Cotuit’s Most Dangerous Catch

Junior was all peeved yesterday that he was without a halloween costume. Kid is 14, a freshman in high school, 6-feet tall, size-14 shoes, and he’s moaning about not having a costume. Sorry, no sympathy from me. If he was six and still cute I’d put him in a flame retardant Power Ranger disposable costume-in-a-bag and squire him around the neighborhood with a flashlight and a plastic pumpkin. 14?  Standard costume for a 14-year old in my day was an green army surplus field jacket, blue jeans, hiking boots, greasy long hair, a bad attitude and a penchant for property damage and vandalism.

But no. Modern marketing has turned Halloween into one of the top party holidays of the year, with people getting inordinately worked up over what transformation they will inflict on the world. How many McCains and Obamas will be drunkenly making out in the dark corners of Boston’s bars tonight?

So Junior is getting increasingly hysterical when me, J. Edgar Father-of-the-year, comes up with the world’s best and most innovative (and free) costume in history.

  • Grunden Sou-wester hat in international orange. Right there we’re talking massive fashion statement.
  • Grunden coat for that “don’t fall off the boat in the Bering Straits” look
  • Waders
  • “Save an Endangered Species – Commercial Fishermen” t-shirt with the most awesome cartoon of a dude wearing a …. sou-wester hat
  • Rubber clamming gloves

Now I am wondering what that says about me given that all of the aforementioned items are owned by me, used by me on a regular basis, and were not acquired with trick-or-treating in mind. Why “mountain stage” is a better marketing-planning metaphor than “hunker down”

Bob Carrigan at IDG introduced me to Rex Hammock. Good, indeed great blogger. This post confirms it:

“Athletes often choose times of stress to mount attacks: strong runners and bicycle racers may increase their pace on hills or under other challenging conditions,” the authors write. “In a similar vein, proactive marketing includes both the sensing of the existence of the opportunity (a tough hill and fatigued opponents) and an aggressive response (possessing the necessary strength or nerve) to the opportunity.”

A warning, however: The research indicates that it is only when companies are prepared for recessions (like cyclists who train for hills) who benefit. Thus, Apple with its pre-existing marketing and advertising savvy and a mountain of cash, is likely to benefit during this recession, as it has in previous ones, rather than another company whose marketing is inept, even in less challenging times.

Bottomline: “Hunkering down” is not the metaphor you want as your guide when planning your marketing efforts for the coming months — especially if your marketing has been working and your competitor seems to be huffing and puffing already. Hunker down wherever you can — say, executive compensation — but use a recession to raise your visibility, not hide. Rex Hammock’s weblog » Blog Archive » Why “mountain stage” is a better marketing-planning metaphor than “hunker down”. – Signs of anarchy in Osterville

Speaking of Project Mayhem:

“The phrase “PAPERI STREET SOAP COMPANY,” with each A encircled was painted in black across the walls of a bank, clothing store, real estate office and other businesses, according to a report by Officer John Alexander” – Signs of anarchy in Osterville.

Mis-spelled graffiti leads police to fruitless Google search for meaning of random tagging. Drop the “i” from “Paperi” and you have the name of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden’s human fat (liposuction trash) soap company: “Paper Street Soap Company.”

Project Mayhem

Why can’t project codenames be more awesome? Corporate and organizational code names — the granddaddy would be the Manhattan Project — are usually generated to cloak some secret project under an innocent sounding name to throw off spies.

There is a codename generator: but none of the examples are very funny. I mean, there’s a certain genius who came up with “Shock and Awe”, or, my personal favorite from “Fight Club” — Project Mayhem.

Projects I would like to work on:

Keep in mind during a “name the conference room” contest at a former employer, I lobbied hard for a theme related to cannibalism: The Donner Party Room, The Essex Whaleboat Room, Andes Soccer Teamroom, etc.. I lost.

