Thursday, February 28, 2002

Is Dodge Ball Too Dangerous? asks Time's "Time for Kids," an insipid children's version of the already simplified magazine. Answer: no.

This is my favorite part:

Some school districts that do not want to ban dodge ball have instead decided to change the rules to make it less violent. In several districts, kids who are hit with the ball get to re-enter the game so there are no hurt feelings. In other schools, kids aim at a deflated ball instead of other kids.

I am trying to imagine how totally lame these versions are, but I can't seem to do it without giggling so hard I can't type.

Well, we all knew it was just a matter of time: Tonya Harding and Amy Fisher to face off in celebrity boxing.

Webmaster John sent me this great email, which he introduces eloquently, "Check out this weirdly grating and resentful mass email from Delphi. They apparently wrote it in such a white heat of blind fury that they forgot to use any line breaks." There's a certain kind of frenetic, forced historical retrospective in this message that's almost alluring...and the wandering Larry King story is nice, too.

------ Forwarded Message
From: DelphiForums Member Service
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 20:25:03 -0800
Subject: URGENT Announcement Regarding The Future of Delphi

Dear Delphi Member, We can no longer continue to operate Delphi Forums using an advertiser-supported model. We are asking for your help to keep Delphi Forums alive. Please read this letter carefully and entirely. Delphi Forums is the Internet's first and oldest Internet community. Yet after 17 years we are at a crossroad. Advertising on the Internet has not been a windfall for anyone. You know it, and we know it. More importantly you have proven it by ignoring almost all Delphi Forums advertising efforts. Internet advertising is interruptive and distracting yet, for an Internet communication and content company, it has been the traditional means of generating revenue,regardless of how inappropriate or counterintuitive it is. If you walked into the grocery store, in a hurry to purchase milk, bread, and eggs, and a stock boy grabbed you by the arm and kept distracting you from your list, instead trying to sell you fertilizer, you'd be furious. You would eventually quit coming to the store, ignore the help, or whack the stock boy. Advertising on a community site like Delphi Forums shares some of the same distracting elements as the example above. Delphi Forums is like your grocery store; what do you want? Delphi Forums represents the finest free communications technology on the web. Outside of AOL, we may be the only technology capable of hosting several hundred thousand discussion forums. We can no longer continue to rely on advertising. Our community does not click on the banner ads that we attract (not that we blame you). Our community does not open or respond to email marketing. Advertising on the Internet has evolved into a bad idea. So, what do we do? It requires enormous infrastructure to host our millions of members and hundred million plus page views per month. Greedy investors and an irrational public market paid for that good infrastructure for a long time. That well has gone dry. Access to knowledge and information, and the ability to communicate instantly with millions of other like-minded humans is a good idea. Delphi Forums IS a good idea. We recently introduced the finest information gathering, knowledge sharing, and communication service in the world. It's called DelphiPlus. We want and need you to pay for it. DelphiPlus is worth more than the price of a movie ticket per month (and DelphiPlus costs less than most movies.) If you're not convinced of that, then we're in the wrong business. If Delphi Plus is worth more, say a movie and popcorn, but you aren't willing to pay for it, then we're still in a bad business. For better or for worse, our decision is clear. We need your subscription to DelphiPlus and we are asking for it. We hope you decide to support our community - your community. With enough help Delphi Forums can be around for another 17 years. Now THAT'S worth the price of a Broadway show. Sincerely, Your Delphi Team

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The Deep Kiss series is Japanese lesbian erotica consisting only of girls kissing other girls for the first time, over and over, for 120 minutes.

Random book endorsement for a book I haven't read--but this is a catchy hook:

by Steven Sherill

"This debut novel is about two weeks in the life of a minotaur working in a steakhouse in the deep South. The only way to categorize this book is possibly Southern gothic magical realism; Larry Brown meets Salman Rushdie with a little Milan Kundera and extra ketchup!"

-- Kelly Justice, Carytown Books, Richmond, VA

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

Doesn't this sound familiar?

In an Enron company video released yesterday by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), hundreds of employees of the now-bankrupt energy empire are shown being coaxed to do "the wave" -- not once, but twice -- by vice chairman Joe Sutton during an Oct. 3, 2000, meeting in Houston. "After all that great news and everything we've heard today we should feel pretty good, shouldn't we?" Sutton told the assembly. "We're going to get a wave going across the room here, an Enron wave to celebrate being the most innovative company in the world. . . . Let's get ready to rock-and-roll here." Yesterday, Waxman chief of staff Phil Schiliro quipped: "They may not have their 401(k)s, but they'll always have the wave."

News item courtesy of the Washington Post.

The title says it all: Bankers fired over �44,000 ($75,000) business lunch.

This engaging piece by way of Salon gives some insight to the horrors of working the literary slush pile at a major publishing house. Having worked the business proposal slush pile I have a lot of sympathy, though this sounds like it makes for better stories.

Confessions of a slush pile reader.

So a giant passes from our midst.

