Friday, December 30, 2011

My Random 2011 Rewind

These are a few of my most random things—a few random 2011 events that made a bunch of noise that bear honorable mention… before they fall off the edge of the earth, never to be heard from again.

Netflix becomes Qwikster–then becomes Netflix again. In a shameless (and transparent) bout of unabashed greed, movie-on-demand specialist, NetFlix, announced in September that they were splitting their business in half and essentially (over) charge customers who wanted to maintain a DVD-by-mail account with their new spin-off. Not since "New Coke" has there been a more infuriating attempt to tamper with something that works just fine. The outrage–and subsequent plummet in stock value–lasted only about three weeks before the Qwikster concept was six-feet deep. The best part? The Qwikster twitter handle was owned by a guy whose Avatar was Elmo smoking weed. Of course, that might have been how all of this started in the first place.

72-Days of Bliss. After just 72 days and one of televisions most expensive (and watched!) weddings, to the tune of $15 million dollars, porn starlet–er, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian files for divorce from NBA star, Chris Humphries. This is one of those instances where the news is the punchline. Kim, I'm a fan, but maybe next time, you could spend a little time off-camera actually connecting with someone before getting engaged. you know, talking, discussing values, planning a life together, family–all the usual suspects. This may help your next wedding last longer than one of your sex tapes.

The NBA's Pre-Christmas Town Hall. Here's an idea that has a 24-second shot clock; take overpaid players from a sport failing to keep in fan's good graces and post a live web-feed Q and A session for them to answer inane questions from adolescents. As an advertising, marketing and PR guy, I have two words for you on this one gang. Epic Fail. Hey, here's a thought, let's try and have a season that matters and maybe have at least ONE NBA story before the end of 2011 NOT be about the NBA Players and their "good-hearted" nature or how they have been wronged by the man. Guys when you make $5 million a year–you ARE the man. My favorite description of the NBA sadly still holds true–the NBA is a bunch of Rich White guys watching a bunch of Rich Black guys play ball (sigh).

Duke Nukem Forever Lost. It took forever to hit the shelves, but when 90's gaming fad and FPS icon Duke Nukem launched his latest title this past summer–well, the bullets weren't just flying at the in-game adversaries. In about the most disenchanting gaming sequel in recent memory, DNF proved it was an idea whose time had come… and gone. As a gamer, who actually played Duke endlessly in the 1990's I couldn't be more disinterested. Hey, gaming world, check this out; the next time a game title takes more than a decade to produce–move on. Because that's exactly what your audience has done.

The Herman Cain Mutiny. I don't usually wax politic in this blog, but for this bloke, I will make an exception. Coming literally out of nowhere to rave reviews by the GOP, ex-Godfather's Pizza mogul Herman Cain became the sweetheart of the conservative nation and served his slice of "I don't know about that" politics—with extra cheese. I suppose I should be past being surprised that our nation latches on to someone who knows less about politics and leadership than my 13-year old son, but his meteoric rise to prominence stunned us all. My favorite Cain-moment was the five-and-a-half minute bumbling non-answer he gave reporters concerning the answer to a hypothetical question over the handling of this year's Libyan conflict. Pure Gold. Check it out here. Well, I suppose this means the ultra-conservatives proved they aren't as racist as we all assumed they were. At least on the surface, anyway. If you need to ride the Cain Train (NOT my terminology BTW), you'll have to stand in line as the sexual harassment suits are still piling up.

There and Back Again: A Space Shuttle's Journey. July 21st, 2011, the final Shuttle Mission of the Atlantis was officially the last launch of NASA's Space Shuttle program. Having flown for more than 30 years, the Space Shuttle program always seemed as though it would be a staple of America's space program. As shuttles Endeavour and Discovery are lined up to be carted off to their final resting places, I reflect on the tragedy and triumph of three decades of space-age adventures. As a fan of perpetuating science, I look forward to a bright future for our space program.

Happy New Year!—to all my readers and tune in again as we start 2012 with new stories, more profiles and yes, more random rants and raves. Until then, I'll be in the corner...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Knock it off already!

Smart Phones have dug themselves into our pockets and our lives—and self restraint is nowhere to be found.

I am now the proud owner of an iPhone 4S! As a devoted Apple computer minion, I couldn't imagine a more fitting way to round out my arsenal of social connectivity then by adding the world's best, fastest most sought-after Smart Phone. My home network, is now a thriving apple hub of metal and plastic models of the world's friendliest computer. To sum it up, my iPhone is the bomb–and I am afraid.

Very afraid.

Don't misunderstand, this phone is more powerful and has more features (comparatively) than two of my older Macs. No, what I mean is this phone–it has a way of consuming your attention, your focus and your day.

Ever been at the movies and had someone's Smart Phone light-up half the theater because they just had to check the latest twitter about Aunt Mildrid or what their favorite movie star is up to (by the way, exactly NONE of them write their own tweets or monitor their own Facebook pages). Or maybe you've been behind a fancy, slow moving SUV, moving roughly 22 mph. When you finally pass it–you guessed it–they're on a phone. What about the girl in the grocery store treating us to every detail of her boring-ass workday to a person on the other end who is just as disenchanted as we are. I have even heard stall-squatters in the men's room answer phone calls – while pinching a loaf! Are you kidding me? Dude, not only does no one in the bathroom want you to hear you promise to pick up eggs; milk on the way home to wifey, but—are you sitting down for this? oh yeah, you are–she can HEAR you on the toilet, dummy!

This overabundance of social disregard is due to the ADD Smart Phones have inflicted on all of us. I know, I get it. I'm guilty too (well, not of the bathroom stuff, that's just gross!).

There is a delightful charm these gadgets provide for us that makes us feel connected, be in touch and literally have the world at our fingertips. The number of traffic accidents has never been higher, work place productivity has never been lower and our fellow human beings have never been so distracted in the course of human history.

It has been my experience that none of us are using these phones to 1/1000th of their real capacity. Email, FaceBook, Twitter, you don't need a HAL-9000 for these. However, you do need a little common sense. We could all use a little less time in front of our three-inch screens and a little more real-time connectivity. Whoa. Did you see that? Hell, now even the real thing sounds like some social media initiative.

Maybe we're all doomed. Or maybe, we just need to unplug. The bottom line is–opps, gotta go… I have a new challenger on Words with Friends–!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupational Hazard

"Occupy Wall Street" shows the good, the bad and the ugly faces of class in America. Minus the good.

By this point, we have ll heard and seen the sound bites, the news feeds and watched as the mass media outlets desperately try to spin some epic news event out of this international movement for change, occupy wall street. Since I am NOT a news journalist, I will lead the coverage and the reporting to others. However, as a father, a modest man of honor and a citizen of the world, I applaud each and every participant – in every corner of the world – who dares to stand and show the world they are fed up with financial and social tyranny. This is the imperative of change and I am proud and delighted to be living in these times. Moreover, I am overjoyed my children are witnessing the embers of a coming revolution.
Acting on the mounting and now overflowing frustrations of a fed up majority of world citizens are now making what is the beginning of a wave of change that has been coming for long, long time. If you are somehow still unaware, a small fraction of the US (and world) privileged elite makes more than 70% of the wealth in the US. But they don't do it by earning. It is done by stealing taxpayer funding, double talking, betting on failure and obscene bonuses, kick-backs and underhanded financial borrowing and trading practices that put billions in the pockets of a small group of people who are already fabulously wealthy, while the rest of us literally die on the vine.

History warns us of these consequences –ever hear of Marie Antoinette?. The Czars of Russia? Even our ow founding forefathers warned of the dangers of having an elite class; a privileged few deciding on the fate and livelihood of the many. Even one of our most cherished Presidents of the 20th century, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned of the dangers of the military/industrial complex. If you are unaware, it is when the military is run by business interests and not by the best interests of our people.
The greatest horror is how few Americans seem to know or care about all of this. This past Halloween, I dressed in three-piece suit, with $20 Cigar sticking out of my breast pocket with a rolled-up $20 bill to light and burn it. I was representing the 1%. Of roughly four dozen people who confronted me on it, three even knew what I was. Granted, this is an obscure number, but most didn't even know what I was talking about WHEN I TOLD THEM who I was. As ever, if a headline doesn't have a Kardashian in it or isn't a sports-related or doesn't have a honorable mention on 'The Real Housewives of Berwin' then Americans just don't seem to care. It is a sad state of affairs that the people who are actually profiting off our collective misery (Sports stars, Actors & Starlets and Reality TV people) are the ones we hold in the highest regard.

People all over the world have begun to take a stand over the this blight of greed. Berlin. Zurich. Boston. Sydney. Tokyo. Montreal. Manhattan. Los Angeles. Paris. Atlanta. Rio De Janerio. The world community is beginning to wake up to the festering stench of greed. We have had enough. To wealthy: The wealth was never yours to begin with. Give back or it will be taken from you. The French Aristocracy found this out as did Czarist Russia or the Roman Empire. Now it's our turn.

All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again. If there will be no compromise, there will be tanks on the streets of every city in the world. Including yours. As the late Michael Jackson put it: "make that change." It's not too late.

Do the right thing everyone, our children are watching.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Going postal for the holidays!

I still find relevance in the purpose and the dedication in our postal service – but who the heck are these people that are in line?!

We've all been there. At some point in our lives, we end up standing on line in the post office, waiting to mail some random package to a family member or friend or to mail back some unwanted parcel from a company or purchase we can't wait to get rid of. The passive and patient folks in the light blue shirts take this albatross off our hands and release it into the wilds of the postal delivery universe.

So why do I loathe the post office experience? It's the people.

Not the workers, they are just folks committed to helping us get our stuff from point A to point B. Sure, some are better than others but let's face it dear reader, we can find that anywhere. I mean, some barbers are better than others, some sales reps are better than others and definitely, some government workers are light years beyond their piers when it comes to even being human beings.

