The Principled World According to Dick Cheney

18_cheney_lgl

“From kindergarten to graduation, I went to public schools, and I know that they are a key to being sure that every child has a chance to succeed and to rise in the world.”
– Dick Cheney

In high school, I had a tutor, and she was a nice enough lady, even if she was narrow minded, conservative and a tad too religious for my tastes. But, this was Centerville, Ohio and to expect a tutor who was an intellectual progressive would have been to believe in unicorns. Even after all this time, one of her lessons still resonates with me, the difference between principle and principal.

I had made that grammatical mistake in a paper I had written and she pointed out “the easiest way to remember the difference is that a principle is a belief and the principal of your school is your pal.” While I became instantly aware of the difference, under no circumstances was my high school unit principal, Mr. Durnbauugh, my pal.

If white collar marginalization is the adult equivalent to waterboarding, then high school is a teenagers introduction to both marginalization and torture. And every Monday morning in high school I was blasted with that as I would wake up with the dread of knowing I would be met with a pink slip from my homeroom teacher telling me to go visit Mr. Durnbaugh. It’s not like I was some sort of hellion who was blowing things up, mouthing off to teachers or truant to the point of expulsion, I was way too high to care about most of that stuff. Come to think of it, weed was mostly responsible for those visits. It would seem that at one point during the previous week, one teacher or another would report me for being “out of sorts” (stoned) or tardy (pot heads are not known for punctuality). Those were my only infractions, outside of typical sullenness, which wasn’t a punishable crime at that point. Invariably, I’d walk into home room, not even sit down, grab my pink slip and go visit Mr. Durnbaugh. Who would dole out Saturday school to me. And for those of you wondering if “The Breakfast Club” was real, it did exist. And thanks to Mr. Durnbaugh, “The Breakfast Club” hit pretty close to home for me when it was released.

Thankfully, the guy who monitored the 7a-12p Saturday school sessions was my sophomore English teacher, who either liked me or was afraid of me, I never knew and never really cared because I was usually WAY too high and felt the punishment was beyond silly. While he was militant with the other kids about doing school work, I usually got a pass reading whatever rock and roll biography I had my nose in or the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Once and while he’d stop at my desk and say “At least make it look like schoolwork.”

But neither Mr. Durbaugh nor that Saturday school monitor were my high school teaching nemesis. That title belonged to David Mark Fife. This guy was barely out of college when I had him for freshman science. Mr. David Mark Fife, with his nicely trimmed beard, solid button down shirts and knight ties and wide corduroy pants, would zero in on me daily and, while I was a wise ass, I am not sure I was deserving of much of the sarcasm of verbal accosting I took from that guy. Little did I realize that I would become as hated to him as Osama Bin Laden was to Dick Cheney.

Back then radio was much different than it is today. And in the little suburban sanctuary of Centerville, Ohio anyone under thirty lived and breathed by the local AOR station, WTUE. This predated the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and syndication so radio stations and their DJ’s were pretty tailored to their markets. And the morning shows were the centerpiece of information, music and humor for cities outside of major metropolitan areas. At WTUE , Jeff Curry and Dan Pugh (who would later find success as ESPN God Dan Patrick) were ours and it just so happened that Jeff Curry was my half brother.

One of the more popular characters created during that time was Waldo Snivels, a dweeby sort of guy who was always unlucky at…everything. Well, they had created a storyline where Waldo met a woman and fell in love. So in the final storyline for the character he fell in love and was to get married. Obviously, given Mr. David Mark Fife’s age, and our class discussions about Waldo, I knew he was a fan of the morning show. The Friday morning before Waldo Snivels Monday morning nuptials, I made a bet with Fife that Waldo wouldn’t get married. Mr. David Mark Fife took the bet, not knowing my inside line. OK, I probably shouldn’t have made the bet, but I wanted to one up the bastard, even if it was only for a Snickers bar.

Monday morning came and during the morning show the Mayor of Dayton had run off with Waldo’s bride, leaving him alone at the alter. So, I walked into Mr. Fife’s class with way too much confidence and announced to the class, and a fuming Mr. Fife, that he lost and owed me a Snickers bar. Unbeknownst to me, someone had told him that my half brother was one half of the creative team of the morning show and after class he pulled me over to the side and from clenched teeth seethed “I don’t owe you shit you little bastard. You knew ahead of time what was going to happen.” He was pissed and I knew enough to shut up.

A few months later while we were all outside for a fire drill, I reminded him he still owed me a Snickers bar and he pulled me aside and said “You’re an asshole Higgons, that’s all you’re ever gonna be, you know that?” Apparently, he was still angry and again, I knew enough to shut up.

My sophomore year I ran into Mr. David Mark Fife in the hallway where he blocked my passage and said to me “Take a swing at me Higgons. I’ll give you a free shot. Go on, just take one swing at me.” This was after lunch so I was pretty high and didn’t take the bait, “No way, I hit you and you expel me.” He smirked and replied “Exactly.” I recall nervously laughing and walking around him, not knowing if it was a joke or not. Either this guy really hated me, had some serious rage issues or I was just a master of cutting sarcasm at 15. Somehow, the first two ring most true.

This was the era of overhead projectors and I knew Fife had all his notes on scrolls and I knew where he kept them. So one day after school in my junior year, I decided to go stealth on Mr. Fife and steal his notes. Well, I didn’t take them so much as just relocate them to another drawer in his classroom. Obviously, the next day there was quite a commotion during first period as Mr. David Mark Fife was in a state because his notes were missing. Being that my class was next door, he came in and asked if anyone knew anything about where they might be. I raised my hand and suggested “Maybe someone just moved them into another drawer in the classroom.” He stared at me and quietly stormed out of the classroom.

The last semester of my senior year it all came to a head. I had gained a little more confidence, surliness, and was beginning to relish in my anti-authoritarianism. I was walking by the lunchroom where kids sat for study hall and a friend threw a piece of orange at me. So I picked it up and threw it back at him and from behind me came “You throw like a girl Higgons, now go pick it up.” I turned and there he was, Mr. David Mark Fife. I replied, “What? I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t throw anything.” and kept walking.
“Go pick it up,” he said.
“No.” I said as he trotted up to grab my arm and swung me around.
“I saw you throw that, now go pick it up.”
“I didn’t throw anything and I am not picking up anything.”
“You can go pick it up or we can go to Mr. Durnbaugh’s office”, Fife said.
“Fine, let’s go”, I turned and headed towards the office with Mr. David Mark Fife in tow.

We made it to my princi”pals” office where Mr. David Mark Fife and I argued quite vociferously about what had happened with the orange. (Yep, the absurdity of this all still rings true to me.) It finally ended with me yelling “Why do you even bother to teach if you hate everyone so much?!” Sensing this was a millisecond from becoming a physical fight, Mr. Durnbaugh quickly ushered Mr. David Mark Fife out, saying “We’ll talk later”. He came back in to discuss what happened and I told my side of the story to my “pal”. Someone threw it at me, I threw it back. That was it. Durnbaugh asked who threw it first and I said I didn’t know (I wasn’t then and am still not, a rat). So he called my father and arranged for a meeting with the three of us the next morning.

The next morning as my father, Mr. Durnbaugh and I convened to recount the “orange incident”, I was given the choice of one week of out of school suspension or two months of Saturday school. When I asked what would happen to Mr. Fife, I was stonewalled. Feeling unjustly prosecuted, I opted for the out of school suspension because I felt that would ultimately be less painful. My father strongly suggested I take the Saturday school. He used the argument that “You don’t want an out of school suspension on your transcript.” Given my transcript and the college counselor’s sage “He shouldn’t go to college” advice, I’m not entirely sure it would have mattered all that much.

But then I got to thinking (it really is amazing how much quicker you can think without doing a wake and bake) and decided the Saturday school option was clearly the better choice because the assigned Saturdays took me through the end of my senior year which meant that Mr. Durnbaugh couldn’t add any more on my Monday morning visits for being high or tardy. Ultimately, I went with Saturday school…besides, I had just started a killer Bob Dylan biography.

So, what’s the ultimate point of this story? None, really. I just felt this story is marginally more interesting than the documentary “The World According to Dick Cheney”. If you watch this doc and are looking for some insight into the former Vice President, you won’t find it. And the truth is, I don’t think there is much to the man. He was, for better or worse, a straight shooter throughout his entire political career.

The only thing I took away from this documentary is that Dick Cheney was a deeply principled man and he was never interested in being anyone’s pal. And while I am diametrically opposed to him in every political and philosophical way, I couldn’t help but find myself fascinated by his steadfast commitment to his principles. It really is admirable. I mean really admirable. Sure, his ideals and principles have cost trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of lives overseas, shattered our international standing, etc. but he did stick to them. And in politics, that says a lot.

The only thing “The World According to Dick Cheney” left me wondering was what if his principles were different. What if he had actually used that steadfast commitment for good rather than duplicitous back stabbing politics, power, war mongering, torture, war profiteering, bastardizing the constitution, illegal incarceration, lining the pockets of Halliburton and the rich, etc. well, then maybe we’d all have been a little better off.

As for Mr. David Mark Fife? Well, that son of a bitch still owes me a Snickers bar.

Advertisements

Faith (not the George Michael album).

“I have learned that having faith is trusting in advance what will only makes sense in reverse.”
– Phillip Yancey

In life, you learn rather quickly whether you are a square peg in a square hole OR a round peg trying to fit in a square hole. If you are the latter, you may just be one of the creative set.

And being creative is no easy task. It’s almost setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. It’s an uphill battle at every turn. The path up the hill is loaded with signs telling you to “turn back”, “you’re not good enough”, “it’s been done before”, etc. So few eventually make it to the mountaintop, not because of lack of talent more because of giving up. The path can take its toll.

You have to have faith and believe in yourself.

In addition to slogging ahead and finding a way around those signs and all the set-backs, maybe you’ve got a day job that sucks the life and soul out of you. Maybe your family and friends are simply too busy with their own life to think about whatever it is you are doing. Maybe you’ve got a significant other who manifests their contempt for you by ignoring the very element that makes you, you. Maybe you simply are not that good…yet. That doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

You have to have faith. It is that simple.

Of course, there are those who have the privilege of benefactors, be they parents and trust funds or a social network large enough to fund every crowd funding campaign they start. But for everyone else, it’s a lonely, uphill struggle.

You’ve got to have faith, because no one else will.

Now look, having faith in yourself is neither God-centric nor the angry defiant “ME AGAINST THE WORLD” type of crap. If you define faith as God, that’s fine, but the “me against the world” stuff is teenage rebel stuff. Less esoteric to comprehend and juvenile is understanding that faith is simply believing in what you are doing, realizing that if you don’t do it someone else won’t. It’s that faith that gives you the strength to sit alone for hours on end sifting through your mind trying to find a seed to plant, water and grow.

The only thing you have to keep you going is you. You’ve got no one to hold your hand as you wander around in your head, no one to help guide you or mentor you or push yourself forward. It’s not that you lack vision or lack direction, you don’t. And it’s not necessarily that no one wants to help, they’re simply not you. Sometimes all of that crap comes together and overtakes you and you begin thinking, “What’s the point?”

That’s loosing faith. Don’t do that.

