Friday, December 30, 2005

Hypnotic hop

I said before that I'd be coming back to this quote - and I am. This is an essay I wrote for college some time ago, and a discussion of hiphop has prompted me to post it now.

There are some things I would like to add, particularly to the list of remarkable Nordic acts - if you can find anything by the Don Johnson Big Band, you should get it and listen to it.

This does not discredit me as a headbanger. Metal and hiphop are not mutually exclusive, and history has seen them blended much more successfully than the popular American acts you tend to think of when such a fusion is mentioned. (Also see: H-Blockx, 'Get In The Ring' or their cover of 'The Power'. Or, for something a bit more mainstream, Gorillaz.)

And now, the article itself:

The hardest thing for any musical artist to be is original. Very few people make music just for the fun of it, and fewer still have the clout to make something completely unique successful – and that is if they have the imagination to come up with a piece of art unlike anything before. But while most music can be classified into genres, any single style eventually begins to expand, to encompass offshoots that its founding fathers had no notion of.

While originality may be scarce in individual artists, it is not such a rare occurrence in the entire industry, which is effectively an embodiment of creativity in sound waves. The 20th century has seen the introduction and popularization of several brand new styles, but one of them stands out in a crucial way. Whereas the evolution of jazz was effectively a progression of skills with the saxophone and related instruments, and rock could not exist without the technical innovation of the electric guitar, the last original musical genre of the 1900s was centered on pure imagination. In the last quarter of the century, America came up with its second art form. And like anything so great, hip hop evolved and came to include concepts foreign to the culture that spawned it – but true to the spirit.
From ’84 to ’99
It’s been a very long time
Since the movement called hip hop arrived
In this cold country of mine.

Seen the old, the new,
And now the true school.
And for once I can say -
Something has changed.

Or is it just me?
In the place to be…
Actually, I am being a little coy. The canon stipulates that the four original components of hip hop expression were the skill of the DJ, the talent of the MC, plus the art of graffiti and the moves of the B-boys (often misrepresented as break dancing).1 But I would feel like a fraud analyzing old school hip hop, something beyond my era and turf. It is sufficiently curious to observe the parallel branch of evolution that is hip hop in Europe.

The problem with rap music is that there is no reliable way of transplanting the original ethos of the time of its birth into modern reality, when it isn’t just co-opted by popular culture, but reduced to the level of a marketing tool. Mainstream hip hop in America, with all due respect to the incredible artists keeping the flame alive, is involved in selling useless merchandise by proxy to an unrealistic lifestyle.
So I take my time, think for a minute
Why do they always go for the gimmicks?
Is it because no one told them better?
Or is it because society brings pressure?
Where’s all those brave enough to fight the system?
Where’s all the ones that know the difference?
Europe, however, embraced hip hop and made the new music its own. For the continental club scene, it was a match made in heaven. An obvious example would be the phenomenon of Scooter, but the craze was wider than that. The seminal music of the Nineties was Eurodance, defined as an electronic dance rhythm with a fast beat, female chorus vocals and a male rap.2 Admittedly, there was no great philosophy behind this music – but it never claimed such heritage, and that made it more authentic. Eurodance came and went, but it did leave behind a peculiar offshoot called freestyle – nothing like the American understanding of the term. This is still dance music, but it unites cheesy pop songs, party anthems and classic hip hop declarations, laying it over a synth beat that can be traced back to the mid Nineties, but that distinctly evolved past it. Limited mostly to Germany, its best representative is probably the Flying Steps – a B-boy group that also happens to make music.
Lay your ears to the speakers and feel the bass
Blow the dust off your sneakers, get back in the race
Keep on rockin’, never stoppin’, hiphopping the place
I’ve got a smile on my face, it’s like I’m back in the days.
Old school homies see me, recognize my face
Safe to say, hip hop works in mysterious ways
I quit my full time job to save the hip hop faith
But making money with the microphone is not the case.
Starting with the end of the millennium, more serious projects started to pop up over Europe. The explosion came with the Bomfunk MCs’ Freestyler, not their first single but the one that, in 1999, conquered pretty much every device in Europe capable of reproducing sound or moving pictures. This triggered a golden age in Scandinavian hip hop (which happened to coincide with the golden age in Scandinavian rock music), and it hasn’t stopped yet. Finland has given the European music scene acts like Redrama and more recently Beats and Styles, a loose collective of artists mixed and matched by two DJs, while the Bomfunk MCs themselves have recently released their third album, which features a collaboration with Kurtis Blow – one of the founding fathers of hip hop in the 80s and the first rapper ever to be signed by a major label. And of course, no mention of Scandic hip hop can be complete without Outlandish – a Danish trio, none of them remotely American, who are no less of an influence in European music than their countrymates The Hives. Britain meanwhile has been coming around as well. Most of their hip hop acts are barely disguised carbon copies of US pop rap, but a welcome breakthrough comes from The Streets, whose originality can no more be challenged than their authenticity. The proof that hip hop is indeed a global musical genre is that artists are choosing it for expression of ideas that have nothing to do whatsoever with the ethos of its creators.

