Tuesday, December 18, 2012

You can't go home again

Last week, we moved--as in, physical labor move with boxes and movers and the once again realization that there are few things on the planet less fun than taking your belongings out of one home and putting them in another.

This was our eighth move but only our fourth involving moving out of a home we owned.  I remember now why moving has not been a frequent occurrence in our family.

If moving is a pain then owning a home is like a constant headache.  But, it's also a symbol of one's family dynamic.  That's why it stung me last week when I stood in an empty house and looked into the dining room--the scene of so many family meals, holiday gatherings, and get-togethers with friends.  I realized that it was this house that I had most identified with; it was this house where so many major family moments had occurred, thus stirring so many special memories.

We're now in a new place--shiny and fixed up, ready for new organization and prepared for new memories.  As we drove by the old house on Saturday, though, I saw people moving into "our house"--no, not the new one but the one just vacated.  You see, it's still "our house" to me and it was foreign watching new people, with smiling faces, taking their belongings into a house with my memories.

For me, in this case, you can't go home again.  Thomas Wolfe had it right.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wrapping up a week in Gotham

Greetings, peeps, from 30K feet utilizing the GoGo WiFi in a Delta flight from LGA to MCI.  It's been a productive week in Manhattan so let's kick it around before we close out this work week, shall we?

- New York City, on a good day, requires a certain sense of resolve that one will share space with far too many other individuals.  But, during the holiday season, the hip checks and flying elbows are out in force as it's clearly every man/woman for himself/herself on the sidewalks of Manhattan.

- The Rolling Stones are playing the Prudential Center in Newark, a pay-per-view event you can catch for $39.95.  The cool new wrinkle, though, is the band's use of mobile technology as the concert will be streamed live, for the same price, on PC's, tablets, and smartphones.  The Stones have always been a trend setter in the world of live music, having been the first to sign a tour sponsor, and now are broadcasting a mobile concert experience.  It's a far cry from Keith Richards' statement, in 1997, about cell phones being akin to "sticking your head in a microwave."

- There are only two episodes left of this season of Homeland (Showtime.)  Crap...

- Speaking of New York, Monday, November 26, was the first time police officials can recall recording no shootings, stabbings or murders over a 24-hour period.  Perhaps the holiday cheer has indeed affected Gotham-ites!

- A teacher in Kentucky obviously is still bitter about the election as she recently wrote on her blackboard, in psychology class, that "you can't be a Democrat and go to heaven."  School officials have apologized for the incident.

- It's now a fact--this year will go down as the warmest on record for the states of Kansas and Missouri.

- In the "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" category, a woman in Germany tried to suffocate her boyfriend with her 38DD breasts.  Franziska Hansen, 33, was supposedly upset that her boyfriend was planning to leave her.  The alleged victim, Tim Schmidt, claims that while he slept, Hansen grabbed his head and pushed it between her breasts.  "I couldn't breath anymore," Schmidt claimed.

- Back to the Rolling Stones--the rockers now have an average that is older than the members of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Stones average almost 69 while the justices' average nearly 67.  I'm not sure if that's a weird commentary on the best rock-and-roll band in history, or the state of the justice system in the U.S.

- American men are tipping the scales at an average weight of 196--16 pounds heavier than 1990.  The average weight of women has risen by 14 pounds over the same period.  (Source:  Gallup)

- Celebration Day, the new Led Zeppelin reunion DVD and CD, is well worth the download.  The live recording is from the group's 2007 concert at O2 in London, played as a tribute to record-label founder Ahmet Ertegun.  Robert Plant's well-worn voice was in better-than-expected form and Jimmy Page killed it, as usual.  Highlights of the set include "Kashmir" and "Black Dog," as well as "Ramble On."

- And, finally, given that I'm sitting on an airplane, major airlines have cut the number of U.S. domestic flights by 14 percent, since 2007, in an attempt to maintain high capacity and thus higher returns on their investments.  St. Louis, Cleveland, Memphis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have been hardest hit, losing 40 percent of their scheduled flights.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"When Black Friday comes..."

"When Black Friday comes
I'll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor"

Amidst the cacophony of news stories and advertisements for Black Friday I couldn't help but think about this song, "Black Friday," which Steely Dan released in 1975.  While the song has nothing to do with today's version of Black Friday, I'm sure the group had no idea that those two words would become woven into today's popular culture.

What is wrong with us!?  What used to be known as "the day after Thanksgiving" now has a name--and an ominous one at that--and reports of fights and disruptive behavior at retail locations around the country as consumers queued up, in the hours before this "event," hopeful for the best deals offered by all of the big box retailers.

In the hours following a day reserved for the gathering of family and friends comes not the gluttony of turkey and dressing but of consumer behavior gone bad.

Who's at greater fault here--the retailers who inch up their store hours to invade on Thanksgiving fellowship or the consumers who gladly satisfy that decision by lining up in search of the best deal on a 55" television or the season's hot toy?  It's sad, sick, and certainly not what Abraham Lincoln had in mind when he signed a proclamation in 1863 making the final Thursday in November a "day of thanksgiving."  Somehow I doubt ol' Abe thought that the final Friday of the month would become something special too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Kansas City!

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This blog entry was posted last Thanksgiving on Musings, Notes & Quotes.  We reprint it here for Thanksgiving 2012.  Happy Thanksgiving to family, friends, and loyal followers of this blog.

I started this blog in February 2009 and for my Thanksgiving posts the past two years I’ve written a serious piece about all of the true reasons I have for being thankful on this, my favorite holiday of the year.

As I drove on the streets of my town, Kansas City, yesterday, I realized that I had special reasons to give thanks again this year—very much focused, though, on this amazing city where I and my family reside. So, with no further adieu, here are the reasons I’m thankful for Kansas City:

- I’m thankful for the people of this expansive geographic metropolitan area—from the tony suburbs to the rural communities and in between. I am thankful for the sincerity of feelings, the kindness which represents our community, and the passion for our state—whether Kansas or Missouri.

- I’m thankful for the prettiest shopping district in the country, the Country Club Plaza, and how no other place else feels so special during the holidays.

- I’m thankful for local icons like George Brett, Tom Watson and Len Dawson. I’m thankful for those who represent Kansas City in the entertainment business—Eric Stonestreet, Jason Sudeikis, Paul Rudd and others.

- I’m thankful for Grandstand Burgers, Rudy’s Tacqueria, Grinder’s, Stroud’s, LC’s, the original Peanut on Main, and Jess & Jim’s.

- I’m thankful for barbecue of all types, sauces, and venues—for Oklahoma Joes, Gates, Arthur Bryants, LC’s, Danny Edwards, B.B.'s Lawnside Barbecue, Jack’s Stack and Rosedale.

- I’m thankful for prime cuts of good ol’ red meat—for The Capital Grille, Ruth’s Chris, Plaza III and JJ’s.

- I’m thankful that our multi-purpose sports complex is updated and still a terrific place to watch baseball or football. I’m thankful for the Sprint Center and Kansas Speedway. And, I’m thankful for the vision of the local ownership of Sporting KC and for the best soccer venue in the United States.

- I’m thankful for Ward Parkway, the Paseo and all the other boulevards in our fair city. I’m thankful the J.C. Nichols fountain and all of the various waterways and water features in our cowtown, which boasts “more fountains than Rome” and “more boulevards than Paris.”

- I’m thankful for local leaders who give of their time, money and management skills to make Kansas City a case study in philanthropic leadership.

- I’m thankful for the companies that call K.C. “home.” And, I’m thankful for the local leaders who have recruited those companies here and work to keep them here.

- I’m thankful for this thing called “Kansas City Pride”—for a town, which engenders loyalty and a desire to make our community a great place to live and work.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The naivete of the ultra-affluent

The ultra-affluent--those defined as the richest folks in America--took a lot of heat over the past several months as President Barack Obama and his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney, battled it out on the election stage and debated tax plans and economic policy.  Interestingly, the folks who fall into this "rich" category don't seem to know that they are in the  ultra-affluent group, and they were relatively sanguine about the results of the election.

According to Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer (August 2012), the ultra-affluent are 1% of the U.S. population and are defined generally as households with income of $250,000-$325,000 plus per year, depending upon who you're consulting.  Those with household incomes of $250,000 or more--the line frequently used by President Obama and Democrats to mark where tax increases should hit--is how Mendelsohn identifies the "ultra affluent," which actually is the top 2-3% of Americans.  The U.S. government raises the bar to somewhere in the $325,000 neighborhood.

