‘Tinseltown. You’ll Feel Like You’re Drowning.’

So the Academy Awards are happening on Sunday, and what better way to celebrate the cult of celebrity than to visit Farringdon’s premiere American-style diner, Tinseltown?

I’m going to spend a bit of time here going into fullblown rant mode about this place for a minute, and then, in an effort to bring this back to an actual point, I’m probably going to try and shoehorn in something about easy fame at the end, we’ll see. At this point in the post, we’re both as unsure as one another about what the outcome of this is going to be. It’s like Schrodinger’s really bad burger.

So, to caveat this, I’m going to point out that, in terms of general fun and morale of the group, this must have been one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’ve never laughed so much in the face of despair in my life. It was like being overcome with panicked hysteria as your turn at the guillotine approaches, or the euphoria you apparently experience when you accept that you’re drowning and you can’t do anything about it. They should put that as their strapline, they really should. ‘Tinseltown. You’ll feel like you’re drowning’.

So, let’s just get this out of the way real quick. I’ve already sent a lengthy email to a friend who, sadly for him, couldn’t make it last night, so I’m going to use that but also I’m going to change bits to make it funnier here and there. Just ignore that and pretend I’m funny even when I’m firing off hatemail about fast food.

So, firstly, the food was terrible, and the service felt like we were in the lost city of Atlantis and were unable to speak in burbles.

Every single thing had at least one bit missing, and considering we were there because of a ‘lightning deal’ offering a metric butt-ton of food for every customer, you would think they would have had a staff training evening about serving more than one item per person. Presumably, though, they had never done that before because, at Tinseltown, if you order one thing, you don’t want any more things. My favourite bit was where we had to tell them each, individual  missing item, one by one, and they would go away and come back with it. It took so long that we didn’t even have everything by the time we finished eating. That said, we finished eating pretty quick; not because the ‘challenge burger’ beat us, but because we just couldn’t be bothered to finish it. It was more like reading a bad book than eating food, which is not a comparison people make very often. So bad. And it’s the tackiest, grottiest, most tired-looking place you’ve ever seen. It looks like some enterprising businessman had opened the first burger joint after a global nuclear war. And they keep showing 10 year old videos of celebrities saying ‘whatup y’all hope y’all are enjoying tinseltown’, but it’s all like Xtina from her dirrrrrrrrty period or 50 cent. The most cringe-inducing was snoop from 10 years ago talking about enjoying your burgizzle at tinseltizzle. Then magic FM resumed.

I think my favourite thing was how, if it’s your birthday (it wasn’t, and for a while I genuinely felt like it never would be again, so completely had any faith in future happiness been sapped), they play a birthday video with the same confused looking has-beens saying happy birthday, but then use it as an advertising opportunity to tell everyone where the other branches of tinseltown are. All of that costs some poor mug at your birthday party a fiver. You literally pay them to advertise themselves on your behalf.

I guess the best way to understand how Tinseltown feels would be to watch the Oscars on Sunday. Tired, confused celebrities of yesteryear sitting in the audience, numbly watching the great and good of today, that they used to be, pass under their nose. They’ll still command the same price as them, for a while, but the green formica on their faces is going to start peeling soon, and no one will want to be around them. And then, in 30 years, I’ll walk into Tinseltown Farringdon and I’ll see Mike Myers having dinner with Ja Rule, both of them crying onto a piece of Swiss cheese that refuses to melt, no matter how much they ask for their frozen burger to be re-microwaved.

Forget it, Jake. It’s Tinseltown.


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Let’s Kickstart Healthcare Crowd Funding

A big name on everybody’s lips at the moment is Kickstarter. For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform, allowing users to pledge money against a set target for projects that they are interested in and would like to see made a reality. So far, tech start-ups have enjoyed a great deal of success through the platform – an array of snazzy watches, cheap and clever games consoles and virtual reality peripherals have been, or are currently being, developed. In the sense that it’s allowing people to take control of what they are being sold, it’s utterly revolutionary, and one of the most important commercial ventures of this, or any, century.

