Posts from July 2002

Grounded: Drudge tells us that

Grounded
: Drudge tells us that airlines are canceling flights on Sept. 11. I wouldn’t fly then. Would you?

But then, I haven’t flown at all since Sept. 11 … and still don’t want to. Seeing a jetliner vaporize before my eyes has something to do with this.

All heart, all the time
: Matthew Yglesias wants to start the 24-hour liberal network. Some would say that’s CNN — but I wouldn’t; lately, it’s just the dull network.

Matthew is right: FoxNews if fun to watch, no matter where you stand. Liberals are missing out on that fun.

I have an even better idea:

Left News/Right News: Every half hour, you switch. For the first 30 minutes, you get the liberals; for the next 30 minutes, you get the conservatives; and on the top of the hour, they spend 5 minutes yelling at each other.

Now that’s entertainment. And it’s balanced.

The Faust Advertising Agency
: Sony is hiring actors to go to hip bars and use the company’s hip new phone (with attached camera) and get into conversations with people … about the phone.

I love this: Human advertising.

No, I really do love it. It’s brilliant.

Some Naderite dork is complaining that this is deceptive advertising. What, as if everything else that happens in a hip bar is not deceptive?

Only in San Francisco (and Australia)
: Mass breastfeeding.

Farewell
: Jim Wood, a San Francisco reporter of legendary status, has died. Jim was kind and wise for me when I was a cub columnist on the old Examiner. He was also a character and looked like one, with a Santa beard and belly.

I’m glad to see that his obituary revives one of the great newsroom stories I know:

Wood was renowed, among other things, for his messy desk. It was forever piled, no stretching of the truth, about two and a half feet high with papers. He had fee-fi-fo-fum fits if anyone dared disturb his anarchic archives. And he always, always insisted that he knew exactly where everything was on that desk and vowed that he could retrieve anything on a moment’s notice and often did. So some wag — a breed resident in every newsroom — decided to test this by burying a dead fish about two feet into the pile and leaving it there. As I recall, it stayed there a few weeks (in the story, legend has amplified this to months) before Jim discovered it. He was not amused. Everyone else was.

More desk stories
: This reminds me of two other desk stories from Chicago Today, the paper that had no tomorrow (as a Washingotn flack said to me when I identified myself as a reporter there a day before the paper died).

There was an odd duck in the newsroom who, like Wood, kept a very messy desk, piled high with paper but who, unlike Wood, was not well liked. He whined. He pouted. He got tough old newsmen pissed at him constantly and finally, one of them had had it: He said the guy’s desk on fire. The reporter was not amused. Everyone else was.

And then there was the story of the editor at the City News Bureau (a kind of Associated Press for murders in Chicago) who was a germ freak. He would come into the office every day, clean off the desk occupied during the previous shift, and then pour lighter fluid on it and set it on fire himself. The germs were not amused.

Chicago newsrooms were odd places.

On my first day at Chicago Today, I made the mistake of going to the men’s room. There, I saw a guy brushing his teeth over the toilet. But that was nothing. A reporter (the messy desk guy) finished relieving himself at the man-only appliance and then took his happy willy to the sink and aggressively washed it. I then understood why the other guy didn’t want to brush his teeth there.

Laws for the lawless heart:

Laws for the lawless heart
: I can’t believe I’m quoting Chuck Colson. But I am:

President Bush said recently, “There is no capitalism without conscience; there is no wealth without character.” Many, including The Post [editorial, July 10] responded that conscience has nothing to do with it. “There’s no harm in this rhetoric,” said The Post, “but it is naive to suppose that business can be regulated by some kind of national honor code.”

Will we never learn? When I was in the White House serving President Nixon, I knew what the law was. I was trained in it. There were plenty of laws on the books forbidding precisely the kind of abuses into which we rationalized ourselves. If I had ever sat down and thought about it, I would have realized that we were backing into a serious conspiracy that could topple a president. By the time I did realize it and warned the president, it was too late.

Watergate did not happen for want of laws. It happened because people cut corners, did what they thought was necessary for the president to survive and covered up their own misdeeds while rationalizing it all as being in the interest of the country. Is anyone so naive as to think laws could have changed this?…

What fools we are when we think we can legislate away human immorality. We certainly need laws, but I stand as living proof that the cure comes not from laws and statutes but from the transforming of the human heart — the embracing of a moral code to which conscience is bound. The real hope for corporate America lies in cultivating conscience, a disposition to know and do what is right. And yet I have surveyed business school curricula and find that hardly any teach ethics.

Ah, but then you’ve defined what the law really is:

The law is our only protection from immorality when morality fails us.

