Tag Archives: United States

Why creativity gets squashed like a bug

Oh, everybody says they want something new and creative. But as this article from Slate shows, even places that are supposed by be hotbeds of artistic and creative genius, like magazines and ad agencies, are often machines built to squash the life out anybody who dares think outside the box.

Now, that's creative. I salute you, random dad.

Now, that’s creative. I salute you, random dad.

You see this in so many places.

Newspapers, which I adore, all did the same thing in reaction to the Series of Tubes: “Hey, let’s not let this train pass us by. How about we innovate by doing what every other newspaper is doing. We’ll put all our stories on this Interwebs for free, then money will pour through the windows from all the banner ads.”

They didn’t question the fact that other papers doing this were bleeding more money than Kim Kardashian on a 12-hour shopping spree.

All these newspapers and magazines did the same thing everybody else was doing. But expected different results.

People who thought outside the box, who said (a) make people subscribe to the paper to read it online or (b) don’t put it online at all, because then people won’t subscribe and advertisers won’t advertise and America will lay off 15,000 journalists, well those people got ridiculed as crazy. They weren’t hailed as creative prophets, avoiding doom. They were seen as nuts and the people in charge ignored them.

PETA and the creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams take a different approach. Instead of doing the safe thing, and what everybody else is doing, the guerrillas at PETA and this random nerdy looking man who worked at banks figured out you can’t plan on hitting a grand slam on your only at bat. You can’t even count on hitting a single, or getting the baseball over the plate.

On paper, getting the gall over the plate looks easy.

On paper, getting the gall over the plate looks easy.

Successful creative types are idea hamsters who try dozens, or hundreds, of different things. Because you can’t predict what will be a world-smashing success, and you certainly won’t somehow break through while doing the same thing that 185,892 other people and businesses are doing.

Scott Adams didn’t have a master plan to become a syndicated cartoonist. In his books, he writes about having dozens of long-shot ideas, and that for somebody who couldn’t draw when he started out, being a cartoonist wasn’t exactly a sure thing. He kept swinging for grand slams and kept missing until Dilbert took off.

PETA doesn’t have the bazillion-dollar advertising and marketing budget of corporations like Coke and Ford, or even non-profits trying to cure cancer and such. PETA gets all their publicity from free ink and airtime. Do they guilt magazines, newspapers and blogs into covering their cause? No. They try dozens and dozens of wild, creative long-shot ideas, most of which fail spectacularly. Why? Because the one idea that takes off can get them free press around the world.

I wrote a series of posts about PETA and publicity stunts for about.com, back when The New York Times owned that blog. (Related: I can say that, as a journalist, I cashed checks every month from the NYT, then got fired, though technically all of the contributing writers got axed, so it’s not as romantic as going on strike and getting replaced by the staff of the Lower Kentucky Valley Register, then walking into the editors office and handing in your resignation via a punch to the nose, which every journalist does dream about at one time. I had fun, and they were kind to me, and I learned many things by writing them down.)

Here’s one of those posts showing how PETA makes it happen.

Social media is the other big area where you FEEL like you’re being creative and different, when actually, you’re doing the same thing, oh, about 1 billion other people hooked up to the Series of Tubes are trying to do. Except you’re expecting a radically different result. While that may be magical thinking, it is conventional, safe and boring–not creative.


Guy - Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Guy – Photo by Suhyoon Cho

Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won some award (PNWA 2013). Represented by Jill Marr of the Dijkstra Literary Agency.



Filed under Fiction, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers, Speechwriting, Thrillers and mysteries

Giant killer hornets prepare to devour the planet

As a fan of monsters, and animals, and monstrous animals, I like learning about obscure or scary beasts.

Killer hornets are really this big, and yes, they will happily lay waste to humanity, because your stockpile of AR-15s is useless against the swarm. Let the hornet apocalypse begin.

Killer hornets are really this big, and yes, they will happily lay waste to humanity, because your stockpile of AR-15s is useless against the swarm. Let the hornet apocalypse begin.

