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An Inconvenient Piece of Spinach

Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth continued to do well at the box office in its second weekend out; it went into wider release and broke into the Top Ten with $1.33 million, despite playing in only 77 theaters nationwide. Released by Paramount Classics, the film averaged an impressive $17,292 per theater, compared to $12,410 in 3,070 cinemas for “The Break-Up,” which (ironically and pitifully) was the Number One movie of the weekend. However well “An Inconvenient Truth” is doing at the box office, and however glorious the reviews, I have to admit: I hated the movie.

These are my reasons why:

1) Though this may sound incredibly superficial, Al Gore has a piece of food stuck in his teeth throughout the entire “presentation” part of the movie, which (by my estimation) is over half the length of the film. I sat in the third row of the theater and was way too close to his face to begin with, so you can only imagine my chagrin at having to view what I believe is a piece of spinach lodged in the corner of his lower bicuspid. I googled “Al Gore” + “food stuck in teeth/tooth” and came up with nothing; thus I am rather baffled that no one has noticed and/or written about this yet. It is appalling. If movie art directors and special effects folk can make actors look skinnier and taller than they are or create characters like Yoda, then they can get a piece of green gunk out of the former Vice President’s mouth before they release a movie nationally.

2) While much has been written about Mr. Gore’s stellar use of Powerpoint, I think we need to look at where these kudos are coming from. CNN is not, at least to my knowledge, the arbiter of good design taste. Before everyone starts ooh-ing and ahh-ing over Gore’s use of bullet points and laser pointers, I suggest they read what Edward Tufte thinks of tons of type on multi-colored slides. Please.

3) Before anyone gets into a total tizzy, I am not suggesting that WHAT Al Gore is saying isn’t logical and truthful. It is. But it is certainly not the first time anyone has said it, and certainly not the first time it has been the focus of a nationally released film. Hasn’t anyone seen The Day After Tomorrow? Same message, better special effects. I don’t mean to be flippant here, but what exactly is the new message in Gore’s film? That Republican politicians don’t believe the numerous scientific reports and overwhelming planetary evidence? Are we supposed to be surprised at this? This is the same administration that believed that they could capture Bin Laden and thought that Katrina would just blow out to sea.

4) “An Inconvenient Truth” concludes with an approximately sixty second directive on “what we can do to help save the planet.” This includes the following:
—try to get a hybrid car
—turn off your lights and get more efficient light bulbs
—write your local/national politicians
—go to Gore’s website for more information
and the most self-indulgent directive:
—tell everyone you know to see the movie

Now I did not need to see this film in order to understand what is happening to our planet. I was hoping to learn more about what can be done and who is coming up with new and innovative solutions to our global problems. I was hoping to learn how I could get more involved, to which I didn’t anticipate hearing feeble recommendations about light bulbs and websites. I did not go to this movie to watch to Al Gore make a Powerpoint presentation with a conclusion reminiscent of “oh, it was a dream and Bobby is still really alive.” There is no doubt in my mind that human beings are destroying the planet. There is no doubt in my mind that we must change our way of living in the world if we want to preserve it for future generations. But there is no doubt in my mind that this film is politicking at its worst: it does a great job of placing the blame and a dire job of suggesting realistic, innovative, non-cliched solutions.

In fact, what I expect is this: “An Inconvenient Truth” is a well-timed movie release to bring Gore back into the public eye. Could this have to do with the upcoming Presidential race? Yesterday Gore said “no.” But I think we all know that politicians usually take that stance before they stage a campaign or a comeback. So I am not convinced. What I am convinced of, however, is this: it is clear he has had quite a lot of speech coaching, and his clothes are better. Too bad he isn’t saying anything new or offering any new suggestions, and too bad no one checked his teeth before his close-up redux.

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ENTRY DETAILS
ARCHIVE ID 2712 FILED UNDER Review
PUBLISHED ON Jun.05.2006 BY debbie millman
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
m. kingsley’s comment is:

Debbie, I haven't seen the film but I do know that he used Keynote.

As for the food particle, is there any chance it could have been a gap in a receding gum line? Based on anecdotes from friends that worked on his winning presidential campaign in 2000, he seems too anal compulsive to not look in the mirror.

On Jun.05.2006 at 01:35 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

hey mark--
thanks for the keynote info.

as far as a gap in a receding gum line--hard to say. it had a distinctly green hue, so i assumed it was some sort of foliage.

let's see if anyone else knows.

On Jun.05.2006 at 01:40 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

Debbie, glad you reviewed this, but you seem rather bent out of shape about it all. On the note of his "design choices", what would you suggest he do? I did not see the movie, but confess, I am very curious about his information graphics. Where they informative? Did they persuade or frighten you? Or were you too focused on the food in his teeth to care?

Either way, I'd vote for him, and anything's better than what we have now.

On Jun.05.2006 at 01:52 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Jason--yes, i am bent out of shape about it.
Sorry about that.
*sigh*

Regarding the information graphics--what would i suggest? well i guess the easy answer is that i would have recommended he ask Edward Tufte to design the presentation for him.

Gore's graphics were neither frightening nor persuasive. They just "were." And while i couldn't help staring at the spinach, i did pay attention to everything he said. The only moment i looked away was when i whispered my suspicions about what might be in Gore's tooth to my friend Katharine. Upon which i was told i ruined the movie for her.

On Jun.05.2006 at 02:04 PM
Ben Weeks’s comment is:

Thanks for the review Debbie. Nice and honest. Makes sense. Gores on the cover of wired as well and theres a big interview. His cover shot doesn't show teeth in the smile, so who knows what the spinach situation is :)

On Jun.05.2006 at 02:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Hi Debbie -- I'm back from my work exile. At least for a few days...

The topic of Gore's flick is covered by a documentary currently on HBO, called Too Hot Not to Handle.

HBO's version was a dynamic discussion of Global Warming and its environmental impact, relevant interviews from global experts, as well a list of 25 things you can do as an individual to help. It was impressive, if a little bit over-dramatic.

I've nothing against Gore, but his movie does smack of being a little self-serving. And like you said, he isn't offering anything new. Too bad -- it's a missed opportunity to deliver something more profound.

On Jun.05.2006 at 02:38 PM
Lo Thirten’s comment is:

Okay before Tufte and his views on .ppt gets put any higher on the pedestal, you can read Don Norman's reaction. Build your own opinion.

And if you've ever seen William McDonough speak (who uses slides to explain his points also) it grips you and gets you pumped to save the planet.

As for Gore offering solutions. Americans just want solutions spelled-out, pre-packaged, easily-digestible, institution-stylee. But come on, we're designers! It's our job to solve problems that's put in front of us. We can use our creativity, this passive shit has gotta go.

On Jun.05.2006 at 03:30 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Whoa! What passive shit are you referring to? I was simply looking for new ideas. I don't think that is an unreasonable request upon seeing a film about how we are destroying the planet, and shouldn't be. As talented a designer I may (or may not) be, I don't think I am entirely sure I have the ability to come up with a global game plan to solve the crisis our planet is in. But then again, I didn't make a movie about the crisis. But hearing about the problems were infuriating without some semblance of a real plan.

On Jun.05.2006 at 03:43 PM
Victor’s comment is:

While I think it's a valid point that the movie really should end with with more solutions and options to try and resolve the problem, I think that there is a larger objective this movie is setting out to achieve.

Right now the environment is a very real problem that poses a very real threat to us. However, most Americans and the rest of the world for that matter don't realize this. I mean, just look at what this administration was able to make the central points of the election: gay marriage, social security, and terrorism. Neither platform decided to run on trying to fix the environment.

I think this movie is trying to make people aware of the problem and to let them know that we need to start paying attention to this. It's trying to increase the overall level of awareness. Get people talking about it. Try and give it some buzz so that it can hopefully build up enough steam to make an impact on what matters to us.

In a way it's been successful in that by getting you all bent out of shape, regardless of why you're upset. It's still making you talk about the movie and more importantly how your upset that there isn't a solution provided. If more people get bent out of shape over this hopefully it will get enough attention so that people start doing something about it.

In this case writing to your politicians and representatives is a good next step because it lets them know that you want to do something about this and then the people who can figure out global solutions and actually have the power to try and implement policy wide changes can start doing something about.

On Jun.05.2006 at 04:55 PM
thxcolm’s comment is:

I suggest everyone to read a smart articleabout the design of Gore's presentation, and about the design agency Duarte Design that created them.

On Jun.05.2006 at 06:07 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>it grips you and gets you pumped to save the planet./...It's trying to increase the overall level of awareness. Get people talking about it.

Yes, awareness is good. But I concur w/ Debbie -- without plans for tangible, effective individual action, the talk becomes nothing more than rhetorics. Furthermore, without deeper understanding of solutions -- getting "pumped" up and writing hollow rhetorics to your representative is nothing but social posturing.

>But come on, we're designers! It's our job to solve problems that's put in front of us.

Ok, Mr.Designer -- figure out how to lessen the environmental impact of recycling a 1500 lb nickel-hydride battery from a Toyota Prius hybrid with only a 7-year lifespan, or how to generate liquid hydrogen without using a petroleum generating power plant.

Know what you're talking about before you assume other people do not.

On Jun.05.2006 at 06:53 PM
Brian Alter’s comment is:

I haven't seen it. But it's possible the idea behind is to stimulate awareness without providing some broad solution to global warming. I don't expect Al Gore to fix it alone. By providing a few tips (self indulgent inclusion or not) it's directing people down a path (in baby steps nonetheless) to something that's not going to happen overnight anyway. One thing at a time.

Ironic side note: I'm a volunteer projectionist at a movie theater here in Seattle, a tiny joint that mostly screens revival and foreign films (most recently: Fritz Lang's "M" and "Metropolis"). A few weeks ago, the dude who assembles the big displays you see in the multiplexes showed up and mistakenly assembled a roughly ten foot tall cardboard display for this film. We don't have the capacity for potential attendance let alone the lobby space for such a thing. So out into the recycling it went, per the distributor. Nice!

On Jun.05.2006 at 07:56 PM
dan’s comment is:

Sorry Debbie but I think I need to call you on this one and say this is all a bit of a tizz!?

A guy with a slither of food in his teeth, be it in a movie or a doctor telling you about your check up – there is still a message or something to say… its not like the entire presentation was in too smaller point size or the doctor had bad breath… ?! I know both effect the message…

But not ‘everyone’ notices so here I think the importance of the message gets the nod.

