28 October 2011

I'm not a dick, really


In the past couple days I've twice been reminded of a bitter truth: I'm a total prick.

Not really, obviously. In fact I'm a friendly, outgoing, considerate, compassionate, pleasant, heartwarming, deadly handsome and impossibly modest person. I'm also hilarious.

However, that doesn't always read to a stranger. In fact, in my efforts to be charming and funny, which I do almost ceaselessly, I've managed to come off as a right prick.

On back-to-back days. On the first occasion I was out with Marbles to have cake and discuss our next project. The cake shop was empty when we showed up at around 5:30. Politely considerate of the wishes of the staff we inquired if they would soon be closing. After first assuring us they would be happy to stay open as long as we were there, the waiter embarked on some banter-ish comments about ways that he would indicate when they were ready to close - putting up chairs, banging dishes etc.

We were all enjoying a light chuckle when I told him: "Actually, that would be great. I respond really well to passive aggression."

There was an awkward pause. And then he walked off. It was clear that my response - somehow - went too far. It was not as funny as I imagined, and my tone sounded mildly threatening. My quip also introduced an unexpected neologism and unpleasant psychological condition into a conversation about cake.

What can I say? I got caught up in the chat of the moment.

The second occasion was the very next day. I was shopping at Boots. I needed some floss; I go through a lot of floss. On my trip to the floss aisle I was waylaid by a '3 for 2' sale of men's beauty products. Now I'm aware that men shouldn't have beauty products, they should be 'handsomeness tools', but nonetheless I stopped, and after minutes of agonizing deliberation I selected for purchase some moisturizer, some aftershave, and some other product which I don't remember, but may one day prove useful.

I then continued on to the floss aisle. A shop assistant, who had noticed me lingering at the Men's Sexiness Aisle, looked at me and asked

"Did you know that those products are on sale?"

"That's why I have three of them." I smarmed.

My response was meant to be a warm affirmation with a hint of thanks, but as soon as the words escaped my lips I realized that I actually sounded like a patronizing cunt. I was probably just as stunned as she was.

I turned away to avoid making further eye contact, quickly grabbed some floss and headed for the tills.

How could my words, so quickly formed in my mind as instruments of good-natured and light-hearted bonding and bonhomie, turn so acid when they reach shared air?

Thankfully, I've discovered the answer: it's not because I'm a dick, it's because I'm perpetually misunderstood. Yep, that's it. And this is fantastic news. I can now continue to act like a total dickhole (even if unintentionally), and cultivate an air of victimization. I can work on my non-verbal cues for: "Sorry if I'm a dick, but it's not my fault! The world just doesn't get me."

I think I'll start with a peacoat and a notebook, maybe add in some rapid blinking and a furrowed brow, and then just see how I go.

There. I don't know how all the strangers I'm rude to will take it, but I already feel better.


17 October 2011

21st Century Dodos: A Guesting

There's a book just out called 21st Century Dodos. It's about stuff (and other things) that have gone extinct.

I often find myself thinking, now that I'm old enough to reminisce, about driving to 7-11 on a Saturday night to see who's there, because there was no other way of knowing, or staying home on a Thursday evening so I wouldn't miss my favourite TV shows. You know, nostalgia for hallmarks of my bygone era. So the book sounded like my kind of thing.

Then I found out, via the author's twitter feed, that he was doing a blog tour, so I invited him here to London Mewsings. He agreed, and fit me in between Writers Little Helper and My Little Notepad. He also sent me a copy of the book, and I have to say it's great - not only because he sent me a signed copy, though that certainly was awesome. So I turn it over to Steve Pack.

Greetings one and all.

Thanks to Ryan for allowing me to gatecrash his blog today. Is it gatecrashing if you have permission? Probably not. Anyway, it is nice to be here.

It isn’t just a social call though, I have come along to plug my new book, 21st Century Dodos. It is a collection of (sometimes) humorous articles about inanimate objects. Specifically, the sort of objects that surrounded many of us when we were younger but which are now finding themselves on the scrapheap due to the relentless march of progress. You know the sort of thing: VHS tapes, 10p mix-up bags, that clock that used to count down to the start of schools programmes on BBC2. All of these and over a hundred more are celebrated and commemorated in the book. I suspect it is destined for toilet libraries rather than reference libraries, but I am OK with that.

Here is a sneak preview of one of the more obscure entries, something that many of you may not recall at all. But I bet some of you do.

Election Vans with Loudspeakers

Before the days of 24-hour news channels, Twitter, and all things internet-related, politicians had to really put in some graft if they wanted to be elected. There was the door-to-door canvassing, the kissing of babies, and driving around in a van that had a loudspeaker on the roof. It sounds daft now, if you have never seen such a thing, but it was standard procedure at the time. Seriously.

A big speaker or loudhailer would be strapped to the roof of an available vehicle, and the prospective MP would be driven around town while trying to convince people to vote for him or her. Usually this involved inspired and unforgettable rhetoric, such as, ‘Vote for Peter Jones, I’m the man for you’ or some such nonsense.

It was like the ice cream van of your nightmares.

Usually the arrival of said van would be greeted by jeers from builders hanging off scaffolding (if it was a Tory candidate) or a disapproving look from posh women in headscarves (if Labour). I presume it must have had some effect, though, as politicians did it for years.

Now they just poke you on Facebook or something.


Amazon link . Or go here if you like them newfangled Kindles .

And thanks Steve, it was a pleasure having you.


15 October 2011

Doug Segal Knows What I'm Thinking

When Doug Segal came on stage, I had to quickly re-calibrate my expectations. He was not, as I had somehow convinced myself, an awkward nerd in his late twenties. Nope he was a hairy-chested, brash belt-buckle sporting, middle-aged former ad agency man.

How had I so misjudged him? I think I confused him with another guy named Doug I went to high school with 15 years ago. Clearly a mind like mine wouldn't be easy to read. Right? Wrong.

He read my mind. And then he blew my mind.

The first thing Segal did was toss some ping pong balls into the audience. and once he had six audience members - myself included - to pick a number between 1 and 49. The six numbers we picked were all sealed in an envelope sealed inside another envelope... ON A LOTTERY TICKET HE HAD BOUGHT EARLIER!

Think about that for a moment; I've been thinking about it ever since.

From that opener the show just tilted into even more amazing feats. To me it seems like magic, but Segal is careful to explain that he uses no magic or audience plants, just "persuasion techniques, statistics, reading body language, subliminal influence and two key advertising skills: 'cheating and lying'”. He moves through a number of different set pieces of audience participation involving planting suggestions, predicting responses and plucking words and numbers out of people's minds. Each one slightly different, and all impressive.

On the night I saw the show suffered a little from a strangely subdued audience - relative to the awe-inspiring stunts taking place on stage. It might be a culture thing - the crowd was quite international - but where I'm from, people don't teach other people to read minds in the space of five minutes (as Doug did in the finale).

The show ran overtime, which I suspect was a result of Segal working so hard to get and keep the Greek-heavy crowd onboard. But the length notwithstanding, afterwards most of the audience was milling around the pub downstairs, eager to shower him with chat and compliments when he emerged.

Rightly so. "I Know What You're Thinking" is a show well worth seeing - whether tonight, or when it tours - which it surely must be doing soon.

Though I unfortunately wasn't given the ability to read minds (as I thought I had been promised), Doug Segal showed me that it can be done - without pomp and artifice.


13 October 2011

Globe and Mail Caption Writer/Hero


This week the Globe and Mail's 'Celebrity Photos of the Week' slideshow was captioned by some person with a scathing sense of humour, and a naked support for the Occupy Wall Street Protesters. I appreciate punchy writing. And if that punchy writing is wryly subversive and appears (presumably surreptitiously) in a major media outlet, then I classify that person as a hero.

Not only did they wittily pierce the masturbatory self-aggrandizement of celebrity culture, they managed to slip in some photos of protesters as well. Click through for more.

Maybe the person responsible was on their way out the door anyway, and left this as a parting shot.

And if it's a Globe and Mail stunt to offer a hat tip to protesters and the whole Occupy movement then kudos to them. Or maybe the site was hacked?

Regardless, it's affirming and hilarious. I've screencapped and annotated a few standouts below.

The moment when we realize that the beautiful Sofia Vergara is not campaigning for higher taxes for the wealthy is a sad one.

A defiant and angry protester. But he's not famous. Yet.

Yeah, he does kinda look like a dick, now that you mention it, caption-writer.

Set up.



Some captions aren't witty jokes. this one just tells it like it is.

A simple but important message, regardless of what Sofia Vergara may or may not be campaigning for.
Yeah. Mad respect.


10 October 2011

Astronautilus - Contrails (Video)

Astronautilus went to Vancouver and made a video with Tegan Quinn (of Tegan & Sara). Click through and enjoy.

If you're looking for more Astronautilus, head over to YouTube and check out some of his freestyles.


06 October 2011

Streetwear, so street

Levi's has new jeans out. The line is known as Levi's Streetwear Collection. For some years now I've been enjoying thinking of jeans not as clothing, but as a project.

For someone who sucks at DIY (like myself), breaking in raw denim goes right up there with assembling IKEA furniture as a project. But it's better than IKEA because breaking in denim has the advantage of being personal and custom fitting.

Now my mind has changed again. Because this new line of Levi's is the opposite of raw, and I love them.

The Cordura fabric has more than 4x the resistance to abrasion compared to regular denim, and all jeans feature thick black bar tacks at all stress points, triple-layered belt loops and a reinforced back pocket. They've also got some elastane for extra mobility, plus tonnes of other features, like a Black Tab and rubber coated hem.

The whole ethos - street-built and hard-wearing - sells me from the off, and I'm not alone, they're selling out in selected stores across the UK.

Levi's® Streetwear Collection- Look Book Fall 2011 from LEVI'S® on Vimeo.

Full disclosure: I've been doing some copywriting for Levi's Streetwear.
Fuller disclosure: I'm wearing a pair right now, and never want to take them off.