A Map For Saturday On MTV

February 28, 2008

It appears that MTV has decided to take a break from broadcasting mostly lame reality TV and is showing A Map For Saturday this Saturday (March 1st, starting at 10:00pm EST in the United States).  This wonderful travel documentary follows backpackers and long-term travelers around the world.  From the synopsis:

“A MAP FOR SATURDAY is the product of a year’s travel through 26 countries on four continents. Emmy winning producer Brook Silva-Braga left his cushy gig with American TV network HBO to travel the world with five pounds of clothes and 30 pounds of video equipment.

The barebones production set-up yields an intimate window onto the world of long-term, solo travel; moments of stark loneliness and genuine revelation.”

Here’s the trailer:


Nothing New Under The Sun

February 26, 2008

Meg at Faking Good Breeding recently pointed out how little women’s magazines have changed in the past fifty years.  And I quote:

“Do you ever pick up an issue of Cosmo, Elle, Lucky, Allure or any other women’s magazine and get the feeling that you’ve read the content before? The same tips, tricks, photo spreads and “serious” pieces feel like they’re recycled month after month, just with a new celebrity tacked on the cover.”

While doing research for a paper on feminism and women’s magazines, she came across this amazing 1950 article in Atlantic Monthly by British journalist Marghanita Laski about how women’s magazines just rehash the same content every month.  In my opinion, this is true.  For a while, I read some of the more popular magazines religiously (mostly American Vogue and Allure, although British Vogue was really my glossy of choice), but it didn’t take me long to realize that the same stories were basically given a slight update – the editorial version of a fresh coat of paint – every season.

Could this be part of the reason that print media is losing ground to the web?  After all, creating something innovative, different, or outside of the mainstream is much less risky if you do it online – the barrier to entry is borderline nonexistent.  Or is recycled content actually what women want?  After all, there are plenty of internet fashion magazines, blogs, and websites that don’t differ too much from their more traditional counterparts.

If you are at all interested in this topic, definitely read the original article.  It is kind of amazing, especially when you remember that it was originally penned in 1950.

The Medici Effect

February 24, 2008

Frans Johansson’s excellent book, The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas, Concepts, and Cultures is now available for free online.

From the book’s Amazon page:

“Johansson, founder and former CEO of an enterprise software company, argues that innovations occur when people see beyond their expertise and approach situations actively, with an eye toward putting available materials together in new combinations. Because of ions, “the movement of people, the convergence of science, and the leap of computation,” a wide range of materials available for new, recontextualized uses is becoming a norm rather than an exception, much as the Medici family of Renaissance Italy’s patronage helped develop European arts and culture.”

Go read it!

Calling Shenanigans

February 22, 2008

I thoroughly enjoyed this post on Steve Rubel’s blog: SEO Shenanigans Pose a Clear and Present Danger to Social Media, because I do think that SEO can be used for evil – and some topics are so thoroughly SEO’ed that google is fairly useless (try searching for anything travel related and see how many of the top search results are truly relevant, for instance).  Using SEO for nefarious purposes, such as optimizing your site for popular search terms that aren’t related to the content or hiding links (a.k.a. black hat SEO) is obnoxious.

That said, I do recognize that there are valid reasons to use SEO, and there are plenty of white hat SEO professionals who do excellent, useful work.  However, there are also tons of sites/blogs/businesses that just want to be listed at the top of the search results without adding value in any other way – it is the search engine equivalent of the people who make irrelevant comments on popular blogs just to drop their link.  Like I’ve said before, focus on adding value or creating something interesting first – because it doesn’t matter how many pageviews you collect if you can’t get anyone to stick around and come back for more – or buy your product/services, if that is the point of your site. 

Funny Cause It’s True

February 19, 2008

Check out this video clip of “A Day in the Life of a Freelance Writer” from travel writer Leif Petterson – it is a little long, but entertaining and sort of true.  Although I don’t think my coffee has ever made me quite that…happy. 

Of course, I found the video while I was procrastinating doing research by reading blogs.

Ah, Hunter S. Thompson was a character and definitely a talented writer – here is a top ten list of quotes from his work (which I don’t completely agree are the ten best, but there are more good ones in the comments). 

My personal favorite (from The Rum Diary):

“Happy,” I muttered, trying to pin the word down. But it is one of those words, like Love, that I have never quite understood. Most people who deal in words don’t have much faith in them and I am no exception — especially the big ones like Happy and Love and Honest and Strong. They are too elusive and far too relative when you compare them to sharp, mean little words like Punk and Cheap and Phony. I feel at home with these, because they’re scrawny and easy to pin, but the big ones are tough and it takes either a priest or a fool to use them with any confidence.”

Although this one isn’t bad either (and more suited to the current political climate):

“We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear—fear of war, fear of poverty, fear of random terrorism, fear of getting down-sized or fired because of the plunging economy, fear of getting evicted for bad debts or suddenly getting locked up in a military detention camp on vague charges of being a Terrorist sympathizer.”

– from Extreme Behavior in Aspen.

Another part of the traditional media has begun to embrace the web’s positive side – but Time magazine isn’t ditching their print version by a long shot, rather they are letting the print version and the web version each do what they do best.  As Time managing editor Richard Stengel said in a keynote:

“Broadly, Stengel said the magazine needed to regain its status as a vital read, in a way that vaguely echoed the luxe leanings of other high-end publications. “We have to become a more premium product with beautiful paper and photography,” he said. “Each medium needs to do what it does best. A magazine should be something you’re addicted to.”

The Web site, too, had, to Stengel, become static. “We were a traditional magazine Web site. We decided we should be a 24/7 news Web site.”

“Focus groups revealed that readers didn’t necessarily appreciate the callouts in the magazine to go to the Web site to see more information on a particular story, he said. “Why are we doing that? It doesn’t make sense,” said Stengel. “They should be two separate audiences. Someday there will be people who don’t know there’s a print product.”

You can read the rest of the article in Folio magazine here.  While I don’t know if I necessarily agree that there will someday be people who are not aware of the print version, I definitely think that print magazines need to up the ante – to get more luxe, to be glossier (images never look quite as lush on a computer screen), and to generally make the reading experience worth the newstand price.

By the way – I posted about almost this exact same thing two years ago.

For some reason, HuffPollstrology from the Huffington Post amuses me way too much, probably because it mocks the endless series of poll results that are constantly being delivered by breathless pundits, as well as those who consider astrology/horoscopes equivalent to destiny.

Here are the latest candidate horoscopes.  Be amused (the comments are kind of funny too – it’s satire, people).