Monday, June 26, 2006

Not getting called for jury duty is not an excuse to not work

I'm on call for jury duty this week and so I had occassion to carefully read the "reporting instructions" to jurors in the form I got. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was one very funny, but sad, "instruction" on the form that I feel the need to share. As part of an ongoing series on this blog presenting amusing facts or public statements without comment, I'll simply quote from the "reporting instructions" on my jury duty summons and let you make of it what you will.

I'll just note that in L.A., when you're on call for jury duty, you have to phone in every night for a week to find out if they need you to report the next day.
The Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles has apparently found it necessary to include this in the instructions for potential jurors:

"You must report to your work place unless you have been instructed to report for service."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Cyberliberties meets civil liberties

I didn't get around to blogging about this last week when I was busy "guest hosting" another blog for pay, but I can't let this week old BoingBoing post go by without comment.

I have to admit up front that I feel kind of bad poking fun at BB, however gently I'm doing it. I really like the blog, one of the editors is a friend of mine, and I often agree with the site's pro-"cyberliberties" political leaning.

But it's not surprising that a political movement (and associated blog) focused on the rights of consumers of digital media (surely one of the most oppressed groups in our nation's history) might be somewhat elitist, however unintentionally and innocently, as this post hilariously demonstrated:

Tom spotted this DC license plate, reading BLK DRM. He thinks it's an anti-DRM lobbyist's plate, which is plausible, though with the acronym soup in Washington, it could stand for just about anything. Link (Thanks, Tom)

OK, BB, I'm with you so far. That's kind of weird, but interesting. Oh, wait. Some readers have written in with an... alternative interpretation of the license plate:

Update: Thanks to everyone who wrote to say that this probably stands for "Black Dream."

There really is something funny about the idea that there's a population of liberal, or at least libertarian, political activists who see a license plate that says "BLK DRM" in Washington, DC, which probably has the highest proportation of African-Americans of any area with its own license plate, and immediately think of blocking DRM, rather than the "Black Dream." (I fully admit I didn't immediately know it meant "Black Dream" either, though I didn't think about it for very long)

Copied by everyone: the ultimate flattery

If the ultimate flattery for a writer is to be copied, then it has been a good two days for me.

My article yesterday in Daily Variety about Apple negotiating with studios to start selling movies on iTunes has been picked up by most major publications and websites. According to Google News, there are 139 articles related to the topic, all of which were spurred by me. So that's kind of cool.

But of course the ultimate honor for a journalist is to be ripped off by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the nation's top two papers. The NYT especially has a reputation for taking news reported by others and presenting it as its own story. But since both papers did note that the news was first reported in Variety, I honestly can't complain.

It's much much much better than when I broke the news that would stream TV shows for free, but it didn't really get much play in the paper, nobody noticed, and then the Wall Street Journal allegedly "broke" the news in a page 1 story months later. That actually annoyed me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jonah Goldberg thinks we're retarded

Jonah Goldberg devoted his column in the LA Times today to promoting his National Review buddy Ramesh Ponnuru's book "The Party of Death." A little unseemly, but hey, not nearly as unseemly as anything written by Joel Stein, so I'm willing to roll.

I have no particular beef with most of it, but this part is amazing:

Some people are also vexed by the word "party," thinking it explicitly means Democrats. It doesn't (though it certainly includes many). Ponnuru uses the term "party of death" the way the Nation uses "the war party" to describe hawks everywhere.

Jonah, baby, did you just ask Ramesh what the book is about and not bother to look at the cover? Or do you just think that we readers are too stupid to look at the book ourselves? For the record, here's the subtitle of "The Party of Death":

The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life

It's not "The Democrats, the moderate Republicans, the libertarians, the Pro-Choice Independents, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life." Just "the Democrats." So maybe it's not so crazy for those associated with the Democratic party, or those of us who just value a political discourse that doesn't involve labeling one of the two major political parties pro-"death," to be a wee bit offended.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Just how immature can the leaders of the House of Representatives be? About as mature as your average middle school boy, apparently:

The House later this week is to debate the resolution, which declares the United States will prevail in the war on terror.

Obviously a very controversial and important issue for Congress to weigh in on. I wonder whether my Congressman thinks we will win or lose in the war on terror? I can't wait to see how he votes.

But wait... there's a twist. Shocking! According to Reuters:

Further down, it said former Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein and his regime "supported terrorists," and said terrorists have proclaimed Iraq the "central front" in their war against those opposed to their ideology.

The resolution also declared it is not in the national interest to "set an arbitrary date to withdraw or redeploy" U.S. forces from Iraq, and said the United States is committed to "completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq."

So basically you either vote in favor of the Republican policy in Iraq and then get accused of being a hypocrite if you criticize it in the future... or you vote against a resolution proclaiming the U.S. will win the war on terror. Either way, you give your Republican opponent in the upcoming election a great tool against you.