In survey results released in August, 49% of respondents in this "ultra affluent" group said they don't expect their savings or investment plans to change in 2013, regardless of the election winner.  A substantial number--55%--do expect to pay higher taxes if Mr. Obama is re-elected while 27% don't expect the election outcome to make a difference.

What's perhaps of keenest interest is how the most affluent think of themselves as less affluent.  Households that are in the top 20-25% of earners on average think that they are in the 38th percentile.  The ultra-affluent, in the top 2-3%, of earners on average think that they are in the 16th percentile.

The lack of awareness of economic status is a change from 2006-2007 when consumers tended to overestimate their wealth, or felt like they were on the verge of striking it rich.  I guess we can hypothesize that the market crash of 2008-09 caused this fairly radical shift in "affluency awareness."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rant of the week

Amazingly, the sun came up this morning and the world felt the same even after a monumental evening last night where months and months of rancor, punditry, mistruths, and general discord culminated in the re-election of President Barack Obama in the presidential election.

Yet, we once again were treated to terms like "battleground states," and the suggestion by some that Obama's surge in these key states had somehow indicated a voter mandate for the incumbent.

As of this morning, the total vote, out of approximately 115 million votes cast, was 58,720,700 for President Obama and 56,145,950 for Governor Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger.  Now, I'm a Journalism graduate but even I can figure out that's a close race, separated by approximately 2% of the total votes cast nationally.

When can we put aside the antiquated Electoral College and institute a popular vote for our President?  Why are states voting one way or the other, when the populace in that state may be just as divided as the popular vote nationally?

It's time to move on and acknowledge that our country's leader should truly be decided by the people--not by some institution called a "college," which isn't even a source of higher education.  And, it's time that the national media, and elected officials, acknowledge that our country is divided by a slim margin, meaning that neither side has mandate nor significant majority.  It's time, quite simply, for change, compromise and cooperation.

Friday, November 2, 2012


- I'm hearing rumors that power may be restored to the island of Manhattan today.  Here's hoping that the four million still without power get good news shortly.

- It wasn't exactly an estate sale but thank goodness a home in Mount Washington, CA, was searched before a recent scheduled demolition as the result was the discovery of a treasure trove of maps--tens of thousands which are considered priceless.  Real estate agent Matthew Greenberg discovered the maps upon the death of the home's occupant, John Feathers.  Neighbors had no clue that Feathers had this collection, which includes a rare "paved road" map of the U.S. from 1918, and a 1592 map of Europe.  The maps are being donated to the Los Angeles Central Library and will turn that facility into one of the biggest map archives in the country.

- A study by CareerBuilder indicates that 69% of full-time workers regularly search for new jobs.

- Sign of the apocalypse:  Inmates in West Palm Beach, FL are suing for access to dental floss.  The prisoners claim "pain and suffering" for have been denied access to the dental hygiene product given concerns about using the floss as a weapon or rope.  Sheriff Ric Bradshaw had this to say, "I don't care if they file 400 suits, they're not getting it--this isn't the Ritz Carlton."

- Sarah Palin is trying to remake herself into a fitness guru, and has written a book and plans to issue a DVD.  Friends are worried about the former Vice Presidential candidate--she works out so obsessively that she has dropped 93 pounds.

- Who knew?  U.S. cities are facing a smartphone crime wave.  In San Francisco, authorities claim that half of all crimes are phone-related and in New York, it's 40%.

- And, finally, in the "you can't make this 'stuff' up" category, a thief in Syracuse, NY returned to the bank he had just robbed, complaining that he wasn't given the entire $20,000 he had demanded.  The robber was promptly arrested.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Nashville, mobile usage and the Rolling Stones

- During this month of breast cancer awareness, let's give a shout-out to Bud Stringer in Moultrie, GA.  Bud shaved his head in support of his wife, Dolly, who was preparing for chemotherapy to treat her breast cancer.  It was then that he discovered a black mark on his head, which turned out to be an aggressive form of skin cancer.  Both Dolly and Bud have now undergone multiple surgeries, and Bud has one more to go.  But, his early detection saved him as doctors informed the Stringers that "he would have been buried by Christmas" if the lesion had not been found.  Both now have been given good prognoses.

- Now it's apparent why the Rollings Stones are not touring with multiple shows to support their 50th anniversary.  The band has announced plans for concerts in London and New Jersey--at prices of $680 per ticket for the best seats and $170 per ticket for the "cheapest."  At those prices, the boys can make big bucks by making one market appearance apiece in the U.S. and U.K.

- A giant eyeball freaked folks out in Pompano Beach, FL, after the softball-sized part washed up on the shore of this town's beach.  Marine scientists did testing and believe the eyeball came from a swordfish, and not a whale or sea monster of some sort.

- Hey, all you frequent travelers, the following may be stating the obvious but confirms what we have all experienced--today's flights are averaging about 80% of aircraft capacity.  Flights during the 1970's averaged about 60% of capacity.  Interestingly, the average cost of a flight in 2011 was about 40% less than the 1980 average.  So, while the flying experience has grown more irritating, the cost to fly has declined.

- If you've not tried out ABC's Nashville, you need to do so.  Connie Britton, the best television actress no one knows, is outstanding.

- And finally, here's yet another data point confirming the consumer move from websites to mobile apps.  BusinessInsider.com reports that web searches on desktop computers declined in September for the first time since tracking began, in 2006.  Analysts say such searches will keep declining as people shift to mobile data.  (Source:  Macquarie Group)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Honey Boo Boo and last meals

- If you've not jumped on the Homeland bandwagon, it's not too late.  The Showtime series is again knocking it out of the park this season after an Emmy-winning haul last month after Season One.

- Here's a fun fact which may quickly cause color changes in the American boudoir.  A British study found that adults in that country had more sex when their bedrooms were painted purple.  Those with beige, green or grey bedrooms had less frequent intimate encounters.

- Have you ever played the game "what would your last meal be if you were on death row?"  Well, in reality, death row inmates don't ask for vegetables and more often than not choose unhealthy last meals, with some topping 7,200 calories.  The most frequently requested items, according to researchers, are lots of meat, fried foods, sugar and ice cream.  My question is, why are researchers spending time on this less-than-compelling topic?

- What's the deal with former Master Chef contestant Lorena Garcia now pitching for Taco Bell?  It's way off strategy for the fast-food chain.  And, what credibility does Garcia have in touting the quality of "the fourth meal" chain's salad bowl?

- In this week's "you can't make this 'stuff' up" category, word out of Hollywood is that Kim Kardashian is "crushed" that she isn't getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard's Walk-of-Fame.  According to People.com, KK had hopes of being the first reality TV "star" to be granted this honor.  A Walk-of-Fame rep told The Hollywood Reporter, "They have to have a career in the business of acting, for five years or more."

- Speaking of reality TV, can the bar be lowered any further than Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?

- And, finally, here's your data point for the day:  59% of Americans say that if they could do it all over again, they'd choose a different career.  And, only 33% expect to retire by age 65.  (Source:  Parade/Yahoo! Finance)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pet obesity and 85 mph speed limits

- As usual, Texas hates to be one-upped by anyone, particularly another state in the Union.  The Texas Transportation Commission approved an 85 mph speed limit for a portion of road near Austin.  That 85 mph mark tops the previous high of 80 for highways in southern Utah and western Texas.

- In the "you can't make this 'stuff' up" category, a Rhode Island woman is charged with training her cockatoo to curse at her ex-husband and his new girlfriend.  The couple, who oddly live next door to the ex-wife, allege that she trained her pet bird Willy to say the word "whore," preceded by several curse words, whenever the new lady friend is visible.

- You think we have a weight problem in this country?  Apparently, the real problem lies with our pets. America's pets are more prone to obesity than its human residents, according to HuffingtonPost.com.  An estimated 60 percent of domestic dogs and cats are obese or overweight.  This heft puts the pets at increased risk for diabetes, joint and mobility problems, and shortened life spans.

- I'm reading Dennis Lehane's new book, Live by Night, and it promises to be as good or better than his terrific novel, The Given Day.

