Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. As a man in his early thirties, I’m currently riding the first conscious wave of nostalgia within my lifetime. Contrary to popular opinion on the era, in the 80s I didn’t run around taking ecstasy in a field or particularly dislike Thatcher (apart from a particularly affecting Spitting Image I once stayed up to watch in 1988). Most of my memories involve an idyllic, sheltered upbringing in the countryside riding bikes and climbing trees. The most retro I could describe the experience is that I vividly remember the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tango In The Night’ playing tinninly from a mangled C90 cassette in my mum’s Volkswagen Golf. But it wasn’t on our trips to the Miner’s Strikes or some body-popping convention, it was to school like the rest of my peers.
By now anyone reading this must have seen the new The McDonalds Olympics ad. If you’ve watched TV, read a newspaper or have taken public transport in the past week you’ll know the one I mean. It’s just like their ‘just stopping by’ one from last year, but with people enjoying the Olympics instead of eating fatty fast food. It’s the latest in ‘Lifestylvertising’, an expression I just made up for all these godawful adverts we get these days that just show us normal people doing ‘things’, in the hope that we find their insight so astoundingly astute and personable that we think fondly of the brand that paid for it. Supposed wry observations on life by gas companies, banks, mobile phone companies and basically any organisation where the reality of their actual produce would be a tough sell.
McDonalds is currently top of the list of many Olympic sponsors Londoners are angry with. Obviously, people are against them from a health perspective due to McDonald’s ruthless advertising of chips literally counter-acting the chances of any Britons winning any medals, and are campaigning for some kind of boycott. Meanwhile, so fastidious is the Olympic Delivery Authority that they intend to have ‘brand officers’ marching the streets of London making sure pubs don’t allow five glasses to be arranged in the shape of the Olympic rings. Just last week there was outrage that McDonalds apparently has a monopoly on chips. According to LOCOGs guidelines, you can’t even link to their site if it’s not to say something positive. The bastards.
So associating chips and eyelids with running really fast is quite the challenge for an advertising agency, who instead choose to ignore the McNuggets, McFlurries or even any of their restaurants and try to just hose us down with sugary Olympic joy. The end result is the kind of advertising so transparent in its intention, when I see it I can’t see anything but the mechanics by which it was created. I don’t see a recognisable young mother cheering someone on with toddlers on her lap or a group of colleagues following the event during lunch, I see the whirring cogs of advertising executives sitting about brainstorming a way of polishing a meaty turd with Olympic lacquer.
So this is my voice-over script for the advertising agency brainstorm session. You’ll have to imagine the background music, which will be a slowed-down acoustic cover of ‘You’re the best around’ from the end of Karate Kid by that chap who sang ‘Girl on the Platform’ for Match.com.
The Double-Cheek Kisser, The Compliment Fisher,
Doubter, Shouter, Folk Music Cover-Version Scouter,
Diversity Advisor, Account Handler Miser,
The Social Media Aggregator, Client Ego Masturbator,
The Preener, The Over-Keen-er, The ‘Let’s Just Make Their Logo ‘Green-er’,
The ‘Worked There As a Student Frier’, Media Buyer, “If People Ate Only This Food Wouldn’t They Die?”-er,
The ‘We Need To Think About The End User’, The Awards Do Last Night Substance-Abuser,
The ‘Still Off Their Tits’, Strategists, The ‘Hey, They Sell Salads Too!’ Apologists,
The Intern Who Thinks Everything Is ‘Awesome’-er, The Brand Exclusion Zone Enforcer,
The ‘I’m Sure They Have A Healthy Options Menu’ , The Social Media Guru,
The Brainstorm Lunch Platter Hoggers, Official Bloggers, Creative Idea Dead-Horse Floggers,
Coffee-break Defectors, HD Digital Projectors, “I’ll Make It All Slow-mo And Soft-Focus” Art Directors,
And for The Neurotics, the Pat-On-The-Back Trophies for their long cab journeys home.
Until the Daily Mail finds a way to prove that the BBC actually gives you cancer, the paper has to rely on its faithful friend ‘outrage’ in order to further its attacks on Auntie. This festive season it was the public’s apparent shock at the semi-nudity shown in the Christmas return of Sherlock Holmes, a program that most other newspapers thought was brilliant.
The Daily Mail: Sherlock and the case of nudity before 9pm.
Far from mentioning anything like the level of enjoyment that led The Independent to describe it as “shockingly good TV”, or for it to occupy almost all of the trending topics on Twitter during it’s run-time, the Mail reacts to nothing but the (non-frontal) nudity in the programme of Sherlock’s new love interest Irene Adler. The paper then publishes screen-grabs of the shocking nudity, just to make sure its readership know exactly what they are referring to.
Also of brilliant hypocritical note is that Twitter trends are not mentioned, yet individual tweets are quoted as some measure of the public’s reaction. This despite the service being regularly dismissed by their ‘Top Scientists’ as a frivolous toy by which #brokenbritain can only find out what Steven Fry had for breakfast.
I saw recently that the paper has a corrections department, through which they can quietly apologise when Christmas hasn’t been cancelled in some schools, or when the EU doesn’t ban bendy bananas etc. So, assuming the publication of the images alongside details of how dangerously shocking they were to be some kind of mistake, I sent them this email:
I think there is inaccuracy in your article about the BBC’s Sherlock nudity scenes. You claim the scene was outrageous for being shown pre-watershed, but someone seems to have accidentally posted full screen grabs onto your website! Also, on further inspection I found at least half a dozen more images in the right hand side of the ‘outrageous’ story that appear to be content from your site showing semi-naked celebrities!
I was pretty disgusted to hear that the Sherlock scenes went out pre-9pm. Could you please explain what prevention you’re making to insure that none of your semi-pornographic images are seen before that time too? I assume you’re currently working on some kind of paywall, or at least a log-in to prevent innocent readers from seeing such shocking nudity, such is your mission to rid Great Britain of such filth.
Please could you let me know whether you decided to:
a – Correct the use of ‘outrage’ with the more honest ‘enjoyed looking at pictures of naked women under the guise of being outraged so as to maintain one’s perceived moral backbone whilst actually being wholly naturally aroused’.
b – Stop taking scandalous paparazzi shots of celebrities on beaches and promoting them constantly around your site.
c – Build a paywall for your site.
They responded with this:
Thank you for your letter. We would not necessarily agree that the images on our website are, as you claim, ‘semi-pornographic’. We are forwarding your letter and remarks about a paywall to our website editor. In the meantime, if you were, as you say, ‘pretty disgusted’ to learn that the Sherlock scenes were screened before 9pm, perhaps you should address your comments to the BBC.
Happy New Year.
Touché. We appear to have reached a disingenuous stalemate.
I recently realised that it’s coming up to 10 years since I graduated from university. It’s also almost ten years since James Murphy wrote one of my favourite songs, ‘Losing My Edge’ aged 31, like myself. So I thought this might be an appropriate time to write my own version of his coming-of-early-middle-age lament about these past ten years being part of the London internet design community.
Recently I’ve noticed an odd trend in phrases I overhear at my place of work, or “pick up from the Cloud” as I’m sure some of them might rephrase that. Co-workers have started to say, without any hint of irony, “I don’t really have the bandwidth right now” when they are busy, and suggest to “take this offline” if they want to speak about something outside of a meeting.
Obviously we work in the internet, and those are expressions about the internet. I do get the joke, if it’s intended to be one. But do we really need to mention references to things we work with at every stage of our working day? Or are the people using the expressions just showing off about the fact they work for a technology company, like it’s 1999 again and they want to come to work in a long dark coat and shitty sunglasses every day and pretend they’re in the Matrix?
Is this bizarre mixture of business jargon-meets-workplace terminology restricted to web companies, or is it the same in other industries? Do bakers describe any longterm financial investments as “waiting for the dough to rise”? Does a cheese maker who is going to have to cut his worse staff say he’s “separating the curds from the whey”? Would a dentist with a hectic diary ever ask his assistant to “rinse and spit out some of the plaque”, or have a business model called ‘Open. Wide’?
If my co-workers are going to continue this annoying trend I’d like to make my own suggestions for additions that at least make me laugh. Whilst it does make me feel a little like I’m in some Dilbert/Nathan Barley mash-up, I do love a good pun. So I’m going to try and add the following to my workplace parlance:
“Let’s torrent this sometime”
We should have a brainstorm.
“Feeling a bit rough this morning, I should have held Shift when I got up”
I feel fragile and need to be considered in ‘safe mode’.
“We’re going to have to Force Quit”
There are going to be Compulsory redundancies.
“Let’s Exposé this”
I want to see everything we’re doing right now.
“We should probably start a Google Wave about this”
Sarcasm. Your idea is really shit and no-one wants to hear about it.
“We’re going to add you to the Keychain”
You are deemed trustworthy enough that you’re about to be told the company secrets.
“Let’s do some Private Browsing”
I want to have sex with you and for you to forget it ever happened.
If anyone has any more, feel free to add in the comments.
It’s obviously very late in the year to be doing a list of predictions for 2010. Even a faked post ‘predicting’ what has actually happened in the last ten months wouldn’t exactly be riveting reading. iPads, Glee and the General Election, yawn. So I’m going to tackle the whole decade, which is still relatively young. Plus, you might be one of those bores that insist that a decade properly starts in ’01′, in which case I’m actually early.
So let’s take a little look into what the next ten years will bring us, using whatever may be your time-machine of choice; Delorean, Phone-booth, Time-gate, Stasis Leak or Hot Tub.
Or decide for yourself, by watching the whole thing here.
Welcome to the social web, a wonderful world of pure democracy where you and I are in charge. ‘Bottom up’ organisations where it is us, the masses, that make decisions for those up top. Grassroots campaigns through which you can fight huge faceless corporations. The modern web empowers us like never before to air our grievances, fight for what we think is right, and to save chocolate bars from a bygone age. It’s so easy; All you need is a computer, a susceptible mind, and an easily jerked knee.
The problem is, internet activism is so much easier than ‘real’ activism. It takes barely any effort to tick a box and register your support to a campaign, or to ‘retweet’ someone else’s observation or damning statement. Yet we’re supposed to consider the huge amount of statistics these polls, lists and virtual signatures amass to as worthy as a traditional march or picketing would have been. In the olden times, people really had to make an effort to stand up for things. Would a modern day Emily Pankhurst have really won the vote for women from a Facebook Group? Would Martin Luther King have had as much success in his fight for civil rights with a particularly memorable hashtag for his Twitter campaign?
I was talking to a teenager today. That’s right, an actual youth of Broken Britain. It wasn’t as terrifying an experience as you might have thought though. For starters, he didn’t speak in that bizarre faux-patois accent that Young White Middle Englanders seem to have adopted, and so I was able to understand him enough to use the usual line of questioning I follow with anybody under 25 that I meet these days. Questions about school, pop stars, films and, since the project I did with Max Gadney about ‘Young People and News’ some years ago, about the internet. It turned out this particular youngster wasn’t as enamored with Facebook and the social media revolution as case studies frequently suggest. It didn’t seem to bother him that much. In fact, neither did films or pop stars despite my suggesting all the really cool and violent ones he should perhaps ‘Google’. If he actually used the internet at all. Anyway, none of this is really helping my point. I wanted to talk about young people who are keen internet users and Facebook status updaters. The conversation with young Jake really served no purpose other than it got me thinking about what I’d be like now as a teenager, and how I’d get in all kinds of trouble based on stuff I write on the internet.
I’m no troll, but just this once I don’t agree with Charlie Brooker. He says “the single biggest advantage to the ebook… no-one can see what you’re reading”. True, but that doesn’t stop them wondering, and thinking the worse.
It goes back to that old adage: If you’re not doing anything wrong, what have you got to worry about? We don’t assume some chap with a balaclava just has issues with his acne, and similarly I wouldn’t think that whatever you’re secretly reading on the bus is anything less than the written equivalent of an act of terrorism. Or Alex Reid’s autobiography.