This is your Life Frankie D.

composed by David Seaberg  (Copyright 1993)

Frank was born at a very early age, the first of his family to be born in Canada, and for years thought he was a French-Canadian. As he was always called Di Mauro EH! Frank has three brothers – Biggest Frank, Big Frank, and Little Frank. When Frank served as an altar boy he was known as Frankincense.

Frank grew up in Ville Emard, or on garbage days Ville Eh merde, which was an Italian/Polish/Irish community on the island of Montreal. By the age of six he could swear in Polish, sing in Italian, and fight in Irish.

He spent his formative years as an altar boy, at the church of St. Ursula the Unaware. The story of St. Ursula and her many children was always a source of fascination for our young hero. St. Ursula’s was a tough church; every day sister Mary-Agnes would search the young cherubs for weapons—and if they didn’t have any she’d give them one. Frank served the daily mass, and made big money at synagogues, pretending he was the real bar-mitzva boy. Frank’s graduation from altar boy culminated in receiving the St. Sophia Order of Purity (fourth class). Any further rise in the ranks of the pure was stymied by sister Mary-Agnes, when she found him with Dympna O’Donnell and a tongue depressor.

Frank has always loved wine and was introduced to the grape and the unreasoning prejudice of the customs and excise officers, by Papa DiMauro, whose annual tribute to Bacchus was considered illegal. Frank is the only one who goes to a Capone movie and boos Elliot Ness.

He spent his adolescence visiting the Expo 67 site, shooting pool, listening to music, and not listening to his parents. He was an “eh” student, and the world was his oyster, especially when he had a date, which was often. Not too sure of a career, and with fond memories of Dympna O’Donnell, Frank entered Montreal’s Dawson College and became a medical laboratory technologist, performing tests on tissues and fluids at the Montreal General Hospital. Many of the nursing staff of the hospital have fond memories of Frank striding down the corridors, white coat flapping, tongue depressors in pocket, in search of fluids to test. It was here that Frank fell in love with a beautiful dietitian, and it was for her he developed a low cholesterol egg dish he called the Quiche of Life. But Frank was becoming bored, tongue depressors had lost their magic, so he enrolled in the Communication Arts program majoring in Film at Concordia U. The year was 1975.

1975, this fateful year he was at a party. When Frank drinks he sometimes develops a rash on his neck. Shelley was at the party too. She went up to Frank and said “I’m a nurse let me see your rash.” Frank misunderstood —- the rest is history. Shelley married Frank in 1978, just after he sent his film script about pre-historic pigs to Steven Spielberg. It was rejected. It was only much later that Spielberg realized the potential of “Jurassic Pork”.

Shelley is the first wasp to dive into the DiMauro gene pool and gave them all a buzz when their first child was born in 1982; she called him Stefan strong-arm (especially when he’s asking for his allowance).

Two of Frank’s best friends from his youth was bad Bob Boccolino, and better Bob Brushinsky. Bad Bob is now a wholesaler of shelled almonds and cashews. Better Bob is an enforcer with the Garibelli family of New York fame. Which shows you even if you’re bad and crush nuts there is always someone better.

In 1985, number two son, and second heir to the DiMauro fortune was born and named after Bob. Sometimes he’s bad, sometimes he’s better, so it all works out in the end.

Meanwhile, Frank was pursuing a career in packaging and design at Steinberg, the (now defunct) grocery giant. It was there he developed the slogan for their best selling Canadian cereal geared for the teenage market “Born to be Mild”. After the three Steinberg sisters sold the store, Frank heard America calling to him. He’s still not sure what he heard but the gesture was unmistakable.

In 1989, he moved the family to North Carolina, and taught himself computer desktop publishing and the rudiments of Southern. He acquired a certain fluency in Southern by 1991. Frank is currently working in North Carolina where he teaches Rock Group Therapy to sufferers of Guns and Roses.

