Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blog # 150: Reality Distortion? Hah!

Toddler Tossing During Mass Baptism

Playing catch with babies as they are being baptized during a mass ceremony in Mtskheta, Georgia establishes the Priests authority with the faithful at an early age. Photo: David Mdzinarishvili-Reuters

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L.E.’s Health Care Prognosis Looking Up

However with what I would term a middling amount of squeamishness, and what my Good Doctor would undoubtedly term agitation at a near intolerable level, I did manage to get through Friday's bone marrow procedure. I should get the results a week from today (Friday), and if the result is clear I will report on my status in my next week’s blog.

At the moment I feel the closest thing to good as I have felt in awhile, and as a result I have higher hopes for this week’s blog. And so let us take off our shoes and socks, and dip out feet into the blogging pool.

Real Social Network Trailer Appears

The first real trailer for the up coming Aaron Sorkin film tracing the birth and development of Facebook has appeared. A few weeks ago we brought you the teaser, and it is with pleasure that this week we can bring you a trailer which features content from the up coming film. Aaron Sorkin is perhaps best known for his creation and sole writing for several years of the NBC White House dramaseries, the West Wing.

My own Facebook experiences are mixed to say the least. Son Joel sent me an invitation to his Facebook page to check out the pictures of his recent graduation. I attempted to join Facebook, with several other family members sending me encouragement and invitations to their own photo pages.

Alas, my attempt failed. I got no further than the section where you are supposed to upload your picture. I found a recent photo of myself captured by my in-computer camera, but for some reason or other, in spite of the fact that it was lovingly processed in Photoshop, when I put it out on my desktop, and highlighted it for the Facebook program to upload, the picture must have broken a lens or two along the internet, because for the longest time nothing at all happened. And after awhile I gave up the attempt. Joel eventually sent me the photos attached to two emails.

Forgive me, DeAnna and Cedar and you other family members who were so quick to welcome me into Facebook. I might make it in one of these days, and I’ll be your friend from now until then. Meantime, Little Eddy’s image leaves yet another internet server array shattered beyond repair. §

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Sunbather’s Swan Song

A swan waddles past a sunbather in Vienna, Austria. Herwig Prammer-Reuters

Apple reworks the commercial again

First off, I would like to show you a video advertisement which I think is the most effective piece in its genre I have seen in quite awhile. And being originally in radio with its focus on advertising, and having thereafter been a lifetime observer of the medium, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of commercials, if there be such a thing. And if there isn’t let us create one post haste.

First off, I must confess that it is from Apple, in whose corner I am enormously positioned. It is yet another in the long line of ground breaking commercials that began with the now famous 1984 Superbowl commercial introducing the Macintosh computer, continuing with the “Think Different” commercials which were introduced after Steve Jobs had returned to the job of running Apple and was endeavoring to set the company on the right path, and culminating with those nifty little iPhone commercials which helped make Apple’s brand new entry in the smart phone market an established part of the industry within its first year.

The new commercial is for a newly enabled iPhone 4 feature, called Face Time, in which the iPhone 4 has made simple the task of using two phones as picture phones. Although it would mostly be between iPhone 4 users these days, surely Apple is aiming for a world where many phones would have a front-facing camera, and seamless Face Time possibilities.

Tech Crunch’s M.G. Siegler wrote the original article which pointed out the excellence of the commercial. Originally likening it to a 3 yr old episode of the tv show Mad Men, he then explains how the new Face Time commercial also covers this territory. Here is an excerpt of what he wrote.

As we’re all well aware, video chat, even on phones, is nothing new. Sure, Apple has simplified it, but they’re not really showcasing that here. Instead they’re going right for the heart strings. They’re doing something rather incredible. They’re conveying how you’ll feel if you use the product, by making you feel alongside those in the commercial. They’re creating this sentimental bond.

