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What I'm Thinking

Thoughts on Creativity, Branding and More

Why a 2-Minute Video About Schrodinger’s Cat at This Hour?

Good question and, ironically there are two possible answers:

  • (1) After a long hiatus I’ve been itching to get  blogging again, and have willfully ignored the sage advice of many to build first and launch second so instead have decided to simply go live and tinker in public, because at least that way it won’t get shelved for another 6-months and I’ll get to scratch that blogging itch,  so this non-post is about me playing around with a possible new build, just to see what would happen, or…
  • (2) I’m finishing final edits on “Checkin’ For Deads”, and quantum physics (along with a surprisingly plausible theory about the nature of God, the origin of the universe, ghosts, demons and a pet store all wrapped up in an urban fantasy mystery that’ll be the first book in a new series) is pretty relevant, so I’ve posted the below video.

As an added bonus, if you watch all 2-minutes of the video you’ll realize both answers (or, ah, outcomes) are equally likely and also realize there’s a third possibility that involves you…

Thanks for playing along –

An Update, and Some Awesome Creative Inspiration to Tide You Over, Courtesy of Pixar

Hello All!  I know, I know – been awhile to say the least.  Anyway, the good news?  Will be retiring this blog and replacing with a shiny new one shortly. One that’ll be updated just about every day (Austin Kleon has inspired me – if your haven’t read Show Your Work, I recommend it – here’s a link – and no, I’m not an affiliate, just a fan 😉

 The other good news? How about 6 minutes of Powerful, masterful storytelling that just happens to be animated.  This is a little project that a couple of Pixar animators did in their spare time over the course of about 5 years.  I’m going to take a closer look at how I spend my spare time, but this is absolutely moving – a rare must watch – enjoy!

 

 

Borrowed Time from Borrowed Time on Vimeo.

An Open Letter to Tiger Woods (and Anyone Else who's ever Screwed up Big Time)

Tiger Woods, 2006 Masters. Owning it.

Tiger Woods, 2006 Masters. Owning it.

You’ve lost your swagger, my friend.

Opponents used to cower, knowing you’d be lurking. You didn’t care, because you knew.

But not now. And to be clear, it’s not your bad back.  Your swing.  Your clubs.

You still have ALL of the same talent you once had, but swagger means something real – something tangible – something that lets you plug into Goethe’s power of the universe – that nexus – the rewards of going ‘all in’.

It’s where talent – and you’ve got plenty of that – meets conviction.

When those ingredients combine, the universe conspires to help – it provides energy – that energy magnifies the talent – creates lucky breaks – and sends the Signal to the world that you’ve got it, so watch out – or not – because I’m coming…and there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s where you become Teflon.

Hey, you fucked up.

There’s been bigger ones throughout history – trust me, you don’t dominate in the fuck-ups department. Not even close.

And you did the right thing – you apologized and took ownership. You paid the price, both publicly and privately.

So be done with it. Stop sagging those shoulders and running with the pack. Tell the media to go scratch. Tell the waves of schadenfreudic losers that they no longer get to feast on your carcass.

Be Tiger again.

Be bulletproof. Win without apology. Lose without excuse. Fuck the contrition that sits like a perpetual leech on you soul, always sapping your strength.

[Tweet “Be bulletproof. Win without apology. Lose without excuse.”]

Tell them all to fuck off.

Tell ME to fuck off.

Be Tiger again.

Without apology.

You need it.

We need it.

Just Do It.

Here's Why They'll Remember Nothing About Letterman.

A picture of a picture of a picture of life.

A picture of a picture of a picture of life.

I caught the tail end of Letterman last night. Bill Murray was on, and it was the last show before the big finale, so I tuned in. There was vodka and cake and a palpable sense of sadness, even desperation maybe, but not because the show was coming to an end necessarily.

I got the sense, in the moment, that I did years ago when reading the Dylan Thomas poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  It was a brief flash of revelation, of insight.  I remember sitting there in Brenda Wineapple’s class,  first semester college freshman at Union, vaguely attracted to English as a major because I liked to read and write, and largely directionless on everything else.

In some respects, not much has changed.

Anyway, we’re reading through the poem, and picking it apart, and we hit the “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” line, where the narrator is fiercely imploring his father, apparently on his deathbed, to fight against the coming and inevitable close of his life.  It is a very moving scene, between father and son, but the sudden flash I felt – this ‘a ha’ moment – was that Thomas saw the inevitability of his own end in the final struggles of his father’s life.  This overwhelming realization of his own mortality.  That was my take, anyway, on why the language is so desperate and strong, because if Dad was going to go, well…

And I saw that a little bit in Murray’s eyes, and saw Dave recognize it, but also put up the blast shield of humor so as to protect himself, perhaps, from blubbering.

Either way, both men knew – recognized anyway – that it was not only the end of an era, but maybe also – like Thomas – glimpsed the end of their own eras. I grew up with Letterman, so maybe I got it, too.

So Why Won’t They Remember Letterman?

It is a new era, and I’m not sure where this one ends. Or how.

You see, Murray left the studio and went out into the street attempting to rally New Yorkers into something memorable and moving perhaps.  The cameras followed him, a whirling mess of sincerity and emotion, as he tried to create an impromptu moment of tribute, his own moment of raging I suppose.

And here’s where it fell apart.  I watched, dumbstruck, as this opportunity to be a part of something, of being in the right place at the right time, simply died as hundreds of cell phones popped up trying get that selfie with Murray, or chronicle the event.  Murray just stood there, trying to express himself, yet curiously impotent and alone in this sea of idiots.

I sigh as I write this.  Like so many of my posts, I worry about where we’re going these days.  The enormity of the changes over the past 20 years or so so seems to have put us on a shallow and ephemeral path.  I worry about my kids, and wonder what the end game is.  And, as I’ve pointed out quite often, my generation is the last one that will have experienced life both before and after the so-called digital age. My kids only know iPads and Google – that is their reality.  My parents – who are closer to Letterman and Murray’s generation – are not immersed in technology.

We are fast becoming spectators-in-real-time to our own lives.  We find proof of life only through the captured image of ourselves living, and not the deeper experience of being in the moment – of feeling.

[Tweet “We are fast becoming spectators-in-real-time to our own lives….”]

The people so desperate to Tweet or capture or chronicle this moment with Murray, at the end of Letterman and in the greatest city in the world will have no real recollection of the moment.  How it felt, what it smelled like or tasted.  Because they weren’t in the moment; too busy trying to capture it, to prove, perhaps, that they were there and alive, and leaving them ultimately with only an image, but not a memory.

That’s why they won’t remember it.  Because they were never really there. Just on the outside, and through a screen.

Am I raging?  Maybe, but even if it hurts I’ll choose engagement – of living – over being a spectator. Every single time.

How Long Will ‘This Economy’ Last?

A Long Time in the Making...

A Long Time in the Making…

I was watching an interview on CBS This Morning the other day about the next chapter this whole Lean In business (Spoiler Alert: apparently everyone’s going to ‘lean in together’ now – I’d better stretch first). What actually got my attention was when Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles said that men and women have to work together now, especially “In this economy”

In This Economy.

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard. A lot. And, quite frankly for a long time now. Maybe too long.

You see, the simple phrase, ‘in this economy’ has become a little too convenient – it references, and absolves, our current state. It subtly suggests that today’s accepted environment of false employment figures, rising costs, dwindling opportunity, a bludgeoned and drained middle class and a ‘we’re treading water…still’ reality – of just getting by, barely, for millions of people – is somehow temporary.

And yet we know it’s not.

What it is (perhaps by-design and no, I’m not wearing the tinfoil hat) is not even the ‘new normal’ but, instead, reality. Take a deep breath and look around.  ‘This Economy’ will not pass tomorrow, or next month. Or with the promises of a candidate in 2016.

This. Is. It. Accept that.

2008 marked a confluence of events that finally put an end to the sham of a robust economy.  The falsely inflated, polished and teetering mess that started with the dot-com bubble burst; the pervasive and resonant psychological shock of 911; the Gekko-esque free for all of a standardless and unconstrained banking system driven only by the constant pursuit of excess created the veneer of a shiny economy supported by little more than tape and balsa wood. 2008. The curtain was pulled away, abruptly and roughly, and we all saw the man behind.

But the problem is, the man behind was forgiven – rewarded even.

You see, when 2008 happened an increasing population, a disproportionately consumerist economic engine, and the creeping displacement of workers by technological advance had the misfortune of intersecting with what had, prior to the collapse, been a quiet but growing pressure created by the demands by shareholders and corporations to continually increase profit at any cost. Every quarter, no excuses.

[Tweet “‘This Economy’ will not pass tomorrow, or next month. Or…in 2016. This. Is. It. Accept that.”]

And when it all hit the fan, there was suddenly a new, convenient and powerful justification for slashing and burning, with the catchphrase of ‘in this economy’ somehow justifying those actions.

Need an example? Take unemployment. Please. It’s the most basic economic theory of supply and demand which, when untempered by humanity, becomes a perfect and logical rationale for pushing remaining workers to work twice as hard, ramping up productivity via fear. Because a million other people would kill for your job if you somehow faltered. Or spoke up. And at a participation rate of around 62%, you tell me what the truth of the current unemployment rate is.

The Power of Language:

And yet, today above all, we must be mindful and aware of the language we both hear and use, because language paves the way for how we think. Not only as individuals but, as history shows us, as groups who can be swayed by the words we hear frequently, and finally adopt as our own.

In this economy? When you hear it, you nod knowingly if you’re one of us. It’s tough out there, we’re being squeezed with no endgame in sight but we forge grimly on, because by focusing on the ephemeral promise of the word ‘this’, then there’s a spark of hope that maybe this too shall pass.

But I wonder if you’re one of them, the corporate kings and their political pawns, with whom the phrase ‘in this economy’ is met differently. Perhaps with a knowing wink, and a small smile before the public facade of earnestness and concern is applied for the cameras.

Because ‘in this economy’ provides all the leverage they need to milk this country like cattle and reap the highest possible material gain in perpetuity.

Don’t look to the government for answers. The government has already made its choice: they’ve looked ahead and joined what they see as the winning team – those who will provide their true lifeblood in this no-term-limit age of Super PAC donations.

In an Age When:

– Educational funds are slashed, and the education of our children Federally directed toward making job ready drones for one-in-a-million opportunities, rather than empowered free thinkers who could – and should – challenge the status quo…

– It becomes acceptable to blatantly manipulate employment numbers and financial data so that they appear ‘positive’, if not glowing in this sound-bite media age, and after-the-fact downward revisions become the norm…

– When the top 10 supercar manufacturers all experience double digit growth while used cars also, curiously, do the same…we must see it for what it is. And SAY it for what it is.

It is NOT ‘this economy’.  This Economy is Over.

It is now The Economy. The state of things. Reality. The Norm that’s not going to change on its own.

Once we accept that, and stop accepting the insidious and tired phrase ‘in this economy’ then maybe we can take it back, wake up, and make it what 99% of the country knows it should be. And deserves.

The Real Tragedy of the RadioShack Bankruptcy

Sealed in the past?

Sealed in the past?

I bought this radio at RadioShack today.  It’s am/fm, single speaker, no headphone jack and with a pull out antenna.  What was left of the store, now famously in the death throes of bankruptcy, was being run by a guy I’d never seen before – all of the regular guys I’d gotten to know over the years were already gone.

That this guy didn’t care was obvious: he wore a stained t-shirt, a pair of ill-fitting jeans and dirty sneakers, and told me repeatedly and without any prompting that his store had already been closed, and that this was great because he got more money somehow working in another store that was closing. I don’t think he grasped the bigger picture and I didn’t tune in on the details, mostly because – and this sounds odd – I had sort of a heavy heart.

You see, the passing of RadioShack marks if not a nadir in the direction of our so-called culture, at least another landing between floors as we make our way downward. And here’s why.

RadioShack used to be a magical sort of place.  the sort of place that catered to tinkerers of all kinds.  If you were imaginative, and you had an idea to make something – no matter what it was – you could probably find the parts you needed to give it a go at RadioShack.

A very small odd piece of wire, or circuitry, or tools that you couldn’t find anywhere else, well, you knew that you could probably find them at RadioShack.  And it wasn’t just for electronics projects: RadioShack was, in many ways, an incubator’s cupboard.

I’ll bet that back in the day Jobs and Wozniak, or Bill Gates, were regulars at their local RadioShack. They didn’t buy pre-made: they were assembling a dream, and just needed some parts.

[Tweet “They didn’t buy pre-made: they were assembling a dream, and just needed some parts.”]

Think about that for a moment.  Step back and look at it from a 50,000 foot view and you know what you’ll see?  Something we’re losing – or have, possibly, already lost.

You see, if you couldn’t find exactly what you needed, there were enough parts to figure out a workaround – and you had both the plasticity of intellect to attack the problem, and the patience to see it through.

And it is that very mindset that is fast evaporating today.

Simply put, we are now groomed to consume, and educated toward narrow-channel universal tests. Our children are drilled on so-called ‘informational’ texts that imply veracity of content, and subtly promote the acceptable value of the practical over the extraordinary excitement inherent in the ‘possible’.  A world in which literature, art and music is merely a soft expression, a dalliance, or indulgence with little ‘real’ value, unless it’s quantified or expressed in monetary terms.

A disposable and fast-moving culture that consumes, rather than creates.

Sure, the company made mistakes, but the biggest mistake they made was trying to be like everyone else.  To compete with other homogenized retail behemoths rather than having the fortitude to focus on what they did best — provide inspiration and tools for the next generation of creators, not just consumers.

They tried to play the parity provider game, and that game always ends in shrinking margins and defeat.

And it’s sad, because they’ll be at best a footnote to history.  We’ll fast becoming unable to tinker, even with the latest and greatest.  Need proof? Apple used to be a company that let you pull open your machine and modify it as your needs and interests evolved – you could pull off the side panel and make a Frankenstein machine with multiple drives and raid arrays and workarounds – and the damn things lasted forever.

But at some point the shareholders and accountants put profit ahead of people and instead moved toward the planned obsolescence and continual upgrade cycle model. The edges were forever sealed, leaving only their marketing to mine the richness of a past culture and turn it into a messaging veneer that insisted that they were still rebels and different thinkers. And that you (and millions of others) were part of this countercultural tribe, or could be, if you bought in.

Today I’d need a clam knife to crack open my iMac (I’ve thought about it), and even then wouldn’t know what to do with what’s inside.  Same thing with the new Samsung S6 – can’t swap out that media or battery anymore, no sirree.

“Just consume, dear sheep, and buy the S7 when it’s ready”.

So back to my new radio…

It’s the kind of radio that you would take somewhere, and maybe put on a shelf in the garage while you were tinkering.  Background music to be shared with real friends in real time – not just plugged in, solitary and distant – while you learned through trial and error how communicate with one another.  And while you worked to build something real, and to remain flexible and creative and adaptable and true.

And maybe, just maybe, make something that would last.  Something that – if it didn’t change the whole world – had already at least changed yours.

Something that couldn’t be bought complete to someone else’s standard but instead, like those things that really matter in the end, had to be built.

Here’s Why We Should Leave Brian Williams Alone.

Time To Slide To Unlock?

Brian Williams got caught in a fib, or two.

I really don’t care, and neither should you.

Verse aside, we seem to be faced with two systems here, and the one we should be focused on, but are so easily distracted from, is the truly troubling one. Brian Williams embellished his stories? Do I care? Not really – at least not in terms of credibility.

Here’s the thing: we live in a world that offers nearly effortless real-time access to global information, so it’s pretty easy to get a sense of the enormity of what could – and should – be covered by journalists. In reality, however, we live in an America where most of the primary media outlets, and their digital tentacles, are owned by a handful individual corporations. And each of these outlets has its own specific editorial agenda that shapes the information being disseminated by their ‘journalists’ so that this powerful medium advances the parent entity’s political and/or corporate agenda.

