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One of the many reasons I started this blog (way back in 2004) was to develop my skills in WordPress. Blogging had taken off as a ‘thing’ and I wanted in. Nothing works better than working it out for yourself. I believe the cliche’ is “learning by doing.”

Here I go again. I’ve parlayed my passion for freshwater and saltwater aquariums into a YouTube channel: Lush & Salty Aquariums

Lord knows I’ve been watching fish nerds for years now. Drooling over ‘coral porn.’ Well, now it’s my turn to be a creator. Admittedly, I’m late to the YouTube party but what’s that other cliche’: Better late than never. Lush & Salty is only a few weeks old. But I’ve been going at it pretty hard. And I’m finally getting comfortable with the platform’s many tools. Come on in for a dip. The water’s fine: Lush & Salty Aquariums

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Fury Road!

Believe it or not, I rarely go to You Tube for the truly gnarly stuff that gets so many views: fail videos, assaults on buses, gang fights, that sort of thing. I mostly stay away. Not necessarily for moral reasons (though I’d like to think so) but rather because it just doesn’t interest me. Sure, occasionally I was drawn to some big event that everyone was talking about. Arab Spring. Earthquake footage. But mostly I go to You Tube to learn how to do something, fix a machine, load a printer, tie a fishing knot. Oh, and movie trailers. I love me some movie trailers.

But then.

The other night I clicked on a lurid video depicting a street fight outside a bar in St. Augustine, Florida. I’d been watching movie trailers for a few obscure horror movies and I guess the content matched up. So I went there. A melee featuring a bunch of shirtless drunks beating the shit out of each other. Real blood! Real screaming! Everything was jittery just like in a found footage horror movie. But the horror was real!

I was riveted. Then I clicked on another video. This time a fight outside of nightclub in Manhattan. This intoxicated douchebag in a rumpled suit was standing up to a huge-ass bouncer. After some jawing back and forth the bouncer did what angry bouncers do. Pound that young urban professional, brother! That’s what I’m talking about! I clicked on another video. And another. Before I knew it it was 1 o’clock in the morning.

I turned off my computer. I felt unclean. There was sweat under my arms. Gross, I know. My two goldfish stared at me from their cube, bug eyed. They have huge eyes because that’s what kind of goldfish they are. But still. It was as if they were judging me. Unblinking bastards.

Yet, perhaps I deserved it.

I had discovered the real reality TV. Not the choreographed drama Real Housewives create to get more camera time. But real idiots being real assholes. With baseball bats made of wood. Knives and knuckles. Gore!

Half a century ago, Newton Minow famously called TV a “vast wasteland.” I believe he’s still alive. Dude needs to check out You Tube. It’s freaking Fury Road.

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At a restaurant the other day I overheard a woman paraphrase the famous Andy Warhol quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” She was referring to a video her son recently posted on You Tube. She told her rapt friends it had “hundreds of views!” For her, and likely her boy, that meant fame.

But is that what Andy Warhol meant? Yes and no. Remember, he was looking at fame through the lens of mass media. Warhol and his Factory defined popular culture, essentially creating it. Before him fame via artistic creation (be it painting, literature, photography or films) was the providence of a precious few, those who earned it with their talents and/or exquisite connections. After Warhol, fame could mean anything from getting a bad haircut to getting arrested.

I won’t belabor the obvious. The Internet and social media have made getting famous a whole lot easier for the rest of us. In this sense Andy was a prophet.

And yet.

In a world where everyone and their teenaged sons are famous for a few minutes, what exactly does “fame” mean? Are there a certain number of views, likes and followers that can deliver one into fame? Surely, it’s more than several hundred. But even gaining many thousands of online friends can’t equal the popularity of the most random of reality TV stars. And, in turn, can one honestly compare a reality TV celebrity with, say, Audrey Hepburn or Jack Nickolson?

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For 15 minutes…

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Forever…

As more people become sort of what is considered the pinnacle and whom would we find there? George Clooney? Bono? Ghandi?

Hard to say. But surely Joe the Plumber (remember him?) or some opera-singing five-year old wouldn’t be there. Or might they? After all, aren’t those the knuckleheads Andy Warhol was talking about when he said his famous bit about fame? And besides, wasn’t Justin Bieber just a Canadian falsetto on You Tube?

I wonder. If everyone today is capable of being famous can fame even exist anymore? By definition don’t we need lots more un-famous people in order to appreciate the ones that already are? Remember your Dr. Seuss. As soon as all those Sneetches finally got stars on their bellies the stars lost all of their meaning.

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Back in the day my father said his 15 minutes came when the Wall Street Journal rendered his portrait in those iconic black dots. That trumped merely just getting his picture in the paper, which, by the way, used to be the quintessential determiner of fame.

I recently read a blog post talking about “access” being the new standard for wealth. In other words, one doesn’t need to own things in order to be considered wealthy -just have access to them. Is fame like that, too?


“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

Listening to sports radio the other day, one of the commentators noted how social media played an alarming role in the national bashing of Chicago Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler after he left the game in a losing effort to the Green Bay Packers. As everyone knows, NFL players from around the league tweeted about his departure –in real time- creating a firestorm that still blazes. Among other things, he was called a “wussie” and warned not to shower at the same time as his fellow teammates. Ouch.

