there are 15 posts from March 2008

March 28, 2008

achatz on the alinea book

Via Alaina Browne, Gourmet has a great conversation between Grant Achatz, the chef at Alinea, and Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck.  A lot of the conversation revolved around the Alinea Book that Achatz and crew are self-publishing through Ten Speed Press. Blumenthal asked Achatz if self-publishing is helping to keep the price of the book down, and the response is worth quoting at length…

GA: Yeah, basically—you are the one controlling costs, and you have the power to hire the photographers you want and the writers you want. But ultimately we wanted it to be approachable on the price scale. If we make less money we make less money, but I wanted people to be able to pick it up. I think it would be great if we could get aggressive amateur cooks, and even people in the industry—it’s priced at that point where it might infiltrate the market a bit more. It might educate people on what this cuisine is and why we do what we do. We focus in the book on dispelling some of the myths and some of the negativity that swirl around this type of cuisine. The critics are saying this is emotionless cuisine, it has no soul; so we’re trying to combat those kinds of critiques, and when people get their hands on the book and read what we have to say, they might actually understand our cuisine a little better. It’s worth the effort.

There’s a lot to chew on in this discussion (ed.: seriously? chew on? bad pun), from the economics of publishing to the interpretation of the term “molecular gastronomy.” Go read.

March 27, 2008

ipods that make you thin...and save your soul

I love this little tidbit from the Apple patent filing today…

The lifestyle companion system also can interview the user about non-health related topics, e.g., spirituality/religion, identity (e.g., sense of belonging), relationships, career, financial condition, environment, hobbies, interests, other personal information, and goals regarding the same. 

Can’t wait to see the privacy policy on that one.

March 27, 2008

bryan boyer's mega lincoln

“If Lincoln, sitting on his throne in his eponymous monument, stood up and walked across the mall to check out the new Capitol Building, we would call him Mega Lincoln. He would stand 28’ tall, or about 30’ with his mega hat.”

I kind of like the idea of Mega Lincoln standing up from his throne and walking across the mall not to check out the new Capitol Building, but instead to go wreak some havoc on the White House. It’d be like a history junky’s version of that scene in Independence Day when the aliens destroy Washington (and the audience enjoys it just a bit too much).

(Oh, and in case it isn’t clear, the little Lincolns are life-sized, presented for scale against Mega Lincoln.)

March 26, 2008

notes on the death of hal riney

I’m sure what’s left of the San Francisco ad community is in a little bit of shock this week after the death of Hal Riney.  For all intents and purposes, Riney and his eponymous firm were advertising in San Francisco in the eighties and nineties – his campaigns (and his voice) were as beautiful, elegant and indefinite as the fog coming in through the Golden Gate. 

The work that Riney did for Bartles & Jaymes, Crocker Bank and Ronald Reagan is legendary. Go Google a Bartles spot, or watch the “morning in america” ad for Ronald Reagan if you need a refresher. But it was his work with Saturn that helped shape brand marketing.

In 1988, when Riney pitched GM for the Saturn account, they were the the underdog. They had only had one auto account before, were much smaller than the entrenched agencies, and were way the hell out in California. (That actually mattered then, apparently.) So when the story broke that GM awarded Riney the business, the insiders were surprised by GM’s choice. One exec at Lintas was shocked that Riney wasn’t even sure if he would open a new office to service the account. “He better be prepared to spend a lot of time in Detroit. This will change his agency, its culture and all his attitudes about the agency business.”

I don’t doubt that the Saturn account had an impact on his agency. But I’d wager that Riney had an even bigger impact on advertising. While his competition was worried about office space, he was focused on the Saturn brand. At the news conference announcing the selection of his firm, Riney was quoted as saying “I don’t think we’ll ever shoot a picture of a car going down a wet, windy road with pylons. We’re going to talk to people in different ways than the standard process agencies use.” And when it came time to design the dealerships, Riney connected the essence of the brand to the experience of actually buying the car. (Riney to GM on the design of the new Saturn dealerships:  “How about starting by bringing in some plants, something alive, if not kicking.”) That little piece of experience design became a key selling point in their ad campaigns.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any of the earliest spots on YouTube (I’m sure I could look elsewhere, but I’m a lazy blogger).  But here’s one from around 1993 about the “Saturn homecoming.” It’s classic Riney.

Watching this spot now it’s clear just how much television advertising has changed in the past 15 years; the Riney “tone” that permeates that spot doesn’t feel right anymore. If that ad aired today we’d be waiting for the punchline at the end that gives us that little bit of ironic distance.  And when the punchline didn’t come we’d reach for our laptops to find blog posts and Flickr photos from Saturn homecoming attendees to see What Really Happened.

So while it may never have actually been morning in America when Riney sold us Reagan, we bought it. And while Saturn may have been just another division of General Motors, we bought that, too. But somehow, his death this week for me reinforced how far away our advertising and media culture is from that era of silky-voiced earnestness.

March 26, 2008

“A sizable proportion of Democrats would vote for John McCain next November if he is matched against the candidate they do not support for the Democratic nomination.”
Gallup’s press release re. their new poll results succinctly encapsulates the Slow Motion Democratic Disaster happening before your very eyes.

March 24, 2008

I love Paul Ford

March 19, 2008

on bacon, chopin and the perception of time

I am an unabashed Jeremy Denk fan. Denk is an amazing classical pianist, but his blog, think denk, is brilliant. He posts reasonably frequent (but not too frequent), reasonably longish (but just long enough) items on music, travel, literature, performing, passion, Q tips and credit card offers.  His post today is quite something; it will suck you in with its delicious title, “Betraying Bacon and Boating,” distract you with a tale of an airport baggage carousel and then knock you sideways with a venture into Chopin’s Barcarolle.  Here’s some of it, worth quoting at length…

The Barcarolle could be, if you like, a kind of essay in motion, in different kinds of motion (gliding, lilting motion…) Now, the speed of motion is expressed as the ratio of two different entities

    distance / time

…so, one way to mix things up, to vary the speed (the normal way) is to increase the distance you travel per unit of time; but the other way (the freaky way) to get at speed of motion is to call into question the very existence of time itself, to try to alter or erode the parcelling of units, seconds, beats. When Chopin steps into this transition, into the ascetic single line, one feels the sudden shiver of a lack … This shiver contains, I think, some sort of hidden imperative … it is as though he shushes you, tells you to wait … And then, by sticking to just the one voice (after all those luxurious voices) Chopin compels your continued attention; he continues to ask you to wait; he compels you to continue subtracting each moment, each note added to this chain, from the passage of Time, proper; he wants you to keep regarding each note as special, as suspended, as not-time, a process which extends not-time like a rubber band. Chopin says: each note that I add onto this chain I want you to subtract from time, and I want you, I expect you, to return to time only when I am done.

Go read the whole thing. Trust me on this one.

March 19, 2008

how to get mark to buy your album

This one’s for Ted Mico, who needs more music marketing and promotion on the Internet like he needs a hole in his head, Mark Paschal’s guide to how to get him to buy your album.  And to make it simple for Ted, Mark’s laid out the easy method, the hard method, and the anti-method.

March 18, 2008

conversations i wish i had heard

While there’s something absolutely priceless about being able to get nearly unlimited facetime with the guy who won Battledecks, there have been a few conference talks/conversations that I wish I had caught in person.

Alternative reality Sippey has unlimited time and an unlimited budget to jet around to hear things like this. Actual reality Sippey has blogs that recap! And in some cases, video! So there’s that.

March 17, 2008

working overtime

“I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for working over the weekend.”
President Bush, thanking Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for, ya know, putting in a few extra hours to prop up the financial markets.

Speaking of which, there was a piece in the Times on Sunday morning before the JP Morgan deal was announced that valued the Bear Stearns tower in midtown at $1 billion.  Compare and contrast that figure with the $270 million purchase price for the firm…including the real estate.

March 14, 2008

congrats, jason

So turns 10 today.  Huge kudos and congrats!  Jason is truly a pioneering blogger, and despite the explosion of blogs in the last few years, is doing something that is rare and remarkable: delivering a constant stream of high quality content on a wide variety of subjects – the things that matter to him.

And he’s incredibly passionate about that singular / wide-ranging focus.  If you missed it, the other day Jason posted a great piece on one of his more recent obsessions, The Wire.  (I’ve had to ignore most of what he’s been writing about The Wire, since I’m only through season three.) In response, one of his readers commented…

Believe it or not, many of your loyal readers weren’t all that interested in “The Wire” and were getting really really really sick of hearing about it.

To which Jason responded…

Please, go away. Seriously. If you’re not interested, stop reading. Go outside with a favorite book or something instead. I thought my approach to was fairly clear after almost 10 years: I DON’T FUCKING CARE WHAT YOU DO OR DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT. I post, you read, that’s the deal. There’s no “I’d like four graphic design posts, two book reviews, and something about photography with a side of bacon, hold the mayo”. If you don’t like my filter, there are literally millions of other blogs out there to choose from.

Now, I’m probably embarrassing him a bit by calling out this comment, since Jason is one of the the nicest and most mild-mannered guys I know. But this was one of the better blog comments I’ve read recently (and I’ve been reading a lot of them), because it nutshelled exactly what I love about  Jason blogs about what interests him, in his own voice, with passion and consistency.  And to do what he’s done, at the level he’s done it, for that long, is commendable.

Congrats, Jason!  Here’s to the next ten years.

March 11, 2008

we're here to compete

(Update 3/12/08:  Wow, I guess all this talk about competition struck a nerve.)

Since when does “competing” equal “playing dirty”? 

Yesterday we ran a post on that touts the advantages of Movable Type over the soon-to-be-released (any day now) Wordpress 2.5. Was the title of the post (“A Wordpress 2.5 Upgrade Guide”) cheeky? Sure. Was the post timed for the release of 2.5? Of course! But was the post an accurate representation of the capabilities of Movable Type? Absolutely.

In response (as I’m sure you’ve seen by now if you read TechCrunch), Matt Mullenwegg twittered “six apart is getting desperate - and dirty.” 

I don’t call our post desperate or dirty – I call it competing.

At Six Apart we’ve been working extraordinarily hard on MT, and we’re proud of the product. Over the past year it’s been great to see the platform energized and have loads of bloggers moving to MT – and in some cases even coming back after leaving us for a while. And as Anil pointed out in the post, we know we’re not done – we have an ambitious development schedule for the MT platform, which has evolved from a professional blogging tool to a powerful social networking platform.

So yes – we’re going to compete. And we’re going to name check our competition in blog posts when we feel it’s warranted. Matt shouldn’t have a problem with that – after all, he has a long history of name checking Six Apart and our products…including characterizing one of our most prominent TypePad bloggers as a “sharecropper.” (I’ll leave the value judgment re. that particular choice of words as an exercise for the reader.)

Finally, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Wordpress fan and we have no chance of ever convincing you to switch to a Six Apart product, that’s fine. But you should recognize that having a strong, healthy and evolving set of alternatives to those provided by Automattic is only good for blogging. As Anil said in his post, all of us at Six Apart are here because we take seriously our responsibility to invent the future of blogging. We’re doing that with our products, we’re proud of the work we’re doing, and we’re here to compete.

March 08, 2008

optimistic hyperbolic nonsense. and beer.

Via Waxy, who is, actually, in Austin this weekend, Mat Honan’s post on his fake stream of <140 char posts from southby. Worth quoting at length.

So there I am. In Austin. Drunk. Foolish. Recklessly and unknowingly wealthy. Using pointless hashtags in my 140 character messages, and generally espousing the kind of optimistic hyperbolic nonsense that would indicate I have no memory of the years 1999 and 2000 when everyone with any sense realized it’s just a business, and not some sort of Utopian Flan we shall all consume together in glory!

But it is just a business. And if you ever fucking forget that at the end of the day your only purpose is to deliver to your customers what they need, you shall soon be back to tapping your trust fund. If you are not already.

Sure, it would be nice to be there. After all, I like the nighlife, baby.

March 08, 2008

donuts and democracy

I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of the MSM coverage of the Wyoming caucuses today – it was too much about the delegate count, not enough about the voters. Flickr to the rescue; kdriese has a nice stream of shots of the caucus in Laramie. I love this shot…nothing says democracy like that telltale pink box of goodness.

March 07, 2008

click to add title

Anil won Battledecks.

When confronted with a Venn diagram showing the convergence of helpful and Fail!, he let it rip: “There is no overlap,” Dash said. “This chart is a fucking lie.”

Nice work!