Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is one of my two favorite holidays--the other is Thanksgiving--but it's a day which seems to lack definition for many.  Celebrated on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day began after the Civil War as a day to honor the Union war dead.  The celebration expanded after World War I to honor all war dead.

The ambiguity around the holiday stems from the way people celebrate this three-day weekend.  If you check the event listings in your local paper, chances are you'll find few events linked to honoring America's war dead.  The day has come to signal the unofficial start of summer, meaning that many use it as a weekend for grilling, outdoor activities, and a visit to the lake or beach.  It also historically is a weekend when families visit gravesites to remember loved ones and to decorate a grave.  That's why you'll also hear the day called "Decoration Day."

The day has its share of controversy.  The Veterans of Foreign War, among others, advocates returning the day to May 30, the former date when Memorial Day was celebrated until 1971 when the government made this federal holiday part of an annual three-day weekend.  Each year, legislation is introduced by U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, of Hawaii, for a return to the original date--he and other veterans organizations feel that the placement of the date on this last Monday has undermined the true meaning of the holiday.

Why is this day so important to me?  Like Thanksgiving, Memorial Day is intended to be a day of reflection and for giving thanks.  So, please be sure to stop and give thanks today to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and for those who have served to preserve and protect our Union.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just wonderin'...

I'm just wonderin'...

- If Lamar Hunt were still alive, would Kansas City and its outdoor, remodeled stadium have been passed up for a Super Bowl by New Jersey/New York and its outdoor stadium?

- Is Danica Patrick becoming the Anna Kournikova of auto racing?

- How excited NBA and Disney (ABC, ESPN) execs must be for a Celtics-Lakers final versus a Magic-Suns final?  (The two franchises have combined for 32 NBA championships.)

- If Wheaties Fuel and its ad agency were paying attention two years ago when Sprint used Peyton Manning's inner voice as a key creative element in the TV spot featuring the QB?  (The new Wheaties spot employs the same technique.)

- How much charcoal is sold this weekend for the unofficial beginning of grilling season?

- Why Mens American tennis has had such a hard time sustaining excellence since the retirement of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi?

Lazy Sunday afternoon

- The Indianapolis 500 telecast has started and--guess what--there is wreck on lap one.  In what is becoming a tradition at the Brickyard, the drivers of the 500 have a hard time, when bunched and on this very skinny track, making it through turns one and two at the race's beginning.

- Speaking of the 500, she may not win but Danica Patrick still is the Indy driver most featured in advertising during the telecast.

- R.I.P. Dennis Hopper.  It was interesting to see Hopper's buddy and co-star in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson, waving the green flag at the start of the Indy 500.

- It was bound to happen:  Los Angeles' Kendry Morales hit a game-winning grand slam home run in the 10th inning of the A's win last night.  Unfortunately, Morales broke his leg in the ensuing celebration.  It's surprising that more injuries don't happen in these celebrations, particularly the dog pile which has become so standard when teams win the final game of a big series, state or league championship.

- Finally, here is very touching tribute to Colonel Brian Allgood, a casualty of the war in Iraq, as written by Joe Pierson in today's New York Times: Day mileposts&st=cse

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

Happy Memorial Day weekend, dear readers.  As I sip my morning coffee out on the porch on this glorious Saturday morning, I pass along the following idle thoughts, musings and pieces of information:

- I posted last night about my favorite war movies.  How about books, you ask?  Here are a few favorites:  Winds of War and War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk; From Here to Eternity, James Jones; any of the books by Michael Shiarra; War of the Rats, David Robbins; Dispatches, Michael Herr; All Quiet On the Western Front, Eric Maria Remarque; and The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer.

- And, speaking of the war movie list, I confined my favorites to World War I-themed through today.  There are some terrific Revolutionary War and Civil War films which are also personal favorites--Glory, Shenandoah, The Patriot and Ride With the Devil.  My all-time favorite piece of film about war is Band of Brothers, the 10-episode series which aired on HBO and was based upon one of the non-fiction books on WWII written by Stephen Ambrose.

- This is "speed weekend" with two of the great American races tomorrow--the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca Cola 600.  It's hard not to bet on Helio Castroneves, the pole sitter, in the 500 and on Jimmy Johnson, who seems to own Charlotte Motor Speedway, in the 600.  Look out for Ryan Newman, whose car looked great in qualifying, in the 600 tomorrow night.

- A birthday shout-out goes to fellow hometown girl, Melissa Etheridge, who turns 49 today.  Etheridge's father, John, was my psychology and civics teacher in high school...and my favorite.

- Our quote of the week has to go to Dancing With the Stars contestant Niecy Nash.  Here's what she had to say about DWTS winner, Nicole Scherzinger.  "Nicole today is who she was when she got here--she was a great dancer and still is.  There were moments when you couldn't tell her from the pro dancers.  The translation here is, of course, what many of us have been saying--Scherzinger was already a dancer and thus had an unfair leg up (no pun intended) on the competition.  Continued Nash, "I cheer for the people who have evolved.  To me, that's what the competition should be."

- It seems Kevin Jonas' vow to remain chaste, until married, has had implications on his newly wedded life.  Jonas' wife, who had not slept with him until their wedding night, discovered that Jonas has a rather significant snoring problem.  According to InTouch Weekly, the problem is so bad that now the couple sleep in separate bedrooms.  When I recounted this story to my wife, she said, "She (Jonas' wife) needs to suck it up, like I have for these many years."  Ouch!

- Did you hear about the two-year old in Minnesota who caught a muskie bigger than her?  The young girl was fishing with her family at Round Lake, using her pink Barbie fishing pole, when she caught a small sunfish.  While reeling in the sunfish, a 20-pound, 30-inch muskie came along and ate the sunfish, and little Ella Haag had a trophy fish on her line.  Her mother grabbed the pole and Ella's grandpa nabbed the fish with a net.  The muskie was bigger than Ella.

- Finally, 10% of Americans under 50 say they would be willing to implant a device in their brain to be connected to the Internet, if that were possible.  (Source:  Zogby)  Yeah, but what operating system would they be using?

Have a great holiday weekend, one and all.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day movies

Memorial Day weekend means the beginning of summer, grilling out, hanging with family and...war movies.

Yes, for several years now cable stations, particularly those in the Turner system, have shown war movies throughout this weekend.  I must admit it's one of my favorite parts of this holiday weekend as I've always loved this genre, in particular movies set during World War II.

So, given the number of war movies airing this weekend, here are my top ten favorites, with the caveat that I have only included movies set in World War I to present day.

1.  Saving Private Ryan.  Generally acknowledged as the best war movie ever, the movie won five Academy Awards, including a Best Director win for Stephen Spielberg.  The all-star cast featured Tom Hanks but also included Tom Sizemore, in one of his better performances, Ed Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Matt Damon and Ted Danson.  The opening scene of the landing on Omaha Beach is the most moving portrait ever of the horror of battle.
2.  Patton.  George C. Scott became General George S. Patton in this 1970 film, which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Scott's Best Actor.
3.  The Great Escape.  This is one of those movies where I've lost count of how many times I've seen it, but I love the story and the coolness of Steve McQueen.  Oh yeah, it's on now so I'd better finish this up so I can watch it...again.
4.  Kelly's Heroes.  One can argue that this isn't really a war movie, but the story of an anti-hero set in World War II.'s Clint Eastwood doing what Clint Eastwood does best--saying little, squinting his eyes, and saying "I'm doing this--with you or without you."
5.  From Here to Eternity.  This is simply one of the best movies ever--eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), not to mention Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Clift.  James Jones' excellent novel made an ever better movie.
6.  In Harm's Way.  It's long, it's sprawling and it's certainly not John Wayne's best effort.  But, it does a good job of capturing the drama of post-Pearl Harbor/December 7 naval life and combat.
7.  The Blue Max.  The only non-World War II movie to crack my list, Max showed the chivalry of air combat in World War I and how these early pilots were merchandised as heroes.  The movie stars George Peppard and a very hot Ursula Andress.
8.  The Battle of the Bulge.  Bulge is one of three movies based upon the non-fiction trilogy by Cornelius Ryan.  While The Longest Day may be more accurate in its documentary-like approach to D-Day, Bulge is a slicker production, better acted and features, like many in this genre, a full cast of stars--Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas and others.
9.  The Dirty Dozen.  A dozen convicts, recruited for a suicide mission, and led by tough guy actor Lee Marvin--what's not to like?  It also features NFL great Jim Brown's acting debut.
10.  Tora Tora Tora.  There were many I considered for this tenth spot but Tora Tora Tora is notable for its battle sequences.

There were a lot of movies which could've made the list--Memphis Belle, Letters from Iwo Jima (a terrific film but one I've only seen once, thus making it hard to quality for my top ten), The Eagle Has Landed, A Bridge Too Far, Guadacanal Diary, Platoon, Stalag 17Black Hawk Down, The Deer Hunter and Bridge on the River Kwai.  And, there's The Best Years of Our Lives, a movie not about war but about returning from war time.

The ten movies listed above represent the ones I most enjoy watching--the ones which, when they come on, I find myself drawn to watch yet again.

Hey, I've got to go--like I said, The Great Escape is on again and Steve McQueen is about to vault that barb-wired fence on his stolen German motorcycle.


No one likes to be the one who fouled up such that others publicly say "I need to learn from his/her mistake."  That's the situation the University of Kansas athletic department finds itself in after findings from an investigation revealed approximately $3 million worth of street value tickets were illegally sold in a scheme involving five former employees.

The biggest issue now for Kansas will not be re-engineering the checks-and-balances in the ticket office.  No, the biggest issue will be rebuilding trust--trust from donors, fans, alumni, faculty, staff and, perhaps most crucially, current and prospective students and their parents.  It's oft been noted that the athletic department and its teams are the "front porch" of a public University.  At KU, that's very much the case, particularly with the tradition rich, perennial power basketball program.  But, don't overlook the football program either, which has played to full or close-to-full houses each home Saturday over the past three seasons.

The distrust caused by this scandal will impact every aspect of University life in Lawrence.  As with any brand, gaining trust takes time; losing it can happen almost instantly (can you say BP?); and rebuilding it back is not only lengthy, but sometimes not possible--at least to previously experienced levels.

Jason Whitlock, in yesterday's Kansas City Star, rightfully pointed out that what happened at Kansas is part of a pervasive issue in college sports, i.e., that greed and cash are driving decisions within college athletics and that the student-athlete is an afterthought.  (One only needs to look at all the conference realignment talk or the prior talk about expanding the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament for proof.)  And, while the incident will elevate that discussion, and also cause other Athletic Directors to quickly run down to their ticket office to ensure all is ship-shape, the bottom line is that there was a lack of institutional control at KU.  The University must act--very, very fast--to put audit processes and other governance actions in place as step one in rebuilding the trust of those who have given money to the school, and seen it mis-used.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is Idol dying a not-so-slow death?

