Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Corrections dept. According to today's Boston Globe and other papers, Vivendi is not going to sell off Houghton Mifflin Company. This is good news (I hope). Of course, what huge conglomerates say they're going to do and what they actually do are two different things (remember the great scene from Wall Street when Charlie Sheen asks Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko why he's trying to wreck his father's company, Douglas screams "Because it's wreckable, all right?!!").
David Nagel has a very interesting column in Creative Mac. Obviously replying to DV guru Charlie White's ongoing tests of Intel-based PCs versus Macs when it comes to processing speed. White has shown that the fastest Intel machines render graphics and video (in applications like PhotoShop and After Effects) more quickly than the vaunted Mac. But as Nagel points out, the PC's processor speed is not the key issue in creative work like that involved in producing digital video and high-end graphics. Work flow is more important, he argues, and in that sphere, the Mac continues to dominate.

Monday, July 29, 2002

According to DotcomScoop, "Magazine publisher Ziff Davis is close to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, according to a report in The New York Times. The filing would not be a surprise considering ZD has been in constant negotiations with its lenders for the past six months. The company is short on cash, long on debt and nowhere near as big as it once was. ZD's bread and butter is still PC Magazine, but it's had to shutter six titles this year, including Yahoo Internet Life." Check Dotcom Scoop for regular news about the new media industry.
NRO's Victor Davis Hanson has spent a couple of weeks among our European brethren and he has some interesting insights about how the Euros really feel about us...here's his full take.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Self-publishing pays off. That's the news from writing newsletter author Moira Allen:

She writes: Using the Internet as a marketing tool is beginning to pay big dividends for self-published authors. In the past 18 months, over three dozen self-published novels have been contracted by major houses. St. Martin's recently awarded hefty advances and full-page ads in The New York Times Book Review to India Edghill for "Queenmaker," and James Conroyd Martin for "Push Not the River." Pocket Books senior editor Amy Pierpont sees the advantage of self-published novels: "If they've sold, the authors
bring with their project an established fan base." Other books and authors making the leap are "Thunderland" by Brandon Massey, "Temptation" by Victoria Christopher Murray, and "The Hearts of Men" by Travis Hunter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

This is must reading from John Ellis on the slow death of free content on the Web. It was just a matter of time, of course, but now the Hollywood studios and recording companies want legal rights to hack into your PC if they think you're copying content they own....

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Happy to be wrong dept. A while back I opined that Adobe might not bother to continue developing its Premiere DV editing program for the Mac platform, as Final Cut Pro has been making such inroads among Mac DV producers.

I'm happy to report that opinion was dead wrong. Adobe announces that Premiere will upgrade to version 6.5 for both PC and Mac—in fact, it will be OS X native according to the report here.

Personally, I love Final Cut Pro. And no question that Premiere 6 just doesn't stack up against it. But I've been a Premiere user since version 4 and it's been a standard. I would've hated to see it disappear for Mac users. Looks like the new version will give FCP a run for its money.


Friday, July 19, 2002

Farrellmedia's DV feature of Everyman, the medieval morality play, got a nice review in Hollywood Film Threat. I sent them the movie only a couple of weeks back, so I was a little caught by surprise at how quickly it appeared. I spent yesterday afternoon frantically updating the site with some basic info on the movie for any curious visitors who link here from filmthreat.com.


Both Everyman and Richard the Second, our other feature, will be available for sale online as VHS this autumn.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

In case anyone cares to remember: On this day in 1969, Ted Kennedy swam away from his sunken car at Chappaquiddick and left Mary Jo Kopechne to die—alone, slowly, during the next ten hours—as he swam to safety, groomed himself and tried to come up with a story to cover his butt.

I wonder what Ted's doing this morning? Who he's having breakfast with? Whether he's nursing a hangover?

I wonder what Mr. and Mrs. Kopechne are nursing this morning as they get up and go about the business of their lives....

