Sunday, May 08, 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.

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.

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.

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!

Scripting the Future
Dave Winer turned 50 today, and he asked for links toScripting Newsin lieu of presents.

I've had a chance to get to know Dave in recent years, first through his work and then through his visits to Northeast Florida, an area he prowled as a kid with his uncle, theGreat VavaVoom.

VavaVoom lived in Crescent Beach, a laid-back town south of St. Augustine, back when it could still be described as a"hippie commune."Today, suburbanites like me are scaring them off, subdividing the bucolic area into the kind of well-manicured, community covenant-ruled neighborhood that the feds shipped Steve Martin to inMy Blue Heaven.

Dave's had a unique impact on the technology that drives weblogging, creating or cocreatingRSS,XML-RPC,OPML, and theMetaWeblog API; developing the web content management softwareManila,Radio UserLand, andFrontier; and evangelizing the strange idea that millions of people would be blogging.

I can't decide whether he's prescient or he just makes his predictions come true by dragging the rest of us along. A May 1999 post he made to theXML-DEV mailing listshows how far ahead he saw this stuff:

RSS is an XML-based format that represents what we in the Frontier community call a"weblog". It's frequently updated site that points to stories on and off-site, that identifies an audience and feeds links to them. Until RSS came along the only format people were using was HTML. RSS changed that. ...

We're doing easy to use software to develop and maintain weblog sites, and of course they will all aggregate using the next generation of RSS and today's RSS. Who knows in what perverted ways this content will flow around the net? I'm totally looking forward to the creative chaos that's coming!

Back then, I thought weblogging was a fad that would receive aWiredcover story and an ignominious fate, likepush technology and the Zippies.

Shows what I know. Here's to another decade of perverting the flow of content around the Internet. Happy birthday, Dave!

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