Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Jefferson Airplane (courtesy of the Smothers Brothers) & Rolling Stones for you...

Tonight, for you, I've gathered two more of my favorite rock performances from the sixties...


Your Name Here, Part Two

The reaction to the announcement from DWC, Inc., of the upcoming launch of LifeCard* met the response we anticipated, so most of our staff took off today to play street b-ball.

Passes were passed, shots were shot, rebounds were rebounded.

Meanwhile, in our central offices, the marketing and technology executives were hard at work today, coming up with new messages to convert you, our target customer, to this revolutionary new tool.

As the sagest of our sage economists, Thyme Rosemary, explained, the only way to understand how profound our offering is, is to think about the underlying theory that has led to this wonderful innovation.

According to every projection we've studied, the best way our over-fed society can pull out of what is now widely recognized to be our next great depression is to come up with innovative methods to stimulate all Americans to spend even more than we are currently spending -- regardless of whether we have the cash resources to do so or not.

That's right. If your house looks more like a storage facility for all the junk you've been goaded into buying, you're just being a good citizen. For the good of our great America, you and I, dear friends, must consume more and more goods. Even though studies indicate that most of the stuff you buy will break, expire, or be otherwise outmoded within 8 months, you must just keep buying -- otherwise this capitalistic model will start teetering, and potentially even crash.

It all depends on us, the consumer class.

That is why DWC, Inc., has come up with LifeCard*. As all qualified cardholders are reduced essentially to One Great Consumer, the need for actual cash will vanish in this wonderful nation of ours.

Because, with LifeCard*, you never need pay off your balance -- until you are dead.


Remember Flat Julia? She went to Chile for her holiday vacation, and these photos are hot off the Shutterfly Express.

Looks like she was excited to be part of the action way down there in the Southern Hemisphere.

Our art gallery has a new piece: Dinosaur, the terrible lizard, in interpretive color...


Friday, January 11, 2008

In the arms of the angel/ Will you remember me?

The most wonderful thing about all music is how it evokes memories and feelings that otherwise might remain suppressed.

These two performances capture a singer exploring two of my favorite themes -- the loneliness of every artist and the memory of every lover...

Your Name Here

We here at David Weir Consulting, Inc., receive so many credit card offers that we've decided to develop a brand new kind of card that we intend to call the LifeCard*.

The idea behind this card is you can do anything and everything in your primary role as a consumer with it. It has a built-in microchip and a beeper that warns you when you are about to buy something that you'll regret later. How can we do this? Our embedded EKG technology monitors your heart rate, and notices that distinctive flutter when we consumers are about to make a financial move that will cause them distress tomorrow...

In addition, due to our patented built-in keyboard and wireless Internet access, you can search to ensure that that item you're about to purchase is indeed the cheapest one out there. With our GPS "store locator" feature, we'll redirect you to a competitive tienda nearby.

Yes, we also feature a special multi-lingual capability. Just press "L" and a pop-up menu gives you the ability to translate your offer into Spanish, Dari, Tagalog, and Uzbeki. (Okay, we're working on a few of the more popular ones.)

Finally, and this is such a cool thing it gives us the shivers, the LifeCard* makes it impossible for anyone to steal your identity. How do we do this?

Every card is exactly the same. It carries the number 123456789 and the holder is identified as "Your Name Here." So you see, we steal your identity just to make sure none of the bad guys can do it.

In a future post we will reveal the fine print. For now, just imagine one of those radio ads where drug companies are allowed to be speed up the part where they reveal all the side effects of their products. We're trying to get rid of the minor bug that by using LifeCard*, you automatically forfeit the right to your individuality, but hey, there ain't no free lunch, right?

* = If you agree to sign our NDA, we will give you access to our unique technology for a simple, one-time fee of $123,456,789. Trust us, it's the last true bargain.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Star is Born

(Aidan, in the blur of an inside basketball court)

Every parent knows there are plenty of low moments, scary moments, anxious moments.

