Friday, 29 August 2008

Winged Cat - China Sensation

A "Winged Cat" in China has been causing a bit of a sensation on the net today.

Following recent stories about the iPhone Girl and the Second Brother on the Right, it seems that little stories happening in China seem to be causing a world-wide-web tidal wave!

The cat is reported to come from the Qingyan province in China. The owner claims that the tabby started to develop 2 bumps on its back before they eventually grew into wings.

winged cat

As this photo of the winged cat in question shows, it is hardly going to fly away. In fact, Wikipedia has a surprisingly lengthy article on the winged cat phenomenon. The article suggests that the winged cat phenomenon is caused by mats in the fur, deformed layers of the skin or appendages, or by a condition of FCA. Either way, it leaves a funny looking cat, that visitors are apparently visiting in droves.

The quote of the day must go to the winged cat's owner, Feng, who is claimed to have said:
"[The] pet’s wings were the result of stress from too many females desiring to mate with him"

The distressing part of the story is that the owner cut one of the "wings" off because they were worried that it would either fly off or be abducted by admirers! This makes me really hope it was just matted fur.

So it seems that even though it is a well documented condition, and hence not uncommon, it has not stopped a media storm in China and the US, making it one of the top Google searches today so far. It is strange that it seems as if the small, light-hearted, stories are making the big talking points lately. As well as the un-named Chinese people, we shall put this in with the Montauk and the Bigfoot that was actually a frozen gorilla suit!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

"I'm Tiger Woods" says Jesus

A couple of weeks ago I watched a funny video by EA Sports themselves (that I assumed was quite old) of Tiger Woods walking on water and taking a shot onto the green with a ball that landed on a water-lily! Then this morning in the Metro I discovered that it is in fact a new video from EA Sports to promote the upcoming "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09". SO I thought I would mention it.

The video is clever in that it takes the form of a YouTube response to a video that was posted back in August 2007 of a glitch a user found in the Xbox version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08.

I quite enjoy when companies can be light-hearted about their work. I'm sure some peoples' initial thoughts at EA Sports was to go back to the code and create a patch for the game to remove the glitch (which they probably did as well!), but some smart people thought almost the complete opposite. Why not draw attention to the bug and create a viral campaign in time for the next installment of the game? All while giving Tiger Woods a further ego boost. He is now officially Jesus!



This works well as a YouTube video, playing on its viral nature. I doubt the quality of the initial clip that sparked this response would be transferable to a TV audience, but as nearly 1.5 million people have seen the clip as it is (at the time of going to post!) and it has been getting increased awareness through the traditional press anyway, I am sure that EA Sports need not worry about trying it!

As Tiger Woods won't be playing golf until 2009 (due to his surgery) this will be a welcome boost of advertising to the PGA Tour 09 game as very little sporting news will be going Tiger Woods' way.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

DJ Spock

I think the title says enough really! DJ Spock!



Oh...by the way, I am in not a trekkie (is it even with one k or two?), but I do like Quantum Leap!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Cineworld Profits Announced

On the way home today, I was reading in both the London Paper and the London Lite about the profits taken by Cineworld over the first 6 months of this year and their outlook on the second half of 2008, and it was nice to see that Cineworld agrees with my previous comments.

In this blog last week, I suggested that "cinemas might be one of the few recession-proof industries out there at the moment". In today's London Paper I was facing the headline "Blockbusters beat slump at Cineworld" followed by the following opening sentence:

"Cineworld today declared itself "recession-proof" as blockbusters such as Batman and Mamma Mia drew massive crowds."

It seems as if Cineworld's chief executive Stephen Wiener agrees with my outlook. He has said:

"I have been in the business for almost 39 years and everyone always says nothing is recession-proof, but going to the movies is as recession-proof as you can find."

Although admissions were down over the first 6 months of 2008, this has been simply put down to a lack of true blockbusters being released over this period (only National Treasure 2 seems to have done any reasonable business - good ol' Nick Cage! - see the video below).

With recent hits like Indiana Jones 4, Iron Man, Sex and the City, The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia and with further hits on the horizon (007 Quantum of Solace anyone?) it looks like it could be an incredibly healthy end of the year.

Traditionally recessions have tended to favour cinemas. For the past 3 recessions, cinemas have managed to successfully ride the Credit Crunches, as even though people look to save money by not going to bars, restaurants and High Street shops, the one luxury they feel they can afford every now and then is the cinema. Now we just have to see how much "The Hobbit" will make for Cineworld around Christmas 2010.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Visit London

After the stylish attempts by Sony to recreate underground maps using Walkman Headphones that I wrote about last week, I came across another interesting poster campaign that I found equally nice.

