This whole New Media thing

Evidently we’re doing it wrong. Robert Stacy McCain asked how it could be possible for a Web site (BuzzFeed) to be valued at $200 million, and how an actual TV channel (Current TV) with fewer viewers than several Web sites you could name could sell for $500 million.

I pointed out in comments that Al-Jazeera, new owners of Current, and BuzzFeed had one thing in common: neither of them benefited from the tender ministrations of Tina Brown, who is basically the Ted McGinley of new media. Which gave McCain an idea:

What we need to do is start marketing ourselves as innovative visionary entrepreneurs, throwing around catch-phrases — optimization! networking! interactivity! — and hustle up $40 million in venture capital with promises to re-invent the digital wheel. Then we outsource this grimy content-provider work to Indonesia.

After all, it’s only content. This is the stuff that really matters:

What counts is the SEO and stuff like that. Also, venture capital — lots and lots of venture capital. And then we throw a couple of lavish parties for our friends at the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc., and they’ll write up a lot of breathless feature stories about how we’ve captured the online Zeitgeist and have “expected revenues” of some ginormous number that we just pull out of thin air.

I have long suspected that all “expected revenues” figures were actually the product of rectal extraction, but the source apparently matters less than the dissemination.

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The survival instinct is keen

Her Majesty acceded to the throne sixty years ago, so a business operating since the thirty-third year of her reign has had a good quarter-century run and then some.

Wait, what? It was the 33rd year of the reign of Elizabeth I? Yes indeed:

R Durtnell & Sons Limited is Britain’s oldest building company and has earned an enviable reputation for quality work, fine craftsmanship and business integrity. As a family, the Durtnells themselves are no less remarkable and can trace their ancestry back to the Norman Conquest.

The first recorded mention of building, as opposed to property, in the family — and hence the year from which Durtnell dates its existence — is 22 July 1591, when John Dartnall married Ann Hearst, registering his profession as ‘carpenter’, synonymous with ‘builder’ at a time when most houses were of timber-framed construction.

Durtnell have operated continuously from offices in Brasted, Westerham, Kent since 1591, easily qualifying them for Britain’s Tercentarian Club. Says Lynn Durtnell today:

[S]he knew what she was taking on when she married John, but casts a protective eye at her son Alexander, in his early thirties, who has partly taken over the day-to-day running of the company. “There is enormous pressure on the children at these companies,” she says. “They don’t want to be the generation that mucks it up.”

In the case of young Alexander, the thirteenth generation.

(Suggested by Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Not a section of tire tread

Someone sneaked this into an Ace of Spades overnight thread, and someone else duly forwarded it to me, because I’m supposedly the Odd Shoe Guy, and, well, this is certainly an odd shoe:

Mojito Shoe by Julian Hakes

Julian Hakes created the Mojito Shoe, which, says Nicole Wakelin of Fashionably Geek, is so named “likely because you’d have to have had a few drinks before you’d think wearing these was a good idea.” At the very least, you’d want to know WTF Mr Hakes was thinking, which turns out to be this.

There are ten other color variations, if you don’t like the Bridgestone 14-ply look; list price seems to be £175, which of late is around $285.

(Okay, it was Jeffro who sent me the link. Please do not hold it against him.)

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To the company store

Last summer, Tesla Motors, vendor of high-tech electric cars, drew the wrath of the Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association, which objected to the company’s plan to operate its own showrooms — “plain anti-competitive tactics,” said Roxeanne de Luca.

In November, a judge denied MSADA’s request to block Tesla’s proposed Natick store; a MSADA lawsuit against Tesla itself has now been dismissed, the court finding that the association does not have standing to sue.

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No, colder than that

Whatever you were thinking — inside of a meat locker, the dark side of the moon, a New York apartment with a chintzy landlord — we’re talking colder than that. Colder, even, than zero degrees Kelvin. If this pans out, absolute zero won’t be so absolute anymore:

[Y]ou read off the temperature of a system from a graph that plots the probabilities of its particles being found with certain energies. Normally, most particles have average or near-average energies, with only a few particles zipping around at higher energies. In theory, if the situation is reversed, with more particles having higher, rather than lower, energies, the plot would flip over and the sign of the temperature would change from a positive to a negative absolute temperature, explains Ulrich Schneider, a physicist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

Ah. Quantum stuff. No wonder it seems odd.

Schneider and his colleagues reached such sub-absolute-zero temperatures with an ultracold quantum gas made up of potassium atoms. Using lasers and magnetic fields, they kept the individual atoms in a lattice arrangement. At positive temperatures, the atoms repel, making the configuration stable. The team then quickly adjusted the magnetic fields, causing the atoms to attract rather than repel each other. “This suddenly shifts the atoms from their most stable, lowest-energy state to the highest possible energy state, before they can react,” says Schneider. “It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.”

This is another one of those cases where it sounds plausible enough, to the extent that anything sounds plausible after quantum effects. Then again, we thought the speed of light, another absolute, had been exceeded — for a while, anyway.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

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Young guns

Nick Young was definitely gunning for the Thunder tonight. The Philadelphia swingman has worn several uniforms in recent years, but he’s always been at least a slight thorn in OKC’s side, and tonight he led the Sixers from the bench with 21 points. What’s more, teammate Thaddeus Young, starting at forward, landed ten points of his own. For a minute, or more precisely for 24 minutes, this game looked like a knock-down, drag-out fight, the Thunder up only 46-42 at the half. Then came the second half. The Thunder defense held, and the offense began to click, and the 76ers were duly 86ed, 109-85.

Incredibly, this happened without Serge Ibaka blocking a single shot. The Serge Protector did seize ten rebounds while scoring 15 points, but tonight was more finesse than force: only three blocks, but 13 steals. In fact, everybody who played recorded a steal except Kendrick Perkins — and hey, he got one of the blocks. Even Hasheem Thabeet got a steal. The Thunder shot 52 percent, 59 percent from the Crosstown Expressway (10-17); it’s almost enough to make me overlook the six free throws they missed. Then again, they had 27 tries. The Sixers made only six all night in eight tries. (Because you’ll ask: Russell Westbrook sparkled with 27, and Kevin Durant shone with 26.)

Philadelphia did do several things right. Jason Richardson rattled off nine points in what seemed like no time at all in the second half, and Jrue Holiday handed off the ball like an NFL quarterback. (Holiday had nine assists; nobody else on either team had more than five.) Dorell Wright got busy in the fourth quarter. They missed rather a lot of shots, though, finishing at a hair over 40 percent, and they gave up 20 turnovers. For a moment, I thought the Thunder were going to end up with 20 turnovers, since they’d lost ten halfway through the second quarter, but they managed to finish with a nicely mediocre 18.

Next game is Sunday at noon, which is bad enough; what’s worse, it’s in Toronto, where the Raptors always seem to have the Thunder’s number. And is it still a back-to-back if it’s followed by a Monday-night game?

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Unoriginal gangstas

With Rebecca Black mostly chillin’ this week, I thought I’d look in on her one-time Svengali and see if he’s been putting lipstick on a new Pygmalion.

Ladies and gentlemen, Patrice Wilson presents “Tweenchronic”:

Kenalsworld describes them as “thug child rappers,” which may not be what they are or what they aspire to be, but is certainly what they look like.

Still, this might just catch on. It’s certainly catchy enough.

Oh, and the late Henson Cargill was available for comment, sort of.

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Seventy-six sad trombones

LeeAnn encounters a Skinny Woman With Huge Hair who wants a pack of Marlboros:

SWWHH: Why didn’t you card me?

me: Because you’re about my age, and I’m pretty sure we’re not minors.

SWWHH: Well, what birthdate did you use?

me: My mom’s. I can remember it easily and the numbers are all kind of close together, it’s just easier.

