Friday, July 31, 2009

Verse: Wonder

I seek
the divine
and daily

and unguarded
like blossoms

when I approach
the eternal
when empathy
embraces and
emboldens me

when I awake
for certain
and grace
as an army
overtakes me
renders me
sick with
the fever
of fleeting joy

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Verse: Cherrywine

Dance now
and often

break silence
with wonder
with light

cut words
with truth
to keep
them pure

lay your hands
upon the sky
and seed it
in my
impatient heart

and then
pour the wine
a sacrament
for the ceremony
yet to begin

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Horizon Realty grapples with the reality of social media

One of the main trending topics on Twitter today is Horizon Realty. According to Mashable, the company is suing a woman for $50,000 over a tweet that one of its Chicago apartments she rented was moldy.

Mashable's story, which references an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, says that the company did not attempt to contact the woman who posted the tweet or ask her to remove it. Instead, a Horizon Realty rep, Jeffrey Michael, said, "We're a sue first, ask question later kind of an organization."

And with that, a tweet that, at best, less than two dozen people originally saw, became a topic of discussion among thousands and thousands of people on Twitter. And you can imagine the kind of commentary it has generated about Horizon. Makes you wonder how many lawsuits the company could conceivably file, given the quote above.

Here's the thing: Whether the post was factual or not, Horizon really should have done a reach out to the customer first. By launching a lawsuit, the company has drawn attention to itself and stirred up a hornets' nest of unflattering comments. No doubt more media outlets will pick up the story, inviting or encouraging more scornful commentary. That's how a PR nightmare is born. The comment about suing first really doesn't help the company's brand either. Now, it will have to expend time, money and energy trying to rehabilitate its rep, all of which it could have avoided if it chose to handle the situation differently.

Ultimately, this is another example of why you want to very carefully consider any measures you take when dealing with customers in any forum, particularly social media. Because it only takes one comment by a company rep to fan the flames of hostility on the internet and make your company internationally infamous. That's the kind of property damage you can't easily repair.

Song of the Day - July 28, 2009

Joe Jackson - the angry, angular white musician from Britain, not Michael Jackson's father - came to public prominence with several other angry, melodic and witty young Brits in era of New Wave, specifically Graham Parker and Elvis Costello. He was probably the most successful of the lot in terms of sales, at least for a spell, though his critical rep has never quite been their equal. Like Parker, he has a tendency to sound hectoring, particularly given his rather brusque, sneering vocals. Like Costello, he has a fatal tendency to dabble that dilutes his best material and his song craft.

I'm particularly partial to Body and Soul, but the first album is the one that, in many ways, is his best. Not just because it was free of exceedingly lofty ideals or ham-fisted lecturing or any other reason you care to cite. It was the clarity of his vision, the energy of his attack, and the hooks. Sure, he was a little rough and a little belligerent, but those songs...

I could have opted for Is She Really Going Out With Him, but I thought I'd select Got The Time, a very punky number that pogos with vigor through a hectic lyric about trying to get by in a busy, chock-a-block day. Here's Joe's version, albeit a more recent live one:

Anthrax did a version as well. Note how the inherent aggression of the song suits the band well. I had to use the Lego version because the Universal version wouldn't let me embed it.

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 28, 2009

Sorry, I took a week off from blogging due to time constraints, and things aren't likely to quiet down for a while, so it's going to be very quick hits for the foreseeable future. Which means ads and songs of the day as well as words continue. Poems and perspective less likely.

Speaking of ads, today is Milk Chocolate Day, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than with a classic Rolo ad from the 1970s. They certainly don't compare to the The Lockers, which may be why their career was so short lived. Anyway, enjoy:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Word of the Day - July 21, 2009

Word of the Day is adumbrate, which is to sketch out, suggest, foreshadow or overshadow.

verse: Conspiracy

cool blue
and silent
The morning
happens by
taps at our window
and awaits
our reply

mason jars upon
the sill
now filled with
the dust of light
And the wind
scatters snow-white wisps
of clouds like paper kites

heaving and honking
the morning accelerates
we leave our bed
and set out our plates

hatching newspaper vendors
racing to take the stands
time doubles up around us
as tight as elastic bands

breathless and bustling
the morning soldiers on
greedily scoops up the
dew drops strewn about
our lawn

the light creeps up
our kitchen wall
like a pillar of fire
fortified by scrambled eggs
we start to conspire

impetuous and impatient
the morning leaves us behind
Coaxes and cajoles us
yet we pay it no mind

with all that we have
here and now
why think of what's ahead?
Let's finish our breakfast
clear our plates
and then go back to bed.

Song of the Day - July 21, 2009

I first became aware of Peter Gabriel in 1982, when Shock the Monkey became a somewhat surprise top 40 US hit and was all over the radio here. Based on that song and an interview/videos I caught on a show called The New Music (JD Roberts' old stomping ground before being a US news anchor), I pegged him for a new waver. I'd no idea he'd started out an art rocker in Genesis.

In 1983, Gabriel released Plays Live and it provided a good opportunity to do some catching up with the man. Two songs from that album were in heavy rotation on the radio/local video countdown show that summer: I Go Swimming (whose repetition of that line drove my mom batshit crazy with derision) and I Don't Remember, which is our Song of the Day.

I Don't Remember originally appeared on Gabriel's third self-titled album in 1980 (it's also known as Melt because of its cover, pictured above). It was the album that ended his tenure with Atlantic Records in North America as it was deemed noncommercial. Not only was that album the biggest yet of Gabriel's solo career, it is regarded as the debut by some of the 'gated drum' a sound that he or Phil Collins or both of them created and became the hallmark of Phil's style.

What I like about I Don't Remember is how diseased it sounds, from the thick anxious bass lines of Tony Levin to Gabriel's primal yelps. I always thought it was meant to be a song about an amnesiac, but there's a certain bristling defiance in the lyric - no ID, no papers, and no giving a damn - that made me interpret it as a song by a conscientious objector resisting an interrogation. But enough talk from me. Get infected:

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 21, 2009

In light of the Sprite Spec commercial, I've chosen this 1980s Sprite spot featuring Kurtis Blow, complete with 7-Up dis. Those are the breaks...

Popping the top of the Sprite Spec Commercial

Despite what you read here, I don't shock or offend easily. I've watched or listened to nearly every form of entertainment you can think of. Some of them you'd be hard pressed to defend as entertainments. And I can mount a defense of the depravity and dehumanizing acts depicted in Pasolini's Salo as a statement on our callow and base natures using American Idol as an example.

So when I rail against a non-commercial that has not been banned in Germany, a spec commercial created for Sprite and viewable here in this Young Turks YouTube clip, it's more out of sheer disappointment. Disappointment that so many creative types reduce sex in marketing to something leering, immature and creatively bankrupt.

BK has done it. Hardee's has done it. And I I summarily dismissed both for their sophomoric efforts some time ago. No doubt, other companies are looking to do it, too. In this case, the spec commercial, if you haven't checked the link above, shows a woman who appears to be performing fellatio getting sprayed in the face with the contents of a bottle of Sprite.

Sex can be funny. Sex can be rendered with sophistication. European ad campaigns have proved this time and time again. This spec commercial for Sprite, and the BK and Hardee's campaigns, is neither funny nor sophisticated. It's not even really a commercial at the end of the day. So why am I talking about it?

1) The spec commercial is likely to be circulated virally, thus becoming a de facto commercial, whether Sprite likes it or not. I gather the company does not. It creates a rather unfortunate and embarrassing public relations situation for Sprite that it probably hadn't anticipated (if the company played no part in encouraging the creation of this item).

2) Somewhere, someone is creating content using your brand or product, and they are sharing it with friends, posting for all to see on the web. So you need to be aware of what it going on with your brand and engaging and guiding consumers where possible in the creation of that content so it is in keeping with the brand and messages you want to communicate.

Obviously, you can't control all content or commentary on your brand, but you do have to be more vigilant than ever to protect ya neck. Your willingness to be transparent and engaging also goes a long way to maintaining your reputation when content like this pops up, pardon the pun.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Word of the Day - July 20, 2009

Riant is your word of the day. It means smiling or cheerful. For example, giant blue freezies make me riant.

verse - untitled

You know
the night
will never need you

the moon
will not feed you

the rain
will not seek you

the wind
will not speak to you

the sun
will not recognize you

the earth
will not empathize with you

the sea
will not console you

the stars
do not control you

All this
you know
and somehow
they retain their
they hold
some untold thrill

Song of the Day - July 20, 2009

It's a fact: eventually, your favorite artists let you down. Like Mos Def, for instance. Back when he was in Black Star, and when he dropped Black on Both Sides, I had him pegged as a major new voice in hip hop. A very long ten years followed in which he did a lot of acting and a couple of albums that, to my ears, betrayed the promise in those first two missives.

So when I heard initial rumblings that The Ecstatic was reason to be ecstatic, I was rather cautious. Diminished expectations, I theorized, might be the determining factor in the favorable notices. After all those triumphs were a few years ago and the weaker material no doubt primed the critics to be kinder this time around, right?

Well, The Ecstatic has made a believer out of me once more. 'Magnetic, the flows are athletic,' is how he starts the song of the day, Casa Bey, and he's right on both counts. It has a busy yet spacy jazzy 70s vibe. I want to say like Andy Bey, but I don't know his material well enough to be confident in such an assessment. Kinda like Lonnie Liston Smith, at least from this listener's perspective. That he placed it at the end of the album suggests, perhaps, that he's looking forward. That he won't stop the rock. That he's got gas in his tank and he's going the distance. Enjoy.

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 20, 2009

In which Lou Reed determines that it doesn't make much sense to walk on the wild side when you can get on your Honda scooter and ride. I remember seeing this frequently on late night TV back in the mid-80s and thinking, 'Wow, someone thinks Lou can sell scooters." Later, a band named Too Much Joy immortalized this ad in a song: 'Lou's hawking scooters/and American Express.'

Friday, July 17, 2009

Song of the Day - July 17, 2009

So, I decided that, from now on, Fridays will be FunkyFridays for funk songs. And I decided that I'd inaugurate it with the funkateer who is mounting a one-man campaign to make the Twitterverse funky, Mr. Bootsy Collins.

Bootsy is many things. A peerless bassist and out-of-this-world funk practitioner known for creating very liquid, squiggly, elastic grooves. A central member of the Parliafunkadelicment movement. A member of the James Brown band that recorded seminal funk classics such as Super Bad, Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine & Talkin' Loud and Saying Nothing.

In 1975, George Clinton, the ringmaster of the Parliament-Funkadelic circus, got Bootsy a deal with Warner Bros. Records, which, despite having acts like The Meters (on Reprise) and Graham Central Station, was not exactly known as a leading force in recording R&B. But Bootsy gave them enormous cred with his first album, Stretchin' Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band, which featured today's Song of the Day - Stretchin' Out (In A Rubber Band).

The song was the last addition to the album, recorded when it was realized that the impending platter lacked a commercial hit. Bootsy, listening to the work in progress, said the band was stretching out on that one. Not one to miss an opportunity, George told him, "That's it! Stretchin' Out-in a Rubber Band.' The album, song and band had a name.

It's a very deep, hard hitting and percolating groove. It just kind of bounces around for about seven minutes or so in your hips, your backbone, making you want to move. It's full of absurd non-sequitirs and party chants that will pack any dance floor, any night, guaranteed. The version below is not the original one, but it does prove how indestructible and undeniable the groove is. Get funky:

Verse: Waves

She wades
through the
roiling crowd
to a table
in the back
past the one-armed
bandits and
their obscene gestures
and the boys
all talking smack

Another subterranean
evening and the Seahorse
is as cramped
as a sardine tin
even Jesus with
all his apostles
to vouch for him
could not hope
to talk his way in

The strobes are in
the grip of
a paralyzing
heart attack
the room is
bathed in sweat
cappuccino girls
like seiners
catch furtive glances
with their fishnets

they start to
shake and shimmy
as soon as the band
begins to play
she waits for no one
in particular
to emerge from
the frolic and
the fray

rye and ginger
she draws the straw
eagerly to her
parted lips
as waitresses
fan out through
the crowd to
receive their orders
and their tips

salt upon the table
glimmering like
bleached grains
of sand
she draws a heart
pierces it
and casually erases it
with one sweep
of her hand

too self conscious
to initiate and yet
no one approaches her
in the pulsing light
she write an SOS
a ransom note
on a napkin
slips it in a bottle
and steps out
into the night

the narrow streets
are snarled and coiled
like twisted vines
she falls under
the sway of
the steady flow
of traffic
bumptious as
a conga line

Denny's After Dark

Not long ago, my SigO and I took a brief sojourn to the bucolic state of Maine. One of the highlights was our first-ever trip to Denny's, where we ate breakfast. It struck me as a rather benign, 50s-style diner, the kind of place you take the family, and grandpa thinks he's a comedian when he orders Moons Over My Hammy.

But, to quote the Lovin' Spoonful, we found out that, at night, it's a different world at Denny's. It's a place that would strike grandpa as being disgusting and weird, even unAmerican. It's a place with a keen rock star menu featuring gustatory delights suggested by the likes of Sum 41, Good Charlotte, Gym Class Heroes and, um Rascal Flatts (very cutting edge there, Denny's). It's a place that Denny's thinks will appeal to young people, particularly young stoners. And why not? Young stoners have to eat. And if the stereotypes are to be believed, they like to eat a lot.

But they have a very odd take on how to market to young people/young stoners. It's like they sat down in front of Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network and thought, 'hmm, stoners like absurd or surreal humor. Let's run with that.' How else to explain the recent series of ads that Denny's Allnighter - as its late night incarnation is known - has run?

The ads feature a guy called Gary sitting and eating with a Leprechaun in granny glasses, a dinosaur who thinks he's Animal from the Muppets, and a heavily sedated unicorn who says dude more often than Bill + Ted. Clearly, Denny's thinks young people/young stoners are 8-year old dino freaks, Irish and My Little Pony fetishists. Or, maybe they decided the unicorn was a good nod to Charlie the Unicorn, I don't know. Here's one ad:

And here's a more recent one where the dinosaur (Wade, if you must know), nattily attired in his Taking Back Sunday shirt, is the epitome of decorum as he gingerly nibbles on his nachos. Oh, who am I kidding. He slurps them up with a hideous, mucousy tongue the size of your head. Watch:

Look, it's not impossible to appeal to two different audiences. As I noted above, the relatively mild-mannered Cartoon Network changes into the wolfman that is Adult Swim and brays at the moon all night. If you like absurdity, like I do, you'll find that, by and large, the Adult Swim cartoons are appealing because they have a distinct voice and they are made by people who are clearly enjoying themselves, whatever you may think of the content.

But Denny's Allnighter effort is strikes me as that of a company seeking hipster credentials. So it adopts or adapts a trend or style that is popular and, in doing so, comes off as awkward, forced. Kind of like if Grandpa started wearing an Aqua Teen Hunger Force Shirt.

Sure there are positive comments on the Denny's Allnighter YouTube channel, but not many. Over a year after the company created its channel, they have 135 subscribers and 6,322 views. I'm not an expert, but those numbers don't suggest strong penetration.

Overall, the campaign seems like something that was concocted after an allnighter, one of those things you magically pull from your hindquarters at the last moment to save face. Or the kind of dream you have after a particularly bad meal. Though I can't speak with authority, I'm pretty certain stoners are more imaginative, and slightly more cutting edge, than this, Denny's.

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 17, 2009

Classic PSA from ABC reminding Saturday morning viewers not to be a Yuck Mouth. Sandwiched, no doubt, between ads for Frosted Flakes, Freakies, Froot Loops & Franken Berries.

Fresh making Mentos Ad

Courtesy of Adland, probably the best source on line for ads, here's the new Mentos ad. It speaks for itself, but I quite like its sense of humor. Reminds me of the iconic scene from Deliverance, except that the outcome is much happier for at least one of these men and there isn't any sign of Ned Beatty's backside. Truth be told, I do miss the days when one mentos could inspire a fashion remix or random acts of kindness.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Word of the Day - July 16, 2009

Word of the Day is Coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns. My lady bought a book of scary clowns. You do the math...

Verse: distractions

This will be
the one thing
to which
I will be true

Accepting all
other pursuits
would only
lessen my passion
for this calling
would it not

Too many
massed and constant
like hornets
like clouds
in my mind

They enervate me
make me soft
and slow
when I intend to be
swift and smart

Song of the Day - July 16, 2009

I first became aware of Dirty Projectors with Rise Above, the clever reimagining/recollection/homage to the Black Flag album of the same name. Founded/led by Dave Longstreth, the collective had released a couple of albums prior to that, but Rise Against's conceit was inspired enough that it managed to garner significant media coverage. Given that I own the Black Flag LP, I was intrigued, purchased it and consider the band one to keep tabs on.

Earlier this year, following a lineup change, Longstreth and co. released Bitte Ocra, a dazzling collection of dizzy, disjointed pop music. One of the highlights, strangely enough, was the only track that Longstreth did not write solo, Stillness is the Move. His co-writer, Amber Coffman pairs her voice with new member Angel Deradoorian and Longstreth underpins it their charming, childlike harmonies with a hypnotic riff over a stuttery, funky bedrock.

The result is an ode to resilience, to possibility, to hope. "There is nothing we can't do," Amber and Angel coo. And as the hook burrows its way deep into your mind, you believe every word they say.

Microsoft Laptop Hunter courts ire of Apple Corp.

Here's one way to know you've made an impact with your commercials: a call from your competitor's lawyers telling you to stop airing your commercials.

It's not exactly new news, but according to Ars Technica, that's what happened recently to Microsoft. Kevin Turner, Microsoft's COO, recounted at the Worldwide Partner Conference, how Apple lawyers called him telling him to nix the Laptop Hunter series of commercials the company has been running because Apple dropped its prices.

In the ads, which are unscripted, Microsoft pays for PC laptops if the consumer can can find one for under $1,000. Here's one of the ads:

It's a pretty shrewd strategy on Microsoft's part, and perfectly timed. Much like the PC vs. Mac ads, Apple has always been branded and perceived as being the hip, smart choice for computers. What Microsoft has deftly done is to shift the discourse on computers in marketing from coolness to affordability, a major concern among consumers given recent economic conditions.

That's not to say that the people who are finding the PCs, and the PCs themselves, don't have a certain coolness about them. If anything, most of the ads I've seen feature very comely and relatively young people and sleek, rather stylish PCs to appeal to a youth demographic. But the main message is, 'You can find a PC for less that gives you everything you want.' How is that not appealing?

Of course, Apple has continued its successful series of 'Get a Mac' ads, and its new MacBook Pro, $100 less than the previous MacBook, is doing so well that the company says the Laptop Hunters campaign is not having any effect on sales.

Even so, if Turner is right, then Microsoft has made some inroads and managed to shift the focus back to value. It's probably not a position the company can afford to uphold forever - do you really want to compete on price when there is always the opportunity for someone to undercut you. But it could be a launchpad for something broader or more ambitious that changes the way people look at PCs. That'd shake Apple to its core, and Justin Long wouldn't be looking so self-satisfied then.

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 15, 2009

Bugs Bunny does the frug, or something, for Kool-Aid. This is a dance that never caught on:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Word of the Day - July 15, 2009

Obfuscate is your Word of the Day. It means to muddle, confuse, make unclear. Could I be more clear than that?

Verse: Accounting

What was it
I wanted
Before I was
Overcome with
This insatiable

How often
Was I spotted at
The Saturday
Market buying
small packets
Of Sui Muy

Was I inclined
To part my hair
On the left
Or the right

Were my hands
So rough
My mouth
So jagged
And my eyes
So dark
And round
As this

Was I inclined
At any time
To celebrate
Birthdays and
Could I sing
With the force
And clarity
Of one thousand
Rancorous angels

Was I more likely
To embrace the
Tender quietude
Of night
Or hole up
In some cinema
Imagining myself
A refugee of love

When I wrote
Was I apt
To write less
With more care
Or did I blaspheme
With wild imaginings
Each chaste page

Was I bold
Had I knowledge
Of remorse
Of fresh peaches
Of dust

Did I console
Old dreams
Or strangle them
As they slept
Pulling them up
From their
Sprawling roots

Tell me
What was it
I wanted
Before this
Longing overwhelmed
Me with wanting
and who was I
Before I was
Your confessor
Your countenance
Your conscience

Song of the Day - July 15, 2009

In the mid-1990s, a kind of renaissance began in R&B music. It started in 1995 AD, only the AD stands for After D'angelo, one of the earliest and most talented groovers of a movement known as neo-soul.

It was a kind of pejorative term, as it suggested that R&B had been languishing for a long time. In many ways, it hadn't. It had migrated and mutated, relying heavily on samples, synths and slushy drum machines. There was still good music being made, but it did, on occasion, sound kind of canned, processed, with the vocal serving as the focal point for any claim it made to being soul.

What artists like D'angelo did wasn't so much a throwback as a recast. They favored real musicians over bleeps and boops. They explored groove and melodicism in ways that struck a balance between art and commerce. They sounded classic and contemporary in the same breath. It wasn't so much that they were looking backward, they were trying to find a new way forward with all of the musical influences they had accumulated.

Unfortunately, some of the most exciting artists to come out of this renaissance - Joi, D'angelo, Lauryn Hill, Bilal, Remy Shand - disappeared into the ether or retreated to small labels on the margins of the industry. Industry pressures, indifference and artistic crises swallowed up some of the most appealing and visionary R&B artists to come onto the scene in a long time.

Which brings me to today's Song of the Day, Pretty Wings by Maxwell, who deserves points for perseverance. Of all the lauded neo-soul artists, he had, in some ways, the most auspicious debut - Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite. It's a sultry scorcher filled with make-out music of a caliber and insistence that few had attempted since, well, Marvin Gaye. In fact, Leon Ware, who collaborated with Gaye, conferred considerable cred on Maxwell's position as the new Gaye by lending his writing skills to the album.

That album, held up for a couple of years by an anxious label, Columbia, went gold on the charts, and in 1998, Maxwell returned with Embrya, an even more ambitious artistic endeavour that couldn't have made the label very happy. Not to mention the fact that there had been squabbles over Maxwell's Unplugged cd that made the release an EP. Three years later, he released Now, which featured a Kate Bush cover (part of his Unplugged repertoire, apparently) and...

...and that was it for the better part of eight years, in which there were rumors of albums rejected by Columbia, but little else. But this year, Maxwell returned with BLACKsummers'night, and the single, Pretty Wings. It's a real slow groove grower, with a mellow vibe that hearkens back to Urban Hang Suite. It's the kind of ballad Prince used to put on his albums, like like Adore, only a bit more modest and spartan. It doesn't reach out to you; it just hangs out in the corner, building mystique and intriguing you until you come over to it. And you will. You will.

