Thursday, September 24, 2009

Future Rock Legends: Keeping track of the music acts the Hall of Fame snubs

Whenever the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame comes out with its list of nominees or names its latest class of inductees, I check out Future Rock Legends.
Future Rock Legends does an excellent job keeping track of when music acts are eligible to be considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It also attempts to determine artists’ chances for future induction in the shrine based on historical criteria and user votes.
The site, formerly called Future Rock Hall, discusses the hall’s selection criteria and the many controversies surrounding the hall. It lists current hall of famers as well as artists who have been previously nominated, but passed over.
The list of rejected nominees includes such favorites of mine as the Cars, the Cure, Def Leppard, Depeche Mode, Genesis and Yes.
Future Rock Legends lets visitors vote for their favorite bands and performers. The acts with the highest fan approval now are Deep Purple, Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Moody Blues.
Future Rock Legends is informative, thought-provoking and fun.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Genesis, KISS deserve to be in the Rock Hall

Organizers of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included two perennially overlooked music acts among the nominees for induction into the shrine next year.
Released Wednesday, the list of 12 nominees includes Genesis, which has been eligible since 1993, and KISS, eligible since 1999.
A group of more than 500 musicians and industry insiders will cast ballots and the five that get the most votes will be inducted.
In a just world, Genesis and KISS should make it in before some of the other nominees, including pop group ABBA, disco queen Donna Summer and rapper LL Cool J. But the Rock Hall has been very controversial for the acts it inducts and those it snubs.
The other nominees for the 2010 class are: Darlene Love, Jimmy Cliff, Laura Nyro, Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Chantels, the Hollies, and the Stooges.
The winners will be announced in January.
Here’s my list of the 12 most overlooked artists for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their year of eligibility.
  1. Genesis (1993)
  2. Yes (1994)
  3. Rush (1998)
  4. KISS (1999)
  5. Journey (2000)
  6. Boston (2001)
  7. Heart (2001)
  8. The Damned (2001)
  9. The Cars (2003)
  10. The Cure (2003)
  11. Def Leppard (2004)
  12. INXS (2005)

Photo: Rock band KISS poses in May 2009 photo

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cablevision’s electronic program guide sucks; Comcast has a superior on-screen guide

When I moved from Illinois to Connecticut last month, I switched cable television providers from Comcast to Cablevision.
Lately I’ve been struggling with Cablevision’s electronic program guide, digital video recorder and remote control. Comcast’s setup was much easier to use.
With the fall TV season here, I’ve been trying to program the Cablevision DVR to record new shows and returning favorites. It’s been a bear. Searching for shows to record from the program guide is a pain in the ass.
When searching for a TV show, you can either hunt through the slow-scrolling program guide by channel and time or look it up alphabetically. The latter would be great, but you can only input the first letter of the show. That means you have to wade through dozens of listings to find what you want. Not fun.
When I looked for “FlashFoward,” it didn’t show up in the alphabetical listings. I knew it was on ABC on Thursday so I found it on the weekly programming grid instead. I also can’t find “At the Movies,” the movie review program, on the guide. So I watch that show online.
Comcast’s system lets you type in the entire name of the TV show you’re looking for. Very simple and intuitive. You also can jump forward or backward a day on the program guide with one button press from the remote. This is handy when quickly scanning a week’s worth of prime time shows. The Cablevision remote and guide lack these features.
Cablevision’s program guide also doesn’t contain as many days ahead as Comcast’s.
Hopefully these are things that Cablevision will address.

Photo: Comcast’s remote control

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Logical, primal sides of my brain debate whether my Twitter followers are real


I don't care if they're fake; I like the idea of having gorgeous women as "followers" on Twitter.
The logical side of my brain says, "They're just stock photos of beautiful women used by marketers who are setting up spam accounts on Twitter." The photos are used to get people like me interested enough to check out their account info and maybe click on a Web link.
The primal side of my brain likes the idea of hot chicks checking out my tweets.
For instance, Tara Law (top) probably likes my tweets about copyright law, fringe sports and children's television. I'm sure she checks them out while posting tweets about teeth whitening products and making money on the Internet.
Or how about AnnaBella Western (bottom)? She probably enjoys my tweets about the failed promise of digital content and fall TV previews. She likely reads them while posting tweets about ... teeth whitening products and making money on the Internet.

Logical side of brain: These "women" about probably just guys managing thousands of spam accounts from their apartments.

