It's been a quiet week. A mysterious figure skater out on the lake draws a crowd, Senator K. Thorvaldson finally heads south for the winter, and Donald Thorvaldson catches up with a few classmates.
With the Super Bowl being played on Sunday, that of course means it's that time of year where a truly huge segment of Americans gather in massive multitudes to sit around television sets across the country to watch the ads.
Which raisies the question about all those Super Bowl-related ads that crop up on TV in the weeks before the broadcast.
You may have noticed over the decades that in most ads leading up to the Super Bowl, the event itself is referred to as "The Big Game," where you're admonished to be sure to, among other things, "stock up on Yumm-o's Potato Chips for The Big Game," -- or some such idiotic-sounding phrase. But it's usually "The Big Game."
The reason is because the NFL has trademarked the phrase "Super Bowl," although that reason on its own isn't enough of an explanation. Rather, it's because of a law that basically requires the NFL to threaten to sue. The law says if a company doesn't threaten to sue over an infringement of its trademark, they can lose that trademark. (A company can grant a waiver, but only if someone has paid for that right.) As a result, the NFL has a storage room full of "cease-and-desist" letters that a guy name Buddy is in charge of, his whole job being to grab a form from that room and mailing it out to anyone who even seems like they might be abusing the NFL's rights.
It's why even your piddly local stores promote their Super Bowl sales, or two-for-one meals during the broadcast as being for "The Big Game." As The Motley Fool reported --
"A classic example occurred in 2007 leading up to Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears when the NFL sent a cease and desist letter to an Indiana church group that had advertised its party with an intent to charge admission. The letter led to several other church groups around the country to stop similar activities, the exact effect the NFL was seeking."
You may wonder why the NFL would bother. Who cares if business call it the Super Bowl? Wouldn't that even help promote the event -- which clearly is in dire need of being promoted. It's because the NFL signs up corporate sponsors for A WHOLE LOT OF MONEY each year -- Budweiser alone paid $1.2 billion to be the Official Beer of the NFL. And such deals would be worth a whole lot less without that trademark protection of the NFL logo. And so the league protects all of its trademarks. Including the Super Bowl, which sells exclusive ads for that very same WHOLE LOT OF MONEY.
(This doesn't mean the Super Bowl can't be written or talked about as "the Super Bowl." The NFL doesn't have an official newspaper, for instance, or official blog, so there's no trademark infringement. Incidentally, Elisberg Industries did make an offer, but the league chose not to accept my bid of $8.75.)
Okay, so I get it. Sort of. What I don't get is why companies have generally taken the easy road and settled on something as paltry as "The Big Game" as their default, go-to code for the Super Bowl. At least Stephen Colbert's show actually came up with a clever way to get around the trademark (not that they probably had it, but likely chose to turn it into a comedy bit to make a point). They devised a segment about the "Superb Owl," just shifting the letter "b" one space over, and Colbert would then talk about this fine creature...along with related football information.
However it's always seemed that there have to be much better ways to get around the "Super Bowl" trademark blockade than just The Big Game. For starters, you could call it exactly what it is -- the NFL Championship Game. Or the Championship Football Game. Or even the Super Game.
But there's one that's always leaped out to me as the most clever way around it all. And that's referring to the event as -- the "Super Ballgame." Most especially as a voiceover in a TV or ad, that would be almost indistinguishable from the Real Thing. (And no, I don't mean Coca Cola -- which of course is trademarked..). But even as a graphic, describing the event as the "Super Ballgame" would seem to be clearly different enough, yet obvious enough to have your rear end covered.
Perhaps the NFL would threaten to sue on that, as well. But of course, threatening to sue and winning are two entirely different matters. And maybe they wouldn't threaten. But maybe companies just feel it's not worth the effort and money defending themselves even if they felt winning was a no-brainer.
Whatever the reason, we're generally stuck with The Big Game,
Next up -- some company trademarking, "The Big Game"...
This is an interview on a very early David Letterman Show with a man who's synonymous with perhaps the worst timing ever in the history of show business. It's an appearance by Pete Best, the drummer with the Beatles who got replaced by Ringo Starr right before the group hit it big. And then bigger. And then...well, you know.