- If the rich aren't having enough image problems already comes this interesting piece of information--2,362 people legally collected unemployment benefits in 2009 despite having household incomes of $1 million or more!  (Source:  Congressional Research Service)

- Sign of the apocalypse:  The coach of a California Pop Warner football team has been accused of giving cash rewards, to ten-year old boys, for "big hits" on opponents.  Apparently the coach is channeling his inner Sean Payton, the coach of the New Orleans Saints who was suspended for his team's bounty program in the NFL.

- And, finally, here is your political data point of the day.  A record-high 38% of Americans say they prefer the same political party controlling the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say they prefer a divided government.  (Source:  Gallup poll)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Which brand wins?

What's the most valuable brand in the world?  Apple?  American Express?  Google?

The results are in, based upon the 13th annual Best Global Brands report from Interbrand, and the winner is--drum roll, please--Coca-Cola.  The Interbrand study bases its rankings on financial performance and the role that the brand plays in influencing consumer choices.

This year's list, along with the prior year's rating, is as follows:

1.  Coca-Cola (1)
2.  Apple (8)
3.  I.B.M. (2)
4.  Google (4)
5.  Microsoft (3)
6.  General Electric (5)
7.  McDonald's (6)
8.  Intel (7)
9.  Samsung (17)
10.  Toyota (11)
11.  Mercedes-Benz (123)
12.  BMW (15)
13.  Disney (9)
14.  Cisco (13)
15.  Hewlett-Packard (10)
16.  Gillette (16)
17.  Louis Vuitton (18)
18.  Oracle (20)
19.  Nokia (14)
20.  Amazon (26)

Who were the big losers this year?  Blackberry tumbled from 56 to 93, Goldman Sachs went from 38 to 48, and Barclays exited the list after reaching 79 in 2011.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday afternoon check-in

- Well, gee, it looks like I've got a fun trip coming up this week.  Travel & Leisure magazine rated my destination--New York City--as the dirtiest city in America.  Gotham was also rated as the rudest and loudest city.

- Arnie, the beagle, was busted for grand theft in Largo, FL.  The pooch, pet of Corey and Hope O'Kelley, consumed $275 worth of the couple's cash and was only found out after the owners sifted through the dog's vomit and excrement to piece together a few shards of the downed dollars.

- Shoppers in Kansas City got a jolt with news that IKEA is coming to town in 2014.

- This could only happen in America and, specifically, L.A.--O.J. Simpson thinks that Khloe Kardashian is his daughter and has added her as a beneficiary in his will, according to the National Enquirer.  The Juice believes that he fathered Khloe in a 1983 affair with her mother, Kris Jenner.

- Today's data point:  70% of Americans support efforts to require voters to show a photo I.D. card at the polling place.  (Source:  New York Times/CBS News poll.)

- Did you know that there is a soundtrack for the hit mommy porn book, Fifty Shades of Grey?  Yeah, I didn't either.

- The Emmy award-winning show Homeland debuts Season Two tonight on Showtime at 9:00 p.m. CT.  It is "must see" TV.

- This had to be a "for sale by owner" situation--a homeowner in New Jersey put a "for sale" sign in his lawn which read "House for sale by owner, because my neighbor's an a--hole."  Nice...

- And, finally, the saddest story of the week is that Lady Gaga's weight is even a "story."  The singer has recently gained 25 pounds, prompting criticism from fans and observers.  She revealed this week that she's struggled for years with bulimia and had recently put on weight by eating pizza and pasta at her father's restaurant in New York.  Gaga has asked for "compassion" and I, for one, think that is the least that we can do.  Move on here, people--there's nothing to see.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The life of a blogger

Wow!  I'm sorry, dear readers, but I just realized that it's been almost two full weeks since I last posted here at Musings, Notes & Quotes.  What's up with that, you ask?  Well, I think it's a combination of writer's block and time.

It's hard to continue to find compelling content with which to populate this three-plus-year-old site.  But, I believe I have something which will get you excited and exclaim, "that's more like it!"

What I found was this enthralling bit of data from The New York Times Magazine.  Did you know that flip flops are called by different names in different parts of the world?  Unbelievably, neither did I!

In Arizona, they're referred to as "showershoes."  Who knew?  Further west in California and Hawaii, wearers call them "go-aheads."  Perhaps the footwear is called that as they tend to leave your feet and "go-ahead," as they fit very loosely.

"Thongs" are the descriptor of choice in Texas and New York, not to be confused, of course, with a ladies' undergarment by that same name.  East Texans, those folks better known for their ability to breed roses, call 'em "tweeny-toes."  Isn't that cute and oh so Texan?

Finally, in San Diego, they are called "Lord boards."  Perhaps those in SoCali use that term as reference to the sandal favored by Jesus and their love of surfing?

There, now, wasn't that worth waiting for?  I promise to not take as long a respite next time but also pledge to continue to mine the various media outlets for this type of quality content to which you've grown accustomed.

Stay thirsty (for Musings, Notes & Quotes), my friends...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The View from The Hill

It's week three of my gig as Executive In Residence at the University of Kansas Journalism School and there are some definite impressions I've gathered which I want to share with you, my faithful audience.

Before we begin, let me state again just how surreal this is--spending time in the building where I had many a class during my tenure "back in the day" as a J-School student in the Public Relations sequence.  That sequence has gone away, replaced now by the overarching track of Strategic Communications and the sister track, on the News-Editorial side, which is aptly named "News-Ed."

One thing that immediately strikes anyone of age 40+ who sets foot on campus is the proliferation of ear buds attached to the heads of students walking to and fro on Mt. Oread.  The ubiquitous white cords attached to an Apple product are peeking out of backpacks or hands of students, heads bowed as they peruse all of the functionality of their precious iPhone or iTouch.  A few headphones are seen now and then, usually a staple of athletes typically sporting togs with adidas and KU branding.  It seems, to this old fogey, that today's student can't go anywhere without music providing a daily soundtrack.

Another observation is the disdain that students have for the lesson learned when they were young, i.e., "be sure and look both ways!" before crossing the street.  Look?  Why!?  These kids simply step out, whether due to distraction from the omnipresent ear bud attachments and/or given their expectation that no moving vehicle would dare to strike them while on or around campus.

It's been warm here thus far in the semester and I envy the person who has the Nike track short concession at local sporting goods retailers--this clothing is a staple of any female student on The Hill.  Guys, of course, also sport the shorts look but their attire ranges from the baggy basketball short to cargo shorts from American Eagle or Abercrombie.

From my closeted space in Stauffer-Flint, the best part of each day is overhearing the student conversations, in the hall outside, as they wait for class or head elsewhere after their latest course.  The conversations range from discussions about the latest class project to thoughts on cheap places to eat in Lawrence.  The tone of the voices and the content within is full of hope and promise, reinforcing the thought that college is the best four years of life.

It was with thoughts of this hope and optimism that I anxiously responded when one young man poked his head around the corner into my office and said, "Hey, man, can I ask you a question?"  "Sure!" I said, my mind racing on the possibilities of some thorny journalistic issue certain to come next from his hopeful face.  "Yeah...uh, can you tell me where the bathroom's at?"

I kept my facial expression helpful and smiled, replying "Sure, no problem--go down the hall and down the flight of steps."

Monday, September 3, 2012

The inferiority complex of Labor Day, and what to do about it

Is there a U.S. holiday which has more of an identity problem than Labor Day?  Think about it...

- Martin Luther King Day is obviously a day, during Black History Month, when we stop and observe all that Dr. King did to move the cause of civil rights.

- Memorial Day is the unofficial jumping off date for summer and, of course, the grilling season.  Retailers use this date in May to push grills, charcoal, swim and pool gear, summertime foods and, of course, beer to the masses.

- Independence Day, a k a the 4th of July, celebrates our country's independence and is a day typically set aside for families to come together to test their hands at pyrotechnics, or watch others blow up stuff. It's a day where America's fascination with fireworks is on full display.

Labor Day stands alone as a misunderstood holiday.  Does the word "Labor" mean that I'm supposed to do some sort of work, or absolutely nothing at all?  What's on television on this date?  Nothing, unlike Memorial Day which has tons of war movie reruns for all of us wanting to once again see John Wayne as General James Gavin in The Longest Day.  Heck, Labor Day doesn't even signal a return to school for the kiddies as everyone seems to be jumping to an early August date for the beginning of the school year.

Labor Day has no personal brand and thus is in need of a major makeover.

