Monday, March 31, 2008

More Muxtape awesomeness

The Muxtape home page has been updated to list a random selection of muxtapes (muxes?) that have been created to-date. Reload the page for a different set to choose from.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Simple, smart, on-brand

Google went black today. The search monolith known for altering its logo for holidays and such switched to black this morning in honor of Earth Hour.

According to Google: “We think the 'lights out' idea's individual-centered nature is something that millions of people worldwide can participate in. In short, we really like it. So we did something about it.”

Interesting to think how this seems “so Google,” and how if it were Ford or Chevron or Verizon or McDonald’s it would come off as disingenuous.

Join the fun by turning off all lights for an hour tonight, beginning at 8pm.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I’ve been an Elbow fan since I saw them open for South back in 2001 or so. Their second album, Cast Of Thousands, is one of my all-time favorites. And while I thought Leaders of the Free World suffered a bit from “regression to the mean,” I still enjoy it, and their live show on that tour was great.

Elbow’s new album, The Seldom Seen Kid, comes out April 22nd. For me, the songs I’ve heard from it are batting about .500. I didn’t really care for “Grounds For Divorce” but I love “One Day Like This” (already available as a single).

Today’s song of the day is another great track off The Seldom Seen Kid, entitled “The Loneliness Of A Tower Crane Driver.”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hopes dashed

I had big plans to write a post today about last night’s Bon Iver show at Nectar* in Fremont. Unfortunately, the show was sold out and I was turned away at the door.

So instead, I’m posting this clip of Bon Iver's main man Justin Vernon performing “Flume.” Watch it and think about all the great stuff I would have written about the live show. Use big words; I would have.

* I think Nectar is a strange place for this show, and I have to assume the passing of the Croc has something to do with it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The mixtape is dead. Long live Muxtape.

Ah, the glory of the mixtape. A selection of songs, collected and shared. A repurposing of others’ creations to form new messages, new meanings. A sonic quilt of sorts. Simultaneously public and personal.

Let's revisit the words of mixtape master Nick Hornby (from High Fidelity):

To me, making a tape is like writing a letter—there's a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You've got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention (I started with "Got to Get You Off My Mind", but then realized that she might not get any further than track one, side one if I delivered what she wanted straightaway, so I buried it in the middle of side two), and then you've got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and you can't have white music and black music together, unless the white music sounds like black music, and you can't have two tracks by the same artist side by side, unless you've done the whole thing in pairs and... oh, there are loads of rules.

Unfortunately, as new and exciting entertainment technologies arise and make obsolete many things that suck, there are innocent victims as well. Cassette tapes have already been cast aside like so much flotsam (due mainly to their sub-par sonic quality, clunky design and comparably short life span), and with them—the mixtape. Sure, we still have the mix CD, but for how long?

Enter Muxtape. An online service that apparently just launched today. With Muxtape you can upload songs to create a 12-song mix, then send it to your friends as simply as forwarding the link. The one I made today is at

According to Muxtape creator JSTN, there were 4,000 songs uploaded by 2,000 users in the first 7 hours. Not too shabby.

Via obsessivecompulsive.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The future

You've probably read or heard a lot about how marketing and advertising are changing. About marketing as a service. About connecting with customers. About content as currency. Social networks. Engagement.

Here’s a nice presentation from Paul Isakson's planning blog that gathers a lot of this together.

Friday, March 21, 2008

You've got your Daft Punk in my Notre Dame!*

Who says music and sports don’t go together? Not the kind folks over at the Pasta Primavera blog, apparently. On the contrary, they’ve taken the excitement of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and crossed it with their love of music. The result is an exciting bracket of 64 entrants where each Tourney team is paired with a musical artist of “equal caliber.”

I love the idea behind matching an artist with the team that most represents them, and vice versa. The choice of Spoon/Texas is probably a happy accident as much as anything, but it’s a great pairing. Some seem a little questionable (Cat Power is a 13 seed?), but I’m letting it go.

Also awesome: They’ve posted an mp3 for every artist. (Don’t forget to support the ones you love by buying their stuff.)

Check the first post here, with other regions covered in subsequent posts.

Man, that !!! win over Andrew Bird in OT this morning was awesome.

* Yes, that’s another candy reference.

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

Allow me to introduce you to We Barbarians, a trio from Long Beach, California. Apparently these guys started selling their self-released EP In the Doldrums at shows and via mail order last November.

I’ve been digging their song "Yesmen and Bumsuckers" since it was KEXP’s featured song of the day earlier this month. Frontman David Quon’s voice has a weathered, dangerous, no-stranger-to-hard-drinking quality (kinda like Greg Dulli, but in a good way). Impassioned without being overwrought.

They’ve got some live dates later this month in Southern California, and then in the Northwest in mid-May (including Neumos in Seattle on May 18th), opening for Tokyo Police Club on both legs.

Here’s “Yesmen and Bumsuckers” from We Barbarians:

Also check out the great We Barbarians in-studios available gratis over at Daytrotter.

Anyone see these guys at SXSW? Carr?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How much comfort can one man stand?

Here it is. The long awaited follow up to Sunday’s post about Milky Way candy bars.

As promised, I bought myself a Milky Way bar, regular size, from a newsstand at Denver International Airport on Sunday, in preparation for my flight to Seattle. Once we were airborne and my row-mates had fallen asleep, I unwrapped the Milky Way, cleared my mind, and took a bite.

Not surprisingly, a Milky Way isn’t very good for you. A regular size bar delivers 260 calories contains 7 grams of saturated fat (35% of your RDA). Reading the nutrition information on the wrapper I thought back to the ‘80s tagline, “A Milky Way a day helps you work, rest and play.” One a day?! Are you kidding me?!

I must say it was a soft and chewy experience. Perhaps a little too chewy. (The latest versions feature “more caramel,” which isn’t a draw for me). It’s a rich candy bar. By the time I got to the last third of it, I started feeling like I was polishing off a large, dense chocolate torte.

When it was over, I was glad to be done with it.

But I do see how someone at Mars landed on the idea of comfort. Maybe they should co-op with La-Z-Boy*, another comfort marketer, and promote eating Milky Ways while reclining in cushioned pleather. Because when I was done with mine, I was ready to sit back, relax and enjoy my flight.**

* I would have linked to the latest La-Z-Boy spot with the giant pot pie, but I couldn’t find it. It’s dumb, but that spot slays me.
** Airlines need to stop saying this to their passengers. It’s not 1975, folks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Reduce, reuse

Let’s say you need to create a website for your agency. This site must have some basic information about the agency, of course. It also needs to be able to show your work—print, TV and web. And don’t forget about all those mentions in the press.

In addition, you want the experience to say something about who you are. To show, not tell, that you’re part of the move toward more transparency in business. No secrets. Open kimono.

At some point you might realize that all the stuff you need to have on your website already exists elsewhere on the web. That being the case, if you’re Modernista your new site simply accesses this pre-existing stuff in a simple, elegant way.

I’m pretty blown away by the coolness of this “site.” The interface is great and totally minimal.

Go to the work section and select TV and you’re redirected to YouTube. Select Print and suddenly you’re on Flickr. Web,

As the Denver Egotist said, it must be visited to be fully appreciated.

Speedy gun licenses for men who agree to shoot blanks

The most interesting news item of the day might be the story out of India’s Shivpuri district.

India, whose population is 1.1 billion, has been encouraging its citizens to have smaller families. Along these lines, officials in Shivpuri have decided to offer an interesting incentive for men who undergo vasectomies: quicker processing of their gun licenses.

Apparently the marketing ploy is working. Last year, a grand total of 8 men underwent sterilization. But since the gun license preference policy went into effect last month there have been 150 vasectomies, with another 100 expected by the end of this month.

According to alternative news source The Raw Story, Shivpuri is a “bandit-infested region,” where gun licenses have been historically hard to come by. “The district of 1.4 million people has just 11,000 licensed arms, but locals say they want guns because bandits have large numbers of unlicensed weapons.”

No mention of the more direct benefit more guns might have on the overpopulation problem.

Thanks to Brian for the article.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Shout Out: United Express Desk Clerk

A big shout out today to the woman behind the check-in counter at the United Express desk in Colorado Springs yesterday who looked at the 6’5” guy and—without being asked, and without even mentioning it—changed his seat on his Denver to Seattle flight to one in the exit row.

Even though it was a middle seat (and even though it was directly in front of a crabby toddler), I appreciate your empathy for how uncomfortable flying can be for us tall folks.

May karma smile upon you.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The worst good thing

What’s the least appealing candy bar manufactured today? If you work in an office with a communal dish of various “fun size” candy bars, you know the answer. It’s Milky Way.

At my office there’s a standard pattern for the depletion of the candy basket. After a day or so, the Butterfingers, Reese’s and Snickers have vanished. The M&M’s, both plain and peanut, have also disappeared. The mini Hershey bars are gone, probably to someone hoarding a jar of peanut butter at their desk. Even the Three Musketeers have been snatched up by desperate choco-philes making harried decisions amid dwindling options.

After 72 hours that basket is the home to the dregs of the candy world. Stale Tootsie Rolls. Hershey Kisses of indeterminate age. And of course, Milky Way minis.

But why?

A Milky Way candy bar is composed of three substances, all delightful: chocolate, caramel and nougat. It’s essentially a Snickers without peanuts. And people love Snickers. So why is it they won’t accept something that delivers 75% of what they so obviously love?

If we all agree that a Snickers is better than a Milky Way (and my office candy basket analysis supports this assessment), perhaps it’s that once you’ve had a Snickers, it’s hard to settle for less. Maybe that’s it. Maybe Milky Way is a candy bar for people who don’t mind settling for less. But, especially in today’s world, who is that exactly? And other than the picked-over candy basket scenario, when is a Milky Way your only choice?

I imagine it’s not easy to come up with a marketing strategy for Milky Way. (Snickers, by comparison, seems much more ripe for creative ideas, and the recent Feast work is both funny and true to the product’s “packed with peanuts” heritage.) What’s the draw for Milky Way? That it’s milky? That just sounds gross.

With peanut allergies at a seemingly all-time high, could Milky Way’s tagline be “Like a Snickers, but without all those pesky nuts”? I love thinking about how much time’s surely been spent pondering marketing strategies down this avenue.

Milky Way ads from the ‘80s positioned the candy as a helpful break from a busy day. I love the tagline. “A Milky Way a day helps you work rest and play.” Like it’s a sensible alternative to an apple or something. Check out this one, which may just support my claim that—ideologically—sailing was the ‘80s ultimate symbol of “the good life.” (Hence Yacht Rock.)

A spot from the ‘89 positions it as a snack that won’t spoil your dinner (which seems like another way of saying “empty calories”). Notice that this is the antithesis of the Snickers “really satisfies” strategy.

The 2006 TV spot for Milky Way focused on the idea of comfort. I guess they indeed have a softer texture than Snickers (as they lack nuts) and caramel is probably a “comfort sweet” (I’m improvising here, in case you couldn’t tell), but comfort seems more like a Three Musketeers idea.

The latest Milky Way spots continue with the sexed-up comfort theme but use the tagline “Life’s better the Milky Way.” Whatever that means.

Just as there’s been a lot of talk recently about whether or not we should do away with the penny, and just as John Moore over at Brand Autopsy often asks, “If X went away, would anyone care?” I am asking you: If Milky Way candy bars went away, would anyone care? Would anyone even notice?

So now I want to hear from you. What do you like or dislike about a Milky Way?

Tonight, while flying back to Seattle, I am going to buy myself a Milky Way candy bar (regular size) and experience it as if for the first time. I’ll report my findings.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I’m heading to the airport soon, so it only seems fitting that today's song is from a band whose members are scattered across the eastern U.S. and whose band photo was taken in an airport terminal.

Today’s song of the day is “Body Buzz” from the band Aloha, off their recent EP Light Works. A really nice tune for a rainy day (which is what we’re having in Seattle today).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Finally, a reason to go out to the bars!

Last week the Boston Globe reported on the latest craze sweeping the nation: PowerPoint Karaoke. It’s basically just what it sounds like. Take the stage and present a deck you’ve never seen before, pulled at random from the web.

The Globe says:

In a bar, with a beer, PowerPoint becomes more Monty Python, less "Catch-22." Instead of being victimized by someone who insists on reading aloud Every Single Bullet Point in a grim death march to the final corporate-logo slide, you have a presenter who is just as lost as you are, if not more so. The playing field is leveled; the inmates are running the asylum. And unlike regular karaoke, where the singer's performance is measured against that of a professional rock star, a PowerPoint Karaoke presentation usually has nowhere to go but up from the original version.

This idea is so great I’m champing at the bit* to try it or see it done.

* That’s right, I said “champing.” Look it up.

Via Brand Flakes For Breakfast.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Four capital letters

We’ve gone music-crazy over here at Super Floss for the last few posts, and today continues that trend. Kind of.

This is actually a post about the awesome retro graphic treatments explored (or re-explored) in Justice’s video for “DVNO.”

Especially love the closing reference to the old Stephen J. Cannell productions closing credits.

Watch it here now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The more things change...

This just in: Vampire Weekend is the modern equivalent of Haircut 100.

I’m not saying this to marginalize them. I think they’re a decent band. But don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ve got some decade-plus career in front of them. They almost certainly don’t.

Big today doesn’t mean big tomorrow. Remember Jesus Jones in the early ‘90s? You couldn’t escape “Right Here, Right Now” short of putting a handgun in your mouth.

Plus, Vampire Weekend’s niche sound nearly ensures no one will want to hear them 18 months from now.

I’m just sayin’.

Clip courtesy of Ben.

Still in love with the Stills?

If you’ve heard “Shadow of the Day” on rock radio, you may have gotten a touch excited about the return of the Stills. And while its dramatic build and soaring vocals do sound like a commercialized version of something off the Montreal band’s first album, “Shadow” is actually a single by Linkin Park.

But fear not, gentle reader, because the Stills are indeed finishing a new album.

I write this with some apprehension. Following their fantastic 2003 debut, Logic Will Break Your Heart, 2006’s Without Feathers was a disappointment. The opening track, “In The Beginning,” featured a weak-wristed version of the riff from Heart’s “Barracuda” over which they layered a melody reminiscent of Slade’s silly ‘80s romp “Run Run Away.” And in a shocking about-face following their guitar-dominant debut, the band eschewed guitars in favor of piano for most of the record. Save a few brief moments like “It Takes Time” and “Destroyer,” the album never seemed to get going.

But over the weekend I stumbled upon a video, posted just last week, for the Stills’ new song “Snake-Charming The Masses.” The song is more intense and dramatic than anything from Without Feathers, and to my delight there’s not a piano to be heard. In fact, musically, the song sounds a lot (too much?) like Elbow’s “Forget Myself,” and “Snooks.”

Hey look, I’ve embedded it right here!

Pretty cool juxtaposition between the song and visual. The 4-and-a-half intense minutes of footage of a house engulfed in flames reminds me of Health’s “Heaven” video Ben posted back in November (which I liked so much I’m posting it again here).

If you go to the Stills’ website you can check out some accompanying poetry that might make you wonder if this new record is a concept album. Like an apocalyptic sonic novel of sorts. "Snake-Charming The Masses" certainly is a socio-political-commentary-sounding title.

No word yet on a release date, but I’d guess within a couple months or so.

Carr, they've got four shows in Austin this week. Check one out and give me a report.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Thank God it’s Friday’s song of the day

I was fortunate enough recently to see David Bazan play what would be the final show at Seattle’s famous Crocodile CafĂ©. He played unaccompanied—jangly Telecaster through a dirty amp, giant voice filling the room. It was a great performance and unlike any of the shows I’d seen during his days fronting Pedro The Lion.

Today’s song of the day comes from a gig he played earlier in the same tour, at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina. Bazan opens the show with a medley that begins with “Harmless Sparks,” a two-minute vignette of a song about a world in which Catholic priests get busy with nuns “instead of breaking little boys’ hearts.” Bazan’s growing agnosticism is showing, as it does in a few of his newer songs.

“Harmless Sparks” gives way to “Fewer Moving Parts”—ostensibly about the dissolution of Pedro The Lion—from his solo release. Bazan has always had a way with language, deftly blurring the line between honesty and irony. When he sings “Don’t think I don’t regret it because I do and I don’t think I’m better off alone,” the pauses in his phrasing alter the meaning of the line back and forth, and he comes across as feeling both remorseful and remorseless at the same time.

And if anyone knows of another song that name checks Bob Costas, I’d love to hear about it.

Download the entire show here (courtesy of David Bazan and the Hard To Find A Friend site).

Why we (don’t) fight

In last month’s issue of Esquire, Chuck Klosterman wrote an interesting piece on the passing of Norman Mailer and, primarily, our inability to relate to the sport of boxing because we no longer worry about physical confrontations in our own lives.

He makes a compelling argument and he may even be right, but while Klosterman notes that “we currently inhabit the most peaceful era of human existence” (per cognitive scientist Steven Pinker), I think this is largely irrelevant. Pinker’s work compares the present day to centuries past, and as individuals, we have no perception of change on that scale. More relevant is our perception of change during our own lifetimes.

It’s probably true that when I was a kid it seemed more common for grown men to scuffle (though it may not have been). And learning to fight seemed like a skill that could be valuable. But I think a big reason why the brawling I naively expected has never come about is guns.

The days where you could get into an argument at a bar and suggest it might be time to step outside are over. Not because we’re too chicken to fight (though maybe we are), but because we’re unwilling to risk escalating a situation to a level we’re not prepared for. We can no longer trust the other guy to not pull a gun.

(To take this argument to a very Klosterman place, I'd argue the American fistfight has disappeared right along with the mid-range jumper in the NBA. Just as pro ball is all three-pointers and dunks, our altercations are either verbal or homicidal. The middle ground has disappeared.)

Not only has gun-related crime been covered more by the media, gun use is actually up compared to my childhood years. I don’t think typical American men in the ‘70s and early ‘80s worried much about an angry commuter pulling a gun on them at a red light. Data from the Department of Justice (charted above) might even support that. Though the numbers for aggravated assault with a firearm are way down from the early ‘90s, they’re still about 50% higher than when I was in grade school. (And surely the violence of the ‘90s is still in our collective subconscious.)

So while I agree that boxing has lost its relevance because American men are no longer concerned with fisticuffs of their own, the reason for the latter is not really a decreased sense of violence around us, it’s an increased sense of the unpredictability and seriousness of that violence.

Thanks to DY for directing me to the Klosterman article.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Double your pleasure

Flipping through a magazine not long ago I was really struck by the simplicity of this ad* for Camper shoes. Clean layout, no copy, interesting logo placement, product included but not overpowering the ad. I really liked the restraint and what I felt was the intelligence of it.

Then I turned the page and got the follow-up. Cool and interesting, and surely more interruptive. And yet, I suddenly liked the whole thing less.

I’m not saying they’d be better ads without the sequential build (and half the media spend), but I guess it’s an example of different strokes for different folks. And a reminder that in advertising there are often many right answers (and even more wrong ones).

The trick is finding the most-right answer for the target.

* I know these ads came out a few months ago, but I’m only just now getting around to writing about them. Deal with it.

Other Camper executions here and here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Digital surplus creates analog demand?

Two cool videos making the rounds lately with an interesting thing in common.

The first is an awesome music video for Shitdisco’s song “OK.”

The second is a short film from Job & Roel Wouters out of Amsterdam called “abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz” (which I either don’t get or think is just OK).

The technology to create either video was available decades ago. Further, the performances themselves would have been possible centuries ago. And yet the Internet is the only reason we’re seeing them and may be the only reason we care.

There’s obviously some cool stuff in the world that, because of the limitations of technology, media or audience haven’t been distributed in the past. There simply was no feasible distribution model. Web 2.0 (and the Long Tail) changes that, obviously, but it seems like it’s taking us a while to realize it and take advantage of it.

As we’re exposed more and more to high-resolution imagery, 3D modeling and virtual worlds, these things become more familiar, more expected, but also more boring. At the same time, handcrafted objects seem to be becoming more and more eye-catching.

But I would argue they only hold this power while on the Internet. I’m no more interested in crafts today than I was two years ago. No more likely to stop at the farmer’s market to browse handmade items. But there’s often something magical about the collision of craft-y stuff and the Internet.

This reminded me of something my friend Brandon Geary said in his presentation at last year's Avenue A | Razorfish Client Summit, concerning his observations of flipbook activity on Conde Nast’s “The flipbooks that seem to be getting the most views are the ones that look the most analog. Sketches, simple designs, simple photos...”

Perhaps this gets back to authenticity. By which I mean original-ness. One-of-a-kind-ness. With the increased power of digital animation, and the increased ability to create things that look amazing with less effort, comes an understanding that there’s less special-ness to these things.

People want special, and they always will.

ShitDisco via obsessivecompulsive
abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz via the Denver Egotist

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The best thing you’ll see all day*

When I find cool things on the web that I want to share, I often stop to consider if it’s better to give some explanation as to what it is and why I like it, or just to post the link and let you, my faithful readers, explore and discover it yourselves as I did.

This site is kinda blowing my mind because it’s awesome and ludicrous and real all at the same time.

Read the pitch first (it’s a short 10 pages):

Then check out the site, especially the Buy This Site Now page.


Found via the awesome Zeus Jones blog.

* Depending on the day.