This week's been the week of finales--some forever off of TV (24, Lost) and some for this season (American Idol, Dancing With the Stars.)  And, if you're FOX, you can't help but be nervous about the American Idol franchise.

2010 was the season of transition--Paula and her on-air ramblings had left, Simon announced that this was his final season, and new host Ellen DeGeneres arrived with much publicity and promise.  What we learned as we moved through season nine was that the verbal stylings of Abdul were actually a reason that viewers tuned in, DeGeneres too often seemed disinterested, and Cowell remained the villain, albeit one who seemed ready to exit quickly stage left.  As a result, the impact of Idol on pop culture has subsided remarkably.  Sure, the TV ratings are still high but the talent on display paled significantly this year, versus seasons past, and the show simply has not been part of the cultural conversation in recent weeks.

Preliminary television ratings for last night's finale show a 15% ratings decline, but it's in the social media space where Idol's slippage is most evident.  Twitter posts for Glee far exceed those of Idol over the past week--on average, 1,745 posts per hour to 1,630 per hour.  Even DeGeneres' own protege, Greyson Chance (who she discovered on YouTube), cracked the top 10 Twitter trending topics.  In comparison, Lee Dewyze was in the top 10 but Crystal Bowersox was not, even though both had a weekly viewership of millions as the two Idol finalists.  Chance has been on TV twice...but boasts 30+ million views of his school talent performance on YouTube.

So, how do we translate all this?  It means that the reality show on-ramp to stardom is a model which appears to be fading, and that the YouTube and viral discoveries of talent could become more the norm.  Next year marks season 10 for Idol--a feat many doubted, when the show premiered, would happen.  Yet, after the meteoric rise of this franchise the fall could happen almost as quickly.  The talent must improve dramatically, the judging crew has to be infused with a dash of controversy (who's the next Simon?), and social media techniques must replace texting as a way to inject new vigor into this potentially antique reality show model.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peter Shankman

I attended a Social Media "Summit" today and listened to Peter Shankman, CEO of the Geek Factory, talk about this trendy marketing topic.

During Shankman's presentation, he explained how the staff at local hotel, Sheraton Overland Park (KS), checked out his blog (below) prior to his arrival.  They found out that Shankman is training for an Ironman competition and thus had a fruit basket replete with Power Bars awaiting him in his room.

Shankman compared this story with one about Delta and their inability to respond to several of his tweets about shoddy service on a recent flight.  His point?  Social media is a two-way dialogue--those brands who use social media not only to talk about themselves but also to respond to consumers are those who will win.

Check out Shankman at:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's over...until the movie

24's ticking clock ended its 10-year, eight season run last night and, while I won't spoil it for those who may have DVRed the two-hour show, the season--and series--ended in the right way.

In the rich history of 24 we've been treated to numerous plot twists, corrupt administrations, moles and double agents but throughout one thing has remained constant--the ability of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) to weather any challenge thrown in his path.  The character of Bauer, as Sutherland said in a pre-show address last night to 24's fans, was "the role of a lifetime."  Along the way, Sutherland helped create a guy who became a part of American pop culture, and involved in the political discussions on topics as varied as terrorism, interrogation techniques and torture.

Even though this season further bended reality (how many 10-minute trips can one take in the city of New York over a 24-hour period), Monday evenings will no longer be the same...and the promised 24 movie can't come soon enough.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- The upfront presentations by the major television networks concluded in New York last week and one thing is very apparent--NBC's "Must See" TV is very much a thing of the past.  CBS is the big gorilla among the networks now and can make major scheduling moves which dramatically impact the competition.  The one most discussed this past week was the CBS shift of Survivor to Wednesday nights and placing Big Bang Theory and the new William Shatner comedy, (Bleep) My Father Says on Thursdays.  The move will not only put NBC's low-rated Thursday show Community on life support but also places Survivor head-to-head against a new NBC show, Undercovers, for which network execs had much optimism.

- And, in case it sounded familiar, the show (Bleep) My Father Says originated with a Facebook page by the same name.

- Time Warner Cable Inc. is pitching Hollywood studios on the possibility of delivering first-run movies into homes just 30 days after the theatrical release, a move which signals further seismic shifts in the way we consume premium content.  The Time Warner model would likely charge $20-$30 for consumers to access a current flick like Iron Man II just a month after it hit the big screen versus the normal window where it is months before the movie shifts to DVD, on-demand, Netflix and the like.  The question I have--is a consumer willing to pay $20+ for the ease of watching a new movie at home?  In other words, what is the price point consumers are willing to bear for this new option?

- On Monday night we will see the end of the 24 franchise, at least on TV, and will learn the fate of Jack Bauer.  This season, which started so promising, has devolved into a plot line which has Bauer ruthlessly  killing or injuring those who cross his path as he works to complete his final mission, albeit a personal one.  Rest assured that the two-hour finale will have Jack and his geek sidekick, Chloe, squaring off.  And, it's my prediction that Bauer will be killed off as the other option of long-term imprisonment, for this season's crimes, seems far too pedestrian an ending for a character as iconic as this one.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The World Cup--it's coming

Nike has done some great advertising, as we all know, but the attached link to a three-minute "epic" spot for World Cup is dubbed "the best we've ever done" by Trevor Edwards, Nike's Vice President of Brand and Category Management.

You be the judge...!

Personally, while it captures the rise-and-fall of worldwide emotions, based upon the play of those in the World Cup, the three-minute piece feels overdone.

The spot was developed for Nike by Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, and was directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu (21 Grams, Babel.)  The stars featured in the spot are Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Landon Donovan and Ronaldinho, and cameos from the likes of Homer Simpson, Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer.  All are in Nike's stable of athletes, save Mr. Simpson.  And, in typical Nike fashion, they are linking to the World Cup--the world's biggest sporting event--even though rival Adidas is an official sponsor.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Internet use continues to soar

A new study by Edelman indicates that the internet, as a source of entertainment, is second only to television.  And, it's social networking which is boosting this continuing rise in usage.

The most dramatic shift in the internet being a source of entertainment is, not surprisingly, among the 18-34 age group, rising from 27% in 2009 to 42% in 2010.  Among a wider audience, 18-54, 32% of those look most frequently to the internet for entertainment compared to 58% watching TV.

As for social networks, 73% of 18-24 year olds see networks as a form of entertainment compared with 50% among 35-49 year olds.

What's interesting is that even with this continued usage shift, consumers don't view internet brands as entertainment companies.  Gail Becker, President of Edelman's Western Region, said, "We believe all companies today exist in this new era that we call social entertainment and we will continue to see its influence on how consumers and companies engage with entertainment and each other."

Why is this an important issue?  More and more consumers are paying for their entertainment content meaning that trust will play an even more important role in where they buy and who they buy from.  Thus, building a brand which consumers trust and find to be of high quality is key for these "new" entertainment offerings.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mid-week musings

- Happy 65th birthday to one of my favorite rockers--Pete Townsend of The Who.

- Congrats to our friends at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, CA--the agency was just awarded the Chevy business from G.M.

- Outdoor Living ranked the best cities for fishers and hunters and--drum roll, please--Rapid City, S.D. came out the winner.  The rankings were based upon proximity to good fishing and hunting, affordability of living, and general quality of life.  Local markets which made the list were Kirksville, MO; Lebanon, MO; Great Bend, KS; Dodge City, KS and Springfield, MO.

- Postpartum depression isn't just for mothers anymore.  Researchers from Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, found that one in 10 fathers become depressed after the birth of their child.

- The Smashburger chain has made its debut locally with the opening of a location in Overland Park, KS.  I've eaten at this location twice now and rate the burgers as quite good, although the fries are pretty pedestrian.  The cuisine is sort of a poor man's Blanc Burgers + Bottles--it sits somewhere between Blanc and Five Guys or Winsteads on the burger continuum of quality coupled with atmosphere and price.  The good news is that you can get a beer with your burger and fries; the bad news is that, if you come during the dinner hour, you may be stuck in the typical Johnson County restaurant hell of screaming babies and kids running around un-supervised.

- The Pacific wrapped up its ten-week run on HBO this past Sunday.  And, much like its companion series, Band of Brothers, the finale was incredibly moving.  Its hard not to watch either of these shows and not feel a tremendous debt of gratitude to the "Greatest Generation" who served seemingly so willingly in World War II.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Exile On Main Street

Tuesday is the well-documented release day for the newly remastered Rolling Stones classic album, Exile On Main Street.  And, while much has been written recently about the album--the French recording location in the basement of Keith Richards' house (the Stones were trying to stay away from their home country due to harsh British tax laws), the drug-induced state of the band during the album's development, the assorted hangers-on at the French Riviera location, and the muddy audio quality--what's not been noted is where this double-LP fit in the Stones' history of more than two dozen studio albums.

In 1967 the Stones issued Their Satanic Majesties Request after a series of albums which had gone gold in both the U.K. and the U.S.  Majesties was an album with split critical opinion--many dissed it as the Stones' effort to try to duplicate what The Beatles achieved with Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The uneven effort placed pressure on the band for their next studio album.  The Stones came through with the much-anticipated Beggars Banquet (1968.)  Banquet featured the anthem "Sympathy for the Devil" along with "Street Fighting Man"--both two of the best Stones songs ever--and went platinum in the U.S.  The album marked the group's first efforts with Jimmy Miller, who would continue to produce their albums until 1973.  And, it was the final effort of Brian Jones with the group.

Banquet also marked the beginning of the golden era of Stones' albums--Let It Bleed, which some consider the best of the group's studio recordings, was released in 1969--hitting double platinum--followed by the even more successful Sticky Fingers (1971) which went to #1 in both the States and U.K. and achieved triple platinum.

This string of three critically acclaimed and high-selling albums set the stage for Exile.  The double-album, replete with post cards and poster in the packaging, continued the string of #1 albums in the U.K. and U.S. and stayed there for 43 weeks on the American charts, even though the dual disc only featured one hit single, "Tumbling Dice."

The albums which followed would continue, at least for awhile, the Stones' commercial success.  But, the band deviated from its raw, R&B roots and drifted from pop-soul and funk (Goat's Head Soup) to covers (It's Only Rock and Roll) to disco (Some Girls.)  Eventually, the group's success would be primarily based upon its stature as the best live rock-and-roll band in the world.

