Redefining Beautiful (then enlarging the garbage dumps of America with it)

Picked this up at a second hand book shop.

Redefiing Beautiful

The designer of these “7 Stunning Pieces made from 7-Count Plastic Canvas and Embellishments” was Diane T. Ray. The back cover says that Indian Artifacts “reflects her unique ability to adapt objects of art to the medium of plastic canvas”. Living in New Mexico, inspired by its vistas, she also enjoyed riding customized sand rails over the dunes with her husband and boys.

In other words, she enjoyed destroying the desert environment with sand buggies. How appropriate.

Anyway, we have here bell chimes, a canteen, a pitcher, wedding basket, wall hanging…and no home display of plastic canvas Indian artifacts is complete without the tomahawk and pipe.

Somewhere out there are individuals who thought “that wedding basket would look so cute holding plastic flowers on the tank of the bathroom toilet!” and made at least one of these bizarre creations in their passionate pursuit of creating trash for American landfills. If it happened to be a sweet but clueless relation of yours, I can understand how you’d be sentimental. The idea remains, however, reeeeeeally bad.

She was Our Mother, so she cried

My sinuses are exploding, I’m fuzzed with heavy duty Benadryl but can’t sleep, can’t think to do anything marginally useful or productive, and so here I am ready to talk about George Alec Effinger’s “What Entropy Means to Me”. Jennifer at Saying Yes picked it up as I’d good things to say about it and because it features giant people-terrorizing vegetables.

No, I’m actually up to read it again. I just read the first chapter. It’s been at least 15 years since I last read this book, maybe longer. I was probably 17 when I first read it. And I still love it.

She was Our Mother, so she cried. She used to sit out there, under that micha tree, all day as we worked cursing in her field. She sat there during the freezing nights, and we pretended that we could see her through the windows in the house, by the light of the moons and the hard, fast stars. She sat there before most of us were born; she sat there until she died. And all that time she shed her tears. She was Our Mother, so she cried.

She cried from our yard, and the chairs that had been put there. We had many chairs on the scrubby lawn between the house and the chata fields. Some of the other estates have iron and stone statues placed around, but none of them have chairs. We have quite a few. Our Mother taught us that she got the idea from reading one of the plays that Our Father brought with him from Earth. We still have many of those books. Sometimes we thrown them into the River when it looks like it might flood. But we still have most of them.

How can you not love a book that begins like that?

In Which I Get Cynical Over No Impact Man

(P.S. Reminder to self. Proofreading is good before posting. Proofreading two times is better and still usually not good enough.)

Spring is damn sprung. Already it’s approaching being beastly hot in this apartment which knows neither Autumn nor Spring. Upstairs neighbor climbs their way home up the steps and is tromping about. I have been sitting here with tears streaming down my face because allergies to what’s Springy about Spring are in full gear. Finally I realize, oh, my eyes are really really pouring so I take two Benadryl and now they’ve dried up and are no longer ferociously itching but the inside of my head still feels like it’s been turned inside out and scraped across a parking lot.

What I did this morning was I spent a little while wondering what it would be like to have $13 million dollars to drop on a residence in Sedona. Why I did that was partly because I was working on more photos from Sedona (see the Flickr account) but mainly because I spent some time last night reading up on No Impact Man and Family who live in nice digs on 5th Avenue, NYC, until recently had the 52 inch television screen etc., but decided to Go Ultra Green As An Experiment For A Year and are now eating food only grown in a 250 mile (or so) radius and using cool energy-saving bulbs and blogging about how to get along without restaurant food and new Diesel jeans as they’re not supposed to buy things like new clothes except for utilitarian undergarments.

He is blogging about not using paper products like no toilet paper for instance but he did find some recycled paper notebooks from Japan that he gets at MOMA (but he was down on his wife for wanting to drink juice from a juicery because the juice drinks are made from fruits shipped from overseas). And he has a book deal in the works for this project when the year is over.

And though he’s using energy saving bulbs etc. and not using the dishwasher or food processor etc. and is not using transport, there is also a movie in the works chronicling this and a film crew following him and his wife about.

