Sunday, December 4, 2011

Returning Soon

The Nimblog will be returning this December, sometime in the next two weeks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gideon Conversation

The Setting: A Place. The Gideons are handing out copies of the New Testament. The Gideons are mostly old men in suits of varying quality, and when people pass them by they seem even frailer, their suits even thinner, as if something has deserted them. Then another person passes by and they regain that spark and try again.

I take one, mainly to show support. They could be street-preaching about how America is the new Sodom and jezebels tempt honest young men in the streets or what the hell ever, but instead they're just quietly handing out copies of the New Testament, being ignored by most people.

So, as I said, I take one. The man smiles at me. I encounter another one a little farther down. The New Testament is small and thin, about the size of a box of playing cards, and it rests in my pocket where this new Gideon can't see it.

Gideon: Would you like one, sir?

Me: No thanks, I'll wait for the movie.

I show him the New Testament.

Me: Nah, I'm just kidding, I already got one.

He smiles. As I walk away, he calls after me, as an afterthought, perhaps worried that I haven't fully been sold on the book.

Gideon: Well, it's, I mean, it's almost as real as a movie!

Me: Haha, yeah...

I resume walking. A moment passes.

Me (thinking): Wait...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fixing Bad Commercials: Singing (featuring NAPA Know-How)

Singing in commercials can be a fun, lighthearted way to communicate a message. The more clever the lyrics and the more catchy the song, the more an audience is going to respond to it. Unfortunately, most people leave out the first part (I'm struggling to think of a good example of it) and instead just focus on the second part.

You've probably seen a lot of local commercials that make this mistake (perhaps they even drop some phresh beats and lay down a rap!) but national commercials are also guilty of this. Companies, here's the thing. Just because your song is catchy doesn't mean that it's likeable.

The people who made the NAPA Know-How commercial don't understand this.

Okay, so, to start with, we've got this:

When the very first words of your commercial are the protagonist talking about how he doesn't care about other human beings (evidenced by his careless disposal of the very organ he is lacking), you should know that your character is going to come across as broken at best and insane at worst. We'll see which it turns out to be.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Space Age Drink Machine

I'll confess that I'm a little late on this one. I could have written about this at the beginning of summer, but I was really friggin' busy and never had time to stop and assemble the material. Hopefully, though, this will still be new to some of you. Also know that this would have been a scoop. I want you all to still give me credit for that.

In fact, at the restaurant where I encountered this machine, the workers proudly told me that it was the first one in the state. Badass.

In short, those old-school drink machines you may know and love--the ones with nozzles for each drink, like so:

may become as much a part of our past as the Stone Age.

That's right, say hello to the new kid in town:


Now, I know it doesn't look like much, but that's just 'cause I didn't get a very good picture of it. So I'll have to paint a picture... with words.

(I could just find a picture of it from the internet, but to do so would be to acknowledge that there are other sites out there carrying this story, and I'm just not ready to do that.)

Imagine one of those self-serve ice-cream machines. Now imagine only one dispenser thing.

Or, imagine one of those Coinstar machines:

Or one of those stand-alone ATM Machines:

Except they look like this:

I hope that's clear enough.

Find out more about the machine that will change the entire world after you click read more:

I Haven't Forgotten About This Blog

I'm writing a new post as we speak. It's going to be about something awesome.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I am the Best at Album Cover Photos

Here's something you may not know about me: I am the best at taking album cover photos. You know the kind I mean: weird, almost-lazily wandering photos that capture either ordinary moments, extraordinary things, or the ordinary made extraordinary. There's an art to it, to be sure, but I can't explain it to you any more than I can explain breathing without forgetting what "ATP" means. It's just a gift that one has, a kind of poetry that infuses the day. At the end of it all, all I know is that I have this rare and wondrous ability.

Unfortunately, so far my only clients have been indie bands.

Now, some of these bands are good, and some of these bands are bad, but you can't blame a guy for wanting to branch out. If Eminem, Jay-Z, or the Beatles want me to do some stuff for them, we will work us out a deal.

Click the "read more" link after this sentence to see my art come alive:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fixing Bad Commercials: The Travelers Insurance Dog

So I want you to think of at least one problem with this advertisement. After you watch the two videos, click "read more" to see if you and I are on the same wavelength. If you thought of a different problem with it, or couldn't find very much wrong with it at all, that will be interesting because it's entirely possible that I am the only one who hates this commercial concept.

Anyway, the two videos:

And now the read more link:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Every Other Day the new update schedule for this blog. I'm going to be a little busy for the next couple of weeks, so I thought it was better to shift to a schedule that would leave me a little room for error.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It Came in the Mail: Hammacher Schlemmer Fall 2011

Okay, so if you guys don't know what Hammacher Schlemmer (hereafter "HS") is, then this post will certainly let you know. Also, if you have dial-up, it will certainly put a strain on your modem, because hella pictures.

I should also note that I have not "sold out." Hammacher Schlemmer has no idea of my existence and even if they did, I don't get the traffic that would be beneficial to them. I just like talking about catalogs today.

I haven't had much experience with this catalog before, despite getting several catalogs, and I was very excited and interested when it arrived because of a couple things.

It claims to be America's oldest catalog. Short version: it's like SkyMall with class and slightly less silliness. But that doesn't really begin to describe how perfectly odd this catalog is. It's the sort of magical odd that you don't usually think the world has left anymore, but indeed it does, and it is here. Nothing about this catalog makes exactly perfect sense. It's sort of just to the side of perfect. Some products it examines rigorously (more on that later) and holds to the highest standards. At times such as these it appears to be quite the classy catalog. Then other items pop in and make the whole thing look silly.

I mean, what? That's like a... huh?

It's this weird chimera of upper-crust offerings and more-credible-than-infomercial devices. There are going to be products that are very expensive. Products you never even thought you'd see in a catalog. It's going to blow your goddamn mind, bucko.

It does say "unexpected," after all.

So with that, let's dive in. We'll resurface together after you click "read more."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Advertising: Improving Starbucks's "The Green Straw Delivers."

Warning for anyone who cares: this may be a really nitpicky post. Also it's about advertising. I have no idea whether you guys like these posts or not, but I think about this stuff a lot so, uh, welcome to this.

Writing about the World's (Maybe) Worst Commercial really got me thinking. It's easy to make fun of/be horrified at terrible commercials and bad ad campaigns, but it's not so easy to talk about pretty good ones. So I challenged myself to think of ways to maybe touch up some things.

Now, I'm not necessarily an expert here and this is just my opinion, so if my version isn't better to you, cool. But if mine's a little better, then I think ad agencies should really start asking me whether or not, say, putting talking babies in a commercial is a good idea (actually, no, they should always ask me that.)

So anyways. Starbucks has this new ad campaign going that looks a little something like this:

I had to touch it up a bit because apparently they're litigious. I don't know why they'd be litigious about me showing their advertisement (I guess maybe they've heard stories about the internet and are worried every blog is connected to Nazis or pornography), because it's in any Starbucks you go into, but better safe than sorry I guess.

There's two stories about this photo. One I'll tell now and the other I'll tell at the end of the post.

So, the campaign they're going with is pointing out a green straw, obviously hoping to start seeing more tweets like the ones that cluttered the Google results as I searched for an image of Starbucks's displays online (I was ultimately unsuccessful) along the lines of "MMM LOve that Frappachino! As soon as I see that green straw, I know it's time for DELCIOUS!" That's not an actual quote but it might have been and, if I were reading it, I never would have known. This is why sometimes I hate people: because I am disproportionately frustrated about representations that may or may not be indicative of society as a whole.

Anyway. I thought I was going to be successful when I added "twitpic" to the search, thinking maybe someone else wanted a photo of the display. I was sure I had arrived at the sweet, sweet altar of fulfillment when I turned up a tweet that went like this: "I've got a comback to the new Starbucks slogan "the green straw delivers" yeah to MY MOUTH!" It was by someone named beerwench. She turned out to have taken a photo of her own drink (why, I have no idea) and so yeah.

What's the point, you ask? Well, there's two lessons to be learned from this:

1. people be stupid

2. sometimes people notice the wrong thing about your advertisement

Speaking of hating it, I don't actually hate this slogan or campaign. I think it's weird to think of a drink as "handcrafted," but you know, different strokes for different people and all that. I do think, however, that it can be improved.

Right. So. Improvement. Well, clearly, they're hoping to get people to finally notice that Starbucks's straws are different colors than the usual straws you can find at restaurants. There's a couple things that disappoint me about this.

To start with, I thought the green straw was a nice, subliminal bit of branding. I didn't even ever really fully acknowledge it as branding until that ad pointed it out to me. The problem is that I feel it's a little counter-productive. It's hard to explain exactly, but I'll try. Meet me again after you click the "read more" link:

Monday, August 8, 2011

One Last Delay

Okay, I had a post about Starbucks all worked out but someone informed me that they don't take kindly to posting anything with their logo on it online or something? Apparently it's not cool even if you're helping them out by offering superior ad campaigns. So now I have to fix that but I am way too tired tonight. I'll do it when I get back from a two-hour drive early tomorrow. I'm dedicated, I promise, I'm just also busy.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coming Attractions

I know I've been falling behind, I'm a little busy at the moment. There should be a new post sometime this afternoon, and then another one tomorrow.

Here is a sneak preview:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Postponed: Fixing the Worst Commercial

I just... I just need more time on that one. Because, I mean, seriously.

I'll post a real update for today in a little bit; I'm writing it right now.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fixing Bad Commercials: The Worst Commercial

So, if you're not sure what commercial I'm talking about, see the previous post. And then meet the rest of us after the jump:

The (Current) Worst Commercial Ever

Here is a pretty picture to make up for some of the things that are about to happen:

Okay, I had some stuff going on that prevented me from doing a thing, and that are still preventing me from doing a thing, so for now I'll keep this short and elaborate on it later.

This is, quite possibly, the worst commercial. I don't know if it's the worst commercial ever, but when I think of the phrase "worst commercial," this is one of two commercials that comes to mind. It's so bad that I'm going to link it instead of showing it to you outright. I'm working on a post analyzing it, but in the meantime, here is a sneak preview.

Just to warn you, I showed this video to someone and his response was, and I quote, "AAAAAAAAHHHHH WHY WOULD YOU SHOW THAT TO ME I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS". So yes, that... it is pretty bad.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The State of the Blog (Part Two): About Reading This Blog

(To read more about what's going on with my side of the blog, go here)
(If you're looking for Wednesday's actual post and not this crap, click here)

Here's the thing. I'm a bit of a freak for communication. I love feedback and comments and I love knowing that I'm talking to engaged people, which is why I'm a Justice of the Peace.

Anyway, there's a couple things I've done to make it easier for you to give me feedback or ideas. We'll get to them after the jump:

The State of the Blog (Part One): What's Up With Nimby

(Part two, which is more about you, is here)

Okay, I split this up into two posts because one part of it focuses on my end of the blog and the other focuses on your end of the blog. If you only read one of these two posts (though I can't imagine a non-ridiculous situation in which that was a requirement), read part two.

Okay, so I'm a little in a bind here. I'm super-busy with stuff to do and I have at least four posts lined up but I can't post any of them yet because most of them hinge on pictures taken at places I don't have time to get to right now.

Don't worry, this isn't the update for Thursday, it's more like a little bonus post, especially since today's was a little on the short side.

Anyway, I thought that to make up for not getting to read these things right away, you should take a look at the tantalizing things awaiting you by giving you a few random and probably misleading words per post. At least one (1) of these posts is going to be published this week unless some great magnificent other thing comes along, so it's not like all of these are great posts just waiting to be published. And, I mean, some of the ones that are delayed may not be fantastic either (this is called "lowering the audience's expectations"). See more of things after the jump:

Judging States Scientifically: Massachusetts

If you aren't sure what today's title means, you need to read this first.

Also, you might want to catch up by reading about the previous state.

Today we're going to learn about the importance of judging states based on nothing but what the evidence offers us. Otherwise we risk bringing in an outside bias formed by misinformation and deceit practiced by the 24-hour news networks and spin alleys. When you become a scientist, you learn to leave all preconceptions at the door, because otherwise you're tainting the scientific process.

We're not judging the coin by the state but rather the state by the coin. And only the coin. This is the only sensible way to do things. It is the way of Science.

Anyway, today's quarter is Massachusetts. The analysis, as always, is after the jump.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Update delayed (UPDATED)

until at least 5:30 Eastern Time. See second paragraph. In the meantime, feel free to suggest whatever but know that I may very well not do it at all. I kind of feel like talking about how horrible a certain commercial is, but I'm not sure it can be saved. See third paragraph.

update: Okay, the post has been delayed until tomorrow. I'm switching over to a format where instead of writing posts in the day and then just posting them whenever, I'm writing and posting them at late night so they're here for you when you get up in the morning. So it was either pull together a really lazy update, try to do two long updates in a row (which would have killed me because I've got other stuff to do), or do nothing, so I chose to do nothing because I'm a perfectionist and if I'd tried for a lazy update it would have led to the "two updates in a row" thing.

Also, I have no idea what to write about, so suggest something, please. The only rule is that you can't suggest what someone else has already suggested; this isn't a vote so much as an auction (idea most conducive to a good post wins).

Monday, August 1, 2011

fine here you go: SUDDENLY, HAT!

let it never be said I don't give people what they want.

I think one of the best hats is probably the opera hat, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

In about... now.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

SUGGESTIONS NEEDED: Commercials for Fixing

So, my piece about the terrible talking babies is not the post with the most views but it did garner an actual comment from a kind, mysterious, and no doubt sexy person, so I figured maybe I would talk about commercials more, because boy there are a lot that need fixing. I figure it's a good thing for blogs to have a couple things they do regularly as sort of reasons to stay involved (Chris Sims had his "Week In Ink," "Dollar-Bin Reviews," etc., for instance) and analyzing bad commercials is going to join my pursuit of scientific, rational state stereotypes.

The only problem is that I actually don't watch much TV. So post about some really bad commercials below.

My only request is that you please not tell me how to fix them. Otherwise what are you telling me to look at them for? You solved the problem yourself.

Classic (Good) Commercials: Grey Poupon

Right, so I've talked about bad commercials a lot recently and, lest you think I just hate everything, I'm going to talk about a commercial I think is actually really good. It especially stands the test of time, unlike, well... other older commercials. "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" comes to mind, but that's mainly the execution. In fact, I find that many popular/classic commercials from olden times only age poorly because of the poor (for today) execution. Most of the ideas for those commercials are still great, as opposed to today, where the popular commercials usually are perfectly fine in their execution but have a terrible idea at their core.

Anyway, here's the commercial.

Honestly, I don't have much to say about this one that isn't, "Now THIS is a good commercial." Because it is. It's brilliant. And what's more, it cost them nothing but the price of renting the two cars and hiring the actors. This commercial pretty much saved Grey Poupon from... well, from not selling so well. It conveys so much in a short amount of time and in this regard, I think, it is one of the most classic commercials. It also illustrates probably the purest example of one of the easiest (yet, strangely, rarely-well-done) ways to sell a more expensive product: tell people it's better. Grey Poupon isn't an expensive thing of mustard, it's a luxury item that shows you have taste.

And everyone ate up. And why wouldn't you? The commercial's fantastic.

In fact, the only thing I'd change--and keep in mind that this is mainly because sensibilities have changed (people liked narrators better back in olden times, hence the creation of fairy tales)--is to cut out the narration altogether or maybe clip the narrator's first bit about Grey Poupon being affordable and move it to the end. That way it puts a point on the commercial and adds a more explicit contrast between the mustard and the Rolls-Royces, implying that while both are equal in terms of class, at least the Grey Poupon doesn't cost you your firstborn child (this ancient financial system is yet another element of past life that can be seen in fairy tales).

That's all for today, I do still have a lot of stuff to do. Tomorrow I'll either talk about another good commercial, another terrible one, Science, or I'll just post a picture of a cute animal.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fixing Bad Commercials: Etrade's Talking Babies

or: Why I Should Be In Charge of Advertising for Everything Ever, Part One

Talking babies (and talking animals) are used when the commercial has no actual joke. It is literally the laziest thing you can do. I talked earlier about the terrible trend of faux-nostalgia in car commercials, but this is way worse because those car commercials, while stupid and counter-productive like a video game boss with his weak spot on his front, at least had some effort put into them and some pretty neat (but wasted) concepts. This is just pablum.

 This picture is in case you didn't get the joke because I want you to know how clever I am

And there are people who think this is a brilliant ad campaign to run with, apparently. I'd hate to see the ones they rejected. The current title holder for "Most Popular Series of Talking Baby Commercials" is the series of ETRADE talking baby commercials, which are just terribly unfunny. Let me take you through a tour of them.

The First Commercial

Did you get the joke? No? That's because there isn't one!

That commercial aired during the Superbowl, which, I mean, is essentially the Cannes Film Festival of commercials. They thought it was worth paying however many millions of dollars for the thirty-second time slot. And then at the end the baby spits up! Get it? That's the only thing in there they could think of as a joke! Isn't that funny! Because it makes me want to die a little bit!

How to fix it:

You can't.

Anyway, you'll notice that these commercials have a secondary gimmick: the baby is on a (poor simulation of a) webcam for some reason. Now, in the first commercial it's because he clicks a mouse (which you can't see on the camera, so, uh, great work with the visual storytelling, guys) to show you how easy it is to invest in some financially stable group like Enron or Bear Stearns, but it makes less and less sense as time goes on, like in our next entry:

The Golf Commercial

The only thing this is doing is making me hate babies and keyboards

This, by the way, is another Superbowl commercial. For a different year.

So here, they're in a golf locker room, except they really just stand there like they're in front of a greenscreen, even if they aren't (but they totally are) It looks like they also totally added in that keyboard later, which is just lazy. Anyway, you'll notice that for this to make sense they've also added desks of computers, like you'd see at a library.

Except, well, I don't think that many golf locker rooms have those (even the fancy ones I've been in just have TVs and billiards; computers are too unrefined to be allowed in, I'll bet)

America's country clubs needed something new to discriminate against, and it was just a matter of changing a couple letters

and even if golf places do have computers, the computer in the commercial doesn't have a webcam. So, the baby, see, I guess he just... uh... brought a... connect... I don't get exactly what the logic is here. It's like they took a joke from the cutting room floor that was meant for a completely different product and then clumsily reshot it, like a drunk farrier.

The worst thing about the commercial, though, is the alleged punchline: "shankopotamus." I don't know if you noticed through all of the hysterical laughter, but that's not actually one of those pun-insult-type-things. It sounds nothing like "hippopotamus." They lamely try trick you into thinking it makes sense by naming the guy Frank. Which, as you will notice, already could work as the pun-insult-thing setup. So... why not just be satisfied with that? Why go out of your way to randomly slander an incredibly dangerous water creature?

Hippos don't hire lawyers.

Learn how to fix this commercial right after the jump.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judging States Scientifically: Texas

To understand this noble venture we here (okay, "I here," there's only one person writing these) are undertaking, you may wish to start here.

Now that you are caught up, let us proceed with the business of Science. Our subject today is Texas, and the hard-hitting analysis is after the jump.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Commercials: Old Cars, New Cars, Same Trend

So I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but a new trend in car commercials seems to be "calling back to the days we made cars that looked distinctive and cool without actually bothering to do any of that ever." It's really annoying because I've been saying cars need to look more distinct for a while now (I especially don't understand BMW's strategy there) and now they come out with these commercials that are just plain misleading. More after the jump:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Knowledge Gaps

You know those times where there's weird gaps in your knowledge that never get filled until long after they should have been? This happens to me quite a few times a year, mainly because my knowledge is essentially just a series of plugged gaps, but I can't think of any instances right now so instead I'll pass this one on, which involves a friend.

Architecture Pictures (featuring South Korea)

So I mentioned focusing on (South) Korean temples here but really there's so many that I haven't even scratched the surface, so instead here is a post of general cool, pretty architecture (featuring Korean temples, among other things). Most of these images are from Wikimedia commons. In fact, I think the only ones that aren't are two from the official site of the Hwa Gye Sa temple. Anyway, the pictures are below the fold, so click to see.

Update Schedule

I'm going to try to update every day, even if it's just pictures of baby sloths or red pandas (don't look them up, that will deprive me of material). As far as substantial updating goes, I don't know. I'm currently trying to establish a "buffer" of articles so that if I ever get writer's block I'll have a little time to get over it, but I'm also trying to start a blog so my buffer of articles currently contains a very precise 0.

This is the update for today, sorry. What's sad is I wrote it yesterday and held it back because I knew I wouldn't have anything for today.

The day's not over, though, there's still a chance.

EDIT: Totally not the update for today! I am currently researching Korean temples and decided to share some of the cool photos, so you're in luck! The internet likes hilarious photos of Korean temples doing crazy things, right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Judging States Scientifically: An Introduction

featuring Kansas vs. North Dakota

Over at PWoT, there was a trend of saying things like "Oh of course this happened in WISCONSIN" whenever a news story about Wisconsin came up. The thing is, this happened for every state and every news story about every state, so it really didn't make any sense. If Wisconsin was a state founded to house the nation's odd news-makers (like a less deadly and thus slightly more amusing Australia), then it would make sense that everyone reacted that way.

But not every state was founded on those principles. In fact, states like Michigan, the handshake of Wisconsin, were founded on the principle of housing the nation's most boring people. In a time before 24-hour news networks, this seemed like a safe way to never have to put up with people who have sock collections ever again.

Anyway, it was clear that we needed a way to settle, once and for all, what states had which properties. And we would have to do it scientifically, based on a thorough analysis of their state coins--the reasoning being that states would try to represent their best sides on a coin that was going to be distributed amongst all the other states. Think of it like advertising. Would you make an advertisement saying "Come to Florida! We've got sand and also poison jellyfish and maybe sharks!" with neon pink as a predominant color? No, you wouldn't, unless you lived in a combination of Nebraska (the stupidest advertisers) and Tennessee.

Tennessee is where we put all the offensively bad graphic designers

So the theory was that we'd get a conservative reading of how much states sucked or what properties they had--but this was intentional. If bad things slip through in a representation of the best things a state can say about itself, then you know that state has problems. And boy, did a lot of states have problems.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Defending 1977 George Lucas

This essay-type thing was originally posted on the PWoT forums in a slightly altered format.

In answer to the question, "What happened to the George Lucas who said you shouldn't use special effects in place of story?"

It's a combination of a lot of things, but basically the problem is that he doesn't have other people helping him out on these movies any more. The first (or fourth) one was edited by a team of three people (who won Oscars for it, incidentally). The second one was directed by someone who wasn't Lucas, and scripted by two people who weren't Lucas. Lucas is a big ideas guy, and he needs people to help ground the movie, help him translate and interpret his visions and ideas to really get to the meat of the story. Otherwise they're an A.D.H.D.-inspired mess of things that would all work in movies that are not the movie they are being put into.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why I Should Be in Charge of Comics, part one: Spider-Man and How to Tell Stories

or: The Problems of Marvel

Marvel’s main problem is a misunderstanding of how stories work and progress, how to create characters, and how to write.

Let me take you through this using, of course, Spider-Man, the most poorly-treated flagship character in comics history. Bad decisions (some later reversed) over the years had him:

1) revealed as a clone (reversed due to not only fan rage but the inherent stupidity of the idea: it turned out the guy who was the clone who was actually the real Peter was actually a clone)

2) be such a strung-out weirdo over feeling guilty for his Aunt’s soon-death that he bullied his wife into selling their marriage to the Marvel Universe devil (not reversed: the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel basically hates marriage)

3) Do you really want more examples after those two?

beginning a blog

My problem with blogging is that no matter how many insightful, unique, witty, sparkling, etc. things I have to say, when I sit down at the keys they all vanish. So basically I'll be powering this blog with some old stuff, some previously-written-but-hitherto-unreleased stuff, and hilarious photos of goldfish for the time being until the backlog tricks my brain into thinking that I actually have a blog and that I can then maintain it. So buckle up for the ride! It will be moderately exciting.