Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Steal This Book": Part II - Steal This Blog Post

Fast forward 41 years and everyone wants you to steal their book or CD or idea. They want that because then you will distribute it and in turn, they will sell more whatever. A few years ago the band Radiohead released their album, In Rainbows, on the Internet with a 'Pay what you like' format that allowed you to either pay, or download the album for free. 1.2 millions copies were downloaded the first day and although the record company has never released sales numbers, it was a PR coup. Permitted, encouraged  stealing has now become a distribution method. After all, if nobody wants to steal your stuff, then it can't be any good, can it?

Seth Godin recently considered selling a DVD of his latest speaking series and then opted for an 'honor system' method that allows you to watch it on Vimeo - then he gives you the password. Free. This way he gets attention, and then sells DVD boxed sets. And this has become the Internet business model of choice: Give something away for free, use that to gain attention, and then sell a hard copy of whatever it is you have to make money. Hugh MacLeod has used this method for years to distribute his cartoons and ideas - now he will happily sell you a framed print from his online gallery or a book. Hugh is doing very well.

This blog is free but I do it to gain attention and then sell consulting services.What can you give away, or let people steal that will then endear them to you enough to buy whatever is is you have to sell? Steal this blog post please. 

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn. Read my previous blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How I Met Oscar Schindler

Nearly two years ago I was beginning a trip to Europe from Vietnam and our first stop was Frankfurt and a meeting with Oskar Schindler - you know, the one from Schindler's list fame - but not exactly in person. For me, I would meet Mr. Schindler through the gift of a friend, Erika, and even have a short visit to his last apartment. Finally this year I got around to reading that gift, a book by David Crowe entitled 'Oskar Schindler - The untold account of his life, his wartime activities and the true story behind the list.', and as you might have guessed, it's not the same story told in the Speilberg film. In this telling, David Crowe, a historian and President Emeritus of the Association for the Studies of Nationalities at Columbia University brings us a less than riveting portrait of a man who was both conflicted and complex in his wartime work and personal life. A lover of wine, women and song, a spy, a man playing both sides in more than two sides of his life, Schindler is presented by Crowe as more of a historical study and much less is revealed about his motivations. Given this document of study and a Hollywood film we still know little about the man himself.

But I learned a little more that day. I learned that given the internet and new ways to communicate, that a jazz singer from L.A. living in Germany and a man from New York living in Vietnam who had never met could meet and find common ground over a man named Oskar Schindler - so still, even in death he has an impact. A positive one.

Schindler's wife was less charitable. At his grave, she had this to say, "Well, Oskar, we meet again. But this is not the time for reproaches and complaints. It would not be fair to you or to me. Now you are in another world, in eternity, and I can no longer ask you all those questions to which you would have given evasive replies...and death is the best evasion of all. I have received no answers. my dear. I do not know why you abandoned me...but what not even your death or my old age can change is that we are still married. This is how we are before God. I have forgiven you everything, everything."

Now, two years after a trip that had too many unknown unknowns, I understand that I may not ever understand what really happened - that I may never have many answers. My mother would die with many secrets and one day my father will too. And the rest of us are left to piece together what they left us for a life. And that in turn will become our own personal suspension of disbeliefs - the book of our own lives that we alone may write..

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Business is the art of getting people where they need to be, faster than they would get there without you.

This one, from my old buddy Hugh MacLeod: "Business isn't conceptual rocket science. It's about making money, trading goods and services and basically getting stuff done. In spite of that, it's still something that confounds a lot of people. How do other people make money? Why are some people rich and other people poor? Why am I poor when I work so hard every day? I've done my fair share of wondering about all this.That's what this cartoon is about. What can YOU do about not only your journey, but the journeys of others. The latter seems more interesting, somehow..." This week I had the opportunity to write a client about what I could do for him - because what he was asking for isn't what he needs and it's not going to help him, so wrote to him about where he needed to be and how I could help him get there. I was once told to never tell a client what could not be done - but rather what could be, how long it would take and how much it would cost - so that's what I did, because it was the responsible business thing to do.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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A Juxtaposition of Comparative Disbeliefs: Yo Yo Ma and Lil Buck

