Archive for September, 2005


Thursday, September 29th, 2005

Summarize James Bond in five words.

Got ’em? Was one of them “British”? For me, it would have to be, yet in the search for a new Bond post-Brosnan (who, alright, is technically Irish) that seems to have been forgotten. A recent poll of Netflix members came back with an Australian on top (and bottom):

    -- Hugh Jackman             26%
    -- Clive Owen               21%
    -- Ewan McGregor            16%
    -- Jude Law                 14%
    -- Orlando Bloom             6%
    -- Heath Ledger              3%

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Australia(ns), but as Bond? The accent is simply not the same thing — though some may note that a survey done for purposes of Netflix marketing really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. Right they are, but according to “Daily Variety” (as quoted in IMDb), the folks who do make the call, Sony and Eon Productions “are completing screen tests for the movie this week…the frontrunners are [Daniel] Craig, Henry Cavill, Sam Worthington and Goran Visnjic.”

Goran Visnjic is Croatian and 33. Sam Worthington was hot in Gettin’ Square, but he’s Australian and only 29. And Henry Cavill may be a Brit, but he’s freakin’ 22! A 22-year-old James Bond!

To me, it’s simple. We can’t have Australians, Americans, Croatians or anything else but Britons. The accent is a key part of the character, and you can’t fake it — the movies are fake enough as it is. You can’t have somebody under 30 unless you’re trying to do Bond Begins. And while we’re making up arbitrary rules, Bond has always been a brunette.

Add it all up and you’ve gotta choose Clive Owen (of BMW’s The Hire, Croupier, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead… are you spotting the pattern yet?). He’s sexy, suave, sleek, sophisticated and other good things that don’t even start with S.

If you can’t get Clive, Daniel Craig would make a fine substitute as well. That thing I said about brunette? Eh, we can bend the rules, especially for a guy who was so awesome in Layer Cake and looked damn fine doing it…

Uhhh, Edgar…

Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

Pop quiz: name a store full of items that all sell for the same price, regardless of each item’s differences or time on the market. Can you think of anything? The guy running Warner Music sure can: the iTunes Music Store. And he thinks that’s crazy:

“There’s no content in the world that has doesn’t have some price flexibility,” said Warner Music Group Corp. chief executive Edgar Bronfman at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference here. “Not all songs are created equal. Not all albums are created equal.” [qtd. in Reuters: Apple, record labels to face off over pricing]

“No content in the world”, eh? Is it just me, or did Eddie forget something? A pretty major form of “content”? They’re called movies, and anyone who’s been to a movie theater knows for damn sure that not all movies are created equal, but when it comes to the theater, everything is priced the same.

But maybe Mr. B was just having a bad day. At the same conference, “Red Herring” quotes him* as saying this:

“We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue,” [Bronfman] said. “We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only.

“We have to keep thinking how we are going to monetize our product for our shareholders,” added Mr. Bronfman. “We are the arms supplier in the device wars between Samsung, Sony, Apple, and others.” [from Bronfman Fires Back at Apple” via Gruber]

See? He’s just losing it, is all. Expecting a cut of hardware sales (when you’re already getting a cut of digital and CD sales for the actual music) would be like Coke demanding they get a percetange every time a cup is sold. Ridiculous. But what can we expect from a guy who uses the quasi-word “monetize”?

* Interestingly, the sources differ on the “world” line. Rather than “in the world” and “flexibility”, as Reuters has it, Herring quotes him as saying “There’s no content that I know of that does not have variable pricing,” which is different phrasing but the same effect.

End of My Journeys

Monday, September 26th, 2005

Well, I had a good birthday weekend (and thanks for the well-wishing) though two events, both Internet-related, left me scratching my head.

The first occurred on Saturday, when I awoke to learn my Internet connection seemed to be down. Naturally, the night before I had been uploading some huge files, so this caused me to curse. I cursed even more when, through the help of a support tech, I traced the problem to a fried cable modem. I knew it was raining, but not that hard…

Since, cleverly, I had decided the best bet was to buy and not rent the cable modem, this meant that even if a service call was possible (it wasn’t; our local CableCo doesn’t field weekend techs) they weren’t going to repair something that wasn’t theirs.

Fortunately, our local office supply store had an acceptable (albeit overpriced) substitute, and I made the switch and was once again connected. I didn’t suffer the effects of full withdrawal, thankfully.

Then on Sunday I noted the next odd turn of events: somebody snapped up JSPJourneys. In a lapse, I’d missed the renewal date for my travel site’s domain, and some dude from Tempe, AZ grabbed it the moment it expired.

