Pure Content

Look at more stuff. Think about it harder.
3.30.2002
 Brad

join the club

I just stopped by the office to show my brother-in-law and his fiancee around Play. Checking my e-mail, I saw a message from Pure Content reader Rich Schaffer, with this link. It's to the WD-40 Fan Club. Interesting, how a product can develop a fan base. It's not even a product that's branded as a "community"-building product. It's happened before. Saturn did it a few years ago, with the "Saturn Homecoming," when they brought 38,000 Saturn owners to the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, TN. Harley Davidson has built its business on the idea of community. But WD-40? Wild. Similarly, you can check out the Duck Tape Club, which has an annual Stuck at Prom Contest. Basically, if students create their wardrobe for their senior prom out of duct tape, they can win $2,500 each for college, as well as $2,500 for their high school. There's a gallery of last year's entries, and they're remarkable. I'm still exploring the WD-40 site, but I think it's really wild that products can create that type of community.

Thanks, of course, to Rich. Keep those links coming, kids.

3.29.2002
 Brad

:: conspiracies and business ::

In other news, it's been a busy day. I apologize for how few posts I've made. Check out Bizquick.org. I'm constantly impressed by what Dan Heath is doing. (Sidebar: On the left, I've got the top four blogs I admire. One is by DAN Pink. One is by HEATH Row. Bizquick is by DAN HEATH. Hmmmmm ...)

Monday will be great. I promise. Have a great Easter weekend.

By the way ... the title was supposed to be "busy-ness," but I'm not sure if that's a word.

 Brad

:: article of the week [03.25 - 03.29] ::

For the archives, the :: article of the week :: for this week was Creativity and What Blocks It. An excerpted chapter from "Science, Order, and Creativity." It looks at the dynamics of chimpanzees and art, and extrapolates on how their actions act as a microcosm of the creativity of human beings. It's an interesting look at the impact of standards and institutionalization. It also investigates the overall importance of creative learning in human society.

 Brad

:: housekeeping ::

Although I've been overwhelmingly happy with Bloglet (the subscription service) (sign up! join the throngs!), it's changed it's e-mail format. No longer does it send the links in the e-mail. And, while I'm thrilled with the service in general, I want for people who subscribe to be able to link directly to the articles (from the e-mail). Perhaps Bloglet will resolve the problem. For now though, when you get the e-mail, just click on the link that brings you to this main page, and then click away to get get to the good stuff. That's all. Carry on.

3.28.2002
 Brad

:: disturbing article ::

I'm always wary of condemning institutions and traditions when I don't fully understand their history. But sometimes, it doesn't take much to see that traditions need to change. Today's Wall Street Journal has an article about a tradition in the Czech Republic, where the women are whipped with willow switches and the men get drunk. And it's tied to Easter? Apparently, it's a holdover pagan tradition. Unfortunately, you need to be a subscriber to read it online. Perhaps it's not as bad as it sounds. But it sounds pretty bad.

Thanks to Courtney for the notification of the article. If you want to suggest content, e-mail me.

 Brad

:: synesthesia ::

A little while ago, 60 Minutes or some other show covered the mental condition synesthesia. In it, it talked about people who hear colors and taste shapes. For one synesthete, New York tasted like scrambled eggs and the Lord's Prayer tasted like bacon. In case you missed the show, here's an interesting article on synesthesia.

Thanks to Marcail for sending in the link.

 Brad

:: current events ::

I know that Pure Content doesn't normally deal with politics ... at least in the way that blogs like Live from the WTC, The Ben File, or the omnipresent Instapundit do. But the bombing in Israel. Wow. it's times like this where I just wish I had unlimited time and no obligations, so I could find out more. The Israel/Palestine conflict is such an incredibly sticky and complex situation. And I only know enough about it to know that I know nothing about it. Yesterday at Play's morning meeting (before anyone knew about the bombing), we shared Passover food and I shared the story of Passover with everybody. Nobody at the office is Jewish (including me), but we wanted to understand the people and their culture a little better. So when we found out about the bombing, the impact was that much more powerful. Megan McArdle has a good column that she wrote yesterday, about the situation. Check it out. (It's the second post from today ... 9:32 am ... it begins "Stephen Green has a powerful post on the situation in Israel. It makes me want to weep.")

3.27.2002
 Brad

:: 2MBR ::

With all of the insanity of Wednesday, I almost forgot to put up the Two Minute Book Review. This week's review is in celebration of our friend, Kevin Carroll, who loves (and by "loves" I mean, LOVES) a book by the late author Gordon MacKenzie. Orbiting the Giant Hairball is all about the ins and outs of life as an executive at Hallmark, and how Gordon strived to maintain a creative and dynamic atmosphere, despite corporate pressure. He discusses the efforts that he made (and the efforts you can make) to be a free radical in an otherwise drab and confining place. The giant hairball is the corporate machine. Orbiting is following your bliss. It's an easy read (great bathroom book), and he does a good job of spicing up each page with doodles and other marginalia.

The book profoundly affected Kevin, and a meeting with Gordon shortly before Gordon passed away further worked its magic on Kevin's life. Every time Kevin and I have talked, he's gushed about the book. Find out why.

 Brad

:: office politics ::

Eve Tushnet ran a contest for rejected political campaign slogans. If you'e into politics at all, check it out. There are some great ones, and she posted two that I submitted. (For the Republican party: "Because we like guns and butter." For the Libertarian party: "Putting the 'I' in 'laissez-faire.' ") Others I enjoyed:
THE REPUBLICANS.
Just like the Democrats—only slower.
Leviathan, with a Southern accent.
THE GREENS.
Warning: Contains nuts.
THE LIBERTARIANS.
Armies of one.
Death Before Relevance.

 Brad

:: the intersection of uncommon things ::

Steep Tea, the hippest tea company ever (and recipient of one of Play's cherished "redrubberball awards") has taken their offering (tea) and fused it with one of their passions (emo music). (To find out more about emo, check out Deep Elm records or, of course, do a Google search on it.) Anyway, they're going to be selling packages that include a bunch of emo- and summer- and tea-related stuff. Things like:
+ first flush (blushing) darjeeling tea, with skinny daisies and prom carnation flowers
+ planisphere or map of the summer stars
+ a tee shirt with the Steep logo on it
+ a map of the summer stars
+ a vial of beach sand, ocean water, or night air, labeled with the place and date of origin
+ dark black plastic glasses, so you can look like travis of piebald
+ steep's infamous hand picked salvation army mug
+ a booklet of emails from steep drinkers recounting their first loves and losses.
+ something empty (that's my favorite one)

What's the biz lesson here? A) They know their audience incredibly well, seeing as they are their audience. B) They're pushing themselves to constantly update their offerings and services. C) They are finding ways to bring their passion (music and the culture of the scene) to their work. Brilliance.

Here's a press release / article / announcement.

3.26.2002
 Brad

:: the new look of the WSJ ::

A few years ago, the Washington Post went through a facelift. A few tweaks to sections, a few changes to its layout. But the big difference was that it began running color photographs. I felt betrayed. An aspiring journalist myself (at the time, oh those many years ago), I felt like the best news source I had access to was going the way of McPaper. Of course, Popular Science went through a facelift sometime in the last five years, and it worked amazingly well. I think it used to cater to guys with woodshops in their garages and who hoped to build hovercrafts using lawnmower engines. Now it looks sleek, hip, and quite the useful news source for sleek, hip, quasi-geeks. Whoever did their branding did a good job. So. What's the point of all of this?

The Wall Street Journal is about to unveil a new layout. We'll see how it looks, once it's released on April 9th. It's been a 4-year, $232 million project. $232 MILLION? Wow. Let's hope it works. It's the first redesign, by the way, since 1944. AdAge features an article about the redesign.

(From MeFi)

 Brad

:: botd ::

Pure Content is today's "Blog of the Day." Thanks to Arthur Coddington and everyone there. If you found us through BOTD, welcome. Subscribe (on the left) and get Pure Content in your Inbox. Yippie kay yay.

3.25.2002
 Brad

:: passion and creativity ::

My dad sent me a great article, "Creativity and What Blocks It" by Davids Bohm and Peat. When giving speeches, I often descibe passion as "what happens when you forget to pee." That is, you'll know that you've found your passion when you neglect eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom so that you can engage in whatever it is that you're passionate about. For me, it's building web pages. But here's an interesting quote from this article: "In one experiment chimpanzees were given canvas and paint and immediately began to apply themselves to make balanced patterns of color, somewhat reminicent of certain forms of modern art, such as abstract expressionism. The significant point about this experiment is that the animals became so interested in painting and it absorbed them so completely that they had comparatively little interest left for food, sex, or the other activities that normally hold them strongly."

There are a couple of other interesting quotes, like "creativity is a prime need of a human being and its denial brings about a pervasive state of dissatisfaction and boredom. This leads to intense frustration that is conducive to a search for exciting 'outlets,' which can readily involve a degree of force that is destructive. This sort of frustration is indeed a major cause of violence. However, what is even more destructive than such overt violence is that the senses, intellect, and emotions of the child gradually become deadened and the child loses the capacity for free movement of awareness, attention, and thought."

Good stuff. And since the Outside Magazine article isn't up yet, this is now the article of the week. Enjoy.

 Brad

:: those marvelous men and their anti-gravity machines ::

The L.A. Times has an article about a scientist and his claim that he can defy gravity. Well ... "shield" gravity. My understanding of physics isn't deep enough to fully comprehend the process of "the Podkletnov effect," but it includes superconductors and really cold temperatures. Look to this issue to be a potentially contentious one in the coming months. People are skeptical, and rightfully so. The guy who posted it to Slashdot commented, "It sounds like cold fusion or polywater to me, but who knows?" Will it work? NASA's going to be hard at work, trying to make it happen. Others are at work, too, like James Cox, editor of AntiGravity News, who claims to have "an anti-gravity backpack that ... is nearing the patent stage." That's cooler than Segway.

If it does work, it would be a huge leap forward, as it would slam a law of physics that most people accept as a given. The article's author (Margaret Wertheim) comments, "Who knows what conceptual mountains we might demolish if our imaginations aim high enough? Johannes Kepler, the founding father of modern astrophysics, saw science as a form of play—empirical data set an irrevocable boundary to this play, but within its arena the imagination must be free to roam." Amen, Margaret. Amen.

 Brad

:: more rob walker ::

Curious to find the article below (The Big Idea) online, I searched Slate for Rob Walker's articles. I found this article, comparing recent ads from Target and K-Mart (several of which were on last night during the Oscars). He notes that Spike Lee directed the K-Mart ads. What? Spike Lee? "Lee has created brilliantly funny, instantly recognizable, and thoroughly memorable ads for Nike and others. Perhaps because of this, I had assumed that tapping him meant Kmart was going to push in a truly fresh direction. But that's not really the case. ... If Kmart wanted to make an image splash, why not try something a little more noticeable? If you can't take a risk when you're already bankrupt, when can you take a risk?"

Although I'm new to Walker's writing, I've enjoyed it, and I'm going to keep an eye on him.

 Brad

:: the big idea ::

There's an excellent article that we're passing around at the Play office. It's from the April 2002 issue of Outside magazine, but it doesn't appear to be online yet. As soon as it is, we'll post a link to it. But if you have the chance, head over to your local newsrack and check it out. It reads more like a business article than an article about the outdoor life (a lot of it was written by Slate's Rob Walker). It's all about key innovators from the last 130 years that have pushed mankind nito the great outdoors. Centered around the development of Red Bull (which was originally intended for outdoor sports, despite its adoption by club kids), the piece features two case studies, a timeline of outdoors innovation, and a whopping 14 sidebars with info about the people behind Gore-Tex, Burton Snowboards, Oakley, the Leatherman, and other companies that are a part of an $18 billion-a-year industry. It's a great read, and I'm hoping that they post it online soon. If you go get the magazine, check it out. Page 71. "The Big Idea."

who / what / why

At Play we create brands, strategies, new products, and better cultures for Fortune 100 companies. Our formula for creativity: "Look at more stuff. Think about it harder." Pure Content is one place where we do that, daily.

the cool kids' table

Ben Domenech
(politics, football, and a boatload of know-how)

Creative Generalist
(if Pure Content had a doppelganger ...)

Heath Row
(punk + business
+ creativity = Heath)

search

go go gadget google:



stuck in an airport

architecture
A Pattern Language

business
Creative Company
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The Ultimate Book of Business Creativity

life
The Little Prince

philosophy
Wittgenstein's Poker

physics
The Dancing Wu Li Masters

sociology
The Tipping Point

new to you

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see our neighbors
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