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Closing out the Bionic Woman file

Longtime readers of this blog will remember my enthusiastic disillusionment over NBC’s new remake of Bionic Woman.

I just learned that the show — for which I have splashed out an appalling $15.92 via Amazon Unbox, making me a paying customer entitled to no end of feedback and/or howling into the cybervoid — has, incredibly, been cancelled:

…The action-packed drama series has now been scrapped after just eight episodes, with producers blaming a massive drop in ratings for the decision.

The pilot episode raked in a massive 13.9 million viewers, but by the eighth installment, the figures had dropped to just 5.9 million.

An insider tells British newspaper the Daily Star… “The show has been criticized. People complained about the poor storylines. But the writers have hardly any time to work with the characters. They were just getting used to them.”

Now, you understand, in this case that’s a lot like saying the drunk driver was just getting used to the road.

So I might as well close out my file of questions to the producers of Bionic Womanbefore people start saying, “Why is he so obsessed with a show that we don’t even remember?”

And here they are, questions 14-21:

     

  • You’re responsible for security for a US visit of the president of some unnamed but clearly very disturbed African country. You know that the assassin determined to kill said African president is using a rifle capable of firing depleted uranium shells a distance of two and a half miles. You pick a hotel suite with all glass walls — why?

     

     

  • There’s an absolutely critical secret you have to keep from your new bionic woman. So who do you choose to send to rescue the one guy who knows it and is likely to spill the beans? You guessed it…

     

     

  • You are captured in a warehouse by about 40 heavily armed men and conveniently taken to a room where the head bad guy is keeping the captive you were sent to rescue. Most of the 40 heavily armed men leave; a few remain. Moments later, you go bionic and noisily beat the stuffing out of the remaining men and the head bad guy. Do you then look around to see if any of the other 40 heavily armed men are coming back — perhaps because they are on patrol, or maybe they heard all the head-butting and bone-crunching? No, you stand around and talk a lot, paying no attention to your surroundings. Exactly how many parts of your training did they skip?

     

     

  • When Jamie joins the super-secret agency, her genius handlers give her a cover story to use with her suspicious, whiny, sex-addled younger sister. That cover story: timeshare salesperson. Which is of absolutely no use in explaining why one might have to take off on a mission any hour of the day or night. What, some critical Tahoe rental is falling through? Suggested more plausible cover careers: plumber, exterminator, party clown.

     

     

  • You leave your suspicious, whiny, sex-addled sister at home alone “watched by a 24×7 surveillance team” while you go running off on a mission. How exactly is that supposed to work? Are they just going to sit back and watch when she inevitably gets into some kind of sex-related trouble? Or are they going to charge in, guns blazing? Are you trying to keep this whole spy thing a secret or not?

     

     

  • “We have to recover the flash drive!” Clue to all future Hollywood writers: flash drives can be copied in about 90 seconds. Once it’s out of your view for 90 seconds, getting it back does you practically no good, since any bad guy with an IQ higher than his shoe size would have copied it, and then probably copied the copy. Chasing it around for days and days makes no sense at all. Where do these shows get their technical consultants — and are they from planet Earth?

     

     

  • Against my advice, you have hired the creepy gay-bashing dude fromGrey’s Anatomy. Now you give him a role where he’s required to hit a woman? Are you serious?

     

     

  • By the time Bionic Woman hit its quasi-stride, it had become a clear cross between Alias and Felicity. Now, I’m the first person to say that JJ Abrams is a genuine television auteur genius. But at what point does homage cross over into theft? And at what point, had the show not been cancelled, would he have filed suit?

     

Thanks, NBC! Good luck with your upcoming remake of Manimal!

Cramer: an apology

I need to apologize — not to Jim Cramer, but to my readers, for not being sufficiently hard on Cramer the other day.

I had missed this essential and hilarious fact:

[Three days before Bear Stearns went kablooey, and the same day he hollered about how “fine” Bear Stearns was on his quasi-TV show], on TheStreet.com, Jim Cramer listed Bear Stearns common stock as a “buy” at $62…

[After Bear blew up] TheStreet.com quickly removed Cramer’s March 11 “buy” recommendation from its page devoted to Bear Stearns.