It was right after the original release of Exile when I first saw the Rolling Stones in person, at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, MO.  And, it was that evening when I got hooked...and have since seen these performers--the best rock-and-roll band in the world-- a total of eight times.  I can't wait to rush out and get the re-release tomorrow, knowing that it was this album, along with Sticky Fingers, which was the impetus for my love affair with the music and performances of these British rockers.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Quote of the day

In The New York Times today was a story about the impending opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inaugural inductees, which includes one of my favorite people--"The King," Richard Petty.

Petty, in the story, recounted the time he was trying to fly into Miami on the Petty corporate plane.  The control tower personnel at Miami explained that the airport was closed due to a visit by then President Bill Clinton.  "We've got the president down here," they said.  "Well, we have the King up here," Petty's pilot replied.  "Come on in!" tower personnel replied.

As the story concluded, it's still pretty cool to be King Richard.

Eldridge Hotel

Yesterday was graduation day at the University of Kansas--a day when the various professional schools and departments of the University have their respective graduation ceremonies.

After attending the graduation of the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications, we decided to have lunch at the bar, The Jayhawker, of the Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence.

I was reminded, upon entering the lobby, of the sprawling history of this old building--it's hard to miss this former cornerstone which calls out a couple of the scoundrels who were responsible for the building's demise in the 1800's.

The original building on the site of the current Eldridge was the Free State Hotel, built in 1855.  This hotel served as temporary quarters for settlers who came from the east--it was a place where they could stay as their homes were being built.  And, the name reinforced to these early settlers that the intent was for Kansas to come into the Union as a free state.

In 1856, the hotel was attacked and burned to the ground by sheriff Sam Jones, who headed a group of pro-slavery forces.  It would not be the first time this fate befell the building.

That same year, Colonel Shalor Eldridge rebuilt the hotel and added another floor--he vowed to do that each time the building was destroyed.  The hotel re-opened and stood until 1863 and the day when William Quantrill rode into Lawrence, with his raiders, and killed over 150 people, basically burning the town to the ground.

The hotel was quickly re-built by Eldridge and given it its current name.

In 1925, as the hotel began showing signs of serious deterioration, a group of Lawrence business leaders organized and tore down the building, vowing to rebuild it--again--and to restore the hotel to its former glory.  The business leaders, and the community, banded together and the hotel now stands as testament to the community's commitment.

Burned down, twice, in the past and now supposedly inhabited by ghosts, the Eldridge Hotel is a landmark in Lawrence, and in the state of Kansas.  The hotel represents the high tension which existed during Civil War days as eastern Kansas, and the western border of Missouri, became battlegrounds for pro-slavery and free state forces.  Thank goodness the city of Lawrence, and those who have managed the hotel, have done the right thing and ensured that this site, and building, remain a place where the history of Kansas is kept very much alive.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rainy day musings

- Which major sport draws the most female fans?  If you answered NFL, the logical choice, you'd be wrong.  The correct answer is college football with a mix of 48% women/62% men.  The next is NFL and Major League Baseball, 41%/59%, and then Major League Soccer and NBA at 40%/60%.  (Source:  Scarborough Sports Marketing, February 2010.)

- Another nugget from the Scarborough sports study is that no major U.S. sports property has seen a bigger decline in its male 18-34 fan base, in the past few years, than NASCAR.

- This coming week is upfronts week in New York.  The "upfront" marketplace is the time when major TV networks kick off the fall/winter selling season--a time when the networks sell about 75% of their advertising inventory.  Each network will present their fall lineups next week, beginning with FOX, who starts the proceedings on Monday.  FOX ordered twice as many comedies as dramas from writers this past spring, hoping to find another breakout smash like its musical comedy, Glee.

- Happy birthday today to Mike Oldfield.  Oldfield isn't exactly a household name in the music world, but in 1973 his Tubular Bells album, with music featured on the huge movie hit The Exorcist, was a surprise success.  The title track went all the way to the Billboad Top Ten, even though it was an instrumental, and is often cited as the beginning of the New Age music movement.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The New York Times on our fair city

Here's a nice article, from The New York Times Travel section, on Kansas City:

Joe Po on Trey Hillman and the worst team in baseball

My favorite sports columnist, Joe Posnanski, in  his blog today writes about the Kansas City Royals' firing of Trey Hillman.  And, as usual, the best media observer of our local ballclub hits it out of the park.

In summing up his column, Joe Po gives all Royals fans a reality check, re-emphasizing that this is a pretty pathetic team currently on the field.  Posnanski writes,

"And the Royals? Well, make no mistake, the big reason they have lost the last three years is not because of Trey Hillman, it is because they are a bad baseball team. They are a team with a dull lineup filled with old guys, a last-in-ERA pitching staff overflowing with underachieving young starters and a mess of a bullpen. There’s no magical solution here. Ned Yost may give the team a boost, he may not, but when it wears off this is a 90-loss team waiting to lose 90 games. Their future is in the future, built around a handful of young players in the big leagues and minor-league prospects who, at least for the time being, look promising. In the meantime, this is a Royals team that no longer looks young or bold like they did in when they hired Trey Hillman not so long ago."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mid-week musings from the world of branding and business

- Starbucks, feeling the heat from lower cost players like McDonald's, announced that it is introducing a second coffee brand.  Seattle's Best Coffee is a brand which Starbucks acquired seven years ago and now is being positioned as a competitor to the coffees sold at Dunkin' Donuts and other quick service restaurants.  One has to wonder if this is the smartest of moves for Starbucks, a brand which made its name on quality of product and service, and being the "third place" (with the other "places" being home and work.)  Not only could the move cannibalize Starbucks' sales but it also takes the brand downmarket given plans to sell Seattle's Best in convenience stores, fast food franchises and, gulp, vending machines.  It's unclear as to how the brand identity strategy will work but the best move would be to disassociate the new brand from Starbucks, allowing Seattle's Best to function as a true low cost option.

