A little out of touch and time

You know what I hate? When someone that writes a blog feels obliged to apologise when they’re too busy to keep it up. And yet here I am, making my own excuses.

I do have some valid reasons though, I’m incredibly busy with work and the children, and also undertaking the enormous (yes, HUGE) task of swapping my blog over to self-hosted. If I had more than an hour a night between getting home and going to bed I’m sure this process would be much faster, but such is life.

I find myself sitting on the train on my way home drafting blog posts in my head. I write down my thoughts in my notebook in the hopes that I’ll find a few minutes to write them up when I get home, but it just never happens. I currently have a list of 22 subjects I want to write about. I’m sure the world can survive without my thoughts on men with pointy shoes and cushions that cost £300 – but I’d prefer to think my thoughts are incredibly important.

Especially the ones about men wearing pointy shoes.

Image credit: A random watch website via a Bing image search

Augmented reality becomes reality

I was reading a rather interesting article yesterday on how a major brand has made nifty use of augmented reality, and it got me a bit excited. Now, I’m not a lover of Marmite (for the record, I hate it) but the new app developed with Blippar has made me want to dash to the nearest supermarket and buy a jar just so I can try out this awesomeness.

Can you imagine the possibilities for other brands, as this technology evolves? Even something as simple as Sony’s TV Size Guide tool could be developed into something so much more – redecorate an entire room virtually before picking up a paintbrush, or rearrange your furniature without breaking a sweat.

The music geek in me is also getting a bit excited at all the things artists could do – ooooh the anticipation! What would you do with AR, if you could develop anything?

Image credit: Tasty days via a Bing image search

Thriller Night – a crime writing Q&A

I went along to Thriller Night at the Shaw Theatre (courtesy of Time Out London, thanks!) on Wednesday night. And I’ve been trying to write this blog post since then, but no matter what I type it just comes out sounding really boring because there was just so much detail!
The night itself was a Q&A with 3 top crime writers – Tess Gerritsen, Mark Billingham and Simon Kernick – hosted by  comedian Andre Vincent.

I love crime fiction. Roughly 70% of my bookcase is made up of crime, and since I read A LOT that equals literally hundreds of books.
I’ve always harboured a secret ambition to write a book, so I jumped at the chance to pick up a few tips from the experts.

First thing I learnt? Apparently about 60% of fiction sold is crime. A huge market that could be all yours if you can write a top quality mystery-murder.

General discussion covered snobbery and nose up-turning at crime fiction (a sort of a genre fiction vs literary fiction battle if you will), literature managing to avoid the blame that TV & games receive for causing violence, and crime fiction as a guide for modern life.
All 3 authors agreed that crime fiction reflected the world around us, rather than creating violence, with Tess lamenting that “there’s nothing new under the sun – its all been done before”.
It was also interesting to hear that people actually find crime fiction comforting, rather than disturbing, because fictional crimes are always resolved. According to Andrew, in the wake of 9/11 sales of crime fiction shot up and the languishing stand-up comedy circuit suddenly prospered because people needed to laugh.

Top tips I picked up included Simon’s advice to ‘never give up’ (he waited 8 years for his first novel to be published), and Mark’s list of 3 things every agent wants:

1. Material – it’s got to be top quality
2. Be Personable – the author needs to be someone they can get on with
3. What’s your angle?- Did you do something else before you became an author? Trained in the circus? Chained to a radiator by a madman for 5 years? Something that makes YOU unique.

An agent will need to be able to tick at least 2 out of those 3 before they consider taking you on.
Make sure you write a decent covering letter too, and come up with a snazzy headline for your book. You’ll need to hook your agent in the first 3 lines for them to continue reading.
Mark also warns would-be-writers to steer clear of self publishing e-books, and keep trying for the real thing.

Most interesting for me was insight into the authors writing techniques, with all three doing it their own way. Simon explains that he aims to bash out 2000 words a day, and he plans each chapter up front. Once he’s finished he’ll go back and edit. He says that it doesn’t matter if what he’s writing is crap, he’s just desperate to get it onto paper – he can go back to it later.
Tess and Mark on the other hand don’t plan at all. Tess won’t let anyone see her work until she’s at least 6 drafts in, and Mark can’t move onto the next chapter until he’s gone back and edited his writing from the previous day.
Technique is something I’ve always struggled with because I would feel like I was doing it wrong, so it was comforting to know that there’s know such thing as wrong, just different.

