Monday, November 30, 2009

Has the LinkedIn backlash begun?

Current.com recently posted a video mocking LinkedIn, the professional social networking website, as a useless service.
Current was an early basher of Twitter through video satires. Now that microblogging service is losing steam.
Is Current on to something now with LinkedIn?
The main points of Current’s video are that LinkedIn is a waste of time and that it won’t help you get a job as advertised. If these beliefs take hold, it could mean the start of a backlash against LinkedIn. (See the video at sister site One Stop Video.)
LinkedIn describes itself as an interconnected network of experienced professionals from around the world. The service has more than 50 million members in over 200 countries worldwide.
“Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful,” the Mountain View, Calif., company says. LinkedIn says it can connect people to potential clients, service providers, subject experts and employers.
I like LinkedIn. It’s Facebook for professionals. I use it to manage my online professional profile and to connect to sources and colleagues. I use it as a digital Rolodex to keep track of sources, their titles and employers.
I do think LinkedIn is useful. But I’m not interested in paying for a pro account. Too expensive. The cheapest plan costs $24.95 a month. I would like the ability to put contacts into folders based on subject areas. That would be helpful for me, but isn’t worth $300 a year to get the LinkedIn Pro feature.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

United Football League has an uphill climb

The United Football League finished its inaugural season Friday with the Las Vegas Locos beating the Florida Tuskers 20-17 in overtime for the UFL championship.
It was a good game, but one that few watched.
UFL officials really need to get some butts in the seats to generate some excitement. That means cutting ticket prices and increasing advertising and promotion.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ed Graney estimated the attendance for the championship game at 8,000. If people aren’t interested enough to see a game in person, why bother watching it on TV? Crowds attract crowds.

Photo: Las Vegas Locos running back DeDe Dorsey scores a touchdown in the UFL championship game Friday in front of a sparse crowd. As my brother Bill says, “There were a lot of fans disguised as empty seats.” UFL photo.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nerf: Training tomorrow’s soldiers


Toy weapons are filling children’s TV commercials and toy store newspaper ads this holiday season.
Hasbro’s Nerf division is leading the assault with ads showing kids firing automatic weapons that shoot spongy projectiles. These kids look like they’re getting ready for combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. Just trade the foam Nerf bullets for the real thing.
Also, McDonald’s is giving out Nerf weapons in its Happy Meals now.
Toys R Us has its own line of foam dart guns, including the Air Zone Punisher Gatling Blaster.
Is this part of some covert plot to train our kids for military service?
Of course not. Toy makers simply are filling a need young boys have to play army or cops and robbers.
The pendulum has swung away from the days when parents refused to give their kids toy guns. Those parents didn’t want to glamorize guns or desensitize their children to them.
It’s only a matter of time before parents get up in arms again about the proliferation of toy guns. Kids will complain then. But the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution doesn’t give kids the right to bear toy arms.

Photos, from top to bottom:
Nerf N-Strike Recon CS-6
Nerf N-Strike Longshot CS-5
Air Zone Punisher Gatling Blaster from Toys R Us. (Check out the grin on the kid gripping that toy Gatling gun!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where did all my sexy Twitter followers go?

I used to have a harem of gorgeous Twitter followers that would have made Charlie’s Angels look like a bunch of plain Janes.
But in recent weeks they’ve abandoned me.
Maybe they realized I was just a 47-year-old married father of two, instead of some cool, young, pop culture-savvy journalist.
More likely it was my refusal to follow them. Unlike many Twitter users, I don’t usually reciprocate when someone follows me. I mostly use Twitter as a news wire to track tech and entertainment news and to post links to my articles on Investors.com and my blogs.
So goodbye sexy lingerie company that followed me after posts about the Lingerie Football League. And goodbye marketers selling dating services and teeth whitening products.

Photo: Lingerie model from @LoveHerLingerie, which followed me on Twitter for a bit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

United Football League championship game: Final game of the season or forever

The United Football League ends its inaugural season with a championship game on Friday pitting the Las Vegas Locomotives (4-2) against the Florida Tuskers (6-0).
“The who vs. the what?,” you might ask.
The UFL experiment looks like a failure. Attendance has been miniscule. The games are broadcast on the low-rated, hard-to-find Versus sports network and HDnet. And the UFL has had to compete with college football and the National Football League for attention this fall.
The UFL tried to position itself as a minor league to the NFL. But now it looks like it will end up on the trash heap with the Arena Football League, XFL, United States Football League and World Football League.
One of the goals of the UFL was to bring pro football to markets that didn’t have teams. But the markets for two of the four teams in the inaugural season weren’t that inspired. The California Redwoods play in the San Francisco Bay area, home to the NFL 49ers and Raiders. The New York Sentinels plays in the same region as the NFL Giants and Jets. The other teams are the Florida Tuskers of Orlando, Fla., and the Las Vegas Locos.
Officially the UFL has committed to a second season and plans to add more teams in 2010. Expansion teams are planned for Hartford, Conn., and Los Angeles.
In the meantime, the UFL championship game on Friday afternoon will have to compete with college football and Black Friday shopping madness.
By the way, the Florida Tuskers have already played the Las Vegas Locos twice this year and beaten them both times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What twit is going to buy a book of tweets?


