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RANDOM LINKS FOR 2-2-14
Feb 2nd, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Since most of my most loyal readers will have other things to do on Sunday afternoon, here’s some relatively timeless randomosity for whenever you log back in:

  • Kentucky’s GOP Senators forced Wash. state utilities to buy nuclear power components they don’t really need.
  • Amazon has exercised its option to buy the Belltown block where the Hurricane Cafe has been for 20 years (and the legendary Dog House had been for more than three decades before that).
  • Meanwhile, the Washington State Convention Center is buying the Honda of Seattle block.
  • As we approach five years since the last printed Post-Intelligencer (still missed), we must say goodbye to one of its ol’ mainstays, reporter John Engstrom.
  • If anybody knows what’s still stalling the waterfront tunnel machine, nobody’s telling.
  • There was a “Progressive Radio Summit” in Seattle, in which the keynote speaker claimed “the only sustainable model for broadcasters today is subscription based programming.”
  • The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center is still financially desperate.
  • White privilege: it exists, whether it’s visible to you or not.
  • Yes, Macklemore hired an established distribution company (the same one Sub Pop and others use) to get his CD into retail stores. That still qualifies as “not having a record label,” no matter what NPR says.
  • Steve Wilhelm at the Puget Sound Business Journal warns that Boeing’s strong arm tactics against the Machinists Union may cost the company more than it gains.
  • As Paramount becomes the first Hollywood studio to cease distributing movies on film reels to theaters, indie filmmakers take to the proverbial the Star-Off Machine and “reach for 16mm.” Meanwhile, there’s a campaign to “Save Film,” as a medium for both movie production and exhibition.
  • It’s always trouble when typographers attack one another.
BALLMER IN GILEAD
Aug 29th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

ballmer at we day in keyarena, 3/27/13

In its 36-plus years of existence, Microsoft has had only two CEOs.

But no longer.

Steve Ballmer’s calling it quits, effective some time next year.

Fret not for the big guy with the big voice and the big body language. He’ll get a retirement-severance package bigger than the economies of several Third World states.

It’s what will happen to the empire of code and copyrights in Redmond (with tendrils worldwide) that’s at stake.

As all good schoolchilden know, Microsoft began in the primordial-ooze era of pre-personal computers, when tiny startup companies made build-it-youself electronics kits which, when assembled, could perform some of the functions of “real” computers (except, you know, for the function of performing real, practical work).

Bill Gates and Paul Allen made a stripped-down version of the BASIC programming language; then (more importantly) they established the notion that software should be paid for. They backed up this concept with copyrights and patents and lawyers.

With Ballmer at their side, Gates and Allen bought an operating system, re-sold it to IBM, and kept the right to also sell versions of it to other computer makers. MS would let hardware makers battle it out among themselves while it controlled the “platform” their products all ran.

This led to the DOS near-monopoly, which segued into the Windows near-monopoly.

It also led to Office and Internet Explorer.

It led to SQL Server, and to other high-end business software and related services.

Most everything Microsoft makes money from can be traced directly back to its early DOS-era dominance.

The company’s tried to get into other things. But those other things have had mixed results.

Remember MSN.com’s “online shows” concept? (The last survivor of those sites, Slate, is now among the Washington Post Co. properties not being sold to Jeff Bezos.)

Remember WebTV, HD-DVD, Mediaroom, Bob, Clippy, Hotmail, Actimates toys, the Encarta CD-ROM encyclopedia, Sidewalk.com, and Zune?

It’s probably easier to remember the Surface RT tablet device, the one the company recently wrote off to the tune of $900 million.

The company’s most successful new consumer-product line, the XBox game platform, is built (at least marketing-wise) on Windows’ gaming clientele. And even this realm has had its duds (XBox One, anyone?).

The jury’s still out on Windows Phone. Is there room for a third smartphone platform?

Microsoft could afford all these failures. Yes, even the Surface RT.

It could afford to keep an unsuccessful project going long enough to learn every little thing about why it failed.

And it could keep a successful project going long enough to watch its trajectory as the times, and the industry, pass it by.

So: Is today’s tech-universe passing Microsoft by?

Some analysts and pundits are making that claim.

They say the age one-size-fits-all personal computer has peaked.

There aren’t enough reasons for people or companies to keep replacing them as fast as they used to.

Especially with tablets and smart phones, and their hordes of specialty-function “apps” that make everything-for-everybody software like Office seem like lumbering beasts of prey.

So what should the next MS-boss do?

For one thing, he or she (and how come no women have been named as potentials?) could dump the notorious employee “stack ranking” system, that causes percentages of workers in each unit to be labeled as inferior no matter what. It’s horrid for morale and for productivity, and does nothing to improve products or services. If Ballmer really deserves to be called the “worst CEO ever” (he’s not, not by a long shot), it would be over this.

Next: Windows and Office still have many lucrative years left in them. That means there’ll be enough cash on hand to re-steer the company.

