Questionable moments in marketing genius, no. 61

Okay, so you’re selling something — a product, a service, an idea. You want to get the whole world or some interested subset thereof on your side — whatever you’re selling, you want them to buy. You come up with catchy slogans, witty ad campaigns, and perhaps even find yourself a sponsor, someone famous to shill your wares.

Famous and infamous are not the same:

Anyone have a Brillo pad on a pencil and some Drano? I need to scrub large parts of my brain away now.

Thanks, Hope. You’ve just proven how ironic your name is.

I’ll take LSD for $500, Alex.

I would have taken it for free, you asshole. Okay, not anymore, unless maybe you held a gun to CL’s head and told me I had to (or else). But I promise you that I will be staring at you, laughing the whole time, making you wonder if I’m seeing smurfs or just playing Final Jeopardy in my pants.

Blogs tend to fit into one a few categories: news, politics, vanity. I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two (like the niche storyteller: Waiterrant, Clublife, etc.), but that pretty well lumps them all together. I really like the ones by my friends, those that serve a few purposes: keeping a journal, of sorts (the kind of journal kept by people with interesting lives or, at least, interesting perspectives), and maybe trying to work some thoughts into coherency every now and then, sharing their lives in sort of a mass-mail approach (only the kind that you request, instead of sending to everyone like spam). The important thing that separates the friends that I like from those who I like and read daily is an ability to write — maybe not with perfect grammatical precision or punctuation that would give the Pope a throbbing erection or even vocabularies built from the bones of gods and forgotten worlds, though those things never hurt. If you want me to swing by your blog every day, just write about something that interests me, and tell me a good story, or make me laugh, or both.

My blogroll list of links thing over there to the right will never be huge, mostly because I’m not playing a game with people trading links, or even linking to you just because you’re my friend. Rather, I’m more concerned with turning the random readers — those who get here via Google searches for “amputee prostitute” (seriously, creepy anonymous reader, stop that!), or maybe from blogs that link to me — onto really good, regular, funny reading.

Because, believe it or not, you can tell as much about most people by looking at what they read as you can by looking at what they write.

If you want me to link to you, join MySpace and ask me to put you in my Top 8.  That’s what’s important in life anyway, right?

Antiproduct (you suck)

Bopping around my usual haunts, I find this post from Heather over at Dooce, where she kindly takes the time to respond to hateful e-mail from her readers.

See, right here, I’m already amused. It’s as if their browsers are stuck at, and they aren’t allowed to head over to their usual porn or gambling sites or right-wing hate-filled bulletin boards until they’ve read her latest post and answered three multiple choice questions about that day’s content. Are these the same people that continue to watch television shows that offend or bore them, week after week?

It got me thinking that I’m kind of jealous, on one hand, that I don’t have the readership numbers to qualify for entry into the weekly hatemail sweepstakes. Some of us write blogs for ourselves more than others, sure — with an average daily visitor count hovering around 50, it would be summarily stupid of me to claim that I’m doing it for the attention. But on the flip side, no one puts this sort of thing out for public view without at least somewhat craving attention, readers, feedback — whatever. Yeah, I’d love to have thousands of visitors per day; not only would it give me hate mail to respond to (and you can ask Neely — my writing is infinitely less boring when I actually get to make fun of something someone else has written), but I could put ads up, and editors across the country would be knocking my door down to write a book, and maybe, just maybe, my girlfriend would stop calling me a worthless waste of skin.

I’m kidding, of course. No editor in his or her right mind wants another book by a blogger, and my girlfriend never calls me a waste of skin to my face.

But on the flip side, writing for that many people, knowing that my words and my life (or what passes for one) are under the scrutinous eyes of thousands or hundred of thousands of people that I don’t really care one way or the other about… imagine the pressure. I wonder: would it affect my writing, or the topics that I’m comfortable addressing? Would the hatemail cause me to question my behavior, my morals, my beliefs? Would I become impotent and flaccid without the adulation of my legions of fans and stat logs to back it up?

Nah. CL is way too hot for that last one to ever be a concern.

