When The Going Gets Weird, The Weird Turn Pro

IMG_0200 As noted by that great philosopher Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Here at Comic-Con ("dedicated to creating awareness of, andIMG_0204  appreciation for, comics and related popular art forms") in San Diego, many thousands have apparently turned pro. In fact, attendance is said to be around 150,000 and 140,000 of those have clearly forfeited their amateur status. You can check out a nice selection of photos at the Huffington Post.

IMG_0206 The charming couple above right invited me for a threesome and said my costume — that of a middle-aged, balding white guy in a business suit — was the wildest thing they had ever seen. I quoted some Ferlinghetti to them ("The pennycandystore beyond the El/is where i first/fell in love/with unreality") and took a rain check. They seemed impressed.

Follow The Leader

Many attorneys remain skeptical about social media: Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter most prominent among them. I am a fan of the marketing power of three of those four. MySpace still seems to be mostly adolescent in its orientation and uses.

Still, for many of my clients, and the attorneys I talk with at conferences, it's hard for them to imagine that these methods can be truly effective. I know they can be, and have given my thinking on the subject before. But for those who like social proof, here's a big one from today's New York Times advertising section:

FedEx, an advertising bellwether, is unveiling its first Web-video advertising campaign, five three-minute comedy sketches…

FedEx’s spots — for the last 20 years by BBDO Worldwide, New York, part of the Omnicom Group — helped pioneer office humor in ads, and often had their premieres during the Super Bowl. So when the company announced that after 18 years it would forgo advertising during the last Super Bowl, because it could not justify the expense during the downturn, the news resonated.

“That hurt the Super Bowl much more than any other advertiser, because FedEx is a market leader,” said Jerry Della Femina, who is chief executive of Della Femina Rothschild Jeary & Partners and has worked on Madison Avenue since the early 1960s. “Look, you never bet against Federal Express, because they’re smart, and when they’re doing something, it’s well thought out.”

The company is certain to be watched closely Monday, then, as it unveils its first Web-video advertising campaign, five three-minute films that feature the actor Fred Willard. 

If YouTube is good enough for FedEx, maybe it's good enough for you?

Jurassic Park, 2009

My house is a technological Jurassic Park, full of stuff that is now, or is becoming, obsolete.

Let’s start with music. When I was a kid, we listened to two types of vinyl records: 45s and LPs (for “long play”). My dad still had stacks of 78s lying around. (The numbers refer to Revolutions Per Minute on a turntable — the speed at which the disc was recorded and must be played. I wouldn’t bother to explain this, except that one of my younger employees not too long ago asked me to bring  an LP in to work because he had never seen one.) I still have a bunch of 45s and LPs, but more on that later.

In college, I was hot stuff because I had a 1964 Buick LeSabre (the year was 1968) with an 8-track tape player, on which me and my friends would listen to the Who’s “Tommy” at maximum volume. If you don’t know what an 8-track is, or was, you are young enough that you have probably already lost interest and stopped reading, so I’m not going to explain. Likewise with reel-t0-reel. You’ll have to look it up.

Then came cassette tapes, on which you could, if you had the right cassette deck at home, make your own “mix.” That is, you could take your favorite tracks off your favorite “records” and put them on the tape, making your own “greatest hits.”

In the mid 1980s (which is to say a quarter century ago), came CDs and shortly thereafter, CD players became the standard both at home and in cars. That meant my 4,000 or so “records” were now obsolete. Oh I know, I could still play them, but…

Of course, these many years later, CDs are now history, along with my enormous collection of same. Now, I download tunes into my computer, my iPod, and my iPhone. In the car, I plug my iPod into a connection in my glove compartment and listen as I like. The “mix” has become a “playlist” and my original iPod and iPhone are out-of-date.

My house is also overflowing with my most precious possessions, my books. It is hard to explain my feelings for these volumes, except perhaps to cite Emily Dickinson’s phrase for her books: “my kinsmen of the shelf.” Each one is a special memory, a special friend. They mark the passages of my intellectual growth and my development as a human being. They represent so many wonderful hours. I have often thought that one of the reasons I never had a drug or drink problem was that I already had the perfect escape in my books.

Many of them were gifts. Many of them carry personal inscriptions. Many are signed by the author. Some are quite valuable. Some have been read 10 or 20 times. Some are riddled with underlinings and notes. I still have the first “real” book of my childhood: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson bearing handwriting in my childish script. I still have all my books from college. Some of these books have been with me always, even when I moved to Europe for a year.

And yet, I can see that they are obsolete. Although my friends and fellow book-lovers will protest that this can never be, I can see the handwriting on the wall. Everywhere, print is dying. I grew up professionally in the newspaper business and they are going the way of the dodo.

I don’t mean that newspapers or books or music will vanish. They’re just going online and digital. I already have a Kindle. No trees must die for me to read a book on my Kindle. Instead of lugging pounds of books around, I can carry my slim Kindle, which can hold 1400 books on it. As I get older and my eyes weaker, on the Kindle, I can adjust the type size. They even have a large screen Kindle. I subscribe to most of my favorite magazines electronically now.

Glancing down on my desk as I write this, I see my watch. It’s a Cartier. Cost $4,000 15 years ago. It’s useless now. The young and hip ask “why would anyone wear a watch? The time is on your cell phone.”

Out in the garage somewhere, along with my cassette tapes,  is something called a “typewriter.”

I guess I don’t have to explain what happened with that.