I admit I too would have been put off by the food – but I hope I would have put it back into perspective – here is a guy who had a hard time of it with the media, who’s gone out of his way to present what he says he’s passionate about. I see it for what it is – a promo for (keynote) and Al Gore + the others involved – the benefits; more twits (those that absorb movies and think they are real) might buy the reusable hand wash next week at the store – and realise they (everyone is contributing to a huge issue by not contributing) - every little bit helps and this movie goes along way its brought reality to the message – a ‘blockbuster’ with highly paid actors and action sequences on global warming does nothing but create fear and fiction – Al Gore deals with fact and is attempting to show this to people who may not have a care or have any idea that they could do something...

And regarding not having the solutions – who has the money will provide the solutions, but at the moment they currently want to use up their black gold.

On Jun.05.2006 at 08:30 PM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

I really hate to talk about something I haven't seen; and I haven't seen this movie, nor am I likely to (simply because I've read enough about it, I doubt there's any new information there for me).

But I've been hearing about the movie and thinking about the reasons for making it, and particularly about Al Gore as Al Gore.

Unfortunately, my feeling is that because Gore is a politician (and probably the most public representative of the Democratic Party there is), that instead of uniting people to a cause, it divides them along political lines. I wish this were an overt political campaign. If Gore were willing to say "Vote for me and I will makes changes to [these specific things]," that would be by far the most helpful thing he could do. Without offering to use his weight (sans 1 gram of spinach) to politically champion changes to environmental policies, he leaves only finger-pointing, and alienates at least half of the American public in the process.

Taking the issue to the masses via popular media (movies) is a good enough idea, but if Gore or the filmmakers cared about the issue first, I think they would not have used a politician as the spokesperson for the message. That's where the suspicious grandstanding comes in, and unfortunately this may ultimately do more damage than good.

As for instructions regarding what we can do to help ... well, I think most of us know the basics, and most of us choose to either do something or not. But ultimately our own small steps aren't going to make a huge difference without a massive amount of help from governments. Take for instance ... public transportation: you can't take it, if it's not available. Hybrid cars are expensive, and in my humble opinion aren't designed sexy enough. Recycling isn't available in all areas, and the variations in what's recyclable from location to location is staggering.

So ,my question would be not what can you do for the environment, but what can Al Gore do?

On Jun.05.2006 at 10:02 PM
ChrisM70’s comment is:

It is amazing to me to see how much negative crap a man like Al Gore has to put up with.

• He runs for President and instead of people focusing on his message, we get these lies:
- Gore said he invented the internet
- Gore hired a consultant to turn him into an "Alpha Male"
- Gore says he's the inspiration for the movie "Love Story"

• Then, the presidency is stolen from him (thanks Supreme Court) and then he gets blasted again with more negative press:
- He's a loser
- He's sulking and getting fat
- He's grown a beard and given up on life

• So re-dedicates himself to something he's been passionate about all his life - the environment. And, unlike most of Congress (and our President) he is RIGHT about WMDs, Iraq quagmire and Global Warming. So, now...
– Gore is a crazy tree-hugging extremist (remember, he was called boring)
- He's still mad about 2000 election (sore loser!)
- He's just a self-centered politician looking to "re-invent" himself again

Now he releases a film which is nothing more than a video version of his environmental speech that he has given to colleges and he's being attacked again:
- Wonky and boring
- Pointless
- Movie has no opposing views
and finally...
- Gore has food in his teeth.

This man is trying to get people to CARE about the earth. He's trying to motivate the young people in this country (see his TV channel CurrentTV).

As for the "pointlessness" of his film, I think the overriding message that we need to do something about global warming in the next 10 years or it will be TOO LATE, is NOT pointless.
We need to make it clear to the lawmakers (yes, you Mr. Bush) that we can't keep going like this. We CAN stop this, but we have to work with the rest of the world, and have a leader that recognizes this is a REAL problem.

I'll take a LEADER with a little food in his teeth over a "decider" with no brain in his head.

On Jun.05.2006 at 10:10 PM
Brian Alter’s comment is:


Darn, that lower bicuspid doesn't register!

Sure, goverment can help with the environment (as long as you pay your taxes) but just because there is a government doesn't mean it's willing to do jack squat.

Ok, it's politicking, but by making the film Gore is saying, "I'm willing to help." Sure, 10 simple things you can do, it's lowest common denominator stuff. So what. I can't find any Speak Up topics dealing with the enviroment besides this one.

I vote tizzy!

On Jun.05.2006 at 11:27 PM
Jordan’s comment is:

I hate spinach, unless it's raw. Why does it smell so funny when it's cooked?

Debbie, could you tell if the spinach was raw?

On Jun.05.2006 at 11:43 PM
Mark Notermann’s comment is:

...if Gore or the filmmakers cared about the issue first, I think they would not have used a politician as the spokesperson for the message.

I disagree. I think that Gore is the perfect person to deliver the message, particularly to a younger audience. If you were 16 right now, you might only remember Gore as the guy who got screwed by Bush. And the election of 2000 happened when you were 10. The details are fuzzy, and so are the facts most of the time.

I think the goal of this movie was to reframe the conversation from "Global Warming: Fact vs. Theory" to "Global Warming: Fact. Let's Get Busy and Find a Way Out." To be effective in that regard, it must resonate emotionally. So far the critics' buzzword seems to be "Scary!"

