Saturday, March 29, 2008

MeTube, Channel of One

First radio, then cable and satellite television, then the Web 1.0 divided the audience into finer and finer segments with narrower and narrower interests. The Food Network, The History Channel, each served an audience interested--at least at that moment—in only one subject.

With Web 2.0, the Internet has now reached the ultimate audience segment with the narrowest of interests: me The producers of shaky lip-synching videos on YouTube, the chroniclers of the daily drivel of their lives on MySpace, the collectors of cell-phone photos from their latest parties aren’t expressing their creativity in hopes of reaching a larger audience’ they’re simply entertaining themselves. Check their site visit counters and you’ll find the numbers correspond almost exactly to the number of times they’ve visited their own sites to look once more at their own web-based self-portrait.

The self-producers know no one else is likely to ever view their material and they don’t much care. The lack of audience experiences of the millions of bloggers, posters, podcasters, that came before them proved that there is no interest in their work beyond their own.

It’s the creation of a work about yourself that is the allure to a generation obsessed with their own self-image. Read their literature—every story begins with “I” and most of them are about “Look at me; I’m writing a story about myself.”

What’s this mean for mainstream media? The time they spend in “me media” is time they aren’t in front of the tube, listening to your songs, or even reading your news on their computer screen. Even if they’re multi-tasking, their split attention affects their responsiveness to the ads you depend on to survive.

In short, MM, you've got new competition that you can't possibly beat by trying to be ever more relevant. You're competing with my channel on MeTube. Believe me, you can't win.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Books By The Numbers

With the well-publicized problems of bookseller Borders, there are a lot of numbers circulating about books and reading that paint a pretty gloomy picture. But here's something I like to point out as a trustee of the Westchester (NY) Library System: in 2006 (latest year with data available), our 38 member libraries circulated nearly 14 books for every man, woman, and child in this county.

When I joined the board in 2003, we delivered about 1,000,000 books through our intra-library loan service along. Last year, we topped 1,200,000! For a society were nobody reads, we're awfully busy.

The 2007 survey by Ipsos Public Affairs for The Associated Press revealed that 27 percent of us haven't read a book of any kind in the last year. Fortunately for me, a writer, the same percentage — 27 percent — read 15 or more. And 8 percent of us read 51 books or more. When you exclude those people who didn't read a single book, the average number of books read in America last year was 20.

As Randall Stross said in the NY Times (1/27/2008—where some of this info was found), one can only wonder why 408 million books will be bought in the US in 2008 if no one reads anymore.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wanda Needs A New Home

I recently had dinner with good friend and good playwright Eric Weinberger, whose latest work, Wanda’s World, played to sell-out crowds at New York’s 45th Street Theater this winter. The musical, which he co-penned with composer/lyricist Beth Falcone, received rave reviews, including one from Steven Suskin in Variety calling it “…a bright, endearing musical comedy.”

Despite audience demand, though, Wanda’s World couldn’t run longer because the wonderful non-profit organization that presented the play, Amas Musical Theater, can only afford to mount four-week runs. Eric and his partners are trying to arrange for another run, but producing theater—especially in New York—means investing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Eric’s off-Broadway play Class Mothers garnered a Drama Desk nomination for its star, Priscilla Lopez. Several of Eric’s fine plays have been produced and one, Tea For Three: Lady Bird, Pat & Betty which he co-wrote with Elaine Bromka, has been touring the country since January, 2004. The man has credentials.

If you believe that good work—whether it be theater, literature, art, music, or dance—eventually finds a way to an audience, Eric has every right to be optimistic. Wanda’s World is indeed a cheery, entertaining romp through the ‘tween years. The music has bounce and verve, the libretto plenty of jokes for the kids and wit for the adults. Let’s hope Wanda finds a new stage.

--Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Friday, March 14, 2008

Home Repair Do's and Don'ts

  • Never do plumbing repairs on Saturday. It will cost a fortune to get the real plumber to repair your work on Sunday.
  • Always double the amount of time you estimate for a job you’ve done before. Triple it for a new one.
  • A new tool should be purchased for every project. The quality of your tools directly affects the quality of your work and price is a direct indicator of tool quality.
  • Never start a new project by going to Home Depot on Saturday morning.
  • Don’t worry about making table legs exactly the same height. That’s what matchbook covers are for.
  • If you want to know how those hairs got into your varnish, ask the cat.
--Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer Reaction In Albany

I happened to be in the state capital, Albany, the day after Elliott Spitzer's mind-boggling revelations. Interestingly enough, the main-stream media has been harping about how the state government is paralyzed, nothing can be done until he announces whether or not he is going to resign, etc. That's not what I saw. The legislature was in session, hearings were being held, the budget process was in full swing, and business was perhaps subdued, but basically going on as usual.
I was there to lobby my state legislators to re-instate some library funding that had been cut in the proposed 2009 budget. The timing was interesting, to say the least. While the Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate I met with held back their comments, you could see they weren't sorry to see him on the verge of resignation. At that point, they were just hoping the Spitzer mess wouldn't totally destroy the party's chance to gain control of the state Senate, which seemed to be possible this year. The Republicans, of course, were gleeful.
Quite frankly, Spitzer's bulldozer approach hadn't played as well in the governor's office as it did when he was AG and he had made many enemies on both sides of the aisle. His resignation, assuming it comes soon, will be a relief to all.
--Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Over The Top Grills

Outdoor cookery was born when some clumsy caveman accidentally dropped a hunk of brontosaurus into the campfire. After yelling and screaming at him for his fumble-fingered treatment of their dinner, his family’s response was probably, “Fire… Meat….Gooood!”

