Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Holy cow, this li'l laptop is cheaper than an amazonian Kindle!

Asus Eee PC

The Asus Eee PC is only $350, and boy do I want one.

Asus Eee PC

I mean, it's kind of silly, really, but it'd be fun to take places. Finally work on that novel I've always been meaning to write. You know.

And it's much handier than a Kindle, 'cause it can do email and wirelessly surf the web and play games and junk.

Yeah, I'd much rather have this than a silly old book reader, what was I thinking being so excited about that?
posted by Josh at 4:58 PM | 0 comments
While I love stories like this, I've got to wonder, has it ever worked?

I bet it has somewhere.

But maybe I'm just an optimist.

The Associated Press
Ga. man tries to deposit fake $1M bill
November 27, 2007

AIKEN, S.C. - A bank teller in Clearwater had a million reasons not to open an account for an Augusta, Ga., man Monday, authorities said. Alexander D. Smith, 31, was charged with disorderly conduct and two counts of forgery after he walked into the bank and tried to open an account by depositing a fake $1 million bill, said Aiken County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank.

The employee refused to open the account and called police while the man started to curse at bank workers, Frank said.

The second forgery charge came after investigators learned Smith bought several cartons of cigarettes from a nearby grocery store with a stolen check, Frank said.

The federal government has never printed a million-dollar bill, Frank said.

© The Associated Press
posted by Josh at 6:12 AM | 1 comments
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So I've always heard so much about Dr. Charles Steinberg - who until recently was the Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the Boston Red Sox.

But until today I didn't know that he is a doctor ... of dentistry. I dunno what I thought, I guess I always figured he had a doctorate in Sabermetrics or something.


Anyway, Dr. Steinberg is going to the Los Angeles Dodgers, my favorite NL team. Looks like they'll all have pearly-white smiles now, in their 50th year in LA.
posted by Josh at 10:35 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Oooooh, pretty new toy from - the Kindle.

I've always liked the idea of e-books, especially when traveling. Can you imagine if you took a train to work how cool this would be?

But $400? Seems a bit steep.

And can it do email? I bet not.

posted by Josh at 6:05 PM | 0 comments
Wow, I'm a genius!

Ha-ha, just kidding. But my rantings the other day about "new media" and television are eerily prescient (see Writers' Strike and New Media).

I don't know if you saw the other day that NBC has picked up the web series Quarterlife to air on their network.

Granted, Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick who created "Quarterlife" have dabbled in television before, creating such shows as "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life" and "Once & Again." But still, the fact that they're TV-insiders is not really important, what's key is the money and control here.

In the deal with NBC Herskovitz and Zwick will retain 100% ownership and creative control.

How is this possible? Well, first off the thirty-six 8-minute webisodes were written to be combined into hour-long episodes, six in total. And second, the WGA Strike has really threatened the big networks. I mean, shoot, is this were a normal year do you really think that the GEICO Cavemen would still be airing?!

If the strike isn't settled by then, NBC is going to need all of the new programming it can get come January. "The Biggest Loser" and "Deal or No Deal" will get old if they're on every night of the week.

There's one paragraph from the Hollywood Reporter article that's really important, though:

    Even with that additional financial help by NBC and the network's license fee for the show, Herskovitz said "Quarterlife" is still losing money due to startup costs and the challenges of launching an Internet series. He declined to discuss the size of the license fee NBC is paying, saying only that it is "substantially less than what they would normally pay for a drama series."

But if it's a hit, and it will totally be worth it if Herskovitz and Zwick can sell 10 bazillion DVDs or Blu-rays (BRs? Blu-ray Discs? BRDs??), as they'll own the rights to all of that.

This could also help the writers' cause, too. The fact that a web-series can make the leap to television should prove that the two media aren't that far off, and the web really should be considered an viable distribution channel.

Pretty interesting times we live in ...
posted by Josh at 3:59 PM | 0 comments
Monday, November 19, 2007
So yesterday was Mickey Mouse's 79th birthday.

On November 18, 1928 Disney released Steamboat Willie, and the rest is history ...

Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie

posted by Josh at 8:59 AM | 0 comments
Saturday, November 17, 2007
My brother is out in Southern California this week, and last I heard he was planning on going to Disneyland today. (Today, of course, meaning Saturday - because right now it's still 9:45 pm on Friday night in California.)

Disneyland Logo

Disneyland during the Holiday Season is just about the coolest thing ever. First off, it's not a thousand degrees like it would be in July. Don't get me wrong, I love Disney theme parks - but baking in the mid-day Anaheim sun with tens of thousands of other sweaty people sometimes gets old.

So not only are the days cooler in November and December, but the sun goes down earlier too, which helps bring the perfect chill to the air.

