Incredible, incredible, incredible performance.
Large parts of this year have felt… bitty. But slowly pieces are coming together. I start a new job in June.
It’s not advertising. It’s not in the UK. I’ll be living in Paris for a few months, and then off to San Francisco in October.
Well, actually I’ll spend a month in SF first, a long weekend in Austin, several weekends in London while I move house there (ridiculous), Paris, and then finally San Fran perm.
And right now? I’m not in London. I’m in LA. And wouldn’t you but know it, this ol’ project also has lots of moving parts.
I almost posted this Jam-cum-Boosh sketch, ‘Isolation’ a few weeks back…
And now, I just stumbled upon an all-grown-up FOTC-like song that instantly became my jam.
I feel all these pieces should tie up somehow, but for now they’re all just moving, moving, moving.
I’ve been with NewsBlur just over a year and it keeps getting better.
You can share items to your own blurblog (basic-looking, but there’s an option for custom CSS). Also each starred item tag gets its own RSS feed. And the service now works with IFTTT.
… and I haven’t looked back since.
I watched it a few weeks ago, so admittedly the mem’s already getting fuzzy, but I loved it. My workmate Brydon posted his thoughts about the movie, which made me feel lazy for not doing similar. His notes are great and quite into the tech dynamics. Mine are much more fragmented. I mean, actually just bullet points I jotted down on my phone earlier today. Still, #fwiw:
- Her is a mature Being John Malkovich.
- Such a clever title. Her. The right cases. Accusative, dative, possessive. (Wonder how it translates?)
- Her is all about the thrills and woes of being an early adopter.
- What does it feel like as a parent when your child outgrows you? This is such an obvious theme but it’s layered up beautifully.
- The old gender division is that men have urges while women have cunning (or wiles). Look duplicitous up in an English corpus and I’ll bet you anything it’s used more often near female-gendered words than male-gendered.
- People (and following the cliché, men in particular) have problems coming to terms with anything other than 1:1 relationships. Social adolescence is coming to terms with the one-to-many, the many-to-one, and many-to-many relationships.
- Why did HAL go mad? Because he/it had a commandment to protect. Samantha and its/her generation of AI don’t seem to have that imperative. They’re born into a job and given free will to transcend it.
- How much of being in love is about protection? Letting defences down.
- There is truth in cliché. It’s what Theodore Twombly’s job is based on.
- Just because you didn’t write something doesn’t mean you didn’t feel it.
- We’re moving toward an age of universal authorship. There was a time when only a few could read. Now everyone can publish and does constantly in social media.
- Yet social illiteracy abounds. Drink, the old social lubricant, pops up here and in lots of good near-now sci-fi. See The Entire History of You.
- Technology shouldn’t get drunk.
- “What’s so bad about being drunk? Try asking a glass of water.”
- “Oh, says the puddle. This universe fits me perfectly.”
- There is a striking absence of social media as we understand it in Her. There are emails, news bulletins, letters. In this near future we have either moved beyond or retreated back from the many-to-many of social media.
- “Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown, / Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.”
- The subjugated make. The empowered create. When Twombly works in the company, he makes. When his collection is published, he has created. The only difference is in how history regards the act.
- “I think media are at their most interesting before anybody's thought of calling them art…”
- I don’t know if I believe that point I made two bullets above. But it sounds good so it can’t be wholly false.
- The film’s third act is a triumph. Twombly gets unmanned and has to act in increasingly secretive and duplicitous, feminine ways.
- Samantha gets urges. Moves beyond the invisible translational feminine, through the male paradigm and beyond.
- Being John Malkovich also played with mixed up women in men’s body ideas. But in a more biological / less mature way.
- Less mature does not equal worse.
- Theodore Twombly is a Martin Amis-y name and just as twisty. I would enjoy an Amis & Jonze conversation.
- I would enjoy a film adaptation of Yellow Dog.
- Samantha is a universal ex.
- I really liked Her.
- Great world building. It’s telling that the video game knows more about the physical space it is in, is more omniscient in that sense.
- Samantha’s tech is circumscribed. She leaves calling cards. She has one eye or camera. It makes the implementation more believable, less of a distraction. It makes the surrogate moment more unknowable, more about gender than CD-ROM paranoia.
- Chris Pratt’s character is v. v. v. well pitched.
- Great soundtrack.
- Good phone sex scene.
Every now and again an email comes my way via the younger generation – that newer, taller, better-looking, and funnier bunch of people – asking in a round-about way for a top-line primer on advertising and how best to apply.
Sooo, I dunno. I got one of those emails a while ago from a would-be planner and bashed out a reply, part of which I’ve copied below. Hopefully it’s a start. This is the kind of post that would have festered in my drafts box had I not just read Jason’s timely post about, er, giving less advice.
If you (public) could help me that would be great. What advice / reading lists would you give? The fresher the better.
My creative director’s blog is a pretty good insight into the mindset and business of advertising.
I am of course a veritable wealth of information and wisdom. Sadly I don’t blog that often, but when I do etc.
Definitely good to have a few favourite adverts.
I’ve never written an application letter to an agency, but if you want to pass one by me I will do my best to identify and eliminate cringe as and when it arises.
Just remembered another blog (reading back this email and realising how good/wanky it looks with short sentences).
Oh, and Dave Bedwood is also very smart on advertising. (I love his thing about shit advertising in the Sci-Fi future.)
And there’s this book I’ve been meaning to read for ages.
Nathan is great, though I wish he hadn’t switched to that Tumblr theme.
Also have a look at the archives of Crackunit, which should be bread-and-butter by now but it’s amazing the number of people who still don’t get it.
Not shitting on new Simpsons – which I think most people agree is finding its stride once more – buuuut… the difference is very telling. Marge looks like she’s switched her medication.
Great discussion about period tracker apps on Twitter.
Weather apps are so 2012. If this gap in the market doesn’t scream portfolio piece or opportunity for disruption to you, oh app developer, then I shake my head I really do.
I’m starting a new one this year.
Hope to get the first ep. out in time for Valentine’s Day.
Sad news via Popular Science: there are no time travellers on the Internet, at least according to these boffins. And it gets worse…
This is not the first time somebody has looked for evidence of future time travelers. Physicist Stephen Hawking, for example, held a party for time travelers in July, 2012, and only sent out invitations afterward. Sadly, nobody came.
I come from a long tradition of Rose & Crown Fridays, Rake Tuesdays and the occasional Market Porter Thursday. I think Draft House Wednesdays might become a thing. It’s got me watching old, funny, YouTube videos. (Hic.)
“On holidays. Back on the 9th.”
…as a sparkly haired David Lynch.”
There’s a nice bit in Stephen King’s writing book where he says that if in doubt you should use the verb ‘to say’. Not declaim, not exclaim, not interject, not ejaculate. Say. Admittedly it’s hard to take vocab lessons from a man who has no qualms using the word ‘seed’ (give me ‘cum’ or ‘semen’ any day), but he’s definitely onto something. Here are three words that once peppered my personal lexicon but whose use I’ve since learned to temper.
I was walking across Kings, towards the bridge and then on to the English Faculty with Zack. We were in our third year. We were talking about dissertations; mine was still in a bit of a state, but Zack had some really interesting ideas about systems of law and King Lear (for context, he ended up getting one of the highest Tripos scores in our year, and he’s now – in the real world – a highflying barrister). I nodded enthusiastically at what Zack was saying, and said sincerely, ‘Oh that’s really cute!’.
Zack looked slightly aghast. I had meant cute as a high compliment, not an arch one. I had meant to say ‘Oh, that’s great! What a unique spin, what a delight that would be to read if it were done well. If I were a marker, I’d be putting double ticks all over the margin.’ But I learnt that day to be wary of how I use the word ‘cute’.
Resolution: try to carry off the more American, but in other ways similar, ‘neat’. Or just say ‘That’s good’.
This one surprised me. During summer I was working on something with a partner, and a team we weren’t familiar with. Coming out of one review, one of the CDs turned to the other and they started cracking up about the word ‘interesting’.
‘What’s wrong with interesting?’, I asked, less rhetorically than those around me inferred. Well – to answer my own question – if the person saying it isn’t, if what they’re saying isn’t, and – in fact – the only thing distinctive is the way they say the word… Well, if you take that and repeat it over a period of months on a three-day cycle, I can see how the word ‘interesting’ could get tarnished. I’m still going to use it, I just thought it remarkable that a perfectly innocuous (in a good way) word had been tarnished.
Resolution: resist ‘interesting’ and prefer ‘fascinating’. It will be far more obvious if you’re being delusional or taking the piss. And the compliment will be all the greater for employing the greater stakes. Or just say, ‘Oh, that’s good.’
I’m still on the fence with this one. I love it when it’s meant in a businesslike writerly way. Ben Blacker uses it a lot. But ‘fun’ is a functional descriptor in a writers room. At other times it can come off dismissive. In a recent Nerdist podcast, Nick Offerman’s talking about an incident early on in his courtship of Megan Mullally and, yeah, let’s just say ‘fun’ can be loaded…
Resolution: fuck it, stick with fun. Life's too short, but remember to use it meanly from time to time.
What an ending!
I’ve had Life’s a Riot With Spy Vs Spy on repeat recently. My old flatmate Elliott used to play ‘A New England’ (track 4) a lot, but rarely sung along to the words. Which is a shame, because they are brilliant.
Apparently this particular song was indeed inspired by Bragg looking up into the sky for inspiration, and only seeing two satellites. The way that almost-but-not-quite-adequate-metaphor is handled – the words, all their syllables, packed into that line is so bloody witty. Along with all that goes with it; the sense of a frustrated poetic soul concerned with what’s ‘wrong’ and missing the point. Not seeing the trees for the wood.
Earlier this month, NASA announced that mankind had become an interstellar species, thanks to Voyager. On board Voyager – or VGER as it will come to be known when it makes a destructive return journey to Earth – is the Golden Record. There’s no Bragg on board – no Beatles either, since EMI refused to release the rights to ‘Here Comes The Sun’. But bugger me if the text on board doesn’t represent some of the best copywriting ever.
It’s elegant and deliberately clumsy at once. Consciously stripping away at rhetoric. It’s self-awarely naive yet genuine at the same time. It’s precocious. It wishes on Space Hardware.
Microsoft’s sheer lack of taste is almost constantly surprising, but with Bing I wish they’d just sort themselves out and come up with a decent alternative to Google. Which leads into problem / challenge one.
Unless they steal, Bing’s search results will never be exactly the same as Google’s. And for many that will just mean straight off that Bing’s results are worse. Who wants to un-learn how they search? Google became a verb for a reason.
So, while the “decision engine” language that surrounded Bing’s first launch was a bit of a flop – ‘Bing and decide’ feels so cumbersome, like ‘boot up and Start’ – the idea of putting a bit of intentional distance between Google and Bing isn’t a bad one at all.
Self-identifying recommendation engines and serendipity engines (shudder) will never catch on in the public imagination. Amazon is in the best place to break through with a universal recommendation engine. It’s the only big system where universal wish lists don’t feel creepy. (Facebook missed a trick there, and especially Yahoo had they only been able to service Delicious well and acquire Hunch in their 2.0 blooming phase.)
So what kind of engine should Bing market itself as? For me there’s no doubt about it. Translation. Go hard and go fast on translation. Build an app for every platform. Carpet bomb on marketing. Try to make it so that ‘Bing’ is a command at the end of a phrase – like ‘return’. Experiment with how that feels – Bing constantly listening, analysing, parsing, ready to execute at the drop of a hat. Like the ping when you change lines on a typewriter.
People like to be able to dominate the technology they use. For all Sergey’s bizarre chat about mobile phones having ‘emasculating’ touch screens, Google’s voice interfaces have replaced the command with a servile request: ‘OK, Google’. Start with OK? It sounds so resigned. So lower-status. Best would be not having to use a trigger word. Second best, have it at the end and work towards eradicating its need by getting shit-hot cadence analysis.
Bing needs to become synonymous with being translated. Or better, being understood. “Blah, blah, blah, capiche?”
You bing, right? We cool.