Archive for August, 2007


Vint Cerf: TV will melt down before Net does

Vinton Cerf, no relation to Bennett

Internet godfather Vinton Cerf is not worried about video traffic bringing the net to its knees in an oft-predicted technical meltdown. Instead, at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival he warned that TV, and not the net had better watch its ass as it approached its own “iPod moment.”

Distinctly unlike most techno-pundits, when Cerf starts mumbling threats or using weird new phrases or conjunctions, it really pays to listen closely and unpack what he says. There is little chance that Cerf crafted his words to fulfill some kind of lecture-circuit deliverable, some meme-for-meme’s sake nonsense phraseology standing in for insight. This is a guy who got up from his terminal one day having built IP, which you just used, are using now and will use again in the next ten seconds; there isn’t much he can say about the internet that isn’t insightful.

From the August 27 2007 Guardian:

Dr Cerf, who helped build the internet while working as a researcher at Stanford University in California, used the festival’s Alternative McTaggart Lecture to explain to television executives how the internet’s influence was radically altering their businesses and how it was imperative for them to view this as a golden opportunity to be exploited instead of a threat to their survival. The arrival of internet television has long been predicted, although it has succeeded in limited ways so far. But the popularity of websites such as YouTube – the video sharing service bought by Google in 2005 for $1.65bn (£800m) – has encouraged many in the TV industry to try and use the internet more profitably. Last month the BBC launched its free iPlayer download service, and digital video recorders such as Sky Plus and Freeview Playback allow viewers to instantly pause and record live television.

Dr Cerf predicted that these developments would continue, and that we would soon be watching the majority of our television through the internet – a revolution that could herald the death of the traditional broadcast TV channel in favour of new interactive services.

In Japan you can already download an hour’s worth of video in 16 seconds,” he said. “And we’re starting to see ways of mixing information together … imagine if you could pause a TV programme and use your mouse to click on different items on the screen and find out more about them.”

Some critics, including a number of leading internet service providers, have warned that the increase in video on the web could eventually bring down the internet. They are concerned that millions of people downloading at the same time using services such as iPlayer could overwhelm the network.

Dr Cerf rejected these claims as “scare tactics”. “It’s an understandable worry when they see huge amounts of information being moved around online,” he said. But some pundits had predicted 20 years ago that the net would collapse when people started using it en masse, he added. “In the intervening 30 years it’s increased a million times over … We’re far from exhausting the capacity.”

16 seconds? That’s a lot of time to wait for Bambino!


David Yow: Problem Solver, Bridge Builder

The great David Yow is these days fronting a Los Angeles rock trio called Qui – who are in fact appearing in Chicago Sept 28 at the Empty Bottle. Looks like David lost his passport while on overseas tour, and he would like it back. Learn how to handle this situation from a master of diplomatic finesse in this short clip.


National Lampoon’s Beatts, Miller and McConnachie at Hideout

Josh Karp, Chris Miller, Brian McConnachie

Tonight at the Hideout was the latest in a string of comedy-centric events put on by Chicago rock label Drag City. At the front bar I spotted DC’s Dan Koretzky and asked him what’s with his stalwart music label and the comedy lately (back in December, I saw the first in his series at Weeds hosted by Fred Armisen). I got a helpful “I dunno, but thanks for coming” for my trouble. Hey, who cares why? Just keep up the great work, especially when it brings my heroes onstage.

Tonight’s panel: No less than creators of the mighty 1970s National Lampoon magazine: Anne Beatts, Chris Miller and Brian McConnachie all wrote and edited the late great magazine in its heyday (universally known as “when it was funny”) and shared hours of stories about the giants there including Henry Beard, Doug Kinney, Michael “Mr. Mike” O’Donohue, and even P.J. “David Horowitz” O’Rourke.

The ’70-’75 Lampoon was evergreen for smart gags and brutal satire, and as a bona fide humor magazine, nothing since has ever came close. The Onion is the only contender, yet forever removed from the ‘Poon’s weight class due to its being a parody form. Maybe the Buffalo Beast?

Some sniff at the post-’75 ‘Poon, but not me. I started regularly buying it in ’79 or so and purchased the many available reprints of the early days. I even liked it into the 1980s, but by ’82 or ’83 it was clearly weakened beyond help.

By then it had served its purpose in the North American comedic pageant: populating Saturday Night Live and SCTV with writers and performers and re-conceiving the American comedy film with Animal House.

