"You're right, it's a fake, but it's a good one. Somebody's gonna find it and think they hit the jackpot. There are a few people I could have given it to. Roy, the guy who brings the Meals on Wheels, or the UPS delivery guy, I don't know his name but he's always friendly. But anybody who's seen me recently knows my situation and I think it would creep them out to be wearing a dead man's watch. I hope it's found by a young guy, somebody just getting his start in life. I hope it makes him feel like he's gonna be rich and live forever."
image: Ryan McGuire
Words: Jurgen Wolff
Has Apple been stashing away excitable young women? That's what you'd conclude from this opening line in an article in the Evening Standard:
"A hoard of excitable young women--iPhones held aloft--crowded into the Regent Street Apple Store last night to swoon over Matt Smith and Ryan Gosling."
HOARD: a large amount of something valuable that is kept hidden
HORDE: a teeming crowd or throng
The MobileInsider newsletter describes a new app in development that will be able to tell your emotional state from the sound of your voice. It says,
"...the app analyzes your tone and cadence and matches it against an arsenal of pre-stored voice samples that will help it to qualify the caller’s emotional state. So if someone is speaking rapidly and in a high-pitched voice, the phone takes this frequency and tone to mean that he is anxious, or perhaps angry."
How could this be used? The article comes up with these examples:
Maybe it knew you were really stressed at a certain time of day and took it upon itself to give your screen a complete makeover, changing the colors and hues to calmer, cooler tones that are easier on the eyes. It almost would feel like your phone “got you” and was, in a strange way, taking care of you.
If I'm really stressed, I don't think changing the color of my phone screen is going to help. Maybe if it could scream at the person in the supermarket checkout line in front of me that she should have thought about getting her cash or credit card out of her purse BEFORE the checker packed the very last item, I'd feel my phone "got me." If it Tased that women, I'd really feel taken care of.
Of course ultimately it's not about taking care of us, it's about selling us stuff:
It will also afford the ability to find people in an emotional state when they are more open to a very specific marketing message and even more importantly, when they are not.
I can imagine the message to advertisers: "Detect when phone users are most vulnerable! Yes, even people experiencing grief can be persuaded to buy, and depressed consumers are sitting ducks for comfort food."
Don't call me and I won't call you.
Consider this scenario:
A social media site creates "faceprints" based on photos you and your friends post.
Upon demand, due to "special circumstances" (e.g., massive public demonstrations) they hand over all the data to the federal government, which uses it in conjunction with photos of demonstrations, to arrest or intimidate people involved.
Science fiction? Paranoid fantasy? Fact?
A bit of each. The faceprints exist and not everybody is happy about it. Here's an item from the Daily Online Examiner:
Facebook has been hit with a lawsuit alleging that its collection and use of “faceprints” to identify users violates an Illinois law regarding biometric data.
“Not only do Facebook's actions controvert industry best practices, they also violate the privacy rights of Illinois residents,” Carlo Licata alleges in a potential class-action complaint filed in state court in Cook County.
Licata's lawsuit stems from Facebook's automatic photo-tagging feature, rolled out in 2010. That feature recognizes users' faces and suggests their names when they appear in photos uploaded by their friends. To accomplish this, Facebook draws on its vast store of users' photos.
Licata alleges that Facebook's compilation of that database runs afoul of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act, which requires companies to obtain written releases from people before collecting “face geometry” and other biometric data. The Illinois law, passed in 2008, also requires companies that gather biometric data to notify people about the practice, and to publish a schedule for destroying the information.
The part about this information being used the government is fiction (I think), but in light of revelations that ten years BEFORE 9/11 the US government started collecting all phone calls made to 116 countries, maybe it's not too far a leap.
I'm sure some people might consider it far-fetched. My readiness to believe is based to some degree on experience--during the Vietnam War protests, the government would have loved to have these kinds of tools. Richard Nixon would have been able to pull more dirty tricks. Potential whistle-blowers and others would have been much easier to intimidate. Mass arrests would have been easier. Being identified could have led to getting fired or admission to colleges being denied.
So...is this faceprint scenario just a good basis for dystopian fiction...or is it our future?
PS: You can opt out of being automatically tagged, but how many people do? (I didn't know you could, nor did I even think of how it could be mis-used until I saw the news story above.)
In a recent email, Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, made this statement:
He tied this to the idea of image, the picture of ourselves we try to create for the world--which probably isn't paying attention, by the way.
It's a good way to think about a character as well as about real people. If you know what your character admires, and the image he or she wants to project, you know a lot. And if you know how that image differs from who they really are, you know even more.
Which one sold more, both in terms of quantity and gross revenue, in the UK in 2014?
David Walliams - Awful Auntie
Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl
Well, unless you assume that the most likely answer is the wrong one or else I wouldn't bother to write about it, you probably will think it's Gone Girl.
And you'd be wrong because I'm bothering to write about it because the most likely answer is the wrong one. :)
According to the Daily Telegraph, the sales of Awful Auntie were 553,921, £3.3 million (about $4.65 million).
