Saturday, May 28, 2011

Remembering Cary Grant

Jennifer Grant, daughter of actor Cary Grant and actress Dyan Cannon, recently published a book about her father and growing up with the Hollywood elite. The book is titled "Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant."
As a movie buff, I am a fan of Grant's work, especially his films with Alfred Hitchcock and his screwball comedies.
I had a ticket to see him discuss his career at an event in Davenport, Iowa, on Nov. 29, 1986, the night he died. At the time, I was working as a newspaper reporter in the Quad-Cities, a metropolitan region on the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois.
I went to the Adler Theater with some friends from the paper and we were informed that the show had been cancelled because Grant had taken ill. Disappointed, we went to a bar and got hammered.
The next day was a Sunday, a day off, but I was called in to work because Grant had died. A team of us worked to trace his final hours in our region.
I got a refund for my ticket ($25), but someone posted a photo of their tickets on the Internet.
I recently scanned our coverage of Grant's death in the Daily Dispatch of Moline, Ill., and sister paper the Rock Island Argus. You can see them on Twitpic here, here and here.


Cary Grant's Daughter Pens Memoir of Her Legendary Father (People; April 26, 2011)

Cary Grant: Debonair dad (CBS News; May 1, 2011)

Cary Grant Dies (Quad-City Times via

Cary Grant's Death (Alan Light via

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hoping for the safe return of Timmothy Pitzen

Six-year-old Timmothy Pitzen of Aurora, Ill., has been missing for almost two weeks. What happened to him remains a mystery.
His mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, 43, committed suicide after checking in alone to a Rockford, Ill., motel on Friday May 13. Her body was found the next day along with a note saying that her son was fine and she had left him in the care of unnamed individuals.
Fry-Pitzen had been traveling with her son around suburban Chicago and southern Wisconsin for two days before his disappearance. Her husband, James Pitzen, says he has no idea why his wife checked their son out of school early on Wed. May 11 and took a road trip to Brookfield Zoo and two indoor amusement and water parks.
I’m hoping for Timmothy’s safe return to his father, but am preparing for the worst. I’ve seen enough of these sorts of cases in the news to know how they usually turn out. But occasionally there’s a case like that of Elizabeth Smart that gives you hope for the best.
I knew Amy when she was a girl. She lived one house over from mine in Libertyville, Ill. I was friends with her brother Bryan from grade school through high school, but we grew apart after I went off to college. Amy was a sweet kid, six years younger than me and the same age as my youngest sister.
It’s tragic what happened to her. But I pray that the tragedy stops there and Timmothy is found safe and sound.

Photo: Amy Fry-Pitzen (right) and her son Timmothy (correct spelling)

News articles about the case:

Video Shows Missing Boy, Mother Together (NBC Chicago; May 25, 2011)

The haunting last images of Timmothy Pitzen (U.K. Daily Mail; May 26, 2011)

Timmothy Fry-Pitzen Still Missing (HuffPost Chicago; May 25, 2011)

Aurora police plan next steps in search for missing boy (Chicago Tribune; May 25, 2011)

Family mourns mother in closed service (The Beacon-News; May 21, 2011)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Online news creating a generation of headline skimmers, future Anthony Crispinos

The online news age has created a generation of headline skimmers and summary readers.
A great many readers are satisfied getting the news by reading headlines in Google News or article summaries from aggregators like the Huffington Post.
HuffPo and others may include weblinks to the original articles they’re summarizing, but relatively few people click through because they’ve already gotten the gist of the story.
In the worst case scenario of people getting their news just from headlines, we could end up with a misinformed populous like the “Saturday Night Live” character of Anthony Crispino, the Second Hand News correspondent on Weekend Update. Crispino is played by comic actor Bobby Moynihan.
A report last year revealed that 44% of visitors to Google News scan headlines without clicking through to access newspapers’ individual sites, according to TechCrunch.
And a new research report claims that people reading news on an iPad are more likely to skim over articles than they would be if they read newspapers, according to Business Insider.
That's why I summed up my post in the headline above. I figured most people wouldn't get this far.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

News aggregators aren’t exactly raking it in

Newspapers and other traditional news organizations have struggled to monetize their content online.
But aggregators like the Huffington Post have profited from that content.
They’re not making a whole lot from leveraging the content of others, but their overhead is lower and profitability is easier to reach.
The problem with the transition from a traditional news product, like a newspaper or magazine, to an online version is that advertisers pay much less for online ads. So analog dollars get converted to digital pennies, as former NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker famously said.
But when an aggregator cherry-picks the best parts of someone else’s article, it can get by with less ad revenue because it isn’t paying the salary of the writer or writers who researched and wrote the original article.
The Huffington Post, purchased by AOL in March for $315 million, is expected to generate $50 million in revenue, with a profit margin of 30%, according to the Associated Press. That works out to $15 million in profits.
That’s a pittance compared with what news organizations like the New York Times and Gannett spend on original reporting each year. No wonder New York Times executive editor Bill Keller is peeved at HuffPo. Keller slammed HuffPo in an article titled “All the Aggregation That’s Fit to Aggregate.” HuffPo co-founder and editor-in-chief Ariana Huffington quickly responded with some choice words of her own for Keller.
Last year, HuffPo posted its first annual profit since its founding in 2005, Bloomberg reported. It reported sales of $30 million.
The Huffington Post has been adding more original reporting, but still gets a large share of its articles by summarizing news from other publications, including the New York Times.
Another prominent aggregator, Business Insider, recently revealed that it generated $4.8 million in sales last year and a profit of $2,127.
Aggregators can do what they do because of fair use, a legal provision that allows people to use snippets of news stories and video for purposes of commentary, criticism and education. How much of the source material can used is a gray area.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Warner Bros. finally releases ‘Harry O’ TV pilot from its vaults

One of the failed promises of digital content has been the fact that so many old movies and TV shows might never get released in digital form.
If studios don’t think there’s a return on investment, they won’t put forth the effort to digitize and spruce up those older works. The same holds for new TV shows canceled after one season or less.
But this week, Warner Bros. started selling one of two TV pilots for the acclaimed TV series “Harry O” online through its manufacture-on-demand DVD business.
As a fan of the show, I ordered a DVD of the television movie “Smile, Jenny, You’re Dead” (1974) for $19.95. It stars David Janssen (“The Fugitive”) as private detective Harry Orwell. (See article on
The fact that the movie featured a young Jodie Foster probably helped get the movie released.
I can only hope that Warner will soon release the original pilot, called “Such Dust as Dreams Are Made On” (1974), and the TV series “Harry O” (1974-76), which lasted for two seasons on ABC.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My first tick of the season

Spring has officially sprung in Connecticut. The telltale sign? I've killed my first tick of the season.
Connecticut is overrun with ticks. Lyme Disease, one of the illnesses ticks can transmit, takes its name from Lyme, Conn., where some of the first cases of the disease were documented.
On Friday night, I was sitting at my desk in my home in New Canaan, Conn., when I felt something tickle my ear. I brushed my ear and a tick fell off and landed on my desk. I promptly killed it with a screwdriver.
I didn't go crawling through the brush that day or do anything really outdoorsy. I walked around the yard with my kids a bit. That's it. The tick must have attached to my shoe and climbed up my clothes until he reached my head.
Nasty bugger.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Norton Power Eraser solves my pesky Web browser hijack problem

For a week I struggled with a nasty computer virus that played havoc with my PC.
I tried lots of different anti-malware products but nothing could clean the virus from my computer. The anti-virus and anti-spyware products would say they had removed the offending software, but after a reboot it would appear again. Crafty little bugger.
The virus buried itself deep into my Windows XP operating system to the point that I was getting the blue screen of death. I hadn’t experienced that kind of system crash in a while.
The malware hijacked my Web browsers – Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox. If I conducted a search in my Google and Yahoo browser toolbars it would take me to unwanted websites. (Examples: Mind Quiz, Pure Crush, HealthiNation, Scour, Fresh Deals, adBrite, etc.) Sometimes it just launched those spam websites on its own. It also wouldn’t let me open new browser tabs.
The virus disabled other functions on my PC and I kept getting an error message that read, “Generic Host Process for Win32 Services has encountered a problem and needs to close.”
Plus, my infected computer would hang and eventually crash in programs like Word and Outlook.
Actually it was more than one virus. It included Trojans (Win32/Renos.LX, DOS/Alureon.A and Hiloti) and hijacks (Click.GiftLoad, etc.)
I ran anti-malware tools from CyberDefender and McAfee, but they were worthless against this threat.
Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware and Spybot Search & Destroy did a good job identifying the problems, but couldn’t do the deep scrub necessary to remove my malware.
Then I tried Norton Power Eraser from Symantec. Available as a free download, Norton Power Eraser boasts that it “eliminates deeply embedded and difficult to remove crimeware that traditional virus scanning doesn't always detect.”
That’s an accurate description.
I ran it and it cleaned my PC of the malware and my problems. (For good measure, I ran Malwarebytes and Spybot afterward.)
Thanks, Symantec.

Monday, May 2, 2011

At HuffPo, you can ‘like’ the royal wedding coverage, but can’t ‘like’ Bin Laden’s death

Come on, Huffington Post, just switch to a Facebook "Recommend" button for all your news and opinion articles. That way you won't have to make editorial judgments about which stories can carry a Facebook "Like" button and which a "Recommend" button.
It's getting a little bit absurd.
Today you can share stories about the royal wedding of William and Kate with the Facebook Like button. But you can't "Like" stories on the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Those carry a "Recommend" button. (See photo above.)
AOL's HuffPo should change that.