By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 25, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
One of a mom’s primary roles in life is to embarrass her children, and my sons would be the first to tell you I’ve done a great job in that capacity. And while I don’t think I fit the cliche of the overbearing Jewish mother, I have been known to nag them about eating, and of course like any good Jewish mother, I secretly yearn for a gay son (because he’d never leave me for another woman . . . cue rim shot), although both my boys have had to tell me, “Sorry to disappoint you mom, but I’m straight!”
When I started doing these weekly videos, my younger son was 16 and pretty plugged into social media (for example, he saw the “Gangnam Style” video before it passed 100,000 views!) He cautioned me against expecting too much, because as he put it, “Mom, anything over 100 views is viral for old people.” And of course he threatened to disown me if I ever attempted to do anything as daring as a rap.
However, last week’s MSNBC interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a great reminder that not only is she incredibly smart and well-spoken, she’s also become a hip cultural phenomenon. So if an 81-year-old Jewish mother can be re-invented as a meme, this middle-aged Jewish mother can become a rap star to salute her.
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
Not only is E.L. James’ fan-fiction’ trilogy a runaway success, the movie version is also setting box office records. Meanwhile, critics, literary analysts, BDSM experts, and all of us with any basic sense of logic and writing are scratching our heads. How on earth could so many people embrace soft-core porn that expects us to believe a beautiful 21-year-old English major has never been kissed, has never thought about sex, and has never decided to use her supposed experience reading Thomas Hardy novels to update her vocabulary from “jeez” and “triple crap”?
Since women are the bulk of the audience (including those of us who read a book or two ‘just to see what all the fuss was about’, honest!), it’s easy to dismiss the whole phenomenon as an illustration of suburban sexual frustration, of lonely moms yearning for some kink in their lives. But I’m firmly convinced it’s really because the books tapped into the suburban mother’s deepest fantasy – of having someone ELSE take charge for a few hours.
For that we’d put up with awful writing, a hero who is more abusive-stalker than charming, and a lousy representation of consensual sexual experimentation. Just think how successful we’d make any example of ‘mommy porn’ that skipped the contract delibrations and references to “my inner goddess”?
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Feb 11, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
Even though I am an unabashedly liberal political satirist, I have immense respect for any efforts at bipartisanship. (I was a competitive debater in high school and college, where we had to argue both sides of any given topic, and it was great training not just for politics but for marriage . . . . but I digress.) Which is why I’ve always been proud to contribute to this site whose whole foundation is to encourage bipartisan discourse.
However, my admiration for seeing both sides of an issue has largely been theoretical. On the issues that matter to me, from women’s reproductive choice to marriage equality to the environment to income inequality, I have had a very hard time seeing any validity to the arguments on the opposing side. And when that opposing side is based on a wholesale denial of facts, evidence, and science, it’s even harder to remain balanced.
However, an issue has recently come up where science denial originated on the left – the ant-vaccination movement. And while a few right-wingers have made idiotic, pandering remarks about parental choice, or a ‘temporal link’ between vaccines and autism, just as many diehard conservatives have come down squarely on the side of science. Who knew we’d find a subject on which Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson express the same point of view?
So for a change, the sarcasm and disdain in my political satire song is aimed equally at Democrats and Republicans who persist in willful ignorance:
Pundits and comics alike have posited all sorts of theories as to why there is a more robust culture of political humor on the liberal side. Is it that liberals take themselves less seriously so are less open for ridicule? Or is the media quicker to pounce on right-wing mistakes? Are liberals more educated and wittier? Or is it that the entertainment establishment is run by liberals who won’t give a platform to more conservative viewpoints? Do liberals see more nuances in issues? Or is the culture of ‘political correctness’ stifling outrageousness on the left?
In this site’s spirit of bipartisanship, I’d like to suggest a more random theory that is nonjudgmental and assigns no blame or evil to either side – Liberals simply haven’t yet come up with anyone to compete with the most colorful rightwing figures.
Face it, it takes no particular wit, or media bias, to have immense fun with characters like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann. Who can compete with that? Elizabeth Warren is newsworthy but she’s just not that funny, and it’s been years since we had a comedy candidate like Kinky Friedman (who ran for governor of Texas in between gigs with his band, “The Texas Jew-Boys”).
