Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sing A Song With Riddle CD: No Lyrics, No Lead Sheets

UPS dropped off the CD of Sing A Song With Riddle yesterday. Slight dissapointment that there are no lead sheets. The original vinyl LP had them. Ah well, lyrics are easy to find on the Web. You can paste them into iTunes (version 5 or later) and they'll even show up in the new iPods.

But one bonus of the CD is a very knowledgeable 8-page set of liner notes by Will Friedwald, with background Hey Diddle Riddle, swing arrangements of nursery rhymes recorded in October 1959, a month after Sing A Song but never released until now. Riddle had dipped into the genre in 1953 for the instrumental Brother John (Frere Jacque) and would again in 1960, for Sinatra's Ol' Macdonald. Both were hits.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Will UK Pull the Plug on AM & FM Radio? Should the US?

2006 has seen radical shifts in the production and distribution of content. Studios and networks are determined not to suffer the fate of the music industry. The network embrace of digital distribution kicked off in October 2005 with the ABC-iTunes deal and it has accelerated throughout this year. Today brings news of distribution deals between BitTorrent and 20th Century Fox, G4, Kadokawa, Lionsgate, MTV Networks, Palm Pictures, Paramount and Starz Media. All this by means of the wired internet. New rounds of investment ($25 million lead by Accel Partners)

So far most of the action has been on the wired Internet. But the digital media revolution is also going mobile which means that there's a whole new industry on the prowl for radio spectrum.

The communications regulators in the UK are thinking radically. To find new spectrum for new services, they just might let existing broadcast licenses expire. Red Herring reports that regulators in the UK are considering denying license renewals to today's AM and FM stations. Video killed the radio star, but mobile video may actually kill the whole industry.

Mickeleh's Take: Could it happen here? Should it? In the US, the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) is a powerful lobby, fiercely protective of spectrum. The whole march to HDTV began in 1986 when the FCC was considering reassigning unused spectrum reserved for TV channels. Broadcasters lobbied that they'd need the spectrum in the future for HDTV. (The political-corporate-technological battles to define our current HDTV standards are detailed in Joel Brinkleys Defining Vision: How Broadcasters Lured the Government into Inciting a Revolution in Television). Would the NAB fight for radio spectrum today? Could they prevail against the Telecoms? Or might they join foreces and swap AM & FM for new and more lucrative subscription and pay services?

The best of radio is long dead. Norman Corwin, FDR's fireside chats, The Mercury Theatre of the Air, Oxydol's Own Ma Perkins, Wolfman Jack, Dan Ingram, and KSAN are all making their way to distant galaxies in an expanding radio bubble. What's left is Jack and the whole sorry right-wing talk gang.

If you ran the FCC, would you be pondering what UK regulators are pondering?

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Presto! Will the Marketing Be As Smart as The Product?

Michael Arrington covers the launch today of Presto—the latest product for getting your technophobe friends and relatives onto email (and beyond).

Doesn't Granny over there look just thrilled to be getting some email. "Land sakes," she seems to say. "I do declare! Why look! It's paper with printing on it. Pictures, too."

The non-computer internet appliance had a vogue in the late twentieth century. The idea was to bring the Internet to folks who couldn't/wouldn't deal with the complexities of a computer. Most of them flopped. Those that didn't flop disappointed.

Internet Appliances of the Late Twentieth Century
Sony eVilla, 3Com Audrey (Palm), CIDCO iPhone,
WebTV (Now MSN TV), Compaq iPaq, CIDCO Mailstation

Selling technology to tech-averse consumers is always a tricky deal. They've already declared they don't want it. And they're not about to admit they can only use the dumbed-down version. Who wants to eat at the children's table?

But Presto just might make it. Unlike the failed internet appliances of the nineties, Presto outputs to paper not a screen. Paper is readable, portable, fileable, discardable. You can carry it with you into the smallest room of your house. And no batteries are required.

