Broadening horizons

Sunday, 14 April 2013

View from the office

I’m in the south of France, on a post-MIP creative retreat with a hand-picked group of technology entrepreneurs, television commissioners, network producers, actors, entertainment professionals and, later this week, a media-minded MP. We’re discussing TV formats, trends in media and ideas for new media business models in a villa nestled in the beautiful, mountainous French countryside above Tourrettes-sur-Loup.

And it occurs to me how dramatically the technology industry would be transformed, were founders to shake off the limitations of self-regard and spend their downtime with great minds from other worlds. The number of thrilling new business ideas discussed casually over Bordeaux and pâté is remarkable. It’s a testament to the organiser, my friend Robert Loch, that such catalysis is going on.

Then again, the space for this sort of thing is still wide open, because the entertainment industries are crying out for innovation and expertise from technology. The posers in the TechCrunch beauty parade haven’t the faintest idea how to interface with such enormous and lucrative industries and markets, so consumed are they by photo-sharing, by social networking and by congratulating themselves at shoddy conferences and laughably amateurish awards ceremonies.

Not least among the many reasons for start-up failure, it seems to me, is this utter lack of imagination, ambition and, yeah, sex appeal. We can do better. A little modesty is called for: rather than the frankly desperate cult of “disruption” and its systemic disdain for the content industries (and just about everyone else), entrepreneurs would do well to take a moment and try learning from those they arrogantly suppose their platforms and APIs are set to displace.

The future is more complex – and collaborative – than you think.

 

Why are Italians so cowardly?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

“Jokes about cowardly Italians,” says Christie Davis, at the University of Reading, “Are of French origin and can be traced back to a medieval comic image of the Lombards, the gibes of the disgusting Rabelais and the cold wit of Montaigne.

“This kind of French humour survived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and then emerged as a cycle of narrative jokes after the humiliating French defeat by the Axis powers followed by occupation in 1940.

“The jokes are thus a statement of the self-image of the French as the warrior nation of Europe, an assertion of la gloire de la France.”

Come off it, love. Jokes about chicken-shitted grape-stompers abound because at the slightest whiff of trouble they head for the hills faster than you can say arrivederci.

 

Ja mogu objasniti da…

Monday, 30 May 2011

Kotor, Montenegro.

He holds my damp, ragged passport. “Big problem,” he says, with a thick, Slavonic-sounding drawl that under other circumstances would have been somewhat thrilling.

His deputy turns to me. “Boss says big problem.”

Yeah, thanks for that. I glance nervously at Nick and Isobel, who are sat, wide-eyed and anxious, in the car I’ve just been ordered out of. They’re starting to panic.

We’re at the border between Montenegro and Croatia, one of the few places in Europe where anyone gives a crap about paperwork, because neither country is a member state of the Union yet, on the way back from a truly magical wedding.

But apparently you’re not allowed to travel, whether fortified with hymeneal joy or not, on a passport so sodden that the pages have fused into a sort of ropey mulch. 

 

That reminds me…

Thursday, 26 May 2011

When did conductors on intercity trains suddenly morph into wannabe wagon dragons? At some point in the last decade, they started fancying themselves as cabin crew, and got younger, female, Northern and a bit lispy. And their manner, well! The best ones worked for Midland Mainline, and I had a twice weekly commute from London to Leicester back in 2002 during which I got intimately acquainted with their take on “customer service”…

 

Class warfare

Thursday, 26 May 2011

When I fly long haul, I like to wander around the plane while everyone else is asleep. It infuriates the flight attendants, who insist on knowing where passengers are at all times, but it beats sleeping, which I hate, and watching crappy movies, which I always feel guilty about. (I’ll never forgive myself for wasting two potentially billable hours on No Strings Attached. Seriously, has there ever been a more ineligible and unattractive man on screen than Ashton Kutcher’s character in that movie?)

Thanks to a lucky arrangement with British Airways, I’ve been delivered from the ignominy of turning right after stepping onto the plane for years. But I spend the majority of my time in Economy anyway, because there’s a pair of great crew seats right at the back of their 747s which, presuming you can successfully negotiate with the trolley dollies, are super to work from. They have more lights above them, a larger space to spread your stuff out on than anywhere else on the plane and effectively infinite leg room.

Getting to them, however, reminds me how despicably the poor bastards at the back of the plane are treated by BA’s staff. It’s astonishing really, and it always comes as a surprise, because normally you associate bad attitude of the magnitude exhibited by BA’s Economy (sorry, “World Traveller”) cabin crew exclusively with the British public sector.

 

Review: Paul Carr, The Upgrade: A Cautionary Tale of Life Without Reservations

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

In some circles it’s considered bad form to review books in which you appear. Fortunately for you, I don’t move in those circles. Because as one of this volume’s (admittedly minor) characters, I’m better placed than most to verify what might otherwise appear a wildly implausible series of ludicrous drunken adventures.

The Icelandic rock stars. The near-death experience with Spanish drug dealers. The hairdressers’ convention. The 6,000 mile booty call. In short: yes, it’s all true.

Paul Carr has forged a surprisingly stable career out of his alcohol-fuelled antics, failed relationships, friendship with infamous London entrepreneur, networker and mischief-maker Robert Loch and his opinions about the latest internet technology. But despite weighing in provocatively on privacy, copyright and media issues in his TechCrunch column, his forte has always been writing about himself, which is the singular subject of both of his books to date. Even more surprisingly, he manages to be fresh and entertaining without slipping into limp Hunter S. Thompson burlesque.