This is the height of absurdity: A company is offering to publish custom-made books filled with people’s posts on Twitter.
Imagine a 200-page book filled with nothing but your comments and observations made on the microblogging site.
TweetBookz is offering to compile your best tweets in a hard cover book for $30 and soft cover book for $20. It sounds like a joke, but it’s backed by a professional marketing campaign, including a slick Web site at TweetBookz.com.
Twitter was created for people who thought blogging was too much work. It’s got all the charm and literary merit of text messaging.
Most tweets are in-the-moment notes, written in shorthand and often as part of a conversation. They’re full of typos, misspellings and grammatical errors. Other tweets simply share Web links.
Are these the sort of things you really want to archive for posterity?
There are a few clever writers on Twitter, but I doubt even they would buy a book of their tweets. It’s a digital medium after all.
A press release announcing TweetBookz on Monday revealed some interesting limitations for tweet book publishing:

“To keep the tweets authentic, users are not allowed to edit past tweets or add new tweets directly to the books. Additionally, users CANNOT purchase books of other people’s tweets, although they can send gift cards to fellow Twitter users enabling them to print their own books.”

Tweetbookz timing is pretty bad considering that there are indications that Twitter’s popularity has peaked and is in decline.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Microsoft meets ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’

Twice this year I’ve had to reinstall all my software, files and settings to my Dell desktop PC after Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system suffered a fatal system crash.
Is it a coincidence that the fatal error in both cases bears the same name as the homicidal computer in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
When my PC crashed, I got a black screen of death with the message: “Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt: \system32\hal.dll.”
That’s right – Hal, like the astronaut-killing HAL 9000 computer from “2001.” The cinematic computer suffered a system error that it tried to cover up by murdering the witnesses.
Hal.dll errors are serious. Luckily I didn’t lose data, but I did have to reinstall all my software programs. I reinstalled Windows, Office 2007, McAfee security software, applications for burning CDs, editing photos, a virtual private network to access my company’s system, to name a few. Then there’s all the Web browser customization, including toolbars, plug-in apps, bookmarks and passwords.
I’m still recovering from the mess created by the most recent crash last week.
By the way, Hal.dll stands for “hardware abstraction layer” in Windows’ “dynamic-link libraries.”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Congrats, Wildcats! Northwestern beats Wis.

Northwestern beat No. 17 Wisconsin today, capping a great football season for the Wildcats.
Northwestern finished the regular season at 8-4 (5-3 Big Ten) and now await word on a post-season bowl game.
The Wildcats’ 33-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers marked Northwestern’s second defeat of a nationally ranked college football team this year. Northwestern beat No. 4 Iowa on Nov. 7.
Congratulations are in order for Northwestern University Coach Pat Fitzgerald and his team.
Read the coverage here: the Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune, and North by Northwestern.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It must be Christmastime; the 'Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show' is back


Of all the holiday traditions, there is one that is particularly close to men’s hearts.
I’m talking about the "Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show." It was filmed Thursday in New York City and will air on CBS on Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central). Check out the promotional Web site.
The Black Eyed Peas are the musical guests for this year’s show. The supermodels, a.k.a. Angels, include Doutzen Kroes of the Netherlands, Miranda Kerr of Australia, Alessandra Ambrosio of Brazil, Behati Prinsloo of Namibia, and Marisa Miller of the U.S. A United Nations of beautiful women.
The Associated Press covered the event so it must be news, right?

Photos from The Superficial and I Don’t Like You In That Way.
Top: Alessandra Ambrosio
Bottom (literally): Miranda Kerr

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Go Wildcats! Cheering for bowl-bound Northwestern University

Since moving to Connecticut, one of the things I miss most about the North Shore of Chicago is going to Northwestern University football games and cheering on my beloved Wildcats.
The Wildcats are perennial underdogs who manage to surprise even ranked teams every now and then. They’re from a school where academics is stressed over athletics. The players are smart students who win games with grit and determination.
Late coach Randy Walker used to say that the thing he was most proud of was the graduation rate of his student players, not how many ended up in the NFL.
Walker’s protégé and current coach Pat Fitzgerald has proudly carried on those traditions.
Northwestern (7-4) is having a great season this year. It will finish the regular season at home in Evanston, Ill., against Wisconsin (8-2) on Saturday. The two Big 10 teams haven’t met since the 2006 season. They are tied 5-5 in their last 10 meetings.
It should be a good game.
Either way, Northwestern is poised to make a post-season bowl appearance. The Champs Sports, Valero Alamo and Insight bowls are the leading contenders to host the Wildcats.
Go ‘Cats!

