Shuggie Bain

This is an incredible book.

I’d been reading S.A. Cosby’s “Blacktop Wasteland,” and it was mildly interesting, although my mind still did wander, I’d get a hankering to look at my phone, I’d go down the internet rabbit hole, I’d force myself to get back to the book and then I’d repeat the process.

“Blacktop Wasteland” ultimately got better, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Both of these books I got from the library, via Libby. My mother would never buy a book, she would always reserve them at the library, so the concept of purchasing a hot book hot off the presses…it never happened in our household. Actually, one of my great disappointments in my life is my mother’s birthday presents. She’d always send me something I was not truly interested in. Even worse, she’d send remainder books, you know those that had failed or gone out of print, that were sold on a table for a buck or two. If the title was in my wheelhouse, she’d send it to me, usually two or three, since they were so cheap, I remember one on ice cream…it was unreadable, that’s why it was on the discount table. But at least I got birthday presents, but I’m getting ahead of myself once more.

So I became inured to library unavailability. I doubted the library had the book I wanted to read, and if it did, I might be able to get it soon, in six months, or late, in a year, when it was already out in paperback. That’s another thing I don’t understand in today’s market, paperback books. All the scuttlebutt during Covid has been the collapse of movie windows, simultaneous showing on streaming services, but in books, windows still exist, you’re supposed to wait a year for a discount version. Don’t they understand you strike when the marketing is hot, when everybody is aware of it, when you can build on the buzz?


And now I’m getting further off point, because to tell you the truth I’m not feeling it right now, I’m trying to work my way into it, to get you to feel how great “Shuggie Bain” is. Most people just say to read something. Reviews tell you what happened. I want you to FEEL something, and if you align with this feeling, then the book is for you.

“Shuggie Bain” is not for everybody.

“Blacktop Wasteland” is a genre book. I didn’t expect that, because there were such serious accolades, which typically genre books…crime, mystery, thrillers, romance…don’t get. Not that I knew it was a genre book before I jumped to “Shuggie Bain.”

You see, “Blacktop Wasteland” I’d reserved a few months back, when I did research and reserved a slew of books via Libby that seemed interesting but I wasn’t champing at the bit to buy. This included “Shuggie Bain,” but “Blacktop Wasteland” became available in the regular queue, and I had it for three weeks, I jumped the line for “Shuggie Bain.”

Like getting a vaccine appointment, Libby requires constant attention if you want to play the game to your advantage, if you want to get what you want early. And checking the Libby app at least once a day now, I saw that “Shuggie Bain” was available for seven days, which made me wince. Why? Because I was so backed up, I had so many books in my mental queue, but I knew these opportunities were rare, so I clicked and downloaded “Shuggie Bain.” And since I only had it for seven days, I started it.

I can’t say I was immediately hooked.

You se it starts at the end. And it’s dark. But then…soon, thereafter you go back in time and it’s light. You go from the rooming house to the apartment, where the ladies are playing cards. And that’s when I really got addicted.

“Shuggie Bain” is set in Scotland. Not only will you not know the definitions of some words, there’s a ton of slang that you cannot look up in the dictionary, but you can ultimately understand the meaning.

“Shuggie Bain” is the story of the downwardly mobile. The lower class descending into poverty. Wait, wait, WAIT! This is not some nonfiction tome that you must read to better yourself, to become aware of how the other half lives, then again, if you’ve got a problem with poverty and the ills it engenders, “Shuggie Bain” is not for you.

So what you’ve got is a beautiful mother who wants more. You can trade on your looks, you’d be surprised, if you know anybody that good-looking I’m sure you’re aware of this. The only thing is looks will get you in the door, but to go to the head of the class, you need more. But in a world where no one makes it to the head of the class, looks are a trump card. But Shuggie’s mother Agnes has got a flaw, she’s an alcoholic.

I hate giving anything away, it takes a few pages to figure this out, but if I didn’t say this you’d have no idea what the book is about.

I don’t really want to say more.

But I will say, we live a fast-paced life of notoriety. That’s everybody’s goal in the twenty first century, to be noticed. Either you’re proactive or reactive. You’re an influencer on YouTube or a hater on Twitter, or maybe both. No one resides in the peanut gallery anymore, everybody is active, at least those under the age of forty five. You believe you can make it, and if you can’t, then nobody else should.

The Bains are going nowhere. They’re surviving. Oh, they’ve got their laughs, they’ve got each other, but their dreams are positively pedestrian, and minimal. Shuggie hasn’t seen much of Glasgow, never mind the rest of the world.

So despite the foreign words, you find yourself getting hooked. It’s not just me, but Felice too. It’s the story. Too often today’s vaunted literature focuses on language and not story, that is not the case with “Shuggie Bain.” You’re constantly drawn back to it, you want to know what happens, not only in the plot moving forward, but how the characters feel about it, what changes they go through, how they cope.

And if you’re willing to open your insides, which fiction does best, you’ll find yourself somewhere along the line. Were you bullied in school? Did you think appearances were everything? Were you an isolated daydreamer or part of a gang or… Life is universal in so many ways, we’re all human beings, and even though we rarely reveal our flaws, we know them, as well as our life-changing bad experiences. Sure, there are memoirists who detail all of this, but they’ve got a different agenda, they believe if they lay it all on the line they’ll be saved, most people believe if they reveal their warts they’ll go to the back of the line, and this is anathema when you’ve spent so much time trying to get to the front. We live inside our brains. And in “Shuggie Bain” we get inside others’ brains. Which ultimately makes us feel more connected. You can read “Shuggie Bain” alone and ultimately feel a bigger part of society, more enmeshed in its fabric than if you had a house party that lasted all night. Yes, most of us walk through life feeling unseen.

So, one of the reasons I did not buy “Shuggie Bain” was because it won the Booker Prize. I’m fearful of award-winning books. I’m fearful of all awards. Because there’s almost always an agenda. Historically the Booker Prize winner is not the best book, or the most readable book, but something different that insiders can anoint to feel good about themselves, oftentimes the winner is inherently unreadable. In music and movies we usually go the other way, the bland is anointed and the edgy is ignored. And it’s the edgy that live on.

But in this case the award is well-deserved.

So, should you read “Shuggie Bain”?

Well, chances are you don’t read any books at all, and if you’re a guy, you read nonfiction, as if the lessons of successful people, if studied hard enough, will translate to you. They won’t. Actually, you’ll learn more from fiction, it’s truer to life.

But if you read fiction…

If your idea of a book is something easy, that can be consumed in a day or two, “Shuggie Bain” is not for you. “Shuggie Bain” takes some time, which is one of its best features, it doesn’t wear out, it doesn’t end, the story goes on, and on, just like life.

If you’re a fan of genre fiction, and a great percentage of what sells is such, if you think reading is Stephen King or John Grisham…”Shuggie Bain” is not in your wheelhouse.

If you resist fiction because it’s too highfalutin’, made for an audience that you are not a member of, that’s oftentimes the case, but not with “Shuggie Bain.”

“Shuggie Bain” is an adventure, the best one I’ve gone on this year, at least when it comes to books, I’ve seen a few streaming shows that are in this neighborhood of quality, and they’re not the ones everybody talks about. People are sheep.

Not that “Shuggie Bain” is outside and exotic. If you click the link above, you’ll see that “Shuggie Bain” has a four and a half star rating and 3,085 reviews on Amazon, both of which are significant, this is a popular book, not one of those trendsetting albums you keep reading about and then listen to and don’t get.

And “Shuggie Bain” is not a movie. It’s less about action than internals. Not that there’s not action, and who knows, in today’s streaming world they greenlight so much that you’ll probably end up seeing a visual reproduction, but it will never come close, because you can’t shoot pictures of what’s inside people, their thoughts and emotions.

But the book will have you creating a whole landscape in your mind. I could positively see it when I was reading it. Clearly. Even though your mind may depict it differently, that’s the essence of reading.

And after finishing “Shuggie Bain” Friday night, I picked up “Blacktop Wasteland” again yesterday. I hit the action, I finished it, but it was wholly unsatisfying. So there were innovative plot twists, the crimes didn’t play out the way I thought they would…but I’m not a criminal and I’m not a plotting mastermind, but I am human and that’s why “Shuggie Bain” resonated so much.

This would have been much better earlier in the week. But I didn’t want to write until I finished “Shuggie,” for fear the book might get worse, which happens a lot, but does not in this case. I’d keep reading and get to a plot point and then smile or wince believing this is exactly how life works.

