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Action Bob Markle

Music, theater, and my personal life, not always in that order. I try to keep it interesting, I rarely hold back, because one thing I truly believe in is the shared experience of this reality we call life. We're all in this together, people. More than we even know.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

New Madrid

What a great first line....all my daydreams are disasters....

BTW: New Madrid is the name of a major fault line south of St. Louis, kind of where Uncle Tupelo is from....




All my daydreams are disasters
She's the one I think I love
Rivers burn and then run backwards
For her, that's enough
They all come from New York City
And they woke me up at dawn
She walked with me to the fountain
And she held onto my arm
Come on, do what you did
Roll me under New Madrid
Shake my baby and please bring her back
'Cause death won't even be still
Caroms over the landfill
Buries us all in its broken back
There's a man of conviction
And although he's getting old
Mr. Browning has a prediction
And we've all been told
So come on back from New York City
Roll your trucks in at dawn
Walk with me to the fountain
And hold onto my arm
Come on, do what you did
Roll me under New Madrid
Shake my baby and please bring her back
'Cause death won't even be still
Caroms over the landfill
Buries us all in its broken back

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Great Heart



The world is full of strange behaviour
Every man has to be his own saviour
I know I can make it on my own if I try
But I'm searching for a Great Heart to stand me by
Underneath the African sky
A Great Heart to stand me by

Chorus :
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
To hold and keep me by
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
Under African sky
Sometimes I feel that you really know me
Sometimes there's much you can show me

There's a highway of stars across the heavens
The whispering song of the wind in the grass
There's the rolling thunder across the savanna
A hope and dream at the edge of the sky
And your life is a story like the wind
Your life is a story like the wind

Chorus :
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
To hold and keep me by
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
Under African sky
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
I see the fire in your eyes
I'm searching for the spirit of the Great Heart
That beats my name inside
Sometimes I feel that you really know me
Sometimes there's much you can show me

Guka 'mzimba (body grow old)
Sala 'nhliziyo (but heart remain behind)

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Facebook

Sat (well, actually SRO) through a presentation on Facebook today. That's one of the cool things about Agencyland, there are some interesting presentations made by Somebodies. Pretty interesting until the agency marketing, strategy, and general old guard started peppering the guest with questions about click rates and branding campaigns. One exec even was either bold enough (or tactless enough, depending on your pov) to say our clients weren't interested in groups as small as 5,000. Well...goodness...give me 5,000 good leads over 5,000,000, but welcome to the world of Big Business.

I do the Facebook thing, and I'm not sure why. Peer pressure, I think.

On a slow day I'll check Facebook numerous times an hour, just like I'll check email every five minutes even when I didn't have email five minutes ago. (Where is everyone? Does everyone hate me? Why don't I have friends? I need some attention here, people....) I want/crave to see what others are doing. There's something reassuring to seeing someone updating their page, like seeing a far-away light in the darkness, that there are other living, breathing people out there manipulating the bits and bytes in the same sphere that I inhabit. I feel connected, but only slightly.

Facebook is a helluva lot of work. Forget Facebook, social networking is a lot of work. I guess if you want friends, you gotta work for them.


There's the touch, and that's really all there is. C thinks it's all a bunch of bunk, made for the self-absorbed who all they can do is talk about themselves and don't know how to have real relationships. And I think there is a heckuva lot of truth to that. But truth be told, I don't think there's really much difference between dressing up your Facebook page and choosing the shirt you're going to wear to work. It's all for show. Hello?

There's the status message. Updated, it has to be clever and funny and smart. It's hard work to come up with that everyday, and it's important you stay within the boundaries dictated by white middle-class America. John wants to live in a trailer in the middle of the desert with a loaded shotgun by the door is not an appropriate status message on Facebook. At least not in my little world of friends. You gotta fit in, but you don't necessarily have to join the team to play the game.

The shallowness of a Facebook relationship isn't, quite frankly, any more shallow that most relationships I've had in my life. Just like you can count on one hand the number of great teachers you've had in your life, I'm sure most of us hit a certain age and can do the same with the relationships they've had in their life. Most friendships and relationships are just training ground for when the shit really hits the fan, when the chips really fall, and if you're ever unfortunate enough in your life for some general crisis to turn you into a human World Trade Tower you'll find out fast enough just how deep your friendships and relationships are. Most aren't.

Face it, peeps, as a species, most of us are pretty shallow. And I think we all know that. And I think, like it or not, that's exactly the reason that Facebook and MySpace and Bebo and Friendster and Reunion.com et al exist. It's the reason they can exist. People crave touch, and most prefer a poke or SuperPoke over the real physical deal. Whatever their excuse--they don't have the time, the energy. Some will even tell the truth and say society has twisted them to the point where they are emotional cripples and a digital relationship, one they can control with a keyboard and mouse, is preferable to a real one. Did I say preferable? I meant to say required.

But given my rant, I still think there's something there. Something really big. And the problem is we haven't tapped it yet, and I don't think we will before the marketing and strategy and analysis people catch up with their need to quantify clicks and page views. (One page view, to the right person, is worth all the big numbers. That's communication. That's relationships. One passionate true love is worth a ton of one-night stands.)

What's the next big thing? It's not digital. Never will be. The next real big thing will be when digital lets us cut the cord from digital.

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Jane Goodall is hot


I dreamed of going to Africa. Then one day, it happened.

To me, this is an enchanted forest. The Garden of Eden.


If I could have just one wish, it would be to look out at the world through their eyes. To see what they see. To feel what they feel. Even if for only a moment.

A sweet bit of VO from Jane Goodall, who, by the way, I was drop dead in love with when I was a little kid. My God, who wouldn't fall in love with a woman with a ponytail and shorts who went off to the jungle to live with the chimpanzees.

And she's still hot today....


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Today's horrorscope

Here's my horoscope today on Facebook. It's not that I take stock in this stuff. I actually really believe in real astrology. I mean, peeps, how can one randomly generated horoscope be right for the gazillions of Libras. But it's still nice to get something that's a bit optimistic. I bit of flotsam to hang onto in the big sea of despair.

Coincidentally I'm having lunch today with an friend who is an astrologer, and I'm sure astrology will be a big topic.

Anyway, here it is for today:

Social and technological change is at work in your life in a big way now. New ways of making money are becoming apparent to you now. It is time to get your financial situation more stable. An unusual job opportunity may be the answer you have been looking for.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Print Mags won't die

Then this from mediabistro.com's FishBowlNY (Daily) Feed.

Why Print Mags Won't Die.

I guess someone should forward this to No Depression. There are just some things that a piece of paper can do that a computer can't. And vice versa.

The argument that I just made for No Depression in the previous post could also be made against them, too. The magazine business is changing, the model for making money is digital and just like the music industry doesn't know what it's doing, the publishing business doesn't understand the Web any better and how to make money off it.