Here's what I suggest:
- Let's make Labor Day the official opening weekend of all football.
- The Thursday night prior to Labor Day will be the college football kick-off.  Let's schedule a major game (e.g., this past weekend's Alabama-Michigan game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX) as the opener and then have a full slate of games on Saturday of Labor Day weekend.
- High school football then would kick off (pun intended) on Friday--a true Friday Night Lights across all America.
- Sunday would be our NFL opening weekend and then, on Monday--on Labor Day--we have the first NFL Monday night game of the year with a major match-up, perhaps featuring the two teams from the prior season's Super Bowl.

Using Labor Day as our official football opening weekend makes all kinds of sense--it brands the weekend with our country's most-watched sport, and unites us across the country around that greatest of inventions, the television set.

Let's go market this thing, shall we?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I think this mobile advertising thing is going to work

Is there anyone out there that's saying, "This mobile advertising thing just isn't going to make it?"  If so, get a load of this--mobile ad spending is forecast to increase to more than $10 billion by 2016.  Advertisers currently invest about $2.6 billion in mobile, across banner ads and rich media, search, messaging and video, which means that the $10 billion plus mark is over a 400% increase in four years!

Asia-Pacific is the current region which invests the most in mobile advertising but, by 2013, the U.S. is expected to eclipse A-P and, by 2016, will spend twice as much as that region.  Currently, worldwide spending is at $6.4 billion and will rise to $23.6 billion by '16.

Source:  eMarketer, January 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You CAN go home again

Isn't it an amazing thing when life offers up an exciting new adventure?  Today, I set out on such a new journey as I took the role of part-time Executive In Residence at the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

I can hear and feel the mouse clicks, from my Mizzou and Kansas State friends, who are automatically thinking "I'm not reading this!"

But, hold on--this isn't so much about good ol' KU as it is about returning home.  It's about the idea of spending time at that place which all of us pine for given that, universally, when we invoke the name of our college it's followed with "those were the best years of my life."

My return back has a stated purpose of assisting the Journalism School in how it teaches today's students coupled with a desire to more closely bridge the connection between the school and its alumni.  Personally, though, this assignment goes much deeper.

It all was a bit surreal this morning when I made the three block walk from the Kansas Union to Stauffer-Flint Hall.  There I was--gray haired, sport coat and slacks--amidst the flip-flopped and shorts-wearing collegians, all with requisite backpacks and earbuds attached.  Fittingly, it was a glorious August morning with a hint of fall, signaling the coming beauty which will explode on Mt. Oread in another month or so.

I have always thought, ever since leaving this place back in the days of polyester plaid and long hair, that I would return in some sort of meaningful position or assignment.  I'm hopeful that this new gig is, indeed, that opportunity.  I'm hopeful that my desire to give back, to a place for which I care so deeply, will be fulfilling for me and useful to my academic colleagues and students here in the school.

I'll be filing reports, aptly titled "The View from the Hill," in the days and weeks to come as I observe the 2012 version of academe and spend quality time with today's students and faculty.  And, while I will wax poetic on the beauty of the Kansas campus and this quintessential college town, I would ask my non-Jayhawk friends to consider the posts as a way to live vicariously through me, knowing that many of you would love to be back at your respective alma maters doing the exact same thing.  I know I'm living the dream and I promise not to take that for granted.

Friday, August 17, 2012


It's that time again--it's Friday afternoon and thus time to throw it around a bit before we commence with the weekend!

- An empathetic fan in England plans to send medals he designed to athletes who missed out on bronze at the London Olympics.  David Mitchell said, "I hope they don't find it insulting--it's meant seriously." There was no word on what Nike's reaction might be, given the campaign that the athletics brand used years ago which said, "You don't win silver, you lose gold."

- Take heart, all you parents who have fished a foreign object out of your young son's nose.  In Utah, Isaak Lesson, aged six, was found to have a flexible Lego stuck up his nose.  Doctors were investigating young Lesson's sinus problems, came upon the toy piece, and, ever since, Isaak has been sleeping and eating much better.

- Ryan Lochte has said that he wouldn't mind being the next bachelor on ABC's The Bachelor.

- A Chinese woman who is frustrated about the speeding cars flying by her house is using a unique distraction to slow them down.  Lin Chen, 67, purchased an inflatable female sex doll, dressed it in sexy red lingerie, and positioned it in her garden in view of passing motorists.  Most drivers are now hitting the brakes to get a better view.

- Would you be more embarrassed seen reading The National Enquirer or the erotic novel, Fifty Shades of Grey?  A new Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll actually found that 61% would be most embarrassed to be seen reading "Snooki" Polizzi's "novel," A Shore Thing.  After that, 13% said The Enquirer, 12% said Fifty Shades, 10% said a memoir by Mitt Romney and 5% said a memoir by President Barack Obama.  (Editor's note:  And, yes, those were quotations I placed around Snooki's "novel.")

- Let's give it up for Mark Lazarus.  The NBC Sports chairman's decision to tape-delay much of the Olympics irked purists, but it paid off with a ratings bonanza over the 17 days of the broadcast from London.

- And, finally, the group, One Million Moms, which announced a boycott of Glee during the show's most recent season, will figure into a plot line in an upcoming episode.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What have we wrought...

There is a growing trend among psychologists and others that questions what our reliance upon digital devices is doing to our minds.  For the first time, the term "Internet use disorder" will make its way into the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In Silicon Valley, ground zero for the development of these devices and software, there is growing concern about the role of technology in peoples' lives.  Tech guru Soren Gordhamer has gone so far as to organize a conference, Wisdom 2.0, to explore the need for balance in this brave new world of instant gratification digitally.  Companies who have become a part of our essential daily lives--Google, Twitter, and Facebook--are offering meditation to their employees, mindful of the way technology has impacted workers and consumers alike.

One media outlet, though, offers a contrarian view that it's not the hardware's fault or the software's fault--it's the employers fault.  Alexis Madrigal, writing for TheAtlantic.com, suggests that employers who expect their employees to be available 24/7 are to blame.  Likewise, she writes that the U.S. has a political and cultural system that "makes us feel guilty about taking any time off, and obligated to meet the growing demand for nonstop productivity."  She cites that Europeans have smart devices too but Americans put in 122 more hours per year, on average, than Brits and nearly 10 weeks more per year than Germans.

Whatever the reason and whoever may be at fault, isn't it time that we re-examine the reliance upon technology and find new, creative ways to dis-engage?  Hey, maybe we could even crack open a "real" book from time to time?

Friday, July 27, 2012


Ah yes, the end of the work week and another sizzling weekend (as in hot temps) is headed our way.  Let's get caught up on the latest and greatest, shall we?

- The Summer Olympics officially start tonight in London with the Opening Ceremonies.  And, once again we television viewers will get to see the storytelling ability of NBC's Bob Costas, the network's anchor over the 17 days of the games.  During that time, Costas will be on air an average of four to five hours per day.  Tonight Costas, as only he so eloquently can, will call out the International Olympic Committee for denying Israel's request for a moment of silence acknowledging the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Games.  It's the 40th anniversary of that terrorist attack and resulting tragedy, and Costas finds the decision "baffling."  I can't wait to see how Costas handles it tonight.

- What's the longest running episodic primetime program in the U.S.?  Give up?  It's Raw, the World Wrestling Entertainment's show on the USA Network.  Raw had its 1,000th episode this week--the show reaches 600 million homes worldwide.

- Quote of the week:  "In the left-hand corner of each page of the U.S. itinerary was the legal age for sexual intercourse in that particular state," John Taylor, bassist for Duran Duran, revealing how the band kept current on the age of consent during their U.S. tours.  Taylor has written an autobiography on his time with the band.

- Perhaps we should file this in the "duh" category.  In Sweden, a recent study of 4,100 people found that those who never turn off their smartphones and computers are prone to sleep disorders, depression, and mental illness.

- A South Carolina funeral home is opening a Starbucks in its lobby.  The baristas will wear Starbucks uniforms as they sell lattes to mourners.  Hopefully the home will have a rule preventing any beverages in proximity to an open casket displaying the deceased.

- What impact will the Olympics have on London?  Tourists are expected to spend $3 billion during the event and the London Organizing Committee says the Games are already spurring the redevelopment of East London where 11,000 new homes and 8,000 jobs are expected.  A study by Lloyds TSB estimated that hosting the Games could add $24 billion to the U.K.'s gross domestic product.

