Jan 30, 2010

Rip Torn's Bank Robbery Arrest Seals His Reputation for "Most Drunk Prolific Old Actor Alive" [WTF?]


I mean, at what point does anybody think getting drunk and then break into banks is a good idea? Once Rip Torn sobers up, he might be able to tell us. Because he got arrested after doing so last night.



State police responded to an alarm at the Litchfield Bancorp building in Salisbury, CT at 9:40 PM last night. Police say they found Torn "with a loaded revolver" and he was "highly intoxicated." Law enforcement sources tell us Torn gained access through a broken window, which they believe Torn broke himself. Torn was taken to the Troop B barracks in North Canaan and is being held on $100,000 bond. Cops say Torn was charged with carrying a pistol without a permit, carrying a firearm while intoxicated, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal trespass and third-degree criminal mischief.



Via TMZ, this kind of actually sounds like a movie the 78 year-old Rip Torn would be in. Except he'd play the cop who'd show up and be like, "Rip Torn? What the fuck are you doing?" Also, I enjoy that TMZ took the time to note Rip Torn's previous mugshot (pictured above) as The Greatest Mugshot in the History of Mankind. In fact, as we know, this isn't Rip's first drunk brush with the law: he's been arrested for refusing a breathalyzer after crashing into a taxi in Manhattan, another DUI in North Salem, New York, and another suspicion of drunk driving charge in Salisbury, Connecticut, where he left a bar with a Christmas Tree tied to the top of his car. Which isn't at all suspicious late at night, when you're swerving. And probably drunk.


This is the same guy who famously hit Norman Mailer in the head with a hammer and got Dennis Hopper to pull a knife on him (and then sued him twice for it).


Torn may never have won that coveted Oscar, but don't count him out yet. This is the kind of complete, absolute fuckup that is at the worst, totally, completely, precedent-setting stupid drunkenness, and at best, totally belligerent, insane, and somehow, endearing.









Will China Eat America’s Lunch in Cleantech?


In the State of the Union Address last Wednesday, President Obama said “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy and America must be that nation.” At the same time, on the other coast, 75 clean energy investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers were debating whether the U.S. can gain this leadership position. They agreed that even though Silicon Valley leads the world in technology, it is not clear if it will ever lead in Cleantech. The Valley may develop some breakthrough technologies, but without government help these are unlikely to translate into global leadership. The technology world is rightfully allergic to government assistance and intervention. Cleantech is different, however, and we aren’t dealing with a level global playing field.

In the State of the Union Address last Wednesday, President Obama said “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy and America must be that nation.”  At the same time, on the other coast, 75 clean energy investors, entrepreneurs, and researchers were debating whether the U.S. can gain this leadership position.  They agreed that even though Silicon Valley leads the world in technology, it is not clear if it will ever lead in Cleantech. The Valley may develop some breakthrough technologies, but without government help these are unlikely to translate into global leadership. The technology world is rightfully allergic to government assistance and intervention. Cleantech is different, however, and we aren’t dealing with a level global playing field.


The Knowledge Economy Institute Leadership Summit, which I attended, was held at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), in Emeryville, California. The question posed: what will it take for the U.S. to achieve global leadership in the clean-energy economy? The group concluded that the U.S., by far, has the strongest innovation platform in the world. But other countries may well reap the benefits of its research efforts. China, in particular, is making massive investments and has a huge advantage from focused policy and large markets.  Even though China is not likely to produce its own innovation, it will continue to appropriate U.S. technology and gain a major advantage by combining this with its manufacturing prowess.  American firms which are increasingly choosing to build design and manufacturing operations in China will provide it with additional advantage.


What will it take for America to lead? Despite decades of dominance in technology innovation, America has a dilemma in the clean-energy economy. Most entrepreneurs aren’t getting the support needed, and we are unable to translate research discoveries in our universities into profitable businesses that attract high levels of investment, make lots of money through manufacturing, and create jobs.


There are two problems with university research – the system for commercializing discoveries doesn’t work well, and there is no clear path-to-market for new technologies which do make it out the door. I’ve written about these problems and I prescribed some workarounds. JBEI is a bold experiment to fix some of these problems the right way. It brings together researchers from different disciplines with business. And it has a practical focus on solving real-world problems.


Centers like JBEI may produce major breakthroughs in technology. But that is when the next set of problems kick in both for university research and for entrepreneurs – clean energy is different than other technologies.  Startups typically need hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and scale up technologies.  Investors don’t see steady, strong and growing markets. So, few are taking the risks and making the big investments.


U.S. policy is not as aggressive as other countries in creating sustainable markets, investing in commercialization, or promoting manufacturing.  Take, for example, Japan’s Sunshine Project and related initiatives that have consistently driven that country’s clean-energy policy since 1974.  Japan has succeeded in building infrastructure, markets, and technology companies that help meet national energy security goals for the long-term.  The U.S. has not.


Contrast this with how U.S. government responded to challenges to its semiconductor industry by rallying behind it and keeping a significant value piece here.  How do we keep our innovative clean-energy companies and their design and manufacturing operations in America?


We need to learn from other countries.  In industries like Cleantech, success depends upon consistent and reliable government policy that links market supply and demand over the long-term.  U.S. policy has been cyclical, unilaterally focused on petroleum, and unrealistic about the value of short-term subsidies and support.  American startups suffer from inconsistent pricing-signals that make investors wary.  As investment cycles wax and wane, small companies lose top talent and are unable to recruit it back when funding begins to flow with the next cycle upturn.