There are some tittering laughs throughout from the audience, but overall he handles it impressively well, considering the eternal angst he had every right to feel. He shows a solid mixture of self-effacing humor, understandable disappointment and honesty. And Letterman treats him with great respect.
The interview took place on July 14, 1982. It's in two parts, and they show run together. It runs for about 11 minutes.
Apple has announced that its first wearable, its anticipated Apple Watch will begin shipping In April. The company's CEO Tim Cook was enthusiastic about it. "I'm using it every day and love it and can't live without it," he said.
I'm going to guess that he actually can live without it, but I'm willing to accept some hyperbole from a CEO.
The Apple Watch will start at a bottom cost of $349 for the most basic device in the line. And I expect it to sell extremely well when it's introduced. Not for any special reason of features or that people can't actually live without it, but because the device says "Apple" on it, and the company has done a good job whipping up its fanboys into thinking they need this and can't live without Apple's first new product in almost five years. Whether the initial rush to buy is the same after a few months and reality and usage (or lack thereof) has settled in remains to be seen.
This is no aspersion against the Apple Watch itself. It's what I've written about all Smart Watches since I first came across them several years ago at tech trade shows.
I know that Apple has proved skeptics wrong in the past, and in huge ways. But when they did do this (and they've had their mis-steps, too), it's been with things like the iPhone and iPad, Apple created markets that didn't exist before and turned out to have a need for. But Apple isn't the first to the market with a Smartwatch, or second or even third. And it's not like the companies already there are small and shoddy -- we're talking companies like Samsung, LG and Sony -- or had cheesy products. The Samsung and LG Smartwatch lines especially are very rich devices. It's just that...well, they public has thus-far yawned. The watches are very well-done, there just hasn't been shown even remotely a need. Along with other issues, even if there was a need.
To be clear, I'm not saying that there is not a market for a Smartwatch one day. Just that right now, these companies haven't shown that path. And I include Apple.
First, today, you need to own a Smartphone to connect to a Smartwatch, in order to use it. So, you're being asked to spend many hundreds of dollars to buy a device that does pretty much everything another expensive device you already own does. And you have to own the same brand Smartphone and Swartwatch. So, if you see a Smartwatch that you really love that's made by LG, and you own (and love) a Samsung Galaxy Note...sorry, you're out of luck.
Second that other device you already own, your Smartphone, not only does everything the Smartwatch does -- it does it FAR better. A much bigger screen for reading messages and browsing websites and playing games and watching movies. A real keypad for typing text. A significantly better camera (and one that's far easier to use). And so on and on.
Third, oh, that screen. The bigger a screen the easier to read it -- but the more cumbersome on the wrist. The smaller on the wrist, though, the more difficult for it to be useful. And Apple itself has already acknowledged the public's move toward bigger screens by introducing its first large-screen iPhone 6.
The problem here with screens is that if you look at actual everyday watches on the market and compare those for men and women, the one's for women are tiny and elegant. I have yet to talk to many women who are anxious to strap a huge Smartwatch on their wrist. And I've asked a lot. ("Many" is herein defined as "more than one, and less than three.") So, right away, you're cutting out half your market.
But it's more than that. What about kids? The youth market helped explode the world for Smartwatches and tablets. But being kids, their wrists are inherently small -- are they going to want to strap on a big Smartwatch? And keep in mind that already the watch industry has plummeted because young people have moved away from wearing watches. So, right away, you're cutting out another huge portion of your market.
There's also the problem with battery life. That might be addressed one day, but at the moment Smartwatches have to be recharged every night. I know that many people are used to that with their phones and tablets -- but that's without necessarily using their phone and tablet all the time and having them in Sleep mode much of the day, saving on battery drain. That doesn't work with your Smartwatch, it's going to be on all day. And your watch isn't something you want to lose power on your during the middle of the day.
And then the issue of talking on a Smartwatch. Try holding up your wrist to you ear for 30 seconds. Not only will you feel incredibly stupid, but your arm is going to get tired. And this is without a big watch on it. And for only 30 seconds. When was your last 30-second phone call? ("Sorry, mom, I really can't talk now" doesn't even cut it.)
