December 11, 2014

In Which The Author Appreciates Why Amazon Might Sometimes Be Not So Bad, or, Why British People Can't Go Anywhere

Two months ago I wrapped up Conversations With Greatness, which for the last two years has been pretty much the only regular content on this blog. The plan was to start putting the time I'd been spending on CWG into actually writing on the blog more frequently, but this hasn't happened because my timing was terrible; in November I drove up to Edinburgh for my second festival of the year here, Edinburgh's Christmas, and since then I have pretty much not had time to do anything except Edinburgh's Christmas. (Also, eat sausages. Because I also haven't had time to buy food most days, except from the German market stalls on site.)

Another thing I haven't had time to do since Edinburgh's Christmas started is go to the bookstore, to do a favour for a friend back in London who wants to give a signed copy of my book to someone for a Christmas gift. (Side note: this is probably the best idea for a Christmas gift you will come across this year. It's certainly the best one I've ever heard in my life.) Since he's still in London and I'm in Edinburgh, it seemed like the easiest thing to do would be for me to buy one here to sign and send, and get reimbursed later. So today, two weeks after promising to do so, off I went to the Waterstones on Princes Street.

I picked this Waterstones specifically, because my book was listed as in stock on their website, so I figured I wouldn't have to awkwardly ask someone if they had my own book. (As an added element of shame, Alexander McCall Smith was just leaving when I got there, having spent the evening signing copies of his book that OTHER PEOPLE were buying.) But when I went searching for my book it was neither in the Scottish Fiction section where it has previously been shelved in this store (because I've checked, because I have a sad authorly existence), nor was it in the general fiction section. So there went my ingenious plan...
ME: This is embarrassing, but... I need to buy a copy of my own book, and I can't find it.


ME [wondering what sort of tone adequately expresses "I don't expect you to know my name"]: Andrew Ladd.

KSBC: Okay... [taps at keyboard; frowns] What Ends, is it?

ME: That's the one.

KSBC: Is it... Scottish Fiction?

ME: Yes, but I checked there already and couldn't find it.

KSBC: Well, you should probably look upstairs in general fiction then. I expect it's been mis-shelved.

ME [knowing full well that it is not in general fiction, because I have already checked there too, but not wanting KSBC to feel unhelpful]: Oh, okay. Thank you.
I then went upstairs and pretended to check in general fiction again, considered asking another clerk but suddenly realised I didn't want to be the guy in the bookstore telling every employee I was an author, and finally returned downstairs to check the Scottish fiction section again, causing KSBC to cast a concerned glance in my direction from the till. After another few seconds exaggeratedly looking at the shelves for his benefit, I walked back over to him.
KSBC: Still no luck?

ME: No. Sorry.

KSBC [motioning to the clerk beside him]: Well, if you wait a second and ask my colleague, he'll probably be able to help. He's in charge of the Scottish Fiction section.

...a few moments pass...
GUY IN CHARGE OF SCOTTISH FICTION SECTION: So what was it you were looking for?

ME [now more self-conscious than ever about being the guy mentioning he's an author to every bookstore employee he sees]: It's, uh... What Ends. The book is called What Ends.

GICOSFS: Is there a question mark after that?

ME: No.

GICOSFS: Hmm. It says it's in stock. I know I've seen it. Weird.

ME [now regretting not telling him I'm the author in case KSBC has already mentioned it]: [nervous chuckle]

GICOSFS: Oh, hang on. It says it's in stock because it just came in this morning. I'll have to go get it from the back.
GICOSFS proceeded to disappear for what was probably five minutes but felt like fifteen. At one point I saw him leave the back room he had gone into and disappear into an elevator. I didn't even know this bookstore had an elevator. It was taking him so long I was really starting to regret not telling him I was the author, because if he thought I was just a normal customer this was probably no big deal, but if KSBC had mentioned it then GICOSFS was probably thinking, Jesus, who is this jackass who's sending me on a wild goose chase ten minutes before closing time to find him a copy of his own goddamn book, and won't even own up to it?

