HYPOCRITE IDLER 1Q2017
March 25, 2017
To idle is to work on meaningful and varied projects — and also to take it easy. (Like Nas, “I used to hustle/Now all I do is relax and strive.”) If you’re interested in my 1Q2017 projects, please keep reading; otherwise, don’t! The title of this series of posts refers to this self-proclaimed idler’s hypocritical inability to take it easy.
TAKING IT EASY
I’m co-founder of the Boston- and New York-based branding and strategy agency Semiovox. During 1Q2017, on behalf of world-class companies and brands, Semiovox surfaced and dimensionalized the unspoken norms and forms of categories and territories such as Men’s Positive Lifestyle, Premium Natural Skincare, Beauty, and Youthful Fun. After each audit, my partner Ron Rentel and I conducted strategic workshops — in New York and elsewhere.
Thanks to our partnership with the global innovation and branding agency Consumer Eyes (Ron Rentel is its founder and head honcho), during 1Q2017 Semiovox validated and built on our semiotic audit learnings through empathetic, human-centered research techniques — everything from shop-alongs and in-the-moment ethnographies to global immersions. Our goal, always, is to ensure that our work is immediately actionable for clients and agencies.
SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, the object-oriented story-telling experiment that Rob Walker and I conducted in 2009–2010, has become an ongoing endeavor. In January, we kicked off a new object-oriented storytelling endeavor; we call it PROJECT:OBJECT.
Each quarter during 2017, here at HILOBROW, PROJECT:OBJECT will publish a themed “volume” of 25 nonfiction stories.
The first P:O volume, published during 1Q2017, was: POLITICAL OBJECTS. We asked 25 terrific writers each to explain the political significance of an object they own.
Here’s the introduction to this volume. And here’s the complete POLITICAL OBJECTS lineup:
Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | Astra Taylor on SALAM’S NECKLACE | Carolina A. Miranda on POCHO | Stephen Duncombe on PROTEST SIGN | Marisa Silver on SHAMAN BOWLS | James Hannaham on DR. BUZZARD LP | Virginia Heffernan on HRC PAINTING | Kenya (Robinson) on BURNER PHONE | Kathryn Davis on POLITBUREAU | Chenjerai Kumanyika on NAT TURNER PRINT | Alexis Madrigal on MERMAID COSTUME | Anne Boyer on ALL KNEES AND ELBOWS OF SUSCEPTIBILITY AND REFUSAL | Steven Heller on JFK DOLL | Anne Elizabeth Moore on BLOOD PRESSURE MONITOR | Gary Dauphin on RUM BOTTLE | Tom Frank on DNC PASS | Lizzie Skurnick on GROUP PHOTO | Stuart Ewen on SNCC PIN | Benjamen Walker on BEEF BOX 12″ | Rob Walker on CAMPAIGN SIGN | Alex Kalman on THEM=US PIN.
Thanks to the generosity of our contributors, and to sales of limited-time-only PROJECT:OBJECT objects — including t-shirts, hoodies, totes, notebooks, and other gear at our Threadless shop — at the end of 1Q2017 we donated $500 to to the American Civil Liberties Union! We look forward to doing the same after each of the next three P:O volumes, too.
Rob Walker and I are very grateful to all POLITICAL OBJECTS writers; and we’re grateful to SEMIOVOX for sponsoring PROJECT:OBJECT. Coming up in 2Q2017: the second P:O volume, TALISMANIC OBJECTS! Stay informed — subscribe to the P:O newsletter.
In January, Adweek used the SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS experiment — which Rob Walker and I conducted in 2012 — as a pioneering example (see bottom of infographic, i.e., the earliest example) of how quantitative research is beginning to offer proof that storytelling helps brands boost sales. This was not the goal of SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, of course — and our experiment was quasi-scientific at best! — but it’s fun to see this sort of thing. PS: We’re working on a properly scientific experiment, this year, with George E. Newman, Associate Professor of Management & Marketing, Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. We’ll keep you posted…
I’m the editor and publisher, here at HILOBROW. To see what we’ve been up to recently — Adam McGovern’s weekly THIS: series, Lynn Peril’s monthly PLANET OF PERIL series, Tom Nealon’s monthly STUFFED series, Brian Berger’s INTO THE GROVE series, curated reprint series, and much more — please check out the BEST OF HILOBROW 1Q2017 post.
In addition to the POLITICAL OBJECTS series (see above), in this post I’ll just mention #SQUADGOALS, a weekly series in which talented HILOBROW contributors — 52 of them, over the course of 2017 — wax enthusiastic about their favorite squads.
Here’s the 1Q2017 #SQUADGOALS lineup.
Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST!
I’m very grateful to the series’ contributors. Stay tuned in 2Q2017 for more #SQUADGOALS installments.
Since 2012, I’ve collaborated with my friends Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone on the UNBORED project, which has grown from a single bestselling book into a trio of UNBORED family activity books (from Bloomsbury), and a series of UNBORED family activity kits (from MindWare).
According to our 4Q2016 royalty statement from Bloomsbury, so far we’ve moved 55,000 units of the first book, and a combined 20,000 of the two sequels. That’s not bad. Nice to see that people are still buying the books several years after they were published!
In February, MindWare debuted the following two new UNBORED kits at ToyFairNY — the largest and most important toy and youth product exhibition in the western hemisphere.
The UNBORED Carnival kit includes everything you’ll need — from prize tickets and a barker’s megaphone to midway game equipment (Ring Toss, Beanbag Toss, Water Blaster Target Shooting) — to stage an all-ages carnival, whether for charity or just for fun, right in your own backyard.
The UNBORED Time Capsule kit, meanwhile, encourages kids to think of themselves as historians and archivists of the present moment. The goal of this activity is to preserve artifacts, interview family and friends, and chronicle the way your life is now… for the benefit of the future.
These kits will hit toystore shelves later this year — stay tuned!
During 1Q2017, I wrote the following HILOBROW posts.
THE TWENTIETH DAY OF JANUARY
I occasionally make an appearance, in character as “Josh Glenn,” a globe-trotting semiotic brand analyst, on Benjamen Walker’s popular Radiotopian podcast, THEORY OF EVERYTHING. Just in time for Inauguration Day, Ben and I wrote and recorded a new THEORY OF EVERYTHING episode about a 1981 spy thriller, The Twentieth Day of January, which uncannily predicts Trump’s ascension to the presidency… and perhaps explains his shamelessness.
I published the following seven installments in the BEST ADVENTURES series — which chronicles my ongoing attempt to identify the 10 best adventures from each year of the 20th century. Each installment originally appeared as 10 individual posts.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1907, from The Secret Agent to Ozma of Oz.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1912, from Tarzan to The Night Land.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1917, from Piccadilly Jim to Walpurgisnacht.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1922, from Captain Blood to The Worm Ourouboros.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1927, from Red Harvest to Witch Wood.
- 10 BEST ADVENTURES OF 1942, from Assignment in Brittany to The Secret of the Unicorn.
- 10 BEST YA & YYA ADVENTURES OF 1967, from The White Mountains and The Outsiders to Taran Wanderer. This post was republished by Boing Boing.
The Hermenautic Circle is a secretive society managed by yours truly. I’m not at liberty to discuss the HC, but you can read what may or may not be a parodic version of our history here.
In the taking it easy department…
In January, Susan and Max participated in the Boston Women’s March.
In February, Sam’s track & field team won the Maine State Men’s Indoor Championship at Bowdoin. (Sam turned 19, too!)
In March, Susan and I hosted a full-cast performance of James Parker’s KALEVALA bastardization — in front of a rapt audience. Pictured here: James reading with the DOOFPASTE crew.
Also in March: Susan and Max and I escaped to Los Angeles for a week. Where we soaked in the warm weather, and visited some favorite friends.
On to 2Q2017!