It’s a spectacularly odd move, in my view, because that address, unlike this one, is hardly valuable except to those who wanted to follow my adventures in Oz (since merged into my travel category.) Even odder is that, if I’m reading the dates correctly, someone actually back-ordered the domain when I owned it. Very weird. My best guess is that with domain names as incredibly cheap as they are right now, even a tiny amount of established traffic is enough to slap up a link-farm.

I don’t know. Like I said, odd.

Established 1977

Friday, September 23rd, 2005

Today marks my 28th year here on the blue marble, and I plan to spend it wih the Wonder Dog and my family, all of whom are coming in from points west, east, and more east.

Thanks to everybody who wished me well (and a special shout-out to Cath “Rockstar” Bender, who sent me Tim-Tams from Oz, and a hilarious “WWFSMD?” mug — Cath, hope we can do the Slam together again soon!)

I hope y’all have a great weekend, because I sure plan to!

The Dumbest Thing You’ll Read Today

Wednesday, September 21st, 2005

Allow me, if you will, a moment of pure silliness.

I was watching “The Wire” season 2 yesterday (and by that I mean all of it, in one day) and at one point in that quite excellent series, one character, Ziggy, plays a joke on another, Maui, by changing Maui’s desktop background to a photo of a penis. (Supposedly Ziggy’s own.)

Now, first of all, please don’t get the wrong impression: this is a mere blip in the sophisticated story line of the series, just as the spliced penis pic in Fight Club is merely incidental.

Incidental to the plot, that is, but no doubt a major headache for the clearance people. See, we now live in a world where a record company wants $10k for a 6-second Rocky ringtone played in the background of a documentary (sadly, I’m so not kidding), you better believe they aren’t just going to grab any old photo off the Net and shoot that.

They could have a cast member pose, I guess, but then he would be need to be paid residuals each time his, ahh, effort was shown in syndication. (Remember that Seinfeld episode where Jerry kept getting all those small-amount checks?)

I don’t know. Call me weird, but I just find it hilarious (and a little sad) that it’s somebody’s job to review the script, find the image, and secure a contract with the owner just so they can have a brief practical joke in an episode.

Truck Tracking

Monday, September 19th, 2005

For the last few weeks, I’ve had all sorts of random ideas about how I would try to organize the logistical and communication efforts surrounding the Katrina recovery effort. Here’s one:

Ever heard of ScoutPal? It’s a combination hardware/service product that involves a bar code scanner, a cell phone, and an Amazon lookup service. The basic idea is that you can cruise through crap at a garage sale, scan anything that looks interesting, and you’ll know instantly if there’s an online market for it. (Amazon Japan does something similar, but it’s even slicker — it can interpret a picture of a barcode sent via your cameraphone, and send back a price-check.) Anyway, phones with bar code capability is step one.

Step two is GPS. Ideally, this would be in the phone as well, such as Nextel units. (Last I checked, Nextel was the only manufacturer that allowed software programs to access the phone’s location hardware.)

So now the plan begins to take shape — using scanner-equipped Nextel handsets, you could place volunteers anywhere there’s coverage. What are they going to scan? Why, trucks of course. Before your major retailers, your aid agencies, your volunteer groups set off, ask them to visit a special website to fill out some simple information: what are you bringing, what amount, and where are you headed. The site could then record the information and spit back a PDF with a big barcode. The trucker could then slap that barcode on the side of his/her rig.

When a truck hit an important checkpoint — main intake center, disaster perimeter, destination, whatever — a team member with a phone could just run up and scan it. Instantly, the truck’s serial, location, and time could be recorded and beamed back (via SMS) to the mothership (and therefore to whomever else needed it, such as on-site professionals and the home organizations that originated the shipments.) It’s like FedEx/UPS tracking, but on the fly, and for all sorts of goods.

Of course, it depends heavily on available cell phone coverage, but I have ideas for that as well…

Mayoral Mystery

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

I’ll tell you something I despise (don’t I always?): when people call, you answer, and then they say “Who’s this?”, often in a demanding tone. I always say, in a slightly chilly fashion, “Who wants to know?”

I should have done the same the other day. The phone rang and it was “Neesha” with two questions about the upcoming mayoral election. The two questions were, naturally, about whom I planned to vote for in the primary and general. I told Neesha that, honestly, I had no idea. Of the 4 candidates, I believe all have been mayor at least once before, and really it’s hard to tell the difference between most of them.

Yet what I should have said was: “Who’s funding this poll?”

Citi Tanks

Friday, September 16th, 2005

I was e-mailed my credit card statement the other day, so I fired up the Web browser to pay it online. (Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I wrote a check. Years and years.) Anyway, I clicked “Make a Payment” and got this:

Citi online payment screen

Now, this statement is due next month, which is of course October. Yet for some bizarre reason, the first suggested day for my payment to take effect was January, 2007. Not relishing the prospect of 14 months of late fees, I clicked the little calendar icon and was rewarded with a pop-up suggesting I might like January, 2005. (Now that I could use — imagine being able to wipe out interest charges by just backdating your payment!)

The thing that really confuses me is the fact that just a portion of the days are hyperlinks. “Yes,” the system seems to say, “you can have this payment post 8 months ago, but not before January 20th!” Really makes you confident in their skill at handling electronic money transfers, doesn’t it?

Seems somebody at Citi should spend a lot less time policing passwords and a lot more time fixing bugs.

I Think I Can (Hold It)

Thursday, September 15th, 2005

I’ve now seen several sites reference this Reuters photo of President Bush scribbling a note to Condoleeza Rice. The original photo is sort of a generic, almost stock “busy at work” shot. Yahoo!’s version, though, crops tight on the content of the note itself:

detail of Bush's note

(They made the bizarre choice to caption it as “U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting…”)

Now let’s get something straight. I am obviously no Bush fan, and I never have been. But I also don’t think it’s fair to sneer at the very idea that the president is passing a note to the Secretary of State regarding, eh, personal matters. I see this as entirely plausible: after all, the Secretary of State is the lead diplomat, and should have not only an excellent grasp of the scheduling and timing, but also a good sense of when would be the most discreet time to make a brief exit. So 1) choosing to write a note and 2) jotting “I think I may need a bathroom break” seems perfectly fine by me.

But what’s with the question mark? What’s with the “is this possible”? For all the pomp, circumstance and snazzy headphones present at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, it’s still a room filled with people, with the same needs.

Suddenly, though, I’m curious about the restrooms at the U.N. I wonder, do the men’s rooms have multiple stalls, or is it one at a time? Do they bother with urinals? With or without privacy screens, do you think? Does everybody try to check each other out? (“Oh ho, Mr. ‘Eight Palaces’ is compensating, eh?”) Does Bush bring in Secret Service?

Now that I think about it, maybe there is specific bathroom protocol. Maybe there is an elaborate series of hand signals for messages like “Abort, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inside”. Perhaps the Egpytian Ambassador stands guard while the Saudis scrawl anti-Israeli graffiti on the hand dryer…

Hmmm. So how did a fairly high-minded post questioning a Reuters photographer’s choice devolve into bathroom jokes? Oh, that’s right: the call of (human) nature.

Update [Fri 4:07a]: Mi hermana thought the photo might be fake. It’s not.

Then and Now: The Difference is W

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Just discovered a piece from 10 years ago in “Washington Monthly” called The FEMA Phoenix. Amazing parallels as it mentions the bumbling, ineffective response to a devastating hurricane (in that case, Andrew) as compared to the lightning-fast, universally-praised response to Oklahoma City and also flooding in Iowa.

The difference, of course, was directors — and the presidents who appointed them. George H.W. Bush chose “Wallace Stickney, head of New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation, to lead FEMA. Stickney’s only apparent qualification for the post was that he was a close friend and former next door neighbor of Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu.” (Shades of Michael Brown, who became FEMA’s chief counsel, and then director, on the basis of being somebody’s college roommate.) Clinton, of course, chose James Lee Witt, who was the first FEMA director who actually had emergency management experience (a truly depressing thought.)

Many people have heard this story by now, of course. But here’s the part that blows me away: George W. Bush specifically complimented Witt in his first presidential debate.

You know, as governor, one of the things you have to deal with is catastrophe. I can remember the fires that swept Parker County, Texas. I remember the floods that swept our state. I remember going down to Del Rio, Texas. I have to pay the administration a compliment. James Lee Witt of FEMA has done a really good job of working with governors during times of crisis. [qtd. in Miracle Worker: Bush longs for James Lee Witt, the Clinton man he should have kept, by Bruce Reed]

Imagine the excellence required to inspire a presidential candidate to praise his opponent’s administration. Then ask yourself why the “CEO President” felt the need “to switch horses midstream.”

And seriously, read the “Washington Monthly” article. Everything old is new again.

So, “No”, Then

Tuesday, September 13th, 2005

“Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That’s a very important question and it’s in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond,” the president said. [qtd. in Facility Owners Charged As Deaths Hit 423, Associated Press]

It’s amazing how much — and how little — Mr. Bush packed into these two sentences. In some ways, it’s like a PR master class.


  • The first rule of PR is “answer the question you wish you were asked.” Bush goes one better by punting the question altogether, basically just agreeing it’s “a very important question” but not answering it.
  • Note the use of what “went on“, as opposed to what “went wrong“. PR types never like to admit that anything went awry, ever. This goes double for most Republicans, as I’ve said before.
  • The word “better” is another marketing favorite — because it allows for sentences such as “What was great is now even better!” It’s also marvelously vague: rather than giving any concrete, measurable metrics, or even specific verbs like promising to “fix” the problems or “speed” the aid, we get an empty promise.

