Thursday, October 30

How's it Sound goes 2.0

One has to walk to the edge of ridiculous connectedness to see where to draw the line.


I can now post to this blog using my phone, effectively cutting the cord from my computer and having this thing grow to my hip. Here's hoping things don't get out of hand.


My face when I think about the possibility of constant connectedness.

Wednesday, October 29

I thank the Argentinean Gods for their vested interest in my collegiate success.



Just like cars need gas to run, I've found my own fuel in an Argentinean shrub.


College is work. Plain and simple and in that way, a lot like life. Though I acknowledge the method to their madness, sometimes our instructors seem to be involved in a shadow-handed government conspiracy to test the affective relationship between stress/sleep deprivation and anxiety. I laugh at the end of some of my classes, as I open my notes to see how much work needs to be done to keep me safe from being dishonorably discharged from the ranks of the Ad department. Not in the jolly Santa kind of way, but in the the wow-are-you-serious-this-seems-like-the-workload-of-a-small-agency kind of way. The hardest things are always the one's most worth doing however, and I love the challenge.

I'm really organized but time management isn't my strong suite and I sometimes found myself in a precarious weighing of priorities. I remember recently talking to my Uncle Palmer about how the college-aged mind makes lifestyle decisions and am starting to see our conversation come full circle in my own life. After sitting down at the Mac Lab last night around 8pm to try and tackle the homework for my "Art Direction for Advertising" class, I began a 21-year-old's logical deduction:
"How much work do I have to finish by tomorrow? 1 final ad in Photoshop/ Illustrator, 10 concept thumbnails for a product you've not yet researched, a 5-panel drawing for an internet banner for Flintstones Vitamins, and 2 finalized Global Vote posters in 2 different styles. Is it possible for the human body to survive without sleep for 48 hours? I think I've heard of Russian sailors having to stay up that long in WW2, so it must be possible."
Lucky for me, I've got a secret weapon: I discovered the wonders of Yerba Maté last year in one of my Marketing classes. Maté is a short-growing plant that's indigenous to South America and who's leaves are harvested for tea. Though South America is one of the world's largest suppliers of coffee beans, Maté commands a huge chunk of the country's morning ritual. Traditionally sipped out of a special gourd up and straw, the tea is super high in antioxidants and the active neuostimulant mateine is different from caffeine in a few key ways. "Mateine has a unique pharmacology and it is unfair to compare it to caffeine... It is a mild, not a strong, diuretic, as are many xanthines. It relaxes peripheral blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure, without the strong effect on the medulla and heart exhibited by some xanthines like caffeine (http://www.a1b2c3.com/drugs/yer_02.htm). Plus, the stuff is dirt cheap.

Basically what this means, is that after drinking a cup or two of Maté around 9pm, I'm able to reset my body clock back to around 1pm and work until sunrise without the neuro-overdrive, jitters, and twitches of caffeine- just alert, focused mental clarity. Watching the sun go down, then come back up is a bizarre experience and after a Maté binge, I have to quickly repay my sleep debt (in the form of naps). Nevertheless, through this tea I'm able to walk into class at noon with a bag full of completed project work, ready to defend.

For a guy who suffers from post-traumatic-neuro-fatigue on a pretty predictable basis, this stuff truly is "the drink of the gods". To be used in moderation of course, but certainly worth a try if you've ever got problems with energy, focus, or instructors who groom you for the real world of hectic advertising with tons of thumbnail sketches, campaigns, and research. Imagine turning up the wattage on your Brain's light bulbs, ready to tackle any sized work load with the refreshed mental clarity that's becoming increasingly rare in today's society?

How's that sound?



This is the brand of Maté that I drink. If you're interest in trying it, click the photo and I've linked it to an online store that sells the stuff.

Tuesday, October 28

Internet Pop-Ups, Live and in Person




It's always interesting when the things you study in the classroom become 3 dimensional, and ask you for a donation.


Upon walking down Market after class an hour ago, I was confronted by the classic street-side philanthropist. A cute blond, she pulled the tactic that I've seen ever fundraiser do: try to make eye contact, catch your innocent gaze, then trap you into receiving their hard sell. Often beginning with loaded questions like, "Excuse me, do you have 2 minutes for the environment?" or "Do you want to give a child a second chance?" you're then strong-armed by a primed clipboard, waiting to have it's trigger pulled by your signature and account information.

I just had my first brand experience with Children International, an organization that describes itself as, "helping overcome poverty through child sponsorship". When confronted by their fundraiser, the actual organization slid into the abyss of irrelevance as she didn't allow any kind of 2-way dialog that deviated from her prepared script. I politely explained that I was enthusiastic about her cause but as a student, didn't have the money to donate ($20 a month I think she pitched). This is when things started to go awry.

My family has sponsored a child in Bangladesh for as long as I can remember (I explained) and I've grown up seeing my parents put money aside to send. "Well you're grown up now, it's time for you to sponsor your own child," they replied. Rather than follow (what I perceived as) the unspoken etiquette of a stranger-fundraiser relationship, she attempted to intrusively prove to me that I could afford it. "Do you go out with your friends ever? Do you buy your own groceries? Those looks like pretty nice clothes." As her 2 other compatriots (all women in their early 20's) began to circle around, I began to sour.

As any savvy consumer would do about any other product, I flipped the tables, interrupting her diatribe with questions like "How much of every dollar donated goes towards physically helping a child, and how much of it goes to paying your salary and other operational costs?". I told her I'm an Advertising student and attempted to ease her fervor by complimenting her selling technique but she wouldn't let it go at cheap flattery.

After telling all 3 fund raisers that there was no way that I could give them any money right then, I tried to compromise by asking for their website, so that I could go do my own research and make a donation decision later. Offended, they spit out the URL and turned on their heels. I walked away trying to process what had just happened when my classroom experience came into play.

In fundraising (just like in Advertising) the model of how things works has seriously shifted in the past few years. No longer can a message be shouted at people (YOU NEED THIS PRODUCT or GIVE US MONEY TO HELP CHILDREN IN NEED) and expect any kind of considerable results. By establishing a 1-way communication model that relies on a consumer answering rhetorical questions that leave no room for interaction, it's likely that we'll just walk away or change the channel. As Cameron teaches us in class, I wish the thwarted Benevolence Battalion could have presented their message to me in a way that gets me excited about possibly getting involved rather than instantly pulling the plug and walking away. You can't offend people into accepting your message.

I hope that I can frame my future philanthropic goals in a way that doesn't put people on the defensive and makes them eager to hear what I have to say.





Sunday, October 26

"The Brain is Wider Than the Sky"



"If you see this lady turning clockwise you are using your right brain. If you see her turning anti-clockwise, you are using your left brain. Some people can see her turning both ways, but most people see her only one way. This was devised at Yale University for a 5 year study on the human brain and its functions." (http://www.readnrock.com/?p=38)


It's interesting to think about what your "mind's eye" actually might look like.


An interesting way to put your head through it's paces. The human brain is the most complex and incredible creation on this planet and stuff like this often makes me think about thinking. I remember hearing once that damage to one's Brain is permanent and irrevocable and because the Brain's ability to grow new Grey matter is questionable, any cognitive changes are permanent. That's since been debunked (to a certain degree) and I think it's incredible how the Brain (with the right care and nutrition) can heal itself- rewire broken neural paths.

I often use the analogy of a Kansas business building. If a tornado comes through and damages or wipes out part of the building structure, with time the functions of the damaged offices (say Human Resouces) will try to relocate to other parts of the building and carry on their duties to varying levels of success. As is the case with the brain, when part of the system fails it's up to the other hemispheres to try and pick up the slack, often adding their own characteristics.

I see this most notably in my own Brain. After injuring the left hemisphere, the lineal/sequential thinking processes were most affected. However after time, the Right side's whole-to-parts deductive, contextual thinking took over the backed-up work of the Left's, coloring those processes with it's own characteristics. The most observable difference is in my course of selected study now in college. Whereas I'd always planned on studying Engineering (Left-Side
Objective) at a leading Science school, I'm now studying Advertising (Right-Side Subjective) at a well known Art school.

What an amazing thing, the Brain is.

Saturday, October 25

Open Minded, Open Source Learning


Chalk board and dry-erase manufacturers should be shaking in their boots.


Though I've still got a few years left in my formal educational career, it's safe to say that I'm over the proverbial hump of conventional school and am already reflecting on time as a career student. All the bubbles I've filled in on scantrons have begun to form a big amorphous blob. The majority of research that I mined out of untold libraries is starting to fade in relevance. I'm already getting envious of how tomorrow's primary school experience will be.

Just like my parents shake their heads in amazement when I show them what and how I'm being taught in the classroom, I anticipate the same kind of stupefaction in the coming years. Thinkers around the world like Ken Robbins, are talking and thinking about how best to prepare the next generation to be able to dream up creative solutions to tomorrow's new problems. It's becoming more widely accepted that like Climate Change, if we don't overhaul our held opinions/ attitudes about Public Education, we're gunna be in a world of hurt.

