Saturday, September 27, 2008
It's only a matter of time before United and Southwest require their passengers to do the same.
The current issue of FORTUNE magazine celebrates the humble salesman. It is full of advice for making and closing sales, such as this one by a sales psychologist who describes sales slip-ups. The recurring refrain is that successful selling depends on getting inside the potential customer's head -- feeling his pain, knowing his needs, irritating him as little as possible (while staying within his radar), and giving him something extra whenever feasible. This last piece of advice seems counter to the entire idea of schnorring.
Yet my dad's recent blog post , in which he describes a schnorrer of his aquaintance -- an itinerant fund raiser for Jewish causes -- shows that this particular schnorrer had mastered the empathy essential to successful sales:
I remember him calling on my father and he or his predecessor probably called on
my grandfather so as soon as I finished my phone call or the paperwork in front
of me I would reach into my desk for a checkbook.
One year instead of
reaching for the check book I turned to him and said, "I am sorry. We have had a
really lousy year I'd like to skip the donation this year."
He fixed his
gaze on me and responded, "So you had a lousy year. How did it feel?"
Well it was depressing and I had to tell the family to cut back on extra
"So why would you do that to me?"
He left with a
In fact, the number of women who dress in costume at Comic-con was so large last year that a British professional photographer has filled a 192-page book with photos taken just at that convention.
The book is sprinkled with quotes from the cosplayers, setting forth the reasons they dress up. For some, it's grown-up Halloween; for others, it's a social experience; and for others, an escape from complicated everyday life by becoming a character in a simple saga of good against evil.
Somewhat inevitably, there are at least two women depicted in the book whom we know.
The photographer and his collaborater should be credited with not limiting the book to cosplayers with supermodel bodies (although there are some).
There are some interesting trends. Princess Leia is a popular choice, particular in her slave/harem costume from RETURN OF THE JEDI -- a costume that requires a certain attitude, a certain confidence, a certain amount of fixative, and a certain amount of sunblock. There are several dressed as Wonder Woman, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the costume. A surprising number of women dress as Power Girl, the DC superheroine who wears a longsleeve top with a keyhole chest. And race is no barrier to portraying characters; one set of photos shows a white Storm next to an African-American Poison Ivy.
The book is available in the US as an import at specialty shops, or by mail order.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Three words, one syllable each. Just like "In Cold Blood." But with a parent added.
From my cousin, Burl Barer. It goes on sale next month. Look for it at a bookstore, newstand, or CVS Pharmacy near you.
Watch at your own peril. And don't do drugs, kids.
That this was done by Hanna-Barbera -- with hints of the sugar-cereal style they were using for shows like JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS -- just makes it all the creepier.
The PSAs of my youth have been turning up on YouTube. Here's a terrific one that started in the mid-sixties, and kept running into the early seventies.
In Communications 101, Professor Jeffrey Cole taught that in the '60's the FCC required anti-smoking PSAs to be run in the same proportion as the cigarette commercials stations were running. Then came the ban on cigarette advertising on TV. Who was behind the ban? Big Tobacco -- those PSAs were eating into its bottom line.
This is an example of an animated PSA. The animated ones were often more powerful, mainly because they were surreal and more chaotic. Here's a particularly effective one featuring that scourge of the old west, Johnny Smoke:
And on a lighter note, here's an anti-littering ad I saw a lot in the seventies:
There's a longer version which I rarely saw.
And speaking of anti-litter commercials, here's the all-time classic, with Iron Eyes Cody:
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Hope she gets a nice royalty for that.
The movie is truly Harris's baby. He directed it (earnestly and without a hint of subtlety), co-wrote the script, and even sang the closing theme, an unbelievably campy ballad.
The film follows the spirit of last year's 3:10 TO YUMA remake by presenting a traditional, undeconstructed western flick, although APPALOOSA is, er, a horse of a different color. The storyline is unremittingly straightforward; like the train that conveys its characters around the scrubby landscape, it follows its rail with nary a twist or hairpin turn. It's entertaining in its way, with the pretty photography that make westerns such a pleasure on the big screen, and some witty exchanges between lawmen-for-hire Mortensen and Harris. (Plus, it has Timothy Spall, who seems to be in every movie we see -- his role as Wormtail in the Harry Potter movies have apparently made him the go-to guy for servile characters in American movies).
The theme of the story is also a traditional one of the western flick: That the platonic love between two male friends is far purer and more dependable than any relationship with any woman -- particularly (spoiler warning) the two women in this film, who seem to be only women (other than servants or background elements) in the entire west. Or, as a later generation would crudely put it, "Bros before hos." (Again, appropriate for the female characters in this flick.)
Saturday, September 20, 2008
(Small spoiler warning):
Now, after decades of reading comics, I can suspend my disbelief enough to accept a Martian Manhunter flying the dying Kent into outer space so that the yell0w-sun radiation infusion will heal Kent's wounds and restore his powers. I can even overlook the omission of how the MM got Clark back to Earth, since MM states that the experience wiped out his powers.
But what I can't accept is that a Major Metropolitan Newspaper would hire Kent -- a college dropout whose sole journalistic experience is writing for his high school newspaper, and who has never shown any talent at reading a newspaper, let alone writing for one -- as a full-fledged reporter right out of the box.
I suspect the 1,100 folks that the L.A. Times laid off have a bit more qualification for the job.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Now there's something you don't see every day, Chauncey . . . .
Sunday, September 14, 2008
It deserves its status as a classic, but it left me with three questions:
1. Was there any purpose for the crawl at the beginning of the film, which tells the background story of the Falcon? Sidney Greenstreet conveys the very same information -- better -- in the middle of the film; and we really don't need it before then to understand the story.
2. Elisha Cook, Jr. may be one of the best character actors of 20th century film, but did anyone expect us to buy that he's a "kid" who looks about 20, as the folks in the film describe his character, Wilmer? Cook was 37 or 38 when the film was made, and looks it.
3. Since the John Huston version of this film was the third movie adaptation of the novel, has anyone ever thought of making another remake, this one actually depicting the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK backstory in Europe that the characters simply describe via exposition?
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Today I brought it to the "Genius Bar" of the Century City Apple Store (right after I donated blood, thereby hopefully making a deposit in my karma account). After I waited about a half hour past my appointment time, the genius who waited on me confirmed that the hard drive was fried. He gave me the choice of paying $59 for a refurbished iPod of the same model (with no guarantee of how long that one would last, past the 90 day warranty), or 10% off a new iPod. I chose the latter; but alas the store did not have the 16 gig Nano in stock yet. The store employee who informed me apologized that I would be without music until it came into stock. I suppose I'll just have to follow the music within.
It truly showed one of the dark sides of the Sixties scene in San Francisco. (When I was living there in the Eighties, the darkness lingered.)
Friday, September 12, 2008
According to this story in the L.A. Times' "Hero Complex" blog, DC Comics is recalling the latest issue of the Frank Miller written, Jim Lee drawn comics miniseries "All Star Batman and Robin." Not because it's overripe and laughably over the top; every issue of the miniseries is. Not because it's late; the series still hasn't matched the one-year gap between the release of two issues. No, it's because of a printer error that allowed some not-very-nice words to leak out.
Turns out Miller puts blacked-out cuss words on the page and then covers them with black bars. He actually puts the curses on the page so that the black bar will be the right size. Problem is, due to a printer's error the black wasn't opaque, so the words, er, bled through. Here's an example.
That certainly isn't the worst printing error in the history of comics. The former tradition of bad reproduction in comics (which has largely disappeared with the recent upgrade in printing, intended to make you forget the hideous price for the publications) would often make letters in word balloons run together in entirely Comics Code unfriendly ways. Comics writers learned to avoid words like "flick."