Hip hop in Europe is not only popular, but more importantly it is extremely healthy. While America engages in decadence and ludicrous leaps of imagination to give itself a measure of faithfulness to the true spirit, the Old World simply utilizes a new art form, accepting it for what it is. There will be good artists, and there will be bad artists, and there will be some that are truly ugly. But all hype aside, this side of the pond is where the Rocking Nation has the best shot at greatness.
Not many of us get to do what we want
Not many of us don’t have to front
But if you know your song, and you know it’s strong
Then let me see you get-get up on
Because we drop the bomb in
We must rise up and prevent the wrong
Ain’t no joke, man, I wish it was,
But so many of us seem like they’re brainwashed.

All we need is, a little love
It doesn’t take a scientist to figure this ‘cause
It’s so – obvious
All this rush causes fighting and fuss.


1), accessed on January 12th, 2005
2) Eurodance Encyclopaedia -, accessed on January 12th, 2005

1) Bomfunk MCs – Spoken Word (from In Stereo, 1999, Epidrome/Sony)
2) Bomfunk MCs – Obvious (from Reverse Psychology, 2004, Polydor/Universal)
3) Flying Steps – Breakin’ It Down (single, 2002, MAR)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Axles of evil

Why is the Veyron a pinnacle of human achievement, whereas the Maybach is a useless piece of OTT badge engineering?

The dichotomy is less far-fetched than may seem at first glance. Both these machines represent the ultimate implementation of different ends of the spectrum. The design of any car can be located in a system of coordinates where one axis represents performance and the other luxury. A manufacturer needs to trade one off for the other, although both are desirable qualities; in fact this compromise is responsible for premium cars today generally lacking in ride quality.

The Veyron and Maybach share a target market certainly, and they also enjoyed the same audience response when they were introduced. A few people hailed the newcomer as greatness embodied, and a lot questioned the maker's (and especially the buyer's) sanity.

Yet today the general consensus seems to be that the Veyron is a Good Thing(tm). It's certainly rare enough to not be a particular fright to the environment (for as much stock as you want to put in the whole global warming hysteria), and deep down it's a toy every man wants. Opponents are dismissed, as the only argument they can muster is "why do it?", the crushing response to which is "because we can".

The Maybach on the other hand has seen its reputation go down quickly. People see it not as a triumph of creation, but as a triumph of consumption; more wood, leather and engine than one man should have in a socially conscious Europe. Nevermind that it is not only practical, but more fuel-efficient per passenger than an Easyjet flight (and as Top Gear segments prove, most likely faster).

If you buy a Veyron, it is as if you have bought a work of art: the money is spent on something for all intents and purposes useless, but by a series of proxies you are seen to be stimulating creativity and generally improving society. If you purchase a Maybach 62, you may have as well spent it all on hookers and heroin.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Apples & Oranges

Among the great mysteries of this world is why the supermarkets never have any good fruit. Especially citrus.

I mean, all I want is an orange. But supermarkets don't stock good oranges. What they have are horrible, rotten Class II ones that shouldn't even be out on the shop floor for sanitation reasons.

Bananas, I know, are picked still green - they get ripe on the boat and then look very nice once they arrive. (Less so this year because the EU import quota for bananas was met by August...) Is there a reason why the same thing can't be done with oranges?

Apples, though, are not as much of a problem. Even the ones that come from faraway places, like China or South Africa. Admittedly apples are often covered in wax and other preservatives, but hey, they can just go ahead and do the same to oranges.

It's not that the shops can't get the oranges up here quickly enough (it all goes through Rotterdam anyway) - it's that they never stock anything better than Class II. I don't get it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I used the word "paradigm" in a sentence today. May the Lord have mercy on my soul.

Wrote an article today for a trade magazine that wanted to run a news blob about a subsidiary of EmployerCo. (It doesn't have actual journalists on staff apparently, so it just gets the companies to do the texts. Lazy wankers.) Reminded me why I quit the newspaper world and went into technical writing.