When the caveman moved to the suburbs, his campfire became a bowl-shaped charcoal grill standing on three wobbly legs. With luck, he could coax a pile of kerosene-soaked briquettes to cook a few hotdogs in no more than maybe thirty minutes. But, just as the caveman evolved into today’s investment banker, the barbeque grill grew up to become a $15,000 outdoor kitchen complete with wok and pizza stone, infrared burners, and a built-in refrigerator with beverage dispenser. The sink with hot and cold running water is extra.

The up-to-the minute outdoor chef can choose from several monster hibachis that will make him or her the envy of the neighborhood (although hopefully not the bane of the fire department). Today’s outdoor cooking centers have some remarkable features.

The first thing most discerning grillers look at is the size of the cooking surface. Most usually want nothing less than a grill that’s about thirty inches wide overall with close to 700 square-inches of total cooking area. A serious outdoor chef will opt for something larger, though. Freestanding models wider than sixty inches aren’t uncommon and built-ins apparently have an upper size limit just slightly smaller than an aircraft carrier.

Distribution and containment of the heat over the cooking surface is important, too, so many units now come with lined hoods that are almost sealed when they close. That can bring the internal temperature up to 800 degrees so you can toast your hamburger buns very, very fast.

Other new features include battery-powered or electrical igniters instead of the old-fashioned piezo, or clicking, igniter. Some models even have interior lights that only have to be cleaned every three or four uses. Most manufacturers offer an LP or natural gas option.

The infrared burner is a significant development in outdoor cookery. Some manufacturers build them in as part of the “cooking system” along with traditional burners, while others use infrared as their sole heat source. Traditional grills cook by convection: the burners heat up a secondary element (briquettes, lava rock, vaporizer plates or rods), which creates radiant energy and heated air. Infrared burners produce high temperatures through direct radiant energy. The food is directly heated because there are no secondary elements. The infrared burner produces intense heat that immediately sears the food, locking in moisture and flavor. The food cooks in its own juices in up to half the time needed by traditional grills.

But buying the base-model grill, like buying a new car, is just the start. All the top grill manufacturers offer numerous options and accessories for the griller who wants to have it all. One of the most interesting options is a built-in commercial-quality, all-weather refrigerator with wine cradles. The caveman may have stored his stegosaurus steak in a handy glacier, but the modern backyard chef can keep his in the fridge right under his grill. For serious partiers, some manufacturers also offer a built-in refrigerated beverage dispenser that comes complete with CO2 cylinder and keg coupler.

You can also add a wok to stir-fry like a pro. Or a griddle. Why go out to a restaurant for breakfast when you can cook eggs and pancakes in your backyard? Then there is the steamer for your vegetables or the deep fryer for your French fries. And don’t forget the wood chip smoker so your salmon filets can taste like they were cooked over an open flame (it’s a retro-caveman thing). You probably can’t do without a food warmer or a pizza stone. And you absolutely must have a motorized rotisserie—you can get one that handles thirty pounds of meat!

Fortunate is the family who has an outdoor cooking center (what the heck’s a grill, anyway?) and a fire-meister to cook on it. While the rest of us are indoors microwaving our TV dinners this summer, they’ll be outside enjoy grilled portabellas, rotisserie prime rib, crispy hash browns…or maybe seared tuna steaks with stir-fried vegetables…or smoked salmon pizza served with a freshly-drawn tap beer…or….


--Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

Friday, March 7, 2008

Free Book from Seth Harwood

If noir detectives are your thing, check out this free book--Jack Wakes Up--available from Seth Harwood. I think the offer is only good through Palm Sunday, though.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Stick That Cell Phone In Your...

Cell phones are as welcome on a golf courses as deer ticks and poison ivy. Unfortunately, they’re also just about as prevalent.

One country club staffer in Westchester (NY) county, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his job, told me, “Members are not supposed to use cell phones on the course or the clubhouse, but I see so many you’d think this was the mall.”

Nearly every club has an explicit policy against using cell phones on the course and some prohibit them everywhere except in your car—preferably while you’re leaving. There are good reasons for those policies, too. Cell phones in the dining room are as pleasant as a cloud of cigarette smoke wafting over your salmon tartar. Seeing them in the locker room is like spotting mold in the showers. Hearing some inconsiderate master of the universe call his broker on the third tee while you’re trying to putt out on the second green is like root canal without Novocain.

Yet, just like cockroaches, cell phones come out of hiding everywhere. I’m seen plenty of so-called golfers step into the bushes so they can make that urgent call to the office. Once this summer, I had to dodge a guy driving a cart while holding a cap over his face to hide the cell plastered to his lips.

Everyone’s excuse for carrying a phone on the course is that an urgent call may come at any moment. I’ve often wondered why anyone expecting a life-or-death phone call would be playing golf in the first place. Shouldn’t they be standing by where they can actually help? I also can say with certainty that I’ve never seen anyone take a call, stop playing immediately, and rush off the course to deal with a crisis. I’ve overheard plenty of calls to buddies about last night’s ball game and more than a few to the office by someone trying to cover their tracks while playing hooky, but never anything so important it justifies ruining everyone else’s game.

--Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds