Archive | January 10, 2013

Musician whose vintage guitar was smashed by Delta gets check from airline, new one from Gibson

Delta has formally apologized to Dave Schneider, the musician whose vintage guitar was shredded by the airline’s baggage handlers at a Detroit airport last month, and offered to pay him for his prized ax.

Schneider, guitarist and singer for Hanukkah-themed rock band The LeeVees and the hockey-themedZambonis, had asked Delta staffers not to check in his 1965 Gibson ES-335—which he estimates is worth about $10,000—on a flight from Buffalo, N.Y., to Detroit, Mich. He asked if he could carry it on the plane instead, but he was denied.

After landing in Detroit, the case carrying Schneider’s semihollow-body guitar became lodged between the mobile service elevator and a rail on the loading dock, shaking the elevator door. The case even bent a steel beam.

The guitar itself was pinned between two beams, sustaining an estimated $1,980 in damage to the bridge, neck and tail. Workers took nearly an hour to retrieve it.

Schneider said he was then given the “runaround” by Delta. The airline reluctantly offered to cut him a check for $1,000 in Tampa, Fla., his eventual destination. Schneider refused the check, because he didn’t know how much the repairs would cost. The online claim forms he filled out after the guitar carnage were blank when Schneider later checked on them, and two emails he sent to Delta chief executive Richard Anderson were not returned.

On Friday, after Yahoo News first ran the story on Schneider’s ordeal, a Delta representative contacted him and this week agreed to pay for the guitar. Delta also gave him a pair of free vouchers for future flights.

 

[Also read: ‘Musician’s worst nightmare’: Vintage Gibson guitar mangled by airline baggage handlers]

Meanwhile, Gibson contacted Schneider, too, offering repairs on the damaged 1965 ES-335 as well as a brand-new 50th anniversary reissue of a 1963 Gibson ES-335, free of charge.

“We all know Gibson guitars rock,” Schneider wrote in an email to Yahoo. “But at this moment, the Gibson company is rocking even harder than Pete Townshend’s Les Paul.” Schneider says he plans to purchase additional guitars from Gibson for an upcoming charity auction.

“To be honest, with Gibson reaching out to me,” he wrote, “that’s the cherry on top of the best musical nightmare ever.”

Schneider hopes his story helps someone in a similar situation.

“When a company obviously does something wrong, they should quickly find a fair solution,” Schneider wrote. “It’s not about a guitar, or a musician, it’s about making your customers feel good and trust that they are in good hands. Sadly, in this case, I felt neither warm or cozy. The solution would not have happened without the mighty power of social media (thanks to Yahoo, CNN, Gawker, Facebook and every single person that hit share).

“I received quite a few apologies from different folks at Delta which seemed a bit forced,” he added. “But I will say that the last email which I pasted below was refreshingly genuine.”

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‘Smart’ potty or dumb idea? Wacky gadgets at CES

From the iPotty for toddlers to the 1,600-pound mechanical spider and the host of glitch-ridden “smart” TVs, the International CES show is a forum for gadget makers to take big — and bizarre — chances.

Many of the prototypes introduced at the annual gadget show over the years have failed in the marketplace. But the innovators who shop their wares here are fearless when it comes to pitching new gizmos, many of which are designed to solve problems you didn’t know you had.

A search for this year’s strangest (and perhaps least useful) electronic devices yielded an extra-loud pair of headphones from a metal band, an eye-sensing TV that didn’t work as intended and more. Take a look:

—MOTORHEADPHONES

Bass-heavy headphones that borrow the names of hip-hop luminaries like Dr. Dre have become extremely popular. Rock fans have been left out of the party — until now. British metal band Motorhead, famous for playing gut-punchingly loud, is endorsing a line of headphones that “go to eleven” and are hitting U.S. stores now.

Says lead singer and bassist Lemmy Kilmister, explaining his creative input: “I just said make them louder than everybody else’s. So that’s the only criteria, and that it should reflect every part of the sound, not just the bass.”

