Month: April 2017

R&RHOF On HBO

R&RHOF On HBO

http://bit.ly/2oNbBrx

We’re only just passing through.

Or, as Paul Simon once sang, “every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.”

Not that Mr. Simon was in attendance. I remember when the R&RHOF began, before the building was erected in Cleveland, when all those original acts were crowding for inclusion, the dinners alternated from NYC to L.A., and all those execs arranging their evenings…

Are either dead or out of a job, they just don’t go anymore.

So you see an empty cavern of a building, the Barclays Center, not the low-ceilinged juke joint where the music got started, but an emporium made for money, to jack up the grosses, and the women down front rattle their jewelry and the people up in the rafters are unseeable and you wonder what you’re doing watching this show.

But it’s HBO.

HBO was the Asylum Records of television. Everything on it was good, or at least for a while anyway. Just like David Geffen’s new label back in the seventies. But now Geffen’s in the South Seas with Oprah and the Boss, Tom Hanks too, wasn’t Obama on board? And instead of us all being in it together we’re stratified and separate and the only thing linking us together is this music.

Which sounds surprisingly ersatz.

That’s right, ELO, or what is known as Jeff Lynne and a bunch of underpaid nobodies, were positively creepy.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE “Eldorado,” to this day. But seeing this aged talent with his dyed hair singing “Mr. Blue Sky” made me feel like that had been a hit half an eon ago and deserved to be forgotten, that it wasn’t that good to begin with, better not to unearth old gems.

And come on, who doesn’t wince when Jann Wenner takes the stage? The man who just sold half of his crown jewel, the pamphlet known as “Rolling Stone,” to stay afloat?

But then Joan Baez gets inducted and they show footage of her singing with Bobby Z and you start to tingle and wonder what the hell is going on here.

That’s right, music sucks on television. It was cool, way back when, in the era of Ed Sullivan, even “In Concert,” because it was so rare, just the chance to see these personages was a thrill. But now with the internet and everybody available seeing your heroes on TV just disappoints. Whatever it is they’re selling just doesn’t come across.

And then it does.

The coolest cat of the evening was Snoop Dogg, who came across as eloquent and sincere. Illustrating that progress happens and if you’re married to the past you’re soon to be left behind. Then again, the era Snoop was talking about, the mid-nineties, was twenty-odd years ago and something’s gonna come along and replace rap too. Yup, it’s gonna happen. Rock and roll is not forever and neither is hip-hop, but music is.

Highlight of the evening?

YES!

Not because they were so good or so together, even enjoyable, but because they sounded so DIFFERENT! A Martian could land on earth and not believe he’d already seen it, he’d stick around trying to digest it. “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” sucked but when they were playing “Roundabout” you remembered what a breakthrough the song was, what pushing the envelope was all about.

That’s what our rock stars did before, that’s what we’re waiting for them to do now.

And come on, if you saw these people on stage, they couldn’t do anything else. It’s just that in their era, musicians were kings, now they’re dopes, fodder for idiots, as opposed to the tech and finance titans, the ones with the real money. The joke is on those dying to get rich where there is no cash. Believe me, it’s not in music. But when you saw Geddy Lee playing bass with his heroes on the aforementioned opening cut to “Fragile” you saw a joy that one cannot get from mazuma, that’s the power of music, to light you up from the inside.

And can we exorcise Lenny Kravitz from performing anything until he has another hit?

And I burst out laughing when Alicia Keys said she’d never met Tupac. Then why is this second-rate talent on stage, taking up our time?

But Steve Perry was gracious and the new/old Journey sang “Don’t Stop Believin’” and suddenly you didn’t, stop, that is.

We’ve moved beyond AM & FM. Moved beyond network television. Moved beyond HBO. Moved beyond wankers like Wenner telling us what to like.

But that does not mean we are not human, we do not have desires, that we don’t want to partake.

This overlong show just illustrated there was something in the past, the question became what is coming in the future?

I don’t know, but I do know it won’t look like anything on stage. The same way “We Are Family” sounds nothing like “Sweet Little Sixteen.” It will be birthed by people like Nile Rodgers, following their muse as opposed to the money. It will be art for art’s sake, oh well, the gangsta executives will make sure they get paid, and a bit will trickle down to the performers.

We’ve got YouTube stars and Snapchat and Instagram heroes. Yet we expect musicians to occupy the same place in the firmament. But to think that is wrong. We’ve got all the time in the world for a great ditty, that’s the power of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but just because music ruled the baby boomers’ world, triumphed on MTV during the heyday of Generation X, that does not mean it’s still the same, not at all.

So what I’m saying is I refuse to be nostalgic and say it was all great, give everybody a break and a pass and a leg up, saying they deserve attention.

No, watching this show I know there are some geniuses, like David Letterman, but not Eddie Vedder. It’s not that Vedder’s a hack, he’s just unaware of the limits, never mind being too far inside the box to see its walls. When Letterman showed a pic of his kid smoking you laughed, basked in the irreverence of someone who knows institutions are not to be trusted.

HBO has become an institution.

