Read about Linda Bache. She's the many-splendored force behind the Chicago Force. It's the latest in my Chicago Tribune series.
Stephen Banko won the Grand Award at this year's Cicero Speechwriting Awards, for a speech about making sense of his experience in Vietnam. To dedicate a new Purple Heart Memorial in Buffalo, N.Y. May 1, he gave another one.
“We clung together so savagely in that rarefied air,” Banko said at the May 1 dedication of a Purple Heart Memorial in Buffalo, N.Y.:
We shared everything, from our last sip of water to our lives. I am alive because of a friend such as that. I was cowering behind a bullet-swept anthill with a wrecked machine gun in my hands and a battalion of North Vietnamese soldiers in my face. I would have surely died a sad and lonely death that terrible day in that nameless place had it not been for a guy named John Holcomb. He ran across fifty meters to bring me another machine gun and took four bullets in the chest. His reward for that heroism was a posthumous Medal of Honor. Mine was the honor of writing testimony that formed the bulk of his award citation and to grow old and fat and bald, reveling in the joy of watching grand kids grow up.
Hardly a day in my life passes when I don’t recall the sacrifice that kept me on the planet. Hardly a day goes by when I don't wonder if the life I’m living is enough to honor that sacrifice.
Note: The photographs, of Holcomb (sitting, above) and Banko, were taken shortly before their company was ambushed on Dec. 3, 1968 and sustained 87% casualties. Holcomb was killed, Banko lost a kneecap. Of his photo, Banko tells me, "I was 22 when that picture was taken. I felt 62."
And this is the speech, recorded by Banko in a studio, that won the Cicero Grand Award. One reason to be happy this Memorial Day is that some soldiers survive war with their hearts, however damaged, still very much intact.
There's an excellent yak on Bill Sledzik's Tough Sledding blog about whether PR is, or is not, a profession, and whether it matters.
Sledzik got the conversation off right by saying the trade meets zero of five common criteria for "professions," and his readers make the rest of the points, except one:
Nobody points out the advantage of not being a profession: You can have more fun than a professional! You can make stuff up as you go along! You can do it your way! You can wear funny hats! You can do stunts! (There's even a name for them: "publicity stunts.")
And whatever you do, people who call you unethical are likely to be seen as prudes, or jealous of your success and visibility!
If we're not going to be a profession, let's be a party.
A pal of mine is always bugging me to play golf. Every day it’s not raining, it’s “How ‘bout a little golf?” Makes golf seem like another thing I have to work into my schedule.
This friend doesn’t mean to be a pest; he just wants to play golf. (I know, because when he's not bugging me, I'm bugging him.) Meanwhile, he complains about a friend of his, a locally famous musician who calls him on lame pretexts, hoping for some company.
And you know damned well the prominent musician knows what it’s like to be bugged by people. They don’t know they’re bugging you! So you have to be nice!
Often the worst people-buggers are national politicians or corporate CEOs, the loneliest people in the world, and the most insecure. The people they bug feel sorry for them.
And of course when it comes to society’s leaders, being bugged is their job! Can you imagine how many times a day President Obama has to give somebody a thin smile that says, I seriously don’t have time for this?
And who does Obama bug?
According to him, he bugs God regularly.
And thus, God's spouse, he or she.
“Honey, it’s Obama. Again.”
“Tell him I’m busy.”
“Tell him I'm making it rain.”
But every once in awhile what’s working is what’s interesting.
And what’s working these days are big, giant corporations other than BP.
At least, they’re working for me.
As usual, big corporations are producing things that I need that small shops can’t make efficiently. I’d love to tell my mechanic pal Reid to build me a new car—“How about a five-wheeler, Chief, with a special compartment for a golf bag?”—but I think Subaru is really the better bet.
And here’s what else corporations do: They keep the small businesses that I like to deal with, on their game.I love the hipsters who work at the Alliance Bakery on Division Street. Their pastries are the bomb and they have a sign by the register that says they’ll deal with customers as soon as they get off their cell phone. Fantastic! But if their edginess turns to truculence or if the tastiness fades, they know darned well I can do business for much cheaper at the Dominick’s grocery store a stone’s throw away.
Ace Motorcycle & Scooter is an odd operation whose owners, Chad and Bee, however friendly and super-competent, march not to the beat of your drum, but their own. If they were the only crap game in town, their customers might get impatient with their quirky ways. But you know what? Customers' drums are not always right. And when a customer is in trouble, Ace is aces: Just yesterday afternoon, they fixed an oil leak on my bike, while I waited, for free.
The boys who make the sandwiches in the back of the Bari Market deli on Grand don’t go out of their way to be friendly, and the lady in front believes in “service with a sardonic smile.” But their friggin’ sandwiches are so fresh you half expect to hear sounds of the slaughter in the back room. And the longer the line, the more fun you have watching guys order their sandwiches like actors auditioning for a play; it's the best part of their whole day, and yours too. Thus, it would be easy for the Bari boys to get cocky; Whole Foods helps keep them in line.
Rothschild’s Liquors on Chicago Avenue has its undeniable charms, which include never being carded, but simply being asked, “What’s your year, Baby?” When you answer, “1969” you look furtively at the other people in line to see whether they’re surprised you look so young, or so old. But how much would that little novelty be worth if the grocery chain up the road didn’t keep Rothschild’s prices in check?Before all the cold, 18-hole golf course-community courses were built all over Illinois, Pine Hills Golf Course in Ottawa was just another nine-hole track run by a cantankerous family and taken for granted by ungrateful townsfolk. Now, if I could, I’d build a new wing of the Smithsonian right over Pine Hills and call it, Public Golf in America. It's a pleasure to hand them my cash—which is good, because cash is the only form of payment they accept.
Last Saturday, Scout and I set out to buy her a new bike. Our plan was to try one little bike store, and if they didn’t have what we needed for the amount we wanted to pay, we were off to Target. Roscoe Village Bikes did have a bike for Scout, and thanks to Target's breathing down their necks, the price was reasonable. And we got to deal with the eager little bike nut proprietor who took adorable pains to make sure the bike was perfectly fitted for Scout, while Scout petted a sleepy dog curled up by the counter. We'll never go anywhere else for bike stuff again.
So thanks, Massive, Faceless Corporations, for making small businesses more competitive and at the same time, such a relative pleasure to do business with.
Tags: Ace Motorcycle & Scooter, Alliance Bakery, Bari Market, big corporations, Club Lago, Dominicks, El Taco Veloz, Olive Garden, Pine Hills Golf Course Duk's hot dogs, Roscoe Village Bikes, Rothschild's Liquors, small business, Taco Bell, Target
Concurrent with its big World Conference in Toronto in June, IABC is offering an inexpensive 2010 IABC Student World Conference, for communication majors and other odd ducks who actually aspire to careers in our muffled art. The kids get to hear from the likes of Shel Holtz, Guy Kawasaki, Marc Schumann. Far out.
The conspiracy theorists among us—and who isn't lately?—believe Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg suckered most persons in the civilized world into revealing our every lofty hope, filthy desire and gnawing fear on his website, and then turned all the information over to corporate marketers to take whatever advantage they can.
Which, technically, is true.
But a sentence in Zuckerberg's apologetic op-ed yesterday revealed that another factor is at work here. Regarding the recent disastrous privacy policies, Zuckerberg said, "Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted."
Granular controls? No, I don't want granular controls. I don't know anyone who wants granular controls.
The conventional thinker will leap to say Zuckerberg should have done focus groups to see what people thought of his policy.
I will leap back and say, If you need focus groups to tell you that the average overworked, overwhelmed, information-overloaded American doesn't want "granular control" of his or her privacy settings, you're too geeky to be trusted to run anything nearly as socially important as Facebook has become.
I'm not quitting Facebook, but I am hoping its leaders somehow get replaced by people who know more about human beings than this Asberger Zuckerman.
Today senatorial candidate Richard Blumenthal has issued an e-mail apology which sounds angry: "I have firmly and clearly expressed regret and taken responsibility for my words. I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone." You expect the next sentence to be, "Are you fucking happy now?"
Why aren't we happy? At my Vital Speeches blog, I explain.
Scout was riding her bike to school this morning, and I was running along side, and she said, "We're famous."
"What do you mean?" I huffed.
"Well, lots of people see us."
"Yeah?" I puffed.
"And we see them."
"Yeah," I wheezed.
"So everybody's famous, sort of. Right?"
Had she given me this insight six years ago, I would have invented Twitter.