Tuesday, December 22, 2009

EPIC AMAZON REVIEW THREADS

What a great gift - received this from one MidCoast - one of our retouching vendors. They are very detail-oriented and they obviously did their homework when it came to a timeless gift. Can't beat the Stanley Classic 8oz Flask: good looks, sturdy design, and durable stainless steel wall, and a Stanley-backed lifetime warranty. I'm looking forward to using it for stove fuel when backpacking.

Now about the Kablamo! (aka amazonemperor) five-star review at Amazon.com of Stanley's Classic Flask.

Obviously this was in jest. But what kind of process does Amazon have for reviewing product ratings? Unless it is reported, the prank review will live on - possibly tarnishing a brand in the name of fun. Stanley should be monitoring their products for reviews like this and flagging them as needed.

Unless that is, they are trying to get a little extra buzz out of Kablamo!'s post. After all, four of six people found this review helpful. I checked Kablamo!'s profile and found that he had an equally rye sense of humor regarding a Clue game.

Epic Amazon Review Threads are the latest attack on boredom sweeping the internet. College Humor Internet Archeologist, Susanna Wolff, has an article with step-by-step instructions on "How to Write an Epic Amazon Review." Clever. Kind of reminds me of the Anarchist's Cookbook except these saboteurs subtly sneak in unaware and plant their Web-side humor with glee - knowing they just played the newest practical joke around.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tire Balancing Alternative

Lead is banned in many states from being used for tire balancing. Not internal tire-balancing beads that are used on some 4x4 tires. Some ingenious Mexican's have found an all-natural alternate: 137 pounds of a particular herb.

My wife was recently interviewed as part of a background check for a neighbor that was applying for a job with the U.S. Border Patrol. According to National Defense magazine, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aims to increase the number of border personnel to 20,000 by September. This is up from 12,000 in 2006. The objective was initiated two years ago by former President George W. Bush to inhibit cross-border smuggling and border jumping. Read more about this particular bust here.

For extra reading - check out "The 7 Most Ingenious (And Insane) Smuggling Techniques" article at digg.com. The "Human Captain's Chair" was my favorite. My least favorite was the "Cocaine Jesus" - a seven-pound molded statue in the shape of an idol. The elderly Mexican woman was paid $80 to transport the statue across the border. Estimated street value - $200,000.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

American Success Story - Pius Nyamora

In 1994, while working as Manager of a Ritz Camera & One Hour Photo in suburban Detroit, I placed an ad in the local newspaper for a sales position. A man called in response to the advertisement - I marked his name in my Franklin Planner for the following day at noon ... Pius Nyamora.

The interview was unlike any other that I had ever had. Pius spoke more with his eyes than his voice. We didn’t discuss his qualifications – we discussed his story. His life’s journey. Where he had been and why, at the age of 44 year, he was sitting here seeking a job for near minimum wage.

Pius told of his writing and critical views of the oppressive Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi’s government. How, as editor and publisher of Society, Pius sought greater democratic accountability in the Kenyan government. He spoke of government oppression, of being unlawfully arrested for speaking out against Moi and the fire-bombing of his office. Of how he and his wife, Loyce were granted political asylum in the United States. But asylum doesn’t pay the bills.

Pius was struggling to make ends meet selling Kenyan curios they brought with them. It was obvious he needed a job. Explaining his qualifications to my superior was another matter. The Regional Manager, Chuck Crawford was somewhat skeptical of his sales ability, but gave me the choice none-the-less. I took it and hired Pius rather than the other candidates.

In my twenty-seven-year-old eyes Pius was a hero. He believed in democracy and often talked fondly of his homeland and people. Pius also believed in what many call the American dream. Ritz Camera declared bankruptcy this year, but Pius now has two master’s degrees, teaches at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, and is an expert in local and foreign policy, democracy, immigration and diversity issues.

The collective melting pot of America is stronger for giving Pius and his family domicile from the oppressive Moi government. Pius is a survivor and I am blessed for having known him and perhaps helping in the smallest way get established in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Barrel Monster Creator Seeks Freedom

Q. What is orange and white and makes you grin from ear to ear? A. The clownishly clever Barrel Monster creations of Joseph Carnevale. Carnavale, a 21-year old North Carolina State University student, is facing destruction of property and larceny charges related to his 10-foot street art creation. The construction company, Hamlin Associates, didn't want to press charges - and even relished the attention it drew to the company. Unfortunately the prosecuting attorney is not keen on dropping charges. Three sites have recently popped up on Facebook, as well as an AP story on YouTube. Groups are already commissioning work by Carnavale for added publicity. My favorite traffic cone creation by Carnavale is the barrel alligator. Fresh and clever to say the least.

If you don’t want to see anyone go to jail over the now infamous Barrel Monster, please call or send a letter to Wake County Prosecutor C. Colon Willoughby, Jr.

Tenth Prosecutorial District
State of North Carolina
8th Floor, Wake County Courthouse
Post Office Box 31
Raleigh, N.C. 27602-0031
telephone (919) 792-5000

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Who needs airbags?

Wouldn't it be nice if all vehicles on the road had sensors and computers that could sense when another vehicle was going to pancake it in the next five seconds? A new Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) two-wheeled vehicle recently introduced by General Motors and Segway Inc have introduced a novel electric vehicle that literally depends on that premise.

Puma is small, lightweight and has minimal safety equipment. What it does have: two wheels, two seats and a brain. What it doesn't have: airbags and most traditional safety devices (they add too much weight).

Popular Mechanics articles and science fiction novels have proposed similar ideas for years - vehicles would drive themselves based on tracking technology (based today on GPS technology and a vast communications transponder network). Roaming deer, joggers and pedestrians would be safe from drowsy drivers and drunkards. Vehicles would communicate with each other and allow a regulated flow of traffic.

The PUMA prototype can reach speeds of up to 35 miles-per-hour and ventures up to 35 miles on a single charge thanks with its lithium-ion battery. The pod uses Segway's proprietary two-wheel balancing technology, along with dual-electric motors.

PUMA echoes of the Camper Lotus Personal Commuter concept of 2006. Similar technology was used on the battery-driven I-Bot Transporter back in 2000 and gasoline-powered gyroscopic Garavaglia Monowheel of 1904.

Kind of reminds me of doing wheelies and spins in the spare wheelchair at church when I was a kid (here's a kid I took under my wing). About the same time my parents upped our insurance policy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Dieselicious!

I'd love to power up one of these in the backwoods near our home with biodiesel from the grease vat behind Qdoba. These bikes can crawl up just about anything without leaving much of a trace. Lots of torque, less noise, fuel efficiency and true two-wheel drive put this high on the wish-I-had-it-but-can't-afford-it list.

The early "Trail-Breaker" off-trail bikes had a catchy "Goes Anywhere" motto and "go everywhere ... do everything" catch phrase. (Side Note: Great motto - I worked on helping the Jeep® brand trademark the "Go Anywhere, Do Anything™" slogan a few years back while working at BBDO-Detroit. This is the bike for everyone but Superman - the MK3 brochure proudly stated, "Ride one and believe. The only thing it doesn't do is fly."

Turns out Rokon has been building diesel-powered 2WD bikes since 1999 when they produced 20 for special duty in Mexican mines. It was either a Lister or Petter engine. Another Scotish company is producing a diesel bike called the Ecorider.

The bodacious brute above was shown off at the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottowa in 2008.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Enjoy The Ride

Hugh Barton of Glue Audio sent this short animation to Dante Nagy, our art buyer at Organic. Glue worked with Santa Monica based King and Country to create a vibrant other-world, where a tired old Fiat 500 is rejuvenated and given new life. video
Great execution - especially enjoyed the sound. According to Hugh it's been "ripping-up film festivals and was featured on Motionographer. I enjoyed looking at the boards almost as much as the finished product. Click here and enjoy a HQ version of "The Ride."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweaty interns for sale!

According to AdAge Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CP+B) has launched an eBay auction for their 40 interns - selling the talents for a three month period to the highest bidder. Highest bid so far is $4,250. All of the auction proceeds will go directly "to the hardest working people we know - the CP+B interns themselves" - perhaps so they can buy cots to set up at Crispin? The promise to bidders is "world-class advertising can be yours for only a fraction of the going rate." CP+B is a Miami-based ad shop (also in Boulder Colorado) known for buzz-oriented campaigns for Burger King, Mini Cooper and most recently Microsoft. Winning big awards for work is great, but sales are what counts in the end. The Miller Lite "Man Laws" campaign was flat from the start and failed to produce sales. The resurrected Orville Redenbacher campaign was just uber-creepy.

While in a strategy session in the Palms Resort in Las Vegas for Camp Organic, our internal empathy workshop, we were introduced to a truth that quantity matters. There is a distinct and measurable relationship between success and failure. According to the University of California Davis professor Dean Keith Simonton, the most creative people have the greatest number of failures because they generate the most ideas. Even lousy ideas are fertilizer for the creative process. The more ideas you generate the more original the ideas. Simonton writes in his book, Origins for Genius, "In fact, emperical studies have repeatedly shown that the single most powerful predictor of eminence within any creative domain is the sheer number of influential products an individual has given the world." This applies to musicians, scientists, sports athletes and creative ad agencies.

The size of the agency doesn't matter, but the volume of ideas used in the ideation process does. In this tight economy every penny counts so one way to maximize creative volume, and successful ideas, is by using interns. Crispin has managed to keep their idea pool pumping with a large pool of energetic interns. Fresh college grads looking to catch a break in the biz that are willing to work for minimum wage for the chance to score on a paying job.

Word on the Web is that Crispin interns are considered
cheap slave labor where they work like dogs, are worked to the bone and are just one legitimate step away from being prostitutes. Others call it a sweat shop. Mr Bogusky said in an AdAge article, that "the interns only make minimum wage," so this auction may give the 40 interns some extra pocket change for the weekend. Extra money for the interns. Good PR. More ideas for the agency. The bigger deal for the interns is exposure and diversified work for their portfolio. In this sluggish market it could pay off in the end. For CP+B this could play out to be an even better deal. The eBay site states in its disclaimer, "The winning bidder will receive a creative presentation developed by our interns over a three month period, consisting of strategies, recommended brand positioning and concepts. No production services or finished advertising materials will be provided." The concept is brilliant. The auction serves as a tease to get prospective customers in the door for the real show. Lure in the hungry company with an idea that they can't refuse, then charge to finish the job and deliver it in the real world. AKA - the dangling carrot technique. Once they get a taste of Crispin they may want more.

GamerIntel wrote a blog on Dangling the Carrot
for gameplay. The strategy has been used very successfully by game publishers to establish how many hours of gameplay you will get out of a title. The theory goes that the more time invested in playing a game, the more happy the player is. The game is deemed of more "value" to the customer. Unlocking different layers can keep gamers involved and raises the level of perceived value.

I helped develop the Jeep
® 4x4 EVO2 game along with Terminal Reality back in 2001 to help launch the Wrangler Rubicon. Terminal Reality was co-founded in 1994 by ex-Microsoft employee Mark Randel). We strategically released different stages of the game in order to teach the gamer about the Wrangler and extend gameplay. First we introduced Jeep 101 - the basics and then proceeded to the Rubicon Trail with Silverton Pass. Each stage would include upgrades to the Wrangler Rubicon including Mopar accessories. These added capabilities allowed the gamer to accomplish difficult feats that could only be done in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. We also offered "cheat codes" to get to different levels. All this added value and lengthened the campaign right up to the Wrangler Rubicon launch date. The tease worked as the sale of more than 1,000 Rubicon's were directly attributed to the extended gameplay.

Taste the candy. While this method is nothing new, CP+B is using the tease and payoff play in a novel way - with an unbelievable offer (CP+B work for dirt cheap) and rewards (strategies, recommended brand positioning and concepts). It's all about the process and relationship building. Look at the eBay site again and you'll notice the reward is only available for "local pickup only." The customer will be expected to be engaged in the process. In CP+B's house. Undoubtedly the three month intense courting process will come to an abrupt end with the customer wanting more. Of course you can turn the page - if you sign a contract with CP+B. I'll be interested to see who actually takes the bait.

Some questions that naturally come up with this campaign: What other agency is going to want to use ideas created by Crispin Interns? What company is going to want to tout that they were so cheap they could only afford interns? What's to keep the interns from driving the bid up until the last few days? The latest bid is up to $5,100 - up $850 since I started writing this rant.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One Sweet Ride

Willy Wonka would be proud. The “WorldF3rst Formula 3” powered partly by chocolate is 95 percent biodegradable and faster than a speeding artichoke. Scientists at the Warwick Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (WIMRC), part the University of Warwick, unveiled a biofuel vehicle powered by waste from chocolate factories and made partly from plant fibers.


This sustainable soybean sizzler's steering wheel is made of plant-based fibers derived from carrots and other root vegetables, the bucket seat is made of flax fibre and soybean oil foam, and the body was made of plant fibers mixed with resin. Most interesting is the biofuel that's derived from refining oils in waste chocolate and chip fat. You can hear the hear the subtle umpa lumpa, umpa lumpa exhaust note and see the car in action in this BBC video.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Palm Pre Preacher

Got opinions? According to a recent PC World article, Palm is offering up a few Pre devices to "Real Reviewers" (aka "Key Influencers") in order to get some extra buzz. Deal includes a free Pre and 6-month data plan for just-the-right-reviewers. Ends May 8th. The original news was posted by Job Zilber - Palm's Online Communications Director at the Official Palm Blog.

