The Virtues of Creative Collaboration

I saw first hand the benefits they enjoyed.

By “they” I mean famous recording artists, executives, technologists, novelists and philanthropists. And we all know magic happens when a sports’ team plays as a team.

My focus is the partnership process.

The Art of Collaboration

Greater  Than The Sum of the Parts 

These men and women shared a belief in Aristotle’s gestalt; that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

They chose to work together. They chose to collaborate.


CHALLENGE + COLLABORATION = SOLUTION | The Fine Maxim

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

—John Donne

Collaboration Now Goes Global…Virtually, Cheaply.

Songwriters and creative collaborators Paul McCartney and John Lennon

John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Their Creative Collaboration was a Yin and Yang thing.

Proof in the Power of Mutual Success

How do I know this? For decades I’ve worked with world-class musicians such as Sheryl Crow, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Jon Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Boyz ll Men, Stevie Wonder, and many others on both music and philanthropy.

It’s been my privilege to unite these gifted recording stars with non-profit organisations championing worthy causes such as breast cancer awareness, HIV/AIDS, at-risk children, the blind and partially sighted,  freedom of speech,  and wildlife conservation. The potent way creative collaboration amplifies the enterprise of individuals from a variety of disciplines; the arts, charities, corporations, and technology in the focused mission of a great cause is something wonderful to behold.

I saw first hand the benefits they and society enjoyed by working together.

Used to be eyeball to eyeball, but with new Social Media toys it is virtual, and global, despite time zones, languages, gender, race, color, creed or age.

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborated writing songs, they initially worked “nose to nose and eyeball to eyeball”.

It was a Yin and Yang thing.

Opposite forces being creatively complementary.

Paul, ever the optimist, teamed up with the sardonic John and created musical magic.

But, with 21st Century social media tools the physical intimacy of “nose to nose” collaboration is no longer required.

How liberating…!

Advertisements

Why are we prejudiced against Beauty? Here are 6 Clues.

whyareweprejagainstbeautyAre we prejudiced against beauty…Why?

Prejudice has preoccupied me greatly.

The dehumanizing grunt of South Africa’s apartheid regime continues to haunt me in my novel-writing.

Thankfully, that unkind chapter of government enforced segregation in Sub-Sahara Africa now been consigned to history.

But alas, it remains a cautionary tale.

All about us the fractured schism of tribalism, ideology, and prejudice abound.

Religious nihilism, demagoguery, nationalism and feigned hurts (amplified by political correctness and the internet) are the present day instruments of divisiveness.

All toxic and corrosive.

This made me wonder, Is anyone free of the pain of prejudice?

The Stranger Seated Across From Me

Her beauty was clear to everyone. But, and not holding up the haughty shield of genetically blessed superiority, she radiated instead both charm and warm humility.

She introduced herself as Petra; in time I got to know her as Petra Nemcová, the former Czech supermodel.

Petra+Nemcova+2004+Sports+Illustrated+Swimsuit+Dc1AzVlxyhilPetra Nemcova / Sports Illustrated

However, it was my internalized response that appalled me.

In an instant I had instinctively veered down the rabbit-hole of hackneyed stereotypes: blonde, beautiful–no, not dumb (I’m far more evolved than that!) but an equally unkind assumption; that she probably lacked substance.

Fortunately I checked myself, realizing my baseless and generalized prejudice against beauty. 

And I’m so glad I did. Instead, I listened…

I enjoy learning about a person’s “legend”–it must be the natural curiosity of a writer to discover and understand an individual’s background in order to better appreciate their motivations.

Petra Němcová Shared Her Story

She was born in Czechoslovakia, relatively close to Poland’s border. Petra was ten when communism was swept away by the Velvet Revolution. By 15 she was parading the catwalk of Milan. After herSports Illustrated swimsuit cover she was soon blessed as a Victoria Secrets angel. That was when she met fashion photographer, Simon Atlee, and they fell in love.

Was she herself prejudiced against beauty was the question I should have asked, instead we spoke about Prague and Africa.

Petra’s story was romantic, worldly (she spoke several languages fluently), and glamorous.

A Bright Future Devastated by Thai Tsunami

It was the day after Christmas 2004, when a gigantic wall of water swamped their beautiful holiday resort in Thailand. Her last sighting ever of her love, Simon, was glimpsing him clinging to a bungalow roof.  Pounded by waves as she was swept out to sea, her pelvis pulverized, Petra clung to a tree for eight hours in absolute agony, before finally being rescued.

Along with more than 250,000 other people in Southeast Asia, Simon Atlee lost his life.

Scarred and broken, physically and figuratively, Petra began to rehabilitate herself.

[Note: Every Boxing Day (December 26th) is the anniversary of this tragic natural cataclysm.]

Purpose Provides a Happy Heart

It’s the screams of children, as she clung to that tree, that continued to haunt Petra. She needed to do something substantive, so as to honor Simon’s life and fulfill some useful purpose after the wreckage.

Four months later Petra returned to Thailand.

For those gone there was nothing else that could be done, but for the countless lives displaced by the ghastly tragedy there was much-needed by those who’d so terribly suffered–especially all the children. With support and succor from others, Petra launched the Happy Hearts Fund (HHF). A wonderful program to keep up and build support for communities after the First Responders and aid organizations had moved on to the next crisis.

“Unlike malaria or polio, we can’t work towards a cure for natural disasters or prevent them from ever happening — but we can restore hope by helping communities get back on their own feet through rebuilding in safe and sustainable ways and creating opportunities for a better future. And that’s exactly what the Happy Hearts Fund strives to do.” Petra Nemcova, Founder, Happy Hearts Fund

My rush-to-judgement had long faded. Clearly, this woman was anything but shallow. In fact, she was positively inspiring.

But I needed to understand the underlying cause for knee-jerk prejudice against beauty.

Why are we prejudiced against beauty? Here are 6 clues:

#1 Resentment. The presumption that everything is far too easy for those blessed with beauty. That access and opportunity present themselves with no more effort than a bat of an eyelid. This has been deemed an unfair advantage by the rest of us mere mortals saddled with an average appearance.

#2 Kardashian Effect. In our 21st century, the trivial is substantially rewarded. Vacant, vulgar, but beautiful celebrity has become the holy grail of success. We enjoy reflecting in the afterglow of these plastic “stars”–but we certainly don’t respect them.

#3 Hollywood Mythology. The beauty versus intellect narrative was perpetuated by the motion picture studios. Marilyn Monroe and her sister’s of the silver screen embraced Betty Booppersonas, and in the process perpetuated the myth of the “Dumb Blonde”.

#4 Photoshop Fakes. Between Photoshop and plastic surgery there’s a visceral sense that modern beauty is no longer genuine. Hence, if a woman’s appearance is judged to be contrived, faked, then the assumption is that her persona suffers a similar fate.

#5 Overcompensation. Not wishing to overwhelm based on her physical beauty alone, some woman may “sabotage” their intellectual brawn (or, dumb themselves down) in an instinctive effort to be better accepted by peers. This leaves a false impression.

#6 Rejection. This is probably nearest to the truth. Who among us hasn’t had the yearning for a beautiful companion? Especially during one’s formative years; such as, that unattainable soul-throbbing crush seen across the schoolyard. Invariably it remains unrequited. Either due to lack of courage (never asking her out!), or worse, cold rejection. Rejection results in resentment, which in turn morphs into a growing pejorative opinion of the once revered “object of one’s desire.”

I’m sure you have other suggestions…

Happily, however, I’m completely cured.

she-warned-him-not-to-be-deceived-by-appearances-for-beauty-is-found-within-1

Petra Nemcova & Mark Fine selfie

 

Ms. Petra Nemcová has taught me never to make hasty assumptions aboutanyone. As such she graciously volunteered to take this “Beauty & the Beast” selfie with me:

And, as an author I have now garnered deeper insights into the complex facets of an individual’s life, and the true nature of a substantive life (whether pretty or otherwise). All lives deserve to be explored properly. A “rush to judgement” based solely on a pretty facade makes us sosuperficial; the very attribute we glibly label those lovelier than us. In truth, in the process of living a full life–warts and all, we have all developed into compelling characters.

 


 

Question:

If you have any stories of a similar nature to share; a hasty dismissal of someone beautiful (or handsome), only later to be pleasantly surprised. Please let us know in the comment section below.


 

ABOUT MARK

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire”. As research for his life story Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in doing so he championed causes such as freedom of speech, wildlife conservation, breast cancer awareness, intolerance, and Indie Authors. He’d be delighted to hear from you at FineBooks.co or via Twitter @MarkFine_author.

My meeting with David Bowie: unconventional, curious & gracious

 david-bowie-soundvision

 

 

A most unconventional meeting for some music guys.

To his credit Robert Goodale took my call. More important was his willingness to listen.

This wasn’t the typical hustle: we need your client make a charity appearance, or guest in a video, or licence a track for a K-Tel compilation. No, this was markedly different.

As David Bowie’s business partner, Robert Goodale was not surprisingly an “out-of-the-box” thinker.

For the viability of our project, and future innovation, it was crucial Bob grasped what I was trying to say.

After a couple of calls and a face-to-face meeting in New York, he certainly did.

It’s like trying to fly a plane while attempting to build it

The 80’s were reaching their nadir and we had a deadline to meet. The technology was brilliantly conceived but awfully difficult to implement.

In fact it was the first time I’d heard the expression, “It’s like trying to fly a plane while attempting to build it.”

As Vice President of Entertainment for American Interactive Media (a joint technology venture by PolyGram Records and consumer electronics giant, Philips N.V.) I was strapped into a metaphorical business class seat on this bucking, unstable aircraft.

We were all up to our elbows in the mechanics of this new technological frontier, the interactive optical disc—specifically CD-i. The Compact Disc Interactive format uniquely interleaved audio, video and computer code on what appeared to be a conventional audio CD.

More profound. The CD-i player was a Trojan horse, designed to place a computer in the living room disguised as a sexy consumer electronics appliance attached to a TV.

philips-cdi-205Philips Compact Disc Interactive Player

 

 

Not remarkable now, but back in 1986 it was mind-bending.

Truthfully, CD-i desperately needed a public face that represented all of humanity, a face that was creative, innovative and courageous. Not some soulless geek squad avatar conversant only in the techno-babble of bits and bites.

We needed our Leonardo (as in “Da Vinci”), we needed our very own myriad-minded man…

Maestro David Bowie was the ideal candidate.

A very surreptitious, yet quietly auspicious meeting.

Robert agreed to set up a meeting with Bowie.

I flew in from Los Angeles.

A colleague, Daniel “the marketing guru” Savage discretely set up a private room in PolyGram’s Manhattan HQ.

As Bowie was affiliated with another record label, it would not do having him seen “visiting” our building. So we sneaked him into the building with all the intrigue of “Game of Thrones.”

Fortunately, Daniel documented his thoughts about that meeting:

I only had one interaction with Bowie, when he came in for a meeting with me, Mark Fine and a couple of other people at PolyGram in 1990 or so. We were talking about developing a CD-Interactive title based on Ziggy Stardust. I was really struck by a number of things, especially comparing them to all the other artists I had dealt with before.

For one, he was EARLY. During the meeting, he showed a keen interest and intellect having to do with the subject matter. He was with a woman (it might well have been Iman) who we presumed to be a girlfriend and he spoke to her with genuine kindness and gallantry, explaining it all to her so she felt included in the conversation, not just arm candy to be patronized.

Presenting to Mr. Sound+Vision

It was my responsibility to do the pitch.

Peering into those inquisitive, curious eyes (heterochromia—one eye blue, the other brown) I was intimidated enough. Attempting to communicate the merits of CD-i to this legend added further complexity to the challenge.

Those days the notion of manipulating and controlling a “multimedia” consumer-friendly disc was difficult to comprehend. The lexicon was unfamiliar to most; interactivity, man-machine interface, disc image and such only elicited blank stares. 

Where words failed me, I resorted to illustrations.

Those days I carried with me a battered schoolroom composition book for note taking. As his excitement grew at the potential of CD-i, Bowie began to add doodles and diagrams of his own in my workbook—then, in apparent appreciation, he autographed it for me.

A treasured possession! 

Of course the musical architect of SOUND+VISION had immediately grasped the implications of multimedia: he found it creatively liberating. He understood that the linear paradigm of music playback was destined to be shattered.

As such David Bowie had granted me his full attention.

A privilege I shall never forget.

Regretfully, no project was forthcoming from that meeting. More a product of the lengthy technical gestation period of CD-i, and the confused agendas of the stakeholders, than lack of enthusiasm from David Bowie.

However, subsequent to our meeting Robert Goodale became the interactive entertainment pioneer for all David Bowie copyrights.

In 1994, Bowie released “Jump” as an interactive CD-ROM that enabled his fans to create their own custom video from his music track.

Does this mean my meeting with David Bowie was well worth his while?

I hope so.

 


 

 

 ABOUT MARK

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire”.  As research for his life story Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in doing so he championed causes such as freedom of speech, wildlife conservation, breast cancer awareness, intolerance, and Indie Authors. He’d be delighted to hear from you at FineBooks.co or via Twitter @MarkFine_author.