Archive for January, 2007

The Police Reunited and Small is the New Big

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Eyooooo, The Police are reuniting for an appearance on the Grammys and a possible full out tour this summer.

This is a reunion that I have been waiting for since 1983 when we attended the final Police Picnic here in Toronto.  By the way the opening acts that day included The Fixx, King Sunny Ade, Peter Tosh and James Brown.  This was at the height of their popularity with the Synchronicity album and tour conquering the world that summer.  It was a magical night at the long gone CNE Stadium and, unfortunately, marked the last appearance of The Police in Toronto. (more…)

Faux News Exclusive and Elf Lords Rule!

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

I’ve decided to use a Tolkienish tone this morning. 

First up The Faux News Channel, home to Bill O’Really, Sean Hannity and the rest of the ring wraiths and keepers of the faith in President Wingnut (sorry Peter Jackson) really showed their true colors last week.  Now, Faux News never met a crisis it didn’t love – This Just In, Breaking News, a story we are following closely, a cat is stuck up a tree in Boise – anything to keep the home fires stoked and the viewer ship up.

However, calling Faux News a news organization is a misnomer, in fact it is an opinion channel, and most of the opinion has been directed at heaping scorn on liberals and praise on the Cheney Presidency.  Now, getting back to last week, Faux saw an opportunity to kill two Democratic presidential bids with one stone, picking up a story from a conservative blog, oops “magazine” Insight (always a reliable source for news) which suggested that Hillary Clinton campaign operatives were preparing to use a story about Barak Obama’s attendance at a Muslim school in Indonesia when he was six. (more…)

Good ideas done dirt cheap…

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Why is the simplest always the hardest? Look at the coat hanger for example, a single piece of metal wire, a few simple bends and a twist and our closets are full of them. I’m not certain what the average wire coat hanger costs but I imagine that it can’t be more than a few pennies to manufacture and market. I guess what I love about coat hangers – apart from their non clothing uses to open locked car doors or cook hotdogs – is that this is such a simple idea and yet it serves a huge market.

The same is true of paperclips and three-hole punches – all simple ideas with huge market potential. Not every simple idea is easy to execute. Look at Google, for instance, a simple idea on the surface but requiring millions of lines of code to realize. Ebay was a simple idea, create a web site for Beany Baby collectors to buy and sell their little stuffed delights. (more…)

All Hail President Cheney! The Big Circus Rolls On…

Friday, January 26th, 2007

As I noted in my State of the Union posting the other day, you could hardly see Cheney’s lips move when Bush was talking.  As a matter of fact I think that it’s time that the media and the American people started to recognize the obvious – that the real President of the United States since 2001 has been a Dick, Dick Cheney that is.

From this point, until the coven is finally exorcised from the White House, we should only refer to him as President Dick Cheney.  Forget the other guy; he’s just a patsy, the beard for the real darkness that has settled over Washington and the rest of the world.  Bush would then be free to go back to binge drinking and playing Gears of War, or whatever else he does during the day.

After all, Dick’s daughter didn’t wait to be outed, so why should he?  We already know who calls the shots, let’s just make it official. 

And speaking of the Big Circus…

It is now Day Three of The Big Circus on DVD countdown.  I am sad to report that there is no action on this front.  During the past couple of days I have notified the Internet Movie Database and Digital Bits websites about the campaign.  The immediate lack of response sucks, but we must soldier on. (more…)

Is Learning Fun?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

I have had an interest in how people learn for some time now.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been working with an e learning company – LearnKey Canada – for the past six years helping them to bring their products to the business market and to integrate them into private and public universities.

It has been an exciting time, watching the product evolve from a video based format to a completely interactive online learning tool.

Not so quick to evolve however, is the idea and comfort level with online learning. Part of the reason for this has been access speed, but a significant group of people are not used to learning on their own. Self paced learning does require a certain self discipline but a lot has to do with the quality of the learning experience.

We can all think of teachers who inspired us to discover and learn. These were the teachers who thought outside the textbook and tried to make learning fun. The e learning I have been working with, for the most part, creates this great teacher experience. However, I always felt that a great teacher was also a facilitator and resource – there for you when you needed her/him.

And that’s where the whole technology seems to be heading. A more blended approach with live facilitators using the consistent content of e learning. Who doesn’t work better with a mentor – someone to be a resource and expert when you need some additional direction?

However, this still doesn’t move us beyond the 19th century model of command and control teaching. I like to think that real learning should be a process of directed self discovery. I need someone to show me the map and then I can go off on a treasure hunt. (more…)

George is a Dick, the Moon Disintegrates and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Well, I am very hungover this morning after last night’s State of the Union blowout.  Bush again proved to be the perfect Cheney hand puppet (you could hardly see Dick’s lips moving).

Again, as in previous SOTU speeches Bush ran down the list of Vision things – education, energy independence, medicare/medicade/Social Security reform – before getting to the meat of the evening, the War in Iraq and his decision to send 20,000 more troops in (no soldier left behind). 

However, unlike his five previous SOTU speeches he didn’t have the advantage of a majority in Congress and the Senate.  As a matter of fact, the applause was polite but less than enthusiastic – kind of like Bush’s rendition of the speech. 

Bush looked all worn out, going through the motions, distracted by more pressing business, such as where to locate his Presidential Library.  At least he didn’t remind the voters of his other great tragedy – his total lack of concern or response to the on going disaster in New Orleans. (more…)

The Big Circus on DVD Project

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

Call this an experiment in collective communication.  Or call it a selfish desire to see one of my fond childhood memories again.

First some context, “The Big Circus” was an Irwin (Lost in Space, The Towering Inferno, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) Allen production from the very early 1950’s.  I can remember vividly seeing it in the Geneva Theatre in Orillia, Ontario on one of the hot summer nights during summer holidays. 

My parents took my brothers and I to see it and I was transfixed.  Action, mystery, lions on the loose, fires in the big top, all capped off with a final sequence tightrope walking across Niagara Falls. 

Unfortunately, The Big Circus, has never been on DVD.  It was available for a very short period in the 1980s when home video was in its infancy. 

Now, just to put this all in further context, we are not talking about great art here – the film stars Victor Mature for god’s sake.  And, I am certain that it is dated and silly as hell – but it is still a fond memory.  Maybe I can recapture some of the awe that I remember from my first viewing so long ago on that summer night.

Or maybe not.  But I am not alone.  Years ago I posted a comment on the film on the Internet Movie Database and received a number of enquiries from like minded anxious fans wondering if I had a copy of the film. (more…)

Your Call Is Important To Us…

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

There was a great book out not to long ago entitled “Your Call Is Important to Us: The Truth About Bullshit” by Laura Penny, which I had time to read the other day while holding on a tech service line to discuss why my graphics card and Microsoft XP don’t like each other.  I also had time to reflect on the walls that many of the technology companies have erected between themselves and their customers.

I remember back in the 90’s when the company I was working for installed a phonemail system.  The IT department and the customer service area went overboard hailing this as a wonderful advancement in our goal to create total quality.  My fellow cynics and I immediately grasped the bigger implication – we never have to answer the phone again.  Better still, we don’t need to be bothered in getting back to anyone who does leave a message.  Now, we can really get some work done, secure in the knowledge that we will not be bothered by pesky customers.

Of course there was much wailing and grinding of teeth and when we actually did have to talk to our customers in person they were not as enthusiastic as we were about the “new phone system”. (more…)

Weekly Wrap Up

Friday, January 19th, 2007

It’s a busy day today so I will have to make it brief.

First up the Bill O’Really – Stephen Colbert matchup on Comedy Central and Faux News? Channel last night.  Colbert described it as the greatest crossover since the Flintstones Met the Jetsons.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, but it was really hilarious to see a pompous windbag like Bill O’Really mirrored with glee by Stephen Colbert.

O’Really did manage to get one specific dig in at well known liberal press organ, NBC.  NBC news president Steve Capus described O’Really’s attack as “really kind of sad and pathetic”.  Could it be that O’Really is actually being to worry about MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann’s rise in the ratings over the past few months since he really turned up the criticism on Bush Jr.s bungling of the civil war in Iraq? (more…)

All Hail the Hive Mind!

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

I saw a fascinating new science show on PBS last night called “The 22nd Century”.  The premier episode was about the possibility of a World Wide Mind.  In other words, cybernetic implants that will allow us to connect each others’ brains.

While, on the surface, this is a somewhat frightening possibility – I’m certain that people would find the inside of my head scary – it also would change the world.  Imagine what life would be like in a world with a collective consciousness?  I would be instantly able to speak Japanese, or cook like Wolfgang Puck, or finally be able to understand algebra. (more…)

Talking about a revolution

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Are you a revolutionary? Do you have nothing to lose but your chains? Do you believe in the collective? Is it a case of share or die?

In my rebellious youth I believed that revolutions were sudden shifts in group think. We would suffer under the yoke of oppression and then, as if by magic, leaders would emerge from the jungle and lead the uprising. In quick order the radio stations would be captured and the glorious news would be broadcast to the huddled masses who would leave their hiding places and celebrate by dancing in the streets.

Oh sure, this romantic vision of a revolution would leave out the messy aftermath, the former leaders stood against the wall and shot, or the inevitable purges to eliminate any potential challengers to the new regime.

However, in real life revolutions are much more subtle. Insidiously they creep up on us and for those who do not recognize the signs soon enough they will be devastating. For example, look at the American auto industry. Since the early part of the 20th century Detroit ruled. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors owned the top three spots in production and sales. Other challengers came and went or were absorbed through the years – Nash, America Motors, Packard. But the big three continued to grow unabated. (more…)

Are you in touch with your inner Simpson?

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

It’s hard to believe that the Simpsons have been on television for 18 years. It seems like just yesterday that they were an interstitial on the Tracy Ulman Show. Then producer James Brooks and creator Matt Groening convinced the fledging Fox Network to invest in a half season to see how it would go.

Fox in those days had built a reputation as the dysfunctional family sitcom network, with shows like Married with Children – come to think of it, it still is. The Simpsons was an instant hit with both the critics and the audience.

Lately there has been some debate about whether or not the show has jumped the shark and run out of creative juice. While I think it has its ups and downs the show is still consistently funnier than almost anything else on television.

We got into a discussion the other day about who was the best character on the show. Everyone seems to have an opinion on this. Some admire Marge’s caring nature, others identify with Bart, the demon child and still others identify with Lisa and her smarter than thou attitude. (more…)

Death by PowerPoint

Monday, January 15th, 2007

The season finale of Entourage found superstar Vince looking at the possibility of replacing his agent, the insufferable Ari. During the episode he goes to a series of presentations from rival agencies all trying to attract him. Each of the presentations is slick and soulless. Near the end of the episode he realizes that each of the courting agencies sees him only as a brand. He complains that at least Ari treats him as a real person.

Ari persuades Vince to come to a last ditch meeting to try to save the relationship. Unfortunately, Ari, instead of just sitting down with Vince and talking about their differences, decides to fall back on the sure thing – you guessed it – a slick, soulless presentation featuring Vince as a brand. Vince, in the words of Variety, ankles Ari’s agency.

And Ari, became another victim of death by PowerPoint.

Last week I was meeting with a client about a key presentation that he was scheduled to do in the next few weeks. We went back and forth on the usual stuff – audience, objectives, themes and length. He has about an hour on the agenda and wanted a tight, slick PowerPoint presentation that would wow his audience.

We discussed a bit more about how this might look. He gave me a little of the history of the relationship he had with this client and how he had been carefully nurturing it for the past year. It now all came down to this presentation for the client, and more importantly, for the client’s people. (more…)

Master Bush’s Last Stand

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Well, Master Bush has pronounced his latest initiative to end the war in Iraq. And it was met with a resounding thud. The latest polling data (if such things are to be believed) show that he has about 30% support among the American people.

So much for ‘political capital’ and the arrogance of his post 2004 election victory. George W. today is just kind of pathetic. I can picture him, a la Richard Nixon walking the parapets of the White House talking to the dead, knowing that his legacy will be one of disaster and despair.

It all has Shakespearian overtones, except that this tragedy has affected countless American families. Not bad for a guy who sat out the last American debacle pretending he was Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Thirty years from now when members of those families think about loved ones lost I don’t think they will have fond memories of George W.

(more…)

The Great Canadian Spy Coin Caper

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Canadian Spy Coins? Canada has been known for many things – snow, The Hudson Bay Company, Gordon Lightfoot, Hockey, Jim Carrey and William Shatner. However, espionage is not one something that Canada is renowned for. So imagine my surprise when I snow shoed down to the corner this morning to get the monthly newspaper only to discover that Canada has become a hotbed of spying activity, most notably with secret spy coins that transmit the whereabouts of the holder to some central control (yet unnamed).

In a country where Dudley Dooright is the closest we have to James Bond, this sounds highly unlikely, improbable actually. But these spy coins keep turning up in the pocket change of U.S. defense contractors. No one knows how they got there, or who is responsible. But I suspect that this is part of a hidden Canadian conspiracy against our neighbours to the south.

Operation Looney” has all the fingerprints of the Canadian government all over it. Maybe they have begun to subscribe to the old Mafia adage of “keep your enemies close and your friends even closer” or something like that.

(more…)