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FOTOFRIDAY: Low Cut Connie…Incomparable Creative Combustion!

Posted on: Friday, September 9th, 2022
Posted in: FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment


Meet Adam. Leader of …a band? A dance party? An improv troupe? A bunch of giddy prodigies? Yes!  

Most people don’t know this band. But I do…

Adam Weiner and his band (Low Cut Connie). helped me live through Covid. And I told him so. Among the brilliant things he and they have done: When Covid hit and his tours got postponed, he performed over 100 1-2x/week livestreams from his spare bedroom in South Philly.

That show was called Tough Cookies, one of many his brilliant branding and performing offshoots. A cult grew, from all over the world. We wrapped our virtual arms around each other, took catharsis and livestream spectacle to new levels, and left each show with a euphoria and faith that, YES! We are Tough Cookies…we still love life…and We Will Survive!

TOUGH COOKIES is a concert, a church service, a support group, a strip club, a punk club, but mostly a SOUL MUSIC VARIETY SHOW.

Now the band is back on the road. Thank God. Because live music may be the ultimate BreakAway, where your worries wash away through the cosmic gift of song and verse and dance and risk.

Low Cut Connie, who embodies all that magnificently, did a two-night stand at the MN State Fair last week. The lucky crowd had an unbridled blast, even if newbies’ eyeballs popped out and groupie dancers collided.

Best of all, the explosive band had even more fun than us. Which is way more contagious than Covid.

Little Richard meets Mr. Rogers

~ The New Yorker

To paraphrase Star Tribune’s critic Jon Bream, “Low Cut Connie is part Springsteen, part Meat Loaf and 100% rock and roll.” Right on. No wonder The New Yorker dubbed him Pandemic Person of the Year.

I second that emotion. And will treasure my Covid-show memories, 1-1 moments with the band, and recent photos worth more than 10,000 words.

Rock on.

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MktgMndy: Martha’s Mag Death Signals Reading’s Demise

Posted on: Monday, August 29th, 2022
Posted in: Rants & Roadkill, Wily Mktg | Leave a comment

Magazines, once thriving lifestyle and status tools, are now headed toward extinction.

Welcome to Marketing Monday (MM), our periodic dive into all things design, branding, advertising, wily wordsmithing, and more. Your site host (one Kirk Peter Horsted) once taught and still works in these fertile fields, and just can’t keep his keyboard shut any longer. Please enjoy, ponder, and feel free to disagree!

We become what we behold. We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.

~ Marshall McLuhan

  • Where have you gone, Mrs. Tastefulness?

Martha Stewart Living got killed off last spring. Along with 7 other magazines published by Des Moines-based Dotdash Merideth (including EW, Health, and Parents—what will people page through in doctors’ waiting rooms?).

The rationale for shuttering these iconic brands is, as usual, peppered with bloviated boasts of upping the game toward new! improved! websites. That’s the future, which clearly ain’t what it used to be. Picture short, bad-grammar tidbits targeted to frenetic web searches. With lame stock photos. Surrounded by obnoxious ads and contrived verbiage punched out by underpaid blurb-slaves.

Meanwhile, many excellent, experienced, educated writers in NYC and beyond just became unemployed. We wish them well on their unscheduled Sabbatical.

Who needs real writers anymore? Who reads? What does these mag closings signify, anyway? Please read on…

  • What this means: 1. Perusing publications no longer pleases an impatient public

Remember lounging on your bed (on the beach or patio) with a fave mag? The reverie from reading and scheming offered a short mental vacation, rather like a Calgon “take me away” bath. Pages got ripped out for future ref. Dreams and ideas took root; maybe that’s why you painted a nightstand, purchased an album, or vacationed in Venice. Above all, the bright pics and shiny pages were…palpable.

Now, we stare at tiny phone screens with blank, fried eyes. Clearly, we prefer a smaller, and (dare I say) more manipulative presentation of ever-fleeting information. Glance, click, swipe, move on. As Martha Stewart Living dies, so does our attention span.

  • What this means: 2. Our curiosity for organic learning is rotting

Allow me to admit a bias: I made my living, and a rewarding one at that, for years as an advertising sales manager in magazines. One of my secrets for making my staff perform smartly (literally)? They had to read every issue. Yes, we had quizzes. Yes, we had sales meetings where we sat around talking about editorial details. If you disliked an article or thought a new direction hurt ad sales, no problem. Opinions welcome; ignorance NOT.

Is ignorance where our culture is heading…and magazine readership just another sign of it? Well yeah. Duh! Not to say you can’t read on your phone but…do you? We know books are on the endangered media list; next to expire on the verbal brain chain must be mags, newspapers, and more. And words in general. Soon, the in-use English language may decline to, oh, 2,000-5,000 words, many misspelled. And 55,000 emojis.

  • What this means: 3. Aesthetic sensibility will get simple-minded, and if not mindless

Every detail in mags like MSL goes through rigorous layers of criticism, collaboration, and refinement. Those movie scenes where media perfectionists are up all night getting everything just right? It’s true. And they’re back at it (in fresh, dressed-to-impress outfits) in the morning.

Martha (and so many more mags) delivered savvy headlines, articles, captions, and more—surrounded by cool and creative images that sparked the brain to new concepts. It’s called design. It used to determine how you lived, who your customer would be, and how you’d present yourself to a watchful world.

Moreover, and if nothing else, such impressive design offered readers a sumptuous release into inspiration, entertainment, and escapism. The experience was often learning lite, of course, but that made it brilliant. Hey, when college and Shakespeare are over, it’s time to turn the page to novels, self-improvement guides, publications, and a world of possibilities.

Nowadays, do people even know how to turn the page?

  • RIP, information society

Without getting political, or disparaging the infranets, let’s just agree that the manipulation of information has replaced the search for knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, even common interests.

These ruthless market forces always win, and will continue to mow down Martha and much more. And deprive us of the tactile, lush-papered, colorful WOW that was part of our personal diet, development, and dreamscape.

  • A random, charming memory

Not to be TOO nostalgic, BUT…We still have memories, right? Like this one…At my publishing company, when the freshly-printed box of the new monthly edition burst into the office, everyone ran to the lobby, greedily grabbed one, and ravenously pored through every page.

Did the 4-color black-and-white cover idea pop as hoped? Did the 2-page spread with the tough gutter picture and bleed off the sides align impressively? Did the mix and placement of ads and editorial work for all parties—especially the reading audience?

That feeling, that just-inked smell, that nervously hypercritical eye. That miracle of competitiveness, teamwork, and talent made all the fights and angst and deadline stress worthwhile.

Countless subscribers knew a parallel sensation of their own when opening their mailbox to discover the gift of a sexy magazine glowing like a promise amid the detritus.

  • And now, for the good news…

Before finishing this praise of the page, let’s acknowledge the good news: Some people still love magazines. And books. And reading and learning and…comfortable BreakAways into glorious verbal and pictographic escapism. Long live print, please! And thank you!

Keep reading. Keep your standards high. And keep your ideas open.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Picture Roulette…Returning to College

Posted on: Friday, August 26th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

A new student steps through the historical arches and into the metaphorical portals of her life-changing BreakAway for higher education.

In my world, the mind is racing, the desk is a neglected mess, and this sunny day screams for some overdue yardwork. So I let my puter roll like a shot machine to choose this FOTOFRIDAY. Imagine my surprise when, out of 70,000+ digital images, the Gods landed on the August 2015 weekend I took my favorite (and only) son to college at Princeton.

Cosmic? Just this morning, my favorite (and only) daughter left to fly away to college at Lewis & Clark (Portland). I was not a part of this posse—just one of the many perks and pains of a broken family. My house seems quiet and empty already, though I try to avoid the verklempt. But no matter what, I STILL BELIEVE IN EDUCATION. Emphatically so.

Learning. It’s complicated. And getting complicated-er. Thanks to Covid, more than 50% of the students in MN high schools are now wa-a-a-a-ay behind standards for math and well, everything. Meanwhile, Biden is wiping out $280 billion in student debt. Nice. For those with the lucky timing to qualify—not me, not my kids, no one I know. Education costs a lot.

Is it fair? Of course not. Life is not fair. College teaches that. And so much more—the most memorable and meaningful having little to do with books, and more about inspirational teachers, best friends that last forever, card games and cold pizza at midnight, and mastering the art of juggling competing demands and emotional thunderstorms.

College remains, without question, one of the ultimate potential BreakAways of a lifetime. Imagine: 4 years of Ivory Tower living and learning, somewhere away from home, with new besties and lovers and beer bashes at your fingertips. Oh sure, there are risks and jerks and a million things that can go wrong. But smart students learn: It’s what I make of it.

That’s what BreakAways are all about. Most of us envy you these youthful learners. So hey, students: Take this precious gift seriously (moreso than yourself). Open your minds to weird opportunities and people. See the world. Change the world. Turn those roots into wings and help fly us all into a better future.

We’re counting on you!

PS And above all, have fun.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Sailing into a Yachty Sunday of Yore…

Posted on: Friday, August 12th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

If the wind is right, you can sail away…and find serenity. ~Christopher Cross

When in San Fran recently, I snapped this pic, and these sailboats blew up a priceless flashback from my memory bank…

Years ago, I found myself in San Francisco on a glorious, sunny Sunday. With friends who lived there, new and old. The two main sailors had been dear friends since Day 1 of college, and had become master sailors as youth on Lake Superior. Both had embarked on major voyages—including one who’d traversed over from Europe with parents and six siblings!

  • SUB: California daydreamin’

Being spontaneous, free-living Cali types, they mused, “What a day! We should go sailing!” So we did, thanks to a boat rental firm they both knew and used. In no time, we were crashing through heavy waves and winds, ditching monstrous barges, and dodging the smart-ass, daredevil windsurfers who would dart in close to splash us (and loved to ride the barges’ tsunamis).

We started deep in the bay, running gradually against a stiff wind toward the bridge and sea. Though we had to be back by dark, Captain G said, “What do ya say, we’ve GOT to get under that bridge, right!?!”

  • Keeping an unevel keel

We all agreed, cheered the ballsy challenge, and braced ourselves. Then we tacked, leaning sideways, back and forth—sometimes barely making forward progress—and confronting evermore angry barges as the bay got skinnier and each beast seemed determined to nonchalantly wipe us out like a rambunctious boy playing with toyboats in the bathtub.

Did we make it? Of course we did. Just as the sun went down, naturally. So we enjoyed a boisterous group hug while staring up at the legendary Golden Gate Bridge, turned the vessel about, and raced back to the marina by dark (almost)—thanks to now having…the wind at our backs.

FOTOFRIDAY parable summary: The bigger the memory bank, the richer the life.

Please keep investing.

Happy sails…

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ReWorking: 4-day Workweek Making Some Steps

Posted on: Monday, August 8th, 2022
Posted in: HR FYI, Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking | Leave a comment

Can you even imagine how a reduction in work hours would pep up employees?

As BreakAway’s ReWorking series continues to examine how US working norms transform in a (post?) pandemic world, today we look at how the 32-hour week has been gaining a smidgen of traction. This news comes courtesy of NerdWallet, probably the best financial advice source out there.

Just ask any FA; they’ll direct you away from their firm’s website and send you straight to the $ Nerds!

  • A Cali bill, a nonprofit foundation, + employer test kitchens

The 4-day week has its cheerleaders. In California, the legislature recently kicked it around, and likely will again. Elsewhere, nonprofit 4 Day Week Global promotes the concept out of Oxford University—and has launched some pilot programs with courageous companies worldwide. And when surveyed, 92% of US employees respond they support the idea, with 79% believing it would help their mental health, while 82% even claim it would make them more productive.

  • But oh, the obstacles…

Yet the questions fly around like irksome flies in August. Most of them are obvious, and might make any CEO lose his lunch…

• What would customers and clients think—would service & sales suffer?

• Who would tend to your emails/texts/zooms/meetings?

• How could this work in a 24/7 plugged-in world?

• Would the time reduction = a pay reduction? If so, who wants that?

• Might this mean 4 10-hour workdays, and how would daycare and other support systems feel? (And could the dog hold its pee/poop?)

  • As always, alternatives abound

NerdWallet and the experts quoted are quick to point toward ways to get some relief if the #32 still lacks magic. Of course, we’ve been preaching about them here for years. But for the sake of reminders, consider these common-sense salves: Take extended weekend BreakAways; try meeting-less Fridays; schedule time periods that are telepressure-free; prioritize at least a few hours a day that are completely work-unplugged.

Will the 4-day week become a thing? Probably not in our lifetime. And yet, I know many folks who have made similar custom arrangements—because they have the power to call shots, they are in family-intense years, or just have a savvy and collegial employer. They offer role-model inspiration and hope.

Year-round 3-day weekends, everyone? Keep the drum thumping and, as always…

Keep the faith.

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FOTOFRIDAY: Cheers to the Humble Kayak!

Posted on: Friday, July 29th, 2022
Posted in: SoulTrain, Unplugging, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

The swift, spacious Bayliner runabout of my future remains on hold. Until then, a kayak always offers a dreamy ride.

Kayaking is booming. And why not? They’re eco-friendly, easy to schlep around, provide exercise, and promise a delightful time for most anyone with two arms and sense of … balance.

On this summer evening, I expected a boat party invitation (or two). But alas, folks were out of town, out to dinner, or running out of the frenzy that erupts during those early giddy weeks of boating season. I knew what to do: Jump in and paddle out into the warm setting sun.

Oh sure, I missed the friends and laughter and booming tunes. But I instead savored a simple, solo bliss. And there was little risk of feeling lonely, as the local loon couple stopped by to warble hello before soon flying south for their annual snowbirding BreakAway.

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Confessions from a Summer Sabbatical

Posted on: Thursday, July 21st, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, SoulTrain, Unplugging | Leave a comment

Summertime…and the livin’ is easy. (I should really trademark that…) 

Yowza! A month has flown by with nary a rant, snappy FotoFriday, or challenging jabberwocky. No wonder the landlines and faxes have been rattling; the piles have been tumbling. Well, as the youth say today, “Sorries!” It appears we here have been smoking our own Kool-Aid. Please know the inspirational backlog WILL get attention. But in the meantime…

  • Summer IS the social season…so jump in and hang on!

Sometimes, these fun-in-the-sun opportunities can become deliciously daunting obstacles to work, to chores, to…who cares? Said obstacles include lazing with the offspring. Jaunts to old haunts. Grooving with nature. Melt-your-mind sundowns and full-moon cruises. Grad parties where the real hootin’ begins after the cake {not keg} is gone. And best of all—whether at all-day music fests, faraway hometowns, or bucolic docks—the reunions of old friends. Nothing better.

Yep, BreakAway ditches the 2dew lists and shuns the ole’ rolodex when the pontoon party spontaneously pulls up. I mean, isn’t that what we really preach here in this passion project? Breaking away matters more than keeping up with the inbox. Even the interns agree! (Or so their emojis suggest…)

  • A quiet word from a sponsor: Purpose

Work is real. Purpose is important. And aspirations kick ass. We don’t mean to become a symbol of shirking. Seriously! (End of serious message.)

But really, if life is short, summer is a snap. So protect your priorities. Chase your bliss. As Mr. Ray (the cantankerous, hilarious, and wise-as-owls Maitre D’hotel who schooled countless of us hospitality pros) would say, “I’m the luckiest man in the world…because I have so many friends.”

Family, first of course. And then…Friends make life beautiful! It’s good to have people. So one ground rule of my summer games is simple: Never say no to a social invitation. To quote the St. Paul Saints: Fun is Good!

  • Not to worry…BreakAway updates aplenty await!

We will catch up. We will survive. We are excited about new contacts, buzzing opportunities, and an almost-urgent wealth of ideas and topics. To tease out just a few…

ReWorking (the series) will tell all about Casual Fridays morphing into Home Fridays…and summer Fridays off!

…and then offer updates on the work-at-home (R)evolution…the 4-day workweek movement…employers finally blessing baby & family leaves…and more!

And for the kids (and their parents), as Covid wanes, we’re witnessing a wave of gap years, live-at-home reboots, and a rethinking of education and lifestyle options.

  • Embrace today; tomorrow will wait

One message still rings loud and too true: A person never knows just how many days/years life will promise. (Just ask us cancer survivors!) So seize the play. Retire now and then. Seek and capture your preferred BreakAways when in reach. You’ll thank yourself, and your Gods. You’ll feel better. And we (if not Mr. Bossman)will still love you!

WHEN (not if) tomorrow comes…Please watch for backfills, updates, breaking stuff, revised top copy, more killer photos, new carousel combos, and emphatic permission to board whatever boat floats you to your happy place.

Thanks for listening. And for your patience. And above all,

Follow the light…

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FOTOFRIDAY: Have a Day in San Fran’s Tadich Grill

Posted on: Friday, June 17th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Travelog, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment

This shot offers a rare view of the iconic seafood joint at rest, since the place is always packed to the, er, gills.

Few destinations promise a mini-BreakAway as intoxicating as a good restaurant. Especially for those of us that have worked (and visited) dining establishments as a way of life and, at times, obsession.

Tadish Grill, serving San Francisco since 1849, fits the bill. As their website states and your experience confirms, you get Large Portions…Fresh Ingredients…Fun atmosphere. I loved it, but so obviously did every other person cherishing their lost-in-time meal there. Even the waiters were like something from a Bogart movie. Talk about great people watching!

So I spent a day there last winter when on vakay in SF. Yes, a day. I met a few longtime friends for late lunch. One, a regular patron, had arranged a spacious, private booth. We lingered over a long, luscious meal of seafood courses and fine California wines. As the lunch crowd slowly left, we stayed on. Until we were the only table left…and this picture became possible.

At around 4:00, people started trickling in again. And the place became full by 5. The wine kept pouring, the conversation moreso. We actually pondered staying on for dinner. But, no, we eventually found the bright, busy streets. And stopped in to enjoy a few classic hotel bars for more conviviality and catching up as the day turned to night.

You can’t do this kind of BreakAway often. But I’ll remember the experience as long as I live. And with any luck, have another chance some day to return to Tadish.

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Travel Just Got Easier…So Think Small!

Posted on: Wednesday, June 15th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle | Leave a comment

Cities Provide a Bridge to more Bucolic Places.

  • You don’t need a (-) Covid test to go home again. So head out of—and into—the country.

I know, Covid is so yesterday.

And yet, when traveling internationally of late, the negative-test requirement to get back in the US was very much a today problem—figuring out where to get the test, coordinating within a clinic’s schedule, obtaining the proper documents, and (of course) getting an actual negative. Waiting for the results would make the heart pound.

After all, for years now many people carry on with Covid and don’t even know it.

  • It’s a big old world but…small is beautiful

Many folks are itching to get away. And ready to spend…and stand in line…and fight for a table…and hope for a ticket to that world-famous museum.

Good for them, right? Well, sure. Do that. But then, IMHO, leave the city and see the real country. And people. Find the eatery where the owners ask your name—and join you for homemade limoncello after dinner. Walk the trails that offer vast views of nature, not just urban sprawl. Rent the car that gets lost. By the sea, in the mountain, or with the villagers who are giddy to meet someone actually wants to meet them, not Mona Lisa.

Of course, I cherish my amazing memories in cities. But I also remember the pollution, pan-handlers, bloated prices, and noise. True fact: Deep bliss is more accessible in faraway spaces. And least that’s my experience and vision—and it gets stronger as I get older (and perhaps as I get weaker when it comes to navigating travel as a full-contact sport).

  • “My idea of exercise is a good brisk sit.”

So said Phyllis Diller. And if you can sit with a view of the sea, a glass of wine, the smell of pizza in the wood oven, and the accordionist serenading from the distance, that’s wanderlust heaven.

As things open up, I hope fellow vagabonds ponder that. And get the chance to fall in love again. Not only with travel, but with life itself.

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FOTOFRIDAY: CDC Opens Up Re: Testing Requirement 

Posted on: Friday, June 10th, 2022
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Work/Life Hacking, FOTOFRIDAY | Leave a comment
Quarantined in leave Italy and think you’ll have a view like this? Think again!
  • Finally! You can ditch the jitters about getting stuck in lockdown somewhere

Quickly and quietly, the Biden Administration and the CDC have announced that you won’t have to provide proof of a negative C19 test to get back into the USA. Whew! Having travelled internationally a few times during Covid, I can attest to the angst of wondering…am I going to get stranded in a hotel room for a week or two, maybe more?

The new rules take effect on midnight, Sunday. No more will moms need to drive from Minneapolis to the Mayan Riviera to rescue a kid who got stuck sick on spring break…and then sneak him into the US at the US/MX border! (Yes, I know someone who did that.) 

People are already traveling like lemmings to Amsterdam, Paris, Rome—the usual prospects. The airlines are printing money again, while using high gas prices and inflation babble as a reason to raise fares and make (even) more money. But now? Expect the numbers—all of them—to, uh, skyrocket.

Budgets aside, this is great news for travelers.

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