Category Archives: Stuff

The needle and the damage done

The Tour De France ended today in Paris and a nice man called Nibali won it. He climbed mountains faster than anyone and didn’t fall off over the cobbles, he even survived two days in Yorkshire. 

He rode the 2.276 miles in 89 hours 59 minutes and 6 seconds – for some context, today I rode 12 miles at an average speed of 10.1mph, with that in mind it would take me (assuming I keep that same average speed, which is very unlikely) the same distance would take me 225 hours 20 minutes and 47 seconds. With a following wind, no doubt. 

It’s quite the achievement, but the problem is that since Armstrong I no longer feel the same. I used to love cycling, the way the bunch swept up the inclines as if they weren’t there the way a bloke who has been leading by miles alone all day is sped past by a peloton in full force or the lone attacker on a huge col, a col so huge it is HC or outside the usual categorisation, winning by peddling faster up up up with superhuman effort. 

It’s the superhuman that bites. Armstrong was the superhuman superhuman and I believed in him, in his achievements. The look at Ulrich, the detour across the grass with Beloki prone on the road, the spectator and the strap of his bag. Pantani and the Alpe d’Huez. 

I loved it and no failed drugs tests seemed to confirm he was doing it on his own, the naysayers could moan all they liked, but science is science and not once in all the years was there a failed test, the arse cream aside, naturally. But then the big reveal on Oprah. So little so late. 

All of this and more has destroyed my trust in cyclists, probably unfairly but for all seven of Armstrong’s years in yellow it will probably take another 70 before I get too worked up about a winner of the tour especially as so many of them now have an * against their name. 

Such a shame as I’d love to not think that Nibali is on drugs, but I can’t shake the feeling that in ten years time there’ll be another * to add to the list of past winners of the greatest cycling race. 

Lance Armstrong Tour De France 2005

Dearest Kindle

I just don’t know how it happened. One minute you were there and then gone. Gone to the great LCD screen graveyard in the sky. There’s much and more to lament about your passing – so much pleasure in your bits and bytes and I mourn your untimely death in that very modern way by immediately trawling the Internet for a new model. You’ll be replaced, of course, but still, but still. 

We shared so much you and I. We’ve walked the trenches of The Great War and stormed the beaches at Normandy 20 odd years later. We spent horrifying months together on Peleliu in fox holes full of blood and guts and rain, oh the rain. We visited animal farm took the road to Wigan pier spent some time in 1984. We thought about the five people we might meet in Heaven. We’ve flown on the back of an eagle from Mordor to the Shire and played the Game of Thrones, we still don’t know who will win. We’ve ridden up big mountains with Lance Armstrong and discovered his big dirty secret on the way down. Gone back and to the left with Kennedy and Oswald. Touched the face of God and travelled into space aboard Apollo 13, made it home safe too, then just for fun gone on the other missions. Together we marvelled at the arrogance of power through Nixon and Bush and Clintons both. We fought Liston and prejudice with Ali and learned how to be a woman. Lived America’s great depression with mice and men, flown on a mockingbird’s wings and started Ulysses over and over and over. One day my friend one day I will reach that beautiful last line without missing out the main body, but not you. 


Kindle Broken Screen

Jon Ronson’s Frank Story WORLD PREMIERE (nearly) The Hebden Bridge Trades Club

The Trades Club at Hebden Bridge is a small spit and sawdust sort of place that a Guardian review would probably describe as ‘intimate’ a Telegraph one ‘unmistakably northern’. A Yorkshireman’s view would most likely be ‘shithole’ but in a cuddly and sympathetically warm and loving way. Bottom line is, The Trades probably hasn’t seen many world premieres, but there are always boundaries to be pushed and Rubicon’s to be crossed and so it is home to the very second airing of Jon Ronson’s Frank Story. Second because Jon admits to performing a warm up rehearsal of the show in Brooklyn, but that didn’t count because he was the only person in the room who had the slightest clue what was going on.

The story of Frank Sidebottom is thoroughly intriguing. Today he would be a massively popular, but un-winning novelty contestant on Britain’s got talent, delivered to millions for weeks, talked about endlessly in school classrooms and playgrounds, filling column inches in tabloids and weekly chat mags and then unceremoniously dumped out of the collective consciousness damned to open supermarkets or tour what’s left of the working men’s club circuit until bankruptcy and or a stint heading up Iceland’s advertising campaign thrust him ever so briefly back into the limelight.

Frank’s rise to almost fame from the margins is told with love and, importantly, first-hand experience by Ronson. It is a eulogy of sorts for the man who played Frank and Frank the character, Ronson flits perfectly between the two – just when Frank’s larger than life on-stage persona is set to steal the show Chris Sievey staggers back in to with a dose of real life to balance out the story.

It’s also a homage to Ronson’s youth, a tale of those ridiculous early days as an adult where preposterous freedom and, often, financial necessity breed situations that in retrospect seem utterly bizarre, but at the time perfectly reasonable. The story goes that a single phone call is all it took for Jon Ronson to drop everything and join Frank Sidebottom’s band for a life touring the North of England to packed halls of “nearly 500 people”

Whatever your connection or disconnection to Frank Sidebottom the story as Jon Ronson tells it is compelling, warm, sweet and a little bit bitter. The ten-year gap where Frank and Jon didn’t speak seemed glossed over, as is Sievey’s death from cancer and funeral. The installation of a bronze statue in Timperley belies, just a touch, the idea of Sidebottom as a marginal character too – Eric Morecambe was dead a long time before his hometown saw fit to immortalise him in a metal of any sort. A section about Jon’s Twitter argument with academics from Durham University felt incongruous and out of place as well.

Funny, fringe and a little bit odd this show is a wonderful tribute to Sidebottom and Sievey, the list of people he inspired or worked with is like a who’s who of TV, music and radio establishment, only he worked with them before they were famous.

At the end Jon asked if there were any requests or questions and without hesitation the man next to me demanded a singsong. Obligingly, Ronson played a verse of Frank Sidebottom’s I Should Be So Lucky and for a brief few moments the audacity and ridiculousness and shear fun of Frank Sidebottom was alive in the room.


Dates for the rest of the tour  

More on Frank and Jon

Apple to double Macintosh production to meet demand

I’ve been doing some research on the original Mac launch and found this little story by Eric Bender for Computerworld in July 1984. It’s nothing spectacular, but I do love the hubris of Jobs. An early example of his ear for a soundbite, especially the dig at IBM.

“It took IBM a year-and-a-half to get where we are in six months,” Jobs said.

Seeing high demand for its Macintosh personal computer, Apple Computer, Inc. plans to double Macintosh production capability by 1985, Chairman Steven Jobs said here at a press conference July 9.
Apple is approaching the 40,000 per month capacity the company predicted in January, Jobs said. “We are installing almost double that [capacity], which will be on-line by the end of the year,” he said.

Apple posted sales exceeding $400 million during its recently concluded third quarter, President John Sculley said. “When the rest of the computer industry was in a slump, we were up 33% over our second quarter.”

Strong sales
Sculley claimed that sales were strong across the company’s entire product line, including the Lisa personal computer, “a product we had a tough time selling to anyone as recently as seven or eight months ago.”

Apple’s recent exhibit at the National Computer Conference here was designed primarily to showcase software applications now becoming available for the Macintosh, Jobs said.
The company expects more than 70 packages to be offered within 90 days, Jobs said. “By year-end, we expect over 150,” he added. The number “will avalanche” in 1985, with more than 2,000 programs offered by year-end.

“It took IBM a year-and-a-half to get where we are in six months,” Jobs said.

Many packages “are not just simple ports from the [IBM Personal Computer], but innovative software written specifically for the [Macintosh],” Jobs maintained. As one example, he mentioned Filevision, a “visual data base” from Telos Software Products in Santa Monica, Calif. “You can create your own images, you can create a data base and link them together,” Jobs said.

As software becomes available, “we are starting to get important interest from large corporations, even though [that] was not one of our key strategies for 1984,” Sculley said.

Although company officials declined to mention any specific deals, Jobs said Apple is signing contracts with two or three large corporations each month. “We will have sold to 10% of the Fortune 500 by year-end and one-third of the Fortune 500 by the end of 1985,” he predicted.

“The first wave of Fortune 500-type accounts will be those who are very much like Apple,” said Michael Murray, marketing manager for the Macintosh division. “They’re risk-takers. They’re not dinosaurs in whatever industry they’re in.”

Copyright 1984 Computerworld, Inc.

Shipping Nest at Volume

I must be smoking the wrong sort of crack. Perhaps I missed all the Nest sells millions upon millions of units stories. Maybe the news that Nest has become incredibly relevant all of a sudden passed me by. 

Did Nest ship millions of units at high quality? Is there any evidence at all that Nest is any better at making high quality consumer tech at large scale than a. n. other tech company? Is 40,000 (unconfirmed) units a month large scale?

If not, did Google pay $3.2 billion just for Tony Fadell?


“oh man, only Nest and Apple can ship quality at volume” said no one before the 14th of January 2014

iOS 7 de-Forstalation

I think iOS 7 looks neat. Not perfect, but different enough to be a bold leap from what went before. The crowing comparisons with Windows Phone are an aside, features that Android has had for years unimportant.

Flat UI won’t be something you hear much in mobile phone shops.

Thankfully, now that developers and some SNEAKY journalists who aren’t developers at all have iOS 7 in their possession we’ll begin to see exactly how it well the de-Forstalation has worked.

Watching the wheels

How is it that we’ve come this far that so much has changed that technology has enabled such magnificent changes in our ability to communicate that more and more people have a voice and fewer and fewer people are disenfranchised that computers, once the size of a nice suburban semi in the suburbs, are now in the palm of a billion hands that you can now do such fantastical and mind blowing things as book a plane ticket from New York to San Francisco on a 3.5in screen connected to the internet wirelessly that you can then check in and board that plane using the same device and when you’re on the plane connect to the internet again as you cruise at 38,000 feet that you can keep up-to-date with friends from years back whom you would previously have lost all contact with that with a simple string of words typed into a web browser anywhere in the world you can search out just about any information it is possible to imagine which would, until recently, have required weeks and months of research and travel, how is it that


0.9 ND

Dear students,

We’ve barely met and now it’s time for you to go. Presently, the final final presentation has been presented, I’ll likely not see you in the flesh again until you graduate. A solitary certificate and thousands of pounds of debt are all you have to show for it. However, I wish you well in your future endeavours whatever they may be. In the few short months I’ve known you affectionately as “Level 6” your group has done stuff, some of it well. I kid, I kid, you were all awesome at what you did. Sometimes. No, really, you achieved something. Each and everyone of you showed me work that impressed. Ok, ok, some of it was embarrassingly bad, a total clusterfuck of inadequacy, but in an amusing way (for me).

It’s at times like this that students are often found looking for a direction some signposts to the future indicating where to go next. Naturally they look to their older, more experienced and wise beyond comprehension tutors to help them select the right route. Sadly for you, in some cases that is me. Frankly, you’re doomed and I say that with genuine affection.

To look forwards it’s sometimes best to look back and when I look back I think of what I didn’t appreciate after I graduated that I wish I had. Perhaps most prevalent in my thoughts is this: For those of you leaving education to get a proper job it’s now very unlikely that you will ever be asked to perform a task that doesn’t have some transactional value.

What do I mean by that? Well, you may, if you are lucky, get a job in the creative industry, however, your performance will not be graded on a sliding scale of numbers and letters, but in cash. Your value and contribution is now something that an accountant can measure – this can be a wonderful thing especially when you are down to receive some of that money – which will promptly be taken off you to pay for your education and other taxable items. It can also be a pain in the arse as your creativity is curtailed by ‘The fucking suits’, however, the faster you come to terms with it the better in my opinion. Learn what your ‘value’ is and exploit it. Also, you are now at the behest of people who will judge your work without knowledge, reason or, in some cases experience. Get used to it.

The other thing I wish I’d realised was that failure is often as good a learning experience as success. I’m not going to lie to you (well I am, but that’s my prerogative) not getting that job or, worse, getting that job and completely cocking it up and being fired can hurt like hell, it makes you want to hide away and feel sorry for yourself, just ask Gordon Brown, if you can find him. However, I’ve had more job offers off the back of ACTUALLY doing something even where it went tits up. Don’t wait for permission, do stuff – do it and win or do it and get it horribly wrong. Yes, people will mock and criticise you if it all goes wrong, but those same dickheads will be mocking and complaining if you succeed too. The cunts*.

