Friday, December 5, 2003

Holiday Gift Picks

This holiday season we once again take a look at three of the hottest gift picks on our wish lists. Take gander before heading out to the mall (twice if you're shopping for any of us):

Patrick Greer – DVD Camcorder
I think most of my generation has fond memories of dad pulling out his camcorder to make a family video of us at 7 o’clock Christmas morning. I tore through presents not worried about how this footage would be used against me in the future. It is these memories that are brought to mind when I look at the current line of DVD camcorders – and how I will have this kind of superior technology to use against my children...

Current DVD camcorders can hold up to 4.7 GB of information – 30 minutes to 2 hours of footage, depending on image and sound quality. This is not the reason for my current desire, though. It is the ease of transfer to my computer while still in the original DVD format. Camcorder-recorded DVDs come with all the features that we love and expect from finished DVD movies: Instant scene selection and, most importantly, higher image and sound quality. I can’t wait till I find one of these in my stocking – albeit in 3 to 4 years when the price comes down to a rational level – but I will be looking forward to it nonetheless.

J.D. Jordan - Roomba Robotic Floor Vac

It is distinctly possible that I am getting far too domestic in my old age – or it might just be that I have no love for my upright vacuum cleaner or the endless pursuit of dog hair detritus scatted across my hardwoods. Regardless, iRobot, a commercial robotics company founded by MIT ex-pats, has answered my prayers. They've developed Roomba, hopefully the first in a long series of robot slaves!

Roomba is a self-operated robot vacuum cleaner that, according to independent testing, cleans better than uprights costing twice as much, cleans more of your floor (especially under beds and other conventionally inaccessible areas), is easier to use and adjust than leading uprights, and (for gravy's sake) is quieter than traditional vacuums. Onboard guidance leads the Roomba to cover every surface of the room and prevents it from falling down stairs or crossing digital barriers (provided with the vacuum). The three Roomba models cost between $200 and $250 and come with a variety of accessories. But what isn't calculated into these prices is the best feature of all: You won't have to vacuum ever again. Just kick on the little robot and leave for work. By the time you get home, Roomba will have cleaned house and turned itself off. Now if only that toilet cleaning robot was ready for the market, my life could be complete...

Fleming Patterson - Laks Memory Watch
Remember when you thought having a calculator on your watch was unheard of? Well now you can still look classic while hiding away a hard drive of personal files, pictures, passwords, mp3 sounds, and even movie clips on your wrist. Paris Hilton “watch” out. Laks has introduced the Memory watch.

Just when you thought you were safe to strap on that wristband. Laks designed a watch with an integrated USB-plug in strap and a rewritable memory chip from Toshiba. The classically designed watch comes in several styles and cleverly hides the USB-plug that can be easily plugged into your computer. It's even water resistant.

The watches come in four different versions, ranging from 32MB to 256MB of storage.The prices range from $42 to $165, depending on drive size and style. It may not have a calculator, but this watch can now become the next briefcase handcuffed to you wrist. The watch is even password protected to protect you against file theft. fb

Christmas in September

We love the holidays at Cloudjammer, not the least because it provides for much needed time off and excuses the arbitrary company holiday bacchanalia.

But all good things come in moderation...and to those that wait (to pile clichè upon cliché). We considered this recently when discussing holiday shopping habits. I, for one, always delay until the week of Christmas, list in hand, pounding my feet through local malls and zipping all over town to find the perfect gifts.

But why do I wait so late? Is it work? Lifestyle? Reaction? Perhaps some of each. Perhaps mostly the latter.

I recall visiting a Pier 1 Imports in North Georgia in late September (three months before Christmas, mind you) only to find Christmas merchandise squeezing onto the floor – just in case you needed that wooded reindeer door stop really early. Christmas. September. The mind reels.

My local mall even brought out Santa's trappings (faux house, faux snow, winding queue) the week following Halloween. To be fair, Santa was the last decor added. Most of the mall was holiday festive, visual and audio, before October 31.

I wonder if my late-term holiday shopping might be a direct result of such an over abundance, and premature display, of holiday themes. After all, how much can we cherish and enjoy this brief festive season – which most of us really only appreciate for a few days or a long weekend – when it runs two or three months long?

Is an inner Scrooge peering out from beneath my Christmas sweater? Are those brave department store interior designers and lawn art enthusiasts bringing something joyous and positive that my critical and bitter perspective distorts?

But when is too early?

Is Thanksgiving, that traditional carte-blanche date for holiday decor and marketing, too much to ask? Can we not at least get the trytophan into our systems before Starbucks ramps up the Bing Crosby remixes over our snowflake latte?

Perhaps it is. Perhaps the Thanksgiving deadline is as antiquated as the Red Rider pellet gun or a partridge in a pear Tree (clever rhetorical tie-in, eh?).

Either way, the lights don't go up at Cloudjammer offices until the leaves outside change color. And, until further notice, mall Santas at large before turkey day had better keep their eyes open for three interactive designers with a reindeer door stop. fb

Five Rings to Rule Them All

Most of us know the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" – even if we can't remember how many lords were leaping or maids were milking. At the least we know there were five gold rings and a bird in a fruit tree.

But beneath the nonsense rhyming and hideously antiquated notions of good gift giving (seriously...who needs all those drummers and their incessant drumming!). And while the authenticity of the hidden meaning of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" remains a subject for historical and religious debate – at least among academia – popular opinion holds that the the song is actually code for twelve significant elements of Catholic catechism.

Those sneaky Catholics...

On the surface, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are just that – the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (December 25 to January 6). Various Christian traditions interpret these days differently, but in the West, these are counted as the days between Christ's birth and the visitation by the three eastern kings.

For the symbolic gifts of the song, however, there are purported hidden meanings.

From 1558 to 1829, it was illegal to openly or privately practice Catholicism in England. As a result, English Catholics developed subtle ways to teach their catechism and practice their fugitive faith. One example may be the "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The song served as a mnemonic device relating the "true love" – God – to the individual Catholic, which each day's corresponding gift symbolic of an important religious lesson:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge is Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge feigning injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, recalling the Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem.

Two Turtle Doves

The Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible.

Three French Hens
The three theological virtues: Faith, hope, and love.

Four Calling Birds
The four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five Gold Rings
The first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

Six Geese A-laying
The six days of creation, as described in Genesis.

Seven Swans A-swimming
The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion.

Eight Maids A-Milking
The eight beatitudes: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

Nine Ladies Dancing
The nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Ten Lords A-Leaping

The ten commandments: You shall have no other gods before me; do not make an idol; do not take God's name in vain; remember the Sabbath; honor your father and mother; do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not covet.

Eleven Pipers Piping
The eleven faithful apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James bar Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas bar James. The list does not include the twelfth disciple, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the Romans.

Twelve Drummers Drumming
The twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary; He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried and descended into hell; On the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father; He will come again to judge the living and the dead; I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.

It should be pointed out that this interpretation of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is not universally accepted. Likewise, the evidence supporting it is not clear – the contemporaneous production of explanatory material during the time of England's religious wars would have been foolhardy at best, suicidal at worst. On the inverse, dispelling evidence is equally lacking.

Regardless, this theory gives an otherwise nonsensical rhyme more meaning and significance. And it teases us with another fine example of pre-modern communication design. fb

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Go Fuze Yourself

I tend to look for new and innovative products: A new shirt by a hot designer or a hat that sets the trend for the season. I made my latest discovery at my local grocery store – its bright packaging made it impossible to miss. FUZE!

Fuze belongs to a new “smart age” family of beverage. Unlike most “healthy drinks” Fuze has many more healthy ingredients than bad. It even tastes good (as opposed to the flavor disaster that is most of Sobe’s selection).

One of Fuze’s major health-wise selling points is that it excludes high-fructose corn syrup from its formula. Instead it is sweetened with crystalline fructose. This new process gives Fuze 25-50 fewer calories then many other beverages.

John Blair, vice president and national sales manager for the company, boasts: “Our product is the first to have 100 percent of the RDA of seven essential vitamins." The vitamin and essential ingredient content of Fuze has become on of the drink’s major selling points. Each bottle is defined for a particular health benefit (Essential, Focus, Replenish, Slenderize, Stamina, etc.) and details the ingredients and their intrinsic nutritional value.

Fuze understands that consumers are becoming more health-conscious and are starting to understand the importance of vitamins and other healthful ingredients in their daily diet.

I usually enjoy a Focus, Refresh, or Replenish Fuze during lunch, depending on my mood. How cool is the drink that follows your moods? Now if only it could solve all of the world’s problems… fb

The Acne Scar Vanishes

Before and after details from a photo in which an errant tourist walked into the shot and was later removedOriginal photographs and a composite made by adjusting the pair and blending them togetherDigital cameras are a beautiful thing.

They allow us to immediately see the pictures we've just taken, share them with friends on the spot, on web pages, and through email. You can archive them to CD, securing them for the future and preventing the notorious clutter of analog photographs. Digital albums, like iPhoto, organize images into descriptive albums and services like Kodak and oFoto will even transform your digital images into tangible film prints.

They also allow the more fastidious and computer-savy among us to correct life's little disappointments. Red eye – removed. The errant pimple or bruise – gone. The color balance out of whack – fixed. Bad composition – cropped. Someone in the background fallen out of favor – erased?

This is more than the simple camera-shop correction we've come to expect from local photo mats. Retail kiosks let you revive old family photographs and repair scratches from the negative. This is the wholesale correction-as-modification of pictures. (Photoshop be praised!)

But the modification of pictures – simplified by the digital camera revolution – can be seen merely as the extension of a filtering process long practiced in photo albums. Each and every one of us has neglected to include a picture in an album or frame because of the composition or an inequity of the photograph (or photographer). How often have you excluded an image because your eyes were closed or a pimple glowed red in the center of your cheek?

Now we can correct these minor imperfections and better enjoy our photos. Having recently returned from my honeymoon, I have spent hours going back through the pictures, correcting the color balance, straightening pictures which I took crooked, and correcting for camera lens barrel distortion. Composites have been made and perspectives have been adjusted. And, I admit, there have been some blemishes and bruises removed along the way. There have even been a few ...corrections.

The cover of Such image manipulation has been famously exercised in the past by some of history's most notorious personalities. Maximilien Robespiere, chair of France's revolutionary Committee of Public Safety, repeatedly ordered visionary Parisian painter David to correct his monumental work depicting the revolutionary legislature. As participants fell out of favor with Robespiere and the Committee – and were, in turn, carted off to the guillotine – the petite tyrant would order their removal from the painting. The result, a fabulous work of art by one of the premier artists of the day remained unfinished until Robespiere's eventual – and ironic – decapitation.

But Stalin better captured the scope of the image manipulation phenomenon. In his book, "The Commissar Vanishes," David King tells of legions of artists and politicians running an industry specializing in image falsification and manipulation. This Orwellian process extended all the way back to historical photos of the Communist Revolution – famously removing political opponents from proud scenes of the successful revolt.

And while I certainly don't mean to compare armchair image manipulators – myself among them – to Robespiere and Stalin, some of the same motive remains.

The mere act of doctoring my vacation or event pictures is an act of recreating the past to suit my interpretation of it. I have no pimples in any of my honeymoon pictures because I would rather remember myself unblemished and youthful. The net result is as harmless as the act of taking the picture in the first place – the creation of a record of events and personal adventures. Albeit touched-up to provide the best recollection.

And I'll admit the worst of my digital-adjustment sins – I removed my second chin from a picture. Does this make me a bad person? I don't think so. It means I need to go to the gym. fb

How to Raise $200 Million Online

Howard Dean is fast becoming notorious – both among Republicans and Democrats – as something of a rebel. But recently the presidential hopeful has fallen under the eager scrutiny of direct marketers and non-profit fund-raisers. Politics aside, Dean's campaign is doing something that has proven to be the unattainable holy grail of the Internet for so long.

He's raising money online. Lots of it.

The presidential campaign organization for the former Democratic Vermont Governor raised $7.4 million online in the third quarter of 2003 – more than double the amount the organization generated online in the previous quarter and half of the $14.8 million fundraising total for Q3 2003.

Between's April launch and the end of September – less than 180 days – Dean for America raised $11 million online. Small and repeat contributions account for a large percentage of the $7.4 million that the Dean campaign raised over the Internet last quarter. Indeed, the campaign reports that it received 110,786 online contributions from 84,713 discrete supporters. The average amount: $61.14.

"From the start, we have told our supporters that they had the power to end the hold of special interests on our political process. Hundreds of thousands have responded by offering what they can afford to take our country back," Campaign Manager Joe Trippi said.

And he may be on to something – at least insofar as the campaign is concerned. Dean's pledge to lead with a mandate from the people, not larger, deeper-pocketed interest groups, has resonated with a liberal and independent constituency still reeling from Enron and Worldcom. Win or lose, Dean may very well achieve his goal of running a campaign beholden to none but the American people.

"The Dean campaign captured the nation’s attention at the end of Q2 by announcing it had raised a very impressive $3.6 million online in only 90 days,” said Gene Austin, CEO of Convio, the software provider behind Dean for America's online donation system. “By raising $7.4 million online in the third quarter, the organization has demonstrated that it’s possible to not just sustain but significantly surpass this level of constituent support and participation over the Internet. Any group that wants to optimize its fundraising, marketing and constituent communications should be watching what Dean for America is doing online.”

The Dean campaign's Internet fundraising represents a reversal of a decades-long trend in presidential fundraising, where fewer people give larger sums to campaigns.

"We learned last week that 68 friends and colleagues of the president raised nearly a quarter of his $34 million," Trippi said. "By comparison, the contributions to the Dean campaign represent the interests of the American people, not the special interests."

Considered in tandem with the on-again-off-again success moderate politicians – such as Sen. John McCain – have been having with campaign finance reform, the news of Dean's online and offline popular financial support is enough to – God forbid – give hope for the future of republican government in America.

Dean for America has recently launched a new campaign, online and off: The $100 Revolution. The effort is targeted at George W. Bush's plan to raise $200 million from special interests for a presidential primary in which he runs unopposed. The Dean campaign asks its supporters to each give $100 to meet the president's ambitious goal. "If 2 million Americans each contribute $100, we will defeat this president – and we will change America. The formula is simple."

And don't write him off out of hand. Dean has taken on Bush fundraising directly before – and won. Dean defied beltway convention when his unorthodox blog-based fundraising efforts challenged the fundraising efforts of Vice President Dick Chaney. Chaney hosted a Republican fundraising diner event – with $2,000-per-plate attendance – slated to raise $250,000 for the 2004 Bush/Chaney campaign. Using principally his campaign weblog as a counter-measure, the Dean campaign raised more than double that within 24 hours.

And Dean for America has kept the momentum going. Its Halloween-themed Internet fundraiser brought in more than $354,891 from 6,177 Americans. Over the four-day drive Dean for America steadily closed in on the goal of $310,000 with an average contribution of $57.45.

Senate Democrat have taken special notice of Dean's online successes. And while Sen. Tom Daschle remains unconvinced that the phenomena can be reproduced to the benefit of sitting politicians, wheels have begun turning in Washington.

You never know. Maybe they'll even start working for us again. fb

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Memories of Kozmo

Once upon a time, you could order a DVD on demand and have it arrive at your door within an hour. You could make a phone call or visit a website and get all of your grocery shopping done in a moment and brought into your kitchen. But now the easy way of life is over.

Or is it?

