Monday, April 22, 2013

Seeking "The" Truth

The blog went dark here for a few weeks (months, whatever). Time's been short. Also stuff upon which to pontificate.*

But today I stumbled on something. So, for all you 20-somethings starting out and you 30 to 90-somethings, wherever you are, keep this on file:

Whatever You Think

* Go ahead, Mrs. Armstrong, correct my grammar here. By my calculations you're about 127 by now but I'm sure you still have some way to rap my knuckles...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Chicken Cannon

An old email hoax came around again this week and I still love it.

It was a story about how the Brits ran into a problem with a contraption they borrowed from NASA.  NASA had a weird aerospace technobabble name for it, but let’s call it a Chicken Cannon.

The Chicken Cannon (as the story went) was developed by NASA to do high speed impact testing on the windshields on the shuttle.  The Brits borrowed it to test the windshield on their new high speed train.  They set the cannon up and fired it at the train.  Not only did the chicken break the windshield but it went through the dummy in the driver’s seat and the driver’s seat and blasted a hole in the high-tech instrument panel behind the driver’s seat.  

Brits called NASA.  “Say, Chaps!  What the ...?” NASA’s technical advice boiled down to 4 words: “Thaw out the chicken.”

This is still a grand story and relevant today.  It proposed that we had the willingness and the know-how to help out our friends. When the Brits wanted a way to simulate the impact of a 300 mile-an-hour chicken, who did they turn to?  Who else? 

And since most hoaxes are taken as fact, this one also “proved” we’re thinking out there. We lead the world in many things. Now, in pullet ballistics. Have the French or the Germans come up with a weapons-grade device that fires poultry? They’re way behind us. Probably even now other governments are scrambling. If we can fire a chicken 30 miles and hit strategic targets, them targets will stop in their nasty little tracks and think long and hard before they screw around with people who can make a fowl shot from that kind of yardage. 

Not to mention the salmonella.

An actual Chicken Cannon would probably cost us a few billion. But as with most technologies the folks at NASA develop, civilians would benefit. KFC could revolutionize delivery.  Think of it – you pick up the phone, place your order, hang up and open a window.  No more “bucket of chicken".  Now it’s a “crater of chicken”.

But the most important part of this story is what could come out of it.  We are The Last Superpower.  We could get creative with our status and make some new rules:  From now on, nobody can shoot anything at anyone unless the weapon fires a chicken.  It would make the world a safer place. With chickens the mandated projectile, the weapons manufacturers could get huge new contracts while everyone gears up for a whole new offshoot of the Arms Race – the Wings & Thighs Race. In the business world, a lot of people would make money.  In the civilian world, a lot of people would not get shot.  Can you imagine a crazed Master-Race type waddling into a McDonald’s with a bandolier of chickens strapped around his gut?  No way. Too damned embarrassing. These kinds of violent groups that stockpile huge amounts of weapons would be neutralized. We can see members of the Church of Jesus Christ The White Guy getting drunk on a Saturday afternoon, firing up the barbecue and eating all their ammo.

I can already see the ad campaign we’d work up for KFC.  John Madden is the spokesman. “Want dinner?  BOOM!  You got it!”

Monday, January 7, 2013

Self-helping Yourself

Got a piece of junk mail today selling a local seminar on self help. It came from a guy who sells help on PBS which has become the ancestral home for this kind of canned assistance. 

As it happens I'd also seen his PBS pitch. Watched for a few minutes until the Platitude Meter redlined and I switched to Honeymooners reruns. Ralph Cramden's self-help-program-du-jour made more sense and didn't involve any investment in courses, CDs or tapes.  

I should say here that I have no problem with anyone getting help from a CD. I can personally recommend Mott The Hoople.

Now back to the junk. The flyer invited me to attend a seminar. Then I read the fine print. Turned out the guy whose picture was on the flyer and whose name was on the program was not going to attend. Apparently he'd helped himself to enough cash from his "educational" courses to afford a sabbatical. 
Self-help is a big, profitable business and that's OK. If you can get a new lease on life for whatever you've got leased and grabbing a hand to pull yourself up doesn't cripple you (emotionally or, this case, financially), do it.

