Dept. of Full Circle

Techdirt points out the most interesting thing about Viacom’s decision to offer South Park online for free: What many have by now forgotten is that South Park began life as a viral video passed around on the Internet.

Here is our copy, preserved from back when its size actually was a problem (50MB Quicktime), around 1997. We first saw it a bit earlier, on videotape, via a friend of ours who was working at LucasArts at the time; we put this around New Year’s ’95-96 or ’96-97 (no earlier; the short was created for Christmas 1995).

Seven Years of Bad Luck

Lookie here what the archive page says today:

At 4:37pm on 29 November 2000, I decided to take the plunge and convert a longstanding mailing list then called ‘Some Arrant Knaves I Know’ into the blogolicious splendor you see before you today. Now, seven years and 5,225 posts later, I’m still here, scarred but smarter, as they say. Seven years is a decidedly biblical length of time, and reaching the milestone puts me in a reflective mood. (Of course, the original home of Heathen, NoGators.com, is slightly older, and was itself a migration of a site originally hosted at Houston ISP Neosoft since 1995.)

Bizarre differences, then and now

In 2000:

  • The boom was booming, and I was going to be rich forever.
  • Britney was still hiding her white trash truth from us.
  • Terrorists were, by and large, something my roommate killed in Counterstrike, and I could carry my Swiss Army Knife on airplanes. Not to mention as much hair gel as I wanted.
  • My wife was still someone I’d met in college, but lost touch with.
  • Jackson Correspondent Triple-F was a lowly, drunken and aggressively single law student entering his final year instead of the married father he is today.
  • There was no participatory web to link to back then. HotOrNot existed, but things like Wikipedia and social-networking sites like MySpace and Facebook were still a ways off. (Well, Wikipedia launched in 1/01, but it didn’t get useful for a while.) Blogs were also pretty unusual, though that also changed quickly.
  • As you may recall, there were no comments for two years. I turned them on due to the Heights Attorney’s complaints in 12/2002. The initial Heathen platform, Blogger (then only a year old!), didn’t support them, and I didn’t bother turning them on for some reason when I migrated to Greymatter in July of 2001. (You can’t tell this by looking at the archives, since everything from 7/01 on appears to have a comment link thanks to the import job I did when I switched to Blosxom in 2003.)
  • There were also no categories until 2003, either.
  • I posted a lot less. 2002 had only 234 total posts. 2007 will likely top 1,100 (1,046 as of last night). The dramatic uptick coincides with my adoption of Blosxom as a platform, which makes things much easier (thanks, Mike).
  • The layout’s changed a few times, but sadly there are no historical shots of anything but the very first Blogger template (preserved in the oldest archive pages).
  • REALLY longtime Heathen know that MH lived first at NoGators.com in a subdirectory, not on its own domain; I didn’t buy the mischeathen/miscellaneousheathen domains until 2003.
  • Heathen and NoGators originally lived at Laughing Squid, a great and independent host in San Francisco. We moved from there to a leased server at some point, and then off that server following a hacking incident a couple years ago. We’re now hosted as part of a work-for-hosting deal with Spacetaker.
  • Traffic’s gotten slightly better, but is still low enough that I’ve never seen a dime off the ads. The five year post says Heathen was at 5K+ uniques a month and 80K hits a month; for October ’07, we did 7600 uniques and about 80K hits. (Oddly, November shows nearly 13K uniques for some reason.)

Bizarre constants, then and now

  • By the time the first post happened, I’d already moved into Heathen Central. This makes the HQ my most constant domicile ever, not counting the house I was born into (1970 – 1979).
  • I still drink with most of the same people, with only a couple new faces. Ear O’Corn married the subject of the second-ever post about a year ago, but she was already around back then. We’re just older now. Even Lindsey.
  • We had the same creeps in the White House, which seems particularly bizarre.
  • My earliest and most constant sources are only a bit older than Heathen: Metafilter dates from 1999. BoingBoing started in January of 2000 as a weblog (though it was a site and a zine first). The mostly-dormant Memepool started 1998. Heathen’s frequently served as sort of a second-order aggregator of cool stuff online, based on the assumption that most of its readers don’t also read the hardcore geek sites like these.