Photo: Northwestern’s Zeke Markshausen reaches for the end zone and scores in NU’s 21-6 victory over Illinois on Nov. 14 in Champaign, Ill. (Full disclosure: I’m a graduate of both schools.) Photo from NUsports.com.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

AngryJournalist.com: A place for journalists to rant about their lousy jobs, careers


With bad news coming every day for traditional media companies, there’s now a website for journalists to complain anonymously about their jobs – AngryJournalist.com.
Reporters and editors have posted nearly 9,900 rants to date, grumbling about layoffs, job insecurity, pay cuts, low pay, long hours and the painful decline of newspapers and other traditional media.
Kiyoshi Martinez started AngryJournalist.com in February 2008.
Like me, Martinez got his undergraduate journalism degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and worked for the independent college newspaper The Daily Illini.
Martinez now works as a communications and public affairs specialist for the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus.
AngryJournalist.com is advertising-free, but the website does sell T-shirts. I like the one that reads “-30-” – copyediting shorthand for “the end.”

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-Media-Tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Self-service, pay-at-the-pump gasoline is one of those modern conveniences people overlook

When I was in high school and college in Illinois in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was no such thing as pay-at-the-pump gasoline.
You had to go inside the service station and give the attendant cash in advance or your credit card to hold before you could go back outside and pump your own gas. After pumping your gas, you had to go back inside to get your change or your credit card and receipt.
Needless to say, it was a real hassle, especially when there were other customers ahead of you at the counter.
Now you can just gas and go.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking by phone with Randy Nicholson, the inventor of the first pay-at-the-pump gas system. I spoke to the 72-year-old Abilene, Texas, native for a Leaders & Success profile in Investor’s Business Daily.
Nicholson helped pioneer self-service gasoline with E-Z Serve, an independent chain of gas stations he ran. Incorporated in 1971, E-Z Serve also fueled the rise of convenience stores paired with gas stations.
E-Z Serve installed the first pay-at-the-pump system in 1981 in Hawaii, but the idea didn’t take off until the late 1980s.
Self-serve gas became a reality in 1969 when the National Fire Protection Association changed its codes to let people pump their own gas. The association determined that it was safe for consumers to do it themselves. Before then only gas station attendants could do it.
“There are still two states that don’t allow you to do self-serve and that’s Oregon and New Jersey,” Nicholson said.
Why?
“It’s being protected by the local dealers. They want to keep the higher prices and just keep the competition out,” Nicholson told me.
Oregon and New Jersey will likely cling to their outdated laws.
“They still maintain it and it’s been 40 years,” he said.

Photo: Gilbarco pay-at-the-pump system.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Disaster movie '2012' a box office hit despite complaints about it being too long

A lot of movie-goers saw disaster movie "2012" over the weekend and many are complaining about their sore rear ends from sitting so long.
The Sony film raked in $65 million in its opening weekend. It probably would have done even better if it were shorter. Theaters could have squeezed in more showtimes.
But "2012" is 153 minutes long.
Since the movie opened I've counted at least 100 tweets on Twitter that make reference to "2012" being too long. Here are some sample tweets:

joshboulton ... the CGI was pretty neat but was way too long - I think they tried to put every disaster movie into one film!

Cdrive_R ... we saw 2012 last night n that movie is freakishly LONG!!!!! It was ok. I hate long movies I'm too A.D.D for all dat!

MayraD420 ... 2012 ... Too long of a movie! The worlds end was gonna come sooner than the movies end!

The consensus seems to be that 30 minutes could have been trimmed from the running time and it would have improved the movie.
How about a director's cut DVD that's shorter for once?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Am Bored: A collection of funny, weird and amazing photos and videos

When I’m killing time on the Web, looking for something to amuse me, I often turn to I Am Bored.
I Am Bored is an aggregator of Internet memes, videos, photos, lists and games. It’s a hodgepodge of funny, strange, entertaining and occasionally informative stuff.
I Am Bored is run by Demand Media Inc. of Santa Monica, Calif.
The site is updated daily with new links. But the editor or editors aren’t very discerning. So you have to sift through a lot of stuff to find things of interest. Still there’s a lot worthwhile there.
I Am Bored could use some improvements.
Most notably, it’s poor with sourcing its material.
Take the photo above. (See it at I Am Bored here.) It’s a picture of a pretty girl and a captured hammerhead shark. I’d like to know when and where the photo was taken and other details about the subject matter. But I Am Bored doesn’t help you there. It doesn’t provide sources for a lot of its photos. They could be years old or from some Photoshop competition for all you know. Lots of people would like to know more about these images.
Also, I Am Bored isn’t very well organized and its content is hit or miss.

March 22, 2014, update: I believe I’ve located the origin of the photo of the woman and the hammerhead shark. It is from Mark the Shark who runs a charter fishing operation in Miami, Fla. The photo appears to date back to August 2004 and is posted in his picture gallery. (See larger version below.) By the way, this photo has been widely circulated and uncredited on many websites, including the Chive and Stew Pig.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-Media-Tainment’s favorite Web sites.


The reviews are in: '2012' is too long

The new special effects-laden “disaster porn” film “2012” opened today and the reviews are unanimous: It’s too long.
Even those who like this end-of-the-world thriller say it could have used some major editing.
“2012” clocks in at 153 minutes. That’s 2 hours and 33 minutes.
I track conversations on Twitter with the search terms “movie too long” and “movie too short” and chatter about “2012” being too long is rampant. The movie stars John Cusack and was directed by Roland Emmerich, who also destroyed Earth in “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
Some sample comments on Twitter in the last 12 hours:

amandaalvich: The movie '2012' was three hours too long. I would rather the world come to an end than to watch that stupid movie ever again.

carrmah: ... The movie was way too long. It should be renamed 20h12m

RockstrNinjaGrl: ... This movie is way too long. I need everyone to die so I can go home.

BrettCoppol: LONG ASS MOVIE. 2012 was good but WAY TOO LONG.

mikenightslash: 2012 WAS...A typical disaster movie, nothing really special about it except its rediculous length of time, one hour too long.

Is the movie any good? “2012” received 36% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The consensus is that the movie “provides plenty of visual thrills, but lacks a strong enough script to support its massive scope and inflated length.”
Since Oct. 27 -- my last post on the subject of movie length -- 37 people have commented on Twitter about “2012” being too long. No one has said it was too short. Most of those comments have come in the last day or so, of course.
In second place is the Michael Jackson concert movie “This Is It.” Eight people on Twitter have said it was too long and three people have said it was too short.
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," now on video, continues to be the focus of gripes for being too long. Four Twitter users tweeted about it being too long.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fringe sports update: Free running, beer pong


As I’ve previously written, I have a fascination with what I call “fringe sports.”
These are organized, competitive activities that are seeking to gain a wider audience. They want to break through to the mainstream, get media coverage and attract a large fan base. And perhaps one day they’ll be the next NFL or NBA. But more likely not.

Fringe sports flashback

Competitive aerobics is a good example of a sport that didn’t have legs.
Break Media recently posted a video from the 1987 Dance Aerobics Championship. Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing.
Watch it here.

Every sport needs a video game about it

Competitive eating and beer pong have been subjects for video games. Now free running has joined their ranks.
Graffiti Entertainment, a subsidiary of Signature Devices, has just come out with “Free Running” for Nintendo’s Wii game console.
Free running, or le parkour as it is known in France where it originated in the late 1990s, is an extreme sport involving running, jumping and performing death-defying tricks in urban environments. Players climb walls, jump over cars, run along railings and do other stunts.

The road to the World Series … of Beer Pong

Beer pong masters are honing their skills ahead of the World Series of Beer Pong, set for Jan. 1-5 in Las Vegas.
BPong.com, the official governing body of the beer pong sport, is holding satellite tournaments leading up to the drinking game’s biggest event. A BPong.com event Nov. 21 in New York City will feature music from DJ WhooKid and others.
For videos showing the exciting sport of beer pong, check out One Stop Video.

Photos:
Artwork for BPong.com’s regional beer pong tournaments
Screen shot from Wii video game “Free Running”

Roomba maker iRobot opens two pop-up stores

Pop-up stores will be a common sight this holiday season.
With retail vacancies the highest in at least a decade, store chains and manufacturers are signing short-term leases to open temporary stores for the Christmas shopping season. See story at Investors.com.
Bedford, Mass.-based iRobot just opened two pop-up stores to sell its Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners, Scooba floor-washing robots and Looj gutter-cleaning robots. The holiday stores are located in malls in Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Photo of iRobot pop-up store in Atlanta.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Everybody wants to be a DJ, including kids


Video game publishers and toy makers recently have tried to cash in on the popularity of modern DJs.
Activision released its “DJ Hero” video game, including turntable controller, on Oct. 27. The $120 video game includes exclusive dance club mixes from a host of internationally renowned DJs.
Mattel’s Radica Games unit is selling a DJ-style music device called U-Create Music for kids 8 to 14 years old. The $40 device allows kids to create their own music by mixing beats, riffs, licks, loops and samples.
I’ve seen it advertised on cable television channels targeting kids and the ads are pretty dorky. But Toyrus.com and Walmart.com list the product as “out of stock” and “temporarily unavailable.” Amazon.com says it has the product in limited quantities. So maybe the product is selling pretty well. We'll see.
Check out the dorky ad at One Stop Video.

Fox cancels Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse'

Come mid-January, there’ll be one less good show on TV.
The Fox network on Wednesday canceled Joss Whedon’s sci-fi fantasy drama “Dollhouse” midway through its second season. The remaining episodes will air in December and January. The series finale will air on Jan. 22, according to Eonline.com.
For more commentary on the end of "Dollhouse," check out Chicago Tribune TV critic Maureen Ryan's The Watcher blog and Entertainment Weekly.
While I’m saddened that Fox axed a quality TV show, I’m appreciative of the fact that Fox brought the low-rated show back for a second season in the first place.
I look forward to hearing about the next project from Whedon, the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lingerie Football League coverage is as skimpy as its players’ uniforms

The inaugural season of the Lingerie Football League continues to merit scant coverage in the mainstream media.
I cry foul. You can’t discriminate against a sport because the teams are stacked with beautiful women wearing sexy underwear.
From what I can tell these ladies take the sport seriously. The videos I’m seen online show players taking hard hits and getting roughed up. The women quarterbacks throw passes better than a lot of men.
But newspapers and local television stations worried about being branded sexist have avoided covering the nascent league. Typically the league merits some coverage when the first game in played in a local market. But after that – nada.
The future of the LFL is still a question. Attendance looks small from the photos and videos I’ve seen. And with broadcast coverage limited to pay-per-view, it won’t get much publicity from the media.
Making matters worse, most of the teams don’t even play in their namesake cities.
The New York Majesty plays its home games in Reading, Pa. The Philadelphia Passion plays its home games in Trenton, N.J. Other teams play in remote suburbs like the Chicago Bliss playing in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
The LFL has played nine of 20 games so far. The league has only scheduled one game a week. The Dallas Desire is the top-ranked team at 3-0. But two teams still have only played one game and the Tampa Breeze doesn’t open its season until Dec. 4 against Chicago, which hasn't played since the first LFL game on Sept. 4.
It’s hard to find detailed coverage of the LFL, even from the league’s own sites, which include LFLus.com and its blog, LFL Unlaced. It also has Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages.
John Pozadzides provided good commentary on the Oct. 23 matchup of the Los Angeles Temptation and the Dallas Desire at One Man's Blog. (Check out his article and Flickr photos here.)

Might be time to bail on My Yahoo

For more than a decade I’ve been using Yahoo’s My Yahoo as my homepage. It’s the first thing I see when I launch my Web browser.
But recent glitches with the Web property and Yahoo’s neglect of it and other services have got me thinking about switching to Google or Microsoft for my homepage.
I once thought I’d be safe forever with Yahoo. I figured that I could trust the Internet giant for my e-mail, my homepage and other services. But Yahoo’s decision to delete users’ GeoCities personal Web pages last month, its abandoning of its search business and other services have me questioning that logic.
Yahoo once wanted to be the people’s on-ramp to the Internet. It was the starting point for all of your activity online. It would bring together news, entertainment, e-mail and other services for you on its My Yahoo homepage.
But as Internet users have shifted their focus from homepages to search engines, Yahoo has neglected My Yahoo.
Case in point: in July, Yahoo refreshed its Yahoo.com home page. It added integration with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Gmail and some of its own services like Flickr and OMG! But it never added those features to My Yahoo.
Yahoo has neglected its My Yahoo service and hasn’t significantly revamped it in years.
Meanwhile, Microsoft unveiled a refreshed version of its MSN portal on Nov. 3. (See All Things Digital story here.)
My issues with My Yahoo came to a head last week when Reuters news modules quit working on the homepage. Instead of being empty, they showed up as duplicate versions of AP new modules I was already using.
So my homepage now has two big boxes of AP news for Top Stories and for Technology News. The same issues occur with Reuters World News and Entertainment modules. My Yahoo just replaces them with AP modules.
I e-mailed tech support at Yahoo and their reply was not encouraging.
The Yahoo customer care representative wrote:

I understand you are no longer able to view certain news content on your My Yahoo! page. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused.
We are aware of this problem that you are reporting. Please be assured that I've taken note of this and have passed along the details to our engineering team who is intently investigating the issue. Unfortunately, we don't have an estimated fix date, nor can we offer a workaround at this time.