Visit-London is a website that acts as the "Official Website for London" and is part of London's increased advertising campaigns that will gradually increase towards the hosting of the Olympics in 2012. "Visit London" has detailed information about how to travel around the city, tourist attractions, places to stay/eat, etc. As I live in London, most of this information is actually of very little use to me because I know where I am going to be staying (my place!) and hopefully know of enough good places to eat to cover most peoples' tastes. However, their most recent ad campaigns caught my attention.

Visit London World
Visit London Poster as found on the VisitLondon.com Media Page.


The "Visit London" poster is essentially the Earth with a detailed aerial photo of London stretched across its surface. The slogan "See The World...Visit London" is also very catchy and, in my opinion, a fair reflection of the cultural diversity that London as a city has. As I have mentioned before, one of the main things I am quick to criticize in advertising is a poor slogan, which is why I am glad to see that this has a simple but exciting message. Other variations I believe there to be are along the same route such as "See the World...See London", etc.

The image is also quite striking and makes a good use of the famous path/bends of the Thames. If the image hadn't been put together as well as it has I would have feared that the poster would have been advertising episodes of Eastenders, but thankfully the message hasn't been lost by over-complicating things. That reminds me of one of the more recent Apprentice episodes in which the two teams were asked to design and make a TV advert for a box of tissues. The end results varied dramatically. One ad was very artistic in comparison and seemed like a well filmed commercial. The other ad was a poorly acted, and very "in-your-face" type of commercial that repeated the name and benefits of the product far too many times. However, the well-made advert lost the task as it was overly-complicated and the message of the ad (buy our tissues) was lost within it. The other ad got the message across and left no doubt in peoples' mind what they were trying to sell.

These "Visit London" posters are much the same. They contain at most 5 words and a web-site address. Within this "Visit London" is mentioned twice! Good image and I know what it is trying to promote. Job done!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Introduction to the Tenth Dimension

So far the posts I have made to date are mostly about Media and Technology. However, as a Physicist by nature I felt obliged to spread the wealth of knowledge that can be gained within this fabulous subject.

Once again travelling amongst my stumble-upon world of the web, I came across this wonderfully simple explanation of the 10-Dimensional Universe that String Theory would have us believe we are all apart of (by one theory...or otherwise 26!).

The 12 minutes or so of video takes each dimension in step to help explain why they would exist and how they relate to the world. Obviously this isn't exactly the full picture by any means, but to try and help people unfamiliar to the topic I thought it was quite nice.

Watch, enjoy, learn...

Posterific

A quick little note on a great little tool I came across today.

Block Posters is a free to use service in which you can blow up a picture into poster form.

You can upload any photo or picture you want, select which paper size you wish to use (e.g. A4) and how big you would like to make the poster. It shows you the structure of how the poster will be broken up before it then allows you to download a fully-constructed PDF file that is ready to print.



Admittedly this is probably only going to be of use to University students as it will save money on decorating the dorm room and give the opportunity to have a poster that isn't a world map, atomic bomb explosion or The Rat Pack.

It is a very simple system that isn't exactly taking technology to new fronteirs but could potentially be useful to some people none-the-less. Just make sure that a good quality photo is used otherwise pixels the size of your fist could result!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Pretty Ribbon Graph of Box Office Hits

I decided to use my newly installed Stumble-Upon feature to Firefox this evening. The idea is that you tick the boxes for topics that you are interested in and by clicking the Stumble button it will open up a new tab taking you to a random site that falls into an area of interest to you.

With the wealth of knowledge available on the web, this is a great tool that will certainly become a regular thing for me, allowing you to browse the net with no particular purpose. I have been doing this for quite some time within Wikipedia by clicking a link on their front page that I would be interested in reading and then follow further links found within that article to expand my knowledge.

Stumble-Upon would simply expand upon this idea and open up a huge chunk of the web.

In fact, the first web-site it took me to was great! Xach.com has a page that combined my interest in movies and my fascination with pretty graphs.

The page gives a wonderful graph (in both regular and logarithmic formats) that shows the weekly breakdown of box office takings in the USA:

"Each page displays trends in the top 25 movies at the box office for each weekend in a year. The color is based on the movie's debut week. Because of that, long-running movies will gradually start to stand out from newer movies with different colors. "




The result is very dynamic and shows the interesting trends in the progress in movie success. Looking at the takings of most films, they show a typical decrease week-on-week before disappearing off the list a month or two later. Notable exceptions in 2008 so far would be that of No Country for Old Men which gained takings week-on-week during the build up to the Oscars and the hype that surrounded it.

The graph also emphasises the HUGE takings that The Dark Knight has made so far in the US. It is interesting to compare the figures to that of Titanic in 1998. The Dark Knight started with its widely reported record breaking weekend and has subsequently halved its takings each week since. Titanic, on the other hand, did not have such a spectacular launch but rather took a very healthy $20-£30 million every week for months on end (staying at number 1 in the US in doing so). I wonder if this is a reflection of the way in which the movie industry has changed in the past 10 years, or simply the spending trends of the movie-going public?

With Hollywood trying to put a stop (or at least limiting the damage) of illegal downloading, I would not be surprised if they would try to get people in the seats faster by building more hype around their films than in days gone by. This would ensure that they would retrieve as much money they could before the Internet community could spread the footage free across the globe. The sharp fall of in takings by recent films like Iron Man and Indiana Jones 4 after their opening week does suggest this.

Alternatively, it may be consumers that are making the decision to spend their money sooner rather than later. Even with the Credit Crunch threatening, consumer spending does still seem to be strong within certain markets. With financial institutions warning people to limit their luxuries, perhaps trips to the local cinema is one of the cheaper and most accessible luxuries and one people will hold onto. In fact, it might be fair to say that cinemas might be one of the few recession-proof industries out there at the moment.

And the stumble continues....

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Terminal 5 is ALIVE!

BA have launched their "Terminal 5 is Working" ad campaign.

When I heard that they would show live stats on the performance at Terminal 5 I thought that was a very clever idea! I imagined seeing live footage of Terminal 5 during ad breaks or on the displays on the underground boards so that people would get to see for themselves how Terminal 5 is working at that moment in time.

Unfortunately, the campaign doesn't quite do that. Instead they pick a pretty picture from the previous day where there are no people queuing at that particular time and gives some stat that "proves" that the Terminal 5 experience will be a pleasant one. The stats seem to be over the 6am to 2pm period for that day (freeing up the evening to actually create the advert for the next day). It would have been nice to have the updated stats every hour or so and have the running average of the week showing, but I can understand the administrative nightmare that could have potentially caused. Although we live in a high-tech world, we all know that it is impossible to have something running perfectly 24/7. Indeed no-one will know this more than BA!

BA have got a lot of work to do to convince people that Terminal 5 is not a building full of luggage that never made it to their intended destinations and this isn't a bad way of trying to do so. Out of my own curiosity it would have been good to be able to see the breakdown of the stats or show live footage of the airport, but I suppose that info must be available somewhere if I was really that worried about it. I tend to fly during mornings, so if I decide to fly out of T5 I am a little more confident that everything will be smooth sailing (odd saying for an airport...sorry!). I haven't yet flown out of T5 but have visited it once to meet my girlfriend who has flown in and out of it once or twice and must admit that it was as empty as the photos suggest. My girlfriend certainly didn't have any complaints about the service.

On a side note, a pet peeve of mine is advertising slogans that do not suggest anything special. "Terminal 5 is Working"! Isn't that just what it's meant to be doing?

However, I guess this is what BA want to reinforce! The media loves to criticize. When the opening of T5 was followed by the enormous issues it faced, the media was all over it, and yet now that everything is running smoothly we don't hear about it. That will leave millions of people left with the impression that Terminal 5 is still a disaster zone and all their baggage will be sent to Milan for sorting. Something as simple as letting us know that T5 is "working" may actually be better in the long run rather than trying to persuade people to us their airline with something like:


  • "Terminal 5 is BAck in action"

  • "5 Alive" (hmm..copyright infringement maybe)

  • "Please fly with us. Please."

Monday, 11 August 2008

Walkman Underground


I came across a nice little ad campaign this weekend from Sony Walkman that has used their headphones to recreate the layout of the London Underground (including the overground network!). They have then used the names of bands and artists to replace the names of the stations.

The end result is quite cool in my opinion and I am surprised that nobody has done this before (that is assuming it hasn't!). At first glance it seemed to me that all the artists they have used are British, before then spotting U2 and Johnny Cash (among others)! It would have been quite nice for them to have stuck to using only British bands but to be fair there are a hell of a lot of stations in London!

I find it quite funny to find on the map that I live somewhere between Placebo and Pink Floyd and work just outside of UB40 and Tony McPhee.

Sony have also recreated the same thing for the Underground network in both New York and Sydney with equal effect. I never knew what the NY or Sydney Metros layout even looked like!



This leads me onto one interesting debate...why do Sony still use their "walkman" brand for their latest range of mp3 players?

To me the walkman was a portable cassette player in the early-to-mid 1990s before CDs became common-place. This was followed up by the "CD Walkman" before disappearing from the radar some time ago.

I can understand that the term walkman has a strong brand history as a player of music, but I feel that it relates to a completely different product/time. That would be the same to me as if they called the new Blu-ray range as BetaMax.

Maybe it just makes marketing easier if you already have a famous and successful name to promote rather than trying to push forward a new name for the product, but if I were offered an equally good walkman and ipod, i would simply assume the ipod was the newer product and go for that.

Bring on the Sony iWalk!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Rock Band 2



I have been seeing and reading this week about features that are coming with Rock Band 2! Since Rock Band 1 only came out a few weeks ago I was quite suprised to hear that the details for the 2nd game would have come out so soon.

Perhaps that is me being quite naive as it was obviously going to be a huge success following the success of the epic that is the Guitar Hero series! As the makers of Guitar Hero intend on releasing a full band version of their game in the near future it is probably wise for the Rock Band team to very quickly establish their own series as the better (and more established) product.

I have heard from friends that own the game that the instruments themselves were not as high quality as the Guitar from the Hero series. Drum petals snapped, strum bars stopped working and microphones ceased to work. Now it is likely that these friends perhaps used the product in a more vigorous manner than intended (in a true rock band style!) but forums on the subject seem to put them in a majority rather than a small minority.

This appears to have been noticed by the manufacturers of the game and they have taken the necessary steps to rectify the issues.

The most noticeable of these changes is with the drums.

The new kit will have a significantly stronger pedal (metal reinforced) as well as a more sophisticated pad system. Velocity-sensitive pads will more correctly reflect the sound heard in the game to the force with which the pads are struck. This is certainly an interesting feature that will at least give some truer feel to the game.


They have also added the ability to plug in a separate set of smaller pads that will make up cymbols. These will be coloured to match those of the main drum pads, so hitting either the drum or the cymbol would have the same effect on the score/note, but the sound heard would reflect whichever pad was hit.

I'm starting to think why bother with the guitar and microphone! The drum kit itself would be worth the gameplay on it's own! Depending on price this could well be a must-buy for my apartment.



The best thing I have heard so far about this game is simply down to the compatibilty. They have said, of course, that the new instruments will be fully compatible with all future versions of Rock Band (This is no suprise). However, the new Rock band game will have the feature to import the songs from the original Rock Band. This is a brilliant feature that was certainly missing off the Guitar Hero games (so far), and elimainates the need to consistantly change disks because your friends "favourite" is on a different disk to the one that's in the console and running at that moment in time.

So I look forward to hitting the drums to the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give It Away" very soon!

Monday, 4 August 2008

e-Metro

I have just discovered that the Metro has released a "full-colour" (a shock to 21st century thinking!!) online version of it's free daily paper, complete with that day's advetising. Cleverly called the e-metro, it is actually quite an easy-to-use system.

As they don't seem to stock the paper version at East Acton tube station, my daily intake of the Metro relies purely on copies being left on the backs of seats after another has finished reading them. I have noticed that this has become an increasingly rare occurance.

I would not suggest that the Metro is a paper of high editorial regard, but in terms of free daily newspapers that are available to me on the commute into work, it is probably the best one going!

The option to therefore read the paper online at my desk during lunch, or even prior to starting work (if I've managed to get in nice and early) is a wonderful thing.

The interface it uses is clear and comes with very few, but useful, features. There are the options to:

  • View as a 1 or 2 page layout

  • Shade the crease in the paper, which actually does make it easier to read!

  • Bookmark interesting pages

  • View thumbnail images to one side as a contents page

  • Download an offline version (unfortunately not a pdf as far as I could see)

  • Search through the content of the current issue or all previous issues (since it started online on 29th July 2008) for a topic or keyword

  • Plus...the option to add the paper to your facebook profile, and other online services like Digg.





It would be good to see them begin to archive old editions of the paper in this format back as far as they can. This would be a great feature and allow interesting research to be got out of it's presence on the web. I shall give the search function a thorough test at some point to see whether it does indeed provide relevant results through the issues it has stored so far. It would also be nice to have the ability to simply download the paper as a pdf rather than in some zip format which then requires the installation of their reader software to view. However, with the online version running smoothly then I do not consider it to be a major problem for me.