- This may have been the most telling fallout from yesterday's Google Fiber announcement--a former ad agency colleague in San Francisco posted on Facebook, about Google's roll-out plans, that he "wishes he lived in Kansas City."  The company's first-in-the-nation Internet services are coming to select neighborhoods in Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO, with the company urging those interested to register and rally their neighbors into "fiberhoods"--areas of town where the network will be deployed based upon interest.

- Tampa is readying itself for this year's Republican National Convention and one group that is rallying in preparation are strip clubs.  Tampa's club owners have heard that revenue pours in during convention time and that other cities, who have hosted political conventions, claim the Republicans spend more in these venues than Democrats.  The city has a dubious unofficial designation as the "strip club capital of the U.S."  (Source:  New York Times)

- A recent Gallup poll notes that 44% of Americans say they have a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in churches or organized religion.  That's a new low in our country and marks a long decline form the 1970s, when confidence in organized religion was as high as 68%.

- And, finally, here's yet one more statistic that reinforces the growing dominance of women in U.S. culture--this year's Olympic team will have more female athletes competing than male athletes.  In a first for the U.S. Olympic effort, this year's team will have 269 women and 261 men.  It's too bad they all have to wear those dorky berets designed by Ralph Lauren.

Have a great weekend, campers!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The internet for young and old

There's a new television commercial running for State Farm Insurance which plays off the phenomenon that some believe that everything which appears on the internet is true.  And, there was a recent blog post, authored by a recent college graduate, who opined that all social media managers should be under the age of 25 as it is this group who truly understands this relatively new form of communication.

Now, on first glance, one might react and ask "what do these two things have in common?"  The answer is, "a lot."  Both are misguided points of view.  And, they are points of view which appear to originate from two opposite ends of the audience spectrum.

Let's first break down the comments of the 20-something about social media.  As you would expect, this writer, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa, was skewered in the comments section of her post.  One response, which I particularly liked, was by a reader who suggested that advancements in technology are happening so rapidly that using this logic means the writer would have a career life of, oh, say five years or so.  Others happily piled on, and not all of the respondents were baby boomers like me who may have simply taken offense at this young whipper-snapper's point-of-view.  No, the respondents used logic and facts to explain why this editorial opinion was rather absurd.  As I read the responses, and re-read the post, I wondered "How many young people, starting out in business, actually agree with this writer but understand the career suicide that a voiced or written opinion like this would cause?"

The myth that all things on the internet are true is most frequently represented by e-mail missives I receive from an older family member.  The most recent group e-mail contained a column written by a conservative "journalist" and credited to have appeared in the Wall Street Journal.  I had the time so I did some quick checking--using the internet, of course--on this writer and his published work, and discovered the piece in question first appeared in 2010, on his blog.  It did not appear in the Wall Street Journal or any other mainstream publication or website.

My point in all this is that users of digital communications have a wonderful tool at their fingertips but one that can be mis-used so, so easily.

We know that the vast majority of information appearing on the internet has not gone through a copy desk or editing desk.  Suggesting then that the internet is the highway for all things factual and true is horribly misguided.  Likewise, a belief that only young folks "understand" social media or any other form of digital communications is bent as it is the older demographic who is most quickly adopting sharing outlets like Pinterest, Facebook and Tumblr.

As marketers, it is our job to understand consumer behavior in this vast new digital world.  It's easy to use one's personal bias as the basis for a point-of-view; it's harder to dig, find facts, and utilize real consumer insights to tap into the true, targeted potential of what digital has to offer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sadness, as once again the world proves to be a dangerous place

I've always had a love affair with movies and the very act of going to the movies.  When I was young, the movie theater was the place where we kids could go to see the latest from Disney, or perhaps a historical movie that counted as a school field trip.  Later, the theater was the place to take a date or to see the latest blockbuster during the summer or over the winter holidays.

As a parent, the theater became the place where I could take my children to re-live the wonders of Disney or to introduce them to the superheroes of my youth.  It also was a safe haven--a place where we could drop off the kids during their teen years and pick them up a couple of hours later.

Today, that very act of going to the movies will never be the same.  A gunman in Colorado has taken human lives, injured dozens, and laid waste to the idea that the movie theater is a place where we go to get away and suspend normalcy for two plus hours.

We'll all listen to the reasons why in the days to come and we'll soon be hearing the precautions which movie chains will take to protect their patrons.  That's all well and good but the feeling of wonder and anticipation at the theater is now joined with "I wonder who's sitting in this place with me?"

Once again, the world has proven to be a sad, and dangerous, place.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012 Emmy nominations

The nominations for this year's Emmy Awards have been announced and Timothy Olyphant and Justified are noticeably absent.

Neither Olyphant, in his best season yet, or his show made the cut among the nominations for Best Actor and Best Drama.  That's a shame as Justified (FX) was truly outstanding in its third season.

Not surprisingly, Mad Men (AMC) again led the way with nominations for Best Drama, Jon Hamm as Best Actor, Jared Harris as Best Supporting Actor, and Christina Hendricks as Best Supporting Actress.  Thankfully, voters also recognized Homeland (SHO) with nominations for Best Drama, Best Actress (Claire Danes) and Best Actor (Damien Lewis.)

The list of nominees looks more like an Oscars list than an Emmys list, though, as Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton, Nicole Kidman, Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Jessica Lange, Emma Thompson and Kathy Bates all earned nominations for their work on the small screen.

Costner and Paxton received nominations for Hatfields & McCoys, the ratings blockbuster for The History Channel.  Kidman and Owen were nominated for their roles in HBO's Hemingway & Gelhorn.

The recent trend of paid cable networks gaining more and more nominations continued in 2012--HBO received 81 nominations which was far in front of second place CBS' 60 nominations.  HBO shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire, along with Veep, pushed the network into the leader for overall nominations.

Were there other big misses, in addition to Justified?  I was surprised that The Good Wife (CBS) did not get a Best Drama nomination.  The show's Julianna Margulies did get a nomination for Best Actress, which she won last year, and former winner Archie Panjabi was again nominated for Best Supporting Actress.  Another miss in the Best Drama category was the lack of nomination for Dexter.

Modern Family (ABC) and 30 Rock (NBC) were the most nominated comedies, as has been the case for the past two years.

The Emmys will be broadcast on ABC on September 23.

(Source:  New York Times, Los Angeles Times)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to build a successful career in marketing communications

The following is a reprint of a guest blog post, from me, which appeared last week on the website of the Kansas City chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.


I was a bright-eyed, headstrong journalism school graduate when I drove to central Kansas to interview for a sports editor position at a small newspaper many moons ago.  It had been my dream to cover sports and the prospect of an entry-level job, on a small newspaper, was simply the beginning of a career that would end up at Sports Illustrated or The Sporting News—or so I thought.
I was offered the job on the spot, accepted immediately, and then just as quickly had second thoughts as I drove three hours back to Kansas City.  I’m not sure what exactly caused my hesitance, but looking back, the decision to renege on my commitment was the first step on a fulfilling journey which has offered me stops along every discipline that marketing communications has to offer. 
My advice, when asked by those entering or new to our profession, is to encourage young professionals to find a company or opportunity where they can experience a wide swath of communications responsibilities.  The ability to one day work on a news release and the next to tackle a web assignment, not only exposes you to different tactics, but also helps one understand the importance of strategic message integration and linkage across communications tools.
My first job was with a publishing company that provided me exposure to news writing, print advertising copywriting and layout, and advertising sales.  Later, during my advertising agency days, I was on the management team of a small shop that integrated traditional advertising with public relations as well as event marketing.
Donna Schwartze, KC/IABC’s VP of Finance, told me a story of her early career when she worked at Six Flags/St. Louis in the marketing department.  The staff was small allowing Donna the chance to do a bit of everything and, along the way, determine that public relations was what she liked most.  The opportunity to sample various disciplines also gave Donna important experience across all marketing communications, now serving her well as the owner of her own business who can provide most any marketing service for her clients.
Working across various communications disciplines isn’t just confined, though, to small companies and/or departments.  While at Sprint, I utilized the size of the company to craft a career path which included advertising, digital communications, corporate communications, sponsorship and entertainment marketing, direct marketing, and retail communications.
My advice to you is to be open to the possibilities of jobs that provide a wide range of responsibility.  Make sure that you are making it clear that you want to help out across various areas of marketing communications.  Sample the possibilities.  Who knows?  Maybe your aspiration will change, like mine, and a whole new world of opportunity will greet you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The connectivity dilemma

Two recent data points are sobering if you're an American worker.