SWWHH: *suddenly hysterical* WHAT YEAR? WHAT YEAR? WHAT YEAR?

me: Holy crap. 1936.

SWWHH: You take that out! You take that out right now!

Conclusion herewith jumped to: (1) the customer didn’t pay cash for those smokes and (2) her authority to use the payment method she did use might be, um, questionable.

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Used as a flotation device

I suspect most of us have seen something like this before:

I borrowed money from my Thrift Savings Plan. The money came out of the TSP account on 12312012 and is still not in my checking account.

Of course, you know what they told him: “3 to 5 business days.” Which prompts this response:

Why? It should take only a nanosecond, 2 on dialup.

Ah, the wonders of float. Then again, this can work both ways: if you have, for instance, the old-style American Express card, the one you’re required to pay off every month, you’ve got some float working for you, how much depending on where your transaction falls in the Amex billing cycle.

Still, it’s unnerving to see these things crawl along. And when venal politicians — pardon the redundancy — talk about bank reforms, they’re never talking about this kind of reform.

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Quote of the week

Remember when you were so important that Time actually named you Person of the Year? At that particular moment in history, media elites declared that the Voice of the People was finally being heard, and utopia was just a hop, a skip and a jump away.

Well, now they’ve heard that Voice, and they don’t like it, not one bit:

The response to [Shane] McEntee’s sad death captures how web users are viewed at the end of 2012: not as grown-up contributors to public debate but as the destroyers of public debate, even of lives, whose strong views are really just “intimidation”, whose arguments are a form of “terrorising”, and whose access to web-based debate is not a right after all, but apparently a “privilege”. Don’t you all know how lucky you are to have been allowed on to the rarefied plane of political and media debate? Strangely, both the old fawning over web users and the new demonisation of web-users are driven by the same thing: the aloofness of the opinion-forming classes. A few years back, sensing they were massively estranged from the public, politicians and the commentariat sought to engage with us via the web, in a largely phoney, flimsy fashion; now, recognising that they are still estranged from the public, more so than ever in fact, these same opinion-makers denounce us as trolls and write off web-based political engagement as a gigantic failed experiment. They have opted to stew in their aloofness, rather than address it.

Funny thing about stew: it invites people to stir the pot. Then again, anyone who’s spent enough time in a kitchen — in other words, anyone who can take the heat — already knows that.

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Boyle’s law of dating

Singer Susan Boyle, blessed with plenty of volume, feels the pressure of being single, but while she’ll do anything for love, she won’t do this:

The 51-year-old admits she wants to find love with her soulmate, but the no-nonsense star won’t be signing up to modern ways of finding romance. In fact, SuBo insists she will never look for love online, because she thinks she might get murdered.

“Internet dating? Are you having a laugh?” she scoffs at the suggestion. “Knowing my luck I’d go out on a date and you’d find my limbs scattered around various Blackburn dustbins! I believe in letting things happen naturally and not shopping for a man on the internet. If my soulmate is out there then I will find him but it won’t be on a computer.”

As regards her recent show-tune collection, it’s worth your while, although the attempt to make Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” sound even more detached than usual really doesn’t work. Better are the two duets with Donny Osmond: “All I Ask of You,” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom, and “This is the Moment,” from Jekyll & Hyde.

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Repetitive motions

Robert Stacy McCain goes meta-analytical on us:

[N]othing is so fresh and original that it can’t grow stale, or be replaced by imitations. If you are no longer having success producing the same thing you were producing 10 or 15 years ago, consider the possibility that you have failed to adjust efficiently to changes in the market.

I’d mention that I’m producing the same thing I was producing 10 or 15 years ago, and I’m having exactly the same level of success, which is Not A Whole Hell Of A Lot. Then again, I expected something closer to zero, so I’m not about to complain.

