Mountain Dew’s New Marketing Campaign

Mountain Dew is about to roll out a new marketing campaign, focusing on the younger individuals:

The new campaign — targeted at consumers in their teens to 20s — brings together a diverse lineup of seven celebrities, O’Brien said. Individual TV and radio ads by each superstar will be tailored to regional markets. The point: Link Dew to stuff young people find cool.

Country singer Jason Aldean’s spot might be in heavy rotation in Nashville, for example, while Lil Wayne flashes on screens in Los Angeles and rapper Mac Miller dominates airwaves in his home state of Pennsylvania. Mexican-American pro skateboarder Paul Rodriguez — a.k.a. P-Rod — appeals to a street-skate set that is racially diverse, O’Brien said.

I had no idea of Mountain Dew’s storied history:

Mountain Dew was named for the moonshine liquor produced in the Appalachian stills of Tennessee. In the 1940s, brothers Ally and Barney Hartman concocted a lemony soda as a spirits mixer, trademarking the name in 1948. Early bottles featured a gun- toting hillbilly chasing a federal agent from an outhouse.

PepsiCo bought the brand in 1964. Its first TV ad used the slogan, “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew. It’ll tickle your innards.” A barefoot, one-toothed mountain man raved, “Shore as shootin’, there’s a bang in every bottle,” as a curvy woman wearing a hair bow and Wilma Flintstone-looking dress took a sip.

Another bit that caught my attention: Mountain Dew outsells Coca-Cola in convenience stores in Georgia, the home of Coca-Cola. I’d like to see hard numbers justifying this claim.

David Simon on Building Things

David Simon, the creator of the TV show The Wire, has some thoughts on critics in a New York Times interview. The quote I bolded below is especially relevant, not just for the media, but for life in general:

Q. Are you surprised that “The Wire” has had the afterlife that it has?

A. Of course. We were making something that might have a shelf life, we hoped. But whether it did or it didn’t, we didn’t want to make anything else. So we were willing to go down in flames, and it was very delicate trying to get the last two seasons made at HBO. And it starts over again with “Treme,” and everybody watched the first two episodes of “Generation Kill” and says, “Oh it’s not ‘The Wire’” or “It doesn’t know where it’s going.” Nobody knows what anyone’s building until it’s built.
 
Q. Of course now we’re in the era of instant episode recaps.
A. The number of people blogging television online — it’s ridiculous. They don’t know what we’re building. And by the way, that’s true for the people who say we’re great. They don’t know. It doesn’t matter whether they love it or they hate it. It doesn’t mean anything until there’s a beginning, middle and an end. If you want television to be a serious storytelling medium, you’re up against a lot of human dynamic that is arrayed against you. Not the least of which are people who arrived to “The Wire” late, planted their feet, and want to explain to everybody why it’s so cool. Glad to hear it. But you weren’t paying attention. You got led there at the end and generally speaking, you’re asserting for the wrong things.
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Amazon’s Knock-Off Problem

CNN reports on Amazon.com’s knock-off program, which has gathered some steam:

There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Fifty Shades of Grey, the steamy romance novel that has created buzz around the world, is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon. Also available on Amazon: Thirty-Five Shades of Grey. Both books are written by authors with two first initials – E. L. James and J. D. Lyte – and both are the first in a trilogy about a young girl who falls for an older, successful man with a taste for domineering sex. The publisher of the bestseller Fifty says the book is “a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” The author and publisher of Thirty-Five, which came out in early April, apparently believe that description fits their book as well, word-for-word. Also selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

And if you want to buy bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon, be careful where you click. A number of Amazon shoppers looking for the book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman ended up with Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels, which until recently was also on Amazon [editor’s note: it is no longer available on Amazon.com]. Says Kahneman of his doppelganger, “There is no such expert, it’s a rip-off. The comments on it are quite amusing – rather shocking that Amazon allows this sort of thing.”

Just be careful what you’re typing into your search.

This was quite the shocker, though:

Karen Peebles, who is the author of I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, says she has self-published around 10,000 books though CreateSpace, not all of which are in her own name. “I am a single mother who home schools her children,” says Peebles, who says she sells “thousands and thousands” of books a month. “Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month.”

People have trouble publishing 10,000 words — she is claiming to have published 10,000 books!? Give me a break.

Why Airport Security Is Broken—And How To Fix It

More than a decade after 9/11, it is a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people whom it is meant to protect… So writes Kip Hawley, the former head of the Transportation Security Administration, in a must-read piece in The Wall Street Journal.

The main obstacle is at the front lines:

It is here, at the front lines, where the conundrum of airport security is in sharpest relief: the fear of missing even the smallest thing, versus the likelihood that you’ll miss the big picture when you’re focused on the small stuff.

Clearly, things needed to change. By the time of my arrival, the agency was focused almost entirely on finding prohibited items. Constant positive reinforcement on finding items like lighters had turned our checkpoint operations into an Easter-egg hunt. When we ran a test, putting dummy bomb components near lighters in bags at checkpoints, officers caught the lighters, not the bomb parts.

Kip Hawley concludes:

Looking at the airport security system that we have today, each measure has a reason—and each one provides some security value. But taken together they tell the story of an agency that, while effective at stopping anticipated threats, is too reactive and always finds itself fighting the last war.

Hawley finishes the piece with five suggestions on what TSA could do to improve the airport security process. I, for one, am looking forward to the day when I can board a plane with my water bottle.

Physicist Uses Math, Writes Paper, To Beat Traffic Ticket

What would you do to get out of a traffic ticket, if you were convinced you were innocent? Probably not as much as Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist based at the University of California San Diego, who was fined for (purportedly) running a stop sign. In a paper titled “Proof of Innocence,” Krioukov argues three physical phenomena combined at just the right time and misled the officer:

We show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police ocer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satis ed: (1) the observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign.

When Krioukov drove toward the stop sign the police officer was approximating Krioukov’s angular velocity instead of his linear velocity. This happens when we try to estimate the speed of a passing object, and the effect is more pronounced for faster objects. In Krioukov’s case, the police cruiser was situated about 100 feet away from a perpendicular intersection with a stop sign. Consequently, a car approaching the intersection with constant linear velocity will rapidly increase in angular velocity from the police officer’s perspective. A sneeze caused Krioukov to slam on the brakes hard as he approached the stop sign. With a potential car blocking the officer’s view for a split second, it appeared as though Krioukov never slowed down.

This mathematical description swayed the judge (or maybe he was simply impressed by Krioukov dedication in writing a paper on this personal incident), and the case was dismissed. What a way to get out of paying a traffic ticket!

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(via Physics Central)

Matt Groening on The Origin of the Simpsons and Springfield

In the May issue of Smithsonian Magazine, the creator of The Simpsons, Matt Groening, reveals the basis for the fictional city of Springfield, where the TV show is based:

Why do the Simpsons live in a town called Springfield? Isn’t that a little generic? 

Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show “Father Knows Best” took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realized it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out that Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the U.S. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, “This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.” And they do.

This is the first public revelation of the basis of Springfield on the real-life town in Oregon. Here is Groening’s response on how he handled the question in the past:

I don’t want to ruin it for people, you know? Whenever people say it’s Springfield, Ohio, or Springfield, Massachusetts, or Springfield, wherever, I always go, “Yup, that’s right.”

Groening explains how The Simpsons got their start in 1987:

I had been drawing my weekly comic strip, “Life in Hell,” for about five years when I got a call from Jim Brooks, who was developing “The Tracey Ullman Show” for the brand-new Fox network. He wanted me to come in and pitch an idea for doing little cartoons on that show. I soon realized that whatever I pitched would not be owned by me, but would be owned by Fox, so I decided to keep my rabbits in “Life in Hell” and come up with something new.

While I was waiting—I believe they kept me waiting for over an hour—I very quickly drew the Simpsons family. I basically drew my own family. My father’s name is Homer. My mother’s name is Margaret. I have a sister Lisa and another sister Maggie, so I drew all of them. I was going to name the main character Matt, but I didn’t think it would go over well in a pitch meeting, so I changed the name to Bart.

The rest of the interview is a must-read. This bit caught my attention:

How typical is the Simpsons’ home of an American home? How has it changed?

I think what’s different is that Marge doesn’t work. She’s a stay-at-home mother and housewife, and for the most parts these days both parents work. So I think that’s a little bit of a throwback. Very early on we had the Simpsons always struggling for money, and as the show has gone on over the years we’ve tried to come up with more surprising and inventive plots. We’ve pretty much lost that struggling for money that we started with just in order to do whatever crazy high jinks we could think of. I kind of miss that.

The full interview is here.

On Virality and the Ecstatic Jason Silva

John Updike famously said, “Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” It’s one of my favorite descriptions of Nabokov’s writing.

Today, I watched the video below. The creator of it, Jason Silva, uses the word ecstatic to describe how he wants to feel. Take two minutes out of your day to watch it:

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/29938326 w=600 h=400]

And then read this excellent interview with Jason Silva in The Atlantic:

I’ve heard you described in a lot of interesting ways, as a performance philosopher, an Idea DJ, or even as a shaman—What do those terms mean to you and is there anyone else out there that you see as performing a similar cultural role? Are there historical precedents for what you’re trying to do?
 
Silva: Definitely. I first heard this term “performance philosophy” on a website called Space Collective that was started by the Dutch filmmaker Rene Daalder as a way for humans to imagine what it might be like to eventually leave the Earth. I was reading an article about Timothy Leary that said that Timothy Leary and Buckminster Fuller used to refer to themselves as “performance philosophers,” and that really stuck with me. 
 
When Timothy Leary was in prison he was visited by Marshall McLuhan, who told Leary “you can’t stay way out on the fringes if you want to compete in the marketplace of ideas—if your ideas are going to resonate, you need to refine your packaging.” And so they taught Leary to smile, and they taught him about charisma and aesthetic packaging, and ultimately Leary came to appreciate the power of media packaging for his work. According to the article, this is where Timothy Leary the performance philosopher was born, and when he came out of jail all of the sudden he was on all these talk shows, and he was waxing philosophical about virtual reality, and downloading our minds, and moving into cyberspace. All of these ideas became associated with this extremely charismatic guy who was considered equal parts rock star, poet and guru scientist—and that to me suggests the true power of media communications, because these guys were able to take these intergalactic sized ideas and spread them with the tools of media. 
 
The problem, as I see it, is that a lot of these stunning philosophical ideas are diluted by their academic packaging; the academics don’t think so because this is their universe, they could care less about how these ideas get packaged because they’re so enmeshed in them. But the rest of us need another way in. We need to be told why these ideas matter, and one of the ways to do that is to present them with these media tools.
And these videos that you’re making now? How would you describe them?
 
Silva: I see them as souvenirs that I’m bringing back with me from the ecstatic state. Some people have criticized me for being overly expository, they see me as the equivalent of a voice-over narrator in a film who’s telling you what’s happening on a screen even though you can see it right in front of you. But it’s not enough to feel the experience; it needs to be narrated in real time. That method really works for me because narrating my experience creates a self-amplifying feedback loop whereby articulating experience allows me to feel it in a richer way, which in turn helps me articulate it in a richer way, and so on. That feedback loop helps you sort of author your way into your experience, like writing your name on a tree and saying “Jason was here.” It’s a way of saying “I experienced something and it matters,” a way of throwing an anchor into something that’s ephemeral and trying to hold it in stasis. That’s what we do with all of our art. A beautiful cathedral, a beautiful painting, a beautiful song—all of those are ecstatic visions held in stasis; in some sense the artist is saying “here is a glimpse I had of something ephemeral and fleeting and magical, and I’m doing my best to instantiate that into stone, into paint, into stasis.” And that’s what human beings have always done, we try to capture these experiences before they go dim, we try to make sure that what we glimpse doesn’t fade away before we get hungry or sleepy later. 
Consider me an immediate fan.