Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

The Number Two FBI guy in the 70s claims he was the infamous "Deep Throat" cited by Bernstein and Woodward in their expose of President Richard Nixon. The Washington Post confirmed that Mark Felt is indeed the whistleblower. The 91-year-old's adult children convinced him it was time to come forward and get the recognition he deserves before he passes on. His daughter is quoted in some news accounts as advising him to capitalize on his historical fame, mainly to pay some bills and/or his grandchildren's education. Okay, so urging Daddy to come forward wasn't so altruistic after all. <sarcasm>Nice.</sarcasm>

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sith Happens

Whoever said you can't get an education watching Science Fiction was dead wrong. Ian McDiarmid, who plays evil Chancellor Palpatine in the 2nd Star Wars trilogy, narrates a 70-minute recap of the Star Wars series as part of bonus DVD footage. You'll find the DVD with Sony Classical's original soundtrack recording of the movie. If it's been a while since you looked at the likes of Wookie , R2D2 or 3PO, you might want to come up to speed before you see : Episode III Revenge of the Sith.

On a side note, I stopped by Blockbuster on the way home tonight. The store manager was putting pre-viewed VHS tapes on sale. Buy two, get one free. I just snagged the first original Star Wars trilogy for $10.00. Oh, yeah!

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Going Postal for Vonzell

USPS Web site American IdolRah, Rah, Sis-boom-bah! The US Postal Service supports its own -- American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon is featured on the main page of the USPS Web site today. I saw the banner when I browsed over to check a zip code.

Too bad the other contestants don't have this type of backing. Is this fair? Well, ask yourself how many text-messaging teens, who vote for American Idol contestants, check the USPS online regularly. The show is riddled with scandals and accusations anyway. At this point, what difference does it make? May the best singer win.

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Un-Google Yourself

Had I known everything I wrote on newsgroups was going to be catalogued for future generations, I might have never posted a thing.

Too late. Too late. Too late.

Not only are all my good email addresses clogged with spam from freewheeling it online in the early days, but people can find out who I am in a heartbeat.

It may be too late for me to preserve my Web anonymity, but it may not be too late for you. Blogger Trevor Snyder of "the will to exist" pointed me to this great document at the EFF, titled "How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else)." Make sure you stay a while and read other entries on their blog.

Read it. Absorb it. Take it to heart.
The rights you save may be your own.

Join the Blue Ribbon Online Free Speech Campaign

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Spam Blogs Pollute Blogosphere

Pay attention to the stats on the growth of the blogsphere and you'll think blog aficionados have a reason to rejoice. Most of the new blogs I find lately are nothing but spam -- call them fake blogs, spam blogs, spamblogs or splogs, as in a cross between spam and blogs. You decide.

There is a dark underbelly to these numbers, however: Part of the growth of new weblogs created each day is due to an increase in spam blogs - fake blogs that are created by robots in order to foster link farms, attempted search engine optimization, or drive traffic through to advertising or affiliate sites. -- Sifry's Alerts
What are spam blogs, you ask? Spam blogs can have one or more of the following characteristics:
1. Embedded ad banners. No content. No commentary.
2. Endless links to another site designed to sell you something.
3. Repetitive keywords, no doubt inspired by the top search terms of the week.
4. Fake blog entries, with keyword links to so-called related content. I fear these are automated. No human actually reads the sites these splogs link to. For example, for a craftsmaking column, I wrote a piece about creating rosebuds from red cellophane and chocolate drops. The article appears on the Paper Crafts site at BellaOnline.com. In the instructions, I mention using jewelry pliers to create a stem. Lucky me! One of those spam blogs actually linked to the article. The blog's topic? Jewelry. That's right. Jewelry...not chocolate or crafts, but jewelry.

Even more galling is the fact Technorati Honchos keep touting numbers signaling the Blog Renaissance, yet I can't get the oft-referenced site to recognize I updated this blog weeks ago. Oddly enough, in spite of this Technorati logjam, spam blogs don't appear to suffer this fate. Nuts!

I'm not the first frustrated person to comment on these spam blogs, as evidenced by the links in this post. I know I won't be the last. There may come a time when major search engines decide to ignore blogs from certain blog service providers. If you're hosting your blog on one of those services, you may have to move your blog and start over with all your blog directory listings. I'm not looking forward to it.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Steve Jobs' Executive Temper Tantrum

In case you missed it in late April -- well, I did -- Apple and Wiley are butting heads over a no-holds-barred book, titled "iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business." (sighs) Whatever. (snores)

Like J.D. Lasica, author of the blog alerting me to the story, I'm a Wiley author. And I bought an iPod for my daughter, who happens to enjoy hanging out at the local Apple store. Yeah, well, who cares?

(takes a deep breath)

Here are the two questions media watchers have been asking:

1. Now that Apple Computer has pulled Dummies books from its stores, should Wiley brace itself for a boycott among Apple users, regardless of the retailer?
2. Or will this retaliation by Jobs' mob simply create buzz, thereby fueling sales of the unauthorized bio?

Nice strong arm tactic, Mr. Jobs. With the book's release only three days away, let's review how this virtual book burning has backfired already. (Note: I like lists...)
1. John Wiley & Sons moved up the release date of the controversial book by a month, says Wired News. Wiley's CDA site features the book under the banner "iControversy." Wiley has so many avenues of book distribution, this won't hurt a bit.
2. The controversial authors are making the promotional rounds. They've already been mentioned and/or interviewed on Fox, CNN, NBC, etc. A Yahoo search of the keywords "Steve Jobs" and "Wiley" produces 45,600 hits.
3. The San Jose Mercury News says no one would have cared about the book if Mr. Jobs hadn't made such a big stink. Now, everyone's curiosity is peaked. Even if the book tanks, or reveals absolutely nothing new or interesting, the authors will have made their mark.

After suing bloggers, settling with Eminem over a copyright violation and this, Apple's image has seen better days. If there was ever a lesson to be learned in book PR, it's this: any publicity is good publicity. I'm sure authors Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon would like to shake your hand about now...provided you promise not to punch them out.

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Justin Timberlake's Voice Finally Changes

Pop stars develop vocal skills that simultaneously launch them to early fame while predisposing them to a major flame-out later on. What skills, pray tell? How about poor articulation and projection, improper breath support and control, and simply put, downright screaming the ridiculous lyrics to unintelligible songs?

Unfortunately, the sounds that make a fan swoon can also make a singer sick. And let's not forget that lifestyle mistakes, like alcohol, cigarettes and drugs, can cut short a singing career.

The point? Well, plenty of professional singers have needed vocal surgery, for various reasons. Look, I'm not making any judgements here. Besides vocal abuse, there may have been other reasons why Rod Stewart had the muscle tissue in his larynx repaired back in 2000, as reported by E! Online. E! said the surgery was of "no consequence to his singing voice." (pause) Wait a minute? Rod Stewart can sing?

And what of little Justin Timberlake and his damaged pipes? On May 5, JRT had surgery to remove benign vocal lesions, reveals E! Online. The erstwhile 'N Sync front man will need three months to recover. Awwww, please don't cry. Meanwhile, visit the official 'N Sync site, if you haven't seen it. The site hasn't been updated in a year, but it's still very cool!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Contextual Advertising Preaches Results

yahoo group ad sponsorWhat the...? I just updated the description to one of my discussion groups related to media. After enlarging the window to take a screen shot for this blog entry, I noticed the contextual ads displayed on the page were a bit strange. If I understand this ad placement correctly, my naive selection of keywords for my Yahoo! Group description resulted in strategically-placed ads for bible study.

Geez. Is someone trying to tell me something?

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Overzealous Stage Mom Shares Video

My daughter Kaity sings alto in the Women's Chorus at her high school. Last night, she had a solo in the last choral concert of the year. Admittedly, I have no objectivity over the quality of her performance, like I give a damn. In my view, Kaity only had one goal -- face her fears. After a rough couple of years, where we've all had to deal with far too much, this is a personal milestone for her. A little bit of success is a good thing. This summer, Kaity will star in a musical. In another proud moment, she scored a 94% 95% on her last algebra test, and she's taking science in summer school. Take that, Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

Kaity's Solo
"The Boy from New York"
Tucson, Arizona
May 2005

If you'd like to experience the moment, click the photo to start the video clip. If you're unable to view it, you may need to download the QuickTime player.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Be Afraid Leg Hair. Be Very Afraid.

