Thursday, April 6, 2017

Donald See, Donald Do: Syrian Boogaloo

Plenty has been said about Trump's televised theatrics and addiction to cable news, to the point where critics can track which particular news segment aired right before a corresponding tweet of his.

What struck me about his recent condemnation of Assad over reports of a chemical weapons attack on a town in the Syria's Idlib province is the visually potent way he described what he surely saw footage of beforehand:
Yesterday's chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity.
Some have also called out his about-face on Assad, criticizing it as incoherent signalling to confused allies (and enemies). Even Russia has openly demanded that Trump say what exactly he'd do in response.

But as we've repeatedly learned over these first three months of his presidency, Trump is a man of impulsive reaction, regardless of long-term strategy.

The lesson we should all take away? Powerful visual stories shape our president's knee-jerk perspective.

Until the next story comes along.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Children of Marx and Pepsi-Cola

By chance, a young, pretty celebrity falls for a charming, politically-conscious young man amid the modern cacophony of consumer culture, pop music, and a galvanized Left.

Pepsi's now-retracted Kendall Jenner advertisement?

Or the plot of Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 film, Masculin, FĂ©minin?

Also a plausible synopsis of this album ad music video from The Chemical Brothers:

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

BTW, This PepsiCo President Praised Caitlyn Jenner's "Remarkable" Rebranding Back in 2015

Act I:

"Corporations often spend millions of dollars to secure celebrity endorsements. But commercial campaigns can be wiped out overnight if a celebrity says the wrong thing or their image changes."
Act II:
Mr. Jakeman said he struggled to come up with any examples of "disruptive" changes in the "world of commercial brands."

So he turned to the example set by Caitlyn Jenner, praising the way she "managed her transition … figuratively and literally as a brand." The process -- from the Diane Sawyer interview to the Vanity Fair cover -- was thought-provoking, authentic and profound, he said. "This was something that the world was talking about, and the world has continued to talk about."

Then he posed a question to his fellow marketers: "Have we done anything with our brands that is in any way as remarkable as the way Caitlin Jenner, and that phenomenon, has been managed?"
Act III:
PepsiCo's 4,000-square-foot content creation studio is in the heart of SoHo and is overseen by Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo's global beverage group. The space includes a 2,300-square-foot, multiuse recording studio, five editing and production bays, and a theater-style screening room with 10 oversize leather chairs.

Mr. Jakeman envisions the space being used not just for brand content, but for broader projects that include brand-agnostic content via distribution deals with film studios and online publishers. His goal is to sell enough unbranded content to cover the costs of creating ad content.
Act IV:

(also, there was that one time I went to the B96 Pepsi Summer Bash five years ago)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

3D printing is now for kids (and fake ears)


Want to know how far 3D Printing has advanced?

Mattel (best known for Barbie and Hot Wheels) will soon release a $300, child-safe printer model under its previous ThingMaker name to let users design and fabricate their own toys and jewelry.
Sure, it's not the first inexpensive 3D printer, but if Mattel manages to make the overall printing and designing experience easy enough for children, it could be on to something huge. It gives kids some early training in 3D design, which will likely be increasingly important over the next few decades. Similar to Minecraft, it's also an ideal way for kids to use technology creatively. And, if it takes off, you can bet Mattel will make bank from accessory purchases.
Meanwhile, scientists are now implanting 3D printed bone, muscle, and cartilage into animals - and printing it all in human size.
Five months after implantation, the bone tissue looked similar to normal bone, complete with blood vessels and with no dead areas, the research team reported in Nature Biotechnology.

Human-sized ear implants looked like normal cartilage under the microscope, with blood vessels supplying the outer regions and no circulation in the inner regions (as in native cartilage). The fact that there were viable cells in the inner regions suggested that they had received adequate nutrition.

Results with 3D-printed skeletal muscle were equally impressive. Not only did the implants look like normal muscle when examined two weeks after implantation, but the implants also contracted like immature, developing muscle when stimulated.
Perhaps today's teenage toy-makers will even turn into tomorrow's top-tier surgeons.

Russian Zika, Hawaiian Dengue...Jamaican Reggae?

We have reached the point where mosquito-borne diseases are no longer stuck in the places they came from.

For example, the birth deformation-linked Zika virus has now been detected in Russia
"The first infection with Zika has been recorded. This is a 36-year old Russian woman who was in the Dominican Republic and came back to the Russian Federation in February," Skvortsova told reporters at a UN briefing on Russia's Ebola vaccine.
Meanwhile, the spectre of Zika and the confirmed presence dengue fever have created a state of emergency in Hawaii.
There have been no locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in Hawaii, Ige said in a news conference Friday. But there's concern that the islands could be at risk because mosquitoes that can carry dengue fever also can carry the Zika virus.
How are governments supposed to fight the spread of diseases like these?

Well, Hawaiian officials have one strategy.
Hawaii is rushing to build up its mosquito control staff after a December report from the Centers for Disease Control highlighted deficiencies in the state's vector control department. The state slashed its mosquito control and entomology staff during the economic downturn, from 56 employees in 2009 to 25 positions in 2016. Health officials are now searching for funding to rebuild the staff, and the Department of Health plans to hire 10 new staffers with money the governor released, said Virginia Pressler, director of department, on Friday.
Jamaican officials have another.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Albania takes in Syrian refugees, as Albanians claim EU asylum

Just a few days ago, EU's stats agency, EuroStat, claimed that only 1 out of 5 migrants arriving in European Union between April-June were actually from Syria. By their estimate, 17,770 were from Albania.

Ironically, Albania has also announced their plan to take in 75,000 Syrian refugees from the European Union.

Here's an interesting historical parallel: both Germany and Albania took in ethnic Albanians fleeing the Kosovo War in 1998-1999. 

So if there's any country in Europe well-suited to sympathize with the plight of the Syrians, it's Albania. Whether the country can effectively handle another refugee situation 16 years later remains to be seen.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Talking Ventra with WGN's "Outside The Loop"

I recently had a great conversation with Mike Stephen of WGN's "Outside The Loop" about (you guessed it) Ventra.

You can listen here: 

As you may have picked up, I did, in fact, conduct this interview from "the middle of Bulgaria." Hence the lack of timely updates.

Rest assured, however, I will have plenty to write about once I'm back later this year. 

In the meantime, I'd be happy to answer your questions about Ventra and public-private partner ships. Just tweet/email me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

On Ventra, FOIA lawsuits, and demanding the truth

The Chicago Reader recently interviewed me about my FOIA lawsuit against the Chicago Transit Authority...and some of the more interesting obstacles that got in the way of it.

Since I last posted here about the results of my lawsuit (,

I uploaded all the documents for anyone to see over at DocumentCloud:

also wrote a piece for Curbed showing evidence that a consultant on the project may have sold confidential CTA info to Toronto:

There's a lot more I would say here if I weren't currently typing this on a smartphone from Europe. For now, I'll just add this:

ANY attempt to privatize a public asset anywhere (particularly if it's public transportation) deserves public attention. Public feedback. Public debate. But most importantly, it deserves the public's ability to say no to the decision-makers and question the logic and arguments from their presumed "expert" consultants.

None of this ever happened in the procurement process that led to Ventra. 

Furthermore, I hope the full scope of what I have said and written about this particular subject encourages people to demand answers from their governments - local or otherwise - when the official story just doesn't sound like the full truth.

If I can do it, you can do it, too.

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