A Note From The Front


I’ve been sick as a dog. And there’s nothing worse than being unable to ski whilst at a ski area. I could check myself, apologize somehow, for not only being in Vail but choosing to ski at all, but that’s exactly the point. You think everybody is watching, you think everybody cares, when in truth almost nobody is or does. Even if you’re world-famous you can ignore the haters. Because hating is an activity these flamethrowers love to engage in. It’s their raison d’être.

In other words, we no longer live in a cohesive society. This is what Covid taught us. Nobody was in control. And it does not only apply to illness.

So last night we were watching this documentary on Netflix entitled “Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?” I’d never heard of it, and you probably haven’t either, but Jared Leto recommended it in the “Wall Street Journal”:

“I recently binge-watched: ‘The Alcàsser Murders.’ It’s a Spanish true-crime series. The other thing I recommend is ‘Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?’—about an Argentine murder. Trust me, watch it.”


I made a note in the Notes app on my iPhone. I’ve got one for series and one for movies, but we barely ever watch movies. I guess that’s my main point here, we are living through the eclipse of the baby boomers and they don’t even realize it. Oldsters revere movies. Youngsters will watch anything that interests them, from a few seconds to many hours. And if it’s good, they don’t want it to end, they want it to last. Despite being labeled with short attention spans, they love to binge.

There’s an hilarious story in today’s “Hollywood Reporter” wherein Hollywood players lament the demise of the theatrical business and believe it will come back.

“Kim Masters on Hollywood’s Year of Wishful Thinking – This year brought some big box office wins — never underestimate Tom Cruise — but mostly it was a time for film execs to stanch bleeding, rethink radical change and figure out how to get consumers to magically forget all about that whole direct-to-streaming thing.”: https://bit.ly/3FH0hSh

Talk about living in a bubble…

Executives have short memories. The past is prologue, the music business was the canary in the coal mine for digital disruption and the main lesson that was learned is you never ever try to hold back the future, the customer is now in control, you satiate the customer, you don’t alienate them, or else you die.

The issue was whether films going directly to streaming during Covid killed the theatrical business. There’s a belief that just opening in theatres boosts a movie. But, I ask you, in this era where there’s no network Must-See-TV, how do the studios plan to get the word out? The Netflix home page real estate is worth more than any advertising. As for advertising, it’s anathema. Did you read today’s “Wall Street Journal”?

“Netflix’s Ad-Supported Tier Was Its Least Popular Plan, Analytics Firm Estimates – Streaming giant’s ad-backed plan accounted for 9% of new signups in the U.S. in November, according to subscription-analytics firm Antenna”: https://on.wsj.com/3HVv9kL

Here’s a quote, just to make it perfectly clear:

“The plan accounted for 9% of new Netflix sign-ups in the U.S. during the month. Some 57% of subscribers to the ad-supported tier in the first month were people re-joining the service or signing up for the first time, while 43% downgraded from pricier plans, according to Antenna.”

It’s a disaster. Cannibalization at best, and de minimis to boot, but the Netflix brass listened to the Street, which only cares about money, and isn’t so savvy to begin with, and wasted all this time and bread just to find out that people don’t want to see ads, that the money is in the premium product, which Netflix used to be perceived as. The world’s most valuable company is Apple, why did Netflix choose to be Android, with tons of market share but almost no profitability? Meanwhile, Apple’s smartphone penetration in the U.S. keeps going up, it’s over 50% today, and even the less wealthy will pony up for what they perceive is a premium product, for their self-image.

Anyway, back to “Maria Marta.”


It’s subtitled. Oops, there goes two-thirds of the audience. Be my guest, I don’t care, the joke is on you. That’s the beauty of streaming, product doesn’t have to be for everyone, just someone, as long as I keep paying my monthly subscription fee.

Zaslav is getting all the ink, but he’s running the Warner assets into the ground. The fight for streaming subscriptions is not over, not every company will survive, and the way you assure your continued existence is via enough product that you satiate your entire customer base, and more. I gave up on “Stranger Things” after the first season, but I didn’t can Netflix because it’s got such programs as “Dead End.”

It’s a six part Polish series. It could be remade in English to be a blockbuster. It’s both drama and comedy, but I’d never call it a dramedy. A dramedy is a network show, funny but with fake gravitas. Whereas “Dead End”…

I read about it in the “New York Times,” I think it was in the newspaper, but it was also included in its “Watching” newsletter. You should subscribe. The dirty little secret is most newsletters are worthless. If for no other reason than people can’t write. You subscribe, skim, and then disconnect. Maybe you’re going to do that right now with my newsletter! But the point is raw information is just not that interesting. It must be presented in a palatable way. And do not trust subscription numbers, if people don’t cancel subscriptions they are paying for (there are constant articles how to review and cancel your digital subscriptions, even an app for that), lord knows they let free subscriptions continue. The issue is whether the newsletter has an effect on people, makes them think. Almost nothing does. And in a world where there are so many options…

But this paradigm affects all verticals. There’s a myth that in this data-driven age that numbers are everything, but they’re not, impact is. But impact is much harder to quantify. As is attachment. Do people need to read what is written? That’s the issue. Also, he not busy being born is dying, if you keep doing the same thing people have seen the trick and burn out and move on. But then there are those who don’t want you to ever change. But evolve or die. Bob Dylan taught us this.

So, “Maria Marta” is another one of those true-life documentaries about a death. I’m only halfway through, and there are only four episodes, but I’m riveted.

Oh, you can get confused, with not only the subtitles, but the Spanish names. However, you get a window into Argentinian life. Makes you want to go there. Then again, they ultimately reference the danger, but too many Americans think everybody else in the world lives a restricted, subpar life, whereas when you watch “Maria Marta” it is clear this is untrue.