Now how I went from reading about this to looking up those audaciously-priced villas at Sedona and wondering about that kind of lifestyle, I’m not sure, but it happened. One extreme went boing to another. And also because he’s relatively well-off and I’d read that before they went Green Very Green his wife had a splurge to help her through this time and bought two pairs of Chloe boots which cost two weeks of salary and her mother’s Bingo winnings (perhaps not these boots but Chloe boots cost a fairly steep dollar), I suppose that’s another reason I started thinking of What Its Like To Have More Money Than That Person On The Not Green Bus In Not Green Clothes. Thinking too about the Full Spectrum Fluorescent lightbulbs No Impact Man was touting that only cost $475 for a case of 40 and really reduce energy use but you have to be careful if you break them because they have mercury in them, which some say makes them not so good while others say no no you’re wrong they are better.

Yeah, I believe in Green. But reading No Impact Man made me feel fairly cynical, and this morning I found myself looking at the several million dollar residences in Sedona with their prime real estate gorgeous views backed up to national park land and which are no doubt second or third or fourth homes for those desiring to escape the city. I was thinking about how beautiful Sedona was and wondering what prices Those With Money pay for quality residences with grand views. I was thinking about how No Impact Man is going to want everyone to buy his book but during this year he won’t be buying anyone else’s book and won’t be buying any DVDs so slobs like us who have Not Green careers (Marty produces, plays and engineers music and me, well, I have no career) won’t be making any part of our living off No Impact Man…who wants us all to buy his book and go see his movie and invest in it. Feeling more and more cynical, and working on a couple of pics of Sedona, I thought I’d entertain myself by seeing what the rich pay for grand views from wonderful houses in a place that is beautiful and nice because it hasn’t been bulldozed and covered with city sprawl, which everyone wants to stay very Green looking, of course, so they don’t want you moving there (unless they are real estate developers) because though it’s all right that they are there, it’s not all right if you want to be. Kind of like No Impact Man wanting you to buy his book and go see his movie but not wanting to buy yours or go see your movie as your book and your movie don’t fit into the No Impact plan.

One could say though that No Impact Man is as dandy as all that because of everyone who’s going to read his blog and read his book and see his movie and so he might make an impression of some sort on some peers. Right?

Me, I’m wondering what his stock portfolio looks like and what his investment funds are supporting. Which, yes, I know, is really cynical of me.

Except for this. Yeah, baby steps. But then it comes down to the making money thing. And I think that’s where this really bothers me. What bothers me is the I’m Greener Than You Though I Make My Living Being Not Green With My Not Green Book Deal and The Film And Am Funding My Future With Not Green Investments But Buy Me Anyway Even Though I Won’t Be Buying Your Stuff This Year Because You Are So Not Green.

“Well, you do what you can do. It’s best to do what you can do.”

Yeah, sure. But something there seems so not right. Sure, we need to revamp how we live but the above model is kind of problematic. Isn’t it?

The Amazing Aquasaur!

Now this is how you do (or don’t) start blogging again. You write a post and go to save it only to find your website has gone down and said post falls plunk into the void.

Said post wasn’t about the new bookshelves (yes from IKEA) that we got, which we’ve needed since October for more more books, DVDs, papers and the ever blooming fruits of H.o.p.’s imagination piling up here there and everywhere, which put me vaguely in a mind for Spring (when dead gods are awakened by pink bunnies hopping on their graves) because of the sorting through and cleaning demanded by bookshelves which are supposed to make cleaning easier and instead cause me to look around the apartment and think, “What is missing? There’s something missing.” And I don’t mean clutter, because there’s still plenty of that.

The post wasn’t about those shelves or about Spring, which those shelves almost nudged me into believing in, because of all the sneezing I was doing with the deep cleaning and dusting which actually began with a visit from the Phone Man last week who pronounced our phone line dead (like we didn’t see that coming three years ago but couldn’t get the phone company to believe us) which meant lots of moving around of our old new bookcases while he looked for a short before pronouncing the line dead dead dead (which we’d been telling the phone company for three years) which meant dusting behind what had been moved (more sneezing). The phone man put in a new line and I was gleeful thinking finally finally I’d be able to use the internet again, which for the past couple of months only H.o.p. was able to use much because our connection was slow enough that only one person could be accessing the internet at a time and H.o.p. watching online movies about Helen Keller and Einstein and the Huns and Egyptians took priority. Oh, and taking care of his Neopet. And then there’s all the beautiful old Italian animatoins of folk tales he’s been in love with for months, watching at Cosmeo. Watching over and over and over again. Plus the video on Helen Keller. And the one on Madame Curie. They both really caught his imagination. And ate up a lot of bandwidth which we didn’t have because our phone connection was from hell, as it was essentially dead, and because Earthlink sux but so probably would AT&T.

