Mixed Media

When the Clock Strikes 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9

| Tue Jul. 7, 2009 11:38 PM EDT

This happens but once a century (twice if you count after midnight and after noon). Take note, celebrate the moment:

12:34:56 7/8/9

Love numbers.

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SF Chronicle to Open Typewriter Shop

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 3:20 PM EDT

The above apocryphal headline was more or less my initial reaction to this morning's paper, which was being handed out free downtown to tout the Chron's first issue printed on new, state-of-the-art, very expensive Canadian presses. Above the fold, a big photo of the Golden Gate Bridge poking through the fog at sunset is tailored to demonstrate just how nicely these presses work. "Today's editions usher in a brighter and more visually exciting era" for the paper, says a note announcing the changes, which include the paper's second major redesign this year. (In February, it touted the prior makeover—with its notes of USA Today—as "brighter and more modern.") But back to today's paper. It includes a special four-page section showing how the exciting new presses work. "A new era gets rolling," it promises.

Where, then, are the ads for those cool rotary telephones? Those newfangled horse-and-buggy courier services? Hot new 8-track releases, and the moving pictures?


Even These Guys Want to Legalize It!

| Mon Jul. 6, 2009 1:32 PM EDT

In Kevin Drum's excellent "Patriot's Guide to Legalization" he estimates that "Ten years from now, as the flower power generation enters its 70s, you might finally be able to smoke a fully legal, taxed, and regulated joint."

10 years!?!? That's way too long! Too long for Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, our national forests, the overcrowded prison system, the southern border, 259 US cities, and the entire country of Mexico.

Who, exactly, are the forces aligned against the decriminalization of marijuana? Who makes it politically untenable for politicians to sign on to bills like the one California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced? Somewhat surprisingly, it isn't the intellectual right. On the most recent episode of the McLaughlin Group, conservatives Rich Lowry and Monica Crowley agreed with their more liberal co-panelists in coming out for the decriminalization of marijuana. At one point during the discourse John McLaughlin rattles off a long list of prominent conservative and mainstream intellectuals—William Buckley, George Schultz, Milton Friedman, Walter Cronkite—all of whom supported decriminalization. Sure, Monica Crowley stills mouths off some BS about how pot is a gateway drug, but that's more than made up for when Lowry recalls a colleague of his for whom cannabis provided the only relief from chemo. This all comes in the wake of the Cato Institute's publication of Glenn Greenwald's report on the success of drug decriminalization in Portugal.

Watch the McLaughlin Group duke it out, and by duke it out I mean totally agree with each other, after the jump.

ICE Nails American Apparel Over Illegal LA

| Wed Jul. 1, 2009 7:03 PM EDT

A year and a half after inspecting their sexy downtown factory, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finally nailed Los Angeles-based manufacturer American Apparel with the most unsurprising violation ever—according to the report, the company currently employees about 1800 workers (a third of the manufacturing staff) whose immigration status is (very) debatable. Cue Dov Charney yawning.

To many of us interested in immigration reform, the company's unprecedented engagement with the subject has been thrilling. By Charney's own estimate, he and his workers have been marching in the May Day immigration reform demonstrations in Los Angeles since 2001. Since then, the company's Legalize LA campaign has spawned a product line from tank tops to booty-shorts, a national print campaign, viral videos, and a timeline of American immigration policy on the shelves at every American Apparel retail store. On neon pink and sunshine yellow t-shirts, on the pages of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and in their coral pink downtown factory, American Apparel has made its (I think admirable) position on immigration central to its ethos as a corporation.


| Tue Jun. 30, 2009 4:31 PM EDT

On a recent trip to Disneyland, I came across a pink brochure for the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where little girls are transformed into princesses.

Now, I get the royal makeover thing—but must young girls be taught that specialness entails gobs of "shimmering makeup," fake hair pieces, body jewels, and nail polish?

And the taglines are pure insecurity-bait:

"Helllloooooo? If anyone isn't noticing, it's because you've blinded them with your looks!" (Side lesson: Valley Girl speak is totally awesome!)


"With the colorful hair piece and Mickey shaped clips, you're bound to get noticed!"

Yes, girls, it's hard to feel loved. But with Disney's help, you too can get attention—and Prince Charming! Just don't forget the eyeliner.


Onomatopoeia at Its Finest: BING!

| Tue Jun. 30, 2009 1:06 PM EDT

Sure, for years Google has held a virtual monopoly over the search engine sector. But Bill Gates is always looking for a fight. And with Google facing scrutiny from the Feds over its potential anti-trust activities, there's no better time for Microsoft to make one last push for stardom with its new Bing search "decision" engine.

Bing only came to my attention after I saw approximately 50 advertisements, mostly from Gmail ads and Google searches. The name sank into my brain after I heard a catchy radio announcement. After hearing the radio ad, I thought Bing might actually be the product of an adventurous, independent, "two-guys-working-from-their-garage with angel investors" kind of startup. So I was somewhat saddened when, after being visually assaulted by an incredibly large banner ad on the New York Times homepage, I Googled Bing and found out that "the Man" was actually the driving force behind this onomatopoeia-aficionado's dream "decision engine."

