Just-in-time Zen Moment For Holiday Shopper

Posted on December 20, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Retail, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Traffic lights

Traffic lights (Photo credit: Vít ‘tasuki’ Brunner)

A mobile holiday shopper in Los Angeles tweets this morning of driving around in the city for two hours in search of holiday gifts. She had a list of gifts that she wanted to buy, from the sounds of it.

None of the stores she visited in person had the merchandise in stock.

Then, a moment of digital satori arrived while she  paused at a traffic light. She grabbed her smart phone, jumped online and got her shopping done in the span of a Beverly Drive minute or two.

No telling what stores she patronized online, unless she covered that in a subsequent tweet unseen by me.

Obviously, she was making a statement about her shopping experience or lack thereof with the bricks-and-mortar retailers she attempted to buy from during her odyssey on wheels. The statement being, if I interpret correctly, that she was fed up with the whole thing – and probably not going to be doing so much drive-by shopping in the future.

Reading her tweet – which showed up as a random posting in my Twitter stream, sandwiched in between various notes of more earth-shaking news – made me think about an infographic I saw recently predicting continued massive growth in digital interactions of all kinds, including mobile shopping. If it — the sudden discovery that it’s easier, smarter and above all else more practical to shop online than to motor desperately and for hours on end from one outlet to another — can happen in-between traffic light stops in retail saturated LA, then this revolution in mobile retail is just beginning.

It occurs to me that our friendly LA tweeter could have phoned ahead to ask if the products she sought were in stock at the retailers she had on her radar. But she apparently didn’t.

One can only surmise why that was.

One guess is that making phone calls of that nature is kind of a pain in the ass. Maybe not as much of a pain in the ass as driving for hours in a fog of holiday desperation, but still…a pain. And who knows who or what is going to answer the phone when you call a business these days? Besides, what fun is that – calling up retailers to find out if they’ve got what you want in stock? Better to foray into the unknown, testing the limits of the physical world to meet one’s needs. And then, when all else fails, go online. Or maybe not. Maybe just sit at home in front of the computer for a bit buying stuff off of retail websites. But then, what fun is that? It’s kind of hard to feel the holiday spirit when you’re mixing it up with your keyboard and a monitor — no Christmas bells merrily jingling, no stimulation from the madding crowds and festive festooning of the stores themselves. No sense of awe, in short.

Ah well. it’s a dilemma. To mingle with the masses of the malls, or to commune in silent ecstasy with the online retailers.

But why choose? Slide that mobile device into your coat pocket while you’re heading out the door to hit the bricks — if the mall lets you down, you just might find yourself stopped before a long-winded red traffic light punching in online orders.

That would be me, behind you, leaning on the horn of my car as the traffic light turns from red to green.

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Football: Great Game. Bad Karma.

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Public Relations, Society, Sporting life | Tags: , , , , , |

English: New England Patriots linebacker Junio...

English: New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau during a game against the Oakland Raiders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s a heck of a way to start the new year off if you’re a sports fan in America.

Football is for the foolhardy.

That’s the message – how else can you read it? – from the findings on Junior Seau’s death.

You can argue that football has always been a sport that requires a certain amount of foolhardiness from its participants.

You can argue that, but you won’t get far now that it’s clear that it’s the sheer everyday violence of the sport that does in people like Mr. Seau – and many others, Jim McMahon apparently among them as well.

It’s hard to imagine football being played any other way than it is now.

Maybe there’s a way out.

What Price Success?

It’s a great game, fun to play at any level – and great to watch.

The gladiators who perform on Sundays are extremely well paid. But money can’t buy your way back from brain injury.

Years ago, punch drunk fighters were a staple of the American scene. Read Nelson Algren’s stories about life in the mean Chicago streets to see what happened to those guys. Grim.\

Auto Racing Lost Too Many Too.

Car racing had to change after so many drivers got killed. Today, it’s rare to see a driver even get seriously hurt, much less destroyed in a NASCAR or Indy Car race.