If you're doing documentation, you can expect people to come and tell you what's wrong in your texts. That's fine. If you're doing articles, people will come and tell you what they don't like about your text. Which is infinitely more annoying.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Reliability vs build quality

The concepts of reliability and build quality are often confused, both in terms and in impressions. A reliable item may look fragile, and a well-put-together one may have fatal flaws.

Japanese cars are known to be hugely reliable. A Honda or Toyota will simply not go wrong, ever. At the same time they tend to be rather flimsy, especially for a person engaging in an experiment to study The Thousand Dollar Car Theory. Then you have the newer Audis, which are known primarily for excellent interior materials and feeling very solid; but they can hardly compete with a Civic in endurance.

What's more important?

The first proper mp3 player I had was a Creative Nomad Zen USB2.0. It had excellent audio quality, and was completely encased in anodized aluminium (as opposed to white plastic) over a magnezium frame. This made it more or less impervious to damage. I owned it for slightly more than a year, from July 2003 to November 2004. In that time it had been dropped many times, occasionally down flights of stairs, often while working (which is a particularly bad thing for hard-drive-based players). Through it all, it was completely reliable, bravely playing music until the day it was buried in a hunk of bent metal that was my Mazda 323 after a head-on crash. Unfortunately a few months after I got it, the display backlight failed. It didn't burn out - it was a LED, and besides, it came back intermittently afterwards - rather it was a bad piece of soldering somewhere. Later, some of the buttons began to pack up. Not completely you understand, they just worked in unexpected ways, or sometimes not at all. I couldn't have it fixed under warranty, because I bought it during my stay in California and thus it was not covered by a European warranty. Quite annoying really.

From early spring of 2005, I've been using an Archos Gmini 400. Now, Archos is a French company, and as much as I would like to express European solidarity here, the French are not known for building reliable things. The Gmini is also metal, although it naturally doesn't have anything approaching the Zen's body armor. So far it's suffered a couple bad falls, never operational. I can't say it's been easy on the poor bugger. It's scuffed at the edges, the back of the shell is bent and the CompactFlash slot hinge is more loose than I'd like it to be. And yet, every button still works as intended. The Gmini was not designed to be reliable, but the build quality is very impressive.

So what's better to have? Let me put it this way. I never regretted buying either gadget - but in aggregate the Gmini has given me a lot less grief. All with a more vulnerable design (the huge color screen doesn't help), more functionality and the same price.

All consumer electronics are made by the same Chinese OEMs these days. Reliability is a matter of design. Build quality is a matter of stimulating manufacturers to produce excellent results. In my opinion, the latter is a more difficult job; and experience shows that it does pay off more.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ah shite.

My New Year's Eve plans just imploded. Just my luck, too.

Anyone in Small Country have room for one more opinionated bastard at their party?

In other news, Tycho writes:
It's disingenuous to refer to the most primitive, arcade exercises when trying to disprove the narrative potential of a medium, but that's what you get when you chat with people who don't know what they're fucking talking about.

I just wanted that quote in here somewhere - I'll be referring back to it in future pieces.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Respect my disreligion

Apparently America has switched from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays". Undeniably useful, as it can basically be applied to everything, from Halloween through Winter-een-mas. The big argument in favour of it seems to be that it respects everyone's religion - or lack thereof.

The last bit is slightly redundant, in my opinion. We, the people who subscribe to Douglas Adams' distinction of "belief there is not a God" (as opposed to disbelief that there is one), are actually the least likely ones to get involved in a religious war or get offended by someone mentioning religion. I've mentioned before that I enjoy Christmas despite being an atheist, and I similarly enjoy Easter, and others; in Small Country, national holidays include Good Friday and the summer solstice, a.k.a. St John's Day. Both of these are religious holidays, one Christian, one pagan, but I am singularly unoffended by either. I'd be perfectly happy to celebrate Yom Kippur and the Chinese New Year if someone asked me.

One of my college teachers said that in Small Country, a religious debate consists of militant atheists on one side and any sort of believers in absolutely anything on the other. The CIA factbook says that the absolute majority of the people here are religious, Lutheran mainly, but in fact people here tend to believe nothing. In my experience, this improves one's social skills significantly. I certainly do think organized religion is a bad thing and has caused this world a lot of grief, but I am not offended by any religious symbols. I'm not even offended by Mormons. I'm not even offended by Jehovah's Witnesses. Any aspect of a religion, if implemented reasonably, is fine by me.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Season special

How very true.

