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The Making of an Album:  Dylan’s Ghost- Songs of a Lifetime

February 13, 2016 3 comments

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The title tune in it’s entirety…and more to come in the days ahead..right here at Garcia Media Life!

 

But please buy the record!  Instructions  below…

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The Story Behind the Album

Music has been an important part of my life for a half-century- ever since I first picked up a guitar and my mom helped me figure out the lead line to the Beatle’s Day Tripper- at the age of 8.  But it is not until now, at the age of 59, that I have finally put together an actual record- an album- for the first time.   It’s just six songs.  But I hope folks will understand- a very special six songs, literally spanning one man’s lifetime.

This is ultimately a bid for immortality.  I’ve had a couple of close calls in recent years.  Having survived them, I became determined to create a musical work of some of the best tunes I’ve written- from 40 years ago to a few months ago- for posterity- in the hopes this musical part of my life lives in perpetuity somewhere in the digital cloud, long outliving my stay on this little blue planet.

Music Versus Journalism

I have always had a tortured relationship with music and the concept of being a singer/songwriter.  I have loved it as an art.  When it has devolved into work, like playing for drunks in assorted bars in my 20s, I found it could also be corrosive to the soul.  It’s also an absolutely brutal industry.   It chews people up and spits them out and humbles even the successful as staying at the top is as hard as getting there, and most never get to even a hint of the mountaintop and if they do it can be fleeting and elusive.

So I chose a career in journalism that I have now been engaged in for nearly 40 years.  It has been rewarding and important work.  I have worked for organizations like CBS, CNN, ABC and NPR.  I have seen history up close and personal.  I have worked with remarkable individuals whose courage and grace has helped the citizens of this country stay informed about their world, even at the risk of their very lives.  I made the right choice.

But music has always returned periodically in my life, tugging at my sleeve and reminding me that the art of the original song was always my first love.

It’s one thing to cover popular tunes, but when you write music and lyrics- when it becomes personal and you’re pouring your emotions and musings and thoughts and loves and fears into something to share with an audience- well, that’s art and that’s what I want to share now with my friends, my colleagues, my family and anyone who wants to give a listen.

When you come out with a record, your distributors want to know what kind of music it is.  Turns out after perusing through the various genres, that this is Folk-Folk Rock-Power Pop- Intellectual. But what it really is to your heart and your mind is a collection of songs with meaningful lyrics, music and melody that creates emotion and mood and is, hopefully, inspiring- and a performance and expression that is as honest as possible and executed with as much grace as one can muster.

With a Little Help from My Friends

It takes time to do this right.  Work began on this record in April of 2015.  About six weeks per song.  I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Jeff Severson who produced and arranged it with breathtaking skill and sensitivity.   Our collaboration was smooth and easy.

Jeff is a tremendous musician, a Master guitarist whose skills are in evidence all over this album. He has put out 11 instrumental albums, any one of which will knock your socks off.   He was a driving force behind 4 out of 5 Doctors on the CBS label many moons ago, a power-pop band whose music is still fondly remembered and loved by their many fans.   Last year, Jeff was inducted into the South Dakota Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

But there’s a knack to producing that is also one of Jeff’s strong suits.  It involves getting the most out of the artist.   It involves diplomacy, psychology, perseverance and of course, creativity. And then there’s his arranging skills- a whole other remarkable skill-set.

Turns out I had written a lot of songs that were actually only about 75% complete.  They were all, like, 2 minutes and 15 seconds long.  Though this is a highly artistic project, one does want to provide some semblance of commercial viability.   Jeff is a wonderful songwriter himself and his diagnosis of what each song needed was spot-on.   I wrote new lyrics.   I finished unfinished verses.  I added to breaks.  And it was Jeff who pushed me every step of the way.

Here are the album notes.  The artwork for this album was all done by Jeff’s brother, Scott, who is an old High School friend which is my good fortune, because he’s also one of the most talented graphic artists I have ever known.  Scott’s cover concept of the “just left” Bob Dylan sunglasses and coffee cup against an East Village backdrop is just brilliant for an album called Dylan’s Ghost,  don’t you think?    Please note that in the lower left hand corner of the album notes there is a subtle image of little Gracie,  a cat I rescued 15 years ago that I had to put down at the start of the year.  It was the last photo ever taken of her.  So this album is also a bid for Gracie’s immortality as well as my own🙂

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Here’s How You Can Hear the Album

Over the next couple of weeks, I am reactivating this blog to share these six songs with you.   I will publish the lyrics, talk about their meaning and some of the textual and musical changes we made along the way.   I intend to embed each of the songs in their entirety into these blog posts so you can hear what it is I’m posting about.   I would still appreciate if you went to places like I-Tunes and CD Baby to plunk down a mere $6 for the whole album so you can hear it in its entirety and so your humble artist can recoup some of his production costs.

Purists who want the CD itself can drop me an e-mail at robert.garcia.56@gmail.com and we’ll arrange to have it shipped to you.

You can purchase a digital download at I-Tunes, CD Baby and Amazon Music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ten Favorite Books Thing

September 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Books

My dear friend, Angie Stiepel Case, challenged me to select my ten favorite books and then I’m supposed to nominate ten other friends to do the same- like a Facebook literary chain letter.  I adore Angie but I have a paranoid suspicion that this was invented by some fiendish Facebook employee as a means of getting us all to give up precious, marketable details about our literary tastes that will be exploited by aggressive algorithms that will populate our newsfeeds with ever more highly targeted ads designed to penetrate our very psyches.

So here are my ten, complete with humorous anecdotes and memories attached.  Considering all the books ever written, I would say my selections reveal me to be a fairly shallow individual who was basically formed in the 70’s and 80’s and never really grew up.  But I’m happy that way.

In no particular order:

The World According to Garp– John Irving: The book was better than the movie which starred Robin Williams as Garp. But the film had a great scene that lives in my memory forever.  Garp and his wife are looking to buy a house and as they step out of their car onto the driveway, a small plane crashes through the roof of the place.  Garp immediately puts an offer on the home asking what are the chances that happens again.

Little Big Man– Thomas Berger: The film directed by Arthur Penn and starring Dustin Hoffman is one of my all-time favorites. Hoffman is the 104-year old Jack Crabb who recounts a life of “injuns,” (raised by the Cheyenne nation) and savage U.S. cavalry, with real life characters like Wild Bill Hickok and George Armstrong Custer. Chief Dan George was nominated for an academy award.  Author, Thomas Berger, passed away last July and I bought the book and it is just as fantastic and touching as the movie.  He is a terrific writer.  In its day, the book and movie were considered a protest of sorts against the U.S. military during the Vietnam War era, but it stands on its own without that baggage and reads like one of the best historical novels on the American west…ever.

Contact– Carl Sagan: Another book turned into a movie starring Jodie Foster and Mathew McConaughey. They are very different works.  The movie does the best job ever of depicting the moment contact is made with intelligent life.  The audio representation of the contact is not scientifically accurate at all but the poetic license taken is totally justified.  The movie does not have what was the mind-blowing ending in Carl Sagan’s novel.  One of the best science fiction endings of all time, in my opinion.  Hidden, deep, deep in the calculation of Pi, a super computer discovers a pattern that is an undeniable message from an alien force so powerful, it can alter mathematics; a force so clever that it knows its message cannot be found until a civilization builds powerful enough computing skills to demonstrate the necessary technical proficiency and advancement.  Carl Sagan!

Lincoln– Gore Vidal: One of the best historical novels of all time. Vidal paints a vivid picture of civil war Washington, complete with its houses of ill repute, the dusty streets, the stench of the canal that ran behind the White House, spies that crossed the Long Bridge to enter Washington from Virginia.  A masterful, memorable work.

Chesapeake, Space, Alaska– James A. Michner: Ok, three books listed as one but it’s Michner.  I remember reading just about all his books on various beaches over various summers.  This trio are my favorites.

Lucifer’s Hammer– Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: One of my favorite post-apocolyptic novels. Big Meteorite hits the Earth head-on.  The build-up is terrific.  The strike itself is well-described- like the surfers who paddle into the Pacific to catch the wave of their lives- a full-fledged tsunami that leaves one of them dying spectacularly as he slams into a Los Angeles skyscraper.  Good stuff.

Rendevous with Rama– Arthur C. Clarke: Layer upon layer of imagination and mind-bending discoveries aboard a gigantic alien vessel with breath-taking detail, a master work by the greatest science fiction writer of all time.

The Iowa Baseball Confederacy– W.P. Kinsella: One of the lesser known baseball novels by the author of Field of Dreams.  A bizarre, metaphysical, mysterious journey through the prism of a baseball game that refuses to end.

The Pillars of the Earth– Ken Follet: You have to love a historical novel about the building of cathedrals that stars as its protagonist a man named Tom Builder.  The middle ages in a wonderful mix of palace intrigue, intimate character development and medieval architecture.

Breakfast of Champions– Kurt Vonnegut: The favorite author of my youth.  I read everything he wrote and then wrote like him.  And thought like him.  Biting satire; humor with meaning.  He was my literary hero.  Breakfast of Champions is notable in my life for the following weird reason.  I had a final paper due in college- a dense book review due at 8am.  At 10pm, I had not written a word.  But I had just read Breakfast of Champions.  I plopped a coffee and a bottle of no-doz on the 7-11 counter.  The cashier must have sensed I was a young college student preparing for a cram session and magically produced a couple of amphetamines.  It was destiny. I swear, it’s the only time I ever took white crosses.  But that was 1975 and the statute of limitations has surely run out by now.

Anyway, the journey that followed was a spirited creative frenzy, to say the least. For those who may not have read the book, Kurt Vonnegut himself makes an appearance in the novel and totally freaks out his own main character by revealing himself as his creator.  I drew up a three-tiered chart explaining each reality-within-reality that Vonnegut constructed.  I wrote whimsically about the hilarious diagrams Vonnegut sprinkled throughout the book like the thing that looked pretty much like an asterisk * – which was Vonnegut’s representation of an asshole.  I’m sure I wrote other much more intelligent things that I’ve since forgotten because I really was on quite a roll.

I think I may have also written a review of Welcome to the Monkey House.  That was a collection of Vonnegut short stories that features my all-time favorite- Thomas Edison’s Shaggy Dog.  The famous inventor creates a head-phone-like device that can measure intelligence.  He notices his dog looking a little nervous.  Edison puts the headphones on the dog and sure enough, the IQ level is three times that of his own.  The dog admits the great scam that has been perpetrated on the human race and later has to pay the price, attacked by all the neighborhood dogs who caught wind that he had betrayed the ancient secret.

I drove to school, turned the paper in at precisely 8am drove back home and passed out. The following week I got an A+.  On my final.  Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut.  Always and forever.

I am currently refraining from naming the ten others I would challenge for their favorite books in case this really is a ruse by evil algorithm creators.  I will revisit the matter at a later time.  I trust this is not like breaking a chain letter and that I now have 7 years of bad luck or something. 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Blockbuster (Who Knew They Still Existed?)

November 11, 2013 2 comments

Blockbuster

The last 300 company-owned Blockbuster stores are closing and I, for one, am laughing really hard. And no, it’s not because I forgot to return a 15 year-old video and now my $400 thousand late fee won’t be collected. It’s because in the annals of corporate history, the schmucks who ran Blockbuster were greedy morons who will go down in history as a case study in total strategic cluelessness.

I am not laughing really hard that 2,800 people will be out of work- that’s sad. Though I must say, I find it hard to believe those poor folks thought there was still much of a future in brick and mortar video rental businesses in 2013, A.D. I urge them all right now to avoid sending their resumes to the last Barnes and Noble left in town.

But back to the corporate idiots. First and foremost among them is Viacom which bought Blockbuster for $8.4 billion back in 1994. Dish Network would shell out $320 million a couple of years ago to buy the bankruptcy-riddled company. Let’s put those numbers in relief. $8.4 billion versus $.3 billion. That puts the idiots at Viacom right up there with Rupert Murdoch’s trendy acquisition of My Space for $580 million which he would end up selling six years later for $30 million.