As a kid, I idolized the guys who put their lives on the starting line – guys like Fireball Roberts, Mark Donohue, Jim Clark — all killed in action.

You grow up, you realize that those guys died while on the job. They weren’t fighting for the flag. Just working. You and me, we wouldn’t go to work if it meant we faced a really good chance of getting killed – or brain injured. Not if we had other choices. That’s kind of what it’s come down to for the football world. Other sports as well of course — hockey and soccer, to name a couple.

Auto racing had to change, especially in the wake of the death of its big star, Dale Earnhardt, in 2001 at Daytona. Football will just have to change some more, and what that future game will look like is anybody’s guess.

It’s not a PR problem for football. It’s a structural problem. How do you make the game safer, and still keep the excitement? Do we really care? I think so. I think the specter of men like Junior Seau casts a dark, permanent shadow over the game.

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Tina Brown’s March Into Media Quicksand

Posted on September 18, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Public Relations, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown

Arianna Huffington and Tina Brown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tina Brown, famed British bluepenciler who took Manhattan by storm yo some years back, takes a whipping in Michael Wolff’s USA Today Media column of Monday, Sept. 17, 2012 (Is There A Place For Tina Brown?.  Doyen of the old media, now on her last editorial legs, immersed in a merciless fight to the death to save Newsweek, all thoughts that come to mind about Ms. Brown after reading the piece.

Lawdy, lawdy, Ms. Tina sure do give it her all though, Wolff notes.

Newsweek may be a dying media beast, and the Daily Beast may be a wounded beast, but Brown is still fighting the good fight for traditional, e.g. quality, journalism, argues Wolff.

He makes a good point.

Another Time, Another Place

No use pining for the good old days of journalistic largesse, with its giants of the trade — too numerous and mind-numbing to mention by name. Those days are good and gone, kaput, faded as an old Soviet Red Star flag. In their place, sheer chaos, punctuated by the screams of the drowning. (Have you heard the one about how all the old-time journos are snarfing up those penny-per-pound article-writing jobs advertised so freely – and paying about the same — on freelance writer sites across the Internet? Not happening, so far as I can tell. Work-at-home eighth-graders can do a lot of that type of writing, and the pay will just about equate to what they would have got decades ago by taking on a paperboy job.)

Where Have All The Must-Reads Gone?

Well here’s some ways the media has changed:

  • New York Magazine once was a must read, no matter where you lived. (Assuming you worked in the advertising and PR fields.)
  • Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report were the holy triumvirate of U.S. news weeklies. Get a placement in one of those pubs and you were a star of incredible proportions.
  • Reading the Village Voice was to wallow weekly in the byzantine complexities of New York City municipal government, a monstrous operation that made for fascinating reading even in Far Stuckaway, North Dakota. Oh I know, nobody out in the hinterland really cared who was bribing who in the Big Apple – most of us just assumed everybody in New York was on the take — but it was like a soap opera for political junkies and conspiracy theorists. And the Voice personal ads, in that long-ago age of innocence, were more aimed at people wanting to find Mr. or Mrs. Goodbar, rather than a well, you know, short-term relationship of a more commercial nature. I always read the damned Voice — buying it off the late-lamented Shinder’s Newsstand on Hennepin Avenue — because I did so much media work in New York City and felt it gave me an edge to know what was up in the city. (And yes, I know there could be dire consequences to those engaged in the search for Mr. Goodbar as Diane Keaton’s character discovered in the movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Life in the age of The Personals was not always fun and games either.)

I could go on, but what’s the point? The media world has changed, long live the Big Media Age, and yet Tina Brown fights on, seeking relevancy at a time when very few people could name you even one major print media journalist. Go ahead. Throw some names out there. Niall Ferguson? How many folks in Peoria would know a Niall from a Ned Ferguson? What about Michael Wolff? Even Dear Abby’s not who or what she used to be.

