Archive for July, 2011

(exit through the gift shop) a review

would you ride your bike over that??

This is perhaps the most mind bending documentary I’ve seen in about 6 months. The other one being about the global financial crisis of ’08 –  Inside Job.

It’s about graffiti street art, specifically Banksy, a famous mischief from London who gives expression to the mundane things we pass by every day. Before I get into why this film is killer, I would just say this. If you’re interested in business and pop culture (who isn’t?) then WATCH IT. It will take you for an amusing ride, only to punch you in the face half way through.  If you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now. Download this and come back here, to read my thoughts. It’s a swift one and half hours of time well spent.

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Welcome back.

So as you know it starts off about this hilarious French film maker, Thierry, later known as Mr. Brainwash. He loves filming, eventually gets drawn to street art, which leads to him making art himself.  He learned how to make street from all these guys over the past ten years.. and then he does it? Whoose being fooled? Was he actually talented? I think he was.  Funny I  think that’s how we all learn in a way. Collaboration isn’t it called? One of the people he collaborates with is Shepard Fairey, who is famous for the Obey images and the iconic Obama poster.

I guess collaborating and stealing is a very fine line. A friend of mine for example felt Mr. Brainwash was created by Bansky. In her words: ” Like, it’s all a hoax. Bansky is so illusive, why would he all of a sudden agree to do a movie if not to mess with people? I think the movie was to draw attention to art and authenticity – how this crazy French guy reproduced images, threw some paint on them, and sold them for thousands of dollars. I think Bansky was trying to prove that anyone could do this as long as the audience was stupid enough to buy into it. Okay, so that last sentence may be reaching, but hopefully you get what I’m saying….. I agree with you on collaboration and taking ideas from our influences, but at what point does it become “stealing”?

As the late, great, Michael Jackson once stated – “It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation… period.”

Well damn. Why did you have to bring MJ into this? I ll get back to him in a bit.

So I decided to watch it for a second time and I dunno about it being a hoax. That is fascinating premise though…but I feel the story is well too scripted for this to be just a hoax.

Real or not, this is really making you question why artists like Damien Hirst get paid millions of dollars for their art. Banksy himself gets paid half a million for certain pieces and he questions you, what do people value? Well like beauty, “value” is in the eye of the beholder. Kinda of relates to a blog post I wrote actually (someone sold virtual asteroid for half a million dollars). Anyways, Banksy is cool cos he’s bit of a punk. I did some research on him and found that he did a hugely successful show, “Barely Legal” in 2006, and gave a flyer out stating this:

“1.7 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. 20 billion people live below the poverty line. Every day hundreds of people are made to feel physically sick by morons at art shows telling them how bad the world is but never actually doing something about it. Anybody want a free glass of wine?”

I think you might call it stealing because he paints this French guy as a bit of a putz, who just miraculously honed his craft in 6 months.. well maybe he wasn’t as sophisticated about it? I’d argue the French guy is very talented. He just wears his influences on his sleeve.

As for Michael’s comment, well he by no means can claim to be the most original person either, nor can The Beatles, or Elvis, etc. They’re very unique, however. For example,  the moon walk was underground dance move for YEARS, he popularized and branded it, made it his own in 83′ with Billie Jean. Even before that Michael solo moves and singing style was heavily influenced by  James Brown, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, etc. He became all these influences coming together, with a twist. Watch this, it’s absolutely fantastic:

See I’d argue Radiohead makes weird music okay to listen to, because people  now trust Radiohead for producing weird sounds. They made it cool to listen to serious music. And it’s great, cos if they’re good, we becomes curious to learn where these influences came from. People learn about who Andy Warhol is, and appreciate the pioneers of pop art in the case of this film.

I think your good or a pro when people start imitating you. But it’s a very fine line isn’t it?  Hopefully it eventually leads one creating something unique as well, because no one wants just a cover band.  We remember the music,  so you have to move beyond imitation.

One argument you could actually make is Thierry seems enamored seeing his graffiti everywhere, more than the actual art itself. More in love with the idea of photocopying his image everywhere and people knowing about him than actually making a statement. He openly admits in the film he was addicted to this.

And perhaps that’s what Thierry should be mostly credited for? How he made connections. Cos Thierry became a huge star himself! Like whatever you may say, he has drive, made observations, very likable character.  Shepard loved his passion for the filming, and called him an accomplice. He became enamored with street art and that led to him become an artist as well. In a way this movie is a tribute to apprenticeships. There is tremendous value in this act, as you work with people smarter than you. See how they work, learn from it and apply it to your situation. It motivated him to work at that level. That and having  major guts.  Right?  So many questions, hence this review. And  definitely one to watch on a first date perhaps – you will talk all night afterwards!

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create your own t-shirt shop

I’ve been talking about t-shirts quite a bit, so I’ve decided to make some of my own!

