Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Eyedea Meant to Me

Eyedea, the hip hop MC and all-around musician-philosopher from Minnesota, died in his sleep on October 16th, 2010. No one knows how he died yet. We'll probably never know how, as is often the case with beautiful human beings of note. Frankly, I would like to know exactly how he died, and I want it backed up with evidence and testimony from people who should speak out (you know who you are).
I knew Eyedea, real name Michael Larsen. Mainly I knew him through his music. I also got the chance to speak to him a few times while living in Minneapolis, Eyedea's hometown for life. My hometown too, intermittently. In person, Eyedea was a live wire, though he had a smoothness to him. Kind of like a benevolent velociraptor: methodical, alert, and ready to explode at a moment's notice. He smiled a lot.
I exchanged a few emails with him via MySpace back in the day. We traded thoughts on life and music. He signed his emails "Michael," so I addressed him as such. Michael was kind, frank, and personable in the email medium. Once, I sent him an MP3 of a track I had created with music and lyrics. He replied, "It's pretty cool, but you could do more with it."
Indeed. Eyedea was always exploring new ways to do more with his own mind. His mastery over the hip hop vernacular was simply not enough for Eyedea. He expanded into punk, rock, jazz, and uncategorizable musical forms.
He proved his freestyle muscle hundreds of times, most notably at Scribble Jam 1999 and Blaze Battle 2000, taking the crown in both events. He was only 17 and 18, respectively. He outgrew the idiom immediately afterwards, releasing studio albums devoted half to the battle aesthetic, half to philosophical explorations.
Eyedea's voice was distinct. A middle- to high-pitched rasp. A bit on the nasal side. He was no James Earl Jones, in other words. To me, and probably to many others, Eyedea's voice was an acquired taste. But once you got used to the unusual voice, the rewards were plentiful. I spent days, weeks, months, years, and yes, an entire decade, getting to know Eyedea's music.
I am still trying to pick apart some of his earliest rhymes. Even when the words fly by too quickly for the mind to grasp, Eyedea's delivery style was compelling enough to listen to over and over again. His passion itself--that was the "hook" to his poetry. When he rapped, it was the verbal equivalent of 20 massive fists punching holes in the concrete wall between the conscious and the unconscious.
In this, Eyedea was a John Henry of sorts. You know the legend of John Henry: Holding nothing but his trusty pick-axe, he raced a newfangled mountain-tunneling machine in a battle between the human spirit versus technology. In the end, the technology won by default: John Henry died from exhaustion.
Maybe that's what killed Eyedea. Exhaustion. Maybe he thought himself to death. And maybe the machine Eyedea was fighting was the robot that lives in all of us, trying to take over the mind and heart. He railed against mindlessness. He drove himself through the thickest parts of his own internal struggle. Where there was entanglement, there was Eyedea: Slashing, thrashing his way towards the truth. He took the road less traveled. He took the most difficult routes he could identify.
Eyedea was the bar by which I measured all other MCs, including myself. I look at my own music, and I ask myself whether it would be honest enough, raw enough, genuine enough, for Eyedea. I feel that although he was well known for his verbal fireworks, what Eyedea most valued was sincerity. Still, I always had a little pretend battle going on between myself and him on a technical level.
In short, Eyedea inspired me. He was the vine that grew slowly, covering the structure of my musical and lyrical aesthetic. Those vines will live on in me and countless others.
There can never be enough said about Eyedea. One man cannot sum him up. Help me. What did Eyedea mean to you? It can be small or large. Doesn't matter. What matters is, if Eyedea meant something to you, let us know. You can post a comment here on my blog, or on Facebook, or just anywhere. Let's brand his legacy in the popular consciousness while the iron is hot and the pelt is exposed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Introducing Jack Move Magazine

Just a few moments ago, the writer, editor, publisher, and advertising mind Emma Alvarez Gibson published the first issue of Jack Move Magazine, an old-school zine for the 21st century. I contributed a piece to Jack Move; I will leave it to you to figure out which piece is mine (hint: my byline is on it.) I am refraining from giving you the direct link to my offering, because I want you to rummage through the other quality writing on your way to reading my article.

What is Jack Move Magazine all about? From the masthead:

Like an old-school zine.

(But smarter. And sexier.)

Real talk for the thinking person. Real perspectives from real people. And a really excellent sampling of what’s current. We aim to spark in our readers the sort of sky-rips-open, wonder-filled possibility that those old zines sparked in us. Think of us as the zine-analog you’ve been secretly yearning for.

Culture and vision, vision and culture: It’s the stuff that keeps us from slinking back into the primordial soup. We think that’s worth our attention. We hope we’re worth yours.

Mrs. Gibson has a long history of writing fiction, poetry, expository writing, branding work, consulting, and of course ad copy in the course of her life. As an entrepreneur and ring leader, she has enough energy to statically charge even the dampest of spirits. On a personal note, I am grateful to her for encouraging me in many aspects of my life, not least of which is the artistic part of my life. I honestly don't know where I would be without Emma--even though we only met one time, at a Starbucks in Pasadena, while I was still living in California.

The contributors to Jack Move Magazine offer a wide range of styles, forms, and subjects. I hope you get a kick out of it. Click here to visit Jack Move Magazine and get a piece of raw energy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Global Anatomy of Power in the 21st Century

A brief sketch of a hypothetical non-fiction magnum opus: a book about how power works in the 21st century.

Global Power

A survey of the different types of power bases, and how they interact. Governments, extra-governmental corporations, profit-motivated groups, ideologically motivated groups, and unconscious psychosocial movements. Because power does not always rest in human hands, natural phenomena would have to be treated as power bases as well; they would be integrated into the theoretical interactions of human power bases.

National Power

A survey of many countries and a more focused analysis of how power works on the national level. Inclusion of a charting system developed to measure the distribution of power in each country; such a chart would place national, regional, local, private, and hidden power in relation to one another by contact points and weight.

Regional and Local Power

Further magnifications.

Clubs, Families, and Individuals

How power works in small groups, and how individuals change this.

True Power vs. Power in Name Only

A definition of actual power bases. For example, if two countries are better understood as one in terms of power, I would explain why. If one country can actually be broken into multiple true countries, either geographically or psychographically, I would address this as well.


A survey of common and interesting types of patriotism, and an assessment of the influence of patriotism in each geographical region.


A discussion on how different cultures allow power to distribute itself and to what degree it exercises itself. I would trace the cultural customs and values back as far as relevance allows, in search of an explanation for why power becomes what it becomes.

Gangs, Cartels, Shadow Governments

A survey and portrait of how semi-hidden power bases influence world affairs and the lives of everyday people, as well as their real power relative to official power.

Political Systems

A discussion of various political systems (democracy, communism, monarchy, etc.) and why they don't matter very much.

Language and Art

A discussion of how language and art affect power.


A discussion of how technology changes the nature of power.

Conclusion: How To Change Power

How to change, redistribute, reduce, or eradicate power. A discussion on fleeting change vs. real change. The key message here will be that real change takes many generations, and that even the most spectacular of world events do not actually change things as much as people think they do. Change must be initiated at the cultural level.

Friday, September 24, 2010

25 Loosely Connected Opinions on the Mechanics of Personal Revolution

I wrote this using my Twitter account.
  1. High energy and fast poetry break barriers to entry. Don't wait for permission to speak. Move in, get in front of the crowd, and explode.
  2. I have commandeered microphones in minutes flat. I have created stages out of staircases. You don't need airwaves and Carnegie Halls.
  3. Raised eyebrows become head-scratching becomes stroked beards become arms akimbo become heart-pounding becomes shouts & applause in moments.
  4. Prepare for that moment. Get the message ready. Sculpt it, chisel it, perfect it. An opportunity to unleash the message will present itself.
  5. Blitzkrieg. The revolution of the mind cannot be self-administered. The element of surprise is key. The ego's defense relies on forewarning.
  6. Comedians are like double agents. They appease the conscious mind to gain access to the unconscious mind.
  7. If you want to change the world, be a mind agent. Infiltrate psyches and install messages that fuse to the ego.
  8. "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down."
  9. Hackers say code is poetry. I say it's also vice-versa.
  10. It is unnerving to think that our minds are programmable. But they are. Propagandists and marketers are programming us at this very moment.
  11. The mind is a battlefield. To ignore the rules of battle is to allow meaningless objectives to prevail. Apply conscious programming.
  12. Changing your own mind is often just a reconfiguration of existing components. To change your mind, an external force must operate on you.
  13. In my experience, fundamental change is something that comes over you, like a force of nature. It's out of your hands.
  14. Choice comes after assessment. Assessment comes after options. Options come after exploration. Exploration comes from perpetual motion.
  15. Vision precedes perception.
  16. Your vision is a hollow vessel. Information serves mainly to fill up and justify the existence of your vision.
  17. Information, facts, figures, and data do not change the shape of your vision. And emotion only serves to heat and thus soften your vision.
  18. The sheer gravity of other visions, in my theory, is the only force that can change the shape of your emotion-softened vision.
  19. Visions can take the form of symbols. Symbols are visions that have been eroded over the years to their irreducible essence.
  20. To draw a parallel to physics: An individual human vision is the "weak" force, while a symbol (collective vision) is the "strong" force.
  21. An individual's vision can make subtle but universal changes to other visions. A symbol makes highly perceptible but localized changes.
  22. In the end, we have only the tools available to us. We have language, for example: an assemblage of blunt objects and surgical instruments.
  23. Language is partially a function of the number of people involved. Its nature changes drastically at each succession towards infinity.
  24. It is useful to understand Dunbar's Number when talking about language, cognition, and revolution. http://bit.ly/cXilP4
  25. We have only so many mental, emotional, and temporal resources to address such questions. There is sacrifice.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A blues note.

The future is a terrible place, in my view.

I was born in 1980.

The 1990s was a wonderful place to come of age. Opportunity seemed endless. I was doing anything and everything I wanted. School was warm, nurturing, splendid. I was involved in numerous extra-curricular activities, mainly arts-oriented.

Outside of school, the winter ice crackled spectacular underfoot and the summer breeze cooled the leaves. Bicycles turned to car wheels. Riding was the stuff life is made of.

On the periphery of consciousness, in the media, the economy was booming harder than ever before. The human condition was getting better all the time, as far as we knew.

Friendship was solid, dependable. Love was rich, sincere, committed.

I was 21 when the planes hit the towers. I took it pretty hard.

