Friday, 20 July 2012

Stand-up comedy memes

I was listening to Marc Maron interview John Oliver on his WTF podcast last night (highly recommended, BTW: Maron's interviews of comedians old and new are Parkinson-esque in their openness and insights), and they were talking about the fact that John Oliver is famous, but not well known as a 'named' celebrity.

It got me wondering about what makes comedians famous. Usually their fame is spread by recommendation, rather than direct advertising, at least until they are famous. So my question is: is it better to have a really good joke that people can share with their friends (and hopefully still attribute it to you), or to have a joke that only you can tell (because of the voice or the visual style)? The former has more memetic power but risks losing the attribution, whereas the latter won't spread as well, at least in principle.

Yet, both benefit from the modern media: YouTube spreads the unique gag, while the originator of the joke meme can be traced through the Internet. So, clearly, the ideal is both: a joke that is easy to re-tell, yet best served from source. The best combinations I've seen have been well-crafted jokes with some serendipitous interruption that has stamped the telling of the joke as unique: a heckle, a technical fault etc.

None readily spring to mind, but I bet there is (or should be) a website out there that collects such jokes. As I think of them or find them, I'll add them to the comments.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Apple v Google

Do you remember when Apple was the cheeky upstart to the Microsoft hegemony? I remember marveling at the amazing 'lickable' OSX, with its great simplicity and elegance belying the powerhouse unix BSD underpinnings. It truly was the best of both worlds, against the ubiquitous, bloated, preening, self-important Windows.

How the worm turns. And, in the true spirit of Apple, it's the little things.

My Android phone seamlessly synced my contacts, calendars, email and social networks across 4 accounts.  The calendars were colour-coded, the contacts were consolidated and rarely was there a duplicate anywhere.  Then my Android broke and work gave me an iPhone.  Beautiful screen, nice to hold (if a tad heavy), and nice solid, predictable performance, where the Android could be sticky (due to it's more laissez-faire approach to allowing apps to run the background).  But it totally trashed my contacts and calendars.  Woefully. Tragically. Hilariously. Reminiscent of some of the old Microsoft error message foolishness.

I managed to clean up my calendars. But my contacts... I dont really know where to start, as I don't have a single source of reference.  I thought I could sync my gmail accounts to the mac, and then get the mac to sync to icloud, and therefore the iphone.  So I did the gmail accounts - fine. iSync got a bit confused, with odd duplicates, but nothing major.  Then I went to add iCloud and got the following screen:-

WHY NOT?  Because you're in a sulk with Google, because they know how to do something better than you?

Apple do great devices, but once again a competitor is making that irrelevant: last time it was all about software, with Microsoft pushing Apple's macs into a niche, and this time it's all about the web, with Google pushing Apple into a (albeit much larger and content-laden) niche.  When will these companies realise that the web is infinite, and that trying to lock people into your corner of it is short-term? And yes, that means devices too, if your devices won't play nicely with other devices in the market. Sony learned that at their peril with memorysticks and minidiscs.

The solution, unsurprisingly, came from Google.  Just register your Gmail account as an Exchange account on the device, and let Google's servers do the rest.  It's the web, you see: walls can't keep it in.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Dope, donuts and salmon in the desert

Three odd things inspired this little blog post.

Last night, at the petrol station, I was walking to my truck when I got the usual Bajan heckle of a white fella: "Taxi?". The first thing that struck me as odd was that the guy was leaning out of a donut van, not a taxi. There it was on the side, in big letters, with a doughnut for the 'O'. I smiled and said "got a truck, thanks."

Then, as I was reversing the truck and edging past the donut van on the forecourt, the same guy leant out of the van and give me the universal symbol for 'do you want to buy some weed?'. You know, finger and thumb pinched together in front of pursed lips, as though drawing on a spliff. I smiled again and waved him away as I drove past.

It only struck me on the way home what an excellent business model that would be (if it wasn't illegal): selling weed from a doughnut van! Create the appetite, then satisfy it, as your customers get the munchies.

So that's two (doughnut van as taxi and/or weed dispenser), the third was the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Quite a good film, albeit a bit twee, as these UK films often are. But, again, the premise of setting up a salmon stream in the Yemen struck me as a good, and somewhat bonkers, idea. Maybe I'm just looking for inspiration...