Thursday, August 05, 2004

i do not want espn, the golf channel, or yes

Stanley and I have a high-end subscription to our local cable monopoly, Cablevision. We pay the bucks so we can get Showtime and HBO and well as IFC, Sundance, and Flix. Movies are our escape, and there are certain shows we love that are only found on premium channels free of the FCC bullshit that's dumbing down the airwaves.

But we don't watch sports. None of them. The closest would be the Eukenuba Dog Shows on Animal Planet. We're not Yankee fans, yet we have to pay and extra buck a month for Yes. We don't give a rat's ass for golf, yet we have to pay for the Golf Channel. ESPN: as far as we're concerned, is a ripoff for us.

And I'm sure the sports freak who doesn't watch movies much feels the same way about having to pay for movie channels she doesn't watch.

We could probably cut our cable bill in half if we could pick and choose the channels beyond the broadcast channels that we want and are willing to pay for. We would keep SciFi, but dump MTV. Discovery stays, Fox News: gone.

The cable industry says it would be too expensive. Congress will show it's usual lack of spine and probably not do anything about this any time soon. All kinds of alarmist warnings are strewn about. So it was kind of interesting to read an article that says giving consumer a choice really isn't that expensive, that some cable companies really would like to offer a la carte service, and that the biggie cable company in Canada is already offering this service:

Technology Review: Watching Channel Zero

The cable and media companies cited tens of billions of dollars in estimated costs to equip their digital cable boxes with the necessary "traps" to block individual channels. But that figure may be questionable. I spoke with Jean-Paul Galerneau, communications manager for Videotron, a Canadian cable company that has offered a la carte cable selection for over two years. He claims that his company didn't have to change anything at the infrastructure level to offer a la carte. Videotron customers can change their channel selection every month by calling a customer service representative or simply by visiting the Videotron website. He professes puzzlement as to why the U.S. cable industry insists that a la carte selection would entail an expensive transformation. "It can be done very easily," he says.

A quick call to Scientific Atlanta -- the manufacturer of the cable boxes used by Videotron and a leading supplier in the United States -- confirmed that offering a la carte channel selection wouldn't require any changes to the box. "From a tech point of view, there wouldn't be a problem," says Peggy Ballard, vice president of strategic communications at Scientific Atlanta.

Granted, switching to an a la carte model would incur some costs, such as training, upgrading the billing infrastructure, and marketing. But the $17 billion to $34 billion figures cited in a cable-funded study seem wildly off the mark. Whats more, not all cable companies are opposed to offering a la carte. The demarcation occurs around the issue of media ownership. Some smaller cable companies with no media interests are willing to offer a la carte, while large conglomerates oppose it.


Read the rest -- it's interesting (and I think it's one of the free articles in Tech Review).
posted by lee on 08/05/04 at 08:40 AM

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

edwards’s tactical expertise

Reading the article below got me to thinking about John Edwards's somewhat disappointing speech at the Democratic Convention last week. It wasn't a bad speech, by any means, but not the one I expected from a winning trial lawyer. But it's been slowly dawning on me why, and the article linked below pretty much clinched it for me. I think Edwards toned down because he didn't want to clearly outclass John Kerry (in the speech making realm, I mean) at the convention. And it makes sense. But read it for yourself ... it's on Law.com which, I believe, is free.

A Rise Fueled by Risk and Rewards
John Edwards' unorthodox tactics -- in law and politics

Tom Schoenberg, Legal Times. 8-4-2004

John Edwards' first witness was one of the defendants -- a registered nurse who was in the delivery room when a brain-damaged child was born.

Calling the defendant to the stand as a witness for the plaintiff was a huge risk. If Edwards was unable to get the woman to recount the series of errors alleged in his opening statement, he essentially would be doing the defense team's work for them.

The gamble worked: The nurse confirmed nearly all the mistakes alleged against the hospital staff in the case. Three weeks later, Edwards and the defendants negotiated a confidential settlement before the jury returned a verdict.
posted by lee on 08/04/04 at 07:34 AM

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

wicked funny animation faces the copyright sharks

Go to JibJab and watch / listen to Our Land while you still can. Then read about the threatened lawsuit over the film in the Wired article written by Rachel Metz. Then, take a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundations's notes and letter to Ludlow Music about the suit (EFF took up JibJab's cause).

Ludlow claims JibJab took too much of the original, and that it isn't a parody of the song itself and so therefore JibJab infringed the copyright they hold on Woody Guthrie's song written in the 1930s. EFF says the song is transformative, that the original was lifted from a Carter Family song, and that it is too a parody and completely protected.

It's all pretty interesting. Guthrie would probably be howling with laughter over the whole thing since he allegedly encouraged people to steal the song.

It looks like Ludlow wants to cash in on JibJab's fifteen minutes of fame ... I don't think Ludlow has any inkling of the economics of the whole thing: no money tree to shake here. Face time on Fox doesn't necessarily translate to kaching at the register.
posted by lee on 08/03/04 at 07:41 AM

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Monday, August 02, 2004

missing crayons

Today I stumbled upon gapingvoid: how to be creative. I think via FURL. Read it and then spent quite a bit of time wandering about gapingvoid.com.

"So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for" Hugh MacLeod over the years.

I particularly like his discussion of the Sex and Cash Theory: "The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs: One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended."

And his cartoons.

Off to pay some bills.
posted by lee on 08/02/04 at 12:42 PM

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