January 24, 2009 by Colin
Very strange. Earlier this week, I printed out “The Cobra: Inside a movie marketer’s playbook,” an article by Tad Friend in the January 19 New Yorker. Today, I went back to find a reference, intending to post it here. In the interim, the article seems to have lost about 1000 words. Including these:
” … Often, however, such meetings are the final collision between the mutually aggrieved marketers, who feel the studio has been handed a worse film than they were originally sold, and the filmmakers, who suspect they’re being sold a cheaper campaign than they were led to expect.
“Basically, the code is this,” a prominent agent says. ” ‘We will show you thirty pumped-up people, so you will go do the junket and go on ‘Letterman” and fucking perform with a sense of enthusiasm.’ It’s the same meeting we were having five years ago, except now there’s a girl in a sweater who does the Internet.“
Update: Russell noticed the same thing.
January 23, 2009 by Colin
How do you keep a bus full of gold from falling off a cliff, and taking you with it? That was the physics problem presented at the end of the original Italian Job. (The one with Michael Caine, not Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch).
What are the ingredients here? Michael Caine, a caper movie, humour, some smashing mod clothing, and an intractable science problem to end the movie.
You see, Caine and the rest of the crew had used 3 Minis to steal the gold from a bank in Turin, and had driven the Minis into the back of a 1967 Bedford Coach. After unloading the gold from the cars, they had pushed the Minis out into the Italian Alps. Unfortunately, some poor driving led to half the coach hanging over a very steep Italian hillside, with no seeming solution for getting both the gold and the gang off the bus safely.
Thanks to the Royal Society of Chemistry and John Godwin, we now have a solution! Mr. Godwin submitted the winning entry in the RSC’s contest to solve the decades-old physics challenge. And it’s quite intricate:
- Break the third set of windows, using the heel of a shoe, outward.
- Then reach around and break the second set of windows inward, so that the weight of the glass remains in the bus
- Lower a team member from each side to deflate the tires, thereby lessening the “springiness” of the bus and making it more stable
- Drain the remaining gas from the bus by accessing the service panel directly under Charlie Croker
- Once all this has taken place, it should be safe for one gang member to leave the bus and pass rocks to his colleagues, thereby balancing the bus and allowing for the gold to be slowly removed.
I think the runner-up’s solution is far more exciting:
- Cut the fuel line so it leaks onto the road asphalt just at the fulcrum – the spot where the bus is teetering on the cliffside.
- Ignite the fuel
- Effectively secure the bus to the cliffside by melting the asphalt.
You’re really missing something if you don’t look over the completed contest entries – there’s a hell of a lot of math, physics and chemistry in each of them!
I have a particular fondness for the original Italian Job, and I almost lost my mind when I heard Eddie Izzard riff on the movie:
Why Eddie Izzard loves the Italian Job:
January 23, 2009 by Colin
The Santa Ana city zoo has a problem. It was built on land donated by a city founder, on the condition the zoo have 50 monkeys on site at all times. Problem is, sometimes monkeys slip off this mortal coil. This from the Los Angeles Times:
” … “You can’t just go to Monkeys-R-Us or EBay to get monkeys,” said Kent Yamaguchi, interim director at the city zoo. …”
” … A prominent lawyer and land baron, Prentice kept monkeys and a gibbon in his 16-room mansion nearby, giving them such unfettered reign that he had trouble holding on to housekeepers. The home site is now an Elks Lodge. …”
” … “While we were dipping down below that number, Yamaguchi said, “we knew there were two in the oven.” …”
” … As of this week, exactly 50 monkeys reside at the zoo, among them howler monkeys, spider monkeys, an emperor tamarin sporting a long, white handlebar mustache, and a Pygmy marmoset, one of the world’s smallest monkeys, weighing in at only a quarter of a pound. …”
” … And, [the family's] attorney has cautioned, the family will not accept any substitutes; “any form of lemurs or apes are not monkeys under any zoological definition.” …”
January 18, 2009 by Colin
Sometimes, inspiration arrives from the strangest tangents.
Social media advocates are spinning and flaying nowadays.
At a time when traditional media is cutting back on resources, corporations are demanding that any and all marketing tactics demonstrate solid and measurable performance.
Social media advocates are scrambling to adjust to a new era of accountability – and to actually justify the relatively miniscule budgets so far allocated to social media within the larger marketing envelope.
The magic of social media comes from its inherent flexibility and capacity to inspire creative expression through text, audio and video.
After all, a marketing gimmick doesn’t “go viral” because of the strength of its integrated marketing plan: instead, it infects thousands with an inspired insight, a creative flourish or an audacious pitch.
Nevertheless, we’ve hit a point where increasing numbers of PR and marketing types are flooding into social media.
At the moment, I’m having a hard time tuning into a conversation were hundreds if not thousands of like minded voices spend an inordinate amount of time debating similar questions and lauding the same limited number of (publicly disclosed) social media case studies.
I’m not questioning the value PR and marketing types bring to the table – especially if they are creative and innovative – but I do worry about efforts to corporatize and systematize social media.
What is the experience in other creative fields?
” … The everyday is not selling well in the art world these days. People are more interested in the strategies of the market than in tactics of survival.
The difference between a strategy and a tactic in this context was described very well in Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life (1980). A strategy, according to de Certeau (a Jesuit turned social scientist), relates to a form of authority that is capable of producing laws and commercial goods, including art and culture. A tactic, however, belongs to those people who defy authority and infiltrate institutions, but do not wish to take them over.
The art world has always reflected this dichotomy between strategies and tactics in the production of art. When its economy is strong, most of the subjects – artists, curators, collectors, dealers – follow strategy’s path.
But when that economy collapses, the surviving subjects move into a more tactical sphere, embracing new methods of production in ephemeral situations and courting the everyday more than the permanence of art history through the object – be this a painting or a sculpture, photograph or video installation …” (Now is For Ever, Again – Francesco Bonami on the Everyday – Tate ETC)
January 18, 2009 by Colin
January 16, 2009 by Colin
Remember I said I was working on a couple of papers? Here’s one of them. I think you can recognize my themes, writing style and opinions – although they usually aren’t edited for publication.
“… In this comment, I argue that there is a growing role or the ordinary citizen — whether acting individually or in concert — in framing how specific public policy ssues are perceived and interpreted among a politically attuned and engaged online audience.
Online technologies are helping to build civic awareness among itizens — there is evidence that a growing number of itizens are expressing their political and policy preferences through such online tools as forums, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, e-consultations and even the comment fields of large-circulation newspapers.
Importantly for policy-makers, a small but incredibly dedicated group of online commentators and rapporteurs is influencing the public perception of public policy issues through its activities …”
Peters, Joseph, and Manon Abud. 2008.
“E-Consultation: Enabling Democracy between Elections”
With comments by Kathleen McNutt and Colin McKay.
Choices 15 (1).
January 13, 2009 by Colin
Burger King will give you a coupon for a free Whopper if you drop 10 Facebook Friends.
… “It’s a good excuse to get rid of old girlfriends and their families on my account and get a Whopper out of it,” [Willie Vanderheyden, 31, a graduate student in Missouri] said in a phone interview. “There are so many people on Facebook that I haven’t talked to in a long time that getting rid of 10 of them who are pretty much meaningless in my daily life isn’t going to be a big deal.” … (NYT)
Eventually, this sort of promotion will be presented as part of a “spring cleaning routine” – it’s obvious that we’re less than discriminating when adding people to our many social networks, and we are especially reluctant to cut any of them out. It’s kind of like letting the class nerd sign your yearbook.
We’ll need some sort of organized ritual to prompt the cleansing of our social network, a virtual identity reality check. Maybe there will be B2C material to smooth the process, like “Drop a Friend Day” appearing as a footnote in those little calendars dropped in your mailbox by real estate agents, to make us feel comfortable about the heartless evaluation and execution of dozens of online cyphers we have never met in real life.
And if there’s the additional benefit of free processed cattle sandwiches? Pure gravy on the deal, baby!
January 12, 2009 by Colin
” … “It’s important to show all these other chefs that military chefs can really shake and bake,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer4 Robert Sparks, the team’s manager and a veteran of four previous Culinary Olympics. …”(Atlantic Magazine)
From a note about the IKA/Culinary Olympics, where military chefs from nine countries prepared gourmet meals from a field kitchen (albeit a field kitchen with an expensive German stove)
January 12, 2009 by Colin
Those wacky geneticists. Sitting in their labs all day using million dollar computers, ultra high power microscopes and all sort of CSI-like technology to mess with the sanctity of life …
When they eventually arrive at an innovative finding, geneticists sometimes let their sense of humour slip into their naming conventions.
Take this extract from Your Inner Fish,
“Just as paleontologists get to name new species, geneticists get to name new genes. The fly geneticists who discovered hedgehog had named it that because the flies with a mutation in the gene had bristles that reminded them of a little hedgehog. Tabin, McMahon and Ingham named the chicken version of the gene Sonic hedgehog, after the Sega Genesis video game”
What seemed funny in a fruit fly, however, can be impolitic or even rude when applied to a human condition, as the New York Times noted a few years ago:
“… Many of those genes were given weird names when first discovered. Scientists have come up with names for genes in fruit flies, for example, that may be mystifying (“faint sausage,” “fear of intimacy”), cute (“tribbles,” “groucho” and “smurf”), or macabre (“sex lethal” and “death executioner Bcl-2.”)
…The human variant of the fruit fly’s “hedgehog” gene … has been linked to a condition known as Holoprosencephaly, which can result in severe brain, skull and facial defects.
“It’s a cute name when you have stupid flies and you call it a ‘turnip,’ ” Dr. Doe said. “When it’s linked to development in humans, it’s not so cute any more.””
You can find a flash version of Sonic Hedgehog here.
January 11, 2009 by Colin
Spotted this at a swim meet this morning. Janie h. knits, a local knitting store, has bought advertising on the wall of the Perth community pool. Unlike every other local business (of which there are a dozen or more) alongside it, Janie h. has customized her ad for its location:
That’s right. It’s a smiling sheep, doing the front crawl. On a sign about four feet high and at least six feet long.
I originally thought this was aspirational advertising, since sheep obviously couldn’t swim, what with their hooves and soggy woolen coat.
“As God is my witness, I thought sheep couldn’t swim.”
January 9, 2009 by Colin
” … Many Amish have dealt with the collision of modern business technology and old world values by keeping their home and work lives completely separate. Though they still drive horses and buggies, remain off the power grid and wear simple, handmade clothing, some are using computers and power tools and talking on cellphones at their jobs.
Mr. Swaffer, of Keim, said that several Amish employees walk around the mill with Bluetooth cellphones in their ears, but the phones are owned by Keim and the workers shut them off when they leave work. “You won’t likely see someone on a horse and buggy talking on a cellphone,” he added. …”
- from a New York Times article on how the Amish are building successful businesses in partnership with non-Amish entrepreneurs.