Then there are the attractions. Man, they deck the dang halls over there. Wreaths everywhere, garland, fake snow on Main Street (literally falling from the sky!) They have the Haunted Mansion Holiday where the characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas take over the Haunted Mansion - it's pretty much a whole new ride. They also have "it's a small world" holiday - which, regardless of if you like the attraction or not, is still festive as all get-out.

There's the "A Christmas Fantasy" Parade which I've never really seen, but am sure it's neat and stuff.

And at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor they have this peppermint ice cream that's unreal.

Yeah, Disneyland at the Holidays might be my favorite time to go there.

Wow, even though I went to two Disney parks in the span of a month this summer I'm still jealous of my brother.

Hope he has a good time.

And the ice cream ...
posted by Josh at 9:51 AM | 0 comments
Friday, November 16, 2007
I hadn't seen this until today. This is awesome. So there are reports from 'network insiders' that NBC wants to lay off the staffs of both the Tonight show and Late Night With Conan O'Brien by the end of this week. They're not working, NBC doesn't want to pay them.

And then there's the complete opposite:

    Hollywood Reporter
    Letterman to pay employees through strike
    By Paul J. Gough
    November 14, 2007

    NEW YORK - Strike or not, employees of the "Late Show With David Letterman" and the "The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson" will be paid through year's end.

    Both are produced by Letterman's Worldwide Pants banner, which notified employees in New York and Los Angeles that they will be paid regardless of whether the shows return. It would make Worldwide Pants the first known company to guarantee its staff a paycheck during the writers strike.

    It comes at a time when other shows like NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" have told employees to expect to be idled as the strike continues through its second week. There were rumors, since denied, that "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart had initially guaranteed a paycheck to his writers.

    Unlike NBC, which owns "The Tonight Show," CBS does not own the "Late Show" or the "Late Late Show." The network pays a license fee to the production company, which it has stopped since there are no new shows.

    It doesn't mean, however, that there will be no work on "Late Show." Decisions are being made week-to-week on whether the show will return to the air in some form.

    © Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

posted by Josh at 9:49 AM | 0 comments
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about this whole Writers' Strike going on in Hollywood. How in 1985 the writers got hosed out of a good deal on VHS residuals and that same deal carried over to DVDs in the 1990s, so how this time they're going to get their proper cut of the so-called "new media" distribution. But the producers and studios are saying they're not making any money on "new media". Yet.

Then today I saw that the band Radiohead has set a release date for its new album - January 1. This is the album ("In Rainbows") that the band made available for download on the internet last month, letting fans determine how much to pay for it. Nobody (other than the band) really knows how much people really paid, but I've seen speculations at an average of $4.64 to an average of $8.05 per download. Of course, nobody knows how much Radiohead would make per CD if this was an old-fashioned release, either, but I've read estimates that say that bands make anywhere from $1 to $3 per CD sale.

So even if you factor in the bandwidth costs and the web-design costs - it still looks like Radiohead is making better money on "new media" than "old media".


Now, I know comparing albums to television shows or movies is like comparing apples to aardvarks. That the five members of a band and the producer that it takes to make an album is quite different than the writers, directors, producers, actors, cinematographers, sound-recordists, make-up artists, key grips, best boys, location scouts, set builders, etc that make a movie or television shows.

I also know that Radiohead was bankrolled by its former label for fifteen years, and now have a fanbase of millions - based on that investment. That the next Radiohead could be struggling right now in a garage in Pasadena, willing to let their fans determine how much to pay for their album on their website, but the five sales that they made won't let them quit their day jobs at Arbys.

But still, no matter how you slice it, the record labels and television networks / movie studios no longer have a stranglehold on distribution channels.

And that ... that is interesting to me.

Maybe you heard about the Mercy Reef / Aquaman television pilot from a few years ago that, although it wasn't picked up by a network, still ended up for download on the iTunes Store.

See, the Smallville guys (Al Gough and Miles Millar) made the Aquaman pilot for The WB Television Network in early 2006, with an estimated budget of $7 million. But then the WB merged with UPN that spring, and in the end the new CW Network didn't pick up the series.

So then Warner Brothers Television, who made the pilot and no doubt wanted to recoup some of the cost, made the episode available for download on the iTunes Store.

And it was huge.

Sure, they didn't make a bazillion dollars on it. And no, the fan reaction didn't get the CW to reverse its decision and pick up the show at a later date.

But it was a start.

Like the new film from actor / writer / director Ed Burns, Purple Violets. On November 20th it is coming exclusively to the iTunes Store. Not in theaters. Not on video. Only on the iTunes Store.

Now, it sounds like your typical Burnsian small talky movie, the type that doesn't sell out multiplexes. But I don't think it's painfully low-budget - the movie stars Selma Blair, Burns (obviously), Debra Messing, Dennis Farina and Patrick Wilson (no, not the drummer from Weezer, sadly). A few big names.

