Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tweet this

We tried, we really did.

For several months, we had a "Follow Us On Twitter!" link over there on the right side of your screen. And for about three weeks after we created that link, we strived valiantly to tweet stuff several times a day. Externally, it looked like we were keeping you updated on pop culture news and our mini-opinions about it. Internally, we were using Twitter as a clipboard to hold topic notes.

And then we got bored.

Granted, Twitter is still popular — although not at the insanely intense rate it was earlier this year — with millions of wired people. But frankly, there are limits to our wiredness; we had already begun to rebel against the idea of tweeting when we wrote this and this. And besides, we get our information from the same sources you do (with the addition of a few dozen obscure newspapers and magazines that you've likely never heard of), so it made no sense to try and report breaking news as it happened. By the time we heard about Michael Jackson's death, for example, the Rev. Al Sharpton had already assembled a gospel choir in front of the Apollo Theater to eulogize the fallen former pop star. Tweeting "OMG Michael Jackson is DEAD and we are already formulating theories about the media response to it" would've been silly. And besides, by then we hadn't tweeted in so long, the alert would've scared people grown used to the silence.

Hmm, we thought. Maybe we should tweet when there's a new blog post. But there's a "follow" feature for the blog, and a quick load of our URL would also show if the post is new or not. So this would be like announcing that the newspaper's been printed as the rolled-up paper hits you in the forehead. The only logical response would be: No shit.

We stared at the "Follow Us On Twitter" link, and we thought, and we stared, and we thought, and then we pulled out the shotgun and blasted the cute little bluebird full of #8 pellets.

We probably should have tweeted that we were going to do that. It would have been nicely ironic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Microsoft: Not Very PC

This is a Mac:

And apparently, this is a PC:

Microsoft's advertising woes just hit an ugly and embarrassing new low: the company changed the race of a man in one of its ads on the company website. Quick synopsis: the ad originally featured a black man but the grand wizards of Microsoft's ad team replaced him with a white man. Of course, not that the situation could get any worse, but the "geniuses" behind the Photoshop switcheroo only swapped out the head; look closely and you can see that the white man pictured has a black hand.

Why the switch? Some reports are rushing in to "fix" the situation, explaining that Poland, where the ad is featured, is an ethnically homogeneous country. Hmmmmm, that's interesting: last time we checked, Microsoft was an American company, one that seemingly embraced a diverse consumer base, regardless of where the consumers lived. And isn't one of the other people in the ad... Asian? Why'd they leave that one un(re)touched?

This pathetic attempt at a normalizing narrative doesn't begin to wash the stench of racism from the ad. Let's say that the "ethnically homogeneous" excuse really is the actual reason for the photo tinkering; this means that Microsoft didn't want to offend or alienate or anger any Poles by subjecting them to the horror of having to look at a Black man's face. It means that Microsoft understood the "need" to "protect" Polish sensibilities from the vulgarity of Blackness. And it means that Microsoft will gladly participate in apartheid if it means selling a few extra copies of Windows.

Expect heads to roll in the company's web-design department, just enough to make a show of outrage and apology. And then, back to business as usual.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Clone me baby one more time

Heidi Montag Pratt, known mostly for being annoying, can now add musician and Britney Spears wannabe to her list of "accomplishments" no one cares about.

Someone from the 2009 Miss Universe pageant, who should probably be fired before 2010, allowed her to perform her new single, "Body Language," live at the pageant. Their fateful decision quickly turned into the worst live TV performance since Ashlee Simpson did an Irish jig on Saturday Night Live.

Looking a little confused and frightened, Pratt channeled Spears through the entire performance. From the dancing (though we'll play nice and say Spears is a whole lot better at that), lip-syncing, and even wearing a semi see-through and nude-colored outfit under a black jacket that she ripped off in the middle of the performance, the entire act was a copycat of Spears' performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards.

While the performance itself made our ears and eyes sore for a few days, we'll admit it wasn't all terrible. Thanks to intelligent producers, a sideshow full of contestants' photographs ran during the performance and took up a lot of screen time that would have otherwise let Pratt torture the world even more. And let's not forget the most important thing; it totally gave us a new reason to make fun of her.

So keep lip-syncing your way to the top, Britney Heidi. Not that we ever want to watch you perform again, but we're pretty curious about what you'll look like bald.

Monday, August 17, 2009


New semester starting, 70% of the editorial staff missing, and garden harvest gearing up... must be Hiatus Time at WB again.

Meanwhile, some random keywords to drive the Googlebots a little nuts:

Michael Jackson, Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow, Brad Pitt, World War Z movie, electric cars, aliens, Boondock Saints, barbecue recipes, Steven Tyler, Harley Davidson, Clint Eastwood, healthcare reform, Amelia Earhart.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul, 1915-2009

Without him, the top 500 most memorable rock songs would be the top 37.

RIP - and thank you, Les.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How not to report how not to fly

It was just a short time ago that Chesley B. Sullenberger III became a national hero for landing a full-sized airliner in New York's Hudson River, with no loss of life.

Captain Sully's skills were sorely needed on Saturday when a private plane, with an apparently blind pilot (although also apparently a great guy) at the controls, flew straight into a tourist helicopter over the very same Hudson River, killing everyone on both aircraft and horrifying thousands of witnesses on shore who watched the machines fall from the sky.

But that's not the story here. There's only so much detail to report about this kind of tragedy — two craft, two pilots, many passengers, 100% fatalities — and so reporting, for reporters and their media outlets, isn't quite as important as "scooping" other journalists and getting the details out first... even if they're the same details that other outlets have already gotten out.

When a "scoop" isn't possible unless someone else has scooped first, then welcome to the age of journalistic piracy. In the rush to get stories out, in this story of the tragedy on the Hudson River, journalists have been throwing a long list of previous Code of Conduct items out the window. Verify witness accounts? No time. Check facts? Ditto. Attribute quotes? Only if possible. Credit sources? Um, shhhhhhh.

According to Jerry DeMarco in the New Jersey Crime Examiner (see, we are crediting sources), journalism is now engaged in the equivalent to plagiarism in college English, or bootleg downloading in popular music. The few big outfits that still have money and staff to get stories, get them, and everyone else who's laid off 80% of their work (writing) force just "picks the bones" (DeMarco's words) from the big guys... without credit. Without attribution. Without payment.

Some day, WB will post its full theory of how the entertainment industry is going right back to its lowly roots with traveling minstrels, touring actors, and unpaid town criers. For now, we'll leave you to ponder the ways that it's happening. Let's just say that even Captain Sully won't be able to change this trajectory.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rotten Apple

Editor's Note: WB has had a brief stretch without updated posts due to staff vacations. We're back to the grind now.

Editorial disclosure: We own iPhones and are locked in to AT&T service. But this post is only partially a personal rant; mostly it's a warning to a company whose products have been very good to us.

Apple Computer, now known as just Apple, should have learned its lesson the first time. After becoming the leading computer brand by placing its machines in classrooms across America, the company stubbornly refused to let other companies make hardware to run the Macintosh operating system. Meanwhile, MS-DOS, and then Windows, were running on dozens of brands of hardware. By the time Apple permitted — and then quickly retracted — "clones" of the Mac, it was too late. The once-dominant market share it had originally held had shriveled to an embarrassing two to five percent.

The climb back up since then has been slow but steady, and today the company has returned to a double-digit market share. This is largely due to a string of products that start with the letter "I" — iTunes, iLife, iPod, and iPhone. The level of desire Apple has created in consumers for these products is off the charts.

So, what did Apple do with that incredible amount of goodwill and buyer lust? It chose AT&T, the oldest, stodgiest, most Scrooge-like brand of cell carrier service possible, as its exclusive iPhone service provider. Instantly, this decision prevented millions of people from buying the iPhone, because they weren't willing to trade superior service from Verizon just to have the flashy phone.

And now, Apple is bowing to AT&T's corporate wishes to prevent Google — an Apple ally! — from running voice apps on the iPhone. Once again, Apple is foolishly, stubbornly, refusing to catch up with the times, refusing to face the realities of the market, and refusing to give its customers what they want. Just as it did in the 1990s when the brand took its first nose dive.

Rumors are flying that the iPhone will finally be coming to Verizon in 2010. But 2010, at the time of this writing, is still five months away. In the world of brand loyalty and product innovation, five months may as well be five centuries. Apple has everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by continuing to ban Google voice apps from the iPhone, and by continuing to be a tool of AT&T. It will ruin its relationship with Google, destroy its goodwill with current iPhone owners, and erase the desire of those who would like to own an iPhone when it finally sheds the exclusivity agreement with AT&T. From having a clear majority portion of the "smart phone" market share, Apple is in danger of watching that share shrivel and die just as the Mac did 20 years ago.