Archive for the ‘YouTube’ Category

The history of the world in five minutes

March 19, 2008

I love the Internet. If the Smithsonian is the nation’s attic, the Internet is the planet’s attic, basement, garage and rented storage locker. I used to be amazed by what I could find online; now I’m annoyed when I can’t easily find something. Recently a friend showed me a YouTube video of a school project by bhilmer, remaking the credits of Star Wars mimicking the style of design pioneer Saul Bass [perfectly done, by the way—I’ll include it in this post].

That clip reminded me of an obscure but Academy award-winning short film by Saul Bass that I used to show the first day of class to every one of my art classes when I taught college. More specifically, it reminded me of the opening segment of the film, an animated short that covers the “history of the world man has built on ideas” in a little under five minutes. And it does it brilliantly, with economy, wit and charm. A quick search on Google [again, thank you, Internet] and there it was! Give it a quick watch—it may give you your biggest smile of the day.


The film in question is Why Man Creates, produced in 1970. Amazingly, it is still in print and available from educational film distributor Pyramid Media. Here’s how their site describes it: “A series of explorations, episodes and comments on creativity by Saul Bass, a master of conceptual design, this film is one of the most highly regarded short films ever produced.”

Saul Bass wasn’t just a designer—he invented the field. He described the situation in an interview in 1986. “There was no school as we understand it today that taught the notion of design… In those days, all people who did work that was paid for were called commercial artists—as differentiated from painters, who never got any money for anything.” Bass took only one night class at the Art Students League in New York, a painting class. So essentially, as he put it, he was self taught.

Bass moved to Los Angeles, where the film industry became a huge client. According to Design Museum London, he was “not only one of the great graphic designers of the mid-20th century but the undisputed master of film title design thanks to his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger and Martin Scorsese.” If you’ve seen any American films from the 50s, 60s and 70s, you’ve probably seen his design work in the opening credits. West Side Story, Psycho, Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm, Ocean’s Eleven [the original, starring the Rat Pack], Exodus… And the 1959 Preminger classic, Anatomy of a Murder. I show you the opening credits of this film not because they are necessarily the best work Bass did, but because when you see the Star Wars take-off, you’ll understand where it came from.

And now, the take-off that launched this whole diatribe. If nothing else, this post may send some business Netflix’s way.


What’s so funny about beef and good health?

January 16, 2008

Red meat takes a lot of heat these days in the health department. And while over-consumption of beef can lead to a host of health problems, the same can be said of just about anything. [At least once a year, there’s a story of someone dying from drinking an extreme amount of water.] Indeed, one Harvard study citing the increased risk of of breast cancer from consuming too much red meat involved women who ate more than 10-1/2 servings of red meat a week over a 12-year period! The unanswered question for me is where did they find these women?!?

The takeaway message from all but the most strident studies is this: “You don’t have to swear off red meat completely—just eat it occasionally and keep portions small.”

feel-good.jpgSo what about the benefits of eating red meat—more specifically lean red meat? Lean cuts of red meat are low in fat, with around half the fat being unsaturated [you know, the good kind]. Lean red meat is a valuable source of many essential nutrients, such as protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin D and selenium. More important, some of these nutrients are more readily available than when they are derived from plant foods. As an aside, the leanest ground beef—called ground sirloin in the U.S.—is actually lower in fat than ground turkey. So if you’re going for a turkey burger at home, do it for the taste, not the health benefits.

Further, foods rich in protein have a high satiety value—they keep us feeling full longer—and could actually play a role in weight control.

By now, this is all starting to sound a little dry, I imagine. Not unlike that turkey burger [you don’t want to order that medium rare, do you?]. So take a look at this entertaining message from Australian television about the benefits of eating red meat.

“We write ads or people die.”

October 17, 2007

I work in advertising. When I tell people that, I get a wide range of responses. Everything from some wistful version of “wow, I bet that’s really interesting” to a kind of pitying reaction, as if I’ve just confessed to selling used cars or liking Danielle Steele—or perhaps that this lowly, somehow vaguely criminal activity [in their view] is the best I’ve managed to do in life. Interestingly, I can almost always count on academics to hold the latter view.

Truthfully, though, I like what I do. Most days, anyway. Sure, there are sometimes long hours, boatloads of stress and unbelievably idiotic clients. But there are also days [or at least moments within days] that I agree with legendary adman Jerry Della Femina’s view that advertising is “the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” [Now, apparently, so is running a restaurant in East Hampton, but that’s another story.]

For a while, I was so completely into advertising that I mainly wanted to hang out with other advertising people after work and considered anyone not in the business a “civilian.” Which is why, when this video showed up on YouTube, I found it especially funny.

A little set-up before you hit PLAY. I generally hate insider jokes, and this video is rife with them. To give you a better idea of the dynamics in play, there is often more than a little tension between creatives—copywriters, art directors, creative directors—and account service people. Creatives sometimes view account people as spineless creatures ready to rubber stamp any stupid request from clients who often need to be saved from themselves. Account people sometimes view themselves as the lone voice of sanity standing up against creative crazies who only want to goof off, piss off clients and win awards. Both sides are wrong, of course. Both sides are sometimes right too. And both sides are every bit as passionate in their views as depicted in this short clip. Enjoy.

Who put the F in the WTF?

August 22, 2007

This is supposed to be my forum for going off-topic, “sometimes wildly so.” But the past couple of weeks I’ve talked about food and health, wine and health… This week, I just want to give you a good, healthy laugh.

I WARN YOU, THOUGH: If you’re at work or the kids are up, proceed with caution. If you’ve read my What’s with the name? page, you know that I can speak fluent sailor on occasion. But the star of this video blows right past me, carpet bombing with more F-bombs than I’ve ever dropped on the worst night in the kitchen. Nothing sexual or offensive here [unless you’re offended by the F-bomb itself]—just a guy expressing his, shall we say, displeasure over the way things are going during a corporate video shoot.

I can totally sympathize. I work in advertising and have been on some hellacious TV shoots. On one little 10-second TV spot for a bank, for instance, the client-picked talent could not for the life of her nail the line. The director talked to her. As the writer/creative director, I talked to her. We both delivered the line as it should be read—all she had to do was mimic us, for crying out loud, but no dice. Finally, after more than 30 takes, we got something out of her that we all agreed was close enough. Afterwards, the director came to me holding an entire 35mm reel of film, all unusable takes, and asked if I was sure the last take [on a fresh reel] was what we wanted. I said it was. We threw away the entire unprocessed reel of film rather than pay to have it processed.

Sometimes, it’s not just the talent that’s the problem. We did a 30-second spot for a St. Louis restaurant chain once that again required thirty-something takes. The entire commercial was a single shot, with the camera dollying to follow the talent across the set. So in other words, if any one part of a take was bad, the whole thing was unusable. Sometimes, the problem was indeed the talent, one of the chain partners, blowing his lines. Other times, it was a bad camera move, the plate of pasta looking flat or not steaming enough [the restaurant chain’s executive chef kept making plate after plate for us as the shoot progressed], a key prop failing to fall on cue… Unlike the guy in the video below, our client was a great sport about it and kept up the energy. Still, I was glad that since we’d put him through so much, I was able to tell him that we in fact used the very last take.

Okay, without further ado, the video. Either enjoy or consider yourself forewarned.

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