The pricing seems reasonable: $149 for the hardware (a special HP printer dubbed the Printing Mailbox) plus $9.99 / month for the service ( or $99 for a year). There's no limit to the amount of mail you can send, but you will be paying an HP consumables tax soon enough.

You might think of Presto as a smart fax machine. Smart because it can't be spammed. (Presto will only receive email from a "white list" of senders that you approve.) Smart because it can also subscribe to special reports. Smart because it can store email and then print when it's convenient for the user. And smart because the output is well-formatted and in color.

(Maybe not so smart. It can only receive. Is that a fatal flaw? Or a feature. Do you know anybody who wants to receive more email?)

The sender, sends to the Presto service. The Presto service sends to the Printing Mailbox.

Mickeleh's Take: If Presto marketing is as smart as the product, they won't waste their resources trying to reach the tech-averse. Their true market is tech-savvy folks who want to send email and baby photos to their tech-averse parents and grandparents. Presto's media plan should target the tech-savvy and enlist them in giving or persuading their tech-avers friends and family to get the gadget. Gotchas: if you're planning to get Presto for someone who hates technology, then you're probably going to take on the burden of maintaining the white list, monitoring the consumables etc. Also there's no way I found for a Presto user to respond to an email, except by picking up the phone and calling back. Are you ready for that?

One more good omen: simple, memorable product name and the URL to match. I wonder what that cost?

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More: Digg, Techmeme, Gizmodo, Jeneane Sessum

Mickeleh's Question: Do you know anybody you'd buy this for?

I Guess It's Time to Take in the Hammock

It snowed last night.

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National Lampoon Makes Kramer Funny Again

From National Lampoon, Seinfeld: The Lost Episode.

Mickeleh's Take: I got nothin'. Just watch it.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Remember Seinfeld on Letterman Last Week? Remember the Book he Plugged?

Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff, got some good news and some bad news last week.

The good news: Jerry Seinfeld plugged their book, I Killed, on the highest-rated Letterman in years. The bad news: That was the night a shell-shocked Michael Richards made his first broadcast apology for The Tirade. So, who even noticed a simple book plug? Well, me, for one. And I ordered the book.

How often does a talk show guest have more than a single item to plug? Here Seinfeld came with three agenda items for his segment. Three is unheard of. I guess he was originally planning two. But The Tirade made three.

So Jerry used some of his time to help Michael Richards take the single step that begins a thousand-mile journey of redemption. And then to the main item, plugging the release of Season Seven on DVD (the sales of which might depend on how well he did with the first item). And then, for pure bonus points, he plugged I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics. He might have bumped the book to make room for Richards. But he kept it in the segment.

And I'm glad he did because it's a funny book. The subtitle says it all. Top comics tell stories from the road (usually from early in their careers, frequently involving humiliation and pain, sometimes involving uncomfortable cruelty and icy cold ambition). The book is perfect for a short attention-span world. The chapters are brief. They're in no discernable order. Dip in as you will. It's kind of like blog entries, but with more laughs. And no search engine. I wish it had an index.

It's definitely a you'll laugh, you'll cry thing. And you'll get a fine education about show business, ambition, ego, drugs, booze, sex, and America.

I knew Mark Schiff from back in the days when I was dabbling in standup in New York and L.A. He's an intensely funny guy.

As Larry David says in his jacket blurb: "Schiff and Shydner have done it. They've not only written a great book, but have managed to accomplish it without actually doing any writing."

Mickeleh's Take: As for me, here's my standup story: My dad came to see my act one night. He told me, "Next time you get onstage and try to make strangers laugh, remember how you're making your parents cry."

When I went to work for Apple, he got more nachas. And, frankly, I got much better stories.

(What's nachas? It's the inverse of schadenfreude.)

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Chris Pirillo: Holiday Dinner in a Bottle of Pop

Make that five bottles of pop.

