Thursday, August 31, 2006

ZDNet: Microsoft PR exec (UK) doesn't "get" blogging

According to Tom Foremski on ZDNet, an exec from Waggener Edstrom, lead PR agency for Microsoft, says he doesn't get blogging. Tom reminds readers that former Microsoft Tech Geek Blogger Robert Scoble (now with PodTech) "created many millions of dollars in positive publicity for Microsoft, on a salary of less than $100K. I don't think WaggEd could have done a fraction of that, for 100 times the payment Mr Scoble received." Amen to that. Scoble's role in providing a human, humane view into Microsoft continues even now that he's left.

And just yesterday, Robert pondered whether he was losing his blog power since leaving Microsoft.

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Trace the rise and fall of baby names

Here's a fascinating bit of information design and Java programming: The Baby Name Wizard. Watch the popularity of given names rise and fall over more than a century. Type in a given name and see when its popularity peaks. (Mickeleh isn't in the database--but Michael is.)

See Abraham make a late century comeback, Watch Ethyl and Myrtle fade, see Shaniqua arrive and vanish with great speed. Lots of info in the FAQ on the data sets and the design choices. Whether you're on the way to naming a baby, or want to see a popularity curve for your own name and those you know, this is a wizard worth seeing.

One potentially confusing design choice is that the scale of the vertical axis changes for each name in order to allow the chart to fill the vertical space. At first glance, all names seem to be equally popular at their peak. The designers use color to denote which names are more popular--below, Michael in deep blue peaks at more than 21,000 per million, whereas Willard peaks at a bit more than 1,100 per million. At its lowest point (in the 1880s at 54th), Michael outranks Willard at its peak (in the 1910s at 83rd). So be careful to pay attention to the elastic scale as you peruse different names.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Paris surges past our Long Tail Video

Less than a month ago, I posted on YouTube, the Long Tail video that I did with Peter Hirshberg and Bob Kalsey. It's nearly up to 340,000 viewings. Which I'm pretty happy about. On the other hand a certain hotel heiress has a video that just went up yesterday and it has already surged past Long Tail. And hers is black and white.

Maybe it's just the extra publicity kick from Steve Rubel's mention of it when he covered the debut of the new branded channel service from YouTube

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

CBS News to Simulcast Couric on Web and TV

According to TV Week, The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric will simulcast on the Web as it airs on TV and then following the live broadcast, it will remain available online as an on demand program.

It's Katie bar the door now as networks rush headlong to use IP delivery in hopes of meeting up with the audience who's abandoning TV for the PC.

Last time I watched the Network News, the preponderance of commercials for denture adhesive, pills for incontinence, etc. was a tipoff that their ratings with the young audience demos have fallen and they can't get up. Come to the Internet. It's where the young people hang.

Mickeleh's Take: Just because the kids are on PCs, doesn't necessarily mean that they're gonna click on the network news. Expect Katie and producers to do their best to liven up the joint with format and presentation changes. Maybe CBS needs to hire Amanda Congdon as a co-anchor.

(Ironically, Amanda today is giving the lie to my rant about young demos by highlighting a clip from YouTube featuring what may be the world's oldest vlogger.)

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Brouhaha about blogging (Nick vs. Mike)

Yesterday I linked to a Nick Carr essay, The Great Unread. I didn't comment because I thought the post stood on its own and I didn't want to dilute or distort a reader's experience of it with too much characterization. If you haven't read The Great Unread yet, it's the homework for what follows. (But nobody is forcing you to do the homework.). Nick’s post was beautifully written and held my attention.

Turns out that Nick hit a nerve. Mike Arrington jumped on it and asked if Nick was really Robin Hood or just an A**hole for implying that the whole game is about soliciting links from more popular bloggers, and concluding that Nick's championing of the little guys was just a well-crafted plea for links back to Nick.

And that kicked off a food fight. about the essence of blogging and the nature of the blogosphere. Is it high school? Feudalism? Self-expression? or Conversation. (More homework: read the comments to both Nick's and Mike's posts.)

Who’s zoomin’ whom here? Is this a real controversy or some elaborately staged pro-wrestling contest? Is this a real battle for the soul of the blogosphere or a cry for attention? Scott Karp gets to the heart of why (some) people blog, Blogging Is the New Novel/Screenplay Writing. Scott also reminds us that rejection has been the fate of the vast majority of all people who write for fame and money long before blogging reared its Hydra heads. (and tails.)

Why do so many bloggers have to graduate from the Monty Python Argument Clinic before posting?

Just remember that, anatomically speaking, the asshole is still way ahead of the long tail. If that's where Nick sits, he's doin' pretty well. There are plenty of much lonelier slots out toward the end of the tail.

That Mike responded with such vehemence–and that so many are blogging about this–suggests that Nick must have hit a nerve. Just sayin’.

The best tech marketers wrap their wares inside a messianic change-the-world ideology. It’s always some variant freedom, fulfilment, self-expression–the very top of the Maslow pyramid.

Bloggers are no different. The official ideology of blogging is all Woodstock Nation, Global Village, new media vs. old, Let every voice be heard. Yeah, yeah.

But bloggers are people, too. They're also ruled by other classic motivators. Lusts for power, affiliation, admiration—are lurking in there too.

The blogosphere, by virtue of its exponential growth can’t help but be a pyramid scheme. It has to be harder for the late-comers. (Unless, of course, their hearts are pure. And then, like Sir Galahad, Tom Hanks, and Indiana Jones, they'll find the Grail.)

But has there ever been a pyramid built with more chutes and ladders? So many ways to find an audience--if it's an audience you seek. This is as fluid as it gets in human interaction. which makes it easier for newcomers.

For whatever reason, many bloggers find loneliness, frustration, and disappointment. Rather than dismiss them as unworthy, Nick gave them an eloquent voice. So, I paid him with the coin of the realm and linked to him.

Mike asked whether Nick is an a**hole. For that I posted a comment to his site, but offer no link. He doesn’t need one.

From each according to his abilities. To each according to his needs.

Mickeleh's Take: It's all good. Blog if you will for whatever reasons move you and whatever reward you seek. If the reward is slow coming, take courage from Fudd's First Law of Opposition: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over. (Firesign Theatre).

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fake Steve Still Funny (if not funnier)

I've been neglecting to check the Fake Steve blog for a while. A big thanks to Nick Carr for mentioning it this morning. And, on the subject of Nick, his post yesterday, pokes through the some of mythos of the blogosphere in a very moving, honest, and helpful bit of prose. (Don't let "prose" scare you off. Click it.). The conversation in the comments is a congenial expansion. Lately I'm viewing everything throug the lens of the Long Tail (don't parse that too closely, please.) I'm avoiding saying much about it, not only because I'm inarticulate and without merit, but also because I think Nick has said it well.

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Om is covering the Comcast story

Om Malik has picked up on AdAge "Comcast wants to be Yahoo" story. And he's taking the modern web party line I predicted yesterday.
How old fashioned! Still, I wonder the wisdom of this move, especially since the company is fighting the triple play battle with politically more savvy phone companies. Shouldn’t that be the focus? I think this is yet another example of “google envy.”
With the exception of Yahoo, the portal plays made by all comers have been cash guzzlers. Google for all its reach, or Microsoft for all its might and AOL - all are still a distant second compared to Yahoo, the one true portal.
Mickeleh's Take: Om is right. Comcast will never topple Yahoo! But they don't have to. Take the long tail view of things. There's money to be made farther down the tail. Comcast may also be betting on the end of net neutrality to give them a performance advantage or a new revenue stream. The cable pipe is still the place where TV networks want to be and that gives Comcast huge leverage for content deals.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AdAge: Comcast's ambitious online goals

The video to the home game continues to get more interesting and more complex.

We've seen the first moves of the program owners are using iTunes, Google video, and their own sitesto route around the walled gardens of the multi-channel providers (e.g. Comcast, DirecTV, Verizon).

We've seen News Corp announce plans to use MySpace as an on demand video store.

Now comes word of broad initiative by Comcast to route around these burgeoning Web aggregators and maximize online video viewing through its own online video walled garden. AdAge has the scoop. Comcast has a lot of pieces already in place
  • Audience: they are the country's largest broadband internet provider--and 70% of their customers use the Comcast online portal.
  • Content: based on their cable video carriage deals, they have both relationships and leverage to bring high-valued content to the Web
  • Infrastructure: By acquiring The Platform earlier this year they have technology for aggregating, managing, and distributing video content in multiple formats
Mickeleh's Take: The Web 2.0 gang will be tempted to dismiss Comcast the way they continually misunderestimated AOL back in the twentieth century. I wouldn't. But I would get busy to do everything we can to preserve net neutrality.

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Verizon's multi-room DVR stirs the pot, but has some big gotchas

Verizon is jumping into the multi-room DVR category in a big way. Their Home Media DVR has much to recommend it, but also has some significant gotchas.

On the plus side: the main room gets a two-tuner high-definition DVR with the ability to stream SD recorded content to two additional rooms simultaneously. The other rooms use a standard IPTV set top box. In addition, PC-based music and photos can be streamed to any of the TVs on the system. Verizon will use the advanced capabilities of this system as a competitive advantage to tempt cable customers over to its IPTV offerings. As Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff says, "For the first time, this means that Verizon can compete with cable on features, not just on price." It's not, however, a sustainable advantage. Motorola, who supplies this technology to Verizon is eager to arm the cable industry with identical capabilities.

On the gotcha side: The main unit is HDTV-capable. The client units are not. This means that anything that's recorded on the DVR in high definition can't be streamed out to the other rooms. If you don't have HDTV yet, no problem. But if you do, the system is not as useful as you'd hope. Once people invest in an HDTV display, they vastly prefer HD content over SD.
The Verizon system will force customers to compromise. Do I record the SD version, so I can share it, or the HD version so I can enjoy my delicious new display? The other big gotcha for customers is that the client units don't let you pause, replay, or rewind live TV. DVR users love that function. Will they be happy not to get it at all TVs in what is billed as a multi-room DVR?

We are inevitably marching forward toward a home and portable media vision that was first presented to us in Star Trek TNG. Big screens, hand-helds, desk-tops, (and, of course, the totally immersive holodeck). But we're marching slowly. And nobody has yet delivered an uncompromised whole-home entertainment system.

Mickeleh's Take: Too many gotchas and compromises for a hit product, but it's going to open the category a little wider. Any success will prompt cable and satellite providers to match the Verizon product. TiVo's uphill battle against embedded DVRs gets steeper. There's still room for somebody to get this right. Apple? Moxi?

Disclaimer: I used to work for Digeo, who makes the Moxi multi-room DVR. Moxi has the ability to down-convert HD content so that it can be viewed in another room on an SD set. It also has full trick-mode on live TV in both sets.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Fox TV to sell on demand content on MySpace

The world of TV and movies over the internet just got a lot bigger. And Rupert Murdoch's abilities to monetize the enormous traffic on MySpace (over 100 million registered users) just got a lot clearer.

According to the Financial Times, MySpace (and other sites) are going to sell movies and TV shows on demand from Fox. The deal for customers is reminiscent of what Apple worked out for music and video on the iTunes store: Download to own, transferrable to portable devices, priced at $19.99 for a movie, $1.99 for a TV show.

Mickeleh's take:
  1. In general: This is part of an accelerating trend by corporations who control the rights to programs that people want to watch to route around the limits -- and negotiating clout-- of cable TV and satellite distribution. (see Shelly Palmer's Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV for the best 50,000 foot overview)
  2. Specifically: Don't be surprised that News Corp (parent of Fox, MySpace, and DirecTV) is by-passing DirecTV in this. The lack of a robust VOD capability is a big competitive disadvantage for satellite vs. cable. Here's one way to route around that. Combine these deals with DirecTV's active bidding for wireless spectrum, and a coherent and powerful strategy begins to emerge.
  3. As the big guys develop increasing presence in internet distribution, it's going to force video podcasts, vlogs, and user-generated content farther and farther down the long tail. (good thing there's plenty of room down there.)
Marshall Kirkpatric covers the Fox announcement today on TechCrunch.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shelly Palmer's take on Sony Mylo

Shelly Palmer of the Emmy Advanced Media Committee posts on Sony's nifty omni-media hand-held, Mylo. The grandiose name is short for My Life Online. (as in, "we are what we watch-browse-text-etc.) It's wi-fi based, so its value depends in part on the spread of the wi-fi cloud. He asks whether Mylo will be seen as the Newton or the Palm Pilot of the new era.

