Brian Keaney

Month: September, 2010

I’m getting cooler, not older

–“We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what’s Fonzie like?” –“Cool.”

I must be getting old.  Either that, or the definition of “friend” has been radically changed by Facebook.  Or, and I like this option the best, I am a lot cooler than I thought I was.

I hit the bars on three nights last week.  I met a bunch of new people, saw some old friends, and got two girls’ phone numbers and one business card.  What I didn’t get was any Facebook friend requests, and I’m just fine with that.

Then, on Sunday, I gave a kid in high school I know and some of his friends a ride so they wouldn’t be late for a Christening.  I was happy to do it, but I was only in their presence for a couple of minutes.  In the few miles we traveled I talked to my friend about his recent breakup and what a dope he was for causing it, and offered some sage advice to his friend about why it’s not a good idea to sneak out of the house – especially when that means a leap from a second story window.

I dropped them off at the church – sans thank you’s, I might add.  What’s the matter with kids these days? – and thought that was that.  Today I woke up and discovered that the previously unknown friend had added me on Facebook.  To be honest, I didn’t even recognize his name and had to look at the photo to see who it was.  I’m not even sure how he found me as I’m sure I didn’t give my last name.

It’s not the first time a random high school kid has added me as a friend on Facebook.  My roommate works with a lot of them, and somehow my Jeep and I have become a source of amusement for them.  I usually accept their requests, but not today.

In fact, he has caused me to go through and remove a bunch of the other people I don’t really know from my friend list.  I don’t use Facebook all that often and I don’t post any objectionable content to it, so that’s not my worry.  Sadly, my days of objectionable behavior in public (or at least in view of a camera) seem to be dying fast anyway.  Even my three trips to the bar this week were pretty tame.

Nonetheless, one of the allures of Facebook used to be that it was a closed network.  Today, any idiot with an email address can get an account.  I’m a friendly guy, but if you’re not my friend, you’re not going to be my Facebook friend.   I’m just that cool.

The above photo of the Fonze by robotsandwrestlers is used under this creative commons license.

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I’m not a mother

One of my favorite songs this summer was (and let us take a moment to acknowledge with sadness that this is written in the past tense) Travie McCoy’s Billionaire.  It’s a fun song, and in it he describes all the things he would do with $1,000,000,000.  Today at work  I got about as close as I ever will to doing one of those things.  If I only become a millionaire and not a billionaire as a result I’ll be just as happy.  I don’t think I could even give away a billion dollars in a lifetime, much less spend one.

Getting back to the point and needless to say, the boss was pleased and I’m sure the client is thrilled.  The CEO even came down to my office to shake my hand and offer his congratulations.  Making this happen didn’t take quite nine months, but it was longer than we expected or wanted.  Still, recognizing the  effort it took and the achievement it was, he said it must be like giving birth.

I was somewhat nonplussed at his comment, but I’m almost never at a loss for words, so I told him that I really didn’t have any basis for comparison.  I’ve never been pregnant and I don’t really have any intention of becoming pregnant, either.

I can barely take care of myself.  I’m in no position to be a father, much less a mother.

The happy baby photo is used with the leave of the photographer.

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Reports of the press release’s demise have been greatly exaggerated

Cross posted to the EZG blog.

The web has been all a-Twitter lately.  Jamie and Kyle have both written about it over the past few weeks, and around the bustling halls of EZG today we’ve had some insightful emails about the New Twitter and what it means for us, our clients, and our industry.  What really caught my attention, though, was a recent AdAge post that declares the tweet has killed the press release.

[I]ncreasingly, the news media has a nifty new way of “reporting” entertainment news: regurgitating celebrity tweets. It wasn’t that long ago that a celebrity with something “important” to put out there, like an apology, would automatically say it through a tightly controlled protocol, like a set of engineered sound bites delivered via a well-staged interview. Now 140 characters or fewer suffices.

