Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Slip the Surly Bonds of Epcot
Took the family this weekend to ride Soarin', a new movie-based flight simulator at Disney World Epcot thatzooms overthe state of California:

Guests are lifted 40 feet in the air over an 80-foot domed projection screen. Wind effects and gentle tilting of the seats create a simulated flying sensation totally unique to Disney. Scents released at key points during the five minute presentation enhance the experience.

I had the mistaken impression that this was going to be similar to Peter Pan's Flight, but it's more like a smelly, breezy IMAX moviefilmed by Superman.

Disney copied this attraction from the California Adventure theme park, and the ride makes the point that California may be the most topographically interesting state in the U.S. That's an odd thing for a Florida-based attraction to do, but I would pity the Imagineer who had to make a similar film about this state, which has ahighest pointonly 345 feet above sea level.

The ride was worth the 30-minute wait, especially when the smell of orange groves and pine forests wafts by as you travel past them. I was a little disappointed that the urban flyover of San Francisco didn't include the scent of bum urine, which always brings me back to a 1989 visit that included a brisk stroll down a rough stretch ofTurk Street.

Giveaway: Radio UserLand Kick Start
We adopted a kitten from the humane society nine months ago who thinks he's a dog, and there's nothing he likes more than the taste of a computer book. A stack of them make an excellent scratching post, as I learned when he shredded a dozen copies ofHow to Use the Internet Eighth Edition.

This situation adds urgency to my need to give away more of my books, before they become either out-of-date or drenched with saliva.

I'm giving away four author's copies ofRadio UserLand Kick Start, each in new condition and completely untouched by my catdog.

If you'd like to win one, post a comment on thisWorkbenchentry or write about it on your weblog, linking to itspermalinkso I don't overlook it. I'll pay the postage to anywhere that I can send it for under $10.

Kick Startcovers everything you need to get started with Radio UserLand, an Internet content management and programming tool that makes it simple to publish your own weblog, develop web services, and collect information from thousands of Internet sites. Severalsample chapterscan be read online.

During mylast book giveaway, I awarded an extra copy to the person with the most inventive reason for wanting one. If I can scare up a fifth copy, I'll do that again here.

Symphony in Eight Bits

A funny video is making the rounds of aschool choir performing Nintendo themes:

This next song needs a little bit of introduction. Keeping with the experimental nature of Redefined we decided that we would now do what some might consider an art piece. It's a little older than some of the music we've already sung today, and it's all original work from Japan. So I hope that you can all listen with open minds, and if you'll give me one second I need to boot it up.

The choir does a really nice Tetris, complete with falling blocks in L, S, and T shapes, and theLegend of Zeldaswordfight scene is practically Shakespearean.

Some digging reveals thatRedefinedis an 18-member ensemble at the University of Wisconsin that kicks major a cappella ass.

They're auctioning off thelast few copiesof the CD that includes the"Redefined Nintendo"video on EBay.

Take a Bite of the Apple

Michael Moore is swimming in money afterFahrenheit 9/11, according to aSlate analysisthat describes how the filmmaker and Disney rode the controversy over the movie all the way to the bank:

Under normal circumstances, documentaries rarely, if ever, make profits (especially if distributors charge the usual 33 percent fee). So, when Miramax made the deal for Fahrenheit 9/11, it allowed Moore a generous profit participation -- which turned out to be 27 percent of the film's net receipts. Disney, in honoring this deal, paid Moore a stunning $21 million. Moore never disclosed the amount of his profit participation. When asked about it, the proletarian Moore joked to reporters on a conference call,"I don't read the contracts."

I lovedRoger&MeandTV Nation, but over the years Moore'spenchantfor dramatic embellishment and sloppy facts made it hard for me to enjoyFahrenheit. He produces great diatribes, but documentary filmmakers are one of the last remaining groups who believe in the quaint notion that facts matter. If we lose them to spin, all we'll have left are reference librarians, theSociety of Professional Journalists, andBob Somersby.

I'm not surprised that Moore exaggerated Disney's actions in refusing to distribute the film, nor that Disney found a way to profit handsomely from a project it was ostensibly refusing to release. Their relationship is a lot like Tom Cruise publiclygrouting the esophagusof Katie Holmes right before both release summer blockbusters.

The same cynical game appears to be at work with the new Steve Jobs biographyiCon: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. The book's print run was doubled after Apple, at the presumed behest of Jobs,banned the publisher's booksfrom Apple stores.

I haven't spoken about this with anyone at Wiley, a company that also publishesone of my books, but I have trouble believing that a marketing genius like Jobs took this action without knowing it would send book ordersthrough the roof. The guy runs a company with so much hype you'd never know it sellsfewer desktop computersthan also-rans likeAcerandLenovo. Apple's marketing is difficult to resist. I own five computers and a laptop, and I'm still convinced I need aMac mini.

Memo to self: Find a way in next book to anger Steve Jobs.

I'd Buy That for a Dollar
A stamp machine at the post office gave me dollar coins back as change -- five Sacagaweas and two Susan B. Anthonys. I gave some to my kids, who had to be convinced they were legal tender, and freaked out a clerk at an Arby's by using one.

"Are you sure you really want to spend this?"he asked, marveling at the golden coin honoring a woman so obscure there'sno record of her appearance. A coin can't be doing very well when people think you spent one by accident.

Last week the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill to crowd out Sacagawea withnew dollar coinsfor each president, beginning in 2007 with the first four: Washington, Jefferson, John Adams, and Madison. I'm setting a task in Microsoft Outlook to corner the market in 2010 on Millard Fillmore, widely recognized as our least accomplished leader.

The earliest a Hillary Clinton dollar will be available is 2017.

R.S.V.P. at Any Time
This Saturday at MIT, aTime Traveler Conventionwill be held for anyone who hears about the event in the future and can find a way to attend:

We need you to help publicize the event so that future time travelers will know about the convention and attend. This web page is insufficient; in less than a year it will be taken down when I graduate, and futhermore, the World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently. We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention. This convention can never be forgotten! We need publicity in major outlets, not just Internet news. ThinkNew York Times,Washington Post, books, that sort of thing. If you have any strings, please pull them.

If MIT no longer exists at the time the invitation is received, time travelers are given the latitude and longitude of the event: 42:21:36.025 degrees N, 71:05:16.332 degrees W.

Bob's Mother Won't Talk to Me
Ten years ago Melinda French Gates was a manager on Microsoft Home products such as Bob, Encarta and Expedia. Some reporters even claim thatBob was her baby.

Because bloggers are beinghyped to the gillsby the mainstream media, I figured it was a good time to start making interview requests of people who are ordinarily far too important to talk with the likes of me.

I began with Melinda Gates, hoping to clarify her role on social interface software like Bob. I even prepared a Mike Wallace question for the end of the interview: Why did you allow Bob to die in 1996 -- didn't you knowanyoneat Microsoft with enough pull to save the project?

My request was rejected, but I regard the speed of the reply -- under 48 hours -- as a recognition of the importance of the blogosphere.

"Melinda is not able to participate in this particular opportunity,"according to a publicist. No reason was given, but I suspect that she may be preoccupied improving the lives of millions of people throughcharitable givingon a scaleunprecedented in human history.

I Fear the Blogosphere
Dave Winer continues to take a pounding over theRespectful Disagreement sessionhe moderated at BlogNashville. Convention organizer Rex Hammock complimented Dave, calling his effort to introduce Thumper's Rule to bloggers astep in the right direction.

Stan Brown, one of several liberal-loathing bloggers in attendance, has a different interpretation of the rule -- if you can't say something nice,mock them inaudibly:

Perhaps I should have just walked out. Instead, I controlled the urge and simply chuckled silently to myself while thinking that this poor fool was beyond help.

This reminds me of the time several hundred InstaPundit readers beat me to an instapulp for questioning the president'ssartorial correctness. You can learn a lot about yourself when the number of people who disagree with you reaches critical mass.

I have received an advance copy of the schedule for next year's BlogNashville conference in May 2006:

  • 10 a.m., Southern Hospitality (moderated by Stan Brown), what the people of Philadelphia, Miss., could teach us about welcoming visitors from the North

  • 11 a.m., Bodcasting (moderated by Rogers Cadenhead), usingraw sex appealto drive traffic to your weblog

  • 12 p.m., Weblog Comments -- Threat or Menace? (moderated by Glenn Reynolds), how to inspire your most vocal readers to start their own weblogs by keeping their opinions the hell off yours

  • 1 p.m., Atom (moderated by Mark Pilgrim), a report on the upcoming release of the syndication format and API (may be delayed)

  • 2 p.m., Fox in the Henhouse (moderated by John Hindrocket), exposing the pervasive liberal bias at Fox News, theWall Street Journal, and every blog that isn't namedPowerLine

  • 3 p.m., Kiss My RSS (moderated by Dave Winer), how to rebuild the walls that made it difficult for us to communicate prior to the introduction of weblogs and simple syndication

I'll be in attendance, but I'm a bit concerned that Tennessee'sconcealed carry lawdoesn't appear to allow out-of-state guests to pack heat.

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