But to steer it where?

I say, away from Windows as the “one ring to rule them all.”

Even before phones and tablets, Windows had become an unwieldy thing, needing to perform the same functions (or at least most of them) on umpteen different hardware architectures, from sub-laptops to server arrays; for use by everyone from sophomores and shopkeepers to hospitals and factories.

Word and Excel have similarly undergone years of mounting “feature bloat,” hindering their everyday use at all but the most complex tasks. (Both are also based on a printed-page visual metaphor that’s increasingly obsolete as more people do everything on screens.)

What people increasingly need are simple ways to do specific things (preparing specific kinds of texts or crunching specific kinds of numbers, say), and to bounce the resulting documents around between different machines (their own and other people’s).

Think modular.

Think “apps,” to use the modern parlance.

The New MS could supply a basic ecosystem for modular software, which could be supplemented by developers large and small working in file formats (but not underlying code structures) compatible across different devices running different OSes in different screen sizes.

There’s plenty of space in that for all kinds of software puzzle pieces and building blocks. And for developers and template-scripters to build them.

And there’s no reason (other than entrenched corporate culture) why a lot of those builders couldn’t be at Microsoft.

Think even more “micro,” even more “soft.”

RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/11/13
Jul 10th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Nostalgia Alert: M.J. McDermott, KCPQ’s morning weatherperson, was “Ronnie” on Roscoe and Ronnie, the last local kids’ show on commercial TV. It was axed in ’95, when KSTW’s out-of-state owners killed all that station’s local programming. Now she’s petitioning the FCC, to encourage shows like that to be brought back.
  • Roberta Byrd Barr, recently deceased at age 74, was Seattle’s first female high-school principal, and the first African-American to host local TV public-affairs shows.
  • Seattle without the original Ivar’s Acres of Clams? It could happen, for as long as nine months. It’s one of 15 waterfront businesses the City wants to pay to keep closed during tunnel construction.
  • Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch: Executive editor David Boardman’s quitting after 30 years, to work at Temple U in Philly.
  • Seattle Central Community College’s health-ed programs could move into part of the old Beacon Hill hospital tower that was once Amazon’s HQ.
  • Amazon’s getting into comix publishing, specializing (at least at first) in adaptations of Nerderati-favorite novelists.
  • Edward Snowden: Courageous whistleblower or right-Libertarian Obama-basher?
  • The Beats: Daring nonconformists or sexist dweebs?
  • UK publisher Felix Dennis sold the U.S. edition of Maxim and two other “lad mags” for $250 million. Six years later, Maxim is for sale again, for a mere $20 million.
  • A federal judge has ruled against Apple and the big book publishers in that e-book price-fixing suit.
  • Health Scare of the Week: Fish oil capsules could give men cancer.
  • Just because most people who believe themselves to be MSG- or gluten-intolerant probably aren’t, it doesn’t mean they don’t get real symptoms.
  • Take away the “hipster”-bashing headline and there’s still a potential real problem with people who decide they can’t run their backyard chicken coops anymore, and who just drop off the critters at animal shelters.
  • The Quebec oil-train disaster was caused by plain ol’ crude catching on fire, just like in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Next Big (Televised) Thing, according to the Norwegians: “Slow TV.” Long-attention-span (or simply hypnotic) umpteen-hour, real-time explorations of train trips, knitting demonstrations, and salmon fishing.
  • After 40 years as everybody’s favorite “obscure music” band, the Residents deserve better than for have Ke$ha’s backup dancers to steal their trademark eyeballs-and-tuxedos look.
  • Back in the mid-’90s, Penn and Teller set out to create the world’s dullest and most infuriating video game. They probably succeeded.

the new yorker

IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO, ER, LAST MONTH
May 28th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

ap via nbc news

While I’ve been busy doing whatever (looking for a new home, etc.), I missed a few big birthdays here in online-land.

Tim Berners-Lee opened the first public World Wide Web site on 4/30/93 at the CERN particle-physics lab in Switzerland. For the occasion, that site has been put back up at its original URL.

Berners-Lee was, and still is, an idealist. In the original CERN site’s documents, he described the WWW as something that could open up information to the masses.

Instead of “walled garden” online networks such as CompuServe, Prodigy, and the original AOL, the Web would be open to all comers and contributors. Anybody could put anything on, or receive anything from, it.

This ultimate “disruptive technology,” creator of LOLcat memes and destroyer of newspapers, record labels, and middle-class livelihoods, got its start with the most noble of intentions.

(Just like many a mad-scientist-movie experiment.)

By pure coincidence, the first issue of Wired magazine was out that same month.

From the start, it was intended to be a lot more important than a mere buying guide to PC gear. It was to chronicle tech as the biggest economic, societal, and even ideological movement of our time.