The Motorheadphone line consists of three over-the-ear headphones and six in-ear models. The initiative came from a Swedish music-industry veteran, and distribution and marketing is handled by a Swedish company, Krusell International AB.

WHO IT’S FOR: People who don’t care about their hearing. According to Kilmister, the headphones are ideal for Motorhead fans. “Their hearing is already damaged, they better buy these.”

PRICE: Prices range from $50 to $130.

—EYE-SENSING TV

A prototype of an eye-sensing TV from Haier didn’t quite meet viewers eye-to-eye. An on-screen cursor is supposed to appear where the viewer looks to help, say, select a show to watch. Blinking while controlling the cursor is supposed to result in a click. In our brief time with the TV, we observed may quirks and comic difficulties.

For one, the company’s demonstrator Hongzhao Guo said the system doesn’t work that well when viewers wear eyeglasses. (That kind of defeats the purpose of TV, no?) But it turns out, one bespectacled reporter was able to make it work. But the cursor appeared a couple inches below where the viewer was looking. This resulted in Guo snapping his fingers to attract the reporter’s eye to certain spots. The reporter dutifully looked, but the cursor was always a bit low. Looking down to see the cursor only resulted in it moving further down the TV screen.

WHO IT’S FOR: People too lazy to move their arms.

“It’s easy to do,” Guo said, taking the reporter’s place at the demonstration. He later said the device needs to be recalibrated for each person. It worked fine for him, but the TV is definitely not ready for prime-time.

—PARROT FLOWER POWER

A company named after a bird wants to make life easier for your plants. A plant sensor called Flower Power from Paris-based Parrot is designed to update your mobile device with a wealth of information about the health of your plant and the environment it lives in. Just stick the y-shaped sensor in your plant’s soil, download the accompanying app and — hopefully — watch your plant thrive.

“It basically is a Bluetooth smart low-energy sensor. It senses light, sunlight, temperature, moisture and soil as well as fertilizer in the soil. You can use it either indoors or outdoors,” said Peter George, vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas at Parrot. The device will be available sometime this year, the company said.

WHOT IT’S FOR: ‘Brown-thumbed’ folk and plants with a will to live.

PRICE: Unknown.

—HAPIFORK

If you don’t watch what you put in your mouth, this fork will — or at least try to. Called HAPIfork, it’s a fork with a fat handle containing electronics and a battery. A motion sensor knows when you are lifting the fork to your mouth. If you’re eating too fast, the fork will vibrate as a warning. The company behind it, HapiLabs, believes that using the fork 60 to 75 times during meals that last 20 to 30 minutes is ideal.

But the fork won’t know how healthy or how big each bite you take will be, so shoveling a plate of arugula will likely be judged as less healthy than slowly putting away a pile of bacon. No word on spoons, yet, or chopsticks.

WHO IT’S FOR? People who eat too fast. Those who want company for their “smart” refrigerator and other kitchen gadgets.

PRICE: HapiLabs is launching a fundraising campaign for the fork in March on the group-fundraising site Kickstarter.com. Participants need to pay $99 to get a fork, which is expected to ship around April or May.

— IPOTTY

Toilet training a toddler is no picnic, but iPotty from CTA Digital seeks to make it a little easier by letting parents attach an iPad to it. This way, junior can gape and paw at the iPad while taking care of business in the old-fashioned part of the plastic potty. IPotty will go on sale in March, first on Amazon.com.

There are potty training apps out there that’ll reward toddlers for accomplishing the deed. The company is also examining whether the potty’s attachment can be adapted for other types of tablets, beyond the iPad.

“It’s novel to a lot of people but we’ve gotten great feedback from parents who think it’d be great for training,” said CTA product specialist Camilo Gallardo.

WHO IT’S FOR: Parents at their wit’s end.

PRICE: $39.99

—MONDO SPIDER, TITANOBOA

A pair of giant hydraulic and lithium polymer battery controlled beasts from Canadian art organization eatART caught some eyes at the show. A rideable 8-legged creature, Mondo Spider weighs 1,600 pounds and can crawl forward at about 5 miles per hour on battery power for roughly an hour. The 1,200-pound Titanoboa slithers along the ground at an as yet unmeasured speed.

Computer maker Lenovo sponsored the group to show off the inventions at CES.

Hugh Patterson, an engineer who volunteers his time to making the gizmos, said they were made in part to learn more about energy use. One lesson from the snake is that “side winding,” in which the snake corkscrews its way along the ground, is one of the most efficient ways of moving along soft ground, like sand.

Titanoboa was made to match the size of a 50-foot long reptile whose fossilized remains were dated 50 million years ago, when the world was 5 to 6 degrees warmer. The creature was built “to provoke discussion about climate change,” Patterson said.

The original version of Mondo Spider, meanwhile, first appeared at the Burning Man arts gathering in Nevada in 2006.

WHO IT’S FOR: Your inner child, Burning Man participants, people with extra-large living rooms.

PRICE: The spider’s parts cost $26,000. The Titanoboa costs $70,000. Engineers provided their time for free and both took “thousands of hours” to build, Patterson said.

Professor won’t back down from Newtown massacre conspiracy theory

A media professor at Florida Atlantic University who is questioning the Sandy Hook massacre has caused controversy with his conspiracy claims.

James Tracy, who writes a personal blog about conspiracy theories, believes the events that unfolded at Sandy Hook did not happen as reported.

The professor writes on his blog, Memory Hole, “While it sounds like an outrageous claim, one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place—at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.” He suggests that there were multiple shooters and that the number of dead is incorrect. The blog post was published on the Global Research site, where it caught the attention of the Web.

The academic, who is known for his conspiracy theories on 9/11 and the Oklahoma bombing, believes—as he claims on his blog and recently stated on a radio show—that trained “crisis actors” may have been employed by the Obama administration to shape public opinion on gun control.

The 47-year-old, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in mass communication, wrote on his blog, “ As documents relating to the Sandy Hook shooting continue to be assessed and interpreted by independent researchers there is a growing awareness that the media coverage of the massacre of 26 children and adults was intended primarily for public consumption to further larger political ends.”

According to his faculty profile, the professor “teaches courses examining the relationship between commercial and alternative news media and socio-political issues and events.” He also lists his recent work in “Censored 2013: Sourcebook for the Media Revolution. The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012.”

When questioned about his theories by a local CBS12 news reporter, Tracy responded, “The whole country mourned about Sandy Hook, but yet again the investigation that journalistic institutions should have carried out never took place, in my opinion.”

He added, “As a society we need to look at things more carefully. Perhaps we as a society have been conditioned to be duped.”

His blog, with 222 followers, lays out his theory in detail, suggesting that it was a training exercise in which actually nobody was killed. He writes, “To declare that the shooting ‘never took place’ is cause for intense opprobrium in most polite circles where, in familiar Orwellian fashion, the media-induced trance and dehistoricized will to believe maintain their hold.”

Speaking on behalf of Tracy, Peter Phillips, president of the Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored, said in a statement to Yahoo News:

James Tracy isn’t promoting a “conspiracy” theory regarding Sandy Hook, but rather saying the mainstream media distorts the news, and doesn’t follow up on important questions. There were reports of more than one shooter in the Sandy Hook case. Tracy is not denying that it happened, but he is saying that when such events do happen it is the responsibility of the media to fully investigate all aspects of the story and not just sensationalize the tragedy.

Tracy’s employer has distanced itself from its faculty member’s remarks. Mary Jane Saunders, the president of Florida Atlantic University, said in a statement to Yahoo News that reads in part:

I am sure that many of you are aware of the recent comments by a Florida Atlantic University faculty member regarding the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14. I want to make it clear that those views and opinions are not shared by Florida Atlantic University, and I am personally saddened by any media stories that have added to the pain felt by the victims’ families. FAU joins the entire nation and people around the world in feeling profound grief for the lives lost on that awful day.