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Notes and observations on the press, politics, culture, technology, and more. To sign up for e-mail delivery, click here. To send an e-mail to Dan Kennedy, click here. For bio, published work, and links to other blogs, visit For information on Dan Kennedy's book, Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes (Rodale, October 2003), click here.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Another bite of the Apple. Media Log is all blogged out after yesterday's two-hour Democratic extravaganza. Be sure to see my Phoenix colleague Adam Reilly's take on the proceedings. Click here.

LS sent a fascinating e-mail responding to yesterday's item on the slow-motion breakdown of the Apple-Microsoft alliance. He writes:

Just read your media log entry about Apple and wanted to comment on a couple things:

First, it's my view (as an IT manager myself), that the IRM technology is going to be a very slow starter, if it gets off the ground at all. Why? Because not only will it break compatibility with Mac Office, but it will also break compatibility with older versions of Office for Windows. At several hundred dollars per desktop, many companies are going to put-off upgrading to Office 2003 as long as possible.... IRM won't be useful until a majority of users have a version of Office capable of dealing with IRM-encoded files. The free viewer MS is offering will only be useful for viewing those files, not creating them, thus creating a one-way communication. Might as well send a fax…

Also, MS is working on another version of Office for Mac OS X. I think that if they are serious about IRM taking-off, MS will have to add it to the Mac version as well. I doubt that MS expects people to dump their Macs just so they can use IRM.

Second, at the same time MS announced they weren't going to develop IE for Mac anymore, they also announced that they were ceasing production on a standalone IE for Windows. Basically they are embedding IE even deeper into the Windows OS. Apple has similar plans for Safari, embedding the core technologies into OS X so that any application can be programmed to take advantage of the Safari rendering engine. The one difference between MS and Apple, is that Apple is building all their core tech around open standards, vs. Microsoft which keeps inventing their own closed systems.

Apple is as strong as it's been in a long time, with an amazing line-up of products and a killer OS. As we start to exit the recession, I think Apple is poised to grow significantly.

I hope LS is right.

posted at 12:38 PM | comment or permalink

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Democrats visualize whirled peas. Shortly before today's Democratic presidential debate began in earnest, moderator Brian Williams explained the rather convoluted rules, an exercise that he described as the "eat-your-peas portion of the debate."

I'm tempted to observe that the entire two hours felt like pea-eating. But as General Wesley Clark's 1972 presidential candidate, Richard Nixon, once observed, that would be wrong!

With that, here are some random observations about the first debate to feature Clark, who's been anointed the instant co-frontrunner (along with Howard Dean) even though -- or, rather, because -- he's been in the race for only a little more than a week.

-- The format, featuring 60- and 30-second responses and lots of beeping timers, stunk, but it was probably unavoidable with 10 candidates to juggle.

It also hurt John Kerry more than anyone. Whether you think Kerry is thoughtful or evasive, the fact is that he answers questions in a ponderous, lugubrious style. He needs time to ease into a response. He got off a few decent shots at Dean -- especially over Dean's plan to repeal the entire Bush tax cut, which Kerry charges would hurt the middle class -- but, essentially, Kerry came off as a 40 mph candidate who'd accidentally meandered into the passing lane.

-- Clark's debut was anticlimactic. His answers were mild, tepid even, and never really veered from the surface of conventional Democratic thought. When Williams asked him whether if he would support President Bush's request for $87 billion in military and reconstruction funding in Iraq, he replied, "Brian, if I've learned one thing from my nine days in politics, you have to be careful with hypotheticals, and you just asked me one." It was a good line, it got a laugh, but it really wasn't a hypothetical.

Clark also failed to exploit his military background beyond a little rhetorical throat-clearing. In response to a question about Social Security, he made some sort of reference to having appreciated the program "when I was in the United States Army and trying to save $100 a month." It didn't make a lot of sense, but perhaps it worked on some subliminal level.

-- A simmering subplot was to get Howard Dean to blow his cool -- that is, if the perpetually seething candidate can be said to have a cool. The former Vermont governor showed a few flashes of anger (or "little flashes of disagreement," as he put it when prodded by Williams), but for the most part he held himself together -- even when accused by Dick Gephardt of having sided with Newt Gingrich on a massive Medicare cut in the mid 1990s. "You say you represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," Gephardt chided him. "I think you're just winging it."

"That is flat-out false, and I am ashamed that you would compare me to Newt Gingrich," Dean responded. But, rather than escalate, he pulled himself together and said, "We have to remember that the enemy here is George Bush, not each other."

Even so, Dean's retort gave an opening to Kerry, who observed -- correctly -- that Gephardt had not compared Dean to Gingrich, but had merely noted that Dean had supported Gingrich on a particularly odious proposal. "That's a policy difference," Kerry said.

Thus Dean proved he could handle being attacked without going ballistic, but still came off as something of a whiner.

-- John Edwards wants to be Bill Clinton, but he lacks Clinton's easy grace in front of the camera. When Edwards panders, everyone can see that he's pandering, which is why he'll never capture the Clinton magic.

For instance, he was asked if he would continue to support government subsidies to American farmers if it meant that it would worsen Third World poverty. Oh, yes he would! "We have to stand by our farmers," he replied. But then quickly added that he opposed subsidies to "millionaire farmers." Thanks for the clarification, Senator.

-- Joe Lieberman is as well-known as any of these candidates, but he seems unlikely to break through. He's just too conservative for a party whose liberal wing dominates in the primary season.

Lieberman defined his own problem at the end, when the candidates were asked to identify the most unpopular thing they would do as president. Lieberman responded that this was the first presidential debate he's participated in that he hasn't been booed.

-- Dennis Kucinich was passionate, Al Sharpton was funny, Carol Moseley Braun was thoughtful, and Bob Graham was avuncular. But none did anything to increase their chances of being taken seriously -- especially by the media, which are itching to knock this down to a three- or (at the most) four-candidate scrum ASAP.

But see for yourself. The rebroadcast on MSNBC starts in about 15 minutes.

posted at 8:42 PM | comment or permalink

Watch this space. I'll be writing instant analysis of today's Democratic presidential debate (CNBC, 4 p.m.) on Media Log this evening. My plan is to post before the 9 p.m. rebroadcast on MSNBC. I'll try not to give away the ending.

Also, the Phoenix's Adam Reilly will offer his take on the debate tomorrow at

posted at 11:49 AM | comment or permalink

Microsoft leaves Apple out in the cold. Apple Computer has been counted out time after time over the years, and it's still here, if not exactly kicking ass. Still, a review of the new Microsoft Office for Windows in today's New York Times raises some serious questions about Apple's future.

According to David Pogue, Office 2003 incorporates some features that corporate managers will love. These features -- known collectively as "information-rights management" -- allow users to decide who will be able to open which documents, what changes they can make, and the like.

But in a parenthetical near the end, Pogue notes, "IRM breaks some of the convenient Windows-Macintosh file compatibility that's existed for years -- and it requires Internet Explorer as your browser."

Well, now. Apple's comeback, starting with Steve Jobs's return in the late 1990s, rests on three pillars: producing the coolest machines; unveiling a shimmering operating system, OS X, that makes it easier to play with photos, music, and video; and assuring users that they'll be able to survive in a Microsoft world. Microsoft even invested money in Apple.

But that's starting to come apart. Earlier this year, Microsoft responded to Apple's decision to release its own Web browser, Safari, by halting development of future versions of Internet Explorer for the Mac. Apple also released presentation software known as Keynote to compete with Microsoft's PowerPoint. And now we're starting to see divergence in the rest of Office, the most crucial product of all.

I own a few shares of Microsoft, but I use a Mac. This is bad news. Apple's enjoyed some very good years thanks to its strategic alliance with Microsoft. Can't Bill Gates and Steve Jobs sit down and talk this over?

New in this week's Phoenix. I take a look at the future of online file-sharing, part of a special Phoenix package on "Downloading Now: Music in the Post-Napster Age."

WBZ Radio talk-show host David Brudnoy talks about his battle with cancer.

And employees at the Boston Herald and its sister Community Newspaper chain brace themselves against rumors of deep budget cuts.

posted at 11:07 AM | comment or permalink

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Eye, eye, Principal Skinner! The New York Times runs a horrifying story inside today on Biloxi, Mississippi, where digital cameras record every move made by students and teachers.

Sam Dillon reports that in-school surveillance is becoming increasingly widespread, but that it is rarely used as extensively as it is in Biloxi, which can afford it because it is flush with casino revenues.

Dillon's account is rife with outrages. Yet, somehow, I found the most chilling comment was from Allison Buchanan, a PTA president at one of Biloxi's elementary schools, who thinks the spycams are a great idea.

"In my two years on the PTA, I've not heard one parent say anything bad about the cameras," she says.

Oppression usually comes with the willing consent of the oppressed.

A literary lion roars. Harold Bloom may be an elitist blowhard, but that shouldn't stop you from reading his hugely entertaining rant in today's Boston Globe against Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and a bunch of poets you've probably never heard of.

The unreported truth. Globe columnist Steve Bailey has the goods on state treasurer Tim Cahill, and proves himself to be an astute media critic as well.

Noting that Cahill's abysmal record as Norfolk County treasurer was there for the reporting during last year's campaign, Bailey writes, "Like the rest of the media pack, I was focused on the sexier governor's race. Cahill got a pass, and was elected on the strength of a cute TV ad featuring his 10-year-old daughter."

Brudnoy's latest challenge. Sad news today about talk-radio legend David Brudnoy, who's battled AIDS since the 1980s and who announced yesterday that he has an aggressive form of skin cancer (Globe coverage here; Herald coverage here).

I had a chance to interview Brudnoy yesterday afternoon; that interview will appear in tomorrow's Phoenix. "I'm kind of the poster child for defying the odds," he told me. Here's hoping that David can defy the odds one more time.

posted at 9:30 AM | comment or permalink

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Like a (really annoying) virgin. What are we to make of an adult male who refers to himself as "Virgin Boy"? And what are we to make of a TV station -- WFXT-TV (Channel 25) -- that hires him as a commentator on its brand-new morning news broadcast?

"Virgin Boy" is Doug Goudie, the former Howie Carr sidekick best known for playing crude sound effects whenever the subject of -- tee, hee! -- homosexuality came up. (Goudie claims it was a tape of former Boston city councilor David Scondras clearing his throat at a news conference. Perhaps it was, but it definitely offends on more than one level.)

In his new incarnation, Goudie goes simply by "VB," so perhaps he's slowly trying to carve out a new image for himself. Then again, judging by yesterday's debut, perhaps not.

Some years back, someone once told me that he regularly ran into Goudie in the gym and that, away from the microphone, he's a pretty nice guy. I bring this up only to note that Goudie does not appear to have seen the inside of a gym in quite some time.

And I bring that up only because Goudie demonstrated a weird proclivity for fat jokes yesterday. At one point, as a clip played of Ted Kennedy holding up what appeared to be two military helmets, Goudie "joked" that Kennedy was trying out a new bra.

Later, his reaction to Stevie Nicks's lament about Madonna and Britney Spears's kiss was to observe that Nicks, now 55, is, well, fat. How insightful!

Goudie also treated us to some sex jokes about Ronald Reagan, whom he insisted on calling "Dutch" -- a tone-deaf touch of familiarity that co-anchor Jodi Applegate made fun of. So how did Goudie react? By referring to Sylvester Stallone as "Sly," of course.

It called to mind nothing so much as Bill Murray's cringe-inducing turns at the anchor desk on Saturday Night Live in the mid '70s -- the difference being that you were supposed to cringe at Murray.

Neither Applegate nor co-anchor Gene Lavanchy seemed to know quite what to make of their sidekick. Applegate kept scrunching her face up, while Lavanchy opted for detachment.

Herald TV critic Monica Collins writes today, "Goudie has some roguish appeal but needs to be smarter and sharper about targets."

Unless Goudie gets much better real fast, that is likely to be the kindest thing anyone says about him.

posted at 11:07 AM | comment or permalink

Monday, September 22, 2003

Maybe Hillary really will run for president. Until now, I had thought this was ridiculous. I guess I still do. But the talk among conservatives that Wesley Clark is paving the way for a Hillary Clinton presidential run is starting to seep into the mainstream.

In a Time-magazine piece on Clark's decision to jump into the race, Karen Tumulty writes:

It appears that Hillary's husband knows which Democrat he wants to emerge: the junior Senator from New York. Two sources close to the Clintons have told TIME that the former President has been urging his wife in private to reconsider her pledge not to run for President in 2004 and pondering the most feasible way for her to back out of it.

Tumulty's Time-mate Joe Klein notes that, until last week, Clinton had been running e-mail on her website from fans urging her to run -- although Klein, who knows his Clintons, discounts the importance of that, calling it "self-promotional cotton candy."

On the other hand, New York Times columnist William Safire definitely thinks Hillary Clinton is up to something.

I think we have to assume that Clinton means it when she says she won't run in 2004 -- although if she's serious about running for president someday, she's got to be wondering about what it means for her if a Democrat beats George W. Bush next year. (Here's what it means: no chance to run until 2012, if ever.)

Still, the notion of a Clinton candidacy -- or, for that matter, an Al Gore comeback -- is predictated on the idea that none of the Democrats now running can win.

That may be true. But in 1992, Democrats were filled with despair when then-New York governor Mario Cuomo declined to run, leaving the field to a bunch of second-tier nobodies such as Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, and that Bill Clinton guy, best-known for talking too long at the 1988 Democratic convention.

The Romney rope line. The Globe and the Herald today go with this extremely entertaining AP story about security in front of Governor Mitt Romney's New Hampshire lakefront vacation spot.

Here is the New Hampshire Sunday News story upon which the AP dispatch is based. Great photo of the security line in front of the Romney residence.

I suppose these days any high-ranking public official is a potential target. But I wouldn't want to be one of Romney's roped-off neighbors.

posted at 8:53 AM | comment or permalink


Dan Kennedy is senior writer and media critic for the Boston Phoenix.

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