Homo homini rodentius est

Flashback: When The Gap Defined Cool

A recent blog storm erupted over advertising online and its impact on journalistic ethics and, as expected, many decried the corruption of the pristine internet with base advertising. But — as with anything — ads aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes they’re even transcendent. Back in 1997 there was a golden moment when advertising and culture fell into perfect alignment. This is how I wrote about it, then. The ad in question can be viewed at the end of the article…


30 seconds of perfection and, yes, soul.


The best of the new Gap Khaki campaign is an ad called “Khaki Soul”. The irony of the name is almost killing: it suggests that khaki-colored cotton cloth made up into loose-fitting pants can have soul or, at least, be a brand of soul. That takes some marketing balls. I can hear the rabid ad-busting anti-capitalist drones in my audience seething already: “How dare they devalue the word soul by association with a pair of pants!” Yadda, yadda, yadda. That they dare, and succeed, is why I love the ad so much. Unlike the other ads in this campaign, the dancers here dance (for the most part) alone — well, almost alone. They look right at you and it’s that intimacy maker (they’re sharing with you or you are peeping at their dance epiphany) that cements the bond with the audience. It is at the same time the most artificial of intimacies and, happening in your home in your head, most real — like a lot of what happens between you and your TV. The ad is a little cultural artifact of music joined to motion that conveys a vision of expression and style that very effectively touches the soul of its audience. Blasphemy.

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A Day in the Life: June 1, 1967

Found a great video clip where all four of the Beatles talk about the creation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band — the album that changed everything, released during the [Summer of Love] forty years ago today. Enjoy.

First look: Heath Ledger as The Joker

UPDATE! Dark Knight reviewed: Heath Ledger “mad-crazy-blazing brilliant”

Harry Knowles over on Ain’t it Cool News broke the story on a [viral marketing campaign] that Warner Bros. has started to introduce Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight to the world. I’ve been itching for news about what he would do with the part, being a big honkin’ fan of him, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. If this pic (after the jump) is any indication, it’s going to be gooooooood.

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Network, 30 Years Later

I went to see Spiderman 3 this week and — for the life of me — could not see a quarter of a billion dollars on the screen. Sure, some of the computer-generated effects, especially the first appearance of Sandman, are astonishing — even moving — but the movie, by many accounts the most expensive in film history, is a strangled mess. I needed to wash my eyes out with something really good after seeing it, so stopped off at Virgin Video on the way home and picked up the DVD of something I haven’t seen since I was a kid.

Just about this time 30 years ago, Network, Sidney Lumet’s masterful production of Paddy Chayefsky’s script was on its way to clean up at the Oscars and deservedly. Arriving like a thunderclap, Chayefsky’s blistering satire excoriated the rise of television “infotainment” and the accompanying descent of standards in a medium he had helped pioneer. Briefly, it’s the story of a news anchor named Howard Beale who, after a long and respected career, finds himself being cut because of low ratings. But instead of passing from the scene quietly, Beale looks into the camera lens during his broadcast and announces to his dwindling audience that because his job was his sole reason to live he will blow his brains out on national television one week hence — an event guaranteed to generate huge ratings (“At least a 50 share”). The rest, as they say, is movie history.

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Progress report: my soul

Exactly one year ago today I [wrote] about an interaction I had with a beggar on the street and the profound impact it had on me. At the time, I resolved that I would change the way I treated people that I came across in my days — especially desperate people. After I finished writing, I hoped that unlike so many other times that I resolved to change this or that about myself it would stick this time. Well, it did.

Over the past year I’ve met up with scores of homeless and destitute people as I walk around the city. Some have become a daily part of my commuting ritual; one man, Dave, who has lived on my street for a number of years and who was watched over by our local deli men, declined badly over the winter and then disappeared. But in each instance, whenever someone sought my attention or help, I offered it. Usually just a few dollars and a smile but I also saw that many people needed a few moments of attention, a bit of conversation and a direct gaze into their eyes as much as they needed the money. Perhaps the worst effect of their desperation is the alienation they suffer — even surrounded by thousands of people. They become ghosts even before they are dead. Strange to say it took some practice to reach out to them — actually more disinhibition: deciding that it was all right to give money to the same person everyday by extinguishing the thought that I was being “taken advantage of” with the recognition that their need was persistent and that I was in a position to help. Practicing humanity. What a concept.

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