Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's said online...stays online

Uh-oh, all you aspiring college applicants—your Facebook posts are being monitored.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling, in a new report, advises that roughly a quarter of U.S. colleges reported doing some research on applicants on social networking sites or through Internet search engines. The study did not specify which colleges followed this practice nor did it say how often scholarships or enrollment offers might hinge on what was found online.

The acknowledgment of this study simply reiterates to all—what you write or post online cannot be retracted. Write and/or post with care…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spotted recently....

- A group of three Asian businessmen in Kansas Sampler, buying all manner of University of Kansas 2008 National Basketball Championship gear while the hotel bus idled outside.

- Swine flu masks in Los Angeles International Airport.

- A "Not Everything is FLAT in Kansas" t-shirt with the verbiage strategically located across the chest, in the Kansas City airport gift shop. (Uh, people, the airport is located in MISSOURI.)

Mid-week musings

- One of the best shows ever about the baby-boomer generation is finally arriving to DVD. Thirtysomething, which aired from 1987-1991, will have its first season released on DVD on August 26. Much like the movie, The Big Chill, which preceded it in 1983, the young couples and singles in this TV series were bonded together by their involvement in the 1960's counterculture and anti-war movement.

- The late Dale Earnhardt, Sr., “The Intimidator,” would have turned 58 today. As one of my NASCAR buddies pointed out, Big E would have been smiling down during the final lap of racing at Talladega last Sunday. The finish was highlighted by Carl Edward’s spectacular wreck and then sprint across the finish line, a la Ricky Bobby (Talladega Nights.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXwpsaHueUk

As Big E would say, "The winner ain't the one with the fastest car, it's the one who refuses to lose."

- Get ready—the sequel to the 1987 movie Wall Street, which propelled Michael Douglas to an Academy Award for Best Actor, is coming. Douglas will reprise his role as Gordon Gekko and Fox Studios is in negotiations with Shia LeBeouf to play another young Wall Street trader under Gekko’s spell—basically the same role as that played by Charlie Sheen in the original. The film is scheduled to go into production this summer.

According to early reports, the movie will continue to focus on Gekko. His exploits will seem very similar to the greed and other fun activity that has marked Wall Street over the past few years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Five favorite athletes

I recently posted my "five favorite athletes" in another of the many "five favorite" lists offered up on Facebook. The five, in no particular order, are: Danny Manning, University of Kansas; Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers; Gale Sayers, University of Kansas and Chicago Bears; George Brett, Kansas City Royals; and Tom Watson, professional golfer from Kansas City.

Manning: In addition to the fact that he's one of two Jayhawks on the list, Manning was one of the very first big men who could do it all--score, pass, handle the ball, block shots and rebound. And, in the ultimate compliment, he made his teammates better players--he was the ultimate team player on the ultimate team game and led "Danny and the Miracles" to the NCAA Championship in 1988.

Favre: I loved Favre's reckless style coupled with a young boy's enthusiasm for the game. To see Favre play football was to watch a sandlot game unfolding in an NFL stadium. He was the perfect poster child for the most tradition-rich franchise in the National Football League.

Sayers: The other Jayhawk on the list, Sayers was simply the most exciting runner I've ever seen carry a ball. Under-utilized at Kansas, Sayers went on to a Hall of Fame career at Chicago. His career was far too short, given two knee injuries, but he did enough in his six years with the Bears to be voted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Brett: Like Favre, Brett played with a passion and enthusiasm which was so fun to watch. He was the best clutch hitter that I've seen and was the ringleader for the glory years of Royals baseball.

Watson: The other "Kansas City guy" on the list, Watson played golf kind of like Brett played baseball--you always wanted to watch him because you weren't sure what you'd see him do. A "Watson par" came to be known as the shot into the trees off the tee, a circus shot to get near the green and then the up-and-down for a crucial par. His victories in 1977 versus Jack Nicklaus at The Masters and British Open cemented his status as an all-time great but it was the U.S. Open win at Pebble Beach, in 1982, which is remembered for "the shot"--the chip at 17 which again propelled him to victory over Nicklaus in a major tournament.

Others who came close but did not make the cut for this "top five" list include: Jim Ryun, world record holder in the mile, 1500 meter and 800 meter at Kansas; Michael Jordan; Tiger Woods; Andre Agassi; and Peyton Manning.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quick Hits

- Poco reunited last weekend at the Stagecoach Music Festival in Indio, CA. Original members Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Timothy B. Schmit took the stage for the first time since Messina split to join up with Kenny Loggins and Schmit migrated to The Eagles. Ironically, Schmit's "other" band, The Eagles, was the headliner for this country festival last year. This year's marquee performers were Brad Paisley and Kenny Chesney. (Note: Chesney is scheduled to appear at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO on May 9.)

- One of the best restaurant values in Lawrence, KS is Jefferson's. This sports bar-like eatery is on the west side of Massachusetts Street between 7th and 8th. In addition to great bar food, it features decorated dollar bills stuck on the walls and ceilings.

- Only four hours remain in 24 on FOX. The series, which definitely re-found its stride this season, will conclude with a two-hour finale on May 18. A relocation to D.C. has helped the show, which was based in Los Angeles during the first six seasons. Next season's show will take place in New York. No word yet as to how Jack Bauer will find his way to Gotham.

- Another print publication bites the dust. This time it's Portfolio, Conde Nast's entry into the business magazine genre.

- Is there a more beautiful prime time show on HD than CSI: Miami? Each week the show makes me want to get on a plane and head to South Beach.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sneezing panda

The mother's reaction is priceless...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNYfZd8iV2k

Sunday afternoon musings

- Want to take a road trip? Here are some suggestions for comfort food eateries, including my first place of employment--Homer's in Leavenworth, KS.

http://www.kansassampler.org/8wonders/cuisine.php

- Fellow former Kansas players, and two guys whose jersey numbers are in the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse, have spent most of the afternoon guarding each other today. Paul Pierce and Kirk Hinrich have had a good head-to-head battle in the Celtics-Bulls 2OT playoff contest this afternoon, won by the Bulls 121-118.

- For a weekend when the forecasts said rain, rain, rain, we've seen very few drops...

- I really, really don't understand this whole fascination with Taylor Swift.

- Quote of the week: "In his dying breath, I'd like to be at his bedside and say, 'did you do it?'" (Sam Donaldson, former ABC News correspondent, on the desire to ask Fidel Castro whether he had a role in assassinating President John Kennedy)

What's next for Susan Boyle?

Tom Bergeron is host of ABC's hit "Dancing With the Stars" as well as "America's Funniest Home Videos" and the author of "I'm Hosting As Fast As I Can: Zen and the Art of Staying Sane in Hollywood." Now, I don't know about you but Bergeron isn't the first guy I'd think of when I consider who might write an Op-Ed piece for the New York Times.

But, there was Bergeron's byline in yesterday's Op-Ed page of the Times, under a piece called "Does Susan Boyle Know What's Next?" And, it's an incredibly prescient look at what's happened to Boyle, and our culture's fascination with stories like hers.

Boyle, in case you are unaware, is the overnight sensation who appeared on "Britain's Got Talent." She is a 48-year old, single, charity worker with a cat. And, I'll confess, she looks like a single 48-year old woman with a cat who does charity work--her appearance is plain, she is painfully shy and looks little like a star singer. Boyle then opened her mouth and the rest, as they say, is pop culture history--16 million hits on the YouTube version I watched and the sudden adoration of a public that can't get enough.

Bergeron, to his credit, advises Boyle to "run away." As he points out, how often have we seen this happen--the overnight sensation who just as quickly flames out and/or can't handle the fame? More importantly, is our interest sincere...or will we turn on Boyle as her newfound fame continues to grow?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/25/opinion/25bergeron.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Does%20Susan%20Boyle%20KNow%20What

I love Bergeron's final few lines in his op-ed piece: "Boyle walked onto that stage and faced down a sea of smug. We need that kind of courage nowadays, and not just on reality shows. We need the courage to believe that stirring voices can be found in unlikely places."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fashion don'ts...are now do's

A couple of weeks ago, during The Masters week, I lamented in this space about how many golfers were adopting the white shoes and white belt look which was so prevalent in the 1970s on the PGA Tour. Well, John Paul Newport in today's Wall Street Journal takes on that look with his own concerns about how we baby boomers, who lived through the fashion horror of the '70s, are now re-living that nightmare with today's golfers.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124061923598055257.html

Unfortunately, hot young golfer studs like Anthony Kim, Camillo Villegas, Paul Casey and Adam Scott have adopted the look. Thus, it likely won't be going away anytime soon.

My favorite quote in the article, although concerning, is by Stephanie Wei, who blogs about golf. Wei equated this trendy look on the golf course to blogging and said, "the blogs that get noticed are the ones with an attitude or an out-there tone." Well, loyal readers, don't expect any white shoes and white belt on this blog anytime soon.

Birthday greetings to Michael and Connie

It's a birthday day for the Corleone family. Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) is 69 today and Connie Corleone (Talia Shire) is 63.

Pacino, of course, was nominated but never won an award for his portrayal of Mafia don, Corleone, in The Godfather trilogy. It was the original Godfather movie which vaulted Pacino to acting fame when he was chosen for the role of Michael over more established actors like Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, both of whom badly wanted the part. He received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for that movie and a Best Actor nomination for The Godfather II. He eventually won for his role in Scent of a Woman.

Shire portrayed Connie Corleone in the three Godfather movies after being cast in that role by her brother, director Francis Ford Coppola. Shire too was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of an alcoholic, beaten-down, resentful Connie in the second Godfather movie. However, it's her evolved role in Godfather III which was touching--she took on the role of family matriarch, and proxy don, due to the age, health and family challenges of Michael.

How interesting that these two actors--who had a relationship which twisted and turned over the course of the trilogy--have a birthday on the same day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Which is better...?

Personally, I'll take Denny's over the alternative visualized here...

http://adweek.blogs.com/adfreak/2009/04/which-is-worse-a-robot-or-a-dennys-meal.html

End of the week quick hits and musings

- Amidst all the buzz about New York's two new baseball stadiums is the fact that other major sports venue projects are still in play around the five boroughs. The new Meadowlands Stadium is taking shape in East Rutherford, NJ and is scheduled to open next year. The $1.7 billion stadium will house the Jets and the Giants. In Harrison, NJ, Red Bull Arena will also open next year. This $150 million structure will be home to the Major League Soccer Red Bulls. Renowned architect Frank Gehry has designed the Barclays Center, the future home of the NBA Nets, who will relocate to Brooklyn in 2011. This 18,000 seat arena is costing $950 million. And, finally, two current venues are being renovated--Madison Square Garden has a $500 million project which will be completed in 2011; Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum has a $300 million project approved but an undetermined opening date. That's a lot of coin being invested in sports locales, during a down economy, in the New York area.

- Did you hear about the bride who is suing a wedding guest who allegedly announced that she'd had an affair with the groom? The New York Post reports that Sandrina and Harold Purdum, both 31, married last September in South Ozone Park, a neighborhood in Queens. (How would you like to live in "Ozone Park?") Sandrina claims that wedding guest Jennifer Angevine--who was Harold's boss at the time--ruined the wedding day with an outburst in which she allegedly tossed a drink on anther guest, poked the bride in the chest and then made the stunning claim of her affair with Harold. It sounds like that could have been a pretty interesting wedding night for the Purdum's.

- Did you know they no longer sell cinammon scones at Dean & DeLuca in Leawood!? What the...!!??? Apparently I was the only one who liked 'em. Speaking of D&D, still no word on what is going into the spot at 119th and Tomahawk Creek Parkway where D&D was to relocate.

- Lots of eateries in the JoCo area have caught on to the idea of waiving or reducing the corkage fee on wine. One example--Spin, on Monday nights, has a $1 corkage fee.

- Why doesn't Facebook have a TMI button that could be easily sent to friends who post a bit too much on their wall?

- If you're a fan of Sangria, sample the fare at The Cashew downtown.

The Drake Relays--big meet in a small town

This weekend marks the 100th anniversary of the Drake Relays, the annual track-and-field competition which takes place at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. The relays--the third leg of the Texas Relays, Kansas Relays, Drake Relays series of meets--has long been a huge success in this town of 200,000.

The New York Times offered the attached (link below) description of what this highly acclaimed event means to Des Moines and why it has succeeded. Unlike the Texas and Kansas versions, which take place in much larger stadia, the Drake version exists at a 14,500 seat venue. And, it's that smaller, homey flavor, and the way the city embraces the relays, which makes this a special weekend each late April in Iowa.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/24/sports/othersports/24drake.html?_r=1&ref=sports

Nextel helps out a bride

This is one of the funniest spots we've done for the Nextel brand.


video

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Take Your Child to Work Day

Today was "Take Your Child to Work Day," the event which started several years ago as a daughters-only outing but which quickly evolved to include both girls and boys.

Our workplace, like others, was invaded with little ones--all ages, all shapes and sizes, boys and girls. And, the funnest story of the day was from a friend who had brought his two kids into work. They paired up with some others and were asked to sit outside a conference room while the parents held a business meeting. The area where the kids hung out is a waiting room between two stodgy conference rooms--a room we call "the sofa room" because of the classic pieces of furniture which reside there and upon which no fannies ever sit.

When two of the parents came out of the conference room and their meeting, they encountered an interesting sight--the children had dismantled the sofas and turned them into a fort.

What child hasn't done that at some point in his or her life? A fort, constructed of pillows and seat cushions, to ward off the evil of the world outside and designed with the ingenuity of children.

