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August 2008 Archives

August 8, 2008

Tech Republic

Micro$oft released a hotfix KB951748 that broke Zone Alarm, causing ZA to block net access. By the time I realized it was ZA causing the problem, I’d already wasted half the day with my ISP and pulling my network apart. This must be causing ZA a great deal of problems, but they don’t seem overly concerned about it. I suppose if you’re savvy enough to install ZA on your system, then you should know enough to visit the ZA site (once you figure out it was ZA causing the problem). Info on a workaround is here:

But, the main problem, here is not Zone Alarm. It’s India. It’s this customer service-in-India bid idea so many corporations had. I usually don’t bother calling customer service because I usually know more about what I’m talking about than the guy in India, who is usually not a tech at all but some guy reading from a script. Calls himself “Bob.” Yeah, right.

I think it important to underscore: if Bob knew what he was doing, I wouldn’t care where he lived, India or anywhere else. But in, like, 9.5 out of 10 technical support calls to India, I’ve been talking to Bob—who knows nothing. He is literally reading pages off his screen, walking me through a battery of useless tests, tests I’d already conducted—I mean, why else would I be calling Bob?!? I don’t call support unless I’m in over my head, and it takes a pretty severe problem to do that.

Tech support centers really ought to have two separate areas: one for the civilians who know nothing (bob), and, say Gary, who is an actual tech and not just some kid answering the phone. Gary would only talk to people who have some advanced knowledge of their PCs. Gary wouldn’t talk to me like I’m an idiot or make me run useless diagnoses tests. Gary would trust me when I tell him what the problem is *not* so we wouldn’t waste time. I’d be off the phone with Gary in less than half the time as with Bob, who kept cutting me off, completing my sentences, not listening, and became defensive and snarky when I refused to do all the goofy stuff. Trust me, Bob, that ain’t it.

If Bob had any knowledge of computers at all, the first thing he’d check would be the internet connection, The second would be the firewall. I actually knew that. I just spaced it—calling the ISP before I checked the firewall. I really would be amazed and grateful if these huge corporations, who take my money each and every month, had at least one place where I could call and talk to an actual tech.


Keep Hope Quiet

Jesse Jackson’s open mic flub… I suppose it’s legit if only that I can’t imagine the upside to it. My first thought, though, was tat it was a recycled West Wing plot.


Bush Impeachment

Bush Impeachment, bowing to political pressure, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi allowed a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, the House voting 238-180 to send one of Rep. Dennis Kucinich's articles of impeachment -- this one charging Bush with lying to the American public about the causes for the war in Iraq -- to the House Judiciary committee. Speaker Pelosi's position on impeachment--essentially that there won't be one--is utterly baffling. While it's possible there's some political upside to this, allowing flagrant constitutional violations to go unchallenged--I can't begin to imagine what it is. By impeding a full-throttle criminal investigation of the White House, it may be Pelosi, not Bush, who goes down in history as the most nefarious, politically self-serving leader in U.S. history.



The Republican National Committee site looks shockingly (and frighteningly) like a frat house web page or, perhaps, the home page for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The GOP homepage is burgeoning with sophomoric, low-brow attacks on Obama, things I suppose are supposed to be funny, but bandwidth better used to innumerate and elaborate on John McCain's policy positions and make his case for becoming the next president of the United States. Instead, the GOP homepage is almost insultingly low-brow, which suggests what they actually think of their own constituents. It's most consistent and clearest message: Don't Vote For The Black Kid. I'm amazed they left out the beer belch sound effect when the page loads.



He’s being such a jackass. He’s utterly destroying his brand name this early in the going. I can’t begin to imagine why or why his advisors would think this is a good idea. I really don’t get the strategy, here. That first ad, where he pretty much calls George W a “fool or a fraud,” was terribly effective. Didn’t move him in the polls, but I think he underestimates the sheer power of earnestness. He needs to trust his own instincts. He’s looking like a punch line, and these silly attack ads—Obama is to blame for high gas prices—will eventually become tiresome. It also gives Obama the opening to charged McCain is spending millions on attack ads without talking much at all about real issues confronting real Americans.



Say It Ain’t So, Barack! I’m starting to see negative McCain ads from Obama. Huge mistake. Best to let McCain go on looking like a jackass for his Britney and Paris ads. Obama’s people are probably telling him he’s got to go negative to fight back. I think they’re wrong. I think pollsters are counting the usual folk on determining Obama’s poll positions, while the stealth legion of potential Obama voters flies beneath the radar. There’s no reason, none, for Obama to go negative or to start waging a typical campaign. That’s what McCain wants. McCain’s ads are most effective among people not likely to vote for Obama anyway. Firing back with negative ads is just a waste of time, and it tarnishes Obama’s brand name.