Not very encouraging.

Above: Screenshot of the duplicate AP news entry glitch on My Yahoo page.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A 1969 view of the newspaper business

A 1969 book on the newspaper business is getting a lot of chuckles online.
Jeff Jarvis, The Media Is Dying and other bloggers are chatting about the quaint British children’s book “The Story of Newspapers,” after Russell Davies posted some photos of the book on his blog.
One passage talks about how different newspapers appeal to different types of readers.
“A popular paper appeals to the majority of people, while a quality paper appeals to a more specialised type of reader,” the book states.
The masses couldn't possibly be interested in a "quality" newspaper, by that logic.
“The Story of Newspapers” is a Ladybird ‘Achievements’ Book and was written by William David Siddle and illustrated by Ron Embleton, according to a listing on Amazon.com. The book is considered a collectable today, according to The Wee Web.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Blogger’s dilemma: To specialize or not

It’s a common dilemma among hobbyist bloggers like me: whether to specialize.
Tech-Media-Tainment is a catchall blog that spans my interests in entertainment, technology, pop culture and the news media. Pretty much anything that trips my fancy I write about. But it’s not specific enough for anyone to turn to as a resource or to bookmark for repeated visits.
Occasionally I think about specializing in one subject to be an expert resource on the Web. But that would be restricting. I like having the freedom to spout off about a range of subjects.
Fun as that may be though, my free time could be better spent chronicling and writing about one niche area.
Penelope Trunk recently blogged about the subject in a post titled “Blogs without topics are a waste of time.”
On her blog, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist, she wrote, “I challenge you to think of a popular blogger who lacks focus on their blog.”
The implication of her article is that bloggers who don’t focus are being lazy and undisciplined.
She writes, “Please do not tell me that you are just going to write whatever you want and you don’t care who reads it, or if anyone reads it. You are lying to yourself. Of course you care. We each have a limited amount of time in our lives, and blogging takes some of that time … The nature of a blog is that you are choosing to write publicly, so it is, by definition, for other people to read.”
She’s right. Even though I’m writing my blog as a creative outlet, I’m trying to make it entertaining for others to read.
As a counterpoint, John Pozadzides, CEO of iFusion Labs, took Trunk’s assertions to task on his blog. The motto of his blog is “Specialization is for insects,” a quote from science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.
Even if I wanted to specialize, I’m not sure what that focus would be.
Looking at the labels, or tags, on my blog posts isn’t much help.
Of my 306 posts in the last year, here are my 10 favorite subjects in descending order: Twitter, movies, TV shows, Americana, news media, Chicago, sexy women, Web sites, consumer electronics and video games.
I’m not sure the world needs another blog solely about movies, technology or sexy women.
On that note, another opportunity to post a gratuitous Megan Fox photo! (Courtesy of I Don’t Like You In That Way by way of Maxim.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

National Toy Hall of Fame snubs Hot Wheels

The National Toy Hall of Fame this week selected the Big Wheel, Nintendo Game Boy and the generic ball for induction.
They join past inductees such as Barbie, G.I. Joe, Lego, Frisbee, Easy Bake Oven, Etch A Sketch, View-Master, Tonka Trucks, Mr. Potato Head, Slinky and Silly Putty.
The generic category of inductees includes the stick and the cardboard box, which were picked because kids have such great imaginations.
What? No lawn darts? Maybe next year.
The Game Boy is the second electronic toy inducted to the hall after the Atari 2600 Game System. Nintendo introduced the Game Boy in 1989. The Atari 2600 video game console debuted in 1977.
My pick for the hall of fame is Hot Wheels, the brand of die cast cars introduced in 1968 by Mattel.
The National Toy Hall of Fame is part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

Netflix still thinks I’m gay, as Tech-Media-Tainment turns 1-year-old today

The staff of Tech-Media-Tainment celebrated the Web site’s first anniversary today.
And by staff, I mean me.
A year ago, I started this blog as a catchall for things that interest me – entertainment, pop culture, technology and the news media.
My first post on Nov. 6, 2008, was about how Netflix thought I was gay. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) The online movie rental service was suggesting numerous gay-themed movie lists for me to peruse.
Netflix recently announced an improved automated movie recommendation system. So as a follow-up to the year-ago post, I decided to see if Netflix still thought I was gay.
I checked out the Members’ Top 10 Lists page to see what lists the system recommended for me.
The result?
Netflix still thinks I’m gay, but less so than a year ago.
Two of 20 lists chosen based on my queue and ratings are gay-themed or 10%. That compares with five of 20 lists, or 25%, from a year ago.
Netflix is starting to figure me out after all.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

News Corp. has the right idea for MySpace: Focus on its strength as an entertainment portal


News Corp.’s digital chief Jonathan Miller said Thursday that his company’s social-networking property MySpace is differentiating itself from rival Facebook by focusing on its appeal as an entertainment portal.
Speaking at a conference in New York City, Miller said Facebook “is about what people are up to” and MySpace “is about what people are into,” according to a post on WSJ.com.
Kudos to Miller for clearly articulating a sensible strategy for MySpace.
Facebook has a big lead in the traditional social networking space, where friends link up and share status updates and photos. Instead of chasing after Facebook in that area, MySpace wants to connect people with their favorite bands and artists.
Miller’s remarks met with some skepticism in the audience at the ad:tech conference. But I think he’s spot on.
The world doesn’t need a distant No. 2 in traditional social networking. Facebook has already won that race. No sense in wasting resources on being a me-too service. MySpace is zigging while Facebook zags.
I use MySpace solely as an entertainment portal to keep track of what my favorite artists are doing. I’m “friends” with Kylie Minogue, Johnette Napolitano, Arcade Fire, Keane, Garbage and a bunch more musicians and groups.
They post music, photos, tour updates and comments and I feel like an insider.
Because of this relationship, I’m more likely to buy concert tickets, recordings and other merchandise. This is an area from which MySpace can profit.
I think MySpace’s entertainment strategy is a smart one.

Some U.S. remakes, like ‘The Ring’, are just as good as the foreign originals

Movie fans continue to speak out about good and bad U.S. remakes of foreign movies on Ning’s Netflix social community. (Join the discussion here.)
Some cinephiles have noted that a few U.S. remakes of foreign movies are just as good as the originals, not better or worse.
They cite “The Ring” (2002), a remake of Japan’s “Ringu” (1998), and “Just Visiting” (2001), a remake of France’s “Les Visiteurs” (1993), as two examples.

To the list of good remakes, movie fans added these:

“Unfaithful” (2002) starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere, which is a remake of France’s “The Unfaithful Wife” (1969)
“Sorcerer” (1977), a remake of France’s “The Wages of Fear” (1953).

A few more example of inferior U.S. remakes of foreign films:

“The Birdcage” (1996) is a “pale reflection” of France’s “La Cage aux Folles” (1979), one person noted. The same can be said of “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a remake of France’s “Three Men and a Cradle” (1986), the commenter added.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

U.S. remakes of foreign films a mixed bag

Following yesterday’s article about U.S. remakes of foreign movies, I posted a question to the Movie Fans community of Netflix users on Ning about the subject. I wrote:

What are the best and worst U.S. remakes of foreign-language films?

The U.S. remake of Sweden's “Let the Right One In” got me thinking about this topic. Most of the time American remakes of foreign films suck, but some actually work out. What do you think were some of the best U.S. remakes of foreign-language films and what were the worst?


In just a few hours, nine members posted responses. (See the discussion here.)

Their choices for best U.S. remakes of foreign movies include:

“The Magnificent Seven” (1960), based on Japan’s “Seven Samurai” (1954)
“12 Monkeys” (1995), based on the French short “La Jetée” (1963)
“Insomnia” (2002), based on Norway’s “Insomnia” (1997)
“Fever Pitch” (2005), based on the U.K.’s “Fever Pitch” (1997)
“The Departed” (2006), based on Hong Kong’s “Infernal Affairs” (2002)
“Quarantine” (2008), based on Spain’s “REC” (2007)

An honorable mention goes to “A Fistful of Dollars” (1967), an Italian production with U.S. star Clint Eastwood in the lead role. It’s based on Japan’s “Yojimbo” (1961).

Their picks for worst U.S. remakes of foreign movies include:

“Pure Luck” (1991), based on France’s “La Chèvre” (1981)
“The Vanishing” (1993), based on the Dutch film “The Vanishing” (1988)
“Point of No Return” (1993), based on France’s “La Femme Nikita” (1990)
“Vanilla Sky” (2001), based on Spain’s “Open Your Eyes” (1997)
“The Italian Job” (2003), based on the U.K.’s “The Italian Job” (1969)
“No Reservations” (2007), based on Germany’s “Mostly Martha” (2001)

More remakes are on the way.
I'm interested to see how “The Dinner Game” (1998), a.k.a. “Le dîner de cons,” is remade as “Dinner with Schmucks.” The French version was quite funny and the basic premise could be reworked in any number of ways for comedic gold. Due out in July 2010, “Dinner with Schmucks” stars Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis and is directed by Jay Roach, who helmed “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” and “Meet the Parents.”