Jim Cramer: no matter how bad you think he is, he’s worse than you think.

[Source: Bloomberg.]

 

The guy who makes Eliot Spitzer look pure

Meet Max Mosley, the head of Formula One…

Max Mosley, one of the most powerful men in world sport, was under pressure to resign as boss of Formula One’s governing body last night after he was exposed enjoying a Nazi-style orgy with five [count ’em, five] prostitutes.

Jewish groups condemned the behaviour of Mosley, 67, whose father, Sir Oswald, was the leader of the British Union of Fascists and a friend of Adolf Hitler. [Oh. Him.]

Mr Mosley was caught on video by the News of the World with five women in an underground “torture chamber” in Chelsea, where he spent several hours allegedly indulging in sado-masochistic sex.

[Get ready to hold down your lunch:] The Oxford-educated former barrister, who is president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), reenacted a concentration camp scene in which he played the role of both guard and inmate.

Speaking in German and brandishing a leather whip, he beat the women after allowing himself to be subjected to a humiliating inspection for lice and an interrogation in chains.

Mr Mosley… paid £2,500 cash for the sex services, the Sunday newspaper claimed.

Mr Mosley, whose two years in Germany as a young teenager gave him fluency in the language, has helped to turn Formula One into a multi-billion-pound business since he became FIA president in 1993. The FIA is a nonprofit association that represents the interests of motoring organisations and car users worldwide. [I imagine he has an interesting take on roadside assistance.]

…Mr Mosley, who once harboured ambitions to be a parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party, is known for being eccentric and outspoken. Nicknamed “Mad Max” by some in motorsport, he once said he didn’t mind flak because he came from a family used to getting it all the time.

Hitler was present at the wedding of his father, Oswald, and mother, Diana, which took place in Joseph Goebbels’s drawing room…

Most recently, Mr Mosley stood up against racism in Formula One by giving warning of immediate sanctions if there was a repeat of the abuse against Lewis Hamilton, the only black driver on the circuit, in Barcelona during testing this season. [A Nazi, but not a racist!]

[Source: Times Online.]

And how do we know he’s British? Well, at the end, he had tea with the hookers. Not making this up.

Oh. Wow.

Future blogger Alexei Barrionuevo writing in the New York Times:

When military forces loyal to Gen. Augusto Pinochet staged a coup [in Santiago, Chile] in September 1973, they made a surprising discovery. Salvador Allende’s Socialist government had quietly embarked on a novel experiment to manage Chile’s economy using a clunky mainframe computer and a network of telex machines. [Who you callin’ clunky?]

The project, called Cybersyn, was the brainchild of A. Stafford Beer, a visionary Briton who employed his “cybernetic” concepts to help Mr. Allende find an alternative to the planned economies of Cuba and the Soviet Union. After the coup it became the subject of intense military scrutiny. [Yes, I imagine it did.]

In developing Cybersyn, Mr. Beer changed the lives of the bright young Chileans he worked with here. Some 35 years later, this little-known feature of Mr. Allende’s abortive Socialist transformation was remembered in an exhibit in a museum beneath La Moneda, the presidential palace.

A Star Trek-like chair with controls in the armrests [they ain’t kidding — check out the photo] was a replica of those in a prototype operations room. Mr. Beer planned for the room to receive computer reports based on data flowing from telex machines connected to factories up and down this 2,700-mile-long country. Managers were to sit in seven of the contoured chairs and make critical decisions about the reports displayed on projection screens. [Brilliant! CTU for the economy!]

…Cybersyn was born in July 1971 [the month and year your faithful blogger was born… this is blowing my mind…] when Fernando Flores, then a 28-year-old government technocrat, sent a letter to Mr. Beer seeking his help in organizing Mr. Allende’s economy by applying cybernetic concepts. Mr. Beer was excited by the prospect of being able to test his ideas. [Boy, I’ll bet he was — can you imagine?]

He wanted to use the telex communications system — a network of teletypewriters — to gather data from factories on variables like daily output, energy use and labor “in real time,” and then use a computer to filter out the important pieces of economic information the government needed to make decisions.

