Stephanie Trow

A collection of my passions and inspirations

2011: A Great Year for the Brits or Sign of a Larger Interest in British Culture?

January 30th, 2012 Posted in Culture

I had a lot of time on my hands this past weekend when I stayed in with a cold and so I decided to pass the time by re-watching the Royal Wedding.

Celebrations in London after the Royal Wedding (Source: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

I wasn’t surprised that my co-workers to rolled their eyes when I told them about my weekend activities, as I accepted long ago that my interest in British culture is more intense than the average person’s. However, their reaction got me thinking about the past year and how British culture seemed to play a significant role in mainstream American media.

At first I thought it could just be my bias towards things that come out of the British culture.

That started the first time I was introduced to The Chronicles of Narnia. I wanted to change my citizenship the first time I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a place where a seemingly ordinary wardrobe takes you to a land with magical creatures and an evil witch that only you and your brothers and sister can defeat?

Then I read Harry Potter.

I should preface this with the fact as an adult, a part of me not-so-secretly believes that there really could be witches and wizards, vampires and werewolves, giants and centaurs… the list goes on.

Maybe this is due to how I was raised.  When I was home for a summer in college I got my mom hooked on the Twilight books. After reading the first book she came into my room and said, “So, do you think vampires are real? Because I think they might be.”

Or maybe its just nice to believe that there is a magical world out there, because when I have a bad day I can convince myself that one day I will finally get my letter letting me know that I will be going to Hogwarts on the first of September.

Either way, this is me as an adult – so you can imagine how I might have been as a child.

One of the inconspicuous ways wizards get to Hogwarts from London in the Harry Potter books - Platform Nine and Three Quarters at the King's Cross Station

Maybe you can’t. Basically, I thought I was magical. So yes, after reading Harry Potter, I wanted to do anything in my power to live in London; a place where wizards casually walked among muggles, sneaking into inconspicuous bars that lead them to a magical alley full of wands, potions and owls that deliver your mail for you. Or where a normal train station secretly brings you to a magical school where you can learn how to transform objects into animals or play an amazing game of soccer on broomsticks (which, as a tomboy growing up, I totally thought I would have been awesome at).

After finishing the Harry Potter series, all of my favorite fantasy fiction stories were set in London (at least initially) and written by British authors. Every year since then, I have become more and more convinced that British people are more talented than other nationalities. I have openly voiced this opinion at times, of which, fellow Americans are rarely very appreciative.

Then came the engagement of William and Kate and the wedding to follow it in 2011. Nearly every girl in America watched the wedding, a part of them wishing they could be Kate Middleton. While I was probably more into the Royal Wedding than the average person (most people didn’t make crown-shaped cookies with frosting in the pattern of the Union Jack flag), Americans’ interest overall in the Royal Wedding soon started to strike curiosity by Americans and Brits, alike. People started to pose the question, why do so many Americans care about the Royal Wedding?

One of the cookies I made for the Royal Wedding

It’s certainly a valid question, considering America was founded by a group of British people that decided they had had enough with the British Monarchy.

I used to think the answer was simple; girls grow up reading fairytales about Prince Charming who marries his princess and they live happily ever after in a beautiful castle. Since we don’t have princes or castles in America, it was like watching two people live out a fairytale that we knew we could never experience ourselves.

People Magazine's listing of the top movies and songs of 2011

But as I reflect on 2011, the Royal Wedding wasn’t the only cultural trend that originated in Britain and became popular in America. And the trends weren’t just popular among the sub-culture of Harry Potter lovers, but they made their way to the front pages of American mainstream media.

The number one movie at the box office was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and the number one most popular iTunes song was Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. We also shouldn’t forget that early in 2011, The King’s Speech won the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with Best Actor, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

U.S. searches for "British Beer" from 2004 to present

U.S. searches for "British Singers" from 2004 to present

Additionally, Americans are increasingly searching online for various aspects of british culture; from beer to music, and from royalty to fashion. U.S. searches for British beer has increased over the past several years with a consistently high volume of searches in 2011. Searches for British singers in the U.S. has also increased over the past several years, peaking in 2011.

Search volume for British culture also remains high in the first month of 2012, which indicates that this trend will continue over  the next year.

U.S. searches for "Kate Middleton Fashion" in the last 90 days

Maybe the question isn’t about American’s interest in royalty, but British culture in general.

While my theory that British people are more talented than other nationalities might be ridiculous, there certainly was something about those Brits that we found fascinating in 2011. Maybe it was the talent, or the culture in general, or maybe 2011 was simply a great year for the Brits. However, with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this summer, London as the host of the summer Olympics and the Kate Middleton baby bump countdown in full-force, it is likely that the Brits will steal the stage yet again in 2012.

We will have to wait and see.

Growing Popularity of Pinterest

Following up to my blog post yesterday on How Pinterest Influenced Halloween and the Daily Numbers on Pinterest’s growing popularity, I participated in a podcast with other Team Tunheimers on the subject.

Listen here to us discuss what we like about Pinterest, areas for improvement and implications it has for marketers on the Daily Numbers Podcast.

How Pinterest Influenced Halloween

October 31st, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

The past few Halloweens, I have let the holiday pass without participating in the traditional activities; pumpkin carving, making a visit to the apple orchard and eating themed food. However this year, my friends and I got pretty into the festivities.

Pinterest

The difference between this year and last is that this year, is that I was constantly reminded that Halloween was coming by the hundreds of Pinterest posts of pumpkin carvings, DIY costumes and other creative decorations. The amazing and relatively simple-to-make designs were extremly motivating and made me want to really participate in the Halloween decorating festivities this year. Thus, my friends and I decided we needed to get together for a night of Pinterest-inspired pumpkin carving.

We have all gotten very into Pinterest recently and each came to the pumpkin carving night with ideas from pumpkins we had seen on Pinterest and talked about how we could add our own personal twists to the design.

The following images were our inspiration:

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Here is what we came up with:

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By: Madeline Koch (on Pinterest)

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By: Me (on Pinterest)

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By: Natalie Wires (on Pinterest)

The best thing about using designs we found on Pinterest and adding our own personal twists to it is that they were far more creative and unique than the average Halloween pumpkin with a funny face or with a Halloween-inspired word carved into it, like “Boo!” With Pinterest’s growing popularity, I think we will see a lot more people using the site to inspire DIY holiday decorating.

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A Cultural Phenomenon – The Harry Potter Midnight Showing

It is 3 a.m. on July 15 and I have just gotten home from the midnight showing of the final installment of the Harry Potter movie sagas – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. If you have followed my blog in the past, you already know that I am a huge fantasy fiction geek and that Harry Potter is my most loved story of all time. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that tonight my most loyal Harry Potter friends and I were among the other die-hard fans in matching themed tank tops at the Southdale, Edina AMC.

There were people dressed in costumes of every sort, from the classic Harry Potter, to Hagrid, to Dementors, to Lord Voldemort, himself. I felt as if I was among my people – people who love to stories so much they aren’t afraid to show their creativity and passion for it by dressing in full-blown costumes and staying up until 3 a.m. on a week night.

Incase you are wondering, the movie was incredible and everything I had hoped for. However, the experience wouldn’t have been the same if there wasn’t the high energy of the fans in the theater who entertained the audience with a duel before the previews, and clapped and cheered at all of the best parts. Here are some photos from my night.

With Lord Voldemort

Here is a short video showing how excited the audience was when the clock struck midnight!

Magical Photography with Cinemagraphs

June 30th, 2011 Posted in Photography

I recently came across this collection of animated photography done by photographer, Jamie Beck and web designer/motion graphics designer, Kevin Burg. The style they call cinemagraphs uses both video and still photography in a GIF file to isolate motion. This draws attention to a specific movement.

The result of the technique is not only captivating, but it is also oddly magical. Being a huge Harry Potter fan myself, I was strongly reminded of the moving photographs J.K. Rowling describes in Harry’s wizarding world throughout the novels.

According to Beck, “There’s something magical about a still photograph — a captured moment in time — that can simultaneously exist outside the fraction of a second the shutter captures.”

No doubt, being able to capture a moment in time through still photography is amazing. However, being able to capture movement through these cinemagraphs is also quite powerful and takes photography to a new level. I can already see how this can technique could be used for online advertisements and there’s no doubt we will start to see many more photographers using it, as well.

Source: beautiful life

Why is Lululemon Athletica Inc. Doing so Well?

After being listed today on The Street’s 10 Stocks to Watch and having their first quarter sales coming ahead of both analysts’ and company expectations, I’ve been hearing buzz about the high-end yoga retailer, Lululemon, from more unusual suspects, such as my male colleagues who have never done yoga in their life.

With such a large focus in the media on our economic recession and constant talk about the need for jobs, it is amazing that a store that charges $98 for a pair of yoga pants when you can get a pair from Target for less than $20 is thriving. I think the big question on everyone’s mind is why?

I personally think the biggest thing Lululemon has done right is choosing to target the yoga audience, specifically. Being a part of this audience, myself, I understand the demographic. You might think that one who practices yoga is one of those free-spirits that cares more about the earth than the clothes they wear. Personally, I wish the culture was that way, because my wallet might be a little heavier these days if I didn’t feel out of place going to yoga classes and being the only one wearing a generic brand.

The best way I can explain the culture is “spendy.” While you could take a community ed yoga class for $36 a month, that is not the yoga community I am referring to. I am referring to the Corepower and Lifepower yoga communities. The fact that it costs around $120 to take a month of yoga classes at one of these places goes to show that this community has got some money to spend.

I’ve sporadically gotten into yoga a few times over the past four years when I’ve decided I needed to start working out again. When I got into it again this April, I couldn’t help but notice the up-side-down “U” everywhere. It was Lululemon take-over and it wasn’t just on the pants people wore; it was on their water bottles, headbands and workout bags. Being someone that loves to shop, I went into a Lululemon a week into staring yoga classes again and bought a pair of pants and a couple tank tops – they were on sale and I could still barely afford them.

The products I’ve bought, I love, and the company’s earnings clearly show I am not alone in that opinion. The brand is accepted by the yoga community as having the best yoga products and yogis, who are primarily female yuppies with more disposable income than the average person, will do whatever it takes to buy its products.

With the target audience being people that 1. have money and 2. want to be trendy, it makes sense that Lululemon is thriving. We just have to understand that their audience is probably not the same people we hear complaining about the economy.

The other thing that I think Lululemon has done well is their marketing. The store has raised its profile in a positive way by giving back to the community that supports it. The store hosts a free yoga class every Sunday, moving the clothing racks to the side and allowing the public to attend (read about Sweaty Sundays at the West End location). It also hosts free yoga events around town (see details on an event it is hosting at Brits Pub in Minneapolis), sponsors local yoga instructors and marathon events to build its running-apparel collection.

I think Lululemon is going to be watched much more closely by marketing and PR pros, as well as those investing in LULU stock from now on.

Remember When Sony Let 250,000 Bouncy Balls Loose in San Francisco

June 3rd, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

The Sony commercial showing 250,000 bouncy balls loose on the streets of San Francisco is one of my favorite commercials and I love these photos by Peter Funch capturing the moment. 

I learned from Alice at theMet, that a team of 50 interns were there to gather all of the balls around San Francisco after each of the six takes in four days it took to film the commercial. See the whole commercial below.

Don’t be Fooled when Buying Art

May 24th, 2011 Posted in Art

As I have always said, I am no expert when it comes to art. There are undoubtely thousands of people in Minneapolis that are more trained and skilled than I am when it comes to drawing and painting. However, I do know within a split-second of looking at a piece of artwork whether a retailer is ripping off consumers for an outragous price. Basically, if I could replicate a drawing or painting within 20 minutes and it costs much more than $50, it’s not worth the price.

While I love the store that found this pen and ink painting at, it is completely outragous that they are trying to charge people $300 for it…and that is at the discounted price.


Painting that was originally priced $498.00 by a high-end retailer

I understand that most people are not as frugal as I am when it comes to art. Maybe it is the artist hidden within me, but the first thing that I do when I look at artwork is try to figure out the technique the artist used and determine whether I could replicate it, if I tried. I know that the majority of people don’t have a background in art and can’t just replicate paintings like this or pay a friend like me a fraction of the price to. But, consumer to consumer, I don’t think it is fair that people are getting ripped off like this.

Don’t be fooled by words like “minimalist,” or “reproduced from a 19th century sketchbook.” This is an incredibly simple sketch of a flower using one medium and one color, and it probably took the artist less than 15 minutes to actually paint. Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge appreciation for minimalist art, I think simplicity is beautiful, but I don’t think it’s worth that kind of money.

Personally, I am a huge believer in buying student artwork. If you are looking to buy art that is unique, going to sales featuring local student artwork is a great place to look, and your money will either support the students or the fine art schools. Why wouldn’t you want something from an up-in-coming artist, before they potentially make it big, hanging in your living room? Trust me, it would be more likely to impress your friends than the painting shown above, and you wouldn’t have to break the bank decorating. MCAD, for example, has an art sale every year, the weekend before Thanksgiving. The sale has a lot of affordable art, most of which is under $100. I have yet to attend, but have heard great things and definitely plan to go to this year.

My Royal Friday Highlights

May 2nd, 2011 Posted in Uncategorized

Like many other Americans, I have been completely immersed in the #rw2011 since waking up at 4 a.m. this morning. Here are my personal favorite #rw2011 moments.

1. Kate’s “Oh, wow!” as she walks out onto the balcony (9 seconds in)

 

2. William helping Kate get her train out of the carriage after arriving at Buckingham Palace and holding the bouquet for her. This photo is honestly priceless!

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Source: People.com

 

3. The kiss from the balcony of Buckingham Palace…and the second one.

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4. The forensic lipreader, Ruth Press, who noticed William telling Kate, “You look beautiful” when she met him at the altar.

 

5. How could I leave out her amazing wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton. Never thought I would find a long-sleeved wedding dress appealing, she proved me very wrong today.

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Source: The Frisky

 

6. And her second dress, equally as elegant as the first.

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Source: Daily Mail Reporter

 

7. When the people climbed in the fountain of the Victoria Memorial after William and Kate’s kiss on the balcony. I would probably be doing that if I were there, too.

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Source: SNRNews.com

8. Finally, getting to eat and share the cookies I baked for my office in celebration of #rw2011

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Do you have other favorite #rw2011 moments? Post them here.