Gone Girl: 529,602, $3.0 million (approx. $4.5 million)
For the record, John Green's The Fault in Our Stars beat both of them: 871,815, £4.6 million (approx. $6.9 million).
As the article says, Walliams is now a one-man publishing phenomenon. Awful Auntie is only one of his titles. All together, his books generated £7 (approx. $10.5 million) in sales last year.
If you're writing a screenplay or novel and want to create a character your reader or audience will find appealing, there's one trait that, according to recent research, appeals to both men and women.
According to a report published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,
The same results came up from surveys.
This may not be all that surprising to writers (or indeed readers and regular movie-goers) since the best-loved fictional characters tend to be quirky, whether you're reading Dickens or Vonnegut or watching movies like Groundhog Day, Tootsie, Birdman, Whiplash or The Imitation Game.
The dangers are creating bland characters or overloading your character with quirks or having all of your characters be quirky. A little quirkiness goes a long way.
(For guidance on creating compelling characters, see my books, Your Writing Coach and Your Creative Writing Masterclass, both published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing and available from your favorite bookseller.)
What happens when you encounter a setback? Don't assume there's nothing you can do. On the American Express Open Forum site, entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran tells the story of a near-failure that turned into a triumph:
Today I’m a Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank. When I first got a call from an L.A. producer asking if I’d have any interest in being on the new show, I couldn’t believe my good luck. I was headed to Hollywood! I signed the contract immediately and ran out and bought myself two new swanky outfits at Bergdorf Goodman, just for signing autographs. But a few days before leaving, the producer’s assistant called to say they had changed their mind and had given the lone female seat to someone else.
Ten minutes later, instead of getting sad, I got mad and shot the producer an email. I told him I considered his rejection a lucky charm because everything good that ever happened to me happened on the heels of failure. I ticked off a list of all my triumphant rejections. I ended the email by suggesting the producer fly me out to compete with the other woman for the spot. It was my stand-up-and-be-counted-for email that got me on that plane, and I’ve been a Shark/Investor on Shark Tank ever since.
Presumably either there was an 'out'' clause in the contract or they would have paid her but not used her, which wasn't her goal. She created an alternative that contained an advantage for the other side as well as for herself.
In improvisation, they always stress that a good way to keep a story going is to add "yes, and"--meaning you accept whatever the previous person said, and build on it. As the story above proves, it can also work to say "no, and..." In essence, Corcoran was saying, 'I think you're making a wrong decision and I have a way to prove it to you.'
That "and' is vital; otherwise you're just saying 'no' when they say 'yes', or vice versa. If we step back from the situation, sometimes we can reframe it or offer another alternative that can turn things back our way.
(If you'd like some guidance on marketing what you create, get a copy of my book, Marketing for Entrepreneurs. It's published by Pearson and available from your favorite bookseller.)
"There is a time in the lives of most writers when they are vulnerable, when the vivid dreams and ambitions of childhood seem to pale in the harsh sunlight of what we call the real world. In short, there's a time when things can go either way."
King said that his wife, Tabatha, kept him going when he doubted himself. I hope you are lucky enough to have somebody to do the same for you.
I've been lucky that way. A personal note from Rod Serling, to whom I'd written a fan letter when he was in the hospital in LA, fanned my childhood ambitions. Later, my best friend Bob and a wonderful eccentric named Rose also kept me going when I was trying to break into the screenwriting world in Hollywood with no contacts and a limited nest egg.
Along the way, a few more people kept me excited about writing, including the late Stan Margulies, producer of Roots, and Stephen Cannell, who I interviewed several times and who was generous with his time and advice. So were Sterling Silliphant and Alvin Sargent (the latter still active as a screenwriter as he approaches his 88th birthday).
Having the chance to work with one of the Mony Python crew, Graham Chapman, was also a dream come true, even if the project we worked on was doomed. And now I have the support of my partner, Sheridan (and Rose and Bob are still hanging in with me, too).
If you don't have anybody like that, consider this a nudge from me, a grateful recipient of several such nudges, to believe in yourself and keep writing.
The excellent Hoax Slayer newsletter reminds us of a few scams that are currently harvesting lots of suckers. Here are a few reminders:
* Nobody is buying iPhones at auction for $5 or £5.
* There is no "one weird trick" that makes you lose weight instantly
* There is no "one weird trick" that made a 70-year-old woman look like 40.
* There are no dying widows looking for strangers to whom to give their fortune.
* There are plenty of Nigerian crooks but they want you to give them money, not the other way around.
* More specifically, it's not true that a 3-year-old girl named Lilly was snatched from the Surrey area of the UK, even though the message features a photo of her and the registration number of the fictional car she was last (not) seen in. Don't pass along this bogus message.
* You don't owe an EZ Pass toll that you forgot to pay. Do not open the attached invoice, it contains malware.
* Your Netflix account probably has not been cancelled. If you get a notice to that effect, do not click anything within that email. Instead, type in the Netflix address on your browser and then log in.
