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A can of herring in the mail is NOT a Sicilian message

SEATTLE, Washington - Two groups that are very good at manipulating government are the major music labels (encapsulated as the RIAA) and the National Association of Broadcasters. They usually get what they want, but when their interests are at odds, they have to switch to other tactics, like sending cans of herring to their opponents.

Terrestrial radio stations do not have to compensate a musician when they play their song on the radio, a situation that has existed since the 1930s (!) and came into existence because broadcasters convinced Congress at that time that their broadcasts were essentially free promotion of the musicians, a damn bloody FAVOR to the musicians that they should be grateful for.

As sales of music via traditional channels are declining, the RIAA has decided now would be a good time for this rule to be lifted and for radio stations to start sending big checks to the RIAA member labels. This would be big money - likely billions of dollars per year - and each side is duking it out via their toadies in government.

At the same time, a RIAA-sponsored group, musicFIRST, sent a can of herring to the NAB and issued a press release saying "hey, we sent a can of herring to the NAB", to point out the alleged red herring nature of the "promotion" argument of the NAB. Their pitch is that corporate, corporate, corporate radio is taking bread from the mouths of the starving artists that you love.

The NAB is firing right back, saying that the foreign-owned, foreign-owned, foreign-owned music labels have been bilking artists for years and are trying to take money from Your Friendly Local Radio Station and send it to foreign-owned foreign corporations.

I won't get into the merits of their positions, I just hope they keep fighting, because this is more entertaining than listening to music.

Found at Ars Technica


Final insult as Mariners leave New York

NEW YORK, New York - Looks like Newsday was sufficiently bitter about the Mariners winning two games against the Mets that they referred to the Mariners as the "Pirates" in the writeup of Wednesday's game.

Pirates and Mariners both sail the seas but that's where the similarities end.


Nannytastic New York menu labeling rules - even at the ballpark

NEW YORK, New York - New York's pathetic rules regarding "chain" restaurants being required to list calorie counts on their menus have taken effect, and you can't even get a sausage & peppers sandwich at the ballpark without being confronted with calorie counts.

I picked the wrong night to go to Shea Stadium

NEW YORK, New York - I'm not much inclined to go to baseball games but seeing that Your Seattle Mariners won their first two games against the Mets, and listening to the subsequent anguish on New York sports talk radio afterwards, I decided to go to the last game of the series. I was prepared to gloat about another Mariners victory - not like a loud sports-fan idiot, but silent gloating, a silent sense of conquest.

This is the last season for Shea Stadium, which was another reason to visit. (The replacement for Shea is in the background below.)

Things did not work out, as the Mariners were bludgeoned and the Mets fans (many in my section wearing yarmulkes, not something you see much at Safeco) were in their full belligerent glory.

I left in the third inning, just as Miguel Batista was leaving, out of a sense of solidarity.


George Washington probably didn't see Seattle coming

NEW YORK, New York - This statue of George Washington (thankfully not sporting his Masonic apron and spatula) is at the Federal Hall National Memorial in lower Manhattan, the location of the original capitol of the United States.

Washington's first inauguration was in 1789, when Seattle was not even a twinkle in anyone's eye - in fact what is now Washington was still in the possession of Spain per a papal bull issued in 1493. Sixty-one years after Washington's inauguration, in 1851, the Denny party landed on Alki, and it was more than a decade after that that the first Mercer Maids arrived, allowing the Denny party to reproduce.

The Loser Express a.k.a. Staten Island Ferry

NEW YORK, New York - There's a way to suffer the costs of living in New York City (e.g. the ~4% city income tax) without getting any of the benefits - live on Staten Island. This is the ferry leaving Manhattan in the morning, so it's empty. In the afternoon, it's full of loser commuters that live on Staten Island.


A rare TV special on Atlantic City

NEW YORK, New York - I've always noted that Atlantic City gets less attention in TV and movies than you would expect. The ledger balances a bit this Thursday on HBO (I check the HBO schedule when I'm at a hotel as I don't have it at home) as they present ATLANTIC CITY HOOKERS: IT AIN'T E-Z BEING A HO', a self-explanatory documentary.

"With some of our personalities out of the game, we decided to head south to the Jersey Shore, where we see the Atlantic City lights, where many lost souls go broke," explains [director Brent] Owens.

Shot on location in the casinos and on the streets of this east-coast gambling mecca, the often explicit, yet frequently poignant, documentary underscores the hopes, fears and humanity of these Boardwalk women-for-hire, telling hard-luck stories of six prostitutes, who open up in a series of informal interviews.

This thing is about 4 years old but it's new to me.

Some Midtown pics

NEW YORK, New York - Some pics from the 46th floor workout room of my hotel, midtown Manhattan. The building with the radio tower is the Condé Nast Building.


