Category Archives: Media

When A Movie Check Just Isn’t Enough

Who are more worthless than actors, models, athletes, celebs—or just about anybody else from the famous castes—whining about how tough their lives are? Do these people work hard for their money? Perhaps, for a little while. I mean we all hear about the 18 hour days models and actors put in when they’re doing a shoot. But the plain fact is that these stints just don’t last that long. Weeks…sure. Months…maybe once in a long while, and for their trouble these parasites get paid the kind of money that you and I won’t make in a lifetime.

Now I’m no stranger to the possibility of wealth. I’ve started my own company…and sold it. I worked 20 hour days, 7 days a week, for 14 months, taking no salary, and in the end got just enough to put a sizable down payment on my flat. Since then, I’ve worked for 3 more technology startups where each has dangled the promise of riches, but only if I kill myself to make them successful. I guarantee that most celebs don’t slave for years to get their multi-million dollar payoffs.

But now there’s a new scam in town: Whoring tiny slices of your celebrity to the media in exchange for that big payday. Most recently Brangelina got $15M bucks for the first candid shots of their new twins. Say what you will about the intelligence of a magazine that’s willing to shell out that kind of scratch for pictures of smushy-faced newborns.  The Pitt-Jolie’s know whose gonna pay for their next mansion, but for that kind of money I’d expect to photograph Angelina Jolie screaming as she ejects the twins from her womb…straight into Brad’s waiting hands, and then? Nothing less than watching Brad Pitt juggle the wailing babies over a firepit. Now that’s entertainment!

In memoriam – Satire, 40,000 B.C.-2008 A.D.

Satire, the once-popular cultural icon held by many to have shaped the fortunes of princes, presidents and empires, died last week after a long battle with political correctness and reality television. Satire was 42,008 years old.

Born in a humble cave in the mountains of northern Italy, young Satire first made his mark around the campfires of his home region, winning acclaim as a keen observer of Cro Magnon life. One of his most popular early routines involved the character Hunter, a club-wielding alpha male who killed the most deer and coupled with the most women, but really just wanted to invent agriculture.

Fred Dryer played ‘Hunter’ in the cave paintings

Satire later made Hunter a regular character on Ice Age Live!, a long running late night sketch comedy revue. The most popular sketches were made into cave paintings, including ‘Hunter and his sidekick Gatherer call in sick and go wooly mammoth hunting instead’, ‘Hunter gets into a sticky situation when he loses Gatherer in the peat bog’, and ‘I now pronounce you Hunter and Gatherer.’

The discovery of fire led to the rise of slapstick comedy, and Satire went through a number of lean years. Then in 20 B.C. he engineered the first of many reinventions of himself. He changed his name to Reynard Obliquian Satyricon, and became the toast of Rome — Augustus called him “the sly fox” of political comedy. During this time, Satire’s greatest bit involved Roman leaders naming the months of the year after themselves. When the time came to decide who would be the shortest month, Februarius objected that “I just went swimming, I’m normally much longer than 28 days.”

Satire became a symbol of high culture for the next two millennia. Satire was everywhere, often in the company of a ‘rat pack’ of cultural indicators, including fermentation, batter-dipped fried food and Sammy Davis, Jr. Satire returned briefly to Rome, giving a benefit concert for the Galileo Defense Fund, joking that “the real problem is that the Pope thinks the universe revolves around him.”

Later, Satire formed a comedy troupe with Thomas Malthus, Jonathan Swift and Adam Smith, to great acclaim.

In recent years Satire showed no signs of slowing. Dave Barry, The Onion, The Simpsons and the Capitol Steps seemed to show Satire at the height of his game.

However, what was not widely known was that Satire had been ill for some time, suffering from Reaganoma since 1980. A few years later, MTV’s The Real World debuted, and appreciation for Satire rapidly went downhill. Earlier this year, an ABC-Ipsos poll found that few Americans had heard of Satire.

Then last Monday Satire was badly injured when the cover illustration of The New Yorker fell flat. Passersby and the media failed to notice Satire’s condition for nearly a day, before he was found and rushed to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. He lingered for four days, passing away on Friday.

His fourth wife, Tracey Ullmann, was with him at the end. According to her, his last words were: “either that wallpaper goes, or tell them I said something.”

