Posts tagged “cliche”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Overused Food Words (from 2007) – Now we know what's wrong with "crispy" – it should just be "crisp." But here's a more thought-out list of overused terminology.
  • The Seattle Times (from 2006): Say what? A guide to menu-speak – We've blogged this before, but it's fun to revisit. This explains the meaning of some of the obscure food items that are becoming more common on menus.
  • (From 2001) Menu Cliches – "piping hot"
    "garden fresh"
  • Village Voice's List of Overused Food Words – List includes Dollop, Slathered, Homey, Wilted, Toothsome, Nosh, Drizzled, Garlicky, Crispy, Eatery, Well-Browned but doesn't seem that they've really parsed the difference between effective description and overwrought cliche. How is "crispy" an overused word? Some commenters add some good words but others support my confusion over the premise.
    (via Eater SF)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Large collection of (actual?) screenplay pitches (technically query letters). – Just one:
    Title: Remnants of Hammers
    Logline: Constant bickering drives this comedy-drama as the plots of immature Bill, rabble-rousing Eldon, and ex-Marine George converge upon poor Dr. FitzUrse.
  • The Che brand – In "Che’s Afterlife.” Casey has written a book that is not only a cultural history of an image, but a sociopolitical study of the mechanisms of fame. It is about how ideas travel and mutate in this age of globalization, how concepts of political ideology have increasingly come to be trumped by notions of commerce and cool and chic, and how the historical Che gave way to other Ches: St. Che, said to possess the ability to perform miracles; Chesucristo, a Christ-like figure revered for his ideals, not his advocacy of violence; an entrepreneurial Che, promoting the lesson “that individuals should honestly strive to produce their utmost for the good of all”; and the Rock ’n’ Roll Che, more representative of youthful anti-authoritarianism than of any political dogma. Che has become a generic symbol of the underdog, the idealist, the iconoclast, the man willing to die for a cause. He has become “the quintessential postmodern icon” signifying “anything to anyone and everything to everyone.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Photo Clichés (You're Not As Original As You Think) – Pictures of people being uniquely hilarious, just like all the other people who took the same photo – (via kottke) At first I thought yeah, people are really lame, acting all goofy and clever but being just like everyone else, but then I realized that this is all about culture, and design. Cultural stories – memes – travel fast, far, and wide, and so imitating a famous pose become a rapid shorthand for belongingness. And designed objects and environments have affordances, built-in invitations to be used a certain way, to be grabbed, held aloft, or whatever. Everyone puts their head in the shark's mouth because it's designed to invite you to do so. When people use a product over and over the way it was intended, we may consider that a design success. So while these are funny pictures to look at it the aggregate, it doesn't mean that we (or the people in the pictures) are all that lame. We're collecting and transmitting culture and we're responding to artifacts that are designed to be used any number of ways.

The Google cliche

It used to be that you could take notice at the outset of a poor essay or speech when it began with the dictionary definition for the central topic. The Simpsons referenced this at least once

Homer: “What is a wedding? Websters defines it as a process of removing weeds from ones garden.”

But now lazy bloggers and NPR journalists are pretending to channel the zeitgeist by using the number of Google hits for their term as a proxy for cultural relevance. When the numbers are over 1,000,000, how meaningful is this? It’s simply a cheap cliche.

Full disclosure: I’ve probably done both of these and will probably do them both again. In the interest of always trying to tell better stories, I will attempt not to, however.

namespace iNcursion

logo.jpg
Not quite sure it’s really a new story, but still amusing/disappointing to read about the lower case leading i and its incursion into branding and naming

Just about anywhere consumers look, they will find products, brands and other commercial offerings that begin with a lowercase “i,” inspired by popular technology names like iMac, iPhone, iPod and iVillage. [Which of these things is not like the other? Although the article later points out that iVillage came before iPod — SP]

A contest sponsored by the Friendly’s restaurant chain, for instance, is called iScream. A television show that made its debut Tuesday night on ABC is titled “i-Caught.”

Other examples include iWireless, a line of prepaid cellphones available at Kroger supermarkets; iCare, a brand of liquid hand sanitizers; iBoxer, underwear with pockets for MP3 players, sold by the Play division of Intimo; and i-Report, video clips contributed by viewers of CNN and visitors to the cnn.com Web site.

“It’s a nice strategy for borrowing some equity” from the better-known i-brands, said Michael Cucka, a partner at Group 1066, a consulting company in New York specializing in corporate identity and branding.

“It seems to work because you’re associating yourself with the idea of trying to be cool,” he added.

“But when you start to do what everyone is doing, you start to lose the power of borrowing that equity,” Mr. Cucka said. “And perhaps the more people who do it, the less cool it becomes.” [Umm, yeah, can you say “i-played-out?” — SP]

The piece also acknowledges the earlier trends for e-names and even u-names.

Brotherhood

Brotherhood is the latest Showtime series. I watched the first episode and I quite liked it. You could describe it (in a fashion reminiscent of Altman’s The Player) as West Wing meets The Sopranos meets The Wire (second season). But that doesn’t mean it was derivative, it just had familiar elements of storytelling, character, less than style.

But 3 minutes before the episode wrapped up, they went to the indie-emo-gritty-yearning-soft-hard-rock-song thing. Ya know, where a white guy-sing shouts slowly over plucky distorted guitar, while there are a bunch of slow shots. A character looks wistfully out at his city. Another turns over in his bed and stares at the wall. Meanwhile, the mother feeds her bouncing children in the kitchen, unaware of ill portent, as life carries on normally for other characters. I don’t know if those were the shots they actually used in Brotherhood, but they are so generic that it doesn’t matter.