A brave new dot com is trying things out in the Atlanta area –, a new breed of

You can purchase just about anything you could get at your nearby CVS store and a lot of things you can't. Most notable: Atlanta's very own Jake's Ice Cream! You can have Jake's Cinnamon Apple Piescream and Chocolate Slap Yo' Mamma ice cream delivered to your door (provided that door is in the limited metro-Atlanta delivery area). Other local restaurants – Ami, Cherry, and Santinos – have joined in, too.

Zifty will deliver within an hour, between 5pm and 1am. Sure beats making reservations. You can now enjoy great food and a movie without someone else spilling their drink all over you – without ever having to leave home. serves Lower Buckhead, Piedmont Park, Midtown, Virginia Highlands, Little Five, Candler Park, Grant Park, Inman Park, GA Tech, and Georgia State University Areas.

The cost is reasonable – you need to order $9.95 in order to get a free delivery. The sign up process is easy and the payment process painless. This is something Checker Cab may need to look into.

Thank you! fb

More to 'Choking' than Swinging and Missing

John Smoltz celebrates his 45th save of the season, Sept. 23.The 2003 division pennant is unfurled at Turner Field on Sept. 19.Javy Lopez hits his 35th home run of the season, August 31, 2003As a life-long Braves fan, I feel honored to share my thoughts on America’s Team with Fight.Boredom’s readership. I could write endless pages about Hank Aaron’s 715th homerun, Dale Murphy’s sweet swing, Sid Bream’s famous slide, Greg Maddux’s mastery of hitters in the mid-1990s, or any of the thousands of exhilarating moments that have made me proud to cheer on my hometown team.

Unfortunately, I have been asked to write about a very touchy subject for any supporter of Atlanta’s ballclub: the month of October. Why is it that a team renowned, praised, envied, and sometimes loathed for its dominance in the regular season routinely fails to win the World Series title, or (in recent years) even advance to the second round of the playoffs?

The simple answer, often espoused by the ex-jocks and studio analysts on Fox television, is that the Braves have “choked”. The implication, of course, is that the Atlanta Braves players and coaches faltered as a result of their inability to respond to high-pressure situations. To a certain extent, they’re right. Where I disagree with application of the term “choke” to the Braves’ postseason woes is the notion that the Braves players should receive the blame of each early postseason exit. Below are some other factors that I believe have contributed to the Braves’ relative lack of success in October.

Marathon vs. Sprinting
What is required to win a division title is a team built for the marathon of the regular season. A Major League squad plays 162 games a year, and the teams that are able to cope with the injuries, exhaustion and other hardships of the arduous schedule are the ones that are in the best position to compete for a division title.

The structure of the playoff system, however, does not reward those teams that are prepared for the long-distance race. Unlike the end of a marathon, the playoffs effectively strip the top participants in baseball’s “race” of whatever lead they hold over their competitors at the end of 162 games. Suddenly, a team that has won 100 games during the season is placed in the same position as another team that won 85 games.

Thus, the playoffs become more like a sprint to the finish line, where each of eight teams is given the chance to toe the same starting line. Like a marathon runner, however, the Braves are not conditioned for a sprinting contest.

The Braves’ strengths lie in the depth of their pitching staff, in the ability to outlast other teams through the rigors of the regular season, and in their willpower to overcome injuries and exhaustion. Once the playoffs start, those strengths are neutralized.

Power pitching
The past couple of years have shown that teams with a pair of power starting pitchers have a better chance of success in a short postseason series. The best example is the Arizona Diamondbacks of 2001, who rode Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson to a World Series triumph over the New York Yankees. Schilling and Johnson pitched in seemingly every game and thus the Diamondbacks were able to hide the weaknesses of their other pitchers.

But even beyond the ability to mask the chinks in Arizona’s armor, Schilling and Johnson met great success in the postseason because of their style of pitching. When the playoffs arrive, the strike zone tends to shrink, leaving pitchers with the option of blowing the ball by hitters or risk getting hit.

The Braves have not had a starting pitching staff that can blow hitters away. John Smoltz is their best postseason pitcher, and it is no surprise that he is a power pitcher. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, on the other hand, are capable of pitching great games in the playoffs, but often fall victim to a shrinking strike zone and bloop singles. Over the course of a season a game lost on unlucky drops or bloops can be overcome, but in the playoffs that kind of loss can be devastating to a team’s chances of winning a series.

Bad Fortune
To lose so many postseason series, the Braves must be bitten by some bad luck. Looking back over their losses, it is easy to identify dozens of one or two run games where a seeing-eye single or a bloop hit could have made the difference in a win or a loss. The Braves have also had their share of good luck (e.g., Sid Bream’s slide), but it doesn’t seem to come in the World Series and hasn’t been around in a long while.


In the one year that the Atlanta Braves won the World Series, it was an upset of sorts. The Braves were not a better team than the powerful, experienced Cleveland Indians. In fact, with the exception of 1996 and 1997, I would argue that the Braves were never the best team in the league. From 1991 to 1993, they endured exhausting pennant chases and in other years they struggled to get to the post-season. It has not been often during the past decade that the Braves were expected to win it all.

The best example is the 1999 club. They lost Andres Galarraga to cancer and Javy Lopez to a knee injury. Despite one of the weakest lineups in the National League, the Braves fought off the Houston Astros and New York Mets in dramatic fashion to advance to the World Series. While the TV pundits were calling for the winner of the Series to be crowned “Team of ‘90s”, no one seemed to notice how decimated the Braves were at that point. After the Yankees swept the Braves in the Series, little was said about how remarkable it was that the Braves had even made it to the Series. As the 1999 club has shown, simply because the Braves make an annual trip to the postseason does not mean that they have an equal chance, season-to-season, of winning it all.


The Braves’ clubhouse is well-known for being a “professional” atmosphere. Success in the regular season requires some emotional restraint and a business-like attitude to endure the day-in, day-out demands of the schedule. Come playoff time, though, teams feed off of emotions, both of the other players and of the fans. In recent years, the Braves have lacked the outward fire that can energize a squad and motivate a team to victory. Their seeming apathy is reflected in the empty seats of Turner Field. Because the Braves play their postseason games in a regular season environment, the sense of urgency needed for success in the postseason is missing.

There is more to blame for the Braves’ postseason failures than the players and coaches. The above factors all have a hand in the end of each season for America’s Team. At the same time, the Braves are capable of overcoming each of the above challenges and it seems that every once in a while they would. For now, I’ll stay content with the Braves’ amazing run of success and keep my fingers crossed for next year.

- Will Homiller, Troutman Sanders fb

What's Wrong with Buying Love

I have always felt a certain amount of resentment towards the DeBeers commercials. I see the beautiful people in beautiful places, and it is not until the man gives the woman a diamond that she shows him that she loves him. This is a statement that maybe love is for sale or, worse yet, that diamonds equal love.

How can anyone ever say that diamonds equal love? For me love has always been an emotion that was pure and has no price – it can only be given. I know that nowhere have they actually said this, but that is what they are telling us with the imagery they use, what the scripts say, and what the actors show us.

Their slogan is “Diamonds are Forever”, which could not be more true. In this environment, they might as well as say that the ring will last longer than the marriage. What originally gave me the thought is the commercial of the shadows where the only thing that is real is the diamond ring. Which really speaks to me – is the only real thing in two peoples lives a piece of jewelry?

With all of this in front of us how could we not see that “Diamonds are Forever” really means diamonds equal love. Though maybe I have always been naïve, I thought of love as a higher thing. Love is without restriction, or reason; love is something that you can get lost in. I just hope that these ideals don’t just exist in my own mind. I hope instead that this is what love truly is. fb

Friday, September 5, 2003

A New World Trade Center

The revised New York skylineThe view from Church StreetThe new Lower Manhattan Rail stationWhile Americans and New Yorkers, in particular, debate the future of Ground Zero, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation is moving ahead with plans to redevelop the former World Trade Center site. The plan calls for a 17-acre commercial/memorial complex which can service the economic needs of Manhattan while respectfully commemorating the 9/11 tragedy.

The plan for the site, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, and selected in a pubic design competition last February, responds to these seemingly contradictory needs. Of his struggle to create a design that would satisfy the unique needs of the World Trade Center site, Libeskind says:

I meditated many days on this seemingly impossible dichotomy. To acknowledge the terrible deaths which occurred on this site, while looking to the future with hope, seemed like two moments which could not be joined. ... So, I went to look at the site, to stand within it, to see people walking around it, to feel its power and to listen to its voices.

Libeskind was so impressed with what remained of the World Trade Center foundations that his design preserves the tower footprints and provides for a journey down, some 70 feet, into Ground Zero onto the bedrock foundation beneath the monolithic slurry walls holding back the Hudson River. A museum – of the event, of memory, and of hope – will serve as the entrance into Ground Zero, always accessible, leading visitors down into a space of reflection, of meditation, and a space for the memorial. This memorial will be designed as part of an international competition.

To commemorate those who lost their lives on 9/11, the development features two large public places, the Park of Heroes and the Wedge of Light. Each year on September 11th between the hours of 8:46 a.m., when the first airplane hit, and 10:28 a.m., when the second tower collapsed, the sun will shine without shadow through the Wedge of Light onto the memorial site. A Heroes Walk will trace the firefighters' paths as they raced into the Trade Center and there will also be an elevated walkway – a promenade encircling the memorial site – reminiscent of the overlook walkway used by 4 million people to view Ground Zero after the attack.

Beyond the needs for a memorial, an exciting new Lower Manhattan Rail station will connect travelers to regional Path trains, subways, hotels, a performing arts center, office towers, underground malls, street level shops, restaurants, and cafes.

But perhaps the most visible and stunning architectural fixture of the new development will be the towering spire – the "Gardens of the World". Libeskind hopes the gardens, which will rise 1776 feet, in commemoration of our national independence – will serve as a constant affirmation of life while the metal and glass skyscraper "rises above its predecessors, reasserting the pre-eminence of freedom and beauty, and restoring the spiritual peak to the city – an icon of our vitality in the face of danger and our optimism in the aftermath of tragedy." fb

The Battle for Ground Zero

The World Trade Center disaster siteThe view from Church StreetThe new Lower Manhattan Rail station1.6 million tons of debris were removed from the site during the clean-up and recovery effort which concluded at the end of May 2002, three months ahead of schedule. The rail lines have been cleared, the fires have been quenched, and the titanic slurry wall, braced against the weight of the Hudson River, has been reinforced and repaired. The site of the World Trade Center disaster has been cleared and prepared.

Now what?

It seems that question is still in the proverbial lurch. A week before the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a group of victims' families protested at the construction site in Lower Manhattan, railing against plans to rebuild on the foundations of the collapsed towers – a sacred cemetery for more than 2,800 people. Meanwhile the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, charged with redeveloping the site, has intensified their drive to move ahead with Daniel Libeskind's proposed commercial/memorial development (see this month's review for more on his design).

The design, overtly symbolic and patriotic, was initially very popular. Since it was selected, however, the plan for the site has clashed with the commercial demands of prime real estate – the site is widely seen as one of the most important urban redevelopment sites in the world – and the memorial demands of what is commonly perceived to have become sacred ground.

But regardless of the passions involved, and the myriad interests placing economic or emotional claims on the site, final responsibility for the site is divided between the governors of New York and New Jersey, who own the land through the Port Authority, and Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder who controls the right to redevelop the office space. Silverstein made waves in the days immediately following the collapse of the towers when he vowed to raise replica towers in the place of the fallen 110+ story megaliths.

Silverstein has now openly questioned the wisdom of raising Libeskind's proposed replacement tower, a 1776 foot tall "Freedom Tower" and construction of a sunken memorial garden – ideas welcomed by victims' relatives. With local business groups, Silverstein has asked whether companies would want to lease space in such a tall building – it would be the world's tallest when completed. Silverstein has also criticized the expense of the design's symbolic spiral at the tip of the Freedom Tower and the location of the tower on the development site – a criticism which directly conflicts with complaints by victims' families that construction be prevented on top of the original tower foundations.

And while Silverstein has no legal authority to approve or reject construction plans he has much financial and political clout. He is paying rent on the site and his multi-billion-dollar insurance claim is paying for the rebuilding.

Perhaps the largest bone of contention in the redevelopment plans is the preservation of the World Trade Center footprint – foundation – and slurry wall. Libeskind has imbued the original foundations with heroic status but Silverstein and business groups have argued that it would inflict a perpetually open wound on Lower Manhattan and provide a negative reminder of the attacks for future trade center tenants. Even the gardens envisioned at the base of the 70-foot deep footprints – a featured welcomed by victim's families who view this lowest level as the final rest place of their dead – have been targeted. Commercial developers would like to see a subterranean mall instead while downtown residents would prefer a more navigable ground-level park.

In the thick of all this argument the voices of the victims' families may have been drowned out. Few would debate the need for commercial development on the site. Few would debate the need for a memorial. And while extremes from both sides have pressed the abolition of the other, the unfortunate truth of design – commercial or memorial – still applies. Design by committee almost always fails. It results in base watered down concepts, unfulfilled needs, and spoilt ambitions. Replete are examples: '96 Olympic mascot Watizit, the Bradley fighting vehicle, the Space Shuttle, and anything done by the UN.

Future generations will look back on how New York and Silverstein redevelop and commemorate the site in much the same was that we acknowledge the sentiment and practical needs answered by memorials at the USS Arizona/Pearl Harbor and in Oklahoma City. fb

Giving the Mitt the Finger

There are times when we just sit back and ask ourselves: What were they thinking?

Arby's, that bastion of roast beef and curly fries, has done something terrible. They've released Oven Mitt. The Fort Lauderdale-based fast-food company launched a national advertising campaign on March 2, 2003 featuring an animated character, Oven Mitt, to describe how Arby's oven roasts – not fries or grills – its beef.

I remember when I first saw Oven Mitt. I stopped into an Arby's on my way home and caught sight of the illustrated character on the side of the take-away bag. My first thought? What have they done to their hat logo? What is this supposed to be?

Indeed, my brain continues to be dazzled by the weaknesses inherent in Oven Mitt's design:
  • Oven Mitt is confusingly similar to Arby's cowboy hat logo;
  • Oven Mitt is vague – does it specifically denote oven cooking? Do fry and grill cook require no heat shielding?;
  • Oven Mitt is designed to appeal to a younger audience yet Arby's continues to brand themselves as mature fast food;
  • Oven Mitt's writers, likely as a result of committed script review, have yet to produce a compelling and humorous script for this comic character;
  • Oven Mitt is a complicated and inflexible illustration, requiring unsightly detail (such as stitching and shading) to be discernable as an oven mitt when in small or low color formats;
  • There is the uncomfortable depiction of Arby's employees reaching inside Oven Mitt to use him;
  • Oven Mitt is entirely reminiscent of another logo. Can you guess it? Hamburger Helper.
Arby's does not provide a price tag for the Oven Mitt campaign, but the New York Times reported it will cost $85 million. That's money well spent diluting and confusing their brand...

Oven Mitt, voiced by Tom Arnold, is emotional about "Oven Fresh... Oven Good" food – a point of infestation between Arby's and it's competitors that the company hopes to reinforce. Oven Mitt takes over Arby's advertising from Appetite Man, voiced by Barry White, who detailed Arby's menu items for the previous 18 months.

The Oven Mitt campaign, created by Doner Advertising in Detroit, includes 30-second commercials to air on cable TV, plus radio, print, point-of-purchase and promotional items. Doner's research team found consumers respect and desire food prepared in an oven – finding it synonymous with special occasions, comfort and home cooking. Indeed, Arby's takes special pride in their three-hour slow roasting process.

Oven Mitt has his fans, no doubt – Arby's won the 'Hot Again' award from Nation's Restaurant News in 2003. But not everyone likes the floppy unfunny kitchen garment.

Various websites have called Oven Mitt "ugly and unlikable", the "bastard love child of the Hamburger Helper hand and Grimace from Mickey D's", and announced that "the Oven Mitt from Arby's must die." A writer at revealed that the "creepy talking oven mitt...terrified me so much that I destroyed my own oven mitts just so they couldn't start talking; now my hands are covered with burns". One web site went so far as to sponsor a petition which began:

"We, The Undersigned, believe that the Arby's mascot, Oven Mitt is evil and all use of said mascot should cease immediately. The idea of an amorphous, living, breathing oven mitt, while at first bland and boring, becomes revealed as something so unnatural, so abhorrent that any and all traces of its existence should be wiped from this earth.... " (

The point is this. There is a difference between creating bad advertising which people remember well (Old Navy, for instance) and bad advertising people simply abhor (Lamisil, for instance). There is also a difference between creating good and bad humor – the later of which Oven Mitt excels at. Here's a hint for Arby's and Doner Advertising to keep in mind: It's never good when consumers are laughing at you, not with you.

In an attempt to create a humorous public-facing personality with which to elevate its sagging public perception, Arby's has failed to make us laugh. Indeed,Oven Mitt's only success is in making Arby's advertising a joke. fb

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Straight Guys Love the Queer Eye

Believe it or not, Patrick, Fleming, and I apparently never learned how to correctly tie a tie. Not that we're in an industry that demands much in the way of neckwear, but it's something that we took for granted. In the first episode of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" that we watched, Carson Kressley, fashion savant, demonstrated how to tie a tie for his hopeless subject in Great Neck. Our collective jaws dropped. We'd been doing it wrong for 26+ years and not a single straight soul had ever corrected us. We were sold. Five episodes later, we're still learning.

Two years ago, in Boston's South End, a woman condemned her husband for his unkempt appearance. “Why can’t you look like them?” she asked, indicating several well dressed, groomed, and mannered gay men. The gay men, instead of lampooning the man, came to his rescue – complimenting some of his fashion and suggesting improvements. “What she needed was a queer eye for her straight guy,” observed David Collins, who witnessed the incident, as he relayed the story to his partner, straight producer David Metzler.

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" was born.

"Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" premiered on July 15 on Bravo, a small basic-cable network best known (previously) for "Inside the Actor's Studio". "Queer Eye," a hilarious unscripted lifestyle-makeover show features the “Fab Five,” a super-hero styled team of gay experts who transform one straight man in need of serious help in each 60-minute episode. The fashion victims, by the way, mostly submit themselves to the Fab Five's scrutiny, though straight subjects are occasionally submitted by girlfriends and wives. Straight slobs in the greater New York area beware.

The show's cast, selected first and foremost because they were experts, not just because they were gay, is an exceptional team of professionals. Ted Allen, the show’s food and wine connoisseur, is a contributing editor to Esquire magazine, and coauthors the "Things a Man Should Know" column. Kyan Douglas, the show's grooming expert, has lent his expertise to TLC’s "What Not to Wear" and "While You Were Out". Thom Filicia, who manages his own sizable interior design firm in NY, has been noted as one of the top 100 American interior designers. Jai Rodriguez, the culture guru, stared in Rent and is a fixture on NY's club circuit. Finally, fashion elite Carson Kressley, the team's one-line dealing leader, has lent his design expertise to the likes of Ralph Lauren.

Of course, the success and instant popularity of the show can not be attributed solely to their "queer eye". The show's greatest assets are its good sprit, its hilarity, and its constructive methodology. They don't destroy the straight guy or rebuild him "gay". And Bravo spends $1,500 to $10,000 an episode for the makeover (depending on the income of the straight subject – they're trying to create a lifestyle the straight guy can maintain). What's more, the miracle transformation is somewhat of an illusion. While the show appears to take place over the course of only one day, the actual makeover lasts as long as three days, during which time the straight guy is put up in a hotel.

NBC, which owns a controlling share of Bravo, is milking the show's instant success for everything it's worth. While committed to keeping the show on Bravo, NBC has aired three complete "Queer Eye" episodes in primetime. The Fab Five had a two-night stint on The Tonight Show – including the opportunity to remake Leno and his set. They've been on MSNBC's new programs and are set to guest-star as themselves on the second episode of NBC's sitcom "Good Morning Miami" this fall.

You can catch new episodes of "Queer Eye" on Bravo, Tuesday Nights at 10pm. You probably didn't even know you had Bravo, eh? We didn't. You can also catch reruns throughout the week. Finally, a reality improvement show that is fun, well-mannered, and done first in the US (Damn the British and their "Changing Spaces!")

Give "Queer Eye" a chance. You'll love it, straight or no. fb

The Gay Scare

Maybe I'm missing something.

In this era of terrorism, economic recovery, foreign war and occupation, democratic trial in California, region-wide infrastructure failures, and political disillusionment, doesn't it seem folly to focus so much on the crippling social impact of a bishop and a TV show?

Perhaps folly to focus on it it so much that you might consider amending the Constitution?

Here's my point: Last time I checked, the gay community wasn't forcing itself on anyone. Watching "Queer Eye" or "Will and Grace" won't make you gay. No one is being forced to have sex against their will. But to consider revising our most revered national document in an effort to limit the personal rights of a minority population is one of the most offensive ideas I've heard come out of government in decades.

And as for the moral argument against homosexuality...well, lets all remember to take our scripture with a pinch of salt, shall we. The Bible, which vaguely condemns homosexuality and specifically condemns sodomy, also reminds us that woman are inferior to men, that we should keep slaves and treat them kindly, and that certain Levantine enemies of the Jewish people should be held in bondage forever and all of their cities should be burned to the ground and never permitted to prosper. Hell...the Bible doesn't allow bank loans. Banks!

I'm saying it's a hair out of date on some points. That's all.

Maybe it's because I have gay friends that I can't understand the heterosexual panic. It's true, there are some terrifying gay insurgents out there. Take this one for example:

Gene Robinson, Hew Hampshire's new Episcopal bishop, is a 56-year-old divorced father of two. He has lived with his partner, Mark Andrew, for 13 years in a committed monogamous relationship. Terrifying.

I understand the ecclesiastical argument his opponents have made. And I acknowledge the threat levied on the Episcopal church by the 77-million-member Anglican Communion, of which Episcopalians form the U.S. branch. They've threatened severing ties with the American church over Robinson. Sure they will. Just like they did when they threatened a schism over the US church's insistence on confirming women to the priesthood. I'll hold my breath. (In the event that I'm proven a complete jackass on this point, and they do sever relations, I will also breathe again)

Not convinced? Think I'm just ranting (which I am)? Try this one:

Critics of homosexual Americans are quick to site their apparent threat to the revered concepts of family and stable society. Family – a concept already sundered by the heterosexual world's inability to take marriage or child-rearing seriously – would likely benefit from the inclusion of a few more stable couples, regardless of their particular gender pairing. And society? You mean the ideal of Western Civilization? The crucible of culture founded in Greco-Roman tradition by men such as Plato and Aristotle, Socrates and Caeser – all men of fluid sexual preference living in model societies that embraced homosexual and bisexual behavior? My point.

I'm not endorsing homosexually. I just don't see why anyone should care. Maybe I'm in the minority of people who belive that a person's private life should remain private and unmolested by Federal decree. If a gay person flirts with you, don't be offended (would they be if the tables were reversed?). Be flattered. fb

Terry Tate: Office Linebacker

While working on last month's critique article, about the winners of the 2003 Cannes Advertising Festival, we stumbled across our new collective favorite advertising personality. Destined to be known with the greats – Joe Isuzu, the "Where's the Beef" lady, and that obnoxious kid from Dell – Terrible Terry Tate, Reebok's Office Linebacker, has crushed his way into our hearts.

