Daddy's Little Obfuscator

The McMahan clan tries a new way to attack our "Daddy's Girl" bombshell -- by dive-bombing Wikipedia

"I can't believe you are calling me," she responded when we called. "I am not speaking to you!" Click.

Ah, well. Hell hath no fury like a girl in white-knuckled denial about her daddy.

Back to the Future

Sometimes something pops in Tailpipe's addled brain and he can see the future as clearly as the asphalt under his pipe. Suddenly it's mid-April, and Pat Riley is stepping up to a bank of microphones. He's about to give the Top Ten Reasons Riley's Quitting the Heat:

10. The price of Brylcreem is going way up because of the oil shortage.

9. The titanium in his hip tends to rust in Florida humidity.

8. Shaq went law 'n' order on him, busting him for shameless opportunism.

7. The fans really love Ron Rothstein.

6. Charles Barkley took him off his list of cell phone faves.

5. Lou Saban wants him to teach Alabama quarterbacks to shoot the j.

4. Antoine Walker.

3. He wants to spend more time with his family.

2. He wants to spend more time with Stan Van Gundy's family.

1. The Heat is on a three-game losing streak.

The Mouse Roars

Knock on Disney's door these days and you're liable to get not that plucky little mouse with a high-pitched voice but another familiar movie studio icon — the roaring lion. Make that the studio lion around dinnertime on a really bad day. For a lot of ordinary people, the hungry roar and the glimpse of corporate teeth are enough to get them to shell out thousands of dollars.

We're talking about alleged home "pirates," accused of illegally downloading films from so-called "file-sharing networks."

Jay Bartels, recovering addict, God-fearing single dad, and web entrepreneur, found himself being sued by Disney Enterprises Inc. for — he can hardly believe it — copyright infringement.

"They called me a pirate and insinuated that I was making DVD-quality movies and selling them," Bartels told Tailpipe the other day, still smarting over the insult published on the MPAA website. "They said, 'You can click, but you can't hide. '"

Disney lawyers say Bartels pirated copies of The Incredibles and National Treasure back in 2004, while the movies were still in theaters. Hollywood studios have been suing batches of individuals for two or three years now over sharing, sometimes even a single film. The bulk of those cases wind up settled out of court, says Elizabeth Kaltman, communications director of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), an organization that helps the movie business fight copyright theft.

Most defendants would rather settle for $6,000 than risk losing the case, which could mean forking over $30,000 and perhaps facing jail time. At least, those are the intimidating figures Bartels says he was given by Disney's lawyers.

Kaltman said she couldn't recall a single case going to trial.

But Bartels — a loquacious 47-year-old who often talks like a character from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and who, as far as the 'Pipe can see, is the last person in the world you'd expect to be plotting to distribute thousands of bootlegged DVDs in Phnom Penh or Maracaibo — is different. He says that he was, in effect, the victim in the case, charging that Disney's private investigators violated his privacy by tapping into the computer in his Boca Raton home.

Bartels admits he downloaded the movies — by accident, he says. He had set up a home entertainment system by wiring his computer to his large television set, but he found that some of his DVDs were in the wrong format to view that way. So he turned to the file-sharing network Kazaa to download movies he already owned. Because of the confusing nature of the downloading process, he says, he sometimes got more movies than he asked for.

An excellent adventure went terribly wrong. First, there were the lousy copies he got. File-sharing networks often put up grainy copies of a film, procured with portable videocams filming screens in movie theaters, complete with the silhouettes of other moviegoers sitting closer to the screen. The downloads that Bartels got were unwatchable, he says.

Instead of deleting the movies, though, he left them on his computer. Through clandestine means on the Internet, investigators found those along with all the other movies Bartels downloaded in his MySharedFolder.

Bartels has since moved from Boca Raton to Tampa, but soon he'll be driving back down in his 1988 Dodge Caravan, which at the moment has a broken window he can't afford to fix, for his day in court. He'll represent himself, he says. No date has been set yet. Tailpipe hopes he wins, maybe even setting a precedent for other unassuming Kazaa users facing the prospect of handing over six grand for sharing a movie.

The Oily Bird Saves the Warm

Maine transplant Emma Donovan spent more than $1,500 to convert her 1998 Jetta to run on vegetable oil. You'll recognize the smell when she drives past: just like French fries bubbling in the deep fryer. The recent arrival is part of a growing wave of people getting their vehicles off the gasoline grid, but she's finding that South Florida is a bit assbackward. Some restaurants are surprised when she asks to drain their fryers into a tank in her trunk, though they comply with her seemingly odd request. But the bigger places usually balk. A few have even been rude to the 30-something, Hollywood-based Earth mama, not understanding that their spent cooking oil can power an automobile and refusing to even entertain the possibility.

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