I left Thriller Night buzzing with information and a determination to make this the year that I finally return to the writing that I used to enjoy so much. Now all I have to figure out is how to get my creativity back, because it seems to have vanished along with my pre-children waistline.

Any of you guys budding writers?

The Angel’s Game – Book review

I’ve just finished The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and I was going to write a review, but my head is still a bit wonky from the read to be honest.
I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not yet.

In the meantime, read this review from the Telegraph. It sums the book up pretty well, but does include spoilers so read with caution!

The only thing I’d add at this point is that the ending did disappoint me a little. Maybe I’m just a huge sadist but I’m always saddened when the death toll doesn’t include the main character.

Oh sorry, spoiler, my bad.

Video Monday

In my last job ‘Video Monday’ was huge. We’d showcase exclusive footage and upload HD versions of old favorites. It was fab.

Sadly my life isn’t quite that exciting. Sorry. So my version of Video Monday is just an excuse for me to share some of my favourite Youtube Lulz.

Today I introduce you to Kelly:

An oldie, but one myself and my friend still quote to death.

“You’re thinking of masturbate mom, extrapolates different!”

“I’ve already been to heaven, and after 5 minutes I was like – Lets go!”

“BETCH!”

“Fuck you, with something hard and sandpapery!”

“That language I don’t understand, and therefore it makes me angry”

I could go on all day …

From Poland with love

This past weekend I went to Poland for a wedding. It was an interesting experience.

Things that I learned:

  • Poland has lots of trees
  • Polish people can drink LOTS of vodka and still have the ability to throw a punch
  • Polish people eat way too much potato/meat. Even the salads contain meat. No joke
  • Polish people don’t like people with blue hair

Ok so that last one might be a bit generalistic. (Is that a real word? Its is now …) Well they’re all generalistic to a point, but I can only go on what I experienced.

I really did have a great time at the wedding and language barrier aside I met some great people and feel like I’ve come away with some fantastic new friends. But there were exceptions to the rule, especially on my last day in Poland when we went to a town called Inowrocław.

I’m used to people looking at me, maybe occasionally pointing – I do have blue hair – but I don’t think I’ve ever been made to feel so disgusting before. People were walking past and pointing at me, giving me ‘the look’. You know, that dirty look when you skim someone from head to toe then look at them like they just shit in the popes hat.
I stood on that street for less than 10 minutes and at least 15 people walked past and gave me the look. I felt like crying. I’m proud to be that little bit different and see my hair as a way of expressing myself, but for those 10 minutes I stood desperately wishing that I was normal. And that makes me disappointed in myself.

Returning to London with its anonymous culture and people that won’t make eye contact and neighbors that don’t know your name felt like coming home. Ironic.

I’m trying not to let the experience completely ruin my opinion of Poland and doing my best to look at the incident with a touch of humour. Who knows, maybe they thought I was Lady Gaga.

Down time

I’m taking a blog hiatus. My life is throwing lots of complicated and time consuming things at me right now, so I need to go away and sort things out … then I’ll be back and dare I say it, even better than before. Ha!

A Twitter competition done right

I woke up this morning in bad mood. A really bad mood. One of those “look at me the wrong way and I’ll bite your head off” moods. So it was a very nice surprise to open up my twitter and find that I had won something.
“How and What?!” I hear you shouting eagerly. Well, a couple of days ago I noticed an influx of tweets on my feed with the hash tag: #2020tweets. Intrigued, I clicked the tag (as you do) and found that it’s for a campaign Orange are running from their @OrangeTheFeed account. The premise is simple, tweet something that you’d like to be tweeting in the year 2020, and Orange will choose a few of the best to win something as a “kick-start towards making their future-dreams come true”.

