Month: August 2008

Winning by adding vs. winning by taking away

Click on the image to vote for Colleen!

As alluded to previously, I decided to enter a contest.

One where I actually had to make something, and a not-unsubtantial something (because for better or for worse, I am no good at half-assing things).

Now, I’m no Orson Welles, hell, in my best ad ho daze, I was no Hal Riney or Mark Fenske, if you want to get technical, but after 20 years making a living in the business, I know how to write a reasonably on-target and entertaining commercial, and how to act in and edit one as well. This video I made? It may not be worthy of being voted up, but it’s hard to see what about it makes it worthy of being voted down.

Only it’s not. Because I know what the voting down is about; it’s about winning by making someone else a loser. That’s the nature of hating. And, as my pal, Pamela Slim said in a very nice email to me about the subject, “Haters really suck, there’s no way around it.”

The reason I know this is because (gulp) I used to be a hater. Or, if not a hater, one of those people who believed there was a finite amount of x to go around, where x = love, happiness, good fortune or anything else.

Honestly? I have no idea who or what to blame for this burned-in rationale. The drill in our house was that you had to earn everything, every compliment, every bit of praise, and yeah, you kind of started from zero each time. I’m sure there was a lot of sound, bootstrap/depend-on-no-one/Depression-era rationale behind this, but damn, it sucked to be me for a long time. Because when you really want to be happy winning second or third place? You really don’t want to be reminded that it could have been first, if someone else hadn’t won it. If you had just worked a little harder, like we know you can.

What’s sad is that I will always have to override that green monster trigger with every instance of someone else’s success. Or maybe it’s not sad; maybe it’s good to have a reminder that a lot of people are still grappling with it, and that the world is still fueled too much by fear and anger (and I’d argue that a lot of anger is just fear in a different Members Only jacket.)

Whatevs, as the kids after me but still long ago used to say. I hope you will go watch the video and vote me up (or at the very least, not vote me down).

Even more, I hope you enjoy my little video, and the effort and goodness of people it represents. All those people in the video who helped me. A whole lot more who either sent stuff I couldn’t fit in (there was a :60 limit, which I went over a little anyway with that fade to black) or had freak A/V problems or just other stuff in their lives that needed tending to.

The good people will win, even if my video doesn’t.

But vote it up anyway, okay?


9/22/08 – UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who supported me, but it just wasn’t good enough. Well, not really; I made it to the final 10, thanks to you, and then nowhere, as the rest of it was on them. Which is neither particularly surprising nor disappointing. Although I still hate losing. Regardless, please do not hold my losing against what appears to be a perfectly good airline. You are now free to move about the cabin, or show them the LUV, or whatever it is that floats your boat. Er…pilots your craft.

Vote here. Thanks!

and now…

VIDEO CREDITS!! (or, “It Takes a Village” Dept.)

In my haste to get out the video, I screwed up URLs, misspelled names and generally screwed up all manner of pertinent info. And the first two people in the vid, Jack & Chris, don’t have titles over their names b/c I am a goddamned artist, goddammit, and I felt like having titles too early would give away the joke. Forgive me; I fully recognize what a colossal pain in the ass I can be about stuff like that.

In order of appearance:

Jack Lyons (@sidereal_)
Chris Ereneta (@cjereneta)
Angie Tapia & Company
David Eckoff (@davideckoff)
Scot Duke (@MrBusinessGolf)
Jon Deal (@zuhl)
Pamela Slim (@pamslim) (and vote for her SXSW panel here)
Mignon Fogarty (@GrammarGirl)
Peter Shankman (@skydiver)
Havi Brooks (@havi)
Karen Putz (@deafmom)
Laura Moncur (@LauraMoncur)
Mary McCauley-Stiff‘s Coffee Mug

And of course, HUGE shout to The BF for purchasing and learning to play ukulele in 12 hours, as well as for sound massaging (mm…massaging…) and remaining on an even keel while I spun like a (bitchy) top.