Be sure to check out Wikipedia’s list of English-language films based on foreign-language films.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dreading the U.S. remake of Swedish vampire thriller ‘Let the Right One In’

Production has begun on the U.S. remake of Sweden’s “Let the Right One In” and odds are it won’t be as good as the original.
“Let the Right One In,” which mixed childhood angst and vampires in a winter setting, was one of my favorite films from last year. Trying to remake it for American sensibilities would be a mistake.
EW.com shares my concerns about the U.S. remake now titled “Let Me In.”
Most U.S. remakes of foreign-language movies suck.
Consider the 1988 Dutch psychological drama “The Vanishing.” The original was deeply disturbing and had a bleak ending. The 1993 U.S. remake had a Hollywood happy ending.
Hollywood also trashed the French thriller “La Femme Nikita” (1990) with a dopey remake called “Point of No Return” (1993). The casting of petite Bridget Fonda to play the feral delinquent turned government assassin (played in the original by Anne Parillaud) was its biggest mistake.
Or how about the trippy Spanish puzzle “Open Your Eyes” (1997)? It was remade to disastrous effect as a star vehicle for Tom Cruise. The U.S. remake, “Vanilla Sky” (2001), was directed by Cameron Crowe.
Occasionally Hollywood makes a remake that’s as good or better than the original.
Such was the case with Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner “The Departed” (2006), which was a remake of the Hong Kong crime thriller “Infernal Affairs” (2002).
Director Christopher Nolan did a masterful job with “Insomnia” (2002), a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.
On that note, my fingers are crossed for the U.S. movie “Let Me In.”

Monday, November 2, 2009

Historical Tweets: What historic figures would have tweeted if Twitter had been around

Historical Tweets are hysterical tweets.
Historical Tweets is a comedy Web site set up around the notion that Twitter has been around for centuries and this is an archive of what famous men and women tweeted. It features tweets from Lewis & Clark, Abraham Lincoln, General Custer, Martin Luther King Jr. and many more. Just like real posts on the microblogging service Twitter, these fake tweets are restricted to 140 characters. The brevity of the messages makes them all the more funny.
Historical Tweets was started in October 2008 by Alec McNayr and Alan Beard.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series on Tech-Media-Tainment’s favorite Web sites.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Print media companies now a punch line

The decline of newspapers and magazines is a concern among intellectuals, informed citizens and, of course, working journalists. The subject is also fodder for comedians.
Consider this Onion News article, “Report: Majority Of Newspapers Now Purchased By Kidnappers To Prove Date.” (Read the Oct. 14 humor piece here.)
This past summer, Slate.com posted a funny video that made light of the fact that struggling newspaper companies are laying off thousands of journalists. The video promotes an adopt-a-journalist program. (Watch it here.)
"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" poked fun at the decline of newspapers in this report called "End Times" from last June.
But the shifting media landscape is no joke.
People don’t want to pay for news anymore after getting it for free online. Advertisers don’t value the online audience the same way they valued the print audience. That means less revenue for media companies and, as a result, fewer journalists. And fewer journalists mean less original reporting. That’s not good for our society.
The Web site Journalism Is Dead features “a collection of alarmist, bombastic and otherwise humorous quotes about why journalism as an industry is dead.” It was put together by journalist Mark S. Luckie, who runs 10,000 Words, a blog dedicated to exploring innovations in new media technology. (Check out Journalism Is Dead and 10,000 Words here.)
Reading Jim Romenesko’s blog on Poynter Online, tweets from The Media Is Dying, articles on Editor & Publisher and other Web sites, it’s hard not to get depressed about the future of journalism.
Newspapers are laying off reporters and editors in response to advertising and circulation declines. Numerous magazines are shutting down or cutting their number of issues and slashing jobs for similar reasons.
Paper Cuts reports that U.S. newspapers have cut more than 14,000 jobs this year so far.
Journalism jobs have disappeared at almost three times the rate that jobs have gone away in the general economy since the financial meltdown occurred more than a year ago, Editor & Publisher reported Sept. 21.
Daily newspaper circulation was down 10.6% for the six months ending Sept. 30 vs. the same period a year ago, according to PaidContent.org. It cited the latest report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Newspaper circulation is now at a pre-World War II low, according to Alan D. Mutter, who writes the Reflections of a Newsosaur blog. Only 12.9% of the U.S. population now buys a daily newspaper.
Daily newspaper circulation now stands at 39.1 million. That’s lower than the 41.1 million papers sold in 1940, the earliest date for which records are published by the Newspaper Association of America. Back in 1940, newspapers were purchased by 31.1% of the population, he writes.
Makes you long for the good old days.
On that note, check out the Life magazine photo essay titled “When Newspapers Mattered.”

Art: Sample quote from Journalism Is Dead.
By the way "phrenology" is the study of the shape and protuberances of the skull, based on the now discredited belief that they reveal character and mental capacity.
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