Sylvester Stallone – Immortal?

31 05 2012

Our Los Angeles bureau chief recently brought this to our attention.

Apparently there have been rumors circulating that actor Sylvester Stallone may well be a vampire, or some kind of immortal being, because there is a character in a 500-year old painting in the Vatican that bears an uncanny resemblance to the star of the Rocky movies:

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Friday Funny 2 – The Truth (in advertising) Hurts

25 05 2012

Today we have a bonus Friday Funny!

 

This just in from Jockular:

 

 

 





Friday Funny: Sports TV Gaffes

25 05 2012

A friend of mine recently sent along one of these hilarious screen grabs from this website called Jockular.

Basically it’s a collection of funny mistakes and errors, and some unintentional in-the-background kinds of things.

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Check out the website, there are a lot of good ones.





Book review: Peterman Rides Again

21 05 2012

I recently finished reading the autobiographical novel, Peterman Rides Again, by John Peterman.

Many, if not most of us, probably remember J. Peterman as the infamous character from the classic sitcom, Seinfeld.

Prior to discovering this book I never realized that there was and is a real J. Peterman and he really did have a catalog business whose distinguishing characteristics included rare, difficult-to-find-elsewhere items, literary descriptions of the items for sale, and watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations of the items in place of photographs.  They called the catalog The Owner’s Manual.

After reading the book, I have to say that I like the real J. Peterman even more than his outsized fictional character on Seinfeld, played by the brilliant actor John O’Hurley.  He was one of Elaine’s crazy bosses and a favorite character on the show.

Their first product was the original horseman’s duster, the full-length leather coat – sort of like a cowboy’s version of a trenchcoat – that has become his hallmark.  He is wearing it in the picture on the cover of the book above.  He got so much interest in his personal duster, that he began to source the materials required for making one, and another vendor to sew it all together, and the J. Peterman Company got off the ground.

Eventually he expanded into other products, traveling abroad to personally shop for rare and interesting items that he could sell through the catalog and later through retail stores and the Internet.

Running a catalog business is a tough game, and they ended up being leveraged to the hilt.  After a couple of tough quarters of sales and a financing deal gone wrong, they were forced into bankruptcy in 1999.  The company’s assets, along with the brand name, were sold at a bankruptcy auction.  Later, in a truth is stranger than fiction twist, the company who purchased the company also went bankrupt, and John Peterman, along with the help of actor John O’Hurley as an investor, was able to re-purchase the rights to his brand.  The company is back in business today.

The book is well-written and is fun to read.  From a critical standpoint, I would say that the book contained a lot of interesting information about the business aspects of running and growing his business.  He is introspective and self-critical, personal traits that are very near and dear to my heart.  He is honest about the things that made the company great, as well as the mistakes that were made and the lessons learned.

I loved that he has selected certain inspirational quotes from many famous people like Helen Keller and Winston Churchill, which kick off each new chapter.  One of the most prescient quotes is from a French poet named Paul Valéry, who said, “One cannot change the size or quantity of anything without changing its quality.”  Truer words were never spoken, and certainly this applied to the J. Peterman company in its heyday.  The same principals of running the business as a family business eventually crippled their operations and contributed to its initial demise.

The best quote precedes the final chapter, entitled “Climbing Back on the Horse”, and is the Churchill quote:  “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”

There are lots of great pictures of both the real J. Peterman and John O’Hurley here.  This is one of my favorites:

 

John Peterman on the left, actor John O’Hurley on the right, with a fan in the middle.

I highly recommend this book.  It is an entertaining and enlightening and inspiring read.





Don’t forget your reusable shopping bag

21 05 2012

Just a friendly reminder:





The Rise of Facebook

18 05 2012

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It is no secret that today Facebook became a publicly traded company with an initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock market.  The IPO is expected to raise around $5 billion.

Today I happened upon a couple of interesting articles that are kind of related to the Facebook phenomenon.

The first is an article from the L.A. Times, about an elderly actress and former Playboy Playmate, Yvette Vickers, was recently found dead in her home. The state of her corpse, described as “mummified” in the Times piece, leads forensics types to believe that she had been dead for months – possibly as long as a year – before a curious neighbor broke into the house and made the discovery.

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Among other details mentioned were that an electric space heater was “still on” and so was her computer. She was evidently active on Facebook prior to her death.