Terry Tate, a fictitious football linebacker created by the Arnell Group for Reebok, made his debut during the 2003 Super Bowl. During an evening of fairly unimpressive super-budget commercials (oh, how we pine for the days when the Internet bubble filled football with great advertising – we miss you, dog!) Reebok set themselves apart with an off-the-wall, and extremely violent, peek into corporate culture.

The original one minute spot (a Cannes Golden Lion winner, coincidentally, enough) features Terry Tate dishing out retribution on inconsiderate and lazy office workers through physical assault and verbal abuse. Doesn't sound funny? have no idea how funny high-impact tackling and verbal berating can be in an office environment until you watch Terry in action. It's like watching Michelangelo paint – pure artistry.

Terry Tate was hugely popular with Super Bowl watchers, if you can call them that – TiVo reported that more of its viewers watched the ad than the game itself. In the week following the Super Bowl (January 26, 2003) Terry Tate was the subject of more Internet searches than the Dixie Chicks or Osama bin Laden. Reebok searches, not counting those for Terry Tate, went up 90 percent as well. Hits on the Reebok's Terry Tate site, designed by Los Angeles-based Hypnotic, shot up 308 percent on the day after the ad first aired. Since then over 700,000 people have voluntarily subscribed to Terry's mailing list, over 1.6 million Terry Tate films have been downloaded, and traffic to the online store has quadrupled.

And what's there for you to see? Following up on the success of the initial ad, Reebok launched a series of short films, all available on the site, and a spoof commercial targeting their primary rival, Nike. You can even send "Hit Mail" to friends – each message featuring a short film clip.

Our favorite film moment of Terry Tate? When Terry tackles the man playing solitaire at work. "You like playin' games, Gene? Well I got a game for ya. It's called, 'How much pain can Gene stand before Gene learns not to play games anymore.' That's my game. That's Terry's game. And when it's game time, it's pain time. Woo!"

Patrick does a terrifying rendition of that quote.

But don't think that Reebok has limited the Terry Tate advertising franchise to online and commercial film.

Actor Lester Speight, who plays Terry Tate, is currently a candidate for Governor of California. It couldn't have been too hard to dig up 65 signatures in a state disillusioned enough to support over 200 candidates – including cross-dressers, porn stars, a centenarian, and Gary Coleman – with Reebok paying the $3,500 entry fee.

The Arnell Group plans to keep Tate on the ballot for as long as he can milk the hype and then publicly withdraw from the race to reap even more publicity. The only snag: The candidate might become too popular and actually earn votes. Reebok has already been accused of disrespecting the democratic process. Really... how much more ridiculous can a Madison Avenue creation running for Governor be than some of the antics already perpetrated by California legitimate candidates – Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger among them.

The real magic of the Terry Tate advertising phenomena is that, despite the attention that it's focused on Reebok and the increase in sales – especially among the 18-34 demographic – it has generated, the Terry Tate ads and films feature no Reebok products in detail. He wears their vector logo around his neck and their cross-trainers on his feet...not that he sits still long enough for you to see either.

Turns out there might be more to branding than just keeping your logo in front of people. A 6'7" 300 pound linebacker can do the trick just fine. So watch out. (The pain train is comin'... The pain train is comin'... Woo Woo!) fb

Saturday, July 5, 2003

The Best Thing Since Color

If you've been paying attention to the subtleties and innuendos latent in Fight.Boredom's topics over the past year and a half than you've probably read about how much we love TiVo.

It's not a crude or vulgar love. It's the love one might have for air or food. It's the love of something so necessary, now that you've found it, that you're not sure how you ever lived without it.

Do we sound obsessed yet? Maybe a little. If this surprises you than you've obviously never used TiVo.

TiVo is a service that automatically records your favorite television shows every time they air, even if the time slot changes. You watch what you want, when you can. There's no more aimless channel surfing, no more rigid network schedules, no more interruptions like phone calls, and no more missing out on great programming you're paying for. And you can use your TV more efficiently. With TiVo's ability to fast-forward through recorded or buffered TV, you can watch more TV in less time (we dare you to watch 24 without commercials...that's an adrenaline rush...)

Through the use of Season Passes and advance schedules, you can queue up what you want to see and then go about your life. Like Saturday Night Live but want to go out Saturday night? TiVo it and watch it later (SNL lasts only about 40 minutes without commercials and musical guests, incidentally). TiVo buffers live TV, too, so you can pause, rewind, and fast forward and never miss a thing.

And new TiVo recorders come with 35 to 80 hours of hard drive space. TiVo can also connect with your computer, wirelessly, so you can access PC-based MP3s and photos on your entertainment center.

We watch less TV now than we ever did before, though we watch more, and better, programs. No more sitting through commercials. No more adjusting our lives to suit network schedules.

Just think: Sunday nights use to be spent trapped indoors waiting for the Simpsons and X-files. With TiVo, the evening is free and the Simpsons will be there for me to watch when I will.

Thanks, TiVo!

Freedom is a wonderful thing. You just have to love it. fb

The National Do Not Call Registry

How the Government Ruined My Inbox

Don't get me wrong – I love the National Do Not Call Registry. It's one of those rare and inspired examples of Federal consumer protection. It works great and it's free! Hot damn!

But there is a dark awful consequence of my home telephone's silence: the insidious chirp of my email client. (I think if I had to listen to that AOL voice tell me I had mail every fifteen minutes of everyday I'd have lost it long it is, the bouncing Outlook/Entourage "E" – which just started as I write this – is pushing me over the edge.)

In case you've been in a hole for the last few months (or buried under mountains of spam), the National Do Not Call Registry is a free service, intended to block most telemarketing calls, launched and managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The nationwide-registry grew to more than 10 million phone numbers in the first four days following its launch in late June. At the height of the registration surge – the first day – 158 phone numbers were signed up every second. About 85 percent of the numbers have been registered online, at; the remainder by calling toll-free at 1-888-382-1222.

The FTC expects that, of the 166 million residential phone numbers in the United States, up to 60 million will be registered in just the first year. Registries who sign up by August 31 should see an 80 percent decrease in telemarketing calls after FTC enforcement begins on Oct. 1, 2003.

Of course, the telemarketing industry estimates the National Do Not Call Registry could cut its business in half – costing it up to $50 billion in sales each year. Hold back the tears. I think I felt worse when the Fed "crippled" the crack industry.

And it's been great. We were already on the Georgia No Call List and now, with the Federal list to boot, the phones are silent. But those mass marketers, the same people who brought us the auto dialer and the recorded telemarketer, have (of course) other ways into our homes: Namely, spam.

That's not to say that you shouldn't expect an increase in your snail mailbox, too, but spam is where it really hurts. Already marketing and Internet watchdogs have reported an increase in spam volume online. It may strike you as strange – and it will likely shock email marketers – but I don't need a new mortgage, my own online casino, Human Growth Hormone, Viagra, penis enlargement, mini spy cameras, prescription drugs, hardcore pornography, or (the coup de grace, here) the ability to send my own mass emails.

Spam is such a hated medium for unsolicited marketing, though, that even The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) doesn't like it. According to a poll by Harris International, 96 percent of Internet users find spam "annoying," 80 percent consider it "very annoying," and 74 percent find it "so objectionable that they would like to see it outlawed." The Wall Street Journal reports that spam now comprises 41 percent of all e-mail, and the torrent of this useless data costs corporations $8.9 billion a year.

This all begs the critical questions: Where the hell is the National Do Not Spam Registry? The government freed my phone – it's time for Spam-Free America!

Our hopes may very well rest in the 108th Congress. Anti-spam legislation is going to be debated, including the "Ban on Deceptive Unsolicited Bulk Electronic Mail Act of 2003," the "Criminal Spam Act of 2003," and the creatively named "Anti-Spam Act of 2003."

The Anti-Spam Act of 2003 would require all commercial e-mail messages to be identified as such (but not with a standard label , except for sexually explicit messages), and to include the sender's physical street address and an opt-out mechanism. Messages relating to a specific transaction and consented to by the recipient would be exempt from those requirements. The bill would prohibit commercial e-mail messages with false or misleading message headers or misleading subject lines and it would be illegal to send commercial e-mail messages to addresses generated by an automated dictionary attack.

But when you consider that the National Do Not Call Registry took three years of focus group and survey research to execute, the hopes for immediate Spam protection fade quickly. And while efforts such as the Anti-Spam Act look to regulate the offensive media, they are not without opposition. The DMA, for one, is opposed to what is likely the most obvious and reasonable legislative request: the mandatory opt-out mechanism.

In the mean time, I'm anxiously waiting for the chance to report an fraudulent violation of the National Registry (the telemarketer gets a nice fat fine) and biding my time until the National Do Not Spam Registry becomes a reality. Precedent has been set...

We won't be holding our breath, but we will be filtering our email. fb

The Cog

Over the last month a great deal of email traffic has been devoted to an unconventional British car commercial.

"The Cog," an Honda UK commercial featuring a two-minute automotive Rube Goldberg chain-reaction, has been heralded by critics as one of the best car commercials ever made. NBC's Today Show spotlighted the ad on American TV and much was made of the commercial's Grand Prix chances at the 50th Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

A commercial for the extended Honda Accord, the film is designed to demonstrate "the beauty and precision of the pieces and the ingenuity of the engineers who built it." Starting with a solitary cog, the elaborate chain reaction ends with a rolling car and dropping marquee to a voice over saying "Isn't it nice when things just work?"

And, were patience and cost the standards for measuring advertising greatness, "The Cog" would have little competition. Take two-minutes to watch the "The Cog" and consider the following: The ad is completely real – no interruption, no editing, no computers, no special effects. It took 606 takes (all previous ones had failed), and reportedly cost $6 million to make (though no exact figure has been released for public scrutiny).

"The Cog" was considered a popular favorite going into the 50th Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, the only annual get together of the world's advertising and marketing communities. This seven-day June event encompasses major facets of the industry: film, outdoor, press, cyber, media, and direct marketing media.

Close to 8,000 key industry players, from 40 countries, congregate at the festival to view the best in advertising and creativity. During the festival week, competitions showcase over 5000 commercials, 3500 outdoor ads, 6000 print ads, 1300 websites and online ads, 800 media solutions and 1200 direct marketing entries. Winning ads are awarded the highly coveted Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lions, and the Grand Prix – reserved for the most outstanding creative work.

But the judges at Cannes reserved the Grand prix award for another ad and bestowed upon Wieden + Kennedy / Partizan Midi Minuit team a Gold Lion, the highest non-exclusive rank in their category.

The Grand Prix winning film – "The Lamp," executed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky / Morton Jankel Zander – is the tear jerking story of a discarded lamp advertising Ikea furniture. And, while this brilliantly conceived mock-dramatic presentation strikes a more emotional, and humorous, chord, it lacks the awesome originality of "The Cog."

And don't think that American firms were left entirely out in the cold. Nike and Reebok each scored significant wins in the Gold Lion for film categories (Rebook's amazing campaign, "Terry Tate: Office Linebacker," has revolutionized inner-studio relations and humor here at Cloudjammer).

But don't get your hopes up that "The Cog" will play anytime soon on American TV. The Accord model advertised isn't available – nor are there any plans to make it available – to US consumers. fb

Thursday, June 5, 2003

Golf The Way We Really Play It

At Cloudjammer, we slip out for nine holes every now and again after work or during lunch. We run on up to our local course, RiverPines, and hack a round or hit the range. Despite all the work, training aids, and friendly advice, one immutable fact holds true about our golf games.

We suck.

We're not terrible, per se – just not good. This complicates things when we run down to Golfsmith to buy some balls or a new club. The Salesmanship is all about how good you are. How good I am is not a factor in my game.

This is where Bogey Pro comes into play. Bogey Pro is a product line designed specifically for the inferior golfer. Instead of concentrating on how good your golf game is, Bogey Pro focuses more on the aspect of the game most of us bad golfers often forget about – having fun.

Their tongue-in-cheek product line includes poor performance golf balls – in zero distance, poor spin, and no control varieties – t-shirts and cozies bearing helpful golf tips – such as "Keep your head down...while ogling the beer cart girl" – a hilarious covert beer cooler disguised as a shoe bag, golf lessons in a box, underachievement awards, and a stylish "+1" cap., the official site, is well worth the visit. Their 19th hole features unique lessons – how to break your club, use your foot wedge, and throw your bag – and interactive features allow bad golfers nationwide to submit stories, pictures, and report lost balls. There's even a very scientific golf skills test and a score adjustment card which takes into account different weather phenomena and levels of sobriety.

From a design perspective, too, the site is compelling. Select almost any product in the Bogey Pro shop and you can view, in a well designed and functional interface, close details of the packaging. The site also has a refreshing overall design – not the same tour series photographs and classic feel you find at Titleist or Callaway's sites. is just plain fun.

So while our golf games show little sign of improving in the near future (though that foot wedge lesson has saved us a lot of strokes) Bogey Pro has given us a reason to keep playing. And if, God willing, any of us ever do break 100, then we'll know just where to get their underachievement accolade. fb

Chambers Don't Work

Chambers of commerce don’t help your business.

Have you ever joined a chamber of commerce with the hope and dream of business networking success? Sure you have. We all do it. We join networking groups and chambers in the hope of getting more business for our company. Most of the time it fails. But it isn't necessarily your fault.

The main reason chambers of commerce fail to produce new business for most of us is the philosophy of the chambers themselves – they're not interested in helping small business succeed. Here is a story that sums it all up:

I was contacted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to become a member. I asked the sales person, “How do I get more business from my membership?” He stated, “You go to networking events and make contacts.” I have been to at least 100 networking events and I know how they work. You get to stand up and introduce yourself to hundreds of other people all looking for business, not interested in help from you. How does this get you business? It doesn’t. The members of the chamber that spend five thousand dollars on an executive membership get to meet the real business people and network with companies that can actually buy your services, not the standard members with basic memberships just trying to survive.

I decided I would try to help other chamber members by creating an online tool that would allow the free exchange of business on the Atlanta chamber’s website. They agreed (with reluctance) to put it online and send out a letter. They sent out only one letter...with the wrong password! The letter never went into the details of what the system was supposed to do… get the members projects, make them money, and grow their businesses (the very raison d'être of the chamber in the first place). I offered to come in and give presentations and talk about how the exchange was supposed to be used and how it would benefit the members. They never let me. They weren't interested.

Consider your local metro chamber. They make their money by getting small business owners to join for a year. Once you leave, disgruntled and $500 poorer, there will be other small business owners to take your place – hopeful business men and women who have no idea there is no “real” exchange of business in the chamber that can grow their business.

- Matt Francis, Interscape Inc. fb

What the Webbys Want

On March 7, 1997, the Webbys were born. Eleven awards were handed out in the first of what has become the annual Oscars ceremony for the Internet.

The Webby Awards honor sites that Internet users visit daily for information, entertainment, community, products and services. This year's 7th annual Webby's ceremony rewarded winners in thirty categories a range of accolades – Webbys, people's choice awards, business Webbys, and, for the second year in a row, the internet's "Rising Star" (based on a site's traffic as established by Nielsen/NetRatings). Webbys are awarded by Members of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences, based on creative and technical criteria, and people's choice awards are awarded based on democratic online voting – in each case, balloting is tabulated by PricewaterhouseCoopers to insure fairness and accuracy.

But what are they looking for?

The Webby Award nominees and winners are chosen from the best sites entered through an annual Call for Entries and sites encountered in the judges' experience. Each site is judged against six criteria. According to, they are:

The information provided on the site – not just text, but anything that communicates a site's body of knowledge. Good content should be engaging, relevant, appropriate for the audience and the medium. Good content takes a stand, is informative, useful, or funny, and always leaves you wanting more.