And when it comes to comedically inspiring figures, no one can top Sarah Palin, and in fact she topped her own very colorful record at the recent Iowa Freedom Summit. Her oratory was almost a song in itself – so here’s a musical setting of mostly verbatim quotations.
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Jan 28, 2015 at 8:30 AM ET
Left-leaning satirists have always had an interesting relationship with right-wing media like Fox News. On the one hand, as liberals we are often dismayed by the partisan tone of their coverage, just as I’m sure conservatives are irked by MSNBC. On the other hand, as satirists, we are truly grateful for the endless inspiration- face it, Stephen Colbert’s entire persona for his recently ended show was mocking the typical Fox News blowhard anchor, and anytime The Daily Show or Rachel Maddow wants to call out right-wing hypocrisy or inconsistency, there is almost always a clip from one of the Fox hosts to make their point. And not that I put myself in the same league as those illustrious figures – oh hell, why not? Writing a weekly song can be difficult enough, but the hardest part is finding a topic – that is, until Fox comes up with yet another colorful turn of phrase or oddball guest “expert.”
However, in all the months I’ve been doing these songs, I never thought I’d see Fox back down from one of their way-out-there-but-easily-debunked claims. So last week’s apology/retraction of the Muslim ‘no-go-zones’ story deserved a unique musical celebration:
How many times have you heard the expression, you’re preaching to the choir? As if engaging with people who share your values and relate to your point of view is a limiting or bad thing. The adage implies that we should find other people, not yet indoctrinated, to engage with. It took me a while to figure it out, but the age-old adage is wrong. You should preach to the choir because that’s the only way to mobilize transformational change. If you want to transform anything find people who want to change, connect them with each other in a purposeful choir, and enable them to create an entirely new song. Proselytizing doesn’t work. You can’t make people join the choir if they don’t want to. Focus on people who want to be in the choir and make it easier for them to sing.
I used to believe that proselytizing worked to catalyze transformational change by convincing people who didn’t know they had to change that they needed and wanted to change. Over a thirty-year career spanning industry, consulting, and government I believed in and implemented a proselytizing model to enable change. For years I believed that if I just yakked long and loud enough, if I just put together and presented one more smart consulting deck, and if I adopted what I call my ‘Jewish Aunt” approach to management by nudging I would ultimately wear you down and you would change. It didn’t work. If people don’t want to change they don’t. Sure, there was the occasional convert and a solid track record of enabling incremental change to the way things work today. However, my goal has always been and remains transformational change. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how smart and eloquent I deluded myself into thinking I was, people who didn’t want to change, didn’t change. The 21st century screams for transformation not tweaks. We need a new theory of change worthy of the 21st century.
I have completely changed my approach and theory of change. Ten years ago I founded the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) to put this new theory to work in the real world enabling leaders to design and test new transformational business models in education, health care, and government. Now, instead of proselytizing I believe in a catalyst model of change. Don’t waste time trying to convert those that don’t want to change, find people who want to change and preach to the choir. You will make more progress that way. Allow your choir to grow organically. Trust the choir to create the playlist. Inspire everyone in the choir to be a songwriter. Celebrate and welcome diversity in your choir. The more diversity the better because the gold and best value-creating ideas are in the grey areas between our silos, sectors, and disciplines. The most effective choirs for change welcome voices from every range, weight, and timbre.
Leadership and mobilizing transformational change in the 21st century is about being a catalyst. It’s about getting a reaction started and then getting out of the way.
I remember back in high school and college chemistry learning about catalysts, the reagents used to get chemical reactions started. We need more human catalysts to help us get the transformation we all know we need started. Catalysts know the reaction isn’t about them. They know they’re starting something bigger than themselves. The social system transformation we need is bigger than any one of us. Catalysts have an important role to play but know social change will only happen by getting the choir started and getting out of the way to let the choir’s siren songs work their magic. I also remember from science class that the catalyst doesn’t get used up in the reaction surviving to catalyze another day!
