The Blob

Friday, August 01, 2003

Angelyne For Governor

If you want proof that the California Gubernatorial Recall Election (we're trying to recall a total Goober) is going to be interesting, consider this: since it only costs $3,500 and 65 signatures to get your name on the election ballot, some colorful names are emerging. Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first name that comes up. And Larry Flynt, the openly lowlife publisher of Hustler Magazine can't be overlooked. But for my money, the most interesting candidate has to be Angelyne, that sexy, pink goddess of LA outdoor advertising fame.

Qualifications? Who needs 'em? We're talkin' Angelyne, damnit! She's got a figure that doesn't stop and a pink Corvette to match. Every chucklehead male in California will be in a severe dilemma to vote their conscience or their libido.

This doyenne of all that is wacky and sleazy about LA is a pop icon in southern California. Her story is interesting, if not somewhat of a mystery. Perhaps that we only know Angelyne the legend instead of Angelyne the person is what makes her so compelling. There's even a Web site dedicated to Angelyne sightings.

I can think of no better proof that La La Land is alive and well. Vote early and often.

Business As Usual

Pity the Angels. Or more to the point, the World Champion Anaheim Angels baseball team. In a classic example of post-championship letdown, the team is enduring a rough year, beset with injuries and sub-par performance. A team which last year exceeded all expectations to stun the major leagues and win the World Series in seven thrill-a-minute games, it's different this year.

Last night's game against the New York Yankees was a case in point. Ten innings of darned good baseball were decided at the very end with a single against the Angels' closer, Troy Percival, with the final score 2-1. After playing terribly in two previous games, the Angels produced a tight pitching duel, punctuated by walking the Yankees 11 times during the game. That turned out to be the winning factor.

What made last year's championship win so exciting and satisfying was that the Angels broke all expectations of the pundits. They won playing little ball, a barrage of singles and doubles by a committed team, not a giant homer by some overpaid superstar. A group of relative unknowns, working together, beat the best that the major leagues had to offer. Teamwork and team spirit won the day. That was probably not welcomed by the major TV networks or newspapers, who naturally expected, and probably rooted for the New York Yankees, the big media draw, to take it all. The World Series win by the Angels upset the natural order of the powers that be. It was quite a moment for everyone who believes in the underdog.

That was then, and this is now. Last night, the Yankees had the edge at the end and swept the Angels in three straight games. Order was again restored to the powers that be. What saddened me most was something the announcers and sports writers never commented on: at the end of the game, the TV camera flashed briefly on the face of the Yankees' superstar shortstop Derek Jeter, who flashed a confident, smug smile. It was the almost cocky, big-money smile of business as usual.


Sunday, July 27, 2003

I own the sky. I own the water. I own all the money.

Pay up. If you don't know, I have both patented and trademarked air, water and currency. For this reason, you must now pay me royalties for their use. Specifically, I have patented the use of:

1. All known forms of gaseous oxygen (O2) utilized by carbon-based lifeforms for essential cardiovascular functions, and

2. All known forms of di-hydrogen oxide (H2O), a method of sustaining life by diluting ionized liquids in the human body by transferring di-hydrogen oxide from a residential source, via a smoothed glass semisphere, through the esophogus and into the human Gastrointestinal subsystem, and

3. A method of exchange utilizing a recognized basis for trade based on printed notes of various denominations and flat, stamped circular metal objects of various weights, sizes and metallic composition, utilized in various forms in countries throughout the world

There. That oughta do it. I demand from you a per-use fee of $1.00 for every incidence of use of each of items #1 through #3 above. In short, every breath you take, every move you make, every sip you take and every coin you shake belongs to me.

Sound absurd? It should. But given the insane patent and trademark system of the United States, it's just a matter of time before some attorney who leaves a trail of slime larger than most giant snails gives it a whack. That is, if Bill Gates hasn't beaten them to the punch. What's sad is that this insanity is being visited upon us on a daily basis. Like the attorney in San Diego who claimed to have invented the Internet and thus should be able to patent it. Based on a patent he filed and got accepted, he started suing Internet service providers across the country demanding either payment or to cease and desist immediately.

It gets worse.

A company by the name of SCO is taking on IBM in the courts to prevent them from using the Linux operating system. It's pretty convoluted, arcane and downright technical, but SCO basically claims to own all the licenses to Linux and Unix, if I have th story straight. Essentially, SCO, if I understand things correctly, really don't make products per se. They just own licenses and sue people. They have launched an attached on IBM, demanding Billions in reparations. In short, we don't do anything, we don't make anything, but we own the rights to things we neither make or develop. Interesting.

Then there's InterTrust. These guys have the balls to go after Microsoft for patent infringement, demanding that the Redmond Giant pony up for illegally using over 50 InterTrust in its products. In turn, InterTrust wants Microsoft to pay up big-time or if successful, demand that Microsoft cease immediately all sales of just about every product they make.

To say that this has kicked up dust is an understatement. The ubergeek site Slashdot ran a story on the lawsuit, prompting a torrent of replies both pro and con, including:

At its pre-bubble height, InterTrust (founded in 1990) employed 376 people and marketed its own software and hardware products; today it consists mainly of a patent portfolio, 30 employees, and this lawsuit.

We're now seeing the inevitable result of a system wherein the unequal playing field forces companies to do battle in the intellectual property realm rather than in the marketplace. Rather than come to market first with the best products, it's now about building up an intellectual property portfolio and torpedoing whomever surfaces first.

The business climate that Microsoft helped to engender has rebounded back on them with a vengeance. But that doesn't make InterTrust the good guys. They're just slimy opportunists who have elected to go along with the prevailing attitude, which is "Build up a company the old fashioned way? Screw that! Let's sue instead!"

My advice: crack open a beer, get a comfy chair and sit back to watch one helluva dogfight. Perhaps there's no honor amongst thieves and when it comes to the grand prize over control of valuable intellectual property, it couldn't get much more ugly. Regardless of who is right or wrong (that's best left for the courts), my take-away from all this is that our patent and trademark system is completely out of control. My feeling is that if you are to patent something, then you should back it up by actually making it too. To see the system abused by attorney exploiting loopholes speaks not only about their lack of a moral compass, but also to a broken system.

Which gives me an idea. I'll patent patents. And I'll trademark all trademarks. I see a buck in all this. Oh, that's right, I already own all the money.

So pay up already! Breathtaking, no?

Quote of the Week

Leave it to bike racing fan Robin Williams to say something poignant and hilariously funny in describing this year's Tour de France:

"It's like NASCAR without the explosions."

Java for Governor

If you've been following the news, you might have noticed that California is in turmoil. Governor Gray (Prematurely Gray) Davis, who has about as much charisma and competence as a coathanger, is enjoying an approval rating of 21 percent. A recall election has been declared after a successful petition campaign, and people all over the state are wondering who will run.

Here's the fun part: it costs only $3,500 and 65 signatures to get your name on the ballot. Speculation abounds that Arnold Schwartzenegger might run, along with the usual suspects. Given that, I boldly wish to throw another hat in the ring: Java, the wondercat.

Why Java? Well, why not? She's cute as a button. She has stripes and spots. She doesn't take crap. And wherever she goes, she runs the show. And darn it, people just plain love her.

Hey, we couldn't do much worse. Humans have totally screwed up running the biggest state in the country. So, why not let a cat have a shot at it? Face it: Gray couldn't do a better job.