Audrey Hepburn, if you know what I mean.

New York Times, on Millard Fillmore
“Certainly Fillmore was consistent; by all accounts, he was boring up until the end. After being served some soup, he reportedly declared, ‘The nourishment is palatable,’ and died.”

Donald Trump on CNN, discussing our nation’s leaders….
"I don't know if they're bad people. I don't know what's going on. I just know they got us into a mess, the likes of which this country has probably never seen. It's one of the great catastrophes of all time."

Would HE run?

"It would certainly be fun. It would certainly be interesting."

Trucker’s prayer: answered
Washington Post, dateline Maryland: “State House lawmakers effectively killed a bill to outlaw fake bull testicles and other anatomically explicit vehicle decorations that truckers dangle from the trailer hitches of their pickups.”

“It is not clear whether Mr. Mohammed was really involved in as many terrorism plots as he said or whether he was simply indulging in a penchant for drama and self-aggrandizement.”

He confessed to 31 separate plots, including the 93 World Trade Center bombings, 9/11 itself, the Bali Bomb (which killed over 200 people), terrorist attacks on Israelis and Kenyans in Kenya in 2002, the failed "shoe bomber" attack of 2001, plots to kill Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, attacks on Big Ben, Heathrow, and Canary Wharf in London, and the beheading of Daniel Pearl.

When did he find time to sleep, this busy little terrorist?

Wall Street Journal is all a-twitter
WSJ: “Kera Richard has recently become obsessed with a new online tool for connecting with friends. For the past three weeks, she has joined the crowds on, a site that invites everyone to answer the question: ‘What are you doing?’"

Kera didn’t “get it” at first. “But soon she was ‘Twittering’ a dozen or more times a day, broadcasting quick, as-they-happen updates to friends who had chosen to link to her through the service.”

WSJ lists some sample Twitteries (with typos intact):

9:51 a.m. Tweet Tweet... Just checking in... Happy Friday Twitter-ers
11:02 a.m. Getting ready for my 1sy Yoga class of the year! I'm scared.
2:02 p.m. Late Lunch - Tomato Soup & Pretzel. 4hrs till Happy Hour! (Yoga was good)
4:11 p.m. Falling asleep at my desk. 2 more hours till cocktails!
5:40 p.m. Shutting down & Heading to the Bar. Might turn on twitter-txt (you'll hate it I'm sure)
5:43 p.m. Just for DougH, I will Twitter-intoication
8:01 p.m. Hi twitts miss ya
8:15 p.m. Okay i cant get my email cause i forgot my password !
10:41 p.m. Home from the bar...feeling very chatty but none of my friends are online :(
11:04 p.m. Listening to my drunk a-- friend babble to me on my cell…

My Twitter
8:27 p.m. Picking nose! LOL! Something smells funny.
8:28 p.m. Ga ga ga ga ga.
8:29 p.m. What’s that noise? Oh! Civilization crashing down! Hi!

Tom Delay: Big Baby
Robert Novak:
In describing Gingrich as an "ineffective Speaker," DeLay writes "He knew nothing about running meetings and nothing about driving an agenda." He adds: "Nearly every other day he had a new agenda, a new direction he wanted us to take. It was impossible to follow him."

DeLay also declares that "our leadership was in no moral shape to press" for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Writing well before Gingrich's admission for the first time last week, DeLay asserts: "It is now public knowledge that Newt Gingrich was having an affair with a staffer during the entire impeachment crisis. Clearly, men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis."

Delay’s High Moral Tone
I thought he was in jail. No? Why not?

Book Zoo
Great bookstore in Oakland, around 63rd and Telegraph. I gather they used to be in Berkeley, but moved. They’ve been at this location about a month. The manager said we were the first customers he’d had all day, could we chat the place up. Have done! Great funky bookstore, with wide assortment of interesting and odd used books. I bought a novel called A FOOL’S ERRAND by Albion W. Tourgee (yes!), written in 1879, about carpetbaggers in the Reconstruction.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Old News Blog

Old News
First, a couple tidbits I’d clipped and forgotten about.

SF Examiner April 3, 2003: And these are your social skills, on crack!
“The sting operation almost turned ugly when one suspect, armed with a six inch hunting knife, threatened to kill undercover narcotics officer John Keane. “’You better come down here right now and smoke this rock with me or I will kill you!’ suspected drug dealer Keith Lawyer screamed at Keane….”

Sunset Beacon April 2003: the secret life of plants.
This was from a story about a hearing held in San Francisco, concerning efforts to restore natural areas in San Francisco to their native habitat.