You hope that you’re creative voice is maybe, just maybe, loud enough to rise above the noise. And you get cranky that your job sucks the soul out of you, you get angry that your family and loved ones don’t hold you up above their own noise. It sucks, but you don’t stop. Because you can’t stop.

That’s faith.

No one can make you be creative. It’s impossible. And no one forces you to be creative. We may all start as clean slates but when we hit that fork in the road, which path do you take, the well traveled or the less traveled one? Most take the well traveled one. Is the white collar guy who connives and fails his way upward any less creative than the guy sitting alone in a dingy basement painting still life’s? We’ll never know. Which one provides more meaning to the world?

It’s that faith that keeps you painting.

Oh, and you’re gonna fail. You’re gonna make missteps. You’re gonna f*ck up. You’re gonna piss people off. You’re gonna alienate them. You can’t let those things stop you. It’s just creative collateral damage, or commonly known as “inspiration”.

But look, you’re simply never going to stop or silence the critics. If everyone loves you, they’re lying. If everyone hates you, they’re lying. The truth is always somewhere in the middle. The reality is it’s their own fear that makes them judge you. It’s their cowardice that prevents them from taking a risk and showing themselves.

Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who sticks to it and manages to rise above the fray, then those critics will be the first people in your corner wishing you well and patting you on the back saying “I knew you could do it!”, recalling all those “glory days”. To be clear, there is the “glory” in the crappy basement. Where is the “glory” in thinking no one gives a sh*t about what you do? Where is the “glory” in all that isolation? Where is the “glory” in all that “inspiration”? There is none, but you don’t stop because you can’t stop.

That’s faith.

You do what you do because you have faith in yourself and when you are racked with doubt or full of questions, you keep going. You push through because it is only you that can get you to where you want to be. You have no choice. You don’t give up because you can’t give up.

It’s not suffering for art, it’s not pissing and moaning that no one is paying attention, it’s not playing the role of tortured creator. You will suffer, no one will pay attention and you already are tortured, you’ve just got to deal with it.

It’s focus.
It’s perseverance.
It’s dedication.
It’s belief in yourself.

It’s faith.

The Wild One, Forever

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN AND POSTED MAY 2011.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

The hours that were yours, echo like empty rooms
The thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone
I woke last night and spoke to you,
not thinking you were gone
It felt so strange to lie awake, alone
No Regrets
Tom Rush

So, here I find myself banging on the keyboard with the one woman who won’t leave me (mother’s don’t count), my cat Lulu. I am not saying she may not split if I let her out the front door, but she’d probably just go far enough to chase birds. Lulu and I share that in common, we both chase birds and both seem to end up in the same chair, alone, listening to all kinds of sad bastard music. Currently spinning on the digital Wurlitzer is the master of romantic verisimilitude, Tom Petty and his appropriately named Heartbreakers.

The X is still gone. She said she would think about what she wanted. I foolishly believe she may actually be doing it. Those of you who think I am a cynic or negative, I defy you to find someone with my degree of optimism. What cynic would really get back together with the woman who pounded on his  heart once before?

Here the Lu and I sit, listening and thinking. Sure, I hope she is thinking about the relationship and just how foolish her reasoning was for leaving, but the reality is in what she said and not in the tears she held back. “You’ll never be what I want you to be” followed by “I love you.” Seems conflicting doesn’t it? It’s not. I know she loved me. And this time around I felt it. But, I do think she sold the whole relationship short. Sometimes when you short the market you win (see Goldman Sachs) and sometimes you lose (see everybody else).

The truth is I never will be what she wants. Not out of malice or stubbornness, it’s just that the ideal person for her, or for anyone, does not exist. You love the whole person or you don’t. Love is all encompassing and not selective. You can’t pick what you love about someone any more than you can pick who you love. She doesn’t understand that…yet. She will. Yes, there is behavior I could have modified and changed. Most of it I probably would have over time. Could she say the same thing?

“They call you the wild one, said stay ‘way from her
Said she could love no one if she tried”
The Wild One, Forever
-Tom Petty

I met her four years ago at a friends birthday party. The funny thing about the party is that I knew no one. They were all up and coming comedians and I wasn’t. I had been drinking…a lot, and had forgone dinner in exchange for one more pint of Guinness.

It was about midnight when we finally met. I had spent most of the night talking to one girl thinking I could sweet talk her into coming home with me, but she flatly told me she would never date a white guy. She looked pretty irritated when I said “Who said anything about dating?” Furthermore, who says six hours of drinking removes any charm?

Now, I recall talking to her, but I have no recollection of any formal introduction and certainly had no idea what the hell I said. After meeting her, I remember three things. The first was when I was talking to her, my buddy who’s birthday it was called me over and literally said “be careful with that one dude”. I had no idea what he meant. The second thing I recall was drinking scotch on his roof and smoking a cigarette. And the third was going to a bar and closing it out. I remember not having any idea where I was and her offering for me to stay with her. OK, so that’s four things.

We’re all adults here, I think we can surmise what happened next, even if no one can recall it. In the morning, I tried to sneak out because I had a writing workshop to get to, but she convinced me to stay…well into the afternoon. As I was leaving, I got her phone number, wrote in on my hand because I had not yet grasped the idea of putting someone’s phone number DIRECTLY into my cell phone. I was on the fence as to whether I would call her.

I knew we worked for the same company, so I checked her work stuff out. Did the requisite Google searching and the like. I did a little internet recon (myspace, etc) and decided to email her at her work because, in what will come as no shock, the phone number got all mucked up with sweat and grease and was illegible by the time I got home. I emailed, she replied and we agreed to have dinner. Although she would come to admit later she almost bailed on that date.

Blah blah blah, we fall in love, we move in together, we fight, it goes poorly, she asks me to leave (it was her place), I leave but stay in the neighborhood because I naively think she will come to her senses. All of that happened in the span of about 14-15 months.

We broke up and I began acting out, like ya do. Mostly just drinking too much and going into some very dark places emotionally. Fortunately, I have good friends who pulled me out when it looked too dark. I eventually righted myself and moved on. It’s the only option. Well, it’s the only option I considered.

About 14-15 months go by and she initiates contact with me again after seeing a photo of me on my web site with my then girlfriend. You see, while she may not have wanted me, God forbid someone else want me. I was with someone, it was a fine relationship and I just wasn’t terribly interested in moving backwards in my life. She doggedly pursued me. “Let’s get coffee.” “What time are you taking the train in the morning?” , etc. In no great surprise, the relationship I was in spiraled downwards and I ended it…poorly.

“Baby, time meant nothing, anything seemed real
Yeah, you could kiss like fire and you made me feel
Like every word you said was meant to be
No, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me.”
Even the Losers
-Tom Petty

For the longest time, I read that song that HE was the loser and today for the first time it dawned on me that SHE was the loser. “No, it couldn’t have been that easy to forget about me”, for years that line never registered. And you know what? Today it sounded clearer than it ever had in the past 30 years.

So the X and I reconvened and do you care to guess how long Act II lasted? If you guessed 14-15 months, you would be correct.

The X attacked this second round of the relationship with a ferocity I had never known she had. She wanted me, me. She wanted a future with me. I, because I am an optimist, bought it hook line and sinker and am a sap. I believe in the power of love (damn you Huey Lewis and your News). I made it a little difficult at first because I had never gotten back together with someone after that amount of time and there was some blood under the bridge. Wrong girl at the right time, I suppose that about sums it up. But I was dumb enough to think she was the right girl at the right time.

I had said the only way that it would work is if we were honest…and we were. We talked openly and honestly about everything. I don’t think she withheld too much from me. It was good and more often than not it was great. We talked about kids, we talked about places we would go, things we would do. We made love, we had sex, we fucked. We laughed, we cried, we sat in silence. We did things, we didn’t do things. We had a relationship. Apparently, we were having two different relationships.

I’d by lying if I said it was all great. It wasn’t. We fought, sometimes viciously, but we always righted the boat. It would take one of us (usually it was me) to clear the air by clearing the head and putting perspective on what the real problem was. Intelligent discourse is something I can get on board with, even when it comes to emotions. Yes, it may take a day or two to get there.

It’s funny to think about it. I have been in love a few times and I have loved some terrific women. And everyone has “the one that got away”. Well, all things being fair, there is a reason why everything ends and time taints your ability to see those reasons. So in some cases, what we see as “the one that got away” may, in fact, just be the one that ended before it got tragic and sad.

I’ll end up some story the X tells her kids. The one about the older guy she dated and who “got away”, how “he was maybe a little much too handle, but he was good and treated me well. He really loved me.” She’ll tell her girls to not make the same mistake. And they will, we all do. She’ll tell her sons to treat their girlfriends the way I treated her and they will…and then they won’t. The circle will never be broken, it’s the way of this sort of thing.

In a previous post I had mentioned that my parents represent a spirit of rock and roll because they have stuck it out for almost 50 fucking years now! And no, maybe their relationship is not perfect (whose really is though) but they made the commitment to one another and come hell or high water they have slogged through it. And THAT says more than a thing or two to someone like me.

Here we are, about 16 months after our reconciliation (is it just me or is this 14-16 month thing a trend) and it’s done…again. I love her. That will never change. I want her. I desire her. I want her to want that with me. But she feels there is someone else out there who is going to fulfill her in some way I don’t. And I suspect that is true. I also suspect it will last for less than two years. I’m not entirely convinced she will ever know the meaning and value of what it means to be in love.

Love is what it is, a word. It’s the emotion behind it that defines the word. And unless you can understand and wrap your head around that emotion, love is, and will always be, just a word. Love is also the easiest part of a relationship.

The government has the military industrial complex and those outside government have its romantic equivalent, a relationship. Both are expensive to maintain, contradictory, invariably involve some degree of deceit and covert activity and always end with people getting hurt.

“You better watch what you say
you better watch what you do to me
don’t get carried away
Girl if you can do better than me
go…yeah, go
But remember, good love is hard to find,
good love is hard to find,
you got lucky babe
you got lucky babe, when I found you.”
You Got Lucky
-Tom Petty

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, pop star for the broken hearted. I mean really, the songs are unending, “Stop Draggin My Heart Around”, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, “Straight Into Darkness”, etc. Some broads really put their hearts through the ringer.

The Lu and I sit and write and listen to the sounds of the people who could put this sort of thing to music. The type of music that resonates with everyone. Rock and roll knows A LOT about a couple of things and one of them is love and lost love.

The X is still gone and I don’t anticipate her return. I anticipate a call when she sees me with another woman or in 14-16 months, whichever comes first. Life is about choices and you can’t always make the right one. And with love, you never know if it’s right. You only know when it’s wrong.

Maybe I am just wrong for her. I’m no saint and I sure as hell am not the easiest guy to get along with, but I am real. I am always me. I stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t in my early 30’s. I don’t want to hurt anyone and I don’t want to hurt and I find that the easiest way to do that is to be honest. Honest with myself and honest with those close to me.

She has an ideal in her head, don’t we all? The X owes it to herself to see if that person exists. I never said she was the right one for me, did I? No, I simply know I want her. Big, big, BIG difference. I never promised I’d spend the rest of my life with her, that would be a lie. I know I WANT to, but I can’t say for certain. If I made that promise, rest assured that is what I would strive for, but to make it now would be a lie.

