Happy Valley

I used to live at the movie theatre.

One of the greatest thrills of my life was moving to Los Angeles. Back in the days of platforming, when it could take months for a flick to make it to the hinterlands, if it ever got there at all, every single movie opened in Los Angeles. I went every night. I couldn’t believe it. And when there was a gap, for this was when you could literally see everything, when there were about 115 movies a year, not counting foreign, I went to the revival house, the Nuart in West L.A., the Rialto in the Valley. Ultimately the Beverly… I’d scour the L.A. “Times” and pick out what I was going to see that night. On a day off, I might see two, maybe even three or four movies. Nowhere was too far to go, back when traffic was bad but not this bad, I’d drive out to Valley Circle. To that dump on Van Nuys Boulevard where during a showing of “Carrie” my girlfriend shushed the girl sitting in front of us and the young woman turned around and said “Shut up bitch.” She did, we did.

And go to the movies we did. That was our very first date.

Actually, I asked her to see “Rocky,” but she was busy. Not that I was absolutely sure I believed that, and I didn’t have any plans to ask her out again, but then she called me up on a Monday night and asked me what I was up to and we ended up going to that revival house in Beverly Hills, that ultimately turned into a Fiorucci, then a bank and then god knows what and saw two Cary Grant movies. And I didn’t think she was into it, but the next day at school…

She learned to shush people from me. Because, you see, I consider movies to be a religious experience. A journey to an alternative land where I’m safe from intrusions and am my best self. I think the first time I realized this was when I saw that Glenda Jackson movie in New Haven, I think it was “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” could have been “A Touch Of Class.” You see I fell in love with Ms. Jackson.

Now I’m in love with Sarah Lancashire.

Neither is classically beautiful, but in their roles, and I’m savvy enough at this age to realize they’re rarely like the people they play, they both exude strength, I’m drawn to them, I can’t get enough of them.

And I ultimately sought out every Glenda Jackson flick, another great is “Women In Love,” but until the other week I had no idea who Sarah Lancashire was, until Jay recommended “Happy Valley.”

That’s all anybody wants to talk about, television. As my friend George Drakoulias says, he used to fight over records. Now nobody even talks about them. But they do tell you about their favorite series.

I’ve given up on a lot of the HBO and Showtime programs, maybe it’s the memory of “The Sopranos,” I’m not sure. But I’m constantly searching for a new Netflix series to sink my teeth into. Maybe it’s because Netflix is breaking the paradigm, making all episodes available instantly, but one thing’s for sure, when I pull up the stream I’m in my own little cocoon, with me and nothing but the show. It’s kind of like discovering an act back in the seventies, when they’d made a few albums but hadn’t broken through. In your heart you knew they had other fans, but when you were listening to an LP that no one was talking about you smiled and felt special, it was soul-fulfilling.

Watching “Happy Valley” is soul-fulfilling.

Actually, it should be called “Unhappy Valley.” But Jay testified about it at Casa Vega and I decided to fire it up and…

I became instantly hooked.

Everybody’s flawed, nobody’s beautiful and the landscape…IT’S SO GREEN!

I’m struggling trying to figure out what’s important to me, what I care about, but when I watch “Happy Valley”…I want to go there, to this lush landscape where it’s not about being famous or getting ahead so much as putting one foot in front of the other and living.

I grew up in Connecticut, I didn’t think twice about the greenery. But when you move to L.A., which is dry and drab, you kinda understand the fascination with New England.

But Happy Valley is New England on steroids, because it rains all the time. And maybe it’s the way it’s shot, but there’s this gravitas. Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s England, where the buildings are old and the people are just passing through, showing us how insignificant we truly are.

Or maybe it’s the accents.

But it’s foreign and familiar at the same time.

But I’m savvy enough to know that it’s not real. I mean the images are, but the people and the story are not. But I had to pinch myself a few times, tell myself to realize this.

So, the set-up is…

No, I’m not gonna ruin it. Because oftentimes you’re not exactly sure what is going on. In today’s big screen opuses they spell it all out. That’s the essence of a comic book. But “Happy Valley” is no comic. It’s real life. What drew me to the movies way back when. I think I originally got hooked when my mother dragged me to Fairfield University to see Frank and Eleanor Perry talk about “Last Summer.” Have you seen that movie? One of the few that is better than the book, which I had to read after seeing it. Barbara Hershey is beautiful and bad, which is something we rarely see. And Frank said all the music in the movie only played when there was a radio on or…it was source music. And…

“Happy Valley” is about imperfect people, like you and me. Drug addicts and alcoholics and grudge-holders. And some of the plot twists happen too fast and are less than believable, but then you realize they’re just set-up for the actors to do their stuff.

Turns out Sarah Lancashire is a big star, who knew, she’s supposedly the highest paid actress in the U.K., she starred in “Last Tango In Halifax,” but…

Can you have sex with your ex?

Do feelings ever die?

How come some people categorically can’t do the right thing?

How come we need others to keep us on the right path?

Watching “Happy Valley” is like going down a rabbit hole where there’s no internet, where none of the rest of life matters. It’s complete unto itself. It’s not American, where you can see the stars doing their work, people better-looking and richer than us performing for us. Rather, everybody looks like a normal person. AND EVERYBODY CAN ACT! It seems that acting is a profession over there, whereas here it’s an avenue to stardom.

And there are only two seasons of six episodes each. So, you want to eat it up at the same time you want to slow it down and savor it.

But when the Jake Bugg song comes on, you know you’re ready to be dragged away once again, to a world that isn’t real but seems like it is.

This is entertainment.

No, compared to what’s playing in the movie houses…

THIS IS ART!

Happy Valley – Netflix

Happy Valley – wikipedia

Upstarts Rules

1. Solve a problem.

The world does not need more me-too music, it needs a different sound that enraptures people. The problem we have in the music industry is we’re playing to niches, not everybody, and music when done right is for everybody, or almost everybody, there will always be naysayers.

2. Appeal to the people.

They are your greatest strength. And the internet allows you to go straight to them. If you’re appealing to middlemen, you’re positively old school.

3. Mass is everything.

The reason Uber could break regulations was by rallying its user base, which loved the service. Once the Uber leaders impressed upon lawmakers that their choice was between satiating entrenched interests, the taxi industry, and the public, and that their duty was to the latter, the lawmakers always backed down. If you want to change the course of music history you must have the users on your side. This was first demonstrated with Napster. The public LOVED it! The labels and acts kept pooh-poohing it, not acknowledging who their true customer was. You need to get people on your side and you need to do it yourself to control your messaging.

4. Ignore the rules.

This is a tough one. They teach you to obey, that’s the message taught in school, and in most homes to boot. But as Yvon Chouinard says in the “How I Built This” podcast, if you want to be successful study juvenile delinquents, who reject the system and do it their way. Hell, that podcast is littered with people who own 100% of their business, like Sara Blakely of Spanx, disobeying the supposed rule that you’ve got to sell out to make it, when the truth is those who are in control continue to triumph. And they abhor MBAs. There are two strains of people in this world, those who jump through hoops and those who ignore the hoops. Most of the innovation comes from the latter.

5. Accelerators work.

That’s Y Combinator in tech, in music…
Actually, we have songwriter camps, there are competitions to place songs on albums by stars. But we could mentor and encourage talent with the hopes that they would create breakthroughs, but really we just want the same damn thing over and over again. Have you noticed there hasn’t been a new sound in fifteen years? Used to be hair bands were killed by grunge and…this doesn’t happen anymore. People clamor for the new, and they would in music too, if they just got the option.

6. Disruption works.

Not only with Napster, but “American Idol.” And the reason “The Voice” has minted no stars is because it’s a me-too product. “American Idol” built stars, name recognition, and then these “talents” were married to A level songwriters. Applaud the success of AI, see it as a beacon, its creators thought outside the box. The spoils always go to those who think different.

7. Rising prices inspire creators.

More Uber drivers hit the road when there is surge pricing. The more concert ticket prices go up, the more talented people will want to become musicians. Think about that, it’s basic economics. Until we can inspire the best and the brightest to become performers, we will be in a backwater.

