Posts Tagged ‘David Brooks’

Livin’ In The U.S.A

In his recent TIME essay , The History of the American Dream, Jon Meacham observes: “Strangely, it’s now possible for the French to be move socially and economically mobile than Americans”.

So much for the American capitalism vs. European socialism argument.

Meanwhile, in one of his recent columns, David Brooks writes about America: “Equal opportunity, once core to the nation’s identity, is now a tertiary concern.”

During the 1992 presidential campaign, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos came up with “It’s The Economy, Stupid” for Bill Clinton. Twenty years later, it’s the economy again. Or, for our more granular 21st century speak, “Jobs”.

The Washington Monthly’s summer issue focuses on the economic debate that our politicians aren’t having, the erosion of the average American family’s wealth and its relation to the country’s future success. In the information overload of our daily lives, it’s easy to respond to the bumper sticker language of campaigns and to forget that America doesn’t live in isolation from the rest of the world. More than ever, it’s a global economy and those in power are frequently not in a position to lead as much as to react.

Personally, I’ve been an advocate for a WPA-type of approach to getting the unemployed back to work while fixing the country’s neglected infrastructure. Rather than extending federal unemployment benefits, it would seem more logical to use those dollars to put people back to work doing something useful which not only helps the country but also provides those involved with a sense of purpose and pride.

However, as the Washington Monthly’s Paul Glastris and Phillip Longman point out: “With household asset levels so depleted, it’s folly to think that the economy can be set right merely by adding more jobs, however much they’re needed. That’s the lesson of the Great Depression and World War II. As James K. Galbraith has pointed out.., the New Deal built infrastructure and put Americans back to work, but failed to spark self-sustaining economic growth. It was ‘the war, an only the war that restored..the financial wealth of the American middle class.’.”

Hopefully, we won’t need to resort to another world war in order to get our financial house back in order. That’s not a solution that any of us wants to ponder. However, watching what’s been going on in Europe and in the Middle East shouldn’t make any of us feel too complacent.

So, if the U.S. is going to get back on track, all of us, you and me included, are going to have to urge our political leaders to focus on uniting rather dividing the country along ideological lines. In his TIME article, Jon Meacham writes: “We are stronger the wider we open our arms… Our dreams are more powerful when they are shared by others in our time and we are the only ones who can create a climate for the American Dream to survive another generation.”

As Aesop noted in one of his fables a long time ago, “United we stand. Divided we fall.”

Reflections On 2011

Remember when you were a kid and it seemed to take forever for the holidays to arrive?

Now, every year seems to go by faster than the one before. Chalk it up to perception. When you’ve lived only 13 years, one year equals 1/13th of your life. When you’re thirty-five, a year equals 1/35th of your life. You get the picture.

I can’t say that the first year of the second decade of the 21st century has been my favorite year. But, as I reflect upon my personal experiences, I’m surprised at how many high points there are.
2011 marked a couple of significant anniversaries. My wife, Molly and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary in July. It amazes me that I’ve been married this long. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of myself now as not being married even though I maintained my bachelorhood longer than most.

This year also marked the Big 3-0 birthday of MTV: Music Television where I was privileged to be part of the channel’s original management team. It was fun to do some radio and print interviews about those early days at a channel which paved the way for television as we know it today. It was also nice to have my contribution acknowledged in the book, “I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution” by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum which was released in conjunction with the 30th anniversary.

