Monday, May 09, 2005


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.

All-Podcast, All-the-Time Radio
A San Francisco radio station is going to start airing nothing but user-submitted podcasts beginning on May 16. The station, which calls itselfKYOU Open Source Radio, will broadcast on 1550-AM/San Francisco and the Internet.

Submitted podcasts must be 60 megabytes or less in size and can be in any format. The categories on thesubmission formdemonstrate how strange this is likely to be -- traditional fare like news, sports and politics is mixed with over-the-road trucking, sex and wiffleball.

This could be one of the great wheels-off radio experiments of all-time -- at least until earnest liberal San Franciscans fill it with local community news, activism and independent music.

The station sounds like a good opportunity for Jacksonville webloggerTodd Smith, who devotes his site toAmericana musicand has a Saturday morning show about the music on alocal college station.

Boy Meets Girl, Girl Seeks Bob
An e-mailer asksWorkbenchfor relationship advice:

... it's me and my boyfriends anniversary coming up and he always seems to somehow mention it and say how he wants it and I thought it would be a great thing to give him, no matter how weird it sounds. But I think it would be something he would enjoy, or like at least. I've looked around in all shops that could have a chance of selling older software but there aren't many where I live, I've looked around on eBay too but have had no luck, do you know where I could get it?

I don't know who's luckier -- the guy whose girlfriend would hunt down a copy of Microsoft Bob for their anniversary, or the woman whose boyfriend has such great taste in social interface software.

I'm one of the only people who has gone on record with my love forMicrosoft Bob, the mid-'90s product that has unjustly come to be known as one of the greatestdisastersin software history.

The only place I can find him iseBay, where a few go on sale each month and usually can be nabbed for under $25.

Over the last eight years, I've used eBay to find the original software, the Bob Plus Pack,Great Greetings for Boband the only two computer books written for the software:At Home With BobandMicrosoft Bob. A third book,Microsoft Bob for Dummies, was cancelled by Wiley prior to publication, robbing technical literature of a book that would have been an enduring classic.

I also acquired some great swag on eBay -- a Bob coffee mug, key chain, long-distance card, T-shirt, pin, and baseball cap -- and nearly talked a former Microsoft freelancer into selling me the documentation for companies developing Bob add-on products (he feared, perhaps correctly, that it would constitute industrial espionage).

The swag auctions higher than the software, because I am not the only imbecile willing to blow as much as $50 on Bobabilia.

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.

Close But No Cigar
I publish several web sites that run advertising sold byBlogAds, a broker that has been a financial boon to hundreds of weblogs.

I rejected an ad today from a site that sells Cuban cigars. The site claims that it's legal for Americans to import two boxes, but the language of the site's frequently asked questions page gives me the willies:

The original embargo on Cuban products has been revised by the US Dept of Justice to allow importation of small quantities when returning from a licensed trip to Cuba. This revision was extended to the public who are now allowed to import up to 2 boxes for personal use. There is no formal regulations that outlines the ability for US residents to import Cuban Cigars. There have been thousands of customers importing Cuban Cigars for personal use in the US and there is no history of anyone being prosecuted. Also, it has become a common practice among celebrities, military personnel, politicians and even law enforcement.

AU.S. Treasury brochure on the Cuba embargoseems pretty clear on the subject, stating that Americans can't even buy Cuban products while in foreign countries.

I rejected anabsinthe adlast year over similar qualms. When I saw that Google wasn't selling text ads for absinthe, I decided to adopt the same policy.

A Google search for the phraseCuban cigarsfinds only onecigar sellerin the sponsored ads, and that company won't export to the U.S.

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.

Everybody Carl Jung Tonight
Avoicemail messagereceived last week:

Hey, it'sMancow, we're trying to get you on the radio show here. It's an Illinois guy, he probably knows this show. But he got the pope's web site. And the story is he's going to turn it into a porno ...

I didn't get this message soon enough to return his call. I suspect that if he heard my actual plans forBenedictXVI.Com, I would have been a great disappointment to him.

WashingtonPost.Com reporter David McGuire wrote afollowup storyyesterday about how the domain has been donated to the charityModest Needswhile we await the Vatican.

I'm glad that Modest Needs founder Keith Taylor was able to put something together so quickly April 21 -- 90 percent of the 410,000 visits to BenedictXVI.Com were made by Sunday morning, and traffic has slowed to around 9,000 visits a day. (Taylor may be seeing more traffic directly on the charity'sBenedictXVI.Com page.)

Jacopo di Trani, the owner ofBenedict16.com, offers aJungian analysisof why he seeks financial reward and I chose the approval of my Catholic grandmother:

I think that C.G.Jung will say that Cadenhead primary function are his"thoughts", and his last function are his"sensations", and that my primary function is my"intuition", and my last function are my"feelings". I think (do you agree?); so it's very predictable that from all this popedomain-story I'll earn more and more cash than he will ever get . Even if he was the first (he registered his domain the 1st april, against my 14 april), even if he is the most famous (but not in czech sites!), and even if search engines give more traffic to his domain than to mine. I have only a better brandable domain and more real hair - but I'll get more cash than you, Rogers. It's only logic.

I can't address his theory. I majored in journalism -- the only way I would've learned about Jung was if I interviewed him for the school paper. In retrospect, I should have spent less time skipping classes in college to watchGeneral Hospital.

But I will concede the point about his hair.

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.

That's Quite a Spectacle
Whenever a character in a movie is a by-the-book square who never got over the end of the 1950s, he wears plastic-top, metal-rim eyeglasses. Tom Hanks donned them inCatch Me If You Can, and you can't make a film about Malcolm X, NASA, or the JFK assassination without ordering them in bulk.

The glasses are especially effective if the buttoned-up wearer is one bad day from a total nervous breakdown, like the downsized defense contractor D-FENS, who rampages across Los Angeles to protest incivility inFalling Down.

I wrote about these glasseslast yearwhen I heard the only manufacturer, ArtCraft NewYork, was discontinuing the style. This was crushing news -- I step on my pair of Clubman Art-Rim frames at least twice a year and can barely see through a SuperGlue smudge in one lens.

Since then, I've heard from an executive at Shuron, the company thatinvented the style in 1941and sold more than 17 million of them by 1970:

The Ronsir was in many movies and worn by many actors/celebrities -- Kevin Costner, Denzel Washington, Vince Lombardi, Nicholas Cage, and many others. The Ronsir is not going away.

Because I keep directing people to Shuron when they ask about the glasses, the company is sending me a free pair, which I believe makes me the world's first blogger/spokesmodel. I'm spending this weekend trying to come up with my ownBlue Steel.


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