Monday, April 28, 2008

Milking the Brand

Some friends were recently riffing about vacuum cleaners: “The better the vacuum cleaner, the more it sucks.” But it’s more than just comic goofing. Vacuum cleaners are also a problem for me. When I buy them, they break. Finally I stopped buying them. But I have a Hell of dust. As it happens, I was once related by marriage to an older successful businesswoman. She was successful in the rag trade, and, out of charity, taught marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She ran a national chain of lingerie stores in shopping centers. Her stores were in fact owned by the guy who owned the shopping centers. Every one of his malls had one of her lingerie stores. Apparently lingerie attracts customers to the mall, and the company would then make money by renting out the other stores. Thus she did not have to make money at lingerie, only have lots of customers. I was married to her daughter for ten years and thus observed the entire history of one product. One day my mother-in-law had the idea of licensing Hubert de Givenchy’s name and making pantyhose decorated with his characteristic G. The hose were sold as “1000 Gs”. She licensed Hubert’s name for five years. Her company owned mills in Mississippi. The first year or so, she had the mills manufacture hosiery of the highest quality which she sold at less than their true value. This established the brand. Then she sold a slighter cheaper version of the product at a slightly higher price. The last year she milked the brand. That is, she manufactured huge quantities of 1000G stockings which were all crap, but by the time people figured out 1000G stockings were crap, her licenses had expired. She had built a brand, and intentionally destroyed it. I was very surprised. She informed me that that was standard marketing practice. Now whenever I buy a vacuum cleaner which instantly breaks, I realize somebody is milking a brand.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

40 Minutes and 33 Seconds

As Allen Ginsberg was known as the Beat poet, John Cage was the Silent composer. His most famous work is 4’ 33” of Silence.

I published a lot of Cage’s writing. On the morning of 11 September 2001, I had it all in the Kinko’s on Reade Street, and was determined to make it into a book. But the building shook. I said to myself, “Gas explosion. Someone’s been careless.” I looked out the window. There were flames a couple blocks south. Damn careless! I resumed my work with greater care. Eventually there was another explosion. Parts of the World Trade Center bounced off the window. People outside were running. Only the cashier and I remained in Kinko’s. “Oh my God,” she said on her cell. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”

I performed John Cage Waltz XI beginning at 3:00pm 26 April 26 2008 at the southern foot of Trinity Place and concluding at the north end of James Street at 3:40.33pm.

My walk or waltz was accompanied by the music of Elodie Lauten.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

John Cage Waltz

I will be performing John Cage Waltz XI 3:00pm Saturday April 26 at Trinity Place and James Street, Manhattan

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Sports rivalries curiously permit people to indulge in a giddy war-like rhetoric. I remember years ago after a playoff series ended in victory for a local team, a woman asked, “Who do we hate now?” American sports are a mock Peloponnesian War. People enjoy the kidding. It enlivens the spirit.

Thursday around 5:00pm I took the Staten Island ferry into Manhattan. Both the Mets and Yankees were in town, and fans of both clubs were decked out in their regalia and crossing for the games. When I returning to Staten Island around 11:00pm, an equal number of fans were subdued and listless. I concluded the locals had lost; -- the Yankees, tragically, to the Red Sox. However, checking the Internet (that odd fad), I discovered the Mets game had gone in fact into extra innings. I then listened to the Mets on the radio beat the Nationals on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 14th.

And what does all this mean? Nothing.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


As well as morning coffee and a shower I need something older deeper better than the New York Times. I’m always reading books, but in afternoons and evenings I tend to finish them; you can’t finish Butler’s Lives of the Saints. A saint’s life is condensed to a paragraph or at the most, with an Aquinas or Francis of Assisi, three pages, tops. There’s one a day. It sets the stage for my day and for the rest of my reading and for my writing. Buddhists avoid the problem of belief by claiming Buddhism is a philosophy. One time, I tried to describe An Essay called Ex-Catholicism to Daniel Berrigan, S.J. Dan didn’t seem to like this term, “What’s an Ex-Catholic?’’ The term is Lapsed Catholic. When Ernesto Cardenal told Dan that in Nicaragua they sought to unite Marx and Jesus, Dan replied that in New York we’re trying to unite Buddha and Christ. Once you’re baptized, you’re done for good; for me, heaven is foreclosed; no limbo; I await the Inferno. But of course I believe there is no heaven or hell, just life. Birthdays of Buddha and death days of saints are equally history. I haven’t seen Dan in years, since the week after September 11. I had managed only one shower since the attack. Dan in a speech in Washington Square suggested the World Trade Center be rebuilt, only the new twin towers should be called Justice and Peace.