8. Advice, not control.

This is what has screwed up music for twenty five years, the execs think that they are the stars, they are the talent, when the truth is they should aid the performers in midwifing their music, but that’s it. The more execs say no to talent the worse the music gets. Talent is in charge of its career, not the handlers. Only talent knows what truly resonates.

9. Mistakes are gonna be made.

When did the music industry become so safe? You have to take risks, take chances, then you might stumble upon a breakthrough. People forget your mistakes these days…

10. Not everybody is paying attention.

A woman died from carbon monoxide poisoning in an Airbnb in Asia. Most people in America didn’t know. That’s tragic, but the point is when you’re at the center of the storm you lose perspective, you think everybody sees that tweet, everybody knows what happens to you 24/7, this is patently untrue.

11. You can recover.

One false move and…
You apologize and change direction.

12. The pivot.

If people aren’t buying what you’re doing, change it. Don’t get married to the sound you’re making, be willing to turn on a dime. Kinda like Uber. Which was in the black car business but only switched to citizen drivers after Lyft and Sidecar opened the door.

13. Go through the holes.

That’s right, Uber was against citizen drivers until the company was for it, after Lyft and Sidecar proved its legality.

14. Success is followed by imitators.

KaZaA after Napster, you’ve got to keep improving your product.

15. It’s a worldwide business.

America is a small piece of the pie, if you’re not thinking globally you’re not only missing out on revenue, you will be eclipsed by those who are.

“The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World”

The Circus

“Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years”

I went at the old Madison Square Garden. Twice, maybe three times, the last time when I finally put my foot down and told my mother I didn’t actually like ballet and wasn’t going to go anymore.

Then my father took me to Madison Square Garden.

They used to have a sideshow. Well, not really, as in freaks and geeks, but in the low-ceilinged basement you could walk by the chained elephants and gawk at the giant and I’d never been so scared in my life. Because this was 60 years ago, when safety laws were not as strict, when the only thing separating me from the animals was a couple of feet of air.

And I took a ring off the finger of the giant, I think the fee was fifty cents, I kept that gold plastic circle forever, at least until my mother turned my bedroom into her office and threw out not only that ring, but my World’s Fair hat and my baseball glove and…

I just heard it was the fiftieth anniversary of the first Super Bowl. That it happened today. I remember it vividly, it was a curio not a must-see, I was at my friend Marc’s house, with him and his father and a buddy, that father and the buddy are gone, but it seems like it was yesterday, no one expected the AFL to win, but then only a couple of years later Broadway Joe showed us who’s boss and football eclipsed baseball and the Yankees sucked and it seemed like everything I knew was changing.

Then free agency came and Steinbrenner with his deep pockets and suddenly everybody was a Yankees fan, because America loves a winner. But most of us are losers. Then again, my contemporaries solved that by giving everybody a trophy. And their kids played soccer, football was for the underclass. Unless you lived in the south, but northeasterners could never get over the accent, never mind the beliefs. Friday Night Lights? Who’d pay for them? Money was for academics, back when public schools ruled and you felt you could stay in the middle or move up a notch, before we found out the joke was on us, when an even younger generation got rich and then those people we decried elected Trump and now even the circus has bitten the dust.

Many will say good riddance. That the animals were mistreated.

They probably were. But these same proprietors you’re putting out of business, the circus, the Sea Worlds, they’re just a harbinger for the rest of America, whose future was stolen when the elites decided they were in control of what’s right and wrong and…

I didn’t mean for this to become a political screed. It’s just that Bridgeport, Connecticut, the metropolis next to where I grew up, was the home of P.T. Barnum, there was a museum, I remember going there and seeing the mummy, I don’t think they let you see mummies anymore.

And they don’t let you do so much stuff, because you might get hurt, whether it be physically or emotionally. And I’d be lying if I told you I had any desire to go to the circus today, not having been in eons, but it used to be a rite of passage for young ‘uns, to not only be wowed, but to be ripped-off, to learn the ways of the world. I remember bugging my dad to buy me one of those flashlights everybody was twirling during the show and finally he did and it burned out before we got home.

That’s a lesson in America. Everything’s a con. It’s a giant magic show. And those in control are laughing all the while.

But we’re pushing back a bit, we’re refusing to pay for billionaires’ stadiums.

But, I have to admit I’m no longer in control. I could be like the rest of my brethren, embracing vinyl records and physical books and trying to keep my head in the past, but the truth is the future is inevitable, as is change, and the circus outlived not only its utility, but its audience, because you know for sure, if they were still making money they’d find a way to continue.

But they aren’t. People have stopped going.

They stopped watching football. They’ve stopped doing so much we used to.

But man, when the circus goes, I know it’s just a matter of time before I do too, that I’m in the rearview mirror, that my memories are only that, it won’t be long before people will marvel that we had circuses at all.

Of course, the young disruptors will find a substitute. Kinda like Cirque du Soleil, which is now hurting too, which I never liked, because the truth is some things just can’t go upscale. The circus was blue collar entertainment in a world where working with your hands earned you not only an honest living, but respect.

But now you’re a chump.

Like I said, I have no desire to go to the show, but I wish it was still there. I remember reading about the Flying Wallendas in “Reader’s Digest,” then again, that’s gone too, at least I think it is, the magazine went in and out of bankruptcy and the pastime of sitting at home reading in silence, that’s passe too.

The Big Top, with three rings, as American as apple pie.

Before everybody went gluten-free, sugar became anathema and people were proud to be vegan.

I no longer recognize the country I grew up in. And maybe that’s the way it’s always been. You grow older and…

I didn’t expect it to happen to me.

The Upstarts

Brian Chesky went to RISD.

Maybe you don’t live in the northeast, maybe you think the state school is good enough, but if you grew up in New England, where where you went to college is a badge of honor, you know about all the elite institutions. And the one for the artists, the left of center people you know but don’t associate with, like David Byrne, is RISD, the Rhode Island School of Design.

Hmm… We live in a fucked up country. A land of disinformation. Forget fake news, even forget the facts, we can’t even agree on the STORY! We’ve got leaders denigrating arts majors, telling everyone to go into the sciences, engineering, and then the guy who started Airbnb went to RISD?

I’m reading this new book, “The Upstarts,” you can’t buy it. It’s not coming out until the end of the month. But it was written by Brad Stone and he wrote my favorite business book of the past few years, “The Everything Store,” about Amazon, and when I saw his tweet that he had a new book, I told him to send it to me. And he did.

Funny thing about Twitter, it’s a parallel universe. All we hear is about haters, but there’s real communication going on there, a real exchange of ideas, in plain sight. That’s right, while you’re on Facebook, glorifying your lifestyle, exchanging messages with people you’d rather not spend any time with in real life, there’s a marketplace of ideas on Twitter. This is no different from the Homebrew Computer Club, where the Steves, Jobs and Wozniak, got their start. You too could join in, but you’re too cool or oblivious. Kinda like Hollywood. Did you see that Michael Lynton exited Sony to go to Snap? Maybe he was pushed, but the studios are moribund, promoting their pictures no one wants to see in the “New York Times” so they can win Oscars at a show the youth have tuned out. There’s a generation gap, make no mistake, but now the baby boomers have the short end of the stick.

So, “The Upstarts” is the story of Airbnb and Uber. And to tell you the truth, I think we’ve hit a wall in the tech world, despite what Marc Andreessen may say as his fund sinks, today’s is about politics and income inequality and the loss of jobs but did you see this week’s story about Elon Musk and his “dark factory”? Yup, his goal is to soon make Teslas purely by robots, they won’t even have to turn on the lights, the robots can work in the dark! And McKinsey is saying that robotization is coming later than sooner, but if you think those consultants have a clue about the future you probably believe the music business was prepared for Napster. Disruption comes from the outside. And grinds who got good grades so they could get overpaid gigs at McKinsey are not disruptors, they played it safe.

But these entrepreneurs did not, the creators of Airbnb and Uber.

Now not everybody can be an entrepreneur, not everybody can make it. Some just like to enjoy the fruits of the creators’ labor. But for those looking to put a dent in the universe…

Used to be they went into music. They certainly don’t now. That’s the land of the uneducated doofus looking to sell out to the corporation. These new entrepreneurs want to TOPPLE the organization! How high are you setting your sights? Maybe not high enough.

