Monthly Archives: March 2009

Roy and Coach K rocking out… together?

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, what comes across the screen?

Wow. Coach K jamming on guitar? In his undies?  Really?  And with Roy Williams (and Bob Knight and Rick Pitino) sans pants, no less.

I thought Michael Phelps rocking with A-Rod, Tony Hawk and Kobe was the peak of ridiculousness this campaign could hit:

Wrong!

What stomachache-inducing combo will DDB (and H.S.I. Productions) come up with next?

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Sweet 16 notes

Big East continues domination

In an otherwise unexciting tournament, one storyline has emerged: the Big East has been unstoppable.  Five of the Sweet 16 teams were Big East squads: No. 3 Villanova, No. 3 Syracuse, and a trio of No. 1 seeds: Louisville, Pitt and UConn.  Now only 12 teams remain (six of the eight games have been played, Kansas-Michigan State and UNC-Gonzaga are playing now).  The Big East will have four teams representing the conference in the Elite 8, as only Syracuse was eliminated this round.

In other news seeds 1-3 in every region advanced to the Sweet 16.  Yawn.  The only two “exciting” seeds, No. 5 Purdue (is that even exciting?) and No. 12 Arizona, were dismissed last night and tonight respectively.  If Gonzaga falls to UNC, the Elite Eight will be populated only by 1, 2 and 3 seeds.

Naismith POY finalists announced

Midway through the first half of tonight’s early games, CBS announced the four finalists for men’s college basketball’s Naismith Player of the Year.  The candidates?  Three forwards and a center: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Tyler Hansbrough (UNC), DeJuan Blair (Pitt) and Hasheem Thabeet (UConn).  While I don’t debate the talent of these players, there is one very noticable finalist that made me think, why is he in there?

Though undoubtedly a gifted player, I disagree with Tyler Hansbrough place among those considered for this year’s award.  Though he picked up just about every player of the year award offered last year, I don’t think that warrants his inclusion among this year’s finalists.  In my opinion, he’s not even the best player at North Carolina this year (his teammate Ty Lawson picked up ACC Player of the Year honors).  Was Hansbrough the ACC POY runner-up?  No, actually Florida State’s Toney Douglas was.

I’m not arguing that Hansbrough isn’t among the 10 top college players in the country.  I just don’t think he’s #1, this year.

As a Texas alum it pains me to say this, but I think the Naismith Award should go to Blake Griffin.  Averaging 21.9 points and 14.3 rebounds per game, Griffin is a beast under the basket.  He doesn’t just get double-doubles, he averages double-doubles.  And playing in this year’s tough Big 12, no less.

I’d be OK with Blair or Thabeet winning the award as well, but I think Griffin has been the most consistent all season.  Seven-foot-three center Thabeet had an impressive year, but was lackluster in his team’s two losses to Pitt, arguably the most important two games of UConn’s regular season.  Blair had a great season as well, but was streaky.  He really hit his stride towards the season’s end.  Blair dominated his first regular season matchup against Thabeet, but in Pitt’s second win against UConn, Sam Young (Blair’s teammate that averages 18.9 points of his own) was the one who took care of business.
Tourney’s ugliest unis unveiled

For those who hadn’t had the opportunity to see much Big 12 action this year, last night’s Missouri-Memphis game was a rude awakening.  What was the unwelcome disturbance?  Mizzou’s jerseys.

How bad can they be, you ask?  Bad enough to harken comparisons to Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard.  A “lovely” hue, I tell ya.

I’ll let you decide for yourself:

mizzou-unis1“Do you like your mustard spicy?”
“Ohhhhh yeah!”

Photo credit: The Charlotte Observer

Sadly, since Missouri is a No. 3 seed, it’s very likely they’ll be wearing these jerseys the rest of the way.  Who’s up next for the Tigers of Columbia?  No. 1 UConn.  With any luck Mizzou’ll be sent packing after tomorrow night’s next matchup.  I’m not necessarily rooting for UConn, I’m just rooting for my eyes to stop burning.
Why does that guy on Oklahoma wear long sleeves under his jersey?  Isn’t he burning up?

Well I know in my basketball playing days (I played, I never said I played well), I usually was a sweaty, disgusting mess.  Maybe I didn’t lose 10 lbs. every time I played like I hear that Shaq and other NBA players do, but let’s just say if I played, my jersey wasn’t dry at the end of the game.

I’ll stop with those gross details now.

Well all tournament I’ve been wondering, why does Oklahoma’s #5 (I’ve since found out his name is Tony Crocker), wear long sleeves under his jersey?  As an ex-player I could never envision any circumstance when I’d want to have more clothes on while playing an indoor basketball game.

Well it turns out Crocker has “a condition that slows his ability to stay warm,” according to the Tulsa World. Check out more commentary on it here (just be sure to ignore Anonymous’ ignorant comments).

tony-crocker-sleeves1Photo credit: Tulsa World

Coach K versus Obama

As you may or may not have heard last week, Duke’s coach Mike Krzyzewski was less than pleased to hear that President Obama wasted valuable time to fill out a bracket.  Who was in his Final Four?  Not Duke.  And even worse, he had Carolina winning it all.

Really Coach K, is that why you’re mad?  Because to me it just seems you’re upset that the President didn’t pick your team, and even worse, chose your archnemesis to win it all.

Some argue that Coach K was just joking, but it didn’t seem that way to me.  I’m pretty sure his “really the economy is something he should focus on” jab seemed more out of disgust than a light-hearted jab at an old pal.

Well, as it turns out, it was a pretty wise decision on Obama’s part not to pick Duke for his Final Four.  He actually had them going out in the Elite Eight round, one round further than they actually did.  Villanova blew out Duke last night, 77-54.

coach-kThe face of a coach that should spend more time getting his team to the Final Four instead of judging political officials who fill out brackets. Zing.

Photo credit: The Boston Globe

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Trust Me, it’s no Mad Men

Like many people in advertising, I’m no stranger to questions about that show about 1960s advertising that won all those Emmys.  Some of the most common that come up are Ooooh, do you like Mad Men? and Is advertising like that advertising show on AMC?

My answers are You bet. and Sorta, but not really.

When I found out TNT was releasing Trust Me, a “current day” “dramatic comedy” about advertising*, I was excited.  I told everyone to watch the new series.  Maybe this will be an updated Mad Men, I thought.  (I wasn’t wishing for a carbon copy of the predecessor of course, but I wouldn’t be opposed to more great writing and acting.)  Unfortunately, it disappointed right from the get-go.

But despite the show’s many, many shortcomings, I can’t seem to quit watching.

Is it good?  No.  Are the characters likeable?  Occasionally, but for the most part, no. Does it showcase impressive creative?  I’m not sure I could be much more disappointed in Rothman Greene & Moore’s creative work.  One of the central tenets of good advertising is to avoid using puns.  If I had a dollar for every pun used in a tagline or headline on Trust Me, I’d be halfway to owning a new pair of running shoes.  I have to agree with what a friend said yesterday, I’m not sure it gets much worse than the pun-ridden tagline “Do Thumbthing” for RGM’s Arc Mobile (cell phone) campaign.

The creative work, like the series thus far, is mired in mediocrity.

But what’s keeping me watching?  Maybe it’s because I’m coming around to Sarah Krajieck-Hunter, the pretty, but easily frazzled, self-absorbed and recently divorced copywriter.  Or maybe I like the storylines related to Mason McGuire (the group’s creative director) and his tenuous balance of work and home life.  (Or rather, I sympathize with the rest of his family, which I find much more likeable.)

I know I don’t keep watching in hopes that Conner (Mason’s frustratingly juvenile copywriter partner) grows up, because I know that’s a lost cause.  And we know I’m not watching for the brilliant taglines or big ideas or, I cringe to say it, “outside the box” thinking.  (I couldn’t believe it but, “We’re just trying to think outside the box, ya know?,” was an actual line in the opening minute of the most recent episode.)

I guess, sadly, I’m just an advertising junkie, so I keep watching.  Bad advertising, good advertising, I feel like if I don’t watch I’m missing something.  It’s the fender bender on the side of the road: I’ve seen it so many times, but I have to look while I pass anyway.

It could be worse I suppose.  I could be watching more painful programs.  On the upside though, Trust Me has improved in recent weeks.  Plot lines have been much more realistic.  Though as much as I want it to be, it isn’t and will never be the next Mad Men.

I give it 2.0/4.0 stars, with the potential of reaching a 2.5, someday.

