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Monday, April 5, 2010

Transylvania and other would be United States

The UP of Michigan often feels under served in the Michigan legislature, separated by water, mining, culture and politics from the dominant "glove" of the state. California often floats bills to separate north from south and sometimes add a third state for the yet even more separate, different and underrepresented central portion of the state. Oregon, Washington and British Columbia have more in common with each other than the rest of our nation. 
Despite the size of California (the 8th largest economy in the world), the isolation of the UP or other reasons for separation, the likelihood of a new break away state is next to nothing. First the legislature of the states being separated from would be required to approve any change, then the people living within the new proposed state or territory, then two thirds of the states of the union would need to approve a new state.
With 50 states each having two senators, there is an equalizer in Congress that would disappear with new states of the Union. Can you imagine other states giving the geography of California increased poltiical power in the Senate? Or an area as sparsely populated as Michigan's UP? 
Nevada became a state on October 31st, 1864, the last day possible cast electoral votes for Lincoln. Nevada was created under emerency war powers, thus the "Battle Borne" on our state flag. 
EnlargeQuirk Books
Texlahoma would have comprised 46 counties in Texas and 23 in Oklahoma. The goal? Better roads.

Thomas Jefferson had many ideas for Midwest state names that never materialized. One of those was "Sylvania," which would comprise what today is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sylvania was a popular suffix back in the day and means a "pleasant woodsy area." William Penn wanted to use it, too, but settled on Pennsylvania in the end — a name more representative of his family legacy.
American pioneer Daniel Boone also had a thing for the "sylvania" suffix. If he'd had his way, Kentucky would have been called Transylvania and we'd be placing bets on horses at the Transylvania Derby. Boone hoped to call the colony's capital Boonesborough, but much to the explorer's chagrin, North Carolina and Virginia voted against Transylvania's existence.
Michael Trinklein
Courtesy of the author
In his book Lost States, Michael J. Trinklein reimagines the U.S. with the many states that never made it into the republic.

Almost smack in the middle of the country could have been a state called Forgottonia. Comprising 14 counties in western Illinois, Forgottonia was an idea created by a group of disgruntled citizens who felt, well, forgotten. In the early 1970s, the would-be state's residents proposed an interstate that would run from Chicago to Kansas City, but they were rebuffed and so decided to try to split off.
Other citizens who have felt neglected by their state governments have followed the urge to create their own. In the early 20th century, residents of northern Texas wanted more roads to drive their new Ford Model T's, so the story goes, so they teamed up with western Oklahomans to suggest a state called Texlahoma, another "failed state."
At this point, if the addition of a 51st state to the United States of America seems far-fetched, consider that Barack Obama is the first American president not to have seen a new state added in his lifetime.

3D or not 3D? To invest or live without?

"There is a bit of gold-rush mentality right now,"

"3-D is still a science project, a lab experiment in search of a real-world application"

3D Television, while on the market in retail stores, remains an experiment with improvements which may or may be compatible and no proven market, despite the hype. That report is reviewed and reinforced in a Broadcast Engineering blog posted today.

Despite the theatrical success of "Avatar" and advances in technology, films such as Johnny Depp starer "Alice" use the effects more than needed and can cause nausea in some viewers. While James Cameron used it to bring a fantasy world to life, too many filmmakers are using it as a new higher tech gimmick, just as the old glasses were used during the last 3D revolution nearly fifty years ago. A tool that can enhance the movie going experience has yet to prove its long term viability regardless of the 2010 record box office 3D films will produce.

James Cameron and Michael Bay, while both shoot in 3D, are not sold on what Hollywood is standing ready to do, release a flood of films using "3D conversion" which significantly changes what the producers filmed to add 3 D effects and a manufactured "fake" 3D. If this becomes the standard they feel 3D will be as much of a failure of Ted Turner's conversion of classic black and white films into color in the 1980's and 90's.

The Hollywood Reporter says the debate on 3-D is still raging on. (in blue immediately below):

Warner Bros.' "Titans" was shot in anamorphic film as a 2D release. But the studio later opted for 3D, and the film was converted in roughly 10 weeks -- a remarkably fast turnaround -- in order to meet its release date. The cost was reportedly around $4.5 million.

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis wrote, "The 3D in the 'Clash of the Titans' remake, which was added after it was shot, has none of the immersive quality of 'Avatar' and instead segments the image into discrete planes, bringing to mind the unintegrated levels of a pop-up book."

Said Roger Ebert, a 3D skeptic: "One word of consumer advice: Explain to kids that the movie was not filmed in 3D and is only being shown in 3D in order to charge you an extra $5 a ticket. I saw it in 2D, and let me tell you, it looked terrific."

In another interview Ebert pointed out that kids watching "Dragons" would take their glasses off because they were fidgety, their eyes were strained or just tired. "You could have saved $5 a kid."

Then too, if people set their standard on "Avatar" in 3D or 3D IMAX theaters, will they buy into the small screen limited experience now being peddled as 3D?

