What Is Bravery?

  Fortino Samano Household Name Blog


An Oxford University student sits in a grand wood-paneled room waiting for his final year psychology exam to begin.

The don checks his watch then instructs the students to commence. The grad turns the page and reads the question: What is bravery?

He rocks back on his chair for a moment contemplating the question, then leans in to scribble something down, stands, and as his classmates stare in disbelief, walks from the hall.

The don walks over to his desk and picks up the paper. Beneath the question he'd written: "This is."

In sports, coaches train players to avoid paralysis by analysis. When athletes think too much it negatively affects their performance. They think too much, they choke. It's best they just get out there and play the game without thinking themselves into a hole.

Unfortunately paralysis by analysis is widespread among brands and their ad agencies. Demand for consistently favorable quarterly earnings forecasts, focus groups, a heavy-handed FCC, and gun-shy network censors have forced both clients and their agencies to become ever more risk-averse, but therein lies the paradox: at a time when ad-avoidance by consumers is at an all time high, brands need to be buying more breakthrough work, not less.

And just in case we've all forgotten what bravery looks like, it's here in the face of Mexican revolutionary Fortino Samano moments before his death by firing squad in 1917.

His very last word on this planet: "¡fuego!"









How To Make The World's Easiest $1 Billion

  Picture 2
Form a bank.

STEP 2: Round up a bunch of unemployed friends to be "bankers."

STEP 3: Raise $1 billion of equity. (This is the only tricky step. And it's not that tricky. See below.*)

STEP 4: Borrow $9 billion from the Fed at an annual cost of 0.25%.

STEP 5: Buy $10 billion of 30-year Treasuries paying 4.45%

STEP 6: Sit back and watch the cash flow in. At this spread, you should be earning at least 4% per year on your $10 billion of capital, or $400 million. Sure, there's some risk that the Fed will grow a backbone and raise short rates, but there's not much risk. (They have an economy to fix and banks to secretly recapitalize). And in any event, if the Fed raises short rates, making your $1 billion will just take a bit longer. (And if they REALLY raise rates, causing you to actually lose money, it will be someone else's problem.) You'll have made $400 million in a single year! So pay yourself a fat salary for all your hard work.  And pay your "bankers" fat salaries for all their hard work (But don't worry--your bankers won't actually have to do anything. You'll just need one of them to borrow the money from the Fed and buy the Treasuries, which he will be able to do part-time.) At the end of the year, celebrate. It's bonus time! Don't be greedy. Pay yourself and your bankers the industry-standard compensation ratio of 50% of revenue. Your revenue was $400 million, so that creates a $200 million bonus pool.  Pay each of your unemployed friends bankers, say, $1 million. And give yourself the rest for being such a smart entrepreneur and creating all the jobs and value. Now, you've already made at least $150 million, so it doesn't really matter what happens next. But you're in this for the world's easiest $1 billion, right? So proceed to Step 7.

STEP 7: Go public. After bonuses, your bank will be earning about $200 million a year, your capital ratio will be super-strong (10% equity-to-debt!), and your balance sheet will be clean as a whistle (all risk-free Treasuries!). So you ought to be able to persuade investors to pay you at least 20-times earnings, or a valuation of $4 billion. Sell 25% of the company for $1 billion.

STEP 8: Use your $1 billion of new equity to borrow another $9 billion at 0.25% from the Fed. Buy another $9 billion of Treasuries. Collect another $400 million a year. Pay yourself and your team bonuses that are twice as large as last year's. You deserve it! And you're now about $500 million to the good.

STEP 9: Wait for your stock to double or triple, which won't take long given your amazing growth trajectory and clean balance sheet.  When your market cap hits $10 billion, sell another 10% of the company for $1 billion.  Now you're really ready to grow.

STEP 10: If you want to get fancy and get nice profiles written about you in business magazines, start buying branch networks from defunct banks (the FDIC will pay you to take them) and start making actual loans.  Also, start hiring trading desks to gamble on things more exotic than Treasuries.  Yes, all this sounds risky, but just remember--the risk isn't yours, and you're already $500 million to the good. 

STEP 11: Sell $500 million of your stock to a "strategic investor" and let the rest ride.  Don't worry, if your traders and loan officers turn out to be idiots or the Fed suddenly raises rates, the taxpayers will handle it. And you've already made your $1 billion. So, congratulations, you're now a billionaire! Now all there is left to do is celebrate! 

* If you've been paying attention, you will note that the only potentially tricky step in this process is the "raise $1 billion of equity."  Where, exactly, are you going to get $1 billion of equity? Well, you will have to do some selling there. Basically, you'll have to tell a few investors about your awesome new business plan (see above) that will earn them returns of at least 20% on their equity from Day 1. A 20% return on equity is a lot, especially when the return is largely risk free. So you should have no problem raising that $1 billion of equity.Given the government's desperate desire to get banks to start lending again, you might also want to try to hit up the government for some funds. The pitch will be simple: Old banks aren't lending because they're hiding embedded losses and need to protect their balance sheets. You don't have that problem. You'll use the equity to LEND. (And you will use it to lend! You don't have to say that you're going to lend it to the US government. None of the other banks are saying that.)

Via Business Insider

It's Time To Mother Nature



 Sure, as an act of civil disobedience I'm risking a $5,000 fine and six months in prison (under U.S. 18  U.S.C. 331) for this line I penned and have been printing on every bank note that passes through my hands, but it's a chance I'm willing to take.

Go ahead, stamp this on a Jackson and send the world a message.










The Psychology Of Procrastination

  Household Name Blog
I've been trying to write a post about procrastination for a week now, but just haven't been able to get around to it.

Well, why procrastinate today when you can put it off until tomorrow?

Because chronic procrastinators relish the thrill of riding deadlines to the eleventh hour is why. Confronted with a one week deadline people in general split into two camps:

Those who begin immediately, complete the project in three days, then spend the remaining four days fine-tuning, rewriting, and reflecting on the fruits of their labor. (If the deadline's yanked forward two days, no need to panic.)

In the other camp are those who postpone the inevitable then begin only when the tension becomes unbearable.

And that's the riddle's answer right there: procrastinators are adrenaline junkies.

The endorphin release from solving the problem at 11:59pm is a higher high than completing the project days in advance. (As those with Attention Deficit Disorder well know, it's only adrenaline that allows their minds to focus on any given assignment.)

Such brinkmanship however rarely leads to great work; studies have shown that people are less creative when fighting the clock because time pressure means they can't deeply engage with the problem fully. Creativity requires an incubation period; the subconscious mind needs time to soak in a problem and let ideas bubble up.

And although perfectionism is commonly cited as a cause of procrastination––"it'll never be good enough so I never start"––a 1996 study by Robert Slaney found that adaptive perfectionists are in fact less likely to procrastinate than non-perfectionists.

But take heart, the penalties for skipping a deadline aren't what they were: when the first penitentiary at Folsom was built it had neither walls nor fences, just a white line that if you crossed you got shot.

It was called the deadline.

















Milton Glaser : Ten Things I Have Learned



This was part of of an American Institute of Graphic Arts talk given by the legendary  designer in London in November 2001.

Here below, the accumulated knowledge of a man who's lived eighty years on this planet.

Thank you Milton, I really 'heart' this.




This is a curious rule and it took me a long time to learn because in fact at the beginning of my practice I felt the opposite. Professionalism required that you didn’t particularly like the people that you worked for or at least maintained an arms length relationship to them, which meant that I never had lunch with a client or saw them socially.

Then some years ago I realized that the opposite was true. I discovered that all the work I had done that was meaningful and significant came out of an affectionate relationship with a client. And I am not talking about professionalism; I am talking about affection. I am talking about a client and you sharing some common ground. That in fact your view of life is someway congruent with the client, otherwise it is a bitter and hopeless struggle.



