Saturday, January 28, 2006

When She Says "You In The Media" What Business Does She Think She's In?

Ann Coulter "joked" during a Thursday speech that liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens should be poisoned. "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Editor & Publisher

Finally, Science Has Developed a Costly and Complex Alternative to the Carrot

This is the EaseOut Bulb Remover, a rubber pair of pliers that won’t conduct electricity, so you can change a broken light bulb. The round safety shield is there to protect you from falling glass. The world these people live in is a very dangerous place, I guess.

TiVo Nerve Center Revealed

This is the Holy Place itself... TiVo headquarters... I imagine it sounds a little like angels and harps as you walk inside...

Zatz Not Funny. . .

Friday, January 27, 2006

Taking the Case To the People

Three Months Of Non-Stop PR Gets You:

Three Out Of Five Say The Country Is Seriously Off Course...

70% Do Not Support Spying On Ordinary Americans…

61% Unfavorably View GOP Congress, Highest Number In 10 Years...

76% Say Bush Should Disclose His Ties To Indicted GOP Lobbyist Abramoff...

The Huffington Post

You Just Know Michael and Sydney Are Behind This

Melrose Place alums Josie Bissett and Rob Estes have announced that they will divorce, ending their marriage of more than 13 years. Let's hope it's not awkward if they run into each other at Shooters.

Microsoft Wants a Bite of the Apple

Business Week reports that Microsoft is sick of getting its X-ass kicked by Apple, particularly in the white earbud department. To that end, they are (unconfirmedly) mulling over their own portable Xbox-iPod hybrid.

According to Xbox boss Peter Moore "It can't just be our version of the iPod." Moore says a Microsoft device would have to include games, since that's Microsoft's strong suit.

My advice (which is worth exactly what Microsoft is paying for it) would be for them to do what Sony did with the PSP: make it a versatile device that plays games, music, movies, media, browses the web, RSS feeds -- if Microsoft ever learns what RSS is -- and even does remote TV viewing.

And then do Sony one better and do what Apple does so well: make the DRM transparent.

I know, I know, there's a lot of bitching and moaning about the restrictive DRM in the iTunes store. And the latest update apparently broke the software tools people have been using to convert their purchased music to MP3's.

But I've been converting my music to other formats for years. Legally. I burn my music to a CD, and then I rip it back. And iTunes lets me do it. Because it's legal. Because it's mine.

Set Your TiVo... for CSPAN???

The White House Correspondents Association will announce today that Stephen Colbert will host their annual dinner.

mediabistro: FishBowlDC

A Great Advertising Blog

I learned about this one from Adrants. It's called How Advertising Spoiled Me, and it has great video, print, and outdoor ads, some selected by Arvind Chennai of India, and some created by him. It's a fascinating site, especially if you love bold, visually memorable ads, as I do.

(8 Airbags)

Next to the towers: 2.863 people died
Next to the kid: 824 million people starving in the world.
The world united against terrorism. It should also be united against HUNGER.

Bird Flu 2 and Oprah Makes James Frey Choose a Big Switch

By sheer coincidence, I happened to hear an NPR podcast of a great report from 12/28 on bird flu panic that puts the realities in great perspective.

Most telling was this detail:

The expert that made Oprah go all nutty the other day based his theories entirely on the notion that we are overdue for a pandemic. In this report from 12/28, the experts NPR interviews say that's as ridiculous as assuming a roulette wheel or slot machine is due to pay off. Every year is an individual event, just as every spin of the wheel is.

There is cause for concern, of course, but not for panic. Never for panic.

However, if you do want to panic, get yourself a tape of what happened on Oprah's show yesterday, as she took that James Frey guy to the woodshed for a solid hour. It was humiliating to both of them. The idea that she is somehow owed a televised hour or ritualistic apology by him, his publisher and half the literary world is typical of her hubris. It was nauseating and hilarious at the same time.

As my friend, who had not followed this national crisis at all, said to me, "Didn't Oprah know that a memoir is usually at least half made up?" Yeah, she should have known that.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Finger Breakdancing

Russell Arch has gone halfway around the virtual world to find a man who can do things with his hands that will astound you. Why his wrists aren't wrapped in rainbow suspenders I don't know. Check out the video at Russ's hilarious blog.

Oprah Says We're All Going To Die

A friend of mine was in a panic because Oprah did a show apparently claiming we're overdue for a pandemic. Oprah and her gallons of hair product were visibly upset because of bird flu. It's coming, and it's coming for us. And there's nothing we can do about it, except stock up on canned goods and bottled water.

Didn't Oprah tell us Mad Cow was going to kill us all? Didn't she tell us SARS was going to kill us all? (Isn't that why I bought all those Peter Sarsgaard SARS Guards?) What's gonna kill us all is Oprah causing panics every three years.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Parking Meters That Aren't Parking Meters

Okay, so maybe I don't get out as much as I should. And maybe I'm the last person in the world who's never seen this before. But today I parked in a lot on Larchmont to jump into (where else?) Starbucks and all the parking meters were gone!