Not that your life will resemble that of the Bains.

So at this point I’ve either intrigued you or I haven’t. If you buy a book to read over months, don’t get it. But if you buy a book to get hooked and go on a ride, go for it. It’s not easy at the very beginning, but you’ll find yourself getting obsessed soon, the people, the story, “Shuggie Bain” is irresistible.

Right now, the Kindle version of “Shuggie Bain” is $8.67. That’s a bargain. The hardcover is $27.00 and the paperback is $14.53. This is how e-books should be priced, but too often are not.

And if you’ve never read an e-book…I implore you to buy a Kindle right now: It’s an investment of only $89.99. And with Libby, you can even get books for free!

DON’T listen to the haters. FORGET their excuses, they tried it, they don’t like it, they get headaches, etc… It’s just complete B.S., the truth is they’re addicted to print books, IGNORE THEM!

And if you’ve got an iPad and like to read that way, give it a go, use the app, you don’t even need to buy a Kindle. HOWEVER, the reason you want a Kindle is because of the technology, which is different, I’d explain it but the screen is not like your computer, phone or tablet, e-ink is made to be like paper, the lighting will not tire your eyes.

Now I feel like I did writing about digital file music twenty years ago. Do you see how that played out? Today CDs are worth NOTHING! I get e-mail from people asking me what to do with their collections, no one wants them, they’re worthless. E-books have been here for over a decade. The publishers and the government forced prices to become inflated, hobbling adoption, but reading on electronic devices is not only the future, it’s here now.

Start with “Shuggie Bain.”

Quittin’ Time



It’s track #30.

I was listening to podcasts looking for answers, trying to understand what is going on in this nation of ours, where we’re headed, but despite all the speaking I was hearing nothing, at least nothing I did not know. I started with the WaPo’s “Big Idea,” but the new host had my mind a’ driftin’, I couldn’t stay focused. And the NYT’s “Daily” was too much opinion and not enough fact. I didn’t need to be brought up to speed, I needed to be jetted into the stratosphere, beyond the micro into the macro, from yesterday to tomorrow, and it wasn’t quite working. But the moon was out and a flashlight was unnecessary, and climbing up the Backbone Trail had me sweating and the expenditure of energy made what was coming into my ears less important, but on the way down…

I jettisoned the podcasts for Morgan Wallen.

Music is in a strange spot. Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg told his friends the most played act last year on Spotify was Bad Bunny, they had no idea who that was and when they ultimately listened they said the music sucked, and they’re only thirty! As for the other night’s extravaganza…has-beens and no statements. J.Lo is pure entertainment and she can’t sing, it’s how she looks, Lady Gaga hasn’t had a hit for years, other than that movie stuff, and Katy Perry looks like she’ll never have a hit again, how did our mainstream entertainment become that of our parents, accepted by all but loved by only the mindless?

As for new music…it’s all about your vertical, your niche, can you not reach everybody and give up trying to do so? As for the listener, no one can be up on everything, it’s hard to focus, it’s hard to feel that direct hit. And then I heard “Livin’ the Dream.”

That’s the funny thing about a hit, you hear it immediately. I’d been through at least a dozen Morgan Wallen songs, many of which were good, but “Livin’ the Dream” demanded my attention, my focus, whereas before my mind was wandering to the music, now all other thoughts were excised.

And one can say that the story of making it is an old one, but really it’s about the sound of “Livin’ the Dream”…it’s got the darkness of the sixties, of Del Shannon, the Beau Brummels, music that’s more personal, eerie.

But then I heard “Quittin’ Time,” and it made me think Wallen was the new Springsteen, but it was better than anything the Boss had cut in years, “Quittin’ Time” had the feel of “My Hometown,” but a bit less poignant, yet it was a slice of life all the same…

And like with “Livin’ the Dream” the sound is what hooks you, but in this case the lyrics are key.

“Quittin’ Time” sounds like what the guy sitting in the corner of the roadhouse is picking on his guitar, whether people are paying attention or not. “Quittin’ Time” is heartfelt without being maudlin, it’s down but there’s hope. It’s what music does best.

“Puttin’ in that overtime and comin’ up with nothin’

Sure as hell ain’t for lack of tryin’

There’s no use wastin’ time in fightin’ for somethin’

When you see that white flag a flyin’

Can you hear that whistle blow?”