However, an area that Kickstarter does not serve is health. This certainly isn’t down to nobody innovating in the healthcare space – Kickstarter just don’t do it. This includes any kind of fitness, baby, beauty or personal care product.

And, realistically, this is understandable. Erring on the side of caution, Kickstarter are unlikely to want to get behind a project that, at the time of fundraising, will likely not have obtained proper certification from strict healthcare authorities. Unfortunately, health is the area that needs it most. In a previous post, I talked about those little health gadgets that can make such an important difference to people’s lives. You may have noticed, reading that, that many of these were at a concept stage, awaiting a sympathetic ear for funding. This is, unfortunately  the death of so many of these neat ideas. Kickstarter, however, gives products outside of the health space room to grow – people see it, like it, and pledge. Some projects have reached $10 million in funding. Now, I like a Bluetooth-enabled watch as much as the next guy, but let’s face it – no one really needs one. Imagine what $10 million could do to bring true healthcare innovation into the home?

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks we need to get behind some of these projects. A recent project, Medstartr, aims to fill the health-shaped gap in the Kickstarter plan by offering crowd sourced funding to health apps. However, projects so far are topping out at around $45,000 of funding, with many asking only for a couple of thousand here and there. With any luck, these numbers will grow as the project grows, allowing room to accommodate larger products and services.

Sadly, I have doubts. The allure of a small pledge to create a gadget you can buy cheaply is huge, but most people will only pledge money to a Medstartr project if and when it directly affects them. Many of the concepts, like the amazing PiOna injection device, could be built, tested, manufactured and distributed for the money that people pledge to a games console on Kickstarter, yet Medstartr will likely never reach those heights. At Frontera, we live by a mantra of the consumer taking control of their health. Let’s hope Medstartr will be the way forward.


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Guillermo Del What-Now?

By now, most of you will have seen the trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s ‘Pacific Rim’, and if you haven’t, you should look at it in HD on a big TV screen.

I’m a sort of fan of GDT; he’s not a favourite director of mine by any means; I loved ‘Cronos’, not so much ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, and I have an uneasy relationship with his other films (especially, surprisingly, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, considered by most to be his directorial peak).

The interesting thing, though, is that despite not considering him to be a true auteur, I do have certain expectations of him, and I’ve found myself ebulliently outlining these to people in the past month or so. You see, ‘Pacific Rim’ looks terrible. Really, really terrible. The effects look tacky, the concept is stupid, and it’s 3D. On top of that, and as much as I hate to judge a book by it’s cover, there appears to be little to no effort at giving us any kind of insight into what the story might be. It engenders no curiosity whatsoever and, more often than not, this means that there is nothing to be curious about.

So why have I been trying to convince my friends, all of whom seem to be sharing my opinion on the trailer to the letter, that this film will be good?

Because, of course, GDT is an ‘artist’, and so his stab at a big-budget, Michael Bay type film will be much, much better. Won’t it? Doesn’t that make perfect sense? That a director who, in my opinion, made his finest film right off the bat with a low-key, atmospheric foreign-language horror film would take the helm of a special effects monstrosity with a godlike mastery is the most natural thing in the world. Except it totally isn’t. Anyone would right scoff at the notion of Michael Bay or Paul W.S. Anderson doing the reverse, yet I won’t be the only one shouting from the rooftops that ‘Pacific Rim’ will be the finest film ever made of its genre.

Which brings me onto the idea of ‘comfort zones’.

*WARNING. Controversial, unsubstantiated, opinion incoming*

Mainstream, even outer-mainstream, artists don’t work well out of them any more. I wrote a piece for a magazine a while back about rock stars, and how differentiation and experimentation over the years has actually narrowed many people into many pigeonholes. The same applies here. Yes, Francis Ford Coppola made a wide array of some of the finest genre films ever made – the arty, lo-fi, ‘Rumble Fish’, the most ginormous film ever made in ‘Apocalypse Now’, sprawling, talky, gangster epic ‘The Godfather’ – the list goes on. But these films were made during a time when true masters, Coppola included, were all in cahoots, all innovating, and all, crucially, paving the way for many others. They were students of the early masters, true, but moreso they were students of themselves and each other.

