The Grand Influence of 1980’s Television

After re-watching the old V miniseries a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about the television shows I used to watch back then and how those shows influenced me.  The internet wasn’t in the picture at that point, and VCRs were the pinnacle of recording technology.  It was a period when people actually scheduled time in their lives to watch certain shows, probably the end of that kind of behavior with the soon-to-be advent of on-demand and DVRs and entire television series’ seasons  on DVD which allow us to literally watch whatever we want whenever the mood strikes us.  But back then, networks were important and the TV Guide was actually a pretty useful tool.   So, in the spirit of reminiscence, I thought I’d run through some of the most influential shows, to me at least,  from the 1980s.  Say what you want about pop-culture, and it would be great if my generation were inspired more frequently by Dickens and Hemingway than America’s Funniest Home Videos and Knight Rider, but we are a product of our times and the culture that sprung from it, for better or for worse.  And while some of it is indisputably shallow, I don’t think it was all bad.


The Future

There’s a lot of talk around publishing circles, particularly online, that’s of the “woe is me, we’re screwed” variety.  I’m no stranger to that myself.  But despite the dark currents of the conversation, and the miserable financial numbers supporting the cause that seem only to get worse, there is hope of a sort.  For years, I’ve had the rumblings in the back of my head about digital readers of some type.  Nothing remotely like the tablets and Kindles and such that exist, but far more practical and concise creatures that hadn’t quite been invented yet.  I wanted that tablet they had on Star Trek, you know, the the small, thin hand-held thing that was a complete library and wireless connection to the computer banks rolled into one handy package?  That’s the thing that I imagined.

If “publishing” was to have a future, it was going to have to be in a less physical, digitized sense.  It was obvious.  All things around us, informationally, were moving away from hard physical things to the electronic.  It was naive to think that paper and ink alone would weather the storm.  We had to find a way to digitize.  One small problem, though.  The preferred means of presenting this transition didn’t quite exist.  And it still doesn’t, but we’re getting closer.  Here is a very nice description of where we stand in terms of the development of a useful electronic reader.


Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thanksgiving From A Writer

So, turkey day was yesterday (and today and tomorrow.  I love leftovers)  and it got me thinking.  The past couple years have just sucked.  Things I worked so hard for were taken away one at a time by giant corporate interests with no further thought to the actual people they were grinding under to save their own cushy jobs than anyone gives to deleting junk emails.  The industry I thought I wanted to be a part of forever (publishing) lies in near-ruin, led there by short-sighted minds that cared more about their budget sheets and stock performance than their customers, employees and, god forbid, actual products.

We’ve seen an election that was supposed to bring about positive change, but really looks like nothing more than continued bailouts to some of the very same big corporations that have caused the problems we’re supposedly trying to fix (the banks and health insurance companies, to name just two).  The possibilities for employment are slim to none (just look at the Help Wanted ads in the local paper some time, all five of them) and what jobs there are don’t pay anywhere near what people need to survive.  Like I said, things just suck.

And yet, there are signs of positive change.  So here are a few things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1.  I’m thankful for the internet (even though I still refuse to use a capital I).  While being the disruptive force to end all disruptive forces, it has also opened doors and access to people in a never-before seen way, with more coming every day.  Large corporations are rightfully afraid of the pervasive influence of the web; it has done more to level the playing field between the haves and have nots than I ever thought was possible.  And while it has contributed to the decline and fall of my industry of choice, and possible paychecks that go along with that, the sheer volume of possibilities it has created excites me about what the future may hold.  Things may be bad for us publishing creative types now, but the internet is just beginning to do for us what it has already done for musicians.  It has freed them from the yoke of the corporate recording industry machine, creating unheard of opportunities for bands to earn a living with their music without having to be fodder to whatever label chooses to use and discard them when sales decline.  The same thing is happening to us.  And while the recording industry fiercely fought those changes to its long-time dominance over artists, and won some battles over file-sharing, they ultimately lost the war.  We, as the creative driving force behind publishing, have only just begun to fight, and we’ll win, too, helping to remove the corrosive influence of the corporate media masters from our lives.