With the title “Quittin’ Time” and the line about the whistle blowing, never mind the overtime, your mind thinks of the factory, at least those that still exist, blue collar jobs, too often boring and now underpaid, where you put in your time like in a prison and then get out and try to drown away the depression.

“There’s all day thinkin’ time

And all night drinkin’ time

And time to sing or time to find if

Rhyme has a reason

Time to pack it in and stay down

Pack it up and walk away now

And give it one more day or call it a season

I can tell by the tears not in your eyes

It’s quittin’ time”

It’s a sentence, you can’t even cry, and then…

“There’s somethin’ to be said for sayin’ what needs sayin’

A suitcase says it all to me

Before the credits roll just know I always loved you

So we wrote that famous final scene

Where you turn and walk out on me”

Wait a second, this isn’t about a job at all, this is about the end of a relationship. How do you know when it’s time to go? There are people who leave, what’s hard for them is to stay. And then there are those who once they commit can’t get out, and then those who wait for the other person to make a move.

Now Jackson Browne laid this down right in “Late for the Sky.”

“All the words had all been spoken

And somehow the feeling still wasn’t right

And still we continued on through the night

Tracing our steps from the beginning

Until they vanished into the air

Trying to understand how our lives had led us there”

We’ve all been there. Other than those who married their first loves. That night when you lay in bed and talk it out for hours and realize when conversation stops, it’s over.

“Awake again I can’t pretend

And I know I’m alone and close to the end

Of the feeling we’ve known”

I know no better words about this feeling, but Jackson doesn’t write this kind of music anymore. And he’s into a band sound, which is less intimate, and he’s been in a committed relationship for years, maybe you have to be in the throes of turmoil to write this stuff.

“There’s somethin’ to be said for sayin’ what needs sayin’

A suitcase says it all to me

Before the credits roll just know I always loved you

So we wrote that famous final scene

Where you turn and walk out on me”

She’s in charge. This is the opposite of hip-hop, pop lyrics. The man is not always in control, he doesn’t always make all the decisions. And when Morgan sings about the suitcase…you can see it by the door, maybe you’ve experienced it yourself, you come home to your shared abode and something is different, stuff is missing, you know a change has come.

And the movie metaphor works well, the credits and the final scene, with her leaving him.

“Every start has an end

Every first has a last

Every now has a then

Every future has a past

And sometimes you want it back”

It’s guys who can’t let go, who can’t get over the breakup, they may not talk about it, but they feel it.

Now I doubt you’ll ever hear “Quittin’ Time” on terrestrial radio, I’m not sure there’s a format for it. Sure, country radio could pick it up, but right now it’s mostly still focused on trucks and beer, good times, broad stroke laments, not intimacy that’s not a paint by number picture dream, everybody’s a pretender.

But it’s songs like “Quittin’ Time” that make people music fans, forever, hungry for one more hit of what’s contained therein, the essence. We play our records to death and then we want more, where do we look? First and foremost to those who made what hooked us, but too often success hobbles them, too often we have to wait for years, at least Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” has thirty tracks, it takes a very long time to digest.

And it comes down to the song. And how it’s played and produced. It’s an elixir, it can be created in an instant…actually, the less thinking and the more channeling the better it is, the more you build the track from the ground up, from disparate elements provided by different people, the further you get from the magic.

Now Morgan Wallen had a hand in writing “Livin’ the Dream,” but not “Quittin’ Time,” that was composed by Eric Church, Luke Laird and Josh Thompson, all of whom are over forty. Experience counts, music is not inherently a young person’s game. Now Eric Church is a country music titan, rejected by rockers because of his below the Mason-Dixon line vocal. To make it in rock… Just like the Brits sing like Americans, you can’t have an accent in rock, to the point where rockers ignore Church, to their ultimate detriment, listen to his live album “Caught in the Act”…it’s as powerful as any classic rock live twofer, the energy is palpable, and the tracks are loaded with hooks.

And Church may be country, but his ethos is different. Kind of like Steely Dan used to be rock, but nobody else sounded like them. Well, not quite like that, but the point is Church is not part of the Nashville factory, and he doesn’t trade in clichés, he speaks from his heart, his own.

