Saturday, August 27, 2011

Really enjoying Woody Allen's new movie Midnight in Paris right now. Strange though how the trailer doesn't even really hint at the most clever parts of the story.

Anyway, made this this morning from one of my teaching textbooks. A different sort of perspective. Rearranging the sentences from the exercises to get something different. And the space at the bottom made sense there too. Liking it.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I thought I'd throw up a couple of black and white photos. Some of them are up on Facebook already, so follow me there if you want to see different stuff (less writing, lots of paintings and pictures).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How advertising copywriters attract readers

I stumbled on the "21 Most Powerful Copywriting Rules of All Time by Dr. Joe Vitale" recently in a book called Mastering the World of Marketing. Why in the world would I be reading that you might ask? I happened to be reading something by Gary Vaynerchuk (a smart wine guy who was inspiring at TED and funny on Conan) and the list was on the next page. Anyway some of the most famous creative artists started as copywriters (Terry Gilliam, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo).

At least three of the "most powerful" rules on that list are interesting for creative writers, particularly for short forms like poetry, which is in the slump of a lifetime these days. Here are three I thought were interesting:
1. Write simply, directly, and in the conversational style of your prospects.

Who are you trying to reach? Housewives, business executives, children? You must know the type of person you are writing to. Write to one person from that group and you will speak to all people in that group. Forget trying to impress people, win writing awards, or please a past English teacher. Good copy often violates the rules of English but still makes the sale.

2. Use emotional appeal.

People buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic. Gene Schwartz wrote an ad that ran for 20 years and sold so many flowers it exhausted nurseries. It's packed with emotional appeal. It read in part:

"When you put this into the Earth, and you jump back (quickly), it explodes into flowers. And everybody in your neighborhood comes and they look. And people take home blooms because you've got so many you could never find a house big enough to put them. And you've become the gardening expert for the entire neighborhood."

3. Activate your writing.

Whenever you write the words "is," "was," "are," or "to be," train yourself to stop and change them to something more active. "The meeting is tonight" sounds dead; "The meeting starts at 7 PM sharp tonight" feels clear, direct and alive. "Clair Sullivan is the finest promoter in the country" doesn't convey the excitement that "Clair Sullivan creates corporate events better than anyone else on the planet" does.
The whole list of rules and book preview is here, but if you're like me you'll want to read more by Gene Schwartz, who is mentioned in number 2. You can somehow read his whole book Breakthrough Advertising free on Scribd or you can read a couple of chapters from his How To Talk And Write So That People Will Never Forget You here. Both are worth a look.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Douchebags vs. Karaoke (or the Eric Dravens vs. the Brandon Lees)

I'm going to try to explain why karaoke can be art.

Still there? Good.

It's so funny what happens now that we're flooded with music. Music music music. On the TV. In the car. At the work desk. In the earbuds. But still, even though we have the chance at all times to listen to whatever we want and not the radio, some people (I'll call them douchebags) can't deal with radio hits we all know the words to. So when my friend Boris brought his karaoke party to a goth bar nearby, the douchebags showed their douchebag fangs.

One Eric Draven in particular wanted to fight Boris. It didn't help that Boris loves to sing or that his voice has a sort of Old Man River flavor to it, or that Boris opened the evening with It's Raining Men. Surprisingly, none of that helped. But the place filled up regardless. People came from all around, and soon the douchebags were outnumbered.

The moral (but not the end) of this story is that douchebags are an angry, angry lot. If you ever want to do something that makes you happy regardless of what other people think of you, think long and hard because a douchebag is lurking. And he can't see through his or her own bullshit. Onward.

In Spain, when someone is doing a performance of any kind you sometimes hear people say "Arte!" It's rare and it's hard to translate*, but basically means their performance was beautiful and moving**. The people with the most Arte aren't necessarily the most talented. What they are doing is just being themselves, which is hard to do in front of a crowd of people. I have a hunch that a lot of the great portrait painters and directors recognize Arte in people better than us normal folk, and aim to capture just that.

So maybe it sounds strange, but sometimes you catch that Arte at a karaoke night or two. It's not every time. Takes balls to get up there though, not fangs.

p.s. Boris doesn't know I'm writing about him. He might not think it good for business to talk about the douchebags in attendance. But I might argue that it's great for business. Someone has to sing Anarchy in the UK.

Here's where you find out about his karaoke nights:

*Not really. Arte means art.
**One example of Arte might be this if you like Italian karaoke: