Regarding Apple and the death of the 'cool'.


Regarding an article I read (When did Apple become uncool? - Yahoo News) I just wanted to quickly talk about Apple.  They're a great company, they've risen from humble beginnings to become one of these globa-mega-hyper-corp conglomerates that you kinda worry could actually enslave us all if they wanted to.  Some would say that they've already enslaved some of us via commercial means, but that's a subject for another day.  

I'm an Apple user.  They made my computer.  They made my mobile phone.  They made my MP3 player.  I wouldn't call myself a 'fanboy', nor do I feel like I have to be 'a Mac OR a PC'.

Basically, I have a bit of an issue with the whole 'Apple = Cool' thing.  

Y'see, as I understand it, they started making personal computers way back in the day which were successful but then slowly towards the 90s they were beaten out by the almighty Microsoft who were producing their more popular 'Windows' operating system which would run on a much wider range of hardware (see 'The Rise and Fall of Apple' section on their Wiki page).  Then with the introduction of the iPod and iMac brands (designed by Jonathan Ive) towards the end of the 90s, they began to rise again.  

It was during this rise that they began to change their marketing strategy somewhat.  The iPod MP3 players Ive was designing were revolutionary and beautiful.  The computers he was designing looked nothing like the Macs of previous years, or like any personal computers for that matter.  So whether it was their returned popularity influencing their marketing strategy or vice versa, Apple began to market their products with a bit of swagger.  I'm not saying they began to cater to a higher clientele, or that they knowingly wanted people to think 'Mac = Cool', but it kinda happened anyway.  The whole 'Mac vs PC' thing of recent years is a prime example of this.  I grew up using PCs, but when I began to look into Apple Macs, I liked what I saw.  I didn't at any point think 'Apple Macs are cool, I should get one so people know I'm creative and cool etc...', nor did I feel 'pressured' by commercialism into owning an iPod or whatever, and this is the main point of my argument:

Maybe, just maybe, some people buy Mac products because they're good, not because they want to look good.

I have nothing against other non-Mac machines; I own other non-Mac machines.  In some ways, they're better; in some ways, they're worse.  Macs are seen as being more stable, more reliable, less prone to viruses etc.  This isn't to say they never crash or break, but Apple made Macs, Apple made the Mac operating system to run on their machines, so it stands to reason they'd be much less likely to experience compatibility issues, to crash all the time, as opposed to Windows running on my piece of crap PC that I'd cobbled together from whatever parts I could find on eBay or have as hand-me-downs from my friends' machines.  Now that's not to say that using them is like some sort of waking-dream, no matter how many 'it's as simple as that' ads Apple churn out - at the end of the day, they're just computers, they're just MP3 players, I could effectively be doing the same thing on any other machine/OS combination, but I choose to do it on a Mac because they have a proven track record in my life of enabling me to get things done, whether they be Googling for kittens, or recording an album.

The article I linked to above basically talks about how Apple are apparently shifting in public image from the archetypal 'cool', benevolent, user-focussed corporation, towards a more self-centred outlook, not unlike the perceived image of old rivals Microsoft.  Whether or not this is true, I don't know, and to some extent don't care - if they keep making innovative, beautiful products, I'll keep buying em, and not because I like what owning them says about me; if some other company's phone or MP3 player or personal computer is better, I'll go a different way.  Some recent reports of Apple cracking down on people modifying their phones, or not allowing third-party developers to publish their applications do smack of totalitarian regimes, but it's their company and I guess they can do what they want.  If they piss off their users, they will probably lose them (I say probably remembering that there ARE a small minority for whom Apple could release the 'iTurd' and they'd be queuing for the midnight launch, but at the end of the day, I think most people will vote with their wallets...).

I don't feel my 'loyalty' to Apple as a corporation is a slave-relationship; they've gained my trust in as much as the products I own by them all enable me to incorporate technology into my daily routine and in doing so enrich my life.  Obviously there's always going to be a percentage of people who let their possessions define who they are, but that percentage is a lot less than 100%.  I, on the other hand, sometimes feel like I'm being judged for owning and using Mac products, and I believe this is unfair.  PC owners especially, or those who feel too 'uncool' for the Mac's sleek vanilla Justin Long social stereotype, feel the need to look down their nose at Mac users, much like the nerds in a typical American high school drama would look down their noses at the 'poor jocks with their crippling good looks and popularity', despite the fact that most of the PC users I know who act this way have never even tried a Mac.

The point I'm trying to make is, alright: Apple's marketing strategy might make all Mac users seem like indie-creative douchebags, but in reality, maybe owning a product that makes magic happen on a daily basis isn't a crime.

The 'F' Word.


I've had this PostSecret saved on my desktop for the past three weeks.  For the uninitiated, PostSecrets is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail in their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Frank publishes a group of the 'best' entries every Sunday at his blog.  One of the few secrets that has really make me think, it seems to somehow capture the biggest fear (that's the 'F' word, if you were wondering...) of our generation (myself included) and, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to share it with you.  

The image is taken from one of my favourite Simpsons episodes, #52 'Homer At The Bat', where Mr. Burns places a bet on the power plant's company softball team 'The Isotopes' winning it to the championship game and, to this end, drafts nine ringers from the 'big leagues' to ensure his success.  In this scene, the famous baseball player Darryl "The Straw" Strawberry is at the plate and the Simpson kids, feeling sorry for their Dad's failure to be asked to play, do their best to put him off by chanting "Darryl! Darryl! Darryl!", eventually driving even the most hardened of ballers to shed a single miserable and simultaneously hilarious tear.

The episode is often sited by people as one of the greatest ever, but the accompanying caption really changes the whole tone of the image.  This simple, five-word question might be the scariest query in the history of words.  And it's so ambiguous, it can really be about anything.  Anything you really want from life.  Anything you're putting off because you think it'll all come in good time.  That amazing career.  That lucrative idea.  The ideal house.  The perfect spouse.  The chance to make your mark on this world.  What if it never happens?

Actually, I mis-quote.  The version on the postcard has no question mark, which actually has the potential to totally change the entire tone of the piece from a question to a statement.  What if it never happens.  What if.  Who cares if it doesn't. So what....

But still, question mark or none, it's quite a statement.  In my own life, it's about the accomplishments I hope to achieve.  I'm 25 now.  That's a quarter of my life (I know the average male lifespan is around 75 but I plan to go a bit longer...), and I don't really have much to show for it.  

I haven't yet written and directed a zombie-robot apocalypse movie.

I can't play the piano nearly as well as I'd like to.

I don't have a valid driver's license.

I'm in poor physical shape.

I wear jeans to work (which in ANY other situation would be a MAJOR plus, but right now I'm using it to communicate the point that my job is menial....).  

I still have a LONG way to go in the pursuit of happiness, whether that be in the form of a great job, or an amazing girlfriend, or a triple-platinum selling album, or just the ability to live a worry-free life and sleep soundly at night knowing you're enjoying this fleeting life as much as possible.  But what if it never happens?  What if I never get to that plateau of life where you look back at all you've achieved and think 'I wouldn't change a thing'?  I'd like to say I have no regrets, but sometimes I look at how much others have done in the same length of time or less and think 'I must have fallen down somewhere along the line'.  

Shouldn't I be touring by now?  

Shouldn't I be married by now?  

Shouldn't I be a better Christian by now?  

Shouldn't I have seen more of the world?  

Shouldn't I have attained that college degree?  

Shouldn't I be donating to charities via standing order?

And if I'm 25 now, will any of this mean as much to me if I accomplish it by the time I'm 50, or will I just be left wishing I'd done it sooner?

I guess the question 'what if it never happens' is really a statement of the real 'F' word - fear.  Fear of regret.  People often use the phrase 'no regrets' as a cover for this fear, which I think is total BS.  Show me a man with no regrets and I'll show you an arrogant douchebag who's too pigheaded to concede his failures.  So if failure is a part of life, how come it's so flippin' scary?  I guess what it boils down to is that this is it.  This life.  This is like our one chance.  There are no mulligans, there are no do-overs.  There are no extra lives or continues or 1-Ups.  If we screw something up, we have to live with it.  And conversely if we don't achieve something through our own inaction or the wrong action, we have to live with that regret.  The best we can do is learn HOW to live with and through that regret, and try to learn from it so that 'what if it never happens' becomes 'here's how I'm going to try and cause it to happen'.  

As it happens, the 'Topes win the title. With the score tied, bases loaded, two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Burns elects to field a right-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher and pinch hits Homer for Strawberry. The very first pitch hits Homer in the head, rendering him unconscious, but forcing in the winning run. The team wins the title and Homer, still unconscious, is paraded as a hero.  But there are probably countless would-be ballers for whom 'it never happened'.  And musicians.  And inventors, and managers, and chefs, and pilots, and mothers, and husbands.  So I feel that, at 25, I should probably focus less on 'what if it never happens' and more on how I'm going to try to make it happen, and trust God for the rest.

Displays of Affection

Some might think I have more money than sense.  They clearly haven't seen my bank account.  Or my aptitude test results... Anywho, those who truly know me know that I'm a sucker for a big screen.  I love to have gazillions of pixels flung at my retinas like arrows at Nameless.  When I don't have to squint at programs, I work quicker, longer, harder, better, faster, stronger.  The only thing better than a big screen?  Two big screens.  My bedroom studio setup, therefore, looked like this:

Two beautiful 19" Dell TFT LCD screens plugged into my Windows machine; plenty of space for tracks, plugins, and waveforms.  But alas, despite the massive desktop area, all was not well (said the ungrateful little Lord to his maidservant).  I couldn't both screens with my Macbook, where I seem to be making most of my music at the moment, and they didn't seem to be getting much use.  Add to that the fact that they took up a lot of space, on the same platform as 2 different pairs of speakers, 2 x external hard drives and other collected dongles and docks, and you begin to see my quandry...  And so I have recently consolidated all my screens into one easy-to-view 24" widescreen HD Iiyama display, and it's purdy:

The Iiyama B2409HDS boasts a massive 1920x1080 resolution and features DVI, D-Sub and HDMI inputs, so it's plenty versatile.  It even has a couple of speakers built-in, so I can theoretically keep playing my PS3 in full 1080p HD glory if my big telly ever moves, say, out of my bedroom into the living room??!  (as if.)

One of my favourite features is the stand.  As well as being able to rotate left and right and tilt up and down, it sits on a shaft that allows it to actually raise/lower depending on what height you're sitting it.  Kinda reminds me of how Johnny 5 raises up on his cat-tracks to hug Ally Sheedy.  Damn lucky robot.

But by far my favourite feature, one that I enjoyed with the Dell displays, is its ability to rotate its screen orientation from landscape to portrait, which is really useful for working with different apps.  For example, my setup when creating music with Reason involves using my Macbook as the sequencer screen, and the second display in portrait orientation for displaying my equipment rack, which being long and thin lends itself well to a portrait orientation:

Being able to orient the display in portrait also lends itself to other applications, such as writing long documents/screenplays, organising a playlist, viewing a large photo library, or measuring the exact length of an elongated feline memestar:

The display was second hand from a guy on a computer forum I frequent and he sold it for a good price.  I must admit, I experienced slight buyer's remorse after I'd paid for it, just simply because I felt a little guilty about spending out on yet another gadget, but I'm really glad I bought it now, and I reckon after I've managed to sell the old screens off, I'll feel even better.

Teenage Engineering's OP-1

Yes, another synthy post.  It's Musikmesse 2010, whatdya expect??

As well as saving for a Roland SH-01, I have also been following the progress of the little synth that could from unknown garage tinkerers 'Teenage Engineering'.  Although you really can't call the OP-1 a 'synth', it's so much more, and so much less, all at the same time... It's hard to explain, so why not read what Create Digital Music had to say about it a couple of months back....


I'm a little bit in love with this newly announced synth from Roland:

The Gaia SH-01 is a small but fun-packed little synth keyboard. It has an infinitely 'tweakable' front panel, with all the synth parameters set out as faders and knobs.  From left to right, you control modulation, oscillators, and amplitude envelope. It also features a pitch/mod paddle, arpeggiator and phrase recorder, and adds newer features like easy preset access, D-Beam, and an effects section.

Ever since I became interested in synthesisers in my early teens, I've wanted to own one of Roland's famed SH series keyboards.  One of my musical idols, Edgar Winter, played  the series' first iteration, the SH-1000 in the 70s.

As if you need another reason, just pause reading this for 9 minutes and watch him rock that thing on the Old Grey Whistle Test:

Then in the 80s, it was all about the SH-101.  Its straightforward systematic interface allowed the creation of fat monophonic basslines and squealing lead riffs, all instantly editable via the no-nonsense knob and fader interface.  I actually knew someone who owned one, but gave it away.  Fool.

And then the series continued with the SH-201.  Adding new Roland features for the 21st century, this was the next logical progression in the SH series.  I came upon one during a visit to Techniquest; suffice to say I didn't learn much about pulleys or refraction or the solar system on that trip....

Something about these synths has always sat well with me.  I was turned on to synths at a time when most keyboards had you delving through menus and squinting desperately trying to work out what letter was was trying to be produced by the 7-piece LED display.  These ones seemed so simple in comparison; a logical progression of 'first I do this, then I do this, then I do this to get the sound I want'.  I always wanted to own one of these, so that I could get really 'hands-on' with my noisemaking.  Unfortunately they were either extremely rare, out of production, or too rich for my blood.  Well, this new model has me thinking maybe I should start saving....anyone wanna buy a MicroKorg??

You can read a short preview/watch some promotional videos of its capabilities here.

A picture-based joke regarding synthesisers.


Scott Pilgrim is a Teaser

Great teaser poster for the movie of the only comic book series I've ever really read:

Quite excited for this now.....



Just wanted to mention that in June I will be seeing ‘Flight of the Conchords’ in Manchester. And this photo of them playing in Vancouver gets me WELL excited:

OK Go....

When OK Go stop making videos, I will stop watching them agog:

This is the second video for their latest single, 'This Too Shall Pass'.  The first was equally impressive and featured a marching band, but their record label wouldn't allow users to embed the video to their own sites, a move which effectively killed its chances of becoming as viral as their previous and well-publicised/parodied efforts.

Sometimes..........I worry about the majors...

Chatroulette: Redux.

An interesting video from one of the Neistat Brothers which briefly documents the aforementioned Chatroulette and proves some of the theories I held about this fascinating website:

chat roulette from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

Also, Chatroulette Missed Connections, a site helping re-unite disconnected chatters has inevitably been set up to give true love a second chance.