I’m a freelance interactive content strategist and copywriter in Austin, TX. See my work here.
I post about whatever geeky stuff interests me. Sometimes I post funny stuff that I make up. About once a week I post videos of my cat Yeti ignoring me. I welcome reader suggestions and feedback. I seldom get any.
Oh, yeah. I’m also the recording artist currently known as ManChildATX.
I spotted this full-pager in Dwell. Let me count the ways this bugs me:
1. Unlike some of the creative directors I have worked for, I think puns have their place in advertising. Unless they are totally gratuitous and have nothing to do with the product. DING!
2. I’d bet that, like me, most people in the U.S. know the “Keep Calm And Carry On” slogan from a series of British Airways posters from some years ago that played off the meme. Even if the BA campaign wasn’t the inspiration, “Keep Calm and Carry On” originally was created as an ad campaign by the British Ministry of Information to boost public morale during WWII. Malley’s Unwritten Rule of Copywriting #2 states, “You may create ad headlines that play off pop culture tropes ONLY IF said pop culture tropes are not advertising themselves.” That means no “Got Cat Food?” No “Where’s the Bargains?” And no “Keep Calm and Coupon.”
3. “Coupon” is not supposed to be a verb. “Verbing weirds language.”—Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes
4. This, this, this, this and this should be ample evidence that “Keep Calm” has been done to death.
5. It’s just dum.
6. Other than that, I got no problem with it.
Chuck Klosterman is The Ethicist for the NYT. I am the Monday Morning Ethicist.
I sent my wife an angry e-mail. An hour or two after sending it, I was working at our shared computer and saw my e-mail, unread, in her in-box. Feeling regretful, I deleted it. Was this unethical?
Chuck said: “This is a situation in which our current relationship with a specific technology obfuscates the essence of the problem: who owns information, and when does that ownership start?” He then went on for exactly (!) 500 more words all to say that, no, it ain’t ethical.
I say: Well, duh. But what the fuck, Chuck? Once again, you focus on one little tree without noticing that there are a whole bunch of other trees around, and they all make up one of those what-dya-call-ems—you know, a big wooded area, like.
Yes, you are invading your wife’s privacy by going through her inbox. Yes, this is an ethical breach. But you can more than offset this ethical wrong by helping your poor wife clean up her inbox act.
Those sale notification emails from the fancy department stores? Get rid of ‘em. The old lady doesn’t need them, but the poor dear hasn’t taken the time and trouble to unsubscribe. That’s where you, the ethically challenged but basically well intentioned spousal partner come in. Do the unsubscribing for her and spare her those temptations for profligate spending.
And while you’re in her inbox, why not do some digging to find out what’s REALLY going on with your wife? How’s she REALLY doing? As her husband, you wouldn’t really know, because A) You tend not to pay the greatest attention to her, and B) At least in part due to your inattentiveness, she’s grown distant and doesn’t tell you everything.
Ah, but her old boyfriend from college! HIM she tells everything. HIM she tells of her growing boredom and dissatisfaction with married life. HIM she tells of missing the spontaneity and danger of their sex life together. And more than anything, this futile longing for what used to be is driving her crazy.
So it’s incumbent on you, the caring (if somewhat ethically shitty) partner to relieve her of this temptation. No, you can’t expunge those emails from Barry, or Lawrence, or whoever. THOSE she would miss, for sure. What you must do is telephone the old boyfriend (no messy email evidence!) and explain to him that your wife has a deteriorating mental condition, and that you can’t handle the strain anymore, and would he please, please, PLEASE step in and offer to be her primary caregiver? Please! You’re begging him!
That’ll stop that correspondence cold. And eventually your wife will be better for it. (Remember, I said “eventually.”)
I know what you’re thinking: your wife isn’t THAT clueless and sooner or later she will notice these ethically messed up but well intentioned inbox shenanigans. And that’s precisely why this is the best thing that could happen to her. Because maybe this will finally get her to log out of her GMail account when she leaves the computer, like you’ve been telling her to do for years now.
Hope this helps!
Dear Money Mailer LLC:
I received your direct mail piece yesterday and noted with amusement the trademarked slogan printed on the front: “Like Getting Money In Your Mailbox.”
I wanted to inform you that for this recipient at least, your slogan rings hollow. Your garish mailing full of crapful coupons is, to me, decidely not like getting money in my mailbox. It’s more like getting processed dead trees that will go straight to the recycling bin in my mailbox.
Allow me to show you the difference. This is me getting money in my mailbox. Please note the expression of surprise and delight:
This is me getting the Money Mailer® in my mailbox. See the difference?
Thank you for your time and attention.
Yours very truly, etc., etc.,
Blogger/junk mail critic
I could argue that all you need to know about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is that he campaigned relentlessly (and, “successfully”) for an attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq over the alleged—and ultimately illusory—stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons, but he is now arguing against attacking Bashar al Assad’s regime in the face of compelling evidence that Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against his own people, to murderous effect.
But Errol Morris offers so much more. He conducted over 30 hours of one-on-one interviews with Rumsfeld to create his latest documentary, The Unknown Known.
As in The Fog of War, Morris’s Oscar winning documentary on Vietnam era defense secretary Robert McNamara, and Standard Operating Procedure, his exposé of the Abu Ghraib debacle, the director employed the Interrotron, his ingenious setup of mirrors and cameras that lets him interview his subjects as if they were talking face-to-face, when the subject is actually staring directly into the camera lens.
As Jason Kottke suggests in the post that clued me in to Morris’s new film, with Rumsfeld the direct eye contact technique is particularly chilling. Kottke also links to this Daily Beast interview with Morris about the film, which is worth a read.
Ted Cruz, the United States senator from Canada, was born with a full set of adult teeth. If you laid the lunch of every school child in the country end-to-end, you’d have to walk your ass off to cherry-pick all of the fruit leather. Each time you sneeze, you release thousands of sneeze particles, most of which will skip town before their court dates. Twerking is not new—it is believed to have begun in the Middle Ages as a behavior women undertook to free themselves from a horsehide chastity garment known as a twerken. Rapper JayZ’s full name is Jared Zeld. Though for years many chefs have added truffle shavings to certain to dishes for added depth of flavor, some daring modern chefs are now encouraging their truffles to grow full beards. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi determines whether she is ready for her next facelift by having an intern try to bounce a nickel off her cheek.
Ted Cruz, the United States senator from Canada, was born with a full set of adult teeth.
If you laid the lunch of every school child in the country end-to-end, you’d have to walk your ass off to cherry-pick all of the fruit leather.
Each time you sneeze, you release thousands of sneeze particles, most of which will skip town before their court dates.
Twerking is not new—it is believed to have begun in the Middle Ages as a behavior women undertook to free themselves from a horsehide chastity garment known as a twerken.
Rapper JayZ’s full name is Jared Zeld.
Though for years many chefs have added truffle shavings to certain to dishes for added depth of flavor, some daring modern chefs are now encouraging their truffles to grow full beards.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi determines whether she is ready for her next facelift by having an intern try to bounce a nickel off her cheek.Zebras evolved to have vertical stripes because individuals born with horizontal stripes failed to reached breeding age, starving themselves to death trying not to look fat.
Disclaimer: I’m not a geopolitical expert. I’m just a schlub with a subscription to the New York Times.
Among all the stuff I’ve heard and read about the chemical attacks in Syria—and about the only thing I accept at face value is that there were chemical attacks in Syria—I’ve seen no discussion or attempts to explain the rationale behind their use. And when I try to figure it out myself, I come up with nothing but unsatisfactory answers.
Of course, this, to an extent, is to be expected when we are discussing something as evil and insane as the indiscriminate killing of a civilian population by such horrible means. But we can assume that someone expected to gain something from the tactic. But when I try to figure out what that is, I get stuck.
As is well known, President Obama and other Western leaders have said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad regime would be a trigger for a military response from the West, the so-called “red line.”
Based on the reporting in this NYT’s piece, the attack occurred in rebel held territory in suburbs around Damascus, the Assad regime’s stronghold. If we assume that is true, while ignoring the “red line” factor for a moment, the regime’s motive to use chemical weapons here would be to kill and drive out as many people as possible—rebels and civilians alike—both to impede the rebels’ ability to defend the territory and to remove the partisan population that makes the territory worth defending.
The use of chemical weapons would also communicate the absolute ruthlessness with which the regime was willing to pursue the fight. The regime can and has used conventional weapons against civilian populations, but chemical weapons have the tactical advantage of being more lethal and horrific against human targets, while leaving the battleground less damaged for the victor.
Continuing to ignore the “red line” factor, let’s assume that it wasn’t the Assad regime that launched the chemical weapons. What would the insurgency as a whole stand to gain from such an attack? Nothing that I can see.
But the insurgency is factionalized. Again, according to the Times article above, the area attacked with chemical weapons was held by more moderate, less Islamist factions. Would there be a strategic motive for the more fundamentalist factions to launch a chemical weapons attack against an area controlled by moderates?
If so, it’s really hard to figure out what that motive would be. It would be a strategically dumb move, if for no other reason than it would stoke popular opinion against the fundamentalist factions, both locally and globally. And militarily, it would seem to offer as much of an advantage to the Assad regime as any other faction contesting the territory.
So absent the red line factor, the only side I can see having a motive to use chemical weapons is the Assad regime. And over the decades they’ve certainly exhibited the craven and calculating brutality required to undertake such a sickening attack.
Now, with the red line factor, it gets more complicated. Knowing the West’s credibility was on the line over the use of chemical weapons, the Assad regime, in its calculations, had to assume a high likelihood of a military response from the West.
After all, the West had backed itself against the wall. While weaseling out of responding to earlier suspected chemical attacks in the Syrian conflic, the West signaled that their weaseling quotient was spent and that “the next time” the regime wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt.
So given that the fortunes in the civil war have lately tipped back in the regime’s favor, why would Assad want to provoke an almost certain military response from the West? There’s no sane reason I can think of.
With the red line factor in play, the insurgency might seem to have a motive for using chemical weapons: to draw the military might of the West on their side. But to believe the insurgency did this, you have to assume several things that seem highly unlikely.
First, you have to assume that an insurgency that has been pleading for military aid suddenly found itself with access to chemical weapons and the delivery systems to use them. Highly unlikely.
Second, you have to assume that the insurgency would welcome military intervention from the West. Highly unlikely. Money and materiel from the West, yes. Western military intervention? No. Because once the Assad regime was crushed, arguably the West’s presence would make it more difficult for any one of the factions to gain dominance over the others.
Third, you have to assume an insurgency fighting to overthrow a brutal regime would even more brutally and callously murder its own partisans to further that aim. Highly unlikely.
So what’s the answer? I don’t know. But as a poker player, I know that one can get burned by assuming that the motives of one’s opponent are rational. About the only thing I can conclude is that those responsible for this barbaric attack are not just evil, but totally insane.
FEMALE SEXUAL ENHANCERS
MALE SEXUAL ENHANCERS
“Your” privacy is important to us. How could it be otherwise—selling off little pieces of it to the highest bidder is how we make our money. So we damn sure better safeguard it or there goes our third quarter revenue, right down the crapper. Accordingly, we have made some updates to our “Privacy” Policy.
By “your” privacy, of course, we mean “our” privacy, because, let’s face it, we both have a very real stake in it. Admittedly, our stake in it is more or less strictly monetary, while your stake in it has more to do with avoiding the humiliation and embarrassment you’d face should anyone find out about that one very unfortunate night in L.A. three years ago. Come now, you remember the night we’re talking about—the night when people turned out to be not who or what you thought they were? Riiiiight. You get where we’re going with this. So, as you can see, neither of us wants “our” privacy to become compromised, do we?
So be a good little fellow, won’t you, and check the small box at the very end indicating you’ve read and agree to all of this, which, of course, you haven’t and you don’t. Well, grudgingly, I guess, you will agree. I mean, you are going to check the box, after all. It’s not like you have much choice. But we understand if you have to hold your nose to do it. Safeguarding “our” privacy can be a dirty business sometimes.
This next bit contains some Important Details that probably won’t make much sense to you, but don’t worry—that’s by design. We hired a crack team of lawyers to say exactly what we mean in precisely the most difficult way for you to understand. Ultimately, we think it’ll be better for both of us that way. What you don’t know that you don’t know won’t hurt you. More than likely. So if we were you, we wouldn’t even bother pressing the link that says:
+Important Details: Click to Expand
Good move. It would’ve taken you almost as long to read that nonsense as it took for our lawyers to translate it into indecipherable (but legally binding) jargon. Who’s got the time? And what’s the point anyway, since we all know you’re going to click the little box below. Because you wouldn’t want anything to happen to “our” privacy, would you? There’s the good little fellow!
I was served the banner ad above on NYT.com. Intrigued, I clicked. Could this really be an online pawnshop?
Yes, it could be, and it is. But the difference is, Borro wants your chinchilla, not your chainsaw.
Borro—Sound it out. Pretty clever, no?—caters to people who have more nice stuff than money. Or sense. Because what Borro accepts in hock are items in the following categories:
Jewelry and diamonds
Gold & precious metals
Fine art & antiques
You notice what’s missing? That’s right, tools, guns, stolen electronics and musical instruments, which in my experience are the bread and butter of traditional pawnshops.
Pawnshops are a major part of the so-called fringe banking industry, which exploits people who don’t have access to traditional banks, typically because they live paycheck to paycheck.
I will assert that pawnshops seem to represent the least exploitative of fringe banking entities. At least their business model isn’t built on creating a growing cycle of indebtedness, like payday lenders or “buy here, pay here” used car dealers. Hock transactions are largely cut and dried; you give me your gun, I loan you $75 dollars. If you don’t pay me back in full—plus a buttload of interest—I get to keep your gun and sell it.
Borro would seem to be different, because anyone who has $50,000 tied up in a luxury watch or fine wine obviously has enough cash to open a bank account. Or had enough cash at one time.
What Borro represents, I think, is the extent to which our economy is dependent on consumer borrowing and spending. Hey, Mr. or Ms. Upper Middle Class: you want to live like a true one-percenter? Go ahead, just sign on the dotted line and the trappings of luxury living can be yours.
Until the rent on your penthouse is due.
But the real one-percenters? They’re smarter than that. They’re the ones funding ventures like Borro, which would seem to be just another way they can use their vast wealth to wring more of it from the rest of us.
LEARN THIS CRITICAL LIFE SKILL, DAMN YOU!
Cable hygiene is very near and dear to my heart. I hate untangling cables, and I hate it when cables get ruined because they’re so twisted.
The reason you shouldn’t just coil cables up loop over loop is that each loop puts a half twist in the cable. That makes the cables more prone to tangling and eventually all the twists will break the inside wires prematurely.
When I was in film school, a teaching assistant showed us how to wrap cables (knowing, perhaps, that it was a task many film school grads would regard as the pinnacles of their showbiz careers). But I couldn’t get it right. For some reason, I didn’t ask for help or ask for a repeat demonstration. And for years, my crappy cable wrapping technique haunted me. Eventually, piecing together that lecture from memory, I figured out how to do it.
I use the first method shown in the ultra-handy video below. As the guy demonstrates, the key is that each loop cancels out the half twist of the loop before it. And I like the direction to make the loops “about as big as your head.”
As my mom might’ve said, “Wow, that’s some crust!”
This is ironic, because for weeks, I’ve been wondering, “Why isn’t Marvin Gaye’s family suing these guys?!”
At issue is the threesome’s huge hit “Blurred Lines,” and exactly how blatant a ripoff of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” it is. (Videos for both are embedded below.)
Turns out Gaye’s family has already hit up Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. for some dollahs, threatening to sue if they don’t come across. So they “reluctantly” filed the suit to bring the matter into the light of day so that a court could figure it out.
Or, for the more cynically inclined, they filed the suit so that the threat of a protracted and expensive legal battle forces the Gaye family to take a token payment to settle the matter.
Complicating the issue is the fact that Thicke has made no secret of the fact that Gaye’s tune was, in fact, the direct inspiration for the song.
So what do I think? Well, after comparing both tracks before writing this post, I think it’s pretty clear that Thicke et al. ripped off elements and atmosphere from Gaye’s song.
Like the beat.
And rhythmic elements of the bass line.
So the “groove” is, yes, a ripoff. And as Thicke admits, I think that was intentional.
But is the groove the song? No, not really. Or not always. (If a groove is the same as a song, it puts ZZ Top’s entire catalog at risk for copyright infringement.)
And I have to admit, after listening more carefully than I ever had previously, I find myself an unlikely defender of Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. I think the groove is not the song in this instance.
“Got to Give It Up” stays in one chord until it goes through the fourth and fifth chords of the scale in a turnaround at the end of the riff. “Blurred Lines” has a two chord riff.
“Got to Give It Up” has an iconic two-note bass “lift” at the end of each measure. “Blurred Lines” has an eight-note bass “walkdown” instead.
“Blurred Lines” producer Pharrell Williams is no dummy. I think the differences I’ve pointed out are there—at least partially—to make the song dissimilar enough from Gaye’s track to forestall claims of copyright infringement. And I think they do. And there’s no denying that the vocal melodies are completely different.
So, as much as I’m jealous of the three for having such a huge success with little more than a few cagily aped bleeps and yowls, and as cynically sexist as I think the video for “Blurred Lines” is, I can’t side with the Gaye family on this.
That doesn’t mean I like “Blurred Lines” better than “Got to Give It Up.” I like both, but while the former is a summertime trifle; the latter is a timeless classic.
See what you think.
But now Herzog has made a film for AT&T about the dangers of texting while driving. How harrowing is this collection of personal accounts from four separate texting while driving incidents? Well, I made it through the first 2/3 of the film before I was interrupted, and I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to finish it for several days since.
I can’t say I’ve NEVER texted while driving, but only rarely. But after hearing these people telling their own stories about how the practice shattered their lives, I won’t be doing it no more, I gare-on-tee.
A colleague just shared this with me. One of his friends works at a regional magazine and recently received this job inquiry email. Oddly enough, the sender was asked to come in for an interview. Maybe the people at the magazine wanted to size him up, if you catch my drift. And I think you do. Well, Robert, it hasn’t hurt Tina Brown’s career.
ALL TRADEMARKS PENDING!
Petri Dish Patties
Stem Cell Sirloin
Hobart Laboratory of Food Science’s “All Natural” Beef-type Product
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butt Roast
Test Tube Steak
Re: What you can do to not have me freak out today.
I woke up today feeling great. The sun was shining, my car was still in the driveway, and the cat hadn’t thrown up in the night.
It had all the portents of not being a shitty day.
And then I come in to work, and I’m with you for 47 seconds and all that is out the window.
Look, I am holding my shit together.
But whether I continue to hold my shit together is up to you.
Because I am now on the verge of freaking out.
Look, we’ve known this has been coming. Since my last freakout, we’ve known this was coming.
Since I last freaked out, I think I’ve done a pretty goddamn admirable job of not freaking out again.
Because if there’s anyone who can share an office with you and go this long between freakouts, I’d like to meet him/her.
But now here we are. On the knife’s edge of another freakout of me. At the border crossing into Freakoutistan.
Do you want to know? Are you at all interested?
Interested, I mean, in what YOU can do to prevent ME from tipping over into a state of full-fledged freakoutdom?
Well, let’s start with how you take the wrapper off your energy bars. Because I think that’s an area that represents both the best opportunity for me to freak out and the best opportunity for you to prevent me from freaking out.
If you WANTED me to freak out, all you’d have to do is remain in this office while you ever so meticulously unwrap the crinkly goddamn wrappers from your energy bars.
28 seconds. That’s your average time for removing the crinkly wrappers from your energy bars. You didn’t know that, did you?
That’s up from 26 seconds last year.
Oh, yes. I’ve been tracking your efforts to drive me insane for a long time now.
Now, if you DON’T WANT me to freak out, it would simply be a matter of taking your energy bar, leaving the office, unwrapping your energy bar, and returning to the office.
I don’t give a shit where you go to open it, and I don’t give a shit if you eat it at your desk. I just don’t want to hear that crinkly unwrapping OR I WILL GUARAN-GODDAMN-TEE FREAK THE FUCK OUT.
So, that’s one thing you can do. Or not. Like I said, it’s up to you.
Another thing you can do? To prevent me from freaking out, I mean?
Talk on the goddamn phone in a goddamn normal tone of voice.
News flash: When you’re on a call, you don’t need to talk as loud as your lungs will allow.
That’s what the TELEPHONE IS FOR! So we can hear each other over long distances without shouting!
Try it! Your officemate just might not freak out if you do.
On the other hand, if you don’t try speaking in a normal voice on the telephone today, I can say with a high degree of certainty that your officemate will be freaking out.
I think we can leave it there for now. If you can just manage those two little things, just for today, I am willing to meet you halfway by not freaking out on your ass.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to swivel around in your squeaky fucking chair and ask.