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Lovin' Spoonful
Bob Lefsetz’s rant on poor ol’ Steve Boone hit my in box today. Bob’s a prolific ranter. His Lefsetz Letter and email newsletter are usually pretty good, rambly rants on things happening in music and culture. Man, did the bass player Steve Boone have a bad streak of bad luck that he brought upon his own bad self. (Insert bass player joke here.) Boone’s got a new book out that sounds like a How Not to Do It manual, which prompted Bob’s post.

But just seeing the name The Lovin’ Spoonful; wow. It sparked a great big ol’ bucketful of cool memories, despite learning about Boone’s nasty boondoggles. 

We had The Very Best of the Lovin’ Spoonful, which came out in 1970.  I played the heck out of it. There was always great music being played in our house around that time, which was one of the many perks of being youngest of five kids in our house. Thankfully, the other four had great musical taste. 

But the thing that did it for me with that album was the vibe. It was so 1960’s, and peace, and love, and all that rainbow sunshine stuff. Yeah, there’s some meloncholy in there, but on an impressionable kid, the songs on this album were gold. 

They sing about magic, and summer, and niceness, whistling about daydreams, and girls. The album cover featured faceless clay figureines of the band. Summer in the City has jackhammer sound effects. C’mon! Some of the tunes are kid-candy, like Nashville Cats, and Summer in the City. Daydream. And Darlin’ Be Home Soon is just beautiful. Even a little chubby Wisconsin kid could see that. 

John Sebastian’s voice always hit my smile button. Zal Yanovsky – what a name – was a guitarist, and had been in a band with people who went on to form The Mama’s and the Papa’s. These were some groovy people, man. Six years later, Welcome Back, Kotter became a hit TV show, with Sebastian’s theme song hitting number 1. I think it’s one of the top TV theme songs ever. 

And this album is one of the top summer albums ever. Since summer’ll be fading fast, here’s a taste of a summer spoonful.

 

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It’s been called the world’s worst ad.

I sure hope this ad helps East Hills Mall in St. Joseph, Mo. And it will. It’ll help the mall have a good August. Will the mall do better than last August’s back-to-school push? Doubt it. Will it have a great 2014 because of the ad? Doubt it. Will it hurt the mall’s brand overall? Yes, because people will remember “East Hills Mall = bad advertising” for a long, long time.

And I dream of a day when nobody ever asks anybody ever to ever, ever, ever to make a video for $300, AND when nobody ever says, “Sure, I’ll take $300 to make a video!”

Like that’ll happen. All week long, I bet businesses across the land asked if they could get a video made for $200.

And I bet half asked the video could also go viral.

Here’s a local news station’s behind the scenes scoop.

 

Laser-zapped map chart art, from belowtheboat.com.

Laser-zapped map chart art, from belowtheboat.com.

See what happens when that the old school nautical map vibe gets together with talented laser woodwork supercrafters?

The folks at belowtheboat.com bust out really nice craftsmanship and detail that combines cartography, topography, information graphic-ography, Mr. Remke’s 11th grade Geography, and Great Lakes lunker hunter sweet spot-ography.

Great execution of these disparate -ographies help make a good idea become great.

Thanks Colossal.

Amish families have an amazing tradition that they say helps purify crops and minimize materialism: they burn down their biggest barn. Then the next day, poof!, they build a new one in about 5 hours, even if it’s ten degrees below zero and blizzarding like crazy outside. It’s called the New Year’s Barnfarkle, and it symbolizes each family’s commitment to beginning the new year with great strength, while shedding the need for material possessions like Amish furniture. Talk about a tradition that features the burning and rebuilding of barns, eh? Wow!

Just kidding. The Amish don’t burn down a barn every New Year’s. They don’t even use calendars, so how would they even know when a new year beings? Kidding again. Seriously, how would they know when it’s Thursday if they didn’t use calendars? Wait. I’m not quite completely sure they do or do not use calendars. Although they certainly are selling pie on Main Street in my town like clockwork on Saturdays. Hey, if you’re Amish, I’m real sorry about my stupid and slipshod calendar reporting. Also, today is Monday, just in case you don’t have any calendars laying about the barn as you read this.

To all of you, best wishes for a Happy New Year, from Idea Bucket global headquarters. May your 2013 crops be pure.

Please feel free to share any other ways that people don’t usher in the new year below.

