Getting The Story

ASK QUESTIONS

People will tell you anything, but you’ve got to ask them.

This was my father’s mantra, YOU GOTTA ASK!, to the point where I developed social anxiety, I was embarrassed every time he’d engage, but he was right. He also taught me to be nice and make friends. People react positively to niceness. And the game changes, used to be if you said you were a lawyer, you got respect, now people become defensive and give you worse service. Furthermore, my father taught me how to prove a point, by making analogies, by telling stories himself. He’d always call for the president of the company, the person who could make a decision. If the person on the line said the president was out of town, or unavailable all day, my father would ask for the person who would run the company if god forbid the president died, there was always someone in charge. This taught me not to waste time with the person who cannot make a decision. I know, I know, they’re nice, they’re part of the hierarchy, you’re building a relationship, you’re gonna hug the company to death. But if the person in charge says no, you’re screwed, so it’s best to go to the top right away, no matter what anybody says. And the stunning thing is you can reach the top, especially today, with the internet, via Twitter. But don’t be a jerk. If you call the person an a-hole, they’re not going to respond, but if you lay out your problem they oftentimes will, Michael Rapino responds to e-mail and tweets, he wants his customers to be satisfied. But if you’re the squeaky wheel, always complaining, always looking for an edge, you’re gonna win and then ultimately lose, because people can detect this behavior, you don’t want to be a schnorrer. So if you’ve got a problem, if you think there’s an injustice, make contact with the person who can make a decision, who can solve your problem. Tell a story, length is no issue, unless you’re on Twitter, you want to demonstrate that you’re reasonable, but in this case things didn’t work out. Remind me when we’re together to tell you the story of the K2 skis, and my Apple Powerbook…

GAIN BACKGROUND

Today’s story was all about Bill Browder. Who? If you were paying attention, playing the home game, you read my article about his book “Red Notice“.  Putin is pissed about the Magnitsky Act, which Browder made happen. I could explain the news, but if you’re not reading it… But my point is Browder illustrated what is really happening in Russia, the Magnitsky Act is in the news multiple times a month. Furthermore, if you trust Putin today, you didn’t see “Icarus,” wherein Putin lies straight to our faces, that’s right, Bryan Fogel lays out the facts and Putin denies them. Being a citizen of the world is being informed. You can’t know everything, but you want to know a lot, if for no other reason than when you run into someone you know what they’re talking about. Happens to me all the time, someone starts telling me a story and I’m familiar with what they’re talking about because I read the news in the WSJ or the NYT or Bloomberg. The news itself may not help me in my life, but the fact I’m up to speed in conversation pays incredible dividends, people bond to those who know their story.

BE PERSONAL

This relates to the first paragraph above. It’s about people, not facts. I had a two hour lunch with a record company CEO today and we only talked business for five minutes. It’s about the bond, if you keep pitching without a relationship, you’re not gonna get what you want. You have to KNOW these people! That’s how you get a job, no one wants to hire someone they don’t know. They want someone to vouch for you, someone who is intimately familiar with you. That’s right, you cannot get a gig without a connection, and that’s a GOOD thing! Because the world runs on trust and you need people you can trust, you can’t supervise people 24/7, you need to know they’re not only not criminals, but they can do the job, which is all about finishing, which most people cannot, they’ve got so many excuses. If someone blows deadlines, get rid of them/ignore them. There’s rarely a good excuse. They’re just waiting to feel right so they can do the best job, better to find someone who can get the job done, even if it’s not perfect.

ANALYZE

Information is nothing without context. Figure out how to put the pieces together. This is what an elite school will teach you, one with essay exams as opposed to objective tests. I know, I know, there’s this Ivy League backlash, and I’m not saying you cannot make it if you’re from another school, or cannot make it without schooling at all, but that’s a very thin layer of people. What elite institutions do is teach you how to think. It’s not about covering what’s in the book, if you can’t read, you’ve got bigger problems, but how you put the pieces together. Sure, this act grossed a lot last time around, but does that mean they’ll do well this time? Or the gross number is big, but the dates didn’t go clean, does this mean the fanbase is moving on?

