Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Steamshovelpress.com is back! New web content! New book product! New conference information! PLUS: a new, daily, twitterish quip: "Parapolitics Offhand!"
Now available on CD and through US Mail only: Popular Parapolitics, 219 pages, illustrated, of comentary on the nexus of parapolitics and popular culture. $15 post paid from Kenn Thomas, POB 210553, St. Louis, MO 63121.
10 Things You Didn't Know About William the Conqueror
September 28, 2011
Today marks the 945th anniversary of William the Conqueror's invasion of England on September 28, 1066. The Norman-born duke's subsequent ascent to the English throne ushered in a new era and forever transformed the country's culture, language and identity. Explore 10 facts you might not know about one of history's most influential rulers below.
1. William was of Viking origin. Though he spoke a dialect of French and grew up in Normandy, a fiefdom loyal to the French kingdom, he and other Normans descended from Scandinavian invaders. William's great-great-great-grandfather, Rollo, pillaged northern France with fellow Viking raiders in the late ninth and early 10th centuries, eventually accepting his own territory (Normandy, named for the Norsemen who controlled it) in exchange for peace.
2. The product of an affair between Robert I, duke of Normandy, and a woman called Herleva, William was likely known to his contemporaries as William the Bastard for much of his life. His critics continued to use this moniker (albeit behind his back) even after he defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings and earned an upgrade to William the Conqueror.
3. At first, William's future bride wanted nothing to do with him. When he asked for the hand of Matilda of Flanders, a granddaughter of France's King Robert II, she demurred, perhaps because of his illegitimacy or her entanglement with another man. According to legend, the snubbed duke tackled Matilda in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. In any event, she consented to marry him and bore him 10 children before her death in 1083, which plunged William into a deep depression.
4. William couldn't bear any disrespect toward his mother. During his siege of Alençon, a disputed town on the border of Normandy, in the late 1040s or early 1050s, residents are said to have hung animal hides on their walls. They mocked him for being the grandson of a tanner, referring to the occupation of his mother's father. To avenge her honor, he had their hands and feet cut off.
5. Illiterate like most nobles of his time, William spoke no English when he ascended the throne and failed to master it despite his efforts. Thanks to the Norman invasion, French was spoken in England's courts for centuries and completely transformed the English language, infusing it with new words.
6. William's jester was the first casualty of the Battle of Hastings, at which the Normans defeated the English army in October 1066. As the story goes, the hapless entertainer rode beside William during the invasion, lifting his men's spirits by singing about heroic deeds. When they reached enemy lines, he taunted the English by juggling his sword and was promptly killed, initiating the historic skirmish.
7. William was touchy about his weight. Described as strapping and healthy in his earlier years, he apparently ballooned later in life. It is said that King Philip of France likened him to a pregnant woman about to give birth. According to some accounts, the corpulent conqueror became so dismayed with his size that he devised his own version of a fad diet, consuming only wine and spirits for a certain period of time. It didn't work.
8. At his funeral, William's body apparently exploded. He died after his horse reared up during a 1087 battle, throwing the king against his saddle pommel so forcefully that his intestines ruptured. An infection set in that killed the king several weeks later. As priests tried to stuff William into a stone coffin that proved too small for his bulk, they pushed on his abdomen, causing it to burst. Mourners supposedly ran for the door to escape the putrid stench.
9. Millions of people are thought to descend from William the Conqueror. Every English monarch that followed him, including Queen Elizabeth II, is considered a descendant of the Norman-born king. According to some genealogists, more than 25 percent of the English population is also distantly related to William, as are countless Americans with British ancestry.
10. William, an Old French name composed of Germanic elements ("wil," meaning desire, and "helm," meaning protection), was introduced to England by William the Conqueror and quickly became extremely popular. By the 13th century, it was the most common given name among English men. Today it ranks eighth, and some have predicted that the future crowning of another King William will propel the name back to the top.
15 Disastrous Product Launches That Were Quickly Killed
Aimee Groth and Jay Yarow of the Business Insider
Monday morning, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings announced that Qwikster is no longer.
Hastings decided to listen to shareholders and consumers and kill Qwikster before even giving it a chance.
Was it the right move?
Netflix shares plunged around 7% Monday while the rest of the market rallied. Investors clearly aren't impressed, but they may just be responding to the company's acknowledgement that Qwikster was a failure. Long term abandoning a bad idea could help the stock.
Plenty of other big companies have abandoned products after disastrous launches. We picked out some of the most quickly cancelled products in history.
Ford Edsel: 3 years
The name "Edsel" is synonymous with "marketing failure." Ford invested $400 million into the car, which it introduced in 1957. But Americans literally weren't buying it, because they wanted "smaller, more economic vehicles," according to Associated Content:
Other pundits have blamed its failure on Ford Motors execs never really defining the model's niche in the car market. The pricing and market aim of most Edsel models was somewhere between the highest-end Ford and the lowest-end Mercury.
It was taken off the market in 1960.
Joost: 2+ years
Joost, originally known as "The Venice Project," was supposed to be a peer-to-peer TV network for the future, invented by the European geniuses behind Skype. The company recruited a rising star -- Mike Volpi -- away from Cisco to become its CEO. It got a deal with CBS. Joost was supposed to reinvent the way we consumed professional video.
Instead, Hulu, a joint venture between News Corp., NBC and Disney became the go-to site for TV episodes-on-the-web.
Meanwhile, Joost had all sorts of problems with its P2P architecture, its bulky software player, its content library, etc. After launching in Sept. 2007, it never took off, with its scraps selling in late 2009.
Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water: 2 years
This was an interesting experiment in brand extension. Coors Rocky Mountain Spring Water launched in 1990, and didn't fare well. Turns out beer drinkers only want one thing from their favorite label: beer.
HD DVD: 2 years
Sponsored mostly by Toshiba, HD DVD was supposed to become the hi-def successor to the DVD when it launched in March 2006.
But the Sony-led Blu-ray faction ended up winning the format war when Warner Bros. announced it was dumping HD DVD for Blu-ray on Jan. 4, 2008.
About a month later, Toshiba said it would shut down its HD DVD efforts.
Cosmopolitan Yogurt: 18 months
Cosmopolitan made an interesting decision to launch a brand of yogurt in 1999. Needless to say, the yogurt market was already saturated, and Cosmo's readers were content enough reading the magazine.
Pepsi A.M. and Crystal: Both 1 year
In 1989, Pepsi tried to target the "breakfast cola drinker" with Pepsi a.m. It only lasted a year.
In 1992, Pepsi tried again, this time with a clear cola, "Crystal Pepsi." No dice -- it died in 1993.
McDonald's Arch Deluxe: 1 year
In 1996, McDonald's introduced the Arch Deluxe. It was intended to appeal to "urban sophisticates" -- outside of its target demographic. To reach this group McDonald's spent $100 million, which makes it one of the most expensive product flops in history.
Microsoft Bob: 1 year
Microsoft Bob was supposed to be a user-friendly interface for Windows, a project that was at one point managed by Bill Gates' now wife. Microsoft killed it one year after launching it in 1995.
"Unfortunately, the software demanded more performance than typical computer hardware could deliver at the time and there wasn't an adequately large market," Bill Gates later wrote. "Bob died."
Orbitz soda: 1 year
Although the soda, which looks like a lava lamp, appealed to young kids, it was not tasty (people compared it to cough syrup). It disappeared off shelves within a year of debuting in 1997.
However, Orbitz is still sold on eBay for a premium.
JooJoo: 11 months
In the era of a $499 Apple iPad, an inferior tablet computer that also costs $499 doesn't work. (You may remember this device from its previous title, the CrunchPad.) It came out in 2009 and was gone by 2010.
But JooJoo backer Fusion Garage continues to tinker and it's coming out with another tablet, which will also flop.
Mobile ESPN: 8 months
Mobile ESPN, introduced in January 2006, was one of the biggest flame-outs of "mobile virtual network operators," or MVNOs, last decade, which also included Amp'd Mobile, Helio, Disney Mobile, and others.
The idea was that ESPN would exclusively sell a phone that offered exclusive ESPN content and video, leasing network access from Verizon Wireless. But ESPN only had one phone at launch, a Sanyo device selling for $400.
No one bought it, and ESPN quickly shut down the service, instead providing content to Verizon's mobile Internet service.
Google Lively: 4 months
For some reason, Google thought it had to compete with Second Life in mid-2008, with a virtual world called "Lively," which came out in July 2008. (Except unlike Second Life, Lively was supposed to be sex-free.)
When the economy went down the toilet, those dreams faded fast, and Google quickly pulled the plug by November 2008.
RJ Reynold's smokeless cigarettes: 4 months
In the 1980s, just as all the anti-smoking campaigns were heating up, RJ Reynold's put $325 million into a new product: smokeless cigarettes.
They didn't work, and people weren't buying them -- so 4 months later, they were gone.
New Coke: 77 Days
In the early 1980s, Coke was losing ground to Pepsi. So it tried to create a product that would taste more like Pepsi.
While New Coke fared OK in nationwide taste tests before launching in 1985, it turned out those were misleading.
Coke abandoned the product after a few weeks, and went back to its old formula. It also gave its product a new name: Coca-Cola Classic.
HP Touchpad: 49 Days
After just a month and a half on the market, HP gave up the TouchPad and its mobile OS, WebOS in August.
The tablet was no iPad killer, selling just 25,000 units for Best Buy over the 49 days it was on their shelves.
Where does this put the TouchPad in the pantheon of tech flops? Well, it lasted one day longer than the Microsoft Kin phones, another recent flop.
So it's not the worst flop ever.
And, in fairness to HP, the TouchPad wasn't that bad. It was rough around the edges, but those could have been smoothed in the coming months. It just didn't really do anything better than the iPad, which means it's just like every other tablet out there.
Qwikster: 23 days
In September, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix would spin off Qwikster as a DVD rental business. This move met tons of criticism, and Hastings backtracked on his statement 23 days later.
Celebrity Phone Hacker Arrested
"Federal authorities accuse a 35-year-old Florida man of hacking into accounts on computers and other devices belonging to more than 50 people, including entertainers Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera, Mila Kunis, Simone Harouche and Renee Olstead, officials announced Wednesday.
Christopher Chaney of Jacksonville, Florida, was indicted on charges of accessing protected computers without authorization, damaging protected computers, wiretapping and aggravated identity theft, officials said."
In related news, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch is stll not in jail...
FBI makes arrest after Johansson, Aguilera e-mails hacked
Michael Martinez, CNN
Thu October 13, 2011
Film Is Dead
An article at the moviemaking technology website Creative Cow reports that the three major manufacturers of motion picture film cameras Aaton, ARRI and Panavision have all ceased production of new cameras within the last year, and will only make digital movie cameras from now on. As the article's author, Debra Kaufman, poignantly puts it, "Someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line."
What this means is that, even though purists may continue to shoot movies on film, film itself will may become increasingly hard to come by, use, develop and preserve. It also means that the film camera invented in 1888 by Louis Augustin Le Prince will become to cinema what typewriters are to literature. Anybody who still uses a Smith-Corona or IBM Selectric typewriter knows what that means: if your beloved machine breaks, you can't just take it to the local repair shop, you have to track down some old hermit in another town who advertises on Craigslist and stockpiles spare parts in his basement.
As Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala told Kaufman: "Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world? We wouldn't survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera." Bill Russell, ARRI's vice president of cameras, added that: "The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared."
Theaters, movies, moviegoing and other core components of what we once called "cinema" persist, and may endure. But they're not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They're something new, or something else the next generation of technologies and rituals that had changed shockingly little between 1895 and the early aughts. We knew this day would come. Calling oneself a "film director" or "film editor" or "film buff" or a "film critic" has over the last decade started to seem a faintly nostalgic affectation; decades hence it may start to seem fanciful. It's a vestigial word that increasingly refers to something that does not actually exist rather like referring to the mass media as "the press."
In May 1999 a year that saw several major releases, including Toy Story 2, projected digitally for paying customers editor and sound designer Walter Murch wrote a piece for the New York Times headlined, "A Digital Cinema of the Mind? Could Be." In it, Murch pointed out that only two major aspects of the analog filmmaking process had survived into the late '90s, the recording of images on sprocketed celluloid film and their projection onto big screens by casting a beam of light through the images. Murch predicted that once digital projection became widespread, it would "trigger the final capitulation of the two last holdouts of film's 19th-century, analog-mechanical legacy. Projection, at the end of the line, is one; the other is the original photography that begins the whole process. The movie industry is currently a digital sandwich between slices of analog bread."
Near the end of 1999, my former New York Press colleague Godfrey Cheshire published a two-part article titled "Death of Film/Decay of Cinema", which in hindsight seems eerily prescient. He predicted just about everything that would happen within the next decade-plus, including the replacement of old-fashioned film print projection by digital systems, the replacement of film cameras by digital cameras, and the near-total takeover of traditional cinematic language by techniques that had once been the province of television...
R.I.P., the movie camera: 1888-2011
Major manufacturers have ceased production of new motion picture film cameras; cinema as we once knew it is dead
Matt Zoller Seitz
Thursday, Oct 13, 2011
Banks Foreclosure Solution
The great flaw in the American housing market right now is pretty fundamental: too much supply, not enough demand. There are just way too many foreclosed and abandoned properties out there, which is making everything else tougher to sell.
So since they haven't been able to drive any new demand, some banks are doing the completely rational -- if kind of unbelievable -- thing and cutting their supply. In states like Ohio, banks are finding it's cheaper to tear houses down than to try and sell them...
Banks demolish foreclosed homes, raise eyebrows
Thursday, October 13, 2011
GM Food Needs Mandatory Labels
Courtesy of Disinfo.com, from Business Week:
Genetically engineered corn, soy and plant oil should be disclosed on mandatory food labels, a coalition of more than 350 producers, trade groups and consumers said in a petition to U.S. regulators.
The U.S. should require added disclosure even when a product containing a gene-altered organism is similar to foods that aren't bioengineered, the groups said today in the petition to the Food and Drug Administration. Stonyfield Farm, the organic-yogurt maker owned by Danone SA, and Dean Foods Co.'s Horizon Organic are among the coalition members.
Petitioners, led by the Washington-based Center for Food Safety, want to reverse a 1992 Food and Drug Administration policy that doesn't require different labeling. Gene-altered seeds are used for almost 90 percent of U.S.-grown corn, 94 percent of soy and 90 percent of cottonseed, an oil-producing plant, the coalition said.
"Consumers ought to have the right to choose whether to be buying these foods," said Gary Hirshberg, chief executive officer of Londonderry, New Hampshire-based Stonyfield Farm, in an interview...
Gene-Altered Foods Need Mandatory Labels, Coalition Tells FDA
October 04, 2011
CDC official arrested on charges of child molestation, beastiality
Legitimate case or conspiracy setup?
Ethan A. Huff
Thursday, October 13, 2011
A top-level administrator at the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga., was recently arrested, along with her live-in boyfriend, on charges of child molestation and beastiality. But some of the information that has been made public about the case is somewhat suspicious, and may be indicative of a possible conspiracy setup situation.
Dr. Kimberly Lindsey, 44, one of the suspects in the case, is the deputy director of the CDC's Laboratory Science Policy and Practice Program Office, and was formerly a senior health scientist responsible for overseeing a $1.5 billion government allocation for "terrorism preparedness," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Thomas Westerman, 42, was initially a "Watch Officer" (security guard) at the CDC who had recently become a resource management specialist, and who had previously worked in a high-level position at a packaging company. He also worked in various sales positions at pharmaceutical companies after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice at Middle Tennessee State University back in 1996.
According to reports, Westerman, who is divorced, has been living with Dr. Lindsey in her Decatur, Ga., home, where the two were allegedly committing unlawful sex acts with a child and two animals. Police have charged Dr. Lindsey with two counts of child molestation involving a six-year-old, and one count of beastiality, and is currently in jail on $20,000 bail. Westerman, who has been charged with two counts of child molestation, has been released from jail on $15,000 bond.
Is Dr. Lindsey being targeted for bucking the system, or are the charges against her legitimate?
There are a few anomalies in the case, at least as it has been presented to the public, that deserve some attention before passing any judgment. First, Westerman's public LinkedIn profile shows that he had been fired from several previous positions for "insubordination," but was somehow able to gain access to a position where he would be guarding one of the most sensitive facilities in the US, one that houses critical biological contaminants and deadly viruses.
Second, who puts information about his firing history, including all the various reasons for getting fired, on his public LinkedIn profile in the first place? And why did a man with a degree in psychology and criminal justice who had held several high-level positions at various firms end up becoming a security guard at a high-risk government facility?
Then there is the issue of Dr. Lindsey's overseeing of billions of dollars worth of funds for "terrorism preparedness," as well as her previous position as senior health scientist at the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. Dr. Lindsey has no known history of criminal activity, and yet she is now facing some of the worst criminal charges a person can face, and ones that, if she is convicted, will destroy her entire career.
Are the charges against Dr. Lindsey legitimate, or is she being targeted for knowing too much, or for not complying with a bigger, more sinister agenda? Given the high-level positions she has at the CDC, it is not out of the question to consider a scenario in which, perhaps, she had planned to come forward and blow the whistle on government corruption, and is now being punished for it.
The two suspects are set to appear at a preliminary hearing on December 1.