The first is a July 2 article on FastCompany.com which confirmed one thing we know--U.S. citizens work a lot and are always connected.  A study by Good Technology logged the number of phone calls, e-mails and business texts you log in "after hours"--the number is 365 hours worth of "overtime."  Most of the 1,000 participants indicated that they do this "after hours" checking from the dinner table, while on vacation, and, yes, while in bed.

The Good Technology study also found that the average American starts checking e-mail at 7:09 a.m. and that 69% of us won't go to sleep without checking work e-mail.  The widespread adoption of smartphones is cited as a key culprit in ensuring that we're always connected.

The other piece of data from Inc. magazine, which again likely isn't a surprise, is the amount of time Americans take for vacation compared to their brethren in Europe and elsewhere.  U.S. workers take, on average, 12 vacation days a year which radically trails the 30 taken in Brazil or the 28 in Germany.  In the United Kingdom, workers take an average of 25 days per year while those in Norway take 21 and in India, 20.  Who trails the U.S.?  Only Japan lags us--workers there take an average of five vacation days per year.

In the U.S., the average number of vacation days which go unused each year is two.  What are the reasons for not taking all vacation days?  The most common reason cited is "I can't afford a vacation," followed by:
- "Work is my life."
- "I have trouble scheduling far enough in advance."
- "I can get paid for my unused vacation days."
- "Taking time off may be perceived negatively at work."

This depressing, yet not unexpected, information makes me wonder if we aren't setting ourselves up for a labor issue in this country as workers burn out from never being able to disconnect from work.  It's enough to make me want to take a vacation!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday afternoon rambling

- Mad Men, Game of Thrones and The Killing have finished their seasons but a fitting replacement is making Sunday nights appointment viewing again.  The Newsroom (HBO), the creation of Arron Sorkin, offers up the staccato dialogue and smart storylines we've come to expect from Sorkin (see West Wing.)  Jeff Daniels plays the acerbic Will McAvoy and leads a strong ensemble cast.  You can catch the third episode tonight.

- Only a retail chain catering to those buying for youngsters could get away with the brand Buy Buy Baby.  If you've not shopped in BBB, it's worth a visit if only to question how you ever survived without the multitude of gear and supplies for infants and toddlers.

- Speaking of interesting brand names, what's with Boston Market?  This purveyor of comfort food doesn't exactly conjur up images, for me, of good ol' Boston.

- I shake my head at those Kansas Citians who grouse about what the city is spending to welcome those coming to town for Tuesday's Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  Not only will All-Star week provide approximately $60 million in economic impact for the region, it's offering up immeasurable value in the visibility for Kansas City and the metropolitan area.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A simpler time

The recent passing of Andy Griffith has had me pondering the desire for "simpler times," and those thoughts made me recall my fondness for the Independence Day celebrations of my childhood.  No, there were no fireworks bans back in the day and the thought of spending that summer holiday inside, no matter the temperature, was simply unthinkable.

Simpler times, indeed...I miss them.

The following post is reprinted from the July 4, 2009 edition of this blog.  

My fondest memories of Independence Day were the family get-togethers which would always happen on this holiday.  My grandmother and grandfather and uncle and aunt all lived within five houses of us out in “the country.” (“Country,” in this case, indicated the larger lots which we had while all around us were farms of significant size.)

My grandfather owned the ice plant in town—the place where townspeople would come during the time when “ice box” was the kitchen appliance which evolved into today’s refrigerator. He also sold cold beverages and summer fruits out of this huge, walk-in cooler which held the coldest bottled soda in town.

Each year, grandpa would come to our family gathering after working a long day at the plant on what typically would be his busiest day of the year. When he arrived he usually had two ice-cold, sweet-as-sugar watermelons under each arm, grinning and chuckling as he walked up to our outdoor barbecue and picnic.

One year, my dad and uncle ordered a huge box of fireworks from a mail-order place. This was before ordering online and even toll-free numbers. Dad and my uncle mailed in their form for a huge box of sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles and fountains. We had all waited in anticipation, knowing that this would be the best fireworks display ever. Eventually, the two brothers were setting off fireworks simultaneously--they had not calculated on the volume of fireworks that they would receive coupled with the short attention spans of all of us.

Time seemed so simple then. A sweet watermelon, my grandmother's fried chicken, a warm summer night and fireworks which were allowed in backyards. I miss those times and relish those memories.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

It's "Independence Day"

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following entry is reprinted from this blog on July 4, 2010.

I have an axe to grind, America. Can we please stop commonly referring to this week's holiday as the "Fourth of July," and refer to it as "Independence Day?"

For a quick history lesson, on July 2 (yes, 2nd), 1776, the American colonies legally separated from Great Britain. This was accomplished when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution offered up by one of our Founding Fathers, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for our country's independence, Congress then focused on the Declaration of Independence. This statement explained the decision of our forefathers and had been prepared by a committee of five men with Thomas Jefferson as the principal author. The wording was debated and reviewed by Congress and ultimately approved on July 4.

A day earlier, John Adams, another one of the five authors, wrote this to his wife Abigail:

- The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

The suggestion that Adams offered up, in this letter to his wife, turned out to be two days off from the ultimate date used for celebrating America's independence. While resolution of our independence occurred on July 2, the date on the Declaration of Independence is July 4.

To further complicate our history's calendar, the signing of the Declaration of Independence did NOT occur on July 4--rather, it was signed on August 2, 1776. So enduring was the myth that signing occurred on July 4 that both Jefferson and Adams, late in their lives, recalled the signing occurring on that date. And, as we all know, both men died on that very day--July 4, 1826--our country's 50th anniversary.

So, when observing our country's independence this weekend, and carrying out Adams' vision of how we should celebrate, let's do just that--honor our "independence"...not the "4th of July."

Friday, June 29, 2012


Let's wrap up this work week, shall we?

- I am shocked that TomKat is no more.  Shocked, I say...

- C'mon, admit it--you've missed the funny "Pizza! Pizza!" ads once used by Little Caesar's pizza.  Like all good ad campaigns when an advertiser needs a boost, this one is making a comeback.  Little Caesar's will launch its first national campaign in 15 years and is returning to its "Pizza! Pizza!" tagline and Little Caesar character.  Little Caesar's has $1.48B of the pizza market behind leaders Pizza Hut ($5.4B), Domino's ($3.4B) and Papa John's ($2.2B.)

- In the latest figures released by Advertising Age, Procter & Gamble tops the list of 100 Leading National Advertisers with a total 2011 U.S. spend of $4,971.5B.  General Motors is next but far behind at $3,055.7B.  The remaining advertisers in the top ten are Verizon ($2,523.0B), Comcast ($2,465.4B), AT&T ($2,359.0B), JPMorgan Chase & Co. ($2,351.8B), Ford Motor Co. ($2,141.3B), American Express ($2,125.3B), L'Oreal ($2,124.6B) and Walt Disney Co. ($2,112.2B.)  Sprint Nextel Corp. was 22nd at $1,400.0B.

- After a 10-year hiatus, Matchbox 20 is back with a new album, North, due out on September 4.

- What were the top Twitter trends for this week?  Nora Ephron topped the list followed by RIP Michael Jackson, Lugo, Now Playing, Spice Girls, Alan Turing, Happy World Music Day, San Juan, and Happy Birthday Ariana.  Writer and filmmaker Ephron died this week and this week was also the third anniversary of Jackson's death.  As for the Spice Girls, the five Brits announced this week that they are working together on a new musical, Viva Forever, which will feature many of the Spice gals' hits.

- In the "no surprise" category, Savannah Guthrie was named today to succeed Ann Curry as co-anchor of Today (NBC.)  There was no word in the crisply worded NBC statement as to whether Matt Lauer personally approved Guthrie's appointment or not.

- Shepard Fairey was asked by the Rolling Stones to update their iconic tongue logo in honor of the band's fiftieth anniversary.  That logo was unveiled this week and combines the numerals "5" and "0" into "The Rolling Stones," with the large lips and tongue artwork staying as the central design of the band's brand identity.  The original logo was designed in 1971 by John Pasche, a student at the Royal College of Art in London.

