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Face to Face With Insanity The dark 1970s film Taxi Driver depicts an aimless young man distintigrating rapidly as he fixates on a plan to assassinate a political candidate. In an improbable twist of fate, he ends up doing something of a good deed. There will be no such neat wrapup of the real life violence on Saturday, January 8, in Tucson, Arizona, when a distintigrating young man took aim at a Congresswoman and shot six people to death, and wounded 19, including his target.

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Sex, Drugs, and Whose Business Is It Anyway? A big German drug company is betting that women will buy a pill that will make them want to have more sex. The logic is twisted: trying to get people to want to want. The company says it has collected evidence that many women are unhappy with their libido. Whether or not this is true, the safety trials are under way.

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Writing on the Bathroom Wall in the 21st Century Anonymity on the World Wide Web is both a boon to free expression and a bonanza for boors, who abuse their freedom. Personal blogs are easy to set up, and almost all issues-oriented web sites allow readers to post comments freely under phony names. Is all the shouting and name-calling helping to destroy what rational debate we have left?

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Yesterday's Tea Bags Is it possible that the teabaggers are something more than a mixed bag of established far-right groups, offered up under a catchy name? Is it possible that they are a spontaneous outcry against big government? Although the national news media is taking them very seriously, I don't think so.

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God — Not Dead Just Nowhere To Be Seen At first, it amusing that Pat Robertson said that the earthquake in Haiti last month was god's wrath for a pact with the devil. But considering that Robertson has a huge following, and that disasters always prompt an outpouring of prophets warning about the price of sin, one has to wonder why naïve beliefs persist despite all evidence to the contrary.

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The High Court Stokes Up the Oligarchy Express The justices of the nation's top court expanded an election-law case over the financing of a movie pillorying Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign into a sweeping rewrite of the laws that restricted the political activity of corporations large and small.

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Can the New York Times Pass GO and Collect $200? Judgment Day is coming to the newspaper industry. The New York Times has decided to make online readers pay, according to New York Magazine. The paper, deeply in hock, is trying desperately to find its way in a world that in quick succession was turned upside down by television, and now by the Internet. Will the readers buy it?

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GOP Discovers Political Correctness as a Weapon Something was bothering me when I read the stories about Harry Reid's faux pas in race relations. Weren't the Republicans just blowing smoke to confuse the public on an issue they are losing: health care?

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Google, Oprah and the Decline of Western Civilization Was it necessary for Oprah to batter down the walls of individual privacy for Google to charge in and classify and categorize all of us for the sake of more efficient advertising?

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Health Care Blues A sense of déjà vu surrounds the health care debate. For the 15 years since the Clinton health care reform flopped, the problem has grown worse, but lobbyists and conservatives of both parties are out for blood again

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The News Business Buries Its Dead A former insider, now outside, looks at the trouble in the news business with a fresh, unbiased perspective.

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Sex, Drugs, and Whose Business Is It Anyway?

Maybe it's presumptuous of me to try to write about women's emotions, but here goes.

What started me on this was my reading that the venerable German drug company, one of the top 20 in the world, Boehringer Ingelheim, is preparing a drug to make women want to have sex more often. I know quite well this idea floats through our culture. We had a hugely popular television show like Sex in the City, where grown women acted like fraternity boys; music videos and stars who look and act like the streetwalkers; magazines like Cosmo and Glamour that advise young women about better sex. Many movies have desperate gymnastic sex scenes; many movie stars, men and women, have sculpted their bodies with whole days in the gym, assisted by regimens of steroids. No one who lives a normal life, no man or woman, could possibly measure up. Now we have this notion of a drug that can make life imitate art. The difference between the movies and music and this is that the former are all entertainment. A drug to alter what a human being wants is more serious — it's real.

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Can the New York Times Pass GO and Collect $200?

The woman told me that she doesn't like to French-kiss her husband.

I didn't know this woman. But on Dec. 6, 2009, I was told her name, and in moments she delivered this intimate confession. And I thought at that moment, "So this is how it ends."

It is the New York Times, and the woman is a writer who wrote an article in the Times Sunday Magazine about marriage counseling. Regarded by many, including myself, as the best newspaper in the country, and perhaps the world, it has fallen in on itself, trying desperately to find its way in a world that in quick succession was turned upside down by television, and now by the Internet. I will try to explain here why this woman's literary gifts are detrimental to the Times.

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The News Business Buries Its Dead

Forty years ago, I started in the news business in Jersey City, N.J., at the Jersey Journal, a paper that was supposedly dying on the day I walked in the door. The veterans of the paper explained that the Newhouse family corporation was about to shut down their unprofitable subsidiary at any moment. It was the reason why the Newspaper Guild wasn't going to fight hard for better pay. But as amazing as it sounds, the paper is still there, hanging on, still existing on borrowed time, still gasping for air. In 1969, it was television, and suburban sprawl that was killing the Jersey Journal and all these other papers, both large and small. People often said that newspaper people didn't understand television. Just as they say now that they don't understand the digital media. Looking over this situation, considering my experiences at that little paper, and later at larger and more important papers, The Hartford Courant, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, I have to marvel at the resilience of the news business, especially at its resurgence earlier in this decade. But the crisis is more ominous than ever. The paper profits from a few years ago are all gone. There are bankruptcies, closings and if not for a couple of global billionaires, like Rupert Murdoch and Carlos Slim, my last two papers wouldn't have much of a chance. Maybe the sky is really falling.

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© 2010 Barry Schiffman