Friday, October 24, 2014

The arrogance of faint gray type

I don’t know where fads come from — the torn jeans of the 90s, the use of “awesome” to describe everything from Paris to really okay fried eggs, and the claim of having “the very latest news.” Not merely the latest, mind you. 

Who starts these fads? A cottage factory of annoyances? The same people who plan endless good-bye tours for retiring baseball players?

Most fads are harmless. You have to be a cranky you-kids-get-off-my-lawn! type to waste your breath complaining about them.

But one fad needs to be called out and ended right now.  The ubiquitous, irrepressible, weed-like scourge of printing words in faint gray type.

Someone — some designer who wants to show writers that their foolish little thoughts are insignificant — decided that typed words do not look good in dark ink — and instead must be rendered in faint — and ever fainter — gray.

This original-sin designer — he or she behind the movement to dial back the readability of words — comes from the same school that gave us Richard Serra’s “Tilted Arc” — that huge piece of rusted metal blocking the lunch-hour view of federal workers until they screamed for its removal. It’s the same mentality of the world’s celebrity fashion designers who tell us that clothes look best on women who are starved to the bone.

Tilted Arc. Starved models. Faint gray type. These express individual arrogance in a war against human nature.

You can add the fabled charlatan who clothed an emperor in absolutely nothing and called the outfit “new clothes.” That guy would smile knowingly if he could see people squinting to read a PowerPoint screen or menu or letter or brochure rendered faddishly in faint gray type.

brandsinger — or to be mindlessly in vogue: brandsinger

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola: Infection of the truth

As nations face the threat of a deadly virus, what is the duty of political leaders and health officials? Your answer is probably along this line: "Leaders and health officials should explain the risks, take action to protect citizens, and keep people calm and focused on prevention."

Now, let me ask you another question, "What is the duty of the news media in the face of a deadly virus?" Same answer? Does the press have the same duty as leaders and health officials?

You might have a ready answer... but it might be different from the writers at The New York Times.
Check out the answer from the October 3rd "Ask Well" column:

It is "unlikely they are riding the bus"? They are "not going to work"?

Obviously the writer of this column thinks readers are dummies who are easily distracted. Here's my interpretation of the answer: "Oh you silly reader! You can't see germs, can you? Stop worrying about Ebola and go back to being shocked that Americans own guns."

More importantly, the writer of this column thinks that calming readers by distracting them with irrelevancies is the duty of the press. Here at Brandsinger we kinda hold the press to a higher standard than what is expected of politicians and health officials. Namely, a duty to tell the truth.

The Times — doubtless laughed at by some readers — has added this qualification.

"Nuance was lost..."? — probably the color of the bus.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Whole Sentence Brands

Most of the time, brand names are single words... Audi. Dial. Budweiser. Harvard.

But sometimes, a single word can't capture the full promise of a brand. You need a whole sentence.
I like whole-sentence brands. They defy convention.

Here's one… Food Should Taste Good… Who can argue with that? As the founder says, the name "kind of wrote itself."

I saw this one on a truck in Massachusetts. Just Call The Guy.

And here's a famous whole-sentence brand: I can't believe it's not Butter!

…made even more fun by various riffs on the name.

Just Call Me Brandsinger

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Et in Arcadia ego

Even on vacation we see the demons of everyday work rising before us. Here we repose in a picturesque village on the rocky coast of Massachusetts. Seagulls cry overhead as heavy summer maple leaves rustle in the breeze.

But wait! The call of our working lives. What does the local paper say? That the little town’s Rockport Bank has just been acquired… (gasp)… bought out by outsiders based up the coast at the… (swallow hard)… Institution for Savings.  

"Institution for Savings" — a name that connotes harshness and deprivation. A name that frowns on the little Oliver holding up his bowl for more gruel. It's Institution for Savings — or else!  

I gaze across the bay. Even in this dainty New England fishing town, with seagulls calling us to daydream, there crashes the wave of bank consolidation. As Nicholas Poussin might have put it: “Et in Arcadia ego” – popularly translated as, “Even in Arcadia, there I am.”… the “I” being death.

The lesson: Even on vacation there is no escaping the firm hand of business… of bank consolidation… of cold, corporate names… of reality itself. “Et in Arcadia banco consolidatio.”

Et in Arcadia banco consolidatio sub nomen gelu Institution for Savings.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Your name is what it is

Growing up in South Texas with the name Claude — when most boys were named Roy, Billy, Johnny or Mike — I suffered a few, um, insulting variations on my name. Most often a tormentor would call me Dirt Clod or Claudette — but even the normal, friendly Texas pronunciation "Clod" was a variation I learned to accept.

Enter a new generation of basketball players! and we have guys proud of the most amazing names human ingenuity can devise. The most astounding name comes with the New York Knicks' powerful new talent: Cleanthony Early.