Since then everything has seemed bleak. The first decade of the 21st century have been rough on me. I have not aged gracefully. Numerous false career starts have left me doubting I will ever find a solid niche and wondering whether I should even try. Numerous of my personal friendships and romantic relationships have shattered.

The false promise of the 1990s have left me with the 2010 blues. Thirty years old and I'm stuck in the mud with little desire to even spin my tires, let alone get out and push.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So much remains uncharted.

Eighty percent.
You took some hits.
Some chunks broke off the ship.

And you're light years away
From where you started.

But you're still kicking up stardust,
Line dancing with black holes.

Swing your partner, she's all you got.
So much remains uncharted.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I will not avert my eyes, I will not turn my back...

I will not avert my eyes, I will not turn my back.
I will stare into the sockets of the skull, the endless black
That never dulls, that never cries, that never blinks, I will not shrink
Until the finish. Nor shall death diminish my resolve, think


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

An Unusual Cabby: A Story in 25 Tweets

An Unusual Cabby: A Story in 25 Tweets

I improvised this story today on Twitter, one tweet at a time. It comes from a place of need. All tweets appear here in chronological order from top to bottom and have been proofread for respectful capitalization only.

Lord, I need a lift. I need to get from here to there. You're the expert, but if I may suggest a route, hang a left and aim for the glowing.

"Hang on to your shit," spake the Lord, and floored it.

In reverse. Pinned by velocity to the back of the passenger seat like a sixth-grade science project, I could just make out my past flying by.

As Fall Branch receded into the future, I saw the places I've been. At this divine speed they appeared as wet Polaroids not fully developed.

Azusa. Pasadena. North Hollywood. St. Paul. Mounds View. St. Paul again. Yonkers. Roswell. New Haven. Geneva. Minneapolis. London. Paris.

We passed green foothills in white caps, threaded through S-curves wiggling between sheer cliffs, blasted out into great expanses of desert.

And then we were riding on water. His taxi skipped across the Atlantic like a checkered yellow stone.
The Lord never asked me whether I was comfortable.

"Thirsty?" the Lord did ask unto me. "Yes," I replied, upon which He handed me an Evian bottle full of brilliant ruby wine. I downed it.

Yea, the Lord got me completely wasted. He pulled over. I fell out of the cab onto a cobbled street. The cab had turned black. "Nice trick.”

London. West End. The Hammersmith Apollo loomed high above my head. The marquee read "BLAST!" Blast, I'm late for my entrance, I mumbled.

"Don't worry," spake the Lord, "You're fired. Get in." I looked at Him, looked at the marquee, looked at the black cab and climbed in. Sigh.

The Lord buried His sandaled foot in the floorboards and off we flew, still in reverse. "Paris, right?" I asked, fumbling with the seatbelt.

I stood on the beach of Brittany at sunset. The blue swingset. The oyster bar. My friend Sanaphay, stoned and puking up oysters. Bliss.

The Lord shoveled me into the cab again, took the wheel, and punched it back to Minneapolis. University of Minnesota. "I'm tired, Lord.”

High school: Marching band, theater, English class, cross-country skiing, crushes, Live, Dave Matthews, lockers, cars and bicycles.

Middle school: Shame, darting eyes, righteous indignation, the stench of skepticism wafting from Mead notebooks. Picking fights with giants.

Elementary school: Mr. Galinsky, a class music video, the Bookworm program, a rosy girl of long black hair named Chastity. And Katie.

Baseball cards. G.I. Joe. Transformers. Mr. Rogers. Barbara Mandrell on PBS.

A wooden fence and a little blond boy named William in red shorts. Me.

An Easter Basket of green plastic grass and chocolate eggs. The reassuring smell of cigarette smoke on Mom's pea coat.

Everything goes black. "Lord, I can't follow You here.”

"Then you aren't ready to go all the way, " spake the Lord. "I'll pick you up in 87 years. You owe Me six hundred large." Put it on my tab.

The Lord sighed. "Thanks for riding with Us." I helped Him with His robes, slammed the door and gave the roof a pat. He threw it in reverse.

The End.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

No! Nein! Iie! Aniyo! Bu Shi! Nao!


And for the last time, Mom, I don't speak those languages. Do I look like a fucking PhD to you?! We live in a shack and subsist on possum sandwiches and I'm six, for Christ's sake.
(Sedona, Arizona, January 2010)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Props Where Props Are Due

This should come as a surprise to the good people at Growthink.

I owe my recent interest in crowdfunding (and angel investing, venture capital, and business planning) to Growthink. They graciously offered me the chance to assist them with my writing services. In so doing, they gave me an introduction to the interesting world of seed and early-stage business management.

Therefore I felt it only fair to give them a shout-out here. Growthink is a business plan consultancy, middle market investment bank, and feasibility study service. Since 1999 they have helped over 2,000 businesses raise $1 billion in capital.

Visit http://growthink.com to get an overall sense of the company.

Visit http:/crowdfundingformula.com to view a tantalizing video by Growthink co-founder Dave Lavinsky.

This is NOT a paid advertisement. Just props where props are due.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Feedback requested! Should I keep writing about business topics? Sample article within.

Hi there.

