30 November 2009

Winter Anthem


I love Fall. Sweater weather, changing seasons, outside facing cool breezes holding the warm hands of our sons or daughters or spouse. Autumn, to me, is the best of all the seasons because of college football, Thanksgiving dinners with family, and tryptophan-inspired naps on comfy couches. With two sons having birthdays on (or very near) the Autumnal and Spring Equinox, I find it fascinating that their mom and dad's birthdays are right near the Winter and Summer Solstice. Well maybe fascinating's a bit much, but at least interesting. I posted a Summer Anthem about six months ago ...

So here's my Winter Anthem:

A life with hearth and inspiration aflame deep within, from a source bigger than oneself, yet remains untapped because bigger and better is just down the road apiece, around the next bend, leaning up against the snow-buried signposts of success and fulfillment and forgiveness.

A life where there are no regrets because we've left it all on the frozen field, with bloddied knuckles and scraped knees and perhaps a toothless grin, knowing that those saddest words of fountain pen, "what could have been," are no longer for us and ours.

A life with friendships and loves and family trudging up snowy hills with snowboards underarm and funny hats on the head keeping ears warm, and crunchy snow underfoot as laughter accompanies snowballs hitting their mark, a face, a back or windshield. A working fireplace warming a den with a silver and gold and green tree in the corner and an oven full of chocolate chip cookies warming a kitchen, and somewhere "It's a Wonderful Life" plays to a contented few enjoying the smell of winter all around them.

A life with long drives home in the middle of the frozen night, heater cranked up, and two sons asleep against car windows leaving parabola of frosty breath that disappear as fast as they were made, skis on the roof, and iPods and Game Boys hanging around the necks of boyhood playing for their slumbering owners happily with batteries full ... of potential.

Do you have a "Winter Anthem" Dear Reader? Let us know by clicking on "pithy remarks" below!


23 November 2009

The End of Anonymity ... Chrome


FatScribe is pleased to post the following by director Kenny Jackson.

At first I was sort of joking when I started telling my friends that Google is poised to take over the world, especially if everybody keeps mindlessly handing over guardianship of all their personal information and data. Now, the joke, in my opinion, is on me.

The value proposition goes something like this: Wouldn't it be convenient if ALL of your communication (email, mobile phone, including text messaging); your medical and dental records; your photographic images and video; your business and personal documents, all of your bill-paying, your travel arrangements, your entertainment, and all of your banking, vehicle data, online shopping, mortgage data, tax records, wedding announcements, and just about anything else about you that involves your personal data storage and movement, could be at your fingertips whenever you needed it?

If I owned one of the largest, fastest-growing companies in the world, my mission in life would be to make sure as many people as humanly possible were inclined to easily and eagerly say "yes" to that question.

Google, the Internet’s great monetizer and search engine giant, has innovated and acquired some of the Internet’s leading applications. Their latest invitation? For you to energetically hand over every keystroke of information that you ever dreamt of typing vis-à-vis Google Chrome.

It's a combination netbook computer and web-based operating system that "conveniently" runs, "Every capability you want today?" according to Sundar Pichai, Google's Vice President of Product Management. In other words, forget about buying and "downloading" software onto your own personal hard drive. Google is going to take care of all your spyware and virus issues for you. That way, you can focus on getting around on the internet and "stop worrying about your computer," according to the product launch promotional video.

Are you worried about your computer? I'm not worried about mine, but Google is going to go ahead and solve all that for us before we even realized we needed them to. I knew my days of hiding behind my own freedom to choose what information I put out there were coming to an end. I just didn't think the end was this near.

A co-worker of mine wanted to circulate a document "conveniently," so he set it up on Google docs. Unfortunately, I couldn't access the document because it required my creating a "Google Account." I think it even involved my needing a Gmail account. I didn't want a Gmail account, or any other kind of Google account; I just wanted access to the document. I'm fine with my old school AOL email account that I've had for the past 15-years. It's bad enough that AOL has all 5,000 emails that have gone back and forth in my account over that time. The only alternative was inconveniencing my co-worker friend to send me the file as an attachment. I managed to maintain my relative anonymity for one more day, but I don't think my co-worker buddy likes me anymore.

Convenience is one thing. Having every bit of information about me forever entwined with some third-party business entity that makes its money selling fine-tuned advertising (to me) based on everything it "observes" about my web-based activity is less than desirable.

Maybe it's just me, but does anybody else see a problem with sacrificing God-given independence for global co-dependence on a god-like information "cloud"? If Google's got anything to say about it, it's just a matter of time.

Kenny Jackson is a writer-director living in paradise. He serves as the International Dean, College of Communication at the University of the Nations.



21 November 2009

Detroit ... You're Killing Me



I heard a reporter on the radio recently tell of some truly shocking news about Detroit and its housing market. I've traveled for business to Detroit a half-dozen times over the last 4 or 5 years, and each time the place looks a bit more worse for wear. The businessmen and women (mostly attorneys) that I have met with are a hearty lot, in spite of near 30% unemployment that took many of their jobs in a massive layoff within Ford's legal department. Visiting GM and Ford was a fulfillment of a childhood dream; to see where the magic happens. Where design concept becomes assembly line reality. At the time of my last visit to Ford, they still owned the luxury lines of Aston Martin, Jaguar, Volvo, and Land Rover. Walking around the campus to see attorneys in the various buildings, you were treated to viewing these amazing machines parked in the respective lobbies.

But, to my point. If one surveys the real estate prices for an average home from around the country, the survey goes something like this:

Los Angeles --> $389,000 median price
Atlanta --> $199,000 median
Cleveland --> $139,000 median

How about Detroit? The Motor City, home to several of the largest auto manufacturers in the world, birthplace of Motown, the city that we here in L.A. thank each season for sending us Kirk Gibson, responsible for the single greatest home run moment in baseball history (can you see him now, trotting around the bases pumping his fist?).

What is their median price? I was shocked to the core when I read that according to the Chicago Tribune, a similar home to the ones found in these other major metropolitan areas can be acquired in Detroit for $7,500.

One more time: $7,500.

Unbelievable, right? That's like paying someone to take your home, please. (Henny Youngman never had it so bad.) With an annual $300 million budget deficit, they say Detroit is on the verge of bankruptcy. I remember when NY was also similarly financially depleted, on the rocks of despair. But, they rebounded. How? To start with, they lowered taxes on citizens and businesses. But, NY is the #1 financial center in the world, with an economy that reinvents itself seemingly every decade or so, with myriad industries. But, what of Detroit? D-Town is not simply financially bereft, its been sucker-punched, with soul and innards eviscerated with a self-inflicted sideways seppuku slash 30 years in the making. Does it have a miracle up its collective sleeve when so much rides on the vagaries and fortune of one industry in a state of disruption?

I don't know.

It's a city of Ichabod, where the glory has departed. And, that's hard to get back. There are plans right now calling for the bulldozing of entire blocks of the city ... the razing of large swaths of the 11th largest city in the US is a fearsome prospect. When shall (should?) the federal government step into the fray of the city corruption and ineptitude found within Detroit's body politic?

Is Detroit Obama's unspoken Katrina, with its devastated urban center, feckless federal government response, and inchoate government arrogation of the city's only large private sector? That argument could be made.

But, I do believe (well, the conservative, Ayn Rand part of me) that Detroit is a microcosm of what the Obama Admin might just do to our entire country. The citizens of Detroit have seemingly given up -- they believe they can only prosper if the city (or pick your level of government) gets them there. The radicals in the President's administration want to overhaul the entire country so that we all must look to them for answers and solutions. Detroit, with its systemic failures and city government waste and failed policies, portends for the federal government a future of health care reform, and auto industry ownership and cap and trade hocus pocus worth reconsidering.

The city of Detroit was living high on the hog as the saying goes, watching as unions sucked the BigThree dry with their onerous demands (and the BigThree took it!), embarking on reckless confiscatory policies against the businesses that employed its citizenry. Soon the city was empty, and skyscrapers emptied themselves like a drunk the morning after. Businesses moved or folded. Michael Moore had his cameras pointed the wrong way; he should have been hounding the government office holders and union leaders instead of Roger Smith (the former CEO of GM). Or at least, he should have hounded both.

Am I defending the 3 stooges of Ford, GM, and Chrysler? Hardly. They have helped to hobble the industry on their own accord (pun not intended) over the last 20 years. However, Detroit's plight may be ours as well ... if we let ourselves become addicted to easy money of the government. The citizenry cannot thrive, or even survive, at the teat of the Obama Admin. I would be saying the exact same thing if Reagan or Truman (two of my favorites) administrations were in office offering similar policies.

But, where are the reporters explicating the decrepitude of Detroit with all of its big government chickens coming home to roost? I'll tell you where. They're found in England. Surprisingly (and quite sadly) the reporters in the UK recognize socialistic tendencies when they see them and its sickening side-effects. Both The Times of London (TimesOnline) and the Daily Telegraph (my morning bookmarks) have been reporting steadily about the rise and fall (in the polls) of our president -- and his penchant for European style governance -- much more effectively than our fellow travelers of the left found in the American media. And, what's interesting (at least to me) is that the Britons are way more liberal than their Yank cousins, except they (again, at least to me) can still report a fact as a fact. I don't care if you're left, right, or center -- just tell me the facts m'am.

So, today, the TimesOnline reports that Detroit's citizens, hit hard by the economic downturn and 30 years of foolish governance, haven't been able to even bury their dead. Bodies are stacked like Lego's in the city morgue, and only a private gift of several thousand dollars has begun to empty out Detroit's morgue filled with its most unfortunate citizens already in the deep-freeze. If we can only find more private sector activities in Detroit (besides charity to the city), and keep the union's greedy little pudgy fingers out of the BigThree's pockets, we might be able to shed some light of liberty and self-governance on the lives of our fellow citizens in that once shining city to the north, full of great music, terrificly designed autos, and happy, optimistic citizens.

11 November 2009

My New Uber-Hip Party Philosophy


I stumbled upon the above uber-hip party invite in the NYTimes whilst doing some book research today. Immediately I decided that all of our invitations for Dang! Branding Co. (and our winter parties) will follow suit. I mean, according to this article one can only lure the truly chic, i.e., the sculptors with their bedhead hairdos or auteurs with their corduroy suits (Wes Andersonian style of course) or authors with their Clark Kent frames (and Marilyn Monroe gal pals underarm) or pseudo-intellectuals (hello Keith Olbermann?) or athletes sporting gigantic watches or celebs with their miniature dog du jour (Mickey Rourke, you and your stretched taut face know of which I speak) and of course the ubiquitous bevy of buxom twenty-something beauties flitting about our rooftop parties in L.A., if and only if there is a modicum of privacy to such events. I mean, both the NYTimes and the guys at Protocols NYC say so. Are they correct? Is party privacy the newest in must-have party accessories?

Wrong! Completely wrong, people. These folks (the uber-cool mentioned supra), they represent the social elite, who live for the 3AM Girls or the Jordan Reid's (nonsociety.com) or the Gawker's of this world noticing them and their ne'er-do-well pals partying like it's 2009. Twit Pics and real-time blog updates are de rigueur for any party worth its salt.

So, whilst I appreciate such an invitation like the one above, I ask the following: if a really cool party or gathering of dangerously attractive individuals and the truly smart and talented, with just the right combination of music and sweet elixirs on the side, takes place atop The Standard or at our circa 1907 manse in LA., does this party truly exist if you can't tweet it?

What do you think? We brave, we few, we underpaid that work at Dang! Branding Co. know the answer to this burning question. Tweet us (from some terrific party where you're hanging out at with all the swells) and let us know!