Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

28 February 2007

It's Just Culture, Man.

If you talk to maybe most any first-gen Southeast Asian, what you'll find is that rice is a big deal. No. It's not just a staple; it's a really big deal. There are songs about it.

I concluded yesterday that Filipinos in particular are weird about rice. I don't excuse myself from that statement. When I first tasted rice outside my parents' house, I was appalled by its strange consistency. The rice I grew up with is stubby, and not quite sticky but sticky enough to squeeze into airtight balls if you like to eat with your fingers.

It took some time to learn that rice has many faces, only one of which I came to know intimately - the kind that comes with the little red medal. The use of the red medal is actually a splendid sales tactic, considering I'd push my otherwise indifferent parents to patronize whatever brand it was so I could tear the medal off the rice bag for use in various games of pretend, like pinning it to the clothes of Angela the Olympic Winner or attaching it to very valuable wills for discovery by Angela the Sexy Spy. Don't ask when.

But I digress. For the last few weeks I've been working with a new marketing trainee that I happen to know really well. In fact, together we wiled away our Fil-Am centric youths battling imaginary foes in swamp-side Vallejo.

Yesterday I took him to an Indian restaurant and he sat staring at his rice for over 10 minutes because it was so long and dry. "Where do they find it?" he asked, perplexed. He didn't look up at me the whole time.

"India," I answered. This was probably not the best or most accurate answer but under the circumstances it did neither harm nor good.

He picked at it. "They put spices in here," he observed softly. "There's ... a flavour."

"It is good with yogurt," I said mechanically. At that point I disengaged myself from the conversation and began eating my curry. I wish I'd known that hours later I'd again be condemned to more rice-talk.

Me to my parents as I dug through the rice cooker, less than 4 hours later: "Dude. Why do you guys make rice that's half brown and half white?"

Mom: "What do you mean?"

Me, teasing: "It's, like, both brown and white. Can you not make up your minds?"

Mom started to laugh. "We have to mix so your daddy will eat it," she said. "This way at least it's still half-healthy."

I carried my rice-laden plate to the kitchen table, where my pops gave me that smug look and said, "See, Angel, if it's all brown, it's ..." He seemed to be at a loss. "Terrible."

"Terrible? Is that the best you can do?" I said. Really. He's normally devastating on the rapier-wit scale. It's a point of pride, even. Possibly the rice thing draws less-than-rational sentiments.

He started to laugh. "You have to put some white in so it's edible," he replied finally.

I didn't pursue this realm of logic further. But today at the office I mentioned the exchange to my trainee, sans ending, and he just looked at me strangely and said, "Half brown, half white? I bet that tastes hella good. Isn't it healthier too?"

26 February 2007

iPhone Makes Ad Debut, Adrants Takes Note, Buzz TV Acknowledges, We Reflect

Diggy-diggy. Adrants' post about the iPhone Oscar ad made it on Buzz TV today. How awesome is that? Really rather. I feel like Miss America except without bulimia and 10-pound hair.

I initially thought it weird that Steve Jobs would unveil a yet-to-be-tested new product 6 flippin' months in advance. It struck me as bad climactic timing in terms of building the hype.

But now my feelings are different. Jobs just isn't a dumb guy. That 6 months is flying by, and post-unveiling, Apple wisely opts to bleed iPhone marketing slowly and tactfully instead of getting all colourful and extra-extra, the way they typically push the iPod.

I've been matter-of-factly told more that once that Jobs will most likely do away with the iPod altogether and make iPhone the music crack of the future.

I seriously doubt that, and for the following reasons:
  • At costs ranging from $79 to $249, the iPod is much more attractive for starving collegiates than the iPhone's prospective $499-$599 price tag (and that's before the cost of sign-up and selecting a plan, even!).
  • While Apple's doubtless garnered serious cultlike loyalty, suggesting people forego other loyalties is just ... well, risky. Let me explain. You probably own an iPod and maybe if you're unstoppably awesome you have a Macbook too. But does your love of Apple eclipse your feelings about your cell phone carrier? That's intimate, man, and that has nothing to do with Apple or how awesome you think the iPhone might be. A lot of Verizonites are out there going, "Hell no, beeyatch!" I'm with Cingular and I'm still wincing at the notion.
  • As of July 2006, the iPod alone accounted for 45 percent of Apple's quarterly revenue. You don't swap your prize tea kettle for an espresso maker. The espresso maker might be zippier, shinier and more capable, but they're simply not the same product, and please believe loyal lovers of tea will punish you for it.
  • An 8GB max capacity doesn't hold a candle to the standard iPod's 80GB. You can forget about movies. And forget about replacing an iPod with a value proposition that subtracts value, or exchanges one service for another (in this case, watching movies v. talking on the phone) on the miracle unit itself. It's just bad biznass.
It remains my strong suspicion that this iPhone ain't all we think it is, miracle tool jokes aside. It's being casually incorporated into the culture so we can get used to the idea of it, after which, come June, we'll be shocked and amazed by what other merit the iPhone happens to possess that we could never ourselves have imagined in our wildest dreams. Guess we'll find out in June.

All right, that's the good word about Apple. It is cookie time.

23 February 2007

You Want Me to Do What?

Dude: "Why don't you do marketing for our band?"

Me: "You guys do fine with word of mouth; you're overcommitted."

Dude: "But you could help."

Me: "What do you want?"

Dude: "Just get us on the front page of the internets."

22 February 2007

Cryptic Marketing Advice

Emotions are only one part of the equation. If you really want to stick, compel your audience to do research, turn over stones, unearth myths. Make them think about you at night.

17 February 2007

Why I Love Warren Buffett

They say Warren Buffett made his first stock purchase at the age of 11, a small number of Cities Services shares for $37 each. When the price hit $40 he sold, only to see them hit $200 some years later.

This allegedly taught him what it meant to invest for the long term. And not just in companies but in the people behind them, too.

One thing I admire about Warren Buffett's annual shareholders letters is their lengthy tell-all nature. You feel the same intimacy encountered when hearing the precious particulars of a good friend's life. He reflects, makes jokes and considers past decisions. He also takes great pains to explain the underpinnings of his methods.

After describing the past year's goings-on and some recent acquisitions including Business Wire, in his 2005 letter Buffett reflects upon the way Berkshire develops relationships:
Unlike many business buyers, Berkshire has no “exit strategy.” We buy to keep. We do, though, have an entrance strategy, looking for businesses in this country or abroad that meet our six criteria and are available at a price that will produce a reasonable return. If you have a business that fits, give me a call. Like a hopeful teenage girl, I’ll be waiting by the phone.
Berkshire does it for keeps.

Businesses aren't just currency machines. They're functioning entities with a culture and an ethos supported by people.

Two contributing reasons to Buffett's decision to join forces with Business Wire lived in company president Cathy Baron Tamraz's two-page letter to him: “As president of Business Wire, I’d like to introduce you to my company, as I believe it fits the profile of Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary companies as detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article [...] We run a tight ship and keep unnecessary spending under wraps. No secretaries or management layers here. Yet we’ll invest big dollars to gain a technological advantage and move the business forward.”

A close watch on finances, coupled with the gumption to take educated risks, made strong recommendations. Let's add a third element: Cathy who, upon reading Berkshire's profile, wasted no time in developing what appears to be a straightforward, no-nonsense relationship from the get-go.

As a proponent of sincerity in networking I should first have mentioned how important I think it is to start yourself off right before even trying to develop relationships with others.

A responsible financial plan, where you don't spend what you haven't earned, may seem old-fashioned and conservative. But a chill attitude about credit will ease a young business out of your hands faster than you can lift it off the ground. Each debt you take on is like a blood pact against your business's strength. Is a blood pact something you really want to make at every open opportunity? The way you manage money reflects a lot about your character.

A willingness to look facts in the face, take criticism and scrutinize the raw elements of your enterprise are also critical. Buffett knows his businesses in and out. And as well as he knows the balance sheets, he knows the people running them.

Then there's the people element. You should never discount the partners and employees whose near-term destinies it will be to make your business a great one. Even if you don't know all the details of their kids, you should at least keep eyes and ears open to what they love, why they work with you and how they manage others - particularly your customers.

It's my opinion that these are the characteristics that put an enterprise at Berkshire caliber, bearing in mind it ain't Google. You're not looking to explode in a handful of years, you're building a solid foundation that many people can feel good about standing on, perhaps even after you're gone.

The conclusion to Buffett's 2005 letter includes the following admission:
Charlie [Munger] and I are extraordinarily lucky. We were born in America; had terrific parents who saw that we got good educations; have enjoyed wonderful families and great health; and came equipped with a "business" gene that allows us to prosper in a manner hugely disproportionate to other people who contribute as much or more to our society’s well-being.
It's not everybody who shares Buffett's net worth, or the sense of immense gratefulness and personal responsibility he exhibits to the people who make it possible and society at large. It merits noting.
Moreover, we have long had jobs that we love, in which we are helped every day in countless ways by talented and cheerful associates. No wonder we tapdance to work.
Oh yeah, that last thing. It helps to pursue something you love doing. Be passionate. Please.

15 February 2007

Messy URL Change

I'm in the process of moving all the fun and games to Sooooo, please update your bookmarks while this awkward transition occurs.

Merci beaucoup.



Update, nary 2 hours later: success! I am a net ninja.

12 February 2007

Anecdotal Effects of MySpace, or Web 2.0 in General

('s not just for your kids anymore!)

An older female colleague pulled me aside to divulge some personal problems that have been taking a toll. She explained that she thinks her 50-year-old boyfriend is cheating on her with a woman around my age.

Well, that's an old, familiar story. "How do you know?" I asked.

She leaned over conspiratorially, even as she dabbed at her eyes. "I checked her MySpace," she replied. "She wrote about it there. And he denied it, but he saves all his IMs and I found those too."

Yeesh; that's never easy. I said hang in there. She blames the internet for her troubles; I admitted I'd sooner blame the man.

"The internet makes it more possible to meet somebody and fall astray," she moaned.

I thought about how hard my parents fought to keep me in the house in the angsty teen years when I had crappy boyfriends. No restriction of media could save me or the chastity they imagined I still had.

"No," I answered. "If a person wants to cheat, he'll cheat." I didn't know what else to say.

I think it was silly of me to imagine, however subconsciously, that the social effects of Web 2.0 belong to only a small generation - my generation mostly, and a handful of the early adopters in Gen X and the Baby Boomer stratosphere.

I'd include the kids born in the '90's, but a disparity even there can be felt - they'll grow up thinking this is simply another way to relate to people. It'll never occur to them what kind of impact this Web 2.0 stuff had just a few years prior. When my 8-year-old sister registered for a MySpace, for example, I had no idea what to do and no yardstick for gauging its appropriateness. It's not like I can look back and go, "Well, when I was a kid I had (or didn't have) one..."

The internet continues to break new ground in our personal relationships. And clearly not just for those of us who feel as if we've been personal, active witnesses in the transition from the "a/s/l?" days to the broad universe of MySpace, Flickr, Youtube and Xanga. It's fundamentally shaken the norms of an older generation, like those of the nice older woman who among other things must now redefine old-school definitions of cheating (cybering: faux-pas or innocent pastime on a par with passive porn-watching?). And it's altered what a younger generation will learn to call normal.

But I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?

Here's some eye candy that I think decently demonstrates the evolution:

In other news, I just saw Pan's Labyrinth with said 8-year-old sister. (Probably not the best film to see with an 8-year-old.) She didn't like it, but she ripped off the storyline to create one of those creepy MySpace bulletins that conclude with, "If you don't send this to 10 people in 10 minutes, you'll end up like this kid."

I felt disappointed. I don't know if she's old enough to play on MySpace, but she clearly hasn't yet learned the etiquette of an older generation: you don't put spoilers in a bulletin, and you don't perpetuate chain letters.

The point this entry is approaching, I think, is the effects of our new webiverse are eyebrow-raising (regardless of how profound people think they are or aren't), and while I won't say they've made human relations any better or worse, I'll say they've certainly added a layer of complexity. And maybe that's not really saying anything. It's possible that this isn't news, it's just the natural evolution of man and technology.

What was that thing Marshall Mcluhan said? The medium is the what?

What's our medium of choice got to say to us lately? *checks MySpace bulletin* Oh awesome. Another one of those survey things.

02 February 2007

Moleskiners, Bloggers Share Common Destiny - er, Bond

The ubiquitous Moleskine notebook: allegedly the trusted third arm of Hemingway, Van Gogh and Matisse, among others.

If the above apotheoses were alive today, would they be bloggers? It's hard to say. I'm sure Van Gogh and Matisse could contribute a great deal to the future of graphic design, and perhaps inadvertently they already have.

Hemingway wouldn't be afraid of trying something new, and perhaps even elitist contemporaries like Gertrude Stein (who never quite made it on the popularity of her work) and James Joyce may find the globally conjurable writing platform useful to their purposes as scrivners of all seasons, times and worlds.

One thing's for sure: there's a grand overlap between blogosphere members and Moleskine users (of today, that is). So if you happen to see somebody carrying a mole-clad notebook around, chances are s/he's a blogger too.

To better emphasize that relationship we find the (now Kikkerland-owned) Moleskinerie which in turn yields Moleskine City, a global panorama of bloggers hot-footing it from country to country with cameras, comfy shoes and the telltale black journals. (If you're curious about the Kikkerland liaison, read the interview with Armand of Moleskinerie by Citizen Marketer authors McConnell and Huba.)

As a fellow blogger and Moleskine-toter, I was intrigued by the shared space between those who disseminate the word on the lit-killing technology of today and those who hold the classical cahier dear. Why the parallel? Could it be possible - dear God - that the sloppy self-entitled ego-maniacal pseudo-journalist bloggers of today are the trend-setting classicists of tomorrow?

Could it be possible our neurotic scribbling online and off demonstrate a love of the word (and the world) that only other Moleskine lovers throughout history can identify with?

Could it be possible that we carry a conscious responsibility to our readers to disseminate the truth about ourselves and our societies as it unfolds?

Could it be possible that we may be called upon hundreds of years into the future to act as the witty-ass 6+ megapixel lens for the world as it is today?

Could it be possible that there's a higher calling for bloggers everywhere?

...Including me? And maybe you?

Nah. Bloggers are just the no-good lazy-ass hyper-typing fucktards you went to high school with. We'll keep our day jobs as baristas, office cogs and interns because clearly there's a higher calling in those arenas.