As my friend related the story to me, I thought, "something tells me those kids have their priorities in place and their act together far more than any of us here in corporate America." It was an innocent, genuine moment that seemed perfect. It may not be what the original organizers of this special day had in mind, but it's an apt illustration that perhaps the adults are the ones who should observe, and learn, on "Take Your Child to Work Day."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

X marks the spot...at Kansas

It appears the soap-operatic saga of Xavier Henry may be drawing to a close. For those who aren't hoops fans, Xavier (pronounced Za-Vee-ay) is the talented son of former Kansas star, Carl Henry. X is a consensus top five high schooler who originally committed to Memphis, and then coach John Calipari, after a long flirtation with both the Tigers and the Jayhawks of Kansas. When Cal split for Lexington and the big bucks at the University of Kentucky, X re-opened his recruitment which led to 2.5 weeks of speculation, fueled by a father who seemed to constantly provide the media with differing stories about X's intentions, as well as the intentions of his brother, C.J.

Don't get it yet? Well, it gets even better so hang on for the story. Xavier's brother, C.J., was a walk-on who was on Memphis' basketball team this past season. Unfortunately, C.J. did not play due to a medical hardship. He was a good high school basketball player in his own right but an even better baseball player and was drafted by the New York Yankees. One of the stipulations of his contract with the Yankees was that they would pay for his college education. Thus, C.J. ended up at Memphis, playing for Calipari, as a walk-on with an education provided by a professional sports team.

When Xavier committed to Memphis, one of the key reasons was to be close to his brother and to play with him on the same team. Once Calipari left and X began looking again, it quickly became public that C.J. would likely follow him to wherever he landed.

In the meantime, other un-committed players were watching closely. Lance Stephenson, considered at one time a lock for Kansas, held off on his announcement until he understood where Henry figured to land. The consensus top high schooler in the country, John Wall, also has waited to see where the other moving parts in this saga would end up--he at various times has had Kansas, Memphis, Kentucky, Duke, Baylor and others on his list of preferred schools.

So, after weeks of internet reports and contradictions, after an ill-advised report by a local sports talk station that Stephenson was considering Missouri and/or Kansas State in order to "get back at Kansas" for re-considering Henry, and after the wackiest spring recruiting period ever, the story is drawing to a close. Henry has scheduled a press conference for tomorrow morning and multiple sources claim he will end up at Kansas. That means Stephenson will likely choose between St. John's and Maryland and Wall will be free to go to any of a half-dozen schools who are still in hot pursuit of his talents.

Did you get all that...?


--By the way, here's Xavier on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/Xavier_Henry

Project Runway news

OK, all you Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn fans, here's the skinny on when Project Runway will be back on air.

As you may know, Lifetime won the rights to Project Runway after a lawsuit between NBC Universal and the Weinstein Companies. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait a bit for the network to begin showing the fashion series. Project Runway will debut on Lifetime on August 20, along with Models of the Runway, which documents the lives of the designers' models and their own quest for fashion fame.

Lifetime's Executive VP-Entertainment, JoAnn Alfano, was quoted as saying, "Since Project Runway is new to the network, we needed time to ramp it up and launch it. The end of summer was a time we felt we could get some momentum behind it."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quick Hits

- Have you seen the trailer for Obsessed? I mean, those are two pretty women (Beyonce and Ali Larter) battling for the affections of the lead dude, Idris Elba.

- As reported here last week, Aerosmith is embarking on a tour later this year and will be at the Sprint Center on September 1. ZZ Top will open the show. The tour was initially planned to support the band's new album but that release has been delayed until 2010. The new disc will apparently be closer in style to the band's last release, "Honkin' On Bobo," which is good news for fans of early Aerosmith.

- Fleetwood Mac comes to the Sprint Center on May 8. The ending song on the band's current tour has been "Silver Springs," a tune Stevie Nicks wrote about Lindsey Buckingham and their very public feuding relationship which eventually went splitsville. The fact that the two front the band, even now, is pretty juicy stuff. It'll be fun to hear Nicks sing, "And did you say she was pretty/And did you say that she loves you." Thus far, the two have performed amicably on stage.

- L.T.'s run on Dancing with the Stars is over. Lawrence Taylor, looking very svelte after his stint on the show, was voted off tonight. It was pretty cool seeing perhaps the best pass-rushing linebacker ever in the NFL kicking up his heels on DWTS.

- Is there a more annoying TV mom than the actress in the AT&T Rollover Minutes commercials?

American Idol musings

I've resisted any postings on this blog about American Idol. I mean, the show gets tons of coverage, is the highest rated TV show each week and is ingrained in popular culture. No offense to my readership, but commenting to a few folks who loyally read this each week doesn't seem very fresh.

But, I have to say that I have not seen a competitor on the show in any season who can match the range and personal styling of Adam Lambert. Each week this guy seems to find a new way to put his own personal spin on a song. Tonight Lambert did a soulful, slowed down version of "If I Can't Have You," the Yvonne Elliman song from Saturday Night Fever. Each week he continues to distance himself from the other competitors.

While we're on the topic of American Idol, the priceless moment tonight was Paula Abdul using "visceral" in a sentence. I mean, she is a sweet, soft-hearted soul but her verbal stylings can be meandering, at best.

New reality show alert

I know that loyal readers of this space love their reality shows. So, here's a heads-up for you--despite the loss of Project Runway, the Bravo network has a new series set to debut and it too is about fashion. This new reality show will take place at Fred Segal's, the trendy Santa Monica, CA retailer, and will document the competitive world of retail sales teams who service the high-end customers who frequent Segal's store.

As with Project Runway, the show promises plenty of cat fights, back-biting and generally unkind behavior. No word, though, on if this show will have its own version of the Heidi Klum/Tim Gunn hosting duo...

How much sleep have YOU been getting at night?

How’ve you been sleeping lately? If you’re like many Americans, you’re likely encountering some sleep problems on a consistent basis.

In a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation (who knew there was such a thing), 41% of those surveyed said they endure sleep problems every night or almost every night.

The study also tried to analyze methods used by those with sleep issues to help themselves sleep. Fifteen percent said they used “relaxation techniques,” eight percent use a sleep prescription while seven percent use an over-the-counter sleep aid. Interestingly, seven percent noted that they use a stiff drink to help out. There was no word from respondents on whether counting sheep was still a method that works.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gladiator...meet Robin Hood

Did you see the news that Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott will re-unite for another remake of Robin Hood? The film, scheduled for a May 2010 release, sounds like it will be more Gladiator in feel than the most recent Hood movie (1991), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. That version, as you recall, had Kevin Costner trying to sound British (or, at least that's what it sounded like.) And, in case you're wondering, Cate Blanchett will be Maid Marian to Crowe's Robin.

If Gladiator is any guide, look for plenty of sword play in the new version of Robin Hood.

2009 Pulitzer winners

Here is the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for 2009:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-04-20/the-2009-pulitzer-prize-winners/

It was good to see American Lion, the biography on Andrew Jackson, win. Jon Meacham's biography of our seventh President is a really good read.

Mac versus PC

The "Mac versus PC" advertising is some of the best campaign work of the past two-three years. But, this latest effort in the campaign is the best in quite some time. Take a look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZrlj6SxN_w

Simple, clear...and very pointed about the advantage of owning a Mac versus a PC. Great stuff...