2.  I am thankful to Rupert Murdoch for continually spewing all sorts of asinine, backward thinking plans designed to save his empire and giving me plenty of material to rant about and criticize.  It seems lately that not a day goes by that Rupert doesn’t engage in some vitriol or other that only serves to illustrate how out of touch the giant media companies have become.  When titans die, it’s never pretty, and they never go quietly, but it’s always entertaining.

3.  I am thankful for the economic downturn.  That’s right, I said thankful.  Sure, we’re all broke and desperately seeking answers, but what better illustration could there have been for we, the people to see just how unimportant we are both to our own government and the companies that employ us?  No longer do we have any illusions that credit cards issuers give a damn about us, or that keeping a good credit standing and paying our bills on time means anything to them at all.  They actually see people who pay off their balances in full as deadbeats and are jacking up your interest rates accordingly.  Doesn’t feel so good, does it?  Nor do we have any left-over visions of loyalty to whatever company employs us, nor should we.  Isn’t it clear to everyone that most of these corporate executives would throw the women and children overboard to secure themselves a position in the lifeboat at this point?  It’s not the 1950s any more, and it’s time we started acting like it.  To large companies, we are nothing more than replaceable components on a budget sheet, not actual people with actual lives, families and problems.  And when then going gets tough, it’s actually a good thing that we all now realize that when its a choice between saving their salaries and bonuses or saving jobs for the people in their employ, they’ll choose to save their own asses every time.  Corporations have been using us for years, now we know that, in order to build the kind of future we all want, we need to use them instead.  Without this kind of hardship, as difficult as it is today, that realization might never have come.

4.  Lastly, I am thankful that I’m alive, healthy and mentally sound (well, reasonably so, anyway).  There’s nothing that sucks the life and energy out of me quicker than boredom.  Say what you want about our current economic mess, but the constant drive to find new ways to earn a buck and keep food on my table and in my dogs’ bowls is a constant challenge and it’s never boring.  In the movies, 2010 is the year we meet some aliens.  Hell, I’d like it to be the year I win the lottery.  But failing that, this next year is a complete unknown to me.  Where will I be next Thanksgiving?  How will I be earning a living?  Will I find the proper creative outlet for my talents, one that hopefully pays a little?  These are the questions I have to face.  The uncertainty can pull down some people, but I thrive on it.  Challenges abound from this point forward; some I will meet, some I won’t, but I can guarantee that it will be a damned interesting ride.  And that’s the best possible thing I can hope for.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a turkey sandwich and an extra slice of pumpkin pie with my name on it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The NFC’s Playoff Drive

Yesterday, I went through the AFC’s teams and who was likely to make it to the postseason.  Today, I’ll go through the much-duller NFC.  Basically, barring a major collapse by someone currently in the conference’s top six teams, those will be the teams making the tournament.  No one currently out of playoff position is playing anywhere near well enough to get back into it.  There are five teams with no chance at all, relegated to spoilers.  Seattle plays San Francisco and Green Bay; St. Louis plays Arizona, San Francisco and Chicago; Detroit gets Arizona, Chicago and San Francisco;  suddenly-competitive Tampa Bay has games against Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta twice; and Washington gets to mix it up with the AFC East trio of Dallas, Philly and the Giants as well as New Orleans.  The best they can hope for is to do a little damage and build for next year.

There are three 4-6 teams who could get hot, but I don’t think any of them are going anywhere.  (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 5:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Home Stretch: NFL Teams push for playoffs

What could go better together than football and Thanksgiving?  With 10 games down, and bye weeks a thing of the past, I thought I’d run down the playoff stretch around the league.  I’ll start in the AFC, which is by far the deeper conference.  There are four teams that have no shot whatsoever, Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland and Buffalo.  The best they can hope for is spoiler at this point.  The Bills have games against Miami and New England;Kansas City plays San Diego, Denver and Cincinnati; Oakland gets Denver, Pittsburgh and Baltimore; and  Cleveland has the most chances to ruin someone’s season (not that they will) playing  San Diego, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

There are two 4-6 teams that could conceivably run the table, get to 10 wins and sneak in, but that’s not going to happen in either case.  Tennessee, even being rejuvenated with Vince Young and Chris Johnson, has a schedule too tough to win out, having to take on Arizona, Indianapolis, Miami and San Diego.  No way they win all four of those games.  The Jets, actually have a better chance of pulling it off, but they’re playing so bad that it will be a minor miracle to turn it around now.  If they can beat Carolina this weekend, they have two games against Buffalo and Tampa Bay, before closing with a fading Atlanta team, then Indy and Cincinnati, both likely playing for nothing at that point (and resting their stars).  Still, not going to happen.

Which brings me to the other teams that will come up short in the wild card hunt.  (more…)

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Live Music of the Week: The Derek Trucks Band

I kicked off this little ongoing series of band recommendations a couple weeks back. Today I’d like to add a new band to my list.  And again, before I begin, click here, turn up the volume and hit play.

Today’s band is another of my favorites, The Derek Trucks Band.  Whereas my previous recommendation was a bluegrass band, Derek Trucks is anything but.  For those who don’t know, Derek is the nephew of long-time Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks, and very quickly rose to the obvious heir-apparent to slide guitar great Duane Allman.  Derek began performing professionally at age 12 (!), forming the Derek Trucks Band shortly thereafter.   A few years ago, he married blues great Susan Tedeschi for a match made in sonic heaven.

Over the years, Derek has played with all sorts of bands other than his own, including a regular spot as slide virtuoso with the Allmans, frequently opposite fellow exceptional guitar hero Warren Haynes, also of Allmans and Gov’t Mule fame.   But he really lets loose his unique slide stylings with his own band.  The Derek Trucks Band’s music ranges from hard-driving blues to R&B and soul to world music, forming one of the most interesting and unique sounds out there.

I have a hard time describing Derek’s sound, as it is unlike any slide player I have ever heard.  The best description is just for you to listen for yourself.  I’ll guarantee you’ve never heard anyone play like he does.  I don’t hesitate to call him the best guitar player currently going.  A couple years ago, Derek and Susan Tedeschi joined up under the floating name of Derek & Susan’s Soul Stew Revival or something similar.  If you have an opportunity to get a hold of some of those shows, jump at the chance.  Susan is an exceptional musician and performer in her own right, but hearing her belt out some heavy R&B with Derek and the boys backing is simply mind-blowing.

I’ve put a link to both the Derek Trucks Band and Susan Tedeschi’s websites on the sidebar under “A Little Live Music.”  Check it out frequently for tour dates.  You won’t want to miss the show when either, or both, of them come to town.  Enjoy!


Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Publishing Link of the Day: Shopping Around for the News

Read this. It’s one of the more concise arguements I’ve seen yet as to why the anti-Google crusade may well be a pointless and self-destructive exercise in futility.  I especially like the corn flakes metaphor.  Absolutely perfect.  At the risk of repeating myself, Murdoch et. al. simply aren’t getting what’s going on out here.  If you want to get paid for your material, then you have to convince people to willingly pay up.  Putting up barriers, making things more difficult and trying to compel people to fork over cash for stuff they might be interested in but not really need isn’t going to get the job done.  One more time, it takes a rather impressive ego for these folks to think their material is so much more valuable than everything else out here, and that it alone will alter the landscape of the internet and people’s behavior online.  Good luck with that.

Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Bing! That’s The Sound Of Irrelevance

So, after a few days break to honor a friend of mine, I’ve decided to get back at it.  The big news lately is, rather unsurprisingly, Rupert Murdoch and News Corp are, in fact, trying to parlay current conditions in online news into a sweet exclusivity deal to index his material with the search engine that will get with his program.  Now, I’m not alone in being rather outspoken about the absurdity of this, particularly if it involves paywalls on the material he wants to index.  Being that it seems a forgone conclusion that Murdoch, and possibly others, will be taking this route in the near future, I thought I’d consider the matter a little more closely.