I would like to lead off by reporting my personal reaction to the viewing of the commercial. It brought on a huge personal Louis Armstrong concert courtesy my iTunes collection. I started with the full version of “When You’re Smiling,” and it was so infectious I spent the rest of the morning listening to the delightful music of the incomparable Satchmo. What a remarkably talented singer and jazz improviser he was. And how fortunate those of us who had had a chance to hear him live were for having had that experience. I’ll tell more about Armstrong, and an incident I had interviewing his remarkable clarinet player, Barney Bigard at a later date.

But back to the commercial, as Siegler so astutely points out, the video adroitly manages to help you feel and share in the pleasure these people are having with their video calling. It is particularly eloquent in the example of the final couple, the male of which is obviously hearing impaired, and without this technology there would have been no phone call at all.

Apple followed this commercial with four other commercials showcasing elements of Face Time, but they are all also rans, lacking the breath and luster of the original. All of them can be accessed here

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A work boat operates near the Q4000 drilling rig in the area of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Present indications are the leak in the Gulf has stopped.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said on a conference call that pressure readings from the cap have not reached the level that would show there are no new leaks in the well.

Allen said BP's test of the cap, which started 24 hours previously by shutting three valves and stopping the flow of oil into the water, would continue for at least 6 hours. It was scheduled to last up to 48 hours. Photo: Dave Martin-AP

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More on Apple’s History

For years the computer industry has been divided into two camps. Apple, which did not invent the GUI (Xerox PARC invented it, but when it became obvious that the mother company was not interested in doing anything with the many innovations its development arm had developed, gui, email, etc., the head of PARC invited Steve Jobs over to see what they had developed and later allowed a return visit by Jobs who brought along many Apple engineers.)

As a result Apple was the first company to bring a workable version of the Xerox Parc innovation to the computer market. The Mac made its debut in 1984, and it was 11 years before Microsoft was able to bring a workable version of a GUI to the rest of the computer industry with Windows 95. After the debut of the Mac, Apple subsequently lost its way by firing Steve Jobs, and later trying to license its operating system to other computer manufacturers.

Jobs in the meantime bought a computer animation studio named Pixar from StarWars creator George Lucas, and also formed a computer manufacturing company called NeXTSTEP. (As a footnote to history Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the world wide web on the NeXTSTEP operating system on which he developed the first browser and html editor. The first www server was a NeXTSTEP computer.) §

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A state marine biologist displays shrimp, fish and other marine life caught during a test trawl near Dauphin Island, Ala. Officials say they are finding normal numbers of healthy shrimp and other marine life in Alabama coastal waters despite the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo: Jay Reeves-AP

As our final Apple item we take note of Steve Jobs’ response over what he termed the iPhone 4’s “antenna-gate” problem. He promised a fix, a free cover from Apple or other vendor, to any dissatisfied iPhone 4 purchaser, or a full refund should they prefer to go that route.

But Mr. Jobs took note of several things: thanks to Gizmodo, and other bloggers looking to be critical of Apple’s success, he is getting a mountain of free publicity stretching well out of the tech arena, and into the arena where the American buying public lives.

This product has been flying out of the stores well ahead of any and all preceding iPhone rollouts. And requests for returns have been few and far between. In short, even those self-important engineers at that dinosaur of the Magazine Age, Consumer Reports, do they think that they know what the buying public does not? That’s why they covered their asses with the phrase below.

The signal problem is the reason that we did not cite the iPhone 4 as a "recommended" model, even though its score in our other tests placed it atop the latest Ratings of smart phones that were released today.

The iPhone scored high, in part because it sports the sharpest display and best video camera we've seen on any phone, and even outshines its high-scoring predecessors with improved battery life and such new features as a front-facing camera for video chats and a built-in gyroscope that turns the phone into a super-responsive game controller. But Apple needs to come up with a permanent — and free — fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4.