When Newspapers Ruled

Oddly enough, just yesterday I was researching some material out of some really old back copies of the Minneapolis Tribune — by really old, I mean 1910-22 — and I was floored by how much stuff the newspaper covered. I mean, there were stories from all over the place, mostly wire-service, as if people back then were really interested in what was happening in other parts of the world. The Tribune even had a writer who went on a tour of Europe after the Great War and wrote about it. (McNally was his name, and he apparently did not much like the food they served visiting journalists, not quite up to snuff, although plentiful, even though vast numbers of the post-war population in Europe lived on the edge of starvation. At least one thing has not changed all these years later – food better be good, no matter whether it’s for a gathering of traditional journos or a bunch of new media upstarts pawing away at their smartphones.)

So we return once more to the fate of Tina Brown, exemplar of the old way of doing media, and her seemingly Sisyphean dream of creating a new media juggernaut at Newsweek. Wolff is sanguine, noting that Brown, as a self-confessed technophobe, is probably not ever going to get the new world of digital media right.

And yet, he says, the world as we know it has become a larger media wasteland since the fall of the old media. Now it’s chock-full of look-alike content creation, little of it notable, much of it under-funded, rudderless. The barbarians have over-run the gatekeepers. What’s needed, he argues, is a new Tina Brown for a digital age, someone to put quality, connectivity and profitability back into the journalism world. That’s not such a tall order as it seems. There are plenty of well-qualified writers and journalists about. What’s needed are more venues that can pay for their talents.

(Visit my website too: Big Thunder PR.)

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New McDonald’s In Town (Minneapolis)

Posted on September 7, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Ramblings, Retail, Society, Twin Cities region | Tags: , , |


New McDonald's opens on East Lake Street in Minneapolis - photo by Doug Hovelson

Spiffy new McDonald’s opens in Minneapolis

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Close Encounter With A Mac And Cheese Pizza Lover

Posted on August 24, 2012. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Ramblings, Society | Tags: , , , , , |

Exterior of the Minneapolis Dinkytown McDonald's, where late-night dining can be enjoyed both indoors and outdoors.

A clean, well-lit place, McDonald’s Minneapolis Dinkytown restaurant, a popular place near the University of Minnesota campus.

Recently I was offered a taste of macaroni and cheese pizza.

It happened, oddly enough, at the Dinkytown McDonald’s, near the University of Minnesota East Bank campus in Minneapolis. Odd since pizza doesn’t appear on the menu at McDonald’s.

A young woman, nicely dressed in casual summer attire, seemingly benevolent, made the offer to me as I sat,  hunched over a laptop computer and bag of fries, in the late-night gloaming of the restaurant.

“Have you ever had macaroni and cheese pizza?” Startled, I looked up. There she stood,  soft drink in hand, smile on her face, awaiting my response.

“Never,” I said. “I didn’t even know such a thing existed.”

“You have to try it. It’s great!” she gushed.

Sounds barbaric, I thought to myself. What I said was, “It sounds pretty good.”

“It’s so good!” she said.

Maybe she’s right, I thought. Macaroni and cheese, still within the pasta family after all.

But mac ‘n cheese. On pizza. Well, why not? At least it wasn’t something like carmel corn and anchovies.

Could be a joke, I thought. No harm done if it was, but maybe she was just joshing me. Didn’t seem like it though.

My interloper radiated nothing but good will. She obviously wanted to share her knowledge about the special delights of mac ‘n cheese pizza with me, a guy some few decades older – wiser? It’s debatable — than her. Sitting by himself. Late at night. In a solitary booth in a McDonald’s in the middle of a big city. Gazing intensely at a glowing computer screen. Whooaaa!

Maybe she thought I was friendless and bereft. Or a philosophy professor searching out clues to the universe online.

But it wasn’t to be.

