Monday, 31 August 2009

The Meta-narrative

I recently met with a friend, Tom, and we had an interesting discussion about the power of the meta-narrative - creating universes that extend stories from movies and films into our lives. We spoke about how a narrative can extend across platforms, and how interpretations and experiences can vary according to space, place and individuals. People experience stories on many levels, filling-in different gaps as they unite to decipher narrative code.

As the father of a one and a half year-old little girl, Roosa, Tom witnessed the narrative unfold in both virtual and physical worlds, where In the Night Garden's key characters, Iggly Piggly and Upsy Daisy, came to life in a universe all her own. The Night Garden spilled from the television set and into her home, where for Roosa, the show didn't end, but just continued in a different way on her living room floor as she played with her dolls and extended the Night Garden universe.

This made me think of some great examples of brand transmedia stories, from Blair Witch Project (one of the first films to use a website as a storytelling tool), Watchmen to True Blood.

It also reminded me of an old blog post by Henry Jenkins, the author of Convergence Culture and Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, that discusses how the narrative can also move into layered nuanced meanings which can speak to multiple audiences; each discovering different hidden meanings and associations.

Jason Oke of the Toronto based Leo Burnett agency moves transmedia away from the narrative and focuses on the notion of layering. He points to the 2006 Burger King commercial to best illustrate this:

On the surface, it's a jingle about the new Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch chicken sandwich. But you might also notice that the guy singing the song is Darius Rucker from 90's band (and pop culture trivia item) Hootie & the Blowfish. Or that the jingle itself is based on the old hobo ballad and Burl Ives classic "Big Rock Candy Mountain." Or that it was directed by iconic photographer David LaChapelle with all kinds of sexual imagery, both hetero and homo. Or that model and TV host Brooke Burke makes a cameo at the end (she's often used in BK ads). But you probably wouldn't notice all of those things, and in fact I'd be surprised if the same people who know who David LaChapelle is are also into turn-of-the century hobo ballads (I'm guessing those circles don't tend to overlap much).

But more to the point, not getting some or all of the references doesn't detract from the main brand message (there's a new chicken sandwich), because each bit also stands on its own. By having lots of detail, though, it gives fans of the brand something to notice and talk about and deconstruct. So you might have missed some of the details but someone else can point them out, and this gives you a deeper appreciation of it, and completes your picture of the whole a bit more.

Henry Jenkins waxes lyrical on the subject of transmedia storytelling, which he defines as, "a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story."

It would seem that transmedia storytelling is best suited for the entertainment industry, but I'm interested in seeing how we craft brand stories that enable and ignite differentiated narrative extensions that work across multiple platforms in exciting and highly engaging ways. Not just thinking of how to repurpose content to fit within digital or experiental spaces, but to develop new iterations or novellas, with an in-depth understanding of how people will use, interact and experience the stories across these channels.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Visual Poetry

I have a love affair with visual form and text, how the vocal rhythm in poems can be replicated with visual patterns of the written word, and how prose can combine with imagery to convey meaning.

I started doing more research on the subject of visual or concrete poetry, a movement started around the 1960s. In Italy, visual poetry was an act of rebellion against the pop/ad/culture than permeated society; a reflection on mass culture and consumerism. Artists such as Eugenio Miccini, Lamberto Pignotti and Claudio Francia used advertising and media devices, such as powerful images and hard-hitting straplines, as a means of expression.

There is a show at the ICA titled: Poor. Old. Tired. Horse which, "takes an expansive look at text-based art practices, inspired by the concrete poetry movement of the 60s which explored both the literary and graphic potential of language." Creative flights of the visual and poetic was occurring in Italy, Brazil, the UK, USA, in many different countries around the world during that time.

Many new forms of modern visual poetry continues with Sue Tompkins, Janice Kerbel and Anna Barham. These artists are represented by text-based pieces, including a film by Barham in which letters are assembled and disassembled by hand.

An interesting article written for the Yale Symposium on Contemporary Poetics and Concretism, states that: "In the second half of the twentieth century the poet is no longer faced with a white page. He faces a complex set of electronic apparatus and their multiple capacities to generate text and images in color and in movement. The page is no longer there nor is it white, not even as a metaphor. Also space is now equivalent to time, and writing is not a score but a dimensional virtual reality."