The influencer premise has worked well for many launches. Jeff Bell, former Vice President of Global Marketing for Interactive Entertainment (now with NCT Ventures), used it successfully to promote its Xbox 360 console.

Jeff previously headed up the marketing department for the Jeep® brand and worked closely with BBDO Detroit creative to get the word out to an extended network of first, or early-adopters. These decision makers, recommenders and influencers carry weight (street-cred) in todays fast-paced world.

The iPhone is by far the most popular device used in our digital agency (Organic Inc.) -- almost exclusively in creative and darn-near it in engineering. The engagement managers are a mixed bunch - with most using Blackberry devices. I'm hoping to plant a seed in the trenches to see if the Pre will take hold. We might even get some Jeep brand apps for the unit - we'll see. Let the influencing begin.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Ultimate Job?

A friend of mine forwarded this to me at work. Shredded Wheats needs a new Product Development Manager - a clever way to share the essentials of the brand - check it out at thepalaceoflight.com.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Social Sacrifice

It's fun to see how many friends you can hook up with on Facebook. That could include friends, former friends, schoolmates, acquaintances, recruiters ... you get the idea. A friend of mine sent me this message last month saying she was whittling down her network on Facebook. What's the optimal number friends? Too many and you look insecure. Not enough and you look like your anti-social, unconnected or just to busy to care.

According to one site there is a 5,000 maximum friend allotment. I took a quick survey and didn't find any of my friends in that mega-friend category.

What is the happy medium? According to researcher Robin Dunbar it's 100 to 150. That's the general size of group where everyone knows everyone else. Studies of military units, city dwellers and churches suggests a similar finding of 100 to 150 for the natural group size where direct relationships remain strong.

If you had over 800 friends in 2007 you were considered a social whale. The new egregious aggregate for 2009 has bumped up some - to 1000 friends. Greg Atwan, co-author of "The Facebook Book," about Facebook etiquette, considers having more than 1,000 friends "a pretty obvious cry of social insecurity" and said that having too many friends "dilutes the meaning of friendship for the rest of us more modest Facebook users." So what is modest? According to Facebook the average member has 120 friends.
Burger King (led by Crispin Porter + Bogusky) must have figured out the trend to drop friends from Facebook. Earlier this year they started a Whopper Sacrifice promotion to give a free Whopper if you "gave up" 10 of your friends. Each deleted friend ends up netting about 37 cents towards the $3.69 sandwich. According to a NYTimes article, "The application sends a note to each of the banished friends, bluntly alerting them that they were abandoned for a free hamburger."

I expect the Facebook Fatique factor to be in the press on a more regular basis as the social milieu encroaches more and more into peoples everyday lives.

Social Suicide

I couldn't resist posting this mash-up of the Social Media playing field by Tom Cunniff. Looks live a mutant virus at pre-pandemic stage.

My kids were recently fishing in a small pond had a couple of huge fish and all the rest were stunted little micro-fish. Too many fish and not enough food. The big ones chow on the smaller ones, but there is no chance for the little guys to mature and grow in size in the pond's competitive environment. In similar fashion, todays market has some big players that will continue to get bigger as they feed on smaller wannabes.

The social networking trend is growing at an exponential rate thanks in part to the back-up parachute plan-B mentality. Networking has never been more important. We'll have to see if many of these small social media upstarts can make it once the economy picks up ...

God bless this mess.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Genius or Madness?

Just watched a fascinating 2008 Oscar-winning documentary called Man on Wire based on Phillipe Pitit's book To Reach the Clouds. Phillipe has a magnetic and intense personality is part of the driving success of his quest to walk a tight rope across the World Trade Centre twin towers in 1974.

At the closing of the documentary, Phillipe gave a sublime summary of his life philosophy:

"To me life is simple - Life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to taper yourself to rules, refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself. Every day, every year as a true challenge, and then you are going to live on the tight rope."

The 59 year old Frenchman is now planning a series of high-wire walks this autumn around the United States.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hybrid Power by Gates

Bill H. Gates III, builder of Microsoft, is hoping to play his hand at automotive engines. A patent filed in October 2007 for an “Electromagnetic Engine” proposes using electrical and chemical reactions for power. The patent, number 20090091138, states that sophisticated software can continuously alter the way it operates. The patent states the engine "... may be configured to convert mechanical energy of the first piston to electrical energy during a power stroke, and to drive the first piston" in the non-power strokes. Read: Selective gas and/or electric hybrid powered engine.