No shit. She’s a bellydancer. Viagra, I hear, sponsored four assassination attempts on her last month alone.

I should be happy, I suppose. I’ve got a small but devoted* number of readers, and even at this level I already get hateful comments. And those are from a guy that I’ve known for a quarter of a century. Imagine how much fun they’d be from people that can hide behind anonymity.

*If you ever hear a creative type use the phrase “small but devoted,” it’s exactly the same as hearing a woman say that “it’s not the size that matters.” It means we’re both terribly displeased with how little we have, but hey — why should anyone’s feelings get hurt along the way?

When A Strange Her Calls

Generically speaking, I hate telephones. I’ve thought many times about why this is, and the best that I can come up with is that my mother was raped and killed by a pack of wild telephones when I was just a child. Of course, this is obviously not true; while I think that my mother might have dated a telephone in her teens (a lovely rotary, according to the pictures), she’s not the type to hang out with the phones that would kill.

Why do I have a cellphone? Well, it’s cheaper and more portable than a landline, it comes with a camera that fits in my back pocket and allows me to email myself photos instantly, and sometimes my job requires me to be near a phone at random or inconvenient hours. Plus, once in a blue moon, I like to call people, if only to tell them that I just saw their boyfriend at the movies (with another woman), or to warn them of impending if slightly fictional disasters.

Everyone that knows me well at all knows that I often don’t answer my phone. They also suspect that I am ignoring their phone calls only, and I’d like to take this moment to note that, when I ignore calls, I don’t even pull the phone out of my pocket. I have no idea who is calling when I don’t answer. I don’t care, I think, is the point I’m trying to make. Oh, and sometimes, I’m doing something that would prevent me from answering the phone: watching a movie, playing a concert, working.

In fact, that’s what I was doing Tuesday night at midnight. Same as every Tuesday, we’re playing at Bailey’s. We were a little late getting started with out second set, though, and so when my phone rang, I actually felt it (it’s set to vibrate so as not to bother those around me, but playing bass makes everything vibrate; if I’m onstage, the odds of me knowing that anyone’s calling are comparable to those that Mel Gibson’s next film will play temples across America). I pulled it out to check the caller ID.

Hey, just because I’m probably going to ignore you doesn’t mean I’m not curious sometimes.

Turned out to be CL, which struck me for two reasons: she’s almost always in bed and asleep well before midnight, and because she had a rough night with what she thought might have been a pre-migraine headache and some weird conversations. I answered, if only to make sure that she was okay.

And if any of you want to go ahead and get jealous, yes, I always answer CL’s calls unless I’m incapable of taking a call.

It was a short conversation, mostly due to the fact that Eric began pointing out to the crowd via the live microphone that i was on the phone and holding up the magical country set. Nothing was wrong, it turns out; as she said, “I just wanted to tell you that I love you.” And while it’s even better to see her eyes and feel her hand in mine when she says it, it’s those little moments, the in-between moments, those times when you’re waiting for the next big thing…

See, this is why I answer the phone any time I see her name on the screen.

This is why I hate politics

So, here’s the deal: Patricia Todd is a white woman, Gaynell Hendricks is a black woman.  Both are competing for the Alabama State Senate seat in area 54 (which makes me think of a video game or a sci-fi movie.  And not a good one in either case).

And there was all this talk of racism in the weeks leading up to the election — surprisingly, here in Alabama, it was not Patricia accused of it, but Hendrick’s campaign and supporters, claiming that the blacks in the zone needed to protect their interests by voting black.

And so it’s down to a runoff vote, then a contested election, and so on.  All this for a state Senate seat.  In Alabama.

But here’s the rub: the same guy who wrote that letter to Area 54 residents (““Moreover, if we start electing whites in majority black districts, the chances are great that these districts will be redrawn as majority white districts after the 2010 census, and will remain so thereafter”), on Dr. Joe Reed, is now scrambling to get himself and two others on a committee of five that will decide the contested election.  This same Dr. Reed that, according to a statement made by Todd on August 16th, paid the fee required to contest the election, after the original filer’s check bounced.