The R&RHOF has become an institution.

Rock and roll has become an institution.

And institutions are all about self-preservation, they abhor change.

But it’s your job to tear them down.

You’re part of a vast army pushing the culture forward. Like I said, it doesn’t have to be music, but it can be.

And music, when done right, is only secondary to sex.

But just because Robbie Robertson wrote “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” that does not mean he gets to be in the room. Hell, I don’t get to be in the room. We’ve all got to give up and make way for what’s new, we’ve got to stop celebrating what once was and open our eyes and ears to those pushing limits we can’t even see.

Like Tupac.

Like Dylan.

Like our heroes of yore.

There will be heroes tomorrow. I’m not even sure of their values. How important cash will be, conception is always key, but I do know when I experience their wares I’ll be wowed, titillated and testifying.

I’m waiting…

Marketing

via Lefsetz Letter http://bit.ly/1UlTzoa

April 30, 2017 at 10:33AM

Fyre Festival

Fyre Festival

http://bit.ly/2oNaY1i

Everybody likes to pile on.

Rather than focus on the big issues, like Trump giving back to the rich, the great unwashed would rather concentrate on the foibles of a long in the tooth rapper and a greedy tech entrepreneur.

Then again, that’s the world we now live in, one where everybody believes they can do everything. A failed real estate entrepreneur with multiple bankruptcies under his belt can become President and people with money and fame can become concert promoters.

It’s a professional business, a skill, requiring boatloads of money and relationships. To believe you can become a successful concert promoter overnight is to believe you can shoot hoops in your backyard and instantly start for the Warriors.

Come on, we’ve seen this movie before. Nearly fifty years ago. Acts were ignorant, promoters were greedy and the experience was bad. INDOORS! Every outdoor festival was a financial disaster, sure, socially it showed that zillions of people could get together and celebrate their culture without killing each other, except at Altamont, but it took eons to figure out American festival promotion. Hell, the Woodstock reprises just about put a stake in the paradigm.

But you’ve got celebrities and athletes testifying as to its worth so it’s worthy, right?

WRONG!

That’s the seamy underbelly of today’s world. Everybody’s being paid, no one’s being trustworthy. Near-unknowns feature products in YouTube clips and if you’ve got an audience there are corporations itching to give you money to promote their products and no one does any due diligence, other than to see that they’re gonna get paid.

And you’ve got an ignorant populace that believes you can cut taxes on everybody and have the economy boom and that each and every fan is entitled to a front row seat at sticker price.

And you wonder why disasters like this happen.

Focus first on the attendees. Why in the hell did they pay to go? Looking themselves in the mirror like Stuart Smalley and saying they’re hip enough, cool enough and rich enough that they deserve to go on a private island getaway where they can revel in their status. Wrong! You can’t buy your way inside, backstage is off limits, you’ve got to earn that. So when someone says if you just pay enough you’re a member of the club, know that the club is not worth joining or you’re not getting inside. Yup, buy that platinum McCartney ticket and expect to have a long dinner with Sir Paul. Ask him about his marriages, discuss your children’s schooling. He really cares, he really does. Just like Adele and all of the other acts you want to see.

You’re just one of a zillion fans, admit it. Either get on the bandwagon early and see them in a club or overpay on StubHub to be thrilled to be inside the building.

So I’ve got no sympathy for the wankers who bought in to this festival, this is the same Instagram crowd spending all their time illustrating they’re better than you and me, forget it.

And then there’s the greed of the promoters.

That’s right, festivals are one of the few places where promoters can actually make beaucoup bucks. Otherwise all the revenue just goes to the acts. Create an event and you can get rich. But history tells us most events lose money for years. So, only those with deep pockets in the business continue, make the investment. Believe me, without Staples and the 02, AEG would not be launching new festivals, something’s got to make up for the loss.

But everybody’s greedy, everybody’s looking for the easy buck. We keep reading how everybody’s getting paid, why can’t I? The techies, the influencers, all the empty suits.

So you end up feeling powerful that you can post, but this isn’t the media of yore, where only a few outlets could afford ink, it’s essentially free to everyone, all you need is an internet connection to complain.

And complain you do. About Fyre Festival, United Airlines, the service at the local emporium. Makes you feel good, that you’ve got a voice, right?

No, the truth is the techies and the corporations and the politicians are running circles around you, most negative publicity is just a blip on the radar screen, United broke that musician’s guitar and then its stock went UP!

So what we’ve got here is bread and circuses for the masses, while the rich and powerful rape and pillage. And, as per usual, the sea of nobodies would rather take down a celebrity with a name, whom they know, like Ja Rule, than educate themselves and take down someone really powerful, like Robert Mercer, or the whole damn Federalist Society.

Don’t know what that is?

Then you don’t know why Dubya became President and Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court and if you don’t think those things matter, you’re not a relative of one of those guys who the state killed after our new Justice tilted the table and said it was o.k.

Actions have consequences. Which is why this Fyre Festival is such a disaster.

But the inability to educate oneself, to wrestle with the big issues, to take a stand, is a much bigger problem.

Just read the front page of the newspaper.

