Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Picture yourself in a boat on a river..."

Quick--name that tune/lyric.

Need more? Here you go...

Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

Is it any wonder that The Beatles' classic "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" was considered a song about LSD?

In case you missed it, the childhood friend of John Lennon's son, who inspired "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds," died today at age 46.

Lucy Vodden was a classmate of Julian Lennon. According to John Lennon's later recounting of the origins of the song, Julian came home from school one day carrying a drawing of a four-year old girl in his class. "That's Lucy in the sky with diamonds," Julian told his father.

John took the line and added on to it with phrasing like "newspaper taxis" and "plasticine porters with looking glass eyes." The song's lyrics and the title caused the BBC to ban the tune for its supposed drug reference to LSD. Lennon was resolute in claiming that the title, and the song, were not about acid but about the story of his child's friend at school.

"Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" appeared on the band's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of many albums from The Beatles' catalog which has recently been remastered and re-released.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Early-season grades: Kansas football

Head of the class –

Maxwell Onyegbule. Big Max is finally putting it all together in his senior season. He was chosen Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Duke, which included an interception return for a touchdown.

Dezmon Briscoe. Dez is a stud and against Iowa State should break Kansas receiving records both for number of receptions as well as receiving yards. Yes, he’s dropped a couple of catchable balls, including a sure TD pass against Duke, but he also is a guy who will go up and catch basically anything thrown up for grabs in his direction.

Chris Harris. After a puzzling sophomore season, this kid has turned it around and regained his swagger. He is perhaps the surest tackler on the defense.

Kerry Meier. What else can you say about Meier? He has great hands, runs good routes, and consistently gets open. He’s a threat to throw from his receiver slot and is an accomplished blocker. But, perhaps his play of the non-conference season was chasing down a Duke defender who had blocked and scooped up a blocked PAT.

Todd Reesing. Touchdown Todd passed Vince Young in the Southern Miss game for seventh all-time on the Big 12 total offense list. He is the heart and soul of this team. Nuf sed…

Honor roll –

Toben Opurum. The true frosh has filled in admirably for the injured Jake Sharp. He’s a punishing runner who will only get better as he learns to run lower. For a big man, he also has outstanding hands.

Jake Sharp. Jake had started out with two 100+ yard games before being injured and sitting out most of the Duke game and all of the Southern Miss game. The open week will allow Sharp time to heal in time for October 10 and Iowa State.

Jake Laptad. Leads the team in sacks.

Darrell Stuckey. Stuckey injured his elbow on a late hit in the first game but the defensive captain has a huge motor, and loves to hit. He's the leader of the defense.

Justin Thornton. JT has one pick thus far and, with Stuckey, provides senior leadership to a secondary which is still maturing.

Arist Wright. Wright is smallish for a linebacker but seems to always be all over the field.

Passing grades –

Daymond Patterson. Patterson’s getting better each week in a position he’s still learning. His size is a detriment against tall receivers.

Justin Springer. Springer has been solid at LB after returning from injury.

Jeff Wheeler. Wheeler came off a one-game suspension and promptly had a good game against UTEP.

Alonso Rojas. Rojas has perfected the rugby style kick and is doing a good job of getting the ball inside the 20.

Offensive line. This unit admittedly is still gelling. And, they did not have a good game against Southern Mississippi. But, for now, we’re giving them a passing grade headed into Big 12 play.

Jonathan Wilson. The receiver of whom much has been expected, after his terrific end to last season and a very solid spring, has disappointed with too many dropped passes. This grade turned into a passing one, though, after his performance against Southern Miss—he didn’t drop a ball and made two catches which kept drives alive.

Rising stars –

Huldan Tharp. Mark Mangino bragged on this kid early and with good reason—he does not miss tackles.

Bradley McDougald. Sure hands, big, and hard to bring down after the catch. He will take over Briscoe’s spot as the “go to guy” next season.

Kale Pick. We haven’t seen Pick pass much, but his running, oh my…

Stay after class –

Jacob Branstetter. Jacob has not had been called upon much for FGs. That’s good—he’s only 1 for 3 beyond 30 yards. His kickoffs are not high enough or deep enough on a consistent basis.

Anthony Davis. Davis was the starting corner in game one but promptly received three pass interference penalties, leading the coaches to move Chris Harris back to corner, Justin Thornton to the nickel back and Phillip Strozier to safety. Davis was also very involved in the drama between the Kansas football and basketball teams last week.

Coaching –

Mark Mangino – A. The Jayhawks are 4-0. They’ve taken care of business thus far and, while not sharp, withstood their toughest test against Southern Mississippi by doing the things they needed to do to win. Mangino always has his teams ready to play.

Ed Wariner/Offense – A-. It’s hard to argue with the offensive numbers being posted by Kansas. Wariner has adjusted to what defenses are doing to KU by amping up the run game. The only question is whether he has a tendency to rely upon gadget plays too often.

Clint Bowen/Defense – C+. Give Bowen credit for making adjustments in the secondary after the week one meltdown at one corner position. And, his defense made the plays at the end of the game, when necessary, against Southern Miss. Yet, the Golden Eagles sliced up Kansas’ secondary for 331 yards and three TDs and pressure on the QB was inconsistent. Will this defense stand up to the offenses of upcoming conference foes Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech?

Special Teams – B-. The kick coverage allowed too many yards against Southern Miss but Kansas’ returners Bradley McDougald and Darrell Stuckey broke off long gainers versus the Golden Eagles. Punting and punt coverage have been a strength. Jacob Branstetter has been disappointing and has had a PAT blocked. Mangino has always stressed special teams play so I expect this will be a focus area in the bye week.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Abbey Road

Happy birthday this week to The Beatles album, Abbey Road. There has been plenty of publicity around The Beatles over the past few weeks given the re-release of their collection via remastered recordings plus the release of The Beatles edition of Guitar Hero.

