Archive for July, 2010
Two July 28th birthdays with very different styles when it came to dealing with US Presidents…
|Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,
First Lady and Socialite
Crazy South American Dictator
Also, when handling swords, stay away from the pointy end.
But I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Let’s back up to the part where a company called Wicked Lasers created a product called the S3 Spyder III Pro Arctic, which is a hand-held device that emits a blue laser beam powerful enough to “blind permanently and instantly and set fire quickly to skin and other body parts.” In other words, it’s a light saber. Retail price? $299.95 (includes laser, safety goggles and training lenses; lens cleaner and extra battery available for $10 each). Think I’m kidding? Think again:
So what’s more unbelievable than this? How about a sternly worded cease and desist letter from LucasFilms? Apparently, despite the fact that the company never used the term “light saber” and goes out of their way to warn people how dangerous the product is on their website (my favorite line: “the Spyder III Pro Arctic . . . is not a toy, it is a high power Class 4 1W laser. . . . this laser must NEVER be used to play with your pets.”), LucasFilms still feels it has the right to make them stop selling it.
Next up: the guy who first conceived of the Star Trek communicator attempts to stop production of all flip-top cellphones…
(hat tip: Speculist)
A few days ago, I was walking through Times Square with a friend of mine, and we passed the former site of Times Square’s ESPNZone restaurant. About a month ago, Disney decided to close five of these stores due to lack of profits (isn’t that always the reason?). Anyway, they posted these signs on the doors of the restaurant:
As we walked by the sign, a couple of tourists were reading it as well. One of them said to the other, “Wow, check this out. They closed the ESPNZone TODAY. Damn – we just missed it.” Now, remember, this is mid-July. The first sentence of the letter does say, “ESPN Zone operations in Baltimore, Chicago, New York, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. were discontinued today.” But immediately above that sentence is the date the letter was written: June 16, 2010. Perhaps this guy thought they replaced the signs every day?
I just hope he made it home OK. I can imagine him looking at his plane ticket and saying, “Aw, jeez, honey – the flight left a half hour ago. We missed it AGAIN. I guess we’ll just have to try again tomorrow…”
Britain’s fiscal year has ended, and the results of its 50% tax on bank bonuses have been tallied:
LONDON—U.S. banks have paid the bulk of the £2.5 billion ($3.81 billion) the U.K. has collected from its bonus tax designed to curb excessive pay, hitting banks’ second-quarter earnings while creating a windfall for the U.K.’s new government.
The one-time tax to collect 50% of bank bonuses above £25,000 was introduced in December by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, who initially estimated it would raise £550 million. . . The charge applies to all bank employees working in the U.K., regardless of where the parent company is located.
According to statements in the past few days from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the four banks collectively paid at least $2 billion toward the tax in the second quarter. The U.K. five major banks by assets–Barclays, HSBC Holdings PLC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and Standard Chartered–collectively paid about $1.1 billion to cover their bonus tax bills.
(NOTE: The Wall Street Journal may ask you to pay to read the whole article. Don’t – read it for free.)
So that’s $2 billion less for these banks’ (predominantly U.S.) shareholders, or $2 billion less in available capital to modify underwater (American) mortgages, or $2 billion less to loan to (American) small businesses – take your pick. Either way, it occurs to me that as an employee, shareholder and customer of one or more of these banks, the British government just levied a tax on me, even though I didn’t get a vote in their election. And the recently elected government is “warn[ing] the industry to be on alert for further taxes and regulations, particularly relating to compensation.”
Haven’t we been down this road before, England? Don’t you remember what happened the last time? I’m pretty sure it made all the papers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go get myself a cup of tea…
I think I’m one of the last people to try this tool, which purports to analyze your writing style and determine which famous author your writing is most similar to. I must admit, I was skeptical, but I fed it three fairly different posts (my obituary of George Steinbrenner, my update on New York City’s Freedom Tower and my summary of the 2008 Financial Crisis), and all three of them produced the same result:
So, here’s the irony: I’ve never read a single word written by Cory Doctorow, with the possible exception of comments he may have left on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog. I guess I’ll have to go pick up some of his books and check out his awesome writing style. ;-)
Over time, July 18th has produced both men that inspired nations full of millions of people and men who inspired people filled with millions of tattoos…
South African Leader
I had some business to conduct in downtown Manhattan today, so I get to update my readers on the latest progress of The Freedom Tower, the 1,776 foot skyscraper being built on the site of the World Trade Center. Here is where things stand as of today:
It’s always hard to tell from the outside, especially in a building who’s lobby has a high ceiling like this one does, but I’m guessing the building is around twenty stories tall at this point (or roughly 200 of it’s eventual 1,776 feet). So they’ve got a long way to go. But I think we can stop calling the Trade Center site “the pit” now. Also, the glass and steel building just behind and slightly to the left of the Freedom Tower is the rebuilt Seven World Trade Center. It’s been built and open for business for quite some time now, but I’d venture to guess that most people don’t know that, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never posted a photo of it on this blog.
