The Rise of Armchair Marketing

When the ad is the main event

New York City, September 1, 2015

★★ A hurtful glare filled the sky from the east. People in the bank, in the part of the bank that still used people, were talking about the air quality. An old butter-colored Impala gleamed in a lane of sun beside the shadows on 20th Street. Tiny flashbulbs went off in the sidewalk concrete. Past midday, clouds covered and uncovered the zenith. The thick warmth soaked into chilled joints. The later-day sky was clear again, admitting new heat. Cops and banjos flanked the subway entrance. The entrance hallway in the big public school was sweltering, but air conditioners made a racket in the old, hard-surfaced auditorium, under the dim blue of the lights. The three-year-old decided the tag in the t-shirt he’d been wearing all day was suddenly too much to bear, and insisted on making the walk home bare-chested.

The Hottest Bar in Philly Is on Top of a Shuttered Public School

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In 2013, the Philadelphia school district shut Bok Technical High School, along with twenty-two other schools—nearly ten percent of the city’s public schools—to wipe out a budget deficit of nearly a billion-and-a-half dollars. Last month, Lindsey Scannapieco, the daughter of local high-rise developer Tom Scannapieco, closed a deal to purchase the building for 1.8 million dollars. The younger Scannapieco is the managing partner of Scout, which describes itself as a three-person “collective of young enthusiastic urban designers,” and is re-developing the Bok site. Its first use of the three-hundred-and-forty-thousand-square-foot building is Le Bok Fin, a “members only” pop-up gastropub on the school’s roof, which is running until September 13th.

On a recent Saturday evening, the line of people, which numbered in the dozens, snaked through the school’s ground-floor hallway back to the school’s entrance and past a door underneath the letters “BOYS GYMNASIUM,” not yet removed from the wall. Collages of old Bok yearbook photos had been erected in the hallway next to the elevator that carried diners and drinkers to the roof. (The word around town, on Yelp and Reddit and the food blogs, is that the view from the top of the Bok lives up to its claim as “Philly’s greatest new rooftop.”) One of the collages featured a black-and-white clipping of the school’s food service program: “‘Le Bok Fin’ instruction is given in the preparation of menus, buying good, calculating the…” The rest of the words were cut off. “Le Bok Fin” was the name of the school’s culinary arts program, itself a play on Le Bec Fin, a high-end restaurant that closed in 2013, the same year as Bok.

“We’ve been here since 1938,” a man in a black shirt standing next to the elevator told me while I looked at the collage.

“Were you a teacher here?” I asked, knowing one former Bok teacher that had struggled to find work after the closure.

Today's Internet Is Tomorrow's Aesthetic

Ever see a crazy-long, indecipherable reblog chain on your dashboard? Not ideal, right?

Starting tomorrow, reblogs will have a new look—one that showcases all comments as equals, not buried under an impossible stack of blockquote indents. Our change to reblog captions last month laid the necessary groundwork for us to arrive here, at a place where the dashboard will be a lot easier to read and cleaner-looking.

Remember reblogs? Those big long chains of names, and sometimes words? Remember looking at Tumblr for hours and days and months before ever quite figuring out which way the word-stairs led? Remember trying to figure out where to submit YOUR little words, and in what format, and, wait, what are people going to see when I post this, exactly? And who’s going to see it?

New York City, August 31, 2015

weather review sky 083115★★★ There was no compelling reason to look up at the dead and seemingly colorless morning sky, but there in it were pretty scalloped patterns of brightness and then some subtle blues. The haze or clouds thinned to pass a mellow tropical light. The air was not easy to breathe. Gradually the sun filtered more, to a clear sherry color. An immense running figure, in cirrus brushstrokes, stood in midstride over the west. The three-year-old’s newer and brighter light-up shoes went strobing down the deepening shadows under a scaffold, meeting the flash of a woman’s burnished gold sandals coming the other way. It was sweaty still in the gathering dusk. A man carried a stack of glowing artificial votive candles around the edge of the pierside cafe, setting them out one by one on the outdoor tables. The George Washington Bridge twinkled. Dark wavelets flickered on the pink field of the river. A slow fishy breeze cooled the pier a little. A young woman in flip-flops showed off for her friends by climbing to the top of the concrete barrier and stepping over the metal rail to pose over the now-dark water.

Stripped

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The car I’m borrowing during my visit home comes complete with tape deck and telescoping radio antennae that I broke by listening to NPR while going through the car wash. I listen to NPR constantly—not so much because of intellectual curiosity these days, but for the soothing distraction of other voices. I avoid my music because almost all of it is sad—Sharon Van Etten, Perfume Genius, Cat Power, PJ Harvey sad. Only the what-I-refer-to-as “bad bitch anthems” have the ability to momentarily snap me out of my forlornness, and I’ve overplayed Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” so that it no longer serves its purpose.

