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Courtney Love Calls Out Sucka VC’s and Major Label Cartels

September 21st, 2010 4 comments

This is from 2000, but oh my is it more relevant than ever.

I never, ever, ever thought I’d tell you that Courtney Love should be listened to. (Never been a fan.) If she really wrote what she said here, she did the math and calls out the RIAA and major label cartels and dot-com Mad Men VC fuckwads (oh, they’re all the same now) for strangling artists out of their rent. She spells out something that is just as relevant ten years later — especially in the new tech bubble.

Think I’ve been smoking what she’s been smoking? You tell me. You tell me if you’ve ever wanted to create, write, make something you know people want and have run up against corporate distribution mafia tactics/traditions, smelled the sweat of piracy fear from your hard work’s gatekeepers, or realized your work will never get recognition or given distribution access based on merit.

Read this transcript of Love’s talk in Salon and in place of the word ‘musician’ insert ‘writer’ ‘author’ ‘blogger’ ‘developer’ or ‘filmmaker’ or even ‘sex worker’.

This is a cultural slap I’ve been waiting for — this is one of my favorite parts:

When you people do business with artists, you have to take a different view of things. We want to be treated with the respect that now goes to Web designers. We’re not Dockers-wearing Intel workers from Portland who know how to “manage our stress.” We don’t understand or want to understand corporate culture.

I feel this obscene gold rush greedgreedgreed vibe that bothers me a lot when I talk to dot-com people about all this. You guys can’t hustle artists that well. At least slick A&R guys know the buzzwords. Don’t try to compete with them. I just laugh at you when you do! Maybe you could a year ago when anything dot-com sounded smarter than the rest of us, but the scam has been uncovered.

The celebrity-for-sale business is about to crash, I hope, and the idea of a sucker VC gifting some company with four floors just because they can “do” “chats” with “Christina” once or twice is ridiculous. I did a chat today, twice. Big damn deal. 200 bucks for the software and some elbow grease and a good back-end coder. Wow. That’s not worth 150 million bucks.

(…) I know my place. I’m a waiter. I’m in the service industry.

I live on tips. Occasionally, I’m going to get stiffed, but that’s OK. If I work hard and I’m doing good work, I believe that the people who enjoy it are going to want to come directly to me and get my music because it sounds better, since it’s mastered and packaged by me personally. I’m providing an honest, real experience. Period.

When people buy the bootleg T-shirt in the concert parking lot and not the more expensive T-shirt inside the venue, it isn’t to save money. The T-shirt in the parking lot is cheap and badly made, but it’s easier to buy. The bootleggers have a better distribution system. There’s no waiting in line and it only takes two minutes to buy one.

I know that if I can provide my own T-shirt that I designed, that I made, and provide it as quickly or quicker than the bootleggers, people who’ve enjoyed the experience I’ve provided will be happy to shell out a little more money to cover my costs. Especially if they understand this context, and aren’t being shoveled a load of shit about “uppity” artists. (…)

* Courtney Love does the math – Courtney Love – Salon.com (This is an unedited transcript of Courtney Love’s speech to the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference, given in New York on May 16.)

Ex-Colombo Capo Michael Franzese on God’s Plan

September 16th, 2010 No comments

Screencap of former Colombo capo Michael Franzese on ABC's Nightline.

Screencap of former Colombo capo Michael Franzese on ABC's Nightline.

Former Colombo crime family captain turned born-again preacher Michael Franzese gave Nightline a meaty interview yesterday about his departure from the Mob and why he still won’t testify for the government against his former Mafia associates.

When Franzese was a member of the Colombo crime family, his operation reportedly skimmed $8-9 million a week from the illegal transportation of untaxed gasoline. In the 1980s, Franzese was probably street boss of the Colombo family for a time, following the incarceration of Carmine “The Snake” Persico and Franzese’s own father, Mob legend John “Sonny” Franzese.

Oh, and speaking of Sonny Franzese, Michael here also discusses his attempts to save the soul of his father, whose favorite method of disposing of corpses reportedly involved a kiddie pool. After years in and out of prison, Sonny was convicted again when, at the age of 92, he was recorded on FBI wiretaps discussing the extortion of profits from NYC strip clubs. In that case, which finally put Sonny away for good, wanna know who wore the wire? Michael’s brother John Franzese. All in the family, indeed.

The FBI reports that despite his incarceration, the elder Franzese remains the Colombo Family’s underboss.

Now outta the Mob — and still never having testified — Michael runs the lecture circuit, talking to professional athletes about the dangers of gambling. He’s also written books with the greatest subtitles ever, including “How the Yuppie Don Left the Mafia and Lived to Tell His Story” and “Business Tips From a Former Mob Boss.”

California Schools Testing Algebra eTextbooks on the iPad

September 11th, 2010 No comments

Creative Commons Photo by Patrick Allen

The Fresno Bee and Washington policy-wonk blog The Hill report on the move by California schools to test iPad based interactive ebooks as algebra textbooks, in partnership with educational publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is proclaiming the move as “the first of its kind,” which it kinda is and isn’t — in particular, Massachusetts schools announced in August that they were launching a similar program, and Notre Dame has a similar pilot program this year, as have other universities.

Four hundred randomly-selected eighth-grade students in Long Beach, Riverside, Fresno and San Francisco will get their eighth-grade algebra texts on iPads instead of in print, “in an attempt to prove the advantages of interactive digital technologies over traditional teaching methods.”

Says The Hill:

Students randomly selected for the program will receive iPads loaded with digital versions of their textbooks for the coming school year. Their progress will be tracked and compared against that of their classmates using traditional textbooks to determine the potential benefit of a switch to digital technology.

Students with iPads will have instant access to more than 400 videos from teaching experts walking them through the concepts and assignments, rather than having to rely on the teacher’s explanation in class. There is also a homework coach and animated instructions on how to complete assignments.

[Harcourt Vice President of K-12 Sales John Sipe] said the videos allow teachers to focus on individual instruction rather than walking the entire class through the same examples again and again. The iPad also allows students to take audio or text notes and do assignments right on the device itself, giving the teacher the ability to track their progress in real time.

Link.

Macgasm’s Bernard Lagana makes the excellent — if shamelessly optimistic and even a tad nostalgic — point that:

I’m reminded of when Apple IIe’s and Apple IIc’s were first introduced in schools as an educational tool. They introduced a whole new way to learn. Back then computers were less interactive than today, but it gave us the tools we needed to learn at the time. Just like the iPad’s Algebra app will do.

Link.

Thanks to David Cassel for the link to the piece on The Hill.

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San Bruno Gas Explosion Viral Media Roundup

September 10th, 2010 No comments


Having arrived about 20 minutes early to pick someone up at San Francisco Airport yesterday, I figured I’d pull off the freeway at San Bruno Avenue and find a place to kick back with some Cornell Woolrich while I waited until closer to the arrival to get into the SFO traffic fray.

“And hey,” I thought. “Why’s that fog coming off the mountain so BROWN, anyway?”

Oooops! I skimmed along the exit by an armada of stopped cars with people shooting video of what looked like the entire mountain not just on fire but SPEWING flame into the sky, the way you only see it on the news. For a moment, I thought for sure it was a plane crash, SFO being so close — and that the giant blasts of flame irregularly shooting hundreds of feet into the air were gouts of burning jet fuel.

It wasn’t, and they weren’t. The blasts of flame were natural gas, as I’d discover later. It was (of course) the huge gas line explosion in San Bruno that killed at least four people and destroyed dozens of homes. As I exited the freeway at 6:42, this had happened two minutes before I saw it.

I was without a camera at the time, but — thankfully for the cause of citizen journalism — plenty of people were not. In fact, the interesting thing about this disaster, to me, is how thoroughly local news is now blending citizen accounts and citizen media with media from news professionals. A wonderful gent named Kurt the Cyberguy posted a wonderful list of links to some of the footage of this disaster, and a quick search of YouTube nets even more.

However, the interesting and disturbing trend came in searching Flickr — virtually NO images — at least none of any newsworthiness whatsoever — tagged for non-commercial reuse under Creative Commons. It’s just an impression, but I can’t help but think we’ve passed a breaking point with photos of news events, given how easy Flickr has made it to commercially license (for money) images in its system. Could people be refraining from applying Creative Commons non-commercial reuse tags, in the interest of posting a news-event photo that generates a financial windfall?

But enough of my random paranoid speculation. Check out some of the most illuminating videos of the San Bruno tragedy below, and our condolences to all those affected and the families of those who lost their lives.



Iconic Artist Banksy Interviewed (and Photographed!)

September 5th, 2010 No comments

The cover of Banksy's new DVD, releasing Monday.

Laughing Squid alerts me to a momentous interview with iconic guerrilla street artist Banksy, in today’s issue of UK Tabloid The Sun. The interview includes the first-ever photographs of Banksy working in his studio. No, this isn’t one of the signs of the Apocalypse; his face is pixelated or turned away.

If you’re unfamiliar with Banksy, read this. But the short version is that he’s at once the Godfather, Patron Saint and Lord High Executioner of art pranking and street art, a graffiti artist whose iconic use of stencils and opportunistic street elements has made him one of the biggest influences in contemporary art. One of his recent pranks included replacing 500 copies of Paris Hilton’s new album with 500 copies of his own. Banksy is famously reclusive, in part because his entire style of art is mostly illegal, but in part, I’m sure, just to fuck with people.

The interview precedes the release of his DVD Exit Through the Gift Shop, which comes out Monday.

All-Girl Funeral Scam Ring Hired Actors as Mourners, Cremated Cow Parts

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

Photo courtesy of TombstoneBuilder.com

The FBI website has a story today on the conviction August 2 of 67-year-old Jean Crump of South Los Angeles, a former mortuary employee and the fourth and final member of an insurance fraud ring that filed $1.2 million in phony life insurance claims. The group’s scheme featured forged death certificates and funerals staged by paid actors, as well as coffins that were buried with no bodies in them.

Interestingly, all four of those charged were women: Crump, mortuary operator Lydia Pearce (35), Phlebotemist Faye Shilling (61) who assisted with filing the insurance forms and Notary Barbara Ann Lynn (64), who faked the documents in the case. Financial assignment companies — which advance mortuaries money for funeral and burial costs against a share of the decedent’s insurance payments — figured prominently in the scam.

In one example, Crump’s band purchased life insurance policies for one “Jim Davis” (whose corpulent cat was surely bereaved), naming a fake nephew and niece as beneficiaries. When Mr. Davis “bought the big tamale,” a forged death certificate was produced, as were forged documents for inflated charges to the mortuary operated by Pearce. The fictitious Mr. Davis’s fictitious “nephew” received $230,000 from the insurance company. As the site explains, the arrangements then got far more elaborate:

The criminals went so far as to purchase a burial plot for Mr. Davis and bury him, without a headstone. But despite the extravagant funeral described on paper for the financial assignment companies—including an ornate casket and elaborate floral arrangements—the funeral was a simple affair, attended by several phony family members recruited to play the part of mourners in case anyone was watching.

…Two insurance companies began looking more closely at the claims and hired an investigator to ask questions. The con artists were so unnerved by this that they had the coffin supposedly holding the remains of Jim Davis unearthed. They filled the casket with a mannequin and cow parts to ensure the proper weight and then sent it to a crematory. Then, they filed phony paperwork stating that he had been cremated and had his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

The FBI press release on the case says that while Crump’s jury could not reach a verdict on two mail fraud charges on a related 2004 case, the charges she was convicted of carry a combined statutory maximum of 90 years in prison. All three other defendants pleaded guilty; the only one to be sentenced so far was Lynn, who got a year of home detention within three years of probation.

Don’t Know What Email to Read? Let GMail Decide!

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

As if they read my post on Eric Schmidt and wanted to mess with me, GMail just gave me a pop-up promoting GMail’s new Priority Inbox, wherein Google gets to predict what emails I want to read. That’s right! As we turn more and more of our lives over to the fleet of chugging diesel trucks that form the Internets, Google is here to help with the congestion on I-95!

The interface is simple; emails are assigned priority based on which senders’ emails one reads and replies to. The Priority box shows up at the top of one’s inbox, and one clicks a box for anything that’s in priority that shouldn’t be, or vice-versa. There’s even a snappy video to explain things, complete with cleverly-retro animation and music right out of a Woody Allen movie:

Garett Rogers at ZDNet writes that this — and the Call Anyone allows users to make phone calls to landlines or cell phones from GMail — “have really taken this service to another level.” But after having Eric Schmidt hand me an ice cream cone while telling my Dad surfs sports websites…I confess to feeling a little Winston Smith this afternoon.

The fact is, however, that because I use GMail, Google already decides what I’m going to want to read, because it’s got the best damn spam filter going. I check my spam box once every two or three days; I only occasionally run across anything that shouldn’t be in there, and I get spam in my actual inbox only once in a blue moon.

“This service” doesn’t really need to be “taken to another level” in order for it to become something I can’t live without. Spam long ago rendered all my other email addresses useless. Google has me by the short ones because of the “quality of its product,” to put it one way. Or, to put it another, because any other solution is likely to result in my death by a thousand cuts. The weapons? Rolexes and low-priced Bulgarian Viagra. GMail remains indispensable to me only because its abusers haven’t figured out yet how to make it as useless to me as Yahoo or Hotmail.

Honestly, it’s almost enough to make one only want to contact people through MySpace — don’t you agree?

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Fun With Ferraris

September 2nd, 2010 No comments

Photo from WreckedExotics.com

All right, everybody, I’m sorry to break it to you, but that sexy car your cocaine-dealer sugar daddy bought you so you wouldn’t testify against him in his Utah trial for possession of an unlicensed firearm? Mister Speedy a has to go back to the dealer, at least for a while. Unless you want to pull a Richard Pryor.

Ferrari is recalling its 2011 458 Italia, a 4.5-liter, 8-cylinder, 7-speed, 570-horsepower, 200-mph, $230,000 penis of a car because “>it might burst into flames. Reports from the company are that the heat shield on this model was secured by cement rather than bolts, and can degrade against the exhaust system until, potentially, the cement explodes. This results in what Jalopnik (which added a “ferrari-flambe” tag this week) quotes the company as calling a “thermal incident.”

This followed a weekend of “under-the-table recalls,” called that in another Jalopnik post where they reference “at least four fires in three months,” which thermal incidents Speedlux informs me were in fact not in identical cars, but included both the Ferrari 458 Italia sports car and the Ferrari 458 Italia sedan.

If this all makes you squee, or start making jokes about “Italian mixed grill” and “wienie roasts,” or talk about how the Ferrari 458 Italia is “one hot car” or “smokin’” or how it “sizzles,” then you are a son of a bitch. It is wrong — wrong, I tell you! — to laugh at peoples’ misfortunes, especially on the highway where we’re all just meat hoping we don’t hit the grinder any time soon.

Then again, when those people are driving $230,000 cars, it sure is tempting to slap that vein and mainline a little schadenfreude, huh? Perhaps that’s the logic behind WreckedExotics.com, which collects post-incident photos of some of the most expensive cars or, rather, twisted hunks of metal that were cars before they became future 50%-recycled corrugated metal siding.

If you prefer indulging your consumer lust to delighting in the flaming misfortunes of rich people, why not build your own Ferrari? Ferrari.com lets you go interactive on its ass and configure your own Spaghetti Rocket, though if you want to detonate it you’ll need Photoshop. I don’t think they have one-click ordering yet, and neither sports car nor sedan version of the Ferrari 458 Italia are yet available for the Kindle.

