Friday, December 31, 2004

Flying Home From Home on New Year's Eve

As I write this, it’s New Year's Eve, and I'm on United flight 135 from Chicago to San Francisco. After what seems an eternity of travel on Airbus A319's, I’m finally on a real widebody, the Boeing 777.

I have to explain that an A319 is a narrow body tube of an airplane made by Airbus Industries of the European Union. I think it was developed to challenge the Boeing 757, because United used to fly them on a number of routes; now I see A319s. Delta has the 757s.

Whatever the case, the Boeing 777 is a real nice plane. I’m also glad to be off the 737-500 from Atlanta to Chicago. The plane was fine, but there was this African dude sitting next to me who seemed to think it was ok for him to 1) constantly look at me, even as he was pretending to sleep (I’m not kidding), 2) almost place his head on my shoulder to sleep, and 3) move his legs into my space. I finally had to ask him to stop and give me some space. I got up and spent most of the flight talking to the attendants at the rear of the cabin. I started the conversation by telling them about a Wall Street Journal article I saw regarding United Airlines pensions. We had a great talk. I’ll get back to the subject of aircraft in a bit. Right now, I want to tell you about my trip.

I was visiting my Mom and Stepfather for the third time in a little over two-and-a-half months. The reasons are the fall of the holidays, my Stepfather’s battle with cancer, and my Mom and Stepdad's need for help and company.

About two years ago, now, they sold their home in the hills of Oakland, California and moved to a large six-bedroom home on six acres outside of Atlanta, Georgia. They left Oakland because they wanted to have enough money to be appropriately retired. My Godmother lives about five minutes away from them and moved their from Chicago about seven years ago, I think. Anyway, my folks went down to visit them several times. My stepfather fell in love with the area, and convinced my Mom that they should move down there.

From the start I had mixed feelings about their decision. My feelings centered around the fact that I like to have family close by. I don't care what you call it, it's important to me. Look, I'm an only child. And like most only children, I’m close to my folks. In fact, I don’t know of an only child that's not close to their family.

So, moves like the one they made hit me harder than it would a person with sisters and brothers. It took me a full year to get over it. What helped me do so was (1) the establishment of my company, Sports Business Simulations, and (2) the realization that they had to do what made them happy.

I must offer that my Stepfather’s family: his brother and my stepfather’s daughters, don't make me feel as if I have family in California. They don't call even to say hello. By contrast, I have made an effort to contact them once in a while. I visited my Stepfather’s brother when I learned from my Mother that he was in the hospital after a heart attack (which he got while watching the Tom Cruise movie "The Last Samurai"). And I called my Stepfather's daughter's husband Ralph to tell them simply to check in with him more often than they do.

But, I've yet to get a call from them. I even ran into my Stepfather’s brother, Ben and his wife Charlene, and their friends at a place called The Alley and not far from where I live. The Alley's a cool place in Oakland, known for about 10,000 business cards posted on the walls and for Rod Dibble, who plays the piano there and has since 1963. People can go and sing their favorite song, as long as its a show tune or Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, Bobby Derin, or almost any theater tune between, oh, 1936 and 1971.

Anyway, I saw them there, went over to say hi, and then went back to sing. Still, even though I’ve presented them with my business card twice, they’ve never called me.

See, the way I look at it, there’s more of them than me. So, if they want me into their fold, they have to invite me. It’s that simple. I don't ask to be in a social group if I don't get an invitation. I don't like crashing parties. And if the people are supposed to be family, I should not have to.

Well, they don't call, so I don't feel welcome to call them. But the something else they don't do much of if at all, is visit my folks in Georgia. This is what upsets me. There's no good excuse for such behavior. In the case of Ben, my Stepfather, Chester, is his brother, so he should have his rear end down there. Chester seems to think that they don't want to come down their because Ben's black and Charlene's white, and my folks are in Georgia, which is The South. And the South's racist.

Well, that was my stereotype, too. But I have to admit that it's a less-than-accurate view. I think blacks and white get along better in Georgia than in the Bay Area. In Georgia it’s very common to see black and white parents and children shopping or just doing about anything. I remember seeing two girls, one black and the other white, but dressed exactly the same, as if they were going to some kind of school play. The mother was walking right behind them.

That’s something you don't see a lot of in the San Francisco Bay Area. I think it's more common in some Bay Area suburbs, but not much. Part of it is that African Americans are only about 10 percent of the population or less by some estimates. Remember, that includes kids. So the adult population is about five percent of that for the whole Bay Area . Not a lot.