The post wasn’t about those things but it began with them because Spring Spring Spring put me in a mind for maybe something new, hopefully something that was, uhm, kind of hopeful in a way that’s not all about how death and decay is a good thing, promising I don’t know what but something beyond Spring cleaning and sneezing (sneeze sneeze sneeze go I and I’ve not even been dusting). Put me in a mind for something new that might feel something like a Reward, yeah, a Reward. Everyone needs an occasional big R Reward for something, whatever. So when the email touting the New Spring Arrivals in their store popped up in my inbox with its yellows and purples, that’s where my head was. Spring and a Springy Reward for whatever, I don’t know what, but even some kind of big E Educational toy for H.o.p. sounded good because a big E Educational toy would come with the same aura of Springy Promise, the dead gods pushing up from beneath the earth, awakened by those pink hoppy bunnies. No, not a personal Reward but a box with touted Educational promise can be a little ray of rising sun in a homeschooling family’s world after a prolonged field trip in Winter doldrums.

My luck is I’m also a skeptic and trust nothing from to bring me anything elevating or worth the expenditure. Except the big blow-up T Rex we bought from them when H.o.p. was three years old, which is why they hope that we’ll purchase something again, eventually. Which we have. Some DVDs. And Cosmeo is a Discovery thing.

What was hoping I might buy this time? There was the Praying Mantis set-up where you can watch them eat each other. There was the vacuum gun with which you can capture bugs and look at them up close under a built-in magnifier. There was the UV canopy chair (shouldn’t that be anti-UV) in which Nanny McPhee can sit outside (or inside if you prefer) while the ravaging hoard ravages.

I clicked to look at the Praying Mantis set-up, with no intention of spending money, not on bringing bugs into the apartment.

Then over on the side bar I saw…


Raise your very own prehistoric creature – the amazing Aquasaur. Also known by its scientific name, Triops Launcaudrtus, this ancient creature grows up to 2″ in length and swims in its own special prehistoric environment. Once you set up the environment, the live eggs will hatch within 24 hours. Simply feed your Aquasaur according to directions, then watch it grow and swim.


* Aquatic habitat with glowing underwater volcano
* Aquasaur eggs
* Aquasaur food
* Informative manual and instructions
* 2 month manufacturer’s warranty

“Sea monkeys?” I thought.

It said nothing about sea monkeys but it sure sounded like them with updated, repackaged promises of grandeur. When I was a kid, for virtually pennies sea monkeys promised love and adventure on the back pages of comic books. “Own a bowlfull of happiness! Instant pets! So eager to please, they can even be trained. Always clowning around, these frolicsome pets swim, stunt and play games with each other. Because they are so full of tricks, you’ll never tire of watching them!”

Even before I knew they were brine shrimp I knew they wouldn’t be what they were advertized so I never had the experience of sea monkeys as a child.

Were Aquasaurs repackaged Sea Monkeys or not?

I looked up Triops Launcaudrtus on Google.

Nothing. Despite that being the scientific name for Aquasaur. Apparently science isn’t that interested in these grand Ancient! creatures.

I went to my handy-dandy online Encyclopedia Britannica (which H.o.p. never uses but I keep trusting he will, some day, and until then I use it) and I did a search for Triops Launcaudrtus.


Finally, finally I found some pictures of them elsewhere and learned they are not Sea Monkeys. Not by a long shot. No, they are Tadpole Shrimp that look like miniature horseshoe crabs and are larger members of the family that includes brine shrimp. That’s all. Not the same thing. Not at all. Can’t accuse a Triops of being a lowly Sea Monkey.

They’re kind of cool looking, actually.

I wanted one because it kind of looked like I felt. Not that I’m cool looking, because I’m not. But if you go take a look at the above pic of Triops you’ll see what I mean.

I called H.o.p. in to look at it. He was impressed enough to say that he wanted a toy of it, not the real thing.

I want an Aquasaur.

No I don’t.

Not really.

Just for a day, not in any commitment kind of way. Not even a 90 day commitment, which is their life span.

(Several hours later.)

OK. I’m over it. I don’t want an Aquasaur.

No, I do. I went to look at its picture again. I want an Aquasaur.

No, I don’t.

I wonder if an Aquasaur would be fun for the full 90 days or just sort of fun the first few.

