Archive for the 'Media & Politics' Category

Walter’s Lego Meth Lab

May 8th, 2011 by Ian

Breaking badWhilst waiting for the next series of Breaking Bad to start (just 2 months now), someone (Orion Pax on Flickr) has obviously been busy. I love the detail on this, especially the bullet holes in the door. It reminds me that, “this is my own private domicile and I will not be harassed….bitch!

via The Brothers Brick

What this Windows Phone 7 advert tells us about the assault on iOS

October 21st, 2010 by Ian

I work in design agencies, so operate under an unspoken agreement to hate on any effort Microsoft make to take sales away from Apple. A new mouse? I think you’ll find that the Mighty Mouse is the premium device, sir! Windows 7 now has a simplified ‘dock-like’ task bar? Tshk! OS X perfected this years ago!

Now comes Windows Phone 7: a desperate assault on castle iPhone. I thought I’d be happy to join in with pretty much everyone I follow on twitter and slag off the new advertising campaign that has been divised to accompany the new mobiles OS’ release. The most common complaint I heard was that this advert makes potential customers look like, well, douchebags. Maybe, but I think beyond that the advert tries to sell a very good point: We will help you get what you want quicker so that you can return to the real world. This is a great approach and a smart advert. How so?


Dodge Challenger Commerical makes me proud to be an American

June 20th, 2010 by Ian

Admittedly I’m not an American, but then neither is the car (it’s made it Canada). Still, I don’t think it matters, this advert is pretty stirring stuff:

Via GeekOSystem

Around the world in 80 seconds

May 13th, 2010 by Ian

Whilst this is blatantly a Sony viral, it’s also very cool.

A public service anouncement for Private Eye readers

March 24th, 2010 by Ian

Private Eye: Leaders Wives cover

This is the cover of this weeks magazine. Nice headline huh? Because of this you should expect, as I did, to possibly find fortnights edition to be nestled between more, erm, specialist magazines. You know the ones with nekkid ladies all over them? Yeah, there. Especially if, like me, you buy your literature from motorway service stations. At least they didn’t put them in an opaque white bag.

Rushing through a foolish Digital Economy Bill

March 21st, 2010 by Ian

This debate has raged between the music industry and pretty much everyone else for a while now. The digital economy bill that should have been about digital Britain and how we can all use the web for good, has been turned into a load of proposals that may endanger free speech and endanger creativity. I wrote the following to my local MP, Nick Clegg:

I’m writing to you regarding the rush that is planned to push through the Digital Economy Bill. I’m aware that this is a very complex bill and there are many parts of it that concern me. I think that there is a lot in there that many people should be concerned about and without the time to debate it properly, we’ll be making mistakes that we will soon regret.

I moved to Sheffield because of our strong design community which is doing great things with the web. In this industry I have seen how creative solutions can provide services to those who need them most. Solutions that are an asset to the design community and to Sheffield and that can save the government a great deal of money. I am worried that this creativity will be stifled by this new bill. We are already at a disadvantage compared with many European countries who long ago woke up and realised how important unrestricted internet access is.

As a constituent I am writing to you today to ask you to do all you can to ensure the Government doesn’t just rush the bill through and deny us our democratic right to scrutiny and debate.

I recommend you have your own say by writing to your MP via the brilliant 38 Degrees campaign. It only took a minute (you can tell by my prose!), but to let this go through without a fight would be criminal.

Palin does stand-up

March 7th, 2010 by Ian

This title is not a joke. I’m a big Sarah Palin fan. Some people say she has no knowledge of politics, foreign countries, science and has a shoddy grip on the whole human experience. Those people tend to be elitists (British translation: people with three-figure IQs). It’s a shame she never made it to VP. God, I love fireworks. Now she’s finally found something that everyone can agree she’s good at: stand-up comedy. Dems, Republicans, Libertarians, gays, Muslims, Jews and people who hold up “Jebus hates fagurts” banners at protests could all come together and enjoy some Palin stand-up. I don’t think it’s simply the top-flight jokes she tells, but the delivery. As Frank Carson said: “It is. The way. That you tell. Them.” The right wing in this country is in dire need of a proper comic since Bernard Manning went to the giant pie shop in the sky and Jim Davidson finally disappeared up his own backside (erm, I think. Either that or he lives in the UAE). I think she’d be honoring both the ‘special relationship’ and the needs of the British comedy circuit if she came over here and did a tour. We love you Sarah!

Even news-bots v1.4, v2, and 1.9(f) on Fox news agree with me. Great catch from v1.4 there as well: Palin isn’t “Our own”, she’s simply a contributor, silly! (In the same way ‘tea parties’ are in no way organized by the Murdoch ‘massive’). Just remember: Only Rush Limbaugh can make jokes about retards, so don’t expect that sort of humor from Sarah.

Boxee box: great news for indie media & consumers

December 10th, 2009 by Ian

…and for those wanting to cancel their cable/sky packages. Here’s why:
I’ve been a member of the Boxee Alpha test for a while now and it showed a huge amount of potential. Boxee is, at its most simple, a media player that draws content from the net (Division3, iPlayer, etc.) and from your local network (ripped DVDs, your music library, downloaded tv shows). This content is then presented in a wonderful ‘made for big screen’ (read: your tv, not your 15″ laptop monitor) easily navigable interface. A rather gorgeous interface too, I might add. Well, certainly in the Alpha, I’m a little unsettled by the new beta interface but it is well ahead of the rigidness of the AppleTV and the ugly mess of any recent Microsoft efforts. Boxee is based on XBMC, a brilliant Open-source media player with a similar, but not as ambitious, desire to take over your tv.  Boxee adds web-content to XBMC’s marvelous local network media management. I’ve been running XBMC on a hand-me-down 1st-gen XBox (thanks Ed!) for a couple of years now and it kicks the ass of Windows Media Centre and the like. It just works. No codec bullshit, no delay, no fiddling.

The Boxee box

The Boxee box

This alpha potential has been realized in the form of the newly announced beta and the Boxee Box. Although Boxee is quite intuitive to use, it can be a total bugger to setup, as was XBMC before it. Your options are hack your Apple TV or build a Linux machine and dive into a bundle of .debs and Pulse audio problems. Oh, and good luck on 64-bit Ubuntu, it’s a bloody nightmare! The Boxee Box removes all these headaches and essentially makes Boxee suitable for non-geeks. It’s built by DLink, who in my experience seem to churn out reasonable rooters/modems, and we’re promised it’ll cost a quite reasonable $200. This investment will open up a world of couch-accessible online content. There is a growing amount of independent media available online and bringing it from tiny laptop screens and onto that new 37″ monster you have in your living room could be the shot in the arm that many indie shows need.

I was going to blog about how stupid the case design was. “Don’t they understand that people are still going to have audio equipment/a DVD recorder/etc under their TV?”, I prepared myself to rant, “don’t they realize that such a bizarre shape will make it impossible to stack and fit under televisions?”. But as further details have emerged, it seems that the Box is so small that none of this should be a concern and as the remote control is RF then you could even hide it behind your flat-screen if you want.

This thing is seriously small

This thing is seriously small

The closest thing we’ve seen to this has been the Apple TV, which like Boxee could view web content. But being Apple, you were tied into the Apple iTunes marketplace, and thinking. No thanks, Jobs, no DRM crap for me. The Boxee Box’s design, cost and potential have lead to a very desirable little product and it is a testament to the Open-source projects that have gone before it. Put me down for one.

(More details on the Boxee blog)

Design for Life

October 4th, 2009 by Ian

Like most new BBC television programs, Design for Life takes its name from a 90s pop song. The Manics, durrr. Like ‘Life of Riley‘ and, erm, I’m sure there is something else… well unlike most Caroline Quentin vehicles, Design for Life isn’t shit.

As is the norm now for most new BBC television programs, it takes about 7 minutes to get started. Those first 7 minutes of the show are catching up, explaining what happened in the previous episode. In this day of Sky+, HDD recorders and (more importantly) iPlayer, is this necessary? I know it makes the show cheaper to make, but for crying out loud. Just make it a little shorter if you’re going to piss around so much.

It’s shot beautifully well and we get to see plenty of the beautiful bits of Paris, as apposed to the hours and hours of shots of that bloody Gerkin thing in London that anyone who watches the Apprentice has forced upon them. When talking about this show, I’m going to compare it to the Apprentice, because the similarities are obvious (and I’m lazy). It features a team of designers (business men?) who fight to show they are the best designer (most shouty business man?) to prove they can work with designer extraordinaire, Philipee Stark (Suralun?).

the Design for Life participants

the Design for Life participants

Participant Nebil is the most ‘Apprentice like’, because he patronizes everyone he gets to talk to. This probably is an attempt to look better than everyone else but at least he does know his shit. I’m sure that to anyone who actually has their design game-face on, his “let me just explain this too you, thicko” tone will probably make him look like a bit of a dick. Still, he gets a lot of screen time because he has a lot to say and even his dick-ishness is minor compared with the mega-cocks that rut around in any given episode of the Apprentice. He gets his come-upance tho, which is another reason why I love this show. It’s obvious that the shows producers set him off against the other stand-out, Ilsa, because she’s got a pretty good set of claws and will bite back.

I guess a large part of the show will boil down to “do you like Philipee Stark”. I do. Him and his bloody chairs, or whatever the hell he’s supposed to be most famous for. He’s pretentious, but y’know he’s a brilliant designer so he can afford to be and after all, this is design. You’re supposed to be pretentious. He also dismisses the participants easily, based on some seemingly whimsical idea he has. Again: he’s a designer. I’ve had designers happily shit on my ideas in the past and non of them were exactly Phillipee Stark. At least when he drops people he’s really nice about it. I’d love to be sacked by him. None of this catch-phrase “You’re fired” crap. I also like his attitude towards ‘wasteful’ design. He’s green without being sickly. Personally Alan Sugar really gets on my tits because turned Amstrad into crap (I love my old CPC6128) and I tire of his attitude and his stupid Labour ‘business-tzar’ beard.

Further contrasts to the Apprentice are easy to highlight. The participants are young, attractive and probably smell quite good. They are also very, very white. And middle class uni-graduates. They actually get very visibly nervous, which makes you feel a little more sympathetic. Hell, in the 2nd episode one of the participants has a genuinely great idea: Polly and her water-level meter. What have the Apprentice chimps ever done, but chuck crap at each other? Design for Life actually talks about design. Pitching, ideas, briefs, presentations and all the bullshit in-between. That’s some real genuine content from the BBC.

The show is at 9.00pm on BBC 2, Mondays but you can follow the show here, on iPlayer.

As an aside; it’s narrated by Adam ‘Adam + Joe’ Buxton. I look forward to the DVD release where Joe does a funny-man voice-over.

Oh the Humanity! in 25 words or more

September 21st, 2009 by Ian

This is one of the finest headlines I’ve ever seen crafted by the wordsmiths at the Mail. I think they’ve channeled a certain similarly perceptive master of language in writing this. Does anyone remember this classic line from Alan Partridge?  More of this please. I don’t want to read an article. If you can’t consolidate a complete ‘story’ in the headline, then don’t bother.

Via the ever brilliant @bengoldacre – an essential follow.

Differences between Current TV UK and US can be a little depressing

September 11th, 2009 by Ian

Current TV are an indie tv network who, I’m guessing reasonably confidently, depend mainly on the web for viewers.  They’ve done some good stuff. In particular, one thing I watched that stuck in my mind was a documentary on Russian nazi gangs who attack foreign students. It was hard hitting, it wasn’t the sort of thing you’d see on the BBC or CNN. It was ‘forgotten world’ reporting, exactly the sort of thing Current TV should do.  Naturally, I follow both CurrentTV US and Current TV UK on Twitter and something recently struck me.

Here in the UK we sometimes like to poke fun at the US’s attitude to current affairs reporting. Maybe we’ll laugh at the CNN homepage as it becomes full of reports of Britneys latest outburst. Or possibly we’d compare measured debate on Newsnight to O Reily / Becks insane outbursts. But on the web and especially at Current TV, the US often takes the intellectual high-ground (or at least the high-brow ground).  I attach the following as evidence from my Twitter client:

Current TV on my twitter client

Current TV in my twitter feed

Sadly, this sort of contrast is pretty typical. If you don’t believe me, I recommend you go to the Current website and use the top-right icon to switch between the British and American versions. So in short: come on Current UK! You’ve got some great staff and in the UK we’d love some relevant localised reporting. Surpass your US brother and don’t fall into the Heat Magazine pit.

(yes, I realise I posted this just after kittens. Shameful)

10:10 is a good idea but is in danger of doing more harm than good

September 7th, 2009 by Ian

This weekends article by Madeleine Bunting for the Guardian reads like parody. Lifestyle changes which will have arguably minimal positive effect on the environment: check. Angst over carbon footprint whilst still taking flights abroad and owning a large house: check. And as if to round off the parody so perfectly: Two paragraphs detailing the guilt of Aga ownership! Perfect! This is article, along with many disappointingly similar others, is part of the Guardians new 10:10 campaign. The idea is for us to sign up and make personal carbon cuts ourselves, 10% in 2010, so that pressure is put on the government to make similar efforts. It would be nice to think that we’d spend a little more time putting pressure on industry who of course are the real big polluters and whatever private citizens do is next to useless if we can’t get them on board.

1010 logo

The 10:10 campaign was launched in the Tate Modern because obviously a more smug middle class location was not available.I think the 10:10 tags are set to become some of this years more desirable items. Like those ‘Make Poverty History’ bracelets (I wonder how that one turned out?). All in all I think it’s a great idea. However it may contain too many elements which put us in danger of creating a wall of smugness that distances those who honestly care about climate change from those who are yet to sign up for the full effort.

Web developer hat on: The 10:10 website is superb in both it’s design and execution, except totally unnecessary use of flash of course.

Moon coverage spoof is perfect analogy for what’s wrong with tv news

July 27th, 2009 by Ian

What do you think? What are the blogs saying? What have twitter-users voted? All questions that are asked by the ‘mainstream media’ in their desperate (and some might say futile) attempt not to be rendered completely irrelevant by ‘new media’. This video, although obviously delivered tongue in cheek, is actually quite believable. There is less of a whirlwind of tacky special effects and switching between scenes on tv news here in the UK, but the desperate call for viewer feedback is still there. It’s gotten quite embarrassing; even on previously quite clever shows like Newsnight.

Maybe it’ll stop. Maybe Rupert Murdoch will work out how to use robots.txt. Probably not before we’ve all stopped getting our news from our television sets.

Us Now: democracy, the web and people

May 25th, 2009 by Ian

This film explores power of mass collaboration, government and the internet. Ideas such as allowing people to choose policy, not the government are discussed. It features David Milliband saying, interestingly, that an election every 4 years isn’t enough. I’m inclined to agree with him.

Representative democracy is based on the idea that people are thick. That’s not true.

There are a host of interesting people featured here, from Cabinet ministers, users of Mumsnet, mySociety folk and even Linux geeks. More importantly; it looks past the current extent of e-Democracy which seems to be, basically, “Lets put everything on YouTube, yeah?”

via Core77