Monday, February 25, 2002

God bless Michael Chabon, first for being approached about working on the first X-men movie, and then again for this deliciously geeky proposal letter for how he would make the franchise fly. If you have no love for the X-men or have not followed the comic, don't bother following the link. Everyone else, enjoy!

Sunday, February 24, 2002

Amazon's dot-com investments continue to haunt.

Pretty good article over at the Seattle P-I concerning Amazon's insane foray into the world of venture capitalism. If you've seen my show, you'll be quite familiar with this phenomenon...this article also sheds some light on how those investments will stack up on Amazon's balance sheets in the long term.

Reasons I Will Never Upgrade to Windows XP.

A succinct summary of a reasonable position, complete with an excellent index of links to supporting documentation. This is not a fairy story--this is MSFT's strategy today, now and forever.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

From the Secret Informant Department comes this unsubstantiated gossip:

A friend told me a little second-hand tidbit that may interest you. Some guy who had worked in the DC, one of the upper levels, and had been there forever, had to interview with THREE different people in order to KEEP his job. And he didn't get it! He was given some amount of time (my friend thought it was about a month) to try to get some other job within Amazon, and meanwhile train his replacement. He didn't find any other position, so he was out the door. Eliminating positions is one thing, but making you re-interview for your own job is humiliation. But as we all know, experience, loyalty and a quarter will get you a cup of bad coffee out of the vending machine.

I would agree, except that in most cases the vending machines now charge a dollar.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

This is an inhabitable cloud whirling above a lake. Cocky Swiss.

Is there nothing that Elizabeth Wurtzel won't say? I hate to hit a lady when she's down, but this piece in the Toronto Globe and Mail makes abundantly clear that Wurtzel takes care of all her own bad publicity, thank you very much.

Friday, February 15, 2002

All day today TechTV will be showing a ridiculous piece I did for the ScreenSavers in honor of Valentine's Day--if you get a chance to view it, it's really a hoot, featuring my wife in a knock-you-down red dress seducing me ON CAMERA! Good Lord! What won't they allow on television these days? There's a short synopsis over at TechTV's site of some of the signs that you're an Alpha Geek, but the real funnies are in the piece itself--it's not good enough to miss Olympic speed skating for (those bastards are fast!) but it's amusing enough if you're channel surfing. We'll have it here on the site in the fullness of time.

I've been sickeningly busy, so it's all been work, followed by intense relaxation--the kind where you plot and plan your free moments, making it hard to keep this place well updated. A radical exception to that was Tuesday night, when I went out on a Date...Jean-Michele and I work together and live together, so we don't get to play together as often as we'd like. She planned Tuesday without telling me what would happen, and then set up a great night. We started off in SoHo at Casa La Femme, for which this has to be the funniest and worst-formatted review I could find. While I don't know if it was an A+, it's a damn cool place--it's schtick is that you sit on the floor in little Arabian tents, all bejeweled and tarted up, and there are bellydancers and Egyptian food. Downsides are that it's over the top, so you need to have a sense of humor and the waitstaff is unaccountably quiet--they whisper everything, which perhaps they think is sexy, but just ends up making it difficult to tell if you just ordered the lamb or will be brought a sexy broiled sheep's head. Expensive, but I can definitely imagine going back.

Afterward we walked up to The Bottom Line for a show by the incomparably, eclectically kick-ass Jill Sobule, whom I have an undying, unquenchable affection for. I think of her as a more approachable, less freakishly iconic, female answer to Warren Zevon--she does songs about the French Resistance and car bills and raping the neighbor's dog in a lilting and baby-full voice that takes turns sounding playful and heartbreaking. I don't follow a lot of musicians (basically those two are most of my list) so it was a real treat. I wonder if part of my affinity for her is the fact that she had one hit song, which is all about her kissing a girl, and so far seems to be only remembered for that moment. Zevon suffers from a version of that for "Werewolves of London", and I have to wonder if my affinity for them, which started years ago, is fueled in part by a current pessimistic belief that I may be headed down the same road. Not that it's such a terrible fate--it's a cool ride, and there's power windows and good AC, so I guess I'll see just how far I can get on this horse.

Tonight I will be attending The Pumpkin Pie Show, a work by Clay McLeod Chapman whom I read with at the Red Room last week. It's the full show at a great space called The Zipper, and I haven't seen them do their work in a full-show format, so I'm excited. For lack of a better term, Clay writes and performs solo works that are modern ghost stories--not in the sense that the supernatural is always involved, but in the older sense of a ghost story--that memory and its loss are always tangled up, and his stories evoke a kind of emotional tang that is missing from a lot of more traditional horror. The book he just published is here, and complete details on Friday's event are located over here.

It really was just a matter of time, wasn't it? to Add Wedding Registry. Personally I can't really see it--I like my books and DVDs as much as the next guy, but they really don't have the sort of "wedding zing" that you expect...Crystal and Pottery Barn is boring, but I don't know if I could handle the mountains of books and DVDs I would receive if I signed up my impending nuptials list there. If anyone tries it, write me--I'm curious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

The best picture ever.

Salon has an article today on the increasing trend of demanding that bookstores reveal what books their customers have purchased. It'll be interesting to see how long before Amazon comes under their scrutiny, and what they'll do.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

This is a peculiar kind of hell. I suppose I should count my lucky stars as to where and how I've chosen my tech-related topics.

Monday, February 11, 2002

Keeping up with my old homies over at Amazon, this entertaining piece was at Wick'd Boy News, a drunken blog by a legend of Amazonian foolishness. He writes:

I later went to Night One - the big A's post-holiday party they had at the historic(ed. it is now closed) Seattle DC. They turned it into a big Ol' Rave-BurningMan kind of event (complete with museum and multimedia installation art representing our past 7 years of toil). Overall, it was the good, party-hard kind of spectacle that usually gets thrown... Big and flashy and fun, but at the same time, it was one of those awful work functions where I lapse into the following exchange with almost everyone:

Them: Hey, you came!

Me: Yeah, I had to see... Morbid curiosity.

Them: (Straining to hear) Yeah... What?

Me: Nothing. Wasn't important.

Them: (looking at over the crowd) - Kinda weird huh? You know?

Me: Yeah, very weird.

Them: Yeah. Well, see ya. Gotta get another beer.

Me: Yes! Have fun!

I couldn't only take less than an hour with strained conversations.

It's nice to read these accounts, because sometimes when I look up from my book and show for ten minutes I think that maybe I'm crazy...but then I realize that it isn't me, it's Amazon, and more than Amazon, it's the culture of Required Faux-Hip Office Parties everywhere--more often than not icky and in a lot of cases it's because the people you work with are the last ones you want to have fun with. It took me years to believe this, but I now think you should actually enjoy the humans you spend the majority of your life with. If you think about it, this is actually a radical act if you try to exercise it in actual life. I can't say it's been all skateboards and five-cent cigars for me, but it's working for me.

Though Ann Beattie protests a bit too much in this piece on book tours--at points she makes it sound as if authors are hothouse flowers that wilt under attention--I found it amusing and interesting, especially the idea that the audience for "literary writers" is increasingly composed of those who wish to write or lead some kind of "writer's life", rather than simply being appreciators of good writing.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Just as an aside, in case you don't check out the news page regularly around here--I'll be performing tomorrow night at Clay McLeod Chapman's book launch party. Details are through the link, and one and all are welcome to come--there's a great line-up of other authors, cool bands and I will be performing some new material.

Gosford Park was wonderful and very sharp, and I'll save my thoughts on that for a seperate posting.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

This interview in the Guardian with Norman Mailer is very interesting. I've never been a huge Mailer fan of any kind--I read "The Naked And The Dead" but not all that much else--and I never fully comprehended how deeply disturbed this man's life has been. I'd somehow forgotten just how vast the quantity of feuds, fistfights and stabbings had been...geniuses are cursed, but some are also very lucky that it makes society put up with these kind of psychotic ravings.

This interview directly addresses that, and the style is reminiscent of a though Mailer is putting his house in order for the inevitable. He's typically frank and easy with his "handwave" explanations for psychotic behavior over the years--a kind of intellectual's version of "boys will be boys."

While I make no pretense of having a lot in common with Mr. Mailer, some of the comments on his style, and discussions of his work I've read strike a chord with me. I think my work also thrives on exploring the boundaries between personal flaw and social exposure, and although I use nerosis more than machismo I think my work has more in common with this school (which includes Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Didion) than it does with Spalding Gray and the confessional performance art movement.

At the same time, I'm a commedian, so there are certain boundaries that the culture won't let you cross. i was talking to some industry people this week about television possibilities, and it really struck me how many issues that might seem "interesting" for an academic regarding identity and perception become very, very real when you are turning your life into a kind of art on the stage. If I tell my stories, and that is my idiom, have I lost something if Charlie Sheen is "me" in a movie version? What if I'm still playing "me" live on stage every night--is that the same "me" that people are taking home from bookstores? Do any of these versions touch on the actual me, the one that is typing now, or the one that just took a shower and is now going out to see Gosford Park?

I raise the questions because they're interesting, though I fear their navel-gazing qualities. Hate him or love him, Mailer did a superb job of living inside a mythology he generated that was larger than he could possibily be--a mythology of machismo. I think he recognizes that, saw it all along, and this interview made me think about my own self-awareness.

That said, it is time to walk down my street in the very real February night and see a very fictional movie.

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Dear Sweet Mother of Christ, they've finally invented the Robotic Lawnmower! The age of Tom Swift has finally arrived!

Monday, February 04, 2002

This book review on "Starter Marriages" made me laugh out loud--if you're tired of pop culture eating itself and blaming personal issues and problems on our culture, with no sense of responsibility, take note--we appear to have struck a delicious new low.

Saturday, February 02, 2002

ENRON 101:


You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

Enron Venture Capitalism:

You have two cows.

You sell three of them to your publicly traded company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.

Repeat as necessary until you have $62 billion in assets, then declare bankruptcy.