A short story

Every once in a while I come across a piece of writing that I really connect with. Cold Mountain, Hound Dog, the Red Riding Quartet, Chuck Norris facts – all pieces of writing that have resonated with me.

To this list I can now add Dave 2.0b2, a short story by Michael Marshall Smith.  I stumbled across it the other day, and I immediately got it on a number of different levels:

  1. The genre – I’m a big fan of short stories, they’re a very efficient way to get a hit of good story telling
  2. The protagonist – It’s about a man, and I’m a man – how can I not relate to that?
  3. The format – It’s a review of a man, by all the people that know him, as if he were the product of a developer. Having worked in Tech PR for over two years, I’m well versed on the issues developers of all kinds have with their applications.

Basically, it brightened my day considerably when I read it. It’s short, to the point, and easy to dip in and out of if you’re really, really pressed for time. I urge you to read it.


I can’t help but be slightly disappointed by the lack of Windows 7 promotional tie-ins here in the UK. Microsoft has truly outdone itself this time around with a number of bizarre link-ups that put most other software launches to shame.

For example, the US gets an advertising free episode of Family Guy featuring show favourites Brian and Stewie installing the new OS (an episode which incidentally may never see the light of day here due to product placement regulations):

Japan takes things one step further with this incredible Burger King promotion – the seven (yes, seven) burger Windows 7 Whopper:

Windows Whopper

Meanwhile, here in the UK we have to make do with a PC World trade-in offer. Come on Microsoft, if you want me to upgrade you’ll have to convince me harder than that.

Mousing Around

Everyone knows how cool the downloadable applications available on the iPhone are. That’s a given. With an app to suit every occasion, tube journeys need never be dull as long as you have your trusty iPhone/iPod Touch.  With so many apps out there, I thought I’d just focus on one I discovered a few weeks back: the deadmau5 Touch Mix.

deadmau5 (pronounced ‘dead-mouse’ don’t you know, not ‘dead-mow-five’ like I called him for months) is a world renowned DJ – hot on the heels of the likes of Justice and Daft Punk – and is sampled left right and centre.

Pay £1.75 or thereabouts and you can mix just like him. The deadmau5 app includes a top-ten hitlist of his most popular songs, two of which can be played simultaneously and mixed together. You can do all sorts of cool things with the tunes: loop sections, increase/decrease the track tempo, bring specific parts of the songs to the forefront, to create some fresh lyrical beats of your own. All these elements and tune-tinkerings, my flatmate DJ assures me, are crucial ingredients to the real world of mixing.

One major difference is that, once you select a section of music to play, the app brings this in automatically at exactly the right moment – removing the need for what separates the amateurs from the pros: musical timing and a sense of rhythm.

Nevertheless,  I’ve had the app for weeks and still haven’t got it.  It’s somehow hard, even when everything is made easy.

The clip below may not sound that incredible, but they have really mastered this little application.

Continuing my apparent dominance of Chivalry House in October, here’s a little story that’s vaguely related to the work we do (well, it’s about brands, and we’ve got brands in our title).

Marge Simpson, matriarch of the yellow, four-fingered clan of the same name, has posed for Playboy to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Simpsons as a show in it’s own right (it started in ’87 as sketches on the Tracey Ullman, breaking free in ’89 on it’s own).  Aside from the fact a TV show that  gets past four series is on its way to legendary status (Two Pints of Lager notswithstanding), this is an interesting arrangement for both.

The Simpsons, whilst perhaps not reaching the critical heights of its earlier series, is a huge brand that shows few signs of waning. Playboy, on the other hand, is a shadow of its former self, and as confused about its brand identity as any company has ever been.  Is it a porno? Is it a literary mag (don’t laugh, some big literary guns have written for it)? Is it a guide for gentlemen, a sort of GQ-esque establishment? I don’t think it helps that the man who embodies its supposed qualities is a parody of his younger self.  Hugh Hefner tries to maintain his image of a debonair, sophisticated man of means and taste, yet hasn’t adjusted his approach to this image to cater for his advancing years. What worked at forty doesn’t work at eighty.

The magazine itself has suffered at the hands of a wider malaise affecting the print industry. Its online brands have been undermined by the proliferation of free porn sites, and overall it is unable to shake the feeling that its really just grot for kids without the balls to buy the proper stuff.  This is a shame, as it could have been one of the great journals.  As mentioned above, big name writers (with both commercial and critical clout)  have contributed to its pages, with Stephen King on the front cover of the Simpson issue. If it hadn’t gone down the pseudo-Nuts/Zoo route, it might be a brand that makes it to the second half of the 21st century. At the moment, only the Simpsons seem poised to get beyond the next few years.

For my sins, I’m a Forest fan. Having been born in the mid eighties and not really being aware of the team until about a decade later, that means I have rarely experienced true joy when it comes to the true Reds winning anything. The glory days of Clough were long gone by the time I fell in love with Frank Clark’s team of Colin Cooper, Steve Stone and Chettle, Ian Woan and, of course, Stuart ‘Pyscho’ Pearce. The years since have been a bit of a drought. When I heard Arsenal fans whinge about four years without a trophy I pity them. Come talk to me when it’s twelve years since you’ve played a Premiership match.

So it is an unfamiliar emotion that I find myself feeling this Monday morning in October. Four wins in the last four games (including seemingly runaway promotion favourites Newcastle), goal difference keeping us from a play-off position – not a bad way to start the week.

However, best not to get carried away. Promotion is won in May, not October, one game at a time etc. Got to keep feet on the ground, otherwise there’ll be tears when it all goes tits up at Christmas. Still, I can revel in this for a bit: ahead of Leicester, and the sheep all the way down in 17th. How could that not be a great start to the week?


Hands up who thought this blog was going to be about Cloud Computing?

Friday fun: Ctrl

Been a while since we considered a Chuck Norris fact. Here’s this week’s:

There is no ‘ctrl’ button on Chuck Norris’ computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.

Think about it. Whilst you’re doing that, here’s a video of the man himself:

Just seen the US Federal Trade Commission is going to be cracking down on astro-turfing. Before the all-weather pitch fans amongst you get up in arms about this threat to a hockey player’s civil liberties, they’re talking about the nefarious business promoting practice type, not the fake grass type. Without wanting to sound too sanctimonious, it’s about time too. It might be that I’ve spent the last couple of years listening to division6 and others at the agency talk about the need for transparency on t’Internet, but when people get caught astroturfing (also known as flogging and puppeteering, apparently), it seems school-boy in the extreme.

The US is slightly behind the UK and the EU on this, with our legislation coming into effect last year (although there are questions as to how effectively it can be policed). Perhaps with the threat of punishment in the offline world, we’ll now see a clean up of online practices. Definitely worth seeing how things progress.