I just read something about Michael Mann and his legacy in revolutioning the way we see TV drama, and they cited that very phenomenon. And normally, I don’t mind it. It evokes some great emotions on Rescue Me, on the Shield, the Sopranos. I remember Homicide: Life On The Streets using music (specifically Tom Waits’ Cold Cold Ground) very well. There was just something default about Brotherhood doing it. Oh, it’s a show, it’s dramatic, we better toss ’em the song at the 52 minute mark. Felt perfunctory and actually pulled me out of the show.

We build this language of signs and symbols that we use in drama (and in every form of storytelling, like advertising, and products, and web sites, and interfaces) and they are effective short hand. But we have to be careful to really mean them when we use, else they come off as insincere and cliched.

I’m excited to keep watching Brotherhood, but they’ve got me a bit on the defensive, ready for them to screw up. We shall see.

Sam Lucente: The Ethnographer

Sam Lucente: The Ethnographer is an article in the BusinessWeek IN magazine, a new thing they’ve launched – with a bit of hype and controversy – to focus specifically on innovation. They’ve got the usual set of folks no doubt, Claudia Kotchka, IDEO, Marissa Mayer (and if this sounds bitter, it’s not since I seem to be – on a much more mortal scale – included in the broader population of regular BW folks).

The story about Lucente is pretty good. I have liked and admired Sam since I had the opportunity to work for him on a project my old firm did for IBM many years ago. He’s done amazing things and is having an impact.

But he’s not, by any stretch of the imagination, an ethnographer. I would be enormously surprised if he claimed that identity for himself, and I would suggest he sees himself still and forever as a designer (just my impression of the guy).

I’m not going to get fussy and try to define what the heck an ethnographer is or isn’t, but I’d say that it’s like innovation, art, or p0rnography – we know it when we see it.

I’m not being territorial here. I’m not at all comfortable when people label me as an ethnographer, either. I think that BW’s ongoing enthusiasm for design and now ethnography and of course innovation is making them a bit careless with their terms, and that’s frankly going to simply devalue and commoditize the special things they are talking about. I don’t know how we in the community can help BusinessWeek – I want us to encourage them to keep writing about these great examples of people doing good work, but to keep their enthusiasm in check long enough to look more deeply (what do these words mean), broadly (who are some more usual suspects), and judiciously (maybe some of what we’re hearing has been hopelessly idealized for PR purposes).

Laugh of the day

Here’s my laugh of the day, from Maslow and Branding

Remember back in your Psych 101 class when you learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Bet you never expected to see it again in the business world

WHAT? Maslow is an overwhelmingly cliched and over-used structure in the business world. I wish I had a nickel for every variation and reapplication of Maslow that I’ve seen. I don’t take issue with Jennifer’s points specific to branding (frankly it was hard to really get to them, with that intro), but to claim some sort of clever uniqueness for bringing this into branding (or anything) is really silly.

Cliche aside, I did present a basic version of the hierarchy to my Design Research students this week, showing them that they can (and should) design for all sorts of needs, and as they do research, they’ll see interesting ways that the needs are related. One group is looking at nutrition, and obviously food is an amazing category for physical, emotional, and other types of needs all occurring at once. I’ll note that I went through a whole thing about how it is indeed cliched and once I had shown it to them they were guaranteed to see it a dozen other times in short order, and that it was absolutely over-used in business.

Funny, then, to see it presented this way so soon after.

Six Feet Under or Over The Shark


What’s wrong with Six Feet Under? In May 2001, Tad Friend had a long article in The New Yorker (not that I can find online anywhere) about the impending premiere of this show. Alan Ball talked about all the typical TV-writing tropes and how they would stay away from them. I’m pretty sure he mentioned the example of an elderly black or Asian man projecting wisdom, and I’m sure there were others. The point of the writing, he stressed, was to move away from that, into something that was not television. That is the HBO slogan, isn’t it?

Now we watch this week’s episode. A separated wife hires a nanny, and emphasizes that she plans for her to carry in the bottles of water. The nanny arrives and instructed by the wife that the bottles are indeed too heavy for her, so if the nanny could please bring them in when they arrive. Naturally, the nanny doesn’t work out, but the estranged husband appears on the doorstep to drop off the kids, and he’s dutifully carrying the bottled water.

We’ve known these supporting characters for several seasons, through the ups and downs of their relationship (mental illness, meddling siblings, financial struggles, infidelity, lying, etc.) and this particular need – the bottled water – has never been mentioned. It was introduced in the episode purely so it could be wrapped up by the end of the episode. Indeed, the need that the bottled water symbolized was pretty much out of left field as well. Now this kind of lame trickery is exactly what Hollywood is good at. Tell you how to feel, set it up, deliver it. Bang, boom, payoff, done.

Hey, elsewhere in the episode a group of grieving/celebrating women chanted anti-men slogans, but then began to sing. One woman began to sing first, in a quavery and not-very-musical voice. But then others picked up the song, and it gathered strength, musically, as more women joined in, their voices joining together in a lovely and uplifting moment. The voices got better, the initially-quavery singer begins a call-and-response, the camera circles around their candle-lit and Womanly Faces as the song grows.

I think there’s nothing more Hollywood-in-the-past-10-years than that scene.

It seems that they created some founding principles, or a mission/values statement, but they chose not to stick to them. They might have done well to have read Built to Last, a now-classic management book that explains how other business efforts stayed successful, and if I recall, that values statement was part of the common thread.

Series

About Steve