But what's one of the best ways to help yourself? 

Help somebody else. 

You can make your life better by doing what you can to make someone else's life better. Volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. Go out of your way for a neighbor. Mentor a kid who needs it. Natural disasters leave a lot of people in their wake who need your help.

Tap into the real, personal wealth you can offer. The shortest path to self-enrichment starts when and where you look beyond yourself.
Remember Harry Bailey's toast: " my brother George. The richest man in town".

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World. Again.

I bought a bag of peanut M&Ms this afternoon, opened it and started to eat. I bit into the first one. It had no peanut inside, just chocolate! Bit into the second. No peanut! Same with the third!!

“F**king Mayans.” I said. “So this is what it comes to.”

You’ve got to hand it to them. They were on our minds. Off the radar for a thousand years but they still managed to craft some serious millennium-bounce buzz to pop up on us – if you can call the end of the world “serious”.

I can imagine them sitting around a stone table there sometime around 1104 or 5 somewhere in the Yucatan and they’re talking:

Main Mayan: “Well guys, we’ve all noticed the wheels are coming off the wagon around here and we gotta do something about it.”

Some other Mayan: “Maybe we should invent the wagon.”

Mayan next to him: “Maybe we should start with a wheel.”

Long pause.

Then another Mayan (no point in naming names here out of respect for the dead) says:
 “Look boys,” he says, “Ain’t no wagon or wheel or any other dumb idea is going to work for us. I move we prank our way out. Gimme a hammer and a chisel and I’ll rough it out for you.”

So the perpetrators, all world-class stonecarvers and the finest comedy minds of their time, worked up a calendar and closed it out with an expiration date.

The expiration date.

Fast forward to now, to where most of us can take a joke, having survived several ends of the world ­with some of them on the same day. Some ends were predicted by "experts". Some of them anyone with brainpower equivalent to poultry could have seen coming like the time I nearly ended my world on a motorcycle topping a blind hill too fast on a hot day on the road to St. Omer trying to insert myself into the cooling system of a French potato truck. That would have been IT for me, but as I recall, the irony did not escape me.

But it wasn’t IT then and it wasn’t again this time. The world may well end in a fireball or a big flood. It can also, on a personal level, end in a tsunami of stupidity.

We all have different endings. We just have to keep a sense of humor about it, like the Mayans.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The AAF Thought Leadership Forum: Doing the After-Math

I enjoyed this AAF forum (see Press page). Everyone who participated enlightened me about something – exactly what Thought Leaders might be expected to do.

We all got together for a drink afterward, with the exception of one panelist who had to catch a plane and both representatives from the AARP. At the time, I didn’t take it as a sign – there was no applicable math that could sum up a show/no-show factor.

But something has emerged since.

Ten emails and phone calls to my fellow panelists from AARP later: zero response. I thought I had some interesting things to say (the Forum is linked here so I’m open to criticism). Maybe there are other factors:

1. I actually added nothing of value to the discussions, so there’s no point in further communication.

2. My Senior Creative People partners (all of whom were Event participants) were equally unimpressive.

3. We’re too Senior (old) to merit notice. The AARP representatives who participated in the Forum with us were barely in their 50s.

I tried to contact these folks to get their reaction to some thoughts I had about the new “Senior” minority and its issues with ageism. OK, I also wanted to offer our services, thinking that since AARP’s mission was to advocate for seniors, they could use some help from our kind. They do need help. Their messaging is bland and unimpressive and not likely to motivate the 60s generation who are already trashing AARP invitations – mostly because they’re “too young” to join.

Whatever the case, a return mail or call from AARP would have been appropriate.

During the Forum I offered one word that could sum it all up: “Respect”. But, by AARP’s calculations, it seems to have come out “Disrespect”.

Maybe I should run the numbers again.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Last of The Gray

I watch a fair bit television. Somehow it helps me think about things that have nothing to do with what’s on the screen.  It can also be a great nonprescription sedative. Unless I see something that grabs my attention.

“Senior-product” commercials obviously written by 30-somethings bring out attitude and the remote.

Some are just awful.

I don’t know who can tolerate the threadbare “golden years” crap – the trite little slices of life that some 35-year-old Copywriter thinks a 55-year-old should be living. Some are just lame, like a suburban white kid trying to vocalize (a.k.a. “represent”) The Hood and tripping up on his “YOs”.

Hair coloring product messages can punch all of my buttons at once. “Nice ‘n Easy is running a spot featuring a guy who ‘s telling us that he’s going gray as opposed to his wife who’s "still herself", still cool, hot, relevant -- or something else fabulous.

But Just For Men’s “The last Gray-Haired Man on Earth” is in a class by itself. It comes on the screen and I’m scrambling for the clicker and pointing it at the TV set, wielding it like a taser. The manufacturer wants us to believe that our society frowns on all gray-haired men and sees them as drifters into senility, incompetence and impotence. The concept is stale, the execution is weak and the Big Finish – dropping the product from a helicopter to a guy on a tiny desert island – is just dumb.

Hair dye. Just what a guy who's marooned -- alone -- on a desert island would have at the top (or anywhere) on his wish list.

What, no condoms?

I have no issue with the fact that some men want to get the gray out, feeling that it makes them look better, younger and more...whatever. That's cool. But these kinds of messages do promote some radical follicular adjustments. Some guys overdye their “doos” and get a kind of Darth Vader black helmet-effect which fools nobody but the fool under it.  Then there’s the screaming hairpiece, a “toop” that looks like a chunk of scorched Astroturf. Maybe the Astroturf folks will see a niche market here and line-extend.
I want these “Last Man” mutts to know that I’m a guy with gray hair on my head, face and ...elsewhere. If they’re on a mission to rid the world of my kind I invite them to come and get me.

A word of caution: I’m an old hockey player. Wear a mouth guard. And bring lumber.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Port You May Be Missing

Some minds grow old before their time. But it always was the way that we tended to form most of our core beliefs when we're young and hung onto them. The 60s generation ushered in a massive change. There are a bunch of ex-hippies out there who threw the doors and windows of their minds open and let new ideas in. 

Once open, those windows are damn hard to shut.

So, ambling along in the direction of that analogy, let’s say the mind is like a laptop’s CPU  (Central Processing Unit or "brain") and it has a huge number of USB and Firewire ports. None of us can use all of the ports. There are just too many. But some of us allow access from more ports than others leaving us open to more input. Ideas that come from unanticipated directions gain access to the processor, while other brain/CPUs shut the data out.

In any profession, that’s one definition of a creative mind. It can process data that the isolated CPU cannot. I’ll call it “Asynchronous Port Syndrome” (“APS”).

Most political discourse is driven by
APS. Liberals are more inclined to accept and promulgate ideas they hear from Liberal sources. Conservatives process and retain information exactly the same way. So, Rush Limbaugh’s pronouncements can be absolutely true – or totally false, depending on APS. Same applies to anybody named Kennedy. It’s APS that qualifies their credibility, even though the eyes and ears that receive the input look pretty much the same and have all come from the same Creator.

Fashion is a good example. If a  fashion statement is addressed to a non-working port, will it not compute? If an old person wears something that’s fashion-forward is it "brilliant"? Or an early signal of dementia?

All depends on

IMHO, I see two people seem to be processing an obscure data stream. Ari Seth Cohen decided one day while walking on the street that elderly women had major fashion statements to make. His Advanced Style blog features ladies of advanced age.
Few others could recognize this. So a 20-something fashion blogger has locked his trendsetting eye on ladies in their 80s and 90s and made them stars of an amazing film. All because he has that open port.

Then there’s Tavi Gevinson, crowned The Oracle of Girl World by The New York Times (a port, like The Wall Street Journal, that should always be open). She’s 16, been blogging as The Style Rookie since preteens and once dyed her hair gray to start the “faux-old movement" that she wanted her readers to take further, drawing lines on their faces to replicate wrinkles. Wrinkles got cool.  

Wrinkles? As a fashion statement? What planet did that come from?

Ours, actually. Did something happen to it on the way to your CPU? Test you ports. You've got one you can open there somewhere.