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Archive for April, 2011

Today I finished reading: “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson (2006©).  The subtitle is: “Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More“.  The book purports to be about the “new” economics of culture and commerce.   I was looking forward to finally getting around to this book as I’ve had it waiting for a couple of months now.  It’s another of the $2.00 books from Half-Price Books.  I have heard the term, “The Long Tail” several times in the last few years.  Usually in context / comparison with the works of  Malcolm Gladwell (“Tipping Point“, “Blink“, “Outliers“).  The author (Anderson) has a similar, populist / popular style which I guess comes from them both being writers in magazines.  Other than this being a book whose concept has entered the popular / mainstream consciousness, I don’t think the book or the concept are as valuable or interesting as Gladwell’s works.
What is a “Long Tail” economy?  A Long Tail economy is one where culture is unfiltered by economic scarcity.  Huh?  Well, here, “economic scarcity” seems to be defined as things which are not stocked at my local store because there is not sufficient local demand.
The basic premise is that we are moving to a world where the manufacturer is going to be expected to carry the finished product in finished inventory (or build to order just in time) instead of the “retail” seller keeping goods in stock.  Given the costs of storage are zero (for the seller), they will carry an unlimited volume (and variety) of product in their sales channel (typically a database driven web site).  This will allow the seller to offer a value-added of a filter (typically some form of recommendation tool and or customer profile/history).  This added value is what will bring you back to the sellers web site for future purchases or other products.  Of course, once you know the location (url) of the manufacturer of the specific item you want, there is no need to use the seller as a middle-man.  At which point, the seller has lost their value until the next time you’re not sure where to get what you want.
The concept is plausible for items which are entirely (or mostly) purely digital – like sound, writing or images – like e-music, e-books, and e-videos.   These items are easily digitized and electronically transportable.  I am more dubious of the value of this concept for items which we buy based on touch and taste.  I have purchased shoes and clothes using catalogs, so shifting to web sites is not a “BIG” deal, but most of my purchases have been “higher-ended” where the seller will accept shipping costs in both directions if there is a problem.  I’m not convinced there are many sellers who would commit to this level of customer satisfaction on low ticket items.  “Atoms”, to me, seem a bigger problem, than bits and bytes.
The book is an expanded version of an article which appeared in Wired magazine back in 2004.  Since I’ve been a subscriber to Wired for over 10 years, I would have read the original article when it was published.  I have only the vaguest recollection of it, so it didn’t make an impact on my life.  The book is a fast read and I do highly recommend it, but recognize the recommendation is based on recognizing the application of the concept to the digital nature of the goods being sold, not on the strength of the concept applying to the world of manufactured products.
I will be offering a number of quotes from the book over the next few weeks to give you a flavor of the content.
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The Puritans nobly fled from a land of despotism, to a land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but could prevent everybody else from enjoying his.
  —  Artemus Ward
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A conservative is one who admires radicals centuries after they’re dead.
  —  Leo C. Rosten
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Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.
  —  Rabindranath Tagore
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It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
  —  J. K. Rowling
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Patriot Act

It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.
  —  Calvin Coolidge
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Fuzzy Vision