The radio analyst held Twitter and the Tweeters in contempt. Ordinarily, such nasty opinions would never have been voiced until well after the game and only if a journalist would have asked for them. That seems unlikely as the offending players were not involved in the game and, in fact, were out of the tournament.

I, myself, had tweeted that the Twitter component was at least as fascinating as the removal of Jay Cutler from the game. Indeed, this was the first time in history real athletes offered real opinions in real time on real events. Really!

Whether Twitter should be held in contempt is debatable but the unprecedented circumstances do point out a contemptible side of social media, one that is only now coming to the fore. Twitter eliminates ‘time’ from the equation. Social media removes the common sense practice of waiting before one speaks. We see the results everyday in the comments portion below the millions of stories we read online, if not in the stories themselves.

Communications used to involve strategy. Not anymore. While I salute the disintegration of public relations and all its spin, I lament the proliferation of gossip, vitriol and just plain stupidity.

All three were on display during the coronation and hasty decimation of the Internet sensation, Ted “Golden Voice” Williams. A viral video and a ba-zillion Twitter supporters (I being one of them) made the hobo a media sensation, landing him voiceover gigs on national television and more. Days later he was arrested in a hotel room fight with a family member, owned up to lying about his sobriety, entered rehab and disappeared, presumably back into the streets where he was found. To say that social media had nothing to do with this would be short sighted…and dangerous.

Yes, You Tube and Twitter can make people famous but it can and does do the opposite as well. Reputations can be unfairly tarnished. Lives ruined. Jay Cutler and Ted Williams are the two latest big examples; they did not deserve the attention that they got and would not have gotten it without social media. And, more frightening really, what of all the average people made less average whether they like it or not? As I write, anonymous bullies are terrorizing colleagues, classmates and family members via social media and there is nothing anyone can do about it other than get used to it.

I’m a blogger. I get my news from other bloggers. I use countless social media platforms to communicate. Up until very recently I helped create them for clients. I adore Twitter and Facebook. This truly is the new frontier, for marketers, for all of us. But there are rattlesnakes out there… and worse. Be mindful.


We’re laughing so it must be funny…

I enjoyed the movie, The Other Guys, starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. The pair plays misbegotten policemen partnered together in a movie that adroitly lampoons buddy-cop movies and a few other things (our wrecked financial system). No surprise the comedy works, director Adam McKay cut his teeth with Ferrell on SNL and more recently, produced numerous bits on the hit Internet series, Funny or Die.

However, I’m more interested in reviewing the audience for The Other Guys than the movie itself. I couldn’t help but notice them -and not just because many were talking throughout the movie -It’s Saturday night, It’s a Will Ferrell movie-, but because of what they were saying.

Though the audience was clearly entertained, it became apparent to me that the majority of them didn’t get the movie. Not really. I know that sounds crazy; it’s a frickin’ Will Ferrell movie. What’s not to get?

Yet, I was surprised by how mystified the kids (everyone under 30) to the right and left of me were about many aspects of the film. For starters I don’t think many of them understood it was a total put on. You’d think the Scary Movie franchise would have indoctrinated the masses into the send up. Granted, The Other Guys wasn’t overtly advertised as a parody but it’s sad many in the audience couldn’t figure that out for them selves.

For example… Ferrell plays a bizarre nerdy cop. Much to his partner’s bewilderment and consternation, Eva Mendes is his sublimely beautiful wife. It’s a funny bit. Unfortunately, the folks sitting around me were really confused by it. “Why would she marry a guy like that?” I heard a girl say to her boyfriend. “Shit, how’d he get her?” I heard another guy say to his friend. When Ferrell continues to berate his gorgeous wife this only befuddled the audience more. “Why is he being so mean to her? She’s awesome!”

The audience just didn’t get the very thing that made these scenes most funny. Yes, Ferrell got laughs but the film’s campy nature and screwball irony were lost to the masses, these masses anyway. I’m sure of it.

How could these young people be so ignorant? Isn’t irony, sarcasm and deadpan the currency of their culture?


We use irony to straighten our hair.

When Napoleon Dynamite came out it was lauded as comedy’s second coming. “Vote for Pedro” tee shirts were everywhere. Office Space is considered a cult masterpiece. Mumblecore defined a generation. Are we to believe these films became hits (*) despite not being “gotten” by much of the gate? If my audience was any indication the answer is yes. Like Napoleon, Ferrell’s character looked funny and acted weird. Could either of these impressive deadpans be considered a success in spite of not being perceived as deadpan? And if so, does it even matter?


Clowns are funny…seriously.

Many of you might not get what I’m getting at. Think of it this way. Huckleberry Finn is not considered one of America’s greatest comic novels merely because Huck is a wily hillbilly. His combination of determinism and naiveté defined our country and still does. That Huck said and did some hilarious shit is secondary to the book’s essence.

Granted, The Other Guys is no Huckleberry Finn. (It’s got more laughs.) But in a way Napoleon Dynamite is. Here’s my point: I appreciated both movies for not just making me laugh but for making me think while I was laughing. Whatever, dude. It appears the modern audience doesn’t give a shit.

* “Hits” may be too strong a word. Without looking up the box office numbers, I recall only modest numbers…at first. But the above-mentioned movies had a long tail, eventually achieving status and viewers well beyond the norms. Maybe the smart people came later, attracted by critical raves and word-of-mouth?