“A critic of the Natural Areas Program, Dr. Arthur Shapiro, Professor of Ecology at UC Davis, stated at this meeting: ‘The hatred of ‘exotic’ trees, some of which are California natives anyway, is not only ideological but sometimes verges on the pathological and has strong overtones of xenophobia and racism.’”

Tolerance for eucalyptus? Never!!!

This just in:
Daylight savings time does not really save daylight. The amount of daylight remains the same, no matter what we do.

I’m going to do the same thing with Michael Myers masks.
Kevin Lambert has started a movement, of sorts, in which he and his friends wear ski masks in public to dispel the mask’s association with armed robbers. He has also launched a web site, “Striving to keep America Warm By Combating Ski Mask Discrimination."

When ski masks are outlawed, only outlaws will have ski masks.

In other news.
Reuters: “Mayan leaders will spiritually ‘cleanse’ ancient ruins in Guatemala after a visit by U.S.
President George W. Bush….”

Krauthammer, on the attack!
“Scooter Libby has just been convicted of four felonies that could theoretically give him 25 years in jail for . . . what? Misstating when he first heard a certain piece of information, namely the identity of Joe Wilson's wife. Think about that. Can you remember when you first heard the name Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame?”

Why yes. It was when I was trying plant a defamatory story about Joe Wilson in the nation’s newspapers, following his claim in the New York Times that Iraq was not shopping for uranium in Niger. A Tuesday, I believe. Over lunch. At the behest of my superiors.

300 Backlash.
Dana Stevens, in Slate: “Here are just a few of the categories that are not-so-vaguely conflated with the ‘bad’ (i.e., Persian) side in the movie: black people. Brown people. Disfigured people. Gay men (not gay in the buff, homoerotic Spartan fashion, but in the effeminate Persian style). Lesbians. Disfigured lesbians. Ten-foot-tall giants with filed teeth and lobster claws. Elephants and rhinos (filthy creatures both). The Persian commander, the god-king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is a towering, bald club fag with facial piercings, kohl-rimmed eyes, and a disturbing predilection for making people kneel before him.”

In other words, Mr. Stevens, Xerxes was what we call in the audience industry, “the bad guy.”

Nathan Lee, in SF Weekly: “Yet aside from the fact that Spartans come across as pinched, pinheaded gym bunnies, it's their flesh the movie worships. Not since Beau Travail has a phalanx of meatheads received such insistent ogling. As for the threat to peace, freedom, and democracy, that filthy Persian orgy looks way more fun than sitting around watching Spartans mope while their angry children slap each other around. At once homophobic and homoerotic, 300 is finally, and hilariously, just hysterical.”

Didn’t these critics ever watch a Hercules movie when they were kids? Not to mention THE 300 SPARTANS, with Richard Egan? And Ralph Richardson? “Spartans! We have reached Thermopylae. The orders are: From this wall, we do not retreat!”

Jokingly ha ha, or jokingly peculiar?
The Nevada Democratic Party today backed out of a FOX News-sponsored presidential debate after Fox President Roger Ailes's recent remarks jokingly comparing Democratic Senator Barack Obama to al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Captain America, RIP.
Captain America was apparently assassinated in a recent comic book, causing all kinds of conservative upset, even though nobody’s actually read a Captain America comic since 1948.

After the success of a novel by Mitch Albom, FOR ONE MORE DAY, Starbucks has selected for its second book, A LONG WAY GONE: MEMOIRS OF A BOY SOLDIER, by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone. I’ll bet it’s not as heartwarming as Mitch Albom’s book.

“What if you could one day unlock your door or access your bank account by simply ‘thinking’ your password?… A pass-thought could be anything from a snatch of song, the memory of your last birthday or even the image of your favorite painting. A more achievable alternative might present you with predetermined pictures, music or video clips, to which you would think ‘yes’ or ‘no’ while the machine monitors your brain activity.”

But what if your pass-thought is an earworm, some song stuck in your head, some song you actually hate, or what if it’s some random thought, like “My butt itches,” or “What should I have for dinner?” Or “What was the name of the red-headed girl who sat behind me in third grade? Or was it fifth grade?” You’ll get inside the house again, my friends, and your checkbook will remain forever unbalanced.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Leggo my Bloggo

Pot, Kettle…
Newt Gingrich says that Hillary Clinton is “nasty.”

Our Ann Coulter Moment
"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I - so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."

See, she’s not calling a guy who’s not gay gay, and thinks she’s scored some kind of point. Or made a joke. Or something. Well, she got a rise out of Howard Dean anyway.