Things we noticed perusing the first couple months

  • Holy Jesus, what was I thinking with that godawful orange?
  • I’ve gotten longer-winded. Part of this is Blosxom, which makes it much less trouble to post, and harder to lose a post-in-progress to the fickle foilbles of browser code. I just write an entry in any editor, save it to the right directory locally, and run a sync job when I get around to it. Blogger and Greymatter (and pretty much every other platform) required I use a web interface to post, which just gets in the way. This ease of use is the major reason why I’m still not using a database-backed tool.
  • For the first year or so, it was slightly less political, and slightly more goofy, and completely devoid of football.
  • Did I really not realize that the jazz critic who lambasted Ken Burns’ multi-night affair in 2001 was THE Harvey Pekar? Apparently.
  • First mention of Utilikilts: August, 2001.
  • The old pages got a lot of comment spam before I locked down the files. Oops. Better commenting is one feature I’d get if I’d move to a fancier platform, and it’s tempting.

I’m still having fun with this peculiar public hobby. You’re apparently still reading. I reckon there’s no reason to stop now. Happy birthday to Heathen, and Happy Holidays.

Shocking on lots of levels

This long Wired profile of Universal head Doug Morris makes two enormous points:

  • The record labels really have been just as stupid, if not stupider, as we thought; Morris’ worldview and business plan seems wed to the notion that taking a bottom-line hit today to be better positioned later is a bad idea, though most businessmen I know call that “investment.”
  • iTunes is much, much more dominant than we realized. Apparently, in 2007, 22% of all music solid in the US will be through Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

Wal-Mart became the go-to retailer in nonurban America a long time ago via sheer ubiquity combined with loss-leader prices, but Apple’s done one better: they win with the trifecta of (a) lower prices than Wal-Mart; (b) near instant delivery without leaving the house; and (c) being literally only a click away on most computers. (Plus, Apple’s not run by or beholden to puritan fundies who blanch at racy lyrics.)

Morris and his cronies still don’t get it, though. They’ve branched out to Amazon, sure, but they’re hoping to roll out the Total Music store soon, with some sort of DRM plus all-you-can-eat subscription model. Rick Rubin at Columbia wants to do the same thing, but it, too, will require some kind of lock-up to work like they want it. That’s not what consumers want, clearly.

Total Music is designed to unify Apple’s competitors in what amounts to a coordinated attack on the iPod. The details are far from finalized, but in Morris’ conception a Total Music subscription would come pre-installed on devices like the Zune, the Sony PlayStation, or a mobile phone. Universal is well aware of the difficulty of convincing consumers to pay for music subscriptions, so Morris wants the devicemakers to pony up the cash themselves, either by shelling out for a six-month introductory offer or by assuming the cost forever. This would be money well spent, Morris argues, because it would help the Microsofts of the world eat into the iPod’s market share. He has already hammered out preliminary agreements with Warner and Sony BMG and has met with executives at Microsoft and several wireless carriers. If Morris is able to make Total Music a reality, he will once again have succeeded in bending the industry to his will — in this case, by using the combined catalogs of the major labels to help establish a true competitor to the iPod. After all, why buy an iPod if a Zune will give you songs for free?

Unfortunately, Total Music will almost certainly require some form of DRM, which in the end will perpetuate the interoperability problem. Morris likely doesn’t care. He is more committed to Total Music — or any other plan that allows protection — than he is to a future where music can truly be played across any platform, at any time. “Our strategy is to have the people who create great music be paid properly,” he says. “We need to protect the music. I know that.”

The music’s fine, Morris. Bands are already breaking on their own, without major label help, by looking to the net for distribution and booking. It’s middleman companies like Universal that need protection, and we’re betting consumers aren’t dumb enough to play along.

Additional commentary at BoingBoing and TechDirt, the latter of which has a bit of fun with one of Morris’ analogies:

Morris is so clueless that he chooses the worst possible analogy to explain his position. Lots of entertainment industry execs have thrown up their hands and ignorantly stated that “you can’t make money from free.” That’s wrong, of course, but Morris takes it one step further up the ridiculous scale, with the following example: “If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola? There you go. That’s what happened to the record business.” Hmm… and what is coming out of your faucet in your kitchen? That’s right… water. And how much are people willing to pay for water? That’s right, billions. In fact, it’s a larger market than (oops) recorded music. Can someone please explain how Morris keeps his job?

Click through just for #9

Cracked’s list of the 9 most badass Bible verses includes Exodus 2:11-12, with commentary:

One day after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that, and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

Sure, Moses was a great leader, an emancipator of his people and a prophet. Most people don’t know that he also was the Biblical equivalent of Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher–a well-honed killing machine, able to slay from the shadows without pity or remorse. Martin Luther King may have had a dream, but Moses had a body count.

You can almost picture the scene: An Egyptian soldier is wailing on a hapless Hebrew when Moses, clothed in head-to- toe black, drops down from the ceiling. Moving with cat-like grace, he sneaks up behind the soldier and, taking his head in his hands, snaps the man’s neck with one savage twist. As the lifeless body slumps to the ground, Moses lights up a cigar. “Well,” he quips, “looks like someone bit off more than he could Jew.”

Damned if they do, Damned if they don’t

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour reacted predictably to Trent Lott’s intended retirement, which is to say he said he’d ignore the law and have a special election next November to replace him, which would be great for the GOP and bad for the Dems.

However, state law actually says — and the Secretary of State agrees — that if Lott resigns in 2007, they have to have that special election within 90 days. It’s only if Lott resigns in 2008 that they get to wait until next November — and here’s the rub: if Lott waits until January 1, the lobbying rules he’s trying to avoid kick in, and he can’t lobby for 2 years. Of course, the Mississippi GOP wants it both ways, but that’s not how the law reads.

More at TPM.

And even MORE on Bower

Pat Forde over at ESPN has a bit up about the coaching carnage, and had this to say about USM and Jeff Bower:

Jeff Bower, Southern Mississippi

Record: 119-82-1 overall, 7-5 this season.

Shock value: Immediate Dash reaction was, “No freakin’ way.” This has to be the stupidest move of Coaching Carousel Season, no matter what else is to come. (OK, if USC boots Pete Carroll tomorrow, that might be worse.) All Bower has done is compile 14 straight winning seasons, and 15 out of 17, at a school that should never mistake itself for Alabama. Put it this way: Bower’s run is comparable to Fisher DeBerry’s at Air Force or Sonny Lubick’s at Colorado State; they named the field for Lubick at CSU and DeBerry got to hand-pick is his successor. Bower deserved similar respect.

Capital offense: Hell if The Dash knows.

Will he coach again: Absolutely, if he wants to.

How good is the job: It’ll be attractive to some hot young assistants or lower-level head coaches who want to pad their resume for a couple of years and then upgrade. Most established coaches will look at what the school did to Bower and steer clear.

Successor: Nobody who would be willing to put 17 years of sweat equity into the place, that’s for sure. They saw what happened to the last guy who did that.

An alternative view of the Bower situation

Longtime Heathen and USM alum Ear O’Corn points us here, which makes the case that perhaps Bower had it coming for lackluster performance compared to the 90s. However, even the linked article notes

…the move is obviously a risky one, because the odds of USM getting another boss that meets the expectations of a conference championship every three years or so – or that even does what Bower did in guiding the program to eleven bowl games in twelve years – are dramatically lower than the odds of hiring a worn-out retread or generic coach who turns the program into Memphis or UAB, a mediocre team with a seven or eight-win ceiling and a two or three-win floor, and hardly any way to distinguish which result you may get from year-to-year. This describes most of Conference USA right now, and the only reason it hasn’t described Southern Miss as far as I can tell is that Jeff Bower, at the very least, has never allowed the bottom to fall out to such an embarrassing degree. So the Eagles can do much, much worse, and the odds may be that they will.

Can they do better? Yes – briefly. A young hire that pays off in quick success is certainly possible, and will be great for the program in the short term, before he’s poached for big bucks by a bigger school on his way up the ladder. Mid-majors all want to make the splash hire, the Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino, Steve Kragthorpe, Dennis Franchione, Dirk Koetter, Dan Hawkins who will take the program back into the polls, but the reality is that those coaches will move up quickly or, if they stay – like Bower or his nearest longtime parallels, Pat Hill at Fresno State and simultaneously-deposed Sonny Lubick at Colorado State – they will eventually succumb to the limitations of the location and drift back to the pack, and that coach will eventually stagnate and be forced out. See not only Bower and Lubick, but LaVell Edwards and Fisher DeBerry before them. Hill’s time will come. Chris Peterson will be paid lavishly soon to leave Boise State; ditto Bronco Mendenhall at BYU, or else his program will eventually move to the middle, too, as it did for Edwards. There are no exceptions to this.

I prefer Southern go the supernova route, hire a young, innovative guy and hope he pays spectacular dividends before moving on. At least we’d have those three or four great seasons and get a glimpse at the moon before descending back to Earth. Because in the long run, Southern Miss is just Southern Miss, and I don’t know that anyone can do a better job with that over an extended period of time than Jeff Bower.

Emphasis added.

How To Impress A Customer

In 2000, I bought my townhouse. It, like most homes, came with a kitchen sink, which in turn came with a faucet.

At some point in my first year of ownership, the faucet developed a terminal leak (it was, unaccountably, a cheapie — sitting not 3 feet from a Bosch dishwasher, mind you), and I had it replaced with a fancy one from American Standard called a ClearTap. My new faucet was sort of stealthily fancy, actually; it looked normal to the unattentive eye, and behaved normally in the up-and-left or up-and-right modes common to single-handle faucets. However, if the operator pushed the lever to the right, laterally, with no upward force, it dispensed filtered water from a dedicated additional port — which, at the time, obviated the need for me to continue to do business with Ozarka, who had already acquired all the other water companies in Houston. Neato. Sold.

Well, at some point this faucet started leaking. I know this because, at some point, we developed some minor water stains in the ceiling on the floor below. I could never catch it in the act, and so thought (erroneously) it was something else. That changed last week, when we found the ClearTap filter housing steadily drip-drip-dripping water. Uh-oh.

I called a plumber (who does not, for the record, sell faucets). He poked, prodded, and investigated my now-aging faucet and pronounced its condition financially terminal. In addition to the ClearTap filter area leak, the sprayer also dribbles, and some friction mount parts in the main pivot are also failing. It’s theoretically fixable, but plumber rates are such that simple replacement will be cheaper.

Since (a) the filters for the thing are about $20 and (b) I tend to buy them in bulk, I’ve got about $100 worth in the pantry, so I went online looking for a replacement ClearTap, and found them nowhere. Ooops. I checked the AmStd site, and still no joy, so I called them to find out the scoop.

AmStd’s story — via the very nice Nancy — on this is that they dropped the product because they sold poorly (there are easier ways to get filtered water now, apparently), not because they leak. Then, without warning, the conversation got kind of odd:

Nancy: So, can I have your address and phone number?

Me: Um, why? Are you coming to fix it?

Nancy: (laughs) No, so we can send you another conventional faucet. We’ll also need a digital picture of the one you have so we can match it.

Me: Hang on now, what’s the cost?

Nancy: Oh, nothing.

Me: (speechless)

Yep. 6 or 7 years into its life — which, according to the plumber at least, is an acceptable life span; the cheapie that came with the 1997-era house only lasted 3 or 4 years — and well past whatever warranty it had, American Standard is replacing it, and doing so without me actually asking them to (I suppose this may be their way of compensating me for the $100 in filters I’m about to eat, but Nancy didn’t mention a connection). Wacky.

“The BCS works as well as Kim Kardashian in the lead role of ‘The Eleanor Roosevelt Story.’”

So true. There’s more, including:

Just last week BCS administrators had to tweak their “system” for about the billionth time. The latest bandage was applied after it became apparent that the BCS might not have enough eligible at-large teams for its five games. Oops. The BCS works so well that the only undefeated team in the country, Hawaii, could finish the regular season 12-0 and still get squeezed out of a BCS bowl game. Meanwhile, two-loss Georgia, which didn’t even win its conference division or qualify for its league championship game, could conceivably play in a national title game. Huh?

Go read the whole thing.

More on Bower and Nutt

ESPN’s Maisel has some good bits to say:

For years, Bower’s name received mention as a coaching candidate at programs with more resources than he has at Southern Mississippi. He stayed out of a sense of loyalty and family. He stayed, and now the school and its fans have left him.

Southern Mississippi begins a search for a coach who fits what it needs more than Bower does. It won’t happen. The Golden Eagles will find that out soon enough.

Weis, of course, still has a job

Southern Miss has apparently ousted head coach Jeff Bower after 17 seasons and a 119-81-1 record. Apparently, 14 consecutive winning seasons (7-5 this year, which is as good as Croom at MSU and better than Ole Miss), 9 bowl games in the last 10 years, and a trip to the Conference USA title game five times since 1996 isn’t enough for somebody. Hell, they’ve even got a bowl game this year.

USM has it hard; they’re perceived as a second tier program in the south because, at least in part, they’re not in the SEC. Consequently, many of the marquee high school players get picked up by the major programs in Oxford and Starkville and Baton Rouge. Even so, Bower — an alum — has had success there; it’s also a sure bet he’d stay forever due to his roots in the community.

From the Clarion-Ledger:

Bower was forced to resign during a meeting with USM athletic director Richard Giannini. Bower stormed out of the USM athletic department offices and went to his house. He could not be reached for comment.

[...]

The Golden Eagles (7-5) clinched a 14th consecutive winning season with a 16-10 victory over Arkansas State Saturday and received an invitation to the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham. It will be the school’s ninth bowl trip in the last 10 years.

Although USM has the fifth-longest current streak of consecutive winning seasons among Division I-A teams, many USM fans have been critical of the program in the last several years.

Picked by league coaches as the preseason favorite to win Conference USA, the Golden Eagles finished fourth in the C-USA East with a 5-3 record. That included a home losses to previously winless Rice and to Memphis in a game that USM led by 12 with five minutes to play.

USM won four Conference USA championships under Bower, the last in 2003. The Golden Eagles won the C-USA East Division last year, but lost to Houston in the C-USA championship game. He was named the league’s coach of the decade in 2004 and was a three-time coach of the year (1997, ’99, ’03).

We predict a shitty season for the Golden Eagles next year, and for years to come. Folks are, predictably, annoyed.

(More bits: only 4 teams have longer streaks of winning seasons: Florida State (31), Michigan (23), Florida (20) and Virginia Tech (15) (cite). Bower’s tenure at USM is behind only 3 other coaches: Paterno, obviously, at 42 years; Bowden’s been at FSU for 32; and Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is at 21.)

(Even better: a recent news bit at CoachBower.com notes preseason ticket sales were at an all time high before the 2007 kickoff, and cited the ongoing success of Bower’s Eagles as the proximate reason. (Thanks, Frank.))

Creepy and Cool

Terminus is a pleasantly weird short (8 minutes and change) about a man being stalked by a figure made of concrete who, apparently, only wants to dance.

No, seriously.

(Widely linked.)

Week 13: More Suck

Up front, let’s get this off our chest: We pulled for those fucking coonasses all year because we thought they had a chance at the title, which would put the BCS crown in the SEC for two years running, and this is how they thank us — two triple-OT losses against candyass (for the SEC) opponents. It’s just as well; we figure this is LSU’s last shot for a while, since it’s a better than even bet that Miles will move north to take over for Lloyd Carr at Michigan. We’re still bitter that we delayed some holiday travel just to watch those fuckers squander another game that never should have been competitive, and with it their title hopes.

LSU’s loss put the rest of the BCS into a bit of a mess: see below.

Then, of course, there was the Iron Bowl on Saturday night. We’re not doing math this time, either. Frankly, we were still so disgusted after last week’s bullshit that we didn’t even watch; instead, we opted for a Star Trek rerun, since it turns out Mrs Heathen has never seen the episode that introduced Khan and laid the groundwork for the second movie. Sue us. We missed nothing. (We did, however, come across this funny picture. Enjoy.)

Fortunately, there were two better games to watch.

Back on Friday, the 104th Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss played out predictably for three and a half quarters, with plenty of hapless crappy play on both sides of the ball. By seven minutes into the 4th, Ole Miss was up 14 to zip, and it looked like another heartbreak for the Bulldogs.

Then they woke up. Sly Croom’s had a good year so far, and it got better on Friday. In the last 7 minutes of the game, his squad hauled in 17 unanswered points to shock the preppie weasels from Oxford and cement his hold on his job — and, maybe, qualify for a bowl. Ole Miss coach Orgeron wasn’t so lucky, and has been given his walking papers after only three seasons. Better luck in I-AA, Coach O.

After the Coonass Conflagration, we switched over to the Hawaii – Boise State contest, about which we could scarcely be happier. As has been previously noted by us and others, the Warriors have the weakest schedule in the BCS — but not for lack of trying. Nobody wants any part of their potentially explosive offense. USC and Michigan both said no outright; Michigan State scheduled them, but then took a $250K buyout option to bump them off their slate. Boise, though, we know might be real — they did manage to bag Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last year, after all, even if their only “quality” win this year was against never-ranked Southern Miss. As it turns out, Hawaii is at least as real as Boise; the final score was 39 to 27, and it wasn’t that close. Hawaii stays perfect (11-0), and will face Washington (4-8, but they did give USC a scare in September) next week. If they win out, it’ll be awful hard to make a case for excluding them from a big-money bowl; the win over Boise makes them WAC champs already. (See below.)

Now let’s talk about rankings. LSU is obviously out; you can’t lose two and play in the show. Before this week, the rest of the top five was Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri, and Ohio State. Kansas and Mizzou played this week, too, and as predicted Kansas’ win streak stopped with a quickness. West Virginia spanked UConn, but that wasn’t enough to keep Mizzou from leapfrogging, improbably, into the top spot. The BCS folks see the new world order as:

  1. Mizzou (11-1)
  2. West Virginia (10-1)
  3. Ohio State (11-1)
  4. Georgia (10-2)
  5. Kansas (11-1)

LSU clocks in at 7, behind Virginia Tech. Mizzou still has to play #9 Oklahoma for the Big XII championship, and few think they’ll survive that game. West Virginia still has unranked Pittsburgh (4-7) to play, so the Heathen bet for the Least Exciting Championship Game Ever is West Virginia and Ohio State. Hawaii — the only undefeated team in the nation — clocks in at 12; if they stay that high, they get a real bowl. Cross your fingers for the Warriors.

(Astute fans will note an anomaly above: the SEC championship game will not feature the highest ranked SEC team. It’s LSU and the same Tennessee squad that both Florida and Alabama humiliated earlier in the season.)

Finally, some odds and ends.

First, in the “predictable” column, Florida beat FSU again, thanks in no small part to the heroics of Tim Tebow. The frontrunner for the Heisman now has 51 total touchdowns this year, and is the only player in NCAA history to get more than 20 TDs in both rushing and passing. If he wins in New York, he’ll be the first underclassman to do so. If FSU doesn’t shape up, we wonder how long the Seminole Faithful will keep genuflecting to St Bowden.

Second, in the “somewhat surprising” department: Notre Dame managed to win again to extend their streak to, well, two. They end the year at 3 and 9. Who wants to bet on how well they’ll do next year?

Clearly they’ve impressed SOMEBODY, but for the life of us we can’t figure out why

A while back we noticed the 43Folders story about a brief flirtation with the previous “hot” e-book device, Sony’s Reader. More open than previous options, the Reader could accept PDFs and other files for reading, but the compromises this forced turned the whole experience into a joke, and the reviewer returned the device as a result.

Frankly, the problem being solved here eludes us, given how portable, cheap, scalable, and fault-tolerant actual books are. Most people don’t want or need to carry more than a book or two (professionals with large and dynamic reference libraries are, of course, a different case). Still, companies continue to invest in the idea. Amazon is the next big player with their brand-new Kindle, which apparently sold out almost immediately. Frankly, it’s no more attractive to us than the Sony despite its admittedly groundbreaking qualities. It is not, for example, tethered to a computer at all; instead, it’s got a wireless modem that connects directly to Amazon and the Internet. However, it fails on some of the same points as the Sony, plus adds some nickle-and-diming bullshit that’s frankly below Amazon — for example, the Kindle wants the user to pay a subscription fee to read web sites on the it that are free on the public Internet, for example, and while it’ll take Word files and other personal documents via email, Amazon will charge you a dime for every one you send over. And of course, the Amazon’s ebooks are loaded with DRM, which means that it ultimately works for Amazon, not you, despite its $400 price tag. As Gruber points out:

Kindle actually is what ignorant critics have claimed regarding the iPod: a device designed to lock you in to a single provider of both hardware and digital content. You can easily and happily use an iPod without ever buying anything from the iTunes Store; without Amazon’s DRM-protected content, a Kindle is the world’s worst handheld computer.

What happens if Amazon decides this market doesn’t work, and bails? Ask people with “PlaysForSure” music bought from Microsoft. (Hint: you get screwed.) Gruber continues:

the Kindle proposition is this: You pay for downloadable books that can’t be printed, can’t be shared, and can’t be displayed on any device other than Amazon’s own $400 reader — and whether they’re readable at all in the future is solely at Amazon’s discretion. That’s no way to build a library.

Gadgets are cool. We like gadgets. We admit that if someone could create a real “book iPod,” we’d be interested — but that’s not likely to happen for several reasons, most notably the inability to get previously purchased content onto the Kindle. It’s simple to rip old CDs to MP3 and put ‘em on your iPod; try that with a book and the Kindle. Amazon could have come closest to this idea by adopting the idea mentioned quite a bit in reviews: allow Kindle customers to download free e-books for anything they buy from Amazon as well as for any book they’ve ever bought from Amazon. That is, of course, untenable because of the paranoia of Big Content, so instead we get another DRM nightmare.

At the end of the day, as potentially promising as the idea of a portable high-capacity wireless device with a built-in bookstore is, the Kindle is ultimately a disappointment — but an avoidable one. Amazon already sells music without DRM; why not books? Without open content, we’d have a drastically different opinion. Either the things you buy work for you, or they work for someone else. Our iPod works or us. Kindle works for Amazon. We hope it fails as-is, regardless of how much the biz press may think otherwise. We’ll close with this bit from BoingBoing:

Here’s the biggest mystery of the Internetiverse for me today: why is it that Amazon, the most customer-focused, user-friendly company in the world of physical goods, always makes a complete balls-up hash out of digital delivery of goods? You’d think that they’d be the smartest people around when it comes to using the Internet to sell you stuff you want, but as soon as that stuff is digital, they go from customer-driven angels to grabby, EULA-toting horrors. Why does the Web make Amazon go crazy?

We wonder, too.

Upset Nation: Week 12

We told you Oregon weren’t that good, and we were right; the Ducks dropped another game, this time to unranked Arizona on Thursday night, who still have a losing season even after knocking off the No. 2 team and ruining the Ducks’ shot at a title game.

What’s even weirder is who may have a shot: Kansas. The lone undefeated team in the contiguous 48 (Hawaii’s been robbed; we’d love to see them play a quality program) is now ranked at 2 in both AP and BCS, but has yet to play a real team. Truth will out next week, as they have to face #4 Missouri. If they win there, they’ll have to beat either Texas (9-2; 13 BCS & AP) or Oklahoma (9-2; 10 BCS & AP) in the Big 12 game to play for the title. Given their soft schedule, it’s amazing they’re ranked as they are; we don’t expect them to survive this gauntlet.

That means the real #2 is West Virginia, Missouri, or the Buckeyes, one of which will play LSU if the Tigers make it past the next two games. They had no trouble with Ole Miss on Saturday, but they have tough pavement ahead. Their final regular season game is Friday, against spoiler wannabe Arkansas (7-5, unranked and coachless). Assuming a win there, they’ll face either Tennessee (8-3; 18 BCS/19 AP) or Georgia (9-2; 7 BCS/6 AP) in the SEC title game. They’ve got to win both to play in the Show, and on paper they should. However, the SEC remains tough, and Miles’ squad had trouble with lesser squads from Alabama and Kentucky already this year.

Now, some quick hits:

Lloyd Carr Out at Michigan
It wasn’t the AppState game, or the Ohio State game; apparently he told the AD office he’d be retiring earlier in the season, and it seems reasonable. Mich has already had their Bear in Schelmwhateverthefuck, but following Carr won’t be particularly easy, either, unless they dislodge Les Miles and thereby piss off Tiger Nation.
FireNickSaban.com
Are you fucking kidding me? UL-Monroe? At HOME? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, NickyLou? We’re not even doing the math this time around; we’re too disgusted. The Tide drop to 6 and 5 after losing 2 straight, and face Auburn this week; Monroe improves to 5 and 6.
Aw, they got another win!
The Irish managed to quash also 1-9 Duke on Saturday to improve to 2 and 9 and bag its first home win of the season. In November. Say what you want, but you can’t take that away from them.

Mmm, taste the tolerance!

This is what happens when you explain what “Interfaith” means to a bunch of dumbass fundies:

Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, the city’s largest interfaith organization, announced Thursday that its annual Thanksgiving celebration Sunday had to be moved because Hyde Park Baptist Church objected to non-Christians worshipping on its property.

The group learned Wednesday that the rental space at the church-owned Quarries property in North Austin was no longer available because Hyde Park leaders had discovered that non-Christians, Muslims in particular, would be practicing their faith there. The event, now in its 23rd year, invites Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Bahais and others to worship together.

Things About Which You Must Be Shitting Us

A DVD set of the first couple seasons of Sesame Street has a disclaimer on it: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

I [NYT writer Virginia Heffernan] asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of “Sesame Street,” how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody “Monsterpiece Theater.” Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, “That modeled the wrong behavior” — smoking, eating pipes — “so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”

Which brought Parente to a feature of “Sesame Street” that had not been reconstructed: the chronically mood-disordered Oscar the Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable — hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now,” she said.

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.