Showing posts from July, 2018


Here are a few of those stories that, while not becoming full-length articles, still needed to be told: 1. PUT THE TAPE ON ERASE: After learning how the FLAC format preserved the sound of my CDs onto my Sony Walkman [link], I was disturbed by the clicking noise on the test track I used. Was it caused by the Walkman, the transfer program, or a scratch on the (brand new) CD? No – it was the original recording. I used “Through Being Cool” by DEVO, a song written in revolt at the sudden popularity of “Whip It,” and a song I played multiple times a day at the time, putting the clicks down to the YouTube upload I found. I later found it was down to the record company: DEVO’s “New Traditionalists” album was recorded using a new brand of analogue tape from 3M, but after finding the tape was falling apart from the edges, DEVO appealed to Warner Bros to re-record their work – they refused, so DEVO had to transfer the now-imperfect recordings to another tape in order to complete the album.


How is this for an uphill struggle: in 2010, Lipton Ice Tea, the leading brand iced tea in the United Kingdom, launched a nationwide promotional campaign, giving out free samples, under the headline, “Don’t Knock It Until You’ve Tried It,” because a survey revealed sixty per cent of people claimed hated the taste of the drink, without even trying it. After the campaign, 87 per cent of samplers claimed they enjoyed it, and 73 per cent said they were likely to buy it in future. How is this for a success story: during the summer of 2017, Lipton’s social media feeds in the UK were filled with queries about stocks having run out in stores, particularly Tesco, leading me to drink Lucozade for a number of weeks until supplies returned. For all the hundreds of years of trade and empire-building that fused the British national identity with tea plantations in the Far East, and for all the arguments about whether you add the milk before or after the water - the answer to both is “no


When I say I had been subjected to “stimulus progression,” it does not mean I built up my body to have ripped abs and guns – the term sounds like it comes from an intensive CrossFit-like exercise, as alien to me as the words “abs” and “guns.” Neither does “stimulus progression” mean I have been blind to the machinations of some deep state, as conspiracy theorists would have me believe. No, this sinister-sounding team is to do with music, mixed with a large dollop of business and psychology. Once upon a time, most music heard outdoors, particularly in the background of shops and other public places, could have been provided by the Muzak Corporation, whose name hoped to evoke the new technology demonstrated by companies like Kodak. The name originally had more to do with how you heard the music: George Owen Squier, inventor of multiplexing for telephone lines as early as 1910, wanted to adapt the process to transmit multiple channels of music, as a way of competing with radio. Ho


An iconic scene of British television exists almost entirely without explanation. The scene, replayed whenever the stars met, is of Kenny Everett bending and breaking Terry Wogan’s long wand of a microphone on the BBC game show “Blankety Blank.” What must have initially been an impulsive move, the result of Wogan’s pointing it in the wrong direction for a moment, became a procession of breakages, most notably with a pair of garden shears, as Wogan presented the opportunity each time they met. The phallic connotations of the pranks were definitely not lost on the audience, or on Wogan, who would present the rest of show with his microphone cruelly cut down or bent out of shape. Anyway, why did Terry Wogan have that microphone? It is a question I have never seen asked, let alone answered – it just seemed to be accepted. I think I know the answer, and it stretches back over fifty years. For the uninitiated, “Blankety Blank” is based on “The Match Game,” an American game sh

LIFE’S A GAS [116]

So much for adults teaching children where food comes from, for we did not realise on what we relied for our drink. The UK’s shortage of carbon dioxide has remained among the top news stories for the last two weeks, due to demand outstripping supply. However, just as when KFC ran out of chicken when changing their distributor [link] , the disruption in CO 2 supply could have been foreseen: summer plus World Cup equals beer and barbecue, with CO 2 used to provide fizz to the beer, while food has a longer shelf life free of mould. Heineken was the first company to warn of problems, although competitor AB Inbev, owners of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Foster’s, are less affected because their brewing process reuses CO 2 . Coca-Cola announced it was reducing production for a while, as carbonated water is only added to the US-made syrup at the bottling plants, and supermarkets started rationing sales of some products as a precautionary measure. However, once Warburtons, the U