Archive for the ‘Entertain Your Diversions’ Category

Award Shows Mean Nothing–And We Can’t Get Enough

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

oscar-2011.jpg

Let’s say you go to work, like me, and at the end of the year you get an award for doing your job. Silly, right? Wrong. That is what the “self-servicing” entertainment industries do: give awards for best film, music, TV, book, magazine, and hairstyle (well, not that).

Hello, and welcome to the world of award shows, one that will go away when TV becomes interactive and people vote for what they want. This year awards are being brought to you by–well, everyone! It normally happens in January, when entertainment groups consisting of no more than 200 people who were appointed by a politically inept process randomly select the best of last year’s crop. Strangely, it’s usually the same overhyped products that get all the groups’ awards. Funny.

And it’s a big moneymaking enterprise, involving sponsorship and hype and a lot of people paying (and thus begging) to be part of the process.

The awards biz has grown by leaps and bounds by every network on earth. Neil Patrick Harris is rich due to our insistence on a host who sings for his supper. The trend is that every organization wants to, or must, be the first to handicap the best film–or predict which blasé song or actor or drapemaker on a TV set is going to be the one that [fill in the year] will be forever remembered by.

So while televised award shows are tremendous opportunities to see our favorite singers and actors pimp their best in lights and colors and smoke (note recent Grammys), doesn’t it seem that every time a performer is on TV, you just saw him telling the same joke or singing the same product? Worse is when they go on a talk show and talk about the product. Each one is always the best experience with the best crew, script, team, director, hairstylist.

A few years back I was shocked–not Casablanca shocked–to see Chris Rock appear on two award shows in the sam week making the same lame joke about former Giuliani: “Rudy in a crisis is perfect–he’s like a pit bull. It’s great if somebody’s breaking in your house. But if they’re not, then, you know, the pit bull might eat your kids.” Even the cool are swept up in awards mania. It’s like a disease and an eye roll intertwined.

Could it be that the people who appear on those shows actually have an album or movie or book or surfboard line that was just released? Let’s pause to see how much of a wink rather than a contest these programs have become. Otherwise, you’d still hear “The winner is” instead of a wince-inducing “The Oscar goes to . . .”

I have nothing against good works of people who sing for their supper, but I never got an award for being best CEO of a veteran public relations company. (RLMpr turns 20 on March 1; cards and gifts are welcomed but keep the tributes silent.) I think that most entrepreneurs and people who work for a living would find an over-the-top acknowledgment embarrassing and a waste of time.

In the near future, as everyone on earth begins to get their due for being astutely funny or formerly fat or finding a new career (thanks, Bravo and VH1 for resurrecting dead celebs), good folks who work hard to enliven the world will get deserved pats on the back and the award show business will start to seem as silly and pointless as–an award show.

So we could make a pact: we decide right here and now that all writers and all filmmakers and kazoo players did their job really well and we thank them. By law, each will receive a letter from whoever pays them that merely say: “Hey, good job!”

Entertainment is a business that sells in a Darwinian fashion. What does the best mean now? Just what’s hot.

Talent matters little while shocking matters most. The most forgettable part of our culture always seems to win out. But we can change that.

That said, I’ll be tweeting the Oscars Sunday the 27th. I hope I win something for my efforts! Join me, yeah?

The Last Decade & Mediocrity……A Look Ahead

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

futuresign.jpg
There’s a Kurt Vonnegut short (very short) story called Harrison Bergeron. In it the United States Handicapper General, under the auspices of the 211th, 212th, and 213th Constitutional Amendments, has stamped out individual talents and characteristics for the sake of total unimpeded equality. The population is fed mindless entertainment, all their memories periodically wiped clean. It isn’t torture, not exactly, nor is it intolerable. It’s just mediocre. Imposed, entrenched mediocrity.

And it is terrifying.

Now I don’t mean to suggest that our current moment is anything like this Vonnegutian nightmare. But it was close to this for the last decade. We weren’t physically burdened by actual weights meant to “level the field”, nor did buzzing alarms trigger mass distraction and short-term amnesia. Intelligence and beauty are not outlawed. We still had our wits and our various beacons — in politics, culture, athletics, the arts, and so forth. And yes (or no), we were not suffocated by comprehensive, dystopian egalitarianism.

Things did seem during the unfriendly 2000s to be damn mediocre! We seemed to be waiting, on pause, not necessarily with bated breath so much as with Lunesta and an Us Weekly. It was as though we’d been treading water beneath mostly gray skies for a seriously long time, without a “Look, land in sight!” We were weary, we’re wary, and rather than swim for shore we floated straight-laced and glazed. Our so-called entertainment stood in for our current events (quotes left out for obviousness). Our political anger was sooner directed toward straw men than funneled into substantive policy debate and prescription. And while we don’t loll about hamstrung by the Handicapper, world citizens did tend to diminish or ignore our most natural advantages. Our enormous opportunities — many of them unique to America — for renewable alternative energy. Our once-prodigious diplomatic capital. Our heavy industry. Our edge in scientific and technological innovation.

So ready for good news: We did not die out nor did it turn out we were living a post-American life. And Newsweek was sold for a dollar to an old geezer destined to destroy its whiny words of nothingness and bold headlines that made us feel worse. Now we are starting to scrape the sky. We’ve since become — not in every way, but in a lot of ways — just a wee bit more than average. In our actions and in our expectations, we stop this toeing of that safe, paunchy middle.

Look back. Kennedy promised the moon by a decade’s end — it happened. WW II’s Greatest Generation was asked to tighten belts and roll up their sleeves — they did. And while these admittedly cherry-picked examples might have been nothing more than a function of their unique times, is it easy to imagine us reflexively rising to the moment in ours? Look where we stood for nine-and-two-thirds endless years: on a precipice, always told of danger and devastation. But even with terrorism, climate change, one or two constantly-simmering wars, genocide abroad, a credit crunch affecting us till we cried “Uncle”, and countless other messes the newest century has brought..what precisely defines US (not Us)? Had we struck out with renewed vigor? Had we succumbed to fear? Neither. We are slowly becoming less mediocre. We’re embracing a new term.

Like our heroes, a lobotomized couple who are at the center of Harrison Bergeron, we sensed something wasn’t right from 2001-2010. We knew we ought to be breaking inertia. And this unease wasn’t just a tickle in the recesses of our minds because, behold, it has pushed itself front and center. But what will do the trick and wake us all from the stupor (stop checking your email while reading this)? Could it be another catastrophe? Web 7.0? One of those Tea candidates that actually won? Or will it not be so dramatic, this eventual extrication from the muck of mucks? Might it be more like the car you rock back and forth until what had been an inconspicuous gathering of momentum launches it back onto the road with a heart-starting roar?

Let’s forget the 2000s. Things today aren’t so terrible; they are (to use a teen word) ‘meh’. I know that most of us feel that: plateau coasting is better than a downward spiral. But the Internet-savvy 1990s were notable ONLY for jejune prosperity. Those unnamed 2000s are remembered for the steady unease we could never shake.

I proclaim a promising decade starts in 2011. It will be nothing like its immediate predecessor–because that would be the saddest sign ever. Means we’d be living inside a pattern of room temperature mediocrity that hasn’t soured us but kept us looking down, at our laps gazing at the latest text or news. (Taylor Swift has a new CD out; it’s everywhere.)

Look forward. . . only forward.

Like-minded ideas are found in the book 2011: Trendspotting for the Next Decade, now out in whatever you want it to be.

[On twitter via @laermer for laughs and reportage.]
mediocrity.jpg

Am I Off ? Who Can Tell, Really?

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

I called in and immediately got hit by “I thought you were off …” Naturally, I responded with the knee-jerk “What does that mean?”

In a time of nearly impossible quality control, how could a CEO of a midsize PR firm actually go away and be away? I mean, I love my staff and all (all being the key word) but I’m a realist: What place on earth would AT&T not make my BlackBerry go buzz?

This friend of mine went to Mexico for a week and didn’t bother to check his email–fool. He returned to the bad word: “You won the contest of a Free Weekend in Amsterdam–Flight Included,” but only if he wrote back by week’s end. Which he couldn’t have. When my foolish pal begged in to say he was away, they scoffed, “Was there no copy shop/Net café/hotel center/person-with-computer where you were?” I mean, you’re a guy who checks his email once a week?

I can turn off like the best of them. And it is, however, in your better interest to not tell anyone you’re on, off, or in between! Who would know? I’m here, I’m there, I’m used to it. If I run away for a few hours on a workday, or reschedule a meeting here and there, who’s questioning where I am located?! Or–who cares?

These Out of Office pronouncements (OOFs) are badges we wear like the “Sent from my iPhone” banner that reads more like I-got-one-do-you! We chuck so much information onto our bounce-back responses that I am waiting for John Carpenter’s new scare-flick about the girl chased by knowledge picked surreptitiously by an errant email responder. Lately I’ve been sending returns to OOFs with my own: “But please come back.” It confuses people.

[I use “Sent from a good old-fashioned desktop” on outgoing emailsl.]

So, we covered email. When it comes to phones I’m all set because I screen, like you, and get the details via voicemail. Do you want people to hear the live sounds of your vacation spot? Way too revealing. Now I’m in the market for a good sound machine so I can put in New York-style traffic noises while lounging poolside. (”That splash? That was all Carrie Bradshaw!”)

Then there’s the infrequent in-person meeting we have to miss since we’re actually away. You could send someone in your place, but that would be rude and questions arise. Lately, I’ve been making excuses for not showing up in the vein of I stubbed my toe, because I wonder if taking a break is seen as a sign of weakness in these fantastically-connected times.

What difference does it make if you’re calling, writing, jotting a note down, sending a FedEx, Twittering, or tossing a quick text to check the heck in. When I am on mars, they will have 4G I’m sure.

Naturally, I’m as self-important as the next guy. I have to wonder if The Vacation has any meaning. It’s either a proclamation you are way too busy to think about the sender; or the ability to say, Look, I have an assistant, dude! What would happen if everyone took a deep breath and said, “I’m not in; I’m lurking.” Then you’d know how important you were ’cause someone responded to you when they were a little bit away.

And the funniest part of this rant was as I write it, on the beach during a week of speeches in a lovely location, I am starting at a not-skinny older man with his Blackberry left waiting for vibrations on his belly while he sunbathed. What a mark that left, for sure! Explain that to your mistress, bucko.

In this year of “vacationots” I bet you can be in office pretense mode…and you are fooling no one. I went to see my parents a few weeks ago and turned everything off except for conference calls, but told no one except Twitter followers. My assistant let it slip to someone in my office, who told a client; that guy in turn asked me how the dunes were in a call I was assumed to be in the office for. It’s a game that only real fakers can win. I’m exhausted having to describe it. You know what? I think it’s really time for a…

(Twitter @laermer)dsc00644.JPG

My List (Is a Very Very Very Fine List)

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

optimism.jpgIs this the worst economic hardship we’ve suffered through? It’s bad, that’s for sure. And yet… Let’s Imagine a Worse Year! Sorry 2009 was ugly but it could get yuckier if we’re not careful. I’ve hereby devised scenarios to make this bright Christmas seem like the best yet! See,in the next 12 months who knows: you could find everything you ever believed in suckered-punched sideways.

Everything has truly hit rock bottom if:

…The World Famous Magnolia Bakery converts to The New York Breadline.

…Black Friday is a holiday when no one buys anything.

…Tiger Woods opens a self-defense school

…You’re forced to get that new Shareable PDA, smarmily branded as 2010’s PartyPhone!

…Stouffers sells frozen dinner called LeftOvers.

…Jeff Zucker transfers to Golden Light Bulbs at GE.

…An internship replaces a regular job…..for CEOs.

…An email comes offering “Provides New Stamina,” and it refers to your mind.

…Airplane seats are auctioned off at SalvationArmy.com. I mean the chairs–not chances to fly.