Here's an actual product that reads like a Bob and Ray routine: Jones Soda 2006 edition of their famed Holiday Pack of eccentric soda flavors: Turkey and Gravy soda, Sweet Potato Soda, Dinner Roll Soda, Pea Soda, Antacid Flavored Soda. But instead of the fictional Wally Balloo reporting, we get the actual Chris Pirillo who offers a video tasting session all five flavors

According to Jones Soda, "All sodas are completely vegetarian, certified kosher, and contain zero caffeine, calories, and carbs." What's not to like? If you really want to know that, watch the video.

Mickeleh's Take: Let me know when they come out with a Potato Latkes Soda.

Proto-Karaoke: Sing A Song With Riddle

Album Cover, Sing a Song with RiddleNelson arranges. You sing.

Long before karaoke (well, long before I heard of it, anyway), Capitol issued an album of Nelson Riddle backing tracks, "Sing a Song with Riddle."

The year was 1959. Riddle was at the height of his powers. For perspective, that's the year he backed Ella on the incomparable five-LP Gershwin Songbook. It falls right between the Sinatra masterpieces, "Only the Lonely" and "Sinatra Swingin' Session." If you ever wanted to brush up your Sinatra impression (or for you youngsters, your Michael Bublé), here's the real deal. Long, long out of print on LP. Finally released on CD (July 2006).

You won't find it on iTunes, but Amazon sells it. Packaged with a never-before-released collection of Riddle charts for nursery rhymes.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Scoble nails the difference between Valleywag and Techcrunch

Robert Scoble does some neat positioning work to help us all sort out the unique roles filled by Valleywag and Techcrunch.

Mickeleh's Take
: Taken together, they amount to a Cheers and Jeers column, with the cheers concentrated at Techcrunch and the Jeers at Valleywag. Am I close?

Google CEO Schmidt Calls 2007 A Watershed for Office Apps

As if to celebrate the first time Google shares closed higher than $500, Techmeme features a set of predictions in the Economist from Google CEO, Dr. Eric Schmidt. No bubble here. In fact, Schmidt paints a very rosy 2007 Internet-based businesses.

That, in itself, is predictable. What's unexpected in Schmidt's piece is that he seems to take the gloves off in challenging Microsoft. Nick Carr notes the shift from Google's previously coy claims to offer only lite versions office apps to Schmidt's new emphatic stance that Internet apps, "will sweep aside the proprietary protocols promoted by individual companies striving for technical monopoly." (hmmm. Who might that be?) Schmidt claims: Today’s desktop software will be overtaken by internet-based services.

Schmidt's fig leaf here, is that he is not predicting that Google overtake Microsoft. He's just saying that inevitably Internet apps will overtake those from companies striving for technical monopoly (wink wink, nudge nudge).

(Reuters reports Microsoft's response to Schmidt)

The march of the Internet as a video carrier vs. cable was a huge story in 2006. In Schmidt's view IP (Internet protocol) has already "beaten ATM, CATV/Co-ax and the rest because it always means more choice." (Well, maybe, but most of us get our IP over cable in the first place. If Schmidt is correct, the dominance of cable as a programming brand is over. From here on, it's just a dumb pipe.)

Mickeleh's Take: In 2007 Microsoft may well accelerate the switch to Internet-based alternatives to Office. They'll be spending a lot of promotional and advertising dollars to sprinkle itching powder all over the installed base of Office. Microsoft, of course, imagines that the only way to scratch that itch is to fork over the cash to buy Office 2007. But once Microsoft's advertising gets a lot of us wondering whether the Office we have today is, maybe, not modern enough, not collaborative enough, not net-aware enough we may look to net-based providers for solutions that are totally modern, collaborative, and net aware.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Where was Richards' Heckler Contingency Plan?

Michael Richards racist outburst was not only vile and disgusting, but it was also puzzling.

Hecklers are an occupational hazard in standup comedy and experienced standups arm themselves with some kind of contingency plan for dealing before stepping onstage. The strategy for dealing with heckling will vary with the persona and temperament of the comic, the tone of the audience, and the nature of the heckler. It's bizarrely unprofessional for someone who has been at this as long as Richards to be so vulnerable to hecklers.

