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Government Admits Existence of Area 51

Clearly, “the smoking man” has been on vacation.

For reasons unknown (though we’d like to imagine Mulder and Skully had at least something to do with it), previously classified information in CIA documents has been made part of the public record. These reports, which were posted online last Thursday by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, not only refer to the legendary Area 51 by name, but actually locate it on a map –  in the Mojave Desert about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, along the dry Groom Lake bed.

Though the report mentions many an interesting aircraft that have been tested at the base since the 1950′s, including the U-2, the SR-71 Blackbird, the F-117A stealth fighter, and the B-2 stealth bomber, there’s no mention of alien spacecraft, otherworldly corpses, or this guy: Such omissions, however, are unlikely to put a damper on the UFO rumors — the 407-page document contains many redactions, and who’s to say the blacked-out information isn’t E.T.-related? Read more

Google Celebrates 93rd Birthday of Saul Bass with Doodle

Public relations is a wonderful industry because it encompasses so many compelling aspects of human beings. One of those, of course, is our appreciation for aesthetics, and legendary American graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass brought plenty of beauty into our lives. From logos to movie posters to films Saul Bass was part of our lives whether we knew it or not. And Google is scoring its own PR victory by paying tribute to a creative force that deserves recognition. Applause all around.

Rome’s Culture Ministry Declares PR War on Cat-Lovers

Visitors flock to the Roman ruins at Torre Argentina each year to marvel at what remains of the ancient architecture (and maybe to over-dramatically shout, “Et tu, Brute?” at the famed location of Julius Caesar’s assassination). Not all visitors, however, come for the history and beauty of the ruins; some come to sunbathe on the stones, leap gracefully from pillar to pillar, and clean themselves in full view of the touring public — these frolicking felines frequent the area so consistently that they have earned one site in central Rome the nickname “cat forum.”

For the past twenty years, the Torre Argentina Cat Shelter has taken responsibility for feeding, vaccinating, and caring for the local population of feral cats, which have become something of a tourist attraction themselves. “People are interested more in cats than in monuments”, said shelter founder Lia Dequel. “The two together are fantastic.”

But now, national archaeological officials have issued an eviction notice, saying that the long-standing (but never officially authorized) shelter poses a threat to the safety and upkeep of the historic landmarks it abuts. The cats, they say, are not the issue and will be allowed to stay–a decision that seems counter-intuitive to shelter workers like Dequel. “If I leave these cats here, who sterilizes them? They wouldn’t go to [a] doctor and say, ‘Hi, doctor, sterilize me,’ or ‘vaccinate me,’ or [to] be fed”. Other shelter-supporters were less subdued in their comments. “If they want war, we’ll give them war…The cats need us”, said Silvia Viviani, another of the shelter’s founders.

On the unenviable flip side of the argument stand the officials charged with preserving the local historic sites.

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Yay, Libraries! Ansel Adams Prints Discovered at UC Berkley

Being the book nerds and information junkies we are, we’re always happy to see libraries make national headlines, lest the public forget how awesome and relevant they really are. You never know what treasures might be awaiting discovery in the dusty stacks and decades-old archives–and as recent news out of the Bancroft Library at University of California Berkley demonstrates, not all of those treasures are books.

UC dance professor Catherine Cole recently allowed her curiosity to get the best of her in the archives (the only way to experience a library if you ask us). While sifting through stored documents, she noticed the name of famous photographer Ansel Adams appearing repeatedly. After following the paperwork trail, she finally came upon a box of 605 signed photographs.

“I kept seeing the name Ansel Adams and thought ‘what the heck is he doing all over the UC archives,” Cole told the San Fransisco Chronicle. “This is an extraordinary resource that has been buried like a time capsule.”

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Smithsonian Revamping Its Stuffy Brand

How does one re-brand an august institution like a classical museum–a “product” that is stuffy by its very nature?

The Smithsonian Institution is an extremely popular destination for anyone visiting in the Washington, D.C. area, but the folks in charge clearly felt like they needed to increase their appeal—which is why they decided to hire Wolff Olins to help create the first ad campaign in the institution’s 166-year history.