(My boss keeps introducing me to these obscure gaming comics. I can barely follow Penny Arcade and the occasional CAD on my own.)

Hit the shopping districts the last few days, in Capital City first and then Campustown. I don't actually mind the holiday rush - in a perverse way I really enjoy it. It's a trigger for happier memories of Christmas, I guess - and a bit of retail therapy at that. The big department stores are selling these unbelievably cute stuffed animals, rabbits and pandas and things - fairly expensive, but it's WWF stuff (World Wildlife Fund, no World Wrestling Federation) so you get to feel good about yourself when you buy one. Unfortunately, I still have nobody to give one to. Which is quite possibly the most depressing thing about Christmas. Back around the time I started Antyx, I made a semi-serious promise to myself that I would not be spending this Christmas alone - but I suppose I already knew back then that it wouldn't happen. Just another one in a long line of failures I've gotten used to.

This year has been good in a lot of ways - I went to some excellent concerts, did a lot of traveling, bought a car and then actually sold it for a measurable amount of money (as opposed to writing it off)... graduated from college even. Still, my mom died this year, so I can't really count it as a success. (Cancer. Objectively, she was in a lot of pain and it probably put her out of her misery, but subjectively I just can't think like that.)

Bought a gun today. Not a real one, a toy Magnum revolver that uses pop caps. It's die cast, properly metal and satisfyingly heavy. The caps don't make much noise though, but they do produce the lovely smell. It's for the company Christmas piss-up this weekend. The theme is Mexico, so I have a sombrero as well. Slippery When Wet is supposed to get back to me tomorrow on whether a fleece blanket from the cheap crap store makes a convincing poncho.

Merry Christmas to all my regular readers - the person from Finland who checks the blog religiously (do I know you?), the person from Iceland, the person from right here in Small Country who occasionally drops by on a link, and all the Circle Jerk regulars. And, of course, each and every one of the people who find this place even remotely curious.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sacred Cow: Copyright

Another old piece of mine, this one from a forum. Please note that I am the son of a writer who gets plenty of royalties from published books and plays running in many theaters - so I'm not completely out of the loop on this one.

The poet Benjamin Zephanaiah performed at my college last year. He was completely awesome, probably the first person I've seen in modern English language who I would actually call a poet (I possess the greatest disdain for postmodernists). Anyway, he was talking about what constitutes poetry, and gave the example of the Don't Worry, Be Happy song, and the No Limit techno track. The guy who wrote No Limit apparently earned 3 million pounds for it. Never has to work again in his life. All for the lyrics "no no, no no no no, no no no no, no no there's no limit".

And of course, the guy will continue to get royalties every time the beat is used in a movie, TV show or commercial. The Making Of show for School of Rock mentioned that they paid $160,000 to use a quote - not a bit of the song, just two lines from the lyrics - by AC/DC.

Well, if you think about it, it doesn't really sound fair, does it? Most jobs you see, you get paid to do a task, and when you're done and you've received your money, that's that. You want more money, you do another task. But if you're a musician or a writer, you can have one successful work, and it will make you money for the rest of your life, and then some - the statute before a work of art becomes public domain is decades. But you're not doing anything to get the money - and certainly your kids who inherit the copyright after you die haven't done anything to deserve it.

You shouldn't be able to charge people $160,000 to use something you've said, many years after you've said it.

So here is my suggestion: abolish copyright. If the art is used as a tool to make money, the tool must be paid for. The final consumer however does not purchase the right to use the artwork for any purpose; the consumer buys a physical entity - the book or the CD. Use of the art is free.

If a movie wants to quote you or use your song in the background, they are free to use it (after all, the art of the movie can later be freely used in the same way). The artist makes money by selling content to a publisher, who then uses the content to attract customers to buy the books it produces. The customer pays for the book, not for the right to read the novel.

Result: a creative work is sold once for a fixed price to a publisher who releases it. After this initial run, it is free to use by anyone. Thus the artist is forced to constantly create new things and is stimulated to make them good.

Won't happen of course, but in a perfect world, this is how it would work.

P.S. Two important matters that arose from the discussion in that forum. One, huge-budget movies like LOTR would still get made because their budget is recouped on the initial big-screen run; if you want an interesting perspective on why people go to see movies in the age of DVD and BitTorrent, read "The Proud Robot" by Henry Kuttner. Two, copyright laws have indeed been made to protect the publisher more than the creator; a handful of world-famous authors earn very good money and get to dictate their own terms, while many others, no less brilliant, are forced to survive on lump-sum handouts and minute royalties. This has just recently been brought in focus by the death of Robert Sheckley, an undeniable genius who couldn't even afford emergency medical treatment on a trip to meet fans in Ukraine.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Joyeux Noël

Can I ask you a favour, please?

