Saturday, 10 April 2010

Funny / Unfunny ?

Hello bloglanders.

Usually my posts are about tech - usually Apple tech - but I am still waiting for a UK release date for the iPad and thus am bored off my tits. So here's another subject.

The above link is to a woman who has discussed on her blog her experiences at a recent Frankie Boyle show. For those of you who don't know, Frankie Boyle is an extremely controversial comedian who specialises in near the knuckle humour, regularly touching on such subjects as disability, pedophilia, rape, death, and everything else besides. To my mind, sometimes he is excruciatingly funny (when he's not taking the piss out of other people in a cruel and offensive manner), and sometime he's so unfunny and abusive that I'd like to punch him in the face. How apt then that his latest tour is called "I'd Happily Punch You Every One of You in the Face".

It is clear from the responses in the comments section of that blog that the majority of people find comedians who poke fun at disability unfunny and a bit shit, to say nothing of "evil", "vile" and "horrible" (some of the words used to describe Frankie Boyle). It seems now that taking the piss out of the disabled is going to go the way of mother-in-law jokes and Jim Davison's Chalkie. It just ain't funny anymore.

But there is a core of commenters who point out that the lady in question surely knew what she was getting when she bought the tickets, and also point out that she even goes so far as to say in the very same blog post that she was (before that night) a fan because she liked his nasty style of humour. But when he began a skit about Down's Syndrome (from which this lady's daughter suffers), she found the increasing barrage of jokes a step too far.

She mentions responding to him when he asked her why she and her husband were talking during his show (she was feeling pretty upset by this point and her hubby had asked her if she was ok.) She remained calm and polite, despite the situation (she says), but his final response to their exchange was that this tour was his last and therefore he didn't give a fuck. Which is pretty out of order under the circumstances. Offensive to an unnamed stereotype that isn't present is one thing - most comedians do this is truth be told - but personally offensive to an upset woman in front of the rest of your audience ? Grow up, Frankie - this isn't the school playground and just because you're stood on the stage with the microphone doesn't make you all powerful. If you get it wrong, it can make you look like a bullying twat.

Much as I admire her for responding to him instead of shrivelling up when put in the spotlight, I do wonder if she was laughing all the rest of the time when he was (possibly) taking the piss out of people in wheelchairs, or blind people, for example. She does say she previously liked his nasty sense of humour. One could say that well, when it's up close and personal because it affects someone you love, then suddenly taking the piss out of disability / rape / pedophilia ain't so funny any more. She mentioned that a throwaway line she could have understood, but it was a five to ten minute tirade. I wonder if it was indeed that long, or it just felt that long to her ? I can see how it might. When the spotlight is turned on you, it gets hot fast.

The occasional joke about blindness from a sighted comedian I can live with - but the way it is delivered is the key. Russell Howard (one of my current favourites) once said on Mock the Week that he had once chucked a piece of chocolate towards a man walking along with a dog, and then promptly felt dreadful when he realised it was a guide dog and the dog lurched for the sweetie, dragging his unsuspecting owner several yards. He said he felt dreadful, but he was laughing as he said it - and in truth so was everybody else. And so was I. And so was my fiance.
Those people who are around guide dogs a lot have very likely had this happen to them more than once, or know someone who has. It is scary at the time, but is it funny at the time too ? Not a bit. But when you, the person experiencing it, look back on it - is it funny then ? Or is it only funny when it's a story, when it isn't actually you that it has happened to ?

Personally, I am the sort of person that will recount my mishaps and mistakes to others for comedic effect, but only to people who will laugh WITH me, not at me. Those people are thinking, "Silly cow, but I know what she means - I've done that myself". It's funny when my dearest one is in the kitchen washing up without any lights on, and I come in and say, "What're you doing in here in the dark ? You won't be able to see what you're doing." Or he asks me where something is and I can't find it and I say, "Anyone'd think I was blind or summink ..." Or when my fiance leaves a cardboard box in the middle of the floor and I tell him to move it because he'll be sure to walk into it, but he doesn't - and then later on, he walks into it. It's funny within our little tribe.

But it's NOT funny when some twat makes faces at us in the street because he knows we can't see him do it, or if someone we don't know puts things in our way deliberately and we walk into them. I guess the difference is - when you are among friends, some teasing is ok. When you are amongst strangers, it isn't.

The key to being funny with controversial material without being too offensive, I feel, is to have the ability to take us into your confidence and make us feel like we're in on the joke, and that it is done with affection, and that the real twat in the situation is the one finding it funny, not the object of the joke. It's not enough to use nastiness as armour. This is what bullies do.

Russell Howard does have the ability to bring us in, I find. I have noticed lately that his material on his Good News show is much nearer the knuckle than he has even been on Mock the Week. But I haven't yet been offended by him. He makes me feel like his mate, like we're down the pub. It's just mates teasing, an that when he's taking the piss out of people who don't deserve it, he knows it make him look like an idiot, and we laugh almost as much at him as we do at the joke.
Frankie Boyle makes me feel like he's the tit who stands up larging it in the pub, taking the piss at everyone who passes because he knows that on the whole those people won't say anything back. He might occasionally say something funny, but I keep out of his way and I don't want to have a drink with him. We all know someone like this.

And one day he is sure to get punched on the nose. As a few journos have picked up on this lady's blog post and run with it, in FB's case I think this may have already happened.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

iPad, iBooks, VoiceOver.

A snippet about the iPad and VoiceOver that might interest some visually impaired iPad fence-sitters -
This thread here discusses how large the fonts in iBooks go (without any additional accessibility features added in), and here links to a short demo of iBooks with VoiceOver. Interestingly, the page turns with VoiceOver on seem to work just like the non VoiceOver gesture for page turns, but its difficult for me to tell. And in the case of Winnie The Pooh (included with iBooks), VoiceOver describes in line images too. Neat !

Also, the iPad user manual is up, and has a section on accessibility features, including VoiceOver. Though sadly it's currently in pdf.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Apple of Temptation !

Those lucky Americans get their hands on the iPad officially tomorrow. Unless we've done a Bundlebox or similar, however, us poor UK saps still have no pricing, no launch date, and currently no light at the end of the tunnel - other than a vague rumour that April 24th is what Apple store employees have been told is a "blackout day" (at least in Canada) i.e. no time off on that day. We are tantalised with the idea that this may mean "something big" is afoot on that day, possibility internationally, for Apple stores. And what would be the biggest thing right now for Apple stores ? Guesses two and three are not needed. ;)

Two or so months on from the announcement of the iPad, and I have come to the conclusion (through various sources) that:
a) I am not going to be able to tether my iPhone 3GS to it, unless I jailbreak my iPhone. Not keen. So no 3G for me unless something radical happens in the pricing and data plan pricing department fairly soon.
b) The possibilities for making music with the iPad loom very large. Currently I have changed my performance workflow to substitute my iPhone 3GS plus a SendStation PocketDock for my ageing and often truculent Macbook Pro, along with an excellent app on the iPhone called MultiTrack. I can only slaver in anticipation as to what this app and others of its ilk will be like on the iPad, whether that be with iPad specific versions or not. Bigger screen equals better visibility for me, and more finger space thus more (for me) accuracy in hitting the controls you actually want.
c) Some of the iPad specific apps I have heard of weigh in a 1GB or more. Not all of them will be like this, but you can bet the music making apps with sound libraries may.

So - I am wondering now whether a 32GB version might be a better fit for me. However, I really can't tell because I don't know how much any of them will cost, and ultimately, cost is going to be the deciding factor for this fan girl. Come on Apple ! Throw us a bone, here ? I don't want to be have to resort to the grey import market, do I ? But I am sorely tempted due to the lack of UK love from Apple right now, I can tell you.

Friday, 19 February 2010

iChildren ...

With regards to the feminine hygiene connotations of the name "iPad" ... so far, all the women that I have spoken to about the device have remarked once, with a giggle, about the name, and then dismissed it. But blokes seem to be obsessed with making it a running joke, and actually state the name as being an issue hindering the device's appeal to them, for example ; "I would rather have a new amp / guitar / pair of pants / whatever right now. And of course, there's the name ..."

Grow up lads. You won't suddenly become all limp in the trouser vegetables department if you buy one. ;)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

iPad, iPad, on the iShore

Well, it is finally here - at the end of January, Apple revealed their long long long awaited tablet to the world. Let's forget all the jokes about the name. I reckon Apple knew what they were doing on that one anyway - there's no such things as bad publicity, right ?
I followed the event on the web, and was pleased to see that according to the official Apple website page, VoiceOver is included. As is white on black, mono audio, and full screen zoom. "Ooooh," sez me.

