i'm with the brand


Branding meets pop culture for the 4th annual Peeps Diorama Contest

eep

Just in time for Easter, Peeps is presenting its 4th annual diorama contest winners. This year’s winner, entitled “Eep,”  modeled after last year’s Disney hit, Up!, and chosen from over a thousand entries, is exquisite–and the overall quality of entries has definitely gone up over the years.

Ever-imaginative, these dioramas use the famous sugary animals (the bunnies are the most popular, but the chicks and bears make an appearance, too) to revamp culturally relevant events, icons, and ephemera–and you might be surprised how many, like this year’s winner, choose to depict some other branded entity. Here’s a couple of my favorites below, but definitely check out their other 35 top entries here.

masterpeeps

sterling coopeep



Is sincerity making a comeback?
March 25, 2010, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,
yeasayer

Yeasayer at LA's Natural History Museum (photo via Stereogum)

Conan famously left the air with his admonition against cynicism. We talked about Levi’s doe-eyed campaign here too. And as I was obsessively listening to Yeasayer in anticipation of their Feb 5th show at the Natural History Museum (nuts–just nuts), I started to really process their lyrics holistically and noticed they’re overwhelmingly charged with gobsmacked enthusiasm–and an unpretentious sincerity belied by the the arty band’s sardonic hair and absurd comment-if-you-dare onesie jumpsuits.

Boredom and mockery have become such knee-jerk reactions that I was sure I was misunderstanding their message–of course this simplistic positivity was some critique of the naïve, these life-affirming platitudes an elaborate in-joke at the expense of the banal. It had to be. But I don’t think it was. In fact, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t.

It’s been so unfashionable lately to be anything but ironic, that for a BROOKLYN BAND (oh dear!) and hipster darling that should, by all accounts, be kings of smug irony–a band that’s got all the visual and sonic semiotics to be just another blasé subverter–to have sentiments so effervescent feels kiiiind of like the ultimate subversion. A decidedly un-precious attack from deep within the heart of hipsterdom.

A hippie thread (alternately sunny and dark) runs through their debut, All Hour Cymbals–and robot jungle apocalypse Odd Blood exults as much as it broods, too. It’s disarming, the bald-faced joyfulness of “Ambling Alp.” It’s endearing, the humanity of “2080.” It’s refreshing, the vulnerability of “I Remember.” Don’t believe me? A sampling of lyrics:

Red Cave
I’m so blessed to have spent that time
With my family
And the friends I love
In my short life I have met
So many people I deeply care for

Ambling Alp
Now, the world can be an unfair place at times
But your lows will have their complement of highs
And if anyone should cheat you, take advantage of, or beat you
Raise your head and wear your wounds with pride
You must stick up for yourself, son
Never mind what anybody else done

2080
It’s a new year, I’m glad to be here
It’s a fresh spring, so let’s sing

Yeah, yeah, we can all grab at the chance to be handsome farmers
Yeah you can have twenty-one sons and be blood when they marry my daughters
And the pain that we left at the station will stay in a jar behind us
We can pickle the pain into blue ribbon winners at county contests

I Remember
I remember making love on a Sunday
Bright golden hearts in a fresh cut grass in May
I remember making out on an airplane
Still afraid of flying, but with you I’d die today
I remember the smell of your skin forever
Love us being stupid together
You’re stuck in my mind
All the time

It’s sweet, the lack of self-consciousness—but thankfully, never too saccharine. As Drowned In Sound puts it, Yeasayer finds “the emotional sweet spot that lurks betwixt being dispatched without irony, but not being unbearably sincere.”

So I’m not necessarily saying that one earnest it-band and the winking façade of an irony-steeped culture collapses—it’s just a musing for now, not a full-formed conviction—but it seems more and more, across all facets of culture, that we might be reconsidering the tongue that’s been planted so firmly in cheek.



Young Me/Now Me: funny, adorable, poignant, delightful
March 24, 2010, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , ,

ymnm

Love this. The ravages of time, amirite?? Seriously though, it’s kind of fascinating: Young Me/Now Me asks people to send in pictures of themselves when they were younger, as well as replicated versions of those same pictures, taken now.

The interpretation of how exactly that’s done is loose–some are restaged literally even if it’s absurd, while others are updated to carry through the spirit of the picture while making  it appropriate to its new context and circumstances. Some interpret the relationship between “young” and “now” in surprising ways. Many are really sweet and get you thinking about time and change and family and mortality and the great cycle of life.

You can have a lot of fun looking at baby pictures, even if they’re those of strangers.



Murray Hill Inc. runs for Congress, sticks it to the man little guy
Murray Hill

Ill-gotten influence--it's our birthright!

In the wake of Citizens United v FEC, the harebrained January Supreme Court decision that gave corporations to right to make direct political campaign contributions as an extension of free speech (and in so doing insidiously and ominously granted corporations legal “personhood”), liberal-leaning political PR firm Murray Hill is running for Congress in Maryland’s 8th district.

Throwing their hat in for the state’s Republican primary, Murray Hill (Incorporated, they’re eager to add at every opportunity) is running under the slogan that “Corporations are people too!” The New York Times reports that “Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that ‘puts people second’ or even third.” The firm also has plans to fight for its right to vote as a citizen—it’d be a hard-won right, to be sure. (I’m tearing up at the injustice of it all. Power to you, Murray Hill; may your time come soon.)

This astute campaign may be hilariously absurd and tongue-in-cheek, but underneath it all it’s bitter—and deadly serious. The campaign deftly exposes the mockery the Court’s decision makes of the political process and an independent government, and the real dangers it ultimately exposes us to as a free people. What’s truly tragicomic is that in campaigning to be an elected legislative representative, Murray Hill still fails at being evil–if elected, they would, after all, be using more legitimate means of influencing policy than most corporations do today.

This campaign may be the best agency ad in recent memory: it amps their cred as a go-to firm for lefty causes (they have a long history representing labor unions and environmental organizations), and shows that as a PR firm, Murray Hill knows how to run riot in the PR game.

Their website is worth your time. And so is their spot-on campaign ad:

(Thanks to Rose for the tip!)



Michel Gondry calls the emperor on the whole no clothes situation
March 16, 2010, 2:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

gondry and gaga

I’m sick and tired of people talking about Lady Gaga as if she’s some game-changing avant-garde breath of fresh air. Catchy as it may be, her music is resolutely derivative, but she’s somehow managed to distract everyone with an entrancing combination of hype, clothes, and infuriatingly affected speech–trickery! But wacky costumes do not a groundbreaking artist make. Luckily, I can stop feeling crazy (or can I?), because Michel Gondry agrees.

While the rest of the world treated the premiere of Lady Gaga’s why-does-it-exist video opus, “Telephone” as some sort of major cultural event (why??), Michel Gondry, visionary director of some of the most inventive films and music videos of this generation, declared himself “not interested.” Slam!

Read the exclusive interview on Movieline: Music Video Pioneer Michel Gondry on Lady Gaga: “I’m Not Interested”

In celebration of truly interesting, fun, innovative music videos and the artistry they celebrate–both musical and visual–here’s a couple vintage Gondry…

And one from another of my favorite music video-turned-film directors, Spike Jonze:



Libraries turn vending machines into lending machines
March 15, 2010, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , ,

lending machine

Just yesterday I was lamenting the fact that almost all of the LA Public Library branches are closed on Sundays (where am I going to get my free weekly plane-reads?), and thought that it was a shame that you could return books in dropslots after hours, but not check them out then. That’s when it struck me–a book vending machine would be a great way to get around it–just stock it with a random assortment of books popular and not-so-popular, and have people swipe their library card and make their selection. I was sure this couldn’t have been the first time anyone had thought of this, and a little Googling proved me right.

Library vending machines (more like lending machines! high five!) have found varying iterations globally, each re-purposing the familiar vending machine format more or less slickly. One of the most advanced and comprehensive ones may be the ones used by the southern Chinese city of Shenzen, which makes accessible its 2+ million books and other media (including CDs, DVDs, etc)–and even dispenses library cards–through a fully automated, RFID-powered, round-the-clock self-service system. Just as a Redbox is to DVD rentals, so is the Integrated Library Automation System (ILAS) to library borrowing–patrons may even reserve materials online and receive a text when their item is available in the nearest machine, each of which can hold 400 items at a time. At a cost of approximately $57,000 per machine, the ILAS is a much more cost-effective alternative to building and staffing smaller satellite branches across Shenzen, getting the city more literacy bang for its library buck.

Even simpler versions exist, but even these are not only whimsical but highly utilitarian–certainly more so than the statement-making luxury vending machines we’ve seen around over the past few years. In our case, the machines are a unique tool in service of  public libraries’ mission of literacy and free access to information for all, both in terms of the reach of an individual machine as well as in the cost-effective means of peppering a city (and especially its underserved communities) with many more easy-to-use portals through which to access library stock.

It’s a simple idea but it’s powerful: whether commercially or in public service, the potential (and indeed chief virtue) of such machines is to reach people where they are, when they want it, in a way that is easy, convenient, and intuitive. Library vending machines make literacy more accessible, and that access more timely and relevant. These machines give libraries the chance to reach people in the most relevant and useful moments–in subways, parks, offices, stores, and schools; when they’re waiting, when they’re bored, when they’re curious–allowing people to seize the impulse to read whenever and wherever they most crave the written page.



A little Tender Lego Care for buildings in need of repair

lego patch

He’s done it all around the world–Amsterdam, Berlin, Quito, Tel Aviv, to name just a few cities–but artist Jan Vormann just brought his Lego patchwork installations stateside. Showing that Legos–and grassroots urban beautification–are for all ages, Vormann was joined by a volunteer team aged 3 to 40 that helped him renovate cracked and pitted buildings across New York City. The project was done as a part of the VOLTA art show, and took citizens’ initiative and immediate action to address buildings in need of repair–literally, unsightly “gaps in the urban landscape”–by applying playful patches of color that both highlight the problem and help fix it. (Incidentally, these Lego installations are conceptually similar to Pete Dungey’s British pothole gardens, which simultaneously draw attention to the problem of poorly-kept roads while providing a cheery quick-fix with the addition of flowerbeds to the roads’ many blemishes.)

Vormann’s installation goes along so well with Lego’s past “Build it,” “Rebuild it,” and “Build Together” campaigns it’s uncanny–you almost wish it were a branded installation, but ultimately it’s even better that it isn’t; it’s indicative of the cultural inroads Lego has made that it would be independently seized upon with such enthusiasm and for such on-brand purposes.