Friday, January 30, 2009

Something about the economy

A couple clients are in the news this week. Usually, when your client makes news it's a good thing. Usually.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Beware the Kebabs

Yesterday, I was eating a chicken sandwich kebab and reading for lunch.

I was two bites in when I came across this. No joke.

Finished it anyway.


In 23 hours and 6 minutes, I will miss the deadline to enter anything into the One Show.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do you have any trombones?

In French, the word for paperclip is "trombone." It still cracks me up when coworkers ask if I have any spare ones.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Trust the Experts

I’ve had work go into testing before. Sitting behind mirrored glass, watching the average consumer pick apart your ad while reaching for another handful of peanut M&M's is just part of the business.

But this is the first time I’ve had storyboards handed over to an evaluation company who was going to use their own methods to determine whether or not they were good commercials. (Bascially, a psychologist looks at the script and determines what is good and what is bad.) The client explained to us that they were “the experts.”

Experts? On what? On deciding whether an ad is good or not?

Aren’t we all experts on that?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Project 100 Cover

As mentioned earlier, I'm one of 100 authors who've contributed to the Project 100. Once it's published online, I'll post the download link. For now, you can check out the cover.

Under Age No More

I took this photo at the cafeteria in IKEA...

Translation: We do not serve alcohol to those under 18 years.

It's only three-year difference from Stateside legality, but it still blows my mind. Kind of like finding out you can get a drivers license in Idaho when you turn 15.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How Are Things Back Home, Chicago?

I have my Google Alerts set to email me whenever anything significant appears online related to Chicago advertising. Today, this article showed up in my inbox.

It's pretty harsh. I guess that's to compliment the economy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

You say bragging. I say self-promotion.

Once a year I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk. "The new One Show's here! The new One Show's here!"

I have mixed feelings about awards shows. I desperately want to win them. And it's very frustrating that perfectly great pieces of work aren't accepted because seven out of 12 judges said they weren't good enough. Woody Allen said, "The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t." (I think he said that after he won best director and Annie Hall beat Star Wars for best picture.)

Still, I'm pretty pleased to be included in this year's One Show annual. My move to Switzerland put a big enough dent in my creative cycle that I don't have anything to enter in the 2010 show, so this one's especially poignant. Too bad radio is about as presentable in an awards annual as HTML code.

You can hear both spots for the National Parks Conservation Association here. Thanks to Jeremy, Dave, Mark, and Ken who are listed, and Bill Rohlfing, Harlan Hogan, Katherine Pryor, Tom Kane, Michael Mason, Danny Karabaic and the good folks at Chicago Recording Company, who weren't.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Creative Town Crier

Whenever I come across a new campaign, execution or idea that’s particularly brilliant, I send it out to my agency.

I never did this in Chicago. I didn’t really feel the need to. I thought everyone had their own subscriptions to Creativity, Archive, and CA. Everyone was plugged into Contagious and read the industry news.

Maybe it’s the language. Maybe it’s cultural. But in Geneva, it’s not something that permeates the culture. The cool thing, however, is as soon as I start sending out emails, coworkers start talking about what I sent and most thank me for passing them along.

So that’s one of my new roles: Creative Town Crier. (Shouldn't we all be one?) Here are some of the pieces I’ve cried:

Whopper Virgins

Vegas Bound

Virgin Atlantic's "Still Red Hot" ad

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Speech Heard 'Round the World

When leaders of other countries take office, they're lucky to be mentioned on page 4 of major American newspapers. No wonder most American's can't even name the President of Mexico or the King of Canada. (Canada does have a king, don't they?)

But when you're elected to the highest office in America? People know. People were streaming the inauguration speech to their work computers last night.

Living abroad, I can tell you this cartoon isn't much of an exaggeration.

I wonder if the Swiss living abroad in America were disappointed when this guy didn't make front page of The New York Times when he became president last year. I hear he's got a lot of charisma.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Elementary School Buildings

I went to Kaysville Elementary School when it was a gorgeous building. Here's a picture of it from the City of Distinction's homepage (doesn't it looks like the cover of a Wallace Stegner novel?)...

Chiseled into the facade was the established date: 1918. This is where my grandfather and my mother went to school. Sadly, mine was the last class to attend in this building. In 1984, the summer after I graduated 6th grade, the whole thing was leveled. Trees and all. This is what Kaysville Elementary looks like today...

Which is very similar in design to Morgan Elementary, where I attended 1st through 3rd grade... 

Samuel Morgan Elementary, of course, is very similar in style to Columbia Elementary, where my little sisters attended...

And all of these are similar to Reba O. Steck Elementary where my son was attending before we left Chicago...
I'm a fan of Mies van der Rohe "less is more" architecture. I just don't understand when and why American elementary schools began to look less like school houses and more like discarded Fudgecicles with flagpoles.

This is why I'm still blown away by the beauty of my kids' building every time I walk them to school. Multiple levels. A working clock on the front surrounded by figures in mosaic tiles. A steeple. Now that's a school house...

Coincidentally, this school also features it's establishing date on its facade: 1918. The exact same year as Kaysville Elementary.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Logging Into My Swiss Bank Account

This is the process for logging onto my US bank accounts:
  1. Go to bank homepage.
  2. Enter login.
  3. Enter password.
  4. Hit okay. I can now access my account.
This is the process for logging onto my Swiss bank account:
  1. Go to the bank homepage.
  2. Enter the multi-digit “agreement number.” The computer screen then gives me a series of numbers that must be decoded.
  3. I turn on the personal calculator the bank gave me that doubles as a password decoder – but only when my special identification card is inserted in the back.
  4. Enter my PIN into the calculator to turn it into a decoder (after 3 failed attempts, the calculator is deactivated).
  5. Once the decoder part of the calculator is activated, I enter the numbers on the computer screen.
  6. The calculator spits out a new code composed of numbers and letters. These are what I enter into the field on the computer screen.
  7. Hit okay. I can now access my account.
I'm not sure if Swiss bank accounts have any security devices US banks don't have. I think they just bore potential hackers with multiple layers and win the war of attrition.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm not oblivious to the economic Tilt-A-Whirl the world's riding. But when I call home or Skype friends in the States, I have to feel I'm not getting the full brunt of it. Maybe it's just not a topic of conversation here. Or maybe it is and my French isn't great.

Similarly, I realize I'm missing out on a lot of my former state's drama. My former senator is now arguably the most famous person in the world. And my former governor is making headlines, too.

Fortunately, I still get a lot of my news from the same source I always did.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Death by Slideshow

As a favor, I agreed to edit a PowerPoint presentation for a client. I took the information they gave me and tried my best to make it succinct. I recently received the client’s feedback on this effort.

I have replaced the text, but I have kept the word count exactly the same. My first slide looked like this…

The client changed it to look like this...

Unfortunately, this presentation is not a meeting of the United Amphetamines Users and I do not believe free triple-shot espressos are included with registration.

Good luck, attendees!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yeah, but can David Blaine go six months without buying any music?

I am an audiophile of upper-middle proportions. But I haven’t bought any new music since arriving in Geneva. It was part of a self-imposed budgetary constraint while we got our dollars-to-francs bearings, but in retrospect six months without a new CD seems like some kind of sadistic performance art.

This morning I had my audio breakfast. The first two albums I purchased were Beck’s Modern Guilt and Coldplay’s Prospekt’s March. They sound gooood.

Here were the runners up. As they're on dock for the next purchase, I'd love to hear your input and other suggestions...

Explosions in the Sky - Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Steven Wright – I Still Have A Pony

Of Montreal – Skeletal Lamping

Prospect Mali – Something Deeper

Fleet Foxes

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How to Disagree

Here's some very good advice from my friend Jim. Thought it was worth sharing.

American Market

Yesterday, I walked into the American Market, a small grocery store a couple blocks from my office. Here are some of the items and their prices converted into US dollars.

Oreos - $11.67
Pop Tarts - $5.35
Reeses Peanut Butter Cups - $2.81
Lucky Charms - $9.51
Ben & Jerry's - $8.60
Can of A&W - $2.26

On the bright side, there's no sales tax.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Einstein vs. The Schmucks

We went to Bern over the holidays and discovered the apartment where Albert Einstein once lived (now a museum).

I love that Einstein's old apartment is right next to the Schmuck Cafe.

 - "Hey, want to see the Einstein-Haus?"
 - "Nah. I'm kind of a Schmuck."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The House of Elsewhere

When I heard there was a James Gurney exhibit about an hour away in Yverdon, I decided to take my kids. Gurney's a painter and creator of Dinotopia, a series of books about a lost island where humans and dinosaurs coexist. I think Gurney might have had a greater appeal if his first Dinotopia book hadn't debuted in the early 90's and been eclipsed by Jurassic Park. I also think his books are a little confusing because they seem like children's books, but they're very detailed and read like novellas.

I thought we were going to an art gallery, but it turned out to be a kind of sci-fi museum called the Maison d'Ailleurs (or House of Elsewhere), located next to Yverdon's castle. I love the dichotomy of a centuries-old castle sitting across the street from a building with a vast library of pulp sci-fi 1950's comic books.

The Gurney exhibit was pretty cool. It was mostly work from his new book/story/collection, Journey to Chandara.

The temporary exhibit takes up two and a half floors, including a 15-minute movie on Gurney, and a loft with a small reading room and copies of the new Chandara book. 

But the coolest thing about La Maison d'Ailleurs is the permanent Jules Verne wing. The room alone was worth the trip. To get the the Juels Verne exhibit, you leave the third floor of the main building via a walkway over one of the main streets in Yverdon. Dichotomy again - outside you see two very European houses connected by a walkway that looks like a joint project between Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton.

I'd love to have a room in my house like the Jules Verne room. With its hardwood floors, second-tier library walkway and a wall full of promotional posters, it feels more like a loft apartment in SoHo. The collection of vintage Verne novels was roped off, but you can view the bindings with a telescope, which is both ridiculously impractical and very cool. 

There are a couple glass display cases featuring models of ships and vessels from Verne's books.
The far wall is covered with framed promotional posters secured to movable chain treads. Just press a button and they slide up and behind like a giant art treadmill.

There's a documentary on Verne playing on the back of a bookshelf wall. If you want to watch it, two risers of pews face it with headsets that magnetically stick to the bench backs.

And, of course, a miniature of the Nautilus from the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Complete with attacking giant squid base.

I was afraid The House of Elsewhere was going to be a low-budget geek shop. But it's clear a lot of effort and passion went into making it right. It reminded me of this 7-minute TED talk I came across about the Museum of Human Imagination. I don't know where people get the time or energy for these projects, but I'm glad they do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Alien Food

I went grocery shopping during the holidays and found this in the produce section...

I've watched a lot of Iron Chef shows, but I'd never seen something like this. It kind of has a Fibonacci thing going on, and looks like the diagrams of Chaos Theory between chapters of Jurassic Park.

Obviously, I had to buy it.

Turns out it's called portuguese cauliflower, and tastes just like any other cauliflower I've ever had. Just much more geometrical. We've bought some more since. Our kids call it "alien food."

There are a lot of things in the produce department I've never seen before. I'll pick up a few more next time I'm out and do some posts on them.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 Book List

Since 1998 I've kept notes on the books I read throughout the year. I just finished my 2008 book list. Click here to download it. Comments and recommendations for 2009 are always welcome.

I feel like I overdosed on business books this year. And I neglected to read a biography of a U.S. President and a financial book, which I try to do annually. I did get my annual LDS and Shakespeare reads in, though (Rough Stone Rolling and Julius Caesar, respectively).