Moustache Monday: Ain’t Nothin’ New Under The Sun

15 Feb

In Young Money’s currently ubiquitous single Bedrock, current it girl Nicki Minaj has raised several eyebrows with her offer to put her, ahem, coochie on a man’s sideburns. Audacious? Yes. Logistically improbable? To be sure? Original? Well, not exactly. True hip-hop heads know that the real pioneer in improbable cooter/facial hair pairings would be Amil, who offered to put it on a man’s moustache.* And for this, we dedicate Moustache Monday to Amil, because god knows she’s not getting anything else dedicated to her. Hold your head, Amil.

* Provided, of course, said man does not rely on a bus pass.

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Did I Miss Anything?

13 Feb

Well, it’s been a year since I’ve posted, and in that time, I’ve found time to move to Austin, go through several major changes in my personal and professional life, and withdraw from posting on the internet.

But one thing that has not wavered is my love of tacos.

Also, I’m ready to come out of hibernation and start posting on the internet again.

Word Of The Year (Early Returns) Contender #1

4 Mar

When the OED or Newsweek (or whoever) come out with their year-ending “Word Of The Year” award and lists, it’s usually as topical as whatever their choice of movies or literature winds up being. While it’s only March, it’s not too early to start throwing some contenders into the pool.

And so for today’s initial installment, we’re going to go with the early favorite:

Cramdown.

Be Afraid

23 Feb

Regardless of whether this rumor is true, this represents a loss of innocence for last.fm users. Realistically, anybody who used the service had to know in the back of their mind that sooner or later the RIAA would figure out a way to turn it against people, and when last.fm sold itself to CBS, the writing was on the wall. But now, even if this story turns out not to have legs, a lot of people are going to disable scrobbling on their less-than-legally-acquired albums.

Shame.

Apple Buys World’s Entire Stock of Flash Memory

19 Feb

The assertion that Apple is buying up memory to put in new iPhones is speculative. However, given that sales of iPods have leveled off, it’s hard to imagine what else the company would do with all that flash.

Aside from the fact that it sounds like some vintage Bond film where a villain buys the world’s entire stock of [fill-in-the-blank], Fortune lacks imagination. Have these people never heard of flash-powered planet-destroying laserbeams? (Or, you know, netbooks…)

And You Thought The Inland Empire Was Bad

15 Feb

The boosterism of some of Dubai’s proponents during the boom always read like that of the more snakehandling-inclined members of the Bush administration. The idea that those with money or power can create their own reality only works as long as the check clears.

The Two Imperatives: Lessons for Comics on the iPhone

8 Feb

Last week’s speculation about the iphone becoming the dominant platform for comics arrived right on schedule, as the New York ComicCon brought the official announcement of UClick, which is selling comics on the iphone App Store. The io9 article on the introduction also mentions the existence of iVerse, another company attempting a similar venture. UClick’s apparent advantage here lies in how they adjust the content for the technology: they work with the creators to actually adapt each panel for the frame-by-frame reading style of the iphone screen, rather than simply cramming down PDFs.

This won’t be enough. At least initially.

Initially, the technology, nice as it is, won’t drive the content.1 People aren’t going to read comics on their iphone because the technology works, they’ll read them because they feature the creators and characters they want. Even now, people bootleg godawful scans of in-demand comics, conclusively proving that technolgy isn’t the driving factor here.

Eventually, though, the company that manages to distribute a better content lineup is going to get to dictate the technological standards for comics on the iphone. If people wind up going through one distributor or another next year because that’s where Marvel2 is, then they’re not going to hop over to the competition to browse for an unknown impulse purchase, and no difference in screen resolution is going to change that.

Iverse's layout

iVerse's layout

This leaves two imperatives for all would-be entrants into the the iphone/mobile comics field:

Don’t blow it.

You can change technology, but you can’t change standards. Once a standard gets established, it takes hell or high water to change it. Feel free to rush out as many beta products as you want, but whatever you sell damn well better be interoperable with the next generation. This isn’t video-game consoles here; we don’t need a format war.

Don’t sign exclusive contracts.

I know, I know, you’re trying to put the boot on your competitor’s neck. Why wouldn’t you want to lock them out of Scott Pilgrim 6 or whatever next year’s hot title will be?

Thinking like this predates the DRM fiascoes of the last decade and go back to the formitive days of the computer industry. Throughout much of the 1980s, the corridor in Massachusetts centered around I-495 was the hub of the technological universe. It had industry giants like Wang and Digital,3 and a steady stream of graduates from MIT supplying the talent. It had snatched the crown away from California, and just as quickly, it lost it. There’s plenty of reasons why this happened, and some of it falls to pure luck: there’s no accounting for Stanford having a better graduating class, or Michael Dell turning Texas into the Third Coast of tech, but a lot of why Massachusetts fumbled the ball had to do with the state’s labor laws. California is unique in that non-compete clauses are banned in the state. In an industry with as much flux and turnover as the tech business, tying all employees to non-compete clauses, as employers did in Massachusetts, wound up hamstringing the industry by artificially limiting the talent pool. Regardless of how much sense it made for a company to limit its employees’ prospects away from the next, it wound up cutting off the oxygen supply of the industry, which left a lot of unemployed (and legally unemployable) programmers moving to California. You can guess what happened next.

At a time when the industry is in its infancy, the most important goal of all players in the market should be to grow the viability and legitimacy of comics over a mobile device. Limiting distribution channels may seem like competitive advantage for the company writing the contract, but if it keeps the industry from flowering, it’s not doing anyone any favors. Again, the technology might be brilliant, but it’s not like the public is beating down Apple’s door for comics on the iphone. You’re not going to get a lot of chances to get it right. Now do it.

1 And let’s not kid ourselves, the content available at the moment is, charitably, pretty marginal.
2 Of course, Marvel will invent new ways to blow it here. Their current walled-garden model is a faithful electronic reproduction of the worst parts of the comic-shop experience. The Big Two seem to be taking their cues from the RIAA circa 2002, when it thought Rhapsody, Napster, and whatever Microsoft was calling its music store were the way forward.
3 If you haven’t heard of these companies, you’re proving the point even further. Imagine if HP and Dell didn’t exist ten years from now, and you get the meantime. In the meantime, you probably don’t have to look at the back of your computer to check if it was designed in Massachusetts.