Wino Cows Too Drunk to Care They Are A Culinary Trend

August 31st, 2010 No comments

wine drinking cowsGiving new meaning to the term “tipsy”, a female cattle rancher in British Columbia has been giving her cows red wine to drink during their final two months before becoming burgers, and turns out the cows love to party — and suffer no ill health effects while making the meat have a distinct flavor described to be like candy. The best part, besides knowing the cows get to have a two-month rager up to the inevitable moment of death, is that it apparently makes the cows happy and “chatty.” What I want to know is, what wines do they prefer? Would a posh BC cow drink Pinot Noir, while a Bakersfield Bessie hunker down in the field with a bottle of Boone’s Farm?

Snip:

(…) The idea of giving wine to cattle came to Ravndahl late last year during a TV food program that featured beer-swilling pigs. As the Okanagan is one of Canada’s premier wine regions, getting local beef on the bottle seemed like a good plan. Ravndahl said she started with one young cow who took to the bottle immediately, quickly earning the epithet Wino. “It definitely changes their personalities. They moo a lot more with each other. They get really chatty,” she said.

Trying to find the optimal time to serve the cows their wine course was vital to getting the best beef. They’ve determined 60 days produces a great taste in the beef. “At 90 days, the costs get a little out of control,” she said.

When cattle are fed wine, they’re reported to be much more social. (Janice Ravndahl, Lionel Trudel/Associated Press)The first bovine wine tasting was in April 2009 with the 21-day dry-aged beef first hitting the market in February 2010. “We just put it in a pail and said, ‘Who’s going to drink it?”‘ she said. “Wine has a very strong aroma. They were curious about it right away.”

The cattle get a litre-blend of red wines daily, but their preference is for sweeter vintages, she said. Ravndahl said the wine appears to make the steers more docile, which enhances the texture of the meat. “Cattle that are relaxed taste better,” she said. “You don’t want tense beef.” (…read more, cbc.ca, via Braincraft)

Image by SissiSvan.

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TSA’s New Alternative to “Naked” X-Ray: Groping!

August 31st, 2010 1 comment

Airport security Lady Gaga

Image snapped of Lady Gaga going through security at the Vancouver Airport last week

Outrage over new invasive airport searches, indeed. If nonconsensual genital prodding is your kick, then it’s time to fly the friendly skies. If you decide you don’t want to go through the “naked” X-ray scanner which lets everyone see your — everything (and you can only imagine what happens with the digital images), then you too may be able to delight in one of the few ways you can be fingerbanged in the name of homeland security: seductively named by the TSA as the “front-of-the-hand, slide-down technique.” Snip:

US officials are using “invasive and aggressive” searches for those who refuse to go through their controversial full body “naked” X-ray scanners. The “front-of-the-hand, slide-down technique” amounts to an indecent assault in any other context and shows an alarming disregard for privacy by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), civil libertarians say.

“People want to feel safe and secure when flying,” Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said.
“And that includes feeling safe from the wandering hands of transport officials. The punishment for opting-out of an invasion of your privacy is an even greater invasion of your bodily integrity.”

(…) While the TSA says it has received “very few” formal complaints about the new search techniques, Mr Vines called for a halt to the procedure until they could reveal why it was needed. “The actions of the US TSA would amount to indecent assault if performed by anyone else in the community,” he said.

US passenger Rob Webster told the Boston Herald he found himself subject to the new search after refusing the scanner during a domestic flight. “It was extremely invasive,” Mr Webster said. ”This was a very probing-type touching. Not just patting over all your areas, but actually probing and pushing and seeing if I was concealing something in my genital area. If anybody ever groped me like that in real life, I would have punched them in their nose.”

The searches are being trialled at Boston’s Logan International Airport and McCarran ahead of a planned national rollout. After conducting a similar type of search in 2004 the TSA received hundreds of complaints of sexual harassment and abuse – including the “manhandling” of private areas. (…read more, news.com.au)