Monday morning musings

- Jessica Lange turns 60 today, and is proof that a poor acting choice does not need to derail a career. Lange was cast as Dwan in the 1976 remake of King Kong and the role nearly ended her career before it started. But, another remake, The Postman Only Rings Twice--where she starred alongside Jack Nicholson--got her career reignited and, two Academy Awards and four Golden Globes later, the rest is history. Lange has always avoided the traditional Hollywood scene--she currently lives in New York with playwright and actor, Sam Shepard, her mate of 27 years.

- For those who enjoy watching train wrecks, the Lindsay Lohan-Samantha Ronson public breakup continues this week with Lohan's stint on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You can catch Lindsay with Ellen this Thursday.

- The Kansas Relays took place this past weekend at the University of Kansas in Lawrence for the 86th year. And, once again in the midst of the running and jumping and putting and throwing and vaulting it...yes, rained. The Relays are infamous for how often it has rained during the competition. Saturday's events all came off even though rain hit in the morning.

Did Domino's respond appropriately?

This is a very good article from AdAge.com on the Domino's PR disaster of last week and how the company responded. Overall, the writer feels that Domino's did a good job in their response but questions whether the 48 hours it took to respond was too long. It appears the pizza chain was hoping that this whole episode would not gain national attention and that they could keep it contained by not responding too publicly.

http://adage.com/article?article_id=136086

The lesson here for marketers is that social media propels any story--positive or negative--quickly to the masses, making a crisis communications plan and a prompt response a must.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Five things" on Facebook

Have you noticed the number of "five things" lists which are popping up on Facebook? One which intrigued me, and which I responded to, was "five bands you've seen more than once in concert." I posted because, upon reflection, I've seen some great groups and unbelievable concerts with great memories attached to each from the past 30 years.

Here are my five:

1. The Rolling Stones. I first saw the Stones at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO. Stevie Wonder was the opening act. This concert was right after the Stones published "Exile on Main Street." Since then, I've seen these guys seven times. My most memorable experience was seeing them perform at the Double Door club in Chicago in 1997 and then, two nights later, at opening night for the "Bridges to Babylon Tour" at Soldier Field. (Mel Gibson was in the row behind us at that show. Pretty cool...)

2. The Eagles. The Eagles performed at Kemper Arena in 1976 around the release of "Hotel California." I then saw them in 1978 at Arrowhead Stadium when Dan Fogelberg and Linda Ronstandt opened the show. Subsequent concerts were at Giants Stadium in New York; Sandstone Amphitheater (in the rain), Kemper Arena and the Sprint Center, all in Kansas City.

3. U2. I really hope I get to see these guys again later this year when they begin their arena tour in the States. I saw the PopMart tour twice--at Soldier Field, Chicago, and Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City. I then saw the band at Kemper Arena, Kansas City and most recently at the Staples Center in Los Angeles after the release of "How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb."

4. The Who. In 1975, The Who performed at Kemper Arena and I was there to see the original lineup, including my all-time favorite drummer, Keith Moon. (Moon died in 1978.) I then got to see the band perform in Dallas at Reunion Arena.

5. Eric Clapton. I've seen Clapton twice--both at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.

There are six others that I've seen more than once--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (three times), Chicago (four times), Dave Matthews Band (twice), James Taylor (twice), Dan Fogelberg (twice) and The Beach Boys (twice.)

Who are your five? Send a comment and let us know...and let us know who you regret never having seen in concert. For the record, I regret never having seen Led Zeppelin perform live.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Signs of the Twitter apocalypse

First, Twitter was highlighted in a recent Sprint commercial. Now word is out that Oprah is on Twitter. Once again, a social networking outlet has become mainstream. What will all those tweeters do now!?

http://www.blogs.com/2009/04/17/oprah-joins-twitter-what-will-be-her-first-tweet.html

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Domino's disaster

By now I'm sure you've read, and perhaps seen, the cause of one of the biggest PR disasters of the 21st century to date. And, it's yet another example of how the use of today's technology has backfired in a very, very public way.

I'm talking about Domino's, of course, and the YouTube video which two former restaurant employees posted. The video, which earlier today had reached 1 million hits, showed a restaurant employee sticking cheese up his nose, and then on the sandwich, plus other disgusting in-kitchen activities. All of this was narrated by a fellow conspirator, and videographer, who then posted the film.

Domino's quickly fired both employees and is threatening civil action. The CEO of Domino's has posted his own response video...but the sad news for this brand is that this message has received only 22,000 hits.

Building brands takes years but today's example shows that, once again, a simple, random act can quickly tear a brand down. The phenomenon of social networking and constant sharing of video and photographs makes the posting of negative words, pictures and imagery easy, and quick. The impact? More and more examples like today's crisis communications challenge for Domino's...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day musings

- I apologize to my loyal readers--I've been a bit off the blog grid the past couple of days. Filing and mailing tax returns, following the tax tea party, hooking up a new Nintendo Wii and, alas, work have been in the way of regular postings of late.

- A personal favorite when it comes to supermodels--Heidi Klum--is pregnant with her fourth child and her third with husband, Seal.

- Kansas and Missouri will play a Big 12 conference baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City next Wednesday evening. It would be cool to see this become an annual occurrence.

- The cause of adopting homeless pets took a step back this week with the news that the Obama family received a purebred Portuguese Water Dog from Senator Ted Kennedy. Much has been made of the non-allergic breed but the general consensus is that there is no such thing as hypoallergenic fur--that this is a myth subtly promoted by breeders hoping to sell more puppies. It would have been great to have seen the First Family adopt a pet who truly needed a home, thus promoting the cause of reducing the number of homeless animals.

- On this date in history: Jackie Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rand McNally published its first atlas, Seth Rogen was born and, in 1955, April 15 became the deadline for filing income tax returns.

Monday, April 13, 2009

They're back...!

Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins announced tonight that they intend to return to Kansas next season. Both players figured prominently in the Jayhawks' fifth consecutive Big 12 championship, a berth in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, and a #10 finish in the final polls.

http://www2.kusports.com/news/2009/apr/13/collins-aldrich-announce-plans-return-ku-next-seas/

Comings and goings

- Mel Gibson and his wife of 28 years, Robyn, are calling it quits. It's a bit ironic that this happened during Holy Week given Gibson's successful, yet controversial movie, The Passion of the Christ.

- The quote of the day comes from Russ Pennell, last seen accepting the mens head basketball coaching job at Grand Canyon University after leading the University of Arizona to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Said Pennell, "For a lot of coaches, it's about wearing an Armani suit and being on ESPN. I think it's about the quality of life and wanting to win. They can call it Division IX and I don't care." Grand Canyon University is a Division II school in the NCAA.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tropicana branding - a packaging marketer's nightmare

In case you missed it, Tropicana is returning to its classic orange juice packaging which featured the visual of a straw sticking out of an orange. The Pepsico brand had earlier produced radically different packaging which, to this eye, seemed almost generic in style, font and approach (see following link for examples.)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/23/tropicana-scraps-redesign_n_169016.html

The Tropicana packaging is an example of every marketer's nightmare--a decision which results in negative consumer outcry. And, it begs the question, "why is Pepsi on a re-branding kick?" The soft drink and beverage company is undertaking the most massive re-branding in recent marketing history--an estimated $1.2 billion over three years for its soft drink brands. And, the brand marketer launched a re-branding effort last year for its Gatorade brand, which is another head-scratching decision.

Is it just me or does it seem harder and harder for companies to stay the course with consistent branding and communications?

The roars are back

There was a lot of noise this week about the lack of drama at recent Masters--how the "roars" had been lost on the grounds of Augusta National. The Masters has long been known for how the roars of the crowd on one hole echoed out around the course when major shots were holed.

Well, the roars are back. Today was, for the most part, a dream day for the tournament committee and CBS. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson found themselves paired together and both made a strong charge for the lead. The anticipation reached a pitch on 15 when both were on in two and putting for eagle.

Both Mickelson and Woods faded over the final three holes, which I'm sure wasn't to CBS' liking, but the tourney concluded with a sudden-death, three-way playoff which Angel Cabrera won after making par on the second hole (hole #10.)

The tournament had plenty of twists and turns...and the drama returned to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. It was a good way to get the 2009 majors kicked off.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Albums of 1969

In a post yesterday, I referenced the fortieth anniversary of Tommy, The Who's classic rock opera album which was released in 1969. And, in considering other album releases of that year, it's hard to find another 12 months where so many great discs were released.

Not only were great albums issued in '69, but many all-time great groups put out multiple releases during the year. Consider the following list of albums which would make any classic rock devotee's all-time greats list:

Abbey Road, The Beatles
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin II
Tommy, The Who
Green River, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Willy and the Poor Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Bayou Country, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Crosby, Stills and Nash
Blind Faith
Let It Bleed, The Rolling Stones
Stand, Sly and the Family Stone
In a Silent Way, Miles Davis
The Band
Nashville Skyline, Bob Dylan
Santana

So, in addition to all of the great albums, we were also introduced to classic rock titans like Zeppelin, Santana, Blind Faith, The Band and CSN, all of whom made their recording debuts in 1969.

Forty years ago was a pretty important year in the history of rock-and-roll.

Quick Hits

- "Trust Me" was not trusted by enough viewers. The TNT program about life in a Chicago ad agency died a quick death after one season. The show drew only 1.4 million viewers on average per episode.

- None other than the New York Times is gushing over the renovated Kauffman Stadium. The newspaper notes that the original stadium was ahead of its time in 1973 when it was built as a baseball-only park in an era of multi-purpose stadiums. The newly updated stadium, with "baseball's best scoreboard," looks better "than it did in recent years when the beauty of the fountains was marred by the advertisements painted on the grass embankments nearby." The Times writer lauds the new seating in left and right field and says "everything is in its proper place."

- It was announced this week that Aerosmith is coming to the Sprint Center in Kansas City on September 1. ZZ Top will open for the classic rockers.

- Once again, ABC will telecast "The Ten Commandments" on Easter weekend which once again raises the question, "does the network understand the connection between Easter and the New Testament versus the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament?" I'm not sure what's more of a head-scratcher--this or the decision in the past to air "The Wizard of Oz" each year on Easter Sunday evening.

- While "Trust Me" may have been booted off air, "Mad Men" (AMC) will return for its third season this summer. Jon Hamm--Don Draper on the show--was one of several "prizes" in an online auction benefitting the Adrienne Shelly Foundation recently. The foundation supports female filmmakers with scholarships and grants. A lunch with Hamm was one of the items up for bid on eBay. No word on whether Hamm would pay for the three martinis...

Yelp giving some love to businesses

Yelp, the website which allows any of us to write a review on a business establishment or service, is changing its relationship with businesses. The website will now allow businesses cited on its site to respond to reviews. Previously, the reviews were one-way--from consumer to the site for public consumption.

If you're not familiar with Yelp, it's theme line is "Real People. Real Reviews." At the site you can find reviews for businesses in basically all major markets. For example, here in Kansas City, there are listings for restaurants and shopping but also for healthcare, pets, religious organizations and real estate.

Yelp is requesting that businesses use the public comments to correct inaccuracies or explain how they have fixed a problem. Check it out--yelp.com.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sprint and Twitter

Sprint has helped Twitter go mainstream. Featured in Sprint's new "Now" campaign, Twitter is called out in the new Sprint commercial...and the New York Times has noticed.

http://www.nytimes.com/external/venturebeat/2009/04/07/07venturebeat-twitter-makes-its-national-commercial-debut-106017.html

The Who in the news

Pete Townsend is getting divorced. Not exactly news in the rock-and-roll industry but a bit odd in this case given that Townsend and his wife have been separated...for 15 years!

By the way, the Who's classic album and rock opera, Tommy, turns 40 this year.

Kind of Blue

Have you ever played the “what five albums would you want if stranded on a deserted island” game? It’s great dinner party discussion and tips one off on the musical tastes, and priorities, of your dinner companions.

One of the albums I would strongly consider in my five is “Kind of Blue,” the Miles Davis masterpiece that turns 50 this year. In celebration of the event, Sony is issuing a special boxed set of “Kind of Blue.”

Davis, as we all know, was a true jazz pioneer. He began his career in the 1940’s and sampled, and led, many flavors of jazz virtuosity—jazz, bebop, hard bop, modal, jazz funk and fusion.

It was in 1959 that Davis and pianist Bill Evans got together to discuss ideas for a new record. When the two eventually formed back up with the band, they had virtually no rehearsal—they recorded all but one of the pieces on the album in one single “take.”

Other musicians on the album were John Coltrane, tenor sax; Cannonball Adderley, alto saxophonist; bassist Paul Chambers; and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Wynton Kelly joined the band on piano, instead of Evans, on one track.

Although the actual numbers remain in dispute, “Kind of Blue” became the top-selling jazz album of all time. It is arguably Davis’ best work—and, certainly his most iconic. “Kind of Blue” influenced an entire generation of jazz musicians—guys like Coltrane, Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. Its influence also reached into rock music where artists like Carlos Santana, the Allman Brothers Band and The Police were inspired to pursue modally based improvisation.

Davis died in 1991 but the legacy of his work lives on in this masterpiece--Happy 50th Birthday to “Kind of Blue.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Magnolia musings

- Who was that looping for Greg Norman at the Par 3 Contest on Wednesday? Yep, none other than wife Chris Evert as Norman's caddie for the annual nine-hole contest. Norman qualified for this year's Masters via his top five finish at last year's British Open, one of the more fun moments of the 2008 golf season.

- I'm not a fan of the trend in golf attire back to white pants, white belts and white shoes. It's too 1970's for me.

- One of those pimiento cheese sandwiches from the tournament would taste pretty good right now. The sandwiches--on white bread, of course--are one of many Masters traditions.

Segway and GM

Remember the Segway? The two-wheeled self-balancing vehicle, electrically powered, was invented by Dean Kamen and introduced in 2002 to much acclaim. The device has had very limited market penetration although it has found a market in targeted markets like law enforcement and transportation around industrial sites.

