Saturday, 29 January 2011

Apple Store London

I'm in the Apple Store in London today, after having been interviewed on BBC London Breakfast for Joanne Goode's radio show I wandered into this plush, pretentious and cultish retailer of the most stylish computer brand since the Amiga, which coincidentally was responsible for the special effects in Babylon 5.

The Apple Store is not like any other computer store, for a start they only deal in their own brand, although there are third party peripherals and accessories in case you don't want to put a mortgage down on an official iPod sock. The design of the store is very shopper-friendly, you walk in and are both permitted and encouraged to use the array of expensive Apple devices, touching them with your anxious grubby hands, leaving fingerprints and smudges over the glossy screens of the most sought after electronic device since the Tamagotchi.

The staff at the Apple Store can be a mixed bag, I've seen one member of staff dismiss a potential customer's inquiry with an aloof "I don't know" all without ever making eye contact. However, they're not all like that, some of the staff are clued up and helpful, especially the young boyband-looking kid who sold me my MacBook Air and answered all my questions with honesty, accuracy and patience as I repeated my questions out of the excitement of being inducted into the group of people that can pretend to look like they're writing a novel in any cafe-type area in which others can observe my silent creativity even though I'm probably arsing around on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Your entire digital needs can be met here, don't just get any phone, get an iPhone. Walkman? Get an iPod Nano, iPod Video, or iPod Touch. Intermediate digital device that's not a computer nor an iPod? Get an iPad! Computer? Get a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or a Power Mac. And then sync all these devices via iTunes and Mobile Me. The government doesn't need to collect information on it's citizens or issue ID cards, Apple are making your personal data and digital identity into one collective cool image. Even if you're a complete technophobe, the Apple Store has a compelling atmosphere in which you want to own these devices and be part of the new digital lifestyle as we head towards "The Singularity" in an electronic hand basket that is being delivered by the rapid progress of this phenomenal technological revolution that allows us to communicate in an unprecedented fashion and more importantly catch you speeding or driving in a bus lane, because that generates money for the government.

Renowned for never crashing or breaking down, this Mac myth is dealt with by the experts at the "Genius Bar". Sorry, they're not "experts", they're "geniuses" in blue t-shirts who can fix your Mac problem provided you've made an appointment to a service that is oversubscribed by those who manage to brick their Mac device by spilling water on it or trying to install an Adobe Flash application.

Upstairs at the Apple Store, there is a small theatre at the back in which one of the staff give workshops and presentations on what your Mac can do and how to un-intuitively "right click" by dislocating your hand first. It's here that you are welcome to sit down and use the power socket and free WiFi to take part in the show or do as I did and sit here and do other work, most notably arse around on Facebook and/or Twitter. I normally write my comedy material with pen and paper, but since I was devoid of such an instrument and too intimidated to ask the hawte brunette that works here, I instead got to work on my Mac. As I typed away in three different windows, working on three different ideas at the same time (men can multi-task, but only when we're excited... ahem!), a tall man sat next to me and kept looking over. I assumed this was because of my sexy new MacBook Air, then he asked me "Are you that comedian?". I then remembered that I am indeed that comedian and not just some wandering comic who wanted somewhere quiet to arse around on Facebook and/or Twitter ;-p

Such a robust shop in which I can chill out and do some work in, siphoning the electricity and WiFi and even a fairly tidy customer bathroom, all the Apple Store needs is a small cafe in it, and I'd come here to write material and scoff down a chocolate muffin, veg panini and a hot chocolate whilst typing away on my MacBook Air like some smug creative intellectual when really I'm just some idiot kid with no education but has an eerily accurate impression of a velociraptor.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Ms Interpret

Social networking has allowed us to communicate like never before, at the touch of a button you can tell the entire world how you feel, what you opinion is or what colour your pants are, and the whole world can see it and reply to you instantly telling you how much they care and how awesome you really are.

However, as technology brings us closer, improves our lives and flashes different coloured lights into our faces, the age-old human failure mechanism of misinterpreting compromises the advantages of such technology and takes us back to square one in an instant. Never underestimate the power of hypersensitive fatalistic idiots, they can make mountains out of molehills in an area where no moles exist.

Twitter is a social networking site that allows real time status updates in 140 character bursts, a great alternative if you don't care for Facebook or can't remember what MySpace was all about. However, with a 140 character limit, Tweeters must be succinct with their words and ensure that the meaning of their tweet is clear and without ambiguity... unless of course you're trying to say something funny, be ironic, aloof etc, you know, like a comedian might. Then you run into the trouble of someone misinterpreting what you say, taking offence, calling your Mum a Nazi and trying to chastise you publicly on Twitter like a tech-savvy absent-father.

Recently some people have received all kinds of hell for their perceived behaviour on Twitter, sometimes the truth gets drowned out in the sensationalised hate mongering that is perpetuated by nutjobs who want to police the internet with their self-righteous indignation and truncheon of justice in the shape of a USB mouse. It's either them or the authorities who are watching you on the CCTV cameras that never catch criminals but will always catch you breathing in the direction of a bus lane during peak hours and billing you with a pricey ticket for the privilege.

To be on the safe side, it is best to water-down what you want to say and leave no space for ambiguity, which ultimately robs us of being spontaneous and witty. It seems that we are increasingly at the mercy of people who will misinterpret what has been said because of their own fears, indignation or just because they need to kick-off. In the few instances my tweets have been misinterpreted, I have chosen not to engage in a tweet-debate, instead relying on the reputation of my many followers who understand my sense of humour to remind myself that I'm not the bad guy that someone else wants me to be just so that they can feel good about themselves. So, to those of you who read this and are following me, thank you, I appreciate your support :-)

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Live from Phi Phi Island

Imran Yusuf, now with "400% more brown!"
Not so much an article but more of a 'dear diary' as I sit in an open air cafe on Phi Phi Island, sharing my thoughts with any followers wanting to hear them.

I am currently on Phi Phi Island in Thailand, previously having been devastated by the Tsunami many years ago, the island has been rebuilt to continue it's business in attracting pierced, tattooed and heavy drinking foreigners as a popular holiday destination in the sun where you can get off your nut and have drunken sex in cheap hotel rooms where the previous resident's bodily fluids are still visible in the bedsheets. Classy.

Previous to this, I was in Ao Nang and then in Railey, where it was somewhat more respectable, even if some girls will encourage you to take them kayaking to secluded beaches and not reveal that they have boyfriends waiting for them at home. It's day time in Phi Phi right now, so I am able to chill out without the thumping baseline of dance music that makes my skeleton vibrate as I watch another fire show for the umpteenth time, impressed by the dynamism of wielding balls of fire that sometimes come off and straight into the unsuspecting crowds face. The Thai's aren't big on health and safety, nor is there an Trading Standards here, which became clear as I gulped down a 6 month old Gatorade the other day.

This has been my first holiday in a long, long, long time. The last time I went abroad for myself and on my own was on pilgrimage through Israel/Palestine, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2006, and that was not a holiday as in as much a journey of introspection and being ripped off by Arab merchants and having assault rifles stuck into my face by Israeli soldiers on the threshold of every shop or station. Fast-forward to Jan 2011 and I've finally gone on holiday for myself to unwind many years of mental and physical stress that has been built up from pursuing my dream to become a comedian, and it is such a relief. I've met cool people, have done cool things, and enjoyed the power of my UK currency go to work for me in this part of the world. Here in Thailand, the British Pound is strong, and although foreigners are likely to be ripped-off given even a moment of a naivety, I've enjoyed a relaxed lifestyle here that back home would cost me a small fortune.

This experience has encouraged me to feel a lot more grateful for what I have, when I see how hard the locals here, men, women AND children all hustle to make a living, I realise that I live in a relative paradise compared to them, and all of a sudden it seems that I actually have no problems, only an abundance of resource and opportunity on the cold, snow-swept, 20% VAT island I am a citizen of. I know what you're thinking, that I should have ended that last sentence with a preposition. But it's my blog, so too bad, I do as I please.

As a foreigner here, I can't move for all the merchants selling me massages, dinner, drinks and even to stick my feet in a tank of cleaner fish who will eat all my dead skin. Seeing how the locals live and how much harder they have to work for so many of the luxuries that I take for granted has really put life back into perspective amidst all the showing off that I do for a living and the stress the comes in driving around the country doing gigs. It's nice to know that gratitude and humility really can be an antidote to our everyday pressures in the west, but as much good this has done for me, I'm eager to return to my HDTV and Xbox 360 next week :-)