Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Irish pubs are a great place to go for the New Year's celebration. Just ask humorist Larry Miller:

"Now, God knows, I've done some stupid things in my life. Seriously stupid. How's walking into an Irish bar on Second Avenue at three in the morning singing "There Will Always Be An England"? I was punched out immediately. (You know you're drunk when you go to brush something off your shoulder, and it's the floor.) Then they picked me up and bought me a pint."

Happy New Year to all.

Monday, December 30, 2002

As the year comes to an end, one is tempted to generate a "Best of..." and "Worst of..." list for 2002 as so many other web sites and newspapers do.

I will content myself instead with providing this link to what is not only the (unintentionally) funniest piece of web "reporting" I've seen all year, but also damning proof that there are "Catholics" out there who make Pat Buchanan and Father Charles Coughlin seem like models of Thomist rationality and moderation:

From the Cardinals remarks about coal and oil, however, we on the Kolbe team realized that the Vatican simply does not have enough correct information in order to make an intelligent decision. This is no surprise, since the Pontifical Academy of Science, which has 88 members, only two of whom are Catholic, and all of them avowed evolutionists, is the body that provides information to the Vatican about the Creation/Evolution issue.

That's right. According to this crowd, Pope John Paul and Cardinal Ratzinger are hopelessly confused and misinformed about scientific issues because they don't grasp the latest "research" indicating that in fact the world was created in six days. Scroll through their web site and you will not be surprised to discover that the Earth in fact is at the center of the universe and there is no proof that it actually revolves around the sun.

Check the bios and you'll see the staff could fill out a veritable stage-one clinical trial for pharmaceutical companies testing drugs for the alleviation of attention deficit disorder. The front man for this outfit was apparently a guest on a regular show on EWTN until he started ranting about Jews. He's drifted from one religion to another, unhappily now insisting he is a Catholic apologist.

Hopefully, after a few more months, these bozos will "leave the church" and decide to become Scientologists once they find out that is where they truly belong.

(Did I forget to mention that these so-called Catholics are classic Jew baiters?)
There's talk that the upcoming Macworld Conference in San Francisco (Jan6—10) will be the last. According to Wired News, Apple finds the huge conferences increasingly expensive to entertain. Add to that the pressure of having to introduce new products at each one. Apple has indicated it would like to concentrate on running smaller and more frequent regional conferences.

I for one would like that. Macworld is just too far out of my range in terms of expense. Even the vendors who go are cutting back on their displays and parties. Super conferences for geeks, like so many other aspects of the dot com era, seem like a thing of the past. It's time for a more austere and efficient approach to building the new media world.

Friday, December 27, 2002

John L. Allen at National Catholic Reporter has a good piece reminding us why "conservative" isn't exactly the right label to apply to Pope John Paul II:

As a thought experiment, translate John Paul’s priorities into a secular political program: a strong United Nations, promotion of social justice, an end to war, environmentalism, human rights, inter-religious tolerance, and a special option for the young. Throw in a couple of the other stands for which the pope is well known, such as staunch opposition to the death penalty and the concept of a “living wage.” Such a candidate could not get nominated for president by the Democrats in the United States, let alone the Republicans, because he would be seen as too liberal.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

It wouldn't be Christmas without mention of at least one item of Scrooge-like proportions. This, courtesy of Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner:

Regular readers of the Corner will remember that, in a gesture of unusually crass political correctness, the British Red Cross banned Nativity scenes from its shop windows. The organization is now paying the price. The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the Red Cross is “facing a sharp drop in donations.”

And I thought that kind of nonsense only took place on this side of the Atlantic. Sort of makes my Christmas a little merrier.

Monday, December 23, 2002

The placing of former FBI Agent John Connolly---convicted of racketeering and other charges earlier this year---in virtual isolation at the Kentucky prison to which he was sent appears to be part of a move by the Justice Department to get Connolly to "talk" in exchange for a possible reduction in his 10-year sentence.
The assumption behind this is that Connolly knows much more about the notorious Whitey Bulger case and it is only a question of time before the embittered ex-agent coughs up one or more others the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston has targeted in its ongoing pursuit of the South Boston mobster.
Yep—this is pretty much the way I've always viewed the Democratic party's most famous bigot.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The highly controversial Pete Rose issue which has been bubbling on Major League baseball's back burner in recent weeks, hopefully was taken care of once and for all by the New York Times today in a strong editorial which touched all bases. "We'd all like to see Mr. Rose rehabilitated and forgiven (for gambling on baseball games)," the Times said.