Didn’t see it. None of the trailers got me interested enough. The problem with this film, at a glance, is it seems to be a movie about superheroes made by people who know nothing about superheroes. Hancock looks almost like a parody of super-hero movies. The special effects are so over-the-top that, rather than impress us with their cutting-edge technique, I found myself bored. I’ve seen this stuff done so much better in Iron Man. There’s a certain clumsiness and inelegance to the FX that may have been contrived to go along with the storyline of a down-and-out superhero who regains his self-esteem. I don’t know, maybe it’s *supposed* to look silly.



Great movie, but Nolan doesn’t seem to trust his audience to be smart enough to get the theme, so he has Batman standing around talking in the third act. Trim about twenty minutes out of the back end, and the thing’s a killer. Yes, Kevin, we get it: there is both good and evil in both of us. Maggie Gyllenhaal an enormous improvement over Mrs. Cruise, and I applaud Nolan’s dropping of nearly every fantastic element from the first film, literally de-camping the movie (well, except for the tumbler and, well, Batman himself). I was sitting there thinking, y’know, lose the costumes, and this is an actual movie. Maybe the first actual movie to have super-heroes in it. I missed the monorail and the overly dramatized Gotham from Begins, but if it gets us even farther away from “comic book”-isms, so be it.


Wabbit Season

I was out in the country on my bike and I hit a rabbit last week. He just hopped out of nowhere, and I guess rabbits don’t have much in the way of a keen sense of direction. I feel so awful. I’ve never run over a furry thing in my entire life, and here I’ve wacked Bugs Bunny.



What’s with this new set?!? He looks like he’s sitting in a closet. The Paramus set looked like an airplane hangar, but better the hangar than this cheesy, and I mean cheesy, literal corner with its little half-desk. Or is he going for some kind of Edward R. Murrow riff, here?



What’s she up to? Are the Clintons planning a Stealth Nomination? As it seems terribly unlikely Obama will pick Clinton as his running mate, are the Clintons now planning more scorched earth politics in hope of a 2012 run? And, would we even want to see her in 2012 if she costs Dems the election in ’08? Hillary’s push to have her name placed into nomination seems a concerted effort to diminish Obama, which may fatally wound her if things go south. It comes across as selfish and puzzling, unless she’s counting on a kind of Buyer’s Remorse for Obama—maybe she realizes this is it for her—there’s no 2012, no 2016. Could she actually be trying to get nominated from the floor, to steal the nomination from Obama, who seems to be underperforming?


The Prodigal Son

Once again, sorry to be gone so long. I’ve been really tied up, the last few weeks having been most chaotic. Everybody’s screaming, everybody hates me (or, at least they’re screaming in my mind), and I’m typing as fast as I can. But I figured I should stop by and at least wave. So, in no particular order…


August 11, 2008

Let's Be Careful Out There

I’m watching Hill Street Blues box set #1. It’s actually not bad if you look at it as a period piece and don’t take it quite as seriously as, say, Law & Order or NYPD Blue. If you’re into that kind of thing, you can see the origins of many of the conceits we see over-used today in TV dramas, things that look mundane now but were ground-breaking then. I was also saddened for some of the actors who became so identified with these roles that it impacted their careers severely. I suppose fame is a two-edged sword: you pray you get the gig, then you pray you don’t get buried in it.

Bruce Weitz comes most immediately to mind. His brilliant and touching Mic Belker has always seemed to me to be the obvious template for Wolverine. I’m sure I even scoffed at Chris/Len waaaay back in the way back when the New X-Men—whom nobody at Marvel thought would have legs, which is why Len walked off it and Marvel gave it to some associate editor named Claremont—debuted: they had this Mic Belker character, complete with cigar. Weitz talks briefly about it in the brief supplement: he’s actually (of course) an articulate, thoughtful, softy-spoken guy—nothing at al like Belker. But, says Weitz, to this day, fans on the street ask him to growl for them.

The show’s dynamic was simple: here’s a cartoonish, over-the-top zoo of ragged cops trying to keep the peace in No Man’s Land. The anchor was the brilliantly stone-faced Daniel J. Travanti, who does not appear in the reunion interview, nor is his name mentioned—which I found suspicious until I looked him up on YouTube. There you’ll find an exhaustive, nearly five-hour (yes *hour*) interview with Travanti which is, more or less, a primer on why editors are important: somebody could have saved Travanti from himself. He comes across as egocentric and self-absorbed, when he’s probably neither. It’s just the sheer *bulk* of footage of the guy talking about himself that makes him look like a loon. Throughout, I couldn’t help but muse abut how Travanti, who has aged most gracefully and looks wonderful, would make a great Trek starship captain. The downside is, you don’t want Captain Travanti so much as Captain Furillo, wanting Travanti to reprise the fabulously disciplined ringmaster from Hill Street, a role he’s obviously tried (and failed) to put behind him.

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