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

A good rant today by video veteran Charlie White in the Digital Media Net newsletter regarding Apple Computer's latest 'testimonial' ad campaign:

Ahh, that ad campaign. Back when I was a promotions producer for ten years, various management types would regularly attempt to insinuate themselves into the ad creation process. I could always tell just how creatively bankrupt any one of these clueless morons were by the frequency of their suggesting a testimonial campaign. It would come up with exasperating regularity, like a hiccup. Yeah, let's do testimonials, where everyday people get up there and tell the viewers about their experiences, thus coaxing reluctant customers into the tent. That'll work, yeah. Well no, it won't. Not once did I bow to that pressure and produce a lame-brained testimonial ad campaign. I don't think testimonials, no matter how well-executed, have ever worked. I think it's a sign of desperation, creative bankruptcy, and ineptitude. When it comes to Apple's idiotic new spots, I think I'd rather Think Different.

This is an excellent point. The whole Mac vs. PC issue is frankly no longer an issue, except perhaps when it comes to digital video. Just a couple of months ago one of the PC salesmen at CompUSA came to talk to me about the G4's and DVD Studio Pro, basically saying he was junking his entire PC system to go to the Mac for DVD creation purposes. And a regular DV Magazine contributor tells me that most of the really original content he's seeing from indie producers these days is being done on Macs. Great.

But, having said that, Apple doesn't make the fastest machines out there—and they should. Even more striking to me is that as QuickTime ascends—last year something like 100 million people downloaded QuickTime 5 software—Apple isn't capitalizing on the gains. 90% of those downloads were for Windows users. And yet, when I talk to many Windows users, many still think that QuickTime is just an Apple application, that you can't use it for Windows. Now that is an issue Apple could use in a productive ad campaign—and one, I don't mind saying, that I emphasize in my new book on digital movies (coming out this Fall). Apple should be pushing QuickTime as the tool with which to attract new users to their excellent digital video and content-creation computers. Not just printing testimonials from over-worked IS people who have switched from PCs to Macs....

White goes on:

But for us, the content creators, all this desperate behavior seems so unnecessary. We don't care how many PC users are lured into the Mac fold. We don't care that the market share for Macs is still hovering around 3 percent and will always be thus. For us, what really matters is that we can get our work done with these lovely content creation tools. What we really want from Apple is to stop blowing smoke at us and come up with some faster machines. Machines that can blow away the fastest PCs, which is not something that is possible right now. Meanwhile, I'm hoping Apple will toss its idiotic testimonial ads and call a halt to its lame media strong-arm tactics. It's just unbecoming for such an innovative and classy company.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Turn to Phyics Today for two superb articles by physicists Adrian Melott and Mano Singham for the intellectual dishonesty behind the "Intelligent Design" movement. Intelligent Design is a rhetorical ploy, started over a decade ago by some disgruntled conservatives, who don't like the fact that science goes about its business based purely on naturalistic assumptions and that many scientists who work in the field of evolutionary biology see no contradiction between Darwin's theory and their religious faith. One of the most prominent books to come out of the ID movement is Catholic biochemist Michael Behe's embarrassing book Darwin's Black Box. Among other processes discussed in the book, Behe claimed that the formation of blood clots was "irreducibly complex" and could only be explained by invoking a designer. Within a year of his book's publication, a scientific team demonstrated exactly how the clotting process could have evolved based on natural selection. This is the kind of silliness that the ID movement brings upon itself. Although Behe made great claims for his theory of irreducible complexity in his pop-science book for the general public, the fact that he never published any papers on the subject in peer-reviewed journals speaks volumes about just how much credence he knows his colleagues would give the idea. The ID movement is well-funded and aims to influence state school boards to eliminate the teaching of evolution from school curricula. As the above articles show, more and more scientists, who didn't pay much attention to the ID movement, are putting their two cents in....

Thursday, July 11, 2002

The extraordinary media coverage of Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams' death and career is enough to sour even some of the slugger's legion of admirers on him. The 24 consecutive hours of films, tapes, interviews, commercials et alia of Williams—including half-hour TV panel shows on which he appeared—aired over ESPN's Classic TV channel July 11-12, was ridiculous. It reminded this observer of the lavish media coverage of the late Massachusetts Congressman Joe Moakley's passing by the Boston newspaper, television and radio media last year. If you knew Moakley as well as many of us in the media world did, you also knew that Joe would have been astounded and amused by the going-away puff pieces accorded him.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

If you want to see an example of consumer fraud on eBay, visit British star Christopher Lee's web site where the actor dissects fake autographed photos of himself that are currently being sold on eBay for $75 and more. His presentation is in streaming QuickTime format—and fascinating as there must be forgeries of this sort for every actor out there...

The surprising thing about the big puff piece in today's Boston Globe about Paul Shanley, the ex-priest who has been defrocked and awaits trial for molesting many boys, is that it took the Globe so long to publish this obvious effort to plead his case with the Massachusetts courts.

Shanley was one of the bright stars in the Globe's liberal firmament back in the 1960's and 70's when the newspaper was striving to become the media darling of gays, cross-dressers and the "trans-gender" crowd in the Boston area and faced stiff competition from two weeklies, the Phoenix and B.A.D. (Boston After Dark).

"A search for the real Rev. Paul Shanley suggests he was part hero, part horror," intones the six-column head across the top of the fold on the front page of the Globe's Living Arts Section. And all this under a large (six columns) flattering photograph of Shanley giving out Holy Communion to his young admirers.

The 1969 Globe photo by Frank Wing appears to have been taken right after he had his black hair carefully sculpted—to use the Globes's description—at the Back Bay salon where he was a regular, much like the late New York mobster John Gotti's daily barbershop routine before he was brought down by the Feds. Shanley's grooming, of course, was aimed at attracting young boys to his bed, and he had many of them in the Boston area, so he could satisfy himself and corrupt them with his sexual misconduct which was a flagrant violation of his Holy Orders.

Hopefully the judge or judges who preside over the criminal cases ahead of Shanley, aren't taken in by Sally Jacobs' effort which is spread over three pages of the newspaper. There's little doubt that the pedophile ex-priest will cost the Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic faithful a bundle of money when the numerous civil cases pending come to trial.


An ignominious end? One of the last great independent book publisher's, Boston-based Houghton-Mifflin, may be chopped up and sold off in pieces, now that the giant Vivendi, to which HM sold out last year, is in trouble. According to Jim Milliot of Publisher's Weekly:

The consensus among investment bankers interviewed by PW, all of whom spoke off the record, was that Vivendi is indeed likely to look for a buyer for HM. It is clear, one banker said, that Vivendi needs to "de-lever," and since little integration of HM into Vivendi has taken place, the publisher could be sold relatively cleanly. "There's no need to unbolt anything. Houghton is a discrete asset," the banker said.

There was disagreement among the bankers about how many companies would be interested in HM. Some of the likely candidates, such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Reed Elsevier, could run into antitrust problems, especially at the el-hi level. Meanwhile, a factor that could keep financial buyers away is the heavy capital investment that is needed to compete in the el-hi and college markets. And without another property to add HM to, a financial buyer would not benefit from the economies of scale the largest educational publishers enjoy.

Under one banker's scenario, the possible dearth of acquisition candidates, coupled with the slowing growth of HM's largest market, elementary and high school publishing, means that few companies would be willing to pay a premium price for HM, and Vivendi will have a difficult time getting back the $2.2 billion price it paid to acquire
HM.

One open question is whether HM is worth more sold as a unit or in pieces. "There are a lot of bankers buzzing around New York now trying to figure that out," another banker said. Other bankers, however, said that because HM owns unique assets, there would be a fair number of
companies that would be interested in at least a piece of HM. The college and testing segments were considered the most valuable assets, although the el-hi segment would command the highest price because of its size. The trade and reference group, which has had several strong years, would probably sell for about 1 ? times revenues if it were
sold separately.


I worked for Pearson (at the time, Prentice Hall School Division was owned by Simon & Schuster). Most of the editors I worked with were former HM editors (where the pay was terrible). Ironic if Pearson ends up acquiring the company. But it's also sad that another great Boston institution will disappear because of short-sighted profit considerations....

