Monday, October 7, 2013

Broadway Idiot! From a great idea to the Great White Way!

I'm very lucky, in my life I have met, worked with many people who are far more talented than me. I'm not putting myself down here, it's a truth, sometimes there are people who just make you go wow!

One of these "wow" people is Michael Mayer. Michael is a renowned TV/Film and Stage director.  He brought "Spring Awakening" to life on Broadway, on screen "A Home At The End Of The World", with Colin Farrell, and on TV, too many shows to mention, ohhh and took over The Met Opera to direct Rigoletto last year.  One day Michael was listening to one of his favorite bands Green Day, and their album "American Idiot".  As only Michael can, he started to construct a story from song to song.  The idea captured him and he continued to develop it and when it got to a point that he really thought it could be something he contacted Billy Joe Armstrong from the band, (because Icsuppose when you're Michael you can do things like that).  It was two worlds colliding, literally, theater and punk, a glorious mess of grease paint and eye liner, how could that fail? It didn't!

American Idiot bowed at the St. James Theater on broadway in 2010. Mayer and Billy Joe had approached his producing partners from Spring Awakening Tom Hulce and Ira Pittleman (a double wow), and another ground breaking show hit Broadway,  (if you didn't see Spring Awakening, your loss, you missed the most amazing show that launched the careers of Glee's Lea Michele, The Newsroom's John Gallagher Jnr, and a host of others who were baptized on Broadway and now attend service in Hollywood).  This team had a lot to live up to; three Tonys, three Drama Desk awards, an Olivier award and a Grammy to mention just a few of the gongs awarded to the collective creative force behind Spring Awakening.  It's like stepping out at Yankee Stadium on your first match and getting 10 home runs, what the hell do you do the next game?  So when American Idiot bowed how many home runs could it get?

Grand Slam!

It was and is a spectacular show. Visually stunning, the music...well you know the music, and the cast again amazing. This time though something was happening from near inception that was unique.  Another "wow" friend of mine Doug Hamilton was making a documentary about the whole process.  It covers everything you might never have thought would happen to get a show on the Great White Way, it is a masterful piece of work and truly fascinating.

Check out more information here: Broadway Idiot

The documentary launches this weekend.  PLEASE, if this subject is something that interests you, go see this documentary, support this film.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Apple may be acting illegally, if you've downloaded iOS7 you need to read this!!!

I like iOS7...I know a lot of people have been complaining about it, but I like it and find it elegant.  What I don't find elegant is what happened to me this weekend.  It appears that when you download iOS7 from Apple, it automatically has the back up to the cloud turned on.

This might seem to be a convenient option and provide a useful back up service, but in reality, it's a ploy for you to spend  more money with Apple. You see, with the iCloud you get 5 gigs of space for free.  Five gigs you say, I remember when one gig used to be the size of one of Elton John's wardrobe's, 5 GIGS! that's a HUGE amount of space...well no, not if you have a 64G iPhone.  Your first back up to the cloud, immediately fills the 5 gigs, in fact mine immediately went to 21 gigs!  so here's what happens:

Dear Malcolm Bird,
Your iCloud storage is full. As a result, you can no longer send or receive messages with your iCloud email address, ***, your devices will no longer back up to iCloud, and iCloud-enabled apps will not update documents and data between your devices.
To resume using these iCloud features, you can purchase additional storage on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:
1.Go to Settings and tap iCloud.
2.Tap Storage & Backup.
3.Tap Change Storage Plan and choose an upgrade.
Or you can reduce the amount of iCloud storage you’re using. Learn how to manage your iCloud storage >
The iCloud Team
Firstly they uploaded my phone details to the cloud without my consent, this filled up my iCloud space and now the email associated with Apple, will not work.  I like / liked iCloud for the simple fact that it synched my schedule, photos and contacts with my other devices.  The rest of iCloud is pretty dismal and fails at many levels, (like being unable to use it to publish work from iWeb which you used to be able to do from MobileMe).  The synch ability is really the only reason I keep the iCloud account, I have never backed up my phone or computer to the cloud, I just don't trust apple to deliver on that type of service.  The fact that they would shut off an email account is just terrible; on top of that the fact that it seems from the email the only solution is to upgrade, means that they are in effect holding your email operations to ransom unless you pay more money.

There is though a solution that I found via a very polite and helpful Apple service person who seemed appalled at what had happened.  If you want to back up your phone to the web then it will happen and I hope you bought enough space.  If you don't follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings
2. Tap on iCloud
3. Down at the bottom of that page tap on "Storage & backup"
4. Slide the "iCloud Backup" switch to the off position
5. Tap on "Manage Storage"
6. If your phone has been backed up you will see a dated inventory of those back ups, tap to delete these and it will free up the space in your account.
7. Scream the following words at the top of your lungs, "Apple you Moth$#&*^g Douches", (that doesn't do anything but make you feel better).

You notice the email Apple sent didn't tell you this, I was not given this option, just that if I wanted to use my @me email I would have to upgrade.  To find this out I would have had to click on their link at the bottom of the email, then three more links to get to the relevant page with this information. My main gripe apart form the up-sell of more space is holding an email address ransom.  If not illegal, (and I suspect it might be), it is certainly immoral, but hey that's Apple, the #1 brand in the world... anyone want a can of Coke?

Friday, September 20, 2013

New iPhone...beware of the hidden charges, I phone not $399 but $435!!!!

                                                                So you want a shiny new iPhone 5S?

Remember that...


If you're like me and an AT&T customer, beware...on top of the $399.00 you will pay for a 64G iPhone 5S AT&T will slap a $36.00 upgrade fee.

What's that for I hear you asking? Well the technical term for this is "fleecing", that is just to fleece you out of some more money, for no actual reason. It costs AT&T no extra money to upgrade you, it's all automated.

It's a charge that will appear on your AT&T bill not in the Apple store, it's a rip off, it has pissed me off.  The only reason to stay with AT&T might be the one feature Verizon and Sprint do not have and that's the ability to conduct multiple activities at once, (so if you're on a call you could also do a web search). I have the $36.00, but feel resentful getting gauged yet again by a large company.

would appreciate thoughts on this.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Crackle - Comedians in cars getting coffee

A while ago I attended a digital upfront and saw brands signing up to sponsor digital content.  This branded content is a good idea for the sponsors, it involves engagement, has a perceived value, and if really successful can develop brand loyalty.  The problem was, as I stood there holding my free drink, the content itself was really obscure and, well, how can I put this sensitively, ...crap.

This seems to be the majority of branded content, where the content plays second fiddle to the sponsoring brand.  This isn't the case though if you have watched Crackles "Comedians in cars getting coffee".  Crackle doesn't get written about very often, always overshadowed by HULU or Netflix, but it's not a bad service at all.  It's Netflix for people without credit cards.

Comedians in car getting coffee is produced and hosted by Jerry Seinfeld.  Its really simple, Jerry, (a car fanatic), each episode turns up in a classic car, picks up a famous comedian friend and goes for coffee.  they talk about life, their careers, things that make them tick, and it's all fly on the wall POV.  This isn't an interview show, Jerry doesn't interview his guest, they go out and have an informal chat, just like you do when you grab a coffee with a friend.  It just so happens that the people he's talking to are very interesting and naturally funny. It shows the intelligence of a comedian's ability to observe life and comment on it.  I have always admired anyone who would stand on a stage and try and make people laugh, it takes guts, but most of all, to be a successful comedian you need to be very smart, and an astute observer.  As Chris Rock says:

"A gourmet meal with an asshole is a horrible meal, a hot dog with an interesting person is an amazing meal, it's all about the company."

Sienfeld is superb in this show, he's funny, but not trying too hard funny, he just enjoys the company he's with and we feel that.  The show has a spectacular list of guests including David Letterman, Larry David, Don Rickles, Ricky Gervaise... the list goes on and on, (the ever reclusive Letterman is very interesting), you see if Seinfeld calls you, do you really say no?

The show is sponsored by Acura.  It's how Acura sponsors the show that is so clever.  They get billboards at the beginning and end of each segment.  During some shows we break for commercial, but not an Acura commercial, a 70's Honda commercial, (there's a great one starring a yet unknown John Travolta).  In some episodes they make a joke of the the product placement, by walking by an Acura in the street and Jerry mentions, "This is my sponsor", Sarah Silverman comments," so this is product placement", and Jerry retorts, "Yes"... "Great car" Silverman says sarcastically.  That's the highest level of integration and sponsorship you get.  Acura seems to understand that it's about the content, not the product placement.

I watch shows like "The Biggest Loser" on NBC and it's just one big infomercial, and to be honest, when they are showing the "Jenny-o" turkey for the fifth time and pretending they really would choose to eat it, reading off a corny script about it's superior benefits, it turns me off completely.  The advertising has gotten in the way of the programming, and I am tuning out.

Comedians in cars getting coffee is a great watch, and you won't feel like you've been sold a car, just enjoyed observing really funny interesting people. By the way, Sienfeld has been nominated for an Emmy, and he deserves to win.

Friday, August 16, 2013

We're all in the wrong business!!!! ...

...unless that is, you're in the baby business.

About four years ago I was approached to run a great wedding website.  It was a blue chip wedding brand,  a great business, but the thing is, I didn't know a thing about the wedding industry, so I passed.

Then I got married!!!

WTF!!!!  The wedding industry is amazing, it literally adds a premium onto everyday things like printing, catering, venue hiring, linen, flowers, everything in fact, is a premium.  You want a DJ, great;  a normal DJ is around $900, a wedding DJ $1500; you want to order a load of flowers, you can get a boatload for $500, but your wedding flowers, they're $5,000!!!  When descending into this financial raping, you see that the whole industry is built on one thing, "it's your special day".  You could get normal printed invitations, OR, for an extra $1000 get beautiful letterpress printing, because, "it's your special day", you spend thousands more than any sane person would in ANY other situation because, "it's your special day"!

There is now though another industry that is even cleverer than the wedding industry.  You see, weddings last for only a couple of days, a baby, it's like a bloody puppy, it's for LIFE!

Today my beautiful wife and I spent a good hour and a half walking around Buy Buy Baby, the aptly called super store for everything baby, registering for everything you need to bring a sprog into this world.  Now admittedly, it's actually a lot of fun, but my god, the prices!

You want a stroller, of course you do, I mean, you have to have one of those... $1,000; a high chair as much as $500; car seat, $200; baby monitor $250; the obligatory BabyBjorn $200...this business is amazing.  In an hour and a half, we dropped over $3,000 and that's without the cot, dresser, table pad, diapers, blankets, clothes, food (OK we got to feed the thing), the list goes on and on.

Not that I am complaining, I'm just so jealous I don't own Buy Buy Baby. There were people lining up to register for their babies, imagine all of those people at $3,000 a time, every day, BAZINGA! No wonder the store is so big and has so many employees, (who by the way can I mention are some of the nicest and most helpful store employees you will ever meet), they can afford them!

So forget entertainment, get into babies, it's never ending gravy train!!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Amtrak - The Smell Of Death !

If you have ever traveled on AMTRAK on the eastern corridor you might know what this blog post is about, the smell of death. If you’re posh and travel on the ACELA you will not know what I am talking about but, on their regional trains, the detergent that they clean the inside of the trains with is most peculiar. 

I will put my best wine nose on and try to describe…

There’s a hint of death, musk, formaldehyde, roses, incense, and leather all mixed together.  I have never been to an embalming, but for some reason this is how I think it smells. 

But wait!!!

It seems that the smell has been modified.  I am sitting on the Friday morning regional to Washington and the smell has changed.  It still percolates a slight smell of death in case you were to miss it, but there is a stronger citrus and floral bouquet.  This might be death 2.0, “the funeral”.

Imagine…we have already had the embalming done, and now the neatly preserved, only ever so slightly smelly body is has moved to the viewing room, surrounded for flowers, and sliced lemons, (OK I don’t get that part of the analogy either).  It’s still a very overpowering smell, like the fat woman who gets in the elevator with you who bathed in perfume, only she died a couple of weeks ago.

The one thing I will say though is how pleasant the environment is, (sans smell). I have a roomy reclining chair, more legroom than any business class flight, it’s clean, (the detergent might smell but by god it cleans, I could eat off these seat trays, in fact I just did).  I often think we dismiss the train.  We rush to fly everywhere, and true, a train from NY to LA is not a realistic option, but how many people are lining up at LaGuardia to catch a dirty, cramped plane, that in summer has a very high chance of being delayed and it isn’t in any way quicker.

My train journey:

                        5 minutes to train station
                        15 minutes waiting to board
                        3 hours travel time
                        Arrive center of DC – 3 hours 20 minutes

The flight:

                        35 minutes to LaGuardia (If you’re lucky)
                        30 minutes through security (if you’re lucky)
                        30 minutes waiting
                        15 minutes to board
                        1 hour flight, (if you’re not delayed)
                        20 minutes circling waiting to land
                        20 minutes getting off and out of airport
                        30 minutes driving into center of DC (if you’re lucky)
                        Arrive center of DC – 4 hours 05 minutes

I also have the advantage of a buffet car, large windows with things to look at out of them, two electrical outlets, no turbulence, a clean toilet (test driven), I can go for a walk and stretch my legs, all for $85, (how much was your shuttle ticket?)

I just wish they would get rid of the smell of death, even if it’s ever so slightly improved!