I did some research and came across a few sites that allow you to do this for free – spreadshirt.com and cafepress.ca.  You can design your own shirts and they will take care of the shipping, invoicing etc.  All you have to do is come with a design and a description.  They give you a bit of commission when something gets sold. What a beautiful concept.

Now I just did this just to scratch my own itch. I’ve always wanted to try online, and so this allowed me to get the psychological barrier out of the mind.  Objective wasn’t to make profit in this case, but just do it. Learn the process behind it. I can improve it and make better designs later.

You can check out my shirt site by clicking here.  It’s called Lost In Time Shirts. It’s based on some of my favourite books & bands.

t-shirt site

t shirt site

what others are saying

How do we build trust?  Well I ll start off with a well known principle in life: We deem more trust in products value when other people mention how amazing it is, thus the use of testimonials. Saying that I find one-two line testimonials to be kinda useless. Actually when others say “don’t read this” – this makes me more intrigued to read the book. Why did it cause such a strong reaction? Maybe that’s just me.

These SAP ads, a boring company to talk about, make them sound like an amazing company by showing off their clients.

learn from ogilvy

I don’t care what job your in – you need sales skills.

Selling gets the bad label sometimes of manipulation, but it’s about articulation. A doctor is in sales as well. He has to get the patients to believe a certain pill will calm there fears about a certain illness. Sometimes a good doctors best advice would be not give the patient anything.  Talking as if it was your family member.  Why it’s worth paying for.

I recently came across this little video devoted to David Ogilvy. He gives ideas on everything. I’ve read Ogilvy on Advertising and going to pick up Confessions of Ad Man soon.

He’s a funny, down to earth kinda of guy . His writing is quite compelling and he talks in the same manner.  Here’s some principles by a great man.

dealing with loss aversion

In the previous post I mentioned why you should be choosier.

Choose design that can be used over and over again. Well not everything can last a long time like t-shirts (okay yes I buy vintage t-shirts too).

But what I’m discussing is people  suffer from loss aversion, which refers to people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains.

Whats simple way to get over this hoarding mentality? Give away some t-shirts every six months.  Helps you get over the feeling your losing something, which we all hate.  That it’s not the end of the world!  You can always buy new t-shirts to  look the mutts nuts.

a thousand years

Been reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac recently.

“When I get all these nails out of this I’m going to build me a shelf they’ll last a thousand years!” said Bull, every bone shuddering with boyish excitement. ” Why, Sal, do you realize the shelves they build these days crack under the weight of knick knacks after six months or generally collapse? Same with houses, same with clothes. These bastards have invented plastics by which would make houses last forever. And tires. Americans are killing themselves by the millions every year with defective rubber tires that get hot on the road and blow up. They could make tires that never blow up.

Same with tooth powder. There’s a certain gum they’ve invented and they wont’ show it anybody that if you chew it as a kid you ll never get a cavity for the rest of your born days. Same with clothes. They can make clothes that last forever. They prefer making cheap goods so’s everybody ‘ll have to go on working and punching time clocks and organizing themselves in sullen unions and floundering around while the big grab goes on in Washington and Moscow.” He raised his big piece of rotten wood. “Don’t you think this’ ll make a splendid shelf? “

I sometimes feel the same way about most electronic goods. Put some glitches on the first edition, so get the 2nd or 3rd edition when all the errors are mostly gone? Okay fair enough there is some legitimate kinks that are sometimes only noticeable after many user tests.

But what if something was actually built to last long?  So we don’t have to keep replacing it? I’m not sure if there is a big conspiracy to make crap stuff. The question to ask yourself, in the fast-food culture of North America, when was the last time you considered the time and cost it took to make something? How long something would endure?

making mistakes

There is something about listening to live concerts. It’s raw, anything can go wrong  – and that’s the allure of it, that something unexpected could happen. Can they turn out a godlike performance? Are they as good as they say in interviews? As they sound on album? If there a proper band they will sound loads better.

I remember back in July 2000, staying up listening to the webcast feed of Oasis Wembley gig in London.   Now this was a rough year for Oasis. Liam broke up with his 1st wife.  Noel left the band briefly, etc.  They played 2 nights, and 1st night was rock solid, Liam in top singing form. But Liam didn’t realize they had a second show to play the next night. This results in a very punk rock performance, much to the dismay of Noel.  Noel jokes to the crowd this is what happens when your brother gets smashed the night before with a Spice Girl.

What does this have to do with business? Making mistakes, fixing it and apologizing done properly can be awesome. It gives you a chance to make amends, and take responsibility even if it’s not entirely your fault.

I mean it has to be sincere. And you know what will happen? They will tell 10 more people saying how this company went out of its way to make sure the issue was resolved. Not to say don’t do a good job every time.  When a band plays a shit gig or the singer doesn’t turn up, sometimes if there smart, they’ll maybe give all the money back to the fans, apologize and try to make another trip to perform at that city. Fans love that, remember it and tell everyone about it.

The other thing is, its sometimes fun to see the band screw up.  Cos its more interesting as fans to see how they recover from this and start up again.