Structure and Navigation
The framework of a site, the organization of content, the prioritization of information, and the method in which you move through the site. Sites with good structure and navigation are consistent, intuitive, and transparent. Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth of the site's content.

Visual Design
The appearance of the site. It's more than just a pretty homepage and it doesn't have to be cutting edge or trendy. Good visual design is high quality, appropriate, and relevant for the audience and the message it is supporting. It communicates a visual experience and may even take your breath away.

The use of technology on the site. Good functionality means the site works well, loads quickly, has live links, work cross-platform and cross-browser, and any new technology used is functional and relevant for the intended audience. Highly functional sites anticipate the diversity of user requirements from file size to file format and download speed. The most functional sites also take into consideration those with special access needs. Good functionality makes the experience center stage and the technology invisible.

The way a site allows you to do something. Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it's input/output, as in searches, chat rooms, e-commerce and gaming or notification agents, peer-to-peer applications, and real-time feedback. Interactive elements are what separates the Web from other media.

Overall Experience
Demonstrating that sites are frequently more – or less than the sum of their parts, the overall experience encompasses content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, and interactivity, but it also includes the intangibles that make one stay or leave, place a bookmark, sign up for a newsletter, participate, email the site to a friend, or stay for a while, intrigued.

Candidate sites also undergo a rigorous six-month, three-tiered process to win the coveted Webby Award.

First is the review of sites entered in the Call For Entries. Thousands of sites are submitted each year and Academy reviewers – Internet professionals who work with and on the Internet – independently inspect each site, rate them based on the six judging criteria described above, and compile those ratings to compare all of the sites entered in each category. The resultant "short list" is then presented for consideration by the nominating judges in each category.

Second, judges establish nominee sites for The Webby Awards.
Beginning with the list of sites distilled from the Call for Entries, the five nominating judges in each category contribute some of their own recommended sites and deliberate online directly for up to six weeks. At the end of this period each nominating judge rates their top five sites according to the judging criteria and casts a vote for each of them. The resultant list comprise Webby nominees.

Lastly, winner are chosen. Each member of The Academy casts one vote for the best of the five nominees in any given category. Sites with the most votes win. In the case of people's choice awards, the sites with the greatest number of votes win. In many cases, Webby and people's choice award winner are the same.

What value do the Webbys really have? From an Interactive communications perspective, the Webbys monitor trends, reward thoughtful and well-executed web activity, and publicize (and in some regards, legitimize) good online practices. In a world where the kid down the street can build you a website for $100 and poorly-conceived institutional website abound, the Webbys do much to remind us of what can be done well online.

And what good does it do us to know what the Webby's are looking for? Simple. The Webby's look for the same thing your website's audience look for: engaging content, clear navigation, clean design, functionality, interactivity, and a quality visitor experience. It isn't too much to ask. fb

Monday, May 5, 2003

A Year of Fighting Boredom

We've been battling boredom for a year now.

And in that year we've gotten some great feedback from our readers. We've been told that "this is a great e-zine! Very simple, great writing. Good job!!" and that it "is first class. Absolutely excellent."

We certainly like to think so. Thanks!

We even had a reader (who obviously didn't have enough to do) run our articles from the 2002.10 issue through a grade level proficiency system (something we try to avoid at all costs). The results? See for yourself:

CRITIQUE. A New Rosetta Stone 10.8 grade level
OPINION. Democracy in Action 9.3 grade level
REVIEW. Crack TV 7.9 grade level

In all fairness, our critic ran his own email through the system: 5.9 grade level.

And we've had some feedback from the subjects of our articles as well. IDEO responded to us about their book review and Virginia Velleca of the Defoor Centre contacted us in regards to our 2002.07 review: "This site is really beautiful and your review of us most complimentary and appreciated ... I'd like to mention it and include it when we are talking to other people about what we are trying to do here. Thank you very much for your kind words and exceptional images."

Readership grew steadily though the first year of Fight.Boredom as people found the site (most of them, through Google) and added themselves to our monthly announcement mailing list. To date, our most viewed issue was 2003.02 with almost 9,500 hits and our most linked to article, "A Brand Battle Smack Down".

Some of our most read articles were those involving video media ("The Perfect Fusion of Audio and Video" and "Volkswagen & Mr. Blue Sky") while our most lauded articles dealt with real world issues and the critical design issues surrounding them ("What The..." and "Visual Communication of Grief"). We also had a number of very confused readers respond to our April Fool's Day homepage...

And, last but not least, a few new Cloudjammer clients have found their way to us through Fight.Boredom or juxtaposed the e-zine against our portfolio. We're glad they liked what they saw.

But this first year of Fight.Boredom hasn't been without its problems. Despite best efforts, monthly publication dates have varied wildly across the calendar (for instance, the August and September 2002 issues were published only a week apart). 2003 brought a commitment to publication in the first week of each month...this issue exempted, apparently.

And we've had a few articles that drew less favorable comments. While everyone we've heard feedback from agreed with our opinion in the article "Two (More) Reasons to Hate Verisign", several readers have asked us about personal anger management and legal representation in regards to the Internet security giant.

But it has been a great year...and a lot of fun for both the writers and the readers (if their feedback is to be believed). Hopefully another year of the battle against boredom will be just as successful and even more widely read.

'Till then...keep fighting! fb

The Future of Online Music

There have been few times that a single industry fought change as hard as the music industry has. With the height of Napster they should have seen the writing on the wall – and maybe they did – but still they fought to keep their music out of the virtual world. Instead of embracing this digital trend they have revolted against it, throwing around lawsuits and demands; screaming of the problem without offering an answer.

Apple, however, may have found the answer. Where the music industry lacked initiative, Apple has taken up the slack and developed a new online music store. This is not the first attempt at this, by far, but it is the most successful. They are using their own AAC (Advanced Audio Codec) developed by Dolby Labs to both improve the sound quality of digital music files and protect record companies by inserting user information into each song purchased. This technology allows for only a few file transfers to other computers while still permitting users to burn CD’s or transfer songs to their iPods. This keeps the music industry happy and brings everyone one step closer to the solution.

The problem has been around as far back as I can remember – you had your duel tape player/recorder and made copies of your favorite tapes. Then came CDs. They took a little longer to figure out – since they required a little bit of technical sense to really get a handle on it – but soon we were burning CDs and that was that. Then a little something happened that we like to call the Internet revolution and, in no time, you could just download your favorite songs online. This was the beginning to Napster and the many other file swapping services that followed in its wake. Now that Napster has fallen to the wayside, those services that remain have their own problems. The Recording Industry and the government are beginning to crack down on individual file-sharing users and recording artists are beginning to saturate the file-swapping systems with bogus music tracks of only static.

I guess I miss the good old days when pirating was safe and easy with my trusty dual tape player/recorder.

Liquid Audio and Musicnet are two contenders with Apple that have had a lot of press. Liquid Audio’s owners are selling it off piecemeal and Musicnet has been the host of much criticism. They both follow the same payment plan, where you pay a subscription fee and gain access to more and more songs the longer you pay. The problem is that when you stop paying they close your access to the music you were listening to off of their servers.

This is where Apple steps in and is different: they charge you for each individual song, 99 cents to be exact. Then the song is yours to do with as you please, as long as you don’t transfer it to more then 3 different computers (but who is counting, really). In order to make this work Apple has brought in the big 5 record companies BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal, and Warner. They have brought over 200,000 songs to the digital table and continue to add more. My only hope is that they continue to add in the smaller labels to fill more then a few holes that appear in the online selection. Many new popular bands, such as the White Stripes, and even some old pillars of the industry, like Madonna, are absent from the roster. Even with a few set backs it will be interesting to see where Apple takes this and what will happen in the future of online music. fb