Policy makers need to look at things that affect pricing. Energy is a commodity and it is all about cost.  The energy sector is undifferentiated.  Startups compete with large incumbent firms.  Moreover, clean-energy technology often has a deceptive fit with current industry and markets.  Take biofuels, for example. The high ratio of bulk-to-fuel, distributed biomass sources, and inherent chemical variation dictate smaller-scale and more regional patterns of development and deployment than for petroleum.


Consumers are key.   Consumer perceptions of energy prices have potent effects on the market.   China figured this out.  In addition to subsidizing manufacturing, it is training thirty thousand salespeople to sell new clean technologies to consumers. In the U.S. energy is just too cheap, so consumers don’t see the benefits of Cleantech. Rebates and short-term subsidies just aren’t creating long-term demand. As a result, entrepreneurs trying to build companies on energy efficiency are finding it hard to stay afloat.  The demand and growing markets are just not there.


Will America meet President Obama’s call for global leadership in the clean energy economy?  Not likely if Congress and state governments don’t make it a lot easier for startups to attract investment and a lot more attractive to manufacture here.  Governments need to coordinate comprehensive, long term energy policy – now.


Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.










Guest Post: The Yo-Yo Life of a Tech Entrepreneur


This is a guest post by Mark Suster, a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He started his first company in 1999 and was headquartered in London, leaving in 2005 and selling to a publicly traded French services company. He founded his second company in Palo Alto in 2005 and sold this company to Salesforce.com, becoming VP Product Management. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner focusing on early-stage technology companies.


TechCrunch Europe ran an article in November of last year that European startups need to work as hard as those in Silicon Valley and I echoed the sentiment in my post about the need for entrepreneurs to be maniacal about their businesses if one wants to work in the hyper competitive tech world.

This is a guest post by Mark Suster, a 2x entrepreneur who has gone to the Dark Side of VC. He started his first company in 1999 and was headquartered in London, leaving in 2005 and selling to a publicly traded French services company. He founded his second company in Palo Alto in 2005 and sold this company to Salesforce.com, becoming VP Product Management. He joined GRP Partners in 2007 as a General Partner focusing on early-stage technology companies.


TechCrunch Europe ran an article in November of last year that European startups need to work as hard as those in Silicon Valley and I echoed the sentiment in my post about the need for entrepreneurs to be maniacal about their businesses if one wants to work in the hyper competitive tech world.










Belgian Band Gets Creative With Video Annotations On YouTube


YouTube has long introduced ways for users to annotate their videos and add links to external websites, other videos on the site, and more. But I haven't seen that many people or companies make use of video annotations in creative ways - I don't spend that much time on YouTube to be honest, so maybe it's just me.

Belgian electro band The Subs got in touch with us to let us know how they use video annotations to spice up their The Famous Videocast project, and the result is pretty neat if you ask me.

YouTube has long introduced ways for users to annotate their videos and add links to external websites, other videos on the site, and more. But I haven’t seen that many people or companies make use of video annotations in creative ways – I don’t spend that much time on YouTube to be honest, so maybe it’s just me.


Belgian electro band The Subs got in touch with us to let us know how they use video annotations to spice up their The Famous Videocast project, and the result is pretty neat if you ask me.


In the videocast, the band members point to other videos which you can easily watch without having to jump to another tab or webpage (that is, if you’re on YouTube and not watching it here or anywhere else where it gets embedded).


If you don’t click, the videocast just keeps rolling, but if you do you can watch other videos and return to where you left off in the videocast with a single click.


Simple, but nice.











Patent Troll Sues Apple Over Wireless Messaging Technology




Intellect Wireless, a tiny company based in Reston, VA has filed suit against Apple over mobile picture/video messaging technology it claims to have successfully patented years ago.

The patent infringement suit was filed on 28 January in Illinois Northern District Court.

The complaint states that Apple infringed on the company's patents when it provided wireless portable communication devices (you know, like the iPhone) that "receive and display caller ID information, non-facsimile pictures, video messages and/or Multimedia Messaging Services."


Intellect Wireless, a tiny company based in Reston, VA has filed suit against Apple over mobile picture/video messaging technology it claims to have successfully patented years ago.


The patent infringement suit was filed on 28 January in Illinois Northern District Court.


The complaint states that Apple infringed on the company’s patents when it provided wireless portable communication devices (you know, like the iPhone) that “receive and display caller ID information, non-facsimile pictures, video messages and/or Multimedia Messaging Services.”


It was easy to retrieve court documents showing Intellect Wireless is seeking about $10 million in damages from Apple for allegedly infringing on its patent, but it sure was a whole lot harder to track down what this company has effectively produced with the technology it claims to have enriched the planet with. In other words: it’s a non-practicing entity, aka patent troll, hard at work in this case.


And judging from this article on the General Patent Corporation blog, Intellect Wireless is a feisty one at that.


To learn more about the technology Wireless Intellect has invented, try making sense of this magnificent slide deck from self-proclaimed inventor Daniel A. Henderson, the man behind the company.


This isn’t exactly the first time Intellect Wireless has turned to courts over alleged patent infringement: the company sued T-Mobile USA, Virgin Mobile USA, Helio and U.S. Cellular Corp back in February 2008, Motorola, LG Electronics and Sanyo Electric in March 2008, Samsung Electronics in October 2008 and HTC in May 2009.


Ugh.