I received another manufacturer's sample in the mail today. This one came unsolicited. It was the Schick Quattro for Women, courtesy of the frequent shopper card I registered at the local Bashas' grocery store. This little goodie runs about $8.99 retail. After dutifully mining Bashas' customer database, they figured a woman was making the buying decisions. I guess my relinquishing the final vestiges of personal privacy is finally paying off. How nice.

I must have been asleep in between product introductions. At what point did we skip the three-bladed razor in favor of four? Last I remember, I was cautiously shaving in the shower with a double-bladed plastic piece of crap. How come one or two accidental slices across the shin wasn't quite enough? At what point did Schick decide it really wanted to maim women?

They must be crazy to think I'm going to fall for a ridiculous marketing trap like that. [peels back label] Hmmm. A $2.00 coupon. [thinks] Sure, I could give it a go.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Wanted - Pedophiles with Bad Knees

When pedophiles get older, it must be harder for them to kneel behind the bushes near their local high school, to sneak a peak at the luscious lovelies on parade. That's why sites like MySpace.com have popped up, mainly as online communities for the teen-to-30 set, but mostly it just feeds the frenzy of older creeps migrating to the Web. If you've never heard of it, it's a poorly designed, 14-million-member-strong portal for blogging and social networking.

<TV announcer voice>

Now you can stalk gullible teens from the comfort of your own home. Stop worrying about hurting your back or knees while crouching near the bus stop. Best of all, most parents don't have a clue what their kids are doing online. Log on now and get lonely jailbait to reveal , just by pretending to be her friend.

Log on within the next 30 minutes and you can use our free teen chat generator to avoid clumsy introductions. Just cut-and-paste this editable text into any IM window.

Wild_Eros69: Wow! You're a stud/babe. I really like your abs/boobs. My friends tell me I look like Orlando Bloom/Britney Spears. You can see sexy cool pics of me wearing a hot dress/Speedo/nothing right here.
</TV announcer voice>

And if it weren't for young girls posting lewd photos on services like MySpace.com, pedophiles would have almost no real content to peruse. Well, except for this enlightening post.

moms f***ing suck!!!!
Current mood: pissed off

my mother f***ing sucks! she took my cell phone away from me!!!! so now if you have get a hold me you can't call my cell (310) 62x xxxx... you have to call the house! (310) 39x xxxx!!!!! oh by the way i'm never really home! i'm soooooo pissed. i can't use my house phone because they took that outta my room! how the f*** does she expect me to talk to my friends and have a f***ing life!??! god i never wanna talk to her again!
Well, at least this post was more coherent than most.

[stands up and applauds Mom]

Not everyone is happy with MySpace's blogging tools, as evidenced by comments of former MySpace cadets. Meanwhile, the PR folks at MySpace.com have been working overtime to inform the public about the site's finer points. In Fall 2004, R.E.M. debuted a new album on MySpace.com. This week, Nixon Nation claimed its records sales have soured soared, thanks to MySpace.com. And Weezer's first album in three years debuts on MySpace this week. (via PRWeb.com)

As much as I hate to admit it, they must be doing something right.

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Steer Clear of Drive-By Advertising

The marketing side of my brain says this is a great way to reach customers, especially outside convention centers or at crowded community events. The cynical consumer side of my brain says this is an accident waiting to happen.

With distracted drivers making the news daily, it's amazing that rotating billboard trucks are still legal on city thoroughfares. It's not the size of the ad, so much as the motion, that entices you to gaze and watch the ads change. And while I don't mind rubbernecking as an intrigued passenger, it's not the same safe experience when I'm a driver.

Your ad can't be tuned out, turned down, switched off or thrown away like other conventional advertising. -- Billboards In Action Web Site
I'll grant them that. For many drivers, the ad can't be tuned out. Take it from me. I was there.

Click to enlarge these photos, shot by my passenger-side teenager while we were driving between school and home. With panels rotating every few seconds, there's no question this version of mobile outdoor advertising got my attention. But at what cost? I had to remind myself to focus on the nearby traffic instead of trying to sneak a peak at the morphing rectangles. Meanwhile, a teen driver in the adjacent lane was so distracted, he cut off another car when he changed lanes. It was damn nervewracking. I was relieved when the truck took a left turn off the beaten path.

We're such a litigious society, it's only a matter of time before someone sues the pants off a media outlet like this, or its advertising clients, after he veers off the road or has a related traffic accident.

A word to the wise. Steer clear.

