Jason Alexander, who plays the utterly unsuccessful George in the utterly successful sitcom, Seinfeld, will quit in a few weeks when the last episode of the US' favourite show is made. The US entertainment media is desperate for one of the Seinfeld cast to make a spin-off, but Alexander has disappointed them. He has announced that he wants to take two years off to ensure that George is forgotten and that he is not typecast for the rest of his career. So what will he do in those two years? The only project that could possibly tempt him back, Alexander has said, would be one that married his two favourite interests. Which interests? Sports and sex? Music and juggling?
Ballet and tap? No. Computers and television. Don't do it, Jason; it won't be funny - unless Kramer is in it, of course.
Move over, Amazon.com Egghead Computer, the software reseller chain, has bit the bullet. It has pulled the trigger on its stores and opted for an online-only business model (PC Dealer, 4 February).
As the computer boom reverberated around the US, Egghead was in the right place at the right time - the high street. But, as the later boom of the internet hit, Egghead turned out to be in the wrong place. The story is tragic; the idea was good and the company established itself rapidly in the US by acquiring stores, but everyone began offering everything online before Egghead had started reaping the profit that it promised just three years before. It made a crushing $6.6 million loss in its last quarter and was losing business to supermarkets and online stores, so it was virtually forced to announce the move to become Egghead.com. Egghead expects to make a clean job of ditching a chain of 80 shops - it will lay off 800 of its 1,000 staff and take a $42 million charge. It also admits it will incur 'substantial losses' for at least two years. Amazingly, analysts predict that the gamble will pay off, and the company's stock is trading at more than twice as much as Amazon.com, the proven success story in online reselling. Egghead expects to be in the right place at the right time once again.
Surveillance is child's play
Four months ago, I brought you news of the latest great idea that needs a Var to install it - internet-linked cameras at child day care centres.
The scheme is in place everywhere. Online parents are logging on to keep a virtual eye on their little darlings, online kids are being sent to online centres and online centres are pounding on Vars' doors to get hold of their cameras and Websites. Now schools are joining the chase, as the worried parents of America are beginning to choose schools with surveillance cameras. Specialist companies like Simplex Knowledge, Parent Net and Kinder Cam are reaping the benefits. There are concerns about children leading Orwellian-style lives with no privacy, prowling paedophiles and even abusive parents legally banned from seeing the kids, but these have been judged to be outweighed by the benefits. Parents and grandparents everywhere have found the perfect outlet for their paranoia.
Painting the town pink
San Francisco is the gay capital of the world and London is fast being recognised as the gay capital of Europe. So much so, in fact, that a direct marketing campaign is targeting hundreds of thousands of gay people in California to spend their holidays in the city.
This area has more gay people than any other in the US, but I only found out about the campaign from ITN, which broadcasts a news programme on a small TV channel with a big number - 54, I think. The ads feature London's gay clubs, culture and fashion. But we Brits are a sly lot. This image of swinging London for gays doesn't fit in with the usual American promotions about Britain and the easily offended right wing would not take kindly to 'swinging'. The ads are being placed only in the gay press and the rest of holiday-making America will still be fed the traditional diet of castles, Beefeaters and royalty.
Bonnie Baby competition
The latest techie fad in Silicon Valley goes a bit close to home for this reporter. It seems lots of propellerheads find something cool about useless, obsolete, old technology - Sinclair ZX81s, Commodore Pets, Pentium MMX chips, that kind of thing - and they all want to show off their knowledge about the olden days. In 1948, Tom Kilburn and Fred Williams invented the Baby, the first memory-stored computer, in Britain. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the University of Manchester is running a competition to find the programmer who can write the best program for the Baby, using its 1,024 bits of memory and 32 x 32 pixel screen.The rivalry has grown so intense that Java code and simulators are being submitted to ensure Macintosh devotees can also participate.
Surely all these people could make better use of their time by trying to get the bugs out of, well, almost every software package for Windows 95?
I just emailed to say I love you
It's St Valentine's day on Saturday and cybercourting is the word flooding Silicon Valley. Hard-pushed executives do not have time for relationships and romance, unfortunately.
They barely have time to see their partners. (Sorry, let me rephrase that in Silicon Valley jargon: they barely have time to see their 'significant others'.) As usual, the internet has stepped in as the impersonal solution to all of life's little problems, including significant others. Websites are queuing up to deliver your own special message (more than 20 to choose from) or HTML card by email. Personally, I would be disgusted if a loved one couldn't find the time to send me a proper Valentine's card and thought I was worth only a couple of mouse clicks. However, I have a small, annual wager with my brother about Valentine messages and they all count so please feel free to swamp my mailbox ...
James Harding is US editor of VNU Newswire based in San Francisco.
He can be reached at [email protected] or on 00 1 650 306 0879.
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