I’ve been using shaving cream for the better part of my adult life. One might even debate that I was using it before I was an adult, and one might even win such a debate. That is not why my empty, old, and rusty can of shaving cream appears here. It’s to do with the sustainability of this packaging.
We tend to recycle as much as we can at home. In fact, it bothers me when a product is made out of metal or plastic, and is made in such a way that it doesn’t seem to be recyclable. This says to me that no consideration has been made to sustainable disposal by the name on the label – in this case, Gillette. The above fits into that category, and recently it got me thinking – there has to be a better way to package shaving cream. On this thing, the lid (not shown) is recyclable, but that appears to be all.
I am going to stop buying cans like this. I want the one I have right now to be the last of its sort inside my buying habits. Sorry this isn’t a great photo; that is not really the point of this post. The can might seem insignificant, but each night people go to sleep and 1 thing happens for sure – hair grows, which we want to then shave. This is significant enough a fact for Warren Buffett to invest in razor blades; it is also significant enough, by the same logic, for us to scrutinize the environmental packaging practices. In a world of uncertainty, it is still certain that a lot of people have shaved, are shaving as you read this, and will be shaving many times in the future. It is a fact.
Here’s a question that the men or the women can answer: what is the packaging like for the shaving cream you are using? Is there any alternative that you can suggest that does a good job of being shaving cream – one which comes in completely recyclable packaging? Is any company doing better work than their competitors in this regard?
I am not usually one to give much attention to celebrities or any of the inconsequential things that seem to surround them. But today I am taking exception to one.
Earlier today I had the displeasure of listening to one of the worst interviews I have ever heard. It wasn’t because the interviewer was bad – it was the interviewee. This time it was on CBC’s “Q” hosted by Jian Ghomeshi of Moxy Fruvous – a show I had known about but, oddly enough, never checked out until yesterday – before I knew of any of the bizzarro behavior that was about to happen when the Billy Bob Thornton band “The Boxmasters” came on this morning.
Basically Billy Bob had a hissy fit when he was introduced with mention of his career. Pretty standard stuff. Billy Bob should expect this – it’s the media, and the media is doing their job by creating context for the listener. Both myself and DaveyB noticed the note on the Jian’s laptop above – presumably from the shows produce. “If this really goes sideways – I have new Neil, new Metric standing by.”
Billy Bob says in the interview that Jian was instructed not to talk about his career, but Billy Bob’s publicist denies this:
Robinson confirms that while it’s true Thornton does not like to be asked about his movie career while he’s out promoting his band, Ghomeshi was never “instructed” to avoid the topic. “Bottom line: We don’t tell people what questions they can or cannot ask,” Robinson says.
If anyone is thinking that any press is good press, this may be a chance to see that some press can be bad. Also, if Billy Bob wanted to downplay his movie career, it’s safe to say that it didn’t quite work out.
Here’s an excerpt from the hosts blog:
Today, we were visited by country pop band, The Boxmasters. The Boxmasters biggest claim to fame is that their singer is Oscar-winning screenwriter/actor/director Billy Bob Thornton. If you were listening, you heard what could best be described as a ‘showdown at the Q corral’ when Mr. Thornton took offense to our mention of his cinematic accomplishments.
As you can see from the video capture above, Billy Bob was looking a bit messed up – some have suggested Billy Bob was under the influence, and as shown in the top capture, his band was looking pretty uncomfortable.
A tame but telling quote from the interview:
“Canadian audiences seem to be very reserved,” said Billy Bob Thornton. “We tend to play places where people throw things at each other. Here, they just sort of sit there. And it doesn’t matter what you say to ‘em. … It’s mashed potatoes but no gravy.”
As someone who has done around a hundred live, on air interviews, I can attest to the fact that Jian ended up in a really, really awkward spot and he did a really good job considering he was faced with a spoiled brat grown older. He could have kicked the band out the door at any time but he carried it through. Good sport. I’ll leave the rest for the video below:
Yes! I’ve done it. After a day of going to work, working, coming home, making dinner, then going to the Victoria Sketch Club’s 100 year anniversary Art Show, and writing a paper on investment strategy in the PC aggregate market, I actually have time for talking about this.
The Pop Shoppe is a company that has made pop for a long time. I think their deal was that you could buy a crate of pop in glass bottle form, take it home, drink it, and then bring the bottle back to be re-used. Ahead of their time maybe. My uncle always used to have a crate in the basement and he’d always let us raid it at family get-togethers while the grown ups would drink Adult Drinks. About 20 years has passed since I had seen these bottles around regularly and I hadn’t thought much of them, until I recently noticed them at the Market on Yates. I did do a double-take.
I don’t drink or crave pop at all, not the way I did when I was a kid. Tonight, I bought this pop as a reward for myself for doing some work I needed to do. Simple pleasure really, but it kept me motivated this evening. I wouldn’t have bought just any old pop though – this is a kick-back to some great memories and the brand is just so damn cool in a retro way. Yes there is an emotional attachment there.
The pop itself is actually flatter than I remember it. Maybe they’ve changed their formulas, maybe I’ve got a flat bottle, maybe some things are best left to memory. But let me have another sip – no, not best left to memory. Mmm this is good cream soda.
The bottles are different now than they used to be – taller, more normal. They used to be short and stout, at least in my memory. Also new: a URL on the back, thepopshoppe.com. Made in Burlington, Ontario.
Maybe they realized they had some brand equity but the refilling/crate business model wasn’t working out for them, or wasn’t profitable. Or maybe this was the only way to relaunch their brand, I don’t know. I did find them also in Wellburns at Pandora and Cook.
Aha, found it in their history:
After a few years of slow sales, The Pop Shoppe shares stop being traded on February 3rd. It’s a sad day. Although head office is no longer, some Pop Shoppes stay around, but close over the next few years.
An entrepreneur named Brian Alger resurrects The Pop Shoppe. Brian had grown up on The Pop Shoppe and was very keen on bringing it back, and getting into mainstream stores. Work began on formulating the same great tasting pop that the brand was known for.
Anyone else remember this pop?
New meaning is far too broad of a topic to write about so instead I will leave you with this photo. Perhaps it means something different to you than it does to me?
I took this photo from the street (you can see the chainlink fence this was shot through, blurred out) on the way back from Tofino. I don’t exactly know where we were as we took a secret shortcut which lead us to Englishman River Falls, but it’s not in Bellevue, Washington.
It’s been over a year since we settled on a name for our photography business. Since then we have done a lot of shooting, setting up the business on the administrative side, collaborated on a logo and also made a website design. The website itself is powered by the content management system I work on in the day time.
Our focus is wedding and event photography. We also shoot bands, DJs, and do headshots and the like. We have had thoughts about opening up the design side as well, but for now it makes the most sense to have the business focus on photography. May I present to you:
Bergamot Studios: Photography With Flavour
Comments, grammar advice, enquiries and Earl Grey tea all welcome!
Last Friday I saw Nine Inch Nails at the Memorial Arena. I have been a fan since a highschool friend named Cyril Woon decided to put on Pretty Hate Machine in 1994, 5 years after it had come out. It must have been 1994, because we were playing a card game that had just come out in 1993. I tried to come to terms with what I was listening to. Was it techno, was it industrial, was it metal, was it ambient ballads gone horribly wrong? At first I found his voice annoying, not because it sounded annoying, but because it sounded like an ordinary person who was just really pissed off. What was remarkable about that? Why were we listening to it?
The answer was in the futuristic production and artistic focus. Trent Reznor had a drive to make something different, something raw – heavily produced, but not over-produced to the point where there was no musical agility anymore. The notes, the sounds – they were swings of an axe to a fragile wall of pop music. No apologies were made about the negativity in lyrics or tone for the next album I listened to, because it was about to get darker, more abrasive, and twisted.
But before I get to that 3rd album, I just want to mention Broken and Fixed. Looking at this now, this is the kind of artistic production that I’d really be into if I came across it now. Broken was a new album, the new one after Pretty Hate Machine, and Fixed was a remix album of that music. It never stuck for me, perhaps because I didn’t know much about it or it just didn’t get any play – I knew people that had it but for some reason it didn’t make it into the CD player nearly as much as Pretty Hate Machine or the next album. Perhaps it was the absence of Flood – who had engineered PHM and TDS – that made it stick a little less for me.
The Downward Spiral was a sinister, abrasive and scathing album from Nine Inch Nails. There was something even less innocent about The Downward Spiral – sonically it had been distorted, shredded, sandpapered down, and annihilated. The textures were intense, and even influential for me as a producer over a decade later. The rawness of Nine Inch Nails had hit a deeper level, and there was no going back. There was something about it that made you crave the self-destructiveness of this character. It was deliberately set up this way. Although I still really liked Pretty Hate Machine, I could not listen to it back to back after The Downward Spiral. The order would have to be reversed or else it was just The Downward Spiral. Pretty Hate Machine seemed too shiny in comparison. If you read the wikipedia article about where it was recorded, it makes sense. I have to credit my friend Joel for introducing me to this album. If he had a place on the Internets, I’d totally link to him.
After that I bought Further Down The Spiral – a remix album of the previous, and it was just a bit too indulgent for me in that area so I didn’t listen to it much. I wanted something new and found it in the rave scene at the time, and then lost track of all Nine Inch Nails and all pop music for that matter. Trance had brought me out of the musical haze of the early and mid nineties. That was it – I had caught The Perfect Drug on Much Music, but I wasn’t interested enough any more to buy the albums.
Earlier this year, I had not bought anything further by Nine Inch Nails until I came across the double CD for Ghosts I – IV at Lyles Place downtown. Ghosts has been its own marketing success story, having been available for a free download, or a purchasable double CD, or a deluxe version, or a vinyl version, or a limited edition deluxe edition for $300. Basically you get to choose how much you like Nine Inch Nails, and the options are there for you. The box sets reportedly sold out very fast. There might be some lessons for Warner, EMI, Sony and Universal here.
Ghosts itself is a double album of instrumental industrial music and some ambient tracks as well. I am not going to lie – I was pleased to be listening to Nine Inch Nails again. There was this whole dimension of music that I appreciated and it had been absent from my playlist for a very long time, something like a decade. In that time, I had developed my taste for instrumental music, most of electronica fitting into this category, and I had spent a lot of time myself doing sound design and sculpting audio textures for my own music. I instantly recognized some of the synths used on the album, even some in common with LSG’s “The Singles Reworked,” one of the best electronic albums I own. Like BT’s “This Binary Universe,” it marks a significant artistic progression with little or no regard whatsoever to what is popular or mainstream. It is a creative milestone for Nine Inch Nails, pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable once again.
That is my background with Nine Inch Nails.
lights in the sky
We went to Memorial Arena in half disbelief that someone in Victoria had actually booked an artist that wasn’t far, far, far past their prime. No hack on Victoria, but we’re a small market at best and we just don’t have the numbers to attract the bigger tours. This might not have been a turning point for the city, but for once it didn’t feel like an isolated town on an island, living 10-20 years artistically behind the rest of North America’s performing arts. It’s just a fact of being a small market on the way to no major cities or regions. We are literally on the edge of the earth. What I am saying is that, in that context, it made this show a little more special for me.
The rock brand was very prominent as you can see in the photo at the top of this post. There aren’t too many logos for bands or groups that have quite the strength of the Nine Inch Nails logo. It’s stayed the same as long as I can remember. It is simple, memorable and distinctive. I have seen quite a few rock band logos that are not even logos, but rather illustrations that have been used in place of a real logo. That’s fine – that is part of the culture. However, half of the music business is marketing and advertising, and so it is auto-inhibitive to prematurely discount brand equity. There are not too many groups with an identity as strong as we see with this band. Before the show started, the merchandise machine was in full swing – it’s business time.
At the start of the show, as seems to be the way bands like to do things, Nine Inch Nails came out and started rocking out really, really hard. Beck did this when I saw him at the Royal Theatre recently – and this wasn’t Beck’s forte, but it was definitely Nine Inch Nails’. Since I didn’t know some of the newer songs, I had to resort to appreciating the musicianship and the visuals.
The lead guitarist was head-banging so hard during his solos, I am not even sure how he was able to stand up while playing. I could say this or that about the rest of the band, but Trent Reznor really stole his own show, playing keyboards, glitchy touch-screen computer instruments, drum machines, piano-keyboards, xylophones, almost all of which he threw off the stage when done with. It became really clear early on that the band was not phoning this one in – they were there to put on a performance AND a show.
The visuals, let me say this first: it’s really hard to explain it and make it sound awesome, because as soon as you explain something like this, it takes some of the excitement and mystery away – not unlike explaining a magic trick before doing it. Suffice to say, their choice of visuals to sound were very deliberate and it showed throughout the night. This was not pyrotechnics or an intelligent lighting bonanza. This was a full media experience that was entirely based on the music. Sometimes they were in front of a desert scene, sometimes a swamp, sometimes they were behind or in it, sometimes they were interacting with the visuals in ways that complemented what they were doing musically. Sometimes the visuals were just there in the background, a city smoldering from its own need in the distance. Other times the visuals were based on the music videos for the song, but with real-time effects on a much larger screen. Or they would disappear behind a wall of static, bursting holes in it with notes from their instruments or words into microphones. It was intense.
Here’s the set-list Nine Inch Nails played in Victoria:
- Letting You
- March of the Pigs
- Head Down
- The Frail
- The Wretched
- Gave Up
- The Warning
- 21 Ghosts III
- 28 Ghosts IV
- 19 Ghosts III
- The Greater Good
- Terrible Lie
- The Big Come Down
- 31 Ghosts IV
- The Hand That Feeds
- Head Like A Hole
- The Good Soldier
- God Given
- In This Twilight
All the “Ghosts” numbers you see above are instrumental tracks from the new album. They’re fairly left-field for the kind of mainstream audience Nine Inch Nails has these days, which means that some people were confused by the new material, and some others had the door opened for them to broaden their taste. As a DJ I can relate to how hard it can be to break relatively new or experimental music into the masses, and the Ghosts material fits both those categories. Not everyone is ready for it, but sometimes that kind of material can be the most important for the performer to play. Not only is it important for the artist and the sophistication of the listener, but some of it can be really, really good. For a concert and an audience with no shortage of attitude, for me, the Ghosts pieces were an oasis of composition, performance, and completely immersive artistry. It was a treat from the studio – songs that were never meant to be played out. I am so glad I got a chance to see those tracks performed despite all the forces against them.
The most interesting part of the Ghosts pieces were the placement in the set – if I was making a set listing for a band, I would arc the intensity in a similar way I think. Starting hard, moving into catchier tracks, then slowing it down to Ghosts levels before ramping the energy back up towards the finale, with one valley towards the end. At no point did I feel like the energy was dragging or that things were out of place. It was carefully done, and I understand that they take this aspect of their performances very seriously. As Reznor told Rolling Stone during rehearsal for the Lights in the Sky tour, “I think too much about this [bleep].” Well, we appreciate it.
At some point I’ll have to clarify the difference I see between a show and a performance. Someone who is technically very good can put on a good performance, despite other factors. Someone who is not so technically focussed can still put on a good show – and their fans are still happy to pay $200 to see them in concert, even when they do not display that they even want to be performing. This, to me, is sad, because while a show can be quite good, the performance can still be lackluster. Nine Inch Nails did not have this issue. I hope that makes sense.
Every now and then you come across something that forces you to re-evaluate how you judge a certain category of things – be it a book of fiction, a DJ set, a movie, or simply a dinner at a restaurant. After one of these experiences, you can’t be satisfied so easily with what came before it. This show AND performance was one of those experiences which raises the bar for all future concerts.
It was well worth the $55, and a new benchmark to determine value of all other concerts with.
Tonight, Nine Inch Nails is in town and I’m going to go check them out. From Trent Reznor’s latest blog entry:
This [is] an amazing tour and production – certainly the best thing I’ve ever been involved with and likely the final tour for NIN on this scale. Thank you to those who came out to see it and forgive me for having a Kanye West moment, but this was FOR SURE the best show of the year and any bull[bleep] end-of-the-year poll you may read in the next few weeks that says otherwise simply has it wrong. Those of you who saw it know I’m right.
Ok Trent, you’re allowed to have that Kanye moment, but my expectations have been set. I will be disappointed if you’re not rappelling from the roof of Memorial Arena with expensive supermodels flanking you while wearing ultra tacky sunglasses. Thanks for providing the metric.
He goes on:
The venue for Friday night’s performance in Victoria will have a very relaxed camera / camcorder policy… hmmn…
Alright, well I suppose I don’t need much more of an invitation than that to bring my camera to a concert, do I?
www.nin.com/newspost/2008/12/curtain-call.html – it’ll redirect you to the front page but maybe they’ll fix that in the future. I notice they’re doing a lot of cool updates to their site, like allowing users to populate the NIN website gallery through users flickr tagging. Not mind-bending but certainly unusual for an entity as high profile as NIN. That’s putting the power in the hands of the fan. Clever.
I’d mention something about Canadian politics – but I’d like to sleep well, so I’m going to leave that for another update.
How connected are you to your surroundings?
Richard sent me a link to an interview with some “mad men” (advertising folk) pontificating on the relevance of marketing, products, and advertising channels to the internet. Much of what I gleaned from reading this is that they are not as “in touch” as they think they are. Have a look and decide for yourself before reading what I have to say below.
highlights and low-lights
- The EA Sports / Tiger Woods story is a communications department shining at its brightest. That was awesome.
- Internet Overalls – I liked the creativity here but I think they’re missing the point. The point would not to be to solely cover internet relevance, it would be to make the product relevant to all marketing channels that it could be profitable in. If you concentrate on something that would only make sense to those on the internet, you’re ignoring a good chunk of the market. You are missing out (again.) The goal of marketing on the internet should be additional coverage, not mutually exclusive coverage.
- Katie Couric – They criticize her for not being interactive enough. But first, 2 out of the three interviewees admit to not watching the news, and the third suggests something that’s already being done. They suggest bringing her onto the web, or coordinating some sort of Katie-on-demand – but in reverse, where she demands your attention when she talks about a certain keyword. Sounds annoying. I see these guys are not aware that Katie Couric was doing a web-show on the night of the election, which had plenty of interaction on it too. Katie had some small-time guests participating like Hilary Clinton, but who am I to judge? Katie also maintains Couric & Co, a blog on the CBS site where she leads the charge on interactivity. I think these marketing gurus have pigeonholed her to a fault.
- It appears that some marketing ideals suggest that you have to rush to one channel or another to hit the markets you want. The brands that I see with the most credibility in the music industry have their product and their marketing in all relevant advertising channels and media forms. This does not mean going ape[bleep] and putting your CD in every Wal-Mart and Best Buy, it means that you find the channels that mean ubiquity for your genre and you hit those so that any time that a person is in their shop of choice, your product comes up in their searches. With searching online and in-store inventory systems advancing further all the time, availability is the new advertising. If you aren’t in inventory, you don’t exist. If you disagree with this, may I present to you: amazon.com.
- I think TV stations are beginning to make some really great web-content, some of the best web-content lately. They may be adapting faster than a lot of people give them credit for.
The point I’d like to make here is this: If you don’t see it with your own eyes, that doesn’t mean somebody is not out there doing it.
I’m curious what everyone elses’ take on this is. I am into marketing, I run and work in business on the web and off the web so I may be a bit biased in terms of how the nascent internet/real-world marketing practice will turn out. Did you get the impression that perhaps the interviewees, though very accomplished, may have been a bit under-prepared for this, or do you think they were spot-on?
Last week I saw a television ad for the Chevy Volt, an electric car design that has been sat on for years and years. Release date is 2010. Too little, too late.
The optical challenge for major American car companies is that they appear to have been doing nothing for too long. Basically their situation is that they’ve been making vehicles that no one wants for the last 15 years, and now they’re looking to stall that failure by asking the government for more money, or go bankrupt. So we see advertisements for an electric car that isn’t due out for two years. Not really surprising, but is this the most they can do?
Personally, I hope these major companies go down. I know it will be bad for the economy short term, but have a look at what it would mean long term to give them a loan.
- GM, Ford and Chevrolet will continue to make vehicles no one wants (read: Escalade, Hummer etc)
- Sales will continue to plummet
- The bear market will be preserved because these companies will not be worth investing in as long as their product line remains the same (out of touch with the environment and with the needs and interests of the world)
- The economy will re-crash when these companies finally reach the bottom of the government well
For the Big Three, it may be nice to have a fantasy supply of vehicles that make their ideal target market feel big by being 20 feet long and 8 feet tall – and by using more gasoline than the Queen of Saanich – but these are not vehicles that address the environmental needs or the financial picture of the economy we live in. There is a real world with concrete demands out there. GM, Chevrolet and Ford need to step in with both feet to make their supply match it.
What do you think?
I’ve given some thought to what has happened in Canada in the last month, and what is happening in the United States right now, both economically and politically.
Boy, if you could have told me that I would be writing about economics and politics on my blog about 6 years ago, I would have been very, very skeptical. Traditionally I have found the topics to be dull and boring, but not so in the last couple of months. That isn’t to say Canadian politics haven’t been boring – I give Canada’s quintet of leadership through boredom full credit for keeping up their usual bickering and knack for moving nothing forward and ensuring status quo for Canada – maybe it’s better that way. Perhaps we don’t need new laws (*cough* C-61 *cough*) so perhaps the leaders of our country can’t decide what to do because they don’t really know what they should be doing. The Copyright bill (C-61) would be the strongest indication of this – a minister by the name of Jim Prentice put forward a bill to do with photography ownership, mp3s, essentially anything to do with ideas. I have listened to quite a few radio shows on this subject and read a substantial amount through Michael Geist’s website since, and the conclusion that I have come to is that Jim Prentice put forward a bill after consulting with corporate and government groups – record labels, US DMCA, etc – none of them being the public (who he works for), and then put together a bill based on what they wanted. I do not get the impression that he particularly knows what he is talking about, especially after reading Michael Geist‘s hammering of his bill, where Michael made 61 recommendations to improve the bill – one exhaustive one each day for 61 days straight. If Jim Prentice had a read of this, I would think he would feel very humbled. There is nothing embarrassing about consulting the experts. There is so much intelligence in Canada, are we not big enough to employ it?
The less-than startling conclusion here is that Jim Prentice, after all of this, appears to be much less intelligent than Michael Geist. Does that boil it down too much to an uncomfortable level? Is that fair to say? I would say it is, and I would also say that it is how people are making decisions about how they decide who they want to lead their country. In this case, Jim Prentice was appointed to be Minister of Industry, and Michael Geist is not a politician but rather a Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa. So in this circumstance the matter of intelligence does not have a lot of impact on what is about to happen. But south of the border, the case for intelligent leadership is making itself.
From my observations north of the border, John McCain just does not articulate himself in a way that comes across as particularly intelligent. “I know how to do that” is he uses quite often without any suggestion of how exactly it is that he’s going to pull off the things he promises. And I believe it’s the source and the reason why polls are showing that McCain failed to win any of the Presidential debates. Perhaps people want transparency.
All of this at a time when the nation of the United States finds itself it financial turmoil, in a twisted puzzle of money and policy that will require a lot of thought to unravel and correct. People are not wanting an ordinary person to run their country when the problems are beyond the scope of ordinary inspirational leadership. There is a need for critical thinking that questions and rationalizes, instead of just “knowing how” to do stuff as John McCain suggests he does. This is too vague, too random, and frankly it underestimates the intelligence of the voters. I wont even get into his choice for running-mate – I think that is best summed up by John Cleese’s observations. (Thanks to Adam for the link.)
What makes good leadership?
When this question comes up to existing leaders in various fields – not just politics – there is usually some references that look like this:
- Communicating complex ideas in understandable ways
- An unthreatening ability to work with people to get things done
- Being at the right place at the right time
- The ability to empathize
- Confidence to take action
- Knowing when to let someone else lead
- Seeing the big picture – it’s not just about you
- Being recognizable as a leader, even when you don’t officially have the title on you – yet
Part luck, part skill, part instinct. One of the things that I have admired about the Clinton camp in this election is their ability to get behind Obama and lead from a position you’d not normally expect people to be able to lead from. That is part of their strength from my point of view, and I get a feeling a lot of others see it that way as well. While the Palin/McCain camp wants more aggression and literally chants “fight, fight, fight” at their rallies, we have something completely different with Obama/Biden – discussions of plans and solutions with tangible handles on them. It’s very different.
I have to admit that this post has been almost two weeks in the making – one of the items I’ve been wrestling with is “what does leadership mean to me?” I don’t have all the answers myself, but I did spend quite a bit of time on that very short list above. Everyone has an idea of what makes a great leader, and I have no doubt you come across one regularly. What is it to you that makes good leadership? What traits do you admire about that person you know that not only directs but also inspires those around them?