Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mick Jagger loves to polka

Via Made to Stick blog

Ruler of the Known Universe

Kids have a way of inventing things from the most mundane materials. My daughter Zoë bent a flexible plastic ruler across her eyes and immediately became a super hero.

Life doesn't have to be complicated, does it?

New Year resolve: Make the most of simple things. Have fun.

Helen Clark's legacy

According to the Wikipedia, Helen Clark was New Zealand's first feral Prime Minister. Hard to disagree with such an august publication.

Architectural Vernacular

I found this house on my new favourite website Lost at e minor. I like the house, floating on a lake appeals to me. I like its simplicity too. But most of all I like the curious language that architects use to describe their work. Oddly tortured. Reminded me of the Dizzy Gillespie quote: "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." - Not entirely relevant, but amusing all the same. I was also reminded of a conversation I had many years ago with prominent New Zealand architect Pip Cheshire about building a house on a site at Piha, on the hill, sweeping vista of the Tasman Sea. We chatted for about an hour at my home in Herne Bay. Somehow the topic became Greek mythology. It was amusing, but in the end baffling. We never proceeded (though I did buy a house designed by him in Milford, on Auckland's North Shore many years later and it seemed remarkably like the sketches I had made to explain my idea. However, architects, they're a strange lot.

Mr Cheshire has a book
, recently published that I intend to get a copy of to review. Gawped through in the wonderful Unity Books, but there was a line at the checkout, so I left it.

2004-7_Floating House

The Floating House is the intersection of a vernacular house typology with the shifting site-specific conditions of this unique place: an island on Lake Huron. The location on the Great Lakes imposed complexities to the house's fabrication and construction, as well as its relationship to site.

Annual cyclical change related to the change of seasons, compounded with escalating global environmental trends , cause Lake Huron's water levels to vary drastically from month-to-month, year-to-year. To adapt to this constant, dynamic change, the house floats atop a structure of steel pontoons, allowing it to fluctuate along with the lake.

Locating the house on a remote island posed another set of constraints. Using traditional construction processes would have been prohibitively expensive; the majority of costs would have been applied toward transporting building materials to the remote island. Instead, we worked with the contractor to devise a prefabrication and construction process that maximized the use of the unique character of the site: Lake Huron as a waterway. Construction materials were instead delivered to the contractor's fabrication shop, located on the lake shore. The steel platform structure with incorporated pontoons was built first and towed to the lake outside the workshop.

On the frozen lake, near the shore, the fabricators constructed the house. The structure was then towed to the site and anchored. In total, between the various construction stages, the house traveled a total distance of approximately 80 km on the lake.

The formal envelope of the house experiments with the cedar siding of the vernacular home. This familiar form not only encloses the interior living space, but also enclosed exterior space as well as open voids for direct engagement with the lake. A "rainscreen" envelope of cedar strips condense to shelter interior space and expand to either filter light entering interior spaces or screen and enclose exterior spaces giving a modulated yet singular character to the house, while performing pragmatically in reducing wind load and heat gain.

Find out more about the MOS architectural practice. (Their work is wonderful)

Damn Your Eyes Robin Williams!....

I only know a few jokes. Or rather, there are only a few I know well enough to feel confident uttering in public. Usually I mask my lack of humour talent with an accent, I do a decent turn in Irish, can be convincing in an undefined eastern European (which may or may not be Latvian - I can neither confirm, not deny), which sometimes invades my Pakistani.

So, imagine my shock and outrage when I see Robin Williams stealing my joke and telling it badly and in the worst Scottish accent since Dick van Dyke did a cockney turn in Mary Poppins. Seriously, does he really not know that Bono is Irish?

For all that, a spot of light relief for New Year's Eve day (only let down by its lame end and some comedic larceny,... oh and the curious fact that it seems designed for an American audience on an English stage)

Vanity Fair Magazine burns the Bush admin

Never Too Late for Some Final Acts of Venality

by Graydon Carter January 2009

Never let it be said that the presidency of George W. Bush was without a mission. And I don’t mean that “compassionate conservative” mumbo jumbo or any of the other meaningless banners under which Bush bullied his way into the White House. I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: from its first day in office, the Bush administration has done everything it could to turn the nation’s public land and water over to the exploitative, polluting interests that helped put it in power. On that first day, in January 2001, the president instructed his chief of staff, Andy Card, to send directives to all the executive departments with authority over environmental issues, ordering them to put on hold more than a dozen new regulations left over from the Clinton administration. The regulations he and his vice president, Dick Cheney, wanted scrapped included everything from those that lowered acceptable arsenic levels in drinking water to new standards that would reduce releases of raw sewage. Bush and Cheney also set about eliminating rules that limited logging, drilling, and mining on public lands, and others that would have increased energy-efficiency standards. Additionally, the administration wanted to repeal the ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Bush’s track record as governor of Texas should have prepared us for his assault on the environment. When he left office in Austin, his home state topped the nation in manufacturing-plant emissions of toxic and ozone-causing chemicals, in discharge of carcinogens, in release of airborne toxins, and in production of cancer-causing benzene and vinyl chloride. Texas was also the No. 1 state when it came to violations of clean-water discharge standards and the release of toxic waste into underground wells. By the time Bush left the governor’s office, Houston had passed Los Angeles as the American city with the worst air quality. And a third of Texas’s rivers were so polluted they were unfit for recreational use.

So here we are in the waning days of his presidency, and he’s still at it. Bush and Cheney have been working feverishly to write as many as, by one count, 130 new regulations undermining federal laws protecting not just our environment but also our civil liberties and personal safety. And with the nation’s attention ping-ponging between Obama-mania and Dow-phobia, the White House is hoping we won’t notice. It’s the environmental equivalent of stuffing the china and silverware into your suitcase before clearing out of the guest room. The New York Times and The Washington Post have been particularly diligent in shedding light on these final, grasping acts of an administration that can be described only as a widespread criminal conspiracy. And just as jolly old Santa’s workshop has a December 24 deadline, the cutoff date for creepy old Cheney’s workshop is the 20th—because regulations weakened before this date will be much more difficult to restore than ones monkeyed with afterward. And don’t you love the reasoning White House spokesman Tony Fratto gave to The Washington Post: “We’d prefer our regulations stand for a very long time—they’re well reasoned and are being considered with the best interests of the nation in mind.” With the best interests of the nation in mind. Uh-huh.

With the best interests of the nation in mind, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has been putting through exceptions to existing rules that will make it easier for backers of federal projects such as highways and dams to ignore the effects they will have on threatened species, and he’s also been pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to ease up on mining companies that want to continue dumping toxic waste into streams and valleys. In early November, the department’s Bureau of Land Management—apparently without the permission of the National Park Service—began selling off oil and gas leases for land adjacent to Arches National Park, one of our most beautiful. The B.L.M. likewise is trying to parcel out development rights on millions of acres of Utah wilderness, much of which is also near parkland. In addition, the White House is seeking to allow greater toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants situated near our national parks. Another rule, according to The Washington Post, “would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant.” Even the normally pliant Bush-era E.P.A. is protesting that one.

Honestly, it just never ends. Until it does, that is. The day can’t come quickly enough when Barack Obama will throw open the curtains and let light back into the White House, the capital, the nation, and much of the world. The current administration will leave monstrous problems in its wake—challenges far too numerous to mention here—but things are nevertheless looking up. I was in Washington in late November for a forum on politics and the press that Vanity Fair held at the magnificent Folger Shakespeare Library. The air was particularly crisp and clear, and I have to say that the old capital appeared to have a spring in its step. Even Old Glory, the very flag that Francis Scott Key hailed in our national anthem, is back on display at the Smithsonian, restored with the help of a major donation from that most American of American designers, Ralph Lauren. I know this sounds crazy, but the ominous cloud that for the past eight years has hung over this epic and beautiful city is already lifting. It’s not quite the Washington of Mr. Smith. But it’s getting there.

Best mainstream magazine in the world.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Anthony Hopkins - leviathon

I just saw this ad for Greenpeace on TV.

Let me reiterate my view on Japanese 'scientific' whaling (a term as logical as scientific pedophilia): whilst I admire Greenpeace and Sea Shepard's stance and action (moreso Sea Shepard), but I recommend a more no-nonsense approach to ending whaling - Grab the little shits by their economic nuts.

Here is what to do. Write to Toyota in your home town. Tell them you will not consider buying one of their vehicles, not even a Prius - especially not a Prius - until Toyota in Japan apply the burner to the whaling industry.

Why pick on Toyota? It's an old British marines technique, worked well in the Boxer rebellion (though the Poms were in the wrong) - bad guys assemble, even though you are heavily outnumbered you stand on the parapet and in your best David Niven accent say (no need to shout): "This crown disperses or we shoot the chap, front row in red silk pajama top and kungfu slippers...then we will shoot you - fella on second from the right, Rolling Stones Hot Licks tour T shirt..."

Sometimes the way to get the the point is to target the person with the most to lose.

Year of the Tiger, me - strategist and tactition.

Rocks rock



I find it quite relaxing to scrape away the bits of rock that don't look like spirals. From time to time I drop small carvings on the beach. Keep an eye out. It's a little thrill. (The one pictured is the biggest I've made. Usually they are smaller - the only tool permitted are shells - it's a stone age thing.)

Simple pleasures.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monique Rhodes & Jen Cloher rock

I have written often about my talented friend Monique Rhodes. Here is a clip from her appearance on Good Morning TV, here in New Zealand.

OK, now visit her site and order a copy of her debut album Awakening. If it's good enough for the Dalai llama then it's good enough for you. Also available on iTunes. Monique has been touring with the Kiwi icon Shona Laing to receptive audiences up and down the country. It is inspiring to have talented friends.

I met one of Monique's friends at her birthday bash last year, Jen Cloher, also a musician, based in Melbourne, Australia. Yesterday I heard her music for the first time. It was strange how it happened. Her picture popped up on my facebook page, on the right hand side, the real estate the Facebook people reserve to pester us with 'relevant' stuff, gleaned from the data we enter on the our profiles. So, I recognised Jen and was interested enough to follow the link down the rabbit hole. Ended up on her site. Listened to free tune, like it - bought the album from iTunes. Cut to later - that same day. I have been goofing around with iMovie (its the holidays) and had downloaded some footage from YouTube. I opened a file, which turned out to be the wrong one - footage from NASA of booster rockets being ejected from the space shuttle and tumbling back to earth, then splashing down in the ocean. As I watched the random footage I was intrigued by how perfectly it seemed to match the Song by Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea. As an experiment I decided to mash the audio and video together to see if it would be a convincing narrative/music video. It kind of works in a serendipitous way. I only trimmed the front of the footage and started the music at a point that wouldn't be too far from the end. See what happens when I have too much free time on my hands. What do you think - does it work?

I love the music, by the way; and buy the album on iTunes (It won an Aria award in Australia). What a double bill it would be to have these two women perform.

Monique Rhodes Website|Myspace

Jen Cloher and The Endless Sea Facebook | Myspace

Simplicity in advertising

The other day I wrote about the bizarre trend towards creating ads that are elaborate pieces of film for products and brands where the sponsor scarcely gets a mention.

Over on Brand DNA I noticed there was a simultaneous thread on a similar note - also in reference to a VW ad. (I left the following comment:

Volkswagen seem to be have lost sight of something - maybe the car industry has hit the wall when it comes to innovation - they have nothing to say about their products because there is nothing that truly differentiates them from those of their competitors. The result is puffery - which, ultimately, this ad resorts to.

Interesting that the creative solution doesn't seem to be the product of any sort of planning insight either - where does the consumer fit into the equation?

I was fooling around the other day with another VW ad, purportedly one of 'The World's Best Ads', where nothing at all was said about the product and the connection at the end was so tenuous that I wondered if something had been lost in the translation from Brazilian Portuguese. There was nothing else for it but to make my own directors cut to illustrate the point that, when irrelevant creative ideas are over-laid on products the ads could be for anything. We will watch them, be amused then be amused by the next bright, shiny thing that comes along. If no genuine connection is made then the ad is no more relevant to me the Chemical Brothers music clip the commercial pastiches (or whatever gimmic is on hand).

With regards to Anais' point - it is true that 'shouty' ads are offensive but there are other forms available. It's not an 'and/or' thing.

The examples I have shown here are simple and relevant. The Union Carbide commercial is factual and contains a dramatic, compelling demonstration. The Apple 'switch' ad was part of a series where actual consumers explained, in their own language, why you should switch from PC to Apple products - and, while you could argue that some people might not know what Ellen Fliess was talking about until the end, it doesn't rely on elaborate one-off production for its 'creative' component in the way the VW fishdog ad does. In fact, as part of a campaign, or series the Apple commercial's look and tone became a a signature that evolved in to the 'I'm a Mac'...'and I'm a PC' switch campaign'.

The tone of both ads shown is powerfully muted, which addresses the thought that 'creative' ads like dogfish are in some way superior because they do not insult the intelligence or sensibilities of the consumer by asinine 'shouting'. Nor do they insult the manufacturer by assuming their is nothing relevant, competitive or distinctive to say about their product or brand.

See also: Is your advertising a dog's breakfast?

Joe Cocker - Come together - Across the Universe

Via Across the Universe (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I am a tiger, in the Chinese horoscope's zodiac. My western ego likes that. Tiger. Has a certain ring to it, don't you think? But, in truth, all signs (should one indulge in such diversions) each have their own characteristics, both good and bad.

I thought this was the year of the pig, but I have been set straight by an anonymous commenter (I wish anonymous benefactor's were as forthcoming).

To westerners pigs are fat, dirty animals with a propensity for over-eating. Jews and Muslims, alike, don't eat them and Christians distrust anything with cloven hoof. All slightly nutty points of view to us aetheists and bacon lovers.

In the Chinese zodiac pigs are: Hardworking, Giving, Willing, Helpful, Materialistic, Gullible, Oblivious, Obstinate. If you are born in the year of the pig then you are, reputedly, a compassionate soul who simply wants to keep the peace.

I was chatting with a friend about the Chinese astrological characters when I remembered that some time ago, I began a little book called 'The Wishful Little Pig' about a little porker who spent all of his time wishing that things were different to how they really were. Through time the pig moped and, all the while momentus and exciting events occurred while he looked the other way (inspite of his friend, the gerbera flower exhorting him to live his life in the present).

Maybe I will finish it as one of my little holiday projects - if my tigrish courage, vehemence, self-reliance, friendliness, hopefulness, resilience, vaanity and disregard don't get in the way.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is your advertising a dog's breakfast?

One the curious conventions of the traditional advertising agency model of storytelling is the 'boom boom'/pull the rug out from under your feet gag. You know the kind of thing, indulge the creative team their fanatasy for 28 seconds, then make sure the client gets a big logo at the end.

This ad is a classic example. Or at least it was until I took the liberty of changing the ending. I'm guessing most people would have no idea what the product originally advertised was.

I love clever effects and direction as much as the next person but I do think that ads have a job to do. Here's a couple of pointers from a book I had gathering dust on a shelf Winning With the P&G 99

"Lessons for effective television advertising

Lesson 88 : Link the brand to the story of the commercial

Look for opportunities to link the brand to the commercial, so that the story of the commercial-and the benefit of the brand-will not be confused with any other brand.

Introducing the brand early in the comecial is one way to accomplish this objective. SHowing and repeating the name of the brand several times helps. Using the name in a unique way can help..." - I'm guessing you get the message?

"Lesson 87 : Show the package in the first eight seconds.

The brand should be registered in the viewer's mind before the benefits are presented. A review of recent thirty-second commercials for fifty-one P&G brands advertisied in the U.S. showed that seventy-five percent of the commercials identified the brands within eight seconds."

To be fair, P&G do sell packaged goods, and the anonymous brand in the commerical I crudely doctored don't. But the principle stands.

The original ad is here for the curious.

Catwoman runs runs out of lives

Eartha Kitt, whose seductive voice propelled her to fame, died of cancer on Christmas Day at age 81. Appropriately enough, one of Kitt's biggest hits was a Christmas song, her 1953 tune "Santa Baby." Kitt was perhaps best known for her TV career, where she played Catwoman in the cheeky 1960s Batman series.She was nominated for Tony, Emmy, and Grammy awards during her long career.
Via The Daily Beast

I have always had a soft spot for the campy old Batman's catwoman. I think, as a kid she opened a sort of Pandora's Box, the lid of which I have never been able to reseal. Exotic, strange, incredible voice. Easily qualifies as The One & Only. Of her performances I like 'I wanna be evil' for its sly, racy lines - which, in the context of the era in which they were sung must have been unimaginably provocative (so much so the sheet music was 'beeped'. It is hard to imagine today when almost anything goes.

I've posed for pictures with Iv'ry Soap,
I've petted stray dogs, and shied clear of dope
(I've petted stray dogs, and I never mope)*
My smile is brilliant, my glance is tender
But I'm noted most for my unspoiled gender

I've been made Miss Reingold, though I never touch beer,
(I've been named Miss Perseverance year after year,)*
And I'm the person to whom they say, "Your sweet, My Dear."
The only etchings I've seen have been behind glass,
And the closest I've been to a bar, is at ballet class.

Prim and proper, the girl who's never been cased,
I'm tired of being pure and not chased.
Like something that seeks it's level
I wanna go to the devil.

I wanna be evil, I wanna spit tacks
I wanna be evil, and cheat at jacks
I wanna be wicked, I wanna tell lies
I wanna be mean, and throw mud pies

I want to wake up in the morning
with that dark brown taste
I want to see some dissipation in my face
I wanna be evil, I wanna be mad
But more that that I wanna be bad

I wanna be evil, and trump an ace,
Just to see my partner's face.
I wanna be nasty, I wanna be cruel
I wanna be daring, I wanna shoot pool

And in the theatre
I want to change my seat
Just so I can step on
Everybody's feet

I wanna be evil, I wanna hurt flies
I wanna sing songs like the guy who cries
I wanna be horrid, I wanna drink booze
(I want to be horrid, I want to make news)*
And whatever I've got I'm eager to lose

I wanna be evil, little evil me
Just as mean and evil as I can be

*Lyrics in italic are the "official" printed lyrics. Also, throughout the song "wanna" is printed as "want to" Via The Eartha Kitt fan club

Her daughter, from a brief marriage is called Kitt McDonald, which made me smile when I read it in her obituary because my son, Taylor MacGregor's mother's unmarried name was Taylor (I wonder how common that tradition is?).

A unique talent departs. So it goes.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

AdWeek's marketing and media innovations 08

Adweek magazine have announced their pick of the top media and marketing innovations for the last year.
Some of my favourites (not necessarily in any order):


Consumers take a snap of a participating ad from their cell phone and send pxt to SnapTell. The company's image recognition software detects the campaign and sends information, prizes, offers etc to the customer. It's a way of making static, legacy media interactive. I am not sure how the image detection actually works (maybe they use a mechanical Turk system?), but I can easily see plenty of interesting applications. Also a nice way for static media owners to add value to advertisers.

Oh, Snap! Magazine Ads Get Interactive
With the print ad business in freefall, a few publishers aim to make their ad pages a more engaging, truly interactive experience, taking advantage of the exploding popularity of Web-enabled mobile devices. Technology from Palo Alto, Calif.-based mobile marketing company SnapTell enables brands to send messages to readers who shoot photos of magazine ads with their mobile phones. Rodale's Men's Health, Wenner Media's Rolling Stone and Disney's ESPN The Magazine are some of the titles to have adopted the technology this year

SnapTell site

Clutter Killer

Fox launched a TV series - Fringe - in prime time with fewer ads and charged advertisers a premium for the privelege. I'm picking that this is a trend that will continue (out of necessity), media that control the flow of bad ads will attract a happier, more receptive audience.

This season, Fox confronted head-on the issue of commercial clutter, the growing number of ads and promos stuffed into shows by the networks. Recent studies have shown clutter averages, including all network and local ads and promos, surpass 15 minutes per hour -- making TV shows, for a growing legion of viewers, impossible to watch without the aid of a commercial-skipping DVR. This fall, Fox debuted its new drama Fringe with roughly half the usual network commercial and promo load. Each episode boasts some 50 minutes of program time, versus the typical 44 minutes. Fewer breaks and shorter pods have led to less fast-forwarding and greater engagement with ad spots, according to third-party research. Season to date, Fringe is the top-rated new drama among adults 18-49, and it likely will see a spike in ratings come January, when American Idol becomes its lead-in. The quid pro quo: Advertisers pay a premium for that less-crowded environment. In February, Fox will debut a second series, drama Dollhouse, with a similarly reduced load of ads and promos. To what extent the model would work elsewhere in prime time is unclear: As network executives point out, advertisers tend to define clutter as everybody else's commercials.


Here's a site that gets me thinking how the basic concept could be applied in other realms. How about a service that lets you try on this season's fashions from participating retailers. Create a secure account. Upload your measurements and a picture of your face and the site generates a customised avatar for you. Try on the garments and accessories. Like what you see - click to buy. Retailers could offer a measurement service instore matching your body type to size. Online you rate the look, over time the site develops a profile of your tastes and can make recommendations, like a personal shopper. Vanessa from Glassons - this one's for you.

Call it theintersection of kids, fashion, celebrity and the Web. While virtual worlds like Gaia, Zwinky and have built a sizable following and landed big-name advertisers, Stardoll was a real standout in 2008. The two-year-old Swedish site has built a virtual playground for tween girls (with 22 million members and counting in 200 countries). Users can play dress-up using avatars of their own creation or virtual (and fully licensed) versions of celebrities like Hillary Duff and David Cook; fashions come via partner brands including DKNY and Vivienne Tam. Recently, Stardoll inked a pact with Italian designer Alberta Ferretti to open a virtual boutique in StarPlaza, the site's shopping galleria. As part of the deal, teen celeb Zelda Williams (daughter of comedian Robin) appeared as a virtual brand ambassador, modeling Ferretti's designs. In October, Stardoll announced a deal with Hachette Filipacchi Media's Elle to launch a virtual fashion magazine. While more static social-networking sites continue to search for a workable business model, virtual worlds like Stardoll are taking online playtime to a whole other level.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mes amie, des poesie, bonsoir

by Bradford Shank

It is good
To put the world together
now and then
Into an unbroken piece
And to contemplate it whole.
If done in sincerity
This form of prayer
Dims the cutting lines
Of past abstraction
Permitting us to carve out
New fragments
Of greater utility
And beauty.
If you like it better
We can reverse the analogy
And recommend the periodic destruction
Of our verbal maps
Our outward habits
Our ingrown attitudes
So that
Out of this rubble
We may build
A new world
Better suited
To a growing need
And finer discrimination.

Via Idea Achitect Jeffrey Cufaude

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hey Dad, this sounds familiar!

My daughter, The One & Only Zoe often digs me in the ribs in the movies. Because I do nod off. Not so long ago we went to see High School Musical 3. This time she didn't have to do the nudge. I heard something in the recess (if you'll pardon the pun) of my mind: This track: Right Here, Right Now:

Is almost identical to this track from Rent, the musical; No Day But Today:

Though, to be fair, Rent owes a little more to La Boheme than Disney would consider decent (check out the Mickey Mouse amendments to copyright laws - according to the brilliant Prof Larry Lessig).

Is it any irony that Disney made HSM3?

To wit I say: Hey Dad! Wake up!

Monday, December 22, 2008

You know you're in trouble when...

polar bear suffers from global warming

It could happen.

It may be 10,000 miles from the pole, but, hey:...

Well, anyway, could happen.

Worried yet

Concrete Proof

Work shuts down for a couple of weeks at BrandWorld tommorow. A friend has loaned me a Canon G9 camera - which I have been lusting after since Mr Gillies showed me the work he has accomplished with his - so I am going to have a crack at observing my world in pictures.

The first impression is one I took by accident of the floor of the office.

Polaroid ends production

goodbye polaroid
The Polaroid company is ending manufacture of its iconic film, invented by company founder Edwin Land. Though the technology changed dramatically from its first appearance in 1948 it created distinctive, iconic images.

I guess the end will come with wails of regret and loss from people who abandonded Polaroids long ago and took up digital photography. But such is the way of the world.

I remember having endless hours of fun messing about with Polaroids. The SX-70 film could be manipulated when the chemicals within the plastic envelope were still moist. I must dig out some from my big trunk of unsorted, unlabelled or tagged photos holiday fun, perhaps.

Heads up from Russell Davies

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pick of '08 - Charlie Parr

Charlie Parr was one of the best 'finds' of 2008. His style of blues is unlike the sort I usually listen to - apparently it is 'Piedmont' style

The Piedmont blues (also known as Piedmont fingerstyle or East Coast blues) is a type of blues music characterized by a fingerpicking approach on the guitar in which a regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic pattern supports a syncopated melody using the treble strings generally picked with the fore-finger, occasionally others. The result is comparable in sound to piano ragtime or later stride. The Piedmont style is differentiated from other styles (particularly the Mississippi Delta style) by its ragtime-based rhythms which lessened its impact on later electric band blues or rock 'n' roll, but it was directly influential on rockabilly and the folk revival scene. It was an extremely popular form of African-American dance music for many decades in the first half of the 20th century.(ex Wikipedia)
Charlie Parr drawing

Get thee to an iTunes store
and order a copy for Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Social Proof

Further to my previous post, referring to marketing via social media being like colonialism, just moments after clicking the Publish Post button I received an email from Claire pointing out this video. The Prime Minister of New Zealand (and minister of tourism) waxing lyrical about New Zealand as a destination. The word that comes to mind is execrable.

Touting via YouTube with fake 'user generated content' doesn't work for me.

Though here I am spreading the word to both of you.

By the way, John, get some speech therapy.

Social Media Like Colonialism?

Here's an interesting take on using social media to market brands from the excellent ExitCreative blog:

Us trying to market to people with social media seems a LOT like Colonialism

Most efforts to market things socially (whether they be the idea of a nation or the idea of a brand) involve a hegemonic force (the marketer) trying to commandeer the resources of a small society (on- or off-line, these are consumers). This sounds a lot like colonialism to me. We try, from our ivory tower, to figure out what “consumers” will like, or at least tolerate, and then we try to blast our messages out to them in the hopes they will be converted to our belief system. Sounds a lot like the efforts to convert African nations to Christian religions to me. Certainly not as problematic, but it illustrates a point.

In my experience marketers have always been somewhat deluded about how receptive people are to marketing messages. As a creative in ad agencies I was trained in stealth techniques, premised on the idea that people aren't sitting around watching T.V. to see ads- they want to be entertained...and so forth, so naturally most of my scripts began with 'Open on beach in Bahamas...'(a ploy that did actually work once).

In truth I was simply talking to myself, telling jokes and stories, secure in the knowledge that ti didn't matter much either way, so it might as well be fun - especially for me. So, in that sense it's not much different to blogging.

Happily ever after...

One of the cliches of the brand business over the past ten year has been to emphasise the importance of storytelling. The form of the story has tended to be governed less by the audience and more by the medium through which it is told - the medium is the message I suppose. (Alternate director's cut ending: Or the other way around.)

In an article in the Telegraph Sam Leith, Literary editor responds to concerns about the end of Story telling in the era of Twitter and Grand Theft Auto but reaches a less than gloomy conclusion:

Changing technologies have affected the means by which stories are told. You can follow the story of a person's life pointillistically through a Twitter feed or voyeuristically through a webcam.

You can read a self-contained novel; one with an alternate ending; or a choose-your-own adventure book.

You can steer petty criminal Niko Bellic through the nodes of GTA4's restricted but ingenious video game structure; or follow the endlessly overlapping plot arcs of an open-structure narrative like a soap opera.

But when you strip off all the bells and whistles, these stories will be in all the important essences no different from the stories that Vladimir Propp, or the authors of the Bible, or Homer and her many co-authors, would have recognised. "Next generation synthetic performer technologies" or not.

The rise of interactive, alternative ending narrative experiences might well give extra resonance to the thought that a great story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But not necessarily in that order.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shining a harsh light on modern society

"My question is the following statement..."

Classic observation of the cult of Apple by the Simpsons (who might have elements of cultism themselves, doh!).

Via Brand DNA

Sexist Ad Trends That Refuse to Die...

Ok, let's play 'Name that perversion":

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Exhibit D

Exhibit E


(a) Bondage
(b) Rape
(c) Sluts
(d) girl-on-girl action
(e) ...can't bring myself to say on a family blog

According to the Huffington Post's Alex Leo advertising 'continues to use stereotypes and violence to prey on our most vile desires'.

In my experience advertisers are a pretty conservative bunch. But it is hard to deny the evidence is um, compelling.

Read the full story here on Alternet; see if you got Exhibit 'E' right.

The intersection of pleasure and meaning

"Researchers have studied people all over the world to find out how things like money, attitude, culture, memory, health, altruism, and our day-to-day habits affect our well-being. The emerging field of positive psychology is bursting with new findings that suggest your actions can have a significant effect on your happiness and satisfaction with life. Here are 10 scientifically proven strategies for getting happy.

1. Savor Everyday Moments

Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,”.

2. Avoid Comparisons

While keeping up with the Joneses is part of American culture, comparing ourselves with others can be damaging to happiness and self-esteem. Instead of comparing ourselves to others, focusing on our own personal achievement leads to greater satisfaction.

3. Put Money Low on the List

People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Their findings hold true across nations and cultures. “The more we seek satisfactions in material goods, the less we find them there. The satisfaction has a short half-life -- it’s very fleeting.” Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.

4. Have Meaningful Goals

People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations. As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.”
“Happiness lies at the intersection between pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, the goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable.”

5. Take Initiative at Work

How happy you are at work depends in part on how much initiative you take. When we express creativity, help others, suggest improvements, or do additional tasks on the job, we make our work more rewarding and feel more in control.

6. Make Friends, Treasure Family

Happier people tend to have good families, friends, and supportive relationships. But it’s not enough to be the life of the party if you’re surrounded by shallow acquaintances. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones” that involve understanding and caring.

7. Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

It sounds simple, but it works. “Happy people…see possibilities, opportunities, and success. When they think of the future, they are optimistic, and when they review the past, they tend to savor the high points,”. Even if you weren’t born looking at the glass as half-full, with practice, a positive outlook can become a habit.

8. Say Thank You Like You Mean It

People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals. People who write “gratitude letters” to someone who made a difference in their lives score higher on happiness, and lower on depression -- and the effect lasts for weeks.

9. Get Out and Exercise

Exercise may be just as effective as drugs in treating depression, without all the side effects and expense. In addition to health benefits, regular exercise offers a sense of accomplishment and opportunity for social interaction, releases feel-good endorphins, and boosts self-esteem.

10. Give It Away, Give It Away Now!

Make altruism and giving part of your life, and be purposeful about it. Helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness, he says. Those who spend money on others reported much greater happiness than those who spend it on themselves.

Note to self: Cheer up.

Full story here

Slippery slope

What?... banks profligate architects of their own demise?...never!

Thanks BBH for executing a perfectly generic idea. I reckon that Barclays could mitigate the costs by licensing all but the last 3 seconds to almost any other brand. You could also change the music with no consequence to the concept..."slip sliding away'...

Via Adbroad

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Do you ever get the some people aren't really individuals, but clusters of people all rolled into to one. They seem to accomplish so much that it impossible that, for them, there are only 24 hours in a day?

I was just reading Seth Godin's blog on my Sage RSS feeder. The guy is amazing. He pumps out books and blogs, he invents Internet businesses like Squidoo... he's a polymath and still finds the time to shave his head every day. I have trouble shaving my spartan beard everyday and by 3.30 n the afternoon I am usually ready for a nap.

It was Seth's post on the subject of Squidoo itself that caught my attention. Squidoo facilities people who want to share their expertise or interest in a subject. I have registered a few lenses myself, but haven't really had the time or inclination to make then half as useful as they should be. As utility is one of the cornerstones of the good web there doesn't seem much point in putting stuff online that serves no purpose. Even ThoughtSpurs has an intention - to get you thinking - though sometimes you might simply be left wondering...

He talks about how it has taken three years for Squidoo to get any kind of altitude and likens its progress to that of an albatross, with a very long take off at a high level of efficiency once the wind and wings have accomplished lift. Three years to be an overnight success.

The post made me wonder about how some ideas take off with a bang but then plummet to earth on descent that rivals the ascent for velocity and excitement, burned out and, ultimately a wreckage. Others never leave the ground, their design fatally flawed (like the Bonney who, if I might continue with the aviary theme, was so convince that seagulls were the n'est plus ultra for flight design, promptly engineered an aircraft that mimicked the bird's shape and then killed himself with it on its maiden flight-maiden crash).

Maybe a Squidoo lens about wacked flight ideas...?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A re-orderly mind

the messy desk of david macgregor
Some people will tell you that you can tell a lot about someone from the relative order of their desktop. This is mine. Mildly chaotic. I suppose I am a case in point to illustrate the truth in the idea. I suppose I have never been a neatnik. I remember visiting the offices of Brian Richards, a brand consultant - design firm. It was a crisp, white Kubrick fantasy. Employees were forbidden from keeping personal items on their desks. When they went home at night desks had to be clear. Imagine the discipline that would take.

I like to be surrounded by stimulus, call them distractions if you will. The creative process involves joining existing things together in new ways. For that to happen you have to have plenty of raw material. I have been reading George Lois' latest book George Lois on His Creation of the Big Idea to review for Idealog magazine
Lois is something of an advertising legend, though his work designing conceptual covers for Esquire magazine is his most memorable work. Lois has conceived the book to illustrate the inspirations for his work: The odd couple with Jack Lemmon and Walter Mathau (Felix Unger and Oscar Madison) - inspire commercials for Braniff Airlines featuring conversation between irascible travelers.

Braniff with Andy Warhol and Sonny Liston:

The Odd Couple*

* Which seems strangely like the inspiration for Two and a Half Men

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Everyday masterpieces

The other day my buddy Ollie, the great writer and director asked me a question about blogging. I'll spare you the interim but the upshot was that I referred him to a book that my son Taylor is reading (I know, 16 years old and voluntarily reading a book - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree) - the book is Join Me: The True Story of a Man Who Started a Cult by Accident.

Tonight Taylor suggested I check out the Fiat ads (I've talked about the cinquecento before) which star the author of the book. He's becoming quite the culture vulture, my son.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Books in a bind

Just yesterday I was browsing in my favourite bookstore - Unity Books, on Auckland's High Street. As you can see from the Google Maps Street View image it has none of the vestiges of a chain store. More like an Aladdin's cave where staff actvely curate the content - if for no other reason than they don't have room to stock everything.

I love books and feel more grounded when I have them around me. In trut, burdened by their wieght is probably more accurate. So it was interestng to me to read that the big three book publishers in the United States are facing a gloomy future. If they have a future at all. According to Good Magazine, in turn responding to an op-ed article in the New York Times:

Major publishing houses follow American automakers into financial abyss

One would think that when those catchwords of the season, “massive layoffs” and “drastic restructuring,” came to book publishing, the media would come up with a more original, literate nomenclature than “Black Wednesday.” But that’s what they’re calling it, which I find very disappointing.

Whatever the tag, here is the damage: Last Wednesday, the “Other Big Three”—you know, Random House, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Simon & Shuster—all announced big, scary consolidations, lay-offs, and cut backs. A few days earlier, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced it had stopped acquiring new books, which would be somewhat like General Motors announcing they are no longer going to make cars. (I hear the latter is not out of the realm of possibility.)

The reason for the chaos is not, as one might expect, that the Internet has caused a catastrophic reduction in reading, but that the firms have been profligate and wasteful.

Celebrity authors have been granted monumental advances for the mediocre works that end up in bookstores while outstanding works go unnoticed or unpublished. Sarah Palin has been given $7 million (nearly 14 million NZ dollars) for her autobiography. It paints a sorry picture of contemporary culture but is probably just a sad fact of life that for something to be elite or outstanding it must, by definition, be exclusive or niche, with few exceptions.

As one comentator on the Good post remarks it may not be such a bad thing for the leviathon companies to crumple under their own bloated weight, as it will allow quality niche imprints to take up the slack. That may be a Utopian idea though. There will always be demand for the trashy and easily consumed - I doubt McDonalds, holiday season blockbuster movies or tabloid magazines will disapear anytime soon. As that great hucster PT Barnum quite rightly pointed out - 'Every crowd has a silver lining' and 'There's a sucker born every minute'.

It may be that books do ultimately disappear, though I am inclined to think they will become the kind of cultural artifact they once were. Bound books will be treasured. Thier quality will increase (in terms of artistry) and the quick, cheap easily consumed stuff will become digital content, viewed on hand held devices like the iPhone and Amazon's Kindle. At one end will be luxury and intellectual hedonism and, at the other the commoditisation of content.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How to speak New Zillund

How to speak New Zillund

Watching Breakfast TV (well not really watching it, just doing other things with the goggle box going in the background). Just noticed how broad Host Pippa Wetzel kiwi accent is. Angela D'Audney must be spinning in her grave.

A radio network has sent out a guide to New Zillund pronunciation which I found amusing.

Accents are a strange thing. I arrived in New Zealand as lad with a Scottish accent but have, over time, let it slide. Years ago I owned an ad agency called Milk Moustache. Part of the corporate culture was Sean Connery Wednesday. Everyone was required to answer the phone in their best Sean Connery voice. Sounds strange - not as strange as what some people thought was a Scottish accent. Still it was good for a laugh and resulted in more calls from clients on Wednesday than any other day of the week. When I visited Scotland I couldn't summon up a Scottish accent to save my life - I had become a kiwi - for better or for worse, as they say in wedding ceremonies.

I am doodling but I am listening too

Had a meeting today. Boring as batshit.
Nothing for it but to draw hot rods.
Oh, by the way - the thing in the sky? Christmas decoration. Well, you had to ask.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why TV was invented.

It is fashionable to predict the end of TV. I'm not so sure. I found this old book on the Internet Archive called Ideal Home Life which is, by its own account 'chock full of practicial suggestions for home happiness'. Sound promising? No, it's nothing like that. The content includes 'Plays for little people'. Hmmm,…can't wait to watch those.

I will never complain about reruns of Friends again.

Here comes Pete the Meat Puppet

What the!?...

Barnardos - Break the Cycle

This ad for Barnardos (UK), the children's charity is very powerful.

A reminder that drama and filmic technique can be provocative and motivating.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More thinking about social media

The Interwebs
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: media social)

Nice presentation about media (I've dropped the social handle because I think at some point the new way simply becomes the way. Media is media).

I completely agree with some of the thoughts, especially about avoiding the temptation to reinvent the wheel. In a meeting with a web company recently they suggested that the solution, or part of it it at least, was to build and iPhone app. I heard alarm bells. Not only was the target audience for the product older and unlikely to to be early adopters of technology but the market penetration of the iPhone in the New Zealand market (which is tiny itself) is tiny. The urge to 'create' is often skewed (If all you have is a hammer - every problem looks like a nail). My recommendation to colleagues was that we avoid spending money on a project that will deliver few returns and cost a considerable amount in cash and time. No fun, but what the heck - there's a recession, haven't you heard?

Rising to the Phoenix

Over on the Brand DNA blog Stan has prodded me into having a discussion about the Phoenix Organic brand.

Well, I have a couple of thoughts:

1. Phoenix used to be a nice little brand here in New Zealand. Now it is owned by Charlie's the loss making juice maker that spends all its money on marketing while it waits to be bought by Coca Cola (a la 42 below / Bacardi).

In the beverages category there is nothing that really differentiates other than advertising - if we are to be be honest - so I would expect nothing less than nice ads. It is the price of admission.

2. The message doesn't grab me because I like science. In fact when I think about Coke what I like is that I know exactly where it has been and that, wherever I go, it will always taste the same. Disgusting and I don't know why I like it, but the same. Everywhere.

Sadly the same cannot be said of organics. Or rather, happily the same cannot be said of organics. They have a funky aura. Ugly pitted fruit and vegetables that cost more. There is a weird inverse relationship with organics that is spoiled when they are corporatised.

So the problem I have with Phoenix Organics is that, while I might like the idea, I have a conflict when it is bottled and widely distributed in pasteurised perfection and when the advertising has to be so disingenuously ingenious to persuade then I am reminded of Margaret Thatcher's remark: "If you have to tell someone you are a lady, then you probably are not."

The perfect Christmas gift

I was looking at a little laughing Buddha figure in a shop yesterday. I couldn't remember ever seeing a laughing Christ. Which is a shame. Why is that? Was Jesus an unhappy person. Is Santa a happiness substitute - a stand-in at the party of the year?

Hello Kitty Hospital des

Only in Japan. Though I think it looks quite jolly.

Maybe branded hospitals would be a good idea in New Zealand. Perhaps then they would be clean, reliable, trustworthy and cost efficient for a change?


as is this - the Swimming Pool Car. (how many miles per gallon?)

Crack Squad

Ok, maybe it is time to come clean.

You think that I write ThoughtSpurs by myself when, in fact, it is a put together by a team of highly specialised elves. They are a crack unit, based at the South Pole. Few have papers, or social security numbers, so prefer to remain anonymous. Some are highly qualified: medical doctors, lawyers, forensic accountants but the prospect of driving cabs in New Zealand - even with Navman systems - fills them with mortal dread.

And so they toil.


And night.

Something to think about. Especially if you still believe in Santa.

I am hugely relieved by the new legislation, being pushed through under 'urgency' in the New Zealand parliament by John Key's government; employers will be enabled to initiate a 3 month trial of new workers. If they don't work out then they can be 'let go' without claim or grievance. I think that makes good sense. Some think it will create a situation where people are exploited. On the other hand, it will also allow businesses to sort the wheat from the chaff and ensure that people they choose to hire fit in with existing teams. Don't forget that the relationship between a worker and employer is not singular but plural. If someone doesn't fit in, then productivity is likely to fall throughout the organisation.

Which is a relief. Because the elf I hired in payroll - from Gdansk in Northern Poland… the North Pole… insists on singing showtunes and it's driving the others nuts. She might fit in better over at the tooth fairy's gig.

Though I'm not sure about 'urgency' as a cover for pushing laws through in the dead of night. Reminds me of Helengrad. Thought I had voted for change.


The Daily Show with John Stewart is to bandwidth as candyfloss is to a 300 pound fairground devotee.

But it is worth every calorie.

Here's what happens when one man speaks for a room full of funny people.

Actually he has a point (made earlier in the same show) why did the U.S. Congress bail out the bankers, who produce nothing, with barely a whimper, but the car industry - which employs hundreds of thousands of people and actually makes a product - is made to jump through hoops?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Good News

I have been thinking about creating an advertising format with a virtual presenter, so I was amused to find the Good News Segments. I shall redouble my efforts forthwith.

Anti-Social media

In the New York Times an article by David Carr offers an explanation of why the recession has occurred so brutally swiftly. Because we have learned about it far more quickly than ever before in history.

"Every modern recession includes a media séance about how horrible things are and how much worse they will be," David Carr writes in today's New York Times, "but there have never been so many ways for the fear to leak in. The same digital dynamics that drove the irrational exuberance—and marketed the loans to help it happen—are now driving the downside in unprecedented ways." In any given morning, Carr braves televisions in taxi cabs and elevators, news tickers in Times Square, email alerts, online advertisements, and instant messages that all feed the fear. "This recession got deeper faster because we knew more bad stuff quickly,…"

“There are studies on bank runs, and it shows that people who know others who have taken their money out of the bank are much more likely to do it as well,” he said. “We always overshoot the upside and, because of the same contagious effects, we overshoot the downside. Everything is fine, and then all of the sudden we are looking for water and supplies to ride out the coming storm."

The phenomenon also seems to correspond to the idea of Social Proof', also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed. (Wikipedia)

It all highlights the fact that wealth is often imagined, rather than real - or a perception. Your neighbour's new car or plasma TV seems to be evidence of their prosperity when, in fact it simply represented their easy access to credit. Having made the decision to purchase the goods the neighbour is far more like to behave in a way that promotes the idea that it was the correct thing to do (post-purchase dissonance). The swagger will influence people in his or her circle - who are motivated to keep up with the Joneses, and who find easy access to credit in-store too. So the cycle continues.

Me, I'm happy with my old CRT TV. The news doesn't look as bad on it as it does on your home movieplex.

Heads up from The Daily Beast

Monday, December 08, 2008

Linear thinking

I love simplicity. Doesn't get much simpler than this.

Via Good

Parliament Reopens today

The New Zealand parliament reopens today for the first time since the Labour Government were scrapped by the people of Aotearoa.

One of the first things the new government has done is to scrap the 'Buy New Zealand Made' advertising campaign given to the Greens as a sop by the Labour party when they held the strings to the public purse. The campaign didn't make any sense when it was first conceived in 1990 by Young & Rubicam Auckland (maybe you remember the '(sung)Look at all thiose proud Kiwis buying Kiwi made..." - and it doesn;t work now. New Zealanders will buy goods that are the right quality for their budget, regardless of the country of origin. With layoffs coming down the pike I am guessing that Chinese made will look good again (don't buy their food though - or check for melamine content). Offsetting that will be the plummeting value of the New Zealand dollar (according to John Key - nothing to worry about - it trades in a band between 40c and 70c...easy for him to say but how wlll afford to pay for my orders? - public library is looking good).

Anyway, let the fun begin in the Beehive, hopefully the Nats will have the balls to humiliate the former government for their ACC debacle, allowing both of the planes owned by the New Zealand Air Force to be grounded at the same time...I'm sure their will be more.
Pistol for miscreant parliamentarians
In the future the members of parliament who screw up royally should be the discreet recipient of one of these, with a note saying 'You know what to do..." :


I saw Deborah Hill-Cone's photo (centre) attached to her column in the New Zealand Herald. I thought a waggish picture editor had drawn on the specs as an April Fool joke that had gone on too long. Looking closely the glasses frame is, indeed, real. Comical, but real. It would seem that Ms Hill-Cone has made a bid to have signature glasses. Comedian George Burns and architect Robert Johnson also wore heavy, round glasses frames. For a while there Hill-Cone's co-columnist in Unlimited magazine Mike Hutecheson was seen sporting a mad pair of the same style.

Thinking of acquiring a set myself. Kidding, of course.

Interesting to think about how many people are famous for their glasses:
Elton John, John Lennon, The Guy in Blur, Dame Edna Everage, Roy Orbison come quickly to mind - but there could be others...I'm sure of it. I wonder if the growing use of Lasik surgery will end this noble (or daft) tradition.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Kevin (Nero) Roberts Thais one on.

It's a little weird that the economic world is in free-fall but Kevin Roberts is blogging about spending time in luxury (post below). The final quote in the post might well be true. But it was also a moment of truth when the heads of GM and Ford were baled up for arriving at congressional hearings in private jets.

I feel there is zero tolerance for corporate arrogance in the air.

Now is not the time to be a profligate wanker.

Faced with the loss of their jobs the folks who buy Saatchi & Saatchi's client's products at the grocery store will think twice before spending even a couple of extra dollars. Dropping thousands in Thailand, then crowing loudly isn't the kind of leadership corporate America (or anywhere) needs right now.

Advertising agencies (even those with Lovemarks and Ideas) have a reputation for profligacy. Clients have always resented the Porsches in the company lot.

It may be time to wake up and smell..we'll, let's just say it's not roses.

Here is Mr Robert's original post:

A couple of weeks ago I spent five days in "The Haven of Life". Chiva Som is a two and a half hour drive from Bangkok and is one of the most beautiful places on earth. This is my sixth visit and I always stay in the same room every time, room 303 – The Chamomile Suite. I love this room that overlooks the pool, palm trees, yoga pavilion, and ocean. It is a place where I recharge my batteries for the year-end and take time out to refresh the mind, body, and spirit. I dropped 8lbs. by following a 5-day Classic Cleansing diet comprising of vegetable juice, potassium broth, wheatgrass, and lots and lots of water.

I combined this with a daily massage (including my first ever facial) and a brilliant 5 Element Massage using hot and cold stones. I also worked out every morning, played tennis with Tam every day (four wins out of four – 3 in a tie-break and one 7-5). I had a water aerobics class daily and at least one hot tub and steam every day. I didn’t speak to anyone except the tennis pro for the entire five days and it gave me time to focus on positivity and replenishment.

In the hectic business life we all lead nowadays, I find the person we most often neglect is ourselves. Instead we spend lots of time worrying about the business, our clients, and our people.

“If your thoughts are always positive you will be at peace with yourself and all around you the world will smile.” Joy is one of the great motivators of peak performance. Reminding ourselves to find the joy in every situation by making people smile is not only a great equity position for Crest toothpaste (where healthy beautiful smiles for life are the order of the day), but it is also a highly inspirational code to live by.

Chiva Som was only 40% full when I was there and it was mainly women. In fact, I only saw three male guests during the five, which meant the men’s spa was always empty. Perfect."

Chiva Som is a favorite among celebrities like Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Ferguson, and you’ll find lots of Thais and expats from Bangkok taking a weekend break. Women were using the time away from husbands, family, and work to pamper themselves, mothers and daughters were bonding, and a few couples were getting in shape (spiritually and physically) together. I was the only person there on the Classic Cleanse; everyone else was enjoying the health spa lifestyle and food which is delicious. I wrote about Chiva Som last year but it really does get better as the pace of life gets faster.

I did lots of reading during the five days and was also reminded of one of the core tenets of a good life: “It is always good to grow in the spirit of forgiveness. But we must also learn to forget.” Instead of going over many wrongs that may have happened to us in the past, let us forget them and live in the present.

I almost forgot to tell you about the work part (oh, yes, that too). I spent three hours a day in the library keeping things whirling. I did this with my iPod on, with total tranquility all around, and wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.
The news everyday wasn’t too hot, with American Express laying off 10% of their workforce, people’s 401K funds in the U.S. being hammered, and job losses wherever you look. And it was happening in businesses as varied as Chrysler and Yahoo!. Once again, though, my readings helped me, “Conditions are always good, never bad; we need to know how to make good use of them. The man who waits for conditions to improve may have to wait for eternity”.

Just for the record

Here's the rate card for the resort. The rooms used by KR aren't listed, but I am guessing that they aren't at the budget end of the spectrum.

If your want to price the therapies, the entire pricelist is on the web site