That would be a good (final) post

h5E21BA0FThere are three kinds of idea people. Those with few ideas. Those with many ideas. And then, the rarest of the breeds, those who both have ideas and the initiative to put those ideas into practice. In fact, somebody once said, “Ideas are cheap. Implementation is everything.”

This brings me to the title of this post. In the past six months, my collaborator and I have mentioned dozens of ideas in discussions that would make good blog posts. But therein lay the existential crises in waiting. Is writing about something really implementing your idea – or is it simply quieting the voices in the mind? And if the answer is the latter, what if it turns out that those voices turn out to be pretty boring and unhelpful?

I’ve been a professional writer for nearly 25 years now. People have paid me to communicate their ideas verbally, either in print or spoken, presumably because they were happy with my work. But the dirty little truth I have to come to terms with as a (commercial) writer, is that these are not my ideas. As an advertising copywriter and creative director, I was paid to develop how someone else’s idea was communicated. My realm was the how, not the what.

This small blog is different. Between my collaborator and I, no one pays us to create a message. When we have an idea, we share it, sans any filters put in place by benefactors or bosses. But, like most of the millions of blog posts that fill the magic cloud, we are the very people who probably get the most out of our writing. And – forgive me Ayn Rand – but it feels a little too selfish to me.

Maybe it’s my commercial writing background; maybe it’s my own romantic notion that the purpose of writing is to give the reader something they didn’t have prior to reading the work; but whatever the reason, I felt it fair to give some explanation for the gap in articles to the readers of this blog.

Yes. Posing a provocative thought is providing something. But…I don’t think it’s enough. At least, not for me. My goal is to venture into new territory, fight the dragons, and then return to tell a tale.

So I’m off to find some new dragons. Then, perhaps, the voices from the little monkeys in my head will have something of more universal value to share.




Fleshing out a metaphor

Archetypes in Branding

Are 60 archetypes better than 12?

If you’re into archetypes and/or branding, Archetypes in Branding is a new piece of eye candy you might find interesting. The physical book is an impressive thing. Over-sized. Uniquely bound. And filled page to page with colorful visuals. When I saw one of these sticking out from a shelf in the art section of Barnes and Nobles, my heart leaped.

But soon my enthusiasm waned. After flipping through the pages, I felt that the authors, Hartwell and Chen, had taken an idea that was beautiful in its simplicity and made it intimidating.

In the branding sense, this book is really an extension of the work by two other authors, Carol S. Pearson and Margaret Mark. In their earlier work, The Hero and the Outlaw, Pearson and Mark are able to distill the storytelling narratives of dozens of “cult” brands into a straightforward framework of 12 archetypes, each positioned on a perceptual map to help you understand one brand’s story in relationship to others. In the new work, Archetypes in Branding, the authors had taken a relatively simple metaphor and exploded into more nuances that I felt were necessary. (Especially since Pearson and Mark already establish that each of the 12 archetypes would allow for countless sub-motifs and character names.)

harley davidson

Harley’s story is that of the outlaw.

Of course, we should probably give Hartwell and Chen a break. They acknowledge Mark and Pearson in the same way they acknowledge Jung and Joseph Campbell. Perhaps their work is meant to be an esoteric riff on archetypal branding, ideal for those already familiar with archetypal ideas, much like jazz is a medium best understood by musicians.

One wonders, however, if adding complexity to accessible foundational ideas benefits the author or the reader more?

We can apply this question to a variety of ideas that begin with simple insights, but then become intricately complex. Take, for example, the most popular religion in the US, Christianity. At its roots, Christianity seems to be a simple metaphor: a personification of basic truths (or at least, tendencies) about human nature:

  • Humans often harbor feelings of being incomplete or flawed in some way (humans are born with “original sin”);
  • But when a person stops obsessing solely on their own needs and begins to consider the needs of others, this has a tendency to relieve some of the psychological burden of feeling flawed (Christ died for humankind and took away that sin);
  • As we continue to focus on both our needs and the needs of others, and adjust our behavior accordingly, we begin to change the world and people around us (the path to “heaven” comes from embracing God through the teachings of his son).

I’m no theologian. I know these Biblical examples are crude. But the narrative elements are accessible. We get it. And yet, if you were to open any holy book, I suspect that you’d find a bit more content than the three bullet points above.

Which begs the question, why?

Many of my religious friends bristle at the notion that their faith’s narrative is a series of metaphors gone rogue. They insist that their beliefs are based upon historical events. Some go so far to say that their books are infallible — every word on every page is a literal description of the physical world (and supernatural world, too).

But every defense attorney will tell you that the more complex the prosecution’s case, the more opportunities there are to poke holes in it. I believe that my generation is turning to atheism more, not because the religions of our parents have nothing to teach us, but — in this message-soaked world — we are craving simplicity. Some religious belief systems are so complex and detailed, that they no longer serve to instruct. Young readers realize a flaw here and there, and the Rube-Goldbergian device falls apart. But while the pieces noisily fall, and the clouds of comical dust fly into the air, the simple foundations of truth that lay beneath become invisible.

Whether it’s tomes about archetypal branding or religious works intended to provide clarity, we humans sometimes (unintentionally) hide the truth as we flesh out the metaphors. That’s a shame.  Because beneath the now-broken stained-glass panels of complexity, the truth is still there. It’s just that no one can see it.

We create each other


In the South African philosophy of Ubuntu it’s said that the behavior of others is most profoundly influenced by how you treat them.

But what of the behavior of groups of people or nations? Might this same principle hold true, as well?

Here is a thought experiment: What would happen if the world’s response to the Syria crisis was of shock-and-awe kindness? Planes dropped caviar on one side and champagne on the other. Artillery thundered potpourri into the air. The greatest entertainers performed from aircraft carriers, while airwaves were seized to broadcast their booming their songs of peace.

Fanciful? Of course. But if you haven’t damaged your eye muscles in rolling disapproval, try to imagine a scenario that hyperbolic positivity was doled out. We can speculate on the effect, but we cannot know it with certainty because we’ve never done it before.

If we would risk a military response, what’s the harm in trying something even crazier?

Requiem for the Fifth Amendment–Magna Carta to the Rescue (?)

England to the rescueShow of hands…how many of you know that the President of the United States has the legal authority to detain you without a trial? What about the Fifth Amendment you say? Well, you better take the time to read up. No, not an Amendment to the Constitution. No, not a highly publicized, debated and vetted new law. No…the Defense Authorization Act of 2012, Title 10, subtitle D, subsection 1021 and 1022. Death of your 1,000 year old rights by bespectacled bureaucrat and college intern. And nary a peep.

Of course, upon signing the law which was passed by a Republican House and a Democrat Senate, President Obama promised (in a suspiciously Gertrudian betrayal of his protesting too much) not to invoke this provision, but apparently his lawyers didn’t get the memo. They are arguing in federal court that the President indeed has this authority and can wield it at will. Setting aside why one would find it necessary to defend an authority one has no intention of using, and setting aside the pathetic fact that it took a citizen of the UK to defend the US Constitution, the Administration refused to certify that they have never and would never use it. In attempting to persuade Judge Forrest to stay her injunction, the Administration refused to concede that unlimited detention without trial is not within Presidential authority, and even went on to suggest that it was within its legal authority to ignore the court. Please read that again–ignore the court.

In more learned times, what would have been a Constitutional crisis doesn’t even make the pages of any media outlet.

American news

Has Chris Rock been brainwashed?


New daddies for everyone?

It seems that comedian Chris Rock found a new daddy. In fact, he found one for about 300 million people.

“The President and the First Lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country,” Rock said at a press conference. “And when your dad says something, you listen. And when you don’t, it usually bites you in the ass later on. So I’m here to support the president.”

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before people presented their counter-points to that argument.

Now, as silly as this might seem, Rock’s devotional raises an interesting question: “If I am actually brainwashed, how would I know it?”

Here are a few signs that you (and Chris Rock) might want to consider:

1) Are you able to imagine anything negative about the person or idea you support? No one loves us as much as our (real) parents. But we fight with our parents all of the time. We have no trouble finding faults with the people we marry either. If we are able to love our parents and spouses, and still find faults with them, what does it suggest if you can’t find any faults with Dear Leader, Dear Reverend, or Dear ______________?

2) Are you able to spend any time around people with different points of view? If you can’t, it could mean that you so passionately feel something, that you become terrified when faced with those who threaten to take your “warm blanket” away – even if that blanket isn’t real.

3) Do you reduce people you disagree with down to caricatures? (Those damn ____________. They’re all the same.) What if someone said that of you? Would you lump yourself into one of those groups, or are you the rare exception who is more complex than that? And if you can’t be lumped into a group, why are you lumping others?

Those are a few ways to test yourself. Are there others? I wonder.

Darth O