Tag Archives: iPad

Why it’s no surprise Japan is in a mess – and why their politicians wear blue boiler suits at press conferences

A friend of mine went to Japan last October.

When she came back, she sold all her shares in Japanese businesses.

Lucky her, as it turns out – after their earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns in the last five days.

But, of course, that is not why she took all her investments out of all Japan.

She wisely sold her shares last October because, having been there, she had lost all confidence in the country.

She had expected a vibrant, go-getting, futuristic country. But, when she travelled round the Far East, she found Japan was not that country. All her pre-conceptions of Japan she found fulfilled in South Korea.

Japan was a comparatively old-fashioned country with no noticeable efficiency in the workplace or in the infrastructure.

“They say the tower blocks are built to withstand earthquakes,” she told me last year. “But I wouldn’t trust them.”

She was shocked when she got on trains in the rush hour.

“All I saw,” she told me yesterday, “was a sea of ‘salarymen’ and they were all wearing cheap suits.”

“Where were all the secretaries?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she said. “But the country is still sexist. It’s like some throwback to an earlier era. And I couldn’t get over the shabby suits.”

She went to Tokyo, Osaka and other Japanese cities and found the same everywhere: oceans of salarymen in cheap suits and people using old-fashioned brick-like mobile phones. No new technology visibly in use on the streets.

“I never saw an iPad the whole time I was in Japan,” she told me yesterday. “And the young people were not dressed smartly, they weren’t trendy and, it seemed to me, they weren’t very lively.”

It was, she said, a country that has lost its way, possibly through complacency.

The older generation seems mystified as to why the younger generation does not want to go abroad to see other cultures. And, apparently, the younger generation is not spending money the way, in all other industrial cultures, young people do.

It gave the impression of a country that did not look to the future and did not even particularly look to the distant past.

It was a country stuck in the closing years of the 20th century.

“I’m not surprised the nuclear reactors don’t seem to have been built particularly well,” my friend said to me yesterday.

What mystified me, though, was…

Why is it that, when Japanese politicians – the Prime Minister downwards – appear at press conferences on TV they are all wearing the same uniform light blue boiler suits? Very well-designed boiler suits, I admit. But they all look like they are going to service Toyota cars.

I like Toyota cars. I have one myself. They are very well serviced. But why are the politicians not wearing snazzy, expensive black business suits?

It’s like they are wearing Chinese Mao suits re-designed for the Japanese by someone in Milan.

Why?

So, before writing this blog, I asked another friend – she worked for a Japanese multinational in Tokyo and speaks fluent Japanese.

“Apparently,” she tells me, “the blue suits they are wearing are search and rescue overalls and are to bring the high and mighty down to the level of those on the ground and give the impression they, too, are part of the relief effort.”

Ye Gods! If David Cameron wore a search and rescue suit at a press conference after some major disaster, he would get crucified in the press for bullshit and spin.

1 Comment

Filed under Politics, Travel

The printed book is dead… and libraries… and newspapers… but literacy lives on my iPad!

I was in the Apple Store in Regent Street last week and bumped into the multi-talented transsexual comic Shelley Cooper, who has almost finished writing her autobiography – now THAT should be a cracking read. She is thinking of publishing it online via a print-on-demand site.

I am also thinking about re-publishing the late comedian Malcolm Hardee‘s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake as an online print-on-demand book. The costs are so low as to be negligible and the percentages to the writer are much higher – on a traditionally printed paperback book the author usually only gets 7.5% of the cover price. People can buy a print-on-demand book as a well-produced traditional paperback or download it from iTunes or Amazon.

Traditional paper books and physical libraries in towns and cities will soon be dead. A book is not bought because it is an object, it is bought an experience or for information. Content is king. The printed word is not dying – it is thriving on Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, mobile phone texting, everywhere. But the printed book will die.

The husband of a friend of mine is the straightest person I know. For many years, he never watched ITV – only BBC TV -because ITV was not respectable, merely a young whippersnapper upstart TV station. Yet he is now thinking of investing in an iPad or the duller and much more limited Kindle because, that way, he could take a whole library of books with him on holiday and read anything he likes when he gets there.

Ultimately, Project Gutenberg and its ilk will put almost all out-of-copyright fiction online; and Wikipedia and Google and the web in general give ultimately unlimited access to known facts. Yes, there are old books, newspapers and magazines with content which cannot be accessed online, but only because they have not yet been digitised.

Online publishers have no reason to ever declare any new ‘book’ out-of-print because the online file can remain in cyberspace forever at no extra production cost. The traditional paper book is dead and so are traditional physical libraries.

A library is just a building to keep books in. Unless they re-invent themselves as leisure centres for the printed word and computer gaming, they will soon be dead too.

What is worrying the printed media industry more immediately, of course, is what is happening and what will happen to newspapers, whose printed, paid-for editions are sliding down a seemingly bottomless pit in circulation terms.

Newspapers were always printing yesterday’s news but there used to be no alternative.

But why should I buy a print newspaper carrying out-of-date news when I can watch live street demonstrations in Cairo or around the Middle East on 24-hour live TV news channels? Why should I buy a UK newspaper when I can read other UK news sources free online and get access to Australian, Chinese, Russian and US print sources free online? AND watch Al Jazeera, BBC TV News, Sky News, Press TV from Tehran or, god forbid, the terminally dull Russia Today channel direct from Moscow?

On my iPad, I have apps giving me access to the Huffington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the Straits Times and the Moscow Times. I can access a wider variety of sources worldwide via my Fluent News, Pulse News and Stuff apps. I get daily news update e-mails from The Scotsman and from China Daily.

Why should  buy a newspaper except for a free DVD?

On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch’s launch less than a couple of weeks ago of his iPad-only newspaper The Daily is interesting, though it is only available le in the US at the moment. If, as rumours say, he really does price a future full UK daily electronic newspaper automatically delivered to you every morning at a cost of only 79p per week…

Well, even I might be tempted… but it’s still going go be news I can get elsewhere for free.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Internet, Newspapers, Politics

How an Apple iPad could finally cure my concussion and help me forget the embarrassing toilet incidents

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Jason Cook, who is dyslexic but has written three gangster novels and I mentioned that, since the morning of 9th March 1991, I have not been able to read a book – not since I got hit by a large truck while standing on the pavement in Borehamwood.

I have written books since 1991, but I am physically unable to read them. Always best not to mention this to a publisher.

In 1981, ten years before the accident, I contributed three chapters to the anthology Anatomy of the Movies (which I have just now looked up on Amazon and copies appear, astonishingly, to be selling for £57.60 upwards; sadly I get none of this).

But, since 1991, I have been unable to read any book, though I have written several.

I have no actual memory of getting hit except I was standing on the pavement at a junction. What I have reconstructed in my mind is that I was rushing down to the post office on Saturday morning to send a friend her birthday card before the final midday collection. At a junction, I stood on the pavement and turned round to see if any traffic was coming. The driver’s cab of a large truck passed me by but the front corner edge of the wider, protruding container behind it hit me on my turned-round shoulder, breaking my collar bone in two places.

I was thrown backwards with a slight spin and the back of my head hit the sharp edge of a low brick wall maybe nine inches above the ground. What I didn’t know until much later was that my spine had been twisted and jerked when my head hit the wall.

I don’t remember any of that. But, from what I do know, that’s what must have happened.

I do have flashes of memory after that. I remember lying on the ground looking up at a group of people looking down at me; some were kneeling. I remember being in an ambulance and being asked my name and address.

“Ah, you need to write down my details,” I remember saying to an ambulance man.

“No,” he replied. “I’m just checking you know who you are.”

I remember looking at the ceiling while being wheeled along a corridor in Barnet Hospital.

I have only hazy memories. I think I had about ten or twelve stitches in the back of my head, but I can’t remember. I was theoretically in the care of whichever doctor(s) looked after concussion and brain damage; but I was in an orthopedic ward for people who had broken bones because of my collar bone. So the brain doctor upstairs who had responsibility for me didn’t visit that downstairs orthopedic ward because it wasn’t his area and the nurses in the ward I was in were only observing me for the specialist who didn’t come.

I had enough trouble trying to remember if you put the plastic toilet seat up or down when you sat on it. Sitting on the white ceramic of the bowl didn’t seem to quite work and was distractingly cold on the buttocks. And I can tell you the curved edges dig into your bum. I spent a week there. In the hospital, not in the toilet. I was eventually released from the hospital when a very weary and over-worked junior-looking doctor from the ‘mind’ ward came down to the ‘bone’ ward and said I seemed to be OK. He was very kindly but was just about to go home for some much-needed sleep and appeared to me to be in much worse condition than I was. But what did I know?

It took about eighteen months to (mostly) sort out the pain in my shoulder – but only after I went to a Chinese doctor (ie Chinese medicine not the NHS).

It took about nine or ten months to get over the concussion.

I kept thinking I was better but my mind kept draining away for periods. I would come home, sit on the sofa and look at the wall, blankly, unable to think.

To formulate thoughts in my mind, I needed words and the words would not come to my mind nor come together. I could not hold thoughts together. It was like I could feel my nerve-endings or brain strands like little hands reaching out and trying to connect with one another but not quite being able to reach each other. I could almost put the thought together but could not quite reach. My brain was like thin vegetable soup with separate strands of spaghetti floating about like living worms trying but not quite able to touch each other.

