31 Mar 2008

not really getting friendfeed either

yesterday i came across a very old post from Nancy Baym, who spoke about "the widgetized self", personal portals that gather billions of widgets which bring the web to the people, instead of people going to billions of different websites. Which i often considered was a good way to deal with the huge ammounts of websites we've all spread our accounts on, a model that is highly unsustainable in the long run, as Nancy said as well.

More and more people dealing with this problem might be the reason why everybody seems to have fallen completely in love with FriendFeed, the new buzz word of web 2.0. Frankly, i don't really get the love around it, because the site seems to me nothing more than a fancy aggregator, which is not really easy to follow or truly helpful to me or even cool-looking or something. Is it so much better than Plaxo Pulse, for example ? Cause at this point i couldn't find its great functionality and i tend to agree with everything that Duncan Riley says about it here.

30 Mar 2008

why so ?

since i've received the book from a very dear friend, i've recently read james frey's "a million little pieces", the diary of a drug addict fighting his addictions. i pretty much enjoyed frey's style, which was equally fast enough to capture quickly, and tourmenting enough to leave a trace in the mind of the reader.

what i couldn't believe, however, was reading about all the controversies surrounding this book. frey published the book as a memoir book, leading everybody to believe that he was one and the same with the main character of his book. however, at some point, it was revealed that he had augmented some of the incidents in the diary, by describing them at a dimension they never actually had in real life. The public incarceration was taken so far, that in 2006, Frey and publisher Random House, Inc. reached a tentative legal settlement, where readers who felt that they had been defrauded by Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" would be offered a refund.

the reason why i am so puzzled is because whenever reading a memoirs book, i assume that not everything there happened exactly as illustrated in the book, because otherwise it would have seemed more like a newspaper article, than the diary of a person going through a lot. and the reason why i am interested in a memoirs book is because it offers me an insightful perspective of how a certain person perceives his/her life experiences, more than it offers me a very accurate recollection of some episodes in his/her life, which i could maybe access by simply reading a biography written by somebody else. are we supposed to be that offended if a writer inserts some fiction when writing his memoirs ?

29 Mar 2008

saturday morning

i miss the beginnings of this blog, when i felt good about posting whatever trivia i felt like posting. now with all the new things, nothing seems important or interesting enough to post on the blog: i have flickr, in case i feel like sharing a photo or something, i have facebook to keep in touch with friends and colleagues and all that, vod pod for the selection of videos, twitter for silly thoughts, and so on.

on the other hand, i read less and less blogs, because i started feeling most of them are more likely to waste my time than actually add value to my thinking, intrigue me and provoke me to react or reflect. and despite how much i like wandering around random information, i once again found myself in the old-fashioned situation of being more happy reading structured, interesting books or articles rather than jumping from blog to blog, and getting very little out of them at the end of the day (obviously, that doesn't apply to all of them).

which makes me feel like the blog remained pretty much something big: something i should only update in case i actually have something important to say, something others are pretty much unlikely to read somewhere else. of course, that's stupid. because when i started this blog, i wanted to make it more like a companion in my quest for making something out of planning.

so this post is solely about this morning, and it's pretty much a spam post. i watched even more top gear videos, out of which i fell completely in love with this one, in which clarkson drives (or, more likely, carries around) the smallest car ever made, a hint for the future coming from the 60s.

reading Russell's articles in campaign is aways a bliss, and i particularly liked this phrase which might actually help me setting up an order for my thoughts: "The objects we use are starting to tell stories about our behaviour. And the people who can find the patterns in that informational fog (who can mine the reality and find the non-obvious relationships) and those who can sort through it and find the stuff we should be worrying about (modeling the surprises) will be the people we'll be desperate to employ. Them and the folk who can connect all those databases together, without losing CDs in the post." Together with a quote from Bertrand Russell, who said that "The secret to happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and personas that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile".

Since i am slowly recovering my love for movies, i am quite confused about what to watch today, although i know i'm the mood for sort of bio-movies. My shortlist includes Stop Making Sense (a supposedly innovative concert movie for the rock group The Talking Heads), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Sympathy for the devil (Godard's view), True Stories (i know, talking heads again) and No direction home, Scorsese's take on Bob Dylan. I'll probably just watch them all and get it over with.

And very interesting episode of Border Blaster, tackling Wolfman Jack's story, "from Wolfman's days as a renegade radio DJ to his appearance in the cult movie American Graffiti".

all these while thinking about how much i hate lack of fairness.

24 Mar 2008

history, baby

This post is a tribute to one of the funniest cars in the history of, well, funny cars: the Austin-Healey Sprite, relevantly nicknamed Frogeye (UK) or even Bugeye (US). I sometimes like to think of it as a sort of a Ford Ka ancestor. Enjoy the ads of the period, its 1958 presentation, as well as its feature in TopGear, nearly five decades later.

19 Mar 2008

planner meeting

Happily, John is back is town, which seems to be a great opportunity for a planning meet-up. This Thursday, 8 PM, Cafe Pedia Universitate. meet you there :)

12 Mar 2008

design is about making things better

Today i went to see Dick Powell speak during the opening conference of Filter Design Competition, the great design event organized by Oricum. Even though he didn't really say anything completely new to me, his discourse was very inspirational, because it revealed interest and common sense, two of the most important ingredients that help create brilliant work. And the fact that he also showed a great deal of examples, together with their results on the market only adds up to this observation. Here are some random notes i took:

  • ideas need to be pushed and pulled, that's what makes them eventually work
  • companies are like jelly: they like the concept of "innovation", because it's a buzz word, they spend endless hours in meeting and workshops discussing how to innovate, and yet, they sometimes completely fail to change, because they prove so reluctant to change after all (this sounded awfully familiar)
  • innovation is rarely about a "big idea", but about a series of small ideas brought together in a new and original way
  • crucible event (that's why observing people in their homes makes a lot of sense - design is about making things better, and most times those things it needs to fix or take into consideration are purely intuitive, therefore people will not be able to rationalize them within focus groups) -> knowledge (if we ask a 5 year old to design us the car of the future, his imagination has no limits, and he's very likely to come up with something with lots of wheels and engines and stuff, because he doesn't have the knowledge to know it won't work) -> idea -> belief -> embodiment
  • a brief is a collection of client prejudices
  • design is about making things better in a relevant and functional way, which is why designers are interested in everything, and scoping society, science and economy is vital to gain little insights, as well as big pictures
  • look rather than see
  • anthropology comes before technology, because people and more important than things
  • the product is where the brand keeps its promises (a brand manifests itself through much more than just communication and packaging)
  • it's essential to learn how to deal with how others manipulate your brand (coke versus mentos example, dove camapign for real beauty example)
  • if we solve all these small problems we've identified, we're gonna have a very successful product, even though it means harder work
  • "problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which the problems were created" (einstein)
  • you see things and you ask "why?"; but a designer dreams of things that never were and asks "why not?"

appetite for exploration

last night i had one of the most beautiful and energetic journeys lately. because i went to uca marinescu's workshop, hosted by Fundatia Calea Victoriei, and from there to Ireland and Mongolia, just two of the destinations reached by this fantastic lady who's travelled across all continents, not even excluding the two poles. Although she's nearly 70 years old, you really wouldn't tell, while her great modesty and richness of speech, together with her radiant attitude, fill even the most pessimistic person in the room with joy and excitement.

That's why the meeting wasn't just an expedition in itself, filled with pictures, explanations, music, moods, anecdotes and stories. It was a lesson of life, optimism, simplicity, modesty and common sense, coming from a person who's completely capable of persuading everybody around to regain faith in the human kind, as well as in the healing power of exploration and discovery. In fact, she started her talk reminding us that the specific of a country comes from two main factors: its nature, and its people. The way the country looks like where it has not been touched by humans, as well as the way in which humans brought their contribution and left their marks.

And from these two perspectives, she analyzed Ireland, with its helping respectful clans, roots and traditions, and Mongolia, a land of complete freedom and honesty. She talked about the peaceful ways of the Mongolians, of the freedom that each individual there has, from the isolated homes, to riding, as the main means of transport. A freedom that they know how to enjoy, without disrespecting the other people, or the general norms of common sense that seem to govern around there. The two hours of stories and recollections reminded me that from time to time one should simply stop and go somewhere far away, where it's still possible to enjoy the pure essence of both humans and environment. Although uca marinescu fears that it has become more and more difficult for us, modern people of this country, to just stop for a while from our crazy city races. But, as long as there still are areas where the modern rhythm hasn't found an equally fertile ground, there's still a lot to learn about respect, beauty and proper living. And that's really worth exploring.
pic from here.

11 Mar 2008

the beauty of music

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

10 Mar 2008

common sense reminder about creativity

this video made me think about some of the young people i've come across in the mccann creative mentorship project. people who complain that the only reason why they can't get their ideas through is because they don't know how to graphically express them (even though they weren't even asked to do so in the first place).

9 Mar 2008

anything could happen

Only a few days left until a F1 season that seems to be more than exciting. Featuring F1's first ever night race (Singapore), banned traction control, Alonso back at Renault, ambitious Hamilton fighting against perhaps too confident Raikkonen, as well as an enticing line-up of number twos who are potentially unpredictably brilliant , 2008 season is surely worth watching. Top Gear gives a taste of things right before start.

7 Mar 2008

as seen by dorina lazar

this post is about interacting with yet another interesting person. i know i might be pushing it with these posts, but the truth is the more i talk to people whose job is completely different from advertising, the more i enlarge my view on how to be a better planner.

a couple of weeks ago, i attended this very cosy chat with Dorina Lazar, about her experience as an actress (the gathering was organized by the same foundation i'm just gonna keep on talking about). Apart from being one of the greatest Romanian actresses, she also is the managing director of one of the most interesting and appreciated theatres in Bucharest, the Odeon Theater. She struck me as a modest person, and her discourse was nowhere near "big talk", being filled instead with simple words and deep emotions. A true communicator, because what she tries to do with each new role is to communicate a story from the perspective of a certain character.

The thing that i liked the most about her was the way in which she rejected verdicts: even when provoked to talk about the young generation's generally claimed superficiality, she dismissed all such preconceptions, and tried to give us her own view instead. And this view seemed to make a lot of sense to me: she brought into discussion how acting was taught when she was young, by professors who were first rate actors on top of everything else. People who inspired respect and admiration through everything they did: their performance, their pieces of advice, their tone of voice, their education, wit and discipline. People who were true mentors, as well as role models for their students. Whereas today, the actress says, most professors are second-hand actors, mostly frustrated by never making it on stage, and thus lacking a great deal of expertise, as well. And this translates in many cases of younger generations being deprived of inspiring role models.

Another thing that impressed me were the recollections from the beginning of her career, when she used to go together with her theater group on tour a lot, in order to play on the stages of village cultural chambers. So they were supposed to act in famous plays in front of peasants who were eating seeds and commenting all the time. Which she thought to be a very good experience. Because keeping such an audience engaged meant developing very powerful performances, and improving her communication skills a lot. She did not take it as an ordeal (although it sometimes was), but as a challenge, because those people were not stupid, but simply uneducated.

Oh, and she has this theory that each audience receives the show it deserves, because the artists on stage unconsciously react to the vibes they receive from the audience. Which means that people in the audience are always an important part of the show, even if the show is not necessarily interactive. This only comes as a further argument to support my earlier point about live performances and their audience, and what brands should learn from it.

Tickets to most good plays sell out very quickly lately, and she thinks this happens because people have started to rediscover the power of theater, of real performance, the sort that is able to inspire reflection, as well as deep emotions. She remembers the beginning of the nineties, when people desperately embraced TV, and stopped attending cultural events; however, she feels many of these people eventually got bored of seeing such little substance in TV shows, of hearing the same TV stars and commentators talking without actually solving anything and so on. And that's a good sign for the cultural level in our country. I sure hope she's right :).

6 Mar 2008

participating in the new york of the 70s

for some unfortunate reason, i hadn't been to the czech center in a very long time. this monday, however, i couldn't resist not going, because the documentary they were going to play sounded way too good to simply ignore. i was very happy to find the room absolutely crowded with young people who had come to see genuine footage about how it was like to be an artist in New York, in the 70s.
Truth is, the documentary was indeed a bliss. Woody and Steina Vasulka had left the Czech Republic in order to go to New York nearly 40 years ago, and this change of scenery turned them into real chroniclers of the underground scene of Soho, who used their Sony Portapak in order to record images from rock concerts, undergroung events and whatever else which made a point about the context and atmosphere of that period of time.

Participation is a sample of footage that pictures the genuine atmosphere of those times: it doesn't have a script, or other cuts except from the ones between different scenes, but it surely has examples of attitudes from so many different manifestations from artists of that period, that you end up with quite a clear picture about how things were back then. Life for Soho artists surely looked difficult, but their passion in expressing themselves seemed so powerful and boldly stated, that you could simply feel wild energy and creativity floating around. The documentary features transvestite actors, ian gillan, jimi hendrix, jj johnson and many others, showing an uncensored, vaguely filtered highly pitoresque universe.
pic from here.

attending music workshops

Part of the reason why i've been so quiet lately is that i took my resolutions quite seriously, and enrolled in a great amount of stuff outside the office - from workshops and conferences to all sorts of shows, loads of opera and theater included. My choices so far have proven to be inspirational and truly enriching, especially since many of them were doubled by getting in touch with amazing new people.

I have become a regular of Fundatia Calea Victoriei's workshops and gatherings, because their alternative education sort of concept has so far proven to be insightful in a far more substantial manner than advertising language abuse .

The workshop in the picture is entitled "how to listen to music" and is held by Tiberiu Soare, a brilliant conductor at the National Opera Orchestra. The workshop hasn't finished yet, but i am so in love with it, that i simply felt the need to write about it anyway.

I had no idea what to expect when i first went there. It seemed like quite a pretentious induction in classical music directed by an honourable director. It's quite the opposite: it's a very passionate journey into learning how to make the most of any musical experience one might have. Tiberiu is brilliant, passionate, modest and funny, and despite the fact that his musical knowledge seems almost neverending, he doesn't even for one second pretend to be smarter or more entitled to discuss about music than any of his listeners. Maybe this is what makes the meetings great: the fact that what Tiberiu actually does is to inspire us never to take any idea for granted. To judge everything by ourselved, and never be overwhelmed or frustrated by remarks coming from critics, specialists or any other types of people who feel their opinion should be superior. Just as he warned us that a great danger in enjoying music is to fall in love with a particular interpretation of a certain musical piece, and to further dismiss by default other interpretations that might be at least equally good.

He makes music seem within our reach, because he never uses a technical term without explaining it in very simple and common-sensical analogies. It's funny in a way - it's so obvious that he knows so many things from so many different areas, and yet, his language is still easier to understand and his discourse still easier to follow than that of many advertising or marketing people.

We talked about different manners of approaching music, as well as about various potential definitions of music, always connecting music with maths, physics, philosophy and history. This comes as no wonder: as Tiberiu explained, it's essential for a very good conductor to know as many things as possible about the various stages in the history of music - the more he understands the social, economic, historical context, as well as the idea exchanges at a certain time, the easier it is for him to come up with a deeper interpretation of a musical piece.

When many people brag about always knowing exactly "what the author wanted to communicate", Tiberiu helped us realise that sheer music doesn't have a message, it's just an expression of our states of mind: you cannot say "the glass is on the table", no matter how many symphonies you write in your attempt. So music is actually accessible and open to anybody who is willing to use his/her reason, and not take any preconception for granted. And what you actually need to do in order to become better and better at evaluating musical pieces is to practice your comparative and your discriminative capacities. As well as to always have the patience to listen to the end. Nothing more.

I wouldn't stop writing for days if i were to discuss all the things i get out of these workshops, so i will just add various observations derived from it from time to time. In the mean time, i can say that music has never been dearer to me, as is the case with the need for opera :).

yamato again

i've been to their show before, but last night i went to see the drummers of Japan once again and i was completely impressed once again. I couldn't really realise whether the show was about discipline, about energy or about passion. Because it surely wasn't solely about music. It was an art show which at times sent vibes of scientific precision, a sample of entertainment that did not defy tradition. It was simple, playful, surprising and engaging.

And i left the show bitterly thinking about some clients that keep on talking and talking and talking about what they should do with their brands, in order to please all the consumers and potential consumers and consumer family and so on. In order not to upset anybody. And by obsessively thinking about this, they forget that "the consumers" are just people. Not this dark force, that's out there to get you, and analyzes every pixel just to prove you wrong. People in the audience last night were genuinely open and got deeply involved in the show, because it made them smile and laugh and be part of the performance. While the japanese fellows didn't seem to be thinking: "oh my God, but what if everybody leaves if i ask them to clap their hands in a difficult manner, and my, oh, my, what if they throw rocks at me if i mock them when they fail to applause as i want them to, and oh, dear, what should i do to make it clear to them that this is a joke" and so on. A matter of doing and of believing in your own voice, i guess, something we're still far away from. And i know this is a very general observation, but i had to express this week's frustration somewhere :).
pic from here.