Archive for April, 2008

  • Rob Spectre
  • 28
  • Apr
  • 08

It took nearly six months of trial and three days of deliberation for an Alameda County jury to convict Hans Reiser of murder in the first degree. The trial in many ways was rare and may be the case that serves as the cosecant of the insanity of this first decade of the 21st century. It may be the one calculation we can make to see just how wide and how far the batshit of America now goes. It certainly had the all the earmarks of this brave new world.

From the start, it had a rare sizzle that baked the ink on the page. Wired had by far the most comprehensive coverage, with David Kravets checking in each agaonizing day of the nearly impossible case to be made by the prosecution and the equally impossible defense of a hopelessly arrogant geek. The details of the characters of the Attic tragedy boiled over like a forgotten pot making napalm soup. The deceased mail order bride from Russia who just embezzled from Reiser’s company Namesys. The confession by Reiser’s sadomasochist best friend that he killed eight people and the discovery of the same’s long affair with the departed. The recently hosed down Honda with the missing front seat and two books purchased recently by Reiser about police investigation techniques tossed in the trunk. Were someone to write it, I’m not sure any editor would find it plausible.

Throughout the trial, the court of public opinion, blind to Reiser’s fame in geek culture, only saw a nervous nerd with loathsome social awareness and tenuous excuses, eliciting overt dislike even from Judge Larry Goodman.

You are rude. You are arrogant. There are not enough words in the English language to describe the way you are.

Meddling, irritating, and irreverent to the societal norms that most people who aren’t complete douchebags respect, Reiser reminded everyone who stood in judgment of that jerk in their calculus class. When I was growing up they pejoratively referred to these people -- usually me -- as “smart but no common sense.” In Reiser’s case, the common sense to just shut up when the prosecution has no crime scene, no body, no murder weapon, and a “victim’s” shady past escaped his grasp.

“That surprises you?” a colleague asked as I exclaimed shock at the news of the conviction. That anyone can be convicted of Murder One without any physical evidence is unbelievable. That the best defense Reiser’s attorney could deliver was the “geek defense” was inexcusable. Regardless of the verdict, the only thing anyone can say with conviction after this trial is that Hans Reiser is a suspicious looking jackhole. First degree murder shouldn’t be something with this level of ambiguity.

As we learned with the West Memphis Three, geeks just suck at this.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • Apr
  • 08

The woman gasped loudly, throwing her hand over her heart in a poor impression of Vivien Leigh. “I’m a hairdresser,” she qualified. “And I love your hair.”

We were cruising through the back room on the second floor of DNA Lounge, hoping to avail ourselves of one of the available Linux workstations to get some quick blog on. Daniel and I didn’t make it across the dance floor before the six foot platinum blonde stopped us midstride. The exchange was weird.

Rob: Hey.

Hairdresser: May I touch it?

Rob: Touch what?

Hairdresser: Your hair. May I touch your hair?

Rob [inching back a bit]: Thank you very much for asking. Most people in this town just walk up to me and touch it.

Hairdresser [awed]: You just dump a lot of product in it?

Rob: If by product you mean hairspray, then holy-sweet-Jesus-hamster-dance yes.

Hairdresser: I could help you.

Rob: I’m sorry?

Hairdresser [leaning forward, whispering into Rob's ear]: I could help you with your hair, if you wanted. I could make it more manageable.

Rob: Management is not really what I’m looking for with my haircut.

Hairdresser: I would totally cut your hair for free.

Rob [perks]: Huh?

Hairdresser: I would cut your hair for free. All you would have to do is carry around my card and give it to people who compliment you on it.

Rob [awkward pause]: What?

Hairdresser: Well, you know, so I could get referrals.

Rob: So, you would cut my hair for free?

Hairdresser: Yes, I would love to.

Rob: And I would just have to give your card when people like my hair?

Hairdresser: Yes.

Rob: So this would be like a sponsorship?

Hairdresser [effusing]: Yes! It would be just like a sponsorship.

Rob: You would be sponsoring… my hair.

Hairdresser: Yes.

The lady didn’t have a card, sparing me the embarrassment of having to turn her down. Only in this town would hair be something for which one can land an endorsement deal.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 26
  • Apr
  • 08

Introduced by a friend of mine to the tragicomedy that is the life of Jon Arbuckle, Garfield Minus Garfield has been a favorite stop in my RSS reader for sometime. The blog is an experiment in media alteration, taking the commonplace and mainstream and with only slight modification turning it into something macabre and dark. Subtracting Garfield from Garfield proves pure genius, transforming the comic that plasters the cubes of fortysomething Accounts Receivable lifers into something that would make the same gasp at the realization of the banality of their lives. Garfield is way more funny without Garfield.

It led me to wonder how much better life would be subtracting title characters from other media.

Seinfeld minus Seinfeld

With the hit show never actually airing, Rob is saved from countless embarrassing moments by the company water cooler. All the moments where he had to shrug cluelessly to questions like, “Hey, this is just like that Seinfeld where Cosmo did…”

Good Will Hunting minus Will Hunting

Without the promising janitor to discover, Professor Gerald Lambeau is forced to sort out his life by himself.