- The deep discounting in the lodging business has apparently hit the Walt Disney Co.  The entertainment company reported quarterly earnings and the theme park side of the business was down.  Consumers are continuing to shop for travel bargains and Disney has not, as yet, responded with discounts as deep as competitors' offerings.

- It's a 3-D world and we're all just livin' in it.  Playboy announced that those who "read" the magazine will soon be able to see Playmates in all of their 3-D glory.  Beginning with the June issue, out Friday, the centerfold will be view-able in 3-D.  One has to suspect that 3-D designer eyewear is soon on the way given the seeming proliferation of 3-D movies, televisions and, now, magazines.

- Haven't we seen this before?  Chrysler, according to, is about to launch a corporate branding television campaign and will use "real employees" in the work.  Not only does Chrysler have a history of a highly publicized brand makeover campaign (who can forget Lee Iacocca), but the use of "real" people to tell a brand's story, in order to make it credible, has been used many times before.  Gotham, an Interpublic company, is creating the new advertising.

- The bid for the 2014 Super Bowl, made today by New York, was outlined in the New York Times.  And, if it happens, events for the week of festivities will be scattered throughout the island of Manhattan and in New Jersey, close to the Meadowlands, where the game (oh yeah, they DO actually play a game at the Super Bowl) will be held.  The NFC and AFC team hotels will be located in New Jersey, as will the NFL Tailgate Party, which takes place prior to the game and is usually held adjacent to the Super Bowl stadium.  The NFL Experience, the weeklong extravaganza of sponsor and league exhibits and interactive events, will be in the city as will the media center and media hotel.  The big Friday night NFL Party would also be in Manhattan.  While cold weather locales are never favorites for sponsors, media and the participating teams and their fans, an event of this magnitude in the media capital of the U.S. would be truly unique.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Conference realignment

Yeah, I know, I know--I've resisted writing on this topic given the amount of regional discussion on what's going to happen to the Big 12 should the likely occur, i.e., Missouri, and possibly Nebraska, splitting for the Big Ten and Colorado headed west to the Pac-10.

I, for one, am very worried about the consequences.  Let's look at the scenarios, shall we?

Scenario One:  Missouri heads to the Big Ten, thus making that league a 12 team conference.  In this case, the Big 12 could continue on as an 11 team conference but would likely ask a school such as TCU to join--that would be the logical replacement for MU given the Horned Frogs' prior involvement in the Southwest Conference, from which came Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech.

Scenario Two:  MU goes to the Big Ten and Colorado goes to the Pac 10.  If this happens, then TCU and BYU, or Utah, become potential replacements in the Big 12.  Or, does the conference make a play to entice Arkansas to rejoin their old SWC mates in the "new" Big 12?

Scenario Three:  MU to Big Ten, CU to Pac 10, and Nebraska to Big Ten as well.  This is where it gets interesting.  Sure, there are schools like TCU, BYU, and perhaps Arkansas, who could try to fill the void.  But, this shifts the balance of power in the league even further into Texas and takes away numerous TV eyeballs with the defections of the three universities.  This also takes away three of the upper tier academic institutions in the league, which is not a good thing when considering national sentiment about your conference's brand.

If Scenario Three happens, the smoke coming out of the Big 12-Pac 10 "discussions" perhaps makes the most sense, for both conferences.  The Pac 10 needs the Big 12 to deliver time zones more conducive to television exposure.  The Big 12 needs the Pac 10 for survival, if the remaining nine schools wish to stay  aligned.

If (and do you notice how many times "if" has been used in this post) the Pac 10 and Big 12 can't strike some sort of deal, then all bets are off and the extreme possibilities come into play.  Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State would be attractive to the SEC and would fit naturally into that league's geography.  The odd schools out are dear ol' KU, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor.  And, lest you think I'm smoking something, given my passion for all things Jayhawk, the ultimate currency in this is television household delivery.

Yes, fans, once again the conference realignment talks comes down to money and little that has to do with the care-and-nurturing of "student athletes."  This is football money as the tail wagging the proverbial dog--and, unfortunately for those of us in the Jayhawk and Purple Nations, we don't deliver the needed audiences craved by the Big Ten and others.  The school holding the most cards in this battle is Notre Dame (the Big Ten's ultimate prize) and they are, up to now, maintaining the party line of football independence.  Should they stay resolute with that position, then the eyeballs delivered by the Kansas City-St. Louis-Springfield markets by Mizzou and the national program stature of Nebraska, coupled with possible expansion to include Syracuse, Rutgers and/or Pittsburgh, means the Big Ten could very easily become the Big 16...and a true super conference.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Pacific

The ten-episode series, The Pacific, will conclude on HBO next Sunday evening.  And, the companion piece to Band of Brothers has proven to be an intense revelation of the horror of war in the Pacific in World War II.

While Band of Brothers also showed how horrific war is (remember the scene of the 101st Airborne discovering the German concentration camp towards the end of the war), it focused on the leadership of Major Dick Winters and developed key characters over the course of the ten weeks.  The Pacific, on the other hand, has jumped from character to character, thus making its focus more on how the character changed due to the living hell of wartime in the Pacific islands.

