Don’t believe the hype

iPad in Google trends
iPad slips from hype topspot
Now that the brouhaha is beginning to fade, maybe we can take stock of the absurdity of the latest product launch by Apple. For those unable to attend the event in person, there were live blogs galore and even a blow-by-blow retelling of what was happening inside by vloggers refused entry.

The irony is delicious: the latest most sophisticated information system being explained in Chinese whispers.

And of course, the story ends in wildly differing versions, from fan- to craptastic.

The only consensus was the high snigger factor of the name — altho’ after the 7th iTampon tweet, the joke was pretty much milked dry.

As one of the many who cannot afford an iPhone, iBook, iTouch or iPad, it seems ridiculous that so much energy is spent in discussing a new gadget. It’s not jealousy on my part, understand; owning an iPad belongs in that post-lottery-win fantasy, where I’m floating on my white leather chaise longue in an infinity pool in St Barts (hey, it’s MY fantasy). Apple has succeeded in generating so much hype about its products that it barely needs to do any promotion itself — we do it ourselves. Nice one, Steve.

And why do we get so excited by a new toy? Because of the need to be “in” with the in-crowd (baaa-aaa), to look down on the have-nots (p-tooo).

It reminds me of a quote about photographers:

Amateurs are concerned about products;
Professionals are concerned about price;
Masters are concerned about light.

It is the amateur’s doomed belief that if he just had the latest product, regularly, he would be able to rank as a pro. The point is that having a better camera is no substitute for practice and talent. Doisneau or Capa wouldn’t have taken better pictures with this year’s latest camera.

Instead of placing our faith externally in an object, we should spend more time investing on the internal.

(… but if I do win the lottery, then I’ll be wearing this Leica necklace in my fantasy …)

Blue and yellow

Back to work on Monday after an exhausting IKEA weekend: long trip to the mainland on Saturday, then six hours shuffling round the blue and yellow megabox, sustained only by Swedish meatballs and a family-size bag of Daims; Sunday busy with the allen keys, baffled by pictogram instructions simplified for our 23-language community.

What did we buy? Well, after Mr B decided that we’d made too many hasty decisions (during our six-hour visit), you can already find half of the stuff on, the local, most popular equivalent of eBay.

Mr B is right, of course; IKEA specializes in the borderline of the acceptable; the grey zone of style where no one feels exactly at home but is at a loss for anything better, or affordable.

As part of my extensive research for this post, I came across this song by The Used.

[audio: The-Used-Blue-and-Yellow.mp3]

As far as poignant adolescent longing goes, it’s … apparently much appreciated by fans who bicker about whether the lyrics refer to romance, friendship or dope. Of course, it’s none of those things. Check out the lyrics from the chorus:

Should’ve done something but I’ve done it enough,
by the way your hands were shaking,
rather waste some time with you.

The references are so obviously IKEAN: the tension between the desire for Scandinavian design (kräap) and the fear of having “an IKEA house”; the way your hands feel after screwing together several flatpacks of mdf with a 4mm allen key;

… and the realization that time could have been better spent with the ones you love.

Life’s too short to visit IKEA.


I happened to pop over to Mininova to get something for the weekend. All my searches came back empty. Then I noticed the banner at the top of the page and clicked on the latest blog post.

It’s a familiar story, and one I’ve followed, all the way back to Napster in ’99. Ahh, happy days. The social interaction of the early Napster was half the fun, being able to browse each other’s collections and chatting about shared interests. Then came Limewire, WinMX, and Shareaza — that last one ended in a particularly bizarre situation, when the site was hijacked by an organization linked to the RIAA that proceeded to distribute infected files.

Now I’m curious to see how quickly a new sharing service rises, as it surely will.

Update 091201: Lifehacker provides a useful list of alternatives to Mininova.

Ria Bacon, Photographer

Another string to my fiddle, to add to those of editor, translator and trainer — marked by the first time I have been paid for one of my photos!

Here it is, a double half-page spread in the New York Magazine.

Ria Bacon, Photographer

Regular readers of this blog may have already seen the picture gracing the header on this web page.

I said above that this was the first time I had been paid for a published photo, but it is not the first time I have had a photo published.

The first time was in the Jamaica Observer, and was part of an unpaid photostory feature by readers. The second time was in the Chicago Sun-Trib, when a photo was used without permission and without payment.

When I queried this action, I was offered an apology and payment, but never received a cent. The person responsible was later promoted to the board of the newspaper, before being sacked and taking up a position at the Huffington Post. That’s what you get when you mess with da Ria ;-)

The third publication was actually a non-event. A UK publisher of educational reference books asked permission to use one of my photos. I agreed and quoted a price based on what I considered reasonable ($150).

The publisher replied that he hadn’t anticipated such a high figure (!). I then asked what he considered reasonable, and was told that he normally paid $70 … but that he no longer needed my photo.

I am sure he thought he could use it for free, not having offered anything in the first place. He twice mentioned that his was a small publishing house, yet the reference book in question had a print run to supply all the UK school libraries and cost around $50 per copy!

Bloody cheek.

One of these days I’m going to sort out my photo files and promote them more effectively. Any recommendations for making more money?

(One of these days … One of these days …)

Stranded on Tin Can Island

Our household goods and car are enjoying their last night on Tin Can Island, a tropical paradise for 40-foot containers off the coast of Lagos.

Buxsailor tracking table

Our goods should have arrived in Rotterdam last week, but as a result of congestion at the port, they had a bonus ten days of cocktails and afrobeat on Tin Can island, dodging pirates and acting inconspicuous … as only a 40-foot container can.

God knows why our shipper in Dakar put our stuff on this ship — it stops at every lampost round the Bight of Guinea before turning round and heading north to Europe. It’s no wonder M. Calasans of CATT déménagements has stopped replying to my emails — honte à toi, Patrice !

At least we know where the ship is now, thanks to fascinating tracking sites such as this.

Of course, given our paranoia experience of double-dealing African officialdom, we cannot be sure that our container actually contains our goods; it is perfectly possible that one or more Senegalese services “rerouted” our goods before the container was sealed. It wouldn’t be the first time a container was “washed overboard”.

What we can be sure of is that baby #4 will be here before our baby goods, so we’ve started buying and borrowing the basics as best we can: bath, blanket, bibs and bed.

The “B”s are covered.

Now, has anyone got a pram going spare?