So the guy with the idea for Uber… He makes millions selling a company and moves to San Francisco and…

“A few months after eBay’s acquisition of StumbleUpon, he sent a message over Facebook to a smart, beautiful television producer named Melody McCloskey, and – after noting that they had a vague connection because they shared the blogger Om Malik as a friend on the social network – asked her out on a date.”

I’m friends with Om Malik!

Shak introduced me, the investor/consigliere at Spotify. You should read Om’s ten year anniversary analysis of the iPhone in “The New Yorker,” it’s brilliant:

“The iPhone Turns Ten”

And that message was sent nearly ten years ago, before you were probably on Facebook, unless you were a college student.

And because we live in the modern world I pulled out my iPhone and looked up Ms. McCloskey, AND SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL!

I’m used to lies, subterfuge, inaccuracies, but now with the internet and our mobiles we can check everything.

“Like many high-tech entrepreneurs, Camp was peculiar. McCloskey noticed that he did not particularly care about superficialities that absorbed other people. for example, he got his hair cut only sporadically, letting it grow down to his shoulders before having it cut short. He also like to design his own T-shirts featuring symbols such as a Necker cube, a line drawing that can be perceived in different ways. Then he would wear them out to dinner at nice restaurants. ‘I have no idea where he got those things,’ McCloskey says. ‘I was not thrilled by them.'”

But she became his girlfriend. Sure, Garrett Camp was rich, but he was also smart and a fountain of ideas and what truly attracts women to men…

As for his car, it was a Mercedes-Benz, but he kept it in the garage, he worried about parking and scratches and…

The point I’m making is my eyes are bugging out. Because this is me. Why do I need to get my hair cut? I am who I am irrelevant of the clothes I wear, why blow thousands on outfits that will soon be out of style?

I hate those people. Like the wanker pissing in the urinal on Friday. I had to wee, I had an appointment to make, but he was checking his iPhone as he was doing his business.

Then I had to wait for him to check his look in the mirror, adjust his designer jeans, a brand I had never heard of, while I waited to wash my hands. And then he walked into the finance office. God, if I hate these people no wonder the heartland does too, and voted for Trump.

But despite all the fealty paid to Trump by Silicon Valley, he and his cabinet, the complete Congress, are clueless as to what is happening in California, the techies run rings around them, because the politicians, the straight people, have no vision, just like two young men completely disrupted the music business with Napster, and…

Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick have dinner with McCloskey in Paris and spend the whole time hashing out the business plan for Uber. I’m too uptight to do this, happens to me all the time, I’m at a meal and everyone is looking around saying…WHO IS THIS GUY WHO IS POSSESSED?

So I shut the fuck up. Because if you don’t fit in, you’ve got no future.

But then I start asking myself, am I hanging with the right people?

Hell, the music business is all about lifestyle. Expensive wines, private flights, they don’t want to break the world, they just want to live in it!

Didn’t used to be that way, but things change.

But I don’t think I have the mentality of an entrepreneur, I grew up in the sixties, I’m more of an artist, as in conception is key and you can speak the truth and make people uncomfortable and…

I just get so excited when people speak my language.

Musicians used to do this. Before they all became complaining whiners, wanting to jet back to an evaporated past wherein they were kings of the universe.

Musicians could be kings of the universe once again. But they’d have to speak the truth in a different way, capturing the hearts of the people.

What these entrepreneurs do best is create products that everybody wants.

We used to do this in the music business, but now we’re positively niche, and happy about it. Taylor Swift and Beyonce and the Weeknd are stars who are easily ignored.

But you can’t ignore your iPhone, the enabler of these breakthroughs.

And you can’t ignore Airbnb and Uber.

Furthermore, you love them and can’t stop testifying about them!

Interesting world we live in.

“The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World”

P.S. Read “The Everything Store” first, then you’ll be ready for “The Upstarts” on January 31st. Learn how Bezos conquered all…

P.P.S. Now McCloskey too is an entrepreneur, she’s CEO of StyleSeat, disruption is gender neutral.