Mr. Beer set up teams of computer programmers in England and Chile, and began making regular trips to Santiago to direct the project…

You do have to give them credit for one thing — it would have been a better plan than the standard “make s*** up” strategy pursued by so many other politicians.

This dude deserves to go in the history books alongside Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, that’s for sure.

And tell me you’ve never wanted to sit in a chair like that…

[Hat tip: Kids Prefer Cheese.]

Left unchecked, this could become problematic


The newspaper industry has experienced the worst drop in advertising revenue in more than 50 years.

According to new data released by the Newspaper Association of America, total print advertising revenue in 2007 plunged 9.4% to $42 billion compared to 2006 — the most severe percent decline since the association started measuring advertising expenditures in 1950.

The drop-off points to an economic slowdown on top of the secular challenges faced by the industry. The second worst decline in advertising revenue occurred in 2001 when it fell 9.0%.

Total advertising revenue in 2007 — including online revenue — decreased 7.9% to $45.3 billion compared to the prior year.

There are signs that online revenue is beginning to slow as well. Internet ad revenue in 2007 grew 18.8% to $3.2 billion compared to 2006. In 2006, online ad revenue had soared 31.4% to $2.6 billion. In 2005, it jumped 31.4% to $2 billion…

The NAA reported that online revenue now represents [a completely inadequate] 7.5% of total newspaper ad revenue in 2007 compared to 5.7% in 2006.

That growth could not stave off the losses in the print however. National print advertising revenue dropped 6.7% to $7 billion last year. Retail slipped 5% to $21 billion. Classified plunged 16.5% to $14.1 billion.

[Source: Editor and Publisher.]

Congratulations, you’re paying Jimmy Cayne’s marijuana bills!

Failed former Bear Stearns absentee CEO Jimmy Cayne is in the news today:

James “Jimmy” Cayne, chairman [and, until January, CEO] of Bear Stearns, sold his shares in the crippled securities firm for $61.3 million…

Cayne sold 5.66 million shares at $10.84 apiece on March 25 [two days ago], according to a regulatory filing today.

The value of his stake plummeted from almost $1 billion last year, when the shares peaked at $171.50 before the collapse of the subprime mortgage market toppled two of the firm’s hedge funds and prompted a contraction in credit markets worldwide [and the effective bankruptcy of Bear Stearns, rescued from real bankruptcy at the last possible moment only by a $30 billion loan from the US taxpayer via the Federal Reserve].

[Source: Bloomberg.]

Allow me to translate from the Wall Street:

The US taxpayer is loaning Bear Stearns and JP Morgan Chase, Bear Stearns’ acquirer, $29 billion — just revised from $30 billion, simultaneous with JP Morgan Chase raising its acquisition price for Bear Stearns to $10/share from $2.

Without that $29 billion of taxpayer money, Jimmy Cayne’s stock would be worth $0/share, and if you multiply that by 5.66 million shares, the total would be $0.

The $29 billion taxpayer loan is almost certain to lose money as it is being used to backstop stinky assets on the Bear Stearns balance sheet — the same assets whose plummeting fall in value catalyzed Bear Stearns’ effective bankruptcy.

It is virtually certain that taxpayers are going to take some loss on that $29 billion loan.

When we do, we will have the immense satisfaction of knowing that the first $61.3 million of those losses represent a direct cash transfer from US taxpayers to Jimmy Cayne.

I wonder if there’s any more color out there on this…

In the past weeks, together with his wife… who is a student of Jewish religious traditions, Mr. Cayne has spent considerable time searching for comparable events in religious history to see what lessons can be learned from the collapse of his firm, said a person who has spoken to him recently.

Oh yes, that episode where the money changers in the temple leveraged their business up 40-to-1 and then went bankrupt, but got bailed out by a loan from the Roman citizenry of 29 billion pieces of silver, comes immediately to mind.

[Source: New York Times.]

A thought:

A friend of mine who is a significant expert on US securities law told me something interesting a couple years ago, after Sarbanes-Oxley passed.

He said, you know, Marc, the laws on public company governance and controls — particularly the responsibilities of the CEO — are now so intense and so tight that I bet if you had subpoena power for any public company in the country, you could prove some form of criminal violation by the CEO.

No matter how honest and upright the individual — the laws are so strict and there are so many details that have to be correct, almost any CEO could be found guilty of and sent to jail for something.

I suggest Jimmy Cayne as an excellent test case.

Department of Remarkably Good Ideas, nuclear weapons edition

This just in:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has formally ordered the Air Force, Navy and Defense Logistics Agency to conduct an inventory of all U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon-related materials to make sure all items are accounted for…

The order comes in the wake of the discovery last week that four nuclear warhead fuses were accidentally shipped to Taiwan in 2006…

The inventory review, which will involve thousands of items, is due to Gates in 60 days. Pentagon officials said the request was ordered, in part, because this latest incident comes after the August 2007 accidental flight of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on a B-52 bomber across the country.

The CNN headline is to the point and priceless:

Pentagon Ordered To Locate All U.S. Nukes

I’ve been trying to think of an idea that would be even better than this one.

And I have failed.

This is, officially, the best good idea of all time.

Sleep well!

[Link: CNN.]
[Hat tip: Rick Segal.]

My new heroes


Prosecutors are moving ahead with a case against one of two 93-year-old men picked up during undercover prostitution stings.

In the case of Frank Milio, prosecutors have issued subpoenas and plan to take him to trial in April.

Milio, according to police records, tried to pay $20 in November to an undercover officer on 14th Street West.

Milio recently told the Herald-Tribune he was only flirting with the woman.

“I haven’t had that in years,” he said. “Ninety-three is kind of old.”

Carlos Underhill, 93, will not be charged, although he does not deny stopping to chat with the “good-looking girl” who made eyes at him and turned out to be an undercover officer.

Police say Underhill was willing to pay $30 for sex and that he promised to come back a few hours later to consummate the deal.

Prosecutors say that they cannot move ahead with the criminal case because there is no way to prove Underhill planned to come back.

Underhill was fined $150 for trying to pick up a prostitute in 1990, when he was 75. In the latest case, he says, he was not cruising Tamiami Trail for sex: He just wanted to chat with the buxom woman who smiled at him as he drove past.

“All I was going to do was talk,” he said Monday. “It wasn’t for sex. I am 93, you know.”

Now, granted, the only woman I’m going to be flirting with when I’m 93 is my lovely wife. Nevertheless: my new heroes.

[Source: Tampa Bay Online.]

Jim Cramer is still putting random words in random order

Last week I showed you a widely-distributed video of CNBC stunt-host Jim Cramer loudly gesticulating to his Mad Money fan base that Bear Stearns was “fine” and that “Bear Stearns is not in trouble”.

The day was March 11, Bear stock was trading at $62, and Bear immediately blew up.

Several members of the Cramer fan base promptly emailed me and said, no no no, Cramer explained that he was just saying that you shouldn’t move your money out of your Bear Stearns brokerage account. Which is a little odd, given that Bear was primarily a hedge fund prime broker and not a consumer broker, and Cramer’s show is aimed at regular folks, a.k.a. consumers. However, it is possible that his defenders could have a point.

Except they don’t.

On the very same day, March 11, Cramer also recorded a different video (not embeddable, so just follow that link) on TheStreet.com in which he explains in detail how Bear the company is “totally solvent; there’s not an issue; Bear is not in trouble, I want to make that point vociferously”.

Oh well.

I will give Cramer’s fans credit for one thing — he is highly entertaining. Although frankly I’m still not sure how he’s ever going to top confessing publicly to securities violations last year. One can but hope.

Why am I being mean to Cramer? Two reasons.

First, his whole approach is fundamentally fraudulent. You can’t sit at home, watch a TV show, actively trade stocks like Cramer says, and make money. At best you’re going to badly lag the indices, and in the process unduly enrich your brokerage firm, the tax collectors, and — yes — CNBC and Jim Cramer. Cramer’s show is just another stupid tax, like a state lottery, or cigarettes.

Second, he says he likes it (fast-forward to about 3:15 and watch to the end).

As a side note, I may not be able to embed TheStreet.com videos, but I sure can embed Jon Stewart’s take on Cramer’s Bear Stearns call — just fast-forward to 4:40 or so:

 

[Link: Jon Stewart on Cramer.]