Who knows, maybe that Hollywood ending of true love forever exists for her. But my experiences, my friends experiences, every artists experiences, every musicians experiences, every writers experiences, tells me that love has more to do with work, compromise, acceptance, understanding, hurt, empathy, respect, pain, tenderness, support, understanding, laughter and ultimately sacrifice and so much much more. And all of those can change on the drop of a dime.

When you fall in love, and I mean true love, you strap yourself in, put your helmet on and go for the ride.

Lulu and I both share a love/hate relationship with birds. Both are bipeds, but one has literal wings and the other has figurative wings. I pine for them out in the word while pines for them through the window. While our desires are similar, something tells me our motivations are different.

Nonetheless, I think perhaps I will join the Lu and just look at them through the window for awhile.

“Birds”
Neil Young

Lover, there will be another one
Who’ll hover over you beneath the sun
Tomorrow see the things that never come
Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go

It’s over, it’s over.

Nestled
in your wings my little one
This special
morning brings another sun
Tomorrow
see the things
that never come

Today

When you see me
Fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go

It’s over, it’s over.

Circle Jerkin’

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go.
You lead by going to that place and making a case.”

— Ken Kesey

The annual broadcast network, advertising and media buying circle jerk known as the upfront is underway. Yesterday saw both NBC and Fox release their fall 2013 schedules.  Today, ABC releases their schedule and tomorrow it is current network king CBS’s turn, and for those who care, Thursday is the CW.

These four days are traditionally the time when the majority of advertising is booked on each specific network, based upon their programming. It’s the way the business has operated pretty much since…well, it’s the way it’s always operated.

It’s also been a time when all the programming executives get an opportunity to self flagellate their brilliance in front of an increasingly skeptical advertising community. In the case of NBC, skepticism from the ad community is now bordering on outright hostility.

No other broadcast network in history has had a more difficult time than NBC trying to regain some of their viewership. They continue to stumble and make programming decisions that not only baffle advertisers and viewers alike but also leaves them scratching their head wondering what on earth is going at the once blue chip net. For a few years I was convinced NBC was on a path to deliberately broadcast the worst television shows to attract viewers.

Maybe something is afoot at the Circle K though. Since the Comcast acquisition, NBCU CEO Steve Burke has cleaned house, from the top down, and got rid of a lot of the human detritus left by Jeff Zucker. I might argue there is more to be done, but I digress. In so doing, Burke and Comcast made a solid commitment to re-building their NBC prime time schedule and re-building the bridges that Zucker and team so cavalierly blew up…repeatedly.

After watching their upfront presentation yesterday, I am happy to say that it appears as though NBCU CEO Steve Burke and NBC Programming head Robert Greenblatt might actually be on the right path. They’ve done what no one thought was possible, a really good job.

I honestly didn’t think there was any hope for NBC at all but to my utter amazement, they presented a nice slate of shows. NBC presented a really comprehensive and interesting schedule. Here is a list of some of the new shows:

Million Second QuizUnscripted and stupid. I may be wrong here, but this looks absolutely ridiculous. If ever there was a show pitched from a cocktail napkin, this is it. I’m not going to even describe it. If you want to know, waste your own time and look it up.

The Michael J. Fox ShowScripted Comedy. I have to be honest I was beyond skeptical about this show. NBC ordered a complete season without a pilot. It seemed like a huge gamble based on Mr. Fox’s illness. It also seemed like a desperate grab to go back in time. BUT, from the trailer I saw, it looks really funny. I laughed out loud twice! Michael J. Fox is still incredibly charming and very funny. I suspect the Parkinson’s jokes and storyline may get old quick but provided the peripheral players are able to hold their own and support Fox, this show should really work.

Shame on NBC for flagrantly using their other news programs within the context of this show. It’s contrived and extremely hollow, I hope they re-think that. Aside from that gripe, this show actually looks really good.

About a Boy – Scripted Comedy. Based on the Nick Hornby book and the Hugh Grant movie from 2002, this just looks dumb. It won’t work. Nice try and may achieve some modest success in the short run, but this will eventually be a dud.

Sean Saves the World – Scripted Comedy. Sean Hayes plays a gay dad raising his teenage daughter. Linda Lavin plays his mother. No one does befuddled gay guy better than Sean Hayes and Linda Lavin is always a nice treat, it’s just too bad this is the vehicle they chose. NBC appears to be fixated on branching out and capturing the gay audience and expect this show to go the way of The New Normal, that is to say, cancelled.

The Family Guide – Scripted Comedy. Blind divorced dad J.K. Simmons gets a guide dog and young son feels replaced. Jason Bateman and David Schwimmer are producers with Bateman providing the voice over. I like this for a number of reasons, J.K. Simmons is always great, it has a dog, Jason Bateman is involved and so is the diverse and always fantastic Harold Perrineau. Unfortunately, the day they announced the series order, lead actress Parker Posey quit. That is an awful sign, but presuming they get a solid replacement, let’s all hope for Mary Louise Parker, this could actually be a break out hit.

NBC also didn’t acknowledge Posey’s departure during the upfront (HUGE faux paus… sure, everyone already knew, but they should have owned it, acknowledged it and moved on.) It’s nice to see NBC still hasn’t lost their ability to stick their head in the sand.

Nonetheless, this could actually work…mary louise parker, mary louise parker, mary louise parker…

Undateable – Scripted Comedy. Unwatcheable.

Ironside – Scripted Drama. Blair Underwood recreates this 1970’s classic. Much like most shows in the cop genre, this is entirely resting on the cast. We all know the stories and the formula by now. The success of any of these shows rests solely on the cast and how they can make it resonate with the audience. Could go either way, Blair Underwood is extremely likeable but buying him as a paraplegic is going to be a tough sell.

Blacklist – Scripted Drama. This is the show getting the most attention and deservedly so. It looks good, has an interesting story line, a mysterious angle and it has James Spader playing crazy! Spader plays the world’s most wanted criminal, who turns himself into the FBI and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with in exchange for working with a newly minted agent whom he seemingly has no connection. The “blacklist” in question contains the names of 20 of the world’s most wanted criminals (I suspect most will be Chinese, Hispanic and Russian).

If NBC has half a brain, they’ll get in front of this show and nail it down for an entire series run of 20-30 episodes, long enough to capture the people on the “blacklist” and then wrap it up. If they did that, this could be a defining moment in NBC’s history.

Don’t look for that to happen.

Welcome to the Family – Scripted Comedy. Look for a divorce from viewers.

The Night Shift – Scripted Drama. Medical show. Trying to recapture ER. Not gonna happen.

Chicago PD – Scripted Drama. Spinoff from Chicago Fire. Again, all dependent on the stories and the performers. Could work given the appeal of Chicago Fire. Unlike the flagrant crossover in The Michael J. Fox Show, these two shows would do well to air back to back and have a ton of cross pollination.

Crisis – Scripted Drama. Here is the official logline:
When Washington’s most powerful players are pulled into an international conspiracy, an unlikely puppeteer will bring everyone from CEOs to The President of the United States to their knees by threatening the things they hold most dear.

Here is how that logline translates: Someone kidnaps a bunch of rich Washington D.C. kids (from a yellow school bus, as if anyone believes rich D.C. insiders kids travel to school like that) in order to get back at CEO’s and the Washington elite. While no one likes to see kids suffer, perhaps NBC missed the memo, no one gives a shit about Washington politicians or over paid CEO’s. Absolutely arrogant in its premise and I’ve no doubt this show is DOA.

Dracula – Scripted Drama. Starring the exceptionally talented Jonathan Rhys Meyers (seriously dude, fire your team), this show just looks silly. A big period costume drama about Dracula. DONE and DONE and DONE and DONE…ENOUGH on the re-treads! Maybe a mini-series, fine. A PERIOD PIECE ABOUT DRACULA ON NBC! Ugly attempt to capture the Downton Abbey phenom…with vampires. Awful.

Believe – Scritped Drama. JJ Abrams & Alfonso Cauron. Blah, blah, blah, something about a gifted girl, they travel, some guy saves her and everyone is touched along the way. It could work, but not a long term show. This would be another show I would suggest NBC sign up for a specific number (I’ll say 26, two seasons of 13 ep’s) and then call it a day. If they do that here as well as with Blacklist, these two shows could help re-establish the network as both visionary and a destination for good content.

Don’t look for that to happen.

These are some of the shows I saw during their presentation and after listening to everyone and sitting through their respective pitches, along with the dreadfully unfunny taped pieces; I have to say NBC did a great job. I don’t think this is the type of slate that will put NBC back on top. However, it is the type of slate that indicates exactly how hard Burke, Greenblatt and company have worked over the past 18 months in doing exactly what they said they would do, invest in creativity and talent. Keeping your word and delivering is a sign of true leadership, well done!

Sadly, NBC, just like all the other nets, have their nose so far up the advertisers’ asses they can’t wrap their head around the future of broadcasting. I’m not an idiot, I get it; there is a ton of money to be had in this world of advertising sponsored television. And, wait for it, “it’s the way it’s always been done.” (YAWN)

Look, there is a place for this business model; it is just no longer with scripted shows. Sporting events, talk shows and unscripted shows have that sense of immediacy that prompts destination viewing and will always work hand in hand with commercial advertising.

In case you’re not paying attention, we’re moving toward a world where scripted shows will be viewed en masse. And no matter how hard each of the networks tries to jam that ad sponsored model down our gizzards, it’s simply not what we want. I’m not saying it’s going to happen next year or even in five years. I’m certainly not saying networks need to embrace the Netflix business model. What I AM saying is that it would behoove them to take it under consideration. SERIOUS consideration.

For example, let’s just say NBC decides to take my idea to book and market Blacklist as a complete show. We’ll say 26 episodes. Sure, air it on the network with the 12-15 minutes of commercials and get the revenue (at least until you accept the inevitable). But THEN, charge advertisers for the privilege of being the SOLE sponsor on a commercial free digital replay on the NBC site (preferably not the NBC site because it sucks). This way, everyone gets what they want.

OR Partner with Netflix and charge them the premium for the commercial free web replay. But do this while the story is moving forward. In the case of Blacklist, maybe you do the commercial free digital replay after each person on the list is caught. Just don’t wait 12 months after the first season!

Re-think your model for chrissakes.

Yes, there is Hulu and Hulu Plus…but, Hulu sucks. TV Everywhere has been fumbling along but shows no signs of gaining any real traction because it is confusing as all hell. Amazon is still a wildcard. HBO Go and Showtime Go are solid players. Even though Wall Street keeps yammering and hammering on about how Netflix will eventually fail, I am extremely suspect about their analysis and motivation. More their motivation.

At the end of the day, all the networks, despite their efforts to own and control the digital distribution, are simply going to have to partner with either Google, Apple, Netflix or Amazon and embrace this commercial free model. It’s the cod liver oil modern media in transition.

In the case of NBC, I would strongly urge them to start the process now. The network was built upon forward thinking vision but, with the bungled shenanigans of Jeff Zucker (good luck CNN!), they lost in less than ten years what it took almost 100 to achieve.

NBC finally has an opportunity to recapture that which built the company, true leadership and real vision. With the NBC upfront yesterday, I felt something unusual for the first time, hope…and just a small tingle of pride.