There are other people who VERY KINDLY sent video, stills and offers of help, but for time and space reasons, could not be in it or, sadly, credited. (Drumroll, please!)

@SeoulBrother (OMG, you guys, I SO WISH I could’ve fit that one in)
Joe Hage (Ditto…so much good stuff that didn’t, I know, I should shut up, already)
John Dickerson (@JohnDickerson)
Dawud Miracle (@DawudMiracle)
Mary Sheely
Elisa Camahort (@ElisaC)
Rebecca Morgan
Evelyn Rodriguez (@eve11)
Susan Bratton (@SusanBratton)
Stephen Hopson
Scott Simpson (@scottsimpson)
Jay Hathaway (@strutting)
Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan)
Postmodern Sass

Dorn Martell
Dani Nordin (@danigrrl)
Dave Hardwick

…and anyone else who, in my haste, I may have forgotten. But this is the Internet, TELL ME, and I’ll add you.

“Art, 100; commerce, 0” (or, “There’s Always Time for What Moves You”)

"the only rule is work"

While I have been noticably AWOL here of late, I’ve been off-the-charts generative in other parts of my life.

Even reductive, as necessary.

Writing. Designing. Cleaning. Writing.

Creating presentations for me to speechify. (Yes, multiple: when it rains, it pours, baby.) Writing off-color songs and performing them before a live audience (use caution with that last link).

And, most exciting of all, clearing the decks for what looks to be the adventure of my middle-aged life, later this fall.

On top of all that, I got a crazy-ass bee in my bonnet to submit an entry to this little contest Southwest Airlines is running. Not because I have a great love of air travel (really, they’re gonna have to turn me around on that one), but because some real-life connecting over the weekend in the form of an impulse trip to Albuquerque reminded me of how awesomely stupendous it is to see people in person. And something about the crazy vortex of creative energy that’s currently experiencing me (no pun intended, and yes, that grammatical construction was correct) inspired an idea.

Did I say “inspired”? More like “leapt out of my head, grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me…HARD!” Because that’s how it is with creativity and ideas and The Juice: once you open yourself up to it, and kinda-sorta let it be known that you will be a responsible conduit craaaaazy things happen.

There are some things you have to do to make this great state of creativity happen. Merlin has been posting a lot of good stuff about it lately. In fact, he’s been so on fire, I’m guessing he’s practicing a lot of what he’s preaching.

And more’s the better for all: us, because we get his best, and a goodly dose of inspiration, to boot; him, because I can almost guarantee you he feels better these days when his head hits the pillow.

You can’t always be in productive mode, of course. Fields lie fallow once yearly for resting/recuperative purposes, and probably, so should we. (Well, not for a season, necessarily, but you know.) I’m guessing that even high-percentile-prolific people like Seth, Chris, Walt, my friend, Tim, and anyone else who makes a metric crapload of cool stuff on on a regular basis takes a break sometimes. (Brogan, you officially need to take one more often!)

But at some point, you put your ass in the seat, hunker down and do the deed. And you say “yes” to all the good stuff that comes along that really lights your fire, regardless of how busy you are. Because, trust me, you will always find time for the good stuff. And the stuff that grabs YOU? And won’t let you go? That’s the superfine, añejo stuff. That stuff, you clear your calendar for.

I am hunkered; I have swept away all non-essential items. But I am going to come back from this crazy jolt of creativity with new vigor and a plan, so look out!

In the meantime, if you feel like helping me out on my crazy little project for Southwest, and you live in or near one of the cities listed here, email me. The address is all over this site, but you can also just send to communicatrix at the gmail. Easy-peasy.

Thanks for playing. Now…go make stuff!


Image by litherland via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Authentic voice, in blue

3 1940s-style singers in red, white & blue outfits

You know that thing you do when you’re little? Imagining some Kodak Momentâ„¢ of yourself, surrounded by test tubes, curing cancer? Or pirouetting in yards of tulle before a sold-out crowd? Or addressing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dressed in tulle, while curing cancer?

In just over three weeks, I’m going to be standing up in front of 200 people and talking about talking. I never imagined anything this weird.

I’m guessing that Nina Hartley, famed star of the adult entertainment world, registered nurse and Berkeley-born offspring of practicing Buddhists never at any point in her life up to now imagined she’d wind up in front of a group of people with her clothes on, reading a personal essay that neatly and elegantly made a universal point about connectedness and self-actualization via a vividly detailed description of an explicit sex act involving her hand and someone else’s ladyparts.

Compared to Ms. Hartley? I’m a piker in more than one way.

I told almost no one about this particular gig. And not for the obvious reason, that it was a sex-ay affair. (Come on, it was held on the back patio of a sex-toys shop, fer criminy.)

No, I kept mum because, as with most gigs I might advertise, I was concerned about quality.

Perform bit roles in enough shitty nickel theater that you drag your family and friends to and eventually, when the stars fall from your eyes, you get it: everyone has his breaking point, and you don’t want your devoted fan base to hit theirs before the event you really need them to turn out for. An evening of erotic anything (barring the one-on-one variety, natch) is not generally what leaps to mind when I think “wildly entertaining”, and a slate of writers whom I’d never read and never heard perform doing erotica? Uh…uh-uh.

I’ll admit, I’m not widely read in the stuff. I’ll also admit that at least part of my trepidation stems from my Midwestern roots. Although thanks to my beloved paternal grandfather, a crazy, arts-lovin’ liberal atheist who became more and not less so with age, I did have exposure to a modest variety of printed adult matter, albeit furtively. (At least, I’m pretty sure I kept my tracks covered.)

My favorites were Playboy (when you’re 9, you really do like the comics) and R. Crumb comix, something I never really thought about until recently. Neither was for the truly squeamish, but both were artfully conceived and executed, and I’d argue that the Crumb stuff was written in as authentic a voice as can be. I remember the shock of recognition I had watching Crumb, the Terry Zwigoff documentary, for the first time. It was like I stumbled into some wormhole and was living in 1971 and 1994 simultaneously, the likeness was so compelling.

Compare that to the awful stylings, nay, overstylings of most adult entertainment and to me, the source of cringe-inducement becomes wildly obvious: forget the feminist POV; it’s just embarrassingly derivative, stagey or stiff, you’ll pardon the pun.

Your voice is your voice is your voice; once you know and trust it, it can accompany you anywhere, from tea with the Queen to bottle swigs on the Bowery (the pre-gussied Bowery) and everywhere in between. You can write a memo or a eulogy or a potty-mouthed song (my choice) and it will be you. Should you sing your potty-mouthed song at Windsor Castle? Probably not without being asked. Neither should you hunker down on your middle-aged haunches and start coo-woo-wooing at a toddler just because you’ve got 45 laps around the planet on the shorty. They’re people, people: as The Youngster used to say, “Short, ignorant people.” (The BF adds, “who don’t pay rent.”) And they have bullshit detectors whose calibration has not gone off-kilter from years of smoke being blown around various bits. Never forget that it was a child who pointed out the buck-nekkidness of El Jefe.

I would never have thought that getting up in front of 35 strangers and singing a song about dirty keyword searches would leave me feeling so much better prepared to stand up in front of 200 and talk about Authentic Communication. But of course it did, of course, of course. More than most of my Toastmasters speeches, although they were helpful in their own way.

There was no governor up last Thursday night, and it worked: me, trusting what I had to say, er, sing, and putting it out there.

What are you afraid of? What would happen if you did it anyway?

Or maybe the question is, “What will happen if you don’t?”


LINK to my performance of “The Dirty Keywords Search Song” at In The Flesh: LA on YouTube (WARNING: Contains language which may be offensive and/or NSFW.)

Image by Mr. Mo-Fo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.