This is basically the adult equivalent of that joke we used to tell in middle school where you go up to somebody and say "SphinctersSayWhat" really fast in hopes of getting him to say "what" and admit he's a sphincter.

I'll send $100 to the first journalist who sends me a tape or official transcript of him going up to House Majority Leader John Boehner, who says the debate on this resolution "will be about the fundamental question: Are we going to confront the threat of terrorism and defeat it, or will we relent and retreat in the hopes that it just goes away?" and asking "SphinctersSaysWhat?"

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hell freezes over / I praise Tom Delay

Despite being the slimest of the slimy, the dirtiest of the dirty, and the corruptest of the corrupt (??), Tom Delay made some very valid points in his farewell speech today that I think are worth noting.

Essentially, he pointed out that partisanship is not in and of itself a bad thing. In a democracy, it's necessary. Politicians have to disagree, sometimes fiercely, because Americans disagree. As the Hammer says pretty accurately, "You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny."

And a big part of healthy partisanship is building strong political parties. To a certain extent, the Phoenix-like rise of Congressional Republicans in 1994 represents that.

Now, does that excuse turning K Street into a wing of the Republican party, rather than an (already dirty) way for businesses to represent their interests in Washington DC? Or running Congress in such a way as to almost completely exclude Democrats from all proceses up until the final vote? Leading the fight to break national precedent by redistricting in Texas in an off-year purely for partisan advantage?

Of course not. But still, I found much to agree with in the following words, minus the petty swipes against Democrats/liberals:

In preparing for today, I found that it is customary in speeches such as these to reminisce about the "good old days" of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie, and to lament the bitter, divisive partisan rancor that supposedly now weakens our democracy.

I can’t do that. Because partisanship, Mr. Speaker — properly understood — is not a symptom of a democracy’s weakness, but of its health and strength — especially from the perspective of a political conservative.

Liberalism, after all, whatever you may think of its merits, is a political philosophy — and a proud one with a great tradition in this country — with a voracious appetite for growth. In any time or place, on any issue, what does liberalism ever seek, Mr. Speaker? "More." More government, more taxation, more control over people’s lives and decisions and wallets.

If conservatives don’t stand up to liberalism, no one will! And for a long time around here… almost no one did.

Indeed, the common lament over the rise in political partisanship is often nothing more than a veiled complaint instead about the rise of political conservatism. I should add here that I do not begrudge liberals their nostalgia for the days of a timid, docile, and permanent Republican minority. If we Republicans had ever enjoyed the same luxury over the last twelve years… Heck, I’d be nostalgic, too!

Had liberals not fought us tooth and nail over tax cuts and budget cuts and energy and Iraq and partial-birth abortion, those of us on this side of the aisle can only imagine all the additional things we could have accomplished. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, they didn’t agree with us.

So — to their credit — they stood up to us. They argued with us. And they did so honorably, on behalf of more than 100 million people, just like we did against President Clinton, and they did against President Reagan.


The point is: we disagree. On first principles, Mr. Speaker, we disagree. And so we debate — often loudly, and often in vain — to convince our opponents and the American people of our point of view. We debate here on the House floor. We debate in committees. We debate on television, and on radio, and on the Internet, and in the newspapers. And then every two years, we have a HUGE debate… and then in November we see who won.

That is not rancor.

That is democracy!

You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny.

For all its faults, it is partisanship — based on core principles — that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream, and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders.

Indeed, whatever role partisanship may have played in my own retirement today — or in the unfriendliness heaped upon other leaders in other times, Republican and Democrat, however unjust — all we can say is that partisanship is the worst means of settling fundamental political differences… except for all the others.

Now, politics demands compromise, Mr. Speaker, and even the most partisan among us have to understand that. But we must never forget that compromise and bipartisanship are means, not ends, and are properly employed only in the service of higher principles.

It is not the principled partisan, however obnoxious he may seem to his opponents, who degrades our public debate, but the preening, self-styled statesman who elevates compromise to a first-principle. For true statesmen, Mr. Speaker, are not defined by what they compromise, but what they don’t.

OK I can't end on too positive a note. Tom Delay's a power hungry, corrupt hack whose career is a testament to un-conservative values. There, now I feel better.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Little old me on IMDB

I have heard it said by numerous acquaintances that if they accomplish just one thing in the entertainment industry, it's getting on IMDB. Because that's when you can PROVE to friends, family, etc. that you have really done something. You really worked in Hollywood. "Look, it's on the Internet!"

So it was kind of exciting to discover recently that I finally have an entry on IMDB. It only lists one credit... for the first pilot I ever worked on, "The Hollywood Show" in 2004. Who knows how it got in there. But it's there. It's cool. Ladies and gentlemen...

Ben Fritz on IMDB

I don't really have it in me to submit other, even less impressive, credits such as "This is Hollywood? with Andy Kindler" (an unaired pilot on AMC) or "Big in '04" on VH1 or "That's So Hollywood?" (an unaired pilot for E!). And yes I have worked on a lot of unaired pilots with the word "Hollywood." If you're thinking there's some connection to the fact that I run a website called Dateline Hollywood... well then you know me too well. Get a life, Mom.

