31 March 2010

The Ecstasy of Gold

I saw The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the first time last month. There are a lot of classic movies I haven't seen, and I always fear that unless I saw them early on and had years of context to build around the story, characters, and situational references, I "just won't get it" or appreciate as much as if I saw them from the beginning (never mind that I was far from being born when that movie was released).

I mostly watched it because I felt some kind of cultural duty to do so. Well, I loved it more than I ever thought I could. And I had completely forgotten that these movies were filmed with a bunch of Italian actors ­ acting in Italian ­ and some American actors acting in English. So I was totally confused until about halfway through the movie about the fact that some of the actors' lips just weren't syncing up. I know, I know.

Here is probably the most classic scene from the entire thing, and the one that made my jaw drop the most. If you've seen it, you'll know that the part that starts at 40s is a super huge deal that builds throughout the previous couple of hours.

Tuco (the Ugly – I also had no idea that the movie title referred to 3 different people) running through the cemetery paired with Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" made me almost tear up. So good.

That's all. Please rent it.

30 March 2010


About a month ago, James asked if I might be interested in guest lecturing a class that he teaches at Parsons. Well, the class was last week (Information Design, made up of Sophomores and Juniors I believe) and went really well (I think, at least)!

I talked about interdisciplinary approaches to solving problems, which I fortunately get to do a fair bit of day to day. The basic premise of my chat was that the more complex a problem gets, the more thinking from various points of view /backgrounds /disciplines needs to come into the picture to solve it. It's a bit more jumbled than trying to draw a clean, linear path from problem to solution.

I gave a bunch of examples to illustrate this a bit more: I talked about how my Social Psychology background helps me do my job better by giving me a knowledge of group decision making, motivations, and behavior. I talked about how the more Laura sends me articles and papers about Urban Planning, the more I realize that it has a ton in common with digital strategy.

And then I gave some examples to illustrate that standing on the fringe of one's field yields a lot more disruptive & interesting ideas than standing in the middle of it and recycling the same thoughts over and over again. (This is why I only read one or two advertising-related blogs and everything else is about, well, everything else). My two favorite examples are about insects; those who know me IRL are probably sick of hearing about them by now.

That's a Morpho butterfly. When they are around different types of atmospheric vapors, the scales on their wings change color. An engineer at GE – Radislav Potyrailo – studied this and figured out how to apply this to sensor technology. Long story short: enhanced security sensors will soon be available in public places – the subway system, a concert venue, an airport. Radislav was able to connect the dots enough to see a relationship between butterfly wings and our safety.

Honeybees. In this SEED Magazine article from last summer (I recommend it to every single one of you), I read about Thomas Seeley, a Biologist at Cornell who has been studying honeybees for 30 years. He noticed over time that "there are intriguing similarities between how the bees in a swarm and the neurons in a brain are organized." Seeley is publishing a book later this year (Honeybee Democracy) that talks about what we can learn from the complex decision making processes in honeybees ("swarm intelligence"), and how we can apply these learnings to decision making in large groups.

Amazing, right? Neither Radislav and his team nor Thomas Seeley could have ended up here had they not been thinking beyond their own disciplines. People like this don't have to read volumes on transportation modeling or neuroscience to be able to solve complex problems, but having a basic knowledge of what's going on in other places at least helps them know where to start, or who to talk to next. And most exciting: how to adapt this high-ish level knowledge to their own areas of expertise to turn it into something completely different.

When I was leaving the office to go to Parsons that day, I told Alex I was nervous that the students would say, "What does this have to do with me?" He left me with a very comforting, "That's exactly the point!" Oh, right.

Prepping for talking about all of this was so fun, mostly because of the very nature of my chat – my inspiration came from all over the place. Here are some sources (almost in the exact order of my coming across them); please to enjoy:

  • Information Design on Wikipedia

  • Interdisciplinarity on Wikipedia

  • Biomimicry Institute

  • Purple Numbers and Sharp Cheese – BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures 2003 - The Emerging Mind

  • Reflections on Interdisciplinarianism

  • Mike Arauz: What Behavioral Psychology Can Teach Us About Engagement

  • Lateral thinking on Wikipedia

  • Negative capability on Wikipedia

  • Agile software development on Wikipedia

  • BBC – Nick Bryant's Australia: Visionary architect

  • Metaphor on Wikipedia

  • No One Knows What the F*** They're Doing (or "The 3 Types of Knowledge")

  • Finally: If you were in that class, hi! It was a pleasure to chat with you all last week. I learned some good stuff ^^ And a HUGE thank-you to James for thinking of me talking to an Information Design class (via interdisciplinary thought) in the first place!

    12 March 2010

    Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé and whole bunch of other brands

    Mike was kind enough to notify our office that the video for Telephone, by Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé was released. It's nine minutes of flashy, entertaining stimuli:

    Something that's hard to miss while the video rolls are all of the brands. Some look like blatant product placement, most notably Beats by Dre (susprise, they collaborated late last year); Virgin Mobile; and Polaroid (double surprise, she became a Creative Director @ Polaroid back in January). Others seem to be there for fun (the Pussy Wagon, Wonder Bread, and Miracle Whip). Here are a few I was able to catch:

    Beats by Dre

    Beats by Dre

    Beats by Dre

    Virgin Mobile

    Virgin Mobile

    Virgin Mobile

    Virgin Mobile

    Diet Coke & Chanel

    Diet Coke & Chanel

    Plentyoffish.com and HP

    Plentyoffish.com and HP

    I don't know how to classify this one, but it made me really, really happy. The Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill Vol. 1:

    Pussy Wagon

    Pussy Wagon




    Wonder Bread:

    Wonder Bread

    Miracle Whip:

    Miracle Whip

    I'm sure there were more that I didn't catch; feel free to leave your own in comments!

    EDIT | Looks like Buzzfeed had the same idea 3 hours later with nearly identical screen shots. At least they caught one I had missed (Little Debbie).

    10 March 2010

    Mr. Brainwash presents ICONS

    Last night Ana and I checked out the Mr. Brainwash ICONS show in the Meatpacking District. I remember being drawn to it because of the huge can of pink paint (I've been wanting to paint my closets this color for months); noticing a few other blogs cynically and aggressively hating it made me want to go more. It opened a month ago to lines around the block, but last night at 8pm it was practically ours.

    Albert and Charlie

    Good god, it's that Baker Miller pink I've been looking for.

    As the name suggests, the show is about cultural icons. The style is similar to Banksy's, and some people even think that Banksy is Mr. Brainwash. Banksy made a movie called Exit Through The Gift Shop that screened at Sundance and apparently features him. The trailer reminds me of A Cross The Universe in a way, and I want to get my hands on it.

    Anyway, about the show. There were lots of screen prints of people's faces - an art wall featuring guys like Basquiat, Damien Hirst, and Roy Lichtenstein; two fashion walls facing each other, one with models and the other featuring designers; lots of Madonna. There were also musician portraits made from pieces of broken up LPs, replicas of famous paintings with bits of contemporary culture snuck in, and installations of familiar brands & symbols. Two of my favorites were the Michelin man constructed out of tires, and a full-sized NYC taxi in Matchbox Car packaging. Brand names ranging from Campbell's Soup to Louis Vuitton were displayed on big spray paint cans. And there was a HUGE boom box downstairs.

    Life-sized NYC taxi

    Care for some haute-meal with your monogram spray?


    ICONS is open until 31st March and has super convenient hours; free signed posters too. See some more pictures in this Flickr set.

    Mr. Brainwash presents ICONS
    415 W. 13th Street
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