Thursday, March 30, 2006

There's bad, then there's "Basic Instinct 2"

I suspect many of you have, as I have, gone back and forth on the subject of Basic Instinct 2. When I heard that it was going to be made, my initial reaction was, "Why bother?" I had no interest in the subject at the time and thought it was just a desperate attempt by Sharon Stone to resurrect a career that never should have existed in the first place.

Then the "trailer" hit the Web. Say what you want, but you can't deny that it has some pretty hot stuff in it. And, after seeing it, my thinking changed to, "Maybe this is going to be so bad that it's good, sort of like the first one." The original Basic Instinct was an over-the-top train wreck in many ways, but it was a guilty pleasure. This is clearly demonstrated to be true by the aforementioned Sharon-Stone-career-that-never-should-have-been. Like it (or her) or not, the movie made her a star.

Now comes Ain't It Cool's review of BI2 (catchy), and it looks like the original thought was spot on. According to Massawyrm, it's worse than you can imagine. God knows where the trailer came from, 'cause it sounds like none of it is even in the completed film. What we're left with is bad dialogue, bad acting, bad storytelling, and perhaps the most Razzie-worthy movie ever made.

The review is worth reading, however.

Oh, crap - injury bug hits Ranger pitching

Rangers' #2 Adam Eaton is the first casualty - a tendon on his pitching hand let go yesterday. The scary part of this is he suffered pretty much all last year from the same injury. He thinks he's going on the DL, which is never good news.

The Rangers had JUST named RA Dickey as starter #5. Other options for Eaton's replacement are Edinson Volquez, Juan Dominguez, and apparently, John Danks or Thomas Diamond, neither of whom have made it past AA yet.

It's way too early for this sort of nonsense, but it gives you an idea of how thin the Rangers' pitching is, improved or not.

World talks tough to Iran; Iranians have nation-wide giggle fit

The US, China, Russian, UK, France, and Germany have told Iran to stop their nuclear program or face "isolation", whatever that means.

The Russians have gone out of their way to clarify "isolation" as NOT including sanctions. So, I guess the rest of the world will talk to each other at cocktail parties while pointedly ignoring Iran like an ex-girlfriend. Oooo, harsh.

The Iranians are laughing their asses off as the world fumbles for a way to deal with their nuclear program. Iran's barmy Pres, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has proven time and again that he can say anything that pops into his breezy brain with no significant consequences. Now the whole country is learning to thumb their noses at the rest of humanity while they do whatever they damn well please.

I hate to say it, but I don't really think I'm going too far out on a limb when I predict that AQ or one of their correspondent groups will set off a dirty bomb or the real, fissiony deal in a major Western city in the not-too-distant future. Stamped on the bomb case will be the words "Made in Iran" and a big, smilely mullah. And we'll all wish we had shown some spine back in 2006, when it would have made some difference.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hun Sen blows a gasket

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen launched a verbal broadside of monumental proportions against UN human rights envoy Yash Ghai on Tuesday.

Mr. Ghai, in Cambodia on a 10-day fact finding trip, apparently had the gall to criticize Cambodia's commitment to human rights. He went on to state the obvious by saying too much power has been centralized around one person (that would be Hun Sen, for those of you following along at home).

Hun Sen took the paranoid-former-Khmer-Rouge-pretending-to-be-reformed track in responding, calling Mr. Ghai "deranged", insisting Kofi Annan sack him, and pointing out that Kenya (Ghai's home country) has a poverty problem too.

Hun Sen, in power in Cambodia since the Vietnamese installed him in 1979, has never been one to play by the rules. He's bullied his way into government when he didn't receive the votes to be involved, his Cambodian Peoples' Party has often been accused of strong-arm tactics, and he's done everything he can do to stall the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders to prevent unsavory details about his own past from coming to light. Even by his standards, though, Hun Sen has been acting increasingly paranoid and insecure lately, charging multiple opposition figures with criminal defamation, only to drop the charges after the headlines subside.

Cambodia continues to be one of the poorest countries on earth, seemingly unable to recover from its decent into hell under the Khmer Rouge 30 years ago. It seems clear Cambodia will not make any significant progress while Hun Sen keeps his hands firmly on the reins.

And there goes Amare

Amare Stoudamire's comeback has, after three games, probably ended for the year. He played poorly in a lopsided Suns loss to New Jersey on Monday night, then was held out of another lopsided Suns loss last night in Milwaukee.

Apparently, he's experiencing some stiffness in his surgically repaired left knee, and the Suns, who have huge long-term hopes for Stoudamire, are making a sensible choice by holding him out.

You hate to see really gifted athletes like Stoudamire sidelined with major injuries like this, and one hopes that his career is not diminished or ended by the injury. Stoudamire is the kind of guy who can inherit the mantle from Duncan and Shaq and could dominate the league for the next 10 years. I sincerely hope he comes back next year and regains his former, amazing stature.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Big day in Israel

Israelis went to the polls today, apparently in historically low numbers, to elect a new government.

This will be the first election for Ariel Sharon's Kadima Party. Prior to Sharon's debilitating stroke, Kadima was virtually assured of victory, and probably by a large margin. Now that Sharon is out of the picture, replaced by his longtime deputy Ehud Olmert, Kadima will probably still win, but apparently by a smaller margin.

Regardless of who does win, a coalition government is a virtual certainty. Is it a left- or right-leading coalition? We shall see; the left has been in disarray for some time, but Likud (the right) has very little right now. Former PM Benjamin Netanyahu is the leading right wing candidate, and he's seen in Israel as a bit of a snake-oil salesman.

One hopes that however it shakes out, the coalition is secure enough to seek to negotiate with the Palestinians, but strong enough to pursue the unilateral course if no viable partner emerges. The situation in Israel will look very different in five years, and this government will have a lot to say about the shape it takes.

UPDATE: Kadima will win, and it looks like their coalition partners will be from the left. Olmert has some additional legitimacy, he's no dummy, and Sharon trusted him for years, so I'm hopeful. This is a CRITICAL time for Israel, and an opportunity of historic proportions - the world is going to cut Israel some slack in it's dealings with Hamas - but no major screw ups can be afforded.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Things get weirder in Burma

The Burmese junta staged a huge military parade in the new capital on Monday to commemorate Armed Forces Day. It was the first official event held in newly-named "Naypyidaw" (Seat of Kings), the brand new capital city recently hacked out of the jungle near Pyinmana, 375 miles north of Rangoon.

Than Shwe's speech made no mention of the new capital, and state TV showed pictures only of the troops, not the city. Still under construction? Seems so.

Big Than Shwe, practically staggering under all his gold braid and medals, did the usual, "We're paving the way for disciplined democracy" shtick during his speech. It's a wonder these guys don't burst into laughter as they repeat the same lies for the 10,000th time.

There's still been no explanation for why the junta moved north. However, BBC tells us that they've increased civil servant pay, probably in an effort to get people to leave their lives in Rangoon (no hot spot, for sure, but the closest thing to sophisticated urban living you'll find in Burma) and move into a half-built insta-city in the middle of the jungle.

Ah well, another day, another bizarre tale of oppression from the Golden Land.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Buck Owens now playing his red, white, and blue guitar in Heaven

Country star and long-time host of "Hee Haw" Buck Owens died today. He was 76.

I was a huge Hee Haw fan when I was a little kid, and I used to think that Roy Clark and Buck Owens were two of the coolest guys on the planet. Which gives you an indication of Owens' greatness, my level of dorkitude, or both.

Well, thanks for all those years you spent a-pickin', Buck. Or were you a-grinnin'? I can never remember...

Another diplomatic trip to Burma ends badly

Malaysia's Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Alber, cut short a state visit to Burma this week, heading home a day earlier than planned.

It's speculation, but probably grounded in fact, to assume that he bolted after he learned the junta would not let him see Aung San Suu Kyi or any other members of the NLD, in jail or not.

ASEAN is making noises like they're tiring of Burma's schtick. That would be refreshing, as they've been conducting business as usual w/ the fascist military government in Rangoon for over a decade so far.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Basque terrorists hang it up

In news that we'd like to see a lot more of, Basque seperatist, or terrorist, depending on which side of the dispute you come down, group Eta (which I had always thought was ETA, like an acronym for something in the indecipherable Basque language) has announced a permanent ceasefire in it's campaign to "liberate' the Basque homeland from France and Spain.

Eta has been blowing Spanish and French stuff (and people) up for 40+ years, so this is a MAJOR event. After the boyos from PIRA, the Eta goons have been the most long-lived, prolific, and visible terrorists in Europe. For them to just pack it in like this indicates a significant shift in the culture of international troublemakers.

According to BBC, the long and short of it is AQ have made bombings, long the preferred method of making a point for these types, more unsavory and less effective than ever. Since the Madrid train bombings in early 2004, Spaniards especially have reviled groups who would stoop to such measures. With their tactic-of-choice rendered counter-productive, about all Eta had left in terms of options was to go legit and try to win via elections.

Is this an unintended, positive consequence of the rise of Islamist terrorism? Have the tactics of AQ, JI, Hamas, and the others put a bullet in the viability of terrorist groups of yore like PIRA, Baader-Meinhof, and the Red Brigades? Sure looks that way to me.

UPDATE: In the US, it is "ETA", not "Eta". I thought so. Silly Brits.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The last picture he ever took

Today's giggle from The last picture each of these photographers took (or not - Photoshop is a wonderful thing).

Uh-oh - here comes Amare

Amare Stoudamire is talking about taking the floor when the Suns play Portland tomorrow (Thurs) in Phoenix.

This is potentially tremendous news for the Suns, and equally dreadful news for the rest of the league, esp the West.

Stoudamire is a MONSTER. A force in the paint, a guy who can shoot from outside, he's got post moves like Kevin McHale and can handle the ball. When he's on, there's no stopping the guy.

For the Suns, his return in any sort of capacity is fantastic news. Phoenix has rocketed to the top of the Pacific division without Stoudamire, but seems to be slowing a bit as the season winds down. They've fought some injury problems and had to rely on career years from their spares, most notably Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw. Steve Nash especially seems to be wearing out under the strain. Amare strolling out for pre-game warmups could be exactly what this team needs in terms of physical and psychological reinforcement.

As a part time resident of Phoenix at the moment, and a fan of the NBA in general, I hope he does come back and comes back strong. The guy is great fun to watch!

As a related aside, the Western Conference playoffs are starting to look like an absolute war. The Spurs are still (to me) the class of the conference, but they don't seem as bullet-proof as last year. The Mavs are right there. And the Suns, with or without Amare (but a lot more with Amare), are holding up their end of the bargain. We're approaching 15 or so games left for everyone. It's almost time for the fun to start!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Documentary on the state of the Internet in 1972

Here's a truly fascinating piece of "paleo-nerd memorabilia" from Boing-Boing. It is a documentary, circa 1972, called "Computer Networks: The Heralds of Resource Sharing".

It features interviews with visionary geeks from MIT, DARPA, BBN, and elsewhere and provides some background on the creation of a little thing called the ARPA-net.

You know the ARPA-net as today's Internet.

It's 30 minutes of grainy footage of proto-geeks talking about things we now take for granted. However, try to remember (if you can) how you paid your bills and got your driving directions in 1972, then check it out.

These guys were geniuses in every sense of the word.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Gallery of the not safe

From our new friends at, here's a gallery of what can only be described as people doing really, really stupid shit.

'Boys are going to sign TO, and I am back on the Dark Side

According to the DMN, Sturm, Gramps, ESPN, and God-knows-who-else, it's all but done: Terrell Owens is going to be a Cowboy.

For a brief moment there, I was a Cowboys' fan again. It was a tough year to be a fan, but I hung in there with them, cheered the success, and contemplated suicide when they failed, just like I used to.

Well, no more. This move puts a stake in my fandom.