Primal side of brain: I wonder if I could gather up my followers like "Charlie's Angels" or the Playboy Mansion.

Logical side: You're an idiot.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parkour, free running, a fringe sport with legs

I’ve written a lot about what I call “fringe sports,” those organized activities looking to attract a mainstream audience and become legitimate professional sports.
Professional video gaming, competitive eating, beer pong and the Lingerie Football League are a few of the more odd ones.
Parkour, or freerunning, is a fringe sport that could merit a larger audience. Popular in Europe, it’s like the X Games without any user equipment.
The activity originated in France and involves participants navigating an urban course of obstacles, such as walls, railings and other structures. Participants run, jump, roll, climb and swing.
Recently it’s become a performance sport called free running, with players doing flips and other acrobatic stunts. (See Wikipedia definitions of parkour and free running.)
BarclayCard sponsored the World Freerun Championships at an amazing venue in Trafalgar Square, London, in August. (See video below and Web site.)
MTV and the World Free Running and Parkour Federation will air MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge on Oct. 22 on MTV.

Friday, September 18, 2009

My kind of woman: Attractive, handy with a crossbow

A 23-year-old Satellite Beach, Fla., woman has made the news for killing an 11-foot alligator with a crossbow on Tuesday.
The woman, Arianne Prevost, nabbed the beast on her first alligator hunt in Florida. The gator weighed an estimated 400 to 450 pounds.
Those details are compelling, but what made the story newsworthy, and circulated by the likes of Break.com, was the fact that the woman is smoking hot. The picture sells the story, which makes no mention of how attractive she is. That would be honest, but considered sexist and subjective. Journalists are supposed to be objective observers who present only the cold, hard facts.
People love animal stories, be they about cute pets or deadly creatures. And men like to look at pretty women. So this story is a winner. See Florida Today story.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Public service announcement: October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but education and exams should be a year-round activity.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in the U.S., aside from skin cancer. An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the U.S. this year, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 40,170 women are expected to die from the disease in 2009 alone.
Get the facts at the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month web site.
On a lighter note, here are some videos that raise awareness in a humorous way.
The first is a PSA called “Save the Boobs!” It was posted to YouTube on Sept. 8, 2009.
The second is an Onion News Network segment from Oct. 12, 2008. Two prospective Eagle Scouts explain how they are preventing breast cancer by helping women examine their breasts.
And finally here’s a photo of Seattle Mist Cornerback Harper Boiz and Quarterback Natasha Lindsey at a recent charity carwash. The Lingerie Football League’s Seattle Mist held a car wash on Sept. 9, 2009, to raise money for breast cancer research.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 a golden year for 3-D movies

With Disney’s “Up” and “G-Force,” DreamWorks Animation’s “Monsters vs. Aliens,” and Fox’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” among others, 2009 has been a milestone year for 3-D movies in the theater.
Potentially the biggest of them all, Fox’s “Avatar,” written and directed by James Cameron, comes out Dec. 18.
David Lenihan of San Francisco has compiled a pretty comprehensive list of “new generation” 3-D movies for his blog. The list includes movies made for RealD or Dolby 3D. There were five such movies last year and 15 expected in 2009. See the list at David’s Blog.
Next year, 13 movies in 3-D are scheduled to be released in theaters, including Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” Disney’s “Toy Story 3” and “Tron Legacy.”
An even more comprehensive list of 3-D movies is maintained by Andrew Woods. His list is at The Illustrated 3D Movie List.
These lists provide a good indication of the 3-D content that’s going to be available when 3-D TV and 3-D Blu-ray Discs are available for the home starting next year.
Check out my story on 3-D TV at Investors.com.

Photo: Still from Disney’s “Tron Legacy” (2010)

Lingerie Football League ignored by mainstream media


The Lingerie Football League isn’t getting much coverage in the nation’s newspapers. Media types aren’t sure what to make of it. Is it a serious sport? A burlesque show? A farce?
The inaugural season of the Lingerie Football League kicked off Sept. 4 in Chicago. The second game took place Sept. 11 in Seattle. This week’s Friday night game will be held in Denver.
Coverage has consisted of feature articles about how pretty the women players are and how they can really play football. Other stories have focused on the titillating aspect of “wardrobe malfunctions.” There were two in the first game, according to the Miami Herald. One player had her bikini bottom pulled down and another had her bra ripped off. No complaints from the fans, I’m sure.
The Lingerie Football League will stay a fringe sport until it can prove the athleticism of the players, rack up some big plays for the TV sports highlight reels, and develop some stars that people want to see in action.
Posted with this article are YouTube videos from the first two games.
The top video is from last week’s game, the San Diego Seduction vs. the Seattle Mist.
The bottom video is from season opener, the Miami Caliente vs. the Chicago Bliss.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remembering actor Patrick Swayze

