Archive for June, 2008

Dispatch from the Edgewater NJ Multiplex

June 30, 2008 1 comment

Wall*E meets Saturn\'s rings

Must-see moment: Wall*E meets Saturn’s rings (via L.A. Times)

While Professional Me has been exposed lots to the usually unpleasant inner workings of the entertainment industry, Private Me still finds it possible to watch a movie in open-mouthed, awe-struck, teary-eyed wonder. You know what I’m talking about — the burning of Atlanta in “Gone with the Wind.” The massive Imperial Stardestroyer rumbling like some prehistoric beast into the opening frames of “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Dorothy stepping out of her tornado-tossed house into a vivid Technicolor Oz.  Hell, I even go ga-ga watching dead Patrick Swayze push that penny towards Demi Moore’s face, as that one impeccable tear wells and spills down her (as-yet surgically unaltered) cheek…

So add “Wall*E” to my list of wonder-inducing, tear-inspiring movie experiences.  Visually stunning, funny, sweet, suspenseful — and all without benefit of much dialogue to speak of, mega A-list celebrity voice performances, Disney Channel hyper-promotion, or Happy Meal trinkets.  (Although I will say, my son and I hot-footed it right from the movie theater to the nearest Blockbuster to rent the Nintendo DS version of the “Wall*E” game…so am not completely immune to the siren call of tie-in merchandise…) 

And the movie happens to have a message. One that I’m sure some jackass right-of-center pundit will jump on as irresponsibly pushing a liberal eco-nazi agenda on the impressionable minds of today’s moviegoing young (remember all the “Happy Feet” brouhaha?)

Puh-lease.  How about this message?  Earth is a pretty great place to live.  Litter really stinks.  It’s easy not to litter, which is one way to keep Earth a pretty great place to live. Easy soundbite for the 5-year old in my house to digest, and pretty non-partisan at that.

For more on “Wall*E” and the marketing (or non-marketing) genius of Disney/Pixar, check out this terrific post from Seth Godin.  (Thanks to Jon Cronin for the heads-up.)

Animated Shorts

June 26, 2008 3 comments

I’m obsessed with creativity — how to channel it, nurture it, harness it.  I am endlessly jealous of graphic designers and advertising creatives and artists and others like them who get to luxuriate in candy-colored worlds of inspiration and ideas and limitless coolness all day (or so I imagine)…I live their world vicariously by devouring design magazines like Metropolis and How the way foodies gobble up Gourmet and Bon Appetit.

Animators fall into this group, in my mind.  Animation never fails to ignite my creative fire.  Always has.  I remember as a kid loving the “Pink Panther” movies less for the comic genius of Peter Sellars and more for the uber-cool animated opening credit sequences. By the tender age of six I could discern the difference between Hanna-Barbera  “Tom and Jerry” shorts and the ones directed by Chuck E. Jones (see below, note resemblance to early-60s Looney Tunes drawing style and the original “Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  Look at Tom’s toe.  Awesome.) 

via wikipedia

So needless to say I am excited beyond reason to see “Wall*E.” What does this say about me? Who cares.  Pixar is genius.  Dreamworks animation is fine, I enjoyed “Kung Fu Panda” and the “Shreks” and all the rest but nothing touches the magic, whimsy, beauty and humor of Pixar animation in my mind. 

This little trash compactor has SOUL.  (via

(O ye of little faith, don’t take my word for it.  Check out this great review…)

But wait, I’m forgetting the films of Hayao Miyazaki which have the same power and impact. “Spirited Away” is one of the most amazing, magical, strange, hypnotic movies I’ve ever seen.  Let your fingers do the running, not walking, to Netflix to get it on your queue if you’ve never seen it.  Trust me, it will open your mind and your heart and soothe your soul.

Ridiculously beautiful and lush (via

Categories: Culture

Amazing Cause Campaign

June 25, 2008 Leave a comment

The Girl Effect

Oh, Nike Foundation, I am not worthy. I can only aspire in my own cause marketing efforts to come up with a piece this inspiring that so clearly articulates the problem to be solved, and why it matters. What great great work. Many thanks to my client Laurie Steuri for sharing.

Categories: Cause, Clients, Public Relations, Work Tags: ,

Moments of Wonder, the Sequel

June 23, 2008 Leave a comment

Another moment of wonder this weekend.  Not as sublime perhaps as Catskills fireflies and deer but profound for me in a parental pop culture kind of way.  Had a slumber party in the “big bed” last night with my son — let him pick the movie we’d watch at bedtime, cuddle under the duvet, etc — and before you judge my parenting don’t worry, I’ve been doing the “read to them at bedtime at least 20 minutes” thing for five years now so a little pop culture now and again at bedtime won’t kill him.

He picked “The Empire Strikes Back,” which he’s seen in bits before but never the whole thing in one sitting. So I was dubious about how long the attention span would hold out but sure enough, that awesome opening scroll started, the John Williams theme swelled, and he was hooked.  I don’t what switch turned on in his five year-old brain that kept him engaged for the whole thing, but whatever the reason, it was pure bliss watching this beloved film from my childhood with my own child, knowing he was digging it as much as me.

I remember vividly the first time I saw “Empire” in the theater — with my own mom, in fact.  My dad and sister were away somewhere and Mom put me to work on that hot Saturday in 1980 — cleaning out the attic, I think — with the promise of a movie if the job was done well.  And this was back in the day, pre-VCR and pretty much pre-cable when getting to see a movie at the theater meant something.  I cleaned that attic like Cinderella scrubbing her way towards the promise of the royal ball and like Cinderella, my hard work paid off.  I’ll never forget showering off the attic dust and making the pilgrimmage with Mom through the steamy suburban night to the Capitol City Mall six-plex where we escaped together into that wonderful galaxy far, far away…

Far, far away and indeed, a long time ago.  1980 feels more and more distant with each passing day.  I miss that time when going to the movies meant something, and I really miss my mom.  She died three years ago this month which may have something to do with the disproportionately emotional resonance of my “Empire Strikes Back” experience with my son. 

I hope for him so many things…one of which is that in his digitally turbo-charged world of movies on demand, pay-per-view, third screens, fourth screens, Netflix, Apple movies and all the rest of it — that every once in a while he and I will share what Mom and I shared that summer evening — delighting together in the shared experience of a movie that becomes a cherished memory, so each repeated viewing (on whatever screen, whichever format) is as much an appreciation for the original viewing partner as it is for the movie itself.

On tonight’s agenda?  “Return of the Jedi,” of course.  The rebels celebrating victory, Ewoks cavorting, Anakin and Yoda and Obi Wan hovering in digital benevolence in the final frame. My son is very concerned that this story have a happy ending and fortunately — this time, anyway — I can promise he’ll get one.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Above and Beyond

June 19, 2008 1 comment

via moabdesertadventures  

I may have mentioned that I’m addicted to books on management and executive performance — love me some Peter Drucker — and I think a lot about how to motivate teams and get great work out of people and all that good stuff. I’m lucky enough to work with a bunch of smart, dedicated people and if I’m being honest, I’ve come to take excellent job performance a little bit for granted because of the caliber of so many of my co-workers. But once in a while something happens that stops me in my tracks, instances of employees going so far above and beyond that it’s remarkable.

Case in point, two mid-level account staffers gave up their Friday recently to work literally through the night to fix a client presentation that was not their responsibility to create in the first place, so it would be ready for a Saturday morning meeting in front of a VIP audience. Bearing in mind that this presentation was outside the project’s budgeted scope of work, these young women nevertheless worked till the sun came up to ensure their clients were presented in the best possible light later that day.  This from an account executive and account supervisor. 

I heard about it and wondered, what is it that drives some people to deliver client service or results that redefine excellence — passion for the work?  Genuine love (or fear) of the client?  Worry that somehow the bad presentation would reflect poorly on them? Or just an innate sense of responsibility and obligation to get the job done right, no matter what?

The longer I’m around (wheezing sigh), the more I realize some things just can’t be taught.   This account executive and her supervisor have what can’t be taught, and if I may use two old-fashioned words and put myself at risk of sounding like my Grandpa Jerry (veteran of Dubya Dubya Two…you know, the Big One) — it’s a sense of duty and honor.  A sense of duty to the client and the agency, in this case, and a sense of honor in a job well done.  Really well done.  

And all the Peter Drucker books in the world can’t teach that.


Categories: Clients, Public Relations, Work Tags:

So Much for Sisterhood

June 12, 2008 5 comments

So am reading “The Art of War for Women” by Chin-ning Chu which is described in one of its jacket blurbs as “a must-read for working women who want to take a holistic, high-road approach to building their careers.”

Sign me up!  Plus, there’s something about the whole workplace-as-battlefield metaphor that appeals to me.  (What this says about me, I don’t know.)  And I was curious to see why us little ladies need to have the original “Art of War” translated for us in the first place, what special insight would make the ancient wisdom of the original that much more relevant for today’s working woman.

Well, wonder no more.  Surely any  woman can identify with this spectacular piece of advice for dealing with “nasty, crablike creatures at work” from Chapter 7:

Slap her twice the first time she steps out of line. Keep your plan as dark as the night. When you move, be as unpredictable as the thunderbolt.

So I finally have permission to use physical force at the office?  YES! 

Oh…wait…I think “slap” was meant metaphorically.  Damn.  OK, but I can still do that “unpredictable as the thunderbolt” thing…not sure what that means, but I like the sound of it.  Crabby co-workers, look out. I’m diggin’ this “high-road approach” to building my career!  And there are still seven more chapters to go!

Categories: Work

That Ties That Bind

June 10, 2008 Leave a comment


Was missing my little sister the other day, wishing as I often do that she lives closer (I’m in NJ, she’s in Hawaii).  Which got me thinking about the ties that bind us to one another, both on- and off-line.  It wasn’t too long ago that I still found it fundamentally weird to imagine emotional bonds could be formed with people we’ve never met, that digital ties could be just as influential as the bonds we share with the “real” people in our lives.

Until I experienced my first blog crush.   His name was Keith.  I remember the day I discovered his Malls of America blog as if it were yesterday.  Here was a true kindred spirit, someone equally obsessed with vintage shopping malls as I was.  The blog was a treasure trove of shopping mall paraphenelia, from old youtube ads to scans of original floorplans and best of all, postcards featuring mid-century mall interiors at their finest.  All accompanied by thoughtful insight and charming reminiscence — lending a wistful poignancy to what in different hands would have been just another digital round-up of retro-camp.  

Keith, you had me at “center court fountain…”  (via mallsofamerica )

Oh, I couldn’t get enough — Keith’s posts were as quenching to my nostalgic thirst as the Orange Juliuses my sister and I slurped down on Saturday afternoons at the Capitol City Mall circa 1982.  But one day, it all came to an end.  August 28, 2007 — the day Keith disappeared.  The cessation of his posts caused an uproar among his followers but to no avail.  After 222 comments to what we can now assume was Keith’s final post, a message appeared saying that all further posts would be deleted by a site administrator.

I was completely unprepared for how hard hit I’d be by the disappearance in my life of someone who WAS NEVER REALLY THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.  The ties that bound me to Keith were purely those of a very specific shared interest.  I was emotionally fulfilled in the cozy embrace of a virtual community united by a love of old malls and adoration of a blogger who conjured phrases like “beautiful, butterscotchy dream of a vintage interior” to describe the faded image of a mid-60s mall corridor.  

So now that I’ve experienced the pain and the ecstasy of blog love firsthand, I’m much better equipped to speak with real conviction to clients about the emotional power of the digital ties that bind, and the importance of online communities in the overall landscape of influence.  So to Keith, my deepest thanks.  You’ve enriched me personally and professionally.  May the Muzak play and the Orange Juliuses flow freely … wherever you may be.


Categories: Clients, Work Tags: ,

Moments of Wonder

June 9, 2008 1 comment


Weekend dispatch from our little place in the Catskills… 

Friday, late:  Can’t sleep, house is silent. Husband, son and dog all fast asleep.  No sound except  bedroom fan and chorus of crickets outside. Pad downstairs in darkness,  peer out back door (checking for monsters and marauding bears).  See what at first seems like weirdly unseasonable meteor shower — can’t figure out why all that flashing in the sky. Realize that woods at bottom of our yard are full to the treetops of blinking fireflies, that the meteor shower is actually their light show merging with the dense carpet of stars in the crystal-clear night sky. 

Saturday, mid-day:  At lake with husband and son. Water so cold it penetrates to the bone and takes your breath away.  Brave our way out to the diving float, take turns jumping in and catching our five-year old who is nervous about taking the 3-foot plunge into the dark water.  After a few tentative jumps into our arms, he’s running at top speed and hurling himself through the air, over our heads — each time pushing faster, farther, higher — making it from water to dock without any help from either of us.

Saturday, after dinner:  Son asleep, on back porch with husband playing with the telescope and enjoying beers by the light (and scent) of citronella candles.  Motion-activated lights switch on around corner, I step off porch to investigate (monsters and bears).  Realize intruder is a beautiful white-tailed doe.  I freeze, she freezes.  Plants those huge dark eyes on me and doesn’t move a muscle for what seems like forever.  Then, delicately and deliberately as a ballerina stepping on pointe, she picks her way lightly into the woods and is gone. 

What do fireflies, deer and a child leaping off a dock have in common?  For me, each moment took my breath away.  And made me realize, the day I lose the capacity to feel a sense of wonder or joy at the sight of a firefly or the fragile beauty of a deer or my son’s glee at just living life is the day I sign myself up for some serious inspiration rehab — because if I can’t find inspiration and wonder in the seemingly ordinary details of my own life, how can I generate it for my clients and their brands?

Categories: Clients Tags:

Flying the Sadistic Skies

June 6, 2008 Leave a comment


via hyscience 

As if I needed one more reason to despise the airline industry.  Didja see this piece of INSANITY making the news rounds yesterday?  In response to skyrocketing fuel costs, some airline industry geniuses seem to think a viable solution is to start weighing passengers at the ticket counter and upcharging depending on their weight.

OK, let me get this straight.  You’re already demanding that I strip down to basically my skivvies at security and cram my clearly life-threatening hand creams and toothpaste into a ziploc bag. You have already told me I will pay extra for checked bags (am talking to YOU, American.) Your on-time statistics as an industry are appalling (Back to our penny-pinching friends at American, how’s this for a year-to-date track record?  According to the Department of Transportation, American’s average departure delay was 48 minutes, average arrival delay was 58 minutes, and nearly a third of total flights were delayed.)

Hmmm.  What would you do with an employee consistently unable to perform a third of their job function — indeed, the most critical third of their job function?  I wonder.

So with regard to the weight-based upcharge: oh, please let them try it.  PLEASE.  If they do, not only will I officially retire my frequent flyer wings (sorry non-NYC based clients — I love ya, but not enough to subject myself to THAT indignity) and sit back on my well-padded posterior, cackling with glee as the parade of civil rights lawsuits begins.

I used to think the most hideous PR job in the world would be representing Big Tobacco — not anymore.  Can you imagine managing crisis communications for an airline these days?  Does anyone think the airlines will redeem themselves in the hearts and minds of consumers anytime soon?

Uh, when pigs fly? 

Whither Suburbia?

June 5, 2008 Leave a comment

Photo originally uploaded by Michelle Kaufmann

It would appear our neighbors north of the border are not big fans of suburbia.  Thanks to some Netflix wanderings, I came across not one but two provocative documentaries by Canadian filmmakers about the dark side of the American dream — ok, North American dream — as embodied by the horrors of suburban sprawl.  “The End of Suburbia” argues that life as we know it — McMansions, SUVs, cheap gas — will implode within the next couple of years as we hit the top of the bell curve of our global ability to extract oil (the “peak oil” theory).  “Radiant City” focuses less on the oil crisis and more on the general alienation of suburban residents thanks to soulless cookie cutter architecture, lack of walking and communal space and mindnumbing commutes.  (Christopher B. Leinberger covers this topic too through the lens of the subprime mortgage crisis in this great Atlantic Monthly piece.) 

What does this have to do with PR?  Or me personally?  On the latter front, makes me damned glad I live in a town with a main street and walking space and good public transportation (and that I drive a Prius).  As for PR, am wondering how best to approach brand storytelling as we think about meeting the needs of the woman so many of our clients market to:  the very same middle-class, suburban, SUV-driving mom whose way of life (if the Canadians are correct!) is likely to change very dramatically in the near future.  Don’t have the answer right now.  Do have the sense though that the demise of suburbia is a macro-trend we need to observe carefully– personally and professionally.