Back when I marketed local TV news, I wrote that pithy little bit in today’s headline. It wasn’t the traditional sort of sloganeering you see from TV stations, but unlike a lot of branding statements, it actually said something. It was a tough sell, because people thought it was too long.
“It’s not that long,” I argued, “And it’s not long at all compared to what FedEx says: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
I always used to get a dirty look from my boss when I was right, and this was one of those times. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for Nothing More Important to be killed off, largely thanks to our consultant at Frank N. Magid Associates. They didn’t like it. Magid, by the way, has done more to make news look exactly alike everywhere in America than anyone else.
Not that I need validation, but Ad Week did an interesting piece on the long vs. short slogan debate a few years ago. From the story by Al Ries:
In the 1920s, according to author Ken Roman, a London advertising agency (Mather & Crowther) created an advertising slogan to get consumers to “eat more fruit.” The eight unforgettable words they created were: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Today, of course, that same slogan would probably have been shortened to “Got Apple?”
Oh, well. All this is neither here nor there, except I couldn’t stop thinking about my slogan as the news was chock full of missteps and flubs by the media, reporting of an arrest in the Boston Marathon bombing.
Being first is good, but being right? There’s nothing more important.
Oh, Hollywood. You come to town and throw your money around and tell us we’re wonderful — and then then the next day you’re gone and all we’re left with is a hangover. And then you never call. And if we do see you again, it’s really awkward.
No industry holds sway over the imagination like the movie business, so when The Place Beyond the Pines came to Schenectady they were treated like royalty. If a cell phone company came to town and spent two million dollars nobody would even notice — and the entire city certainly wouldn’t bend over backwards and kiss their ass.
But Hollywood is different. In David Mamet’s comedy State and Main, a small town goes nuts when the movie people show up. But it’s not just about the locals; Mamet’s movie also shows how producers use the mystique and glamour of movie making to get whatever they want.
Hey, I’m not saying that the Pines shoot wasn’t interesting — but maybe it’s time for the Capital Region (media and area film commissions, in particular) to stop screaming like teenage girls whenever somebody shows up in town with a film crew.
We need to take a lesson from New York, where they’re more like, “Oh, you’re making a movie? That’s nice… now get the #$%@ off the sidewalk, I’m walkin’ here!”
Around here, spring comes in fits and starts. Everybody has a different idea on when it begins, but me? I was finally convinced that spring is here this morning during my run, when I noted three indisputable signs of the season:
1. Peepers According to my research department (Wikipedia), peepers “are heard early in spring not long after the ice melts on the wetlands.” This morning I noted that the peepers are peeping — and while the wetlands near my house are diminishing, thanks mostly to hideous and ill conceived residential development, the peepers still peep.
2. Skunks I don’t know where the skunks go in the winter, but in the spring they emerge from their hidey holes and stink up the neighborhood. Never champs at crossing busy roadways, I found one this morning that had become the proverbial dead skunk in the middle of the road, as imortalized by Loudon Wainwright III.
3. Worms Another mystery of nature, the spring brings worms who slither out onto the sidewalks and driveways after rain. There were many of them this morning, albeit very skinny ones, for it has been a long winter. It is my observation that they do not stick to running shoes. Could squished worms be used to improve a product or process? Perhaps.
So, welcome spring! None of us will be here forever, so don’t take it for granted.
At Friendly’s one night, I spied a nearby booth where a couple were engaged in some sort of — meditation? Their fingertips were touching and eyes closed and between them on the table was a lottery entry form. Every few moments they’d take up a pencil and select a number. They were praying over their Lotto entry. Praying to win.
I almost shouted out, “HEY… Monkey’s Paw!”
This goes back to reading The Monkey’s Paw in eighth grade. I already sort of knew the story, having seen the 1972 film Tales from the Crypt, and its take on how three wishes can go horribly wrong. The short story, written by W. W. Jacobs in 1902, is terrific; you can hear John Lithgow reading it awesomely on this episode of Selected Shorts.
But because of The Monkey’s Paw, I’ve been convinced it’s very bad luck to wish for money.
Even the most rational people cling to something that is not so rational; on the outside they scoff at luck and fate, but deep inside harbor something beyond reason that guides their actions.
So, it shouldn’t worry me when a fortune cookie promises wealth, I mean really, c’mon. A stupid fortune cookie? I set it aside without another thought… after tossing a pinch of salt over my shoulder. My left shoulder, of course.
I don’t remember much about the journalism class I took at SUNY Plattsburgh, but there was one thing the professor taught that made a big impression.
He told us that there are not millions of stories out there. The truth is that there are maybe several dozen stories at best — change the names and some details and yes, it multiplies out to millions — but the fact remains that there are only a handful of stories.
What do you mean by that, we asked, of course there are millions of stories.
Then he started writing on the blackboard. Corrupt politician/board member/cop! Stricken down before their time! Screwed by the institution! Wasted taxpayer dollars! Tradesman plys a dying craft! Lost love found! Lost object found! Lost pet returns! He went on until the board was crammed — and then when we pulled out some newspapers from the big stack he kept in the corner and we started matching up the stories with the tropes he’d listed.
I was reminded of this when I saw a story in the Times Union about a piano tuner (Tradesman plys a dying craft!) and got curious. I typed “piano tuner” into Google News and came up with numerous recent piano tuner stories, including this one published just two days earlier.
I’m not saying this is bad, just that my teacher was right: there are no new stories. And it says something bigger about us, right? We respond to universal themes that are as old as the hills, things that preceed the written word, to the time when we gathered around the fire and told tales.
I go shopping the way the Navy Seals go to Pakistan: get in fast, grab what you need, get out. And hopefully you don’t run into anybody while you’re in there.
This is why “Boscoving” is so mystifying. According to a newspaper insert that showed up at my house, Boscoving goes like this: visit Boscov’s three times a week for a month and they’ll give you a meatloaf pan worth $14.99. Your visits are verified by having your flyer stamped, like a passport, to prove you were in the store.
Really? Twelve times? To Boscov’s? For a $14.99 meatloaf pan?
Wait, I have a better idea: how about I visit your store once give you $14.99 and you hand me the meatloaf pan? Then I’ll come back… oh, I don’t know, maybe when I want to buy something else.
And since I’m ranting, let me mention how irksome it is when people try to turn their brand name into a verb, but since we’re inventing new words, let me suggest a definition for Boscoving: doing something ridiculous in return for a worthless reward. Enjoy your meatloaf.
Now, I don’t know much about structural engineering, but how long do you think it will be before the shell of the Berkshire Hotel goes tumbling down into the street?
The building is part of Albany’s Wellington Row, a stretch of derelict structures within spitting distance of the capitol. This prime location has been targeted for redevelopment that would preserve the historic facades that line the street, but it seems to be going nowhere. Meanwhile, we can just wait while it all falls to pieces one brick at a time.
Stroll through downtown and marvel at its vacant lots and empty buildings. Welcome to Albany.
At family parties, my Aunt Florie would make the rounds with her Polaroid camera. Aside from my father, I don’t remember any relatives taking pictures, and if I did I certainly wouldn’t remember what camera they used, but Aunt Florie’s folding Polaroid was memorable.
But more memorable than the camera itself was what it did. In pre-digital 1970 there was nothing more magical than seeing your picture develop in a minute. We’d wait weeks (or months) to see photos my father took, once they were processed, organized into trays and projected in the living room, but Aunt Florie’s pictures? In your hand right away.
To me there is still magic in instant film. I recently started fooling around with a 1969 vintage Polaroid 240, and while it’s temperamental and unpredictable, the results are very satisfying. The images are not as pristine as what you get from your digital camera, but there’s a warmth to them, like the visual equivalent of a vinyl record.
I suppose you could go into Photoshop and replicate the look, but there are some things that you just can’t do with a computer. Each instant picture is an original, and not something that can be faked on your electronic gizmo.
Imperfect, unique, somewhat fragile, and erratic. These pictures are more like us than the bits and bytes, don’t you think?
James Franklin, Ben’s older brother, was a printer in Boston and in 1721 he had the big idea to start a newspaper, The New-England Courant.
The Courant, which sold for four pence, was a good way to keep the press busy and bring in some extra income. It didn’t take long for James to get into trouble with the authorities, and they threw him in jail the following year for writing “scandalous libel.”
Thus modern journalism was born.
At some point, people figured out that newspapers could be a stand-alone enterprise, rather than just a sideline for commercial printers, and this gave way to the business model of newspapers owning a printing press — not the other way around.
Fast forward to 2013.
Our local paper, the Times Union, just installed a new printing press, which might seem like a bad idea as newspapers are biting the dust all over America. What next, are they going to go back to using kids to distribute their product? But amid the much ballyhooed coverage about serving the customers better and spitting in the face of the print’s downward spiral is this single line from an AP story:
The new press also will allow the newspaper to perform commercial print jobs.
Well, there you go. I’m not suggesting that the newspaper will be just a sideline for a printing operation (even though I joked about it on Twitter), but it will sure help to have some extra money coming in. And if that means keeping journalists and photographers on the job, then it’s a good thing.