Larry David on Photography

I was listening to Jeff Garlin's (known for his roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Wizards of Waverly Place, Arrested Development, and many other things) podcast a few nights ago. Really fun episode talking with Larry David. It had me laughing out loud in public. Embarrassing but not particularly so. 

During the podcast they talk about photographs. Larry's diatribe made me laugh. And reconsider all the useless photographs I take but never do anything with.

LARRY: "By the way, you were talking about cameras, and did you know I've never owned a camera in my life? I've never taken a picture in my life. I have no record of my life! My father didn't own a camera. Any picture that I have is just luck, you know."

[To Jeff] "What are you doing?"

JEFF: "Taking a picture. Um. Here just look at me one."

LARRY: "What do people do with all these pictures that they take? I don't understand. What is that? I think it's just...what do they do with them? How much can you look at?! What are you looking at? What is there to see? Yes, okay, yes I was fishing that day. Big shit. Big shit! Look at us fishing. Who gives a fuck?"

"Welcome back to your regularly scheduled weekly linkly"


A sea of webpages swirl around our protagonist's head as he frantically types into his laptop. The rest of the office is still.

Last week on the internet.

Martin Weigel wrote two scathing pieces. One, "The choice for clients: Price vs value, vendors vs partners, delivery vs excellence", tackles the exact dilemmas presented in the title of the piece. The second, "The importance of being angry", is a masterclass on the importance...of being angry.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra covered "(Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay" (via Cover Me)

Ben Kay wrote about the declining of relevancy of awards for creatives. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I discovered the most boring 10 minutes on the internet

And a whole bunch of other stuff people found amusing but really all just added up to a pile of digital waste.

(On a more serious note, my best wishes go out to George Tannenbaum (author of the excellent Ad Aged blog). Get well soon, George.)

The Hackneyed Language of Sales

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

"This week all [product] are/is up to 70% off."

Hell, stop me if you've written that one before. Those words that are so ubiquitous that they have made the concept of sale price the standard.

Sure, there is research that shows people want sale prices. Of course they do. I mean have you seen how deeply discounted those leather jackets are? So discounted. 

But I digress. Just because there is a sale--and you have to promote that sale-- doesn't mean you need to do it the way you've heard over and over. 

In fact, it is detrimental to trot out the tired old sales language that sounds good simply because you've heard it on the Teevee hundreds of times before. However, take yourself, for a moment, back to third grade. When you learn about clichés. And how they're no way to express yourself because they're cliched and have become devoid of meaning. In a similar vein, the  way marketers talk about sales is hackneyed. Dated. Boring. 

But our third grade teachers didn't teach us how to talk about sales. So we don't avoid these business clichés the way we do literary ones.

So think, for a second, if a sale was presented in a fresh way. (That's our job, by the way, to come up with something fresh because people are tired of hearing the same old shit.) If an ad talked to people like people talk to people. Not how the stock department talks to the CEO talks to the marketing department. Something wonderful might happen. People might pay attention. And maybe, just maybe, they'll begin to like a brand.

Not love it. Oh no no no. Love is a long way away.

Think about relationships with the people in your life. You didn't start out being best friends with your best friend. You started out as two people, delighted by the potential that the other person could be cool. Someone to hang around with. Then that relationship morphs and evolves and soon enough you are best friends. You really like each other. 

But if that friend had come up to you offering "up to 80% on all criticism" as an opening line. As a way to get you through the door. How would that have worked out? Not too great in my estimation.

Understanding this is what helps Wieden produce great work for big box retailers.  On a more consistent basis than most anyone else.

Sure, Wieden can pick clients better than most. But they also invest a ton of effort into simplifying the message. They talk about one sale item. One price point. One story.

Of course that's the Wieden aesthetic, you argue. That's not what my client wants.

No client wants what Weiden offers out of the gate. They have to be taught that. they have to be shown how powerful a single message can be. How that will endear people to their brand. then and only then will the bend and accept the things you know to be true. It's not easy. It's not common. But it's probably the right thing to do.

(And I'm not doubting the validity of sales. They work.

Long live the oddball.

This article from NPR is so good. Any comment I make would be a disservice to it. So just go on and read it.

Hey, kid: thoughts for the young oddballs we need so badly.

Based off of this tweet:

Based off of this video:

Such important words in an increasingly homogenized world. Stay strange, people.

Drowning in digital waste

I have serious digital consumption issues. 

Chances are you do too.

At the time of this writing there are 22 tabs open on my work computer. 5 on my home computer (not to mention the 15 that are yet to be opened in a restore session tab). 735 "liked" videos on Vimeo. Over 200 on YouTube. Another 1,000 saved to favorites before that was phased out in favor of the Like.

At the time Google Reader shut down it informed me I had read over 17,000 articles since 2009.

Not to mention countless hours of to-be-listened-to podcasts. Hundreds of movies in my Netflix cue. A stack of books so intimidating I can't bear to look at it. And 36 combined hours of video marked "watch later" on Vimeo and Youtube.

This is the state of things. It is not good.