Oh, you don’t have to, you get all the news you need on Facebook!

Marketing

via Lefsetz Letter http://bit.ly/1UlTzoa

April 30, 2017 at 10:33AM

Great, Not Good

Great, Not Good

http://bit.ly/2pdPEjY

David Itzkoff: “You tell a story in one of the episodes about seeing a prime performance from Sam Kinison, whose world did not exactly intersect with yours. Did you get something out of that experience?”

Steve Martin: “Oh yeah. You know when someone’s killing it. But not always immediately. Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to think about it. You have to go, What did I just see? I say the goal is not to be good – it’s to be great. The idea is to have the audience leave, and say, ‘You’ve got to see this.’ You have to work backwards from the result.”

“Steve Martin on Teaching You (and Himself) How to Be a Comedian”

My favorite story on this subject is told by one Richard Griffiths, manager majordomo, but before that a record exec, a publisher…and an agent.

Richard booked a gig in a basement club for Paul Kossoff’s Back Street Crawler, with the opening act being AC/DC.

Only one problem, on the way to the gig, Kossoff perished on the plane. But AC/DC performed anyway. To six people. Who just stood there silently as the band went through its entire act, parading Angus on shoulders throughout the venue, the whole deal. And when the music stopped, the attendees bolted. Richard was crestfallen, but an hour later, the club was overflowing… You see each and every one of those attendees had run out to a pay phone to tell their buds…YOU’VE GOT TO SEE THIS!

And history was made.

And then there’s the tale told by Al Kooper, music’s own Zelig, who famously produced Lynyrd Skynyrd. The first LP had just come out, “Free Bird” was far from being an FM staple, and Al got a call in Atlanta, where he was living, where the studio was, from Ronnie Van Zant in Jacksonville, saying the band had just written a new song and they wanted to come in and record it right away.

Al said yes, and within the week they did. But the track sat in the vaults for a year.

I asked Al did he know, that the song was gonna be such a giant hit.

And Al told me…IT WAS SWEET HOME ALABAMA!

Greatness is undeniable.

But hard to achieve.

In the era of scarcity little got made and less got promoted. And the barrier to entry was so high, wannabes were excluded. Every town has got a band that didn’t quite make it, that sold out every dance, got an indie deal, even made a record. And when you listen to those LPs you’re not wowed, thinking the country missed out on genius, but that they weren’t quite good enough.

This is hard to tell people, they don’t want to hear it.

This is like so much in life. If you’re downtrodden and unkempt, chances are the supermodel does not want to date you. If you’re broke with no track record, you cannot get five minutes of Lloyd Blankfein’s time, never mind Mark Zuckerberg’s.

But today people believe they’re entitled to it.

Greatness is elusive, hard to achieve, but when you do, you know it.

I had this conversation recently, where a drummer told me nobody knows what’s great, nobody knows what’s a hit. That’s untrue, ask any creator. When you hit it far over the fence, YOU KNOW!

And people want to hear it and own it and spread the word about it.

Hell, I even had this experience myself two days ago. I’m reading all this hogwash about the Twitter numbers, how they’re going to disappoint, how the company is on the downswing, and my blood starts to boil. Less because I love Twitter than I hate conventional wisdom, groupthink, no one wants to analyze, say the unspoken, they just want to get along.

And then a synapse fired and I had to run to the computer, I had to weigh in on this.

And I did.

And then all hell broke loose.

I immediately heard from Richard Greenfield, the number one Wall Street analyst:

Subject: I’m only guy with twtr buy rating
Based on everything u basically said

Then, minutes later, far under an hour after I’d hit send, I heard from Jack Dorsey:

Re: Twitter Results

Bob, this is amazing. I’m biased but: you’re spot on. Thank you for your work and support. This note is an immensely helpful reminder of what’s important for our team.

Thank you.
Jack

Then Ben Thompson, of Stratechery fame, @benthompson, tweeted:

Good @Lefsetz on Twitter http://pic.twitter.com/qshJVcMIpp

And them my Twitter feed blew up. Four figures worth of retweets, you could watch the window scroll.

And when I woke up Wednesday morning, eager to see Twitter’s ultimate financial results, I’m reading the “New York Times” article and as I get to the end, the only analyst quoted, closing the article, is ME!

“Twitter’s Business Shrinks, but Investors See a Glimmer of Hope”

Now let’s be clear, I don’t have a PR person, I didn’t say a word on any social network, didn’t implore my friends to spread the word, I did nothing other than HIT SEND!

Of course I have an audience, probably larger than most bands plying the boards, but I’ve been building that audience for three decades, through multiple formats, I’ve never given up, and without the internet it would be so hard to reach these people.

But who the hell am I? Just a wanker with no office, no receptionist, no Armani suit, none of the trappings you’re supposed to need to play.

All I had was my brain and my experience.

Let’s be clear, if I’d been busy promoting myself I never would have had time to do the research to be up on this story. But I don’t call it research, I call it FUN! I love to follow the news, figure out what’s happening. And people can tell whether you’re interested or not, whether you’re informed or not.

And I don’t think what I wrote about Twitter was the best piece I’ve ever composed. But it had a truth and a validity and an insight that was unavailable in this whole wide world. That’s right, while you’re busy making me-too music with the usual suspects what people are really looking for is something different.

And I’d be lying if I told you all of the above didn’t make me feel good, really good. But so far not a dime has dropped in my pocket and although my Twitter feed is still rolling, @jack tweeted:

“‘It’s all happening on Twitter.’ Thank you @Lefsetz! http://bit.ly/2oU1Fsg”,

the velocity has decreased, I’m already in the rearview mirror, we live in a what have you done for me lately culture.

Which is why I will keep writing. Not because I want to get ahead, not because I’ve got a marketing plan, but because I love to wrestle with the issues and nail it.

Do I always get it right, do I always write stuff that cuts like butter?

No, although I never issue crap, I’ve been doing it too long, have too much experience to fail that way.

And this is not meant as a victory lap but an illustration. If you pay your dues, if you get it right, if you do great work, you don’t have to lift another finger, the world will blow you up, because there are very few great things out there and we all want to share them.

Marketing

via Lefsetz Letter http://bit.ly/1UlTzoa

April 28, 2017 at 10:33AM

Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme

http://bit.ly/2pdIqfW

It’s the unexpected that gets you.

Once upon a time, there was a television movie review show known as “Siskel & Ebert,” or “At The Movies” or something like that, they kept changing it as they moved from PBS to Disney and gained more fame and you might be snickering saying OF COURSE but I was skiing with an educated 42 year old last week and he had no idea who Don Kirshner was so…

There used to be movie reviewers on TV, can you imagine it? They argued about what was up on screen, something no one even bothers to anymore. We analyze grosses, but what’s actually projected is not worth discussion. Hell, if you went to college in the last century one of the enticing departments was film, you started with the French classics and moved your way up through early Warren Beatty stuff like “Mickey One” but now I think people would rather study social networks and prepare for a job than expand their minds and this is all to say that way back when movies meant something different, especially in the seventies, before “Jaws,” before “Star Wars,” when we could all quote that sandwich scene from “Five Easy Pieces” while at the same time noting the film was flawed but Bob Rafelson’s sensibility was genius.

And movies were the national discussion. Not everybody cared about football and baseball was already starting to fade, putting the games on ever later in search of ratings, when you go for the money your image suffers and you ultimately pay a price, never forget it, but there wasn’t a soul who wasn’t interested in the movies. And despite all the hoopla about “Citizen Kane” and “Gone With The Wind” I’ll argue the best film of all time was made in the seventies, “Godfather II,” not that “I” was so shabby, but all of this is to say we were hooked on story, hooked on the experience, and the newspapers didn’t even publish the box office scores, those were for insiders only.

So one Sunday night I’m watching Siskel & Ebert on tape, I watched nothing in real time, burning out multiple VCRs in the process, it was 1986, and they were talking about this movie “Something Wild.” And neither raved, but there was something that was said that intrigued me, so I went to a nearly eleven o’clock show and was wowed.

Now at this time Jonathan Demme was most famous for “Handle With Care,” with Paul LeMat and Candy Clark, which critics raved about but no one had seen. Remember when there used to be critics’ favorites? Now the critics are irrelevant, disrespecting personages doing it for the access and the perks. We used to be addicted to Pauline Kael, she changed the discourse, now not only are critics irrelevant, they’ve mostly been canned, and most work cannot even get noticed, even if championed by those in the know.

I’d seen “Handle With Care” and loved the sweetness, but was not moved, and “Melvin and Howard” never lived up to the hype, and yes, Demme did “Stop Making Sense,” but we always attribute music documentary success to the act, not the director, and we gave credit to David Byrne for the big suit, ultimately followed up by Pee-wee’s big shoes in his “Adventure” movie that broke both Tim Burton and Danny Elfman and the point is those behind the scenes are recognized last, and my motivation to go see “Something Wild” had nothing to do with its director.

And going to the movies was like going on an airplane. Crowded at peak times, empty the rest. You could go and luxuriate alone, get a first class experience for under five bucks. Enjoying the coming attractions when you were still interested in those, not overwhelmed by by movie hype, that was a product of the nineties, when Thursday night television would collapse without studio commercials, and then slid back into your seat to enjoy the main event.

I had no idea where “Something Wild” was going. Now you know the whole flick before you go, even though in most instances you don’t, only a couple of times a year at most. The theatre is for old people, really old, the parents of baby boomers who survive, and the youngsters who need to act badly out of the purview of their parents. We’ve got Jeff Daniels, who was known for the weepie “Terms of Endearment,” which would now be a Lifetime movie, you wouldn’t even be able to sell it to Netflix, and “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” the Woody Allen special effects film. Daniels was a breezy likable, barely three-dimensional guy.

As for Melanie Griffith… I’d seen her debut in “Night Moves” and had been unimpressed, her tour-de-force in “Working Girl” was a few years off, and to be honest I liked her most in API’s “Joyride,” where the children of the famous went off to Alaska in search of trouble. Some of the best pictures were B flicks. Scorsese with “Boxcar Bertha,” and Demme started off there too.

