I haven’t blogged about anything for ages.
I keep meaning to write something. Every day on my cycle to work I keep thinking of ideas for blogs, stuff about living and working in Amsterdam, but I never seem to get around to it.
The problem is all the subjects are perennial issues: the difficulties of finding housing in the city, the quirkiness of Dutch culture, and the pleasures and hardships of my commute itself. I never feel like I could write the definitive take on any of these subjects, so I constantly avoid it.
There are also a lot of photographic subjects I’d like to write about – I’ve been dabbling with food photography, extreme macro shots and most recently I’ve been experimenting with creating timelapse videos.
I’ve been planning to make a short documentary too. I can’t go into the details yet, but in order to do it I need to buy a new camera that shoots video and I need to do a lot of research.
So many plans, but I’m lacking the drive at the moment to see anything through, and I’m constantly flicking between them in my head. This in itself is a start, though – hopefully I’ll have something more to write about soon.
What amazes me about the current success of Apple is how they have become so seemingly unassailable, despite the fact their products really aren’t that different from their competitors.
But the way in which the whole experience is packaged and marketed is so different from every other PC manufacturer. The best analogy I can think of to describe the difference between Apple products and their rivals is that of the car industry. It’s like the majority of PC manufacturers are like those kit car manufacturers who assemble off-the-shelf parts to make cars, whilst Apple is like the equivalent of the modern Mercedes. Ultimately, both share the same components, but somehow Apple has managed to combine them together with clever branding and marketing to create an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Somehow few of the other PC manufacturers have managed to give any of their products any identity in the same way. Sony have tried with their VAIO laptops, with some success, but the rest seem content to buy the parts from Intel, nVidia etc, put them in a box and hurl them at PC World in the hope of some kind of market share.
I’m sure PC enthusiasts will disagree with me on this and defend their own decisions to buy HPs, Dells, and Toshibas; but ask the typical consumer what their perception of these brands is and they’ll be left scratching their heads. If you were to ask those same people to describe the characteristics of Volkswagen, Ford and Toyota they’d all have opinions on the cars and the type of people that would drive them.
The car industry is one that recognises the value of strong branding to differentiate products, but it’s an industry that’s in dire need of a PR lift. First, there was the decline of GM and the controversy over government bailouts and now Toyota is beginning to lose credibility with the potential recall of the Prius.
And there’s the big issue of the environment that none of the major car manufacturers seem to be addressing with any sense of urgency. The world needs affordable electric cars that will cut down on emissions and the use of fossil fuels.
Apple is in an incredible position at the moment with the success of the iPod, the iPhone and the current generation of Macs, not because of the money they generate for the company, but for the level of recognition the brand has achieved.
The world’s media seems to have an incredible hunger for Apple news and Steve Jobs keynotes are quite unlike anything else I can recall in corporate history. When was the last time any other company could attract so much coverage for the launch of a product? Every new iPod or iPhone seems to garner the same kind of attention previously reserved for the launch of engineering marvels like Concorde, despite the fact that the products themselves don’t really offer a huge level of innovation.
I can’t help but feel that Apple has an opportunity to use the buoyancy of its current image to do something really amazing. The iPad for me was playing it too safe; having conquered the market for desktop PCs, laptop computers, mobile phones and portable music players, the iPad doesn’t really seem to be that groundbreaking. It feels to me like an uneasy mix of the iPhone and the Macbook laptop without really offering any unique experience.
But just imagine what an Apple car could offer…
EDIT – When I started writing this I thought I was being terribly clever and original; it turns out LOTS of people have written about this. Maybe I’ll go into specifics of technology tomorrow.
See, you can’t rewrite, ’cause to rewrite is to deceive and lie, and you betray your own thoughts. To rethink the flow and the rhythm, the tumbling out of the words, is a betrayal, and it’s a sin.
Excerpt from David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch
I’ve got a confession; something I’ve done which should probably get me kicked out of the One a Day gang.
I’ve been been going back and editing my posts after I’ve published them. I’m sorry, I know it goes against everything this little project stands for, but I can’t help myself.
I’ve been a obsessive fiddler for a long time now, but I seem to be getting worse – or better, depending on how you look at it. I’ve been abusing cut and paste so much it’s become almost impossible for me to write a block of text without reordering each paragraph, each sentence in each paragraph and each word in each sentence.
I tend to start by writing quite quickly, buoyed on by enthusiasm and more often than not by strong coffee. But then I feel the enthusiasm waning and I start looking back at what I’ve written. First, I go back and proof everything, getting rid of all the typos left from not actually looking at the screen when I type (Yeah, I can’t type without looking at the keyboard, so maybe I’m a hopeless case).
After I’ve done some basic proofing I start thinking about the structure. How does it flow? Are those short, news-style paragraphs dramatic or just choppy? So I start deleting returns to join paragraphs and breaking longer pars into shorter ones. Then I find one sentence doesn’t really fit in the new structure so I copy and paste to it the bottom of the document, where I keep a collection of stuff that may or may not make the final cut.
But even once I’ve published the article, I find myself checking it over the following day and snipping here and there. It’s a bad habit I know, but I can’t help myself.
And then I think about the writers who inspire me; few of them have had the luxury of being able to endlessly edit their work. Cormac McCarthy famously used the same old-fashioned Olivetti typewriter for 40 years, only to replace it with another identical model last year. While Jack Kerouac – who inspired the quote at the top the page – wrote On the Road, over a period of just 20 days on a single, 120 foot long roll of paper.
So is endlessly tweaking my work improving it and polishing it to make it better? Or am I just betraying myself?