So what were the major mistakes? Oh, not much- other than failing to anticipate the major consumer and technological trends of the 21st century. Like digital streaming. Like the concept of on-demand viewing. In 2000, Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflix, offered to merge with Blockbuster and the video rental store executives basically laughed him out of their offices. In 2002, Blockbuster executives were still unsure of the veracity of this thing called the Internet. A “niche” market, they called it.

Viacom’s idea of remaining competitive against new-fangled competitors like Netflix was to create- and this is really original- a video rental business that would ship directly to consumers! Oops, day late and a dollar short. By the way, showing they now understand the new trends of the past 20 years, Dish network just announced they are also killing off the Blockbuster video-by-mail service, which most people also did not know still existed.

But mostly, Blockbuster sucked because they put really cool, independent, often family-owned video rental stores, out of business. They replaced neat, eclectic movie titles at the indie’s with mass-marketed crap. They also sucked because whatever family fun was to be had hitting the neighborhood Blockbuster on a Friday night, was a huge and expensive pain-in-the-ass by Tuesday morning, when you realized you’d forgotten to return the videos on Monday and now ended up owing pretty much the price of the original rentals in late fees. And then you had to, like, drive an actual car through snow storms and monsoons to return said late videos.

At least the nice Blockbuster employees knew their cinema! Oh, that’s right. Most had no clue about the motion picture industry. Well, as you were checking out paying last week’s late fees and about to incur the following week’s penalties, you could also pick up overpriced bags of popcorn, Twizzlers and Raisinets. That was something.

But we really do have a debt of gratitude to pay to Blockbuster. Turns out, Netflix founder, Hastings, forgot to return his copy of Apollo 13 to Blockbuster way back when and owed some $40. It was his fault but he felt so stupid about it that he purposely avoided telling his wife about the late charge. He started thinking about that and found it insane he was willing to compromise the integrity of his marriage over a video store late fee. That same day he went to the gym and realized he was paying about $30 a month for unlimited use of the workout facilities.

Hey, now there’s an idea, he thought- what if somebody rented videos by mail with unlimited due dates and no late fees?

Netflix now has over $3.5 billion in annual revenues. And though they initially botched their transition from a mostly mail-delivered service to a streaming model, they were obviously savvy and smart to see the digital writing on the wall in the first place, and now with the creation of their own content like the Emmy-nominated “House of Cards,” they show they are creative too.

And that’s the difference between those who at least try to envision the future- and those who don’t.

Yahoo’s Merissa Mayer: I Can Have it All- You Can’t

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

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She was six months pregnant when, at age 37, she took the job as the CEO of troubled internet giant, Yahoo. How’s she going to manage that, the world asked as it marveled at the brilliant young woman who had just become the youngest female top executive officer of a Fortune 500 company.

Well, it turns out she came to work a mere two weeks after the birth of her baby last autumn. That’s how she handled it. And now we learn, after announcing the end of telecommuting at her company last week, that you can go back to work just days after you give birth- if you build yourself a nursery in your office and bring the kid in with you.

Business Insider, which broke the story about Mayer’s nursery, interviewed the husband of one of the female telecommuting Yahooo employees who now has to trade her home for a cubicle every day beginning June 1st.

“I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set ‘em up in the cube next door?”

A lot of folks are critical of Mayer’s anti-telecommuting move arguing it’s a step backward in the evolution of humane, family-friendly working conditions but some former Yahoos think she was right to do it because many employees there have been abusing the privilege and had not been particularly productive. Some argue she’s clearing the deadwood and getting them to step down, which is a much cheaper move than paying severance for laying people off.

Then again, some predict it’s the weakest employees who will show up to their cubicles come June 1st and the smart ones who will get recruited by other internet companies who will let them keep working from home.

