Help Me Obi Wannawrite

– by Albert Berkshire

There’s a disturbance in the Force.

I’ve felt “off” all day. Anxious, annoyed, conflicted, and challenged. Not challenged in the sense of mental capacity, that is a Carnation can of St. Jude’s worms you never want to open. But in the sense of focus. I’ve been distracted the entire day.

I express this, not so much for your amusement, although I’m sure some would delight in Albert being off his game, but more for the purpose of outward therapy. Not the kind of therapy a portion, a rather large and unnerving portion, of the population finds through Dr. Phil, but the kind in which a writer needs to indulge (sans a case of wine a week) in an effort to avoid thrusting a blade into one’s stomach and lifting upwards.

If I had become a porn star, I’d have taken the name Harry Karry. Certainly I couldn’t have remained Albert Berkshire. I’m sure someone would have delivered the news to my mother, and that tawdry career update would have been deemed a fate far worse that having a son who hasn’t yet finished his book…or any of the three currently under construction.

I’ve digressed. It’s the Force, I’m certain of it.

If we can loop back around, or crawl out of the garbage disposal, as it were, I’ll direct your attention the aforementioned point that I’m distracted. At first I thought it may be the three rather large and complex advertising campaigns I’m currently writing, but upon further analysis, I have come to the conclusion that two of the three are firmly under control and the third is underway. Thusly, the daunting task of starting (often at the end, first – trade secret revealed, should you care) the last item on my must-complete-this-week list is now diminished. Trust me, when they appear to be huge, they usually are.

Speaking of huge, I once had a girlfriend who had really large hands. I found it terribly intimidating. They were veiny, too. Man hands. Freaked me out. That was all I could look at when we were out. I used to pine for winter so she’s have to wear gloves when we went for a walk. My ghad, that’s a horrible revelation, but it is a terrifying truth. But, still, not the source of my current distraction.

I’ve considered that my writer friend Tommie Closson (aka the other Tommie Lee) who innocently posted the other day his successful 4000+ word writing day may have been toggling about in my head, but in the grand scheme of things, we who write don’t really compete. There’s no reality show for writers. There’s no grand prize (save for Booker and the like) that make us dedicate our weekend to writing versus a couple of long runs in preparation of an upcoming half-marathon. Although I would have loved to have spread 4000+ words on the page over the weekend, it seems Mr. Closson AKATOTL had the day. And kudos (not the mobile service, thank you) to him.

Sidebar: It has occurred to me, as I am certain it has to you – should you still be here – that I could be laying down chapters with these words right now. When I consider that, I wonder if perhaps I am. I mean, if you’re reading this, you’d be likely to…read this. <the writer pauses for dramatic effect>  There is definitely something not right in the Force’s head.

Yesterday I was watching CBC Television. I’m a fan of Mark Kelly’s Connect. Alarmingly, I noticed he has rather small hands. It could be the camera angle – having never met him in person – but I found it incredibly distracting. I was reduced to thoughts of the fictional character Austin Powers (aka the other Mike Myers) repeatedly ranting uncontrollably, “molay molay molay”. Juvenile, perhaps, but I was still alarmed. It’s not uncommon for me to have these experiences. And it doesn’t diminish Mark in any way. He’s frikkin’ brilliant. And in comparison, I have a bald head but might still be considered effective at my job, and possibly still (if ever) somewhat attractive. (I’ll do a survey and get back to you if the results turn out in my favour).

The odd thing is (assuming you don’t find all of this to be rather odd) is that I felt compelled to write to a friend about the whole “hand” ordeal. I actually struggled with it for several minutes. Then, one of my studio cats (an actual feline, not a man from the 70’s with an afro, bell bottoms and a bass guitar) jumped onto my desk, messed up my neatly piled papers, and proceeded to serve as a short term distraction.

I might be channelling David Mitchell, having recently overdosed on his soapbox videos on You Tube. Not that enjoying a good series of rants about improper grammar, ambiguous writing, and the flagrant use of emoticons is something on which a writer can overdose.

😐   :@(   ;o)

Okay…that’s just silliness wrapped up in a pastry. (The second one reminds me of a pig.) But this whole “the world is upside down and I’m explaining it in superb sentence structure and a British accent” thing does tend to make you wonder what else is wrong with the world. And then here we are – examining if there might actually be a disturbance in the Force. (The fictional “Force”, I assume you understand, but in the greater scheme of the Universe – the energy around us that makes us feel comfortable in our surroundings. For some this is a supernatural being (God, Allah, Jehovah, Ringo), and for others it is simply energy, or a Snickers bar. But this is a digression best left for…well…never.)

That wasn’t a visually impaired emoticon above. It was actually a period inside a parenthesis.

All of these things were thoroughly reviewed as possibilities as to why I feel something is so “off”. And still, I came up blank.

And now it hit me. It was my turn to drop some words on the page. It was my turn to break te bloc de l’auteur. The pent up frustrations (not those) that have prevented me from writing a single word that is mine (I do write all day for a living, but rarely my own work) have overflowed and finally (“FINALLY!” he cried) let me get back to the thing I love the most.

Writing.

Hello, old friend. I told you I’d be back. Is that the Force in your quill, or are you just happy to see me?

I'm certain the Force had something to do with this sunburn pattern on my head. I look like a Sith from Star Wars episode 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults with clients on Canada’s West Coast. His creativity is fueled by his muse, is a fan of all conversation interventions, and his hope that he’ll write something profound “today” is what gets him out of bed each morning. That, and the studio cats who like to be fed at 6am. Well crafted writing is a passion, and has summarily helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

 

Bernie, Stump and Focus

– by Albert Berkshire

We all have influences in our life.  Those who motivate us to exercise.  Those who encourage us to excel.  Those who inspire us to write.  Those who make us a better person; and in the absence of success, make us want to be a better person.  I’ve had a few influences in my life.  Some will never know it.  Some may be reading this now. Some probably had no idea they would have such a profound impact on my life.  And like all great teachers, they aren’t appreciated until years later, and often as a result of deep reflection upon one’s life.

Or in my case, when I had writer’s block and went out for a long run.

Bernadette Meiwald was an incredible influence on me.  She might look back at me and think, “I wanted to strangle that kid. Still do!”  But what a difference she made in my life, and in my growth as a student.  She once kicked me out of a spelling bee because I was convinced a kid from another school misspelled a word and she missed it.  In fact, I’m still convinced it happened that way.  Despite that, “What are you? Deaf?” is not the right way to approach the situation for a Fourth Grader.  It was an early indication that speaking my mind would become a signature trait of mine, if not one that would land me in some serious hot water in the years to come. (and my Ghad, has it ever!) But on that day, I was summarily dismissed from the room, or “excused” as I believe it was called back then, and then “corrected” (as it was called back then) later in the afternoon.  In the end, I had to make a formal apology to her in front of my class.  In the interest of remaining a “man”, we’ll move on from this part of the story, and into the goods.

Bernie, despite only teaching me in Fourth Grade, ended up being stuck with me for life.  Much to her dismay (and likely her sister’s dismay) I became lifelong friends with her niece.  So most family gatherings that included Bernie, also included Albert.  And there was no escaping it.  It’s what we did as teenagers and as young adults.  We hung out, and when the “family” was having a party – I was there.  So was Bernie, and the look in her eye always said, “You were wrong, you brat.”

I should point out here that her sister, Lorraine, taught me in High School, but didn’t figure as such a major shaping influence in my school life because she taught us Family Studies.  That’s the Catholic translation for Sex Education.  And being teenagers, we felt we already knew everything, and thusly chose to ignore the class entirely save for the one constant throughout the semester, “Miss, what do you mean when you say “it”?” 

I suspect Lorraine had the same feeling each class as did Bernie so many years earlier. “I want to strangle that kid. Still do!”   But she did instill in us that it was okay to buy condoms – after we were married. (Catholic School, remember?)

But Bernie did make me realize the value of decorum, the reality of one’s actions, and certainly, being what most Psychologists like to term “the formative years”, she did introduce me to a wonderful addiction – proper grammar and spelling.  I am forever grateful to her.

Then there was Stump.  Ronald Kelly.  The man was aptly nicknamed by the cruelest of high school kids – most likely, my older brother.  Stump Kelly was all of four-foot-eleven, pissed off, and still living at home with “Mother” at age 50. (Cue the knife and shower curtain scene. Renh renh renh renh)  Now, if you are a person of diminutive stature, this is not a slight to your person, nor your abilities.  The fact that some people can’t reach the liquor cabinet is not at play here.  It is most notable to point out that Stump Kelly, all just past eye level with a kitchen counter, was a formidable man. (Should Francais be your first language, he was all that, too, avec “tres”)  I note this, not in a usually ranting sidebar, but in context, because aside from the pure insanity of his character, he was a force with which to be reconned.

(Here’s an English grammar irony. “reconned” is used in Newfoundland in the intransitive verb form of “reccon”.  As in “I reccon”. I know, it sounds very Wild West. Yet, Oxford defines it as a US Military “slang” term for the past tense of “recon”, short for reconnaissance. Strange. The greater irony is that a US spell checker fails to recognize the word.) 

Kelly’s Box was my favourite.  Stump, may peace be upon him, was undoubtedly the most persuasive of English teachers.  That man put the fear of God (it was Catholic school, we had a god) into each and every one of us.  He would tell us, “If I see you hanging out in the mall ten years after you graduate, I expect that when I stop you and say “Kelly’s Box!” I want to her you, without hesitation, say to me, “And, but, or, nor, for, and sometimes, yet.”

I’m still torn between WTF? and Mon Dieu!

Conjunctions.  He LOVED conjunctions.  As do I, to this day.  In fact, anytime I hear a person speaking, or read a person’s writing and they string together phrases of English butchery like “and I too, also”, I think about Stump, spinning in his grave.

I also think he was the only teacher in history to take a bunch of students each year and turn us into obsessive compulsives. To this day, I am convinced OCD is a learned behaviour.

Still, there was so much to be learned from this man, and sadly, only a few disjointed years of high school.  But (there you go Stump), my foundations were there.  I appreciate to this day what he taught us.  And (another one for you, teacher) for all the quirks and fear mongering, he genuinely loved the English language.

Or (yes, another)…he was just a cruel bastard who wouldn’t let us leave the classroom until the desks were all perfectly aligned – rows and columns. I  hold out hope for the former. That’s the Stump Kelly I learned to enjoy.

And then there was Focus Keough.  I had a few dances with Focus.  But before I explain his place in my world, I should probably give a brief explanation of his name.  Truth be told, I don’t know his first name.  We were in Catholic Boys’ School, so it was either, formally, “Mr.” or “Brother”.  Later there was “Miss”, even if “Miss” was a “Ms.” or a “Mrs.”  I don’t remember any “Mlle”, but we did have one “Monsieur”.  I generally got kicked out of that class, French, regrettably not on my priority list back then.

Focus had the thickest eye glasses we’d ever seen.  They were so thick, they didn’t even make “How thick were they?” jokes.  And for a bunch of pubescent brats in neckties and dress pants, (and no girls to shame us from embarrassing our collective selves), he was target number one for humour.  We’d simply never seen anything like him.  And what a voice!  That man could cause tremors when he spoke.  Deep baritone vocals poured out of him like a magnitude 7 quake in the percussion section of a symphony.

Our first encounter was in Library class.  Yes.  That, in itself, should clearly define how messed up Catholic school was for Seventh Graders.  We had Library class.  And it had value.  We actually got marks in “Library”.  It wasn’t a “best whisper” passes thing.  We had to learn to do research.  And Focus was going to teach us how.  How?  By giving us 25 questions for which we had the research the answers.  Sounds pretty simple.  He wrote them on the board, and we had two weeks to get the answers. (Actually we had one night to call around to everyone we knew and get their answers. But, you get the gist of where this is going.)

It was all sunshine and roses until question number six.  “Who painted the Fifer?” Someone had to ask, “The what?” To which Focus calmly replied, “The Fifer?”

This occurred at least four times. Then he lost it.

(Pssst! Over here! This should have been a sign of things to come, but we were kids, and we giggled. And it went downhill rapidly from this point onward.)

“WHO PAINTED THE FIFER?  EF – EYE – EF – E- ARRRRE!”

Actually, it was correctly titled “Young Flautist” and was painted by Eduardo Manet in 1866.  Some things are ingrained in our memories.  Did I mention Kelly’s Box?

Later, Focus would come to be my favourite of all my teachers. Sure Brother Blackmore, a former member of the Canadian rock bank The Guess Who was of particular conversational interest.  Stick Taffe was one of those all-round teachers who made you feel like an adult, expressed his sense of humour openly, and shored with us the other perfect academia – mathematics. D’Arcy Drury, one of my Journalism professors, tried his best to teach me brevity; but no one lit up a room, or Shakespeare, like Focus.  He would read to the class, changing his voice for every character, yet never falling out of each character.  He was a master of the art of voice work.  But that was never his goal.  In essence, he was simply conveying to us the sheer brilliance and beauty of Shakespeare.  He wanted us to understand the beauty of the English Language.

In the ensuing years, I began a long, continuing love affair with the English language.  And while I studied Journalism and Business (never formally pursuing English Grammar in post-secondary school), I learned to love the nuances of English sentence structure.  She is, after all, a beautiful and complex language.  And in every correspondence, I like to think I’m doing them justice.  Bernie, Stump, and Focus.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. At present, he is in the middle of five books. Two he is reading, and three he is writing. And while he may be forced to write in “street” for his work, he never misses an opportunity to relish in the nuances of engaging communication. Well crafted writing, a la Bernie, Stump and Focus, has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

 

This would give Stump a woody.

# This!

– by Albert Berkshire

There was a time not long ago when I felt like everything was easy. Easy in the sense of being stress free. Carefree. The pinnacle of MaxiLife, as it were. Staying in touch with people was a personal endeavour, separate from the busy chaos of our work lives, and less formal. There were ampersands. And business was conducted in a formal and engaging way that represented our professional selves, yet reflected the relationships we had developed with our clients. Less ampersands. There was separation. Personal was personal and business was business.

Then came the email that changed how I look at life.

I recently wrote to a friend that I understood this whole Internet thing was supposed to make our lives easier. A consultant friend said to me over coffee the other day that he remembered the early days of computers and the Internet as the propellant of four-day work weeks for all! Yippie! When does it start?

Early Sidebar: I’m not claiming to be overworked. Goodness no. That would be completely uncharacteristic of me. I’ve seen too many people implode as a result of over indulgence in the work world. That’s not for me. I like life loosey-goosey.

I felt we could try shutting down the Internet for a week. Give us all a moment to cool down. I realize in Internet time, a week would be tantamount to a month, or a year, or based on the rate at which Google is eating up companies across the globe – a decade. Imagine that, I thought. Shutting things down long enough to reconnect with the things that are, well, the things that are.

In the pursuit of the things that are, or were, one friend suggested that her husband needed a step-by-step book on how to disconnect, citing that he needed to leave the 1991-Miami Vice cellphone-esque satellite phone home while on vacation. Of course she emailed this to me from a vacation stop. (good humor does require exceptional timing) I called her on this gross irony, but she ignored me, either failing to have stayed in cell range for the reply, or simply because sometimes Albert is just plain sarcastic and annoying. But I come by it honestly. I do.

So how about those things that were?  What about the disconnect?  What about the simplicity of life? What of this so greatly desired enigma called “Carefree”?

I’ve decided it is a silly myth.

Now there’s a phone that as a Facebook button that glows every time you take a photo. Don’t remember why you took the picture 0.0005 seconds ago? Oh! That’s right. I’m going to post it on Facebook so I can show the guy who sat across from me in Third Grade that I have a) a friend who is in the same room as me; b) a phone; and c) a life since we were assigned to separate classes in Fourth Grade. Thanks Mr. Flashy Button! You saved my social life!

Really? Is this were we’re heading in our form of communication and socialization?

And this brings me to the life changing email.

I watched a news documentary on CBC a few days ago about the billions of dollars spent each year by the US government on fighting terrorism. The presenter talked about these mystery government agencies that track, scan and decipher billions of emails and phone calls every day. And if I could inflate my ego to the size of the solitary pea under the Princesses’ mattress…

Wait a minute. What the hell was with that story? Who, other than obviously Hans Christian Andersen, would go through all the trouble of creating a character in a story and not give her a name? What’s up with that? Moreover, why didn’t Charles Boner or Caroline Preachy give the girl a name when they translated the story into English. Considering Preachy chose to add a pair of peas to the story (a gross embellishment of an artist’s work, tsk tsk) she could have taken the abomination one step further and given the princess a name. Let’s call her Winnifred_1959. Why not? (Your Google-Fu will help you understand the name. Yes. It’s a test.)

Byegones.

…I would like to think the emails I send or receive are that interesting that someone at America’s wasteland of waste, Homeland Security, would take time to read them.

But I’d never put a hashtag in my email to a friend in the hopes that the aforementioned email could spawn a hit in a search.

Really? You hashtagged your email to me? You should have at least thrown in a “great money making offer” while you were at it. That’s where we’ve gone. I don’t get enough spam. I have to have a hashtag in my emails.

There goes the carefree life I so wanted to enjoy.

There goes the wood stove in the shack on the beach where my pen was going to stain the paper with good old fashioned ink.

# out.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. While writing this the TV was on, the mobile phone was “dinging”, two cats were looking for food, and he was seriously considering a long stay in shack with a wood stove on the edge of the ocean. The one without hurricanes. Escaping the norm has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

 

Can’t We Just Talk?

– by Albert Berkshire

Conversation is dead. Communication is lost. Come innnnn Tokyo.

I know I won’t shock anyone with this revelation, but it is necessary to point out the obvious, lest a simple thought slip past our tweeting, posting, status updating, checking-in noses. You did look up from your smart phone to read this, n’est pas?

I’ve oft heard the expression, ‘Conversation is an art”. Agreeable, but certainly a lost art, as of these last few Facebook years. I would argue then that if conversation is, or sadly, was, an art, then it is less than emboldened to suggest ‘communication is a science’.

It saddens me that so few understand the value of conversation. Even in the communication industry – being that of a specific nature and not withstanding that we in every form of business must actually communicate with people, clients, and customers – we must use conversation to build a rapport. For it is the rapport that keeps us in tune with the true needs of our clientele. Communication is merely a tool we use to advance a relationship to the point of conversation.

I could tell you a few paddling stories where the waters were crystal clear and the lake trout were as long as my forearm, tell you about losing the trail in heavy fog enroute to the summit of Mt. Temple, make you shake your head with my many over the handlebars experiences while mountain biking, perhaps swimming along with a 100 year old giant sea turtle on the Great Barrier Reef, or invite you into my heart while I tell you about that one last run at Niseko-Grand Hirafu – when the snow was chest deep and the deciduous trees were perfectly spaced. Actually, that’s a story I would love for anyone to have experienced. That was a story of a romantic moment between me and Mother Nature. And on that day, I loved her like a muse. But that’s a story for another day, as are many.

These are all stories that come from my life. My life outside the confines of a studio/office. They are mine. I’ve shared them with some of my closest friends and many of my most valued clients. Clients with whom I have a wonderful rapport. But I tell these stores with words. Real words. Words that encompass the emotions I felt when I experienced these events, not the words of the science of communication. Those words, generally get checked at my door. Generally.

So this would be where I offend those who speak the science of communication. I realize, and respect, that many use these terms every day. It is business speak. I have one friend who launches these phrases with such confidence and prowess, you’d swear she was a walking-talking manual for inter-corporate communications. But she comes by it honestly and acknowledges it is a tool of her trade, and certainly not the 5:01pm-7:59am individual that is really her. Still, I find the flick of the switch a wee bit alarming, like a floodlight in the retina of reality.

So let’s review a few of these terms and phrases that have presided over the perversion of the science of communication and has thusly eroded the art of conversation.

Reach Out:  I’m sorry, did you mean “talk to someone”? Because if anyone reaches out to me, I’m probably going to, as first instinct, pull my arm away because I don’t like to be touched by strangers. Or is this an intervention and I’m going to be sent to “I don’t like to be touched” rehab? By reaching out, you are talking or emailing, or if you remember how, you are writing a letter to a person. Even if you “message” someone, you are still communicating with said person. So the whole term “reach out” seems a little pretentious.

Establish a Dialogue: I’m sorry, did you mean “talk to someone”? When establishing a dialogue, does one use a little drop-down box? As in “dialogue box”? You know, the little thing that drops down or opens on your computer screen to give you an option. (If you are a Windows user you see these 100 times a day. I’m a Mac Snob, so I get a steady allowance of three per week) Maybe that is the key, when you compose an email, maybe a little box could open giving you options that you can check:  “It appears you are attempting to establish a dialogue with an individual. Would you like help in presenting yourself as genuine, or fake?

Have a Conflab: WTF? Did you mean “talk to someone”? There is little I like less in this world than made up words. I have a sense of humour…but it has limits when it starts to bastardize the English language. Perhaps with the exception of “qualificant” –  which one hung over morning on a radio show many lifetimes ago had a nice ring to it, and we suspiciously understood what I was saying – made up words are ridiculous. Conflab this, Muchacho. Let’s have a “conversation”, if you remember how.

Offer Disclosure: Seriously? We’re deviating form the norm? Tres apropos! Did you mean “tell someone something”? Disclosure? Am I buying real estate? Because in my experience, and I have considerable in with property developers, if you are offering disclosure, I should be seeing an offer of sale, as an offer of sale can only be made with a full disclosure statement, EO&E. KWIM?

Is this really necessary? Do I have to listen to this kind of communication? I certainly refuse to fluff up my communications to clients with such grand phrases. They’d think I’d gone nuts. In fact, I can tell you their reply: “Albert?”

It’s not me. I suspect it’s not most people. So why do we do it? Are we trying to be someone we are not? Are we attempting to fit into the cubicle in which the corporate world so desperately wants to stuff us? Are we doing this because we think it is what the other person wants us to say? Have we let the marketing and communications department people spike the purple Koolade?

Or are we just trying to cover up our inability to actually uphold a conversation?

I guess the old expression holds true; “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”

I’m more in tune with; “Speak clearly and carry a little humility.”

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. While writing this, he couldn’t get the banjo out of his head, nor could he shake the image of Herbert Coward’s character extolling the virtues of an attractive oral fissure. Speaking clearly and the art of conversation has helped make his company, GreatCreative.Com, successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire. 

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Margaret and I had a good run.

When we first met it was golden.  Love at first sight.  She brought a smile to my face, I wanted to show her off to everyone, and she was with me everywhere I went.  Margaret bailed me out of more than one or two jams.  She was quick, direct and without fail, she was always right.  I loved it.  I loved her.

She was a great traveling companion.

Then I started to notice some really annoying characteristics.  They developed out of nowhere.  No warning signs.  No hints of things come to pass.  On our drive from Portland to Seattle recently, completely out of character, the character I loved so much, like a window sill that cracked and creaked in the heat of the day, like a sheep on a windy Irish hillside, she bleated, “Please observe the speed limit!”

It wasn’t so much what she said, but the cold-hearted way she said it.

Unexpected to say the least, the first thing I could think was, Are you kidding me? We’ve been on so many trips together.  You know I tend to drive a little fast. And it wasn’t really all that fast.  I was doing about 120km/h in a 110 one.  Still, I laughed it off and she never said a thing to me for a few hours.

Then when I got to Seattle, the walls of our relationship came tumbling down.  Like a flick of the proverbial switch, she went Sarah Palin (slightly crazy at the realization that’s she’s outdated and stupid) on me and started freaking out.  She had me doing figure eights in downtown Seattle trying to get to my hotel.  And she was relentless.  I would say “you’re wrong” and she’s completely ignore me, repeating the same diatribe over and over again.  Trying to get me to constantly turn up a downward one-way street and down an upward one-way street.  It was insane.  And annoying to no end.

And that was the end.  Like Facebook, I knew it was time Margaret and I would go our separate ways.  We just weren’t a fit for each other.  I needed better feedback.  I needed better focus from her.  I needed her to have a friggin‘ clue how to properly communicate in a timely manner.  I needed her to understand, although that was an impossibility, that a relationship can’t work like this.  Telling me what to do, and then immediately changing your mind is not healthy.  And in the end, it’s best we go our separate ways.

I’ve had this with past clients.  It’s been those strange relationships that start off like I’m dating the goose who laid the golden egg, but they treat the egg and the relationship with little or no regard and suddenly the golden egg becomes a lead weight.  It’s around my neck, and it’s around the client’s neck.  And when we both realize we should move on, we still hang on for no reason other than convenience.  Familiarity.

Familiarity, as we all know, breeds contempt.  Contempt in a creative relationship doesn’t work.  If you can’t communicate effectively with your creative people, your team, your consultant, you’ll never a) get the results you think you want; and b) be open to the ideas that will give you the results you think you want and need.

You have to be open to two-way communication.  Otherwise you’re just another Margaret and you’re in a doomed relationship.

My suggestion is this:

  • Establish Realistic Goals: Have an honest conversation with your creative people about what you want to accomplish.  “More Sales” is not a realistic expectation. Advertising does not increase sales.  Your sales team increases sales.  Advertising generates traffic.  So define your expectation in terms of achievable benchmarks.  “Generate ten more inquiries a day, week, month” is a goal.  Not “more sales”.
  • Stay Engaged: Be a part of the process as much as your team needs you.  If it isn’t going the way you want it to go, make the changes needed early in the process.  Don’t wait until you need to make wholesale changes because you neglected your role in the process.   Not all decisions can be made without you.  Sometimes none of the important decisions can be made without you, so stay involved as you work towards your goals.
  • Communicate: Discuss the direction and ask how you can assist in fine tuning it.  This doesn’t mean micro-manage.  This means be available to your team when they need you.  Give feedback, positive or otherwise, and “No”, “Try again”, or “Not working for me” is not feedback.  It’s comment.  And it’s useless.  Keep it to yourself or your team will dissolve like Redoxin in a glass of water.  Then your lack of communication will have you starting over – again.
  • Look Ahead: Compare your short term expectations to your long term goals.  Are you on track?  Is everyone aware of where you are headed?  Are you listening to the feedback from your creative team as to how your advertising will work now and in the long term?  Looking ahead will help the short term pain of the fresh start easier to accept if you are focused on the long term success of your business.
  • Stop Asking Your Secretary: This is the polite version.  Your creative team is not creating marketing plans that make your staff feel good.  It is for your core target customer base who don’t know as much about your products, services, and company as you and your team know.  Nor is it meant to educate them to your level.  It is meant to create a desire in their mind.  They aren’t as close to it as you, so your secretary’s or accountant’s (actually, never tell your accountant anything about advertising because they hate all things on the “outgoing ledger lines”) opinion is relatively irrelevant.  I’m sure there’s some gross redundancy in that last point, but you get my point.  Oh look, more gross redundancy.

This is how you succeed in a creative relationship.  It’s not rocket science.  Or maybe it is.  I don’t know how smart you are.  The fact of the matter is you need to listen to your creative people.  It’s what they do for a living and if they’ve had any measure of success – enough to be recommended to you on service and results (not price) – then they know WTF they are doing. (For those of you who know I despise modern teen-texting acronyms, be it known I like that one).

Communication makes a working relationship work.  Try communicating with your creative team, first by listening to them, and secondly, responding to them.  Otherwise they sit on their ass waiting for you to get around to making the important things to you (like your advertising) an important thing to them.

The alternative?  You’ll just go in circles (or figure eights), trapped in a maze of one-way streets that don’t go the way you want to go and find yourself back in the same place you were not too long ago.

And that’s never a fun way to travel.

Margaret was a good GPS unit in her day.  I loved her like a writer loves his muse.  But she had a complete aversion to updates and upgrades, and wasn’t remotely open to suggestion.  In fact, as time went on she would completely ignore all my input.  When I realized this, I knew we needed to go in separate directions.

No irony in that, of course.

 

Sometimes, it's just easier to go the short route. A direct flight might not be such an adventure, but who really needs an adventure in advertising?

 

 

 

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. He establishes solid relationships and listens to his clients, and selectively chooses to work with those who respect his abilities and that which he can do for their business. It’s one more thing that’s made his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

 

Grace Kelly

– by Albert Berkshire

My knee stings. My shoulder aches. My head is still ringing.

I imagine Grace Kelly was aptly named. Certainly in her professional career she exuded flawless execution. She didn’t walk as much as glide. She was loved and she was known for many things, including her beauty.  And she was graceful.

I, am not.

The modern day Grace Kelly, I suspect, is equally graceful, and equally loved. The modern day Grace Kelly, likely, is flawless in her professional career, and perhaps the most graceful person you’ll meet. I suspect she can, as did Princess Grace – the evolution of the original Grace Kelly – manage children, staff and a room. Probably a room full of hearts, too. It is grace, after all, that makes presence known.

The Grace Kellys of the world command attention, often without seeking it. They draw the eyes of the room to them no matter what they do. They are sought out, respected, and almost always in control. Almost always. And I suspect that even when they let themselves go to the moment, they are in control of their uncontrolled release, like a flood gate opening gone wrong on the Red River in May of any given year.

In my musings, I see the modern day Grace Kelly sitting on a lawn chair watching kids play on a field. A simple light blue and grey scarf on her head. Auburn hair and tanned olive skin.  A cleverly disguised cocktail-in-a-coffee-mug in hand, she is the envy of the neighbourhood. Beauty has befallen her without requesting permission, and she is no longer free to be anonymous. “Look at her”, they must say with envy from across the field. She’s escaping the world, only everyone is looking at her. That’s what happens to Grace Kellys.

Graceful as the Grace Kellys are, I think they have their frailties. In their own protected ways, they have moments when they are in complete disarray. A broken dinner plate could set them off, if they handle such commoner items. Spying the bottom of a wine bottle could be equally disappointing and unnerving. Or a stumble off a curb might even cause a momentary sensory meltdown. But, still, they handle the most difficult situations, or stumbles, with carefree grace.

They are, after all, Grace Kellys. Modern, or otherwise.

Grace Kelly, had she lived, would have been 82 today. I think sometimes I feel that old, in my overdramatic, flaky writer kind of way. Mostly, though, when I hurt myself…like last week.

I crashed riding in Oregon. I have’t crashed riding mountain bike in years. In fact, four years ago was the last time I crashed. I was 25km in the backcountry mountain biking when I went over the handlebars, into some rock and then the trees…and broke my arm. That one hurt.

I should point out at this moment that I have been banned from any more mountain biking vacations. Not in so much that my partner feels the need to tell me what to do; that’s neither the issue nor the intent. But in the sense that the inevitability of my self-injure (crash, not slash) is enough to suggest that a) others know that there will be a temporary invalid in tow and will be unwilling to travel with us partly out of fear of having to life-save-assist and partly from the perspective of not wanting to be the person asked to pay for the ambulance ride should there be one conveniently placed near my moment of over dramatized near-to-death-did-you-see-that crash; and b) there is the potential for the riding to be cut short and she, the partner, would have to do all the driving as I am incapacitated. For the record, four years ago when I broke my arm riding, she made me, hopped up on T3s with a casted arm in a sling, drive two hours over logging roads and tertiary highways to get us back to our lodge because she was tired. I think I’ll remind her of that soon…or now.

Onward. This ship needs to sail before Princess Grace haunts me for taking so long to make a point.

This crash hurt, too. And it, too, hurt my pride. It was on a simple section of a climb and it was not even remotely difficult. I’ve climbed and descended much more technical trail many times. Often a couple times a week. But time, circumstance, and a pedal cleat that had a secret side-deal with Karma took me down. Well, not all the way down. I never made it to the ground. Just a part of the ground. My knee hit one boulder, my should the next, and on the third, and biggest boulder, my head broke the fall for my body.

About eight months ago I was asked if I was interested contributing my time and professional knowledge to the local board of directors for Brain Trust Canada. They focus on head injury prevention. One of their most common campaigns is “Wear a Helmet”. I do, for the record. And it saved my ass, and head, and career today. (Yeah, I use my head to work. Difficult to imagine, I’m sure.) Advil is still helping a little, too. I should probably follow up on that invitation.

Even a week later, I’m pretty certain that isn’t the phone I hear ringing, but I’m going to go check…just in case.

Let’s hope this is a graceful exit.

While it does look like the injury is smiling, I can assure you I was not. (Apologies to the cleaning staff at AmeriTel Inn, Bend Oregon. I didn't mean to get blood on the towel.)

 

High Tide

– by Albert Berkshire

When I was a kid, we had three cabins.  Or cottages if you’ve ever visited or lived in Ontario, Canada.  But none of the three were a cottage, at least not to us.  We were Newfoundlanders living on the Island of Newfoundland.  We had “cabins”.  Cottage usually had “cheese” attached to it in our house.  That was the only cottage we knew.  And frankly, when you get a visual of cottage cheese, as I’m sure you now have, the question must surely enter your mind as why on earth a person would call a cabin a cottage.

One of our cabins was about 30 minutes from where we lived.  It was close to a lake and  every day we’d walk along the train tracks to the park.  It was a summer paradise for my parents, but we always thought, “What the heck? We could walk home from here!”  Another cabin was about two hours drive and then a forty minute walk through the woods to get down to ocean.  We were nestled in a little inlet with five other cabins. It was rustic.  Wood stove and no running water rustic.  And it was fun.  The third, where we spent a lot of time from the time I was about nine until I was fifteen, was about a six hour drive.  Sometimes it felt like a house, but it too was near the ocean and there was lots for us kids – family and neighbourhood – to do.  A LOT to do.

The cabin that was close to our home was never really of much interest to me.  No ocean meant no adventures.  A lake is a lake is a lake.  Boring.  It’s like The Umbrella Shop.  It was convenient Monday morning when I was in flip flops, knickers, and a T-shirt in a rainstorm in downtown Vancouver, but I quickly found myself asking, “So, what else do you have here?”

But the other two cabins were gold.  They had the ocean, and with an ocean comes low tide, and with low tide comes treasure!

We would troll the beaches for mussels, and rocks, and shells, and drift wood.  We’d search for net buoys that had drifted ashore, broken from their moorings by a strong wind or powerful undercurrent.  We would seek out the Holy Grail of every beachcomber.  A bottle.  And not just any bottle would do, first it had to be old, and glass, and then it had to have a note in it.  It had to have a plea for someone to find it and be the soon-to-be-famous-savior of the person stranded on a deserted island, a la Gilligan’s Island.  We identified with Gilligan and the Skipper, too.

In our search we would slip and slide on kelp.  We’d jump from one barnacle-covered boulder to another.  The crunch-crunch of sea life meeting its untimely demise at the feet of unknowing kids. “Tread Lightly” didn’t exist back then.  Neither did TV and video games at the cabin…so we made our own entertainment.  THIS was entertainment.

Everywhere we went was interesting.  We’d create games, skip stones, sling slimy seaweed at each other, write our names in the black, wet sand with a stick, make up songs about the things we’d find on the beach, and deep in the background of the “we” activities, I was busy writing about it.  It was in my head, but I was creating a narrative about all the wonders of the newly exposed ocean floor.  THIS was a playground worthy of a storyline.

I would speculate as to whether or not the barnacles knew they were on bad rocks.  Did they really want to be exposed to the fresh air where birds could peck at them and kids could make firecracker sounds at their expense?  The expense, of course, being their mere existence.  I would create entire stories about the bottles we’d find and what must have happened to the note that was, at one time, in the bottle.  Surely there had been a note from someone who was stranded. Why else would a bottle have been thrown into the ocean and subsequently washed up on our beach.

Sidebar: Incidentally, “subsequently” didn’t exist in my vocabulary back then. And come to think of it, neither did “incidentally”. The bottle was just there of it’s own free will. We did have “free will” in our vocabulary back then, mostly because we had nuns and brothers as teachers. They reminded us of that regularly. Most often with the strap. Not that we thought about them, or that strap, when we were on the beach. We were, after all, on vacation.

And then there were our competitors.  Seagulls!  And not the kind of seagulls that live on the Prairies.  Not the ones that followed the scent of McDonald’s french fries inland and have spawned generations of egg-crackers who have no idea what the ocean looks or smells like.  Not the kind that think a lake is the be-all and end-all of bodies of water.  Those kinds of seagulls are bored to death and they don’t even know it.  I’m talking about pre-fast-food seagulls.  The kind that lived off of the ocean.  Seagulls with real character.  And simply I loved them.  To me, they had everything.  They were doing everything we were doing, only they could cover more ground (or air) in a minute than we could in an hour.  It was their flight that trumped us.  But only in the physical sense. In the spiritual and adventurous sense, I would fly with them.  I would pretend that I was up there looking around for flipped over sea urchins and star fish.  Star fish being as rare as notes in bottles for us.  Must have been a North Atlantic Ocean thing.  But we were ten, so we didn’t know what we were missing…they just weren’t there.

It was fascinating.  We had endless summers of fun.  We had everything we wanted.  We had everything we didn’t know we needed.  We had our imaginations catapulted into the stratosphere.  We were airborne with creativity.   And in the innocent tradition of curious kids, we milked it for all it was worth.  Had the beach been a cow, she would have covered her nipples and ran for her life when we showed up, because we were going to get every last drop out of that exposed canvas of imagination.

It was good back then.  There was no pressure on us.  It was real.

Low tide was full of inspiration.  It felt good.  And right now, in my creative world, the water has just rushed in and the tide is high.  Really high.

But you know what comes six hours after high tide.

Yeah…I’ll be back.  One way or another.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. And while he appreciates the beauty and serenity of the the Pacific Ocean, he prefers the violent and unforgiving nature of the Atlantic Ocean. Like his muse, the Atlantic fuels his creativity. It’s a part of what helps make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

High Tide is as boring as a lake. Move along, move along! Nothing to see here.

 

 

When “No, Thanks” Translates Into “Yes, Please”

– by Albert Berkshire

I liked Nick.

I’d still like Nick just as much if he would return my call from 7 months ago with acknowledgement that he still owes me lunch.  Of course, you don’t get to be a multi-millionaire by spending your money buying other people lunch.  At first I thought he was offended by my eating habits.  I’m a vegetarian.  He eats a steak a day.  Probably nothing else.  If it grows in the ground, he has an aversion to eating it.  If it gave birth, you know, like your mother, I have an aversion to eating it.

We are diabolical opposites…save for one important point.  We both know that there are far smarter people in the world than us, and when we need them, we should call on them.

Nick once told me (several scotches in) that the reason he’s had such business success was because he surrounded himself with people who were far more talented than he.  I took it as a compliment that he trusted me and respected what I do.  But I’d still like to get my free lunch.

Some clients, like Nick, get it.  They get that when you hire someone to give you professional advice, guidance, direction (or any other corporate-friendly term that makes you feel giddy), and to do what it is that you do professionally, that hiring a person also includes actually listening to said person.

Seriously, apart from an absolute aversion to many acronyms (most notably ASAP), very little bugs me more professionally than a person who hires you to do “A”, then demands “B”, and ultimately tells you he/she really wanted “C”.  “A” having been the original request, and still the best option – offered by said hired professional hired to provide “A”.

But sometimes we suck it up and provide “C”, n’est pas?

OTHER times we say, “No, Thanks” and move on.  And then your “No, Thanks” gets ignored and you feel like you have a professional stalker.  Only not the kind of stalker who sends you really mean emails (oh, I’ve had them) or just constantly solicits your advice for free with no intention of ever doing business with you (had them, too), but the kind that assumes you LOVE to be abused and you were only joking when you politely say, “No, Thanks.”

Some of my colleagues and most trusted advisors try to tell me that ditching good clients in a downed economy is paramount to professional suicide.  Well, let’s establish a point before I address that.  I’m in demand.  In fact, most people who do what I do (sadly, there are many) are in demand during an economic downturn because we know what the hell we’re doing, we know how to execute projects affordably, and we’re darn fun and enjoyable business partners.

Now, to address that professional suicide thing: “Yeah. Thanks for your input. I was only paying you for your advice so I could ignore it. How could you possibly know more about what you do than me?”

Ridiculous, isn’t it.  That was the most asinine comment ever.  But that’s what I’m talking about.  Clients who pay you to do things that you tell them they shouldn’t do.  It’s like a child asking you what colour the grass is and when you say, “green”, they look at you and say, “Brown…got it.”  (Actually, that would be more accurate at my home since I also have an aversion to using chemically treated potable water to make my yard look pretty.)

I feel like it’s Purge The Aversion Day in the Great Creative.com studios.

So, onwards.  Turning down business is tough.  Working with someone who in no way gets what you can do is even tougher.  And if you’re open to me working towards a third suffix (I do love Trinities), saying goodbye to great money is the toughest.

But sometimes you just have to suck it up and say “adios dinero”. (I do not have an aversion to the beauty of the Spanish language).

The bottom line, which I’m sure you’ve been hoping to read, is this:  The best feeling in business – any business, thinks I – is when you let go of your financial and emotional connection to a project, client, customer or acronym and free yourself to do what it is that you do best.

In my case, my remaining clients (really, it was only one that I punted) afford me the freedom to do what I do best.  I create for them…and they appreciate my work.

My “No, Thanks” client showed up again recently.  Maybe I wasn’t clear enough, but being vague is a game we creatives like to play from time to time.  So I took it as a sign that “No, Thanks” is sometimes interpreted as “Yes, Please” and can also translate into, “Fuck it. I’ll take the money.”

That’s probably how Nick got to be so freakin’ rich.

Which reminds me. I am bloody hungry. Nick? Pick up the phone.

Albert, you're not hearing me hear you. When you say "No", I am experiencing "Yes!!". But later I'll prefer "Maybe".

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. There’s a lot of decidedly formal “blah blah blah” in his typical work day, most of which comes from his own mouth. To learn more about Albert, visit the website his consultant feels should be immediately updated at www.greatcreative.com.  For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, devoid of cynicism, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

 

 

Anger…It’s The New Joy.

– by Albert Berkshire

I remember a night, many years ago, when I stood at the bar in a night club, vibrating at a 140 beats per minute. My friends told me that they looked over, no doubt bewildered, and said, “What’s Albert dancing to? The DJ stopped playing twenty minutes ago.”

It was true. I had a song stuck in my head. I had a rave happening between my ears. I had a beat grooving, and somewhere in my world, it was audible to everyone. And while I was the only one rolling braincells into ideas at 140 BPM, it was the birth of a creative realization.

It wasn’t always as bright and sunny as I wanted it to be in my grey matter-infused cell cavern, but it was active and creative and filled with joy and anger. But not he kind of anger that destroys…the kind that fuels determination.

Side bar: I just conferred with my wife as to whether or not it was “grey” matter or “gray” matter. She whipped out one of her medical encyclopedias and showed me a diagram of a penis. Comedy. Cue the violins.

I know people so filled with anger that they can create things most of us only dream about. They listen to the darkest music – by my standards – and they draw a kind of creativity from it that makes my head spin. They are like machines. They pump out the work like someone cranked open a fire hydrant. The flow is amazing. Yet, anger is their muse. Dark, I know. But it is what it is. And we all find our inspiration in deeply personal places.

Still, I am lead to believe that a little more Reznor or Rollins might finish one of my books. Or a even thought, tonight.

I’ve always found music to fill the roll of the absentee muse. But on the brighter side. (not Bette or Yanni – brighter, but brighter in the sense that “no knives were ingested in the making of this album”. See above for names for clarification.)

Music is my muse’s stand-in. The butt-shot model. The white balance back up.

Music pries emotion from its hiding place. Music creates words where none wanted to reveal themselves. Music upsets the balance of sameness, and churns up the waters of thought.

All of these things, I like.  <looks around for the “like” button>

Music is the first thing I look for when I start to write. It’s my foundation point for creativity. It, by mere default, impales a campaign with emotion. Love, happiness, excitement, joy, anger, hate. (okay, maybe not hate, because if a client wanted to inject hate into a campaign I’d tell them to put down the crack pipe. Seriously…put it down.)

But is the music always “in” the campaign? Not necessarily. I’ve written some of my favourite campaigns listening to music, while having no intention of ever injecting music into the storyboard of the campaign. It has its place in the film, but not always in the scene. Sometimes it just inspires, without involvement. Sometimes I want the voice actor to hear the music that inspired the campaign, to feel what I felt when I wrote the words. It is a tool I use to inspire a talent to deliver an emotionally charged performance. It’s a tool I use for myself when I’m the talent hired to deliver for another writer.

Music, as a muse, has its limitations, but it can be the catalyst for creativity in any area of your business. Embrace it. Use it. Benefit from it. Music is born out of inspiration and emotion, and all the other things most of us will never understand about musicians…and because pretty much every consumer purchase has an emotional baseline, your target consumer will be positively affected, and hopefully motivated, by the business direction and focus born out of your music-inspired creativity.

And when you get a great song stuck in your head, love it for what it is. Anger…Joy… whatever fuels your moped. You never know when the beat will pay dividends.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. In the process of writing this he was listening to Airborne Toxic Event’s “Half Of Something Else” in his head. And he is, in fact, only half of something else. But it’s one more thing that’s made his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.

 

What’s Your Sign?

“Welcome to America. Now speak English.”

It may have been the largest billboard I’d ever seen. And it couldn’t have been more clearly stated.

Uncle Sam’s iconic, and perhaps slightly animated, image was off to the left of this expansive billboard. It must have been about 40‘x60’, sitting happily atop of an Army Navy surplus store along highway 5, south of Seattle. It was May of 2005, and someone in America had a beef with immigrants – legal or otherwise.

At least they were still welcome…so said the sign.

The message is somewhat irrelevant. Perhaps far from benign, but certainly not worthy of a photograph although a recent, morbidly curious google search revealed it is available as a bumper sticker for about USD$5.00 – if you’d like to have the “large” one.

This alarms me on so many levels. Not that it costs $5, but the whole context of it.

At least the spelling was correct and it was written in the Queen’s English. No irony there.

“I love animals. Their delicious.”

Really? What about their delicious. Assuming we can all agree that “delicious” cannot be used as a noun, let’s move on to my next query. Their delicious what? Could you clarify for me? I really need this to be an adjective, please…for the future of humanity.

That one was on the back of a pick up truck in Kelowna, BC. The fact that is was misspelled only served to reinforce a very unkind, but delightfully heartwarming stereotype. (I’m a vegetarian, so this made me even more delighted with the stereotype.)

I also liked the fact that the truck was pulled to the side of the road as a police car sat behind it, presumably about the write the driver a ticket. Had it been me in the ‘Mountie uniform, I’d have written him up for poor grammar, too.

And should you be so inclined, as you or I might be in the event of a train wreck (you know, you can’t stop staring), there’s a Facebook page dedicated to “I love animals. Their delicious.” (grammatical error intact) with more that 230 friends/fans. Not that it needs to be promoted, but morbid curiosity subs as a delightful muse for me from time to time.

Seek it out if you can’t control yourself.

You see, there’s typos, and then there’s stupidity. I’m no stranger to sending a client a commercial campaign script with delightful assortments of typos. It’s become expected that a client will seek them out and point them out. I’m never embarrassed, I get so wrapped up in the moment writing (and deadlines are usually “yesterday”) that I am more focused on the concept and content than I am the spell check feature. Still, I never mistake the use of “they’re, there, or their”. Nor do I tolerate the misuse of “you’re, your, or yore”. Get the last one wrong and I’m really going to loose it.

A week ago I was wandering aimlessly through a crowded convention hall. It was the Kamloops Home & Garden Show. I stopped at the Beachcomber Hot Tub display. Owning one of the same brand, I was curious to see their marketing materials. I love to collect these brochures for client reference. And to my delight, they didn’t disappoint. A “factory supplied sign” as the representative explained. He went on to point out he was an English major in university, and he, too, failed to notice the error in the sign.

“But it’s the first word”, I said with a smile.

Am I? I had no idea that I am.

 

Albert Berkshire is a writer, producer and voice actor. He lives, writes, plays, and consults for clients on Canada’s West Coast. From time to time, he shares the stories that make his company, GreatCreative.Com successful. For a much shorter, and less frequent rambling, follow Albert on Twitter @albertberkshire.