Loyalty and honesty.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

After completing my evening chores last night I decided to watch a little television. Not in the mood for anything too thought provoking and not having a strong desire to sit through a marathon dramatizing the raping and pillaging of New York City via Dick Wolf, I scrolled through the bagillion stations. It was 9pm, so I knew I had to act quickly as shows were just beginning. Buried deep down, on the Palladia Network, I noticed a documentary about British metal gods Iron Maiden called Iron Maiden: Flight 666. I like music so I shrugged my shoulders and decided to give it a try.

Growing up Iron Maiden wasn’t really my kind of music. I tend to go for the more visceral rock and roll stuff. My heavy metal tastes were practically nonexistent. For me, Iron Maiden always seemed geared for the Dungeons & Dragons set and I didn’t run with that crowd. Come to think of it, that crowd didn’t run with that crowd, there was no running at all. They simply sat in their own suburban dungeons playing the game. Nonetheless, the lone rock station in town played a few songs and I grew to like those songs and there ended my interest in Iron Maiden. Until last night.

The premise of Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is pretty simple. A documentary crew follows the band over 45 days, 23 shows in 11 countries accounting for almost 50,000 flying miles, filming the first leg of their 2008 World Tour. Right away I thought that was a pretty aggressive itinerary but the absolutely fascinating part is that the band chartered a 757, dubbed Ed Force One, to carry all of their equipment and crew allowing them to tour more efficiently.

The logistics of a world tour are immediately streamlined when you are responsible for all of it. But to find out that the lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, was the pilot of the 757 made me giggle with glee. Its one thing to be the lead singer and responsible for 20,000 peoples enjoyment during a live show and then entirely another to be responsible for that and then responsible for 70+ peoples lives as they travel to the next date.

If ever there were a renaissance man for rock and roll, it would have to be Bruce Dickinson. In fact, in 2009 Intelligent Life Magazine named him a living example of a polymath (someone who’s an expert in a significant number of diverse subjects). Here in the states, we’d probably have someone like that medicated and label him ADHD. In addition to being the lead singer to one of the more successful metal bands in history, he holds an airline transport license, owns aircraft maintenance business Cardiff Aviation Ltd., served as Marketing Director for Astreus Airlines, for eight years was a DJ on BBC radio station 6 and for four years on BBC Radio 2, wrote two novels about a character he named Lord Iffy Boatrace, a semi-transvestite British land owner (yea, they were published and successful), is an avid fencer and owns Duellist, a fencing retailer. I’m sure I am leaving some stuff out, but clearly, Dickinson is more than just a rock singer.

Now, for the cynics out there who say that rock and roll is dead, after watching Iron Maiden: Flight 666, I don’t think that is the case. It may be in a deep coma and on life support, but dead it is not. Seeing how fans reacted to Iron Maiden in South America is truly overwhelming. Seriously, the scenes from Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and Brazil are insane…and I don’t mean fans at the shows, I’m referring to the fans waiting outside the airports and hotels.

Iron Maiden has been together for well over 30 years! These guys are not 20 something hipsters, they’re all over 50 and they look it. Not in a bad way, they look like quite normal guys, aside from the hair and tattoos. In other words, no plastic surgery, no liposuction, no personal trainers, no bizarre rituals to maintain youth (unless you count drummer Nicko McBrain’s post concert ritual of eating pizza).

Rock and roll means something to the people in those countries.

In one particularly poignant scene from the Costa Rican concert (I think), they cut to a fan that had caught a drumstick from Nicko McBrain. This fan cradled that drumstick and was crying. The camera slowly moved in on him as he wiped away his tears. The shot stayed on him just long enough so that one could comprehend what that drumstick meant to him. Clearly, this was more than just a drumstick.

Of course, Iron Maiden’s music is the reason they still play arenas and stadiums around the world. However, to get that kind of reaction from fans means it has to go deeper than just the music.

From what I saw in the documentary, it is Iron Maiden’s commitment to honesty and loyalty that makes them one of the more relevant bands today. It’s that honesty and loyalty to their music and their fans that, 30 years on, still shines. That’s the reason that guy cried while he cradled the drumstick.

In the past 50 years, virtually every country in South America has witnessed a revolution or been bled dry by their leaders under the guise of the “free market” or culturally and economically screwed by multinational corporations or the IMF or The World Bank or drug lords or some combination of all of those.

As that guy cradles that one drumstick, isn’t it possible that one stick of wood represents a symbol of life, of hope?

There is no rhyme or reason why some things resonate with some people and not with others. For me, Iron Maiden songs are lyrically too verbose and reference things I have no interest in; and the music is undoubtedly amazing and technically flawless but strikes me as lacking emotion. I don’t have the visceral reaction to Iron Maiden that I get from, say, Pearl Jam. I certainly don’t think one is better than the other, it’s just my preference. And then it struck me why Maiden remains so popular. The integrity that Pearl Jam projects to me is the same for Iron Maiden fans.

Seeing the band behind the scenes made me realize how real they truly are. They appeared to be genuine guys who just really love life, their life. There were no shots of mansions, glitzy hotels, groupies or ridiculous parties. No in your face “we’re rich rock stars”, aside from the 757, but when the whole crew is on board and the lead singer is the pilot it sorta negates any envy. No temper tantrums. Oh, I’ve no doubt some of that stuff happens, they are rock stars after all. But you know what? It happens to everybody, regardless of job profession.

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is really a documentary of the band as people. And you know what? They seem to be really nice people! It in no way appeared to be an act for the cameras either. All six members come across as really solid average blokes. In addition to the already covered Dickinson, bassist and Maiden founder, Steve Harris travels with his family, drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarist Dave Murray are avid golfers, guitarist Adrian Smith is a tennis player, guitarist Janick Gers is a bit of a wanderer. All in all, they appear to be pretty normal and well grounded guys.

But their honesty is just part of it; their commitment to each other is amazing. Of course, being in a band for 30 years, there is some strife. And while I am certain it still exists within the band, thankfully, this film left it out. What it showed was how loyal the band is to one another. It’s fairly obvious they are not all the best of friends, but they seem to have found a way to travel and work with one another without seemingly sacrificing too much in the process.

They’re loyal to their crew. I’m fairly certain I didn’t see a crew member under 40, which tells me they’ve probably been together awhile.

They are loyal to their music, bassist Harris is seemingly the keepsake. He, along with current producer Kevin Shirley, maintain the loyalty of the Iron Maiden sound, which has remained consistent throughout their career.

They are loyal to their fans. As guitarist Adrian Smith tells it, (I’m paraphrasing here) “If I am outside and you want an autograph or photo, fine, I get it, that’s part of my job. I’m happy to do it.”

More tellingly, they have had the same manager, Rod Smallwood, since 1979. Now THAT speaks volumes to the character of the band. How many bands have catapulted their managers once they achieve fame? How many have fired managers as a result of either their own greed or the managers greed? How many managers take on more than one client and then wait for one to hit and then give themselves totally to that artist?

Forget rock and roll, in ANY industry, to find that kind of allegiance from either side is rare. But BOTH sides? And to think that doesn’t get noticed by fans is foolish. Trust me, we notice and it resonates with us because that kind of loyalty manifests itself in the way the band operates, both professionally and artistically.

Honesty and loyalty, in the world outside Iron Maiden, has been trumped by deceit and self interest. Corporations prove time and time again they’ve no loyalty (forget about honesty) to their employees. Employees have no loyalty to the companies they work for because they know the companies have no loyalty to them. Employees have no loyalty to one another because they either want to keep their job or get ahead, not realizing the game is fixed against them. It’s pretty shitty all around.

It’s no wonder we continue to spiral down the rabbit hole toward a revolution.

Just imagine if corporations respected their workers enough to be loyal, to be honest, treat them accordingly and share in their riches? Imagine if employees felt valued? Imagine if employees cared enough for one another to help them achieve their goals?

After watching Iron Maiden: Flight 666, I can’t say I saw any evidence of the band being cognizant of their seeming dedication to honesty and loyalty. From what I saw, it appears to be just part of who they are, its part of each member’s genetic code. It also doesn’t appear to be part of an agenda or PR stunt.  They are just good guys. Sometimes it is that simple.

It’s these traits, and their artistry, that allow them to keep their long time fans and speak to new fans. It’s the reason Bruce Dickinson remarks “Our audience keeps getting younger, not older.” I might submit they keep getting younger because you can’t lie to kids because they haven’t ingested some of the cynicism that comes with age. If music is Iron Maiden’s spoken bond with their fans, their dedication to truth and honesty is the unspoken bond.

Now look, I’m no dummy. I’m aware this was a movie and it’s supposed to paint them in the best light possible. They’re also rock stars, so I suspect there is some dark shit hiding in each of their closets. Regardless, if you are not a good person there is no amount of editing or post production shimmery that can hide that. If you are an asshole, it eventually shows up.

As a band and as individuals, the Iron Maiden organization appears to be asshole free and built around five really good people. I suspect when they formed the band their intention was not to serve as some sort of beacon of light to truth and honesty, but 30+ years on, they are. Thankfully.

This is a sentence I never thought I would write, but here it is:

The world needs more Iron Maiden.

Simple Things

JOHN LENNON

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

“As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot.”

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”

“Music is everybody’s possession. It’s only publishers who think that people own it.”

“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”

“If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”

Boston Marathon

boston-marathon-bombings

“Humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.”
– Pope John Paul II

I don’t think I could officially call myself a blogger unless I expressed some sort of feeling about the bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon. So, here goes…it sucks and I am truly sorry that yet another tragedy has befallen our country. My heart goes out to the people who lost a loved one and those that were injured. And I don’t think enough thanks could be expressed to those that helped the hurt ones. Patton Oswalt said it far better than I could.

Whether you believe this to be a terrorist attack, either foreign or domestic, or some sort of governmental conspiracy, you’ll have to accept that we may never know the truth. The odds are that you will choose a narrative that fits your own personal belief system or one that you were raised with. Sound familiar? It’s getting to a point in America where knowledge gathering is beginning to look a lot like religion in that you go to the sources that subscribe to your beliefs.

Thankfully, there are tons of media outlets to choose from to get your (mis)information from. And in times of peril, like Monday’s bombing, the media turns to experts. The sad fact is that there are simply too many media outlets for any sort of true “expert” to cover and we’re left with news producers scrapping the barrel, willing to except almost any dolt as an expert. What follows are some  “experts” who recently appeared on some of the “trusted” news outlets:

ON CNN:
Former Lubbock, Texas Sheriff Tex Jackson was an “expert” because he once had a car explode in his driveway. And in a shocking display of Zuckerness, CNN ran a lower third during the interview of the coyote (of roadrunner and coyote fame) getting blown up.

ON MSNBC:
14 year old Bryan Watson was an “expert” because he lost his right hand when he put an M-80 in a beer can.

ON CNBC:
Goldman Sachs SVP Levon Jenkins, III was an “expert” because he once ran the Boston Marathon.

ON NY1:
Stacy Levicciochi, a 24 year old actor from Staten Island, was an “expert” because she was going to run in the Marathon but missed her flight.

ON NBC:
Brian Williams had an awkward interview with Watertown, MA Mayor, Jesus Jones, who actually may have been an expert. No one is sure because NBC just kept running a video loop of the bomb going off coupled with Brian Williams incessant “Uhmmms” and it created a trance like feeling for viewers.

ON CBS:
Shrieking MA DMV worker LaTonya Freeman, who kept bellowing “Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, they blown up my baby.” (no indication she or anyone related to her ran or was injured).

ON C-SPAN:
Surprisingly, no coverage. Only coverage of a senate vote to extend the Patriot Act to include Drone Missions on American soil.

ON THE CHRISTIAN BROADCAST NETWORK:
Pat Robertson ordained his cameraman, Tony Maloney an expert because of his two tours of duty in Iraq. Apparently, Robertson got the phrases “Worked with comestibles” confused with “Worked with combustibles”. Things got strange when Maloney asked Robertson to bless his avocado.

Across the radio and the web, celebrities and news actors weighed in:

Glenn Beck:
“President Obama was seen by that trash can two hours before the explosion. FACT!”

Alex Jones:
“THOSE OILY TOWEL HEADED MONKEYS WORKING FOR THE CIA DID THIS AND I CAN PROVE IT! LET ME TELL YOU WHAT, IF ONE OF THEM WALKS 500 FEET WITHIN ME, I AM GONNA SHOOT ‘EM. I’M GONNA STAND MY GROUND!!!”

Rush Limbaugh:
“Has anyone heard from Darnell, I am out of Oxy…and the femi-nazi’s…WELL THEN GET ME SOME SCOTCH GOD DAMMITT!”

Keith Olberman:
“Is anyone out there, because I have something to say.”

Westboro Baptist Church:
“God hates faggot runners.”

The list goes on and on, sadly. Fortunately, with the wide range of media and opinions, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding one that fits your belief needs.

As for me? Well, I’ll wait until I gather some more information from across the media spectrum, and globe, to try and sort out what I think. But I am fairly convinced we’ll never really know the whole truth.

While the talking heads and media pundits definitely need more help, right now, all I am really concerned with are the people who lost someone or who are hurt. And to those people, my heart and prayers are with you.

White Noise

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
– Grouch Marx

Here we sit on the cusp of the annual network television circle jerk, or as it is known in the industry, the up fronts. For the uninitiated, that is where the networks all pitch advertisers about their new fall programming in the hopes of locking in advertising revenue. The largest source of hilarity about this annual dog and pony show is that both networks and advertising agencies think that viewers will actually give a crap about the crap they have slammed together.

For the most part, we don’t. The only people who care about this are the ad agencies and the networks.

What we want is good television programming and that doesn’t seem to be a priority for the networks. So God only knows what sort of mediocre to awful tripe they are going to offer up this year. I’m sure NBC will lead the charge because they have the most to prove and yet have proven time and time again their programming department is either completely inept or…or…actually, I am pretty sure they are completely inept. ABC and CBS will probably stay the course and offer up shows similar to what is proving successful for them. FOX is always a wildcard and with Seth MacFarlane getting at least another 30 minutes of FOX programming, don’t expect too much change there either. Once again, all eyes will be on NBC and once again, I suspect NBC will completely fail to deliver. If any network makes a case for cord cutting, it is NBC.

Much hullabaloo has been spoken and written about over the past few years regarding this proverbial “cutting the cord” concept and, while inevitable, I still feel we’re a few years from any sort of mass severing. The technology exists where you can watch your favorite shows via other channels, Apple TV, Roku, Netflix, iTunes, etc. (albeit at times, kinda spotty) which leaves network television and their minions in a real pickle. You see, they are still holding on to the paradigm that if they put it on TV people will watch it at that moment. That just doesn’t hold any weight anymore. We’ll watch it…if it’s good…and when we have the time to do so.

Bob Lefsetz recently wrote about some of this and I have to say I agree with a lot of it. However, he claims that cable television is going to crumble and crumble quickly. This, I do not agree with. I DO think traditional broadcast networks like NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX simply can’t seem to get out of their own way and unless they re-think their business model and re-align their focus, they’re fucked. It’s that simple. But cable television is still providing the more compelling scripted programming. They are allowing and fostering more creativity whereas the big four are basically trying to find ways to screw the other one. That is not to say that eventually cable will crumble, it will. But not before the big four.

Will streaming crush broadcast media? Not in the short term. Eventually? Yes, it will. Netflix is a force to be reckoned with. Disregard the noise coming from Wall Street about Netflix, they will dominate…for a little longer. I recently had one NBC executive guffaw at my praise of “House of Cards” saying “Oh you mean the 100 million dollar gamble?” Yes, it was 100 million dollars…for 26 episodes of a show starring a Hollywood A-list actor, produced by a Hollywood A-list director, directed and written by some of the best people working in Hollywood today. How much do you think NBC has spent trying to fill the 10pm slot that housed the broadcasting abortion that was the 10pm Jay Leno variety show, with infinitely lesser talents? Trust me, they’ve spent well over 100 million dollars trying to fill that and have yet to yield a hit there. Netflix original programming, so far, has been top notch and I don’t see that trend of quality waning anytime soon. Nonetheless, I think the streaming models of Netflix, and Amazon, will grow and become the destination for more intelligent scripted programming, bypassing traditional broadcast and cable outlets.

So where does that leave advertisers and their broadcast television teat suckers?

The future for broadcast television is with live sporting events and with reality and unscripted programming. That is the plain and simple truth. They both have an inherent sense of immediate viewing, which isn’t there for scripted shows. Networks can charge top dollar to advertisers for live events. Sports fans are sports fans and they need to see the game or event live.

As much as I bash NBC, I will say the rolling up of all their sports nets into NBC Sports was a good move and they actually have a leg up with both the Olympics and Sunday Night Football. They also have a bunch of niche channels which will yield some decent dividends in the long run (admittedly, the long run is not something any network is good at…Corporatism at its best). While I may think starting the Olympics a day early is dumb, maybe they have data that suggests otherwise. I doubt it. I suspect it is just a money grab which smells of desperation. But unscripted programming, much like sports,  have that sense of immediacy built into them which could serve them well.

The giant wild card in all of this is the baby boomer generation and NOT the 18-34 demographic. You know, the baby boomers? The demographic no one wants to talk about but the one that is poised to sustain every industry for the next 20-30 years. Advertisers and networks are still holding on that ideal that the 18-34 demographic is the key one to grab. Their logic is that if they can get them young they can build brand loyalty with them. I’m not sure how they keep missing this, but that demo doesn’t have brand loyalty. In fact, I am not sure loyalty is even part of their vernacular.

Historically, CBS has always been perceived as the old fogey network, which in this case should to carry them through the budding baby boomer explosion. If the rest of the networks had half a brain, and all evidence points to the contrary, they’d be building shows around the boomer interests, be they scripted or unscripted. More than likely, the boomers viewing habits will stay the same. Which is to say that they will continue to rely on the “talking box” to get their information and entertainment whereas the current 18-34 group is all over bejesus getting their information. The reason to work within the baby boomer demographic and build off of them is two fold. One, there is simply more potential eyeballs and therefore, revenue and two, it would allow time for nets to develop an exit strategy.

There is a lot of white noise surrounding the discussion of what the future of television will look like. Will it be a la carte, will there be massive cord cutting, is streaming the future, yadda yadda yadda. The truth is, no one knows and don’t let them tell you otherwise. BUT in order to look ahead, one can not look behind, those days are over. It appears that networks learned nothing from the collapse of the recording industry. If the networks had a theme song, it would be “Glory Days” by Bruce Springsteen.

If you really want to see where we are headed, look to a few bigger digital players, like Google, Apple and Amazon to see what they are futzing around with and the companies they are buying. History shows us there will only be a few key players in the long run for broadcasting and it simply won’t be NBC, CBS, ABC or FOX.

(For those wondering who that photo is of, that is John Logie Baird, the inventor of the television.)

New Yorker Cartoons Debunked April 8, 2013

header_logo

” Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.”
– Noam Chomsky

I have lived in New York City for years now and I am still not sure whether reading The New Yorker makes me a snob, an egg head douche, an old fart, someone keenly interested in good, albeit somewhat snotty, writing by east coast blue bloods ivy league twats or just someone who wants to have a look at what is going on in the area. But one thing I DO know is that the cartoons they scatter throughout the mag are sometimes odd, sometimes interesting and sometimes so wildly esoteric that if you admit you don’t understand it, you feel dumb and if you admit you do understand it you are more than likely lying.

For years, I found the cartoons just plain silly, but over the past few years, for whatever reason,  I have begun to understand them. I think. At the very least I have been able to apply some semblance of my life view to them which has allowed me to enjoy them a little more. When all is said and done though, I think the cartoons represent, what I can only presume, is The New Yorker’s demographic. Which from what I can tell is somewhat educated (both traditional and non-traditionally educated), white, middle class and above, left leaning folks.

I selected a few cartoons from this weeks issue (April 8, 2013) and provide a couple of different interpretations.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

LOVE, Part 1

bed

 Interpretation #1 – Marriage and relationships are hard, regardless of gender preference. So anytime you through two people together in close quarters they are bound to fight and sometimes the distance manifests itself in the boudoir. My guess is the illustrator was trying to show that it has been 97 days since the last intimate contact took place in that bedroom. 

 Interpretation #2 – A less likely interpretation would be that the illustrator was making a statement about a serial sex offender in recovery. This interpretation carries less weight as it seems anathema to the New Yorker’s high brow humor approach.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

LOVE, Part 2

lifeTHE CAPTION: “Boy, I hope we never end up like this.”

 Interpretation #1 –The illustrator, without showing the contents of the plate, is indicating that all the food has flooded into each other, making a statement about gentrification by stripping each food of its plate independence. The joke being that the woman hopes she doesn’t loose her independence while being in this relationship.

 Interpretation #2 –The couple is dinning at a cannibal themed restaurant.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 Cost Efficiency

spoon

THE CAPTION: “The hotel is full, but I’ll see if I can work out a spooning arrangement for you.” 

Interpretation #1 –In an effort to cut costs, big hotel chains are now randomly pairing up people to accommodate more travelers. As the “spooning” comment indicates, all the rooms with two double beds must be full leaving just the rooms with king size beds. Rather than turn the road weary traveler away, and loose the revenue, he offers the new “spoon” package.

 Interpretation #2 –The hotel clerk has placed secret cameras in one room and is in the process of filming an adult orientated “spoon” fetish series for Cinemax.


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Capitalism, Part 1

capital

THE CAPTION: “It may be the rood of all evil, but it’s also the root of all this.”

Interpretation #1 – A wealthy, guilt ridden, left leaning corporate 1%’er tries to rationalize his accomplishments to his cube dwelling 99%’er college buddy.

 Interpretation #2 –The guy is just a dick.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Capitalism, Part 2

lackey

THE CAPTION: “This is Abramson, our new pinata.”

Interpretation #1 – Abramson is the new corporate HR executive or PR executive, either way, his future looks grim.

 Interpretation #2 – Abramson is the token new state university recruit at the all virtually all ivy league Goldman Sachs, in which case he may, in fact, literally end up a pinata. 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Doctors

dr

THE CAPTION: “It’s either conjunctivitis or twin pools of desire .”

Interpretation #1 –A favorite source of humor for The New Yorker, doctors. This is an attempt at trying to find the lighter side of medical practitioners. Clearly, the doctor knows what it is.

 Interpretation #2 –The doctor is making a pass at the patient.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Millenials

process

THE CAPTION: “Nobody asked me about my process.”

Interpretation #1 –Millennials are often keen to extol what they do and how they got there in order to receive as many accolades as possible. Completely oblivious to the fact that no one may even care.

 Interpretation #2 –Actually, I am pretty sure that is whats happening here, the only thing missing are the tattoos.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Nostalgia

noogie

THE CAPTION: The Noogie Kings

Interpretation #1 –The offspring of the original Noogie Patrol.

 Interpretation #2 – What became of Curtis Sliwa and the Guardian Angels.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Racism

catTHE CAPTION: “Look who’s moved in next door.”

Interpretation #1 –A guarded, yet clever, approach to the undercurrent of racism that permeates New York, and most communities across the country. The two fish represent the ruling white class while the cat in the fishbowl represents every non-white. A bold statement New Yorker, well playedwell played.

 Interpretation #2 –The fish represent every non-white culture and the cat represents the pending gentrification of their communities.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Esoteric

bearsInterpretation #1 – Bullying is the premise here. You’ll notice there is only one seat available for the bear to fish through the sun roof and with the neighborhood bear bully on his way over,  either the other bear is coming over to rob him of his catch and/or chase him away from his fishing spot. Either way, it looks like the sitting bear is going to have his paws full.

 Interpretation #2 – A sublime statement about global warming because bears are usually hibernating during winter, so the image infers, despite the snow, that it may not be winter. As the bears are ice fishing, this is presumably a pointed remark about climate change.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

2013 Goals

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”
– Aristotle

Recently, I had my 2012 performance review with my supervisor and it went strikingly well. I mean I’m not shocked, they usually go pretty well. Despite the accolades and praise, the fact that my “merit increase” is less than any sort of applicable cost of living increase negates any sort of verbal praise (and I’d hate to see how lower ranked colleagues fared). Sure, it beats not having a job and it beats a sharp stick in the eye (most definitely) it was still pretty sad, not quite as sad as the reason I was given, but more on that next time.

Nonetheless, I thought some of my personal goals for 2013 were pretty awesome, increase departmental and interdepartmental communication, morale boosting and a redistribution of interdepartmental talent. It was brought to my attention in my review, and made clear that those goals are not necessarily part of my day to day job. This is odd because I communicate across no less than three different departments and I know there are a host of people in my own department who have the knowledge I need to help me function more efficiently, but alas, I was informed that my goals didn’t really fit my title. These were, in fact, potential changes that people of a different professional band would make and perhaps I needed to amend my goals (I declined to do so). Or in less official speak, “Shut up Keith, it’s not your job. We’ll tell you what to do to make your job easier, even if we don’t do it and don’t really know what you do.” The archaic top down management style knows best, I kneel before its all knowing power. However, conspicuously absent from the discussion was perhaps the most important of all my 2013 professional goals?
My spork analysis.

This is from my review:

To help offset any cost associated with my other goals, I have developed one cost saving measure that not only saves money but also lessens our departmental carbon footprint. We use both plastic spoons and plastic forks in our kitchen and by simply switching to plastic sporks (a combination of the spoon and fork for the unfamiliar) we can save over 500% monthly! Based on the most recent Staples catalog, the following information revealed:

spork2

We can no longer ignore the flagrant abuse of corporate finances by purchasing BOTH plastic spoons AND forks! ONE case of 1000 sporks results in over 500% in savings.
In this economy, we must, as a department, lead the charge on cost saving measures while maintaining our civic responsibility.

Sporks, save money, save time, save the planet!

I can freely admit this last proposal was about 30% tongue in cheek. The remaining 70% was in earnest. We’re always running out of things in the kitchen. Plates, spoons and forks are always the quickest to go whenever the sporadic allotment arrives. In fact, just yesterday it was brought to my attention that we are again out of necessary provisions. A colleague came over to this side of the office (a more arduous and security riddled task than it sounds) to pick up a paper plate that she just happened to know was in the conference room over here. There were no paper plates  in the kitchen so the next obvious place was the conference room…on the other side of the office…of course. And from personal experience, trying to eat Lucky Charms with a fork is both a physically and emotionally draining task.

In all fairness though, somewhere around the halfway mark of my review I started tuning out and began singing the lyrics to “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” in my head. For over 30 years now, this is my go to song in times of stress and I need to escape mentally. For equally as long, I STILL can not figure out how Johnny won that battle.

Can a corporation be insane?

nbc-broken-peacock“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
– Albert Einstein

Like any kid growing up in the Midwest, I had big dreams. And while my brother had dreams of being a cop or a stuntman or hockey player, I always knew I wanted to be something different. Something BIGGER. In no particular order I wanted to be:

  • A rock star (I always had the temperament just lacked the discipline to develop a skill)
  • An actor (After seeing Henry Winkler in Heroes, I was sold)
  • A writer (Reading John Steinbeck’s The Pearl and John Irving’s The Hotel New Hampshire changed my life…what does that say about me)
  • An A&R guy for Columbia or Atlantic Records or Warner Brothers (John Hammond was a hero)
  • For a brief period, a corporate executive (Until I discovered weed and realized I lacked the pedigree, and grades, to get into an Ivy League school)
  • A film editor (I would argue a good editor is more important than a good director)
  • An NBC employee (Two generations of kids were raised on NBC programming)
  • A restaurateur

I knew I couldn’t do all those things, but I knew one place I could potentially do all those things, New York City.  NYC is known for housing many industries, legal and not, and three of the larger legal employment arena’s are Finance, Restaurants and Media. About ten years ago, I moved here with two duffel bags of clothes, one suit and about 500 dollars. It sounds like a cliche’ but it’s the truth. Within two weeks I had landed a temp job at a company called Georgeson Shareholder working in one of the most arcane subdivisions of financial services (proxy solicitation) that it hardly bears defining. That temp job led to permanent employment as an Account Manager there doing a job I simply could not wrap my head around.

Eventually, my misery led to ultimate frustration so I simply quit. I quit without having another job prospect but knowing I could fall back on my skills as a waiter or bartender in the short term. Two days later I landed a job at a place called Tupelo Grill, located right across from Madison Square Garden. Of all the restaurant jobs in my day, this one was the best. Only open Monday through Friday and as long as there was something going on at the Garden, you made amazing money and you were done by 10pm. As far as a stop gap job goes, there was none better.  Two years in NYC and I had already conquered two of the three industries it is known for, Financial Services and Restaurants. I set my sights on Media.

As luck would have it, just as I was getting bored with Tupelo Grill, an old friend asked me if I wanted to work at NBC. He didn’t glorify the position at all and told me straight up what it was. It didn’t matter to me; I had always wanted to work at NBC and figured I could springboard from whatever department it was. I knew all I needed was access and then my insane talents would take me to where I wanted to be. I immediately began planning my career trajectory and jumped at the chance for the job at NBC, in the ass end of television.

When I was hired, their prime time dominance was slipping and my goal was to get to the Programming Department, either here in NYC or in LA, I didn’t care. They needed fresh blood, they needed creativity, and they needed ME! Luckily for them, they already had the chrome dome midget mind of Jeff Zucker who promptly fired programming head Kevin Riley to make room for, not me but, the silver spooned idiot child Ben Silverman. And thus began a complete and total dismantling of what was once a creative and ratings juggernaut.

Zucker and Silverman spearheaded the NBC descent into the cellar of television ratings and programming that remains unparalleled in television history. An accomplishment…of sorts. I would argue that these two knuckleheads were dyslexic because they seemed to have reversed the idea of “shoot for the stars” and as opposed to going UP in the sky with good programming they were going DOWN towards the earth’s core with shitty programming. In any other industry, a performance as disastrous as Zucker’s would have been met with almost immediate termination and yet somehow he remained through the Comcast acquisition. My suspicious mind tells me that Zucker held onto his job because he had pictures of either Jeff Immelt and/or Bob Wright with a pre-op tranny in Bangkok. I can’t prove that…yet.

So Comcast acquired NBCUniversal and the best part about that was the spin. They tried to pitch it as a “merger”. Now I didn’t go to an Ivy League school like the upper echelon of GE, Comcast and NBC, but it seems to me when a company purchases 51% of a company, that is an acquisition and not a merger, but what do I know? Comcast has since purchased the remaining 49% so it would seem to be a acquisition now.

Not surprisingly, after an acquimerger of this size comes a changing of the guard. And new head honcho Steve Burke grabbed the bull by the horns and did his best to instill confidence among the rank and file, like me. He assured all of us that he would make the right moves to restore NBC’s luster, to create shows and products across all networks we could all be proud of and believe in. He didn’t mince words, he said it would take time and money and he seemed ready and willing to make the tough decisions. And for about ten months he did all of that and came to define leadership. He cleaned the executive suites and replaced them with either people loyal to him or, seemingly, competent people. Perhaps the smartest thing Burke did was push out Zucker and his minions (Silverman had already been neutered and replaced with talented but rendered impotent Jeff Gaspin). While Gaspin and Silverman held the title, it was no secret that Zucker drove the bus. Burke didn’t then, and doesn’t now, appear to suffer from the same degree of narcissism or micro-management as Jeff Zucker, which points to his leadership.

Once the Zucker mess had been sorted out, Burke brought in former Fox and Showtime head Robert Greenblatt to replace Jeff Gaspin and head up what had become the very definition of epically inept, the NBC Programming Department. Greenblatt was an interesting choice because he has a mix of programming moxy which includes both shite and blue chip television work (Melrose Place, The X-Files at Fox and Weeds and Dexter while at Showtime), a successful run on Broadway as a producer (9 to 5) and a seemingly solid commitment to return NBC to dominance. By all accounts across the board, a solid, if interesting, choice.

To date, dominance has not been any part of the NBC brand. If you follow these things, you’ve been left scratching your head wondering what the hell is going on here. Trust me, we all are. Seriously. Sure, last fall we did well. For some retarded reason people watch The Voice and we had Sunday Night Football, so that makes sense. But the scripted shows were, and continue to be, simply awful. Animal Practice, 1600 Penn, Do No Harm, the continued spiral of Smash, the failed Dane Cook comedy and honestly, the list is too long to mention.

If you think about it, Greenblatt and Silverman (Gaspin didn’t really do anything) have proven only moderately more successful than me, and I haven’t programmed ANYTHING!

Is Must See TV dead? Yep. It should be. What NBC should do is hold a funeral for it, bury it so we can all move past it. I’m not kidding either. Create a spectacular show where all the stars gather together and have a New Orleans style funeral for Must See TV. If we were to do this, we could let that era go and so could the critics and the public, instead of holding out hope that NBC can regain those years and those programs. It’s time to properly celebrate their existence and MOVE FORWARD. And what better way to do that then to celebrate the Must See TV life?

I still believe in NBC and while I have a modicum of pride about working here, it is rapidly disappearing. However, I don’t feel that hitting the panic switch and doing a corporate shuffle is the right thing. People want to see stability and if you keep replacing the head of programming, no clear network vision will ever be defined. And while the other networks may think Greenblatt is the anti-Christ because he came from cable, he’s not. He understands vision and diversity but for some reason, he’s not sticking with it. My guess is he is too accommodating coupled with the heavy influence of Creative Corporatism.

Some thoughts:

  • Getting rid of Jay Leno is a no brainer and having Jimmy Fallon replace him is also a no brainer, but not now. Leno has to go but the mishandling of this is just imbecilic.
  • Yes, Matt Lauer has to go. Sorry Matt, your number is up. People fear change but you can’t let fear dictate any progress.
  • NBC Spin department, stop the bullshit, OK? Even a six year old knows moving “Smash” to Saturday is NOT a strategic move but really a move towards extinction.
  • Create shows with a defined arc. No need for a show to run 8 seasons if it doesn’t NEED to.
  • NBC Programming, take chances. “Hannibal”, really? Come on. Stop dumbing down the shows. The public can take some intelligence.
  • Writers and show runners are not brands, they are creative people. Diversify your creative pool for God’s sake. And if you feel you already do, do it MORE!
  • Stop relying on the same agents and managers for pitches and shows. There is a SHIT TON of creativity out there for you to harness. Go with your gut. Fight for vision.

Sure, I’ve accomplished one of my childhood goals by getting a job at NBC, albeit at the ass end, and even with my rapidly disappearing pride, I hold out hope. I hold out hope that NBC can do better and hold out hope we will be able to show that. But the way forward is not constantly looking in the rear view mirror.

I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of programming because, well, I don’t work there…yet. And as I write this thinking back to when I was hired it’s funny because even after all these years, NBC still needs fresh blood, they still need creativity, and they still need ME…but my gut tells me they think they have all the answers already.

If corporations are, by law, people, then NBC is surely insane.

The New Economy

homeless-11_29a

“The surest what to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem
those who think alike than those who think differently.”
– Friederich Nietzsche

In the New Economy, there are about 14,000 REGISTERED lobbyists in Washington, DC and only 535 elected officials.

In the New Economy, income disparity and its growth shows all indications of being a government sanctioned process.

In the New Economy, corporations pay less and demand more from their workers.

In the New Economy, housing and student loan repayments can eat anywhere from 30-60% of your pay.

In the New Economy, cost of living increases are disguised as “merit increases”.

In the New Economy, you are encouraged to live beyond your means.

In the New Economy, the top 200 CEO’s of public companies earned a median income of 14.5 million dollars.

In the New Economy, corporations do not value their employees.

In the New Economy, employees should not value their corporations.

In the New Economy, the young don’t realize the corporate game is rigged against them.

In the New Economy, you pay more taxes than most corporations…and it’s legal.

In the New Economy, workers are frustrated and angry yet feel impotent.

In the New Economy, we are not powerless.

In the New Economy, there is still only one way to rock.

In the New Economy, college and professional sports recruiting looks more and more like modern day slavery.

In the New Economy, corporate managers want to be called leaders when they are barely effective as managers.

In the New Economy, fear is the predominate corporate management philosophy.

In the New Economy, Bill Hicks is as relevant as he was when he passed away 20 years ago.

In the New Economy, we have more ways to voice our opinion and yet more people have less of an opinion.

In the New Economy, commerce dictates art.

In the New Economy, the story is seldom told.

In the New Economy, mediocrity is celebrated and excellence ostracized.

In the New Economy, your art matters to someone.

In the New Economy, your ideas matter to someone.

In the New Economy, most people don’t know who Mother Jones was let alone that the ideas live on.

In the New Economy, freedom is the ideal, shackled to technology is the reality.

In the New Economy, if you don’t say it, someone else won’t.

In the New Economy, if you don’t do it, someone else will.

In the New Economy, you’re damned if you do, fucked if you don’t.

Where there is art, there is no hell.

“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
– Andre Gide

Yesterday, I watched a documentary. And while that, in and of itself, is about as interesting as peanut butter, what I watched was interesting, Born Into This, a documentary about Charles Bukowski.

I first discovered Charles Bukowski from the script he wrote for the Barbet Schroeder film Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. To be fair, it’s been a long time since I have seen it and I can’t recall what I thought of it but given my pathetic attempt at being a film snob and my man crush on Mickey Rourke at the time, I am sure I LOVED it. But I have never seen it again, so I guess that says something.

Thanks to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers I got reintroduced to Bukowski a few years later and read in quick succession Women, Factotum, Hollywood and Post Office. I muscled through those four books and frankly, I hated them. It wasn’t the writing that I hated so much as his characters. They were repellant. I mean seriously horrible people. As misanthropic as I was back then, even I found these people awful.

My contempt for poetry kept me away from the Bukowski poetry cannon. Based on his fiction, I wasn’t keen to dive into a genre I didn’t like with I writer I didn’t like. To be honest though, and to avoid offending any poetry readers/writers, it’s not contempt for poetry I have so much as I just don’t have that kind of brain. I’ve read a lot of it, and even written some horrible teen angst verse, but as a whole I don’t “get it”. And I’m not a good enough bullshitter to pretend to “get it”. For whatever reason, poetry doesn’t have any emotional impact on me…and yet song lyrics do, go figure.

After watching Born Into This, I walked away with a new found respect and appreciation for Charles Bukowski. So much so that on my way home from work I stopped off to purchase a book of his poetry, The Last Night of the Earth Poems. I have to say, so far, his verse is breathtaking.

Admittedly, I’ve grown up a lot since those first introductions and with that growth comes life and experiences, good and bad alike, along with some gray hair. In the process, I’ve come to see the world through a different lens then the one when I first read those books. And as distorted as my lens was then and may be now, it’s not even close to the Bukowski lens. However, in growing up and with experiences, you can begin to see the world for what it is. A fucked up place. With fucked up people. Doing fucked up things. To each other.

Bukowski characters, as deplorable as they are, are real characters. Underneath all that depravity though, are just people trying to do what we’re all trying to do. Get by and find a way to slice off a little piece of happiness pie for ourselves. Sure, they may find happiness in places we don’t understand and can’t respect, but Bukowski shows us time and time again that their journey is our journey.

Clearly, this is an over simplification (I’ll leave the more robust literary analysis to the folks behind the ivy walls with thicker and grayer beards, who study this professionally) but as Longfellow said, and Bukowski shows us, “..the supreme excellence is simplicity.”

Obviously, the legacy of any artist is their work. True art, real art, will speak for years and years, as Bukowski’s does. In Born Into This there is a scene where he is reciting his poem Dinosaur, We (written in 1993) and these lines screamed out to me:

Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this

To dismiss Charles Bukowski as a simple and misogynistic drunk writer is to diminish not only his artistic contribution but also his message. His was a message for those of us not birthed into any entitlement. It was a message from the underside saying “We’re here too. We exist.” In between all the despicable characters, the women, the booze and the shitty behavior is the one thing that transcends everything, even entitlement, the human condition.

Where there is art, there is no hell, only our own journey. That journey may be hell, and who we seek for armistice and guidance can make that journey easier. Thankfully, we have the work of Charles Bukowski, and so many others, to help us find our own way, creatively or otherwise. And that ain’t a bad thing baby.

DInosaur, We
by Charles Bukowski

Born like this
Into this
As the chalk faces smile
As Mrs. Death laughs
As the elevators break
As political landscapes dissolve
As the supermarket bag boy holds a college degree
As the oily fish spit out their oily prey
As the sun is masked
We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes
Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Castrated
Debauched
Disinherited
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this
The heart is blackened
The fingers reach for the throat
The gun
The knife
The bomb
The fingers reach toward an unresponsive god
The fingers reach for the bottle
The pill
The powder
We are born into this sorrowful deadliness
We are born into a government 60 years in debt
That soon will be unable to even pay the interest on that debt
And the banks will burn
Money will be useless
There will be open and unpunished murder in the streets
It will be guns and roving mobs
Land will be useless
Food will become a diminishing return
Nuclear power will be taken over by the many
Explosions will continually shake the earth
Radiated robot men will stalk each other
The rich and the chosen will watch from space platforms
Dante’s Inferno will be made to look like a children’s playground
The sun will not be seen and it will always be night
Trees will die
All vegetation will die
Radiated men will eat the flesh of radiated men
The sea will be poisoned
The lakes and rivers will vanish
Rain will be the new gold
The rotting bodies of men and animals will stink in the dark wind
The last few survivors will be overtaken by new and hideous diseases
And the space platforms will be destroyed by attrition
The petering out of supplies
The natural effect of general decay
And there will be the most beautiful silence never heard
Born out of that.
The sun still hidden there
Awaiting the next chapter.

Thomas Paine

Thomas_Paine_portrait_900x6006

“When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boasts its constitution and its government.”– Thomas Paine

The cynic says it’s impossible.
The optimist says its the way it should be.
The pragmatist says its a goal worth striving for.

Getting older means, ideally, that you are learning more and more. And the more I learn the more frustrated I become at the way things are versus the way they ought to be. It’s never to late to change things, that much I believe. George Bernard Shaw famously wrote “Youth is wasted on the young” and I truly wish the 24 year old could have the knowledge and experience of the 44 year old. Then there may be some real possibility for change. Until then…

SOME LINKS FOR YOUR THURSDAY

Thomas Paine

Good Night Democracy

Lessons Learned About Being Open

Richard Wolff on Bill Moyers

Not All That Glitters Is Gold

OAT

Artists Take Note

Should You Work For Free

Cheers!

Signature

Oscar Picks 2013

Award season is somewhat akin to high school “Most Likely To…” awards, which is to say they are pretty much popularity contests. Hollywood’s annual circle jerk is in full flex tonight with the Oscar Awards and far be it from me to miss an opportunity to chime in on the annual orgy of self flagellation.

In a perfect world, Zero Dark Thirty would sweep the Oscars because, simply put, it was the best movie of 2012. As if we needed reminding, Hollywood will once again show us we don’t live in a perfect world.

Nonetheless, here are some of my predictions for tonight’s bukkake:

BEST ACTOR
Will Win – Daniel Day Lewis

Should Win – Daniel Day Lewis
Yep. He’s that good. The movie itself is boring (gasp, how dare I?) but if you appreciate amazing acting, there was no better movie in 2012.

BEST ACTRESS
Will Win – Jessica Chastain

Should Win – Jennifer Lawrence
Both performances are worthy and Jennifer Lawrence was great. Could go either way. I actually just changed this to Jessica Chastain.

BEST DIRECTOR
Will Win – Steven Spielberg

Should Win – Anyone other than Steven Spielberg.
Which is not to say he doesn’t deserve it, he does. But he has raised the bar so high that continuing to reward him is to neglect what the award would mean to someone else. It’s like giving acting awards to Meryl Streep. We get it, they’re amazing.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win – Alan Arkin
Should Win – Alan Arkin.
Alan Arkin should always win. Period.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win – Helen Hunt
Should Win – Any of them.
Sally Field could upset, but if awards are truly based on performance (which I admit they are not) then this should be Helen Hunt’s.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win – Quentin Taratino – Django Unchained
Should Win – Mark Boal – Zero Dark Thirty
Tarantino has proven time and time again to be a real voice for American cinema and Boal is just as deserving here. Could go either way, but I suspect we’re still too emotionally close to waterboarding for Boal to win.

BEST ADOPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win – Chris Terrio – Argo
Should Win – David O. Russell – Silver Linings Playbook
Sure, Russell has a bit of a reputation as being an asshole, but he has always tackled deeper issues in his films (Spanking the Monkey, anyone?) and somehow makes them work, very very well. His reputation could haunt him in the Directors category, but for writing it shouldn’t. Sadly, I don’t think the Academy can pass by the opportunity to slap itself on the back. The fake movie within a movie concept to save lives is about as clever as Hollywood can get. Added points for historical relevance and emotional impact.

BEST PICTURE
Will Win – Argo
Should Win – Zero Dark Thirty
I’m not sure the Academy can pass an opportunity to stress Hollywood’s importance or pseudo relevance to history or saving lives…or the fact that they ignored Ben Affleck for Best Director.

Make your own picks HERE.

Introducing My New Clothing Line – CLUB47 – “Hi My Name Is…”

Suit4

“Men in general judge more from appearances than from reality. All men have eyes, but few have the gift of penetration.
– Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s about time I threw my hat into the proverbial fashion ring. My thinking is that if Pharrell, Jay-Z, Sean “Puff Daddy, Puffy, P Diddy, Diddy” Combs, Martha Stewart, Jacklyn Smith, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nelly, Gwen Stafani, 50 Cent and Tate Donovan can all do it, why can’t I? My lack of fashion sense and fashion knowledge notwithstanding, I am grabbing the American entrepreneurial bull by the horns and am proud to introduce a clothing line, adeptly called CLUB47.

The inaugural line is geared to the everyday suit wearing business man. Day in and day out these men are in meetings, on sales calls, at board meetings and always dressed to the nines. But so often we are left wondering, “What was the name of that dapper looking man who just took my money?” Well, I have solved that problem.

Inspired by my love of suits and the “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer suggests everyone in NYC wear name tags, and with an obvious nod to Eminem’s breakthrough “My Name Is…”, I am introducing CLUB47’s first line of men’s suits called “Hi My Name Is…”!

Suit1

What makes this line so unique is my signature red “Hello, My Name Is” patch. The name area on the patch was created by the CLUB47 scientists in Denmark and has our patented and trademarked erasable vinyl, just like the white boards at work! So while you may be Nigel to the wife or on your birth certificate, you can now be Clive on your next sales call or even Todd at your next meeting.
Also unique to Club47’s “Hi, My Name Is…” suit selection is the interchangeability of the name tag. We can sew it on either the left breast (shown above) or the right breast (shown below):

Suit2

These suits were designed to take the anonymity out of the office. You no longer have an excuse to forget that debonair man who you just met with.  Perhaps more importantly, I designed these suits to be not just business practical but also evening practical. CLUB47’s suits are perfect for that meeting dinner, fund raiser or even the red carpet.

Suit3CLUB47
MENS SUIT COLLECTION, “HI MY NAME IS…”

Everywhere Summer 2013

Complete line of women’s suits and clip on Windsor Knot ties, Fall 2013.

Broadcast Television & The Future of Storytelling

old-television

The big four networks, CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox have been spiraling downwards, not only in ratings but also in content, for about ten years now. This is not to say they haven’t produced good content, they have. Overall, a healthy argument could be made that each of these networks programming and development departments are basing decisions based on…well, to be fair, I don’t know what they are based on, but clearly logic and quality are not in the mix.

NBC has had a particularly tough time of it and despite three new programming heads in seven years, they continue to show only a further descent into idiotic programming. To that point, NBC currently has “1600 Penn” and has green lit a new Jessica Simpson pilot, comparing her to Lucille Ball, produced by non other than Ben Silverman. You may recall Silverman as the man who, along with Jeff Zucker, drove the network into a brick wall.

An argument has often been made that programming highs and lows are cyclical and while CBS currently rides the wave of success, NBC is being flogged. And I would have made that cyclical argument as recently as six months ago too. However, not anymore. I think it is time for the networks to finally accept that the week to week viewing we all grew up on is over. Done. The future of week to week broadcast television is in live programming and the future of episodic television is in binge viewing.

After devouring the first three seasons of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” in one week, I’ve spent the past two weeks binging on Netflix’s “House of Cards”, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and Showtime’s “Homeland”. I can say emphatically that this is the way to watch TV. Obviously, dramatic series lend themselves to this type of viewing with their emphasis on storytelling and performances but watching shows in this manner also gives them a more cinematic feel.

I think the jury may still be out on situational comedy as binge viewing. FX’s “Louie” certainly plays well either as binge or week to week. Conversely, I fear watching NBC’s “1600 Penn” in any capacity may induce a coma or suicide. Nonetheless, with Netflix releasing “Arrested Development” soon, we may have a better idea.

Why are the big four networks, and many of their cable outlets, continuing to get the future of television programming all wrong? Well, I suspect they are driven by a few things. One, saying no to anything different or challenging to keep their fat paychecks (read Bill Carter’s book Desperate Networks for more insight. Department heads lost their jobs by saying yes to “Desperate Housewives” and “Survivor”). Two, they are only focused on profit. Three, they are beholden to ratings, Madison Avenue and advertising dollars. Four, despite their Ivy League education, they’re idiots.

Here is where networks are getting everything, and I mean everything, wrong.

BEHOLDEN TO NEILSEN

Why do ratings matter any more? Here’s the hard truth, the ratings that networks and trades love to roll around in are based on less than 25,000 viewers and then projected into overall percentages. At last census, there were over 300 million US residents, with approximately 120 million television sets. Somehow, 25K is not a representative slice, any way you look at it.

REAL data exists and if networks ever got around to snapping the chains of advertisers and Neilsen, they could reap the benefits. Netflix has been able to gather and look at real data and, to date, have given us two solid shows, “Lilyhammer” and “House of Cards”. Of course, analyzing hard data and marrying it with creativity presents its own pitfalls (great Andrew Leonard Salon article here) but the point being that they created shows beholden to little else other than creativity. And it shows.

The Nielsen rating gig is up. I suspect it can work with live events, but it’s worth with traditional programming was always overrated and questionable. Now more than ever.

BLEEDING CREATIVITY DRY

“M*A*S*H” was a great sitcom and so was “Friends” but I think almost everyone can agree they went on too long. Scripted shows, regardless of format, need to be pitched and produced with an exit strategy. Pitched with a beginning, a middle and an end. We are beginning to see more of this, but still not enough. This is partially the fault of the showrunners, but I place more blame at the foot of the networks. No, is not a bad word. “No, the show can not last another season”, “No, that is a dumb idea Mr. TV Executive”. FX’s John Landgraf is getting it right more than getting it wrong.

For example, I think “The Walking Dead” is a great show but how long can you really bleed a zombie apocalypse? After three seasons, I already want to know the why it happened and then I am going to want to see it wrapped up. If it goes any longer than five seasons, it will move into pure silliness. Whatever Illuminati hints you may think are in there, it is a television show about a zombie apocalypse.

Showrunner Kurt Sutter’s “Sons of Anarchy” is straddling a fine line between caricature and drama right now. The fact that we’ve gotten five seasons of cheering for the SAMCRO bunch is amazing. But as an avid viewer, even I am beginning to recognize the reality that these are not good people and justice, one way or another, has to be served.

British television seems to have the right approach in this sense. Shows are as long as they need to be to tell the story. They do gritty crime drama better than anyone, just watch “Luther” or “Whitechapel” for examples.

Networks need to stop bleeding the creativity. Most showrunners have more than one idea so why not sign someone up to a long term contract so when one show is finished, they have another queued up and ready to roll? I would much prefer a new show over an unneeded season of “Homeland” where Carrie and Brody retire to Montana and raise goats.

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT

We don’t want shit, and I am looking right at you NBC. While there are maybe only a few stories that can ultimately be told, man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. machine, etc., networks need to stop rehashing the same old song and dance. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary, it just needs to be good. And judging from what networks have ordered to pilot, “good” is apparently a very liberal idea and one that will be in short supply.

You can see what the networks have been ordered to pilot here: network pilots.

WEB ONLY CONTENT

And you know what? Maybe a show isn’t ready for broadcast television but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth producing. Take a chance, make it and give it to Netflix to release all at once. It’s a smart move and a long term investment in creativity. It will invariably reap rewards, both creative and financial.

And no, this isn’t something for your Hulu thing. Hulu is marginally better than broadcast. You wouldn’t go to Ralph’s or Stop-n-Shop for the best price on a one gallon jar of mayo, you’d go to Costco. Netflix is the Costco of digital distribution.

Digital only distribution will end up having three, maybe four, players Hulu, YouTube and Google+ (save the Facebook TV argument, it won’t work in the short or long term) and maybe Apple TV. These are the players, find a way to work with them.

Web Only Content is the minor league of creativity and this is where you nurture the talent. By creating web only shows and teaching young show runners how to create and work a show, you are teaching them what it takes to make it in the big leagues. Why not sign some talent, given them a tiny budget and let them have at it. There is plenty of talent out there and networks can capitalize on it…provided they grow a set of balls to do so.

Do NOT underestimate the power of this as both a work farm and revenue stream. Roger Corman did this. And look what we got out of his farm.

EMBRACE PRODUCT PLACEMENT

This is a tad tricky to be sure and I hate writing about product placement but let’s be honest, it’s where the money is. Characters need to wear clothes, eat and drive cars or motorcycles and why shouldn’t the makers of those products pay for that? Of course they do now, no question, but perhaps maybe networks could get a tad more mileage out of that if they didn’t jam it down our throats coupled with 18 minutes, on average, of adverts per one hour show.

The goal is to have the viewer identify, in some sense, with the people on the screen and if they discover little things they like their characters wearing, drinking or whatever, they’ll seek them out. Networks need to do more subtle engagement with the viewer and trust the viewer. We don’t need to have a tight shot of a Rolex or Ray Ban Sunglasses. The more subtle, the better.

There is no denying that this is where more revenue can be gained.

We’ve been standing at a digital crossroads for years now with every single network staring at that fork in the road waiting to see who goes first or which path is the right path. Well, there is no right path, there is only the path that moves you forward. Despite what they tell us I see very very little evidence of progress, in any capacity, in their programming decisions.

Data shows that we want to watch television, be it on a mobile device or on the computer, we just want to watch good television. Therein lies the rub.

Those People

seth

12.2.13 POST FROM SETH GODIN:

At a recent seminar, a woman who helps run a community college stood up to ask a question.

“Well, the bad news,” she said, “is that we have to let everyone in. And the truth is, many of these kids just can’t be the leaders you’re describing, can’t make art. We need people to do manual work, and it’s those people.”

I couldn’t believe it. I was speechless, then heartbroken. All I could think of was these young adults, trusting this woman to lead them, teach them, inspire them and push them, and instead being turned into ‘those people.’

You know, the people who will flip burgers or sweep streets or fill out forms all day. The ones who will be brainwashed into going into debt, into buying more than they can afford, to living lives that quietly move from one assigned task or one debt payment to another. If they’re lucky.

No, I said to her, trying to control my voice, no these are not those people. Not if you don’t want them to be.

Everyone is capable of being generous, at least once. Everyone is capable of being original, inspiring and connected, at least once. And everyone is capable of leading, yes, even more than once.

When those that we’ve chosen to teach and lead write off people because of what they look like or where they live or who their parents are, it’s a tragedy. Worse, we often write people off merely because they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that they have no ability to do more than they’ve been assigned. Well, if we brainwashed them into setting limits, I know we can teach them to ignore those limits.
__________________________________________________________

F*CK THE PEOPLE WHO CALL THEM THOSE PEOPLE (my thought, not Seth’s)