But the reason I’m writing about “Maria Marta” is not the content…

Oh wait, I’ll make one point. I don’t expect any big revelation, I realize that ultimately “Maria Marta” is just about people, humanity, and that’s what interests us most. I.e. the success of TikTok. We live for the gossip, what are other people thinking, their choices, we love to peek into their lives, and if you give them a view… This is what has been lost in too many art forms. In trying to be everything to everybody, the work ends up broad and no one can relate to it. Whereas the personal is what truly resonates.

Anyway, the real reason I bring up “Maria Marta” is… She died in 2002, and now it’s twenty years later. Seems like only yesterday, but two decades have passed.


Future shock. Baby boomers certainly have it. Gen-X’ers too. Even some millennials.

You see the kids in college today only know a broadband world. They expect everything to work right out of the box. They know that clothes are really expensive or really cheap. That a sandwich costs fifteen or twenty bucks.

It didn’t used to be this way.

You keep trying to square today with yesterday and you can’t, this is the mistake of the movie studios, time has moved on.

Digital means access and convenience, anything that undercuts these two elements will fail, unless it’s a quaint one-off. No one is going to line up for concert tickets anymore, it’s too much of a waste of time. You did it, but you also went to college with a typewriter without spellcheck.

So you can see how the people have aged in the twenty years since the death of Maria Marta. The prosecutor’s hair turned white. Others filled out, got lines in their face. You’re just moseying along, living your life, and you don’t realize you’re burning the candle down. You’ll want all those hours back, but it’s too late, no one can turn back the hands of time.

So, I got old. If you’re lucky, it will happen to you. And as you do your vision of the landscape will disintegrate. So much you thought mattered will not. You’ll wonder what you want to do with the time left. And you’ll feel like nobody in the world is on your page.

You’re older, you’re smarter and wiser. You wouldn’t do what Sam Bankman-Fried did.

But you do need something to believe in. Which is why you might be attached to your political position, but really that doesn’t matter much either. I’m not saying elections don’t have consequences, but like George Carlin claimed, the owners of this country want to give you the illusion of control, but you ain’t really got it.

Do I want to get into politics?

If you read two articles this week, and I know you’ll read neither…


“How Trump jettisoned restraints at Mar-a-Lago and prompted legal peril – The inside story of how Trump transplanted the chaos and norm flouting of his White House into his post-presidential life, leading to a criminal investigation into his handling of classified documents that presents potential legal peril”: https://wapo.st/3hBMCUN

Ignore the headline, even if you’re a Trump diehard you should read this article, because ultimately it’s about Trump’s day to day life after the presidency. I’ll make it clear, here’s a quote:

“Trump is hardly the first ex-president to struggle with life as a private citizen after the heady experience of holding the world’s most powerful job. Bill Clinton, for instance, filled hours in his first months after leaving office holed up at home in Chappaqua, N.Y., bingeing TV shows and movies he had missed as president on a TiVo gifted to him by the Hollywood director Steven Spielberg.”

They’re just like you and me! They lost their big job and don’t know what to do with themselves! Just like a rock star after a world tour. They end up nearly alone in a room and at loose ends.

In other words, they’re no different from you and me.


“Putin’s War – A Times investigation based on interviews, intercepts, documents and secret battle plans shows how a ‘walk in the park’ became a catastrophe for Russia.”:  https://nyti.ms/3FJvLY6

Putin was clueless, in a bubble, operating on bluster, and we believed all of it. Yes, point to someone who knew Russia wouldn’t immediately conquer Ukraine… I can’t find anyone.

So the bottom line is… What else is untrue? What else is pure bluster?

Can you see the similarities to Elon Musk?

But my inbox is full of fanboys testifying. They don’t realize they’re expendable. Everybody’s expendable but Musk and Trump themselves… Look at history, they survive, you don’t. And once Wall Street woke up to Robinhood, the professionals won and the amateurs lost. Just like with crypto. In other words, information and experience are king, but everybody today thinks they can play at the top because they’ve got the digital tools. NO!


I  could laud the “Post” and “Times” here, but it wouldn’t make a difference to nearly half the country. They believe the spin, that the two are irrelevant, even though everybody telling them that reads them religiously.

Information is king, it’s accessible at your fingertips, but people would rather accept spin.

You can’t make sense of it. Impossible. So how do you live your life?

This is the question. You want to belong, you want to feel part of something, but you look at the landscape and see no home.

As for recommendations… I trust Jared Leto more than any critic, because he invested his own time, off the clock. Would those music critics listen to those records if they weren’t being paid? No. So I’ll listen to the hoi polloi. Well, not everybody, I’ve got my trusted sources, and so do you.

In other words, who is buying the party line?

There’s this gross division between the institutions and the public.

And all the baby boomer parameters have evaporated.

Like scarcity. There’s too much stuff, not barely enough.

Price. Some of the best stuff is incredibly cheap. And if it breaks, you just throw it away and buy a new one. Most people don’t want to fix their devices. Old computer gear is nearly worthless, you’ve got at least two old computers in the garage.

And the boomer disinformation… Keep your old smartphone, get off of social media… These people are so lost in the past it’s hilarious. And the funny thing is even though I lauded the “Times” above it’s one of the worst offenders. Yes, the “Times” is a club, that’s how the reporters make themselves feel good, by being members, feeling superior, when oftentimes they’re clueless and lost in the past. But when it comes to world events, they’re the best. Laugh all you want, Fox News does no reporting, it’s only opinion. As for the website you follow…

Oh, now I’m entering the debate.

My point here is we are living in an age of loneliness and alienation, and everybody keeps telling us the way to solve our problems is to return to a past which is dead and buried.

Confused yet?

I certainly am.

Comments are closed