Monthly Archives: January 2008

Greater than the sum of its parts

You might have heard about the clip above, it’s been featured on a lot of morning radio shows lately. Basically it’s David Lee Roth’s isolated vocals from the Van Halen classic “Runnin’ With the Devil” (Track 1 on their first album for you die hard VH fans). There’s no reason why this should be so funny, but it is – you will be impressed, scared, and tickled all at the same time.

This is a great reminder that The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It sounds cliche’, but this is something that we really try and focus on at ThinkCash. We try and look at the customer experience and our marketing programs holistically, instead of just focusing on “the trees”.

Strange things afoot in Stephenville, plus my Top Alien/UFO movie picks

UFO 
For those of you that don’t live in North Texas, you may never have heard of Stephenville. Stephenville is a small town of 17,000 people about an hour SW of Fort Worth (as a side note: great cycling in Stephenville). This little town has become the “UFO Center of the World” over the last week after numerous residents spotted something in the skies. They all have claimed to have seen a UFO, or an ‘unidentified flying object’. Many of the witnesses are very credible people, including the constable for Erath County. You can watch a CNN International report on the story here
One thing that hurt witnesses credibility is the fact that most of them claimed to have also seen military jet fighters in pursuit of the UFO. However, the Air Force said that they had no planes in the vicinity on the date in question.
This story took an intriguing twist yesterday when the Air Force changed it’s statement and said that it actually did have F-16s in the area on the date and time in question.
I’m no conspiracy theorist, but this change of events is sure to keep the tabloids and UFO fans focused on Stephenville for some time.
In honor of these events I present my expert Top 10 Alien/UFO movies of all time.
  • How am I an “expert”
    • I spent 6 years of my life working for Blockbuster (in stores as a teenager and later, launching and serving as the head of marketing for Blockbuster)
    • I “grew-up” in video stores (my parents owned some for 5+ years)
    • I used to catch the $2 double-feature at The Lake Cinema in Lake Oswego, OR every weekend with my friends.

So, in no particular order:

war of 

War of the Worlds

One of the original alien movies that’s still considered one of the best. 

Based on H.G. Wells novel of the same name, Earth gets invaded by Martians. 

You never really see the aliens, but just the thought of them in their spacecraft gives this movie 

it’s suspense – don’t expect to be wowed by the special effects (special effects weren’t very “special” in 1953). 

This movie should not be confused with the crappy Tom Cruise remake of 2005. 

ET 

E.T. The Extraterrestrial

A different twist on the alien flick. This time the character is a love-able alien that easily tugs on your heart strings.   If you haven’t seen it yet, or haven’t re-watched this movie  for years, do so now, you’ll be surprised how good it was. This movie was also the start of the “product placement wars” in major motion pictures. Can’t remember the product – it was Reese’s Pieces! They were E.T.s favorite treat and the bait Elliot used to bring him out of hiding. I actually got an “E.T.” filled Christmas stocking in 1982 – a small plush E.T. doll and a bag of Reese’s Pieces. See – product placement works!

 

blob 

The Blob

Both versions of the Blob, both the originals 50’s version and the updated 80’s version have a lot to offer.  One a personal note, the 80’s version was filmed in my wife’s hometown of Abbeville, LA. The 80’s version is also one of the few lead movie roles for Kevin Dillon, Johnny Drama of HBO’s “Entourage” (best show on TV). The alien in this case is just that – a blob. It’s hard to imagine being scared by anything that moves so slowly, but this giant Jell-O mold eats anything in it’s path.

. killer

Killer Klowns From Outerspace

The title alone should get your attention. This movie is as bad as it sounds. It makes the list for the obsurdity of the plot and special effects. Alien Clowns come from outer space that shoot ray guns turning people into cotton candy wrapped treats that the clowns later feed on through silly straws (I’m not making this up).  The one thing you’ll learn from this movie is to always shoot or hit an alien clown in the nose (it makes them explode).

last 

The Last Starfighter

Great movie. The graphics were way ahead of it’s time (1984) and it actually features a rare combination – a good plot and good actors. This movie gave every trailer-park-video-game-playing-kid the dream that they could save the universe. As a kid, this movie made me wish I had my own “Beta-unit” to do my chores while I joined Star-Command to save the universe.

 

.flight 

Flight of the Navigator

A 12-year-old boy, is mysteriously abducted by an alien ship and returns to Earth eight years later, still only 12. He now possesses great navigational powers that enable him to fly his space ship anywhere he desires. Along with the help of robotic Commander Max (voiced by Paul Reubens, aka Pee Wee Herman) he “takes off” on adventure. I know it sounds a little corny, but this is actually a really entertaining movie that has stood the test of time. It’s the kind of film you wish Disney still made more of.

Kevin sticks it to Clinton and Ah-nuld

clinton and arnold

Kevin has a great response to the misguided/misinformed commentary from Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Wall Street Journal. As Kevin points out, this is a challenge we constantly face at ThinkCash. It would be nice to have politicians look at the facts for a change and stop using the short term loan industry as a pawn in their political agendas.

Copperas Cove Report – First Race of the Season

Copperas Cove start

Saturday was the start of the road race season here in Texas with the TBi Copperas Cove RR. Copperas Cove is just outside Kileen, TX, so a 2.5 hour drive from Fort Worth. I rode down with Brian (one of my Mortiz teammates) for a noon start. The turn out for the race was huge:

  • A P/1/2/3 field of over 60
  • Two Cat 4/5 races, both with 75 racers
  • 35+/Women’s race with about 75 racers as well.

All of the races started within 30 minutes of each other, so you had about 350 racers milling through the parking lot all morning – checking their gear, eating bananas or Clif Bars and trying to stay warm (it was 27 degrees in the morning, by race time it was in the high 30’s).

Unfortunately Brian and I didn’t get to race together (he was in the B race, I was in the A race), so this would be a solo effort. The race was 54 miles, consisting of a 9 mile, hilly, out-and-back stretch and a 30+ mile loop. The winds were strong out of the north (20 mph+), so I assumed everyone would stay together for the first half of the race and then things would really open up as we had the benefit of the tailwind.

My inexperience (this was only my second road race, and my first as a Cat 4) did not serve me well. I got stuck in the back of the pack early and had a difficult time moving up because we had such a large field (and the centerline rule was being heavily enforced). When you are at the back of a 75 person pack every little action up front gets magnified in the rear. As a result, guys in the front keep a pretty consistent pace, but those of us in the back are forced to constantly brake and accelerate to stay with the pack. There were definitely early season nerves (many guys were all over the road and there was a lot of hard braking), this translated into two different wrecks in the A race. Luckily I managed to avoid both of them (the second requiring me to spend some time in the grass to avoid the pile-up). I never felt “at my limit” during the race, so I just waited for the hills in the last 6 miles of the race as my best chance to advance. Luckily this worked and I was able to move up the field and then solo and bridge up to a breakaway of about 6 racers. As soon as I caught up to the break I realized these guys were gassed and we weren’t likely to hold everyone off. Sure enough, another group of about 12-15 guys bridged up to us.

Ben at Copperas Cove

Me (Racer 822) in the breakaway

So about 22 of us rolled into town together and got strung out single file before hitting the two right-hand turns (basically a U-turn) into the finishing straight. I’m not a great sprinter, so I just held on to my place – finishing 18th. If I would have known the course better, I probably would have attacked on the last little climb before we turned into the finish, but such is racing – lot’s of ifs and buts. Overall, I’m pretty pleased and it wasn’t a bad way to start the season – nice little 54 mile ride at 22 mph. I also raced with my PowerTap, so it was really interesting to look at the file after the race and see how the power efforts were compared to my perceived exhaustion at different points in the race.

“Revenge is SWEET!” . . . now in video

For the background on this little ThinkCash office prank, read my previous post here. The best part of the video is at the 1:20 mark . . . Stephen was a good sport.

Revenge is SWEET!

full cube 

Don’t mess with the marketing team at ThinkCash was the message today. One of our co-workers played a little prank on us last week while we were at an off-site meeting (hanging funny signs on our offices/cubes). So today we thought it was only fair to return the favor.

marketing ninja

Our marketing ninja filling the cube of our unsuspecting co-worker.

cube sign

You know what they say – payback is a B%&*$. Seriously, it’s great to work at a place like ThinkCash where everyone works hard, but isn’t afraid to take a moment to have a little fun. If you would like to replicate this prank in your office, it isn’t cheap. You’ll need about $250 worth of Styrofoam peanuts; alternatively, you can be frugal (like us) by repackaging the peanuts and returning them to The UPS Store for a refund 😉

See the video of this prank here.

Decision 2008 . . . it all comes back to The Simpsons

 Decision 2008

The WashingtonPost.com has a great online quiz that you can take to help determine which presidential candidate best shares your beliefs on various issues. Kind of like an eHarmony compatibility test – see if your best match is Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards, Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, John McCain, Mitt Romney, etc. The beauty of the quiz is that you can take it without knowing which candidate you are agreeing/disagreeing with on a particular issue/question. This really forces you to let go of your personal bias and truly make decisions based on what a candidate says, not who or how they say it.

As you take the quiz, the most interesting aspect is the fact that all of the candidates’ answers are 99% the same. As you watch the debates, you really get the impression that the candidates differ on most topics. However, when you read their actual answers in transcript form – they are EXACTLY the same.

This supports one of my “Theories of Life”. I believe that you can take any situation in life and find an episode of “Seinfeld” or “The Simpsons” that deals with the same situation.

 Kang & Kodos

“The Simpsons” covered this topic in 1996 with the “TreeHouse of Horrors VII” Halloween episode. Two aliens (Kang & Kodos) kidnap Clinton and Dole before the presidential election and take their place (disguised as the candidates). They look exactly like the candidates; however, they still have their “normal” loud, monotone alien voices.  The aliens answer every question the same in the debates. There is a great line by Kang (who resembles Clinton) as he tells the crowd in an election debate “We must move forward… not backwards, not to the side, not forwards, but always whirling, whirling, whirling towards freedom.”

Another great dialogue takes place between Kodos (Dole) and a TV reporter:

Kent Brockman: Senator Dole, why should people vote for you instead of President Clinton?
Kang: It makes no difference which one of us you vote for. Either way, your planet is doomed. DOOMED!
Kent Brockman: Well, a refreshingly frank response there from senator Bob Dole.

I’m a little more optimistic about our future, but it does make you realize one thing about politicians and politics, like most things in life, it all comes down to marketing. I’m not just saying this because I’m a marketing executive (although there is some job protection there). When you buy a $100 pair of Nike shoes, about $60 of the cost of that shoe is covering the marketing cost (TV ads, print, endorsement deals, etc.).  Why do candidates need to spend so much money campaigning? Because they are basically similar products and are trying to differentiate themselves with consumers (voters) through marketing. That’s why Obama is doing so well thus far in the primaries. He has created a “brand” around his image/persona that sets him apart from the other Democratic candidates – even if their views aren’t that different.

Take the quiz. You might be surprised.