Oct 25 2013

The Illustrated History of the Union Boat Club

Published by under Books,Rowing,sculling

You can't buy it (which is a shame), but the Illustrated History of the Union Boat Club has been published. My copy arrived yesterday via the mail. This is a project I was honored to help draft in the late 1980s when I was fresh from publishing The Book of Rowing with Overlook Press and had just joined Boston's Union Boat Club, the oldest rowing club in a city known for its rowing.

David Thorndike, Charlie Clapp, Cap Kane and countless UBC members contributed to the effort which took a herculean effort over a decade and half to be born. I wrote the first draft of the manuscript, picking through the club's archives, interviewing the most venerable members, and identifying the big gaps in the historical record which needed to be filled in before the project was ready for the printer. I confess to fading out of the picture for a while, but the project was revived and finally pushed over the deadline this past year, emerging as a gorgeous "coffee table" book printed privately for the membership.

Which is a shame, as I'd stack this tome against any book in the rowing history pantheon. The photography is gorgeous, the historical archive priceless.

The project was pushed by David Thorndike in the 80s as the 150th anniversary of the club approached and its first history, published at the turn of the previous century was in desperate need of an update. The club has a unique place in the history of American rowing, coming as it did in antebellum Boston at a time when Harvard and Yale were only just beginning their rivalry on the water, now the oldest intercollegiate competition in the country. The early logs are a humorous and plucky look at sporting life before spinning classes, Crossfit and paleo diets. When men obsessed more about their uniforms than actual exercise, when rowing consisted of leisurely rows up and down the tidal Charles River and through the islands of Boston Harbor, never really racing, just touring around in the novel pursuit of leisure time.

The role of the UBC in the history of American and international rowing is deep and storied. Basically emerging as an alumni club for Harvard rowers, it sent championship crews to the Henley Royal Regatta, counted nearly a dozen Olympians among its alumni, and sits, socially, at the center of Brahmin Boston, its clubhouse standing at the foot of Beacon Hill near the Hatch concert Shell. A tour of the boathouse and clubhouse is a trip back in time to the 19th century, the walls and floors permeated with the sweat of generations after generations of politicians, lawyers, bankers, surgeons and eccentric characters from another era. The club has seen its share of challenges. The state dammed up the Charles and filled in the Embankment cutting it off from the river. The club went coed in the late 80s after years of being a men's club. Rowing faded in popularity in the 60s and 70s as the sport went into a general decline, but today the place flourishes, alongside the sport, anchoring down the competitive rowing scene on the Charles, sending crews up river to do their best.

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Dec 17 2012

The End of Surfcasting

Published by under General

The Cape Cod Times has a sobering eulogy to the classic Cape Cod fall tradition of surfcasting from the beaches of the outer Cape for big striped bass. The cause of death? Seals. Too many of them.

Tony Stetzo, a guide and the former holder of the International Game Fish Association's record for stripers -- a 73 pound cow he caught off of Orleans' Nauset Beach in the late fall of 1981 -- said in the Times story: "It's all done. Everybody knows it now," said Stetzko, who said his fishing guide business has suffered from the decline."

With the seal population tripled since 1999, surfcasting is all but useless to attempt on the backside beaches. I've had seals take hooked fish off my line before, and nothing is more discouraging than seeing a seal's face bobbing in the waves, waiting for the angler to make its life easy by snaring a fish and holding it tight long enough to be snatched away. The pinnipeds are doing more than ruining the season for the legions of surfcasters who followed the fall run and set up camp from Provincetown to Chatham, pumping dollars in the shoulder season economy and enlivening the beaches with their four-wheel drive trucks and campers. This was a way of life that went back to the late 40s, when the Cape's fishing was legendary and attracted anglers from around the northeast for a shot at a trophy-sized fish.

The beach driving has been cut way back due to the piping plover situation, and now the seals have all but shut the door on one of the Cape's best off-season pastimes.

Add in the great white shark situation, the rising concern among town officials of how those sharks will affect tourism, and now the recreational fishermen pointing a finger and it doesn't take much imagination to predict someone is going to call for some culling despite the presence of the Federal Marine Mammal protection act which has made it illegal to kill a seal and is the single reason the population has exploded.

I loved surfcasting back in the 90s when I first moved to the Cape year-round and was looking for an excuse to flee the family and find some wild peace and quiet under the stars standing in front of the big foaming ocean. A couple close calls with rogue waves and clumsy waders and I hung up my rod in the belief my life was worth more than a fish. As it turns out I hung it up before the curtain fell on the sport thanks to the seals. I guess nature will take its course and put things into equilibrium as word spreads through the great white social network that the table is set for fine dining on the beaches of Truro and Monomoy Island. One can only hope.

A great but obscure account of the golden era of Cape Cod surfcasting is Frank Daignault's "Twenty Years of the Cape: My Time As a Surfcaster" - I highly recommend it.

Related is this cool auction of books about fall striper fishing on Rhode Island's Block Island complete with a collection of the wooden plugs (lures) used in the early 80s. Proceeds benefit the American Littoral Association which conducts an excellent striper tagging program I used to participate in.

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Jan 25 2009

What I’m reading and watching

For baseball fans it is hot stove season, the interregnum between the World Series and the call up of pitchers and catchers to spring training. I've got my wood stove roaring and my bookshelf groaning with winter reading. Here's a quick list of what's in the backpack, on the nightstand, and on the Kindle these days; and then what I'm watching on the DVD player.

What We Had:  A brief memoir by James Chace of life growing up in the southeastern Massachusetts city of Fall River -- once the largest cotton spinning city in the world -- now a sad hulk and husk of its former self. This is where Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her father forty whacks, but Chace writes an amazingly poignant story of the decline of a Yankee family from privilege to irrelevance. From his grandfather, the former president of the Massachusetts State Senate to his brother, a crazed World War II war hero, Chace tells a elegant story of a family, a city, and a society in decline.

Not on the par of "Goodbye to All That" -- but nevertheless a good book about the slide of a Yankee family and one man's determination to make sense of it.

Going to See the Elephant: Rodes Fishburne's first novel. He worked at Forbes ASAP when I was at Forbes.com but I didn't know him. He edited the annual "Big Issue" -- a compendium of essays by big thinkers and celebs -- and that most shows in his brilliant portrayal of the mad scientist/big thinker that seems like an amalgamation of Dean Kamen, Nathan Myhrvold, Esther and Freeman Dyson, and every other digital visionary to draw breath and haunt a podium the last twenty years. This is a good San Francisco novel -- worthy of the canon that includes McTeague and rolls through the ages -- but being a comical effort, it may irritate on occasion as it reaches for laughs that are not always (but occasionally) there.

Movies

I decided to dig through my son's amazing 50 DVD collection -- Essential Art House: 50 Years of Janus Films, and have been toting around some discs as I travel. This past week I viewed:

Brief Encounter: 1945 David Lean directed this Noel Coward weepie starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. Listed among the best efforts of all time in British cinema. Amazingly effective, melodrama aside, in terms of Lean camera work and impeccable editing, but mostly in the pre-WWII depiction of adultry and morals in suburban England. I wasn't boo-hooing in my hankie, but it's interesting to see how to do a weepie right.

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Ballad of a Soldier: directed by Grigory Chukhraj. 19-year old Russian soldier in World War II destroys two tanks, is hailed a hero, asks for a leave to go home to fix his mother's leaking roof. Makes his way through peril and travail, falling in love along the way with the awesome Zhanna Prokhorenko (with whom I have a crush now). Interesting flick released in 1959 during the post-Stalin thaw, so not a lot of propaganda weirdness. Apparently a major sentimental favorite in Russia to this day.

Richard III: Laurence Olivier as the deformed evil tyrant and usurper Richard in Shakespeare's masterpiece of treachery and lust for power. All I can say, is whoa, I mean I know Olivier had the reputation, but for some reason I had never full appreciated why (and it isn't for his role as the Nazi dentist Dr. Zell in Marathon Man). This confirms why. The dude can act. Directed by him, this is considered his cinematic Shakespearean masterpiece. Technicolor makes the sets and costumes bizarrely gorgeous.

I wish I could memorize his "Now is the winter of our discontent ..." soliloqy for my next staff meeting. Watch this piece of acting:

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M. Hulot's Holiday: Faithful French readers will doubtlessly say, "Duh, where have you been?" -- but this is the funniest movie I have seen in a very long, long time. Jacque Tati, director and star, has to be one of the greatest physical comedians ever -- up there with Chaplin and Keaton. The tennis scene made me pee my pants.  See this.

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Jan 16 2009

The Dour Marketer’s Reading List

As part of the occasional series of how to survive this evil, ugly economy with digital marketing, let me acknowledge the need of a lot of experienced marketers, to get smart -- and fast -- on all this Digital Stuff. Because a colleague just asked me for a bibliography to help teach himself digital, I figured a blog post and an invitation to you dear reader to suggest some additions would kill several birds with the same post.

Let's start by saying I am not a fan of  "business" books. Sure, I've read Tipping Point and Execution and Blue Ocean/Red Ocean ... I was even  involved in the writing of a business book when I was associated with Gartner's editorial board in 2004.  (Multisourcing) I tend to order and read a so-called "business book" only when I need to, and then only if I need to get smart fast on a specific function.

There is no omnibus guide to digital marketing. Maybe I should write one, but it would be out of date before it was even outlined: for the future is here, it's just unevenly distributed.*

Later on I will try to compile a blog roll of essential digital marketing blogs, but the genre of digital marketing blogs is a mess, and I'd say I personally only can read three or four on an ongoing basis.

This is a only a bibliography. Here is an "aStore" in Amazon if you want to buy them.

Search

Where to begin? Let's begin at the center of digital, the very hub of where it all begins, and that is search. If you don't understand search and how it works, then digital marketing in all of its forms and variants is going to be lost on you.

The best explanation of the history, the process, and the impact of search was written several years ago, but still is valid, and that's John Battelle's The Search. Trust me, but if you want to understand digital marketing you must understand search. Everything digital starts with a search.

Battelle gives you the history and theory, Moran and Hunt give you the nuts and bolts of how to run a search campaign from both the paid (SEM) and the organic (SEO) side. Search Engine Marketing, Inc. is out in a revised edition and gives a strong step-by-step cookbook for running a paid search campaign and developing a website that will rank high in any search engine's organic rankings.

Metrics

The heart of digital marketing, the reason we care about it, is its accountability through metrics. One strong recommendation here is Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics: An Hour a Day. There are also some specific titles around Google Analytics, which isn't a bad idea for some trying to master that environment specificially. Avinash is where you start.

Landing Pages

Tim Ash has a decent book on landing pages and the art/science of optimization.  Landing pages make the world go round in terms of improving "cse" or customer success events, so take some time and read Tim's Landing Page Optimization

Display and banner media

I don't know of a single book in this genre, but I would say that there is lot of good stuff at the Internet Advertising Bureau's site. Especially on standards and practices.

If you are trying to make a case to stop doing dumb-ass traditional advertising and move it online, then read Joseph Jaffe's Life After the 30-Second Spot.

Online branding

There a few good books out there on this topic. Allen Adamson quotes me in BrandDigital. Andy Beal quotes me in Radically Transparent, a good book on reputation monitoring and management. Rohit Bhargava's Personality Not Included is a good read. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's Groundswell. Scoble and Israel's Naked Conversations is worth mentioning in the context of corporate blogging ... so many books, so little time. Seth Godin is an industry unto himself. Meatball Sundae is a good change-agent manifesto, but the granddaddy of all manifestos is Cluetrain.

I'll tackle blogs later. This is just a quick lunchtime post for a colleague. I'll revise this as time goes by -- please give me some recommendations in the comments and be sure to only suggest books that you've actually read and would force me to read.

Design

This is a weird suggestion, but it did have an impact on me back in 1995 when I was developing and designing my first two sites: Reel-Time and Forbes.com. That is A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander. Richard Duffy, a friend from PC Week and the early early days of Forbes Digital Media recommended that book and it had more of an effect on how I think about functionality and usability than anything that followed.

*: William Gibson

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Jan 07 2009

Kindle Klones?

Published by under General

I really need to understand the Amazon business model better -- but I want to know why the Kindle format isn't being evangelized to other readers. Peter Kafka blogs at AllThingsD that the buzz out of Verizon is that Kindle Klones are coming -- what isn't clear is if they are just eInk devices, or Kinle compatible.

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Jul 13 2008

What I’m reading …

Published by under Books,General

Summer reading and then some. Thank heavens I speed read. I blew through two expensive airport procured hardcovers (a bad habit I need to break) to and from Japan:

  • Mark Kurlansky's latest  -- The Last Fish Tale -- (see my review of his Oyster tome here) about the fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts. An okay read, not as cool as his cod or oyster books, but okay if a little ADHD. This is the home port of the Perfect Storm crew, one of the last (along with New Bedford and a little bit of Chatham) of the working fishing ports in Massachusetts. I've visited the place a few times, it's gritty, it's North Shore. The book ... skip it. He seems to have phoned it in and tap dances between a history of the artist colonies of Cape Ann to fishing regulatory policies amongst the Basque.
  • David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Hated it. Sorry, this is Forrest Gump humor. No intelligence whatsoever. Okay, he's gay, he grew up in North Carolina and has a place in Paris, Tokyo, New York. I get it.  Finds funny things in the mundane. Quits smoking. Describes food as tasting "slightly like penis" -- yuck yuck.  I will not read him again.

Still in progress, The Wind-up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami. After just being in Japan, this book is really captivating me. I would say it is one of the better foreign author works I've read in some time (the last being the wonderful Blindness by Jose Saramago. Murakami does a wonderful job with the mundane, describing ennui better than anybody since Saul Bellow in Dangling Man, but mixes it up with one of the most gruesome war scenes since Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.

The Cotuit Library's annual summer book sale went down Saturday morning. Eliot my eldest and I took advantage of abuttor's first rights and hit the tables before the vacationing vultures could crowd in. Came away with about twenty titles ranging from a Cruising Guide to the New England Coast (you never know) to some Cervantes. The wife is getting allergic to books due to constrained shelf space.

And, I just committed Sunday book lust and ordered Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed the World and  The Leopard by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa.

Let's see, other random titles. A re-read of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain because a) I like to eat at Les Halles (best charcroute garni in America) and b) have taken to his TV show, No Reservations thanks to the miracle known as DVR. And ... that's about it. Some stuff on SEO and landing page optimization for the usual professional reasons.

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