Abbey Road was the final album recorded by the band although Let It Be became the last album published by The Beatles. Rolling Stone magazine voted Abbey Road the 14th best album of all time.

The album featured some of The Beatles best work, including "Something" and "Come Together" coupled with side two's tightly woven suite of songs. Perhaps the component of the album which received the most scrutiny, though, was the cover photograph which shows white-suited John Lennon, Ringo Starr, barefooted Paul McCartney and George Harrison walking across Abbey Road. In the photo, McCartney is walking out of step with the others. That, coupled with his lack of shoes, gave credence to the "Paul is dead" rumor of the late 1960's, which suggested that Paul died in 1966 and was replaced by a look-alike in the band.

Jm Patterson

I was visiting with a friend who's in the advertising business and he was recounting an early career experience working with Jim Patterson. Patterson was a creative director and copywriter who worked at J. Walter Thompson in New York--a major advertising firm founded in 1864 and thus one of the oldest such agencies in the world.

My friend worked for Patterson early in his career but it was several months into his stint at Thompson before he found out that Patterson wrote fiction as a side hobby when not writing advertising copy. In visiting with Patterson, he discovered that Jim would come into the office each day at 6:00 a.m. and, from then until 9:00 a.m., would work on his fiction.

Pattterson, it turns out, would parlay that devotion to writing into quite the career. Jim Patterson decided to use his more formal name, James Patterson, as his away-from-the-office, published name. He created a character, Alex Cross, who became the hero of Patterson's first novel, Along Came a Spider. And, with the success of this first novel, Patterson retired from advertising and devoted himself to writing books.

Fifty-two novels later the rest, as they say, is history...

College football wrap-up: week four

Prediction performance: 11-3
Season to date: 34-14

OK, let's give me props for correctly predicting that Oregon would topple California and that Georgia Tech would take out North Carolina. Yeah, I know--I missed South Florida's upset of Florida State and predicted that Penn State would beat up on Iowa at home but 11-3 for the week's not bad, right?

So, what did we learn after week four and the traditional end of the non-conference season?

- The state of Kansas' teams are pretty much where we thought they would be after four games--Kansas is a solid 4-0, has an explosive offense and a defense which is a work in progress while Kansas State is rebuilding, yet seeming to improve each week at 2-2. Missouri, on the other hand, is better than most expected with its 4-0 record. Yet, the Tigers have shown moments of inexperience, e.g., the Bowling Green game and the second quarter on Friday night versus Nevada, but in both cases found ways to make the needed plays to win. Blaine Gabbert is the real deal.

- The Heisman Trophy race was, from the beginning, set up as a shoot-out between Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. Yet, after four games, Bradford is injured, McCoy has been anything but stellar (five picks thus far) and Tebow was knocked out of yesterday's game in a scary hit to the head and neck. Jahvid Best might have been in the mix but was held to 55 yards yesterday in Cal's loss to Oregon. So, even though I still believe that one of the big three will ultimately win, let's say that the Heisman contest is wide open right now.

- The Pac 10 was making noise about beng the best conference in the U.S. However, if you're good, then your best team (Cal) doesn't lose 42-3 to an unranked foe and Washington doesn't lay an egg against Stanford. Look for USC to once again win this conference.

- Alabama is distancing itself from the competition in the SEC West. Ole Miss couldn't live up to the hype and LSU struggled to beat Mississippi State.

- The Big Ten is...bad. Penn State (#5 last week) loses at home to Iowa, Michigan has to come back against Indiana and Ohio State once again will show up in the Rose Bowl...and lose again to USC.

- What's it all mean? Florida and Texas, as predicted, are the class of the BCS schools. Look for these two to play for the National Championship in Pasadena on Thursday, January 7.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

College football preview - week four

This is the last week before conference play heats up and two of the local schools have important, and difficult, match-ups.

Missouri at Nevada (Friday night): Line – MU by 7. Prediction – MU by 14. Yeah, this game’s on the road and on national TV but don’t expect a Missouri flop. Bowling Green’s upset bid two weeks ago woke up this Missouri team and I don’t expect Gabbert and crew to lay an egg in Reno.

Southern Mississippi at Kansas: Line – KU by 14. Prediction – Kansas by 14. This game is the toughest non-conference opponent for the Jayhawks this season--Southern Miss came back to beat Virginia last week and is 3-0. And now Kansas has had to deal with the distraction of this week's rumbles between the football and basketball teams. This game could be close before KU pulls away.

Tennessee Tech at Kansas State: No line. Prediction – Kansas State by 20. This opponent is the right one for KSU at this point in the season. The Cats had some decent moments last week on the road at UCLA. Let’s see if they can build on the positives.

Texas Tech at Houston: Line – Houston by 1. Prediction – Texas Tech by 10. Okay, the Cougars beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater. But, I can’t see them beating two Big 12 South opponents, even playing Tech at home.

Army at Iowa State: Line – Iowa State by 9. Prediction – ISU by 14.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Nebraska: Line – Nebraska by 28. Prediction – NU by 27. The Huskers lost a heartbreaker last week in Blacksburg, VA—a game where the Black Shirts could not contain Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor’s late game scramble for the winning TD pass. NU will rebound big this week in Lincoln.

UTEP at Texas: Line – UT by 35.5. Prediction – Texas by 40. This was supposed to be a pretty good UTEP team. Thus far, they haven’t shown it.

UAB at Texas A&M: Line - A&M by 14.5. Prediction – A&M by 17.

Arkansas at Alabama: Line – Alabama by 17.5. Prediction – Bama by 17. Arkansas gave up a ton of points last week against Georgia. It won’t be that type of offensive blitz this week but Alabama should win handily and claim the status of best team in the SEC West.