"But he has shown no particular remorse and has never admitted to betting on games. And even of he did confess, the ban should remain. Nobody should be encouraged to think that he can trifle with a fundamental obligation and escape permanent sanction." the editorial said.

"On the related question of Mr. Rose's eligibility for baseball's Hall of Fame, there is room for more flexibility," the newspaper said, adding two "firm " conditions: Mr. Rose make a full confession and any plaque in Cooperstown commemorating his remarkable achievements "must also take note of the darker side of his career."

Friday, December 20, 2002

Marty Peretz pays a nice tribute to his friend Al Gore. I don't agree with all of it (although his assessment of New York Times airhead Maureen Down is dead on).
Major news today from Charles Wiltgen:

Walter Murch—the editor of movies including Apocalypse Now (for which he won an Oscar for Best Sound and a nomination for Picture Cutting), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The English Patient (for which he won Oscars for both Picture Editing and Best Sound) and The Talented Mr. Ripley—has switched to Final Cut Pro for his next film, Cold Mountain (which stars Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger).

Cold Mountain will be Final Cut Pro’s first major motion picture. Especially if successful, Cold Mountain could mean a huge sea change for the industry and for Apple’s—not to mention Avid’s—place in it.

This is a big wake-up call for Avid. Read the news from Hollywood.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Just came from the opening of the Two Towers. Still digesting it all. As with my first view of Fellowship of the Ring last year, I spend too much time worrying about how it differs from the book. Tomorrow, I'll see it again.

But the fact is, it's great. Almost overwhelming. Again, as with the first movie, you're left after three hours wondering why it ended so soon....

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Charles Wiltgen notes that Microsoft is getting in Apple's face with it's new media applications. The software giant announced today it is releasing it's new Microsoft Plus! Digital Media Edition (basically to coincide with Macworld on January 7th).
This is good news on the DVD front:

The digital versatile disk format, better known as DVD, is only six years old, but it has already claimed 29 percent of U.S. households, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.

For the second year in a row, DVD players are poised to become the holiday season's hottest-selling electronics item, CEA said. So many players will be sold that analysts expect 40 percent of American households to have one by the end of this year.

Great—just don't take the title of this article seriously. I can't imagine anything dumber than throwing
out your VCR. If you have 8mm and Super 8mm films, you're certainly not going to throw out your projector, even if you've had your footage transferred to video.

One of the biggest myths I've heard in this business is the alleged fragility of video tape. Probably a tactic employed by manufacturers to keep tapes selling to nervous customers. As you can see from our
What does it tell you when Roger Clemens' super agents actually tell the press their client is open to a return to Boston?

According to the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler today:

Since Yankees GM Brian Cashman has said he would not re-sign Roger Clemens if he obtains one of Montreal's front-line starters, the Rocket has kept open the possibility he would return to Boston, according to his agent, Randy Hendricks. ''It's the longest of long shots,'' Hendricks said, ''but it's possible.''

It's not such a long shot if his agents are actually saying this. The Yanks obviously want to get Bartolo Colon from the Expos much more than they want Clemens.

This Blog has made no secret we'd love to see the Rocket finish his career back in Boston. The idiots who let him go are long gone from the Fenway organization now, and Clemens could still easily win another 15 to 20 games in the coming year.

Monday, December 16, 2002

I used to think that Jane Austen was a little hard on English clergymen—most of them, like Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, are portrayed as boobs of the first order.

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for this item, revealing that things have not changed much since Austen's time.

(Last week, some Anglican drip told a bunch of 5-year-olds that Santa Claus was dead.)

My favorite quote:

"If we are brutally honest, Christmas is probably a real chore. For some, it is more than a chore—it is the most painful time of the year."

Most Americans realize that this is the typical roundabout way that an Englishman admits the obvious: that the real reason he doesn't like Christmas is because he's cheap.

And you thought Scrooge was from the 19th century.

Boston Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert writes, "This weekend, Al Gore managed to be loose and amusing as the host of Saturday Night Live - and then stiff and smug as ever on '60 Minutes."

This doesn't surprise me at all. I bet the straw that broke the camel's back for Gore (and his poor wife, God Bless her) was the realization (probably after viewing the mess on Saturday Night) that he just didn't want to have to deal with running a campaign that would have to become part carnival act several times per month just to win votes.

I'm glad he came to his senses. Political campaigning in this country has become ridiculous. George Bush didn't appear on SNL (unless I'm completely mistaken), and I don't think Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt or John Kerry have to in order to win their party's nomination either.

Who pressed this idea on Gore? Chris Lehane?

Sunday, December 15, 2002

This made my day. Thanks to Merde in France for this wonderful note from an American servicewoman currently serving in Bosnia:

He began to get belligerent at that point, and I told him if he would like to, I would meet him outside in front of the Burger King and beat his ass in front of the entire Multi-National Brigade East, thus demonstrating that even the smallest American had more fight in them than the average Frenchman.

He called me a barbarian cowboy and walked away in a huff.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Read the whole thing. Priceless.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I'm sure Cardinal Law's resignation will be all over the blogs and the news today—with lots of commentary, lots of judgment, lots of speculation. I personally do not feel any sense of triumph or satisfaction. Just sadness.

All I want to do for today is remember the good priests. As of today, they can begin to get back to what they do and have done throughout the long years of their vocations.

In case any one needs to be reminded, that includes:

Getting up at ungodly hours to visit the beds of the sick in the hospitals or the homes of nearby parishioners;

Getting themselves out of bed to light up a cold dark church at 6AM so the regulars can receive communion;

Driving miles and miles to churches out in the boondocks, parishes that cannot afford their own priest, to serve a second community on top of the one that commands most of their lives;

Sitting for hours on a wooden chair inside a coffin-like confession box every day while we all shuffle in, trundling our little sins, our pathetic ones, our dirt, misery, resentment, our mortal sins, our betrayals and our guilt to dump in their lap so that they can absolve us;

Saying Mass every day no matter how distracted they may be, no matter how much pain they may be in, no matter how many or—as is more likely the case—how few come to sit in the pews;

Keeping their lights on and their doors open in the rectory, perhaps even when they should be having a normal dinner, for anyone who may need their help or consultation;

And last, but not least, patiently enduring the mockery and abuse that is heaped on their vocation and profession by our otherwise oh-so-tolerant culture. Just when they thought they could take a few minutes out of the day to sit back and enjoy a little television in the evening—they get to be hectored and lectured by the morally superior auteurs of our entertainment industry.

So for all that, today, I'd like to say "Thank you, Father", and "I'm glad you're still here."

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Since Al Gore and John Kerry are so solicitous of what our allies think, perhaps they should read this. Ditto for the anti-war left. (Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.)
Japanese cellular company DoCoMo's new handsets support 3GPP, an open standard technology built on MPEG-4—and thus can play video or audio content using Apple's QuickTime 6.

That's right, you will soon be able to watch QuickTime movie trailers and more on your cell phone.

According to Ryan Jones, an analyst with The Yankee Group, this is good news for Apple. The company needs more electronics manufacturers to adopt their standard so they can compete with Microsoft Windows media outside the PC realm. (I'm not going to mention Real, because frankly, just about everyone on the street in this business thinks Real will be bankrupt or sold within a year—Microsoft and Apple are the big two.)

According to Yahoo News: "The big hurdle that QuickTime has to clear is that it isn't a nicely bundled solution of video creation management and security," said Jones. "They don't have some of the content management and DRM capabilities that Real and Microsoft have."

Authoring content for the service can be done in a variety of applications such as Cleaner, Final Cut Pro and a new version of QuickTime, that Apple said would be released by the end of 2002. The new version will feature support for the file format and codecs used by DoCoMo.

"We've opened the platform to a whole new industry—this is big for the adoption of MPEG-4 and the standards-based approach," said Brian Croll, Apple's senior director software, Worldwide Product Marketing. "Ultimately this positions Apple as the platform of choice for content creation."

I hope to God that Apple is right now negotiating with makers of home DVD players, licensing the software to them to enable new players to play QuickTime movies burned straight to DVD. Because that's where the market is going to be.

How many home movie makers are going to want to shell out the $1000 for a DVD authoring program, and then want to spend the time it takes to figure out how to make DVDs, when it will be much easier to just burn their movie files straight to a blank disk (which can be had for less than $4 now at Best Buy) and pop it into the home player without all the bells and whistles?

For my money, that's where this war is going to be fought and won. And I hope Apple is making the deals now. Not six months after Microsoft and Panasonic roll out the first line of players that use Media 9....

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Wishful Thinking Dept. This week's New Yorker features Ken Auletta's profile of Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein, "Beauty and the Beast." Weinstein has apparently developed the same self-destructive tendencies that undermined super-agent Mike Ovitz. Supposedly this could be the beginning of his own fall from the Hollywood heights.

Yeah right. And all I'm thinking as I read this was, "How can I get a copy of my movie (Richard the Second) into this guy's hands?"
Glenn Reynolds hits the nail on the head about the real motives behind "digital rights management":

"And I believe that much of what's being marketed as 'digital rights management' to prevent 'stealing' of big-media works is in fact intended to serve as 'digital restrictions management' to protect big-media operations from competition by making life harder on potential competitors.

"I think they're doomed, technologically. But if Big Media let their position go without a fight to keep it by fair means or foul, they'll be the first example of a privileged group that did so. So beware. "

Here's the rest of his excellent column. Must reading for all independent music composers and movie producers.
Michael Kelly does a good job dissecting liberal Democrats' latest hallucination—that 'liberal media bias' is a myth and now right-wingers are running the country's leading news organizations.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Andrew Sullivan (as Glenn Reynolds did previously) links to a wonderful paper by Canadian author David Warren on his experience living in Pakistan and his take on the threat of militant Islam.

Maybe it's because of the Christmas season coming up, but what struck me, close to the end of his article, was this passage:

"We Christians believe ourselves to be completing that ancient, Jewish covenant in the new covenant of Christ, to be carrying the Jewish spiritual logic forward, in an enlargement of the chosen people to include all the elect of God, all who can see the Messiah. The Gospel message is radically anti-tribal, and the apostle Paul carries this into practice in the very cosmopolitan, urban world of late Hellenism and Rome. The whole doctrine of the Virgin Birth, quite apart from the question of its historical veracity, has the practical effect of bringing Christ into the world, and taking him out again, without leaving male blood relatives. (my emphasis)"

That last sentence is truly striking. I think even religious people today are brought up with the vestiges of Humean skepticism when it comes to the idea of miracles and the supernatural. We assume, for completely a priori reasons, to rule out the supernatural, supposing it to be an embarrassing appendage to faith—the fabrication of interfering church fathers or those in power to embellish the story of Christianity for the purpose of impressing the ignorant. It's refreshing and startling therefore to read someone suggest a purely practical reason for God deciding to suspend natural law (in this case for a virgin birth)—after all, how would Christ have left any lasting message or tradition, if the immediate aftermath of his departure was attended by a great conflict over who was his successor?

Not an unsound strategy for God, when you consider the murderous slaughter that has all too often followed the reigns of kings and queens, precisely because of the problems posed by "male blood relatives."

Monday, December 09, 2002

A reading of many Greater Boston newspapers as well as listening to some of the commentary on radio talk shows leave little doubt that the media is building a campaign to force embattled UMass President William M. Bulger to resign his post as head of the Commonwealth's sprawling system of higher education. The cozy relationship which existed between Bulger's fugitive brother, notorious killer Whitey Bulger, and two former FBI agents who also played a role in the "brooming" of the 75 State Street federal and state investigations, is at the heart of the media's push to oust Bulger. The former Senate president was a principal in the lengthy 75 State Street probes triggered by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team.
Senate majority leader Trent Lott is his own worst enemy:

What came out of his mouth was the most emphatic repudiation of desegregation to be heard from a national political figure since George Wallace’s first presidential campaign. Lott’s words suggest that one of the three most powerful and visible Republicans in the nation privately thinks that desegregation, civil rights, and equal voting rights were all a big mistake.

Anybody else miss Newt Gingrich?

Friday, December 06, 2002

Last night I gave a little seminar at Boston University's Film & Television school for the Boston Macromedia Users Group. In spite of the snow, a lot of people turned out. But even more uplifting to me was the dominance of Apple technology throughout the department. There were iMacs in the hallways, in the classrooms, everywhere. All the students I spoke with were working in QuickTime to embed their own projects in web pages of their own design.

Maybe I've been working in the medical environment too long. Surrounded by Windows-based technology, you start to think Apple's market share is dwindling rapidly away to zero. But as Professor Jim Lengel told me last night, QuickTime still offers the best tools and creative freedom for students studying media and learning how to create it themselves.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

While many more copies of bestselling books are sold today than 25 years ago, a new study said, it has become difficult for critically acclaimed tomes to achieve bestseller status.

