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The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


Advertisers Want Eye Balls On Sunday's Super Bowl

Feb 1, 2013
Originally published on February 4, 2013 8:59 am



Something tells me a few people may be hoisting a few cold ones on Sunday. One hundred ten million people are expected to tune into the Super Bowl then. And, of course, it's not just the game that attracts people, it's also the ads. Viewers who watched the 1984 Super Bowl may not recall who won the game, but they may well remember the ad that Ridley Scott directed for Apple. And you may not recall very many plays from last year's Super Bowl, but I bet you heard about the Chrysler ad starring Clint Eastwood.

Now to find out more about advertiser's game plans for this year, we reached out to Tim Nudd, a senior editor at Adweek.

It's not Super Bowl Sunday yet, but some of the ads are already out. Why is that?

TIM NUDD: It's true. The Super Bowl ads almost need spoiler alerts these days. So many brands are doing this now and it's really because of social media. I mean so many people are talking about the Super Bowl, earlier and earlier, and these brands are - frankly, they're terrified they're going to be left out of that conversation so they do away with the element of surprise and they just jump right in.

INSKEEP: OK. So the ads are already out there - some of them, which means we can already talk about the substance of them - if that's the word. For example, there is this Taco Bell ad that's out there called Viva Young. What's it about?

NUDD: Well, if you're into octogenarian debauchery then this will certainly be the ad for you.


NUDD: It's a sort of a silly story of an 80-something man who escapes his nursing home and embarks, with some friends, on a, sort of, epic night of misbehavior...


NUDD: And, you know, it's that old comics staple of old people acting like young people.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (as character) Goodnight Mr. Goldblatt.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (as character) Goodnight.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in Spanish)

NUDD: I think what makes this a little bit more special is really the music, which is a cover of the millennial anthem "We Are Young" by the band Fun. And here it's sung in Spanish. And, you know, you really can't go wrong with that song. Like the Super Bowl itself, it's sort of faux epic and over-the-top and I think it will play quite well.

INSKEEP: There was a Chrysler ad a year ago. It got tremendous attention and some criticism as well, featuring Clint Eastwood.


CLINT EASTWOOD: Yeah, it's halftime America and our second half is about to begin.

INSKEEP: What about this year?

NUDD: Well, you know, Chrysler is one of those brands that is going against the tide and they're sort of old-school. They make you wait until game day to hear anything about their commercial and that's done well for them. This is the commercial that everyone is looking forward to this year. And the question is, can they top last year? And I think they can. I mean the Clint Eastwood ad, I think, was the best one on last year's game. And it was even better than the previous year's Chrysler ad, which had Eminem.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Because when it comes to luxury, it's as much about where it's from as who it's for. Now we're from America, but this isn't New York City, or the Windy City.

NUDD: And that's saying something because the Eminem spot actually won the Emmy for best commercial that year.

INSKEEP: OK. So we don't know what we're going to get from Chrysler. You never know. You never know, basically.

NUDD: You never know. And it helps to have a good ad agency behind this, and Chrysler has one of the great ones in Wieden and Kennedy out in Portland, Oregon. And they have a few other spots on this year's game. They do Coke and they have an Oreo spot, as well. And they've really sort of taken the mantle of the Super Bowl ad agency away from BBDO New York, who used to have that unofficial title.

And, you know, the Super Bowl is also a fight between ad agencies, you know, who can do the best work. Deutsch is another agency that's squarely in the mix. They've got three or four spots this year. They did the famous Volkswagen Mini Vader ad from a couple of years ago. They actually made the Taco Bell ad this year. And then there's, you know, sort of up-and-coming agencies. One of them out in Los Angeles called 72andSunny. They've really helped make Samsung a real challenger to Apple. So we're looking forward to the Samsung ad. We don't know what that's going to be either. So it's a fight among agencies, as well, and it's always kind of neat to see who steps up on the big day.

INSKEEP: Tim Nudd is a senior editor at Adweek. Thanks very much.

NUDD: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.