Perhaps it’s wiser always to assume the worst going in. I would have been delighted beyond belief to get 100 readers for that first goofy pony novella. (I am, after all, competing with about 50,000 other scribes, a substantial percentage of which have actual talent.) By the end of the month, I’ll have gotten my 1000th reader.

Then again, I have no particular desire to circulate among the high and/or mighty, which suggests I’m somewhere between 60 and 120 degrees out of phase with the rest of the world.

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This will never fly

Coyote Blog’s tax proposal, which will of course go nowhere:

1. Eliminate all deductions in the individual income tax code.

2. Eliminate the corporate income tax.

3. Tax capital gains and dividends as regular income.

4. Eliminate the death tax as well as the write-up of asset values at death.

There is also a 4a: until the program is properly restructured, the Medicare tax will have to rise a bit.

Some exposition on 3:

I know there is all sorts of literature that supposedly promotes a lower capital gains tax as an economic positive. Frankly, I don’t trust it any more than any other literature genned up to promote special tax breaks to any group because that group is supposedly economically more important. In my mind, a lower capital gains tax rate (which means a higher regular income tax rate) is just another way of government expressing an artificial preference for one economic activity over another.

In anything resembling a free society, we shouldn’t have to give two-thirds of a damn what the government claims to “prefer.” Not that they care to remember such minor details, but they’re supposed to be working for us, not the other way around. Washington, D.C. should look as barren as pre-Bakken North Dakota is supposed to have been.

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The singin’ rage

I didn’t actually buy any records until 1965, but long before that, the family acknowledged that some of the stuff on the premises would appeal to me, and would occasionally allow me to crank them up myself.

At some point, I came across a Patti Page single with a bad pun for a title, on an old Mercury 78. What caught me, though, was not the title — I didn’t become a purveyor of bad puns until my teens — but a reference on the label: “Vocal by: Patti Page, Patti Page, Patti Page.”

(After typing that, I decided it would be appropriate to find a scan of that label, but I no longer have the 78, though I do have a later blue-label 45 reissue. Turns out I did remember it correctly, apart from punctuation.)

Okay, fine: overdubs. Circa 1960, when I found this record, that was No Big Deal. But in 1951, it was still kind of amazing: Les Paul had only just raised it to an artform, and Patti had been doing this as early as 1947, with a two-vocal-track version of “Confess,” produced by technophile Mitch Miller.

It was much later that I discovered that the reason she looked like a good ol’ country girl from Oklahoma was having been born a good ol’ country girl from Oklahoma, named Clara Ann Fowler. And it showed, even in unearthly environments like Las Vegas:

Patti Page in Las Vegas 1955

What used to be Second Street in Claremore, her home town, was renamed Patti Page Boulevard many years ago. They remembered. And so should you, now that she’s gone.

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Fark blurb of the week

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The crappiest day of your life

If you’re writing a memoir — and if so, why? — your audience doesn’t want sweetness and light:

The author Phillip Lopate complains that the problem with confessional writing is that people don’t confess enough. And I agree. The biggest mistake new writers make is going to the computer wearing a three-piece suit. They craft love letters about their wonderful parents, spouses, children and they share upbeat anecdotal slices of life. This rarely inspires brilliance or self-insight. Drama, conflict and tension are more compelling, especially when the piece starts with your “I” narrator about to fall off a cliff (metaphorically, of course). It’s counterintuitive, but qualities that make you likable and popular in real life — good looks, wild success, happy marriage, lovely home, healthy confidence — will make a reader despise you. The more of a wreck you are from the start, the more the audience is hooked.

So I’m a few yards ahead of the starter’s block. So far, so good. Now what?

But remember, a litany of bitterness will not suffice. My rule for first person nonfiction is: question, challenge and trash yourself more than anyone else. My favorite essays begin with emotional devastation and conclude with surprising metamorphosis.

Hmmm. I haven’t had any substantial experience with redemption since the days of S&H Green Stamps. Or if I did, I didn’t recognize it. (Does that count as trashing myself?)

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