from the "But Seriously Folks" Dept.


Media Blahblah Association

This Ass. Press vs. the Bloggers situation is getting more and more interesting (like the bogus-Chinese-curse “May you live in interesting times”). The Ass. Press is meeting with someone from the nebulous Media Bloggers Association (which is even more nebulous right now as it’s in the middle of some kind of reorganization – not accepting new members, and its homepage hasn’t been updated since ’07). And the prominent headlining of the group blog on Newsweek done by some MBA members unfortunately gives the impression that they are ALL its members.

The MBA (NOT the best choice of initials) has been made fun of a lot since this story broke, some unfairly, some not. MBA President (and appearing to be the only person working there) Robert Cox explained some previously-unrevealed backstory on the incident in his semi-obscure blog (not linked from the MBA homepage). But he may need to proofread some of what he wrote (I quote one long paragraph, hopefully within Fair Use).
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Taking It in the Ass. Press

SERIOUSLY, the actions the Ass. Press have made against The Drudge Retort, that wonderful little antidote to Toxic Drudgery (and headed up by proud member of the TWM blogroll Rogers Cadenhead), are stupid, outrageous and troubling. Quick recap: The Ass. Press has issued seven DMCA takedown requests to the news-driven site for posts (and one comment to a post) that quoted between 33 and 83 words (if I’ve counted correctly – definitely less than 100 words in all cases) from their news stories webpublished on their members’ sites and LINKED TO THE FULL STORIES. Apparently, they do not wish the Blogosphere to help drive traffic to their members if it means giving up control of any of their words.

The Ass. Press has made some conciliatory noises, but it has also set up an “iCopyright” page (I wonder if Apple can sue over use of the “i”) where bloggers can register and pay for permission to post excerpts at the following rates:
words Fees
5-25 $ 12.50
26-50 $ 17.50
51-100 $ 25.00
101-250 $ 50.00
251 and up $ 100.00

(I wonder if I owe them anything for copying the 4 words and 14 numbers there). Charging anything for less than 25 words is absurd, starting the price at $12.50 for every site on the web, no matter how small, is even worse. If you can prove that you are “a teacher, administrator or student at an accredited educational institution” or “represent a government-qualified non-profit organization” (there I go quoting them again) and promise to not make any money from it, you get the discounted rates of $7.50 for 5-25 words up to $75.00 for over 250. Apparently any previous definitions of “Fair Use” no longer apply to the Ass. Press. Sounds like a good old fashioned monetization plan to me.

So, what are the leaders of the leaderless mob of bloggers going to do? I first saw some suggestions that we all force the issue with a mass quoting of Ass. Press content, as John Scalzi, another member of the exclusive TWM blogroll club, has done. In a blog post where he discusses the issue he also interjects four excerpts from Ass. Press stories that he considers “Fair Use-sized”, with links to the full stories on Ass. Press member sites.

Others wish to declare a boycott on Ass. Press content and linkage, but the highest profile blogs doing that are TechCrunch, Gawker and Little Green Footballs, none of which I personally respect enough to link to here. But there is the humorous sideline that the TechCrunch boycott declaration appeared on the Washington Post website, causing some people to think WaPo was participating. But then, some people also think it was that other Drudgey site that got the takedown notices, so the news doth confuse.

I think I’ll go in the same direction as Scalzi, but with a twist (that I am hiding after the fold/behind the “more inside”)
Is that all? Of course that’s not all! Click Here.


We Need This Now More Than Ever

If you want to use that pic, feel free, you don’t have to credit me. Not like it’s a great artistic job or a unique idea, just an important cause.

Personally, I don’t have any great ideas of what to do to help (this op-ed ends with “…give war a chance.” WTF?!?). I have heard good things about Doctors Without Borders (also known by their French name ‘Medecins Sans Frontieres’ or MSF… MSFWorks? I digress.). Or if you prefer something that sounds more American, there’s Operation USA (known for their quick response, not for quickly updating their website).

Hey, whatever happened to that “dream team” from the ’05 Tsunami Relief? I know one of them’s kind of busy working for his wife (yep, it’s true… Barbara Bush is selling t-shirts over the internet and G. H. W. is helping stuff the shirts into envelopes… no wonder the shipping/handling charge is so high… I REALLY digress).

With any luck, the Myanmar Junta (NOT a good name for a rock band) will become a little more helpful when they’re through with the fake election to consolidate their power. They couldn’t have just postponed it, since they used astrology to select the perfect date (now we know where Nancy Reagan’s astrologer is). Come to think of it, if there are over 100,000 less voters, this really IS the perfect time to hold a fake election… (okay, too much cynicism, time to rest)


Francis Gary Powers

Speaking of TV helicopter crashes, exactly thirty years ago today, Francis Gary Powers fell from the sky for the second time. The first time was on May 1st, 1960, when the U-2 spy plane he was piloting [previously on MeFi] was shot down over Soviet Russia, a major international incident and one that many never forgave him for surviving.

After returning to America in a swap for Russian spy Rudolf Abel, he continued as a test pilot for Lockheed until he wrote the book Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident then reluctantly joined the Media as an airborne (small plane) traffic reporter at KGIL in Los Angeles (yes, that KGIL). He was recruited by Channel 4 when they acquired “The Original Telecopter” from rival Channel 5 and learned a new kind of piloting. Returning from a long trip covering brush fies in Santa Barbara, the chopper ran out of fuel. Some (including me) say he might have survived if he hadn’t made last-second maneuvers to avoid people on the ground.

I never worked with him directly, and only met him once, but I was ‘hanging out’ in the station’s newsroom when the crash happened and was one of the first to know. I helped assemble an on-air tribute that aired the next morning. He was an honest and honorable man, loved by everyone who knew him, and IMO, a hero.


Go Godin Go

BEFORE WE START: This is too serious a topic for this blog. I have pondered setting up a separate place for my serious thoughts, but at times I doubted that I had enough serious thoughts to make it worthwhile, at other times I have worried that some of my more serious thoughts may be too dangerous for the current Marketplace of Ideas and at some other times expected my ‘serious thoughts’ to be judged by the outside world as just some jokes that aren’t funny.

I have recently gotten into the blog of “Marketing Guru” Seth Godin, although the title “Marketing Guru” is really two strikes against you if you want me to care about what you’re saying. But unlike other MG’s, Godin is only about one-third full of sh!t and genuinely thought-provoking even/especially when I disagree with him. But his piece on Responsibility really hit the nail right on top of his own bald head. Why? Because most of the people who raise the issue of “Responsibility” usually put ALL the responsibility on the Consumer (“Caveat emptor, sucker”) and none on the Producer, bowing down to the all-powerful and all-positive Market Forces by claiming that “if nobody bought it, then nobody would make it.” Godin calls bullsh!t on that with his first two words: “Marketing works.”

He goes on to point out more eloquently than I have seen before the FACT that Marketers Are Responsible for What They Market. Bravo.

This was a lesson I learned at the highest-paying job I ever had. It was doing number-crunching at a Financial Services firm that invested heavily in Junk Bonds in the late 1980s. (The company’s CEO was such a close friend of Michael Milkin that he was declared ‘under investigation’ with Milkin but never charged) Anyway, the company’s high-return investing allowed it to sell Insurance and Annuities at “bargain prices”, as well as do a lot of other fiscally irresponsible things – like overpaying the number-crunchers like me. But when the oversold Junk Bond market crashed (partly due to the migration of really bad investments into the mix but also partly in an inevitable cyclical downturn amplified by the foolish belief that there could never BE a downturn), things changed. The employee payroll and my paycheck were never in doubt – in fact, my income increased as the ever-changing management rewarded those workers willing to stay on to the bitter end. But the payouts to the Annuities were in doubt, and in fact were briefly suspended when the State Insurance Commission took over and tried to figure out what was going on. Now, many of these were Lifetime Annuities, being paid out as a permanent source of income for people who really needed it, “structured settlements” – mostly for people disabled (aw, heck, call them crippled) who were offered a lifetime income instead of a big cash payout. And those who had to pay out shopped around for the best deal on Lifetime Annuities, and for a while, my company was the WalMart of that market. When the State moved in and the payments ‘paused’, everyone in the Home Office took on an extra duty. No matter what your job description, you had to put in two hours a day answering the company phones, super-overloaded by calls from people asking “where’s my check”. And the only officially-authorized response you could give was “we don’t know, we’re working on it, we can make NO guarantees”. Isn’t that a lovely thing to say to someone who has told you he lost his leg in a railroad accident? Now multiply that by 40-50 times a day. That was when the Responsibility of my employer… and of myself, its employee, sank into my head.

There was only one time before I had turned down a job offer because of what the company did. In the early 80s I was offered a plum Accounting position with a company that distributed and -er- produced X-rated Video. I wasn’t so much morally opposed to porn, as I was somewhat embarrassed by it, and with the Reagan Administration threatening to crack down, it didn’t look like it had a long term future (I was wrong, the company is still in business). There were also the considerations of Organized Crime involvement, with stories at the time about mostly-legal porn being used as a cover for worse things, being unable to determine if the company in question had such ties, and knowing that my ‘plum Accounting position’ could end up right in the middle of bad things. And they were willing to overpay me as much as the Junk Bond-based company later did.

Fortunately, the time in Telephone Answering Hell only lasted a month-and-a-half, and all of the Lifetime Annuitants got most of what they were counting on. And months later, when I was laid-off in the third round of staff reduction with a severance check that was the largest lump sum I have ever received, I decided I would never again work anywhere that I did not respect what the company did. I ended up doing Contract Billing for an Engineering firm that – at the time – specialized in Environmental Clean-up work. Of course, my job was to ensure that the company got paid as much as the usually-non-standard contract would allow for the work they did, but I still felt a lot cleaner working there. But because Environmental Clean-Up was not a ‘growing field of business’, the company got into other stuff, including writing Environmental Impact Reports that destroyed entire forests in the number of pages produced that nobody read. The contracts became more standardized, the work became more boring and the IP department got a new Manager – who had had the same job at the Junk Bond company. And the fact that I knew him from there turned out to be not so good for my future at that company. But I digress.

Kudos to Seth Godin for asking the question “are you responsible for what you market?” and answering with an emphatic “YES”. Once I learned that I really do have responsibility, I learned to act responsibly. There are millions of people in all levels of the American workplace who haven’t a clue, and we are all poorer for that.


Bumper Schtick

Consider this the FINAL word on a particular bumper sticker meme…


Mythical Myths

I thought my capability for outrage had been totally exhausted (I didn’t even react to Paris Hilton getting out of jail or Scooter Libby getting so much support to keep him out of jail), but a piece in the ‘business oriented’ website/magazine called “Fast Company” has gotten my blood to a full rolling boil.

The piece itself, titled “The 6 Myths Of Creativity” is actually a solid contender for the Wendell Award for 2007 for “Uncanny Grasp of the Obvious”. But the sad, sorry, terrible fact that the myths listed have been so widely accepted for so many years is the true outrage. The subtitle refers to “A new study [that] will change how you generate ideas and decide who’s really creative in your company” but the only new thing about the study is the fact that it is in a weblication/publication that targets the deeply deluded in the business of business.

So clip your noses tight to protect you from the stench. Here come the myths:

1. Creativity Comes From Creative Types… Come on, what is that old saying that “everybody has at least one great idea”? And ‘creative types’ (like me) don’t have that many more great ideas, we just have a boatload of bad ideas that compete for space with the few good ones. There. I’ve admitted it.

2. Money Is a Creativity Motivator… which is why there is so much creativity in the top blockbuster movies coming out of Hollywood – “Spiderman 3” “Shrek 3” “Pirates 3″… I can hardly wait for “Die Hard 4”. (I know, easy target, but there are so many examples of the most money-making creative endeavors being the LEAST creative that I don’t want to waste my time – or yours – on them)

3. Time Pressure Fuels Creativity… Deadlines? They have some influence on people like me – I’ve admitted before that I have tendencies toward both procrastination and perfectionism that can keep me from accomplishing almost anything. But making them more creative? All you get are cut corners – and those corners aren’t even well rounded. I discovered years ago at work that the road to happiness was giving your supervisors a realistically pessimistic timetable, and consistently beating it by a comfortable margin.

4. Fear Forces Breakthroughs… GET CREATIVE OR ELSE? The idea that this idiotic concept ever caught hold in American Business explains so-o-o-o much about what’s wrong with American Business (that and #2).