Nice as she was, she couldn’t induce me to head off down the street for a slice. I wasn’t hungry, for one thing. She might have been slightly tipsy, too – which could explain her enthusiasm for sharing her food tips with strangers. It was getting nigh on to midnight. A time when a lot of the college kids take a break from the nearby club scene to drop into McDonald’s to recharge.

My young food confidante now settled into the booth just behind me, joining her two friends. Then she called my attention to the slice of pizza plopped on a paper plate on the table before her. Macaroni and cheese topped pizza it was, unmistakably. “See?” she said, stabbing a wayward finger toward the plate. “Doesn’t it look good! You have to try some. Oh, if I just had a knife I’d cut you a piece so you could try it!”

Fearing for her good mood – she seemed on the verge of turning crestfallen — I hurried to make things right.

“That’s okay,” I assured her. “You don’t have to do that. It’s your pizza. You eat it.”

Did my brow furrow over as I now studied the improbable scene? I don’t know. I wasn’t looking into a mirror after all. All I saw was the pizza, the three young women, one looking at me expectantly, the other two kind of peering at me anxiously, probably hoping their friend hadn’t recklessly engaged with a werewolf.

“Hmmm,” said I, eyeballing the cheese-sodden slice admiringly. “It does look good.”

“You have to try it,” my newfound foodie friend implored. “It only costs about $3 a slice at Mesa.”

Mesa, it turns out, is Mesa Pizza Dinkytown (open well into the early morning hours most nights), located just down the street from the McDonald’s.

“I’ll give it a try the next time I want pizza,” I assured her.

Satisfied, she turned back to her friends and the task at hand of devouring the pizza. I settled back in with the computer – was I really writing, or was I actually looking up the baseball scores on I forget — wondering at the wonder of it all.

Mac ‘n cheese pizza. Not the worst idea of all time, surely. Maybe a traditional favorite in, say, Palermo or Naples. Ha ha, I laughed to myself. An exuberant young woman interrupting my commune with cyberspace to urge me on to give mac ‘n cheese pizza a chance. What a hoot!

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Macy’s Makes The Grade

Posted on August 1, 2012. Filed under: Doug Hovelson Photography, Minneapolis, Public Relations, Retail, Retail window displays, Society | Tags: , , , , , , |

Window display of fall fashion theme, Social Studies, kids fashions, at Macy's Department Store in downtown Minneapolis

What’s cool for fall colors and clothing – Social Studies for the younger set, featured in Macy’s Department Store window display in downtown Minneapolis.

Fall fashions at Macy’s on view in window display of downtown Minneapolis store. The department store retailer is making a fashionable statement about fall colors with its Social Studies-themed displays this year.

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Living Life, One Hollywood Line At A Time (Homage to Frank Pierson)

Posted on July 23, 2012. Filed under: Media Commentary, Movies, Society, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: AtomicPope)

Memorable movie lines such as this come along rarely: “What we got here is failure to communicate.” Frank Pierson wrote that line while creating the script for Cool Hand Luke, the 1967 film that starred Paul Newman as a southern prison chain-gang member.

Pierson died today Hollywood writer dies. He also wrote the script for Dog Day Afternoon, and perhaps most unfortunately for him published a piece in the old New West magazine about the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Barbra Streisand, Jon Peters and Kris Kristofferson during the filming of A Star Is Born. Then as now, spilling the beans about the real lives of Hollywood heroes got you nothing but trouble with the studios.

Who among us, has never felt the urge to utter that line about the failure to communicate in response to a communications breakdown? (“Communications breakdown,” in itself a phrase made memorable by Led Zeppelin.)

Were You Paying Attention?

Hollywood, by God, supplies ready-made answers to a lot of our problems, personal and societal.

For example, one response to someone observing that “what we have is failure to communicate” is “You can’t handle the truth!” as mouthed by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.

Supposing you can’t handle the truth? It’s not the end of the world. Not if you’ve got good drugs, or, as Lily Tomlin put it, “Reality is a crutch for those who can’t handle drugs.”