A catalyst model of change is about creating the conditions so people who want to change can connect with others like them to create purposeful choirs. Leadership is no longer about command and control or about moving human capital around the organizational chessboard. Leadership is about inspiring random collisions and connections in purposeful ways to solve real world problems. It’s about creating the conditions to catalyze engaged choirs both within and outside of the organization. A catalyst model of change isn’t about pushing ideas down trying to convert the uninterested masses it’s about pulling ideas up to find their choir. We need to catalyze self-organized choirs around the world enabled to explore and test transformational ideas and approaches at a scale equal to the scope of the social challenges we face. Go ahead and preach to the choir.
By John Y. Brown III, on Mon Jan 5, 2015 at 12:00 PM ET
This morning, watching the sun rise and drinking my coffee as I absorbed the idea of a new year unfurling, I wondered what song I would pick to mark the occasion — to set the tone for the first hours of an entire new year.
A raft of different jazz and rock and jazz-rock songs came to mind along with a classical tune and one hip-hop piece.
I decided my song for 2015 would be Aja by Steely Dan. But as I listened to the first few seconds of that song I realized that wasn’t what I wanted or needed.
I didn’t want a backward-looking song for 2015 but a forward-looking song. One with fresh words and surprising images that describe the beginning of a new chapter in life. A chapter I haven’t read before about concepts I don’t already think I understand but am excited to attempt to because I am finally ready.
A song that dances in my head and taps in my toes but also nourishes my soul and can animate my spirit. A song that doesn’t seem to have a beginning, middle or end, but is asynchronous yet flows sensibly in unseen directions. And flows toward something true I do not now know but have been searching for and lays it out before me to pick up or merely listen to again. Something light yet profound. Something curious yet familiar. Something obvious yet invisible.
Something musically that I can escape to whenever I want to that lifts my spirit and makes me feel like I am dancing while standing still. A song that helps me see things that can only be seen with my eyes closed and that has a rythmic melody that reminds me of my better self in better days that have not yet happened. But are about to.
A new song. That hasn’t been written or sung yet by anybody and can maybe only be heard in silence by the lyrical tenor I choose to live my life to in 2015.
And plays as often as I want to hear it on a new Sirius station nobody else can find but me.
By John Y. Brown III, on Tue Dec 23, 2014 at 12:00 PM ET
I would like to know who the asshole is who bought his true love all the things listed below one Christmas and then put in a song to brag about.
He makes all the rest of us look bad.
And the fact this song gets sung over and over this time each year only rubs it in.
I mean, come on! Even if we guys got all this for our true loves, where would you put it all? And don’t you think by January you would be bored and tired of almost all of them, except maybe the golden rings?
Besides, I am guessing by the 13th day of Christmas, this guy declared bankrupcy, was charged with kidnapping 12 drummers, 11 pipers, 10 lords, 9 ladies and 8 maids, and was institutionalized or sent to prison.
I know having all this stuff sounds good. But do you really want to be with a guy like that?
Just think it through.
12 Drummers Drumming
11 Pipers Piping
10 Lords a Leaping
9 Ladies Dancing
8 Maids a Milking
7 Swans a Swimming
6 Geese a Laying
5 Golden Rings
4 Calling Birds
3 French Hens
2 Turtle Doves
1 Partridge in a Pear Tree
By Lauren Mayer, on Wed Dec 17, 2014 at 8:30 AM ET
Bill O’Reilly et al. like to paint themselves as victims of a secular conspiracy to destroy the meaning of Christmas. To hear them tell it, our founding fathers based the Constitution on a mashup of the bible (only selected portions, mind you, none of that keeping kosher stuff) and the Burl Ives ‘Frosty The Snowman’ TV special. So any attempt to reflect the diversity of our country around this time of year is not only unAmerican, but it threatens the very existence of the holiday they are thus compelled to defend.
Maybe if they got out of their studio once in a while, they’ll get a sense of just how well Christmas is doing versus any other holiday. Even here in the godlessly liberal/socialist Bay Area, every mall, business, or residential street looks like an elf’s wet dream, festooned with tinsel, red & green baubles, and enough mechanical reindeer & inflated lit-up snowmen to completely confuse my dog every time I walk her. (Not to mention the fact that Christmas has totally taken over Thanksgiving, and is probably going after Halloween and Labor Day next . . . )
Meanwhile, Bob Geldof has trotted out yet another rendition of his classic/monstrosity (depending on your perspective), “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” this time to raise awareness of Ebola, but continuing in the same vein of overblown rock anthem as expressed by patronizing Westerners. (Apparently, just in Nigera there are 3 times as many Christians as in England, so it seems like they don’t need Geldof’s song to enlighten them.) So in that same spirit, here’s my own overblown anthem in an effort to raise awareness of the existence of other holidays.
