Chinese dance troupe Shen Yun is a big digital advertiser in the USA

ShenYun_thumbnailIf you live in or around any major city in the U.S. you’re are likely to have seen advertising for something called Shen Yun which appears to be some sort of Chinese dance troupe along the lines of Cirque du Soleil. The advertising, digital, outdoor and sometimes even radio and local television makes little reference to what you will see, only that it will be a spectacle in and of itself. I’ve never attended a show (shame on me since I am a self-proclaimed sort of Sinophile and yes I have plans to attend this year).

Having worked with a number of Chinese companies I’ve seen few that do any kind of consistent advertising – consumer advertising in particular in the U.S. Yet Shen Yun at times is omnipresent. Or so it seems to me. I found by checking out info on Wikipedia that the group is part of Falun Gong which if you do not know ‘On 20 July 1999, the Communist Party leadership initiated a nationwide crackdown and multifaceted propaganda campaign intended to eradicate the practice. It blocked Internet access to websites that mention Falun Gong, and in October 1999 it declared Falun Gong a “heretical organization” that threatened social stability’

Also from Wikipedia:

‘Shen Yun Performing Arts is a performing-arts and entertainment company formed in New York City.[1] It performs classical Chinese dance, ethnic and folk dance, and story-based dance,[2] with orchestral accompaniment and solo performers. The Shen Yun website translates the phrase shen yun as “the beauty of divine beings dancing”.[3]

Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline,[4][5] with the mission of reviving “the essence of 5000 years of Chinese culture,” which it states to have been nearly destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party government.[6] Performances around the world are hosted by local Falun Dafa Associations 

The group is composed of three performing arts companies: The New York Company, The Touring Company, and the International Company, with of a total of over 200 performers. For seven months a year, Shen Yun Performing Arts tours to over 130 cities across Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia.[7] Shen Yun’s shows have been staged in several leading theaters, including New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts,[8] London’s Royal Festival Hall, Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, Paris’ Le Palais de Congrès.[5] The company has performed extensively in Taiwan,[9] but has yet to perform in Mainland China or Hong Kong. The show’s acts and production staff are trained at Shen Yun’s headquarters in Cuddebackville, in Orange County, New York.’

I find it highly interesting that an outlawed mainland Chinese troupe is able to survive across the United States and is doing a good job using advertising to drive awareness and sales. I continue to wonder why more PRC (mainland Chinese companies), don’t advertise like Shen Yun. After all, while driving domestic Chinese consumption is seen to be critical to the future of the Chinese economy, selling goods and services outside of China appears to be increasingly important than ever to Chinese companies

Shen Yun can give a few lessons there but I doubt that Chinese companies will pay much attention for both political and non-political reasons.

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Self-driving cars will hasten the death of the road trip

Road trip sf22408-edit.jpg__800x600_q85_cropI just finished the first leg of a drive (1,200 miles) of what will be a quasi-road trip since I intend to stay in one place for two weeks. Like many of my peers way back at age 16 in the 1970’s, I applied for my license on my 16th birthday – and in my case, applied for my road test as well. Having a driver’s license ASAP was the road to freedom – even it meant borrowing my Dad’s car. Today 16 year olds are obtaining their driver’s permits and licenses at a lower rate than in over thirty years. With the advent of self-driving cars (Thanks again Google!), the American road trip may somewhat soon be a thing of the past.

The road trip was born in the USA. A short article in The Smithsonian attributes the road trip to the genius of Henry Ford. When I was younger my family did take a few road trips – not like some families who’ve made annual sojourns a part of their life. The expression “A journey is its own reward” rang true even if it included running out of gas, broken down vehicles, flea bag hotels and barely edible food. Because we have the memories! There were seemingly only a couple of dozen radio station to listen to, 8 track and cassette tapes, no air-conditioning (or you wouldn’t run it since it used a lot of gas AND could cause engines to overheat). We had products to buy for the road like Zerex and Prestone. Battery brands like Sears’ DIE HARD were advertised continually.

Between the behavior change of millennials, and the promise that Google (as well as Tesla, Uber and others) wants to drive your car what will become of the American road trip? How about road trips in other countries? Or through Europe, Asia, or China? The Chinese are buying cars – maybe not quite as fast as in recent years but still at substantial rate. Are there Chinese road trips?

Car ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft are amazing innovations. Most of those rides have the rider looking at or talking on his or her phone almost the entire trip. The journey is nothing, but a journey.

Why will people in the future do a road trip if Google is driving their car? A very different experience to be sure and only a sense of nostalgia will motivate people to try it the old fashioned way. If your car insurance will allow it.

I still love driving myself. In fact I drove all 1200 miles only because my wife couldn’t care if she drives or not and I prefer driving to being a passenger. It’s a good thing I am not a control freak.

