Showing posts from November, 2007

Firebrands reprise

If you like watching ads check out
I smiled at the name of the site. That was the name of my web business (Firebrands)before I joined up with another web business.
I like this commercial for Nokia for the reason it conforms to the idea of 'interestingness' which was the biggest thought I encountered in 2007.
Auspicious occassion. This is post number 800.
I have been a little lax. Trying to write my novel is taxing me.
Perhaps taking a little rest will give me 'fresh legs'?

I have seven chapters drafted. It's ticking along nicely.

A mind expanded… Widgets

New toy from Amazon…the reading list.

There will be a test.

Code Red

Had a catch up with an old school chum this afternoon - Phil Twyford, the boy who brought Wombles to the North Shore.

Now a full grown man Phil is the Labour Candidate for the North Shore of Auckland. he seems to have none of the cynical arrogance of the Cullen/Clark generation.

I copied him on a letter to the incumbent National MP (who should earn the title - the invisible man - has anyone ever seen him in the electorate or…heaven forbid…in Parliament? I have never heard his voice. He's been there so long the last time we heard him speak it was probably a choir boy falsetto maiden speech). Twyford replied and invited me for a beer. Mr Mapp ignored me. Hmmm

Anyhoo…Fascinating conversation. Got me thinking.

I like that.

There could be a more thoughtful post in the next day or so…bit I'm not making any promises.

I'm standing by my non partisan position. It's the Emersonian way.

But you gotta respect a 12 year old who can convince an entire school to pick up rubbish (that's…

Caveat Emptor

I sold my motorcycle a couple of weeks back. It went to a chap in Nelson. It seems to have been a touring bike after all, but with no one aboard. Actually it may be been cursed, a ghost bike. The day its new owner went for his first ride the clutch failed. Regular readers will recall the day I took my first ride the front brake seized - sending me ignominiously over the handlebars.

The buyer is grumpy. Understandably so. But the problem is that I didn't know about the clutch when I shipped it off to him. I would either have not sold it if I had known or I would have indicated in the advertisement on the auction site that the problem existed and would need a repair. I flagged the problem with he rear brake (which I told you about here).

If he lived in the same town he would have wanted his money back, or so he says.
It is a shame because he seems to be a decent, older bloke. We've corresponded on the matter. I've explained that I was unaware of the problem, that I had ridden t…

I saw stars at the Rialto Reunion

In 1986-88 I worked at an ad agency called Rialto. The agency collateral said that the reason for the choice of name was inspired by the Rialto Bridge in Italy. I knew that wasn't the case - I'd worked for Roy Meares who was one of the two founders and had heard his story about how he was trying to think of a new name for an agency he and David Innes had been backed into by Hylton Mackley of Clemmenger. Driving through Newmarket he noted the old theatre Rialto and thought it would make great premises - certainly better than the bland, multi-level prefab that housed the host agency Whitaker Advertising. They didn't score the building but did manage to appropriate the name. And what a bloody good name it is. Or should I say, was.

20 years later the reunion for Rialto staff was organised by Elliot Smith. He was courier in the last gasping days of the company after it had been dealt savage knocks by clients who couldn't pay their bills after the stock market collapse in 87 …

Serious about chocolate?

My friend Toni bought a business on the TradeMe website. Chocolate brownies. Hmmm, curious. It fascinated me that she would shell out a not inconsiderable amount of money for a really, really bad website, a cardboard box with some handwritten lists of customers, a brand name and some pretty horribly designed cards and a magic recipe. (Is this starting to sound like Jack and the Beanstalk?). The business is called Serious Brownee.

Once I had gotten over looking at her incredulously and repeating the words…"You didn't…" in that concerned, chuckling way that friends express incredulity - I resolved to do what I could to make myself useful. Now, I'm not much of a baker, so I applied myself to helping out with the marketing: positioning, packaging, webstuff.

Toni has done an amazing job of bring the concept alive. The recipe has been perfected (and she plans to develop limited edition - Gentai - versions. If you are serious about chocolate - get in quick).

With Christmas c…

Presentation Zen

Everybody in business should get better at presentations. I don't mean become more flamboyant - it might be simply a case of being more focused and organised so that I can understand what you want me to do.

One of my favourite sites on the web is Presentation Zen written by Garr Reynolds. The good news is that he has turned his ideas, experience and talent into a book. Sure to become a classic. Presentation Zen - I've Preordered mine - you should too…

Great quote on his latest post:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” —Shunryu Suzuki

Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter)


Teaching can be rewarding (though not financially). I recently finished my third year as a visiting tutor at Massey University's design school at the Albany campus in Auckland.

This year the experience wasn't very positive - or, perhaps, it was.

I am worried about the calibre of students. Universities have become very competitive in their drive to fill seats in classes. Students have become economic units - EFTs. As a result I believe the entry requirements are not rigorous enough and, as a result, graduating students are benchmarked against a low bar. Though my students are studying design I was shocked by their lack of literacy - by that I mean familiarity with contemporary and historical thought about the subject of design and its associated fields. With few exceptions the quality of written presentations was dire. I found little to enjoy whn marking essays or written assignments.

Perhaps most worrying was a lack of real inquiry. Often thoughts progressed little further than w…

Hamish Keith presents The Big Picture

For crying out loud! What is it with Television New Zealand?

Tonight was the premier airing of Hamish Keith's discourse on art in New Zealand called The Big Picture.

Here is TVNZ's own blurb about the show:

"Art is not made for museums - it's made to be part of people's lives," asserts Hamish Keith, iconic arts commentator and presenter of The Big Picture.

This series tells the story of New Zealand art from earliest rock drawings to the present day.

For the first time, viewers will be able to watch a substantial series documenting in detail some of the most significant art works of our history.

The six one-hour episodes, which were several years in the making,…"

I find it disgraceful that an important show such as this, well made, well researched and, dare I say it, IMPORTANT. Not only for people who are interested in art but also for people who are interested in what makes New Zealand what it is (yes, it is more than rugby and tourism). What makes it worse is…

Would you like fries with your hypocracy?

I have watched both episodes of the American television show Californication that have screened so far. I quite like it. David Duchovney does a good job of being a dissolute post-modern brat who makes the kind of arbitrary decisions that could only be described as amoral. Not immoral because, in my book, sexual activity isn't a moral issue unless it involves criminally indecent behaviour. Regular sexual connection between adults (over the age of consent) is just sex. Sex is good.

The widely reported withdrawal of advertisers responding to pressure from self-appointed morality custodians such as 'Family First' (a curious blanket term for neo-conservatism) is just plain weird. The funniest aspect of the whole scenario is that Burger King, the amoral purveyors of heart-choking food and drink (which I am quite fond of); who also promote their goods with nubile women in bikinis have joined the stampede. I can understand the government's Ministry of Economic Development (sou…

A common sense approach to copyright

One of the things about the TED Talks videos that interests me the most is BMW's sponsorship of the talk videos. Probably the smartest sponsorship I've ever seen. I hope it is working well for them - for purely selfish reasons - the library or speeches from some of the worlds leading thinkers is an amazing resource. It consumes a fair chunk of my bandwidth allowance but I make an allowance for the fact that it is a pretty cheap education.

This talk from Larry Lessig (Stanford law professor) is excellent he has a very well rehearsed presentation style and fantastic visuals.

Learn more about his views on Copyright and the Creative Commons at

Coolaboration 2

I like surprising collaborations. Here's a Doozy. Robert Plant, the iconic singer from Led Zeppelin and Alison Kraus, bluegrass engenue collaborating on an album produced by T Bone Burnette. Robert Plant & Alison Kraus - Raising Sand
I've ordered my copy. Right now I'm waiting to take delivery of the soundtrack to the Bob Dylan tribute movie I'm Not There. Heard a preview on RNZ's show The Sampler…full review to follow.

By the way. I apologise to Neil Young fans for my previous commment. Apparently his music is better than it sounds.

Storywrighting - the plot thickens

I've been busily stealing time to write my novel 'Vanishing Act'.

It is harder than I thought. I don't want it to be at all 'literary' (which, given that I am barely literate, will come as a great relief, I'm sure).

The process is interesting. I have a basic story idea that I am quite clear on.
I really don't know what they will think or say or how they will act until it is laid out on the page.

It reminds me of the endless hours I have spent in darkened video editing suites trying to composit a story that makes sense from scenes that seemed perfectly sensible in a script but take on a completely different aspect once they have been shot; shuttling backwards and forwards, making transitions, clipping dialog, adding effects or music. Yes, I'd say writing fiction is very much like that - in fact I 'see' the action in my mind's eye. When I get stuck I just move on to another part of the story. Who said a good story has a beginning, a middle …

Forever Young

When I watch my kids doing whatever my kids do, I hear Bob Dylan singing:

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

Then I rewind and hear Rod Steward doing an altogether more nostalgic version (and hope never to hear Neil Young's of key tremulo e…

Elam School of Fine Arts show

On the weekend I visited the showing of 4th Year and masters students exhibition and the Elam School at Auckland University. My general impressions…overall, indifference is the adjectve that comes to mind. I suppose 'fine arts' is a take it or leave it kind of thing versus creating ideas for a market. I felt the exhibition lacked any kind of unifying cohesion - the work was displayed in the rambling studio complex throughout two buildings. Some effort at signage or information architecture would have been helpful, as would a gogent system of identifying who the artists responible for the work were - both next to their exhibits or as a catalogue of the event.

My impressions of the works themselves? There were some interesting pieces. Nothing breathtaking. I like painting but there were few examples of painterly craft. Came away feeling rather flat and uninspired. In other years I have wanted to buy some of the works but I didn't this year.

Mind you, I struggled to feel very …

Will work for beer

When the Internet was in its infancy I caught the bug. I created a site called eMale - a men's interest site designed to be a Trojan Horse for men's health. It generated a lot of traffic but not a bean from advertising. When I joined Lion Nathan as creative director for their online brands I closed it down to focus on the job at hand.

One of the ads I made to promote the site to advertisers read: "Will work for beer", hand written text on a torn piece of corrugated cardboard box. The objective was to promote the site as engaging and fun. I should have picked up the phone though. I had a target audience of exactly 2 people. Lion and Dominion Breweries. Ah the vanity…(the truth is I thought it would make a nice ad).

Today I was driving through Auckland city. Went to the Auckland University Elam School of Fine Art's graduation show - fourth year and master's. I'll make a separate post about that. I have pictures to show you. At the bottom of town, by Victoria …

Top 5 Movies

As it is Friday night. For entertainment purposes only:

1. The Duellists - Ridley Scott's first movie - because Harvey Kietel is better talent than a beer ad.
2. Moulin Rouge- For it's mad originality
3. Fight Club - Ditto and for the Pixies' track in the denouement
4. The Usual Supects- Because I didn't pick it
5. Big Fish - Because it was sweet without being saccharine

Others I like:

In Cold Blood
My Life Without me
Three Colours Blue
Henry V(Kenny Branagh Version)
It's a Wonderful Life

My favourite song at the moment is the idiotic fun of the Barenaked Ladies "If I had a million dollars". I may be wizened and cynical at the best of times - but lock me up in my old Volvo and turn the volume up and the truth will out. When I get sick of playing it over and again I move onto Country Joe's 'Kiss My Ass', a light hearted protest song which I think he played at Woodstock. As I'm in the mood for listing things - my third choice is 'Coma Girl…

Mo' Mo

I saw this poster for the New Zealand soda Lemon & Paeroa (world famous in New Zealand).

It is interesting to compare the difference between how breast cancer (which is very well funded)and prostate cancer - which no self respecting man wants to know about - well, not the examination anyway. The approach to talking about uncomfortable topics with blokes requires acceptance that you'll have to be a little bit oblique.

The Movember promotion is brilliant but I wonder if it is so oblique that the fun of it all overwhelmes the message.

By the way I've raised a little money - thank you to my friends who've sponsored my pathetic mo-grow effort.

Oh, and if you don't know what a pash-rash is - pashing is an antiquated form of kiwi vernacular for passionate kissing.

Anyway…sponsor my personal growth…help fund cancer research and if you're a woman I'll throw in a kiss (though might want to wait until after Movember to redeem).

The Society for the Opposition to Public Carbunckles

Over on the redesigned Idealog site you can read my reviews of Wikinomics and The Cult of the Amateur.

I won't preempt your reading but I'd be interested in your feedback.

Also on the site is a discussion about a German Building that Vincent Heeringa was impressed by on his recent visit to Europe. I found it looked horrible - bland modernism without the character of Norman Foster's 'Gherkin' in London or the Guggenheim at Bilbao.

Another commenter has remarked that there will never be agreement on what kinds of buildings on the water in the city. Vince stepped back into the conversation with a remark that suggests that Auckland lacks vision. I disagree with that perspective.

The interesting thing about 'vision' is that it must originate from an individual. Then the vision must be disseminated to a broad supporter base (one way or another).
The design selected for Te Papa (the undisputed worst major public building built on an iconic waterfront location ever bu…

No Bills To Pay

Some individuals and organisations can't afford to buy basic software like Microsoft Office. My daughter's school faced an enormous cost for installing the latest MS Office throughout every classroom and department. And that is before we even start thinking about regular upgrades.

I came across recenly. It is a free, open source suite of products that is cross-platform. I have downloaded a copy and will give it a try. Hey, if it is good enough for the city of Vienna - it's good enough for me.

I thought their banner ad was amusing:

Fuck It - The book.

If you're a sensitive wee soul I ask your forgiveness…

Go make a cup of tea.
Arrange some flowers.

just get the hell out of here!

Ok, I assume we're all adults here.
We should be. It's 11.42. Kids should be tucked up long ago.

John Grant has sent out a heads up to Fuck It. The Ultimate Spiritual Way.

I'm in the mood to like it. A number of my friends have been kvetching about the things that are going wrong in their lives.

When the student is ready, the master will appear.

So, if you've been looking for sympathy from me in the past couple of weeks then I have the book for you.

'… Saying Fuck It feels good. To stop struggling and finally do what you fancy; to ignore what everyone's telling you and go your own way feels just great. In this inspiring and humorous book, John C. Parkin suggests that saying Fuck It doesn t just make us feel good, it is a spiritual act. Indeed, the highest spiritual act. Fuck It is the perfect western expression of the…

A Hair-raising Experience - Movember

A little busy at the moment. Hence lack of fresh posts. And, to be honest with you, haven't felt especially motivated. Preoccupied with my cunning plan for the year ahead. I have developed a media concept that will be exciting if we can make it fly. All the indications are positive. My year of self imposed academic exile is over and I'm keen to crack on.

I'm growing a moustache as part of the Movemeber campaign to raise awareness and cash for prostate cancer

You can sponsor my efforts (bearing in mind that a)I don't do facial hair and b) I don't do facial hair). Mind you it's for a good cause and no worse than a digital-rectal examination - right?

There are campaigns all around the world - visit the site to register to participate.

So, in the spirit of lazy blogging here are a couple of useful links for you.

The first (via BrandDNA) is a very well thought through discussion of advertising writing techniques by Suzanne Pope, who's a CD at Toronto agency John St.

Down with iPod

There's an iPod knocking about here somewhere. But I don't like using it.

There is something weird about having earphones on. I used to love Headphones when I was 15. I could put my cans on, close my eyes and turn the volume up to max. If you've ever heard Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love through headphones you'll know how thrilling music could be when the only other technology available was television. Even that was black and white and in mono sound. Worse I had no control over it. There wasn't even a remote control. In my room with my music, my headphones and lurid thoughts about what it might be like to have groupies I was was in control of a world in which I had no control (we're talking 1978 here people).

But I do like to listen to music while I work. I don't fetishise the iPod-much as I admire it - but I do love iTunes.

In the last hour on Shuffle:

Leonard Cohen - I'm Your man
Kiss - Detroit Rock City
Penguin Cafe Orchestra - Music for a found har…

Molto Grazie…

I'm flattered that one of my favourite bloggers has listed me in her blogroll under the heading of 'Blogs about ideas'. As I said, I'm a flattered and more than a little embarrassed by the chasm between the quality of The Conversation Agent blog and mine. It is beautifully written by Valeria Maltoni whom, I gather, is a PR professional from the United States.

What I like about her posts:

They are always interesting. I find myself engaged with topics that I would not especially be interested in normally.

She writes with humanity. I'm not a big fan of dispassionate objectivity. Often it is a front for dogma. If you've read more than a handful of my own witterings you'll know I am advocate for the Emersonian idea that 'a foolish consistency is the hob-goblin of little minds'. But don't get me wrong - Ms Maltoni isn't inconsistent, on the contrary she is consistently excellent - and never piously 'objective'.

In short she's a wonderful c…