Monthly Archives: January 2003

Ted’s Excellent Adventure


Ted Turner, often headlined as the mercurial Ted Turner, resigned from AOL/Time Warner today.  He founded CNN, married Jane Fonda, merged his company with Steve Chase’s AOL, then bought Time Warner, divorced Jane Fonda and today, got the hell out of Dodge on the day that AOL/TW posted the largest loss ever in Corporate America.

The stock folks thought that AOL/TW would be the ultimate media synergy of Warner Bros. films, Time/Life news and mags, AOL’s online ownership of souls and CNN’s jack into the back of the rest of the world’s head as a news source of record.

It turned out that it had AOL’s fiscal management, Warner Bros. news gathering skill, Time Inc.’s personality and CNN as some sort of third arm grafted onto the forehead dangling in space, grasping at Gerry Levin’s stray eyebrow hairs.

The concept of media synergy is not a bad one.  Own the creation of news and entertainment, own the pipe(s) and own the presses.  Cross-plug the shit out of anything the other arms do to the point of ignoring any other competitor.  So far, the media synergy thang has eluded the best minds. 

MSNBC is, if not a dismal failure, at least as enjoyable as watching gelatine firm up.  The Fox Networks have no internet presence.  Sony Pictures/Columbia just do hardware and software, owning a smattering of cable companies.  AOL/TW was supposed to be it and it ain’t.

Ideally, you would want something like AT&T, who owns gobs of pipes for phones and cable, cross-bred with Time Inc. or Gannett (USA Today) who know how to feed the news monster, and a Fox type network (no shame and big balls) paired with a string of internet portals, like Google and Yahoo and MSN with some slate.com and Earthlink.  Notice the internet side of the house.  More than one ‘brand’.  Make them compete like wet cats in a sack.  Fight like insane clowns with unlimited access to a tree chipper.

Could that produce a media synergy giant?  Quite possibly.  Add a studio, like New Line or Sony, a cell phone manufacturer, like Nokia and the new giant could be the only source for news, entertainment, communications and online porn.  Buy ads on one arm and you get ads everywhere.  Then sell the whole freakin’ thing to GM who wants desperately out of the car business and you’ve got a winner for business.

Not for us, who will be getting a dozen CD’s with our cars and five more blown in each day with our newspaper.  Oh and popup ads on our cellphones.  At this point media synergy will reach critical mass.  The Mass will go and find the media and be very critical, along the lines of ‘shove it where the sun don’t shine’.

We like our media fragmented, so we get what seems like objective reporting and differing points of view.  Rogers Inc. here in Canada, owns a huge whack of cable companies, AT&T, a ton of radio stations and probably your next door neighbour.  The National Post owns everything else, while BellGlobeMedia has TV tied up tight. Essentially, three companies tell us what to think, buy and feel.

Our exception is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  In American terms, CBC is a less socialist NPR and PBS, but with ads.  Which means you don’t get the strap-the-rat-cage-on-my-head Pledge Week.  The CBC is not allowed to own cable companies, bookstores, or cellular carriers. 

The Corp. (CBC) usually performs its job as a critic of the government and observer of the human condition with a fair amount of objectivity, patterned more on the BBC line of reporting the news, rather than tarting it up in a leather bra for ratings (“Five dead in Lackawanna…tape at Ten!).  It covers sports well enough if you like hockey, fancy skating, curling and show jumping.

Is media synergy doable?  Not in a way that we’d like.  But someone else is going to try.  It just won’t be Excellent Ted.

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Hans Blix and The Hot Licks


The UN Weapons Inspectors didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction.  Big surprise there, although they can ramble more or less wherever they want, the Blue Hat Crew is closely supervised by minders who are in constant radio contact with Saddam’s head office. 

Saddam, not being stupid, merely evil, doesn’t leave his bad things out in the rain.  There are no big buildings marked “Mass Destruction Weapons Factory #12” in downtown Bagdad.  The stuff is spread out, repackaged and hidden in other things that make up a civic infrastructure, like power plants, water filtration works, machine shops and the like.  Incidentally, Iraq is about 3/4 desert, which makes hiding things easy in a big sandbox outside the built up areas. 