These are all generic problems with all Smartwatches, not a finger-point at Apple's. And it's not to say that the problems won't eventually be addressed at some point. But I haven't seen that yet. Nor do I know how you address the screen size conundrum. Though some day, perhaps someone will.
(Apple does have one issue unique to them. Its fans tend to love making sure others know they're using an iWhatever. And so, Apple's products all have unique looks. Hence they are Cool. But the Apple Watch looks pretty much like any Smartwatch. The watch face is a touch different, but not much at all, most-especially from afar -- and by "afar" I mean like 10 feet. And even at that, they all look pretty similar. So, it won't be clear that You Are Using an Apple Watch and Therefore Cool. You'll look like you're wearing a big, fat watch. Made by anyone.)
One way that companies have been pushing Smartwatches is making the point that what Dick Tracy used 60 years ago is finally here!!! (Samsung even had Dick Tracy in its first TV spots.) There's a big problem being overlooked with this, though -- 60 years ago, Dick Tracy didn't have Smartphones and tablets to choose from. If he did, there's a good chance he wouldn't use his two-way watch.
On Star Trek, the touchstone of all things geeky and futuristic, even Captain Kirk and other members of the Starship Enterprise crew didn't use communicator Smartwatches. They all had their flip-phone communicators.
Again, I expect initial Apple Watch sales to be very big. Just because. And a lot of journalists will be falling over themselves misinterpreting this. Because I also expect that within months, most of those people will be wondering why they bought the thing and word-of-mouth is not going to get others rushing to buy their own must-have cool device.
Smartwatch this space...
Nell Minow passed along some pretty bizarre and fascinating entertainment news -- that Woody Allen has agreed to write and direct a new "TV" series with Amazon.
At the moment, it's going by the clever name of The Untitled Woody Allen Project. The half-hour comedy series has a full-season order (though there's no mention of how many episodes there will be), but Allen will write and direct all episodes.
"Woody Allen is a visionary creator who has made some of the greatest films of all-time, and it’s an honor to be working with him on his first television series," Roy Price, Vice President of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. "From 'Annie Hall' to 'Blue Jasmine,' Woody has been at the creative forefront of American cinema and we couldn't be more excited to premiere his first TV series exclusively on Prime Instant Video next year."
But my favorite quote is the one from Woody Allen.
"I don’t know how I got into this. I have no ideas and I’m not sure where to begin. My guess is that Roy Price will regret this."
Mind you, I suspect he does have at least some ideas, even if they're not fully fleshed-out. And I'm quite sure that Roy Price is already thrilled with it, even if the series turns out to be a total disaster (which seems thoroughly unlikely) since it will no doubt bring in subscribers whatever the series ends up being.
What I also suspect is that what was most appealing to Woody Allen is that he likely has been given 100% carte blanche to do whatever in the world he wants. And though he probably has a lot of freedom on his movies, a lot of freedom is not the same as "100% carte blanche," and he also doesn't have to write a script on spec in hopes of raising the money. But mainly it's that 100% carte blanche thing...
By the way, it's worth noting that this is the sort of thing I was writing about back when the Writers Guild went on strike in 2007 and signed deals with Amazon and Netflix and such places that would give them much more control of their work (and I believe even copyright, though I can't swear to that). I said that by the AMPTP pretending that they hadn't studied the Internet and didn't know if there was money to be made from it, and therefore offering literally zero to the WGA, it opened the door to these alternative deals which would, in term, open the doors to actual competition to the studios and networks. And with this news, and other highly successful series from Netflix and Amazon (and others upcoming, I'm sure...), that clearly is the case.
I thought I'd offer up a mid-week contest. The contestant is June Echols from Richmond, Virginia. Happily, I got the hidden composer style, which isn't regularly the case, so I suspect others will have a good chance of getting that, too. As for the hidden song, it's one of those that was on the tip of my tongue and I could tell I should know it, but just couldn't get it...and then with the song running out and mere seconds to go, sure that I'd missed out...bingo, I figured out what it was, and I shouted out the name, just under the wire. The tune is well-hidden for a specific reason which composer Bruce Adolph explains afterwards.
In my quest and that of my compatriot-in-arms Nell Minow to follow the world of public apologies as a core feature of our International Apology Association, I tend to post examples of when public figures get the apology wrong, and explain why. I tend to do this far, far more often than not because -- most public apologists seem to get it wrong far, far more often than not.