Murderous schemers going far afield for targets

SEATTLE, Washington -


Not quite a movie review - Beat

SEATTLE, Washington - I decided to rent the 2000 movie Beat because (1) I was reading The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles, (2) I wanted to see Kiefer Sutherland's performance as William S. Burroughs and (3) I read in Luke Ford's interview of producer Donald Zuckerman that the production was a circus and that Courtney Love was a difficult drama queen.

Sutherland doesn't look much like Burroughs but I think he did a good job with his verbal cadence. He had some lines that I would imagine Burroughs speaking but other than that the script didn't seem to have much muscle. He's not in much of the movie.

In fact, there isn't much movie - it allegedly has a 93 minute run time but the credits were rolling at about 75 minutes. From the Zuckerman interview you see that this is because they had to whack whole scenes because Courtney Love just didn't deliver the goods. I think a Kate Winslet or Winona Ryder could have done something here. (Ryder was offered the role.)

I guess the bottom line is, when Courtney Love is insisting on having the make-up people for other cast members fired, the producer and director are arguing over edits, and Mexican co-producers commandeer the film's negative and try to extort you, it affects the quality of the film.

Woody Allen lost his nerve

SEATTLE, Washington - I and many other celebrated the news of the lesbian action in his new movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona involving Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz.

Bad news: Vicky Cristina Barcelona is rated PG-13. It doesn't appear we're going to get the anticipated steamy lesbian sex.

Woody has made at least ten R-rated movies, why did he crack up here? Even Deconstructing Harry was rated R! Why was that rated R - because of Woody's discussion of the tax implications of his hooker payments?


FCC will soon need to welcome a new group of ass-kissers

SEATTLE, Washington - the Federal Communications Commission serves no purpose for most of us, but its existence is still a great deal for the five people on the board, who have spent the last 450+ days getting their rings kissed by proponents and opponents of the XM/Sirius merger.

Now FCC chair Kevin Martin is going to recommend approval of the merger to the rest of the board, with a bunch of diktats and restrictions forced upon the merged entity, just to show that the FCC is doing its job.

The merged entity will have to offer a bunch of new pricing packages, agree not to raise prices for three years, and abide by other arbitrary conditions. Most grating to me is that they will probably have to set aside about 8% of available bandwidth (about 24 channels) for stuff that the FCC thinks people want, instead of simply trusting the company to provide what people want:

The companies agreed to turn over 8 percent of their satellite capacity, which works out to 12 channels apiece for noncommercial programmers and for those who have "not been traditionally represented" in radio.

Sirius already provides minority programming. Take for example the black man: SIRI provides several music channels that you'd have to say cater to a black audience, plus there's an entire comedy channel, headlined by Jamie Foxx, targeted to a black audience.

SIRI even has a gay/lesbian talk channel and has had it for years.

Seems the number-crunchers at the FCC don't consider all of this adequate. Implicit in the FCC's minority programming requirement is the patronizing assumption that various minority groups will not be interested in the 140+ channels offered by satellite radio unless something is narrowly targeted to them.

Even given all of this, the whole FCC board is not yet happy. History-professor-turned-FCC-petty-dictator Michael Copps is still making noise that approval is still a "steep climb" - the ass-kissing of Copps is not yet completed.

Saudi Arabia finally has a beauty contest

SEATTLE, Washington - Women in Saudi Arabia have to stay wrapped up and are not allowed out in public without escort, but you can't say the same thing about the country's goats. A "Most Beautiful Goat" contest was recently held in Riyadh, featuring some of the ugliest goats imaginable, and the Jewish Blog Network has coverage.

Are Jews even allowed in Saudi Arabia? How did that blog manage to cover this?

Found via Boing Boing


Washington State: similar to the Moon

SEATTLE, Washington - NASA needed some Moon-like terrain to test its gear, and ended up in Moses Lake, WA.

It won't be long before Seattle-style Design Review Boards and Landmarks Preservation Boards start up on the Moon.

(found at Slashdot)


Sprinkles Cupcakes, Newport Beach, CA

SEATTLE, Washington - I was going to write up a review of Sprinkles Cupcakes in Newport Beach, but they wouldn't let me photograph the cupcake display so screw 'em. The staff's snooty air made Trophy Cupcakes feel like a dive bar by comparison.

Oh, and the flavor chart on their website is useless, I was there on Tuesday and the available flavors did not closely correspond to the chart.

No more dilation for me - at least not for my eyes

SEATTLE, Washington - At my most recent eye exam I went with the new photo technology that allows the doctor to use this newfangled camera to examine the back of your eye, instead of using the dilating eye-drops. This costs a bit extra but was worth it this time as I was immediately heading to vacation plus you get to keep the pictures.