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No Depression is coming to an end


The March-April issue of No Depression magazine is the second-to-last issue that will be published before it shits the bed. I read the editor's letter on the subway yesterday, after buying it at Border's on Downtown Crossing where I've been buying it for the past year.

Great magazine, if you love alternative music, which is a label for music that I'm prefer to call just plain American. It's the music that's being written and played in America, divorced from the big corporate music world, particularly in Nashville.

The reason for the 'zine folding seems two-fold. Advertising is down, which is where a magazine earns its keep. And the music industry itself is in flux, and the before mentioned advertisers would be the labels, major and minor I suppose, and they don't know which end is up right now. They don't know how to run their businesses right now, and advertising (or media) budgets are critical pieces of the mix. I can understand what happened in the music industry to a degree, but you can't blame it all on the digital world and downloads. A lot of it was shear greed. The price of a CD is still upwards of 18 bucks or more. I still buy CDs, and probably will for awhile. I have an iPod, and download, and while I like being able to buy just one song rather than a whole album, there's still nothing like the quality of my home stereo playing a CD.

And I don't think what the labels get is that the business model has changed so dramatically, and like so many other dinosaurs, they just keep doing the same thing over and over again even though they're not getting the results they want. They are just dumb, dumb, dumb. Money is going to be in concert and beer sales and t-shirts and shit like that, and I learned about so many new artists through No Depression and yes, then went out and bought CDs and told all my friends about them because I get so stoked about talking about new music I've found and went to concerts, the most recent one being Steve Earle (who I learned about from the No Depression cover story a couple of months back) at the end of last month. (Allison Moorer opened for him, and the ad for her CD, Mockingbird, is advertised on the inside back cover.) Right now the cover of No Depression (January-February 2007) is pinned to the bulletin board of my cube here. Lucinda Williams is on the cover. I already knew about her before I found No Depression, but again, have seen her twice in the past year with the accompanying couple of cups of expensive crap beer.

The fat suits don't get viral marketing, social networking, or guerrilla marketing. They don't get that people like me push their CDs harder than they do. They just keep counting their money, and more to the point, they keep counting the money they're losing, rather than how their making it and putting more toward that.

And sorry, dudes, just like the rest of America, you may just have to take a cut in pay. Horrors. That's really it. It's really fat cats (hogs, really) feeding at the trough and are more willing to cut off their own snouts than share the trough.

But I'm getting off the point of losing No Depression. For me, who spends, hell, I don't know how much I spend on music and music-related stuff, but it's a lot, from CDs and magazines off the rack to guitar strings and shit like that, a magazine like No Depression was invaluable to me. And guess what, you fat hogs--I'm invaluable to you, but you're not willing to admit that.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

IMing at the office

Person 1: Will you do me a favor?
Person 2: Shoot you in the back of the head?
Person 1: How'd you know?
Person 2: Just a guess.

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People just keep getting lazier and more out of shape

As if the city and the subway aren't crowded enough, people are now claiming even more personal space by pulling their briefcases along behind them, like little wagons.


It's all the rage, and it's obviously a ripoff of those annoying pieces of luggage that everyone stole from flight attendants which caused everyone to carry their luggage into the cabin of the plane and take up all the overhead compartments that originally were meant for actual carry-ons and precious things like my guitars instead of an entire suitcase filled with your old, used unmentionable underwear and crusty socks.

I guess the combined weight of laptops and files became so out-of-control for type A businesspeople that the little darlings' arms were breaking. I don't want to tell you how heavy my high schooler's backpack is. It's heavier than a daypack I carry in the mountains. So, if she can carry hers, do I and all my fellow commuters and city dwellers have to trip over your little wheeley gizmo because you're too much of a wus to pick the darn thing up and carry it?

I hate these things more than I hate backpacks. There's always some numbskull in the train, usually about the same physical size as Shrek, with a pack on his back instead of on the floor at his feet or in his hand, twisting around, completely unaware that the hump on his back is causing more mayhem than a Golden Retriever's tail at a cocktail party.

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Round of Blues

Shawn Colvin isn't the greatest performer in the world...I've seen her, and that night she seemed uncomfortable in front of an adoring crowd...but she can write a song...the lyrics are so sweet and poetic...the melody and rhythm just sweep you along, going past the downer passages, turning this into, in her own words, a happy little love song...

Here we go again
Another round of blues
Several miles ago
I set down my angel shoes
On a lost highway
For a better view
Now in my mind's eye
All roads lead to you


Chorus:
So wherever you go
You better take care of me
This time
If you're gonna go
Remember me and all
This time


We had our bitter cheer
And sweet sorrow
We lost a lot today
We get it back tomorrow
I hear the sound of wheels
I know the rainbow's end
I see lights in a fat city
I feel love again


Chorus

All this time
I been makin' deals
Shades if black and white
On a Hollywood reel
All this time
I been missing
Something so real
All this time
I been a face in the crowd
Now I'm living in color
And laughing out loud
All these names
For just foolin' around
It's a new breakthrough
It's an old break down


We smoked a lot of hope
We did our cryin' , too
We're finally waking up
To what real love can do
Down a lost highway
Under the twilight moon
A chorus in your eyes
Another round of blues


Chorus

We had all
This time
We had all
This time

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arlington

I love mournful songs that really, in fact, are so hopeful. This is one. Is there something in the wind that whispers start again...?

Where do you go little bird

When it snows, when it snows
When the world turns to sleep
Do you know, do you know

Is there something in the wind
Breathes a chill in your heart and life in your wings
Does it whisper 'start again'
Start again

Where is the sun in the night
Is it cold, is it cold
Does it feel left behind
All alone, all alone

Does it wander through the dark
Does it wait for the dawn, wish on a star
Does it stray very far
Very far

Where is your home restless wind
Is it there, is it here
Do you search for a place to belong
Search in vain, search in fear
Or is your spirit everywhere

Is your voice every tree
Your soul of the air
If there's no home is there no death
Is there no death


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

AM Radio

There were no computers and I remember when skateboards were introduced...do I feel old?...nah...it all makes me laugh...like I told my kids once, to their horror: Eminem will be on the oldies station one of these days....and is it me, or is there some rapping going on here?...


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Ms.Dewey is hot, but the search engine is not

Microsoft may make a bid for Yahoo to compete against Google.

Whatever. Yawn. Microsoft is like this big, hairy boor and the cool people just slide away and party out on the patio.

Google is the most powerful search engine going. Microsoft should just go away. They're products are crap, hard to use, and anything MS touches turns BORING....

But anyone who is looking at search engines or even trying to figure out this whole Internet thang should spend a little time at msdewey.com.


Entertaining as all get out, personable, one-on-one communication. It's what the Web should be right now. Not in the future, but it's a big step forward to what this Web 2.0 shit is all about.

msdewey.com wrote enough skits for the hot actress so that even my ADD-like brain was kept attentive. Usually I can't click off cute, pretty, and trendy fast enough, but I was intrigued enough to see what the developers came up with. And I wasn't disappointed once. Even other apps and sites give you a spinning little ball, msdewey.com gives you Ms. Dewey talking and mugging, and you got to hand it to the actress, she keeps the bits and improve and comedy coming, always fresh and funny.

The downside is Ms. Dewey isn't enough to keep you coming to the site because the search engine, of course, doesn't even begin to compare to Google. I finally typed in a search and got pretty close to nothing, though I did get the one hit I wanted, the rest of the hits really weren't that relevant.

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Walk this way


More morning rants and raves...

I walk fast. I walk with a purpose. When I'm walking, I usually know where I'm going. And I know there are people out there who are a lot more laid back than me, I know you're out there just finding your way in life, smelling the roses, but if you're just going to meander around (with earbuds stuffed in your ears, a slack look on your face, you know where to put the cork) get the hell out of my way.

On the subway platform, you're either waiting or getting on the train. So don't just weave back and forth on the platform getting into pedestrians way.

On the sidewalk, if you're talking on the phone, snap out of it for a minute to realize you're walking about a half a mile a minute and weaving around like a drunken sailor. This is especially true for the many wide-bodies who live in this city whose girth and gravitational field is equal to Jupiter's.

Maybe future city planners will design cities like highways, with fast and slow lanes on the sidewalks.

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MBTA morning rant and rave

It's always good and easy to start the blog with an MBTA rant. Not so much a rant, but just observations--observations that I'm sure others have noticed/blogged/ranted about.

The seats on the Red Line...who designed those tiny little seats and then lined up along the wall the car like that? Whoever it was, they weren't thinking about big American butts and shoulders, that's for sure. And for the life of me, I can't understand why people squeeze themselves in those seats. Most of the time I stand, even if there is a seat. It's just too uncomfortable to be jammed in there, not being able to move your arms or cross you legs. A lot of times you see people sitting on the edge of the seat, like they're on the bench at a close basketball game.

The other thing is people who are crazy about getting to and out the door. They're usually sitting, (and it seems I'm standing over them), and the train is pulling into the station. The door is a few feet away, but before the train stops they got to at least stand up and start pushing toward the door, desperate to get out, making the people standing and clinging with outstretched arms to a tiny pole or overhead bar teeter around. Guess what? I know this is gonna come as a big surprise to you, but you're not the only one getting off. And the train isn't going to take off you with still in it. If you're having a tough time getting off, so is everyone else, so that means the train is going to wait.

Gotta love the city.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I'm getting older, too....and happier

Yes, I put a lot of stock in astrology. It's not that I believe in it explicitly, but it's just one of the tools in my toolbox. I don't believe it's the work of the devil or the occult, as a serious Christian once told me, who said she considered it a sin to read the horoscope in the daily newspaper. Do you read your fortune cookie when you go out for Chinese? Her answer was, yes. So what's the difference, I asked. Of course, she couldn't see the logic.

Anyway, this was my horoscope on my Facebook page today:

John,
Friendships are in the process of a deep personal overhaul. It's not really your friends who are changing - it's you. You are getting older and more mature, and your family or home situation may have an impact on an old friend who has gotten older but not wiser lately.

Hmmm.... and Landslide is playing in my head...funny how all this works....I used to analyze and try to figure this stuff out. I was accused of being too intense, too cerebral. Now I don't think about it too much; I just notice and live and enjoy and marvel at it all...

This has been going on with me for the past couple of years. I've looked hard at a lot of the people I had in my life, and thought that, while they weren't bad people, they just weren't good for me. And I removed them from my life. And this bothered me...a lot. I thought I was being harsh and cruel, something I never thought I was, or that I wanted to be.

But more and more as I talk to people my age, or rather, at the same relative stage I am in my life, it seems all this sorting and culling out is all normal and natural. I thought so, but it's nice to have validation. I have people in my life now, but very few, far less than I've ever had before which has made for some very lonely times, but when I'm with them life is wonderful. They're my children and one or two very old friends, and one or two new friends. People I know have told me they've either gone through the same stage, or are going through the same stage now.

People grow older and change. And some people, hopefully I'm one of them, grow wiser as as we get older. Unfortunately, some, many people don't grow wiser (and I'm very well aware that that is a very subjective statement), and you find the personal relationship you're in with them much like the ones you had when you were in high school or in your twenties. They haven't changed much since that time, and that's usually a result of not really living a life, or having real life-changing experiences. They haven't walked through the fire and emerged on the other side.

And that can get mighty wearing on a person. And, many times, it's destructive to you. And you can't let that happen. It's a hard thing to let people go in your life. It's not something most of us do naturally. We tend to either stay or perpetuate relationships long after their time is up, long after they've become unhealthy or destructive. You have to take that first step. And the next and then the next. It gets easier because, not surprisingly, your life gets better. The pain or anxiety or discomfort that was always there goes away, and a certain kind of peace takes over. That peace might best be described as happiness, or contentment.

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Landslide

You reach an age...or maybe it's not an age because age really just is a state of mind...so we reach a stage in our lives where we really stop giving a shit about a lot of things that we used to spend way too much time and energy worrying about...we do and say things and don't care how they sound or come across, because that's just the way we are...that's just the way the Creator made us and we just accept ourselves for who we are, not good, not bad, certainly not perfect, just human...one of the biggest reliefs in my life was learning that I'm just human...at one point in my life, it seems like so long ago, so much was expected of me...others expected things of me that I wasn't capable of doing, no more than you'd expect a fish to play the guitar...I was put on a pedestal, and the dizzy height of that place is somewhere I don't ever want to be again...and amazingly, when you stop trying to be that person that everyone else wants you to be and you become that person you really are, the horizon just opens up...

Anyway, all the above comes around because I'm about to say something that's going to sound so weird and bizarre, and I plain old don't care: I wish I had Stevie Nicks' voice, at least when she was in her prime, because I love voices that aren't beautiful voices. Lucinda Williams. Steve Earle. John Prine. People whose rough voices add so much to the song.

And the combination of Nicks' voice and the lyrics make this song so powerful.

I took my love and I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love
Can the child within my heart rise above
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life

Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too
Well...

Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older, too
Well I'm getting older too

So, take this love and take it down
Year and if you climb a mountain and ya turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well the landslide brought me down
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well maybe
Well maybe
Well maybe the landslide will bring you down


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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Curse of the Starving Class

From The Curse of the Starving Class, by Sam Shepard:

WESLEY: Did you call the cops?

ELLA: Last night?

WESLEY: Yeah.

ELLA: Sure I called the cops. Are you kidding? I was in danger of my life. I was being threatened.

WESLEY: He wasn’t threatening you.

ELLA: Are you kidding me? He broke the door down, didn’t he?

WESLEY: He was just trying to get in.

ELLA: That’s no way to get into a house. There’s plenty of other ways to get into a house. He could’ve climbed through a window.

WESLEY: He was drunk.

ELLA: That’s not my problem.

WESLEY: You locked the door.