At last he reappeared clutching a copy of my book, and took me back to the till to pay. By this point I was kind of hoping that when I handed over my card he would notice my name and we could have a good laugh about it, so that I wouldn't leave with him still thinking I was jackass (or, worse, with me wondering if he thought I was a jackass)—but in the end he barely even looked at it. Then he gave me two extra stamps on my loyalty card, which he said was for "being so patient," and I was on my way.

Anyway, if you're reading, Guy In Charge Of Scottish Fiction Section at the Waterstones West End in Edinburgh: sorry if you thought I was a jackass. And thank you for being so helpful.

November 13, 2014

Burying the Hachette

From Amazon and Hachette Resolve Dispute
Amazon and Hachette announced Thursday that they had resolved their differences and signed a new multiyear contract, bringing an official end to a publishing dispute that blossomed into a major cultural and business brawl.
In an excruciating PR exercise that both companies realised was increasingly necessary, given how much money they were both losing and how petty it was starting to seem to even the most passionate observers on both sides, they expressed their satisfaction with the terms of their new agreement in breathtakingly vague, whitewashed pleasantries.
“This is great news for writers,” Michael Pietsch, Hachette’s chief executive, said in a statement. An Amazon executive, David Naggar, said Amazon was “pleased with this new agreement." [...] Neither Amazon nor Hachette would comment beyond their statements.
But the authors whose hackles were raised during the months-long negotiations are less sanguine.
“I’m relieved that Amazon and Hachette reached an agreement,” Mr. Preston [founder of Authors United, an organisation formed in response to the negotiations] said. But, he added: “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”
Mr Preston added. "I dunno, does that analogy seem forced? I feel like it seems forced. Time to kill some darlings!"
Authors United and the Authors Guild are in the midst of writing a lengthy letter to the Justice Department.
Of COURSE they are. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.
AUTHOR 1: "Frankly, we are shocked and appalled that the government would stand by while an organisation like Amazon, whose business model alone seems sometimes to verge on antitrust, dismantles the publishing industry."

AUTHOR 2: Dismantles? Demolishes? Decimates.

AUTHOR 1: Decimates is a little melodramatic, don't you think?

AUTHOR 2: You can talk. You covet melodrama like Napoleon coveted territory.

AUTHOR 1: That analogy seems forced.

AUTHOR 2: YOU seem forced.

AUTHOR 1: I mean, why not go with Genghis Khan? Hitler? Napoleon feels awfully bland, really.

AUTHOR 3: I wrote a prologue to this preamble if someone wants to take a look!
N.B. I will still gladly accept a publishing deal with Hachette. Call me, Pietsch!

October 28, 2014

Correction of the Week

Seen on this HuffPo article about a man at Dallas airport who started trying to beat up another guy while yelling homophobic slurs:
Update: An earlier version of this story noted that had reported actor Paul Rudd was part of the group that took down the homophobic bully. However, it apparently was not Rudd.
I have no idea whether the man being beaten up was actually gay, by the way. He also appears to first provoke the (drunk?) man by taking pictures of him with his phone. But the "reporting" here leaves a little to be desired, so it's hard to say. Probably because the newsgathering went like this:

HUFFPO CONTRIBUTOR: Okay, time to get to the bottom of what really happened he—OH MY GOD IS THAT PAUL RUDD? [*files report*]

Please bear with me as I (hopefully) ease back into blogging more regularly.

October 25, 2014


Got the following through my letterbox last night:

They bill themselves as a "noodle and pizza house" so I guess the "noodle" part is as in, "you will have to use your noodle to figure out just what the heck we're talking about."

October 24, 2014

It's Hard to Keitel the Difference

Has anyone else noticed the striking resemblance between Academy Award–nominated actor Harvey Keitel, and the exiled first President of Lithuania Antanas Smetona?

Also, the Lithuanian Vikipedija entry on Smetona is suspiciously short compared to the English Wikipedia one.

Also also, the name of Smetona's prime minister was basically Lord Volemort.

October 21, 2014

Finished With Greatness

Several people have remarked to me over the past year that the overarching storyline in Conversations With Greatness since January or so—Karl Marx fading into obscurity—had a swan song–ish quality to it. And, indeed, those same people (and other regular readers) can't have failed to notice that the comic strip went quietly into the night two weeks ago. It was almost exactly ten years since the very first instalment appeared.

