Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dust Off that Business Casebook

Borders Files Bankruptcy, Closing Up to 275 Stores

I can't help but wonder what the failure of Borders implies for other mediums. The store specialized in making you feel at home, creating a place where you could spend a quiet afternoon reading and drinking coffee. Problem is, coffee aside (and sometimes not even that), no one ever bought anything...just as though they had stayed home. It practically invited folks to use the cow indefinitely without ever ponying up for the milk. The "give all your content away and eventually maybe someone will reimburse you somehow" model may end up being another case of unsustainable groupthink. If shoppers' consciences could always be relied on to generate revenue, we wouldn't have security devices in stores.

Remember, during the tech bubble, people thought Internet companies didn't need profits. Weren't price-to-earnings supposed to be replaced by something like price-to-clicks? I don't recall that craze ending well. Eventually, potential consumers must be transformed into actual consumers, as in willing to shell out actual money for content.

My personal business model can be found at!/greatMikePayne

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Doors of Misperception

Cultural pressure and government fiat can’t hide this uncomfortable fact any longer: “Riders on the Storm” is not a good song. Longtime Doors' producer Paul Rothchild is said to have denounced early versions as “bad cocktail jazz.” Far too kind an assessment. Upgrading “Riders” to bad cocktail jazz would require full reconstructive surgery. When I think bad cocktail jazz, I think harmless background noise that at least offers some relief from the suffocating silence of our inner doubts. “Riders” can’t even give us that much.

The song tries to set an eerie mood using rain and thunder sound effects and cinematicish lyrics:

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirming like a toad

These lines might be acceptable if they weren’t riding the same bus with headscratchers like:

Like a dog without a bone
An actor out alone


Girl you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand

Surely you can’t be serious, Mr. Morrison?

Now contrast the words of "Riders" with the beguiling pop verite found in earlier songs like “Soul Kitchen:”

The cars crawl past all stuffed with eyes
Street lights share their hollow glow
Your brain seems bruised with numb surprise

Those are lyrics that stick to your memory like an old flame; the type that makes you grin mischievously whenever you think of her. "Riders" is more like that one night stand that was so bad it reaffirmed your atheism.

I am not a Morrison hater. When I was an adolescent, I was an obnoxious junior Lizard King. I bought Jim’s poetry books. Read the poems. Resisted the nagging suspicion that they were as tedious as the bad teen poems I was writing.

Each year when The Doors rolled out their annual FINAL BEST OF NEW UNDISCOVERED OUTTAKE DEMOS LIVE FROM MORRISON'S CRYPT!(MONEYGRAB REMIX), I was the moron who actually bought it. I didn’t stop there. I even owned An American Prayer; the posthumous album featuring Mr. Morrison reading his poems over a score played by the surviving Doors. I had it on CD and cassette. True story.

Would you still be my friend if I confessed to once hanging a Doors poster in my room?

The first two Doors albums are so good that if aliens ever land here, they should be presented as peace offerings. That being the case, maybe it's unfair to use their early work as a watermark for judging the rest of their career. Still, I wouldn't call “Riders” one of their finer hours. The song was once used in an English tire commercial, and as far as I’m concerned, it should spend the rest of its days providing the soundtrack for flattened squirrels.

Break on through with me on Twitter:!/greatMikePayne

Monday, February 7, 2011

Practical Love Songs Part 2

When people think about songs of hardship, a name that comes to mind is John Mellencamp. He was born in a small town, he’s going to die in that small town, and along the way, he’s going to chronicle every loose lug nut that befalls the forsaken folk who inhabit that small town.

But many neglect to learn from John Cougar’s ultimate hard luck anthem: “I Need A Lover.” I’ll let Mr. Mellencamp tell it:

I need a lover that won't drive me crazy
Some girl to thrill me and then go away
I need a lover that won't drive me crazy
Some girl that knows the meaning of a
Hey hit the highway

A very biting and perceptive lyric. One reason so many couples are a mess is because they have obscene expectations of each other. When describing what their future mate MUST BE LIKE, it seems no whim is too absurd. Tell me this doesn’t sound familiar:

I want someone who knows when I’m happy. I want someone who knows when I’m sad. I want someone who knows when I need to be hugged and when I need to be bear-hugged. I want someone who knows when the muffins are done without having to look at the timer. Someone who can whittle a chair with one hand while massaging my back with the other. Someone who knows I like to be bitten on that little bump of skin behind my right earlobe that I’ve never bothered telling him is an erogenous zone and that not even my dermatologist can find…

Gee, with such simple requests, hard to imagine why the divorce rate is so high.

Mellencamp knows that all you need and all you should dare to expect is someone to thrill you…and then go away. You have heard that distance makes the heart grow fonder. You have heard that familiarity breeds contempt. John Cougar subtly reminds us of the accuracy of these sayings and throws in a pop hook for good measure.

What I’m proposing friends is that you manage your expectations. If you expect everything from a lover, you’ll be left with nothing. That is something both Jack and Diane can agree on.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Frequently Answered Questions

Those who electrify millions frequently find themselves stomped by a ceaseless march of questions. I have found the same thing happens when you electrify two people. The fans never stop sniffling about how you owe them your innermost thoughts. Like Tom and Jerry, the public and private sides of me are forever sparring for rank. Cosmo says vulnerability is a turn-on, so I’m going to answer some of the common ones:

Are you really only 5’5”?

Yes, but when you’re under 5’8”, it is best to go with centimeters, so I prefer to say I’m 165.1 cm. Fee fi fo fum. With just a slight adjustment of the measurement terms, I make Yao Ming look like a snapped dandelion. Height is in the eye of the rulerholder.

Is your height the reason you are so bitter?

“Bitter” or not, I’ve been this way all my life, even when I was 5-years-old and everyone around me was short too. Then they grew and I didn’t. Through it all, my “bitterness” never fluctuated. I never changed. I’m pretty sure there was a Springsteen song about this.

Why do you hate everything?

I have a very wide range of interests. If I wrote about them all, no one would care. Especially not me. Plus my life contains only three or four tales of triumph and they are boring enough to be comedy chloroform. Seriously, almost all triumph is boring. I admit to hating everything about triumph.

Why aren’t you famous?

Fame is mostly random, and the roulette wheel hasn’t stopped on my number. It never will. Sure, actions I could have taken to tempt that randomness, like constantly network with bookers/comics, I have not pursued with enough vigor. I couldn’t network my way into headlining a brown paper bag. I also don’t have a face that inspires long term investment.

Okay, you’re not famous, so when are you going to quit?

I’m held hostage by the psychology of previous investment. I’ll give up when it is time. Hopefully “time” is this year.

Why aren’t you writing for a show like Letterman?

Because he wanted to pay me in soiled million dollar bills and I have a thing about germs. Writing jobs like Letterman are hyper-coveted and a wee tricky to come by. You don’t just find them on People often spend years bouncing around with titles like “contributing writer” before they land a steady gig on a solid show. A better question would be, given all the crap on television, shouldn’t some of these guys be called “subtracting writers?”

Have you ever won any awards?

No, but I was recently nominated for the “Distinguished Achievement in Not Trying to Be Bill Hicks, Jim Norton, or Mitch Hedberg” award. It was an honor just to be nominated.

After a show I saw you standing near me and you didn’t say hi. What did that mean?

It meant you weren’t a hot chick I was trying to have sex with.

Do you get lots of chicks after shows?

No. And my chances are only slightly better before the show.