Posts filed under ‘People’

Johnny hits the big time with Woodwise

woodwise

We are incredibly excited to announce that Johnny has begun to blog at ApartmentTherapy. He is the man behind a new column, Woodwise, on which he shares his lessons in carpentry and woodworking.

Congratulations, Johnny!

August 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm Leave a comment

Have You Had Your “McGangBang” Today?

mcgangbang-flickr42

It’s a simple recipe for a thoroughly unwholesome meal: one McChicken sandwich placed between a Double Cheeseburger’s two patties, both ordered off McDonald’s popular Dollar Menu for a grand total of $2.16. Crudely christened the “McGangBang” by Daytona Beach customers in 2006, the sandwich has steadily earned a voracious following. Today, McDonald’s diners consume the McGangBang both online and off, ordering the absurd sandwich from befuddled employees, while documenting their experiences via Flickr, YouTube and, dare I say, even Twitter. And yet, the way McDonald’s opts to address this public relations pickle will prove to be even more interesting than how their customers are customizing the dollar sandwiches.

To date, the company has issued a single statement on the McGangBang, using a typical smile, deflect and evade approach:

“McDonald’s loves to hear from our valued guests, especially when they customize and create meal combinations to fit their personal taste preferences – no matter how unique! Whether it’s requesting an Egg McMuffin without cheese or a Big Mac with extra secret sauce, McDonald’s is proud to satisfy our customers’ requests and provide them with a variety of great-tasting meals every time they visit our restaurants.”

Is it just me or is ordering a sandwich named after a group sex act slightly different than asking for “an Egg McMuffin without cheese?” (Unless I’m unaware of some naughty new move!)

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March 24, 2009 at 2:31 pm 2 comments

The Amazing Year That Was

Obama crowd

2008 was an unforgettable year for us at People Are Amazing. Aside from Kat getting married, and me getting typhus, we launched this very blog and (despite our best efforts), it is still up and running! Since then, we’ve been privileged to interview a number of amazing people from Kalliopi Kohas, owner of Greek pine sap purveyor Mastiha to Tony Dusko, 5th grade teacher by day, whimsical web animator by night. A personal highpoint was hearing the wise words of 90 year-old Dave Crawford on growing up during the Great Depression and how best to navigate a crumbling economy.

But the recession didn’t keep us from visiting some intriguing places. John took a trip to Brooklyn’s own Fine and Raw for a taste of artisanal, dairy/sugar/preservative-free chocolate. He brought back some perishable, refrigerated samples and we made sure they never reached room temperature! Kat found herself in the Mid-West wandering the aisles of Cincinatti’s own supermarket/amusement park Jungle Jim’s. Food, it seems, is a minor obsession at P.A.A.. Kat’s post about local panini-makers S’Wich found its way onto foodie blog Eater in May. I wrote about an awful new bottled tap water I came across at a bodega; in turn, that company curiously linked to our post, “Tap’NY Must Think You’re Stupid,” in their press section.

Surprisingly, our most popular post ended up being about a miscolored canine. In early May, I was experimenting with ways to boost traffic and I noticed that the search term “green puppy” was “volcanic” in popularity on Google Trends. Apparently, a Labrador with a pea-colored coat had been born in New Orleans and really people wanted to see the pictures. I posted the two images available at the time, unaware that moments later the popular site Buzzfeed would link to our post. Within a matter of minutes, we had thousands of viewers visiting our humble little blog. Thus, the “Green Puppy Effect” was born.

Obviously, you never quite know where a year will take you. This time last year, People Are Amazing didn’t even exist. But between blogging about diabetic rappers and Colorado grease thieves, we were thrilled to ride the ups and downs of 2008. Luckily for us, amazing things are always on the horizon and 2009 is sure to provide hearty fodder for the blog. Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

– Johnny

January 12, 2009 at 3:12 pm Leave a comment

Craig Bamsey On “Discount Porn”

Business Of Life

GUEST BLOGGER

“Full of people, but no one was buying. Everyone was just walking past the windows, looking at the sales.”

Two people came into the office this morning with similar tales from the front lines of suburban retail. Rubbernecking is in this (pre)Christmas season. Plastic swiping is out. The masses are still coming to the altars of capitalism – they’re just not partaking in the sacrament.

So why do they come? Why load up the kids and go for an indoor stroll past bulging shop windows full of screaming red signs with cryptic numbers and symbols and codewords such as “60% Off” and “Everything must go” and “No item undiscounted?”

Because, it would seem, when indulging our fantasies becomes too expensive, we flexibly become a nation of voyeurs. Sales voyeurs. Patrons of the soft pornography of discounts and mark-downs.

A top story on CNN Headline News this morning noted that GM was offering $15,000 off on brand new Yukon SUVs and Cadillac Escalades. “$15,000!” exclaimed two other people who brought up this fact unaided in subsequent conversations. “It’s almost obscene,” said one. Indeed.

