Observations on the News

Some lunchtime observations on the news, collected whilst skimming the headlines:

  • From the Cardboard Acting Department: Comedian Marty Ingels is in hot water with the ATAS (the Emmy folks) about his date for the Emmy Awards on Sunday: a $400, 5-foot-5 cardboard cutout of his wife, actress Shirley Jones, a nominee who was off in Australia filming. They kept the press away from him when he arrived, kept him and his “date” off the red carpet, and locked his date in a closet for the duration of the show. Additionally, Ingels was charged $1,100 for tickets, stuck in the cheap seats in the Shrine Auditorium and wasn’t even allowed to collect Jones’ nominee’s basket of goodies. There was no word on the tax ramifications of a cardboard cutout accepting a gift basket. Ingels plans to take the cardboard Shirley out in public whenever he needs company, but he’s worried about what happens when the real-life Shirley comes home. “If my wife were here, she’d disembowel me first, then she’ll divorce a disemboweled man. I have a feeling that when she comes back to town and finds out about this, I’m going to be spending a lot more time with the cutout.”
    [Source: Daily News]

  • From the Thomas Kinkade: Swindler of Light Department: It appears that everyone’s favorite painter, Thomas Kinkade, has caught the attention of the FBI. No, not for selling crap paintings. For some reason, although critics have been less than generous with their praise, and sometimes openly derisive of his work, the multitudes still pay from a few hundred dollars for paper prints to more than $10,000 for canvas editions he has signed and retouched. Instead, Kinkade is in trouble for fraudulently induced investors to open galleries and then ruining them financially. A group of ex-owners of Kinkade galleries allege in arbitration claims that, among other things, the artist known for his dreamily luminous landscapes and street scenes used his Christian faith to persuade them to invest in the independently owned stores, which sell only Kinkade’s work. After they had invested tens of thousands of dollars each or more, the company’s practices and policies drove them out of business. They alleged they were stuck with unsalable limited-edition prints, forced to open additional stores in saturated markets and undercut by discounters that sold identical artworks at prices they were forbidden to match. According to one attorney, “It was a program of lies and deception, predicated on Christian values that weren’t there”.
    [Source: Los Angeles Times]

  • From the Whack a Spam Department: Do you ever wonder why you continue to get spam? The real answer is: it works. I remember a panel I was on a few years ago where the response rate on Spam was estimated to be under 1%… but when you send out a million messages for pennies, that’s a great bang for the buck. Proof in point: It appears that the stock spams you receive touting companies to buy actually work… for the people that send the spam. A recent study by computer scientists at Germany’s Technical University of Dresden and Mannheim University, noted by The Economist, determined that e-mail pump-and-dump schemes are widespread and generally move stock prices in the short run. The computer scientists describe how spammers “buy low and spam high,” acquiring penny stocks with relatively low liquidity, touting them via spam, then selling them off after the runup they created has run its course. Investors who buy stocks in response to the touts lose an average of 5.25% in the two days following a spam run. There is some graphical evidence of this. Of course, this spam, as well as other spam, gets past your filters because of the effectiveness of the human mind on piecing together partial information.
    [Source: New York Times]