Can we survive on candy?

Candy dispensers

If only Seth Godin would stop having important things to say, I’d stop referring to him in my blog, Facebook posts and general conversation.

Today he sums up the disastrous dumbing down we are all experiencing all the time. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to change, if we just pay attention to it.

The decline of thoughtful media has been discussed for a century. This is not new. What is new: A fundamental shift not just in the profit-seeking gatekeepers, but in the culture as a whole.

Clickbait works for a reason. Because people click on it.

The thing about clickbait, though, is that it exists to catch prey, not to inform them. It’s bait, after all.

So? Click this instead.

 

How Linda Ronstadt rocked my heart on Fresh Air

simple-dreams-by-linda-ronstadt-1I just finished listening to Terry Gross’s powerful, moving interview with Linda Ronstadt on NPR’s Fresh Air. While I’ve always appreciated Ronstadt’s singing technically, I was never a huge fan.

I am now.

This woman’s devotion to the excellence of her art coupled with her fantastically expressive voice is a gift to the rest of us. Her love of singing surpassed her love of almost everything else in her life, and probably kept her from committing to a long-term relationship. And yet her songs are all about a deep interest in humanity, in human feeling. That emotional connection you hear in her voice was augmented by her openness to the full range of music…from pop to classics to classical to Mexican folk music to jazz to opera and ballet.

In August Ronstadt announced that she has Parkinson’s disease and her musical career is over. She no longer has the breathing and vocal control necessary to “sing a note”. She released a memoir, Simple Dreams, earlier this year.

In her interview, she discusses all this with clarity, courage, self humor, an obvious love of her craft and of life itself. And Terry Gross does her usual admirable job  bringing out the depth of her subject.

For me, the killer moment is when she plays a song at the end of the interview: “Tell Him I Said Hello” from Ronstadt’s 2004 album Hummin’ to Myself. It’s one of her last. She describes having to change how she sang, realizing she was like an artist painting with a very limited palette of colors — black, white, maybe a little umber — and wanting to be sure there was a “strong drawing” underneath it.

To think that this beautiful voice represents her “limited palette” and is an example of her singing at its lowest ebb filled my eyes with tears and my heart with awe. I thought I’d share it.

On Amazon

On Last.fm

On iTunes

The joy and sadness of Father’s Day

Baby's hand grasping adult thumb

I’ve known Gabriel Tigerman since he was three. He’s a talented actor, a funny writer and a kind and wonderful human. His parents, Wendy and Gary, are dear friends and Wendy’s been my co-creative rock for years. So when they announced that Gabe’s beautiful actor/comedian wife Kathryn was pregnant with their first child, I was thrilled, as was everyone whose lives they’d touched (and there have been many). Baby showers were held. Lamaze classes were attended. Cribs were assembled.

But the birth was fraught with unbelievable disaster. Baby Alice was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Kathryn’s life hung by a thread, all her vital organs shutting down as doctors made a heroic effort to save her.

Fortunately, it worked. Unfortunately, she now faces a long, difficult and very expensive recovery. You can read more here, on a site that’s been set up to deal with this horrific situation.

If you can help them out, even just a little, I know it would mean a lot to them — and to all of us. Thanks.

XO

Josh

(That an event like this can wipe a young family out financially, or hang a lifelong debt over their heads — much as a stroke or cancer or a heart attack can do the same for older people — is deeply wrong in a country as powerful, wealthy and creative as ours. I’m very happy we are moving away from that model. I hope that process continues and that the new system is honed so it actually works. But that’s another blog post. — JF)

Springsteen on what’s important

Gabe leaves for college in just a few weeks.

Last night, we uncovered a Rolling Stone magazine from March, where Jon Stewart is talking with Bruce Springsteen about art, and whether he worries about losing his muse.

Springsteen says:

Then my kids came along , and at some point, Patti was assisting me in the fact that I was not as attentive a father as I should be, and my argument was, “Don’t you understand? I’m thinking of a song!”
. . .
One day I realized, “Wait. I’ve got it. I’ve got more music in my head than I’m going to live to put out.’ But your son or your daughter, they’re going to be gone tomorrow. or the day after. I realized, “This is what’s going to be gone, and this is what’s going to always be here, not the other way around.” Music and art are always flowing through the ether — they’ll always be there — but life, life moves on and is gone. Life is locked in an eternal dance with time, and unlike art and time, the two can’t be separated.