The better times and days he alludes to? I hope they presage more delicious R&B. It's been too long, Maxwell. Too damn long. Welcome back, friend.

Vintage Commercial of the Day - July 15, 2009

I've been doing this for a while on my Twitter stream, and now I'm adding it here. We start with Freedom Rock. Turn it up to 11, Man!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Word of the Day - July 14, 2009

Today's Word of the Day is factitious, which is something that is not natural or genuine; something forced or fake. I swear to you that I am always genuine, never forced or fake.

Verse: Captured

I paint
fiery metaphors
mount them raw
and watch
them shimmer
like watery
some are swift
some bold
and some surreal

I investigate
the discord
and the harmony
and then
I sculpt passion
from vivid shards
of song

And, in doing so
I approximate
a monument
to deep
wild joy

Song of the Day - July 14, 2009

In 1982, I discovered Rush.

Okay, that statement is about as accurate as saying Columbus discovered America (right, like no one actually lived there), but this is my blog and my experience is what counts. Right?

Even that is a bit of a lie. It was more like 1981 that I first became aware of Canada's most intellectual hard-rock triumvirate. (You can't call Triumph intellectual, can you?) It happened through two very disparate channels. First, Rush had released a live album called Exit Stage Left, and local radio was playing Closer to the Heart a lot. Probably partially to fill Cancon regulations. Second, Geddy Lee, Rush's stalwart bass player and Donald-Duck-on-helium lead vocalist, was on the radio every few minutes yelping the chorus of Bob & Doug McKenzie's phenomenally popular single, Take Off.

Being a rather bookish and introverted lad, I was intrigued by the group's deft instrumental prowess, complicated tempos and brainiac aspirations, so I cobbled together my paper route earnings and purchased a copy of Exit Stage Left. For the next month or so, it was all I listened to. Thick, dull, muddy sound couldn't mask the group's technical genius and keening intelligence. I knew there and then I had found The Greatest Band The World Had Ever Heard, or TGBTWHEH. Not very catchy.

Over the next year or so, I began buying the band's healthy back catalog. I think I started with Moving Pictures, which I declared to be 'awesome.' Fly By Night followed, again with more awesomeness and a few shadings I hadn't expected. (A rather gentle ballad called Rivendell? Gotta-be-movin'-on-rock-band missives?) And then came Caress of Steel.

Caress of Steel very nearly nipped my infatuation in the bud. I'd heard it was supposed to be the 'difficult' album. I didn't know it would be that difficult. Maybe it was just the extended gray weather we were experiencing the week I bought it. I don't know. But. That. Was. The. Week. The. Music. Died.

Knowing it's reputation, I probably shouldn't have bought it so soon in the game. But it was a catalog album, and thus valued priced. Besides, I knew Rush didn't exactly have a lot of friends in the music press. How bad could it be? As it turned out, very bad. For a long time, at least until the 'rap' on Roll the Bones, it was the Achilles Heel in my arguments that Rush was TGBTWHEH.

I mention all of this because today is Bastille Day. And Bastille Day was the first track on Caress of Steel. I actually quite liked that song, and the song that opened the side-long suite that was side two of the LP. Geddy, with lyrical help from the professor, Neil Peart, javascript:void(0)puts himself in the persona of a peon who watches as those who, um, peed on him - France's King Louis XVI. There are vague allusions to the notion that it is the people who have the power, and woe be unto anyone who doesn't respect the populace. Even more vague is the phrase: power isn't all that money buys. Truth in that. It can also buy a lot of gum.

It's not one of the band's finest moments, but it gets over by sheer force of Rush's desire to rock out. The version here is a live one from 1976, with Geddy - once named by a Canadian music magazine as one of Canada's sexiest rockers - in full air-raid siren effect.

Fortunately, after this album, I discovered 2112, the debut and the newly released Signals, and my love affair was renewed until about 1991 or so. Shifting more toward hip-hop, alternative and classic R&B/funk, I dumped all of my Rush music. In the years since, I've reacquired a few titles and frequently take them out, not entirely out of nostalgia. But I still haven't learned to embrace Caress of Steel. It still leaves me cold to this day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Word of the Day - July 13, 2009

Today's word of the day is metrist, which is a writer of verse, or someone who writes in meter, or an expert in metrics. Sort of like me.

Song of the Day - July 13, 2009

There is a lot of music in this big ol' world. Some of it you know intimately. Some of it you've probably read about. Some of it, you stumble on.

Many years ago at a flea market, I stumbled on Mandrill. I knew it was a funk band, but didn't really know much about them. They'd had a few hits, enough to merit an anthology, but I didn't ever really hear them on my radio growing up. The only R&B we got were the big, big hits. Mandrill never cross over to pop, so Mandrill never made the grade with music programmers here.

Truth be told, that Mandrill album I purchased didn't do it for me. The band, formed in the late 60s by three New York based brothers who were born in Panama, had clearly soaked up all of the major musical vibes going on in the big apple at the time, and I think that's why I underrated them. They brought too much to the table, so it sounded rather diluted to me. Also, they seemed to rely a little too heavily on the groove instead of melody. And I just didn't make a love connection.

That is until a few years ago when I was looking for funk to put on my iPod. I somehow heard Fencewalk from the Composite Truth album, and I was smitten. Well, with that song. I like how liquid and serpentine the funk is at the outset of the song, and how, when the vocals give way to the jam, the band gets down and dirty, pushing the funk very, very, very hard. It's a rather erotic bump and grind that resolves itself too, too soon for my liking, and rocks as hard as Black Sabbath or Zep in its own way. The link above is a live version from 2008, but it still smokes. No monkey business.

Verse: untitled

When the night
comes looking for you
with a rose pressed
between his teeth
would you let him in

casting cool blue
stars around your room
upon your feet
would you let him in

Looking for a place
to crash for a
few days
and something to eat
would you let him in

talking high and mighty
with words rude
and indiscreet
would you let him in

unwapping his body
like some dime-store treat
would you let him in

convinced his ministrations
shame all who walk
your street
would you let him in

his eyes burn like
roman candles
and his lips are
bitter sweet
would you let him in

braying at the nomadic
moon and tearing up
the concrete
would you let him in

removes your resolve
like a dress and
binds you to your seat
would you let him in

never stopping once
until his love
is perfect
and complete
why don't you let
him in.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Worthy Award for Chick-Fil-A

A long, long time ago, McDonald's had the slogan: You deserve a break today. Well, Chick-Fil-A has taken up the spirit of that slogan with its annual Cow Appreciation Day.

Now in its fifth year, the promo works like this: if you walk into a Chick-Fil-A dressed head to toe like a cow today, July 10, you get a free meal. Don't have a costume? Not a problem. You can download and make one, courtesy of the fast-food chain. If you can't go the full body route, you still get a free entree.

According to Advertising Age, Chick-Fil-A expects 132,000 people to participate at its more than 1,000 restaurants. Given the current economic conditions, there may very well be more showing up at its doors, so here's hoping they are able to come through.

This is not the only free food that the chain hands out through the year. It typically gives out meals when each new outlet opens, and people park outside the restaurant all night just to claim one breaded chicken sandwich. It's also planning a giveaway for Labor Day.

Free food tied to a fun campaign makes the bird the word. Or at least Words Worthy. Here's to you, Chick-Fil-A.

Song of the Day - July 10, 2009

In 1974, my family took its first extended camping vacation in Maine. We stayed at a campground in a wooded area where old rusted out cars haunted the nights along with the sounds of bug zappers - the first time I had ever encountered those items. Even to this day, I awake in a cold sweat hearing that sound of death. There were signs around the campground warning people that streaking was verboten during certain hours of the day. I remember mom picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, because she had nothing to read, and being seriously freaked out by the imagery within the book. And I remember finally getting to eat a whole bunch of snack foods I had only seen in comic books - Hostess Fruit Pies, Twinkies and, um, Slim Jims.

I could tell you all kinds of camping stories, how we'd set up and take down that old camper, and how it always seemed to be raining either way. Most of them are not fond memories, and a big reason why I don't travel much, or insist on creature comforts when I do. Anyway, what I do remember mainly from that first trip, besides the Hostess pies and Hood ice cream, was hearing two songs on the radio that, unbeknownst to me, were principal harbingers of a major movement about to go mainstream: disco. They were Rock the Boat by The Hues Corporation Rock Your Baby by George McCrae.

McCrae's recording was particularly significant in that it essentially ushered in the Miami sound, whose main proponents were K.C. & the Sunshine Band. In fact, KC stalwarts/songwriters Richard Finch and Harry Wayne Casey wrote and recorded Rock Your Baby in a demo form while creating material for the band. George undid his shirt - search YouTube and you'll see him in his unbuttoned glory - wrapped his heavenly falsetto around it and drove it to #1 on the pop charts.

To this day, when I hear Rock Your Baby and Rock Your Boat, no matter where, when or under what conditions, it's instant summer. And I look for a Hostess pie, or a pack of Slim Jims, and not finding them in my neck of the woods, I just dance, dance, dance.

Verse: Profile

with your name
as I am
I do not know you

you who
even among legends
are legendary
who took from me
my old ennui
fed my faith
with tender
and lanced me
with tiny
pinpricks of lust

You might say
that I
obscure you
like clouds
with my
lapsed language
these loose
pejorative words
veil you
in observation
make you as common
as anyone
as me

Palm Pre girl is a rock, she is an island

Though visually very impressive (Tarsem!) I just feel enervated by the The Palm Pre Girl commercials. I mean, here's this girl talking in disconnected vaguely poetic speech patters more halting than William Shatner about her life never once noticing that she is surrounded by people twirling and rearranging themselves for her. Talk about solipsistic. It's like the Palm Pre ads are saying, 'Forget about the world beyond you. Enjoy this shiny object that makes you think you control it.'

So I'm pleased to say that someone has decided to chronicle the life of the Palm Pre Girl on Twitter with brilliant non-sequiturs like, This rock. I've decided. To name it Sylvester' and 'It's hard to tweet. And juggle.' If the Palm Pre ads had half this much wit, I'd take more notice of them...

Microsoft IE8 ad triggers gag reflex

If you've been reading my marketing and communications perspectives on a regular basis, you know I can come off a bit, um, hectoring and parental when it comes to watching what you say. Even in supposedly private conversations. I know, we should all expect some consideration or discretion. But that's not how the world works. Any time you open your mouth or do something and someone is witness, it's public.

Not only that, everything you say and do can have a very, very long life, one much larger than you might have imagined. Thanks to the very tools I'm using to type this missive, your offhand remark, rash blog entry or revealing Polaroids can be exchanged and archived all around the worldwide web within moments, and endure forever. People whose cultural and moral backgrounds differ greatly from yours will weigh in on perceived transgressions with all the precision and pithiness of Judge Judy dismissing the claims of comely young ladies seeking the return of damage deposits and bail money.

So, with that in mind, let's turn our attention to Microsoft, which recently distanced itself from a very bile filled Internet Explorer 8 commercial known as OMGIGP Internet Explorer 8 Puke Vomit Girl. Directed by one of my favorite comedians Bobcat Goldthwaite, the ad, a parody of 50s commercials with intrusive experts, consists of a woman spewing pea soup repeatedly as one-time Superman Dean Cain explains the wonders of In-private Browsing. I'd have loved to have sat in on the confab Cain had with his agent about that gig.

It's a relatively recent ad, and the company made news last week for, as this story puts it, pulling 'the worst technology ad ever". So why are we talking about old news? Because, despite Microsoft distancing itself from the ad, it the spot is in Advertising Age's list of the top viral ads, thanks to people posting it on YouTube. (The ad was removed from Microsoft's site and YouTube channel, as well as the website of its advertising agency.)

Currently, 750 thousand people have watched the disowned ad, and not many of the comments I waded through are very favorable ranging from 'seriously gross' to 'she was using IE8, thats (sic) why she ralphed'. So the ad continues to draw interest and eyes. And thus, in a perverse way, it continues to do the job it was intended to do: promote IE8, even if in a rogue way and generate discussion around it. The talk may not all be rah-rah for IE8, but the mission has been accomplished. I'm one of many who have given attention to the ad, thus perpetuating its life and the promotion of IE8.

You could accuse MS of being disingenuous, knowing that distancing itself from the ad would create more interest in it and possibly IE8. I don't think that's the case. I think they knew a vomiting girl would appeal to a particular segment of their target audience, but they didn't think about how it would go over with a broad and worldwide consumer base.

Still, for all the talk, all the attention, I don't know that this ever could have been an effective, or affective, ad for MS because it is too out there for the masses. Instead, it's an object for debate over standards and scorn over execution. It comes down to this - sometimes, the decisions you make are like a bad lunch; they have a way of coming back on you. Know your message, your audience and always ensure your creative goes down smoothly, with no unpleasant aftertaste...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Word of the Day - July 9, 2009

The Word of the Day is gauche, which means socially awkward, crude, lacking tact. Being left-handed, it's my least favourite word, because it's French for 'left'. I prefer sinister, the Latin word for left. Yes, it has implications of disaster and trouble, but it does have the connotation of evil. Ooo spooky!

Verse: Her grace

In the fresh
naked morning
I find you and
your magnificent
sleeping skin
delicious to hold
and sacred still
is the silent staccato
of your breath
like a mild
summer breeze
or lambent fingers
of flame
that tickle
my neck
and hasten
my yearning for
your moist
full lips
as gentle as
the depths of
your drowsy embrace
I drink deep
the recollection of
how a fevered evening
became this hot, tiny
matinal joy
of wanting you,
worshiping your
sweet pleasure
and knowing
nothing escapes
our passion
not the sky blue
eternity above us
nor the generous
pervasive bouquet
of sleep that beckons me
once more

Song of the Day - July 9, 2009

How ironic that an ode to perseverance and success would be written and recorded by a vocal group that disappeared shortly thereafter into the mists of obscurity.

The Festivals were a soul quartet that originated in Texas, though you'd never suspect that when you listen to You're Gonna Make It. This paean to the power of positive thinking has a Windy City sound/Impressions sound, no doubt due to the fact that Johnny Pate, who worked with that renowned group for years, did the arrangements on this.

Driven by a bassline too legit to quit and sparkling chimes, this sprightly stepper wants you to know that, whatever your trials or tribulations, however destitute or money or hope you may be, you can be successful so long as you cling to your dreams and don't stop believin'.

Impossibly, this short & sweet charmer stalled at #28 on the R&B charts in 1970, and appears to have been The Festivals only top 40 R&B hit, though any soul fan will also make a solid case for an earlier single, You've Got the Makings of a Lover. If I accomplish nothing else in this world, I would at least like for Woody Price, Vaughan Price, Earl Moss and Leon Thomas to know how much this song means to me. I return to it frequently when I find myself in difficult times, which given my profession occur more often than I'd like.

So, to The Festivals, thank you for writing and recording an anthem that gives me courage to keep on pushing, keep on driving, and never give up. Sure hope this message finds you somewhere and lets you know your song made a difference in someone's life...

MrWordsWorth on Pepsi, Olive Garden Slogans, For What it's Worth...

Slogans are vital. They encapsulate the essence of your company, your product, your service. They're like a promise, or a come-on. People hear them and immediately they know who you are and what you do, and why they want to make you their hero over some other brand zero.