In October 1983, while a journalism student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, I had the opportunity to spend an hour with actor Patrick Swayze.
I was working as a feature writer for the campus newspaper, the Daily Illini, when I traveled to nearby Pontiac, Ill., to cover the filming of “Grandview, U.S.A.” The movie starred Jamie Lee Curtis (a hot actress coming off “Halloween” and “Trading Places”) and C. Thomas Howell (a rising young star thanks to “The Outsiders”).
I visited the set twice. My friend, Michael Schmidt, then a student photographer with the Daily Vidette at Illinois State University (and now a photojournalist with the News Sun in Waukegan, Ill.), took photos for the feature article.
One day while hanging around the set waiting to interview director Randal Kleiser (“Grease” and “The Blue Lagoon”), Swayze walked up to Mike and me and struck up a conversation.
Although he co-starred with Howell in “The Outsiders” (1983), he was a relative unknown at the time. He had to compete for face time in that film with the likes of Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, Leif Garrett and Tom Waits.
Here’s what I wrote for the Oct. 29, 1983, issue of the Daily Illini:
Much later, Patrick Swayze, easily the most likeable of all the actors associated with the movie, comes to the set during his time off to check with his stunt double.
He says he likes to stay on the set, even when he is not filming any scenes. Swayze doesn’t want to “lose track of (his) character.”
“I can’t afford to sit in my room and watch TV, because I might come back the next day, not as my character, but as … Lee Majors,” he says.
Swayze told me he picked up traits for his character, a demolition car driver named Slam Webster, from people he met in the small town.
“I did a lot of research to find out who this guy was,” Swayze said. “He’s lower class, intelligent and should be somewhere else than where he is. And he lets his passion out in his driving.”
Released in 1984, “Grandview, U.S.A.” got poor reviews, flopped at the box office and was quickly forgotten. It’s not even available on DVD – one of many movies that haven’t made the transition to digital. (See earlier post on the subject.)
Swayze would find fame in 1987 for his star turn in “Dirty Dancing.” He’d follow that success with “Ghost” (1990) and “Point Break” (1991).
Patrick Swayze, 57, died Monday after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer. (See Associated Press article.)

Photo: Publicity shot from “Grandview, U.S.A.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

‘Jay Leno Show’ premiere a decent first outing

The premiere of “The Jay Leno Show” was pretty much what you’d expect if you ever watched Leno’s “Tonight Show.”
He played it safe, sticking to familiar features like the opening monologue and funny headlines.
Leno’s debut outing was boosted immeasurably by the appearance of Kanye West, a day after his much-talked-about rude behavior at MTV’s Video Music Awards. I wanted to see how West acted and said to counter the criticism he’s receiving. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
Leno pulled a Barbara Walters interview move by almost getting Kanye to tear up by asking what his late mother would have thought of his behavior at the VMAs. Good question, Jay.
Jerry Seinfeld was a good first guest, at one point questioning what Leno’s show was all about. Jay Z and Rhianna provided star power as the show’s first musical guests.
Overall, I’d give the premiere a B- grade. Except for the Kanye West interview, it was overly scripted to avoid mistakes and run smoothly. The comedy was hit and miss, as expected.
As the NBC show settles in, I hope Leno becomes more spontaneous and takes more chances.
Edgy humor is always welcome, such as the dark promo video where Jay and comic Fred Armisen cover up a car accident where they think someone died.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Slim pickings this fall TV premiere season


Thank God for Netflix.
This year’s fall network TV season offers a skimpier selection of interesting new shows than prior years.
I’ve made notes to check out four new shows and only one of them I’m dying to see.
Of the four, one has aired – “Vampire Diaries.” It premiered Thursday on the CW and it was just OK. A little too much “been there, done that” in terms of story. Still it had enough interesting elements to get me to tune in for a couple more episodes. But it will have to improve to keep my interest.
I’ll be checking out “The Jay Leno Show” on Monday, but I don’t think it will be appointment television unless he gets a standout guest. The show runs 10-11 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday on NBC. I’ll probably just watch it every now and then to wind down from the day before going to bed.
Another show I’ll be checking out with low expectations is the remake of sci-fi television show “V.” It’s bound to have better special effects than the campy 1980s original. It premieres Nov. 3 on ABC.
The only new show on my must-see list is ABC’s science-fiction series “FlashForward” from David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga. It premieres Sept. 24. (See preview above.)
As for returning primetime shows, I expect to continue watching “30 Rock,” “Dollhouse,” “House,” and “Supernatural.” Another favorite, “Lost,” won’t return until January.
Now in its final season, “Supernatural” looks to be one of those rare shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Battlestar Galactica” that goes out on top in terms of quality. The fifth season premiere on Thursday was terrific.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pokemon training kids to appreciate dogfights, cockfights



My 6-year-old son is into Pokemon these days. He likes watching Pokemon videos, reading the books and playing with the cards.
Having learned about the Pokemon story, it reminds me a lot of dog fighting or cockfighting.
In the fantasy world of Pokemon, human characters go out and capture wild animals called Pokemon and train them to fight other Pokemon. It’s a respected spectator sport in the Pokemon world.
Swap the Pokemon for pit bulls or roosters and you’ve got an illegal sport (in most places).
I guess it’s OK to make fictional creatures fight each other. Just don’t think too much about it.

Photos:
Top: Human trainers prepare their Pokemon creatures for battle
Center: Dog fighting in Afghanistan. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo for U.S. News & World Report.
Bottom: Cockfighting in the Philippines. Photo by Marco Pereira.

Friday, September 11, 2009

‘The 800-pound gorilla in the room’ is probably more like 400 pounds

While working on a consumer electronics story this week for Investor’s Business Daily, a source described one company as being the “600 pound gorilla” in a certain technology.
I thought the expression was “800 pound gorilla.”
Throughout my career as a business and technology journalist, I’ve heard people bandy about the big gorilla metaphor using various weights for the ape. Some company or other is either the 500-, 600-, 800- or 1,000-pound gorilla
So how much does that proverbial gorilla in the room actually weigh.
It might depend on the expression.
One use of the expression “800-pound gorilla” means a dominant company or entity that seems unbeatable in a certain industry or sphere of activity. For instance: “Microsoft is the 800-pound gorilla in desktop software” or “Google is the 800-pound gorilla in Internet search.”
This is based on an old joke: “Where does the 800-pound gorilla sit?”
Answer: “Anywhere he wants to.”
The other use of the expression is to describe a major concern or sensitive issue that no one wants to discuss. For example, Axa Equitable uses a talking gorilla in its TV ads to discuss life insurance and financial planning with reluctant listeners. “But what do I know? I’m just the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” he says at the end of the ads. (See the commercials here and here.)
In this usage, the 800-pound gorilla is just a substitute for the “elephant in the room.”
But I digress.
The wide range of weights for the metaphorical gorilla is the result of ignorance, some people choosing to be accurate and others wanting to wildly exaggerate.
Adult male gorillas generally weigh in at 310 to 450 pounds. (Adult females average about 220 pounds.) In the wild, occasionally a 500-pound silverback gorilla is recorded. Obese gorillas in captivity have reached 600 pounds, according to Wikipedia.
A Google search reveals that 800-pound gorilla is the most common reference for a company, followed by 1,000-pound gorilla and 600-pound gorilla.
The question of how much the metaphorical gorilla weighs has been around for awhile. The American Journalism Review published an article on the subject called “Honey, I Blew Up the Gorilla” in November 1999. The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the matter in a April 2005 article called “Retirement Is Long Overdue For Some Aging Statistics.”

Illustration by Kern Creative Group of Muncie, Ind.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Best Buy blue shirts could learn a thing or two from waitresses


I recently had a poor shopping experience at the Best Buy store in Norwalk, Conn., that made me realize that Best Buy’s store employees could learn a thing or two from how waitresses operate.
I waited 30 minutes in the computer products department for someone to assist me in buying some wireless networking gear. There were lots of Best Buy workers – “blue shirts” and Geek Squad – walking around but only two were there to help customers in the computer products department apparently.
The one associate I asked to help me kept promising to assist me, but said he had other customers to assist first. He was nice enough but a half hour is too long to wait to pick out a couple of wireless networking items.
It was a Saturday and the store was understaffed in that department for the volume of customers there.
It seemed to me that associates were spending too much time with customers who needed a lot of handholding buying laptop computers.
Now I’m not some computer dummy who needs a lot of help buying tech products. I was simply looking for some new wireless gear using the 802.11n standard. I was upgrading from the older wireless G standard to the new wireless N standard to share a broadband Internet connection with other computers and devices in my house.
Another problem with this particular Best Buy store was that pricing information was missing from the shelves containing the products I was interested in. (Netgear RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Router and Netgear wireless N adapters.)
Buying computer equipment shouldn’t be like buying a car. When you go to an auto dealership, you get one salesman who stays with you the whole time.
Best Buy associates should take their cue from waitresses.
In restaurants, waitresses don’t take orders from one table, come back with the food and settle the bill before moving on to another table. They work multiple tables and customers simultaneously. They keep multiple plates spinning, to use another metaphor.
Best Buy should train their associates to identify customers who are doing research or those who need a lot of assistance from others who are ready to pull the trigger and make a purchase. It’s like triage to use yet another analogy.
When customers are clueless about notebook computers, for example, the sales associate can give them some information to mull over and tell them they’ll be right back after helping someone else. The associate can narrow their selection to a certain class of notebooks (desktop replacements, multimedia and gaming notebooks, value laptops, netbooks, etc.) and then say something like, “Why don’t you think about that for a bit while I help another customer? I’ll be back in a few minutes, OK?”
To use one last analogy, Best Buy blue shirts should be like honeybees, pollinating many plants.

Waitress photo by Candacy Taylor, author of the new book “Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress” (2009). Pictured is Sondra from the Butter Cream Bakery & Diner in Napa, Calif. Visit the Taylor Made website and buy the book at Amazon.com.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple trickles out iPod features just enough to stoke demand

For years, many consumers, including myself, have wanted Apple to put an FM radio tuner in its iPod portable music players.
Today, the company added the feature to just its iPod Nano models. It also added a video camera to the Nano – its mid-range device – but not its high-end iPod Touch.
Apple has been very clever in how it adds features to its iPods.
It didn’t add FM tuners previously because it didn’t have to.
Rival products with FM tuners, such as Microsoft’s Zune, weren’t gaining market share, so Apple wasn’t forced to follow suit. Instead it put that feature on hold until it needed to add new capabilities to stoke demand.
I wanted the FM radio feature for use at the gym. Lifetime Fitness has a bank of TVs tuned to various cable stations and rebroadcasts the audio on the FM band. It’s easier to listen than read closed captions while jogging on a treadmill. I imagine that sports fans also wanted the feature to listen to game coverage.
Apple added a video camera to the iPod Nano to go after the market dominated by Cisco Systems’ popular Flip pocket camcorders. Apple executives compared the new iPod Nano to the Flip at Wednesday’s product launch event in San Francisco. They said the iPod Nano is a better value because it does more and has a larger display.
“They’re really taking on the Flip camcorder which in the past few years has been an impulse Christmas gift for kids and other family members who wanted to keep a quick video camera in their pocket,” Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, told me by phone after the press event.
Curiously Apple did not put the video camera in its high-end iPod Touch. The iPod Touch is essentially an iPhone without a cellular radio. The iPhone also has a camera for still photos and video, but the iPod Touch does not.
Apple has carefully positioned its products at various price points and with different features. It’s looking not only for upgrade business, but the opportunity to sell people more than one type of portable media player.
For example, I have an iPhone and an iPod Shuffle. I use them for different situations.
Apple’s iPod family now includes the iPod Shuffle, starting at $59 ($20 cheaper than before); the iPod Nano, starting at $149; the iPod Touch, starting at $199 ($30 less than before); and the iPod Classic at $249.
“It’s a really solid holiday lineup for them,” Bajarin said.

Photo: Apple’s newest iPod Nano

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

‘At the Movies’: Intelligent film criticism returns to TV

The movie review TV show “At the Movies” returned to form over the weekend with two new hosts – the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips and the New York Times’ A.O. Scott.
I gave up on the show last year when it morphed into “Entertainment Tonight” meets “Crossfire” under new hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz. The two Bens were woefully unqualified.
Disney-ABC’s decision to hire Phillips and Scott was a smart one. Both are funny and intelligent and have impeccable credentials. They know that film criticism is about more than whether a movie is good or bad, but that films are an art form that can make larger statements about society and culture.
Phillips and Scott both guest-hosted the show with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper during its 2006 through 2008 version.
The new hosts are the best pairing since the original team of the Chicago Tribune’s Gene Siskel and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert. Siskel & Ebert were perfectly matched. Siskel was the snooty intellectual and Ebert was the street-smart everyman.
If you missed the premiere episode with Phillips and Scott, their reviews of such movies as “All About Steve” and “Extract” are available online. (Check out the “At the Movies” Web site.)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Top 5 music acts least likely to get their own versions of ‘Guitar Hero’ or ‘Rock Band’

Your plastic guitar controller for “The Beatles: Rock Band” may gently weep when you finally play that video game, which debuts Wednesday. But it would sob uncontrollably if video game publishers made these games below.
Here is a list of music acts least likely to get their own versions of “Guitar Hero” or “Rock Band”:

  1. The Partridge Family – I’m sure band manager Reuben Kincaid has been pestering MTV Games and Activision about the possibility, but they’re not returning his calls.

  2. The Village People – In addition to the instrument controllers, you’d need to buy the super gay costumes – the construction worker, police officer, biker, military man, cowboy and American Indian chief.

  3. Huey Lewis and the News – Only one person would be interested in this karaoke music video game: Patrick Bateman, the character played by Christian Bale in the 2000 movie “American Psycho.”

  4. Culture Club – “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” The answer is the same now as it was in 1982.

  5. Milli Vanilli – Try lip-synching to songs that were lip-synched by the original performers.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

First Lingerie Football League game gives fans a wardrobe malfunction

Just as fans of Nascar watch lap after boring lap of race car driving to witness an occasional wreck, spectators at the first Lingerie Football League game on Friday were hoping one of the beautiful lady players would lose a bra or panties during the action.
They got their wish Friday at the league’s debut game in Chicago.
After one player lost half her uniform, fans called for a “replay,” according to Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper.
Most of the media coverage of the game centered on the uniqueness of the sport, which features bikini-clad women playing seven-on-seven tackle football. The game itself was an afterthought. The Chicago Bliss beat the Miami Caliente 29-19.
From what I can tell, only the Daily Herald covered the game. The Chicago Tribune ran a preview story about the game, but I can find no coverage of the game itself. The Chicago Sun-Times appears to be ignoring the LFL.
The Daily Herald said the Sears Centre arena, which seats 9,500 for indoor football games, was half filled. No attendance figure was publicized.

Update: LFL wardrobe malfunctions continued in 2010. Check them out here and here.

Getty Images photo: Chicago Bliss quarterback Ellie Cartabiano tries to get away from Miami Caliente player Annette Mascaro during the first play of the opening game of the Lingerie Football League in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Digital downloads and streaming could end giant CD and DVD collections

If e-books have the potential to one day replace paper books, then digital downloads and streaming could someday eliminate CDs and DVDs for audio and video.
Many people have already dumped their compact disc collections after ripping their music to their PCs. DVDs could be next and eventually Blu-ray Discs.
If people store their music on PCs, portable music players and in the Internet cloud, they won’t need those massive media storage towers you see for sale in airline catalogs and from specialty stores.
Pictured above is the triple tall media storage tower from StorehouseRock.com for $379.95. It is 76 inches tall and wide and can hold 2,088 CDs or 960 DVDs.
SkyMall boasts a media storage tower that can hold over 2,262 CDs or 936 DVDs for $349.99.
You could buy a lot more digital music and movie downloads with the money saved from not buying big storage racks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Attention Wal-Mart shoppers: People are laughing at you


Discount retail chain Wal-Mart has been the target of critics for years for everything from its impact on small town stores to its labor practices. Now it’s the target of jokesters mocking the shoppers it attracts.
Examples include the Web site People of Walmart, which was launched last month and posts photos of the weird people you see there, and a Wal-Mart bingo game card posted to I Am Bored.
People of Walmart even merited a write-up on Time.com this week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The problem with modern copyright law