There is mention of liquid reactant (plasma) injectors that would kick start a chemical combustion reaction using "reactant" fuel to get the combustion process going with the ability to convert the mechanical force into electrical or electromagnetic energy to drive the pistons. This clever merging of the electric and combustion process, with the ability to switch between systems, is elaborated on in the patent: "... the engine may select between the first and second modes," either gas or electric-powered, "in response to actual or predicted operating conditions." That's where the sophisticated software comes in.

The electromagnetic piston is interesting to say the least. But many free piston type engines have been proposed in the past and never seen the light of day. The patent states that each cylinder is non-circular and non-linear (read odd shape), and drive a helical gear box and work in tandem with a set of powerful electromagnets and juiced up by a rechargeable battery.

The patent was filed for a company named “Searete LLC.” According to techdirt.com Searete is one of many shell front companies for Nathan Myhrvold's Intellectual Ventures, a patent powerhouse for a myriad of innovations. According to an IAM (Intellectual Asset Management) article (large PDF file), Intellectual Ventures has a roster of senior inventors that either contribute to the patent pool or draw in innovation from their extensive networking. They move Intellectual Property (IP). According to Myhrvold the U.S. strength has changed, "IP is the thing we're good at," he stated. Since most manufacturing has moved overseas Myhrvold believes IP will only grow. "In 10 years patents will be even more important than they are now."

It might as well be the gold rush of the 21st century. With lots of cash to drop on speculative ventures, the rich are just trying to get richer in an ever changing world economy where information is king.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vegetal Chair

I found this wonderful video posted by David Carlson at the blog David Report. The mellifluous music by The Captains dances along playfully teasing your visual cortex with the meandering roots of the Vegetal Chair. Another site describes the biomimetic design story of the Ronan and Ewan designed Vegetal Chair. Grow see the video at Vimeo.com.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Social Immersion: Mirror Your Environment

A friend of mine sent me some photos of a "new" hunting blind that utilizes mirrors to mimic the natural environment.

The blind, called the Predator V4, is marketed as "the world's only mirror hunting blind." It is stated that the stand becomes any environment you place it in and is described as the perfect camo, or mirrorflauge. Clever stuff.

This same principle can be applied to social marketing where you want to be immersed into the social strata without being perceived as a foreign entity. I favor a 360 degree approach - much like a huge disco mirror ball.

You need to plant your mirrors all over the Web: Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter - and water with constant attention. Feed the bite-sized brand mirrors with fresh content and allow users to see and express their own identity as a part of your brand. Send messages to show you're a fan of their brand enthusiasm and their stewardship. Above all nurture participation. Read more in a very thorough article: Design for Social Networking.

Joe Marchese has an interesting article called, The Social Media Mirror where he states that "social media is a digital reflection of real-world social interactions." He goes on to further state that "social media is where people create a digital representation of themselves for other people to see."

Brands can act as accessories to individuals' social representations online. They are an outward digital expression of who they are in the real world.
This cyclical approach to social marketing is beneficial to the consumer and to the marketer. Adam Wilson, former Creative Director of the Jeep brand at Organic, Inc stated that social media participants were "micro broadcasters." They were key-influencers in a own micro-universe that overlaps with multitudes of other like-minded individuals.

I have the honor of acting as one of the key brand stewards for the Jeep brand.
The core values of the Jeep brand: Freedom, Adventure, Mastery, Authenticity and most recently Fun naturally appeals to a wide demographic. Marketing for the Jeep brand - we make a concerted effort to maintain an identity that can trace its roots back to 1941. It's taken over 60 years to create the branding of Jeep - a true original. That same recognizable identity - that portrays rugged individualism is just one reason the Jeep brand has thrived in the social arena.

So, is it the brand that is imitating the audience or the audience that is imitating the brand?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gang Signs in Advertising

Where do you draw the line with gang signs and advertising? You can find some kind of symbol in almost any advertising using a hand. Take the successful Jeep Patriot campaign - a woman playfully pinches a wolf and drops it into her friends canoe. One could say that the pinch sign (see # 8 below) is used by some obscure gang somewhere that doesn't really matter. Should that gang sign limit creativity and stifle the Jeep campaign with its pinch the wolf theme? Of course not.

Sign of the times.

You’ve got to love Plaxo – they reminded me that a friend was getting older. Plaxo is hooked up with ecards – I linked out to see what I could send for free. One of the first free cards was of a hand sign. Innocuous enough, but it looked vaguely familiar. Then I remembered a training packet my wife brought home while teaching alternative education students some years ago.