One night I was sitting in my car outside Columbia University where my wife Shirley was studying Anthropology. While I was waiting I was listening to the radio and heard an interviewer ask ‘Now that you have reached 75 have you any advice for our audience about how to prepare for your old age?’ An irritated voice said ‘Why is everyone asking me about old age these days?’ I recognized the voice as John Cage. I am sure that many of you know who he was – the composer and philosopher who influenced people like Jasper Johns and Merce Cunningham as well as the music world in general. I knew him slightly and admired his contribution to our times. ‘You know, I do know how to prepare for old age’ he said. ‘Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age.

For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age’ he said.


This is a subtext of number one.

There was in the sixties a man named Fritz Perls who was a gestalt therapist. Gestalt therapy derives from art history, it proposes you must understand the ‘whole’ before you can understand the details. What you have to look at is the entire culture, the entire family and community and so on. Perls proposed that in all relationships people could be either toxic or nourishing towards one another. It is not necessarily true that the same person will be toxic or nourishing in every relationship, but the combination of any two people in a relationship produces toxic or nourishing consequences. And the important thing that I can tell you is that there is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them.

Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person, either you have a drink or go for dinner or you go to a ball game. It doesn’t matter very much but at the end of that time you observe whether you are more energized or less energized. Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished.

The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.



Early in my career I wanted to be professional, that was my complete aspiration in my early life because professionals seemed to know everything - not to mention they got paid for it. Later I discovered after working for a while that professionalism itself was a limitation. After all, what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks. So if you want to get your car fixed you go to a mechanic who knows how to deal with transmission problems in the same way each time. I suppose if you needed brain surgery you wouldn’t want the doctor to fool around and invent a new way of connecting your nerve endings. Please do it in the way that has worked in the past.

Unfortunately in our field, in the so-called creative––I hate that word because it is misused so often. I also hate the fact that it is used as a noun. Can you imagine calling someone a creative? Anyhow, when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression.

Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.




Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realized that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realize that every part of that rug, every change of color, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else.

However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’



I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvelous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. I am sure that you all know it. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style. It’s absurd to be loyal to a style. It does not deserve your loyalty. I must say that for old design professionals it is a problem because the field is driven by economic consideration more than anything else. Style change is usually linked to economic factors, as all of you know who have read Marx.

Also fatigue occurs when people see too much of the same thing too often. So every ten years or so there is a stylistic shift and things are made to look different. Typefaces go in and out of style and the visual system shifts a little bit. If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act.

The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult. We have all seen the work of illustrious practitioners that suddenly look old-fashioned or, more precisely, belonging to another moment in time. And there are sad stories such as the one about Cassandre, arguably the greatest graphic designer of the twentieth century, who couldn’t make a living at the end of his life and committed suicide.


But the point is that anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.



The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body.

I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. I was fascinated by a story in a newspaper a few years ago about the search for perfect pitch. A group of scientists decided that they were going to find out why certain people have perfect pitch. You know certain people hear a note precisely and are able to replicate it at exactly the right pitch. Some people have relevant pitch; perfect pitch is rare even among musicians. The scientists discovered – I don’t know how - that among people with perfect pitch the brain was different. Certain lobes of the brain had undergone some change or deformation that was always present with those who had perfect pitch. This was interesting enough in itself. But then they discovered something even more fascinating. If you took a bunch of kids and taught them to play the violin at the age of 4 or 5 after a couple of years some of them developed perfect pitch, and in all of those cases their brain structure had changed. Well what could that mean for the rest of us?

We tend to believe that the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, although we do not generally believe that everything we do affects the brain. I am convinced that if someone was to yell at me from across the street my brain could be affected and my life might changed. That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right.

Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.


Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. It makes me nervous when someone believes too deeply or too much. I think that being sceptical and questioning all deeply held beliefs is essential.

Of course we must know the difference between scepticizm and cynicism because cynicism is as much a restriction of one’s openness to the world as passionate belief is. They are sort of twins. And then in a very real way, solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.

Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad––the client, the audience and you.

Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy. Self-righteousness and narcissism generally come out of some sort of childhood trauma, which we do not have to go into. It is a consistently difficult thing in human affairs.

Some years ago I read a most remarkable thing about love, that also applies to the nature of co-existing with others. It was a quotation from Iris Murdoch in her obituary. It read ‘Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.’

Isn’t that fantastic! The best insight on the subject of love that one can imagine.



Last year someone gave me a charming book by Roger Rosenblatt called ‘Aging Gracefully’ I got it on my birthday. I did not appreciate the title at the time but it contains a series of rules for aging gracefully. The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’

‘It doesn’t matter that what you think.' Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do––it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last.

Then I heard a marvelous joke that seemed related to rule number 10:

A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door.

The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired, ‘Got any cabbage?’

The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’

The rabbit hopped off.

The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says, ‘You got any cabbage?’

The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’

The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’

The butcher said ‘No.’

The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’


The rabbit joke is relevant because it occurred to me that looking for a cabbage in a butcher’s shop might be like looking for ethics in the design field. It may not be the most obvious place to find either.

It’s interesting to observe that in the new AIGA’s code of ethics there is a significant amount of useful information about appropriate behavior towards clients and other designers, but not a word about a designer’s relationship to the public. We expect a butcher to sell us eatable meat and that he doesn’t misrepresent his wares.

I remember reading that during the Stalin years in Russia that everything labeled veal was actually chicken. I can’t imagine what everything labeled chicken was. We can accept certain kinds of misrepresentation, such as fudging about the amount of fat in his hamburger but once a butcher knowingly sells us spoiled meat we go elsewhere. As a designer, do we have less responsibility to our public than a butcher?

Everyone interested in licensing our field might note that the reason licensing has been invented is to protect the public not designers or clients. ‘Do no harm’ is an admonition to doctors concerning their relationship to their patients, not to their fellow practitioners or the drug companies. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.

Milton Glaser's Work


Photography's Longest Exposure


Household Name-Blog-Photography's-Longest Exposure-Justin-Quinnell


Six months. That's right.

This dream-like picture shows each phase of the sun over Bristol's Clifton Suspension Bridge taken during half a year. The image was captured on a pin-hole camera made from an empty soda can with a 0.25mm aperture and a single sheet of photographic paper.

Photographer Justin Quinnell strapped the camera to a telephone pole overlooking the Gorge, where it was left between December 19, 2007 and June 21, 2008––the Winter and Summer solstices. (That's a 15,552,000 second exposure.) 

'Solargraph' shows six months of the sun's luminescent trails and its subtle change of course caused by the earth's movement in orbit. The lowest arc being the first day of exposure on the Winter solstice, while the top curves were captured mid-Summer. (Dotted lines of light are the result of overcast days when the sun struggled to penetrate the cloud.)

Quinnell, a renowned pin-hole camera artist, says the photograph took on a personal resonance after his father passed away on April 13, halfway through the exposure. He says the picture allows him to pinpoint the exact location of the sun in the sky at the moment of his father passing.






Fur Is Dead

Nakedness as a political statement has been gathering momentum in recent years and this anti-fur demonstration in Barcelona brought dozens of activists together to draw attention to the entirely unregulated Chinese fur market.

Naturally Europe is more advanced than the US in its anti-fur sentiment––on any Winter day NYC is littered with over-perfumed old ladies wearing mink––but thankfully a more informed younger generation rejects such dated fashion.

Please send this link to anyone you know who wears fur. No longer will they be able to claim ignorance.

How To Skin A Cat

(REDUNDANT WARNING: Graphic content).

Climbing As Transcendental Poetry


John Gill one-arm front lever


John Gill––seen here performing a one-arm front lever––was a mathematician and climber who revolutionized the sport in the 1970's.

He referred to climbing as 'intimacy kinesthetic meditation' saying, "I've always been able to appreciate climbing as a sort of moving meditation. I have routes wired to such a degree that I don't have to think about climbing on a conscious level. I become involved with the flow and the pattern of the climb. I lose touch with who I am and what I am and become part of the rock––I've actually felt at times as though I was weaving in and out of the rock."

Roger Bannister, decades after breaking the four-minute mile, related a similar out-of-body experience: "No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamed existed."

Today we rather less eloquently call it 'the zone.'







Do You Have A Cool Walk?



I was walking down the street with a female friend some time ago and we ran into an acquaintance––a young guy sporting a pressed seventies Pierre Cardin look.

        "That's a cool look," said my friend.
        "Thanks," he replied, just as another guy sauntered past behind us, "But that guy's got a cool walk."

We both glanced over and chuckled with aknowledgement, probably that same chuckle you just had. Because you know exactly what he's talking about:

Some people have a cool walk...and some people just don't.

John Travolta was cool-walking down Broadway in Saturday Night Fever. You wanted his walk; we all wanted that walk. Tony Manero's stride said "I'm sexy as hell, ten feet tall, and bullet-proof."

Laban Movement Analysis––first developed by Rudolf Laban in the early 1900s--recognizes that the way we move both reflects and influences the way we live our lives.

In Bonfires of The Vanities Tom Wolfe painted a character as walking "with a pumping gait known as the pimp roll" and if you take a moment to watch any sidewalk you'll see it.

Urban kids aren't born walking like that, it takes years of practice to refine that street swagger.

Hmmm, perhaps a sneaker company might want to claim 'cool-walking'--seems every kid wants one.





















The Four Minute Mile


Bannister breaking the four minute mile


The four minute mile.

Athletes had been trying to achieve it since the ancient Greeks.

All the experts said it was impossible: our bone structure was wrong; wind resistance too great; lung capacity inadequate.

Then one man came along and proved all the doctors, the coaches, the naysayers and the countless men who'd tried and failed before him all wrong.

On May the 6th 1954 on the running track at Oxford University, Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Just forty-six days later a second athlete broke the four-minute mile. And the following year, many more.

What happened? The human body didn't suddenly improve, but the human spirit did.

As Bannister recalled half a century later:

"No longer conscious of my movement, I discovered a new unity with nature. I had found a new source of power and beauty, a source I never dreamed existed."

He was in what today we rather less eloquently call 'the zone.'







Annals Of Naming : Cartier Tank Watch

Charlie Chaplin said "performance is all about entrances and exits," so if you've got a new product to sell you'd best enter with a bang and have something to say.

Louis Cartier had a vision: to design a wristwatch that was both rugged and beautiful (today we call that dissonance). In 1917 he introduced the "Tank" and it went on to become his most famous model.

Drawing inspiration from First World War battle tanks he designed a face that was a square on a rectangle. The sketch above illustrates the evolution of his thinking.

My personal preference is for brand names that are either strongly rooted in a product's design or describe the product's benefit: Papermate, Walkman, Mothercare come to mind.

Tank does both.

It simply means that every time someone mentions the name they're reinforcing the brand's objectives and values––it's free advertising.

Even the name Google has its roots in logic: a googolplex is the number 1 followed by one hundred zeros.

But the Goog is the premier search engine––its algorithms aside––because to Google is a verb whereas to Yahoo is not; it's just not nearly as pronouncable.

How important is a strong name? One of Charlemagne's grandsons named himself Charles the Bald. I'm guessing we'd all rather follow Alexander the Great into battle.

Best Spot Of All Time: The Guardian


Guardian point of view


John Webster, the recently deceased British copywriter--and one of advertising's greats alongside Abbott, Hegarty, and Saatchi--penned this script for The Guardian newspaper in 1986.

'Point Of View' is a masterpiece of economical writing, pacing and execution. At first we think the skinhead is out to rob the businessman, but confounding stereotypes we see him save a life.

More than twenty years later I can still recall from memory the copy delivered in the resonant tones of Sir Ian Holm:

"An event seen from one point of view gives one impression.

Seen from another point of view it gives quite a different impression.

But it's only when you get the whole picture you can fully understand what's going on."

That's not an ad, that's a life lesson; indeed so compelling was this commercial that it was shown in court by a defendant who claimed the witness had only a narrow view of the crime he was being charged with and thus not in command of all the facts.

The verdict: not guilty.


Point Of View



Where Ideas Come From: Part 3




In Stephen King’s wonderful short book "On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft"––in this writer’s opinion the most accessible how-to book on creative writing––he describes exactly how as a struggling writer he came up with the idea for "Carrie."