Bloviate: or blog posts I am too lazy to write

  1. If I were 12-years old and out on the town with my buddies, then a Brazilian steakhouse would be f$%king awesome. Guys holding swords stacked with impaled roasted flesh and organ meat come to you, slice off pieces which you accept with a pair of mini-tongs, and then you signify “no mas” by flipping over a convenient table medallion – green for “pile it on, sword man”, red for “better get a bucket, I couldn’t eat another bite.”
  1. I have narcolepsy and can actually fall asleep between pitches in a baseball game, awakening for the windup and release, the swing or the hit, then back asleep when the play is concluded. I do this with a loud “snark” noise in keeping with my new found senility.
  2. I know I am not supposed to bitch about my PC. But, hey, I’m a user too. Here’s my beef, and it isn’t necessarily with the hardware (of course, which is perfect) but I availed myself of the convenience of the ThinkVantage System Update – reflashed my bios, did all the good computing stuff – and blech, blew away my audio. My point of clinical fascination whenever a product I help market goes south on me, is walking a mile in the customer’s shoes. Like – what would it be like to be an owner with the same issue? How would they get it resolved? is the answer. I felt like a dolt asking a question of the crowd, but hey, nothing like another user to help out a fellow user. Respect to the good people there who volunteer their time and knowledge. And no, I still don’t have audio.
  3. I have lust in my heart for the W700 mobile workstation we launched last summer. I played with one at our Olympic Showcase. Felt like I was driving a Peterbilt semi-tractor at 120 miles per hour with flames coming out my butt. They find pieces of our competitor’s PCs in the W700’s stool sample.
  4. I have lived in Google Docs the past few weeks and am here to declare they are good, indeed they are great.
  5. I continue to miss the Olympics. I could spend my life doing athlete blogging programs and be happy.
  6. October Gonzo blog on = fail.
  7. I wish I had a rowing race to go to every weekend. I sculled last Friday – on new slides and wheels – first in a decade. Slick as could be. I hate winter. Winter means erg and no rowing.
  8. Why am I surprised that there is fall foliage in North Carolina? Did I think New England had the lock on the pretty leaf department?
  9. Uncle Fester bought me and then patiently waited for me to install AppleTV. I did. It was good. I rented a movie. I watched it. I admit it, AppleTV is better than DirectTV Video on Demand. But I still detest the iTunes DRM crap.
  10. I watched three baseball movies last weekend. Bang the Drum Slowly, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out. First was great theater with a cheesy 1972 made for TV soundtrack but an awesome sad song (Streets of Laredo, with the immortal line, best sung in my experience in an Italian accent, as Roberto Benigni did in “Night on Earth”: “I can tell from his outfit that he was a cowboy.” Makes me think of Village People everytime). DeNiro was overly-goofy, not his best and the New York Mammoths reminded me way to much of the despicable Yankees in their pinstripes. Eight Men Out: John Sayles, what can I say. Best writer to ever aim a camera and act in front of it. Field of Dreams: felt dated and dumb until the end when James Earl Jones gives the baseball speech:

    “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

And here is Roberto Begnini as the tax driver in Night on Earth, confessing his sins to his holy passenger.

Whereabouts 10.27-11.2

Monday-Wednesday 10.27-10.29: RTP for meetings at the mothership

Thursday-Sunday 10.30-11.2: Cotuit

Thinking of NYC trip the following week. Nothing international on the horizon. Which is good.

Dressing down: “When the going gets tough, the tough shop the hardware aisle.”

My fashion sense is officially vindicated by the New York Times. In an article today, the Times declares that the classic utilitarian clothing of the past — Woolrich, Barbour, Topsider, Carhartt, Filson — is back in fashion as we slip into the Great Depression Redux.

Hell, right now I’m wearing:

  1. A pair of Carhartt carpenter pants picked up for $29 at Sears.
  2. A Filson wool shirt that cost over $100 and has to be dry cleaned, but is something that my grandchildren will fight over. 
  3. A Filson wool vest that looks like it was ripped off from Elmer Fudd (red and black checks) that was a gift from my pals at Lenovo.
  4. A pair of Sperry Topsiders

As Cousin Pete put it best — as I grow older and become known in the village as “Old Man Churbuck,” I need to declare whether I am going to go all green or khaki in my usual uniform of Dickies. There’s a certain Clamhead sartorial statement that involves Dickies, a white web/brass buckle belt, and baseball hat that is indicative of guys who work at the boatyard or drive the harbor launch. I’ve gone khaki big time. Welcome to the 1920s.

‘layoff’ OR ‘layoffs’ OR ‘laid off’ – Twitter Search

‘layoff’ OR ‘layoffs’ OR ‘laid off’ – Twitter Search.

Via Rafe Needleman at CNET — “take a stiff drink” before reading this very depressing stream of woe — people getting laid off, talking about layoffs, speculating about layoffs.

I suppose the big round at Yahoo precipitates this post, but nevertheless, having been on the receiving end of a layoff (via email no less) I fully empathize.

Death Of Print: exacts revenge of nerds on Forbes

The jungle drums of the alumni network are starting to rumble today, reacting to the piece in Gawker yesterday and Valleywag this morning that is making a power move on the print side at Forbes Magazine. “What’s your take?” emails are hitting my inbox.

So rather than indulge in some sort of retromingent nyah-nyah-told-you-so crap — it’s been eight years since I’ve darkened the Forbes door and I have nothing but positive memories (save for the f@#king CueCat). Let me give some useless armchair quarterbacking. First, read the Valleywag stuff:

“A tipster tells us that a “big shakeup” is coming, with the editorial staffs of both magazine and website getting “smashed together.”

Death Of Print: exacts revenge of nerds on Forbes.

My take:

1.’s president and publisher, Jim Spanfeller, is a magazine publisher first and foremost. It’s in the guy’s blood — Inc Magazine, Yahoo! Internet Life — the man is a publisher’s publisher and essentially would now be (if the rumors are true) be rushing into a void left open for the past decade when former publisher Jeff Cunningham departed for CMGI. The “publisher” named to replace Cunningham was Rich Karlgaard, the founding editor of the late tech mags Upside and Forbes ASAP. Rich was given the publisher title in the late 90s when Forbes was hot to establish a toehold in the Valley — opening a big bureau in Burlingame near the row of airport hotels so they could get some logo love visible from 101.

2. Karlgaard is an editor first, and not an ad guy. Where Cunningham was a classic space salesman — the guy who could sell pages, Karlgaard was the intellectual technology front man, a great speaker who had a solid tech network in the valley. Forbes brought in former American Express publishing exec Jim Berrien to semi-fill the Cunningham shoes in NYC at 60 Fifth Ave.. update: Berrien is no longer with the business, and I have no insights into how the ad side of the magazine is organized.

3. Spanfeller consolidated following the interim CEO reign of Jeff Killeen, who was brought aboard during my stint at the to put a professional CEO face on the business during the pre-IPO planning of 1999. When the bubble popped, I bailed, Killeen hung on a year, but without a solid publishing/ad sales background, was outgunned and moved on to become the CEO of GlobalSpec. Enter Spanfeller.

4. Spanfeller took the business separation put in place during my tenure and by the pre-IPO structuring to really set off on its own trajectory.  That separation gave its own corporate structure but an exclusive reprint license to the magazine content. The new editor in chief, Paul Maidment, came in from the Financial Times. With no past allegiance by Maidment to the print side (but interestingly an executive editor’s title on the print masthead), the beginning of a serious separation from the magazine side was underway, paving the way for Spanfeller and Maidment to build into what it is today — a completely independent operation with a robust balance sheet and a business model fundamentally different from the mag. The mag and the never played well together (update: no print/digital operation ever has and ever will anywhere IMHO). I was able to hold things together in the early political years as an alumni of the dead tree, but with me out of the way, I understand things drifted further apart, with some experiments in “loan-a-writer” going on with print people serving in the newsroom, etc.. Efforts by some of the print side to get involved — Dan Lyons asking for a blog, getting rejected, starting Fake Steve Jobs — never were really welcomed.

5. The mag feels and reads like a deer in the headlights. All mags do, but Forbes is sort of where it was in 1995. Bill Baldwin, my ex-boss, is the smartest man in the room, but he’s a contrarian and happiest in a geeky tax code/mutual fund fee story. He has not put Forbes in a miniskirt and halter top the way Andy Serwer has tarted up Fortune.

6. Forbes, as a brand, is very very proud of the — kicked the snot out of its print competitors early on because Tim Forbes gave it carte blanche to do what it needed to do without any political bullshit from the print side. Now I think Forbes and Elevation Partners are killing the division between the two properties — likely undoing the corporate separation put in place during the IPO process — and co-locating the edit teams.


1. Baldwin moves upstairs and a new EIC comes into the print side. I’d bring Gretchen Morgenson — Forbes alum — former contender to replace Jim Michaels, back from the Times.

2. Ad sales get merged.  Spanfeller becomes the main man on the business side for both print and sales.

3. Karlgaard remains in the same role. After all, he brokered the Elevation investment.

4. Elevation starts to throw its weight around more. I agree with Valleywag. This mashup is their doing.

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