27 Oct 2007

“After having … been constantly bombarded by road-safety propaganda, it was almost a relief to find myself in a real accident.”

i have just finished J. G. Ballard's novel Crash, which i've been curious to read for quite some time. it's an interesting and fascinating novel, which gives you the chills not necessarily because of the things it describes, but more likely because of the things it makes you think about: more than exploring a car-crash sexual fetishism, it explores the way in which technology can modify human psychology. this relationship between human sexuality and "perverse technology", illustrated in quite a harsh manner obviously made the book quite controverial, but i really think it's worth reading for its ability to play with your senses and make you experience all sorts of sensations you're not really sure what to make of.

The book was also turned into an award-winning (and equally controversial) movie, by David Cronenberg, but i haven't watched it yet.

23 Oct 2007

debatable topic

our small and cosy department has a sort of interesting half friday, when we're supposed to perform on an interesting topic for about 20 minutes. i'm very confused about the theme i should pick for our interesting presentation on friday, so i'm going to follow Bogdana's initiative and ask whoever might read this blog to give me an opinion on what to focus.
i'm concerned because i find a huge amount of stuff to be interesting, but i'm not sure which of them might also be actually worth talking about with my planning folks. because although i know that it's theoretically up to me to make the certain topic worth talking about with them, i've noticed yesterday that there are subjects that are only relevant for me, not for my colleagues as well.
so i cannot decide between a kinda history of frogs (real and imaginary), film noir, organ, Ana Aslan and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. And even the history of October 26th :)). Any suggestions/ opinions ?

a vision of students today

i was complaining about my college conditions, and now Gavin points out this extremely interesting vision of a student's life, envisaged by Michael Wesch. And it's interesting to follow the entire discussion about the video. Of course, there are differences in numbers, but i think the idea applies quite well to our city as well.

22 Oct 2007

kimi does it

ok, so i tried to restrain myself, but it's impossible. yesterday was the last race in this Formula 1 season, and, my God, was it brilliant! despite the supporter problems i was speaking about some time ago, i ended up following my heart - which meant that i continued to support Ferrari and its pilots, partially leaving behind my adversity towards Kimi Raikkonen.
so yesterday i was really hoping Ferrari would win the driver's championship as well, even though Kimi started the race with the third chance. When the race started, my heart started beating really fast, and i cannot describe how happy and proud i was to see the incredible starting teamwork from Ferrari. The red drivers did a wonderful job blocking their McLaren rivals, taking lead of a crazy fight for the title. And this was followed by all sorts of weird key moments, each of them being able to twist the title's fate. Hamilton unfortunately had gearbox problems, which made his quest trully impossible, but he impressively handled his problems, gaining enough points to come second in the driver standings. Kubica confronted Alonso and was able to grab his third position for some time. Several laps before finish, it was still unclear where the title would go. But the beautiful switch between Massa and Raikkonen, following the final pitstop, made things a bit clearer and released a bit the tension in Kimi's supporters, although if Hamilton had gained a single position higher, the final results would have been different. A far complex analysis of the race can be found here, and, indeed, as David Tremayne says, "in the end, Ferrari came away with everything, and McLaren virtually with nothing." And Ferrari deserved it - i really think that teamwork made a lot of difference in this race, and that's what turned both Kimi and Massa into real heroes of the race. Beautiful !

oxford murders

very interesting weekend for me, although i basically spent it in my bed, reading and solving math problems (while also not being able to hear anymore with my left ear).

the reason why it turned out to be interesting, despite its monotony, is because i read a book called "The Oxford Murders", written by Guillermo Martínez, an Argentinian writer who also has a PhD in mathematical logic. The book deals with a series of murders which appear to follow a mathematical pattern - which is why the people who seem most likely to solve them are a logics professor together with a math scholar. When i started reading the book, i did not know what to expect, especially since i feared it might be just one more of those many silly recent books which attempt to seem serious and interesting by inserting completely ridiculous mathematical codes references. Instead, it's a pleasurable reading referencing ones of the most important and challenging theories in maths, logics and even physics (Gödel's incompleteness theorem, Fermat's last theorem, Wittgenstein's Finite Rule Paradox and even Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle). And what seemed even more enticing to me is that the book manages to somewhat explain these concepts in a very simple way: it becomes clear how "any finite sequence of numbers can be a continued in a variety of different ways - some natural, others unexpected and surprising, but equally valid". Actually, the thing i appreciated the most is that the book seemed to me a very good highschool textbook, more than a detective novel. With the crime story as a pretext to exemplify the concepts. Which is probably why i got completely hooked and i spent a lot of time remembering all sorts of maths/logics talks i had during highschool, as well as actually solving some problems.

19 Oct 2007

film noir a la venity fair

there was a period when i nearly breathed film noir. I watched the movies like crazy, i watched documentaries, i read books about it. and i'm obviously still fascinated by this topic, although i now watch and read other things also :)).
that's why i was very happy when Sanziana indicated these two bits in Vanity Fair - a very interesting "concept-noir"...

...as well as a nice explanatory article entitled Day into Noir.

17 Oct 2007

tales of mere existence

I have just come across (and immediately fallen in love with) Tales of Mere Existence. They're simple, they're witty, and they make a lot of sense (and they also made me laugh because they reminded me of an earlier post from brilliant Tom Fishburne).

the usual college files

i don't usually get this pissed, and i don't usually blog when i am this pissed. but i have to somewhat express my utter disappoitment after attending one of my college courses this evening.
i attend the political science college which is part of the University of Bucharest. and that should mean that my colleagues and I have spend quite some time during the last four years reading and developing our critical thinking and argumentative skills. as readers of my blog and friends know, i didn't exactly have the time or the patience to attend many of the courses. partly because i had already read and studied most of what was being taught. partly because i got more and more into my planning thing. and partly because they are simply mocking us. but after the nice experience at the beginning of the autumn, i promissed myself i'd focus more on school during this final year.
so this evening i went to one of the courses and i was really curious and enthusiastic. since it's a course, i expected to go there and receive some information or at least some framework from the professor. but no. the guy actually gives us some articles to read, and what we basically have during the course is a discussion analysing each text. i have no problem with that, and i'd normally consider it's a really challenging approach. BUT. Neither what was being presented by the professor, nor the opinions coming from colleagues had any coherence whatsoever. Like Andreea said, we felt more like in a therapy group than in an interesting information exchange environment.
Cause the opinions coming from colleagues were something like: "i think this is a very bad article, cause it's predictable" or "i think it's bad because corruption can be viewed from other perspectives as well, such as...aaaa.....aaaa...you know...aaa...resources...like in Africa, but yeah, you're right, that's connected to governments as well". Not a single person said that he or she thought the article was bad because the hypothesis was wrong, or the argumentation was inaccurate or something else that's actually relevant.
and now my problem is this. if you've spent the last four years of your life studying political science, and developing your critical thinking, how can you think that predictability is an evaluation criteria for a scientifical article? Yes, sometimes (scientific) papers have a striking thesis, which is further developed/ probed/ explained and so on using some very simple facts. The fact that an argument development is sometimes "in your face" does not mean that we are all capable of connecting those simple facts in such a way in which to accomplish a new, interesting theory. Once you've understood his main concepts, Kant's books become predictable, yes, but does that make them any less brilliant ?
Maybe, just maybe, i can cope with some colleague who said "i think it's a bad paper cause it's boring", although she did admit that the points made in the article were clear and interesting. But, all in all, i left the classroom feeling really really sad.

more movie mumble from me

after more than one year of completely ignoring it, i eventually decided to start posting on my silly movie blog once again. I've written a tiny bit on Todd Solondz, and now i'm already preparing the next post about Henry: portrait of a serial killer. And i'm suspecting it's going to get a bit more serious soon, because my graduation paper will surely deal with movies, and i'm going to need a lot of feedback and opinions on that.
in the mean time, i'm open to any movie-related suggestions.

16 Oct 2007

so, you think you can market ?

Gavin Heaton, the mastermind behind Servant of Chaos and The Age of Conversation, sets out a new bald challenge for everybody out there who's sure to have breakthrough marcom ideas.

The competition is called "so, you think you can market?" and it invites all "people of ideas" to try out their skills in bringing a male audience on leading fashion blog The Bargain Queen in time for Christmas, only using a limited budget of around $500. And that's not it - the really fun part is the round-robin style of judging the entries: only the entry with the most votes will pass through to the next round, until there are only two entries left, and then a final voting decides the winner. So, it's a sort of battle of big thinking. Check out all details here, and have fun!