I've always wondered what form of art, of writing, was right for me. Where would I find the canvas of my expression? I wasn't really moved by the idea of traditional novel writing, yet I always felt it was something I should do. Now, with all my explorations into this fertile playground for written and visual creations, I am really getting a feel for what I want to do, to create. I have a long way to go, but just scratching at the surface is exciting.

It reveals an expansive experimental layer of colors, design, text, typography and video that can combine to create dense nuggets of expression, meaning and experience. This melding of text, image and technological platforms feels like a new language, one I never really considered before in my writing workshops and general literary education.

When I tried to explain these ideas to my writing professor, she said, "Oh, like a child's story book?" This goes beyond matching images with pieces of narration, but using new postmodern landscapes made possible by technology and cultural permutations.

Many pieces in the Biennale can be described as visual poetry. I feel like something is brewing. I'm going to start by getting my body of poetry together, and then editing, growing, morphing and molding the pieces for digital spaces and even gallery spaces. How many ways can poems or prose be extended beyond the page?

Some examples of visual poetry below:

Thursday, 27 August 2009


Need to find the time (to create stuff) stuck underneath the couch cushions.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Five Finds (Floaters)

This week's random five. A few caught thoughts below:

1. It's a business, not to be confused with the oldest profession.
2. Cats is back...on the internet.
3. Model behavior - a fierce catwalk network brawl.
4. The greatest t-shirt ever.
5. A concrete blending of the virtual and the physical.

Monday, 24 August 2009


I went to go see Beautiful Losers over the weekend. It's a great documentary about a quiet art movement composed of an electric mish-mash group of artists influenced by subversive punk, graffiti and skater culture ( a view from the outside), that built momentum eventually spiraling out into something big and contagious.

This is not a review of the film, you can get that here and here, but rather a reflection on how it made me feel. It felt existential. It reminded me of the strange futility of things, wanting to be someone, climbing, showing, and really, we're all just kind of grasping, stumbling in a prefab box built by Ikea.

These people just made stuff, spend time creating, and at the same time, whether intentionally or not, made statements. The way they lived communicated something powerful.

I don't know, I walked out of the ICA, feeling a lot lighter, less serious, more playful, somewhat liberated because I was reminded of the illusions we hang on to. Not too much really matters, except the things that do. See it, tell me what you think.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

It's crowded in here.

It's crowded in here
an elevator stuffed
with a man in a brown polyester suit
and tie that reaches his belly button
a woman chewing bright green gum manically
while twirling her bleached curl around a cigarette stained finger
a cyclist, holding unto his blueberry helmet
fluorescent strips wrapped around ankles, wrists
flashing in the reflection of the overhead light
the quasi-geisha flicks her jet black hair
her face reveals deep-set shining marble eyes,
crimson lips, powdered skin
A girl dominated by freckles plays inside her nose, looking
for hardened secrets, while her mother fidgets nervously
with her electronic Casio watch, stuck in a time warp,
teased brown bangs wave upward
shaking brown fists at a sedentary ceiling
A small Dachshund is all beady eyes and tucked tails,
shivering in the corner, consumed with worry about being stepped on or eaten
Fat man Jack extends a greasy smile, sweat rolling down temples,
his wolf-printed t-shirt growing concentric dark spots,
nails bitten down to reveal a pink swelling
Squeezed against a white-starched nurse in purple Crocs,
creased with cracks that have grown from the corners of her eyes outwards,
spreading fast alongside deep puffed pockets, cushioning blinking eyes
close and open
open and close
a rhythm people start to notice despite themselves
It's crowded in here.
Cheap musk, fabric softner, roasted coffee, McDonald's fries soil a bag, stale cigarettes, wet fur, watermelon gum, sweat, sour eggshells, pheromones, mothballs, a crushed peanut butter sandwich, crispy perfumed hairspray, all mix like a potent alchemist's concoction swirling above a sputtering fan
in the elevator

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Stir it up...

Research uncovers a strange potpourri of content. At least the stuff below is themed. I'll call it the alchemy of film.

1. The 30 second bunnies reenact Napoleon Dynamite.
2. Found a old favorite and beautifully simple (also multicultural) TV show.
3. Discovered a Tumblr site that captures the best in movies through still photography.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


I've been like an ostrich this week - diving into work like it's gold dust shaped like vast sand dunes. It's been fun - a fully-charged, adrenaline-filled, pimped out mental trip. I'm loving it, but I come home spent like an old dollar bill pinned and framed on the wall of a New York diner (enough with the metaphors).

What better way to turn-off than with a taste of a metaphysical tragicomedy about being able to de-soul the body or disembody the soul?

Cold Souls has a great site - clean, nicely designed and animated, with an interesting badge on the bottom left that says, Get Happier! Click here for the latest in soul storage technology. When clicked it takes you to The Soul Storage Company site that allows you to browse the soul catalog, review customer testimonials. take an office tour, read articles written about soul storage, FAQ section, etc.

Nice extension of the narrative into the digital/real world...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Scented yellow paper bag story

Walking into a Lush store is a sensory experience: the first hit is the olfactory sense, where wafting smells of lavender, musk, rose and vanilla greet you like the handshake of an over-eager salesman and then, perhaps because I am attracted most by words and mini-flights of written fancy, my eyes veer towards the names and descriptions written in bold, recognizable, hand-written Lush typography.

I enjoyed reading, perusing, being attended to and trying on different masks, from The Sacred Truth:

The Truth is we all need protection from ageing. The vital anti-oxidant action of wheatgrass, ginseng and green tea, enzymic fresh papaya, cleansing clays and nutritious butters, all combine to defend the skin.

to Brazen Honey:

This mask is for anyone who has been misbehaving as far as going out too much, maybe drinking too much, not taking make up off before bed, and generally treating the skin badly, and it is full of honey. We have a term in the UK "Brazened Hussey" which is a woman who is perhaps of questionable morals, and is not really too worried about what others think of that. Almost sounds the same.

The brand experience continued when I returned home and found this copy nugget on the bright yellow Lush paper bag that contained my Sacred Truth...nice touch.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Experiments in Celebrity

How do you feel when you see your name in digital lights? I wasn't too comfortable with digital fame at first, but it depends what I'm known for;) I could definitely get used to the Astronaut bio...

The Institute for Contemporary Arts commissioned A Concept Web Work by 8gg.

"Search Your Name" is a short online game, the purpose of which is to provide the user with the brief illusion that they are a celebrity.

Interesting experiment...I suppose the web has already spawned a new form of celebrity, where 'regular' people with specialized skills develop niche fan bases.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Whatcha talking about?

I don't know how I feel about this? I like the art direction and concept, but still unsure (loving his vintage lumberjack shirt). Although it's kind of unsettling and creepy, like sad prostitution for potatoes.

From MediaPost's Out to Lauch:

There's also an augmented reality Facebook app where users must shake Coleman until he spills his fries. Players also receive a coupon for a cup of New York Fries at the 1984 price of $1.25. Did I mention that Coleman also tells fortunes? Once the fries are spilled, a Facebook friend is paired with a fry, and given an outlandish fortune dated 25 years in the future, such as your friend has become a "cruise ship lounge host," "tongue model" or "yoga historian".

What do you think?

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Cloudy, opaque, creamy pools
rock steadily at the bottom of gummy bear imprinted plastic.

Circular ripples cascade towards warm shores
so that it’s hard to recognize the dense richness
lapping at ankles, forming skin around edges.

Experience like a bowl of Cocoa Puffs
slowly transforms white milk
into a caramel tint,
gradually tainting ripened brown waves.

Soggy balls bob like shipwrecked seamen
drift further away from comfort,
into uncharted sweet waters.

She stirs her long, lean and elegant silver spoon,
hoping to give rise to some answers
Mistaking puffs for alphabets,
creating currents with her search for letters.

‘It’s not a black eight ball darling’
‘You won’t get any quick-fix responses’
Her mother starts to gather crispy, hardened breadcrumbs,
to leave a trail for someone, anyone, later.