Yo Yo Ma meets Lil Buck. You know Yo Yo Ma, he's the most famous cellist in the world. But you don't know Lil Buck - and that's what makes all of this work as well as it does. A fan of both on YouTube saw them independently and suggested a collaboration - certainly an element of audience participation gone viral. And this is now our media environment. Does life imitate art, or the other way around? There are now more ways than ever to explore that juxtaposition. What if more companies started to explore combining seemingly disparate elements? Could brands be reinvented, extended, reborn? Yes.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Revolution Will Not be Televised - But It Will be Here

There's a revolution underway - and it's happening on multiple fronts. Zeitgeist calls for it in questioning our society's financial motivations and political machinations. Seth Godin calls it in marketing and communications. "At the same time that our economic engines are faltering, something else is happening. Like all revolutions, it happens in fits and starts, without perfection, but it's clearly happening."

And my email calls for it in the raft of mails I get from friends who are unhappy with the way things in America are going. So there are three things one can do: Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Not since the Vietnam war I have seen America so disenchanted - and that was arguably before my time. I am the first year of Americans not to have been drafted. Now Vietnam enjoys the benefits of a youthful population, plenty of foreign investment and bountiful growth. The generation in America who protested the war in Vietnam was eventually placated by Reagan, Wall Street and a trickle-down re-education camp theory that hasn't quite played out. So how will the Baby Boomers play it this time? Differently we hope - for their children, or grandchildren. The revolution will not be televised, but it will be here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Vote "None of the above."?

I had a thought today about elections. I thought, what if we installed a "None of the above." button on all election machines? And if the total for any candidate was not a clear 'majority', we had another go at it? Turns out I was not the first person with that idea. In Google image search for the term NOTA, there are hundreds of pictures - many involving a voting booth or a checkbox. I used a non-political one here. On further search, Wikipedia turned up the following:

At first it may seem a negative thought but consider the option that if no candidate had a majority that would signify a positive change for the people - to say they were unhappy with the system and wanted it changed - to be happier, hopefully. Now unfortunately, in the United States 2008 presidential election turnout was only 63%. However, in Australia, which has compulsory voting, and Malta, participation reaches 95%.

So there are two ideas to consider:

1) Institute a 'NONA' option into all national elections
2) Require mandatory voting 

This would make voting as required as filling out a tax return and mean that one's vote was as important as one's money. It would also provide a research method by which we could gauge how happy the people were with the way their money was being spent. I'm sure Larry Page could figure out an algorithm for that.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn. Read my previous blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Amusing Ourselves to Death" - Neil Postman

I was reminded recently by novelist John Rachel of this book by Neil Postman. In the introduction to his book Postman said that the contemporary world was better reflected by Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, whose public was oppressed by their addiction to amusement, than by Orwell's 1984, where they were oppressed by state control. Postman distinguishes the Orwellian vision of the future, in which totalitarian governments seize individual rights, from that offered by Huxley in Brave New World, where people medicate themselves into bliss, thereby voluntarily sacrificing their rights. "Pardon me, I need to Tweet something." And that is indeed where we find ourselves today - where the governments of China and indeed Vietnam seek to block their people from all sorts of media and decision making input (and output), while America, quite possibly more than any other country, simply opens the floodgates and let's the disinformation flow. And it is only in being away from America for some time that this becomes clear.

Want to cleanse oneself of alcohol and drugs? We have clinics and twelve step programs for that. Want to get off the habit of believing everything you see and hear on TV from embedded journalists? The withdrawal from this drug is a bitch, girlfriend. Kicking the habit is no easy trick. You've been breastfed for years. Care to question your teachers? Haven't we trained you against that?

And the best method for teaching compliance with the system? Attach a financial reward for good behaviour - a sort of Pavlovian response mechanism. Ring the bell, get the food. After years of writing my blogs faithfully and, sometimes controversially but always interestingly, I've attracted a legion of readers - arguably 20% of what the most successful English magazine in country can get on their website. But I do that with absolutely no budget. And therein lies the problem. The system pays for average - but it doesn't pay well at all for doing above average - because that takes chances and mistakes and a production of work that will only see a 5% return of really good stuff against all work done.

I remember a creative director telling me years ago that you could always take an outer space writer and pull him back to average, but you could never take an average writer and make him go to outer space. I would be the former. And in our media confusion confusion these days I find myself finding that there's a lot more truth in fiction than there is in what is presented as truth - and in that there is disinteresting fiction. At best the news bores the fuck out of most of us - but it rarely inspires any of us.

The Korean artist Paek Nam June was well known for installations involving 100s of television sets each broadcasting machine gun videos of millions of images. He coined the term Information Superhighway. It was his way of showing the world that as information became more prolific it would eventually, all, become incomprehensible. I was able to meet him in Seoul in 1995. He was right. 

"Our life is half natural and half technological. Half-and-half is good. You cannot deny that high-tech is progress. We need it for jobs. Yet if you make only high-tech, you make war. So we must have a strong human element to keep modesty and natural life." - Paek Nam June

Now with the Internet we are able to placate our love of average by watching dancing cats on YouTube. We can amuse ourselves to death if we like. Or not. Care to do something worthwhile? Here's the platform. The Revolution Will Not be Televised, but it might be here.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn. Read my previous blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I love Seth Godin - But he doesn't know much about Asia

His latest post, 'Are You Buying an Education or Buying a Brand?"  says:
And that's insane because there's another reason. Doesn't he understand that Asian students are filling up the classrooms in the US, England and Australia left by declining student populations in the West - and that the hallmarks of an ascriptive society are replacing those in America previously based on achievement? And students and parents are more more interested in buying a 'brand'? Most Asian students live in cloistered housing, only deal with their own culture, and many learn little or nothing of the actual subjects - but once that degree is on their CV, they come back to Asia and get hired like fish in an employment net that looks for letters and brand names over any real accomplishment. Could someone please tell me where Steve Jobs went to school? I don't want to go there!

For the record, Seth Godin graduated from Tufts University and received his MBA from Stanford (both strong educational brands). Steve Jobs attended but dropped out of Reed College in Portland Oregon. He has never received a formal degree in any subject.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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Squandering the Peace Dividend on War: The American Way

From Seth Godin today again, a post about squandering our national resources. You can read the original by clicking on the coloured type but I'm going to repurpose his writing a bit and make a few comments.

I recall any great number of people loosing their jobs when the computer age finally kicked in to corporate America in the early 90s. I felt sorry for them. At Leo Burnett in Chicago during a large layoff of 250 or so (15% of the staff I recall) a number of soon-to-be ex-employees were structuring a class action suit claiming the company was remiss in not retraining them properly. I'm not sure that ever got off the ground but they were not incorrect. All along they had been doing what they were told, doing what they had been trained to do, following the old company manual. And things turned out poorly for them. I recall crossing one of the bridges across the Chicago River at lunch one day and seeing the men in the fireboat fishing a body wrapped in plastic out of the water. "Must be one of ours", a fellow Burnetter remarked walking by. Signs of those times.

I spent nearly half of 2009 and half of last year in Europe. France, Germany and The Netherlands for a short bit. It was positively enlightening. High speed trains everywhere. A 12 Euro ticket for my public transportation every week. Metro, S-Bahn or a tram or bus anywhere I wanted to go in Munich. Fast and cheap. Bill Clinton left America a surplus in budget after his term. That seemed to go away fairly quickly. If I studied economics, politics and military science would I find that a state of perpetual war and code 'Red', 'Purple', 'Orange' fascist fear tactics in a nation  were essentially good for economic and political stability in the long term? I'd be interested in reader's thoughts on that.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bob Dylan in Vietnam - Impressions

This is not a review. I offered to do a review for a local magazine but that was declined because they felt they were given short shrift by the promoter in press and photo passes, so I didn't attend the show to make notes and work, I went to enjoy. Budget matters raised their ugly head towards the end of the week. But I'm about to turn 55, am severely underemployed and have had my writing critiqued recently as "pretentious and flowery" so going to the first real major rock concert in Vietnam seemed like the proper tonic for the times. I wouldn't regret it.

Phone jangles around 4 Sunday with my buddy Ryan texting me about meeting for pre-show drinks. Meeting up with six mates or so we got an early buzz going and headed off to the show around 6. The only thing I would be missing would be a ticket. But that was fairly easily solved in that the university, RMIT, had been offering 2 for one to students and there was no shortage of students looking for partners to buy in. I did and was in in seconds. $25 bucks.

Early rounds for what seemed like a grand garden party on the grass football pitch at the university were spent sitting and chatting and sharing some of the local smoking produce. Billed to accommodate 8000 this seemed about half full with tents for beer and food and a VIP section that, had I spent $120 for that ticket, would have been summarily pissed off at the left sideline location and slow beer queues. But slow beer queues were de rigueur for the evening with one having to purchase coupons first, 20 minutes, and then get in line for the beer - another 20. So absolutely nobody was drunk. A security precaution I'm sure. One blogger termed the service "clown-like". I couldn't agree more.

Partially billed as a tribute to Trinh Cong Son, the Vietnamese Bob Dylan, whatever his brilliance was, was lost in a haze of Don Ho-like theatrics and faux Vegas production, dragging big stars and even a Vietnam Idol winner on stage to just bore the living crap out of the crowd. It was positively dreadful, considering the primarily foreign crowd - so we engaged in a little more crop sharing and let the whole intro pass. Dropping a Prince-like banner behind the stage cued my biggest mis-call of the evening, thinking there was yet another Vietnamese band set to play. "That's not Bob Dylan's logo", I proclaimed to a friend, seeing the white on black swirly king crown symbol above one penetratingly watchful sparkly eye. "Looks more like something for a Swedish death metal band", I said. And wrong, wrong, wrong I was.

In a white skimmer Dylan hits the stage, guitar in hand, and whatever had become of our lawn party quickly disassembled - the rush of the crowd like a human tsunami quickly washing away rock real estate and trading it for SRO. Time to see the star. And with little or no fanfare the poet laureate plugs in. A few songs in and we crowd forward to see and hear better I feel the need for a pee and a smoke. So I writhe out of the crowd and find the sidelines toward the rear. Sound is much better midway back and "It Ain't Me You're Lookin' For" clocks two stars on my hit list for the evening. Following a few songs later with "Tangled Up In Blue" his arrangements would have baffled even but the most ardent of fans but this is where I felt he hit his stride. Harp work on "Tangled" was ethereal.

Getting to the back lawn I spy a girl with a laptop. WiFi on a soccer pitch - only in Vietnam. She's found the show live-streaming on Zing and is passing the laptop around for her friends to hear. "It's Hard" is a soft lawn favourite and I sit with a fresh beer and chill as if I am at Ravinia in Chicago or any number of other summer music festivals in the states or Europe. It's positively civilized. Good thing I got stoned earlier or it wouldn't have been a rock concert at all. "More wine and cheese Madge?" A Vietnamese man around my age taps his foot and rocks back and forth as his 16 year-old son sits motionless. "What do you think?", I ask the kid. "Cool", he says - pretty much summing up that he had never sat on the grass and watched a rock concert before. "This is weird - and this is what my dad likes." I found it positively charming. Change happens in teeny tiny ways and the times in Vietnam was a changin' just a bit that night.

"Highway 61" brought a hard Texas blues twist to Saigon and Dylan brought his best Tom Waits in to accompany. Walking back up front for the finish saw him playing vocalist on "Somethin's Happening Here" after spending too much of the night on keyboards - a weird thing I thought having seen him once before in 79 in his Jesus days.

First encore got everyone shouting to "Like A Rolling Stone" but even the audience had trouble figuring out the timing on that one. "Watchtower" didn't do much to solve audience arrangement confusion but made the crowd happy. Back for the second encore a sublime "Forever Young" was nice and soft and a fitting way for a seventy year old man to finish a show.

For me, I felt old, underpaid and trying to find something in just doing a simple thing that anyone in my age and supposed-pay scale should be able to do. I asked myself why all the good work I do doesn't get paid for and how to make things better. This week I quit two jobs that didn't pay me any money. Maybe that's a start. Seeing Dylan in Vietnam made me realize that the times indeed can change. Time for mine. "Pretentious and flowery" - there must be a market for that.

