Saturday, May 07, 2005


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!

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.

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.

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.



Extended Pings in Weblog Pinger
Dave Winer addedRSS supportto Weblogs.Com this morning, making it possible to send an extended ping message to the service that includes the address of a site's RSS feed.

This will make it easier for services that are built atop Weblogs.Com, such asTechnoratiandGigaDial, to incorporate RSS feeds.

I haveextended my pingerto support this new feature.

Weblog-Pinger, an open source class library for PHP, can send update notification pings over five XML-RPC services that monitor new weblog content.

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.

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