It’s evident that the era of owning cars and driving them around is on the way out. It will take a few more years but not more than twenty and possibly less than that. IF that happens then the old-fashioned road trip will have lasted maybe 125 years.

Currently gas is cheaper than it has been in years. Automobiles are the safest they’ve ever been. Mobile communication takes so much risk (and excitement if you ask me) out of the road trip equation. Still, if you love driving as much as I do, get out there and get rolling across the USA before it’s too late!

Posted in Living in the World Today, Public Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Personal recommendations have greater risk than reward

linkedinrecommendationsthumbsMost businesspeople agree that referrals and recommendations are the best way to grow your professional network, reputation, and career. Personally I am always flattered when I receive a referral or recommendation from someone I know and respect. And then I think – oh, now I REALLY have to perform.

It’s not that I actually work any harder or differently when recommended or referred than under other circumstances. But I am keenly aware that I have now another stakeholder in the house – the recommender or referrer.   I have learned that it pays to be thoughtful when recommending someone you know to someone else.

Why be careful? I often say that when offering a recommendation, you should not expect any kudos if the recommendation works out well. After all the reason they asked you for a recommendation (since they respect your opinion), is that there’s an expectation that you would not send over an idiot. Of course the recommended person is capable. That’s why they came to you in the first place!

So then there’s the converse. The recommended person messes things up. And worse sometimes handles the situation poorly. A poor reflection on you to be sure and all you were trying to do was to help!

I’m not advocating your suspending making recommendations. I continue to and will continue to offer recommendations when I feel they are appropriately matched and that there’s a high chance of a successful interaction or engagement.

I am suggesting being more thoughtful about your recommendations. When was the last time you spoke with or met the person you are recommending? It does not take long for professional lives to change these days!

A suggestion: You actually could do what I do sometimes which is to offer that ‘I have someone in mind who I feel may be able to help but I’d like to talk with them first to be sure it is a good fit for both parties’. It’s an extra step to be sure, yet I guarantee that you will actually make fewer recommendations once you add this step to the process since you will inevitably run into a few situations where making that recommendation would be the wrong thing. In that case you have done a great job in forestalling an outcome that would hurt all concerned!

The professional (and job-seeking focused) LinkedIn often asks if you would like to recommend fellow professionals with whom you are connected. Be mindful here since that recommendation from 2008 may be much less relevant today than it was at the time. I doubt many LinkedIn users ever go back and un-recommend someone they recommended 6 years ago or more.

Maybe you should take a look again at whom you’ve recommended?   Just a thought.


Posted in Career Development, Networking | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Power of Sound – for Dolby’s brand the beat goes on and on

dolby-digital-logoMany people around the world went to movie theaters over the holidays (and continue to do so in early 2016). If you’ve seen Star Wars Episode VII, you recall that the movie promotes that it is” PRESENTED IN DOLBY VISION AND DOLBY ATMOS!”

I recall when Dolby Laboratories ‘Surround Sound ‘came into prominence in the 1980’s (1982 to be specific but I had to look that up and that the company was founded in the 1960’s by Ray Dolby who passed away in 2013 – video here

That Dolby has maintained a market presence for some 50 plus years overall and not only that but has remained a relevant force is more impressive than you might think.   Back in the 1980’s a musician named himself Thomas Dolby – a sure sign of respect for what was at the time a singular technology. I could not even name a competitor in the field then or now for that matter.

I think the history is interesting:

1965: Dolby founded in London.

1966: Dolby creates first product to reduce noise in music recordings.

1971: A Clockwork Orange is the first film to use Dolby noise reduction.

1976: Dolby moves headquarters to San Francisco.

1977: Star Wars opens with Dolby Stereo®.

1982: Dolby creates surround sound for the home.

1989: Ray Dolby and Ioan Allen awarded Oscars® for contributions to cinema sound.

1992: Batman Returns is the first movie to be released in Dolby Digital.

1996: Dolby receives Scientific and Engineering Award from AMPAS for design and development of Dolby Digital sound system.

1998: First live HDTV broadcast with 5.1-channel Dolby Digital audio.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace debuts in Dolby Surround EX.

2004: Primetime Emmy® Award presented by NATAS to Dolby for outstanding achievement in engineering development.

2005: Dolby completes initial public offering.

2006: New Korean office opens in Asia, joining offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong.

2010: Dolby Professional Reference Monitor PRM-4200 is awarded TV Technology Mario Award.

2012: Dolby acquires rights to Dolby Theatre®.

2012: Dolby reinvents cinema sound with Dolby Atmos®.

2013: Dolby enters business communications with Dolby Voice®.

2014: Dolby launches Dolby Vision™.

2014: Dolby launches Dolby Cinema™.

2015: Ray Dolby receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2015: Dolby wins two Daytime Emmys for its work with Silent.

So what about competition? Dolby’s main competitor is DTS. In the past, Dolby was the standard audio formatting for DVDs, while DTS was relegated to another supported position, but the growing popularity of Blu-Ray, which must support both Dolby and DTS audio formats, means that Dolby no longer has had a monopoly over the market for home theater audio.

Dolby Labs is a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ and has a market cap of more than $3.1 billon. DTS also trades publicly but is much smaller with a market cap just over $365 million. Not exactly a tight competition.

To me Dolby Labs and their products have stood for high quality sound for more than thirty years. Talk about maintaining your brand’s equity! There’s an object lesson here.


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In ten words or less – the 24 books I finished in 2015

eReader-Vs.-Printed-Book-Which-Is-Better-For-Your-Eyesight-300x225I saw that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly pledged in 2015 to read two books per month. Well in 2014 I did that and once again in 2015. Mr. Zuckerberg is still winning overall. There are times when trying to keep up with something close to reading two books is a bit burdensome and I’ve also taken to reading a greater number of books simultaneously than ever before.

I finished 24 books in 2014. There are several that I am fairly far along on but just can’t seem to finish and I do abandon books but too often by that point I’ve already invested too much time already. And I again had no particular total number in mind when I started 2015. Reading more than half on my Kindle app it seems to always work out to about two books per month.   For some reasons e-books fool me into tackling longer reads but I don’t know exactly how long that they are until I’ve been reading the book for awhile.

As I noted last year the point is that if you want to read more literature you have to make the time available. It can be done. Below I’ve offered a ten-word mini-review of each if you care to read. Happy New Year!

What If – Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe Interesting questions answered with humor. Not just a bathroom book.

Genesis Code: A Thriller of the Near Future– Jamie Metzl – Good storytelling on a provocative subject. Have corresponded with Jamie.

How We Got to Now – Six Innovations That Made The Modern World Steven Johnson – Cool stories of innovation: glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light.

The Bad Guys Won – Jeff Pearlman – Finally read the story about my beloved ’86 Mets.

Rise of Superman – Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance – StevenKotler – Intense and heartfelt with lots of supportive data. Think Flow.

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer – So glad I read it. Big fan of the author.

Decoded – Mai Jia – One of China’s most popular authors. Unusual and compelling narrative.

Cracked: The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn’t Know About the Stuff You Thought You Thought You Knew  – – If you love counter-intuitive thinking and questioning almost everything…

Men In Green – Michael Bamberger – Golf writer’s candid interviews with players, caddies, wives, and others.

The Assistant – Bernard Malamud – Wrote The Natural. Offers a sad, yet immersive time-capsule.

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload– Daniel J. Levitan – Organizing The Junk Drawer of Your Mind – an interesting concept.

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – Somehow never read it before. Glad it was very short.

Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner – They always deliver an entertaining read. No different this time.

Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong – Susan Bluberg-Kason – Revealing true story of east and west culture/customs colliding

Blindsight– Peter Welles – 2000 Hugo Award (Science-Fiction), nominee. Out there fun read.

Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist – Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson – They try their best to keep it simple. It isn’t.

Baseball in 100 Objects – Josh Leventhal – Obviously I am baseball nerd. If you are, read it.

The Trident Deception – Rick Campbell – Sort of updated Hunt For Red October. Author has credibility.

Misbehaving – Richard Thaler – I am a big fan of this groundbreaking behavioral economist.

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway – First read in 1970’s. Great snapshot of 1920’s postwar Paris.

Zero to One – Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel – Pragmatic thoughts and advice from a leading investor and thinker.

The Harder They Fall – T.C. Boyle – Another winner from one of my favorite current American writers.

The Big Short – Michael Lewis – Movie was good. Book was better. Read it before seeing.

The History of Food in 100 recipes – William Sitwell – Long but incredibly engaging and interesting. Lots of aha moments!

I enjoyed the Hemingway enough that I plan to re-read more of his books in 2016. Got any good books you’d like to offer?

Posted in Books, E-books, Entertainment, Reading | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Economist plays hardball – and is right to do so

the-economist-logoFor the past few years I have been a subscriber and reader of The Economist which calls itself a newspaper even though most people would call it a magazine.  I really like the non-U.S. focused viewpoint of The Economist.  If I don’t get to it right away I will often read it from back to front.  I recommend giving this a try if you have not.

In addition to being a substantial financial commitment, (it costs more than $2.00/issue for the print subscription on an annual basis and there’s even an additional cost to also receive full digital subscription access), any Economist subscriber will tell you it’s a two plus hour time commitment to read on a weekly basis.

Having spent a fair amount of time working within the publishing industry on the circulation side, I did not respond to the regular entreats from The Economist to re-subscribe early.  Or what I thought was early.  After all, traditional magazine subscription practices had renewal offers being sent after six months of receiving the subscription, sometimes less.

So when I noticed that my “last issue” was fast approaching I continued to ignore it figuring that even after the date I would still receive the magazine along with letters from the Economist noting that “perhaps I have forgotten”.  I expected that my value as a controlled subscriber would keep it coming and eventually I’d get around to re-subscribing.  What happened next was surprising.

The Economist cut me off.  And really, they were right in doing so.  It’s just another reason I like the magazine er, newspaper so much.  I did have a little trouble re-subscribing on the website.  After a few attempts I was confident it was not my ‘operator error’ and called and had no trouble re-initiating my subscription with the nice chap on the phone – British accent and all (nice touch).

It still bothers me that as a print subscriber I do not receive automatic digital access, (seems unusual to me but then that’s also in The Economist’s DNA).  Since there others in my family that like to read articles now and again, it’s one of the only print-only subscriptions I receive, (I still get Sports Illustrated in print mostly due to habit and an overall nostalgic feeling).  I also find that long form articles are nice to read in printed form, (yes I still read printed books regularly along with those on my Amazon Kindle App).

Publishing as we all know has taken a series of blows since the dawning of the internet era in the 1990’s.  The shakeout is far from over.  The days of mass audience for new publications appear to be over.  Still, publishers like The Atlantic and The Economist seem to have adapted better than most and are better positioned for their continued relevance and success.  Their circulations may not be enormous, but their readers are loyal and most important, are willing to pay.  And keep paying.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas and my best wishes for health and happiness in 2016 and beyond!





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Change takes longer than people wish but it does happen

old-smoking-ads-3The news this week came out that cigarette smoking among American high school students has dropped again. That’s of course really good news for the general health of Americans.

From a December 16th article in the Wall Street Journal:

“Daily cigarette smoking has plummeted among high-school students, falling 50% or more over the past five years, according to a new government-sponsored study.

In the University of Michigan survey, backed by the National Institutes of Health, 3% of 10th-grade students reported smoking cigarettes daily, down from 6.6% five years ago. About 5.5% of 12th-graders said they smoked, down from 11% five years ago, and 1.3% of eighth-graders, down from 2.9%.

The percentage of 10th-graders who report daily use of marijuana is now higher than cigarette smoking, not because marijuana use is on the rise but because so many fewer students smoke cigarettes, said Dr. Nora Volkow. “The results are quite spectacular,” she said.

Tabby Block, a 17-year-old high school senior in San Francisco, said she can recall going to parties a few years ago and seeing many students smoking, but now only a tiny percentage of her classmates smoke daily and they are ostracized. “It seems stupid to do something that could give you cancer,” Ms. Block said. “It has a stigma.”

The study, known as the Monitoring the Future, surveyed about 45,000 students from more than 380 schools nationwide. It found that teen use of electronic cigarettes continued to outpace use of traditional cigarettes. About 16% of 12th-graders reported using an e-cigarette over the past month compared with 11% who reported they had smoked a cigarette.”

Before the risks and dangers were publicized cigarette smoking flourished in the United States (and later around the globe), its use growing exponentially in the 20th century.

Cigarette smoking has had an interesting history in the United States. By 1870, approximately 13.9 million cigarettes were smoked annually in the United States or .36 per capita. Over the next 60 years, the number was to reach 976.91 per capita (Gottsegen, 1940: 28).

Anti-tobacco sentiment dates back to the 1890’s and before.

The decline in smoking amongst the youth of the nation bodes well for the future health of Americans, as the habit will simply not be formed on such a widespread basis.

I grew up with two parents that smoked cigarettes and at times nearly chain smoking. They would smoke in the car. With the car windows closed. I remember this since my sister and I were often riding in the back. That was enough to deter me from cigarette smoking for my entire life.

Major tobacco companies have being doing everything in their power to hold on to their customers and e-cigarettes and ‘vaping’ are now foundational to their prospects for future success. However with regard to the ‘coolness’ factor of smoking cigarettes, the behavior has now been forever changed and cigarette smoking will never be the way it once was both in sales and perception.

Consuming processed food is different of course than smoking cigarettes. If you believe (as do I), that the eating of processed foods is the old way, should change and people would be better off avoiding processed foods, then do you agree that processed food has a chance in the future to become passé as is now the case with cigarette smoking?

If you do agree, how long do you think it will take? It took cigarettes almost 150 years to get to that status. Processed foods date back to even before the 1940’s

Surely 2090 is a too long a time from now for processed foods to become uncool?


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