That’s not true for the Atlanta metro area. I don't know the exact percentage, but it's vastly more than in the Bay Area. It's common to see local commercials by and featuring blacks. I think KGO Radio Show Talk Guy Ronn Owens is wrong about Atlanta. He said it's more racist than the Bay Area. Well, it's not. It’s common to see black and white couples, there. I'm not saying it's as faux carefree as the Bay Area, but it's a lot closer than I would have expected. Ben and Charlene should come and visit my folks.

Even though I'm happy that I’m headed back to my home in Oakland, I already miss my folks. I love them and I love my Mom so much. I think I completely understand her now. She wants things – everything – to be perfect and gets upset when perfection is not achieved. Yes, I know perfection is hard to reach, and that's the point. I think she's starting to relax to that fact, but she's always going to be a perfectionist. Plus, she’s 70 so she’s not going to change at this point.

I know my real Dad will never be perfect, but he too could call at least once. The last time I physically saw him was 1999, and it was about 18 years then. I called him after the Chicago Cubs one the National League Central Division title in 2003. We kept up with each other – for a solid week. Then he stopped returning my phone calls.

Why? Beats me. I think he thinks I'm very much a product of my mother. He said that my mother put me up to not calling as much as I should. But that's crap. The simple fact is that he didn't call enough. Remember the rule: I’ve got to be invited. Mom says that I'm too sensitive, and she's right, but I can't help it much. Being sensitive is just being aware of masked feelings communicated by others. Hey, I'm wrong at times, but I'm correct more often.

In fact, I tried to call him while on a short layover at O'Hare. I didn't have his number plugged into my cell, so I called 411. I did this two weeks ago and left a message. I heard a unfamiliar woman's voice on the answering machine. It started "This is the Abraham residence.." I figured Dad had a new lady in his life. I just didn’t know who. Anyway, this time I called from the airport, I got a recording that his phone number is “not listed at the person’s request.” Or words to that effect. Call me sensitive, but something’s wrong.

Is this an example of how families are disconnected in today’s America? Let me know. People talk about this, so I wonder.

So, I’m flying back to Oakland for New Year’s Eve. I'm going out somewhere. My lady friend is going to be with her sister, who's suffering a losing battle with cancer. So, maybe I’ll just go to The Alley and sing. Or, maybe I should have stayed in Atlanta. Come what may, I'm looking forward to the New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

A New Sports Business Simulations Front Page

Hey folks. SBS has a new front page! Visit
and if you've got tickets to sell, go to

The price you pay for visiting my blog; an occasional corporate plug!

MoveOn's Call For More US Aide to Tsunami Area

For those of you who want to get involved via The Internet, there's a rising swell of compaints regarding the President's initial offer of $15 million. Even though it was increased to $35 million, the call is for more money. Damage estimates are well into the billions. My personal feeling is that the one best fiscal solution will be something like a Global Marshall Plan.

But for the present, there's MoveOne.Org

Visit their site's call to action at:

Tsunami Death Toll at 116,000

This is unbelievable. Let's put this number in perspective: 116,000 is more people than the population of Berkeley, CA (110,000); more people than the total attendance for 2004's Michigan v. Notre Dame game (105,000). It's larger than all rural towns. And the scary part about this, is the death toll continues to grow.

People try to place The Disaster in biblical perspective. My parents think that some of the countries are being punished for something. I still think that it's the price we pay as a Global community for the misapplication of technology. We lack a global warning system for these occurences, and it's not as if there hasn't been a good reason to have one. It's just that no one cared to push for the development of one.

Why in the heck do we have to be so stupid as a people? We seem to do "what's right" only after a crisis. And isn't it interesting that doing "what's right" involves saving the lives of many people?

Can I get an Amen?

I hope. I pray. I wish that this is the last time we permit such scenarios to develop. I'll bet there's some computer modeler / policy analysis somewhere sitting back and saying "You should have listened to me." As a person who's one of them, I can tell you that politicians in general don't listen well, and society itself is not far ahead of them.

Wake up!

The Zennie (A Libation)

OK. About just over a month ago we created a libation called "The Zennie" as part of an experiemental online promotion for The Zennie Band.

I write "experimental" because if the overall strategy didn't work, I was going to analyze the heck out of it and try it again. But it worked. The band actually made about $500 that night (not subtracting the $50 Peter Van Kleef took for "door help") and someone -- actually many people -- saw the Zennie idea and actually ordered it.

Then one person, Florence, sent me a nice e-mail stating that she like the libation and the band rocked.

Folks, I did all this from Atlanta; Cafe Van Kleef is in downtown Oakland, California. Cafe Van Kleef became an Internet-famous bar because of my strategy, which I will not yet reveal.

Anyway, it's a damn good libation, which consists of equal parts of:

1. Orange Juice
2. Tequila
3. Coca Cola
4. Malibu Rum

Go to your favorite bar and ask for "The Zennie"

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Jerry Orbach - A Great New Yorker

"Law and Order" star Jerry Orbach passed away today, and of the same illness my stepfather is battling: prostate cancer. A real sad loss. When I think of "New York" I think of Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Donald Trump, Joan Rivers, and Jerry Orbach, to name some New Yorkers...

Guys, make sure you get checked for this when you reach your 30s and on. It's all too common.

The Disaster

The Disaster

Tuesday, December 28th 2004, for me, was a weird mix of emotions. First, I was happy just to be with my Mom and Step dad here in Fayetteville, GA. (I’m also smiling over his feeling better during his battle with cancer.) Second, I did miss Oakland and the Bay Area (and wish my folks moved back). Third, I was very sad over the massive devastation caused by the dramatic post-earthquake swelling in the Indian Ocean.

The count of lost lives seems to increase with each hour, and with no end in site. (But there’s got to be one.) Television and the Internet, and their increasingly convergent use, keep us tied to the unfolding events thousands of miles away, almost as if we were just a few feet away.

Where am I going with this? Good question. Well, my primary interest is in just plain writing out the pain I feel over this massive loss of life. The problem with the rise in the number of deaths is that – to me – every one of the lives represent someone missed by someone else. That’s what’s so sad. It’s also what makes life so special: the bond formed by just plain caring for each other.

I hope that what comes from this, is a refocus on the use of technology for our global community and not for us. It seems the recent trend is to permit us to buy better anti-depressant pills rather than better ways to keep our communities healthy and alive. The chip and the computer have met the "Me Generation" and now serve our individual needs. Today, we turn around and realize we stopped trying to place humans on other planets, let alone predict tidal waves and earthquakes.

It’s not so much that we stopped, as we slowed down. I have a friend whom I’ve known since junior high school. For some time, he was working on the Hubble Space Telescope until the funding for it was cut back. That device, thousands of miles over the earth, helped us to gain a better view of the solar system around us. It permitted us to better map the planets, and such objects as asteroids -- which do run into planets. You see where I’m going with this, right?

We have to start reapplying our technology to the betterment of our understanding of the world and space around us, rather than just to making a better bionic boob. The immediate matter at hand is using our tools to locate missing people in the disaster area. All of us can help. If someone’s reading this, and knows of news of a missing person, or has information on a person they want communicated, post that information here in the comments page for others to see and pass on. Or go to our SBS site at and send me an e-mail to pass around (or start here: The point is that the Internet’s a great giant grapevine, if it’s used that way.

The other thought is that with so many Americans and others possibility over there, especially given that it’s college break, the chance is high that someone there may be connected to someone we know. For example, UC Berkeley has a large Asian immigrant student population, so the chance that people from our university are affected by the disaster is far greater than the American collegiate norm.

We’ve got to help. Someone may be seeking information now. Let’s pass it on. It may seem like a little, but really, it’s a lot.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Expanding Number of Celebrities

I’m going to throw out these names; chances are you or someone reading this, identifies them as celebrities: Scott Petersen, Larry King, Ronn Owens, Dennis Richmond, Kelly Perdue, Mike Silver, Bill O’Reilly, Rae Hollit, Bill Gates, Jerry Brown, Paula Poundstone, Paris Hilton, Jennifer C, Omarosa, Katie Couric, Petra Nikova, Kevin Bacon, Ashley Simpson, Anne Coulter, Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Rich Isen, Andrea Kramer, Jennifer Griffin, Kenny Witherspoon, Craig Newmark and Jan Wahl.

OK. Some of them you recognize, and others leave you scratching your head. I’ll help you with a few. Petra Nikova is the once unknown "supermodel" whose recent claim to fame is that she was hanging from a tree for eight hours after the Tsunami struck in Thailand. Kenny Witherspoon is a Bay Area Olympian whose face is on a late night commercial pushing a new kind of health candy bar for athletes. Rae Hollit is a female bodybuilder who has been in several feature films. Some of the other you know, but you can tell me whom you recognize.

