Tag Archives: iPhone

A montage set to music: The best movies of 2013

Movies are all around us. Kind of like the Force, before George Lucas ruined it with all that claptrap about midichloridians or whatever.

Films live inside your TV, your iPhone, your laptop. They’re sitting on shiny metal disks and even being celebrated in these insanely large and dark stadiums where you pay $12 for popcorn and a Diet Coke that costs 20 cents.

And if you’re anything like me, movies are something magical.

So there’s this professional movie critic, David Ehrlich, a man you’d think only takes joy in ripping apart SMURFS 3: ARE WE THERE YET, PAPA SMURF while praising some black-and-white existential French movie where the hero finally kisses the girl and promptly gets hit by a bus–well, you’d think critics like him wouldn’t create something so joyful and beautiful as this.

Except of course he would. Why does anybody become a movie critic, book reviewer or rock journalist? Because they love nothing more than movies, books and making fun of Axl Rose and Vanilla Ice trying to stage a comeback.

So tell me, peoples of the Series of Tubes: which movies in 2013 make your top three?

Related posts:

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that won some award and is represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.

 

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Filed under 3 Tinseltown Tuesday, The Big Screen

3 ways to change the digital world FOREVER

It is official: social media now dominates the Series of Tubes.

Every year, these smart people produce a slick video about the interwebs, and this year’s video is especially good and interesting.

Now, having filled your brain with facts and numbers and industrial euro-pop dance music, WHAT DO WE DO?

Simple. We change the world.

Change # 1: One Contact Thing to rule them all

So you’ve got contacts in your gmail at home and Outlook at work, Twitter lists of followers and all kinds of Facebook friends, Tumblr buddies and Pinterest pals and a dozen other things.

It is an unholy mess.

Blessed be the app that gives us One Contact Thing, a single shebang with the magical powers to organize all your contacts, from all those stupid platforms, in one tidy place. The power will be unthinkable.

This means ending the nonsense about Instagram not talking to Twitter because she saw him flirting with Google or whatever. And yes, we need it to be easy and quick and on our phones. Because I’m not firing up the PC every time I need to look up a phone number or Twitter handle.

Whoever does this first — Apple, Google, Microsoft, some dude in his basement coding the app in his pajamas — will rule the interwebs forever and ever.

Change # 2: Obliterate voice mail and switch to texting

Am I saying  we should take voice mail behind the barn and shoot it? No. I’m saying take it behind the barn, hang it, set it on fire, THEN shoot it.

Nobody likes voice mail. Nobody.

Don’t call my cell phone and make me dial up voice mail, punch in a password I keep forgetting, then listen for two minutes. Especially when 99.99 percent of all voice mail messages are things you can sum up in a short text like, “Phone tag, you’re it” or “Pick up some milk, yo” or “I’m a reclusive billionaire with $400 million sitting around, and instead of handing it to Karl Rove, who I wouldn’t trust at this point to run a successful race for student body president at Willapa Valley Junior High, I’d like some return on my investment.”

Send a text, people. College kids these days don’t even use email anymore. They think email is so 1994.

If it’s too complicated for a text, send an email.

If you really hate me, send a voice mail. Make it long. Don’t leave your number or email — assume that I’ve memorized it. And then when I call back, make sure you don’t answer your phone so I can start the whole thing rolling with a voice mail of my own.

Therefore, we will nuke voice mail from orbit, and the world will rejoice.

Change # 3: Real photos, good bios and no anonymous trolls

Twitter, Facebook and every other social media shebang is full of photos and bios of people that may be human, and might be young or old, male or female, con artist or genius.

You can’t tell, though, because (a) their profile photo is a shot of a cat, Yoda holding a lightsaber or a pile of leaves, (b) their Twittter handle is @jkringer392 and (c) their bio is a train wreck of obscure references to Star Trek fan fiction and such. I have seen all of these things and more. Who will pay for my therapy?

Related post: 30 achy breaky Twitter mistakeys

There are plenty of places for anonymous folks to say whatever they like. Sites like reddit will always be around. Have at it.

HOWEVER: papers of news, TV stations and serious blogs need to stop feeding the trolls by letting TrailerParkNinja and TexasMustSecede2016! dominate the comment sections with anonymous spam and hateful, nonsense. So let’s cut back on that by requiring commenters to use real photos and bios. Want to spew? Go spew in Anonymous Land.

If you’re going to be on the Series of Tubes, and want to be taken Seriously, you need a Serious photo — of you, not your cat — and a real bio. Period.

Long ago, only famous people needed public relations folks, who made sure actors, authors and other celebrities had good mug shots and nice bios. Today, everybody is online. Your photo, bio and name are what people see first. But average people don’t have a publicist. They’re flying in the dark with a blindfold, and yeah, it shows.  

Wonder why you aren’t getting many followers on Twitter or hits to your blog? Take a look at your photo and bio.

Trying to get a job / book deal / punk rock music contract? Take a hard look at what people see, in the first five seconds, when they check you out on Twitter and the Book of Face and such.

People don’t make a decision about you after reading your short stories or listening to three mp3s of sample songs on your blog. They glance at your photo and decide, in half a second, whether to interact with you or never give you a second thought. They do this all the time, in a hurry. Ten people just followed you on Twitter, and you follow back or not, clicking away with your mousity mouse, no-no-yes-no-yes-yes-no. You don’t ponder these decisions, right? Bam. So make it easy on people by taking it seriously. I’m talking to you, Miss Duckface, who shot your profile photo in the bathroom mirror using an iPhone.

duckface collage or montage or whatever

A duckface collage or montage or whatever.

People need a place –a Profile Doctor–to get easy and quick help with this sort of thing, without putting a public relations firm on retainer.

As an experiment, I just did a bit of profile doctoring for Lauren the Palazzo, recent public relations grad. Did she get a job? Yes, she did.

Yet I can’t doctor the profiles of all 3 billion people with profile photos of their cat, Spock or Darth Vader paired with  a train-wreck bios, not unless I quit my job and hire a crack legion of  minions with red pens and Photoshop skills. Though if such a crack legion of secret editing agents existed, it’s a good bet that the underground headquarters would include tiger sharks (lasers optional) swimming in the moat and komodo dragons next to the BBQ pit.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, The Twitter, the Book of Face and the Series of Tubes

Is journalism dead?

By Alex Corey
Contributing Editor

Every day, you see stories wailing about the death of journalism, about newspapers shedding jobs or closing their doors.

So is journalism dead? Or is it a phoenix, dwindling close to the end of its life points only to come back bigger, faster and stronger?

The rise of citizen-journalists

A big part of the revival of journalism will involve citizen-journalists. Billions of people around the world are now portable news production studios, with every iPhone and Droid giving them the power to shoot photos or video and share breaking news with the world.

The negative side of this trend is quality control. Journalists have editors. There’s no editing involved with hitting the share button on your phone, leading to the very possibility of words, photos and video that simply stink up the joint, and wouldn’t have seen the light of day at a newspaper or TV station.

There’s also the problem of sorting through a sea of random stories, blog posts, Tumblr pages and YouTube videos about breaking news, all with similar taglines and descriptions.

Yet those negatives are outweighed by the positives. Giving any citizen the power to document events and break news can only be good news for transparency and fairness and bad news for censorship and oppression.

Quality control

As far as journalism’s overall quality, the milk’s gone bad–a little bit. The carton says it expired yesterday but you might still be able to drink it.

There used to be a 24-hour news cycle, back when newspapers got printed once a day. Blogs, Twitter and the Series of Tubes have made the old 24-hour news cycle as relevant as your dad’s collection of eight-track Meatloaf tapes.

Now there’s pressure to break news all day and all night, even when there’s not really any news to break. Added pressure for sports reporters covering the NFL to search for a scoop of raisins in the Raisin Bran when there aren’t any raisins to be found because it’s the off season.

With more pro athletes, actors, politicians and celebrities using Twitter and other means to break their own news, the pressure to produce has never been greater.

That pressure eventually reduces quality. It’s hard to do a big investigative story when you’re trying to crank out three blog posts a day while tweeting and replying to Facebook comments. The pressure to produce can lead journalists to begin poking and prodding when there is nothing to be poked and prodded, or to focus on the newest shiny object or controversy, whether that controversy has merit or not. Conflict is news.

White noise

Don Delillo’s nightmare from White Noise could be coming true. Soon enough, we will be speaking TV-glish instead of English and having difficulty distinguishing theWalking Dead on AMC from theWalking Dead on TMZ, the people who are famous for being famous — the Snookies, Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of world.

Rise like the phoenix

Snooki and other passing media obsessions will fade away. Journalism, though, will rise like the Phoenix.

Despite Jersey Shore still being on TV for one last season, there is still lingering hope for journalism and civilization.

There’s a misconception that people aren’t reading as much these days. Not true. People may not be subscribing to newspapers, but that’s because they’re reading those same stories online. And it’s wrong to think content needs to be dumbed down to attract readers. Not to start a conspiracy thread but it is partially the marketing ploys of the media which perpetuate this kind of thinking. For example, you never see Neil deGrasse Tyson on Dancing with the Stars or plastered on a bottle of soda pop, but that doesn’t mean we don’t, as consumers, want to see that. What we see commercialized in everyday life can be misleading.

People want substance, and they’re getting it wherever they can. The Economist could not be denser and meatier, yet circulation of it is skyrocketing while fluffier magazines like Newsweek are going online-only.

While the way we get our news is shifting from paper and broadcast to the Series of Tubes, there’s a growing demand — not less demand — for good content.

Journalism will adapt, evolve and eventually thrive because it’s the only way to feed that demand, that hunger in every person to find out what’s going on in their neighborhood, their state, their country and the world.

Give us the who, what, when, where and why. Show us men landing on the moon and women becoming presidents. And yes, tell us about celebrities, but only if you’re breaking the news that Snooki is going away forever.

Alex Corey, writer from California

Alex Corey

Alex Corey is a writer studying journalism at California State University-Northridge and a staff reporter for the bilingual El Nuevo Sol. He can be reached on Twitter @ptyjournalist and on the Series of Tubes at ptyjournalist.wordpress.com  

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong

5 ways to make blog posts GO ALL VIRAL

There is no guaranteed method, no secret way, to make a blog post that causes the Series of Tubes to explode.

Anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar full of lying liaosity.

Because this is an art, not a science.

HOWEVER: There are things that are smart, and give you a chance.

yoda after the death star blows up

If your magical blog post causes the Series of Tubes to blow up like a Death Star orbiting the second moon of Yavin, then Yoda will celebrate by dropping it like it’s hot.

5) Swing for the fences

If all your blog posts are kinda the same — the same topic, the same length, the same tone — it’s a good bet none of them will ever magically shock the world.

Learn from PETA, which gets gobs and gobs of free ink and airtime by trying bold, crazy PR stunts.

Most of them fail. Sometimes, they get a little bad press for a stunt gone wrong.

But they keep swinging for the fences, because there is no real penalty for swinging and missing. Continue reading

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Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Old Media, which is still Big and Strong, The Twitter, the Book of Face and the Series of Tubes, Viral media math

Jimmy Kimmel pranks THE WORLD with iPhone 5 shebang

If you show people an iPhone 4s, and tell them it’s the new iPhone 5, how will they say it compares to the last iPhone?

The crazy thing about this video is some of these people can’t tell the difference even though they OWN an iPhone 4s, and are holding it in their other hand as they say, “Oh, this is much lighter and faster.”

Also, this:

Evolution of the iPhone

Funny? Yes. Accurate? Well, yes. There is much Truthiness in here.

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Muffin chokers

Banning women from college degrees is an achy breaky big mistakey

I try to stay away from politics on this silly blog. HOWEVER: government peoples in Iran just banned women from 77 different college degrees.

I am not making that up. Read the story here: Anger as Iran bans women from universities

Women are about 65 percent of college students now and the men who decided this new policy wanted to drop women below 50 percent. How? By making those degrees — including dangerous stuff like English literature — “single gender.”

Here are three reasons why that’s not wicked smart.

3) You need MORE smart women with degrees, not less

The days where a nation could shut its borders and do whatever is over.

Way back when, women in America couldn’t vote,  get the same education as men or enter the same professions. We figured out those were all mistakes.

This is a global marketplace, and if you want to compete for the best jobs, you need all the brainpower you can get. All of it.

Telling women — half your population — they’re second-class and can’t get the same education as men, well, that sorta kinda guarantees that your national economy is going to stink like ten pounds of trout left out in the Texas sun for six days.

2) “The consent of the governed” actually means something

Even if you’re not a democracy, you can’t run a place for long without the consent of the governed.

Any 18-year-old college kid can tell you this after 30 minutes of rigorously paying attention to his first Poli Sci 101 lecture while furiously texting on his iPhone about the possibility of a kegger on Friday.

When you start oppressing half your population — whether it’s based on gender, race or class — you’re soliciting all kinds of trouble. Dictatorship or democracy, it won’t last. Two more words to look up before doing this sort of stinker: “Arab Spring.”

1) Three thousand angry Iranian women who happen to be deadly ninjas

Actually, that isn’t a joke.

I wrote about this in a post a long time ago on a blog post far, far away: there are a bazillion Iranian women who make Chuck Norris look like a nancypants.

This is ironic because it happens when the government said women in Iran aren’t allowed to do most sports — you can’t run marathons, because you’d have to wear SHORTS and such. So the women channeled a lot of their athletic talent and energy into learning to be ninjas. I kid you not.

Check out the video:

“See? We’re fully covered up. Also, we’re training hard to learn 173 ways to kill a man in less than two seconds.”

What are the chances some of these women wanted to major in English lit (or one of the other 76 degrees) and no longer can pursue that dream? Hmm.

ALSO: Hillary Clinton. I would not mess with her right now. She’s kinda good at this “fly around the world and dismantle oppression” thing.

ALSO-ALSO: We men need a different word for “men who aren’t idiots and think women should have equal rights.”

Except in indie romantic comedies and UC-Berkeley seminars, men don’t say, “I’m a feminist.” Let’s get a new thing, something like, “Men think women are wicked smart, and should run things as a benevolent dictatorship as long as they promise that Sarah Jessica Parker won’t make another movie ever again, so help us God.”

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Muffin chokers

COUNTDOWN by Beyonce and some genius student in a snuggie

OK, so it’s one thing to take (1) one of the most talented singers in the solar system and (2) a bunch of professional backup dancers, set designers, choreographers and film peoples to make (3) a great music video that probably cost more money to make than you or I will ever see, even as we tour a secret Federal Reserve money factory that creates Benjamins by the bucketful.

It is quite another thing for a whippersnapper student, with no monies, to shoot the same video on his iPhone or whatever and edit it on his computer — doing the EXACT SAME VIDEO, frame for frame, effect for effect.

This kid is such a flipping genius that his blue snuggie, just by osmosis, has earned two doctorates in Applied Awesomesauce.

For musical peoples, here are the lyrics to COUNTDOWN.