Never one to shy away from a trending hashtag, I went ahead and added my own ‘future dream’, and as you can see below Orange thought it was inspired enough to win a little something:

Now I know the idea of a twitter competition isn’t something new, but I think this stands as a firm example of it done right. It doesn’t have a long list of complicated rules, and they’re not asking people to spam their followers with endless links or try and get x amount of retweets. Quite simply, they’re asking people to talk about themselves, and a handy by-product of that chatter just so happens to be those same people talking about and promoting Orange.
When Orange contacted me to let me know I had won, not only did I retweet that to my followers, I also took it over to my facebook to share it with my friends and non-tweeters there, and here I am writing up a blog about them too. Word of mouth in action.
And don’t forget that a positive impression isn’t limited to a social media platform, it transcends into the real world too, and for me personally comes at a time when I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with my current provider and its uninventive top-up surprises.

Update (18/03/11)
I DM’d Orange (thats a direct message for you non-tweeters) yesterday and asked them if they wouldn’t mind giving me a few moments of their time and few words about the idea behind the competition.

Martin from Poke (the creative agency that run The Feed for Orange) said:
“Twitter is usually all about what you’re doing right now. But, we reckoned, what about using it to talk about what you want to be doing? We thought #2020Tweets would be a nice way to invite people to think about their aspirations for the not-so-far-off future, and to give them a bit of a nudge towards making it happen.”

And when I asked Emily (also at Poke) why they chose to go with a hashtag as opposed to a RT she answered:
“We always use hastags on our weekly posts. One of Orange’s main objectives is to create conversations, so hashtags are a nice natural way helping to start those.”

Clever people with a real and authentic approach to social media. Well done Orange, and well done Poke! I am now officially a convert, and will be bringing my custom to Orange as soon as I can find find a contract (and new smartphone) that suits me. That’s not a hint, honest 😉

7 Day Song Challenge [Day 5,6,7]

Having been a bit busy these past few days I did neglect to keep up with the 7 day song challenge. However! This does not mean failure since I don’t remember specifying that the 7 days had to be consecutive, ha!

Anyway, rather than continue spamming my own blog with 3 more days of videos I thought I’d just go ahead and catch up on all 3 days in one nice big video-heavy post.

And so we begin/continue! Day 5 – a song that makes me laugh

Flight of the Conchords – Bret you’ve got it going on:

This is a favorite on my iPod (much to the bewilderment of non-fotc fans) and it deeply saddens me that the TV series has ended and I never had the opportunity to see them at a live gig. Bad times 😦

Day 6 – a song that I can play on an instrument

I can only play (badly) 2 songs, on 2 different instruments, so lets go with both.

Nirvana -About a girl:

Back in ’05 an awesome guy I knew offered to help me learn to play the guitar. I owned a beautiful purple acrylic string bass and up until that point had done nothing but throw it appreciative glances and stroke it lovingly. This was the first (and only) song I learnt before giving in to the realisation that I really wasn’t dedicated enough to continue and live with the ever present finger burns.

The Animals – House of the rising sun:

My mum was great on the keyboard, and she taught me how to play this when I was a child, using the handy addition of little lettered stickers on the keys. I don’t have a great musical talent (unless memorising song lyrics counts?) so this remains the only song I can play, and I certainly don’t do it any justice! A fantastic song by an equally fantastic band.

Day 7 – a song that reminds me of childhood

Without a doubt this has to be The Steve Miller Band – The Joker:

Invokes memories of sitting at the top of the hallway stairs (well past bedtime) listening to this playing on my dads stereo, whilst he strummed along on his guitar surrounded by a haze of cigarette smoke. Remains a favorite and is a regular on my iPod shuffle.

7 Day Song Challenge [Day 4]

Ah, a new day, a new song! 7 Day Song Challenge, Day 4 – a song I’d like played at my wedding. Today’s portion of audio-lyrical goodness will be brought to you courtesy of The Editors, with their fantastic song ‘The Weight of the World’.

Perhaps not the most conventional wedding song, what with the opening lyrics being about those you love being there when you pop your clogs, but it has a very personal meaning for myself and my other half and as such is one of ‘our songs’.
Really hope I’ll be able to make it to their special Royal Albert Hall show in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust. Tickets are insanely expensive, but its a worthy cause and the acoustics at the Royal Albert are amazing, so who knows! (*hint hint Mr P*)