Monday, December 10, 2018

Rewind: California

Riding Across a Sea of Tall Grass in Solana Beach

In mid-April I had the chance to spend a few days in beautiful, sunny California with the good folks at Walz Caps who make the best cycling caps money can buy. Photo by the incomparable Hannah Stonehouse Hudson. We lopped off the aerobars in Photoshop because that's how we roll at 3VERB: Laurent Fignon-style.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Taken from original post from May 16, 2016.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Shoot

One year ahead of launch, on location in Chicago with Stonewear Designs

Originally a rock-climbing brand from Boulder, Stonewear is widely recognized for producing women's activewear – including their popular pants and skorts – of incredibly durable and unique fabrics. Now based in California, we decided to shoot the last two season collections (Fall 2018 and Spring 2019) here in Chicago to add a bit of variety to the Colorado-centric feel of the brand. Next year? Probably back out West.




– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Deeper Blue

"I think we're making a late 1970s Emmylou Harris record here."

Here’s the story: Laurie's husband, Joe, passed away in April of 2015 and not too long after I picked up the phone to call Laurie. There had been a fair amount of news coverage surrounding Joe's death and, in particular, the path he chose to die with dignity, Laurie at his side. One picture in the newspaper featured Joe in bed, near death; for me, still hard to process. But the picture also showed Laurie, too, right next to Joe, singing him a song and playing the ukulele with a smile on her face. The picture represented everything I love – we all love – about Laurie and her songs: heartwarming, heartbreaking, tough as nails despite it all, defiantly joyful, and with you to the bitter end, no matter what. I said: "I can't shake that image, Laurie. What song were you singing to Joe?" She said, "Rocky, I think I need to make an album."



That began our three-year quest, of sorts, to make a record that would serve as a cathartic outlet for Laurie in this incredible time of transition and pain and, quite purposefully, draw in some of the most creative folks we knew. I had recently reconnected with an old pal, Mike Tittel (of New Sincerity Works) – easily one of my favorite musicians – who had started a recording studio at Fruit Hill, outside of Cincinnati. Mike was trying to convince me at the time – he still is, actually – to record a new album but I told him about Laurie and her story and we all agreed: Laurie's record was the priority. We cut the first tracks – me on electric guitar, Mike on drums, and Laurie on uke and electric piano in the Fall of 2015. Right away, we knew we had half-a-dozen really great takes. It was early in the process, but they had soul and felt like the framework for a really special record. I told Laurie: "I think we're making a late 1970s Emmylou Harris record here." We knew, even then, we were going to walk away with a truly classic-sounding LP. Much later, Mike looked at the cover and said: "I can't tell if it's June Carter Cash or Juliana Hatfield," which, of course, is the nicest thing anyone could have said about the type of record Laurie and I had hoped to make.

Those half dozen songs from the first session became the basis to bring in the second half of the band – Chris Allen on acoustic, Al Moss on pedal steel, and the legendary producer Don Dixon on bass. After juggling schedules, we eventually hauled the aforementioned dream team to Fruit Hill to get 'em on tape. To say it was an honor to have them work on this record is certainly an understatement. Chris and Laurie, of course, had years of experience playing as a duo across Ohio and have a sonic mind-meld that allowed Chris' acoustic guitar to drop right into the mix. Al Moss, one of a small group of Cleveland musicians who I consider my cosmic and musical brethren, not only added key melodies throughout, but also a few solos that left us all either applauding or stunned silent in the studio. And, what can I say about having Don play his Silvertone bass on this record? A dream come true. Above all, these guys played and sang on this record with such generosity and sense of purpose for Laurie that I still get a chill listening back now. A year and a half after Laurie had written: "It's gonna be alright," as a reminder to herself in a trying time, they sang it right back to her, in harmony, with such conviction that you just knew it had to be true. After the very last take, at midnight following a full day of recording, the skies opened up, and we dragged all of the gear back up the hill in the pouring rain, confirming the adage: "If you want a perfect storm, stand under the cloud."

We recorded the rest of the album – minus vocals – back at Laurie's house in Oxford so we could cut live baby-grand piano and Hammond A-100 in the music room Joe had built for Laurie years ago. John Kogge – Laurie's long-time partner in crime – stopped by and sang harmony on one of the album's most affecting songs, "Pauline," still a treat for me to hear. Laurie re-recorded her vocals with our new pal, the super-talented Mike Landis – who also mixed the record – at Fruit Hill until she had 'em perfect. A few months later, Landis finished up the mixes and it was off to be mastered. I shot the cover photo at the 3VERB studio here in Chicago.

It's still hard to believe we pulled it off. Along the way, we laughed, we cried, we made a pilgrimage to the now shuttered Hammond Organ factory in Chicago, discovered a jerk-chicken restaurant across the street from John Prine's childhood home, and celebrated each little rock 'n roll victory. I'm exceedingly proud of the final album and the way we did it. It's dedicated to Joe, of course; I know it honors his memory.

— Jon

Click here to buy the record. Click here for full liner notes/credits.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Blaming Post-Modernism & Eddy Merckx

As I close the array of browser tabs with articles I've recently read, I've decided to try document each, two or three at a time, with a quick two sentence impression of the article and link.

The Death of Truth - Quartz.com Review of Michiko Kakutani's new book, The Death of Truth, which posits that Trump's fast/loose interplay with the media and facts -- including whatever counts for "Fake News" -- is an extension of the post-modern movement of the early 70s that challenged the idea of "central" and "knowable" truth. I find this premise hard to believe and, indeed, it seems to ignore entirely the traditionalist movements embedded in the American Right and their specific disdain for relativism in whole. Further, it doesn't seem to me that post-modernism was ever in direct opposition to empirical or demonstrable fact, only that the larger mysteries require more nuance, less "rational" hubris, and less definition at the edges to fully process.

Link to full article, "Trump is What Happens When PostModernism Goes Too Far," here.

The Greatest Cyclist of All Time, Eddy Merckx - Guardian interview with the legendary 5-time Tour de France winner. Best quote from Eddy:
"My parents taught me honesty and respect for other people. When I was at school I wanted to go to the Côte d’Azur for holidays, like my schoolfriends. We went to the North Sea. My father, who was a grocer and one of 11 children, said: 'Don’t look to those who go to the Côte D’Azur, but look to those who can’t go the North Sea – keep your feet on the ground.'"
There's a chance that this year, or next, the talented sprinter Mark Cavendish will overtake Eddy's single stage record of 34 wins at the Tour de France though I'm uncertain if he'll bring along this same level of grace, class, and reflection.

Full article/interview, "Eddy Merckx: This Much I Know," here.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Nomenclature

It's Your Brand, Start Acting Like It

Over the last several years, crowdsourcing has shifted the paradigm for both agencies and brands: You can fund the launch of a new product with a Kickstarter campaign and order a dozen corporate logo concepts for $99. I guess that's good news in some regard, especially if you want three mediocre and nine awful logos.

At the same time, many companies finally have their sea-legs about them with their social media accounts. They're feeling a bit more confident in engaging consumers and acknowledging brand devotees earnestly... and occasionally generating a bit of fun for all in the process. That's really and honestly a good thing.

But, like too much of any good thing, some folks are bound to find an awkward nexus that collides the least appealing ingredients of social media and crowdsourcing at an abrupt right angle.

To wit: Of all the social media outreach techniques that are floating around — and a lot of 'em are good — my current least favorite is the "Help us name our product" routine: half social media, half crowdsourcing, half-baked. It's so often the move of companies that seem lost for an immediate clever idea or, worse, desperate for interaction. Indeed, nothing says, "We have no direction or vision for this product" quite like foisting the responsibility for a product name on your customers. For the consumer, the messaging is unequivocal: we give up, you try.

Is there a good idea for a product name in a sea of product name ideas generated by your customers? Maybe. Will you find it? Probably not. More likely, the least devoted sideline followers will have the loudest say and core consumers will be left wondering why their favorite company has lost the ability to figure it out for themselves.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Pneumatic Tubes, Seashells, Surfing

As I close the array of browser tabs with articles I've recently read, I've decided to try document each, two or three at a time, with a quick two sentence impression of the article and link.

Chicago’s Strange History With Pneumatic Tubes - From one of my, maybe my top, favorite writers of Chicago interest, Robert Loerzel, a Chicago Magazine article from 2013 describing the nine-mile network of pneumatic tubes that were originally installed in downtown Chicago. Like abandoned subway tunnels and stations, these tubes remind me of the aspirations behind infrastructure and our collective, inevitable pull toward faster and easier communication — like Moore's Law but not for processor speed or transistor density. As technology shortens the distance in lines of communication will we take the time to compile our thoughts before hitting 'send' or just let the conversation devolve into a series of knee-jerk impressions? Complete article here.

Google Search on 'Fahrenheit 451 Seashells' - Like Apple Airpods, Ray Bradbury predicted a similar 'thimble radio' that would take us away from the written word, simply speaking ideas directly into your ear. At a stoplight last week, a younger gentleman, dressed for success, walked in front of my car, across the crosswalk, lost in a world of music made possible by his headphones while missing out on the sounds of the city in the summer.

Guardian Interview with Laird Hamilton, the Surfer - The most important thing to me about Laird Hamilton, about whom I knew very little, was the American Express commercial that featured the Los Lobos song 'Mas y Mas' as the soundtrack. I read this article to learn more. While I've already forgotten about nine points of his ten-point plan to 'supercharge your body,' I did lock in on and appreciate his candid discussion of quitting alcohol. He also credits his top physical shape to, among other things, alternating ice baths and saunas and 'the ability to suffer consistently.' Full article here.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Sinkhole

Amazon Wants You to Build Another Store

I've read enough Medium and Vox articles recently to know I should get right to the point.

Prediction: Regional grocers will lose the battle against Walmart, Amazon, Target, Peapod, and specialty meal providers (Blue Apron, etc.) as they try to stem losses with physical store expansion rather than developing technology conveniences to re-engage and cement consumer loyalty. They will stumble into resource-heavy projects — home delivery, in particular — and burn cash trying to match the logistics game of retailers who have mastered delivery years ago.

Bonus Prediction: There are a million ways for regional grocers to defer this fate, but Amazon, in particular, wants to draw them into this losing battle. Just watch.

Additional reporting on the from WSJ here.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Against the Tide

On WSJ's “Big Brands Risk Losing Their Voice” - Original Article

When we started GimmeAnother about 5 years ago, we posited that there was a large and kinda obvious efficiency that was being left on the table by online retailers. In a nutshell, online shopping was still defined by a standard checkout routine, a process that was the same for both new orders and orders that should be recurring. Or, to put it plainly: the checkout process was exactly the same for the purchase of an expensive durable good, like refrigerator, as it was for consumers who regularly returned for refills of vitamins, diapers, or contact lenses. To a great extent, many major retailers retain this complexity in their checkout and re-order processes to this day – even for recurring orders from their most loyal customers – as they try to beat (or simply compete with) Amazon at a game that the book-store turned everything-store monolith has largely perfected. The race to be present in voice re-order by Amazon's Alexa is the latest in their set of hurdles.

It always struck me, though, that beyond the traditional brick and mortar retailers, regional grocers, and pharmacy chains that would inevitably be hit hard by Amazon – and indeed they were, are, and will be still – the largest long-term overall loss of core value might, in fact, be among by established household brands that can no longer found an easy home on the end-caps at Target and Walmart. Simply put, as Amazon drove prices down, and made home-delivery a snap, large box retailers like Target and Walmart would prioritize in-house brands (like 'Up and Up') over well-known staples like Tide or Cascade. The goodwill and name recognition that had taken decades to build would start to erode. Amazon's success with the Alexa voice assistant, of course, has made it all an even more difficult equation as Amazon is now set to control the distinction between actual product type and the priority of brand that ends up in your cart via Alexa. You can count on receiving Amazon-brand batteries before Duracell unless you specify.

While it's hard to know exactly where CPGs (Consumer Packed Good) behind these “big brands” might choose start a relationship with the end consumer, it does boggle the mind a bit to think that in the first 20 years of the internet, they've not found a way to give it an earnest try. As per the attached WSJ article, CPGs that continue to rely on retailers – and now retailers voice assistants like Alexa – as their sole channel for communication with the end consumer are sure to lose additional cachet with consumers and presence in the digital end-caps and aisles of the future.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Majestic

Three Songs of Accidental Majesty, Depth, and Immediacy for the New Year.

“Last Night it Snowed,” The Ass Ponys


About this time of year, I anticipate the first legitimate snowfall here in Chicago and do so knowing I'll have the chance to play (loudly) the Ass Ponys' brilliant, compact, and majestic song, “Last Night it Snowed.” It's an annual tradition of sorts – my favorite of Chuck Cleaver's AP work – to sit back and marvel at the perfection of these “econo” lyrics:
A blanket white
At least it was when it came down last night
The morning brings the rain
The blanket's washed away
Now everything turns back to grey
It's hard to imagine that so much goodness could land in just over two minutes of song: all the mixed-up optimism and rainy, overcast second-guessing of a Southern Ohio winter with the added bonus of a delicate mandolin that falls apart into garage-band urgency as he sings: “So live and learn, The snow is melting never to return.”

Here's Chuck singing this classic with a local School of Rock:



The original studio version of the song is available here.


“Wasted,” Pere Ubu


Like “Last Night it Snowed,” this song leads the album, 1993's “Story of My Life,” from Northern Ohio's most important post-punk combo, Pere Ubu. It's an album that finds lead singer David Thomas in a reflective mood, at one point recounting his pre-Cleveland childhood in Florida and stumbling upon“the secret of anti-gravity.” But “Wasted” finds him in real-time, trying to decipher his marriage and “breathlessly, throwing time away.” It makes me think the album runs in reverse, marching backward from today, with Thomas' melodeon (aka the button accordion) setting the scene and his enjoinder to “rock” at 1:33 as guidance to take care of business moving forward. It's as inspirational to me now as when I first heard it.




“This is the Sea,” The Waterboys


I had forgotten about this song and album – the album “Fisherman's Blues” is important to several friends and I'd always marked their career by it – until a cold, rainy day in Northern Wisconsin. I was away from my family for a few days and had just hopped out of a hazy mid-30s mist into the car when the skies opened up. The rain started falling in buckets but, as I started to drive, advanced in waves quickly, so I pulled the car to the side of the road. The windshield wipers couldn't keep up. I turned on the radio to find "This is the Sea" at the beginning. I sat there, not a soul around, feeling a bit underwater while Mike Scott sang:

You're trying to make sense
Of something that you just can't see
Trying to make sense now
And you know you once held the key
But that was the river
And this is the sea



I'm convinced now that “Fisherman's Blues” couldn't exist without this prelude. Get ready, the open ocean is in front of you. This is the sea. If you're ever unconvinced of the epic adventures ahead, try this song again... in the rain.

– Jon Roketenetz

Jon is the CEO of GimmeAnother and founder of 3VERB.