Monday, January 25, 2010

Great Walmart Ad

I've never liked Walmart ads. In fact, they've almost all been absolutely horrible. They drive me away from the retailer. I know, I'm not the target audience, but still, their ads are almost always terrible.

Then, yesterday, I saw this. It made me laugh out loud.

Way to go Walmart. I just might like you a bit more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wes Anderson makes me happy

My favourite film of '09 was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It was beautiful and it simply made me happy. It's a wonderful movie.

Wes Anderson was recognized by the National Board of Review with an award for Special Filmmaking Achievement. He animated his acceptance:

I love it. Like the film, it has a fabulously personal touch.

Thanks to AdHack for spotting this.

p.s. My second and third favourite films of '09 were Hurt Locker and District 9.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fun w/ Volvo

I like this. It's fun.

I have lots of questions though. Like what happens when the guy discovers that she's not his wife. How long will he go on with this charade? Frankly, I suspect that he might go with it for quite a while.

On a more professional note - I always admire advertisers who aren't afraid to make fun of their customers a bit. In this spot, you could criticize it for not making the first driver more self aware that his car and his wife have changed. But they didn't worry about that. They made him somewhat self occupied, and it works. Particularly since the other three characters in the spot, all of whom are also riding in Volvos, don't have their heads up their bums as much as the first guy.

Our customers don't always take themselves so seriously. We're all boneheads at one point or another. That's why everyone loves Homer J. And I'll bet that Volvo customers have been described in some brief somewhere as people who can laugh at themselves. It's great when we can all relax a bit and remember that an ad is often just a bit of fun, not necessarily a dramatic statement.

Nice work Arnold and Volvo.

The Olympic Store

I popped into the Olympic Superstore at the Bay downtown yesterday evening.

It's actually rather impressive. There are lots of pretty nice items. The knit sweaters are very well done, although perhaps not particularly Olympic-y.

They're sold out of certain items, like kids red hoodies, boys, size 10/12. But they've got lots of the red gloves in. I'm a fan of the red gloves, 'cause they're an Olympic item that anyone can afford. ($10)

On the other hand, some prices are totally out of control. For example, the Team Canada hockey jerseys are going for $400. That's crazy. Does this look like a $400 jersey?

I think I'll stick with the Sidney Crosby signed jersey I got a few years ago, when I did a spot with him for TELUS.

I was also pretty impressed with the Bay's heritage corner. They've don't a great job with the canoes. And I've always love the Bay blanket. I've got one in storage somewhere that I've got to get out.

There's also a Coke pin trading location. I get the feeling that there's a strong correlation between pin traders and fantasy gamers. It's a cool little set-up and I suppose everyone needs a hobby.

Finally, I couldn't resist getting myself a Team Canada hoodie. I may not be terribly happy about how this whole Olympics thing has gone, or how it's been for business, but I'm still in the Games spirit. It seems like a pretty good quality product, for only $50. I suspect everyone will be wearing them in a few weeks.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coke Bottle Design History

I spotted this image on the other day and thought it was pretty cool.

Check out that original bottle on the far left. How cool is that? With a rounded glass top. I would absolutely buy a beverage that came in a bottle like that.

And the third one across with a wide middle and narrow bottom. Maybe not terribly stable, but amazing looking.

I'm not going to say that Coke's bottle has gotten worse. I still love their current iconic design. But I do love these super retro bottles. It'd be amazing if they'd roll one of them out for a special edition some time.

On a related note - I loved what Coke did with their can design a couple of years ago. They decided to take their can and remove all the frou-frou elements. They went back to the basics, and it looked great. Like so many things in design, less was more.

Check it out:

5 Minute Book Review - All The Pretty Horses

I was given a copy of All The Pretty Horses for Christmas. The book was published almost two decades ago.

I've never read anything by Cormac McCarthy before. What an experience. This is one of those books that you put down and wonder how the author writes something like that. He creates an incredible world that is completely engaging. And he writes with a tempo and style the draws you in absolutely.

It's funny. There's a fair bit of Spanish dialogue in the book, and I don't speak Spanish. This was frustrating at first, but it just added to the feeling of authenticity and, by the end, while still troubled about the fact that I was missing things, I had come to respect the technique. The only real challenge is that having chunks of a book that you can't read makes you pause and think about the fact that you're still reading, rather than allow you to be completely absorbed by the book.

It's a cowboy story. It's an adventure. It's got a romance angle. But sometimes all those become secondary simply to the incredible writing ability of McCarthy. You take a break and think about how someone can write like this. I can't describe it, but if you're reading my blog I'd recommend that you give it a try.