The girl turns the cereal box around in her hands,
reading cardboard stories,
‘Did you know that one bowl of Apple Jacks makes you jump and snap
with sugar rushes and popcorn highs?’

She likes to imagine magic ingredients
will transform customary mornings:
pink bunny eared slippers shuffling into a Formica kitchen
sitting at a blue and white checkered tablecloth
waiting for mother’s voice to pierce an early dream mist

Exchanged, instead, for handsome tattooed sailors,
gallantry and greased hair right out of the 1950s
Fiery wisps of smoke escape nostrils,
full-lipped mouths whisper salty sea secrets.

She holds the spoon to her ear,
so she can hear
soothing chocolate words that create an intimacy
so dense, that they gather like beads of sweaty condensation
on temples, glass pot lids and rolled up summer windows,
so rich, that she can feel the buttery sense of communion
spread languidly inside her

In that brief moment, futility lifts, purpose crescendos
Radiant purple lights cascade into the room
like bright spandex clad ballroom dancers.

Spotlights move in synchronized rhythms
The cloud disperses, a cool illuminating breeze
runs through her hair, faint clapping heard in the distance

Until she clumsily drops her spoon
milk splatters, breaking the spell
‘Now why did you go and do that honey?’
her mother’s voice a pick that breaks
multihued ice into neat little chips
used for refreshing Mai Tais, G&Ts and Mojitos at pool parties

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Boom boxes & safety-pinned acid-wash jeans

Is it sad that I can remember this?

How about the people that didn't have the luxury of living through teased bangs, plastic earrings and jelly shoes? w+k takes the 80's and gives it a cool parodied twist, which makes you grin and wink but not laugh at it because it sounds and looks good...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Coins under couch cushions

It feels like I have been talking or thinking about personal projects for a long time now. From taking classes, to writing in the mornings, to staring out the window while listening to Almoldovar soundtracks, somehow, I've accumulated satchels of content. I've been so busy sprinting forward that I forgot to stop and look at what I've gathered along the way. Some poems may be discarded or reused or revamped, but they're here.

Penelope Trunk wrote a post about happiness and self-discipline, where she postulates that making a routinized change in behavior, doing one positive thing daily, whether exercising or managing finances, can snowball and spillover into other aspects of your life. She cites a study from Baumeister, who found that students who walked with a book on their head to fix their posture ended up eating better, studying harder, and sleeping more.

If you feel like something is missing, isn't quite right or just looking for a change or investigation inwards, I highly recommend The Artist's Way (the premise being that everyone is creative, you don't have to be a writer, actor, painter, etc.) by Julia Cameron.

One of the 'obligatory' rituals of the self-taught course is writing daily morning pages. This routine purge has has helped me regurgitate lodged subconscious items, expose hidden desires and fears, and clean out the mundane: things to do listed, noted and offloaded. It clears the sea of mental clutter to make room for creative oysters below.

There's always further to travel, but it feels good to know that you're moving forward, and not just turning on a relentless sushi conveyor belt.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Daily Troopers

Twitter is a fertile link farm filled with digital data trails of goodness (depending on who you follow). Right before the Facebook/FriendFeed story broke on Twitter, which was repeated and retweeted constantly so that it ceased to be news and became a slow and painful stutter, a few tweets started rolling in about Storm Troopers.

Being the Scifi geek that I am, I immediately clicked and found myself on Stéfan's Flickr page, and discovered his daily Stormtrooper 365 project that started on April 3rd 2009.

The photographs - composition, lighting, scenario, props - are really funny and very well done. I subscribed to the feed. This is the kind of engaging and comedic project that can catch fire for its creativity, humor and artistic execution...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Wild Things

Another one to add on the list. Sunday feels like the perfect escapist day to share the trailer of Where the Wild Things Are because it looks like a cinematic wonderland. I loved the illustrations when I first got the book for my 6th birthday and the movie has some serious visual poetry with Spike Jonze in the director's seat. Even the trailer's a treat (clips of soundtrack a sweet complement).

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Lush, volcanic and redolent passion fruit
Rip apart already torn lime-colored seams,
cough-up soft, glistening black-studded interiors
to release a perfumed ripeness
that Coty could never replicate or capture,
only attempt to stuff nature’s muffled voice
into pear-shaped rose decanters.

Scents of patchouli, verveine and lilac
stir, pace and circle like a testosterone-injected pit-bull
at the bottom of stone-encrusted crystal
refusing to crawl and creep slowly to the edge,
to walk the red and white striped plank.
Refusing to jump into the chamber of experience.

Existing solely to fill the gaps,
to conceal the putrid stench,
camouflage the intoxicating smells:

a rotting apple, yellow pools that sway in broken brown eggshells,
moldy discarded bread crusts, shriveled red onions,
slabs of rejected fat still shiny with grease,
orange cigarette butts caked with dust, shredded ConEd bills,
wrinkled and stained Sunday papers, crusted beige prophylactics,
ripped toilet paper soiled with red kisses, rusting banana peels,
coffee grains and plastered white pieces of fettuccine
that give the black plastic an interior design,

all of it neatly concealed,
held together with thick dark Glad easy-tie bags.
Evidence covered and closed,
only the scent remains.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Learning to fly (high).

I've started taking dance classes this week. So far, I've been to two jazz classes and a Bollywood class. I used to dance ballet, tap and jazz as a kid and the desire to be inside a studio with my leg stretched on a wooden bar has haunted me for ages (perhaps explaining strange addiction to You Think You Can Dance?).

Midnight pub crawls with sticky dance floors just weren't cutting it anymore. I wanted pirouettes. I wanted to be Coco from Fame.

It feels so good to do something you've been meaning and jonesing to do. Whatever it is you've been thinking about doing, go for it. Pick-up the pen, lace up your kicks, stretch your vocal chords, practice coding - do it do it do it.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The art of the sell

I've noticed recently (I've been biking a lot more) that London and NYC share quite a few street names, like Lexington and Mercer for instance. However walking along Brick Lane last night to choose the right Bengali restaurant reminded me of strolling down Mulberry Street in Little Italy. It went beyond names and moved into the realm of experience.

Restaurant cajolers and hawkers competed with one another, whispering to you as if sharing dirty secrets as they slowly approached with a menu like a weapon in hand.

"50% off entire menu for you."
"Special discount for you."
"Would you like to try - best food?"

The tourist-infected streets of Little Italy don't go as far as to offer discounts, but they try to tempt you with a variety of Italian cliches, from checkered red and white table cloths to Mambo Italiano blaring on speakers, and verbal lists of classic Italian meals:

"Chicken parmigana, baked ziti, linguine in white wine sauce - Miss, the finest meals served here..."

So all this got me thinking: what makes me cringe about people peddling menus?

Because I feel like someone is trying to sell me something.

So how could they make my mouth water? By making me want to buy, to go in, to taste. They probably have two seconds to get my attention - what would work? Maybe free bite-sized samples of their best dishes or street specialties such as chaat? According to The Psychology of Persuasion, this could also work given the human desire to reciprocate...

How about a less aggressive approach - wafting scents a la Marks and Spencer bread? Faint Bollywood music? A couple of Bengalis eating at the restaurant? How do they entice you to enter and eat at their joint when there are countless restaurants with no real point of differentiation? I'm sure there has got to be a cost-effective way to lure customers...

Any ideas? Or does the direct salesman approach work for you?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

New York Flavor

A drink that turns New Yorkers into Mid-Westerners. Funny idea. Really reminds me of the city.

Purity Organic Juice.
"Be More Pure."
Agency: McCann Erickson

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

What Helps? Great Design & Sweet Copy

I stumbled across the packaging design on ffffound, but wasn't quite sure what the company was about. It turns out that Help Remedies was make solving simple health issues simple. We find the best solution there is, and take away everything else...We think a little help, honesty and kindness will go a long way.

Sounds like what the health industry needs generally.

According to an interview with Richard Fine, one of the founders, conducted by Cool Hunting,

...what compelled Richard to come up with the products was a desire for exactly opposite of what's already out there. After experiencing a headache and visiting a store in search of something to get rid of it, the fluorescent lights and the terrible packaging screaming weird things like "dual action formula" and "now with extra powerful relief" only made his headache worse. Richard, whose parents are both doctors, says that, "our goal was to make real medicine a bit more approachable and understandable."

I love that their packaging in 100% compostable, made from molded paper pulp and a bio plastic made primarily of corn, and of course beautifully elegant in its simplicity and clear messaging.

The copy is friendly, colloquial, funny and has an Innocent does health sound to it. Attractive combo (at 6 dollars per medical solution, it has to be;)

Turf Wars

Google's launches its 'Go Google' campaign today in NY, San Francisco, Chicago and Boston, moving into Microsoft's desktop app turf, much as Microsoft is attempting to wrestle a piece of the Search pie from Google.

Let the games begin.

Read more about Google campaign here.

Monday, 3 August 2009

A whole new breed of apathy.

I'm a New Yorker (albeit one living in London, but apple to the core) and that said, I am used to having a huge variety of choice. I can remember my husband's face when I asked a server for a 'scooped out bagel', which I would like to add, is not uncommon in NYC (who needs all those carbs?). In NYC, you can get what you want how you want it, an orgy of choice a la Starbucks. I'm sure there's a SNL episode on the spawn of the mocha-soya-latte-caramel-skinny-frappuccinos culture somewhere.

We're creating souped-up niches, which may put the advertising business in quite a quandary given existing business models. Anyway, I'm going off tangent - choice is being heralded as a celebration of individuality and expression (open happiness) by Coke with its development of Coca-Cola Freestyle, a new self-serve soda fountain that can dispense up to 100 different drink flavors. Though for Coke of course, it's not just about the provision of choice, but market intelligence and research:

Springwise reports:Flavoured teas, waters, juices and soft drinks will all be available from Coca-Cola Freestyle, letting customers select drinks based on brand, calorie content or caffeine levels, all through the system's touchscreen interface...Many of the flavours on offer are new to the US market.

RFID tags will keep track of the syrup the machine uses, telling retailers when to refill, and providing Coke HQ with insight into popular flavours and locations. By tracking sales, Coca-Cola gains valuable insight into which drinks would be most successful if offered bottled or canned. Which means the intelligent technology doesn't just offer a new level of choice for customers, but also streamlines supply chain management and informs new product development.

The machine is being tested this summer at fastfood restaurants in California and Atlanta, with the intention of rolling out units across the US early next year.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The lines blur...

I've been reading about True Blood's marketing strategy - blending fact and fiction across multiple platforms, with a focus on social networks, to fabricate a possible reality where vampires exist but no longer have to feast on human blood given the discovery of a synthetic beverage that can curb their thirst. So they are now free to come out of the casket.

Enter Season 2: the ante is upped and this concept pushed even further into 'faction', with True Blood not only advertising to vampires, but actually creating the blood replacement beverage which will be in stores September 8th.

Lewis Grossberger, from Newser, comments: And HBO's promo writers have come up with a splendid verb to describe the concept of selling a concoction created for the characters on a TV series: They say they're “de-fictionalizing” Tru Blood. Is that beautiful? A fictional concept enters the world of reality, thus shedding its fictionality.

I'm not sure what I think of all this, except that it's interesting and lucrative. Last year’s season drew an average audience of 7.8 million viewers per episode.

I wonder if the fantasy will continue to meet the road authentically this year?

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Collaboration baby. Bring it together.

I've been thinking a lot about collaborative projects lately. I'd love to create an interactive novel with a variety of writers and designers, so that the novel is a multidimensional experience, rather than just felt through one medium. The key would be to first agree on the glove that holds the ideas together: the storyline and organizing principle that would allow the various contributors to digress, improvise and go off on strange tangents. It would be great to get the public involved, whether as editors or curators (the pieces they prefer, want published). The whole project could be a great outlet for creativity and a quasi-experiment. I wonder how many ways you could tell a story? A collage of images and photography at a gallery, online site with connecting groups/fans, video montage, print book?

Any takers?