September 1, 2009

Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys to Creativity

Filed under: Book Reviews, Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 1:42 am

Hugh Macleod is a good read, both online and in print.  His new book is called Ignore Everybody, and it’s premised on the keys to being creative.

Hugh’s story reads a lot like a web 2.0 fairytale.  He started writing cartoons on the back of business cards a long time ago.  All of a sudden, today, he’s a huge blogger and has a lot of followers.  And by “all of a sudden” I mean that it took about ten years.  Anyway, he has an eclectic array of vocational pieces in his tool belt.  He now is an author of a big seller, he does more “traditional” art and sells it online, he does marketing consulting, he’s worked for Microsoft as such, he’s still working on a Stormhoek wine project, etc.  My guess is he has a lot more of “etc.”  (in fact, using “etc.” erroneously is a large writing idiosyncrasy of his I’ve picked up on.)

Anyhoo, the reason I bought and read his book (used on Amazon for $7) is because I like his blog.  I like his voice and his loosely structured, sporadic writing.  It translates well to his book.

Creativity is a really volatile and misunderstood thing.  By misunderstood, I mean that no one truly understands it, not that there is a good explanation people just aren’t yet clued into.  Everybody ticks differently and so what makes me creative and you creative aren’t necessarily one and the same.  But creativity is very important.  It’s why Redmarketer exists.  I still get a lot of shit about branding a website and creating a logo from people.  Yet, it’s a creative outlet.  An outlet for me to vent thoughts and ideas and anything I’m digging at that particular point in time.  This site was built because of inspiration from people like Hugh that understand the value in slowly building something over the long haul.  And, yes, marketing yourself.

Back to the book.  Hugh points out, candidly, some very refreshing points on creativity, life in the advertising business as well as life in the cube.  With a bunch of funny cartoons intermingled.  One such point (and probably the most important) is that a good idea is going to be rejected by almost everyone.  Your ideas, good and bad (but especially good) have the potential to really change things in a social construct; i.e. your boss, peers and friends.  They may well not like your idea, but they also are likely to subconsciously avoid the potential change your idea represents.  It’s not that they want to, it’s just human nature.

You could read this book in less than two hours.  It’s EXTREMELY light, but it’s also very enjoyable and would be a good refresher from your typical business fare.  Recommended.



June 23, 2009

The Shining

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 2:56 am

Never had I read a Stephen King novel.  The movie was and is one of my favorites, it was impeccably shot and truly haunting when watched alone or in complete dark.  My favorite Nicholson performance, bar none.  It just set a standard for me in terms of films.  Horror films are often cheap and poorly done, despite the amount of money poured into them.  Kubrick really had a way of making things jump.  I still don’t like watching 2001 on my own, it’s freaky as hell.  I still do though.  :-)  The real issue for most horror films is the lack of intensity.  I’m not sure if it’s the story that drives that, the director or the actors.  Maybe some mix of all three.

Something there is that keeps me away from King, Koontz and other contemporary writers with the ability to shell out novels endlessly.  Maybe it’s my obvious counterculture mentality, I don’t know.  Either way, I steadily look for the obscure and introspective.  The reflective words and sentences that stick with you for days and months and years.

Why “The Shining” then?  I failed miserably in trying to read my last book; I’m finding that dry historical detailing is not my bag.  A friend recommended it to me after a discussion of the movie, which was elegantly detailed as such:  “Fuck the movie, read the book.”  This may be a paraphrase, I can’t recall for sure, but this person has read all of King’s novels and was adamant toward the book.  I’ve owned it for some time, picked it up at an antique shop before moving to Minneapolis, four years ago.  In fact, my next books (Pilgrim At Tinker Creek and a biographical Rembrandt Time Life volume) were purchased the same day!  It’s news to me that Dillard wrote her thesis on my favorite book, Walden.  I’m going off on tangents again.