Advertising agencies have produced many great slogans over the years. 'You're in good hands with Allstate.' 'Reach out & Touch Someone' 'The quicker picker upper.' 'Raise your hand if you're sure.' 'It takes a licking & keeps on ticking.' These slogans tell a story, make a promise. You hear them and you know what the product or service is all about.

There are two things that slogans shouldn't do: confuse or raise questions that undermine the warm and fuzzies you want to evoke. Take Pepsi Canada, for example. Last month, it unveiled, with creative from BBDO, a new slogan: Joy it Forward. I'm guessing someone was channel surfing and came upon the movie Pay it Forward and had a revelation.

The movie, and the book it was based on, are several years behind us. So it's hard to believe that it would have served as the inspiration. But that's not the real problem I have with the slogan. My real problem is it neither makes sense, nor does it say anything specific about Pepsi. Joy it Forward is generic enough that any company, from Hallmark Cards to Betty Crocker, could use it. It's meaningless. And it feels like it was created by pouring a box of Magnetic Poetry on a table and determining the constituent words through a process of elimination. 'Well, we want to say something about happiness, and progress, but in a very vague way.' It lacks substance, specificity and effervescence.

Meanwhile, Olive Garden has been running a commercial that ends with the line: 'When You're Here, You're Family.' Nice sentiment, but it raises an unnecessary question in the mind of the consumer: what am I when I'm not at Olive Garden? Inconsequential? Contemptuous? Do you talk trash about me and my clothes? These are the kinds of ruminations you don't want your slogan to inspire, Olive Garden.

Of course, these are just my perspectives. Perhaps you like these slogans, and you're not even affiliated with the companies above. I hope you'll share why. More important. I hope you'll think on this when it comes time to tell your story in a slogan. And I hope you'll leave the magnetic poetry on the fridge.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Word of the Day - July 8, 2009

Word of the Day is megalomania which is an extreme delusion of power or importance, a yen to do grand things, or tendency to exaggerate, like many reality show participants experience...

Song of the Day - July 8, 2009

Back in 1993, when North America was infatuated by grunge, John Hiatt decided to turn the volume up and get a little grittier. The result, at least on the first single and title cut of Perfectly Good Guitar , was a good approximation of... Neil Young, not teen spirit. Not entirely inappropriate, given that Neil was, at the time, being called the godfather of grunge for his lumbering, blistering workouts with Crazy Horse.

Yet the song is, in some ways, not very charitable to its inspiration - Nirvana's Krist Novoselic. Hiatt, watching TV one day, saw the trio's bassist get hit in the head with a bass guitar he was trying to shatter. "I don't know who they think they are," he says with a fogey's derision, "smashing a perfectly good guitar." And yet, musically, it's very muscular and appealing. Hiatt and his cohorts give the song a good working-over, like they're using a side of beef as a punching bag. It may be his best rock song, even if he seems at odd with the whole nihilistic, showy aspects of rock music.

The real reason I picked it is a nod to my blog about how United Airlines smashed a perfectly good guitar belonging to Sons of Maxwell member David Carroll...

Verse: Call me by my name

the clouds
counsel no one
they keep
their indifferent
distance and
loose the rain
and yet they do not
call me by my name

the tv
and the newspapers
with their
breathless analysis
of the events
of the day
constantly vying
for my attention
yet they do not
call me by my name

not doctors who
administer medicines
with clinical
nor priests
who take my
confession and
offer their orisons
all their
care and kindness
cannot reach me
they do not
call me by my name

not hope
with its nagging
nor fear that
burrows deep
within my
trembling breath
nor passion
which invigorates
my insatiable longing
they do not call me
by my name

my heart
soft and infinite
my hands rough
and inconsistent
my ears ever
awaiting the
exquisite voice
of anyone
who would call me
by my name

the vagaries
of my profession
sequestered mornings
that slide into
idle afternoons
I yearn for any
call me by my name
and soon

Pretty good guitarist strums pain of United Airlines baggage handling with his fingers

Companies sure have embraced social media, haven't they. They're tweeting this, vlogging that. They gush like gossip columnists over how wonderful life is with these tools in the world. What they forget is that consumers can use these tools to put the screws to you.

Submitted for your approval, the story of David Carroll , who constitutes 50% of the Nova Scotia-based band Sons of Maxwell. In spring of 2008, while traveling in the US to a gig, someone witnessed his $3,500 Taylor guitar being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers during a stopover in Chicago. The guitar was smashed, and Carroll took action.

Being Canadian, and thus genetically hardwired to be polite, Carroll pursued the matter through official channels. He writes about the process in vivid detail on his blog, noting that, although no one at United denied the incident took place, no one was willing to take responsibility for it.

Well, polite as we Canadians can be, Mr. Carroll's dander rose over the next nine months as airline officials played hot potato with his complaint. When a Ms. Irlweg informed him the company would not accept responsibility, and that would be her last email on the matter, he responded that he would be writing 3 songs about his experience with United. A kind of Canadian Railroad Trilogy if you will, only this one about how United smashes the guitars of Canadian musicians.

And on July 6, Carroll posted the first song of his promised trilogy, United Breaks Guitars on YouTube. It's a very witty ode to incompetence and indifference that has, as of Wednesday July 8, been watched by more than 100,000 people. The ballad of the smashed guitar has also been featured in the Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia's main daily newspaper, and highlighted on the LA Times travel blog.

As you may have guessed, the folks at United want to talk to Carroll about the matter now that he has drawn public attention to his plight. This demonstrates how effective social media tools can be in pushing a customer complaint. The thing is, it shouldn't have taken a video to force United's hand. If the company had dealt with Carroll in an appropriate timely manner*, the situation wouldn't have escalated into a very public complaint, one that puts the company at a significant disadvantage.

For one, Carroll's story and video encourage scrutiny and discussion of United's conduct from people who are not agreeably disposed to the airline's brand. His experiences have also encouraged others to share their own grievances about United and threaten boycotts. Just look at the talk back about his YouTube video. Attendant media coverage has been unflattering and dominated by Carroll's experiences. Thus the company is stuck in reaction mode. It is wasting time and money on efforts to undo the damage of a situation it could have avoided, even resolved more efficiently and cheaply, by quietly replacing Carroll's guitar. At the very least, it should serve as a tutorial to the company on the power of social media tools to damage a brand, and how not to handle such disputes in the future.

So, if you take anything from this story, it should be this: treat your customers with respect, take responsibility for your actions, and make sure private matters remain private. You never know when you're going to come up against a talented musician with an ax to grind, and a forum in which to grind it.

*I had said proactive + private when I originally posted this, but on reflection, those words seemed ill-chosen...

My horn. Tooting it.

If you have been reading this blog lately, you'll know I've been doling out some tough love to GM on its Reinvention. Well, today I'm in the Chronicle Herald's Marketing Monitor saying that GM's reinvention needs someone to stage an intervention . Sure, it's what I've been saying all along, only this time it is in a convenient, easy-to-carry format.

My opinion differs from some of my colleagues, so let me know your thoughts - am I right or wrong?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Word of the Day - July 7, 2009

Word of the Day is consummate, which means perfect, highly skilled. For example, I'm told that MrWordsWorth is a consummate writer...

Song of the Day - July 7, 2009

It was the summer of 1966, and a recording session had been arranged at a New York studio with ol' blue eyes himself, Mr. Frank Sinatra. But at the last minute, a Warner Brothers Records rep calls famed songwriter and producer Jerry Ragovoy to say that the session has to be cancelled. Given the short notice, and the fact that the musicians have to be paid, the exec asks Ragovoy if he has anyone to record. Ragovoy did. Lorraine Ellison.

Ellison had done some performing and recording previously with a gospel group, the Ellisons, and under her own name on Mercury. She'd also co-written an R&B track or two that had been placed with other artists, including Jerry Butler. But she hadn't had a major break as a performer when her manager suggested Ragovoy give her a shot.