And Morgan Wallen sings this song like he’s lived it, even if he didn’t write it. Delivery counts. If you sing the song like you’re reading from the now nonexistent phone book you’re missing the point, and the song. You’ve got to add emotion, you’ve got to know when to melisma and not, but too often in today’s overloaded world we focus on the extreme, if you’re not outrageous, you don’t get notice.

And “Quittin’ Time” is not outrageous, it’s intimate, it’s personal, it’s human, it’s life.

And most people won’t hear it. But those who are exposed might become attached, like me.

And walking down the trail all I could think was I couldn’t wait until the pandemic was over, so I could go see Morgan Wallen. In advance I’d play the album over and over until I knew it by heart. And I’d sing along with the multitudes during the loud numbers, but when he played “Quittin’ Time,” he has to play it, that’s what a fan believes, I’d have my head in the air, staring blankly into space, as I marinated in the sound, with a warmth pouring through my body. It can be fun to see the oldsters, but there’s nothing like finding a new fave, wanting to see them in concert, having that desire, for that experience, wanting and needing to connect.


“How Volkswagen’s $50 Billion Plan to Beat Tesla Short-Circuited – Faulty software set back a bid by the world’s largest car maker for electric-vehicle dominance”:

Will Tesla win in the end?

Everybody said it wouldn’t, and most people still believe that the stock is overvalued, but the truth is making an electric car is much more difficult than it appears.

Volkswagen represents the bleeding edge of major company electric car development. Early mover BMW has pulled back. As for the American companies…they’re so busy getting the public to purchase overpriced, bad-handling SUVs that one wonders if they’ll ever be able to succeed on the electric tip. GM and Ford say they’re trying…

But not like Volkswagen.

After Dieselgate, VW decided to turn itself around, to redo its entire roadmap and focus on electric. And they failed.

Disruption is still happening. Twenty years later. As for those arguing about the changes wrought, trying to bring back the past via legislation, I point you to Tim Ingham’s recent article in “Music Business Worldwide”: 

“The Harsh Reality About the Music Business, and a Pantomime Led By Clueless Self-Regarders”:

Ingham is angry, and it has improved his usually dry writing. Tim is sick and tired of every musician believing they’re entitled to make a living from streaming music. Disinformation rules. Kinda like yesterday’s story about Gary Numan saying he was only paid 37 pounds for a million streams. Were they self-selected streams or were they radio? Were they ad-supported? Was it for songwriting/publishing or recording?

The musicians are ignorant. Seemingly the bigger career you’ve got, the less you understand the modern music business, especially streaming. As for re-education… It really doesn’t matter, the ship has sailed. But they’re having hearings in the U.K., and Ingham addresses these. But most interesting is his figures after taking participation of the labels and Spotify, et al, out of the equation… There’s just not enough money for everybody to make a living on streaming music, just like there was never enough money for everybody to make a living in the physical era. I keep saying this, thank god someone else is. It’s kinda like the disinformation that has people still believing that Trump won the election, and I get e-mail every day saying that… The story that streaming is the devil echoes in its own impenetrable chamber and it’s a sexy story that riles people up more than the truth…that making a living in music is hard, and ultimately for the very few.

As for user-centric payments… The only study so far says that small artists get paid even less, but we can try it, fine with me, but don’t expect to get rich!

So it turns out making cars the old way is very different from making them the new. The old way, perfected over a hundred plus years, is to focus on mechanics, manufacturing, but in electrics the key is software, which can be updated over the air as your car sits in its garage.

De rigueur with Tesla, non-functioning with VW.

Yes, VW has sold electric cars that need to be brought to the dealership to be updated. These cars are stripped down, because the company just couldn’t get the software straight. They had various teams working on it, and merging it all together…nearly impossible!

As for the mental state of the employees:

“The biggest challenge, said Mr. Hilgenberg, isn’t the technology, it is the mind-set of the people – their reluctance to embrace radical change until circumstances force them to. ‘In the middle of success it’s not easy to understand why you need to change now,’ he says.”

Sound familiar? This is exactly what the dearly departed Clayton Christensen warned of two decades ago. And the question becomes will Tesla gain so big an advantage that it can never be outpaced?

Everyone said the big boys would triumph once they got in the game, they’d kill Tesla. It hasn’t happened, and the Model S has been in the marketplace since 2012, it’s not like the signs weren’t obvious.

