Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sharing on Lovemarks.com

The stories that come in from around the world to Lovemarks.com never cease to amaze me. We have well over 20,000 of them and each one is personal and full of emotion. Some are short and sweet, while other are long letters of love and devotion. Were we to have a one-way conversation about Lovemarks, we would miss the point of love. Lovemarks.com is about sharing and learning what the world has to say about their favorite brands. And the results from across the globe speak for themselves. We also have a twitter account that’s gaining followers too.

Here are 5 recent nominations and comments for Lovemarks from the community that I had to share:

Mizuno Golf Driver - Stephen Sierawski
For anyone that loves to play golf, they know that nothing makes you feel better than putting a monster drive down the middle of the fairway. There is no remedy for a 3-putt better than nearly driving the green on the next whole. I love my Mizuno driver because, as in all sports, when you perform better you feel better. Hitting your driver well provides confidence and makes the rest of the course much easier. The sport of golf is a love/hate relationship, but my Mizuno driver deserves a lovemark.

Seoul, South Korea - K. Wolterman
I've studied abroad and seen some of the greatest cities in the world, but Seoul is by far my favorite. While the people did stare at me because of my red hair and pale skin, everyone was incredibly friendly, the architecture is gorgeous, and the city is always full of amazing brands and things to do--like sing karaoke--and it is one of the only places I desire to go back because of the rich Buddhist culture mixed with modern amenities that we lack in the United States.

Lush - Kristin Wilson
Hand-made, globally available, (globally aware), vegan, vegetarian, all-natural and organic products that make you feel good, smell good and refresh your mind. What's not to love? Very few of the products come in any packaging at all, and those that do are 100% recyclable. I first stumbled upon Lush in the Orlando International Airport, and the delicious scent wafting through the store melted any pre-flight stress away. Having recently discovered raw veganism, I feel in love with this store that could help me treat my outside as well as my inside. Nearly 2 years later, my friends and family recognize my love for Lush and send me pictures of Lush storefronts from California to Budapest.

Lifetime - LadyO
This is the only cable television network that I can not live without. A few years ago I saw my mom glued to the television every Sunday night at 7P.M. I thought it was new channel for older women, but as young and nosey as I was changed the station and watched the same movie she was watching. Ever since then, 100% of the movies that are shown I can relate to. If it’s about a 40 year old mom or a 14 year old girl, I connect with them. It’s like release therapy knowing that these are everyday issues that everyone goes through and I'm not alone. It’s not just a movie with a thought and a pen. It's not a reality show, a fairytale, thriller, or nightmare.... Its real women and real girls transformed into real life stories. I connect with every character and I was amazed that this was a networked that understood my thoughts, feelings, and issues.

Apple - Chelsea
Apple has taken over the world with their products. If I look around my room, apple is there helping me with my everyday life. My Apple iPod is by my side while I go for a long run, my Apple computer is right in front of me as I write all my papers and check my Facebook and even as I decide on what Lovemark to nominate. Have you ever thought of how upset you get when something happens to your Apple products. If something happens to your iPod, you are left without music and might not even be able to workout because you have nothing to motivate you. If something happens to your computer, you are devastated because you lose your papers, your pictures, your music and all of your hard work. I don't go through a normal day without using something from Apple. Apple is definitely my nomination for my lovemark.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hark Upon The Green: Last Night’s Event With Adam Werbach

This is a great example of "Do One Thing" DOT. The story tells itself. KR

Last night, Adam Werbach of Saatchi & Saatchi S spoke at the new Miller Hall, courtesy of William & Mary's Mason School of Business' Undergraduate Program and the Undergraduate Net Impact chapter. A few thoughts:

  • I was lucky enough to have dinner with Adam and some of the Mason and sustainability faculty before the speech. I have to say - the meal and the executive dining room were both wonderful. I can't say enough about both Mason and Miller Hall to this point; I've had nothing but fantastic experiences with both since I've been hired.
  • Adam was, as expected, bright, enthusiastic, and eager to learn what we were doing at William & Mary. We discussed higher education's role in promoting a sustainable way forward for the next generation, and Adam had some interesting insights into the way sustainability would be perceived in the years to come.
  • Wow, what a turnout! Apparently the event sold out quite quickly, and the ballroom in Miller Hall was absolutely packed. So great to see so many people, from both within and outside of Mason, interested in sustainability in the business world.
  • For those of you who haven't read Adam's book Strategy for Sustainability, I highly recommend it; most of his speech highlighted the points he elaborates on in his book. The speech itself was entertaining, informative, and light-hearted, all of which I think are important in the general sense of educating people on sustainability.
  • The questions asked by the audience were fantastic, and, perhaps most importantly, were from a wide range of students - MBA, BBA, and non-business students. Perhaps most telling was Adam's response to the question "So what do we do next?" Saatchi & Saatchi S's "DOT" is to have 1 BILLION people pick a personal sustainability practice; but, as Adam elucidated, that's where their role ends. They aren't in charge of what we do after picking our practice, that's our job! We get to decide what happens next. And I think, more than anything else, that's what I took away from Adam's speech: that here in higher education, and especially here at William & Mary, we have the opportunity to use these networking and marketing tools to build larger & more effective groups dedicated to one thing (sustainability) which, like ourselves, is so many different things at once.
I hope you all enjoyed the event as well. I'll be meeting with Net Impact next week to discuss phase two of W&M's "DOT" campaign. What will YOU do next?

From the blog of Phil Zapfel, Sustainability Fellow for the College of William and Mary.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On France & Happiness

Happiness is gaining ground. In fact, it’s moving from East to West. Bhutan made famous its focus on Gross National Happiness, not on GDP, and now France wants to include happiness as a key metric for the country.

Last week President Sarkozy said France’s measurement of progress should include factors such as healthcare availability, well-being and leisure time. Speaking on the one year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Sarkozy said: “The crisis doesn't only make us free to imagine other models, another future, another world. It obliges us to do so.”

Measuring happiness will not be without a debate and there’s little chance that richer countries will come on board. But Sarkozy’s wish is a welcome sign that happiness is receiving the attention it deserves. In the wake of a financial collapse that disrupted every industry, the balance of our lives is being reconsidered. This is the spirit and point of view with which Saatchi & Saatchi S operates. Adam Werbach and team are championing a growing movement with the goal of happy people in a healthy planet.

I’ve written about happiness before. There’s the Happy Planet Index and the World Database of Happiness. I like what philosopher Daniel Dennet says is the secret to happiness: “Find something more important than yourself and dedicate your life to it.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hoxton Hotel

Living in 4 corners of the world has its upsides. You get to experience new places in new ways – with your kids – in their habitat, not as a tourist. Youngest son Danis has recently moved from South London to Shoreditch, a friendly, arty area popular with artists and musicians, Ro visited him in London recently and he recommended she stay at the Hoxton Hotel on Great Eastern Street. Here’s Ro’s Hoxton Hotel rag…..

I was very pleasantly surprised when I checked-in. The Hotel is called an Urban Lodge – where urban living meets country lodge lounging. The reception/bar/dining area is just one big, very cool, welcoming space. The style is hip/industrial – cool music, brick walls, wooden floors, but with very funky touches – an Evening Standard metal freestanding newspaper box, normally found on the street, but now in the foyer with the morning and evening newspapers and an ATM machine (very handy and avoids the risk of a fraudulent camera recording transactions). Nightly, expensive, mini bar raids have been replaced by the “larder” at the reception where you can stock up on chocolate and snacks at retail prices.