Next Christmas, don't watch The Sounds of Music. Or Night Before Christmas, or any other traditional film you watch on that day. Instead, get a copy of Merry Christmas.

The film is based on true events, the Christmas ceasefire of 1914, when WWI soldiers on both sides of the front line left their trenches to bury their dead and play football in No Man's Land. It ends with a disclaimer that any similarity to real persons is purely coincidential - but I have to say, such similarity is deeply flattering. This is a film that shows with profound sincerity the nature of human spirit, thrown into a place of concentrated despair unlike what was ever seen before (and quite possibly, since) - scared, broken, trampled upon, and yet still capable of sensing joy at the sound of bagpipes in the night, and a beautiful voice singing Silent Night in the language of your enemy. The spirit that experiences infinite truth, and through recognizing it, feels no shame for any act that men who have not climbed the wall of a trench would call treason.

On Christmas Eve, 1914, several hundred Germans, Frenchmen and Brits decided that the bloodiest conflict in human history would just have to wait. On this night, The Last War had no power over a small Belgian field.

As the credits rolled, half a thousand people simply sat there, not daring to break the magic of the movie. As the lights came up, they exploded in applause. Not formal theater applause, a reluctantly given tip for the time and effort of humans; there were no creators at the showing. Instead this was applause that every person in that room had no choice but to give.

Watch this film.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

World Wide Webshite

Saw a link to an article in the New York Times by one John Batelle:
"In fact, syndication has become the de facto business model of many start-ups: if you build a new service that garners a decent audience, syndication can provide enough revenue to give you time to refine your services and find your true business model."

What a comprehensively ridiculous notion. Not the syndication bit, although that's overhyped as well, but the bit about finding your true business model.

This seems to be the fundamental basis for Internet bubbles past and present (and probably future). People somehow get it into their heads that the Internet is a magic new entity that completely changes the way the world works. It is no such thing. The Internet is a tool for human communication, and its dynamics are no more than a minor evolution of the rules of society - the underlying forces are the same, and they manifest themselves in the same way. Opening a business with no clear understanding of how you intend to make money, instead substituted by a vague philosophy of people coming to your website just because it's there and clicking on banners out of sheer gratitude, is a good way to lose money and be ridiculed. I mean, take Antyx for example. It's got its own domain name, appears high up in a lot of Google results, and has a lot of absolutely killer content - and yet in the three months it's been up, it has been viewed less than three thousand times.

Joel Spolsky says that the goal of an IT company should be converting capital into software that works. In a recent podcast he gave an example of how this benefitted him, allowing a situation where his company managed to take a raw idea and implement it into an excellent product in a very short time, using resources that were already in place. According to Joel, what you do is create a team capable of building a better mousetrap, knowing that there are plenty of ideas for the better mousetrap out there that you can implement.

Then again, in that same podcast he admits that a software vendor cannot succeed unless they are actually solving a problem that a lot of people are having. His own company made a content management system, which was a popular thing to make back then, but it never went anywhere; then they made something as pedestrian as a bug tracking system, and it became hugely successful.

You know why Microsoft is the ruler of all it surveys? I'll tell you. It's because I have a document on my work PC that I made months ago. It has a bunch of Visio drawings in it. I usually keep the VSD file with the original drawings for when I need to update them, but this time for some reason I couldn't find it. I'd have to remake the whole schematic, half a dozen drawings, by hand. Except I wouldn't. Because (as it turns out) if you copy and paste a Visio drawing into a Word file and then double-click on the image, it opens an embedded Visio editor, with all the individual objects already recognized.

That's why Microsoft is more successful than any other software company. But it's not why Microsoft is, to begin with, a successful company. That would be because it has a couple of programs which allow me to make documents and draw UML diagrams. If it cared about ease of use, rather than giving people something they needed to do their jobs, it would be... Well, I guess it would be Apple.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


In my travels to various countries here in Europe, I have noticed an interesting trend. It is not without exception, certainly, but has caught my eye enough times to have me start looking out for it.

In an "old" European country with a large proportion of visible minorities, the people you see in a position of authority are usually the title race.

I first noticed it in Sweden, then in Norway, Finland, Holland, the UK... countries where you walk down the street and see a huge variety of skin tones. (This opposed to Small Country, where the permanent black residents can be counted on the fingers of one very deformed hand.) Immigrants are often accused of living off welfare and not working, but that's a whole different problem and one which, I believe, gets solved over a generation or two.

I also don't believe that visible minorities are discouraged from going into law enforcement and similar disciplines. I do, however, believe that they tend not to care.

The job where I have found many minorities was that of bus driver. Naturally, it is the biased view of a traveller on a budget that tends to use the cheapest form of public transport to get from the airport/ferry terminal to the center of town. But it does make sense. Driving a bus requires a couple months of training; unlike driving a cab, you don't need to know the language particularly well; and in Western Europe, it's a heavily unionized job. Here in Small Country with its national obsession with the free market, the transport workers are really the last trade union with the strength to demand something, as opposed to pleading for it. So your average bus driver in a European capital is going to be paid fairly well.

On the other hand, the police is not somewhere you go for the money. There's a huge problem right now in Small Country with the rescue workers (firefighters basically, but tasked with anything outside the strict responsibility of the cops and ambulance guys). Basically they earn nothing. The typical salary is half the national average. It's better in other departments and certainly better in other countries, but the pattern is still there.

The people who patrol the streets, fight fires, work the customs desks at the airport, are all people who care about their homeland.

Again I repeat, there are plenty of exceptions. But the next time you fly to Stockholm, the first stereotypical Norseman you are likely to see will be the border guard spot-checking you for drugs once you get off the plane - rather than the flight attendant or the cabbie driving you to your hotel.

Finally, the point about immigrants being lazy. The most non-European place I have been to was Rotterdam. Admittedly not a touristy city. Over four days in a metropolis with a population that matches the entire Small Country and perhaps exceeds it, I saw maybe three people who looked like you'd expect the Dutch to look. The rest of them were Africans, southeast Asians, Arabs, Turks... you name it. I was told by the people I stayed with that it wasn't just me - Rotterdam was in fact a predominantly non-white city.

And yet, it is the biggest seaport in the world, serving shipments to and from all of Europe, essentially. Keeping up that status takes a lot of hard work.

Oh, and the first Dutch-looking person I saw on that trip? The ticket-taker on the train from Schiphol airport.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Judas Priest concert on Thursday. Got off work early, caught the bus to Capital City. Saw the show (extremely good - better than Alice Cooper by miles), went to dad's place. Stayed up for hours playing TOCA Race Driver 2. Had four hours of sleep, got up at 5.30 am, caught the 6.45 bus back to Campustown. Came to work. Had a mocca and some energy drink. Interesting sensation: body completely knackered, mind wide awake.

I don't drink coffee normally, never did, not even during exam sessions at college. I don't have immunity, so even one has a serious effect on me. (My boss, on the other hand, imbibes the most vile brew you are likely to see in your meager existence, black as a lawyer's heart and bitter as Monday morning.)

I'm like a person that's convinced himself he's given up smoking. I won't purchase stimulants out of sheer principle, but a coworker has taken to hoarding energy drink in his desk, and as soon as he opens a can, I pounce. I have a fine-tuned ear for the scratch of tin on a desk surface and the pop of the tab.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gadget porn

All right. I admit it. I'm a gadget wanker.

It seems fairly logical to me that the human brain just has a general capacity for producing pleasurable impulses. These impulses are most easily and commonly triggered by sexual references, but can be initiated by any desire sufficiently strong. Certainly the feeling I get when reading the specs and looking at pictures of an Archos PMA400 is close to sexual, and so is the one caused by witnessing the image of the new Lamborghini Gallardo roadster. (Like some others, its design somehow just comes together marvellously in droptop form - despite the fact that it's only a traditional electric canvas roof, basically the same as you'd get on a Miata. The Concept S, much more outrageous, somehow isn't quite as stunning.)

If this reasoning is valid, it is an interesting example of humans mutating to adapt to civilization. I'm sure the capacity for object desire has been ingrained in Homo Sapiens from the start, but while the effect of sexual imagery is easily explained - procreation requires men to become aroused, so nature has made it simple to accomplish - gadget porn, or car porn for that matter, is a bit of a conditioned development.

Interestingly enough, in my experience marketing is not particularly effective at emulating this sort of reaction. You can use all the black backdrops, suggestive angles and hip models you want, but a BMW 7-series will still be ugly enough to give you a sympathetic toothache. And an Alfa Romeo Brera in an unfortunate color, covered in mud, jacked up at the side of the road with a wheel missing, will still be absolutely stunning.


| More