It’s not the conflict of interest that bothers me.  It’s the fact that politicians are trying more and more to pull this shit right in front of our eyes and then complaining when we notice, or denying their actions, or saying that we’re wrong about their intentions, or saying that we have no clue what we’re talking about.  It’s the same thing across the country, from local boards to the President’s administration in Washington. And, outside of the blogosphere (mostly those bloggers who spend too much time shutting out unlike-minded people with their extremist rants), it seems to me that no one is really all that concerned. “It’s just politics as usual.”

Really?  Am I just a little late in pulling the idealistic blinders off my face at this point?  Or are you all just becoming complacent and giving up?  Are you not the least bit insulted that these pretentious and arrogant fucks with their overblown sense of entitlement and underdeveloped moral systems think they can pull this off, right in front of your blind eyes that couldn’t possibly understand even if you did see?

They’re calling you a moron, to your face, and you don’t seem to care.

For the record, I know Patricia; I’ve done volunteer work for AIDS Alabama, and I am the webmaster for her election website. She’s a nice woman, and smart, and if I lived in her district, I would’ve voted for her, too.  But this isn’t really about that (though I wish her luck in this bullshit process).  It’s about people like Joe Reed, and people refusing to gracefully admit defeat in what amounts to a popularity contest, and the entire process upon which the governing of our country — okay, fine, the governing that I have to live with — is based.

Anyone that really thinks that our electoral system is truly representative of the people needs to take a closer look at this mess, and then get back to me.

(Thanks to 3cho, Dre, and Kathy for bringing this to my attention, albeit indirectly)

Songs for October

Coming out of the bar last night, tired and a little drunk after playing three sets with the Exhibit(s) and receiving quite possibly the best phone call ever, it felt nice out in the night air.  That’s a rare occurance in August in Birmingham; we’ve been suffering from brutal summers for the past couple of years, and the temperatures coupled with the Amazonian humidity make for positively unpleasant outdoor (and sometimes indoor) experiences.  But last night was a great teaser for autumn, my favorite time of year.

A few years back, I began compiling mix CDs of music for autumn.  These were all titled Waiting for October, after the album by local musican Chris Bentley (formerly of Tarantella, among others), and they represented a trip into an aural freezer, music for driving at night with your windows down and a fairly heavy jacket on.  Last night’s taste of a more pleasant climate has got me thinking about this year’s edition of the mix, and in an overarching sense, maybe a best of, since this will be the tenth version of the CD that I’ve made.

The prerequisites for inclusion on the CD: cinematic, night, cold, and at least slightly haunting.  Or maybe haunted is the better term.

This year’s candidates:

Hevein: A New Hope
Any song with cello (played without distortion, I should add, to prevent too many people from suggesting Apocalyptica) is a strong contender from the get go.  Even better, though, is the dreamlike quality of the melody, and then the twist at the end, which always brings falling leaves to mind.

Byla: Morning Looming
Perfect for sunset (I know, I said night, but some trips begin just before darkness falls, and those moments deserve a soundtrack as well).  There’s always a temptation to put just about any track off of Will Ackerman’s The Opening of Doors on these compilations, but this song sums that feeling up in 1:40, leaving plenty of room for other tracks.

3: Dogs of War
Moist: Breathe
Both of these songs are very driving type numbers, and remind me of that part of fall that never seems to hang around long enough around here, a very crisp moment that feels like the turning point of the universe, that point where you first realize that yeah, summer’s over for real.

Ned Mudd: The Black Dress and the Invisible Man
This is a strange one for me, because it’s mostly a sort of beat poetry over a bass/guitar/drum/trumpet track.  It’s loose and cohesive at the same time, the imagery is evocative, and it’s a longtime favorite of mine (if for no other reason than I’m one of a very few people that has a copy, and so I’ve never heard it way too much). Perfect for stargazing.

Paul Gilbert: Marine Layer
It’s a farly straightforward and simple song from the Racer X / Mr. Big guitarist, piano and acoustic guitarist, but it reminds me of high school days for some reason.  Not the part where I was a gigantic loner without the cool friends part, though.  Just a general feeling.