ASK MULTIPLE PEOPLE

Don’t trust one person for the answer, even if he or she is an expert. The more people you talk to, the more perspective you get, the more things become clear. This happens to me all the time. I’ll go to one store and hear one story and then to another and that salesperson will contradict the first and then I go to a third establishment and the pieces start to come together. And all information is not created equal, this is the 10,000 hours rule. It’s not about 10,000 hours of practice, it’s about 10,000 hours of HARD practice! If you spend 10,000 hours on the bunny hill, you’ll never be a World Cup skier. So find people who’ve tested themselves.

MOST PEOPLE ARE FULL OF CRAP

Intentionally or not. There was a great story in the NYT a decade ago that independent auto repair shops are not intentionally ripping you off, they’re just incompetent, they think they’re doing a good job. Just because the person telling you the story is confident, that does not make it true. And as a matter of fact, the best sources are frequently less than confident, because they know what they don’t know, they’re always re-evaluating their position. And it’s a rare male who will tell you he does not know something. And males are about ego. They want to look good. So, on many issues, you’re better off asking a woman, if they have expertise in the area.

CONCLUSION/TELLING A STORY

It must be logical, laid out, told in a linear fashion, from beginning to end. I don’t want to go all middle school on you, but too many people don’t know how to tell a story. It’s not important to tell the premise or conclusion first, just that the audience be able to follow it. You’re taking them on a trip, building an edifice, just because it’s clear in your mind that does not mean it’s clear in theirs. Although you will find some people cannot follow a story, no matter how clearly you tell it. But when you tell a story coherently, with confidence, people respect that, you’ll move up the food chain, because no boss can do all the work, they depend upon subordinates, who report to them. They want you to do the work and report. They don’t want to hear your dog ate your homework, what you ate last night, unless it’s relevant. Length is fine, as long as the listener has time.

DON’T HOG THE FLOOR

Don’t talk unless you have something to say, when it comes to business anyway. Some people abhor silence and feel a need to fill it. Train yourself to hold back. He who speaks first rarely triumphs in the end.

LIFE IS MADE UP OF STORIES

Which is why television and movies are so triumphant. It’s all about the narrative, that’s how we communicate. Listen and tell. And if you listen, once again, people will tell you ANYTHING! Because in this alienated, narcissistic world, no one cares how another person feels. There are too many show-offs. You want to make the teller of the story feel comfortable, feel attended to, feel loved. If you hit a roadblock, back off, but this is rarely the case. People not only want to talk, they want to help, as long as you’re not obviously using them. If you’re lucky, you’ll never have to get to the ask, the person will offer what you want. If you do get to the ask, don’t see the person as a vehicle, someone to be used and discarded. It’s great if the ask benefits the person asked, but if not, if it’s to your benefit, it’s best if it’s about a problem you have as opposed to jetting you to the top of the class.

COMMUNICATION

Voice, phone calls, text, tweets, that’s what they’re all about, communicating and connecting. And the irony is so much of what is done online is about bragging…I did this or that. Think about entering someone’s heart, that’s where the dividends lie.

Happy Together Tour

There wasn’t one song everybody didn’t know.

That’s the difference between yesterday and today, the ubiquity of the hits. If you were alive, you heard them, they penetrated not only the airwaves, but society, and these acts had a bunch of them.

The surprise was the Cowsills. They were so tight, the harmonies so perfect, it was amazing, you noticed, as you did the band that backed up all the acts, they were superb, proving once again that real music can triumph.

In the sixties.

The other jaw-dropper was Chuck Negron, who sang with oxygen, I kid you not. I even sang along a bit with “Joy To The World,” which I absolutely HATED back when, but with the passage of time…

But this was not a nostalgia show, they were not tugging on our heartstrings, and that was so weird. I expected to sit back in my seat and have the sixties flash before my eyes, but really it was all about the songs, it was a celebration of the songs, you sang along to all of them.

There was a video screen that showed hair products during the Cowsills, did you know Dippity-do had sunscreen? But other than that…

This is a low budget production, even the screen is small. And those in attendance are not hip. The upstairs was filled with the nearly-dead, purchasing their seats on Goldstar. And speaking of upstairs, where we sat, the sound system was inadequate, couldn’t they afford some sound reinforcement for the upper deck at the Saban?

