Hush Now

January 5, 2009

Rather than just talk about a band I would recommend going to see tomorrow night at Schubas, I asked Michael Hush, lead of pop-rockers Five Foot Nine, to tell me his favorite pop culture tidbits from 2008 (Now that it’s over).

Before I get all list-y, the Five Foot Nine play fresh, clever, well-arranged rock that most immediately reminds me of Brooklyn’s Bishop Allen. Both bands combine tasteful guy/gal harmonies, tight rhythm sections, and great sing-along choruses with charm to spare. Local swaggering glam-punk poppers The Handcuffs are also playing.

MP3: Five Foot Nine, “Back to the Tunnels” (file courtesy of Radio Free Chicago)

Here’s were Mike’s Pop Picks of 2008.

Books: as for fiction… Here are 3 novels that I really admired this year

  • Denis Johnson, “Tree of Smoke”
  • Michael Chabon, “Yiddish Policeman’s Union”
  • The Lazarus Project, “Alexander Hemon”

Movies:

Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky

  • The Visitor
  • Frozen River
  • Happy Go Lucky

Music:

  • Los Campesinos
  • Bonny Prince Billy
  • The Hold Steady

Commercial:

  • Probably Holiday Inn Express spot where the geeky marketing dude displays his dope rhyming skills on the corner in NY…

Pop Culture Moment:

  • got to be Grant Park on election night


First Zima, Now Sparks?!

December 18, 2008

How are we supposed to get all hyphy before we ghost ride now!?!?!?!

Sparks Spokesmodel by Ryanwiz Sparks by Al Bar 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-ap-energy-drinks,0,4219784.story

MillerCoors to remove caffeine from Sparks energy drink in deal with states
By EMILY FREDRIX | AP Food Industry Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) — MillerCoors LLC announced Thursday it will remove caffeine and three other ingredients from its Sparks alcoholic energy drink in a deal with 13 states and the city of San Francisco, who had contended the drink targeted young drinkers.

A coalition of state attorneys general had complained the stimulants reduced drinkers’ sense of intoxication and were marketed to young drinkers, who were already more likely to have risky behaviors in driving and other activities.

*cough* BULLSHIT *cough*.  What the hell.  I’ll have to go back to slamming a pot of coffee, and then slamming a pint of Guiness.  Actually, that doesn’t sound that bad.

Attorneys general and advocacy groups have long been targeting MillerCoors, a joint venture of SABMiller’s U.S. unit and Molson Coors Brewing Co., and market-leader Anheuser-Busch due to the making and marketing of such drinks.

As part of the agreement, MillerCoors agreed to remove caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng from Sparks, the leader in the alcoholic energy drink category, and not produce caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. The company also will pay $550,000 to cover the cost of the investigation into Sparks. The agreement does not mean the company was found to have engaged in unlawful behavior.

I’m glad they’re getting rid of the guano though.

“They are fundamentally dangerous and put drinkers of all ages at risk,” New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said in a statement of the drinks. “Today’s agreement will ensure that from here on out, these drinks are kept off New York shelves and away from New York consumers.”

The MillerCoors settlement also includes the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma and the city attorney of San Francisco.

“We are always willing to listen to societal partners and consider changes to our business to reinforce our commitment to alcohol responsibility,” Long said.

Time to head back to Wisconsin next time I want to make Hyper Vipers.

The money will be split between the states and San Francisco, MillerCoors spokesman Julian Green said.

MillerCoors noted that labeling and all formulas for Sparks had been approved by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. It said it marketed the drinks only to legal drinking-age consumers.

MillerCoors President and Chief Commercial Officer Tom Long said in a statement the changes mean the company can keep marketing and selling the brand to legal drinkers.

Thanks for the photo Sikanna! — http://www.flickr.com/photos/sikanna/

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch said in June it would reformulate its Tilt and Bud Extra drinks to remove the stimulants as part of a settlement with 11 attorneys general.

Groups say these drinks target young drinkers, even those underage, because those consumers are already drawn to highly caffeinated drinks like Red Bull.

As part of the agreement, MillerCoors will sell through its remaining Sparks products and stop making them by Jan. 10.

Green said the company will then start brewing the new formula after that.

Random drunk guy by charleym143

Marketing of the brand will also change, the agreement said. The company must also eliminate all references in advertising to caffeinated formulations and not promote Sparks as a mixer for caffeinated drinks. It will remove the plus and minus symbols — which evoke a battery — found on the blue and orange cans for the product. The company also agrees not to use batteries, rockets, lightning bolts, or the terms “powered by” or “ignite” in marketing the new formulation.

sparks! by minicloud

The company also took down the Web site for the brand, as part of the agreement, which said MillerCoors may launch new Web content for Sparks to promote only the reformulated version.

Green said the company will continue to expand the brand. SABMiller bought Sparks and Steel Reserve, a slow-brewed lager, from McKenzie River Corp. for $215 million cash in 2006.

Sparks holds about 60 percent of the alcoholic energy drink category, he said. But in MillerCoors’ portfolio it makes up less than 1 percent of the brewer’s total volume. The brand is growing, though. Data from AC Nielsen in a recent 12-week period showed the brand’s sales in convenience stores were up 15.9 percent from the same period last year, Green said.

drunk by ksosmall 

He noted that advertising for the brand was minimal, compared with the company’s other brands like Miller Lite, and said there had never been any television ads for Sparks.

“We remain committed to the Sparks franchise, including the possibility of line extensions,” Green said.

Steve Gardner, litigation director for public advocacy group the Center for Science in the Public Interest — which has a suit against MillerCoors over Sparks — applauded the agreement. In September the group filed a suit against MillerCoors to stop the brewer from selling Sparks, saying it’s going after teenagers with the drink.

Noah rocks Sparks Lite in the ZML by justin 

“It’s a devil’s brew of a product because it combines caffeine with alcohol,” Gardner said.

He said much of what the group wanted from MillerCoors — to remove caffeine, guarana, ginseng and taurine from the product — was accomplished in the agreement. He said he was not yet sure what the agreement means for the case, which was pending in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Randall + Sparks = by Phil Sharp.


Did You Get That Memo: Office Culture is Pop Culture

October 9, 2008

(Originally posted last February on the UR Chicago site but no longer accessible.  I had to save my baby).

Can you believe it’s been nearly a decade since Office Space? That’s roughly 36 financial quarters of bad Lumberg impressions and Swingline stapler jokes. The unforeseen longevity of a movie like Office Space -– a cynical look at corporate drones — stuck with the American audience long after its theatre run. Though the defining modern corporate farce is getting old, it seems like “life at the office” has become an increasingly prevalent touchstone. A new breed of unflinching, cynical, critical, tragi-comic and sometimes downright depressing office themed productions have hit a cultural nerve.

There have always been the silly corporate comedies and hyper-real farces a-la Office Space, Dilbert, and (can I throw in) Fred Savage’s short-lived Working, but it seems the new crop of pop-culture corporate landscapes have a biting, sad, desperate underpinning. What’s the deal?

The obvious jumping-off point is NBC’s excellent adaptation of The Office — a satire that turns a documentary-style camera on the lives of paper salespeople in first-world Nowheresville. It’s a show that’s both funny and melancholy — simultaneously hilarious and hitting a little too close to home. You’ve also got the inanity of Carpoolers, a silly single-cam show that’s the brainchild of Kids In the Hall graduate Bruce McCulloch. If you flash back 50 years and add some slick suits, the politics, binge drinking and philandering could easily be that of the sloganeering Madison Ave execs of AMC’s period drama Mad Men.

Elsewhere in the business world, author Matthew Beaumont documents the hilarity of London’s fictional Miller-Shanks office in a story told strictly through exchanged e-mail in e. If the U.K. doesn’t hit close enough to home, local cube dweller Joshua Ferris is getting stellar reviews for Then We Came to the End, a wry comedic novel chronicling the dismantling of a Chicago ad agency.

Of course, I can’t get too far into an office-themed blog without mentioning OFFICE, the group of former Chicago worker bees who produced a killer EP, quit their day jobs, and now professionally churn out bouncy pop tracks with some seriously sardonic underpinnings. Elsewhere in the music world there’s been a huge response to the National’s CD, Boxer. The album, with equal parts charm and anxiety, chronicles the Willy Loman-esque slide of a modern corporate worker into a nostalgic shut-in.

So if popular music, books and television are meant as means of escapism, what’s to say for an audience that’s developed an interest in fictionalized versions of working stiffs? Is the emergence of corporate-themed amusements just a mere coincidence, a blip on the radar, or a hint of more to come? Whatever the explanation, the subject matter has resonance and the writing is good, so I will continue to ignore the inherent irony of hanging around the office every week to talk about The Office.


Backstreet’s Back? Alright.

August 22, 2008

Um yeah. Day winding down at work when I get a surprising email whose headline reads:

“SPECIAL PRE LABOR DAY MUSICAL TREAT HERE AT DRAFTFCB”

Ohhh, that sounds nice. I open that email up and lookie here:

So yeah, The Backstreet Boys will be rocking my work Atrium on Monday. Exciting? Sure. Baffling? More so. What inspires an advertising company to book resurgent boybands man-bands to play?

I’m also curious how much BSB charges for these little occurrences. Hmmmm.

———————

8/22 @ 4:52 Follow-Up: A buddy I know that works down the street at Leo Burnett just mentioned they’re playing THERE on Monday too! So… DFCB is probably not paying anything. BSB, on the other hand, are prolly doing a pride-swallowing tour of Advertising Agencies to get the industry to drop them / their new tunes in commercial spots. Awwwww.

Jeremy writes:

backstreet boys
performing at Leo Burnett for employees
monday

for real.
im just as embarrassed as you are.

They don’t care who you are… just as long as you love them.