They’re also making progress on the national memorial (two reflecting pools which outline the footprint of the original two towers), although that’s not as visible to the naked eye right now, so I didn’t attempt to photograph it.
That’s the update. I’ll try to follow the progress when I get the chance to be downtown…
Quite a bad week for the New York Yankees. First they lost their voice, then they lost their leader. George Steinbrenner bought a flailing franchise with a rich history and returned it to its former glory. He was a brilliant businessman, a confident leader, a passionate sports fan, and a charitable benefactor.
He was also one mean sonofabitch, who let his passion for winning make him vindictive, and occasionally afoul of the law (he was suspended from baseball twice – and reinstated both times). He changed the game of baseball, changed the Yankees, and even changed The House that Ruth Built. In short, he changed just about everything he touched. Some people hated him for it while it was happening, but the baseball world is mourning him today.
My personal memories of George Steinbrenner, aside from all the “Bronx Zoo” antics of the late 70′s – the arguments, the firing of managers, the controversy-baiting game he played with the New York sportswriters – was how such a tough man could have such a big heart. In 1981, when I was twelve years old, Yankee pitcher Tommy John’s youngest son fell out of the third-story window of their home. He required brain surgery and then lay in a coma for 17 days before making a full recovery. I remember reading that George Steinbrenner paid all of the doctor’s bills, and offered to pay for Travis’ college education when he recovered. In later years, I read similar stories about him spending money to fund drug rehabilitation (for players like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry) and helping out Jorge Posada’s son, who was diagnosed with craniosynostosis at the age of ten days old. Over the years, he’s setup many charitable foundations, usually to fund scholarships for kids, particularly those who’s parents were police officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty. Thankfully, these charities, along with the New York Yankees, were a family business, and his four children have taken the reins ever since Mr. Steinbrenner’s health began to fail.
Thanks, Boss. Not just for all the championships, but for instilling the Yankees with the consistent expectation of excellence. Many reviled you for this trait, called you cut-throat or mercenary, and accused you of “buying championships.” But as you used to say, “Winning is important. It’s a way of life.” You taught your kids (and me, and eventually my kids) that it is important to set goals and it is okay to be disappointed when you don’t achieve them. Failure teaches lessons; it drives improvement. Trying hard is great, but it should never be the goal. Success should always be the goal. I get the feeling that this will be your legacy in the Bronx. I look forward to many more years of exciting baseball as a result of your tutelage.
Over the years, July 12th has produced all sorts of royalty…
A sports icon passed away today – Yankee announcer Bob Sheppard was 99 years old, and was the voice of Yankee Stadium from 1951 until his retirement, due to poor health, in 2007. In that time, he announced more than 4,500 major league baseball games. Anyone under the age of 60 or over the age of 5 who has been to Yankee Stadium has heard (and likely remembers) his voice.
Back in May of 2000 (May 7th, to be exact), my family and I went to Yankee Stadium for a game, and realized when we got there that it was Bob Sheppard day. The Yankees honored Mr. Sheppard with several gifts, brought him out on the field, had him read the lineups, and then gave him the day off. It was the first Yankee game I had ever been to where Bob Sheppard wasn’t the announcer, and it remained the only such game until 2008. At that game, they gave each fan a commemorative pin:
If you click on the image above, you’ll hear a few of Mr. Sheppard’s most common announcements, strung together in a fitting goodbye message . . . to himself.
I also found this YouTube video (from that same day in May of 2000), which features Bob Sheppard announcing the many Yankee greats for which we all remember him best, as well as some recollections by some of those Yankee greats:
Rest in Peace, Mr. Sheppard. And thanks for the many, many memories…