Lest you think that this is only applicable to the latest B-lister to tweet her photo with Justin Beiber, author Simon Dumenco goes on to argue that “As the celebrity-industrial complex goes, so goes the rest of corporate America.”  Now I’m a big fan of Twitter, but just like video didn’t kill the radio star, I can’t accept his argument that “The long-suffering, much-maligned press release… finally died this summer” at the hands of the microblog.

Just because BP was made to look ridiculous when the fake @BPGlobalPR gushed black comedy gold and ended up with more than 10 times the number of followers the official @BP_America account did, it doesn’t mean that the public is going to turn to it for news.  All it means is that there is a greater appetite for gallows humor than there is for corporate spin.

More than that, the world is a complicated place.  Not everything, or even one thing, can be conveyed in a tweet.  While it’s possible to encapsulate all the germane details of some stories or events into a tweet (e.g. Tom Brady was in a car accident this morning. He’s OK, though.), for plenty of others it’s not only impossible, it’s also illegal.  Many professional and financial service providers are restricted from providing  commentary that can be construed as financial advice.  As a result, while they are increasingly using social media to get their message out, they are treading extremely carefully to avoid a slew of dangers that could  do great harm in both brand and legal terms.

Perhaps the best example of the continued vitality – and need – for press releases is Dumenco’s own post.  If everything that needs to be said can be said in a tweet, why bother writing an entire blog post?  He obviously felt the need to provide background and context necessary for readers to comprehend his post.  If he didn’t then the phrase “The tweet has killed the press release” would not only be sufficient, it is also well under 140 characters.

When the New York Times speculated that Mark Twain had been sent to Davy Jone’s locker, the great American novelist – who was alive and well – promised to “make an exhaustive investigation of this report that I have been lost at sea. If there is any foundation for the report, I will at once apprise the anxious public.”

Dumenco predicts that “press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”  A better guess is that PR folks worth their weight will continue to combine press releases with appropriate use of Twitter, blogs, social networks, and (gasp!) the telephone and actual face to face meetings… until any or all of these devices cease being helpful to journalists and other audiences.  If press releases are our only means of action, well, color me uncreative.

But in the spirit of Mr. Twain, I’ll make a similar inquiry into the brain eating status of the press release.  If I find it with arms outstretched and ambling forth in legions galore, I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll issue a press release.

The above photo by theogeo is used under this creative commons license.

Nine years and 15 minutes

Praise Allah.

The planned burning of Korans by a fringe preacher in Florida didn’t happen, but the lunatic who threatened to light the match got his 15 minutes of fame and then some.  When I first heard of how small his congregation is, under 50 members, I began to wonder why he was getting so much attention.

Why were national commentators writing and blabbering on about him on cable news networks?  This should have been a story that was covered by local press, and then maybe picked up by the wires.  It should have been one of those oddball stories you see in a little box to the side, not the main headline.

I think the reason it got so much attention isn’t because it was a notable event in and of itself, though when the president of the United States and General David Petraeus start talking about it, that is sure to get it some attention.  No, I think it fits into a larger narrative in the media and American society today about Islam, and that explains the way a small town preacher ended up with more reporters on his front lawn than parishioners in his pews.

Sizable segments of the American public, and Republicans in particular, believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim – with, wink wink, all that entails.  This is despite the controversy in the waning days of his election about offensive remarks his Christian pastor made from the pulpit.  Hands were wrung and teeth were gnashed over the fact that then-candidate Obama sat in this church for decades and had his children baptized –  Christened, even – by a reverend who made remarks many, myself included, found objectionable.  How soon we forget.

Part of this anger and vitriol we see being spewed towards the president, Muslims, and, before them, immigrants, I think  has to do with the xenophobic tendencies we see arise in this country (and probably elsewhere) during times of economic stress.  This being a particularly bad downturn, we see the anger magnified by that much more.

Someone has to be blamed for all the job losses and suffering we have endured over the past few years.  It certainly couldn’t be our fault for not keeping our skills current enough, or not saving enough money, or believing that dieing industries would provide stable jobs until our retirements when all signs indicated otherwise.  It couldn’t be that Wall Street bankers let us borrow too much money too easily and on usurious terms, and then gambled with the payments we made on those loans.  After all, they are mainly white men.  No, it must be the fault of other people we can’t see, who don’t look like us, don’t speak our language, don’t practice our religion, and don’t have any issues doing jobs that we are too good to do.

As we approached the anniversary of the most traumatic day in most of our lifetimes, Muslims became a focal point for all of the stress, all of the anger, all of the uncertainty in our lives.  How dare they build a cultural center on the same island as the World Trade Center?  Don’t they know this is sacred ground?  Don’t they know that this used to be a Burlington Coat Factory?

Pastor Terry Jones admitted that he’d never opened a Koran before.  He didn’t know what it said.  He couldn’t point to any particular chapter, verse, or even theme that he found objectionable.  He didn’t even care about all that love thy neighbor talk he could find in his own holy script.  No, he was mad as hell and he had to direct that anger somewhere lest it eat away at him.

I was in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.  I saw the worst, and, it must be said, the best of humanity on that day.  In addition to the fighter jets buzzing over my head, I also experienced the rally around the flag sentiment that surrounded and pervaded the nation in the days and weeks that followed.

Yesterday, the ninth anniversary of that day, we saw much of the bumper sticker politics that convey trite and empty patriotism common in the days that followed the attacks.  Never Forget.  Home of the Free.  United We Stand.  Yes, united we stand, unless your president is black, you’ve lost your job, or a Mexican moved into the foreclosed home down the street.  Then it’s every man for himself.

Going out with a bang

I recently accepted a position of some responsibility with an organization that that does much good work in the world and one where I am proud to be a member (so I’m not willing to ridicule them by name).  That said, as I’ve moved up the organizational ladder, I’ve been somewhat amused and somewhat frustrated with how seriously the people at the upper levels take themselves.  At a recent meeting there was a lengthy discussion on how people in my distinguished position should always ensure that we are seated in a position of honor at all events, or in the front of the line of processions –  ahead of these types and only behind those few others.

Bobby Kennedy's gravesite

Please.  I am well aware of my own insignificance in the universe.  If someone reserves a seat for me I’ll take it, but I’m not going to lower myself to clamoring for it, even if it means debasing my lofty title by sitting in the back.

My own insignificance is one reason I’ve always said I don’t want an elaborate service or expensive measures taken when I die.  The idea of spending thousands of dollars on embalming and gold lined coffins is absurd.  Put me in a square pine box and throw some dirt on me… after my organs are harvested and med students have a chance to hack away at my corpse for practice.

On my grave, I want nothing more than what Bobby Kennedy asked for: a plain white cross.  I figure that by the time it rots away I’ll have been forgotten anyway, so why bother with an expensive and permanent tombstone?  Actually, I wouldn’t even mind being buried at sea.  I love the ocean, and I’ve always liked the prayer where you commit the soul to God and the body to the sea.

My least preferred way, up until the other night, was cremation.  It’s just never appealed to me, though having my ashes scattered over the Atlantic does sound better than being buried in a hole.   What changed was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, a Stuff You Should Know episode on cremation.  After going through an explanation of how cremation works and a warning to stay away from less than reputable purveyors of the craft – and a reference to The Big Lebowski (And so, Theodore Donald Karabotsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean, which you loved so well.) – Josh and Chuck mention that Hunter Thompson had his ashes mixed in with fireworks and then launched over his ranch.

At the already increased risk of sounding like a young person who has thought entirely too much about death, I’ll mention here that I’ve often said I don’t want to die an old man in my bed.  I’d much rather go out in a blaze of glory when a bolt on the world’s fastest roller coast snaps, or by falling off a 500 foot cliff after surmounting Everest.

This fireworks idea has got me thinking, though.  Now, even if I do end up old and decrepit in my final days, I can still go out with a bang, literally, if not figuratively.  More than that, I’m well aware that wakes and funerals are for the sake of the living, not the dead.  If my funeral can bring a smile to someone’s face, that’s well worth the cost of the life insurance needed to pay for it.

The photo above by Lode Vermeiren is used under this Creative Commons license.

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