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Rules Of Life

Alfred Hitchcock might scare you as a director, but he can also be heart-warming and kind with his time, a lesson for us all. Check out this letter from a California school principal, who wrote Hitchcock after the director’s visit to a school while filming The Birds in March of 1962 and described how just a few moments changed a young boy’s life.


It reads:

3775 Bodega Highway

April 3, 1962

Mr. Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock Productions
Bodega Bay, California

Dear Mr. Hitchcock:

I wanted to take the time to say that your stopping one morning on your way to Bodega Bay to give a group of children a drawing and autograph of you was certainly a deed of thoughtfulness. It is realized that taking the time from your busy schedule is not an easy thing to do.

The real purpose of this letter is to inform you what your deed of kindness did for a boy to whom you gave your drawing and autograph. This boy is quite shy and does not participate readily in class activities, such as sharing his experiences before others during sharing time. He was so thrilled and moved by his experience that he proudly shared his experience and autograph not only with his own class, but in every classroom in the school. The boy never before has done such a thing. Many times it takes such a spark as this to help a youngster out of his shell and on the road to confidence. You don’t realize what your act of kindness has done for this child.

I realize that many other people since then have tried to take advantage of the same opportunity and this has made it difficult and impossible for you to fulfill. None the less, your thoughtful act will not be forgotten by youngsters and teachers alike.


Duncan Coleman

“Nobody else is going to give a damn what you’re doing, so you need a few other people like yourself”
– Ray Bradbury as told to two college kids on road trip in 1972

In the autumn of 2012, Lisa Potts rediscovered — literally, behind her dresser — a taped cassette of a long-lost interview with author Ray Bradbury that she made as a college student journalist back in 1972.

The recording was made in a car plying the Los Angeles freeways between Bradbury’s home in West L.A. and Chapman College in Orange County. Potts and a fellow student named Chadd Coates were taking Bradbury to present a lecture. Bradbury had a lot of advice for Lisa and Chadd.

On tape we get to hear Bradbury telling the students about the keys to friendship, why he was afraid of himself and would never drive, his keys to writing and telling a story, why Mars was the center of his fascination, what’s the secret to love, and why he called himself “a madman”.

John Green had the opportunity to speak to some 2,400 advertising executives (and many of his fellow YouTubers and Youtube fans) last night at YouTube’s annual Brandcast. Some people have requested that he share the speech, so here it is. It’s a must-read, including this line: “I don’t care how many people watch or read something I make. I care how many people love what I make.”

Hi. I’m John Green; I’m a novelist and YouTuber and unlike the other people speaking tonight, I’m not here to entertain you. I’m not here to educate you, or kiss up to you. I’m here to scare you.

Most people on stage tonight are arguing why you should advertise on YouTube. But I’m going to offer you a vision of what will happen if you don’t.

First a little background. My first novel Looking for Alaska came out in 2005, one month before the first video was uploaded to YouTube. You might’ve heard that 2015 is YouTube’s 10th anniversary. My God are they excited about it. I mean, congratulations YouTube. You’ve done something only previously accomplished by, like, every fourth grader.

So anyway my book came out, got good reviews, won a big award, and sold about 8,000 copies in its first year. What you might call modest numbers.

Ten years later, my novel The Fault in Our Stars has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 161 consecutive weeks, and the film adaptation of the book grossed over $300 million at the box office worldwide.

Two books, two massively different results. So how did that happen? The story of The Fault in Our Stars’ success is complex and multifacted, but I can say this for sure: It never would’ve happened without YouTube.

On January 1st, 2007, my brother Hank and I began a project called Brotherhood 2.0 in which we made YouTube videos back and forth to each other every weekday. Eight years later we’re still at it.

Through these videos, we developed an incredible community of fans who call themselves nerdfighters, because they celebrate intellectualism and fight for nerdiness. This community has done all kinds of amazing things — they’ve loaned more than $4,000,000 to mostly female entrepreneurs in the developing world through kiva and they run the Project for Awesome, an annual 48-hour event on YouTube where thousands of creators make videos about their favorite charities to raise money for organizations like Partners in Health and Save the Children. Last year’s Project for Awesome raised over $1,200,000 from over 21,000 donors.

With our community’s help and support, we’ve also been able to expand our online video presence. In 2012, we launched the educational channels SciShow and Crash Course. SciShow is a celebration of scientific inquiry and discovery and Crash Course introduces topics from Chemistry to World History at an AP level, and it’s now used in thousands of schools around the world.

There is tremendous hunger for educational and how-to content online: People want context and well-researched information presented to them accessibly, and today CrashCourse and SciShow both have over 2,500,000 subscribers. Hank and I also co-own DFTBA Records, which distributes music and merchandise for creators who build audiences online; every year we pay out millions of dollars to YouTubers.

So we’ve had a lot of success because of YouTube.

But here’s the part that should worry all of you: for the most part, everything my brother and I have done, we’ve done largely without advertising. Crash Course and SciShow are funded mainly by viewers who voluntarily donate to support the shows through Patreon. And DFTBA Records provides more revenue from merch than we’ve ever made from ads, not just for us but for many creators.

Today, Hank and I have 30 employees helping us create shows that are both educational and fun to watch. And even though our subscribers and views have grown 10-fold in the last three years, less than 20% of our company’s revenue comes from advertising. And that percentage is shrinking by five percent every year.

Of course this isn’t true for all online video; lots of it is well-supported by advertising and geared toward advertising models. But many of the strongest communities, and much of my favorite content in online video, is frankly undervalued by advertisers.

That’s forcing these creators to find other paths — they’re doing live events and publishing books; they’re crowd-funding and producing albums and getting grants from nonprofit organizations. In short, they’re building a world where they don’t have to depend on advertisers. And they’re thriving. You may not see that success, but it’s happening.

So you all are probably familiar with this tired narrative that young people are only interested in distraction and have no interest in the world outside of themselves, but my experience has shown otherwise. While the world talks about young people’s insularity and solipsism, they’re creating a fascinating and complex world of deep engagement online, a world in which they are not just watching content but becoming part of it by being community members whose comments and fanfiction and artwork and passion have profound impacts on the broader culture.

One of those young people was Esther Earl, who inspired much of my novel The Fault in Our Stars. Esther was one of the earliest nerdfighters and a key supporter of the Project for Awesome who was also living with cancer. I learned from Esther that people with disabilities are not defined by those disabilities, that their lives and loves are as important and complex and meaningful as any others, and that a short life — she died in 2010 when she was just 16 — can also be a rich life.

Without the YouTube community, I never would have met Esther. I never would have been inspired to write my book. And I may never have seen just how passionate, committed and caring this new generation of fans could be.

Meanwhile, we adults who criticize this generation for its apathy and narcissism are watching CSI Miami and The Blacklist and congratulating ourselves for our intellectual sophistication and connectedness.

But here’s the truth: Way down deep in what Robert Penn Warren called “the darkness which is you,” there is a great and terrible feeling that our life and work is meaningless, a clawing fear that everything we do will be for nothing. And CSI Miami is really good at distracting us from that fear. Don’t misunderstand me, I think that’s great; I am in favor of distractions. The distraction business is a great business and because the number of eyeballs a distraction attracts is a reasonably good way of judging its effectiveness as a diversion, advertising is great at funding it.

But I and the most passionate creators on YouTube…we’re not in the distraction business. We’re in the community business, and number of eyeballs is a terrible metric for my business. I can say “Our videos have been viewed more than a billion times” and it sounds impressive, but it’s not actually an important number to me. I don’t care how many people watch or read something I make. I care how many people love what I make.

And that love is tougher to measure. Like, I’ll happily watch 44 minutes of Deadliest Catch and I might even tweet about it, but it won’t be nearly as important to me as spending 3 minutes with Vi Hart as she explains to me how we know that the infinite set of real numbers is larger than the infinite set of natural numbers. Deadliest Catch is something I watch. Original content on YouTube — whether it’s let’s play or beauty tutorials or introductions to Nigerian history — is something I treasure.

So if you want to stay in the eyeballs business, that’s fine. I don’t blame you. It is a good business (albeit a shrinking one). But you risk losing relevance with an entire generation of people who look to video not just for distraction but also for engagement and connection.

And that’s where there IS a tremendous opportunity, and one you won’t find on television or anywhere offline: If you support creators through advertising, we can build and foster better, more diverse communities. If we’re able to rely more on you for support, we can spend more of our time building deeper relationships with our audiences, which will ultimately mean better relationships with your brands. We could bring more interesting stuff into the world. And if you help us do that, our viewers will notice, and you will win over this next generation just as you have past generations.

Thank you.

I never knew if the stupider things we did or the more traditional things we did would work. I didn’t know if the stupid stuff would alienate people. I didn’t know if the traditional stuff would be more appealing. And then, when I look back on it now, of course the answer is, you want to do the weird thing.
– David Letterman, on his late-night innovations, New York Times

Canadian songwriting legend Joni Mitchell is in a coma and unresponsive, according to TMZ. The website reported Tuesday that Mitchell was in hospital with “no immediate prospects for getting better.”

TMZ reports that Mitchell’s longtime friend Leslie Morris filed legal documents to obtain “conservatorship” over the Saskatchewan-raised songwriter, because no other close relatives were available.

Mitchell began singing in small nightclubs in Saskatchewan and Western Canada and then busking in the streets and small club of Toronto. In 1965, she moved to the United States and began touring. Some of her original songs (“Urge for Going”, “Chelsea Morning”, “Both Sides, Now”, “The Circle Game”) found homes with other folk singers, allowing her to sign with Reprise Records and record her own debut album in 1968.

Mitchell has deeply influenced fellow musicians in a diverse range of genres, and her work is highly respected by critics. AllMusic said, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”, and Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever”. Her lyrics are clebrated for addressing social and environmental ideals alongside personal feelings of romantic longing, confusion, disillusion, and joy.

Tonight might be just another time to listed to her Blue album. With this in mind, let’s hope she pulls through, and honour her fighting with 25 of her greatest quotes.

On music: “I see music as fluid architecture.”

“There are things to confess that enrich the world, and things that need not be said.”

“When the world becomes a massive mess with nobody at the helm, it’s time for artists to make their mark.”

“In some ways, my gift for music and writing was born out of tragedy, really, and loss.”

“I don’t like being too looked up at or too looked down on. I prefer meeting in the middle to being worshiped or spat out.”

“I thrive on change. That’s probably why my chord changes are weird, because chords depict emotions. They’ll be going along on one key and I’ll drop off a cliff, and suddenly they will go into a whole other key signature. That will drive some people crazy, but that’s how my life is.”

“I don’t understand why Europeans and South Americans can take more sophistication. Why is it that Americans need to hear their happiness major and their tragedy minor, and as jazzy as they can handle is a seventh chord? Are they not experiencing complex emotions?”

“I had made all these rules for myself: I’m not writing social commentary, I’m not writing love songs.”

“Back then, I didn’t have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn’t enough time.”

“Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block.”

“When you’re trying to pass on the best of the stuff you’re culling to what should be a hungry culture but you have it diminished… that’s kind of disappointing.”

“I hate show business.”

“I always thought the women of song don’t get along, and I don’t know why that is.”

On the difference between New York and Los Angeles: “In New York, the street adventures are incredible. There are a thousand stories in a single block. You see the stories in the people’s faces. You hear the songs immediately. Here in Los Angeles, there are less characters because they’re all inside automobiles.”

On the environment: “The thing that gave me the most pain in life, psychologically, and it gave me tremendous pain psychologically, is man’s disrespect for nature.”

“I see the entire world as Eden, and every time you take an inch of it away, you must do so with respect.”

On Neil Young: “You know, Neil Young is singing Rock n’ roll will never die, and Neil never rocked and rolled in his life. I mean, he rocked, but he didn’t roll. He has got no swing in him.”

On humans: “My heart is broken in the face of the stupidity of my species.”

On songwriting: “You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it’s just complaining.”

“My goal as a writer is more to comfort than to disturb.”

On her childhood: “My childhood was very difficult. I had every childhood disease and then some, but my parents didn’t mollycoddle me. They left me to fight those battles on my own. I guess that was very Canadian, very stoic. But it’s good. I had to become a warrior. I had to give up hope and find a substitute for hope that would be far more stable.”

On America: “This is a nation that has lost the ability to be self-critical, and that makes a lie out of the freedoms.”

On creativity: “I sing my sorrow, and I paint my joy. Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”

On getting older: “You wake up one day and suddenly realize that your youth is behind you, even though you’re still young at heart.”

“I know my generation – a lot of them, they’re getting old now, and they want to think back fondly, they want to kid themselves. A lot of them think, ‘Yeah, we were the best.’ That’s the kiss of death. That’s non-growth. And also that’s very bad for the world.”

On life: “My name had gone stale, and no matter how progressive I got, it was my time to die.”

Do you think as a (Canadian) society we’ve taken on this mantra of implicit intolerance especially when it comes to race and culture?

I think there’s been a disturbing regression in terms of our values on multiculturalism and accepting each other. If you were to go elsewhere in the world and ask about Canada it wouldn’t be the same answer they’d give you twenty years ago.

I think we have beautiful values in Canada where we don’t have to be under just one religion or culture and I don’t think it’s one we should ever abandon.

At the same time I feel like we haven’t pushed forward the values we’d like to think define us. And I say that specifically towards our policies towards immigrants, refugees, temporary migrant worker and not to mention indigenous issues. I think when we look at what’s going on in America by comparison we sit there and say yeah we live in a society where we take care of each other a bit better but I don’t think it’s by much. – Shad, Aux

Billy Bob Thornton is offering a bit of advice: always lie. Seated on a couch in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A with his fellow Boxmasters — the rock-rockabilly-country group he formed in 2007 — Thornton is opening up about one of the key songs on the band’s new double album, Somewhere Down the Road. A slice of moody singer-songwriter Americana, “Always Lie” is the Boxmasters’ response to today’s “gotcha!” media.

“The song is written about the press. But not the old style press. We now have to deal with bloggers and TMZ,” Thornton tells Rolling Stone Country. “What it’s really about is how righteous journalists get screwed out of a good interview these days because of those people. . . A great interview is when you tell the truth. But now nobody wants to tell the truth because it will bite you in the ass.”

Via Rolling Stone