The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Things You Don’t Need To Know …
February 16, 2015, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

That’s quite an interesting title isn’t it.

What on Earth could I be on about?

Is it about all the number 1 songs Queen have ever had?

Or how I make my World Famous [in my own mind] Rice & Spinach risotto?

Or maybe it’s a list of what I find exciting about the new 2015 Birkenstock designs?

Well it’s none of them, it’s the fact that while you read this, I will be enjoying the first of my 2015 holiday’s.

Better yet, it’s a national holiday for Chinese New Year which means I’m not using up any of my personal vacation days.

Yesssssssss.

Of course, it will be the first holiday I have as ‘a parent’ … but because the little one is still super-young, I can go anywhere I please as long as there’s somewhere I can change one of his daily 8 million nappies.

Result.

But the best news – for you – is this means you get a rest from me for 14 whole lovely days.

Yes … that’s almost as long as I’ve been re-writing this blog so consider it my Chinese New Year gift to you.

Now the bad news.

Yes, you guessed it, I’m going to be coming back.

Sorry.

You see even though I love my son more than I can describe, writing this rubbish actually brings some peace to me.

Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

It’s like the Betty Ford Clinic for my brainfart thoughts and ideas and if I didn’t have that, they’d reside in my head … slowly building up in my brain which is potentially far more damaging to my family than me spending 10 mins a day churning out this rubbish.

Talking of rubbish, I recently gave an interview to Future Rising about planning.

God knows why they wanted to hear my opinion on what I do – possibly to ensure people don’t make the same mistakes I do – but it seems to have gone down quite well.

Anyway, because I am going away for a bit, I thought I’d leave you with my rambling responses to the questions I was asked in the interview.

Now I know what you’re thinking, it’s because I have an ego that would put Bono to shame – and that’s sort-of correct – however I also mention you lot in the interview which I know will suddenly make you very interested, possibly for the first time, in what I have to say.

Media Whores.

And yes, I appreciate that is the pot calling the kettle black.

Anyway, here’s the link to the interview … enjoy the peace until March 2nd and may you all have a happy Year of the Goat.



Love Is A Butt Plug. Apparently.
February 14, 2015, 8:30 am
Filed under: Valentine's Day

I know it’s Saturday and I don’t do posts on Saturday … but today is Valentine’s Day and I couldn’t let such a momentous occasion pass without some sort of comment.

As I’ve written many times previously, I’m pretty much anti-Valentine’s Day because it’s less about expressing your love and more about actions driven by fear … however this year is special because today is the day the long awaited smutfest, ’50 Shades of Grey’ gets released at the cinema and for choosing that date, the film studio deserve a round of applause.

The movie business is an interesting business.

While the stuff up on the screen can make them hundreds of millions, it’s the product tie-ins that often reaps them the biggest rewards – turning a loss making film into a profitable venture – which is why I will be very, very, very interested to see how much money the studio makes from their tie in with the ’50 Shades Of Grey Something Forbidden’ sex toy range that has been launched.

You thought the butt plug photo above was just some random butt plug didn’t you?

Oh no, it’s part of a massive range that can be bought at Amazon.

Yes Amazon!

Because nothing say’s “I love you” than ordering some ‘pleasure balls’ and ‘nipple clamps’ to go along with your purchase of Peep Show, series 9.

You can see I’m amazingly NOT taking the piss here.

[Check out the ‘you might also like these’ product suggestions at the bottom of the page]

Enjoy and happy Valentine’s Day.



Everything Wonderful Starts From Somewhere …
February 13, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Before Fame, Chopin, Comment

One of my favourite pieces of music is this …

No, it’s not Queen, nor is it Def Leppard … it’s Chopin’s Nocturne op.9 No.2.

I love it.

I love the melody.

The gentleness.

The emotion.

Whenever I listen to it I find my eyes close and my head gently swinging side-to-side … literally lost in the music.

It makes me wish I could play the piano more than any other piece of music … even Van Halen’s Jump.

