Thursday, January 23, 2014

Let's Play: Stoned Scrabble

In 1975 some smart and funny friends joined me in a game of Bluffer's Scrabble. Rules: You have to make up the words. You have to define them. Fortunately I kept a record of the game in a notebook. Here's my reconstruction.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014

Two Minutes about Newspapers

First Video of the Year. It's on a new collaboration channel called Collaba-DingDong.
When New York had a dress rehearsal for a world without newspapers.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


In the movie business, a few very gifted artists manage to surf the waves of a stormy ocean of commerce. But most of what floats on those waves is dead fish.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

"The Avengers" vs. Porn

Monday, May 07, 2012


One of my early Apple projects has just made its way to YouTube. It was a World War II movie made for the Apple International Sales Conference in the summer of 1984. Embedding is disabled, by you can find it here: 1944.

Here's the backstory. (Also check out Paul McNamara's account at Buzzblog.)

The film was produced by Image Stream, an L.A. based audio-visual company where I worked as creative director. The company was run by Chris Korody and his brother Tony.

Image Stream's and my association with Apple dates to 1979. We had been involved in producing audio-visual modules and stage productions for Apple sales conferences and product introductions—including the 1983 sales conference where Macintosh was first shown to the sales force and the now-famous Software Dating Game was staged. Image Stream also staged the 1984 Shareholder's meeting where Steve pulled the Mac out of a cloth bag and first showed it to the world at large.

Fast forward to the spring of 1984, as Apple began preparing for year II of Macintosh, and once again called on Image Stream for production support at the Sales Conference.

These conferences were multi-day events, usually held at resort destinations. Each Apple department that had something to bring to the attention of the sales force was given a chunk of time at a big general session plus breakout sessions for more detailed training.

I hired Glenn Lambert to write the introductory hooplah for the Mac session.

Glenn and I flew to Cupertino for a briefing with the head of Mac marketing, Mike Murray. We hoped that we'd get some background information, head back to L.A., talk on the plane, eventually come up with something, work up storyboards and head back to Cupertino and pitch our idea to Apple. (That's the way it usually goes in the agency world. Briefing. Then go away, brainstorm. Work up concepts. Come back with a pitch. If you've seen Mad Men, you know the drill.)

After helping ourselves to some Odwalla from the endless supply, and admiring the enormous Boesendorfer concert grand and the BMW motorcycle in the lobby of Bandley 8, Glenn and I finally were called into Mike's office.

Mike talked to us in general terms about marketing strategy. He said that in 1984, Macintosh had established a beach head in businesses, but had very little penetration so far compared to IBM. In the coming year, however, with new products coming on line—including a laser printer, a revolutionary plug-and-play network architecture (AppleTalk), a file server, new software, and ways to bridge into existing IBM networks, Mac would move in from the beach. 

If you know Apple history, you'll know that some of those products didn't make it to market on time. AppleTalk and the LaserWriter were the few that shipped. The rest of what was termed "The Macintosh Office" was announced, but were not ready for the market. In 1985, Mac sales stalled. Apple went into crisis. Steve into exile—until 1997.  Mike Murray moved on to Microsoft where he became VP of HR. Image Stream folded as Apple contracted, and I hired on at Apple.

But as Glenn and I sat in Mike's office, we had no clue that Mike's strategy rested on some unrealistic development schedules. 

As Glenn and I listened to Mike talk about beach head and market penetration, and as we watched him draw on his white board, the parallels to the landings at Normandy seemed obvious. I think Glenn was first to connect 1984 to 1944. And the idea clicked in almost immediately. 

Given the way Steve had positioned Apple against  IBM, it just seemed to fit. Glenn, Mike, and I began brainstorming right there in the office. Ideas came tumbling out. IBM had Charlie Chaplin for P.C. advertising. And, it turns out that Charlie Chaplin not only had a Hitler-like mustache, he had actually done a Hitler sendup in The Great Dictator. We'd show oppressed workers liberated by the brave forces of Macintosh. We got so excited by the idea that Mike wanted to rush right in and pitch to Steve.

I called Chris in L.A. to outline what we were thinking. War movie. Stock footage from the D-day landings. Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel hanging on the wall. Mac marketing team in cameo roles. And the topper: Steve as FDR.  He said he'd start looking for a director (or maybe he had one in mind).

Glenn, Mike, and I marched into Steve's office to give him the pitch. Pretty much the way I outlined it in the previous paragraph. Steve's eyes were sparkling through it all. By the time I got to, "and you as FDR," I had made the sale. In the binary universe of Steve Jobs, something is either a zero or a one. This was a one. Instantly. Definitively.

Of course, Steve wanted to know what it would cost. We had no idea, since it hadn't been scripted or budgeted. Chris Korody and I pulled a guess of $50,000 out of thin air. I'm pretty sure there were overages. I'm pretty sure they were approved.

Glenn and I had discussed getting a professional impressionist to dub in the FDR dialog. When we mentioned that to Steve, he immediately jumped in to say, "no, I'll do the voice myself."

Probably the fastest I've ever gone from brief to yes in my entire career. The whole journey in less than 90 minutes. That NEVER happens. But the idea was so apt. And Mike had jumped right in to pitch it out with Glenn and me. So, in a way, it was sold even before it was completed. 

All that remained was to do all the hard work. Glenn had to turn the pitch from three sentences into a film script. Chris had to find a way to get it made. And the lawyers had to tell us there was no way in hell that we could get the rights to actually use the image of Charlie Chaplin as Adenoid Hynkel. I believe that a short section of the narration was actually crafted by Mike Murray to be sure he got his marketing messages in just the way he wanted them.

Chris found a young filmmaker named Bud Schaetzle, just out of school who had his own production team—and, as a bonus, a friend who flew vintage world war II aircraft—you probably saw the fly-over. His company was High Five Productions, and he had a very scrappy line producer, Martin J. Fischer. Bud went on to win some awards doing country music videos for Garth Brooks, and the Judds. We found Bud and Martin on the way up. They probably got us at least double the production value up on the screen that we paid for. Considering all the equipment, costumes, and extras, it was a major production for an industrial.

Here's Bud's page in IMDB:  

Steve flew to L.A. for his bit. We filmed him at a sound stage not far from LAX. Several members of the Mac marketing team had cameos, including Mike Murray, Alfred Mandel, and Tricia Willcoxon.

Paul McNamara his more on this story at Buzzblog.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twitter Marketing: Names and Powers

Tom Milsom's band, Sons of Admirals, has just released "Here Comes My Baby" a new single and digital bundle on iTunes and they are making an all-out push to land in the UK top ten during the first week of release. The song, a cover of a Cat Stevens hit from the sixties, has been reimagined for the twenty-first century (to bottow some pretentious twaddle from Brian Wilson's Gerhwin album).

As part of the marketing effort, Tom, spent a good part of the day yesterday on Twitter making good on the following twittered offer:

Buy the Here Comes My Baby bundle in iTunes today, tweet me a link to a screenshot, and I'll personally bestow upon you a unique nickname.

Turns out that, unlike the garden variety of nicknames, Tom's names also came with super powers. (see below)

Mickeleh's Take: Personal attention from a recording artist carries a lot of weight. But is this scalable?

Here are some of the names and powers Tom granted to people who bought "Here Comes My Baby."

@_heyduder Hooray! You are now SUPERCARLY. You can fly. And swim through brick.

@LacieDayParade Bow down to the almighty LACIE, PROTECTOR OF THE REALM OF FASHION! See an ugly shirt? BLAM. You can make that person vanish.

@greengoobermunc Hooray for MARTHA, THE TUBE QUEEN. You are now ruler of things in tubes, that are tubes, or the London Underground trains.

@Matthew_Gibson Hooray for KING MATTHEW of THINGS THAT MAKE SOUND WHEN YOU HIT THEM! Percussion's all under your watchful eye. Good luck.

@DreamlessJamie Hooray! Thanks JAMIE, RULER OF THE SLEEP REALM. Have fun RULING OUR DREAMS!

@NotUnspecial Hooray! Thank you LAUREN, GRAND VIZIER OF INSECTS. You now have supreme power over billions of creatures!

@_irisaurus Hooray for IRIS, EYEBALL QUEEN! You can see EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE

@BookWormVicky Hooray for VICKY, PRINCESS OF POISONOUS GASES! Use your new powers wisely.

@kthrnprrtt That is perfectly fine KATHARINE, GREAT MISTRESS OF WHEELS. You pretty much have power over anything that rolls now.

@claytonpeters Thanks CLAYTON, MASTER OF METEOROLOGY. You control the weather now. That's pretty neat.