Boy!
Oh, killing me softly and I’m still falling
Still the one I need, I will always be with you
Oh, you got me all gone, don’t ever let me go
Say it real loud if you fly
If you leave me you’re out of your mind

My baby is a 10
We dressing to the 9
He pick me up we 8,
Make me feel so lucky 7
He kiss me in his 6
We be making love at 5
Still the one I do this 4
I’m tryna make us 3
From that 2
He’s still the 1

There’s ups and downs in this love
Got a lot to learn in this love
Through the good and the bad, still got love
Dedicated to the one I love, hey

Still love the way he talk, still love the way I sing
Still love the way he rock them black diamonds in that chain
Still all up on each other, ain’t a damn thing changed
My girls can’t tell me nothing, I’m gone in the brain
I’m all up under him like it’s cold, winter time
All up in the kitchen in my heels, dinner time
Do whatever that it takes, he got a winner’s mind
Give it all to him, meet him at the finish line

Me and my boo and my boo boo riding
All up in that black with his chick right beside him
Ladies, if you love your man show him you the flyest
Grind up on it, girl, show him how you ride it
Me and my boo and my boo boo riding
All up in that black with his chick right beside him
Ladies, if you love your man show him you the fliest
Grind up on it, girl, show him how you ride it

Oh, killing me softly and I’m still fallin’
Still the one I need, I will always be with you
Oh, you got me all gone, don’t ever let me go
Say it real loud if you fly
If you leave me you out of your mind
My baby is a 10
We dressing to the 9
He pick me up we 8,
Make me feel so lucky 7
He kiss me in his 6
We be making love at 5
Still the one I do this 4
I’m tryna make us 3
From that 2
He still the 1

Yup, I put it on him, it ain’t nothing that I can’t do
Yup, I buy my own, if he deserve it, buy his shit too
All up in the store, shorty, tricking if I want to
All up in the store, shorty, fly as we want to

Ooh ooh ooh ooh
Damn I think I love that boy
Do anything for that boy
Boy!
Now I’ll never be the same
You and me until the end

Me and my boo and my boo boo riding
All up in that black with his chick right beside him
Ladies, if you love your man show you the flyest
Grind up on it, girl, show him how you ride it
Me and my boo and my boo lip locking
All up in the back because the chicks keep flocking
All that gossip in 10 years stop it
London speed it up, Houston rock it

Oh, killing softly and I’m still falling
Still the one I need, I will always be with you
Oh, you got me all gone, don’t ever let me go
Say it real loud if you fly,
If you leave me you’re out of your mind

My baby is a 10
We dressing to the 9
He pick me up we 8,
Make me feel so lucky 7
He kiss me in his 6
We be making love at 5
Still the one I do this 4
I’m tryna make us 3
From that 2
He still the 1

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Zooming on das Autobahn to Belgium, the friendliest place IN THE WORLD

So I’m driving on the Autobahn from Frankfurt, Germany to Goze, Belgium on zero sleep for about 36 hours, which is not the wisest thing in the world when you’re going 160 kilometers per hour, seeing how closing your eyes and napping for half a second will be fatal.

But I do not nap, and the Citroen of Itty Bittiness does not slam into the guardrail and burst into flames.

Frankfurt is a big city full of skyscrapers, the Manhattan of Germany, and this is because after World War II, cities razed by bombs had citizens vote: (a) bulldoze the rubble and start over or (b) rebuild on the ancient, narrow cobblestone streets and painstakingly restore all that was destroyed.

The people of Frankfurt picked “start over.” And you can tell, with just a glance, how any random city in Germany voted after the war.

Goze, Belgium was not bombed to rubble during the war. It’s a tiny little town full of brick homes and brick business and stone churches.

Belgium countryside

What’d I tell you? Belgium has brick houses out the wazoo.

If you’re not familiar with Belgium, let me give you a primer:

  • The Netherlands (Holland) is to the north, Germany to the east, France to the south and Luxemburg also hidden nearby, so people in the north speak Dutch / Flemish and those in the south speak French, though nobody really speaks German
  • Belgium is home to European parliament, NATO headquarters and 72 other important things, maybe because Belgium is friendly and has the best chocolate and beer IN THE WORLD
  • They are NOT French fries, but Belgium fries, invented right here, and the one thing that will make Belgium peoples unfriendly is to repeatedly ask for “French fries,” which I do not do

Just like three years ago, we stayed with my wife’s host family from when she lived here as an exchange student. I lived in Holland and Germany as a kid, so this whole area feels like home.

Battle of the beer: Germany versus Belgium

There’s a huge difference between Germany and Belgium when it comes to beer.

Back in 1516, a German king got tired of people going blind, getting sick or dying from moonshine and bad beer.

This king wrote the Reinheitsgebot (food purity laws), which said the only ingredients allowed for beer were water, barley and hops. He also set the price of beer and standardized things. Today, you can also use yeast, which is quite important, though they didn’t know about yeast back in 1516. Also: wheat malt and cane sugar. But you can’t use unmated barley anymore. NOBODY KNOWS WHY.

The Germans do a lot with those few ingredients. I drank many beers in many towns. Despite the lack of variety, they were all smooth and good.

HOWEVER: Belgium crushes Germany into powder when it comes to beer, because they have 250 different beers that are all excellent. Want a chocolate beer? Done. An IPA with hot chile peppers? They probably have it.

Belgium also has trappist ales — beer made by monks — with many recipes unchanged for almost 1000 years, which is longer than Joan Rivers has been alive. Chimay is probably the most famous. If you haven’t tried Chimay, hit Trader Joe’s and buy some. The stuff is as smooth as silk. If your lips ever touch a can of Budweiser again, you’ll spit it out and say, “Put it back in the horse.”

Things to do in Belgium

The country is small, flat and pretty, with all kinds of beautiful old villages and green fields. Do you like riding bicycles? Ride all over the place with a camera and a picnic basket. Go crazy.

It’s one of the friendliest places, too. People greet you with three kisses (right cheek, left cheek, right cheek) when they first meet you and one kiss whenever you see them again or say goodbye. This is much, much better than standing around or an awkward handshake. Everybody does it, and this breaks the ice.

Town in Belgium

Belgium is full of beautiful little towns like this.

Also helpful: everybody is handing out beer and wine like it’s going out of style, though they don’t binge. I never saw anybody staggering around, drunk out of their mind. They are professionals with the alcohol, and drink slowly and steadily rather than breaking out beer bongs and losing their heads like a college freshman who’s just discovered Bud Light comes in keg size.

So: ride around the countryside, meet people – and have dinner, which is not 20 minutes at the dining room table while people play with their iPhones. Dinner is a big social event that takes hours. Breakfast is a social event.  Also, lunch.

Basically, people in Belgium prefer the company of OTHER PEOPLE rather than televisions, iPhones and romance novels involving men in kilts.

This is refreshing and fun, despite the fact that I don’t speak a lick of French — because the secret is to listen rather than talk. In Iceland, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany and elsewhere, people tended to talk to me in Icelandic, Swedish, French or German, as long as I (a) walked around like I knew what I was doing and (b) didn’t say anything.

This came naturally from being a kid in Germany and Holland, and from not speaking at all except to my sister for many years. She was my diplomat: “Guy is hungry for breakfast” and “Guy wonders if we can paint the dog white” and “Guy has just declared war on Syria.”

Over in Europe, I walked around not saying anything, pointing at stuff I wanted to buy and handing over monies. This works great. Try it sometime. If they ask, tell them Guy sent you, and that in solidarity, you also are cutting off diplomatic relations with Syria.

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

Google+

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Filed under Travel

Build your own Writing Monster (Part 2 of Why critique groups MUST DIE)

Conventional wisdom is conventionally wrong.

Nowhere is this more true than in the fields of writing, social media and publicity — three lands where tradition and mythology rule the day.

Those who haven’t read these posts should start here, so they don’t get all Confused, because this is really Part 2 of Why critique groups MUST DIE.

So: if people listen to this silly blog and (a) stop trying to use Twitter to sell books and (b) go all Michael Bay as they blow up old, obsolete critique groups, what should they do instead?