Amazed by her audition, Ragovoy signed her with his production company, and got her on Warner Brothers. He had been preparing to record her with a 20-piece orchestra when he received the call from the Warner exec, and decided the potentially idel 46-piece ensemble would be the perfect setting for Lorraine.

The orchestra, unaware of Sinatra's cancellation, must have been surprised to see Lorraine, but I can't even imagine how the musicians must have reacted when she began to sing. Knowing that the finished song was done, with the exception of the first eight bars, on the first take seems impossible. I can't imagine any musician keeping his or her thing together upon hearing Lorraine. But somehow, they not only held it together, they kept pace with her. And Stay With Me , a stone-cold soul classic, was forged.

Legend has it that copies of the record traded hands in Harlem for $50 in the day, and you can hear why. No one had quite approach singing like this before. Every vocalist you hear today from Mariah to Whitney follows her template. The uncharitable ears will call it histrionics; I call it a maelstrom. Atop a deep, gospel soul bedrock, her voice swoops and soars when it hits the chorus, ranging somewhere between a howl and a shriek, rocking you to your very core. You either run in fear or stand statue-still overwhelmed by awe. There is no in between.

Though it hit just outside the R&B top ten, it took several years before Stay With Me was recognized as a masterpiece of melisma in the US. It has long been a fave of soul fans in England, however, helped in part by a cover version done by Terry Reid , the man who might have been the lead singer of Led Zeppelin, had he not pointed Jimmy Page in another direction. It's more bluesy, but no less melodramatic. Either way you choose, you're a winner; the shivers they induce stay with you long after the last notes fade... no

Verse: At our discretion

Morning doled out
in tablespoons
far too soon
it seems no one
is immune
we love
at our discretion

Now we shiver
and we sob
amid the
minatory mob
others always
on the job
we love
at our discretion

Those there are
obsessed with it
they get a taste
and cannot quit
it becomes
a prerequisite
but we love
at our discretion

orators who seek
to bend the will
inflame our hearts
with some cheap thrill
they bate, berate
and beseech, still
we love
at our discretion

tabloids and their
cheap sensations
census takers
infect the nation
this is not
for publication
we love
at our discretion

executives and
their bloodless coup
the perversion of
all that we hold true
with all that we have
to live through
we love
at our discretion

you who would
defy the gods
would roll the dice
despite the odds
you too will find
you are still awed
by love
at your discretion

All night, she was a Young Republican

Think before you post. It's not 'one to grow on', but it's brilliant in its simplicity. We've so many wonderful tools and apps that allow us to spew crazy brilliance without much delay between thought and expression, it's overwhelming. And most of us, even I, pump out impulsive notions that occur to us through avenues such as Facebook, Twitter with alarming alacrity, never stopping think about, as Men At Work once succinctly put it 'the implications/of diving in too deep/and possibly the complications."

That's certainly true of Audra Shay who, at the age of 38 is pushing the boundaries of Junior Chamber membership, much less the Vice Chairmanship of the Young Republicans. According to The Daily Beast, Shay responded to a post on her Facebook page, saying that America needed to be reclaimed from 'coons' and 'illegals', with 'you tell them... lol.'

Shay has countered that she was not responding directly to that post, but to a previous post by the same individual, a fact the Daily Beast disputes based on the time that passed between postings. She removed the exchange from her Facebook page (which you can find around the web in the form of screen shots). She posted a subsequent Facebook update saying she would not condone t such racially disparaging remarks. Yet she raised suspicions by defriending Facebook colleagues who challenged her on her inexcusable post.

Shay, it should be noted, is a front runner for the chair of the Young Republicans, a position that will be filled this Saturday. Naturally, she's made her apologies for her comments, but it is worth asking how much that was motivated by the need to save face versus genuine contrition. Her attempt to divert attention from her actions by accusing her YR rivals of political attacks suggests she made her statements out of necessity.

Any such suspicions are damaging for her and for the Republicans, given similar high profile racial insensitivities and slurs committed in recent weeks by individuals such as Rusty DePass, Sherri Goforth and Chip Saltzman. Shay's thoughtlessness only serves to reinforce negative perceptions people have that the Republican party's brand of politics are unfavorable to anyone who is not white, straight or affluent.

Given that Shay undermined her best possible chance at redemption - a straight and genuine apology - by deflecting attention, the best possible action she could take to protect her reputation, and that of her party, is to resign. Any action she would take, any comment she could make, as chair of the YR is going to be scrutinized in light of this incident. Media interest will ensure that the focus this weekend will be on her suitability, GOP racial issues and anything but the election of the new YR chair.

This is supposed to be a time of rebuilding for the Republicans, a chance to reach out and reengage Americans, an opportunity to build the kind of support necessary to win the next election. Like any organization, the party can't move ahead so long as its members perpetuate longstanding negative perceptions.

It'll be interesting to see how this story plays out, and the PR/communications efforts that Shay and the YR undertake to mitigate the damage resulting from her insensitivity, to build integrity and trust, to save face, as it were. I think it won't be easy and any attempt, however sincere, is going to be met with skepticism. Regardless, it's one more timely reminder to always think before you post. The political scandal you prevent may be your own.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Song of the Day - July 6, 2009

Natasha Khan has a mystical sound that reminds me of Kate Bush. Yet where Kate's work was distinctly British, Khan, under the nom de plume Bat For Lashes, embraces the world. The video for the Song of the Day, Prescilla is a kind of fairy tale that takes you down the rabbit hole and back again, yoked to a song with lyrics that straddles a line between domesticity and escapism; dream and reality. It never quite resolves itself, but it haunts you for days...

Word of the Day - July 6, 2009

Your Word of the Day is filigree, which previously was filigrain. A filigree is mainly a delicate, lace-like ornamental work of intertwined gold or silver.

Verse: Picnic

The sun
was making
its excuses
as we climbed
the stairs
to the roof

We could see
the angular
elastic bodies
of bronzed boys
bathed in sweat
playing basketball
across the street
in the schoolyard
invincible, almost eternal
in the waning light

the sky
an icy ocean
suddenly illuminated
by thousands of
impatient stars
we skimmed stones
across its surface
until our trembling
distorted reflections
resembled carnival

We picked moonfruit
and sat upon
a nearby cloud
to enjoy our modest meal
you dared me
to eat a star
so cold
it tore
the roof
of my mouth

your head
in my lap
I spoke
in unrehearsed
verse for a while
and you said
'If you were
to disappear
leave me just
one tenderness
a smile
a whisper
a kiss
I'll wear it
like a ring
it's just
an impulse thing.'

And we sat
very quiet
very still
for a very
long time
waiting only
for sleep
to come and
to hold us
in his fragrant embrace

Friday, July 3, 2009

Song of the Day - July 3, 2009

With so many celebrities having passed away over the past few days, many of whom I haven't talked of here, it occurred to me to offer this as Song of the Day: People Who Died by the Jim Carroll Band. A punk poet, portrayed by Leonard DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries, says farewell to some people he knew who died of various causes. The punk approach may seem offhanded to you, but has always struck me as appropriate if you think about the whole 'rage against the light' thing. In that way, it becomes a very fitting tribute because it is so full of life. It was probably the first punk song I ever heard, and one of the few that many of my tragically unhip friends knew. Great to pogo to, or just contemplate, it remains one of my favorites to this day.

Word of the Day - July 3, 2009

Word of the Day is cordate, which is heart-shaped. Gossamer, the monster from the Bugs Bunny cartoons is kind of cordate.

Verse: What I want

Unlimited inspiration
that flows fast
like a waterfall
just one word
one phrase
that someone
somewhere will recall

To travel the world
unfettered seeing all
the storied places
I have never been
Paris, Rome, London
the Louvre and the Sistine

Cool evenings in summer
and a real and vibrant spring
winters that are gentle
to the touch
and autumns colorful
and conquering

Mellow candles
that persist
even when the night
begins to yawn
the plainsong of
the chickadees
to ring in the dawn

An evening on the town
that is rich
in bold discovery
A morning in
a small cafe
where the air is
is thick with coffee

Something to believe in
that never raises
cause to doubt
the light that resides
in your emerald eyes
to never peter out

Moments for reflection
love that binds us
to the core
memories between us
and the promise
of many more

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Verse: Washing of the Dreams

And I walk
through the thick
marram grass
to the shore
with a basket
of dreams
to wash them off
and dry them
in the sun

You have to be careful
to separate them
wash like ones
or the colors run

all along the water
so many other dreamers
scrubbing their dreams
like an assembly line

I rinse them carefully
to get the detergent out
slap them against
the granite rocks
and place them back
in the basket

Back home
I hang them on the line
and hope they dry
before the day is done
flapping like flags
they look so threadbare
in the sun but
I'm loathe to replace them
you can't get them
in that size or shape

Not-so-close shave with Remington

Like most people, I'm impetuous. If I have a bad brand experience, I typically take my money elsewhere.

Like today. A few weeks ago, my trusted Philips electric razor lost its will to live after many years of faithful service. Disappointed, I gave it a decent burial and headed out to a bargain behemoth to purchase a new one. I know, I get what I deserve for being cheap when it comes to my pretty face, but these are tough times. Pennies will be pinched.

So, I buy a Remington razor, bring it home, charge it and the next morning I eagerly apply it to face after a gentle wash. I stretch the skin, apply both blades, do a little circular motion. Yet despite my best efforts, it's not giving me a nice, smooth even shave. There are stubborn little patches all along my neck and around my jaw that prove impervious to the double row of blades.

The booklet says to give it about three weeks, but I wasn't noticing any improvement. I constantly had to take a trimmer and run it all over my neck and face to clear out the many stragglers. So I decide to call Remington to voice my concern about the product's performance. I explain what I bought, that I'd been using it for about three weeks and that I hadn't encountered such an ineffective electric razor before. That was that. The person on the other end, huffy, shut down the call by telling me to take it back to the store where I bought it if I was unhappy. And that was that.

Despite my disappointment with the razor, I was willing to hear out Remington to see if they had suggestions to get better results, if there had been problems with that product, anything to address my experience or concerns. No dice. And they made no attempt to ask any questions about the product or how I used it. In short, the company acted like it didn't care that I had a negative experience and wanted to be done with me.

Now, you may see nothing wrong with what Remington did. I was an unhappy customer and they told me to return the product. Which I concede I could have done. But I figured they'd want to know if someone was unhappy with their product and have a chance to do something about it. Instead, I'm sharing my experience with you and a few hundred people on Twitter, and telling you I won't be buying Remington products again.

It comes down to this: if you care about and stand behind your products or services, then you do so when someone isn't happy with them. You make an attempt to uphold their brand integrity, or set things right. You work to please that customer with an eye to ensuring he or she remains a loyal customer. You hear out his or her concerns. You make some effort to address them. It creates a positive association. The customer feels better about the situation and may be willing to work with you to a resolution. Do it right and you not only retain a customer, you enjoy positive word of mouth.

But if you shrug and dismiss concerns, you lose that opportunity to engage a customer, to transform a negative experience and to avoid poor word of mouth. Word of mouth that, I might add, spreads further and faster than ever thanks to the world wide web and its wonderful social media tools. Word of mouth that damages your brand.

So now several hundred people know my experience with Remington. Will it influence their purchasing decisions? Who knows. But why take that risk if you don't have to. Make the effort; show you care about your products and customers. It's one way to ensure your reputation remains blemish-free and looking good.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Song of the Day - July 1, 2009

Being that it is Canada Day, today's Song of the Day is the best Canadian song ever and should be our National Anthem. Wayne McGhie & The Sounds of Joy's Dirty Funk. Select #5 when you go through the link to hear a snippet!

This is what I blogged about the album on my now-dead previous blog:

Okay, so I'm late to the party on this, but I'm not the only one. Even Wayne McGhie's original record label barely bothered to RSVP, to judge by the liner notes that accompany Light in the Attic's loving reissue of McGhie's one and only self/untitled album with The Sounds of Joy. I have to be honest, the notion of a rediscovered funk and R&B and Rock Steady platter from my Soviet Canuckistan stomping grounds, featuring covers of songs like Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye and Take a Letter Maria didn't exactly inspire confidence when I first heard about it. So a friend set me straight, and I'm glad he did. This one is a real charmer, and as addictive as as a Crackberry. The band is tight, but the feel is open and relaxed, like a casual session where a bunch of friends got together to run through a few songs, old and new. That casual aspect is reflected in the production - songs seem to end or fade at odd junctures; it's as if the band had to keep pumping the studio with government funded quarters to keep cranking out its tunes.

Speaking of which, the surprise here is that the four covers are actually quite good. I love how he turns Take a Letter Maria into a ragged but right stuttering West Indies groove, and how McGhie sometimes elides the 'f' sound on 'wife' so it sounds like he's singing 'address it to my wi-ah' or 'wire.' He wrings Blood, Sweat and Tears out of the Friends of Distinction's Going in Circles, fortunately taking his lead from Al Kooper's version of the band, not blowhard David Clayton Thomas. And Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Good Bye recasts it as a funky pop classic you didn't know was a classic. And if his By the Time I Get to Phoenix is a briefer journey than Isaac Hayes, it's no less pleasurable. But the best songs are two originals that sound as familiar as his covers. Dirty Funk could easily have been a Meters 45, opening with a solid break beat by Everton Paul strong enough to win the hearts of loop diggers everywhere. And I'm pretty certain that Fire (She Need Water) hails from the same neighborhood as, maybe, James Brown's Bring it Up (Hipster's Avenue). But whatever neighborhood it's from, The Ohio Players must found inspiration in the fire truck siren that opens the cut, and it may be the location of the confounded bridge that Led Zeppelin were looking for when they did The Crunge. That it fell between the cracks suggests that, when it comes to rhythm, the Canadian music industry, and many music fans here, often have two left feet. They get Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, Anne Murray, but they don't often get music like this. But you should. As Mel Mounds used to sorta say, it's righteous and outta sight-eous.

Word of the Day - July 1, 2009

Today's Word is prevaricate, which is to speak falsely or misleadingly, which I have been doing all day on Twitter. If you'd like to know, or why, follow me @MrWordsWorth

Verse: Fragment of a Rainy Season

Billie, you exclaimed
and a smile of recognition
crept across your face
as For All We Know
played softly
that misty afternoon
while we ate
in the lonesome
crowded cafe

Here's what I know
you said
it gets darker
as you go along
you tend to
repeat yourself
and harbour dark thoughts
about what you've done
what you've become

You love awhile
sometimes, it's lonely
you take your comforts
where you can
a glass of wine
a familiar song
late night conversations
with ghosts
and you wonder
what did it amount to
what did I accomplish
what difference
did it make
and who will remember
me when I am consigned
to memories

Years spent living
with myself, with others
you'd think, by now
I would know
who I am
but it changes
like seasons
like fashions
a child
a mother
a sister
a lover
it's all associations
you lose yourself
in proximities
like chalk marks
in the rain
it's just temporary

and the traffic
moves like a funeral procession
and this moment
lingers like
like an insect
in amber
it imprisons me
the malingering mist
with its quiet apathy
afflicts me
but what does anyone
know, anyway, Billie
so much I might have done
so little time, like anyone
I just want to know
that I can get something
of value done
that I can stop arriving
and be present
and genuine
and be someone