Lawrence Wilkinson

Lawrence Wilkinson is a serial entrepreneur who consults for start-ups, NGOs, and not-for-profits. He also blogs at (Roughly) Daily and Scenarios and Strategy.

Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it

Police Squad!, which hit the air in the fall of 1982, was a thirty-minute comedy on ABC created by Zucker Abrahams and Zucker, who’d had enormous success two years earlier with Airplane!. A broad parody of television crime shows (perhaps especially, of Lee Marvin and M Squad), Police Squad! ran for only four episodes before it was jerked by the network -- for reasons explained in the quote that titles this post (uttered by Tony Thomopoulos, President of ABC Entertainment). The two further episodes that had been produced were aired off the following summer.

In retrospect, it seems clear that Police Squad!'s only crime was timing. As Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, said in 2010:

If Police Squad! had been made twenty years later, it would have been a smash. It was before its time. In 1982 your average viewer was unable to cope with its pace, its quick-fire jokes. But these days they’d have no problems keeping up, I think we’ve proved that.

Indeed, six years later Zucker Abrahams and Zucker took Police Squad! star Leslie Nielsen– along with the concept and the approach– back to the big screen with The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, which was both both a critical and a box office success. It was followed by The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.

Readers can see for themselves -- all six episodes of Police Squad! are now available on You Tube. Happy 4th of July Weekend!

Happy 42nd birthday, Leap Second!

The first atomic clock, at NIST. [Wikipedia]


The first atomic clock, at NIST. [Wikipedia]

It was on this date in 1972 that the first leap second was added to a day.

Read the rest

Time-lapse vision of America's theft of Native American land, 1776—1887

Between 1776 and 1887, the United States seized over 1.5 billion acres from America’s indigenous people by treaty and executive order.

Watch Native Americans’ land evaporate at The Invasion of America, an interactive map that illustrates how the U.S. took over an eighth of the world.

Produced by University of Georgia historian Claudio Saunt to accompany his new book West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, the site is a time-lapse vision of the transfer of Indian land between 1776 and 1887.

As blue “Indian homelands” disappear, small red areas appear, indicating the establishment of reservations.

[via the invaluable Rebecca Onion]

Bombs filled with bats carrying incendiary devices


In January of 1942, as the U.S was entering World War II, a Pennsylvania dentist (and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt) named Lytle Adams submitted the design of a new weapon to the White House, suggesting that it could be effective against the Japanese. Adams’ creation was a bomb that would drop over 800 hibernating bats – to each of which was attached a small incendiary device… as the bomb descended from a high-altitude drop, the bats would awaken, disperse, and nest in structures – which in Japan at the time were largely made of bamboo, paper, and other highly-flammable material. Later in the day the incendiaries would go off, starting fires across a wide area. Adams estimated that 100 bombs might start as many a 1,000,000 fires.

The U.S. military developed the “Bat Bomb”; and while the yields were never quite what Adams predicted, they were impressive enough to drive investment of an estimated $2 million. The project was abandoned only when it became clear that the Manhattan Project would finish before the Bat Bomb was ready.

(More about bats and bombs on Boing Boing)

Critical cruelty at One-Star Book Reviews

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“First of all, the whole thing is almost all dialogue.”

Further to our old friends at You Can’t Please Everyone, a Tumblr devoted to “reviews of classic books, culled from the internet’s think tank”: One-Star Book Reviews.

Terrible real estate agent photographs


Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs is a Tumblr devoted to “inexplicably bad property photographs."

What happened to the man who made canned rattlesnake?

It was on this date in 1931 that the Floridian Products Corporation made its first sale of canned rattlesnake. The company’s founder and chief “wrangler” was George Kenneth End; a Columbia journalism graduate unable to find a job, he and his family moved to Arcadia, Florida (near Tampa) to make a living at farming. But as End put it, “the rattlesnakes were more prolific than the crops I planted.” First he tanned them; then he tasted them. Surprised to find them palatable, he wrote to the The Tampa Tribune about the delicacy -- and received a stream of requests.

End made a business of supplying adventurous restaurateurs and gourmets until 1944, when he died of a rattlesnake bite.

Be sure to visit Lawrence's (Roughly) Daily website!

US Navy develops world’s worst e-reader

A sad tale from NavalTechnology.com:

nerdsingleIt is an unspoken rule of military procurement that any IT or communications technology will invariably be years behind what is commercially available or technically hobbled to ensure security. One case in point is the uncomfortably backronymed NeRD, or Navy e-Reader Device, an electronic book so secure the 300 titles it holds can never be updated. Ever...

Developer Findaway World began development of the bespoke devices for the Navy two years ago, and now 365 of them are being rolled out to ships and submarines, with each vessel initially receiving about five. The company has already delivered similar gadgets to members of the US Army and other military personnel.

The brainchild of the Navy's General Library Program, the electronic ink Kindle-alike has no internet capability, no removable storage, no camera and no way to add or delete content. This is to prevent it being used to smuggle secret military data ashore, take illicit photos, introduce computer malware or record covert conversations.

The books have been selected to keep the average sailor happy. But if readers' tastes extend beyond bestsellers like the Game Of Thrones and Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, authors deemed popular with Navy readers like Tom Clancy and James Patterson, American classics, and naval history, they could become a little bored...

US Navy develops world’s worst e-reader

Be sure to visit Lawrence's (Roughly) Daily website!

How 40 countries view moral issues

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 9.34.19 AMThe Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives. For each issue, respondents were asked whether the behavior is morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue.

Explore the results (and see larger versions of charts like the one above) here.

Movies that critics hate and audiences love (and vice versa)

It is no surprise that critics and viewers alike agree that The Godfather is the "best film" among the ~2600 films considered on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 100% score among professional reviewers and a 98% score from the audience. It is perhaps somewhat more surprising to learn which films divide those two groups; thanks to Benjamin Moore, we can contemplate that...

“Overrated” and “underrated” are slippery terms to try to quantify. An interesting way of looking at this, I thought, would be to compare the reviews of film critics with those of Joe Public, reasoning that a film which is roundly-lauded by the Hollywood press but proved disappointing for the real audience would be “overrated” and vice versa.

To get some data for this I turned to the most prominent review aggregator: Rotten Tomatoes...

On the whole it should be noted that critics and audience agree most of the time, as shown by the Pearson correlation coefficient between the two scores (0.71 across >1200 films). [But] using our earlier definition it’s easy to build a table of those films where the audience ending up really liking a film that was panned by critics:

Here we’re looking at those films which the critics loved, but paying audiences were then less enthused:

Explore an interactive version of the chart at the top of this post here; and read more of Moore's methodology and findings here.