Don’t Let The Unreal Get You Down.

Don’t take that flight from reality too far, though. Beautiful as life may look through rose-colored glasses, it’s also true that beauty can be a killer as seen in the demise of the love-addled ape in King Kong (“It was beauty killed the beast.”).

However, “Love is a many splendored thing,” as noted in the 1955 film of the same name.

Still, if love doesn’t work, we can still be friends, can’t we? “I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends,” says Ninny (Jessica Tandy)  in Fried Green Tomatoes.

Girl Can’t Be Too Careful.

It might be easy for some to find friends, but caution must sometimes still be observed, especially in certain cities. “That’s a nice girl, that. But she ought to go careful in Vienna. Everybody ought to go careful in a city like this,” says Popescu in 1949’s The Third Man.

The same could be said about New Orleans, as Blanche DuBois (“I have always trusted in the kindness of strangers”) discovers in A Streetcar Named Desire. Although it was not strangers but her own sister’s husband, Stanley Kowalski — he who is famously “not a Polack” — who does her in.

A man’s got to know his limitations, according to no less an authority than Inspector Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood in Magnum Force). So it is that I have come to the limit of my blogging time today.

Before I go, let’s go one more quote: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” Straight out of the mouth of the gumptious hero of Forrest Gump and I’ll add that the same is true for writing. Sit down at a keyboard and start typing away, you never know what you’re going to get. Maybe something like this blog post, sometimes.

You could have asked Frank Pierson. His greatest one-liner just appeared on the page one day when he was working on the Cool Hand Luke script.

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If Only The Dead Knew Facebook

Posted on May 24, 2012. Filed under: Digital Dalliances, Public Relations, Ramblings, Social Media, Society, Sporting life | Tags: , |

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I come from a long line of dead people,” novelist Lawrence Block observed via one of his tough-guy detective characters.

No truer words were ever spoken. So far as we know, no person to date has ever lived forever. Candidates are out there – baseball slugger Ted Williams was famously put on cryogenic ice post-mortem, with the hope that science could someday get Teddy Ballgame back into the game of life. And why not. Teddy enjoyed life, loved fishing and if anything can make a person want to live forever, it’s fishing. Better than sex, or at least longer-lasting, plus it’s legal to practice in public.

Forgotten Even By Their Kinfolks

Now I don’t know how all those dead people throughout history, so many of them unsung and totally unknown today — even by their living kin — felt about living lives of ultimate obscurity. Quite possibly, most of them never gave it much thought. For all the Julius Caesars, Cleopatras and Charlemagnes of history, there were millions – nay, billions – more who never achieved much more recognition than an ant.

Would that have changed if Facebook had been around in ancient Roman times? What would those Facebook pages have been like – would the people, the men and women in the Roman street, have been so diligent in posting the daily details of their private lives into the public databanks of Facebook I? One can only speculate. And if so, what would they have said?

Heard On The Ancient Roman Street

“Giancarlo is off fighting the Goths on the northern front today. Lions mauled the Christians today in the Colosseum. What a spectacular finish by Mario in the featured chariot race last night. Luigi’s is having a special on clams today. Ran into Ovid on the Appian Way this morning, he was out for his usual morning jog…we chatted about the weather – too hot! — and the inflation rate — too high! My tooth aches this morning. Anybody know any good dentists in south Rome? Saw Brutus at Alfonso’s Sporting Goods store this afternoon – he was checking out knives. Here’s a picture of me and my family at our barbecue last weekend, it was finger-lickin’ good. I hear there’s an orgy tonight at the Campesino Club, who else is planning to attend? How about them Lions? I like Rafael’s House of Furniture. We’re taking our vacation on the Riviera this year, we leave next week. Am I the only one who wishes that Cicero would shut his mouth? Anybody know any good restaurants in Naples? I’ve got to go there for business next week. Avoid walking near the Tiber downtown – it really stinks this time of year.”