Here's the Sony press release. Slated for September launch at $350.

Mickeleh's take: Bye-bye Zune.

Best first peek comes from Gizmodo in this video posted to YouTube"

Gizmodo demo of Sony Mylo

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Soapbox is Active now

I decided a few weeks ago to split this blog into a tech and marketing side and a political side. It's taken me some time to crank up the political side, but it's going now. The link to Mickeleh's Soapbox is over on the right near the top.

Nick Carr wonders how big Wikipedia can get

While Chris Anderson is focusing our attention to the long tail, other trends keep pushing attention toward the head. Ranking in search engine results, for example, has a huge impact on traffic. The recent scandalous release of search data by AOL provides--in addition to lists of creepy searches--some basis for analysis. Nick Carr points to SEO Black Hat, where they crunched through the AOL data to determine that the result at the top of the list gets an average of 41% of the click-throughs.

Search on anything in Google these days, and a prominent result is likely to be a Wikipedia article. Carr looks at this trend and wonders whether we'll reach a point where people go directly to Wikipedia first. Is Wikipedia a threat to Google?

A typical Widipedia entry has numerous outside links. How often are they followed?

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Kit for using Nike + sensor with any shoe

Now it's a special Nike shoe plust a sensor plus an iPod nano.

Soon it's whatever shoes you want plus Nike plus iPod. Dr. Bott has announced a $10 bit of velcro and neoprene that neatly attaches a Nike+ sensor to any running shoe you favor. (provided it has laces... and most do.) "Available for pre-order." (An odd phrase. Pre-order is what? before you order? It's not available before you order. Quite the opposite. You order it today and they send it to you some time in the future when they start making them. Shouldn't that be called not available yet?)

BTW... I blogged about the Nike plus a while back when I got it. Still use it. Still love it. And I'm ten pounds lighter.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Andy Inhatko: More on Apple's non-announcements

More than a decade back, Frank Casanova's demos and talks for Apple, often had a little rap about how computers weren't nearly as smart as the sinks in the airport. The sink knows when you walk up to it and responds by turning the water on. But your computer has no idea whether you're there or not. (I always thought it would be cool if someone could rig Frank's stage computer so that when he walked up to it for the demo, it would squirt water at him to prove it was at least as smart as a sink.)

It hasn't gotten a whole lot better. My computer still doesn't know whether I'm around until I tap the keyboard or jiggle the mouse.

Actually, it got a little better in 2003, with Jonas Salling's Clicker. While the main purpose or the clicker was to allow you to use a bluetooth cell phone as a remote control for Mac apps, one cool feature is that as you walked your cell phone out of range, iTunes would pause and then resume playing when you came back.

Hmmm. Take that further. What if you had a pocket device from Apple that used Bluetooth to signal your presence? (say, maybe one of those long-rumored new Apple toys like, maybe a phone, or next gen iPod or ???) What kinds of interractions might be baked in to the new OS?

Andy Inhatko in InfoWorld, speculates on some of the possibilities.

BBC: 16-24 yr. olds drive "radical media shift"

UK's Ofcom (Office of Communications) reports rapid and radical shifts in media choices for 16-24 year olds: "spurning television, radio, newspapers in favor of online services." According to a summary on BBC News, 70% of this age group have a social networking site (e.g. MySpace), 20% have their own website or blog. They also spend seven hours less per week watching TV than the population as a whole.

File this with stuff we all knew, but it's nice to have someone go out and measure it from time o time so we can put impressive charts ino pitches.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nike plus iPod = Wow! Levis plus iPod = Oy!

I mentioned the magic shoes that talk to my iPod a few weeks ago. They look good. They work fantastically. There's a terrific website that tracks your progress. And there are even some very cool looking shirts and jackets with iPod pockets and ear-bud cord managers.

On the other hand, Engadget reveals how badly another iconic American brand has stumbled in an attempt to embrace the iPod phenom. It's been a long time since Levi's was really cool. The iPod pants ain't gonna help get it back there.

The last cool thing that Levi's did was have Spike Jonze direct their TV ads ten years ago. (Agency: Foote Cone & Belding, S.F. GCD/CW: Chuck McBride)

Levi's commercial by Spike Jonze

BTW... To bring this post full circle: Jonze and McBride also teamed for the amazing "Morning After" Y2K apocalypse spot for Nike. (Wieden + Kennedy was the agency)

(tags: iPod, Nike, Spike Jonze, Chuck McBride)

HuffPo: How to hack a Diebold voting machine

Marty Kaplan, on Huffington Post has some remarkable easy, anyone-can-do-it instructions for rigging the totals on a Diebold voting machine. Is he right?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Apple's OS announcements (and non announcements)

Hmmm. So, after Jobs keynote, the stock fell, and Leander Kehney in Wired called it, "the most uninspiring he's given in recent memory" ... "one yawn after another." John Budreau in the hometown paper found an analyst who gave him a money quote: "breathtaking." Om Malik covers the net-centric features destined to suck up even broader bandwidth.

I'll give you Mickeleh's Take on the OS announcements below, but if you want your keynote relatively unfiltered, Ryan Block at Engadget did a fine job posting a richly illustrated report from the Steve Jobs keynote. It's nearly a verbatim transcipt with lots of photos of the of the slides. (Steve always has the world's best slides.) Apple has a streaming QuickTime of the session--but they don't have enough server capacity to meet current demand. So far, I haven't been able to get it to run.

The new HW configs are strong, up to two 3G dual core Intel blah blah blahs. etc. With this announcement, Apple completes it's transition to Intel processors. I expect that a lot of high-end customers have been deferring purchases, waiting for these babies. They will sell almost as fast as they run. (The enclosures look very much like the G5s overall, but they've had major redesign to increase expandability: more ports in front, more drives inside. Actually, they've gone forward to the past: restoring the previous G4 ability to house four internal hard drives and two optical drives.) Plus new Xserve, and lower prices for displays.

The bulk of the keynote was a preview of the next major release of Mac OS X, named for (get ready) a big cat. This time, it's Leopard. (Are they running low on big cat names? Within the Panthera genus, the only one left is Lion. But some of the small cats like are pretty big, like Lynx, and Puma, so we can probably get through the decade before Apple is forced to bid for the Mr. Bigglesworth brand.)

A few bits stand out.

Time Machine looks like Apple finally has done back-up for the rest of us. It is not only painless backup, but it's an infinite undelete. So if you've ever mistakenly thrown away valuable files, or want to revert to some previous version of a file, it's all there. Best visual and motion metaphors for time travel since Irwin Allen's Time Tunnel. (Yes, Microsoft has "previous versions" in Vista. But it's done in Windows style. Feh.)

Mail IMHO is a bunch of tarty features in search of a purpose.

iChat takes video-chat over a new threshold. The videophone has existed in fantasy and science fiction for more than a century, and in technology marketing since 1964. In reality, not so much. Two people staring at each other while they talk--turns out to be much less useful than a telephone. On the phone, we all have Harry Potter's invisibiliy cloak and we love it. (fess up--if only to yourself--what are you actually doing when you talk on the phone?) But now... with desksharing features, photo and presentation features, video-chat becomes more than a telephone, not less. (There's even a version of a feature that was first demo'd in Mad Magazine back in the fifties: phoney picture-phone backdrops.) Now it gets interesting.

Core Animation may be the most dangerous of all the previewed features. It simplifies the process of developing rich, layered animation effects within the Mac environment. Apple used it to support the motion design for Spaces and Time Machine. And now, they're putting this power in the hands of people who may not have quite the same level of design sensibility. Anyone remember Font Abuse?

Spaces is already being tagged as a copy of virtual desktop (versions are built into Windows, Unix, and available for Mac OS X from CodeTek Studios, who can't be too happy to see Spaces.) We'll see. It's all in the details of how it's implemented. Lots of folks who were skeptical about Exposé became fans once they began using it. Good bet that Apple has done this well.

iCal gets slick, rich collaboration features—and interoperability with CalDAV standards (whatever they are), but no mention of interoperability with Exchange.

Jobs announced that he was holding back some of the top secret goodies. Most obvious for its absence was an updated Front Row U-I for ten-foot navigation of media files. Most observers expect Apple to make some very aggressive moves into the portable and home media spaces over the coming year. Although Valleywag got all Valleywaggish over the particulars, Scoble was undoubtedly correct to say that the folks at Apple, "are readying a dizzying amount of new products."

Developers attending WWDC are warned not to blog about any details beyond the keynote.

(Tags: Apple, Mac, WWDC, Jobs)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Apple's Cheeky Tweaky Banners Zing Vista

Apple Insider reports that Microsoft's oft-delayed Vista operating system is royally tweaked by two banners hanging in Moscone for Apple's WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference).
On one end:
Mac OS Leopard: Introducing Vista 2.0
And on the other end:
Hasta La Vista, Vista
(tags: Apple, Vista, Mac, WWDC)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Merc Opposes DOPA (Delete Online Predators Act)

The San Jose Mercury News, today, asks the Senate to kill the DOPA bill, which passed the House last week 410-15.

DOPA is yet another bill with a fine Orwellian name like the “Patriot Act.” DOPA stands for “Delete Online Predators Act.” How can you possibly oppose that? Are you in favor of online preditors? Do you want to put our children at risk? The unassailable name, however, conceals much mischief.

Turns out this bill claims to target predators, but in reality targets technologies that may be used by predators. You know, the way robbers use guns. DOPA would requires schools and libraries to block all websites with social interactions. This from the folks who love to say “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” How many of the sponsors of internet technology restrictions are ready to sign up for tight gun controls if we name the bill SARA (Stop Armed Robbery Act). Well, we know how busy Congress is--they're all up for re-election this year. Maybe they didn't read past the title page of the bill.

House passage of the bill was scarcely covered at all in the mainstream press. You can read more in this post at TechCrunch.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A question for Long Tail's Chris Anderson

If Chris Anderson really believes in the economic power of the long tail, why is he working so hard to make his book into a best seller so it stays at the head? (Congratulations on breaking into the New York Times list at 13 in non-fiction.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How do you like them Apples?

Jonathan Westerling, founder of Radio Sausalito has a dandy collection of vintage Macs and Apple IIs. When Leslie Stiles pointed me to this video on YouTube I felt a large part of my life passing before my eyes. I was engaged with Apple creative services and advertising for the introduction of most of these. They neatly span the first Steve Jobs era, the interregnum and the Return of the King.

By the way, if you're nostalgic for the old Macs, here's a simulation in Flash of a Mac SE, running System 7. It even includes working applications (MacWrite, MacDraw, Netscape 3, etc.)

Newsvine: Colbert blocked from Wikipedia

From Chris Pirillo comes word that Stephen Colbert's on-air editing of Wikipedia has prompted the user-edited encyclopedia to block the Colbert's account. Stephen was illustrating the meaning of Wikiality:
If enough people believe something is true, it is true--just like on Wikipedia.
By way of compensation, comes a new Colbert-centered wiki,

The news is covered on Newsvine.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Classic trailer for forgotten film: Skidoo

OK, cultural disruption fans, let's take you back to 1968. Then, as now, the Hollywood establishment tried to embrace the new. Back then, we had drugs, we had hippies, we had a sexual revolution. One response was this Otto Preminger movie, surely one of the worst of all times. Another response was electing Nixon president.

Disruption is dangerous. Unexpected consequences abound. Turn the world upside down, and who knows what kind of lint will fall out of its pockets. (Thanks to Woid for the tip.)

Halliwell's Film Guide says of Skidoo:
Abysmal mishmash with top talent abused; clearly intended as satirical farce, but in fact one of the most woebegone movies ever made.
Other reviews: Canby in the Times: "for people whose minds need pressing with a heavy, flat object."
Roger Ebert, "the whole dead weight sits there."

The cast is an amazing melange: Groucho, Mickey Rooney, Frankie Avalon, Carol Channing, Fred Clark and many more, including three Batman villains: Frank Gorshin, Cesar Romero, and Burgess Meredith.

More on Skidoo (with a link to a Torrent download)