As an example, CFB Carp (Canadian Forces Base) outside of Ottawa was essentially unknown to everyone in Ottawa for years.  Same with the CFB Perth and a couple of others.  Even in a full blown Parliamentary democracy, with freedom of he press and the other stuff, very, very, very few people knew that there were full blown nuclear bomb proof bunkers around Ottawa as well as some very good electronic listening posts sniffing the airwaves.  Therefore, in a dictatorship, with absolute control over essentially everything, can you hide stuff you don’t want people to find?

The downside here is that the US is a full-blown democracy, with freedom of the press.  The media has been reporting troop movements rather well, in their quest to have the best, most up to date information.  The media has also been doing a good job of postulating how things might go down, some of it wildly speculative, and some dead on the money. Does Saddam need to put more spies into Kuwait and Qatar to see how things are building up?  He’s only got to turn on Cable 33 and watch CNN.

I’m not going to say we should restrict the media, as I believe a free and unfettered media is a good thing.  But I also believe that the military should ask the media, nicely, to shut the fuck up.  The media will go along with it mostly and be more discreet in its reporting. 

The other step from the military is to stop giving press conferences:  “We’re not talking about it. It is a Secret. Shut The Fuck Up.” should be the only response from any military person either here or there at least until the manure and the ventilator come together.

Now, I trust the military, a bit.  And I trust the media, a bit.  The task is to kick Saddam out and he doesn’t need the information as to how and when and where we’re going to do it, handed to him on a silver platter.  I am willing to see the media cut out of the loop of information right now to keep from telling that armed nutbar how we’re doing on getting ready to hoof him one up the backside.

I know that seems contradictory, but the cost of a free media right now will be measured in human lives in a few weeks.  As far as I’m concerned, one soldier’s life is worth all the Conrad Blacks, Izzy Aspers, Ted Turners and Rupert Murdochs in pursuit of ratings and circulation numbers and media ‘glory’ of having the story first.

I can live with that contradiction just fine thanks.  We’re going to war.  That is a terrible thing and I don’t like it.  But if we’re going to go, let’s not panty-waist around.  Go.  Do.  Win.  Come home.

Stick And Ball


I admit to not being a fan of stick and ball sports.  I can watch them, as I have the essential knowledge of how most are played, although I do admit scoring in Cricket does perplex me.

I have played some of the more popular ones at some time in my life, including, ice hockey, street hockey, North American football, European football, rugby, baseball and softball.  I have taken up arms and played lacrosse twice, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton, squash, basketball, curling and even was a member of the team that held the record for the longest single continuous (1974, 110 hours) volleyball game. 

I have even enjoyed golf from time to time. 

So, my sports credentials do cover a reasonable range of the leagued-up, televised, endorsement-fuelled recreations that feature good motor skills, physical endurance, strategy and team dynamics.  The Super Bowl is none of these. 

Leaving the hype aside, American football has stopped being important to anyone except sports bettors.  The game seems to be tertiary to the show.  Same with ice hockey, you go to see a bloody bare-knuckles fight by a bunch of guys on a slippery surface, when, pow, they start playing hockey?  Talk about buzz-kill.

At the current rate of hype, the Super Bowl will be played in a park near Tupelo Mississippi and the television coverage will occasionally pop out to see the game.  The rest of the five hour broadcast will be in a huge stadium in Anaheim, featuring Celine Dion, Brittney Spears, Maya Anjelou and Brad Pitt singing the National Anthem. 

There will be fireworks, 12-storey inflatable Flintstones characters, massed marching bands creating patterns on the field, commercials ranging from Ozzy and Fozzy for long distance, to the Budweiser Clydesdales standing on their back legs in a bar, trying to hustle some mares. 

There will be a flypast of military jets and everyone will be asked to hold their seat cushion over their head to form an American Flag for the Service Men and Women, while the Goodyear blimp takes a picture of it and sends it by satellite to those in Kandahar.

There will be at least one shirtless, morbidly obese man, painted blue with the logo of one of the teams on his chest and face.  Naturally, there will be the “John 3:16” guy there as well as the obligatory “Hi Mom” sign waver with his friend the Big Foam Finger Fellow.

After two hours or so of this, the networks will cut away to the actual game in Tupelo, where the score is still 3-3 after one of the players fell down and skinned his knee.  An opposing player had to go home because he got a nosebleed and its time for his ADHD medication.  Oh, and Mom is making chicken tonight, so I don’t want to miss dinner, besides, the street lights are coming on, so its time to go home.

Everyone will leave sated and satisfied that they had seen the best Super Bowl ever, talking over the commercials, the singers, dancers, fireworks and marching band hijinks for the next week.  Much money will change hands as office pools and other bettors pay up, or pay off, or weasel out. 

In other words, its not the game, it is the hype that makes the Super Bowl what it thinks it is.  At its core, the game is immaterial to all but the players.  The rest of it is a parade float to give a child’s game the status the networks demand.  Reality is we’re watching a gigantic sideshow without going into the big tent.

Deep Freeze Over–Snow Begins


Our time in the cold chamber has ended, with a bottom limit of -36 C (almost -35 F) and we all survived, as Canadians in this neck of the country do.  The benefit of these extreme temperatures is that it is too cold to snow. 

This morning, the temperature rose to -6 C and the air that has been stuffed with moisture from the past week and change, is now shedding that moisture as snow.  Big, fat, fluffy flakes of snow landing on top of frozen snow.  The ‘I wish school would close today’ kind of snow you remember as a child is coming down heavily lining branches on the crab apple tree, covering the car and whitening all the grey frozen streets.

In sixty days or so, we’ll be in the throes of Spring.  For today, we’re enjoying, as best we can, the snow of our childhood.

Clones II


Just read a story on CNN.com (link broken, so try Wikipedia)regarding cc. the Cloned Cat.  She was named cc. for Carbon Copy, as she was cloned from a cat called Rainbow. 

They are different colours, both calico cats, but not the same colour patches, so that gene doesn’t work.  Personality?  I know many of us here have cats, so we can talk about that easily.

Rainbow is a bouncy thing, curious, etc.  cc. is quiet and reserved.  Rainbow, the donor DNA is slim and trim and cc is a bit of a pudge.  DNA testing proved that Rainbow and cc are identical cats and the whole deal was done at Texas A&M University, which is a fairly reputable place, not affiliated with an alien race, unless you consider Texas to be alien. (Insert your own joke here, this is an interactive posting by the way…)

Which I think opens up the whole Nature/Nurture argument.  Assuming we had some Adolf Hitler DNA around could we brew up another?  Based on Rainbow and cc, the first answer is no and thank you Deity of Choice that the mythical experiment fails.  So how much is of a person is DNA sequencing and how much is how they are raised?

I tend to side that Nurture is more of a determinant in how we develop as humans.  For example, my brother and I come from the same genetic material and approximately the same upbringing.  However, I was the firstborn and since kids don’t come with manuals for raising them, my parents made their first mistakes on me. 

Six years later, they made a different set of mistakes with my brother.  Welcome to parenting.  Consequently, my brother and I are totally different people in temperament, abilities and any other measurable parameter you might choose.  We share a sibling resemblance, but we even have different hair lines last I looked, so common donor DNA is at best, a flaky matchup.

It looks like you can’t get an exact duplicate through cloning.  There are too many parameters and outside influences that determine the whole of the person and the personality, which is what people who want to clone their pets, for instance, really want.  The Rainbow and cc experiment was initially developed because some guy with too much money wanted to clone his favourite collie, Missy, before she died.

A noble sentiment, as most of us have pets who have passed on, that we sorely miss and would love to have back.  But the Rainbow/cc science shows that it doesn’t really work that way.  We have known this, intuitively, just by looking at our siblings and seeing the differences. 

I’m going to set aside the whole ethical thing for a moment here.  Why couldn’t we use this technology of making exact genetic duplicates to make spare parts?  If you caught your arm in a punch press, or forgot to turn off the mixer before you licked the beaters, the clone is a perfect source of parts.  The added benefit is not having to take immunosuppressive anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life, as the spare from the clone, will not be rejected by the body as it IS the body, at least genetically.

Taking this to a more logical conclusion, Type O blood is a universal blood:  If you need a transfusion, you can take Type O, regardless of what your blood type is in the vast majority of cases, which is why Canadian Blood Services wants lots of Type O around.  Could we engineer spare organs and parts that are like Type O?  They’ll graft into the vast majority of people without anti-rejection drugs and about all you’ll have left is a bit of a scar from the surgery?

There is the real Brave New World border.  Essentially eternal life, swapping out body parts that age, get damaged or stop working.  We already do it with hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, bone marrow, skin and eyes.  If you believe that the brain is the bag of water and flesh that determines the person and personality, then moving it to another chassis is just a few years away.  Perhaps ten years.  Welcome to the future my friends.  We are now here.

Deep Freeze


There are some joys to being Canadian.  One of which is scaring our American neighbours with some of our spellings, of things like neighbour, colour, honour and cheque, where we use the British spelling.  Or, the pronunciation of ‘Schedule’ rather than ‘Sked-yule’, which means, by pronunciation, I woke up this morning and had a schit and a pisch before I made the coffee.

The BigFun-YankeeFrightener is the weather.  I just eyeballed the weather for the next five days for Ottawa.  Daily high temps start at -11C and drop to -19C by Wednesday. Those are the high temperatures, not the lows and don’t take into account wind chill.  In Ottawa, we call it Winterlude Weather, as it always seems to land during the winter carnival called Winterlude and naturally American tourists think that we have this all year-round.

Please be assured, dear American friends, this is the two or three weeks a year in Ottawa that Mother Nature just up and tries to kill you.  The other 49 or so weeks are Temperate, Too Damn Hot, Not Bad, Wet or Construction and Road Work.

There are other colder national capitals in the world.  Ulan Bator in Mongolia is it compared to Ottawa.  Even Helsinki and Reykjavik are warmer, but we like it here most weeks, except the next one or two or three.

Raytheon Presents: The Gulf War II, brought to you by Lockheed-Martin


Things are looking, essentially, like we’re going to strap on the guns and go a huntin’.  The ostensible reason is Saddam Hussein has Weapons of Mass Destruction that he might let loose in the Gulf Neighbourhood Playground. 

In a children’s context:  There is a neighbourhood bully who is scaring the shit out of the rest of us kids.  He thumbs his generous nose at the parents (the UN) and the daycare workers (the weapons inspectors) and tells all the other kids that he’s got a big booger in his nose that he’ll hock up and gob on anyone who doesn’t join his team.  OK, so what do we do now?

Simply put, all the other kids are getting together and the biggest kids are going to beat the crap out of the bully, then kick him out of the playground.  Very Lord of the Flies, but that is how it works at a child level.  It has worked that way, the playground dynamic, since the dawn of time.  Except when its country against country we give it names like The Great War, or World War II, or the Korean Conflict, or a Police Action, or Desert Storm, or Peacekeeping. 

We don’t really need to examine the ‘real’ reasons for the coming conflict, as they are simple to state:  Big Oil, Big Business, Big Economy Boost and Distraction From Shit We Haven’t Fixed At Home.  Thinking too much on this can make you too jaded, so in the interest of mental health, let’s just stick with the playground analogy.  Otherwise, we’ll wind up posting on alt.conspiracy.gulfwar 100 hours a week.

Let’s follow this to its logical conclusion:  The bully gets his ass kicked and everyone who takes him on, gets to put boogers in his hair, make him cry and give him a wedgie that he will never forget.  Now, the good kids run the playground and the rest of the kids who didn’t get into the scrap can say they were with us all along.

We’ll feel good about doing something for ourselves.  The bully will go away.  The playground will return to its usual level of fear and panic and unpleasantness. 

Except over in the other corner of the playground, we’ve got some Korean kid that doesn’t have a bike, or nice clothes, but he’s got a bottle rocket and some matches.

Humankind always needs some kind of bad shit happening to keep it angry.  I have yet to see one societal group, either contemporary, or historical, who have lead the pacifist path with consistency.  The Playground Ethos always applies