But what gets me is this piece of music once never existed.

It was just something that sat inside Chopin’s head … waiting for him to let it out.

Did it come quickly or slowly?

Did it have many iterations or could he hear it before he played it?

I remember Paul McCartney being interviewed about his song ‘Yesterday’ – apparently the most recorded song in history – and he said he wrote it aged 15 on his bed, in his bedroom.

Put aside the obvious talent and maturity it would require to write a song like that at 15, just think about that for a second.

A kid, in Liverpool, is sitting on his bed strumming a guitar and out of his head comes one of the most iconic – and recorded – songs in history.

What did he think at the time?

Did he know he’d written something that would outlive him?

Did he know he’d just created something that would change the course of his life?

[And yes, I do know he has now changed the story behind the song, but he said this on Michael Parkinson and no one is allowed to question what is said on Parky]

It’s like Sir Ken Robinson said in his speech that talks about Shakespeare.

We all imagine Shakespeare as this entity who created things that became pivotal stories of our lives … but once upon a time he was just a kid who went to school and took English lessons. ENGLISH LESSONS!!!

That’s mental even though it shouldn’t be.

We have all this stuff around us that seems to have been there forever.

Of course, a lot of that is because it has been there throughout our life hence we can never remember a time without it – but somewhere in our minds, we forget there was a time when they didn’t exist … when these things we either take for granted or just simply love were nothing.

Literally nothing.

And that’s what blows my mind about that piece by Chopin.

Because while I wonder how he created the piece and what he thought when he wrote it, the fact is, if I could travel back in time to 1829 and ask him to play Nocturne op.9 No.2 … he would look at me and wonder what the hell I was talking about.

Because it didn’t exist. Not even in his mind. Not for another year.

And that fills me with wonder and excitement because it means there are people walking around who may one day write or create or think of something that could evolve to something incredible … something that people will still love 200 years from now or maybe just end up viewing as their new normal … and that is why I think we should stop pissing on the dreams and hopes of those who have ideas, because without them, we might not have half the wonderful things that make up the tapestry of our lives.



Don’t Compare Me To You. Freaks.
February 12, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Crap Campaigns In History, Crap Marketing Ideas From History!

I’ve written about how delusional some brands can be.

Well guess what, I’m going to write about it again.

Admittedly, what I’m about to talk about is now where near as mental as that Costa ‘coffee hub’ bollocks, but it’s bad all the same.

So a few weeks ago, I was reading a magazine, a music mag, when I came across this:

Yes, it really is an ad for a leaf blower.

In a music magazine.

But that’s not the mental thing … oh no … what’s mental is the strapline used by Stihl.

“We Share Your Passion”

What the fuck are you talking about.

You think I like blowing leaves around?

Are you insane?

Of all the things I could possibly do, blowing leaves around is probably in the last 10% of my list – and that’s only that high because I am imagining a mountain of piled up leaves that I can blow into the garden of all the people I hate.

If Stihl really share my passion, then they would be talking about Queen, Birkenstocks, stupid gadgets and – despite ruining my life – Nottingham Forest … but they don’t which means this is another bullshit line designed by a planner who claimed it would help convey ‘a human voice’ as well as drive ‘engagement’ with their target audience when in reality, all it does is massively alienate and cause ridicule.

And that’s before you take into account they placed this in a bloody Rock music magazine.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong.

Let’s face it, I’m not the target audience so maybe this line – and this ad – is the product of extensive and exhaustive research … proven to appeal strongly to a very distinct group of leaf-blowing addicts. Though if it is, I have to tell the people of Stihl that I’m not sure hanging their longterm, sustainable future on selling products to the mentally deranged or Stihl employees is the smartest move they could make.

But all that aside, this still doesn’t escape the very fact that this all ends up saying far more about my choice of music and magazine than it does about their choice of target audience.

Damnit.



Things We Don’t See Anymore …
February 11, 2015, 6:20 am
Filed under: Audio Visual, Design

Yes … I really am talking about a plant on a television.

That might not seem like a massive change, but to me it is.

I remember growing up with all sorts of stuff resting on our television … lamps … plants [a little cactus] … ornaments and, at Christmas time, a little nativity setting.

Of course it was easy back then because TV’s were so massive, it could almost double as your dining room table … but now, with their ultra-thin screens, you can put nothing on them and in a weird way, that’s kinda sad.

I know … I know … you think I’m being ultra-sentimental and I guess I am … but the beauty of having a TV so wide you could rest all manner of things on it was that you were able to inadvertently customise it with things that made it part of your home as opposed to simply being an object within the home.

Of course I shouldn’t be surprised as this is just part of the technological lifestyle evolution that has been going on since the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Back then – when arguably, audio visual technology changed our lives more than it does today – everything was created to fit in with our furniture rather than stand out.

Televisions were placed in cabinets and hi-fi’s were hidden inside sideboards – only to be seen when you wished to play a record or watch a show.

It was all part of the belief that the home was where ‘you interacted with family’ and – unless you were doing something as a family – technology should be experienced, not seen.

Then the 80’s and early 90’s came and we saw a shift in attitudes.

Technological advancement in audio visual equipment had evolved massively and suddenly these objects became products of desire … status symbols, if you will.

[The above pic is the stereo I got for my 21st birthday. It still works as I took this photo a couple of weeks ago when I was back at home]

From being hidden away, they were now something to be seen … admired … coveted … however because culturally we had been educated to think these products should be part of the home rather than be the focus of the home, we found ways to blend them in rather than place them on a pedestal.

Which is why we put lamps on them. Or nativity sets.

But now we’re in the 3rd phase.

Where these objects are recognised as things worthy of their own status.

Almost like they are a decoration.

Which might be why we hang televisions on the wall or place speakers in our ceilings.

And while you could argue it is almost like we’ve gone back to the 50’s by incorporating this equipment into our lives rather than letting them stand out, I would argue differently.

Regardless how thin a 50” television is, it’s still a 50” television.

It’s created to be seen.

Focused on.

And while the consultancy, Red, told Samsung that the best way to sell their flat screen televisions was to help them blend into the room [as women didn’t want it to be the centre of attention, see page 4 of the link] there’s only so much you can do to disguise it.

You can’t even put a plant on it.

Which means it owns the room rather than you owning the television.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and – believe it or not – a tidy house, but I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for the days where audio visual equipment was created to fit in with your life rather than be a symbol of a generic, soulless lifestyle.



Instead Of Thinking There Are Always 2-Sides To Every Story, We Should Acknowledge There Are 2-Sides To Every Situation …
February 10, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Minimum Wage, Point Of View

A while ago I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph.

It was a letter that literally stopped me in my tracks because it forced me to re-evaluate something, that until that point, I had felt blindly passionate about.

While I could make myself feel better by acknowledging the situation the person raised has not been something I have ever faced, the fact I never even considered it bothers me.

Of course, there will be people out there who will say there are far more people who don’t face this situation than do and so to change it for the minority could undermine and hurt the majority – and I accept that – but it also highlights how as an industry, we tend to prefer focusing on the big commonalities of our audiences, rather than embrace the edges of how so many of them think and live their lives.

I get why, I honestly do … we are trying to find the broadest possible commonality across various segments of society because that enables us to create work with the broadest possible appeal. But as we all know, trying to engage everyone means you often end up engaging no one, plus there is the little fact that there’s no such thing as a ‘standard life’ and just because we have found a way to place people into a fairly simplistic set of characteristics doesn’t mean it reflects the tensions and concerns that are really going on in millions of peoples lives.

Of course exploring these broader edges impacts both time and money – factors many view as an expense rather than an investment – however the argument for doing it is not just that you will have a better understanding of what reality is for your audience [which lets you create work that actually means something to them rather than is more expensive wallpaper] but it reveals the potential implications of your idea/concept/action so you can identify problems before they happen or opportunities before you miss out on them.

This is not about diluting your point of view – that is arguably more important than it ever has been – however having a point of view that is built on simplistic understanding of what is going on means, at best, you end up with work that is noticeable rather than meaningful … which is a problem many agencies, brands and governments tend to confuse with each other.

So to Candice Baxter of Grimsby, thank you. I hope your daughter dreams are realised.



Love Fades But Never Disappears …
February 9, 2015, 6:25 am
Filed under: Comment, Love, Rosie

So it’s the 2nd week since I decided to re-start blogging.

And I’m still here.

But it gets worse.

It’s Monday.

And I’m feeling sentimental.

Sorry.

A few weeks ago, I thought we had lost our beloved cat, Rosie.

She sometimes rushes out the door when I get home and when she hadn’t come out to see me after 10 minutes [she actually likes me, though it could also be because I give her treats], the reality that she may have got out started to become a reality.

But it got worse.

You see we live on the 5th floor of our apartment and there have been occasions where she has rushed out the moment I’ve got in and run into the lift before the doors have closed.

Every time this has happened I’ve been able to get her but maybe this was the time she succeeded.

I got in the lift and went to every floor of our building.

Nothing.

I went to the underground car park.

Nothing.

But it was when I went back to our apartment to check if she had been found that I really started to feel a sense of panic because I could see Jill was starting to get worried.

She had checked every one of her hiding places – even the vent that once fell down and she basically climbed into the walls of the building – but she wasn’t to be seen.

It was about now that I started to think she had gone.

She had run out of the door when I got home, got in the lift – which returns to the ground floor – and then, when the doors opened, panicked and ran straight from the apartment lobby, out of the automatic doors and into the madness of the China streets.

While she fancies herself as a tough cat, she’s pathetic and wouldn’t survive a minute on her own. She’s even scared of birds.

So I decided to check every floor again. Just in case.

But still there was nothing.

Then I went back to the underground carpark and looked under every car.

Again, nothing.

So all that left me to do was go out and walk the gardens shouting her name.

I grabbed a pack of her favourite treats and with a sense of despair, but a need to feel I was still doing something, I went out into the rain and shouted “Rosie” over and over again.

I walked and walked and walked but nothing.

Not even a meow from the street cats.

And it was now – after about 40 minutes of looking – that I started to come to the realisation that she had gone, that I would never ever see her again.

I loved that ball of fluffy mischief.

Yes she was a whining pain in the ass, but she was my whining pain in the ass and she had given me more happiness than I ever could have imagined.

The thought that she was on her own, out on the wild streets, was incredibly upsetting.

I imagined her hiding. Too frightened to move, too frightened to stay in one place for long enough to be found.

She would be cold and hungry and alone and all I wanted to do was find her, take care of her and protect her.

I started thinking how I could never have another cat.

That all it would do was remind me of who it was replacing.

And that wouldn’t be fair on the new cat.

I felt a real and deep sense of loss.

Why did Rosie have to run out?

Why hadn’t I noticed her escape when I walked in?

How could an evening go so bad so quickly?

Then the phone rang. It was Jill.

Rosie had just walked into the lounge from somewhere in the apartment.

THE LITTLE BITCH.

THE BEAUTIFUL, ADORABLE, WONDERFUL LITTLE BITCH.

The sense of relief was incredible. I mean totally out-of-proportion incredible.

Except it wasn’t really ‘out-of-proportion incredible’ because while she’s a cat, she’s a member of our family.

I used to snort in derision when people used to say that, but it’s true.

We know each others ‘ways’ and indulge each other – whether that’s letting her meow at 7am to announce she wants breakfast or me waking her up with pats when she’s curled up – which is why I live in the delusional belief that had she escaped into the wilderness on that cold, lonely night in Shanghai, years later we might have come face-to-face again and when it happened, the reaction would be something like this …

Happy Monday.




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