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Money Today

MasterCard Asia-Pacific has a new card featuring the likeness of New York Met Kazuo Matsui.

MasterCard Asia-Pacific has a new card featuring the likeness of New York Met Kazuo Matsui. Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't you find it a bit unnerving to have a guy with a baseball bat printed on your credit card? Well, at least it's not a picture of Robert DeNiro in his role as Al Capone in The Untouchables, or from Goodfellas, when he wraps a phone cord around Morrie's throat ... "Money today! Today!"

Thanks to the wireless telecom revolution, it has become increasingly difficult to strangle a busy executive with his own telephone. At the same time, the proliferation of annoying ringtones has made strangling a busy executive more appealing than ever before.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the ringtone business reached $128.6 million in revenues in 2003. And now that high-quality audio snippets have made their way to handset devices, it's easier than ever to get decked out in the latest aural fashions.

Card issuers could get involved with their own twist: "Ka-Ching Tones(tm)." Imagine a point-of-sale merchant terminal that plays digital audio files stored on customers' smart cards. So you're buying a new pair of basketball sneakers? Swoosh! Flowers? Smooch! Two tickets to Pittsburgh? Whoosh! Overdrawn? BZZZZZT!

Or, the technology of VoIC (Voice over Integrated Circuit) might work best as a biometric identifier. The consumer could be asked to read his or her favorite poetry or prose over the phone, with the resulting digital recordings stored on the chip card upon issuance. Then, the customer would be asked at checkout, in lieu of a signature, to recite one of the stored passages from memory.

It would be an impressive identity thief with the ability to mimic someone reciting Robert Frost, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech or a passage from "Circe's Power," by U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Gluck: "I never turned anyone into a pig. / Some people are pigs; I make them / look like pigs."

If the bankruptcy rate starts going up along with interest rates, more than a few consumer lenders may also want to learn that poem by heart.

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