The show began with the Malibooz, who played some surf rock and Walter Egan’s hits, “Magnet and Steel” and “Hot Summer Nights.” It was the latter, and that’s my favorite Egan number, so that was good.

The Cowsills… They were ersatz back then, a slightly hipper Osmonds, but now…

They’ve been knocking around L.A. forever, gigging, waiting for another chance. But the system doesn’t give you one, that’s what players don’t realize, it’s not only how good you are, but whether the label, management and radio want to afford you an opportunity. At least back then you could play in bars, sustain yourself, it’s even harder today. And I found their rendition of “Hair” cringeworthy back in ’69, but here it was good, but not as good as “The Rain, The Park & Other Things.”

Mark Lindsay wanted to convince us that no time had passed. He too had video, of the Paul Revere and the Raider days. And he performed the hits, I liked hearing “Just Like Me” and “Good Thing,” but when he kicked his leg up with “Kicks” I winced… You’re over seventy, so much of the audience is addicted to Grecian Formula, can you act your age, get rid of the sunglasses and shiny suit? But once a teen idol, too many are locked in amber, even though the audience ages, it’s a bit creepy.

But the Association acted its age. In matching white jackets and shoes. And I don’t know why this act doesn’t get more love, their songs were SUPERLATIVE! Not only the not-cheesy “Cherish” and the upbeat “Windy,” but the exquisite “Along Comes Mary” and “Never My Love,” it was their songs that made me feel best.

As for Gary Puckett…

I’d seen him live back then, just as “Young Girl” was rising on the chart, they played it twice. But last night the sound was amped up, it all became a wash. And could you sing “Young Girl” today, I doubt it!

As for Chuck Negron, he’s a survivor, send him to schools to scare students straight. But his voice is mostly intact, powerful, and he’s so happy to be there…

But Howard Kaylan was not.

Huh?

He was never that thin.

Have we hit that era, where acts are trying to fake out the audience?

But the Phlorescent Leech, aka Flo, aka Mark Volman, told us that Howard was in the hospital, they’d thought of canceling the tour, but the show must go on! And his replacement was Ron Dante, of Archies fame, Dante’s a legend, it was good to see him live.

But the stunning highlight of the “Turtles'” performance was…

PEACHES EN REGALIA! That’s right, the opening cut on Zappa’s “Hot Rats,” I was astounded. Yes, it’s played live on “Fillmore East,” two tracks after the Mothers with Flo and Eddie go into “Happy Together” and…

That’s last night, the performance ended with “Happy Together.”

Now that I have memories of. It brings back Stratton and Steph, but really it’s about the sound of the introduction, it’s heavy, pregnant with meaning, we think about them day and night, we do, imagine how the world could be so very right, and then…

IT IS!

Bah bah bah…

You couldn’t help but stand and sing along. Actually, one of the shocks of the evening was the standing ovations, but in this case you weren’t standing for the performance, but your own life, remembering the optimism, the hope.

And now it’s all these years later, you are who you are, you made your choices and you have to accept them, it’s too late to turn back now.

And to a degree the joke is on the acts, they’re prisoners of their success. Have a hit or two and you can’t give up. Then again, these people did it for the applause to begin with. And at this point, a lot of the audience members are richer than the performers, they might not be famous, but get older and fame becomes a joke, why would you want it, it’s meaningless. But the songs…

This evening was a celebration of the songs. Which are blue chip. They don’t sound anything like today’s “hits,” they’ve got melody and changes and were from an era where everybody had a transistor and was listening incessantly. Music drove the culture, we followed it like the World Cup, heroes were larger than life. And there was a dearth of information, you had to go to the show to see them.

And some acts have survived with their reputations intact. Paul McCartney, of course. And Paul Simon. Certainly Bob Dylan.

But most…

Are in the rearview mirror, no matter how big they were at the time.

But so are we.

These songs are the story of our lives.

Sing along.

I CERTAINLY DID!

Harry Styles At The Forum

It’s the girls who know how to have a good time.

Boys think they control the show. That they are the inheritors of the scene. That they’re what makes it all go forward. But women are the grease, without them the engine doesn’t turn, and the engine was humming last night!

So it’s a secret.

