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“have you been to the edge?”: photo caption contest

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Need more interactivity, hereabouts. Donc a photo for you to caption:

The NYT explains what the image is here.

What are you waiting for? Get captioning, or I’ll make you watch the Gorbi Pizza Hut ad too.

To hell with it, I’ll make you watch it anyway:

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August 9, 2007 at 12:43 am

and so it begins…

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I think this is actually a good sign. Someone feels that the “threat” of universal health care is worth spending money to combat…

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July 23, 2007 at 10:09 pm

Posted in ads, america, socialism

2012

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Rather hilarious stuff today coming out of the release of the 2012 London Olympic symbol logo brand that perfectly illustrates the hooker’s art of marketing come-on and shake-down today. Check out the trajectory of the BBC report:

“It is an invitation to take part and be involved.

“We will host a Games where everyone is invited to join in because they are inspired by the Games to either take part in the many sports, cultural, educational and community events leading up to 2012 or they will be inspired to achieve personal goals.”

Great! I’ll book my tickets and start packing my sneakers.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “We want London 2012 not just to be about elite sporting success.

“When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life.

Excellent! I was an OK ballplayer back in the day, and this non-logo brand has really inspired me to get out on the field and, yep, make a positive change in my life. This is going to be great. Do you have any hotel suggestions, or can I stay in the athletes’ condo complex village?

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said: “This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about – an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country.

“It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration.

I definitely feel invited and inspired! For a second there, I thought you meant I had to be British… And I couldn’t understand wtf the logo brand was meant to be until someone explained it to me (see the 2-0-1-2 in the crazy blotches?) but, look, I’ve got the message. This is my logo brand, and my games, and I am set to act accordingly.


A London 2012 spokeswoman said: “It is not going to be a free for all. There would be conditions to qualify for it.“It is not about giving it out to people so that they do not pay for it. It is about an emblem that could be a stamp of endorsement that really fits in with the legacy of the Games.”

Huh? Wait…. What?

(For more silliness, check out these branding videos here. There’s a lot more to be said about the hideousness of this design and what it means, as well as the “insidery” inclusion of us in the process of making this thing, such as it is, but I’ve gotta get back to work…)

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June 4, 2007 at 12:29 pm

ads without products, products without qualities

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On his IHT blog, Daniel Altman wrote the other day about the strangeness of the big banks’ global advertising campaigns.

If you’ve seen the ubiquitous ad campaigns by HSBC, UBS, Morgan Stanley and others in the world’s airports, highway billboards and television broadcasts, you might be asking the same question. Each one takes a slightly different tack. HSBC says it understands local customs. Morgan Stanley says it knows how the whole world works. UBS says no matter where you do business, the relationship comes down to the bank and you. But their ads often come off as platitudes or truisms. Even if you did business in countries around the world, how would you choose between them?

Economists have always had a problem with advertising that doesn’t seem to tell you much about products. The feelings that these banks are trying to inspire might not even correspond to their services; there’s no way to know until you see what they’re actually offering – which isn’t in the ads. By trying to mobilize customers using feelings that may echo around the world, they’ve sought a one-size-fits-all solution. That approach could be successful, if there’s really a global business class to be targeted. If not, have they simply become too vague to be effective?

Economists have trouble with ads of this sort, of course, because economists have trouble with the aesthetic. Rare is the advertisement that simply fills you in on the utility of the product at hand. The Adidas ad doesn’t really explain the benefits of the shoe – but rather inserts you in an interesting or exotic situation that auratically adheres to the shoe.

I’m not telling you anything new here, of course. But then again, two questions. First, without using the word “aura” (because we’d like to find something more specific and helpful than that), how do we describe the “something else” that the ad brings us instead of the utility of the product for sale? Second, is it possible that whatever this “something else” is that we’re trying to name, it has something deeply in common with what art has always brought us in addition to its informational content? What does this “something else,” in other words, have to do with the aesthetic?

This one (and it is one of the most brilliant ads I’ve ever seen – I can watch it again and again) crosses a nascent geopolitical conflict with an aesthetic tension – a tension, actually, between two unreconcilable aesthetics: the collectivized bodies-as-machines of the Chinese against the pouty individualized hotness of the Americans. (Isn’t this, in a sense, the work that international athletics almost inevitably performs? Jesse Owens’s sole black body against the Riefenstahl logic of Hitler’s review platform etc… War by other means – by means that come closer to the aesthetic register than any other…)

But whatever we make of either ad, it’s tough to make the leaps from the represented content to the qualities of the shoe itself, unless we’re going to take the “Adidas fits all feet – whether lockstep commie ones or open-toe hypermarketed capitalist ones…”

Back to the banks. I still haven’t learned to take pictures on vacation of the interesting stuff that I’d actually like to look over again from the comfort of my home rather than posing the baby again and again in front of tourist sites that she can make neither heads nor tails of, but, yes, I was at Charles de Gaulle yesterday morning and it was absolutely plastered in just the sort of HSBC ads that Altman is describing above. I have no pictures, so we’ll have to go with a few clipped from elsewhere.

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The first one seems to be from CDG itself, the second from HSBC’s NYC campaign, which interestingly highlighted the internationality of the city itself rather than the bank. (In other words, the EU ads are geared at the weirdness of crossing the German-French border on with no stop for passport controls, while the NYC campaign is isolated on the strangeness of crossing the Queensboro Bridge.

The television ads available on Youtube and the like are more helpful, perhaps in getting at the quiddity of this campaign. (You have to wait a bit to get to the punchline of the first…)

Leaving aside the tactical question that Altman asks – whether this is effective as a paradoxically global campaign about the bank’s respect for locality – I am interested in the contents of the ads themselves. What is the relationship between these quasi-fictional situations – these condensed little parapraxes, the petite romances, the perverse detournement of other aesthetic products (such as, in the case of the first, a film about Che Guevara). Think about how surprisingly close – even though there’s still a great distance, of course – the operative fixation of these ads comes to the preoccupations of works like Kafka’s or Woolf’s or Joyce’s. They work, at once, metaphorically (we can understand how to get along with the Chinese, whether in a restaurant or abstractly, via the markets) and literally (through the entertainment value of the vignettes…), which is, in the end, not far off from the model of the work of literature itself…

(Sorry – I have to pull up a bit hurriedly and short here, as I accidentally posted this before it was done, and I’ve got to run…)

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June 1, 2007 at 10:07 am

in two parts (me, not the post): journal of my personal dialectic

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On the one hand, a wonder advertisement (is this the right word? I don’t really understand in what sort of context this would actually be aired…) from the Scottish Socialist Party (via Ken MacLeod’s site).

It’s just a hunch on my part, and who the hell asked me, but if I were running the coordinated campaigns for the US democratic party for 2008, I’d think long and hard about the virtues of this advertisement: the reasonableness of it, the simple quant. aspect, and, above all else, the sense that government might provide something at once simple and effective and fundamentally transformative to the everyday lives of a majority of the populace. I have a sense that the time is ripe to step away from the eternal jousting field just below the city on a hill and propose ideas that might make everyone’s lives a little bit better. Of course, of course, end the Iraq War – but what we’d really like to talk about are trains and housing complexes and elementary schools and the like.

Christ knows they won’t follow my advice. If they did, and won, and lived up to their promises, I might even stop vomiting to the roof of my mouth every time I am forced to remember where it is that I am doomed to live, likely forever.

But, on the other hand, I took Kino Fist’s recommendation and, um, acquired for myself Chris Marker’s remarkable Grin Without a Cat. Which makes me feel like a complicit statist pig, ready for nothing less than the wall and a bullet, for occupying myself with thoughts of choo-choo trains and well designed terminals instead of, say, forming an avant-gardist guerilla band and fighting socialism into existence.

Ah well. Not really cut out to be an insurgent, I don’t think, despite the fact that I spent my entire pre-pubescence wrapped in camo, hiding in the woods with a plastic rifle. But the thing is, I was always on the side of the bad guys, the guys with lots of air support. The VC were toujours l’autre. And if I ever lacked air support, it was because I was playing out this scenario

I guess I’ll stick with the trains, but I promise to feel terrible about it as I do.

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April 23, 2007 at 1:42 am

Posted in ads, america, socialism

“see what you mean”

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A famous passage from Joyce’s Portrait:

The dramatic form is reached when the vitality which has flowed and eddied round each person fills every person with such vital force that he or she assumes a proper intangible esthetic life. The personality of the artist, at first a cry or cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalises itself, so to speak. The esthetic image in the dramatic form is purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation is accomplished. The artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.

The ambiguity of literary modernism’s dream of “impersonal” art is brilliantly captured in the stringing together of “invisible” and “refined out of existence.” Can’t, of course, be both at the same time: either the artist is there but hidden or has actually been wrung out of the work. The oscillation between egotistical artistic supremacy and the “death of the author” is one of the rhythms that define the progression of this period’s work.

I tend to be more interested in the “no artist” side of the issue than the other, because I think a good bit of what utopian / progressivist tendencies or even side effects there are to be found in the works of such figures as Joyce and Beckett, Woolf and Proust are to be found there. And I’m also very interested in the legacy of this preoccupation on the part of the “high modernists.”

One place that we find its development, of course, are in all of the strategies of opening works to contingency and randomness practiced by fellow modernists and figures that are usually affiliated with later schools / periods. Automatic writing, from Yeats through the surrealists and onward. Burroughs’s cut-ups. All sorts of “found art” tactics. Often enough, these techniques are staked either on the “unconscious” as the black box that generates the disorder or the disorder as the means that gives access to the truths of the unconscious.

But there is another way to think about impersonality – or maybe even to do impersonal art. And while I’m sure there is precedent for this sort of idea (commenters?) – a few things I’ve been seeing around the internet and on tv have got me thinking in a different direction.

The first is this tv commercial:

It’s fairly difficult to discern what exactly this ad is meant to sell. The Dassault website is only somewhat helpful…

Sophisticated technologies tend to be the preserve of experts. Today, Dassault Systèmes wants to break with this tradition and establish 3D technology as a new universal language with applications in every walk of life. But that’s not all. At Dassault Systèmes, we also strongly believe that the more advanced and complex technology becomes, the easier it should be to use.

To express this groundbreaking vision – and the major advances we have driven in 3D technology in terms of capability, flexibility and ease of use – French advertising agency devarrieuxvillaret has created a new tagline for Dassault Systèmes:

See What You Mean.

OK… “Universal language,” eh? (Of course, Dassault is best known for making warplanes…. and for owning Le Figaro…)

At any rate, the ad is a mashup of SimCity (the bit where the building flashes red because it’s not connected up to the underground utility conduits is the deadest giveaway) and letraset type peopleoids (not sure if that’s the appropriate term for the little guys pictured below or not…)

That’s all well and good. It’s likely the sort of ad that presents a image of something not yet possible, but which, by triggering a mass-fantasy, will urge that impossible thing into existence… Not unlike the fancy computer interface in Minority Report….

But what interests me in particular about this ad is the way that it proposes a new form of fiction, not yet possible, but dreamed of, perhaps, for at least the last 150 years. (The Joyce quote is, of course, only a plagiarized version of a few passages from Flaubert’s letters). What would it be like to use a technology like the one shown in the commercial as a technology for the creation of fiction? A fiction in which the “characters” were left to roam “on their own” a preconstructed section of “reality” forged by the artist, following the imperatives wired into their advanced AI? The little people stuck in the traffic jam in the ad, the pedestrians yelling at the cars – what would it be like if we could follow them closely, “hear” what they are thinking, establish ever more complex situations to drop them into? Fiction as experiment in a sense truer than any that has ever before been attempted. Fiction, at last, opened to the contingency and unpredictability that it has crept towards, largely unsuccessfullly, during the entirely of the period that we label the “modern.”

I am not talking about machinima, not the way it is practiced now, anyway. I am not talking about “user-controlled” “characters”….

Anyway, so that’s the first trigger. Second is this, which handles things a bit differently.

“Anthroptic” is an edition of 80 hand-made artist books that represents the collaboration between new media artist Ethan Ham and writer Benjamin Rosenbaum. The book contains 8 folios that pair one image with one “chapter” of the story. The images were taken from Ethan’s online project “Self-Portraits” in which he trained a facial recognition program to his face before unleashing it onto the internet photo service Flickr. While searching the millions of photos on Flickr for its creator, the computer program sometimes made mistakes, identifying inanimate objects as Ethan. These mistake images became the starting point for Benjamin’s short short story. Benjamin weaves these images into an exquisitely interconnected tale that can be read in any order.