ELLA: Sure I locked the door. I told him I was going to lock the door. I told him the next time that happened I was locking the door and he could sleep in a motel.

WESLEY: Is that where he is now?

ELLA: How should I know?

WESLEY: He took the Packard I guess.

ELLA: If that’s the one that’s missing I guess that’s the one he took.

WESLEY: How come you called the cops?

ELLA: I was scared.

WESLEY: You thought he was going to kill you?

ELLA: I thought—I thought, “I don’t know who this is. I don’t know who this is trying to break in here. Who is this? It could be anyone.”

WESLEY: I heard you screaming at each other.

ELLA: Yes.

WESLEY: So you must’ve known who it was.

The dialogue is from the first scene of the first act, and this is one reason why I love Sam Shepard so much. He understands. He understands people and their relationships and how men and women act at their most base.

Men get drunk because they're hurt and in pain, and they can't just come out and say they're hurting.

Woman call the police, not because they're scared, but because they're mad. But they have to be feminine, so they can't say they're mad, they have to lie and say they're scared.

And I love Sam Shepard because the characters stay and slug it out. It's their world and they're trapped in it, but there's no running away. No sweeping things under the carpet. Things are faced and addressed and paid attention to.


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Awareness test

From Renee....


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Friday, March 14, 2008

Secret to a Long Life

Simple--but not as simple as it first appears; look at that rhyming pattern if you don't believe me--and just a fun song to hear and play.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ferraro, Obama, and a grain of truth

The Democrats have always had a way of shooting themselves in the foot. The Republican Party is like this Nazi army that just marches and follows orders. They follow the rules they've set and don't deviate from their game plan. They're like mean political machine.

The Dems have always come across like one big crazy band of loons roaming the countryside, never together, like this patriotic amoeba moving this way and that and generally moving in the same direction.

Those are generalizations. In truth, the Dems aren't any more good guys than the Republicans are the bad guys.

So why, when they've got a fairly good shot at the White House (but not the apparent shoe-in that Gore had and blew) does Geraldine "Jerry" Ferraro shoot off her mouth the way she did the other day saying that Obama wouldn't be where he was if he were black?

I mean, does the party really need someone doing someone like that at these times?

Oh, she was just saying what she felt, exercising her First Amendment rights?

Okay, maybe. But a couple of things. First, the Dems don't need someone saying something as divisive as that. It's time to start pulling together, and a big problem with this prez election is the same problem we've always had: It's not about the voters or the country but about the egos of the candidates. Right now it's just one big mud-slinging popularity contest.
The other thing is that in this election, race (and sex) are out there. Whites in Ohio voted for Clinton, or against Obama, depending how you want to look at it. That's racist, but no more racist than blacks voting for Obama in Mississippi. Also, people are voting for Clinton simply because she's a woman and they want to see a woman in power. That's sexist.

So, let's get it all out there. It ain't a perfect democratic process where people are voting for the best person. They are voting their prejudices, which they've always done, it's just a lot more apparent now.

But here's the thing: there is a grain of truth to what Ferraro said. Obama is where he is because he's a person of color (he's not black, but bi-racial.) Guess what, in some ways, Clinton's where she is because she's a woman. The country is dying for a change, and in part both Obama because of his race and Clinton because of her sex represent that need for change.

But to say, or imply, as it seems Ferraro has, that Obama has had it easy because of his skin color is just nuts. He's had it about ten time harder to get to where he is because of his skin color. And you could probably say that about Clinton, too, because of her sex.

So, it's just stand back and watch the idiots come out of the woodwork. The best elections always do that.

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B.P.D.

Omigod...I've seen this before...and dontcha know, it's a band from Sin City...

Darnit, can't find a vid. Nice haunting voice, it sounds like what your life feels like when you're dealing the truly crazy...

You're makin' a mess

Somethin' I can't fix
This time you're on your own

I'd make it alright
But I wouldn't get it right
I'm leavin' it alone

For cryin' outloud
Cryin' outloud
Cryin' out
You're cryin' out

Yeah

You're makin' a mess
Is that what you do best?
Is madness just a hand-me-down?

It's anyone's guess
But I must confess
The performance isn't that profound

Yeah

I'm waiting for the end
Waiting to begin again

You're makin' a mess
Somethin' you can't hide
A slow suicide
Just one bite at a time

I should love you less
But I can't I guess
Only God can save us now

Cryin' out

Yeah

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Going primal (again)


Started Meisner classes again last night. This time for auditioning and monologues. Open yourself up, break down those barriers, and make yourself vulnerable.

Not worried a bit about getting hurt. But I did raise my hand during the contract session where we as a class agree to what we want and don't want to have happen, and said I don't want to hurt anyone. During the last classes I took in Meisner, the people I was most afraid of were the people I knew I could annihilate. And I don't want to hurt anyone. Never again, for any reason, especially for something as silly as acting.

Starting out, I have so many prejudices and opinions. Another roomful of actors, some of whom I know, and they're all flitting about like so many birds. Me, me, me, me...look at me. So desperately in need of attention. Why? I have no idea. I've never understood this part of acting, of actors. To me, it's like a trade, like plumbing. And it's such a wonderful way to explore the world, this reality we call life, and myself.

And my first time up, paired with the prettiest actress in the class--and I knew it; why did I know that was going to happen?--I didn't pull the trigger. I wanted to, I was looking right at her, I was staring into her eyes, I was watching her face move, her face change, I was watching her try all the feminine moves that I have seen and heard so many times from women who are pretty and know it and use that piece of meat between their legs so well and I was so disappointed and at one point she said, you wanted to say something, and yeah, I did, but what would have been the point of saying, you're disappointing me, you're empty, you've got nothing, give me something new?

And I hate myself for that. Hate it. Because she is a person, sure, and like all people just trying the best she can, doing the best she can given who she is, meaning the sum total of all her experiences, and I've a good idea where all this is going to lead: I'm going to suddenly break down and be kind (that was one of the things she said--you look kind, and I wanted to say, you've got to be joking; I've heard that one before and I have no call, no reason, no ability to be kind) but I'll be kind and I'll get nailed for it.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mary Ann busted for pot

Saying your favorite is one way in our culture we try to get a handle on ourselves. Who's your favorite Beatle? Your favorite character in the Wizard of Oz? Vanilla or chocolate?



And then there's Mary Ann or Ginger?

I guess I'm dating myself because that last choice refers to two female supporting characters on the TV show, Gilligan's Island who prepubescent boys, and I'm sure quite a few little girls, would fantasize about under the sheets back in the sixties. Ginger was a gorgeous, sexy actress. Mary Ann was the girl next door.

Well, Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann was arrested in Idaho and put on six months probation for allegedly having marijuana in her car. She was stopped after being observed swerving and speeding and slowing down after leaving a surprise birthday her friends threw for her. Wells said she was trying to figure out the heater controls in the new unfamiliar car she was driving, and the pot belonged to some hitchhikers she had just dropped off.