The Smithsonian’s 19 individual museums and galleries are some of the best-known and most popular in the country. In fact, we wonder if one can even call oneself a true American without at least one visit to the Air and Space Museum! So what changed? The new move started with two dreaded words: user feedback.

The terms most often used to describe the Smithsonian in a study commissioned by the institution two years ago apparently included “boring” and “intimidating,” so organizers decided to spend a couple million bucks (with the help of Target) on a brand strategy and subsequent ad campaign, now set to appear in America’s largest cities this fall.

The most interesting thing about this project to us is that it wasn’t designed strictly to increase attendance—the numbers for 2012 are already better than last year’s, with total visitors expected to reach 30 million by year’s end. What the Smithsonian wants is, to put it bluntly, an image makeover.

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Computer History 101 Off California’s Highway 101

Visitors won’t find advance prototypes of the next model of Apple’s iPhone or iPad at Mountain View, California’s Computer History Museum. Instead, its Revolution exhibit takes a look back at the first two thousand years of computing. The twenty galleries contain an awe-inspiring display of computer related lore from the early abacus, slide rule and punched cards to programming languages, super computers, robots, and video games to more recent tablets and mobile devices.

As the multimedia collection demonstrates, these inventions were used in nearly every facet of life: by governments during wartime to crack enemy codes, by healthcare companies for breakthroughs such as electronic pacemakers, as well as for automobile dashboards, synthesized music and sneakers with microchip technology. Several reminders of short-lived companies, brands and products are also on hand, namely DEC/Digital Equipment Corporation, and Atari’s Pac-Man game.

Colorful visuals abound for those who are less tech-inclined. Among these are the Google Street Views car with a camera and GPS on top and the Noogler propeller cap given to new Google employees. At the museum’s entrance is a statement about fashion, entrepreneurship and capitalism. It’s a dress covered with red dollar bills, worn by Sandy Lerner, co-founder of Cisco Systems, to celebrate the startup’s IPO in 1990.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times focused on female Silicon Valley executives, including Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, preferring more fashionable work attire than their predecessors. Lerner’s dress was an even more striking commentary about the Silicon Valley lifestyle.

Arthur Page’s Hiroshima Statement Written for Harry Truman

Today marks the the 66th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  “Little Boy,” as it was nicknamed, killed 80,000 Japanese, and ushered in the nuclear era.  President Harry Truman made that decision, and delivered his statement about the attack to the press the following morning.  It was written by PR legend Arthur W. Page.

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Vegas Reclaims Its Ties to the Mob

After more than a decade of playing every possible hand to draw visitors, Las Vegas is finally pulling its organized-crime card.

Swept under the table in favor of celeb chefs, theme nightclubs, and Broadway-style productions, Vegas’ ties to the mob continued to captivate both Hollywood and history buffs; from the ’40s through the ’70s, these ties made the city the gaming capital of the U.S. Now, two new, heavily publicized “interactive attractions” aim to cash in on that legacy.

Sure, there’s a story in the attractions’ similarities: Will a blood-crusted fedora here or bullet-pocked divan there dramatically alter one exhibit’s attendance? (Both properties have annual expectations in the mid- “hundreds of thousands.”) It’s far more illuminating, however, to look at their differences, and how each attraction might stimulate the city.

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U.S. Marines Campaign Takes Us Home


Can you brag about where you’re from? UniWorld Group and the U.S. Marines Corps have rolled out a new Black History Month marketing campaign for the Marines entitled, “Where I’m From,” which features nine different Marines explaining what they appreciate about their good old hometowns.

This sounds to me like an easy task if you’re from badass Detroit, but what about unassuming Coatesville, PA?

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Celebrating a Decade of Service

San Francisco-based nonprofit One Brick is celebrating its 10th anniversary by promoting this Saturday, January 15 as a National Day of Service, a tie-in to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday weekend.

The charity, which organizes group volunteer activities to help other nonprofits, will also hold an award ceremony at the San Francisco Food Bank, honoring community leaders such as the Reverend Cecil Williams,  founder of Glide  Memorial  Church; and Paul Ash, executive director of the Food Bank.

South Bay residents can combine this with another longstanding successful MLK event, the Freedom Train, a $10 San Francisco round-trip and Civil Rights history lesson, put on by Cal Train.

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