However, the giant asian hornet is not a curiousity to be admired and talked about in polite company while you eat finger food and sip a nice bottle of Riesling from the Rhine Valley.

No. The giant asian hornet is making the great white shark look like a toothless poodle right now.

Sharks kill a handful of people each year. Dogs and cow (yes, cows) actually kill far, far more humans. So yes, JAWS was a great movie, but we really have more to fear from Spot the Dog and Bessie the Cow than any shark, which is apparently smarter and more concerned with eating, I don’t know, fish. Maybe because fish don’t have boats and spearguns and nuclear weapons. 

These hornets, though, are armored flying spaceships. Which hate you.

Check out three headlines that I’m not making up:

That’s right. The last story should get you: they’re already in the United States.

Continue reading


Filed under 5 Random Thursday, Animals, monsters and monstrous animals

SIMPLE SONG by The Shins


Now, the usual music video features (a) some kind of singer or rock band (b) singing and rocking, and possibly trying to (c) dance, though if they can’t dance, the can (d) look tough or (e) let their backup dancers go crazy while the singers and rockers look tough. The toughest part is whether to film in an empty warehouse or on top of a roof.

For pop singers and boy bands, it’s even simpler: they have to sing WHILE dancing, and it doesn’t really matter where.

Music videos that tell a story, like some kind of moving picture, with a script and such, are rare. Because that sort of thing is work, you see, and the rock bands who try  usually shoot for “artsy” and merely slam hard into “the Wall of Pretentious.”

This isn’t quite art, and it doesn’t quite make sense, but it is interesting and different and ambitious. I salute the Shins for aiming high instead of setting up their drums and amps in the parking lot of a vacant K-mart, just to be ironic.

For you musical types, here are the lyrics for you to dissect and decipher:

Well, this is just a simple song,
To say what you done.
I told you ’bout all those fears,
And away they did run.
You sure must be strong,
And you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun.

When I was just nine-years-old,
I swear that I dreamt,
Your face on a football field,
And a kiss that I kept,
Under my vest.
Apart from everything,
But the heart in my chest.

I know that things can really get rough,
When you go it alone,
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough,
And play like a stone.
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical,
As this little home.

My life in an upturned boat,
Marooned on a cliff.
You brought me a great big flood,
And you gave me a lift.
Girl, what a gift.
When you tell me with your tongue,
And your breath was in my lungs,
And we float up through the rift.

I know that things can really get rough,
When you go it alone.
Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough,
And play like a stone.
Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical,
As this little home.

Well, this would be a simple song,
To say what you done.
I told you ’bout all those fears,
And away they did run.
You sure must be strong,
When you feel like an ocean being warmed by the sun.

Remember walking a mile to your house,
Aglow in the dark?
I made a fumbling play for your heart,
And the act struck a spark.
You wore a charm on the chain that I stole,
Especial for you.
Love’s such a delicate thing that we do,
With nothing to prove,
Which I never knew.



Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Book publicity: The case of the hitchhiking writer who gets shot

So this West Virginia photographer is hitchhiking around the country, writing a book about kindness in America, when he’s randomly shot by some man in a truck.

That’s news. Ironic and interesting, with a mystery thrown in: who shot him, and why?

The police arrested a man in a maroon pickup who matched the description. Reporters wrote all kinds of stories about this writer / photographer, Ray Dolin, and his book idea.

Those stories turned out to be wrong. Turns out, he shot himself.

Protip: shooting yourself is never a good way to (a) promote a book idea, (b) win back your ex-girlfriend or (c) make a sweet YouTube video. It never goes well, not even when you use paintball guns, pellet guns or shoot blanks.


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.



Filed under 7 Media Strategy Saturday, Journalism, publicity and scandals

ENTER THE NINJA by Die Antwoord

Well, this is different. It’s not achingly good or insanely low-budget and terrible.

The music is oddly OK, and the production values are high.

But it’s just so flipping weird.

