October 31, 2006
No, not the picture of the four-legged Yoda, left. Or the Dog Bride, below right. It's this number: we're forking over about $4.96 billion on Halloween costumes, decorations, candy and cards - about five times what we'll spend on elections this year, a BBC blogger figures, noting that mid-terms are an "an equally horrible occasion populated by some equally scary characters." (A number of U.S. readers promptly tell the British blogger what he can do with his outrage.)
And I'm not even sure that number includes the growing pet-costume sector.
We ask because last week brought the first annual Halloween Parade for pugs in our local dog park. I wasn't invited. Neither was my dog, who would have likely eaten several of those appealing hors d'ouevres. Without pictures, we have to resort to these actually entertaining photos, courtesy of Musings From The God of Cities, from the 16th Annual Halloween Pooch Parade in Tompkins Square Park in NYC's East Village. Make sure you page down for the Seal Pup and the Autumn Leaves hound.
There's much more to be frightened of:
Stuff Magazine's 100 Scariest Movies Ever Made. What's No. 1? Here's a hint: Chris Rock says, "It convinced me that the devil was out to get me."
Here's another hint. It isn't Scary Mary Poppins, although the YouTube clipping is haunting.
We have more Halloween programming today in this particularly spooky day for Blinq. Have you been watching Monsterfest on AMC? Tuesday it's all Halloween All The Time, from the original to Halloween 5, The Revenge of Michael Myers.
Make (left) offers the best, over-the-top costumes and carvings I've seen this season.
Pax Romano sees dead people.
Some Velvet Blog cues up some holiday mash.
Freudian Slips sees a need for a holiday make-over, now that his child's school parade has been canceled due to security concerns.
Suburban Guerrilla notes the government is messing with time to bring children a brighter Halloween.
Celebrate the holiday with Lenny Bruce's "My Werewolf Mama" and other scary treats.
Back from a kiddie trick-or-treat party where his tot's nursery school teacher was dressed as a slutty/sexy cavewoman, Throwing Things asks the key question: "If you walked into a party and noticed that the wake from the 3-foot tall Spider-man chasing a 3-foot tall Mr. Incredible kicked up a breeze that made the lower three-quarters of your buttocks chilly, wouldn't you walk back to your car, find the nearest linen store, buy a cheap sheet, poke a couple of holes in it, and call yourself a party-appropriate ghost?"
Costume party atop the Bellevue. Time to trot out that old Legionnaire's outfit?
Courtesy of WFMU's Beward the Blog, which has already found links to scary audio, video and safety tips for the season, The Worst Halloween Costimes of All Time! Need me one of those Gabe Kaplan and the Sweathogs units.
October 30, 2006
Fun With Dick and Andy
is it just me or do the Eagles post game press conferences resemble those of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld? They are all so righteous in their belief that their way is the right way, they ignore the obvious: bad game plans, ignoring the need to change strategy and course, the way they have cowered the press (they respond to legitimate hard ball questions in such a way as to suggest that dissent is impermissible), etc.
We're nothing if not game here. So I went digging through White House transcripts, videos of Andy Reid's press conferences. Found a few things:
Sunday's media conference after the Eagles loss to Jacksonville.
Q: Andy, when you say you'll do what you need to do, what DO you need to do?
A: You don't have to worry about it. I'll take care of it. I'm gonna take care of it.
White House press conference with President Bush, March 13, 2003:
Q: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead of alive?
A: ... He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we find a training camp, we'll take care of it.
You get the picture. Now it's quiz time. Find out if you guessed right by clicking "continue reading."
Match the quote with the speaker:
A: "If you look at the general overall situation, they're doing remarkably well."
B: "If we choose to ignore their advice and God forbid, have an incident down the road...then everybody in this room would come back and say, 'How could you have ignored that information from all of the experts?' You now have in hand, in quotes, a sampling of highly respected people whose advice we sought before implementing this program."
C: "We will see. I am not going to prophesize to you. I am not that good. I am going to tell you that we are going to work as hard as we can and do the best we can."
D: "I'm not going to comment on hypothetical questions."
E: "They're dancing in the end zone. They just hadn't scored the touchdown. You know, there's a lot of time left."
1. Eagles Coach Andy Reid
2. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
3. Eagles President Joe Banner
4. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
5. U.S. President George W. Bush
A - 4 Dick Cheney on the overall situation in Iraq. source
B - 3 Joe Banner on allowing outside hoagies into the stadium, post 9/11. source.
C - 1 Andy Reid on whether the 2005-6 Eagles were better than the team that went to the Super Bowl. source.
D - 2 Donald Rumsfeld on reports of death squads killing Sunnis in Iraq. source.
E - 5 President Bush on the mid-term elections. source.
Derailing The Gravy Train
Reports over the weekend had YouTube starting to pull Comedy Central clips from its video-sharing site, citing copyright infringement concerns. Add to that news of an announcement later today where MySpace will announce a partnership with Gracenote to block copyrighted music from being posted on member's pages.
The NewsCloud site reported that YouTube users were receiving e-mails from someone representing Comedy Central, and the service began removing clips from "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," "The Colbert Report" and "South Park." The New York Times wrote about it today.
It isn't clear how far along this process has gone. Last night I found hundreds of clips with Stewart and Colbert on the service. I'm awaiting a reply from the YouTube legal trust. Meanwhile, here's one theory of what's happening - a video theory for those tired of reading, by a YouTuber who received the legal letter on Friday.
This blocking of videos follows the removal a week before of almost 30,000 Japanese clips at the request of copyright holders.
In a post entitled, "Shooting Your Fans In The Foot," the Windy Pundit questioned the wisdom of pulling the Stewart and Colbert clips:
I can understand the case for South Park. They sell the South Park seasons on DVD. As I write, the 8th season is in the top 200 of all DVDs sold on Amazon. If all the best parts of South Park are available free on YouTube, who will buy the DVDs?
But when it comes to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, are they insane? What else are they going to do with the old episodes? It's current events television. Nobody wants to even watch last year's episodes on TV, let alone buy DVDs full of the stuff. Amazon has only one listing for Daily Show DVDs, and that's for the Indecision 2004 Special
This move, wrote Lost Remote, will be seen by many as the first shoe to drop in YouTubes's new Google existence. Google acquired the video-sharing site for $1.65 billion earlier this month.
Lost Remote observed:
Both shows haven’t had an issue with YouTube, well, at least before the Google acquisition. In fact, the Colbert Report has used YouTube in its green screen challenge. And Stephen Colbert has mentioned the site so many times on the air, he recently joked that he was owed $700 million in licensing fees. YouTube has been thriving with Comedy Central content — probably the most widespread TV brand on the site — so this will be the most noticeable content removal to date. And it’s interesting to point out that Comedy Central — a Viacom unit — appears not to be going along with CBS’ strategy of forming a strategic partnership with YouTube.
Techcrunch asks if this development will stop network marketers from stealthily planting videos on YouTube to spread buzz:
Rumor has it that in the past, marketing departments for TV shows would anonymously upload content to YouTube to get exposure, even while their legal departments were issuing take-down notices for the very same content. Now that everyone understands the value of being the online network for TV clips ($1.65 billion), copyright holders are taking a step back and thinking about how they can get a piece of that money, too.
While it would be way premature to start preparing obits for YouTube, it isn't too soon to watch the Idolator blog's Video Eulogy to the good old days of Chinese boy-bands, fighting kitties and synchronized treadmill dancers.
October 29, 2006
Caution: Low-Flying Birds
"Eagles Can Kiss Playoffs Goodbye" is the headline on the first post I read after the Birds' lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, 13-6. I wish I could say it is some bitter fan's opinion. It's from Eye On the Eagles, the Inquirer sports department site, where Marc Narducci writes the team off:
After each loss the Eagles have talked about what a great team they still are, but that conversation was missing after Sunday's 13-6 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Now the Eagles are answering questions (and probably asking them among themselves) whether this season is over. ... The Eagles are in deep trouble.
Enrico "this game just disgusts me" Campitelli Jr., writes at AOL's Fanhouse in a post titled Eagles Lose Third Straight, Fans Nearing Ledge:
After what was previously thought to be the easier part of their season, the Birds are four and four. The road to the playoffs is going to be a tough one. To get to just 10 wins the Birds would have to go 6 and 2 in their final eight. I wouldn't be surprised if they fail to be a .500 team for the season.
Philadelphia Police detective/turned Eagles blogger Wyatt Earp composes an "everyone's a suspect" post. Rush Limbaugh was right about Donovan McNabb being over-rated, the blogging cop argues. And coach Andy Reid gets the trophy for being "the biggest fraud in the league." Earp's issues:
"Famous for clock mismanagement and questionable play calling. Today was his coup de grace. After his team failed to stop the run at all today" Reid held another press conference featuring one-word answers. ... "When you get completely outplayed in your own stadium before by BYE week, maybe, like Lucy Ricardo, you got some 'splaining to do! Will somebody please fire this man, post haste?
Even 17-year-old Eagles season-ticket holder Kate Wells is disheartened:
This team is in a position that I never would have imagined. I am so angry and disappointed with the players because the talent is here, just not the desire. The actual team we have is a very good team but no one can put anything together. I have no idea what the problem is, there is an obvious lack of urgency but I don't know how to fix that.
Bleeding Green Nation doesn't so much write as open a vein:
This was a team loss in every sense of the word. They were fully dominated on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. McNabb wasn't terrible, but he wasn't good either. The receivers dropped 5 balls, McNabb was sacked 4 times, and when he did have time no one was getting open. They were penalized 8 times for 50 yards and seemingly every penalty came at the worst possible time. They were held to a season low 227 yards total and gave up a whopping 209 yards on the ground.
A game like this calls for a visit to Negadelphia. Paulomon Grundy writes:
For the third week in a row, the Birds got manhandled by a horrible team...this time at home. You would think that coming off 2 games that they "shouldn't have lost", the entire Eagles organization would be pumped up to tear the Jags apart. Yes, that would be the case in other cities, but we're talking about the Philadelphia Eagles here, a team that has trouble staying motivated for NFC Championship Games.
It was evident from the kickoff that the Birds, especially the O and D lines, were more interested in getting to their Bye Week than playing today. They only have to play once a week - motivation shouldn't be a problem. In my opinion, this Bye Week is coming at the worst possible time.
Anyway, my conclusion is simple and a reiteration of what I've been saying for a while: ANDY REID'S TIME AS HEAD COACH IS OVER.
It's evident that Big Red's formula and coaching style don't produce championships. As I've been saying, he's a very good GM and game planner, but sucks as a leader, as a field general. He's never going to lead this team to a Super Bowl.
Feeling better already.
Can't Get No
Inquirer film critic Carrie Rickey heard from a fan that the good seats were gone before tickets went on sale - having been scooped up by those looking to stock the house with shiny happy fans for a documentary Martin Scorcese is filming about the band. Others have been saved for those attending Bill Clinton's 60th birthday party. The Beacon holds a little more than 2,000 people.
Carrie filed this report for us:
"Here comes their 19th nervous breakdown. That flap you hear is Rolling Stones fans freaking because Sunday and Tuesday Mick and his crew are playing New York’s Beacon Theater and they can’t score tickets.. Martin Scorsese is shooting a Stones concert film and is auditioning extras, hipper and younger than the Stones graying, grotty longtimes fans, who will fill many of the seats in the intimate house. The remainder are going for up to $4,000 per because, according to Stones flack Fran Curtis, the band provided a bloc of ducats to the Clinton Foundation to support its efforts. While Stones fans such as Marilou Regan, one of many who brought this to my attention, are in an uproar, this is standard operating procedure. When Jonathan Demme shot his Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” and Neil Young's “Heart of Gold,” the houses were filled by what we euphemistically call a “selected audience.” Meaning: insiders, friends and cinegenic extras. Scorsese, who made “The Last Waltz” -- my nominee for best concert film ever -- will almost certainly make a definitive movie of the most documented rock band ever, which is some recompense for the no satisfaction crowd."
October 27, 2006
Songs of Freedom
They met in a refugee camp, six Sierra Leone musicians forced from their homes during a decade-long civil war. A documentary was filmed of their lives. Now they've attracted such diverse backers as Angelina Jolie and Ice Cube.
Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars come to the World Cafe Live Saturday, a stop on their first full-blown U.S. tour. Their music is a stew of West African goombay, roots reggae, traditional folk and rap.
Singer Reuben Koroma told NPR's Weekend Edition last year:
"Music has done much for me, because I lost my loved ones and most of my property. But when I went into the refugee camp I started meditating, I started playing music, so I seemed to forget all my troubles. Since music healed me, detraumatized me, I decided to form a group so that we can also heal the other people because we all have sickness."
From the band's bio, a description of how the musicians connected in the Kalia Refugee Camp in neighboring Guinea:
When Reuben and his wife Grace located Franco (Francis Langba) and began making music for their fellow refugees, their efforts were short lived. Safety in the Kalia camp disintegrated when it came under attack from the Guinean army and citizenry who believed the camps were being used as staging grounds for rebel attacks against Guinea. With refugee camps now war zones, the initial band members - alongside thousands of fellow refugees - were evacuated from the area and moved to Sembakounya Refugee Camp. Set deep in the remote Guinean countryside, it was here that Reuben and Franco - thanks to a Canadian refugee aid organization - were able to acquire the rusted-out sound system and beat up electric guitars that helped officially launch the group.