Instead, there was a machine at the front of the lot. You fed in your space number and your coins, and you got a ticket with your time on it. Which was silly, because I didn't know how it worked, and ended up paying for an hour even though I only needed five minutes.

As I waited for my latte, I realized what a scam this was. They had done away with one of urban life's simple pleasures: finding time left on a parking meter. There was no way to know if there was time left on your space. When I pulled out, I realized, whoever pulled in after me had no way of knowing they had 55 minutes paid for on the space. The city was charging for the same time over and over again all day.

So I figured, screw 'em. I sat in the car and sipped my latte and waited. And the first car that pulled in, I got out of the car and walked over. I showed the couple inside the ticket, and told them to wait until I pulled out, and they had a free forty-five minutes. They couldn't have been more pleased, and thanked me profusely. It was a great feeling.

I encourage all of you to try it. You will never get a warmer feeling of "paying it forward," yet a more satisfying feeling of "sticking it to the man," all at the same time.

Another New Reason To Love TiVo Even More

American lives might not have second acts -- well, except for John Travolta, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, and just about everyone on VH-1 -- but at least your TiVo now gives you a second chance to undelete shows. Hallelujah.

Thanks to my itchy remote finger, too many shows have been deleted too quickly. Gizmodo reports that TiVo has added a "trashcan" of sorts from which shows can be retrieved.

Stephen Colbert, Defending Kellogg's and Nickelodeon's Marketing Cereal to Kids

"Nick and Kellogg's are simply creating corporate synergy. Cartoons and cereals go together like Sunday mornings and the Walk of Shame. Besides, listen, if sugary cereals make your teeth fall out, who better to market them to than children, whose teeth are supposed to fall out?"

-- Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, 1/23/06

The Most Useless Fun Geek Thing Ever

This comes courtesy of Make, a hack zine so fun I subscribe to the paper version, the blog version, the podcast version... I live for this thing. Even if I only recently did my first ever solder (a mess, by the way).

Anyway, recent Powerbooks come with something called a Sudden Motion Sensor; if you drop your Powerbook (as I did not too long ago), it senses it and quickly locks the hard drive to avoid damage. Very cool, typically Apple.

Some mad geniuses have exploited this Sensor into a widget to turn the Powerbook into a carpenter's level! Check out the details and a video here.

God's Been Taking a Lot of Heat Lately

He got blamed for unleashing Katrina and for Ariel Sharon's stroke...

All the cable news types rushed onto the air to praise the Lord for the "miracle" of the 12 miners surviving. As Robert Scheer has pointed out, why didn't any of them then curse or at least question His vengeance when it turned out they were dead?

I was reminded of a great exchange from MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann, a few days after the Steelers/Colts game.

Keith and Sean Salisbury were discussing Mike Vanderjagt's unbelievable statement: "From the Polamalu interception reversal to Jerome's fumble, everything seemed to line up in our favor. I guess the Lord forgot about the football team."

OLBERMANN: Do I read this correctly, Sean? Three years ago he was blaming Dungy and Manning and now he's blaming GOD for that missed field goal??

SALISBURY: Yeah, don't count on him being in a Colt uniform next year. I didn't know you could throw Jesus under the bus, but I guess the Good Lord hates kickers just like the rest of us.

If You Watched American Idol Last Night... saw the very talented, very beautiful Tyra Schwartz, who had recently dumped her cheating boyfriend.

The show then presented a "hilarious" montage, intended to show that the chances of Tyra finding a new boyfriend at the auditions were slim. To the tune of "It's Raining Men," it was a package showing every teenage boy at the auditions who was too thin, too fat, too short, too tall, whose hair was funny, whose skin was bad, who was too geeky... In short, every boy who didn't fit the notion of what "handsome" is. It was fairly cruel.

It was almost immediately followed by one of those Dove Moisturizer commercials from the "Campaign for Real Beauty." In this case, an overweight woman in her underwear was lovingly photographed. The message? That women are beautiful no matter what they look like.

If you watched that show with your son -- or even your husband or boyfriend -- how do you suppose that made him feel?

I'm not asking you to write any angry letters to anyone. American Idol is a great show, and the Dove campaign is a noble one. I'm simply asking that you be aware of this one-sided media message whenever it appears, and of the impact it might be having on the boys who will someday be men. And what impact is it having on our next generation of women?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Bachelor Dodged a Bullet

Check out this photo timeline from last week's The Bachelor, as Yvonne becomes aware that she will not be getting a rose. Oily desperation is such a beautiful thing. Perhaps she lost points in The Bachelor's mind for her startling resemblance to Bronco Nagurski.

By the way, according to her bio on the ABC website -- and I swear to God I am not making this up -- her perfect date would be "being with someone who did nothing to annoy me."

By the way, fellas... She's single!

Blackberry Users Face Possible Disruption

PC World reports that the Supreme Court won't hear the patent infringement case, allowing NTP to seek a new injunction shutting down service to RIM's Blackberry customers unless RIM settles the case, which it has not shown any eagerness to do.

I would say I'm glad I have a Treo, but with the Treo moving to Windows Mobile, I'm not so glad at that.

"If I wanted to break the law why was I briefing Congress?"

That's what President Bush said yesterday, leaning on the lectern and sneering, defending his domestic spying.

As Media Matters reports, though, he is lying: he did not fully brief Congress on what he was doing... something ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC failed to point out.

But more important, when Congress was briefed on even a fraction of his plans, their reaction was, "Oh my God, what???"

Senator John Rockefeller went so far as to send a handwritten note to Vice President Cheney expressing his "lingering concerns" and "profound oversight issues." He later said, "The White House never addressed my concerns."

Let me put this in the simplest way possible:

Let's say you meet the Chief of Police at a cocktail party, and tell him you're thinking of getting into the robbery business.

He's outraged, and tells you it's a horrible idea.

You rob a liquor store anyway, and get caught.

You go before the judge, lean on the defense table, sneer and say, "If I wanted to break the law, why would I tell the Chief of Police?"

The answer is, that doesn't make you innocent. It makes you an idiot.

Last Night's Surface (SPOILERS)

First, Surface, even goofier than usual. But never moreso than when Professor Boobs and Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel -- having followed a paper trail that no one in the super-secret Government organization made any effort to hide at all -- go to Berkeley and ask for a particular collection at the University Library.

The librarian tells them they seldom get requests to view that collection... and, as if to prove it, shows them to a room in the library in which every surface is covered with dust and stuff is just tossed here and there like it was your Aunt Gertie's garage.

They are immediately drawn to a particular -- and conveniently Sharpie-marked -- reel of film, and thread it into a handy projector and start watching.

Can I just say that if Monty Hall offered the average American a thousand dollars to find a reel-to-reel film projector with a working bulb that person would come up empty? But in movies and TV, no one is ever far from a completely functioning projector. But I digress.

Anyway, this long-forgotten film in this dusty library that no one ever visits -- yet it has a perfectly maintained projector -- was hilarious! It actually showed an expedition, apparently to Nepal or somesuch. But what was funny about it was that it was completely edited, along with reaction shots!! Somebody in the secret government organization that hoped this film would never see the light of day actually bothered to edit in reaction shots!!!

God, this show is amazing. It's like it's being written by refrigerator poetry.

They Dropped The Dime On Coinstar

So last night during 24, the Channel 11 News ran a promo saying something like, "You see those Coinstar machines everywhere, but how do you know you're really getting your money's worth? We put them to the test, tonight at ten."

And I thought, as I'm sure a lot of people did, "Well, they're probably off by a bit here and there, but what do you expect, you pay for convenience, who cares?" And I went about my business. God knows I wasn't about to watch the Channel 11 News. (As I always say, unless you like overturned tractor trailers or dead children, avoid local news.)

But the phone rang in the other room and when I walked back in it was just when they were doing that report. Here's what they did: They went to four different Coinstar machines with $195 each (not $200 for some reason), including 1500 pennies for each, and they dumped it in.

The result was thus: In the first machine, they got credited for a dime too much. In the second and third machines, the count was spot on. In the fourth machine, a dime too little. That seems pretty frickin' good to me.

They reported the results to Coinstar, and Coinstar -- having a zero tolerance policy for miscounts -- apologized profusely and immediately sent a tech to the fourth machine and found a damaged dime inside.

Okay, a couple of things. First and foremost, kudos to Coinstar, for being that rarest of birds: a company that does something well, and doesn't like to even be a little less than perfect at it. (Contrast that with, say, Radio Shack) They really are to be congratulated, and I'm only sorry their good citizenship seems so rare.

Second of all, a razz to Channel 11, for promos that left 24 viewers with the impression that this was going to be some shadowy sting operation on sleazy undercounting Coinstar. Since 24 has a far bigger audience than the news, I can't be the only one who was left with the idea, however subliminal, that the machines routinely undercount the coins. That's too bad.

The Stupidest Thing Anyone Has Ever Written, Said or Even Thought... Ever.

"Unlike the more highly regarded Lost and 24, which jerk you around only to leave you more or less where you began, Desperate Housewives is, dare we say it, a masterpiece of plotting, with the interlocking twists advancing the overall narrative..."

-- Steve Erickson, Los Angeles Magazine, September 2005

More Actual RadioShack Hilarity

Me: I'm looking for an iGo tip? Number A-43?