The picture was taken by coleypauline.

Instagram, you rascal. You come out swinging, bury Hipstamatic and a lot of other photo sharing wannabes, but golly, you’re an organizational frowny face. Flickr has got you beat in spades as a place to share photos. And today, Twitter offers the fancy filters and ease that made you unique. How can you possibly win?

As more and more people and pros get into Instagram (here’s FlakPhoto.com‘s Instagram page for photographers, created by the ultimate curator’s curator Andy Adams), the need for people to manage, organize and display their work has got to improve. That’s where Instagram could win. It could grow even more by offering functionality that benefits not just consumers of photography, but creators of it. Flickr simply doesn’t have the sex appeal that Instagram’s got right now, which is unfortunate, because it’s a fantastic tool for slightly-serious-to-serious creators of photos.

Now Twitter is offering filters and Instagram-like functionality. You gotta be feeling nervous about that one, Instagram. But way back in 2011, Instagram got $7 million from Twitter, so it’s not like they’re sworn to each other’s demise. Then Facebook bought Instagram for a cool billion dollars, so it’s not like its beatable, unorganized platform is a great big hobo out there.

Most likely, Instagram is already on this in their secret underground laboratories, ready to out Flickr Flickr and stave off Twitter. Otherwise, right next to Hipstamatic in the digiphoto graveyard, Instagram runs the risk of having “We Were Hot Once” on it’s tombstone, which Mashable says is totally possible. So I’ll just relax and wait for the email that tells me when Instagram will take slightly more serious photographers slightly more seriously.

(Here’s my Instagram, and my Flickr.)

SideBySideETC

Above: how we currently text. Below: how ETC technology will allow us to communicate more with symbols, images, and logos.

Happy birthday, text messaging. Today marks its 20th year as a communication form. So what a great day to pontificate on the next big thing in communications, which is right at our fingertips. Or, should I say, our thumbtips.

Imagine using pictures when you text and message and write online, in addition to words. It’s almost here, it’s cool, it’ll change how we communicate, and it came to me in a really neat way. Better grab a cup of coffee. This could take a minute.

I’m President of KW2, an ad agency in Madison, Wisconsin. We bought our building around 1990 from Towell Advertising, which was the longest-running ad agency in Madison. Three generations of Towells made ads here for long-time Madison businesses. But soon after we moved in, Towell Advertising changed its name to Roundhouse, and completely changed their business model to become a promotional agency.

Can you imagine? Here’s Bill Towell, all of 36 years old, telling his dad and grandfather he’s going to toss away the model they spent a couple of lifetimes growing. I bet that was an interesting conversation.

I’d known Bill over all these years, because a couple of good pals of mine worked at Roundhouse. Bill was always kinetic and intense and full of passion. His office was in a train car. They made their employees take a one hour lunch every day from noon to 1:00 PM on the dot. This is when I knew it wasn’t an advertising agency any more.

Well, Roundhouse worked really well, is still going strong, and Bill sold his share in the business a few years ago. In “retirement,” Bill drove around folks from the Porchlight homeless shelter for a year, mastered the art of lounging, and took a few classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I bumped into him on LinkedIn, and invited him to see what we’ve done to the building he said goodbye to some 20 years ago.

It was fantastic. So much history. The names of classic Madison advertising folks and brands and campaigns was great fun to hear about.

Then in the “see you later” home stretch of our chat, Bill kind of blew my mind. He told me about how he and a team of digital folks across the globe figured out how to get pictures seamlessly integrated into digital communications, in the places words would typically go. Wow.

He invented the next big thing. It was one of those that you hear about and go “duh” and you smack your palm on your forehead. Palmsmack! Of course!

It’s called Enriched Text Content (ETC). It allows people to insert images, pictures, images, logos, and graphics into alphanumeric text. Palmsmack! What took so long?

If you go to their site, baddonkeysocial.com, it would seeeeeeeem to appear that Kraft is one of the first big brands to jump on board. And given that Forbes has Kraft ranked as the #14 social brand in the world, well, this could indicate that one of the world’s largest food manufacturers thinks Bill is on to something.

This makes so much sense. We’re going more and more and more visual as a species. Instagram had 10 million shares just over Thanksgiving weekend. Do you think we’re a visually-driven bunch of mammals? Seems like it. Words are work. Pictures are not. Pictures are fast. Words are . . . less fast. Poor boring old word-based texts. They’re going to look like black and white TV next to high def, wide screen LCD TV.