California at Oregon: Line – Cal by 5.5 Prediction – Oregon by 3. This is perhaps the most intriguing match-up of the weekend. Oregon, after a first game meltdown, seems to have found itself and is playing at home. In the unpredictable Pac 10, I see this as an upset.

South Florida at Florida State: Line – FSU by 14. Prediction – FSU by 20. It’s sad that South Florida senior QB Matt Grothe’s career is over after last week’s injury.

North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Line – Georgia Tech by 2.5. Prediction – GT by 3.

Notre Dame at Purdue: Line – Notre Dame by 7. Prediction – ND by 10.

Iowa at Penn State: Line – Penn State by 9.5. Prediction – Penn State by 14.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"You're in the...second cabin"

This is a great commercial from the 1970's for Southern Airways which demonstrates the feeling I had yesterday as I trekked through first class, on the United Airlines 767 from Chicago O'Hare to San Francisco, back to my seat in the fully-packed "second cabin."


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Idle musings and quick hits

- Is there a weirder use of celebrity talent than the current Sony Bravia commercials which feature Peyton Manning, Justin Timberlake and Jim Nantz doing the voice-over? Huh!?

- The Emmy Awards pulled their highest ratings number in three years. However, it seemed like a re-run of last year's program given the usual suspects winning--Mad Men, 30 Rock, et al.

- By the way, the NBC telecast of the New York Giants versus the Dallas Cowboys beat the Emmys and won the night in the ratings race.

- A guy actually said this to me today. On the fully-packed 767 United flight from O'Hare to San Francisco, I struggled to get my rollerbag in the overhead compartment. A guy across the aisle remarked, "it might fit if you took something out of that outer compartment." I just looked at him but my initial reaction was, "Really!? No kiddin'? And, what do I do with my underwear and toiletries which I take out of that compartment--just carry them under my arm?"

- This season's bizarre star on ABC's Dancing With the Stars is Macy Gray, who replaces Cloris Leachman as this lineup's most eccentric presence.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Booze in advertising

Maybe it's the Mad Men effect, i.e., main characters having a shot of this or that during the day from prominently displayed bars in their offices. Or, perhaps it's a sign of the times and the adage that liquor consumption goes up during down economic times.

Whatever it may be, booze advertising is making a comeback by targeting males and attacking those brands considered more feminine.

Ketel One advertised last night on Mad Men by showing a group of young males slinging back straight vodka while an attractive young lady looks on. The voice-over said, "there was a time when men didn't drink their vodka from delicately-painted perfume bottles...there was a time when men were men."

The brand 1800 Tequila enlisted Michael Imperioli, best known for his turn in The Sopranos, to take on category leader Patron. In one TV spot, Imperioli says "These days, it's all about the velvet ropes and posturing. I don't know about you, but when I drink it, I really like to kick back and be myself." He then places his feet on the table in front of him, sending a bottle of Patron flying to the floor.

So, why this shift in strategy? Why dial up the testosterone level of the advertising? According to Advertising Age, it's probably these "man laws" for spirits marketers:

- Consumers are going out less and staying in more. Advertisers want to position themselves with the times versus showcasing bar and club-hopping.

- Masculinity is comforting during unstable times.

- Amid a recession caused, in part, by greed, brands want to be seen as selfless and workmanlike--not flashy.

- Challenger brands see opportunity. The boom times which occurred earlier in the decade were the impetus for launching pricier brands like Grey Goose and Patron. Brands now see an opportunity to portray those premium brands as irrelevant during a tight economy.

Dive of the week

I was introduced to Dempsey’s in Lawrence, KS after the Kansas-Duke football game on Saturday. And, the self-proclaimed Irish bar did not disappoint—the burger and fries were fantastic. I am a bit hesitant to call any establishment which uses “truffle butter” as a “dive of the week,” but Dempsey’s succeeds because it offers a great variety of beer, including some local micro-brews, has pool plus free foosball and darts, and provides ample televisions for viewing Saturday afternoon football. But, it’s the burgers which shine here. There is the classic burger, cooked medium with prime meat plus greens and cheddar, coupled with your choice of basic or sweet potato fries. Dempsey’s also offers a premium Kobe burger for $2 more. If you’re vegetarian (perish the thought), there is the Falafel burger. A Pancetta burger also dots the menu. These burgers are gourmet in style but are offered up in a place which has a long bar, two pool tables, classic rock music and the atmosphere that one expects in a classic college town, including only urinals in the Men’s restroom.

There was a good post-game crowd but it’s not the crazed scene of The Wheel after a Jayhawk game.

Dempsey’s is located just south of the intersection of Sixth and Vermont, one block west of the main street of Massachusetts. Check it out--Dempsey’s in Lawrence, KS, our dive of the week.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Quick Hits

- Watch the ratings for tonight's Emmy Awards--last year the telecast fell to its lowest level in almost 20 years. My expectation is that the ratings wil not improve appreciably given that there are still way too many nominees for shows that are not regularly seen by the majority of viewers. Examples of the low-viewership phenomenon include nominated shows 30 Rock, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Family Guy, Dexter and The Closer.

- The University of Minnesota football team just moved into a new stadium this season. And, in an attempt to curb public drunkenness among its student attendees, those who are kicked out of a game for public intoxication will have to pass an alcohol breath test at the gate when they next try to attend. There was no word out of UM as to how drunken alums might be handled.

- Speaking of student behavior, University of Kansas undergrads are coming out in droves to support thier football team...then leaving at halftime. While the game has typically been well-in-hand by that point of the game, the habit has caused KU officials to offer a special student promo for an XBox 360--to be announced and redeemed during the 4th quarter. Not surprisingly, the winning students must be present to get their prize.

- Have you noticed that Home Depot has enlisted Ed Harris as its voice-over talent for their new ad campaign? Competitor Lowe's uses Gene Hackman, meaning Lowe's leads in the Oscars race--Hackman has won two Academy Awards while Harris has four nominations but no wins.

College football wrap-up: week three

Prediction performance: 11-3
Season to date: 23-11

What we learned:

- Hmm--is Tennessee better than we thought or is Florida not as good as predicted? I'll go with the former versus the latter. The Vols went into the Swamp and gave Florida a scare early before falling by 10--far less than the betting line of 29 points.

- Colt McCoy didn't do his Heisman hopes any favors last night on national TV. Texas beat Texas Tech 34-24 but McCoy threw two picks and did not look sharp. With Sam Bradford's injury keeping him out of action at Oklahoma, the front-runner position has to go to Florida's Tim Tebow.

- Except...look out for Jahvid Best at California. The Bears are now the best team in the Pac-10 with their 3-0 record and road win at Minnesota. Best ran for 131 yards and five TDs and has to be mentioned in the early-season discussion about the Heisman.

- Kansas' offense still isn't clicking. One sure touchdown pass was dropped by Dezmon Briscoe and Jonathan Wilson also dropped another long-gainer. Jake Sharp scored a touchdown but played sparingly yesterday due to an injury. And, Todd Reesing looks to be trying to do too much, similar to how he started the season last year. The good news is that KU plays its next two at home--next Saturday versus Southern Miss and then on October 10 against Iowa State.

- Missouri joins Kansas as the front-runners in the Big 12 North. The Tigers played well yesterday against an over-manned opponent, scoring on their first four possessions.

- Nebraska somehow found a way to lose late at Virginia Tech. Roy Helu continues to lead the conference in rushing but the offense did not convert on five different opportunities, settling for field goals on each trip. Don't forget that the Huskers have to visit both Kansas and Missouri.

- Kansas State performed better than I expected at UCLA. But, let's face it--the Cats were playing a back-up QB at UCLA and their defense will be sorely tested againt Big 12 foes Kansas, Missouri, at Texas Tech and at Oklahoma. On offense, Kansas State moved the ball but still struggled to score points.

- Reality check: BYU lost big to Florida State at home and Utah's 16-game winning streak ended at Oregon. Put Baylor on this list too--the Bears couldn't handle the hype and lost to UConn at home. The Bears managed only 11 first downs as Connecticut owned time-of-possession. Of course, the biggest reality check of the day came in Seattle where USC once again lost the week after beating Ohio State--this time to Washington on a late FG.

Friday, September 18, 2009

College football preview: week three

After two weeks, my predicting stands at 12-8--not good but certainly respectable after the horrid start in week one.

Our third week of college action features two games which would look good in an NCAA basketball round of 16--Duke at Kansas and Louisville at Kentucky. And, there are no inter-sectional battles which rival the two great match-ups of last week--Michigan and Notre Dame and Ohio State and USC.

Let's look at this week's Big 12 and key matchups:

Duke at Kansas: Line - KU by 22.5. Prediction - Kansas by 27. I think the fact that Todd Reesing was disappointed in his play last week means that the offense will come out firing on all cylinders this week. A good sign would be the Jayhawk defense continuing to improve after holding UTEP to one score last week in El Paso.

Furman at Missouri: No line. Prediction - Mizzou by 48. I can't see the Tigers having troubles two weeks in a row and a game against Furman is simply a matter of how many points the Tigers will score.

Kansas State at UCLA: Line - UCLA by 12.5. As we said in week one, this is the game where we will know much more about this year's version of the Wildcats. Bill Snyder's team has had special teams woes and inconsistent play at QB. Prediction - UCLA by 17.

Nebraska at Virginia Tech: Line - Va Tech by 5. This is the most intriguing game in the Big 12 this week. I have to go with the Hokies...by a touchdown.

Iowa State at Kent State: Line - ISU by 3. Prediction - Kent State by 3. The bottom half of the Big 12 North is really bad this year.

Wyoming at Colorado: Line - CU by 7. Speaking of bad, Colorado tries to stop the bleeding against Wyoming in Boulder. The Buffs need to get an early lead--if they fall behind early, look for the fans at Folsom Field to get very restless. Prediction - Colorado by 4.

Connecticut at Baylor: Line - Baylor by 10. Prediction - Baylor by 14.

Tulsa at Oklahoma: Line - OU by 17.5. Prediction - OU by 17.

Rice at Oklahoma State: Line - OSU by 32.5. Prediction - OSU by 35.

Texas Tech at Texas: Line - UT by 17.5. The conference season starts in week three for these two Big 12 South contenders. Tech's offense has looked like, well...Tech's offense. But, this is a special Texas team. Prediction - Longhorns by 21.

Utah State at Texas A&M: Line - A&M by 19. Prediction - A&M by 21.

Georgia at Arkansas: Line - Arkansas by 1. Prediction - Hogs by 3.

Tennessee at Florida: Line - Florida by 29.5. Gee, I wonder if Lane Kiffin is second-guessing all of his pre-season yapping at Florida and Urban Meyer? Meyer has shown a willingness to remember slights. This one could get ugly. Prediction - Gators by 33.

Michigan State at Notre Dame: Line - ND by 10. Prediction - ND by 14...the Irish rebound after last week's big disappointment in Ann Arbor.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blockbuster busted?

As further proof that the video rental business is undergoing a sea change, Blockbuster announced today that it will be shuttering 40% of its storefronts. The video rental firm has faced mounting pressure due to the success of Netflix and the now booming business of Red Box, the in-store video rental vending machines.

Blockbuster’s announcement means about 1,560 of its stores will be closed over the next two years. In making the announcement, Blockbuster’s management also mentioned the changing habits of consumers as more and more look to alternate forms of entertainment, thus causing a year-over-year decline of 8-10% in the video rental business.

Dive of the week

Our tip of the hat for “dive of the week” goes to Walsh’s Corner Cocktails, 85th and Wornall, in Kansas City, MO. Submitted by one of our loyal readers, Walsh’s gains our kudos because the bar goes back some 30 years to 1978 when Mike Walsh opened the tavern in the Waldo neighborhood of southern K.C. Mike’s son, Patrick, runs the bar now with the help of sister Cathleen Ralston and longtime friend, Buc Geier. The joint reflects Walsh’s Irish heritage—it’s a laid-back sports bar which was voted “best neighborhood bar in south Kansas City” in 2007 by The Pitch.

Walsh’s offers a full bar-food menu and is best-known for its cheddar burger and fries. The burgers are made fresh, using Kansas City’s own McGonigle’s ground chuck. The fries are made fresh as well—they aren’t even cut until an order is placed.

Like all quality joints, Walsh's features darts and shuffleboard and has plentiful TV’s tuned to the action of the University of Missouri, University of Kansas and the Royals and Chiefs. And, like all good neighborhood bars, Walsh’s is known for celebrating three key events during the year—St. Patrick’s Day (naturally), Frank Sinatra’s birthday (December 12) and Babe Ruth’s birthday (February 6.) Walsh is a huge New York Yankees fan and the bar even gained notoriety via a story in The New York Times in ’07.

Walsh's Corner Cocktails--our dive of the week.

Facebook reports profitability

The world's largest social network announced yesterday that it has become "cash flow positive," ahead of its expected profitability schedule "sometime in 2010."

This is news because Facebook hasn't truly cracked the code on developing an advertising model for its business. The site currently has low-cost, low-quality display advertising, and some other revenue models, but nothing outstanding.

According to CEO (and co-founder) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has turned a profit because it has kept headcount low. The site reportedly uses one engineer for every million users--of which there are 300 million worldwide. And, growth is happening at an astounding rate as parents, and even some grandparents, of the initial core Facebook audience are adopting the social networking phenomenon.

It's nice to finally see a web 2.0 start-up make money.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Lost in all of the talk about "what happened to civility?" (Serena Williams, Kanye West, Joe Williams) is the outburst which came from Roger Federer yesterday during the Mens Final of the U.S. Tennis Open. Yes, that Roger Federer--the Swiss metronome who has won more major championships than any other tennis player in history.

Federer cursed the match umpire during an argument about the time his opponent, Juan Martin del Potro, was taking to challenge line calls. The normally unflappable Federer uttered the word (associated with human excrement) on camera and within audio range of the microphone.

With that we'll give R-Fed our "Un-civility act of the week."

The Poem House

Our colleague and agency co-founder, Jeff Goodby, of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, has made-over his home in St. Helena, CA. Creativity magazine did a profile on the home and the story behind Jeff's new paint job on his abode. Check it out...

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Did you catch The Tonight Show...err, I mean, The Jay Leno Show last night? If you did, you may have thought you stumbled into some time warp from three months ago--the only noticeable difference was that Leno did not sit behind a desk but rather sat side-by-side in overstuffed chairs with his guest.

As a nod to the success of Leno's prior mult-year stint on The Tonight Show, the host and NBC did not veer dramatically away from the construct of that late-night talk show. Monologue? Check. Video clip? Check, including an " interview" with President Obama. Use of past Leno feature from Tonight Show? Check--"Headlines" made an appearance on show #1. Band with loyal sidekick? Check...Kevin Eubanks made the move to this new show with Jay.

Leno scored with opening night guest Jerry Seinfeld, who was funny and used a cute bit with Oprah Winfrey making a cameo appearance. And, Jay had musical guests Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West performing together on night one--yes, the same Kanye West who took the microphone away from winner Taylor Swift the night before on MTV in order to deliver his "Beyonce had the the best video" speech. Leno turned it into an opportunity for West to apologize for his misdeed, thus scoring a "it can't get luckier than this" moment for the host with an opening night guest.

It's obvious that NBC plans to use this show to protect its 9:00 p.m. CT/10:00 p.m. ET time slot, i.e., place a tried-and-true, likable performer in that slot every night during the week. On night one, you'd have to say that Leno delivered by playing it safe...and, by serendipity, having the hottest story in pop culture on his show. It was a Hugh Grant-type moment for Jay.

(Editor's note: The Jay Leno Show delivered 18 million viewers last night for NBC--a large number for a weekday evening program.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Public meltdowns: Serena at U.S. Open

In our continuing series on public meltdowns--first, Kanye West (MTV Video Awards) and the day before that, Serena Williams--we bring you the clip from CBS where Williams clearly foot-faulted. Her tirade cost her another point and thus the semi-final match against Kim Clijsters, the eventual U.S. Open winner.


I'm not sure what's worse--Serena's tirade against the official or John McEnroe's statement, "you can't call that there." Why not, John? A rule is a rule, just as a foul is a foul at the end of a basketball game. Why should an official not make a call just because it's the end of a match/game? (And, yeah, I know the whole argument about not letting an official/the officials determine the outcome. But, if a player breaks a rule, that rule is the same in the last set as it was on the first point of the first set--it should be called.)

Not the first time for Kanye

No, last night's meltdown at the MTV Video Awards was not a first from Kanye West.

Take a look at this clip from a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Not only was Kanye's act deplorable last night, it was even worse--given the topic and location--on this broadcast with an obviously uncomfortable Mike Myers.


West's microphone takeover last night, during Taylor Swift's acceptance moment, was another act of an ego gone awry.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sports Illustrated cover jinx

In case you missed it, the Oklahoma State football team was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, and they deserved it after whipping Georgia at home in what was billed as the biggest game ever at OSU. It was heady stuff for the Cowboys, a school which has, until this season, never been on the cover of that sports weekly magazine.