Thanks, Bruce.

Corporatese

Cover of Jon Stewart's "Earth (the Book)"I was listening to the (brilliant) Samantha Bee narrate the (brilliant) Jon Stewart’s (brilliant) audiobook Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race the other day and found myself bursting into laughter at this (brilliant) segment on corporatespeak. Opening my copy of the actual (brilliant) print version, I saw that most of this is in such teeny text  you might have been unable to read it. As a public service to writers everywhere, I’ve made it legible:

For years, corporatese — the specialized dialect spoken by highly-paid executives to obscure their jobs’ relative simplicity — was incomprehensible to linguists and laymen alike. That changed with the 2003 discovery of the Rosetta Memo behind a filing cabinet in an Atlanta office park:

..that some team members are experiencing a non-satisfactory level of disconnect vis-à-vis our inter-personnel messaging. To ensure we are all on the same page with our ducks in a row, we’re opening the kimono to initiate a global refresh on F2F and ecommunications standards. Therefore, FYI/FFR: Interface, dialogue, touch base, face-to-face, connect and advise indicate interpersonal communication. Execute, implement, leverage, facilitate, synergize, deliver and exploit pertain to the performance of work. Robust, value-rich, seamless, best-of-breed and user-centric denote meritorious quality. Further: To enheighten our task-simplicity quotient (the revealing of which could result in significant new awareness of human-capital redundancy and attendant downsizing) all comms should, going forward , be both redundant and repetitive, with the occasional wordvention utilized in place of vocables of greater brevity, clarity, and brevarity. Augment with occasional impenetrable acronyms (OIA). These syntactical enhancements add perceived value to each employee’s personal brand. Exemplifications are underposted:

1) “I want to circle back and interface about how to right-size our headcount while still keeping workers incentivized.”

2) “Due to unforeseen life events, I’ll be off-line tomorrow so can we push our interlock until post-all-hands?”

3) “At the end of the day, net-net, if we have a joint brown-bag to come to agreeance on how to grow mind share among targeted thought leaders by implementing best practices across the board, we can marketeer our way toward synergizing a frictionless sales environment.”

TRANSLATION:

Hey dumbshits: 90% of the stuff we say basically means either “talk,” “make” or “good.” But nobody pays fat salaries for “talking about making good things.” So to keep our scam going, only use ungainly words, and always three times as many of them as a normal person. Examples:

1) “Let’s discuss how we can fire people without making the ones we keep cry.”

2) “My uncle died; can we meet later?”

3) “Lunch?”

Audiobook rave

As quite a few of you know, I’m a huge fan of audio books. If I’m not on my cell phone in my car (and we’re no longer supposed to be doing that, are we?) I’m usually listening to a podcast or an audio book. It’s like watching a movie while you drive, without the sticky floor and the lady with the tall hair sitting in front of you.

I’m just on the verge of finishing Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys, which is read by the British comedian Lenny Henry. It’s a fascinating, part fantasy, part horror, part parable, very funny, charming adventure about a very normal guy who discovers he’s the son of a god…and that he has a long-lost brother. The world Gaiman creates is a joy to inhabit. Which, I suppose, is why it was on the bestseller lists for so long.

I can’t tell you how much I’ve been enjoying it. I think I’m going to listen to it again with my family while we’re on vacation!

If you’re not a subscriber to Audible.com, you really owe it to yourself to check it out. If you log on here (MacBreak Weekly’s link) or here (MacCast’s link) you get a free audiobook when you sign up.

BAI Retail Delivery

Just got approval to move ahead with our new campaign for this year’s Retail Delivery Conference & Expo. The theme is “Where innovation meets action” and it’s all about how the banking industry can use fresh thinking to survive and even profit during the current (and coming) economic doldrums.  Wendy Tigerman and I developed the overall direction. She’s writing. Anat Rodan is designing the materials.

We kick it off with a new print ad, then we’ll be doing web ads, direct mail, and video concepts for the event itself. It’s the largest industry conference & expo in — I  think — the world and we are thrilled to be working on it for our third year.