- And finally, here in the ol' cowtown, folks are licking their lips in anticipation of the July 5 opening of the Leawood outpost of Oklahoma Joe's barbecue.  The 'cue establishment is going into the space formerly occupied by TGIFriday's at 119th and Roe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hot air balloons, goggles and God Bless the USA

- Sign of the apocalypse:  A principal in a New York school banned kindergarten students from singing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" at their graduation on the grounds that "we don't want to offend other cultures."

- Did you hear about the Indiana man whose marriage proposal went awry?  The hopeful young man hired a hot air balloon to propose to his girlfriend only to have the balloon collide with power lines, delivering a shock that knocked out the pilot who then fell on the young woman.  Both the pilot and bride-to-be were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.  Thankfully for the young man, the future bride said "yes" before the accident occurred.

- Did you like the ending of The Killing?  The AMC drama thankfully unveiled the killer of Rosie Larson.  Now, what will happen to the show next year...?

- Game of Thrones' popularity among teens and young adults generated an average of 3.9 million pirated downloads per episode during this recently concluded season.  That number is more than the 3.8 million who legally watched the show on HBO.

- The "Leading Actress in a Musical" Tony Award winner was Audra McDonald for her role in The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.  Those who watch Private Practice (ABC) know McDonald as Dr. Naomi Bennett.  It was the fourth Tony Award win for McDonald.

- Here's your DIY tip of the day--use goggles when you cut an onion to prevent the normal tearing-up.  (Hey, c'mon, face it--you get all kinds of fun insight into an eclectic bunch of topics on this blog.)

- Actor Jared Harris did five hours of media interviews the Monday after his character, Lane Pryce, committed suicide on Mad Men (AMC.)  Not only were viewers caught off guard by the shocking development but so too were Harris' agents.  Unlike actors on other dramas (Sean Bean, Game of Thrones; Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead) who signed on to do other projects, thus signaling their fate on their respective shows, Harris gamely ignored other opportunities in order to keep the fate of Pryce a secret until the show aired.  Brad Schenck, one of Harris' agents, knew that things were going the wrong direction when Harris' Pryce forged a check on the show.  "I told my wife, 'This isn't good'," said Schenck.

- And, finally, if you've chosen to avoid the new Dallas on TNT, you're missing the chance to see several aged original characters reprise their roles.  The most shocking comparison is Charlene Tilton who, since 1979, has aged rather dramatically.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A lesson in leadership

You've likely been there, either on one side of the desk or the other.  The interviewer is firing away questions at the interviewee when, inevitably, that point in the interview session arrives where the questioning gets reversed.  Good interviewers ask "do you have any questions for me?"  Good interviewees seize control, if that question isn't asked, and say "do you mind if I ask you some questions?"

When I've experienced that situation as an interviewer, it seems that the first question asked was always "what's your management style" to which I would respond "hire good people and get out of their way."

I realize, in retrospect, that many of us say that but few truly mean it.  Or, if we do, we get lazy at how much effort we put forth into hiring truly "good people."

What often happens in business is that the those who are hired and who are good are taken advantage of by their bosses.  "Go to" people become "go to all the time" people.  While a good team member may enjoy being seen as a "go to" associate, he or she still faces the likelihood of job burn-out because of the consistency of the requests coming in from the boss.  Whether the boss likes it or not, resentment kicks in as the "go to" person feels punished for being a good employee.

How do you fix this problem?  One, make sure that you are giving absolute best effort when making a hire.  And, two, once the hire is made, ensure that you are doing your job as a manager by coaching the new hire--and every member of your team--to get better.

Providing open and honest feedback, to every team member, is essential.  Candid feedback and coaching can help the good get better, keeps everyone engaged with ownership of their career, and allows you to "de-hire" the low performers.

Yes, I said "de-hire."  Ignoring performance issues impacts not only the associate who is under-performing but the team chemistry of the whole group.  Associates take their lead from their boss--when they see a performance issue go un-addressed it is only natural that doubt and resentment can kick in, negatively impacting the performance of the whole team.

Remember, "people quit people before they quit companies."  (Monday Morning Leadership, David Cottrell.)  Don't let your team members quit on you--address the problems which need to be addressed, continue to hire the very best, and coach each and every member of your group.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Breaking down Father's Day

I'd like to say Happy Father's Day to my Pops--a special, special man and one who has had tremendous influence on my life and family.

So, let's take this occasion to have some fun and break down the numbers of Father's Day:

- A woman in Spokane, WA can be credited with "inventing" Father's Day.  She thought that Dads deserved their special day, just like Moms, and so celebrated the day on June 19, 1910--her father's birthday.

- President Calvin Coolidge publicly supported a national Father's Day but it wasn't until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed it a national holiday.  President Richard Nixon followed up in 1972 by signing a permanent U.S. Father's Day into law, observed on the third Sunday in June.  (And, yes, 1972 was a busy year for Nixon given that we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in this week--a crime which took place in the same year as putting Father's Day into law.)

- How many fathers are there in America?  An estimated 70.1 million men can claim that title.

- There are 1.7 million single fathers in the U.S.  Of those, 170,000 are raising three or more children.

- 176,000 men are stay-at-home fathers.

- Hallmark estimates that 94 million Father's Day cards are exchanged each year, making it the fourth-biggest card "event" of the year.

- How much will we spend on Father's Day?  According to the National Retail Federation, the average person will spent $117.14 on their Pops or other fathers they know.

- The Guinness World Record for the oldest man to father a child is held by Les Colley of Australia, who sired his son, Oswald, at age 92.

- Did you know that Presidents Washington, Madison, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan and Harding had no children?

- "Papa Don't Preach," by Madonna, reached #1 on Billboard's Hot 100.  And, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone," by the Temptations, won three Grammys in 1972.

- And, finally, sticking with the music category, the Rolling Stones have been together 50 years with Mick Jagger as the lead singer.  Jagger has been prolific in the fatherhood department--he has seven children.

So, for all the fathers out there--enjoy this your special day and say a word of "thanks" to the woman in Spokane who decided that we needed our own Father's Day.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly

Good:  This isn't exactly a "good" thing but the final episode of this season of Mad Men is Sunday at 9:00 p.m. CT (AMC.)  The past two episodes have been the best of the season and perhaps two of the best ever meaning that Sunday's finale promises to not disappoint.

Bad:  Male bashing continues, this time at the hands of CNN.com.  A recent article by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan opines that young males have "technology enchantment," meaning that they crave instant gratification at the console of a gaming device or trolling for online porn.  The result?  These young males find school, jobs and long-term relationships to be "painfully boring."

Ugly:  One in five Americans admits having urinated in a public swimming pool.  (Source:  CNN Water Quality and Health Council)

Good:  The History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys, set viewership records for the cable network as close to 14 million viewers tuned in to the first episode.

Bad:  A man dressed as Darth Vader recently robbed a Toledo bank.  Sources say that the Sith lord, er, robber, used a semiautomatic pistol instead of the more traditional light saber.

Ugly:  John Davis of Ohio recently tried to hand two one-dollar bills to a panhandler, who was confined to a wheelchair.  One of the bills dropped to the ground and, minutes later, police ticketed Davis for littering.  The fine?  $500!

Good:  The Hollywood Reporter had this to say about nominations for the Emmy Awards and the Best Drama category:  "Justified (FX)--This.  Must.  Happen.  Now, three seasons in, a nomination is overdue..."  The entertainment industry magazine expects nominations to go to Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and The Good Wife, but is campaigning for not only shows like Justified but Homeland (Showtime.)  I echo their sentiments on both of those shows.

Bad:  Speaking of television ratings, ABC's The Bachelorette is down 18% year-over-year in the 18-49 year old demographic.

Ugly:  Gregg Allman takes his seventh turn down the wedding aisle this month, claiming "This time, I am really in love."  Didn't the blues rocker say the same thing on weddings two, three, four, five and six?

And, finally, in our "double ugly" bonus round comes this--the typical CEO of an American company made $9.6 million last year.  If you take the national median salary of $39,312, a worker would have to work for 244 years to make the equivalent of that one year of CEO pay!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The next chapter

I recently left corporate life at a publicly traded company and decided to try my hand at "doing my own thing," a k a starting my own business.  My focus is on consulting--to large brands, small brands, large companies, and small companies, with the flexibility to take on special projects and continue the guest lecturing which I love to do at the collegiate and post-graduate level.

The shift from Fortune 100 company to party of one has been dramatic, to say the least.  How so, you ask?  Well...