Back then, I was starting my second year of a sociology degree at McGill—my fourth year of university overall—and my friends found Conversations With Greatness cool in the overwhelmingly enthusiastic, you're-going-to-change-the-world way that only college students can really find things cool. (What happened to us, guys?) It was probably thanks to their encouragement that I kept it up, or in any event that I kept it up beyond, say, the first twenty or thirty strips, when it inevitably began to require more effort beyond the obvious jokes.

Then, a week or two shy of the two-year anniversary of the strip, I moved to London and took a job at an investment bank. This probably would have been a natural time to wind things down, between my first 9-to-5 and my new improv group and my capoeira classes. Certainly my new friends at the bank, while really lovely people, were not reading my web comic about the father of socialism. But the old Montreal crowd had a remarkably robust online presence back then, and I continued to blush at their enthusiasm, so I kept it chugging away.

Within a few more months I'd been accepted to grad school, so just a month or two shy of the three-year anniversary of the strip, I moved back to Boston and was plunged back into academe. Here I discovered that, shit, people in the program were Googling me, and when they found the comic some of them were wildly enthusiastic about it too, in the overwhelmingly dry and quietly admiring way that only grad students can really find things cool. (What happened to us, guys?) That was when I really revamped the CWG website, buying a URL for it, and coming up with a more professional way to present the strips, and opening the CafePress store for merchandise—which, seven years later, has still sold precisely nothing outside my immediate family.

By now I'd pretty much scraped down to the last of the sociology jokes (probably for the better), and on enrolling in my writing program I considered adding a famous dead author to the cast—Sartre or something—to keep things fresh, and also to give myself the same opportunity to vent homework frustrations that Marx et al. had given me back at McGill. In the end, though, I decided against it, because I wanted to keep the spirit of the strip intact; to keep indulging my nerdy social sciences side rather than letting the strip get taken over by whatever was forefront in my day-to-day life.

What's funny, though, looking back at the strips from grad school, is how much my day-to-day life took over anyway. This was the year of Obama's historic first campaign, so for two months I ran nothing but election jokes (featuring Canada as a recurring character). When there was a blizzard on my birthday, there was a blizzard in the strip. When my neighbour kept stealing my newspaper, someone stole Marx's newspaper. I even copied a pick-up line I used on the future Mrs Pundigrion, more or less verbatim. (I'm not going to link to that one.)

On the other hand, keeping up the strip also gave me a good reason to keep indulging my nerdy social science side, just as I'd hoped; when a new magazine piece or right-wing politician or book discussed Marx or Engels (or one of the other cast members), I read it. Proximately this was to find new material for the strip, but ultimately it was a way to stay connected to those happy years during my undergrad degree. (Not that I wasn't still happy, you understand. But nostalgia and all that.)

Anyway, it was only after I moved to New York, in the strip's eighth and ninth years, that I started to think seriously about winding things down. Partly I didn't want to drag it out long after it should have ended, à la the Simpsons. Partly ten years seemed like a nice round number. But mostly, to be honest, with another 9-to-5 and my book getting published, I really wanted to devote most of my spare time to writing.

On the other hand, I also didn't want to just end it; I wanted a satisfying denouement. (Blame the novelist in me.) That's how I landed on the fading-from-existence idea, because with 50 strips per year I could fade out Marx by 2% a week, and though at first that would be completely undetectable, by going back and looking at it later you'd be able to see the early signs of trouble—just like a good book.

And now, here we are, all finished. I'm not going to say that my life feels hugely different now, because, you know... Come on. It's a web comic that like thirty people read. (Except on the rare occasions when my dad forwards a particular one around his colleagues, usually because it's making fun of Steven Pinker. Then, maybe fifty people.) But looking back at the five hundred weeks of silly jokes—"The greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century acting like idiots," as one friend put it—I'm proud of the accomplishment. I still giggle at some of the older punchlines I'd forgotten writing. And somewhere, hopefully, a fresh-faced social science nerd is giggling too.

October 10, 2014

October 03, 2014

October 02, 2014

Cookie Fail

While following some Facebook clickbait to an anti-Tea Party website today, my browser search history got the better of me...

Another one for the dust jacket, I guess.

