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Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Key-holders

Last week, gravel-voiced, 70's era too-much-ain't-enough icon Bob Guccione died in the unlikely location of Plano, Texas. Not only is Plano a dinky burg, it's world headquarters of JC Penney. Penney sells mostly petrochemical-based apparel modeled by women who look annoyingly wholesome. Guccione retailed libido-stoking imagery of women who resembled Lucifer's A-team. Odd neighbors.

Guccione's logo was the Penthouse Key, a far more alluring symbol than Playboy's collared bunny. And so Bob became the key-holding sentinel at the citadel of carnal delight. For a reasonable cover price, Bob would unlock that fantastic top-floor pleasure palace.

This week, another key holder has died. 83 year-old "Maridjan" was the official appeaser of the Merapi volcano that blew in Indonesia. After inheriting the title of "key-holder" from his father, Maridjan spent 33 years sweet-talking that angry fumarole into staying quiet. Often, his soothing chatter was augmented with sacrifices of rice, clothing and chickens.

Maybe he accidentally tossed in a Penney polyester pantsuit, because Merapi vomited forth enough lava (@1,800° F) to batter-fry Maridjan and over a dozen villagers.

Last word spoken by Maridjan was allegedly DVWWWJWBVVRP. If anyone can decode this for the Rhumb Line, please contact us immediately. (Actually, that's just a code we had to plug in to help folks find us... our "key" to VMG clients and fans.)

Larry Bleidner

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Pat On the Back

One of the boats I race on is Archangel, A J33 out of Shore and Country Club in Norwalk, CT. Typically, I will be on helm with the owner, Hamil DeCarlo handling tactics and sail trim (I just do what I'm told ;-)). Other regulars are Bill Beres, main and jib trim, Nica DiPaola in pit and Ellen Sentz.

We race in the Wednesday night beer can races and in some Saturday PHRF races. 

Here are our 2010 results for races run by Norwalk YC:

Left to right, first row:
Plate: 1st place, season, PHRF <135
Tray: 1st place, CT Shore series
Plate: 1st place, Chantyman Race, Spinnaker <135

1st place, series 1, Wednesday night
2nd place, series 3, Wednesday night

Perpetual Trophies:
Overall Season Champion
Chantyman Cup

I Love it when a plan comes together.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

140 Characters At Dawn

When Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton's loathing for one another reached a flashpoint, they grabbed dueling pistols and schlepped out to the woods of Weehawken N.J. When the smoke cleared , the score was Burr: 1; Hamilton: dead.

Now Steve Jobs,  Andy Rubin (Android creator) and Lain Dodsworth (Tweet Deck CEO) are in a beef about all sorts of stuff. They are dueling via Twitter. These are not teenage girls from Dubuque. These are captains of industry. These guys are not wealthy. They are sick rich.

The conflict is tangential to the real story - that the Coliseum, the back alley, the squared circle, the schoolyard of this age is a social network - the logo of which is a cartoon rendering of a little bird.

The signature Tweet is, what are you doing? In this case the answer is, kicking your ass.


The quarrel may accelerate to the courts and make flocks of attorneys rich. Or the feud may fizzle after a few bitchy tweets.

No one should die, but I'd rather see Jobs - in his uniform black mock turtle neck, slap Rubin across the face with a ipad. Whereupon Dodsworth joins the fray -  Stooge style - the Curly Shuffle and a nyuk-nyuk followed by a face slap and eye-poke. Which really gets Jobs' geek up. He swings an ipod like a bolo, wrapping the ear-buds around Dodsworth's throat. Cue Mills Lane, sending all combatants to a neutral corner for a time out with milk and cookies.

I hate violence. Wait, not really. In this case, fisticuffs would be so much more dignified.

Each day, we're freshly astonished by the power of social media. And the insanity of people.


Monday, October 18, 2010


Does Annapolis hold the Sail and Power boat shows a week apart for convenience or peace-keeping? Probably a little of both.

A Yale engineering student with the serendipitous name of Cameron Waterman created  the first outboard  (not Ole Evinrude, as is commonly believed), four-stroke,  gasoline motor. The moment he fixed it to the transom of a dory, he got the stinkeye from sailors. Ever since, it's been a cold war of epithets and right-of-way, stink-pots versus blow-boats.
Bruce is a serious sailor. The soundtrack of his mind sounds like snapping canvas and halyards zipping through pulleys.
I'm a serious fisherman. I like the melody of Merc Verados with the tattoo of bluefish thrashing on the deck.
As is usually the case with feuds and rivalries, when you peel away the rhetoric, the combatants have more in common than they like to admit.
This sign, seen in the cockpit of a sport-fisherman, says it all.

Whether wind or motor, boats are, figuratively and literally, vessels that transport us to our dreams.
But this is America, and conflict is king. One must take a side, so it would be unpatriotic not to compare and contrast the Annapolis Sailboat vs. Power Boat shows.
For eye-popping nautical bling and the jing it takes to produce it, there was more money sitting in that harbor with screws than sails - by a huge margin. 
Advantage: motor boats.
For overall aesthetics and ambience, each show drew a good-looking crowd. The weather was perfect. From a seascape perspective, masts and flapping pennants beat tuna towers and outriggers.

Advantage (Slight): sailboats. 

As far as savvy marketers deploying babeage to lure shoppers, we found none to compare to the sail show sirens (see Oct. 12 Rhumbline post). There was an attempt by one yacht maker, but the data-mining gauntlet (two women demanding all sorts of personal information before allowing anyone to come aboard - for an escorted tour? Puh-lease) operation so undermined the fun factor as to eradicate it entirely. A beautiful boat they could build. But clearly, they needed professional help on the marketing side.  When you want someone to buy a seven-figure yacht, just welcome them  aboard and try to make them feel good - not as if they're applying for a job.
Advantage: sailboat show.
We met many smart boat-builders. By and large and enterprising bunch - bootstrapping do-it-yourselfers who thought they had a better idea and proved it with the craft beneath their feet. Some prefer to do their own marketing, which we find curious. You don't fix your own teeth. You don't cut your own hair. Invariably, DIY marketing looks like a self-inflicted hair-cut.  Don't try it at home. 

Boats aside, Annapolis is an extraordinary town, steeped in naval history, as evidenced by this guy. 
Cadets from the US Naval Academy were ubiquitous -- each one, An Officer and a Gentleman.  None resembled Richard Gere, although I do think I heard someone yell, way to go, Paula!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ahoy, Baby!

The 2010 US Sailboat show in Annapolis was outstanding. The weather was more like July than October. Blue skies with puffy whites,  a whisper of a breeze and everywhere you looked, visual overload. And we mean that in the good sense.

The crowd was huge, the biggest in years. Some attribute it the Dow topping 11,000 the previous week. Could be.

Technology rockets forward, and the sailor won't be left behind. From sat phones to friction-beating waxes to computer-designed hulls and rigging, here was the latest and greatest of things nautical, all for your seafaring pleasure. The marketing of these wares was equally impressive.  Brochures and beer cozies and gimme caps and thousands of logo-plastered pennants flapping high above each craft, beckoning shoppers to climb aboard and ... what? The short answer is purchase a boat. But what they're really buying is a dream, the fulfillment of which is only available through sailing.

Like no other endeavor, sailing feeds three primordial needs: freedom, adventure and self-reliance. You are un-tethered. No need to refuel.  And who knows what challenge lurks beyond the horizon - or the next swell? Contrast those thrilling elements with the guy in his land-yacht RV, grid-locked on hot asphalt or dumping his black water into one of those fragrant campground sewers.

Marketing at the show is mostly point-of-purchase. People have been trying to improve and fine-tune point-of-purchase since the Pharaohs, with  everything from coupons to seizure-inducing strobe lights.

But smart vendors know their buyers and what really grabs their fancy. Sailors are overwhelmingly male. What grabs them,  hmmm?

Wandering the show, we encountered two log-jams of humanity. Both were generated by the primordial need...babeage.

This enthralling femme was helping to market a type of coaster that keeps your beverage where you want it, even in a force 5. She was a navigational hazard, as it took several minutes to diffuse through the throng of gawkers. Her strategically placed (stick on, we surmise) anchor tattoo authenticated her credentials as a mariner.

There was another bottle-neck near a 60-foot Gunboat catamaran. Surely, it was an interesting vessel. Curiosity for the boat was heightened exponentially by the blond and brunette in matching t-shirts and short-shorts, helping guys twice their bodyweight up the companionway.

Here's a look at the chestnut-haired siren and her adoring fans. 

That... is smart point-of-purchase marketing, folks.

We'll return with a report on the Power Boat show next week.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Who's validating whom?

With this weekend's robust success of The Social Network, Social Media is officially valid.

Not that 500 million+ Facebook friends aren't valid, but in America, an entity or a person really isn't on the national radar until they have serious TV or movie exposure. Heartland America doubted the existence of the Mafia until The GodfatherAmerican Graffiti officially made the 50's nostalgia. Saturday Night Fever brought disco to flyover country.

The Social Network is a very good movie.  Hollywood, usually adept at taking great stories and making them stupid, actually improved on this one.  First, they made every Harvard Coed resemble a Laker Girl. That's creative license we applaud. They wove snappy (actually, over-the-top snappy) dialog of a trial deposition between scenes of launching a digital business. In real life, yawn generating tedium. But with good writing, acting and editing, they made it riveting. No mean feat, as writing code, hiring programmers and raising VC hardly compares with the shootout at the OK Corral. Incredibly, the only thrown punch was a punch pulled, and there wasn't a single car-wreck or explosion.

But with this movie's Hollywood validation, the standard equation is turned inside out. More people - by far - viewed Deer Hunter, (or Platoon or Apocalypse Now) than fought in Viet Nam. But more people - by a big multiple - are Facebook members than will ever see the movie... we think.  If even 20% of Facebookers (friends is just too much of a stretch, sorry) are sufficiently curious to pony up $10, the take will dwarf Avatar or Titanic. We'll see.

Previous prognostications aside, the following is a lead-pipe cinch. Harvard applications will skyrocket. Formerly perceived as a staid, stuffy bastion of eggheads and trust-fund babies, Harvard's re-branding by The Social Network makes it sexier than the Playboy Mansion.  Every high schooler seeing it will think,   whoa... hot, easy chix plus billions upon graduation? Get me in! 

From our stadium seat at the multiplex, it looked like Mark Zuckerberg shamelessly ripped off Facebook  from the Winklevoss twins. Although he settled with them for $65 million, they stack up as paupers beside Zuckerberg's estimated net worth of 6.7 billion.

What do you think?