Look at how just the last few years of digital evolution has already changed how we communicate. A cursor arrow. A trash can symbol. A colon with a parenthesis next to it. New shortcuts in communication are getting created and used all the time.

What are the long-term implications? I think this will significantly change things. Are we headed towards a visually driven language, or alphabet? Will new symbols be created to visually communicate?

There’s value to the user. In the time that it takes to text the word weinermobile, a texter could send an entire ETC message, like the one here. Reading messages with symbols is faster as well. Palmsmack!

The value to brands will increase. A text or email or blog post with logos in place of pictures will make those branded messages worth more, yes? Many logos will not work, and will have to be tweaked. Nike, the NFL, sports teams, and Apple will look great. Other brands like Harley-Davidson Motorcycles may need some identity work to get their logos “text logo” ready.

More symbols and fewer words in the future? Makes sense. We’ve always loved symbols. Thirty-five thousand years ago, some French communicator tagged cave walls with symbols of the giant creatures that they hunted. He (or she) didn’t graffiti the word “DINNER” or “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!” on the wall, the caveman/woman made symbols. Then the Egyptians, over 5,000 years ago, invented symbols to depict words, giving birth to the idea of written language. Then there’s the 15th century sign in an English street that showed a symbol of a boot on it, indicating where a black plague survivor could pick up a pair of sensible Mary Janes.

And then there’s ETC, the technology that paves the way for more symbols being used more often in some of the most popular forms of communication in this era.

We’ve gone from pictures on cave walls to pictures on social walls. Pretty cool.

Today my sister turns about 39. She’s one of the most creative, funny and smart people I’ve ever known. I was thinking about her recently and realized so much of me and my life have been inspired by her. Literally, like a month ago, I realized she influenced me at a very early age with four things that have been part of me forever. Rock and roll, performing, originality, and carpe-ing the diem.

Rock and roll. Poppy is rock and roll per-son-i-fied, like a human stack of Marshall amps with a Keith Moon drum solo. She had a rows of albums on the floor next to our family console record playing-machine. She bought incredible albums, and for a few years, there was a stream of new ones. It seemed like music was always playing.

She bought Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Cream magazines. She saw most every major rock band from the 60’s and 70’s while she was still in high school. She knew the name of every musician in like, all the bands. Even bass players. She met Pattie Boyd (the subject of Layla). She’s been to Beatles fan conventions, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She took me to my first concert, Eric Clapton. And she exposed me to the music that is some of my very favorite: The Who, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Motown, soul, funk, and on and on.

Performing. My sister could turn into someone else. How cool. Poppy’s performances in musicals were a thrill every fall from when I was ladling. I definitely got the theater bug from her. She had the guts to get up in front of a big auditorium full of people, and sing and act, and put on a great show. She blew us away.

Originality. I’ve met two people named Poppy in my whole life. And I never really thought about it when we were kids, but having a sister with an uncommon name lit something in me: it taught me that originality is cool. It’s okay. It’s okay to stand out, and stand tall, and be different, and not conform, and not be…Mary. (No offense to any Mary anywhere.)

Enjoying life. Doing impersonations. Singing. Going to a concert. Trying to crack someone up. Cranking up the volume. Dancing. Going to another concert. Trivia. Fun. Poppy gets it. We get one shot, so we better “get it while we can.”

Many, many, many of  the things that I love in life, things that ARE my life, I realize ripped off  from her. I wound up being in a rock band on and off for 25 years, and performed theater stuff for for 30 years, embrace originality, and try to enjoy the hell out my tiny little time on this planet.

Poppy – listen here sis hey: so much thanks. And Happy Birthday. 143

“I got it, it got it! How about Elton John stars as a king who decides which of his subjects is worthy of Pepsi, and then a much less expensive star from X Factor sings a bad version of Respect and knocks him down into a dungeon! Yes! Super Bowl ad gold!”

Oh Elton. You were pretty good. And it looks like wearing a crown and big boots was a lot of fun and all, but golly. Where’s the cool? Pepsi’s super Bowl ads generally are more hip, and aiming at the next generation of cola swillers. This one falls down a dungeon of expensive mediocrity.

Creative ideas are out there if you WANT to find them. Check out this super creative street art. http://ht.ly/8qUk3