TV-PGJanuary 30, 2004: A QuickTime version of Pepsi's iTunes Super Bowl ad hits the 'net, so start downloading. Meanwhile, Pixar splits from Disney, leaving Michael Eisner holding the bag, and the FBI acknowledges that criminals looking to frustrate the feds should use Macs for their crimes...
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Pepsi's Pre-Freak Sneview (1/30/04)

Super Bowl Sunday is just a couple of days away, and you know what that means: Sunday is Mall-To-Yourself Day! That is, unless you happen to be one of the 100 million people who wants to watch the game and/or the commercials. Personally, we're going to pass, because we just can't split our loyalties between geography and operating system preference, and it's really the one day a year the mall is so empty that you can get away with setting up a Slip 'N' Slide on the down escalators. Sure, we might miss the commercials, but the only one we were really looking forward to seeing is the Pepsi-iTunes one-- and now we've seen it.

Yup, faithful viewer Scott Pennington pointed out that a link to a QuickTime version of the entire commercial appeared in the Your Mac Life Forums, so we scoped it out. Our review? Meh. The concept was funnier than the execution. After hearing the Green Day cover of "I Fought the Law," we think we were probably right when we predicted that it'd try really hard to be the Clash's version. We were also a little surprised at how much the ad relies on written text to convey any and all information about the actual song giveaway. Like Butt-head said, if we wanted to read, we'd go to school.

Oh, and Ellen Feiss, if you're out there: no worries about Annie Leith usurping your throne as the reigning queen of the Creepy Cult Following. If that was the best take they could get, we'd love to see the ones they didn't use, because in the final cut she spends half the time with her face practically glued to the teleprompter, and her delivery is wooden, at best. (Then again, maybe that's what they were going for, since there'll be no doubt in anyone's mind that she really is one of the actual kids sued by the RIAA and not an actress.) What's more, her chances for Internet superstardom are practically nil because she didn't even seem to be the least bit doped up. Sheesh, kids these days... no respect for history.

Still, we suppose the ad will reach the audience it's trying to reach (whatever that is). Our lukewarm response was no doubt colored by our foreknowledge of the ad's content and our unshakable allegiance to Ms. Feiss, so you really can't go by what we say. Ever. On any subject.

By the way, there's another reason we're going to skip watching the Super Bowl: if there's any chance whatsoever that Apple will air a surprise ad celebrating the 20th anniversary of the historic 1984 commercial and possibly introducing the company's Next Big Thing™, that chance at least triples if we skip the game. Consider this our good deed for the decade: taking one for the team. (You're welcome.) Slip 'N' Slide, here we come!

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Eisner: Running For Cover (1/30/04)

Excuse our lack of focus, but we're a little distracted right now, and for once, it's not by a shiny thing we spotted on the dresser. We were actually trying to move some funds around-- you know, pull together our liquid assets, make our money work for us, all that malarkey. Our current scheme involves buying shares in most of the larger antacid companies, because after last night, we anticipate that short-term per capita consumption of Mylanta, Rolaids, and other gastrointestinal remedies will increase by a minimum of 12%, and that's just due to Michael Eisner alone! It's a risk, we admit, since Eisner might opt for other courses of action instead of trying to calm his stomach, but that's why we're diversifying: we're also investing in the hard liquor companies and the nation's three largest manufacturers of suicide machines.

What, you haven't heard? Faithful viewer The Vole notes a CNN/Money article which reveals that Uncle Steve just gave Disney the kiss-off. You may recall that Pixar's contract with The Round-Eared Mouse expires as of the end of next year, and Steve and Disney CEO Eisner have been in negotiations for ages, now. Steve had enormous leverage, too, since Pixar films had reportedly brought Disney over a billion dollars in profit over the years-- and that was before the phenomenal success of Finding Nemo. If Steve decided to take his ball and go play with some other distributor, Disney would be in a world of hurt.

Oh, wait, did we say "would be"? Make that "is," because apparently Eisner thought Steve was bluffing or something (oooooo, bad mistake), and now, as of 2006, Pixar and Disney are officially splitsville. And while Pixar's stock rose 80 cents in after-hours trading (and today is up a whopping $2.72 at last check), immediately after the news broke, Disney's shares fell by almost 5%, which is marketspeak for "Disney's investors want Eisner's head on a stick."