The police had a training course put together with Michigan State University on gang symbols, colors and graffiti. Ever since then I’ve been wary of any talent using hand signs in our Jeep® advertising. When working at BBDO-Detroit I recommended steering away from a questionable hand gesture that was proposed for a print campaign. My feeling was it was better to be safe than sorry.

This ecards is the sign language symbol for love - it’s also used as a gang sign by the Almighty Latin King Nation – now known as “Latin Kings” or “Latin Kingz.” It’s been said that the Latin Kings have over 5,000 hand gestures in their “handabulary” (my own term). Who could have anticipated that obscure gang signs would have the far-reaching capacity to shut down expensive advertising campaigns?

The Virginia Department of Tourism ended up pulling a $400,000 “Live Passionately” campaign because of a seemingly innocuous image of a woman making a heart symbol with her hands. It turns out the sign is used by members of the Chicago-based Gangster Disciples gang. They were known for selling crack-cocaine and were featured in a book called “Freakonomics” – where a sociology grad student tagged along to learn the gang’s structure and business operations.

Is it time that corporate legal representation has to be familiar with gang signs to ensure that a campaign does not go awry? Let's hope reason will win out.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mercedes Retro F-Cell Roadster Buggy

Daimler trainees (aka junior employees) have been hard at work on a legit concept called the "F-CELL Roadster." I love the idea of immersing the younger generation on alternate energy and its ins and outs. The old-timey look with its large spoked wheels is married to carbon fiber bucket seats and a drive-by-wire central joystick. The 1.2 kW powertrain has a top end speed of 15.5 mph and 217 mile range.

Do these Michelin's come with a 60K warranty?

Michelin tires has moved its sticky know-how to tennis shoes. The Research & Development lab at Michelin mated proven auto racing technology with a special Optimized Cell System that features seamless circular micro-cells for inspiring grip and optimized durability. Word is we might even see a pair on the court at the U.S. Open.

CIA at WSU

Many moons ago I worked as the Photo Editor at award-winning Wayne State University student newspaper - The South End. When securing credentials for events, staffers could proudly say we were the third largest daily newspaper in Detroit.

The South End
newspaper had a long history of rebellion against the establishment. In the late 1960's the paper had ties to the Black Panthers and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW). One of the more prominent members of the LRBW was Ken Cockrel, father of the acting mayor of Detroit, Ken Cockrel Jr.

A few years prior to joining The South End staff the editor-in-chief Patricia Maceroni took a stand against against running advertising from branches of the U.S. military. She was fired from her position only to win it back after challenging the firing in court. Maceroni currently works as a Criminal Defense Attorney in Mount Clemens, Michigan. The paper was suddenly radical again.

My tenure at The South End newspaper was from 1987-1991 - the same years the WSU was listed in Ami Chen Mills' book "CIA Off Campus" as a college where anti-CIA actions took place. The main story at Wayne State was in the 1988-1989 time frame when roughly 200 students had a 12-day "sit-in" at the administration building protesting racist incidents that occurred on campus. Steve Herppich, the towering Photo Editor who hired me, covered most of the sit-in and thrived on the stand-off.

Robert "Rob" Lasker was the Editor-in-Chief during most of this era. He was a brilliant, understated, conscientious friend who taught me a lot about writing while at the paper. Rob loved volunteering time at WDET (at that time in the same building) and also had a nice showing on the game-show "Jeopardy." The military advertisements and CIA recruiting were a big deal then, but my memory is jaded since I was taking Army ROTC rifle and pistol classes at the University of Detroit. Perhaps my own form of rebellion as a conservative?

A recent article "Has the Intelligence Community Tamed American Colleges?" written by Isaac Eister of The South End newspaper touches on the government in colleges topic once again.

According to Eister, the Intelligence Community, or IC, is made up of the CIA, FBI, and fifteen other gov't agencies - are hoping to expand their presence at Wayne State University and other college campuses across the United States.

Ten U.S. colleges are marked for the strategic launch of the recruiting program: Wayne State University, California State University - San Bernardino, Clark Atlanta University, Florida International University, Norfolk State University, Tennessee State University, Trinity University, University of Texas - El Paso, University of Texas - Pan American and University of Washington.

Of course Wayne State is highly coveted because of its rich Middle Eastern community. WSU's program is called the Center of Academic Excellence-National Security Intelligence Studies. That's a mouthful.

Kenneth Love, Rochester Institute of Technology student and member of the National Coordinating Committee of the Campus Antiwar Network is a former Army ROTC cadet. He stated in Eister's article,
“I know students that created technology using mathematical algorithms to detect terrorist activity among radical minded students on the popular social networking website Facebook … students who created through computer science technology better programs to catch dialect on the telephones, especially Arabic.”
Advertising Age had a story, "CIA Turn to Mainstream Media for Recruiting" that highlighted the CIA is currently recruiting for its National Clandestine Service Unit. With the economy in such rough shape, it will be easier to reach out to a traditionally hard-to-reach Middle Eastern community. According to the Adage article,
"The agency has not only tried what it previously called peer-to-peer marketing by being on Facebook -- a move that was promptly met by a Facebook group called "CIA Out of Facebook" -- but its presence back on college campuses has actually gone better than expected."
The South End newspaper interviewed Vanee Vines, a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence about the new program. According to Vines,
"...the nation faces increasingly complex global threats. As a result, the Intelligence Community must have a work force that reflects America's diversity and has a deep understanding of global cultures; foreign languages; science, technology, engineering, math, and economics; plus other key issues."
Many of my friends work for the U.S. Government and others have multiple applications in process at TACOM and other agencies. The word is the government jobs are more stable and "economy proof." This is especially true in the Detroit metro area with its heavy dependence upon the automotive industry. If we can prevent another 9/11 by recruiting spies at WSU - bring it on.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New York Times Delivers

The Detroit Free Press is going digital, well sort of. They are cutting daily delivery of the paper to three days a week. The morning ritual of coffee and a newspaper is ruined. Irate customers are writing in declaring their loyal dog will be in a fix without a paper to retrieve.

Management at the Detroit Media Partnership are trying to shift to a digital delivery of the news. Unfortunately, even though our family is entrenched in the digital domain, the facto-o-the matter is that we still like the renewable resource of tactile paper. You can use it to train a puppy in the finer matters and it can be split into sections - comics to the kids, sports to dad, and lifestyle to the wife. I'm not going to buy a Kindle 2 device for everyone. We only have one computer and that my Freep-friends is the dilemma.

An ad posted recently that caught my eye. The New York Times must have a local zip-code driven targeted advertisement in the Free Press hinterland. The Free Press has been trying to keep loyal readers from defecting to the Oakland Press with an option of mail delivery. It worked for my uncle, but came too late for my family. We already switched allegiances to the Oakland Press (even though its parent company has filed for chapter 11 protection). Now the NYT is advertising daily delivery for $3.35 a week. I know the digital age is here ... but I still want ink on my fingers.

Mortgaging the Future of our Kids

A CNN commentary by Mark Sanford revealed some interesting information about the Stimulus bill:
"As for the jobs created in the short-term, what's the cost? The Heritage Foundation crunched the president's own numbers and came up with this startling figure: for every single job the bill creates, American taxpayers will spend $223,000."
That kind of ROI wouldn't fly in any real-world business sector. I don't know why our government should be held to a different measure of success. Mark closed his argument with this poignant statement:
"The president's stimulus represents the largest and most invasive economic action in our government's history. For a relatively small number of short-term jobs, this administration and this Congress are poised to mortgage the economic future of my four boys and the millions of young Americans just like them. To me, that's simply not a morally acceptable outcome."
What do you think?

Crisis in Context

LinkThe clear voice of infographics is better than a cacophony of eloquent experts expousing their elegant financial crisis theories. The flowchart has grown up - check out flowingdata.com for more.

http://flowingdata.com/2009/03/13/27-visualizations-and-infographics-to-understand-the-financial-crisis/#comment-25688

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wrangler Sales Way Up

The Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited sales are going through the Sunrider® soft top roof. That's all relative today, but sales are brisk according to forbes.com. Wrangler sales are up 28.1% compared to 2008. And they're bound to get better this spring. While Wrangler may not be included in lists of top-10 convertibles - it has every right to be. Wrangler isn't classified as a convertible, but everyone knows the wind-in-your-hair freedom that can only come with the top down while four-wheeling. And no other vehicle in America has a fold-down front windshield.

This past year we upgraded the jeep.com Web site to include many of these "only-in-a-Wrangler" features. As the Senior Copywriter and lead Jeep content manager I worked with our multi-talented creative team to bolster up the original 4x4 freedom machine's presence on-line. We added loads of content about the removable doors, Sunrider® Soft Top and Freedom Top three-piece modular hardtop, Mopar® accessories, and much more. The Trail Rated®, Rubicon, and off-road performance sections were beefed as well. The Jeep team did a marvelous job of conveying the freedom that can only be had in a Wrangler 4x4. Our clients were elated and sales have continued to rise despite the economic doldrum.

Compare that with the Toyota FJ. According to forbes.com sales have tanked 55 % compared to 2008. 'Nuff said.

TH!NK.NO

First off - I need to say I love the company name. TH¡NK "City" electric cars may be coming stateside - that is if they can get a piece of the $25 billion the Department of Energy has allocated to automotive retooling and advanced technology programs. The Norwegian automaker is hoping business is better in the U.S. than in Norway. This past December, TH¡NK went into Norway's version of chapter 11 bankruptcy. This was only after two months of production.

The City is a little bigger than the diminutive Smart fourtwo electric vehicle. The trunk is miniscule. The four passenger seating is welcome, but a 62 mph top speed and 112 mile range may not be enough for many folks. Also of concern is the cost - $20,000 with a $90 monthly lease plan for batteries. How this new vehicle with no track history is going to compete with the all-new Honda Insight Hybrid that's starting under $20,000 is beyond me. Right thinking, wrong timing, and wrong URL - www.think.no

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Information Chunking in Digital Age

This has to be one of my favorite blogger sites of late: strangemaps.wordpress.com. In an age where everything is getting more complicated, maps and graphs give us a visual snack of data. Well-crafted maps and graphs are easy to understand, and have the ability to convey a wealth of information in a single image. Above all, they must be coherent. The importance of graphs and maps will inherently become more important with the exponential growth of information. Take a look at the site and you'll find many are thought provoking, others are exquisite in their beauty, and some are pure genius.

One of my favorite is the "Watch the Road: World's Earliest SatNav" - an ingenious watch-type device of the 1920's called the 'Routefinder' that featured an interchangeable scroll where the user would see a close-up map of the road and wind the map at new mile markers. Thus tracking distance, sites of interest, etc. Go to strangemaps.wordpress.com for more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stimulus Scams – don’t get hooked

The stimulus scam bandwagon is making its rounds on the internet in deceptive Web sites, advertisements and e-mail campaigns. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is getting the word out that Slick looking ads promise consumers thousands of dollars in stimulus grants – they only need to pay a small credit card fee, for as little as $1.99 (Each scam is different so beware). The scammers claim they’ll help you skip the red tape and take care of all the details for you. It’s a ruse of royal proportions. The $787-billion stimulus package is so complex, not even the Senators are really clear on what all is included.

These scam artists are exploiting that confusion with clever ads on Facebook, and on WordPress blogs that feature fake testimonials. Worse yet, the crooks could walk away with your identity.

Watch out for official-looking Internal Revenue Service (IRS) e-mails that promise stimulus payment. The IRS never requests private information via e-mail. Never give out your bank account information over the internet unless you are positive of the recipient.

Some of the bogus websites:
jessicasmoneyblog.com
mygovtstimulus.com

“Hi, my name is Jessica and I’m from Bloomfield Hills, MI. I started this blog because I want everyone to know how I went from being a struggling single mom to paying off all my debt in a few months simply by spending a couple minutes filling out a few forms online!”

A Tennessean.com article said the state's consumer watchdog office warns about some of the scams it has detected:

• People are urged to give bank details so that their portion of stimulus money will be deposited into their bank accounts. The scam artists then empty the bank accounts.

• A person is asked to verify personal information to qualify for stimulus money; the scam artists then use the details to commit identity theft.

• A consumer is offered a list of economic stimulus grants, which supposedly include money for individuals, in exchange for charging as little as $1.99 on a credit card. The charge is actually a down payment for "negative-option billing," in which a consumer must decline the option of automatically receiving goods and being billed for them.

• Sometimes, a person only has to click on links provided in an e-mail to inadvertently download spyware used to steal personal information.

Words to the wise - watch out for these crooks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Shell's lab is better kept top secret

If anyone has money to put together a slick Web site – it’s the oil companies. Revenues are down, but not enough to stop advertising. Shell has an educational Web site designed by J. Walter Thompson (Houston), to support their passionate experts campaign. The site features an interactive lab where you can learn more about Shell's “Passionate Experts,” including some Little Known Facts in the Shell Scientists profiles. Some of the choice nuggets: “I used to be a very good windsurfer.” And “I used to play the drums many years ago.” Who cares what you used to do?!

The actor in the lab coat kept asking “(bug sigh) so … formulas, chemistry … just waiting for you,” even though I was engaged in their lab. Very annoying.

It took a while to finally find out what was different about V-Power besides lab coats telling me it gets rid of gunk.

This site is too busy, lacks focus and has some very annoying audio bugs. Speaking about bugs, why not recruit the Mucinex guys, or Digger the Dermatophyte to clean up engines on the weekends for JWT.