Archive for September, 2007

Speaking Truth To Hollywood. Or Not.

September 25, 2007

What you’re about to read is a true story.

I just got a phone call from an old friend of mine. He was calling from a bar in Puerto Rico, and asked what I knew about director Stephen Soderberg. “Why?” I asked. “You in some kind of trivia contest?”

“No,” my friend said. “He’s three seats away from me at the bar. You go to more movies than anybody else I know, so what could I ask the dude about?”

“Oh,” I said, and proceeded to rack my brains. Then it hit me. “The first thing he ever did was a Yes concert movie. Ask him how the hell you can get somebody as tall as Chris Squire and as short as Jon Anderson in the same shot.”

“That’s pretty good,” my friend said. “But get this. He’s down here making a movie about Che Guevara.”

There was a pause. Finally I said, “Forget the Yes question. Ask him whether the movie is going to show any of the concentration camps that murderous son of a bitch set up for Castro.”

I could practically hear my friend nod through the phone, “Yeah, I don’t think that’s the movie they’re making. Sounds from here like it’s pretty reverential.” He paused himself. “Now that I think about it, I don’t want to ask the guy any questions. Don’t want to talk to him at all, actually.”

“Good call,” I said. “Have a nice time down there.”

“Yep, see you later.”

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Slouching Towards La Brea

September 24, 2007

According to legend, technology giant Bob Metcalfe was once reportedly asked whether the old monopoly telephone companies were evil or just stupid. Metcalfe’s response: “Why can’t they be both?”

Metcalfe’s riposte could clearly apply to the lumbering dinosaurs of the old record companies. Get a load of this interview with Vivendi Universal’s CEO, Jean-Bernard Levy, who first opens fire the record cartel’s only serious source of income in the digital realm:

The split between Apple and (music) producers is indecent … Our contracts give too good a share to Apple.”

Hmm, well, Steve Jobs does have a reputation for driving a hard bargain. Maybe he just doesn’t allow the poor old record suits to keep enough of the income from iTunes sales. Say, just how much is that split worth, anyway?

At present, UMG, the world’s largest record company, gets 0.70 euro ($0.99) out of the 0.99 euro retail price charged by iTunes, Vivendi said.

So, let me get this straight, Jean-Bernard. You’re on the heavy end of a 70-30 spilt with the one company that keeps your products on the Internet from being 100% pirated, and you think you’re getting a bad deal? Where did you learn how to do business? Elementary school?

Oh, wait, I forgot. He’s French. But let’s resume:

Fleshing out UMG’s strategy, Levy said it planned to focus on better exploiting the “monetization of an artist’s image” which included branded clothes and TV shows.

“This is what we hope will revive our business,” Levy said. “People indulge in piracy but spend a lot of money on many other things that are linked to an artist.”

Stop and read that again. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back now? Good. Now think for a minute about just which “artists” are going to agree to be “monetized” by record companies. You got it–talentless bubblegum pop stars, and that’s the future strategy of one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world: market craptacular American Idolware from no-talent pin-ups to thirteen-year-old girls.

Music? Forget about it. You guys and gals who’ve spent all that time actually learning how to play instruments and write songs? Sorry, not monetizable. We don’t get a big enough cut to worry about selling music. We’re in the t-shirt business now–but we’ll still flatter ourselves by pretending that we promote “artists.”

Stupid. And pretty evil, too.

Dan Rather and Cousin Eddie

September 19, 2007

Just to add my $0.02 to Steve’s take on dotty old Dan’s lawsuit: For bloggers, Rather is like a subscription to the Jelly Of The Month Club.

He’s the gift that keeps on givin’.

Dr. Butt, Your 9:30 Extraction Is Ready

September 18, 2007

From the UK Daily Mail:

A muslim dentist made a woman wear Islamic dress as the price of accepting her as an NHS patient, it is alleged.

Omer Butt is said to have told the patient that unless she wore a headscarf she would have to find another practice.

Later this month, Mr Butt will appear before a General Dental Council professional misconduct hearing, which has the power to strike him off.

Now, let’s give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s not really a stuck-in-the-seventh-century Islamic nutbag. It could be that he’s just awfully irked about being named “Mr. Butt.” Go ahead, read all those references to “Mr. Butt” in the article without snickering–I dare you.

Alternately, perhaps he’s just peeved that the Daily Mail didn’t refer to him as “Dr. Butt”: “I didn’t spend three years in Islamic Fanatic Dental School to be called ‘mister,’ thank you very much.”

Ah, well. At least he’s not a proctologist.

A Farewell To Delta

September 12, 2007

I travel a lot on business. I’m on travel right now, in Orlando. Luckily for me, my business this morning was completed ahead of schedule, and as I left my vendor’s office, I phoned Delta Air Lines to move up my return flight time a few hours.

This kind of thing happens all the time; up until Delta joined the ranks of the bankrupt airlines, making a change on the day of a flight was free, assuming seats were available on the alternate flight. A while back Delta tacked on a $25 fee, which was annoying but not a show-stopper. It’s worth $25 for me to not waste half a day waiting on a flight.

Unfortunately, I’ve just discovered that Delta has changed the rules again. Now it’s a $50 fee to make a change, plus another $20 if you make the change over the phone. It’s “only” $50 if you put in for a change on Delta’s web site–but you can’t make a change on the web site if your original booking wasn’t directly through Delta. Like most corporate travelers, I’m not allowed to book directly with an airline, I have to use my company’s contracted travel agency.

I can defend a $25 fee. I’d have a hard time defending a $70 fee, and even if I could, I don’t want to. I’m not going to give Delta any more money for this flight. The original ticket, booked on Monday, was more than pricey enough.

I’m also done with Delta. I’ve been flying Delta most of my life, and I’ve accumulated hundreds of thousands of miles over the years, but this is the last straw. I’ve already cashed in what’s left of my frequent flyer miles, and I see no reason to bother with this pain in the butt of an airline any more, especially if this is how they treat their best customers.

To hell with ’em. AirTran is cheaper, much more accommodating, and unlike Delta, their gate reps and stewardii don’t act like they did you a favor by showing up for work.

So long, Delta. You suck.