Archive for July, 2010

God, This Drives Me Nuts

Posted on July 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 38 Comments »

Below is a video (apologies for the political ad with which it begins) from a southern California ABC affiliate detailing how a “sport” fisherman caught and slaughtered an 11-foot mako shark.

The video is telling because a), it shows how beautiful the animal is alive, b) how damaging the catch-and-release process would be if this fisherman had bothered to do so, and c) how tragic it is when something so beautiful is killed for no reason other than a perverse pleasure. It took an hour before the shark could be gaffed! the “newswoman” exclaims, as if gaffing was the only logical outcome of such a pursuit.

The newswoman is an idiot. While lauding the bravery of the fisherman—what’s brave about this?—she fails to mention that makos are one of the world’s most endangered animals (not just sharks, animals).  She mentions that the fisherman, whose name is Eric Downs, caught the mako using tuna for bait—meaning that he killed one endangered species in order to kill another. She cautions that attacks on humans by makos are “extremely rare,” though she’s earlier described makos as “always dangerous.” Correct answer: Makos don’t attack humans—i.e., not dangerous. She doesn’t mention, because she surely doesn’t know, that the size of this shark would indicate that it’s a female of reproductive age, which means that in killing her, you’re actually killing quite a few sharks.

But then she adds that the mako is a “pretty serious fish” that can swim 46 miles an hour and jump as much as 30 feet in the air.

What a shame she doesn’t point out that there’s no reason this serious fish, of which there aren’t a lot left, should die for the sake of human vanity.

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The Death Grip Reconsidered

Posted on July 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

A reviewer for the Daily Telegraph does his best to recreate alleged problems with the antenna on the iPhone 4—and can’t do it.

I’ve been using the iPhone 4 for nearly a week to make calls, send and receive emails and surf the web from various places around the city and suburbs.

Is the antenna an issue? No it’s not. Have I dropped calls? No, I have not.

Have I noticed an impact on the device’s performance? No.

That certainly mirrors my experience with my new iPhone, which I feel far more passionately about than any person should feel regarding a souped-up telephone.

Granted, anecdotal evidence. But I bet a newspaper could generate some buzz by looking at whether the hysteria over the Death Grip wasn’t in fact wildly overblown.

Cool Animal Kingdom News

Posted on July 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Metro, a British paper, reports on manta rays that leap into the air to help them attract mates. Must byline: Pics: Roland Seitre/solent

Photo by Roland Seitre/Solent

‘The males flapped their wings during the few seconds of flight, before hitting the surface with a loud banging noise,’ said Mr Seitre. ‘Some think it is a way to attract female attention as we saw pairs close by. The bangs are so loud it’s like you’re close to a hunting party with guns.’

Pretty great. Below’s a photo I took on my recent trip to the Socorro Islands. To give you some sense of scale, the ray in question is probably about 12 to 15 feet from wingtip to wingtip. It was gorgeous, and quite curious about the divers in the water.

(Mantas, by the way, abound in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s impossible to know what the BP oil spill has done to them.)


Jeffrey Epstein in Trouble

Posted on July 30th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

On the Daily Beat, Conchita Sarnoff reports that the Justice Department is investigating the billionaire Harvard donor for child trafficking.

Sarnoff, who continues to break new ground on a story that many Harvardians wish would simply disappear, reports that:

• Federal investigators continue to investigate Epstein’s activities, to see whether there is evidence of child trafficking—a far more serious charge than the two in his non-prosecution agreement, the arrangement between Epstein and the Department of Justice allowing him to plead guilty to lower-level state crimes. Trafficking can carry a 20-year sentence.

• The FBI is also investigating Epstein’s friend Jean Luc Brunel, whose MC2 modeling agency appears to have been a source of girls from overseas who ended up on Epstein’s private jets.

The question for friends and associates of Epstein is, What did they see on those private jets?

What Does It Mean to Watch a Game?

Posted on July 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

There’s an interesting development happening in professional sports—one that, it seems to me, should have team owners extremely worried.

It’s this: With ticket prices rising seemingly unchecked, and the quality of home entertainment systems rising, growing numbers of fans seem to feel that watching a game on their flat-screen (with 3-D?) for free is preferable to shelling out $100 for a ticket.

Consider the Mets. (If you must.)

The Journal reported yesterday that while the Mets’ home attendance has plummeted about 20% from last year—when the Mets introduced higher ticket prices, but also a new stadium, drawing curious fans—its TV ratings are doing extremely well.

For the more casual baseball follower, access to an LCD screen and other available technologies might make for a satisfactory simulation of a night at the park. Earlier this month, the Yankees played a game against the Seattle Mariners that the YES Network televised in 3D, and Sree Sreenivasan, the dean of students and a professor of digital media at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, pointed out that more sports fans are accustomed to the “three-screen effect.” That is, they are watching a game on their televisions, following it on their laptops and talking or text-messaging about it on their cell phones.

In other words, hardcore fans might actually want not to be at the game, so they can multi-analyze what’s happening. Which makes the Yankees’ decision to ban iPads from Yankee Stadium—on the grounds that they “may interfere with and/or distract any sports participant” (huh?)—all the more asine.

(The Yankees ban so much from Yankee Stadium, they might as well just go ahead and ban the fans.)

But how many casual fans will pay the price of a ticket?

Some team owners are clearly cognizant of this dilemma: As the Times reports today, in their new stadium, the Giants and Jets are countering the quality of home TV by installing larger and more video screens around the stadium.

In recent years, television coverage of the National Football League has become so rich and detailed that teams and stadiums have no choice but to respond with their own technology plays. Last spring the league’s commissioner,Roger Goodell, said the experience for fans in stadiums needed to be elevated to compete with television broadcasts, to keep fans engaged — and to keep them buying tickets — in a challenging economic climate.

The Giants and Jets are also creating iPhone apps pertaining to the game that will only work from inside the stadium. (Apparently they won’t be banning iPads.)

This may work, but I wonder. I haven’t been to the new Cowboys stadium, with its massive video screen—it’s about 80 yards long—that hangs like a LED zeppelin (sorry) over the field, but I’m sure that I’d find the screen distracting. As anyone who’s ever been to a rock show with video screens over the stage can tell you, it is oddly easier to watch the video than to watch the actual performers/players.

Then again, football has to do something, because for most people who aren’t completely football-obsessed, watching football on TV is really a better experience than going to the game. You can see what’s happening better, you have more access to relevant information (injuries, debated calls, etc.), the food is better and cheaper, there’s no traffic coming home from New Jersey.

So we may be moving towards some sort of multi-tasking viewing experience, in which watching a game means watching the field some of the time and electronic media the rest of the time. Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. But will people pay hundreds of dollars a ticket to multi-task as they would at home?

Or—and this is what I’d like to see—declining attendance because of high ticket prices will force the owners to get tough on salaries and cut ticket prices, and games may actually become somewhat affordable again. That’s probably the least likely outcome.

I have no idea which way this will go, but here’s one scenario that would be wonderful: Instead of spending so much time watching games, maybe Americans will spend more time playing them.

November Reign

Posted on July 29th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Will the Dems get slaughtered in November?

In the WSJ, “political analyst” Rhodes Cook analyzes the data and ultimately, doesn’t have a clue.

His powerful conclusion:

As Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, wrote recently on the generic congressional ballot question: “The results show that expectations of an assured Republican landslide in the congressional elections this fall are not a foregone conclusion.” In other words, when it comes to control of the House of Representatives in the next Congress: Game on!

But here’s an interesting development: In the Washington Post, reporter David Hilzenrath—Harvard grad and an old housemate of mine from DC days—reports that opposition to President Obama’s health care legislation is on the wane.

Opposition to the landmark health care overhaul declined over the past month, to 35 percent from 41 percent, according to the latest results of a tracking poll, reported Thursday.

…The approval level was the highest for the legislation since it was enacted in March, after a divisive year-long debate. In April, the poll found 46 percent in favor and 40 percent opposed.

There remain, of course, plenty of other things that Americans can be pissed off about—the economy, the oil spill, the fact that Obama hasn’t solved all the world’s problems in two years. But still—I expect that this trend will continue, and the health care legislation will either be a mild positive or neutral for the Democrats.

Are Sox Fans Calling It a Game?

Posted on July 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

The Globe reports that, when it comes to TV and radio, the Sox aren’t drawing much of a crowd.

TV and radio ratings have fallen dramatically this season, along with many of the team’s marquee names. As the injured list has grown and the Sox have settled into third place in the American League East, more listeners and viewers seem to be finding other ways to spend a few hours on a summer evening.

Certainly people are still going to the games; I was at Fenway a couple weeks ago to enjoy a Sox loss, 4-2, to the Rangers, and it was announced over the PA that the game constituted the Sox’s 600th consecutive sellout.

But could it be that the bandwagon fans are hopping off? The ones walking around the streets of Manhattan in nice new Red Sox gear?

After all, it has been, you know, three years since the Sox won the World Series…

Can We Save the Oceans?

Posted on July 28th, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about the crisis of overfishing.

If the Atlantic bluefin tuna were the first species to be fished into oblivion, its destruction would be shameful. But, of course, its story has become routine. Cod, once so plentiful off the coast of Newfoundland that they could be scooped up in baskets, are now scarce. The same goes for halibut, haddock, swordfish, marlin, and skate; it’s been calculated that stocks of large predatory fish have declined by ninety per cent in the past half century.

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald reports (poorly) on the “Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament” in Martha’s Vineyard.

James, who’s headed the Monster Shark Tournament since 1998, said the tournament has gained worldwide recognition.

“It’s a diverse mix – from neurosurgeons to pipe fitters, people with modest incomes to big players on Wall Street. What they all have in common, though, is the love for fishing, love of the ocean, and they love boating,” he said.

I would suggest that they have some other things in common: the enjoyment of a perverse thrill from killing another animal, a selfish determination to pursue their bloody pleasures at the expense of future generations, and an inexcusable, probably deliberate ignorance about the environmental impact of their actions.

The operators of this event, the Boston Big Game Fishing Club, talk a lot about how participants in this event love the ocean and how fishermen are such great environmentalists. In some contexts this argument is true; there are hunters, for example, who are serious conservationists.

Yet I’ve never seen a whit of evidence that shark fishermen do anything to actually protect and preserve the species they enjoy killing, and until they actually do something, you have to  consider their alleged good intentions with profound skepticism.

Truth is, these people get off on killing a big animal. They call it “sport,” because that makes it sound better. But really, it’s just slaughter for fun.

This Looks Good, Eh?

Posted on July 27th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

We are dangerously near overdosing on vampire gore, mostly because so much of it of late is such utter shlock. (Twilight—oh, the horror, the horror.)

But this looks pretty fun.

Tuesday Morning Zen

Posted on July 27th, 2010 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Cozumel Sunset, 7.25.10

Cozumel Sunset, 7.25.10