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
The wi-fi situation was odd when I visited there today. The cafe had a password protected wireless network. When I asked the lady behind the counter for the password, she checked with several employees before one (the manager?) came over and advised me to use the non-password-protected network for the restaurant next door.
I sat at the cafe working from about 1:30 to 4:00. After the lunch crowd faded I was the only customer there. The staff had no problem with me sitting there for a couple of hours hunched over a laptop and taking calls.
This place is a boon to attorneys and other folks who have business at the RRSOB.
We spent Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas, primarily for the Anime Vegas convention. The con was held at the Renaissance Hotel, which had three distinctive features: (1) a renowned steakhouse restaurant (at which we had a couple of wonderful meals, none of which consisted of steak); (2) a location across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center, and thus mere yards from a monorail station (the Vegas monorail is a terrific way to navigate the Strip; I was surprised to find it so underused during the holiday weekend); and (3) it is bereft of both gambling machines and smoking -- in a town where every convenience store and port-a-pottie has a slot machine.
Although there were some fun events at the convention -- and it's always great to see our friends there -- I found the crowds loud, young, and on frequent occasions obnoxious. That is part of the culture of the convention, I believe; it skews young and out of control.
It being Vegas, we did not spend all of our time at the con. We hit the MGM Grand (renowned for its pool party scene -- which we could see because of the folks who padded through the opulent corridors of the hotel clad only in swimsuits), New York New York (Amy and our friends went on the roller coaster -- twice -- whilst I held everyone's belongings), Toby Keith's restaurant (which featured not only deep-fried Snickers bars and Twinkies, but also a "miracle meatloaf" sandwich of meatloaf and Miracle Whip between two slices of white bread -- if I had ordered it, I probably would have lost my entire ethnic identity in two bites), and, in particular, the Hilton.
This was a sadly historical weekend for the Hilton, because a part of it was going away on Labor Day. Specifically, Star Trek: The Experience -- which had occupied a chunk of the Hilton for ten years -- failed to come to a deal on its lease, and so was closing down.
STTE's disappearance will leave an Enterprise-sized hole in the Vegas scene. Not only was the attraction an Erewhon for both casual and die-hard Trek fans, with its gift shops, motion rides, and Quark's Bar, but it became part of the Hilton's identity. Tourist maps of the Strip feature a big Federation insignia over the Hilton; the hotel has an entire space-themed bar built around the entrance; and even the corny canned jokes played over the monorail PA when the train hits the Hilton station revolve around Star Trek.
We didn't pay to go on the rides (we did that two years ago); but we did stop into Quark's Bar one night and had two of the outrageous cocktails on the menu (Amy had Deanna Troi's Chocolate Obsession; I had the Tamarian Frost). That gave us a chance to gaze upward at the huge starship models hanging from the ceiling, green laser beams occasionally shooting from them.
An air of melancholy rememberance filled the air at the attraction, as if it were already gone and the visitors were attending a wake. Fans from all over the country came in Star Trek costumes and posed with visitors. (A Worf from Texas hammed it up; when someone wanted a picture with him, he yelled at those in the way, "Move, or die where you stand!") Saddest of all was a wall plastered with letters and drawings pleading with the attraction owners not to close the place down. Eight year olds scrawled letters telling the owners how sad their dads would be about losing The Experience; and a kid drew a sketch of a Klingon, dagger clutched like a cigar, saying "Today is a good day to die!"
Was September 1st a good day for The Experience to die? At least the fans who visited can attest that, for ten years, it truly lived.
Monday, September 08, 2008
The judge who heard the case awarded Rowling a permanent injunction against the Lexicon's release; and a total of $6,750 in damages -- which likely does not cover Potter's plane fare for traveling to the U.S. to testify.
The suit illustrates the tightrope fan writers walk when they put out material like this. If the owner of the rights to whatever the fan is writing about is okay with the fan's work, or at least does not object, all is good. But if a fan goes against the creator's wishes (which sounds to me like an odd way to express appreciation for the creator of the property you admire so much you're writing about it), the fan is walking on hazardous territory.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
"The Mangler" must be one of the most bizarre and gory toys marketed to young'uns in the last 40 years. It consisted of a lime green vehicle with a huge spike-toothed maw in the front and a set of rollers in the back. The premise was that it would swallow up super-hero or super-villian action figures, "mangle" them in its mouth, and, er, excrete their crushed bodies.
The toy came with Spider-Man and Green Goblin action figures, including a flattened cardboard Goblin. The box art featured Spidey punching the Goblin into the Mangler's mouth, and the Goblin's corpse shooting out the back as Spidey -- looking rather ill -- notes, "Flat as a green pancake!"
I suspect this would have given me nightmares as a tyke.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
A Maryland appellate court judge recently made headlines by citing a scene from the "Seinfeld" sitcom as an example of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. That brought to my mind the monologue Seinfeld did at the beginning of one of his episodes about lawyers -- one that I still think of when I make objections to evidence:
What are lawyers really ? To me a lawyer is basically the person that knows the rules of the country. We're all throwing the dice, playing the game, moving our pieces around the board, but if there's a problem, the lawyer is the only person that has actually read the inside of the top of the box. I think probably the most fun thing a lawyer can do is say, "Objection". "Objection! Objection, Your Honor!" Objection, of course, is the adult version of " 'fraid not!" To which the judge can say two things. He can say, "Overruled", which is the adult version
of " 'fraid so". Or he can say "Sustained", which is the adult version of "Duh."
The impetus was a flood of extracurricular writing assignments. In July and Auguust I performed my annual update of the CEB Government Tort Liability book. Meanwhile, an appellate court justice requested that I write an article about one of my recent published appellate cases. And I have a presentation on E-discovery that I'm giving at a conference in two weeks -- with the written materials due September 5. All to be completed primarily on evenings and weekends. (I got a lot of writing done last month while watching the Olympics.)
These deadlines (all of which I've now met, which is why I can write this) prompted the search for a small, portable laptop that I could use for brief jaunts on the Web and writing jags, say in between court appearances or on planes. Our regular sized laptop is ill-suited for such use, because of its size, its weight, and the amount of time it takes to boot up. I therefore searched for a "netboook" -- the tiny laptops that have recently filled the market that weigh about 2 pounds, cost a few hundred bucks, omit CD/DVD drives, and yet provide a decent keyboard and great net connectivity. Plus, they boot up quickly (even the Windows XP versions) and often feature solid-state drives that are more durable than hard drives.
On advice of my friend Don Burr, an IT expert, I waited awhile in anticipation of Dell's much rumoed netbook. But two anticipated release dates in August for that netbook came and went without the computer materializing. (Dell finally released it last Thursday.) Hence, I ended up getting the netbook I first had my eyes on (spurred by a price drop and a rebate) -- the Windows XP version of the Asus EEE 901.
I must say that this netbook (on which I'm now writing this post, at the Venice Grind coffee shop) is a lot of fun. It is incredibly tiny and light. The keyboard takes some getting used to, but it is usable. The connectivity has been fantastic.
I tried out the portability of it in the last week of August. I went to court in the morning with the EEE stuck in my briefcase. Right after the hearing, I went to the Starbucks on the plaza next to the downtown courthouse (I've got two hours a day of free wi-fi at 'Bucks, so long as I use the Starbucks card once a month) and e-mailed a report to the client about the hearing. Worked great.
I also hauled the EEE to Vegas this past Labor Day weekend (post on trip forthcoming). Pulling the laptop out for security was much easier than with the full sized 8 pound laptop, which I'm always afraid I'll drop and destroy.
I can only hope my aging eyes stand up to the strain of reading the 9" screen.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Yes, the AP hurled its legendary news-gathering skills into chronicling the sociopolitical impact of a made-up "F" word. And yet, while they mention Lee's TV writing cred, they don't plug his books. Feldercarb.