Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Good book review!

I published a review of Johnny Bunko by Dan Pink a couple of weeks ago in The Miami Herald. The next week, I reviewed Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds (and two other books).

I took a look at Garr's site and discovered that he, too, reviewed Pink's book — in his own way. And here it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The world is fat

Love Ricky Gervais. Discovered his podcasts and old XFM (London) radio shows, picked up the DVDs of The Office, which he co-created (with Stephen Merchant) and Extras, the finale of which was one of the darkest "comedies" ever shown on TV.

Really wanted to see him on his American tour but no dates nearby. Also wanted the
tour video, Fame, but it's not been released in the U.S.

But I want it. Why can't I have it? It's a global market. This guy has been on Alias and The Simpsons, in A Night at the Museum and For Your Consideration, and has two or three other movies in (as they say) various stages of production.

So I watched Fame last night and will have the live videos, Animals and Politics shortly. BitTorrent, but I would have gladly purchased them, as I did with everything else, even the podcasts through

The world is flat? Piracy is killing your business?

Get a clue.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bad marketing

... at the very least. (That's Miley Cyrus, a/k/a Hannah Montana, from a Vanity Fair photo shoot.)

The obligatory apology: "I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be 'artistic' and now, seeing the photograph
s and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed... I appreciate all the support of my fans and hope they understand that along the way I am going to make mistakes and I am not perfect... I never intended for any of this to happen and I am truly sorry if I have disappointed anyone. Most of all, I have let myself down. I will learn from my mistakes and trust my support team. My family and my faith will guide me through my life's journey."

The photographer, Annie Leibovitz, said "I'm sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted. Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful."

I think that's correct, but how does Ms. Cyrus benefit from this? She's 15 years old and has a big following among mostly younger girls. It's a fairly innocent photo, but given the ongoing sexualization of young women, was this a very good idea?

Vanity Fair is in the magazine-selling business. But in what business is Miley Cyrus and, more importantly, her parents?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Still sucking

Marketing is tough. Primary goal is to elicit interest and action. Overcoming a bad image or experience is tough, too, and you rarely get a second chance.

CompUSA had a crappy reputation, shut down and re-launched under new ownership, Tiger Direct, who also has a poor image. They kept a bunch of stores closed but reopened several in South Florida, where they’re based.

A couple of weeks ago, I visited one and was unimpressed: not a lot of stock, uninteresting displays, few customers, and employees standing around talking to each other.

Saw a CompUSA ad in the newspaper earlier this week with a coupon for a bluetooth cell phone earpiece for $9.99. What the heck, it might be cheap, but for ten bucks, I’d give it a shot. The coupon was in Thursday’s paper, but the fine print said that it was only good on Friday and Saturday. It also had space for my name, address and e-mail. Smart! A loss leader to attract new customers and capture their contact info for future promo.

So I strolled into CompUSA a little after noon on Friday: a few customers but not many. In addition to the Bluetooth device, I intended to buy some blank DVDs. After a few minutes of searching, I went to the customer service desk. I was ignored for a couple of minutes but managed to interrupt the pair of chatting workers to ask where the DVDs were. One jerked a thumb to the right, but didn’t offer specifics. Undaunted, I flashed the bluetooth coupon.

“Oh, we’re sold out of those.”

“But they just went on sale today. How can that be?”

“We’ve been open for three hours,” he shrugged.

So that was that. I tossed the coupon, forgot about the DVDs and will forget about CompUSA. They still suck.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Fan" is short for "Fanatic"

A subtext of the current trial of the fan who published a Harry Potter-related book is that there's a difference between being an admirer of something and doing it professionally.

The line has always been blurry; the distinction between amateur and professional can be an ambiguous one, a situation made more so by the Internet. But back in the days of my music promotion-guy
career, I was stunned when I discovered that many (if not most) musicians started out as fans or collectors. Same thing with sales, promo and a&r people. Some were now (like me) working music that wasn't exactly their favorite stuff. For example, I respected The Carpenters, Styx and Pablo Cruise as professionals, but wasn't interested in them as a fan, though I later came to like some of their music. But professionalism transcends being a fan. It has to.

To be a writer, you must be a reader. And as a reader, you may have favorite authors, genres, subjects, styles etc. If you emulate any of it, the danger is that it could become a pastiche, rather than something original. Nothing wrong with that, if it's intended, but if not, watch out for the critics — and the lawyers.

But fans — amateurs — are increasingly performing the tasks of professionals, thanks to the enabling powers of the Internet. The results are mixed, but the reaction of the status quo is predictable. In the case of journalism, the "mainstream media" disparages it, though a growing portion embraces it as a means of survival. (More about this in a future post.)