It’s the oldest rule in marketing: “Sex Sells.” What could be sexier than watching products and retailers stripped down to their margins?

November 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

One Great Life…Two Great Depressions?

INTERVIEW

Addressing our economy back in April, President Bush refused to utter the term “recession,” opting instead for dopey euphemisms like “tough time,” “slowdown,” and “rough patch.” But as the domino effect of Lehman’s bankruptcy topples bank after bank, week after week, the discussion amongst grown-ups shifts to the plausibility of “depression.” Facing such a bleak outlook, we thought it would benefit our readers to share a personal account of the Great Depression, not necessarily to judge the economic parallels, but for the anecdotal guidance only our elders can provide. Dave Crawford, a 92 year old retired law professor and veteran of WWII was 13 years old when the stock market crashed in the fall of 1929. Earlier this month, he spoke with People Are Amazing:

Johnny Williams: As a 92 year old who lived through the 1930’s, do you think that we’re approaching another depression?

Dave Crawford: Definitely. And I think we may be even worse off than we were then. I think the big difference now is that nobody even dares use the word “depression.” They say “maybe we’re in recession,” but I think the fundamentals are even worse than they were then. I hope I’m wrong. In 1929 it was like falling off the edge of a cliff, people starting jumping out of their offices in Wall Street…it was that bad of a crash. It wasn’t until FDR came along in the early 1930’s that we began to rebound. He did a remarkable job; he was a real savior for our nation. We have no such leadership in evidence at this point. FDR came right in and said, “listen, this gap between the rich and the poor is ridiculous” and he inaugurated plans like the National Recovery Administration that were anathema to the wealthy. But we don’t have anybody like that now to take hold and close the ever-widening gap between the rich and the middle class and the poor.

Johnny: What are your earliest memories of the Depression era?

Dave: What comes to mind more than anything else was the new junior high school in the suburban Philadelphia area where my family lived. They started building in 1928 and they had all the steelwork up in 1929, but at the time of the crash the construction just stopped. I still remember driving by the skeleton framework of the school that I was supposed to be going to that fall. Gradually they got back on track but that skeleton framework is still very vivid in my mind. Also I remember one of the dances at my high school where the charge was “a penny a pound” for your date’s weight. So if she weighed a hundred pounds, it was only a buck for admission.

Johnny: Did they actually make the girls get on scales?

Dave: Yes, they did! So it was best to be with a girl who was very thin!

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October 14, 2008 at 10:29 am 1 comment

Craig Bamsey On The Crisis Food Economy

GUEST BLOGGER

Here at P.A.A., we like overturning rocks and digging in the dirt. But let’s face it, sometimes we need an extra hand getting to the bottom of things. Starting this week, we will be welcoming guest bloggers, who we hope will expose us and our readers to some fresh new ideas. Our inaugural guest blogger is especially near and dear to us. As CEO of Infinia Foresight, and overall awesome boss, Craig shares our child-like curiosity for combing culture. So without further adieu, here are Craig’s thoughts on food and finance… –Johnny

At a birthday gathering for my son’s classmate in the New York ‘burbs this weekend, I struck up a conversation with a dad who runs a party and catering service. Naturally, given the headlines, the conversation turned to the economy, to the banking and credit crisis, and how all of it was effecting his very economy- (and finance industry)-dependent small business.

It turns out that he’s doing fairly well. His business held “flat” vs. last year in September, which he counted as a major success, and he remains optimistic. His hope seemed to spring from three key tenets:

  1. People always need to eat, for richer or poorer
  2. People take comfort in food and having a good time–particularly when times are bad
  3. In order to get all the massive financial restructuring, mergers and deals done that this crisis has precipitated, there have been veritable armies of investment bankers and lawyers sequestered in small rooms for days at a time throughout the city. They take no breaks. They don’t go out. All of their sustenance is catered in. For days on end.

Voila: The Crisis Food Micro-Economy.

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October 7, 2008 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

Tony Dusko Animates Learning

INTERVIEW

It’s a time-honored elementary school cliche: when the semester is slow, vacation fast approaching or there is a substitute teacher, the class watches a video to kill time. But Tony Dusko, a Pennsylvania-based 5th-grade teacher by day and animator by night, has bigger aspirations for what his students watch. Beginning with a short cartoon of a grilled-cheese sandwich telling his class to get ready for lunch, Dusko discovered that his 5th-graders had a voracious appetite for animated lessons.

Drawing on a degree in fine art and studies with Academy-Award nominated animator Paul Fierlinger, Dusko has created a series of films to engage his students in a variety of subjects; from learning about owls to being a good friend. His shorts make for lively and fun viewing, and represent a simple and effective way to break through the electronic clutter of his young students’ lives: His characters are quirky shapes and colors, his sound-effects are expressive, and his sense of humor is appealing to all ages (watch Some Facts About Owls, above and check out more of Tony’s work at notebookbabies.com). Recently, I had a chance to ask Tony a few questions about how and why he does what he does. –John

How did you get started with your educational animations?