So, when Griffith accosts Daniels outside the restaurant for not paying…

Like Jeff you’ve got no idea what is happening and where this is going.

She’s just messing with him.

We all want a woman to mess with us.

That’s what’s wrong with popular culture, it’s wrong. We hear all about strong men manipulating women when the truth is most men are weak and are manipulated by women. Men are easily led and want to be. Lead a man on an adventure, surprise him, and he’ll be yours for life.

So they end up in a hotel room where Griffith ultimately chains Daniels to the bed and that’s when you realize we’re not in Kansas anymore, that something more sinister is going on, that Griffith is not to be trusted.

That’s right, you can lead us along, but you can push us over the edge. Has happened to me. When physical violence is imposed upon one, when you no longer have any control…

Well, ultimately Daniels does not turn out to be who he seems and the two of them go to Griffith’s hometown, where she’s got the sweetest mother and the baddest ex and all you can do is hold on.

And I’m not talking one of today’s roller coaster rides. I’m talking a book, but it’s a movie, where you’re not sure what is happening but you’re damn sure you want to find out, knowing the conclusion is less important than the ride.

And the bottom line is “Something Wild” is flawed. It’s two movies in one, light and heavy, but that does not mean when I exited the theatre my jaw had not dropped. I’d tell you I wanted to tell everybody about it but that would be wrong. What I really wanted to do, like in “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” was to climb into the screen and meet these people, hang out in this movie, belong.

That’s what our art used to be.

Now the music is to dance in the club. Who’d want to sit in with thirty writers and Swedes as they painstakingly construct this crap?

And the movies literally don’t star people, but superheroes.

And let’s be clear, TV is good, but that old experience of sitting in the vast theatre in the dark, that’s gone.

But we were all addicted, and we needed people to feed our habit, like Jonathan Demme.

He waxed and he waned, he won and he lost. “Married to the Mob” did not live up to the hype, turned out Michelle Pfeiffer was beautiful, but could not carry a movie.

But “Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia” were huge successes, deservedly so, but straightforward filmmaking that could have been executed decades before by someone else. All about story, and tension and…

The last Demme flick I loved was “Rachel Getting Married,” which stiffed, when did we decide that gross determined quality? Featuring Anne Hathaway this was not a star-driven film so much as an explication of the horrors of being a member of a family, where there’s always one outsider/disrupter, who illuminates the fact that you’re all related but you have so much trouble getting along, that you’re born into this inferno that might consume you if you don’t escape.

Should you see it?

Depends what you’re looking for. They tell us no one is looking for truth, even though we live it every day, that we all want escape. But what we’re really looking for is identification. Like Jeff Daniels in “Something Wild,” lying about who he really is but willing to do the right thing when pressed.

And of course there was the documentary work, like Spalding Gray’s “Swimming To Cambodia,” could a guy like Spaldeen even exist today? We’ve got liars like Mike Daisey looking to become famous, but Gray was a neurotic iconoclast who developed his own format and got noticed for it, back when that type intrigued us, back before everybody was self-promoting 24/7.
Which is all to say that Jonathan Demme was a product of a different era. When movies were king. When being a studio head was more important than running a bank. When culture oozed out of Hollywood and we were all addicted.

And Demme never took cheap shots, he always tried to test the limits, no matter what he was doing.

But he was not a party of one but a member of a legion, who believed what what was up on screen could not only change our lives, but society.

And the great thing about being an artist is when done right the work lives on, ready to infect others along the way.

But then there are people like me, who can tell you exactly where I saw “Something Wild” on a weekday night and how it changed my sensibility and my life.

That’s what art is all about.

Jonathan Demme was an artist.

Marketing

via Lefsetz Letter http://bit.ly/1UlTzoa

April 28, 2017 at 10:33AM

The Third Plate and the Future of Impact Investing

The Third Plate and the Future of Impact Investing

http://bit.ly/2qgjBhM

Our food system is broken. While we have solved the problem of how to produce lots of calories for a low direct cost, this same food system has resulted in an obesity epidemic; it is why nearly 10% of the U.S. population has Type 2 diabetes; and, most recently, it likely is playing a role in the huge spike in colon cancer for people in their 30s and 40s.

What do we do about it?

I recently read Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. Dan is a famous chef, the co-owner of the acclaimed restaurants Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The book’s title is Dan’s answer to the question, “what will the typical American dinner plate look like in 35 years?”

In response, Dan sketched three plates to show the evolution he imagines: the first plate, from the 1960s, had a large, corn-fed steak with a small side of industrial farmed vegetables; the second, from today, had a farm-to-table organic grass-fed steak with a side of organic heirloom carrots; and the third, futuristic plate, had a “steak” made of carrots garnished with a sauce made from leftover beef trimmings.

Dan’s point, with this third plate, is that the current high-end, farm-to-table, farmers’ market approach to food is a luxurious niche that doesn’t address the core issues of the food system: while the foods themselves may be natural and healthy, they are, in Dan’s words, “often ecologically demanding and expensive to grow,” and, by definition, they work at the edges of the system as a whole.