- The instinctive curling of my arm to check e-mails on the iPhone in my mitt has gradually ceased.  I am coming to terms that no one is constantly looking for me or desiring to connect with me.  My e-mail volume is down by, oh, 90% or so.  Don't get me wrong as I'm not complaining--the sharp reduction in electronic importance is a bit of a blow to the old ego, however.

- I formerly lived in a world where my calls were answered and, if not, the recipient would typically return my call within the hour.  These days, a typical response time for my calls is within the week...maybe.

- Office interaction?  You bet--I have hallway conversations with our two cats at home and my wife will check in with me to say "I'm headed to the store--do you need anything?"  Yep, those hallway meetings are really quite productive.

- Speaking of offices, I have a satellite office now too.  One of the benefits of empty nesting is the ability to take over what formerly was a child's bedroom.  So, the downstairs office is for show and the upstairs (satellite) office is where the work really gets done.

- I'm buying my own office supplies now.

In all seriousness, the change from corporate life to proprietor life, while dramatic, has also been liberating.  The constant connectivity is still there, if needed, but the volume decline has been a welcome respite from the nightly e-mail check-in sessions which were necessary to manage work flow.

I very much miss my colleagues but also enjoy the ability to roll out of bed, shower, and be in my office a few paces from the bedroom.

The journey to potentially making this a full-time, start my own business chapter is still very much in the formative stages.  Yet, I kind of like the freedom and thought of charting a path which is one that I created.  Stay tuned as I check in with you all from time-to-time to update you on how this post-corporate life gig is going.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Facebook, germs and "the other woman"

- See--I told you that you shouldn't invest in Facebook!

- Olivia Hamilton is a three-year old who lives in Gloucester, England.  And, she has a new best friend who may save her life.  Hamilton needs to be constantly monitored in case her blood sugar levels fall too low so her parents enterprisingly decided to train their new puppy to help with the job.  The cocker spaniel, Bonnie, went through intensive scent training so that it learned to tell when Olivia's blood sugar is low by smelling changes in the girl's body odor.  The pup already has detected low blood sugar eight times and alerts Olivia's parents by barking and running around.  Man's--and little girl's--best friend, indeed...

- Well, so much for acting all busy and eating at your desk!  A new study found that the most germ-filled office surfaces are one's desktop and the table in the break room.  A microbiologist involved in the study said, "There's 400 times more bacteria on an office desktop than the toilet seat."

- Back on Facebook--a British legal firm found that over a third of the divorce filings in 2011 contained the word "Facebook."  So much for "friending" your spouse, huh?

- Sign of the apocalypse:  A parking space in New York City is on sale for--are you ready--one million dollars!  The space is in a condo building and has its own real estate broker.  Yikes...

- And, once more on Facebook--an Indian woman filed for divorce because her husband took too long to change his status to "married."  The couple had been only married for two months but the wife felt her husband's tardiness in changing his status meant he was probably cheating on her.  The judge denied her request for a divorce and the couple is now in six months of counseling.

- For those of you in job seeking mode, watch out--8% of Americans say they've embellished or, ahem, exaggerated information on their resume.  And, of that 8%, 27% say they lost their job when the false information was discovered.

- There's good buzz building about Men In Black 3.

- There are only two episodes left of this season of Mad Men but it'll be hard for the show to replicate the drama, pacing and acting of the May 27 "The Other Woman" episode.

- And, on the topic of finales of great shows, Season Two of Game of Thrones (HBO) wraps up this Sunday evening.  Viewers have needed a game-day program to keep track of the no less than eight story lines actively playing out in the land of Westeros and beyond.  Can the show have eight cliffhangers?  It's doubtful but there surely will be plenty for water cooler/coffeemaker discussion next Monday.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day musings

- If you missed last night's Mad Men, I won't spoil the surprise but, simply put, it's the most eventful episode of this season.  It's also one more intriguing look at Don Draper's relationship with the three most important adult women in his life--his wife, Megan; and business colleagues Peggy and Joan.

- Happy Memorial Day to Best Buy:  Wal Mart is now running full page print advertising suggesting that "if your local Best Buy closed," then come to Wal Mart for the best in TVs and electronics.  Ouch!

- Rocker John Fogerty turns 67 today.

- I blogged a couple of weeks ago about Apple's interesting move towards celebrity pitch-people.  That move became even weirder now that spots featuring John Malkovich have aired.  "Interesting" doesn't even begin to describe that choice of actors.

- The Avengers is kicking box office booty and a key reason is that the film appeals across gender and age groupings.  The audience breakdown thus far is 50% over 25, 40% female, 55% couples and 24% families.

- I don't know about you but I'm breathing a sigh of relief.  Archaeologists found ancient Mayan calculations that indicate that the world will be around for at least another 7,000 years.  So, this whole business of accomplishing everything on your bucket list by 12-12-12 means we have now more time, right?

- And finally, a sad note--Meow, the 39 pound cat, has died.  The feline became a global celebrity when his owner, in New Mexico, left him at a local animal shelter.  The kitty was put on a diet but it was too late--he died of pulmonary failure.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A story of Memorial Day

Every day the Obituary section in the Kansas City Star seems to include yet another "Greatest Generation" member who has left us.  Today was no exception.

Salvatore G. Ottaviano was born in Kansas City, MO to parents who migrated to America.  He graduated from Cearns High School, a school in the north end of Kansas City in the area inhabited by Italian immigrants.  His parents owned the Bellini Theater close by, at 5th and Troost.

Upon graduation, Salvatore became a Marine and was sent overseas.  As with many servicemen of the day, he met his future bride, Ruby Jean, before he departed.

Salvatore survived his stint in the Marines and returned home to marry Ruby.  The couple lived life to the fullest--traveling often and exercising their love of gambling, making Las Vegas a frequent stop on their journeys.  Salvatore and Ruby spent 62 years together before her death earlier this month.

Salvatore soon followed his wife in death as, according to his obit, "he could not live another day without her."

Members of the "Greatest Generation," like Salvatore, are dying at a rapid pace.  Obits like this could be found, I'm sure, in every major American newspaper this weekend.  Let's be sure and give thanks, on this special holiday weekend devoted to those who have passed, to members of the "Greatest Generation" who served their country so nobly.  R.I.P. Salvatore.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's war movie time!

Have you had your share of war movies yet?  As is the custom, we are once again being subjected to the war movie genre, this time on AMC, as we move through the Memorial Day weekend.  And, while I love the genre and the tradition of this TV viewing weekend, can we please mix it up a bit?  I mean, repeated showings of The Green Berets, one of the worst movies ever, means that many other very deserving war flicks aren't getting air time.

Here's one film website's list of the best post-1900 war movies:

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)
2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
3. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
4. Schindler's List (1993)
5. Platoon (1986)
6. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
7. Patton (1970)
8. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
9. The Longest Day (1962)
10. From Here to Eternity (1953)
11. Sergeant York (1941)
12. The Great Escape (1963)
13. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
14. Das Boot (1981)
15. The Deer Hunter (1978)
16. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
17. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
18. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
19. The Guns of Navarone (1961)
20. Open City (1945)

I think that this is a pretty accurate portrayal of the best in this genre and note it here given the author's listing of Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam War movie as number one--a movie which had many dramatic twists and turns before even making it to the big screen.

Martin Sheen played Apocalypse Now's central character, Captain Benjamin Willard, who as a US Army special ops officer was sent into the jungle to kill the presumed insane Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando.)  Sheen wasn't Coppola's first pick and actually was quite down the list of potential actors who were approached about this role.  Steve McQueen was the director's first choice but declined given the amount of time out of the U.S. for filming.  Al Pacino was also offered the role but he too did not accept for the same reason.  Others approached included Jack Nicholson, James Caan and Robert Redford.

Sheen suffered a heart attack during film production and was rumored to have dealt with psychological issues as well during the making of the film.  So, perhaps ironically, it was Sheen's acting sidekick, Robert Duvall, playing the part of Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, who won a Golden Globe for his wacked-out portrayal of the surfing, war-crazed chopper squadron leader.  Sheen was nominated for an American Movie Award for Best Actor but lost out to Alan Alda (The Seduction of Joe Tynan.)

Overall, Apocalypse Now was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but only won for Cinematography and Sound.  It is one of those films which now is considered a classic and whose impact seems to increase with age.  As one writer opined, "it is a masterpiece of the New Hollywood age."