The most fun thing about IMDB? I got my entry before Alicia. As I like to remind her, that makes me a bigger star than her, even though at that point she had already written a movie for Disney that sold several million DVDs and just finished working on a TV show that actually aired on ABC.

Tangential note: the "TV show" link above is to the official ABC page for the TV show that Alicia worked on which was very famously shitcanned after just one episode despite huge promotion. But ABC still hasn't taken it down from the website. Awkward!

And speaking of awkward, I was surfing on another blog very randomly today and discovered that the worst fear Alicia and I had when that show got cancelled has come true. The idea of Heather Graham starring in a sitcom has become not just a punchline, but a joke in and of itself. Poor Heather. As anybody who watched knows, she really was good.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The worst thing ever

This local news report is one of the most painful things I have ever seen. The day I get referred to as an "unemployed porn site user" on the news is the day I put a gun down my throat. The day a reporter with a TV camera asks my parents what they think about their unemployed porn site using son masturbating in the library is the day I pull the trigger.

Check it out on youtube.

Of course, as with all awful local news reports, it's not clear who's worse: the guy masturbating to porn in the library, or the "investigative reporter" who devotes a six and a half minute piece to this pressing issue.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I hate democracy

Tomorrow is election day here in California... again.

I wouldn't mind that we seem to have so many frikkin elections if we were voting for important offices. But this has to be, far and away, the most worthless election I have ever voted for. The number of offices that shouldn't be elected for which there are PRIMARIES tomorrow, not even the real election, is insane. Then there are all the "non-partisan" judicial elections.

I definitely follow politics way more closely than the average citizen, but I don't know enough to make an informed choice for who would be the better democrat to be Lt. Governor or Controller or Insurance Commissioner. I certainly don't know enough to pick candidates for judge or school superintendant or county assessor and sheriff, all of which should be appointed positions. And I don't even know what the
"State Board of Equalization" or "Party Central Committee" are, but the latter sounds like something straight out of the Soviet Union.

Following are the offices / propositions I'll be voting for tomorrow, followed by my choices. Note that I will be skipping MOST of these, because I don't know enough to make an informed choice. It's absolutely insane that this is how we run elections. When there's too much democracy, then then entire system gets devalued, including the votes that actually do matter:

-Governor: Angelides. He seems smarter, has more substantive positions on issues that I have seen, his negative attacks aren't as specious, and he has the backing of environmental and education groups. Also, I have been very impressed with his critiques of Arnold Schwarzenegger's budgets over the past few years, in which he has dealt with the painful choices we face in order to balance the budget, invest in education, etc.
-Lt. Governor: This person should be running as a ticket with the governor. I'm not voting
-Secretary of State: Two state senators named Debra (one is Deborah, one Debra). Ms. Ortiz doesn't even have a campaign website, so I'm guessing it's safe to say Ms. Bowen is the more serious candidate, so I guess she gets my vote
-Controller: Not voting
-Treasurer: Only one candidate, the state attorney general looking to switch jobs
-Attorney General: L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo has always struck me as a hack, while Jerry Brown, for all his faults, is certainly intelligent and willing to try new ideas. So why not?
-Insurance Commissioner: Are you kidding me? This is an elected position? No way.
-State Board of Equalization: If I don't even know what it is, it shouldn't be an elected office
-Senator: Nobody serious running against Feinstein
-Representative: Ditto Becerra, who is a good smart progressive anyway
-State Assembly: We have gotten tons of mail and recorded phone calls about this. I guess we must live in a really competitive district. Of the main candidates, Christine Chavez is bragging about her connections to the United Farm Workers, which the LA Times recently revealed has become a machine to keep Chavez family members employed. Kevin De Leon seems to be the typical California liberal controlled by special interests (he works for the teachers' union). The LAT gave Elena Popp a good endorsement that convinced me.
-Party Central Committee: I guess this is our equivalent of the Supreme Soviet. Pass.
-Judge, School Superintendant, School Board, County Assessor, and County Sheriff: pass, pass, pass, pass and pass.
-Bond for public library contruction: Sounds like a good issue to me
-Universal pre-school: In general I like this idea, but enacting social policy by popular vote, and paying for it with a surtax on the rich, isn't a very bright idea. It seems like every election there's a new propsition with a nice sounding liberal policy paid for by taxing the rich. I'm all for taxing the rich to pay for important government programs (within reason), but it has to be done by the legislature in the context of the overall budget. So as I almost always do with propositions that involve spending money, this one is a "no."

Maybe the greatest irony of this democracy overkill is that we still don't elect our president by popular vote. Luckily California may soon be on the cutting edge of a movement to change that. I'll write more about that soon. I need some sleep to prepare for all the voting I'll be doing tomorrow