15 Oct 2007

"my idea of hell is a blank sheet of paper"

this weekend i read Neil Gaiman's Stardust, because i want to go see the movie, and i couldn't do that without reading the book in advance. And reading it felt nice, because it's been quite some time since i've read a fairy tale. It set my imagination on fire, and it was at this point that i realized i hadn't set my imagination free in quite a long time. I've been thinking stupidly rational in the last weeks - like everything needs to be highly conceptual.
And i went to "3:10 to Yuma" and i kinda hated it cause it was long and predictable and generally bad, but a friend i deeply trust told me it was actually very good for a western. And that annoyed me even more because it seemed like i should have judged it in a particular category, and compare the experience of watching it with the experience of watching other westerns, not movies in general.
And there was this really nice project for a social campaign - a real brief, a real problem, for a real target. And i briefed, and things seemed to be ok, but then i received a mail from one of the creatives working on the project who told me that he had scanned the winning social campaigns in various festivals and that the methods generally used for those campaigns were metafore and absurd litteracy, starting from a message such as "call", "donate" or "sign". And he wanted me to give him a new brief that took these observations into consideration (although sadly enough for him, the project really wasn't about calling, donating or signing anything). Of course i smiled, then i laughed. I laughed because instead of trying to come up with something different, engaging and really cool, he was just concerned about fitting the already established advertising patterns.
These things crossed my mind this weekend and made me think a lot about ideas. Original, special ideas. Not the ones you get out of applying a certain pattern or recipe. Not the ones that strike you as being advertising. And i remembered this really nice Neil Gaiman essay entitled "Where do you get your ideas?", a piece in which the author gives some answers to this annoying question he gets so often. It's a beautiful piece about unleashing imagination. About trying to give something special to your audience. It's the type of "thinking outside the box" i'd like to see more in advertising as well. Here are some quotes, but do read the whole thing. It's really worth it.
"The Ideas aren't the hard bit. They're a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you're trying to build: making it interesting, making it new."
"You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.
You get ideas when you ask yourself simple questions. The most important of the questions is just, What if...?
(What if you woke up with wings? What if your sister turned into a mouse? What if you all found out that your teacher was planning to eat one of you at the end of term - but you didn't know who?)
Another important question is, If only...
(If only real life was like it is in Hollywood musicals. If only I could shrink myself small as a button. If only a ghost would do my homework.)
And then there are the others: I wonder... ('I wonder what she does when she's alone...') and If This Goes On... ('If this goes on telephones are going to start talking to each other, and cut out the middleman...') and Wouldn't it be interesting if... ('Wouldn't it be interesting if the world used to be ruled by cats?')...
Those questions, and others like them, and the questions they, in their turn, pose ('Well, if cats used to rule the world, why don't they any more? And how do they feel about that?') are one of the places ideas come from.
An idea doesn't have to be a plot notion, just a place to begin creating. Plots often generate themselves when one begins to ask oneself questions about whatever the starting point is.
Sometimes an idea is a person ('There's a boy who wants to know about magic'). Sometimes it's a place ('There's a castle at the end of time, which is the only place there is...'). Sometimes it's an image ('A woman, sifting in a dark room filled with empty faces.')
Often ideas come from two things coming together that haven't come together before. ('If a person bitten by a werewolf turns into a wolf what would happen if a goldfish was bitten by a werewolf? What would happen if a chair was bitten by a werewolf?')"

12 Oct 2007


The story of Gusty and Ford

Do the Green Thing is a very nice initiative, because it encourages us to focus on the small things that can collectively make a difference. There's been so much buzz lately about the huge problems humanity is facing nowadays, that it's easy to feel overwhelmed and to think that there's not much you can actually do. But i think that's totally wrong, cause every small contribution is very important once the pieces are put together.
Green Thing comes as a community that makes it easy and enjoyable to be a bit greener. Every month, a new Green Thing challenge is issued. And basically what you have to do is actually do it (or, even better, have fun while doing it). October's Green Thing is Walk Once - and the way in which they invite us to walk more is a short animated story that illustrated how much obervational potential there is in walking. Enjoy!

I'm very enthusiastic about this type of "challenging" communities, because they are so engaging. You just want to enter the game and contribute to its rules, and generally do stuff, share and make a difference. Not like the regular "let's develop a social networking site, cause they're fashionable among teens nowadays, but without asking them to do anything in particular, cause they're so lazy" that most times ends up as a deserted site, which doesn't have anything particular to attract the teens, and provides even less to encourage them to visit again.

10 Oct 2007

delightful time at masterplan

A person who's "interested in what's interesting" is an interesting person, who always makes interesting observations and inspires the ones around. This is my conclusion after spending some time with and listening to Jeffre Jackson. He came back to Romania in order to be part of Masterplan, the big planning event.

I used to evaluate conferences and workshops according to how many notes i felt i should mark down from the speaker's speech; now (with blogs, and the global conversation and all that) i evaluate them differently - namely, according to how many ideas i mark down starting from something the speaker had said. And from this point of view, Jeffre's workshop was more than productive for me. He talked about stuff worth thinking about, and indicated areas which can give us hints for developing more interesting things - video gamers, data base engineers, entertainment critics, Hollywood screenwriters, academics and graphic designers, for example. We discussed about measures of interestingness, and interesting vs. entertaining - common-sense stuff which make perfect sense, and yet we miss or lack them so much sometimes. If you want a glimpse of what he said, go to his blog or watch his short movie :). And if you want to know more about the conference, Andreea has a very nice review here.

5 Oct 2007

week animated treat

I've just finished an eye-opening meeting with the director for our new campaign, and the guy managed to completely change our optics and add a lot of value both to the ideas, and the executions. Which feels good and relieving, especially since this is happening after last week's horrid experience with some executions gone completely bad.

Sometimes it's really amazing how different your perspectives get when you sit around and discuss the details of a final execution, especially with an outsider. He gives you hints, and then each member of the team starts to make connections and visualize the details of the spot in a particular manner, that depends highly on the cinema references the person has experienced. And obviously, the more you've seen, the more perspectives you have. Which is why Anim'est is a complete thrill - the festival brings a very interesting blend of different animation styles, some of which focus on expressing a certain concept in an intriguing manner, just like some others focus on offering visually striking imagery, while others focus on "paying forward" a feeling, no matter how minimalist the way. After last year's edition, i felt completely resetted and refreshed, and i'm expecting no less from this year's edition. As a slight preview, here's the trailer for René Laloux's famous Fantastic Planet (La Planète Sauvage, 1973). And if you like it, you'd better come to the festival, cause they've got an entire Laloux retrospective among other loads of goodies that will probably confirm, as Laloux said, that "That which suggests is superior to that which shows. Movies today show more and more. It's paranoid dictator cinema. What we need is schizophrenic cinema."

4 Oct 2007

advertising young minds

There are so many interesting blogs out there, it sometimes feels like a pity to simply stick to one list of feeds, even though the list contains posts i feel like i definately must read. Which is why every now and then i enjoy brand new random lists of blogs - sometimes i take them from somebody's blogroll, some other times from one top or another.

Now Daniel Mejia - whom blog i totally feel in love with - gathered Advertising Young Minds - the top 27 blogs of people under 27 , by combining all sorts of ranks and authority stats and so on. Enjoy !

2 Oct 2007

no, really, it's up to you

Everybody is speaking about music industry problems, and it's need to reinvent itself. Prince attracted a lot of reactions by giving away his new album together with a Sunday tabloid, to the outrage of music retailers. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails further rioted against record companies, accusing them of ripping off customers, and encouraged his listeners to steal the music. Now it's time for Radiohead to launch an interesting experiment together with the release of their new album on October 10th. The band made the album available exclusively from a website, while inviting people interested in the download to pay whatever sum they feel like giving away. In other words, fans are asked to name the price they're willing to pay for the album, and establish their own "fair-priced alternative to illegal downloads". Will everybody want the album for free ? Or will most downloaders pay some amount because of shame ? That remains to be seen, because although the band initially said that this move only means that people who'd have got the illegal download anyway are now free to pursue their wish legally, many of the people i spoke to about this regard the whole idea as a social experiment.