For Dylan's 'Vietnamese Government Approved Lyrics' click here.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh, those pesky personality tests. Do they really know you?

"You are in a perpetual quest to find the new, the exciting. Emotionally volatile, you are known for sudden changes of opinion, of appreciation, and behavior. Following rules and established methods is difficult for you and the difficulties of higher education are usually quite daunting. Knowledge is best gained through an intimate association with the matter at hand. Usually driven by attitudes and desires of the group, you are talented in an established field of endeavor. Emotions come and go without a strong understanding of their causes. They are unexpected guests in an otherwise placid landscape. You live by your own codes of conduct, which can be noble or terrible depending on the individual. Authority is meaningless to you. You hate to be predictable, at all costs. Rarely verbally effusive, you can at times feel as if your feelings are too deep for words. You are very observant, but rarely express these observations to others."

Above is the result given to me my the Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Diagnostic, an exploration of your brain's affective response system. Nonverbal, emotional reactions to shape tableaus will target the portion of your brain that is intuitive and pre-lingual. I generally find all these tests enjoyable although about as accurate as a trained fortune teller. Try this one by clicking above. It's fun...

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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Friday, April 8, 2011

So, America's F&*%#$-up. But at least I'm not the only one saying so...

It's a financial crisis one day, Bernie Madoff (a scapegoat) the next and now, we could just shut the whole damn thing down today because we've run out of money. And do you know what? That might not be such a bad idea. It might get some people talking sense for a change. With a life bookended off the start by the Korean war, infiltrated at childhood by the Vietnam war, followed by Iraq I, Iraq II and Afghanistan thrown in at middle age for good measure, the baby-boomers of America would do well to ask themselves if all of this has made their life any better, or any safer - but I'm not hearing many affirmatives on that one. "Let's go make some babies", America says. "And we can bring them into a world of perpetual debt, great imperial notions and general global instability", America says, not even paying head to the actual mountain of horseshit sitting right outside the front door. Show the kids "It's A Wonderful Life" annually, buttress that with strong helpings of Justin Beiber, Angry Birds and an iPhone. "Yeah, I think the iPhone will do it Madge!", sparks dad. "Make sure to get the Angry Birds app dear!", she chirps. Our desire to suspend disbelief is unquenchable - and ultimately unmanageable. You know, even those of us in the business of creating illusions need a little reality now and again - just so we understand exactly what illusions really are. And anyone who doesn't think drugs and drink are not helpful here is not seeing the whole picture. Without the benefit of being completely and stupifyingly stoned at at least one point in one's life, could anyone ever really tell what's real and what's not? You won't find it on TV, that's for sure - big media is no tonic for truth telling.

Author John Rachel lines up things pretty simply below - without the benefit of an Ivy League degree or years of public service. With no disrespect to John, it seems a plumber might be able to figure this out as well.

Isn’t it time to end the wars and bring the troops home

Isn’t it time to walk away from our imperial fantasies and reduce our military?

Isn’t it time for the rich and mega-corporations to start paying their fair share?

Isn’t it time to reign in corporate power and their influence over our elected officials?

Isn’t it time for people to come first and government by the people to be reinstated?

"No, we have a better idea", the government says. "Let's give the people blogs and then they can wank all this rubbish around on the Internet and nobody will hear it", the government says. "Yeah, that's the idea." Or maybe there's an even better idea - what do you think?

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Buying pot in Vietnam. How much?

When I started my own business in Korea, I learned something that no multinational could help me do. They couldn't help me decide. They just wanted me to execute their corporate plan. Multinational companies don't like you making choices. But when I started my own company, I learned an important thing:

"Ask  the same question 3 times, until you get the answer you like".

So go to three pot dealers and tell them you'll pay, 50,000 dong. 3rd man will said okay (prices can go to 200,000 for the same product). Want to buy a house? Same negotiation applies. Want to buy a company? Same. Stop reading the company manual. It doesn't teach you how to decide - but price will. Your price.

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
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