I will freely admit that TO is as talented a receiver as there is in the NFL today, and that he arguably has the skills to put him up there with the tops all-time. He works his ass off, plays through pain, and I'm sure he has other redeeming qualities - hell, maybe he likes dogs.

But none of those redeeming qualities make up for his intense sorriness as a human. He has destroyed the chemistry of two teams in his relatively brief NFL career. San Francisco was on the verge of getting it together when he called Jeff Garcia gay, and Philadelphia had just come off an NFC Championship when he decided it would be a good idea to say, on national TV, the team would be better off with Brett Farve.

I'm sure Jerry thinks TO will behave himself here. And if he doesn't, Parcells can handle him. Maybe so, but do you really think Parcells is going to be around for the duration of TO's 3-year deal?

Well, you reap what you sow, Jerry. This has the potential to destroy Dallas' hopes for the next 10 years. You've lost me, big boy. I'm back on the Dark Side, cheering your failures and wishing more upon you.

I bet I'm not lonely at all over here come about October.

UPDATE: It's done. I'm weeping and rejoicing at the same time. Greg Williams called TO a "human flamethrower", which is the best description I've heard so far.

Oh, ye poor mis-guided Cowboy fans, I despair for you. There is room over here on the Dark Side for all of you.

Making money the old-fashioned way: Suing the doers

In news that should come as no surprise, but somehow still does, here's an article from MSNBC detailing the activities of "patent trollers" like Forgent Technologies.

Rather than actually, you know, produce something, these characters file and buy patents on rather mundane things like the JPEG digital picture compression format and wireless email. Then, they turn around and sue the companies who utilize these things to produce valuable goods and services like digital cameras and Blackberries.

While legal in every sense of the word, this kind of activity is, to me, the worst kind of parasitic existence. It's scumbags like Forgent who slow technical advances and make goods and services more expensive than they should be. While there's no real recourse against these bottom-dwellers, all we can do is shine the light on them and, hopefully, make them squirm a bit.

Finally - riots I can understand

There have been huge street riots across Spain recently, with police firing rubber bullets, more than 80 people injured, and more than 50 substantial fires set.

The reason for the confrontations? Did the cops kill an unarmed Muslim youth? Did someone print pictures of the Prophet doing his laundry?


Young Spaniards are protesting high bar prices.

It's almost refreshing, isn't it?

Those nutty humans

Here's a gallery of unbelievably overloaded vehicles of every description. Most of them can be chalked up to unbridled optimism. You can just hear the conversations in your mind:

"Think it'll ride?"

"Sure. Why wouldn't it?"

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD: Now you don't have to know who's going to win

With no one ready to call a winner in the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD battle royale, LG is covering their bases with a player that will read both formats of next-gen DVDs.

The hope (at least from us here at CIT) is still on Blu-Ray, but HD-DVD is clearly going to hit the market sooner and will be less expensive.

If you're looking to move past the 480i you get from your current DVD player, your best bet is something like the LG product featured in the article linked above. Anyone who says he/she knows which format is going to win is lying to you.

Alabama morons

The three lowlifes who were arrested for torching nine churches across the South have tried to explain their actions as a "joke".

I know some folks from Alabama, and some of the things they find funny are a mystery to me, but not one of them would think a burning church is comedy.

Pennsylvania moron

A drunken Harrisburg PA idiot, during a recent bit of "horseplay" with his new fiance, dangled her off the balcony of their 23rd floor apartment. Unfortunately for both of them, he was too pissed to hold on, and dropped her to her death.

Dude blew a 0.225 BAL several hours after the event. Remember, the legal limit to drive is generally 0.08.

Meet the 7-year old racist poet

From Michelle Malkin (who is normally a bit too shrill for me) the other day:

Remember the furor over those twin girls who are "white nationalist" singers? The reaction from the media when covering these young "ladies" was akin to "look at the poor, misguided teens, turned into something monstrous by those around them."

You know what? I think that's probably the right way to look at them.

However, it's strange to me (and Ms. Malkin) to see how the media is reacting to 7-year old Autum Ashante, described as a "black nationalist poetry prodigy".