I can watch the DVD set of Brothers back-to-back-to-back.  The Pacific is so intense that one episode at a time has proven to be a numbing experience.

The new series has drifted to the homefront, on occasion, and has also developed story lines around characters' time on leave.  It was one of these story lines, around Congressional Medal of Honor winner John Basilone, which turned particularly poignant last week.

If you haven't seen The Pacific, it's worth the watch.  Just don't plan to sit down over a weekend and consume the entire boxed set once it's released.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- Tonight we get to enjoy Betty White as guest host of Saturday Night Live, given the power of social media and the Facebook campaign which caused NBC to name White to this slot.  Earlier this year, over 500,000 people, on Facebook, pretty much demanded that White be named to a guest host role.

- Welcome back Friday Night Lights!  The best drama on television returned last night on NBC, fresh off its 13 week stint on DirecTV.  I've made this plea before and will make it again--do yourself a favor and go back to watch the initial seasons on DVD.  This is a tremendous show about small-town life in America and deserves your attention.  Kyle Chandler, as head coach Eric Taylor, leads a stellar ensemble cast.

- That collective sigh of relief you hear is from Kansas, Kansas State and Big 12 fans upon reports that Big 12 athletic directors were invited to attend the Pac 10 conference meetings for "discussions."  Nebraska A.D. Tom Osborne could not attend, due to a scheduling conflict, but Missouri A.D. Mike Alden did meaning one of the two schools reportedly being considered for the Big Ten is in attendance.  (Unfortunately, neither Texas A.D. Deloss Dodds or Kansas A.D. Lew Perkins could attend either.)  A merger or joint venture between the two leagues, in their current states, would result in a 22 team conference which might be a bit unwieldy for scheduling purposes.  If MU and NU bolt for the Big Ten, then a 20 team league becomes a bit more realistic.  The Big 12 is appealing to the Pac 10 as it desires schools, and match-ups, in time zones which provide more television exposure across the rest of the country.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


In yet another sign of the ever-changing media times, Newsweek, the venerable magazine owned by the Washington Post Co., has been put up for sale.

The Post Co. had grown impatient with continued revenue losses at the publication and delivered the news on Wednesday to magazine staffers.

Newsweek was founded in 1933 and in recent history had battled TIME for news weekly supremacy.  The magazine was purchased by the Washington Post Co. in 1961 and, at times in its lifespan, was accused of liberal bias.  Vice President Spiro Agnew, in one of his rants in the 1970s, referred to the Washington Post and Newsweek, with his famous "nattering nabobs of negativism" alliterative quote.

More recently, Newsweek made waves with the cover below which took a photo of Sarah Palin from Runner's World and used it for a cover story on the former VP candidate.

The move to sell Newsweek signals the Washington Post Co.'s desire to focus on its core business--the newspaper and its online property.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mid-week musings

- Say it ain't so!  Pamela Anderson was booted off Dancing With the Stars last night.

- It wasn't 24 hours, a la Jack Bauer, but the 53 hours it took from the time keys were found in the ignition of the Nissan Pathfinder in New York's Times Square on Saturday evening to the arrest of Faisal Shahzad represented an extraordinary achievement.  Our quote of the week thus goes to New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, whose detectives worked the failed bomb attempt along with the FBI:  "In the real world, 53 is a pretty good number."  Kelly had to be taking a subtle jab at the world of 24 where everything happens in a day and, amazingly, Jack always seems to be "10 minutes away" from someplace, no matter if it's in New York or Los Angeles.

- Speaking of 24, it's disappointing to see that current President Taylor has crossed the line into questionable ethical behavior.  Taylor, played flawlessly by Cherry Jones, was firm and decisive last season.  This year we've seen Jones' character prove to be overcome by desire to see her peace treaty succeed.

- For literary thriller fans, pick up Scott Turow's latest, Innocent.

- OK, all of you who plan to imbibe on a few margaritas and cervezas later today, what's the true meaning of Cinco de Mayo?  No, it's not Mexican Independence Day!  This is a voluntary holiday (isn't that an oxymoron?) that commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.  It is celebrated primarily in the state of Puebla and in the United States. Why here?  Well, it is a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride but, as with all events involving food and alcohol, seems to have been adopted across a variety of ethnicities domestically.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4 massacre

Forty years ago today, four students--college-age children--were gunned down by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University while protesting the American invasion of Cambodia in the Vietnam War.

The American invasion had been announced by President Richard Nixon on April 30.  On that fateful day in Kent, about 2,000 students were protesting this new escalation of a war which had become more and more contentious domestically.  The University administration attempted to stop the protest by handing out 12,000 leaflets, stating that the event was cancelled.  And, the National Guard was called in hopes of keeping the peace, given violence which had taken place on campus the prior day.

At Noon, the Guard used tear gas to try to disperse the protestors only to have the cannisters flung back at them along with rocks and other debris.  According to reports, the Guard then fixed bayonets and advanced on the protesters, forcing them to retreat.  Ultimately, a stalemate of sorts occurred with many in the crowd dispersing.  Several stayed on and continued to shower the Guard with abusive language and rocks.  A shot rang out followed by a volley--a total of 67 rounds shot over a period of 13 seconds. On the ground lay four dead and nine wounded--the Kent State Massacre.

John Filo was a photographer at the scene and shot this Pulitzer Prize winning photograph--it pictures Mary Ann Vecchio distraught and kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of the four dead.

The event inspired the song Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and was the impetus for a nationwide strike by four million students.  And, public opinion, already growing increasingly negative about the war, became even more affected due to the tragedy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Candace Bushnell in Kansas City

I know I'm chancing it by making this admission, but I actually scored 9 of 10 correct on today's "Do You Know 'The City'?" quiz, in the Kansas City Star.

The quiz was in honor of the upcoming release of Sex and the City II, coupled with author Candace Bushnell's appearance in Kansas City.  Bushnell, as you likely know, wrote the book which was the source for the original Sex and the City series.

Yes, I know--it just shows the kind of Renaissance man that I am...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Esquire's survey of American women

The current issue of Esquire magazine includes survey results from their polling nearly 10,000 women on politics, sex, finances and, of course, men.  The average age of the respondents was 27.6 and 72% had at least a college degree.

Here are some of the more interesting findings:

- 54% consider themselves underpaid while 44% consider themselves appropriately paid.
- 61% believe in God.
- 42% have been to a strip club.
- 29% cite Hillary Clinton as the most admirable woman in America, followed by Michelle Obama at 19% and Ellen DeGeneres at 16%.  (Oprah was next at 12%, signaling the change in daytime TV dynamics which we wrote about here a few weeks ago.)
- 50% cite Barack Obama as the most admirable man in American followed by Bill Gates (21%), George Clooney (7%) and Mitt Romney (7%.)
- The best looking man in America, according to the respondents, is Johnny Depp (29%) in a slight edge over Clooney (28%.)  Following these two are Missouri boys Jon Hamm (21%) and Brad Pitt (12%.)
- In perhaps a surprise, Christina Hendricks (the voluptuous Joan on Mad Men) was chosen as the best-looking woman in America followed by Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima (17%), and actresses Jessica Alba (15%) and Megan Fox (14%.)  Thirty percent thought Hendricks was best, thus proving that being a rail thin, size zero model does not equate to the admiration of one's gender and/or peers.
- And, in the category of men, 49% said "eyes" are the first thing they look at "when you see a man," followed by "body" (17%), "his clothes" (15%) and "hair" (14%.)  Forty seven percent want we men to be clean shaven and 58% believe that men should wear cologne.
- Finally, in the category of "duh!", 89% believe that Elin Nordegren should dump Tiger Woods.

Speaking of Esquire, the once famous literary and fashion magazine continues to struggle to find an audience, and an identity.  Today's Esquire is an older version of the magazines targeted at young males, and is a far cry from the medium which offered a forum for great writers like Hemingway, Mailer, Talese and Wolfe, and designers and art directors like Dean, Delgado and Lois.  For me, picking up an issue of Esquire is an effort to try to regain what once was--an attempt to remember the notable features and articles from the early-to-mid 1970's.  Unfortunately, those days of this magazine's excellence--and influence--are gone.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- The idyllic town of Mayberry, N.C., home of Andy Griffith, was the site of a robbery of an 83-year old woman...and not just any 83-year old.  Betty Lou Lynn, the actress who played Thelma Lou on The Andy Griffith Show, was robbed in Mt. Airy, N.C., the town which was the inspiration for the fictional Mayberry.  Mt. Airy police arrested a man in connection with the crime and were holding him on $10,000 bond.  The irony is that Mrs. Lynn moved to North Carolina after having been robbed on three different occasions in Los Angeles.  There was no mention whether Mrs. Lynn's fictional boyfriend--Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts)--participated in apprehending the perpetrator.

- Interesting casting:  Greg Kinnear will star as President John F. Kennedy in The Kennedys, an eight-hour miniseries airing next year on The History Channel.  Starring alongside Kinnear is Katie Holmes (yes, Mrs. Tom Cruise) as Jacqueline Kennedy.

- Yesterday we wrote about the Los Angeles Lakers and their crisis of confidence, as so noted by radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  The Lakers were able to find enough mojo last night to put way the Oklahoma City Thunder and move on in the NBA Playoffs.  L.A. won on a late game tip-in by Pau Gasol.

- Speaking of mojo, Tiger Woods yesterday shot the worst round of his career (in a U.S. tournament) and missed the cut at the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, N.C.  Perhaps contributing to his problems is that Joslyn James, stripper and ex-mistress of El Tigre, seems to alway show up to "perform" in proximity to where Woods is playing.  Last month, James stripped at a club close to Augusta National and this week appeared at a Charlotte club.

- Is anyone else glad that Jake Pavelka, last season's bachelor on ABC's The Bachelor, was booted off Dancing With the Stars?  Pavelka's nice-guy schtick was beginning to wear thin.

- A USA Today article earlier this week revealed that Millenials--adults 18-29--are less likely to attend church and consider themselves more "spiritual" than "religious."  Over 80% described themselves as "spiritual" and the overall results describe a drift, by these young adults, away from church life.  The data  reinforces the dilemma which churches have as they consider how best to reach this very important group who is so vital to the future of the church in America.

- Inside sources indicate that Kansas' Xavier Henry truly was conflicted about his decision to leave college early for the NBA.  As surmised, Henry did not want to leave school but did so given his father's heavy-handed involvement and the family's plan for a one-and-done stop in Lawrence prior to the NBA Draft. currently has Henry projected as the 13th pick going to Toronto.