And so forth.

That Was Then, This Is The Now Of Facebook

Fast forward 2,000 years, to a time and place – well, any place since we live in such a globally connected world today — and the citizenry, well, the citizenry is chitter-chattering away all over the Internet. Facebook. Twitter. Tumbl’r. Pinterest. WordPress. YouTube. It’s a communicative cornucopia, a frenzy of engagement of epic proportions. Digital dynasties emerge overnight – Pinterest, for God’s sake? Where was Pinterest five years ago? Big Data is on the rise. (Lesser data, such as newspapers, are crumbling into oblivion however.) Lady Gaga is more famous than Cleopatra, Walter Winchell has been replaced by TMZ and hardly anyone reads Ovid anymore.

But the people of the Facebook street, a billion or so strong, they are making up for humanity’s time lost in historical obscurity. Just think, 2,000 years from now, assuming the robot class hasn’t assumed dominance over the clamoring masses, people of that time will likely be plumbing the digital archives of the early years of the Third Millennium for clues into what life was like for the 21st century ancients. What a wealth of data they will have to draw upon, assuming they’re interested. Who knows? By then, history might really have ended for all time, replaced by what we know not – since we who live today belong to a specific historical period. Perhaps Teddy Ballgame will re-emerge from the cryogenic crypt to instruct the 41st century masses in the fine art of whacking a baseball.

So the next time you go to tell your Facebook followers what’s on your mind, just remember: you’re teeing it up for history. You just might want to keep that 41st century savant in mind.

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Run It By The PR People

Posted on February 25, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Society | Tags: , , , , , |

Title page of the first German translation of ...

First German Translation Of Koran, 1772, Wikipedia

Public relations is often belittled as a high-gloss, no-substance operation. But that’s a mistake. Public relations is a make-or-break deal for any organization today.

Case in point: the disaster in Afghanistan following the burning — “inadvertent,” as the President says — of the Korans in Afghanistan by U.S. military personnel.

There is absolutely nothing amusing about this incident. Deadly consequences are occurring due to what was apparently a routine garbage disposal operation by the military — burning a few unwanted books. In a country where certain books are deemed sacred and inviolable.

I can’t presume to know what was going through the minds of the people who put the books out for burning. But here are some thoughts:

  • Americans live in a world flush with books, none of which are deemed irreplaceable. No book, not the Bible, not the Koran, not the Tibetan Book of the Dead, no book is seen as worthy of dying for in the U.S. — nor in the rest of the secular Western world to my knowledge. Not today, although that was certainly not the case in the past. William Tyndale was burnt at the stake in Belgium in 1596 for the heresy of publishing the Bible. Tyndale broke the rules by making the Bible accessible to the masses.
  •  But in a world where books are as readily available as corn flakes, and sold and consumed in much the same fashion — and in this I speak of printed material, not of the e-books which float in their own universe through the cyber clouds — where’s the harm in chucking a few copies into the trash? It happens every day. Although Tom Warth, founder of Books for Africa Books For Africa website has set up an entire charitable enterprise based on the idea that the Western world’s discarded books are food for thought (literally) for book-starved African schoolchildren.
  • So it isn’t much of a stretch to surmise that for the American Koran burners in Afghanistan, it was just no big deal to burn a few books. But it turned out to be a terrible mistake. One that has ended up costing the lives of both Americans and Afghans. This is now considered a horrible public relations problem for America — a PR nightmare, as is the clichéd saying.
  • And it is, a true PR nightmare.
  • Like many PR nightmares, it didn’t have to happen. Not if someone in charge had any good PR sense — or had the sense to run it by the military public affairs people to see if there weren’t any problems in the offing if books such as the Koran (the holiest of holy books in Islam, come on! How dense can you be not to understand that after all these years of ground troop involvement in the Islāmic world?) were thrown into the fire.
  • But this kind of thing happens with regularity in the ordinary world of business, politics, media…in the western world. Corporate executives ram themselves into the merciless maw of the Internet by posting an un-PR-approved message on their blog (think Netflix). Fortunately the consequences for corporate PR disasters are never so severe as what is taking place in Afghanistan now due to the ham-handed handling of the Koran burning there.
  • But there is a lesson to be learned here, and it is really a bitter one, and that is that public relations is more than just a “nicety,” more than just a slick Madison Avenue-type trickery for pulling the wool over people’s eyes, more than just biased flackery.
  • In this case, in Afghanistan, a good public relations position on the wisdom of burning Korans — “extremist literature” is what the military called it, taken from prison libraries — would have been this: don’t do it. At least, don’t do it within sight of any Afghan nationals. Bundle them up, put them on an airplane, ship them the hell out of the country, incinerate them in some backyard barbecue pit at Langley, but for God’s sake — the God of western life, so routinely invoked in daily conversation, a figure of emphatic speech — don’t pitch them into the fire in front of the local help! In so doing, you invite the fiery wrath of the Islāmic faithful. What a disaster.
  • And yet, here is the rub: public relations in this case would have been of a preventive nature. Scoffed at, perhaps, as the province of the overly sensitive, the instinctively politically correct. Who knows? Useless to speculate from afar on people’s decisions in a world far different from that of the civilized west. And yet, it’s easy to see — in hindsight, of course — what one small ounce of sound, public relations prevention could have accomplished in the battle to win the hearts and minds of at least some in the Islāmic world.
  • Hindsight. One of the most important functions of good public relations, deployed in a timely fashion, is to cut the risk of looking back in sorrow at actions taken. That, it seems to me, makes PR more of a necessity, less of a luxurious nicety.


Culture Wars: Burning of the Korans

Barack Obama Apology to Afghanistan

Afghans Vent Fury Over Koran Burning

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My Soul To Be Social Mediaicized

Posted on February 7, 2012. Filed under: Public Relations, Social Media, Society | Tags: , , , , |

English: Joseph Stalin after 1943 in military ...

Image via Wikipedia

Get socialized!

It’s my new thing, a sort of accidental New Year’s resolution: know more about, and do more in, the social media world.

Reminds me of the ’60’s line, “My soul has been psychedelicized” by The Chambers Brothers.

Were I writing in the 1930s, you might take me for a convert to Leninism — if I’d been so bold as to confess to a longing to be socialized back then. They had a crude form of social media back then — think postcards, think telegrams, think street corner preachers and sidewalk barkers for the music halls and burlesque theaters — but they didn’t call it that.

Lenin doesn’t much figure into my thinking today, although it is intriguing to muse about what uses he and other lions of the Russian revolution might have found for social media technologies.  Nothing fun, that’s for sure. Apps for instantaneously snitching out your counter-revolutionary neighbor, hair stylist, mother. Streaming video from the show trials of fallen Bolshies. Stalin posting pictures of his bare-chested virile self on Twitter. That kind of thing.

The Social Leap!

My leap into socialization has to do with Facebook! LinkedIn! Twitter! Google+! Blogging! Flickr! Tumblr!

Need I go on?

I think not.

So what did I learn today, in my revolutionary journey through the social media jungle? (Not to be confused with the “urban jungle” again ca. the early years of the 20th century, see George Bernard Shaw or Nelson Algren).

Online Tellers, Beware

Wonderful and unsettling information was what I learned today.

Take “creativity,” for example. That’s generally a wonderful thing, especially for the artistically, marketing and Ponzi scheme inclined. But it’s not such a wonderful thing to cite as a skill or attribute on your LinkedIn profile, so I learned. Better to show your creativity in your profile, than to self-ascribe it. I think that makes sense, too. It’s the first thing you learn in Writing 101 – show the reader what you’re talking about. (Oh, the horror — a reader bored is a reader lost forevermore.) Being Creative On LinkedIn Won’t Do You Any Favours

Banish Those Banalities

So be creative in your use of social media, but don’t say you’re creative. Saying so makes it seem as if you are not so creative. And that’s not what you want. You want to cut a bold figure on the Internet. (To cut a figure, as in “he cut a fine figure,” a figure of speech encountered rarely today, where it would not have been out of place to say of Theodore Roosevelt or Babe Ruth, “there goes a fine figure of a man.” And if you ever saw Joe Stalin in the street, you would have most certainly said something to the effect of “there’s as fine a figure of a man as ever walked the Soviet earth.” If you said anything at all.  For to say ill of Joe would almost certainly have earned you rough carriage in a Black Maria to Lubyanka Prison, and denied all access to the Internet or a Tweeting machine.)

So, yes, be creative in all your online endeavors.

That’s what I learned today on the path to full 21st century cyber-socialization! And you?

[Editor’s Note: No Bolsheviks were abused in the writing of this post.]

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Occupy Oakland Jumps Up The Movement’s Stakes

Posted on January 30, 2012. Filed under: Society | Tags: , , , |

English: Photo of Mayor Jean Quan from her 201...

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Image via Wikipedia

Saturday nights aren’t what they used to be around here. I spent part of this past Saturday night staring in mute fascination at the live online coverage of the Occupy Oakland actions.

Bay Area TV station KGO, an ABC affiliate, featured a live aerial feed of the events in downtown Oakland. No sound, just streaming video. I tuned in late, after the occupation of the YMCA property and city hall — wasn’t sure what I was seeing, not being much familiar with Oakland. The camera showed lots of police, fire and other emergency personnel gathered on the streets, cordoning off what appeared an area around the entrance to the YMCA. Big building, largish crowd of trapped protestors.

Reports say the Occupiers planned to take over an unused city building — a shuttered convention center. That doesn’t seem like such a reasonable request, actually. Not too many cities are going to open up a building for unlawful occupancy, not in this country. We’ve seen this movie before.

Thwarted by the police from taking control of the vacant convention center, protestors turned their wrath on city hall — destroying public property and apparently getting a good start on a rampage. Then they invaded the YMCA, bursting in and startling the fitness enthusiasts in the midst of their exercise routines. That must have been interesting.

Idle threats?

Threats have been made to occupy the city’s ports, the airport and other strategic facilities should the city not allow the protestors to occupy a city building. We’ll have to see what happens next on that count.

Protestors accused the police of making illegal arrests and of strong-arming them, basically. Mayor Jean Quan defended the police on Sunday, saying they handled the situation with due respect for the law. Oakland’s police department doesn’t have the best of reputations — it continues to operate under a federal consent decree stemming from civil rights violations years ago — and the Occupiers are well aware of it. An Occupy news release warned that the police department would likely face more civil suits that would cost taxpayers more money following Saturday’s action. More than 400 people were arrested on Saturday according to the San Francisco Chronicle Occupy Takes Stock.

Saturday’s drama felt like a day of testing limits for the Occupiers — to see how far they could go in pushing the city, and to see just how hard the city would push back. Oakland’s a good venue for that type of action, since the police are under such close national watch.

Occupy activity has slowed in the northern states such as Minnesota this winter. That doesn’t mean it’s gone away. Come spring, the Occupiers will undoubtedly be back in the northern spotlight. What comes next? Is Oakland an anomaly? Or will the Occupiers return in force with even more confrontational tactics? What’s in store for the big national political conventions — the Democrats in Charlotte, the Republicans in Tampa Bay — this summer? Days of Rage II?

My interest in the Occupy movement, its aims and direction, is growing. I don’t know quite what to make of it, especially in light of what appears to have been a poorly organized action this past Saturday in Oakland. Although the net result was national attention for Occupy at a time when some wonder where it’s gone. But I’m planning to write on it again soon. I hope you’ll stay tuned…

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