I am testing the waters to see whether my business writing is of worth to you and your networks. Depending on your feedback, I will continue to write about angel capital, venture capital, crowdfunding, and other business investment topics. I will also attempt to research and answer any of your questions about such topics, to boot.

The more valuable my writing is, the more likely you are to link to my articles and share them with your networks. The more links and eyeballs my articles get, the more revenue shares I rake in.
On the other hand, if my business writing is not compelling enough to warrant viral distribution, I make bunk and it isn't worth my time financially (even though I do rather enjoy it.)

That's why I am asking for your feedback.

Please read my article "How to Determine Whether a New Company is a Good Candidate for Venture Capital Funding" on eHow. It is one of many I have written, but I am choosing this one for testing the waters.
If you like the article, pass it around like the town bicycle. Also click the blue "Like" button, as spotlighted in this gratuitous screenshot:

Cheers, and I look forward to your feedback. Should I keep going?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Things change quickly in my life. Here, let me slow it down for you.

These are stills from a video of today's brief but banging thunderstorm today here in Fall Branch, Tennessee, where I currently reside.

I left California a little over three weeks ago. My roommate's landlord decided he can't have roommates, so I had to move out. I chose to come to Fall Branch, where a friend of mine from California is now living. The rent is cheap, the hills are rolling, and the animals far outnumber the people in this little town. The nearest "city" is the Tri-Cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City, which straddle the Virginia-Tennessee border, about a half-hour drive away from here.

I have two purposes in life: to move, and to give. I seem to be very good at moving. What I am not good at is giving. The people I met and befriended in California taught me all about giving. They were relentlessly generous with their material belongings, but more important, they were always there to talk to me and lend me some of their light. I decided I need to do that too.

More pictures and stories to come. On this blog I give you only the synopsis. Details may or may not be forthcoming, but I wanted to keep you in the loop.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A few reactions to my first cautious steps into a study and experience of Theosophy.

I went to a Theosophy class at Theosophy Hall in downtown Los Angeles last night with my most excellent roommate Pedro. I enjoyed the experience. I wasn't sure what was going on during the presentation and ensuing discussion - were they seeking the truth? conveying the truth? - yet the experience was so intellectually stimulating that I left feeling quite aware of my surroundings. It was a transporting experience.

One guy gave me some free printed matter, which I read today. I also did some background research on the oh-so-trustworthy Internet. (I trust you can hear the measured sarcasm on that last point.)

My impressions are not all roses, though.

I like that the Theosophists encourage free thought. This critique on my first impressions of the study is made in the spirit of free thought.

Here goes.

I agree with Theosophists when they say life is continuous. With death comes birth. Matter begets matter.
But I disagree with Theosophists when they say we are each a distinct personality or soul which is continuous or permanent.

I believe there to be one consciousness, as Thesosophy states. But I disagree with the idea that there is something apart from matter. The one consciousness is matter in different forms. Matter is spirit, not a vehicle for spirit.

I agree with the Theosophists when they say there is consciousness in a stone, an atom, a planet. I believe Space has consciousness, yes. Science shows "empty space" to be quite full indeed. Where there is anything, there is consciousness.

I do not believe, as the Theosophists believe, that there is such a thing as "the progression of the soul." There are only curves, not some brave charge "forward." There is no ultimate forward or backward. Einstein proved this with his theory of relativity.

The Theosophists state that there is such a thing as a "spiritual evolution" and that such an evolution moves "forward" into "higher" states of being.

Theosophists have a faulty understanding of the word "evolution." You, dear reader, probably have it wrong too. It's so simple. Evolution is a very specific concept. It has nothing to do with strength, intelligence, "karma", or anything else.

Evolution is simply adaptation. Most self-described evolutionists don't even understand this, nor do the creationists. If you need to fly, you get wings. If you need to slither, you get scales. If you need to breathe, you get lungs or gills. If you need to do photosynthesis, you get chlorophyll. If you need to sit there and not move for a few million years, you get to be a heavy-ass boulder. Whatever you role is, that's what you're suited for. If the environment changes or you leave your environment, your features probably won't work anymore. You die. For example, if your navigation system depends on abundant light, and suddenly you get lost in a system of caves, some other being who has been testing out a snazzy new way of seeing in the dark called "echolocation" takes your place. You know what animal that is. The lowly bat. And he happens to be alive when you're fucking dead. That's evolution, dudes and dudettes. It's really simple. Unfortunately, our big-ass human ego is constantly trying (and failing) to understand everything in terms of superiority and inferiority, and so we can't seem to grasp the very simple concept of evolution, which has nothing to do with "worthiness".

Note: When what's-his-name said "survival of the fittest," fittest meant "best-suited," not "most superior" nor "looks best in a bathing suit." A bigger glove is not necessarily better. You need the size that fits your hand, and that's that.

I find it egotistical when I hear anyone talk of "lower" and "higher" life forms. A human is not higher than an ant. It is different, and suited for different purposes. Ants are good at finding one grain of sugar, while humans are good at thinking symbolically. Humans may or may not be more complex than other life forms and materials, but complexity does not equal "height". That is stupid.

The ability to think in moral or ethical terms is an adaption, not an advance or evidence of an immaterial soul. We have morals and ethics because we are not naturally good at knowing what we're supposed to do. If anything, the existence of morals and ethics among humans speaks of our weak instincts. Instinct suits the rest of the animal and plant kingdom just fine. Just because we don't know how to use the tool called "instinct," that doesn't make us better or worse than anyone else. We have morals and ethics because we have outsourced instinct to a linear way of thinking. Make sense?

We are not separate from nature, and we are no more different from the rest of nature than an ant is different from an elephant. Everything is different, everything is special, and every life form must be understood on its own terms.

I do like Theosophy, as a religion, as a group of people. It's definitely not a cult. Just a bunch of smarties trying to find a religious understanding that suits them. They're just looking for a reason to live, and such a thing is difficult to do when you're of above-average intelligence in a "secular" world. Thus this quasi-historical, quasi-scientific religion (yes, it's a religion, even if a weak one) was formed to satisfy the craving for immortality of the ego.

We all have irrational needs. We all need to believe in immortality on some level. Theosophy is just one in a long lie of budding traditions that tries to pass itself off as a rational replacement for religion. There is no rational replacement for religion, and we all need religion. Please call it religion, okay? It's religion. That's fine.

This post has undergone exactly zero edits.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Dedicated Wife and Mother Generously Shares Her Experiences with Bi-Polar Disorder

This is the 5th and latest episode of Searching for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown, my weekly radio/podcast show in which I interview for 50 minutes one interesting person who has a light to shine in the dark places.

We also get goofy on occasion, as let's face it - I have no idea what the hell I am doing. As if that ever stopped me from doing anything.

This week's episode deal's with bi-polar disorder. My guest today is Christy, a.k.a. "Charlie Angel," a.k.a. http://twitter.com/IZTAES, a.k.a. http://iztaes.blogspot.com, who was married to a man with bi-polar disorder and has two children with the condition.

Christy posted a story in late April at her blog Tea and Oranges relating her experiences with those living with bi-polar disorder. In the pieces she lauded the courage of the band Blue October, whose lead singer has the disorder and spreads awareness by openly talking about it. Such openness is not a common thing, given the stigma associated with the illness.

I found Christy's post to be compassionate, passionate, and balls-out honest - and so asked her to be on my show. She managed to take time out of her busy schedule (she has five children!) to share what she knows.
There is no stigma here at The Search for Meaning. Christy's attitude is just as brave and open as that of Blue October. The interview went swimmingly, in my opinion.

As always, share and enjoy this MP3. Stream it, download it, repost it, whatever you want to do with it. I want everyone to hear this.

For some unknown reason (insecurity?), I used the eff word once near the beginning. So if you share this with grandma, just bang on some pots and pans when I say it.

I am striving to keep my "um"'s to a minimum. Feedback of any type is welcome.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rick Hamrick shines as my latest guest on "Searching for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown" (Ep. 4)

I am very proud of techie and seeker Rick Hamrick for having reached this radiant place in life. The man really does shine, and made me the interviewer feel quite at ease discussing such matters as the stages of life, money, and, of course, shining.

I suspect Rick has worked hard at becoming such a fun guy. There is plenty ahead of him - and enough behind him - for conveying some very solid observations about life, the universe, and everything. Incidentally, the answer to life, the universe, and everything is not "42," as you will hear.

As always, this show is entirely improvised, and there is no agenda. I apologize for my um's.

In Rick's own words, a short backgrounder:

Rick is a father of four grown daughters, all wonderfully unique in their interests and passions. He is a career IT guy who has been between gigs long enough that the gap is beginning to look more Grand Canyonish by the day. Most recently, his wife's career is his focus as he seeks to be all the help he can be in publishing Choosing Easy World, his wife's first book released by a major publisher.

All of that "what does he do" stuff is great, yet there is more going on than just stuff he does.

A few years ago, Rick claimed to be a Sufi mystic masquerading as a corporate IT guy. Now that he is not a corporate IT guy--or is one without portfolio--he has more time to exhibit more of the inner mystic.

While it is still a tongue-in-cheek claim, as he has never formally studied Sufism or any religion, there is something to be said for claiming who you think you can be, then becoming it.

That's where Rick is now. He is becoming. We don't know what, but he is becoming.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Highly Nerdy Former Journalist Explains the Difference Between an About Page and a Services Page

Whereas an About page is all about establishing brand and tone and giving readers a full journalistic sense of the company as a whole, a Services page is essentially a list that shows exactly what the readers can get from said company. Think of the About page as a news story, and the Services page as a grocery store aisle.
An About page should always and forevermore be called an About page. Links to the About page should read "About". The About page should be accessible from anywhere on the website, via a link at the top and/or bottom of the website. Don't hide your About page as a needle in a haystack.

The About page must contain a bit of prose that conveys the journalistic Five W's and H of the company - Who, What, When, Where, Why, How. Often these terms overlap, but make sure each of the Five W's and H are touched on in the About page. Sometimes the 5WH must be conveyed in the design, rather than in words - or in both. You need to give a clear, vibrant picture of the company here - quickly and in a highly readable manner.

  • Who is the company? Are you tech consultants, green thumbs, an artist? Name names, if you can. Include headshots, if possible. Give a sense of humanity by using a distinctive style and voice.
  • What is the company, and what does it do? Is it a law firm that specializes in helping their clients to not get fleeced in a divorce? If you sell widgets that nobody understands, what the hell is a widget? Make readers "get it" quickly.
  • When was the company formulated, how long has it been in operation, how fast does the company deliver services? Readers need you to give them a sense of the passing of time. It makes them feel safe. I don't know why. Just include the element of time, somehow.
  • Where is the company based? What geographical region does it serve? If the company is decentralized, you still need to mention place names or. We still live on Planet Earth, and so people need a sense of place.
  • Why does the company do what it does? What drives the people behind the company? What is the mission, the aim of the company? What is its purpose, its raison d'etre?
  • How does the company deliver services, how does the company operate, how can a reader get the company's services right now?

The Services page is a list, period. When someone clicks on a link that says "Services" - and it should always be called "Services", by the way - they are looking for a list. Therefore it must contain bullet points, headings, and other dividing methods.
A list contains nouns. The nouns can be expanded upon if necessary to explain unknown terms. Include all of your services. If some of your services can only be explained after speaking with a client, or if your services are far too numerous to include every last one of them, you must add a paragraph of prose to give readers a general idea.

Include also an action step in the Services page. This can mean linking people to the Products page, or to the Contact page. (Better yet, include contact info on every single page of your website. Don't make people strain to reach you. Just be there for them every step of the way.)

About the Author: Will Conley is a copywriter and former journalist whose high school "College English" teacher made fun of him until he learned the meaning of "parallel sentence."

You Are Not Above the Law: Three Things Real People Look for in a Business Website

Some rules never change, nor should they. The fact that you can read these reads proves my point.

This article is from the standpoint of someone who espouses the "path of least resistance" approach to website architecture and information dispersal. The faster your visitors can find what they are looking for, the happier everyone is.

You can be as creative as you want, but only within certain limits. Just like spoken language, there is a grammar to web navigation, replete with tacit rules, signals, indicators, and sign posts.

A good website follows all the rules of clear navigation - and your creativity can thrive within those bounds.
I always relate the story of the behavioral psychology experiment in which two groups of children were placed in two sets of circumstances and their behavior observed.

The first group of children, Group A, were placed in a fenced-in environment and given toys to play with. The second, Group B, was placed in a wide-open field and given the same toys.

Group A was observed to have had more fun, because there were limits within which their creativity could be expressed. Group B had less fun, because there were no limits. They were wary and disoriented.

Freedom is freedom only when there are rules. Every musician knows this. Miles Davis said you should learn all the musical scales so well that you can forget them.

You must standardize. There is nothing saying you can't have personality without following the commonly accepted signals of web navigation. Here are three non-optional elements of a business website.

1. Homepage
A business website should have a home or landing page with enough information for the reader to learn everything they need to know about the essence of what the business does. This means there should be enough search engine optimized body copy there for Internet users to find the business, but it should also project the brand, attitude or essence of the business.

Directly or indirectly, the homepage body copy should convey:

  • something about the mission of the company,
  • what the company can do for the user,
  • who their typical user (target audience) is, and
  • an introduction to the website.
The body copy of the homepage should incorporate links to the relevant sections of the website. Think of the homepage body copy as the welcome wagon and tour guide to the rest of the website. It should take readers by the arm and lead them to where they should go next - all the while informing them about the company and, if applicable, leading them to an action (purchase, download, further click-through, what-have-you.)
2. About
Every business website must have an About page that is easy to locate from anywhere on the website. When people click through to the About page, they are looking for fast access to
the essence of the company,

  • what it does,
  • where it is located,
  • who is behind it, and
  • what the company offers to the target audience.
Give the readers what they are looking for. Don't hide.
3. Products

If applicable, a prominent link to the Products page should be easy to access from anywhere on the website. Make it easy to find your products at any time, and you will make sales.

About the Author: Will Conley is a copywriter who feels that no matter what your profession, you should learn the rules so well that you can forget them.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A few thoughts on menstruation, boys behaving badly, ritual, and the Gulf oil spill.

You're weak, ladies and gentleman. Weak, whiny, woman-girls and man-boys. And it's because we as a culture have no meaningful rituals to separate childhood from adulthood. If we had stronger, more jarring initiation rites to mark the time between childhood and adulthood, we would all be less pathetic and whiny and heartless as adults.

And if we replaced our self-indulgence with a healthy fear of Mother Earth, the Gulf might not be your "oops" garbage dump.

The world needs to wake and make a big deal of a girl's first menstruation. Her body is becoming a vessel capable of sustaining the species, and we should use it as a time to help the girl become aware that she must eventually let go of the trappings of childhood and accept her place in the world as a mature and responsible and strong human being.

We have turned menstruation into an object of shame and embarrassment. At best, it's aslightly droll and unfortunate event. We talk in code about it and try not to be conscious of it. Silly excuses and lies are made up about why a girl or woman is absent from school or work.

The Aboriginal Australians have rites in which a woman's first menstruation is marked by sitting in a tent for days and days, forcing the girl to come to grips with the fact that she must now let go of childhood and all the weak, needy things associated with it. If she fails to grow the up, the Aborigines can't use her and she gets kicked out of the tribe. In the unforgiving landscape of Australia, ostricization means death. She who fails to mature mentally is a danger to the survival of the community.

Same goes for the men. We need to wake up and make a big deal of a boy who starts to misbehave as a teenager, and throw him head-first into what it means to be a man. We need a point at which a man learns that this rock is a real bitch to live on and he had better grow a pair now.

Men don't have a natural division point between childhood and adulthood as a female does, so ancient cultures have made up rituals to make it obvious that the boy has to grow the hell up or the tribe will die.

The Aborigines have an elaborate, terrifying ritual to snap boys into behaving well. When a boy starts acting all tough and egotistical as testosterone is wont to make a male do, the grown men dress up like spirits, come in making a commotion, "kidnap" the boy from the mother (who plays along), circumcise him, subincise him (splitting), and thus induct him into the mens club. They scare the living fuck out of him in one painful fell swoop and make it abundantly clear that he is no longer a momma's boy, that the tribe depends on him, and he had better shape the fuck up or he's a dead man.

Sure, we have weak certain initiation rites in some cultures. Jewish kids have bah mitzvahs and bar mitzvahs. Catholic children get a smile and a slap on the cheek from the nice priest. Latinas have quinceaƱeras on their 15th birthday to help them act more like spoiled princesses. Men have rites involving self-indulgence – such as going to the nudie bar for the first time, smoking his first cigarette, drinking his “first” beer, and other “special” “firsts”.

In schools and frats we have ridiculous "initiations" administered by our equally immature peers. Some might say the grade school system itself – and college – are good common ways in our culture to mark the occasions of growing up, but those people are wrong. Like a frog in a pot of lukewarm water heated up slowly, such a gradual, plodding process makes no impact. The person never leaves the comfortable confines of childhood. He never feels a change. And we all eventually boil.

Well isn't all that special. None of our common rituals jar us awake. They are all "just something we go through", and don't really make a lasting change on most humans.

This post was inspired by The Power of Myth, an edited transcript of the Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers interviews, but it is also inspired by other anthropological literature I've read. I've got a little bit of knowledge, and I'm feeling dangerous, so there you have it. My opinion about why we are all so weak and pathetic and whiny. I am sick and tired of hearing about "emotional safety", and I grow weary of us who lack the fortitude to maintain composure no matter what the circumstances.

This is a tough world to live in, and if you think it's supposed to be easy, then I rest my case: We need ritual. We need myth. To teach us what it means to grow up.

In writing this, I have left myself open to ridicule, corrections, accusations, and other concerns ranging from the legitimate and the banal. So go ahead. Give me your best shot. But before you do, think about what I have said here. Try to make sense of it. Give the information/opinion/perspective a chance. And dream with me of a better future.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I wrote this poem today while walking.

Along the foothills
Down the boulevard
Threading a path along the valley
Straight ahead wide open territory
To my right mountains loom
If I close my right eye
I can pretend I am back home
Walking along some flat old highway
In the flat open plain of Minnesota
I walk on shifting sand
I stop and dig
Won't stop until I hit bedrock
Then drill a hole until the bit snaps
And plant the first piling
To my impregnable fortress
Nothing will topple it
No one gets across the drawbridge
Without knowing my dance macabre
Coreographed by the hands of puppet gods
Me versus pantheons
A lifelong tangle of war
Until by strings I rearrange the gods my way
And sit

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Seven Principles and Seven Desires

Weeks ago I vowed to write a personal declaration of principles. I started writing them today. See below. While writing my principles I stumbled upon a list of desires too. The two are separate, and I'll explain why in a minute.

Some of My Principles:
1. Faith.
2. A mission.
3. Hard work.
4. Persistence.
5. Breathing.
6. Giving.
7. Smiling.

Some of My Desires:
1. Embrace.
2. Money.
3. Food, clothing, shelter.
4. Happiness (not to be confused with smiling.)
5. World peace.
6. Self-improvement.
7. Release.

Principles are those things I have control over. Desires are those things I have no control over that my gods may bestow upon me if they feel like it.

You might wonder why "self-improvement" goes not in the Principles but in the Desires list. Isn't self-improvement a choice? No, it's not. Look around you. Do you see all the people talking about self-improvement? Do you see them getting any better? No. Self-improvement is a gift bestowed on you by your gods, if they feel like it, and if you pursue your principles.

This is a working document.

A mixed review of my tweets and radio show by one bold fan.

This is the most balanced unsolicited feedback from a stranger I have yet received for my writing and speaking.

The feedback which you are about to read came to me via DM (direct message) on Twitter - rapid-fire, unrelenting. It is in response to my pot-stirring, "fence-sitting" tweets of the day - as well as to my radio interview series "The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown", in which I interview one person per episode about whatever they are passionate about.

The DMs sent to me by this person add up to a full-on letter - so that is how I edited and am presenting them here: as a letter.

The letter is blunt, opinionated, critical - to me, amusing - yet balanced with the proper dose of ego-soothing sugar to help the medicine go down.

Well done, anonymous fan. And thank you. I am listening. Your message may even sink in some year. You know how learning and self-improvement can be. Slow.

Here is the letter:

I love the image of you sitting on the fence, not declaring whose side you are on! I'm glad you know about [inner] division. Just don't divide by 0. It's an absurdity.

In the background, I see a line of barbed wire fences on the horizon. In the foreground, I see an extension of a steel gate - like one guard guarding a driveway. If your contention is that you are not sitting on a barbed wire fence as opposed to a steel tubed fence, then it's just semantics that you jest with. Both cases still present a fence.

Enjoy your "pot stirring." It's a refreshing change to the banal tweets.
(At this point I thanked this person for the metaphorical feedback, assured him or her I would be deciphering it for days to come, and complimented him or her on his or her way of criticizing.)

I feel summarily dismissed. Thanks for the criticism/compliments of me, though I did not ask for it. I really enjoyed Ep 2. [of The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown]! Good sound quality! Your guest for Ep. 2 [Michael Hill, Twitter handle @michaelowenhill] is very articulate and interesting. Good choice on your behalf. I wish though that you had not interrupted him so much.

I find the majority of your tweets somewhat pretentious and purposefully inciting. I Imagine that is your intention, to be taken tongue-in-cheek.
("Good feedback. Thank you. Dismissed? Bullshit.")

Are you always so laconic? I felt dismissed because you did not address sitting on the fence. It sounded like, "You are a good girl, and now run off."
("Just listening.")

You are quick-witted as well! We all have our areas of conceit; your pride centers around viewing the world beneath your superiority. I don't really know you, and as you pointed out, as authors we have no powers over how others view our tweets. But on the whole, I respect you. I admire you for pointing out our foibles. There are so few willing to be open to ridicule or conjecture.

It is my hope that you will not take offense if I have a different viewpoint. I am a fan and will enjoy listening to more of your shows. I value you.

("Can I use your feedback as a testimonial?")

Please do use it - all.
And that was that.

Now how often does a company or a person(ality) present balanced testimonials to promote their product/show? Not often. That's how superior I am.

Now listen to my radio show. You can find it for free right on my Posterous blog, http://willconley.posterous.com. Look for posts titled or tagged The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown. Stream or download it freely. I ain't a-scared.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Now available for download: "The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown" Ep. 2 with @MichaelOwenHill

The next installment in my radio series that asks the question, "What the hell is going on?" With honored guest Michael Owen Hill of St. Paul, Minnesota. I enjoyed our freewheeling conversation.

The thing I like the most about doing this series is establishing multiple beginnings. As the subject matter tends to dart from topic to topic, the podcast is intended to give a glimpse, a menu, a selection of things about the guest.

We aim to expand our mind. Enjoy the podcast and share it freely. Subscribe to this blog to make sure you don't miss any episodes of The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the unknown.

Friday, May 21, 2010

WARNING: This song may be offensive to some viewers. Listeners, on the other hand, will be pants-pissingly delighted.

"Anyone who worships Bukowski needs to sober up. Nuff said." - @jepun

That is the tweet (and new follower) that prompted me to post my song "Judgment Gun," which includes this disdainful reference to Bukowsky:

You smoke to make your voice sound like gravel
So that one day everyone will finally take you seriously
And revere you as the next Charles Bukowsky
Only wiser
And therefore even more of a jackass

WARNING: This song may be offensive to some viewers. Listeners, on the other hand, will all be delighted to the point of pissing themselves.

Track Title: Judgment Gun

Lyrics written and vocals performed by: Will Conley a.k.a. Musclemouth

Original music composed and performed around the lyrics by: Nolan Voss (drums, bass, guitar - I think)

Recorded in Nolan Voss' bedroom studio in New Haven, Connecticut in 2006

Monday, May 17, 2010

Searching for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown Ep. 2 with guest Emma Alvarez Gibson

Hi all.

I am releasing Episode 3 of "Searching for Meaning..." early because of the great timing. Writer, publisher and brand strategist Emma Alvarez Gibson (@ealvarezgibson on Twitter) discusses today's release of the new magazine Delish Mag (http://delishmag.com).

As the host I also made sure we went off on many tangents and abrupt topic changes to see what we could learn about life itself.

Enjoy and spread this recording far and wide, if you are moved to do so.

- Will

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"The Search for Meaning at the Brink of the Unknown" Ep. 1 with honored guest Jason Thompson (@PotatoFilm)

Here via teleconference I interview movie critic, scriptwriter and author Jason Thompson of Los Angeles, California. I've known Jason as @PotatoFilm on Twitter for many months now. This interview was the first time we ever heard each other's voices.

Topics covered include day jobs, movies, music, John Williams, Jaws, Natural Born Killers, the elements of the perfect Hollywood movie that has not yet been made, the problem of clarity in multiplicitous environs, and much more.

My goal as an interviewer here was to delve into the mind and activities of Jason Thompson to see what we can discover about the larger world. To see the universe in the petals of a flower.

I hope you enjoy this natural, improvised conversation as it meanders its way around the central topic of movies - and quietly wades into deeper waters en route to clarity.

Posted via web from Will Conley's Random Things

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Jump" - A poetry and music soundscape by producer Justin Dullum and spoken word artist Will Conley

Jump by Dullum And Conley  
Download now or listen on posterous
Will Conley - Jump.mp3 (1624 KB)

The talented, innovative musician Justin Dullum and I recorded my poem "Jump" at his studio, D.O. Music, in 2002 - back when we both lived in Minneapolis. I gave Justin carte blanche to do anything he wanted to my poem. I threw him some suggestions - make it "echoey", use heavy bass hits, have lots of cut-and-paste of my voice - that sort of thing.

This was the result.

Listen to samples of Justin singing and playing guitar at http://www.isound.com/justin_dullum.

Posted via email from Will Conley's Random Things