Is SongSmith the worst launch video for a product ever?

So I've spent 24 hours desperately trying not to post this video for Microsoft's GarageBand-killing app 'SongSmith'....

...but in the end I heard it one too many times and realised it was inhumane of me not to spread the joy and laughter that comes with watching this 'so-undeniably-bad-it's-...-wait-no,-it's-just-really-incredibly-horribly-hilariously-bad' video to accompany the CES launch of the app.

You kinda assume they were going for the corny, tacky, cute angle - although why you would do that unless you genuinely assume that your core users are going to be musically illiterate, tone-deaf and pop-tasteless is beyond me. The app itself (going solely on the video demo) seems pointless, counter-productive and guilty of crimes against humanity. I mean - do we really need a lot of people who can't play an instrument, and can't sing to unleash a torrent of canned and digitally compiled pain on our ears? I for one think probably not.

But far more interesting is the video itself. It's just terrible. Terribly funny, true. Terribly long, also true. Terribly unconvincing except in demonstrating quite how little need there is in the world for such an awful idea. It's remarkable. I remain, a day later, astounded by it - and so, dear freinds, I felt obliged to follow far superior blogs and stick it up....

Just finally - keep an eye out for the super-best-top line: "Microsoft huh, so it's pretty easy to use?" To which the response appears to be - "Of course! Actually it's just an over-engineered toy for 7-year olds, but you can use it to write Grammy-winning Death Metal tunes. Go for it dude."
Seriously. I love it, almost as much as this...

History of the Internet from Picol

A sweet and informative and totally geeky whilst simultaneously rather cool little animation about History of the Internet from PICOL

"History of the Internet" is an animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet.

It's a great piece - the pacing is good, and the theoretically boring boring content is given real significance. Steve Taylor's voice over is excellent.

Isn't the science so beautiful!

It seems to me that it is intrinsic to human nature to find things, pick them up and then bang them together to see what happens. Rattles, dolls, cars, fists, protons...

I am in awe of how stunning these 'science' photos are; really, you could contrast this with a wide spectrum of contemporary 'art' shows and an exhibit of these images would be stronger, more relevant, more interesting, more educational, more beautiful, more moving, more profound, more metaphysical, more physical, more more, deeper, harder, stronger, faster....
And the best bit is I have no idea what they're talking about, even as a geek...

From The Big Picture:
" The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27 kilometer (17 mile) long particle accelerator straddling the border of Switzerland and France, is nearly set to begin its first particle beam tests. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is preparing for its first small tests in early August, leading to a planned full-track test in September - and the first planned particle collisions before the end of the year. The final step before starting is the chilling of the entire collider to -271.25 C (-456.25 F). Here is a collection of photographs from CERN, showing various stages of completion of the LHC and several of its larger experiments (some over seven stories tall), over the past several years. (27 photos total)"

Multi-touch - the future is so, mmm, touchy.

I'm slightly surprised that Microsoft Surface - their amazing multi-touch vision of the future hasn't made a bigger impact. Is it just me? Surely a world where sticky fingers smeared on your pristine wide-screen was a good thing has to be welcomed... A world without ergonomic keyboards and RSI-inducing mice - it sounds fantastic! Even if it is microsoft. As an artist the idea of being able to draw straight onto the screen is really, really exciting, and the whole Minority Report style photo flicking thing is just so future-fantastic.
Maybe that's it - maybe it's all a bit Sci-fi. Maybe people just aren't ready.
Oh, OK, so I've been excited about this for ages - ever since I saw this fantastic Jeff Han demo of touch screen technology last-year (movie courtesy of TED). I'm ready - I love it. Bring it on. (OK, bring it on in a beautifully designed, twice-the-price, Apple version... but I'm still ready, waiting, credit card in hand.)

Shantaram! A book that could be edited with an axe

Just finishing Shantaram - fantastic romp. Bravo.

A few teeny criticisms:
1. Firstly - surely any legitimate editor would have taken a chainsaw to this book (which weighs in at 950 pages). I mean nine hundred pages... for a debut novel/ memoir? Yes, a lot happens - but please God and Allah couldn't it have happened in 450?

Axe mark one - hack out 90% of the cod philosophy - the prose verges on fluro-purple at points and bores you senseless with spurious and bombastic pseudo-indo-hippy nonsense.
Axe mark two - machete to the neck of 50% of unnecessary, obfuscatory, florid, bamboozling, inappropriate yet strangely entrancing adjectives.
Axe mark three - every time fear crawls out of the woodwork and grinds his blood into a whirling whirlpool of despair. CUT!
Axe mark four - each paragraph that says exactly what the preceding paragraph says only this time with a hint of menace!
Axe mark five - every "if only I'd known then what I know now". Greg - if life was like that we'd all be considerably happier and fewer people would die in car crashes - it's a weak device.
Axe mark six - every time someone smiles in an enigmatic or un-enigmatic way or smiles in a way that tells him that was the first time he knew that they loved him (150 pages at least)
Axe mark seven - each reminder that the Australian prison service is comprised of torturers and Nazi's ....
I could continue, but on to point two.

2. It's the biggest pile of self-mythologising, self-obsessed, unabashedly self-congratulatory and ego-centric tosh I've ever read.

He's a fantasist - lots might have happened to the guy - and it's amazing (almost unbelievable) to think that he went through all this. But his story is so heavily saturated in the rose-hued, honey-dripped love-fest of Indian honour and smiley happy people who just happen to be mass murderers, con-artists and gun-runners that only a moron (or Johnny Depp) wouldn't find it a trifle disconcerting.

It's like the longest PR puff piece in the world - first of all our hero (heroin addict and violent criminal) turns out to be a cross between Robin Hood and Mother Theresa, then Bombay becomes the city of love, Leopold's restaurant I assume threw him a few bob, the Indian mafia come out a bit rough around the edges - but y'know, 'earts of gold, everyone of 'em, bless em. Even the Mujahadin come out of their cave complexes smelling of roses and misunderstood.

I'm sure he's a nice guy who learnt valuable lessons from his extraordinary adventures - but people aren't this 'good'. The characters are so cardboard in their tortured complexity you think they'd been cut out of a cereal packet. There are about three genuinely unpleasant people in the book and, conveniently, they fit beautifully into a traditional narrative structure (and let's not get started on that!).

3. So why does this book incite such a rant? Well, firstly because it's held up as auto-biography - which implies some basis in fact; secondly I think it's because so many people seem to think that this is profound, significant and (scarily) that it's well-written.

Reviewers who should be embarrassed:
Daily Telegraph - 'A literary masterpiece'
Sunday Telegraph - 'Powerful and original'

Lets be honest, it's a gripping page-turner, an over-long schoolboy adventure, a racy romp in the classical tradition with guns, chases, treachery, despair, hope, comic relief, a spurned love interest, redemption, re-redemption, a war and a bucket-load of east-meets-west 'philosophising'. What it lacks in depth, subtlety or poetry it makes up for in 'poetry', pace and vivid descriptions of Bombay life.
It is good fun, if only epic in page length.

So - Yay for Shantaram which enters a glorious #3 in the "Internationally Best-selling Novels I Would Happily Burn" chart!
(Number two is that post-modern classic that redefines the concept of quality: Da Vinci Code)
(Number one is the worst book ever written by anyone ever, and I mean ever: The Celestine Prophecy)

Review in a line: If you loved The da Vinci Code you'll really love Shantaram.

iPhone: the future's bright, the future's apple

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in Apple's MacExpo keynote in January my office went mental; a spontaneous centithread moment. But I kind of forgot to look properly - so I was interested to note when I went back and looked at the speech again - that this still looks like an epoch-changing product.
It's going to get hacked apart obviously! Yes the battery life will suck; yes it will scratch, snap, smell funny, burst into flames in peoples hands; GPS?; expandable memory?; and yes - it is just an amalgam of various existing touch screen technology. But what an amalgam, and what marketing, and what design... Basically this little thing is going to change the way we think about phones because if you put it next to anything in Carphone Warehouse it looks like putting the latest Nike's next to a pair of clogs.
I also really like this CBS preview because by the end of it the guys sounds like a 12yr old, he's practically speechless and drooling... "do it again! do it again! make it do the sideways thingy!"
It's going to be interesting to see what happens - because if this works, (i.e. early adopters love it) and Nokia, Blackberry et al don't respond fast... we could have an iPod market happen all over again in telecoms. Sorry Orange: the future's bright, the future's Apple.
PS: re: no exchange functionality for corporate users : Google Apps anyone?

Drawing faces; why I don't

I've had a few queries recently regarding 'seeing' faces and drawing them:

I really do 'see' as I imagine everyone else does. Cecilia Burman's wonderful, straightforward site ( describes the level of similarity of faces as being equivalent to telling rocks apart - unfortunately this seems to have been misinterpreted as the direct visual experience. It's not. It's just the identity that gets lost - if you've got a big nose, rosy cheeks and a mean glint in the eye I can tell that fine - I just might not know who you are.
It is just my inability to process those features as anything more than they are. They just don't register as being someone. So again - I can draw noses, ears and eyes. However unlike my mental picture of a room - where the residual image would be very intricate and I could peer into corners and see decorative details - with faces I can't remember anything about them. It's like looking at a very blurry gif in my mind. Just a grey blob. So obviously I just draw very crude approximations. Which is frustrating - and if I ever draw faces from memory: they just look like cartoons.

Weirdly even when someone is sitting infront of me I find it very hard to generate a likeness because my brain can't seem to retain the relational space between features. I might be drawing the eyebrows perfectly because I am looking directly at them but then I pull back and look at the drawing as a whole and they will be out of proportion or relation to the rest of the face. So the face becomes a distorted mess even though i can draw what I am seeing. Still annoying - but so much nicer now I know why...

Any way this is why I tend not to draw faces and to focus on details that I can happily manage like hands, or hair, or clothing. Course I could just be rubbish.