I’m not a fan of pop music but I am an innovation junkie. My daughter Alyssa, a self- professed Swiftie, has been pestering me to pay attention, if not to Taylor Swift’s music at least to her business model. She wore me down. Turns out, there’s a lot we innovation junkies can learn from Taylor Swift. Whether her music is your thing or not (I have to admit its growing on me!), you can’t help but be impressed with Taylor Swift’s business savvy during a time when the music industry is being disrupted to smithereens. I’m most impressed with her social media presence to catalyze a growing army of Swifties and her aggressive stand against Spotify as the business model war between mp3 sales and streaming services rages on.
The most successful businesses today are movements more than companies. Movements don’t market. Movements inspire and engage. They create an emotional connection through storytelling. Not stories to be enjoyed passively but stories we see ourselves in, stories we can actively participate in. What Taylor Swift realizes, that most businesses haven’t figured out, is that “social” isn’t an extension to an existing business model, it is an entirely new business model. Social isn’t a bolt on, its central to how movements start and grow.
Over the last two years the bottom has fallen out of the U.S. album market with sales plummeting 20%. Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 defies gravity with amazing launch week sales of 1.28 million copies exceeding all expectations according to Nielsen SoundScan. Swifties everywhere mobilized to make it so. My daughter, the fangirl, drove this innovation lesson home for me. Alyssa maintains a tumblr site dedicated to all things Taylor Swift. I didn’t pay attention until the day she called home proclaiming that the pop star had followed her and had actually responded to her question about all important lipstick choices. My daughter was so excited you would think it was a national holiday! That’s what I call fan engagement.
As if that wasn’t enough to lock in a fan for life, my daughter’s next post was a video of her 3 year-old twin nieces (our granddaughters) dancing to Shake It Off. Cute, aren’t they? When Taylor Swift tweeted out the video to her 46 million followers, our granddaughters went viral. Now everyone in our family is a Swiftie!
Multiply the ripple effect from this example of personal engagement thousands and thousands of times and you begin to see how social isn’t about pushing a message out to potential customers, its about pulling people into a movement. Talk about force multipliers. Social business is redundant. All business is social.
There is also an important innovation lesson in the way Taylor Swift has staked out her position in the music industry business model wars. Album sales are declining rapidly because consumers are flocking to free streaming services like Spotify with over 40 million active users. Only about 25% of those active users pay for a premium service without ads, the rest stream for free. 40 million streamers can put a serious dent in album sales. Spotify pays per stream royalties of between $0.006 and $0.0084 which is significantly less than an artist can make through mp3 sales.
Not many artists have Taylor Swift’s market clout but when she announced she was pulling her music off of Spotify it sent a clear message to the market. Content matters and should be paid for. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed and in a Yahoo interview she makes her point of view clear.
“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for”.
“I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music”.
In a world where content can be digitized and the marginal cost of global distribution is virtually zero consumers have been conditioned to get content for free. It’s a business model free for all. Content producers have been squeezed mercilessly. Journalists, authors, and musicians are being decimated. Newspaper and magazine journalists have been let go in droves left to scramble to make ends meet as free agents. Authors bear the brunt of collateral damage from the battle between Hachette and Amazon. Fewer and fewer musicians can make a living pursuing their passion.
A dangerous narrative has emerged in which content creators are supposed to just accept that their content will be free. Authors are expected to write articles and books for free so they can make money giving speeches and doing consulting work. Musicians are expected to release music for peanuts so they can make money on the road doing concerts.
I have personally fallen into this trap as a steady content producer including tweets, blogs, articles, and even a book. How many of us keep pumping out content for free or very little money in the hopes that it will translate into value in other ways? Taylor Swift is taking an impressive stand. Yes it is in her best interest to do so but it is also in the interest of content creators everywhere.
Many new business models will emerge in the digital era. It will be messy while the market sorts out and balances consumer, platform, and content creator interests. Business models that don’t recognize the power of customer engagement and fully value the contribution of content creators are unsustainable. This new Swiftie is rooting for Taylor Swift’s continued success.