Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No Lincoln Assassination?

An alternate ending for Spielberg's movie Lincoln?  Did the movie close on a Lincoln who escaped assassination and lived the remainder of his days in seclusion?


The above refers to an Internet hoax that I heard about from a movie buff friend of mine who saw a post about it. Later he couldn't find it to send to me.  (I suspect the Spielberg attorneys were all over it and the item was pulled almost immediately.) 

Whether or not that particular hoax existed, if even for just a few hours, the fact that it existed at all is interesting.  Other than befuddling film goers, what purpose was served?  What were the creators of the hoax trying to say?  What was the point?

Bottom line - it is amazing what people are willing to believe because they read it on the Internet.  The Web has been a terrific boon for research and communication, but like all good things, there is a dark side. Here it comes - not everything one reads on the Internet is true.  In fact, State Farm is currently running a cute commercial about that. You've probably seen it - the young woman who tells her neighbor that only the truth can be posted on the Internet.
So back to what the hoaxers want to accomplish.  No doubt they hope to modify the behavior of anyone who reads their post. They want people to do something or not to do something. They seek to control or entertain or be thought provoking.  (I do not immediately assume that all hoaxes are created for nefarious purposes.)

In this case, the hoax designers may have aimed at influencing box office receipts for the opening weekend just to see if they could. Or perhaps there was a disgruntled employee who wanted to get back at someone associated with the film.  Maybe the prankster is a serious history buff forcing people to consider how different things would be if Lincoln had not been killed.

No matter the motivation, while you consider why a hoax was perpetrated and what the prankster is trying to say, please remember that it is a hoax.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Freebie Texting Shifts the Paradigm

As soon as a company charges for a service, there will be someone out there who will devise a way to get it for less or for free.  It may be an individual and it may be a competitor, but things always change.

Recently on MSN Money I read about the fall in the number of texts with interest. I don't see people's thumbs sitting idly attached to their hands. Fingers and thumbs still fly across phone keypads so, if texting is down, what are those digits doing?

They are texting...for free.  (Read the full article here.)

The number of texts is not down. The quantity from which wireless carriers earn fees is down. Big difference.

A friend of mine is a perfect example. She does not have texting service through her carrier. However she does own an iPhone so she is able to text to friends and associates who also have one. She doesn't do a lot of texting but she has the capability if she wants or needs it.  Apple may know how often she uses the option but AT&T does not.  Plus AT&T gets no benefit from it.

The only way to know if the amount of texting is truly down is to have a count of the number of texts and compare it during specific time frames. Less revenue does not mean there is less communication.  It just means the communication method is changing.  Texting, then tweeting, and then? 

Only one thing is for certain. Whatever comes next must begin with a "T."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Politicians Must Justify Existence

Now that the election is over, let's examine a ballot question that arose in Arizona.  No, not immigration and not taxes. Proposition 120 would have shifted federal control of the Grand Canyon to the state. I first read about Proposition 120 in late October while researching something for my next book and  it stopped me in my reading tracks.

I am always curious about what lies behind such ideas. What did that proposition tell Arizona citizens and the rest of the nation - particularly since, if it passed, Arizona would land in federal court just where their immigration law put it. I assumed the state didn't have any extra money to spend on attorneys so I wondered why it was headed down this path.  (Learn more about Prop 120 here.)  Why would politicians introduce a law or a proposition that would create more problems than it solved? 

Let it be said here that I am not picking on Arizona.  All state legislatures and the Congress have the same problem.  Wasteful projects and unenforceable laws get passed all the time. One only has to look at the Alaska "bridge to nowhere" to see another famous example.  Or how about the Chicago law prohibiting diesel trucks from idling more than three minutes?

Eventually, after giving this some consideration, I realized that politicians may feel they must introduce legislation that pays off the PACs, their backers, and all those they owe.  The election of 2012 cost more than $1 billion.  The folks who paid for all that expect a return on their investment. Politicians need to be able to point to something and say, "Look. I did this for you." They may not care if they are successful; but they should be seen doing something.

The articles I read about the Arizona proposition seemed to indicate that one intent behind it was to get control of the forests and timber. Whether the bill's sponsors were paying off a political debt with this or whether they truly believed in its worthiness, I don't know. Probably it was a bit of both.  In either case,  the message was unmistakable. "Look at me. I am earning my keep."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Baseball's Endless Season

Is major league baseball blowing a good thing?  Is the league killing its golden goose?

Don't get me wrong.  This country will never stop enjoying its favorite sport.  But let me ask a question.  Did you watch the world series this year?  If you don't live in San Francisco or in Detroit, you probably didn't watch and didn't care. 

In all things, timing is everything. Baseball's timing is off.  The season starts when there is still snow on the ground and it doesn't end until snow flurries have returned. Simply stated, there is too much baseball.  With the season starting in April and not ending until late October, fans are bored with it.   In addition, by the World Series, fans are well into football season and those who don't have a team in the play-offs have moved on.  MLB needs to realize that.

Sports pundits attribute this year's dismal, record-low television ratings to the fact that the series was won in a sweep by the Giants.  (An sample article is here.) However, fans may be saying something entirely different.  My dad, an avid fan of all things sports, has said for years that the season is too long. He gets sick of it.  By the end of September, he isn't watching anymore.

Major league baseball doesn't seem to understand that if you overwhelm the market with your product, the consumer gets bored and goes elsewhere.  MLB could take a lesson from prime time television that finds a hit and then airs it ad nauseum.  This was the case in the early days of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Dancing with the Stars.  Multiple nights and back-to-back seasons nearly killed both shows. There was no anticipation, no suspense. 

Back in the dark ages of entertainment, before the days of television and well before the Internet, there was a thing called vaudeville where performers worked before a live audience. From those days came an adage that would serve MLB well: always leave them wanting more.