You have to wonder if anyone in the Cowboy Nation, in the giddiness of the publicity, thought, "uh oh, bad things happen to those who appear on the cover of SI." Did Boone Pickens call any cronies at Time Inc., when discovering the cover shot, to yell "What are you thinking!"

In true SI jinx fashion, the unthinkable happened--Oklahoma State lost yesterday at home to Houston.

Much has been discussed about the SI jinx, a phenomenon which the editors of the magazine finally noted in 2002 when they placed a black cat on the cover and Alexander Woolf wrote these words:

In investigating virtually all of SI's 2,456 covers, we found 913 "jinxes" -- a demonstrable misfortune or decline in performance following a cover appearance roughly 37.2 percent of the time. One of the most fascinating things we discovered seemed to buttress Loehr's contention that the Jinx is more likely to strike athletes in fine-motor-skill sports like golf and tennis than smashmouth sports like boxing. Golfers were "jinxed" almost 70 percent of the time and tennis players after more than 50 percent of their appearances, while boxers suffered barely 16 percent of the time.

My favorite Jinxstance has to be the fate of University of Washington quarterback Bob Schloredt, an All-America who was pictured taking a snap on a 1960 cover. A week later, the heavily favored Huskies lost to Navy when the Middies scored in the final minutes following Schloredt's fumble of -- you guessed it -- a snap.

The Sports Illustrated cover jinx--alive and well this week...and being cursed in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

College football wrap-up: week two

The predictions were a bit more on target this week as I went 8-4 with the key selection of Michigan over favored Notre Dame.

What we learned in week two:

- The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry is indeed relevant again. In what was truly a game befitting the series between these two schools, Michigan rallied late to gain the win. This was a win that Charlie Weis needed.

- Matt Barkley is the real deal...and Terrell Pryor has a long way to go. Barkley showed poise and Joe McKnight was tremendous on the last series which ended with a Trojan TD...and the win.

- The atmosphere at the Horseshoe in Columbus, OH was electric. You couldn't ask for two better inter-sectional games than Michigan-Notre Dame and USC-Ohio State. This is why mid-September Saturdays are special...

- Kansas offensively didn't play well yet still netted a 34-7 win at UTEP--a game with a line of Kansas +12.5. The Jayhawk defense put consistent pressure on UTEP's QB and totally shut down their running game. The only blemish on the D's performance was the late, long pass play which turned into a UTEP touchdown due to two missed tackles. Kansas should be bowl eligible entering their October 24 game in Lawrence versus Oklahoma--they face Duke, Southern Miss and Iowa State at home and then go on the road at Colorado.

- Speaking of Colorado, how bad is the Big 12 North? The Buffs? Put a fork in Dan Hawkins--he's done. Iowa State? Ugh...big loss today to Iowa, in Ames. And, Kansas State? A loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. Losing to schools with locations in their names is never a good thing.

- Missouri, not surprisingly, didn't play as well today as in week one versus Illinois. But, a halftime deficit was probably more than the Tiger Nation was expecting. The Tigers were favored by 20--they won by 7.

- Continuing the Big 12 embarrassment--Oklahoma State, after perhaps their biggest home win ever last week, over Georgia, lost today to Houston. Their defense looked more like the OSU defense of last year--not the unit which held Georgia in check last week.

The world of Todd Reesing

This fun story appeared today on kusports.com:


Friday, September 11, 2009

"That advertising is crap!"

As a rebuttal to the perceived number of too many advertising award shows, Crowell Advertising in Salt Lake City, UT, is launching an awards competition which looks for the "worst in advertising."

Called The Tracy Awards, after agency leader Tracy Crowell, "winners" of the awards will be nationally publicized as the worst advertising of 2009.

You know of some bad advertising, you say? Well then, visit the "Cream of the Crap" page at www.thetracyawards.com to submit your nominations and your criticisms.

College football preview - week two

Last week's predictions: An ugly 4-6.

This week's key matchups:

Kansas at University of Texas-El Paso: Line - KU by 12.5. Prediction - KU by 14. Look for a probable high-scoring game, the kind KU fans became accustomed to last year when Kansas would have to out-score opponents. UTEP has a very good air game and too many questions were raised last week about the Jayhawks' pass defense.

Iowa at Iowa State: Line - Iowa by 6.5. Prediction - Iowa by 8. Is Iowa as bad as two late FG blocks in order to beat Northern Iowa? I don't think so--the Hawkeyes will show up this week in Ames...and win.

Bowling Green at Missouri: Line - MU by 20. Prediction - MU by 17. Gary Pinkel is 0-2 versus Bowling Green while at Mizzou but that streak will end this Saturday. Can Blaine Gabbert replicate his tremendous outing in week two?

Kansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette: Line - KSU by 7. Prediction - KSU by 4. Louisiana-Lafayette only lost by 8 last year in Manhattan. A key will be Kansas State's special teams play--make the same mistakes as last week and this one will be a loss.

Colorado at Toledo: Line - CU by 4. Prediction - CU by 7. I'll be optimistic and suggest that Sunday's horrid loss in Boulder to Colorado State was a bad first game. If the Buffs fall at Toledo, look for the howls about Dan and Cody Hawkins to become a crescendo.

USC at Ohio State: Line - USC by 7. Prediction - Ohio State by 3. I'm not convinced that Matt Barkley is ready to go into the Horseshoe and navigate a win. Yeah, I know, the Big Ten is awful this year but I'll take Terrell Pryor over Barkley in the QB duel and go with home field advantage.

Notre Dame at Michigan: Line - Notre Dame by 3. Prediction - Michigan by 4. Don't remind me--I picked Nevada over the Golden Domers as my "upset special" last week. It not only didn't happen--Notre Dame looked good. But, so did Michigan...and this game is a home one for Rich Rod and the Wolverines. It'll be close but I've got to go with Michigan.

