Month: January 2016

Paul Kantner (1941-2016)

“Let me tell you ‘bout a man I knew…” – Sketches of China, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, David Freiberg

I discovered Jefferson Airplane when I was about twelve years old through my dad’s record collection. At the time there wasn’t a lot going on musically. My early listening years consisted of vacuous 80’s hits and hair metal.

Obviously Hendrix, Zeppelin, and other mid-twentieth-century artists blew my mind. But it was Jefferson Airplane that really resonated. I liked the melodies, the three part harmony, the trippy lyrics that later (with Jefferson Starship) gave way to sci-fi ponderings.

White Rabbit and Somebody to Love clearly belong in the rock and roll canon, but I really thought things got interesting with Blows Against the Empire (the first rock album nominated for a Hugo Award). With this project, Paul Kantner got a chance to explore his interests lyrically and it was a departure from earlier iterations of the band.

To this day, Kantner remains an underrated songwriter and rhythm guitarist. His vision, often not necessarily musical in nature but conceptually compelling, led the group (Slick especially) into uncharted territory. He remains the unsung creative director of the Jefferson Airplane/Starship franchise.

I met Paul once, some years ago, at a divey little casino in Wisconsin. I had gone to the Jefferson Starship website and saw that he was playing not far from where I grew up with Marty Balin and Jack Casady (original members of Jefferson Airplane).

Nervous and weirdly star struck, I approached the band after the show.

“I’ve been waiting almost a decade to meet you,” I blurted.

Paul glanced at me, and then out the window at the blizzard that had begun to rage outside. No doubt wondering how their tour bus would fare on the icy roads.

He looked back at me with a smirk, “You must be cold.”

And then he was gone.


About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is a writer, musician, and award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival 2011, and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival 2012.


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Motorcycle Giant Sends Cash

Besides the occasional birthday card from Grandma, most of us are unaccustomed to receiving cash by mail. That’s why Honda’s new marketing campaign is so shocking.

I first became interested in motorcycles after working on the award-winning documentary Bring It 2 Peter. As part of the shoot, we retraced the steps of  Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper from the 1969 counterculture classic, Easy Rider. While interviewing riders, and traveling along the original Route 66, I fell in love with the sense of freedom that’s inherent to owning a bike.

Last summer I finally became a licensed motorcyclist myself, and as a smaller, fairly cautious rider, I wanted to buy a machine that wouldn’t be too overwhelming right out of the gate. The 250cc Honda Rebel was the perfect choice and, as an owner, I often receive correspondence from the company.

Usually, the mail I receive from Honda is fairly uninteresting warranty information or welcome-to-owning-a-motorcycle type of material. But when I rip open this particular envelope, a crisp new dollar bill falls out.

My first thought: “Is it fake?”

Having received many fake plastic credit cards in the mail and “too good to be true” checks, I immediately smell a rat.

Why is Honda sending cash through the mail?

I read the letter, and scan the accompanying survey. It is indeed an actual dollar. In addition, the company wants to ask me a few lifestyle questions so they can compile marketing insight.

As a product marketer and content strategist myself, I know how valuable these insights can be. They can help to more effectively target potential buyers, upgrade product features, and in some cases learn some embarrassing truths about your brand.

Do I fill out the survey? Of course I do. And I take the trouble to drop it in a mailbox. Why?

One of the reasons is that it is unexpectedly delightful to receive cash (even a small amount) by mail. This company just gave me something of immediate value, never knowing if I would fill out the survey.

As humans, we are often taught that “one good turn deserves another.” Plus, compared to the general public, I’m sure motorcyclists are statistically more likely to take risks and approve of risk-taking behavior (like sending money through the mail).

“Wow, how gutsy and irreverent – like me,” I think.

Now Honda (in my mind) is like me, they’re my pal. They give me money. It’s no big deal to answer a few questions – especially since they are fun. One of the survey questions asks if I feel that motorcycling increases my sex appeal (duh), or gives me a “sense of freedom” (double duh).

Of course, I have no idea what kind of response rate they get from these surveys. It would be a great A/B test. Maybe I’ll think about that later. Right now I’ve got to drive my sexy motorcycle down to the corner store and spend my free cash.

Like motorcycle movies? Check out Bring It 2Peter.


About the Author

Melany Joy Beck is an award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival.