Sweet whisperings of food


Finally. A tenuous reason to link to Russell’s splendid blog, eggbaconchipsandbeans – where he provides reviews and photos of the tasty grub prepared by local snack shops across the UK.

And the far less splendid, but somewhat entralling Grocery Eats. Deep fried White Castle Slider. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Euan Ferguson, writing in the Guardian, takes a light hearted look at the relationship between food and the senses, building off the ideas of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, in particular his loaded manifesto on “futurist cooking.”

[Marinetti, in a remarkable move for an Italian, suggested there were many more things better to eat than dried pasta]

Ferguson harkens back to his own memories – and the feeling of comfort brought on by otherwise boring and even unhealthy food:

“… A Ginsters sausage roll has to be accompanied by the sound of the M25, the feel of a crappy rental plastic gearstick, the gaze into rain, the smell of a cigarette to annoy the rubbish rental company and also because you cannot physically eat a Ginsters without smoking; the sound of the suburbs.

My favourite being-down meal, macaroni cheese with sweetcorn with an egg beaten into it, is best (trust me) accompanied by the feel of the remote, the opening bars of Armageddon, the smell of fresh-drying clothes, the sight of my kicked-off boots …” (Guardian Observer)

photo courtesy of DavidRLewis

[tags] Marinetti, futurist cooking, service centres, Ginsters [/tags]

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How Halloween benefits from the 1%’ers


A new take on the 1% rule: on Halloween night, the spirit of candy grubbing children is strengthened and invigorated by those homeowners obsessed with decorating their house and frightening small children on Halloween.

Based upon my sampling of traffic flows on the streets of my very anodyne suburban neighbourhood, children are drawn to the houses with the biggest displays, loudest noises and best fog machines.

This 1% of homeowners – the ones that spend hundreds of dollars on decorations – fuel participation in Halloween festivities and heighten the sense of participation and community among Trick-or-Treaters.

The sample, I feel, is quite accurate: my neighbourhood is filled with nearly identical streets lined with very similar houses with builder-mandated colour schemes.

Our neighbours are a heterogeneous lot, with some fierce believers in Halloween and some true agnostics (however paradoxical the term). This means that some streets are evenly spaced with lightly decorated houses, and some streets have two or three extravagantly decorated houses randomly located among the others.

Tonight, the chatter of excited children bounced all along the more heavily decorated roads: the dedication of that 1% of true Halloween fanatics fuelled excitement and pariticipation among the younger set.

On the other roads, homeowners peeked from behind cat’s eye appliques layered on living room windows, looking for marauding gangs of Snow Whites, Avril Lavignes, Tiggers and Freddy Kreugers, wondering whether they would be eating ketchup-flavoured sample bags of potato chips for weeks to come.

It’s true – a community is energized by the over-the-top actions of its most fervent participants.

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Self-checkout undermining the tabloid wars?


Its entrenched fountain of grubby well-thumbed quarters under seige because of some trouble with its mix of titles and target markets, American Media may have to face further challenges from consumers’ preference for self-checkout aisles.

The owner of the National Equirer, the Star and the Globe, the overleveraged company controls most of the display racks at grocery aisles across America. Racks that top a wide selection of impulse purchases: gum, chocolate bars, batteries, NASCAR cigarette lighters, air fresheners and jimmy hats. Racks that are plainly missing from the growing ranks of self-checkout aisles being installed in grocery stores and other large footprint retail.

A survey from IHL retail consultants (based on only 533 interviews and very expensive) reveals that impulse purchases drop significantly when consumers use a self-checkout machine. Says Paula Rosenblum, VP of research and content for the Retail Systems Alert Group:

“… “For instance, on average, consumers will buy breath mints or chewing gum about 20 percent of their shopping trips when going through a standard checkout, but when going through self-checkout, it drops to about 11.4 percent. That’s about a 43 percent drop. The biggest drop is in chips and salty snacks dropped 53 percent and soda and water, which dropped 50 percent.” (StorefrontBacktalk)

Hmm. No specific mention of beef jerky sales. I bet THOSE are a destination item.

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Dahling! Can you pucker up for the ‘razzi?


So, what do we know about the evolving breed of New York publicists/heiresses/socialites? You know – like Lizzie Grubman with a lot of money.

The New York Observer has run an interesting little piece on Lauren Davis, who spends her days prepping publicity for the J. Mandel fashion house:

    She’s part of a new breed of socialite-cum-publicists—”socialists”? “publicites”?—who are leveraging their network of rich friends into a lucrative career of their own: seamlessly promoting both charitable and commercial causes.

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Vanity Fair reporter to students – you’ve gotta dig deep


Hmmm. Maureen Orth, a Vanity Fair writer who’s out promoting her new book, spoke to Berkely J-school students last month. She had some sage words of advice for them – considering she has interviewed Michael Jackson four times over the last decade.

“While you can lament the idea that we’re living in this era of celebrity and personality, it also behooves the journalists here to get beyond the superficial and the spin and do the legwork and the research and the hard, hard work that takes to get the real story.”

Read an excerpt of her book here:

The book is an informal tour of what I call the Celebrity-Industrial Complex: the media monster that creates the reality we think we see, and the people who thrive or perish there. My challenge, as a reporter in this environment, is to bring the story back alive, accurately, to find the key that unlocks the personalities, the story, or the crime. I don’t mind digging in grubby places. My early experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Medellin, Colombia, prepared me to fit in at any level. I am also more than willing to pore through thousands of pages of court documents, or whatever is necessary. Often there are scores of highly paid obfuscators in the path of the story. They increase the thrill of the hunt. Willing subjects with high-paid lawyers often get court records sealed; law-enforcement authorities cover their mistakes; any number of spinmeisters or fawning acolytes steer reporters clear of the truth. That is their job. Mine is to find the reality behind the façade.

Oooh. I can almost see the spinoff now: Law & Order: Hollywood. Maureen Orth played by Tyne Daly.

Via NewYorkerish and PopCulta.

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Bad Creative: Are you really putting your heart into it?


While McSweeney’s may have the Create Your Own Thomas Friedman Op-Ed Column, it seems this proposed Friedman formula would equally apply to a lot of “on the scene” or investigative reporting and analysis, which seems to have become formulaic and predictable.

As readers, we expect “good” investigative journalism to establish a rhythm: open the story with a gripping scene, introduce the reader to a passionate and concerned character and his/her community, work through the practical benefits and complications of an issue, identify the hindrances (human or mechanical, cultural or geographic) and close with a hint of morality and hope. But does this only address our needs as readers, rather than as engaged citizens?

This question was posed as “the new journalism” built speed. Here’s a voice from the past, writing in a 1972 Atlantic article:

[Speaking about the NYT] If this is the voice of conventional journalism speaking to us about our world, it is likely to find an increasingly restless, disconnected audience. The voice speaks too thin a language. The world it tells us about so assiduously seems but a small part of the world that is actually outside the window—seems a dead world, peopled largely by official figures, and by procedural facts, and written about in a fashion which is doubtless intended to be clear, and clean, and easy to understand, but which instead is usually flat, and inhuman, and nearly impossible to connect to.

Of course, you could argue that Jack Kelley, Daniel Glass and Jayson Blair were in some way aspiring to meet the creative standards set by “new journalism” – but were more likely just trying to be interesting enough to keep the attention of their readers and, more importantly, their editors.

I’ve often heard the expression “phoning it in” used to describe a half-hearted attempt at completing a creative task. In Blair’s case, this was actually true. But it’s not a condition that only affects reporters. “Creatives,” whether in advertising, marketing or PR, often find ourselves stuck in a creative and inspirational rut. Faced with an immediate deadline, or an afternoon ballgame, or an upcoming vacation, we might be tempted to just pull something from the files, put some lipstick on that pig, and ship it out.

Stanley Bing (who we all know is really the VP responsible for PR at CBS) talked about the affliction of phoning it in over a year ago: (sub. req.)

I asked myself…so what? So what if this week it seemed that a bunch of guys were phoning it in from Planet Mambo? What’s the big deal?

I sat there for a while and thought about Sandy Weill and Jack Grubman, suspected of manipulating the rating of AT&T, the first because he wanted to rule Citigroup alone and the second because he wanted to get his tot into some snotty nursery school. How much of what we do is like that? Stuff that looks like business but is really just a bunch of guys scratching an itch? Once you start to think that way, it’s hard not to phone in the activities that feel inauthentic. And when you begin gauging the authenticity of the work you do, it’s a short step to picking up that psychic receiver and phoning in the whole deal.

I put on my jacket and went outside for a walk. You know what I saw everywhere? Thousands of people quite literally phoning it in, walking down the street yakking into their little handheld receivers, nowhere near a place where people do any actual business.

Fine. That’s how others may want to live their life. But are there products in your portfolio (or more likely your drawer) that shout “Jesus, I could have done better than this”?

There are some creatives out there that want to remind you of your weaknesses. Take a look at iamjack: Most Advertising Sucks. You Could Be The Reason.

Approve ads that kidnap mediocrity and bend it over a fencepost. Let your agency get away with something dramatic. Something simple. A TV spot that doesn’t lead with the offer and scream the phone number five times, or a print ad that doesn’t have a headline. Or a stock photo. Or 5 miles of disclaimer.

Come on. You know this hits home.

And in case you’re searching your memory about the “lipstick on this pig” tag line, check out this Slate article about the Charles Schwab ads of 2002.

Thanks to MarketingSherpa for the iamjack pointer.

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