Saturday, May 07, 2005


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.

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.

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.


I tookBuzzword.Comoffline for several hours this morning to compact the databases and perform some other server maintenance. I'm tempting fate by saying this, but so far, so good.

We're nearing the one-year anniversary of the server, which became the home for 3,000 longtime Weblogs.Com bloggers last June. I have some ambitious plans to mark the occasion, but for now my priority is to keep theactive bloggersrunning smoothly and bring all of UserLand'supgradesonline.

UserLand has a new version of Manila, the software hosting these weblogs, inbeta release. There are a bunch of new features, among them a better way for bloggers to manage visitor comments and trackback.

To Dream the Impossible Dream
Lifetime to-do list:

  1. Writehands-on tutorialfor beginning Java programmers who want to teach self language in no more than 21 days
  2. Successfully predict next pope's name
  3. End TV news segment with segueway back to anchors
  4. Be insulted in no less than five languages by total strangers
  5. Do more to helpworthy charity
  6. Become a professionally ranked tennis player.

My uncle Paul wanted to become John McEnroe as a teen, and we've disagreed for years over whether I could become ranked if I devoted myself to tennis instead of web surfing and fatty foods.

I figured if the rankings went low enough -- the ATP Tourgoes to 1307-- I might have a shot.

Paul thinks I'm an idiot, but I haven't given up the dream. At the very least, I might draw a match somewhere against a ranked pro who had to withdraw due to injury or illness.

Nestor Bricenowatch your back!

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