(Cue: impact investing theme music)

The Third Plate is Dan’s exploration of a better solution, a deep dive into whether the carrot-made steak really was the future of food, and what it would take to get there. The book recounts his exploration of Soil, Land, Sea and Seed – the book’s four sections – and what the future of each of these food categories might be.

Like all good narratives, this one is told through people. Each of the book’s many protagonists – whether Klaas Martens, a farmer in upstate New York, Miguel Medialdea, a Spanish biologist, Steve Jones, a seed breeder at Washington State University, or many others – are all rebels of sorts who reach the unavoidable conclusion that whether you’re growing a stalk of wheat, raising an acorn-fed pig, or cultivating the world’s most delicious fish, the only way to produce truly outstanding food is to create food that is in harmony with a broader food system.

Take Miguel Medialdea, the Spanish biologist who raises a bass so delicious that the first one Dan Barber tastes, which, unfortunately, was overcooked, is described thus:

The fish was incredible. Even overcooked and tough – even D.O.A. (“dead on arrival”), as line cooks like to say when a fillet has seen too much heat – it made my mouth water. It was so richly flavored, you’d be forgiven for comparing it to a slowly cooked shoulder of lamb or a braised beef short rib. I’d never known bass could be so delicious.

How does Miguel Medialdea’s Venta de la Palma produce such a bass? It’s a complex system of interplay between salt and fresh water, an 80,000 acre fish farm which feels like a loosely managed system in which Miguel has set up the major pieces, nudges things here and there, and then lets the system do most of the work.

I won’t attempt to describe all of the inner workings of Venta de la Palma – Dan does it better. But I was struck by a moment in Dan’s conversation with Miguel at the end of another meal, in which Dan tries to uncover the secret of what could make a bass so delicious. Was it the scale of the property, which meant no overcrowding and, therefore, almost no disease or parasites? Was it the intricate canal system, which provides a natural filtration system against pollution?

To try to make sense of it all, Dan casually asks Miguel how long it takes for one of his bass to mature.

‘Thirty months,’ Miguel muttered, seemingly to no one in particular.

‘Thirty months!’ I said. ‘It takes two and a half years to raise…a bass?’

‘Yes, that’s the average, which is more than twice the aquaculture average.’

I asked how the company could make money.

‘So far there’s profit, enough to keep us working at an optimum, not a maximum.’

This was the kind of answer Miguel, and Klaas, and Steve Jones kept on giving: that one of the fundamental constraints that had to shift in order to operate a healthy food system is a move from maximum profit to optimum profit. They propose that the only way to create the world’s best food is by creating and maintain a system in balance, and each one of them concludes that such a system is not one that is optimized for extracting every last bit of value that they, personally, can squeeze out of it.

To illustrate the point, at another juncture in this conversation, Dan is shocked by the 30,000-strong flamingo population on the farm. Since these flamingos eat 20% of the farm’s fish and fish eggs, wasn’t their presence a bad thing?

Miguel shook his head slowly, with the same calm acceptance shown in the face of losing half of his goose eggs to hawks.

“‘We’re farming extensively, not intensively,’ he said. ‘This is the ecological network. The flamingos eat the shrimp, the shrimp eat the phytoplankton. So the pinker the bellies, the better the system.’ The quality of the relationships matters more than the quantity of the catch.”

If Miguel’s job is to optimize the overall health of the system, then key indicators of success are the data, like the pinkness of flamingos’ bellies, that tell you about systemic health. Profit may result from this system, but the system is not engineered primarily to create profit.

What a fantastical notion, that profit might be a result and not the goal.

The parallels to our economic system are, I hope, obvious. When I compare the dialogue within impact investing with the conversations happening in the food system, I’m struck by how much we, in impact investing, have so far failed to have a rich, nuanced conversation about where profits fit in the new system we say we aim to create. In my experience, all conversations about profits – or returns – in impact investing quickly devolve into discussion of the financial return a given investment or strategy produces, with both sides losing when they debate the “right” level of return without a broader conversation about whether this return is a result of or the ultimate purpose of the investment.

The much deeper conversation we need to have is around whether to be a successful impact investor, or to be a successful player in an ecosystem funded by impact investments, one needs to have the willingness and the capacity to optimize for the health of the system, and not just one of its outputs (profits, or returns). Meet any of the colorful characters in Dan’s book and you come across rebellious tinkerers who bristle at the status quo at every turn, because they’ve learned, through a life’s worth of experience, that the traditional food system is broken.

Do we have a similarly clear point of view about whether the mainstream capitalist system works or is broken? Do we believe, as we watch everyone from Bain Capital to TPG to the Ford Foundation commit billions of dollars to impact investing, that we can create the kind of deep change we know the world needs if we are unwilling to confront this question head on? Are social entrepreneurs and impact investors the equivalent of food revolutionaries who see that we have no choice but to upend the whole system, or are we hangers-on to the edges of mainstream capitalism, excited to build out our small terrariums without ever questioning the bigger ecosystem?

