Archive for December, 2004



December 30, 2004

MoCo Loco: Under a Tenner

A fascinating piece on designers selecting “good” design available for under £10.



December 28, 2004

I suspect that my feelings of cultural displacement and overall cultural detachment are a direct result of Johnny Carson. More specifically, Carson leaving the Tonight Show and causing a shift in the cultural landscape that is only now becoming significant.

Let me back up a moment and discuss the generalized sense I have always had of being able to span at least three generations of pop culture while simultaneously failing to deeply attach to any one generation. As a child of the early 60s (ok, 1963 if you must know — though the gift of good skin allows me to get away with still being “30-something”), I was at a cultural swing point — the last official generation of the baby boom, yet with almost nothing in common with boomers or the generation to follow.

Growing up, I truly liked and appreciated the music and showmanship of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and did so in a completely non-ironic fashion (irony was not even in fashion then). Carson was the touchpoint every night wherein the stars of the past generation as well as some of the stars of the next generation would appear. Fortunately, my parents quickly realized that I was not likely to fall asleep, so they just let me watch late-night TV from an early age.

Liking Frank and Dean, as well as their contempories among movie stars and stand-up comics, was not a stretch for me at all. It seemed perfectly natural and in clear alignment with what Johnny liked as well as what my parents liked. My foothold in that generation seemed secure.

Over time, however, as my cohort and I grew up, new tastes began to emerge. Some of it seems strangely detached from the reality of the time when I look back. But, that is the burden of hindsight in the culturally obsessed.

By the time I was 8 years old it was the 1970s and the cultural landscape was undergoing some very dramatic shifts. Carson still ruled the airwaves, but he was wearing suits with big lapels and fat ties — a visual that never really worked in my mind. The music scene was in the throes of the sensitive singer-songwriter battling it out with hard rock and roll. The Beatles would end, the Stones would roll on, and little kids like me would search for an anchor.

In some ways, the anchor remained Frank and Dean and the ability to watch Carson and enjoy the gentle rhythms of a different time. In other ways, the young adult angst of a sensitive Jewish boy from New York City (specifically the Bronx) could only end up in the baritone grip of a singer-songwriter named Neil Diamond.

Now, to many of the current generation (I suspect), the distance between Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond is a very short one. My choosing to complete ignore the Stones and Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan was merely a function of not having been born earlier enough. They were of my time, but just a bit too early to be of my interest. Pop music, I believe, imprints itself best at only a few junctions in our life — early childhood, adolescence, first love, and depression. It was such that at adolescence I was imprinted with Mr. Diamond.

I certainly listened to many other things, and eventually transitioned during the 70s to such odd tastes as Styx, Rush, Billy Joel, the Eagles, and Linda Ronstadt. All of these, of course, subject to their own considerable scorn by subsequent (and even concurrent) generations of rock critics and rock snobs.

By the time the 80s came and I left high school and went to college, musical tastes were shifting dramatically. I only have to look at the music collection my wife brought into our marriage to see how culturally adrift I was during those periods. (Yes, my wife is a generation younger than me, which means anywhere from 2 to 10 years younger). 1981 brought the world Duran Duran and that shaped her musical tastes (she is free to disagree using the comments button below) for life. Eventually she went “dark” and was all about The Cure and Nine Inch Nails, but Duran Duran was her Neil Diamond.

Except, her Frank Sinatra was Neil Diamond. She liked Neil because her father liked Neil and it played in the car. This is not that far, in some sense, from my liking Frank. Given that I was able to tell her I love her while listening to Neil is a pretty strong statement of the generational intersections we share.

Eventually, by the late 80s and early 90s, I began to reassociate with music from my own missed years (Dylan, The Stones, The Who) but also with music from the current era. Grunge might not have been formative for me, but it played a part as a soundtrack for my life. Likewise had heavy metal and prog rock and disco.

Yet, through it all, I am not really the child of any period. My wife is clearly someone who came of age in the 80s. My brother as well (he was born in ’69), though their particular tastes vary widely. My brother was in a hair metal band and worshipped Kiss and Van Halen (and perhaps Ozzy, but that just scares me). I just drift from period to period, plucking what I like and leaving the rest behind.

If you ask me about my three favorite albums of the last 5 years, I will show my age and my tastes. Two of the albums are clearly in the singer-songwriter tradition I love: Sailing To Philadelphia by Mark Knofler and The Houston Kid by Rodney Crowell. The third, interestingly enough, is A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay. I like Green Day as much as I like Marvin Gaye, and U2 became a favorite only after passing into cultural signficance (The Joshua Tree) and I love Everclear but never really liked Nirvana.

Underneath it all, however, lies in the influence of Johnny. First, I am very clear in the fact that I faintly detest Leno and all that he represents. I have never even made it all the way through a Leno episode of The Tonight Show. I can take or leave Letterman and find Conan mildly irritating. But, Leno I detest. Why? Because he has no cultural affliation and no cultural perspective.

You see, Carson was of the “Greatest Generation” and was clear in his love for Frank and Dean. He was also clear in his love for generation after generation of comics (amazingly, Leno included) that were given the chance to be on his show. Whether they were George Carlin or Richard Pryor or Steve Martin or Jerry Seinfeld, Carson gave people a shot because he had an opinion. Frank might have dismissed much of the younger generation (“Why the fuck can’t we get Shecky Green on this show?” he might have said.), Johnny embraced change.

Johnny’s cultural attachment and sheparding of the Zeitgeist (you knew I would use that word here, in both an ironic and non-ironic fashion) was a model for me. He had opinions, but was always open to changing them. New talent turned him on, and that model lives within me as well. I might be culturally adrift sometimes, but I am usually fairly sure of my true north. Johnny Carson instilled that in me.


A holiday Grover story.

December 25, 2004

Originally uploaded by AtlasBrand.

Christmas at our house. Once again, Grover not only gets out of control, but breaks into the good stuff.



December 22, 2004

Yahoo! News – Survey Defines Four Kinds of Mall Parkers

For once, useful research that proves me right!



December 21, 2004


I owe a link to Chris, who I met through Harry, for both reading my blog (that is at least one reader, since I don’t read it myself) and for writing about marketing. He is not a “marketer”, but seems to be doing a fine job thinking like one.

I also know that Harry is always around to help me with my marketing challenges. He read some book I lent him, so….



December 21, 2004

The funniest thing about marketing is how easy it seems and how difficult it can be.

I am working on a large project right now that is deeply steeped in the fundamentals of brand identity and how to best manifest the brand through various media. The project is very challenging and raises as many issues as it hopes to address. The most interesting part, however, is that this problem is always difficult. This is not the first time I have faced this particular business challenge, and won’t be the last. Each time, it is equally tough. The ability to create a brand identity that stands the test of time and the test of the market is a very monumental task. Failure happens more often than success, unfortunately.

As the project moves along and becomes public I will share my thoughts about how we got to where we are going.

I am taking time off for the holiday season right now, and as much as I like blogging frequently I am also trying to minimize my “keyboard time” for the next couple of weeks. Please have a safe and happy New Year.



December 18, 2004

Ding Fries Are Done!!

Thanks to my team mates Ed and Richard for passing this on. They know how important it is to me to keep up on the King.



December 17, 2004

Does shoe polish really matter that much anymore?

There was a nice ad for kiwi shoe polish in Esquire this month. Clever, catchy ad. It had me wondering, however, how much shoe polish really matters.

When I was growing up it was a regular part of my life to see my father shining his shoes. He worked them over until they were as clear as glass and as reflective as a mirror (to mix a metaphor or two). He even shined his softball cleats. I learned how to shine watching that.

As time went on, the relevance of a shined shoe seemed to diminish. I have had a career where wearing business clothes as been mostly optional instead of mandatory. Yet, my shoes are shines. Sometimes by me, sometimes by the nice folks at Nordstrom. Leather shoes look better with the spit and polish.

Among a younger generation, however, I wonder how much time and effort is put into shining shoes. Frankly, how many shoes in the closet of the typical 20 – 40 yr old male today need shining? Not sneakers. Not hiking shoes. Not canvas shoes. And, in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, the winter calls for rain and mud friendly shoes, not spiffed up leather.

I haven’t looked at the sales figures for shoe polish over the last decade, but I speculate they are on a steady decline. Something about that saddens me.

Today, I will find some time to shine.



December 13, 2004

Traffic is on the rise…

Thanks to the mentions by Harry Pierson, my traffic has been soaring over the past few days. Nice to see so many people come by, though I wish more of them would stay and read.

Of course, the content of any blog is what keeps the audience. I realize that my content is sometimes a little out in left field for the audience seeking guidance on architecture or insight into how Microsoft is going to approach the architect audience. However, I do like to believe that there is some other redeeming value found here.

Thanks for someone commenting on my Scotch Whisky entry. I remember when I first started drinking whisky — and I was of legal age — and thinking that it was not the “easiest” to drink beverage. That was with a blended Scotch as well, something far more palatable to many than a single malt. With time, and a wee bit of trial, I learned how to appreciate whisky in much the same way I learned how to appreciate wine. It takes time for the tongue to learn to distinguish amongst all the flavors and to realize that the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. Drinking, or eating, is really a sequence of compose/decompose exercises on the tongue. We enjoy the whole, then seek out the individual elements, then bring them all back together again.

Sounds like programming as well, the compose/decompose cycle. Perhaps that is why I have found some of my best programmer friends also have the best wine palates.



December 13, 2004

New perspectives on architecture

Keith Pleas posts some MSDN Architecture Center. I am glad to see they created some discussion.

Marketing often exists in the mind of the audience as much as the intent of the marketer. Reading too much into anything can cause the initial impact of an image or a word to diminish. In a culture of tremendous visual and auditory noise, breaking through can be a hard task.

Here is a thoughtful piece about ad campaigns. And another, more academic.