September 26, 2014

September 21, 2014

Whenever God Closes A Door, He Opens A Window

I think one of the subs at the Times needs a vacation.

September 19, 2014

September 18, 2014

Let Auntie Take Care Of It

I guess this must be that BBC bias that everyone is talking about.

September 13, 2014

Isn't An Indie Ref Someone Who Follows His Own Rules?

It's been almost three months since I actually wrote anything on this blog, but I thought the Scottish independence referendum was as good a time to get back in the saddle as any. I fully expect that this dramatic, triumphant return will definitively swing the result in the No camp's favour.

First, though, I need to apologise to my former music teacher (you'll see why later): I’m sorry, Miss Macleod. I’d also like to apologise, before we really get into the nitty gritty here, to my former self, for not predicting, as I was starting work six years ago on what is now my first published novel, that I’d one day be attempting to launch it the month before Scotland’s independence referendum. Sorry, past Andrew.

I don’t mean to suggest that the referendum’s most important consequence will be—for me or for anyone—the ultimate success or failure of my novel. But trying to launch a book about Scotland in pre-referendum Scotland, while living in the dread England, does bring sharply into focus personal anxieties that have plagued me for several decades now.

I’ve written about some of these anxieties previously, elsewhere. For example, at the excellent Big Truths last week, I explored at length how often I face questions about whether I’m a “real” Scot—because, despite spending pretty much the first seventeen years of my life in Scotland, I’ve since spent most of my time in Canada and the U.S., and so I no longer sound particularly Scottish. And then there was the essay I wrote for Necessary Fiction, published shortly after my novel’s U.S. launch, in which I discussed, well, this:
I was terrified that while American readers would be blithely reading the book as Scottish, Scottish readers would be just as blithely sneering at me as a fraud—as some dilettante wannabe writing another “Scottish” book, one which failed to capture real life in Scotland any more convincingly than Mike Myers’s Fat Bastard.
All of this came to a swirling, gut-wrenching maelstrom in the past month, as the release date for my book’s U.K. edition drew closer in lockstep with the referendum. When my publicist booked me on BBC Radio Scotland to discuss the book, I swithered: would the Scottish presenter take note of my funny accent and dismiss me (and my book) on the spot? I mean, when I met my publisher in person for the very first time, she told me I’d have to work on my accent, “because we’re selling you as a Scottish author.” She was joking, I think. But if even the people on my side don’t buy my Scottishness, I remember thinking, how was I supposed to win over dubious members of the Scottish public at the highest heights of their patriotic fervour?

Then there was the sinking feeling I got when one of my publisher’s Scottish sales reps casually mentioned to my editor that, oh, by the way, though my novel follows the McCloud family, hardly anyone in Scotland spells it “McCloud.” (Far more often we use “Macleod.”) I knew this, reader! I knew it I knew it I knew it! That's why I felt the need to open by apologising to my old music teacher, because her brown bob and constant, optimistic chattering stick with me to this day.

It was just that, somehow, I had managed to spend five years drafting and redrafting my Scottish novel without it once clicking that I had all the major characters’ surname spelt wrong. I have no idea which of my lazy neurons managed to bring about such a glaring, unintentional faux pas—but try telling that to someone with a bee in their bonnet about people in England not understanding Scottish issues! Here I was living in London and I couldn’t even spell the damn names right. I was sure I was going to get skewered.

I probably would have felt this way even without the impending referendum, of course, but like I said, the political situation inevitably made things a little starker. And that fear I felt, so tangibly magnified, has really solidified my feeling that independence is a bad idea. I don’t pretend to know definitively whether it would benefit the country long term, or harm it—though the most compelling analyses I’ve read suggest the latter—but I do know, viscerally and deeply and now from experience, that drawing arbitrary lines about national identity is not a good idea.

In my case there’s obviously a very germane personal aspect to that feeling, because by the somewhat narrow definition of Scottish citizenship laid out in the independence white paper, I wouldn’t immediately qualify—I wasn’t born in Scotland, and I haven’t lived there for years. Yet I was raised there, my parents still live there, my home is still there, and my friends and my old teachers and my heart. Without a doubt, I’m more Scottish than anything else.

And yes, again, I’m just one person, and this is just one very esoteric slice of the much larger independence debate. But I’m not the only person in this position, and it’s not a trivial point—because what sort of country will Scotland be if one of its first acts is so nakedly exclusionary? When it’s born, as a new independent nation, voting yes but saying no? Saying sorry, but actually you’re not Scottish enough, you don’t sound right, and, yeesh, you can’t even spell Macleod?

If this seems to be making light of the referendum, that’s not my intent. I care about Scotland a lot, and I can acknowledge that the vote is an important one. But here I am, a Scottish novelist launching my first novel—a paean to the Hebrides—and instead of being excited I spend half my time worrying that I’ll get bullied by the nationalists. That’s not just a matter of my neuroses; it’s a very real fact about the consequences of a yes vote for everyone who calls Scotland home. Because what much of the debate boils down to is: what is Scottish enough? And I fear for the people who make that cut as much as those who don’t.

September 12, 2014

September 05, 2014

August 29, 2014

August 22, 2014

August 15, 2014

August 08, 2014

August 01, 2014

July 25, 2014

July 18, 2014

July 11, 2014

July 04, 2014

Conversations With Greatness CDLXXXVI

Apologies for the lack of CWG last week—I was on vacation. Normal service now resumes!

June 20, 2014

June 13, 2014

June 08, 2014

BREAKING: New York City The Only City In The World With A Lot Of Immigrants, Bars That Show Football

From the New York Times: Watching the World’s Game, in the World’s City
Outside Brazil, there is no better place to experience the world’s sport than the world’s city.
Ahem. FUCK. RIGHT. OFF. Have you tried, perhaps, any city in a country that gives a shit? But no, my mistake, I'm sorry:
On a gloriously sunny afternoon recently, Lunasa, an East Village pub, was packed seven deep at the bar.
Seven deep! Wow! Here is Berlin during the last World Cup:

And here is Rome,and here is Paris after the final in 1998, and here is goddamn Toronto. You know, that city in that country north of you that is "totally lame"?

Now kindly get down off your high fucking horse and accept that other than your—admittedly great—subway system, you are a pretty average city whose averageness is inexplicably not reflected in its cost of living.

June 06, 2014

June 03, 2014

The Da Vinci Goal

I like a lot of things about this Telegraph article about how "Bill Clinton’s fury at [World Cup] vote triggered [a] global search for [the] truth [about how Qatar was awarded the 2022 tournament]." For a start I appreciate the suggestion that FIFA might take the World Cup away from Qatar and give it to another country that I might actually consider visiting.

But the thing I enjoy most is that the article itself reads like the opening chapter of a Dan Brown book:
Bill Clinton looked anything but happy as he strode into the Savoy Baur en Ville hotel in Zurich in December 2010. The receptionists could tell he was irritated, but had no idea just how angry he was.

After closing the door to his suite, he reached for an ornament on a table and threw it at a wall mirror in a fit of rage, shattering the glass.

The former US president, who had spent two years travelling the world glad-handing members of football’s governing body, Fifa, could not believe America’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup had been beaten by, of all places, Qatar.

Mr Clinton, the honorary chairman of the US bid, had wheeled out such big-hitters as Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Morgan Freeman and Spike Lee to add lustre to the US Soccer Federation bid. Australia and Japan’s bids had seemed the biggest threat, but few had seriously entertained the idea that Qatar, a footballing desert, could win.


In a modestly furnished office in the Nikita Towers, the tallest building in the second-largest city in the Philippines, Sepp Blatter, the eighth president of FIFA, looked at the newspaper with a thinly disguised expression of pure terror.

It had been nearly seven months since he had first encountered Clinton, during one of the former president's much ballyhooed PR junkets, and yet even now the animal instincts triggered by that first meeting chilled Blatter's blood.

Clinton had passed Blatter in the corridor that day, his charcoal grey Armani suit scented with a delicate yet masculine perfume and swishing sophisticatedly as he walked, and with his eyes had sent an unmistakable message: "cross me," that message had read, "and I will make you pay."

And now, it seemed, that day had come. Clinton wasn't just furious. He was destroying hotel suites in his wake, leaking the details to journalists, and sending an unmistakable message: "I know what's happened here, Blatter," that message read, "and I won't rest until justice has been done."


In the hallowed halls of the United States Senate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had returned to her old stomping grounds. With a knowing smile, she strode decisively through the chambers where she had first cut her teeth as a United States senator. How desperate she had been then, she remembered now, to put her past legacy as the First Lady of the United States behind her.

Suddenly, she felt an unmistakable buzzing in the pocket of her slacks, and reached into it for to grab her cellular phone. She looked at the screen, and read the name there with a gasp.



May 30, 2014

May 23, 2014

May 16, 2014

May 09, 2014

May 02, 2014

April 28, 2014

Technical Difficulties

Apologies for the lack of CWG last week—my laptop with Photoshop on it has been out of commission. All will be well again by this Friday.

In the meantime... Uh... Buy my book?

April 18, 2014

April 11, 2014

April 04, 2014

March 28, 2014

March 26, 2014

Yet Another Open Letter to Andrew Ladd

Dear Andrew Ladd,

You never acknowledged my previous two open letters, I suspect because you didn't read them. So I doubt you'll be reading this one, either.

Just in case you are, though, I thought I'd drop you a quick line in solidarity.

See, at the beginning of the week my Google Alerts exploded with the news that your second child was born on Sunday (congratulations, by the way). As a result, you sat out your team's Monday night game to stay at home and, you know, be with your wife and new daughter.

Then, my Google Alerts exploded with the news that a bunch of jerks on Twitter were "slamming" you for sitting out Monday night's game. (I would think you're used to getting slammed, as a hockey player, but I guess that doesn't necessarily mean you enjoy it.)

Anyway, the angry tweeters' logic (if you can call it that) is that playing hockey is your job, and that, because your employer is still tenuously hanging onto the possibility of a postseason, you have a responsibility to turn up. Your absence on Monday night was akin, in their minds, to a CEO taking a day off the week before a major product launch.

Well, I call bull on them. For one thing, they live in Canada, which has some of the most generous parental leave benefits in the world. As a Canadian, Andrew Ladd, you're legally entitled to time off from your job when you have a child, no matter what you do. So don't let some snotty blogger make you feel bad about it.

But more to the point, anyone "slamming" you for this needs to get a freakin' life. You're a person first and a hockey player second, Andrew Ladd, and if the Winnipeg Jets' playoff prospects are really so important to some Twitter troll that he can't acknowledge, you know, your basic humanity... Well, I think that's pretty ridiculous.

Anyway, Andrew Ladd, I just wanted to let you know that I've got your back on this one. After all, like I keep saying: if we Andrew Ladds can't count on each other, who can we count on? Right?

Yours, as always, in homonymery,

Andrew Ladd

March 21, 2014

March 17, 2014

Snappy Turtles

The other day I fell down a Wikipedia rabbit hole—or maybe I should called it a Wikipedia sewer—and came across this:
To capitalize on the Turtles' popularity, a concert tour was held in 1990, premiering at Radio City Music Hall on August 17. The "Coming Out of Their Shells" tour featured live-action turtles playing music as a band (Donatello, keyboards; Leonardo, bass guitar; Raphael, drums and sax; Michelangelo, guitar) on stage around a familiar plotline: April O'Neil is kidnapped by the Shredder, and the turtles have to rescue her.
Help me out here, American readers: did people know about this at the time? Was it a big deal? Because over here in the U.K. I didn't hear a thing about it. Although that's probably just as well because I would have bugged the crap out of my parents about wanting to go see what is clearly one of the most awesome musical concepts in history.

Also awesome is everything that was written about the tour. I challenge you to find anything more early-Nineties than this excerpt from the New York Times' (!!!) review of the show:
The Turtles perform the songs from the album, dancing in a line like the New Kids on the Block, flaunting guitars like a hard-rock band, even striking the poses of rappers. The turtle costumes are impressive; mouths move and eyes roll by remote control. And the stage set is worthy of Motley Crue.
Yup, that's right, they compared the show to NKOTB and Motley Crue IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH. But as far as comparisons go, I think this line from the Wikipedia article is probably my favourite, not to mention a great coinage of a new adjective:
The story had a very Bill-n'-Ted-esque feel, with its theme of the power of rock n' roll literally defeating the enemy, in the form of the Shredder (who only rapped about how he hates music) trying to eliminate all music.
Bill-n'-Ted-esque! I'm going to start using that one in my day-to-day life for sure. e.g.