Let’s take inventory: We’ve got  (1) a skinny ex-convict or whatever who thinks he’s some kind of ninja, though (2) his albino woman keeps singing “samurai” all the time and (3) I have no idea whether this third person, the short man wearing a hoodie, is supposed to be a ninja, a samurai, a teenage mutant ninja turtle or some kind of Yoda-like wizard.

Let’s clear up the ninja vs. samurai thing real quick. Samurai = soldiers with big katanas and armor. Ninja = what every Internet Tough Guy wants to be. Pick one, not both. They are incompatible.

Also, ninjas will NOT allow Tom Cruise into their secret club, not after the whole “jumping on Oprah‘s couch and being a nutzo” thing.


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.



Filed under 2 Music Video Monday

Post-apocalyptic driving and kabooming

If there is a zombie apocalypse / alien invasion / nuclear war, you’ll be running around all Mad Max-style, right?

That means the Bad Guys will also be cruising the interstates, unless you really believe they’ll be walking around or riding bicycles.

So real survivalist prepper types need to think about (a) the best way to armor up their Subaru, (b) where they can possibly fill up after the apocalypse and (c) the best ways to blow up enemy Subaru’s who may be in after your stash of petro / teriyaki beef jerky / bullets / DVD collection of all 4.92 bazillion episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

How can you blow up a car, especially an armored car?

In the movies, cars just go boom when you shoot them in the gas tank. This is nonsense, as anybody who’s watched Mythbusters or shot up a car would know.

The good British people at Top Gear took this all the way and experimented in the most awesome way possible: automobile skeet shooting.

That’s right. We’re talking about yelling “pull” and blowing away a car that’s flying through the air.

This is seven separate kinds of awesome.

Top Gear  should receive tax subsidies from the U.S., paid for by levying a tax on 90 percent of the stupid reality shows being created by Hollywood, and that way, we’d get less Snooki and more of this sort of thing.


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.



Filed under 1 Survival Sunday, Gear, guns and such, Zombie apocalypse

PART ONE: Dodging disaster and death in India and Dubai

Roaring toward certain death, I don’t flinch. Hitting the semi head-on will turn the car into a burning pile of metal, plastic and roasted flesh.

But I’m not afraid.

Not because I’m some kind of tough guy. No, I don’t fear death because (a) this happens every five minutes when we make the kamikaze decision to pass other cars and (b) my driver could dodge killer semis in his sleep.

The driver has a crewcut, a manly mustache and scars on his chin and cheek. He looks like an ex-Special Forces vet who got into a knife fight in the mountains of Kashmir, and he drives with supreme confidence and insane skill.

He’s the Indian version of Jason Statham in THE TRANSPORTER.

Our driver changes lane at 120 kilometers per hour without glancing left or right. A sixth-sense, like radar, lets him know where all the mopeds, cars and trucks are on the road, which has painted lines on the asphalt that you’d look at and say, “lanes,” but in India, lanes, seatbelts and airbags are for nancypants.

Are there driving rules? Oh, yes. There are two clear rules that everyone follows:

Rule No. 1: If something is bigger than you, and you want to live, MOVE OUT OF THE WAY.

Rule No. 2: Use your horn to (a) tell pedestrians and smaller vehicles to move or die and (b) inform buses and trucks you’re nearby so they don’t smoosh you into a twisted metal cube of death.

People use their horn all the time, maybe because they want to live, and every Indian driver on the road is incredibly skilled, maybe because bad drivers have a shorter shelf life than a box of Twinkies in Rush Limbaugh‘s pantry.

Coming in PART TWO: Leading a mob into battle against the Drums of Doom.


Filed under Travel

What makes a car epic?

Now, I meant to dissect the stupid little craiglist ad for my old car that went viral – Epic Black Car deserves new owner; are you worthy?

Then I caught the Spanish Flu of 1918 and got all distracted.

Back to that craigslist ad: Why was that funny? Why did it work?

Humor is hard.

The biggest thing is creating a gap between expectation and result.

Is a beater Hyundai even remotely cool? No. That’s why the whole premise was funny. I made a POS Hyundai into something badass. If my old car had been a Lexus, or even a Mustang, joke wouldn’t have worked at all.

