Perhaps you've missed watching the show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" on ABC. If you believe the ratings, few have. ABC will be the number one network this November sweeps period pretty much on the strength of this show, and why not, it's not only on every night but whipping the competetion every night. I've seen parts of it - mainly while the show I'm really watching has gone to commercial. The appeal is simple: an average person can win lots of dough pretty easily (the questions do get harder, but anyone who just fell off the turnip truck can win $100,000 without much difficulty). The production values are top notch, it's very well done, and it's the only show like it on.
This happens all the time - a new show comes along that is very well done, typically because the person(s) behind it have a passion of it, and it is original, and it does very well in the ratings. Then, the other networks copy it, but their shows typically aren't as well done since the desire isn't to do something great, but just to do the same again, and these shows aren't original. Somehow, the execs can't figure out why their copy doesn't do near as well as the original. So what we're left with is a medium that is awash in poor imitations, the whimper of the derivatives, that is easy prey to something good and original. And a prime time game show is original these days, since we haven't had one for what, thirty or fourty years?
Of course, we see the classic TV response in action. Another network is running "Greed", which contrary to the title is not a stunning monument to one of the seven deadly sins, but the tombstone of originality. It is a copy right down to the music and lighting sequence. OK, they changed the title, and they introduced the team concept, but it's clear that without "Millionare", there would be no "Greed". Not only do they use computer monitors to display the question and answers to the contestants and audiennce, but Greed uses the same graphics as Millionaire. When the courts ruled, through a variety of cases, that a computer software company can't protect it's interface, who knew the TV execs would take that to heart and drop the thin veil they used in the past when trying to plagiarize a show.
I heard something last night on the radio that really shocked me. Oh, I should have expected it, but it's hard to adjust to the fact that we're living in the future and what comes after doesn't even have a name. Anyway, The DJ mentioned that the song she was playing came as an email request. For some strange reason, that just jarred my world view. I know, I didn't bat an eye when radio stations started broadcasting over the internet, and really, email is less "advanced" than that, but still, I guess I just wasn't prepared to hear how the internet had actually changed the way a radio station operated I actually listened to here in the heartland of America. They still believe in buying listeners around here, paying people real dollars to say they listen to their station, so thankfully the world hasn't slipped completely into the uncharted. But it reminded me of how when I was a lad (that doesn't sound quite so old as "in my day") my brother and I would make frequent requests of KSHE 95 while we developed pictures in the basement darkroom. After a while, the DJ would recognize the sound of one of our voices (hey, this was before Caller ID even) and make some excuse, usually something about automatic or program play, as to why they couldn't take any more requests. Then the other would call and get requests played for a while until that voice was recognized too. Now you'd have to resort to multiple email accounts to keep the DJ from deciding you're making too many requests. You have to be, in the words of one computer store salesman, a real hacker type to get along in the present future.
I'll forgive you if you failed to notice it, but Tuesday, October 5 was the first ever Techies Day. I'm sure in another couple of years it will rank right up there with Mother's Day, and we'll all be sending a nice card to our computer support people if we want them to help us the rest of the year. No, actually, this is the brain child of Halsey Minor, founder of C|Net, who wanted to not just provide recognition of all us techies out here (yep, now that geek is fashonable I'll lay claim to being one), but it's also for the children. That's right, it's to help make our little darlings aware that geek is chic, that technical literacy is the road to power and riches and, gasp!, happiness too. Want to know more? Then check out (of course!) the Techies Day web page. Want to know less? Then keep on reading The Murphy Nexus!
I had an unexpected moment of fun the other day. I was trying to find the hotel I stayed in in Livorno so that I could provide a picture (my postcard of it seems to have gone the way of all flesh, or possibly the kids got a hold of it). So I searched on Altavista and discovered an entry that was, not surprisingly, in Italian. Well, Altavista has a translation option, so I asked it to translate from Italian into English and here is a sample of what I got:
Long afternoon the roads of the wine
Allegros covered between tastings and assays, for an afternoon in the Livornese, on the traces of the best local grapes; a experience amusing and gradevole also for the abstemious ones more upset, between scents and sapori of other times. The long distance filari the part from Livorno and ago before stage to Cecina, earth of Advised E' a pause near the wine cellar Gianfaldoni (68.00.49) where the specialties are possible to try all. According to stop to Bolgheri, famous for the other optimal livornese wine, Bolgheri D.O.C.; of obligation the visit to the Saint Estate Guido (0565/76.20.03), where one more produces the wine searched and more important of Italy.
I suppose I could have been annoyed at how poor a job it did, but I was too busy cracking up. Maybe the computer had one too many roads of wine before trying to translate for me.
The federal government has decided to sue big tobacco to recover the medical costs associated with treating smokers, despite the fact that the states have already settled for that money and the fact that smokers cost less. Yes, you heard me right, there is a study that shows that smokers cost less because they die earlier and faster (thus cheaper) than non-smokers. I don't smoke, and would prefer that nobody did, but the idea of federal government going after the tobacco companies after the states already have, and on such dubious grounds, makes me think this is just another shakedown for revenue. If they went after executives on criminal statutes (such as perjury for those who testified before Congress that nicotene is not addictive) I would applaud. If smokers filed a class action suit against them based on the damages and lack of disclosure on the addictiveness, I would applaud. But let's not kid ourselves that getting the companies to cough up big bucks is going to hurt anybody but the people who are addicted to nicotene and who will therefore ultimately pay any fine levied against the tobacco companies. No, this is just a way for our government to profit from the misery of others.
Has anything ever made you happy out of proportion to how happy it should make you? I'm so happy about finding a pumpkin vine in my front flower bed I'm going to share it with you. The temperature here has finally become bearable again (we went from mid-nineties to mid-seventies one morning) so I actually got out to do more than survey damage and decide what needed watering. Lo and behold there was this vine with big bright yellow flowers growing out from the petunias and next to the coreopsis. I have tramped through enough pumpkin patches to recognize it - the scion of some seed liberated from its parent when carved last fall. I quick got the kids who were properly exultant over the find, and who ran back in to tell their mother. They could barely get the words out they were so excited. Fortunately, I have calmed enough to get the words out so that you too can marvel at the joy of the unexpected. Actually getting pumpkins would be amazing, and a cause of great celebration, despite the fact that soon you will be unable to go into any store without being confronted with an assortment of pumpkins available for immediate sale. It's important to have a low threshold of joy.
I am rediscovering the joys of caffeine after giving it up due to the woes of caffeine. I have a couple of annoying medical conditions that are exacerbated by caffeine, so starting months ago I have tried to do my best to avoid it. I have never been a coffee drinker, so all I had to do was switch from sodas with caffeine to sodas without. My sensitivity to caffeine has been reborn. Now a couple of Mountain Dews down the hatch and POW, I'm wired -- my head pounds but man-o-man the thoughts are coming fast and furious, my intensity has been turned up to eleven, and I can't get to sleep until it's almost time to wake up as I mentally solve every problem, write every essay I've been pondering for the last month. It makes you understand what a waste it is to use it to wake up in the morning -- I mean it's something you're going to do anyway -- until at last you become like my father and drinking coffee puts you to sleep. It's better to be a recreational caffeine user than just another junkie.
Word of mouth is building for the Flatulence FilterTM - a pad filled with activated charcoal (please don't ask how that's different from inactivated charcoal) that is supposed to remove unwanted and unpleasant odors just after the source injects them into the air. It is also marketed under the name of Toot TrappeRTM. So for 40 bucks plus tax and shipping, you can eliminate unwanted stink - either your own or somebody else's, if you can get them to sit on the pad, that is. How long does it last? Well, this is what the web site has to say:
"The filter life will vary according to volume of gas expelled and frequency of use. It should last from 6-18 months. The average user receives about 12 months of use. Designed to be disposable, once it quits working (and you will immediately know it), just discard the cushion and order another."
I don't think this is ever going to take off as a Christmas gift, but just think if it turns into something like the ubiquitous elastic back brace, bought by every company for any employee who might carry a heavy object despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence it helps prevent back problems. What if every company buys the filter for every office worker so that they are spared large legal settlements over, well, unpleasant and now preventable odor? Assuming it isn't just a particularly good hoax, that is.
There's something marvelous about a good vacation. The stress level drops below noticable and no matter what the stimulus, there is little response. I didn't pay much attention to the news while we were on vacation, so almost anything could have happened and I wouldn't know or care. If Hillary left Bill to marry Robert Downey Jr. (he needs the help and she needs the sympathy vote) and Bill in turn married Monica now that he was free, a soft shrug of the shoulders would be my only response. If Bill Gates gave all his money to charity, admitted in court (the trial is still going on, isn't it?) that Microsoft was a monopoly that used its monopoly power at every chance, and stopped selling operating systems because both Windows 98 and Windows NT were hopeless junk and it embarrassed him to be associated with such dreck, I'd just think he finally came to his senses and not give it another thought.
Don't worry -- a week back at work and I'll be back to my old complaining self.
