Tuesday Jun 14, 2005

Intolerance, Monomania and Zealotry

It's funny. I'm a person of strongly held beliefs -- but I'm often characterized by my conservative friends as a liberal, and by my liberal friends as a conservative, and am no doubt suspected, by some, of intolerance, monomania and zealotry. Foo on them. I hope I don't fit in so neat a box, or rather, so ugly a box. At the same time, I can say with conviction that Newsweek columnist Anna Quindlen is waaay too liberal for my tastes. George Will is too conservative. Fareed Zakaria is just right. (And I miss Meg Greenfield!)

Nonetheless, to be fair, Quindlen speaks for me in her May 30 column, Life of the Closed Mind:

The young men and women who began their college years in the shadow of September 11 graduate in its shadow as well. The intolerant, the monomaniacal, the zealots driven by religious certainty engineered the worst attack on American soil, and the result has been intolerance, monomania and zealotry driven by religious certainty.

Read the whole thing; it's well worth your time.

[READ IT ALL]

----------
P.S. I have been a Newsweek reader for many years, and have faith in their editorial integrity and standards. Despite her rant against conspiracy theorists, I suspect that as regards the retracted story on the desecration of the Qur'an by military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay, "the magazine was set up by the Pentagon to mask the administration's own malfeasance" (emphasis mine). Or at least hung out to dry. So, does that make me more liberal than Anna?

Tuesday May 24, 2005

Shame on BP and Morgan Stanley Ad Pull Policies

I agree entirely with the Editorial Board of Advertising Age:

Shame on BP. And shame on Morgan Stanley and General Motors and any other advertisers involved in assaults on editorial integrity and independence. By wielding their ad budgets as weapons to beat down newsrooms, these companies threaten the bond that media properties have with their audiences, the very thing that gives media their value to advertisers to begin with.

[READ IT ALL]

Tuesday May 10, 2005

The First (and Only) Time Traveler Convention was a bust! :(

Sadly, it appears that the First (and Only) Time Traveler Convention was a bust. According to Rocketboom Boston field reporter Steve Garfield, "Well, the time came and went for the time travelers to arrive here at MIT, but we're still not sure if they actually showed up."

Doesn't mean that they were't there -- just that they blended in rather well if they did.

Which, of course, they could, being possessed of vastly superior technology.

Me personally, I think they were there.

Just laying low, like a bunch of blue state guys at a red state picnic...

Saturday May 07, 2005

The First (and Only) Time Traveler Convention

Technically, you'd only need one, since if you missed it the first time, em... you could always come back. :)

Logically, the premise is hard to dispute. Announce the thing in media that will endure -- the organizers suggest acid-free paper notes stuffed into "obscure books in academic libraries" as one sure-fire approach -- and once they invent time-travel, having found the invitations, some future touristas are bound to come back and attend the first (and only) convention.

Naturally, this singular event was held at MIT.

Impressively, it featured one of the world's most eminent physicists, Professor Alan Guth.

And finally: before you write this off as silly hogwash, check out the photo of the time machine at the bottom of the page. I believe this one really works, having seen what it can do.

P.S. Thanks to Rocketboom for spreading the word! Now there's enduring media for you.

Tuesday Apr 26, 2005

Before there was Pascha, there was Pesach...

My grandmother, Bess Cohen, was the fifth of the seven children of Max Schneider and Anna Silverbloom who survived into adulthood. I think there were four other brothers and sisters who didn't -- including a pair of twins, if memory serves -- but I suppose this wasn't that uncommon for the beginning of the 20th century. All of those Schneider siblings -- Charlie, Lee, Tom, Eve, Bess, Etta and Esther -- married (some more than once) and had children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It's quite possible that there were some great great's of the elder siblings running around, since my kids are (almost) old enough to make me a grandfather. Fortunately, thus far they've held off. To the best of my knowledge.

My grandmother passed away in February of last year, at age 96. Her two kid sisters, Etta and Esther, are still vigorous in their mid-90's, and were the senior Schneiders in attendance at last Saturday's Schneider Family Centennial Seder, celebrating the coming to America of Max and Anna and their family in or around 1905. They weren't so hot at record-keeping back then, so everything -- including the ages of the original seven -- are approximations.

We all met up in Florham Park, New Jersey, for the Passover Seder, since the Schneiders had settled in that general area (and there are still lots of us there), and the organizing cousins pulled out all the stops. We had a hospitality suite -- I should probably mention that we were in a lovely hotel, as we outgrew home-based Seders many moons ago -- with family photos dating back almost 100 years; two song books, one produced in memory of my mom, whose played the piano each year at the rousing post-Seder sing-along; a custom Hagadah (Passover service book); a family cookbook that my Aunt Nan pulled together; a five-generation family tree from my cousin Micah that covered the better part of a ballroom wall; even a comemorative tee-shirt, courtesy of my cousin Shelly. All told, there were over 115 of us there, only about a third of whom I'd ever met before. And I have to say, they're a pretty cool bunch.

