October 27, 2008 by Colin
Emmett Milbarge. Does that name sound familiar, or am I an exceptionally perceptive fan of Chevy Chase movies?
Emmett Milbarge is the name of a new sales manager making an appearance on tonight’s episode of Chuck, the spoofy espionage drama broadcast on NBC.
It’s also an amalgam of the lead characters from Spies Like Us:
Chevy Chase … Emmett Fitz-Hume
Dan Aykroyd … Austin Millbarge
October 26, 2008 by Colin
It’s time for the economists to rend their garments and seek forgiveness. Econ Journal Watch is preparing a compendium of personal narratives on the subject of preference falsification: that unusual circumstance where scientists, researchers and, of course, economists, express views or attitudes in public that contradict those they hold in private.
In his or her essay, the author should clarify the kind of preference falsification in which he or she has engaged. For example:
- Building models one does not really believe to be useful or relevant.
- Making simplifications that obscure or omit important things.
- Using data one does not really believe in.
- Focusing on the statistical significance of one’s findings while quietly doubting economic significance.
- Engaging in data mining.
- Drawing “policy implications” that one knows are inappropriate or misleading.
- Keeping the discourse “between the 40 yard lines” so as to avoid being outspoken; knowingly eliding fundamental issues.
- Tilting the flavor of policy judgments to make a paper more acceptable to referees, editors, publishers, or funders.
- Disguising one’s methodological or ideological views, such as by omitting revealing activities or publications from one’s vitae.
- For government, institute, or corporate economists: Having to significantly play along with things one does not believe in.
h/t to Marginal Revolution
October 25, 2008 by Colin
Waaassssuuuupppp? With the economy, the war, health care, the stock market ….
(I know I’m cheating by not providing you with quality blog narrative and incisive ideas, but I’m working on a couple of papers. You’ll be impressed when they’re finished)
October 22, 2008 by Colin
October 20, 2008 by Colin
Iggy Pop: “As my teeth started to fall out, they paid to replace them …”
Dinah Shore: “Your teeth started to fall out? Eat too much candy?”
Iggy gets interviewed on the Dinah Shore show in 1977, while David Bowie lurks in the background. And yes, he’s totally grooving on the lady.
h/t to Holly
October 20, 2008 by Colin
There are many positive qualities to the tram system in Strasbourg: new trams, wide windows, efficient and predictable schedules, broad green tramways and a simple fare structure.
More remarkable, however, is the inspired effort to weave the network into the spirit of the community.
Artists were commissioned to create static and multimedia installations that warmed the relationship between an infrastructure project and the Strasbourgoeis: custom tickets for the “A” line, stations as a subtle artistic canvas, intentionally manipulated compasses scattered along the system, art incorporated into beams and columns, and a charming and lighthearted project to humanize the otherwise mechanistic station announcements.
Rodolphe Burger, a French composer and musician, created Vox Populi – a series of interstitial melodies, backing tracks and station announcements which were completely enchanting during my stay in Strasbourg this week.
There is little more surprising than hearing a small melody, performed by the Conservatoire de Strasbourg, precede a small child announcing the upcoming stop for La Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme – an institution that defends the rights of young and old throughout Europe.
As Burger told an interviewer in 2001, a hundred people from 4 to 82 recorded station names and standard safety and information messages::
“… Plus de cent personnes ont été enregistrées, pour introduire le maximum de variation dans les voix, les timbres, les accents, etc …
Quand un supporter annonce le stade de la Meinau, quand un professeur célèbre annonce « Université », quand un habitant du quartier de l’Elsau annonce le terminus en poussant une sorte de cri de joie, quand une interprète anglophone du Conseil de l’Europe bute sur la station
« Alt Winmarick », s’excuse (là, apparemment, d’après les échos que j’en ai, lorsque cette annonce tombe, c’est l’hilarité générale dans la rame), etc …”
Burger also referred to the influence of singing and chanting traditions among the Aborigines of Australia and the Navajos of North America – where direction and instruction were communicated through tone, rhythm and personal voice.
“… Ça me fait penser au Chant des pistes de Chatwin, dans lequel il explique comment, chez les aborigènes, la carte et le chant sont liés. C’est présent aussi chez les Navajos. Les chants sont des chemins dans un paysage …”
The key is to create intertwining narratives and story lines, preventing each trip from becoming a routine and numbing experience framed by monotone announcements and mechanical chimes. It certainly works, as I noticed the distinct voices and musical combinations when arriving at each station on the “B” and “E” lines.
While I didn’t have the time – or the inspiration – to look for the other artistic elements on the line, a different report emphasized how the various projects worked together:
” … Il faudrait aussi évoquer les projets affectant l’ensemble de la ligne B : les dessins d’Alain Séchas dans les caissons lumineux des colonnes des stations, les boussoles de Jean-Marie Krauth incrustées dans le sol des vingt-quatre stations et le traitement de l’ambiance sonore des rames par Rodolphe Burger …” (Vacarme)
October 19, 2008 by Colin
Economic shock waves, political unrest, tightening consumer credit, retirement savings at risk, and the looming threat of unemployment.
In these situations, advertisers often retreat to comfort, reassurance and tales of past victory over challenging times.
The latest ad from Hovis, a storied British bread manufacturer, certainly plays upon these themes. Victory in two world wars, the 1966 football championship …
While impressive and emotive on its own, the ad draws considerable influence from an earlier ad, directed by Ridley Scott (yes, that Ridley Scott) in 1973.
Scott’s Boy and His Bike regularly tops polls as the best ad in British history, and was relaunched for a 10 day run in 2006 to celebrate the bakery’s 120th anniversary.
Hovis has the new ad available on their site (but not embedabble). A “making of” featurette is available, and two historians provided insight into the details of the opening outdoor scene for the Daily Mail.
October 19, 2008 by Colin
In the Orlando Weekly, the story of how Billy Mays ended up in a millionaire’s mansion by working his pitch, becoming a master at selling cleaning products and kitchen gimmicks.
“Here’s the big myth. I can tell you this,” he says. “I spend a lot of money. My bills are outrageous. I make great money, but compared to my mortgage? I need $50,000 a month just to crack the nut here. This place is $20,000 a month just to make the mortgage and everything. I do make a lot of money, but I spend a lot of money to help keep up this lifestyle. There’s this big lore about what I make, like, ‘He’s a billionaire!’ But I’m not. Sure, I make over a million dollars.”
… “When I was on the road, when Billy Mays didn’t know that I was famous, I’d be drinking martinis,” he says. “I’d be so hammered the next day and I’d have to go and appear somewhere. But the thing was, any hint of that would come out, I put myself in jeopardy. It looks bad.
“The only thing that can hurt Billy Mays,” he adds, “is Billy Mays.”
October 16, 2008 by Colin
I present a non-smoking sign found in several places in the hallways of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
There are 47 different member nations in the Council, and many of them have found different ways of drawing a cigarette with a circle through it – including some squares.
The guy second from the right looks like he’s going through withdrawal shakes.
And … I swear I see a Barbapapa in one of those signs.
October 15, 2008 by Colin
It’s been a long time since I’ve featured a quote from Scott Feschuk, humorist, former speech writer for Prime Minister Paul Martin and communications consultant. This is from his liveblog of the Canadian election results:
“… 11:15 p.m. I know the Internet is resilient, but I’m not sure it has the power to survive these painful segments when some poor soul from the mainstream media is reduced to reading twitters and tweets and twirps and cockadoodle-doos from that special segment of the illiterate that prefers to communicate in seven-word bursts. Harper bad. Dion bad. Harper badder. No, Dion badderer. Me like eggs!!!!! …”
October 13, 2008 by Colin
October 13, 2008 by Colin
This funky keyboard font is from the Bar Lock 4, a typewriter developed by Charles Spiro in the late 1800s. I came across it at a display in a corner of Terminal 3 of Toronto’s Pearson Airport (and you can find a lot of pictures of the display elsewhere).
Browsing through several dozen typewriters, it struck me that design and user experience was an uncertain goal in the development of each of these tools.
The input tools varied from simple keyboards (but necessarily the QWERTY keyboard that has become the standard) to notched dials, a combination of pointer and index plate, and tools that seem to have drawn much inspiration from the user experience of specialists more accustomed to eighteenth century cathedral organs.
A quick google search will reveal there are many, many more people that spend much, much more time on the design evolution of the typewriter. It strikes me, though, that early typewriter design was inspired by a combination of factors:
- an honest attempt to develop the fastest and most efficient input device
- a desire to differentiate your product from the rest of the emerging market
- an impulse to secure a patent for a remarkable and imaginative derivation of this new technology.
A final example is the Mignon 2 typewriter, which relied upon a pointer and index table, with the more unusual characters ringing the letters and numbers we use most frequently.
October 12, 2008 by Colin
It has to be a tough day, sitting in a folding lawn chair in a public square, a dozen or your artworks displayed on easels or pedestals around you.
Which is why I feel for the forty-odd artists packing the Place Broglie in Strasbourg this Sunday.
Because the people walking this square have distinctly bourgeois tastes, and they’re letting it show.
Now, I am the last person to claim authority, taste or style when it comes to art.
But even I can tell that most of the people here are drawn by the physical qualities of some pieces of art, not their inspiration, their execution or presentation.
What do I mean? They’re shopping for art that will fill a space and impress their friends.
That means a big crowd around the lady who applies photoshop filters to her photos of lone wolves on the horizon, or a fishing shack on a beach. That her photos are mounted in a relatively popular 1:6 proportion doesn’t hurt either.
Ditto for the graffiti artist actually creating near-photo portraits right here on the sidewalk.
“Oh this? The artists also did the “screw authority” tag under the A70 autoroute. He’s authentic in his passion.”
Or the “abstract” painter who layers textures and paint mediums in distinctly angular patterns – a style first popularized by Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson
Strangely, the Keith Haring rip-offs aren’t moving, and the startlingly good pop art isn’t drawing a crowd at all.
And forget anything that shows a touch of anger or anguish. The lady with the angry nude watercolours is having an exceptionally cold reception.
Thankfully, the guy trying to move rough charcoal sketches of naked ladies isn’t getting much slack either.
It is depressing, though, to see artists producing more and more of their work in tryptchs or series of small postcard-sized images, to suit the suburban sensibilities of sidewalk art browsers.
October 11, 2008 by Colin
O.G.S Crawford seems to be an example of the eccentric English expert, someone who achieves relative success in an esoteric or overlooked field, but carries along with them a number of personality or character faults that often serve to distance them from the rest of conventional society.
Significantly, Crawford was the first to realize that aircraft could be used to survey tracts land for signs and evidence of prehistoric settlements. He also seems to have rubbed people the wrong way and made some poor choices in ideology along the way as well.
A new biography, Bloody Old Britain, presents a comprehensive look at his life, and has been reviewed extensively by the British press.
Eccentrics often produce the best biographies – and the best book reviews – because they are apt to channel their emotion and their obsessions into witty and observant statements, like:
“bungaloid eruptions” – the suburban homes that began to dot and then overwhelm the English landscape in the years after World War Two.
As reviewer Luke Slattery describes Crawford, “He was not so much a whingeing Pom as a splenetic Basil Fawlty, animated by a generalised anger, set at a sharp angle to the world.”
October 10, 2008 by Colin
I spent some time at the main branch of our public library* this morning. It’s one of those buildings that used to be described by terms like “civic architecture” – meaning the design is cumbersome, imposing and not in keeping with surrounding architecture. The sort of design that usually required an explanation, like “no, I wouldn’t call it Stalinist! I would say it’s modern!”
Lots of concrete, rough edges and corners. The formed concrete walls and railings feel an awful lot like Habitrails for Humans, not Hamsters.
I was in there picking out books for an upcoming flight. I have a particular strategy in the library, one that has served me well. Find a book that I’ve read recently and liked, and look up its Dewey Decimal Number. Then go to the stacks, and browse through all the books three feet either side of that number.
While shuffling around on the twenty year-old carpet, contemplating “Life in a Medieval Village” (No, really), I caught a distinct whiff of Axe body spray and Noxema. (Although there may have been some patchouli and the stuff A&F uses to “mist” their floor displays as well).
[Break in Narrative] Ahhh. I had built up a 60 word head of steam about the differences between Generation X and the Millenials, but it got boring real fast.
That’s what I’ll do for you, dear reader. Instead of leaving a few good observations to wither in my drafts folder for lack of a solid narrative or any concrete tie to current events, I will make a half hearted attempt to provide a setting and some context. I’ll drop the observations right here on the page.
Then I’ll cut and run.
Hey. At least I didn’t try to conflate my momentary brain fart into some great unified theory on how to wedge product attributes, brand qualities and trademarked ad slogans into the minds of ordinary consumers – usually with some overwrought and overthunk discussion about conversation, participation and relationships.
Instead, I’ll just leave you with the books I picked out.
- The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
- The Best American NonRequired Reading of 2007
- The Best of the City Section of the New York Times
*you really have to read the note that was posted alongside the flickr photo of the branch. It will really ring true for males over the age of 35.