You Can Go Home Again… But They Might Build Yankee Stadium There…

So… I actually wrote most of this post in July of 2008, while I was traveling somewhere on a plane. It sat in a text file for all this time, because I was too lazy/busy to get the images. I figured, however, now that it’s spring training (whoo hoo!!), I might as well finally get it posted. I did some editing on what I originally wrote so that it makes sense now — i.e., saying “last year” instead of “this year.”)

As some of you probably know, I’m a pretty big Yankee fan from a pretty young age. I have no idea how/when it happened. I first started to become aware of baseball in the mid-1980s, at which point the Yankees were really bad. The Mets, on the other hand were at their best. But I just could never get into the Mets. I went to plenty of games at either stadium (more at Shea, because it was easier to get to), but definitely remember going to Yankee games as a kid.

Nowadays, I tend to see the Yankees when they’re in Oakland (or on the rare occasion that they’re in San Francisco to play the Giants). But last year was the final year that the “old” Yankee Stadium would exist, so when I realized I was going to be in New York in June, I figured it would be great to get one last game at the Stadium. I mentioned it to my Dad, and he bought some tickets for a nice father-son night at the game.

While the game was fun, perhaps even cooler was getting a chance to check out the neighborhood where my Dad grew up. I’d always known he grew up in the Bronx not far from Yankee stadium. I remember one time going to the game as a kid, as we were walking up the stairs beyond the left field bleachers he pointed out exactly where his apartment building was — but he also told us that his old neighborhood was “too dangerous” now to visit again, so I never thought I’d get to see it.

However, a few days before the game, he suggested we head to the game early and check out the old neighborhood, so that’s what we did. We drove up to the Bronx nice and early, and I got a nice look at “the old neighborhood” he hadn’t been to in 35 years. As with any childhood memory, he noted that everything was “a lot smaller” than he remembered. What amazed me was how close it really was to Yankee Stadium. It really is just blocks from the Stadium.

Birds Eye View of the Bronx
The little red box/arrow is where he lived. The stadium at the bottom is the “old” Yankee Stadium. The construction zone above it is where the “new” Yankee Stadium is today.

Perhaps the best moment, though, was as we drove down Jerome Ave., and my Dad pointed out the park where he used to play in, and said “and up here is where I used to play baseball in the sandlots…” and paused as he realized his old sandlot field is the new Yankee Stadium. While the new Stadium looks beautiful, I don’t think my Dad is all that happy that his old sandlots have been replaced.

“Oh, this is awful.”

“But, Dad, that means you’ve played baseball at Yankee Stadium.”

He didn’t seem to take much consolation in that fact.

Either way, it was a great experience getting to see his old neighborhood, and learn a little bit about his life growing up, from moving two doors down from one apartment to another, to the fact that his apartment had previously been a doctor’s office (my Dad’s bedroom was the former examination room).

If I remember correctly — and I’m doing this 8 months later — I think this is the one they moved to, and the one down the street is where he lived before. Dad, if this is wrong, let me know… :)

Then we got to walk around the Stadium a bit, and he pointed out where the players’ entrance used to be (and the hotel where the players all used to live, back before they were all multi-millionaires). He said that as kids, all his friends would line up and get autographs, but that he was too shy. So… no Joe DiMaggio autographs to hand down…

And, oh yeah, the game was pretty fun as well. We had pretty good seats out towards right field. We got to see an A-Rod homerun, two Giambi homeruns, a nicely pitched game by Pettite, and a good old-fashioned blowout against the hapless San Diego Padres. All in all a fun father-son bonding experience. (later added: though, now as we enter the spring training of A-Roid, I’m realizing all three players I mentioned are now connected to performance enhancing drugs. Yay, baseball.)

I look forward to doing it again later this year at the new Yankee Stadium, so I can see where my Dad played baseball as a kid. And this time around, it looks like we’ll be bringing a whole bunch of relatives along as well. Should be fun.

Behind the Scenes at MidemNet

My presentation at MidemNet last month in Cannes has received more attention than I ever imagined (nearly 17,000 views on YouTube at this time!). If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

However, being that this is a personal blog, I wanted to discuss some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went on and answer some of the other questions that have been asked by some folks.

First, I have no idea how I got asked to do this presentation. Despite writing about the music industry for a while, and pissing off numerous lawyers who work for the industry, I very rarely hear from the business folks. I don’t think they have any clue who I am. However, I apparently got onto someone’s radar screen, and they called me out of the blue and asked me to present (they picked the topic).