She's got good friends. They testified she hadn't been drinking (much) and others said they left the pot in her car.

I knew there was something about Mary Ann that I liked. Don't worry, Dawn. That six months will go by faster than you think.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Calling all George Clooney look-a-likes


I'm an actor, and it can be kind of weird business. Not all, but a lot of the business is just pure surface.

Anyway, today I got an email today from a local casting agency looking for a gorgeous, George Clooney-esque man to be in a movie with Sandra Bullock. Now, as you can see from the pic at the left, I'm not a George Clooney look-a-like. I'm definitely not one of those guys who turns heads when he walks in a room. As a matter of fact, I've been known to repel a few people. Mothers would clutch their children to their breasts. Conversation halted when I entered a room, but not because of my looks.

And I know this about myself and actually kind of get a kick out of it. I mean, I'm not going to hurt anyone, but it's funny to see people keep an eye on me. It's all part of being an actor and knowing how you present to the world. It is a choice I make how I present myself, but the choice is based on who I am, and how I feel most comfortable. I'm not a pretty boy or a glamor pus, and never wanted to be.

But what if you don't. What if you see something like this ad, and go, hell, I'm a good-lookin' guy. I think I'll go for it. I've known lots of people who are totally clueless about how they look, what they're like.

Man, that's gotta be a mean wakeup call.

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Slow Show

For every clumsy loser guy who ever walked, crawled, or slinked through parties and other social train wrecks...from The National



Standing at the punch table swallowing punch
can’t pay attention to the sound of anyone
a little more stupid, a little more scared
every minute more unprepared

I made a mistake in my life today
everything I love gets lost in drawers
I want to start over, I want to be winning
way out of sync from the beginning

I wanna hurry home to you
put on a slow, dumb show for you
and crack you up
so you can put a blue ribbon on my brain
god I’m very, very frightening
I’ll overdo it

Looking for somewhere to stand and stay
I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away
Can I get a minute of not being nervous
and not thinking of my dick
My leg is sparkles, my leg is pins
I better get my shit together, better gather my shit in
You could drive a car through my head in five minutes
from one side of it to the other

I wanna hurry home to you
put on a slow, dumb show for you
and crack you up
so you can put a blue ribbon on my brain
god I’m very, very frightening
I’ll overdo it

You know I dreamed about you
for twenty-nine years before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
I missed you for
for twenty-nine years

You know I dreamed about you
for twenty-nine years before I saw you

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Life on a Chain

Nothing big here...just a foot-tapping song that's good to wake yourself up to....I mean, does everything have to be so heavy?

I live on a chain and you share the same last name, as a joke,
I sent a bottle of whiskey, as you choked,
I knew it made you feel dirty,
And I was waiting over here for life to begin,
I was looking for the new thing,
And you were THE sunshine heading my front-line,
I was alone, you were just around the corner from me.
Time alone is good, I spend my days in the city,
Dirty neighborhood, you know you'll never convince me,
So I sold the town away, I couldn't wait to forget you,

I was killed in half a day, I hadn't time to regret you,
And I was waiting over here for life to begin,
I was looking for the new thing
And you were the sunshine heading my front line,
I was alone you were just around the corner from me.
I, I'm still on the chain, and you, had the same last name,
As a joke I sent a bottle of whiskey
As you choked you said it made you feel dirty...
Waiting over here, for life to begin,
Still looking for the new thing,
And you were the sunshine heading my front-line,
I was alone, you were just around the corner from me


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Cool Folk Fest in Providence on March 15, 2008

Got this from The Low Anthem.

The biggest INDEPENDENT FOLK show to come to Providence in a long while.

The concert features four fantastic artists on the fast rise in the folk scene, including a Grammy winner! Info on each is below. The concert is the first in the "No-Scene Folk" series put on by The Low Anthem. It is gaining traction with coverage from the Projo, Motif, and Phoenix.

What can we say, It's the first show of it's kind, and we really really really really hope to see you.

MARCH 15 at Firehouse 13
Doors open at 7:00 p.m.
www.firehouse13.org

The artists are Anais Mitchell, The Low Anthem, Antje Duvekot, and Jesse Harris.

email: jjonesmusic@gmail.com for advanced tickets ($10) or buy them at the door.
-------------------------------------------------------------

ANAIS MITCHELL
She is Ani DiFranco's newest signee to Righteous Babe record and a beautiful songwriter! From Vermont, this will be her first headlining show in Providence, since her opening spot at Lupo's.




THE LOW ANTHEM
That's us. We're the financiers, promoters, and local flavor for this show. We hope you come see the night we've put together.





ANTJE DUVEKOT
Antje is a singer/songwriter from Germany on Black Wolf Records.

JESSE HARRIS
Jesse has had his songs recorded by Bright Eyes, Cat Power, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and more. He is a GRAMMY WINNER.


FIREHOUSE 13
located at 41 Central St. Providence, RI Firehouse 13 is an old gutted
firehouse-turned art space. Tickets are general admission.

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My country tis of theee

Patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings.

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Roots

We need roots...

We've lost more than we'll ever know...




Visit the site


Now it's been 25 years or more
I've roamed this land from shore to shore
From Tyne to Tamar, Severn to Thames
From moor to vale, from peak to fen

Played in cafes, pubs and bars
I've stood in the street with my own guitar
But I'd be richer than all the rest
If I had a pound for each request

For 'Duelling Banjos', 'American Pie'
It's enough to make you cry
'Rule Britannia', or 'Swing low...'
Are they the only songs we English know?

Seed, bark, flower, fruit
They're never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoot
They need roots

After the speeches, when the cake's been cut
The disco's over and the bar is shut
At christening, birthday, wedding or wake
What can we sing 'til the morning breaks

When the Indians, Asians, Afro-Celts
It's in their blood, below their belt
They're playing and dancing all night long
So what have they got right that we've got wrong?

Seed, bark, flower, fruit
They're never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoot
They need roots and

Haul away boys, let them go
Out in the wind and the rain and snow
We've lost more than we'll ever know
'Round the rocky shores of England
We need roots

And a minister said his vision of hell
Is three folk singers in a pub near Wales
Well, I've got a vision of urban sprawl
There's pubs where no-one ever sings at all

And everyone stares at a great big screen
Overpaid soccer stars, prancing teens
Australian soap, American rap
Estuary English, baseball caps

And we learn to be ashamed before we walk
Of the way we look, and the way we talk
Without our stories or our songs

How will we know where we come from?
I've lost St. George and the Union Jack
It's my flag too and I want it back

Seed, bark, flower, fruit
Never gonna grow without their roots
Branch, stem, shoot
We need roots

Haul away boys, let them go
Out in the wind and the rain and snow
We've lost more than we'll ever know
'Round the rocky shores of England
We need roots...

