Archive for February 2009
The Orange-and-straw Tropicana juice carton left us in the last days of 2008. Another memorable American consumer product icon is gone, another brand metonym is dead.
Writing an obituary about a particular iteration of a brand is like mourning the death of a butterfly. Both are short-lived, fleeting glimpses into the history, and the genealogy, of all butterflies and all the products that came before them, plus all their future evolutions. And while Darwinian evolutionary steps and rebranding exercises occur in significantly different ways in nature and the marketplace, sometimes the impact of man’s action in nature, much like the consequences of branding consultancy decisions to companies, lead to very abrupt changes to our natural and artificial landscapes.
A few days ago, I was trying to explain to a friend how important it is for print media to capitalize on the object-ness of books and magazines. Since it’s sometimes better to show than tell, I decided that I should use Rem Koolhaas’ Content (2004) as a prime example of what makes printed publications so great. Unfortunately, it is no longer in print and a new copy costs $120.00. It’s a shame that these books become commodities and rarities. They need to be available; they demonstrate the broad scope of architecture and invite individual experiences created by the reader. Unlike reading information on a screen, interacting with the book can be different for each person.
Going to Borders bookstore was the easiest and fastest way to obtain the newly-published Ada Louise Huxtable compilation On Architecture. This is a greatest-hits collection of her no-nonsense, lollipop-discovering (here’s looking at you, 2 Columbus Circle) observations. The articles I did have in my possession, written by Huxtable for the New York Times, were photocopies of photocopies (long story) that seemed to be at about 50% of their original size. I had to squint as I read a classic article on Park Avenue architecture, so I thought one hardcover resource for these texts would do my eyes good. Unfortunately, I failed to obtain a copy from the premises. And so, On Architecture is dead to me. Here is my story:
I’ve been living in New York since the end of August, and ever since I got here, people have heard me complaining (we Portuguese like to complain) about paying for incoming calls and text messages on my mobile phone despite the bad reception, getting charged on ATM withdrawals and online banking, navigating through rats on subway platforms and supermarket aisles of junk. What I still find puzzling is the fact these same people think all this is okay.
News about Amazon’s launch of the redesigned Kindle 2 was met with generally triumphant praise. It’s sleeker, faster and better than its predecessor. In theory, the Kindle is a great product. We love our iPhones and Blackberries, mostly because we need (or want?) to receive, read and send emails instantly. This same desire for supreme portability and instant gratification has only naturally migrated towards our reading habits. But should we be concerned? Are we eradicating books?
Next Sunday, Wolverine (aka Hugh Jackman) will host the Academy Awards. Most will wonder, anxiously, if he will go berserk and plant his alloy adamantium claws into Ralph Fiennes. This is where the attention should be, on the presenters and celebrity antics. We will see the whole garish charade on our televisions sets, a proud moment of escapism into the fantasy world of Hollywood. But if you look closer on your screen, you will see that the garish charade itself has been updated to an old Hollywood meets HD technology style. Is any of this important to our lives?