Patents and copyrights used to be on an even footing.
Inventors and artists would get equal protection from copycats by registering their works with the government.
Patents and copyrights were designed to give creators the opportunity to make money off their works for a limited period of time. After that period of exclusive rights, the works – inventions and art – would be available to everyone to distribute and improve upon.
The understanding was that governments would spend money to protect those works from illegal copying for a set period in exchange for those works eventually going into the public domain.
Cultures thrive by building on the work of others. This is as true with literature and music as it is with science and technology.
But something bad happened along the way. The system broke down, especially in the U.S.
As corporations began acquiring control over artists’ works, they began pressuring legislators to extend the length of time they could profit off those works.
Design patents last 14 years from the issue date, while utility and plant patents run 20 years. After those terms, others are free to improve upon the invention, such as drugs and computer technology.
Meanwhile, copyrights have gone from being something that allowed artists to earn a living to something that enriches some copyright holders (usually big corporations) practically forever.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of companies like Walt Disney, the U.S. government has trashed the original intent of copyrights.
Originally, copyrights in the U.S. lasted 14 years, with the right to renew for another 14-year term if the copyright holder was still alive.
Now, for works created after Jan. 1, 1978, U.S. copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For works created for hire (such as for Disney), the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication.
The most recent copyright law – the Copyright Extension Act of 1998 – was pejoratively called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act because it prevented the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Steamboat Willie” (1928), from entering the public domain.
The act extended protection for works published before Jan. 1, 1978, by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date.
“Steamboat Willie” has been close to entering the public domain four times. But each time the U.S. Congress has stepped in to extend the copyright terms. The U.S. copyright on “Steamboat Willie” will be in effect through 2023 unless there is another change of the law, according to an entry on the cartoon in Wikipedia.
Mickey Mouse and other characters also have protection under trademarks.
Technology is challenging the practicality of today’s copyright rules like never before. Computers and the Internet have given rise to a vibrant remix culture that flies in the face of copyright.
A good introduction to the problems with modern copyright law is the documentary “Rip! A Remix Manifesto” (2008).
The movie has flaws, but it makes a good case for the need to reform copyright laws. It also demonstrates how society and culture can benefit from the easing of copyright terms.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Google’s book scanning is a public service



Google’s effort to digitize the world’s libraries has been criticized by those who feel it gives too much power to the Internet search giant.
As with many struggles involving digital content, the case pits copyright cops vs. the general public.
Copyright holders wield tremendous power and try to lock down content for as long as possible. Current copyright law is way out of synch with the public good. The public benefits from the free exchange of ideas, intellectual and creative, so copyright laws should be loosened, not strengthened.
Google is digitizing books in the public domain as well as those that are out-of-print but still covered by copyright. Sensing a potential way to make money off older works, publishers and authors are trying to extract more money and control from Google.
The Observer in the U.K. wrote about the dilemma in an Aug. 30 article called “Google’s plan for world's biggest online library: philanthropy or act of piracy?” (Read it here.)
The article quotes James Gleick, an American science writer and member of the Authors Guild. He said he was initially wary of Google’s scanning of in-copyright books, but ultimately decided the company’s proposed settlement was a fair deal for authors.
“The thing that needs to be emphasized is that this so-called market over which Google is being given dominance – the market in out-of-print books – doesn’t currently exist. That’s why they're out of print. In real life, I can’t see what the damage is – it’s only good.”
I agree. It’s not like Google is posting the latest Dan Brown or John Grisham best-sellers. It’s scanning old books that relatively few people are interested in that may turn out to have tremendous value for researchers.
Case in point: In January, I wrote a profile of Benjamin Abrams, who co-founded Emerson Radio & Phonograph Corp. in 1922, for the Leaders & Success section of Investor’s Business Daily. Abrams is a little known, but important, figure in American history because he brought low-cost home radios to the masses starting in 1932.
During my research, I learned that Abrams had written a book in 1943 called “Small Radio: Yesterday and in the World of Tomorrow.” This long-out-of-print, hard-to-find book was available for me to read online thanks to Google and the University of Michigan.
The book is available for anyone to read through the Hathi Trust Digital Library, a shared digital repository. (See the book here.) Two dozen universities nationwide are partners in the Hathi Trust Digital Library.
Abrams’ book proved invaluable in writing my profile. He documented his own experiences bringing small, inexpensive radios to the consumer market. He discussed the obstacles and skepticism he faced and ultimately overcame.
I would not have seen the book if it hadn’t been digitized by Google from an original at the University of Michigan.
So far, Google has scanned more than 10 million books at a cost of more than $300 million, according to Cnet.
I, for one, applaud Google’s efforts and hope its proposed legal settlement with authors is approved.

Photos: Google scans of the book “Small Radio: Yesterday and in the World of Tomorrow” (1943)
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