I used to believe that this endless consumption was a good thing. Valuable. It still is to a certain extent. But there is more information out there that I have liked and would like to visit again than I have time for. And more and more information comes rushing in every day. It's the virtual version of waterboarding. It's Huxley's nightmare realized. Numbness through self-selected stimuli.

And I am guilty of contributing to e-waste. I tweet a lot. Write here a lot (though sometimes not as often as I would like). Upload more pictures to Instagram than I ought to.

So what's the point? From a life perspective it's that the more you consume the more you want to consume. And eventually you become so bloated and full of shit that even the good stuff can't make it's way in. So the more you read the better filter you have to have. Because things can quickly go from enjoyable to overwhelming.

From an advertising perspective it's that you have to work so hard to do something good. Because everyone is in the scenario, maybe not as bad as me but still bad. They're distracted, overwhelmed, frantically trying to stuff their minds with more stuff. chances are unless you do something better than 90% of what's out there you don't have a chance.

Weekly Linkly

Back, better, and more weekly than ever before. Here's your weekly linkly:

  • Where's the most corruption in advertising? Not the creative department, or the digital department, nor the accounts. The scourge is spelled M-E-D-I-A. (Honestly, if you want to make gobs of cash just make a better media company. I'm not number inclined to do this but you should. You're welcome for your millions.)
  • Denounment by George Tannenbaum. It's about the hollow rhetoric you can expect to hear after most client meetings. When a meeting goes really well you only hear one phrase, "They're going with X. Let's get to work."
  • Moby is offering his entire catalogue to indie filmmakers. For free.

New Studio Ghibli movie. Must watch.


Jeff Lynne is incredible. (via)

Fish battle on land! 

The best Herzog quote of all time.

"The real Fitzcarraldo moved a far lighter boat from one river system to the next, but he disassembled the boat into little pieces and got some engineers to reassemble it later on. But for what we did there was no precedent in technical history, and no book of instructions we could refer to. And you know, probably no one will ever need to do again what we did. I am a Conquistador of the Useless." - Werner Herzog in "Herzog on Herzog" (p. 179)

He's delightful.

Weekly Linkly

New movie review site from a former AV Club writer: The Dissolve.

"Nothing about the job gets easier. You learn to have a little more confidence in the choices you make. You learn what you like. I feel that when it starts getting easy we sort of pause and question ourselves." The Perlorian Brother's interview about their first shoot, and the lessons they've learned over the years.

Steve Martin's "Writing is easy!" from The New Yorker.

Why "real" might not be best.

That's one CRAZY border. (via @Laurenpsmith)

Fake swords made for real. This guy is pretty impressive.

Breathing is execution-dependent

I was listening to "Marketplace" on NPR (something I don't often do) and happened to catch an excellent, excellent interview with Netflix's Chief Content Officer*, Ted Sarandos. A great interview for anyone who is even the slightest bit interested in TV.

In the course of the interview he said something that applied to any creative field. In fact, I think it could be the the first rule anyone leans about executing ideas:

"I always love that phrase 'Oh, this is a good idea but it's execution dependent. As if anything in life is not execution dependent. Breathing is execution-dependent."

It's something that agency people and clients should be cognizant of. Much as a bad idea can be made decent through great execution--not that decent is the goal--a great idea will go rotten if it's executed incorrectly. As John Hegarty says, "Advertising is 80% idea. 80% execution." So the old 'execution-dependent' saying can sometimes act as a shield when an idea is a little thin. But it's not like making anything is ever going to be a breeze.

The piece also gave me an appreciation for big data (which makes me just about the last person to jump on THAT bandwagon). One of the ways Netflix knows a show will be successful is because they have so much data about their viewer's tastes. And the people equipped to interpret that data. Because their entire business is built upon helping you figure out what you want to watch.

So Netflix's whole process comes down to audience matching. Meaning Netflix can focus on picking and investing in a few good shows, rather than the scattershot method most networks use. Their only concern is helping those creators make the best product.

If Ted Sarandos is indicative of the other people at Netflix that's a very, very good thing.He also actually enjoys watching,  unlike what I've heard about most TV execs, which means he's a fan looking for the next show he's going to fall in love with. And it shows.

I've embedded the story below if you want to listen. Or if you prefer reading you can do that over on the Marketplace site.

*A title that's usually nonsense but, in his case, totally deserved. I mean have you SEEN House of Cards?

"When everything feels right, you have the impression that the film is shorter." - Chris Dickens

Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite comedies. Ever. It's one of those things that came into my life at a time when tastes are being formed and satiated my need for irreverence and love of cheesy action films.

What I remember most vividly about the first time seeing the film was the editing. Both picture and sound. It was delightful to watch action tropes played out as comedy. And the frenetic cuts blew my mind.

So when I came across this interview with the editor of the film, Chris Dickens, I just had to share it.

"I love to intertwine music and sound effects to create a ‘soup’ that is very atmospheric – so you can’t tell the difference between the music and the effects."

Because people often don't give editors the respect they deserve as the final hands that tough the film. And who knows what sick forms of entertainment I would like without him.

(Upon watching the trailer again I think it's safe to say that trailer editing has gotten a whole lot slicker since 2007. This one is kind of rough in retrospect. Oh well. Good film still.)