We all know what happened when Microsoft tried to make Zune a comparable alternative to Apple's iPod, but we can never count Bill Gates & Co. out of the running for anything. So far, in my limited Bing usage, the engine has combined features of GoogleMaps, Kayak.com, and Hotels.com. For some searches, it was able to find somewhat better prices, though it didn't factor in things like taxes, location, or my preferences into the results. In the end, I ended up not booking through Bing. Since this newcomer is trying to be a one-stop-shop for all your decision needs, it may have uses for those who don't mind giving up the very best deal if it means they only have to go to one site instead of a dozen. For now, I may use Bing as a reference to make sure I'm getting the best deal on something, but I've decided it certainly won't become my go-to for decisions.


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Ex-Con Consultant Refuses to Help Madoff With Prison Manners

| Tue Jun. 30, 2009 12:21 PM EDT

As I was perusing CNN's headlines this morning, one grabbed my attention: Ex-con: Madoff will be terrified in prison.

We all know that Big Bad Bernie was rewarded with 150 years in the slammer yesterday, but did you know that an ex-con named Larry Levine runs a business dedicated to helping convicts "get out alive" from federal prison?

Larry Levine's "Wall Street Prison Consultants" is one consulting business that succeeds in inversely proportional rates to the economy. It's logical that a white-collar banker's trip to the "pen" isn't a cakewalk, but Levine has devoted his life to teaching people about the ins and outs of prison etiquette. Levine clearly loves the limelight (as evidenced by his site's links to his many media appearances), but his inmate testimonials can't help but make one think that this guy really is something.

Unfortunately for Bernie, Levine's sense of integrity will keep him from helping the swindler stay safe behind bars. Levine told CNN, "Some people I can help, some people I can’t. Now, I had Madoff’s reps get a hold of me before he went into custody and I turned them down. I wouldn’t help the guy out because I view him as an economic terrorist. If you rip off a bank and insurance company, an institution, that’s an acceptable crime. Bernie hurt people. He hurt people individually and I refuse to help people like that. Let him rot in hell."

John Roberts Is Not Michael Jackson's Lover

| Mon Jun. 29, 2009 10:29 AM EDT

Chief Justice John Roberts did not like Michael Jackson. The New York Times' Caucus blog dug up some old memos Roberts wrote while he was working for the White House Counsel's office during the Reagan administration. In a memo criticizing a proposal to invite Michael and his brothers to the White House, Roberts wrote:

I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson’s records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter.... In today’s Post there were already reports that some youngsters were turning away from Mr. Jackson in favor of a newcomer who goes by the name "Prince," and is apparently planning a Washington concert. Will he receive a Presidential letter? How will we decide which performers do and which do not?

There's some evidence that Justice Roberts may have been pulling for a different performer. Consider this, from another memo:

Why, for example, was no letter sent to Mr. Bruce Springsteen, whose patriotic tour recently visited the area?

Why, indeed? The music of the future governor of New Jersey was famously embraced by Reagan during the 1984 presidential election campaign. On a related note, President Obama regularly invites musicians to the White House: Stevie Wonder, for example, has already performed there.

King of Pop Dead, News Arc Shifts in His Wake

| Thu Jun. 25, 2009 5:30 PM EDT

Clearly Michael Jackson will leave his mark. He might not on those young enough for whom their memories of Jackson are of a bizarre Neverland, of a baby hanging out a window, of a bed inappropriately crowded with children. But those of us who lugged our boom boxes to school to play "Thriller" and "Beat It" on cassette tape during recess, we are the ones who know the impact that the troubled but absolutely brilliant artist had on our lives. Still, since Jackson's brilliance changed music, he'll leave tracks on anyone who's every moonwalked, breakdanced, or rhymed in the cadence and pitch that made him, well, the King of Pop. Anyone who grooves to an iPod, you have Michael to thank somehow.

On a less eulogic note (and there will be oh-so-many retrospectives), this news is already rocking the headlines and leaving everything else (even Farrah) in its dust. As Andrew Sullivan points out, there goes cable coverage of Iran. And now Mark Sanford doesn't have to worry about gracing the cover of any of the weekly tabs. He and his too-much-information emails can fade to black now (and we don't even have to worry about whether it's okay that the governor of South Carolina doesn't know the difference between a whirlwind and a "world wind").

Favorite Michael song of all time? "We are the World" was iconic, the whole Thriller album had the dance beats ("PYT," "Human Nature," etc.) people still cling to, but my pick is "Man in the Mirror." Maybe because to me it feels most ironic, and most honest.


Burger King, Carl's Jr. Remind Us: Burgers = Sex, Duh

| Wed Jun. 24, 2009 9:50 PM EDT

Two sexy burger ad revelations today. First, the burger-as-blow-job Burger King ad burst onto the scene, second, The Hills' Audrina Partridge becomes the latest scantily clad lady to make love to, I mean, to lustily eat a Carl's Jr. burger. In the ad, that started airing today, Partridge pretends to eat a ginormous pineapple burger while lying on a beach in a bikini, alternately resting the burger on her toned tummy. The tagline: "More than just a piece of meat." The ad sends exactly the opposite message of course. Partridge, just like Paris Hilton and Padma Lakshmi before her, has every right to chow down on this burger, but to suggest they all do so on the regular is just silly. To make women envious, and men horny, well, that’s advertising for you.

The fine-print on this choice Burger King ad: