Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book 'em Danno





I forgot to tell you that I got the first 100 pages of my book printed. It arrived from the US the other day. I was surprised by the quality of the job. I've learned something about preparing covers - the title on the spine should read with the baseline at towards the back of the book. Other than that (and the fact that I haven't been able to figure out how InDesign automatically numbers pages (any advice gratefully received).

All in all, well pleased. Just like a bought one.
I'll let you know when you can order a copy.

What goes around…



I hope not.

The latest pimpwear from thre 1975 JC Penney catalogue

From Mom's Basement An Aladdin's cave of kitsch.

Pompous and circumstantial


The Queen of England gave her annual speech to 'her people' on YouTube this year.
I watched it and felt a renewed distaste for the concept of monarchy.

She talks about the disadvantaged in society and how it is the duty of us all to help relieve their situations. Of course she says so from a position of unearned privilege, is that a Ming vase I see at your right elbow ma'aam?

The concept of monarchy, divine right and fealty to an idea that is simply an anachronism in the 21st century is absurd.

I found it offensive that Elizabeth Windsor broadcast a message showing her soldiers in Afghanistan (and though the British Troops in Iraq have stepped back from a 'combat' role the imagery certainly is representative of the military presence of the UK in the middle east). She refers to the seriously wounded and killed in the service of her commonwealth but neatly avoids commenting on the casualties inflicted on the local population, many of them innocent non-combatants.

She may well be a nice old lady in a personal sense but she represents something vile. Not only imperialism and oppression, wrong headed devotion to a cult of succession without merit but also the continuation of dullard ideas such as supporting the war with and ongoing occupation of Iraq.

I know there are British people who love their queen but that doesn't make it morally right. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Germans were smitten by Herr Hitler and even a significant number of Soviets who were stupefied by Stalin.

Before you start wanting to flick me with a wet Charles and Diana tea towel I am not even remotely suggesting that Lizzy is personally responsible for any atrocity. Her position is the atrocity and popularity doesn't make things right - any more than agreement equates to thinking.

I would like to hear in her next announcement that she is stepping down, and closing the shop. Neither Charles nor William will succeed her throne (photogeneity is no grounds for authority). Parliament will attach the family's wealth and grant her and Philip a pension and a pensioners flat somewhere nice, Brixton or the like. All titles and lands will be handed back to the people. Taxes will be reduced (now that the assets can be used for the public good and dividends distributed to the community).

And the world will be a better place.(Sung)

Footnote. Interesting that the YouTube channel has no embedding feature and comments have been disabled. Very telling. A desire to use social media but not to conform to its conventions. Monarchy is a monologue, not a polylogue.

And before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.

For some reason Dylan Thomas came up in the conversation yesterday - on the deck overlooked and overlooking the dense native bush in the Waitakeres where I was slightly toasted by the sun.

This morning I was looking for the copy of 'A Child's Christmas In Wales' I had brought home from the UK to read to my son as a Christmas Eve ritual. I would read it in a silly Welshish accent to the groans of my reluctant audience. It has vanished. Or is in storage. Taylor may have hidden it, or destroyed it to erase the awful memory. So I looked for it, naturally enough, on the Internet. I'm glad I did. I found a fantastic resource - The Life and Works of Dylan Thomas. There you can read the entire thing online and hear it in recorded form.

I have always wanted to hear the Richard Burton version of Under Milkwood. And there it is, right next to the text. Reading along makes more sense of the audio.

Who else has ever written like Thomas?:

"I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, cretonne, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast."

"Alone until she dies, Bessie Bighead, hired help, born in the workhouse, smelling of the cowshed, snores bass and gruff on a couch of straw in a loft in Salt Lake Farm and picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn't looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time."



Dylan Thomas was a hard drinker. He died in New York from a multitude of possible causes, though, interestingly the pathologist remarked that, from the state of his liver, alcoholism probably wasn't one of them. Inspite of becoming comatose after a session of drinking - during which time his lungs filled with liquid.

Dylan himself said "An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do."

Yakky Da Boyo…and all that.

Pulling back The Curtain

When I was a teenager I randomly chose to read The Book of Laughter and Forgettingbook of laughter and forgetting by Milan Kundera. It was a random choice in that I had no intention of reading anything in particular but had recently read the slightly disturbing book The Dice Man by Luke Reinhart (in which the protagonist - if I can describe such a vividly amoral character that way) makes choices with the roll of the dice. My intention was to read the first book whose cover I liked. From memory the cover of 'Laughter and Forgetting' showed an illustration angels dancing on the head of a pin.

The book made quite an impression on me at the time. My knowledge of the history of Czechoslovakia and the Russian occupation was virtually nil and so much of the political context and back story of the book was utterly lost on me. But wading in the shallows was impressive enough. I simply liked the way the stories were told - which may or may not be the consequence of having been translated from Czech to French and then into English.

I have been reading an essay by Kundera about the art of the Novel called The CurtainMilan Kundera - The Curtain. Learn more at Amazon (A magic curtain, woven of legends, hung before the world'). It is quite scholarly but enjoyable for its insights. Tucked neatly into the last page is this comment, headed "Eternity" which I found fascinating and thought provoking:

There were long periods when art did not seek out the new but took pride in making repetition beautiful, reinforcing tradition, and ensuring the stability of a collective life; music and dance then existed only in the framework of social rites, of Masses and fairs. Then one day in the twelfth century, a church musician in Paris thought of taking the melody of a Gregorian chant, unchanged for centuries, and adding to it a voice in counterpoint. The base melody stayed the same, immemorial, but the counterpoint voice was a new thing that cave access to other new things- to counterpoint with three, four, six voices, to polyphonic forms ever more complex and unexpected. Because they were no longer imitating what was done before, composers lost anonymity, and their names lit up like lanterns marking a path toward distant realms. having taken flight, music became, for several centuries the history of music.

All the European arts, each in its turn, took flight that way, transformed into their own history. That was the great miracle of Europe: not its art but its art become history.

Alas miracles do not endure for long. What takes flight will one day come to earth. In anguish I imagine a time when art shall cease to seek out the never-said and will go docily back into the service of the collective life that requires it to render repetition beautiful and help the individual merge, at peace and with joy, into the uniformity of being.

For the history of art is perishable. The babble of art is eternal.


This thought reminded me of Russell Davies' video piece about polyphony, relative to brands- rather than having a militant brand structure that demands every aspect of communication be repeated in a singular form - he uses the Intel audio sting as an illustration. I would add that it is unnecessary that every message issued by the brand share a common form it can be varied depending on the audience's needs and characteristics. The history of branding is littered with dogmatic brand guides developed by designers, which are simply manuals for the application of logos. Polyphony is an idea that does make very good sense and is reiterated in the introduction of Living Brands by Raymond Nadeau - though the metaphor in Living Brands is that communications of the future will be more biodiverse - more like Harare than Canberra or Brasiia.

I realise my association with the Kundera extract and brands is a little tangential.
It also made me think about the nature of creativity and communications. I have submitted a column to Matt Cooney, editor of Idealog magazine that is critical of the calibre of ideas that emerged in the end of year shows from Auckland's design schools. Rather than see much work that was the product of significant research I felt much of it was an expression of an orthodoxy of the moment - "In anguish I imagine a time when art shall cease to seek out the never-said and will go docily back into the service of the collective life that requires it to render repetition beautiful."

I am travelling to Wellington early tomorrow to visit and lurk about the attractions and sights. Particularly interested in the Whales exhibition at Te Papa. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And now for the news

Because I'm lazy and groaning under the weight of pointlessly consumed calories (happy birthday Jesus), I've dug out an episode of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe that talks about television news and its origins. Brooker is very, very funny. But the trick is that his message is very, very serious. The only place you'll find more finely observed editorial commentary in from Graydon Carter in Vanity Fair magazine. Watch and weep ladies and gents. Watch and weep.





If you'd like to positively gorge yourself on Screenwipe a chap has assembled every moment of every series here.

Flights of fancy


I get a kick out of imaginative reinterpretations of old ideas. In the 1930s the Germans repurposed their Zeppelin technology from being a platform from which to rain terror down on London during the first world war to become a floating luxe hotel to cross the Atlantic with panache (or whatever the German equivalent of panache might be). The Hindenberg disaster put paid to travel by blimp, it's popularity going down like a flaming lead zeppelin.

The Manned Cloud is a very, very cool concept that could; by all accounts be airborne in as little as a year from now. Aside from the cool whale design of the blimp it would be able to circumnavigate the globe in as little as 3 days. I'd be inclined not to rush things.

The craft would be able to land in places where conventional aircraft would not - it doesn't need a runway and, like a cruise ship, the cloud is its own accommodation centre.

According to its designer, Jean Marie Massaud, this hotel-cruise-dirigible will allow the travelers to enjoy a non-stop round the world in 3 days, while staying in any of its 60 rooms.

Unlike a fixed wing aircraft it doesn't need fossil fuel to stay aloft, so it's carbon footprint is minimised by floating on helium (which isn't explosive like its ill-fated predecessors).

I, for one, would rather charter this baby than hurtle through the upper atmosphere aboard a Virgin Galactic missile.

Air New Zealand should order one or two today to waft the super-rich around our beauty spots and Antarctica without delay.



Just a thought.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Overcoming inertia.


I think the measure of a great teacher is one who brings a topic alive. I was just reading in the NY Times about a physics professor at MIT who does just that.
. I won't reiterate the content of the article here, I recommend you read it and visit Prof Lewin's online courses to see for yourself the phenomenon…I very nearly became interested in physics. I never have been before.

And, if you doubted for a moment that living in the 21st Century is as good as it gets, MIT have free online courses here. Ignornance can run but it can't hide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What is my motivation?



Ah, the voice over booth. The scene of many a tragi-comic exchange. Nicely captured in 'The Santa Sessions' (above) and in the trailer for Jerry Seinfield's movie 'Comedian' (below) - which is the best trailer for a movie I ever seen. Or, rather, the best trailer for a movie I've never seen. Was it released? (apparently so, it rates a 7.0 on the IMDB.

Google Omniscient?

The wires are beginning to fill with chatter about a new product from Google. The Knol. It will be an encyclopedia like Wikipedia - except the content will be created by expert authors accredited by Google. I don't have any issue with that. Students have been discouraged from relying too heavily on what they read in the Wikipedia because the source is unverified. It is, after all the work of unknown authors with axes to grind, agendas and, quite possibly, sketchy knowledge of the topic. Errors and omissions can be altered by others, making it an organic process.

I have read some criticism of the Knol suggesting that Google's success, in part, has been based on its independence from the content. With knol it will share revenue with the content creators from the Adwords panels that appear on the page. Knol would also, most likely, be given a priority in searches, pushing Wikipedia down the list of search results. That might be construed as anticompetitive.

Others have doubts over
whether Google can pull it off. The company has a history, a tradition almost, of starting things they don't finish. A PC World blogger wonders whether the company is overextending itself.

It is also quite possible that Google won't launch it at all and are simply testing the waters. Certainly the level of buzz is increasing, ranging from paranoid (the Google will own everything/evil empire) to the yippees of the folks who hate the idea of wiki-anything. I don't feel afflicted in either sense. Will watch with interest.

Screenshot of Knol

Generosity


I wanted a picture for the cover of my book. My way of working is to visualise things. Make things seem real even before they really exist. It's something I learned working in advertising. People are visual. If I was to present you with a long document you'd yawn and read it later. I posterise the idea and it's a whole different story. So I was thrilled when I found a perfect image on Flickr. Contacted the photographer and within days had a permission to use the image - in return for a credit.

So, thanks to Zoran Kovacevic, a superb photographer…and generous with it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Never mind the icecaps



…Mr Whippy is melting.

A clever installation by the Glue Society "Hot with a Chance of a Late Storm" "a comment on global warming in which a melting ice cream van oozed across the promenade and onto the sand at Tamarama in Australia last year as part of Sydney’s Sculpture by the Sea event" via Creative Review Blog

Oddly enough I feel a strange craving for ice-cream…and gherkins. Could I be…no…

I shot one of the characters in Vanishing Act yesterday. We'll, I didn't but someone did. But who? Colonel Mustard, dining room, Colt 45. Have to decide whether he will survive or not. Oh, the humanity…

Everybody has to start somewhere

Let's have a McDonald's moment

Here's where it all began.



…Here's where it all goes a bit strange.



And here's a curio from 1973 when reporters smoked and Ronald spoke.I'm Lovin' it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

CEX Mad


I had an idea a little while ago. What if there was a venue where creative entrepreneurs could exchange skills to get private projects off the ground? It came to me when I was listening (actually only half listening) to a presentation by Mark Wheldon of the NZ Stock exchange talk about the stock market - I think (I tend to glaze a little on these things). It was an Idealog function at the Hilton on Princess Wharf. Lots of suits. How did the creative economy get hijacked by the suits I thought to myself? Which naturally segued into Hey, how about setting up an exchange for us - the people who actually create things. We need to speed up the creation of IP; make money in our sleep from our fabulous endeavours.

So, today I launched the beta verison of the CEX - The Creative Exchange. It's rustic right now. I'm offering to trade some of my skills for some web development time.

Anyway, check it out www.thecex.com

If you have a project and would like a hand to realise it - register your project.

Let me know your feedback through the CEX blog - or here.

Yorkie Brand Curio



I'm not sure if it would be legal to package your brand with this overt positioning in New Zealand. We're very PC here. Which is code for 'big girls blouses'.
Apparently sales of the enrobed chocolate bar from Nestle has increased since the 'Not For Girls' message began appearing on pack. Biggest increase in sales…you guessed it…women.

My friend Dr Gill Webster, the brilliant scientist who is working on a vaccine to cure HIV, told me the other day that the chromasome that makes men is getting shorter and that, soon, male humans will be redundant. Presumably women will find all the satisfaction they need from Yorkie bars.

The mind boggles.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sage advice from Carl Sagan



The threat of nuclear war seemed to subside after the end of the Cold War. Nonetheless this presentation by Carl Sagan is as pertinent today as when it was recorded (seems to be a theme for the week). The threat to planet Earth might be different today - climate change and environmental brinksmanship have become our dread fixations - Though sabre rattling by the 'dim leader of the free world' about Iran may give us pause for thought if we imagine ourselves safe.

Via Presentation Zen

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Going Green



More rubble. I found this snap of my old Willys truck and Sunbeam motorcycle. I guess I had a thing for green. Actually it was utterly random that I ended up with two old machines in kermit shades.

Both machines had a nice, cruisy quality. Little kids would wave and laugh. Mostly laugh as their mum's station wagon overtook me on the upside of the harbour bridge.

I made an idle remark to my first wife that I always wanted a cobb pipe like Eisenhower or the hillbilly bears in the old fashioned cartoon about, well…hillbilly bears. So she got me one. I have never smoked so it was an affectation to drive my old truck with my cob pipe clenched between my teeth and my big hairy dog in the passenger seat.



Those were the days.

True today as it ever was


I always liked John Webster's work - although I never found the Cadbury Smash Martians to be all that endearing.

If you look at the date on the lower right hand side of the clipping in the picture you'll see it was January 1988. I tore it out of Campaign magazine when I was a copywriter, working at an advertisng agency called Rialto. My office had a panoramic view of the Auckland harbour. When I wasn't looking out of it I was tearing things out of Campaign.

The interesting thing about the viewpoint by Mr Webster (sadly now deceased)is that almost everything he said back then, 20 years ago, is just as true as it ever was.

"Whoever it was that created the human mind designed it to respond to a set of basic emotions: love, fear, pride, envy, humour-things like that. Anyway, in the list of of priorities it's fair to guess "scratch video" came pretty low"

"Faced with the onslaught of computer-graphics, paint-on-film animation, grain and pop-promo look-alikes, how did the human mind respond? It switched over, as a man, to EastEnders, consistently the most popular programme of the year and not a laser in sight."


Perhaps the web changes that, rebalances things - Web 2.0 at least. Can't remember when I last visited a Flash animated site.

I like the crusty old artifact - which fell out of a book by that other crusty old artifact David Ogilvy, Blood Brains and Beer, his autobiography.

Clean up D&AD




I have been clearing out my books and the rubble that has accumulated over the year.
You might be interested in a couple of D&AD Annuals (if you live in Auckland - they're heavy to ship). I've listed them on an Auction. They are very rare. Not available retail (here in NZ at least).

Great thought starters for you designy, arty creative types.

2006

2007

Biting the hand you fed

Winston Peters cynically donated $158,000 to Starship Hospital. In his weird 4th dimension he imagined that, instead of repaying the money to the statutory authority he gave it to a fluffy charity.

How in the name of all that is reasonably understood by New Zealanders can he possibly imagine that satisfies his obligation?

If you get a rates demand from your city council you pay it to the council, not the Salvation Army.

Peters is a cynical, grandstanding game player. Strip him of the 'baubles of power'.

If you vote him back into office then you are probably senile.

He counts on it.

Good on the board of StarShip for tearing up the cheque.

I'll send them one of my own (for a substantially lesser amount than the one Peter's cynically offered) and so should you.

Peter's media assault on Starship is disgusting.

Idealog #13 Column

Here's my column in the latest editon of Idealog Magazine:

How do advertising agencies differentiate themselves from their competition? “Easy!” I hear the cry go up “We’re more creative than them.”

If you were to rank New Zealand ad agencies on the basis of their creative output how would you do it? By the number of awards that they won in the previous year? Awards don’t all have the same currency. You might argue that prestigious awards like British Design & Art Direction or Cannes Lions have more gravity than, say, the kiwi Axis awards. The local award might be a more useful measure of ability because it is judged by peers from local industry. On the other hand D&AD or Cannes is more credible because it is not judged by peers in the local industry.

What happens if an ad agency has cabinets full of awards for advertising you think is bollocks? …scam ads or ‘ambient’ messages that were noticed by exactly seven people (two of whom were the art director’s dear old schizophrenic mother).

What happens when the creative director with more award gold Croesus is lured to a rival creative shop? How can differentiation of a brand be dependent on individuals who are just about as loyal as Henry Tudor to his wives?

So, if you own or run an agency, how can you differentiate yourself from rivals (some of whom won’t even be ad agencies )?

Own something. Don’t just do something. Everybody can do the things required to make great advertising, one way or another.

Own a category. If you specialise in a particular area clients will be attracted to your depth of knowledge. If there are few prospective clients in the category aim to have a relationship with the brightest and the best. Add more verticals over time to progressively increase share of market. Develop a reputation for being the only one who understands consumer motivations in a category. Develop international markets for your insights (New Zealand used to be considered a perfect microcosm).

Own your IP. There is plenty of scope for developing proprietary products in marketing communications. Commoditisation of advertising services has dessicated margins. Competition has driven prices down. One of my motivations for creating Family Health Diary was my love/hate relationship with pitching for business. I felt that, if we owned the product and it was distinctive, clients would have to come to us. It has proven to be a highly profitable strategy. No more fickle new business swimsuit parades and ‘conflict of interest’ from multiple clients in the category isn’t an issue. Why hasn’t the ad industry developed any technology of note? Make it a priority.

Have your own voice. Turn people away who don’t really want what you have. The choice to work with an agency is entirely subjective. Don’t set numeric new business development goals. If your rainmakers bring the wrong clients into your business they will meet their billings targets but unleash hostile cultural forces that can poison your relationship with staff and stakeholders. You wouldn’t marry someone thinking you could change them to suit you…would you? It seems obvious, but it is often ignored by agencies. Look after your own brand.

Don’t think us and them. Embed yourself in your client’s business. I’m not talking about the traditional factory tour for the account team when you win the account. Get an intimate knowledge of your client’s business and for crying out loud, stop being pansy about ‘creativity’. The days of the magic black box are over. You know what I mean: client briefs you…you go away and come back with… ‘Tah-Dah’… the ‘clear your mantelpiece…make room for the gongs’ solution. If you’re not engaging with your clients every day on an intimate level don’t be surprised when they run off with someone who does. Think about how you collaborate with your clients to co-create. Teach them some of your tricks. Open the kimono. Charge for it.

Differentiation by conformity is a one-way ticket to a hiding. The real difference you make, at the end of the day, is to be capable of making a profitable difference to your client with solutions they can’t buy at any price elsewhere.

The tallest midget in the world

If you're going to do something, you might as well be the best at it.
I recently read Seth Godin's book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). I'd been asked to review it. The interesting part of his short thesis is that not everything is worth doing. Knowing when quit is crucial. Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em and all that.

On that subject: The best ugly person in showbiz - the Pogues' Shane McGowan (Lyle Lovitt can only manage a distant second) singing the best of the worst genre in music: The Christmas Song…

Monday, December 10, 2007

How to stop a bullet and a mad dog

This has been a terrible year to be a member of the constabulary. Or a wonderful one, depending on your point of view.

There has been a litany of Keystone Cop events, possibly the most enduring of which was the failure of a platoon of heavily armed police to gun down a supposedly dangerous dog using the latest in their semiautomatic weapons armoury. The scene seemed to reflect a lack of training, discipline or skill (or a combination of all three).

Only a matter of days before police had gunned Stephen Bellingham, one would have to argue, like a dog in the street. He was advancing on several police with a hammer.

The interesting thing about the Bellingham case (which is currently being investigated as a homicide) is that it fuels the debate about the use of tasers - which it seems will inevitably be widely introduced following a trial by the NZ Police. Police argue that the streets are filled with P-Crazed violent offenders and the use of tasers will prevent the need to shoot them in order to arrest their antisocial acitivites.

This is plainly faulty logic of the highest and most insidious order. It fails to explore any, more obvious and sane, alternative.

For example: train police to disarm or restrain a violent offender using a reasonable amount of force. There are a number of martial arts that use an opponents own strength to disable the threat. Perhaps it would require too much commitment to ongoing training. A quick fix solution has obvious attractions. Cheaper to hand a corpse to a family than investigate an alleged crime and certainly cheaper than maintaining high standards of skill and self discipline.

In the even that a gun must be used - and, surely, such an event must be rare - then shooting to halt or disable must be better practice than the use of a lethal shot.

Reports of the Bellingham shooting suggest the shot was taken from a metre away. Point blank. That begs the question why wait until the target was so close if the policemen (there was several) before taking decisive action. The implication is the shot was taken out of fear or panic. A more considered action would have been to shoot to wound at a point when the officer had more control over the situation.

Which takes us full circle to the case of the Rottweiler armed police failed to halt in a hail of bullets:

The young officers at the scene then began shooting at the dog as it ran around the property, he said.

When asked why police fired so many shots at the dog, Mr Spence said shooting at moving things in real life was different to shooting at targets at the range.

"It was a small, fast moving target. I am satisfied no members of the public were put at risk [by the shooting]," he said.NZ Herald



"Shooting at moving things in real life was different to shooting at targets at the range". I thought that was worth repeating for its obvious comic-tragic effect.

The dog survived unharmed and was able to be pacified while the man who had set him on the police was apprehended inspite of throwing wood, a baseball bat and, get this, a tomahawk at them. Hmm,…hammer…tomahawk…I think you get the point.

The use of tasers is under doubt around the world. The United Nations has said they represent a violation of international conventions because their use is a form of torture and it is 'cruel and unusual punishment'.

Police have been quick to whip up a climate of fear to justify their behaviour…apparently out streets are not only filled with violent loonies but also, it saddens me to say it, 'terrorists'.

The government has stepped back from all of this, the minister claiming it is all proceedural. Is law and order - or more importantly - justice is something that is simply a matter for furrowed brows and the rhetoric of election campaigns.

It is a post 9/11 syndrome that is infecting the world.

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair blogs about it:

Tased and Confused

John Cole at Balloon Juice has been keeping diligent tabs on zap-happy law enforcement, the most recent incident being the Tasing of a hearing-impaired gentleman named Donnell Williams who had just emerged daisy-fresh from the bathtub, clad only in a towel. Finding guns pointed at him by police responding to a call of what later proved to be a false claim of shots being fired, Williams improvised as best he could under the frightening circumstances:

“I kept going to my ear yelling that I was scared. I can’t hear! I can’t hear!”

Officers were worried about their own safety because at the time it appeared Williams was refusing to obey their commands to show his hands. That’s when they shot him with a Taser.

The War on Terror has given increased license to a militarized supermacho SWAT team mentality intended to excuse all sorts of bullyboy tactics. Fortunately, Williams survived, unlike scores of other "tag, you're it" Tase victims.



And, then there is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police demonstrating how they 'always get their man'.



Next time you nip down to the supermarket to buy some nappies and are pulled over by a cop for speeding just hope he or she isn't packing heat of any kind and having an off day.

Oh and one other thing, can we end the vile coverage of Clint Rickards, it's creepy to continue to give him column inches and airtime to slander Louise Nicholas and make himself out as a victim.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Lady Toreth Hughes lies, dying…

I received this in my inbox just this morning.
You have to love the language (reminded me of the Ze Frank presentation to TED - see below)


52 Oxford Street,
Manchester M13 9L,
England.

Here writes Lady Toreth Hughes, suffering from cancerous ailment. I was married to Sir Richard Hughes an Englishman who is dead. My husband was into private practice all his life before his death. Our life together as man and wife lasted for three decades without child. My husband died after a protracted illness. My husband and I made a vow to uplift the down-trodden and the less- privileged individuals as he had passion for persons who can not help themselves due to physical disability or financial predicament. I can adduce this to the fact that he needed a Child from this relationship, which never came.

When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of 20 Million (20 Million Great Britain Pounds Sterling which were derived from his vast estates and investment in capital market) with his bank here in UK. Presently, this money is still with the Bank.

Recently,my Doctor told me that I have limited days to live due to the
cancerous problems I am suffering from. Though what bothers me most is the stroke that I have in addition to the cancer. With this hard reality that has befallen my family, and me I have decided to donate this fund to you and want you to use this gift which comes from my husbands effort to fund the upkeep of widows, widowers, orphans,destitute, the down-trodden, physically challenged children,barren-women and persons who prove to be genuinely handicapped financially.

I took this decision because I do not have any child that will inherit this money and my husband relatives are bourgeois and very wealthy persons and I do not want my husband's hard earned money to be misused or invested into ill perceived ventures. I do not want this money to be misused hence the reason for taking this bold decision. I am not afraid of death hence I know where I am going. I do not need any telephone communication in this regard due to my deteriorating health and because of the presence of my husband's relatives around me. I do not want them to know about this development.

As soon as I receive your reply I shall give you the contact of the bank in UK. I will also issue you a Letter of Authority that will empower you as the original beneficiary of this fund. My happiness is that I lived a life worthy of emulation. Please assure me that you will act just as I have stated herein.
H
ope to hear from you soon.

You can contact me through my personal email…

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Must have…


Have you ever nipped down to the shops to pick up a loaf of bread and some milk and come home with kalamata olives, stinky blue cheese and a six pack of Belgian heavy beer?

I guess that is what happened here. I was perfectly innocently looking for information about superyachts - research for Vanishing Act, my book - when I came across this baby…

The Dodge Tomahawk…8.5 litre V10

Ignore what I said before.

Dear Santa…

Ode to the amber nectar


There are very few international beer brands. Beer is a regional product. Partly because it doesn't travel well: heavy, subject to degradation from light…all sorts of reasons.

Perhaps the most obvious one is that beer is often highly partisan. When Steinlager, the premium New Zealand beer, was at its peak its advertising was closely linked with the brand's sponsorship of the All Blacks - when rules about not using 'heroes of the young' were like Italian speed signs,…guidelines. National pride was its selling point - if only by association. But beer is more regional than national. Waikato Bitter is not consumed by anyone in their right minds outside of the Waikato region. Lion Red was predominant in the north half of the north island. Wellingtonians had their very own sub species - Lion Brown and, of course in the south Speights Ale was favoured.

Times have changed recently. In the search for more exotic experiences an increasingly homogenised population turns to brands that express one's difference, rather than one's conformity. So, the perfectly ordinary Speights is sold to perfectly ordinary blokes in Auckland, on the promise that it will confer upon you all of the illusory qualities of a 'Southern Man'. For example you will be perceived as a good Mate. Capitalisation intended. Yes, camaraderie and mateship go with beer. Though the chemical makeup of a Campari and soda is not very different from a Speights (mostly water)Campari doesn't, under even with the most liberal interpretations of mateship, confer this mythic status on one. In fact I'd go as fas as to venture you will have few mates if your 'shout' produces a Campari. Pimms is worse still.

Nowhere have I seen this anthropological truth more elegantly expressed than in the clip above. O Canada… quite special. Strange. But special…ay.

Your days are numbered



I have a friend for whom the height of Christmas cheer is to have a Blinky Bill advent calendar - the kind with a chocolate morsel behind each numbered flap. Not, I am assuming, to fetishise the countdown to Christmas, but to meter her chocolate consumption.

It fascinates me how attracted we are to lists. Turn them into a countdown and we go into a lather of excited anticipation…what will be number one.
I came across this little work on art out there in the wilds (via Laughing Squid). It is genius. The only reason for the inclusion of a movie in the sequence is its use of a number. My personal favourite is 35, a line from Harvey (I think), the movie where Jimmy Stewart is Elwood P. Dowd who has a 6 ft invisible rabbit as a friend:

"Well, I wrestled with reality for 35 years doctor and I am happy to state I finally won out over it."


Why Not call me Ishmael

Toyota are a company that proudly claims to be committed to the environment - as you'll see in their 'Why Not' campaign in North America. (Link via Another Planning Blog). It's a cute commercial - I used to have own a Fiat Abarth that looked like it was rotting before my very eyes at, roughly, the same speed as the one in the commercial.

Oddly enough I was thinking about Toyota the other day. They are one of Japan's biggest and certainly most high profile companies and the number one car producer in Japan. Their hybrid cars are the highest profile.

But there's a problem with Japan. It wants to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean

"Japan has declared that for the first time it will kill 50 humpbacks, as well as 50 fin whales and hundreds of minke whales. The Japanese argue that the ban on whale hunting means levels of fin and humpback whales have recovered and they can withstand being harpooned again." NZ Herald


The Japanese claim the whaling will be for 'scientific' purposes. I am not sure what value the hunt has ever delivered to science but any country that can make a robot play a violin must, surely be able to conjure something good out of environmental violence.

It is well known that the slaughtered whales are butchered and made commercially available for food. Not that the meat is popular in Japan. They can't get rid of the stuff.

Though commercial whaling has been banned since the 1980s to protect the animals from being hunted to extinction, Japan still brings in the world's largest catch from annual harvests of legal "scientific whaling." Research shows that whale meat has become readily available to Japanese consumers at specialty restaurants and gourmet grocery stores nationwide. Animal rights activists decry the practice as small-scale commercial whaling in disguise -- a charge Japanese officials reject.

Some opinion polls show that younger generations of Japanese are more interested in conservation than culinary delights. The price for whale meat in Japan has decreased in recent years -- falling to $12 a pound in 2004 compared with $15 a pound in 1999. Demand for whale meat has been anemic. Last year, the industry put 20 percent of its 4,000-ton haul into frozen surplus.

So the government and pro-whaling groups have pumped cash into the promotion of eating whale meat. The government is spending about $5 million a year on such campaigns, while groups of housewives and other organizations are sponsoring whale cooking classes and related seminars to stimulate the market, according to officials and industry sources. Washington Post


So, what is the connection?

Given the Japanese government's active desire to reintroduce commercial whaling - on the grounds of preserving their country's 'culinary tradition' some strategy, other than threatening to ram whaling vessels which will antagonise a section of the public (the Japanese cleverly introduced the Terrorist unspeak when referring to the environmental activists Sea Shepard who threatened to give the whaler Nisshin Maru 'a steel enema' perhaps a different kind of action should be taken. New Zealand and Australia are leading opponents to the Japanese on the International Whaling Commission but official influence only goes so far.

I suggest a campaign directed at Toyota. Boycott all new Toyota cars, including the hybrids. Let Toyota know they have been symbolically singled out as a leader. If they don't use their influence with Japanese legislators and consumers then their message is simply hollow posing, priapismic promotion. It might sound unfair - but has the US blockade of Cuba - in place since 1962 - been fair on the citizens of that country?

Go on. Have a non-violent whale of a time. Feel free to target any other Japanese brands.

Non consumption as force for social change.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Permission marketing 1.01

What happens when you click the 'Unsubscribe' button on an email from Nestle?
This is what:


Not acceptable.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Starck Raving




Philipe Starck has gone up in my estimation, having watched this video from the TED Conferences.
I have been a little peeved about the calibre of students at design schools M. Starck articulates the idea that design needs to move to a new level of inquiry.
Designers who are happy to make a decorative contribution will be left behind.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Triangulation

I want to share an interesting experience with you.

This evening I was reading a series of essays by Milan Kundera The Curtain: An Essay in Seven Parts I read this:

"While History (mankind's History) might have the poor taste itself, the history of an art Will not stand for repetitions."


David Byrne comments on his blog in a similar way:

Oddly, in the fashion megaverse and some other retail areas, a brand, design or image accepted and successful amongst a tiny (usually wealthy) social demographic means that it will inevitably be desired by those lower down on the social and economic ladder, either via logo imprinted items, knockoffs, counterfeits or copies. The fact that the hoi polloi will now be interested in the item makes it naturally less interesting to the elite. It will go out of favor, and becomes last year’s model, soon to be relegated to the closet or the giveaway pile. If it’s too popular, it can’t be cool anymore. As a result, the creative folks, the designers, feel pressure to come up with a new and different line to appeal to these elites, and as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s called fashion.

Read his entire post


The final point of the triangle was Hamish Keith's reference to painted (rather than carved) Maori whare (houses). That the art form was held in place by a romantic or paternalistic Pakeha impression while Maori themselves pushed on to develop their art with new ideas and technologies (Which reminded me of the story we did in Idealog Issue 3 on George Nuku the Maori artist who carved a meeting house from Perspex).

Curious coincidence? Apparently the human mind works by seeing patterns and 'joining the dots'. I talked about the phenomenon of apophenia before…

Are you insane man?


I have admired the campaign for mental illness that was created by FCB some time ago and which currently stars a former All Black admitting to having battled deppression.

It has done much to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. I understand sales have gone through the roof…but I feel this approach is better. If that gets you down, get in touch with the Mental Health Foundation and stop watching the news.

Women…for pity's sake don't drive


Whatever happened to Harry Enfield? Perhaps he was run out of town by rabid feminists?
I miss quality Bwitish comedy on New Zealand television.

If anyone knows where I can get a copy of the Harry Enfield Guide to Opera…for pity's sake, let me know.

Movember over - thanks.

David MacGregor Mo
Well Movember ended. Thanks to the friends who sponsored me. I am relieved to be able to have played a part in the fund raising for prostate cancer awareness but more relieved to have removed it. Until next year.

Couldn't make it to the Parte but I understand it celebrated raising more than $1.6 million dollars and, hopefully, encouraged more blokes to get their prostates checked.

Not buying into Christmas

At the risk of sounding akin to the Grinch: "Humbug".
I'm already thoroughly tired of seeing advertising for Christmas products and December has barely gotten out of the blocks.

This year I came out as a fully fledged atheist. Observing Christmas, therefore, is about as ridiculous as celebrating Ramadan. I don't know about Ramadan but I do know that most of the people who get swept up in the 'spirit' of Christmas probably have little genuine regard for its religious significance in any case. The inconvenient truth, I if I might borrow from the sage wisdom of Al Gore, is that Christmas - Xmas as it is repackaged to avoid the Christ allusion for those folks who like their religious festivities 'lite', is that the festival is one of consumption.

This year I think it would be useful to consider the following when you are exchanging gift on Christ's birthday:

1. Make it useful. Forget about stocking stuffers. You shouldn't have to overwhelm people you love with rubbish to make their day somehow 'special'. If you think the trinket will go into the trash within days or weeks, then why bother?

2. Check out the packaging. Is it padded out to make the 'experience' seem bigger - i.e. that you are more generous. The rule of thumb is: the more packaging, the worse the product. Be conscious of how much trash you generate in the name of peace, love and compassion for humanity. I have seen sacks of waste being removed from family gatherings. The end of the driveway on trash collection day is not the end of the line for your waste.

3. Does it require batteries? Then it isn't a good gift. Your kids need to learn now that immediate gratification of some flashing lights and robotic/animal sounds isn't worth the hardening of the planet's arteries with wasted from disposable batteries. Make it a batteries not included gift season.

4. Does it mean anything? Is there anything of you in the gift. Anyone can go to The Warehouse or Walmart or whatever your local big box retailer is in your area and buy a cheap toy or knick knack but, as with the thinking behind brands, if the experience is interchangeable then it is meaningless. If your kids don't remember who the gift came from a day (or an hour) after receipt then all you have accomplished is to march them one step closer to being mindless consumers. It might seem an unpopular idea at a time when we have superabundance in the developed world, but gratitude is an important ideal. To be grateful for all we have is a useful notion to celebrate. I acknowledge that it is a part of the Christian tradition, that Christ gave his life in sacrifice, but we live in a time of crisis. Do we we want our kids fiddling with a trashy Transformer toy that inhibits their authentic experience of the world, while that same world is being ravaged by the effects of their unchecked consumption.

As an atheist every day has the same meaning. Without the need for beliefs about an afterlife it leaves one free to be thankful for this day and the next, if there is one.


As a footnote I thought it funny that TradeMe, New Zealand's equivalent to EBay has seasonalised their logo - with ornamental snow. Geography lesson: New Zealand is, largely sub tropical. In the summer (where December resides in this hemisphere) we go to the beach and enjoy barbecues. It looks like South Island farmers will have a tough season as drought conditions are predicted. The marketing team at TradeMe seem to have a climate change message they want to share.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

You are feeling sleepy....

I have never been able to see nudes in ice cubes. I've tried but have never had the pleasure. Subliminal advertising is curious topic. Most of the people who believe this insidious technique is being practiced on them are the same people who simply don't like advertising. While I agree there is much to dislike, the thought that advertisers can fool you into buying something without knowing where your motivation comes from seems to be an oddly paranoid theory. Unfortunately for advertisers most overt techniques don't work so projecting a logo on the screen for a micro second is hardly likely to have any considerable effect. In fact most ads appear below the threshold of normal awareness - they simply have no impact, often because they are not relevant.

Relevance is, I believe, the most important goal for advertising in the 21st Century. Flashing logos on the screen is an irrelevance and serves no meaningful function. If you can't engage with the brand what is the point of the communication.

My guess is that the idea for including the 'subliminal' message was probably that of a 22 year old who reveres the notion as a form of post-modern irony, the advertising equivalent of reviving big collared, polyester shirts and Starsky cardigans. Amusing but pointless.

The presenter of the MediaWatch show is priceless though. I thought she was a parody character - but apparently not. Very worthy.

Thanks to Fran's Random Thoughts for the link.