The problem, or perhaps not a problem at all, is that nowadays, with ‘ways’ very much ‘paved’, mainstream filmmakers are siloed in who they are students of. Many will see Spielberg as ‘the director’ to emulate, or Kubrick, or a combination of a few but, essentially, they are still very much following.

This is why GDT is going to fail everyone, probably, with ‘Pacific Rim’, in a way that, perhaps, his forebears may not have. He doesn’t have the drive, the evolutionary need to innovate outside of his comfort zone. Without that pressure on him, he’s just having a stab at something wildly outside of what he should be doing.

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Inglourious Cowbois

So here it is; my way too late post about Django Unchained. I haven’t had a huge amount of time to go to the cinema recently, and whilst Tarantino films are some of the films I like forward to seeing most, paying good money to see a film that I know I will hate just so that I can spit bile about it with authority for the next two weeks is not really in the budget at the moment.

The likelihood is that, if you’re reading this, you’re someone I know and so will know how much I hate Quentin Tarantino.

So, anyway, a work colleague gave me a copy of Django (The ‘D’ is not silent, Quentin, the ‘J’ is pronounced like a ‘Y’, sort of how the ‘M’ in ‘mnemonic’ is not silent) and I finally got a chance to watch it on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the woman I love. Even this picture of coziness was not enough to suppress my anger by the end of the utterly unreasonable 2h45 running time. Where to start?

In typical Tarantino fashion, Django likes itself far too much. We’ve always told Quentin how much we love his dialogue (I haven’t told him that, we haven’t spoken for years), and for that we’re punished with scenes that linger for 10 minutes longer than they need to. A particularly excruciating dinner sequence in which DiCaprio hammily overimparts a monologue to our heroes had me rolling around the bed with restless legs by the end. It was somewhat less comfortable than lunch with my dear grandparents, and one of them is half-deaf and they’re separated so they only talk in insults. At least we know it’s a proper film though; Leo cut his hand whilst filming it, so involved was he in the scene. Very ‘method’. In the words of Laurence Olivier – “have you tried acting, darling?”.

Whilst the above-mentioned sequence is certainly the most memorably boring of the film, it is by no means singular in its ineffectiveness. A cringe-inducing ‘black comedy’ bit where the regulators (an early iteration of the KKK) talk about not being able to see out of their masks is, surprise-surprise, too long, but also completely and utterly devoid of wit. It’s like watching schoolkids filming their own version of Blazing Saddles and posting it to YouTube.

But, and as much as I hate to pay Tarantino any kind of compliment, back-handed or otherwise, one of the most disappointing things about it is that he’s started to plagiarise himself. As much as all of his films are ‘homages’, ‘pastiches’, ‘rip-offs with no imagination’, Django is just the same film as Inglourious Basterds. Ostensibly a ‘western’, though his interest in creating a genuine attempt at an old-fashioned Leone-style movie seems to wear off immediately after the title sequence, the label seems to serve only to fool you into believing he hasn’t yet completely run out of ideas. It is, at its heart, a sad, adolescent fantasy based on historical events that deserve a little more gravity. I remember my blood boiling when I saw a picture of Hitler when I was young, but as I grew older the desire to beat him around the head faded somewhat. You know, because I’m a grown up now. Now the only people I want to beat ’round the head are my girlfriend’s exes (totally reasonable). Tarantino’s desire to lash out didn’t fade. It’s the same here, and, just as in Inglourious, it comes off as offensive. A spoilt child given completely free reign running around shouting. Perhaps seeing it the day after seeing ‘Lincoln’ informed this feeling somewhat, but the scenes in which slaves were beaten, whilst certainly not played for laughs or pure sensationalism, were unaffecting to the point of tastelessness. Tarantino sets up a universe in which we are taught to enjoy blood, bullets and ultraviolence for the duration of the movie. And that’s totally fine, most of the time. But to try and shoehorn brutal shootouts into a film about slavery, and then to try and have ‘stunned silence’ moments of the very real, very shameful treatment of black people in American history just isn’t right. Ditto the language used, and the characters created – Don Johnson’s ‘Big Daddy’ character, as well as Sam Jackson’s ‘Steven’, both seem to be played for laughs. Tarantino is inviting people to snigger at the use of that word; at the fact that Sam Jackson acts like a racist white slave-owner because he’s been so utterly indoctrinated. But that’s not funny, is it? That character is a film by itself – shocking, disturbing and interesting, but certainly not comic relief.

