Archive for February, 2009

Sat 28 Feb 2009 11:00 am   //   Posted in: Planet earth, TV commericals

The most trusted name in coal

Interesting fact about this TV ad: It was directed by the Coen brothers.

Fri 27 Feb 2009 8:07 am   //   Posted in: Hard times, In the news, Music

The last CD store

Virgin Megastore is closing its locations in Times Square, Union Square and San Francisco.

I have spent many hours in the Virgin Megastore, because it’s near my office and it’s a reliable place near a big subway stop to meet up with friends. With all those movies and CDs and listening stations, it’s a fabulous store for wasting time. However, I can’t remember the last time I actually bought something there. So now we know you can’t run a store on the free-content model, either.

Thu 26 Feb 2009 7:45 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Photos, Transit

Hooh? Where?

“Red Hook? No, sorry, this bus only goes to Red Hooh.”

Wed 25 Feb 2009 11:03 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Videos

The Pontiac Stinger

I’m doing all right, getting good grades. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

(Direct link to video.)

Tue 24 Feb 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Failure, Typography

An appreication: Tropicana packaging, 2009-09

Item: The new Tropicana juice carton, designed by Arnell Group and introduced last month, is so loathed by customers that PepsiCo is switching back to the old design.

Let us raise a glass of juice and toast Tropicana for messing with the juice carton! The rejected design (which, by the way, took 30 people five months to develop) was just right for these times. It had simple graphics, bold san-serif type and a functional color scheme. The only illustration was a picture of the product in its purest form: juice in a glass. The horizontal bar on the top of each carton made it easy to spot the kind of juice you wanted in the supermarket. And best of all, the Tropicana carton included exactly one whimsical indulgence: A plastic cap shaped like an orange – easy to grip and twist, a surprise-and-delight feature.

Unfortunately, customers were unprepared for this bold leap toward modernism. And Tropicana caved once initial feedback proved negative. (Wasn’t at least one of those 30 design people in charge of customer research?) I enjoy orange juice at breakfast, and this carton was a nice thing to look at for a few seconds every morning. It will be missed. [Sound of “Danny Boy” being played on bagpipes.]

Mon 23 Feb 2009 8:39 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Another idea for saving newspapers

Like every journalist, I have a few ideas about how to make money off news web sites. Problem: Readers love to read the news online but hate to pay for it.

For the sake of argument, let’s admit that the micropayment model (explained in Time‘s much-mocked “How to Save Your Newspaper” story) is a terrible idea. It’s been tried. A lot of newspapers publish their current stories online for free, but charge a few bucks for online access to their archive. It doesn’t draw much of a crowd. Also, isn’t this backwards? Why charge for old stories when your newest stories are the most valuable?

Here’s my idea: I propose charging a premium subscription fee for readers who want the news before anyone else. It works like this. All the stories on your newspaper web site that are more than one hour old are free. A subscription fee (say, $50 a year?) grants readers access to the newest stories.

This serves the casual reader, who is never going to pay for online news. But it also serves businesspeople, news junkies and anybody who’s job depends on knowing stuff first. An hour is just the right amount of time. It’s not so annoying that casual readers are going to hate it (or find a way around it), but it’s enough of a premium that some people will pay more for it. Yes yes, there’s value to the incoming traffic you get when your exclusive breaking stories get picked up on Google News, Digg, blogs, etc. But I think an hour-long paid firewall won’t disrupt that process off too much.

I’d guess that maybe 1% to 5% of newspaper readers would pay for this kind of access. Okay, doing some back-of-the-envelope math, this definitely won’t save newspapers. But it’s a more realisitic idea than micropayments.

Sun 22 Feb 2009 5:00 pm   //   Posted in: Music, Videos

A devastating commentary on higher education

Video: “I Love College” by Asher Roth.

Wow. This guy must have spent some time at a Big State University. I’m pleased to see the red plastic Solo cup hasn’t gone out of style.

Thu 19 Feb 2009 9:44 pm   //   Posted in: Media

Wait! We can salvage this dumb cartoon!

Yesterday I wrote some unkind things about Sean Delonas’s New York Post editorial cartoon. Instead off dwelling on the negative (ie., the cartoon is shallow and unfunny, and could be misinterpreted as outrageously racist), I should have looked for a way to make something constructive out of the situation. After all, the only thing wrong with the cartoon was the caption. Hmm…

In the tradition of caption writing contests everywhere, let’s try to make the dead chimp cartoon funny. A few of my ideas are below. If you can do better (and yes, you can), take your best shot and write it in the comments.


Wed 18 Feb 2009 10:24 pm   //   Posted in: Media, Over!

Delonas kills the editorial cartoon

The problem with Sean Delonas’s New York Post cartoon isn’t that it’s racist. It probably isn’t. The problem is that it’s idiotic. “That stimulus bill is so bad a monkey could have written it! Gawrsh!”

Who’s the audience for this bad stand-up schlock? Children? Doesn’t the mess we’re in demand smart, funny, cutting humor? Aren’t we, as Americans, better than this?

We have evolved a lot since the days of Thomas Nast and Boss Tweed. Even our best editorial cartoonists, like Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall, are fading quickly from the landscape as alt weeklies whither. Taking their place are a whole new generation of multimedia humorists. Now we’ve got The Onion, SNL, Comedy Central, and everybody who’s ever cut a snicker-worthy political video for YouTube. While Delonas was finishing his cartoon, a thousand bloggers and a million Twitter users were spewing out witty commentary on the stimulus bill. The stuff you read on Wonkette is better than any op-ed cartoon.

An editor at the Post should have caught the unintended, racist double-meaning of this cartoon and rejected it. But speaking to a bigger issue, why are newspapers still printing totally lame editorial cartoons? The editorial cartoon is dead. Thanks for reminding us, Delonas.

Wed 18 Feb 2009 10:00 am   //   Posted in: Art, Typography

Attack of the terrible logos

Are we in the dark ages of logo design? Just look at the above examples – beginning with the Payless logo introduced in 2006 and continuing through the Kraft Foods logo introduced yesterday. I mean, really? Is everybody using the same WordArt template?

Even the new Pepsi logo has been derided variously as a rip-off of the Obama campaign logo to an exercise in delusional self-importance.