An example of her work:

White Nationalism Put U In Bondage
White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel, tricks and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look in our streets
The mis-education of she and Hegro — leaves you on your knee2grow
Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse
They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers
They took the black women, with the black man weak
Made to watch as they changed the paradigm
Of our village
They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went
So far as to kill the unborn baby
Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirates and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
They drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel laden feet, throw in the tricks alcohol and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look at our streets.

So, help me out here. When white kids do stuff like this, it's bad, but when black kids do stuff like this, we should celebrate it? I don't get it.

World's greatest pool lounger

One of the best ways to get through a ridiculous Texas summer is to stay in the pool for about three months straight. It's tough to beat floating around on your inflatable pool lounger with a frosty beer or margarita tucked into the cup holder.

About the only thing can go wrong with the above scenario is when your lounger floats out into the sun. Trying to move yourself back into the shade can be tricky. Paddling with your hands without accidentally watering down your 'rita is difficult to do.

Along comes the Excalibur Motorized Pool Lounger, with hand controls that allow you to activate two shrouded propellers to steer you back out of the sun.

Genius! Why didn't someone think of this before?

US ports controversy - This isn't racist? Just checking

This goes back quite a ways, but I'm so far behind that I'm just now getting to it.

Remember the brouhaha about the sale of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the company that currently manages port operations in several major US seaports, including NY, Miami, New Orleans, and Baltimore, to Dubai Ports World, a port management firm owned by the government of United Arab Emirates?

The thinking is (at least as far as I can tell) there will be an increased threat of terrorism at these ports because they are managed by an Arab nation.

This sounds like it might be a bit discriminatory to me. So, I apply my usual test, substitute "Jew" for the nationality/ethnicity/religion/sexual preference in question, and come up with "There will be an increased threat of terrorism at these ports because they are managed by a Jewish company."

Um, wait a second. I want to know a bit more about this.

Are the UAE linked to any known terrorist groups? Not that we know of.

Are their streets full of malcontents burning effigies of Uncle Sam and shouting "Death to America" every Friday afternoon? No.

Have the UAE let us base troops and aircraft on their soil before without raising a ruckus? Yep, since the first Gulf War.

These are obviously very cursory, high-level questions which don't get into the details. However, even if you do get into the details, you find the UAE have been pretty staunch allies for the past 15 years or so. They are shrewd businessmen (which is what Arabs really SHOULD be known for, rather than blowing stuff up)

Bush, whom I must restate I am no fan of lately, is trying to do something positive here. He's trying to engage with a stable Arab government and reward them for being American pals. This seems to me to be a heck of a lot more effective (and cheaper and less controversial) than sending in the Armored Cav.

But that's just me. I could be wrong.

Of course, the upshot of all of this is the transaction has taken place, Dubai Ports has bought P&O Steam Navigation, but Dubai Ports is promising to sell of it's US operations within six months. Who won here?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Unusual photo from Red Sox camp

Supply your own caption.

Mavs D completely stuffs Cavs (Yes, you read that right)

The Mavericks rallied from 19 down to beat Cleveland last night. In doing so, they gave up a total of eight points to the Cavs in the third quarter.

Let that sink in for just a moment.

This is the Dallas Mavericks, folks. The team that redefined "Matador" defense (waving the cape and shouting "Ole" as the offensive player blew past them) as recently as last year.

They held LeBron James and the Cavs to eight points in an entire quarter. And it's not like the Cavs were ice cold - they dominated the first half.

The comeback was a masterwork of defense, with everyone getting into the act. Erick Dampier made maybe his best play as a Maverick, cleanly blocking a dunk by Drew Gooden.

In the midst of all this, the man responsible for the Mavs transformation celebrated a milestone of his own. Avery Johnson coached his 82nd regular-season game and has won 66 of them. The previous best for a first full season was Paul Westphal, who won 62 of his first 82.

The Mavs still have to have real success in the playoffs before I'm completely sold - I still have doubts about this team's toughness and killer instinct. But there sure isn't much left for them to prove in the regular season.

Dems can't distance from Feingold fast enough

Dana Milbank's column in today's WaPo tells the story of the Democrats' scramble to get away from Russ Feingold's proposed censure of the President over warrantless wiretapping.

According to Milbank, the only senator to pronounce support for the resolution is Tom Harkin.

I am not a fan of Bush at the moment, and haven't been for some time. I think he's made a lot of mistakes and has squandered the good will of the entire world since Sept 11, 2001. I didn't vote for him in 2004 and probably wouldn't vote for him now.

However, it amazes (and depresses) me to see how little the Democrats have to offer in response. As ridiculous and time-wasting as Feingold's resolution is (and it is the biggest time-waster I've read about in YEARS, going back to at least the Clinton impeachment and maybe even further than that), at least he's doing something.

And maybe that last comment sums up his entire agenda.

Another post I'm going to have to answer for

Tara McAvoy, the reigning Miss Deaf Texas, was killed by a train the other day. Witnesses say the train's horn was going nuts right up until the accident.

This is a tragic story in many, many ways, and my sympathy goes out to her family.

But does it make me a miserable human if I get just the slightest giggle out of it?

Cowboys cut Keyshawn . . . for T.O.?

Keyshawn Johnson is an ex-Cowboy.

While this is certainly not a devastating blow, I did come to appreciate Johnson over the past year, and really wanted to see how he might perform in some big games, assuming the Cowboys ever play a big game. I will miss Keyshawn and wish him luck in his next stop.

The interesting part is the speculation that Keyshawn was fired in order to make room for Terrell Owens. I'm a bit torn by this.

The anti-Cowboy fan in me (the dominant part of my football self for the past few years) is sorta rooting for it to happen, because I think it would be great theater. Jones and Parcells vs. TO could be the soap opera of the football year, and there's a good chance it could all go BOOM. It's almost reflex for me to wish failure on Jerry and the Pear-Shaped "Football Genius", and this could be the biggest, messiest failure in Cowboys' history.

The other, more rational side of me remembers that I would like to start involving my kids in Cowboy fandom, and the inclusion of a miserable human like TO would be difficult to explain.

Well, Jones is going to do what he wants, regardless of my opinion. I can't figure out if character still counts w/ Jerry. He was vindicated on the Randy Moss non-draft, and this has been a team largely free of malcontents for the past few years. God knows the Cowboys need a LOT more than a receiver this off season. But, it would be a big splash - the biggest since the Deion signing, and Jerry is drawn to those like a moth to a halogen.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Where do I get one of THESE?

UltraCell is about to start marketing a fuel cell for your laptop that will keep you surfing for up to two days. In addition, you can swap out the fuel cell for a fresh one without turning off the laptop.

There's no info on cost yet, but I am definitely interested!

Sneak peek behind the Stars' scene

Our pal Bob, current holder of the title "Luckiest Man on Earth", got invited to sit in the GM's box with Doug Armstrong and Andy Moog to watch Stars-Oilers the other night. As any self-respecting blogger should, Bob immediately fired up the laptop after the game and filed a detailed report on his experience.

I am glad to hear the Stars' "brass" treats an early-March contest in Edmonton as seriously as this.

Read the whole thing - it's fascinating!

Shockingly decent review of "Shaggy Dog"

Once you get past Harry's, um, uncomfortable headline, AICN has a surprisingly positive review of the Tim Allen/Disney remake of The Shaggy Dog.

The reviewer feels pretty strongly that the Disney marketing folks have screwed the pooch (ha!) in their presentation of the film in trailers. They've featured the Tim Allen "Stupid Pet Tricks", which the reviewer thinks are the least effective parts, and missed some of the stronger scenes in the movie.

This one sounds like it's worth a check-out, esp if you're looking to entertain the squids.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Time to quit, Barry

Mike Celizic, who I normally don't have much use for, hits it right on the head when it comes to Barry Bonds and his chemically-enabled pursuit of baseball's home run record.

Celizic urges Bonds to quit. Use any excuse you choose, Bar - knees haven't recovered, eyesight is failing, tired of the press, whatever. Just quit. Don't insult the game by continuing to pursue Hank Aaron's 755 homers.

I totally agree. I don't want to watch Bonds break Aaron's record. Of course, if he plays an entire season, he will and there will be nothing MLB can do about it.

I hope Bonds finds it within himself to take the high road. However, as Celizic points out, there's nothing in Bonds' history to indicate that he will.

Wait, Cowboy games are going to be broadcast where?

This is SHOCKING news - the Cowboys radio broadcasts are moving from the oldies station at 98.7 (where they never fit, at least not to me) over to The Ticket and it's sister station, The Bone (93.3).

While I'm pleased as punch for the gang at The Ticket, who have provided me with countless hours of entertainment over the past decade plus, this is sort of mind-boggling. This is akin to Dick Cheney going to work for Air America.

No one delivers harsher criticism of the Cowboys than Mike Rhyner. No one makes more fun of Jerry Jones than The Great Gordo. The fact that The Ticket is not (as they like to tell you) "in the pocket of any of the local owners" has provided them with a lot of rope to mock the players, Jones, Parcells, and many other targets at Valley Ranch.

According to the press release and everything I've read (I'm traveling, so I completely missed the announcement and it's follow-up on the air), Big Dan Bennett has made it a point to reserve the right to continue the criticism and mockery unabated. Assuming that's true, this is potentially a great move.

But don't forget, Jerry got Hansen fired from the old KRLD broadcast because he didn't like the criticism Dale aimed at him.

How much is that diamond REALLY worth?

One of the most fascinating stories I've ever run across is that of the diamond business. It's not widely known, although it's received a bit more attention recently, but it's the story of market manipulation, artificial scarcity, and the most successful long-term marketing strategy in the history of the world.

The story starts in the mid-1800s. At the time, diamonds were incredibly rare gemstones, found only in a very few riverbeds in South Asia and South America. The stones were so rare, and so sought after by royalty, their value was immense. That all changed when, in 1870, enormous diamond deposits were found in South Africa. It became apparent quickly that diamonds are, in fact, semi-precious gemstones at best, and not anywhere near as rare as once believed. In fact, there are many, many other, less-valued gemstones which are far more rare than diamonds.

However, in one of the most astute moves ever made by the business community, the folks in the diamond trade of the late 1800s realized that collusion was the only way they were going to save their market. They formed a company to control the entire world's supply of diamonds and named it DeBeers. Yep, the same DeBeers who's name appears at the end of those "Diamonds are Forever" TV ads.

Which takes us to the second part of the story.

DeBeers controls the supply of diamonds, but in order to maintain the value of the stones, the cartel also had to control demand. Thus, the "Diamonds are Forever" campaign was born. To be successful in the long term, DeBeers had to create the belief that true love MUST be signified by a diamond. In this, they've been more successful than they ever could have dreamed. Do you know anyone who has been married without buying a diamond? I don't. It was never even a question in my relationship with Robynne, and it's not even a question in the VAST majority of relationships in the Western (and, increasingly, in the Eastern) world.

But even that wasn't really enough to ensure DeBeers' long-term viability. Sure, everyone buys a diamond. But, if everyone subsequently SOLD those diamonds, it would all be in vain for the cartel. So, the more subtle, but vitally important, part of the marketing plan was born. The notion that, once purchased, a diamond becomes a family heirloom, never to be resold, was presented to the market and, remarkably, wholeheartedly embraced. Ever try to sell a diamond? Me neither. Know anyone who has? Diamonds shouldn't depreciate, right? The whole idea is they're "Forever". But they do. You'll never resell a diamond back to a jeweler for the same price you paid. No one sells a diamond, but those who do are penalized by the industry.

The reality is, if the diamond market were free, diamonds would be worth very little. There are millions of carats of diamonds still in the ground, easily mineable. There are further millions of carats of diamonds in warehouses around the world, all controlled by DeBeers and released only as a trickle. And there are uncountable millions of carats of diamonds in the hands of consumers, which will never be parted with except upon the deathbed and within the family.