Then, there are the euphoric moments. Tonight, I had the gift of two. First, 11-year-old Dylan got to play seven of the 24 minutes in his JV basketball game. He grabbed a rebound, had a steal, and took a good shot! All of us on the sidelines, including his coach stood and hoped it would go in, but it just rolled out.

His team won 27-7.

Nevertheless, regular readers of this blog will recall that Dylan's decision to compete as a basketball player was a really big deal for our family. So, I was so proud of his effort tonight!

Then, for dessert, his big brother, Aidan, emerged as the star I've always known he could be. One of the goals he and I established for this season, his first of two on the school's varsity team, was a ten-point game.

For the first two-and-a-half quarters, he was scoreless (0 for 6) and pretty banged up by the bigger, stronger team he was playing against. Both his coach and I have been urging him to use his athletic ability and his speed to start driving to the basket. He's listened to us, but he is still so inexperienced at the game that he has found it hard to do what we want him to do.

Tonight, his team was behind the entire game until the fourth quarter, when Aidan suddenly started driving in for layups: one, two, three! He also started grabbing rebounds and stealing the ball. He was getting fouled regularly and sank two swishes on his first foul shots of the season. His third basket tied the game and we headed into overtime, 27-27!

The crowd, the players, the coaches, and the referees were all excited. This is what kids' sports is all about: Heart. In overtime, Aidan scored his team's only basket on yet another layup, and caused the two biggest players on the opposition to foul out, while never getting called for any fouls himself.

In the end, the ball rolled every so slightly the other way and his team lost 30-31. But he was the game's top scorer with ten points, plus 5 rebounds, 5 assists and four steals. None of these statistics capture the intensity with which he played. In one sequence, he saved an errant pass from a teammate by diving headlong out of bounds, crashing into the wall, but not before pushing the ball with his fingertips back to a teammate.

"I don't even believe that!" the referee said to me afterward. "I have never seen someone do that."

It's impossible to describe the excitement of watching your child emerge as a real star on a night like this. I've been blessed this way before; my oldest son, Peter, gave me many such thrills. But do you know the best part of tonight's game? Dylan came over and watched and rooted next to me at the scorer's table. He is such a loyal little brother, and somehow I think his presence helped Aidan.

Many of you, I know, are not sports fans, and many also are not parents. Yet, tonight, this story is one that I hope transcends those differences. We all yearn for excellence, no? Although some of us are not very competitive, we appreciate amazing performances, I hope.

I hope I do not sound like a bragging parent, though of course that is exactly what I am. Tonight my son Aidan became a star, and I was lucky enough to have been there and witnessed it.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It is time for me to remind all of us to...

..."Listen to your heart."

Writers and Editors

It is probably the result of suppressing painful memories, but I don't recall the first time someone rejected a piece of my writing. It probably happened when I was still in college and sent off an article to a national magazine. In any event, the life of every writer seems to include those awful, shocking moments when your work is rejected.

No matter how professionally the editor conducts him or herself, rejection hurts. As a long time editor, after a long time as a writer, I learned several lessons:

* Never reject a commissioned piece by email. It is an unforgivable insult. Have the courage to pick up the phone, at least, or ideally get together with the writer for a drink and have a chat. The cold language of rejection in email, whether in a creative situation or in a personal relationship, is cowardly.

* As an editor, you must admit your own role in the failure of the project. If you failed to give clear enough guidance, the writer can hardly be blamed. If you do not have sufficient authority (i.e., your boss or a collective group has the final say over an article's fate), the writer deserves to know that from the beginning.

* Do the right thing. Most magazines try to get off cheaply, and only pay a portion of the fee for rejected articles. But the writer still has devoted a lot of time and effort, regardless of the outcome, in faith that she will be paid her proper fee. I believe writers should always demand a 100% kill fee, but of course this is hard to do. Editors convince themselves that they are being fair and even generous if they pay 25, 33, or even 50% of the fee, but that is self-serving nonsense.