Race baiting
National debate: “Is Barrack Obama black enough?”

Black enough for what?

More race
The New York City Council, in its wisdom, has “banned” the use of what the media demurely call the “n-word” in public. And who uses the “n-word” in public most? Young black men, to each other. Great. A brand new way for police to hassle young black men.

Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond
Rev. Al claims that discovering potential kinship with Strom Thurmond was “the shock of my life.” Oh, come now. Instead of brooding on the couch, if I were the Rev. Al, I’d show up at the Thurmonds: “It’s me! Cousin Al! Can I crash here for a while?” What are they gonna do, turn him away? He’s family!

Fired, resigned
Eight U.S. attorneys, fired abruptly by the Justice Department, suspect political motives. Congress is looking into it. Army Secretary Francis Harvey was forced to resign, in the wake of the growing outpatient scandal at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. What is WITH this administration? Can these people do anything besides backstab rivals and brainstorm new ways to excel at incompetence?

Another case in point: Cheney We Hardly Knew Ye.
A Senior Administration Official recently gave an interview to reporters, on the condition that he be identified only as a Senior Administration Official. He then proceeded to couch his answers in the first person. “…And my point was that if we follow what I believe Speaker Pelosi really wants to do in terms of withdraw, that that would validate the al Qaeda strategy. I was very careful in those words I selected. I didn’t say ‘give aid and comfort’ to terrorists. I didn’t say ‘unpatriotic.’ I said it would validate the al Qaeda strategy,” said the Senior Administration Official. Hmmm. Who could it have been?

Weird neighbor.
My neighbor, who feeds feral cats in his backyard at night, by putting cat food on paper plates, which he places carefully on his back porch, from inside the house, with tongs, emerged from his house this afternoon. There were three empty paper plates on the porch. He looked at them, picked up ONE of them, and threw it in a trash can.

Second Life, again; John Edwards, again

From the John Edwards 08 Blog:
“Shortly before midnight (CST) on Monday, February 26, a group of republican Second Life users, some sporting ‘Bush '08’ tags, vandalized the John Edwards Second Life HQ. They plastered the area with Marxist/Lenninist posters and slogans, a feces spewing obsenity [sic] and a photoshopped picture of John in blackface, all the while harrassing [sic] visitors with right-wing nonsense and obsenity-laden abuse of Democrats in general and John in particular.”

Here’s a comment, from somebody who works for Linden Lab, creator of Second Life: “… I checked out the John Edwards HQ inworld, and looks like autoreturn is set to 1 min., and the Create Objects & Object Entry checkboxes are set to OFF too. Great move! Just so everyone knows, these are a feature available to any parcel owner in Second Life, and help undesired stuff from accumulating, including litter and malicious garbage. We also have Knowledge Base articles about this, so feel free to have a look and I hope with a better understanding of what these tools can do for you, you'll enjoy your Second Lives more.”

So if somebody “shits” on your “property,” enjoy it! It will be gone soon.

One of the perpetrators of this prank (so he claimed) also posted a comment, saying he did it for the “lulz.”

That was a new one on me. I found out that “lulz” is derived from “LOL.” So “I did it for the lulz” is a more opaque way of saying “I did it for the hell of it.”

He signed off his comment with “Enjoy your AIDS.” LOL!

More internet fun! With Legos! And socialism!

From TCS Daily:
“Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos.

“[T] students had been building an elaborate ‘Legotown,’ but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore ‘the inequities of private ownership.’ According to the teachers, ‘Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation.’

“The teachers … explored with the students concepts of fairness, equity, power, and other issues over a period of several months.

“At the end of that time, Legos returned to the classroom after the children agreed to several guiding principles framed by the teachers, including that ‘All structures are public structures’ and ‘All structures will be standard sizes.’

And don’t forget…
From Scientific American:
“Recently, however, our team at Microsoft Research has begun a quest to digitally chronicle every aspect of a person's life, starting with one of our own lives (Researcher Gordon Bell's). For the past six years, we have attempted to record all of Bell's communications with other people and machines, as well as the images he sees, the sounds he hears and the Web sites he visits--storing everything in a personal digital archive that is both searchable and secure.”

Soon, instead of trying to remember the name of the red-headed girl who sat behind me in 3rd grade, the name can be accessed at the touch of a finger! I can waste hours, days, weeks, years, Googling myself, and not have to remember anything at all.

Headline of the week
Swiss Accidentally Invade Liechtenstein