So what does this have to do with us, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that Steve is CEO of both Pixar and Apple, there are some clear implications as far as that old "Disney buys Apple" rumor that surfaces from time to time-- especially one of its more intriguing variants, the "Steve runs Disney" spin-off. After all, Eisner just blew one of Disney's biggest deals; CEOs have been fired for less. And we aren't the only ones going "hmmmm": faithful viewer Adam Bestic points to a New York Times article reporting that "one film executive suggested that Mr. Jobs could now be considered a candidate to run Disney if indeed Mr. Eisner ever left."

Gee, what a coincidence! And what a time for Steve to announce the end of the Pixar-Disney partnership: while he could have ended things at any time during the past ten months of talks, he waited until mere days after former Disney directors Stan Gold and Roy Disney (yes, the same ones that left Disney last month and remarked that Eisner had called Steve a "Shiite Muslim") "called on shareholders to oust Mr. Eisner at Disney's annual meeting in March." When the "Shiite Muslim" thing hit at the beginning of December we remarked on the possibility that Eisner might be "fearing for his job" and noted that "CEOs-- smart ones, anyway-- start to get nervous career-wise when Jobs is skulking around." Is anyone else's Spider-Sense tingling? Why do we get the feeling that Gil Amelio is reading about Eisner's troubles and experiencing a mild twinge of déjà vu?

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Selling To Feds And Felons (1/30/04)

Okay, now this is just a crying shame: remember how on the earlier seasons of "The X-Files" agents Mulder and Scully were often seen using Macs, such as the PowerBook that Scully used to compile her field reports about the ghosts of shapeshifting aliens with corrosive snot that haunt the colony of Bigfoot's clones deep beneath Area 51? In later episodes Mac fans were dismayed to note that most of the computers on the show were Wintels; sure, in the very last few seasons Dana had a PowerBook again and various Macs occasionally turned up onscreen, but that was after the show went all Hollywood and dispensed with the gritty, unflinching realism that was the hallmark of its first few seasons. By that time the show was no longer a documentary about liver-eating mutants and killer cockroaches, you know? It was almost like they were just blatantly making stuff up.

But we digress. The point is, as "The X-Files" made abundantly clear, the FBI has moved increasingly to Wintels over the years, which really doesn't inspire confidence in the agency's continued ability to ferret out the truth about gender-switching religious isolationists-- but faithful viewer Phil B found a SecurityFocus article which restores at least a little bit of hope. An FBI agent speaking at a university confirmed that, in the field, the agency deploys Wintel laptops because it "don't have as much money to spend" and has to "stretch [its] dollars." (Just another example of people ignoring long-term maintenance and support costs. C'mon, guys, the truth is out there!) However, the agent revealed that "many of the computer security folks back at FBI HQ use Macs running OS X, since those machines can do just about anything: run software for Mac, Unix, or Windows, using either a GUI or the command line. And they're secure out of the box."

How's that for a ringing endorsement? Sounds to us like Steve should give the FBI a call and make them an offer on PowerBooks that the agency can't refuse. (That is, unless he's got something to hide from the Bureau. Quick, stash the bodies!) Meanwhile, the same FBI agent also came up with this choice quote: "If you're a bad guy and you want to frustrate law enforcement, use a Mac." Apparently neither local police nor the feds know what to do with impounded Macs; they haven't the foggiest idea how to recover data to be used as evidence against the owner. Reportedly most of the time U.S. law enforcement personnel ship the Macs of alleged evildoers up north and beg the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to use their "knowledge and technique for Mac forensics that is second to none." Mounties: Mac experts. Who knew?

Incidentally, seeing as this info surfaced days ago, several of you wrote in asking why we hadn't incorporated this little plot point into our ongoing melodrama until now. Well, it's like this: you know how, on TV, when they show a crazy guy building a homemade bomb out of everyday household cleaners and stuff from his pantry, they always leave out one or two key ingredients so that if impressionable youngsters at home decide to follow along, they don't wind up with an actual explosive with the boom and the bang and the flying limbs, flying torsos, and flying lawsuits? Right. Well, we were kind of doing the same sort of thing; if we were to publicize the fact that criminals can flummox the feds by using Macs, the next thing you know, we've invited a massive influx of drug smugglers, illegal smut merchants, and other ne'er-do-wells into our cozy little Mac community.

But eventually we decided that, when you're hovering in the 2% range, hey, market share is market share, so the heck with it. Welcome, felons, one and all! Can we take your coats?

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