In 1975, two books that were hailed by reviewers and editors as worthy of plaudits such as the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award also made that year's list of bestsellers. None made the 2000 list, though some appeared on weekly rankings of top sellers, according to the study, which was released last night.

Read more—from Newsday.
My first official book review of the QuickTime book, by digital media veteran Clifford VanMeter.

William Safire's excellent take on the Bulger saga:

What will be the consequence of the Good Seed's brotherly protection of the Bad Seed? My guess is that President Bulger will loyally stick by his brother and be forced to resign.

Message to Whitey, wherever you are: Loyalty runs two ways. Call your kid brother. Surrender to the F.B.I. through him. Hasn't he laid his career on the line by being fiercely loyal to you? You're an old man now; have you thought of returning that loyalty by saving him from the taint of having helped you?

Won't happen. The bad seed is probably laughing at his brother for being such a sucker.

Hub Blog is on fire today—with some good points about the nonsense going on under editor Howell Raines at the New York Times. And yes, I'm sure non-NYT reporters are enjoying every minute of this....

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Wired looks at Apple's endurance and sees more than just user-friendly computers:

Marketer Marc Gobe, author of Emotional Branding and principal of d/g worldwide, said Apple's brand is the key to its survival. It's got nothing to do with innovative products like the iMac or the iPod.

"Without the brand, Apple would be dead," he said. "Absolutely. Completely. The brand is all they've got. The power of their branding is all that keeps them alive. It's got nothing to do with products."

This is the sort of thing I always used to associate with the French, not the Germans:

Germans do not yet want to see where, in the bit of the recent past they are proudest of, their troubles originated: with the 1940s compact between unions and employers. At first it created the incentives that made the Wirtschaftswunder generation rich, but it ended by draining the vitality out of Germany.

The lavish social benefits, secure jobs and cushy retirement incomes that went with “Rhineland capitalism” made for complacency and—whisper who dares—pervasive inefficiency. Germans came to view sick leave as an additional holiday entitlement; free massages, health spas and even daughters’ first communion dresses were standard perks. The public sector, too, became so cosseted that a staggering 42 per cent of all budget spending this year will go on civil service pensions.

Read more. Via Glenn Reynolds.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Is it something in the water? Is there some kind of high tech fluoridation that makes equipment work better in Palo Alto, Austin, or Cambridge (Massachusetts) than in Edinburgh, Cologne, or Cambridge (England)?

Brad DeLong in Wired on Europe's declining economies.
Box Office Mojo's take on why George Clooney's Solaris bombed over the Thanksgiving holiday:

A $47 million remake of the long, slow-moving, artsy Andrei Tarkovsky 1972 movie of the same name, 'Solaris' has given Clooney his first utter failure since jumping from 'ER' to the big screen. Perhaps not coincidentally, it was the second picture after the sleeper hit 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' that Clooney carried completely on his own.

Monday, December 02, 2002

For an interesting take on how some successful novelists deal with the movies, read this.

I myself hope to have the same 'problems' these guys do...some day.
It was France 2 (state owned TV channel) that ordered the voice analysis of the latest tape of Osama bin Laden from a Swiss research institute. The Swiss experts stated this past Friday that, with 95% certainy, the voice on the tape was not Bin Laden's. As these results do not tie in with the official French press line that the US war on terrorism does not have any traction, not a word of these results has been reported by the major French media (including France2).

More from Merde in France.
Did the Globe sports writers miss this? This could be the most important decision the Red Sox make in terms of the team's long-term future—and here it is, in the New York Times:

A couple of Saturdays ago, in a borrowed office at Fenway Park, Bill James realized what all his writing, theorizing, number crunching and head scratching were about. For six hours, Theo Epstein briefed James on potential trades and free-agent signings the Boston Red Sox could make this winter. James, baseball's ultimate outsider for 25 years, was suddenly very much on the inside. And he loved it.

"I really had a feeling like this is what I've always been preparing to do," James said, reflecting on that meeting last week. "This is what I should be doing."

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Mark Steyn presents more wisdom from our friends in France:

"A man like George W Bush is simply not possible in our politics," I was told by an elegant, cultured Parisian this spring. "For a creature of such crude, simplistic and extreme views to be one of the two principal candidates in a presidential election would be inconceivable here. Inconceivable!" Two weeks later, Jean Marie Le Pen made it into the final round of the French election.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)