No, I mean the random cross-sections of humanity that seem to converge on the post office ONLY when I need to get something mailed. And maybe it's my 21st century on-the-go lifestyle talking here, but why does it seem like two back-to-back eternitys every time I am in line at the P.O.? PLEASE don't tell me I am the only one wanting scream bloody murder when I'm in line behind the little old hearing-impaired lady who needs to mail a package return back to a country no one can even pronounce and wants to pay with a fourth party check converted from Euros from South Uzbekistan. Oh, and this endeavor always requires a minimum participation of no less than 43 on-site postal staff with several having to jog to back area every 30-40 seconds.

Then there's the chatter box. Often a middle-aged woman who, while buying a book of collector's stamps, wants to ask about the logistical delivery dynamics of the postal air fleet along with an accompanying powerpoint and interactive synopsis of the ins and outs of why that particular postal worker choose a career in the parcel delivery industry.

And then, there's the stumper. He's the guy (always a guy) who has a question no one can answer, a package no one has ever seen and has no idea how to deliver and/or asks questions no one this side of mensa has any hope of answering. Commonly, after more than 40 minutes, his solution is often a .12¢ supplemental stamp.

Finally, there are the Post Office Patron Zombies. These once-human, undead lifeforms emerge from their crypt and actually buy coffee to hang out at the post office and use it as a meeting place! AGH!! For crying out loud, isn't that why they have Starbucks?!? Go away! The rest of us have somewhere to be and have no interest in being in this building a second longer than necessary. I know I need to set a good example of patience and restraint as an example to my children but really, people – stop it!

As a final thought, I must admit how much I delight in the modernization in many Post Offices that now have the postal Debit card postage machines. You Take your package, weigh it, and a few touch-screen later, you buy your postage, pop it in the big metal can and your out. Done. I hate to sound elitist, but thank you God!

The need for a postal service is evident but now, as the holidays approach, keeping me from going Postal while at the Post Office well, that's a good thing. We all have enough lines to have to stand in, one less is just fine with me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

My Random Life–Installment Two: Rim-Hanging at Basketball's Mecca!

Note: The following blog is the latest installment of my mini-series (a 'sub-blog' if you will) of the totally random events that happen in my life. This one goes back to the early 1990's when a good friend and I went on a six-week cross-country excursion that was a life experience that changed both our understanding of this great country.

Ever had an impromptu, self-imposed dunk contest at the Basketball Hall of Fame while the building was empty? I have!

It was the summer of 1993 (cue Wayne and Garth doing there whole "doodly-doo, doodly-doo" memory bit) and a good friend of mine had decided he had enough of the relentless New England winters and that it was time to move back to his home in sunny Calabasis, California. I was envious. Mike was (and still is!) a very good friend. As big a basketball fan as I am (which is how we met – playing for opposing schools in intercollegiate hoops) and an all-around kindred spirit. Hearing that he was moving was a real downer. Then, Mike made a suggestion that changed our lives forever. "Dude, we should get a car and drive cross country!'

At first I thought it was a pipe-dream. I mean, who just picks up and drives cross country? No one does that anymore, right? Where would we get a car? How much for food and gas? I couldn't go anyway, I had a roommate, a full-time job, etc. It just wouldn't work.

Then, I got laid off. With a fat severance package. Enough cash for the rest of the year and no sense of urgency about finding a new job. Maybe this was a sign?

Then, after about a month of kicking it around, Mike's parents offered to ship a car clear cross-country to get their boy home. A sign for sure!

Now, spiritual convictions notwithstanding, that is a sign no matter how you look at it. I decided, what the heck, let's do it – America, here we come! We quickly made some calls and charted a course across the country peppered with stops from arranging for crashes on the couches, living rooms, floors and spare bedrooms of friends, relatives and acquaintances across the country. Was this really doable? It appeared so.
We were soon on our way… first stop? A pilgrimage to basketball's Mecca in Springfield Massachusetts. In all my (then) years on earth, I had yet to make the trip cross state to The Basketball Hall of Fame where Dr. Naismith invented our infamous American pastime with peach baskets and a leather, hand-sewn ball back in 1896.

The museum was awesome.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon with about an hour left before closing. It was barren, with only a handful of workers who were all super eager to shuffle us through so they could go home. It's a big place if you've never been, two stories and a genuine museum. Lots of displays, memorabilia, endless plaques and installations of people who have broken (or established) basketball records throughout the years. Coozy. Bird. Jordan, Johnson. Dr. J. Abdul-Jabar. All living legends of the game. All well represented. But the best part was yet to come.

"Dey playin' Bas-ket-baaaaalll–!"
At the time, there was an installation that had a moving sidewalk, a kind of conveyor belt—like you find at the airport, with an endless rack of balls in front of you, where you could grab a ball and shoot at a sea of rims ranging in height from about four feet to well over 10. This was fun. This is what we had come for. Basketball was so much a part of our lives we were in heaven. Then out of nowhere, with a load "CLANG!" the conveyor stopped. A young woman appeared out of nowhere and told us we had 10 minutes before closing time and disappeared just as quickly. What? Are you kidding?

