Sunday, October 31, 2010

November Writers


As I write this, November is peeping in the door and October is collecting its bags and heading out. Another new month full of some planned and many unplanned events. Of course, November is not the month to account for the year - that is a task reserved for December.

This month is a little less ambitious as far as reading is concerned. One of my favourite authors is going to be on my reading list this month. Yes, November is the birth month of Fyodor Dostoevsky. A Russian author, I was mesmerized with his writing when I read ‘The Idiot’. This month will be dedicated to him and I’ll try and read his ‘House of the Dead’ and ‘Demons’.

Bram Stoker shares the birth month with Dostoevsky and I’ll  be reading none other than his masterpiece ‘Dracula’ this month.

November will all be about the dark side of life – only as far as literature is concerned!

Photographs: Google Images

Dracula likes Absolut!

Absolut pays homage to one of the greats of literature, Bram Stoker, and his creation 'Dracula'.

Stoker is also the Writer of the Month (November) right here on beanbagtales.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brand Talk: Don Carlos brings in a 'Brand New Experience'

Shoes are a weakness for me. When I lay my eyes on a good pair my heart misses a beat, I hear violins and time comes to a standstill.

But a good pair is hard to find in Karachi. Even though there are many shoe outlets, both foreign and local, it is seldom that a shoe sends shivers of excitement down my spine. Advertising of shoe brands has changed over the years too. There are more designer brands in the market but they serve a niche only. When it comes to shoe brands for the masses, the two top brands are still Bata and Servis.

When I think of Servis, there are three things that come in my mind; Cheetah (a brand of Servis), Shahid Afridi (who is the brand ambassador of Cheetah) and the Mountain Dew ad – 'Cheetah bhi peeta hai' (even a Cheetah drinks it!). This just goes to show that the best ad Mountain Dew ever made featured a Cheetah. Wait, we’re talking about Servis here!

Servis has developed a new advertising campaign for their Don Carlos brand. Don Carlos is a relatively high end brand of shoes which has as a bold, sophisticated and mysterious persona ( But even though the Don Carlos ad is probably one of the very good Pakistani ads, it somehow never really attracted the high-end target market it showed in the ad. We loved the ad, we made parodies of it in college/university but we never walked into a Servis outlet to check out Don Carlos shoes.

(Chick magnet?!)
I think, with the new campaign, Servis wants more sales and less mystery. They even changed the tagline from, 'The DonCarlos Experience' to 'A Brand New Experience'. Not a bad step since they were never able to define what the Don Carlos experience really is. The new tagline, for me, is rather tacky. The new campaign is aimed, primarily, at the youth and the focus is on the shoes and usage occasions; mountaineering, hanging out at the beach, at a disco. [They don’t want consumers to only think of Cheetah when they think Servis and subsequently end up discussing and drinking Mountain Dew!]

(I'm too cool for you girl!)

The concept of the campaign is good but it lacks aesthetics. The photography is not up to the mark and the backdrops seem artificial. There are just too many girls in the ad where one good one could’ve sufficed. They have created sub-brands in order to differentiate the various types of shoes in the Don Carlos range. Thus we have N-Dure (Experience the Adventure), Maximus (Experience the Privilege), Classic (Experience the Prestige) and Breezers (Experience the Comfort). This is a good step provided that they stick to these names and have them prominently displayed in the retail store also. More than that, the sub-brands would make sense if, and only if, there are noticeable differences among the shoes.  Sales staff must not only know the names of the various sub-brands but also understand the differences between them. The entire campaign will fall flat if the salesperson has a blank expression on his face if a consumer walks in and asks for a ‘Maximus’. [Wasn’t Maximus the name of Russell Crowe’s character in Gladiator? Why does Servis do this?!]

A good campaign but it’ll only work if it is accompanied with availability of the range at the stores and of course, knowledge of the sales staff. An ad can lead a consumer to the shop but once there the product and the salesman close the deal. Let’s see how Servis does on that front.

One thing they do have is a very decent website. Do check out

(Hopefully, the shoes will survive the rocky surface!)
(These shoes don't look too comfy for dancing!)

Images: Sunday magazine (Daily times)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dark and desirable!

Dark chocolate is our weakness (hubby dear and myself) and both of us often indulge ourselves with a big bar of Lindt 70% cocoa. It's amazingly dark, amazingly bitter and amazingly good! Here is an extremely creative ad of this chocolate which I found some time back on the internet (and discovered while I was cleaning up my hard drive). This ad should be shown to all those clients who hate copy and want their product all over the place in print ads. If your product is good, it'll be able to sell whether it occupies 80% of the space or a mere 20%. But telling this to a client is hitting your head against the wall, every time!

...and I've just realized - we've run out of our supply of 70% cocoa....if only I was taking  judo classes!

Is chocolate your weakness too?

Photograph: Google Images

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Damsel in Distress? Wodehouse to the rescue!

‘Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in’. 
Evelyn Waugh

Any one of Wodehouse’s works must feature in your list of books to read before you die. And if you’re not a very serious reader, I would suggest you pick any book on Wooster and Jeeves (the butler I wish I had! Carry on Jeeves) but in case you can’t get hold of Jeeves, A Damsel in Distress would do brilliantly.

Wodehouse stories revolve around British aristocracy, life in English country houses and golf. There will be a myriad of characters, each one with eccentric habits who find themselves in situations so absurd it’ll blow your mind off!

Percy's Hat goes flying!
Take this book for instance. The story opens at Belpher Castle, home to Lord Marshmoreton and his crazy family. His sister, Lady Caroline Byng wants her step-son, Reggie, to marry her brother’s daughter, Maud. Reggie is in love with Alice Faraday, Lord Marshmoreton’s secretary who is helping him to write his memoirs, a task Marshmoreton abhors (he would rather tend to his rose garden). Maud, Lord Marshmoreton’s only daughter, is in love with a young man whom she had met in Wales a year ago. And then there is Percy, Maud’s brother, heir of Belpher Castle.  He fits the aristocratic definition perfectly and has a similar stance as his aunt, Lady Caroline, in almost all matters.

Enter George who not only, unwillingly, becomes an accomplice to Maud’s escape from Percy but also sends his hat flying off his head in London (why is Maud escaping from her own brother?). Who is George? He’s an American music composer who happens to be in London with his performers and runs into Maud, one fine day, while sitting in his taxi. One thing leads to another and George finds himself madly in love with Maud. So much in love that he is willing to scale any walls, even those of Belpher Castle, hanging onto bedsheets for his dear life!

Hanging onto dear life!
Will George and Maud get together? Will Reggie be able to convince his step-mother that his heart desires Alice Faraday? Will Lord Marshmoreton finish his memoirs at the cost of his rose garden? Will Percy rule Belpher Castle with an iron fist?

Curious? Read the book!

Photographs (Percy's Hat & Hanging onto Dear life): Google Images

Monday, October 11, 2010

An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde

According to Wilde, ‘If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you’.

An Ideal Husband is an 1895, comedic stage play. The action is set in London, in ‘the present’ and takes place over the course of twenty four hours (source: Wikipedia). The play revolves around blackmail, politics, and public honour. It also touches upon the subject of matrimony and what makes a husband, ideal.

Act I opens in the Chiltern household where a banquet of sorts is taking place. It is here that we are introduced to all the major characters; Sir Robert Chiltern, his wife, Lady Chiltern, his dandified friend Lord Goring, Goring’s father Lord Caver sham, Mabel Chiltern, Sir Robert’s younger sister and of course, Mrs. Cheveley.

Mrs. Cheveley is the perfect villain. She is ‘a genius in the daytime and a beauty at night’. Mrs. Cheveley has, in her possession, a letter from Sir Robert’s past which can ruin his public and private life. Everybody has skeletons in their closets and Sir Robert is no exception. The most unfortunate thing, for him, is that not only does the world but his wife, also, has no clue of this horrid letter from his past.

One of the long speeches from Act II is very interesting. Following is an excerpt of an exchange between Sir Robert Chiltern and his wife, Lady Chiltren after the latter found out the dreaded secret from her husband’s past.

“Lady Chiltern: .......And now- oh, when I think that I made of a man like you my ideal! The ideal of my life!

Sir Robert Chiltern: There was your mistake. There was your error. The error all women commit. Why can’t you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals?  We have all feet of clay, women as well as men; but when we men love women, we love them knowing their weaknesses, their follies, their imperfections, love them all the more, it may be, for that reason.  It is not the perfect, but the imperfect, who have need of love. It is when we are wounded by our own hands, or by the hands of others, that love should come to cure us – else what use is love at all? All sins, except a sin against itself, Love should forgive. All lives, save loveless lives, true Love should pardon. A man’s love is like that. It is wider, larger, more human than a woman’s. Women think that they are making ideals of men. What they are making if us are false ideals merely.”

I wonder how a feminist reader would react to Sir Robert Chiltern’s speech. Men in our society do expect women to love them with all their faults. But unlike Sir Robert, they can’t stand any imperfection in their wives. One thing is for sure, feminist or not, a woman’s love is much wider and larger than a man’s unless of course, you’re married to the ideal husband!

Two of the most interesting characters in the play are Lord Goring and Mrs. Cheveley. Goring’s character is of a laid back bachelor who enjoys the finer things in life. He is a glorified dandy; a man who pays particular attention to his physical appearance and almost borders on being a narcissist (Oscar Wilde was quite the dandy himself). Following is a little excerpt from Act III where Goring is having a talk with his butler, Phipps.

“Lord Goring: You see, Phipps, Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.

Wilde - Quite the dandy!
Phipps: Yes, my lord.

Lord Goring: Just as vulgarity is simply the conduct of other people.

Phipps: Yes, my lord.

Lord Goring: And falsehoods the truths of other people.

Phipps: Yes, my lord.

Lord Goring: Other people are quite dreadful. The only possible society is oneself.

Phipps: Yes, my lord.

Lord Goring: To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance, Phipps.”

Modesty, thy name is not Lord Goring.

Lord Goring corners Mrs. Cheveley
The hero of the play, for want of a hero figure, is undoubtedly Lord Goring. He has the most charming manners, the wittiest lines, good looks and is the saviour of his friend, Sir Robert Chiltern. It is interesting how, in Act III, Lord Goring manages to corner Mrs. Cheveley  and thus, save his friend’s reputation. Lord Goring is not upright or righteous, far from it, but he has an understanding of how an evil mind works. Let’s just say that Lord Goring is street smart and it is this personality trait that helps him to nail Mrs. Cheveley.

The play ends on a happy note. Sir Robert Chiltern and his wife come to terms with the past and the present.  Lord Goring also ties the knot in Act IV when he proposes to the younger sister of Sir Robert Chiltern, Mabel Chiltern, and is accepted. Does he make an ideal husband?

“Lord Caver sham (Lord Goring’s father): And if you don’t make this young lady an ideal husband, I’ll cut you off with a shilling.

 Mabel Chiltern: An ideal husband! Oh, I don’t think I should like that. It sounds like something in the next world.

Lord Caver sham: What do you want him to be then, dear?

Mable Chiltern: He can be what he chooses. All I want is to be...oh! a real wife to him.”

I wonder...

[A little trivia; The Ideal Husband has several celluloid versions with the latest one being that of 1999 starring Cate Blanchett as Lady Chiltern, Julianne Moore as Mrs. Cheveley, and Rupert Everett as Lord Goring].

Photographs: Google Images

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October Writers

"If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

Karachi is sizzling these days and what better way to spend the long, hot afternoons than to curl up in a cool corner with a good book. Now it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Too much choice is a bad thing and when one book is read and done with, I’m on the search for the next one. I made this task a little easy for myself by choosing authors through their birth months. Doing this made life so much simpler; I found a method to the madness (finding a book to read) and got around to reading authors I’d been ignoring.

October happens to be the birth month of some amazing writers, poets and playwrights which includes, but is not limited to, P.G.Wodehouse ( A Damsel in Distress), Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar), Oscar Wilde (Selected Plays), Vaclav Havel (Essays), Harold Pinter (Selected plays), John Keats, and Mario Puzo (The Godfather).

Too much choice is a bad thing!

Photographs: Google Images


Mario Puzo