Rotten apple on page 3

There are a few companies out there that would like to give a bite to the Cuppertino-based consumer electronics giant... Microsoft, HP, and the list goes on and on. When I saw the following ad it made me smile. I liked the deprecative tone against Apple's too patronising (though not assumed) expression mode.  I liked the ad, though I am still not convinced about the product itself. Which is the opposite of what an Apple ad does to me... Interesting consumer behaviour!

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Walk around the Loch, walk around the world

Loch me in the eye

Keen fan of Scotland whose surroundings amazed me when I toured it a few years back, I am always interested to see how the local breed promote their region and iconic products. To a certain extend, Whisky is the Scottish wine. You find the same kind of traditional, secretive techniques to ensure great, consistent quality of a product which is intrinsically subject to the unpredictable consequence of natural elements... It is also very easy to fall in the trap of the cliches: the bagpiper wearing a kilt with his face painted in blue... But it is also great to dig a little further in the ambitions of a nation that was too often discarded by the cousins of the South.

The following short film is a great story, told by a great actor. Robert Carlisle is not only a great stripper, he is also a good story-teller. So kudos to advertising agency BBH for the production of this one-take film depicting the story of Whisky brand Johnny Walker. The photography is great, the directing and acting too... But more importantly, the story line is insightful and great. Keep up the good work, and keep walking.

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We Feel Fine... Thank you!

Turning the page

A while back, the news were all doom and gloom. The economical downturn was all over: in the press, on TV, on the top of the alibi lists used by large corporations to legitimise redundancy plans... Back then, I wrote a note about the positive attitude that one can adopt to face this challenging situation.

A few months later, I have encountered the embodiment of my earlier thoughts in the form of Christmas lightings. As we get closer to the holidays period, positivism seems to take over. I was hence happily surprised to walk up Carnaby Street and to discover this year's variation of their much anticipated Christmas decorations:

Peace. Love. Joy... All good intentions materialised in gigantic balloons covered in rainbow colours, shining stars and other feel-good graphic designs. They hang over the crowd like oversized cartoon bubbles, as if to visualise the intimate thoughts of passers-bys.

Picture that emotion.

As you may remember from a previous post, I am keeping a close eye on Bing, Microsoft new search experience which aims at offering consumers an alternative to Google's 10 boring blue links. Bing just got out of its beta phase in the UK, and the British experience now integrates a brand new way to search: visual search. Don't get me wrong, this is not a new way to search for images. No, this is a visual way to search. It provides users with thumbnails around a given topic, each picture representing an intent. In this example, the images represent travel destinations which can be filtered out using options on the left. You can thus decide that in June, in France, Lyon and the French Alps are one of the ideal travel destinations... Hurray!

Beyond the shameless promotion of my home region, why is that search marketing digression relevant to the current article? Visual search relies on a psychological fact: human beings process images 28% faster than text. This is probably why people like Jonathan Harris work tirelessly at visualising what cannot be materialised.

I refered to Harris' work a few times on this blog, because I just find it amazing. In 2005 for instance, Sep Kamvar and Jonathan Harris created the award-winning website wefeelfine.org, an exploration of human emotion that harvests human feelings from all over the internet. On that site, millions of bubbles are extracting from the blogosphere the words "I feel..." and then depending on the adjective that follows the verb the bubble gets coloured and clustered.

Log in to that site at any point of time and you get an instantaneous view of what people feel then. You can even filter out the results by gender, age groups, weather... Are men or women happier? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? Is beauty the bridge between happiness and negativity? How do our emotions change as we age? What causes depression? What's sexy? What's normal? What's human?

We feel fine finally provides a way to answer these questions that is both quantitative and anecdotal, putting individual stories into a larger context and showing the stories behind the statistics, or as the authors like to say, "bringing life to statistics and statistics to life."

If you want to learn more about this experiment on how to visualise feelings, the authors have published a book "We feel fine: an almanach of human emotion". Packed with personal photos, scientific observations, statistical infographics, and countless candid vignettes from ordinary people, We Feel Fine is "a visual, fiercely intelligent, endlessly engrossing crash course in the secrets of human emotion".

Now, that could be a great "Feel-Good Christmas Present", couldn't it?

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My name is not nobody

Promising start
The name of the doubt.

As you may have read in September, I am for a couple months the lucky dad of a young little fellow called Arthur.

Finding the name of your heir is probably one of the most complex tasks in early parenthood. You cannot afford to be wrong... (Un)fortunately the pregnancy lasts for nine months, which means that you have three quarter of a calendar year to make up your mind. But also as much time to hesitate.

Dilemma after dilemma, books after books, long list after long list, arguments after agreements... It is a never ending story. Well so to speak, because ultimately, one day the little one is here and you have to call him by something. On that note, it was interesting to discover that in the UK, your baby can remain unnamed for a couple weeks, so you can buy yourself some time (I love this expression).

The naming brief.

As a couple of migrating French, we had some kind of a brief for our child's name. First it had to be a boy's name... Probably too lazy to cope with the burden of stabbing in the dark, we had asked for the sex of our child and reduced the task by 50%. But then we wanted: a French name that was also international; a name that would be pronounced roughly the same way in the main European languages; a name that would not carry any chav connotation (I am sorry to say that English names have a negative connotation in France, due to the success of 90210 and the tsunami of Brandons and Dylans that followed); a name which would not create puzzling initial... And certainly a proper name, not a word turned into a name.

In the end, we opted for Arthur, a name which ticked all the above-mentioned boxes on top of having seduced us both. Our son is named after King Arthur, this Briton who successfully fought the Saxons in the 6th century. Being a French King seems to be a key factor of success to achieve great things on this side of the Channel. Think about William the Conqueror or, closer to us, Eric Cantona. French emperors are to that extend less likely to succeed...

Around the clock.

We were convinced that we had thought of everything. Acronyms, permutations, abbreviations... In French, in English, in Italian and Spanish. No flaws could be found. And yet, one of the first things our parents said to us after "oh my God, he is so cute" was "we hope he won't be too often called Arthur!". This was said with a smile, as if there was an intelligent pun or a spoonerism in the sentence. But we were completely missing the trick(another proof of our lack of intelligence it seemed).

At some point, we had to ask. It is painful to be parents and yet to have to admit your ignorance and go back to your own parents just like you were five again. My mother explained me that there was an idiom when she was younger: "se faire appeler Arthur" ("to be called Arthur") meant then "to be told of". She could not recall the origin of this expression though.

After a little investigation to crack the riddle, we finally identified the potential origin of this idiom. And I could not refrain to share it on this blog, since it is tightly connected to cultural difference...
So flash back. We are in the early 40's in France. The German army is occupying most of the territory. To prevent both the sabotage work of the Resistance and the night bombing from the Allys, the Wehrmacht has instored a national curfew. After 8 o'clock, no more light. And German troops patrolled to enforce this policy.

On the one hand, the traditional German uprightness, on the other a world famous habit to "interpret" the laws. You can easily imagine the German soldiers banging at the door of a café, pointing at their watch to explain to the locals that they ought to finish their Pernod in the dark. They would probably add to the pantomime some basic German orders to make their orders crystal clear, something like "8 o'clock!"... Eight o'clock, Acht Uhr in Goethe's language.

For the non-German-speaking, and probably inebriated, fellows on the other side of the machine gun though, Acht Uhr actually sounded pretty much like Arthur. So being summoned "Acht Uhr" was like being told of by your teacher. "Hey Paul, they called you Acht Uhr/Arthur, so you'd better swallow that last glass and head home before it gets worse".

Since the expression have survived, at least amongst the baby-boomers who were "called arthur" by their parents every time they burnt a bra or sprayed slogans on the walls. As a representative of the Generation X, I had never heard of it. My son is not even two month old and he teaches me some cultural insights. That is promising, a bit like that gesture he gave me the other day. No doubt about it Arthur is French, and that he will be called Acht Uhr in the next few years.

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