* I would argue that the show’s setting is neither current day (I’d say more early 2000s) nor is the show a dramatic comedy. RGM (the agency in the show) seems a little behind on the times compared to most advertising agencies I’ve visited in the past few years.  The characters on Trust Me act like any and all interactive work is cutting-edge and innovative (and don’t get me started on “viral”).  And for the most part, the show only addresses traditional advertising media like TV, radio and print.  (Perhaps unbeknownst to the average Trust Me watcher, many agencies have focused on and excelled with interactive work for years.)  I also think in order for a show to qualify as a dramatic comedy, the show has to be funny at semi-regular intervals.  I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve laughed in the first nine episodes.

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Book review: The Appeal

theappealcover1A few posts ago I mentioned one of my many vices, my tendency to read too many books simultaneously and thus not finish any of them.  Well, somehow between all the March Madness games I cruised through the last 250 pages of John Grisham’s The Appeal in the past two days, finishing yesterday.  That’s not a testament to the lack of excitement of the games: it shows just how many commercials are shown during the Madness and just how compelling Grisham’s writing is.

Though 579 Amazon readers give The Appeal an average of 3/5 stars, I give the novel 4/5 stars.  I think John Grisham has similar issues to that of great bands like U2 and Radiohead: an average novel (or album) is usually outstanding compared to what all other novelists (artists) are releasing.  But unless it’s one of his (their) best efforts, critics tend to give it lower ratings.  These works seem to have tougher criteria than most work at large.

That being said, I feel that The Appeal is a middle-of-the-road Grisham work.  It certainly wasn’t better than A Time to Kill or The Pelican Brief, my two Grisham favorites, but I think it was significantly better than The Rainmaker and The King of Torts.  I’d say it’s among the top one-third of his novels to date.

I’m happy to see Grisham return to his bread-and-butter, the legal thriller.  He is the master of suspense, a talented storyteller and an excellent researcher.  While Grisham got backlash from some of his fans for A Painted House, Skipping Christmas and Playing for Pizza, I think he’s demonstrated his range (as he also did by writing An Innocent Man, a non-fiction legal work I’ve yet to read) and can succeed in writing myriad types of stories.

The Appeal is a story about how a Wall Street stockowner uses the power of purse in an attempt to manipulate a judicial election.  After the largest stock in his portfolio, Krane Chemical, lost a massive verdict in a toxic tort case, the stockowner decided not only to fight back on appeal, but tried to purchase a seat on the state’s supreme court to assure Krane Chemical wouldn’t lose again.

Though published in 2008, The Appeal delves into all sorts of timely issues including epidural hematoma (Natasha Richardson’s cause of death in the ski injury case last week) and of course, the ethics of campaign finance.  (Spoiler alert:  if you plan on reading the book, skip to next bolded item.)

In the book’s afterword, Grisham wrote:

Now that I have impugned my own work, I must say that there is a lot of truth in this story.  As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections we will see competing interest fight for seats on the bench.  The issues are fairly common.  Most of the warring factions are adequately described.  The tactics are all too familiar.  The results are not far off the mark.

The Appeal is a cautionary tale of what can happen if commercial interests continue to be allowed to funnel millions into political campaigns without a better system of checks.  Elections can, and often are, battles of funding and sound bites, and money talks. If nothing else, I learned a lot more about these issues, and am now freaked more than ever about the current state of our justice and political systems.

(End spoilers.)

Bravo to John Grisham for once again providing a surprise ending that kept me guessing.  If you’d like to learn more about the book before the 484-page plunge, Grisham has a nice Q&A about the book for his Amazon readers here (scroll down about 1/5 of the way down the page).

I can’t wait to tackle The Innocent Man and his newest, The Associate, the only two of 21 Grisham books I haven’t read yet.  Let’s hope this “finishing books that I start” mantra continues.

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ACC thoughts

Even though I’ve liked past Maryland jerseys better, I love that their jerseys incorporate Maryland’s flag.  (I think South Carolina’s palmetto flag edges Maryland’s design for the country’s best state flag.)  I was not, however, a fan of their alternate yellow home jerseys, though I believe they only lost once this season while wearing them.

maryland-flag-jersey
Left: Maryland flag,  Right: past Maryland jersey, with yellow-and-black piping, mimicking the Maryland flag

I think it’s awesome that Adrian Bowie plays for Maryland, considering that Bowie, Md is one of the state’s largest cities.