In our book it was Gizmodo who was beating the drum for the blogosphere’s reaction to “antennagate,” in revenge for Apple barring them for having paid $5,000 for that lost (stolen?) iPhone 4. And in a desperate bid to prove its relevance Consumer Reports joined the bandwagon. When consumers (with a small letter) begin to shun Apple, Jobs and company will have something to worry about. But the Consumer Reports (with the capital C) is only a magazine with its own relatively small following in these days of establishment irrelevance. Anyway, while adroitly admitting no fault, Mr. Jobs fully satisfied C.R.’s qualifications. Take that Google, RIM, and Nokia. And as for you, Steve Ballmer, your company is no longer a player in the mobile field, in spite of your big words upon the iPhone’s introduction. §

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Revelers run with bulls on the treacherous Estafeta corner in Pamplona, Spain. Photo: Alvaro Barrientos-AP.

All of our photographs today were previously published in Thursday’s Washington Post online, which daily offers an incomparable collection of meaningful photographs. We respectfully urge you to check them out daily on the web.

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A Few Thoughts as We Trot Off

As we brace ourselves for learning the outcome of last weeks bone marrow biopsy, and what it will mean in the treatment of cml if indeed we have it, I have trundled together some random thoughts regarding the state of the nation as I see it. Most troubling is the downsizing the office of the Presidency is receiving at the hands, mouths, and minds of lots of people. The president is given short shrift by several groups of people, including the most important group of independents which helped put him in office in the first place.

And it seems to us to be so undeserved. For instance, he entered office with the economy in the tanks as it had not been since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. But by using imaginative and forceful tactics he has managed, if not to return the economy to its pre Bush Administration state, at least return it to a point where it is no longer threatening our way of life.

In addition he was able to get what no other president, Democrat or Republican had been able to do, enact a Health Care Reform that , among other things, would police the private insurance companies so that they would no longer be able to drop their policy holders the minute they got sick.

There is more, and all of this was done with little or no Republican assistance. Republicans have consistently fought every Obama initiative tooth and fang, and by doing it seemed to be hoping that by doing their best to have Obama fail, a grateful voting public would steamroll them back into the leadership in both houses of Congress.

Such is the result of their “whatthehellcouldtheybesmoking” dreams. Will the public further turn from the Democratic leadership, and stampede an unruly band of screaming naysayers back into the leadership of either or both houses of Congress? A leadership that led from OUR pocketbooks, spending without bringing in money to pay for its expenditures. Reactivate a bunch of screeching non-activists who not only have contributed nothing to the country’s well being during these past two years, but have mostly done their damndest to throw roadblocks in the way of those trying to make things right.

We certainly hope this will not be the case. We dearly hope that the American voter is too smart to turn the country back over to the party that got us into this economic mess in the first place. What do you think? Are you satisfied, or better still happy in the direction the Dems are taking us in? Or are you waiting to ride the GOP fantasy tide back to the future.§

The moon moves in front of the sun during the solar eclipse in Easter Island. Photo: Victor Rojas-AP

Tourists watch the solar eclipse from a beach on Easter Island. Photo: Martin Bernetti-AFP/Getty Images

Little Eddy was fortunate enough to experience a solar eclipse in Maine during the first summer I worked for Blueberry Cove. And BBC director Henry Haskell gave me the day off because I exposed and blackened film so that counselors and campers one and all could see and follow the eclipse.

A complete solar eclipse is a rare thing to experience, we ended up driving many miles to be able to witness a cloudless display. But it was well worth the experience, as you can probably tell by noting the expressions of dedication on the faces of the people watching it below.

To anyone who has read Mark Twain’s A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain’s description of the solar eclipse which climaxed the story was unforgettable. We told of our own experiences while watching the Maine solar eclipse on our Blog #113, A Few Things Considered, in our Blog Entry entitled, Pursuing a Mark Twain Moment in Maine. You can access it by pointing your cursor here and scrolling down.

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And so consider this as being another of our weekly blogs as having reached its natural conclusion. We are going to drop in the url for son Dr. Joel’s “Payday” YouTube video again, for any of you out there who might have missed it the first time around, or who might enjoy seeing it again. Simply by clicking here! you are practically guaranteed to bring forth a myriad of vocal and visual delights. Bye now. §

The Real Little Eddy §

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