The New Jersey Jewish News published a lovely article: Enter Schneiders, exit loneliness, which has much more detail than I've been able to capture here, and lots of great stories from Seders past. Well worth a read. There's a photo album too. Well worth a look... if you're in one of the photos. :)

Now here's the interesting part.

My wife and kids had such a lovely time with the extended family that Marta suggested we should always have the Seder on a weekend, to make it easier for more people to attend. True, this contravenes Old Testament law -- and likely messes me up for Palm Sunday, big-time. (This year, because of the centennial, and because I knew it would make mom and my grandmother very happy, I made an exception and attended the family feast.) But the Schneiders have alway done things a little bit differently. The latest poll results from my cousin Bobby suggest that at least 60 of our relatives were in favor of the new plan.

So, next year, in... New Jersey, most likely!

Thursday Apr 14, 2005

Rocketboom (daily vlog with amanda congdon)

From Garfield's artcle: "At Rocketboom.com, chirpy, irreverent host Amanda Congdon delivers oddball news and snarky observations in a primitive studio (or maybe a one-bedroom)."

I've watched the last week's worth -- she is/they are a hoot!

Bob Garfield's 'Chaos Scenario'

Fascinating article, subtitled 'A Look at the Marketing Industry's Coming Disaster', on 'What happens if the traditional marketing model collapses before a better alternative is established?'

If?

I think 'when' is the better question.

Even the good TV has gone bad, as CSI gets worse with every spin-off, on-brand and off. (I have to confess, though: I have a real soft spot for NCIS, mostly because their cartoon characters are a lot more fun to watch than the huffing and puffing prototypes on the more 'serious' iterations.) Not even worth mentioning the dynasties that started bad.

TV advertising has gone down hill with them. Does anybody remember the adZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz from this year's Super Bowl? I was hoping for excitement on the order of another wardrobe malfunction, and all I got was Sir Paul McCartney huffing and puffing out the oldies. A dose of any of the ED remedies currently blanketing the market would have helped the show. (Of course, if it had run for more than four hours, it would have meant an embarassing trip to the emergency room...)

But the alternatives aren't much more feasible or appealing, at least for now. The glitzy, personalized billboards served up to Tom Cruise in Minority Report, based on retinal scans, are still a ways away. And as Chas Edwards notes in his blog entry on 'TV's Micro-Targeting Future',

Seemingly everyone wins when a commercial featuring all-wheel drive airs on TV sets in Rockland County, N.Y., but not on TV sets in Westchester, N.Y., if the snowstorm turns to rain while crossing the Hudson. But here's the rub: This kind of ad targeting means dozens if not hundreds of 30-second commercials for every single advertising campaign, each spot racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in video production costs. In other words, creative costs could quickly outpace the media costs to place those spots on the air. Likewise, the investment in ad agency staff required to plan, place and track dollars spent across hundreds of channels, websites and radio networks—rather than just a handful in a typical ad campaign today—could put agencies out of business overnight.

So scratch that approach for the near term. And finally, as Garfield asks in 'Chaos Scenario',

Content will be enormously diverse, agrees Forrest Research research director Chris Charron, but will it constitute a legitimate advertising medium? “A lot of people talk about these social networks and blogs and the blogosphere as being great ways to attract consumers and attract eyeballs and potentially good advertising opportunities, but history shows that is not the case, even recent history. Remember GeoCities? I think they were bought by Yahoo for $3 or $4 billion. Well, it never became a very viable advertising outlet and that’s because it wasn’t a great context for people to place ads. Advertisers weren’t interested in putting them on a personal homepage for Chris Charron for my friends and relatives to see.”

Of course, if any of you advertisers would like to drop $3 or $4 billion (the billion also applies to the $3, by the way) to advertise on my blog, I'm fine with it, and I'm sure Sun would be happy to help... for a slice of the pie. I hope you all haven't given up on blog ads just because of that GeoCities thing.

If at first you don't succeed...

Tuesday Apr 12, 2005

They Know Why I Fly

My new best friend, Kim Creaven, is the advertising director for American Airlines Publishing, the fine folks who bring us American Way and Celebrated Living magazines, plus CBS Eye on American, and many of the nice touches you'll find in the Admirals Clubs.

Why is Kim my new best friend, you ask?

Because she just sent me the latest issue of American Way AUTOGRAPHED by my very favorite editor, Sherri Gulczynski Burns, and my very favorite columnist, Jim Shahin. And I got way more than autographs: I got PERSONAL NOTES. I'd tell you what the notes say... but they're personal.

Sorry. :)

This one is going in my permanent collection.

This is one to show the grand kids.

(I don't have any grand kids yet -- just saying.)

I am in editorial wannabe heaven here. I thumb my nose at other airlines and their boorish, boring magazines. American Way rocks.

Kim, Sherri and Jim rock.

These people know why I fly.

Saturday Feb 05, 2005

I fear: therefore, I am?

Every year, at about this time of year, Newsweek publishes an interview with a group of actors and actresses who are the odds-on favorites to be nominated for Academy Awards: their annual Oscar Roundtable. In their own words, "we gathered the most celebrated actors of the season for an intimate talk about the pains and joys of a life in pictures."

This year's group consisted of Annette Bening, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, Hilary Swank, and Kate Winslet -- about as talented, and apparently, well-adjusted, a set of actors as you're likely to find.

I was fascinated when the conversation turned to their fears: fears I share, at least some of the time -- and maybe you do too. Take a listen:

You're all successful actors. Do you still have that fear, after each job, that you'll never work again?
BENING: Yes.
WINSLET: I feel like that all the time.
GIAMATTI: I do, too.
WINSLET: Leo doesn't. [Laughter]
SWANK: I was just working with Clint Eastwood. He's 74, and he says he never knows if each job is going to be his last.
BENING: When I was starting out, I thought there must be a point at which that goes away—that successful people didn't have insecurities or demons. What you realize is that, if anything, it gets worse.
GIAMATTI: Every job feels like the first job. I'm always fumbling through it, trying to figure it out and going, "I'm going to get fired. I'm going to get fired."

Have you ever gotten fired, though?
GIAMATTI: Oh, a bunch of times. I got fired from an episode of "Frasier." I wasn't funny. They kept tinkering with the script, and it sucked, and I was having a bad time. I was happy to be shown the door, actually.
SWANK: I got fired off "Beverly Hills, 90210." It was in its last stages, when no one was watching it, and I thought, "If I'm not even good enough for this, I'm never going to make it." So I was coming off this one-hour show, and I was testing for another one-hour show with this very well-known executive—
BENING: Who will go nameless.
SWANK: Very nameless. And he said, "I would hire you, but you're just too 'half hour'." [Laughter] But you have to trust fate, because four months later I got "Boys Don't Cry."

Does the fear of failure ever go away?
WINSLET: Fear is a great thing for an actor, because you have to confront it, you know. There's always the feeling of "I can't do this. They've got the wrong person." This job is so exciting, and most of it is terrifying, but the day I say "That's it, I know how to act" is the day it ceases to be interesting.

I really give these guys credit for their honesty. Weird to say that, I know, about a bunch of people who make their living pretending to be other people. But it certainly jives with my experience: the wonderful and terrible thing about working in this industry, about working for Sun.

Actually, about being a grown-up. :)

The whole interview is a worthwhile read: you can check it out here. And go see the movies!

Friday Dec 03, 2004

Life Lesson from Snood

Okay, so I've been playing a lot of Snood lately. I have it on the Mac, on the PC, and on my Palm Pilot. I had it on the old cell phone, but it's not (yet) available on the new one. (Come on, guys -- a Java port should be a no brainer!) The cool thing about Snood, the sweet spot it hits, is that it's challenging enough to be interesting -- and dead simple enough to require no learning curve whatsoever, at least if you're happy to play badly at the junior levels of the game. As I am. Contrast this with some of the other video/computer/phone games out there that only teenage synapses can digest.

But I digress.

So I've been playing so much Snood lately, I decided I needed to set limits for myself. I'd been playing at the "Medium" level, and would only win (clear the board) about 20% of the time, losing 80% of the time. You see that all this Snood playing has not degraded my mathematical skills.

So I figured it would be reasonable to play until I'd lost three rounds. That means that I'd play about three or four rounds, and after the third defeat, I'd have to go do something else.

And then it happened.

Once it mattered whether I won or lost -- once I had some skin in the game, however little and virtual -- I started winning. I went from winning 20% of the time to winning about 80% of the time, turning the earlier rate inside out.

This trend became so pronounced that I had to change my rule, and now I only play until I lose once. And I can still go three or four rounds at a time.

What does that tell me about me? What sort of coin-operated, mouse in a maze, hamster on a treadmill, bang the bar and get a cookie kind of guy am I?

For the first time, a winning career in sales feels within my grasp.

Wednesday Dec 01, 2004

Sarah McLachlan: World on Fire Video

5 stars (out of 5).

Check out Paul Rogers' blog on Sarah McLachlan's World on Fire video. Gotta give credit when somebody puts their money where their mouth is.

Saturday Nov 06, 2004

Now Here's a First -- Rx: Blogging

Okay, so the reason I've been relatively quiet as of late is that I have this fun new job at Sun, which happened late in September. It's fun and also rather big and hairy. Imagine playing some backyard football with, say, Mean Joe Greene (I'm from Pittsburgh) and you can visualize the interplay of fun, big and hairy. Sometimes, it's so much fun you can't get up off the ground afterwards.

Anyway, I was at the doctor's yesterday for a checkup, feeling rather like I'd been skydiving sans chute, and she gave me a rather interesting prescription for getting my life back on track. It had five parts.

1. Exercise at least five times a week.
2. Before you go to bed, think of five things to be thankful for that happened during the day.
3. Be mindful while you eat (i.e., don't just snarf something down, but stop and enjoy it).
4. Set limits at work.

And then she asked me what I have enjoyed doing in the past, that I haven't done for a while.

I think she was expecting me to say gardening (ha!) or working on the house (ho!). Or some other manly pursuit that all my neighbors seem to do so naturally.

I said I missed blogging.

So, as a result, the last part of my prescription is:

5. Blog at least 15 minutes per day.

I would venture to guess that in the (short) history of blogging, this is a first: blogging as prescription medicine.

I can't swear that I'll do 15 minutes each and every day, but I promise to do better than I've done. Which won't be hard, you say, and rightly so. "Creep, crawl, walk, run," I say in reply, to quote a Sun buddy of mine, Kurt Ross.

So as my first creeping return to normalcy, here we are.

I'll be back again soon.

Doctor's orders.

Friday Oct 22, 2004

Top Ten Secrets To The Boston Red Sox Comeback

David Letterman's "Top Ten Secrets To The Boston Red Sox Comeback", presented last night by Curt Schilling:

10. Unlike the first three games, we didn't leave early to beat the traffic.
9. We put flu virus in Jeter's gatorade.
8. Let's just say Pete Rose made some phone calls for us.
7. We asked Pokey Reese to be a little less pokey.
6. It's not like we haven't won a big game before--it's just been 86 years.
5. Honestly, I think we were tired of hearing about the Patriots.
4. The messages of encouragement Martha sent on prison napkins.
3. We pretended the baseball was Letterman's head.
2. What'd you expect--we have a guy who looks like Jesus!

And the number one secret to the Red Sox comeback:

1. We got Babe Ruth's ghost a hooker and now everything's cool.

Wednesday Oct 20, 2004

I am still alive...

And so are the Boston Red Sox!

God bless America.

Say good night, Gracie...

Tuesday Oct 05, 2004

Throw Back the "Catch of the Day"

I don't get to watch much TV these days, but every once in a while, I'm too punchy by 9 PM to do much else. Last night was one of those nights, and I turned on NBC's Las Vegas, which is sort of a comfort food/eye candy kind of show. (By the way, the glitz of Vegas is the eye candy I mean. I know what you were thinking!) The cast is likeable enough, the plots are usually fun, and I love to look for the places we've visited. Last night, for example, on the episode entitled "Catch of the Day", two of the characters, Danny (Josh Duhamel) and Mike (James Lesure), hung out at the very same Mandalay Bay wave pool we hung out at in July, and -- not to give away the ending if you haven't seen it yet -- the lobster thief hid his booty in the Mandalay's shark tank. I was freakin' there, baby!

That was the good part.

The bad part was the major plot thread in which Delinda (Molly Sims) gets a visit from her high school boy friend Jay (Geoff Stults), who is purportedly dying of cancer, and with just one month to live, has a check list/wish list he's working his way through. Cheesy, but tolerable -- so far.

Where I took offense was, first of all, second-to-last on his list, just before skydiving, was... not to put too fine a point on it... "doing Delinda." But I guess he had some second-order "last wishes" that involved attempting to do any and all of her friends, whom he hit on in sequential order. Dude, that's gross. Why would anybody want to have anything to do with this sleezeball, dying or not? Pity only goes so far, and friendship... well, friends don't let friends do their friends. What can I say?

The kicker for me, though, was when he faked -- yes, faked -- the contorting pain that often accompanies terminal cancer. Man, I have a sense of humor -- I hope y'all know that by now -- but this was really in lousy taste. He may have been the best looking dying man you've ever seen, but in my book, he was the about the slimiest too.

The story ended when, on his last-on-the-list skydiving trip, he decided to jump sans chute and get it over quick.

If I'd been there, I think I might have pushed.

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