I also like that Missouri native Tyler Hansbrough chose to play basketball for North Carolina.  It’s pretty fitting, considering the state already has a Greensboro (where UNC is playing its first two rounds of NCAA tournament games), Goldsboro, Asheboro, Tarboro, Roxboro, Roseboro, Wadesboro and a Bladenboro.  Hansbrough just sounds like another North Carolina town.

By the way, Maryland tore Cal up in the second half.  Watch out for those No. 10 Terps!  And UNC broke into triple digits with its 101-58 win over Radford.

On a non-ACC note, UConn trampled all over Chattanooga, winning by a whopping 56 points!  The Huskies won 103-47 with associate head coach George Blaney at the helm while ailing head coach Jim Calhoun recouperated.

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And we’re off!

It’s the most wonderful time of the sports year!  Are you watching the games?  Did you fill out a bracket?  Have you bragged about your superior picks to your friends or smack-talked yet?  If not what are you doing?

Only three games have been played so far, and no upsets  yet.  But No. 2 Memphis encountered some difficulty en route to beating No. 15 Cal State-Northridge.  Though Memphis won 81-70, but it took until eight or so minutes from the end for Memphis to take the lead in the game for good.

No. 9 Texas A&M beat No. 8 BYU soundly 79-66, repeating the No. 9 Texas A&M over No. 8 BYU win in the first round of the NCAA tournament a year ago.

No. 8 LSU defeated No. 9 Butler in an exciting matchup.  Early foul trouble for Butler’s star Matt Howard combined with turnovers made the game look like a potential runaway for the Tigers in the first half.  But the Bulldogs came roaring back and the teams exchanged leads throughout the second half.  LSU won the battle 75-71.

Now I’m alternating between the No. 5 Purdue – No. 12 Northern Iowa game and the No. 1 vs No. 16 matchup between the North Carolina Tar Heels and Radford Highlanders.  The Tar Heels started the game on a tear, scoring their first basket three seconds into the game.  Many have talked about how UNC has a virtual home game, but unbeknownst to many, Radford only had to travel 123 miles from southwestern Virginia for the game in Greensboro.

Tyler Hansbrough just shot and made two foul shots, passing Duke’s J.J. Redick as the ACC’s all-time scoring leader.  How appropriate that Hansbrough surpassed Redick at the foul line.  Hansbrough seems to be a permanent fixture there, and Redick was known for his over 90 percent free throw average throughout his career.

UNC leads 30-18.  Purdue leads Northern Iowa 32-20 at halftime.  No. 1 UConn and No. 16 Chattanooga just tipped off and the Huskies lead 16-8.  UConn’s coach Jim Calhoun has fallen ill and is not coaching the team in today’s matchup.  No. 10 Maryland just tipped off against No. 7 Cal as well and the Terrapins lead 22-21.

Back to NCAA Thursday Funday.

Want a peek at my bracket?  Check it out here, and feel free to make fun of my picks in the comments section!  I’m 3-1 so far (if you count Morehead State winning the play-in game); I picked the Butler upset that fell short.

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Logo subtleties

It’s amazing how you can see the same logo over and over again and somehow miss a detail.  For instance, a year or so ago, someone pointed out to me that there is an arrow within the FedEx logo.  I couldn’t believe I never noticed it before:

fedex-logo

Still don’t see it?  Look again.

fedex-logo-w-arrow

Today while reading TheDieline I noticed something else that I’ve overlooked for so many years.  Did you ever notice that the Heinz logo has a Keystone design in it?  Pennsylvania is the Keystone state and the Keystone symbol has been incorporated into all sorts of Pennsylvania related logos.  The new Heinz Ketchup packaging design retains the subtle Keystone border on the label while giving the product a slight but not overpowering update. (In case you didn’t know, Heinz is headquartered in Pittsburgh.)heinz-ketchup1Other uses of the Keystone symbol:

pa-60-sign2

pennsylvania-railroadpennsylvania-welcome-signpennsylvania-wilds

pennsylvania-lotterypennsylvania-policepenna-turnpike

This leads me to wonder, what other products out there make subtle nods to their geographic roots by using such simple and easily overlooked symbols?

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