When I tried to read a newspaper, I could only read about three lines of the first paragraph before I lost concentration. It was like looking at an object but then your eyes de-focus. I could see the words in newspapers and magazines OK but, after two or three lines, I could not hold their meaning together in my brain.

It was a flash forward to my own inevitable senility.

After a couple of weeks being OK, I would think I was better, but then my mind would go into vegetable soup mode again for two or three days. Then I would think I was better again. Then it would go soupy again. There was no NHS aftercare, of course, because I had been no-one’s specific responsibility. This went on for nine or ten months.

Since then, I can read newspapers and magazines with no problems, but I cannot read printed books.

Too much print. Too much density of words.

Whether it’s a psychological or physical problem I don’t know.

But I CAN write (and read) books on my computer. I think it’s because the amount of text you see at any given time is much less. Somehow this doesn’t flummox my mind the way holding a 300-page book in my hand does.

Since 1991, I have written comedian Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (published 1996)…

I edited the anthology Sit-Down Comedy (2003) which involved commissioning original work from 19 comedians and then badgering them to deliver the stuff; some just delivered perfect manuscripts; some needed suggestions and help; some needed careful editing; it was a bit like juggling meerkats.

I then edited comedian Janey Godley’s utterly amazing autobiography Handstands in the Dark (I can say that because I did not write it and it was justly a top ten bestseller in 2005 and 2006)…

And, in early 2010, I wrote the first 55,000 words of a 70,000 novelisation of the by-anyone’s-standards controversial movie Killer Bitch. The publisher pulled that one two weeks before I finished the manuscript because all the supermarkets and WH Smiths refused to handle the book (despite the fact they had not read any of it). I might still revive/finish that one, though I’m useless without deadlines.

Anyway, I have written and/or edited/proof-read/shepherded all of the above, but I have not read any of the published printed books.

However, I have an Apple iPad with its gob-smackingly beautiful iBook application.

You can make the pages sepia, change the font and size of the text and turn a page with your finger just like a real book. The corner or edge of the page curls over as you move your finger and you see on the back of the previous page the reversed text and illustrations which were on it.

I adore it.

It is a thing of beauty.

And I think I could read a book on it, just as I can read a manuscript on my normal computer.

I have not yet tried a whole book, but I feel the urge coming on.

The Apple iPad could yet save me from illiteracy.

Oh and – yes – I do have trouble reading printed TV and film scripts too.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Comedy, Health, Internet, Newspapers

Miracles, Part 1: iPads and the high chance of being hit on the head by a falling pig

When I came home in the early hours of Sunday morning, I absentmindedly switched on the TV and BBC2 was screening Fritz Lang’s 1953 film noir classic The Big Heat.

My friend asked, “When was that made? It looks very old.”

“Well,” I said, “it was way before they had an iPad.”

“But,” she replied without the slightest pause, “that woman’s got one!” and she disintegrated into laughter.

Because, at the exact same moment I said the word “iPad”, on the TV screen, a woman walked through the door wearing an eye-pad.

What are the odds of that coincidence happening?

Well quite good, actually.

The odds against unlikely events and coincidences always seem to me to be misquoted.

The odds of me myself being killed by a pig falling on my head are astronomically high. At least, I hope they are.

But if, God forbid, I live until I am 80 or so it is fairly likely that, sometime during my lifetime, several people in different parts of the world will have been killed by a pig falling on their head.

The odds of me being killed by a downwardly-mobile pig are low.

The odds of anyone being killed by a downwardly-mobile pig are high.

Bizarre coincidences happen. Bizarre events happen. All the time.

The odds are often not as high as they seem.

Millions of little events happen every month to every person on the planet. Most of these millions of events are totally forgettable. But, if one unlikely event or coincidence happens to you, you will remember it and the several-million-to-one chance of it happening will seem amazing but it is actually not unlikely given the millions of other times it did not happen.

And then there are the miracles in the Bible.

If you see Lazarus raised from the dead and you are a simple shepherd, fisherman or generic peasant who knows nothing about comas, it seems a rock-solid 100% miracle. But it is not so amazing.

I have read that, with the winds from the right directions, the waters in a tributary of the Red Sea, apparently, really do separate and it is possible, briefly, to literally walk across the sea bed from one side to the other. Something which seems utterly impossible does happen naturally – though very very rarely.

The odds against the Red Sea parting seem so great as to be impossible. And it seems against Nature. But (with a slight geographical adjustment – it’s not really the Red Sea itself) the impossible becomes merely a rarity. What seemed impossible becomes unlikely but possible.

And the unlikely happens all the time.

Which brings us back to iPads and eyepads.

Oh, alright, it’s not profound, but I find it mesmerising.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Religion, Strange phenomena, Television