Some little known facts about Frank. When on a cruise Frank was invited to dine at the captain’s table; on returning home he asked for a refund because they expected him to eat with the crew. Frank is a great cook especially of Italian dishes such as pizza. In fact, he is so good Shelley suffers from Pizza envy.

Some well known facts about Frank, he’s a good friend, husband, and father. A credit to his community, and a joy to his friends. This is your life—–enjoy.

Advertisements

On the Crest of a Wave

stock-footage-surfing-businessman-in-binary-data-stream

I wrote the following essay in 1988 when I served as Packaging Director for Steinberg Inc. in Montreal Canada. It was never published. Other than some minor grammatical corrections and updates , here it is again for your enjoyment.
– Frank DiMauro

It’s now 35 years since the publication of Alvin Toffler’s bestseller The Third Wave, an account of his theory defining the period we were entering at that time as well as what he believed lie ahead. According to Toffler, we were on the cusp of a third era or Wave in the history of civilization .

The first wave, claimed Toffler, was agrarian in nature, dominating the planet until roughly 300 years ago, when the second wave, which he defined as industrialism, began to gain momentum.

Finally, post-industrialism or the Third Wave, was crashing down on us and, Toffler contends, it is this clash between Second and Third Wave cultures which is at the root of many of today’s social, economic and political upheavals. By post-industrialism, Mr. Toffler was referring to the ubiquitous penetration of digital media and electronic media into our daily lives and their effect on the social psyche; to the all-at-onceness of electronic media versus the sequential order of printed media; to automated, robo-assisted assembly lines versus mechanically driven, labor-intensive manufacturing.

Upon reading this book back then, what struck me was his astuteness in forecasting, as far back as 1980, the spread of technological developments we take for granted today: personal computers, microwave ovens, micro-chip circuits, satellite dishes, VCR’s, portable audio devices, portable video devices, pay-TV networks, computerized banking, etc. Indeed, Mr. Toffler’s observations and forecasts went beyond the hardware, analyzing in-depth the effects and probable impact of this rapidly changing technology on society.

PACKAGING AND THE THIRD WAVE

On another level, the book made me reflect on the positions of the packaging and retailing industries vis-a-vis the Third Wave. Are these industries coping with the transition or are they liable to be rendered obsolete with the rest of the so-called Second Wave technologies, ideologies, and institutions.

Toffler wrote:

“Once we think in terms of successive waves of interrelated change, of the collision of these waves, we grasp the essential fact of our generation – that industrialism is dying away – and we can begin searching along signs of change for what is truly new, what is no longer industrial. We can identify the Third Wave.”

Below is a sampling of the change Toffler was referencing:

  • Shopping Patterns
  • Working Hours
  • Loyalty (to religion, brand, location, home, workplace, etc. )
  • Communication Technology
  • Family values
  • Education
  • Childcare
  • Healthcare
  • Travel & leisure time
  • Agriculture & Agro-Business
  • Transportation

Values being questioned include:

  • Definition of Success
  • Spiritualism
  • Consumerism
  • Punctuality
  • Work Ethic
  • Sexual Mores / Stereotypes
  • Capitalism
  • Socialism
  • Democracy

to name a few…

Obviously, modern society is undergoing radical change at every level and it will affect or has affected each of us. Below is a partial list of what appear to be Second Wave and Third Wave practices. Perusing the list reveals a hint of the radical differences evident between Second and Third Wave cultures and why the transition is so disruptive.

SECOND WAVE

·       Single Use Packaging

·       Unrecyclable

·       Conventional Oven

·       Central Distribution

·       Union membership

·       Energy from fossil fuels

·       Mechanical Assembly Line

·       Labor Intensive

·       Technical/Graphic Designers

·       Large Formats

·       Economy Size

·       250,000 Printing Minimum Run

·       60,000 Printing Minimum Run

·       Typesetters

·       Transistor

·       Transistor Radio

·       Television Console

·       Network Broadcast

·       TV Guide

·       Rabbit Ears

·       Fax

·       Vinyl Records

·       3-Week Turnaround Time

·       24-Hour Turnaround Time

·       Telex machine

·       9 to 5 workday

·       Manual Typewriter

·       Slide Rule

·       Contains Hexachlorophene

THIRD WAVE

·       Reusable

·       Recyclable

·       Microwave Oven

·       Direct-Delivery

·       Employee Owned/Managed

·       Renewable Energy (Solar, Hydro, Geo-thermal, Wind  etc.)

