Ipad, music vids, crime & media linkdump

I’m determined to actually get work done today and not do a lot of random stuff. So this blogpost will merely record some things I’ve found over the last few days.

Totally random video by Steve Martin talking about the Jerk to the AFI. The movie is not that well-regarded, but is exactly right for my age group and doesn’t have a dull moment. See also his Mark Twain prize Acceptance speech.

Some pretty amazing nostalgia videos:

  • B52s sing Downtown in 1978 before they became famous. (I can’t get this out of my head!)  Petula Clark said in an interview that she also preferred her version best, but it was pointed out that her version had no cow bell to which she thought, then replied, "I like the B-52’s version better too!" There are many videos from that 1978 performance, including Rock Lobster.
  • Speaking of Petula, here is her Downtown in German. At that time apparently singers used to sing the same song in many different languages. Here’s Clark’s  incredible Hello Dolly in French.
  • Quite accidentally I stumbled upon a marvelous (and sexually explicit) music video  also named Downtown by Peaches. SFW, but I would wait until you get home!
  • Midnight Special had some great live performances including Bad Bad Leroy Brown, Steve Miller’s  The Joker, Taste of Honey’s Boogie Oogie Oogie and Manfred Mann’s Blinded by the Light.  I don’t know if this is necessarily a good thing, but it’s interesting how the Midnight Special’s live performances sound pretty similar to the canonical recordings (with a few embellishments).
  • Speaking of Croce’s, his live performances are electrifying. Here’s his 1972 live performance of You Don’t Mess Around with Jim.  He was 29 at the time, a year before he died. It’s a sad fact that America doesn’t recognize great artists until it is too late. (Fortunately, for regular readers of this blog, you already know who is  the best songwriter in the USA today   because I’ve interviewed her! 

Nick Bilton on computers and eyestrain (a very important question for ebooks):

“The new LCDs don’t affect your eyes,” Mr. Taussig said. “Today’s screens update every eight milliseconds, whereas the human eye is moving at a speed between 10 and 30 milliseconds.”

From the same article, a quote by ergonomic expert Alan Hedge:

Professor Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory at Cornell University, said that reducing eye fatigue is less a matter of choosing a specific display than of taking short breaks from looking at the screen.

When we read, Dr. Hedge explained,  a series of ocular muscles jump around and can cause strain, regardless of whether we are looking at pixels or paper. “While you’re reading, your eyes make about 10,000 movements an hour. It’s important to take a step back every 20 minutes and let your eyes rest,” he said.

See also the NYT Room for Debate with some technology luminaries about the ipad and portable devices. the biggest complaint seems to be that the iPad didn’t really tap into the power of the cloud. See also the exhaustive 18 page Arstechnica Review of iPad.  It is exhaustive, but I bet about 10 of these 18 pages are just screenshots.

Eric Alterman reports about the “free pass” that reporters gave John McCain in the 2008 campaign:

McCain flatters the press in other ways as well. For instance, he is particularly adept at embracing reporters’ romantic notions of themselves as tough-minded, hard-charging opponents of power, particularly conservative power. After facing questions from the late Tim Russert, host of NBC’s influential Meet the Press, he opined, "I just had my interrogation on Russert…. It’s a good thing I had all that preparation in North Vietnam!" One can hardly imagine what it must have been like for McCain to endure what he did as a POW in North Vietnam, but it’s hard to believe that it is an appropriate metaphor for taking questions about his main opponent in the Republican primary such as this: "Is Governor Romney waving the white flag?… Is Governor Romney suggesting surrender?"

And then there’s the special treatment, given no other American politician, to allow McCain to make his case to the public. When Media Matters conducted a study of Sunday-morning network guest lists, it discovered that the most frequent invitee during the nine-year period of 1997-2005 was McCain, who had appeared 124 times–over 50 percent more than his closest competitor. What’s more, not only was he the most frequent guest, he was the most honored. McCain was accorded eighty-six solo interviews. The runner-up in this solo interview sweepstakes was former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, with just forty-five. As Senate minority leader, Daschle was the highest-ranking official in his party; McCain, who was on the outs with the leadership of his party for much of this period, was the leader of nothing but himself. In fact, during the early period of Bush’s presidency, before–apparently–he decided that he wanted to be the Republican nominee for President in 2008, McCain often represented the Democratic position on questions about taxes and political reform.


As much as Eric Alterman is right about everything, the main mistake he made was in turning this article into a laundry list of things which were wrong about McCain (which at present is of no importance). I would have preferred that this story be about the media and not merely about presidential politics.

Timothy Noah on what the IRS will really do when health care reform passes:

When someone files their return, the insurance company will send us a little box that is checked, a yes-no question, that says do they have coverage or not. They’ll send it to the individual, the individual will attach it to their return, and they’ll send it to us. Think [of it] just like a 1099, where you get information reporting about the interest that you have on the bank account. We will run matching programs around that, and if somebody doesn’t have coverage they’ll either have paid the penalty that they owe or they’ll get a letter from us saying that you owe this amount.

I think there’s a couple important points that I would make, though, about our role in health reform. One is these are not the kinds of things—check the box whether you’re here or not—that we send agents out about. These are things where you get a letter from us. Second is Congress was very careful to make sure that there was nothing too punitive in this bill. … First of all, there’s no criminal sanctions for not paying this, and there’s no ability to levy a bank account or do seizures, some of the other tools.

My belief is while some people may play with the kind of question that was asked, the vast majority of American people have a healthy respect for the law and want to be compliant with their tax obligations and whatever else the law holds. People will get letters from us. We can actually do collection if need be. People can get offsets of their tax returns in future years [italics mine], so there’s a variety of ways for us to focus on things like fraud, things like abuse, and we’re gonna run a balanced program.

As an aside, I have to say that Slate really publishes some good stuff both in the past and present.  I just read David Plotz’s 2001 Seed Series (about the children produced by sperm bank donations).  The series is long and fascinating; I would start with this article which summarizes the results he collected.

James Rainey summarizes the results from a Norman Lear study about local news media:

New study of 30 minute  local news programs:

  • ads = > 8 minutes
  • news outside city = 7.5 minutes
  • weather & teasers = 6 minutes

Out of 8.5 remaining minutes most are crime scene, rescued animal stories, human interest stories, leaving less than 30 seconds for actual investigative reporting. Rainey comments:

You’re sure to learn about the Guitar Hero championships. (Slammin’ video. No analysis required.) But don’t expect to find out much about who’s running for Assembly or just how much library hours will be reduced by the latest city budget cuts.

Speaking of which, I just learned that Houston Public Library hours have been reduced… again! Oh, well.

My old government teacher Murvin Auzenne offers this gem by Valerie Callanan’s Feeding the Fear of Crime: Crime-related Media and Support for Three Strikes.


"…Research has shown that the pubilc believes that crime levels are the same or worse than what is presented in the media…surveys conducted in 1993 and 1994 found that almost 90% of respondents thought that crime was rising and at an all time high ,even though crime, particularly violent crime , had already started to decline….

The implications are unsettling. Silly me; I used to think that prison corporations contributing to electoral campaigns of tough-on-crime judicial candidates was the only dsyfunctional influence.

Christopher Helman explains why large corporations don’t appear to pay income taxes: they defer income and put costs in high-tax countries and profits in low-income countries. Oh, the advantages of being a multinational corporation!



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