…Someone famous dies and instead of going “Wow I can’t believe this,” and spending time emailing/statusing our friends, we just go on with the day.

…The only no-reunion-ever band Talking Heads reforms with David Byrne for a cover album of Sinatra cover ballads; guest hosts Regis, then does a daily drive-time show on talk radio. Finally, Byrne embarks on the Whenever-I-Call-You-Friend tour with Stevie Nicks.

…A town known as Off The Grid pops up; it’s geographical equivalent of the train’s Quiet Car. That is: nothing can be done between people but talking–and sex.

…Jake and Reese officially split up — and admit that the whole thing was a sham and that Taylor and Taylor are following in their footsteps LA publicists commence hunger strikes!

… The NY Post and NY Daily News merge–and reemerge as Entertainment Weekly. Ultimate mashup!

…NBC dumps the whole of prime time for That Leno Show (third hour hosted by Kathie Lee)

…But no one notices.

…SiriusXM Satellite Radio changes into White Noise Inc.

…A much loved, decades-old magazine ceases publication –and no one tweets about it.

…Google can’t close a deal! Google files for, well, no one knows.

…Taxes are lowered across the board. Schools are shut, parks close down, highway medians remain half-built. Oh, yeah right, that’s California now.

…Without a new gimmick on deck, Glenn Beck and Beck duet on a CD. (And, in times of direst straits, Martha Stewart and Jon Stewart are combined for a gig on LifeSucks channel.)

…Having a meal at your parents’ is not obligatory any longer since you need the sustenance.

…We rent our homes by the hour to couples. Thousands of highway motels go under.

…Sappy Web videos do not cheer you up (sorry, ukulele-playing kitten!).

…It is unlawful to dub yourself “talent” or “talented” unless it’s true.

…Trump & O’Donnell are the new Sonny & Cher. (Cher sues. Cher pouts. Cher marries Donald, Jr.)

…Popular Wine Clubs replaced by even more populated Whiners Anonymous.

…Legal betting on which celebrity will be forced into exile is the newest national pastime. Results from this are mandatory. No ifs or buts.

…Wal-Mart has a hissy-fit when a chain called Smears opens. [You know, the new Sears and Macy’s combo.]

…IHOP runs out of batter! Japanese restaurants run low on rice! Hooters runs out of… you know!

… Newly-freed Katie Holmes is slated to star in Mission: Impossible 4 - A Woman Scorned!

… Janet Jackson starts seeing Bubbles on the down low..

… Palin joins Real Housewives. Does anyone notice?

…NotAGuru.com becomes a hot 12-Step Program.

…Microsoft and Apple join hands: iPod and Zune become IZod, a strangely compelling the line of musical clothing.

…High school and college reunions are the only networking events left.

…The words “on sale” are automatically cut-and-pasted by “please buy this.”

…Kirstie Alley loses a whole bunch of weight through hunger. Food markets in Beverly Hills close.

… Government certifies the donut crumb as a vegetable for schoolkids.

…Congress passes The 2010 Say Something Act, whereby useless phrases are taken to the woodshed: “Sounds Good,” “Booyah!” and “No Problem” are first. And “Game Changer” added at last minute.

…At the same time, lawmakers tell drugstores to sell, you guessed right, pharmaceuticals and that’s it.

…Home-free families create habitats in zoos.

…Ryan Seacrest, sensing attention-to-him deficit just as E! folds and American Idol finds a knowledgeable music biz host, finally admits he’s–happy.

… Nigerian scammers pay us.

…Some idiot who writes lists as blog posts is roundly ignored.

…Paul Simon calls Garfunkel to see how he’s doing.

NY Times promises it will never ever publish another of those 2000 stories on how social media is the saving grace for brands. No one….yep.

…Joe Biden makes some sense.

…All remaining newspapers -4!–are purchased by fifth graders. They recognize their reading level.

….Kissing is named new Olympic sport. (Say it together now-: Awww.)

…Aability to marry yourself passes in 47 states and Guam to portray the true meaning of equality.

…Zac Efron, lost without screaming teens to support his entourage, is forced to make High School Dropout

…You read this long, unadulterated list and go “Wait. Shit - really. That could happen.”

——–Twitter @laermer and @howtofame

Bandwagoning: Lazy Way To Success

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

You know how we’re always being told to do things better, to try harder, to reinvent, to reengineer, to break the rules, to innovate, to make a difference?

You know how “good” is never good enough? How we’re made to feel guilty for doing what’s been done before, for taking the well-trodden path? Just look at some wow-selling book titles: Good to Great; First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently; The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.

Well, maybe there’s just a chance that it’s okay to follow in others’ footsteps.

Not to reinvent the wheel, but instead to roll with it. Maybe we can live better, saner, even more successful lives by jumping on the bandwagon, not sitting at the reins trying to blaze the trail ourselves. I call it bandwagoning. It’s succeeding in your goals in a way that feels more natural… some might even say a “lazy” way.

Here is my definition of bandwagoning: it’s the lazy person’s way to success. But don’t let the “lazy” part put you off. I don’t mean lazy in a bad way, or, rather, I don’t necessarily think that being lazy is bad. In fact, I think that being lazy can be positively good for you. There is pseudoscientific evidence that being lazy not only is beneficial to the spirit and to our general well-being, but can actually make us more successful. Successful according to all the usual criteria such as wealth and happiness!

So please justify all things that are the path of least resistance in life, whether at home or at work, that feel right for good reason. Demonstrate to everyone that taking naps, bucko, is good, nay, a brilliant part of everyday life and leads to greater productivity. Watching TV opens your eyes to the world and provides undreamed-of moneymaking opportunities — those Ginzu knives must be making someone real cash! We’ll give you tips on how to avoid unwelcome social contact and how to survive when you’re traveling away from home.

Recognize that, as a bandwagoner, you’ll be ahead of the curve, and not everyone will be accepting of your new stress-free way of life; you can now proudly cover up so as to appear suitably frenetic and driven.

The above is a reference found inside 2011: Trendspotting, from McGraw-Hill.

Twitter @laermer112305im-so-lazy.JPG

Kanye Swift: A Marriage Made In Heaven

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

Wherefore art thou, decorum?

Let

Television In 2009: Desperate Attempts At Nothing

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Gossipeur: The Second of an Inane Series

Friday, September 4th, 2009

Starting last Friday, until whenever it ends, I will be reporting on the facts behind gossip

Gossip Cop: To Protect and Serve Who?

Friday, August 28th, 2009

This is the first of an inane series on one of America

Lenny Bernstein Will Smile Now

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Leonard Bernstein, the emblem of 1960s New York and icon of the time when classical music still mattered, would have been 91 this week.

Bernstein came onto the scene when art music was cool. Here was a 25-year-old with a wild haircut on stage with the New York Philharmonic. The kid was a rock star when Mahler was still considered rock!

To get an idea of the world during Bernstein’s prime: For nine years, from 1962-1971, CBS broadcast more than four dozen of Bernstein’s Young Person’s Concerts LIVE from New York and these shows were syndicated to more than 40 countries. Think about that. A major TV conglomerate (”suits”) broadcasting hours of classical music to every set in America for almost a decade, and advertisers paid for it. Today we get 12 episodes of Harper’s Island from CBS if the ratings hold water.

Unfortunately, Lenny probably wouldn’t much recognize or appreciate what the audience of the Philharmonic and its counterparts is now: It’s old. I mean really old. If you go to a concert these days, expect to wait between movements for the old people to stop coughing. I’m serious! Lorin Maazel even steps off the podium occasionally.

So what happened here? Why didn’t the next generation follow their parents into the orchestra halls of America? It is said our nation’s constantly-shrinking attention span got the best of art music. As Robert Putnam’s sick-with-research Bowling Alone notes: urban sprawl and the logarithmic growth of the availability of everything have made in-person social events that last more than 15 minutes pretty much outr

Buy the Book - 2011

You are currently browsing the archives for the Entertain Your Diversions category.

Categories

Archives

Links

Resources