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Sauce Castillo & The Mondegreen

April 8, 2015

Nik Stauskas is still coming to terms with his new nickname -- and how he got it.  The NBA rookie has gone from Sacramento Kings bench-warmer to full-on marketing sensation in a week, all because of a little misunderstanding. Kings coach George Karl put Stauskas into a game last week against the lowly Philadelphia 76ers. When Stauskas took his first shot, those watching on TV noticed the broadcast's closed captioning system having some trouble with his name.  Nik Stauskas somehow became -- in white text at the top of the screen -- Sauce Castillo. People watching at home caught it right away.  It was funny.  It became a thing.   And just last night, Kings fans celebrated Sauce Castillo Night in Sacramento.  It's only a matter of time before they change the name on the back of his jersey. Sauce Castillo is the latest example of what I call "The Anxiety of Inference" -- our assumption that we can count on the systems we've built to infer what we mean to say and do. Machine learning and predictive analytics have become so sophisticated, we expect our phones will guess our next word before we type it, our cars will know where we're going before we put it in the nav, our restaurants will know what we want to eat before we order it.  If you're a smartphone, car or restaurant, that's a lot of pressure. When it comes to failed inference, Damn You Autocorrect is by far the champ.  An infinite collection of smartphones' hilarious mistaken presumptions, the site's become a rabbit hole for all of us who appreciate the beauty of computers who -- try as they may -- don't quite understand us yet.
To be fair, human beings can be just as guilty.  This VH1 site is dedicated to how much we've misunderstood our favorite songs.  And Jimmy Fallon's new show, Lip Sync Battle (Thursdays 10pm/9c on Spike TV), is filled with big stars pouring their hearts into live performances of their favorite songs -- sometimes with mistaken lyrics. When a word is misheard or misinterpreted, whether by human or computer, it creates new meaning, and that's called a mondegreen.  Here are some clsssic examples:
Infographic: Top Most Commonly Misunderstood Lyrics in Music
Sometimes we commit so completely to our misunderstanding of a song's lyrics -- even after we've been corrected -- we can't imagine the song any other way.  That's called mumpsimus. A few years ago, I gave a talk called The Poetry of Misunderstanding. I argued that mishearing, misremembering and misunderstanding sometimes lead to magical consequences.  The idea that the new thing that's created when something gets lost in translation...is sometimes more beautiful, exciting and profound than the original thing we misunderstood. Holden Caufield's misinterpretation Robert Burns' poem, Comin' Thro The Rye, lies at the heart of The Catcher In The Rye.  Jimi Hendrix loved misquoted lyrics of his songs so much, he often performed them that way in concert.  And then there's the famous mistranscription of Fall Out Boy's hit song, Sugar We're Doing Down, which I'd argue makes the song infinitely more enjoyable.
Now technology has given us another reason to laugh and celebrate, this time in the form of an unremarkable, unwitting rookie from the Sacramento Kings, who may never achieve a thing on the court, but who shall live on forever as... a sauce.

Us

A Brisk Morning & A Morning Risk

September 19, 2014

If you told me when I was a graduate student in poetry that, 20 years later, I'd be addressing someone called a "Chief Risk Officer" and his executive leadership team at one of the largest financial services institutions in the world, sharing strategies and insights on innovation and risk management... I would have told you to please not interrupt me when I'm playing NHL Hockey on my Sega Genesis. Quite a risk, this executive took in handing me the mic for an hour this morning! So there I was, bright and early, kicking off my talk by offering common ground between the risks a big bank takes and the risks media companies (like the one I work for) take. I led with a clip from Comedy Central's incredible series "Nathan For You," now wrapping up its second season. If you haven't seen the show, it's so worth checking out here. In the meantime, here's a segment from the show's already famous "Dumb Starbucks" episode, in which Nathan attempts to mitigate risk by implicating a befuddled "attorney" in his scheme.
Comedy Central's programming, lauded recently in this great piece on Vox, is filled with examples of a network taking risks -- and winning because of it.  From Key & Peele to Drunk History, not to mention the daily fearlessness of Jon Stewart, "the channel always has something worth watching," says Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff.
Yes.  And that's because there's nearly always something it bets on, something at stake, something not exactly safe.Like putting a poetry major in front of a bank's risk management team.

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The Pepsi Refresh Project On MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Teen Nick, Spike TV & More

June 1, 2010 — 0

Nice interview with our girl SuChin Pak today on the Pepsi Refresh website. SuChin's about to hit the road again for the second leg of her cross-country trip, in which we tell the stories of incredible young people whose ideas and passion are coming to life before our very eyes. It's the kind of project we get up in the morning excited to come to work for. You can watch episodes like this one from SuChin's tour on MTV, mtvU, VH1, Comedy Central, Spike, Teen Nick and more:

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BING Spot Premiered Tonight on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

June 12, 2009 — 0

Tonight the BING execution premiered on The Daily Show. In each, a commercial break begins with a direct response ad for Snuggie. After a few seconds, your TV begins fast forwarding, as if it has a mind of its own. It fast forwards through the Snuggie ad, then through spots for Bosley, Cash 4 Gold and some others. Finally, BING pops on screen and introduces itself as the "decision engine" that gets you want you want faster. Tonight, what you want faster is more Jon Stewart, so we get you right back into The Daily Show. Saving time by fast forwarding you through the pod, we were able to add 2 minutes more to this episode of The Daily Show, and that became an interview with Katie Couric. BING gets credit for giving you exactly what you want, faster. Here's how it played out tonight, shot on my TV at home:

Untitled from Ross Martin on Vimeo.

  Major props to the team at Comedy Central for pulling it together, our partners at JWT for the execution, Digital Fusion and my guys for the idea to begin with, Generator for putting the deal together with us, and Microsoft. Next up, CMT, VH1, Nick at Nite and MTV. Here's the schedule, hope you like: Thurs June 11: Comedy Central The Daily Show, 11p Friday June 12: CMT Top 20 Countdown, 11a (reairs Sat/Sun) Sunday June 14: Nick at Nite George Lopez 10p Monday June 15: Vh1 Charm School 9p Wed June 17: MTV The Duel 2 Reunion Special 10p