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July 31, 2003

End of messages


Remember the voicemail system at 79 Fifth? It is my sad duty to report that Jane Barbe, the woman whose voice we heard every time we checked our messages, has died at the age of 74.

Here's the obit from the New York Times ...

July 30, 2003
Jane Barbe, 74, Notable Voice on Those Phone Recordings, Dies

Jane Barbe, who was known to millions, though not by name or appearance, as the voice of telephone-company recordings and voice-mail systems across America, died on July 18 in Roswell, Ga. She was 74.

The cause was complications of cancer, said her husband, John.

Ms. Barbe began her career of delivering impersonal messages in friendly, helpful tones in 1963. Working for Electronic Communications Inc. in Atlanta, she recorded the time and temperature information provided by phone companies, then tackled the "intercept" messages like "The number you have dialed is not in service" that greet misdialers and the misinformed.

She also recorded daily horoscopes as well as a short-lived series of seasonal messages from Mrs. Claus, which was discontinued after out-of-state parents complained about the long-distance charges run up by their children.

In the early 1980's, Ms. Barbe was chosen by Octel Communications, now part of Avaya, to record messages for its nascent voice-mail technology. Her voice is now heard at thousands of companies, helping employees to administer personal greetings and outside callers to find their way out of "voice-mail jail."

Ms. Barbe's talent involved more than a pleasant phone manner. She had the ability to give readings of precise lengths, often measured in tenths of seconds, which are required in a medium in which messages are often assembled from dozens of individual sound bites.

She was also adept at vocal characterizations. She recorded messages for an Australian phone company in an Australian accent and provided the voice of Margaret Mitchell for the 1988 film " `Gone With the Wind': The Making of a Legend." The soft Southern accent came naturally to her; she usually suppressed it in the recording studio.

Born Jane Schneider on July 28, 1928, in Florida, she moved with her family to Atlanta as a small child. She studied drama at the University of Georgia.

She is survived by her husband, John, a composer who grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y.; a daughter, Susan Stubin of Passaic, N.J.; a son, David, of Athens, Ga., and seven grandchildren.

In contrast to her sometimes long-winded messages for voice-mail systems, her own home answering machine's message was refreshingly direct and to the point. "I keep it as simple as possible," she explained in an interview with The New York Times last year. "I have a friend whose machine says, `At the beep, speak.' I like that."

July 30, 2003

Hum zinger

Here's the anti-hummer website that was mentioned in yesterday's New York Times. Although I'm sure there have been many instances of anti-advertising advertising before, this one seems to have attracted the most noteriety:


July 28, 2003

Divorce by cell-phone

A Malaysian court has ruled that it's legal for a man to divorce his wife via text message:

Sharia judge Mohamad Fauzi Ismail declared that the divorce declaration was valid and that as such the marriage between the plaintiff Azida Fazlina Abdul Latif and defendant Shamsudin Latif was annulled, the Utusan Malaysia newspaper reported. Mr Shamsudin was said to have sent Ms Azida a text message saying: "If you do not leave your parents' house, you'll be divorced". Although such a notification of divorce may seem astonishingly brief to some, under Islamic law men are allowed to divorce their wives simply be saying the word 'talaq' - I divorce you - three times.

July 25, 2003

The Office Museum

Pencil sharpener imposters! A 14-ton Underwood typewriter! The gripping saga of the history of the paper clip! Take a walk down memory lane in the online Office Museum.


July 22, 2003

Chiat's Back in Town


Jackie End has provided this song about Jay's penchant for rewriting new business pitches the night before.

This is an mp3 file, so do NOT attempt to listen to it unless you have a broadband connection to the Internet and have an mp3 player (like Windows Media Player) installed on your computer. The file size is appx. 2 mb. After clicking on the word "Listen" below, be prepared to wait a few moments as your computer downloads the file.


If you cannot download the file, at least you can read the lyrics:

Better throw your concepts in the trash,
Better be prepared to cover your ass,
Cause the plane is coming and it's coming fast.
Chiat's back in town.

Better do a remix right away,
Better move that airdate back to May,
Cause you know that cut ain't here to stay.
Chiat's back in town.

Should've killed that tagline, don't you know,
But when I told the client, he said no,
So we'll do another version for the Clio Show,
When Chiat's back in town.

Bill will tell you New York's a big thrill,
But a call from Lee is the Big Chill.
Cause Jay's on Lee and Lee's on Bill,
And Chiat's back in town.

Encyclopedia of Advertising


A three-volume, $385, 1,873 page work: the Advertising Age Encyclopedia of Advertising. Are you in it?

Read (requires free New York Times registration)

Backup to the moon

One enterprising company has decided that there's only one truly safe place to store your corporate data: the moon