My belief is that our breakthroughs will only come once we start saying out loud that our ultimate goal is to build a global economic system that is extensive, not intensive. And then, once we recognize that such systems can be built, to ask ourselves what it would take to move that from niche to mainstream.

My belief is that to get from here to there, we need more folks who are willing to think like Miguel. These are people who can deconstruct and reconstruct a food system (or any other system) and, in so doing, can reprioritize the factors they’ve been told to optimize. These are people who are willing to walk the long, hard, stupid road from nowhere to somewhere. These are people who won’t stop tinkering and experimenting and learning and failing and doing it all over again…until, one day, they can consistently produce an output that is better than anything that’s come before it and that enriches the health of all the players in that system.

It’s OK for us to acknowledge that we don’t yet know the right indicators of systemic health, as long as we say that we’re willing to put ourselves on the line to create them.

We start by asking: what is our equivalent of the pinkness of flamingo bellies?

The post The Third Plate and the Future of Impact Investing appeared first on Acumen.

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April 28, 2017 at 09:55AM

Today’s the Last Day to Get a Great Deal on Your New StudioPress Site

Today’s the Last Day to Get a Great Deal on Your New StudioPress Site

http://bit.ly/2oEw4P7

WordPress Made Fast and Easy

Heads up, today is the last day to get your first month free, plus no-charge migration of your existing WordPress site to a brand-new, easy-to-use StudioPress Site.

You’ve got until 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time today, April 28, 2017 to get the deal. Simply click this link and the incentives will be applied at checkout.

I’ve included the original post below for more information if you missed it. See you on the other side!

_____________________________

It’s been less than three months since we launched StudioPress Sites, our new solution that combines the ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress.

The response and feedback have been phenomenal. And the icing on the cake is that we’re already winning accolades.

In an independent speed test performed this month by WebMatros, StudioPress Sites was declared the undisputed winner. We’re thrilled, because we were up against formidable competition from WP Engine, Flywheel, Media Temple, Pressable, and Bluehost.

As you know, speed is important. If a page takes more than a couple of seconds to load, users will instantly hit the back button and move on.

But that’s only part of the story. Because unlike those other hosts, with StudioPress Sites you just sign up and quickly set up, without the usual hassles of self-hosted WordPress.

WordPress made fast and easy

The primary difference between a website builder and self-hosted WordPress is that with the former, you’re dealing with software as a service (SaaS), while the latter is … well, hosting. Not only is self-hosted WordPress a pain to deal with, it can also lead to unexpected surprises if you actually succeed (like your site crashing).

In this sense, StudioPress Sites is more like SaaS than hosting. You can set up your new site in just minutes on our server infrastructure that’s specifically optimized (and now independently tested) for peak WordPress performance.

From there, you simply select from 20 mobile-optimized HTML5 designs. Then, you choose from a library of trusted plugins for the functionality you need — and install them with one click.

Next, you put the included SEO tools to work, like our patented content analysis and optimization software, keyword research, advanced schema control, XML sitemap generation, robots.txt generation, asynchronous JavaScript loading, enhanced Open Graph output, breadcrumb title control, and AMP support.

There’s even more to StudioPress Sites than what I’ve highlighted here, but you can check out all the features at StudioPress.com. Let’s talk about the deal.

First month free, plus free migration

It’s really that simple. When you sign up for StudioPress Sites before 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on April 28, 2017, you pay nothing for your first month.

On top of that, we’ll move you from your current WordPress site to your brand-new, easy-to-use, and blazingly fast StudioPress Site at no charge.

Why?

Because we know that moving your website can be a pain, even if you’re not happy with your current host. And just as importantly, because we want you to try StudioPress Sites risk free.

Fair enough?

Cool — head over to StudioPress to check it all out and sign up today.

NOTE: You must use that ^^^^ special link to get the deal!

The post Today’s the Last Day to Get a Great Deal on Your New StudioPress Site appeared first on Copyblogger.

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April 28, 2017 at 02:21AM

Friday Link Pack

Friday Link Pack

http://bit.ly/2paJtxc

(via)

– I learned a new term: A spite house is a building constructed or substantially modified to irritate neighbors or any party with land stakes. This article is all about a red and white striped spite house in England. It made me laugh.

– James Greig speaks on self-care for the creative soul.

– Designers Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed of Standards Manual just launched a Kickstarter campaign to reissue the 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System as a hardcover book. With every book sold, a portion of the proceeds will go to Earthjustice and AIGA.

Six Danish Cheeses to try.

– A book for our times: Hope In the Dark

– How do you reinvent a workplace ritual so that it truly inspires?

– Where was Tendr when I got married and organized an “Art-Fund”. The service allows you to gift cash in a simple and elegant way.

– I laughed so hard when I saw this. Also, facepalm!

Shutterstock’s 2017 Creative Trends infographic.

– How to secure your online accounts by revoking access from third-party apps

10 Talks That Will Empower Your Work

How to organize your book collection your way. (via)

– A brief visual history of Studio Ghibli

– I can’t get enough of this Twitter Account.