Only the dead have seen the end of war.
  —  George Santayana
[But can we try peace until we need glasses?  —  KMAB]
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My brother Sean and Frank (the older brother of my best friend in grammar and high school) are big song posters on Facebook.  Mostly old-school, but sometimes more recent stuff as well.  To be honest, I prefer the old school.  I guess the things you grew up with have had the time to make the most emotional attachments in your life.  A while back they started doing a rally of old r&b tunes and I heard an old Impressions song I enjoyed.  I don’t think their back and forth was meant to be competitive, but it was (is) pleasant to see technology being used to reinforce the beauty which already exists if we just take / make time to remember it.  Of course I did what you’re supposed to do when this happens, I wiki’ed the song, group, writer, etc.  Along the path, I bumped into “People Get Ready“.  I then made a mental note to myself to include the lyrics on my Poems page, but then never got around to it.
What happens to a page deferred?  Does it dry up in the sun, overcome by the flow of other life events?  Or, does it come back – repeatedly by other artists – to remind you again and again of unfinished tasks in life?  (Apologies to Langston Hughes and his “A Dream Deferred“.)  In this case, the latter – resistance is futile.  The lyrics I’ve provided are from one of the many versions available on YouTube.  This version was Curtis Mayfield playing with a house band.  In any case, I had to choose between the original by the Impressions, one of many by Curtis without the Impressions, or one of the many covers.  The hardest choice was the one I remember best: The Chambers Brothers.  Normally, I would go with the one I remembered best, but in this instance I chose Curtis because his voice is more “haunting” to me.
The two poems I remember most from my early teens were Robert Frost’s “Fire And Ice” and Langston Hughes “A Dream Deferred“. Probably because they were both short yet still able to express a tremendous range of emotion (“suffice” and “explode”). “Fire And Ice” has been posted for some time. “A Dream Deferred” was added today. If you haven’t read them lately, take two minutes. That’s about how long it will take to read them both. Enjoy. Highly recommended!
Thanks to all of my spirit brothers and sisters…
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First off, Happy Easter to all.  Christ is risen!!
I’ve been off work a few days this week with a viral infection in my throat which has made it very difficult to swallow (and sometimes breathe).  The result is that I’ve had some time (between sleeping) to watch a few movies.  Normally when I’m off work, I like to read, but I’ve found when I’m ill I can’t really concentrate enough to make reading enjoyable.  Anyway, the three movies I’ve watched are: “2012” (a disaster epic from 2010), “The Departed” (an undercover cop movie from 2006), and “Star Knight” (a science fiction / history – “They’ve visited us” – movie from 1985).
The first movie, “2012” was a very enjoyable disaster epic with fairly spectacular special effects (and some banal ones as well).  The acting is so-so, but the effects make the movie.  The best acting in the movie is done by Woody Harrelson – who I normally don’t care for mainly for his choice of roles.  In this movie, he is the predictor of the disaster, comes across as believably paranoid / crazy and is genuinely great in the role.  I guess I like him as crazy but not dark.  This was the third time I’ve seen this movie.  The first was at the theater, where the big screen made the SFX look fantastic (particularly Los Angeles sliding into the Pacific and the destruction of Yellowstone).  The second time I watched it was after the DVD came out and I watched it on my TV at home.  To be honest, the movie did not carry over well from the big screen to the home viewing.  I have a 48 inch hi-def screen, but a lot of the smaller SFX details did not come across when viewed from 8 to 10 feet away.  In contrast, this third viewing was on my 32 inch flat-panel connected to my PC and viewed from about 2 to 3 feet away, and it was terrific.  It didn’t make the movie better, but it made the viewing better.  I’ve noticed a similar viewing effect when I’ve watched some other films – most notably, “Avatar“.  So my recommendation is this is a very entertaining SFX disaster movie, but see it on as big a screen as you can and sit as close as you can.  Recommended.
The second movie, “The Departed” is a police / mob undercover movie with a number of major young(-ish) movie stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg and some oldie but goodies Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.  The movie is set in Boston and the main conflict is between good mole (DiCaprio) in the mob and bad mole (Damon) in the police.  The movie is very well done as characters, plot and pace go.  I had some minor problems with the poor use of technology, but all in all it was a terrific movie.  I can’t honestly say it’s appropriate for everyone to view as there is a considerable amount of foul language, so there are age and sensitivity issues for the viewing audience.  Other than that, highly recommended!  Oh, and a shout out to my daughter Rebecca for recommending this to me.
The third movie, “Star Knight” is an alien visits earth in the middle-ages movie.  It was done in the mid 1980’s so there has to be some allowance for the SFX – which for that period are actually pretty good.  The movie, however is terrible!!  The best thing about this movie is it is only 91 minutes long, so you’re not wasting 92 minutes of your life.  There are a few movies I will see just because the actors in the films are known quantities and are predictors of quality.  The movie they are in may not be great, but almost without exception, their role is outstanding.  Among these are actors like: Bogie, Hepburn, Tracy (from the oldies) and Nicholson, Streep and (my personal favorite) Duvall.  There are some younger actors emerging though who I think will one day be in a similar category.  I like Damon, Wahlberg and DiCaprio.  Of these three, I must admit, Wahlberg seems to have the most limited range of characters.  DiCaprio is the most recent addition to my list.  I have seen very little of his work and did not enjoy him or the movies I saw him in early: “Titanic” and “The Quick and the Dead“.  Anyway, last year I thoroughly enjoyed him in “Inception” and I think he was also exceptional in the movie just above (“The Departed“).  Well, (that’s a long way to get to here), one of my other all-time favorite actors has been Harvey Keitel.  Again, I have not always liked the movies he was in, but I always liked him.  This movie is definitely the exception.  He is bad and the movie is terrible.  In fairness to Harvey, the movie, a Spanish film originally called: “El caballero del dragon (The Knight of the Dragon)“, was on sale for $4 and it had a pretty good DVD jacket and blurb on the back, but I bought it on the strength of his name.  As stated previously, this was both a waste of time and money.  I am hoping Keitel did this as bad camp, because it is almost – but not quite – so bad it is funny.  There is a vague nod to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (I hope that is what it is) in one scene, but even as camp, the movie fails.  I guess even the best actors will take any role just to stay active.  Sorry Harvey…  This is among the worst movies I have EVER seen.  Frankly, I don’t even have another movie to compare it to because I’ve blotted them out of my memory, too.
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I cannot approve of monarchs who want to rule over the conscience of the people, and take away their freedom of choice and religion.
   —  William the Silent, aka William of Orange
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Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.
  —  Theodore Roosevelt
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Interference