The real problem here is that Mayer has opted for a one-size-fits-all option. One of the arguments Yahoo’s HR director made for banning telecommuting is that a lot of good ideas get discussed in casual meetings and hallway conversations. Ok- then make the creative and business development types come in to work. But a pure tech-geek who writes code all day? I’m guessing they’ll be working for Mayer’s former employer, Google, by the end of May.

By the way, on its news page, Yahoo has reprinted a Christian Science Monitor article favorable toward the company’s anti-telecommuting move. There’s no mention whatsoever of Mayer’s office nursery. Which is their editorial right. It’s also their right to make employees come to the office if they want to continue to get a paycheck. Who knows, maybe it’s exactly the right thing for Yahoo to do.

But what may be right for Yahoo may not be right for every other business in America. There really is a lot of research that shows telecommuting employees have high productivity rates. And there are certainly a lot of children in America who could use more time, not less with a parent around- even if that parent is working out of a home office.

My Tenuous Relationship with Social Media

February 22, 2013 6 comments

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I’m really only half connected and I think that’s the way I want it to be. Mostly, I find social media potentially exhausting.

Of course, the grand daddy of them all, Facebook, has been a nice way to reconnect with a lot of people whom I would have completely lost track of. Because of FB, I carry all elements of my past life bravely into the future: my high school friends- the folks I connected with at every job I ever had. I appreciate that they are sort of “in for the ride” with me, and I with them.

I have found that some of life’s challenges like sudden unemployment or health issues have been easier to deal with because of friends that seem to come out of the woodwork at these crucial moments. My friends are very, very kind and have a way of making me feel warm and loved and have been there at some pretty damn critical junctures.

But I look at some folks I know who have purposely avoided social media and I feel a little jealous. Their privacy is total. Their journey is not necessarily a lonely one because they have friends and family with whom they communicate the old fashioned way; around a kitchen table, on the phone- or God forbid, sending an e-mail or a post card- but it is a narrower if not more intimate and possibly more substantive existence.

I am, in fact, amused that those few who avoid social media are kind of like 21st century Henry David Thoreau’s; their internet-free lives the modern day equivalent of living in isolation in the 1840’s at Walden Pond. Thoreau was a lot of things- a poet, an abolitionist, a historian, a surveyor- but mostly he’s known for being a leading transcendentalist and his book, Walden, was a tome to simple living in natural surroundings. I would call that the exact opposite of the way we lead our lives now.

Oh, I imagine there are a lot of folks into meditation or yoga who get glimpses of internal quiet, calm and centeredness and are then perfectly capable of tweeting 140 characters on something or other when they’re back in social mode.

But I don’t know about ‘ol Twitter. I use it as a marketing tool to basically announce when I have posted something on this blog. But I’ve never really used it they way you’re supposed to. First of all, if I have something clever to say about current events, for example, I prefer to write several paragraphs than create snarky Haiku. I’m just too wordy and editorially undisciplined for Twitter.

I do appreciate the role Twitter has played in being used as a tool for truth and as a vehicle for mobilization in regard to a number of recent global political revolutions. But it is also the purveyor of rumor, innuendo and outright falsehood and has done a remarkably effective job at humbling a number of media organizations through the years.

I find it amusing that with social media still being kind of new, there is so much focus on the medium itself instead of its content. For example, when something weird happens in the world, like a black-out during the Super Bowl or Clint Eastwood talking to a chair at a political convention, the headlines are not about the public reaction, but how that reaction gets disseminated. How long do we have to go on reading headlines that read “Twitterverse explodes over X event,” or “Social Media abuzz about X transgression.”

Really, who cares HOW the reaction is going public. Shouldn’t the focus be on the content of the reaction instead of the tool that was used to broadcast it? I suppose some reporter somewhere once wrote that the President arrived to a particular town by train. But eventually, people figured out trains were here to stay and so they just started writing that the President arrived without mentioning how he got there.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter reactions to the world’s events can be hilarious and highly entertaining. And it’s kind of cool that you can follow, say a famous person like a ballplayer and you can send them a message and sometimes they respond.

But remember Foursquare (it still exists)? For awhile there, people stopped using Facebook to announce where they were and started using Foursquare to communicate their location at an event, restaurant, sports arena, museum or whatever. Who cares?

And then there’s Linked In. I’m supposed to care about Linked In. I get e-mails all the time telling me that someone is trying to connect with me or join my network or has endorsed me. Thank you, I very much appreciate being endorsed. I hope my friends who have tried to reach me or connect with me via Linked In don’t take it personally that I only log into the thing about twice a year, approve 30 or 40 connections and then get back to my life again. I’m just not a Linked In kind of guy. I’m sorry. I do feel guilty about it. That’s why I get on the site twice a year to kind of clean things up. But, sheesh, why should I feel guilty about not really caring two bleeps about Linked In?

There are lots of other social media I am totally missing. Wikipedia lists about 180 social media sites, of which I am familiar with about six. Some of this ignorance on my part is totally due to the fact that I am getting old. I know, I know, a lot of people don’t consider 56 to be old. But I am and sometimes all of this social media stuff just exhausts me. “Help me, I’ve fallen, and I can’t keep up!”

Hell, I was born the year the last known Union Civil War soldier died. I was born a year before the Soviets launched Sputnik. I’m so old, I would have to explain to 85% of the world’s population what Sputnik was.

And I was born just 94 years after the passing of Henry David Thoreau, who, in turn, was born just 40 years after the American revolution:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Irony Alert: I would have really enjoyed his blog.

Facebook Fail

I’m no financial expert which, I presume, is why I’m not a wealthy man. But I’m not an idiot either and I’m telling you right now- this Facebook IPO stuff is an unmitigated disaster that is becoming more and more of an embarrassment by the second.

Let’s start out with the basics. Facebook early this week was valued as a $100 billion company. That’s more than Disney, Visa or McDonald’s. As Washington Post financial writer, Dominic Basulto, puts it- at least McDonald’s sells burgers. What’s Facebook got? What does Facebook make? It makes ads that no one pays any attention to. Ask General Motors. They pulled their Facebook ads just a couple of days ahead of the IPO because it was like throwing money into a large black hole.

We’ve been down this road before in the late 1990’s when the Dot.Com bubble burst. Now it’s the social media bubble that’s bursting. Facebook stock was offered initially at $38 a share. It’s trading at $31 this afternoon, but the day is young- there’s plenty more room for it to fall even further. Your average Facebook employee is about $2 million richer this week. But the poor people who got suckered into buying Facebook stock on Monday have already suffered a 20% loss on their investment—an amazing achievement over just two short days.

Some analysts say in order to justify the share price at which Facebook was being offered the company would have to make more than a 40% profit over each of the next three years. That’s a tall order for any company that actually makes things, much less one that is essentially a large data collection service that can’t quite figure out what do with all its data.

I won’t even go into the speculation about the things Facebook must do to make the kind of money it has to pile up to avoid becoming a penny stock. Maybe selling our personal data? Maybe overwhelming its real estate on your computer with ad after ad after ad? Maybe breaking down and finally charging for the service?

And then there’s Facebook’s growth potential. What growth? It has already saturated the world. A half a billion users are already on it. There’s no way to go but down.

I have a friend who counsels adolescents. He tells me the big social media trend among the nation’s youth is getting the hell off Facebook. Presuming the universal adolescent appeal of “coolness,” Facebook is about the least cool thing in the universe. Their grandmothers are on it, for Christ’s sake. And their teachers. And if they can ever find jobs- their damn bosses will be on Facebook asking to friend them so they can check and see if there are any pictures of them projectile vomiting in an alley after an all-night kegger.

But there’s more. Much, much more. Here are some headlines from Marketwatch.com today so we can all revel in the base greediness and irrational exuberance of the great Facebook IPO.

Facebook Stock Dubbed “Falling Knife”

Why IPO Fizzled

How Facebook Threatens the U.S. Economy

Embarrassment Over Facebook

Here’s an absolute brilliant analysis of all of this by Martketwatch.com’s David Wiedner:

It’s as if Mark Zuckerberg is having the ultimate nerd’s revenge: He’s humiliating all of us and taking our money in the process…

There were few regular people who made fortunes on Facebook. Its private placement and exclusive club made certain that Zuckerberg and his backers decided who would get rich and when….

At the end of a Facebook session, we feel an anticlimax. We hope for contact and more often than not get silence. We exploit our own privacy to our friends, advertisers, strangers. We rarely, if ever, make that connection that’s worth the investment of putting so much of ourselves out there…

In the end, it’s clear Facebook’s was the rare initial public offering in the markets that catered to that same kind of person, an exclusive sort of investor: the sucker.

In 2010, the movie “The Social Network,” told the story of the Harvard nerd who hit it big with his Facebook concept. There’s a sequel ahead that’s sure to be a hit with all those people Mark Zuckerberg has taken for a ride for all these years.   And it will be called “The Fall of Mark Zuckerberg: Avenging the Revenge of the Nerds.”

A Tale of Two Companies: Apple and Netflix

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment


You could write a textbook on this topic but I’ll try to do it in 600 words or less.

Netflix, once a phenomenally successful company has seen its stock price tumble 35% this week on news that it managed to lose 800,000 subscribers over the past six months and that four different analysts downgraded them because no one can make sense of their business plan. Apple just lost its CEO and resident genius but is riding an I-Phone computer voice and plans for a new TV that just might revolutionize how you watch the medium- all the way to the bank.

Earlier this year, Netflix hiked prices 60% when they decided that’s what you’d have to pay to get both DVD’s sent to your home and get streaming. And they did it rather arrogantly without much of an explanation or even, an “I’m sorry, it’s the cost of bringing you all this great quality.”

Then when they finally did apologize, they announced they were splitting into two companies, Qwikster, which would be the old DVD-sent-to-your-home business and Netflix, which would now be the streaming part. The two companies would keep separate data bases and be basically disconnected from one another- which confused their customers and made them mad all over again, because you’d no longer be able to go to one place to figure out if they had the programming you wanted to watch.

Then they changed their minds and dropped the Qwixter idea and said, nah, we’re going back to what we originally intended.

Meantime, they seem intent on cutting really expensive content deals with companies like Dreamworks in order to be able to provide decent streaming services- except with their current business model charging what amounts to about $10 a month, there’s no way they bring in enough revenues to pay for these content deals. Seems to me you either collect good (and expensive) content, suck it up, and tell your customers it’s going to cost more but its worth it- or you keep being a real cheap monthly service wih average to below-average offerings of old movies and TV shows. But you can’t have both.

It’s all stated best by a guy named Tony Wible with Janney Capital Markets who gave this analysis to his customers, as quoted by Marketwatch.com:

We believe the [Netflix business] model is unsustainable, as the company faces rising costs that it hoped it could pass on to its [subscribers],” who appear unwilling to accept them, Wible wrote to clients. “The company has paid exorbitant prices for content while painting itself as a cheap rental service. Simply put, the company’s brand does not fit with its large/growing content obligations.

Meantime, Apple sold about 4 million of it’s new I-Phones a week after launch, mostly because of one added feature- Siri. This is the friendly computer voice you can interact with that looks stuff up for you and offers suggestions, tips, reminders, etc., etc. You can even talk dirty to Siri, though her sense of humor is such that all you’ll get back is words like “dirt and compost.” For the record, I have not tried this but so I’ve read.

And I see today that the “next big thing” Apple is up to is the launch of Apple TV. This would be a smart television that with a few easy, typically Apple-like steps, would allow you to see what’s available to watch without having to wade through category after category of Cable TV, Netflix and Hulu menus. And, of course it would incorporate a Siri-like application so you could ask your TV what’s on or have it find you the program you want to watch.

With their on-again, off-again, customer-belligerent and confusing business strategies, one of these two companies is coming off like New Coke on steroids. The other seems to be confidently pursuing its climb toward global domination. I’m going with the ghost of Steve Jobs over the seemingly aimless and perplexing strategies of Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings.