Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year, I go back and look up this essay by Christopher Hitchens. Here's my favorite part:

"it is the sheer modesty of the occasion that partly recommends it. Everybody knows what's coming. Nobody acts as if caviar and venison are about to be served, rammed home by syllabub and fine Madeira. The whole point is that one forces down, at an odd hour of the afternoon, the sort of food that even the least discriminating diner in a restaurant would never order by choice....Still and all, I have become one of those to whom Thanksgiving is a festival to be welcomed, and not dreaded. I once grabbed a plate of what was quite possibly turkey, but which certainly involved processed cranberry and pumpkin, in a U.S. Army position in the desert on the frontier of Iraq. It was the worst meal--by far the worst meal--I have ever eaten. But in all directions from the chow-hall, I could see Americans of every conceivable stripe and confession, cheerfully asserting their connection, in awful heat, with a fall of long ago. And this in a holiday that in no way could divide them. May this always be so, and may one give some modest thanks for it."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kinda funny

I am genuinely charmed by QVC's plans for Black Friday: the "leading network for TV shoppers promises special deals and a healthy dose of new items for sale starting on Thanksgiving night. Program host Dave James plans to stay awake for 28 hours of telethon-like coverage.

It's an interesting attempt to create an urgent, frenzied, mob-like feel for people who stay away from the stores that day. You don't want to leave your couch, yet you don't want to miss the rush. Problem solved.

Why have you turned your back on NASCAR?

TV ratings "for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have been on a steep decline since 2004. In fact, ratings for the Ford 400 have dropped 43% percent from the 2004 rating of 5.2 during that time period." Hmm. What's changed in the last 5 years? Is it surprising that NASCAR had so many viewers to begin with? And really, how can sponsors and manufacturers afford to stick around now?

Well, everyone has a theory. This comment is amusing and probably accurate: "NASCAR is sanitized enough to appeal to female democrats who are members of Westchester Country Club. The only problem is, they don't want it. Watch out for PBR (Prof Bull Riding)."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Now that you've given up fur, we'd like to talk to you about your wedding band and TV

Mining for gold ruins the environment and kills fish so right this minute I'm heading to the pawn shop to sell all my jewelry. Even the grill. Otherwise, I assume protesters will be all over me. I mean, has anyone been splashed with gold paint yet? It could happen! And if I lived in California, I'd get rid of my energy-hogging TV even before they vote on that big-screen ban. Don't want to get soaked by technicolor paint either!

More arty more fear

One more thing. Reading about the Christie's auction -- where a Peter Doig work sold for $10.1 million, indicating that Doig "seems to be weathering his recession-era testing nicely" -- reminded me of something from 2 years ago, when dealer Daniella Luxembourg was warning collectors about overvalued art: "Luxembourg wouldn't name 'overhyped' artists. Marketing -- by auction houses, museums, art fairs -- spreads knowledge as well as carries risks, she said. Richard Prince, Peter Doig...have had rapid price spikes that may make them vulnerable if the market turns down."

And at Sotheby's, "The market for Richard Prince survived its first major test since the recession. In July 2008, one of his pulpy images of a blond nurse sold for a record $8.4 million. Tonight, a brunette nurse in green, 'Doctor's Nurse,' was priced to sell for at least $1 million. Mr. Mugrabi got it for $1.7 million."

Maybe everyone is wrong. Maybe art isn't an economic indicator in the way we thought it was. I'm now almost completely convinced that these healthy prices should scare us. Instead of "shaking off the recession," the wealthy are hunkering down and the rest of us are all 10 different kinds of screwed.

"The auction house said it might have been too 'intellectual'; private dealer Richard Polsky said the piece was simply overpriced."

Bottom line on the Christie's and Sotheby's art auctions: no to Basquiat, yesyesyes to Warhol. But is it "a gear-changing sign that the art market is shaking off the recession" really? Or simply rich people looking for a safe place to put their cash during a still-very-much-in-progress cluster? Either way, the big winner seems to be "a Connecticut woman named Cathy Naso, who once worked as a typist in Warhol's Factory and had kept the painting [a Warhol self-portrait] out of sight for decades." Sold for $6.1 million.

Elsewhere on the WSJ arts page, hey there's George Steel! City Opera reviews are mixed so unfortunately for everyone in Dallas, the schadenfreude potential is somewhat limited. Balls!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sean Salisbury's lawsuit against Deadspin is now officially interesting

Although I can't decide if it's because he just added the site's editor as a defendant -- smart interview there, kid -- or because the McKinney paper is the one breaking all the news.

The Dallas Morning News chooses their ad agency as best place to work in Dallas-Ft Worth. I see no conflict whatsoever.

Congratulations Richards Group!

I know: others will be cynical. Yes, the agency may still list the Morning News as a current client and yes, all newspapers these days may be starved for ad revenue. So what! I see no reason -- none at all! -- to doubt the objective and highly scientific selection process.

Oh X

An American Airlines update from Dustin Curtis: "A FEW MONTHS AGO, I wrote an article expressing my displeasure with American Airlines‘ hideous online presence. I also spent some time mocking up a redesigned version of their website. To my surprise, a user experience designer at emailed me an amazing response describing some of the design problems faced in large corporations. You should read...the response from Mr. X here. An hour after I posted the response, American Airlines fired Mr. X."

Well. Them's rules. But it's a shame. Mr X's comments are only minimally negative. He seems to be genuinely trying to engage, honestly, with someone who had a bad experience. And I especially liked this bit: "simply doing a home page redesign is a piece of cake. You want a redesign? I’ve got six of them in my archives. It only takes a few hours to put together a really good-looking one, as you demonstrated in your post. But doing the design isn’t the hard part, and I think that’s what a lot of outsiders don’t really get.... But those of us who work in enterprise-level situations realize the momentum even a simple redesign must overcome."

Friday, November 06, 2009

I may well be the only one who cares about this

Suddenly Roger Friedman's Showbiz 411 has been redesigned to look almost exactly like TMZ which is funny because much of what Friedman posts is written as a counterpoint to many things reported -- or, as Friedman would probably put it, "reported" -- on TMZ. A search of Showbiz 411 for the phrase "TMZ you ignorant slut" turned up nothing but I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

Could Gap possibly have turned this thing around?

October: not too shabby for retailers. "Particularly encouraging were the gains at Nordstrom and Gap, whose clothing is pricier...than what wallet-conscious shoppers would typically spring for." Remember when things seemed so hopeless for Gap? I myself had an unhealthy obsession with the subject.

Maybe I'll transfer my attention to Abercrombie & Fitch who "was one of the bigger disappointments, logging a steeper-than-expected 15 percent decline." Yeah, they lowered prices but they're still mean -- a quality they seem to be proud of. Interesting.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

OK, this really is the last Halloween thing. Maybe.

Among the very few advertising-inspired costumes of 2009, Billy Mays was expected; the Money You Could Be Saving With Geico was genius.

Too Californian to fail

William Voegeli in the LATimes: "Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more people moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas had a net weekly population increase of 1,544....According to a report issued earlier this year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., Texas students 'are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age,' even though per-pupil expenditures on public school students are 12% higher in California. The details of the Census Bureau data show that Texas not only spends its citizens' dollars more effectively than California but emphasizes priorities that are more broadly beneficial. Per capita spending on transportation was 5.9% lower in California, and highway expenditures in particular were 9.5% lower, a discovery both plausible and infuriating to any Los Angeles commuter."

Voegeli elaborates in the City Journal: "Aside from Louisiana and Mississippi, which lost population to other states because of Hurricane Katrina, California is the only Sunbelt state that had negative net internal migration after 2000. All the other states that lost population to internal migration were Rust Belt basket cases, including New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, and Ohio."

He's not arguing for lower taxes. Voegeli seems to believe that governments truly can act responsibly with huge sums of money even though he sees very little evidence of that. For Californians, this seems especially damning: "States that have grown accustomed to thinking of the engine that drives their economies as an inexhaustible resource—whether it’s Michigan and the auto industry, New York and Wall Street, or California and the vision of the sunlit good life that used to attract new residents—find it tough to compete again for what they thought would be theirs forever, and to plan budgets for lean years that turn into lean decades. Instead, they invest their hopes in a deus ex machina that will rescue them from the hard choices they dread."

The two articles together really could be used as campaign ads for Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Monday, November 02, 2009

"There is nothing that kills creativity more than bitterness"

I think there's a lot to learn from in this Jay Leno interview. Also, did you realize that, in terms of total viewers, he averages about the same number as he did in his old timeslot? I didn't.

It's always kinda puzzling to me how Leno is regarded by critics, like he and his audience must be complete idiots. I don't know. After reading this, I feel like he's enormously gracious, certainly more savvy than he's ever given credit for. Here's your Terry-Malloy-just-put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other quote: "I see other people fall by the wayside, drugs, alcohol, too straight, too gay; whatever problem it is, I try to keep myself level-headed, and that's how you do it. If I have any strength at all in this business, it's the ability to keep going forward under tremendous pressure and under tremendous body shots, and that's where your advantage is. I know you said you didn't believe me, but I do take a certain perverse pleasure in this. See how low you can go, rock bottom, before you can keep crawling back up again."

Everybody has one

Opinions on the new Levi's campaign: compare, contrast.

I'd like to add some of my own thoughts but right now I'm too mesmerized by the Sears Craftsman NEXTEC Hammerhead Auto Hammer. Why couldn't they work just one or two more brands into the product name?

Sunday, November 01, 2009

One last Halloween thing

Martha C. White is the least fun person in all the world: "as the Great Home Equity Cashout hit its stride, our preferred flavor of spooky turned commercial. We had the money to blow and we believed marketers who told us we needed inflatable lawn mummies. Last year, we spent $5.77 billion, compared with $2.5 billion in 1995. Much was made of this continued increase, since the holiday came on the heels of an economic catastrophe. And last year was a turning point -- because this year we've spent 15 percent less."

Her figures for this year seem based on predictions not actual sales numbers so I think her real point is that she doesn't approve of adults spending all that money. And lo: "This scaling-back of the more commercial festivities surrounding Halloween is a good indication that the holiday will return to its roots as a low-key kids' day."

Where Seth Godin sees the true meaning behind the trend -- "the only holiday...where there is an arms race of creativity" -- Martha C White finds just a bunch of crass, contemptible people with too much disposable income. She isn't much of a thinker, is she?

Hell with real or perceived racial insensitivity; isn't that Derek Holland?

I think so. Kinda funny Deadspin wouldn't mention that.

And if it is Holland: crap. Shouldn't he be back home in Newark, Ohio, eating Wheaties and running wind sprints? The way that guy pitched in those last seven games? Remember? Yeah. Step away from the cheerleader.

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Wait. What did Deadspin do with their original post? I removed the link, which now redirects you. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleader photos and the comments that discussed how lame the original post was? Those are gone. But they kept the newer post that references the cheerleader photos, so you know.

AND: Now KRLD 1080 AM has the photos, which is interesting when you consider that they're a sister station to the Cowboys' flagship 105.3 FM as well as home to the Rangers' radio broadcasts.

OK: It looks like Deadspin restored the original post. Whatever, right?