Another article I read this morning was a lengthy (and well-worth the read) article in The Atlantic that spoke of the Vickers case in the context of loneliness in modern society. Essentially, the article entitled “Is Facebook making us lonely?” suggests that this aged Playmate made phone calls to “distant fans who had found her through fan conventions and Internet sites” but not to any close family or friends.

The article goes on to discuss “the Internet paradox”, the concept that describes the “contradiction between an increased opportunity to connect and a lack of human contact.” This is the heart of the piece – technology has enabled a much larger degree of connectivity among people, but the connections are shallow, impermanent and do nothing to decrease Facebook users’ sense of loneliness.

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There are lots of interesting statistics cited in the article, including:

* in 1950, less than 10% of American households contained only one person; in 2010 that number is up to 27%

* 35% of adults over 45 were “chronically” lonely, up from 20% a decade earlier

* in the late 1940s, there were around 2500 clinical psychologists, 30,000 social workers and less than 500 family and marriage counselors in the U.S. Today, rose numbers are around 77,000 clinical psychologists, 192,000 clinical social workers, 400,000 nonclinical social workers, 50,000 marriage and family counselors, 105,000 mental-health therapists,etc.

The article astutely surmised that “The majority of patients in therapy do not warrant a psychiatric diagnosis. This raft of psychic servants is helping us through what used to be called regular problems. We have outsourced the work of everyday caring.”

There have been several studies over the years, many precedeing Facebook’s widespread popularity, stating this theory of the Internet paradox. More recently an Australian study showed that Facebook users were less likely to be close to family members, and that Facebook usage tended to exacerbate narcissistic tendencies.

The results of such studies have gotten to the point of almost becoming ad nauseum. And yet people still cling to their smartphones and Facebook accounts like modern day life preservers.

The next time you have a quiet moment, standing in line at the grocery store, or in an elevator, or anywhere when silence or waiting occurs, look around at people around you. How many people are playing with their phones? Are you? Look around the next time you are stuck in gridlock – or even moving – traffic. I promise you that the car in the next lane with a huge gap in between it and the car in front of them is being drive ln (or not) by someone who is playing with their phone.

I try to stay away from editorializing too much on RttRL here, but today is a big day for Facebook and I felt that this is relevant to the conversation. This was the third-largest IPO of an American company, behind Visa and Enel (an energy company). Unlike these other two companies, Facebook’s product is also its consumers – the users of the service are the product being sold. They are sold quite unashamedly to advertisers and data miners who use the information that people freely offer up to create behavioral models that are used to predict all manner of things from brand preference to creditworthiness.

I digress from the original point – does Facebook cause loneliness? I agree with the Atlantic article’s conclusion, which is “not necessarily” – it can serve to decrease or increase a user’s sense of isolation, connection or loneliness, but it does not cause these things on its own. Like any tool, it does what you ask it to do – and sometimes you get more than you bargained for.

I predict that Facebook will decline over the course of the next decade or so. Its killer will be something else, the next great thing. I think the real genius of Facebook was its early exclusivity (it was only for currently enrolled college students once upon a time, remember?). Now that almost everyone who has Internet access is on Facebook, it has lost a lot of its cool factor.

Now it is primarily an outlet for people’s narcissistic, self-promotional (posting pictures and “witty” quotes and observations) and voyeuristic (viewing all of your “friends” posts and pictures) tendencies.





The Fleet

16 05 2012

Time for an update on what’s hanging out in RttRL’s hanger.

Here is a nice picture of most of the planes posing together:

2 T-28s and a Champ

My first was the HobbyZone Champ, the little orange one.  It’s based on an actual plane called the Aeronca Champ, built mostly in the mid-1940’s to ’50s.  It was a great trainer and I still enjoy flying it, although it doesn’t get as much flying time as it once did.

More recently I bought an aftermarket custom LED light kit, and I do enjoy flying it at night.  It is very relaxing and fun.

 

Here’s what the real airplane looks like:

The other two are more Horizon products, the micro and sport scale North American T-28 Trojan trainer aircraft:

 

 

I recently installed lights on the micro T-28 as well.

 

I also picked up one of these recently:

It’s a Great Planes F-86, after the North American F-86 Saber

The little antenna with the plug wires coming out of it actually attaches to the trainer port of my remote control (radio), and it is a self-contained transmitter in and of itself, which piggybacks on the controller’s inputs.

The jet is tough to fly, I am getting the hang of it still.  It moves a lot faster and requires a lot more focus.