Driving past the STI clinic where I was tested before having bareback sex with my first love makes my sinuses throb. I am pre-cry, which is similar to pre-vomit in its emotional and physical discomfort, and in the semi-relief that comes post-purge: relieved it’s over; anxious it might happen again. He was my first real relationship: first love, first person I would do almost anything for, first one over a month long. I was his first love too, though I’m not sure what that means to him.

It should be noted that I initiated the breakup. I was being forced out of my ridiculously cheap home, and it didn’t make sense to stay in Sonoma County, engaged in the adjunct teaching struggle where I had no intentions of laying down roots. When I informed Shayne of my decision to relocate, his reaction was downright rosy: “I think it’s a good idea for you”; “I always thought you belonged in L.A. (backhanded compliment?)”; “I support you in whatever you do”; “I love you.” His cliche, preconceived notion of L.A. prevented him from even considering coming along.

The next morning at breakfast, he remained unaffected, as always. I marveled at his beauty and attempted to revel in what was left of our coupledom that I had often been flip about. Being valued romantically had enabled me to move through my days with the air of a beloved actress, with a kind of arrogance I quite enjoyed. Over an omelet, the tears began—I am not a regular crier (well, at that point I was not a regular crier)—and I hid my face behind a menu. “Aw, babe. It makes me so sad to see you cry,” he said.

A few days passed and I was noticing that Shayne seemed completely unmoved by the fact that this was ending. “I don’t see the point in wasting time dwelling in bad feelings. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened,” he said, all but quoting Dr. Seuss.

Telekinesis, "Sleep In"

A great song to play while you pay your rent. Take it from me!

Frozen Dinners Are Just Molecular Gastronomy for the Common Man

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“There’s been a lot of baggage in this industry with consumers thinking we use a lot of preservatives,” said Rob McCutcheon, president of ConAgra’s frozen business. “But we usually don’t need to add preservatives to our frozen products, because freezing is like nature’s pause button.”

Products like Luvo’s are helping reinvigorate a category that still generates a handsome piece of grocery store sales. Frozen foods accounted for more than 6 percent of $810.8 billion in sales in the 52 weeks that ended June 27, according to Nielsen — or more than four times the revenue generated by the deli department.

“When you think about millennials who are just learning how to cook, building that skill set, frozen foods are perfect for them,” said Bob Nolan, senior vice president for insights and analytics at ConAgra.

The factory-to-table food movement continues to sweep the nation.



Photo by Daniel Oines

Ice Broken

New York City, August 30, 2015

weather review sky 083015★★★ The act of applying sunscreen brought on the consciousness of having to do it again tomorrow, the future obligation draped over the present one. The balance bike went wobbling past or disconcertingly tangent to a drying spray of vomit chunks on a grate, a fresh trickle of dog urine, baked patches of once-runny dogshit raked with finger marks. The hot dog place was uncrowded. The afternoon grew less and less inviting-looking as the blue leached from the sky, but with that the sun’s heat faded too, till there was nothing wrong with being out in it.

The Rise of Armchair Marketing

Here is something worth staring in the face:

Burger King sent McDonald’s an open letter proposing that the two fast food chains team up to create a hybrid “McWhopper” burger to celebrate Peace Day on September 21st. Burger King suggested that the “ceasefire” would take place at a single pop-up shop halfway between the corporations’ headquarters, with all proceeds going to the Peace One Day charity.

Burger King’s marketing campaign included a video, some social media posts, a special website and full-page ads in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. In response, McDonald’s posted this on Facebook:

The campaign took the work of “seven agencies,” including David, which helped Burger King create its “Gay Pride Whopper” campaign. (Someone who worked on that project described the process to me, shortly after the ads ran and between drinks at a party so maybe not precisely, as a difficult fight against extensive market research suggesting many of Burger King’s customers would be unhappy with the concept. A large contingent within the company agreed, but were eventually overruled by the company’s fairly new and unusually young CEO, who insisted he saw a major advertising opportunity. Anyway!)

The campaign seems to have been successful in at least one way. It garnered lots of media coverage, most of which adhered to the spirit of the campaign—jokey, but not too jokey, because there’s a charity involved—and which inherited its legitimizing verbs. “McDonald’s politely declines Burger King’s offer of world peace” is the title of the story quoted at the beginning of this post.