Kinda like in the music business…

Napster got traction in 1999 and the labels ignored it, they were too busy banking the profits of overpriced CDs. Then they thought they could kill file-trading with legislation. Then they tried to compete with clunky, copyright-protected systems. And ultimately, the industry ceded distribution to third parties. First Apple, which ended up being behind the ball itself, it was superseded by Spotify, and it’s Spotify that killed piracy, with its ad-supported tier, created by a young man with no history in the music business. Is Tesla Spotify?

Spotify’s value keeps going up. As for the labels, the company went public and Warner sold all its stock, and Sony half, meanwhile the value of the doubled has doubled, talk about not believing in your own business…

As for the major labels themselves, anyone who predicted their doom forgot to realize that they owned the history of recorded music, their catalogs, which they’ve used to extract huge advances from streaming companies, and which represent a huge portion of their revenues, never mind having essentially no costs…no marketing, no manufacturing.

So, all the news today is about an Apple Car. Belief is that manufacturing will be outsourced, today the word is it will be Kia. Apple has factories in Asia make their computers and phones, could they do this with automobiles? Or do you need to make the whole thing? WE DON’T KNOW YET!

But back to the labels… All the action in the past few years has been outside their purview, the latest being TikTok. Can you say “Old Town Road”?

Now the truth is in order to insure their market share, major labels overpay for hits. If you can generate one, they dangle huge sums in front of you. Sometimes it pays to take the money and run. But if the deal is not so rich, are you better off being independent, especially since the marketing tools are at your fingertips? Furthermore, the majors’ market share is padded by the distribution of indies, their true share of revenue has actually gone down, their piece of the pie is less. And, the labels are more savvy, but they’re not very nimble…now that music is a gold mine once again, with revenue rising, expect third parties to enter the sphere, especially as most tech investments become moon shots, very few being successful.

So people have been making fun of Elon Musk for years, now he’s the world’s richest man. Remind you of anyone? Steve Jobs! Who was an exile and then came back to turn Apple, the laughingstock of computer manufacturers, especially after the introduction of Windows 95, into the most valuable company in the world!

In other words… If you’re looking for the future, don’t ask people working at the big companies. Also, the media gets it wrong time and again, if for no other reason that those on the beat are uneducated in the minutiae of the sphere. If you want to know what is going on in the niche, you’re going to end up reading relatively obscure online writers, there’s a deep expert in every category, but they don’t play the big media game, if they even care.

Which brings me back to MSN… Don’t you remember? MSN was gonna kill AOL!

But AOL was smart, at the peak of its valuation, it merged with Time Warner. Steve Case was right, he employed his leverage to move the company’s ball down the field.

Ultimately, both MSN and AOL failed. Because it turned out that portals were just an intermediate step, and that high speed access would become a commodity business sold by the cable companies and telcos and that all the money would be in search and its advertising, and Google’s sale of advertising all over the web.

As for Facebook…it conspired with Google re advertising. That’s the latest lawsuit if you’re paying attention. But the deal happened while regulators, elected officials and even big media were not paying attention.

As for Facebook, Zuckerberg saw the future. He pivoted to mobile. And he purchased WhatsApp and Instagram. As for WhatsApp, anybody who’d traveled outside the U.S. was aware of its dominance, but most Americans don’t leave its borders, and too often those who do are old and not tech-savvy.

It all happened in plain sight. Just like with Tesla. And Volkswagen.

Used to be cars were sold on how they look. Tesla realized this, and hired a hotshot designer, but the truth is that’s not what is selling Teslas, it’s their software, which most people just can’t see. Teslas just work. Kind of like Macs, but not quite. So far, no one has been able to equal Tesla’s battery efficiency… This is another rule of tech, never rest on your laurels, keep innovating or you will be left behind. Sure, patents are important, but the key is to look forward, not back.

Who knows, maybe the traditional automobile manufacturers will ultimately catch up with Tesla, but right now they’re years behind. No company ever truly competed with the iPod, and then Apple morphed it into the iPhone. A separate device to play music? That seems so quaint! As for Android…it dominates in handset sales, but profits are low and it turns out everybody with a dollar, who is willing to spend, is on iOS, its App Store kills Google Play, and its much more secure. But, Google made Android free. Is someone going to make electric car software free? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Once again, the paradigm is repeated over and over again. In one industry after another, it’s just a matter of time. Don’t lament the loss of the new, look to solutions in the future. Read yesterday’s “New York Times:

“Three News Hubs, 24-Hour Coverage: The Times’s Global Relay – From New York to Hong Kong/Seoul to London, journalists can collaborate around the clock to report on a breaking story.”:

News never sleeps, just like rust. There is no downtime anymore. If a story happens anywhere on the globe at any time the “New York Times” has people on the case, they have bureaus in 30 countries. How is the local newspaper supposed to compete? IT CAN’T!