Oklahoma State over Houston, Texas over Wyoming, Texas Tech over Rice, Oklahoma over Idaho State and Nebraska over Arkansas State.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dog Whisperer hits the newstands

The Dog Whisperer, starring Cesar Milan, is a successful cable show on Friday nights on NatGeo. Now, IMG Worldwide and Milan are trying to capitalize on that success via a medium which is not exactly thriving these days--a new magazine.

Cesar's Way, a joint venture between IMG and Milan, will hit newstands next week. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new publication will feature photos of celebs with their dogs, will include self-help articles and hopes to capitalize on the 75 million dog owners in the U.S. However, the magazine will join a crowded field--there are about 60 other dog-related magazine titles already in circulation.

Two issues will be published this year with six slated for 2010.

Milan has turned into a cable sensation, thus the desire to continue to expand upon his popularity. He is represented by IMG and has written several books, created a popular website and produced several dog-related self-help videos. It remains to be seen if he can parlay that success in the world of print where many titles are folding or dealing with depleted advertising pages in this soft economy and amidst changing consumer media consumption habits.

Quick Hits

- A shout-out to birthday boy, Joe Perry, of Aerosmith. Perry turns 59 today and, by our count, was the only band member not sustaining some sort of injury or medical mishap on the band's recently cancelled tour.

- AMC will become an HD network on October 1. It's too bad this didn't happen six weeks ago, about the time Season Three of Mad Men started.

- Kansan Clint Bowyer will not qualify for NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer's disappointing finish last week in Atlanta has him on the outside looking in as the 12 Chase spots are determined this week in Richmond. Only four drivers--Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin--are guaranteed spots as the remaining eight are still undecided.

- Nice move by FOX--having Ellen DeGeneres as the fourth judge on American Idol negates the concerns of losing Paula Abdul, and her idiosyncracies, to this popular show.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mid-week musings

- Welcome back, Whitney! In case you missed it--and it's been hard to miss, given her appearance on ABC's Good Morning America in Central Park and via other media outlets--Whitney Houston's new album had the biggest first week of sales of any past Houston album. Kudos to long-time producer Clive Davis for how he has helped orchestrate this "comeback."

- Methinks college football underclassmen will be more apt to consider coming out early for the NFL Draft given the recent fates of returning Oklahoma stars Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham. Bradford sprained his shoulder in the opener versus BYU and is out 2-4 weeks. Gresham's situation is more dire--recent surgery on his knee indicated significant enough damage that the star TE will miss the entire season.

- We can all go back to regular programming--President Barack Obama's address to the schoolchildren of America went off yesterday without children returning home talking of socialized medicine or exiting the war in Iraq.

-Show of hands--how many have been following Mad Men this year? Some interesting story lines are shaping up.

- Guilty pleasure alert: Melrose Place starts tonight. The re-make of the former adult soap (early-to-mid 1990's) brings back Laura Leighton from the original cast. I won't spoil the opener but you'd better tune in if you want to see Leighton--she won't be around long.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Inside 9/11: Zero Hour"

The documentary, "Inside 9/11: Zero Hour" aired tonight on the National Geographic Channel. The re-telling of the events of that fateful day in 2001 brought chills to me as I viewed it.

The stories came flashing back--the Hassidic Jew and the Muslim who helped each other on the street when World Trade Center tower one came crashing down; the widow re-telling the tale of her husband's bravery on flight 93 over western Pennsylvania; the awful sights of bodies falling to their deaths from the burning towers; the chirping of the electronic transmitters on hundreds of firefighters' bodies, buried in the rubble, the morning after the crashing of the towers.

I think of those on the streets I walked just last week in lower Manhattan and the horror of seeing the drama of this terrorist attack unfolding on that fateful day. Viewing this documentary depressed me...but I found myself having to watch. It made me realize how our world has so dramatically changed in the wake of 9/11. We will never be the same.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Dive of the week


This week's nod for "dive of the week" goes to Casper's in Springfield, MO, featured today in the Springfield News-Leader newspaper.

You have to love an eatery which closes for the summer, is housed in a Quonset hut painted orange, and has a cook named "Etta Mae." And, like most dives, Casper's fare is pretty simple--chili (with no tomatoes), burgers, ham and beans.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

College football wrap-up: Saturday action

Well, 4-4 is a pretty lackluster way to start the season with my game predictions. And, for all you Notre Dame fans out there, yes, I am eating crow after picking Nevada as the possible "upset special" from weekend #1. But, please, Lou Holtz, c'mon--Charlie Weis is not the most underrated coach in America. (Yes, Holtz actually said that on ESPN...)


- Blaine Gabbert and Mizzou, who looked like they only reloaded this season after burying Illinois 37-9 in St. Louis.

- Baylor, who went on the road and beat Wake Forest. The Bears and stud QB Robert Griffin look to be for real this year--too bad they play in the Big 12 South.

- Alabama's defense. Yes, Virginia Tech scored 24 points on Bama but the Tide's D looks to be better than last year's version.


- Kansas who, as expected, rolled over Northern Colorado. However, KU has a problem at right corner--four pass interference penalties came from that position last night. Once again, the Jayhawks appear to be weak against the pass.

- We'll put Kansas State in this category for now. The Wildcats only beat Massachusetts by four.


- The Big Ten conference. Ohio State had to hold on against Navy. Iowa had to block two FG attempts in the last seven seconds against Northern Iowa, a school who last beat the Hawkeyes in '98--1898. Illinois got trounced by Missouri. And, Minnesota had to go to overtime to beat Syracuse.

- Oklahoma. OU loses at home to #20 BYU and also loses Heisman winner Sam Bradford for a likely 2-4 weeks. Whether Bradford is back by the October 17 game against Texas remains to be seen--prior to that the Sooners must travel to Miami (FL) and play Baylor at home.

