Seth Godin writes:

We're responsible for what we sell and how we sell it. We're responsible for the effects (and the side effects) of our actions.

It is our decision. Whatever the decision is, you need to own it. If you can't look that decision in the mirror, market something else.

I was surprised he wrote this because I gather Seth’s readership is primarily marketers, and he generally tells them, or I should say us, things we like to hear, e.g. from the same post: Marketing (the use of time and money to create a story and spread it) works. I guess that candy coating was added to sweeten a medicine that no one, in marketing or otherwise, really wants to swallow: you’re responsible for your own actions.

I was somewhat worried about this responsiblity when I accepted my current job at an advertising agency, but in the past year I haven’t really been asked to help sell anything I feel bad about. Helping sell beef is the closest I’ve come to an ethical compromise, as I’m vegetarian. But I’m the kind of vegetarian who finds this amusing:

MEAT IS MURDER. Tasty, tasty murder.

Photo source unknown

It seems I’m lucky to be working at an agency with pretty good clients, and most people who work in this industry are making a lot of ethical compromises they would rather not think about in terms of personal responsibility. So I don’t expect Seth’s post on this topic is going to sell many books. But I was pleasantly surprised to read it.

 

Flickr's new mapping feature is very cool. I’ve only eaten gellato once in my life, and it was bought from the same shop as the cone this boy is eating, and eaten while looking out the same window:

Photo by robbed on Flickr

It’s something I never would have found without the mapping feature, and I’m amazed at how much it makes me miss places I’ve been before. That gellato was really good.

 

Spam (unsolicited commercial email) is a major problem in general, attracting various people to suggest solutions of all sorts: technical, legal, social, etc.. But few of these solutions get to the root of the problem: spam remains profitable. Most of the purchases intiated via spam are done in anonymity, so unfortunately we can’t do much to prevent people from buying various products and services from spam peddlers.

Stock spam, emails encouraging people to invest in a specific worthless stock, is on the rise, and the BBC has a story on why. Short story: quick profit. I wonder if stock spam doesn’t offer unique opportunities to solve the problem at the root. First, can’t we track down the people buying these stocks through public financial records, and call them out for public shaming? And second, I don’t know much about stock trading, but couldn’t we short-sell these stocks, reduce their value, reduce the profit for stock spammers, and possibly even take a bit of profit in the process?

None of this will work for other types of spam, but am I missing some reason why these methods won’t work to combat stock spam?

 

My friend Dan wrote an interesting post on his experience leaving New Orleans during Katrina and starting a new life here in Des Moines, which I would quote, but it’s short enough that I’d be quoting the whole thing. So you should just go read it. I think it speaks well of Dan that he’s able to add some much-needed optimism to an awful situation.

 

Dave Rogers continues his effort at debunking the vacuous, though emotionally appealing, assertions as he puts it. And he even provides a better rebuttal to himself than I think anyone else could have:

Now, some sage will come along and point out something like, "all men are created equal," and suggest that it is also an emotionally appealing formulation that has no basis in reality. And despite its presence in the Declaration of Independence, we know the signers didn't, in fact, regard all men as being created "equal," and pretty much ignored women entirely. But, the virtue would supposedly be that it helped to create "a new world," where men were more equal than in the old one. A "flatter" one, if you will. But again, there were more processes at work in that period in history than are captured in that one document, and there was, and remains, plenty of suffering to come in the effort to live up to the notion that "all men are created equal." It doesn't come about because someone put it down on paper, nor is it necessary, but it helps certain other processes gain supporters and adherents. Marketing, in other words.

The first thought that came to my mind was Phil Ochs' song, also the title of his posthumous greatest hits album, The War is Over. I wasn’t alive when the song was written during the American invasion of Vietnam, but I know the war was not actually over, and I always wondered what kind of effect that had on the people, stating aspiration as fact. Surely the phrase "all men are created equal" has changed how we think about equality in America, and I think probably for the better.

So while the opportunity that anybody has to enjoy the same, or more. That’s what’s great about blogging doesn’t appear to be helping anyone much, I don’t think all aspirations stated as fact are harmful. I’m not sure where the distinction is, but here’s a rough guess at what it might be:

The signatories to the Declaration of Independence had something at stake (land claims) in bringing reality closer to their stated aspirations. The cheerleaders of weblogging, on the other hand, have something at stake (attention claims) in preventing reality from matching their stated aspirations. Today, there’s still no scarcity of land in America, but there is a scarcity of attention on the web.

That’s my theory today anyway.

 

I’ve recorded and posted an MP3 of 8th Grade Graduation as well as lyrics. As I said last week, it’s inspired by Barak Obama’s courageous stance against 8th grade graduations. I played it last Wednesday, and I think it went quite well. Afterward, a man at the bar said he liked it, but hadn’t heard it before. So I guess he thought it was a cover of some radio musician he might have heard. Maybe that’s just because it sounds more like a pop songs than my other music, but I prefer to think it’s because of my excellent songwriting abilities.

 

In the past week, I’ve received two separate notes of encouragement to continue writing my blog from complete strangers. The first was from mdhatter, who wrote:

So, I came across your blog, through 'jessicas'. which i got to by looking up an A Whitney Brown quote and seeing who wrote a funny comment. That's 3 degrees away from my original search, but it was time well spent. Nice place you've got.

And then someone else just sent me an email saying:

I haven't yet commented but I lost your blog for a while and only recently discovered it. Even though you usually dont receive very many comments, keep up the blogging. You do a great job of it and I like hearing your interesting opinions; chances are you'll have a regular commetor.

I wouldn’t find this so odd except that in the five years I’ve been writing a weblog (oh wow, almost exactly five - my first post was on August 22), this has never happened. Am I being too cynical in suspecting some cause for this beyond the simple kindness of strangers?

Have I been giving off the impression recently that I intend to shut down my weblog soon? (I don’t.) Is there some sort of coordinated “improve the atmosphere around here” effort afoot? (Maybe there should be.) Is this all part of a targetted spam campaign? (I get a dozen I love your blog!! spam comments daily, but none with references to specific content.) Or is it really just strangers going out of their way to be nice?

 

If last week’s album of the week was Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco, this week’s is Her Majesty by the Decemberists. Here are my new songs:

That last one was written this week and I haven’t even recorded it yet. I think it sounds sort of like the Decemberists. It’s inspired by Senator Barack Obama’s appearance on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me in August of 2005, during which he discussed his controversial position that 8th grade graduation should not exist. I attempted to explore the benefits of 8th grade graduation in song form, with a chorus of “Your 8th grade graduation is a day that you’ll remember for the rest of the night.”

As a reminder, I’m playing 9pm-12am at the Continental Lounge in Des Moines on Wednesday, August 16th, tomorrow.

 

Now, I was about to say that this is a bad thing because peacefully dealing with incompatible people is important to living in a society. But that's not true. No, peacefully dealing with people you can't stand is society. That's literally all it is. People with opposite tastes and conflicting personalities sharing space and cooperating, through gritted teeth sometimes.

David Wong, 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable.

 

New songs you would hear tonight if you were there:

I’m going to try to record live tonight, to quickly fill the numerous (one, and counting!) requests for CDs.

 

I’ll be playing at the Continental Lounge in Des Moines again this Wednesday, and then next Wednesday, and I suspect the Wednesday after that, but I didn’t want to push my luck. The owner of the Continental Lounge seems to like my music, so I expect to play there regularly, until I move. Which brings me to the other news:

Jessica has a job that starts in a few weeks teaching at Southern Illinois University. It’s not all finalized yet, but it seems likely she’ll be leaving for Carbondale in a couple weeks. “But Scott,” you say, “SIU is in Carbondale, and your job is in Des Moines. How is that working?” It’s not really. Not yet, anyway. For now, I’m staying here in Des Moines while Jessica starts work in Carbondale. Interesting honeymoon, I know, but I’m confident it will work out.

There’s a small chance Jessica will still find a good ESL teaching job in Des Moines, in which case I won’t move to Carbondale at all. There’s a slightly more likely scenario that I’ll find a job in Carbondale in the next few months and move there then. But neither job market seems very good for our respective vocations right now, so the most likely scenario seems to be that I’ll stay here until the end of the year, then join Jessica in Carbondale and be unemployed do freelance work.

So the next few months will double as both a stalling tactic in making a major transition and a chance to save up some money with both of us working full-time jobs at the same time before I no longer have steady income. It will also give me a chance to hone my musical skills if I am left with no choice but to become a world-famous musician for a living.

It’s all rather up in the air right now, but worst case scenario: Jessica works full-time, I try to make more than I spend online, and we adopt a lower-cost lifestyle than we’ve been living lately. I trust we can get by without the money fires.

Photo from slight clutter