This was the first in a trilogy. I'll be going to get the next one soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

5 Minute Book Review - Generation A

I finished reading Generation A last week.

I think I've read all of Douglas Coupland's books over the years, with the possible exception of one, since Generation X first came out while I was a senior in high school. I've always enjoyed his work and, of course, there's always that bit of extra fun when reading books that take place in your neighborhood. (I can't remember which book it was in, but I recall Coupland visualizing nuclear armageddon in West Van, which resonated particularly well with me.)

One part of Coupland's books has always bugged me a bit. He creates engaging characters in modern reasonable or semi-reasonable situations. But the end of his books almost always take on a surrealistic semi-spiritual aspect, which seems inconsistent with the rest of the book.

The positive of Generation A was that Coupland infused this feeling throughout the book, instead of just jamming it in at the end. It created an engaging relationship with the characters, which I really enjoyed.

It's not a terribly challenging read. It's great how the characters all come together, but there's a cultural sameness that feels a little inappropriate. Sure, you bring a Canadian, a Kiwi, a Frenchman and and American together and you can have a connection. And Coupland throws in an Indian who works at a A&F call centre, called Apu, so that he can have the cultural knowledge as well. It all feels a little too convenient and perhaps not quite sophisticated enough.

It's a good story. A pleasant read. One of the top 5 from Coupland. I'd still recommend it.

Google's foresight

I just discovered Google's amazing ability to predict what I'm about to type. For some very generic terms such as "why do" Google has some pretty interesting predictions:

I'd love to know what is causing people to enter these terms. Are scores of people really entering "Where are my keys" into Google? Is it helping?

Do people really want to know why men have nipples? I suspect that Mr. Dawkins has a good answer for that one.

And I'm not even touching the top answer in the Why Does category, but I am curious how the hell that would get Google's top ranking for things people are looking for. What's going on here?

I'm fully amused by this.

Monday, January 11, 2010


A little secret about me. I enjoy making pies. I've tried a few different varieties, but apple is my standby.

Here's the pies I made on Saturday.

Why am I posting my pies on my blog? 'Cause they're tasty.

Friday, January 8, 2010

5 Minute Book Review - Survivor

I just finished Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor. It was a Christmas gift from my good friend Victoria.

I don't read enough fiction. I'm not sure why, since I enjoy a good fiction book so much, but I tend towards non-fiction business/marketingy books.

Survivor was fabulous. It was the kind of book that I read late into the night, then get up the next morning and grab it, then read it at night again. Then it's done.

This isn't a terribly deep comment about the book, but I loved the fact that the page numbering started at the end and worked its way down to page 1. What a great way of looking at things. I often calculate how many pages I have left in a book. This had already done it for me. And, since a lot of the book revolved around a countdown to the end, this fit wonderfully with the book's plot.

Chuck Palahniuk has a wonderful way of looking into the ridiculousness of our modern society. He hits our culture in its soft spot repeatedly.

I'd happily recommend this one to someone looking for an enjoyable, fun, not overly deep read.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

5 Minute Book Review - Hot, Flat and Crowded

I just finished Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman the other day.

On the one hand, I really enjoyed this book. I was inspired by the thinking around the environmental challenges we face but, more than anything, it was fabulous that Mr. Friedman put forward a recommendation as to how we can address the issue. The "energy climate crisis", as he refers to it, is so huge and daunting that it's easy to consider it insurmountable. To have the audacity to make a recommendation as to what should be done should be applauded.

While I was reading this book I was also involved in the BC Hydro new business process at TBWA\Vancouver. I can't imagine a better complement to that work. The message behind Hot, Flat and Crowded, about the challenge we face in energy generation and consumption, combined with the need to change energy production and demand, was inspiring while we were working late every day to resolve some of those issues on a local level.

On the other hand, Hot, Flat and Crowded is yet another of those business books that takes 400 pages to get across a message that should be said in 200. It was an interesting and inspiring read, but could be tightened up a great deal. I suppose Mr. Friedman wanted to make full use of all his research, but c'mon.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Unoriginal voiceovers

So, on Monday Walter Cronkite's voiceover for the introduction of the CBS Evening News was replaced. Mr. Cronkite died six months ago, so it makes a bit (but maybe not a lot) of sense that they replaced him.

So who filled the void? Did they pick some other incredibly well respected newscaster. No, they did not. Instead, they selected Morgan Freeman.

What the hell?

I love Morgan Freeman as an actor. And the first person you think of when you need someone to do a voiceover is Mr. Freeman. He sounds so serious and thoughtful, yet kind. But don't you think that could have thought a little longer and come up with someone a little less obvious.

Mr. Freeman does the voiceover for everything. I think it started with The Shawshank Redemption, one of my all time favourites. March of the Penguins was fabulous. And these days he's even the voice of Visa's Go campaign.

I've got nothing against the man. But when someone is this obvious of a choice, it probably means they're the wrong choice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Running the Dogs

I'm staying at Uncommon Journey's while up in the Yukon. It's a terrific place and the owners, Rod and Martha, have been wonderfully welcoming. And Chris, the Ops Manager, has let me get in the way from time to time.

Rod invited me to come dogsledding with him the other day. I'd done it once before and was eager to take him up on the offer. It's a great experience to let the dogs carry you through the woods. It had snowed the night before, settling on the trees that were already covered with hoar frost, creating stunning scenery. And it was clear by the time we got out, giving us a terrific view of the surrounding hills.

It's chaos getting the dogs hooked up to the sled. It takes a while to get used to the noise of 60 dogs barking, all of them excited and wanting to go for a run. Our group of three could only take 23 dogs, each of which needed to be harnessed and then bunny-hopped to the sled, where they would howl in anticipation of the run ahead. But once we got them hooked up, we took off into the quiet of the run. It was a great day.

Here are some shots of our trip:

Here's a video of my dogs taking a bit of a break, while Rod makes adjustments to his team:

It was a great day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Kluane New Year

As part of my holiday Whitehorse, Yukon adventure Colleen and I decided to head over to Haines Junction on New Years Eve.

We left shortly after noon and made the 150km drive. Cruising along the highways up here is beautiful. And my rental car seems to have pretty good snow tires. It was a great drive.

Haines Junction is at the entrance to Kluane National Park, a huge parkland that crosses the Canada/US border and becomes the Wrangell-St. Elias park in the US. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unlike most southern National Parks (e.g. Banff), you can't just drive through Kluane. If you want to experience it beyond just seeing it from the outskirts you've got to get out of your car and hike. It was -30, so there wasn't going to be much hiking, just some quick poses and then back into the car ASAP.

Haines Junction is a very small town. Population 800 - and I suspect that that's in the summer. Most of the motels and restaurants were closed for the winter. But we had lunch at a little grill where the staff were very welcoming. Aussie, the manager, let us know that if we were there that evening we should show up to the Alcan lounge, where there was free food and drink to celebrate the New Year.

A few hours later, after driving around the park a bit more, we decided to spend New Years Eve in Haines Junction. We got a room at the Cozy Corner, which was just fine for a small town motel. Definitely not luxury, but clean(ish) and Cozy.

In exploring the town (really just one street) we came upon this Catholic church. It's built from a military quonset hut, I believe left over from the building of the Alaska Highway in the '40s.

We went out to find dinner around 6:30, when we discovered that the entire town had shut down for the evening. There was no food to be found. Not even at the gas stations, which were also closed. It was a good thing we'd decided to stay, 'cause we weren't getting out.

We ended up joining the local party with free food and drink. We met some other tourists driving south from Alaska, had a few drinks, and decided not to stick it out until midnight. We celebrated the New Year at the Cozy Corner.

The next morning was the Breakfast Special at the Cozy Corner. A delicious start to the New Year. The clouds had settled into the area over night, so the view wasn't as spectacular as the previous day, but it was still beautiful.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Whitehorse WiFi

This post is a bit of a public service announcement.

I've just spent my Christmas holiday in Whitehorse. I've had a terrific time visiting Colleen, who is living up here. I've had the chance to go dogsledding, visit Kluane, drop in on some galleries, and just hang out in Whitehorse.

I've also done a lot of reading and spent some time online. Unfortunately, getting online in Whitehorse can be pretty challenging. You may be able to get access through your hotel. The Westmark and the Edgewater both offer it. But if you're not staying there you're SOL.

If you're used to going to Starbucks to get access, you'll be out of luck. Neither of the two in town have WiFi access, which is kind of funny, since that's one of the perks you're supposed to get by having a registered Starbucks card.

Baked, the nice cafe on Main Street, used to have spotty access but doesn't seem to anymore. Fortunately, you can get online there through an unsecured connection from a nearby architect's office. It is by far the best option in town if it's working, but I wouldn't rely on it.

And we made a great discovery yesterday, when all the other restaurants were closed for New Year's Day. Boston Pizza has WiFi. Sure, it's not the nicest environment, but you can hang out, watch a game, and get the most dependable Internet connection in town.

I've done a Google search to see if Whitehorse WiFi got any other results, but I didn't find anything. So I hope this gets picked up to aid future travellers.

btw - Starbucks - Get your act together.