Now I don't remember who leapt over the rail first, Mike or me (I am going to guess it was me since that is NOT uncommon behavior for me), but in an attempt to gain a few more balls for taking another shot, I scurried about the installation, about a full court in length, and grabbed a few balls. On the way back, I found a little six-foot rim and couldn't resist. TWO-HANDED REVERSE, DOUBLE-PUMP JAM! That, as my southern friends say, was all she wrote! Mike is about 6' 6" and I'm about 6' 2" and we were officially in heaven. An impromptu dunk contest – hanging on 6', 7' and 8' rims screaming out stuff like; "Dude, check this out – WINDMILL!" We must have been there at least another 20-30 minutes. Easy.

Sweaty, exhausted, hungry and hands sore from dunking on more rims than we could count, we lumbered toward the front. At this point the museum was closed and the folks who worked there were all congregating in the lobby, shutting down lights, getting ready to lock up. They had completely forgotten about us! They stared in wide-eyed disbelief at the two of us panting and sweating as we said pleasant goodnights and headed to the parking lot.
I am sure what we did was immoral in the eyes of fans, if not borderline illegal. At the least, we violated the purity of basketball's greatest destination – and I would do it all again! It was a perfect storm of opportunity–meets double dare– meets all out fun! I will never forget it. Never. Neither of us will.

After all, have you hung from the rims during a dunk contest in the basketball hall of fame? I have. If you ever get the opportunity... I highly recommend it. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tired of Halloween Commercialization? Time to start B.I.T.C.H.I.N.!

If you're done with all the horror stories over abducted kids, over-priced costumes and trips to the Halloween store, then it's time to scare up some new thinking.

Any parent out there knows the score. The horror stories surrounding urban myths like razors in Apples (like who takes fruit on Halloween anyway!), rat poison in candy, abducted trick-or-treaters and candy coated with toxic materials like drain cleaners. It's enough to give you nightmares.

Then there is the frightful notion of custom buying. I believe halloween has surpassed Christmas in regards to event shopping. Halloween stores are like a department store having a "going out of business" sale or a Target on Black Friday. It's insane, people are rude, kids are going nuts, "…cats & dogs living together", it's bonkers, man! Seriously, I would just as soon drink a bottle of Castor oil than be caught in any of those places. And for what? Dropping $250 on four costumes and accessories so my kids can walk around for 20 minutes during trick-or-treating and then complain about how their feet hurt? Really? To be honest, my kids are turning into teenagers so Trick-or-Treating isn't really doing it for them anyway.

REMIX! Stick a fork in me, folks, I'm done. Time to hammer the old re-set button on this mofo. I love me some scary-time fun, but the commercialization alone is "killing" me. Not to mention the shallow, meaningless consumption-based nature of activities for All Hallows Eve. By the way folks, I know many of us LOVE this day, as do I, but please, it's not a "holiday", ok? Bite the bullet. It's just a day, you know, like flag day. If you don't watch parades, put up a tree, carve a bird or shoot off fireworks or – and this is the big one – HAVE THE DAY OFF, its not a holiday. So what do we call it? Halloween works just fine, thanks.

So where's this rant going? I propose everyone consider a B.I.T.C.H.I.N. party! It's an acronym; Big Incentive To Change Halloween's Inherent Nature.

Catchy, huh?

It'll be tough to sell this idea to Super-Conservative Right Wingers but they won't care anyway because they're mostly closed-minded about cool stuff like Halloween and let's face it, they aren't reading this blog anyway.

Teenagers (I have two) and adolescents (of which I also have two) will think this is way beyond cool! We'll eat pumpkin muffins (baking), do pumpkin carving (beforehand), eat something fun & gross (TBD) and watch a [Dad-approved] scary movie. Each child must also tell one scary story (told by candle-light) and show one piece of scary art (finger painting, illustration, photography, etc.) and the best one gets a special prize (for me, I'll do first and second place w/two runner up prizes). If its a bomb, no one will care, if its a hit, everyone will tell friends and the news will spread. Maybe next year, each kid invites a friend–?

Look, I get it, I spent plenty of Halloween nights roaming around the streets of of Boston as a kid with a hard plastic mask of Hulk or Frankenstein held to my head with a rubber band. I hated it but LOVED getting the tasty loot. My kids have certainly had their fair share of candy begging on Halloween. But this year, Halloween falls on a Monday night and let's face it, costumes aren't cheap AND they last about 45 minutes... not exactly the ROI Dad is looking for.

So, if you're tired of being terrorized by Halloween commercialization as I am, consider having a B.I.T.C.H.I.N. party. This year, all the kids will be doing it (at least in my home).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Admiring Shera's Wall of Silence

A brilliant ad campaign for Shera Sound Proofing silences any argument that the world has leap-frogged the US when it comes to advertising innovation.

The following ads are product of Ogilvy, Singapore for Shera's "Sound-Proof Wall Solutions" (right-click to preview each ad larger).

What is truly great here is how well these three ad messages translate (and resonate!) with every person who sees them. I mean, lets face it, we have ALL been on both sides of each of thee walls (if we've been lucky!).

Apartments, condos or homes, the context doesn't matter. The louder-than-necessary party that goes well past 3 a.m., the domestic dispute you know you just want a few more details of or the sounds of passionate love-making keeping you up all night – and not in the good way.