Friday, September 4, 2009

College football preview - week one

Iowa State successfully started off play for the Big 12 last evening with a 34-17 win over North Dakota State in Ames. And, Oregon looked feeble on offense in losing to Boise State 19-8 on the blue carpet in Idaho.

Here are my thoughts on this weekend's slate of games of interest.

Missouri vs. Illinois, St. Louis: Line - Illinois by 3. The post-Chase Daniel/Jeremy Maclin/Chase Coffman offensive era starts at Mizzou with Blaine Gabbert making his debut at QB. The Tigers have owned this series recently but last year Juice Williams, the Illini QB, burned MU for 451 yards passing. Has Missouri improved its defensive issues? Can the MU run game take pressure off of Gabbert in week one? My prediction - Illinois by 4.

Kansas hosting Northern Colorado: No line. The only thing interesting about this game will be the chance to see KU's key reserves including Kale Pick, the back-up to Todd Reesing. We won't know much about Kansas until after next week's game at UTEP. This one will be a blowout. My prediction - Kansas...by a lot.

Kansas State hosting Massachusetts: No line. Bill Snyder returns to the sideline at the stadium which displays his and his family's name. Interest is high in the Wildcat Nation and a win should come relatively easy on Saturday night. It'll be three weeks, when KSU plays at UCLA, before we know much about this team. My prediction - KSU by 14.

Oklahoma vs. BYU, Arlington, TX: Line - OU by 25. The Sooners received bad news this week with the injury to super TE Jermaine Gresham. But, Oklahoma will over-match #20 BYU and win this one easily under the big screen at the new Texas Stadium. My prediction - OU by 30.

Baylor at Wake Forest: Line - Wake by 2. Baylor is quietly being picked by many to be bowl eligible this year. Starting with a win on the road against a quality ACC opponent would help others take notice. My prediction - Wake by 5.

Oklahoma State hosting Georgia: Line - OSU by 6. This is one of the marquee match-ups of weekend #1. OSU comes in with its highest pre-season ranking in school history. Georgia is picked second in the SEC East behind Florida. A key will be how OSU's offensive line plays against the strength of Georgia's defense--the D-line. It'll be a classic battle of a high-powered Big 12 offense against one of the SEC's stout defenses. Home field will be the advantage. My prediction - the Cowboys by 6.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, Atlanta: Line - Alabama by 6. The Hokies took a hit when star RB Darren Evans injured a knee and was lost for the season. Both teams have tremendous defenses so this will be a low-scoring game. I'm going with the strength of the SEC over the ACC on a neutral field. My prediction - Bama by 10.

Others of interest:

Upset of the week: Nevada over Notre Dame in South Bend.
State rivalries: Colorado over Colorado State in Boulder; Florida State over Miami on Monday night.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick Hits

- I'm saddened to see Charles Gibson announcing his retirement from ABC-News. Gibson took his approachable, likable style from Good Morning America to the ABC Nightly News and did a good job balancing the hard news piece of his job with the need to deliver news in a way that viewers could easily absorb. His interview with Sarah Palin brought criticism but was needed given the lack of access to the Vice Presidential candidate in the days leading up to and at the Republican Convention. Gibson, and his style of quality journalism, will be missed.

- Whatever happened to making license plates? Inmates in a Tampa, FL jail are growing peppers and then processing them into hot sauce. Bottles of the sauce sell for $7 with the profits going to maintaining the jail's greenhouse and supplies. The sauce from the jailhouse comes in three flavors: Original, Smoke...and "No Escape."

- As promised, here is the NFL Fantasy team I drafted last night--Running backs: Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, LenDale White, Cedric Benson and Sammie Morris; Wide receivers: Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, Anthony Gonzalez, Steve Breaston, Hakeem Nicks and Devone Bess; Quarterbacks: Tony Romo and Eli Manning; Kicker: Neil Rackers; and Defense/Special Teams: Philadelphia Eagles. Wish me luck...

- A Florida man has accused his cat of downloading child pornography onto his computer. The man was arrested for downloading over 1,000 illegal images but insists he had nothing to do with it. According to the perp, he downloads songs frequently, leaves the room for a moment, and comes back to find the cat up on the keyboard and his screen "full of strange material." The kitty accuser is being held on $250,000 bail--no word on the whereabouts of the cat or if charges will be filed against the feline.

- Chrysler is putting out feelers to agencies for creative ideas for fourth quarter 2009. Included in the mix is Crispin Porter & Bogusky, who recently lost the Volkswagen business.

- Want a good end-of-summer read? Try South of Broad, the new book from Pat Conroy. I'm not yet finished with the book but, like most Conroy novels, it's sucked me in and makes me once again want to visit Charleston. The book is Conroy's first new fiction work in 14 years.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fantasy Football

The Fantasy Football league, of which I'm a member, will have its draft tonight at a local sports bar. The 10 of us will join up to 35 million others worldwide who participate in Fantasy Football.

Each year the number of participants rises dramatically. Some estimates cited 19 million players in 2007 meaning this year's number represents an 84% increase over the past two years. And, Fantasy Football isn't just a male domain--over 15% of the players are female.

I will attend tonight's draft with my copy of The Sporting News Fantasy Football annual, Sports Illustrated's fantasy issue, and print-outs from ESPN.com which ranks the top quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and team defenses.

What's my team name, you ask? It's "Myteamgoesto11."

Wish me luck--I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rant of the day

I attended the opening day of the U.S. Open yesterday at Flushing Meadows, NY. And, as has happened with prior visits, I was struck by the beauty and cleanliness of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Unfortunately, I was also struck with how awful the food is...and how expensive. The waits are usually long, the service so-so, and the prices are obscene.

I mean, I'm just sayin'--it shouldn't be that bad.