* Your PayPal account probably has not been limited "due to login from unknown advice." If you get a notice to that effect, do not click anything within it. Otherwise, you may enable the scammers to hijack your PayPal account. I nearly fell for one of these because it happened to arrive shortly after I was made aware of an actual issue with my PayPal account.
* If you get a notice from American Express regarding unusual activity on your account, don't click on anything within it, just go to the real American Express site and log in as usual.
TIP: When in doubt, always check the address from which the email came. Sometimes they do use one that resembles the name of the apparent source, but you may be surprised to find how often they're from an obviously bogus address.
I'll add a few scams that target writers:
* Traditional publishers are not desperate to be sent manuscripts, they get plenty without advertising. Generally these are companies that will publish anything they are sent, providing the author is willing to put up the money. There are some legitimate companies who assist you with publishing for a fee, but do your research before you sign any contract. Look them up on the web, contact authors whose books they have published, etc.
* Be especially careful if a publisher says they are eager to publish books of poetry because they sell well. Unfortunately, books of poetry (at least by unknown writers) almost never make any money. That's not to say you shouldn't publish them anyway, to give to friends and relatives, but be aware that your chances of making a profit are close to nil.
* Legitimate agents do not charge a reading fee. They make a percentage of what you make, usually 12-15%. Legitimate agents also do not insist that you use the services of editors or writing coaches they recommend.
* Legitimate contests do not charge a large entry fee when the prize awards are relatively small.
A clever young man named John Hansen came up with the Twitter hashtag #VeryRealisticYA. Here are a few contributions that have been posted:
"Broody bad boy says something sexist to quiet, bookish girl. Girl puts him in his place.They never go out." - Ava Jae
"Nerdy girl is paired in school project with bad boy. She does all the work and they never speak again." - Janine Mimi De Jesus
"Teen accidentally uploads embarrassing video to YouTube. The next school day is normal because it got only two views." - Brooks Benjamin
"Two teens saving the world are not romantically attracted to each other." - Mackenzi Lee
"Girl politely declines to be the face of the revolution because it's junior year and she has too much homework." - John Hansen
"Where are you going, young lady?" / "To help the Outsiders overthrow the Authority." /"Not on a school night, you're not." - Paul Krueger
To which we might add, #RealisticWriters:
"Single mother works every morning for years to write her teen/YA novel, realizes that success is unlikely, stops writing and goes to work as a waitress."
It's a good thing writers aren't realistic!
It's natural when something terrible happens to want to find the reason why, which is happening with the recent airplane crash apparently caused by the co-pilot's deliberate actions. The media have been pointing the finger at his problems with depression.
Unfortunately, this is likely to make some members of the public assume that people who suffer from depression cannot be trusted with positions of responsibility. It adds to the stigma that already exists.
This isn't an abstract point for me; I've been suffering from depression since I was a child. At times I've taken medication for it. I've never felt like hurting anybody as a result, nor is that a symptom of the condition for others.
Maybe I'm underestimating the intelligence of the people who read these news stories; maybe they will be aware that isolating the man's depression as the cause is no more logical than assuming that those with an eye problem (which he apparently also had, and which may have threatened to end his career) are dangerous.
What is clear is that he was mentally ill. That would be true of anybody who is willing to kill 150 others while ending his own life. Depression may well have been one component of that mental illness, but it was not the primary cause of his horrific actions, and I hope (but don't expect) that the media will give a bit more thought in future to the impact of their rush to judgment.
The usual thing for car makers is to try to ensure the safety of the people inside their cars. One version of the opposite would be to try to ensure the safety of the people NOT in their cars. Volvo is conducting an experiment with this by handing out free spray cans of paint. The paint is invisible by day but glows brightly when illuminated by headlights. People can spray it on their bicycles, helmets, jackets, shoes--it doesn't damage those and it can be washed off with water. Normally it lasts for about a week. At the moment, Volvo is testing the program in London and Kent. If the response is positive, they'll expand it to cover the UK and eventually roll it out internationally.
Why not try using The Opposite Technique the next time you need to come up with a fresh idea for a story, a marketing method, a presentation, or just about anything else?
(Want to learn another 24 methods for coming up with ideas, as well as tips for getting into a creative mindset, turning ideas into action, and case studies of how others have done it? Get a copy of my book, Creativity Now, published by Pearson and available from your favorite bookseller.)
Here's a headline that had me heading for the dictionary:
"Seven Mindless Ways to Earn Extra Cash When You're On the Road"
Mindless? I wondered whether it had a meaning I wasn't aware of. But the dictionary offers these:
|synonyms:||stupid, idiotic, brainless, imbecilic, imbecile, asinine, witless, foolish,empty-headed, vacuous, unintelligent, half-witted, dull, slow-witted,obtuse, weak-minded, feather-brained, doltish, blockish; More
|synonyms:||indifferent to, heedless of, unaware of, unmindful of, careless of,insensible to, blind to
"she was mindless of the consequences of her actions"
The suggested ways to earn cash included renting out your home or your car while you are away, so I guess they meant methods that didn't require your attention once they were in motion. I can't think of a single word that encapsulates that (but mindless isn't it). If you have a candidate, let me know!