Welcome to 2018, where we’re inundated with news but no one has their finger on the pulse. You’d think Drake is the biggest act in the world, but his shows are not selling out. Sure, there are multiples, sure, prices are high, but if you want a ticket you can get one.

But not for Harry Styles.

His original band, er, act, 1D, had few hits. So how did they sell out stadiums?

Via the internet, the word was spread. And there’s no internet chart, nothing that will tell you what is bubbling up, what is hot, where it’s all going. Oh, there are a lot of prognosticators, usually men, who tell you they have all the answers, but the truth is in today’s world no one does, it’s a veritable Tower of Babel, and if you weren’t in attendance last night, you’d have no idea how big Harry Styles is…

AND HE’S GIGANTIC!

Niall Horan may have more radio hits, but Harry is selling something more than music – sexiness, attraction, connection. To be at a Styles show is to fantasize he’s in love with you, and the amazing thing is it’s plausible, because he may be peacocking, but he’s somehow human, approachable, he’s the man of your dreams.

And he’s a rock star.

This is a rock show.

Forget all the words you hear about dancing and production. Except for the flashy lights, this could be the seventies. There’s a four piece band backing Harry up. It’s all about the music. And the music hearkens back to the past, do you remember MELODY?

It’s like the evolution into hip-hop nation never happened.

And the little girls understand.

But they’re not so little anymore. They’ve grown up. These are the same girls I saw at the Rose Bowl four years ago, but now they’re women, they’ve stuck with Harry, they not only know the old One Direction numbers, but the new ones too, they were there for a celebration.

And Harry delivered it.

First and foremost, he acted the part. Just like Rod Stewart in the early days of the Faces. They were not begging for your attention, but turning on their magnetism and drawing you to them. And Harry had some of Rod’s moves, with his hands up by his head, prancing, it was thrilling to watch.

And unlike Taylor Swift, he’d grown up.

The world is riddled with teen phenom has-beens. Who could never outgrow their puppy love days and replicate them through lines in their face and heart failure. But Harry decided he would evolve, in both music and performance, and that’s a revelation. He didn’t just remake 1D, he went off on his own journey, based on his own taste, AND HIS AUDIENCE FOLLOWED HIM!

It was 95% women. Sure, there were some men in attendance, but whole rows were filled with females. Standing through the entire show. Singing along at the top of their lungs. Sometimes screaming. Short ones, tall ones, big ones, small ones. Not a single one self-conscious, all letting their freak flags fly. With their heads in the sky, when they weren’t pointing their phone cameras at Harry.

Who ran down the middle of the arena to a second stage in the middle of the show. And the fascinating thing was he played to those in the far-back seats, he faced them, not us up front. Playing acoustically. The modern world is all about faking it, about the trappings, but Harry could play and sing and the audience swooned.

There was an Ariana Grande cover.

But there was also a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” a forty-year old nugget. These girls wouldn’t know that, WOULD THEY?

OF COURSE THEY DID!

They’re aware of their rock history, they know who Stevie Nicks is.

And as the show wore on, Harry shed his distance, talked more, engaged as a regular person without becoming schmaltzy. He made a phone call to patron’s mother. He had the assembled multitude sing “Happy Birthday” to three in attendance, one of whom, the guitar player, is dating the drummer…

That was the revelation. I didn’t notice the ponytail at first. But she was pounding like Mick Fleetwood, with flair. She was better than the boys with tattoos, she’d been recruited from Hot Chip.

And the keyboard player was also a woman.

And unlike the rock stars of yore, Harry Styles did not come off as sexist whatsoever, he seemed positively up with the times, while channeling the past.

But if you weren’t there, you wouldn’t know it.

Boys are smug, think they know better, sit in judgment.

It’s the girls who can let loose. Especially when there are no boys around.

But boys wouldn’t know how to act around these girls/women. Boys are afraid. They can’t be free. They huddle amongst their peers and make snide comments, try to get up their gumption to speak, when all the girls want is a partner, not in crime, but in joy.

And you would have observed all this last night, if you’d been in the sold-out arena, where they even sold the seats behind the stage.

But you missed the memo.

As for those in attendance?

THEY NEEDED TO BE THERE!

