"I came here for a good argument."

A Swedish library "will let curious visitors check out living people for a 45-minute chat in a project meant to tear down prejudices about different religions, nationalities, or professions". [article]

All I'm going to add is that, for me, this immediately brings to mind the Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.



Lillian Virginia Mountweazel

Kottke points us to a New Yorker article about fakes in your favorite encyclopedias, purposefully inserted in an effort to protect copyright.

If Mountweazel is not a household name, even in fountain-designing or mailbox-photography circles, that is because she never existed. “It was an old tradition in encyclopedias to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright,” Richard Steins, who was one of the volume’s editors, said the other day. “If someone copied Lillian, then we’d know they’d stolen from us.”


Innovation begins with "in"

My first post on PYLB was fuelled by the frustration of trend-watching being just another trend in and of itself - a futile one that never seems to help persuaders-by-trade innovate in any significant fashion. Douglas Rushkoff recently captured this frustration and put it into more neutral terms:

But this endless worrying, wriggling, and trend-watching only alienates companies from whatever it is they really do best. In the midst of the headlong rush to think “outside the box,” the full engagement responsible for true innovation is lost. New consultants, new packaging, new marketing schemes or even new CEO’s are no substitute for the evolution of our own expertise, as individuals and as businesses.

Indeed, for all their talk about innovation, most companies today are still scared to death of it.

This quote is from the flap copy for Rushkoff's new book, Get Back In The Box. Those of you who know the clients I work for already know that I face the crippling fear of true innovation on a daily basis, at an institutional level... and cannot wait for this book to come out.


R.I.P. Bob Moog

Musical inventor and luminary Bob Moog died yesterday. Music Thing has the details I would have only retyped here.

But let me refer you to the recent Moog documentary. My favorite scene shows us a man who saw little fundamental difference between the circuits in a machine and the plants in his garden; his view of the world imparts the wisdom with which he invented and inspired so many musical innovations.

I think I'm going to watch the documentary again tonight, then make a donation to the Bob Moog Foundation.



Remember that stencil job I literally stepped in yesterday? It was a fake; guerrilla marketing, and a half-hearted example at that. Look what aired on a break last night (it aired just about two hours after I posted this):

Who's weak attempt at guerrilla marketing was this?
Three letters...

Fine, HBO. The joke's on me; I inadvertently promoted your new show. Gosh, you really got me on that one! Thanks for making me feel stupid, I guess. To show you my gratitude, I'm going to make a point of not watching your new show. Ever.

I'll even go a little further here, because I've known you a while and recently noticed some erratic behavior of yours. Are you feeling okay? I think you're trying too hard to cover up your dirty network secret: you don't appear to be number-one anymore, and you obviously want this new show to be a buzz-laden hit.

HBO's ratings are currently down something like 18%; an empire fallen, the network doesn't have a single show in the top ten. Kinda makes this poor attempt at "graffiti" seem a bit desperate, doesn't it? The Romans didn't have spraypaint; graffiti doesn't make much sense as a tactic for promoting the show.

This pandering to "buzz" is likely to continue until the show airs in the next two weeks, and might well become a new bad habit at the cable network. I personally think it's risky for the Home Box Office to be so determined to take this expensive new show and shove it down our throats.

Up your ass with luxury.

Various sources are reporting that we may soon witness a rise in popularity of luxury toilet paper.

Why would I want to willingly associate the unattainable idea of luxury with the soiled, tangible reality of fecal matter? Luxury = shit? Well, okay, if you luxurious brands insist... I'll just think of you all as crap from now on. (I'll keep favoring the "secret" brands who don't make me pay to be a walking billboard.)

Could a "high-end meets rear-end" trend actually signal the decline of luxury brands, or just a lowering of standards for what are considered luxury goods?

Either way, it appears that luxury (as we once knew it) is ultimately headed down the drain... probably for the best.




They were all curiously close together, as if the stencil-er worked within an arbitrary ten-foot radius... no less than five duplicates of this stencil, strewn on the ground along the edge of the garage, on the alley that runs behind the south side of Chicago Avenue, where it meets the Noble Street sidewalk. I wish my cameraphone was able to capture the whole scene in one shot.

Oddly enough, if you stood in the center of the stencils and looked up, you'd see a big sign advertising the crappy company that manages my apartment building. (I say "crappy" because it's nicer than saying "slumlord".) I know what some of you are thinking, but I didn't set this up. Honest. If I wanted to be mean, I'd have deliberately posted a photo of the sign, too.

I told myself I wasn't going to rail on graffiti for a while (having the building management mention conveniently gives me an alternate bad guy in this story), and I normally don't photograph things people paint on the sidewalk, but...


when I found the stencil laying on the ground less than one block away, I knew I'd need photos to explain this chance happening as a sort of "compound coincidence"... plus, I knew this presented a new secret for the city: what I did with the stencil after I picked it up and walked away with it.


Pimp my hybrid.

A California man spent about $3K pimping his Prius, adding extra batteries that recharge via plug in a wall outlet. Now he could get up to 250 miles per gallon of gas. It's not cost-efficient just yet, but it is an eye-opener.


West Bank Art Attack

I know, I'm late on this one... but I think it's absolutely brilliant, so better late than never:

Banksy (who normally doesn't show himself) hit Israel's barrier with Palestine. Take a look.

This is some of the most innovative and conceptually responsible "street" art to come along since "clean graffiti". For a self-described "fictional character", Banksy has been pretty busy.


Current TV, frozen in time

Al Gore once allegedly claimed that he invented the Internet. Whether he did or not, you'd assume that he was trying to position himself as a forward-thinker. So here's the unfortunate irony: his participatory-media venture is limited to the (relatively) primitive medium of cable television.

Douglas Rushkoff, who was in the initial brainstorming sessions for Current TV, remarks on his disappointment in what the project became, and opportunities it's missing.


Old & busted: BRANDS, New hotness: MEMES?

Adliterate's Meme Doctors post raises an interesting point. It cites the weakness of brand as a concept as reason to claim that memes are better than brands. But the weakness of the "brand" concept is no fault of the language, but of complacent and unimaginative agencies (and their interpretations). A brand is made entirely of memes; in other words, a brand is a memeplex.

The difference is only semantic. If you're not conscious of memes (whether you call them by name or not) when building a brand, you're simply not a good brand-builder. This doesn't make memes "better than" brands per se. Adliterate's stance is too much like saying molecules are better than cells, cells are better than organs, or organs are better than systems - it doesn't quite make sense, because you're really only talking about semantic differences in what makes a basic unit. Call it "brand building", "meme doctoring" or "cultural engineering"; I think it's all the same thing.