Let me say this.  This was the scariest book I’ve ever read.  Horror certainly isn’t my forte, but I can see how it would become addictive if one allowed oneself.  I read it in about 6 sittings.  The first two were in my apartment alone with one light on.  The slow creeping dread at what is to come clutches you so tightly that it’s hard to keep reading, yet incredibly difficult to stop as well.  The story is quite gripping, the impending doom and deliberate misunderstanding are decidedly satisfying.  There is also quite a difference between what happens in the film and what happens between these pages.  One thing, I read a lot of the book while in public on flights to Denver and Atlanta.  This was  bad idea.  It hardly ruined anything, but the ominous silence that accompanies one light and an unoccupied space can’t be converted at a proper currency.  Read it alone.  Read it at night.  But above all else, read it.

Here is the copy I have, I dig the cover:


February 25, 2009

Robinson Crusoe

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 3:26 am

It has been some time since reviewing a book.  Truth be told, I had almost finished a Kant piece some time ago, but took too long and now must relegate it to reading fully again some later date.  Over the past month, I’ve been reading Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.  The amount of time it took me to read is kind of astounding, but it seems every book since going to school has taken twice as long as should be.

This is Defoe’s lone classic work, though his proclivity for prolific writing should be noted.  He wrote many kinds of tales and was an ardent pamphleteer, having created over 500 books!  I can’t even imagine the dedication needed.  Robinson Crusoe has been a classic for some very long time and spawned a great deal of adventure books after.

Defoe writes in a different type of tongue, something very old English (well duh) with words that one has forgotten and is unbeknownst to in some cases.  For anyone with inclinations toward understanding every last syllable, a dictionary was necessary forthwith.  I tend to just work through words unknown by piecing together context, but some people have to know.  This book has a lot of words you’ll want to look up if that’s your perogative.  Once again, they are not necessarily difficult words, just obscured by the passage of time and alteration of nomenclature.

The story itself is one of trial and tribulation, resourcefulness and religion. Crusoe tempts fate early on and repeatedly, which turns to a tiger’s tail and leaves him lost upon an island unfamiliar.   It’s not necessarily a page turner, but at the same time, there is something interesting about Defoe and his way of writing this.  It begins as a real time account of shipwreck and survival.  Then moves into short entries of a journal for some chapters and eventually returns to the first person to account for what’s happening.  I’m still not sure why it varies as so, from a literary perspective the journal entries were easier to read, but there is no good reason I can understand to compose it as such.  Regardless it’s well done.

Over twenty seven years are spent by Crusoe away from home.  Much of the time is chronologued over his survival and escapades, some more mundane (basket weaving, making pots and candles, farming) and some exciting (spying on savage cannibals).  I don’t believe that spoiling the finale is a huge disservice as this book has been around so long, additionally Defoe foreshadows Crusoe making his escape from the Island.  The last three chapter or so Crusoe spends saving others and finagling an exodus.  The first thirty or so are spent in solace.

This was a good book.  Well a great book, really.  Yet it certainly was not exciting to me to read, unlike some others’ opinions.  Perhaps it’s over the time I read it, which very much matched the cadence of events in the book itself (significant amount of time between reading, slowly but surely moving forward).  Still, I think it’s an important book and one well worth the time although if you’re looking for more swashbuckling fun or intrigue, I’d suggest Jules Verne or Jack London.


January 11, 2009

A Random Walk Down Wall Street

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 5:25 am

After asking my brilliant finance prof where an imbecile should go to learn about personal finance and strategy, he gave me five words:  Random Walk Down Wall Street.  Although I’ve read extremely small amount on finance and investment, this book covered such a huge amount of ground in such a logical way, I feel as though investing is actually very simple now.  That’s saying a lot.