At the moment my everyday computing machine for email, blogging, arsebook sorry facebook, and the like is a much abused MSI Wind U100 with Snow Leopard shoehorned onto it. This poor little beast has really got the crap kicked out of it by me over the last (nearly) year. It was last year's Valentines Day present from my fiance, and it's had Otto the guide dog chuck a huge solid rubber dog toy onto it - which caused a kernel panic of epic proportions and knocked the RAM out of it's slot, it's been knocked off the arm of the sofa twice - the result was weird screen issue which causes blue lines on the screen up near where the volume control on the menu bar is, and sometimes the w and space keys don't work due to the toast and Marmite debris caught under them. I wanted a netbook, but I didn't want Windows. Or any variant of Linux like Ubuntu, or Jolicloud (my opinion is that screen readers for Linux are arse gravy of the stinkiest sort, namely because I've had no success with them and distrust them as a result). I wanted a netbook with a Mac OS on it. My other computers are macs - the Mac Mini media server, the iMac Garageband machine in the studio, and the Macbook Pro that does dual duty as a bedroom media player linked to an lcd, and my performance machine for one of the bands I'm in. Also, I want my MobileMe files to be shared between my machines. I've got an iPhone 3GS too.
I've tried using my netbook as a performance machine but it just can't cope, despite the fact that all it does is play out pre made backing tracks through itunes or very occasionally Garageband. And much as it is cute to run Snow Leopard on it, the machine is not exactly happy about it, and often using VoiceOver on it is painfully slow in the extreme. The advantages of this machine over the Macbook Pro however are a very bright screen, and a small form factor. I've already got enough shite in my bag on a rehearsal night without adding a 15" Macbook to it. And said macbook is starting to show worrying signs of getting old - it's a 2006 model and it's already had to have a new battery, and a new charger as the last one melted. Sometimes now it refuses to charge, reports vague untrue battery levels and will die without warning (despite many PRAM resets). I'm not thrilled but it's been run hard and often put away wet, to coin a phrase.
So I'm looking for a Mac solution to replace the netbook and back me up in a pinch if the macbook pro throws a wobbler. So is the iPad it ?

Well, potentially. It's small, accessible to me, simple to use and the lack of multitasking could actually be a bonus if all you're doing is playing out backings. No background processes to hog memory. I am finding that the "touch it to select it" idea of the iPhone OS appeals to me more and more as a visually impaired person. I imagine this could have alot to do with the fact that my useful remaining vision works best at a short distance from the object I am looking at, too short a distance to comfortably use a conventional keyboard at the same time. I prefer to get closer than to zoom, as on the iPhone at least, if one were to zoom in enough for me to see the content at a distance, you'd only get one letter on the screen at a time. But the iPad with its bigger screen, well, that's a different matter.

The only sticking point for me is currently no Garageband on the iPad. But there are 140,000 apps for the iphone, and if Apple don't make an iPad version of GB, a third party will come up with a solution that does just as well. There are a few iphone accessories for musicians that may transfer well to the pad, and make me part with even more money.

The only real dilemma is 3g or not 3g ? I know I don't need more than 16GB because all my media (other than performance stuff, which 16GB would be fine for) lives on a mac mini running the Orb server. The iphone version of Orb Live will work on the ipad, and I anticipate an ipad centric version anyway. I have very little media on the iphone 3gs itself - it's all streamed if I want it. So there is no question of whether I need the 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB ipad (or "light, regular or heavy" as the jokers titter).
I have an unlimited data plan with O2 for my iphone, which I use now and again. Mostly it's used during car journeys when I either don't want to talk to my travel companions or am sat in the back of a car and can't hear what they're talking about in the front, or can't get a word in edgeways (which is every time I get in the car with Darryl and his mum). One the one hand I could tether my iphone to my ipad (so far there's nothing to indicate this couldn't be done) for £10 a month - but that does rather feel like a bit of a black eye considering I'm paying for unlimited data already on the iphone itself. I don't imagine O2 will let iphone 3gs owners suddenly tether their ipads to their iphones for free - nice idea, never gonna happen. And if I did tether I doubt I'll find a data plan for the ipad - or indeed a mifi like device - from anyone else which is less than £10 for 3GB and on only a 30 day contract. But you never know.
I've also considered becoming a Fon member (, which is something I may do anyway, but Fon won't help me whilst I'm speeding along in a car, needing some web action.
But for those times, the iphone would suffice just as it does now. The other option is to jailbreak my iphone and do some tethering trickery there, because the word seems to be that unless you're taking the piss with how much data you're sucking down with an illicitly tethered iphone, O2 are unlikely to even notice you. But I'm not keen on jailbreaking on many levels. I like actually Apple's closed app store system for the iphone and ipad. It means the potentially malicious or troublesome crap is filtered out before one gets a chance to install it.

What I'd really like is an iphone compatible tethering option (or a mifi third device option) which is genuinely pay as you go, i.e. you get one, and you put credit on it which lasts until you use it up, and then if you want some more you buy some. I would take an age to use up, say, 3GB - certainly longer than a month. From what I can tell, 3's mifi device is near it. If you buy the version with 3GB added in from the start, it states the data is only valid for three months. I can't seem to find anything yet that says how any of the other top ups are valid for.

However I've got a while to decide whether I'm going for a 3g ipad or not, and to be honest the decision may be more down the price of the ipad itself than anything else.

Before I knew the ipad was about to be born, I was saving up to put a bath in the en suite bathroom upstairs. Oh well. I'd rather have glass and aluminium than white acrylic. :)