Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ham sandwich



Mama Cass didn't choke to death on a ham sandwich.
It was heart failure.
So now you know.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I stuffed up

Things are not always what they seem.
I checked and double checked the text of my book.
The mistake I made was that I checked the 'facing pages' option when I made the PDF necessary to upload the book to my printer.

I was looking at the data today and notice that my book was half as many pages as it is in reality.

I had a moment of meltdown. After a conversation online with the printer I realised the error was mine and after a long day had resolved it. I had to redesign covers to accommodate new dimensions.

It was a beautiful day in Auckland. Again. I was stuck inside fixing my mistakes.

It's important in life to fix your mistakes.

Stairway to Kevin

Grudging favorite: Kevin Roberts' Blog. Sometimes I think it is important to disagree. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Agreeing isn't thinking. Baby, this is ThoughtSpurs, round here we think. So the next on my list of permanent links is Mr Kevin Roberts.

Did you know that Kevin keeps/kept an office in the terrific Saatchi office in Auckland? There is/was a stair from reception to his rooms. It was/is called Stairway to Kevin.

Brill. For that pun alone he wins the next permanent link: KRCONNECT. (Not a very Lovemarky name though…I have always found it hard to fall in love with a girl called Hilda or Ena•.

•Ok, Ok, the world loved Hilda Ogden and Ena Sharples from the ancient Coronation Street Programs.

Places for old men

Couple of things.

Had dinner with my friend and colleague Greg Tabron the other day. mentioned I had seen a trailer on TV for a movie called No Country For Old Men. Greg became quite excited, jumped up and pulled a copy of the book from his heaving shelves.(Readers are leaders).
I have reading it every moment I can - it's one of those books. I love the way the characters talk. (They do it without quotation marks.)Hanging out to see the movie. Total package.

Some interesting and encouraging comments from Stan Lee, the Author of BrandDNA, one of my favorite places in the blogosphere. Stan reminds me that that the way to get traffic to your site is to give something of yourself. Stan makes a contribution and gets links in return. Thanks mate. You'll have seen that I stuffed up the other day and changed my template by mistake - so your permanent link was lost. Well it's back and at the top of of the list. Loyalty rocks. As do you.

The BrainForest Press


Who said self publishing was going to be easy?

I have spent the day working on the Brain Forest Press page for Vanishing Act. I am really not much of a designer. Quite rudimentary. Even less of a web developer… but what the heck? What else are beautiful summer's days for if not sitting around making web sites. Tragic really. I turned down an invitation to go out and play this evening. Regretted it as a soon as I put the phone down. But I had to figure out why my forms weren't working properly. Sorted.

I thought it would be fun to see what others thought of my choice of music on the Vanishing Act soundtrack. So I have put a survey of some of the songs online. People who complete it and join the mailing list will go into the draw to win one of four copies of the book (hardback).

I am also offering custom editions for a small additional charge. I'll modify the art for the text to put a personal dedication page in the front pages - So you will be able to write a personal note to a friend or colleague. Corporate editions also available - I'll even allow a logo on the back page in full colour. Drop me a line if you're interested. Corporate support for the arts is always welcome. Quite a novel promotional concept (pun intended).

Drop me a note through the comments function if you're interested in learning more.

Order a copy of Vanishing Act

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Whale Songs


Writing Vanishing Act was an interesting experience. I wonder if I have become so conditioned by contemporary culture that I couldn't see it simply as a novel. In my mind I visualised it as a movie. I have been researching the accepted formats for writing a movie script and I have a trial version of some software called Final Draft that I will use to get my head around it.

I've also created a soundtrack for the book. Is that a first? The tracks are listed on the final page of the book. Some of the music is referred to in the text itself and others are simply related inn some way, mood maybe. Have you noticed that some movie soundtracks feature music that you don't remember hearing in the film? Often they play over the credits or are featured as a fragment or something overheard in the body of the film.

Well, thanks to the wonders of modern technology here it is: The Vanishing Act soundtrack. You can buy the tunes from the Apple iTunes store.


Of course the producers of the movie might have different ideas about the tracks - its a big part of marketing these days. It won't be a deal breaker for me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Love Hate

I'm a little annoyed. I was fooling around putting a blog together for Vanishing Act. On Blogger.com I didn't realise i was inadvertantly deleting the template for this blog. So all the customised elements like links to blogs I read and recommend were lost. When I have a minute I'll have to rebuild. It was probably time for a refresh anyway.

I am also going through a rebuild of my website. Ah, the web…

Your chance to go to TED

A much coveted ticket to the TED conference 2008 which will give the holder access to the main theatre is for sale on eBay. The current bid is for $10,000 (US), the proceeds go to an architecture charity (I know, weird).

Given that TED is sold out for years in advance this is an opportunity for someone with deep pockets.

Me; I'll keep watching the videos online.

It would be nice to meet Meg Ryan though (It's part of the package). Because she is cute as a button. Or was. I always wondered about her role in City of Angels. Brain surgeon. Bicycling. No skid lid. Dies in collision with truck. Now, I realise you'd probably come off significantly worse off mano a mano with an 18 wheeler even if you had a full suit of body armour. But every brain surgeon knows that 22.34% of all head injuries come from bicycling accidents*. Go figure. I wonder if she's still cute, after the accident and all.

Back to TED. One has to wonder how much cash is sloshing around the worlds of corporate business and academia. And how can you and I get our share? (A sentiment that reminds me of the remark about marketing by Seth Godin - I think - "Marketing is how you get your money out of the customer's purse).

But I ramble. Weak from lack of caffeine.


*and 98.765% of all statistics are made up.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Don't believe the hybe

Took my daughter to the library to indulge her interest in Roald Dahl - something to be encouraged, yes? I flipped through the latest Car magazine. Delighted to see the new Fiat 500 took home the Car of the Year gong, whipping the likes of Porsche and Rolls Royce. Other than the new Ford Mondeo the judges didn't feel the any of the others shifted the paradigm. It's not enough to be good or even great anymore.

Interested also to note that the 'greenest' vehicle manufacturer in the European market is………drumroll…Fiat once again, whipping out Toyota (sixth, from memory). Even with the hype over their hybrids it wasn't enough. Fiats cumulatively emit fewer carbon emissions.

Footnote. The series of double page spreads in the front pages of Car magazine are abysmal. It used to be that a spread was something special and to do it for a car brand was the ultimate (in my book anyway). I think my favourite of all time, if only because I can remember it after all these years - for the BMW 635csi. Headline: The average man has 2.5 kids and no BMW 635csi. Perhaps I was partisan - it was my car of the day. I also remember a poster in the London tube showing an Audi Quattro parked stylishly between a pair of temple burners. The Headline simply said 'Kneel Here'. Perfect. Car ads seem a little confused these days. Thank goodness for the editorial.

Vanishing Act - The Appearance


Vanishing Act is now available to buy. I recommend the PDF version at the moment because it is instant.

Hardback
Paperback
or as a PDF download.

I look forward to your feedback.

Suitable for reframing



I like to draw but this guy's stuff is something else. Process Recess is the blog of illustrator James Jean. It is astonishing to see how his work moves from sketch to finished piece. I am in awe of his Moleskin sketches. Not sure if I'm inspired to do more or simply discouraged and will put my pen away for good.



Reminds me of a story. One that might salve my anxiety. I was with a friend and her children at their bach. One of the kids, a high spirited, rough and tumble,pre-teen boy was watching me sketch. He told me that he was hopeless at art and didn't, logically, like it.

"It's easy. It doesn't matter what comes out the other end of the pencil."
I had him make a scribble. Naturally enough it was an energetic, thermonuclear kind of a scribble. A right, I'll show you wiseguy kind of a scribble.
30 seconds later it was an armadillo. The truth is that everything becomes an armadillo if you want it to be.
"See, drawing is just scribbling with style…"(Homage to Buzz Lightyear)
He spent the rest of weekend scribbling with style.

Sometimes reframing is all it takes.

My this frypan really is hot



How times have changed. A very, very strange Australian Caltex ad from the 60s. Fair Dinkum explained.

The French one is notable for being terrible but featuring a wonderful Citroen DS convertible.

Ignore your competition

A few weeks ago I was flipping through a copy of the Australian Financial Review's magazine BOSS (which is not as dreary as it sounds). It contained a story about Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com (perhaps you've heard of them?). It reminded me of seeing Bezos being interviewed by 60 Minutes back in the day when new web sites made it to mainstream media. I was impressed by his down-to-earth charm and nutty, un-self conscious laugh. At the time he also drove a humble Honda Accord to work (in spite of being worth 500 million).

In the BOSS article he made a remark I have been thinking about since: (paraphrased from memory):

Don't obsess about your competition. Obsess about your customers. After all when did your competition ever give you any money?

I don't think he was advocating operating in a vacuum. Obviously an airline needs to know about the weather as well as whether a passenger has a special dietary requirement or prefers Pinot Noir to Riesling.

Here's an interesting talk by Bezos at TED. Not a classic, but worth a look.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Everyday heroes





The outpouring of mourning at the passing of Ed Hillary, whose state funeral was today, has reminded me of my mate Steve. Steve was best man at my second wedding. I first met him as a client. he was marketing manager for the Newspaper Advertising Bureau here in New Zealand.

He approved work that won us both awards we were proud of. Over the years we became friends. Steve was passed over for the job of executive director of the Bureau. He felt slighted at the time, but in hindsight it was a narrow escape.

He left New Zealand and headed for Hong Kong where he quickly adapted to the ex-pat lifestyle. He became a director of AC Neilsen, the international research firm. He pioneered media studies in China. He told incredible sotries of heading into the wilds of north Asia - just as the economic transformations were beginning to take root. He travelled the world telling conferences of fellow market researchers his stories. I marvelled at Steve's sense of adventure.

Nothing prepared me for the time Steve told me he had been on holiday with a buddy. Nothing so strange about that. I imagined Steve diving somewhere like Phuket in Thailand. Fat chance. Steve had gone climbing in the Himalayas. I made a feature of his story for the web site I owned at the time (eMale). Mad bugger.

Nice to be reminded that there are great adventurers who live next door to us. Or, in Steve's case, in London where he now on top of the world in another sense, he is Global Head of Media at Synovate. Last time I aught up with him in person was in the jungles of the Phillipines - but that's another story.

Looney Invention from Toyota - the iStupid



Toyota have revealed a concept car called the i-Real. According to this video the concept is that you can control the vehicle with one hand while talking on the cell phone with the other. Or drink. Both critical transportation functions, don't you think? Oh, forgot to mention the 'social networking function' that is built in.

You know what I'm going to say next, don't you?

Why?

Let's face it, in the realm of really stupid ideas this one floats instantly to the top, bobbing amongst other monumentally stupid ideas like the Segway and the Sinclair C5 - which, coincidentally had three wheels too (though I don't think it quite managed 30kph).

Is there a market for such a contraption. Can't see why not? In the era of obesity and lumpen stupidity there will be a ready market. I suggest targeting diabetics of the future. They won't need their legs anyway (Remember the scene in 'The Graduate', what business should you go into in the future?…one word - 'amputation'. Hand me another donut - I'm on level 5.

What kind of daft git would be seen driving around in one of these, yapping into their cellphone, juggling a soda (or sake). You will look like Stephen Hawking when you don't have to. Reduce your carbon footprint and walk you fool.

I'm not drinking the Kool Aid.

early social networking experiment - the Sinclair C5. 'Hi,…yes, me too.

BTW - Until the Japanese end the whale slaughter don't buy Toyota products. Write to them and tell them to put pressure on their government to end the carnage.

Recycled advertising


A commercial from a UK energy company made using recycled clips to illustrate their commitment tot being 'green'. Cute. But I am not so sure that the premise of a firm that has never advertised suddenly initiating a charm offensive - 'making a commitment to reducing carbon emissions 60%by 2020' isn't, in itself, increasing the firm's carbon footprint. Surely a campaign showing their customers how to reduce their electrical consumption would make more sense than a corporate message wasted on a significant percentage of the audience who either don't understand the message of are indifferent - not customers, cynical etc?

I hate to say it but there is another thing - the energy used to make the commercial from a quilt of old clips would, in all probability, be just as high or higher than shooting a simple ad, or making it with graphics from a laptop. The number of activities associated with the montage would have been monumental.

In the words of that great 20th Century philosopher, Kermit the Frog, 'It's not easy being green'

Clip via Another Planning Blog

It's just a jump to the left…

I was interested in the idea of Innovating by jumping sideways (from Where's the sausage).
Instead of trying to develop and promote musical acts the same way as the traditional record labels Simon Cowell takes a different path

"He has attacked a big market by coming from an adjacent one. So, he starts with the promotion via a TV series, building up interest in the artists and making money on phone/text voting each week. He then releases the hit single online first (more money). Then the CD. Then there is the tour with the top finalists."

In fact Cowell has always taken this approach (he worked with David Hasselhoff/Night Rider, WWF Wrestling Stars, American Idol etc…) he is music's P.T. Barnum ("No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.)


"The businesses best equipped to capitalise on the changes in the music market structure are those who are adjacent to it. They know enough to see the opportunity, but are not encumbered by existing assets. They simply step sideways and gobble up market share of the music publishing business: TV companies, internet networking sites, musicians, recording studios and more – all adjacent markets that the big record companies once looked on as potential expansion areas are turning heel and attacking back."


"It seems that one of the best ways to innovate might be to watch your neighbour and then steal a nice bit of their turf. Look at Apple and their iPhone. And what is the biggest news in the multi-billion dollar global laxatives market – a laxative brand? No, it’s a yoghurt from Danone – Activia."

I found this an interesting idea. It corresponds with the latest briefing from Trendwatching.com - The Expectation Economy: Key Points:


Your competition could be anyone
…focusing solely on your own industry will obscure the fact that in economies of abundance, consumers are increasingly spending their 'play money' on goods and services that net them the experience, the indulgence, the excitement, the satisfaction they're looking for at a specific moment. Which could be new sneakers (even though they already own five pairs), or a new cell phone (even though their current one is perfectly fine) or a long weekend away (even though, if they're European, it's probably their fourth getaway this year). So if you're, let's say, Nike, you're definitely competing with Reebok and Adidas and Onitsuka Tiger once a consumer has made up his or her mind that it's sneakers he or she desperately wants. But before minds are made up, when shopping for a certain kind of excitement, it may as well be Nokia or Starwood Hotels. Or Zara. Increasingly, you'll be competing with anyone and everyone, which means you need to keep an eye on anyone and everyone.


Expectations can be set outside your industry


…limiting yourself to your own industry will make you miss important changes in consumer expectations, and will thus put you at risk of disappointing or even annoying consumers. Every industry has its own 'innovation competence', and the innovations they're bringing to market not only excite their own customers, they also shape their expectations for other industries. Whether it's Singapore Airlines' sense of status, Starbucks' understanding of indulgence and rituals, H&M's obsession with making up-to-the-minute fashion affordable, or Apple's prowess in design and usability. And while flawless execution is never easy, the thinking and attitude behind it isn't impossible to mirror. Consumers know this, too. Hence their aforementioned indifference and irritation when it comes to the non-H&Ms, the non-Singapore Airlines, the non-Apples.


Copying competitors is a race to the bottom


…if you're obsessed with what your direct competition is doing, you will always end up copying new concepts in your industry. Which means that, unless you're comfortable with being a 'smart follower'*, this is not going to unleash your innovative brilliance ;-)

Now, all of this is of course not to say that you shouldn't actively track what's happening in your own industry. But in the next 12 months, do also constantly ask yourself: who are our other competitors? What experiences could our product or service be traded in for? And what can we learn from other industries setting consumer expectations across the board?



Knowing the solutions to marketing problems based on experience, rather than an open mind (not to mention eyes and ears) is going prove the old adage 'If you do what you always did - you'll get what you always got.'…or less.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Golf Father


My 15 year old son has spent almost every day playing golf these summer holidays. He's obsessed. And quite good. His handicap is around 6 at the moment. I feel as though I hardly see him. So I have come up with a new name for myself. The GolfFather (Inspired by a few moments of Coppola's movie of nearly the same name - I like the scenes in Sicily - do they play golf in Italy?).

In his own image

Watching Sixty Minutes, saw the story of Davy Hughes - the owner of Swazi clothing of Levin. Turnover 10 million (apparently). He likes to hunt and eloquently argues why that's o.k. - he has quite a line of chat. The whole story was tinged with weirdness though. Mr Hughes has been tarred liberally by the brush of narcissism. Watching him trotting around the (Tararuas?) in a kilt with an eighteenth century musket was all just a little cringe inducing. But the thing that struck me most was the video footage of him killing an Alaskan Grizzly bear. The bear ambles into frame, minding its own business - being a bear (whose diet is usually salmon and berries, not people). With the animal passing by the great white hunter takes a shot from a few feet, felling the bear. Not very noble.

I might have simply considered him an eccentric - we need more eccentrics. I might have had I not recently watched Werner Herzog's movie Grizzly man. In the extras was a documentary that showed another truth about the licensed hunt. I recommend you watch it for yourself.

Hughes seems like an engaging chap but he's engaged in activities that I don't think much of. But good for him he seems to be enjoying himself and I agree that meat and fish isn't something that magically appears in the supermarket and I like nothing better than a bloody great big steak. Not so keen on stuffed animal trophies though.

I admire his stance on making his product in New Zealand. He's lucky to have a powerful brand story that means his Swazi range isn't necessarily interchangeable with another brand. His market is a specialised niche that likes his posturing because it probably mirrors their own. Huntin', fishin' shootin mooks.

Ben Kepes quoted Hughes :

“We all know that brands live in peoples minds. When you first enter the market the brand lives entirely in YOUR mind. In its infancy you get to shape it, create behavioural guidelines, help mold character…and then if you have done a good job, it is taken from you. Your customer wrests ownership in the brand. You become the guardian. That is success.”


Well put.

Other thoughts (expressed to blogger Tony)


His business tips were:

1. It's never too late to talk things over.

2. Fire customers who aren't fun.

3. Tell staff they must have 2 possible solutions to every problem they bring to you.

4. Remember there's more to life than business.

5. Customers own the brand.

6. Forget 'passion', focus on 'love'.

7. Treasure your brand & use intellectual property protection.

Love is a many spendored thing



Valentines day story two.

"Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, compounds that provide a mental boost, and phenylethylamine, or PEA, which stimulates the nervous system, increases blood pressure and heart rate, and is suspected to produce similar feelings experienced when a person is "in love." (care of Web MD)

Now, when did flowers ever accomplish something like that?

Contact Toni at Serious Brownee
for your loved one's Valentine's Day Surprise now.

How green was your webhost?

Everything produces a carbon footprint - even the most seemingly benign or passive things. Some industries are obvious polluters, but many of those businesses are trading in carbon markets and offsetting their filthy habits by planting trees. Some are even changing their ways.

I was intrigued by the claims of my webhost in the United States to be 'green' - in fact they are carbon neutral:

"DreamHost is carbon neutral. We've calculated the impact of everything that DreamHost uses and leaves behind in the course of our daily work. All of the resources that we use - paper in the office, electricity for our servers, even the gas in our cars that bring us to the office - leaves behind some kind of soul-sucking residue in the world.

When we learned that running DreamHost generated as much carbon dioxide as 545 average-size homes we realized we had to do something to neutralize our emissions.

With a bit of research we found the most effective approach begins with resource conservation: turning off the lights, reducing travel, printing on both sides of the page. Efforts are being ramped up here daily to do what we do with less. The next step is to use clean, renewable energy. Without the option to put up solar panels or connect with a green power utility for us this means purchasing Renewable Energy Credits. Finally, to neutralize those unavoidable emissions we’ve invested in Emission Reduction Credits (a.k.a. “offsets”) which guarantee our remaining impact is effectively erased. A third-party-certification? Never fear. The credits we use to green our energy consumption and neutralize the rest of our emissions meet the highest standards in the industry."


…all of which makes me feel good. But more importantly they are the best web host I have every had anything to do with over the past 12 years (there have been a few). Low cost - fantastic service and reliability and incredibly easy to use. If you are thinking of setting up a site (or sites) I recommend Dreamhost. Unlike most businesses I have anything to do with they also reward you for being a customer by adding to your storage at no extra charge the longer you stay with them. When did your bank ever do anything like that for you?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Facebook is kaput

I just deactivated my facebook account. Read an article from the Guardian reprinted by the Sunday Star Times about the background to the site and its founders. The thesis was that it is all very sinister and libertarian (Left and right at the same time? - isn't sinistre Italian for left?). All that is all well and good. The article didn't really chime with my views. Turning off my account was simply a product of finding the whole thing a little lame - as reported earlier in the week.

Today I have been trying to finish reading the excellent Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. The story takes a long time to get cracking but I can tell you, with fifteen pages to go it is a cracking read. I can recommend it to you with complete confidence.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Viva Voce

It has been a while since I flipped through a copy of Car magazine. It once had biblical significance to me when I worked on car accounts. I admire it for the investment in photography and writing that would leave one desperately wanting to expand one's carbon footprint - though such a thing did not exist at the time. I have the same regard for Top Gear on television. It's all in the production values, son. (Actually it's more than that…both Top Gear and Car have something crucial. Their own voice. For better or worse Jeremy Clarkson says what's on his mind. Agree with him like a devotee in a cult of just laugh out loud at his ranting, doesn't matter. He's Clarkson and it entertains).

On the topic of finding a voice I was reading with interest the article in the August 07 edition featuring the new Fiat 500 (which I blogged about when it was still but a glimmer in Fiat's eye - Bambina returns.) AN excellent section called "An Education from the Mini Blueprint."

1. Make it feel Italian
2. Crack your home market
3.…Then crack America
4. Prepare for success
5. Make it classless and cool
6. Make each one unique
7. Don't be shy with the pricing
8. let them tick the boxes
9. Not perfect? Don't worry
10. Don't talk about the old one too much

This is an excellent primer for anyone considering developing a product (whether it is a revival or entirely new). Further proof that, sometimes it pays to look outside the convention venues when looking for marketing inspiration.

I'd be very happy with a new Bambina. Maybe the Abarth model. I once owned a 130TC Abarth and it was a sensation. I'd have a another in a flash - if they weren't all simply piles of iron oxide now.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Are I.Q. tests accurate?

I was curious to see what my I.Q. was in an online test by Tickle. I'd been bugged by their banners for years. Finally succumbed. I was surprised by the result. I won't tell you the score but I was intrigued by the analysis:


"Your Intellectual Type Is:

Word Warrior

You are equipped with a verbal arsenal that enables you to understand complex issues and communicate on a particularly high level. These talents make you a Word Warrior.

Whether or not you recognize it, your vocabulary is your strongest suit—use it whenever you can. Since your command of words is so great, you are also a terrific communicator — able to articulate big ideas to just about anyone. Your wordsmithing prowess will also help in artistic and creative pursuits. The power of words translates to fresh ideas off paper too. Since you have so many words at your disposal, you are in a unique position to describe things in an original way, as well as see the future in your mind's eye.

In short, your strengths allow you to be a visionary — able to extrapolate and come up with a multitude of fresh ideas. And you are in good company — bask in the brilliance of Word Warriors who have walked before you. William Shakespeare let loose the power of his pen. His ability to articulate the most subtle nuances of human nature and to create colorful characters are why his stories still have a major impact — even 400 years after he first wrote them. Whether you put pen to paper or use your understanding of the words around you to come up with creative approaches to problems, your potential as a Word Warrior is terrific.

Great Jobs For You
Because of the way you process information, these are just some of the many careers in which you could excel:

* Writer
* Translator
* Publisher
* Attorney
* Poet
* Politician
* Journalist
* Lecturer


Some of Your Greatest Talents
You've got tons of strengths. It wouldn't surprise us if you:

* Can clarify complex issues
* Can articulate commonly understood truths
* Can foster understanding
* Can creatively solve problems"


Interesting. People who now me might like to corroborate or refute.
I'm only sharing this with you because I was inspired by Jack Yan's revealing post Eight Things That You Did Not Know About Me.
Share the love.

Overwhelming

Technology is our friend. Right? I sometimes get the feeling that, no matter how interesting the latest and greatest is it is impossible to play with everything - and get anything done.

I know twitter has its devotees but I can honestly say I have found it as interesting and useful as a garden ornament. I'm just not all that interested in the utterly banal ('Explain your blog' I hear you cry out as one.)

Facebook is nearly pointless. I've tried, but I just can't see its utility. Scratch that. Facebook is rubbish. A monumental waste of time on par with Tamagochi. Stop feeding it. It will curl up its toes.

Linked In. Jury out. My problem with it is that there are the mad linkers who want to accumulate people as if it was some kind of a game - always in search of the missing link. When it is relevant, I'm all for it but I'm not interested in random hook-ups.

Blogging? Best thing ever. Really.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What's in the box?



I don't get Lost. That's Lost with a capital L; after all, who doesn't get lost lost from time to time? I once got lost in east L.A. in a shiny new rental car. It wasn't till later when horrified friends told my wife and I that tourists with big maps shouldn't stand around looking baffled in that part of town, but that's a whole other story. The TV show Lost, created by J.J. Abrams didn't click with me. But his talk at TED does. Take a few minutes to watch this video. He talks about his obsessions, making things (books, boxes), magic, the influence of his grandfather and the magic box he bought from a store in midtown Manhattan - 50 dollars worth of stuff for 15 bucks, which he never opened and how that has influenced his film making and story telling.

I chuckled to myself when watching the clip because just the other day I blogged about:

a) Jaws - the movie - and
b) Tom Cruise

Both make appearances in this clip. Ah, synchronicity.

I also completely agree with his views about the way technology (like the Apple MacBook Pro) gives us all access to the technology to create magic in a way that has never been possible before.

Fast paced and funny too. Worth watching.

Thanks for the heads up from Membershipmillionaire.com (though their post was an interview with Richard Branson which I haven't had the chance to watch yet. (see - leave a comment, get a link).

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wasaab


I have noticed the Saab ad on the tele. I like the pictures and I love the music (which seems to be an increasingly important part of global advertising). But I'm baffled by the one-size-fits-all approach. Here in New Zealand the ad has nothing to do with fuel. Or anything in particlar. Curiously enough it works better for it.

On an interesting, related point: I read somewhere that the US TIVO service has done a study. Ads that are slanted more to the emotional end of the spectrum are more likely to be eliminated than factual ads. Think about that.

Ed Hillary requiem reprise



Ed Hilary died the other day. 88 years old. A good trot.
I've been disgusted by the level of media coverage. On the day of his death there was NO OTHER NEWS COVERAGE on the 6 o'clock bulletins. Apparently nothing else happened in the whole world that day. Shameful. especially when I wanted some information about the 24 hour Xtra blackout. Much more important to me.
Sentiment aside; I stand by my thoughts of April 05:

Mt Everest holds a special place in New Zealand 's consciousness. Ed Hillary climbed it with Tenzing Norgay and actually got to the summit and back in 1953.

It may be that the English climber Mallory made it to the summit before the New Zealand beekeeper. But Mallory didn't make it home to tell the tale.

Ed Hillary is widely regarded as a great New Zealander. One of the greatest. I agree, but not for the reasons most people do.

Climbing Everest for the first time must have been challenging for him and I'm glad he 'knocked the bugger off' for himself - because 'conquering' a very small point at the top of the world seems to me to have very little real point or consequence other than as a personal challenge.

Isn't it ironic that Hillary's real qualification as The One & Only is not for 'conquering' Everest and, literally, being on top of the world, but for his SERVICE to the community. He put aside the very ego that drove him to the summit and got under the people he aims to serve.
See my earlier post: You gotta serve someboby

In Nepal Sir Ed is regarded as a living God not because of his 'conquest' of Everest, but because of his humble service to the people, building schools and medical facilities.

The same is true for brands.

It's not enough to make it to the top - promoting your brand into the consciouness.
You have to make it down the mountain - then get on with your life. What will you do for your constituents? (I don't like to call them consumers). Great brands are Sisyphian in their labours.

The corollary to the idea that consumers 'own the brand' is that brands have a duty to serve.
Brands that reciprocate and become a part of the community they serve are the brands that will enjoy the greatest value.

Brand karma.

Bill Gates funny. Who knew?

What is this thing called, love?


Christmas is behind us, but there is another ritual festival pending: Valentine's day - or Saint Valentine's day.

The history of the day is shrouded in convoluted connections. The Roman Catholic church has a number of Saints called Valentine on its books. Obviously it was once a more popular name for a chap than it is today. Or, perhaps, people made the connection between being named Valentine and being brutally martyred and decided the risks were just too high. Bob is notably absent in the names on 'The Big Book of Saints'. Perhaps its a generational thing?

As with most festivals on the modern calendar there are two ends of the spectrum. At one sits a pagan pre-Christian origin. The idea of Valentines Day as way of expressing one's love and devotion to one's nearest and dearest is comparatively new. Before Chaucer's day there is little or no record of it. Did you know that Chaucer and Shakespeare had to make a lot of language up? Shakespeare was the first to use the word 'bubble'. I have no reason to believe that romantic aspect of Valentine's Day wasn't simply a confection of Chaucer's (whose miraculous imaginings would often lead his friends to remark…"Geoff, thou art truly clever in thy improvisations." To wit he would oft reply "It is not an improvisation, I doth simply maketh it up as I go along."

That the day falls in February fuels speculation that it was an adaption from an earlier work. The ancient Romans had a fertility festival in February called
Lupercalia:

…of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.


On Feb 14 don't be surprised if you get'shagged' by a naked youth. Hopefully not by a magistrate - who are usually somewhat unattractive.

Ever pragmatic we have moved on from exchanging handwritten notes of timid affection to a full blown marketing assault on our senses and sensibilities. The introduction of anonymous expressions has given Hallmark and Interflora license to leverage licentiousness, perhaps harking back to our ancient drives to mate widely, scattering the seed or at least hedging our bets. Why send one card when you can send many? Thank you Hallmark. Without you how would we know how to feel?

Well, it is time for the practice to stop. The only way you can be sure you are 'the one and only' will be signified by the receipt of a box of Serious Brownees - which, during February are known as such for their magical ability to determine if it is 'true' love. In the words of Diana Krall "Is you is, or is you ain't my baby."

Ahh, true love. Doesn't it just make you want to cuddle a kitten? Or run away screaming on a commitment-phobic dash?

I have more to say about this matter. I'll keep you posted.


Bittersweet image via Despair.com

Still want an iPhone?



Prehistoric compared to the Sumsing Multi-task. I particularly like the toasted sandwich function. Check your temperature after though.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nut Jobs

Exhibit A: Bjork

Much as I like Bjork's music I was pretty shocked to see her violently attack a journalist on television tonight - the footage was historical, shot in Thailand.



Today she reportedly assaulted a New Zealand photographer in an attack that ripped the shirt from his back.

Um…wrong message for our kids. I was appalled that a policeman interviewed expressed an opinion that the security camera footage, which would corroborate the photographer's claims, would be irrelevant unless there was an official complaint.

The assault by Trevor Mallard in the corridors of power saw him hauled in front of the court by a Private citizen who laid a complaint. Maybe there's an opportunity here. Surely there is someone out there who is offended by celebrities being above the law. I don't know what the law is in Iceland but you're in New Zealand now we don't attack people willy nilly. And, if you do and live in South Auckland, you go to jail…we believe in law and order here. Well, for some…

If it bugs you - call the cops and lay a complaint - we'll call it a No Class Action


Exhibit B: Tom Cruise


Well, you already know about the Beckham's new best friend, the couch, the weird religious ideas about psychology (which is categorised in the wikipedia under 'bizarre/oddities')…just being irritating.

The news tonight reports you can't buy Andrew Morton's unauthorised biography of Tom Cruise in New Zealand (you remember him, Diana and all that).

Well, never trust an Authorised Biography I always say. The only thing more unreliable is an Autobiography.

So. On principle I recommend you get your copy from Amazon.com

A serious footnote:


I am deadly serious about the issue of Law & Order. We watch the wealthy and attractive behave any way they want. Their bacchanal is OK, it get's covered in gossip magazines as if it was news and a bit of a lark.

Meanwhile the 'justice' system picks the low hanging fruit. The poor, the badly parented and the uneducated. Somebody has to go to jail to make the middle classes feel 'safe'.

Reframe the issue as Justice - not law and order - think about that expression, the term 'order' gives the game away. It is paternalistic. Think Sheriff of Nottingham - keep the peasants under control by taxing them relentlessly - then passing the proceeds to the middle class.

Bottom line: If Bjork was Maori woman of a similar age and assaulted a person in an airport she would be on remand in Arohata Women's Prison now.
Isn't it interesting that there isn't a single New Zealand politician who has spoken out about this?

Let Bjork be the poster child for Justice in New Zealand. The government have spent millions of dollars of your money to tell you that disciplining your own kids is 'not ok' to suck up the the Greens.

I want to know why, on the same night that it was reported a Kiwi parent had been listed as an assaulter of his own child (for clipping his ear to emphasise how wrong it is to ride your tiny kiddy bike into traffic - read the story here) that a violent repeat offender gets to go free?

What's the message here?

Themes: Censorship & Privilege. Be afraid.

Aint that the truth.

"Everybody who is honest is interesting."

Stefan Sagmeister
Things I have learned so far in my life


Belle du Jour




weddding book
I've been obsessing about books.The blog has been uncharacteristically silent because I have been trying to finish my story Vanishing Act. Well the job is done. It needs some smoothing and shaping but, version one is in beta. You can preview it as a PDF or paperback here if you are interested. I need to think about the cover typography I hate DIN but have used it anyway - I suppose it is a lazy default. I made a conceptual type arrangement but it didn't grab me. If you have any ideas for a concept, using the pic of dolphins receding into the gloom, let me know.

I have included the image of the book One Perfect Day (Via Covers blog) because I love the wit in the idea. Just trying to inspire myself really.

Monday, January 07, 2008

3 Chipmunks, 2 Sharks and a Dog.

Something of a movie day yesterday. I took my daughter Zoe to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks. She had made some chipmunk ears and pinned her faux leopard skin tail to the tops of her trousers, which might have alarmed an actual chipmunk, but never let a little naturalistic verismo get in the way of a good time I say.

My expectations were low for the fill itself. The original cartoon, which I remember from my childhood hardly made it into my top ten of cartoons and the novelty of novelty songs featuring sped up voices to suggest a rodent ensemble doesn't seem as exotic today as, perhaps, it might once have in simpler times. So, if Peter Jackson can bring The Lord of the Rings alive (btw, I thought the Ents - tree people - in LoTR were the least successful character designs, maybe because they were absurd from the get go - talking, walking trees are less believable than growing Orcs in the mud - I mean who hasn't done that?)…if PJ can bring the vista of Middle Earth vividly to life then how hard can it be to animate 3 singing chipmunks?

The surprising thing about the film is how quickly one is prepared to accept that the little varmints can speak English and sing in harmony. The trick is that three central characters are introduced from the first scene. There is no awkward attempt to explain how or why they can speak. Their various personalities are established as quickly. These days we've been exposed to a lot of CGI so the technical wow-factor has become table stakes. It would have to technically poor to even be noticed. The combination of live action, human characters interacting with invisible colleagues must still be hard and I wonder if acting classes for dealing with blue-screen are offered at the Actors Studio?

I asked Zoe for her review at the end of the show, as we walked back to the car. She offered an unreserved 10/10 tail wiggles and who am I to argue with the target audience? I did laugh out loud in parts. It's fun, formulaic but also charming without the savvy, sly humour of, say Shrek. The lead human character Jason Lee whom I liked in 'My Name is Earl' is a little flat in the role. Mind you, it's a lot different interacting with where a character willbe than playing off Jaime Pressly as a semi-sane ex-wife.

The second movie of the weekend was Death at a Funeral. Not good I'm afraid. The trailer looked appealing but all of the funny parts were paraphrased in the ad. The film lurched along, pivoting on a paltry handful of jokes attached to each of the ensemble cast: Drug dealer nephew - where's my pills, blackmailing homosexual dwarf lover of deceased, cranky shouty uncle, successful brother and loser brother, where's my money? If you like farce, well this one's for you (putting the fun in funeral). I don't recommend it even for a wet day diversion. Get the Muppets TV shows on DVD to see some of director Frank Oz's funnier moments - as Fozzy Bear.

Actually, as I'm on the subject of films; I caught Jaws on television on the weekend. It scared the snot out of me when I was kid. When I swim in the ocean I still hear 'dum dum, dum dum, dum dum dumdumdum' - for no good reason, shark attacks in the Waitemata harbour ar about as likely as a New Zealand politician of any stripe saying anything of significance. I'd forgot some of the details of movie - it holds up pretty well after all these years. Then, of course, a four metre long Great White was sighted near the lower North Island. It swam around a small dive boat for an hour. Gary Porter, one of the divers aboard had a mate hold him by the ankles while he took this shot - (rather him than me)…

Great White Pointer

Full shark story via Stuff

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Je veux un



This is what technology is really all about: practical utility. Très, très drôle.

Thanks to Ben Kepes for the link. (His blog is a cracker - well done that man.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Culture episodes in Wellington

One of the things you notice when traipsing about Wellington, the capitol city of New Zealand is that the civic leaders have had the great good sense to plop sculpture around the place. If you've been following this diary you'll know I have a thing about sculpture. Not a studious, learned sort of thing-more a snickering, bloody hell look at that, call that art sort of thing. So, Wellington was a rich vein to tap into.


In front of the train station there is a statue of a little bald bloke who, on closer examination turns out to be Ben Kingsley. Ok, Ok, Gandhi, but an easy mistake to make. I mean, you wouldn't expect to find a statue of Ghandhi stepping out from the train station in Wellington, would you? My goodness gracious me no. Actually the thing that struck me about the statue was its stature. Not quite as overblown as the Lincoln memorial in Washington D.C. but this effigy is certainly somewhat more statuesque than the Mahatma himself. I have a feeling the Wellington worthies had statue envy of the colossus in Auckland's Aotea Square. Just a theory…

Then there was this…



Now, I am not sure whether this is intended to be a sculpture of whether it is simply a piece of rubble that blew off a building in the famous Wellington wind, but I am assuming it is. I wonder if I was the only person who found it darkly funny; what with Wellington being carefully situated over a major fault line. I suppose it is a sort of Memento Mori. A few metres further along the street a companion column managed to remain standing but the signage which originally said 'Welcome to Wellington' had been somewhat jumbled in the high winds.



I shouldn't take such cheap shots at the weather in Wellington. It was actually brilliant for most of the time. I even managed to be burned to a cinder while lounging by the pool on new year's day. I was still anethstetised by dangerous amount of alcohol I had imbibed in celebration of closing off 2007. I didn't feel a thing. Well, not then anyway. Now I am still suffering the consequences. I'm pretty certain it's travelling directly to my lymph nodes as I type. Actually I have heard one is more likely to get skin cancer if one has been burned as a child. Blimey. That me done in then. I remember long days on the beach at Takapuna, swimming, mucking about in rock pools and creating canal systems from the water's edge up to the line of dry sand that would rival Venice - pretty certain our canals would qualify for world heritage status. Anyway, to the point, I would be so sunburned that my body would look like bubble wrap. Peeling great sheets of skin was an art. I'm pretty sure I could have made a full sized replica of the epidermal me. So, damage done. Might as well enjoy the time I have left.

On that note I resolved not to make any resolutions this year. Why kid myself? Maybe I could make a cop-out resolution - I will not smoke - but then, I never have. Or, perhaps; will only make blog entries when I have something to say that has more gravity than a dust mote.

Well there's one resolution that's bitten the dust then.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A capitol time

Back from a trip to Wellington. S'funny I've been there many, many times but never on holiday. So spending time with locals was a revelation. I was invited to stay at Seatoun Heights. The home was brilliant, the view even better. An interIsland ferry would steam by every so often. One doesn't see that in Auckland.

Lots of fun. Pictures follow.