Morality and ethics and good sense and even enlightened self-interest failed the CEOs of the lying companies that stole our money and our future value. But then, like any criminal, they simply thought they wouldn’t get caught. But the failure is not the law’s. The failure is their’s.

What Colson cannot count is how many bad deeds are stopped first by morality and then by the law. Just because they sometimes fail, that does not mean we do not need them. We need the laws and their enforcers apparently more than ever.

But he’s also right: We need ethical education more than ever as well. Here’s for the start of business-school and law-school courses called “Right v. Wrong.”

Bruuuuce
: WIth some personal pride, I point you to the NJ.com Springsteen forum today, the day when Bruuuuuce performed live on the Today show from Asbury Park. Just take a look at the posts appearing there today. Blog o’ the people.

A guy writes about going to his Tower Records last night:

last night I called them at 10..to see how late they were open..teenage girl who answers says “Till Midnight”..so I say “does that mean I can or can’t get a new release?”…she says..”not till 10am when we re-open”…I say “damn…no Springsteen till 10am”…she says “oh, no.,..that guy we put on the shelves already cause there’s 50 guys here that were gonna cry if we didn’t”…I say – nuthin…was already on my way there…scored the special book version…and hugged a bunch of strangers…

: Now it’s Jersey blasphemy to say this… it’s cause for deportation to Indiana… it’s a sin but I have to say it: I never got Springsteen. Some of this songs are good; some have to be. But mostly, he would turn a trip to a 7-11 into a droning ballad that sounds like all his other droning ballads.

Queen of the news babes:

Queen of the news babes
: If you really want to see news babe mania (see earlier post below), try Googling Soledad O’Brien. Major lonely-guy-fan-club-stuff on her. There’s a site filled with pictures and stories here; an allegedly official Soledad Fan Club site here; the chance to hire her for a speech (for $10-20K) here; her own Yahoo category here; her official NBC bio here; photos here; and much more. I like her, too but…

: I’m vindicated. The very reputable Doc Searls appreciates the news babes.

Life candy
: Go see this post from Nick Denton. Or I’ll save you the trip and tell you the story now that he has told it first: He and I were sitting at the same long board meeting on Friday when a geek executive, trying to move off a dead-horse subject, told the group: “Let’s couch that.” Nick misheard that; he thought the guy said, “Let’s cache that.” And Nick quite liked that: It was the perfect geek way to say, “let’s save that.” Add it to the argot.

But that’s not the point of my telling the story.

As soon as this happened, Nick and I stared at each other with the exact same thought: Blog story! You could see in the twinkle in our eyes that we were each writing the post in our heads; if we’d had Wifi access to the Internet, we’d have raced to post it for real. We didn’t even have to say anything; we knew what we were thinking. We were in competition for this little slice of life to put on our blogs. But I nodded my head in deference, giving the point and the post to Nick, since he was the one who, through his reverse, aural malaprop, had misheard what was said and inadvertently invented a new saying. He won.

And that’s still not the point of my story.

This is the point: Bloggers live for those moments of real life to blog. We collect them: the small, cockeyed, fresh observation; the allegedly new thought or profound analysis; the very bon mot. It’s either a form of generosity or ego — I’ve never decided which — that drives us to share such life candy with our audience.

It reminds me of my days as a columnist. I was forever trolling for real life to write about. And sometimes, it got me in trouble. I got in hugely hot water one day when I quoted a friend of mine about a movie party we’d gone to; she was mad because her boyfriend didn’t know she was at the movie (with me) and he was none too happy reading it in the paper. Lesson learned.

One has to be careful.

I long ago learned not to blog family (I’ve actually asked my kid’s permission when I’ve done it).

I can imagine Lileks’ incredibly cute kid in years hence whining, “Daddy, don’t you dare blog that!”

Or she’ll just start a blog of her own and they’ll race for the post.

Two words…
: … for Nick Denton: cable modem.

DSL is dead tech.

Shame on me
: Shame on me for even finding this. More shame for passing it on: A page devoted to Fox news babes.

Catherine Herridge is my favorite because, well, I’m a classy guy (she went to Harvard and she’s not one of the Fox blonde bombasts).

Whew
: That asteroid won’t hit us afterall. We’re on a winning streak: Miners OK. No asteroid. Maybe the stock market will go up now.

Update: Good news, too, travels in threes. Dow up almost 450.

The miners: The story of

The miners
: The story of the miraculous Pennsylvania miners is, of course, precisely what America needed now: good news, a happy ending.

I listened to one of them, Blaine Mayhough, talk tonight about how he asked his boss for a pen to write a farewell to his wife and children in case he did not make it. He thought about leaving them alone.

I thought about the same things in a few dark moments on September 11 but I am grateful I did not have to live with those thoughts for three long, dark, cold days.

Too many lived with those thoughts in the towers but they did not return to their families.

The people on the jet that crashed not very far at all from this mine on September 11 lived with those thoughts but saved other lives instead of their own.

These men came home. Their fears were erased. God bless the miners and their happy ending.

Nonnews
: The Pope is such nonnews. He says only the obvious. He is never questioned. No other religious leader gets this kind of coverage. No other major news figure gets by without ever being questioned. And now, especially, there are lots of questions for the guy. This is kneejerk coverage. It is dutiful without judgment. It is unwarranted.

Uncool
: When I was young, Nehru jackets were cool (OK, I’m dating myself big time). My parents wouldn’t let me get one. Finally, Johnny Carson wore won. Then my parents decided I could have one. But, of course, they didn’t get it: Now I didn’t want one. The cool was now common. The cool was uncool.

So, bloggers, are you ready to become common? Self-confessed old fart William Saffire discovers the word blog today. We’ve all been saying we want to join the mainstream, the big time. But are you truly ready? For the mainstream is by definition, no longer cool. And bloggers love being cool.

If they can’t carry a balance, can they carry a tune?
: Thanks to Boing Boing, here are the top 20 corporate anthems.

From Price Waterhouse Coopers:

United we are moving

In unity we stand

Price Waterhouse Coopers

Sounding like a band

We don’t sell no dogma

What we got is skill

Price Waterhouse Coopers

For each and every client will.

Maybe they should all try making money and doing their jobs instead of singing, eh

I used to have a corporate anthem when I was kitchen manager at Ponderosa Steak House:

If you like your steak,

Give your appetite a break.

Get your steak at the

Ponderosa Steak House!

Rocky road: NBC made the

Rocky road
: NBC made the bone-headed decision tonight to air Daylight, a flick about a horrendous explosion in one of the tunnels between New York and New Jersey in which Sylvester Stallone rescues a hearty band of survivors.

Now I’m not trying to act oversensitive; this is not one of those PC wrist-slaps about how this might offend people.

I’m only offended by Stallone’s acting in the thing. Everyone’s acting in the thing. It’s a bad flick.

But why go out of your way to show such a bad flick that happens to be about most every New Yorker’s worst fear, worst phobia, worst nightmare, especially now: What if they try to bomb a tunnel?

On top of that, it ends with a long shot of the World Trade Center.

If there were a booby prize at the Emmys….

Blog shutdown: So many bloggers

Blog shutdown
: So many bloggers are taking time off about now, I think we should declare the official Blog Shutdown every July. France shuts down in August. We shut down in July. All in favor, say “aye” — as soon as you return.

(Actually, this is just me trying to assuage my guilt for taking off a week and then paying too little attention to this, my digital mistress.)

Hey, Queenie
: Brit TV executive gooses the Queen.

F’ing flattery
: A colleague points me to this on F’d company:

Rumor has it FC’s namesake, Fast Company, are totally redesigning their magazine with new layout and a new LOGO, starting with their September issue. I hear from a few people on the inside that their new logo looks almost identical to F…company’s current logo, which, ironically, used to be a ripoff of Fast Company’s logo (which they made me change…) maybe i’ll send them a nasty letter.. har har. UPDATE: Here’s an official mockup of their upcoming December, 2002 issue, with new logo & design.

So F’d Company mocked Fast Company’s logo; Fast Company made them stop and redesign; F’d Company redesigned; now Fast Company is redesigning and copying the F’d Company logo. Got that?

If nothing else, this Internet thing is good for a laugh.

Andy, we hardly knew ye
: I’m not the only one. I confessed to fellow bloggers last night that I’ve pretty much stopped reading Andrew Sullivan and others nodded. Why? He’s just so two-note.

WeBlog, You Blog, We All Blog…
: A free, preview chapter from WeBlog, the much-anticipated book from Meg Hourihan et al, is now online here.

Evil bike riders
: I admit it. I’m prejudiced. I’m a bike bigot. I hate bike riders.

Not kids on bike. Not dumpy guys in shorts on bikes. Not moms on bikes.

I can’t stand the show-off dorks in their too-tight Spiderman outfits and padded codpieces who hog the road as if they think it was built for them.

I live in a hilly area with lots of trees and streets that used to be country roads (but they’re busier now; my town is a suburb in rural drag). Bikers love it there. They invade in packs. They take over the roads. It’s bad enough having to slow down to a crawl behind them, since they refuse to move to the right.

The other day, I was coming up a steep hill and coming my way were bikers taking over both lanes, heading straight for me. And they give me dirty looks as if I am taking up space on their road.

What frigging dorks they are. Dangerous. Deluded. Dorks in Spandex.

When I’m out running (hey, that’s real exercise — no wheels, no gears, no tailwinds, just sweat) I invariably run into bikers. I say, “Good morning,” and give a little wave. They act as if they’re concentrating too hard on setting the land-speed record to be able to be polite and say, “Hi,” in return.

Rude dorks.

Rude impotent dorks in ugly Spiderman Spandex.

Phat
: Will Warren on doctors’ confusion on fat:

Now I

Hmmmm: So let’s get this

Hmmmm
: So let’s get this straight:

I can start a blog and run it for free from Blogger.

Or I can pay the ever-struggling Salon to host my weblog for $40 a year and hope they stay in business for that long.

Hmmm.

What I would do with

What I would do with AOL
: Well, they are looking for a new president.

The old Pittman strategy was to keep charging customers more and more for cable, the Internet, high-speed, content, services, music, movies, anything that AOL Time Warner owned and that AOL could send over a wire. I heard him add all this up during one of those industry-time-waster convention keynotes and it didn’t take long before he was heading north of $100 and well into the low-three-figures a month. PowerPoint fiction. Fat chance.

The truth is that AOL is under tremendous competitive pressure from cable Internet access providers who give you access to the Internet and speed, which is all that most people want. At the same time, AOL has not given its customers anything new and innovative in its product in how long? And the company is renowned for horrendous customer service. Meanwhile, advertising is flaccid for everybody but especially for AOL, since it did not perform well too many times. And as AOL grows and as it loses customers (“churn” is the euphemism), it only finds that new and replacement customers are harder — and more expensive — to attract.

What to do?

Well here’s what not to do: AOL does not want to find itself primarily in the access business. Access is a commodity. And AOL does not want to find itself primarily in the advertising-supported content business; that’s tough rowing.

But AOL stands in a unique position online to have a billing relationship with more consumers than anyone else. That means that AOL is in the best position to sell people content — whether that’s content from its alleged (read: fictional) synergy in Time Warner or just content from producers who want to sell it.

AOL also stands in a strong position to be able to target advertising to consumers because it knows more about those consumers thanks to that billing relationship (with all due caution about privacy).

So here’s what to do:

1. Add irresistable improvements to its core killer aps. Microsoft now has a better instant messenger product than AOL and, yes, AOL can lose that market (just as it lost the browser war). AOL should invent the best email around (many of us started on its email and abandoned it). Care about your customers; give them new value; innovate still.

2. Make it a strategic goal to develop a billing relationship with as many people as possible. This means you don’t just sell the all-in-one AOL subscription. You sell deluxe email. You sell music, whether or not you subscribe to AOL. You sell others’ premium content. You sell subscriptions not only to Time Inc. magazines but to any magazines. You sell anything you can sell.

3. Develop friendly relations with content producers, especially outside the synergy fence, and sell their content and products.

4. Develop targeted advertising that actually performs for advertisers but don’t count on that soley.

5. Account honestly.

I was against the AOL/Time-Warner merger from the first. With AOL, Time Warner was doing nothing but buying — well, being bought by — the online strategy it was incapable of building itself. That’s the way Time Inc. has acted for years. When I was there, they got scared that Chris Whittle’s waiting-room-magazine company was going to kill their waiting-room audience and so they invested many millions in Whittle — and soon kissed that money good-bye. Then they needed an aggressive entertainment strategy and they offered themselves up to be were bought by Warner; I was there then (launching Entertainment Weekly) and I can attest that they never learned how to spell synergy. Then they failed frequently at finding an online future (remember Pathfinder?) and so they let themselves be eaten by AOL. Anybody could see that AOL was a bubble waiting to be pricked, anybody but Time Warner.

But they’re stuck with AOL now and they need to make the best of this.

So do what Ken Layne suggests, below, and then bring in a new guard with a new strategy.

I want to see this because (1) I still own damned, f’ing, cursed AOL stock (yes, I’m an idiot), (2) because AOL does have a huge number of customers it brings online and I want them to stay online, (3) because AOL can help sell content and I’m a content guy, and (4) because somebody should compete with Microsoft.

What he said
: Ken Layne says: :

Please, Time-Warner, fire Steve Case. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all, but Steve Case is the Internet Bubble in semi-human form.

: Saltire has the essential AOL/TW facts and figures.