The Worst Deal In Entertainment Keeps Getting Worse

Technological advances are supposed to make our lives easier—cheaper too—according to the conventional wisdom. But when it comes to television, the worst deal in entertainment keeps getting worse.

Are you a cable subscriber? And if so do you watch more than a fraction of the stations delivered to you? In fact, most of us don’t. So when the cable industry tries to tell you that your cost per hour has remained flat for over a decade, keep in mind that their argument only holds up if your viewing time has skyrocketed. Back in 1996, I paid about $35/month for “extended-basic” cable. Were I to subscribe today the cost would be around $60, an increase that is double the rate of inflation.

And do I get more for that additional cost? Not really. 40 more channels, but none that I watch. Digital cable? Nope. That costs extra. High-definition picture? No again. You gotta pay even more for that on top of the cost of digital cable. “So what,” you may ask, “…keeps the cable industry cranking along?” Only dead-simple convenience. No hassles, little hardware, high-bandwidth—and it’s that last factor, bandwidth, that may be the most important going forward.

I’ve watched a few shows from the Internet, purchased some science fiction from iTunes, and frankly it’s a pain in the ass. One hour of video consumes about a half-a-gig of storage and takes forever to download. So if the cable industry can just make sure that the ‘hassle factor’ for Internet video remains high, we’ll keep right on buying their overpriced services. Does anyone really think that recently announced ‘bandwidth caps’ and ‘metered pricing’ schemes are designed to slow down P2P? Not a chance! The cable industry wants to stop us from using our Internet connections to download video, thus maintaining their monopoly on content delivery.

Kvatch Kvetches – Stupid Copyright Tricks

KvatchIt’s a good thing higher infringement penalties were stripped from the PRO-IP act being considered by Congress. Because if they hadn’t, copying a CD could have forced you into bankruptcy. Where US copyright law used to treat an entire CD as a single act of infringement…PRO-IP, as originally written, treated each track as a separate incident, increasing the statutory damages to an average of $1.5 million!

But that doesn’t mean PRO-IP has gone away? No sir. It’s still being debated. Seems that when the courts block their ham-handed attempts to sue their own customers, the industry turns to the government for help in the form of a new enforcement agency, the Office of the United States Intellectual Property Enforcement Representative (USIPER)—IP police, tasked with coordinating national and international enforcement.

What’s that you say? “International enforcement”? Indeed. The US has been negotiating in secret with our friends and allies to turn our border patrol agents into a branch of the copyright police force under the auspices of a new trade agreement called ACTA that, among other things, suggests criminal sanctions even when acts of copyright infringement are not motivated by financial gain (e.g., ripping your own CDs to your iPod). ACTA also allows for ‘ex parte equipment searches’, encourages authorities to seize and destroy equipment, and puts in place a framework for copyright holders (i.e., the RIAA) to claim compensation. Though, how the RIAA might claim compensation after your iPod has been trashed, is not really discussed.

So…let’s imagine you’re at the US/Canadian border. The agent, after determining that you’ve got your entire music collection on your iPod, decides on his/her own authority (also allowed under ACTA), to assess you a fine of—and we’ll go easy on you this time—$1 for each of your 80,000 tracks. He tells you to either, “…pay up, or never see your home again” just before destroying your iPod and the evidence that those CDs actually did belong to you.

Chew on that for a second.

Ann Coulter Reported Missing – Concern after Kennedy tumor brings no outrageous remarks from pundit

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter was reported missing today, more than 24 hours after she failed to make any disgusting, crude or hateful comments following news that Senator Edward M. Kennedy has been diagnosed with a malignant glioma, a type of brain tumor.

Friends went to check on Coulter early Wednesday at her home in Palm Beach, Florida. They went to local police when they found no one at home, the mailbox stuffed full of royalty checks and no malt liquor bottles in the recycling.

Chris Matthews, host of the MSNBC program Hardball on which Coulter makes frequent appearances, said he was concerned that the quality of American political discourse might rise too high in her absence. “A Kennedy brain tumor is perfect fodder for her brand of sensationalistic smear. The sooner she’s back on the air, the better for the newsfotainment networks and the 2008 election coverage,” Matthews said.

The media has not quoted any hateful comments by Coulter in over 10 days.

“I knew something was wrong when she didn’t make a repulsive quip about Kennedy’s condition,” commented Michael Savage, a conservative radio host and close friend.

“She never goes longer than 24 minutes without firing off a caustic insult, let alone 24 hours,” he said.

“On Tuesday I opened my show with a Dead Kennedys song,” Savage went on to say. “But that nowhere near equals the kind of vituperative, over the line attack she’s capable of.”

Colleagues and admirers are expressing optimism that Coulter will turn up safe. Spiro T. Frandle, author of the fan website Little Black Cocktail Dress In The Morning, said he’s trying to fill the gap by thinking up things his idol might say about Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor.

“Maybe something like, ‘Brain tumor? At least it won’t affect his politics.’ But I can’t hold a candle to Ann,” Frandle said.

NBC Wants You Glued To Your Chair

Los Angeles (f-A-ke. P.) –

On Wednesday, fans of NBC’s evening lineup including American Gladiators and Medium were dismayed to find that their computers wouldn’t record the shows for later viewing. NBC had turned on the broadcast flag, which prevents digital video recorders (DVRs) like Tivo and Windows Media Center from recording protected content.

When asked about the change in policy, NBC President, Jeff Zucker said:

We figure that if we can get Americans used to watching the crappy stuff when we tell them to, then they’ll be even more apt to do what we say when it comes to the good stuff.

In a follow-up question, a reporter asked if, in fact, NBC had any shows that would qualify as good stuff. Mr. Zucker replied:

Well.. sure. I’m sure we’ve got some good shows in our lineup, like…wait… Just give me a minute…

Honour among thieves?

Apparently even criminal hackers want to protect their intellectual property. Ok, it might take us a decade or so to receive news down south here, but the story out of Symantec still raised eyebrows.

“Professional virus writers are now selling a suite of software on the internet with an unusual attachment: a detailed licensing agreement that promises penalties for redistributing the malicious code without permission.” SMH

The Russian software contains the following user rules:

:: The customer can’t resell the product, examine its underlying coding, use it to control other bot nets or submit it to antivirus companies and agrees to pay the seller a fee for product updates.

:: The threat: Violate the terms, and we’ll report you ourselves to the antivirus companies by giving them information about how to dismantle your bot network or prevent it from growing bigger.

The software is used to create networks of zombie machines – known as “botnets”. They are the little doolies that use your machine without you knowing and make $jillions for their employer.

Buggered if I know; I thought Bush GW and Clinton H had already proved the approach was problematic, but I guess there are still some gaps out there.

Air America cancels most service – “Can’t handle the baggage,” says official

Air America today followed the examples of a growing number of airlines, announcing it is canceling nearly all of its daily service.

“Perhaps the airline business model was not the best to design a progressive radio network around,” said George W.B. Frandle, V.P. for Compromise at Air America.

“Bobby Kennedy Jr. is our only real pilot, and he’s only in the — on the air once a week,” he said. However, Frandle said the current problems are the result of baggage difficulties.

The formerly high-flying radio network’s move comes on the heels of last week’s departure of Noon-3pm host Randi Rhodes, for what network management called abusive language toward Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, but what Rhodes calls her refusal to renegotiate her contract.

Rhodes is just the latest in a series of cancellations, including the departures of every host except Kennedy and the guy who does the 5 am Farm Report.

Popular shows such as Morning Sedition and Unfiltered were often replaced with short-haul runs with few passengers, such as Jerry Springer, Politically Direct and The Air Americans. Some critics said it seemed as if Air America intended to fail.

“Since we first took off in 2004 the baggage has been unbearable,” Frandle said.

“Today, four years later, we’ve lost too many of our frequent flyers. There is so much we haven’t been able to deliver on. Like not canceling popular shows, rewarding talent, and having actual liberal values,” he said.

Frandle said Air America will stay on the air. “As the 142nd Vice President for Compromise, I can state categorically that Air America is committed to quality, has learned from its mistakes, and will keep flying — broadcasting,” Frandle said.

Frandle also said bankruptcy was not in the immediate future. “We’ve already been in Chapter 11 about ten zillion times, we can’t do that again so soon,” said Frandle.

“I think we’ll just declare artistic bankruptcy and move on.”