Remembering My Friend Bob

Photo Courtesy of Kelly Magaw

I was driving to work this morning when I received a phone call from Ira Black, my former boss at The Mariner and Nor’easter.  He was passing on the unpleasant news that our former salesman and friend Bob Liddell had died early this morning.  I hadn’t spoken to Bob for a while, caught up in my own life and problems as I frequently get, and the news hit me pretty hard.

I first worked with Bob at The Mariner back in 1997.  We were among the group of six Mariner staff members who left in 2001 to found Nor’easter, along with Ira, Jennifer Null, Shannon Webb and Donna Kaehn.  Bob was a salesman and, as such, could be difficult on occasion, but he was a genuinely good guy with a big heart.  And he loved to talk.  Sometimes, our eyes would gloss over as he showed off pictures of his most recent cruise to some exotic locale or another, or the newest parrot-shaped trinket he’d added to his Jimmy Buffett concert-going hat, but his enthusiasm was apparent and genuine in everything he did.

Looking back now, I don’t think we could have hand-picked a more strong-willed, bull-headed group of people than we had at Nor’easter.  We would argue and fight almost constantly, sometimes throwing things (I still have a dent in my forehead with a White-Out logo on it).  But ultimately, we were all in it together.  We had taken some pretty sizable risks to get Nor’easter off the ground, but despite our differences, we all were focused on the same goal.  The more time passes, and regardless of how things turned out, the more respect I have for that time and those people.  Despite our differences, it was a unique experience unlike any I’ve found since.

I spent a good amount of time with Bob over the course of those years; traveling with him on the road for sales calls, hauling magazines to boat shows, just hanging around the office and any number of other occasions.  I’m proud to have called Bob my friend.

Donna passed away near Christmas of the end of our first season.  Then, a few years ago, when the Nor’easter that we founded started to fade, the original crew that came from The Mariner began to sail off in our separate directions; first Jen, then Shannon, then myself and finally Bob.  We saw each other on occasion since then, phone calls and a few lunch meetings, but not often enough.  After the unhappy news of this morning, not nearly often enough.  Life seldom allows you to have the things you chase after very often or for very long, so it was perhaps inevitable that circumstances would pull the team we had apart.  It’s only now, a few years removed, that I really appreciate what we had, for as brief a time as it was.

I know that there’s been some bitterness and angry words between past and present Nor’easter, but today is not a day for that.  Bob Liddell, who was instrumental in Nor’easter’s very existence, passed away this morning.  Today is a day for honoring him.  I would like to make a suggestion, if I may.  Bob’s name should be included in the Nor’easter masthead, right there beside Donna’s.  Given his contributions, I think it would be a fitting tribute to the man to be recognized in every issue for as long as it exists.

I can see Bob now, propped up in a deck chair aboard some great heavenly cruise liner, drink in hand, plying the warm, blue-green waters of some celestial paradise somewhere, with strains of Jimmy Buffett playing nearby.  It’s all Cheeseburgers in Paradise for him now.  Thank you, Bob.  We couldn’t have done any of it without you.  We’ll miss you, my friend.

Published in: on November 19, 2009 at 6:49 pm  Comments (6)  

More Bluster from Murdoch

Just a quick point.  Apparently, two lawyers that do a lot of work representing newspapers ran an editorial in the Wall Street Journal attempting to justify Rupert Murdoch’s claims that Google infringes on their copyright. I’m not going to justify this absurdity with much commentary other than to say that you can read all about it here and here. These are the same two guys who spouted this little bit of insanity about saving newspapers back in May.  It’s a lot like the, “we destroyed the village in order to save it,” argument.  Let’s gut everything of use in the internet, copyright law and anti-trust law and that’ll save journalism.   Sure, for your clients.

I did take particular pleasure in reading the part about a lawsuit in 2001 that the New York Times lost.  Apparently, that news rag decided that it was perfectly fine to reuse freelancer’s work anyway they wanted forever because they paid for one-time use rights.  Way to keep the moral high-ground.  Big-time publishers were ripping off freelancers for web material and now are accusing Google of ripping off the same material from them.  See, the content is valuable to this group.  It’s just the writers that aren’t.

Published in: on November 17, 2009 at 10:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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