Put your comedy seat-belt on or stay off the stage.

Thing is, Richards (unless he's been prodigiously reckless about handling his money) has the best possible defence against heckling: He didn't need to be there. Did he?

Some meta questions: Is Michael Richards actually a nobody whose name recognition is so low that headline writers have to refer to him as Seinfeld's Kramer? Look how many headlines refer to Seinfeld's Kramer. Did this incident tarnish the Seinfeld rerun and DVD brand? Are we going to be able to watch that program any more without echoes of the n-word ringing through our ears?

By cosmic coincidence, Seinfeld is booked on Letterman tonight--and Richards appears by satellite to apologize. (Secret of Comedy is, indeed, timing.) The taping happened earlier. TMZ has video of Seinfeld esacping to his Limo.

Mickeleh's Take: Last week: groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King monument. By the weekend: More evidence that MLK's dream is still far from our reality. But now we're living in macaca time. Cameras are everywhere and uploading is easy.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Casino Royale: Q replaced by S (for Sony)

The new Bond picture, Casino Royale is logo pounder with cheese. Desmond Llewelyn's Q being unavailable (and John Cleese's R being too camp for the new tone), the producers move right on to S for Sony to load up 007 with tech toys. The source of product placement is not suprising, given that a division of Sony is distributing the movie.

Mickeleh's Take: I didn't see any must-haves from Sony. Best new toy is an unbranded road-side assistance program that comes with Bond's new car. It leaves On-Star in the dust.

Nothing new about product placement in the Bond series. Bond on screen has been a product pimp for a long time now. On the page, the Fleming novels were generously sprinkled with brand mentions, although Fleming, so far as I know, did it for effect, not for promotional consideration.

While the movie's tech toys disappoint, it stars the best Bond in decades. Daniel Craig projects enough ruthless steel and ice to persuade that he's earned the double-0 rank. Bond hasn't been this cold since Dr. No. Craig is also the fittest Bond we've seen since young Connery, which helps him sell both the stunts and the sex.

As for story, scraping away the barnacles of invisible cars, space-based disintegrator rays, and third-rate wise-cracks has re-energized the franchise. The core plot is right out of Fleming, accessorized with a Jackie-Chan inspired chase and enough exploding and collapsing to give the sub-woofers a proper workout.

Mickeleh's Tip: Go to Netflix and rent the 1967 travesty of Casino Royale but don't watch it. Go straight to the "extras" to see Bond's media debut in a live 1954 telecast with Peter Lorre as Le Chiffre.

(Well, if you have time to kill, the '67 version has Orson Welles as Le Chiffre along with Woody Allen, David Niven, and Peter Sellers. According to imdb, uncredited writers include Woody Allen, Ben Hecht, Joseph Heller, Terry Southern, and Billy Wilder. Should be funnier.)

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

TimesSelect Free Sample: Who Sampled Whom?

A week ago, Phillips sponsored a TimesSelect open house. The locked-away pay NYT columnists were accessible to all.

Mickeleh's Take: Was this a chance for the public to sample the tasty goodness of premium product? Or for the New York Times to sample the advertising impact of a bigger audience? I guess the Times was betting on the former and hoping for more of us to send them the fifty bucks. But cheapskate me is hoping for the latter.

From the Department of Irony: On November 4, the print edition of The Times carried a "What's Online" column by Dan Mitchell, discussing the overall state of the newspaper industry: 2.8 percent drop in daily circulation for the past six months. On the upside, he cited a study from the Newspaper Association of America reporting an 8 percent jump in online readership (Feb 2005 - Mar 2006). Quoth Dan, "But the study does not mention that newspapers still haven't figured out how to make a healthy profit from Internet readership.... many sites force readers to register, which Internet types say is counterproductive, when those readrs can so easily go elsewhere for their news." He left unsaid that some newspapers (his own for instance) charge subscription fees for some content. If you've paid your fees, you can read "What's Online" online. If not you can read an abstract here.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Om: Best Zune Review Yet is No Zune Review

Om Malik says he's seen so many luke warm to negative to horror-story reviews of Zune in his RSS reader, that he can't quite bring himself to open the box and review it himself.

Mickeleh's Take
: If you have any advice for Om, click through to his site and post a comment.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Microsoft to Rocketboom's Baron: An Offer He CAN Refuse

Andrew Baron says no thanks to Microsoft's quid pro quo for cross-promoting Rocketboom and Zune. Not only does Baron declare himself happy with Apple, but according to Dave Winer, one of the strings attached to the offer would have prevented Rocketboom from ever disparaging Microsoft.

Mickeleh's Take: It's good to know that not everything is for sale. (We're living in a post-11/7 world now.) Besides, if the Web were somehow purged of all disparagement of Microsoft, the sudden glut of server space and bandwidth would be overwhelming and might capsize the entire internet infrastructure business.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Zune Gets a Hefty Dose of Pogue Snark

David Pogue reviews Zune in the New York Times. He gives Zune good marks for a practical finish that won't smudge up as easily as iPod, a bigger screen, nifty U-I, and that sharing thing. But most of the review is a snark-filled introduction about how Microsoft abandoned its Plays-fer-sure customers and business partners and a conclusion that provides a long list of reasons why iPod still has a huge lead as both a product and an ecosystem.

Oh, yes... he also mentions something that Cory Doctorow pointed out back in September: Zune will wrap a self-destruct DRM around everything you send--even music from your own band that you want to share with friends.

And then there's what Pogue calls the "first-telephone" fallacy of the music-sharing feature:
Microsoft also faces what’s known as the Dilemma of the First Guy With a Telephone: Who you gonna call? The Zune will have to rack up some truly amazing sales before it’s easy to find sharing partners.
Mickeleh's Take: Zune will appeal to compulsive early adopters and Apple haters. Microsoft's huge ad buy, wide distribution, and strong merchandising will ensure that it is sampled. The ads feature the target customer enjoying the product (you know, like beer ads and pop ads).

But, it's still a 1.0 Microsoft product. So, I'll have to agree with Pogue on this: "For now, though, this game is for watching, not playing. It may be quite a while before brown is the new white."

Update: (1:08 PM) Walt Mossberg says pretty much the same thing (minus the snark); Several Zune features outpace iPod. But overall, iPod and iTunes is the better bet and richer experience for consumers.

Ed Baig and Jefferson Graham of USA Today, discuss and demo Zune and a couple of music phones on their video podcast (vlog to you hepsters). Same conclusion. Nothing touches iPod. Baig is especially skeptical of the Zune sharing feature..

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Looks like the PC outlasts the Mac

According to Radar Online says that Justin Long (who has played Mac) is out, but John Hodgman (who plays PC) is going on to the next round. While most of my friends like the campaign, there has been a lot of grumbling that Long merely confirms the harshest image of Mac held by its critics. And there's this Hodgman has got a way brainier resume (NY Times Magazine, Daily Show, This American Life, The Areas of my Expertise) than Long.

Mickeleh's Take: You kind of knew it was game over when they dressed Justin up in a suit. Still, it doesn't send a good message to admit that maybe a PC lasts longer than a Mac.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

DVR users: Tonight only: New Names for Daily Show and Colbert Report


Any DVR users reading this. If you have set a TiVo Season Pass or Moxi Series to record the Daily Show and Colbert Report... you may not get tonight's episodes. Because strictly speaking, they are not on the schedule for tonight.

Instead, the two shows are combining for a Midterm Midtacular. If you want to see it, you'll have to ask for it by name. You'll need to go in and set a one-time recording event for Midterm Midtacular.

Most of the time, DVR software that knows to record a show by title rather than schedule is a big help. But when the network changes the title of the show, the DVR won't get it.

Mickeleh's Take: Set your DVR to record Midterm Midtacular.

Today's Hottest Portable PC Fetish Object

Engadget has some pictures of a new ultra portable computer from Samsung.

How do you solve the problem of giving people a big keyboard in a tiny computer? Looks like they've done it. The screen pivots, and the split keyboard folds up around it like a clamshell.

How do you solve problems of heat dissipation and battery life? According to Engadget, they're working on it. Due first half 2007. EV-DO connectivity (not WiFi).

Mickeleh's Take: How do you put a big screen into a tiny computer? You don't. But if you train people up on mobile phones, this screen will look huge.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

DVR is Key to Campaign Ad Survival

I'm sure that if I didn't have a DVR with a skip button, I'm not sure I could have survived the last month. Most of the accelerating barrage of witless political ads w. In the middle of last week, I saw a TV ad for Comcast soliciting campaign and issue ads. My first thought was, they're running this pretty late in the season aren't they? Surely all the buys have been made. Silly me. Much news today about intrusive robo-calls. If you're a TV watcher, the political commercials are as intrusive. I'm glad that DVR technology provides the means to hang up on them.

Lincoln's T-mails and our email

Steve Rubel says that Abe Lincoln's use of the telegraph sets a good example for bloggers. Turns out Lincoln was the first president to make wide use of the telegraph and, therefore, the first who was forced to master the demands of electronic communication. The story is told in Tom Wheeler's book, Mr. Lincoln's T-mails: the Untold Story of How Abe Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War.

To paraphrase Rummy, "we go to war with the technology we have."

Wheeler's website includes a page of advice for writing better e-mails based on Lincoln's practices:

Face-to-face is better than electronic. (Julie Riegel, a colleague at Apple would say, never put bad news in an email. Use email only for praise. If you have criticism, walk down the hall or pick up the phone.) Lincoln's hierarchy was 1) face-to-face, 2) carefully composed letter, 3) telegraph.

Words are important
. Yeah, yeah. This advice applies to all writing, but Wheeler offers a great example in a telegraph message from Lincoln to Grant:
"Hold on with a bull-dog grip, and chew and choke."
Less is more: Need I say more? I mean, need I say less?

Lincoln would visit the telegraph office at the War Department to scan all the traffic--whether or not it was addressed to him. Hmm. A regular one-man NSA.

Lincoln may also have originated the sarcastic flamer. When Gen. McClellan wired to explain that he was not advancing because the army horses were fatigued and "sore-tongued," Lincoln wired:
"Will you pardon me for asking what the horse of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?"
Mickeleh's Take: I'll spend some time with Lincoln's T-mails. Maybe this blog will get better. Maybe I'll start reading other people's mails.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Moxi Nominated for Third Emmy

Scoble mentioned that was nominated for an Advanced Media Emmy. Congrats to them.

That sent me scurrying (well, clicking) to check the Emmy press release. I'm happy to see that Moxi is nominated a third time, having won in the two previous years. The awards will be announced at CES.

But the big news here is not who got nominations: it's what categories are now up for an Emmy. The television Academy recognizes how radically video production, distribution, and ad models are changing.

Apple, Real, Microsoft, and Adobe will share an award for Streaming Media Architectures and Components.

New categories honor advances in new ad insertion techniques, interactive experiences, and new U-I concepts for game boxes (Sony's Xross Media Bar), mobile phones (GoTV, and Motorola's Screen3.

One of the prime movers in getting the Academy to develop new award categories for tecnology is Shelly Palmer who chairs the Advanced Media Committee of the Academy. He's one of the few players grounded both the old media view of TV (and its ad models) and the new media view (still seeking a sound ad model). His latest post takes a 50,000 foot view of what it will take to put net video advertising on a sound footing.

Mickeleh's Take: Congrats to all the nominees. One of the last projects I did before leaving Digeo was working on the demo for the third Emmy application. One of the best projects was working as creative director with an amazing team of designers, developers, consultants, and usability engineers to develop the Moxi U-I.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Finally, A sub-woofer that actually goes to 11

Mickeleh's Take: It's not the first tribute to Nigel's special amps that go to 11. Only the latest (from Martin Logan, reported by Brian Lam in Gizmodo