It posited loudmouth, alpha-male San Franciscan Libertarians as the Voice of the Future. It sneered at governments, residents of “Tired” locales (France, Manhattan, Seattle), and people who dared to think about the well-being of others as backward-thinking parasites.

In the world according to the early Wired, CEOs were the new rock stars, even the new royalty. No social or environmental issue could be discussed in its pages, unless there was a potential solution that would also enrich (or at least never inconvenience) big business.

In the end, the bosses and bosses’ lackeys Wired worshipped got most of their way.

And as cyber-critic Jason Lanier notes, the 99 Percent are still trying to pick up the pieces.

That same week 10 years later, Apple launched the first version of the iTunes Store.

The iTunes application had been around since 2001, when Apple bought and revamped a third-party program called SoundJam MP.

Steve Jobs had identified music (and eventually general media) playback as a technology in which Apple had to lead, for the sake of the company’s survival. Otherwise, Windows-only applications and file formats (remember WinAmp?) would shut out Mac users, threatening Apple’s presence in home environments. By making iTunes, and making a Windows version of it, Jobs and co. stayed in the home-computer game.

Two years later, Windows Media-only file protection schemes were threatening to put a lock on “legal” (commercial) music downloads. Again, the Mac and its users would be shut out. Apple’s response not only had to be Windows-compatible, it had to dominate the market on both platforms.

The iTunes Store did that, and more.

Its stand-alone hardware adjuct, the iPod, quickly dominated the new market of portable digital music machines.

And along the way, iTunes allegedly “killed the old music industry.”

(Of course, many of us felt the old music industry had deserved to die, but that’s not the point here.)

But now, the notion of music downloads seems as archaic as the notion of buying music on little compact discs.

The big hype these days is for streaming music subscriptions, a field which Apple has yet to enter.

Yet through all these industry changes, one thing remains constant.

Most recording artists themselves still get the fiscal shaft.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 5/27/13
May 27th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

wu ming, via daily kos

  • Let’s put credit where credit is due, to the right-wing initiative maestro who hates all non-private-car transportation, but whose schemes leave even that mode vastly underfunded in this nation’s-most-regressive-tax-system state.
  • Today in clothing named after people famous for not wearing any, a fashion chain called “Bettie Page” is opening its first local branch on Capitol Hill.
  • A Walla Walla high-school principal is convinced that severe discipline against problem students only makes things worse. By taking more pro-active approaches, suspensions at his school have plummeted.
  • One of the lesser publicized YouTube memes involves video gamers posting clips of their gameplay prowess. Now, Nintendo is claiming copyright on all these clips.
  • A guy in Ballard’s got a Kickstarter to fund a small but free performance space for theatrical and musical performers.
  • There are supposedly more high tech jobs available in the Puget Sound country than there are people to fill them. Now if we could only get jobs for a couple of non-coders….
  • Have Catholic bishops quietly taken control of all health care decision making in Wash. state?
  • David J. Ley at Psychology Today claims that sexual violence has gone down wherever “societies have increased their access to porn.”
  • The just-ended TV season has been, viewership-wise, “one of the worst years ever in the history of network TV.”
  • Meanwhile, brick-n’-mortar bookstores saw a huge jump in foot traffic this past quarter.
  • Some 56 more-or-less “adult” comix titles have been excised from Apple’s App Store. Again.
  • Will someone just kill the thin sheet calling itself the Village Voice already (or at least turn it into a bohemian-radical nostalgia rag)?
  • A Simpsons street opens later this year at the Universal Orlando theme park. It’ll be the Violentest Place on Earth! (Sorry, no Itchy and Scratchy Money accepted.)

via cartoonbrew.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 5/23/13
May 23rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

'every driver every time it ever rains ever'

  • I’m still trying to decide how I feel about When You Live In Seattle, a site of original GIF-animation “memes.”
  • What follows the XBox 360? “XBox One.” This is not to be considered a comment on the gaming platform’s market share.
  • Our ol’ pal Sean Nelson’s got his first solo CD out at long last. And, as you can here at the hereby-linked stream, it’s very much worth the wait.
  • May Day protesters say they’re not spoiled children of privilege having a lark, but people with serious grievances against the government, particularly an increasingly militarized police.
  • Amazon’s letting people sell fan-fiction ebooks for money on the Kindle platform. Just as long as the fan fictions take place in the “universes” for which Amazon’s got official licenses. And they can’t have any porn in ‘em.
  • In a rare victory for neighborhoods and small businesses, lower Queen Anne’s Tup Tim Thai restaurant won’t be rent-hiked out of existence after all.
  • Threats against reproductive rights aren’t just for red states anymore.
  • Pot: Good for pigs, bad for dogs?
  • Apple has not “cheated” on its federal taxes. It simply took advantage of every legal tax dodge its lawyers could discover (or advocate for), just like so many other corporate titans.
  • Despite what you might have read on inflammatory websites, PBS did not “kill” a documentary critical of the Koch brothers, the billionaire backers of many extreme-right-wing political endeavors (and of some major PBS affiliate stations). It was ITVS, a separate nonprofit program supplier, that declined to include Citizen Koch among the indie films it packages to the PBS network feed and to local public-TV stations. Citizen Koch still exists, and is still playing the festival circuit.
  • Actually, there are real reasons why the IRS should investigate the Kochs’ “Tea Party Patriots” and similar nonpartisan-in-name-only outfits.
  • When the Executive Branch started stalking Fox News and the AP (allegedly for those outfits’ investigations of CIA documents about North Korea), was it just a continuation of the sort of tactics played against WikiLeaks?
  • Google boss Larry Page has a plan to fix what’s wrong with the world—more anti-government, corporate Libertarianism. Exactly the direction that got the world into these (economic, ecological) messes.
  • Australian writer Elmo Keep believes free and cheap downloads are killing just about all professional media/arts endeavors.
  • Henry Grabar at the Atlantic calls the anti-flouridation movement (recently victorious in Portland and several other cities) “history’s weirdest alliance of paranoiacs.”
  • Meanwhile, NY Times essayist Maggie Koerth-Baker claims to know “why rational people buy into conspiracy theories.” Or so the Germans would have you believe….
  • A famous author’s Wikipedia page got “edit trolled” by a rival author.
  • In the countdown toward Arrested Development’s revival on Netflix streaming, NPR.org’s got a thorough chart chronicling the recurrence of more than 150 running gags through the original series.
  • Some guy on YouTube edited together Hamlet quotations and references from 198 different movies and TV shows. Not included: Chewbacca’s “Alas, poor Yorick” pantomime with C3PO’s temporarily disconnected head.
  • Yes, at one time people really wrote by hand, and did it this well. It took a lot of intense practice.

slate

RANDOM LINKS FOR 4/15/13
Apr 15th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via jerry beck at indiewire.com

  • Jonathan Winters, 1925-2013: The groundbreaking comic actor was a made-it-look-easy genius at everything from improv to scripted character roles, from pathos-touched bits to pure zaniness. And his first and last film credits are both in cartoons.
  • BuzzFeed lists 35 “Truths About Seattle.” Not all of them actually are true. Not everyone, for instance, works at Microsoft.
  • If we really are witnessing the “Death of the PC,” it’s neither Microsoft’s nor Apple’s fault. It’s just that with so much PC use and even functionality centered on Web-based stuff, home users have fewer reasons to upgrade their hardware. (OK, maybe Windows 8 isn’t helping.)
  • Seattle will have two teams this summer in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, which claims to be the “largest women’s league in the world” based on the number of teams (70, coast-to-coast). It will also field teams this season in Issaquah, Spokane, Eugene, and something called “Oregon Rush.” (The league’s more exclusive “Elite” division will also have a Seattle team this year, name to be announced.)
  • Those forever out-of-order escalators in the Seattle Transit Tunnel have logged their first fatality.
  • Bruch Nourish at the Seattle Transit Blog has an idea for improved transit across the Ship Canal: make the Fremont Bridge for transit (and bikes and walkers) only.
  • Seattle and New York are vying to be the capital of “Big Data.” I’m still not clear just what “Big Data” is.
  • Sports blogger Chuck Culpepper has a lovely remembrance of the late local college basketball coach Frosty Westering.
  • Would anybody want to go to a hospital where nurses have to take unpaid overtime and no breaks?
  • A British author claims “news is bad for you, and giving up reading it will make you happier.” I know this becuase I read it on a newspaper’s site.
  • Reader’s Digest in bankruptcy: But does it still pay to increase your word power?
  • Candy doesn’t make you fat. Or so a major candy-industry PR campaign would have you believe.
  • The scandal isn’t that Mitch McConnell was caught talking like a scumbag. The problem is that McConnell is a scumbag.
  • Having apparently grown tired of waging the War on Women, the Rabid Right is now waging a full-on War on Sex.
  • Porn industry revenues have fallen by almost two thirds in the past eight years. The usual suspect: free online content. A less usual suspect: could audiences finally be tiring of formulaic, loveless mating exhibitions?
  • Besides books (yes, really), the other legacy-media segment that’s best survived the digital-age “disruption” (a term I’ve already said I hate) is cable TV programming. But with more and more “cord cutters” among the populace, can the cable channels’ owners still demand their lucrative “bundling” deals with service providers?
  • America’s most implausible entertainment export these days might be the popularity of subtitled Jon Stewart clips in China.
  • Let’s close today with a guy who’s painstakingly made miniature models of iconic TV show settings.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 4/8/13
Apr 8th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via seattle bike blog

  • Enterprising citizens calling themselves “Reasonably Polite Seattleites” took it upon themselves to install unauthorized “bicycle lane protectors” (reflective plastic pylons) along Cherry Street uphill from downtown. The city vows to remove them.
  • Seattle police chief John Diaz will retire, allowing Mike McGinn (or perhaps a successor mayor next year) to put in another figurehead for uncontrolled street-cop brutality.
  • In a Belltown where anything non-one-percenty is increasingly out of place (more about that in a day or so), Roq La Rue has been kicked out of its longtime space in the old Film Row RKO distribution offices. Fortunately, Seattle’s premier “pop surrealist” art gallery has found new quarters in Pioneer Square, effective some time this summer.
  • Meanwhile, a Crosscut contributor named Andy Fife asks whether there is a “Seattle arts aesthetic.” Actually, there are several. There’s the “world class or bust” desperate slickness of most of SAM’s big permanent displays. There’s the “rich ex-hippie” mellow slickness of Chihuly and company. There’s the “modern monumentalist” big stuff seen at the G. Gibson and William Traver galleries. There are the house styles of Cornish and Gage and their recent alums. And there’s the “let’s put on a show” urban folk/pop styling of most of my personal faves.
  • New Orleans city bosses apparently want to simultaneously (1) shut down music venues, and (2) promote their city as a live-music tourist destination.
  • NBCNews.com blogger Wilson Rothman claims Apple’s iTunes is “out of date and out of touch.” Specifically, Rothman dislikes the whole idea of having to pay for song recordings. He seems to prefer the Spotify model, in which artists make fractions of fractions of pennies. That’s supposed to be the modern way?
  • Here’s one author who hates the new economics of the book biz—Scott Turow, one of the few writers who’d thrived under the old system.
  • Joshua Macht at the Atlantic claims Time magazine has perhaps three years to live.
  • Hacked computer data shows the global one-percenters are hoarding trillions in secret overseas tax-haven accounts. Leaders of nations other than ours claim to be aghast.
  • The newspaper industry has started measuring revenue from online paywalls and ancillary products/services. The resulting figures show papers are now losing a little less money than previously thought.
  • The death last week of Spanish exploitation-film giant Jess Franco has been followed by the loss of another of that country’s great directors of sex and/or violence, Bigas Luna.
  • Annette Funicello, 1943-2013: The only original Mickey Mouse Club cast member to have a real adult showbiz career was the wholesome sex symbol in the Beach Party movies, and a pop singer of unusual clarity and panache. During her cameo in the Monkees’ film Head, she proved not afraid to parody (without breaking) her squeaky-clean image. She remained gracious and classy, even during her long slow illness.
  • We’ve also lost Les Blank, who directed 42 documentaries of varying lengths and topics (all shot on film). He’s probably best known for Burden of Dreams, the “making-of” film about Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo. Many critics considered Blank’s behind-the-scenes story to be more compelling than Herzog’s feature.
  • And another goodbye, this one to Hilly Krystal, influential owner of NYC punk club CBGB. While he opened it as a hippie spot dedicated to “country, blue grass, and blues,” he quickly adjusted to welcome the burgeoning Bowery underground scene. The result was what the New Yorker called “the ultimate garage—the place garage bands everywhere want to play.” (Update: This hereby-linked story is from 2007. Krystal’s still worth remembering nowadays, though.)
  • Femen and associated groups held an “international topless jihad day” across European capitals, though the slogans painted upon themselves seemed to almost all be in English.
  • Ending the drug war was never one of Obama’s top priorities. I suspect it’s because the whole bohemian-relaxation vibe clashed with the striving-for-progress zeitgeist that informed Obama’s worldview. But, as with gay marriage, he may be soon forced to act by a groundswell of popular opinion.
  • The Nielsen ratings now claim there are 5 million “zero television” households in the U.S., up from a mere 2 million in ’07. (The “kill your television” “radicals” will, naturally, completely ignore this information.)
  • Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch’s minions threaten to pull the Fox broadcast network off of over-the-air stations (including affiliates tied up in long-term contracts) and go cable-only, unless the courts outlaw a service to stream local over-the-air stations to local viewers via Internet connections.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/17/13
Jan 17th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

