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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Books on Entertainment, Marketing Make Hit Parade

Taking the train and bus to work provides ample opportunity to get some reading done. I read primarily non-fiction with a novel tossed in from time to time. What follows are some of the books I read during 2008 related to the beats I cover for the Business Journal. All were informative and entertaining in their own way. Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of the WB and UPN Suzanne Daniels and Cynthia Littleton Television executive Daniels gives an insider’s account of the two net-lets that went on the air within days of each other in 1995 and would merge 11 years later as The CW. No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies Naomi Klein Darling of the anti-globalization movement, Klein digs in deep for a look at corporate branding, the life of the overseas workers making the products promoting those brands and an analysis of the backlash against the global corporations. Obsessive Branding Disorder: The Illusion of Business and the Business of Illusion Lucas Conley This book picks up where Klein’s leaves off – critical of the invasion of marketing and advertising into public and quasi-public space. Conley visits the brand management companies in Cincinnati, discusses how people have become advocates for their favorite brands and the use by branding agencies of neuro-science and the study of brain activity and facial expressions to certain images and words. “Our obsession with branding has led us into a state of disorder in which society’s fundamental relationships and institutions are being rapidly exploited by the aims of marketing,” Conley writes. Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are Rob Walker A columnist for The New York Times magazine, Walker tackles many of the same topics as Conley in detailing the prevalence of branding in the culture and the hows and whys of consumers actively taking part in promoting certain brands. Why have hipsters gravitated toward old man beers like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz? Walker explains the allure. Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0 Sarah Lacy Here was the lesson I took away from Lacy’s book: to write engaging narratives about the tech industry focus on the people and not the technology. The entrepreneurs populating this book (mostly men) made millions in the late 1990s from online ventures. Then they made millions more from social networking sites. Straight Stuff: The Reporters, The White House and The Truth James Deakin Slate columnist Jack Shafer recommended this book in a piece published in November titled “The Coming Obama-Press War.” Deakin, a former White House reporter, weaves together explanations of how media approach their job covering the White House, how presidents subvert that approach and manage the news themselves and what it all means for the public. In between are chapters detailing the relations between presidents and press from Eisenhower to Reagan. As “Straight Stuff” was published in 1984, the narrative pre-dates the 24-hour news cycle created by cable news stations, and the histrionics and influence of talk radio and online blogs. Deakin does a fine job giving glimpses into a now-vanished age of American journalism when there were more newspapers, computers weighed 30 pounds and a reporter could show up at a presidential news conference dressed as a chicken. The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11 Edward Alden Alden, a former Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times, takes a look at the personalities who formulated U.S. policy toward immigration and border control following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As a border-state governor George W. Bush favored openness, Alden writes, but then switched gears in the name of keeping the nation safe. Some of the results were not pretty, such as the backlog of interviews by the FBI for foreign visitors and researchers. These policies, Alden concludes, in the long term hurt American business. “Unless the United States does a better job of easing entry into the country, it will continue to pay a heavy price: the loss of companies that are not established here, meetings and conferences that are not held here, technologies that are not developed here, and future leaders who are not educated here,” Alden writes. The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century Thomas Friedman This is my second go around with Friedman’s treatise, now in its third version, and it was as eye-opening now as the first time. For this version, Friedman added two chapters and expands on his suggestions on preparing young people for a career in the flattening world. With a new president coming into office and the world’s economy in a mess, can version four be far behind? The Pat Hobby Stories F. Scott Fitzgerald This collection puts in one place the last short stories Fitzgerald would publish and a run up to “The Last Tycoon,” the Hollywood novel he was writing at the time of his fatal heart attack at age 40. Fitzgerald’s character, hack scriptwriter Pat Hobby, navigates his way around Hollywood, trying to stay relevant in an industry that has no use for him. Fitzgerald wrote several of the stories while living in Encino. Queer People Carroll and Garre/t Graham Published in 1930 by two brothers, “Queer People” is one of the earliest of the subgenre of novels depicting life in Hollywood, in this case during the transition from silent films to sound. Hard-drinking newspaper reporter Whitey stumbles into town and embarks on a series of comic and tragic misadventures with actors and starlets, movie moguls and grand dames of the screen, and late night parties in the Hollywood Hills until he realizes what is important in life. The scene involving Whitey having to scurry to soothe the thirst of the film industry reporters is memorable. Where Did I Go Right: You’re No One in Hollywood Unless Someone Wants You Dead Ber/nie Brillstein with David Rensis I had no idea who Bernie Brillstein was when he died in August so I made up for that by reading his book. Whether credit goes to Brillstein himself or co-writer Rensin, “Where Did I Go Right” creates the sense of being in a room with Brillstein, or perhaps at his table at the Polo Lounge, listening to him recount his colorful career that started in New York and moved to Los Angeles and involves some of the biggest showbiz names of the past 30 years. Hands down the most entertaining book I read all year. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com . He lives within walking distance of two branches of the Los Angeles Public Library.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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