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Japanese Beef, Giacometti, and the Joker

Here's the chief defect of this column, as I see it: Insufficient vituperation. You'd expect a column called "Swaine's Flames" to be more edgy and unbalanced, like your average political blog or a Lewis Black rant. Maybe this will tip the scales toward unbalancedness: Burger King is looking for people gullible enough to pay $200 for a hamburger. You want to bet they won't find plenty of suckers? They're charging $200 not because, as you might reasonably assume, they're making them out of gasoline. No, it's some sort of special promotion. A celebration of the global food crisis, Darfur, the growing gap between rich and poor, I forget what exactly.

Frankly, I think it's an outrage. I mean, they took wagyu, that astronomically expensive Japanese beef, ground it up, burned the outside to a crisp, and put it on a Burger King bun. An outrageous waste of fine beef! Admittedly, the cynical bandits who sell this cow flesh for $80 a Burger-sized portion deserve half the outrage. The only justification for the price of wagyu would be if all beef cost this much, in which case cows would become an endangered species and global warming would be reversed due to the dramatic reduction in cow farts.

Speaking of which, NetFlix emitted a press release recently.

They're killing off profiles. Profiles let two or more users share the same account but keep their own movie purchases, preferences, queue, settings. I admit I never figured out what to do with the feature, but there are apparently whole categories of NetFlix users who depended on profiles. Husbands hiding their porn habits from their wives. Kung-fu fan and chick flick fan roomies coexisting harmoniously on a shared account. Parents sandboxing their kids into G-rated pabulum, whatever, they're all disgruntled.

And there is no obvious reason for this feature downgrade, at least not in NetFlix's non-explanation explanation. Not a great move for a company whose core business is on the trailing edge of technology.

I don't know if I've mentioned it lately, but the Associated Press is run by soulless idiots.

Taking their cue from BMI or Cosa Nostra, they are strong-arming bloggers. Yes, many clueless or shameless bloggers rip off whole copyrighted stories. Yes, there's a lot of confusion about the concept of fair use. So the AP is kindly offering some guidelines. Pay $12.50 and you can quote five words, for example. After all, the AP says, the Internet is not about copying, it's about linking. Who could argue with that?

Me, for one. First, we don't need guidelines for fair use; copyright law is the guideline for fair use. AP's guidelines are not the law and if the AP pretends otherwise, it does so fraudulently. Second, how dare the AP presume to lecture bloggers on what the Internet is all about. "The Internet is about linking, not copying," no duh. Now explain to me, please, how to link to a story that you're going to make disappear in a few days. Linking to AP stories is a recipe for link rot. The AP lawyers should rot in their own bile.

Here's a news flash: People die. One day it'll be you. Every time it isn't, be glad. And if the dead person was a talking head who hosted Meet the Press, go ahead and speculate about who might replace him. Yes, even on the day of his funeral. Maybe not at the funeral. But you weren't invited, were you? Hey, if he doesn't respect you enough to invite you to his crummy funeral, how much respect do you owe him?

If you speculate about John McCain's choice for vice president, are you playing the age card? What if you are? McCain himself played the age card first by being so freaking old. And by having three bouts with cancer. And by that maddening tic of ending every fifth sentence with a grin that is by God either incipient rigor mortis or an audition to play the Joker in the next Batman movie. If he gets elected and then permanently morphs into a human smiley, you're going to know that his VP choice was very much your business.

Okay, but what about the endless scrutiny of Apple's VP bench after seeing a scarily gaunt Steve Jobs at WWDC? Isn't that in poor taste? Holy mackerel, the guy looked like a Giacometti. If you're a stockholder, his health is your business.

But speculating about my possible replacement, that would be in bad taste [three-second McCain grin].

Michael Swaine


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