virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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A Cadence of Choice

What is the “rhythm of stillness”? An oxymoron? An invitation to pause and ponder? A whimsical poetic conundrum?

Annie Q. Syed is drawn to the rhythm of stillness experienced in those “quiet hours of the early morning before a city, town, or village takes a big yawn and stretches itself into your routine.” She dubs these rare but sacred moments Still Sundays:

“These mornings are especially unique in New York because the City doesn’t sleep but she just takes naps. And the longest naps are on Sunday mornings. I love Sunday mornings in NYC. I try my best not to have anything planned, not even a yoga class, before 12:00 p.m. If my mind is quiet enough I borrow the stillness and share some thoughts with a few friends or family members via email or a phone conversation. Some mornings I  simply wrap the stillness of a Sunday morning around a pen and put fragments on a paper.

Are you making time to be still? To listen to the stillness? This past Sunday Syed pondered a conversation she’d had with a friend who decried the perpetual frenzy and commotion of life in New York City. She wondered if, how and why stillness is possible (essential?) amidst the whirring, screeching, bumping, jackhammering, phone ringing, car door slamming, elevator bell dinging “city that never sleeps”. It is. She knows it is, and she wandered toward the reason why. Her reason why.

“New York didn’t define me; I defined New York. I believe the stillness I speak of is borne out of that carving. I can hear a steady beat inside the multi-rhythmic pulsating blend of music that can’t easily be tuned out. The tempo matches my heart. Stillness then is a cadence of choice.

At least most of the time. Carving out a space for stillness amidst the throng will open up the possibility of stillness. But there must also be room for chance, for stumbling accidentally upon these somewhat paradoxical interstices, and then honoring them. Syed doesn’t say this, not explicitly, but she recounts an anecdote that trumps any explanation.Tucked into her familiar routine of yoga class followed by pizza at an Upper West Side pizzeria, a fleeting encounter with Nina — a 78 year old Greek lady dressed in a pink skirt suit — offers an invitation to wander into the unfamiliar. Syed accepts the invitation.

If the rhythm of stillness seems to be drowned out by din and routine, it might not be New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago that have picked up the pace or turned up the volume. It might be that we forget to stop, to listen, to wonder. It might be that we’re not quite as receptive as we could be. Should be.

I’ve lived in New York City. I’ve lived in Washington, DC and Paris and Rome as well. Plenty of busy-busy in all of them. And so many reasons to ignore the old bat who says “Hello,” at the pizzeria or asks you how to find the Jardin des Tuileries. No time to stop and wonder at the thousands of tiny black birds painting paisleys in the sky above the Colosseum. Too busy to pause and listen to the girl practicing her cello at Abe’s left foot in the Lincoln Memorial. But, as Syed reminds us, there’s an opportunity lurking beneath the quotidian. Whether it’s an early Sunday morning while the “To Do” list is still snoozing, or squeezed in between a slice of pizza and a bus ride, there’s rhythm in the stillness. Will you stop to listen? To sing along? To dance?

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Annie Q. Syed (@so_you_know on Twitter) who’s inspired me plenty in recent months, and who is is one of the reasons I believe that Twitter is a midwife for real friendship! And a hat tip to the late Paul Zweig who’s The Adventurer: The Fate of Adventure in the Western World is where I first stumbled upon this idea of interstices.

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Clint Greenleaf: Future of Publishing


Brett Clay interviews Clint Greenleaf (via youtube.com)

Clint Greenleaf, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, discusses the future of the publishing industry with Brett Clay, author of Selling Change. Greenleaf disagrees with the popular assertion that publishing is dead, and instead emphasizes the sorts of changes we can expect to see in the coming year as ebook sales eclipse printed book sales and traditional publishers struggle to adapt their ecomics to new consumption and distribution trends.

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Who Needs Publishers? We All Do!

I’m glad that self-publishing has evolved from stigma to respectability. I love that worthy authors who might be overlooked by the major houses can now be read. It’s great that writers with a special niche, an established following or an entrepreneurial bent can make more money self-publishing than they would in royalties. But I’m also concerned about the future of books and the larger issue of assuring the flow of reliable information.

Here are just two reasons for that concern, based on my own recent experience.

  1. Advances. I just finished a nonfiction book that will be released this fall. It consumed the better part of three years… and the research entailed countless hours of reading, about three hundred interviews and some travel. My advance did not come close to covering the cost of all that information-gathering, but it helped. More importantly, the fact that a major publishing house was committed enough to write even a modest check was psychologically essential. Given my personal circumstances, I simply could not have sustained the effort to complete the project without that commitment…
  2. Quality control. After authoring and coauthoring more than twenty books, I was just reminded once again of the immense value of working with professionals. At each step of the way, from inception to restructuring to rewrites to finalizing the index, editors, copy editors and proofreaders made my book a better book… I’m a professional writer who takes great care with his work and has been at the business of books for over thirty years. And I still need editors…

My bottom line is this: when it comes to serious nonfiction especially, readers, libraries, reporters and everyone else concerned about accuracy and readability should rely only on books that have been competently edited. And long live advances: may they grow and may authors and their readers prosper. (Huffington Post)

Seems to me that advances and quality control in the traditional publishing industry are already sliding, hardly the inspiration for clinging to an increasingly inefficient publishing paradigm. But let’s remember that the evolution underway in publishing, from print to digital, doesn’t eliminate publishers, editors, advances, quality control, etc. Sure, self-publishing opens the flood gates which will inevitably reduce quality control of the publishing industry as a whole. But self-publishing is only one part of the switch from ink and paper to digital formats. And publishers will be important for a long time, they just will look and behave differently than they did yesterday. And books that sell, books that make money, will still incline publishers to advance them enough to get their next bestsellers researched, edited and written. That’s business!

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Are Twitter Friends Real Friends?

This isn’t a new question (or a new answer, for that matter), but Misty Belardo (@mistygirl on Twitter) underscores her affirmation with five pointers for how to stack the odds in your favor.

Twitter is a great social networking platform. It lets you communicate with people from all over the world 24/7 real time. We are always told that you cannot have real friends online and that it is impossible to have meaningful friendships with your Twitter friends. I would like to disagree. I believe that you can have real friends. There are a lot of people that I have become close with that I met on Twitter. They are a source of encouragement and a true source of joy. You may think I am nuts… It is really not hard finding wonderful people on Twitter, you just need to know how to be open to friendships as well.

  1. Don’t follow just for numbers – Twitter is your chance to really get to know real people.  The numbers may be worthless if you cannot connect and inspire others.
  2. They are not mere avatars – They are human beings that live and breath.  Twitter is full of real people that you can communicate and share with 140 characters at a time.
  3. Be Yourself – Don’t be pretentious.  People will recognize that you are being that way. Just be who you are in real life.  If they see that you are genuine, people will warm up to you.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say hello – Just like in real life, friendships begin with a HELLO, so don’t be afraid to speak out. It does not matter how many followers that person has, they will reply to you if they see that you are friendly, share wonderful info and are open to communicating.
  5. Introduce others you know – I know the coolest people and the most engaging ones because I was introduced to them by other people. I also, in turn, introduce the people I know. Giving is always much more fun, don’t you think?

via Can You Have Real Friends on Twitter?

I’ve frankly been a little surprised at the sort of friendships which can develop out of Twitter. I was a reluctant latecomer to the Twitterfest (“Tweet, Tweet, Tweet”), and I initially considered Twitter to be little more than a playful, less personal alternative to Facebook. The 140 character limit was a fun challenge, and the communications were quirkier (and often more clever) than the updates on other social networks. And the open, searchable sea of tweets was intriguing. I began to find myself “polling” twitter to find the pulse on topics that I normally would have used Google news for. Raw, unfiltered, real time information. Real people. Real social web! Sort of an open source social network. I got hooked.

I enjoyed posting more and more. And I enjoyed following other interesting posters more and more. I honed down the niches which really compelled me (ie: @virtualDavis) and began “stumbling” upon fascinating individuals all around the world who shared (or despised) the ideas, activities, ambitions, curiosities, etc. which tug my attention. Often bizarre, sometimes inspiring and ocassionally critical dialogue (trialogue, quintialogue,…) evolved. And in several cases, these virtual conversations — 140 character ping pong matches — have germinated into friendships. Real friends. So, are Twitter friends real friends? They can be. But just like the non-Twitter realm, friendship is rare, special and takes some effort. Twitter just ramps up the diversity and geography of your potential friends. What are you waiting for?

One Dark Side of Publishing Changes

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. (Anatole France)

I’m sometimes criticized as overly zealous about today’s shift in the publishing industry — away from print, paper, ink, trees, bricks and mortar production, retail, etc and toward digital, portable, shareable, multimodal storytelling alternatives — and it’s a fair criticism. But despite my enthusiasm for electronic publishing, I am also quite nostalgic/sympathetic when it comes to traditional publishing. For starts, I’m a big fan of print books. I appreciate the aesthetics of books, the psychology of books, the history of books. I love the smell of old books, the sense of color and abundance offered by shelf upon shelf of neatly stacked books. I love the visual narcotic of colorful coffee table books and the tactile joys of childrens’ books. I love scribbling notes in margins and dipping into the artifacts left by readers before me like a voyeur wandering through another’s diary. I love reading books in bed, in the bath, in the hammock, on a boat, and despite my enthusiam for the concept of electronic publishing I still haven’t made the leap to an e-reader. Audio books? I love them. eBooks? I’m still old school, aside from a few dabbles with vooks and quick gobbles via Project Gutenberg.

And then there’s the whole other concern of the people connected to the production and retail of print books… As Neil Postman points out, technological leaps forward always veil a darker, less positive side. One of those darker sides of the publishing evolution from print to electronic formats is the people whose educations, experience, livelihoods and fortunes are tied to the print publishing world. Jobs will be lost. Careers will become obsolete. People and communities will struggle.

The plant will cut down on the amount of paper it produces for the publishing sector.

“This is a strategic move,” Mr. Travers said. “We’ll still have a portion of that. That area of the market is oversupplied.”

The production of advertisements, a crucial market for Newton Falls paper, has declined as the recession has worn on. At the same time, technology including Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad — handheld devices that can display books, blogs and newspapers — is cutting into the traditional publishing market, Mr. Travers said.(Watertown Daily Times)

The ongoing impact to the music industry pales in comparison to what we can expect in the publishing industry. I get it. I lament it. I’m genuinely torn. But I also understand that time marches mercilessly, inevitably forward, and despite the ugly and painful evolution, the transition from print to electronic publishing offers a bounty of good. I’ve chosen to focus on the promise. Perhaps I need to slow down and reflect on the hurt… Thanks for the reminder, Doug Yu (aka @tourpro)!

Seth Godin Will No Longer Publish Books Traditionally

New York Times bestselling author and marketing guru, Seth Godin vows to never publish traditionally again. After over 12 books with a legacy publisher, Godin says he’s had enough.

In my interview with him today for an upcoming Mediabistro feature, Godin says, “I’ve decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I’m done. I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread … I really don’t think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically. No, it’s not ‘better’, but it’s different. So while I’m not sure what format my writing will take, I’m not planning on it being the 1907 version of hardcover publishing any longer.” (via Mediabistro)

I’ve been anticipating this announcement, but I’m no less impressed, intrigued and thrilled to see Seth Godin stepping up the the plate. The landscape is going fluid, folks! Exciting times. Goodbye Gutenberg Paradigm, hello Socratic paradigm. It’s time for storytelling 2.0!

Godin announced this morning that “Linchpin will be the last book I publish in a traditional way.” He goes on to describe the recalcitrance and fear so pervasive in the traditional publishing world today. And he unabashedly steps away from it!

As the medium changes, publishers are on the defensive…. I honestly can’t think of a single traditional book publisher who has led the development of a successful marketplace/marketing innovation in the last decade…

My audience does things like buy five or ten copies at a time and distribute them to friends and co-workers. They (you) forward blog posts and PDFs. They join online discussion forums. None of these things are supported by the core of the current corporate publishing model.

Since February, I’ve shared my thoughts about the future of publishing in both public forums and in private brainstorming sessions with various friends in top jobs in the publishing industry. Other than one or two insightful mavericks, most of them looked at me like I was nuts for being an optimist. One CEO worked as hard as she could to restrain herself, but failed and almost threw me out of her office by the end. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heartbroken at the fear I saw. (via Moving On)

I look forward to supporting and encouraging Seth Godin as he wades into these exciting new waters. Fear be damned, Seth Godin is moving on…What about you?

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Ferdinand the Bull

[Ferdinand the bull]… doesn’t fit the typical mold of other young male bulls: he doesn’t like to fight or butt heads. All he wants to do is enjoy the meadow and smell the flowers… “Ferdinand’ is a perfectly absurd story which will make everybody laugh and chuckle. Smell the Ink

Absurd, perhaps, and sublime to boot! My favorite book as a boy; and today, my favorite boy as a book. The Story of Ferdinand. Or as I always remember and reference it, “Ferdinand the bull”. Some childhood habits die hard!

This simple but poignant children’s book written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson has never lost its sparkle for me. It’s still inside, still beside my bedside, still my favorite gift for chilluns and olduns alike. The story, the pictures, the corks in the trees, the flowers in the ladies’ hair, the dazed look of confusion/euphoria on Ferdinand the bull’s handsome mug, his mother’s look of concern, the bee-stings-bull’s-@$$ action sequence, the long ride home. The Story of Ferdinand is a must own, read, re-read for the child in all of us. And the adult in every child.

Ferdinand the Bull Updates:

[January 24, 2012] I’ve come across the video version of Ferdinand the bull quite by accident. I never knew it existed. Raised without television I overlooked the obvious: most good children’s books were at some point Disnified!

A quirky little video, certainly no more compelling than the story. Perhaps less so? I am intrigued to see Lawson’s illustrations animated, as if — after so many years — Ferdinand the bull had wiggled off the page. However Ferd’s mother, especially her goofy walk and her grating voice, are a little far from the mark.

The rather dated flavor or this Walt Disney short and the almost literal translation of the story to film does provoke my curiosity what a modern digital version of Ferdinand the bull would look like. I imagine that the potential of today’s digital storytelling is much more compelling than Disney’s short film. Perhaps it already exists? Perhaps we should add it to the great “To Do” list in the sky?

Ferdinand Tattoo

Ferdinand the bull tattoo (Credit: TheNinth)

[March 26, 2013] It’s always fun to discover old posts that continue to be read. A lot. Like this goofy glimpse at Ferdinand the bull, a truly “evergreen” story! While it’s a pleasant surprise to be reminded how many folks stumble onto this post, I am even more delighted by the number of people I meet who remember Ferdinand the bull with fondness, who reference his story to help clarify real life situations, and often enough who tell me that I’m a real world Ferdinand the bull. I know that sometimes they’re gently (or not so gently!) mocking me, but the gibe always flatters me. Silly? Perhaps.

But there is something more I’d like to pass along, a more peculiar and wonderful update that I couldn’t possibly allow to languish in the distant reaches of the web: a Ferdinand the bull tattoo! No, I haven’t overcome my phobia of needles to commemorate my favorite flower smelling bull. But the magic of the interwebs have brought this illustrated arm (or leg?) to my joyful attention. Enjoy!

Depot Down Time


Video via YouTube.com

Ever wonder how Depot Theatre performers spend their off-stage time in the Adirondacks? What I hear again and again from the parade of professional actors, directors, musicians, etc. who grace us with their talents each summer is that they love to perform at the Depot Theatre because they love the Shami and Chris, they love the audience, the old train station, the community, the Champlain Valley.

Kelly Rypkema, who just wrapped up her performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at the Depot Theatre took time out for a little Lake Champlain waterskiing. And wouldn’t you know, she’s almost as gifted on waterskies as she is on stage. Bravo, Kelly!

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How to Make Things Go Viral

Virus envy? Erick Schonfeld (TechCrunch) is spreading the good word of Jonah Peretti, CEO of Buzzfeed and legendary viralmeister behind the Nike sweatshop rebuff and The Rejection Line. A voice worth listening to, Peretti’s 5 Golden Rules of Viralizing simplify the formula, at least in concept. Delivering the goods? That’s still up to you! Or Buzzfeed…

The rules are:
  1. Create media for the Bored At Work Network: There are hundreds of millions of people around the world bored at work sitting in front of their computers connected to high speed networks.  This network is bigger than any traditional media network like CNN or ABC. Create something they will want to pass around.
  2. Practice The Mullet Strategy: Business up front, party on the back.  If you have a Website, keep the front page serious so as not to scare off the casuals.  Give all the crazy commenters and contributors space in the back, and only show them to the rest of the world when they create something that catches on.
  3. Try Big Seed Marketing: If you are  brand trying to create  a viral campaign, it might be hard. True viral memes are hard to reproduce.  It is much easier to make something that still gets passed around, but you might have to spend some money to seed it around the Internet.  The more seed you spread, the more chance it will grow. “Buy the seed, get the viral for free,” he says (this is basically BuzzFeed’s business model).
  4. Target The Maniacs: The Web is ruled by maniacs, people who get worked up about things and push their ideas out.  ”Content is more viral if it helps people express their personality disorders,” notes Peretti.
  5. Be A Mormon, Not A Jew. This one is tongue in cheek.  But Mormonism is a growing religion, whereas Judaism is stagnating in terms of population.  Why?  Mormons are better evangelists.  ”The problem with Jews is that they suck at marketing,” says Peretti.  ”It’s almost like they don’t want anyone else to be a Jew.” His point is that it is not just the quality of an idea that counts, it is how much effort you put into spreading it.

So, that’s the formula, at least in concept. Delivering the goods? That’s still up to you! Or Buzzfeed…

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Four Horse Power

Four Horse Power (via Meandering Margaux Media)

While wandering the Champlain Valley this morning, I happened upon these five, Chad and four draft horses, cultivating an Essex Farm field located at “The Four Corners”. I stopped to watch. No video or still camera with me, so these blurry moments are captured by my mobile phone. Only wish I’d recorded my conversation with Chad. He was smiling ear-to-ear as he spoke, clearly loving his work. He said that the horses were working hard to drag this large implement, but that for him there’s little difference between driving a team of two and a team of four. By autumn, he said, he plans on stepping up to a team of six draft horses, three in front of three. The transition to six horse power will demand more complex harnessing and more complex driving skills. But he’s looking forward to it!

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