Benedict Cumberbatch got it right.
I have a feeling that most people would like to think that Benedict Cumberbatch would get a public apology right. So, it's comforting to know that it's so.
I also think most people would be surprised to find that Benedict Cumberbatch would say something that required a public apology, so it's valuable to know that his gaff came in the middle of him being admirable about saying something right -- which may well be why he got his apology so right -- he just made an ill-thought gaff in doing so.
He was talking about the lack of diversity for actors in films. and noted that, "a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the U.K., and that's something that needs to change. Something's gone wrong. We're not representative enough in our culture of different races, and that really does need to step up apace."
Unfortunately, in getting into this issue he stumbled a bit in his phrasing and used the word "colored." Public comment, most notably an anti-racism charity in England, noted that Mr. Cumberbatch's heart was in the right place and was commendable, but regretted him "inadvertently" highlighting the issue due to the "evolution of language."
Cumberbatch didn't double-down. He didn't use the "if I offended anyone" defense. He didn't leave it at "you know what I meant." And he didn't try to diminish it as a small gaffe -- which it was. Instead...he apologized.
"I'm devastated to have caused offense by using this outmoded terminology. I offer my sincere apologies. I make no excuse for my being an idiot and know the damage is done. I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive. The most shaming aspect of this for me is that I was talking about racial inequality in the performing arts in the U.K. and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.
"I feel the complete fool I am and while I am sorry to have offended people and to learn from my mistakes in such a public manner please be assured I have. I apologize again to anyone who I offended for this thoughtless use of inappropriate language about an issue which affects friends of mine and which I care about deeply."
That's how it's done.
This is one of those videos that falls into the "sort of remarkable" category. It's about musical theater, but even if you don't care much for that sort of thing, it's hard to imagine that most people wouldn't recognize the historic nature of how amazing this is.
Rex Harrison famously starred in My Fair Lady in 1956, one of the iconic roles in Broadway history, and later repeated the role in London's West End and then won the Oscar as Best Actor in the 1964 film version. In 1981, the show got revived for Broadway and a national tour with Harrison re-creating his starring role as Henry Higgins.
(Side note: that production was notable for another performer re-creating her original role. When the show was first done on Broadway, actress Cathleen Nesbitt played Prof. Higgins' mother. He was no young up-and-comer at the time, but a highly regarded, long-established actor of 48. She in turn, playing his mother, was 68. When the musical was revived for that 1981 production and Rex Harrison -- then 73 -- was again starring, the question was who could play his mother (and be believable). Well...Cathleen Nesbitt was still around, and she returned to once more do the role At the age of 93! I saw the show when it was in Los Angles, and it was terrific. The joy, of course, was to see Harrison in his most-famous role. But the most fun may have been to see Cathleen Nesbitt. She was wonderful. The only concession to her age was that in her entrance to the Ascot race sequence, she was led in by two "young gentleman" escorting her arm-in-arm.)
Anyway, for that 1981 revival, Rex Harrison apparently appeared on some television show, and performed "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." I thought from the video description it would live on stage, but alas it's only in a TV studio. Still, it's nice to see.
But that's okay. Because it's not the Oh-my-God "sort of remarkable" part of this.
It's that the video then blends into Rex Harrison -- live on stage -- during the original Broadway run of My Fair Lady performing the same song!!
Yes, we've seen him do it in the movie, but this is the original. This is where it all came from. This is how it was first staged. This is history. And for all the times we may have seen the film, Harrison's impeccable performance is well-honed by that point, from hundreds, if not thousands of performances. And done in a magnificent setting. Here there's an almost-rawness to the performance, and set against a simple stage backdrop and looking down from a high angle, we get a far better sense of a man all alone on stage, acting, seeing a legend at work.
The audio is somewhat okay and video quality isn't great -- but everything else about this is just tremendous. Footage of My Fair Lady at the time, one of the landmark shows in Broadway theater history, is rare. A couple of television small appearances, and one or two TV specials, but that's it, nothing on stage that I've ever found. Until this.
[Update: It's worth reading the comments discussion below. I may have reversed the videos, and it's possible that the first one in a TV studio is from 1957, while the second on stage is from the 1981 revival. I don't know. Even if so, it's great to see Rex Harrison perform his iconic role live on stage -- but the historic aspect is obviously not as high, if that's the case.]
You can tell when the dittohead memo has gone out from GOP headquarters, because not only do so many on the far right start making the same point, but you see it repeated and repeated and endlessly repeated in tweets flying across your screen.
In this case, the current GOP Tweet Theme of the Week is, "So, Obama can find time to meet w/ YouTube video star who puts peanuts up her nose, but not meet Israel pres Netanyahu."
It's one of those times I oh-so dearly wish that Twitter allowed more than 140 characters. Because no meaningful response in so few words does it justice. But 140 characters is the limit, so I have left my Twitter feed un-replied.
Same, too, when the GOP Tweet Theme of the Week just before it was, "So, Obama can't find time to go to France to protest terror and honor the dead."
("Finding the time" is apparently a really big deal to the far right.)
Happily, though, I get more than 140 characters on these pages. And often take full advantage of that quirk of fate, as readers here have long-since discovered... So, just look at this response below as a 140-character tweet, expanded magically through use of iBob Technology.
@relisberg Whenever I see a political discussion where the outraged, slamming criticism of a political figure is their supposedly not being able to do something of little substance, like -- in these recent cases -- supposedly not having the time to meet someone or not having the time to go to a protest, I know that those critics have no better or actual criticisms to make about the person. I mean, seriously, if they did, if they really, truly had a deeply meaningful point of powerful and valid criticism, don't you think they'd make that argument, rather than, "I hate him because he went to a basketball game"?
It's like if you got into an argument with your ex-girlfriend who just delivered a scathing, pointed 10-minute diatribe against you for your relentless cheating, continual thoughtlessness, irresponsibility, coldness, perpetual rudeness, lying and stealing, using specific irrefutable examples, photographic evidence and tape recordings -- and when she was done, you stared at her a moment and said, "Well...you leave your skirts and blouses on the floor!"
There are many perfectly good reasons why President Obama didn't go to France, even if he probably should have sent a better envoy in his place. For most of the European leaders, it was probably an hour-long train ride to get there. For the U.S. President, it was a journey across the ocean. The event, while very moving, was also largely a photo-op by an unpopular French president up soon for re-election. And besides, most conservatives always say how much they hate France, so it's unlikely that they actually wanted the president to go. Besides which, if he did go, you can bet cash money many would likely have criticized him saying, "With all the problems in the U.S., what is Obama doing vacationing in France for $100 million a day at the taxpayers' expense?!"
The larger point being, as I said, that if you have real criticisms, you don't lead with, "Why didn't Obama go to France??!" But then, with unemployment down to 5.8%, job growth up for the 53rd straight month, the budget deficit down by a trillion dollars, and health care spending plummeting, you don't have much to complain about -- so you go with the "Why didn't he go to France for the photo op" thing.
And it's the same with conservatives getting the vapors over the president meeting a YouTube star and not meeting the Prime Minister of Israel.
Actually, not it's not the same, but a far worse complaint.
First, if anyone thinks that President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu don't talk All The Time, then they aren't trying to think very hard. Of course they are in frequent contact, but the deceitful implication about their not "meeting" face-to-face is to suggest that they don't and aren't in communication. Which is utter, ignorant foolishness.
And if anyone thinks that any president makes up his own social schedule and himself marks down "Meet with YouTube" star -- they aren't thinking very hard with that either. There are some banal things that the president just has to always do, like pardoning a turkey or meeting with every college sports champion. It's part of the job description. "Americans like this sort of thing, Mr. President. Just go out there and smile. You can be pissed off at us later for setting it up."
And if anyone thinks that meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel is any way even remotely the same kind of meeting as with a YouTube star with even remotely the same kind of consideration that goes into scheduling...I'm sorry, you're just not trying.
But the reason it's mainly far, far worse than other faux-criticisms is because the very reason that Benjamin Netanyahu is even here is...disgracefully reprehensible.
For the Republican Congress to usurp foreign policy, which is the dominion of the President of the United States and the State Department, and invite the Prime Minister of another country to address the House of Representatives and, in doing so, lobby the U.S. government under those conditions...is beyond the realms of decency.
