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20 August 1999

Slow down, you crazy child
Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while
It's all right, you can afford to lose a day or two
-- Billy Joel, "Vienna"


Indefinite Hiatus: August must be web folks' busy time; many sites are taking breaks, and now I am too due to commitment overload. No promises, but knowing me it won't be more than a week off...


I've been enjoying John Scalzi's numerous writings at Whatever. He has a recent piece on the new Gap orange-vest campaign that's especially good (scroll down to 8/17):

The only people who should be wearing vests of that color are hunters and highway construction workers, who wear the vests to avoid being drilled in the head with bullets, or turned into smeary maroon streaks on the high-capacity lane of the 210. There is a fashion statement going on, but the statement is "Don't kill me."

Some folks have speculated that Gap is coordinating its colors with another marketing campaign... The Register fleshes out the possibility, with telling graphics:

  • Apple taps Gap for iBook colour scheme [The Register]
    [Gap] is pushing two key colours for its Autumn collection: orange and blue. ... [iBook] will be made available in several colours, specifically: orange and blue. ... And could this remarkable similarity be linked to the fact that Gap president and CEO Millard 'Mikey' Drexler joined Apple's board earlier this year?

This seems pretty clever if it was intentional, which I could believe. But again, couldn't they have picked something other than popsicle orange?

What scares me is, I'm getting used to the idea of carrying around a big, heavy, aggressively orange thing. Oh, the power of media images...


Fascinating if true:

  • The secret for getting good service from Compaq [Userland]
    First of all when you call Compaq you are not talking to Compaq at all. Oh they will say they are Compaq but who they really are is Sykes Enterprises Inc.

    Ask them how they like working for Sykes. There is no better way to get your case moved up to a supervisor than to mention the name Sykes Enterprises to Compaq technical support. Sykes employees are under threat of termination for revealing to a customer that they are not really on the phone with Compaq. They will move you to a supervisor quick to get you off their phone.

Another interesting take on the disproportionately-white fall TV schedule:

  • Homeboys From Outer Space and Other Transgressions: TV in black and white by Erin J. Aubry [LA Weekly]
    A generation ago, black characters in even the cheesiest shows earnestly aspired to some kind of progressivism -- Linc in the The Mod Squad, the inner-city hoopsters in The White Shadow -- but in the age of crack cocaine and Def Comedy Jam, blacks are mined almost exclusively for hood sensibilities or comic relief, frequently both.

    So what is progress? Given the lowest-common-denominator syndrome, a thousand new black shows in a single season might actually militate against it, as WB and UPN demonstrated with tripe like Smart Guy and Homeboys From Outer Space.

    What's at stake here is an essential American freedom, that of self-determination. It's not quite a civil right, but it's bigger, more spiritually encompassing, and therefore harder to attain; nor, in this case, can self-determination be accomplished entirely by the black collective self. We are tired of appearing stupid to ourselves, but the peculiar thing is, has always been, that we can't solve it alone.

Jon Carroll on modern customer service and the (presumably) unintended messages it gives:
Roger Ebert sums up the summer of 1999 pretty well in his American Pie review (haven't seen the movie myself, don't really intend to):
  • AMERICAN PIE / *** (R) [Sun-Times]
    "American Pie" comes in the middle of a summer when moviegoers have been reeling at the level of sexuality, vulgarity, obscenity and gross depravity in movies aimed at teenagers (and despite their R ratings, these movies obviously have kids under 17 in their cross-hairs).

    I say this not because I am shocked, but because I am a sociological observer, and want to record that the summer of 1999 was the season when Hollywood's last standards of taste fell. Nothing is too gross for the new comedies. Grossness is the point. While newspapers and broadcast television continue to enforce certain standards of language and decorum, kids are going to movies that would make longshoremen blush. These movies don't merely contain terms I can't print in the paper--they contain terms I can't even describe in other words.

Incidentally, http://www.rogerebert.com/ doesn't go where you might expect:

(Now there's an original tagline...)

I wonder if he knows.


More domain fun -- grab 'em if you want 'em (I don't): blatantplug.com, unexaminedlife.com, smallbluething.com (Suzanne Vega? Anyone?).

Sadly, NowWhat.com is taken (it would have made a great job search site name).


Finally, for the Y2K-worried:

  • Millennium Madness by James Gleick [Around]
    ...computers have had to deal with the year 2000 for quite a while now. You probably already have a credit card with an expiration date of 00.

    Some hot items that would not have been headline grabbers a year ago: Meters on 300 taxis in Singapore failed for hours beginning at noon on Jan. 1 [1999]; tragically, several riders were undercharged. In Sweden, drivers could not use credit cards at 600 gas stations because of a Y2K-like bug. And in hospitals, thousands of heart defibrillators made by Hewlett-Packard stopped displaying the correct date and time. They did continue to defibrillate, but doctors needing the time were forced to consult their watches.

I'm still not planning to be in the air near New Year's, but other than that I'm pretty comfortable with how things look.

Whichever way things go, January 2 and 3 will witness the loudest "I told you so"-s in recent memory, from one or (more likely) both sides.

My worry is, assuming nothing really awful happens, in February we will wipe our collective brow and then spend the next few decades acting as though we're completely infallible and invulnerable until we really do screw something up.


See you after I dig myself out.


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