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Jesus Saves, Moses Invests

Today is National Prayer Day, so what better way to celebrate than to blog about a related bit of minced media?

This morning, I was surfing through the endless plethora of cable offerings when I came upon a curious infomercial; Reverend Peter Popoff touting the features of his miracle spring water. Not one to ignore an avenue of distribution, Popoff owns a Web site where you can order your own sample of the supernatural liquid.

Popoff isn't the first religious snake oil salesman to hawk healing water. Back in 2003, Evangelist Leroy Jenkins stopped distributing his version of magic H2O when the Ohio Department of Agriculture revealed it contained a special ingredient -- coliform bacteria. Holy Sh*t!

Now back to Popoff's TV drivel. Parading an endless supply of satisfied customers past the cameras, Popoff's production crew highlighted folks miraculously cured of breathing problems, joint pain, and being bedridden due to obesity. Okay, forget about that last cure. The woman is still morbidly overweight, so I sincerely hope she prays for credible medical and nutritional guidance soon.

No word yet on whether miracle spring water cures gullibility stupidity.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Young Man, Now Give Me That Knife

I've been dreaming about opening up an e-commerce store. Problem is, I don't feel like putting up all that money to buy stuff. What if I sucked at retail and was stuck with a bunch of crap I'd have to mark down eventually? Not that I wouldn't want to make money, but isn't there a legal way I can sell good stuff without having to buy anything? After all, the government is doing it.

Case in point: If you were stupid enough to go through airport security since 9/11 with contraband in your coat pocket, you remember forfitting that knife your late Dad once gave you. The airport dudes took it away when you absent-mindedly entered the checkpoint without reviewing your carry-ons beforehand. No, the officials didn't care a rats bum about your sob story, dumbass. You blew it and you haven't seen the knife since.

Are you totally out of luck? Maybe. Maybe not. If you're quick and you search long and hard, you might spot it on eBay.

Everybody loves an auction, especially the NTSA. The nice thing about seeing the government tap into the benefits of e-commerce? It didn't spend taxpayers' collective monies to launch its impromptu hardware store. Nice, lucrative e-retail business, eh, guys? Damn! Wish I'd thought of it first. (eBay/NTSA link via Boing Boing, via Aaron Engelhart)

The good news? Now there's more money for the war on terrorism, courtesy of airline travellers who apparently live with their heads in the sand.
By the way, it could have been worse. You could have lost some prohibited personal hygiene items on your trip, like nail clippers. In that case, if you were planning to be nice and fresh for that job interview in the morning, good luck with that.

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Stand-Up Comedy and the First Lady

When something amazing or outrageous happens in politics, you can count on traditional media to be there first. One thing's for sure. Bloggers took a back seat to journalists on Laura Bush's comedic debut at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on April 30.

Take a gander at all the coverage (below)...and I barely scratched the surface. The buzz could outstrip anything we've seen from the White House to date. I have to admit I admire her moxy.

Quick Quiz:
The First Lady took comedic pot-shots at her Presidential hubby in an an effort to show:
1. She's human
2. She's a smart cookie
3. There's nothing critics can say about Dubya that she doesn't already know.

Yep, pollsters. The First Lady gets the joke...or jokes. Or at least she was able to deliver the lines scripted for her by political joke writer Landon Parvin. Admittedly, the veteran presidential speech scribe coached Mrs. Bush on the finer points of stand-up delivery.

Peruse the various accounts of Mrs. Bush's presentation:
  • New York Times via San Francisco Chronicle
  • Hollywood.com
  • USA Today
  • LA Times
  • Fox News
  • Reuters via Yahoo! News
  • NY Daily News
  • Ad Age
  • Washington Post
  • International Herald Tribune

  • Today, there was no end to headlines that characterized Laura Bush's recent appearance as "comic timing." A former stand-up comedienne myself, I have to scratch my head in wonder. What was the White House thinking? Maybe they plan to pit Laura Bush against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the next run for the White House.

    [Note to Self: Nah! Don't be ridiculous.]

    Kinda reminds me of (once upon a time) Prince Charles and Princess Diana. The future King's popularity was often overshadowed by his gracious and well-loved wife. Sorry, there was no happy ending for the Princess. And the Bush situation is another fairy tale entirely.

    [Note to Self: Check out the coverage on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. It should be a hoot. ]

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