Digital advertising has been sick for a while. Beyond duopoly politics and profit from hate, it’s become a breeding ground for all manner of scams. From rebates and kickbacks to straight up fraud, it’s rough out there.
I’m really looking forward to Tim Hwang’s new book, “The Subprime Attention Crisis,” to catalog all designer-jeans chicanery. But for now I’ll have to settle for AdLeaker, a site he launched to help whistle blowers come forward and share evidence of the toxic behaviors that have become too commonplace in the advertising ecosystem.
I hope it’ll ascend to the ranks of Sleeping Giants and other activist groups pushing positive change in the ad industry.
Take a look, pass it along, and share a story, if you have one.
These old friends went to meet their maker today, part of Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative, a marketplace for used gear and support for customers to mend and sew to make their garments last longer.
I wrote about the initiative when it was announced in 2017 and thought the repair part was strong. I was more skeptical about the repurchase-resell component. How could it work, when there’s a good eBay market for high-end vintage fleeces, but not as much for some schlub’s shirts, that flap on him like prayer flags after his quarantine diet?
Turns out I was wrong. The Worn Wear event tour primed the pump with activations, and got people stoked about their right to repair, creating the market. A few years later, it feels robust.
I got an email prompt yesterday, which liberated these from my closet, and ultimately maybe a landfill. Hopefully they’ll see some more adventure.
I’ll probably get $50 in credit for these shirts—not enough for a single new shirt—but it’s the belief that I can be part of a holistic system that tempers my consumption institutional courage that’ll keep me with the brand for decades.
This week I had another chance to contribute once more to one of my favorite newsletters, Why is this Interesting? on one of my favorite topics: how home fermentation can help create the foundations of resiliency that will make the world a better place.
Nick Parish (NP) has been a long-standing friend of WITI since his days as the junior reporter on the NY Post’s sports desk. He’s since worked in editorial, strategy, product design and currently lives in Portland. He’s a fly fishing mentor to Noah, and he last talked about fermentation/Kombucha way back in NYC at 2008’s Interesting New York conference, a strange precursor to this very newsletter. – Colin (CJN)
Nick here. I love fermentation. At its core, it’s the story of how the human species has ridden out boom and bust cycles of nature, uncovering tasty treats and useful new materials in the process. It’s a story of magic and alchemy.
My love of fermenting at home started over a decade ago
with kombucha in a tiny uptown apartment, glass jars from a Harlem
dollar store, and a mother culture gifted from a car service driver.
Now, I’m looking after a big urban garden in Portland, Oregon, with a fair chunk of shed space for experiments. Our overgrown lot features several dozen varieties of edible berries, tree fruits, perennial vegetables, and other items you’d find in the farmer’s market, in addition to a big seasonal vegetable garden and a leech-filled pond. On good days, time spent in the garden is a feast, where we wander and graze on whatever looks ripe. On (rare) bad days it’s me fretting over soil health, pest management, and the future.
Nick Parish is an old friend of ours. He escaped the city for Oregon a few years ago, but we can always rely on him for incredible cultural observation. Nick started as a reporter on the sports desk at the New York Post and went on to run the excellent comms magazine and strategy consultancy Contagious. He currently looks after product strategy at Uncorked Studios. – Colin (CJN) [He’s also the one that introduced me to fly fishing! – Noah (NRB)]
Nick here. Back when our foreign policy was more generally oriented around becoming better neighbors, I had the chance to visit Cuba a few times. I was part of a quasi-diplomatic delegation, kind of a junior ranger State Department, a privatized mix of tech dweebs, investors sniffing after policy changes, and government types in various stages of obfuscation and denial. Between visits with officials and community groups, meeting ordinary humble Cubans and the less-than-ordinary elevated Cubans (the ones trying to swap mansions and art for Bitcoin and boltholes in Miami) I had a chance to take a side quest to track down el paquete semanal. El paquete semanal (the weekly package) is a 1TB folder on a hard drive, curated by enterprising Cubans, passed hand-to-hand in the darker part of the island’s grey economy. In that big, hot hunk of drive you can find pretty much all the pop culture you might need, from Game of Thrones to all three games of the latest Marlins-Reds series.
Rhubarb wine? I’ve been into fermenting ever since my Harlem kombucha-making days, but now that I’ve got a little more land to work with I’ve made smoked, fermented hot sauces, sauerkrauts, and beer with self-grown hops.
Most recently, though, I’ve been interested in wines, specifically country wines. So what better way to celebrate the first year of your child’s life than a sassy vintage of a dry country wine?
