Tuesday, April 30, 2013

lean period

'All those words that I have wasted in haste
Have left such a bitter aftertaste

The reason being I'm going through a lean period
A decidedly mean period'

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

this is the best bad idea we have

Whether or not you subscribe to the notion that movies such as Argo are a propaganda trojan horse - the irony of the line at the start of this clip will not be lost if you are among those who do (You're telling me there is a movie company in Hollywood right now that is funded by the CIA?) there are a couple of splendid bits of dialogue.

This particular scene came to mind while in an agency discussion about how to evaluate creative work.

Tony Mendez: "And we think everyone knows Hollywood people. And everybody knows they'd shoot in Stalingrad with Pol Pot directing if it would sell tickets. There are only bad options. It's about finding the best one."

Official: "You don't have a better bad idea than this?"

Jack O'Donnell: "This is the best bad idea we have, sir, by far."

Official: "The United States Government has just sanctioned your science-fiction movie."

Tony Mendez: "Thank you, sir"

Puzzling over why a particular piece of work was deeply unsatisfying, yet unable to pinpoint exactly what it was at the root, it became clear that the piece actually contained no 'idea' as such.

There was merely a fact disguised as a 'line'.

Our conclusion was that a bad idea is at least an idea and can therefore recieve criticism.

No idea is far harder to evaluate, as time is wasted trying to work out if it's an idea or not.

Let's also be mindful that no idea is very adept at appearing to be an idea.

Good idea is best. But a bad idea is still an idea and so is at all times preferrable to no idea.

To paraphrase the Dhammapada...

The bad idea that knows it's a bad idea, in this much at least is an idea.
But the no idea that thinks it's an idea - that's the real bad idea.

Argo f*ck yourself.

science plus creativity

I'm probably the last person in the world to catch on to the latest Dove activity, Real Beauty Sketches.

Real Beauty Sketches from John X. Carey on Vimeo.

Aside from being splendidly executed content as advertising and another iteration of the long running real beauty purpose idea, the difference between projects of this nature that succeed (ie signal) versus those which fail (noise) is where the idea is based on a solid human insight.

In this case, of course this is a highly creative demonstration of the worse-than-average effect.

The human cognitive bias in which we routinely underestimate one's achievements and capabilities and attractiveness in relation to others.

And may I be as bold as to suggest that this piece is a blow to those hold the belief science and creativity are opponents.

When, in fact, the application of science and creativity together will always produce the the most compelling work.


Some Wednesday inspiration from Malcolm Tucker.

"People hate me? Good!

You know what people say about you? FUCK ALL!"

Or you can have the highbrow version

“And I — my head oppressed by horror — said: "Master, what is it that I hear? Who are those people so defeated by their pain?"
And he to me: "This miserable way is taken by the sorry souls of those who lived without disgrace and without praise.
They now commingle with the coward angels, the company of those who were not rebels nor faithful to their God, but stood apart.
The heavens, that their beauty not be lessened, have cast them out, nor will deep Hell receive them — even the wicked cannot glory in them.”

Dante Alighieri Inferno

Friday, April 12, 2013

knife fighting for the ego-friendly

Dan Ariely has famously commented on why people don't care about climate change, and how harnessing the power of the ego could be one way to move our behaviours to be more environmentally responsible.

Ego-friendly as opposed to eco-friendly.

Dan argues that if we were to invent something no-one would care about it would be climate change.

Because its real impact will be at some point far in the future, it's effects will be felt mostly by other people other than us and even if I did do something it would be a drop in the ocean such is the scale of the issue.

All of these are recipes for not caring.

Plus we only start acting when we feel something emotionally about the problem, logic isn't in it.

So Dan points to observing Prius drivers as a possible answer.

Driving a Prius promotes one's self image as a good person who is doing their bit, and is a signal to others that they are someone who cares about the environment.

The joke goes that you can spot a Prius driver by their permanent smug expression.

Anyway, the clip is from ABC's The Elegant Gentleman's Guide to Knife Fightingand is a splendid bit of insight, a smart as anything from any ad planning department and an extremis riff on Ariely's hypothesis.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

rated for constipated peak viewing time

While the news filtering in that 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead' is set to top the various music charts by the end of this week is fairly amusing, I can't help getting somewhat misty eyed for the old days of the Radio 1 Top 40 and Top of the Pops.

Although being principally Facebook driven, an event such as this just felt a tad more salient in a mass media context.

At the time of writing 'Ding Dong' is sitting at number one on amazon and number two on the UK itunes chart.

As a cultural 'event' however the top 40 has long ago lost any significance with the broader public, what was formerly a social object of sorts is now a minor data point.

The problem is the lack of availability of those charts to the casual viewer and therefore the sense that 'something is happening'.

It requires a proper dig around to find them.

I guess the proof of the pudding will be on Sunday when the 'official' UK top forty is announced on BBC radio.

We wait with interest to see if the BBC will decide to give Ding Dong it's due chart placing.

If your old enough to have experienced the Thatcher years then you are equally likely to remember the conspiracy between the BBC and the mainstream high street retailers who participated in the chart-return process to provide the nations top 40 back in the day.

Between themselves they acted to keep the Sex Pistols 'God Save The Queen' off the number one spot in Jubilee year 1977. The BBC engineered things to ensure insipid-period Rod Stewart topped the charts despite being out-sold 2-1 by the Pistols.

WH Smith found it too much to even acknowledge the existence of the record, leaving the number two slot blank in their chart.

A nice one-two-three would be Ding Dong at number one followed by Elvis Costello's 'Tramp the Dirt Down' (which has also seen a spike in sales this week and is apparently bothering the top 40) followed by the mighty Pete's 'The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies' or maybe the less poetic but direct 'How Does It Feel to Be The Mother of a Thousand Dead' by those naughty public school anarchists (in effect Thatcher's badly behaved disruptive children) Crass.

Friday, April 05, 2013

blessed are the cheesemakers

Not meant to be taken literally. It, of course, refers to any manufacturer of dairy products.

Except perhaps not all cheesemakers are equal.

I've read and re-read this recent article from the New York Times regarding the artisan cheese boutiques of New York.

The writer observes that 'some of the most amusing and captivating writing in the city is being produced in the service of cheese.'

For instance see the labels below scribed by Martin Johnson, manager of Gastronomie 491, a market and cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

His rock'n'roll description of Calcagno, an Italian sheep cheese is particularly fetching.

“Big and floral in the very best way possible, this firm Sardinian sheep has the cool unaffected strut of Mick in his prime, Lou in middle age or Polly Jean today.”

From the marketers point of view we should note that in a commoditised market with many similar choices then a simple way to differentiate is to simply have a better story.

Particularly if the story allows the buyer to tell themselves they have made a better choice, and gives them a reason to tell other people how smart/cool/in-the-know they are.

So the cheese buying journey is certainly another one whereby standard economic theory of the c*nsumer, armed with full information, doing cost-benefit analysis and making rational decisions in their own self-interest goes right out the window.

The psychologist Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory and social action at Swarthmore College and author of (essential reading) 'The Paradox of Choice', calls this outsourcing connoisseurship.

“Many people want the patina of connoisseurship on the cheap, so they contract out the decision-making process. [this way] you get the benefits of discernment without paying the psychological price of having to make difficult choices and distinctions. You’re happy because you’ve been told what to get and don’t know any better.”

Indeed Steve Jenkins, the cheese 'expert' at Fairway Market remarks...

'The customer has no idea what he or she wants, the customer is dying to be told what they want.”.

Perhaps that's a slightly skewed view - as with social media 'experts', cheese experts display symptoms of a somewhat subjective validation - but there can no doubt that in this instance the cheese buying process is a highly social one, and one which falls into both the copying of 'experts' bucket and also the peer-copying category.

Those who are prone to outsourcing their connoisseurship of cheese will without doubt outsource their connoisseurship in many other categories.

Schwartz also notes that '...people become paragons of taste simply by taking someone else’s advice'.

Indeed, in my record shop days we routinely employed a similar tactic, and wrote detailed descriptions of the latest US or Italian imports on stickers attached to the sleeves.

('116bpm funk guitar led balearic chunky chugger peppered with JB horns, Chas'n'Dave keys and Doobie Brothers riffs - massive Pelican Club tune! - there will be a prize for the reader who can identify that one)

As the title of the post is from Life of Brian it's seems apt to finish with another much quoted excerpt.

Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!

Crowd: [in unison] Yes! We're all individuals!

Brian: You're all different!

Crowd: [in unison] Yes, we are all different!

Man in crowd: I'm not...

Crowd: Shhh!