mardi, août 28, 2007

ese ... look it up in the dicho-nary

I stumbled on more niche marketing to Hispanics today ...

Kimberly-Clark is compiling a dicho-nary (a dictionary of Spanish proverbs). On the surface, it seems like a weird concept: Have people submit idioms, in hopes that they'll win toilet paper. They even suggest that parents can feel good because they're sharing their culture and tradition with their kids before they send in that phrase in hopes of winning something.

Digging deeper, I have to say that I take issue with their premise. (And not just because it's evil marketers doing what evil marketers do.)
They are also a deeply rooted tradition common to all Hispanics, which have been handed down by word of mouth through the generations.
(Them's extremely broad strokes that you're using to paint all Hispanics.) Oh, that dicho. Of course ... I know it because my mother's culture is identical to the culture of all other Hispanics, but I only halfway remember it 'cause I'm only half Hispanic.
Kimberly-Clark Compiling 'Dicho-nary' In Hispanic Promo
Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007 5:00 AM ET
KIMBERLY-CLARK'S SCOTT BRAND HAS LAUNCHED an interactive promotional campaign designed to celebrate and validate the common sense and traditions of Latino culture. The campaign, "Comparte tu Dicho" (Share your Dicho), seeks to compile the world's first "dicho-nary," or dictionary of Spanish-language proverbs.

"Dichos" are easily remembered, homespun, common-sensical verbal treasures that punctuate most Latinos' daily conversations. They are also a deeply rooted tradition common to all Hispanics, which have been handed down by word of mouth through the generations.

The initiative, created by Miami-based MASS Hispanic Marketing, will be driven primarily by radio in Los Angeles, Houston and San Antonio, and by Internet and in-store events in the rest of the country. It will ask consumers to share some of their favorite "dichos" for a chance to win daily prizes, as well as a $3,000 grand prize, two $500 first prizes, and a year's supply of Scott bathroom products.

lundi, août 27, 2007

gogol bordello @ the hob

What do you get when you combine a Ukrainian frontman/ guitarist/ firebucket player with a Russian violinist and Russian accordionist, an Israeli guitarist, an Ethiopian bassist, an American drummer, and two dancers (one Thai American, the other Chinese Scottish)? Great fun, incredible energy, and total mayhem.

Leo and I went to see Eugene and the boys at the House of Blues tonight. Gogol Bordello (as always) rocked like no one else. Here's a sample of their particular brand of gypsy punk:

The video tells you nothing about what they can do to a crowd, though. This video is more like it:

Everyone from frat boys to old-skool punks to shoegazing emo kids (I swear) to teeny, tiny tough girls go wild for them, because the band consistently puts on one of the best live shows around. They were, hands down, the best show at Bonnaroo 2007 (crowd-wise), in spite of their early afternoon time slot. And tonight was also amazing. So amazing, in fact, that Leo sweated 16 oz of water out of his body as we danced and enjoyed the frenzy that was the show.

For the record, if the frontman looks vaguely familiar, it's because Eugene Hütz was in "Everything is Illuminated" as the crazy young track-suited, gold-chained, hip-hop loving Ukrainian tour guide. And, yes. They do regularly collaborate with Balkan Beat Box.

dimanche, août 26, 2007

potatoes with herbed vinaigrette

We served this with garlic-and-herb-oven-fried-red-snapper tonight and loved it.
Total time: 30 minutes
1 1/2 lbs small red (or yukon gold) potatoes, quartered
2 TBSP white wine vinegar (we used distilled white vinegar)
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
2 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water; bring to a boil. Cook 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well. Toss potatoes in dressing and serve hot or cold.

Serves 6.

garlic-and-herb oven-fried red snapper

Leo and I made this for dinner tonight, along with roasted potatoes with herbed vinaigrette and broccoli with chive-infused olive oil and black pepper. The fish fillets are browned in a skillet and then finished in the oven at a high temperature for perfectly-done, moist-on-the-inside fish and with a crispy coated outside.

We modified the recipe, using only 18 oz of red snapper instead of 6 (6-oz Halibut fillets) and crushed cornflakes instead of panko (we tried three different supermarkets, but couldn't find plain panko). Although we cut the amount of fish in half, we used all of the breading mixture. We needed more flour, but had egg left over.
Garlic-and-Herb Oven-Fried Red Snapper
Total time: 42 minutes.

1 cup panko breadcrumbs (we used 3/4 cup of crushed cornflakes)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder or granulated onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 (6-ounce) halibut fillets (or 18 oz of red snapper fillets)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a shallow dish. Place egg whites and egg in a shallow dish. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge fish in flour. Dip in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 fish fillets; cook 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until browned. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining fish. Bake at 450° for 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.
Makes 6 servings (serving size: 1 fillet)
Nutritional Information: CALORIES 293(29% from fat); FAT 9.6g (sat 1.4g,mono 4.9g,poly 1.8g); PROTEIN 39.4g; CHOLESTEROL 90mg; CALCIUM 89mg; SODIUM 446mg; FIBER 0.5g; IRON 1.8mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.2g

Adapted from Cooking Light/

she's 'merican

There really ought to be a law that requires everybody to meet a minimum intelligence level in order to breed. (Although at this point, I'd be thrilled if there was a minimum IQ requirement in order for my fellow Americans to vote.)

Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 (Reason #4,298,271,902 that I am looking to get the eff out of the USA.)
Via Jerry

jeudi, août 23, 2007

mc brainwashed

Reason #128,920 to limit advertising to kids.
McBrainwashed?: Are your kids McDonald's brainwashed?
POWER OF MARKETING | To a kid, everything's better in a McDonald's wrapper
August 7, 2007

Anything made by McDonald's tastes better, preschoolers said in a study that powerfully demonstrates how marketing can trick the taste buds of young children.

Even carrots, milk and apple juice tasted better to the kids when they were wrapped in the familiar packaging of the Golden Arches.

The study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

A study had youngsters sample identical McDonald's foods in name-brand and unmarked wrappers. The unmarked foods always lost the taste test.

"You see a McDonald's label and kids start salivating," said Diane Levin, a childhood development specialist who campaigns against advertising to kids.

Study author Dr. Tom Robinson said the kids' perception of taste was "physically altered by the branding."

The study involved 63 poor children ages 3 to 5. Robinson believes the results would be similar for children from wealthier families.

The study likely will stir more debate over the movement to restrict ads to kids. It comes less than a month after 11 major food and drink companies, including McDonald's, announced new curbs on marketing to children under 12.

McDonald's says the only Happy Meals it will promote to young children will contain fruit and have fewer calories and less fat.

"The fact is, parents make the decisions for their children and our research confirms that we've earned their trust as a responsible marketer based on decades of delivering the safest food," spokesman Walt Riker said.

Dr. Victor Strasburger, author of an American Academy of Pediatrics policy urging limits on marketing to children, said the study shows too little is being done.

"Advertisers have tried to do exactly what this study is talking about -- to brand younger and younger children, to instill in them an almost obsessional desire for a particular brand-name product," he said.

Just two of the 63 children studied said they'd never eaten at McDonald's, and about one-third ate there at least weekly.

Pradeep Chintagunta, a University of Chicago marketing professor, said a fairer comparison might have gauged kids' preferences for the McDonald's label vs. another familiar brand, such as Mickey Mouse.

"I don't think you can necessarily hold this against" McDonald's, he said, since the goal of marketing is to build familiarity.

mercredi, août 22, 2007

happy endings

It makes good business sense to do this. Hopefully, these ads will not only run on LOGO and "gay" networks. The next step is to get these ads out on mainstream markets.
Levi's ad swings both ways
by Michael Wilke
Commercial Closet

Seeking to break out of the usual, Levi Strauss & Co. has created a provocative new commercial with two endings -- one with a gay twist.

A man in a sleek apartment tries on a pair of jeans but struggles to pull them past his ankles, when suddenly a phone booth containing a blond man partially erupts through the floor. They look at each other with mischievous smiles. Lowering his jeans back down for a moment, he forcefully pulls his jeans all the way up -- turning his entire apartment into a complete outdoor street scene. The two men happily walk away together.

The campaign, created by BBH New York, has an alternative ending with a woman in the phone booth. The brand's main demographic is young men, aged 15-25.

"We like the idea that it could essentially go both ways," says the openly gay VP-marketing at Levi, Robert Cameron. "You can read it in many ways, including whether it's a 'coming out' metaphor -- we actually think it's richer and more textured in the gay version."

Currently running on the 24-hour gay network LOGO, the same-sex ending is scheduled to appear later on other cable channels such as Bravo and HGTV. "We said, 'We'll put this on LOGO, but why just be in the so-called gay ghetto?' "

It is a rare example of a commercial that has dual straight and gay endings. It was preceded by Orbitz in 2003, which did so with marionettes ogling a pool boy. Created by Y&R, Chicago, the gay Orbtiz spot ran on Bravo and BBC America (LOGO didn't launch until mid-2005).

Cameron, who has been in his post with San Francisco-based Levi Strauss just a year, notes, "The company's been brave, but people don't know that Levi was the first Fortune 500 to offer domestic partnership benefits" in 1992. "In context of that I asked, 'Why aren't we doing anything braver?' "

The last openly gay campaign created by Levi was a 1999 print campaign in gay media that included a black woman holding a sign reading, "Don't tell my girlfriend I'm gay," and a flamboyant young man holding the sign, "I'm going to the opera."

The previous year, a spot that ran on MTV featured a semi-nerdy guy named Dustin, who told his coming out story. Levi also ran a gay heroes insert into OUT magazine, featuring "Party of Five" actor Mitchell Anderson, athlete Bruce Hayes, "My So Called Life" and "Rent" actor Wilson Cruz, former boy scout James Dale, "Will & Grace" writer/coproducer Max Mutchnick, actor and writer Guinevere Turner, and others.

A year ago, Levi modified an existing :30 commercial to run it on LOGO but didn't have appropriate creative for the network. They realized it wasn't ideal. "If you do something ambiguously gay at this point, you should be embarrassed to try to have it both ways," Cameron says, noting that fashion advertising often strives to do so.

To keep the cost of dedicated ads down, Levi planned the gay ending at the outset of its new campaign, saving an estimated $200,000, by Cameron's estimate, on a $1.5 million commercial.

The goal, Cameron says, is that "we need to talk to communities that are leading fashion, like African-Americans and gay men." He adds, "The message is, 'We see you, we support you, just like any other human being.' "

Cameron says there was little opposition at Levi for the commercial's gay ending, except unexpectedly for a few gay merchandisers, who were afraid. Otherwise, "All I got was, 'Sounds great!' The surprising thing was no one said we couldn't do it."

"We'd like to be even braver next time, and show them holding hands," Cameron says, noting, "I think it still makes even advertising agencies squeamish. There's still a way to go, and they don't know it."

Ad Customization Still Rare
While a handful of companies have thus far created dedicated gay commercials, including Subaru of America and tourism bureaus for Philadelphia and Key West, the majority of LOGO's estimated $20 million in annual advertising revenues is general market commercials.

"Those that have created specific messages are more the exception than the rule," notes Tom Watson, VP-advertising sales at LOGO, now available in 27.5 million households. "Sometimes it doesn't matter, but it does if a commercial is romantic or sexual and heterocentric."

To determine what gay audiences liked best, LOGO commissioned Harris Interactive research and found that just a third of its viewers most preferred customized imagery in ads, the other two thirds said that advertisers being on LOGO in general was enough, and that what mattered most to them was the quality of the advertiser's product or service.

Watson says he's sometimes had to turn business down because an advertiser's ads were off the mark. He notes, "Relevant brand messages are always important."

got licuados?

Argentine, Peruvian, and Cuban cuisines have been the darlings of the upscale culinary world over the past few years. Other Latin foods have also made their way into the more lowbrow (read: supermarket shelves in middle America) foodchain. How marketers try to market to Latino consumers (and bring Latino foods/culture/ etc) into the mainstream is very interesting to me, and not just because I'm hispanic.
Latin Influence Reaching Fever Pitch Within Food, Beverages
by Karlene Lukovitz, Wednesday, Aug 22, 2007 5:00 AM ET

Maybe not today, but if you're in the food and beverage (F&B) business, the growing crossover appeal of the Hispanic milk-and-fruit-based blended drink known as a licuado is more than likely to play a direct or indirect role in your company's future (if it isn't doing so already).

The California Milk Processor Board wasn't just being clever when it recently adopted this Hispanic/English hybrid version of the famed "Got Milk? campaign as a tagline. This organization is predicting that licuado will become "the next burrito."

And while beverages are an important part of the Hispanic-influence juggernaut that's impacting the U.S. F&B industry with growing force each year, they are by no means the whole enchilada.

The U.S. Hispanic F&B market reached nearly $5.7 billion in 2006, and is expected to grow by 11.5% this year to reach $6.3 billion, according to a new study on this sector from Packaged Facts, the publishing division of In addition, PF predicts that the market will show CAGR of 7.4% over the next five years, to reach $8.4 billion by 2011.

The data include three PF-defined categories: "authentic Hispanic" products (any product, whether Hispanic in origin or not, made in or imported into the U.S. from Hispanic countries, plus traditional staple items made in the U.S. by a Hispanic manufacturer, and products made here using traditional Hispanic recipes); "mainstream Mexican" (foods such as nachos, salsa, tacos and tortillas that have become part of mainstream American habits--although PF excludes tortilla chips, chili products and alcohol in calculating market size for the very reason that they are now "so American"); and "nuevo Latino" (traditional American foods made with Hispanic ingredients, plus "unique new creations that meld a variety of Hispanic flavors and food traditions").

Among the top 10 Hispanic F&B categories by total sales, stand-outs in terms of CAGR between 2002 and 2006 were bakery items (17% CAGR), rice/rice mixes (14.3%), picante (9.8%) and seasoning/spice mixes (6.6%). But cheese and sauces/marinades each grew in the 5%-plus range, and even the top-selling categories continued to make gains: tortillas/taco shells (4.5%), salsa (1.7%), entrees/handheld items (5.2%), and refried beans (1.9%).

PF projects that five categories will experience double-digit CAGRs between this year and 2011, driving a preponderance of the sector's growth: milk/milk-style beverages (20%); entrees/handheld items (19%); meat (16%); fruits/vegetables (14%) and yogurt/cultured dairy drinks (14%).

It's hardly news that the leading marketers of Hispanic F&B products in the U.S. now include not only names like Goya, Authentic Specialty Foods, Cacique and Don Miguel Mexican Foods, but Campbell, ConAgra, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Hormel, Kraft and Nestle.

(Advertising to U.S. Hispanics reached $3.3 billion in 2004. In 2006, P&G spent $158 million on consumer packaged goods advertising in Hispanic TV and print media, PepsiCo spent nearly $74 million, and Johnson & Johnson spent $71 million, to mention but a few of the top users of these media.)

More intriguing are the ever-more effective, and aggressive, strategies being employed by marketers playing in the big leagues within this space.

Kraft--which has been marketing to the Hispanic community for 20 years--doesn't rely on its mainstream Mexican brand Taco Bell, points out PF. Instead, the mega-marketer focuses on research, adapting products to the needs and preferences of these consumers, employing region-specific marketing teams, and offering on-target outreach tools like its bilingual food site, The site includes a bilingual search tool offering a wide variety of recipes--regional and Latin-inspired, as well as traditional American fare--step-by-step preparation instructions, plus personalization tools and on-demand English-to-Spanish translation.

Recognizing U.S. Hispanics' high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and lactose intolerance, Kellogg has created a mobile tour in partnership with Lactaid that will visit 125 locations to offer tests for such medical conditions. Bilingual nurses will administer the tests, and participants will learn about the program through a brochure that was created in Spanish, and receive a bilingual magazine offering advice on healthful eating.

Last fall, General Mills began deploying bilingual brand ambassadors to 200 locations in California and Southwest states to pass out goodie bags full of samples of its brands and copies of Editorial Televisa's magazine Que Rica Vida (also the official name of the tour).

Meanwhile, Unilever is going all out with its "Desafio de Sabor" ("The Flavor Challenge"), an outreach program based on regional cooking competitions in key Hispanic markets; and ViveMejor, its first program to include all of its food and personal care brands within a single platform targeted to Hispanics. The program includes print, digital, TV and retail Hispanic elements.

That's not even touching on the innumerable, ambitious efforts being unfurled to capitalize on non-Hispanics' increasing passion for both "mainstream" and more adventurous Hispanic-influenced food and drinks.

"The yearning to experiment with all foods Hispanic has practically become a Latin fever in the United States," sums up PF publisher Tatjana Meerman.

And while big marketers are clearly hip to the Hispanic phenomenon, "mañana" is not a word that figures in their strategic vocabulary.

mardi, août 21, 2007

wicked smaaaaaaht

My friend Diana L. gave me the heads-up on Scott Adams' (the Dilbert guy) comments about the research on intelligence and sexual activity, specifically this article: Intercourse and Intelligence. The responses were hilarious. These are some of my faves: A (rules 1&2), B (Counterpoint dig), C (amen to cerebral guys), and D (god-like intellect).
Brains or Intercourse
The Dilbert Blog
I always wonder why people do research to discover the obvious. Now researchers have “discovered” that smart people have less intercourse than people of average intelligence.

One reason the dimwitted get so much action is that they tend to be more attractive than smart people. That’s not a coincidence. It’s genetics. Hot/dumb people are more likely to mate with other hot/dumb people and produce hot/dumb kids. Here’s a headline you’ll never see: “Nobel Prize winner for physics thanked his supermodel parents for all of their support.”

I once saw a study that said smart people are more likely to have bad eyesight than dumb people. That explains a lot. If smart people could see each other clearly, there would never be another smart baby created except by genetic mutation.

You would think that smart people would use their intelligence and creativity to improve their sex lives. But I don’t need to tell my readers that when you have an excellent imagination, a partner just slows things down. People of average intelligence have more intercourse, sure, but I’ll bet the Mensans are winning the orgasm competition by about ten to one. Add that to the things you don’t really need to do any research on.

This leads me to my question of the day. Would you be willing to give up 10 points of IQ for a dramatic and permanent increase in your sex life (with other humans)?
For the record, I don't think it's a question of smart or sexy. It's the right combination of both.

I would argue that many highly intelligent (scratch that, the frighteningly über-intelligent types) often have trouble relating to other people, because they lack emotional intelligence.

Think about it. Someone who's MENSA-smart but socially awkward isn't going to get laid unless there's alcohol or an ulterior motive at work. The flip side: someone who's not got a genius IQ (but is emotionally intelligent) will have no trouble getting it on.

Even if you're not a brainac, if you've got a high emotional IQ, self-confidence (without arrogance), and are average-looking, you're considered sexy.
Via Eating and Drinking


Those who make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

lundi, août 20, 2007

the sweater

Hace un calor de mierda.

Seriously. I wore sandals, a skirt, and a knit tank top to work today, dreading the two times I had to leave my air conditioned office and brave the heat.

Yes, I know it's dry heat and that this doesn't touch the misery index of say, Knoxville, or Paris. But it's hot. And for what my mortgage payment looks like, I expect it to be slightly more temperate. Besides, I'm not acclimated to this kind of weather. I know hot. I grew up in hot — 115-degree-hot days. (Thank god I escaped that misery. Sorry, Omer and all you other folks suffering in Phoenix and places where the thermometer never drops below 100 in August.)

But back to today's fun ... it was so hot today that a going-away celebration held beneath a grape arbor-shaded patio was moved indoors, because the attendees (and the cheese) were melting in the sweltering shade. The heat was all that anyone could talk about as we sucked back glass after glass of iced tea.

Yes, indeed. Give me cold six days of the week. (When it's cold, you put more on. When it's hot, you can't take enough off.)

Still ... nothing I endured today compares with this guy's plight.
Pore Me
Published: August 20, 2007

THE main thing is not to rush. If my pace accelerates past “Leisurely Stroll,” I’m done for. So I give myself time. I allow 30 minutes for a 10-minute walk. I head out at 5 o’clock for a 7 o’clock meeting 10 blocks away. Men hurry past. Women tut as they shoulder by. “It’s called a sidewalk,” mutters an old lady with a cane.

“Easy,” I tell myself, “It’s not a race.” I meander. I saunter. I mosey. And just when the day is ending and I think I’ve made it — one day without being covered in sweat, one day without coming home drenched — they switch my train from Track 6 to Track 11.

“Anyone sitting here?” I ask the unluckiest passenger on the train, pointing to the empty seat beside her. She looks at my shirt — at the dark patches under my arm, at the other one forming on my chest, at the streams of salt water sheeting down my forehead and stinging my eyes — and she smiles kindly.

“Yes,” she says. “Yes, there is.”

I sweat. I am a sweater. I sweat in T-shirts, I sweat in shorts, I sweat in the shower. It is not a certain dampness. It is not a masculine bit of moist. Sweat spurts out the top of my head like I’m a lawn sprinkler. I sit down on the curb at lunchtime and a little girl leaps over my head.

When I was young, the first thing my teachers told me about hell was that it was hot; after that, the punishments seemed redundant. “Yes, yes, hung by my tongue, eyes gouged out, boiled alive. How hot is hot, exactly? How about fans, do they have any fans?”

Summertime, when the living’s theoretically easy, is three long months of hell. The cold is easy — there’s no limit to the clothing you can put on. You can layer yourself so thick that your arms stick out and you can’t bend your legs at the knees. But heat — once you’re naked, there’s nowhere left to go.

So I plan ahead. By Memorial Day, I am usually rummaging the stores, preparing for the looming meltdown, hoping for salvation in linen pants and moisture-wicking shirts. I keep hoping that some sort of full-body sweatband will be the must-have this season, but the shop windows fill, as they always do, with easily-stained white shirts, off-white shirts, tan shirts. I stand in the men’s department and seethe.

In this season of blue skies and white beaches, I wear black. Black holds more heat than white but it shows damp patches less, the universe’s twisted sartorial/thermodynamic joke. I dress like an undertaker on Casual Friday: black T-shirt, black khakis and a pocket full of paper towels that will not suffice when the levee of my hairline eventually breaks.

As the solstice approaches, my mood darkens like the collar of a red button-down. I stare at the men on the subway in three-piece suits, each one dry as a bone. Something’s going on. Someone’s not telling me something.

I try to figure it out. Is it something I’m eating? Something I’m drinking? Am I drinking too much — or not enough? I drop caffeine. I eat less salt. I eat more salt. Last summer I thought it was my weight. I lost 10 pounds and seemed to sweat twice as much as I did before. Maybe if I gain 20 pounds I’ll stop sweating completely? Maybe if I gain 100 I’ll just drop dead, giving my washing machine a much-needed break?

The globe turns. The globe warms. July arrives. I look to science: Aisle 4, Anti-Perspirants. I’m a rabid anti-perspirant. I want the perspirants rounded up. I want them killed. I find Dry. I find Extra Dry. I find Cool Wave. I find Extra Dry Cool Wave Extreme.

I end up choosing one from the bottom shelf — that’s where they keep the good stuff: hair gel that sets like concrete, Advil 6000 for Fast Relief of Sudden Dismemberment and a roll-on deodorant so strong you’re supposed to put it on at night so it has time to alter your gene structure. I put it on that night, and sweated twice as much out of the top of my head the following day as I had the day before.

August. Misery now. I spend my time trying to figure out a way to earn a living without leaving the pool. I watch reports of global warming with evil glee: Soon you will know how I feel. Soon you will all know.

I try to take my mind off the thousands of small leaks my body has sprung by sitting still in the dark and watching movies; for me, “March of the Penguins” was an 85-minute, sub-zero happy ending. I replay the storm scenes. Look at all that ice! Look at all that snow!

And then, finally, Aug. 1 turns to Aug. 10, and Aug. 10 turns to Aug. 20, and I realize that the march of this urban penguin will soon be over. Soon it will be September and then fall and with fall will come a return to normality, a return to dryness, maybe even a white shirt now and again.

And one day, as the ice forms on the Hudson and the snow whips across Broadway, I’ll be sitting on the train and a woman will appear, a woman in earmuffs and mittens, a woman covered in so many layers that her arms stick out and she can’t bend her legs at the knee.

“Anyone sitting there?” she will ask, trying to point to the empty seat beside me.

“Yes,” I will smile kindly. “Yes, there is.”

Shalom Auslander is the author of the forthcoming “Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir.”


... exercise buddy to help me get my unmotivated, tired self to 24 fitness / or outdoors 5 days a week. (You don't need to commit to more than one day a week.)

I'm willing to entertain offers from prospects whom I already know, so long as you don't expect me to meet you at 5 a.m.

I'll do yoga, pilates, cardio, swimming, weights, walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, dance, tennis, whatever.

No running. No spinning. Absolutely no step classes. Armwrestling; sports that involve heights; and activities that can be described as dangerous or for thrill-seekers, or that require me to chew snuff, are out of the question.


"Islam is not more violent or fanatical than any other religion — it's just that many Muslim countries have politicized religion for the benefit of the rulers. There are Christian fanatics and Hindu fanatics, too — put a gun in the hands of any of them and they will terrorize people.

Religion should be something personal. It should not be the concern of the state, and no religion has a right to degrade women or erode their human dignity."
-Asma Jahangir, female Pakistani human rights attorney

jeudi, août 16, 2007

baaaaaaaaaaaaad for america

Kudos to the ACLU for telling it like it is. The ACLU has a new campaign shaming the Democrats for allowing a revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that gives new powers to Attorney General Gonzales to eavesdrop on American citizens without any meaningful court or Congressional oversight.

What the Dems did was flat-out shameful. We need lions, not sheep.
It’s bad enough Congressional leaders have failed to act to restore habeas corpus, end torture and rendition, and close Guantanamo. But now Congress, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, has caved in to Bush fear-mongering and expanded a warrantless spying program they should be investigating and ending.

When our leaders behave like sheep, their constituents need to know it.

mercredi, août 15, 2007

r-e-s-p-e-c-t, find out what it means to ...

On the one hand, this is such a no-brainer that I'm almost surprised that it's considered news. On the other hand, companies would be well-served to remember that gays and lesbians command a great deal of purchasing power and that companies who've traditionally catered to a gay or lesbian (a friend of mine calls Subaru Outbacks "Lesbarus" due to the Martina Navratilova connection) demographic do quite well.
Gay, Lesbian Consumers Want Commitment
August 14, 2007
By Eric Newman

NEW YORK For the lesbian and gay communities, successful branding means companies must put their money, and practices, where their mouth is.

Some 88 percent of gay men and 91 percent of lesbians claim that a brand's sponsorship or support of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) events favorably influences their buying decisions, according to a study released today from Community Marketing, San Francisco. The study also found that 89 percent of gay men and 91 percent of lesbians said that the way a company treats its gay and lesbian employees is also a crucial deciding factor in purchasing decisions and their future business with a brand.

"Authenticity is very important to the gay and lesbian consumer," said Jerry McHugh, senior director of research at Community Marketing. "How a company treats their gay and lesbian employees and their sponsorship of LGBT events really holds up that authenticity for the consumer."

McHugh said that gays and lesbians were acutely aware of the business practices of companies they considered purchasing from, often reading up on corporate profiles through equality indexes. "Anything they find that is negative they become very aware of and that affects their feelings about a company," he said.

The study gathered data from an online survey of more than 22,000 lesbian and gay adults from April 13-May 16, asking participants to answer a series of questions related to their buying habits and lifestyle.

Although the study showed that there are many similarities between lesbian and gay demographics—including only a $3,000 difference in average median incomes, favoring gay men who average $83,000 in annual household income—the mainstream media channels employed by the two groups are very different.

Among gay men, top gay media publications include The Advocate, Out and local gay media, while mainstream media sources were topped by The New York Times, Men's Health, Entertainment Weekly and GQ. Top gay publications among lesbians were The Advocate, Curve and assorted local gay media, but mainstream media choices were People, AARP Magazine, O the Oprah Magazine and The New York Times.

Regarding TV, the top five networks for gay men were NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and Bravo while lesbians listed NBC, ABC, CBS, Showtime and Fox as their favorite channels.


Smart is sexy. The alternative ... not so much. has some pretty funny ads about brain injury. If you don't wear a helmet, you're on your own.

jeudi, août 09, 2007


Leo and I have often remarked that it's a damn good thing that neither of us are vegetarians ... because our relationship just wouldn't have worked out.

This article takes some things too far, but amused me nonetheless. (Who the eff cares what a first date thinks of you if you order a steak versus a burger? Do you really want to date someone who judges you because of your culinary predilections?) But if you're so inclined, embrace your inner carnivore.
Be Yourselves, Girls, Order the Rib-Eye
Published: August 9, 2007

MARTHA FLACH mentioned meat twice in her profile: “I love architecture, The New Yorker, dogs ... steak for two and the Sunday puzzle.”

She was seeking, she added, “a smart, funny, kind man who owns a suit (but isn’t one) ... and loves red wine and a big steak.”

The repetition worked. On her first date with Austin Wilkie, they ate steak frites. A year later, after burgers at the Corner Bistro in Greenwich Village, he proposed. This March, the rehearsal dinner was at Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street, and the wedding menu included mini-cheeseburgers and more steak.

Ms. Wilkie was a vegetarian in her teens, and even wore a “Meat Is Murder” T-shirt. But by her 30s, she had started eating cow. By the time she placed the personal ad, she had come to realize that ordering steak on a first date had the potential to sate appetites not only of the stomach but of the heart.

Red meat sent a message that she was “unpretentious and down to earth and unneurotic,” she said, “that I’m not obsessed with my weight even though I’m thin, and I don’t have any food issues.” She added, “In terms of the burgers, it said I’m a cheap date, low maintenance.”

Salad, it seems, is out. Gusto, medium rare, is in.

Restaurateurs and veterans of the dating scene say that for many women, meat is no longer murder. Instead, meat is strategy. “I’ve been shocked at the number of women actually ordering steak,” said Michael Stillman, vice president of concept development for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, which opened the restaurant Quality Meats in April 2006 on West 58th Street. He said Quality Meats’ contemporary design and menu, including extensive seafood offerings, were designed to attract more women than a traditional steakhouse. “But the meat is appealing to them, much more than what I saw two or three years ago at our other restaurants,” Mr. Stillman said. “They are going for our bone-in sirloin and our cowboy-cut rib steak.”

In an earlier era, conventional dating wisdom for women was to eat something at home alone before a date, and then in company order a light dinner to portray oneself as dainty and ladylike. For some women, that is still the practice. “It’s better not to have a jalapeño fajita plate, especially on the first date,” said Andrea Bey, 28, who sells video surveillance equipment in Irving, Tex., and describes herself as “curvy.” “You don’t want to be labeled as ‘princess gassy’ on the first date.”

But others, especially those who are thin, say ordering a salad displays an unappealing mousiness.

“It seems wimpy, insipid, childish,” said Michelle Heller, 34, a copy editor at TV Guide. “I don’t want to be considered vapid and uninteresting.”

Ordering meat, on the other hand, is a declarative statement, something along the lines of “I am woman, hear me chew.”

In fact, red meat on a date has become such an effective statement of self-acceptance that even a vegetarian like Sloane Crosley, a publicist at Random House, sometimes longs to order a burger.

“Being a vegetarian puts you at a disadvantage,” Ms. Crosley said. “You’re in the most basic category of finicky. Even women who order chicken, it isn’t enough.” She said she has thought of ordering shots of Jägermeister, famous for its frat boy associations, to prove that she is “a guy’s girl.”

“Everyone wants to be the girl who drinks the beer and eats the steak and looks like Kate Hudson,” Ms. Crosley, 28, said.

Not all red meat, apparently, is equal in the dating world. The mediums of steak and hamburger each send a different message. Dropping into conversation the fact that steaks of Kobe beef come from Wagyu cattle, but that not all steaks sold as Wagyu are Kobe beef, demonstrates one’s worldliness, said Gabriella Gershenson, a dining editor at Time Out New York. It holds the same currency today that being able to name Hemingway’s four wives held in an earlier era.

Hamburgers, she added, say you are down-to-earth, which is why women rarely order those deluxe hamburgers priced as high as a porterhouse.

“They’re created for men who want to impress women, so they order the $60 burger, then they let the woman taste it,” Ms. Gershenson said. “The man gets to show off his expertise and show that he can afford it.”

When Paris Hilton was arrested for driving under the influence, she announced that she had been on her way to In-N-Out Burger, the Southern California chain revered for its gut-busting Double-Double, as if trying to satisfy a craving for two slabs of meat and cheese was an excuse for drunken driving that anyone could understand. And twice last year, Nicole Richie, persistently facing rumors that she suffered from an eating disorder, was photographed biting into burgers in Los Angeles, an effort that seemed designed to demonstrate her casualness toward calories.

Of course, there are always those rare women who order what they want and to heck with what a man might think.

Saehee Hwang, 30, a production director at, found herself out with friends at DuMont restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when she started feeling attracted to a new guy in the group. She said she had wanted to order a burger, but started having second thoughts. “I didn’t want to appear too much of a carnivore,” she said. “It might be off-putting.”

But then she decided she should not change her order to fit a preconceived idea of what a man might want. She ordered the house specialty, a half-pound of beef on a toasted brioche bun with Gruyère cheese. “We started dating afterward,” Ms. Hwang said. “And he told me he liked the fact that I ordered the burger.”

What about when the tables, so to speak, are reversed? Can a man order a juicy New York strip on the first date and make a good impression? Gentlemen, be careful. Real men, it seems, must eat kale.

“When a guy sits down and eats something fatty and big, you wonder if they eat like that all the time,” said Brice Gaillard, a freelance design writer. “It crosses my mind they’ll probably die early.”

presidential debate on LGBT issues

I sent some friends word that the first-ever Presidential debate on LGBT issues was happening tonight ... and I got some strong feedback on the topic. Here's a sample:
  1. i'll save you two hours:
    "discrimination based on sexual preference is hideous and wrong and will not be tolerated. we are all equal under the law and deserve the same exact rights, with no exceptions. gay marriage? well, not so much. have you seen this other water fountain? it's *exactly* the same as the one the whites drink from, it just says "for coloreds" on it. what? gays in the military? i don't see a reason to change the current system, where gays are allowed to serve their country proudly and on equal footing with straights. well, unless they say they're gay. then they're out. but they can tell all their gay friends that they serve. and wear their uniforms for kinky dress-up night. well, no, not in the pride parade, other people will see! just in those seedy clubs where gays gather to worship the dev... sorry, lost my train of thought. where was i? oh yes, equality, no exceptions."

    i mean, i'll be watching too. but don't expect much. i want someone to ask the following question: "how can you claim not to be anti-gay when none of you support gay marriage? yes, mr. kucinich, i know you're for it. unfortunately, you don't count."

    i heard on npr that they had all the major candidates but two. i don't see any missing.

  2. Until a democratic candidate decidedly sets a non-republican agenda favoring reform such as getting health care for the uninsured or underinsured (i.e all), amnesty for illegals, and possibly even "hark" gay marriage what is there for me to listen to?

    Big Gay Al

    p.s. oops I forgot all about that war thing.

  3. did you read their responses? they all SUCK!
    they all, at least the 3 leading candidates say we support equal rights for all people should have the same rights...just not marriage. call it civil union....then its ok...just don't call it marriage.

    have we not learned that separate but equal is NOT EQUAL!! =)

  4. I haven't seen a single live debate about anything this cycle - just caught random excerpts on YouTube once in a while. Have I become that cynical?

    Obama seems to be suffering from populist foot-and-mouth disease recently (attack Pakistan? Really, Barack? Obviously you have no f'ing clue as to the hornet's nest you'd blast open. Perhaps you are more naive that I thought), and Hillary is the fakest pandering fake I've ever seen. Nothing she says ever seems remotely genuine.

    The Democrats are lame. The Republicans are vile.

    And I shudder to think about voting for Hillary as a last resort.

    Man, this sucks.

  5. yeah... the only ones i see missing are Biden and Dodd, aka, the headliners of "tier two." Biden always makes for an entertaining debate, so that's too bad. Dodd was my senator for years and makes my skin crawl, but always brings up a "at least it's not Lieberman" feeling that I am forced to embrace.

    poor, poor kucinich. i just want to give him a hug, some dinner, and some stilts. i am always amused by the "are we ready to elect a woman/black/morman"-esque conversations, but i honestly believe all of those will happen before we elect someone that short (eliminating, of course, our officials of about 200 years ago).

    i have no high hopes for tonight, other than to be high while watching, and i've read their statements too. it will make me angry. it will make me pace and chainsmoke. but i have to give them some credit -- i could be wrong but i don't remember a forum like this ever taking place before... at least not with "top tier" (yuck) candidates.

    i'm down for an axis of evil supper club. can we potluck with salads and alternatives to the electoral college?

  6. I have a HOA meeting tonight so I'm going to catch the highlights...I can't imagine they'll say anything earth shattering...its sad...just sad...ugh...

    I also think it is sad that none of the republican candidates accepted the invitation to this event...not that I expected them to say yes...why can't we have real leadership in this country?!?!? Does it even exists anymore?

    ...oh sorry...I could go on but I'll stop...
I've accepted the fact that no one who represents my views is electable in this country, but it still pisses me off.

It also scares the living shit out of me when I think about a lowest common denominator form of government and what will happen if I don't vote Democrat in the next big election. (I still think that voting Green is the same thing as handing the GOP a vote.)

What I really want is to live somewhere where I'm not faced with a clothespin vote situation and where there isn't just a two-party system.


Methinks its time to re-convene the axis of evil supper club. Lemme know if you're in. Meanwhile, here are the details on the debate, and a link to each candidate's stance on gay rights issues:
Tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific, presidential candidates will gather in Los Angeles for a forum on issues affecting the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the United States. Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese, Melissa Etheridge and esteemed journalist Jonathan Capehart will appear as panelists at the event.

The following candidates will be appearing (in alphabetical order): Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson.

Find out how you can watch the forum and learn more about the candidates' positions on GLBT issues.

mercredi, août 08, 2007

harry potter et les reliques de la mort

Overachievers: 0
The man: 1

But seriously ... why does it take that long to get a translation? If they can release the audioboook version on the same day as the print version, why not get the translated versions underway (with proper NDAs) so that the book can have a worldwide release date? This isn't rocket science, people.
French teen detained over Harry Potter
By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer
8 August 2007

PARIS - Was it wizardry that guided him? Or too much free time? Whatever it was, a determined French 16-year-old accomplished a mystifying feat in translating all 759 pages of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" within days of its July 21 release and posting it online.

The problem: It was illegal, and now the teen has spent a night in jail and faces charges of intellectual property violation.

Author J.K. Rowling's lawyers say networks of other illegal Potter translators span the world, seeking to profit from the boy wizard's global appeal, and growing more sophisticated with every new tome.

The French teen translator, a high school student from Aix-en-Provence in southern France, likely had less sinister intentions.

"He just wanted to get the book online," and did not appear to be seeking commercial gain, Aix Prosecutor Olivier Rothe said Wednesday. The boy apparently compiled the entire translation himself, Rothe said.

The teenager, whose name was not released because he is a minor, was picked up Monday following a complaint from police in Paris and was released Tuesday after questioning, Rothe said. He said the boy could face charges for violating intellectual property rights.

The French agency for fighting counterfeiting alerted Rowling and Gallimard Jeunesse, the publishing house that is releasing the official French translation on Oct. 26, of the unauthorized version, Gallimard said in a statement Wednesday. The publishing house said it offered its support to the agency's investigation.

Gallimard spokeswoman Marie Leroy-Lena said official Harry Potter translator Jean-Francois Menard is still working on "Deathly Hallows," since he only received the official English version when it was released July 21. Menard refused to comment on the pirated version.

Readers eager for the seventh and final Potter adventure are frustrated that it is taking him so long.

"To wait three months to have a French version, that is too much!" said Ketty Do, a 17-year-old, flipping through the English version at a bookstore on the Champs-Elysees.

Do called the teen translator "a courageous person," but added, laughing: "Still, I will wait for the official version, since this kid is only 16."

Twelve-year-old Robin Gallaud, looking at video games in the bookstore, had no such reservations. "If I find the French version on the Net, I will read it," he said.

Some French bloggers lamented the shutdown of the pirated translation site, though fragmented translations are still available elsewhere, including one by a 54-year-old author who published the final 10 pages of the book in French on his blog.

Neil Blair, a lawyer at the Christopher Little Literary Agency, said Rowling's agents were "heartened" that the French authorities took action against the teen "to protect copyrights and to avoid innocent fans being duped."

Blair said French police had identified an organized system of online translation networks where unofficial translations of Harry Potter are posted onto Web site networks and then onto peer-to-peer networks. The managers of these networks derive profit by attracting advertisers. Blair said French police told him one young woman had been questioned about these networks, but was released.

"The real Harry Potter fans are not supporting this," Blair said.

Such translators are becoming more organized as each new book is released and as the Internet and file-sharing becomes more prevalent, he said.

Fans in several countries have already posted unofficial translations of the "Deathly Hallows" online, including in China, where publishers fear it could lead to counterfeit books in a country where piracy is rampant.

Worldwide, the Potter books have sold more than 325 million copies, have been translated into at least 64 languages, and have been spun off into a hit movie series.

Many French readers already know how "Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort" — as it is titled here — ends. Le Parisien newspaper revealed it in an article it printed upside down.


I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.
-Maya Angelou

mardi, août 07, 2007

and let that be a lesson to you.


Isn't there a better way to punish these guys, like fining them or ... god forbid ... firing them?
To Punish Thai Police, a Hello Kitty Armband
Published: August 7, 2007

BANGKOK, Aug. 7 — It is the pink armband of shame for wayward police officers, as cute as can be with a Hello Kitty face and a pair of linked hearts.

No matter how many ribbons for valor a Thai officer may wear, if he parks in the wrong place, or shows up late for work, or is seen dropping a bit of litter on the sidewalk, he can be ordered to wear the insignia.

“Simple warnings no longer work,” said Pongpat Chayaphan, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, who instituted the new humiliation this week.

“This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor,” he said. “Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It’s not something macho police officers want covering their biceps.”

Ten of the armbands have been prepared, but so far none have actually been issued, according to an officer who declined to give his name while discussing this sensitive topic.

“After this policy came out, the police are scared,” the officer said. “It will be very embarrassing to walk around with Hello Kitty on your arm.” It is a step down from the Crime Suppression Division’s official motto: “When you have no one to turn to, come to us.”

Mr. Pongpat, who has trained with the American Secret Service and the Canadian police, was promoted to head the division three months ago and says he wants to modernize his force, “even though we lack the highest technology, equipment and mind-set.”

An aide, Maj. Weeraprach Wonrat, said the chief was a believer in behavioral science and in the “broken window theory,” which holds that small changes can have large effects.

Pink armbands for misdemeanors are a start. Stronger measures could be next for corruption and extrajudicial killings.

An early experiment using armbands was not encouraging. Mr. Pongpat first tried using plaid ones. But instead of feeling shame, Major Weeraprach said, the officers took them home as souvenirs. The force still has only one of the ten it originally issued.

After that misfire, police commanders met again to consider strategy, he said, and agreed that Hello Kitty might work where tartan had failed.

So far, he said, there is no fallback plan. The department has not yet decided what punishment to impose if officers make off with their pink armbands as well.

it’s an ad, ad, ad, ad world

I do think that the concept of adaptive advertising is interesting. (And a bit scary.) Be sure to check out
Which Ad is Aimed at You
It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World
Published: August 6, 2007

It is only a matter of time until nearly all advertisements around the world are digital.

Which Ad is Aimed at You?

Or so says David W. Kenny, the chairman and chief executive of Digitas, the advertising agency in Boston that was acquired by the Publicis Groupe for $1.3 billion six months ago.

Now Mr. Kenny is reshaping the digital advertising strategy for the entire Publicis worldwide conglomerate, which includes agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and the Starcom MediaVest Group and the global accounts of companies like Procter & Gamble, American Express, Hewlett-Packard and General Motors.

The plan is to build a global digital ad network that uses offshore labor to create thousands of versions of ads. Then, using data about consumers and computer algorithms, the network will decide which advertising message to show at which moment to every person who turns on a computer, cellphone or — eventually — a television.

More simply put, the goal is to transform advertising from mass messages and 30-second commercials that people chat about around the water cooler into personalized messages for each potential customer.

“Our intention with Digitas and Publicis is to build the global platform that everybody uses to match data with advertising messages,” Mr. Kenny said. “There is a massive transformation happening in the way consumers live and the data we have about them, but very few companies have stepped up to it yet.”

Publicis announced last Tuesday an important step in its digital plan: the acquisition of the Communication Central Group, a digital agency in China founded in 1995, for an undisclosed amount. The agency, to be called Digitas Greater China, will give Publicis a foothold in the Chinese advertising market, which analysts within Publicis estimate is growing at about 20 percent a year, much faster than global growth in the market, which hovers around 5 percent a year.

“There’s a chance to invest right now in China, India, Russia and Brazil, which will pay off big over the next five years,” Mr. Kenny said. “These economies are going to boom, and ads there are going to go directly to mobile and directly to the Internet.”

Beyond the growth potential, Publicis executives see these economies as important sources of low-cost labor for a Digitas subsidiary called Prodigious, a digital production unit that works with all agencies in the Publicis Groupe. Prodigious already uses workers in Costa Rica and Ukraine to produce copious footage for companies like G.M.

Greater production capacity is needed, Mr. Kenny says, to make enough clips to be able to move away from mass advertising to personalized ads. He estimates that in the United States, some companies are already running about 4,000 versions of an ad for a single brand, whereas 10 years ago they might have run three to five versions. And he predicts that the number of iterations will grow as technology improves.

The Publicis digital plan can be viewed as a reaction to the changes in how consumers live, but it is also a response to competition among Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Publicis is trying to carve out a niche as a middleman between those online giants and the consumer brand companies that buy advertising. The role is not unlike the way agencies have long connected advertisers to offline media like television networks, newspapers and magazines.

“How do we see Google, Yahoo and Microsoft? It’s important to see that our industry is changing and the borders are blurring, so it’s clear the three of those companies will have a huge share of revenues which will come from advertising,” said Maurice Lévy, chairman and chief executive of the Publicis Groupe.

“But they will have to make a choice between being a medium or being an ad agency, and I believe that their interest will be to be a medium,” he added. “We will partner with them as we do partner with CBS, ABC, Time Warner or any other media group.”

Mr. Lévy’s view of the dominant Internet portals diverges from that of other advertising executives. Martin Sorrell, chief executive of the WPP Group, another ad agency conglomerate, has publicly called Google a “frenemy” and has recently acquired 24/7 Real Media, an advertising network that positions his company to compete more directly with Google and other online portals.

Mr. Lévy, who has a penchant for grand ambitions, says he does not plan to compete with Google — rather, he wants Google to need Publicis.

He is widely credited with the transformation of Publicis from a small French ad company into one of the world’s largest advertising holding companies, competing with the WPP Group, Omnicom and the Interpublic Group. Now his stated goal is to stir up the digital sea before he retires in 2010.

By Mr. Lévy’s account, the Publicis purchase of Digitas was the deal that set in motion a string of online acquisitions, as companies like Google, Microsoft and the WPP Group spent billions to buy the online advertising companies DoubleClick, aQuantive and 24/7 Real Media, respectively. Just last month, AOL purchased the behavioral ad network Tacoda.

“We took the initiative, and it has triggered a frenzy of acquisition in the industry,” Mr. Lévy said. “It’s something that can be checked by the date. It’s quite clear we triggered it.”

Digitas, like many digital agencies, started out as a direct marketing firm, reaching consumers mainly through the United States Postal Service. As the Internet emerged, Digitas developed a platform it calls Dashboards to break online ads into their components and figure out which pieces work for which audiences.

Digitas uses data from companies like Google and Yahoo and customer data from each advertiser to develop proprietary models about which ads should be shown the first time someone sees an ad, the second time, after a purchase is made, and so on. The ads vary, depending on a customer’s age, location and past exposure to the ads.

Digitas executives say that consumers end up with a better experience — even a service — if the ads they are shown are relevant and new.

“We now know how many times they’ve seen this ad, so stop annoying them,” said Mark Beeching, executive vice president and worldwide chief creative officer of Digitas. “The more you can standardize and automate in terms of making different versions, hallelujah. That money should be spent creating more content.”

Along with automation, low-cost workers abroad will help create more versions of ads. The Publicis Groupe’s new employees in China, gained through the CCG deal, are paid well by Chinese standards, said Neil Runcieman, former chief executive of CCG and now chief executive of Digitas Greater China.

Mr. Kenny said that Digitas constantly struggles to find enough employees with the technical expertise to use complex data to slice and dice ads for companies like General Motors and Procter & Gamble. As Digitas invests in countries like China and India, he said, the Publicis Groupe will benefit from the global talent pool — and perhaps create more demand for advertising in those countries.

“There’s this rising tide of advertising in emerging economies,” Mr. Kenny said. “But we can also help it rise by sending jobs there.”

distance isn't always the enemy of awareness

This Op-Ed piece really made me stop and think.

And it's harder than ever to be a conscientious consumer and pay attention to the politics of what's on my plate.
Food That Travels Well
Op-Ed Contributor
Published: August 6, 2007
Austin, Tex.

THE term “food miles” — how far food has traveled before you buy it — has entered the enlightened lexicon. Environmental groups, especially in Europe, are pushing for labels that show how far food has traveled to get to the market, and books like Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” contemplate the damage wrought by trucking, shipping and flying food from distant parts of the globe.

There are many good reasons for eating local — freshness, purity, taste, community cohesion and preserving open space — but none of these benefits compares to the much-touted claim that eating local reduces fossil fuel consumption. In this respect eating local joins recycling, biking to work and driving a hybrid as a realistic way that we can, as individuals, shrink our carbon footprint and be good stewards of the environment.

On its face, the connection between lowering food miles and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a no-brainer. In Iowa, the typical carrot has traveled 1,600 miles from California, a potato 1,200 miles from Idaho and a chuck roast 600 miles from Colorado. Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, the writer Bill McKibben says, even though the state produces far more apples than city residents consume. These examples just scratch the surface of the problem. In light of this market redundancy, the only reasonable reaction, it seems, is to count food miles the way a dieter counts calories.

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production — what economists call “factor inputs and externalities” — like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

These life-cycle measurements are causing environmentalists worldwide to rethink the logic of food miles. New Zealand’s most prominent environmental research organization, Landcare Research-Manaaki Whenua, explains that localism “is not always the most environmentally sound solution if more emissions are generated at other stages of the product life cycle than during transport.” The British government’s 2006 Food Industry Sustainability Strategy similarly seeks to consider the environmental costs “across the life cycle of the produce,” not just in transportation.

“Eat local” advocates — a passionate cohort of which I am one — are bound to interpret these findings as a threat. We shouldn’t. Not only do life cycle analyses offer genuine opportunities for environmentally efficient food production, but they also address several problems inherent in the eat-local philosophy.

Consider the most conspicuous ones: it is impossible for most of the world to feed itself a diverse and healthy diet through exclusively local food production — food will always have to travel; asking people to move to more fertile regions is sensible but alienating and unrealistic; consumers living in developed nations will, for better or worse, always demand choices beyond what the season has to offer.

Given these problems, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop obsessing over food miles and work to strengthen comparative geographical advantages? And what if we did this while streamlining transportation services according to fuel-efficient standards? Shouldn’t we create development incentives for regional nodes of food production that can provide sustainable produce for the less sustainable parts of the nation and the world as a whole? Might it be more logical to conceptualize a hub-and-spoke system of food production and distribution, with the hubs in a food system’s naturally fertile hot spots and the spokes, which travel through the arid zones, connecting them while using hybrid engines and alternative sources of energy?

As concerned consumers and environmentalists, we must be prepared to seriously entertain these questions. We must also be prepared to accept that buying local is not necessarily beneficial for the environment. As much as this claim violates one of our most sacred assumptions, life cycle assessments offer far more valuable measurements to gauge the environmental impact of eating. While there will always be good reasons to encourage the growth of sustainable local food systems, we must also allow them to develop in tandem with what could be their equally sustainable global counterparts. We must accept the fact, in short, that distance is not the enemy of awareness.

James E. McWilliams is the author of “A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America” and a contributing writer for The Texas Observer.

jeudi, août 02, 2007

nombres de allá, aquí.

I'm very fortunate to have been born in the time, place, and class I was. All of those factors meant that I didn't have to make the same choices or face the same identity issues that this author did.

My bi-cultural parents ensured that I grew up bilingual and gave me the same name in English (my first name) and Spanish (my middle name). I've never felt embarrassed when speaking my mother's tongue. (Unless you count my embarrassment at my lack of fluency — and my American accent — in Spanish.)

I suppose that's the advantage of growing up on the winning side (if there is such a thing) of a dominant culture. But I've learned far more by being on the losing side of that equation (usually when I'm outside of the U.S.)
Leave Your Name at the Border
Dinuba, Calif.

AT the Fresno airport, as I made my way to the gate, I heard a name over the intercom. The way the name was pronounced by the gate agent made me want to see what she looked like. That is, I wanted to see whether she was Mexican. Around Fresno, identity politics rarely deepen into exacting terms, so to say “Mexican” means, essentially, “not white.” The slivered self-identifications Chicano, Hispanic, Mexican-American and Latino are not part of everyday life in the Valley. You’re either Mexican or you’re not. If someone wants to know if you were born in Mexico, they’ll ask. Then you’re From Over There — de allá. And leave it at that.

The gate agent, it turned out, was Mexican. Well-coiffed, in her 30s, she wore foundation that was several shades lighter than the rest of her skin. It was the kind of makeup job I’ve learned to silently identify at the mall when I’m with my mother, who will say nothing about it until we’re back in the car. Then she’ll stretch her neck like an ostrich and point to the darkness of her own skin, wondering aloud why women try to camouflage who they are.

I watched the Mexican gate agent busy herself at the counter, professional and studied. Once again, she picked up the microphone and, with authority, announced the name of the missing customer: “Eugenio Reyes, please come to the front desk.”

You can probably guess how she said it. Her Anglicized pronunciation wouldn’t be unusual in a place like California’s Central Valley. I didn’t have a Mexican name there either: I was an instruction guide.

When people ask me where I’m from, I say Fresno because I don’t expect them to know little Dinuba. Fresno is a booming city of nearly 500,000 these days, with a diversity — white, Mexican, African-American, Armenian, Hmong and Middle Eastern people are all well represented — that shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s in the small towns like Dinuba that surround Fresno that the awareness of cultural difference is stripped down to the interactions between the only two groups that tend to live there: whites and Mexicans. When you hear a Mexican name spoken in these towns, regardless of the speaker’s background, it’s no wonder that there’s an “English way of pronouncing it.”

I was born in 1972, part of a generation that learned both English and Spanish. Many of my cousins and siblings are bilingual, serving as translators for those in the family whose English is barely functional. Others have no way of following the Spanish banter at family gatherings. You can tell who falls into which group: Estella, Eric, Delia, Dubina, Melanie.

It’s intriguing to watch “American” names begin to dominate among my nieces and nephews and second cousins, as well as with the children of my hometown friends. I am not surprised to meet 5-year-old Brandon or Kaitlyn. Hardly anyone questions the incongruity of matching these names with last names like Trujillo or Zepeda. The English-only way of life partly explains the quiet erasure of cultural difference that assimilation has attempted to accomplish. A name like Kaitlyn Zepeda doesn’t completely obscure her ethnicity, but the half-step of her name, as a gesture, is almost understandable.

Spanish was and still is viewed with suspicion: always the language of the vilified illegal immigrant, it segregated schoolchildren into English-only and bilingual programs; it defined you, above all else, as part of a lower class. Learning English, though, brought its own complications with identity. It was simultaneously the language of the white population and a path toward the richer, expansive identity of “American.” But it took getting out of the Valley for me to understand that “white” and “American” were two very different things.

Something as simple as saying our names “in English” was our unwittingly complicit gesture of trying to blend in. Pronouncing Mexican names correctly was never encouraged. Names like Daniel, Olivia and Marco slipped right into the mutability of the English language.

I remember a school ceremony at which the mathematics teacher, a white man, announced the names of Mexican students correctly and caused some confusion, if not embarrassment. Years later we recognized that he spoke in deference to our Spanish-speaking parents in the audience, caring teacher that he was.

These were difficult names for a non-Spanish speaker: Araceli, Nadira, Luis (a beautiful name when you glide the u and the i as you’re supposed to). We had been accustomed to having our birth names altered for convenience. Concepción was Connie. Ramón was Raymond. My cousin Esperanza was Hope — but her name was pronounced “Hopie” because any Spanish speaker would automatically pronounce the e at the end.

Ours, then, were names that stood as barriers to a complete embrace of an American identity, simply because their pronunciations required a slip into Spanish, the otherness that assimilation was supposed to erase. What to do with names like Amado, Lucio or Élida? There are no English “equivalents,” no answer when white teachers asked, “What does your name mean?” when what they really wanted to know was “What’s the English one?” So what you heard was a name butchered beyond recognition, a pronunciation that pointed the finger at the Spanish language as the source of clunky sound and ugly rhythm.

My stepfather, from Ojos de Agua, Mexico, jokes when I ask him about the names of Mexicans born here. He deliberately stumbles over pronunciations, imitating our elders who have difficulty with Bradley and Madelyn. “Ashley Sánchez. ¿Tú crees?” He wonders aloud what has happened to the “nombres del rancho” — traditional Mexican names that are hardly given anymore to children born in the States: Heraclio, Madaleno, Otilia, Dominga.

My stepfather’s experience with the Anglicization of his name — Antonio to Tony — ties into something bigger than learning English. For him, the erasure of his name was about deference and subservience. Becoming Tony gave him a measure of access as he struggled to learn English and get more fieldwork.

This isn’t to say that my stepfather welcomed the change, only that he could not put up much resistance. Not changing put him at risk of being passed over for work. English was a world of power and decisions, of smooth, uninterrupted negotiation. There was no time to search for the right word while a shop clerk waited for him to come up with the English name of the correct part needed out in the field. Clear communication meant you could go unsupervised, or that you were even able to read instructions directly off a piece of paper. Every gesture made toward convincing an employer that English was on its way to being mastered had the potential to make a season of fieldwork profitable.

It’s curious that many of us growing up in Dinuba adhered to the same rules. Although as children of farm workers we worked in the fields at an early age, we’d also had the opportunity to stay in one town long enough to finish school. Most of us had learned English early and splintered off into a dual existence of English at school, Spanish at home. But instead of recognizing the need for fluency in both languages, we turned it into a peculiar kind of battle. English was for public display. Spanish was for privacy — and privacy quickly turned to shame.

The corrosive effect of assimilation is the displacement of one culture over another, the inability to sustain more than one way of being. It isn’t a code word for racial and ethnic acculturation only. It applies to needing and wanting to belong, of seeing from the outside and wondering how to get in and then, once inside, realizing there are always those still on the fringe.

When I went to college on the East Coast, I was confronted for the first time by people who said my name correctly without prompting; if they stumbled, there was a quick apology and an honest plea to help with the pronunciation. But introducing myself was painful: already shy, I avoided meeting people because I didn’t want to say my name, felt burdened by my own history. I knew that my small-town upbringing and its limitations on Spanish would not have been tolerated by any of the students of color who had grown up in large cities, in places where the sheer force of their native languages made them dominant in their neighborhoods.

It didn’t take long for me to assert the power of code-switching in public, the transferring of words from one language to another, regardless of who might be listening. I was learning that the English language composed new meanings when its constrictions were ignored, crossed over or crossed out. Language is all about manipulation, or not listening to the rules.

When I come back to Dinuba, I have a hard time hearing my name said incorrectly, but I have an even harder time beginning a conversation with others about why the pronunciation of our names matters. Leaving a small town requires an embrace of a larger point of view, but a town like Dinuba remains forever embedded in an either/or way of life. My stepfather still answers to Tony and, as the United States-born children grow older, their Anglicized names begin to signify who does and who does not “belong” — who was born here and who is de allá.

My name is Manuel. To this day, most people cannot say it correctly, the way it was intended to be said. But I can live with that because I love the alliteration of my full name. It wasn’t the name my mother, Esmeralda, was going to give me. At the last minute, my father named me after an uncle I would never meet. My name was to have been Ricardo. Growing up in Dinuba, I’m certain I would have become Ricky or even Richard, and the journey toward the discovery of the English language’s extraordinary power in even the most ordinary of circumstances would probably have gone unlearned.

I count on a collective sense of cultural loss to once again swing the names back to our native language. The Mexican gate agent announced Eugenio Reyes, but I never got a chance to see who appeared. I pictured an older man, cowboy hat in hand, but I made the assumption on his name alone, the clash of privileges I imagined between someone de allá and a Mexican woman with a good job in the United States. Would she speak to him in Spanish? Or would she raise her voice to him as if he were hard of hearing?

But who was I to imagine this man being from anywhere, based on his name alone? At a place of arrivals and departures, it sank into me that the currency of our names is a stroke of luck: because mine was not an easy name, it forced me to consider how language would rule me if I allowed it. Yet I discovered that only by leaving. My stepfather must live in the Valley, a place that does not allow that choice, every day. And Eugenio Reyes — I do not know if he was coming or going.

Manuel Muñoz is the author of “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue.”

mercredi, août 01, 2007

the whys of mating: 237 reasons and counting

Only a handful of the statements really resonated with me. (I'm thinking that tells me a great deal about what motivates me not just re: sex, but in life generally.)
The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting
Published: July 31, 2007

Scholars in antiquity began counting the ways that humans have sex, but they weren’t so diligent in cataloging the reasons humans wanted to get into all those positions. Darwin and his successors offered a few explanations of mating strategies — to find better genes, to gain status and resources — but they neglected to produce a Kama Sutra of sexual motivations.

Perhaps you didn’t lament this omission. Perhaps you thought that the motivations for sex were pretty obvious. Or maybe you never really wanted to know what was going on inside other people’s minds, in which case you should stop reading immediately.

For now, thanks to psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin, we can at last count the whys. After asking nearly 2,000 people why they’d had sex, the researchers have assembled and categorized a total of 237 reasons — everything from “I wanted to feel closer to God” to “I was drunk.” They even found a few people who claimed to have been motivated by the desire to have a child.

The researchers, Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, believe their list, published in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior, is the most thorough taxonomy of sexual motivation ever compiled. This seems entirely plausible.

Who knew, for instance, that a headache had any erotic significance except as an excuse for saying no? But some respondents of both sexes explained that they’d had sex “to get rid of a headache.” It’s No. 173 on the list.

Others said they did it to “help me fall asleep,” “make my partner feel powerful,” “burn calories,” “return a favor,” “keep warm,” “hurt an enemy” or “change the topic of conversation.” The lamest may have been, “It seemed like good exercise,” although there is also this: “Someone dared me.”

Dr. Buss has studied mating strategies around the world — he’s the oft-cited author of “The Evolution of Desire” and other books — but even he did not expect to find such varied and Machiavellian reasons for sex. “I was truly astonished,” he said, “by this richness of sexual psychology.”

The researchers collected the data by first asking more than 400 people to list their reasons for having sex, and then asking more than 1,500 others to rate how important each reason was to them. Although it was a fairly homogenous sample of students at the University of Texas, nearly every one of the 237 reasons was rated by at least some people as their most important motive for having sex.

The best news is that both men and women ranked the same reason most often: “I was attracted to the person.”

The rest of the top 10 for each gender were also almost all the same, including “I wanted to express my love for the person,” “I was sexually aroused and wanted the release” and “It’s fun.”

No matter what the reason, men were more likely to cite it than women, with a couple of notable exceptions. Women were more likely to say they had sex because, “I wanted to express my love for the person” and “I realized I was in love.” This jibes with conventional wisdom about women emphasizing the emotional aspects of sex, although it might also reflect the female respondents’ reluctance to admit to less lofty motives.

The results contradicted another stereotype about women: their supposed tendency to use sex to gain status or resources.

“Our findings suggest that men do these things more than women,” Dr. Buss said, alluding to the respondents who said they’d had sex to get things, like a promotion, a raise or a favor. Men were much more likely than women to say they’d had sex to “boost my social status” or because the partner was famous or “usually ‘out of my league.’ ”

Dr. Buss said, “Although I knew that having sex has consequences for reputation, it surprised me that people, notably men, would be motivated to have sex solely for social status and reputation enhancement.”

But then, men were also more likely than women to say they’d had sex because “I was slumming.” Or simply because “the opportunity presented itself,” or “the person demanded that I have sex.”

If nothing else, the results seem to be a robust confirmation of the hypothesis in the old joke: How can a woman get a man to take off his clothes? Ask him.

To make sense of the 237 reasons, Dr. Buss and Dr. Meston created a taxonomy with four general categories:
  • Physical: “The person had beautiful eyes” or “a desirable body,” or “was good kisser” or “too physically attractive to resist.” Or “I wanted to achieve an orgasm.”
  • Goal Attainment: “I wanted to even the score with a cheating partner” or “break up a rival’s relationship” or “make money” or “be popular.” Or “because of a bet.”
  • Emotional: “I wanted to communicate at a deeper level” or “lift my partner’s spirits” or “say ‘Thank you.’ ” Or just because “the person was intelligent.”
  • Insecurity: “I felt like it was my duty” or “I wanted to boost my self-esteem” or “It was the only way my partner would spend time with me.”
Having sex out of a sense of duty, Dr. Buss said, showed up in a separate study as being especially frequent among older women. But both sexes seem to practice a strategy that he calls mate-guarding, as illustrated in one of the reasons given by survey respondents: “I was afraid my partner would have an affair if I didn’t.”

That fear seems especially reasonable after you finish reading Dr. Buss’s paper and realize just how many reasons there are for infidelity. Some critics might complain that the list has some repetitions — it includes “I was curious about sex” as well as “I wanted to see what all the fuss was about” — but I’m more concerned about the reasons yet to be enumerated.

For instance, nowhere among the 237 reasons will you find the one attributed to the actress Joan Crawford: “I need sex for a clear complexion.” (The closest is “I thought it would make me feel healthy.”)Nor will you find anything about gathering rosebuds while ye may (the 17th-century exhortation to young virgins from Robert Herrick). Nor the similar hurry-before-we-die rationale (“The grave’s a fine and private place/ But none I think do there embrace”) from Andrew Marvell in “To His Coy Mistress.”

From even a cursory survey of literature or the modern mass market in sex fantasies, it seems clear that this new taxonomy may not be any more complete than the original periodic table of the elements.

When I mentioned Ms. Crawford’s complexion and the poets’ rationales to Dr. Buss, he promised to consider them and all other candidates for Reason 238.

You can nominate your own reasons at TierneyLab. You can also submit nominations for a brand new taxonomy: reasons for just saying “No way!” Somehow, though, I don’t think this list will be as long.

"a statement like that seems irresponsible"

Q: What do a three-year old segment on Philadelphia eight graders, girls in DC fighting over men, and Fox News have in common?
A: Nothing.

But that didn't stop Bill O'Reilly from declaring that there's a "nationwide epidemic" of violent lesbian gangs terrorizing schools and neighborhoods on his show on June 21. (He's since admitted that he "overstated" the facts.) Speaking of the facts, DC police say that there is 1 lesbian gang (out of the 175 gangs) in the DC area.
O'Reilly backtracks on lesbian gangs
Thursday, July 26, 2007 / 11:57 AM

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has apologized on the air for errors in a widely criticized June 21 segment that reported a "nationwide epidemic" of violent lesbian gangs terrorizing neighborhoods and schools.

"We overstated the extent of gay gangs in the Washington area," the "O'Reilly Factor" host said on his show as GLAAD spokesman Rashad Robinson stood by on a split screen. "Detective Wheeler has apologized."

"Thank you for correcting the record," Robinson said.

The exchange disintegrated, however, as O'Reilly went on to explain how the story came into being: He had seen a story in which several New Jersey lesbians attacked a man who spat on one of them when she spurned his attentions. Four of the women were ultimately convicted in the Aug. 18 incident.

"They were never identified as being in a gang. Gang charges were dropped." Robinson said.

"They were a pack of lesbians. Who jumped this guy," O'Reilly said. Soon after, he said, he saw tape on a "gang" in Memphis.

"There was no criminal activity," Robinson said.

"And a gang in Philly."

"They were eighth-graders," Robinson said.

"We got three. We put our guy (Fox crime analyst Rod Wheeler) on it. I'm just trying to tell you how we got on this."

"You called it a nationwide epidemic," Robinson told him.

"I got a little carried away with that," O'Reilly said.

Gay and progressive media-watchers had pounced on the report, as did the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., one of America's leading civil rights groups.

They noted that the Philadelphia segment was three years old, the Memphis segment did not produce any evidence of illegal activity, and that in some of the video re-aired by O'Reilly the girl hooligans were actually fighting over men.

Washington, D.C.-area law enforcement said it was simply inaccurate.

"We have 150 to 175 total gangs in the D.C. area, and, out of those, only nine where the predominance of members are female," Sgt. Brett Parson of the D.C. Metro Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit told the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"You simply can't make the jump that they are lesbians. I think it is fair to talk about violence and female gangs. But to sensationalize or marginalize a community by making a statement like that seems irresponsible," Parson said.

"There is no evidence whatsoever of a lesbian gang epidemic in this region . . . . Our membership reports only one lesbian gang," Gaithersburg, Md., police Det. Patrick Word, president of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, told the rights group. (Barbara Wilcox, The Advocate)