It's interesting, though, that the booming Internet-enabled democratization of news and commentary is so frequently disparaged and ridiculed. Two books in the past year astrongly criticized the phenomenon and were themselves
disparaged and ridiculed — not only by bloggers but by print journalists, as well.

Andrew Keen's "The Cult of the Amateur" and Lee Siegel's "Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob" were broad attempts to paint citizen-journalists, bloggers, fans and just about everyone else using the Internet to present facts or express opinions as a mob.

Larry Lessig, a Stanford Law professor, derisively "lauded" Keen for exposing the speciousness of his argument by exhibiting all the qualities he accused the Net's "amateurs" of: "sloppiness, error and ignorance."

Siegel is another case. Just Google his name and the term "sock puppet," and you'll see. (It's hard to criticize something when you don't have clean hands to begin with, though contrition and redemption are possible.)

It's hardly revelatory to say that some people write and post things without knowing very much about the subject — or knowing less than a professional. But being a fan of something doesn't automatically devalue what they say, either, or make it less authoritative.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Was (Not Was) is...

One of the best tracks on Boo! is "It's A Miracle." See (hear) for yourself. And read this interview that covers the history of the band.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Raymond Chandler

I love Chicago. I first visited that great city one winter with my college pal Mark Brown on a visit to his parents, who'd just moved there in the early 70s.

We had a short but terrific stay, packing a lot of things
into our brief visit: Muddy Waters at a blues club, getting stopped by a crooked traffic cop (paid him off, as I recall), and some great food. The trip was slightly marred by the fact that I was coming down with mono (I thought I was lovesick at the time).

The city is currently doing one of those "everybody reads the same book" deals, and chose a novel by a writer who essentially ignored
Chicago and wrote extensively about another place: Los Angeles.

Raymond Chandler was born in Chicago but is the leading chronicler of L.A. in the 30s and 40s. He's been in and out of style but his books have never gone out of print, and may be the most imitated American writer of all time, surpassing even Heming
way (whom Chandler tried to copy as a way of learning the craft).

(While poking around the site and links from the Chicago Chandler thing, I came upon a superb article by another old pal, Mike Valerio, on Chandler's Los Angeles. Mike's ex, Rosie Taravella, is a wonderful actress and terrific person who's the director of the
Rochester High Falls Film Festival, btw.)

The Chandler novel selected by Chicago is the story my favorite movie, The Long Goodbye, is based on.

Elliot Gould, a highly controversial choice at the time, played Chandler's private eye protagonist, Philip Marlowe. The ending of the film, which differed from the novel, was also provocative (but so was the beginning).

The film is quite well known for its soundtrack (which was released years after the movie in a limited edition that's out of print) featuring the title song performed by a diversity of musicians in a variety styles (jazz vocal, instrumental, mariachi et al) in different scenes. It also features David Carradine, Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, Sterling Harden and a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as a thug in the gang of Marty Angelo, played by the journeyman film director Mark Rydell.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tommy Lee @ Home Depot?!

I'd just picked out a new kitchen faucet and was looking for that liquid you pour down the air conditioner drain thing to keep it from getting jammed with mold and gunk when I spotted a very tall guy with obviously dyed-black hair a few feet ahead of me, walking past. Familiar face. Took a moment to register but it was Tommy Lee, Motley Crüe drummer and Pamela Anderson's ex-husband and video co-star. He wore a loose-fitting shirt that covered up all of his tats, but the smirk was unmistakable.

I filed the sighting away in the depths of my brain. It didn't seem all that remarkable. My sons swore to me that parts of the first Jackass movie were filmed in the same Home Depot, so why not?

Then, this morning, reading the news-free local newspaper, I see a photo of the band and a blurb saying they're going to begin their next tour at a nearby venue and were in town for the press conference. So it probably was Mr. Lee at Home Depot, maybe getting something for HIS faucet.

Friday, April 11, 2008


E-mail yesterday from Ticketmaster; Steely Dan would be performing at a nearby venue in a month and a half. Yay!

So I clicked on the link; tickets on sale the next day. Argh!

Not acceptable. Noticed a box for a presale code. Hmm...

Several seconds later
online, I found a code, returned to Ticketmaster and bought a pair of not-so cheap seats.

Another wonderful, unsatisfying transaction with one of the worst companies on the face of the earth.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Got It!

New Was (Not Was) album, "Boo!"
Their first in 16 years!
Review tk.