Felix Dennis published a magazine and that’s the only difference between you, me and he. He’s very, very rich now and the only thing separating him from us is three security guards, a million pound mansion, 13 rottweilers and the fact he didn’t think ‘no one will like it I’d best not’ he thought ‘fuck ‘em SEND IT TO PRINT’ It’s marginally more complex than that, but you get my drift.

Know your weaknesses and ignore them. You have maybe a five year window where good people will give you the benefit of the doubt if you’re a bit shit at something but enthusiastic. Not everyone will, but then they’re cocksucking motherfuckers who don’t deserve your time. If, in five years time you’re still shit, well, perhaps reevaluate what you want to be before others do it for you and make you redundant.

It’s been a privilege to see your work even for just this short time, the things I have learned from you will stay with me for at least a week, maybe more – all of it was interesting and challenging in equal measure.

One final bit of advice: unsolicited advice is generally shit, ignore it at all costs.

It’s customary to end this sort of thing with a famous quote because you’ve run out of your own wisdom, often from the likes of Churchill – one of the less well known ones like: “Oooh Yes multi-car insurance is great” or “if you’re going through hell keep going” a personal favourite of mine is “never ever ever give up” however most inspirational quotes only apply if you’re willing to ignore reality. Charlotte Bronte, for example, said “I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward” when you think about it her neck must have ached like a bastard. Benjamin Disraeli liked to quip, “Sucess is the child of audacity” but really all that means is that Audacity must have been fucked at some point so be careful where you show your audacity off. Aristotle believed that “happiness depends upon ourselves” Doesn’t take a genius to work out what he means there, but if you do it too much you’ll go blind. Neville Chamberlin said “My good friends, this is the second time there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Now I recommend you go home, and sleep quietly in your beds” Which, if nothing else proves that politicians are much dumber than even we give them credit for, they are constantly thinking about bed and they lie about all sorts of shit just to get a round of applause. The greatest lyricist of recent time Olly Murrs has words of wisdom too “Our faith is the bullet, hope is the gun And love is all we need Now fear’s on the run We’ve already won Now march with the band, raise your right hand We’ve only just begun” No, I haven’t got a fucking clue either, but it’s pushed this post over the 1000 word count and that’s what matters. However, there is one quote I do like and even if it’s not quite inspirational poster material I have found it to be mostly true in any situation

“Decisions are made by those who show up”

Now go enjoy the future, it’s what you make of it.

*Sorry mum.

Jokes and frippery aside, I’ve really, really enjoyed working with you this past few months and for that I thank you very much, there is nothing better than getting up going to work and actually, honest to goodness loving it. Thanks

Chris Brennon, Broonon, Brown, Brennen Brennan

Proud, happy and thrilled – MacUser nominated for PPA award

I wrote a feature for MacUser back in February 2012 and the cover (which I had nothing to do with creating, that was all Adam Banks) has been nominated as one of the PPA top ten covers of the last century. Quite an accolade. I’m incredibly proud to be associated with MacUser and specifically this cover.

The really, really hard part and I mean really hard part of seeing something you like being nominated or recognised in any way is other people. Y’see, other people they tend to have opinions and sometimes they don’t agree with the nomination, competitors, judges or any part of the prize.

Magazine covers especially can elicit strong opinions in people and with a competition such as this one it’s inevitable that some will look at the ten nominations and spit. They’ll have good, reasonable alternatives that could have been nominated instead or they’ll simply throw up their hands in disgust at the terrible, terrible standard of choices. They’ll be angry, upset, nonplussed even and take to Twitter or comments threads or other Internet based social media thing to directly voice their distain. Worse still, because you as the associated supporter will be drawn to any mention of the awards you’ll see their wholly negative view of the standard of entires. Fucking hell it can’t half sting when people pontificate (educated or otherwise) on how a judging panel or award or accolade of any sort are wrong, blind or just plain crazy.

Naturally, I don’t really care as the magazine I feel strongly about _has_ been nominated and therefore I think the judges clearly picked the right covers.

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