The bright spot is the optic nerve.


Some shots from the zoo

LAGUNA BEACH, California - Some shots from San Diego Zoo - some hippos, an orangutan, and a baby panda.

Because "Hermaphrodite Brig" would be an odd restaurant name

SOLANA BEACH, California - Turns out Brigantine, NJ is not the only thing named Brigantine. There's a small group of restaurants with this name in Southern California, one of which I stumbled upon in Del Mar.

When I went to take pictures, I explained to the valet "yeah, I lived a few years in a town called Brigantine, it's a rare name, taking pictures", and he noted I was not the first person to come barreling into their parking lot referencing the tiny New Jersey community.

"Brigantine" is the English term for a particular type of sailing ship, and the American term for the same type is "hermaphrodite brig".


Gelato in Laguna Beach

SOLANA BEACH, California - Tutto Amore Gelato, Laguna Beach - try the spicy chocolate.

Shocking parking situation at Commerce Casino

SOLANA BEACH, California - What says class for your casino parking lot like parking the cars right among massive electrical towers? Commerce Casino, Commerce, CA.

First night in Orange County

SOLANA BEACH, California - Fortunately my greeting in Orange County wasn't this dramatic.


Fantasy vs. reality for California card rooms

SOLANA BEACH, California - Over the years, whenever I've seen ads for The Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, CA, they've had the whiff of luxury - the swanky chandelier, the tuxedoed man helping his cocktail-dress clad lady out of a limousine.

The reality of course is far different - this is the self-park entrance to the Bike. Note the smokers and what appears to be two braceros - can I hire them to do my lawn?

Diner or bistro?

SOLANA BEACH, California - The sign to Grubby's Diner in Oceanside says "Grubby's Diner" however the credit card slip says "Grubby's Bistro". They have Wifi so I guess it's really a Bistro.


Penny at Belvi settles lawsuit with Charbucks

SEATTLE, Washington - In my unfortunate days of working on the Eastside I was a regular customer at one of the few espresso oases over there, Belvi Coffee in "downtown" Bellevue. A couple years ago the owner, Penny Stafford, filed suit against Charbucks for, among other things, their negotiation of exclusive arrangements with retail property developers that she alleged to be anti-competitive.

Turn out that Penny and Charbucks finalized a settlement in April. The news story is light on details as the settlement is confidential but notes that Charbucks tried to portray Penny as a "barista wanna-be". The fakers are (most of) the Charbucks baristas, Penny is as fanatical about beans and shot-pulling as anyone I've met.

I'll go try to squeeze some more details out of Penny.


An odd homage to Burroughs

SEATTLE, Washington - Due to the chaotic mess that was the writing and book-preparation style of William S. Burroughs, passages of text would appear in multiple works, and sometimes multiple times in the same work (some passages in Naked Lunch appear twice). Burroughs biographer Barry Miles seems to have pulled a similar stunt, though I'm not sure if it's mistake or tribute.

Here's one example. From Burroughs: El Hombre Invisible:

Stern had a friend called Harry Phipps, a 24-year-old, short, blond-haired, baby-faced, narcissistic American millionaire.

From Miles's The Beat Hotel:

Stern had a friend named Harry Phipps, a twenty-four-year-old, short, blond-haired, baby-faced, narcissistic American millionaire,...

Those look like the type of minor text changes that a student makes when trying to make it look like they didn't plagiarize something.

I saw some more examples but the former book is poorly indexed and the latter is not indexed at all so I'm not going to hunt for them.


Bad effects of moronic Daylight Saving Time switch still being felt

SEATTLE, Washington - I wasn't writing online a few years back, but in 2005 when our gallery of morons, the United States Congress, passed legislation to change the dates of Daylight Saving Time to "save energy", I told everyone "this won't save a bit of energy and it will cause all sorts of technical problems."

The law should have never been passed, considering Australia had done a similar shift in 2000 and energy use did not go down. It immediately became clear after the first shift that the United States was not getting any energy savings either. And to top it off, an academic recently did a study incorporating data from DST-renegade Indiana and concluded that DST shifts actually end up wasting energy.

As for technical problems, for the third time in the last 15 months (encompassing all three "new" DST shifts) we are getting bitten on the ass at work with data issues.

We would be better off picking Congress by lottery (giving us some random sample of the population) rather than elections, which allows smooth-talking hucksters, charming morons, and pathetic panderers to get into positions of power.

(I won't even bother here getting into how we should not have DST at all, it's a pathetic artifact of the past that should be eliminated, and Arizona deserves some credit for telling the rest of the country to go fuck itself on this issue.)