Get a team. Build your own Writing Monster.

Hopefully, better than one of these.

Now, this is the opposite of a critique group, which is typically people who live in the same area, have the same rough skill level and do essentially the same thing, whether it’s writing romances about Men in Kilts, epic fantasies about elves with lightsabers riding dragons or dark mysteries about haunted detectives who are allergic to razors and brush their teeth with bourbon.

That’s not a team. Those are your buddies, your clones.

Successful authors, actors, pro athletes and other public figures have a team full of world-class specialists: publicists to get free ink and airtime, marketers to sell widgets, trainers to make them look good if paparazzi shoot them on a beach in Maui, minions to handle the scheduling and correspondence, editors to edit their words and speechwriters to, I don’t know, write the speeches.

If you want to truly break through and be world-class at whatever you’re trying to do (punk rock, zombie movies, novels about undead orcs and the high school girls who love them), then you must at least PRETEND to do things in a world-class way.

A traditional critique group is like trying to win a Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers with you as the quarterback and a collection of buddies who play flag football sometimes. If football is a foreign language, try this: the usual critique group is like playing a game of chess with a board full of the same piece: all pawns, all bishops or all knights. You need pawns and rooks, bishops and a queen, knights and a king. You need balance.

And if you’re competing against the best in the world, you can’t do it all yourself. That’s like playing the Super Bowl by yourself, or taking a lonely king into a match against the Bobby Fishers of the world.

Continue reading

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Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Fiction, Journalism, publicity and scandals, Red Pen of Doom, Speechwriting, The Twitter, the Book of Face and the Series of Tubes

You can pitch ANYTHING except quality

Quality matters. Oh, it matters a lot.

Nobody wants to pay money to see a movie that stinks, a book that you can’t get past Chapter 1 or an album where every song hurts your ears.

You want quality. I want quality. Everybody wants it.

But you can’t pitch quality.

And you can’t package it.

So unless you’ve got something else — a quirk, a hook, a unique twist — quality alone won’t get you anywhere.

It won’t get people to look, listen or read in the first place.

This is why untalented shmucks are living in mansions while amazing writers, musicians and actors are waiting on tables at Applebees and selling copies of TWILIGHT: BELLA GIVES BIRTH TO TRIPLETS at Barnes and Noble.

So let’s pitch and package random, made-up things. Why? Because it takes practice, because you’re too close to your own stuff to do it right and because it’s fun.

First up: two different bands.

The first band is a trio: drummer, guitar and bass / lead singer. They’re all recent music school graduates in their late twenties, serious and talented. They play a lot of punk rock and post-grunge.

The second band isn’t much of a contender by comparison. They’re all five years old. College degrees in music? Try “Hey, we’re potty trained, and we know our ABC’s.” They don’t know how to read music, write music or understand music theory like the other band.The guitarist knows one trick: crank up the distortion and make it loud. But they know the rough melodies and words to three different Metallica songs, and they do a cover of ENTER SANDMAN that’s close enough to be damned funny.

Here’s a real-life example of this sort of thing. A ton of people — 383,000 plus — have watched this kid sing, DON’T BRUSH MY HAIR IN KNOTS while her brother or neighbor kid banged on the drums.

Alright, here’s your homework: Write a one sentence pitch for each band. Four words, if you want to ace this. Six words if you feel like a nancypants and cheaty McCheater.

Do it now. Go. Find a piece of paper or fire up Word and do a pitch for each. Don’t even think about it.

I’ll go find silly videos on YouTube about swamp monsters in Louisiana or whatever.

OK, time’s up. Let’s compare pitches.

My best shot at the music majors: “Nirvana minus flannel / angst.”

Four words, and I’m sort of cheating with the slash. Hard, isn’t it? You can’t get anywhere saying any kind of variation on, “This band, they’re really good.”

My pitch for the kids: “Kindergarteners cover Metallica.”

Three words. Doesn’t have to be poetry here. Are you going to click on a link that says “Really great band” or “Nirvana minus flannel / angst” when there’s another link that has five-year-olds playing heavy metal?

Who wins the quality test? The serious music majors, by a mile.

Who wins the pitch and packaging test? The metal kids. It’s so much easier. Could I get newspaper reporters and a TV crew to shoot the post-grunge band? Not unless they show up and rescue a grandmother and her 14 cats from a burning building.

Could I get free ink and airtime with the Heavy Metal Monsters of Hillman Elementary? Absolutely.

Next: two different books.

Our quality book is a literary masterpiece that will make you cry while snorting coffee through your nose, then take a fresh look at life and possibly quit your job and join a Tibetan monastery. It’s about a middle-aged man who works in a cubicle farm and lives in surburbia with a wife who’s on industrial amounts of Prozac and a teenage daughter who’s too busy thumbing her iPhone to notice who provides her with food, shelter, clothing and a VW Passat with only 13,000 miles on it. The hero’s life changes when he gets mugged on the way home. Also, a mime is involved, and a janitor who lives in a shack but says witty, wise things before he gets hit by a train.

The other book is a cheesy sci-fi novel with horrible dialogue. The premise: dinosaurs didn’t die off after some asteroid hit. They were smart. Really smart. And they left the planet in a fleet of spaceships to escape Earth long BEFORE that asteroid screwed things up for millions of years. Now they’re headed toward earth. And they want their planet back.

Ready? One sentence pitch for each. Four words.

GO.

While we’re waiting, have you noticed that Kevin Bacon doesn’t really age? I mean, the dude has to be at least 84 by now, but he looks 40-something. On the other hand, Sylvester Stallone is living proof that action stars should stop with the action, and the plastic surgery, when they hit 55. Also, the teaser trailer for EXPENDABLES 2 is out, and it stars every washed-up action star on the planet. It’s like there’s a nursing home in Hollywood full of them, and the owner woke up one day and kicked them all out. Van Damme and Chuck Norris and Schwarzenegger? All these geezers make Jet Li look like he’s 12.

OK, let’s see what we’ve got. I’ve got nothing, since I’ve been busy making cracks about Stallone and Chuck Norris, so here’s my instant, no-thinking pitches.

Literary book: “Hell is a cubicle farm.”

Five words. More of a title than a pitch. It sings to me, though, in a small, squeaky, off-pitch voice.

Sci-fi nonsense: “Space dinosaurs invade earth.”

This is a kissing cousin to “Comet to destroy earth,” which has been the basis for about six different  movies, including five by Michael Bay, with the other one starring Morgan Freeman for some reason, despite the fact that Morgan Freeman has ZERO CHANCE of flying up in a space shuttle with Bruce Willis and that dude who is an old college buddy of Matt Damon to blow up the comet / asteroid / whatever with nuclear bombs.

The bottom line is, quality is one thing. An important thing, in the end.

Yet nobody will read your masterpiece / listen to your amazing album / see you act like no actor has acted in the history of acting-hood if they don’t get hooked by your pitch and packaging.

Quality isn’t a pitch. It isn’t attractive or descriptive. “You should see that movie — it’s really good.” That doesn’t work. Your friends and family will ask, “What’s it about?” and if you don’t have four words to explain it, to give them a pitch, then forget it.

The next time to read a book, see a movie or listen to a great new song, think of four words. How would you pitch or package them? What could you possibly say — not just to your friends so they could see it, but to a reporter or a TV producer?

If an idea is truly interesting — controversial, ground-breaking, weird, unique — it’ll get there. If all you have is quality, there’s no pitch or packaging to make it break through.

Related posts:

Writers, we are doing it BACKWARDS

The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books

Forget the Twitter: free ink and airtime are your MOST DANGEROUS WEAPONS

Using free ink and airtime to BUST THROUGH

Why blog hits DON’T REALLY MATTER

Quirks and legs matter more than talent and perfection

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Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.

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