Friday, July 31, 2009

Top 10 Ironic Ads in Advertising History

The Consumerist has put together an amazing collection on this one: "Remember when you could buy barbiturates for the baby? Cover your house with asbestos? Or get heroin from the doctor? Okay, probably not, but thanks to the immortal beauty of advertising, you can take a trip back in time. Here's our pick of some of the most ironic ads in American history."

The Consumerist: Top 10 Ironic Ads in Advertising History

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Economist : Thinking Space

Thinking Space, a A promotional feature from The Economist profiles creative individuals and their work or "thinking" space. I've seen lots of publications do promotions that feature readers, particularly prominent or famous readers but this goes a little further than an image and a quote. It's always interesting to see someone's work space and the objects that are highlighted in each space are fun, anecdotal bits. Each profile also includes links to favorite pieces from the magazine and well as interesting things external to the economist. The 3D mosaic effect in the "space" explorer is just dope.

If you've never listened to The Economist's podcast they are worth checking out, both the "week ahead" and the special features. One of the top podcasts in my weekly list of things I listen to.

Get Get Get - Grapes! (Can I Get a Little Closer?)

This post goes out to BTS who sent me this and is for some reason does not want to post it to his FB profile. Great animation, really quirky and odd. I was beginning to get nervous as I knew it must be leading up to "something", but the end is a bit disappointing. Still, god fun.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reflections on the Moon Landing (Hoax)

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of man's first steps on the moon and/or the greatest hoax ever pulled off. Either way, its a powerful story with an important message. If indeed the moon landings took place, it's an amazing feat of engineering and technology as well as a testament to collective achievement. If it was faked it is a triumph of stagecrafted perception over reality on a massive scale. Either way, the message of the moon landing is that anything is possible.

In the end, the goal of the moon landing and what is achieved by its faking are the same. There were no urgent, scientific reasons for a going to the moon. There was no Armageddon-like threat to the planet that the astronauts were saving the human race from. It was about bragging rights and being the first to do something that seemed impossible. The goal of the mission was the demonstration of scientific superiority. It was about creating and solidifying collective, cultural belief. It was about controlling minds.

I used to tell people that I didn't believe the moon landing was real, that I thought it was all faked. It started out as a thought experiment. A facetious, philosophical instigation. A way to get people riled up. An intellectual inquiry into the mechanics of "why" we believe what we believe. Given the fact that everything is spun on its axis in order to achieve some political and/or financial end, consciously considering what to believe as truth and what to reject as deception is a fundamental intellectual capacity required for consciously navigating one's way through life. Failure to do so renders one's self into an easily available resource available for domestication and harvesting by others.

Over the years these types of thought experiments have evolved into a theoretical perspective that I refer to as "quantum epistemology". In physics the concept of "superposition" refers to the collective combination of all possible states any given system might take. Subatomic particles are believed to occupy many simultaneous position at once (a superposition) and that it is the act of observation or measurement that collapses it in on a single position. Truth, to me, is often better thought of as a superposition of possibilities rather than a discoverable, stable, graspable possession. It is the act of belief collapses in on an isolated perspective and fixes it in the mind as truth.

A long view of scientific history makes it seem silly to take and defend a position on something such as the beginning of the universe or the origins of man. Science never quite gets to the bottom of anything. On the contrary, it is closer to a never ending process of revising what we though we already knew and pushing the number of things we don't know upward. The lesson of science is that everything is more complicated than we thought it was. Despite this, the most popular application of science if the forming of vehemently and aggressively defended certainties.

The cultural battles that rage over the issues like evolution and climate change aren't about truth, they're about control. History shows clearly two things. One, that people have a endless willingness and capacity to battle for control. Two, everyone who has ever lived has been wrong about almost everything that they believed. If time has a lesson it is that everyone is wrong.

So, do I believe that man has been to the moon? So many years entertaining both possibilities has completely "unfixed" any sort of position on the matter for me. There really isn't anything at stake or anything pressing me to decide either way. Someday, maybe something will happen happen, a super-powerful telescope will be invented that allows me to peer upon the surface of the moon and either see the flag and that little golf cart, or not. On that day it will be like opening the box and finding out where or not whether schrodinger's cat is alive or dead but until then I really don't know, not in any absolute, certain sense. And neither do you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strange Bedfellows: The Dirtbombs, The Smiths & Elvis Presley

Maybe it's the badass nature of the city that imbibes its people with such a powerful streak of individualism. Maybe it's because they don't ever expect to be famous and hence don't obsess over success and "perception" like people do in New York and Los Angeles. Regardless, I do love how my brethren from Detroit just do things, just because, or just because they want to.

I was on The Dirtbombs website and saw that in addition to the classic "blackula" tshirt they now have one featuring Morrssey.

My favorite rock n roll poster of all time is The Smiths poster for the release of the single "Shoplifters of the World". (I happen be in possession of a rare "subway size" version.) Such a strange intersection of 3 very different bands that happen to be among my favorites.

If you haven't heard of The Dirtbombs you owe it to yourself to check out the world's greatest rock n roll band.

More "banned", sexually themed ads.

For Sprite in Germany. What's most shocking about this one is how slick and cheesy it is. It's pretty clear that these are created knowing that they will be running on YouTube. I think we ned a term for the tired, sexually-explicit ads created to spread under the sensationalistic heading of "banned". These really aren't banned or controversial ads. They're spots created knowing that the target audience is male, young, online and responds well to this type of content.

I wonder how long before advertisers like Sprint are called out on this tactic. It really isn't any different than Camel cigarettes using a cartoon camel in their ads.

And a Dutch spot for coffee creamer.

Via Nixta

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grotesque and Gluttoness Gastro-Alchemy

Last week I posted a link to a site called This is Why You're Fat, a celebration of grotesque and gluttoness gastro-alchemy. The site features culinary submissions like "The Flapjack Fiasco" (layers from bottom to top: pancake; cookie dough; pancake; peanut butter and jelly; pancake; chocolate and bananas; pancake; caramel, oreo, marshmallow, sprinkles, M&M’s; pancake; caramel buttercream frosting granished with Trix cereal.)

It seems that there a few food advertisers that, in an effort to drive increased consumption of their products, are dusting off that age-old tactic of supplying recipes and preparation tips. It makes perfect sense for Campbell's to offer up a casserole recipe on the back of a can of cream of mushroom soup but suggesting novel ways to consume Pop-Tarts and Eggo Waffles seems off category. I always thought these products sold themselves and if anything, required effort and strategies to prevent over consumption. These are food products specifically designed for immediate, no-fuss consumption. For many consumers heating Pop-Tarts or bothering to spread anything on their Eggos is a needless expense of effort and time consuming, frilly fussiness.

Do children really need to be encouraged to crumble warmed Pop-Tarts over ice cream or to make a "sandwich" by spreading yogurt between 2 heated Pop-Tarts? This print ad, titled "Made for Summer" does exactly that. And more. What happened to concerns over childhood obesity and the new stricter guidelines for marking to children.

The new TV spots and the website for Eggos are a srubbed for mass consumption version of "This is Why You're Fat". The creations are more restrained, the photography better and instead of over-the-top titles the novel Eggo creations are presented as the personal expressions of child creators. Megan's Master Splatterpiece is "splattered with as many kinds of jam and syrup" as she can find.

This is the dietary equivalent of mixing dopamine-jacking drugs and sex. Once people bring ecstasy, meth or coke into the bedroom there's almost no going back. Missionary at the tail-end of a blockbuster night just doesn't stimulate arousal anymore. Do you really want to start an arms race of dietary overstimulation? No one wins in this war, least of all our children.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Mighty Boosh: DVD Release, US Tour Dates

Finally! My favorite show in recent years, The Mighty Boosh, is being released on DVD for US audiences. All 3 seasons will be released by BBC America on July 21. (BBC America online store - click here)

To promote the DVD release the cast is touring the US.

NEW YORK — July 21/22
Wednesday July 22: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon

Tickets available at Ticketmaster and Club Box Office

LOS ANGELES – July 27-29
Monday, July 27: Chelsea Lately
Tuesday, July 28: 6-8pm signing at Amoeba Music

Limited Edition T-Shirt, available only at Comic-Con :(

The Mighty Boosh: YouTube Channel

The Mighty Boosh, on Flickr

Tron Reboot

Tron Reboot. A series of shorts by my friend Ben Hansford

Monday, July 13, 2009

Short Form

In this age of texts and tweets it seems only natural that expressive forms follow suit and reduce themselves to the bare minimum. Some example of super short-form expression and entertainment formats.

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction, Summer Writing Contest! Original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less (500-600 words). Listeners have already submitted over 3,000 entries.

Texts From Last Night (Remember that text you shouldn't have send last night? We do.)
"he spent the whole night trying to convince me into a2m. i won't even use the pb til i clean the jelly knife. i love him but it's not going to happen."

3 Frames: a blog devoted to animated gifs crafted from 3 frames from a motion picture.

One Sentence: True Stories told in one sentence.
"It was perfectly in character for me as a child, when I maintained to my first grade teacher that my favorite animal was not a giraffe or tiger, but grass."

Jim Bishop. Castle Builder

The 15th Hole

Another great New York Times interactive feature, an interactive, 3D exploration of the 15th hole of the US Open Golf Tournament.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Swedish Armed Forces: Online Recruitment Test

The Swedish Armed Forces have developed an online recruitment test that consists of 9 interactive exercises that test memory, logic, impulse control, ability to detect threat, etc. Some of my friends have commented that it's a bit creepy. I think it's one of the best pieces of interactive web theater I've seen in a long time.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What's Jamming My Radar?

I haven't been writing as much in the last month so I've decided to share some of the things that are "jamming my radar", some great books, podcasts, etc.

On creative process. Two great podcasts with screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie). He's an amazing talker and storyteller. Both of these are great listens.

Christopher McQuarrie discussing the process of tackling a historical piece (Valkyrie), the struggle of authenticity, and the power of Tom Cruise.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast with Christopher McQuarrie. Great stories about The Usual Suspects, filmmaking and Valkyrie.

WNYC's Radio Lab: Stochasticity
This hour, Radiolab examines Stochasticity, which is just a wonderfully slippery and smarty-pants word for randomness. How big a role does randomness play in our lives? Do we live in a world of magic and meaning or … is it all just chance and happenstance? To tackle this question, we look at the role chance and randomness play in sports, lottery tickets, and even the cells in our own body. Along the way, we talk to a woman suddenly consumed by a frenzied gambling addiction, two friends whose meeting seems purely providential, and some very noisy bacteria.

From "This American Life": Origin Story
TAL producer Sarah Koenig tells the story of her father, Julian Koenig, the legendary advertising copywriter whose work includes the slogan “Timex takes a licking and keeps on ticking” and Volkswagen’s “Think Small” ads. For years Sarah has heard her dad accuse a former partner of stealing some of his best ideas, but until recently she never paid much attention.Then she started asking her dad for details of this fight for his legacy, and what she learned surprised her. (20 minutes)

I won't go into reviews of each but they are all great reads. I actually read Clay Shirkey's book a while back but re-read the first four chapters last week. One of the better books on technology and social change. I was introduced to all of these books, and most of the non-fiction I read these days, by the KERA "Think" podcast hosted by Kris Boyd, still one of my favorite podcasts.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Humanby Michael Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan

The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It by Joshua Cooper Ramo

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

Drunken History. A series that consists of historical events told by someone who is really drunk and edited together with theatrical reenactments. The idea of having really drunk people retell stories is brilliant. People loose the self consciousness they normally have when they're drunk. In some ways it feels like sitting with a funny, drunk friend as they prattle on. This is my favorite, the girl telling the story is really funny and and has a certain drunken charm about her.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


I really like these. From a Flickr set titled: Metasystem Transition by Etherhill. There isn't any info about the artist or images other than the tags: apparatus assisted photography, generative, man-machine, stochastic, Autopoiesis.

This reminds me of aboriginal dot paintings (an Spirograph). Very cool.

I've always really liked photographically generated abstract images. The photograms of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy are favorites of mine.

Photgrams by László Moholy-Nagy

Monday, July 06, 2009

Sacha Baron Cohen gets "Brunoed"

A Bruno impostor disrupts the Sydney premier. It turns out to be a stunt for Nando's restaurants, but still, delightfully postmodern. Personally, I'm a bit tired of Cohen's overly staged schtick. It's nice to see him on the receiving end for once.

Aged News

Of all the analysis and commentary I've seen on the death of old media news reporting nothing cuts to the bone quite like this piece from The Daily Show. Hilarious and brutal.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Hobnox (Browser-based Music Application)

Music and the web aren't exactly a match made in heaven. There is the often unfortunate use of bad music as an annoying background feature of website as well as the simple fact that the quality of sound, particularly streaming, still isn't great. On top of all that most laptops and computers don't provide for very good listening experiences.

Even the creative uses of sound and music have been rather lackluster affairs. Music mixers that turn loops on and off, even when they're fun aren't fun for very long.

There is a phenomenal recently released exception: Hobnox's Audio Tool. A brower-based music production application that features all the classic electronic music gear, the TB-303, 606 and 909 drum machines as well as an assortment of effects. It sounds great, it looks great and its easy and fun to use (esp if your familiar with the analog versions of the gear).

Someone's even hooked it up to an oversized touch display. Dope.

Propellerheads software's failure to rerelease ReBirth for Mac OSX was really painful for me. I had, literally, hundreds of songs and audiofiles I created using that software that are now inaccessible to me. I would love it if someone figured out a way to open Rebirth files and load them into Autio Tool.

The ReBirth Museum

Hey Foodies!!!

A testament to DIY inventiveness in the kitchen. This is Why You're Fat: "Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks. Below are a couple of my favorites. If you dare click the link and visit the site, be warned. My gag reflex triggered a couple of times browsing these creations. Best viewed on an empty stomach.

The Royal Flush
A pile of 3 sunny side up eggs, beans, red chile sauce, cheddar cheese, 4 corn tortillas and 3 hash browned potatoes.
(submitted by Joseph Zobel)

The Pizza Party
A DiGiorno pizza on top of a Jack’s pizza topped with Totino’s pizza rolls.
(submitted by schizocentral)

Although the phot is repellant my favorite part of this one is the title: The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings
Foot long hot dog threaded through onion rings, served with cheese and bacon on top.
(submitted by Kristin Brammell via Pink’s Las Vegas)

My favorite part of the site might just be the type treatment for the header: Cooper Black (typeface) and process colors. Awesome.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Visual Design Cliches: Radiating Lines

Over the past couple of years, radiating lines have become one of the most common visual devices and overused cliches. It's one of those things that, once you notice it, you start to see it everywhere. It's a cheap and easy way to make an otherwise pedestrian message a more dynamic and visual "exciting". Often, you don't consciously "see" it. It is just a background element after all. It works like the visual equivalent of MSG, you and to and crappy layout and it becomes a little less crappy, but not really better. I've seen it used several times as a rotating background on the text-filled screen in car commercials where they show you the finance numbers.

In a culture so oversaturated visually, the demand for everything to be more and more visually stimulating just keeps increasing to the point where even an airline drink special needs to be communicated with emphatic pizazz of the Japanese Army's Imperial war flag.