From the Wichita Eagle comes this explanation:
Q: What's the story with the name Cleanthony?
A: You would have to ask my mom that. I’ve never gotten to it. It is what it is. It’s unique. Until yesterday, I thought I was the only guy with the name Cleanthony. Some guy hit me up on Instagram. I put up a picture of me dunking, and he was like “Do it for the Cleanthonys.” People call me Cle. They call me Anthony. They call me everything.
No self-consciousness here! The man lets his talent speak for itself.
Cleanthony in action 

Read more here:
Most articles on this subject are titled "What's in a name?"
I'm calling this one: When you're a 6-foot-eight millionaire, your name is what it is.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How totalitarians suppress free expression

It is plainly pernicious the way totalitarian governments crush their citizens' legal rights. Dictators toss opponents in prison to squelch the rights we take for granted—like free speech. 

As example, Brandsinger was able to obtain a copy of a political campaign law passed and enforced in North Korea. You can see from the following excerpt that, to suppress its hapless people, North Korean officials have taken a blank check. The law reads:
“No person, during the course of any campaign for nomination or election to public office or office of a political party, by means of campaign materials, including sample ballots, an advertisement on radio or television or in a newspaper or periodical, a public speech, press release, or otherwise, shall knowingly and with intent to affect the outcome of such campaign do any of the following:

“(9) Make a false statement concerning the voting record of a candidate or public official;

“(10) Post, publish, circulate, distribute, or otherwise disseminate a false statement concerning a candidate, either knowing the same to be false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not, if the statement is designed to promote the election, nomination, or defeat of the candidate.”

Talk about carte blanche! This law gives North Korean authorities and their incumbent stooges a legal weapon to brand anything their opponents say as "false." The process prescribed in the law calls for an appointed commission to hold hearings on the charges, set a period of discovery during which leaflets, ads, and correspondences are gathered and reviewed—and make a judgment that can lead to six months in prison for the confirmed disseminators of “false” statements.

The message is clear: Don’t dare say anything that might be called a lie in a North Korean political campaign.

Wow. That's what makes our nation so different. Here politicians and their opponents fudge the truth—or lie—or don't—and are immune to prosecution. In our system under the First Amendment, the veracity of political claims is deemed a judgment call best left to the voters.   

Because in our democracy… wait a minute. Um. Excuse me, I think… I made a slight… uh. What does it say? Oh. The excerpt above is not North Korean. Sorry. It's on the books in Ohio.

Um... well... Fortunately we have a Supreme Court in the US that can see (the obvious truth) that the Ohio law needs to be reconsidered. In a unanimous decision this week, our Court reversed a lower court’s ruling that the law was not ripe, relevant or offensive. Justice Thomas’s excellent opinion is here and worth reading:
Justice Thomas and team chip away at campaign laws that squelch free speech.
Given how obnoxious is the Ohio law (banning supposed falsehoods with prison as a penalty? – what totalitarian state does Ohio want to be?), Brandsinger’s reaction to the Supreme Court's unanimous decision is, “Well duh.”


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sports Lessons

I grew up in Texas where sports is so important that, well, let’s put it this way: There was also time for family and religion, but only as secondary matters. The typical Texas coach was heavy-set, angry, and quick to lecture you on winning, teamwork and being tough. If you were rolling in the dirt gasping for breath, his only advice was, “Git on up.” 

Playing hard in the Texas sun was supposed to teach me lessons about life—but as many times as I heard about “lessons,” I don’t think I actually knew what they were. Winning, yes, I guess that’s better than losing. Teamwork sounds good, and being tough is every boy’s ideal of himself until he catches his first elbow to the lips.

As I grew older and now experience more sports in the media than on the field, I’m beginning to see important lessons clearly. Today I won’t bore you with more than one: Graciousness. That’s right, while pounding into you that the other guy wants to eat your lunch and spit it in your face – sports can teach you the power of being gracious. 

This past week gave us an example when the Seattle Seahawks — the champion pro-football team — signed a contract with a young player AFTER they discovered he had a career-ending heart condition. That’s right, they found out about his ailment, signed the contract, and became obligated to give him hundreds of thousands of dollars knowing he might never play again. 

That’s being gracious.

But being gracious shows up in little ways all the time in sports. Like when a catcher gets hit by a wicked tipped ball and throws off his mask in pain, the umpire stops play, strolls out of position, bends over, and slowly dusts off home plate. Just giving the poor catcher time to recover. Just being gracious.

This spring I saw a catcher take a bullet pitch to his bare hand (or maybe his face or crotch). The guy buckled in pain, and the umpire — seemingly without noticing —walked slowly out to the mound to deliver the baseball in person to the pitcher. Just giving the catcher a few extra moments to catch his breath.

A bit of graciousness is imbedded in sports. It can teach us to look for opportunities to extend a hand to a struggling person — even a competitor — and give the guy a better chance to git on up.