Will it make money? Yes. Will it make enough to recoup the original investment? No. Will it get some hype to promote the eventual DVD release? Of course.

But someday will movies and television series make enough money on the internet to be profitable? I bet.

And that's why the writers on strike. Twenty-two years ago who would have thought that people would be downloading episodes of current television shows and feature movies onto their computers? Even the people who loved their 8 MHz Macintoshs 128K probably didn't. Who knows what the distribution channels will be like in 2029?
posted by Josh at 10:15 AM | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Microsoft Surface LogoPhew.

For a minute I thought I was going crazy.

See, back in May I wrote about the new Microsoft product called "Surface" (see Microsoft Surface). In fact, I think what I said was, "Wow, that new Microsoft thing is really cool."

Well, don't fret - this Apple boy isn't losing it and falling to the dark side. It appears that this whole "Surface" thing is buggier than, well, Vista. At least, according to an Engadget report.

Microsoft does admit that Surface is having a hard time "making it past the prototype stage". Now they're anticipating a 2008 release.

Oops. Maybe you shouldn't have rushed out the website and videos then.

No, I'm sure the reason that they did rush the website and videos was to try and steal thunder from Apple's iPod touch, which uses a similar multi-touch interface. But that right there is the huge difference between Microsoft and Apple - Microsoft hypes the next big thing before it's ready, Apple develops in secret, releases it to the market, and then the hype machine revs up.

Example - Windows Vista was started in development at Microsoft (as "Longhorn") in 2001, with an anticipated release of 2003. It eventually was released on January 30, 2007.

And don't even give me that crap that Apple did the same thing with the iPhone and Apple TV - announcing them both on January 9, 2007 and shipping the Apple TV on March 21 and the iPhone on June 29. Those were regulatory-related delays, nevermind the fact that announcing them at the MacWorld Expo made sense. It's not like they announced the iPhone at the 2002 MacWorld Expo ...
posted by Josh at 9:11 AM | 0 comments
Sunday, November 11, 2007
A few years ago my parents bought a little place on the east coast of Florida just south of Cape Canaveral in what's known as the "space coast". You know, where I Dream of Jeannie took place.

It's actually on a peninsula known as "Merritt Island" - let me say that again, a peninsula known as "Merritt Island" - which just reinforces that Florida really is part of The South.

Anyway, what with the retirement and all my folks decided to go down there for a little bit this autumn. The boring weeks of November after the World Series but before Thanksgiving. They got down there the other day.

Now, from Cocoa Beach (which is just a few minutes drive away) you can see up the coast to the Kennedy Space Center. And my Dad, being Mr. Science and all, has been dying to see a shuttle launch or a rocket launch or pretty much anything launch.

Heck, I bet he'd even be happy to see Tom Skerritt blow up on that spinny-machine from Contact. But really who wouldn't want want to see Tom Skerritt blow up?

Anyway so far NASA's schedule and my parents' time off hasn't jived, even though there have been close calls. A shuttle launched a few days before they arrived one year, I believe, and once it was a few days after they left.

But on Saturday night there was a rocket launch from the Space Center, and they were going to check it out.

I haven't heard from them yet, but I read an article that said it took off at 8:50 pm.

The cool thing is that this was the first successful launch of the new Delta IV-Heavy rocket, which is 23 stories tall and weighs 1.6 million pounds.

The un-cool thing? It launched the 23rd and final Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite 22,300 miles above earth.

The DSP satellites provide early warning of ballistic missile launches aimed at the United States and its allies - let me say that again, early warning of ballistic missile launches aimed at the United States.

Obviously the program was designed 37 years ago when we all thought the USSR was going to start WWIII by lobbing intercontinental missiles at Hutchinson, Kansas.

Now if these satellites could only detect IEDs on the sides of roads in rural Iraq maybe some American lives could really be saved ...
posted by Josh at 5:56 PM | 0 comments
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Wow, this is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time.

I hope someone would pony up the money if Fenway Park's naming rights ever went on the market. Not that that could happen, anyway, you'd see a riot on Yawkey Way first ...

    The Associated Press
    Donors bid millions NOT to rename school
    By Ryan J. Foley
    November 04, 2007

    MADISON, Wis. - When he became dean of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business in 2002, Michael Knetter went looking for a big donor, someone who would give $50 million in exchange for putting their name on the school.

    No one was interested.

    So, Knetter decided to do something radical: find contributors willing to pay to keep the school's name off the market.

    After years of conversations, 13 alumni announced last month that they were giving $85 million in exchange for assurances that the business school would not be named for any donor for at least 20 years.

    It's the biggest donation in university history, and it comes at a time when stadiums, buildings and whole colleges elsewhere are being named for the highest bidder.

    "It is an unprecedented act of selfless philanthropy. I don't know of another case where anything remotely like this has taken place and I hope it is the start of a trend," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president for the American Council on Education. "It's the most interesting development in philanthropy I've seen in the last year."

    Rae Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, called the gift "an unusual take on a long tradition."

    "It's certainly a new and very generous approach," she said.

    The donors are all Wisconsin alumni and 10 of them graduated from the business school. Each pledged at least $5 million to join the partnership. They include Ab Nicholas, who played basketball for Wisconsin in the 1950s.

    "It sends a message that people can band together for a common cause and they don't need a lot of recognition," said Nicholas, who founded an investment firm and lives in Chenequa, Wis. "It's sort of selfless and yet it isn't because the people giving the money feel good about it."

    Nicholas said he was proud the gift allows the university to keep its well-respected name. "The University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. That sounds great," he said.

    Hartle said many public universities have marketed naming rights to law, business and medical colleges in the past 10 years to make up for lagging tax support. Business schools have been particularly aggressive, with the majority of them already named for donors.

    Business schools at the University of Michigan, the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii are among those that have been renamed in perpetuity to recognize one-time gifts ranging from $25 million to $100 million.

    Knetter said he approached three contributors with the $50 million asking price.

    But when they weren't ready, he changed his approach. He said he was bothered that one person would get the name and other donors would be left out. And he learned the price of naming rights was going up and that keeping the name for now would be a strategic asset. After 20 years, he estimates, the naming rights on the school could bring in $300 million or more.

    At first, donors thought Knetter's idea of paying to not sell the name was wacky.

    Finally, three donors bought into it 18 months ago, promising $20 million. Pledges slowly grew to $30 million, then $40 million, then hit the goal of $50 million and reached $60 million.

    He planned an announcement for a homecoming event last month, but more pledges came in — $20 million more from four donors in the final week, then a $5 million promise just two hours before he went public.

    In an interview, Knetter said he was still trying to figure out how to spend the money, beyond increasing salaries, hiring more faculty and staff, and serving more students.

    "This thing has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams," he said.

    The final $5 million pledge came fro Milwaukee businessman Sheldon Lubar, who already has a business school named in his honor at UW-Milwaukee after he gave that university $10 million last year.

    "Someone told me 'You're the only person in the United States that's going to have two business schools named after you or not named after you,'" Lubar said. "Well, that even makes it better, doesn't it."

    © the Associated Press
posted by Josh at 4:02 PM | 0 comments
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Death of a President PosterCrap! I missed October 19, 2007!

That was the date in the fictional documentary Death of a President when George W. Bush is assassinated outside of the Chicago Sheraton.

It's a little weird, with all of the anti-war protests and stuff you'd think more people would have talked about it.

Maybe they plum forgot, like I did. Oops.
posted by Josh at 10:55 PM | 0 comments
Saturday, November 3, 2007
How'd I miss this? Halloween day was former Disney animator Ollie Johnston's 95th birthday.

Happy Birthday!

Johnston is the last surviving member of what Walt Disney dubbed his Nine Old Men (a reference to Franklin Roosevelt's Supreme Court in the 1940s).

Johnston's work at Disney spans four decades and the highlights of the most famous Disney characters. He shared with Frank Thomas the credit of Supervising Animator on the lead characters in in both "Pinocchio" and "Bambi", he was the Directing Animator for the three fantastic animated sequences in "Song of the South", with Thomas he was the Directing Animator for most of the characters in both the The Wind in the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segments of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad", he was the Directing Animator of the Stepsisters in "Cinderella", he was the Directing Animator of the Mr. Smee in "Peter Pan", he was the Directing Animator of Lady, Jock and Trusty in "Lady and the Tramp", with Thomas he was the Directing Animator for most of the three fairy characters in "Sleeping Beauty", with Thomas he was the Directing Animator for the two lead dogs in "101 Dalmatians", he was the Directing Animator of Merlin and Wart in "The Sword in the Stone", he was the Directing Animator of Baloo, Bagheera, Mowgli, and The Girl in "The Jungle Book" and was Directing Animator for Prince John, Sir Hiss, Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian in "Robin Hood".

Johnston retired from animation in 1978 and was named a Disney Legend in 1989.

In 1995 Frank Thomas' son made a charming documentary about his father and Johnston's work together and their seventy year friendship called "Frank and Ollie". If you have any interest in animation it's a great movie.
Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Johnston (seated) with Frank Thomas during the production of Sleeping Beauty in the 1950s

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Thomas and Johnston in 1995 documentary "Frank and Ollie"

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Caricatures of Thomas and Johnston in Pixar's 2004 movie "The Incredibles"

posted by Josh at 7:53 AM | 0 comments