Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why are the Angry Birds – angry?

So Angry Birds is the smash of the year. The surprise game that has become a meme and catapulted (sorry) its makers Rovio to fame, fortune and a frenzy of merchandising and motion picture tie-ins.

But why are the birds angry?  While we were in Tallinn last week at the Creative Hotspots event and economist Neil McEnroy of Manchester’s Centre for Local Economic Studies was probing the inner recesses of the creative industries, this was one of the questions that burned deepest in my mind.

Just why are the Angry Birds angry?

Is it that humankind has wrecked the environment and that now, as a form of punishment, we have to use the birds to wreck our own buildings in order to restore the natural balance?

Is it that the makers of the game would have made planes not birds but that this was not absurd enough and looked too much like 9/11? It seems unlikely that Angry Planes,  a game where you catapult planes into buildings to see how efficiently you can knock them down would be quite as popular as Angry Birds. But in one of the Angry Birds night scenes, the birds do have these light tracers that seem more redolent of missiles than birds…

Or is this some kind of weird tribute to Hitchcock’s the Birds? Is this  (like the Danish cartoons last year) another one of those offbeat and slightly weird Nordic cultural satires? Only sitting long nights in saunas in log cabins makes these things comprehensible apparently.  Has anyone spotted a Hitchcockian cameo appearance of the great director himself yet in any of the Angry Birds scenes?

grass and rain pic



the english winter

Krispy Kreme's truck

The back of this truck says

The hot light is coming

If you can’t see my mirrors

I can’t see you

And that is obviously true

Isn’t it – bring on the hot light

Wasps perform brain surgery best post of the day courtesy of boingboing

Wasp performs roach-brain-surgery to make zombie slave-roaches
Ampulex compressa is a wasp that has evolved to tackle roaches, insert a stinger into their brains and disable their escape reflexes. This lets the wasp use the roach’s antennae to steer the roach to its lair, where it can lay its egg in it. Parasite Rex author Carl Zimmer tells the story in gooey, graphic detail:

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach’s exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach’s brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach’s antennae and leads it–in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex–like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp’s burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

The larva grows inside the roach, devouring the organs of its host, for about eight days. It is then ready to weave itself a cocoon–which it makes within the roach as well. After four more weeks, the wasp grows to an adult. It breaks out of its cocoon, and out of the roach as well. Seeing a full-grown wasp crawl out of a roach suddenly makes those Alien movies look pretty derivative.



Apparently the great british record industry presented to the UK Parliamentary Internet Group this week and a result the most almighty row has broken out. Surprise surprise this is between the indie Aim organisation and the representative of the diminishing major labels – the BPI. You may know that I once worked at the BPI and once worked at a major label – no longer.

It would appear that the subject of DRM – Digital Rights Management – which I have  often  termed Doesn’t Really Matter has once again inflamed the delicate folk at the BPI. It turns out that some members of AIM don’t believe in the necessity for copy protection as distinct from the notion of getting paid. One is not, after all, linked necessarily to the others. Think e-music

So, apparently, late in the day today Friday – the parties had descended to a fabulous, effing and blinding slanging match in which various illustrious and not so illustrious folk were calling each other names. Martin Mills, Steve Redmond, John Kennedy – all at each others throats – “communications director – a fucking joke” – allegedly one comment and so on and on.

I get all this second hand of course, so none of it could be substantiated, but while Rome burns and all that – the opportunity for new development, new ideas, making the consumers the true A&R guys – all these things will come. The concept of labels will decline inevitably….

PearLyrics – an suitable case for treatment

A very nice young Austrian chap recently put together a little program called PearLyrics that found the lyrics for your song and squirted them into the lyrics field in Itunes to make them appear when the song played. Fab! Only one problem – the lyrics sites he spidered were nearly all illegal. As a result he got a very nasty letter from the publishers Warner Chappell telling him to stop what he was doing – cease and desist (never understood what desisting actually is – anybody know?).

Anyway – there’s been great mutterings amongst the digerati about this because it seemed like a new front had just been opened up in the global war waged by the music industry against the consumer.