Apparently a materials-based noise reduction alternative, Thailand-based Mahaphant interior design solutions offers Shera, which delivers sound-proofing through technology-empowered building processes that shield you from sounds or keeps your sounds contained. Cool technology.

These ads are spot on. I have long held the belief that advertising is one of our society's greatest common denominators; it's often a common ground that allows us all to participate regardless of social, racial or gender bias.

Sadly this campaign would never run in America. We are too stuck up, too easily offended and too prudish when it comes to social views of what is 'morally right'. As the great David Ogilvy himself once said; "Advertising reflects the mores of society, but does not influence them." Advertising, as always, is a mirror, not a social barometer. We have lost our sense of humor and he ability to take almost anything at face-value.

This is NOT to say great advertising can't be done in America and by no means is all non-American advertising great. But advertising is a fascinating and energetic tool whose real potential is often squandered in the face of trying too hard to address too many different agendas while working within too many moral limitations. Often resulting in a failure to move product or even keep our attention long enough to communicate the message.

Sadly, many of the best communications and advertising in the world are simply created outside the United States. While we struggle to find our moral compass, we can watch as the world creates stunning and interesting sales messaging that really makes some noise.

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Thailand

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Force To Be Reckoned With

The recent release of Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray reminds us of a sense of shock & awe "… from a long time ago…"

I recently purchased the mega-disc set of The Complete Star Wars Saga on Blu-Ray, prompting my girlfriend to ask me; "How many times can you actually re-watch the same movies?" Good question. Let's count, shall we? Kids, grab your abacus!

The answer “forces” me to recall the years of my youth. I was nine when Star Wars first hit the big screen and my life had been altered in ways I can only barely articulate. Though, indulge me dear friends, this was true enlightenment.
Though Jaws (1975), is officially credited to be the first-ever summer blockbuster, Star Wars epitomized this phenomenon. A blockbuster, for those who may not know, is a movie where the lines of moviegoers waiting to get in went out the theater door, down the sidewalk and – you guessed it – around the block, thereby "busting" the block. Remember, this phrase was coined at a time when movie theaters held either single or double screens. A 'megaplex' in downtown Boston was once known to have the unheard of number of four movie screens (gasp!). Back then, Hollywood saw the summer as a dead movie season. After all, who in their right mind would go the movies when you could go swimming, go to the beach or go on a trip? Movies releases were typically slated for late fall or early winter – prime movie release season at the time.

I vividly remember local (and national) TV newscasts interviewing scores of people waiting in lines – often for days – to experience George Lucas's other-world space opera. Sadly, I would see the movie just three times in the original year of release, but that, as they say, was just the beginning.
In 1978, Star Wars ran for six (6) consecutive months, only to be re-released months later in most major markets. The movie was a runaway hit and I couldn’t get enough. I went every weekend for an average of 2-3 continuous showings over the course of the summers of '78 & '79, I estimate I saw this movie roughly 55 – 60 times (keep in mind matinee admission was $1 for kids my age). I just couldn't get enough; the poor story pacing, the campy overacted script, mistake-ridden post-production – none of that mattered. What mattered was how many details my friends and I could discover by seeing it again and again. And Again.

And Again.

"Don't be a Vader-Hater, Son. Now, "Hand" over the remote...!
Then, in 1980, the Empire Strikes Back came to a theater near me. OMG—another one! The ride wasn’t over — it had only just begun! Now older, and on the high of watching Star Wars more than 60 times coursing through my veins, I proceeded to see Empire a whopping 14 times in 1980 alone. Another dozen or so times (thanks again to rereleases!) before 1983 when Return of the Jedi made my head explode with it’s jaw-dropping awesomeness. Was Darth Vader really Luke Skywalker's father? Would Leia & her homeboys be able to save Han from Jabba The Hut in time? Would the rebellion score another major victory against the Empire? As I entered my first year of High School, there were legions of die-hard fans there to share my fascination with.

All told I have viewed each of the six movies somewhere between 30 & 60 times apiece and I’m sure I am well over 200 all-time since VCR's, Cable TV (the original trilogy is run every Christmas, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day on TNT) and DVD's have made these movies available anytime, day or night. Which brings me, finally, to the Blu-Ray release.

You’ll need a decent digital screen, the larger the better, and (of course!) a Blu-Ray player. I recommend a popcorn machine, a healthy supply of vitamin water and remember to shut off your cell phone. 

You’ll be blown away as you fall in love all over again with a story that has captivated two generations of fans. The image clarity is almost unspeakable. The sound is spellbinding and yet, the real gold is the extras. I most likely own every series release since the Gold VHS edition came out. This one "… grinds [the others] up and blasts them into space!" If you have yet to purchase a Blu-Ray player, I understand, but if you love movies like I love movies (just check out my Movie Blog, The Boxed Office) a Blu-Ray player is for you! The added image and sound quality is terrific and the behind the scenes commentary and hands-on documentaries along with the review of the special effects process(es) are too delicious for words – and the SW:TCS Blu-Ray delivers in spades!

To respect those who have NOT purchased this release yet (whoever THOSE left brain, no imagination clones are), I will not divulge any details so you must see the movies for yourself. No Blu-Ray? Visit a friend who has one, do whatever it takes. Yes, they are THAT good!

"Watch or watch not... there is no try."
So to answer the original question; “more than 200 times – and counting!” You can never get enough of a movie series that so epitomizes fantasy, imagination, good overcoming evil and more fantastic science, gadgets and special effects than you can wave a light saber at. Grab your blaster and your wallet; $80 for all six movies in re-mastered digital high definition with surround sound and more than 40 hours of extras – it’s pure heaven, even here in the outer rim territories.

I advise everyone to run, don't walk, and get re-acquainted with the most imaginative and captivating cinematic story-telling experience of the 20th century. (If you need a gentle reminder click here for a comical recap of Star Wars.)

To remind younger readers, Han DID shoot first, don't believe the re-master.
Greedo would never have missed at point-bank range.

"Remember, the force will be with you… always."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Visionary Down to The Core

The passing this week of Steve Jobs, Apple’s iconic leader, is a disheartening and devastating loss for us all. Join me as I celebrate his fantastic life and say my goodbyes to one of the planet’s all-time greatest innovators.
It is a sad day when anyone dies, as my personal belief system informs me that we are all interconnected and sharing life’s journey together. Every person has worth, every human being has value and everybody matters. This is what I teach my children.

This week the world lost one of the 20th century’s most visionary business icons, Steve Jobs.

This tech titan envisioned a world that was computer friendly, technology savvy and made modern technology accessible to everyone. His efforts helped to make the internet universally accessible. Apple put tablet technology in the hands of the people of the world and, with the iPod, Jobs reinvented the way we listen to music, movies and streaming content; making iTunes the number music store in the world.

Steve’s road wasn’t an easy one. He dropped out of college to kick-start Apple from his garage only to be ousted from his own company years later once success was realized. Not to be denied his vision of a world where technology was accessible to anyone and improved – and embraced our lives through product like the iPad, the iPhone and the iMac. In many ways, these products have touched all our lives, even those without Macs benefit from the advantages and advancements these products have ushered in. His address to a graduating class at Stanford University is so inspiring, it sends shivers down my spine every time I watch it. View it here.
Though the founding of NeXT computer was not a massively successful venture, Steve was soon on the path to making entertainment history. His purchase of Pixar Animation Studios from George Lucas brought the company from a boutique SFX house to a powerhouse entertainment pillar of Hollywood. Soon after, Apple purchased NeXT computing and he was then once again at the helm of the ship he had launched. He took his genius with product marketing and coupled with some the world’s greatest product design talent and forged a culture of innovation, creativity and unique inventiveness.

APPLE at a Glance: Apple now operates more than 300 retail stores in 11 countries. The company has sold more than 275 million iPods, 100 million iPhones and 25 million iPads worldwide. iTunes is the number one music store in the world with up to 20 Billion file downloads. Apple held 6% of the world PC market five years ago. Today it commands 24%.

On Wednesday, October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs succumbed to his near decade-long battle with pancreatic cancer. No matter what else is said about his life, there is no dispute to the number and way in which he touched the lives of most of our planet.

After a super secret liver transplant in 2009 in Tennessee, he cooperated on a first-ever authorized biography, which scheduled to be published this November. Mine is already on reserve. 

Steve prioritized the importance of good design coupled with inventiveness and ergonomic principles of usability and desire. As someone with a design background and living a life that is fueled by creativity, this mantra resonates too deeply with me to put into words. My family and I are Apple adopters to the core.
I end with one of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes (and trust me there are many!), from a Fortune Magazine article;

We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.
Goodbye, Steve... and thank you. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Animal Magnetism

A beautifully conceived German ad campaign for ültje uses Safari animals to entice you to go grab their nuts.

Ready for a smile? As an adman, I must say that I am pretty jaded when it comes to most American advertising, American culture is pretty uptight when it comes to things like humor, perspective and sexuality. So when I skim through online ad resources of international advertising forums for inspiration, I commonly run across gems like this campaign for ültje Crispers; 'Chakalaka', a flavored brand of coated peanuts that claims to make you "feel like you're in Africa" (that's from their web site). While I don't fully understand the motivator behind the line "Discover Africa's spiciest secret", I kind of don't care.

The real beauty of this campaign comes in the form of African wildlife revealing their naughty side as a qualifier for the sensual, lust-filled sensations you will experience when popping ültje's nuts in your mouth (yes, American reader, I just wrote that).

Aside from the sheer inventiveness and compelling quality of these three illustrations (and the fact that Giraffes are my favoritest animal ever!), the suggestion that eating these coated peanuts can take you to another place – one of ecstasy – is just terrific. There is nothing shameful or wrong about the messaging and what's more, the ads need our own, twisted familiarity with fetishes, lingerie and adult toys to complete the messaging. Some of my favorite kind of messaging by the way (the personal connectivity part – get your head out of the gutter!).

This campaign won't win a Gold Lion at Cannes or sweep 'best of show' at the Art Director's Club in Hamburg (much less New York) but it does remind us that the world of advertising can be wild, untamed and fun. I applaud a consumer company – albeit a European one – to take a "position" like this. If you feel offended, please don't. It's just an ad – an ad with entangled Giraffes licking each other. What's wrong with that?

Advertising Agency: Kolle Rebbe, Hamburg, Germany

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Random Life–Installment One: On Deck in San Diego

Note: The following blog is the first in a mini-series (a 'sub-blog' if you will) tracking the totally random events that happen in my life. Branded "My Random Life", these postings chronicle some pretty interesting – if not utterly haphazard – things that happen to me, something we can all relate to. They will eventually feed into a forthcoming web published compilation, some time from now.

Now enough with all that Felgurcarb, on with the blog!

Saturday, August 16th, 2011. I was in San Diego for a weekend tradeshow hosted by the new company I create marketing for. After the day's activities were done, I shuffled around to several of my new co-workers to see if anyone wanted to hang out in San Diego, near the convention center. After all, even though everyone else would be there through Wednesday, I was there just Saturday night. No kids, fun ocean-side town. Who's with me?

Apparently, no one (insert sad emoticon here). Evidently, everyone else was tired from working two days of prep beforehand and had NO interest in hanging out with the big guy. Was it me? I showered right? Well whatever. Off I went into the cool early San Diego evening, in search of adventure.

Walking down to the waterfront, I hailed a man-taxi (one of those three-wheeled bicycle dudes who pedal you anywhere for a fee). "Take me to the Aircraft carrier!" I stated and off we went. If you must know, I’ve had an odd fascination with Aircraft Carriers since age 8. I love the idea of a floating airfield – but that's another posting.

My new pedal pal lets me know he has moved to America from Turkey (Istanbul, actually) and begins to share his impromptu comparison of Istanbul to both New York City and San Diego. Okay, why not.

So my new friend-on-wheels takes me to the USS Midway aircraft carrier Naval Museum. Complete with a deck full of fighter planes and cool historical war installations! I am sooo there! I tip bike-boy and head down the pier to pay my way to Midway.

As I approached, I noticed the admissions window is closed. Damn! I wanted to be on the Midway. I was about to turn tail and call it an early night but the commotion at the elevator to the gangway caught my notice. People were going in! Maybe I still had a shot. A card table was set up with two people situated to take money and dole out tickets. I made my move.

"What’s going on?" I ask. "The museum is closed for our theater company’s musical review of the 20th century," said a very grandma-like elderly woman with thick glasses. A Broadway-esque musical review on the deck of an aircraft carrier in San Diego Bay? I'm all in! "How much for a ticket?" I ask her as I reach into my pocket, ready to plunk down nearly any amount for this experience (wouldn't you?).

"We're all sold out, dear, I'm sorry." she said, my heart sinking like a 40-ton Anchor. "Tell you what, though…" she says in what could only be described as a Mean-Joe-Green moment, "…there's almost always someone who doesn't show, so if you can come back in an hour or so, I just might have a ticket for you." Sold! I hung there, not moving a muscle (let's face it, where was I going to go?), waiting. The hour ticks by as I make calls on my cell phone, briefcase and sport coat slung over shoulder, still looking super duper in my trade show threads.

Fifty-five minutes later, the woman waves me over letting me know a bleacher seat has opened up and I was welcome to take that one if I would like. How much? “No charge, dear” Free? Of course it is. You can’t go wrong with that price, so I make my way through the innards of this way cool, decommissioned super-warship on my way to the hanger deck and the evening’s entertainment.

I settle in and start chit-chatting with the family next to me. The weather was a perfect 70º so I was happy to escape the blistering 112º of Phoenix. Moments later, the man that was seated at the admissions table (some six decks and two flights of stairs and a two-story elevator ride away) came to find me in the bleacher seat. He said someone had seen me waiting to get in and donated their unused ticket to me, obviously sensing I was a distressed fellow theater lover. Again, free find me. So, as I say goodbye to my bleacher buds and mosey on down to the second row, I take measure of my evening. Someone saw me waiting, patiently, off to the side of the admissions table and donated their ticket to me. How cool is that?

I am sitting – thanks to a free ticket – in front of an elevated stage, with lights, speakers and a full 19-piece band against the conning tower on the deck of the USS Midway, watching a sold-out singing and dance review of the musical influences of the 20th century. Folks, does it get any more random than that? I didn't think so, either.

The show was stunning and afterward, I had opportunity to hang out on the flight deck with an entire armada of naval military aircraft, from an F4F Hellcat to an F-18 Hornet. And to top it off, as I walked back to the hotel that evening (it was easily 10pm by this point) I witnessed a fireworks display put on over San Diego Bay by none other than my company's trade show. I thought to myself "boy, I’m hungry!"

And thus began the next phase of my totally random evening.

I asked the doorman at my hotel where I could find a good burger and a beer that wasn't where all the nightclubs and crazy party activities were. He sent me on my way to a standing-room-only sports bar dive with Hip-hop videos playing on every screen. I ventured in and wouldn't you know it? In a place packed with night-clubbers, obvious first dates and random groups of people who had already drank waaay too much, there was an empty booth, right in the back of the restaurant, beckoning to me.

As the waitress serves me a juicy burger, crispy onion rings and a frosty beer, I reflect on the events of the evening while people-watching as the clock ticks toward midnight. I reminded myself it was time to get back to the hotel since the next day was slated to be a long one.

I shared every detail of that evening with my kids when I got back home. There were two key points I emphasized as they were fascinated to hear every detail of the evening. First, though I tried to join others, the evening yielded quite an adventure for me all by myself. The point being that sometimes, the only person you need to have a good time is yourself.

Second, sometimes – and I do mean only sometimes, here – the best plan is to have no plan at all and let life take you where you were probably headed all along.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reliving our modern "Day of Infamy"

This past weekend realized something that is probably difficult for many Americans… the reliving and remembering of the events of September 11th, 2001. I was working out at the gym the day before and I realized I was not 'over it'. A roll of those who had lost their lives on that awful morning came up on CNN, thousands of faces; Moms, Dads, Sons, Daughters, Uncles, Aunts, Wives, Husbands, Friends. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic along with representatives from more than 80 countries.

I began to tear up. I mean I began to get really emotional.

While a romantic at heart, I am NOT easily moved to tears and even when I came home that terrible evening and watched and re-watched in horror the tragic events unfold endlessly on cable news channels – as did every American – the gravity was lost on me. I was in too much shock. How could this have happened? And why? I'm not sure we have those answers even today, but I do know I have a deep, incredible sadness in my heart that may not ever go away.

To that I say "Good". Those poor people died for no good reason and those events have torn a lasting hole in the very fabric of our cultural memory. And they should NEVER be forgotten.

So you could imagine how breathless I became when one of my sons told me he wasn't really sure what 9/11 was. I was floored. How could he not know? Granted he was all of 16 months old on that day, but had schools and the general media eluded him for 10 years? Regardless, we got right down to it and hit the internet.

Previewing the news reports of the plane impacts, the towers collapsing, the Pentagon attack and the thwarted hijacking and crash-landing of Flight 93 in a small Pennsylvania township, made me remember it all over again. The footage of these events have been branded into my memory but reliving it this way made them no less moving.

I will never understand these events fully, but I do know one of the best ways to honor the fallen is to remember them. We can all at least do that.

And now, so will my son.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Four Wolves in Sheep's Clothing Make Me Nervous.

In our Family, as in nature; trust in the pack... but watch your back.

Being the Alpha is tough. You keep the others in check, not just by your ferocity, but by your cunning, your stealth and your intelligence. No other animal on Earth lives in as complex a social society as wolves. The cast of characters is deep. The Alpha Male and Alpha Female rule the pack. Keeping dissidents in line, ensuring the integrity and structure (and therefore well being) of the pack in check. Then there's the Beta wolf. This one acts as a Lieutenant and a sort of second-in-command. This one is always there to settle scraps in the name of the greater good of the pack, but is always keeping one eye open for when it can take over in the endless struggle for power.

Last is the Omega wolf and you guessed it, this one is at the bottom of the totem pole is often ridiculed and even attacked by fussier pack members.

Any of this sound familiar? In our home, these positions constantly shift but not to a great extent. They are, mostly, fixed to a member of our family.

For my part, I play the role of the Alpha Male. I am in charge. I have the strength, knowledge and cunning to do so and remain in charge. For now.

I first made the observation that my four children essentially made up a wolf pack a few years ago. Constant in-fighting, struggles for power, temporary alliances – it's all there. It has all the makings of a Rudyard Kipling tale. And conflict resolution becomes a matter of overcoming adversity by either (literally) barking the loudest, or by taking your adversary out. Conflict in our household is almost a given and is NOT resolved by eliminating a sibling, parent or offspring (though the temptation has arisen). So we resort to more refined means of argument conclusion. Or so you would think.

Enter: the Ambush. The attack in the name of sport or of establishing one's place of dominance is epic. The ambush comes in many forms. Many of them cunning and all of them unexpected. If I hand down a consequence (I try no to use the word 'punishment'), each of the non-offending pack members will taunt the afflicted or remind the Alpha (me) of the specific details of the reprimand (if only homework and chores could be remembered and executed with such meticulous detail). Heaven forbid I fold on following-through on a consequence, I am besieged with an endless shower of reminders of how the child in question has NOT been properly scolded.

And it's not just each other they attack.

I am continuously told of how the grandparents are "mad at me" for doing something or for my not following through on something. Or how an aunt, uncle or grandparent are told something incomplete – if not untrue – and are relayed details to sensitive topics like what someone is getting for a birthday or Christmas or why I can't invite someone to a recital or play. I have had more long-winded over-explanatory conversations with family members than I would like to say trying to clarify things that were misinterpreted, relayed out of context or weren't correctly conveyed info of an event or conversation that some child has inaccurately shared. In short, my children (the Pack) inadvertently attack the alpha (me!) as well as each other.

It's biblical to refer to your followers as a flock of sheep. It is also a common business term. However, in our home, I can't help but think, the pack has overtaken the flock and are waiting to pounce.