Let's take just one example, the one that started this whole Sentimental Redneck debacle. Last May, at the urging of Ken Layne, I marked the imminent demise of the doomed Digital Entertainment Network by typing up a quick recollection of my six weird weeks there in 1999. The result (created largely by cutting and pasting my outgoing e-mails from the time), led to a bitter editing dispute and eventually some personnel shakeups at the OJR, which is why the official version has a different lead than mine, and partially why I didn't write any more OJR stuff for nearly a half-year.

Anyway, it turned out all right -- maybe half the entire ex-DEN staff e-mailed me with thanks, OJR got many thousands of hits, several dozen webloggers linked to it, Courtney freaking Love actually reprinted it (I'll see you in court, little Miss Intellectual Property Rights Champion!), and a year later the LA Press Club even gave me a nice first-place plaque for the deal. A terrific response. Followed by a series of career-management bungles.

1) A whole mess of people (OK, nine) from various technology-business publications wrote and asked me to either write for them or take a lucrative (for me!) full-time job. I never wrote for any of them, and never took any job. Instead, I kept incredibly busy typing up a then-regular column accurately entitled The $50 Outrage, for a totally unknown lefty website owned by a phone company.

2) A couple of screenwriters contacted me and said they were interested in optioning the story. I never contacted an agent, or figured out how I was supposed to behave. It ended up with us agreeing on a lavish sushi lunch, where I was somehow supposed to bring up plot ideas or something. Instead, I showed up with a terrible hangover, and they never called back.

3) I was interviewed by a good reporter from The New Yorker (one of those magazines my well-meaning friends always refer to), who told me that the editorial director over there had printed out my story and was waving it around as an example of Good Writing. I helped out the reporter with a rambling interview and many DEN secrets, and he said I should look him up any time and he'd help me out with whatever. My name and the OJR's didn't appear in his story. I wrote the aforementioned editorial director with a brief and friendly note of thanks, and he never wrote back. I wrote the reporter, oh, six different times since then (mostly to say "nice story" when it was deserving, or "I'm in New York!" when I was), and never heard from him again. The only petty consolation came later that year, when a story similar to mine ("My Fake Job"), in a special Digital Issue spearheaded by the aforementioned editorial director, ended up being a source of acute embarrassment. I liked it, though.

4) I was interviewed by Los Angeles Magazine, Smart Business, Upside Magazine, Vanity Fair, Details and several others. Many of the writers made generous offers of helping out, sharing editor-contact names, "getting a drink when you visit New York," etc. None followed up when pressed.

5) Don't get the impression that these people were nasty -- actually, everyone was really nice, and I was glad to help. For instance, the nice photographer who spent two hours with me coaxing a picture that would end up alongside a Yahoo Internet Life headline screaming "Digital Debacle!" (I can't find the link right now, unfortunately). Anyway, this photographer was a cool guy, and he asked if I wouldn't mind signing over the rights of the picture, so he could sell it for a new book that was coming out, something about Sentimental Heartbroken Rednecks. I figured the picture was kinda funny, and the title was peculiarly apt (except for the sentimental and heartbroken parts), so I said "What the heck!" For free.

It is not the first time I've done something inappropriate with photography -- we should all be thankful that the "hot tub photo" was never printed in Vanity Fair. But in a lean and half-cruel summer, it's hard not to laugh about opportunities missed.

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