Saturday, July 26, 2008

Funny Starburst Commercial

A hilarious new spot from Digitas for Starburst...the acting is excellent, especially the two "Whats" at the end. Keep reading...

Images I Will Never Forget

There are moments in life that you immediately recognize as "unforgettable," scenes so poignant or upsetting that they remain forever frozen in your mind. Yesterday I experienced just such a moment, and it prompted me to go ahead and share two others that are also eternally etched in my memory.

As I was driving home late last night me headlights suddenly illuminated one of the most disquieting things I have ever witnessed. A small animal, probably a possum or a raccoon, was lying on its side, flailing one arm helplessly in an attempt to right itself. I've never swerved so hard in my life. Though it was dark and the creature was small, I would swear I could see an expression of pure fear on its face, as it recognized its imminent fate. To see such a helpless creature in its death throes, and unable to assist it in any way, was crushing to me. And the fact that my headlights served as a sort of spotlight on its pitiful plight made it even more unforgettable.

The second moment, retreating back in time chronologically, occurred last summer. I was on a two-month UGA-sponsored trip out west to learn about the human and environmental history of the region. One night, while in Colorado, a few of us decided to climb the modest peak near our campsite. The mountain had no paths or markers, and we were forced to scramble up rockpiles and bushy outcrops, scraping ourselves on brambles and branches as we worked our way through. Time was of the essence, because we wanted to be at the top to see the sunset and still have enough time to get down before it was dark. After about 30 minutes of trailblazing, we reached a clearing. The peak was in sight. We rushed the next few hundred yards, anticipating a great view of the surrounding area. What we got, however, was better than anyone expected.

The opposite side of the mountain abutted an immense, utterly flat plain. Looking down, we saw a sheer drop-off of about 1000 feet. Never before had I been so in awe of Earth. Sublime, it was. Imagine standing on top of one of the world's tallest buildings, and looking out to see nothing but flat land. It makes you feel small, and it makes you feel lucky to be alive. The five of us witnessed the most magical, beautiful sunset of our lives on top of that mountain. A moment from that night has been my Facebook profile picture for nearly a year now.

The last scene is not a pleasant one. Several years ago my girlfriend of over three years cheated on me. This took me completely by surprise; only months before I'd bought her a diamond and gold "promise ring" to reaffirm my commitment to her. Nonetheless, our problems apparently became too much for her to handle, and she abruptly left me. Several days later I went out to a bar with some friends to try to forget about her (something I wasn't able to do for nearly two years). On the way home, around 2am, my friend made a wrong turn. As we turned around, I saw her (extremely distinctive) car parked outside an apartment building. Clearly she was already sleeping over with her new beau. It was in this moment that the finality and brutality of the situation truly became clear to me. Keep reading...

Ji Lee is Amazing

Many designers are one-trick ponies; they excel at product design (Apple's Jonathan Ive), book design (Chip Kidd), or fashion design (take your pick). Ji Lee is the rare designer who is successful across disciplines. Thanks to my friend Andy Pearson for introducing me to this inspiring visionary. His ideas are conceptual, his thinking original and groundbreaking. He is responsible for various photo-illustrations in the New York Times, a spectacular promotional campaign for the New Museum in New York, and hundreds of other incredibly insightful pieces. Check out his website and prepare to be amazed.

Ji Lee Keep reading...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Consumption v. Creation: The Debate Rages On

The ways one can choose to spend his leisure time are many and varied. How one spends these hours can be an insightful indication of one’s personality—drinking, sleeping, watching TV, and exercising are all possible options, and each says something very specific about the person who selects that activity. Exercising for me is essential, and drinking is generally unappealing. Beyond this, I face a fundamental decision about how to enjoy my free time: simply put, I can produce culture or consume it.

Undoubtedly consuming culture is the easier of the two. Watching TV or movies, reading books or magazines, or surfing the web are all ways I might consume the fruits of others’ creative labors. Doing so is entertaining and educational, and gives me new insights into the human condition and my place in the world. But it is also time-consuming, and takes time away from producing content myself. What’s more, to really understand a good piece of art (be it filmed or written), one should experience it multiple times. This is especially true for lengthy and/or intricate works of fiction with several layers of symbolism and metaphor, like the works of Vonnegut, Marquez, and Tolstoy. But to enjoy a work by one of these men more than once is nearly unthinkable; with so much else to discover and accomplish, how can one find the time to really delve into something?

On the other hand, I have aspirations to learn web design and video editing, to start building websites and making short films. I’d also like to write a screenplay, as well as continue refining plans I have for various businesses and products. But what should the balance of these activities be? Producing culture, of course, is not independent of consuming it; indeed, inspiration by definition emerges from the absorption of others’ ideas. Creativity does not exist in a vacuum—it feeds off itself, constantly spawning new variations on old themes. To favor creation over consumption, to ignore the history of human artistic output, is to do a disservice to oneself. You risk repeating trite tropes, as well as miss out on a treasure-trove of inspiration. Keep reading...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trees Shouldn't Be Wasted on These

Despite the big environmental kick the country has been on the past few years, there is one very un-green object whose presence persists, perhaps now more than ever: the bathroom paper towel. Though attempts have been made to reduce individual consumption (pre-perforated sheets of a smaller size than people are otherwise inclined to take), still no limit has been placed on the total amount it is possible to use. Many times I have witnessed men yanking a spool of sheets off the roll, rubbing the paper lightly on their hands, then crunching the barely-used paper into an approximation of a ball and tossing it in the garbage. I have also often seen stacks of unused paper towels on the floor or in the wastebasket after being unintentionally pulled out of their case; these are undoubtedly sent to the landfill without ever being used.

I generally abstain from paper towel usage altogether (instead shaking most of the water off and then matting my hands down on my pants or the back of my shirt), and if I do use them, I take as little as possible. The rate at which paper towels accumulate at my office is absurd; to extrapolate this out means multiplying my office by all the offices in my building, all the buildings in Atlanta, ad nauseum. That’s tons of paper being discarded daily after only a gentle moistening. At least toilet paper and napkins gets dirty; I’m certainly not claiming there is any replacement for them. But the alternatives to paper towels are many and superior.

If conserving resources and saving trees is actually important to us, we need to begin by cutting back on paper towel consumption. To continue to be so blatantly wasteful is inexcusable. Keep reading...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Walking Problems

This morning I reached the elevator in the parking deck at nearly the same time as a middle-aged woman, whom I do not know. When the elevator arrived, I let her enter first, according to the principle of “ladies first.” After doing so, however, I had second thoughts. Would this woman feel uncomfortable having a young man walk behind her into a sealed box? When the doors opened I faced the same problem, but once again came to the same decision. It seemed rude to exit first, so I let her go ahead. Of course, this had the domino effect of making her the first person to reach the door to exit the building. At this point I was hoping she would stand at the door and hold it in order to let me go ahead, but unfortunately she merely held the door behind her, so that I remained behind. I would have liked to walk quickly ahead to be able to open the next door for her, but doing so surely would have seemed strange and perhaps threatening. So once again the young man had the door opened for him by the middle aged woman. It seemed so backwards, but there was nothing I could do. We finally reached the elevator inside the office building together, and shared a short, but still awkward ride several floors up.

What should I have done???? Keep reading...

Independence Day Thoughts

On Independence Day I ran my first 10K, the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. The Peachtree lays claim to the title of the world’s largest 10K, with over 55,000 runners. I hadn’t really trained for the race, but I finished with a respectable time of 50:50, about two minutes faster than the only other time I’d run 6.2 miles. A company called MarathonPhoto deploys an army of photographers to a bridge over the road, each of whom takes a continuous staccato-stream of snapshots of exhausted runners crossing the finish line. As the runners leave the race site they are beckoned to the MarathonPhoto area to view their photographs and, it is hoped, purchase a memento of the occasion.

I’ve never been one to display pictures of myself, so I didn't even consider looking at my pictures. So imagine my surprise when I received an email today from MarathonPhoto, inviting me to review my raceday photos. The company managed to not only get three reasonably in-focus shots of me, but within a week were able to use my race number to track me down and send me an email. I have to assume this process is done manually, for each of the 50,000+ runners in the race. The efficiency of their system boggles my mind.

Overall, the race experience was fantastic—there’s no better way to start to this historic day than joining my fellow Atlantans to run down the city’s most famous street. You wake up, run, cook out and relax, then come back together to watch one of several amazing fireworks shows around the city. It’s a universal holiday, enjoyed by young and old, families and couples alike. Even the most jaded among us can appreciate the patriotic colors and songs and take part in the festivities.

My only concern (recently provoked by a coworker) is that referring to the holiday as “the fourth” detracts from the gravity of the day, and contributes to its slow loss of context and meaning. (I’m also concerned that the day will soon become known as “Will Smith Movie Day” due to his annual appearance in a blockbuster film released before the holiday.) I pledge to always refer to it using its appropriate, government-designated name in the future, and I encourage everyone else to do the same. Keep reading...