Some other memories from 2011:
*My mother and younger brother spending the Christmas holidays with us in Saratoga.
*Our family vacation to Los Angeles and San Diego in March to visit with my wife’s cousin, John Woodcock and his wife, Susan. We were awakened at 8AM one morning at our beachfront hotel in San Diego by my daughter’s boyfriend in Saratoga who told us about the tsunami that hit Japan and was threatening America’s west coast. We’d gone to bed early and were oblivious to the situation. We certainly gained some perspective about what it’s like to live in Southern California.
*While in California, we were able to get some business done. Molly visited her client at TVG and met with the VP/Marketing at Santa Anita Raceway. I was able to meet with staff members at Loyola Marymount University’s student-run radio station, KXLU and to discuss media opportunities with former Albanian, Kevin Callahan while visiting him at KSON-FM, San Diego.
*Western Swing and Salsa dance lessons for Molly and me by our friend, David Levesque of Dancin’ Time. (She was good. Me, not so much.)
*Elton John with Leon Russell at Madison Square Garden in March. The tickets were a gift from my stepdaughter, Jessica.
*Being interviewed for Russian radio about American culture and media by my friend, journalist Vladimir Abarinov.
*Our youngest daughter, Sarah successfully transitioning from public high school to the private all-girl Emma Wilard School and embracing the experience of her senior year.
*The relief of learning that Sarah passed her driver’s test after being denied a passing score on her first 2 attempts.(I was dreading having to deal with an emotionally overwrought teenage girl who failed to pass on her 3rd try.)
*College campus visits with Sarah in July and October to New England, northern & western New York as well as the New York Finger Lakes region. I really enjoyed the conversations with my daughter and having the chance to watch her evolving maturity in handling the different situations we encountered during our trips.

It was good to make new friends during the past year and to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances such as: Joe Templin, Charles Warner, Scott Bingham, Dale Brooks, Michael Grace, Rosemary Young, Monica Mahaffey, Eric Strauss, Ray Patterson, Judi Clements, Bob Buchman, Jessie Scott, Mike Lembo, Batt Johnson, Pam Green, Rob Sisco, Hatem Dammak, Neerav Patel, Bill Polk, Susan Arbetter, Jay Werth, Bilel Besbes, Cindy Sivak, Rose Giangiobbe, Sierra Julie Sullivan, Dan & Jen Austin, Dick Heatherton, Joan Myers, Leslie Leventman, Tom Freston, George Gerrity, Holly Greene, Dale Willman, Ray Zoller, Joe Condon, Patrick Ryan, Michael Vallone, Joe Reilly, Dawn Dawson, David Levesque and Terry McNiff.

From a business standpoint, 2011 marked another year of evolution for Brindle Media with projects for Siena College and the New York Racing Association. My former boss at Albany Broadcasting, John Kelly asked me to work with Siena’s nationally-recognized radio station, WVCR-FM on focusing its programming product and strategizing for future development. During the summer, I once again worked with NYRA at world-renowned Saratoga Race Course to enhance the customer experience (CX) for and increase customer usage of the track’s computerized Self-Service Terminals (SSTs). In the Fall, I also created two targeted online newspapers using, Buzz4Boomers designed for members of the Baby Boomer generation and 12866Buzz intended to provide news of neighborhood and social community interest for residents of Saratoga Springs. At this point, they’re both works in progress.

I tried to take advantage of as many learning opportunities as possible during the past year either by attending events such as Amy Mengel’s Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley, attending webinars, and reviewing audio or video interviews. Some webinars and interviews which I found enlightening this year included:

*Dan Zarella’s Hubspot webinars “Most Legendary Marketing Showdown”, “The Science of SEO”, “New Science of Social Media”, “The Science of Analytics”, “The Science of Timing” , and “The Science of Email Marketing”.

*Reach Personal Branding’s Entrepreneurial Training Series

*Reach Personal Branding’s William Arruda’ss interviews with Tony Beshara, Gina Rudan, Seth Godin, Ken Blanchard, Stever Robbins, Bernadette Martin, Kevin Eikenberry, and Dr. Samantha Collins.

*Greig Well’s “Linkedin Insider Secrets” webinar.

*John Souza’s Social Media Magic University series about blogging, email marketing, PPC Marketing, Mobile Marketing, and SEO.

*David Siteman Garland’s “Rise To The Top” interviews with Blogcast FM’s Srinivas Rao, Diamond Candles co-founder Justin Winter, social media legend Chris Brogan, author Steven Pressfield, and entrepreneur Lewis Howe.

*Daniel Pink’s “Office Hours” interviews with “Great By Choice” author Jim Collins and “The No A**-Hole Rule” author Bob Sutton.

*Edison Media’s Tom Webster’s presentation “Turning Social Media Monitoring Into Research”.

*Adam Metz’s webinar, “The Social Customer and The Art of War”.

*Mark Ramsey’s conversations with Ishita Gupta (from Seth Godin’s Domino Project), Livio Radio’s Jake Sigal, JINX’s Sean Gailey , Marketing Profs’ Ann Handley, Triton Media’s Jim Kerr, Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Mandalay Entertainment Group chairman Peter Guber, Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stetzner, broadcast consultant & author Valerie Geller, KCRW-FM general
manager Jennifer Ferro, and advertising guru/author Jon Winsor.

I’m not a particularly fast reader so I rarely find time to read books. When I’m reading, it’s usually magazine articles or blogs. So, I’m a big fan of audiobooks. Some of my favorites this year were:

*David Brooks’ “The Social Animal”
*Tom Friedman’s “That Used To Be Us”
*Steven Levy’s “In The Plex”
*Tina Fey’s “Bossy Pants”
*David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey”
*Simon Winchester’s “Atlantic”
*Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken”
*Sebastian Junger’s “War”
*Dick Cavett’s “Talk Show”
*Michael Lewis’ “Boomerang”
(I’ve just started listening to this book and I’m hooked).

You can read my reviews on my Linkedin account (

My favorite movies this year: “The King’s Speech” and “The Help”

In September, I drove downstate to NYC to see the play, “War Horse” at the Lincoln Center. I thought play itself was a bit trite but the design of the horse puppets and the puppetry itself were amazing. I’m debating whether or not to see the movie version.

My favorite TV shows remain CBS Sunday Morning, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report although my enjoyment of Colbert’s show is on the wane. It’s getting too predictable (like Rush Limbaugh’s talk show). This year, I’ve become a fan of NBC’s “Meet The Press”. With all due respect to the late Tim Russert , David Gregory has made the show much more interesting. “30 Rock” reruns have hooked me and I’m now looking forward to the show’s return in early January.” Saturday Night Live” is back on track. There’s a lot of talent in the current cast. I have to admit to enjoying the song & dance routines on “Glee” (talented cast, strong production). And PBS American Masters series ran a terrific documentary about Woody Allen this Fall. Watching “Midnight In Paris” is on my New Year’s Eve to-do list.

Best wishes for enlightenment, surprise, joy, good health, and prosperity in 2012.

Happy New Year!

The Social Animal by David Brooks

I expected this book to contain information about various sociological discoveries and David Brooks’ interpretations of what they mean. Instead, Brooks has written an allegory to create a story about his protagonists which represent coalesce and represent various research findings. We learn about factors which influence their development (and our own) from conception, through childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and old age.

For instance, regarding sexual attraction, men tend to prefer women who have a 0.7 waist-to-hip ratio. There’s also equivalent information about qualities which unconsciously attract women to men but I don’t recall off the top of my head what they are. However, I don’t believe it had anything to do with hand and foot size.

Brooks tells us that research shows infants at a very early stage of development can “taste” sweetness in the foods that their pregnant mothers are ingesting which can influence the child’s appetites after birth. There also appears to be some credence that an infant in the womb responds to music which its mother is listening to.

The research does appear to show that we are responding emotionally even when we believe that our responses are based on rational thought.
For instance, the qualities which appear to be most important in predicting our ability to achieve and succeed have to do with our ability to detect patterns, to be attuned to others so that we can learn from them, the ability to be taught, our ability to be open-minded, and our ability to objectively weigh the strengths of our beliefs against the strengths of the actual evidence for or against those beliefs.

During an episode described in The Social Animal, one of the characters experiences a sense of personal fulfillment. Brooks explains that research has discovered that when our personal vision of the world is fulfilled, we experience a surge of pleasure from the release of chemicals in our brains.
He told a story to Charlie Rose during an interview about how Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest complaint about, “The Social Network” was that the movie didn’t do a good job of conveying the sheer passion and joy experienced by a programmer who gets the code right. That observation seemed to reinfornce Joseph Campbell’s advice to “Follow your bliss”.

If you’re interested in how evolution has affected our reactions to our physical environment, how our emotions are created, how ethnic cultures impact our responses to stimuli, and how the aging process affects our physical and emotional development, you should find a lot of food for thought in this book.

I listened to the 16 hour audio book with my teenaged daughter as we drove around the Northeast visiting various schools on her pre-senior year summer college tour. She found it interesting, as well. I would have preferred that the audio version was read by David Brooks but Arthur Morey does a good job and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Here’s David Brooks’ TED Talk about The Social Animal

Words Have Consequences

Saturday’s assassination attempt of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords which claimed six lives has some pointing an accusing finger at radio and cable TV hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, claiming they had a role in the incident by provoking an unstable person. But INSIDE RADIO reports that the talkers are pushing back, calling it an unfair attack on conservative hosts.

What do you think?

Update: 1/12/11

To alert people to this blog, I posted links on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. My experience is that my postings on Twitter never receive responses and are rarely retweeted but I view using it as a connection device to be a learning experience. On both Linkedin and Facebook, I don’t know if people actually link to this site to read the entire blog but they usually post their responses on those sites.

Not surprisingly, the responses tended to fall along party lines. Those folks whose politics tend toward the “progressive/liberal” camp seem to believe that the rhetoric heard on talk radio and cable TV in some way influenced the Tuscon tragedy. Those whose politics are more “conservative” seem to believe that liberals are trying to use the tragedy to impose restrictions on their First Amendment rights of free speech. Unfortunately, South Caroline Representative, James Clyburn (a Democrat) is fanning that particular flame by championing a return of the Fairness Doctrine. I’ve written previously about how anachronistic, outdated and absurd that notion is considering 21st Century communications technology.

In any case, the debate on this topic has certainly been lively. Although I have concerns about what sometimes seems like the irresponsible use of inflammatory rhetoric to manipulate audience reaction and ratings, my sense is that it wasn’t much of a factor in the case of the shootings in Arizona. I was especially impressed with these reactions from columnist David Brooks and The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart:

href=’’>The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c Arizona Shootings Reaction

Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Polls show that 60% of Americans don’t believe that political rhetoric caused Jared Loughner’s assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords. Nevertheless, it seems to me that those who dismiss the impact of inflammatory rhetoric are making a mistake. Research shows that humans, even those of us who relieve that we are reasonable and rational, react emotionally and then rationalize to reinforce their beliefs.

In times of economic instability like we’ve been experiencing for the past decade in the United States, fear, insecurity and distrust become more prevalent as what Seth Godin likes to call our lizard brain takes control. Couple with that the ability that we have with the internet, various cable TV and social media to filter the information we receive. Now, we can choose to avoid all that inconvenient information which doesn’t reinforce our beliefs.

I can recall watching coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign when a woman in John McCain’s audience started ranting about how Obama was evil and wanted to destroy America. The woman looked like an average grandmother but she was regurgitating this rhetoric and McCain looked stunned and embarrassed. He felt it necessary to reassure her that Barack Obama was a good person and an honorable man, not something that this woman or his supporters wanted to hear.

Another woman waiting in line to enter a McCain/Palin rally told an interviewer that Obama was a socialist who wanted to destroy the country and that he wasn’t an American citizen. She was very matter-of-fact as if these were proven facts rather than unsubstantiated rumors spread through the internet.

Albany Times Union editor, Rex Smith makes some cogent observations in this recent editorial:

Those of us who’ve worked professionally in media know how easy it is to manipulate an audience. It can be a source of childish delight to watch your audience jump through hoops at your whim but it’s also important to take responsibility for your actions and for the results of those actions whether or not they are intended.

Words have consequences.