So what makes a car epic? What cars are so weird, or lame, that they take an orbit around Bad and come back to Cool?

Let’s take a look at some examples.

An old Fiero is an interesting car, but it’s trying too hard to be something it’s not. Take a look. See what I’m talking about?

Not really cool, but not lame enough to be epic

It’s has the engine of a lawnmower in a fiberglass shell that desperately wants to be a Ferrari, and they even picked a psuedo Italian name that sounds sort of like Ferrari, which is just pathetic. Do these cars have fans? Sure. They’re different. They’re tiny and fast and cheap. But not truly cool.

It’s the kind of car that Johnny “Sweep the Leg” would drive, right? A frat-boy car.

Would Johnny tool around in a Fiero? Oh yes.

Then there are genuinely amazing cars, like real Ferraris, but to have one of those, you have to (a) be a hotshot actor, football player or kazillionaire or (b) steal one and enjoy it until the cops catch you. You and I will not own Ferraris, or drive them, because if we had a spare $250,000, we would pay off the mortgage or send our kids to Harvard or pay off our student loans.

Raise your hands if you hate Sallie Mae.

Sidenote 1: Johnny from THE KARATE KID and Ralph Macchio are in an amazing music video, “Sweep the leg, Johnny!” that is worth watching. The bad guy sensei is in here, too. Glorious.

Sidenote 2: Ralph Macchio did a hilarious video about trying to get Hollywood roles despite being far, far too nice. So his family stages an intervention and Ralph tries to become a bad boy, like Robert Downey, Jr. and Mickey Rourke, to get into movies again. His agent: “If he were a degenerate, I could sell him.” (Caution: video has a few bad words, if you are allergic to such things. I try to keep this blog all PG-13 and such. CHILDREN MAY BE WATCHING.)

So what kind of cars are cool  for people who are not kazillionaires?

Let’s look at the Gremlin, which is, on the face of it, one of the lamest cars ever built. I mean, look at this sucker. It is a lopsided loser from the ’70s.

But it’s so damn lame, it’s circled back to cool. People who drive a Gremlin now are proud of it. They’re doing it on purpose. They EMBRACE the lameness and wear it as a badge of honor.

There are inherent advantages to cars like the Gremlin: they’re common, they’re cheap and nobody is going to cry if you put a dent in it. If you and your friends are bored, you can bust out cans of spraypaint and see if you can make it glow in the dark. You can get out the crazyglue and put a Lego sculpture on it, or swap the hood ornament for a Batman action figure.

So there’s a certain freedom to having the hipster self-confidence to go out and purposefully buy a lame car. It’s the opposite of buying yourself a Hummer because you’re 5-foot-nothing even wearing cowboy boots.

Gremlin isn't just a bad B movie. It's an epically bad car, so awful that it circles back to cool.


Filed under 5 Random Thursday

Romance novelists are secret, epic army of man boosters

A classic post from my old blog. For new folks, enjoy.

Let it be known: we men must rethink our natural manly instinct that romance novelists are something to avoid, like SEX AND THE CITY 2, which is indeed worthy of scorn, and woe unto any man whose girlfriend or wife coerced them into wasting two hours of their life to see that stupid thing. No bribe is sufficient.

Published romance novelists are not only talented and funny, but many can write circles around the 6.57 gazillion reporters, writers and novelists I know. Also — and most importantly — they CELEBRATE AND ADORE MEN, which we should encourage.

I have thought about this, and it makes sense. These women are more talented than most folks writing about elves and spaceships, or elves riding spaceships, because there is so much freaking competition with romance novels.

It’s like throwing 10,000 authors into the Thunderdome, tossing in a single chainsaw and refusing to unlock the door until there’s only one woman left. By definition, that woman is going to kick tail. She will be a writing goddess.

And I was wrong to ever believe that romance novelists might be writing 80,000 words about shoes or amazing handbags. They focus on writing about men, though they apparently want us to be as allergic to shirts as Lady Gaga is allergic to pants. They also spend a lot of time writing steamy scenes encouraging women to do natural things with men. This is a Good Thing, and should be encouraged, and celebrated throughout the land, unless we men have been busy taking Stupid Pills.

The trifecta: no shirt, mullet and sword.

Also, they want us to be packing swords, if not guns, and sometimes guns and swords. Any man can learn this from googling “romance novel covers.” IT IS AN EDUCATION.

Do they want us to be office drones, worried about TPS reports? No. Do they want us to talk about our feelings to a shrink and cry when we see a sunset? No.

Women want us to have one of three manly jobs: Viking, pirate or Native American warrior.

Fabio covers two of the three manly jobs that women want us doing. He's missing Native American warrior, but we can forgive him for that, because he has the mandatory sword.

Aside from piracy and swordsmanship, they specifically want us to punch things that need punching and spend our time with a beautiful long-haired woman who happens to be heiress to a billion-dollar fortune but does not know that, because her evil uncle has hidden this fact from her so he and his plastic-surgery obsessed witch of a wife could keep all that money for themselves, and it is our job to dropkick the evil uncle into the next century. If that doesn’t work, hey, all men are required to carry a sharp sword.

Check out Fabio’s covers again. Shirt? Optional. Sword? IT IS REQUIRED.

I have never read romance novels, or even checked the covers until now. Yet we men should secretly pool our resources to fund these female authors, because they are an army of dedicated women doing a $16.5 billion public relations campaign on our manly behalf.

So, romance novelists: I am holding a mug of Belgium beer, and I raise it in your direction.

Keep up the good work. We men may not know it, or admit it, but we owe you a huge favor.


Filed under 4 Writing Secrets Wednesday, Romances; also, novels with Fabio covers

The evil truth about reality stars like Snooki and The Situation

I marvel at how people like Snooki and The Situation and the Kardashian sisters are famous, or infamous, though they wouldn’t know the difference if you flew in a Harvard linguist professor to explain it to them every morning.

Snooki has a book deal. The Kardashian sisters have clothing lines and money coming out of their ears.

The Situation swimming in some of the $5 million he made this year. Next year, he'll make more, and with all that money, he  plans to buy a lifetime supply of spray tan, the latest Abdominizer and this little country called Canada. Sorry, Caanda, but get ready to study up on the GTL lifestyle.

The joker who calls himself The Situation in on track to earn $5 million this year.

I have witnessed episodes from the first season of Jersey Shore by using the power of the internets, and I have come to an epiphany.

These people are not making scads of money, scoring book deals and dancing badly on “Dancing With A Few Stars and A Bunch of Other Schmucks” in spite of their obvious handicaps in the areas of brains and common sense.

Just up the road from the beaches of New Jersey are thousands of people on Broadway who can sing, dance and act. Many of them are gorgeous. In every way, they are clearly superior to the reality stars picked by producers to invade our lives. So why aren’t they making $5 million a year and getting on the covers of all the tabloids?

Let it be known: These reality stars are not chosen and elevated in spite of their lack of common sense. They are famous precisely BECAUSE OF this very flaw.

Normal, well-adjusted people are boring. They don’t make for exciting television.

If a film crew followed you or me around for 24 hours, they wouldn’t get footage of four random hookups, two screaming matches and a bar fight. They’d get film of us driving to work, doing our jobs and fighting traffic on the way home to have dinner. If you’ve got pookies, maybe you take them to soccer or baseball or whatever. If you’re young and single, maybe you catch Arcade Fire if they’re in town.

You would not spend three hours showering, spray tanning and doing your hair to get ready to go clubbing, then get into a bar fight.

You would not steal your roommates latest girlfriend, as they have been a steady item for at least 48 hours, which is a record. You would not drink all of the booze in the house and call your father at 3 a.m. while you were crying and whining about your boyfriend being pissed about that fact that you slept with a roommate or three.

You would not not order pizza and tell the pizza man that your last name is Situation and your first name is The.

And therefore you do not have, and will never have, a reality show. So there.


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.



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