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