@SphereCase Didn't you get one? Aren't you THE IMOGENATOR?

@kaycanseeyou YAY! Thank you KATIE, DUCHESS OF SALSA (dance AND condiment)

@TupperwareBox :D You are MADZ THE IMPALER. You are SO PALE.

@emmaajedward That's fine, EMMA, PRINCESS OF THE PRESENT. You are in charge of making sure time-travelers don't get disoriented.

@poppybouttell Thanks POPPY, OPIUM PRINCESS! The good kind. From ancient China. Not, y'know, heroin.

@Becz005 YAY for BEC, MISTRESS OF CATS IN CLOTHES. Rule your small, weirdly specific jurisdiction well.

@somegwenperson Hooray for GWEN, PROTECTOR OF 9. We can't got into double figures without your vigilance. *salutes*

@EnglishRedhead That's great HAYLEY, QUEEN OF SPAINS. Any Spain that is not the real Spain, you've got that shit DOWN.

@SphereCase Hooray! Thank you, THE IMOGENATOR! Your special power is to CREATE THINGS FROM YOUR IMAGINATION! Go imagine world peace!

@Abko147 Hooray for PRINCE LIAM OF ORANGE! That's a whole 7th of the colour spectrum you now rule. Rainbows cannot occur without you.

@IFYimcool Thanks ALICE, QUEEN OF WINDOWS. Glass is your willing slave. Also, Bill Gates.

@penguin1124 Either way, you are SAM, PRIME MINISTER OF SMELL. That's a whole sense. Careful how you go.

@danisnotonfire aww :3 Thank you DAN, DEFENDER OF THE LEONINE RACE. It's your job to be a kind and gentle king to the world's lions :P

@HannahCaseyyy Hooray! Then I name you HANNAH, SPRITE QUEEN. You can defeat your enemies with huge torrents of lemonade. Not 7up though.

@beaderrick BEA, HELIUM QUEEN. Balloons are now your willing servants.

@mitziplz haha, best smiley face EVER. Thank you, ELI, MASTER OF THE ARTS. Your smiley faces strike fear into the hearts of your enemies.

@BrettBall Thank you BRETT, LORD HIGH MASTER OF THINGS THAT ARE SHINY. You rule the mirror kingdom. Congrats.

@MeBeDanni That's fine DANNI, DESTROYER OF WORLDS. You destroy worlds, sure, but only uninhabited ones to make new, awesome ones.

@xlaurax Thanks LAURA, SIREN OF THE SEAS. You are friends with the fish. Which is creepy AND awesome.

@Loftio Hooray! Thanks ALEXANDRA, LIGHTHOUSE QUEEN. Basically, you can see in the dark. Also through walls.

@thinkingphrase Hooray for LORD SIMON, CARBMASTER GENERAL. You are the ruler of potatoes, and also the enemy of people on the Atkins diet.

@SophStrawberry Thank you SOPHIE, QUEEN OF THE FOREST. You are now in charge of the tree people.

@nattalieee_ Hooray for NATALIE, PRINCESS OF STAMPS. Your super power is FREE POSTAGE FOR LIFE

@tommylyon Hooray! Thank you LORD THOMAS, DRAGON KING. Your special power is ABILITY TO CONVERSE WITH REPTILES

@LizzieParker Perfect! Thank you LIZZIE, MASTER OF NETS. You can control any net. So if people are wearing fishnet tights, YOU CONTROL THEM!

@courtneyybuzz COURTNEY, QUEEN OF NEWTONIAN PHYSICS. You're really good with momentum and trajectory and gravity...

@BBC_Fangirl LAURA AKA INFRARAY you can see through walls and hear things a mile away. Also, what those TV License vans do? You can do that.

@Marthatorwho MARTHA, DESTROYER OF DALEKS. You're, like, the most useful person on the planet sometimes. :D

@kennydude That's wonderful. You are LORD JOSEPH THE PERSUASIVE. You always win arguments and got your way. And the ladies dig that.

@helenlyhelen Awesome! You are HELEN THE MIGHTY, whose super power is BEING ABLE TO TYPE AT 200 WPM


@JBdaWonderLlama THE ILLAMANATOR, who roams the streets, hunting evil DARK LLAMAS

@xxkathleen KATHLEEN, FORK-QUEEN. You are in charge of every fork there is. Use your power wisely.

@JazzyPants_ JASMIN, PRINCESS OF THE SKY. Birds? Clouds? Planes? You now own 'em. Congrats!

@kirifarrell KIRILLY OF THE HILLS. Your super power is to be able to FLATTEN MOUNTAINS. Construction companies will pay you MILLIONS

@BAMstranks BETHAN, QUEEN OF THE MOON. That's right, you got the MOON. Your super power is SPONTANEOUS SOUP PRODUCTION

@Reganito REGAN, SCOURGE OF WORLDSUCK. Your special power is being able to extend your legs 20 inches IN ANY DIRECTION

@bonnniiee You are BONNIE, DFENDER OF AWESOME. Your super power is winning at card games, like, all the time.

@BeckiiCruel Your super power is being able to bend spoons with your mind. Spoons and wills.

@theojessop Thanks! You are LORD THEO, RULER OF AQUATIC CREATURES.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Creative Commons Birthday Song

I wanted to wish YouTube a happy fifth birthday yesterday without violating the copyright on the famous "Happy Birthday" song. Since I'm not in a position to pay royalties, I wrote my own original song and I'm offering it under a creative commons license. I an't imagine you'll want to use it. It's crap. But it carries the virtue of being free. So, use it if you will.

Several commenters on my YouTube channel were surprised to learn that "Happy Birthday is still under copyright. While there are those who doubt that the copyright is valid, the publishers are still collecting some $2 million annually, mainly from motion picture and television productions.

MIckeleh's Take: The copyright will expire in 2030. If I live to be as old as my dad, I might actually survive to hear you sing a royalty-free chorus of the more famous "Happy Birthday." Until then we can make do with this one.

Creative Commons License
A Song for YouTube's Fifth Birthday by Michael Markman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Getting Lost My predictions for Season 6 premiere

The clock is ticking to the premiere of the new season of Lost. This will be my last chance to speculate on what will happen. (Maybe I'm just doing this to compensate for the fact that I refrained from posting any iPad predictions.)

Turns out Jack was right. The H-Bomb goes off. Timelines are reset. The crash never happens. Oceanic 815 lands safely at LAX.

Mickeleh's Take: The series never airs. Abrams, Lindeloff, Cuse, and the entire cast find their bank accounts mysteriously drained of all their earnings from the show. George Bush is still president. We have never heard of Sarah Palin.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tom Milsom Sings Lady Gaga

I let the Grammy show go by without saying a word about it. How can I make it up to you?

You can find more Tom Milsom at

Condensed Cream of iPad U-I Soup

Thanks to Gizmodo for pulling these key demos clips together from the iPad Keynote

Mickeleh's Take: Knocking the iPad for being "just a big iPod Touch" is a cheap shot. There's a richness to this platform that will become even clearer when it ships and the apps start showing up.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Party of iPad No Can't Filibuster

Best Web Browsing or a big blocky question mark? Steve Jobs demonsrates how a lack of Flash support means the video element on the NY Times front page just can't play on iPad.

Even before Steve Jobs had switched off the Reality Distortion Field Generator, objections to the iPad starting pouring out (even from Hitler): no multi-tasking, no camera, doesn't replace my laptop, name sounds uncomfortably tamponic, AT&T. At the same time other folks were reaching for their handkerchiefs to wipe the drool off their chins and developers, sniffing out another app store gold rush were diving into the SDK (software development kit).

It turns out that reactions to the Apple iPad are as sharply divided as the U.S. Senate, but with this important difference: people saying no to iPad don't have the filibuster. The naysayers can't block the yaysayers from buying it.

The first truth about the iPad is that nobody outside of Apple yet knows the truth about the iPad. Of course it doesn't do everything a notebook does. It wasn't intended to. The critical question was posed by Steve Jobs early in the keynote: does iPad do a useful set of things appreciably better than a notebook? The list Steve proposed was this: browsing, email, photos, video, music, and games. I venture it's safe to say that the gaming experience on iPad will smoke gaming on a notebook. As for the others, the jury is out.

What's the experience really like? Will people really prefer it enough to shell out for three devices (phone, iPad, and notebook)? I don't see any reliable way to answer those questions without actually living with it for a couple of weeks. I'm curious about hands-on reports from folks at the launch event, but I don't put much stock in their brief encounters.

The second truth about the iPad is that the product Apple introduced yesterday is just a teaser for the product that will ship in March and April. And that, in turn, will be just a teaser of the product that will be available a year from now. What's missing? The apps and the content deals. And then the next rev of the OS.

Just as today's iPhone is very much defined by the apps available for it, so will the iPad be defined by apps that take full advantage of its larger size and faster processor.

The weeks preceding the launch were filled with rumors about negotiations between Apple and TV networks and print media. If there's truth to those rumors, it's likely that Apple had hoped to tell us more about the glories of subscriptions to content. The negotiations, if they are happening, clearly dragged on beyond intro date. But I think it's safe to expect a number of content-specific apps, not all of them free.

MIckeleh's Take: The party of iPad no has lots of good arguments. But until shipping, they're arguing against a phantom. They can stay on the sidelines jeering as loudly as they want. The iPad will still attract buyers. And the user-experience may well prove revolutionary.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Resetting the Clock on Analog TV

I reset the countdown timer on the end of analog TV. Obama hasn't signed the bill which just cleared Congress. But since he asked for it in the first place, I'm considering it a done deal. If I'm wrong, I'll change it back.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Calling Foul on Pepsi for Their "Forever Young" Super Bowl Ad

In the early 80's, when Steve Jobs recuited Pepsi marketer and president, John Sculley to run Apple, he famously challenged him with this question: "Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?"

Pepsi's new marketers have built up immunity to such a challenge with a new ad theme, "Every generation refreshes the world." For today's Pepsi, there's no difference at all between selling sugared water and changing the world. (It's moot point, actually, because Steve Jobs has built up an even stronger immunity to any impulse he might have to hire another Pepsi marketer.)

The ad was exceptionally well crafted and executed, clever in its strategy, superficially enjoyable—but horrible nonetheless.

Here are my top four emotional reasons for wanting to run from the room screaming when this ad comes on. (I don't actually do that, I just press "skip" on my TiVo remote.):
  • I resent advertisers playing the cheap trick of licensing clips and tunes that trigger treasured emotional memories in the hopes of attaching them to their brand. (I have the last laugh here, because it's my resentment that accrues to their brand.)
  • I resent advertisers who entice Bob Dylan to sell his image, likeness, and music just to sell sugared water and thereby sully the glorious memory of his previous sellout to Victoria's Secret.
  • I resent advertisers who entice to sell his image, likeness, and performance to enhance sugared water with the emotional resonance of the "Yes We Can" video he did for Obama's campaign.
  • I resent advertisers asking us to take solemnly the notion that we are what we drink. (At least when Heinkeken asked us to wrap ourselves in the mantle of their brand, they had the good humor to hire John Turturro to ham it up and play the post-modern irony gambit.)
In the classic cola wars going back to the sixties Pepsi has consistently tried to peel younger drinkers away from Coke with a series of youth-oriented campaigns—Pepsi Generation, Choice of a New Generation, For Those who Think Young. Someone must have noticed that members of the original Pepsi Generation are now sixty-somethings. Rather than throw the geezers overboard, they tried to embrace us by offering a split-screen duet of two young generations. From that perspective, the choice of Dylan and his song, "Forever Young," were brilliant.

It was an attempt to map Obama's post-partisan meme onto a post-generational landscape. In Pepsi's world, we now have two young generations, one of which just happens to be collecting Social Security.

Mickeleh's Take: Look closely at the matched images that Pepsi used in the spot. They're all perfectly equivalent except for the styling. The despairing message: nothing has really changed from then to now. It's all the same. It's merely refreshed. Just like the Pepsi logo and packaging. Refresh the logo, refresh the world. Forever young.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Flavor Packet Song

This is completely crazy and is mainly a testament to how deranged the world has become. I have (for the day, anyway) a top-rated music video on YouTube. 

It's an original song by me (vocal, ukulele, MIDI drums and piano). As of now it's the #27 highest-rated music video on YouTube. (That ranking will, no doubt, start moving south as newer and better videos appear.)

BREAKING: Now it's #18!

The response has been incredible, despite the fact that I struggle to sing on pitch, can barely play, and I'm just stumbling around in the dark on GarageBand, Motion, and the ukulele.

It was done as a guest appearance on a channel called VlogRamen. They call their guest vloggers "Flavor Packets of the Week." Which is why the song is called "The Flavor Packet Song.")

In the UK, it's called "The Flavour Packet Song."