·       Robotic Assembly Line

·       Single Serve products

·       Self- Serve

·       Computer Assisted Manufacturing

·       Print-on-demand or Desktop publishing

·       Design by Personal Computer

·       CAD (Computer assisted design)

·       Micro Chip

·       Digital music player

·       Video Monitor

·       Network Narrowcast

·       Video Club

·       Satellite Dish

·       Compact Disk

·       24-Hour Turnaround Time

·       1 Hour Turnaround Time

·       Flex Time

·       Computer Mouse and mouse pad

·       Word Processor

·       E-mail

·       Does not Contain… or “Substance free”

LIVING IN THE PAST

It’s much easier to function by rote. Change is rarely welcome. The adage goes: “Everyone wants progress, but few want change.” Change is not only here to stay, it’s accelerating. The rate of change will feel to some like travelling in a vehicle in which the accelerator pedal is continually pressed to the floor, and there’s no letting up.

When the rate of change becomes too stressful, human nature is given to nostalgia.

  • Those were the good old days
  • But we’ve always done it this way.
  • Things aren’t what they used to

Quoting Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage:

“The past went that-a -way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend to always attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future. Suburbia lies imaginatively in Bonanza-land.”

No wonder the growing interest in high school reunions, college reunions, family reunions, 60’s/70’s/80’s music,  as well as a slew of films related to nostalgia or being young again: (i.e. Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, Eighteen Again, Dirty Dancing, Good Morning Vietnam, etc.) We are obsessed with the past because the future is so frightening, so unpredictable.  However, predictability is relative to its environment.

For instance, it will take longer to swim a distance of one mile than to run one mile, (given that an individual is in adequate physical condition to accomplish either of these activities). A body of water (environment or medium) requires more energy to swim it than the same distance traversed on foot on dry land. One can therefore roughly predict the length of time needed to traverse a distance if the environment or medium is a given. Predictability is compromised when that environment is in constant flux. This is the situation society is in today. To alleviate the frustration of not knowing what to expect, many, especially marketers and politicians, turn to pollsters, focus groups, surveys, consultants, etc.

One of prime-time TV’s favorite game shows –  Family Feud – has no right or wrong answers to the questions asked of participants. Answers are displayed on a screen according to what the studio audience votes as most likely to be correct.  “Survey says…” intones the show’s original moderator, the late Richard Dawson. He may as well have said “OPEN SESAME…”

Modern society is coming to the same realization – there are no right or wrong answers – only the most likely alternatives. After all, isn’t intelligence defined by some as “…the ability to choose the best alternative?”  But one has to understand what those alternatives and respective consequences are. The Third Wave’s information explosion is bombarding decision makers with an ever growing number of alternatives, with their possible consequences also growing exponentially.

SINK OR SWIM

Feel it rising in the cities

Feel it sweeping over land

Over borders over frontiers

Nothing will its power withstand

There is no deeper wave than this.

-Sting

The “wave” pop singer Sting was referencing when he sang these lyrics had more to do with passion than packaging. Nevertheless, the wave which is washing over us all will be difficult to withstand. At the source of the wave is electrical or micro-electronic energy, propelling it forward at a dizzying rate.

On electric energy, again quoting Marshall McLuhan:

“Since electric energy is independent of the place or kind of work-operation, it creates patterns of decentralism and diversity in the work place.. This is a logic that appears plainly enough in the difference between firelight and electric light, for example.  Persons grouped around a fire or candle for warmth or light are less likely to pursue independent thoughts or even tasks, than people supplied with electric light. In the same way, the social and educational  patterns  latent in automation are those of self-employment and artistic autonomy.”

He wrote this in 1964, over 50 years ago, in a sense paving the way for Alvin Toffler’s re-definition of the shape of things to come after 1980, the shape of the Third Wave.

Already this wave has made us aware of the expectations of today’s increasingly demanding and fidgety consumer. “Service and quality are what the people want…” we are told repeatedly, and at a competitive price. Local marketing, end-user niche marketing, market segmentation, locavore  foodies, craft micro-breweries, regional advertising, manager’s specials, entrepreneurial know-how;  these and other catch phrases are now part of our lexicon, reflecting a deep shift away from centralized control to decentralized autonomy and responsibility.

CUTTING THE UMBILICAL CORD

Wireless communication devices are the ultimate manifestation of the decentralization of Third Wave society. Once the domain of shortwave radio and CB radio enthusiasts , law enforcement officers and taxi drivers, wireless communication is now within everyone’s grasp, literally and figuratively. Cell phones are now common place and nowhere is this more evident than in developing countries.

Electronic freedom translates into increased mobility and, in turn, higher productivity. Musicians on stage can amplify their instruments and voices with wireless devices. In this case, creative freedom is maximized, liberating the performer to his or her fullest potential.

DECENTRALIZATION AND MARKET SEGMENTATION

The influence of the Third Wave on marketing is increasingly evident each year and the packaging industry is at the forefront of the impact.  Market segmentation and its inherent differences in taste have prompted several leading firms to diversify their equity-rich product lines and/or images in order to appeal to a broader client base. Campbell’s soup and McDonald’s are 2 examples of the creative use of segmented marketing.

  • Campbell’s recently launched a family of creamy soups demographically-tailored to specific markets and tastes.
  • McDonald’s is renowned for its plethora of advertising messages, consisting of both national image building ads as well as ads addressed to specific market segments. Its ads cater to children, of course, but also teens, pre-teens, senior citizens, Hispanics, Blacks, etc; In Quebec, its “Big Mac Tonight!” jingle, loosely based on the classic “Mack the Knife” theme, was replaced in its French-language version, by a theme by well-known Quebecois singer Claude Leveille, whose music was deemed more accessible to French-speaking consumers.

Decentralization makes people more interested in what is relevant to them. Therefore the messages they will pay most attention to must be contextualized according to regional, albeit local realities. Segmentation/diversity go hand in hand with consistency in a Third Wave society. The key is finding the right mix.

TV OR NOT TV? IS THAT THE QUESTION?

The ubiquitous nature of digital media in modern society inevitably influences man; this observation is repeatedly confirmed by scholars, anthropologists and sociologists. The instant turn-on, instant gratification we enjoy from our video screen, for example, is a quality we transfer to and expect from other modern conveniences – credit cards and fast-food restaurants are just two examples. Lining up for anything, least of all to pay for goods at a checkout counter, is a practice well on its way to obsolescence as the Third Wave crashes down upon us.

Man’s evolving relationship with the elements of modern life have paralleled his relationship with packaging. Packages thought avant-garde or revolutionary in a Second Wave society become inappropriate as we entered the Third Wave. The TV dinner is a case in point. Introduced on a mass scale during the 1960’s, the TV dinner gained popularity as a convenient way to enjoy a balanced meal without the fuss of actually preparing one from scratch. Ironically, it reached its zenith with the introduction of the microwave oven, a tool intended to further facilitate meal preparation. Indeed, the TV dinner has experienced a steady decline in popularity ever since. A number of reasons were attributed to this, perhaps the misconception of the microwave ovens’ incompatibility with the aluminum tray.

With the increasing diversification of the marketplace, the mass produced TV dinner no longer met the highly segmented tastes of its client base. The TV dinner concept originated on Second Wave principles, mass produced product intended to appeal to one and all, ideally requiring a conventional oven for its preparation and packaged in a non –biodegradable or recyclable tray. Perhaps “Radio Dinner” would have been a more appropriate name.

Incidentally, the microwave oven served to distort rather than reinforce the TV dinner’s identification with television. A TV set’s similarity to a microwave oven is more than coincidental:

  • Both appliances are available in various sizes and can be connected into any wall outlet, in just about any room.
  • Both can emit and receive wavelengths.
  • Both are available with programmable
  • Both are fascinating to watch in action, particularly when newly acquired.

The TV dinner’s relationship to TV became compromised when the “TV-like” food package was found to be incompatible with the “TV-like” oven. The mass-produced TV-like product and its aluminum tray were rendered useless by the microwave oven, its identification to television no longer valid. In an effort to make the TV dinner microwave compatible – more media friendly, we might say – Swanson /Campbell’s swapped out its aluminum tray with a PET one.

MEDIA FRIENDLY PACKAGING

Today’s product and package must be media-friendly to be assured some success in the marketplace. The 3 types of media referred to are:

  1. Electronic media – television, PCs, microwave ovens
  2. Environmental media – Earth, Air, Water, Outer-space
  3. And of course Man, the end-user, the medium through which we ultimately communicate and share information.

Our relationship with electronic/ digital media has evolved enormously since the early days of the telegraph, the radio and even television. Rarely do we hear of someone smashing or throwing a shoe at radio/TV sets upon hearing/watching some emotionally charged event i.e. football game.

In Montreal during the 60’s, a favorite local TV character was Johnny Jelly Bean, a zany comic portrayed by comedian Ted Ziegler. His Lunchtime Little Theater, a half-hour program broadcast live daily at noon, was highlighted by his predictable listening to and hammering of a wooden «squawk box», a radio-like device dangling precipitously from the ceiling of his “secret” club house. His relationship with this medium, the radi, was passive yet violent, nevertheless eliciting howls of laughter from his young, raptured audience.

During Pee Wee’s Clubhouse  Saturday morning show, we can see our host Pee Wee Herman carrying on this tradition,  interacting with “Magic Screen,” a video monitor with arms and a visage that propels itself around the clubhouse on a pair of tiny wheels. Pee Wee’s relationship with the Magic Screen is friendly, collaborative, and definitely non-violent. Pee Wee and Magic Screen actually talk to, and learn from, each other. Information is shared via a highly developed feedback loop inherent to both user and machine. To label Pee Wee’s magic screen user-friendly is an understatement.

This is the kind of relationship Third Wave society is developing with all 3 media mentioned earlier: integrated, interactive, interdependent, asynchronous, holistic, closure-inducing…

HOLD IT! What does all this mean in practical terms?

Packaging can become user or media friendly through several means, namely:

1) Feedback device

Whether packaging ideas, soap or services, it becomes media friendly when a feedback mechanism is incorporated into the product’s lifecycle. For example, frozen entrees are currently being tested with an indicator on the packaging that changes color when microwave energy has optimally heated the food. Another example is a tamper-evident seal which, when broken, clearly displays a warning that the package has been infiltrated. Every article in the American trade magazine Packaging is accompanied by a scoring chart allowing the reader to rate the article, from Outstanding to Below Average, on an enclosed self-addressed scorecard. This allows the reader and the publisher the potential to respond to each other’s needs on an ongoing basis. The April 1988 issue of Canadian Grocer magazine reported a new type of supermarket which recently opened in Kitchener, featuring Customer Response Cards and a Consumer Action Committee. The committee could, for example, recommend the store carry a new or different product or suggest a more convenient design for a store department.

2) Media sensitive –

Briefly put – know your user. Understand the market or markets your package is addressing. Nothing new here, you might say. But it goes deeper than simply doing marketing research. The ever-growing fusion of man with electronics will increasingly place new restraints on your marketing plan, restraints which when viewed with a Third Wave perspective, open up wide vistas of possibilities and opportunities. Ask yourself, for example, can the product or representation of· the product be marketed digitally? Can the representation be visualized, digitized and stored electronically? Can your product be assigned an audio identification? (i.e. POP, POP, FIZZ, FIZZ) an audio/visual identification? (ex.Where’s the beef?)  and is this identity media friendly? Can the image be adapted to communicate, with as much impact on TV as on the supermarket shelf or in a newspaper ad?

Media sensitivity also refers  to our highly precarious environment, our planet Earth. Ask yourself – is the package/product environmentally safe? – is it bio-degradable? recyclable? reusable? – can it serve a secondary (and tertiary) purpose, perhaps different from its primary function?

3) Man the medium-

Lastly, there is the end-user, Man, the Medium to end all media. How well do we understand, or are sensitive to, his needs? Is our end-user predominantly of Second Wave or Third Wave culture (and everything each implies)?- is our end user still operating within a First Wave culture? (now there’s a twist)

**to be continued….

Why are there so many films with “American” in the title?

American Sniper. American Hustle. American Gangster. American Beauty.

What is up with all these films sharing the same adjective?

  • Does adding this descriptor guarantee box office boffo? Yes, in most cases.
  • Does it ensure that the film appear at or near the top of the list when looking up movies to watch or review? Usually, yes.
  • Does it attract lots of movie-goers who are patriotic and love their country? Not necessarily.

For instance, The American (2010) with George Clooney made as much revenue overseas as it did with U.S. audiences. American History X  (1998), a brutal depiction of a former neo-nazi, white supremacist played by Ed Norton, won critical acclaim yet had so-so results at the box office. The same goes for American Psycho (2000) starring Christian Bale, and American Mary (2012) a British indie film. But by and large, most films with the word *American* in the title are almost assured to make money– in some cases, lots of money — and win a few awards as well.

Here is a partial list of some well known films (and  now a few TV series) that have done very well thanks to some savvy marketing and word placement.

American Sniper (2014)
American Hustle (2013)
American Horror Story (2011)
The Americans (2013)
American Beauty (1999)
American Psycho (2000)
American Pie 2 (2001)
American Pie (1999)
American History X (1998)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
American Heist (2014)
The American (2010)
American Gangster (2007)
Coming to America (1988)
An American Tail (1986)
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
American Gigolo (1980)
The American Friend (1977)
American Graffiti (1973)
The Ugly American (1963)
An American in Paris (1951)

Quebec & Italian Immigration

The Montreal Gazette is attracting some attention to Sabino Grassi’s article titled “Echos of rejection” (Opinion, Feb. 28) on the predominance of immigrants being directed to English schools in Quebec in the 1950s and 1960s . I personally don’t recall there being a concerted effort by French schools of the time to direct children of immigrants toward the district’s English language schools. 

But even if there was a coordinated effort to prevent immigrant children to attend French schools during this period, did it impede Italian immigrants from succeeding in their new homeland?  I would estimate not.

Italians in particular have been very successful in carving out entire neighborhoods to kindred spirits: Riviere des Prairies, St. Leonard, Ville Emard, Jean Talon’s Little Italy, etc. are all home to ethnic centric shops, churches, espresso bars, barbershops, bakeries, restaurants, reception halls, and the list goes on. The influx of mostly rural and blue collar workers from Italy led to their predominance in the fields of landscaping, construction and manual labor of every stripe. Their hard work and sacrifice allowed them to send their children to advanced schools and largely to white collar professions.

I say, “Why dredge up real or imagined past injustices?” Let’s celebrate our diversity and ability to overcome the challenges we faced in our new homeland.

Times have changed. Current political trends may seem difficult to accept, but consider the alternatives. Try living in Italy for a few months and realizing their economy is in shambles and their politics make Quebec’s look tame by comparison. Try starting a business in France. Not a picnic. Try joining a health club in Paris. The bureaucracy is maddening. Try moving to a job in the United States and realizing you need to secure your own health care coverage.