“This Septic Tank is No Longer Free!”

baby-orangutansI highly recommend trying to catch a screening of Cathy Henkel’s The Burning Season at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Not only does the documentary provide the most intelligible explanation of carbon trading I’ve seen to date, it presents climate change not as an unavoidable doomsday scenario filled with drowning polar bears, but as a problem with practical business solutions that can be tackled through the leadership of some extraordinary people.  One of these people is the charismatic young eco-entrepreneur Dorjee Sun, who aside from perhaps the adorable baby orangutans in nappies, ends up stealing most of the show.

The camera trails Dorjee as he races around the globe with a backpack in an effort to convince one Very Important Person after another to support his plan to monetize the forests of Indonesia as a sort of global “septic tank” to absorb all the carbon in our rapidly warming atmosphere, rather than to exploit it as a source of highly polluting palm oil.  The argument goes that by incentivizing farmers to protect their forests through the sale of carbon credits instead of burning it off for palm oil profit, we can bring about a reduction in greenhouse gases that is far more significant than trying to get people to give up driving and flying.  As a gentleman from the organization Forests Now puts it, forests are essentially a global utility (a massive carbon-absorbing machine) that benefits everyone, and should therefore be viewed as a service we need to pay for, similar to other utilities like water and electricity.  Dorjee talks the ears off of everyone from Howard Schultz to Paul Wolfowitz about his carbon trading scheme without anyone committing the big budget backing he needs–until a besuited knight on a bull saves the day in the form of…Merrill Lynch!  Fantastic cinema!  Only wait…this stuff really happened.  Did I mention the film is narrated by Hugh Jackman, a.k.a. Wolverine?

Hopefully this inspiring film will get a wider cinema release and be seen by a lot more people.  Also, if you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to help, check out the site Ten Things You Can Do, scheduled to go live in June.  As Cathy explained, it will be a list of things you can proactively do, not a laundry list of guilt-inducing things you shouldn’t be doing.  Finally, props to Crumpler for sponsoring TFF and hosting a great post-screening reception at their West Village store, complete with Aussie meat pies and Lamingtons.  They even had a shuttle bus transporting guests to and from the screening that ran on vegetable oil.  Serious greenie points!

Dorjee Sun & Cathy Henkel
Dorjee Sun & Cathy Henkel
The Crumpler Shuttle Runs on Veggie Oil
The Crumpler Shuttle Runs on Veggie Oil
TFF/The Burning Season Crumpler Bag
TFF/The Burning Season Crumpler Bag

Platform for Diversity

one_and_otherRegistration opens up today for UK residents who want to participate in One & Other, a fantastic art project conceived by Antony Gormley, the celebrated sculptor of The Angel of the North. Starting July 6 Gormley will have randomly selected people from all over the UK be part of a living monument by standing on top of the empty Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. Every hour, 24 hours a day, for 100 days, different people will get up on the Plinth to form a representation of the modern-day UK.  The Fourth Plinth in the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square remained empty from 1841-1999, but is now used as a site for temporary public arts exhibitions.  The idea is that instead of the usual kings and military generals we see atop a marble slab, this time we’ll see regular folks of all different shapes and sizes just being themselves.  According to Gormley, the people selected to go up on the plinth are free to do whatever they want as long as it’s legal.  Talk about a huge platform for self-promotion!  I wonder if we’re going to witness the birth of another Susan Boyle?  It’ll be interesting to see what kind of characters pop up on the plinth.  And speaking of characters, the TV network USA has been heavily advertising their Character Project on the NYC subways.  It is apparently part of their ongoing artistic initiative to “celebrate America’s characters–the interesting, dazzling, distinctive people, from all walks of life, who make this country extraordinary.”  They hired 11 photographers to take pictures of interesting characters across America who represent the country’s diversity.  Not surprisingly, it was also turned into a book.  It’s all part of their “Characters Welcome” brand message.  I guess celebrating diversity is all the rage!

More on Typography Awareness

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Wow, poor Vincent Connare!  To be known as the father of Comic Sans can’t be easy.  Check out this humorous piece in today’s WSJ.  Not only are there multiple “Ban Comic Sans” groups running around, some typography awareness activists have gone so far as to call the font “a crime against humanity.”  Ouch.  Good thing Vincent, who has since moved on to designing much classier fonts, has a sense of humor about it!

Today, Mr. Connare sometimes speaks at Internet conferences, using 41-page PowerPoint presentations written in you-know-what. He talks with the Combses about creating an “I Love/I Hate Comic Sans” picture book together.

The font has become so popular that it’s approaching retro chic. Design shop Veer is selling a T-shirt with a picture of human heart on it made entirely of tiny Comic Sans characters. Veer’s text: “Love it, love to hate it, or hate that you love it.”

Man, will the hipsters ever put an end to the whole “so lame it’s cool” thing? In Friday’s UrbanDaddy email, which, by the way, claims to be “devoted to keeping you in the know with the best kept secrets your city has to offer,” I was notified of NYC’s “first official Snuggie pub crawl.”  Oh my god, enough already!  I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before some vodka brand hoping to win over “influencers” starts using Comic Sans in their advertising and gets busted for trying to market to kids. Long live irony. -sigh-

SUITE 2046 in O Magazine!

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We’ve been super giddy since last week when we picked up the latest copy of O Magazine at the newsstands and saw Suite 2046 quoted in their cover story!  We wanted to post it right away, but the story didn’t go online until a few days later…and well, we got lazy.  Anyway, read it here in cyberspace, but if you can go out and buy the pretty pink issue with Oprah blowing bubbles on the cover, EVEN BETTER.

In the article, Jessica Winter talks about all the various things people are doing to try to lift their spirits during all this economic doom and gloom.  Whether it’s sharing a laugh over a funny YouTube video (did somebody say fishsticks???) or taking yoga and meditation classes, people are really seeking out ways to take a break from all the negativity. In the haze of the post-election hangover, one of the big things we saw people doing to try to regain their mojo was to do more volunteering. The 75% increase in prospective New York Cares volunteers from Feb 08 to Feb 09 that the article mentions was palpable on a recent 3-hour volunteering shift I did for a Passover Seder at a home and hospital for the elderly.  It drew 14 volunteers on a weekday afternoon despite it requiring only half that number. And while you may be tempted to make the cynical assumption that it’s because everyone there was unemployed, that wasn’t the case at all.  Almost all of the people I met there were students or had regular jobs that they left early!

The point is, the hunger for community isn’t just something that people felt temporarily during the campaign — it’s a fundamental human need. Some brands like Starbucks were quick to try to seize that opportunity, as we’ve blogged about before. And while it’s nice to see brands like Hyundai and Saturn run recession-sensitive campaigns that focus on the struggles of individual households, it would be great to see more examples of brands stepping up to the plate and offering people platforms for genuine connection and solidarity in the face of global crisis. So forget about the Buger Kind dude for a second and let’s think about finding our generation’s Rosie the Riveter. What will be our equivalent to Britain’s “Keep Calm and Carry On” message of yesteryear? Can someone please present us with a rallying alternative to teabagging??? Help us Oprah!!!

Kurzweil on Motherboard

Check out the cool/terrifying series of videos on Ray Kurzweil from Motherboard, a collaboration between Vice (VBS.tv) & Dell.  It’s a self-described “cutting-edge platform for the telling of cultural stories borne from technological innovation.”  Pretty neat. I definitely fall under the “terrified” camp when it comes to how I feel about the approaching Singularity (Kurzweil’s term for when humans will become one with machines), but it’s all very fascinating nonetheless. Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m as old as Ray, but I really don’t get people who want to live forever. 200+ supplements a day? Are you serious? Kurzweil is a genius and I actually believe it when he says that’s where we’re headed, but man…you kind of have to be a serious ego-maniac to think that sticking around forever will benefit humanity. Somebody buy the guy a ticket to Japan to see the cherry blossoms fall!  The beauty and essence of life lies in its ephemerality, no?

I’ll have the Foie Gras, hold the Cheetos

ft-17-cheiffetz2Props to the lovely Julia Cheiffetz of HarperStudio for a great interview in this month’s Fast Company. Cheiffetz talks about the various things her imprint is doing as part of an R&D strategy to adapt to the manifold changes in book publishing. Whether it’s giving Flip cams to authors to videoblog their upcoming titles or experimenting with dynamic e-books, HarperStudio is certainly trying to do more than just tread water. I’m also glad to hear Cheiffetz acknowledge that not all marketing experiments are appropriate for every subject. “With each project, we think about what kind of experimentation is appropriate. We don’t want to sprinkle Cheetos on top of foie gras.” Couldn’t have said it any better!  Check out HarperStudio’s blog here.

Just My Type(s)

There’s nothing like beautiful typeface to really make a brand stand out. I’ve been accused of “font prejudice” by people who have noted my blatant disregard of establishments that have ugly signage. It’s almost like my brain doesn’t register the text when it is not presented to me in an appealing typeface. Entire blocks of stores and rows of products are routinely relegated to the “why bother” section of my consciousness. If you ask me, a simple font facelift can do more for a business than any number of freebies. Notice how Gordon Ramsay frequently replaces the signage for the hapless restaurants he attempts to salvage on Kitchen Nightmares?

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Whether simple or intricate, there is something immediately seductive about a great typeface. Take for example this fantastically fun logo for a set of Valentine’s Day cards created in the UK by students Adam Ding and Ben Brears. The actual cards are equally playful, utilizing font names (Univers, Futura, etc.) to communicate affection for your type-loving sweetheart. These two students won an award in last year’s Wolda logo design contest. You can sigh heavily over the other winners here.

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Also, while googling these cards I came across something else that’s pretty great. Just—My—Type™ is a side project by designer Jakob Nylund of Formconspiracy. He has put up an awesome set of hand-set typefaces that you can download for free as AI files. He even has a font called Sausage. It doesn’t get much better than that!  (There is actually a font called Donut, but it is sadly not as great as one would expect from such a superbly named typeface. Alors.)