Thursday, July 31, 2014

Earworm Theater: Electric Boogaloo


There is no escape from this jingle, and it bores deep into the brain. It is annoyingly persistent, and may be a very real source of road rage.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"War is Hell"

General Sherman's quote has become so passe, the basic message is overlooked. "War is Hell..." is not just a trite saying, like "Have a Nice Day!" or "What's new?". War is hell, and it has always been and always will be.

There has never been a moral war. Even WW II, the fight against the fascist regimes of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy caused the deaths of millions of innocent civilians, from all sides. What piece of rationalization can truly allow for killing innocent people? It is just the nature of war, and its horrors. War is the ultimate failing of humanity.

It's a given though, that in a war, people die. Innocent people are the victims. No war can not have it's casualties. Whatever the cause, the innocent are killed. No one escapes blame or responsibility.

In Gaza, Hamas has provoked a war with Israel, again. They have launched rockets into Israel, and predictably, Israel has responded with blunt force. Innocent people are dying every day.

Each side believes it has a noble cause. Hamas claims to want Israel to end it's stranglehold over Gaza, Israel claims it is acting in self defense. Each side is cynical in it's actions.

Hamas provokes Israel in order to consolidate it's political position in the face of domestic dissatisfaction with corruption and ineptitude of governance. Hamas knows, from past experience, that by firing rockets into Israel, the response will be overwhelmingly deadly. They are willingly sacrificing their own people to achieve their political ends.

Israel's response is a political play as well. The government uses the Hamas provocations as an excuse to punish Gaza with an intense military retribution that also plays well to the political base of the ruling parties' coalition.

Israel is an isolated and hated country since it's creation in 1948. Paranoia runs deep in a country surrounded by deadly enemies. Israel has risen to become the most powerful nation in it's area, with the help of the United States. The Palestinians are also hated, and ostracized by all Arab countries. None have, or will ,help them economically because it doesn't serve the Arab nations politically either.

There is no question that the conditions of and in Gaza, an untenable situation that's been left to fester for years will only perpetuate the never ending cycle of fear and violence, is the excuse given by Hamas in their hopeless missile attacks. But, if their attacks will keep Hamas in power, they will continue.

There is no question that when provoked, Israel will bring to bear the overwhelming punishment of Gaza, and in the pursuit of Hamas weaponry and fighters, will result in the deaths of innocent civilians. As long as it plays well domestically for Israel, this will continue.

There is no sense blaming any particular side for this unending horror. Humanity has taken a back seat to political expediency from both sides. Both sides have chosen war, yet again.

In the end, all that is left that matters are the innocent dead, wherever they are. Hamas has deemed them expendable for it's own political ends, and Israel has as well.  

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Smell of the Greasepaint, the Funds of the Crowd -

Smell of the Greasepaint, the Funds of the Crowd -

'via Blog this'

This article might more aptly be titled, "The Worst Idea in the World", with apologies to Keith Olberman.

As we emerge from over five years of economic destruction wrought by "professional" money managers and other bad financial players, when we've seen how the game is tilted in favor of insiders and loosened regulations allow for it's unabated continuance, why would anybody think it a prudent idea to allow unaccredited investors, starstruck amateurs, to have unfettered access to investments in Broadway shows?

Plainly, it's the worst idea you could think of. SEC regulations were created to protect unsophisticated investors from being separated from their cash by any Max Bialystok-type con man that comes down the pike. Undoing these protections will unleash a torrent of losses by the very people that least understand or are most vulnerable to a smooth talking slimeball with promises of "Broadway glamour".

And I do mean slimeball. Anyone that will base their business on collecting funds from unaccredited investors is a walking ethics violation.

In a business when even supposed "professionals" are conned right out of their shoes, (Rebecca being only the latest example), this idea should close out of town, and be buried once and for all.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Hey, What's It To You?

There's a TV advertisement that's been around for a while, it may still be used. It was for Capital One Bank and their credit card. It was actually a series of different humorous situations with lovable Vikings and Alec Baldwin. Mostly dopey, you might, or might not, find yourself chuckling as the ad ends with the catchphrase, "What's in your wallet?"

I never much liked Capital One, or any bank, and it didn't take long for me to get annoyed by this line, repeated at the end of every Capital One commercial. The incongruity of Vikings and Alec Baldwin, that may test well in focus groups, was one thing. But the phrase itself, "What's in your wallet?", always struck me as not fitting into the message of the ad. Who cares what's in my wallet, and why should I put Capital One's card in there? It makes me think," I have American Express, and I don't need another credit card."

Well, someone, somewhere, was very impressed with this irritating and cloying advertisement. Now I see that Mazda, the car company, ends it commercials with "What do you drive?"

What do I drive? A car. And when I think about it, it's a car I'm comfortable with, is paid off, and have no intention of replacing, least of all with a Mazda. Certainly not a Mazda with an idiotic ad campaign that annoys the hell out of me.

What sort of narcissistic lamebrains are these marketers trying to reach with this kind of semi "in your face" and quasi-confrontational approach?

And while we're on the subject of idiotic ads, what's the deal with those side by side bathtubs in the Cialis ads?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TicketNetwork Settles Deceptive Marketing Complaint -

TicketNetwork Settles Deceptive Marketing Complaint -

'via Blog this'

What exactly is the difference between what went on here, and what goes on in the Ticketmaster or StubHub realm?

Everyone is reselling tickets. Why is it okay for Ticketmaster to operate as a secondary seller, but no one else?  What about the deals they have between MLB, the NFL, or the sites they run for individual sports teams?

They call "TicketNetwork" deceptive. In reality, it's no more deceptive than Ticketmaster selling as a primary and secondary seller, all in one. The settlement described in this article is the result of a waste of resources by law enforcement, and an unethical preservation of Ticketmaster and StubHub's near monopolistic control of ticket distribution in many markets.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TDF Tedium

****Correction: The tweet referenced below as being deleted, does appear in the @tkts feed as of today 7/26/14.****

The other day, I noticed a tweet from the Twitter feed of @TKTS that was promoting a specific Broadway show, and I blogged about it (this blog, "TDF Playing Favorites?" 7/19), and what it might mean. I questioned if this was a policy change by TDF, the non-profit purveyor of discount theater tickets via the well known TKTS outlets in Times Square, and elsewhere. I noted how producers of shows that were not promoted via the @TKTS twitter feed might be displeased at not getting the same treatment.

The TKTS outlets have always maintained a neutral position on the shows that let them sell their tickets. TKTS ticket sellers do not advocate for or against any shows, and I commented on how this was the correct position to take. I wrote that the @TKTS twitter feed, by highlighting a specific show, was out of step with that longstanding policy.

I further stated that TDF/TKTS ought to be transparent about what they were doing. If these were perhaps unlabeled "sponsored tweets", or, if a new and different policy or experiment were being tried, TDF/TKTS had an obligation to maintain fairness with respect to the shows that let TKTS sell their tickets.

Apparently, this was a very bad thing that I did.

I received a furtive late night Facebook message from a TDF operative. Here is how the exchange went:

I didn't know this fellow, never met him before, but I guess he knew me. I suppose he felt he knew me well enough to order me around, as though I were now his underling.

After looking him up on Facebook, and Twitter, I learned that he is a P.R. guy at TDF. I figured that might explain his defensiveness. I had the temerity to question a TDF policy, and TDF P.R. coughed up a hairball. But, it was nearly midnight on Saturday night, I thought I was the only one with no life! Why the attitude, why the paranoia?

And, what with the mention of the Shubert Organization? This is my personal blog. I only speak here for myself. I would think that would be clear, because in spite of Leshay's second message to me (or a later tweet), I make no reference at all on this blog to the Shubert Organizaton, or any specific employers of mine . Right under the title of my blog, it says "Liberal musings on politics, culture, and life", not "Journal of TDF Criticisms". Is this a ham-handed attempt at intimidation? Or, is he an angry right-winger at odds with my politics?

In any case, my call for transparency is not likely to be heeded. After that charming exchange the following tweet appeared in the @TKTS feed, but was then deleted. It remained in my feed:

So, while important enough to tweet at 12:26 A.M., but not important enough to retain in the feed, it would seem that the opaque, thuggish, Soviet style P.R. will be the order of the day. 


So now, if we are to understand that the @TKTS show specific tweets are NOT sponsored, what then to make of them? Are they innocuous promotional tweets that are designed to help keep the TKTS "fans engaged", or something else entirely? It's not that easy to tell. Take a look: 

The first picture shows what may be meant by keeping fans "engaged". Alerting them to the new Thursday matinees, and the three shows offered, seems benign. 

The second picture, however, is problematic. Specifically advertising a 50% discount may seem like just a TKTS thing but with the TKTS booth across the street from the theater where Holler If Ya Hear Me was playing, puts TDF/ TKTS in direct competition for sales to the show with the show's producers. It doesn't take a marketing genius to know that the producers of the show would much prefer that potential customers purchase full price tickets, or other discounts outlined in the show's own marketing plan, than have TKTS put a price lid on sales at 50% off.

Yes, the shows do set their TKTS price point, but that is beside the point. No show advertises that price. You've never seen an ad where a show will advertise it's TKTS price. It hurts any show when TKTS advertises the specific discount being offered, because it thoroughly undermines the individual marketing plan of each show, which, by the way, costs each show a pretty penny. 

More examples: 

The first two of these are the damaging sort of tweets I'm talking about. The last one fits more along with the benign sort of tweets. There are many examples of both kinds but I think you get my point.


But now I'm led to another question. Why in the world does TKTS need this kind of marketing? The TKTS booth is an iconic NYC institution (it says so in one of their tweets). They are a non-profit service organization created to help sell unsold theater tickets. They collect a commission on each ticket sold to fund its operations and support other education programs. They sell millions of tickets each year, and that adds up to a lot of commission income. Over the years, they have become quite the 800 pound gorilla of Broadway.

Now it seems, as I've outlined in the past, the mission of TDF/TKTS doesn't fully align with the mission of the shows that they are selling tickets to. They are now competing with shows for the same customers. How else to explain the promotion of price in the TKTS tweets?

The financial health of individual shows is less important to TKTS than selling the ticket to that show. A ticket sold at the box office, or online, is a ticket not sold at TKTS and a missed opportunity for collecting that commission. The healthier the show, and the fewer tickets made available to TKTS means decreased revenue for TDF. A few long running hits are the lifeblood of TKTS, but shows like Book of Mormon, Wicked, or The Lion King, the strongest shows on Broadway, contribute nothing to the TDF bottom line.

This nascent line of TKTS marketing is an ill wind for Broadway. If it were to continue and become more prominent than just the @TKTS twitter feed, no show less than a full out hit will be safe from the 800 pound gorilla of Broadway. Competition is good, but not when you are competing with yourself.

Watch out for falling hairballs.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In the Wee Small Hours


Saturday night fades into Sunday morning. No one stirring except me and Pravda. In the darkness, a presence. A ghost in the machine.

No, just last call. Set 'em up!