Monthly Archives: December 2006

Bloggers and Politics

John Edwards has chosen to announce his candidacy on YouTube, and Paul Kaputzka has covered it for NewTeeVee, part of Om Malik’s blog. Because of my advanced age and non-technical background, I’m careful which blogs I comment on, for fear of being considered a little old lady with a cane. But if it’s one place where I’m experienced, it’s politics, so here goes.I can’t let my friend Scoble, one of the most honest and open journalists on the planet, get excoriated for leaving his wife Maryam and son Patrick over Christmas vacation to go to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward,, Iowa, and New Hampshire — not exactly top winter vacation destinations.This is ridiculous. I am as pissed at reporters who are in the pocket of politicians as anyone, but just because someone rides on a campaign plane does not put them in anyone’s pocket. For Edwards, who strikes me as an earnest man, this is a way to reach out to new constituencies who don’t vote (young people) and should. For Scoble, it’s a way to document how social media is influencing politics. It wouldn’t matter who the candidate is.

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Mourning

Happy New Year. As we head into the celebration, the nation is mourning various people: Gerald R. Ford, Frank Stanton, James Brown. Amazing constellation of deaths around Christmas.For me, the most important of these, of course, is James Brown.

Gerald Ford was our accidental president. He was never elected, and he knew it, so he kept a low profile. Until he decided to pardon President Nixon. When he did that, it was part of a broader strategy to restore decency and credibility to the presidency. Unfortunately, he didn’t succeed. Since Ford, one president after another has proven that a single individual cannot govern a democracy as broad and diverse as ours. Nixon might have been the first of the unseemly modern presidents, but there have been many to follow, even though Gerald Ford may have tried to stanch the flow of sleazy politics, fraud, not-so-secret philandering, squandered campaign promises, and big money influence. He was a sweet man, and I even understand why he pardoned Nixon, but he’s not a major figure in my pantheon of stars.

FranK Stanton, co-founder of CBS, comes closer. He had a somewhat heroic, if austere, respect for journalism, and under his guidance CBS News enjoyed an unequalled reputation. Unfortunately, he outlived himself and his era, and was around to see his baby become just a corporate behemoth just like every other network. He was 98 when he died (on Christmas, typically a slow news day).

But this Christmas was different, because when I woke up on Christmas morning, the Godfather of Soul was dead, and an otherwise slow morning on CNN was alive with soul.

I saw James Brown at the Apollo Theatre in New York when I was a kid, and I can remember seeing him many times afterward, always rising out of my seat and going nuts. They didn’t call him the hardest working man in show business for nothing. I, however, grew up in the Civil Rights movement, and what I remember most clearly about James Brown isn’t “Please, Please, Please” or ” I Feel Good,” which you can see on UTube, but the tremendously influential “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Brown was always an advocate for the black community, rather than a wealthy entertainer who turned his back on it. He may have been the Godfather of Soul, but he was the father of disco and the grandfather of hip-hop as well. That man could dance!

In that regard, I urge everybody to go see “Dreamgirls,” in which Eddie Murphy (you will never know it’s him) plays a character modeled after Brown, while Jamie Foxx plays Berry Gordy, the recording mogul who almost singlehandedly cause the crossover from race records to mainstream rock for a generation of Detroit musicians, most notably the Supremes. It was quite an era, and I was lucky to be of concert-going age during it.

But I urge you to see this film not because it is about civil rights or James Brown — it’s not — but because I’m not sure I have ever seen better performances out of a film cast. I was halfway through the film before I realized the lead character Deena Jones (or was that Diana Ross) was played by Beyonce Knowles. And I already told you about Eddie Murphy’s intensity. Most incredible is the American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson, whose voice is so incredible that the audience in the theatre with me rose to its feet and gave her a standing ovation once in the middle of the film (at the end of her big number) and once during the credits at the end.

I used to be a film reviewer in my gay, mad youth. I hardly ever review films anymore, at least not publicly, because most of them suck. But “Dreamgirls” has drawn me back to a time when movies were cool. So now I can come out of mourning for movies.

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Lon Safko’s Inspiring Story

He is a the guy who first invented the human interface to the computer for the disabled — voice controls and the head mouse. The Smithsonian has taken all his documents. Read about part of it here, as he writes his book in blog format.

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Twas the Night Before…

Finally. The Christmas parties are (almost) over, and the shopping and shipping are done. I finally have time to contemplate the season, after spending the beginning of it in surgery and the end catching up on whoever I didn’t buy anything for over the summer.  Yes, I often Christmas shop months in advance, and often on my trips.  That way I have that unusual wine-bottle holder from Malta for the special Chardonnay I ordered when I was in Sonoma.

I finessed the Christmas tree decor issues (what color, what theme) this year by making it the Year of the Dog: every ornament is a dog toy.  When Christmas is over, the dog will take the ornaments off the tree and eat them. Nothing to pack up for next year except the artificial tree itself. Ah yes, that artificial tree.  It’s a remnant of my upscale days in Esplanade Place, where everyone has their trees trimmed by a professional so they can stand lighted in the windows without violating the homeowner’s association rules. Only artificial trees, which are regular rather than too thin or too thick, need apply.

Anyway, I spent over a thousand dollars on this tree, which comes with its own pre-strung lights.It folds up into its own little container that sits in a closet all year.  A feat of engineering never equalled by nature. So I will use it for the rest of my life to amortize the cost. I wonder if I can depreciate it as a capital expense. Or maybe I could take it to "My Sister’s Closet" or "Terry’s Consign and Design.

As you can imagine from the tone of this post, I’m hardly into the joy of the season. And here might be the biggest reason why. This morning on CNBC I heard that the average person has spent $895 on Christmas. This is up from $695 ten days ago, so people are beginning to lose their heads here at the final days. The biggest spenders are men who make more than $75,000 a year. Those same people who make $75,000+ a year are also the biggest re-gifters.There have been numerous stories this season on the art, science, and etiquette of re-gifting.  I find that hilarious. To me, this means we all have too much stuff, and don’t need anymore. So we search for that colleague or friend who might have room for our unwanted gift in his or her garage.

For me, this Christmas has been reduced by TV newscasters to a mountain of statistics: black Friday, red Monday, the biggest shopping day, the biggest shipping day, the biggest delivery day.  All these have been tallied and counted ad nauseum. Sweaters, electric trains, and TVs have made comebacks as popular gifts.  But those same TVs are being sold at below cost, to the chagrin of retailers.

And we have a relatively new entry into the gift arena: the gift card. Most of the gift cards I have seen even allow the giver  a space on the card to indicate how much the card is worth — no more trying to hide what you paid for someone’s gift. Instead, proclaim it: To my dear one from Francine –the value of this Home Depot Card is $50.00  And that’s what you are worth to me. All cleanly denominated, all our friends and relations.

Worse yet, half of us won’t even use our gift cards, and the store will pocket the money. Or we will wait too long, and the value of the card will decline.

Yes, Christmas is not even about individual materialism anymore.  It’s about group economics. And perhaps that’s why I don’t have a live tree. It’s a waste to kill a tree for a bunch of numbers.  Merry Macroeconomics!

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Things I’ve read in blogs that you might like

I have been using Google Reader to read my feeds, and sharing the items I like best. You can see what I like here. Scoble refers to this as his link blog, but for me, it’s just my list of memorable blog posts.

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Deepak Chopra on Stephen Colbert

Deepak Chopra’s appearance on Stephen Colbert last night:

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More new media stuff

Great idea from John Furrier about having an Entrepreneurship Idol Contest.. We can have this here if Sean or some of the other Vloggers will help us!

And here’s a link from Kathy Sacks to a Ketchum Study on how people get their information. Mixed reviews for new media.

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