Friends minus Friends

The much loved saga of the making it through the struggle of the mid-twenties with a little help from one’s friends takes a turn for the extremely hostile, as the roommates are instead found via Craig’s List.

Clerks minus Clerks

Kevin Smith’s landmark first release saves a bundle, forgoing any actual dialogue or principal photography and instead consisting of footage from a security camera set to tunes by Alice and Chains.

Lost minus Lost

The latest television sensation goes from hit series to straight-to-DVD release as Jack suddenly remembers he brought along his iPhone.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 25
  • Apr
  • 08

After a lull in the corporate battle between Yahoo and Microsoft, Steve Ballmer took a pot shot to make his opponent ponder its footing over the weekend. With nearly a week of relative media silence over the much hyped takeover bid, Ballmer passed the notion that MS would walk away in a very carefully selected place. Slipping it in with a keynote address at a somewhat obscure IT conference in Milan, Ballmer said the company “was prepared to move forward” without Yahoo. One might be able to dismiss the words as unrehearsed, if it weren’t for a complete transcript that Microsoft PR fed to very specific, low rent media outlets like IDG News. Not loud enough for the world notice, but certainly enough to be heard.

Microsoft may not know what it is doing on the Web, but it sure as shit knows what it is doing when buying companies that don’t want to be bought. Only the very stupid assume that Microsoft is stupid, and the game from the MS side of the negotiating table is deliberate and well considered. All the complex dials of the transaction are held firmly in its grip and manipulated with the ease that only experience brings.

From the very beginning, the superiority of Microsoft’s game theory was evident. Yahoo sets a ridiculous bar of $40? Microsoft makes sure no one can match it. Yahoo turns to Google for help? Microsoft has the Federal Trade Commission on speed dial. Yahoo investigates whether Rupert Murdoch has the coin for a merger? Microsoft announces it is already ball deep in a discussion with News Corp for a joint deal to buy today. Jerry Yang and his crew of Yahooligans haven’t been able to produce anything significant in response that Microsoft couldn’t counter, with the notable exception of a big gain in first quarter net income.

But against the macroeconomic background of a dim year in the world of advertising, even the impressive near quadrupling of earnings per share against the same period in 2007 doesn’t seem like it can last. With the endgame looming and no obvious outs in Yahoo’s hand, Ballmer’s comments are perfectly timed. A threat to walk away from the deal turns up the shareholder heat on Yahoo management while pacifying concerns from their own corner that a year long proxy battle would render the acquisition largely dead on arrival. Brinksmanship is a dangerous game, but one that in this case only Yahoo can lose by playing.

The smartest move at the negotiating table sometimes is walking away. The only real loser is the one who can’t.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 23
  • Apr
  • 08

Pennsylvania falls on Hillary’s side of the fence, with her campaign scooping up a mole hill of delegates (82) and a mountain of tender cash money ($3.5 million). The marginal victory virtually guarantees Obama’s lead in delegates and Clinton’s resolve to continue the campaign until the political EKG of the Democratic Party reads flatter than Milla Jovovich’s figure. It guarantees little more than a clear victory by the rules of the game and a vehement sentiment to change them before time runs out.

The concept everyone supporting Clinton’s campaign rehearsed into sound bites last night was the “popular vote.” With Pennsylvania, the campaign contends, Clinton has an insurmountable lead in terms of actual votes that compels respect from superdelegates. They argue that the popular vote holds the constituency that should govern which direction the superdelegates swing. With a significant break Clinton’s way, victory is assured.

The argument is particularly compelling to young Democrats. Disillusioned by the last presidential election and disenfranchised by the one before, the popular vote is largely the only scorecard we consult. For the generation growing up listening to Green Day and playing Nintendo, the idea of the individual carries enormous weight. We were raised as a collection of empowered minorities, less Spartacus and more Revenge of the Nerds. A single person in our formulative years had the power to save princesses, repel armies, and sell unprecedented numbers of records. This individual complex, by either design or disaster, is ingrained in everyone under thirty. Every single person has the ability to save the day and get the girl, suggesting for each of us Rainmen who grew up thinking he/she was Rambo that at the very least our vote should count. For us -- the fuel for the social network and the fonts of user generated content -- the popular vote is the only vehicle of democracy that makes any sense. The idea of someone speaking for us is alien. We click a link and implicitly cast our votes daily into systems of many millionfold the complexity of the American electoral system with a result that we’ve grown to specifically expect.

When we press play, we expect to hear something.

Thus, when Terry McAuliffe makes the ten second spot on Headline News talking about the popular vote, it is largely to we the young that he speaks. The problem is that, as Newsweek points out, the math just doesn’t work. The Democratic Primary is just not set up to produce a popular vote count, meaning the water ahead remains murky for who will gain the nomination. Between the early primaries, the caucuses, and the fifty different ways our fifty states run these elections, the realization of the mainstream media is that the win just isn’t there to be found. No one can get the delegate counts in the elections and no one can calculate the popular vote.

This will be the third national election in a row where our generation will have no idea who the fuck was supposed to win. Old folks complaining about the lack of voter participation in youth will have this year exhausted the hot gas in their bloated windbags.

Three in a row. We’re done with this shit.

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