I was walking through a parking lot the other day, trying to catch up to my family, when I said to myself, look at the headlights on that one. I thought I had seen it all, but there is still something new under the sun -- in this case headlight wipers. They were on, of course, a Mercedes. German engineering at its most pointless. I saw them on another one this morning, so they must be an option Mercedes offers. I guess they are on that nice sedan so when you take it off road, you'll be able to wipe the mud off the headlights. Or perhaps I just don't understand luxury cars.
It's no wonder men don't understand women. Men don't even try, while women make a serious subject of understanding other people. This was really brought home to me on our trip to Chicago, where we rode a commuter train for about 40 minutes and sat next to a group of four college age girls. They did nothing but talk about relationships for the entire 40 minutes. They talked honestly and openly (as far as I could tell) about the relationships, with men and women, past and present, in their lives. Many a man hasn't spent 40 minutes total in his entire life in such a discussion, let alone in one sitting. And when you throw in that men are often less than honest talking about women, a man essentially has contradictory information to understand women: his personal experience, and what his buddies have told him. Women, on the other hand, have a wealth of consistent experience, far beyond their own personal experience, to draw on to understand men and women.
JFK Jr's death is a tragedy. By all accounts, he was a charming celebrity who understood the up and downsides to fame and retained his courtesy and good humor. He didn't degenerate into self-parody like much of the rest of the Kennedy clan but was able to maintain an exemplary yet public life. Still, the hardly mentioned death of his wife and sister-in-law are just as tragic. The TV news media frenzy and reportage has been nothing less than awful. Early on we were treated to wall to wall coverage that could be summed up in less than five minutes. Saturday morning there were four on the plane (a phantom "flight instructor") but sometime over the course of the day the number was cut to three and no explanation given to those of us who didn't bother to sit glued to the set and listen to anchors take five minutes to explain how day fades into night, presumably for those of who aren't familiar with the subject. Now we are treated to talking heads and film clips purporting to show just how important he was. Talk of the Kennedy's being "the royal family" and JFK Jr. being a prince. What rot. The Kennedy's may be a very political family, but we don't have royalty in this country, and such a comparison only reveals the bankruptcy of the imagination. All the outrageous puffery being proffered by the talking heads only serves to obscure rather than enlighten. But airtime must be filled, and so the loss of a celebrity offers the chance for hundreds to achieve their own 15 minutes by providing interviews and remembrances. Well, my only thought is so long Lauren, Carolyn, and John, I'm sorry to see you go.
Jesse Ventura's fifteen minutes of fame aren't over yet, but I'm glad his book tour is over. For a while there, you couldn't watch a talking head progam without him being on it. It's amazing how many such programs there are, too. I like Governor Ventura, and I'm certainly happy to see the tradition of non-professional politicians revived, but watching his book tour was getting unpleasant. Oh, the first interview was fine, he had some good stories and points to make, and he struck the right note telling them, but you quickly realized that the interviewers were all cribbing off the same notes. Each interview was the same, except Jesse knew what was coming, and started to get pretty pleased with himself at how well most of it went over. So for his sake and mine, I'm glad he's on vacation and back to his old, pre-governor, self.
Old Navy really scored a marketing coup this weekend by selling T-Shirts with the Flag emblazoned on them at a low price in June that everybody wore to Fourth of July celebrations. And the shirts also happened to have "Old Navy" on them too. And if that wasn't enough, there were a couple of Old Navy workers handing out American Flags in the crowd prior to the fireworks. It's clear that Old Navy is not just any old navy, but the good Old American Navy. We were, of course, attending the Kirkwood extraveganza as always, although there were a few changes this year - Swanter motors changed hands is now some other name; we got three ice creams instead of just one; and best of all, I didn't have to carry Kyle at all this year.
At the pool yesterday I noticed a young, physically fit woman who had a navel ring. Personally, I don't find such body jewelry makes a young, physically fit woman any more attractive. Several years ago, I was in England on business and the company we were meeting with took us Americans out to dinner. We went to a nice place and had a very good dinner - I got on famously with my aeronautical counterpoint as we told tales of testing and how firms that made things fly valued those who made them fly lightly. Getting back to my point, our young waitress was downright ugly, and the stud in her nose and the ring in each eyebrow did nothing to improve her looks. So why do people wear these things? Rings sticking out just say "pull me" to the animate and "snag me" to the inanimate. And I couldn't help but think that as the one gal lay there in the sun, that navel ring had to be getting pretty darn hot. Still, I didn't go ask her about that or her motivation, as my wife might not appreciate me doing field research among young, physically fit women in bikinis.
Thank you sir, and could I have another please?
Take me back to The Murphy NexusTM, please. I've had enough of this.
This page last updated 27 October 1999.
© Contents copyright Kevin Murphy 1999. All rights reserved.