When I think about other things I’d like to have, a pic of the Aquasaur suffices.

Go here for bad Sea Monkey poetry. Amazing, the glimpses of other lives lived to which the internet exposes you.

P.S. I find elsewhere the scientific name of Aquasaur is Triops longicaudatus, and that does yield results other than “Buy me here!” in internet searches.

Plug for the Dappled Grays

Like Bluegrass and Texas Swing? Marty recorded the “Dappled Grays” in the fall and their CD, “Doin’ My Job” is now out.

Here’s their website.

And here’s their Myspace page.

You can hear tunes at either.

I didn’t hear any of it until this morning and it’s some really fine music. If I wasn’t so allergied out then I would have been dancing some Texas Swing, even though I don’t know how to dance Texas Swing. Leah Calvert, the female singer, has a beautiful, sweet voice.

Marty dropped by their CD release party at Eddie’s Attic on Friday night. They’re a band that not only sounds good and has nice people and produced no studio horror stories (not that one wishes for no entertaining horror stories), but sounds the same live as they do in the studio.

The Dappled Grays’ website has a nice description of them and their history written by Andy Carlson, Associate Professor and Chair of the Dept. of Music at Denison University.

The CD was mixed by Bill Wolf, who is famous in the world of Blue Grass music. He’s mixed all of Tony Rice’s albums.

H.o.p. is glad to have the CD. He became addicted to Blue Grass back in the fall, listening to XM radio, already influenced in that direction by some old Doc Watson and Tony Rice and Sam Bush he’d heard.

Update: I’m sitting here remarking on how much I like “Put You in My Pocket”, a song Leah wrote, and I now hear that they are a must to see live if only for Leah’s rendition of “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates”, which apparently is provocative enough that her father said he’d prefer it if she never sang it again.

One's "inferiors"

As I noted in a post below, what particularly rubbed me the wrong way about how the children were used in Jill Greenberg’s art was denying the reality of their emotions in order to provoke a certain feeling in adults. Denying the reality of their emotions, reforming them into allegory, and saying this had no effect on the children whatsoever.

It is not just an art issue. It is a matter of how children are viewed by society, which means it is also a matter of how different constellates of peer groups will treat those who are viewed, for whatever reason, as living beneath a comparable status. In certain contexts this conceit has been called The White Man’s Burden.

I’ve written about this in a number of posts.

The child to whom you offer the lollipop, then deny them that lollipop and take their feelings and deny them even those and resculpt them for allegory, that child is being treated as an inferior and that they dont’ own their experience, instead it is owned by those upon whom they are dependent and it is plastic and pliable according to one’s whims. “But the child is an inferior,” some people may not say but will certainly believe.

No, the child is not an inferior being. The child is a child and that’s all there is to it. Childhood is not an inferior state. They are living as they should, as children. That a child is dependent doesn’t mean they are inferior.

But then, this is how many people choose to live, rating themselves and others on a continuum of less or more inferior. Many people see nothing wrong with it all. For them it is reality.

Link to more commentary on Jill Greenberg's "End Times"

Stone Bridge has written a post Jill Greenberg and the boundaries of art, expanding and digressing on a comment that he’d made here.

It’s interesting that the apologiae for Greenberg in the comments to Hawk’s original post all resort implicitly to the the romantic cult of the artist as Nietzschean ubermensch. Strange that this (you’d think) archaic religious system has survived intact, in all the arts, from the late 19th century through modernism and whatever chapter and verse of post-postmodernism we are living through now. Its persistence probably deserves some sort of attention.

Presuming to judge another artist's ethics can be risky, but here goes…

Presuming to judge another artist’s ethics can be risky, but here goes.

Boingboing points to this blog post of Thomas Hawk, photographers’ rights activist, in which he writes on the photography of Jill Greenberg. In specific, her photos of children crying. Seems she admits that she manipulates the children into crying, doing things such as offering lollipops then taking them away. She provokes tears. Thomas Hawks believes this is unethical and damaging to the children. Some people agree and some people see no problem with it…all for the sake of art.

Me? I don’t like it. I can’t imagine doing this to H.o.p. or my nieces or nephews. I can’t imagine doing this to anyone’s child.

I have a photo of H.o.p. crying, which was taken during a profoundly out-of-control tantrum, but the photo was in context of the moment. In fact, it was taken to end the moment. Somehow I got the idea to ask if H.o.p. wanted me to take a picture of him. It was well over a year ago and somehow in the context of the tantrum it occurred to me that it was the just right thing to possibly do, that he may need to see himself as he was. He said yes, and I took the picture and he looked at it and the tantrum ended. It was a one time situation. I have kept the photo and occasionally have looked at it and thought it was, despite the circumstances, a beautiful picture of him, but it was a private situation and I don’t think H.o.p. would appreciate me turning it into art.

We didn’t have a videocamera when H.o.p. was young. Still don’t. But we borrowed one a couple of times and one of those times was to record H.o.p. walking around in his first real pair of shoes. He was 9 months old and was pulling himself up and walking using furniture as support. We were getting ready to go on the road and he needed, I figured, a good pair of shoes to help him in his attempts to walk. I thought they’d help stabalize him, thought they were help on the tour bus. So we got him his shoes and I put them on his little feet and I pulled out the borrowed videocamera to record the momentus event of his walking around in his shoes. I had this silly idea, like I said, the shoes would lend support. Instead, they hampered him. H.o.p. was attempting to walk toward me, using the sofa as support. At first he was excited, Marty was right behind him, and you can hear me talking to H.o.p. and he’s all smiles and happy. Then his features become perplexed, he’s becoming anxious. I am holding the camera still, recording him, and he’s becoming more exasperated, and finally it occurs to me that his shoes, those new shoes, they are hampering him, holding him back, and I mentioned something on camera about it, but I waited to do anything about it because I had the idea he would get used to them in a second and it would be a passing thing, that the shoes were good for him.

It rips my heart out every time I see that stupid video. I tell myself, “Put down that damn camera now and get those shoes off of him! He obviously doesn’t like them one bit. Why couldn’t you see that at the time?” It rips my heart out that I can’t go back and redo it, hand Marty the camera and take off those damn shoes.

We have another video of him when he was maybe about a month old and he was doing some damn cute things. We were borrowing the camera and were going to have to return it the next day so of course we wanted a movie of him. But whenever I pointed the camera at him he started crying and I would go, “Ooooh,” and cut the camera off and that would be it for the moment. A couple of weeks ago H.o.p. and I were watching that video (we did finally get some okay shots) and he started crying in it and, oh, that was my baby crying, and even as I, over eight years ago, cut off the camera, I had to reach over and give H.o.p a hug because that was my baby crying. “But, mom, I’m all right. That was me crying as a baby,” he said. And I said, “Yeah, I know but I still have to give you a hug.”

It’s not that those two times are an exception. I know I’ve injured H.o.p.’s feelings many times.

And it’s not that I’m unwilling to experience pain for art. Writing is hell for the most part. I put myself through a lot, writing. It isn’t fun. And I don’t just mean that writing is a pain. I mean it can be very painful emotionally, imagining situations for the story, putting yourself in that place and writing through it.

So my not liking that video of H.o.p. in which his shoes are hampering him isn’t because I don’t want to experience my own pain upon seeing this, but when I look I keep feeling those shoes weighing him down and he was feeling those shoes weighing him down and it was frustrating, it was confusing for him, he was just discovering walking and here he had on these confusing shoes, and it hurts watching the confusion on his face. I want to free him of it.

Okay. So let’s say you are the witness of a terrible event and you take a photo, say, of a child injured in war, sobbing, or a child witnessing the horrors of war and sobbing. If it rips out my own heart I can imagine showing this to other people with the hope it will stir sympathetic emotion and make them want to stop the pain, to stop the reason for that pain, just as when I’m watching that video of H.o.p. I want to yell, “Stop that camera and take off that boys’ shoes!” That’s one thing.

But, hell, setting up a child? Putting them in the studio, handing them a lollipop and then taking it away? May sound like nothing, but it is.

I showed H.o.p. the pics of the children crying. He asked what was going on. I told him that a woman takes pics of children crying and to make them upset she does things like offering them something and then taking it away. I asked H.o.p. what he thought about it. He looked a little unsure. I could see his brain telling him that he’s an artist and here I was asking him what he thought of what another artist was doing and this was causing a push-pull because he was having to think about what the artist did, not just the artist’s technique.

I said, no, really, what do you think about it, I want to know.

“I think it’s mean,” H.o.p. said.

I asked H.o.p. how he’d feel toward someone who did that.

“I wouldn’t trust them after that,” H.o.p. said.

