Category Archives: stories

Hitchcock Talks about his MacGurfins

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of the genre of filmaking that we cal “suspense” or “thrillers”. It is a genre that some say is not great art, but instead is just entertainment.

Of course, Hitchcock’s films ARE entertaining. They are some of the most entertaining films ever made. They pull you into a story and keep you focused until the very end. Not only that, but his endings are invariably satisfying. Good triumphs over evil — but it is always a close call.

Hitchcock pulled this off again and again, which implies that he knew what he was going. Put another way, he had a formula that he understood and used.

What was it?  You might expect that he would have been rather secretive about his formula. To the contrary, he was rather open. It all has to do with the supremacy of character and plot over MacGuffin.  He talks about that in some detail in this interview with Fracois Truffaut. Enjoy!


What Happened to Ivan Mamchur?

The answer o the question, unfortunately, is that Ivan was killed by an assailant by gun shots as he exited his apartment in Ukraine.

The story gets more engrossing when you star down the path of understanding who killed him, and why. It turns out that Ivan was on a list of men to be found and killed.

Each person on the list was assigned a code name related to flowers. One was ‘briar.’ Another was ‘buttercup.’ The target, a man named Ivan Mamchur, was called ‘rose.’

Amazingly, Michal Schwartz followed this story to its beginnings — and those were in Georgia during the Russian invasion.

It is not a pretty tale. But it is what happened. Check out the link above!

Selling Connection Rather than Things

You hear a lot about a crisis in retail.  This lead in sentence from a BI article gives you the feel

Retailers are bracing for a fresh wave of store closings in 2018 that is expected to eclipse the rash of closings that rocked the industry last year.

Bad news!  Or is it so bad? The broader picture is that consumers are no longer as satisfied as they once may have been by just buying stuff. They want something better, and they are able to find it in different settings than traditional stores.

Samsung thinks it knows what customers want. And they are experimenting with that idea in New York

… the New York City store’s employees won’t push guests to buy any Samsung products, and the space has only a small amount of inventory on site, but the store is selling something else: the idea that Samsung will make shoppers happier than any other tech company.

They are doubling down on the ongoing connection you make with their brand. Perhaps they learned a lesson from Apple, the company that pioneered this marketing approach.

Let’s see how this trend plays out in the new year. Old fashioned stores disappear – and new types of retail experiences that build connection take their place.

The Sugar Blues

I was turned onto this a while ago

A growing body of evidence has revealed how industry groups have worked to suppress the scientific findings on the harmful effects of sugar for decades — either by promoting studies that downplay its negative effects or suppressing studies that reveal its harms.

The word “suppress” is too mild. John Yudkin first started writing about the dangers of sugar in our diets back in the 1960’s. The sugar industry blackballed him and ruined his career.  And if there is a villain in this story, it may be a Harvard researcher by the name of Ancel Keyes.

Image result for Ancel Keys

It was Keyes who claimed that scientific research proved that saturated fat was causing heart disease in the US. History has shown that this conclusion is not supported by the evidence. When Yudkin challenged that conclusion, Keyes led the charge to discredit him. The sugar industry was glad to support him. And it worked. That led to decades of doping our processed foods with sugar, and the resulting health crisis that we are now in.

Lesson learned: beware of nutritionists and wonder diets. The reality is that digestion is still pretty much a mystery.  A related reality – the connection between digestion and the immune system is also mysterious. And beware of industry lobbying based on “science” that just happens to confirm what it wants the public to believe.

What do we know? Sugar, regularly introduced into the diet in large amounts has side effects that are not conducive to long life.

Will the Humans Revolt?

My ex-wife suggested the other day that Donald Trump won the election because America is now dominated by squat, nasty aliens. The slender, tall, and rather friendly ones departed, at least for the time being, and this has created quite a problem.

She may be onto something. How else can one explain the rather truculent mood that is brewing stateside? Or is it due to tech?

Catherine Shoard writes

… evidence mounts that we are all reacting against the effects of tech – even as our addiction to the technologies themselves persists.

In other words, we are caught in an interface that we don’t like. I would take this a step further. Humans need to be the hero of their own stories. And tech has made this more difficult to visualize. We are Bertie Wooster when we want to be Jeeves. What holds us back? It cannot be ourselves, and so it must be tech! And so we get a bit grumpy, just as the slaves did before Sparticus egged them on. which started the so called “Third Servile War“.

Is it logical? Of course not. Tech is just an assemblage of tools that we create for our own convenience. These tools are not imposed on us … errr … except at work. And they do not dominate us … errr … except when the Sixers are playing. Our reaction is entirely emotional, which of course, makes things much worse. We are not only morons, we are out of control morons. And  perhaps this is why, as Catherine writes, we get our emotional jolts from nostalgia and fantasy. Not reality. Reality is either too boring or ugly to conjure such enthusiasms.

Ah yes, I could read The Lord of the Rings, over and over again, couldn’t you? Hmmm …  I wonder if the trilogy was actually written by those tall, friendly aliens. Hopefully, they will produce more.

What do you think?

Famous Things Famous People Never said

This is not a story about the infamous Donald Trump.  It is true that he takes great pleasure in over-simplifying issues and bombastically promising amazing solutions. And it is true that this  can be annoying. But we might pause for a moment and consider that what Trump is doing is part of a larger story.

It may be that we are not overly fond of the truth. We prefer a simplified version of it that is consistent with what we are told by people whom we would like to believe.

Don’t believe me? Check out this post by Greg Satell on famous stories that we get wrong.