Must-read: Grumpy Old Men

I’ve just finished David Quantick’s “Grumpy Old Men”, and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in years. Not to be confused with the TV programme of the same name, Quantick’s book (subtitled “A manual for the British malcontent”) is a curmudgeonly rant about modern life’s various irritations: wasps (“bastards”), cats (“bastards”), the French, bad restaurants, idiots on trains, people with tattoos, urban cyclists, skateboarders, caravans… they’re all soft targets, of course, but despite the rather hackneyed themes Quantick tears into everything with giddy abandon. The sections on minicabs and on the location of restaurants’ “specials” boards are worth the purchase price alone, and damn near put me in hospital.

[Incidentally, the Amazon link above isn’t an affilliate link, just a link to the book’s info page.]

Why a Video iPod doesn’t make sense

There’s an interesting snippet on MacMinute about video iPods: Jupiter research analyst Michael Gartenberg identifies some common-sense reasons why a video iPod isn’t a great idea just yet.

Unlike music, it’s illegal to rip a DVD to your hard drive, Pixar or otherwise. Simple. No same company wants to get into that legal issue with the studios and provide those tools… The only other source of legal video content is recorded TV and Apple at the moment has no interest in playing in that market. Should they? Perhaps, but that’s another story. Now there’s always personal created video but the market for that is tiny… There’s no market for the video iPod for Apple’s customers at the moment. No evil schemes. No Machiavellian thoughts behind it. It’s just not a good move for Apple without the sources of content they need. They will be there and we will get a video iPod one day. Just not this one.

The *real* power of the iTunes music store

Me: That Rasmus song…
Lovely wife: Sounds like something from the eighties, doesn’t it?
Me: Yep. Foreigner or something.
[attempts bad singing of “waiting for a girl like you”]
Me: Hang on.
[searches iTunes music store for the song]
Foreigner: I’VE BEEN WAITING!
[switches to music library]
The Rasmus: I’VE BEEN WAITING!
Foreigner: I’VE BEEN WAITING!
Me: God, it’s identical!
Lovely wife: Erm, I’m going to bed.

New iPods: expect the expected

So, the new iPods are out, and there aren’t any big surprises: a new iPod photo, which replaces the standard screen with a colour LCD and enables you to display your photos on a TV, and the U2 iPod, a rather nasty looking red and black effort that seems to have been based on the colour scheme of teenage boys’ bedrooms in the early 1980s. Which may be rather appropriate, come to think of it. Heh.

The U2 iPod comes with the band’s autographs but not the new album. Instead, you get a $40-off voucher for the forthcoming “everything U2 have ever recorded” iTunes download.

The most important thing to me is the improved battery life: 15 hours on the iPod photo if you use it for music only. That’s a big improvement and if it weren’t so much more expensive than the standard iPod, I’d have my credit card out right now.

Whistle while you… drown

One for the “clever, but completely pointless” file, the SwiMP3 player is an MP3 player that works underwater. It uses bone conduction technology to transfer sound from your cheekbone to your inner ear, and you’ll look utterly ridiculous if you use one.

[Via Engadget]

Silence is golden

Why is music in pubs so bloody loud? There’s a discussion about it on one of the music boards I frequent, and the consensus among young, music-obsessed people is: for god’s sake, turn it down. If we wanted to hear music that’s so loud our teeth rattle, we’d go to a gig or a club, or hack our iPods so they make our eyes vibrate.

It’s something that’s become more and more prevalent in recent years, whether it’s city centre pubs blasting house music at volumes that could shatter buildings, or small-town pubs where the entire clientele is subjected to the whole of Frampton Comes Alive until their brains beg for mercy and try a Steve McQueen-style jump from their ears. You can’t even go for a meal without being blasted with hip-hop. Which bright spark decided that going out for dinner would be much more fun if you couldn’t have a conversation?

In the message board discussion, one poster suggests that money is the motive: if you’re sitting back, blethering with your friends, you’ll probably drink more slowly than you do when your conversation consists entirely of shouting. And he’s probably right, although it’s also partly due to the way in which many pubs see themselves as pre-club venues whose aim is to get everyone fired up before moving on to a proper club. And of course, it’s partly due to the ongoing infantilism of the world, where everything is geared to late-teens and sod everybody else.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were any escape, but there isn’t: head for a traditional old man’s pub and at weekends, you’re almost guaranteed to encounter karaoke. This is even worse than too-loud music: not only has the karaoke operator managed to defy the laws of physics with a small pair of speakers pumping out music that registers on the Richter Scale, but the gin-sozzled twats who dominate such “entertainment” can’t sing for toffee. Never mind the sound of crying babies or nails down a blackboard: the worst sound in the world is a Celine Dion song sung by a blowsy old madam whose relationship with the tune is as strong as my relationship with vegetables and exercise, bellowed through a PA system the size of Spain. And yet instead of killing these people, we encourage them – and we amplify them.

The web is currently ablaze with talk of the TV-B-Gone, a remote control that you can use to surreptitiously switch off unwanted TVs in public places. I’d rather have a Music-B-Gone – or failing that, a rocket launcher.

“And now, Big Aggie’s going to sing-”
CLICK! WHOOOOOSH! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Fake Gucci bags “fund terrorism”

Here we go again: Interpol claims that fake goods fund terrorism, although they haven’t bothered to say which groups, or how the funding gets to them from street sellers in the Med.

“When you buy for example a counterfeit watch, the money is channeled into the pockets of Mafia groups, terrorist groups,” said Jean-Michel Louboutin, executive director of police services at Interpol.

I’m baffled by this. Given that the links between organised crime and counterfeiting are well-established, what’s the benefit of trying to shoehorn terrorism in there when there’s little or no evidence of such a connection? Mafia groups, definitely, but the only established terrorism links that Interpol has ever given us are counterfeit brake parts in the middle east (linked to organised crime gangs, some of whose members had hezbollah links) and counterfeit goods in Northern Ireland (sold by paramilitary groups, who are effectively organised crime these days anyway).

The purpose of the claim, says Reuters, is to “rally consumer support behind a global campaign against counterfeiting”. So why peg the campaign on such a shaky premise? There are sound reasons to avoid counterfeit goods: they’re responsible for job losses and reduced tax income; the people who make the goods often work in shockingly bad conditions that make sweatshops seem a model of worker protection; perfumes and other substances can cause nasty skin burns; and in the case of Burberry – in Scotland at least – owning the stuff makes people laugh at you behind your back. That’s a pretty compelling bunch of reasons to forgo fakes, and the various campaign groups would be better off focusing on them instead of trying to conjure up the bogeyman of terrorism.

Banned in the USA

One of my favourite blogs, the gloriously demented Fafblog, reacts to the news that it is blocked by the filters at the Seminole County Public Library:

“Now Giblets’s voice can ring out across the vast electronic wilderness without any editorial restraints!” says Giblets. “And his voice says: Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuckity fucky fuck mcfuck!”