Think Fox News likes Republicanism, and hates the current administration. MSNBC leans forward toward liberalism, a far left Democratist agenda, LGBT issues and the like. CNBC (despite Rick Santelli’s refreshing clarity and voice) generally seems to spin everything economic toward Rose Colored Glassland, because they get that most of the economy, despite the figures, is driven by psychology. Etc Etc.

With that in mind, the actual consequences of an individual, albeit popular, journalistic personality changing his recollection and potentially undermining some sense of credibility is TINY – even laughable – when compared with the massively consequential long-term effects of limited choice, (often) artificial creation and private control of the information (nee, news) being directed THROUGH him. Let’s face it, Brian Williams is a mere conduit, a likable, square-jawed fellow through which information passes to an increasingly dulled and desperate audience by a remote corporate entity that uses so-called news as fodder to subtly mold public opinion and advance a private, for-profit agenda.

Long story short, the fourth estate is now run almost exclusively by the folks who live in estates.

[Tweet “Long story short, the fourth estate is now run almost exclusively by the folks who live in estates.”]

In an age when:

  • Corporations write legislature and feed it through their store-bought senators and congressmen so it can be pork-barreled – conveniently below the news radar – into larger bills that serve smaller groups…
  • Education is being privatized so that entire generations can be molded, quantified, data-mined and turned into drone like consumers…
  • Conditioned apathy and a fear of speaking up truthfully keeps most folks in quietly desperate agreement about the state of the world…Does Brian Williams even matter?

And what did he do, exactly, to provoke such a manufactured sense of being offended for a news cycle or two? Do I care? Am I surprised? How many times when reporting so-called ‘storms’ have you seen the intense closeup and driving-rain camera-angle pull away to reveal some shiny reporter standing in a parking lot or on a street in an inch of water while pedestrians go about their business in the background? Credibility? Really?

What I’m saying is this – there is no credibility anywhere. Not anymore. So why crucify one guy, pay a lot of so-called, strangely attractive, ‘media experts’ to come weigh in and fill a news cycle that could instead be dedicated to Boko Haram, Syria, Croatia, a shaky China, or even our own unsustainable debt, poverty, social discord and infrastructure issues right here at home?

And yet, here’s the thing: because we’ve fast grown accustomed (some might say groomed) to our persistent, plugged-in smartphone soundbite-driven, short attention span universe, we now are easily, deeply distracted by every thinly-veneered-yet-oh-so-shiny supposed ‘scandal’, we scream about the stuff that doesn’t matter when we should be paying attention to the man behind the curtain.

So I say screw it. Put him back on the air.

Just iron his blazer and recomb his hair.

Unless Journalists are allowed to reemerge from their holes and tell their well-researched, reasoned and unbiased truth once again, the entire thing is a farce, and Brian Williams should be the least of our worries.

Lego+Shell=Everything is NOT Awesome

Sure, I work in advertising and brand communications – but that doesn’t mean I automatically go in for whatever the heck sells the most product – far from it actually. As a father, I think there’s WAY too much $ells$ell$ell to our kids, which is why I was so happy to see this great protest piece by Greenpeace about the (now ended) partnership with petroleum giant Shell. Business Insider has a great piece on it here:

 

And here’s the video – enjoy!

 

Good Storytelling – no words needed.

I saw The Boxtrolls over the weekend – and was a little disappointed. Technically, it was brilliant – no surprise there, as it was coming out of Laika – but it didn’t connect with the audience. The problem was the story – or at least the way it was handled: no real character development, no backstory – it was kind of cardboard – beautiful cardboard, but disjointed, predictable cardboard.  And that’s a real shame, especially if you think about the missed opportunity when you’ve got such a great toolset to work with from Laika.

Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of multi-frame animated digital ads lately – starting to really dig it, because it lets me tell a little story in a small space.  It’s nothing technically crazy – basically a flipbook approach – but that keeps the production and placement affordable for clients, which keeps me in a position to do better creative – win win.  Anyway, I’m getting more interested in video and animation, especially stop motion, and came across this little piece that really struck me as being a nice little piece of visual storytelling – check it out.