Children are given many reasons to not trust. They happen every day. But as far as the child knows this is real life, it’s not an acting job, real emotion is being evoked and recorded, and that emotion is betrayal. It’s betrayal inspired by the artist. The object may be a simple little lollipop, but it is still betrayal, that child is in a situation of dependence upon the artist and it is a critical event for the child. Even if it is just a lollipop.

Jill’s husband says the child’s parents are present, that many are children of friends and are over for playdates and don’t seem the worse for wear. He says this is how it’s done inovies, in media. But the emotional life of a child is not utterly transparent, you may not know for another twenty years exactly how the child felt. And even then you may never know how the child really felt because the child may convince themselves along the way that it was all right. The adult said it was all right after all.

Uh, except I think it’s pretty transparent in these pics how the child did feel. Which is the point. Getting pics of those feelings of betrayal. That anguish.

I don’t think what Jill is doing is respectful of the child, don’t think it is respectful of the child as a person.

Jill Greenberg’s website is titled Manipulator. Posh site.

I don’t see a portfolio of Jill provoking adults to tears and rage. Why doesn’t she give it a go with consenting adults iinstead?

Update: A commentary on the art at Jill’s website states,

It will take two years to purge the photos of screaming children from her upcoming exhibition End Times from your head. The artist uses the wailing distress of the children as an allegory for the deepest fears of the human species as a whole and draws on the vocabulary of Christian millennialism, conspiracy theory culture and doomsday environmentalism to title the work. A redhead boy looking heavenward, his neck in a St. Sebastian pose, is titled, “nucular (sic)”. A girl emerging from her weeping looks to heaven for either hope or retribution in “Unless”. Sometimes titles synch with the pose, other times meaning is more oblique. Not only are the images compelling, but Greenberg burrows deep to extract difficult conversation about the current American moment.

C’mon. This is fucking lame. Like children’s emotions don’t belong to themselves and aren’t important in and of themselves but are just fodder for adults inclined to allegory. *That* is a problem, denying the honest emotion of the child in context and resculpting it into allegory. It’s just as much a problem as anything Jill may say she’s trying to expose. It’s dishonest.

Let me try that out on H.o.p., making him cry and then saying to him, “H.o.p., now you are allegory for the deepest fears of the human species”. See how that flies.

It won’t take two years to purge Jill’s photos from my head. But I’ll always remember the above lame excuse for attempting to provoke feelings in adults. And that, yes, is child abuse. Manipulating children, denying the reality of their emotions in order to provoke a certain feeling in adults, is indeed emotional abuse.

Domo-kun vs. Karen. Domo wins.

Japanese national public television gave the Japanese Domo-kun in gratitude for their contributions.

I can’t locate a pic of her right now, but Georgia Public Broadcasting most frequently gives us someone named Karen thanking us during the telethons and cheering us on to give and give more. Karen is fuzzy in a Southern drawl, hairspray and big fake eyelashes kind of fuzzy way, but she’s no cute and cuddly Domo. Try getting Karen to pick up a toy snake and fart green gas. It ain’t gonna happen.

Domo is the latest stop animation treat around here.

Phenomenal virtual tour of microcars

Wow. There’s a microcar museum in Madison Georgia and it has an incredible website. Check it out. The museum is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, 1 to 4 pm but is closed through June and July (noting this for myself as I’m thinking it would be a cool place to visit). But…the website is open 24 hours, and it has gorgeous photos with multiple views of one car after another after another afer another, with descriptions and histories.

Summer (almost)

Summer isn’t official in my book until the solstice. But I just made myself iced coffee so it’s kind of here. I would have made iced green tea but I guzzle iced green tea and I was still full from dinner of fried tofu and chili bean paste (doesn’t heat up the kitchen).

Marty went to Rick’s funeral today. Which was an all day affair as it was several hours away. He left at 9 am and got back in after 5.

Fake (or mistaken) Email Insider Summit VIP invite meets a not so squishy ego

I made a note to myself to go around the blogs today seeing what people had to say about the “I would like you to be our guest for the 2006 Email Insider Summit” all-expenses-paid (even airfare) email sent out by Mediapost on Monday. And it’s interesting to me how many people (some probably legitimately) thought, “Wow, yippee”, even felt a bit squishy about being asked, and responded to their invite only to find out the email was sent out by mistake. Deflation of ego follows. But then, as noted, some of these people had legitimate reason to believe they were being honored with a special VIP invite.

Me? I got said email as well. Of course, I have a headstart in that I know I’ve absolutely no business getting such an email unless someone really fucked up. My ego also isn’t very squishy. I’ve got one but it’s doggedly determined to maintain a state of deflation as a matter of course. And I’ve also got a big dose of rock-flipping skeptic in me, which meets my cynicism and fizzes madly like several packets of Pop Rocks dumped in Coca-Cola. (Burp.) Still, curious, I checked out the price of the summit, which is like two and a half grand. I looked at the resort and yeah said resort looked mighty nice. The pictures were purty.

You could smell the chlorine dappling the conference carpet.

I knew this was all a mistake but I allowed myself the fantasy, for about two seconds total, of what it would be like to stay in the fancy resort, attend three obligatory breakfasts, and run off to visit Arizona relatives. The fantasy was only permitted that two second trial because I was not just confident it was a mistake or a profile-upping fake-out, but that if I did indeed show up for such an event the red lights would go off the minute I walked through the door and they’d usher my obviously-out-of-place body out onto the sidewalk.

I told Marty about it. “Hey, look at what I got in my email.”

Marty said, “What the hell, give it a try. They sent you an invite.”

I replied, “No, it’s going to turn out not to be for real. And even if it isn’t somehow a mistake, hey, this is about email marketing, you think I’m going to trust folks hosting an email summit? Even if it’s not a mistaken invite, it’s not for real.”

Then I checked out blogworld to see if this was being written about yet, who else was going, “What is this?!” But nothing was in Google or Technorati yet. Today I checked and found that posts were popping up all over on the receipt of the VIP invite that turned out to be a mistake. Apparently Mediapost followed up with an email saying it was a mistake and giving info on the event (I didn’t receive one). Or with those who responded to the RSVP they sent the email informing of the mistake, that it was intended to go out to only 50 top industry people who’d already accepted the invite/conditions, but you could still come for the price of two and a half grand.

People are saying, “Big mistake!”

Maybe. Hell, it’s a “summit” for email marketers and I’m not so sure the mistaken invite was a mistake. I’m thinking it’s possibly a way of raising the profile of the summit and putting it in the minds of many.

“I could’ve been….!”

How many people were out there envisioning themselves taking in the Arizona twilight at the nice resort?

Kind-of-negative publicity is still publicity. I’m wondering how many people think now they should possibly attend if only because resort and Arizona sunsets are now coupled with email summit Pavlovian-wise, and the Arizona sunsets sound awfully good, and the smell of chlorine dappled conference carpet a bit heady.


Oh, yeah. And MediaPost also recently sent out a “Best of the Worst” article on how it’s difficult to cover up errors made in email marketing text, while with a website you’ve got an opportunity to correct your mistakes before people visit…or too many people visit.

Mistakes are a fact of life in this channel, and there is no recourse once the e-mail has left your servers. You can potentially change the source images if they contain the error (Circuit City could have done that), but 95 percent of the time you are dead in the water when an error occurs.

So how should you react when it happens? Here are a few recommendations:

Assign a disaster team, sort of like FEMA. The team should convene immediately to discuss the error and outline potential courses of action. One member of the team will communicate internally about the expected fallout (opt-outs, complaints, replies). Don’t wait until your vice president, who is seeded on the list, sends a note down the chain. Have your answers ready.

Minimize impact.

That email went out on April 10th.

Received that in the AM, I think. Received the VIP invite later in the day. It was a long and grueling day so I felt like several days had passed inbetween. Still, a few stray words of the article remained in my brain and I thought, “Didn’t they send out that article on email errors a couple of days ago?”

Funny timing. Could be crazy coincidence. But with marketers I figure who knows, maybe not coincidence. And though I do read Mediapost (this proves it, right?) if something appears to not make sense, maybe it makes ultimate sense to the marketer, and they are marketing a conference here. An expensive email marketing world conference.

By the way, checking my email to find the Mediapost link to the “Best of the Worst” article, I found in my trash that Mediapost had sent me the “you are not actually invited” email. But that one I’d neglected to see. Why? Because after receiving the VIP invite which was obviously a mistake or oops-kind-of-mistake-but-got-your-attention, my eyes went blind to Mediapost. The next one from them that came through the email got tuned out promptly and dumped in the trash.

But here I am talking about them today…