Strzok

Defiant. Knowledgeable. Unrehearsed. Intense.

THAT’S A ROCK STAR!

I don’t care which side of the aisle you’re on, whether you’re a Trumpster or not, one thing is clear, you weren’t gonna mess with Peter Strzok.

For far too long the government has been demonized. Taxes. Unions too. Inept people sucking at the tit of the American economy. The right has defined the debate, the left has remained silent, or played into the right’s trap. To the point where people believe government doesn’t work and all politicians are bad and the best idea is to put the government in a tub and drown it.

BUT I’M GLAD PETER STRZOK IS ON OUR SIDE!

This is the guy who captured the illegals. This is the guy who inspired “The Americans.” This is a patriot. This is someone who takes his job seriously. While you’re posting to Instagram, he’s saving your ability to do so. WHAT AN INSPIRATION!

That’s right, I grew up in the sixties, when government was good and you admired the G-Men, I remember buying a book about the Secret Service from the Arrow Book Club, we went to D.C. and marveled at the institutions.

And then Kennedy was shot and hope went out the window.

It hasn’t been the same since.

A worthless war, with too many innocent people killed.

Then a decade of licking our wounds.

And then, starting in the eighties, an endless dash for cash, you’ve got to unfetter the people, RIGHT? You’ve got to take the chains off the corporations, the job-creators, RIGHT? And those job-creators who just got such a big tax cut, who got to repatriate their foreign assets, did they create jobs? NO! They just gave the money back to stockholders, leaving the little man out.

The little man has been left out for far too long.

We venerate the techies, who contributed to this problem. Strzok was concerned about Russian interference in the election, geniuses like Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg didn’t think it existed.

Thank god there was someone looking at the problem.

We venerate entertainers, whose goal is to become a corporation themselves, when they’re not sucking at the tit of companies, looking for sponsorships. It’s hard to believe in someone who flies private and gets paid by the man, ever hear of a CHILLING EFFECT?

Probably not, you didn’t go to law school, but you consider yourself an expert on the Constitution, after all, you hear about it on Fox News every night, the Founding Fathers, as if they could see the future when you couldn’t even see streaming when it was already HERE!

So Strzok is OFFENDED! You’re not gonna mess with him, he’s gonna PUSH BACK! DAMN THE CONSEQUENCES!

Two can play this game, not only Trump and his cronies.

This guy dedicates his life to the system and now they want to crap all over him?

NO WAY!

This is inspirational, he’s Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.”

Like every antihero in the movie business. American heroes.

Only they weren’t real, Strzok is.

And this game of GOTCHA!

He doesn’t deny he texted, like Trump denying stuff he says which is actually on tape. Rather he owns it. Because he’s HUMAN! We’re all imperfect, you and me especially. Sure, we make mistakes, we are not choirboys, toeing the line 24/7. And don’t we want these nuanced people? You’ve got to cross the line every once in a while to uncover where it’s actually located.

So this guy dedicated his life to the government. He believes in his job. Even though he can’t fly private and can’t sit in the front row. Even though he’s faceless. The work is enough. The penumbra is irrelevant.

But in America at large it’s all about the penumbra, the trappings, fame, the machine needs it, ever more so in this constant news cycle.

But then someone with character and backbone stands up after being picked upon and we experience a reset, we’re reminded what life is all about.

You’ve got to have principles.

You’ve got to believe in your work.

You’ve got to stand up for your beliefs, you can’t just be an obsequious hanger-on.

You’ve got to have character.

That’s right, America has a crisis of character.

And no one expected an FBI agent to point this out, re-center our attention, just by being himself.

We’re used to overprepared weasels who sit there like we’re all friends, like we all get along, when the truth is behind your back they’ll stab you.

With Strzok what you see is what you get.

And not only is that a relief, THAT’S INSPIRING!

P.S. If you’re one of the right wing idiots too dumb to cogitate, who responds with politics, you’re missing the point. That’s like saying you hate pop music so you can’t see the excellence in Adele. An educated person can distance themselves, analyze a situation, acknowledge greatness. But when it’s all about us versus them, it’s no different from the Hatfields and the McCoys. You laughed at them, I hope you’re laughing at yourself now.