“One day while I was working at the laundry, I started seeing the opening scene of a story: girls showering in a locker room…and this one girl starts to have her period. Only she doesn’t know what it is, and the other girls––grossed out, horrified, amused––start pelting her with sanitary napkins. The girls begin to scream. All that blood! She thinks she’s dying and the other girls are making fun of her even while she’s bleeding to death…she reacts…fights back…but how?”

He continues…

“I’d read an article in Life magazine some years before, suggesting that at least some reported poltergeist activity might actually be telekinetic phenomena. There was some evidence to suggest that young people might have such powers, the article said, especially in girls in early adolescence, right around the time of their first––Pow! Two unrelated ideas, adolescent cruelty and telekinesis came together, and I had an idea.

The next night when I came home my wife Tabby had the pages in her hands. “You’ve got something here,” she said. “I really think you do.”

It was his first blockbuster.

All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge; King's genius is in making the connection. He knows that new ideas are combinations of existing ideas: one plus one equals three.


On Writing 






The Future Of Brands


With the rise of consumer expectations for environmental stewardship and social responsibility, combined with the worldwide long-term shift towards conscious consumption, perhaps the time's right to consider the new criteria rennaisance brands must meet to prosper.

We might call them "The Fab Five."

1. They honor the importance of a corporate conscience (Ethics).

Milton Friedman declared, "The business of business is business." Not these days; companies that ignore public sentiment make themselves vulnerable to attack and will be punished in the markets. No longer can they make the environment an externality.

Indeed, in a Wirthlin Worldwide survey 82% of those questioned said that corporate citizenship has "at least some influence" on their buying decisions. The internet has brought a new level of business transparency where actions are as important as what companies say in their marketing; and nothing kills a brand faster than saying one thing in your advertising, and doing another.

2. They adhere to global labor standards and practices (Wages).

They support Global Fair Trade agreements and undertake a responsibility to support a fair and honest marketplace. As Nike discovered to their cost, one ill-advised production decision to have Vietnamese twelve-year-olds manufacture sneakers in sweat shops caused untold harm to their brand and undid a decade of great advertising.

3. They tread lightly on the planet (Environment).

They strive to reduce their ecological footprint and deliver a product or service whereby no human being or animal is harmed (inhumanely slaughtered) by the manufacture of its goods or service.

4. They run counter to the global consolidation trend (Choice).

This isn't anti-globalization, it'€s anti-consolidation––anything that limits consumer choice.

In first decade of the American auto industry there were 346 different car companies. Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet were all independent before they merged to form General Motors. And now we'€re down to two, which is really no choice at all.

5. They espouse sustainability for future generations (The Future).

They'€re moving toward sustainability in their business models and preserving our planet'€s non-renewable resources for those unborn.

150 years ago American Calvinists said "€Business is about making money, and life is about doing good, and the two are not mutually exclusive."€

It seems there's nothing new except that which has been forgotten.







Riddle Me This


UK cigarette health warning


Here's an Attorney General-worthy question for all the lawyers out there:

Given that state AGs have successfully sued 'Big Tobacco' for producing a product they know kills people, can't these very same states sue 'Big Advertising' for marketing a product they know kills people?

Your answers on a legal pad to:



My sources at the Chicago office tell me Philip Morris clients are allowed to smoke inside the building––the agency just writes off the fine––which doesn't quite sing with the founder's motto: "Reach for the stars; you may not get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either."

Sidebar: The Marlboro brand was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame in 1994, due to its "enduring success in the marketplace," a success resulting from Burnett's work.

Apparently irony isn't just and element in the Periodic table.


(Above: a UK pack with a health warning worthy of the name).










The Three Oddest Words


Noble Prize for Literature

I remember thinking back in 1996 when Wislawa Szymborska won the Noble Prize for Literature for this triumph of minimalism that she'd been typing at a rate of $41,666 per word.

The Institute declared she won "for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality."

Prepare for goosebumps.

                        "The Three Oddest Words."

                        When I pronounce the word Future,
                        the first syllable already belongs to the past.
                        When I pronounce the word Silence,
                        I destroy it.

                        When I pronounce the word Nothing,
                        I make something no non-being can hold.










Before You Write That Movie




William Goldman––screenwriter of "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid," "Marathon Man," and "All the President's Men"––was once asked how to write a screenplay. It's easy, he answered, you just put a sheet of paper into a typewriter and type Fade In.

Yep, that is true, but before you waste six months of your life trying to write the next Butch, you need to ask yourself one question punk: Do you have a hook?

Here, courtesy of Alex Epstein, author of Crafty Screenwriting (the best how-to book I've read, and I've read them all) an explanation of The Hook:

A hook is the concept of the picture in a nutshell. Not just any concept. A hook is a fresh idea for a story that instantly makes show business people interested in reading your script, and then makes the audience want to see your movie.

So let's play guess the movie from the hook:

(A)    A man is about to commit suicide when an angel shows him what his town would be like if he had never lived. 

(B)    Two people who hate each other write each other anonymously and fall in love. 

(C)    A bunch of unemployed Brits decide to put on a striptease act to earn some money. 

(D)    Three filmmakers went into the woods to tape a documentary on a legendary witch. These are the tapes we found after they disappeared.

(E)    A puppeteer finds a secret tunnel into John Malkovich's brain. (That's a gimme.)

(F)    There's a bomb on a crowded city bus. If the bus slows below 50 miles an hour, the bomb will go off.

(G)    A man discovers he has been replaced by his clone.

(H)    A journalist finds a heart wrenching love letter in a bottle. She tracks down the man who wrote it, and falls in love with him.

(I)     An eccentric scientist recreates dinosaurs from fossilized DNA and opens a theme park. They run amok.


(A)    It's a Wonderful Life

(B)    The Shop Around the Corner, You've Got Mail

(C)    The Full Monty
(D)    The Blair Witch Project
(E)    Being John Malkovich
(F)    Speed
(G)    The Sixth Day
(H)    Message In A Bottle
(I)     If you need the answer to this one you're in the wrong class.


So You Wanna Write A Screenplay?


Alex mentored me in writing my first screenplay–––for a fee, he'll do the same for you.




















The Maverick Brand: Bogart


At Humphrey Bogart’s funeral his lifelong friend, the director John Ford, delivered the eulogy.

Before a star-studded congregation he said, “In all the fountains at the Palace of Versailles swim beautiful carp, and into each fountain the grounds-keeper releases a single solitary pike, because without daily stimulation the carp would become over-fat and die. Bogey performed a similar job in Hollywood.”

And that's how you get your face on a stamp.









Where Ideas Come From: Part 2



"There is nothing new except that which has been forgotten." So said the infrequently quoted Madame Rose Bertin, milliner to Marie Antoinette. (A Bertin creation above, circa 1778.)

Examples throughout history prove her point: During the reign of Cleopatra, Eratosthenes deduced the circumference of the Earth was roughly 25,000 miles, knowledge that would be lost for more than a millennium until rediscovered by Copernicus.


The engineer Heron of Alexandria in his treatise Pneumatica (AD 62) laid out the principles of steam power.

Consider this: The Egyptians had the technical knowledge to start the industrial revolution. What they lacked was the economic incentive to create labor-saving machinery because they relied on slaves.

(Above: His Aeolipile was a child's a toy).




Hitchcock popped up in all his films, just as Renaissance artists painted themselves into a row of heads on the fringes of frescoes.


And high upon each of the two walls of Chichén Itzá's ‘Ball Court’ in Mexico are two vertical hoops. Two teams would try to shoot a rubber ball into the hoop without using either their hands or feet. (They used their hips). The winning team were sacrificed--it being considered an honor--elevating the sacrificed's family to a higher social status.

Basketball fans say the game was invented by Charles Naismith in 1891. I say evidence trumps opinion.



Marie Antoinette, blogger. Age 13. 

Hitch's Cameos

Hero's Inventions