Thinking About: Checklists

Before Morgan Freeman made a silly movie the bucket list concept was making waves. Books like 1000 Places to See Before You Die were popular back in my days working at a bookstore. People like having a connection to something larger than themselves. All of society of based on that principle. Having a checklist of places you’ve visited is handy and marking them off the list or a map from time to time gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

When Facebook first began allowing extensions on the original homepage, before the News Feed, it seemed like everyone had enabled the world and United States map to show off the countries and states they had visited.

Hardball Passport has taken this to the challenge of ballpark visits. Not just keeping track of which parks you went to but how the games turned out.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Brothers” Data, the android, meets his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. As Dr. Soong attempts to explain his desire to have a legacy, he walks Data through the decision tree of parenthood and history.

DATA: Old things?

SOONG: Old buildings, churches, walls, ancient things, antique things, tables, clocks, knick knacks. Why? Why, why?

DATA: There are many possible explanations.

SOONG: If you brought a Noophian to Earth, he’d probably look around and say, tear that old village down, it’s hanging in rags. Build me something new, something efficient. But to a human, that old house, that ancient wall, it’s a shrine, something to be cherished. Again, I ask you, why?

DATA: Perhaps, for humans, old things represent a tie to the past.

There are moments in life mean different things to different people, but everyone has a few tucked into the back of their mind that they wait for, prepare for, and hope will cross their path in the future. Something as simple as a voice modulator or a fan: you have to do a Darth Vader impersonation.  Or maybe Christmas tree shopping lets you break out a Linus speech. Maybe you finally get a chance to correctly chime in “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”

One of these white whales for me was the cellular peptide cake. With mint frosting. Going back to the Star Trek well, there is an episode where Data has a dream that features an appearance from Counselor Trio as…a cake.

As someone with very limited art skills recreating anything that needs creative efforts is often beyond my skills. I can muddle my way through things from time to time. I can make a normal cake. But when it comes to the artistic effort, my final results often turn out like Homer’s – nothing like the picture in my mind’s eye.

Taking up this challenge was on my bucket list. And this weekend I set myself to the task. One box of funfetti, some frosting, and several bottles of food coloring later, I completed my masterpiece:

IMG_20140525_072348

In addition to visiting the Star Trek Experience before it closed, including walking on the bridge of the NCC-1701-D, this is another large item crossed off the bucket list. And the cake tasted pretty good too.

May 22, 2004 – Red Sox vs Blue Jays

That was then

Ten years ago today the Boston Red Sox won their second straight game against the Toronto Blue Jays. They didn’t know it at the time, but the winning streak would last five games. Well before The Trade, things were going well enough.

That game was started by Pedro Martinez, won by Anastacio Martinez, and saved by Keith Foulke.

Manny Ramirez hit a home run. David Ortiz and Mark Bellhorn scored runs. Kevin Youkilis played in his fifth major league game.

Ted Lilly struck out 10 in 5.2 innings but his bullpen failed to deliver on the “Ted Lilly always beats the Red Sox” curse.

This is now

Tonight, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays in an attempt to prevent losing their seventh straight game.

Jon Lester, who was nearly traded prior to the 2004 season for A-Rod, will be playing the role of ace that Pedro did so well a decade ago.

David Ortiz is still on the team, the sole remaining player from the 2004 club.

Opposing the Sox will be Mark Buehrle, a veteran in his own right.

Ten years ago things went well enough for the Red Sox. Maybe tonight that echo of a boxscore will penetrate Fenway Park and end the current slump.

Or their talented players will do what talented players do – win.

Monkey Gone to Heaven

When the rumor mill exploded last week with news that Apple may (or may not) have acquired Beats Electronics to add executive talent, a new streaming music service, and of course, headphones, to Apple’s already strong music business, a spotlight on the changing face of the music industry was lit up once more.

For a long time, artists stayed away from allowing their music to be used for advertising purposes. Commercials featuring an artist’s music were considered to be “selling out” for decades. Until somewhat recently when the trend reversed.

What started as a small sample in the 1990s turned into a boom for musicians in the post-Napster era when alternative revenue streams – outside the labels – were in demand.

Apple itself ran a series of successful ads for iPods and the iTunes music service – the ones featuring dancing silhouettes wearing the iconic white earbuds – that were received quite well. Advertising a music service and player with popular music seems like a no brainer, but it’s possible that Apple considered this ad campaign even more seriously. Steve Jobs himself is believed to have had individual control over the song selection. That’s a power both equal parts kingmaker and tastemaker.

Their latest effort uses Gigantic by the Pixies and highlights the iPhone as a tool for creativity as a musician, rocket launcher, and indoor astronomer. The Apple spot debuted on April 22, just before interest in the Pixies shot up on Google Trends.

Google Trends   Web Search interest  pixies  gigantic   Worldwide  Past 90 days

As I write this, one of the most well known commercial songs, Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon”, which featured in this Volkswagen commercial plays in the background at the Starbucks. Referenced in the Time piece linked earlier, this seemed appropriate to include. I only know the song from the commercial, but as soon as I heard it, I thought back to the ad. It’s a poignant spot with four (teenagers?) kids driving through picturesque scenery to a party only to decide it’s just not their scene when the journey ends…and they set off again. I recalled the entire ad in a second.

Music is a powerful motivator and suggestion. It’s a companion at the gym, a friend on a long commute, and a background presence during many events of our lives. But wait, there’s more! All of these qualities make songs powerful components of advertising campaigns.

The Guitar Hero and RockBand franchises were built on this foundation.

If Apple buys Beats, it would be a high-profile acquisition of a brand that has recognition comparable to Apple itself. It’s not Lala, the fledgling music service, or PA Semi, the chip designer. Beats has customers, loyalty, product spotlight and recognition. It has music executives and musicians. It’s crazy, but for a company that has put so much into brand and commercials, right down to the artists it featured for iPods at the time when that was the biggest stage anyone could hope for, this might work out in ways no one can foresee yet.