3D TV, even the best and advanced, may not hold up to the expectations people have based on their theatrical 3 D experience. Will there be enough product? Will it bring realism instead of gimmick? Will consumer long tolerate the glasses or narrow field of vision of current 3D televisions? Will they fork out the money for 3D televisions when most have just spent the bank on flat screen HD (1080i and 1080p) or ED (720p extended definition but falsely sold as High Definition) televisions to be compatible with the government imposed new HD broadcast standards? We are in a recession, despite the hype that tells us we are "on the road to recovery?"

Odds are 3 D TV will be here to stay, but how long until it reaches critical mass and how much innovation can occur without making the sets sold this year and next obsolete and incompatible?

From the TV engineering blog, written by a television engineering and marking expert:

"So far, 3-D has been viewed only in small doses. I personally witnessed several sporting events and found the images compelling, but the production values lacking. Whether the trend will catch on in homes is anyone’s guess. As HDTV sales begin to wane, the consumer electronics industry is betting on it. With more than 19 movies on tap to be shown in 3-D this year, the motion picture industry is betting on it as well. For me, 3-D is still a science project, a lab experiment in search of a real-world application, that is, a way to sell more electronics and packaged media (e.g., Blu-ray Discs)."

First published on this blog 3-2-2010

When I was a kid, one day my Dad didn't arrive home from work at the usual time. As the sun set in Searchlight, my Mom grew more and more concerned. Finally she called on some friends and neighbors to help, and they headed out to the mine to check on my Dad.

When they got there, folks did what they always did when they needed to check on the miners - they banged on the pipes with hammers. Generally, the miners would hear the banging on the pipes and respond in kind, and that's how people knew the miners were safe.

But this time, nothing happened -- there was no response from my Dad or the other miners. Fortunately, it turned out that my Dad and the other miners were just working overtime to push through some tough rock and didn't hear the banging over the drills they were using.

Today as we launched our bus trip around the state in Searchlight, I thought of that story and the challenges facing our country. It seems to me that the pundits and cable news types in Washington are a lot like those drills. I want everyone to know I'm listening to your voices here in Nevada, not the drills in Washington.

In these incredibly tough times, Nevadans are banging on the pipes -- and every single day, I hear them. That's why I'm fighting so hard to get people back to work. The big banks and Wall Street are doing just fine, I'm going to continue looking out for Nevada's families and small businesses because they need help -- and I intend to work as hard as I can to deliver it.

-Harry Reid

IPad is said to be selling like the iPhone

From CEA, Consumer Electronics Association, Smartbriefs:
Analysts estimated that Apple sold close to 700,000 iPad units during the weekend and raised their forecasts for 2010 to between 5.5 million and 7.1 million, depending on the analyst, as huge crowds formed to lap up the latest "must-have" gadget. Most stores did not sell out of the device, a situation that is a good thing for Apple, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. "It always sounds good when they sell out, but it's best for business if they have longer-than-expected lines and units" people can buy, he said. ClipSyndicate/WCVB-TV (Boston, Mass.) (4/3) , The Wall Street Journal (4/5) , USA TODAY (4/5) , Computerworld/IDG News Service (4/3), NPR (4/5)

My notes:

Apple is the third largest publicly traded company in the US, past Google and Walmart, sitting behind Microsoft and Exxon-Mobile. With only 8% of the computer market, Apple remains the second largest actual computer product manufacturer in the world. They represent a significant portion of the smart phone market, dominate portable music players, and of course on-line music. Apple computers are used in Hollywood, by foreign governments (because they do not crash and are resistant to hacking), in publishing, by writers and creative individuals around the world. It has not cracked the business market, and probably will not with the iPad. In Education Apple long held the lead until it was financially undercut by Dell and Gateway, but remains a favorite of educators.

The audience that are early adaptors are already Mac fans or iPhone users. They are anticipating usage that may or may not come with application development. The limitations are real, as this truly new product does not fill "a need to have" at this time. Time Magazine ran a series of stories, one of which said that once you play with it you do not want to give it back, and that family members love it for games, videos, internet, e-mail and other services.

Several key universities and private high schools are going to provide or require the use of iPads to help enhance student's learning, reading and information experience, while saving money on books and other products that is may replace. The iPad will help move along short and usable courses, self help materials, student to instructor or student to student communication and portability.

The design is clean, attractive, durable and easy to use.

It has been described as an "immersive experience" with a feeling that you are inside the content in a way you have never experienced before, making you want to wake up to it, use it at lunch, stroke it, fondle it, and feel good about it.

It is a stable, flexible and dynamic to use.

The display is crisp and bright, the "A4" chip makes it the fastest mobile divice on the market, curent application use is maximized and the size is perfect fore backpacks, brief cases and pulling out on the subway or between classes.

From education to business, the ability to read on the pad is more intrinsic, easier on the eye and superior to Kindle and other existing text reading devices.

Apple is about love and belief and feeling good about yourself and the process. Handling is clean, easy, intrinsic and easy even for the keyboard illiterate.