5. Competition Beats Collaboration… Old cliche that really IS true: Two heads are better than one. And requiring the two heads to bash against each other only causes brain damage.

6. A Streamlined Organization Is a Creative Organization… When everything flows totally smoothly through a system, the only output is diarrhea. The times and places where the flow of work gets stopped (often by roadblocks further down the process) are often the only times and places you can step back and think about how to make things better.

Again, these were not just Six Myths… they were Six Big Lies, most often used to generate something OTHER than Creativity. Whew, I feel better now. Okay, I’ll return to the usual entertaining tone of this blog soon… just don’t put a deadline on it.


Warning: Cynicism Reaching Critical Mass

I’m waiting patiently for the headline:


I’m not a Global Warming naysayer. In fact, my opinion on the subject was heavily influenced by the seriously alrming (and yes, alarmist) documentary almost 20 years ago by James “Connections” Burke, “After the Warming”. While it didn’t thoroughly sell me that “yeah, this is gonna happen”, it did convince me very early in the game that, if Catastrophic Man-Made Global Warming does occur, it will happen slowly and almost imperceptibly, and not be fully confirmed and proven until it is too late to avoid disaster (a near-literal version of the classic Boiling Frog story). With that perspective, the usual overblown media fear-mongering and panic is not the bad thing it is for most issues. But overblown media fear-mongering and panic still makes me nauseous, even when it’s about a genuine threat. But hey, two decades after James Burke warned us? We’re probably already screwed. Happy Groundhog Day. (I’ll bet you wish I’d stuck with the sausage, right?)


I Have a Dream… About a Fighter Plane With an Electrical Cord

I really don’t know how to acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr. Day*, being a white male who at least once in my working life (that I was aware of) was picked for a job over an at-least-equally-and-possibly-better qualified African American guy (we were both working temporary at adjacent desks – he impressed the hell out of me, but apparently not the management). Anyway, at risk of sounding flippant, all I have to offer is a partial list of Kings that MLKJr. is superior to…

  • Burger King
  • Papaya King
  • King of the Road
  • King of the Hill
  • The King of Queens
  • The Lion King
  • Larry King
  • Larry L. King
  • Stephen King
  • King Vidor
  • KING-TV in Seattle
  • Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia
  • Bedspread King Al Greenwood in Long Beach
  • King of Big Screen Paul’s TV in La Habra
  • B.B. King
  • Ben E. King
  • Carole King
  • Nat “King” Cole
  • Old King Cole
  • King Kong
  • King Arthur
  • King Lear
  • King Kamehameha
  • King Tutankhamen
  • King Abdullah II Ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand (but don’t you love the name?)
  • King Henry VIII
  • Kings Henry I through VII
  • The Sacramento Kings
  • The Los Angeles Kings
  • King Features Syndicate
  • King of Prussia, PA
  • Don King
  • Nosmo King
  • And every celebrity who ever claimed to be the “King” of their field

I guess the reason I went through this silly exercise was to deal with the irony that the greatest civil rights leader of an era had a family name that symbolized anything but human rights. But it’s good to live in an era and a place where the most bothersome Kings are the ones playing hockey.
*With all due respect, I don’t think calling it a “Birthday” while making it a Monday Holiday is very respectful. Let’s just call it his day.


Spam Scam With Ottoman

An unwanted email got through my spam filter with a subject line that went beyond the usual non-sequiturity into true absurdist humor (in other words, it made me laugh – btw, I know ‘non-sequiturity’ is not a real word, but isn’t it apprpriate? – but I digress).

He was successful, but ended up nailing an ottoman with his head.

This incredible bit of random generated comedy prompted me to do two totally unnecessary things today.

1: Check my spam filter depository for other good laughs. That was a mistake. I need to go to the drugstore to replenish my supply of eye bleach.

2: Since this was one of those “penny-stock spams” (I’ve already mentioned how futile it is to send them to my asset-less self), check out the performance of that stock… Well, it closed last night at $1.31, the price quoted in the email (with a short-term target of $2.75 and long-term target of $4.15). It opened today at $1.45… and closed at $1.25. My conclusion? If I did have any money to invest, I’d short-sell the stocks mentioned in these emails… as I am sure the spammers already have.

Gee, a WendellWit post with a practical message. I must be coming down with something again.