Turns out the revenue online doesn’t come from ads, but subscriptions. And the only way to compete locally is to flip the script, forget about national and international news and go hyperlocal, in both stories and ads. The reason Fox News focuses on opinion and gets its facts from the “New York Times” is they don’t have a concomitant footprint around the world, nowhere close!

The big get bigger… Online, every store, every song is right next door, you can’t compete on price, and if you’re not the best, if you’re not dominant, you’re probably an also-ran.

How do you switch a manufacturing company into a software one? It turns out it’s very difficult. Furthermore, it’s been proven that usually software succeeds, has fewer flaws, IF FEWER PEOPLE ARE WRITING IT! Yes, you just can’t throw more programmers into the fray, it just doesn’t work.

Now VW hired a guy from BMW to pull all its software together. The aforementioned Dirk Hilgenberg was frustrated with BMW, pulling back its reins on electric, focusing on profits as opposed to the future.

And Hilgenberg created a new group at VW, known as the Artemis project, to pull it all together. Turns out that a huge chunk of VW’s electric car software was written by third parties, and it never worked together. Does this remind you of Boeing?

Forget the 737 MAX, Boeing’s got much deeper problems. It employed the Japanese system, with outsourcing and just-in-time, but it turned out third parties were not reliable, and in airplanes, reliability is key.

So maybe Elon Musk was right, unless you’re responsible for everything, doing everything in-house, you just can’t deliver a quality, working product. Volkswagen could not. Can Apple? Good question…

You must be willing to throw away the past to succeed in the future, you must not try to prop up failed efforts, you must be willing to write them off. Zuckerberg did this with mobile software… Facebook spent two years developing a mobile app based on HTML5. But it was a piece of crap! So Zuckerberg canned it and started from scratch, writing a native app for the iPhone. Meanwhile, Facebook did both of these before most established companies even had a high functioning mobile app, never mind porting their business to it. Can you imagine the state of Facebook without mobile? DEAD!

So we’re decades on, and old companies are still being toppled. And then there’s the inane book business, run by invested in the past oldsters, who do all their business on computers but then physically print the final product. How dumb can that be? Isn’t that like making vinyl records, a niche business? More and more people read everything digitally. But, the publishers were aided by an ignorant government that forced Amazon to change its sales structure despite the case being about Apple’s iBooks. In order to protect the public, the government ended up INCREASING the price of e-books. Proving, once again, that if you’re depending on the government to understand technological change, you’re sorely mistaken. So now an e-book can even cost more than a physical book. Thank god this ship has sailed in the music business, digital dominates and it’s the on demand streaming platform that generates all the revenue, that keeps on growing, that has created a recording revenue renaissance!

What did Bob Dylan say?  To lead or get out of the way? We don’t need more managers, we need more innovators! It turns out those who think outside the box, who cannot make it in the company structure, create the future and change the world. Most MBAs can read a spreadsheet, they just don’t know how to build a company, or run those that exist, keeping them alive by disrupting them constantly!

Beware of buying an expensive gasoline-powered car in the future. Turns out they’re going to crater in value just like those 35mm Canons and Nikons. Electric has already won the future. If you don’t know this, you’re the opposite of a seer. Don’t get too comfortable where you are, because change is constantly coming. And the future has positives and negatives, but many more of the former. Sure, there are no more vent windows in cars, but they all come with air conditioning. And digital music does not skip. And electric cars pollute less.

But you’re probably not a leader. The fascinating thing about the Volkswagen story is the leaders were clueless too!

Michael Des Barres-This Week’s Podcast

A descendant of royalty, Michael Des Barres has had more record deals than seemingly anybody, from Silverhead to Detective to Chequered Past to solo, as well as acting in “MacGyver” and scores more movies and television shows. Recently a documentary of his life was released, “Michael Des Barres: Who Do You Want Me To Be?” We cover the film and so much more!