Kelly Perdue is the most recent winner of "The Apprentice." The reality show concept is the newest form of celebrity-producing TV program. These new celebrities truly walk among us. Remember Andrew Firestone from "The Bachelor"? He’s your typical San Francisco Marina District guy, only now he walks with a baseball cap turned down over his brow. Who’s next?
What’s the point? I’m personally convinced that celebrities surround us and that our culture is creating them at a record pace. I’ve not sat down to calculate the number, but I’ll divide celebrities into these categories: entertainment, news, expert, Internet, business, reality, sports, and commercial.

In my view of this, celebrities can not only come from any of these categories, but also be in more than one of them. For example, Paris Hilton is an Internet celebrity. She’s one of the most searched names online according to Lycos ( and let’s face it, that infamous sex video had something to do with it.

But with her show "The Simple Life" Paris has moved into the entertainment area. So, she’s in both camps, now. Ronn Owens is the host of the number one ranked talk show in The Bay Area (right Ronn?). He’s in the entertainment area. But with just an investment push, I think Ronn could go into the Internet area, he just needs a good blog. (Taking the hint, Ronn?)

Craig Newmark is the founder of Craigslist. He fits in the Internet area, and if he has his way, he’ll stay there. But can he control this? Already, he’s featured in the most recent Esquire Magazine as a business genius, so guess what? He falls in the business area, too. His "Craig Takes On Hollywood" causes him to flirt with the entertainment category. He will only firmly place himself in that area when he’s discovered dating someone like…Mena Suvari? (The American Pie and American Beauty star is certainly his type…c’mon Craig, chime in, here.)
In a world of not only 500-channel television, but also smaller and smaller video recording devices, and now cameras in cell phone, anyone can be captured doing anything. All it takes is a savvy and determined person to put that something online, and all of a sudden (depending on what they do and if their name’s released) that someone is a celebrity.

If you match this with an increasing hunger for content, you have the next wave of celebrity development. What do I mean? Well, think about Law and Order. The TV show is everywhere. As I recall, it started on the NBC Television Network, but now re-runs can be seen on TNT and other cable networks. There’s Law and Order, Law and Order SVU (for Special Victim’s Unit) and perhaps some other version I’m not aware of. Why so many? Well, demand. (They’re good shows). Also the supply of cable channels willing to buy them. But that’s only part of the answer. The other part lies in the word "content." There are a lot of channels in search of good content, or in some cases, just plain content.

Ever watch late night TV? If so, you have seen the show "Girls Gone Wild," or at least noticed it and turned the channel. The idea of the show is to go into nightclubs with a camera and ask women to do things that the requestor would normally get slapped for. The content of the show is simply, easy, and low cost to produce. If the makers asked the people on the show to give their names, they would become celebrities over night.

I’m not saying this is good or bad. I’m just pointing out a fascinating development in our society. Heck it’s one I want to harness for Sports Business Simulations ( ) I’m really interested in where this is taking us as a society.

Remember the 11-year old who spoke on behalf of Senator John Kerry? I forgot her name, and while I could look her up here online, I’ll leave you to help me. In fact, that’s the point. Someone will remember her. What she does with this will determine her future, like it or not. I write that because opportunities based on her national exposure will certainly come her way, if they haven’t already.

I think we’re going to evolve into a culture of instant celebrity. PR people will be judged more on their ability to get their clients on TV. Some of them may even create Internet shows for their clients. More and more people will have websites, and by 2020, it will be expected for one to have a website of some kind.

One walk of our culture where this is already the case is that of female bodybuilders and fitness models. (OK, yes, I like them, so let’s get that out of the way.) But what’s real interesting is the enormous number of websites for them. I would bet there are about 1,000 of them at present, and range from simple one-page constructs to multi-page giants with various sections. If one considers the number of ways there are to make websites, and also web-based groups (which I will count in this case) the numbers and growth are staggering. (I must add that the websites I have seen are poorly monetized, and the women are avoiding a great way to generate link-click revenue by using Google Adsense.)

Another place in our culture where this is the case is the personal ad. Each ad is a website for the person that’s featured. This goes for member directories of Internet Service Providers, too. So, from this perspective, we’re already well on our way toward my 2020 prediction.
Where will this take us next? Let me know what you think. And if you see a camera, present a release form for the shooter to sign. I’m semi-serious here. Get used to controlling your image, because someone else will.

Monday, December 27, 2004

What's A Zeitgeist?

Hi Everyone!

I became interested in what creates our American and now Global culture when I was around one-to-two years old and this thing called TV was before my eyes. I think I learned to read from Campbell's Soups cans, so imagine how many kids may have had the same experience simply because of the sheer number of "Mmm..Good" Campbell's Soup cans!

I'm serious.

I've always been a student of what we used to call current events. It's too bad there wasn't a college major in it...Come to think of it, I should have made one. As it was, I opted for the closest thing: city planning. Cities are really the study of people and the culture they create.

In fact, UC Berkeley City Planning professor Alan Jacobs instructed his students that if they wanted to learn about a neighborhood, they should study its garbage in the refuse cans. Think about it.

Anyway, my interest in the formation of popular culture increased with the establishment of my company Sports Business Simulations. Sports touches every aspect of our life and is so much a part of our culture we take it for granted. I think of last year's Super Bowl and how TV communicated one "strip" that became the talk of our times and in a way formed an event that bonded millions of people of different ideas and backgrounds.


Part of what we do at SBS is promote people, or what I call "SBS Personalities." I'm firmly convinced that anyone can be made famous.

Anyone. The definition of fame is wide. For example, Lindsey Huff, SBS Personality, VP of Sales, and friend, is looked up on Google at least five times a day. Why? Well, I think it's her picture on the front of our website ( . It's not only caused her increased cultural exposure, but a business deal for her I can't talk about. Oh, and there's the famous LegalBall and SBS Personality and friend Keith Dobkowski (Check out his site: There's also my SBS business partner, the legendary Dan Rascher and his SportsEconomics company, which came before SBS. ( SBS has only boosted his "Q" rating in America. (That's a kind of celebrity status ranking, I'm told.)

The trick is to find that something they have that other people feel they must obtain and cause them to get it. Even if it's for a moment. As part of my company research -- I am obsessed with the idea of making people think they have to come to our site and use our sims for some reason, even if it's just to say "I tried it" (have you? OK...come to Oh...need a sports ticket? Selling one? OK...come to See!)

Now that you've done what I asked and are now part of a statistic, let me explain that's how trends are started. A kind of persuasion to do something. That's only part of the whole....Zeitgeist.

"Zeitgeist" is..Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era, according to Webster's Dictionary. What I'm interested in are trends and how they're started.

I'm interested in news: who's doing what, when, where, why, and how. I'm interested in sex, and not only our attitudes toward it, but what about it is changing, and how it's changing us. I'm interested in attitudes toward race (is there such a thing) -- especially since I'm black in America -- and how those views are changing..or not.

And I'm real interested in the culture of celebrity and politics (which are not far apart to me). I am interested in seeing how many ways I can get my name out there purely as a kind of game. A Zennie Drink. The Zennie Band. The Zennie Hat....The Zennie Pizza? The Zennie Car. (A Zenniemobile?)

Hey, you're laughing at this point, but by the time you've stopped cracking up, that pillow you are about to lay your head on may just include my name. Ooookay, laugh it up, but watch out.

Beyond me, I'm interested in hemlines, hats, wheels, seats, chairs, planes, trains, and automobiles. I want to know how we are forming our culture. I want to know why we're applying technolgy to ourselves, instead of outer space, like we did when I was a kid.

Of course, this all tracks back to my company, because SBS is in the business of drawing large numbers of people to out site. Let's face it, we're not going to do that with just simulations, so we've got to reflect the culture, and sometimes (maybe most of the time) take it where it seems to want to go, or should go.

That's a powerful statement, I know. But I think most Internet business people are on the wrong track, except those in Affiliate Marketing.

SBS, for example, has a great affiliate marketing relationship with StubHub, so go to to see SBS's affiliate marketing relationship in action.

Anyway, such marketers can and do pay attention to what the culture is doing -- they have to. We have to. I have to. So, this blog is part about me, and what I see and experience, and another part about The Zeitgeist.

That's where you come in.

Let's talk trends in society. Tell me what's going on out there. Why do people do things. Why do people pick out who to sit next to on trains? How has that changed? I want you to open your eyes and look around. Observe!

OK. let's start. You tell me what's going on. Here's a question to start: Why did the Democratic Party lose the 2004 election? (You don't have to be a Democrat to answer the question.) And another question: What's your prediction for the year 2005?!?