American filmmakers Banker White and Zach Niles met the band at Sembakounya and followed them over three years as they moved among camps and then back home at the war's end in 2001. The film, The Refugee All Stars, won best documentary at the AFI Film Festival 2005.
A YouTube page offers interviews, songs, and a clip from the documentary
The Guardian describes the CD in a four out of five-star review of "Living Like a Refugee," recorded between 2002 and 2005. It was released Sept 26 in the U.S. on Anti Records:
The Refugees play West African styles from highlife to soukous, but their main influence is reggae, with the light, melodic approach of Jimmy Cliff matched against lyrics in English that would have impressed Bob Marley. Songs such as Refugee Rolling (about being moved from camp to camp) or Bull to the Weak (about facing hunger) are not laments but joyful, defiant anthems of survival.
They share one of their songs, "Living Like a Refugee," on their blog.
Go to Google and type in the Danish words that mean primitive troll. You'll find the home page of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Try looking for "mouton insignifiant" - or unimportant sheep - in French. That will bring you to the official biography of Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
Take a second. Try it. It's known as Google Bombing - the dense planting of key search terms to steer Internet traffic - and it gained political traction in the 2004 presidential election.
Those bombs are raining hard again.
Via Blogger's Blog, I read of a National Journal piece that reports liberal activists are lobbing the first volleys during these mid-term elections. The bombing strategy works this way: you identify a post you want to raise in prominence on the page of search results. Then, as many people link to a specific phrase on that post as possible.
The Journal wrote:
Liberal bloggers had the idea first. Chris Bowers of MyDD outlined the strategy Sunday. He said the plan involves purchasing "Google AdWords that will place each negative article on the most common searches for each Republican candidate. Simultaneously, I will produce an article on MyDD that embeds that negative article into a hyperlink."
Bowers asked bloggers to help add links, and they spent the next few days compiling negative news articles on Republican candidates in about 50 targeted races.
This caused the opposition to organize a counter-offensive.
The Journal, again:
Conservative blogger John Hawkins of Right Wing News learned of the strategy and urged his allies to "fight fire with fire." Hawkins expressed concern the Google-bombing campaign just might work for Democrats.
that the most damning, non-partisan article written on every key Republican candidate for house and Senate will appear both high on every Google search for that candidate, and automatically as an advertisement on every search for that candidate. BlogPac will cover the costs. The netroots will supply the research.
Hawkins' call from the other side of the aisle can be found here on Right Wing News:
believe it or not, in this case, a Googlebomb could actually have an impact. Think about it. Who would be doing a Google Search on a particular candidate in the final days of a campaign? Probably an independent voter who is trying to get more information about a candidate. And, if the first article he runs across is a brutal hit piece, well, that could be the information that helps him make up his mind.
Would it play out that way in every case? No, but in big districts, if there's particularly damaging information out there, a Googlebomb could have the potential to sway hundreds of voters.
Sounds like a job for the Google lawyers.
In Google's blog last September, Marissa Mayer, the company's director of consumer Web products, wrote:
We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this (ed note: the 'miserable failure' example) may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.
October 26, 2006
Fox vs. Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh's attack on Michael J. Fox - he said the actor was exaggerating his Parkinson's Disease symptoms in an ad to better hit a politician opposed to stem cell research - has helped make the TV spot the toast of the Internet. It might help a couple of Democrats in tight Senate races, say some commentators.
Michael J. Fox's 37-second spot for Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Senate candidate who supports stem cell research, is now the most-viewed video on the Web, according to Technorati, with about a million and a half views since it was posted Oct. 20.
It's discomforting to watch for anyone who has watched Fox grow up on television and in films, or who has met him. (I spent a day watching Spin City tape for a profile in the late '90s. Seeing an unfamiliar face, he bounded across the room and introduced himself - the model of poise and self assurance.) On the clip, his head swivels, his body rocks as he tells how Missouri Republican Sen. James M. Talent tried to criminalize research that could have helped those, like Fox, who have Parkinson's Disease.
"What you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans," he says. "Americans like me."
Already conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has caused a storm by telling listeners, "he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving around and shaking and it's purely an act."
(Video of Limbaugh's show, in which he imitates Fox's movements, here, via Crooks and Liars.)
The Washington Post interviewed Elaine Richman, a Baltimore neuroscientist who co-wrote "Parkinson's Disease and the Family" and said "anyone who knows the disease well would regard his movement as classic severe Parkinson's disease."
Limbaugh later apologized, saying people have told him they've seen Fox appear that way in interviews. "So I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologize to Michael J. Fox if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act," Limbaugh said. He added that Fox was allowing himself to be exploited in service of a Democratic politician.
Kathryn Jean Lopez in The Corner on National Review Online had Limbaugh's back. She wrote that the radio host was merely saying what doctors and other experts were saying off the record - "that it looked like he must have laid off his medication to make sure viewers would have a worse-day kinda look at life with Parkinson's."
This does not strike me as an argument that's going to honor anyone who advances it.
Fox, who is making ads for a number of candidates who support stem cell research, wrote of his symptoms in his memoir, Lucky Man, who came out in 2002, two years after he stepped back his acting career as the disease progressed:
When I'm "off," the disease has complete authority over my physical being. I'm utterly in its possession. Sometimes there are flashes of function, and I can be effective at performing basic physical tasks, certainly feeding and dressing myself (though I'll lean toward loafers and pullover sweaters), as well as any chore calling for more brute force than manual dexterity. In my very worst "off" times I experience the full panoply of classic Parkinsonian symptoms: rigidity, shuffling, tremors, lack of balance, diminished small motor control, and the insidious cluster of symptoms that makes communication - written as well as spoken - difficult and sometimes impossible.
Opponents of a Missouri amendment that would increase stem-cell research have put together their own celeb roster for a counter ad. Speaking against it have been ex-Ram Kurt Warner, Kansas City Royal Mike Sweeney and ex-Royal Jeff Suppan, Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel. One blog post, headlines I Love Political Ads, coolly appraises the dueling star power.
Billmon saw it this way:
If you're Claire McCaskill (Missouri) or Ben Cardin (Maryland) this is the best thing since the invention of the teleprompter. Both are running against anti-abortion, anti-stem cell Republicans; both badly need a big turnout among pro-choice, pro-stem cell voters to win. But both are also running in Border South states with large Catholic voting blocks -- i.e. states where the anti-abortion movement is strong and a pro-choice stand can alienate a lot of voters who might otherwise be willing to pull the Democratic lever.
But Rush, in his infinite wisdom, has now ensured that the issue isn't abortion. It isn't even stem cells. Now it's all about Michael J. Fox and his battle with Parkinson's Disease -- which is exactly how you don't want it framed if you're the GOP candidates in those races ...
October 25, 2006
Writes Fast With A Dog Underneath
Tell your tale in six words? Wired enlisted 38 writers and designers. They were inspired by Hemingway's briefest. ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.) So Star Trek's Captain Kirk wrote:
Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner
Pretty fond of this one too:
Starlet sex scandal. Giant squid involved.
- Margaret Atwood
Anyone want to try this game?
Think you know your Philadelphia history? So did I. 60 percent. That's horrible, but About.com's quiz is tougher than that part of the city that was home to its iron and steel industries.
Black Parent Movement asks, "Should we be giving our kids' allowance?"
For The Birds assigns blame to the Eagles blowing an easy three as Sunday's first half ended.
Sean Lennon, playing a free concert at the World Cafe Live Friday, has released a much raved-about CD called Friendly Fire. The L.A. Times wrote: "Did he make something true to his legacy? Damned if he didn't." Free download of "Dead Meat" here from XPN.org.
If you're really bored Saturday, you can come hear me talk at the Rittenhouse Barnes & Noble. It's part of a bloggers, digital media and journalism yakfest sponsored by Dragonfire. The line-up:
1:00 pm — Amy Webb, Founder and Editor In Chief of Dragonfire on how the medium doesn't matter if the reporting's solid.
1:30 pm — Alex Koppelman, columnist and writer, Salon.com on ousting bloggers at the Washington Post and Salon.com.
2:00 pm — Dick Polman, Penn lecturer and Inquirer columnist on Internet and politics.
2:30 pm — me on blogging, traditional journalism and working without a net.
Good To Go
I'm having a flashback. A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago has linked directly into my boyhood, finding a site dedicated to that smart, indigestible food of the early '60s known as Space Food Sticks.
You remember or you don't. If you do, your mouth may be watering for Tang and some ice cold Zarex.
The Space Food Sticks Preservation Society has collected three TV spots and this original newspaper ad on their site, including the news that these highly compressed snacks were some sort of energy food. I just remember the caramel, chocolate and peanut flavors, wrapped in beat-those-Ruskies foil.
Which begs the question: Just what was I eating as a seven-year-old:
A non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein.
The site tells how a nostalgic fan, a food scientist and Richardson Brands got together to recreate the taste and texture of the rods. And - best news - how this month two flavors have returned, chocolate and peanut butter, courtesy of Retrofuture Products.
There's been some shrinkage.