Writing is making

I don’t think the workshops taught me too much about craft, but they did teach me about the importance of making things, not just reading things. You care about things that you make, and that makes it easier to care about things that other people make.

So writes Louis Menand, one of my very favorites, in a recent New Yorker piece about creative-writing workshops.

One thing I like about this line is that it assumes that writing is making something.

I also like the idea that writing makes one appreciate others’ writing in a new way. I’m less certain this latter idea is always true — but I do like it.

Is there an app for that?

Actually I don’t care if it’s an app, a site, a widget, a service, whatever, as long as it’s free (or perhaps very, very inexpensive). But:

1. I am a fan of three sports teams: The Houston Astros, The Houston Rockets, and The New Orleans Saints. I would like to know when those teams’ games will be broadcast in my area (which is not Houston, or New Orleans), on whatever channel, on my specific cable setup. That’s all I want to know. I don’t want to comb through the teams’ sites to find out, I don’t want to read the listings on every possible station where a sporting event might be televised. I want regular updates, in advance of the broadcast.

Does this exist?

[UPDATE: I think I actually have an answer for this second one! FeedFlix.com, suggested in the comments, seems to do almost everything I wanted... ] 2. I use Netflix. Sometimes we watch movies quickly, sometimes they sit for weeks on end, gathering dust, next to the DVD player. I want something I can sync to my Netflix account that will tell me how much I am paying per movie — a running tab. I want, in effect, to be prodded: “Do you realize that you have now paid $30 to rent that documentary about The Weather Underground, and you still haven’t watched it?” I also want to be able to find out, easily, how much I’ve paid per rental, during whatever time horizon I choose. (The last month, the last six months, the last year, etc.)

Does this exist?

If so, please tell me!

If not … well, some of you are clever young entrepeneurial techie types — make ‘em!

Thanks…

… to those who came out to the Blowing Up The Brand event last night. Great to see some old pals, meet some new people, and it’s always a highlight to get meet readers I’ve been in touch with only via email etc. (And it’s always a drag that some conversations/meetings are shorter than is ideal.) I owe some of you some correspondence now and will get to that in the next day or two, but I wanted to also thank Melissa Aronczyk and Deveon Powers having me. Good luck with today’s events!

Also since I talked about Twitter, I had to do a quick search this morning to see if any of you were tweeting. And you can guess the answer.

(Thanks also to Mobile Libris – a very fine business that I endorse.)

Another story I may have missed?

My last inquiry along these lines didn’t turn up the story I was hoping had been written, but …

I’ve been wondering, in regards to the rising savings rate — how much of that is a result of people moving their money out of IRAs and the like (which I believe the official savings rate does not count) into bank accounts? Anybody read anything about that?

I ask because during the years when the savings rate was falling to, or below, zero, many pundit types on the conservative side insisted that this measure didn’t matter, because it didn’t capture equities in 401(k)s. Or at least that’s what I remember. Thus my curiosity. (Since lately the savings rate seems to matter again.)

I’m quite certain I’ve read that a lot of people have shifted their assets away from stocks and into cash, and if I am remembering right about the above then that should be at least something of a factor in the increase in the official savings rate. But how much?

Anybody read anything about this?

It’s only Tuesday

letterbig2Unless you’re in New Orleans.  Then it’s something better than that.

To mark Mardi Gras, I will recommend a book about New Orleans. Immodestly, I will recommend my own book, Letters From New Orleans, published by the mighty Garrett County Press.

It’s not about Katrina and its aftermath. It’s a book of essays about how the city was for us when we lived there. The first edition was published in 2005, mere weeks before Katrina came along, an event that of course recast the book against my will. Kate Sekules’s NYT review here; other reviews and so on are here. (The second edition does include a post-Katrina afterword.)

While I’m being immodest, I’m not being greedy. To this day, all my royalties are redirected to organizations involved in post-Katrina relief efforts. While the specific nature of those efforts have of course changed, they haven’t stopped.

Happy Mardi Gras, wherever you are.

Blogs and books

James Surowiecki, on his NYer blog, asks:

Has any regular blogger—someone who’s posting a sizeable amount of content every day—written a great book (whether in terms of critical acclaim or public influence)? I realize that’s a completely old-media question (why, after all, should books be the criterion of anything?), but I’d still be interested to hear people’s answers.

Unfortunately there appears to be no way to leave a comment, or contact Suroweicki, so I’m not sure how he’s going to get answers.

Anyway, I would say that a few things that leap to mind are that Julie/Julia book (blogger who cooked from Julia Childs cookbook and wrote about it), very well-reviewed and sold well; that book by the waiter who ranted anonymously on a blog, I think that was well-received, and sold welll; and I guess the stuff white people like blog/book, I think that has done well and people like Kurt Andersen think that it’s “smart.”

Maybe none of those count as critical acclaim and public influence, I’m not sure. But those are the ones I can think of.

In general, publishers have thrown a lot of money at bloggers, but most of those efforts have not been successful.

What does your sound brand like?

Anybody out there read the blogs on AdAge.com? Just curious.

Anyway, I was poking around that site earlier this week, and noticed a blog called “Songs for Soap,” and this entry asking “Does Every Brand Have A Sound?

We all know that there is no longer the slightest stigma involved in a band, indie or established, renting its music to a brand, but I was still a little surprised to read just how far from those forgotten notions we’ve come: The entry concludes with the marketers actually lecturing musicians about how to make sure they’re worthy of such collaborations!

“Artists need to think of themselves as brands; what they stand for, what their values are and what message they want to give,” if they are to succeed in partnering with consumer brands.

So to turn the item’s headline around, the question for musicians, I guess, is: Does your sound have a brand? Maybe there’s a future career here — consultants who help bands write their mission statements and so on.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, this September 4, 2006 Consumed addressed Umpqua Bank’s unusual music-branding work with Rumblefish, whose founder is the first person I can remember articulating the “what does your brand sound like” pitch.

On a related note, the same blog has an entry on Girl Talk cutting a long-form ad “I’m a PC” ad. Interesting ona number of levels, and I hadn’t heard about it. (And again for what it’s worth: My July 20, 2008 column on Girl Talk.)

September recap (+ playlist)

I like reading other sites’ month-in-review posts, so I thought I’d try one, too.

Actually though …  I’ll open with a question: If you have a site, what do you use to track your stats? I’m using a WordPress plug-in that I’m not that crazy about. I’ve never really cared about stats before, but if I’m going to do this, maybe I should use some service that’s more detailed and accurate. Recommendations welcome.

Okay so on we go:

* The most commented-on item of the month is this one, Pessimism (Or: Is Main Street a bunch of spoiled, overspending babies?). These are also the best comments of the month, I think, and I’m still mulling them over and hope to have more to day on this subject soon.

* The most “active” (most views, I guess) items were this Q&A with Harriete Estel Berman, and this post Bias, rhetoric, and cognitive dissonance. A different plug-in (ShareThis) indicates that the Berman Q&A is also the “most shared” item of the month.

* The item I thought would get more comments was this one on Expressions of musical fandom in the digital era.

* The item I thought would get the most attention and “sharing,” but didn’t, was this on 3M apparently biting an ad idea. Or at least, it didn’t get a lot of attention here. Consumerist did a post about the same thing a few days later that probably drew more traffic than this site gets in a month. (That’s not in any way a knock on Consumerist, which I am confident came to the topic through its own channels, not by reading Murketing.com. I’m just a little disappointed that their 9/15 post got a lot of traction and my 9/12 one got none — for instance, about a thousand Diggs for them vs. zero for me. Ah well!)

* My personal favorite posts that haven’t already been mentioned were this excellent Q&A with Little Friends of Printmaking, and this bit of Mad Men Musing: Changing Times.

The playlist for September is after the jump if you’re interested. Read more

Politics, lies, and your brain

Following up on this earlier post on “source amnesia,” and the tendency for political (and other) mistruths to “stick”: I guess it’s no surprise the topic is getting attention as the current political season reaches ever-more-absurd levels of frenzy. Braulio sends this item from Very Short List:

Earlier this year, political scientists at Duke and Georgia State described the Bush administration’s claims about Iraqi WMDs to a group of adults, then gave those same people a convincing explanation that Iraq did not, in fact, have a WMD program in the works. How did the people react? Liberals became even more convinced that Iraq had no nuclear or chemical weapons; conservatives became even more certain that it did, with 64 percent of them insisting that Saddam was hiding the evidence.

Basically a classic instance of cognitive dissonance, no? (Subject comes up in Buying In, for whatever that’s worth.)

And today I see Freakonomics links to this Washington Post column on the same subject, mentioning the Duke experiment and others. In one, Yale political science prof John Bullock showed subjects the transcript of a NARAL ad that claimed John Roberts supported “violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.”

Bullock then showed volunteers a refutation of the ad by abortion-rights supporters. He also told the volunteers that the advocacy group had withdrawn the ad. Although 56 percent of Democrats had originally disapproved of Roberts before hearing the misinformation, 80 percent of Democrats disapproved of the Supreme Court nominee afterward. Upon hearing the refutation, Democratic disapproval of Roberts dropped only to 72 percent.

Republican disapproval of Roberts rose after hearing the misinformation but vanished upon hearing the correct information. The damaging charge, in other words, continued to have an effect even after it was debunked among precisely those people predisposed to buy the bad information in the first place.

The upshot of this and other experiments, The Post’s Shankar Vedantam writes, is that “refutations can strengthen misinformation.” And although I happen to have used an example showing this among Democrats, Vedantam says the tendency is “especially” true “among conservatives.”

Elsewhere

So obviously this site has been quiet for the last several days. That’s because I’ve been away, and now that I’m back, I’m behind.

Meanwhile, maybe you’ve read about this elsewhere, but if you’re following the market turmoil and proposed solutions and so on, I thought this story in The Times about how a similar situation was handled in Sweden a few years back was pretty interesting. So if you haven’t already (and you care about the subject), go read that.

And I’ll be back later.

AntiFriday: Your weekly compendium of backlashes, dissent & critiques

Michael Phelps to endorse Frosted Flakes, and the Daily News notes some health experts who don’t like it: “I would not consider Frosted Flakes the food of an Olympian,” says one. But really he’s an ex-Olympian, isn’t he? “Frosted Flakes: Breakfast of Former Champions Who No Longer Have to Worry About Staying in Shape.” “Frosted Flakes: The Official Cereal of Going To Seed.” Right? [Via Commercial Alert.] …

More seriously, Bill Moyers had a great interview this week with Andrew Bacevich. It’s better to see it than read the transcript, and the quote that follows isn’t the part the made it so compelling, but I’ll just throw in one bit, because it relates to earlier posts here and here: Moyers asks about GHW Bush’s 1992 pledge that the “the American way of life” is not up for negotiation, and Bacevich replies most Americans would concur, but: “If you want to preserve that which you value most in the American way of life, then we need to change the American way of life. We need to modify that which may be peripheral, in order to preserve that which is at the center of what we value.” I believe you can watch the whole interview here. …

Much less seriously, I meant to mention this earlier but I don’t think I ever did: Andrew Andrew keep mentioning this site, The Impulsive Buy. I’d heard of it before (and maybe you have too) but only recently actually checked it out, and it’s pretty entertaining. …

Marginal Utility contemplates “wrongness” — that is, “purposeful attempts to alienate an audience through a kind of puerile repetition or offensiveness that on its face contains no politically subversive content.” Possibly relevant to recent-ish discussions on this site of MySpace and other unappealing aesthetics. Either way, worth a read. …

Here’s an interesting post on The Consumer Trap, that questions the use of words like “consumer” and “consumption.” Michael Dawson writes: “Usefulness, pleasure, longevity, and cost minimization are our normal goals as product users. Consumption, the final using up of a product, is almost never our intention.” I thought this was an interesting framework. Do we think of consumption as happening at the moment of purchase? Or at the final-using-up of a product? …

Sabrina Gshwandtner, in American Craft, writes about “many long-standing DIYers” who “feel that craft fairs are now, for better or worse, a hybrid mix of straightforward commercialism and viable counterculture practice.” Etsy, too. Or maybe Etsy even more so. …

Core77 points to an excellent video comparing iPhone in adland vs. iPhone in real life. Ouch!

Funny deconstruction of some weird Burger King place mats on Idea-Sandbox. I’d missed this earlier, but I guess it’s made the rounds. If you missed it … well, check it out. (Thx: B.A.) …

Coudal points to an anti-bottled-water video. I actually hate it: It’s everything that’s wrong with “cause” marketing, shrill, insulting, lecturey, overlong, and smug. But for a good cause! And maybe you’ll disagree. …

AntiFriday: Weekly compendium of backlashes, dissent & critiques

NYT story looks at the role that ad campaigns played in making debt (home equity loans) ets., less scary to consumers; ad execs now say ” society’s attitudes about debt shaped the ads, not the other way around,” but I bet they didn’t say that in pitch meetings ….

The Wall Street Journal recounts The Olive Garden’s “mixed feelings” about “rogue brand ambassador” and Hugh Heffner harem member Kendra Willkinson; traffic-hungry blogs pile on ….

In survey, 73% say Starbucks coffee is too expensive ….

Living Oprah, blog of 35-year-old artist, performer and writer in Chicago: “For one year, I will live as Oprah advises…. Additionally, I’ll be charting the cost of living as Oprah prescribes. Will the costs — financial, time spent, energy expended — be worth the result?”  …

Report “focuses on methods of advertising food to kids [via] spreading messages through social networks, and urges lawmakers to restrict junk food advertising to kids online” (via Commercial Alert) …

Anti Advertising agency on plan to limit outdoor advertising (removing 40k billboards) in Buenos Aires….

A political ad making fun of Barack Obama uses the Jackson Browne song “Running On Empty,” and Browne, “incensed,” is suing. …

Shell newspaper ads in the U.K. describing oil-exploration and refining projects as sustainable-energy initiatives spark complaints from World Wildlife Federation, and Britain’s ad-watchdog agency forces the company to withdraw them …

Amusing yet earnest video by Municipal Arts Society about news racks around NYC in clear violation of various laws …

AntiFriday: Bono-hating; Converse murketing; etc.

Well it’s AntiFriday again, and time for a rundown of the latest in dissent, backlashing, critiques, and like that.
1. On The Point website, someone has started a campaign titled: “Bono — Retire from public life and we’ll donate a ton of money to fight AIDS.” Partly it’s an anti-Product Red effort, but really it’s about hating Bono. The “Pitch,” in part:

Bono’s philanthropy efforts are self-righteous, ineffective, & counter-productive….

The grassroots leaders of the global fight against AIDS didn’t ask for Bono to be their frontman. Its time for Bono to step down. We’ll all pledge donations to the Global Fund, but no pledges are collected until Bono retires from public life…

As I type, $1,108 have been pledged.

This item via WFMU’s Beware of The Blog, where Bono was previously assaulted here.

2. The Oregonian reports that a Converse effort to put up street-art-style ads on some buildings on Portland’s North Alberta Street has ended poorly. Somebody called the cops, but that’s not really the bad part.

The vacant building’s owner, developer Rambo Halpern, said he wouldn’t have granted permission to Nike-owned Converse to post the ads had he been asked. Alberta Street, he noted, is known as an art district and alternative business hub.

“They’re a little bit anti-corporate, anti-chain,” Halpern said. “Providing free advertising to a corporation making billions of dollars a year is not high on my list of priorities.”

Ouch! Not exactly the reaction Converse wants, I’d say. (Actually, I did say it, to reporter Brent Hunsberger. I’m quoted in this article. Just so you know.)

Related, on Public Ad Campaign blog: Converse subway ad subverted in NYC.

3. Steve Powers offers this:


Enamel on aluminum; $1,999; here.

If you missed Powers’ most recent project, here’s a Times article by Ariel Kaminer, about the “Waterboard Thrill Ride.”

More AntiFriday after the jump. Read more

In The New York Times Magazine: Girl Talk

MASH-UP MODEL:
Music you could never buy on iTunes tests the pay-what-want business model

In Consumed this week, a subject that’s come up before on Murketing (most recently last week): Girl Talk, the Pittsburgh-based musical-collage-maker.

It’s one thing for various name-brand artists to dabble with giveaways. It’s something else for a creator who has operated artistically, financially and even legally outside the structures of the traditional recording business for his entire career to do so. Will “Feed the Animals” make Girl Talk a rock star? And what would that even mean?

Read the column in the July 20, 2008, issue of The New York Times Magazine, or here.

Illegal Art site is here; direct link to access Feed The Animals is here.

Consumed archive is here, and FAQ is here. Consumed Facebook page is here.

To Do in Portland, OR: Soldier Portraits opening

This coming Thursday night, July 3, is the opening of (extra-special adviser to Murketing) Ellen Susan‘s Soldier Portraits show, at the Blue Sky Gallery in Portland. Plus: Lecture Saturday July 5. Time and location details below.

More about the project at American Photo‘s State of the Art blog; in the June 2008 issue of Photo District News; and in the June/July 2008 issue of The South. And of course at SoldierPortraits.com. Here’s a brief extract from the latter:

The project consists of portrait photographs of soldiers of the United States Army, primarily of the 3rd Infantry Division. The goal of the project is to look at a person in military uniform and to see that person as a unique individual…

The photographs are made using the 150 year old collodion wet plate process — the same process that was used to document much of the period (and many of the soldiers) of the Civil War.

SOLDIER PORTRAITS
July 3 – August 2, 2008
Blue Sky Gallery
122 NW 8th Avenue
Portland, Oregon
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 – 5 pm

Opening Reception July 3, 6pm

Lecture July 5, 3pm

(Also showing: Some guy named Rauschenberg. From Texas, I think.)

–> More Soldier Portraits images are also included in group shows at Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco, July 18 – August 24 and at The Photographic Resource Center, Boston, through July 2, 2008, as well as at the Jepson Center for the Arts at the Telfair Museum, Savannah, GA, through July 8, 2008.