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
  —  Albert Einstein
[It’s hard to add more to a full closet.  —  KMAB]
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Giving

No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.
  —  Calvin Coolidge
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My practical mindset knows that nothing I’ve written here will hardly change one iota of anyone’s opinion.  Still in all I pursue the truth of things as they really are, not as I wish them to be.
  —  From the blog: http://informationforager.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/founding-fatherswhat-they-really-believed/
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Yesterday, I developed a bad sore throat.  I made it through the work day, but it was getting progressively worse.  I woke up around 2:30am with difficulty breathing, unable to swallow, and what felt like sandpaper at the back  of my throat and a walnut under each of my jaws.  This morning I went to the doctor’s office and was told it’s viral not bacterial, so all I can do is continue to gargle and hang in there (lots of fluids and rest) for a few days and it’ll go away.
So today I completed “Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers“, written by Brooke Allen (2006©).  The book is about the religious beliefs of six of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States of America (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Adams).  If you’ll pardon the pun, the book has been a revelation to me!!
I had always assumed our Founding Fathers were highly religious (Protestant) Christians.  It seems this is mostly (but not entirely) untrue.  For example, Washington was an occasional church attendee, but he never participated in communion.  In fact, when communion was about to begin, he would stand and leave the service.  When confronted about this behaviour, he admitted he never considered it to be distracting to others attending the service.  Although he continued to occasionally attend services, he never attended another service where communion was to be offered.  The rest, although raised in Christian faith, appear to be mostly Deists.  The exception being Hamilton, who seems to have re-discovered Christianity late in life – but not early enough to have had it significantly affect his politics.
In any case, all were stridently against the mixture of Church and State, and so it seems strange to me to think the Religious Right in today’s America hold up the Founding Fathers as the guides in returning the United States to our religious and political roots.  It seems they (the Religious Right) either don’t read (or refuse to understand / believe) the history of our country.  Well, what else is new?
After presenting a chapter on each of the six Founding Fathers, the book concludes with two chapters describing the world which produces the Founding Fathers and some of the turmoil and issues since 1787.  Both chapters are excellent overviews of the religious / political worlds before and after our Constitution and are worth the price of the book themselves.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in American History, Politics or the specific issue of the separation of Church and State.  Rest assured you will see numerous quotes from this book over the next few months…
And lest I forget to mention, this is one of the two books I purchased with the gift certificate my daughter Rebecca gave me for my birthday.  Thanks Bec, this book has brought me hours of enjoyable reading and reflective thought!!
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