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Monday morning political rant

Was talking to this guy this past weekend. He's leaning comfortable against the wall. He's easy-going and slow-talking. He brought up the election. He said he'd like to vote Democrat, but Obama doesn't have the experience and Clinton...well, Clinton can be waved aside with a wave of a hand that can mean so much. But McCain is for the war...

More of the same. It's always just more of the same. And as much as I'd love to vote for Obama, I may be voting for him just to vote against someone else. But I sure as hell ain't voting for Clinton. Just more of the same, and as C has pointed out more than once, we don't want to go back there. We don't want to take the country back to that time ever again because we know where that road leads. It lead us to where we are today, to the country saying we don't want any more of this stuff and they voted for a change and look at the change we got.

This country is bankrupt. In a war that is just bleeding us. Bleeding us.

More and more I have yet to see a candidate that represents me.

I value a small government. Our government is a joke right now. Why the hell is Congress investigating Major League Baseball and the needle marks on Roger Clemens' ass while letting the banking industry hand out all those loans that eventually started rotting the worldwide economy? Go home, Congress. Go home if that's all you got to do so we can turn off the lights and turn down the heat on Capitol Hill and save some money. They have nothing better to do so they just make more problems. Idle hands. Shouldn't Congress basically take a look at the budget, allocate it, then go home? Really, what the hell else do they have to do?

I value the preservation of the environment. Freedom to the states and less federal influence. Washington has no idea what's going on in my life. I want someone who can make real jobs, not greeters at Wal-Mart, but someone who can make enough jobs where you can feed a family and you're not locked into a boring job just because there's no where else to go. That means someone who understands business and the economy. And we need someone who's tough of crime, and I don't mean some damn petty drug dealer, I mean the high-level corporate greed that's splitting this country wide open, making the rich so much richer and the making more poor, sending jobs out of the country. I want to see someone reform taxes. That someone like me pays the amount of taxes I pay is just plain robbery. And we just let government take and take and take. We have to make education more accessible. The cost of a college education is way off the map, and people just keep ponying up, borrowing and mortgaging and double and triple mortgaging their homes, jeopardizing their own future. You can't even take off the interest on a school loan on your taxes in this country. Education used to be the one of the cornerstones of this country.

And that's probably such a tall order, to do all that with less government. And I'm sure every candidate says they can do that, and would smile and say they agree with me, until they moved on to the next person to see what he or she had to say.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Support Radio Paradise and buy green stuff

For the past couple of days I've been glued to my desk just doing grunt work. It's just like ditch digging. It just sucks.

But unlike ditch digging I can at least sit here and crank the tunes on my headphones. Yes, there are a lot of Internet radio sites out there, the least of which is Pandora, which I'm not that crazy about.

For new music, one of my favorites is Radio Paradise. You can vote for each song, there's a forum of some really knowledgeable people who discuss each song, and each song is linked to a lot of good info, like the Wikipedia entry, the artist's site, tour schedules, all that stuff that music nuts want to know.

Anyway, it's free radio, and since I'm kind of short these days, I figure I'd assuage my guilt by at least getting the word out about these guys to people who may be able to reach into their pockets.

And there's kind of some neat stuff in case you want more than the music for your money. I guess any coins that come their way works for them.

Anwyay, in their store they have a bunch of stuff like the obligatory t-shirt and all that, but since they're a California site they got also have these reusable bags you can take the grocery store and keep using.

I usually don't bring my own bags to the grocery store, but just last night I did have a wad of them in my briefcase that I had here at the office from taking my lunch. When I went to the Super 88 after getting off the subway I pulled one of those suckers out to carry home my milk and Shanghai veggies. I was feeling real good and green and PC about that.

The other thing RP has that caught my eye were soy candles.


What the...? I thought. Sue and I burn candles all the time. They make the place look quiet and peaceful and relaxing and so darn romantic that if the candles don't burn the place down, we will. Anyway, I have no idea why you want candles made out of soy, but again, these people in California know more about stuff like that than I do. Here's why they say you should buy them:

# Breathe Easy - no carcinogens and clean burning
# Lead-Free Wicks (cotton and paper only)
# Non-toxic, biodegradable, and cleans up with soap and water
# Longer Burning - slower and cooler - as much as 3 times longer than regular candles
# Highly fragrant all the way through - from top to bottom, guaranteed
# Made from Soybeans - Supports American Farmers

I'm still sold on beeswax candles because they remind me of church and being an altar boy, which is really between me and my therapist and that's all I'm going to say about that.

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Downtown Crossing Christian pains-in-the-you-know-what

Sunday brings on daylight savings time. It's March, and in New England there still should be snow on the ground, but I walked around Downtown Crossing today with my coat open.

And a sure sign of spring coming is those loony Christians with their sketch pads on Downtown Crossing. I guess they figured out what other communicators figured out a long time ago: Use pictures and you'll increase readership/viewership substantially. I guess people are so used to staring at the television that if someone stands there and hollers out inanities but is drawing pictures at the same time people actually will stop.

And again, I asked the question: Would someone please explain to me why I have to be subjected to that during the one short time in my day when I'm looking just for some peace? It's their first amendment rights? Uh, do I have any rights?

I have to say, raised a Catholic, I gave up on Jesus and all that a while ago. There ain't no heaven, and there ain't no hell. I think the bible is a wonderful book. I haven't read the entire thing, but enough of it. I think there are great stories in there on how to live your life right. And I think Jesus was a great man. He brought love and kindness to a world when it didn't exist before. He realized that we need love and kindness for our own survival. It was couched in spiritual survival, but as a species that is not only capable but seems hell-bent on killing ourselves, emotions like love and kindness and sympathy and forgiveness--all the things that Jesus preached we should have--keep the species alive.

But I think however the world is made up, I think it's a lot closer to the Einsteinian universe consisting of multiple and parallel universes, where we repeat our lives over and over again.

I think the universe as described by Christians dumbs down something as great as a Creator and the universe. It makes it so they, the dumb nuts standing out on Downtown Crossing, can understand it.

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Opinion: This country needs a benevolent dictator

Sometimes, mostly lately meaning in this period of my life running hard in middle age, I think democracy is full of it. Give me a benevolent dictator like what they have in Thailand over the option of what the current political circus gives us every four years.

Years ago I had the misfortune of knowing someone who was accused of something that eventually put him away for five years. I still don't know to this day whether or not he was guilty, but I attended his trial, and I have to tell you, if I am ever in that position, the last thing I want is a jury of my peers. There's no such thing. I don't know what the founding fathers were thinking, but if they saw what was sitting on the jury they would have just broken down and cried.

Sorry, I know this country was founded on the rights of the individual, as opposed to someplace like the old Soviet Union or Japan that favors society over the individual, but we've been dumbing down for so long in the United States that the individual seems to have been reduced to nothing but a big bag of water, which is basically what the human species really is anyway. Think jellyfish with hair.

