Your personal message from George Bush

It’s Friday and a bit of inspiration wouldn’t go amiss.
So what could be better than a pep talk from the leader of the free world?
And wouldn’t it be even better if he would say just what you want him too, perhaps with music and gestures precisely timed to your requirements?
Thanks to some clever people at Idyacy Solutions, this service is now available on demand!
Just follow the link, type in what you want George W Bush to say to you, and away you go! Yee ha!

(The voice synthesis software that does this is pretty neat. I’ve made him say ‘Where would we be without the hermeneutics of suspicion’ and he says it better than I could…)

Bic revisited

I wrote a while ago about my fondness for Bic pens. These iconic items are now available from Amazon, which has inspired a huge number of reviews (and an even larger number of comments) – well worth a read by anyone who likes to write things on paper and needs supporting technical information.

You may even get some Christmas gift ideas…

Salute to little plastic boxes (My favourite brands 3)

As I live in a small house, storage is important in preventing chaos and anarchy from overtaking my whole existence. So boxes are handy things to have and if they can be nice as well as functional then so much the better. A brand of plastic box has become an infinity of objects of desire and enthusiasm for me…

Really Useful Boxes


These puppies are great – they come in millions of sizes, have a nice clip action, some cool colours, fit inside each other, and seem indestructible (the advertising shows a car standing on them.) So they work – but then so do cheaper ones. But something about these makes my heart lift at the sight of them (only slightly; on scale of one to ten where ten is a new Douglas Coupland novel and one is a used teabag these would be a four; but nevertheless a definite jolt of excitiment.) I nearly cheered when their delivery lorry drove past. Am I insane? Arguably, but in terms of marketing I think the brand-appeal of these is a mixture of things:

they keep spawning new versions (“A box with little compartments for craft materials! What will they think of next!”)

the functionality makes it seem that they have invented all this stuff just to help me out.

A tip of the hat also to Lock & Lock food boxes -they’re leakproof, airtight and dishwasher safe. Again they come in loads of different shapes and sizes, to contain anything from a handful of spice to a gigantic banquet for the entire royal family.

Products like these promise a world of clean organisation – a world that makes sense, with everything in its place all the wild stuff of life… pasta, pencils, CDs… tamed and contained.

Like all fantasies, more fun to imagine than it would be to actually live in.

This blogging lark

Having sustained a work-related blog for a while now, I feel I have learned something about the process. I find it cathartic hammering out some writing now and again – so much so that I have started a personal blog – somewhere I can write about all sorts of non-work things (including but not limited to pulp/fantastic fiction, comics, movies, spiritual life, walking trips, music, real ale, and weary Blimpish commentary on the minor annoyances of modern life such as my difficulty getting the cellophane wrappers off CDs.)

Meanwhile I’ll continue this one as a place to talk about marketing and my take on Edge Hill University. And as if that’s not enough, an internally-accessible blog about the Edge Hill brand is on the anvil as well…

My strange unearthly beauty

Some people have made kind comments about the picture at the top of this blog. To set the record straight:

I wasn’t levitating.

I was really there, not Photoshopped in later. What wasn’t there was the laptop – I had to hold my hands in typing position above my lap, much to the amusement of the builders just out of shot in our new £14m learning and teaching building opening later this year*

It isn’t a ‘lost Ultravox album cover’.

* Note subtle ‘marketing’ reference embedded in the post.

How was it for you?

I’ve been writing this blog for a while now, and have maintained reasonable regularity. So what have I learned? I said at the outset that this was a writing experiment, ‘to see if it’s possible to write a blog that:
– conforms to the requirements of the genre
– is entertaining enough for me to want to write and some people to want to read
– is personal enough to be authentic whilst being work-related enough to justify doing on the Edge Hill site
– doesn’t make me sound like a corporate shill, pretend Californian teenager or simple babbling loon.’

Some of these objectives are easier then others. I found the serious post on ‘students as customers’ interesting – it feels wrong to have too much banter in the comments, even when I know the commenters. Maybe a blog isn’t ideal for a work-related debate. My personal style may be an obstacle to serious intent: the non-sequiturs, in-jokes, overstatement for comic/poetic effect, overlong lists and trailling ellipsis…
What with this and my occasional interjections on the UCAS applicant site, I’ve been online at a lot of odd times. I actually dreamed about blogging recently… Continue reading

Academy on the click

I wrote my thesis (on American writer Charles Bukowski) on a manual typewriter, getting through reams of paper and pints of Tippex in the process. Little did I know I would spend a significant part of the rest of my life typing, on all kinds of devices and in all kinds of situations. I’m not alone in this; everyone seems to be texting, emailling, writing documents and typing URLs – the world (at least the academic and professional bit of it) has become a vast scriptorium (the room in a monastery where monks would labour over illuminated manuscripts.) Except rather than crafting our text as a thing of beauty and meaning, we tend to write with the speedy desperation of someone falling off a cliff. And the words of the vast collaborative novel we are writing are already erasing themselves.
When I first started doing occasional guest lecturing, the tendency for students to be texting and surfing while I was talking disconcerted me somewhat. I felt a bit irrelevant, like a radio left playing in a corner while someone does the ironing or makes a phone call. However I gather that multitasking makes students ‘feel more productive and less stressed’and many believe it makes them more efficient, though there may be pitfalls. It’s something they’re simply good at and has become normal.

However multitasking isn’t confined to the student world. I have noticed at recent meetings several people around the table using Blackberries, PDAs etc – it seems OK (in modern organisational etiquette) to sit there absorbed, motionless apart from rhythmic finger movements, transported elsewhere, praying an electronic rosary to a data god rather than focussing on the agenda or eating the biscuits. And even those who can abstain during the meeting itself rush to deploy phones/PDAs/laptops during breaks – what used to be a cigarette break is now used to exchange packets of data over the ether, with the same furtive haste and addicts’ camaraderie as was seen during the Nicotine Era (now largely passed.)

So I guess the students are just practising.

My favourite brands #1: Bic biros

The Bic biro is a design classic. I love them so much that I buy them in industrial quantities – even though, at work, I could use pens provided by the university without having to buy them myself. But the Bic is more real than just any biro – the Platonic ideal form of a ballpoint – all others are just copies, versions and clones. I’m only talking about the clear Medium Cristal kind – I don’t have any feelings for the yellow Fine ones, and as for new-fangled gel pens and what not – no thanks. (The only Bic innovation I applaud is the new sawn-off version of the classic pen – exactly the same, only shorter – short enough to fit in the pocket of another design classic, the Levi trucker jacket.)

So why do I love them? There’s something comforting about their universal availability; wherever civilisation has spread there will be Bic pens along with sanitation and clean water. They’ve written love letters, ransom notes, novels; drawn fake tattoos, doodles, fabulous works of art. Added to that, their originality – when they came out, no-one had seen a transparent pen before – the stunned populace reacted with amazement – ‘Good lord! It’s a pen that looks like a thermometer! What will they think of next!’

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, there are some great Bic-related photos on Flickr (in the Bic-porn section: )