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Well, it's the All-Star break, and there are worries for the Red Sox. On paper, if they keep playing at the first half's rate, they're going to win over 100 games this year. Unfortunately, we've also seen distressing evidence that, even if they make it to the World Series, Atlanta, Arizona, and the Dodgers would defeat them.

I know games during the season aren't the same as the playoffs. After all, Boston had a winning season against the Yankees in 1999, and managed to lose the AL championshop series in just 5 games. In contrast, the Yankees basically rolled over dead into the playoffs in 2000, but once the Games began, they rose to their form. They know how to play in the post season.

The great news about the Red Sox is that they are now owned by people who want to win, and who want to build a team that will be there in the playoffs as regularly as the Yanks and the Braves. Heck, to see these guys steal bases on a regular basis, is just one heartening sign. Much as a I liked Jimmy Williams, he was an idiot about base-running, and it showed.

It's weird, though, to think the Sox could finish for the Wild Card with over 100 wins, waste the Twins in the first round, and even beat the aging Yankees pitching staff, only to fall apart against the Diamond Backs.

Let's see what the second half brings. Tony Clark is hitting. Sanchez will be back and finally Hermanson will take his place in the starting rotation. Oh, yes, and Manny will regain his form. But pause to enjoy the fact that the Sox may be at least this good for the next several years. Not bad....

Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I've always thought Rick Moody one of the most overrated American fiction writers; and now, thank God, someone at the New Republic agrees with me. Check out the latest from Dale Peck.
Snuise Control: According to Fox News:  He's an all-American movie star, but Tom Cruise said his children will be making All the Right Moves — by moving out of America.

"I think the U.S. is terrifying and it saddens me," he told the British paper the Daily Express. "You only have to look at the state of affairs in America."

At the Minority Report premiere Cruise, who is known for his role in the Mission Impossible flicks as a slick superagent for Truth, Justice and the American way, said his adopted children Isabella, 9, and Connor, 7, will grow up outside the United States. They will probably be raised in Australia, his ex-wife Nicole Kidman's homeland.


Is there any doubt Tom Cruise's adopted children would be raised in Australia, no matter what this half-wit thinks of America? (Did someone say "custody battle"?)Movie stars are paid to attract attention during press junkets for their movies— but this is pathetic. Perhaps the actor is disappointed by Minority Report's B.O? It's not bad, but it's not setting any records either....

Monday, July 01, 2002

Jim McCabe who covers golf for the Boston Globe, is one of the reasons the Globe has the best sports section in the nation, day in and day out. His golf notes in the Sunday Globe yesterday paid a unique tribute to Seve Ballesteros whose meltdown (12) at the 18th hole of the opening rouand of Murphy' Irish Open last week, may end the career of the colorful Spaniard who was disqualified for marking his score at the 18th a 10. Ballesteros who had taken a two-month layoff to reassess his game, has now withdrawn from the tough British Open. It's hard to imagine a British Open without Ballesteros, for he has been a fixture in wvery one since 1975," McCabe wrote.
"It should be offered as a confession right now so that all of this is in perspective," McCabe qrote, "but I consider the British Open the most flavorful of all our golf championships and Ballesteros the most fascinating golfer of my time. It is a priceless combination gone forever and while all things must pass, it was tough to watch it come to such an ending.
..."Ballesteros in his prime was a genius the likes of which we may never see again. Oh, Tiger Woods is a treat and there a dozen plyers out there who can do marvelous things with club in hand.
..."But it wasn't so much that he played brilliantly , it was the aura that surrounded him. Even now as he struggles to break 90, there is a nobility about Ballesteros that is hard to explain."
As one who has never played golf but has watched the major golf tournaments which have been televised over the past four decades, this observer who began his newspaper career as as hockey writer more than a half a century ago, would like to add Amen to McCabe's comments. The aura and nobility Ballesteros exuded in his good looks, stride and swing rtesembled the glow which surrounded Ted Williams in the on deck circle swinging three bats and then in the batter's box which he rarely left during his trip to the plate.