The Drone goes to check, then comes back holding two tips that are of no use to me.

Drone: We have A-42? And A-44?
Me: (shaming him) Those aren't actually "A-43," though, are they?
Drone: (ashamed) No. (recovering) Are you sure there is an A-43?
Me: Very.

I back toward the door.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Relentless Media Message That They're Inferior Certainly Couldn't Have Anything To Do With It

"This morning, we'll take a journey inside the minds of men... if there's anything there. I'm teasing, I'm teasing."
-- Katie Couric, Today, 1/12/06

"Boys used to be at the head of the class, but now they're lagging way behind girls. We'll tell you why boys aren't making the grade."
-- Katie Couric, Today, 1/23/06


(and if you think this is new:
"Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid!"
-- from Mary Poppins)

One Of My New Favorite Blogs... from one of my old favorite people. Russell Arch has a new and funny blog of found objects and observations and obscenities. It is my hope that it will become the new Should've Asked Me so I can retire and resume staring into space full time.

Meanwhile, stop by Russ's blog: Irritable Vowel Syndrome. And feel free to check out Russ's great film and animation work at

And I'm not just saying all these nice things about him because he refers to me on his blog as the "Funniest Man Alive." Clearly he was drunk, and I won't hold him to anything he wrote in that condition.

Top Windows Downloads

I suppose I spend way too much time talking about Macs exclusively... I did, after all, spend 15 years hunched over PC's.

Anyway, PC World had a great list of useful downloads to make your Windows life easier. They're from Laura Blackwell's outstanding "Download This" column.

And if you don't routinely check out the PC World site, do so now. You can easily find enough useful information to make you the smartest computer user on your block. Just start clicking and reading and you'll be safer, smarter, and more efficient.

They Love Our Troops, But Didn't Tell Them Their Water Was Contaminated

According to documents obtained by the AP, "water supplied to a U.S. base in Iraq was contaminated and the contractor in charge, Halliburton, failed to tell troops and civilians at the facility."

Senate Democrats are acting on their own to investigate the incident because "they had not been able to persuade committee chairmen in the Republican-run Senate to investigate."

The company's water treatment expert at Camp Junction City in Ramadi discovered "numerous micro-organisms, including Coliform bacteria" in the water and tried to get the company to warn soldiers, but they refused. (A shark? In Amity? Nonsense!) Meanwhile, he and several soldiers came down with diarrhea and stomach cramps. So he resigned and went public.

The story states that "while bottled water was available for drinking, the contaminated water was used for virtually everything else, including handwashing, laundry, bathing and making coffee."

In a July 14 internal Halliburton memo, PR department staffer Jennifer Dellinger wrote, "I don't want to turn it into a big issue right now, but if we end up getting some media calls I want to make sure we have all the facts so we are ready to respond."

You have got to love these people.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can't... Type... Must... Lie... Down....

This story brings together two of my most lustworthy things: CNET's Molly Wood and awesome PVR's.

Molly reports that the mad geniuses at SnapStream have, just for fun, built a PVR with six hard drives that can record eleven shows at once. Four of them in HD!

They're not selling them, but they show you how to build your own for a mere $4,300. Just from a cursory look at this thing I will tell you this: Don't stash this in a stereo cabinet... keep it somewhere well-ventilated.

Unfortunately, Molly Wood sports a ring on her left hand, which sends a dagger through my heart each time I see it. So since Molly is married, and the PVR isn't for sale, I'm actually 0 for 2 today. Ah, well... Such is life...

West Wing Cancelled; Law & Order Will Go Against Lost

Read the AP story for details on why I am not speaking to NBC.

A Hundred and Fifty Little Dates

The last few days all I see, everywhere I look, is this woman plugging her book, The Year of Yes, about how for one solid year she said yes every single time a guy asked her out. This is the book about the 150 dates she went on, including dates with a homeless guy, lesbians, a date at a strip club, the date with the man she went on to marry, blah, blah, blah...

Hold on. Time out.

An entire industry -- and more than 80% of our popular culture -- has grown up around the idea that women spend every night sitting at home, eating ice cream, waiting for the phone to ring. Or that they gather together in wisecracking, shoe-loving clusters of four and look in vain for suitable suitors.

Every woman I meet, every woman I see, every woman I read asks me to believe that they spend every Friday and Saturday night alone brushing their cats because men won't approach them. That their social lives are a disaster, that they never go out, that they never meet anyone, that they are destined to die alone and unloved.

But this woman got asked out 150 times in one year???

Am I the only one that thinks this is suspicious?

How Fast Can A Computer Boot?

The new iMac G5 seemed like a great computer back when the '06 ball dropped on Times Square. Now watch the video of this shootout between the G5 and one of the new dual core Intel iMacs introduced last week. This is astounding.