The garden threw off a substantial surplus of rhubarb, so I fermented it and bottled a few cases of a dry country rhubarb wine. I followed a hybrid of John Wright and John Seymour recipes, both loosely. Fiddling with InDesign to illustrate and design the label was probably the hardest part.
Well, my research project on El Paquete Semanal is finally out in the world, and I’m happy people are digging into the content. I got to know EP and understand the cultural context over the course of two trips to Cuba, and really appreciate how the system has grown up under the island’s unique constraints. Take a look at the report and some more analysis from Quartz, which featured it as an “Obsession,” or Reddit, where it came up
That’s what the epitaph on legendary Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s headstone, erected recently in his home village in County Derry, advises.
The lines come from his Nobel Prize speech, delivered in 1995. He explained more:
That line is from a poem called “The Gravel Walks,” which is about heavy work—wheeling barrows of gravel—but also the paradoxical sense of lightness when you’re lifting heavy things. I like the in-betweenness of up and down, of being on the earth and of the heavens. I think that’s where poetry should dwell, between the dream world and the given world, because you don’t just want photography, and you don’t want fantasy either.
A few weeks ago I was able to make good on a promise and participate in the second installment of the Design Museum of Portland’s Story Hour series. The premise is quite simple: a group of storytellers have a short period of time to tell a story around a specific prompt. There are a few constraints, though: the time period is very short, either four or eight minutes, and you get a single image as your background, no slides or other a/v trickery.
The theme was ‘invisible design’ and while a bunch of kind of pop-design podcast fodder (Can you see the arrow in the FedEx logo?) came to mind I felt the constraints and format leant themselves to a little bit of meta tomfoolery.
So the whole thing was series of stories inside a talk inside an elaborate setup.
The effect was better experienced in person, but I’ll try to set it up here for you before sharing the substance of the speech.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about customer experiences.
We’re kicking off our U.S. Now / Next / Why swing on Wednesday in NYC (followed by May 16 in Chicago and June 11 in San Francisco) and the event is all around the idea of “obsessing experience.” And there’s a ton of stuff to talk about around your typical Brand Experiences, but I wanted to isolate one specific instance that might not feel immediately relevant but is.
My wife, Juno, is passionate about food. You could say she obsesses the experience. Whether it’s going out to try new restaurants, reading about chefs and cooking, organizing an intricate weekly meal plan and now writing about food and nutrition full time, Juno’s got it covered.
One of our running chuckles is around an entirely condescending phrase we’re becoming accustomed to hearing in variation, when we eat out:
“Are you familiar with the concept of sharing?”
Forget about the fact that we all learned to share at age four. When a server asks this, it’s a snapping flag to me that we’re in for a less-than-perfect experience. Because it validates something very important in the restaurant power dynamic: that the kitchen rules.
It doesn’t matter if we’re eating together, and each of us order one thing that we want to eat exclusively: the food comes when it’s ready. And Juno’s even experienced instances where her dining companion has finished her meal before Juno’s even arrives. It’s becoming commonplace to put the food before the people.
To me, this is emblematic of the celebrity-chef-obsessed, ego-driven foodie culture that’s bred a new generation of restauranteurs. Many careers have been launched and pockets have been lined by the idea of the kitchen as altar.
But it annoys me, needless to say, and I wanted to pass along an attitude that’s the antidote, one I hope more restaurants will adopt, and one that might be relevant to how you view edge cases, or needy customers, in your work, whomever your literal or metaphorical customer might be.
Brooks Headley is the executive pastry chef at Del Posto, a fine dining restaurant in New York.
Our mission is to make people happy—think of us as your surrogate grandmas for the next few hours. I want you to come in to Del Posto and have the grandest, amazing-est time of your life, shooting the breeze with your date, the mom, that boss you’re trying to impress, swirling the wine in your oversize goblet, utilizing your purse stool. And if you’ve got some dietary issues you wanna toss my way? Bring ’em on!
It’s a great little essay, and an even better attitude. You can say what you want about the identity politics of food, which tires me to no end. But this isn’t about identity—it’s about humility and service.
Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.
Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene
where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks —
children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles — saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors
with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed
because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie
who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless
A few months ago my buddy Michael Ventura asked me to write an essay for his new publication, La Petit Mort. Just last week I got the glorious, big-ass newsprint edition and found my piece, “River Talk,” reproduced faithfully. The design looks great, the illustration I cooked up wound up translating well visually, and I’m really grateful to have been involved and appearing alongside articles ranging from an ethical look at slum tourism to a primer on how to eat clean while traveling. The essay’s mostly about fishing, so head over to Current Flow State to read the whole thing.