People as usual jumped up and down and claimed that lyrics should be free, that if I’d bought a CD I had the right to anything I wanted to do with the music and the composition and the lyrics – and that publishers are greedy bastards and so are the artists.
Prof Von Lohmann of the Electronic Freedom Frontier was most vocal about all this, although wrong in some places too, but he pursuaded Warner Chappell to recant their accusations and to let the little man from Austria go back to his business – which we’re now waiting to see what will happen next.

I posted the following pompous offering to the digital music community bitch list – also known as the Pho:
There are some more distinctions that we should make in all of this – and some matters of practicality.

The IP rights in lyrics to a composition are separate and definable as are the rights in the composition.

Generally speaking, the publisher licenses the label to make a recording and the mechanical right includes both those elements.

Equally, generally speaking, when a consumer buys a recording (CD or Digital) – they are buying the right to play that recording in the privacy of their home – and that includes the lyrics and the composition insomuch as they are bound up in the recording. It is highly debatable as to whether they have also therefore bought the right to reproduce those lyrics in any other form. If the label does not choose to reproduce the lyrics – that is almost always a decision taken with the close involvement of the artist. The album artwork has, in my experience with many bands, proved to be almost as emotionally complex a set of discussions as the choice of tracks to go on the record. If the lyrics aren’t published in print by the way – it may well be that they have never been written down anywhere – or perhaps only exist as a set of scribbled notes in the artists’ notebook.

The US “fair usage” provisions, which by the way do not really exist in European law, provide the usual ambiguity about what a consumer might do in the privacy of their own home. And, although my dear American friends, you may rightly feel this week that the Thought Police are upon you, so far the financial value of lyrics and compositions alone has not made pursuing the infringement of rights in them big enough business to make anyone that excited.

Interestingly in this debate, no one seems to have mentioned the Hal Leonard Corporation in the US and Music Sales Ltd in London. These are the sheet music guys who do make a small but not unhealthy living precisely by publishing song books of lyrics and compositions transcribed. It is their livelihood which, arguably, could be being affected by the illegal activities of fan sites. The sheet music business is estimated to be worth about $1bn worldwide and, as I am currently the CEO of a company ( whose technology is being used to facilitate the online exploitation of those rights in a suitably clean and simple DRM protected form (check out our Scorch technology), I guess I have an interest in this too! The fact is, of course, that the lyrics tend to have less value in this arena than the notation – but if you want to learn to play a song – you probably want to sing it too – otherwise what’s all the fuss about?

I agree that the tone of the Warner Chappell letter was typical of the bullyboy style of the current music industry. That is as regrettable in my view as the endless consumer lawsuits issued by the RIAA and BPI and IFPI organisations, but is the value in the IPR that we are discussing here so marginal as to be better recouped by selling merch? Half the time, when we find out the real lyrics to a song we end up preferring the ones that we imagined hearing ourselves. (My favourite misheard line for years was “I fell in love with a Starship Trooper!” which I gracefully reinterpreted as “I fell in love with a draft excluder”. So, in the case of inane pop lyrics – perhaps none of us cares that much – but in the case of insightful Dylan like stuff or even smart and witty Blur like lyrics – our cultural sensitivities become more acute. I suspect that what seems mundane and banal to one generation might be more interesting and insightful to the next – what do we think about “blue suede shoes”? But that’s taking a historic perspective – outside the life of a copyright – well that’s another discussion! In the end the destiny of lyrics, ought to be a decision for the artist and his publisher and not just the kids – but you know – “the kids are alright”! And – at the moment – this industry does need to do everything it can to woo them back to being interested in commercially released music – instead of almost anything else like games, videos, sport, fashion, food, sex, drugs, – and then oh yes – local gigs, bands their mates are in, loops and mixes they’re throwing together themselves, indie bands from previous eras whose recordings are now commercially unavailable, aaah – now that’s what you call a long tail!

It is quite amazing how blind the industry still is to the extent of its need to transform itself.

Seasons greetings pop pickers!

The ultimate holiday gift!

SumSing 3000i multiphone –

This is it – the ultimate phone – you need this – now!

(highlighted by the ever resourceful Martin Tobias on his deep green crystal pages. – although he thought it was Swedish when it  is obviously Dutch – but it’s a long way from Seattle!)