This story used to piss me off. Now, all I can do is shake my head in admiration. The folks at DeBeers are unqualified geniuses. In addition to their control of both sides of the diamond market for the past 135 years, they've also done a remarkable job of staying out of the public eye.

Quite a story.

Missing in action - Sorry, folks

Hi. Remember me? Probably not, since it's been over a week since I've posted anything.

Between the current client, the travel, trying to exercise, and, most important, trying to stay involved enough with the family that my kids continue to recognize me, I have been struggling mightily to keep up. Something had to give, and, unfortunately, CIT was it.

Things are a little quieter with the client at the moment, so I intend to get back to posting.

Thanks for sticking with me!

AT&T - they're back and they still want to rule the world

Big article today in Forbes regarding the AT&T buyout of Bell South and the motivations for it. In a nutshell, it's obvious to EVERYONE that traditional telephone service can no longer support a company. To survive, AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest (the only major players left) have to offer more services, including Internet, television, mobile, and others.

This got me to thinking about how things go in circles sometimes.

Back in the mid-90s, when AT&T made it's first bid to dominate the digital home, I was a big fan of their efforts. To me, the combination of AT&T's traditional telephone service, along with their then-newly acquired mobile service (called AT&T Wireless in those days), and, more importantly, the cable television service they had just acquired from TCI (changed to the monniker AT&T Broadband if memory serves) presented an enormous opportunity for Ma Bell to make some exciting things happen.

The thinking in those days of yore was, to be successful, you had to control the "last mile" of wire, into the consumer's home. AT&T Broadband had that, and it was a much-superior pipe, bandwidth-wise, than anything the Regional Bell Operating Companies (a blast from the past - RBOCs) like Southwestern Bell (remember them?) or NYNEX (zowie - there's a stroll down Amnesia Lane) had in their arsenals. AT&T had a big, fast broadband connection into millions of homes to deliver great stuff like video-on-demand, interactive television, high-speed connectivity to the entire world through your computer, television, security system, microwave oven, and hot water heater. Jetsons, here we come!

I was a huge proponent of AT&T's plan, and a customer of every single one of their divisions. And what did that get me? No discounts, no preferential treatment, incredibly confusing and screwed up billing, and no additional services. In other words, NOTHING.

AT&T could never figure it out. They were never able to combine any operations across services, never able to offer consolidated billing, never able to leverage customer information across divisions, never able to deliver on the enormous potential they had in the palm of their hand.

What a disappointment.

AT&T failed in every way you can imagine. And it cost them their company. AT&T Wireless is now part of Cingular. AT&T Broadband is now part of Comcast. No one buys long distance service anymore. AT&T just about ceased to exist.

But it didn't go bye-bye completely. Enough of the company survived to be purchased late last year by SBC. The leadership at SBC was smart enough to realize they had played out the SBC name by pissing off their customers for so long, so they wisely took the more universally-known AT&T brand. And now, with the acquisition of Bell South, AT&T is back full-force.

The strategy is the same as it was back in the 90's. Control the "last mile" and offer a ton of services. This time, it will be IP- and fiber-based, which should be better than the old coaxial cable method they tried w/ AT&T Broadband. And the rest of the entertainment industry has caught up in terms of content and devices.

Comcast, Cox, Verizon, and the others (if there are any) will be right in AT&T's grille, vying for the same market and offering (essentially) the same services using different technology. Who gets there first? Who bets on the right technology? Who can integrate it all and make it easy for the customer?

Will it work this time? It will for someone. Will it be AT&T? I doubt it - every company that has been rolled up to form the new AT&T has a track record of under-delivery, underperformance, and failure. Comcast, Cox, and Verizon are no better. Each has a ton of baggage in the form of disgruntled customers and former customers to overcome.

So who does make it work? It will be someone you're not watching right now. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, or someone you've never heard of.

The past 5 years, despite some big advances like HDTV and ubiquitous broadband, have been disappointing in the evolution of the digital home. The next 5 years look very promising to me. Stay tuned.