One is the continued prevalence of the cascading uncertainty rule, described here:
By relying on what Jerome Nriagu of the University of Michigan has called the cascading uncertainty rule (“There is always uncertainty to be found in a world of imperfect information”), the lead industry and makers and marketers of TEL gasoline additives were able to argue in 1925: “You say it’s dangerous. We say it’s not. Prove us wrong.” (Or, as Nriagu prefers, “Show me the data.”) They still do.
This is an almost classic misdirection that’s affecting how we judge huge dangers to society and public health, like vaccinations and global warming.
Meanwhile, a crusading scientist used techniques for determining this age of the earth to hypothesize how badly we were screwing it up by blanketing it with lead. Clair Patterson then gave what stands as a lasting caution against undue influence in research. This has recently been in the news, with Wall Street and academia cozying up.
“It is not just a mistake for public health agencies to cooperate and collaborate with industries in investigating and deciding whether public health is endangered,” Clair said. “It is a direct abrogation and violation of the duties and responsibilities of those public health organizations.”
I tend to use a lot of others’ research to make points; often, I can be lazy about sourcing. Was it the federal government, or a non-profit organization that’s providing that figure, or is it an entity motivated to make a specific commercial point? Research, both good and bad, can be easily manipulated. This served as a great reminder that concrete, civic-minded fact-finding is always going to serve the truth better than interested parties’ ‘findings’.
A while back I read a post somewhere, I think on the IDEO blog, about their experiment with a saddle stapler. There was a story about how they furnished an alcove at the back of the office, and put out the stapler, commonly used to make crude staple-bound zines, and lo, amazing rainbows of creativity happened.
We ain’t them, so I decided to steal part of this idea, with 100% more <shudder> forced creativity, and lo the Contagious Holiday Zine Exchange was born. Everybody had a few months to conceive and execute a zine, using the tools at their disposal, and we’d swap them at the end of the year.
Counting our own issues of Contagious, Most Contagious, and all the the client-commissioned stuff, we made probably 10+ print publications this year. But not everyone has the chance to get dirty with pagination, design, concept and all the other fun parts of making their own magazine. Hell, I’m an editor and I don’t feel like I always do.
I can’t tell you how impressed I was when we exchanged them today. Writers, sales folk, whoever, it didn’t matter. The publications were from the heart and fun, which is all you really need for a good zine.
Here’s a quick rundown:
Noelle: Drink More Whiskey, a primer on everyone’s favorite brown liquid, its characteristics and varieties, where to drink it, recipes, etc., with samples Kyle: Pittie’ful Zine, a look at the pit bull terrier’s origins, evolution and characteristics, including info on pits in American history Erin: les hashtags en francais, a study of this year’s top celebrity Twitter arrivals, with hashtagged critiques of their work in French Arwa: Notes From Goats: A pun-filled literary magazine, as authored by goats (ie critique of The Great Goatsby) Chris: A Hell of a Lot of Mice: Music and miscellany, including an article on Willis Earl Beal, photos from NYC venues and part of Chris’ top 52 albums of 2013 summary.
I did a short sci-fi photonovela called PATRONYM on the JP Morgan of the clone era coming to terms with his legacy.
Methods as far ranging as In Design and Comic Life and even old fashioned cut-and-paste and hand-lettering brought these to life.
Best of all, they really did what every good solo publication should do: convey something about the creator.
I was having lunch today with a guy who runs the innovation department at a really large package goods company, and one of the things he said stuck in my mind. “We have the tools,” he said, “we just don’t use them.” Sometimes you have to figure out a way to get people to use the tools.
It was very exciting to see an organization I do some volunteer work with profiled by Helen Coster in The New York Times this year on Veterans Day. I would have never guessed the modifier that arrived along with my first appearance in the old grey lady would be “fly fishing guide,” but I’ll take it. I guess it’s a good impetus to finally get my casting instructor certification in order.
Please give the article a read to learn more about the sort of work we’re doing, and do get in touch if you’re interested.
We’ve had a huge outpouring of support since, including a bunch of people donating vintage fishing gear, which we resell to collectors to fund trips for vets.
There’s currently a great auction of vintage fiberglass and bamboo rods happening on eBay, from the collection of a man named Ed Travers. Ed’s rods, all in great condition, would make a wonderful holiday gift for the angler in your life, and a great way to give back to a worthy cause, so why not check them out? I’m helping administer the auction, and will be posting new rods every Tuesday for the next few weeks, with five sets in all available.