Thanks (is worth) a million!

Marketing doesn’t have to be all algorithms, browser cookies and geo-tracking. The human touch will always be more memorable.

A few weeks ago, we needed a new faucet installed in our kitchen, and the shutoff valves below needed to be replaced as well. (I can do the former, but the latter is well beyond my DIY skills.) I found a local plumbing company that came highly recommended on NextDoor (like a Facebook for neighborhoods). Everyone I talked to, from the office manager who fielded my initial call to the plumber who came to our house, was friendly. About a week after the service call, I received a thank you card from them via “snail mail.”

I’ve used plenty of different plumbing companies over the years, and this is the first one to send me an honest-to-goodness thank you. On paper! In the mail! Who does that anymore? You’d better believe they’re on speed dial for all future repairs. And while robots may take over many jobs in the coming years, I don’t think I’ll ever trust a Roomba lookalike to replace two water shutoff valves under my kitchen sink. So the plumber’s investment in a single, solitary thank you card will earn them hundreds of dollars. (But not anytime soon, I hope!)

Yesterday I got the new Wussy album What Heaven is Like in the mail from the band’s record label, Shake It. Included with the CD that I ordered were a hand-written thank-you note and a postcard.

It probably took about 30 seconds to scribble out the thank you note, and another 10 to grab the promo postcard (clearly an homage to Springsteen’s debut album) and package it up with the album. Extra time in the era of efficiency – would Jeff Bezos approve? Doubtful.

But those 40 seconds will pay off for years to come, in the goodwill they generate, in the warm fuzzy feeling you get from “hey, they took the time to thank me by name… that’s cool!” Shake It started as a local label, releasing albums by artists that they were passionate about, before branching out to set up a bricks and mortar record store too.  A record label and a record store… talk about tilting at millennial windmills! They know they can’t go toe-to-toe with Amazon on pricing, or compete with Spotify on music delivery. But by providing a personal touch, by caring about the music, engaging true fans, helping them dig deeper into their passions and exposing them to new artists, they can carve out a nice niche for themselves:

We carry some mainstream releases, but we specialize in independent labels from the obvious to the obscure – Chicago post-punk art-rock to Ethiopian boog-a-loo and all stops in between – rockabilly, vintage soul, r&b & blues, punk/hardcore, classic country & the best of the new breed, 60’s garage & psych, reggae/dub/rocksteady & vintage ska, krautrock, creative hip-hop & electronica, tons of straight ahead rock n’ roll & “alternative”, plus vintage bop, cool & avant garde jazz, cult soundtracks, Afrobeat/funk, “difficult listening” and much more. We’re introducing new releases and back catalog items every day, so there’s always something new in the bins.

You can keep your algorithms. I’ll stick with the handshakes.

Reviews of the new album are here and here(this one from my friend Gil Kaufman, who writes for Billboard). You can order it from Shake It here.

 

Evel. Pure evil.

As a 70s kid, I grew up with Evel Knievel on the brain. Motorcycle stuntman extraordinaire. (But “Skycycle” failure.)

It was the 70s. ‘Nuff said.

A perennial performer on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Jumping fountains, jumping buses, jumping a pool of sharks before Fonzie did.

Before Bodyglove wetsuits existed, people often wore their leather jackets in the ocean.

Evel was all the rage, and so were his toys.

Naturally my brother and I would attempt to emulate Evel. Usually that involved setting up a piece of plywood on a log as a makeshift ramp and attempting to jump over some obstacle on our Schwinn bikes with slick back tires and banana seats.

But once we just decided to try a long jump – sans bicycles – in our living room. We marked out a launch line and would track our landing spots, trying to jump a bit farther with each attempt (and probably making motorcycle “vroom-vroom” sounds with every launch). On my final attempt (and the reason it was final will become perfectly clear by the end of this sentence), I set a new record… but in true homage to my hero Evel, I got a bit wobbly on the landing, stumbled, lost my balance, and tried to stop my fall… by putting my hand through one of the panes in a living room window.

Luckily, my hand came out unscathed. But the window wasn’t as lucky. Because my father wasn’t much of a handyman and our meager household budget didn’t have room for repairs, we just thumbtacked a Hefty garbage bag over the missing windowpane. That damn garbage bag was up for years, a constant reminder of my failed stuntman career. Which is why I force my kids to take out the trash… the Cinch-Sak memories are simply too painful.

Why do you taunt me so?

On a brighter note, a few decades later, I stumbled again… but this time it was stumbling across a true gem of an album.

If you ever see this album at a flea market, buy it! It has excerpts of Evel interviews prior to the ill-fated Snake River Jump, and even a song sung by Evel himself (and I’m using the term “sung” very liberally). The album wraps up with this lovely ballad (and by “lovely” I mean “cheesier than a pound of Swiss”).

He can move a mountain

Leap across a winding river

Once he’s made his mind up, there’s nothing he won’t try

There’s something deep inside him, lusting for the thrills that drive him.

Yet he knows someday he’s gonna have to face that canyon in the sky.

I miss you, Evel. The world needs more risk-takers like you. And stronger windows.

 

Odds and ends

Some photo phun (and one deep thought) to start your week:

Only in California can there be such a thing as an “organic” blow dry. It’s just air, right?

 

G is for ground, and S is for… Second Floor? Maybe it’s the Willy Wonka elevator and it stands for Space…

If it’s truly a hand-picked team, why are they looking for folks to apply? They must not be very good at hand-picking. 

 

Love the “diversity” shot, but the kid on the lower left looks like he is being held hostage.

 

Clearly the language has changed since this album was released.

 

I wish another small, Jesuit university had made the Final Four, but this is a nice consolation prize. Ramble on!

But seriously…

[No need for a caption on this one.]

 

Addicted to this Pot, Instantly

My named is dubbatrubba, and I’m addicted to the Instant Pot. 

It’s a combination slow cooker/pressure cooker/rice maker/steamer/yogurt maker… I think it might even play karaoke tunes – I’ll have to check the manual.

I couldn’t help myself – all the cool kids were doing it, and I succumbed to the peer pressure. Oh, and there’s also the fact that a lot of recipes that used to take hours now take mere minutes. Hence the “Instant” part of the name.

A co-worker was the one who introduced me to it. She kept bringing in her lunches and raving about how good they tasted, and how easy they were to make. Her recipe for lentil chili is killer, dude! Of course, she’s a darn good cook even without the Instant Pot.

Now I can’t go a day without using it. As a veg-head, it comes in very handy. I make a big ol’ batch of black beans every week. I used to have to make them on weekends, because they take 10 hours in the crock pot. Now it takes less than an hour. I’ve also whipped up red beans with veggie sausage, the aforementioned lentil chili, curried lentils, mashed potatoes and a batch of veggie chili. It comes in handy when cooking for my 16-year-old son (the fitness freak) too. He eats chicken for lunch and salmon for dinner every doggone day, and it used to be a laborious process of thawing and baking. Now we can go from frozen to finished in less than an hour. We also use it for brown rice and hard-boiled eggs. And I’ve merely scratched the (cooking) surface of what it can do. Seriously!

I think you might even be able to make brownies, but searching for Instant Pot Brownies might get me busted in Ohio.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m jonesing. I need to go make another meal. Be back in an Instant!

 

 

 

The Creative Process, as explained by a penguin

I love comic strips. Wait, let me qualify that: I love good comic strips. Not the lame, one-tired-joke ones like Marmaduke and Beetle Bailey.

He’s a giant dog who acts human… hilarity rarely ensues.

One of my favorites is This Modern World – it’s a weekly strip that appears in Cincinnati’s weekly alternative paper, CityBeat (as well as 80 other papers, and online at The NationDaily Kos and The Nib).

Author Tom Tomorrow (a.k.a. Dan Perkins) typically deals with political satire, and those strips are brilliant – hence such honors as being a 2015 Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2013 Herblock Prize winner and winning the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Cartooning in 1998 and 2003. But one of his recent ones was about the creative process, and I loved it.

This pretty much sums up how my blog posts are created. And it shows.

 

We’re through being cool

When I think of plastic hair helmets, I think of the band Devo. (Don’t we all?)

But the old codgers who exercise at the same rec center that I do always insist on having one of the TVs in the fitness room tuned to Fox News (a.k.a. Faux News). It’s actually good for my health, because I get so worked up about the tripe spewing from the talking-heads-with-trumped-up-talking-points that my heart rate is elevated before I even start my workout.

Having (unwillingly) seen many hours of these broadcasts, I realized that Fox anchors have Devo-style hair helmets too:

And if you peel back the onion, and study a bit about Devo, and what they are all about…

The name Devo comes from their concept of ‘de-evolution‘—the idea that instead of continuing to evolve, mankind has actually begun to regress, as evidenced by the dysfunction and herd mentality of American society.”[8]

Devo’s music and stage shows mingle kitsch science fiction themes, deadpan surrealist humor and mordantly satirical social commentary.

… you realize that Fox News is the greatest ongoing Devo performance of all time. Well played, Spudboys!

 

 

 

Monday I’ve got Friday on my mind

I’ve waxed poetic (OK, it was un-poetic… so sue me) about the death of Thanksgiving in previous years. It’s the only “pure” holiday left – a day set aside for gathering with friends and family to give thanks, with no (purse)strings attached. But since retailers can’t sell you something you don’t need on that day, they ignore it. As soon as the clock strikes midnight on All Hallows’ Eve (the “sell them candy and costumes and party supplies” holiday), retailers hit fast forward and skip right to Christmas (the “sell them everything that isn’t bolted down” holiday).

The day after Thanksgiving usually marked the starting point for the onslaught of the relentless retailing race. But every year, there are more retailers jumping the gun in an unceasing effort to get inside your pants (because your wallet is there, that’s all).

In the past couple of years, “Closed on Thanksgiving Day” has fallen by the wayside. This year it’s “Black Friday NOW!” mania, as witnessed by the ads in yesterday’s newspaper:

Believe it or not, I’m actually in favor of this trend. Because if “Black Friday” moves up to early November, maybe all the crass commercialism will be over before Thanksgiving, and we can actually enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas without the shopping hassles. Doesn’t that sound refreshing? So, without further ado, a couple of tunes for your shopping pleasure…

 

 

“You’ve got mail”

“Email can be fun!”… said no person ever. Actually, it can be fun. My old pal Steve Roemer runs a company in Greater Chicago that helps clients liquidate old machinery, equipment and inventory – not exactly the sexiest, most glamorous gig in the world, right? But his latest email to clients/potential clients shows that adding a little levity can get attention.

First he uses a fun subject line: Holy Sheet Metal Fabrication Facility Auction, Batman! If you’re a person of a certain age (and chances are most of his clients fit that demographic) that subject line is pure gold. Even if you didn’t grow up watching Adam West and Burt Ward in the campy Batman TV show, the “holy sheet” should grab you by the eyeballs and bring a smile to your face.

Subject lines are so important in marketing emails, and most marketers don’t give them any thought at all. They spend all their time on the body of the email – neglecting the fact that if you don’t have an intriguing subject line, the email might get deleted instantly, without the recipient even looking at the body copy. We’ve all done it: if you’re staring at an inbox with hundreds of emails, chances are you’re gonna click on the ones with engaging subject lines first.

Then Steve pays off the subject line with a fun visual, and some punchy (literally) body copy:

He throws in some compelling photos for eye candy:

And adds a few bullet points that highlight what his company offers:

In the words of the greatest TV sportscaster of all time:

 

In my day job, I send out a weekly all-company email, a digest of what’s happening around the company – HR reminders, meeting alerts, general “need to know” information, etc. In most companies, that’s an express ticket to Snoozeville. Most Boring Email Ever.

But I throw in goofy pictures, memes, links to obscure YouTube clips. I crack jokes, I poke fun at our executives. I put funny captions underneath photos of employees. Here’s are a couple of examples:

Movember is still growing strong… in some ways
Judging by the lip rugs we’ve seen around the office (and can never un-see…my eyes!), the 84.51° Movember teams are better at fundraising than hair-raising. Help them crush their goal with a quick contribution:
Image result for cheesy mustache

We have a section called “Celebrity Lookalikes” where we compare an employee to a famous person. And sometimes it morphs into “Celebrity Soundalikes”:

It’s always silly, it can sometimes be downright stupid… but the readership rate is off the charts. I can’t tell you how many folks have said “at my old jobs, I never used to read the corporate emails because they were so boring, but I really like reading yours.” That’s by design. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Or as one of my heroes Hugh MacLeod puts it:

Life’s too short to read boring emails.

 

 

Hey kids, Dad is on the Facegram and the Tweetbook!

A new dad-centric, humor-based website called The Dad launched yesterday.

And I’m happy to say that I’m a contributor to the hijinks. (Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too!) The Executive Editor is a former co-worker of mine, and he was familiar with my irreverent all-company emails (there’s a phrase that doesn’t get tossed around too much), so he invited me to submit stuff for the new site.

Thus far, I’ve only contributed memes to the mix. Like this gem:

Heck yeah I ‘liked’ my own creation… vanity, thy name is dubbatrubba.

Yes, I realize I’m contributing to the dumbing down of America, nay, the world, by creating “content” that consists of goofy pictures and a caption. But it’s “shareable” and that’s how the world wide web works these days (or so I’m told). Eventually I hope to contribute a few Dave-Barry-style articles as well, maybe the random goofy video. 20 years removed from writing and performing comedy on The Gary Burbank Show on radio, it’s nice to be able to stretch those humor muscles once again. Now please hand me the Icy Hot… or better yet the Absorbine Jr.

Please check out The Dad online often, subscribe to the newsletter, and share it with your friends. Or your enemies if you don’t care for it. Thanks!

https://www.thedad.com

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/thedadonline

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Wake me when it’s over

“One of the craziest games you will ever see” said the TV announcer

“Wasn’t that the best game ever!?” said the Astros’ third baseman.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster” said the Dodgers’ manager.

“This is an instant classic and to be part of it is pretty special” said the Astros’ starting pitcher.

“The craziest game that I’ve ever played in” said the Astro who hit the game-winning two-run homer in the 11th inning.

8 home runs – a World Series record – including three by the Astros in extra innings, also a postseason record for any team. A game-tying home run on an 0-2 pitch in the top of the 9th against a closer who was previously untouchable.

And I didn’t see a lick of it.

My dad was a huge Dodgers fan, so I’m happy they’re in the World Series. I spent several summers in Houston and have relatives there – even went to one of my first MLB games at the Astrodome waaay back when – so I’m happy they’re in too. But the games start past 8 p.m. and typically go until midnight (or later when it’s extra innings). I know I won’t be able to see the ending, so why bother with the early innings? It’s like walking out on Star Wars before Luke flies toward the Death Star.

I know TV ratings (and revenue) rule the roost, but if MLB wants to capture the attention and hearts of the next generation of fans, they need to figure out a way to start the at least a couple of the World Series games earlier, or else it’s just the sound of one hand clapping.