Yesterday's New York Times featured a photo of a new Segway device--a Segway made for two. The vehicle has a top speed of 35 miles per hour and a range of 35 miles.

Here's the kicker--the new Segway is being developed in partnership with General Motors. Note to GM: You may want to consider focusing your comeback efforts on a vehicle with a bit more mass-market appeal.

Rock of Ages

Idol fans, remember Constantine Maroulis? He was in the competition during the Bo Bice era when big-haired rockers tried to win the coveted trophy of the American Idol competition.

Maroulis, who did not win, is now performing in Rock of Ages on Broadway. The musical takes on 1980's rock when MTV became a pop culture hit and performers like Journey, Pat Benatar, Poison and Whitesnake ruled. It's about big hair, skin-hugging clothing and guitar rock. Maroulis plays a shy kid from Michigan who works in a rock club. His love interest in an aspiring actress from...yes...Kansas.

At least Maroulis has made it to Broadway. Another Idol has-been, Taylor Hicks, is in a touring production of Grease. Look for him in your town soon...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Seen today in San Francisco

- A street "musician" playing "Beverly Hills Cop" on his accordian.

- A panhandler with a sign "Money needed for alcohol research."

- No sign of the guy with the Rotweiler ridden by a cat ridden by a white mouse. Maybe tomorrow...

"This is Radio Nowhere..."

Does anyone listen to music radio anymore? I mean, real radio—the kind where you tune in an FM station (...don’t want to show my age too completely by talking about the days when AM radio played music), tap your fingers on the steering wheel, play some air Hammond B3 organ on the dash…you know, those days?

Driving along with the windows open or the top down, if you were lucky enough to own a convertible, were special memories—of summer, of youth, of allowing the music to wash your cares away. It’s the kind of experience that you must have when you hear songs like "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley or "Born to Run" by the Boss. It’s reminiscent of the scene in Jerry Maguire where Tom Cruise wails away, in his rental car, on Petty’s "Free Fallin’."

Now the alternatives to “real” radio are incredibly varied—satellite radio with dozens of stations, six-CD players standard in many vehicles, i-Pod in-dash plug-ins, books on cassette or CD or, for those who try to impress their friends, National Public Radio or other talk radio options. (C’mon…doesn’t that person who begins a sentence with “well, I was listening to NPR this morning…” bug you!?)

To this day I can remember that I was in my car—and where—when now iconic classic rock songs like Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” or Dire Strait’s “Sultans of Swing” were heard for the first time. And, I can remember quickly changing the station when the likes of Steeler’s Wheel, Cyndi Lauper or Richard Marx interrupted my in-car reverie.

Do yourself a favor this week—take the time to unplug the i-Pod, eject the CD and turn over to an FM station of choice. It won’t be the same, but it may stir up some good memories of what it felt like the moment you found the song on the station on the day when cruisin’ along was the thing that felt so right.

(Headline source: "Radio Nowhere" by Bruce Springsteen)

The Masters - Par 3 contest

The Wednesday of Masters week is perhaps the most charming day of the week at this wonderful sporting event--the first major of the PGA's Tour year. While the actual tournament doesn't start until tomorrow, the annual Par 3 Contest is played today--as it is every Wednesday of tourney week--on the par 3 course that is a part of the grounds of Augusta National Golf Club.

Introduced in 1960, the Par 3 Contest that year was won by Sam Snead. The contest is played each year on the par 3 course--nine holes with a par of 27 which measures 1,060 yards in length. Just like the 18 holes of its big brother, the course is a dramatic montage of beautiful east Georgia landscape.

It's at the Par 3 Contest that you see buddies caddying for their tour pro friends, or children of the pros caddying for their dads. The competition is relaxed, the laughs are many, and the charm is abundant.

The kicker--no winner of the Par 3 Contest has ever gone on to win The Masters. So, while the competition is enjoyed by all, there is a certain desire to play well...but not win.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sprint's advertising in the news

What they're saying about the new advertising...

From Advertising Age--

http://adage.com/article?article_id=135822

From AdWeek--

http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/agency/e3i964935f0574fe267f9e6777b294c2a80

And, from Media Post--

Sprint Launches Two-Pronged Campaign
Nina M. Lentini, Apr 06, 2009 05:19 PM
Seeking to make an impact among cell phone users who are looking to save money and among those who are data-driven, Sprint is launching two new campaigns.

One debuted during Monday night's "24" on Fox, where Sprint has already created a relationship, according to Mike Goff, VP of national advertising for Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint.

"We felt strongly that we needed to put some investment behind our positioning, to define what the 'Now Network' is all about," he tells Marketing Daily. Based on the viral success of Sprint's online widget, the company decided to bring the idea to life on TV.

In the ad, viewers learn such esoteric facts as how many tons of eggs are being laid right now, how many people are researching restaurants from a cab (and that 29 of them will leave those phones in said cabs), how many bicycles are being built and that 1,041,667 emails are en route.

Goff says the creative was designed to get people to think "in a compelling way about what's going on now. We want to change the dialog of how people think about the network they use and whether there's voice, text or email or GPS. Right now, they're conditioned to hearing about dropped calls, coverage and reliability."

The "What's Happening Now?" brand-focused ads will also appear in select print nationwide as well as on a microsite, in banner ads and several home page takeovers on YouTube, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL. The first home page takeover launches April 29 with others to follow. There also will be digital billboards in high-traffic areas later this year.

In the value piece, the notion that Spring is trying to plant in consumers' minds, Goff says, is that "you're crazy not to switch to us." Those ads focus on humorous and unlikely ways that people waste money -- for example, dumping a wheelbarrow full of quarters into a fountain.

Those ads as well as the Now Network series will appear in a mix of prime cable and broadcast.

College hoops re-cap

The college hoops season ended last night with the NCAA Championship game and the most decisive win by a team since UNLV ran over Duke 103-73 in 1990. Congratulations to coach Roy Williams and his Tarheels...and to those players (Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson) who returned to claim North Carolina's fifth NCAA Championship. The national title also took the "he hasn't won a national championship with his own players" label off of Williams.

But, what of the pre-season predictions? How did Carolina's win match up with what the experts predicted before the season?

There are close to a dozen magazines which offered pre-season editions and dozens of online sites which offered their predictions. For the purpose of this exercise, I focused on the two most well-known sports publications, Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News.

SI's pre-season top ten was: North Carolina, Connecticut, UCLA, Louisville, Purdue, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Duke, Texas and Tennessee. The Sporting News went with North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Texas, Duke, UCLA, Pittsburgh and Memphis.

So, while both picked the same 1 and 2--the eventual national champion and a Final Four team--only SN picked Michigan State highly. And, neither had Villanova, the fourth Final Four team, in their top 10. In fact, SI had Nova 20th; SN did not have them ranked in the top 25.

What of other schools who had great years, e.g., Oklahoma? SI had OU 17th while SN had the Sooners 22nd. Missouri? Didn't crack the top 25 in either magazine. Kansas? 26th in SI's rankings and unranked in SN.

Who were the biggest disappointments? UCLA would have to be up there, given top 10 rankings in both magazines. Notre Dame would be another, ranked 6th in SI and 12th in SN. How about Tennessee? The Vols were picked 10th by SI and 21st by SN. Davidson was picked 18th in SI yet failed to make the NCAA Tournament. SN has Miami 14th, but they ended up in the NIT.

College hoops predictions are always hard--there is no pre-season to see how teams perform, injuries are always a factor and 18-22 year old kids are unpredictable. So, kudos to both pubs for picking the national champion...but also proof that coming close on a top 20 or 25 list is very, very hard.

In the "for what it's worth" department, here are our post-season awards--those who lived up to the hype, those who did not and those who deserve recognition for their season's accomplishments.

Under-performing coaches: Ben Howland, UCLA; Mike Brey, Notre Dame; and Bruce Pearl, Tennessee. Billy Gillispie of Kentucky should also be added to this list, but he faced his penance already by being ousted at UK.

Over-performing coaches: Bill Self, Kansas; Mike Anderson, Missouri; and Jay Wright, Villanova. And, special mention to Roy Williams--he didn't over-perform, given expectations, but did rally his kids past major injuries (Lawson, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Ginyard) and an 0-2 start in the ACC.

Player of the Year: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma.

Disappointing player of the year: James Harden, Arizona State. Yeah, I know, Harden had a heckuva year in the Pac-10. But, the dude flat-out disappeared in the NCAA Tournament.

One-and-done award: Tyreke Evans, Memphis.

Only a little over six months until basketball practice starts again on college campuses--and what should we expect for 2008-2009 in the Big 12? Kansas, provided Cole Aldrich and/or Sherron Collins return and Xavier Henry finds his way to Lawrence, should be a Final Four pick. And, Texas has a great incoming recruitng class to blend in with Dexter Pittman and Damion James (if James does not declare for the NBA.) I can't wait!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday musings

- Have you noticed the ever-present desire to juxtapose sports and entertainment, or entertainment across genres? It was evident last night at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Presenters included Sarah Michelle Gellar and Matthew McConaughey. Now, other than the fact that he's from Texas, is there anything about McConaughey that screams "country?" The same occurs in sports--consider the NFL's desire to use Opening Night and Super Bowl as not only showcases for their sport but a place where live acts like Springsteen, the Stones, Bon Jovi, Faith Hill and Kelly Clarkson have performed. The same happens with the NBA but with a more hip-hop flavor of artists who typically frequent the league's All Star event.

- Happy Birthday to home boy Paul Rudd, turning 40 today. Rudd appears tonight on The Late Show with David Letterman.

- Apparently, a front page photo of a scantily clad Britney Spears has offended some readers of the Kansas City Star. The Star used the photo last week after Brit's sold-out show at the Sprint Center. Apparently, some readers would rather see a photo of the Mayor. I worry about those people...

- Did you see that the head basketball coach at Xavier turned down Arizona for the open head coaching position in Tucson? Really!? Call me crazy but a gig in the Pac-10, in a warm climate with loyal fans and past recruiting success sounds far better than Cincinnati and the Atlantic-10 conference. (No offense to those in Cincy, where they do make a mean bowl of chili...)

- Are consumers beginning to rebel against the Apple mystique? I found the attached story funny--it's about a new i-Phone user who discovers she's not a fan of the product.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/magazine/05wwln-medium-t.html?_r=2&em

More new advertising from Sprint

Sprint debuts new work today positioning the brand's "Now Network."

video

Marketing in a recession--who's doing well...and who's not

Advertising Age published a story in their online edition citing five brands who are doing a good job of marketing in this recession...and five who are not.

The publication names Bounty, Hyundai, Miller High Life, JetBlue and XBox as those brands doing a good job of marketing in the recession.

For Bounty, Ad Age says "the brand has continued to innovate within its premium product line without ignoring its lower-priced Bounty Basic line." Hyundai, not surprisingly, is noted for its unique Assurance program. And, the pub says that "cheap beer is a recession winner" in touting Miller High Life.

So, which brands are not faring so well? DeBeers (diamonds), EBay, GM, Stein Mart and Wendy's are named. Though DeBeers is not a surprise, EBay is given that one would think that a recession would be a logical time for the online retailer to prosper. However, the online merchant has "alienated third-party sellers and been unable to create a unified shopping experience."

As for GM, this large American company has been in the news way too frequently of late. But, one statistic noted in the Ad Age story stands out--sales across General Motors' eight brands declined 53% from February a year ago. Ouch...

See the story at this link:

http://adage.com/article?article_id=135780

Quote of the Day

“I have not looked at that tape, not one time. Until I die, at the Pearly Gates, if I happen to be lucky enough to go there, I’ll ask St. Peter to give me the tape and I’ll watch it at that time.”

- Roy Williams' reaction when asked if he'd ever watched the tape of last year's North Carolina loss to Kansas in the semi-finals of the NCAA Final Four.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Cinema advertising from Sprint

Here's Sprint's new Cinema courtesy message. This spot, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, will air in most theaters nationwide in an effort to get theater-goers to turn off their phones and not text.

Enjoy...


video

Wine recommendation

If you're in the market for a nice Merlot for less than $20, try Benziger Merlot 2005. The wine is produced by a small family winery in Sonoma County, CA.


The family employs Biodynamic, Organic and Farming for Flavors techniques. Biodynamic is the highest form of organic farming. It incorporates the environment in and around the vineyard and works with nature to apply the knowledge of life forces to bring about balance and healing in the soil. Organic grape growing avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods to maintain soil health. And, Farming for Flavors is an advanced certified sustainable farming program for all Benziger growers who are not already certified Biodynamic or Organic. This program challenges growers to use sound environmental techniques to cultivate their grapes.



The winery, while small by Sonoma standards, boasts one of the better wine-making tours in the county. In addition to their Merlot, my favorite, they also sell a nice Cab and Chardonnay.

Try the Merlot...and check out the winery if you ever find yourself in Sonoma County.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The difference between the Royals and the First Family?

It's been widely reported today that First Lady Michelle Obama "touched" the Queen of England. And, perhaps in an interesting display of what differentiates the British from Americans, consider what the Daily Mail (the British national daily newspaper) had to say about "the touch" versus CelebFace (www.celebface.com.)

The Daily Mail called the incident "an electrifying moment of palpable majeste." The Mail says it "may have been the Queen who made the initial move. It was the first time that anyone can remember in her long public life that she has put her arm around another woman."

CelebFace's spin was a little different...and more American perhaps? "Perhaps the Queen simply doesn't care about protocols anymore and she just wanted a cool American girlfriend," said CelebFace.

The Queen and the Prez's lady--gal pals!? BFF's? Perhaps this is this Administration's equivalent to the friendship struck between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

New stadiums in the Big Apple

Not only is Major League Baseball's Opening Day right around the corner, so too are the debuts of two new baseball stadiums in New York--Citi Field, new home of the New York Mets, and the new Yankee Stadium.

There are plenty of intriguing story lines around the opening of these new sports venues. Both are expansive and premier ballparks which open in an economy that is about bailouts and Bernie Madoff. Both open in the biggest city and media market in the U.S. Both open next door to where the prior stadiums sat. Both began construction in 2006, cost their teams $2.3 billion but were made possible by $1.2 billion in city and state-funded infrastructure and tax breaks. And, both have had to deal with a weakened economy's impact on the sales of upscale seating options.

Since 1990, 19 new baseball stadiums have been built in the U.S. But, only one new sports park was built in the New York area during that same time--Arthur Ashe Stadium, site of the U.S. (tennis) Open. The openings of Citi Field and Yankee Stadium II represent the first new sports architecture in the five boroughs in a major sport in 20 years.

The new Yankee Stadium is most like its predecessor, from its facade to the familiar field layout. From the outside it looks very similar to the original stadium. So, this venue is less about changing what was and more about changing the little things that enhance the spectator's visit--wider concourses, cushier seats, better and more concession options and, of course, improved restroom facilities.

The new Shea...er, I mean Citi Field, is a radical departure from the prior stadium. Shea Stadium joined other multipurpose stadiums like Busch Stadium (St. Louis), RFK Stadium (Washington), and Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh), which were built in the 1960's and 1970's and incorporated one venue for both baseball and football. The closing of Shea means that only the Oakland Coliseum remains as a major market stadium where two professional franchises play in these two sports.

The controvery around Citi Field has to do with the economic bailouts which have occurred for financial institutions and what that means to how these companies spend their marketing funds. For many, naming rights on a new stadium seems counter to the spirit of the bailouts.

Both promise to be outstanding facilities. However, as some have pointed out, Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago have weathered the "new stadium architecture storm." Was Yankee Stadium, in particular, in dire need of being replaced? It's too late now--the House that Ruth built is no more...the House that George (Steinbrenner) built stands in its place.

T.G.I.F.

- Birthday greets to my lovely wife today!

- Dudes, what was up with that performance by Lady GaGa on American Idol earlier this week!? Frightening...

- In case you're missing this piece of news from the European Summit, there is a First Lady fashion competition going on between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady. Bruni-Sarkozy is a former model (who once dallied with Mick Jagger, pre-Sarkozy) so one would expect that she'd be the favorite in this competition. However, Obama appears to be holding her own thus far, according to media reports. Shades of Jackie Kennedy--this media frenzy is reminscent of the President and his wife's visit to France in 1962 when he famously uttered, "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris--and thoroughly enjoyed it!"

- New advertising from Sprint for its in-cinema effort breaks shortly. Here is the new advertising which asks movie attendees to turn off their phones and to not text during movies.


video

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Turn out the Light

The Guiding Light, the longest running television drama ever, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is being cancelled by CBS. The soap opera, after a 72-year run that pre-dates television, is a victim of changing viewing habits and the economy. The final episode of the show will air on September 18.

The soap opera began as a 15-minute serial on NBC Radio on January 25, 1937. It then debuted on CBS TV in 1952, focusing on the fictional town of Springfield and the Spaulding, Lewis and Cooper families.

As with most soap operas, the show featured a variety of actors who went on to have successful careers, including James Earl Jones, Calista Flockhart, Hayden Panettiere, Taye Diggs and Kevin Bacon.

Is there anything on which Kevin Bacon has not appeared?

Denny's "random act of kindness"

Denny's, home of the Grand Slam breakfast, is at it again. The restaurant chain gave away a free breakfast on a February Tuesday and the nationwide event drew over 2 million people. A television spot on the Super Bowl announced the promotion which engendered goodwill across the country.

Now, Denny's plans to offer a "bring a friend" promotion on April 8, between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. The friend receives a free Grand Slamwich when the inviter purchases a Grand Slam breakfast.

Denny's is positioning the promotion as a "random act of kindness."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great college hoops towns

Lawrence, KS is ranked #2 by CNN on the best college basketball towns in the U.S.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/03/31/great.basketball.towns/index.html

Quick Hits for a Wednesday

- Robert Plant has relented. It was announced today that Led Zeppelin's remaining members will indeed reunite for a tour beginning late this year. Plant had been the lone holdout given the success of his collaboration with Allison Krauss and possible plans for another tour by that duo. Zeppelin will kick off their tour in London; no word yet on U.S. dates.

- Tonight is the McDonald's All-America High School Basketball game. As noted here earlier today, there is a lot of interesting speculation swirling around this event given the John Calipari move to Kentucky and what that means for his high profile recruits at Memphis, his former school. Well, part of that suspense just ended--John Wall indicated today that he is attending Baylor and Xavier Henry, in a surprise, committed to Roy Williams and North Carolina. Not a bad Final Four week present for Ol' Roy.



- Oh, by the way--all of the above is untrue. April Fool's Day!

Dwight Howard--a Jayhawk!?

Pretty cool...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpjqlSMg51Q

The drama that is Final Four week...

...and, no, it's not about the teams that are actually playing in the tournament. At least, most of the time it's not.

You see, the week after the first four rounds are completed, after the regional finals have been played, and as the final four teams are set is the time when the soap opera that is coaching comings-and-goings begins in earnest. And, we saw it play out on many fronts over the past 48 hours. Tony Bennett leaves Washington State to take the job at Virginia, thus ending speculation that Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) might have been interested in that slot. John Calipari, as expected, became linked with the Kentucky job. That then sent an undercurrent through the recruiting world--what would happen with high profile recruits Xavier Henry (signed Letter of Intent), DeMarcus Cousins (committed) and John Wall (heavy lean to Memphis?) And, what were we to make of the decision by Lance Stephenson, supposedly headed to Kansas, to wait to make his commitment?

Then, we learned that Georgia was making a strong play for Mike Anderson of Missouri. Local sports talk was in an uproar--could that be true? Or, could the rumors that Memphis would now be interested in Anderson become a reality?

Answers were delivered last night by the closure of the deal between Coach Cal and UK--he now becomes the highest-paid coach in college hoops. Anderson got a salary lift from MU and signed a seven-year deal with the Tigers. Meanwhile, schools like Georgia continue to look for their guy and Memphis now is in the coach-hunting market.

This will play out in earnest this weekend. The National Association of Basketball Coaches convention happens concurrently with the Final Four. And, the lobby of the coaches' hotel is the biggest male meat market in the country each April. Assistant coaches lobby for positions at other schools. Out-of-work coaches network. Ticket scalpers surreptitiously look for coaches willing to part with tickets (each coach gets a pair of tix to the Final Four.) And, fans and hangers-on pack the lobby to observe the who's who of basketball coaches.

Occasionally, the drama spills over and affects the teams that are playing--the 2003 "Roy Williams to North Carolina" being the best example. But, usually, the soap opera of this week involves those schools looking to find a way to join the the fun of the Final Four--the fun of actually participating on the court versus being a part of the drama occurring off the court.