Three weeks ago I removed refined sugar from my diet, meaning no refined sugars, no pastries, doughnuts, Nutella, gummi bears, cookies, etc.

Since then I have been sleeping well, waking up refreshed, and going through my days and nights with a marked improvement in energy and outlook.

In addition to having no processed sugar in my system, I have also been cutting back on my meals and/or meal portions. So there are times when I am hungry and I have been able to explore the feeling of hunger as well as the feelings around hunger.

Specifically, the feeling of control that one has over their hunger results in a strong sense of being removed from an unstoppable flow. Instead of rushing to satisfy my hunger like a fast-flowing stream, I remove myself to a quiet spot by that stream, observing my hunger and seeing myself and my world from a new angle.

There are different kinds of hungers, the hunger for money, recognition, control, and pleasure. It is tempting to remove those but, then, is that too a hunger of its own?

Singing In the Rain


The weather is beautiful today but for some reason I am thinking about one of my favorite clips of Gene Kelly. It’s the famous “singing in the rain” scene where Gene is walking home after dropping off his girlfriend.

He’s so happy that he just starts singing and dancing…in the rain. Great moves by one of the greatest dancers of American cinema.

What struck me most was how Gene’s character showed uninhibited happiness and enthusiasm. That is something that no modern movie would portray. Now all of our leading men have to be unsure and “nuanced.” Some would say “whiny.”

Movies reflect the values and trends of their times, and some could say that nowadays we just know more, that relationships are more difficult; that we live in more complex times.

However, movies like Singing In the Rain were done in post-war America. Soldiers had come back home after seeing the Nazi death camps, the flood of refugees throughout Europe and Asia, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the earth-shattering changes of a new world order.

Despite all of that, simple happiness and enthusiasm were what people wanted. Perhaps because they had seen so much they knew what counted.

Kim Jong-Il and Korean History

So the Dear Leader has passed away, leaving his chubby-cheeked son to take on the mantle of kingship for his starvation kingdom. Most people would say his passing was not soon enough and we have all been sickened by the horrible mistreatment of his people and the massive gulag system used to abuse and eventually kill anyone remotely suspected of disloyalty (including their family – Kim Jong-Il has been quoted as saying that “criminality is a stain that lasts three generations”).

Kim Jong-Ill has also served as a comedic foil outside of North Korea, spawning many sadly funny internet memes. A few of my favorites:

G4TV Twitter round-up, Tumblr, YouTube

Beyond the well-deserved mockery and correct criticism of the North Korean regime and leadership is the tragedy of the Korean people, who have been used as tools by their Chinese and Japanese neighbors, fearing a unified and strong Korea.

Starting with their subjugation by China from the 17th-century until the handover of Korea to Japan via the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 and then eventual colonization by Japan in 1910, Korea’s recent history has been a tragic one.

Even the liberation from Japan in 1945 was incomplete, with the regime in the South managed by officers and officials who had been trained and lead by Japan. According to the book by distinguished historian on Korean history, Bruce Cummings, during the Korean War, the majority of the South’s staff officers were Koreans who had served as officers in the Japanese Imperial Army and who were proud of their service.

Using the same tactics that the Japanese had used to subjugate the population, they maintained control of the South in face of North Korean military offensives and guerrilla incursions.

This fueled North Korean propaganda claims that they were the true freedom fighters and inheritors of a future Korean state. According to Bruce Cummings, it was true that Communist groups in the North did fight the Japanese, expelling or killing collaborators and trying to create an independent Korean state.

He goes on to say that while both sides committed atrocities on the civilian population during the Korean War, the North’s goal was to secure the majority of the population for mass education and conversion while the Southern regime liquidated suspected opponents so the numbers of dead in the South were higher.

Cummings goes further to say that former collaborators in the new regime settled old scores under the guise of fighting communism but, at the end of the day, neither side held the moral high ground. Certainly the post-war North Korean regime has been one of the most brutal and repressive in history, creating a culture of adoration for one family based on a combination of lies and half-truths. Meanwhile, the South has evolved into a democracy and powerful economy with the chance that it will one day face its past and emerge even stronger.

That leaves us with the two Koreas and neighbors who profit from their continuing split. A united Korea, especially a democratic one on its border is too close for comfort for China. Japan may have a more nuanced view of a united Korean nation but in either case, it will be up to time and the Korean people to bring about change since too many profit from the current divide.


May I Sponsor Your Battle-Axe?

World of Warcraft is one of the most popular MMO’s ever. With over 11,000,000 players as of 2010 its membership fees alone can generate $800,000,000 annually in gross revenue (assuming player retention of one year – I have no data on this). Average playing time is just over 22 hours per week (compared to the average 36 hours per week that people spend working).

More impressive is that the game itself helps forge virtual relationships through its use of kinships and team play. These relationships become as real as those forged in what some call “meat-space” (i.e., real life). Friendships and deeper relationships have been made and broken in its virtual halls, with gameplay spilling over into non-virtual time due to pre-login planning and scheduling, post-event analysis, and other activities that support this virtual life.

There are other games too, each with their own passionate players who expend the same number of hours (Lord of the Rings Online, EVE, Age of Conan, Dark Age of Camelot, and, Everquest) in their quests to defeat evil or grow their personal empire. As Seth Godin said in one of his TED talks, our world now consists of tribes of our own making, each with its own rules and culture; and each one a fundamental part of their members lives.

For marketers, this is an amazing but yet perilous opportunity to engage with people who live in these worlds.

Amazing because the opportunity to co-brand and even engage with people who are providing undivided attention in a cradle-to-grave environment means that every engagement has a higher probability of resulting in a warmer response to that effort. By tying a brand to a much-loved activity, companies can forge longer-lasting relationships.

It is also perilous because one mis-step can result in serious backlash from tribe members unless that brand is well schooled in both the ethos and standards of that world. Ham-fisted ad placements, intrusive messaging, or incompatible offers will shut out that brand for good (“Hey WoW players, stop by Askander Hammerfist’s tavern for more information on how we can save you money on your auto insurance…”)

The next frontier of brand engagement will be when smart marketers and willing MMO’s connect and work together to create opportunity for their members and partners.

One day you may be swinging a battle axe sponsored by Nike!

What Happens When You Don’t Trust Your People

When you don’t trust your own people, you outsource.

According to the NY Times Erik Prince, the former Blackwater CEO, is creating a mercenary force for the UAE staffed by recruits from Latin and South America. Their one core principle: no Muslims allowed.

Outfits like BlackWater (now Xe) or Executive Outcomes have long been a part of the political landscape and they often work with Western governments. They have their uses and they know it.

None of this shocks me. What is sad and quite telling, in light of the Arab Spring, is the extent to which rulers and governments in the Middle East fear their own people to the point that they would hire foreigners (and specifically, non-believers – an important issue in that part of the world) to protect their regimes.