We might buy the same stuff, but we don’t pay the same price for it.

– A Rainbow Flag inspired typeface.

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April 27, 2017 at 11:53PM

Ethos, Logos, Pathos

Ethos, Logos, Pathos

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This is the fourth post in my Story Gridding Nonfiction series.  To read the first, click here.  To read the second, click here. To read the third, click here.

We’ve been exploring Story Grid as it relates to nonfiction. And we’ve come up with four big categories/genres of nonfiction: Academic, How-To, Narrative Nonfiction and the Big Idea Book. As the Big Idea Book, at its best, is an elaborate combination plate of the other three, let’s pick it apart a bit more and see if we can suss out its secrets.

Where did the nonfiction Big Idea Book come from? That is, from what form did it emerge? What’s the tadpole version that has the potential to morph into a complex frog?

Fiction has shorter forms than the novel right? There are novellas and short stories. So nonfiction must have equivalent shorter forms.  Thinking about a smaller version of a Big Idea Book will narrow my focus and give me some clues about why one works and another doesn’t (Story Grid’s raison d’etre) as well as how to create one of my own.

I’d say that Ph.D. dissertations (Academic) and Operating Manuals (How-To) and Extended Essays (Narrative Nonfiction and Big Idea) would be the medium forms of Nonfiction. And fiction’s short story equivalents for nonfiction would be research papers (Academic), driving directions or Ikea furniture assembly diagrams (How-To) and short form reporting pieces like W.C Heinz’s classic “Death of a Racehorse” (Narrative Nonfiction) and Tom Wolfe’s “The Me Decade” (Big Idea).

But where did all of those things come from? Is there some Nonfiction form from which these all sprang forth?

I think there is. It’s one of those inevitable, but surprising reveals too.

It’s the form of the High School Thesis paper.

You remember those, right?

The 2,000 to 5,000 word, dry as dust compositions our English Lit teachers put us through in High School and our Professors put us through in College?

As you’ll recall, the structure of a thesis paper looks like this:

Thesis Paper Form

Thesis Paper Form

  1. Start with an inverse pyramid, moving the statements from global to specific, and then transition into
  1. Three or more boxes of supporting evidence/data/examples and then round it out with
  1. A pyramid moving from specific to general.

That’s basically it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the three parts mirror the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff in fiction.

But how do you construct these three Nonfiction Beginnings, Middles and Ends? How do you make an argument? How do you persuade someone to believe you? How do you persuade them to act?

Let’s go all the way back to Aristotle for the answer. Because his was a very good one. Aristotle suggested that there are three forms of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. And I think these are the three building blocks for Nonfiction Scenes.

Ethos is all about the bona fides of the arguer. Does the writer have the character and background to be someone worthy of trust? Is he principled? Does he have experience in the arena in which he writes? Is he an expert?

Logos is all about the evidence/the data/the backup material that the arguer/writer uses to support his conclusions. Because of the following data/examples/case studies, logically we can conclude…

Pathos is the writer appealing to the emotions of his audience to get them on his side, arousing readers’ anger or appealing to their self-interest or sense of identity. As you’ll surmise, employing a fiction writer’s Story technique is crucial for this form of persuasion.  New Journalism’s pantheon (Wolfe, Talese, Didion, etc.) knows how to create Pathos as do the Tony Robbins’ and Erik Larsons of the world.

Getting readers to “like” the writer or “root” for him to succeed in his argument is another way of making a Pathos based argument.

Or, on the other end of the spectrum, perhaps the writer wishes his readers to “fear” his “Oz-like” all-knowingness. In this case, the reader’s inability to understand is not the failure of the genius writer’s erudition, but of the novice reading the material. This approach is intellectual sado-masochism. Gore Vidal was a master of this kind of “I’m smarter than you” school.

Both “hey, we’re all in this together” and “hey, I know more than you so try and keep up” can work.

Whether they know it or not, arguers/writers confront that old Machiavellian rhetorical question Is it better to be loved or feared? with every mission statement/project they take on. Their preference (their desire to be loved or feared) reveals itself by their choices among these three fundamental forms of persuasion.

Do they include all three persuasion techniques in their global argument? Or do they rely more on their reputation (ethos) than data (logos) or story (pathos)?

How well do they transition from one form of persuasion to another?

And of course, how do they execute each technique?

With this in mind, here’s my take on the building blocks of Big Idea Nonfiction…

  • Ethos Scenes (the writer/narrator takes center stage and dispenses his wisdom)
  • Logos Scenes (the evidence takes center stage) and
  • Pathos Scenes (an emotional appeal to the reader through Story takes center stage)

Steven Pressfield masterfully uses all three kinds of persuasion in The War of Art. And he weaves his narrative in and out of one to the other in practically invisible ways.

But that’s not what makes The War of Art a book that people hold dear to their hearts. Nor is it what makes the book an evergreen bestseller.

What makes it both of those things is The War of Art’s Internal Genre, not its External BIG IDEA BOOK Genre.

More on that next.

 

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April 27, 2017 at 09:00PM