I wasn’t joking (at all) about the jetlag. When I gave the presentation I had a killing throbbing headache the whole time. I wasn’t working on very much sleep. I arrived in France about 24 hours before I was to give the presentation — and I barely slept on the plane at all. I tried to do some work in my hotel room, but it was crazy hot (turns out there’s no way to turn off the heat, despite it being warm outside). Everything I did to try to turn off the heat (or get the AC on) seemed to increase the heat. I finally slept for an hour before heading out to meet with the conference organizers.

Due to my original hotel closing down, I ended up in a hotel about 10 km away from Cannes itself. During the conference there was supposed to be ongoing shuttle service between the conference and the hotel (in practice, it existed, but wasn’t as trustworthy as promised). However, that first day the shuttle was not running. I was told I could take a train… but the train was apparently on strike (this turned out not to be true). Instead, I ended up taking a bus. While waiting at the bus station, I kept my streak alive: whenever I am somewhere new and taking public transportation *someone* will ask me for directions. I babbled in English, and the woman walked away in disgust. Lesson learned: if you can’t speak French, at least learn how to say “My French is really really bad” in French. Then they treat you much nicer.

The conference organizers were *awesome*. I really can’t say enough about the crew, who were amazingly well organized, professional and super friendly as well. It still amazes me, though, that they put me on the mainstage on the morning of the first day of the conference, having no idea if I’m any good as a presenter (though, they had been nervous and kept asking for my presentation well before I was ready to share it). They also kept repeating over and over again that I *really* was limited to 15 minutes. They were quite afraid I’d go over it. So I promised to practice my talk to get it within those 15 minutes, without fail.

An offshoot of the Midem event is the NRJ Awards, which is sort of the functional equivalent of the MTV music awards here in the US (though, with the same musicians, basically). So, security was crazy tight, and just to get backstage to see where I going to speak, I had to wear a special badge, as the backstage area intersected with the backstage for that show (some friends later got tickets to the Awards show and got to walk up the red carpet with 1000s of screaming teenie boppers). There were a lot of teenie boppers around trying to photograph famous musicians (Chris Martin, Katy Perry, some others were around).

The night before my talk (the night before the event started) there was a dinner for all the speakers. My original intent was to (a) not drink (b) go home early (c) practice my talk and (d) get plenty of sleep. None of those things really worked out as planned. First, it’s France, where there is no such thing as an early dinner. Dinner wasn’t until 8:30pm. Then, I was told that the guy who sponsored/organized the dinner was a wine connoisseur and had picked the wines himself… so I had to partake somewhat, especially with the awesome French cuisine. On top of that, I was having such great conversations it was difficult to get away. Eventually, though, Martin Thornkvist and I agreed to head back to Juan les Pins (he was staying in another hotel nearby as well). He had taken the train over (strike apparently wasn’t real) and had looked at the schedule, saying that there was another train back to Juan les Pins a little before midnight. We walked to the trainstation where that turned out not to be the case. There were no more trains to Juan les Pins, but there was a train to Antibes, one town over, where we were told we could catch a cab.

We took the train and discovered… no cab. So, we wandered. Generally following the street signs and made our way successfully back to Juan les Pins, after wandering through unknown French villages past midnight. I was very thankful to have Martin along as well, as it would have been a bit more frightening on my own (Martin was great company — and it was great to have that time to chat).

So… back at the hotel at approximately 12:30… and exhausted. Sort of half practiced the presentation once and fell asleep. Got up early, took the shuttle (I was the only rider on a full sized coach bus) back to Cannes, and watched the morning sessions. There was the opening debate, then a short 15 minute presentation, and then a coffee break. Then me.

The opening debate was great. Then the 15 minute presentation began. Assuming you’ve seen my presentation, you know that the one thing I depend on is having those slides change when I click the button. So as I’m watching the guy on stage go through his presentation, I begin to notice that he seems to be talking about things that aren’t showing on the slides. In fact, it looks like he’s stuck on a single slide. After about 5 minutes, he notices this as well, and has to actually stop his presentation and call out the tech support guys. This happens 3 times, after his slides refuse to proceed when he clicks.

My heart sinks. My headache starts pounding even worse. I have 280 slides to go through with, if not precision timing, at least a decent sense of timing.

By the time the other guy has finished his 15 min presentation, it’s taken nearly 25 minutes, in part due to all of the requests for tech help. I head to the speaker’s lounge to convey a… polite sense of worry. I’m told, repeatedly, that I shouldn’t worry. My presentation is fine. The problem with his had to do with (a) last minute changes to the slides and (b) the use of different views (on the laptop it had a notes view, rather than the presentation view on the screen). Still, I’m nervous. With a headache. And tired. Really, really tired.

I’m given my special pass, escorted backstage, where the tech guys insist (again) not to worry. Everyone in the theater is out getting coffee, so I run a quick test, and indeed the slides do seem to be working. Since the last presentation ran long, the Midem folks want to make sure people have enough time to have some coffee and get back into the theater. So they say they’ll wait and won’t start my presentation for about 10 min after the scheduled time (11:45am). But Ted Cohen, the MC of the event shows up and is bouncing up and down saying that we gotta get going… even though people aren’t back in yet. In fact, they’re just starting to stream in, and only a few have taken seats. The Midem people suggest waiting… which lasts about 30 seconds before Ted says he’ll just head out and talk to the audience for a bit to encourage them to come in. His talk lasts about 20 seconds (“how’s the show going this morning so far? Good?”) before he says, “Now I’d like to introduce…” and I’m on.

When I walk out, there are probably only about 1/4 of the people actually in the theater, and mobs of people streaming in and talking, but the big red clock on the stage has a 15:00 on it, and I’m not supposed to go over on the time, so I say something along the lines of “I see people are still finding their seats, but, let’s just get going…” and that’s where the video starts.

As you can see, it mostly did go off without a hitch. Mobs of people were still streaming in the doors until about 5 or 6 minutes in (a lot of people contacted me afterwards noting they had missed the beginning), but overall it worked. I also freaked out around the 11 minute mark when I started mentally calculating in my head how much more I had in the presentation and if I could do it in 4 minutes. You can sorta see that I shift into a different gear as I start “chapter 4.” I went just slightly over on time, but no one seemed to mind.

I finished, Ted shook my hand, told me how much he liked the presentation, and I walked back stage and collapsed. They gave me a bottle of water and told me to relax until I felt ready to go back to the speaker’s lounge, which I did about 10 minutes later, at which point I asked for something (anything) for my headache, and was given a packet of some sort of medicine to dissolve in water. That seemed to work… and I finally began to feel good again.

So… there you go. The story behind the presentation.

The rest of the time I was there was great. Without having to worry about my own presentation, I got to see a bunch of other great presentations, meet a ton of fantastic people, and explore just a little bit of that part of France. All in all a great experience, despite the stress, the headaches and actually trying to get through 280 slides in 15 minutes. I’m hopeful that I get a chance to present again in the future.

My Murderous Ex-Boss Goes To Trial…

Long time readers of this blog (all three of you) may remember my post in 2007 about how Bob, my boss at Super Bagel — where I worked throughout my high school years — had just killed his wife, Ann, with whom I also worked. The story is really tragic. I’d received a couple calls from TV magazine show producers thinking of doing an episode on the case, and I occasionally have looked around for updates, and to see whether or not a trial was underway. Thanks to my sister for sending over the news that the trial has, in fact, begun, and it’s already off to quite a start, with allegations that Bob offered an employee at Super Bagel $5,000 to kill Ann, saying:

“it’d be cheaper to kill Ann than divorce her.”


In talking with one of the TV show producers, the woman had asked me if it surprised me that Bob was capable of killing Ann. What kind of question is that, really? Bob certainly played the role of a tough guy as long as I knew him, and I had no doubt that he really was a tough guy. I wouldn’t want to get into a physical altercation with him. But, there’s a huge gulf between being a tough guy and killing someone… especially your wife.

These were certainly two strong-willed individuals, and I’d seen both of them clash with plenty of people. But, no matter how much of a mean streak Bob may have had at times, I never thought he’d actually reach the level of killing anyone — especially not Ann, and especially not in a pre-meditated manner. The whole story is so insane.

I still recall all of those crazy bagel store stories working with Bob and Ann — but they all seem to be coated in a form of muck that wasn’t there before. They were fun stories, about bigger than life personalities, working in crazy conditions in a small bagel shop in NY. It was the stuff that sitcoms were made of, not police or court dramas.

Music Meme Thing: Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa

I’m usually not a big fan of these sorts of things, but eh, haven’t had time to write up any actual posts, so via Dennis we get a silly high school style musical meme test that reveals a bit of what’s in my music collection… Here’s how it works:

1. Put Your iTunes on Shuffle. (I used Party Shuffle, cuz Shuffle isn’t really “random”)
2. For each question, press the ‘next’ button to get your answer. (or listen to each song, like I did.)
3. You must write down the name of the song no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.

What do your friends think of you?
You don’t Know Like I Know… by The Pepper Pots
I’m really not sure what that means

If someone says, “Is this okay?” You say?
Slow It Down, by Checkmate
Apparently it’s not okay

How would you describe yourself?
Jackie’s Mood by Jackie Mittoo
Hmm. That doesn’t make much sense, but if my life is going to be described by a Jackie Mittoo song… that’s actually not so bad. And this one is a great one…

What do you like in a guy/girl?
The End, by the Skandalous All-Stars
Yikes. Seems a bit harsh.

How do you feel today?
Stay With Him, by Symarip
Great song… but… eh?

What is your life’s purpose?
Open Up Bartender, by Prince Buster
I would suggest this game is… not working very well.

What is your motto?
I Mean, by Mr. T-Bone
Seems like half a motto. If that.

What do you think about very often?
Freestyle, by Sublime
That’s right. I’m all about the freestylin’

What is 2 + 2?
Mr. Misery, by the Aggrolites
Actually, I was pretty good at math

What do you think of your best friend?
Speed Queen, by the Adjusters
Hmm. I think we’re talking about someone else here.

What do you think of the person you like?
What Now My Love, by Ernest Ranglin
I’m assuming that’s meant in the positive sense, rather than the frustrated sense…

What is your life story?
Swamp, by the Talking Heads
Well… that’s one interpretation…

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Read My Lips, by The Steady Ups
I knew this was a high school thing… I thought I was grown up. But… apparently I want to be George H. W. Bush

What do you think of when you see the person you like?
Mama Julie by Terry & Jerry
That seems massively inappropriate

What will you dance to at your wedding?
My Love, by Ike Turner
Of course, I am married, and I danced to “Love Isn’t Love, by the Aggrolites.” But, at least this is a love song… but, tragically, it’s by Ike Turner, who probably is not appropriate at a wedding give the whole Ike and Tina Turner stuff…

What will they play at your funeral?
The Big Five, by Bad Manners
Um. Wow. If you know anything about this song (it’s a cover of the Prince Buster tune by the same title, which is actually a… bastardization of Rainy Night In Georgia), this is about the most inappropriate funeral song ever. Actually, this is one of the most inappropriate and politically incorrect songs… ever. We used to get calls from the local Ithaca Skins at the radio show asking us to play this song on the radio all the time and it is *not* something you can play on the radio if you want to stay on the radio. Instead, we’d usually play a ska version of Rainy Night in Georgia, so maybe we can do a substitution? Though, not sure that really fits as a funeral song… but, maybe.

What is your hobby/interest?
Reggae Fiend, by the Soulsteppers
Hey, it got one right!

What is your biggest fear?
A Meina Menina, by the Slackers
Um. Anyone have any idea what that means?

What is your biggest secret?
Monica Lewinsky, by Dion Knibb and the Agitators
Heh. This game thinks I’m Bill Clinton, apparently

What do you think of your friends?
I Wanna Go Home, by Derrick Morgan
Ouch. Harsh

What will you post this as?
Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa, by Otis Redding

Podcasts On Failure And Bad Apples

Been catching up some random podcasts lately, and there were two totally unrelated ones that both caught my attention and seemed worth mention.

The first, was Kevin Smith’s “SModcast” that he does with his long time producing partner Scott Mosier. I started listening to Smodcast a few months back, and while there are times it goes off the rails a bit, when it hits it’s really quite enjoyable. It’s one of the few “non-professional” (i.e., radio shows turned into podcasts) I can listen to. Back when the wife was away for nearly two months back during October and November, I used the time to catch up on some of the movies I hadn’t had a chance to see in a while… and that included those in the Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow world… So, I ended up renting both Clerks II and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and then soon afterwards saw (in the theaters) Zack and Miri Make a Porno and then Role Models.

I actually ended up liking all four movies… and listened to the director commentaries on the two rentals. On Clerks II there were actually three different commentary tracks — including one that they had actually recorded originally as a podcast while Clerks II was in the theaters, telling people to take their iPods into the theaters to watch the movie a second time with the “commentary” playing. I thought that was pretty neat.

On the night I saw Zack and Miri, I drove down to Sunnyvale and got dinner with Teck before heading over to Cupertino to catch the movie. I was listening to the last SModcast that Smith & Mosier had done before Zack & Miri and it was pretty amusing (all about the real history of Christmas, which they were discovering in real time via web searches during the podcast). However, at the end, they mentioned that the following week, they were going to do another podcast while watching Zack and Miri — even though they said people shouldn’t bring their iPods into the theaters this time (apparently, theaters freaked out when people did that the last time, which is stupid, but that’s a discussion for another day and another place). They were in pretty good spirits. Zack and Miri was getting fantastic reviews, it had performed wonderfully at various festivals, and many were suggesting that it was going to be Smith’s first truly mainstream hit.

So, after seeing the movie (a week after opening), I kept checking for the podcast of them talking while watching the movie, figuring it would be fun to hear what they had to say. But there was nothing. A week went by. Two weeks. A month. I even checked to make sure the podcast RSS feed wasn’t broken. I went to Smith’s website where he archives the podcasts, and saw lots of folks asking where the latest SModcast was… And still nothing.

Finally, in mid-December, a month and a half later, they put up the next SModcast, called “Talking the Cure, Part 1: In which our heroes ramble about what went wrong.” And, that’s pretty accurate. I don’t follow the movie business that closely, so I had no idea, but the movie underperformed expectations… by an order of magnitude. People were expecting the movie to bring in somewhere in the range of $15 to $20 million or so in the opening weekend, eventually bringing in somewhere around $60 million or so. But apparently opening night it brought in… $2.2 million.

It seemed to have left Smith a total wreck, unable to do very much for quite some time (hence no podcast). And, in fact, much of the podcast itself is basically a therapy session for Smith (towards the end, he realizes this, and they have a silly attempt where Smith asks Mosier if this is what real therapy is like — Mosier has been to a therapist, Smith has not). Smith is incredibly open in describing what he went through — in a way that you almost never hear from someone who has “failed” in some way or another. In a world where we’re used to hearing people play up the good, and downplay the bad, it’s refreshingly, and almost stunningly open.

Unfortunately, they never fully explain what happened, though from the beginning they keep promising to tell the whole story of why the movie flopped. They drop some hints, but at the end of the “therapy” they basically realize that it wouldn’t do any good to reveal the whole story. Their main anger, though, is in the fact that they did everything right: created a great movie the way they wanted to do it, and it got fantastic reviews and had great responses at various festivals.

But someone else screwed it up.

They don’t ever explain exactly who or what, but hint at a few things… Basically something happened at the studio level — and the only thing they really mention was that it opened on October 31st, better known as Halloween. Not surprisingly, that’s a pretty bad night to open a movie, because teenagers have something else to do that they can’t do any other night.

And that brings us to podcast #2. It’s the This American Life, also from that same week in December, and the “theme” is Ruining it for the Rest of Us. It’s about the concept of the “bad apple” ruining things for everyone else. And, as sometimes happens with TAL, the opening bit, before the actual “acts” may be the most interesting. It’s all about the research of Dr. Will Felps, who has done research on “bad apples” and whether or not they destroy teams. And, his preliminary research has found, they do. Dramatically so.

I won’t repeat the details of the experiments he’s run, but it’s amazing how much of an impact a bad apple can have on group dynamics, leading to failure. The only case where a team was able to “overcome” the bad apple, was where one of the members of the team was an incredibly strong leader, able to keep the team focused, and minimize the impact of the bad apple.

And, this leads Ira Glass and Felps to the same point of thinking that I came to while listening to them: am I ever the bad apple in a group? The answer, undoubtedly, for pretty much everyone is that, absolutely, at some point, you are. Felps admits that the research has resulted in him changing his own behavior significantly. He had a habit of teasing people, but the research effectively showed that what he thought was building camaraderie was actually making people no longer want to work with him.

It’s never fun to dwell on the concept of failure or the cause of failures, but between these two very, very different podcasts, it was an interesting look at how failures can happen… how to deal with them when they do, and, in some ways, how to look for ways to avoid them. The combination seemed pretty powerful to me, even if it doesn’t lead to any necessary obvious conclusion (other than try not to be the bad apple — or get rid of them if you find one — and don’t let your movie open on Halloween).