So, I think when whatever the process is that allows states like Ohio and Texas pretty much decide who's going to be in the White House, I think that process is in dire need of fixing. What people on the east and west coasts don't fully comprehend is that there is 2,999 miles between Boston/New York/Washington and California/Oregon/Washington. And there is a very good reason that Stanford is on the west coast and Harvard and MIT and Princeton are on the east. There is a really good reason why innovation in this country comes from the coasts and not the heartland (unless you consider Wal-Mart an innovation.) It's dying out there people. People are conservative (not in the political sense, just meaning they're afraid of risk and they're just willing to let this sit and fester; I mean they are so afraid of change.) It's been going on for decades now, starting at the beginning of the 20th century. Anyone who wanted to do anything with their lives got the hell out of there as fast as they could, even with $26 in their pocket, and headed for either coast.

And now, the people who are left get to choose the president. Fucking brilliant.

Sorry, I know it sounds elitist and I guess it is. I'm not an idiot. I've been tested and my IQ runs up on what's considered very high intelligence. If I'm sitting in a roomful of people, there's a very good chance I'm going to be the "brightest." And it took me a long time to be comfortable with that. I would just dumb myself down to the rest of the people sitting around me. And I did that to great expense to myself. Finally, a very good person said to me, John, you just have to get used to the idea that you're smart. I did, and it's part of my age and experience that I have at this point in my life that I just don't give a shit anymore what anyone thinks.

And I'm not trying to brag on myself; only position myself as someone who has a right to have an opinion. Because I don't believe that, while everyone may have an opinion, they necessarily have the right to express it.

Nor, just because everyone has that right to vote, it does seem to me to be a problem that you might not want them voting for dog catcher much less president based on their knowledge base or personality.

And yeah, don't think I don't know that I'm treading on thin ice. I'm talking about an elite ruling class.

But there was a time in the United States when it seemed people were smarter, more engaged in society, better educated. I don't know what happened. The cost of education kept people out of the college? The fracturing of the family made people didn't allow us to concentrate on our children. The rise of cable television and all of its crap that slowly rotted our minds like sugar cereal did our teeth?

I don't know. All I know is, this country is going to hell in a handbag, and I don't see anyone--politicians, the voters, anyone, taking charge and by that I mean taking charge with a real vision. A new vision for the new worldwide economy and foreign policy and re-establishing the US as a true world leader and rebuilding the infrastructure of this country so there are jobs and opportunity. It's all the same old/same old and right now that's not working for us.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Newsletter copy has to be fresh as fish

Clients just can't figure out why click rates and visits to their sites drop. And they look at the pros and say, fix it. Do something.

What they don't know is it's all in their hands.

Most of the time I see clients just doing the same old same-old. E-newsletter after e-newsletter has the same content, pushing the same old products and service, month after month after month. And clients--marketing people--can really be that dense. The obvious, that their readers see that they've seen it before so don't click, read, visit, isn't apparent to them.

Newsletters are like food; you want it fresh. Today. Like fish and vegetables you don't want it stale. No one wants day-old bread. You want if fresh and hot and smelling so good that you can't help but bite into it.

The same for good copy.

Every newsletter has to have news, and it helps that it's exciting news, but it has to be at least news. Not one bit of old copy. Pickup. Reworked copy. Not...one...bit.

And if you don't have new, well, hold on a minute, yeah, you do; you're just not looking hard enough. You're just not working hard enough. That's why they're paying you the big bucks.

And for all that old copy? I've never understood why companies don't put an archive on newsletters. A link to a part of their site that has all their old newsletters and copy and information.

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My Old Friend the Blues

It's funny how my brain works. For almost my entire life, I viewed myself as a writer, hands downs. And I still do. Writing's still at the base, the very bottom block that if it were kicked out I'd topple.

But music is more and more becoming a dominate force, and now I have playlists in my brain that seem to accurately reflect how I'm feeling. That's where the lyrics and vids on this blog come from. They're a really accurate barometer for how I'm doing (if anyone really cares.)

So,it was no surprise that halfway through my sleep and when I woke this morning I had Steve Earle singing My Old Friend the Blues in my head. A conversation with the ex can do that. The sudden reminder that I felt like this a lot of the time, and while it's gone away it's still pretty familiar.

And I gotta throw in here, my ex isn't a bad person. She isn't. We're just really different. Opposites attract, most definitely. But there has to be some sort of commonality to keep you together, and it was just years and years of tugging against each other. It can wear on you. Wear on you to the point that today I have a headache grinding away the back of my head and my shoulders hurt like they always used to.

I think we were just too young to get married. I think most people are, to tell the truth.

But now we have separate lives and our lives are so different. Just different values and goals and dreams. And, just like in the marriage, she wants me to live her life, live by her rules, do things her way (at least that's my perception) and that's where the grind comes from.

It's hard to change. It's hard to accept change, even for someone like me who most people will say have changed the most, though I'd say I'm just me, this is the me that's always been there, lying under the surface, just sort of sleeping.



Anyway, Sue and I just look at each other and say we're going to keep our eye on the life we want, live it the way we want, knowing that it's not bad, it's good, good for everyone in the long run, and we don't hurt anyone.

Just when every ray of hope was gone
I should have known that you would come along
I can't believe I ever doubted you
My old friend the blues

Another lonely night, a nameless town
If sleep don't take me first, you'll come around
'Cause I know I can always count on you
My old friend the blues

Lovers leave and friends will let you down
But you're the only sure thing that I've found
No matter what I do I'll never lose
My old friend the blues

Just let me hide my weary heart in you
My old friend the blues

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Throw away the old rules on the Web

People just don't like change, do they? You see it everywhere. But so much in business. And especially now, you have to be so...and I hate this word used like this but...you have to be so nimble. You have to be able to react so...well yes, quickly, but also deftly.

I work in what's called the digital space. Web sites. I write. Big deal, you say. What's the difference between writing for the Web and writing for any other corporate communications material?

Big difference, dude. And I know because I've been writing for a long, long time. Twenty-eight years now, professionally, and I've seen a lot.

But let me say first, we still don't know what to do with this thing called the Web. Given that, I can say that the rules, whatever they are for the Web, are not the same rules that apply to print.

And that is the mistake I see clients make over and over and over again. Marketing people doing what they know, instead of figuring out that they could be making up the rules as they go along. Apply the rules they learned for direct marketing and print. Using frequency and the old tricks to try to get people to open an email the same way they tried to get people to open a direct mail envelope.

You only have seconds, they'd beat into our heads when we were writing direct mail. You only have seconds before they either open your envelope or toss it in the garbage. And that's what they say now. But guess what? Time a mouse click. How long is that? A half second? So you don't have seconds. I wish I had friggin' seconds to get somebody to read a subject line.

So the old rules don't apply anymore. You gotta figure out something else because there is something else going on in our readers' synapses. Hell, for one thing, they're not holding the envelope anymore. Getting them to pick it up, hold it, feel it. That was part of the experience. The experience is different now.

Frequency. In print, you could keep running the same ad, keeping flooding the mailbox with the same DM package, because eventually you'd get them in a weak moment and they would look or open it. They'd recycle copy from brochures to print ads to direct mail pieces to reinforce the message. Reinforcing the message basically meant beating the reader over the head with it.

But you can't use frequency on the Web. You can't recycle copy because people want fresh. Always news. And when they see something that they've seen before. Click. It's that fast. I don't know what that's from. A carry-over from when they paid for online minutes the way we still pay for cell phone time, or what. But the audience behaves differently on the Web than they did in the old days of print.

What are the answers? What are the new rules? Always keep copy fresh. Always make it brief and easy-to-read and dynamic. Make it very personal, and very appropriate to the reader. Forget corporate-speak. Talk in easy-to-understand language. Those are some of the new rules.

But there are more to come, and what's really fun about this business is that you really can set the pace. You can come up with your own rules based on your own knowledge of your visitors and readers and customers.

But, first thing, change. Throw out the old rules. Like always, know them, so you can break them. But then throw them away.

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For Want of a Nail

For Want of a Nail

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.


I know, I know I'm being melodramatic here, but how many times in a office do things grind to a halt because the copier doesn't work--and no one knows how to fix it or even change something as simple as the toner or the paper?

Or again, a machine that should be so simple to operate just flummoxes you?

Office machines just keep getting more and more complicated, and it should be the other way around. What ever happened to the computer industry's long-ago promise that computers (and what are copiers and faxes except dumbed-down computers?) would be as simple to use as toasters?

I was just trying to fax some receipts. The fax machine seemed to work. I mean, this is a software problem as much as anything. The machine seemed to be doing something, I just don't know what it was that it was doing, and I wasn't getting any visual confirmation. No receipt. No readout on the little monitor that my receipts were being transmitted and I would get a check in the mail.

And then, no receipt of the fax. Just some cryptic message that said check paper size. I did. Okay. I checked. I did what you commanded me to do. I'll do a bit more. I'll add paper, thinking maybe there's a sensor going hay-wire. Nothing.

There are all kinds of buttons, but the only partially logical button is the cancel. To hell with it, I'll cancel and if that doesn't work I'll just refax it somewhere else and just flood the vendor with faxes.

But that seems to work, because lo and behold, the machine starts spitting out receipts of sent faxes, dating from back at the end of February. So people have been just faxing and not fixing the machine. Great. I guess I'm missing something about office etiquette. Just don't think of your fellow worker; just keep the machine limping along.

On one of the most decisive days of the presidential race, the biggest thing on my mind is the stupid fax machine. Tip O'Neil was right: all politics are local.

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Pink Houses and the Ohio Primary

Today are the Ohio and Texas primaries. Obama and Clinton are banging heads.

Don't know anything about Texas. Just what I know from the movies and books. Which means I don't know anything about Texas.

Being an old Ohio boy and knowing that place the way I do, I can't imagine Obama or Clinton winning Ohio in November. That crusty old fucker, McCain, would fit right in there, north, south, center.

But today isn't about November. It's watching to see who those slow-talking, simple folk would choose today: a woman or a black man. Neither would be their first choice, I'll guarantee you that. Their world just keeps getting crazier.

Anyway, I thought John Mellancamp's Pink Houses would be pretty appropriate for today. John Edwards liked it. Not that I'm endorsing anyone here. It's just there are certain singers who embody Ohio. Country. Blue collar. Middle America. Bob Seger comes to mind. Mellancamp's another. Ain't that America. Chevy trucks. All that.


There's a black man with a black cat livin' in a black neighborhood
He's got an interstate runnin' through his front yard
You know he thinks that he's got it so good
And there's a woman in the kitchen cleanin' up the evenin' slop
And he looks at her and says, "Hey darlin', I can remember when
you could stop a clock."

Oh but ain't that America for you and me
Ain't that America somethin' to see baby
Ain't that America home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me

There's a young man in a t-shirt
Listenin' to a rockin' rollin' station
He's got greasy hair, greasy smile
He says, "Lord this must be my destination."
'Cause they told me when I was younger
"Boy you're gonna be president."
But just like everything else those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went

Oh but ain't that America for you and me
Ain't that America somethin' to see baby
Ain't that America home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me

Well there's people and more people
What do they know know know
Go to work in some high rise
And vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico
Ooh yeah
And there's winners and there's losers
But they ain't no big deal
'Cause the simple man baby pays for the thrills, the bills,
the pills that kill

Oh but ain't that America for you and me
Ain't that America somethin' to see baby
Ain't that America home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me


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Monday, March 3, 2008

Steve Earle in Somerville

There's so much to be said about Steve Earle's concert on Friday at Somerville Theater.

Allison Moorer, his wife, but more importantly an extraordinary talent herself opened the show. Nice surprise because it seemed everyone we talked to didn't know who was opening. I found out from the beer guy. I came back upstairs to our seats with our beer and Sue was talking to the people next to us who had heard rumors of her opening.

Moorer has a gorgous trained voice and an easy way of playing guitar. It's all sort of precise and, while I don't want to use the word academic, it's that everything about it is letter-perfect.

As opposed to Earle.

An entire acoustic set, if you can discount all the electronic wizardry that Earle uses. Even when Moorer was playing her set, I suddenly realized we were also listening to violins.

Earle is just so dynamic. So passionate. His voice is rougher, and so is his playing. While Moorer's is letter-perfect, Earle, well, as a buddy of mine said about my guitar playing, he takes liberties. But it's like listening to Lucinda Williams. Their unique voice and rough guitar playing is such a major part of what makes their music what it is, how it touches us.

He played most of Washington Square Serenade. (I'm working here: it's after hours here at the office and what the fuck is it about people and their speaker phones?) Anyway...

For his encore, one of the songs he played was from his Guitar Town album, the hillbilly tear-jerker Little Rock 'n' Roller, about a dad who's calling his little boy from a truck stop in Arkansas.

He prefaced it with a long talk about being a dad and being away from his kids when they were so little. So maybe it's a tear-jerker and maybe it's a cliche but, once again, the song has always resonated with me. You feel bad for all the things you've done, all the stupid things you've done, for the way things are because of you and there's no way you can ever go back and fix things. When people say, it's never too late, well, yes, sometimes it is too late. And sometimes things get broken that can never get fixed again, no matter what you try to do. That's life.

And it's always the kids that get hurt. Who get the brunt of things. And what's so endearing about this song is, that no matter how much the dad is hurting, it's the unspoken little child who is hurting the most.


I know you miss me, God knows I'm thinkin' 'bout you
I got your picture in my wallet, it cheers me up sometimes when I'm blue
Well little guy, I'm gonna have to let you go
You know it's way past your bedtime, and they're tellin' me we gotta roll


That last line, of the boss tearing him away from the phone like that, you can just feel the hearts ripping...

Anyway, here's a vid from YouTube where Earle is pretty much giving the whole talk that he gave in Somerville. You can see how passionate he is about things. About what he writes about. How he feels.

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