Written by Burton Malkiel, the thesis of the book is essentially that the market is incredibly efficient.   So efficient, in fact, that it is nearly impossible to consistently beat the market by attempting to hold a portfolio that out performs.  Why is it so difficult?  What about all those professionals that DO outperform the market?  The first question can be answered simply by the fact that stock prices (or any medium of investment) are effected by a series of random events that can’t be predicted by anyone.  Since the market is so incredibly efficient as mentioned, the ability to be ahead of the markets is very hard.  The reason that portfolio managers do beat the market averages is also pretty simple.  They beat the market in the short term, not the long term.  The rub, of course, is that no one consistently beats the market in the short term.  There are winners and losers every quarter, but most of the guys who get the big paychecks don’t out perform the market over a series of years.  In fact, a great many actually do far worse.  What does all this mean?  You can’t beat the market.  By all means you can’t consistently do it.  You can try, it’s fun, but it is a gamble no matter who you are.  Like all gambling, it’s very easy to get caught up in a gambler’s fallacy and over play your hand.

Now that we’ve seen that you can’t win (btw this is statistically backed up in the book, my word for it is hardly enough verification) we have to examine the extraneous pressures caused by attempting to beat the market.  Trading costs money.  So do all of the agents you employ to help you trade.  Brokerage fees cost an investor a great deal and the humorous aspect is that (as noted) the professionals are no more likely to succeed in out performing the market than your average joe.  So why exactly do these professional analysts get paid so much?  Why do people line up for those services?  There is no rule or law that states that efficient market theory is true.  It’s just statistically relevant and proven over the time periods where stocks have been employed.  So people assume that these professionals know what they’re doing, they assume that a suit and tie will get them a good return.  They don’t think about the fact that excess trades and fees are decimating their returns.

The book has a very simple strategy.  It’s so simple that it’s boring.  Buy and hold.  Buy a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds and real estate while reinvesting the dividends into the portfolio.  Hold it and reap long term rewards.  Diversification is a large aspect of the investment as it dilutes the potential for large holdings of a few stocks to swing the value of your investment one way or the other.  Diversify internationally with variances in types of investment, risk of investment and maturity of investment.  All while considering the age and needs of the portfolio manager (you.)

There were so many great things in this book to learn.  It is a long read, although it’s written in a way that is often interesting despite the rather dry material.  The introductory chapters that delineate why bubbles begin and burst is especially interesting.  The tulip crash of 1637 really points out the problem of groupthink and why it’s bound to happen again…and did with the internet bubble. 

Bottom line:  this is THE book to read on personal finance.  It is completely worth while, despite the amount of time it will probably take.  At 400+ pages, it wasn’t the easiest title in my library, but it may well prove to be the most valuable.


December 31, 2008

A Moveable Feast

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 8:06 pm

I am back in Minneapolis and I can’t say how incredibly happy that makes me.  Alexandria is OK, but it’s not home anymore.  Additionally, occupying anything but your own space for an extended amount of time is precarious and stressful.  My car still isn’t fixed, it won’t hold idle, so it will be in line for another fix up after NYE.

One favorable aspect of being away was the amount of reading time.  I finished a couple of books, one is a financial investment book which I’ll detail at another time.  The other was Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, which was written as a set of memoirs from his time living in Paris.  Something there is in Hemingway’s prose, he is stripped down and easy to read.  Very seldom will he deviate from his seemingly ordinary writing style; it is something a reader gradually comes to understand and love.  Even these, a convoluded first person account of Parisian cafes, extraordinary acquaintences and unfamiliars reads much like his other stories.  I’m beginning to think that his work is more about him than the work itself, which in most instances would be a bad thing, but not here.  Yet it’s too early to tell that, and probably to early to ponder.

This is a good read for this simple ability to understand Hem’s world, if only for a short period in a far away land.  The 1920’s were truly something to behold in France as an incredible amount of talent was along.  A vast array of now legendary authors are discussed analyzed from Hem’s keen eye.  James Joyce, Ezra Pound (ironic seeing as his Wikipedia picture is a criminal photo and he is painted as the kindest of characters in the memoirs), F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein are prime examples amongst others.  Hearing a young Hemingway discussing his relationships with these people and his opinions thereof is an enjoyable exercise albeit tainted.

The reason being that some have argued about Hemingway portraying himself as a hero of sorts.  He often writes about not having money or food and seems to view the world through a looking glass of judgment.  Honestly, I believe everyone looks at the world in this way.  It’s merely the fact that he wrote it down for others to see.  Human nature is not necessarily that of a mother.  The book was also published posthumously after his suicide in 1961 (on a side note, there is now a festival every September in Idaho celebrating his life and achievements, I’d like to go sometime) and edited by his then widow.  This edit has been prosecuted by some critics as altering the meaning of the work.

Despite all these concerns, it was well worth the read.  A very short 200 pages full of insight and reverie for a world long lost.  As Hem wrote and is recognized at the beginning of the book:

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.

December 9, 2008

Around the World in 80 Days

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 1:50 am

Finished up Around the World in 80 Days a week or so ago.  It was written by Jules Verne and it’s a treasure.  I won’t get into a lot of detail since the book is rather small and has a relatively simple premise.  The protagonist,  Philias Fogg, is the type of character that remains with you for some time after reading, and in his mannerisms Verne reminds of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters.  Though upon second look perhaps it’s the other way around seeing as the former is the elder.  Regardless, this is high praise in my esteem.

Sometimes, my lack of depth in reading classics such as this astounds.  It seems a foregone conclusion I’ll complete all his popular works, as these are the types of fiction that are extremely low risk, high reward pieces.  In fact, should you have children (or simply happen to be one much like myself) I’d recommend these.  Verne is most obviously a writer for all ages.  His imagery and character development do not fail to impress, while his content seem wholesome based on this work.  Writers such as he, Tolkien, Christie, C.S. Lewis and Rowling are inspirational in their ability to connect with younger audiences and it’s truly a special type of author.

Well worth the few days to read.


November 21, 2008

Tribes Book Review

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 2:23 am

I’m finally finishing up Tribes.  This is actually a pretty sad state of affairs given that this book would take an average reader all of three hours to finish soup to nuts.  Yet most of my time is spent trying to master my life long passion, managerial accounting.

What I can say about this new book is that it’s typical Seth Godin; typically amazing.  Seth’s prose is wonderfully short and full of quick stories that allow you to absorb themes easily.  He really has a knack for it.  I would say this book is lighter than some of his more important conceptual pieces (permission marketing forever altered my path), but because I read him often, his books are now more often reiteration.  For people who do not read him often, this is a great new perspective on what it means to lead.

Tribes is all about leadership.  Leaders are wanted in our society, the last few months have shown us how much we clamor for capable and compelling leaders.  We need them in our lives.  Yet leaders are incredibly rare.  Not everyone can be a leader, despite what we are told.  Some just aren’t interested.  

And that’s OK.  Just because you are a leader in one place doesn’t mean should be everywhere.  Some times you should be a follower.

The idea of a tribe is simply a group of people who have real interest in a subject and the eagerness to build a community/movement/organization around it.  Leaders are merely the ones that take the initiative to harness that collective passion and build something worthwhile.  They exist everywhere.  For every popular leader such as Gates and Clinton there are another hundred great leaders behind causes close to their tribes’ hearts.  So what’s holding you back?  

In short, fear.  Fear is the reason so many would be leaders watch from the sidelines.  Why so many people take no chances at work or in life.  The chance of criticism is a roulette wheel best lain still.  Those who refuse to play will most likely remain unfortunate.  Maybe it’s time you changed that inertia to momentum.  If you are passionate about something, take charge.  Build something.  Leading is not something that people are born with, it’s a manifested ability.  It’s derived from effort and the passion to really change things in some way.    If you are still unsure, take three hours (if that) and read the book.  You can even have my copy.  Just drop me a line.

November 16, 2008

Random Thoughts

Filed under: Book Reviews, Gadgets, Information Supernova, Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 7:26 pm

Seems like lately a jumble of thoughts is easier to get down in one sitting than individual posts:

1.  Technology is really ramping up and altering the way we do things.  The PE Obama weekly Youtube address is proof positive.  This simply unheard of ten years ago. If this continues, it could set a precedent for how to communicate with the masses.  It takes away the control from big media and empowers the little guy.  Sure, Obama is hardly a little guy, but the point is that anyone can do this.  Anyone can build a series centered around whatever their fancy may be and build an audience for it.  It just takes dedication and talent, of which many people have in spades.

2.  Sticking to the Obama stuff, his campaign was a game changer.  I’m big into sites like Digg and the amount of people advocating donation was really impressive.  His overall numbers were remarkable.  During the midst of the race, I was taken aback by what was happening.  It was obvious that everyone was really adamant about needing a change.  The young vote showed up and rallied.  Now the fundraising is coming under scrutiny for some good reasons. My opinion is that political races should be fueled by the average Joe donating less than $5k.  Litigation will undoubtedly be undertaken to slow fraudulent donations, but I’m much happier seeing a lot of small people give small donations than huge corporations making huge donations.  The influence of any one vote should be limited.

3.  The Twolves are horrible.  Again.  Minneapolis is the new Philadelphia.  Like last year, I’ll be rooting for the Celts and KG.

4.  I’m extremely excited to wrap up the core at Carlson.  Everyone in our class is a bit tired of the grind and it will be great to be in classes where you have some time to reflect on the knowledge being presented.  At the same time, it will be a big change.  We won’t spend nearly as much time with the small group of people that represent our cohorts, so that will be a bummer. I’m going to take a lot of finance in the upcoming 18 months.  From everything I can gather, understanding finance is paramount to marketing at a corporate level, while the other marketing classes often overlap.  So Corporate Financial Decisions, Advanced Corporate Financial Decisions and Financial Statement Analysis here I come.  This means class will be undoubtedly tougher…and more valuable.

5.  The Microfinance Alliance is having a fundraiser throughout the first few weeks of December to raise enough for a small business loan to someone in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.  Very excited to start this program and begin building the needed marketing plan around it.  I’ll update this soon.

October 15, 2008

The Catcher In The Rye

Filed under: Book Reviews — Robert John Ed @ 11:09 pm

I’ve been using the time before bed to get in some recreational reading, which usually causes me to be extremely tired when class starts in the morning.  I began J.D. Salinger‘s Catcher In The Rye about a week ago, and though I was more enamored with the prose at civil twilight than dawn, the hours melted away just the same.

The story is a first person perspective of Holden Caulfield, a troubled youth around 17.  His life is in disarray, as many of ours are at that time.  He doesn’t care for school or most of his peers and his thought processes are usually oriented around his dislike of people and things happening around him.  He’s not angry so much as tired.  The story is a walkabout of his four day departure from Pencey, the school he attends.

What makes Salinger’s writing so enjoyable here is the idiosyncratic precision of the character.  Holden is always reinforcing his thought process with assertions (“I really do.”  “I mean it.” etc.) that show the callow insecurity he lives with.  Holden is also quite intelligent, but speaks by cursing and alleging other people to be “phony” and using a gruff exterior to cover up his vulnerability.  It’s very well done in that anyone could see that this young man has not found his meaning in the world and sees others to be living fraudulent existences.  It’s a very simple…and very complex simultaneously.  It’s also well worth the time.

October 12, 2008


Filed under: Book Reviews, Meeting Marketers — Robert John Ed @ 8:52 pm

My all time favorite marketer, Seth Godin, wrote a new book, Tribes.  I actually did buy this, and am part of the Tribes group as well.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to interact much with the group, or read the book yet.

I will though.  When I do, it will be reviewed here.

Until then, check out another favorite blogger, Hugh Macleod, interview Seth about his new book.

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