The room have been thoughtfully and artfully designed, murals of the London skyline are etched into the walls, a very comfortable bed with frette sheets and three lovely cushions depicting rock, paper and scissors, a leather settee and a user-friendly console with a desk and plasma TV, Wifi and tea making facilities. Great bathrooms of black granite with a huge power shower and Aveda toiletries. Nice little touches included the Hox Guide, a pocket-sized fold out booklet, which lists restaurants, bars/pubs, art, music, clubs, markets and shops in the area and an empty fridge save for milk to go with the tea-making facilities and a litre of water. Owned by Pret A Manger co-founder Sinclair Beecham – his mark had been stamped on the property by the very funky idea of giving each guest a small brown carrier bag on which you mark a time and number of guests in the room and hang it on the peg outside the door. Next morning, free of charge, there is a Pret a Manger orange juice, a pottle of muesli and fruit, and a banana – perfect to ward off those early morning hunger pangs.

Danis and I enjoyed a great dinner in the New York styled Hoxton Grill downstairs – I had a delicious “Old spot pork chop” and Danis tucked into a New York Strip with onion rings – perfect food, great friendly service and incredibly reasonable prices for London in such a great setting. On warmer evenings you can sit in the lovely outside atrium courtyard adjacent to the restaurant.

I did smile when I checked out and saw that my bill was called “The Damage” and actually, compared to London’s normal exorbitant prices, I didn’t think it was that much damage at all and was incredibly good value.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flash Mobs and the Participation Economy

Last week a few hundred people got together in LA for a bike ride. No big deal, right? The ride included over 500 cyclists and was organized in less than 24 hours with one short message: "Hey LA -- get out of your cars and get on your bikes. Time to ride. 7:30 tomorrow am. Griffith Park, LA Zoo parking lot. See you there."

The message was sent via Twitter by none other than Lance Armstrong. The next day hundreds of cyclists turned out to ride along side their hero. How often do you get to say you rode with a seven-time Tour de France winner? Some of the riders were said to have driven long distances to join the rare opportunity.

This was not Lance’s first time organizing a flash mob of cyclists. Recently in Dublin more than 1,200 cyclists showed up, some even dressed in work suits. The star power brought Dublin to a standstill.

Flash mobs like this are nothing new. There’s the Worldwide Pillow Fight Day, which started in New York, and of course London’s Silent Disco, where thousands of people listening to their iPods danced in public in eerie silence. There’s also a No Pants day where people commute to work without wearing trousers. 1,100 New Yorkers rode the subway without trousers during a snow storm.

These all point not only to the power of a good idea, but also to our desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to participate in something unique. Our award-winning TMobile spot Life’s for Sharing tapped into the power and energy of this thought.

Increasingly, we have the means to participate like this more and more, and faster and faster. The truly great ideas, for brands or for anyone, will be those idea that give us an opportunity to contribute and play a part.

Back in LA, Lance sent out a short message of thanks…and perhaps a new opportunity? "Great ride in Griffith Park. Thanks, LA! And thanks to the LAPD for the help. Off to Montreal. . ."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do One Thing

For change to take real effect, it needs to be personalized. Saatchi & Saatchi S, our sustainability agency, is working with companies to implement nano-practices in the workplace to reduce carbon use.

We call this DIY contagion DOT, Do One Thing. Each person is encouraged to choose one thing to pursue regularity. It can be anything from cycling to work or doing laundry with cold water. It’s just one thing, a start not a complete change of life. One person’s DOT may stand alone, but connect a billion DOTs together and you’ll see a movement of change happening.

Employees throughout our own network have shared their DOTs. Here are ten, from Sao Paolo to Singapore:

  1. My DOT is to take public transportation to and from airports whenever possible.
  2. I use the same bottle for water each day every day.
  3. I am going to stop smoking.
  4. I no longer use plastic shopping bags.
  5. My family will no longer buy water in plastic bottles.
  6. I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth.
  7. I buy ecologic food and supplies, when possible.
  8. I will not eat meat at least once a week.
  9. I will drink coffee from a reusable mug whenever possible.
  10. To find my bike in the cellar – yes, and to use it!
What’s my DOT? Make one less flight per month. What’s yours? It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you Do One Thing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Little Bit of Madagascar on Waitemata Harbour

A frequent Lovemarks nominee is Jo Malone – a classic luxury experiential brand now owned by Estée Lauder. I love their candles and have them burning throughout my offices and homes. Pine & Eucalyptus is my favourite...it’s only offered seasonally for Christmas – so I’ll be buying my 12 months stock next month. Jo Malone drips with sensuality – every sense is touched. Here’s a story about their latest fragrance – Vanilla and Anise. You can almost taste it...(well in fact you could thanks to the Hilton’s Executive Chef, Cristiano and the world’s best gelato maker, Giapo). My wife Rowena (third from right above, with the New Zealand Jo Malone team) takes up the story from Auckland. KR.

Inspired by the floral landscape of Madagascar and capturing the fleeting moment of the rare, precious vanilla spice which blooms into the delicate, white vanilla orchid, the new Jo Malone Vanilla and Anise fragrance was recently launched by the New Zealand Jo Malone Team.

All the details of the Event were designed to complement the inspiration behind Vanilla and Anise and the Bellini Bar at the Hilton Hotel, located on Auckland’s waterfront was the perfect choice of venue. Beautifully themed with tall glass jars of orchids and platters of star anise, cloves and vanilla pods, the sun shining over the blue Waitemata Harbour completed the island theme.

Guests were greeted by Ro and Jodie and invited to enjoy a Vanilla Peach Bellini or Vanilla Iced Tea and to sample the delights of the Vanilla and Anise-inspired dessert bar which consisted of Sweet Fennel and Clove Tartlets, Vanilla and Cream Puffs with Anise Custard, Star Anise Ganache-filled Chocolate Macaroons, Vanilla and Anise Marshmallows and Bergamot Petit Fours created by Cristiano De Martin, Executive Chef at the Hilton.

Jodie introduced the new fragrance and led the guests through the sensorial journey behind the fragrance and its notes, focusing on the distinguished bottom note of vanilla bourbon absolute, the full floral heart containing the vanilla orchid and the top layer of spicy star anise and citrus bergamot.

The Jo Malone Tasting Bar was set against this beautiful back drop and guests were invited to indulge in a hand and arm massage from the Stylists combining Vanilla and Anise with either Grapefruit or Orange Blossom – a delightful experience!

And just in case they had not had their fill of dessert treats, also on offer were gelatos – Chocolate and Anise and Bourbon and Vanilla, lovingly created especially for this launch by Gianpaolo Grazioli “Giapo” (whose gelato store is next to the Civic Theatre in Auckland).

The afternoon was truly a homage to the senses and I really want to thank Cristiano and Alexander Tschampel, the F&B Services Manager and his Team for helping us to make it such a success.

Vanilla and Anise will be on counter at the Jo Malone Store in The Chancery, Auckland CBD from mid-October.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ikea's New Face

In late August Ikea announced they had made a change in the way they communicate with the world. They changed the typeface used in the body text for all catalogues and company communications (the main logo remains the same). This sparked outrage from designers and bloggers, generating a huge amount of coverage (I’m not sure if customers actually noticed). Ikea had used a customized version of the Futura typeface for over 50 years, seen in the image above. Verdana, used in the image on the right, will replace it.

One of the main causes of the revolt is the specific font Ikea selected. Verdana was created by Microsoft to play nice online, but designers have little respect for it, especially for Ikea and whenever used in print. Vitaly Friedman, editor of Smashing Magazine explains: "With Verdana being used all across the Web, Ikea's image not only loses originality, but also credibility and the reputation that the company has built since the 1940s." Futura on the other hand is a well regarded and handsome specimen with a “warmth and cheer” that designers say resonates with the brand.

The deeper and more powerful cause for outrage comes as no surprise within the emotional context of Lovemarks. Brands are not owned by management. They are owned by the people. Designers have been vocal advocates for Ikea’s stylish yet budget-friendly products. And now they feel betrayed. And management ignores this at its peril. Earlier this year Tropicana learned the hard way with a redesign of their orange juice cartoon. A public revolt surprised Tropicana, and the iconic breakfast cartoon design was reinstated.

So what will Ikea do? Like many of you Ikea played an important role in my life as I started up a couple of houses. And I believe they really do make a difference. So far, they are standing by the choice of Verdana as a pragmatic cost-saving measure. Meanwhile, the backlash plays out online. The blog Typophile lamented by writing, "It's a sad day." And there’s an online petition with well over 6,000 signatures calling the change “a mutilation of Ikea's long admired design philosophy.”

A lot of hubbub? The passionate voices of a vocal minority are central to your brand. The whole affair reminds me of the surprise felt by yet another management team after changing an iconic product: New Coke.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mods and Blockers

I was born in 1949. In 1965 I was sixteen years old attending Lancaster Royal Grammar School, passionate about sport, The Beatles, The Who, The Byrds, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I loved Manchester City, Lancashire County Cricket Club and the All Blacks, as I do today. And I still listen to the Beatles (The Remasters arrive tomorrow – Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!), Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen pretty much all the time.

In those great days I was growing up in the Northwest of England believing nothing was impossible, believing in the unreasonable power of creativity, believing in music, fashion, art, design and beauty. I've never waivered in any of these beliefs and Saatchi & Saatchi has given me a foundation from which I can learn and practice all of them.

Growing up in Lancaster, every Friday or Saturday night we used to go to the Floral Hall or Central Pier in Morecambe to watch the great bands of the 60's. Phillip Sycamore and Stan Hilling were partners in crime back then. Phillip is now a judge in the UK and Stan runs a shoe company in Austin, Texas. We saw Roger McGuinn and The Byrds, Cream, The Yardbirds, and The Who on four consecutive weekends. Mike Shepard and I used to watch Lancashire play at Old Trafford. Yesterday I bought a privately published book called Mods and Blockers by a guy called Colin Evans. Colin is one year older than me and the book is about the summer of 1965, what it meant to Lancashire Cricket, what it meant to be 17 fresh from grammar school launching into a small town society as a bit of a raver, and constantly under threat from people saying, "I’ll tell your parents what you're really like."

The book is a triumph of the times. Getting someone to publish a book like this, which will initially have a market of a select few, must have been quite the challenge. Colin has been a journalist for 40 years and this is his first book. What a dead cool thing to do. Nothing is Impossible.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Funny Things Humans Do

Biologically speaking, humans are a remarkable, and quirky, species. The New Scientist magazine has published a list of the odd things we do everyday that don’t make a lot of sense. With all the scientific advancement, you’d think we know why we do the funny things we do. But why do we create art, or dream, or pick our noses?

Here a list from the magazine of our quirky traits and why they think we do them:

  1. Blushing: some think it may help diffuse confrontation or foster intimacy by revealing weakness.
  2. Laughter: a 10-year study confounded our reasons for laughing, saying that more laughter is produced by banal comments than jokes.
  3. Kissing: not all human societies do it. Theorists say it’s associated with memories of breastfeeding and that ancient humans weaned their children by feeding them from their mouths, reinforcing a link between sharing saliva and pleasure.
  4. Dreaming: recognized to help us process emotions, but why we see such bizarre visions has not been properly explained.
  5. Superstition: it makes no evolutionary sense, and it seems beneficial not to dismiss a lion's rustle in the grass as a gust of wind. Religion taps into this vein.
  6. Picking your nose: why do a quarter of teenagers pick and ingest “nasal detritus” on average four times a day? Maybe it boosts the immune system. Yeah, right.
  7. Adolescence: no other species undergoes the dramatic, unpredictable teenage years, which John Hughes portrayed so well in his films. Some say it helps our brain reorganize before adulthood or that it allows experimentation before the responsibility of later years.
  8. Altruism: giving things away with no certain reward is odd in evolutionary terms. It may help with group bonding or simply give pleasure.
  9. Art: painting, dance, sculpture and music, none of it shows one’s mating potential. However, it could also be a tool for spreading knowledge or sharing experience.
  10. Body hair: fine hair on the body and thick hair on the genitals is the opposite of what occurs in primates. Explanations include its role in radiating scent, providing warmth or even protecting from chafing.
What would you add to this list? I’d have to add: flying with US air carriers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Three Guys at the Edge of the World

I wrote yesterday about the recent YMCA Raise Up N’ Represent in Auckland. In my speech I referenced a startup by three twenty-something guys in Dunedin, a city near the southern tip of New Zealand’s south island. If New Zealand is the Edge of the world, Dunedin is at the Edge of the Edge. And as I’ve written before, the Edge is not a liability. It’s premium territory, and co-founders Jason Leong, Francois Bondiguel, and James Wigglesworth demonstrate that.

Together they developed a personal budgeting program called PocketSmith. There are many services that track your expenses and show your performance meeting budgets and the like. However PocketSmith doesn’t linger in the rearview mirror, it looks forward to forecast your financial future. They already have 6500 customers from 70 countries and partnership deals that will give them massive reach into the US consumer base. For New Zealand, the old way of thinking was that you have to leave the country to make any difference in the world. Not any more.

Three young guys recognized an opportunity and had the guts to take on Silicon Valley. Instead of operating in the typical stealth-mode of early stage startups, they were open about their idea and developed a community around it in a matter of weeks.

As I told the youth at the YMCA event: “Your idea can light up the world. No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, whether you’re brainy, sporty, nerdy, crazy, some or all of the above.” The road to success is built on ideas. Just ask these three guys from Dunedin.

PS: My other favorite things about Dunedin are Carisbrook, Otago mountains, The Chills, and Sam Neill’s Two Paddock Pinot Noir (ok, that’s Central Otago).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Drive a tank…

It’s not everyday you can bid to drive a tank, but that’s what the Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) kindly put up for auction to help raise funds for the YMCA Raise Up N Represent CBD Connect evening. Only in Auckland right?!

The night was full of high energy and standout performances from Auckland youth with a great turn out from local businesses showing their support. I also go to spend some time with very close friends and legends Inga Tuigamala, Eroni Clark and Graham Lowe, and up and coming rugby players Salim and Alex – two students from Washington who were in the country on scholarship to play rugby at Avondale College.

The gifted and multiple award winning slam poet Courtney Meredith started the evening with two beautiful recitals, Basilica and Rushing Doll, which you can watch above. Courtney works with Auckland City Council organizing youth events, and she recently did the opening for Sam Hunt and separately, a New York fashion show. New Zealand talent taking on the world yet again.

We were then entertained by up and coming hip hop groups, the all-girl crew from Massey Trak 1 and a mixed-gender crew Sample from Panmure. These guys have got energy – and what YMCA event wouldn’t be complete without a little exercise? Bring on the team of four skipping rope stars, I think everyone felt motivated to dust off the old skipping rope in the garage and do a little good for the heart after seeing these guys. Chris Waipara and PennyJ then serenaded us through dinner.

Next on stage were the World Hip Hop Champions “ReQuest” who had only just returned from winning the competition in Las Vegas. After an interview with MTV, they came onto the dance floor to give a high-voltage performance.

In my speech on the Opportunity Economy I talked about Recognition, Joy, Responsibility, and Learning – and as part of the idea of recognition, I’ve partnered with the YMCA to create the ‘Heart of Gold’ KR Achievement Award. This will be given every year to someone in Auckland who represents everything good in youth, creativity, a great idea and inspiration. After considering a lot of inspirational people for the award, the first recipient is the very special and talented Ashleigh MacKinven, who choreographed the crew “ReQuest”, for her outstanding work with city youth.

Helping young people to be the best they can be has never been more important. Here in Auckland I work with TYLA – Turn Your Life Around – which runs programs for at-risk youth. TYLA has been a big part of my life for the past decade or more and there’s a lot in common between TYLA and YMCA – Raise Up N Represent sums it up. Special thanks to Brian Barnett, YMCA Auckland Youth Development Manager, CEO John Fairhurst and their team for the vision to put on such a great evening. I urge all of you to seek out your local YMCA and see if you can help create a better future for all of us, by bringing together youth, sport, creativity and business.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lancaster's Art for Charity

The line "the role of business is to make the world a better place" comes out of my mouth about eight times a day. But what about art? What’s its role? I’m not an artist myself, rather an avid collector and will attest to art’s power of perception. In Lancaster there’s a group of 20 artists, both professional and hobbyists, who believe art can change the world. They’ve set up an auction where all the proceeds will go to benefit the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH!) in London. The hospital needs to raise £50 million.

I know the Lancaster artists want to make a difference because they got in touch with me to help spread the word. I gave a speech recently to the graduating students at Lancaster University. One bright young graduate named William Hudson wrote to me – not for a job, like others – but to highlight this project that his mother, Diana, is behind. What a son!

Ok, here are the details. The auction runs from September 8 to October 6. It’s open internationally to bidding and hosted by Painters Online, who produce the Artist and Leisure Painter Magazines. They are hosting the auction for no fee and the artists have donated their art and shipping, free of cost. These are tough times for artists, for arts organizations, and for charities, but these savvy artists have collaborated to make something meaningful of the situation. The auction site is live now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Punishment Does Not Fit The Crime

I know many of you have been tuned into a debacle in New Zealand over a rugby game gone wrong and the subsequent punishment of the Kelston Boys / Auckland Grammar. Violence is a bad thing on the sports field, and things definitely got out of control here, but the punishment, especially of the Kelston boys who were banned from playing all rugby for between 10 and 16 months, does not fit the crime. I am seriously annoyed at what I think has been a discriminatory decision.

My attempt at reconciliation and rehabilitation would have been to pull the entire squad of both teams together (this is after all a sport) and pair each of them off with new counterpart on the opposing team, and get them to do four Saturdays of community service together. Once they’d done that they can play again. They would have been in the community working together, brought back harmony lessons learned, and created better outcomes. And I'd have included the coaches and new staff too.

Instead we run the risk of alienating a dozen or so kids aged 16-17-18, not letting them play the sport they love, and burdening some very young shoulders with a level of shame and public scrutiny which benefits no one. The Auckland Football Union needs to do the right thing here by rectifying the excessive (and unimaginative, and ultimately futile) penalties.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The EyeWriter

There will always be obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Some obstacles can deal a very serious blow, like the following. When Lou Gehrig's disease paralyzed graffiti artist Tony Quam, a.k.a Tempt One, he could no longer pursue his 20-year passion. But his new life of immobility will no longer stop him from what he loves.

Tempt One has some ingenious friends who designed and built a low-cost eye-tracking system so that he can create his artwork using only his eyes. Here’s how it works: movements of the eye are tracked to record, and confirm, what he draws which is then relayed to a mobile broadcasting unit – on a networked bicycle! – that projects the artwork with light real-time onto a building, train or other surface. And because it uses only light, not paint, the act can be seen less as vandalism and now more accessible and more about the creative process itself, all documented online for his fans around the world.

And while the initial goal is giving Tempt One the ability to write graffiti again, everything is open source and publicly available free for anyone to build. The project is a collaboration of many hands from art, technology, and film communities: the Graffiti Research Lab, Fat Lab, openFrameworks, and The Ebelling Group.

The Eyewriter is about creative solutions inspired by whatever stands in the way of a lifelong passion. This is not just about graffiti artists or technological breakthroughs. When you follow your dream, nothing can stop you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mysterious Letters

It came via the post and must be the biggest mystery ever to visit the small Irish village of Cushendall. One day this past April every household in the village – 467 in total – received a handwritten letter from Lenka Clayton or Michael Crowe. But no one knew who they were.

These unusual letters, like the ones above, caused quite a stir in the sleepy village. TV news footage shows residents scratching their heads as to why complete strangers would write to them and with such odd and differing messages.

Every letter is completely unique and most of them are posted on the authors’ project blog. They write the goal was that “these unsolicited letters would prompt neighbourly discussion, spreading across the town, promoting community curiosity.” Mission accomplished!

Some older residents were quite worried by the letters, while others thought it plain odd. But the project generated a huge amount of buzz, and praise, as it spread globally online. The handwritten letter is an intimate and rare gesture in this digital age of rapid communication. The project created much more than discussion among one community, and it certainly put Cushendall on the map. And apart from anything else, it shows the great power of mystery.

So what’s next for authors Lenka Clayton and Michael Crowe? Well, they plan to write letters to everyone in the entire world.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Embrace Your Inner Hypocrite"

Today's guest blog is from Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S and author of Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto. He has a blog on the book's website. Save! - KR

I once was at a small art opening at a new gallery in San Francisco filled with svelte smart-looking people who all seemed to be talking about the modern relevance of surrealism, while drinking bright blue cocktails. A forty-something man with a tightly trimmed beard approached me. “You’re Adam Werbach right?” he said, stepping into the space that pegged him as a Seinfeldian close-talker.

“Yes,” I said, stepping back slightly. He stepped in closer. “I heard that you don’t recycle,” he said, loudly and triumphantly as if he were Joseph McCarthy pointing out a known enemy of the state. I think he expected there to be gasps in the room; perhaps a woman feinting dramatically. No one really noticed. He continued to tell me that he had a friend who had seen that I hadn’t put out a blue bin in front of my apartment that week, and he wanted to know how I could be such a hypocrite.

I’ve come to expect scrutiny of my personal life as a public advocate for sustainability. It’s understandable. People want to know whether all of this talk is real or just an act. Sure, I recycle and compost. I try to bike or walk to work most days. I’ve got solar power and a solar hydronic system for heat and water. I eat very little meat. I use reusable shopping bags most of the time. I don’t drink bottled water.

But that’s not the whole story. From a carbon standpoint all of those efforts are blown away by my use of airplanes. I fly more distance than an albatross each year, clocking about 150,000 air miles, which represents about 30 tons of CO2. That’s more than the average American and thirty times what an average Indian emits. I’m working now to reduce my air travel, through video-conferencing and better trip-planning, but nonetheless I’m contributing more CO2 to the atmosphere than I should. So, am I hyprocrite? Perhaps. But I don’t spend much time beating myself up over it.

The best approach is not to try to make people feel badly for the choices they make. To tackle climate change and resource shortages we need a combination of personal actions (like reducing air travel) and structural change (like finding non-polluting fuels for planes). There are two camps of activists on this point. Some people believe that the goal is 100% personal accountability. These people source their own food locally, weave their own clothing and go to bed in a cold house warmed by their own self-satisfaction. The other group believes that small steps don’t matter at all, and are a distraction from the larger structural changes we need. “Forget changing the lights bulbs,” they say. “We need to change the system.”

We’ll need both approaches if we’re going to figure out how to live on this planet. Taking small steps in your personal life is not only good for the planet, it’s good for you. And those small steps need larger systemic changes (like putting a price on carbon) in order to ladder up to the scale of change that we need.

So embrace your inner-hypocrite, do a little something each day to try to improve, and don’t forget about the bigger picture.