Archive for January, 2009

Google Tips Their Hat to Pollock

How confident are you in your brand when you can convert it to a Jackson Pollock painting?  If you did a Google search today, you would see their logo scribbled in paint a la Jackson Pollock who was born on this date in 1912.


Street Art

obeyBroken Spines has previously discussed the work of Ron English.  But, with all the hub-bub around the inauguration, I was interested in the story behind the ubiquitous Obama “Hope” posters created by Shepard Fairey.  It turns out that Fairey is a street artist best known for his “Obey” stickers with an abstract black and white face based on Andre the Giant.  He’s a southern California skater, former punk rocker, and graphic artist who happens to avoid compliance with local ordinances.


But, his omnipresent poster of Obama has ironically brought him huge mainstream success ultimately helping to elect a president, the personification of government.  Listen to this Terry Gross interview with him where he deftly explains how he balances his street cred with his new found success.

Also, check out Time Magazine’s photo series called “Art of the Street” (it includes one of Fairey’s pieces).


For giggles, I included this parody of the Fairey’s hope poster. It was published on the front page of the Willamette Week paper in Portland. The image is created by Barry Stock.  I’m sure Fairey doesn’t mind.

Jan. 22, 1984: Dawn of the Mac

Wow – has it really been 25 years?  Apple’s famous Super Bowl ad aired 25 years ago today.  Created by Chiat/Day, the ad showed a woman running through gray hallways with sickly gray people invoking George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, to throw a sledgehammer at a TV image of Big Brother, meant, in this case, to represent IBM. It ends with the promise, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”

Interestingly, Apple recently announced gains in market share beating analysts estimates and its stock is up 8% (in spite of Steve Jobs failing health).  Meanwhile, Microsoft missed earnings and, for the first time, announced that it’s laying off 5,000 people.  Its stock is down 12%.

Liquid or Gas? Or, Just Damn Cold.

It has been -20 degrees Fahrenheit for a week here in Minneapolis.  And, to prove it, this lady instantly turns water into vapor:


Okay – I had to look up the definition.  But, once I did, it perfectly describes the Madoff scandal, and two really good movies: “Waltz with Bashir” (an animated documentary by Ari Folman) and “Standard Operating Procedure” (a documentary about Abu Ghraib by Errol Morris, maker of “Fog of War“).

Here’s the definition of “anomie” according to Merriam-Webster:

social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values ; also : personal unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals

Waltz with Bashir is about the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Israel’s war with Lebanon in the 1980’s.  And Errol Morris gets interviews with Lynndie England and the other “photographers” in Standard Operating Procedure.  

It seems like standards, values, and mores have deteriorated to new lows.  Or, maybe they’ve always been low, but are only now being exposed.

Death Knell for Print News

There is a lot of hand wringing about the decline and fall of print newspapers.  I canceled my subscription to the Minneapolis Star Tribune over a year ago because good writers and local content were harder and harder to find (not to mention the dearth of international news).  But instead of giving up on print entirely, I subscribed to the NYTimes whose $660 annual subscription is feeling a bit too luxurious in these times.  

Meanwhile, I spend way too much time reading news online.  I love to get local news from MinnPost (where most of the good writers from the Strib went anyhow), the NYTimes online edition (nicely formatted on my iPhone for reading on the train), Slate, the Economist, Time, and myriad other blogs whose RSS feeds crowd my Google home page (not to mention podcasts).  Is $660 really worth the tactile joy of opening the paper over a cup of coffee, when I’m overwhelmed with up to the minute news at my desk?

It’s no wonder people are writing the obituary of print news (to read it you’ll have to go to  Craigslist and Monster took away the want ads, advertisers are less and less interested in the demographic that still subscribes to papers, and worst of all good writing is hard to find.

As Jack Shafer points out in Slate, they did see it coming but tried to create walled gardens of content which required subscriptions.  Alas, this too has failed.  The last bastion of hope is the sports section. Mark Cuban writes in his blog that pro sports teams should come to the rescue of local papers.  Even though the Internet has infinite shelf space, the quality of local sports coverage is poor.  Maybe the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press should ask the Vikings, Twins, Wild, Timberwolves, and Gophers for a little help. 

Potential Fight Club selection: Pablo J. Boczkowski’s 2004 book, Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers.  Also, check out this interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google “Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers“.

Jan 13 update: Interesting chart from eMarketer on where people get their news:


Why We Will Perish

velasquezEduardo Velasquez’s “Consumer’s Guide to the Apocolypse” investigates the culture wars with improbable evidence from angst ridden pop songs from Cold Play and Tori Amos and the writings of Tom Wolfe and Chuck Palahniuk.

“we discover that the antagonisms that fuel the current cultural wars stem from the same source. Enthusiastic religions and dogmatic science, the flourishing of scientific reason and the fascination with mystical darkness, cultural triumphalists and multicultural ideologues are all sustained by the same thing: a willful commitment to the basic tenets of the Enlightenment.”

“we need a new genesis to go with our contemporary apocalypse”

Stock Market Returns Since 1825

Came across this great graphic in the Economist (with data from Value Square):

The total return of the S&P 500 index fell by nearly 40% in 2008, the second-worst performance by America’s stockmarket since 1825, according to calculations by Value Square, a Belgian asset-management firm. Comparisons to the Depression are clear: only in 1931 and 1937 were there similarly abysmal losses. The firm looked at various predecessors of the S&P 500 from 1923 onwards, and for earlier years took data from a working paper by Yale Management School on the returns of companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Since 1825, 129 years saw rising returns, whereas 55 suffered falls—four of them in this century.



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