* Editors are custodians of their writers' feelings. It is difficult to write; you have to lay a bit of yourself on the line every time. The greatest editors have empathy. Weak editors do not.

* Protect your writers. If a piece falls short, you are obliged to say so at the earliest possible moment. Do not allow a manuscript to sit there, unread, when it is filed on deadline, and then reject it a month later! If I were to do that, I would feel a moral responsibility to save the writer's work (and her byline), by simply adding in whatever I deemed was lacking via an intern or an assistant or by my own labor.

* Never, ever, assign a failed piece to another writer! This is the ultimate insult, and completely unnecessary. If you are not talented enough yourself to edit/rewrite any particular piece, that is your problem, not the writer's!

If this sounds like a manifesto from the National Writers Union, I should mention that I was the negotiator on the very first contract gained by said union upon its emergence in the 1980s.

As I said, I do not recall my first rejection, but I do recall the pain. Each time I witness it for another vulnerable artist, I re-experience my own rejections. That happened today; thus this post, which comes straight from my heart.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Well, that was interesting

New Hampshire has voted:

Dems: Sen. Clinton won by a narrow margin over Sen. Obama.

Reps: Sen. McCain won by a slightly larger margin over Gov. Romney.

In Iowa, Obama and Huckabee were the big winners. But tonight, Huckabee finished a distant third, as did the ever-optimistic Sen. Edwards, who finished second in Iowa, ahead of Clinton.

So, what does all of this mean? Hell if I know. But there's still Rudy the Red-Nosed Giulani, not to mention the Ron Paul...So there are five Republicans and three Democrats still in the race.

I am not going to make any predictions at this point. The next few primaries are unlikely to clarify things. It looks increasingly like Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, will be the key date. Whoever leads in both parties on Feb. 6 will be the probable nominees.


Early results.6 (34% reporting)


*McCain 37% (projected winner)
Romney 30%
Huckabee 12%

Democrats (34%)

Clinton 40%
Obama 36%
Edwards 17%

The Dems have a huge advantage in the total number of ballots cast over the GOP.

If Obama wins tonight, precedent has established that a Democrat who wins both Iowa and New Hampshire will win the party's nomination. However, we have never had a primary season as long as this one has already been, and precedents therefore may prove to be of limited use this election cycle. In any event, Clinton leads Obama by a small but significant margin with over a third of the votes counted.


News from the Granite State

It does not appear that much exit poll data will be available today from the Presidential primaries in New Hampshire. The major media pool seems to be adhering to a commitment to not leak any data until the polls close (8 p.m. EST)

Of course, in their rush to be first, some reporters will jump the gun slightly, as in "Oops, I didn't mean to push the send key at 7:40, it was an accident!"

On the other hand, since cocktail hour starts three hours before the polls close, it wouldn't surprise if someone (it only takes one) leaks out some data to friends on the outside (all of us not on the inside) -- so it's worth keeping an eye on political blogsters just in case.

Lacking concrete data, we can only analyze the latest public opinion polls. As is widely reported, Democratic Sen. Obama appears to be harvesting a "bounce" from his Iowa victory a week ago, and may beat Sen. Clinton by 10-15 points tonight. Sen. Edwards drifts along, probably in third.

The Republican race seems less clear. Sen. McCain appears to be peaking, but some polls indicate that Gov. Romney got a "bounce" from the candidate debate over the weekend. Either candidate could win New Hampshire, though McCain seems to have an edge.

Every analyst mentions the relatively high percentage of independent voters in New Hampshire, so the chattering classes are hoping to track how independents split between Obama and McCain, considered the most attractive candidates to non-party-affiliated voters.

Early reports of towns running out of Democratic ballots is fueling speculation that Obama is already winning that battle.

For those interested in how to interpret exit poll data, once they do become public tonight, I've linked this post's title to an excellent article written by Marc Blumenthal at Just click on the title to read his column.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Monday, Monday*

See the moss growing? It never happens to a Rolling Stone, or to a Free Bird, for that matter. But if you happen to be a tree, framed in brick here in San Francisco, this is the time that moss will visit your rootss, after the big storms that have rattled our city recently.

I have gathered a lot of bird's nests in my life. They are lovely miracles to me, the homes stitched out of whatever materials Mom and Dad bird can find to cradle their precious unborn children inside the eggs she lays.

But never before have I discovered what I found today in our backyard -- a nest carefully spun around an inner layer of plastic! Could this be an evolutionary leap by birds? Since we throw away so much plastic, perhaps the more entrepreneurial birds are recognizing an opportunity here?

My little boys played in their team basketball games tonight. Alas, both lost badly (32-7 and 24-10.) Yet, both guys acquitted themselves well, and they clearly enjoy the camaraderie of being part of a team. For me, there are few things I like better than watching my kids play sports.

Therefore, the biggest news in my world tonight is that my youngest daughter has decided to learn how to play basketball!


The second-biggest headline hereabouts is somewhat sadder news: The IAASTD plenary in Nairobi on agricultural sustainability and food trade security, which was supposed to begin later this week, has been postponed, due to the ongoing violence in Kenya.

Therefore, dear reader, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, so we'll have to make due with these messages from home base, deep in the Mission District of San Francisco...


* with apologies, of course, to the Mamas and Papas. Today's soundtrack, however, was Surrender by Cheap Trick:

Mommy's alright, Daddy's alright, they just seem a little weird.
Surrender, surrender, but don't give yourself away...", etc.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Shoes, Kenya, Virgin, Polls

Kids' feet grow so fast! It seems like every three months or so, I buy them new shoes. Today was such a day. My 11-year-old son moved up from men's size 6 to 6.5; my nine-year-old daughter surged from women's size 2 to 4! They both chose identical models from the last time they got new shoes.


The great Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski was his country's first foreign correspondent assigned to cover Africa. In one of his most memorable essays, he revealed his fixation on shoes, which he traced to his own childhood so desperate in poverty that he didn't have any.

In Africa, he encountered a population that was still mostly barefoot. As the current political crisis unfolds in Kenya, we could do much worse than reread Kapuscinski, and recall that the overwhelming majority of Africans still exist on a subsistence basis, and, yes, often are barefoot.


Junko and I both wrote favorable articles promoting Virgin America some months back. Tonight, upon her return from L.A. on Virgin, we are both reassessing our views. For the third straight time, her scheduled flight on Virgin was delayed by mechanical trouble. Communication to passengers, waiting nervously at (in her case) JFK, SFO, and now LAX, has been suboptimal.

Note to Virgin: If you want to attract the "creative class" of frequent travelers, you must do better than this!


Obama and McCain appear to be surging in New Hampshire's pre-primary polls. Tune in on Tuesday, and I'll analyze that important race. According to the numbers, Obama is pulling away from Clinton and Edwards, and I doubt these numbers are wrong.

Perhaps the most interesting result on Tuesday will be how New Hampshire's huge percentage of independent voters break -- Obama or McCain? Because this could well be a preview of the national election next November.


You call this journalism?

Parade, the national magazine inserted into many Sunday newspapers, has long seemed a relic from a prior age. But today it outdid itself. Subscribers opening their San Francisco Chronicle this rainy morning, for example, were greeted with this shock:

A cover story interview with Benazir Bhutto, asking whether she "is America's best hope against al-Qaeda?"

Let's hope not, as she has been dead for ten days, in an assassination that has dominated global news coverage ever since. Of course, this happened because Parade (like most magazines) is printed well ahead of its publication (and distribution) date.

What is amusing (or disturbing) about this issue's debacle, depending on your point of view, is that no one in the chain of command from Parade through the distribution network including the Chronicle editors, chose to remove this embarrassment from their Sunday offering.

Is the advertising revenue it provides that valuable? Where is their collective sense of journalistic pride? Increasingly, print publications are being rendered irrelevant. Today's disaster indicates one of the reasons why...