The iPad frees us form hard drives, making it thinner, lighter, faster and without the heat computers generate.

Battery life is long and holds its life. That said it is shorter when used for video or other battery heavy applications then reading or simply scanning the web.

It is a key new element in the "digital revolution" and perhaps the first truly take anywhere home mutli-use divice.

It is a part of the convergence of technology for education, business, communication, home and entertainment use.

That said:

iPad does not support "Flash" because it is power drain, takes a lot of computer memory, is slow and will soon be replaced by a new Internet cloud based platform. Yet over one third of the videos on web sites are Adobe Flash driven. But that may change, just as Floppy's and other computer "must have's" have faded to little use or onto the shelves of museums.

It does not have a video camera to keep the price down and make the introductory level iPad affordable. That eliminates the growing use of laptops for video conferencing, "skyping" and as a multi-use divice.

It does not replace your computer, laptop or smart phone. It is part of each but not all of any of these.

So far, at launch, there are few applications that are not already on the iPhone, no Microsoft software, few book publisher deals and less cooperation from Hollywood then Apple would have liked.

It will be updated, features added, memory added and adjustments made, but then again is is worth waiting, and then waiting for upgrade after upgrade in an age when most of the upgrades can be downloaded free over WiFi?

Time Magazine coverage:

The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (The Well / Cover)
A confessed Apple fanboy gets finger time with the iPad — and face time with Steve Jobs

Web Exclusive  The Long, Extraordinary Career of Steve Jobs
The Silicon Valley visionary introduces his latest paradigm shifting device: the iPad

Will the iPad Fly? A TIME Review (The Well / Cover)
It's here. It's hot. But what on earth is the iPad for?

Read more:

For additional information see the following on this blog:


Reasons the iPad will work

Apple's Big Day

Flash or No Flash

Apple Computer Pad

Due to a lack of interests this war has been cancelled

Hollywood calls a truce on war films.

That's the headline in Variety.

"Green Zone" ground to  halt, despite star power and another Iraq war film winning Best Picture less than two weeks ago. "The Pacific" is only doing mediocre ratings for HBO despite heavy press, Tom Hanks and the nostalgia for the "Greatest Generation". "Hurt Locker" has earned a paltry million dollars on its statues, compared to many dozens of millions for traditional "best picture" winners.

Some of it is that the way we distribute and do things has changed. "Hurt Locker" only received limited release when it was in theaters and has been out on DVD, Blue Ray and other distribution sources since long before its Academy Award nomination, much less the win. Distribution windows, how we consume media and who goes to movies have changed in radical ways over the past decade.

But the dominant reason Hollywood may not green light new scripts on war themes, and why projects already underway or completed are being jockeyed into new distribution windows and methods, is that Hollywood measured success in millions of dollars and in box office income. The average movie-goer is 23 years old, with a primary range between 14 and 29.

In the Vietnam years war movies were on the decline, with fewer large budget films about the Second World War and Korea and most Vietnam films dieing at the box office (it John Wayne to take the "Green Barret" to box office heights, and it was a highly criticized film). It took years for theater goers to choose to see films about Vietnam, and even today the numbers of successful films on that war  parrell the success of the war itself.

Hollywood is changing the way it finances and releases films, moving toward a blockbuster or "tent poll" model, backed by multi-platform merchandise. Unless an Iraq or Afghanistan film can sell GI Joe's and Janes, it holds little interests for most Hollywood studios and their distribution chains. Then if people do not turn out to support the films, preferring the "Alice" in Wonderland and "Avatar" or low level situation comedy star driven films, then the incentive for films that reflect on the experience of war is simply not there.

Americans are not suffering from this war, except for those who know those serving overseas personally. No rationing. Little war news on television, with us favoring escapism and personality news over hard core reality. The war is a realty running in the background, unseen and unthought of, simple there.

Another possible factor lies in the US fighting wars, for the first time ever, with all volunteer military. In the past war hit home because the boy next door could be drafted, and most everyone knew or were touched by the war itself. Today we have no rationing stamps, not scrap metal drives, and fewer Americans are close to those put in harms way. 24 hour news has made us tire of wars dragging into their seventh, eighth and ninth years. We simply do not want to think about it.

Of course there is the role of art to shake the tree, make us feel uncomfortable, reflect the good and bad sides of our nature and our society. Movies are not just profit making box office machines. They can and should be art. They should make us think, feel, learn and experience the universe we live in. But if no one pays to go, then why should studios finance this art.

Because our government, unlike all of the other industrialized and civilized nations in the world, does not subsidise the arts.

Didn't you even wonder why so many of the great films that reflect American life, comment on who we are or tell our stories are made in Canada, England, New Zealand or even eastern Europe? Even Tom Hank's acclaimed "Band of Brothers" used primarily non-American actors to portray Americans and was made in England under a British Equity contract.

So, is there hope that the bravery and hardships of our troops will be honored, memorized or reflected in future "Hurt Lockers".

As long as Hollywood is a business and we do not go to the films and drop our dollars, that hope seems fleeting.