Blue Oyster Cult: Joan Crawford
Speaking of high school… It was the fall of 1988 when I first heard this song, driving through Hoover in Jason Chatham’s VW. It doesn’t necessarily fit the mood of what I would usually put on these discs, but it’s a great time machine, emotionally.

Porcupine Tree: In Formaldehyde
One of their rare tracks, off of Recordings, and one of their absolute best.  This really starts to carry you toward December, cold rain that might become snow if you’re lucky, and then that first kiss outside during the first cold snap that comes at 3:31 in. Perfect.

Sigur Ros: Glosoli
Okay, you could pretty much put anything by Sigur Ros on one of these discs.  This year, the honor goes to Glosoli.  It’s all CL’s fault on this one.

Dark Suns: Zero
Again, CL’s fault.  The piece perfectly sums up autumn for me (including the rain in the background, and the kids on the playground), but it’s the lyrics that put it on this year’s compilation.  It’s like a counter-reset for life.  Like I said: CL.

Dream Theater: Octavarium
I’ve planned on putting this one on this year’s mix since last December, when I accidentally heard it during a trip to buy my new car, and realized that it should have gone on last year’s disc.  Over twenty minutes long, and shifting from one section to the next effortlessly. I’m holding out hope that the version from their upcoming CD Score (performed live at Madison Square Gardens this year with a full orchestra) will be even more appropriate for this series.

Echobrain: Seven Seconds
Plaintive instrumentation and vocals make this a perfect nightcap in the fall.

Feel free to make more suggestions.  I’m always looking for new music and things that I haven’t previously been aware of, especially if they make it feel like October a little sooner.

God, October can’t come soon enough. Air conditioning or no…

If I had my full senses, I’d curb-stomp you.

From the Washington Post:

Hot sauce adds a kick to salsa, barbeque, falafel and hundreds of other foods. But some parents use it in a different recipe, one they think will yield better-behaved children: They put a drop of the fiery liquid on a child’s tongue as punishment for lying, biting, hitting or other offenses.

I’m  wondering how many parents in this country are still practicing spanking.  I’m all for it, myself, if it brings kids back into a disciplined world.  The hot-tongue thing — I don’t know.  I mean, I like spicy food, so it probably wouldn’t have done anything to me (although a selection from this page might have had some cautionary effects); on the other hand, I am and always have been reasonably averse to stinging pain on my ass, and so was reasonably careful to not do things that would result in a spanking.

Okay, I was careful not to get caught doing those things.  But it made me a better person (and by better, I mean sneakier.  Same difference).

Still, I’ve seen too many kids these days getting punished with time-outs, harsh words, inconsistent discipline if any at all… It’s no wonder to me that some days it seems like kids are becoming more willful and obnoxious. It might be that I’m getting older and turning into my grandfather, sure.  But why take the blame when I can place it elsewhere?

Any day now, I’m going to write that parenting handbook I’ve always imagined.  First, I’ll have to go back and watch all the torture scenes from the last five seasons of 24, but then I should have it down.

(Oh man — I just realized that Lisa Whelchel is Blair from The Facts of Life.  Weird.)

Finding Happiness

Living with bipolar disorder and managing and adjusting my life to fit, I sometimes like to read or see case studies about other people and how they’ve dealt with similar issues.  One of the best so far — because he’s blogged about it, day by day, and so you get to walk alongside him (to the extent that you can with one entry a day) — is Rick Reynolds, over at The Happiness Project.

I first heard Rick’s work in about 1992 or ’93, when I got the cassette of his one-man show, Only the Truth is Funny.  It’s a great monologue, one that I finally managed to track down when they reissued it on CD sometime in the past year or so.  The intro to that monologue is included in the first episode of his new web-series, which can be streamed or added to your iPod podcast subscriptions.  It’s seven minutes long, and has one of the funnier lines I’ve heard in quite some time (listen for a mention of bad breath).

Always good to see other people dealing with their lives, whether through therapy, medication, or pure determination.