Archive for June, 2009

Blowing My Mind

June 27, 2009

Joining the ranks of the uncomfortable waking up with the Kingsubservient chicken, and FLAME promotions, Burger King has done it again with the “It’ll Blow Your Mind” campaign for the Super Seven Incher that promises to fill your deepest desires:

Fill Your Desire

Thanks for the tip, C.B. (that's what she said?)

I applaud the ridiculous implementation of absurdism and blatant sexual innuedo for fast food promotions (even if some critics don’t). For a thorough background on the new marketing plan, I recommend the 2004 write-up of Burger King’s chief marketing officer’s Harvard Business School speech on giving the company an image makeover:

Trying to discern where they fit in the fast food ecosystem, Burger King hired a cultural anthropologist to map the way. The findings were interesting, if not completely unsurprising. McDonalds is perceived as childhood’s oasis, ripe with playful innocence. Wendy’s is the realm of the adult, signifying quality, peace, and being cared for. So, the only place left for Burger King was surly adolescence.

Burger King CMO Russ Klein claimed that four principles were integral to their rebranding process:

  1. Relevance: How the brand fits into the consumer’s life.
  2. Differentiation: The brand’s point of difference.
  3. Esteem: How well the brand is regarded.
  4. Knowledge: An intimate consumer understanding of the brand.

I’d call the rebranding a success by those standards, but are Burger King executives happy with the campaign’s ROI? Effie Awards and self-aware ads are great, but I’d still prefer a Big Bacon Classic over a Whopper any day.

Maybe this metaphorical demographic tug-of-war is just another exemplification of my ongoing struggle with adulthood…

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No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer

June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson

I coincidentally turned on CNN right after their initial discovery of the hospitalization early this afternoon.  In the hours following, I’ve received dozens of text messages from friends apologizing for potentially “breaking the news” of the death of one of the most important musicians of my childhood.

Succinctly, Michael Jackson introduced me to pop music.  He ironically led me out of a life soundtracked with nursery and Disney rhymes into a world of dance beats and catchy melodies.  One of my most vivid early memories is the day my dad surprised me with my first ever cassette tape (Dangerous) the night before our move to Pennsylvania. Unaccustomed to receiving gifts on any date that wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, I happily spent the rest of my lonely summer in a new home blasting “Black or White” from my bedroom in a similar fashion to the single’s comedic introduction. That summer marked the first of many relocations accompanied by specific albums to pull me through a new transition.

Dangerous opened the door to Bad and Thriller and Off the Wall, and acquainted me with a MTV and VH1 that still believed in music videos. Listening to “Man in the Mirror” as a second grader showed that pop music can have a stronger social message.  “P.Y.T.” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” provided quintessential shower singing tunes, while watching “Smooth Criminal” videos and “Billie Jean” Motown 25 performances made me wish I had better moves:

As confirmations of his passing dominoed across media outlets, I realized that today would be one of those cultural moments I’d remember the rest of my life as many before me will never forget December 8, 1980. I strongly doubt there will ever be another international superstar of his magnitude.

I don’t care whether it’s cool to like him these days.  Regardless of the disturbing personal/legal problems that have overshadowed his image the past decade, Jackson will always be the King to me and his significance cannot be denied. After spending essentially his entire life under constant public scrunity, I’m happy and hopeful that Michael can finally rest in peace.  Thanks for the memories, Mr. Jackson.

The Joy of Less

June 16, 2009

I read an interesting article from New York Times blogger Pico Iyer championing Bill Shakespeare’s Hamlet proposition that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  Without a bicycle, car, or media outlet, Iyer’s recent days after moving to rural Japan feel like eternities and he claims he can’t think of any deficiencies:

At some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish several early life goals involving (among other things) academics, athletics, and relationships.  Personally, academic and professional success have always been extremely important, but I’ve noticed that most accomplishments rarely result in satisfaction.  Every achievement serves as a stepping stone to something bigger.  As a post-graduate, the focus shifted to the obtainment of higher career-based positions.  “Poor man wanna be richRich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied until he rules everything.”  The pursuit never ends.

Iyer suggests “happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.”  I absolutely agree.  For example, our family lake house is a technological black hole, forcing all that enter to relax and enjoy the serenity that comes with no cable or cell phone signals.  As a result, heavy exploring, fireside chatting, card playing, and late-night swimming (among many other amazing, impromptu activities) tend to ensue.

As much as I think I like the security of preparation, my favorite days are always those where plans come about freely.  This is why Christina is most definitely my better half and I can’t get enough of her.  This is why this past Sunday of exploring and waterfall jumping through Tennessee state parks with Bret was one of my best weekends since moving to Nashville.  This is why the themes behind Bruce Springsteen and U2’s music easily make them my favorite artists of all time:

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Nonetheless, following this advice is easier said than done, especially for someone with my high-strung tendencies.  I’m still running and probably always will be, but I enjoy a friendly reminder to slow down once in awhile…

Uninterested in Selling Pieces of Plastic

June 10, 2009

Discovering new music ranks near the top of my favorite hobbies list next to “movie guzzling” and snowball eating.  This should come as no surprise.  Ideally,  fresh artist detection should result in the desire to support monetarily via concert tickets, merchandise, and/or albums.

Unfortunately, pecuniary support has personally become increasingly difficult the past few months.  I assume the same holds true for others, especially those that already felt less inclined to shell out money on music in the first place.  Fortunately, two more noteworthy bands have acknowledged the circumstances at hand.  Previously blogged about Fanfarlo supplies the first generous offering on their official site:

Hello. Because we want everyone to hear our album, and in the spirit of “why not”, we are now letting you download it, along with 4 exclusive bonus tracks, for a mere one dollar until July 4th (or, if you like, Independence Day.) After that, the madness will end and you will be able to get the CD, the vinyl and a beautiful new special edition at normal prices.

I can vouch for the quality of Reservior, as can the following promotional teaser containing a live performance filmed in a shed of some sort:

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The second treat comes courtesy of the wonderful Paste magazine wanting to give its readers their own musical stimulus package in the form of underrated Orlando-based Gasoline Heart!  As if giving us a free Damnwells album earlier this year wasn’t enough, you can now pick up Cucumber Riot at no charge.  The band calls the record a “best of type thing,” which equates to four songs from their first record, three songs from their most recent EP, and three songs from their upcoming LP, Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be, due out June 23rd.

As Jeff Tweedy once said, “Treating your audience like thieves is absurd. Anyone who chooses to listen to our music becomes a collaborator.  People who look at music as commerce don’t understand that.  They are talking about pieces of plastic they want to sell, packages of intellectual property.  I’m not interested in selling pieces of plastic.”  Fanfarlo and Gasoline Heart seem to agree with the popular Wilco frontman, and that alone is a quality birthday present…

Keep Cool, My Babies

June 8, 2009

After the months of waiting finally ended and 10:35 CT rolled around this past Monday night, Conan in his new home didn’t disappoint.  I wasn’t blown away by the first night, but his opening week confirmed that we will still get the same Conan we fell in love with in New York.  Over the course of the week, Conan slipped in his signature Late Night mannerisms (much to the crowd’s enjoyment) to coincide with entertaining skits and interviews.

In my opinion, the most memorable part of the week had to be Conan’s on-air acknowledgment of the growing online discussion initiated by SeriousLunch.com’s publication of a hilarious GIF showcasing the similarities between the design of Conan’s monologue background and that of Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom:Vodpod videos no longer available.The Tonight Show demonstrating an understanding of the online world is beautifully refreshing.  The skit embodies the allure of Conan’s comedic style.  His humor is never mean-spirited and, if nothing else, almost always feels self-depreciating.  He laughs with the audience and guests, never at them.  As much as I enjoy The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I appreciate how Conan avoids delivering material with a mocking or pretentious tone, even though he surely has the intellectual ability given his educational background.  O’ Brien genuinely seems like a respectful and polite man, which only makes him funnier in my eyes.

For my 21st birthday, two of my favorite people and I camped outside Rockefeller Center to get standby tickets while I was spending the summer in New York.  Seeing the comedian live in his element only reinforced the beliefs I held of his character from watching on television every night.  That day will undoubtedly always rank near the top of birthday memories.  I hope Conan’s run with The Tonight Show lasts long enough to allow for the opportunity to see him live in his new home someday.  From what I can tell, he seems to be settling in quite nicely.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land

June 5, 2009

I’ve been fairly vocal for my love of Frightened Rabbit since falling in love with The Midnight Organ Fight last year.  The Scottish rock group reigned at the top of my 2008 list with Bon Iver, and I’ve been longing for new material ever since.

Fortunately, Off the Beaten Tracks, a Edinburgh-located musical project in the vein of La Blogotheque, recently recorded a three-song session with lead singer Scott Hutchison.  The second performance was a brand new unreleased track called “Swim Until You Can’t See Land,” which reportedly was taken from the recording sessions “currently going on in deepest, darkest Fife, [as] one of the possibles for the new album, due next year.”

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The loud helicopter overhead resulted in less than desirable sound quality, but I’m fully confident this song will rock in a full band studio setting.  I’ve yet to see the band live, but the Glasgow quartet only receive glowing reviews in that department as well.  The recent live album, Liver! Lung! FR!, coupled with the band’s Daytrotter session, provide the necessary supportive evidence and I can’t wait to finally see them in Chicago during the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival in July.

Recorded in the home studio of long-time National producer Peter Katis and released in April 2008, The Midnight Organ Fight predominantly focuses on the death of a relationship.  Given my “emo” beginnings, it’s easy to see how the album immediately resonated with me personally.

Aching, soulful, therapeutic, plus so many other beautiful descriptors that I will let you discover on your own, this album can’t come more highly recommended.  Please refer to “My Backwards Walk” for one of many reasons why you need to buy the album immediately**:

**Fans of the lyrically similar The National might prefer listening to the live version with the “Fake Empire” introduction.

You Deserve Much More Than This

June 4, 2009

I was glad to see Sean Penn take home an Oscar for Milk this past year.  He typically produces quality work, occasionally rocks a method actór goatee, and honestly seems invested in sincere social causes.  The following PSA video supporting the World Food Programme reinforces these affirmations (most notably the facial hair claim):

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It takes 25 cents to fill one of the “red cups” that the World Food Programme uses to give hungry children a regular school meal of porridge, rice, or beans. $15 feeds 10 children for a week.  If you feel inclined, follow Sean’s advice and support WFP’s school feeding programs, emergency relief operations, and development initiatives.

I wonder if Sean and Bruce hang out?  Watching effective public service announcements always makes me want to up the dosage on my own benevolence.  As Christina always likes to quote, “What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?”