Scripted recognitions, epiphanies. Algorithmic revelations. That sort of thing. Robotic portraiture. You start to see where I am going here with this…

The final example came through today, via we make money not art.

(re)collector is a public art installation that approaches Cambridge as a ‘museum of the mind’, using cameras to acquire memorable images that can then be reorganised into ideas. The Greek concept of ut pictura poesis claims that poetry is more ‘imageful’ than prose. In this project, the cameras do not document Cambridge using a simple, straightforward archive of events, but rather seek to record a collection of dramatic moments. The city becomes a tableau for pictura poesis, with events amplified through combinations of framing, movement, and silence, becoming more memorable and cohesive as a result.

This interesting enough at this point, the idea of constructing “ideas” or narratives out of CCTV footage. But where things get truly fascinating comes in the next paragraph:

The gothic character of the Bridge of Sighs, King’s College Chapel and various city centre side streets present backdrops for extracting cinematic moments from peoples’ everyday activities. Surveillance cameras installed around the city, will be programmed to recognise and capture public activities including farewell scenes, meetings, escape scenes, chases, love scenes, etc. Each day over the festival, the results will be edited to produce a daily feature film, complete with premise, protagonists, locations, plot, to be viewed at a public screening in Cambridge during the festival programme. The movie’s audience is composed of many of the same people that feature in it; the project seeks to renegotiate our relationship with where we live by showing us the latent narratives embedded in our everyday lives that we cannot see.

I’d love to know exactly how the cameras are programmed to decide what a moment of fictional significance, of narrative crisis, looks like. (I certainly don’t doubt that it can be done as it is already being done). And what if instead of humans getting involved with the editing of the clips into a coherent narrative, the machine performed that task as well. Surely, the recognition of a “love scene” is more complicated than sticking the scenes together in some sort of coherent order.

I’m going to have to write a follow-up post, unfortunately, detailing the aesthetic and political ramifications I think might come of such endeavors when focused properly, as I’m too beat to continue tonight. A few of the words and phrases, though, that are hovering about in my mind include “fiction as experiment,” “(repurposed) automatic behavioral detection,” “automation for automation’s sake,” “interchangeable parts,” “autonomy vs. advertisement” and…. “(truly) socialist realism.”

More soon… Sorry to defer the punchline…

(NB: I should say that I do know that some parallel work is being done on this sort of thing by the media/body people, by, for instance. But it nevertheless seems to me that I am aiming in a slightly to very different direction than much of that very helpful work…)

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April 18, 2007 at 12:02 am

city without ads – update

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April 14, 2007 at 10:23 pm

Posted in ads, simplicity

adbusters and the “existential divide”

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(xposted to Long Sunday)

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I wasn’t quite a charter subscriber to Adbusters, but fairly close to it. Maybe issue 10 or so, if memory serves. I cancelled about a year ago. While it has a certain connection to some of my perennial interests (see the name of my personal blog), I just started to feel increasingly out of touch with, what was it, the tone, the tonal politics, and the plain old politics of the magazine.

Here’s part of a post salvaged from my old site, just about when I wrote Adbusters to cancel out:

I’ve always been unsettled – in the wrong way – by the approach to politics embraced by Adbusters and the like. Seems to me to be an infinitely foreseeable adaptation of left politics to the self-help, self-fulfillment culture that marks the current tidal mark of the American experiment. Marie Antoinette-ism… What the magazine prescribes for its readership is something other than politics, I think. At base, it’s a strange sort of “lifestyle” magazine. It is full of stuff like this, from the current issue…

Here in rural Telemark, Norway, my husband and I have an ancient, 100-acre farm without a road, without electricity, without running water, without a computer or mobile telephone or washing machine or CD player or remote-control carrot-dicer… without corporate products, including Barbie dolls or Nike sneakers. We have a fjord-horse to do most of the heavy farm work (and so on…)

And a subscription to Adbusters, it would seem…

Anyway, they sell the magazine at the snazzy co-op where I buy my food, and the other day I bought a copy to see if anything has changed, either about the magazine or about me or both.

Nope.

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Right from the first pages – which feature a “visual essay” by Kalle Lasn, the founder and editor – I found some material that I can only classify as disturbing, symptomatic, symptomatically disturbing. Here are a few snips:

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March 7, 2007 at 12:05 am

awp indeed

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What a day. One horrendous thing at work (not horrendous for me per se… but horrendous in just that way that brings home minus abstraction and distance, all joking aside, what a shit place the world is), followed by a delightful moment of post-mla schadenfreude (my sector of the world seems a little more just and competent), but to top it all off……………

…………….this:

Oh lord do I love it. (What is it you ask? A reel of the faux media/design content developed by a firm called Foreign Office for Children of Men, of course…) Half the delight I take in the speculative genre comes of this sort of material. I don’t really love gizmos and the like, but neo-brands, speculative graphic design and media accouterments, yeah, that’s all me. Why? Um, see this blog. Have you noticed the title?

I especially love this sort of thing in a movie like Children of Men. Why bother advertising in a world in which there are no new consumers to capture, the market must have self-destructed decades ago, there really is no point to any of it anymore? But what the hell. You know they’d still be there, the ads… everywhere…

(Special note to the folks that made this stuff for Children of Men, if you happen to technorati by: Though it might seem at first glance that I am unlikely candidate for employment with your firm – as I’m not trained in design, I’m kind of an almost religiously-intense communist, I’m an English professor, I’m just post-30 so not really in the market for an internship or such like, I really do think it would be in your best interest to give me a call, and then a job for life. I would say goodbye to all that for the chance to tinker away at faux-ads, faux brand identities. I will learn to use photoshop. I will learn to edit videos. I will make videos of dogs wearing fur-lined jackets. I will even make real ads for nasty corporations, so long as I’m permitted, at least some of the time, to make up brand identity kits for fake corporations in dystopian movies. In short – and I’m not kidding – I’m pretty good at what I do now, fully employed and so forth, I have a phd from an internationally elite university in totally the wrong field to do this, but I will move * tomorrow to where you are and, well, be really intensely ready to make faux ads.

I mean, seriously, look at the f’ing name of my site. Born to do this.

Drop me an email.

* so long as you’re located in New York, London, Shanghai or any smaller city that’s ever been profiled in Wallpaper.)

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February 28, 2007 at 11:12 pm

Posted in ads, movies

without ads

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So, seriously, did Condi Rice wear camouflage to her hearing before the senate foreign relations committee yesterday?

Wish I could find even better pictures for you. The one on the cover of today’s FT makes it shockingly clear. But a camo-based print certainly is a strange choice, no? Attire parapraxis? Subliminal hint? Acting out? Bald, sticker-on-the-SUV stupidity?

I wonder if it has anything to do with this, which I heard on the radio on the way home from campus Wednesday…

White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush will try to shore up support for the war by raising hopes for victory and spelling out the consequences of defeat. The White House has sought to frame the Iraq debate as a choice between Bush’s plan and abject failure.

Snow conceded that Bush has a challenge in convincing a war-weary public.

“The president will not shape policy according to public opinion, but he does understand that it’s important to bring the public back to this war and restore public confidence and support for the mission,” Snow said.

The public has heard several previous campaigns by Bush to defend his Iraq policies and show that he is changing with changing circumstances. Since the war’s start in March 2003, there have been at least seven public-relations offensives by Bush on the war, with some of these speech series timed to milestone events and others to dips in polls.

Now, this is very strange talk for an employee of Bush Co., even given the turns that the polls have taken of late. The one thing that it is both easy to forget and essential not to forget is the fact that through every episode of this prolonged debacle, the administration has taken extraordinary steps to tease and/or force public opinion toward support of its policy decisions. It has been incredibly successful in doing so. To the great shame of this country, each and every major action has had the support of a majority of Americans, from the war on down.

But now, with his base gone, and even the once comatosely compliant congressional republicans sniping away, we hear from the press secretary that public opinion is irrelevant, and while, sure, it’d be great if the voters came along on the next leg of the trip, there will be no Rovian / Luntzian mindfucking marketing campaign this time around.

One wonders what’s next. I guess this time we won’t get the elaborate doubletalking rollout that we’ve become accustomed to. But if anything’s more worrisome that the terrifying coupling of an administration that never stops selling and a public willing to buy just about anything, it’s the intimation that perhaps the White House has decided it has no more reason to sell…

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January 12, 2007 at 10:51 pm

Posted in ads, marketing, war

Remember Time Warner?

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I’m guessing that just about everyone is getting a full dose of this new brand of spam designed to slip through the nets – random prose plus a hot penny stock tip in the form of an image…

Annoying, yes. Very, of course. And rumor has it that there’ll be no way to stop it, it’ll just get worse and worse until we abandon email altogether and start penning letters to each other again, the old fashioned way.

But I have to admit, I’m starting to get interested in the dummy text that they clip / is auto-clipped into the messages. Fragments shored against the ruin of our banally benighted period, they perform the Really Short Signification (RSS) that informs, perhaps, our collective trajectory.

The rate of employment growth is slowing as business confidence appears to be undermined by rising oil prices.

Oil prices have been on a roll this year.
Having excess cash is a good problem for companies to have: It can lead to higher dividends, larger share buybacks, and accretive acquisitions.
The Mad Cow disease scare, obesity issues, and management health have drawn attention instead. The ability and investing style of the portfolio manager are at least just as important as fees. However, these investors typically seek to own mutual funds within a single family such as Fidelity Investments for purposes of administrative ease.
Investing in the Best No Load Index Mutual Funds. What does this mean for biotech investors? ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY YARD CARE – three easy things you can do this year to take care of your yard in a responsible and eco-friendly way during the fall and winter.
What Oracle and Siebel do with their cash remains to be seen.
Whether you prefer to index or take an active approach to managing your investments, ensuring that your mutual fund is putting your interests first is good investing practice. Past performance is not a guarantee for future results.
The rate of employment growth is slowing as business confidence appears to be undermined by rising oil prices.
Remember Time Warner?
AlphaProfit Investments, LLC disclaims any liability for any direct or incidental loss incurred by applying any of the information in this report. Valuation metrics now are less attractive than they were in prior months. Then it was the unrest in Venezuela and Nigeria.
The Mad Cow disease scare, obesity issues, and management health have drawn attention instead.
The Root Cause: Transportation Relies on Foreign Oil. How are these grades determined? Mutual funds get kudos if their independent directors invest in the mutual funds.

Unfortunately, I already chucked it out of my inbox, but a great one came the other day with a subject line that went something like “But the new spam is sent as an image and computer security experts are struggling to cope with it,” which suggests, but does not prove, that there is a certain degree of non-mechanical authorship going on here…

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December 20, 2006 at 12:03 pm

city without ads

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Amazing little piece in the Times today, reporting that São Paulo will ban outdoor advertisements of every sort come January 1:

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — Imagine a modern metropolis with no outdoor advertising: no billboards, no flashing neon signs, no electronic panels with messages crawling along the bottom. Come the new year, this city of 11 million, overwhelmed by what the authorities call visual pollution, plans to press the “delete all” button and offer its residents an unimpeded view of their surroundings.

But in proposing to transform the landscape, officials have unleashed debate and brought into conflict sharply differing conceptions of what this city, South America’s largest and most prosperous, should be.

City planners, architects and environmental advocates have argued enthusiastically that the prohibition, through a new “clean city” law, brings São Paulo a welcome step closer to an imagined urban ideal.

The law is “a rare victory of the public interest over private, of order over disorder, aesthetics over ugliness, of cleanliness over trash,” Roberto Pompeu de Toledo, a columnist and author of a history of São Paulo, wrote recently in the weekly newsmagazine Veja. “For once in life, all that is accustomed to coming out on top in Brazil has lost.”

As you might guess from the title of this site, I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to advertisements, but this seems like an amazing, almost revolutionary idea, at least to this American.

….but then again, one might start to wonder how exactly the Paulistanos will find a way to navigate the city…

(think I’ve posted that video before… sorry if so…)

(There’s an update here…)

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December 12, 2006 at 9:32 pm