igor keller at hideousbelltown.blogspot.com

  • The Sixth Avenue Motor Inn and the King Cat (née King) Theater are coming down, in preparation for the three Amazon high rises (each of which will be as tall as the ex-Seafirst tower).
  • I’d rather be on a non smoking flight, thank you. (But in all seriousness, would the pre-McDonnell-Douglas Boeing have let planes go into service with untested battery technologies?)
  • The Queen Anne branch of Easy Street Records is still closing on Friday. But in happier news, Queen Anne Books is reopening under new management.
  • Seattle Weekly editor Mike Seely quits just as new, perhaps more competent, owners take over.
  • An Everett woman “is accused of smothering her boyfriend by lying on his face.” With her chest.
  • One reason to get an iPhone instead of something else: Facebook’s free-voice-calls app.
  • Nagisa Oshima, R.I.P.: Japan’s government should honor the filmmaker’s memory by finally allowing his masterwork, In the Realm of the Senses, to be screened uncut in his country.
  • Abigail Van Buren, R.I.P.: Pauline Phillips, one of the advice-column twins (Eppie Lederer, a.ka. “Ann Landers,” was her sister), carved out a niche in daily newspapers back when such institutions still had many such niches to be filled. Her common-sense, yet witty, responses to readers’ personal issues kept readers enthralled, and subscribed, for more than three decades. Speaking of deceased twins…
  • Conrad Bain, R.I.P.: My favorite of his performances was when Maude ran a “twins” episode, a common sitcom shtick. In the big closing reveal, both characters walked out, in front of the studio audience in an obviously unfaked shot. Turned out Bain really had a twin, Bonar Bain, who still lives. (Bonar later appeared as himself, albeit renamed “Fred Bain,” on SCTV.)
  • No, Washington Post: People’s Twitter pictures are not free for the (unpaid) republishing.
  • Markos Moulitsas claims today’s Democrats, popularity-wise, “may now be on the right side of every single relevant issue.”
  • Punch, the late beloved UK humor mag, knew the addictive power of mobile electronic-media devices before they even existed:

via kip w on flickr

THE ‘BROKEN WINDOWS’ SYNDROME
Dec 6th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

chris pirillo via google plus

In sociology, the controversial and oft-disputed “broken windows theory” claims that crime in an urban neighborhood can go up or down depending on how the locals perceive the place as a “nice” (orderly, civil) place or a “scary” (anything-goes) place.

This post is about an entirely different “broken Windows” theory.

It’s the perception, in some of the tech and business press, that Microsoft Windows is “broken.”

They’re not talking about the software itself being broken (as in inoperable), but the business model behind it.

Especially in regards to “upgrade” sales of the new Windows 8 for multi-desktop businesses.

The naysayers say Windows 8 does so many things so differently than previous versions that there’s a steep “learning curve,” and that businesses may not want that sort of disruption in their day to day operations if they don’t have to take it.

Another alleged issue: Windows 8 is supposed to provide one seamless operating environment among PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Only the tablets and the smartphones still aren’t selling all that well, compared with Apple and Android products.

What’s worse, PCs themselves (almost all of which still come with Windows preloaded) themselves aren’t selling like they used to, and might not ever do so again.

You sure don’t need me to tell you how important MS has become to the Wash. state economy, and that no number of XBox 360 Live subscriptions can make up for the value of all the new and upgraded Windows installations out there.

Oh well. There’s always the Plan B strategy of suing Android phone makers.

WHY YOU HAVEN’T HEARD MUCH FROM ME LATELY (RANDOM LINKS FOR 12/6/12)
Dec 6th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

nanowrimo.org

I participated in National Novel Writing Month again this year. Came out of it with most of the first draft of something I’m tentatively calling Horizontal Hold: A Novel About Love & Television. More details as I come closer to making it presentable.

  • There’s one of them online petition thangs out to try to persuade the CBS Radio Stations Group to keep KPTK-AM and its “Progressive Talk” format on the air.
  • Bruce Pavitt’s put out an Apple “iBook” about the Nirvana/Mudhoney/TAD tour of Europe in 1989. And he’s talking about how he sold Sub Pop as a brand signifying coolness to two continents.
  • The Seattle branch of Gilda’s Club is keeping its name. This is news because other outlets of the drop-in cancer support organization aren’t keeping the name. One reason: some young adults these days don’t remember who Gilda Radner was. That’s almost as sad as cancer itself.
  • Daily Kos contributor “MinistryOfTruth” has some advice for Republicans trying to rebuild their party: “Don’t have a base of idiots.”
  • Steve Fraser at TruthOut, meanwhile, wishes to remind you that the so-called “fiscal cliff” is, like so much else, a political invention.
  • The business-press buzzword of the month: “Insourcing.” GE’s restarting work in some previously abandoned appliance factory buildings; and Apple’s assembling some iMacs in the U.S. with plans to expand. Just don’t expect this to be the one answer to the unemployment crisis. Factory work these days is so automated, and CAD/CAM design work can make it so efficient, that there’s not that much labor in the cost of a lot of stuff, no matter where it’s made.
  • Finally, let’s all reflect (and refract) in the glory that was gay marriage license midnight madness at the Console Color TV Building (King County Admin) downtown, Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Actual gay weddings start Sunday.

kirotv.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/17/12
Oct 17th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

via interestingengineering.com

  • Circa 1833, one W.D. Kellogg published a lithograph entitled A Map of the Open Country of Woman’s Heart. It goes, as the hereby-linked article states, “from the mole traps in the Province of Deception, to the city of Moi-meme in the Land of Selfishness, to the Plains of Susceptibility in the Region of Sentimentality.” There’s no Aorta of Righteous Disgust, though. Speaking of which….
  • Yep, it’s the meme of the day: “Binders Full of Women.”
  • You’ve heard of wanted criminals (and debtors) getting caught via phony contests and giveaways. But a chewing-gum survey?
  • The debut of Microsoft’s “Surface” tablet computer mark’s the company’s biggest effort yet to take control of its own destiny, away from the desktop/laptop PC makers. However, it doesn’t mean they’re actually making the things themselves. Speaking of which….
  • A Shanghai newspaper got a guy in to work as a Foxconn factory laborer. As it happened, he got onto the iPhone 5 assembly lines. Note: Most consumer electronics products today, no matter the brand, are made under similar conditions.
  • Paul Buchheit at AlterNet lists “Five Ways Corporate Greed Is Bankrupting America.”
  • The latest company to be bled to the point of death under Bain Capital (which Mitt Romney’s “officially” not part of anymore): Clear Channel, the owner of too many hundreds of radio stations and employer and/or syndicator of most of the worst right-wing talkers.
  • A class action lawsuit accuses Morgan Stanley of deliberately targeting Af-Am households for junk mortgages, believing them to be less knowledgable or to have less access to legal recourse.
  • An ex-American Apparel store clerk talks low pay, long hours, and being expected to laugh at non-skinny women.
  • Today’s teenage scare story is brought to you by vodka-soaked tampons.
  • The Arizona National Guard and its recruiters hunted homeless people in Phoenix with paint guns, and bribed/pressured some of them (and some of their own female members) to show their tits.
  • A guy puts a song up on the digital music services. Some other guy “samples” the entire track, dubs a few bird-chirping sound effects onto it, puts it up on the same digital music services, and way outsells the original. The maker of the original gets perturbed.
  • The ever-vigilant xkcd reminds you that every Presidential election has set one precedent or another (some more trivial than others).
RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/27/12
Sep 27th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

from the book 'mail order mysteries' via laughingsquid.com

  • Oh we so wanted to believe the miracle products advertised in comic books really worked as advertised (or at least were as cool as the ads claimed).
  • I might be in the minority even among local fans, but I believe the replacement refs made the right call in awarding Monday night’s final play (and hence the game) to the Seahawks.
  • No, the Edmonton Oilers hockey team isn’t ever going to move to Seattle. The local visit by Oilers execs is only an exercise in “arena blackmail” toward Edmonton politicos.
  • David Goldstein puts the blame for Washington’s regressive tax structure on a state Supreme Court ruling back in 1933.
  • Pundits look at Washington state’s political “Cascade curtain.” Micah Cohen at the NYT‘s FiveThirtyEight sees the west/east divide in terms of women’s rights issues
  • …while Eli Sanders dissects how, in the last State Supreme Court race, an unqualified white candidate beat a highly qualified Hispanic candidate in Eastern Washington, even in 40-percent-Hispanic areas.
  • Speaking of Eastern Washington, those bigass, electricity-hungry “server farm” computer installations there might not employ very many people once they’re built, but they still demand political clout.
  • A judge refused to throw out a class-action suit by female Costco employees, alleging discrimination in promotions.
  • TV ads for the gay marriage referendum don’t show any actual gay people. I’m reminded of the 1998 initiative to end affirmative action in the state. The anti-initiative ads showed, as their examples of affirmative action’s needy beneficiaries, only white little girls. The tactic didn’t work.
  • The good folks at Seattle Indian Health Services claim the city, led by councilmember Nick Licata, is trying to take over their agency so it can sell the land on which their offices sit to a private developer.
  • A national church mag calls Seattle’s own Mars Hill Church (home of “hip” misogyny/homophobia) America’s third fastest-growing church.
  • The Northwest’s oil refining capital could also host the nation’s biggest bottled-water plant. What could possibly go wrong?
  • The airline now calling itself United (a shotgun marriage of the original UAL with Continental) has posted a nice time lapse video of a Boeing 787 being put together. It’s enough to warm this Snohomish County guy’s heart.
  • Andy Williams, 1928-2012: The seemingly ageless singer/TV host began as a child in a singing-brothers act, then jump-started the career of a similar act (the Osmonds). He was a quintessential icon of the square side of the 1960s, smooth and slick and pleasant and never ruffled. He was one of those personalities who seemed to inhabit a world of serenity that flowed all around him; which made his latter-day emergence as a right wingnut even stranger.
  • Ben Adler at the Nation says the truly crazy wingnut conspiracy theories and insult “jokes” don’t start on radio or Fox “News”, but at obscure blogs and e-mail lists.
  • Today’s Romney/Ryan bashings: Richard Eskow believes Ryan still believes his former Ayn Randian denunciations of Medicare and Social Security. Florida Republicans are up to their old voter-suppression tricks. Greg Palast claims Karl Rove’s ol’ election-stealing dirty tricks operations are still up and running. And Jonathan Chiat visits some extremely rich people who imagine themselves to be America’s most “persecuted” and overtaxed sector.
  • Economic philosopher Angus Sibley has a highly lucid, step-by-step breakdown of what’s wrong with libertarian economics.
  • If outsource manufacturers like Foxconn in China keep up their reputation for workplace horridness, western tech-hardware companies just might have to return production in-house just to avoid the bad PR.
  • Victoria’s Secret has quietly discontinued its “Sexy Little Geisha” ensemble. Anti-racist bloggers claim credit.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/21/12
Sep 20th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

