October 1, 2009 by Colin
“They were decent,” he said. “They were strong. And they failed in the most beautiful way you can imagine.”
- Reinhold Messner, the famed mountain climber, praising the members of a doomed 1953 trek to climb K-2.
Charles S. Houston, one of the members of that expedition, passed away this week. (NY Times)
September 4, 2009 by Colin
Our obsession with wrapping things in bacon is long standing, and has certainly peaked with the arrival of bacon-only blogs and bacon memes.
John T. Edge (whose writing on Southern food is fantastic and mouth-watering) examined the origin and popularity of Mexican-style hot dogs in the NYT last week.
“… By 1953, Oscar Mayer was running print ads, selling American consumers on the virtues of bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Perhaps Mexican consumers, inspired to emulate American dietary habits, took Oscar Mayer at its word, wrapping American-made hot dogs in American-made bacon, and claiming the resulting construction as their own …”
September 4, 2009 by Colin
One observation about storage units: they can appear anywhere. Alongside rail yards, behind motels, cleverly disguised as yet another building in a suburban office park, wedged in the strangest shaped lots.
This Sunday’s NYT Magazine discusses the link between self-storage units and the culture of consumption.
” … The truth is, there is no typical storage customer. As facilities crowded into the landscape, storage units became incubators for small businesses and artisans; warehouses for pharmaceutical reps, eBay merchants or landscapers. One unit at Statewide, the Doparts told me, functions as a kind of regional distribution center for Little Debbie cakes. I met a few homeless renters, who sometimes choose to pay to put a roof over their possessions instead of their own heads (living in units is not allowed); I met working-class renters using units as closets and safe-deposit boxes while serially couch-surfing or living in multifamily homes. I heard of a martial-arts instructor in Hawaii who trained clients in his unit, and a group of husbands in New England who watch sports in one on weekends. More than one operator told me they have a unit where, every morning, the renter goes in dressed as a man and comes out as a woman …”
in the NYT Magazine, The Self-Storage Self
July 6, 2009 by Colin
How have the tough slogging mechanics of political campaigns turned into the petty victories of follower counts and poor graphic design?
” … As Newsom returned to his S.U.V., Ballard made sure to tell me how many Twitterers would already be able to see photos of the mayor on the backhoe. He derided Jerry Brown’s campaign Web site and ridiculed Villaraigosa’s “totally pathetic” Twitter following ..” (NYT Magazine)
That’s Nathan Ballard, the communications director to Gavin Newsom, the current Mayor of San Francisco and competitor for the job of Governor of California.
I found this moment almost repulsive: in a state where the economy and political life are near catatonic, the battle for political leadership is being framed in part by photo ops, unattributable and unreliable Twitter follower levels and poor web site design?
Is the political process at all dependent upon policy proposals anymore, or can a candidate gain a lot of ground simply by picking the right font, a sympathetic palette and an easily navigable design grid?
Oh – and a monkey to tweet?
After all, limiting your literary masterpiece to 140 characters significantly increases the odds that you can defeat the infinite monkey theorem – that an infinite number of monkeys, banging on typewriters for an infinite amount of time (while assuming there is no evolution in cognitive capacity) would not be able to reproduce Hamlet.
In fact, they’re more likely to smash the keyboard, mark their territory, and then engage in repetitive behaviour.
Wait a minute … I guess someone better get that monkey a Brooks Brothers suit and a BlackBerry.
June 16, 2009 by Colin
“Weekly haul: It’s dead now. My paycheck used to be $500 to $550 a week, but now it’s like $280 to $300. It’s all by commission and started to go down a year and a half ago. We never go to Wall Street now. It’s all basically the fashion industry. We risk our lives for models basically, bringing clothes and books to models. It’s all garment bags. Models’ portfolios. And candles.”
- NYT talks to a New York City bike messenger
June 15, 2009 by Colin
“… In reality, the cloud is giant buildings full of computers and diesel generators,” [former Microsoft data center manager Michael] Manos says. “There’s not really anything white or fluffy about it.”
- in NYT’s “Data Center Overload”
“I, for one, welcome our new Data Center Overload”
- comment on Slashdot
June 8, 2009 by Colin
” … His semiannual shows are not wildly produced fantasies of tomorrowland or yesteryear that send the fashion press into raptures. At his informal runway presentations, the clothes just look … good. You don’t think: Yes, it really is all about the 19th-century samurai right now. You think: I want those pants …”
- New York Times profile of Michael Bastian, a man who can convince you to buy $600 shorts,
May 7, 2009 by Colin
I’ve got five national grocery chains – with massive square footage – within a two kilometre radius in my suburban neighbourhood. And I have some overwhelming and unexplained fascination with store planograms, integrated marketing campaigns and promotional programs.
We must be coming on BBQ season, because the meat promos are being served up across all the media channels. Last week, it was a feature on the new budget cuts of beef from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
” … Tom Mylan, a butcher who breaks down whole carcasses at Marlow & Daughters in Brooklyn, says the cattlemen are not inventing anything.
“The old Italians and French butchers have been doing this forever,” he said. The surprise, he said, is that it took the big producers this long to figure out how to process and market off-cuts.
“The difference in a good name is worth $3 or $4 a pound,” he said …”
And there’s the rub.* There’s big money to be made in meat, especially if you differentiate according to quality, cuts, point of origin and whether they’re “raised right.”
I can’t believe, though, how sweetly the campaign for the President’s Choice meat program is written. “Restaurant quality at an affordable price,” it seems. These over-the-top but still mouth-watering quotes are from the news release:
- “… in-store fresh meat program with a meaty makeover …”
- ” … we’ve taken the meat shopping experience to the next level …”
- “…The solution: President’s Choice Tender and Tasty beef …”
- “…Take a steak-ation … with PC Certified Angus Beef”
This is classic marketing hyerbole, mixed with a taste of menu grammar magic. (See this Slate article on the language of menus).
And look at Galen! Just the right balance of meat and vegetables!
* see what I did there? Pun, baby!
April 20, 2009 by Colin
“… remodelers who specialize in eco-friendly projects say many homeowners still tend to focus on green stuff rather than green performance. It’s easier to imagine friends being impressed by the virtue of your recycled-glass bathroom tiles than by properly sealed air-conditioning ducts, even though more systemic projects have “orders of magnitude” more impact, says Paul Eldrenkamp, president of Byggmeister Inc., a builder in Newton, Mass. …”
- Rob Walker, in the NYT Magazine
April 12, 2009 by Colin
“They won’t deny themselves the top top,” Mr. Neff says. “I used to say, ‘I know you have eight blue blazers but look at this blue blazer. It’s an upgrade.’ And any upgrade, they’d buy. This year, they don’t want to seem foolish. Eight blue blazers is enough.”
February 18, 2009 by Colin
” … Until the [first] war with Iraq, television technology was all about transmission,” says Blank. “The graphic designers were always just the decoration, now we are part of the editorial process …
… I had to sell graphics to them. I had to go around to the programs and get them to use a map here, a nice font there. It was hard going …”
February 13, 2009 by Colin
” … The staff is put through a rigorous Borgnine School upon hiring …”
Ernest Borgnine is a good sport about a West Village taco bar’s obsession with him.
February 7, 2009 by Colin
“The mall is the stalwart spouse that hasn’t learned any new moves in a decade.”
(New York Times, “Our Love Affair With Malls Is On The Rocks“)
February 2, 2009 by Colin
I have fond memories of frantically waving Polaroids to help speed the exposure process. I also have fond memories of the oblong telephone table (with built in seat) and ceramic dial phone that used to sit in my grandparents’ front hallway.
I would not want either of those technologies to dominate my life today.
“… Its hazy, dream-like film and inherent singularity belong to a time before Flickr, Facebook, and the amateur camera phone artiste. The Polaroid camera is a snapshot of an era when capturing a memory was an instant memento — not an instant upload …”
This startling piece of pseud writing from a post on The Moment, a NY Times blog.
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!