This brings me to my most exciting find of the day. More quickly changing than almost any other industry, is Internet culture and how it reflectively affects it's culture of users . iTunes U represents the next age of internet-born education. Log on and download any content that you find interesting from some of the top colleges in the world and find what makes you passionate. Just like Ken Robbins talks about, through instantly accessible channels like this, students can now log on and fine-tune what excites them about learning, rather than what makes them fall asleep or loose focus in class.

It makes me grateful to my parents and all my former teachers and friends whom pushed me (either directly or indirectly) to enroll in Art School, where creative thinking is encouraged and I go to class excited about what new insights I'll leave with, rather then when I'll simply get to leave. Check out what Ken Robbins has to say about Creativity and check out iTunes U (click the photo above) and comment with your thoughts. Maybe you'll find yourself re-interested in seeing what's out there to learn about.

How's that sound?



Thursday, October 23

Buying some rope and carabiners proves less time consuming than a spiritual search for equilibrium

I'm seeking balance in life these days.

As my classes only get more demanding and I feel like I'm always squeezed between appointments and deadlines, it'd be important for anyone to stop and breath every once in a while. While getting on my bike and getting out of the city (and out of my head) has proven the most effective at easing the tension of the ad world, I can't always find the time to get a good ride in. Plus, as cycling's an expensive sport to get into and considering that most of my fellow cyclist friends are working professionals, it's hard even when I do get out on two wheels to find friends who have time to ride with and make things a little safer. Thus, I've had to examine some alternatives for the time being.

I had first heard of slacklining in my early days as a climber, then later from my friend Justin who had picked up the hobby at CofC. After a little bit of research, I gathered that slacklines where pushed into the mainstream by climbers that wanted a way to safely train their balance with extra gear in the off season or while waiting their turn to climb. I tried it for the first time a few weeks ago in Dolores Park with some random guys who were pretty good and willing to give me a couple pointers.

I just set up my own gear for the first time today. A few pieces of webbing (flat rope) and a couple carabiners strung between 2 trees and after experimenting with knots and various pulley set-ups, I was online in no time. It's a real bizarre feeling to try and get used to and I was by no means very good. As the key to balance seems to be turning off the thinking side of your brain and just feeling it, towards the end I was doing well to mount and keep my balance in one place. Watch videos of guys doing it on YouTube and you'll see flips, sit-downs, and all sorts of tricks. I've got no desire to do anything more than just be able to balance and "walk the line" so to speak. I'm pretty done with "extreme" sports and the risk that comes with them.

Now that I know how to set it up a little faster, here's hoping that I can more regularly reap the benefits of slackline: concentration, mental control, conditioning of rarely used "balance muscles", and less pasty, blinding white skin.

Good thing most of the onlookers where wearing sunglasses.








Maybe it's time to get out in the sun more often? Geez.

Wednesday, October 22

The Past Is Written in 7th and 9th Chords



Tonight, I heard what living history sounds like.


At the ripe age of 87, Dave Brubeck cuts through chords and still puts his music through its paces. The 26th Annual San Francisco Jazz Festival is in full swing and I'm lucky that it consistently attracts Jazz legends to its stages. My friend Sophia (a Jazz lover and pianist herself) and I trekked down to the Davies Symphony Hall on Van Ness in our classiest student attire and did our best to represent the "Under-40" demographic.

Absorbing sound waves, chord structures, rhythmic turnarounds: I wish I could've watched my Brain through an MRI machine. The way that Jazz has a special relationship with my ears/ mind, I closed my eyes, sat still, and gave my ears full attention. When really focused and listening to certain types of music (like Jazz), I get a bizarre physical sensation in my face and upper torso, like a pleasant tingle that ebbs and flows as if the sound waves are reverberating inside the cells in my body. Music is my drug.

Dave Brubeck with his quartet of Piano, Drums, Bass, and Sax nodded to the classic standards and played songs like, "Stormy Weather" and of course ended with "Take Five" to standing applause and boisterous cheering. Showing his age, Brubeck would slowly lift himself off his piano bench after a few songs, slowly creep to the microphone and contribute some banter and stories from the Golden Age of Jazz. He recounted that after being late to a gig here in the 50's, he asked Paul Desmond how he found parking so fast to which he replied, "I just park in my spot. You know, where it says SFPD: Space for Paul Desmond"). He chucked as he reminded us that today is the first game of the World Series, and treated us all to a Jazz rendition of, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

Amazing.

What an insane experience it was, to hear songs that I've known and listened to for so long, being played by the old, weathered, original hands that wrote them. I'm still reeling.




Tuesday, October 21

Mind/ Music



For Account Planning, I just finished thinking about, then designing a presentation to connect a quote that we had to pick from a random book, to the question/ statement, "What I Eat". My quote came from Oliver Sacks' book, "Musicophilia":


“I see the furniture in my room everyday, but they do not re-represent themselves as ‘Pictures in the mind’. Nor do I hear imaginary dog barks or traffic noises in the background of my mind, or smell aromas of imaginary meals cooking, even though I am exposed to such perceptions everyday. I do have fragments of poetry and sudden phrases darting into my mind, but with nothing like the richness and range of my spontaneous musical imagery. Perhaps it is not just the nervous system, but music itself that has something very peculiar about it- it’s beat, its melodic contours, so different from that of speech, and its peculiarly direction connection to the emotions.”


To turn it in for class, we had to upload our presentations on SlideShare, the YouTube version of sharing PowerPoint presentations. Below you find the link to what I was thinking about. Give it a look and tell me your thoughts.

Monday, October 20

Asleep at the Wheel













My buddy Myles Little sent me this disturbing quote and I thought I'd share. Remember, don't be a reckless voter. Think about what's at stake and what the implications of both outcomes could be...

"McCain had met Palin once, but their conversation—at a reception during a meeting of the National Governors Association, six months earlier—had lasted only fifteen minutes. "It wasn't a real conversation," said the longtime friend, who called the choice of Palin "the fucking most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." Aides arranged a phone call between McCain and Palin, and scrutinized her answers to some seventy items on a questionnaire that she had filled out. But McCain didn't talk with Palin in person again until the morning of Thursday, August 28th. Palin was flown down to his retreat in Sedona, Arizona, and they spoke for an hour or two. By the time he announced her as his choice, the next day, he had spent less than three hours in her company."
--Jane Mayer

Sunday, October 19

Thinking about Thinking

We are the choices that our brains make.

Tonight I put the final touches on the final submission of one of my life goals. In Account Planning, we're talking about tons of interesting ideas and one of our last assignments was to plug into one of today's biggest generator of interesting ideas: Google. Tomorrow is the deadline for their Project 10^100 contest, which is an open invitation to the world to log in and submit an idea that helps the most amount of people. Google (who's name stems from "googol", the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.) has dedicated $10 million to funding the winning idea from each different category into a reality to help change the world.

Stemming from my own personal experiences, I've long promised to dedicate some of my life's work to Traumatic Brain Injury. 1.4 million cases are reported per year in the United States (not counting the countless thousands that go unreported) yet ask most people what they think Traumatic (or Acquired) Brain Injury is and you get some pretty blank looks. I'm trying to change that. After countless hours of teleconferencing with my delightfully bright friend Gracelyn (who's a Neuroscience major) and my mother (who has tons of grant writing and PR experience), we formed two separate idea vehicles to help people across the US understand what Brain Injury can be like, and how to give support to those that are recovering. Super exciting possibilities.

Without the tireless advocacy and every imaginable resource made available, I would not be anywhere close to where I am today. I hope that I'm lucky enough to pay my incredible luck forward in an equally big way. Here's hoping that Google can sense my passion and enthusiasm via keyboard clicks and YouTube videos. Though the odds are against my favor, I've seen (and experienced) crazier things happen.

How's that sound?



Saturday, October 18

Gimmedia?





From REUTERS:

"WASHINGTON 10/14/08: President George W. Bush signed into law on Monday a controversial bill that would stiffen penalties for movie and music piracy at the federal level. The law creates an intellectual property czar who will report directly to the president on how to better protect copyrights both domestically and internationally. The Justice Department had argued that the creation of this position would undermine its authority."


It seems we're at a tipping point.

In a similar way that history has struggled to comprehend and accept each of societies breakthrough discoveries (gravity, the sun as the center of the universe, evolution, global warming), it seems that we're still trapped in an outdated way of thinking. The business model of the Record Industry as it's stood for decades, is now having a hard time denying the fate of it's demise. In a way, it's always been marching towards it's end.

Ever since Thomas Edison panted the Phonograph in 1878, people have been gripped with the idea of listening to music on demand. Without having to travel distances to see Operas or Symphonies, people could begin to "own" the auditory experience of music. Scientists have studied and clearly connected Music's effects on Brain and Mood activity and after the phonograph, people began to control when and what they wanted indulge in the a musical experience. As musical culture evolved, so did a culture of trying to make money off this new phenomena.

Fast forward to the mid-90's. As the internet shifts into full gear and people start exploring, defining, and pushing the bounds of internet culture, file sharing took it's permanent seat as a longtime player for computers around the world. I can still remember being speechless when I downloaded and opened Napster for the first time.

Now, internet sharing has exploded beyond the wildest dreams of media consumers like myself, and to the chagrin of label execs. As we enter into the Web 2.0 era (i hate to use buzz words- sorry Cameron), more people gain access to computers, and more fascination leads to more ways to connect with humanity online, we need to start changing our opinion about property rights, value, and distribution. Already, this has led to sites like Wikipedia and Creative Commons. Benn Jordan from the band, "The Flashbulb" makes an interesting point about this:

"The thing RIAA is scared of is that their billion dollar backbone can no longer shelter people from exploring music themselves. Their business plan had evolved into telling the world what they will want to listen to and buy, and now they'll have to actually compete with talented artists again. As the people regain control of the market, music will be judged by it's content again and will be subjected to it's own Darwinism. It is a very interesting time for the music industry... and since my entire life is devoted to making music, bring it on. I hope that this situation with my new record proves to other labels and artists that giving people exactly what they want is the smartest way to conduct any business."

Does George Bush care about the artists and software developers that get shorted when their work is pirated? Is it an economic move to protect one of our most valuable (yet semi-intangible) exports? Or is he just bending to the will of lobbyists that represent the former keepers of rock stars and pop idols? I'd like to hear some other opinions.

In a way, I wonder which system will be the next to be so publicly pried opened and scrutinized. Politics and News distribution jumps to my mind first. It's becoming more clear that the TV is dying out and newspapers will soon be an artifact of the past. I wonder what new Napster-like system will emerge to share global and regional news, free of network spin. In a way, I guess blogging is a kind of anti-news network.

How's that sound?




Friday, October 17

SF Street Music

Walk down through Union Square and at least a few times a week, you'll find someone playing a free concert for anyone who cares to listen. I talked to this guy after he finished playing and he said that he makes (on average) $20 an hour. This is how he pays the majority of his rent.

This "Street Performer" business model of music marketing is slowly but surely catching on in the Music Industry. When a huge band like Radiohead can give away their music for free (like playing on a corner) and have fans pay what they think it's worth (like the proverbial money hat or open guitar case), it's amazing that this hasn't caught on sooner. I guess Record execs are still struggling to grasp the notion that they can no longer set a value to the product they manage. 

Keep playing.





Nike takes over Union Square


While walking through downtown today, I came across this spectacle.

It was pretty awesome what Nike had set up for their women's marathon, though I don't know what I'd expect much less from one of the world's strongest brands. Under this huge tent was a massive registration center, then a seperate tent for vendors: ranging from Jamba Juice to Oxygen bars to tread mills to a Nike+ shoes and equipment booth (Apple and Nike products live in the same "brand tribe" along with VW as observed by the people at Neutron Brand Consultancy in SF).

Crazy to think what life was like before Title 9 or the computer.

LikemindSF

"You can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can't count
the number of apples in a seed"
-anon


Today I woke up earlier than my advertising student lifestyle generally permits to get down to the monthly Likemind gathering here in SF. Likemind is an opportunity for advertising/ marketing/ media/ creative thinkers to get together, consume caffeine, and share ideas. Making the mistake of downing some Yerba Maté while walking out the door, finishing my coffee left my pretty well wired.

I guess because caffeine is a neurostimulant, it makes sense why good conversations can often be heard in coffee shops. Some really interesting points were raised, my favorite being the future of media consumption. We were talking about Twitter and subscribing only to the "Tweets" of your friends, thereby filtering out stuff that you don't find relevant or interesting. We thought about the invention of a daily news feed that had only 3-4 stories in it per day, as to help steer the worlds perpetually distacted media consumers towards being focused. In an age where new channels are invented almost daily, developed, then subjected to cyber-darwinism, we've long overstepped the bounds of "too much media". Interesting stuff to think about while twitching around in my seat from the espresso.

Cheers to idea spreading and cool coffee pots.



For more info about how technology is making us collectively autistic, read this article (the whole thing):

http://www.psfk.com/2008/10/new-book-examines-your-brain-on-technology.html