United States foreign policy must speak with one voice, and that voice is the president's
And for anyone on the far right who doesn't think this invitation is so deeply shameful, then reverse the situation. Imagine when George W. Bush was president if the Democratic House went out on their own and, without consulting the White House or the State Department, invited a foreign leader to address them. I imagine the outcry would be so piercing that we would still be hearing it. Ad they'd have been right. But we'll never know because Democrats didn't do that.
Of course, it worse than even all that, because Prime Minister Netanyahu isn't just using the House of Representative as a base to lobby for his beliefs -- but he's using it as a platform for his re-election campaign, with Israeli elections a mere two weeks after the scheduled appearance. An election for which Mr. Netanyahu is in seriously trouble. (A Jerusalem Post poll last month showed that 60% of Irsraeli's didn't want the Prime Minister to stay in office.. Being invited by the U.S. Congress is a nice campaign bump for him.
So, forgetting all the other reasons, it is not unreasonable to think that the President of the United States might believe it is a highly inappropriate thing for him to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister two weeks before that nation's election and involve himself in their political process.
And even more inappropriate for the Republican Congress to do so.
And yet, as irresponsible as it is for Congress to do this and have gone around U.S. foreign policy to invite Israel's head of state to address them, we still return to the original and very basic point --
When people doesn't have real, actual, substantive complaints about the President of the United States...then they whine about who he shouldn't be having a meeting with.
People flail around and whine about little things when they can't think of important things to complain about.
And this is flailing around and whining about a very little thing. Because, beyond all that was said here, is a very notable point left out of the far right's crocodile tears -- when John Boehner invited Benjamin Netanyahu to speak...he didn't tell the president. And when Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the invitation to speak...he didn't tell the president. Somehow you'd think that if any of them actually wanted the Israeli Prime Minister to meet face-to-face with President Obama...someone would have told him.
But they didn't. And it's meaningless anyway because -- because --
Because people flail around and whine about little things when they can't think of important things to complain about.
If unemployment was skyrocketing, if jobs were plummeting, if the budget deficit was erupting and health care costs rising, if the American public was all up in arms over presidential actions on relations with Cuba and immigration, ...how many people think that Republicans and the far right wouldn't be taking every last spare moment they could find to shout about all of that -- and as loud as they could from every roof top -- and not waste a single second of previous air space distracting their focus by complaining about trips to France and appointment schedules?
Ah, good! And I was able to write all that in just 149 characters!!!
Last week, on January 17, the headline of the Los Angeles Times was "Heat Hits New High", with the sub-head, "2014 was the warmest year ever measured, confirming a trend."
The article by reporter Geoffrey Moran began --
"The average surface temperature on Earth was higher in 2014 than at any time since scientists began taking detailed measurements 135 years ago.
"The 1.4-degree Fahrenheit rise since 1880 confirms long-term warming patterns and renewed alarm about changes that could flood coasts, provoke more severe storms and dry out croplands around the globe, climate experts at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday."
The accompanying chart showed that the 10 hottest days ever recorded since weather has been charted have all occurred in the last 16 years.
That Los Angeles Times front page story was admittedly a long time in the past -- a whopping nine days ago. On the West Coast.
On the East Coast, the story today -- a whole nine days later -- you might have noticed if you pay attention to the the news (or, if you live in the Northeast, if you look out the window) is just a tad different.
"MONSTER STORM," NBC's homepage blares. "States Ban Travel as Blizzard Pummels Northeast."
"TOP-FIVE HISTORIC STORM. 30 Million Warned" is how the Huffington Post reports it.
"State of Emergency as Storm Strikes" is the front page headline on the Boston Globe.
"Obama Lies Cause Killer Storm", Fox News announces. (Okay, so they didn't say that...)
Just nine days after a report of the warmest year ever in recorded history (which, the story said, "could provoke more sever storms") comes what some are calling possibly the worst snowstorm in the history of New York City, with up to three feet of snow in some parts of the Northeast. Almost 7,000 flights were cancelled, 30 million people were impacted.
Imagine how terrible this would all be if there actually was Climate Change...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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