One day I decided to make an animated character to tell the kids to be quiet when they are in line to go to lunch. I was sick of telling them myself every day.

What was your students’ response like?

They couldn’t believe their eyes or that I could do something like that. Then they begged me to make more.

How do you think a dynamic medium like animation helps kids learn?

I am not sure why it works but I am certain that it is an effective way to communicate information when done well. Perhaps it is the combination of movement and sound using simple colors and shapes. Or maybe it is just a medium that kids are used to from TV.
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August 12, 2008 at 9:36 am 1 comment

Girl Talk @ All Points West: A View From The Pit

Last Friday, I saw Girl Talk perform live at the All Points West music festival at Liberty State Park. For those of you unfamiliar with his music, I recently wrote a lengthy post here about how this laptop DJ’s mashup style perfectly reflects this moment in time. As expected, his set at APW was insane. Emerging right as Underworld was beginning their famous Trainspotting hit “Born Slippy” on the main stage, GT quieted the crowd in a nod to his elders. A moment later, he turned the page on the British geezers.

After a chaotic hour of cross dressers, toilet paper and unidentified flying inflatables, Girl Talk let his laptop do the work and rode a wobbly air mattress into the crowd. Falling awkwardly into a pit of worshipping young fans, he called his high paced set to an end. As we all hobbled off, sweaty and exhausted, I exchanged a few words with a guy on line for $4 water. “What’s the name of that band up next?” I asked jokingly. “I think they’re called Radiohead or something,” he replied. For us, at least, the highlight of the night came right before the beloved headliners.

This morning I was reading the NYTimes recap of the show, and what did I see in their slide show? Me! Well, to be fair, it’s more like mini-me, but if you look closely under Girl Talk’s right shoulder, there I am taking a picture with my digital camera.

(Photo courtesy of NYTimes)

Don’t believe me? Well, check out this awesome shot I grabbed at that very moment. In the spirit of Girl Talk, feel free to use this copyright-free picture below whenever and wherever you’d like!

– Johnny

August 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm Leave a comment

Girl Talk Looks Forward To The Past

(A fan’s homemade music video for Girl Talk’s “Still Here” including samples of Procol Harum, Kanye West and Ace of Base)

Two years ago, an obscure laptop DJ from Pittsburgh mashed together a collage of popular music samples into something brilliantly distinctive and fresh. Under the name Girl Talk, Greg Gillis produced the hyperactive hip-hop dance masterpiece Night Ripper, an album that has remained on my playlist and my mind ever since. Earlier this summer Girl Talk released his follow-up album Feed the Animals as a Radiohead-style “pay-what-you-like” download on the internet. Last week, he popped up on my radar yet again, this time in the form of a fan’s YouTube remixes. In each instance, I was reminded of why his music perfectly reflects this moment in time and felt compelled to share my thoughts.

Girl Talk arrived on a wave of critical acclaim and controversy, with even the most favorable reviews noting that Night Ripper (his third album, yet first commercial success) was “begging for court drama.” It seems GT had crafted an entire album using, almost exclusively, other people’s music. Of the mind-blowing 167 samples used most were under copyright, including popular singles by everyone from Ludacris and Hall & Oates to Elton John and 2Live Crew. Signed to Illegal Art (the aptly named label that specializes in artists with copyright infringement issues), it was hardly as if GT was unaware of the potential legal dangers of his sampling. Instead, relying on the “Fair Use” law, this biomedical engineer-by-day toured relentlessly with a sweaty, shirtless set even more frenetic than his music. And us kids loved it.

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July 30, 2008 at 2:08 pm 2 comments

I Was Touched By A Pirate

As a New Yorker, suspending one’s cynicism can be a mighty challenge. So when I was invited this Saturday to see a little comedy troupe called The Story Pirates perform a series of short plays conceived by small children, I admit I was a tad skeptical. Yet much to my delight, the Pirates’ performance was a big bowl of chicken soup for my sardonic city soul! The hour-long show cleverly blended playground humor with sophisticated playwriting and Broadway-style musical scoring. Oh, and puppets! Lots of irreverent puppets with silly names like Francoise Debun and Siegfried the Orange.

But what appeared to strike the audience most was the group’s refreshingly earnest mission. Comprised mainly of Northwestern University acting alum, the Pirates spend their days visiting underfunded public schools teaching student workshops in literacy and creative expression. The resulting mini-adaptations, carrying such titles as “The Dodo and the Dead People Next Door” and “How to Have the Best School on the Planet,” clearly preserve the mini-writers’ original intent.  Ultimately the Pirates’ slogan says it all: “Plays written by kids, performed by adults who wish they still were.”

The Story Pirates perform a kid-friendly show every Saturday at 2PM at The Drama Book Shop. Once a month, they perform an edgier 18+ show at the Zipper Theatre. Check out more details here. –Johnny

See a video of 4th grader Michael Breen’s “Giant Bugs 2″ below:

June 24, 2008 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

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