chris lehman, npr via kplu

  • In my onetime stompin’ grounds of Corvallis OR, an Asian American businessman sponsored a downtown mural depicting tranquil nature scenes in Taiwan contrasted with police brutalizing protesters in Tibet. China’s government would like the mural gone.
  • On the 20th anniversary of the film Singles, Spin imagines the film with a modern-day soundtrack (available as a Spotify playlist). No current Seattle acts are on it (though ex-local Mark Lanegan is).
  • Most of the hereby-linked article is behind a paywall, but the gist is this: ESPN blogger Craig Custance believes Seattle’s got a great shot at a National Hockey League team, but as an expansion rather than a moved franchise. Custance agrees with similar remarks earlier this year by CBC hockey commentator Elliotte Friedman. (Nobody might have NHL hockey for perhaps a whole year, if the league continues to lock out its players.)
  • My ol’ pal James Winchell has a neat piece in the Jewish mag Tablet (no relation to the defunct local hipster rag of the same name), philosophizing on the Hebrew roots and symbolism in the works of Franz Kafka.
  • How artificial intelligence is turning out: expect more stuff like Siri, but no human-esque robots any time soon.
  • As big chain retailers abandon more and more sites around the country, some of those sites are being taken over by big chain restaurants.
  • Danny Westneat asks if Romney’s so down on those who don’t pay taxes, when’s he gonna go after the likes of Boeing? (Or, for that matter, Microsoft?)
  • Poll-analyst extraordinaire Nate Silver sees Obama doing better in polls that include real-live pollsters (instead of robocalls) and that include cell-phone-only households.
  • Today’s scathinger-than-scathing Romney rants come to you courtesy of Nicholas Kristof and Lawrence O’Donnell
  • …while Jon Stewart tears yet another righteous hole in the blatantly hypocritical Faux News partisans.
  • As for me, for now, I’ll just say Romney’s appearance on Univision should have been accompanied by one of that channel’s biggest personalities. I speak, of course, of “El Chacal de la Trompeta,” the masked trumpeter from the Gong Show-like talent segment of Sabado Gigante.

watch el chacal de la trompeta, via youtube

RANDOM LINKS FOR 9/14/12
Sep 14th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

andraste.com via the smoking gun

  • A Seattle fetish photographer puts up some shots taken inside a cemetery. Legal rancor ensues. Trust me on this: The dead people don’t give a darn.
  • Heather Artena Hughes, 1967-2012: The longtime local actress/singer/dancer/comedienne did everything from torch songs and burlesque bits to parody wrestling matches. She was a regular in the Match Game Belltown shows. Everyone who knew and/or worked with her called her a near-goddess of skill and verve.
  • Nordstrom is expanding into Canada. (No “designer toque” jokes from this corner.)
  • Why do the Mariners brass still oppose the Sonics arena scheme? Could it be because the M’s could conceivably want their own cable channel, and any neo-Sonics team could conceivably compete with that?
  • The city of Auburn has a “wall of shame,” decrying banks that hold on to foreclosed homes and leave them to decay.
  • A JPMorganChase analyst claims the iPhone 5 (just announced this week) “could prop up the entire U.S. economy.” Douglas Rushkoff at CNN is more than a little skeptical about this claim.
  • AT&T wants the legal right to abandon the landline-phone biz, and with it all demands for “network neutrality” that keep it from manipulating what websites its customers get to see.
  • The broadcast/cable/satellite TV industries, and their attorneys, continue to make the online streaming of “free” TV a near-impossibility.
  • It’s a little too late for the chain’s Washington locations (the regional franchisee went under a year or two back), but Hooters is trying to be more female-friendly.
  • It’s not much of a comic (just dialogue scenes), but there’s still novelty value to a lawyer making a five-page strip as a legal brief in the Apple/Amazon ebook pricing suit.
  • USA Today just brought out a massive print/online redesign. Nice to see a print paper fighting for continued relevance, instead of just fading away.
  • Amanda Palmer raised over a million bucks on Kickstarter for a new album. Not getting a slice of that: local pickup musicians on her tour stops.
  • The Pussy Riot protesters might get out of jail next month. Just might.
  • “Did the Republicans deliberately crash the U.S. economy?” Or was that merely collateral damage in the game of supplying as many favors as possible to its billionaire campaign donors?
  • How do you get and keep more women in the tech industries? One way is to not require programming experience in filling non-programming jobs (such as middle management).
  • What will it take to get more black ballet dancers?
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