Beatts, now a screenwriting instructor at USC, relayed a great story detailing a time she took acid with Mike O’Donoghue and earned her place at the sausage party that was the Lampoon. In the time before her unprecedented work on the early years of Saturday Night Live, she told of being brought to NatLamp editorial dinners and having her stuff run in the magazine before long. She had loving descriptions of the late Michael O’Donoghue, a guy who I mostly remember for an early SNL bit where he performed an imitation of “Tony Orlando and Dawn after having nine inch steel spikes with real sharp ends plunged into their eyes.” I was, what, nine years old when I saw that? I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I will never forget the punhcline writhing and shrieking of Mr. Mike and “Dawn”.

Miller, who along with Doug Kinney and Harold Ramis wrote the screenplay for Animal House based on his experiences as a Dartmouth frat boy, talked up his new book and recalled his journey to the Lampoon’s pages on the back of debauched stories detailing holiday turkey-fucking, beatoff contests and erotic encounters with telephones. Oh, and the phrase “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”? That was him, too. Miller wrote for an agency before he was fired for pulling out a bag of pot in front of his bosses.

McConnachie, a recognizable visage from the many films he’s appeared in rolled out some tape of John Belushi in his National Lampoon Radio Hour days doing a Sondheim-esque turn as Captain Ahab in the musical “Moby.”

During Q&A, every one of them name-checked James Thurber as an influence, which only makes sense – and Beatts invoked Dorothy Parker’s name along with the Algonquin round table.

Beatts also remarked about the lack of a point of view in modern mainstream comedies. She called out Judd Apatow specifically, guessing that his point of view was either not discernible or was “unattractive guys can get with attractive women”. Thanks Ann, for putting a finger on what isn’t there with the Apatows and the Chandrasekhars: what Thurber would call “Humor: emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”

And thanks as always to the eagle-eyed Maureen for spotting this once-in-a-lifetime event. Love you!


I see…a Japanese Robot Tour

What marvels are in store?  You could wait or you could ask me.

I have few gifts, but one is clairvoyance as relates to technology. I often can accurately derive future developments by analyzing past developments using a methodology I like to call “guessing correctly”.

I have again seen a small shred of the future.

I hereby, on this day and no later, predict the following event and surrounding media storm:

A Japanese robotics developer and a Sony subsidiary entertainment company will book and execute a tour of a performing robotic musical group or system. This tour will be handled in the same way an indie-rock guitar band tour is currently handled, in support of a debut CD “recorded by” the group/system.

Seems inevitable, doesn’t it? I’ll bet five bucks! It’s a push if its not Sony.

Man, it’s gonna be pretty sweet when I can point back to this post!

<shakes fist> You hear me, tomorrow?! I got your number!!


Untethering Haizman

Haizman won’t be found associating with riff-raff

Named for the Angry Samoans classic “Haizman’s Brain” is my new MacBook Pro. While Haizman’s been a fine machine so far, it is not without its design faults. One being its lack of a PCMCIA slot for simple broadband net access. While I understand that the inclusion of such a pedestrian feature is clearly beneath the precious little lozenge’s dignity, I wouldn’t have minded not having to screw around with underdeveloped hardware technology.

The new slot format, ExpressCard, is less than endowed with choices in net access. The search starts now for an answer: how should I put this MacBook Pro on the net? I have even heard of a few hardy souls who have skipped the card route altogether and put MBPs on the net via Bluetooth link with a Sprint Treo. Let the games begin!

read more | digg story


andy kaufman and jerry lawler ’82

Wherein Kaufman, the World Intergender Wrestling Champion and one Jerry “The King” Lawler, professional wrestler and proud father culminate their long-running media prank with real combat and thrown coffee.

The editing on this clip cuts out right before a visibly shaken Letterman’s punch line:

“Well, I think you can say some of those words on television.”


Sedaris Sibling Thunderdome

Which Sedaris Do We Prefer?

Two Sedarises enter the Google Trends Thunderdome. Only one Sedaris leaves.

Amy: Bent and affable advice columnist for Believer. Primary obsession of David Letterman. Jerri Blank from Strangers With Candy, both the TV show and the surprisingly lackluster movie of the same name.

David: Bent and affable author, NPR radio personality and Francophile. Primary obsession of his husband. Stellar monologist. Has not starred in a lackluster movie.

Google Trends: Tell us which Sedaris we prefer!

click image for closeup of graph

Disney movies.

Well, it looks like 2006 was the terminal year for a prevailing pro-David trend. Note the big spike in Amy’s Google search and news popularity around the middle of that year. What happened? She was cast for Shrek III, and ever since then it’s been David flirting with the bottom.



Touchy, touchy

What will we line our birdcages with in the future?

Newsprint, as an industry, is in serious trouble. What’s more, you (yes, you) are an active part of the problem: the screen you’re looking at right now is steadily killing the traditional newspaper, for reasons both good and bad. That mouse you just clicked may as well have been a gallows lever sending the print empires of the 20th century through the trapdoor.

As it turns out, the slow elimination of the daily newspaper from the landscape is a subject best not broached in front of those who have the greatest vested interest in papers – the publishers. This was the lesson learned last week by Elliott Kalan, weekly humor columnist for the New York Metro newspaper, a tabloid giveaway found in the New York subway. Tell the truth, lose your gig.

From New York Magazine:

the giveaway subway tabloid Metro doesn’t have a sense of humor about its being a giveaway subway tabloid. Daily Show segment producer Elliott Kalan was fired from his weekly gig as a humor columnist after his piece in the August 3 edition, titled “Newspapers: Information’s Horse & Buggy,” declared, “Nobody reads newspapers anymore … As this very copy of Metro shows, the only way to get most people to read a newspaper is to literally force it into their hands.” According to a Metro staffer, Kalan’s column was read by Chris Spalding, the interim CEO of Metro International (which was founded in Stockholm), who was in New York on business. “Our New York publisher, Daniel Magnus, said that the CEO told him we had to fire Elliott immediately,” says the staffer. Kalan was informed that his column had been dropped the following week. “I don’t really know what happened; my assumption is that the wrong person saw it and didn’t get the joke. They’re very straightforward people, the Swedes,” says Kalan.

Gallows humor can be dangerous.


Letterman #1

’82 was a heady time for Rob Warmowski, Mather High School sophomore. Between seeing my formative hardcore punk rock shows at Club C.O.D., being cast as a lead in the high school musical comedy stage production, and writing stupid programs in Integer BASIC on my pal Chris’s Apple ][+ computer, I didn’t know where to turn for televised entertainment that matched the intensity level of real life.

Helpfully, the NBC television network came to my aid by launching Late Night with David Letterman that year. This show bore little resemblance to the CBS program running today, the difference being akin to that of cream vs. skim milk. The early Letterman shows were a terrific pastiche of visual gags stolen from Ernie Kovacs , real counterculture figures and the best comedy in the NBC building. As Saturday Night Live limped along into irrelevance, Late Night picked up the slack magnificently with humor written from a then-new, media-savvy perspective which might be summed up as “Gee, maybe we watch too much of this TV stuff.”

Show #1 opening with the greatCalvert DeForest:


Saturday Sewer: The D-word Makes An Appearance

“Here’s how fucked we used to be, and here’s how fucked we are now”

If you’re looking for bad news, look on Saturday. That is the day that bad news is guaranteed to appear in mainstream newspapers because media professionals and PR operatives know that few people read the Saturday paper. I call the phenomenon the Saturday Sewer. Saturday is the day with the lowest news audience, so public relations professionals in industry, government, and the military know to sit on the week’s un-squelchable bad news until late on Friday in order to have the story printed on a day when the fewest of us are reading.

Today’s Sewer item is culled from a Friday appearance made on NPR’s All Things Considered by Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute. Hold on to your Wiis, guys – the General is talking draft.

Lute, a three-star patsy tapped by the White House, is the president’s War Czar, a term that, when translated from asshole to plain English means “Iraq fall guy with little future career to risk.” Lute’s appearance on ATC included the following quote:

“I think it makes sense to certainly consider [the draft]. And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table. But ultimately, this is a policy matter between meeting the demands for the nation’s security by one means or another,”

Classic example of the kind of quote you won’t see on Tuesday’s front pages. Lift the cover on the Saturday Sewer at your own risk.



rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

@warmowski on twitter

Rob’s Bands

Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
1991-94: Buzzmuscle
2001-05: San Andreas Fault
2008- : Sirs
2008- : Allende

Rob at Huffington Post

August 2007