"I couldn't get out of bed this morning until Motley Crue started playing on the radio. It was totally Bill-n'-Ted-esque."

"My co-workers were having a huge argument today, so I just slipped on my headphones and zoned out, all Bill-n'-Ted-esque."

"Oh man. Did you see the last episode of Breaking Bad? It was Bill-n'-Ted-esque to the max." **

And so, the internet has performed its function yet again. Goodnight.

**I haven't actually seen the last episode of Breaking Bad so I don't know if this is accurate.

March 14, 2014

March 07, 2014

March 06, 2014

Missing the Forest for the Tweets

From the Guardian: Cameron's 'on-the-phone-to-Obama' selfie tweet parodied by celebrities

To get everyone on the same page:

1. David Cameron exhibited some social media tone-deafness yesterday.
2. Lots of people on social media made fun of David Cameron about said tone-deafness today, including comedian Rob Delaney and actor Patrick Stewart.

And just to remind everyone of a few of the pages before that, too:

-1. Russia invaded the Crimea.
0. Nobody seems to be able to convince Russia to stop invading the Crimea.

Now, I get it: David Cameron's tweet was dumb, and it's pretty funny seeing people use things as phones that don't actually look like phones. (To wit.) And maybe this is just some kind of mass psychological coping mechanism for dealing with the frankly pretty horrific reality of politics in the former soviet bloc. I would be okay with that. Heck, I even giggled at the whole thing myself.

But why is this being covered in the Guardian? In the Independent? In USA Today? It's not news that comedians make jokes. It's not even news that David Cameron is figuratively tone-deaf, in social media or otherwise. It is news that Britain is accusing Russia of violating international law. Jesus. The Triple Entente is crumbling, guys!

And yeah, okay, I'm sure all those newspapers also carried serious pieces covering the recent developments in the actual story (well... maybe not USA Today). But why can't we just leave Twitter to the tweeters? If you care enough about Twitter to care about this story, you already knew about it before the Guardian came along, so why waste time/money/etc. "reporting" it to an audience who actually wants news? Bookending this kind of serious political story with "look at this guy talking into some toothpaste" trivialises journalism and it trivialises the awful shit going on in the Crimea right now.

Again, not to say people shouldn't let off steam on Twitter, or that I didn't find it funny. But non-overlapping magisteria, you know?

February 28, 2014

February 21, 2014

February 14, 2014

February 07, 2014

February 03, 2014

Dip That In Your Tea

From the Telegraph: McVitie's in £12m relaunch 'with emotion'
United Biscuits has announced a £12m relaunch of its McVitie’s brand after a year of research into the “emotional role biscuits play in our lives”.
I won't lie: my plan, when I first saw this news slug, was to toss off a few lines about how only the British could coin a phrase as simultaneously charming and ridiculous as "the emotional role of biscuits," and be done with it. (Other great quotes from the various articles covering this story: "We knew that our biscuits have a surprisingly important place in people’s lives—people relate to them in very emotional way"; "Imagine a world without biscuits. It would be such a cold, sad place.")

But then I got sucked into reading about how genuinely excited everyone is about the new campaign, over at McVitie's and their advertising agency, and, so help me, my cynicism got the better of me.
The new campaign, which features three TV adverts that include cute puppies, kittens and a Tarsier monkey, will be expected to drive social conversations and shares for the company
N.B. I realise that I am, in fact, driving social conversation about the company by writing this. Touché. If your secret, double-bluff marketing campaign was to talk so jejunely about your marketing campaign that people couldn't help but poke fun at it, you've succeeded. Because:
“We wanted a big fame-driving idea and no one has ever seen any advertising quite like this” Heynen told The Drum while discussing the new brand strategy.
Seriously? Nobody has ever seen advertising featuring cute puppies before? You've heard of, uh, toilet paper, right?

United Biscuits' marketing director clarified:
“The new advertising moves away from communicating what McVitie's biscuits do, to how they make you feel... It’s a big, surprising idea and one that will really get us noticed."
Wait wait wait, so you're saying that advertising doesn't only have to literally show you what a product does anymore? You're right; that will get you noticed. By THE MARLBORO MAN.

By the way, if you're a cynic yourself, and suspect I am taking quotes out of context to make my subjects appear foolish, here is the full text:
“The new advertising moves away from communicating what McVitie's biscuits do, to how they make you feel. ‘Sweeet’ – this is the expression and the feeling that we get from eating a McVitie's biscuit and it’s what links all elements of the master brand campaign together. The idea was developed by our newly appointed advertising agency Grey London. It’s a big, surprising idea and one that will really get us noticed, get us talked about and set us on a journey to becoming famous again.”
Anyway, all this enthusiastic marketing babble aside, what really pushed me from tweet to blogpost on this one was actually watching one of the new advertisements—in which a happy family opens a packet of Digestives, and instead of biscuits finds cute puppies spilling forth to the theme song from Murder, She Wrote. (The choice of music might seem inexplicable, except at the end of the spot the puppies turn back into biscuits and are promptly, grinningly eaten. Which really is inexplicable.)

Also, I would love to have been the permissions person in charge of clearing that one.
MCVITIE'S: Hello, Murder, She Wrote? We'd like to borrow your theme song please.


MCVITIE'S: We're trying to sell biscuits.

PBPE: Bi— Biscuits?


PBPE: Why do you want to sell biscuits using the theme song from a TV show about an old woman who writes murder mysteries while solving crimes?

MCVITIE'S: We need something to play in the background while we watch the cute puppy biscuits get eaten.

PBPE: Is this a crank call?

MCVITIE'S: I mean, can you imagine a world without fucking biscuits?
By the way, if you're a cynic yourself, and suspect I am overblowing the bizareness of the advert for comic effect, you can watch it here. In the meantime, I'm going to go eat Hobnobs.

January 31, 2014

January 24, 2014

January 17, 2014

January 12, 2014

Another Open Letter to Andrew Ladd

Dear Andrew Ladd,

Hi. It's me again. Andrew Ladd. As you might remember, I first wrote you back in June, about going halvesies with me on the domain name—which, because you're such a famous guy, had been snapped up by a cybersquatter and was being held hostage for $800.

I had high hopes, Andrew Ladd, I really did. After all, if Andrew Ladd can't count on Andrew Ladd, who can he count on, right? Besides, I figured that you'd see $400 as a pretty small price to pay, relative to your multimillion dollar annual salary, for snapping up some seriously good karma.

But you didn't, Andrew Ladd. I tweeted at you. My friends tweeted at you. My friends tweeted at your friends. It was like a freakin' aviary around here. And yet you didn't even take the time to reply with a polite no thanks. That doesn't really seem like the Canadian way, frankly, but hey: I can exercise some empathy here. You're a busy guy these days, training for the Olympics and captaining the league's newest franchise and (I hope) still taking a few hours a day to be with your wife and kid. I guess it can be tough to keep up with all the people tweeting at you. Probably you didn't even have time to read my last letter. To be honest, I kind of hope that soon I'll achieve the kind of success where I don't have time to read all the stupid shit people write about me on the internet.

Anyway, I'm writing all of this just to tell you that, when I didn't hear from you, my family kindly banded together and came up with the $800 to buy for me as a Christmas gift. I guess that sounds like kind of a weird Christmas gift, but when I sat down to think about what I'd really found myself wanting this year, was it. And so it's mine now. I own it. I already made a nifty author website to host there, too.

And just so you don't worry, I've made it clear that I'm one Andrew Ladd, and you're another, and we don't have anything to do with each other. It's right there in the title of the page: "the author, not the hockey player." So any confused hockey fan who visits in the hope of finding out about your record this season, or your Team Canada prospects, or anything else about you, will see that they need to look elsewhere.

So that's it, Andrew Ladd. I guess we never need to correspond again. But if you want to drop me a line some day, I'd still love to hear from you. And hey, you know what? If you want one, I'll even send you a free copy of my book.

Yours in homonymery,

Andrew Ladd

January 10, 2014

January 03, 2014