Positioning a global warming documentary as a Friday Night screamer? Brilliant!
----

Before solutions can be put on the table, there has to be some agreement about what the problem is. That discussion is simply not happening in many quarters of this country. This movie could serve as a frame of reference for individuals who have not pursued the issue on their own, or think that the film is shedding new light on the subject. They are out there.


On Jun.06.2006 at 12:28 AM
Steve’s comment is:

At least the guy is eating alright.

On Jun.06.2006 at 12:46 AM
dan’s comment is:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/23/AR2006052301305_pf.html

long but interesting article on the issue and some notes to suggest things in Al Gores production are for dramatic effect!? [from kottke.org]

And well put Steve - PopEye did some great things...

On Jun.06.2006 at 07:01 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Sorry. No design blog opinions are going to convince me either way about the veracity of the global warming claim. I just don't know the scientific facts and I've read opposing assertions as much as anyone. How many of us can claim certainty about this information?

If this is conversation about the movie (I haven't seen the movie either), I have no opinion about its success or failure: Spinach or no spinach.

Al Gore always seemed to be someone's idea of a placebo president. I don't buy it. And the current puppet in the oval office isn't my idea of a leader either. So that puts me decidedly outside this tug of war.

At one time I briefly worked for Deimler-Chrysler on an electric car project called e-Motion Mobility. Small, cool looking electric cars that encompassed the Bucky Fuller idea of energy efficient, rentable mobility. You owned a car key and cars were switchable at kiosks. Pretty intelligent solution to urban driving just about ready for implimenting in several key cities. Plus these cars drove well. Not little Al Gore crapmobiles that got up to 45 mph. It all seemed possible until the events of 9/11/01 ended the project.

But from what I read it's not even an intellectual argument anymore but a scare tactic to make us think we can change the weather all over the globe by politics. After Katrina, I just don't trust politicians, sorry.

Dan's link to the Washington Post article is probably the most interesting piece I've read on the subject. Thanks, Dan.

On Jun.06.2006 at 08:10 AM
ChrisM70’s comment is:

"some notes to suggest things in Al Gores production are for dramatic effect!?"

This is a perfect example of what is wrong with the state of journalism. This "expert" Fred Smith is just a guy working for an institute that is working for corporate interests, taking money from companies like Exxon. Their own site describes themselves as "A pro-market, public policy group committed to advancing the principles of free enterprise." (Do a Google Search - I did)

That means that they love BIG BUSINESS and don't care about the environment as long as the profits stay high.

Therefore, I would take any criticism from this group with a grain (a VERY LARGE grain) of salt when they say that Al Gore is dishonest.

Shame on the Washington Post for treating Fred Smith as a bonafide "expert".

ANOTHER example of people SMEARING Al Gore.

On Jun.06.2006 at 08:20 AM
marc’s comment is:

Wow, it's a rare treat to see a topic that really moves people so much. I haven't seen Gore's movie, so I can't quite comment. I did hear an NPR piece recently where the consensus seemed to be that the scientific community is in agreement over the fact that there is global warming (annual temperatures and the temperature of the oceans seems to be rising slowly but surely), but the disagreement is in the finer details and as to what impact humans are having (which is the crux of the whole matter--yes, it's getting hotter, but are we causing it and if so, can we do anything about it?). Solutions for many environmental problems probably necessitate both a macro-level approach (i.e., government & international efforts/policy) and a micro-level approach (i.e., decisions by individual consumers), so while some of the suggestions seem a little lame, they'd be pretty powerful if actually carried out... Think about recycling a can of soda:
1 person = 1 can/week (year end = 52 cans)
1 small town = 12,000 cans/week (year end = 624,000 cans)
1 state = 4,000,000 cans/week (year end = 208,000,000)

Educating citizens and expecting them to overcome nearly-instant, short-term gratification in favor of long-term sustainability issues is not exactly a viable approach, but it may be a necessary piece of a broader puzzle.

On Jun.06.2006 at 09:07 AM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

Chris, it's admirable that you're impassioned on the subject, but let's get something clear about Big Business: yes, they're killing the planet - global cooling or global warming - doesn't make any difference - something has a grip on us. But Al Gore is just another "front man" for business. You think they'd allow anyone seriously dangerous to their plans to get prominance? I won't call you niave, since I don't know you personally, but don't get fooled into thinking that change can happen from a movie. It's horrorshow entertainment. Recycle cans all day and it won't amount to anything, to what really can be done to make this planet healthy. It's gone beyond mere capitalism.

I do agree with you that the problem is enormous and destructive, but they are not convinced - nor will they ever be - by you or anybody else, to magically become "environmentally friendly" especially by the likes of Mr. Gore. How do you think his family got rich in Tennessee? It wasn't by recycling.

If anybody pays, brother, it's you and me..... every day.

On Jun.06.2006 at 10:31 AM
Bone’s comment is:

@ Tan
> Ok, Mr.Designer -- figure out how to lessen the environmental impact of recycling a 1500 lb nickel-hydride battery from a Toyota Prius hybrid with only a 7-year lifespan, or how to generate liquid hydrogen without using a petroleum generating power plant.

First to clarify some facts. The Prius has a curb weight of 2900#. Your assertion (or typo?) that the battery weighs 1500# would mean that the battery is half the weight of the car - making the power to weight ratio fantastically unfeasible. Assuming it was a typo and you meant 150# the actual battery on the original 1997 model weighed 125# and the latest model info I can find marks the weight at just under 100#.

Recycling is the issue. But I think that was Lo Thirteen's point. The designers/engineers should be thinking of how the product will be used and how it will be disposed of when they are developing the product. That is as much of the process as it is engineering as much power/kg into that battery.

To call out Lo Thirteen as Mr. Designer to solve this problem is unfair and divisive.

To go back to your earlier comment...

> I've nothing against Gore, but his movie does smack of being a little self-serving. And like you said, he isn't offering anything new. Too bad -- it's a missed opportunity to deliver something more profound.

Were the protesters during the Vietnam War self serving? Are corporate whistle-blowers? Simply because they draw attention to a problem and don't have immediate answers?

Would it be right to say, "I see something wrong going on here and since I have no viable solution I will keep quiet about it"?

Not everyone has the answers - Gore nor myself are scientists / engineers / economists / etc. but we can be activists and his examples of ways to HELP are not a panacea, but a way for those in his audience to PARTICIPATE.

As in our daily work as designers, sometimes just looking at a potential or tried solution and saying "There has to be a better way!" is the first step toward a better solution.

On Jun.06.2006 at 12:32 PM
Jason L.’s comment is:

Why are both sides of this argument completely disingenous and distrusting of anyone who dares to enter the fray? Al Gore, no matter where his family's money came from, has been a champion of enviromental issues for almost his entire political career.

And I would venture to guess that none of us really know what the hell we're talking about with global warming anyway. Certainly not knowledgeable enough to suggest other people are naive.

Gore's movie (which I have not seen) is not directed towards those that are necessarily educated on the subject. I wouldn't think. For some who have ignored, not cared, just not thought about these issues the movie would probably be effective in at least getting them to think about how people might effect change for good or bad.

It's a movie remember. So everyone needs to take it easy.So, please stop making people out to be something they are not by using unrelated information or conspiracy theories into this.

But Spinach? Really? That's just gross.

On Jun.06.2006 at 12:40 PM
ChrisM70’s comment is:

I just ask that you define Al Gore by his actions.

He is speaking out on Global Warming.
He is speaking out on the Iraq War.
He is working to bring change and inform people.
He is trying to get teens involved in making a difference.

Regardless of what you think of his pants, or his eating habits, he's actually DOING something... what are YOU doing?

On Jun.06.2006 at 01:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Recycling is the issue. But I think that was Lo Thirteen's point

Bone -- I went back and read Lo 13's comment to see if maybe I'd misread. But there's no mention of any kind that interprets your point. If he/she had made your point, I wouldn't have jumped down his/her throat. But he/she did not -- instead grandstanding and bashing consumer stereotypes and accusing readers, and the author, of "passive shit." Am I wrong?

Wanting to discuss deeper, tangible solutions to sustainability instead of patronizing rhetorics is not "passive shit." Your example of what designers could actually do -- producing packaging design that's optimal for recyclability -- is indeed a very tangible, micro-specific way of being environmentally responsible. Why couldn't we share more of this type of deeper information as a call to action? For example, do you know the difference in environmental impact between using recycled plastic materials versus making a package reusable by the consumer?

And I believe that's exactly what Debbie's point was -- that substance and poignancy was missing from Gore's presentation. And regardless of whether or not it was intentional, patronizing, or political posturing -- it was only a superficial discussion of a dire, complex issue.

As I'd mentioned, there are many documentaries on the topic that's been aired on TV for the last few years — NOVA, the HBO documentary I'd mentioned, even Hollywood popcorn flicks like Day After Tomorrow. So why didn't Gore take advantage and talk to us more like adults who understand what recycling and CO2 emissions mean? Awareness is fine -- but what's wrong with adding deeper information and critical thinking to the call for activism? Must we assume the public are all idiots? Apparently, many on this thread do.

Look, I'm also not trying to bash Gore. I like the man. I voted for the man. I admire his support and passionate dedication to the Sierra Club and environmental causes throughout his political career. Clearly, this is a life mission for him. But because of this fact about the man, his movie was way less than it could've been.

It's a missed opportunity -- the spinach is an ironic metaphor.

And yes, the Prius hydride battery weights around 120 lbs. With computer, electronics, and the 1.5 liter gas engine -- the total weight of the drivetrain is approx. 1500 lb. I'm impressed, and welcome more of this type of discussion and critical thinking.

On Jun.06.2006 at 01:35 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

1) Lo Thirteen did not seem to me to be accusing Debbie of passive-aggressiveness nor anyone else in this thread of anything. It seemed to be a general call to action. A naïve one, IMHO, but not one that should have caused such consternation. I’ll save my gripes about “We’re designers so we should just go save the world” theories for another time. (I do share Mark Andresens’s doubts about graphic designers as source for political and scientific information but Marc Moloino managed one of the best one-sentence summaries of a very complex set of questions that I’ve read.)

2) My dearest Ms. Bantjes: Hybrid cars are expensive, and in my humble opinion aren't designed sexy enough.

Expensive compared to what? Sexy enough? Come down the NC and drive my Prius. It is one of the best-designed pieces of equipment I’ve been around. I don’t know what strikes you as sexy in a car so I don’t know for certain that you’ll change your mind but it would be fun to see you.

3) I like spinach in almost every form (I eat a bit more than Popeye did) but have no opinion about it as Gore’s dental jewelry (real or imagined.) I do have an opinion about the reflexive “If it’s serious and someone should learn something then just evoke Ed Tufte” thing. Stop that shit right now. I’m really sick of it. Tufte has some important things to say about information design; some of it is right and some is not. He doesn’t say much about convincing narratives or evoking action so what does he have to do with this? His argument against PowerPoint was thin.

4) More to the point of the main discussion: One would wonder about dismissing a piece of propaganda as merely self-serving for the propagandist because the information is otherwise available. Using that standard, 99.x% of what we do is merely self-serving. Come to think of it, that may be true but a lot more people are talking about the issue Gore hope they’d talk about. That seems like fairly effective propaganda to me. The lack of a specific call to action is a problem but hardly one Gore invented.

On Jun.06.2006 at 03:34 PM
omiecinski’s comment is:

But there is no doubt in my mind that this film is politicking at its worst: it does a great job of placing the blame and a dire job of suggesting realistic, innovative, non-cliched solutions.

Can you imagine the response if Gore suggested everyone become vegetarian, don't drive cars, buy less, grow their own food, and live off the grid? It is easier to get people involved with small steps rather than push them off a ledge and tell them they can no longer have a hamburger. Will everyone driving a hybrid car save the environment? No, but it will help the environment. It is good that you already have an understanding of what humans are doing to the planet, but a lot of people have no clue or they are aware of what is happening, but see the problem as so overwhelming that they can't do anything about it.

On Jun.06.2006 at 04:13 PM
JenB’s comment is:

Please read this!

First of all I DID SEE THE MOVIE!

What’s happening in this little blog is what’s happening on a larger scale – humanity will debate and argue and FIGHT while continuing to raise CO2 levels and pretty soon what will we have left to save?

Global warming isn’t a joke. It astounds me that spinach in Gore’s teeth, Gore being a politician, and Gore not using Edward Tufte for his presentation can distract a viewer from the key message: too much CO2 is being released into our atmosphere and the major culprit is the US. There are ramifications of this being played out now and will continue to be played out.

Do you realize how long the list would be for what you can do to make a difference and how many things on that list would be appropriate for you specifically? If you want to know what to do – get out there and figure out what YOU can do to make changes. Everyone’s solutions will be different – someone who works 20 miles away from work should consider public transit (even one day a week can make a difference) or moving closer. Someone who has an old house can take steps to be more energy efficient. Talk your client out of using metallic inks and gold foil. Use recycled paper. Buy local produce. Keep current on the latest innovations and challenges.

After the movie my friends and I discussed another major factor. We all felt that we were the choir and would make changes but what real impact would that have when we visit our families and throw pop cans in the trash there. To really have an impact is to be an advocate not for the environment – because the issue is not just about trees or owls it’s also about our human future – what’s going to happen to Florida, New York City, San Francisco in 50 years? What's going to happen to our economy? It’s the choir’s job to pass along the message – to the folks who don’t know, to the folks who think they know but really don’t. We need to be vocal. It’s not enough to just change our own ways. Gore is one voice but with all of us backing him up – that is where we have the chance to really affect change.

Here’s the “battle” as seen from the other side:
http://streams.cei.org/

Please, just go see the movie and remember to turn off your light before you leave your home.

On Jun.06.2006 at 04:23 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

I thought this was a graphic design blog? Let's refocus and talk about more important political issues like gay marriage.

On Jun.06.2006 at 05:34 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Global warming isn’t a joke. It astounds me that spinach in Gore’s teeth, Gore being a politician, and Gore not using Edward Tufte for his presentation can distract a viewer from the key message: too much CO2 is being released into our atmosphere and the major culprit is the US. There are ramifications of this being played out now and will continue to be played out.

JenB--I agree with you wholeheartedly--global warming is no joke. I very specifically declared that what Al Gore was saying was logical and truthful. I saw the movie because I very much believe that what we are doing to the planet is dangerous and I wanted to hear what he had to say. If this is not clear from my original post, please know that now.

However--just because I believe in the cause and just because I believe that the dangers that lie ahead are very real if we don't act, this does not mean that any analysis of how and why these messages are communicated are off-limits.

I guess the bottom line for me is that however noble Gore's message may be, I still had a strong reaction to how it was delivered, why it was delivered, and the way in which it was delivered. I think this discussion is, for the most part, a worthy one. It is empassioned, it is diverse in its viewpoints, and I (for one) am continuing to learn things. Thank you for that.

On Jun.06.2006 at 05:38 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Sorry Gunnar, I love hybrids, but the Prius is U-G-L-Y. It looks like a giant robot roach. It's got a form only tree huggers could love.

Now the Civic hybrid and the Accord hybrid are perfectly normal looking cars that also happen to be eco-friendly. So is the Ford Escape hybrid.

But I recently read an article that exposed the fact that gallon for gallon, the most eco-friendly, fuel efficient, enviro-friendly automobile is a VW Jetta TDI diesel. Using diesel is more enviro-friendly because diesel is actually a by-product in the process of manufacturing normal petroleum fuel. So diesel is essentially a recycled, petroleum waste product. The Jetta gets up to mid-40s mpg, and can also be easily converted to run on bio-diesel, an even better form of recycled fuel.

On Jun.06.2006 at 07:50 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Tan,

perfectly normal looking cars

That’s your aesthetic standard? [insert bitingly personal insult here]

On Jun.06.2006 at 08:01 PM
ChrisM70’s comment is:

When will people start looking toward the future?
We need to reduce car emissions and Hybrids HELP.

Want a good example?

Here's a link to a story about Toyota NEXT Prius - one that will get close to 100 MILES TO THE GALLON.

http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/gadgets/next-prius-100mpg-turbocharged-178746.php

Instead of pooh-poohing new ideas and people who are trying to look for new solutions, give these people a chance, and stand up against those who are ignoring the problem (Bush).

On Jun.06.2006 at 08:12 PM
dan’s comment is:

Darrel – haha, nice point, but gay marriage doesn't effect everyone - global warming does. Annnd I’m not being anti gay – I’m lucky to live in a country where it’s not a problem (it’s already law – there’s still the bigots but anyone can marry anyone) - and where the Kyoto protocol is enforced and we’re not all hippies!

For some reason what Gore is on about appears tooo far into the future so its not something to deal with right now – wrong. By designing better solutions in everything from packaging to light bulbs windows to freezers, design can make a difference - and that’s not graphic design – that can help clarify the information and what should be debated here is did the movie do it well enough - as I’ve realised Debbie was trying to do. I think no – but his voice and message still got through so what does this say about the graphic design?

On Jun.06.2006 at 08:23 PM
Jim O.’s comment is:

I have not yet seen the movie, so I won't comment directly on the analysis of Al Gore's message. But I do believe that it brings something to the issue of global warming that it hasn't had so far: Hype. (If the movie gets a quarter of the attention paid to, say, Brangelina's baby, environmental advocates should probably be pleased.)

Everyone who's posted so far probably understands this. But the question now is, how necessary is the hype? There've been opinions voiced ranging from "everybody already knows global warming needs to be stopped" to "everyone who'll see the movie already knows" to "the country's full of people who don't know anything about global warming."

So in the interest of having actual research enter into that discussion, there's an April 2006 Gallup poll here that addresses the issue. (Sorry, you have to register for the 30-day free trial to read the whole thing.)

Some excerpts from the full text:

Only 36% of Americans say they worry a great deal about "the greenhouse effect" or global warming.

The percentage saying global warming will "pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime" is now 35%; 62% think it will not.

About one in five Americans (21%), up from an average of 16% over the previous five years, say they understand the issue very well. A combined 74% say they understand it very well or fairly well. Only 26% say they don't understand it well, the lowest level Gallup has measured.

Just wanted to add some actual data to the discussion. It's just one source, but it's something.

On Jun.07.2006 at 10:00 AM
Jim O.’s comment is:

A follow-up note re: that Gallup poll online: If anyone does happen to register for that service in order to read the poll, be aware that there's no easily-findable way on their site to unsubscribe. You have to email their Customer Service dept. either using their webform or your subscription email address and say "Terminate my account" -- otherwise they'll probably just start charging you after 30 days. Bit of a pain.

On Jun.07.2006 at 10:16 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

"Darrel – haha, nice point, but gay marriage doesn't effect everyone - global warming does."

Says you and your crazy liberal spinach eating friends!

Bush says gay marriage is the most important issue. We must worship our leader! We can't let some silly movie full of these 'fact' things get in the way of that.

On Jun.07.2006 at 11:17 AM
Dan’s comment is:

No Darrel your quite right - go with your gut and the gut of your president (as Stephen Colbert says). Deal with the most important issues - like that war as well.

On Jun.07.2006 at 11:34 AM
Randy’s comment is:

Sadly, at the height of this here debate, I was pulled away from the whole thing. Get upwards of 30 comments, and it's damn difficult to follow who's correcting whom.

I've seen the movie. I quite enjoyed it. I hightly recommend it.

No, it doesn't offer possible individual actions, but it doesn't proport to.

I find Gore's presentation techniques quite admirable. Hardly worthy of the intense "powerpoint" criticism. Criticize not the medium, but how it is applied. In this case, his information graphics, presented using Keynote, are far more clear than the average click-through prezo. They're also well paced.

Let's not forget the someone cheesy, but charming, theatrical moment when one image literally goes "off the chart" and Gore must get on a hydraulic lift to point out the extremity of the change. Call me a sucker, but I wholeheartedly buy it.

While you're at it, go pick up the book, designed by Mgmt.

On Jun.07.2006 at 02:44 PM
Steven K.’s comment is:

Debbie,

I understand what you are saying and how you feel. How could a message that's so important to communicate be delivered so carelessly?

In some ways it underminds the message because this movie has prompted other organizations to launch campaigns to convince people that global warming is pretty much a myth, and those may be more effective than Gore's latest effort.

Grrr.

On Jun.07.2006 at 02:45 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"and those may be more effective than Gore's latest effort."

I don't know if there is much that will sway the Americans that still agree with the GOP memo's talking point that it's all a myth. Too many people make up their minds based on cable news punditry and televangelists. Those are pretty powerful mediums that no amount of shiny graphics, movie special effects or dental floss can overcome.

I wish I had an alternative porposal, but I don't.

On Jun.07.2006 at 03:30 PM
Eric Benson’s comment is:

My only agreement to Debbie's post was this film was somewhat lacking. But only lacking in its real and practical solutions that we all can do to stop global warming. However, if you consider, most likely, the film was made for a very general audience instead of only for the designer who confuses Keynote for PowerPoint, then the movie rings a somewhat different tone.

Much of the film is geared towards dispelling the notion that there is ANY DEBATE about the existance of global warming and how Gore discovered that. GLOBAL WARMING EXISTS and will affect us and our children the rest of our time on this planet. The film is set-up by providing clearly stated facts (through the help of fairly easy to understand, and moderately well-designed charts) to a person who may or may not know anything of what is really going on with our planet.

In that respect, the film was moving and at times frightening to learn what the current Bush administration is editing from the papers and political briefs we read. However, despite all this it lacked a very clear action plan for us besides visiting the website and writing our congresspeople to argue for better gas mileage and renewable energy. As I recently graduate with my MFA in design, sustainable design was my thesis. I found in those two years that strictly commenting, scolding and scaring my audience worked but only to a degree. Most, if not all of my intended audience was left wondering "what next?"

So I switched gears and focused on the "what next"... here is the result. It is a web-site that provides the "next steps" for the graphic designer to practice more environmentally conscious and sustainably. (I mix those terms but they are different.) Please take a look at the site and pass it on. In it I define "sustainability" as it relates to us and provide easy to access information (see Debbie's comment on Tufte) to get to the heart of the matter.

One last note. The author of this author seemingly intended to be somewhat witty in her approach to reviewing the film. This is a tactic used by our lovely politicians and pundits to discredit their adversaries. Instead of tackling the issue head-on with solutions via facts and logic, they talk around the issue by name-calling and poking fun at the messenger. In this scenario the problem is never addressed. So in this case the author argues that Gore isn't believable since he might have food wedged inbetween his teeth. With that logic maybe none of us can be trusted? Which, unfortunately, turns out to be part of the problem for why we even have global warming in the first place. Maybe it's time that we start to trust these scientists and heed their warning signs before it's too late? Better safe, then REALLY REALLY SORRY.

On Jun.08.2006 at 02:08 AM
bootchec’s comment is:

You americans are funny. The amount of energy you waste is unbelivable and your longest argument about the movie is... food stuck in teeth. Sorry but that is wrong side of criticism. I really like this blog but this article looks like a bad joke.

On Jun.08.2006 at 05:53 AM
Chris Rugen’s comment is:

OK, after the third "I haven't seen the movie, so I can't comment" comment, I decided to jump down to the bottom and comment on the movie, because, y'know, I actually saw it. And first off, nobody I know saw that 'spinach'.

Al Gore's presentation actually reminded me of Edward Tufte's presentations (which I've attended): a clear, compelling argument, structured to change minds using simple, non-obfuscatory visuals. It was aimed at making around five major points: 1) This problem is real 2) the people denying it are not scientists, but businessmen obfuscating science, 3) This is not part of the natural earth cycle and 4) This is not a far-away problem, as changes can happen rapidly in nature that have broad effects 5) In spite of all this, individuals can help.

While I didn't like his use of Century Gothic, and the movie definitely focused too much on Gore over global warming for my taste, it certainly gave me a clearer understanding of the consequences and our role in creating them. He also made it very clear that change comes slowly (particularly in government), but slow reactions to slow problems can put you in hot water.

I also found the suggestions at the end to be generic and general, but that was kind of the point: you can do these things, but you probably aren't because they don't seem impactful. So do them. They also push the website pretty hard, which gives more specific recommendations. And, if you think about it, would you really want to have all those specifics given to you in a theatre in the dark? Probably not.

As a presentation, I believe it was solid and the graphics did their job successfully. Sure, it could use a little help, but it's better than 99% of the dreck I've seen out there. Also, I don't believe that Gore is trying to convert people like Debbie, because they, apparently, already understand the problem and are already liberals. Perhaps doing little things and writing your representatives don't sound cool enough, or revolutionary enough, but I'm not sure why actual, achievable recommendations are unacceptable. Part of the film's point is that the large-scale innovations are being actively squashed and cumulative smaller changes are actually important. Sure, in many ways it's politicking, but it's politicking-in-kind on a serious problem that's not taken seriously. Is that so bad?

Also, if you can't take his teeth, there's a book.

On Jun.11.2006 at 10:53 AM
Dani Nordin’s comment is:

Interesting points here, but what I think you're missing is that yes, you know (and in fact I know) about all this stuff, but that's not everyone. There are still a LOT of people that aren't buying the global warming bit, and Gore's movie (which I actually loved) did an excellent job of making this message clear and accessible to the lowest common denominator, and creating enough buzz that it gets people talking.

In terms of the end suggestions, I thought they were effective at providing people with simple things they can do right now to make change. Given the size of the problem, it's too easy to get overwhelmed with All There Is To Be Done and end up doing nothing as a result.

On Jul.02.2006 at 09:17 PM
Christina Harris’s comment is:

This is for Chris Rugen. If you are Christine Rugnen, I am trying to find you. I have been searching the web for 3 years for you. Please contact me. I am Christina Cahaley. Email me @ [email protected]

On Nov.17.2006 at 02:01 AM