Bush is hardly inventing these techniques, though. This is merely corpo-speak writ large. But in this time of national tragedy, of war and calamity, don’t we deserve more? Don’t we deserve…this:

But if the president really wants to turn around the perception that he’s failed, he has a better option than belated hyperactivity and spin: Bush should put his own prestige on the line by appearing in an unscripted public forum to answer questions about the government’s response to the disaster. He should schedule a press conference, or, better yet, a town hall meeting with residents. The directors of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security can join him onstage, if they’d like, but this president who likes bold action should promise that he will be the one doing the talking. [from “Political Hurricane” by John Dickerson]

You bet we do. But I’m not holding my breath.

Mountain Tops

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Well, the Venice Film Festival gave Brokeback Mountain the “Golden Lion”, its award for best film. If there was any doubt I’d be seeing it (there wasn’t), that takes care of that. They don’t seem to have an official site at the moment, so right now the best place to see the trailer is at Yahoo!.

Another film I’ve been tracking recently also did very well at Venice, winning the screenplay award: George Clooney’s Good Night, And Good Luck. This film, about Edward R. Murrow’s decision to face down Senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wis., 1947-1957) seems like it could hardly come at a better time.

Just watching the open sequence on Good Night‘s official site makes me wish there was more of that kind of thinking on television (okay, everywhere) today.

Clooney seems to feel the same way, for the trailer (and the official site) ends with a URL: That site, currently unfinished, opens with the same animation, but then uses the film as a springboard to promote citizen journalism. Seems this — like the films themselves — might be worth following.

Update [Mon 1:05a]: Cousin Josh found Brokeback‘s official site at, though it’s just a placeholder for now. Thanks for the tip, Josh.


Friday, September 9th, 2005

I’m not taking a position on the article itself, but this is a hell of a nugget:

The [New Orleans] police inspire so little trust that witnesses often refuse to testify in court. University researchers enlisted the police in an experiment last year, having them fire 700 blank gun rounds in a New Orleans neighborhood one afternoon. Nobody picked up the phone to report the shootings. Little wonder the city’s homicide rate stands at 10 times the national average.

Excerpted from Slate’s “Don’t Refloat: The case against rebuilding the sunken city of New Orleans” by Jack Shafer, links in the original.


Thursday, September 8th, 2005

Over the weekend I had a chance to see the trailer for Brokeback Mountain, the upcoming Ang Lee movie about two cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who fall in love.

It actually looked pretty good, which means I’m now nurturing a fragile hope that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get a nice little gay-themed movie that doesn’t involve AIDS, coming out, gay bashing, or circuit parties.

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

On Panties and Blurry People

Wednesday, September 7th, 2005

This weekend, I had a chance to catch up with my good friend Debbie, who I hadn’t spoken to in awhile. I called her on the cell, and so before launching into an extended exchange I made sure she was free to talk. “Well,” she said, “at the moment I’m at the store. Buying underwear, actually.”

“Excellent!” I replied, with gusto. “Perhaps you can settle a question I had…” — at which point I launched into an observation that the previous week’s mail had included a postcard for “1 free panty” at Victoria’s Secret. “Is that right?” I wondered. “Isn’t ‘panty’ like saying free ‘short’ or ‘pant’? Why do we say ‘pair of shorts’, anyway? Is it all about the leg holes?” To which Debs chuckled and said, “Only you could change a visit to the lingerie section into a conversation on weird grammatical rules. I’m so glad you called. I needed my John fix.”

Truth is, I know I get interested in weird little quirks, such as Victoria’s “panty”, or Mike Chertoff’s reference to “‘dewatering’ New Orleans” or the way my local grocery store likes to put up bright yellow signs reading “PRICE DECLINE” when “New Low Price” or “Sale” is shorter and simpler. Often, I can even figure out what might motivate people to make these perhaps odd choices (because “1 free pair of panties” might be construed as two, he’s a pompous ass, and head office said so, respectively.)

Anyway, now that we’ve established that odd things grab my attention, could you indulge me? Take this photo:
Two women, behind whom is a blurry bunch of people

This group is the affliate team. This is the introductory photo, so you can imagine who’s answering your e-mail or some crap like that. At least, you could, if they hadn’t blurred them out.

Seriously, have you ever seen a team photo that obscures some of the players? I understand why they highlight the front two women, at least — they’re actual Buy employees. The people in the back are employees of the company Buy has contracted to run the program. But isn’t that clear enough just from their relative size and position? Or even in the caption, which separates names by company?

I’d like to say “what were they thinking?“, but as with the other examples, sometimes I’m not sure if these people are thinking at all…