Christoph Waltz is really good in it, though. That seemed to be people’s defence for how terrible Inglourious was, so I’ll use it again for this one. They are, after all, the same film.

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Is a paperless NHS a less secure NHS?

The idea of the NHS going ‘paperless’ has been floating around for as long as I’ve been writing healthcare blogs, and a lot longer besides. Indeed, writing about it all over again has me feeling all ‘deja-vu’.

In case you haven’t been following it, a paperless NHS is exactly what it says on the tin; everyone’s records centralised and accessible at the touch of a button. On paper, no pun intended, it’s a great idea. 1’s and 0’s can’t be misplaced, shuffled around into the wrong order or left on a bus. On top of that, ‘never events’ (instances of gross malpractice), as well as less major mistakes, would be much less prevalent, as it is much harder for the wrong information to be given to key people along the chain of care. Even in terms of money saving, a paperless NHS would make a considerable difference – Frontera is an office of around 20, and the money we spend on paper and ink is… well. We need to get our roof replaced a lot. Because the cost is through it.

So why has the idea taken quite so long to come to real fruition?

What it comes down to, I think, is fear of technology. Easy as it is to brush that off as something that people who don’t understand technology are always worried about, there is a case for it in some ways. Data is only as secure as the person least careful with a password, when it all comes down to it. The most robust security measures in the world can’t combat someone writing down their password, losing it, and not caring enough to report it as missing. Add to that all the recent cases of government officials losing laptops on trains, and you have a public that is rightly reticent about their medical records being ‘in the cloud’. A paperless NHS is a great idea, but the government is reviving the idea slap bang in the middle of the wrong time. Labour put the ‘NHS Database’ plan into action years ago, and the coalition scrapped it in 2011. Growing lack of faith in the coalition will now only be compounded by their weak revival of a plan they made such a noise, not to mention a multi-billion pound taxpayer loss, about scrapping not two years ago. Add to that the fact that nobody has forgotten about our Health Minister’s last job, that of Rupert Murdoch’s ‘Man in Havana’, and you have a 15-minute recipe for low approval ratings.

Money-saving and efficiency for the NHS is, arguably, the most important issue in UK politics at the moment. Going paperless is the right way to go, with predicted savings of £4.4bn year, but the public need to trust it. We work at the cutting edge of technology every day, but right now, I’m not even sure I trust it.

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Consumer Health Technology

Technology is the backbone of everything we do at the agency where I work, and we’re proud to sit firmly, legs dangling, on that cutting edge.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the amazing things that technology can do to make a client stand out pales in comparison and importance to what it can do for the health and wellbeing of their patients. And we’re not just talking about the incredible machinery that saves lives right at the front line. No; sometimes it’s the smaller things that can make a real difference. Things like:


Alex Muller, junior brand manager, kindly shared this amazing product with me just the other day. He was the inspiration for this post, actually (thanks Al).

GlowCaps are alternative lids for prescription pill bottles. Able to screw onto most US retail pharmacy bottles, GlowCaps come fitted with glowing lights and wireless chips to gently remind you that you need to take your pills. They flash and call your phone when you need to take your pills, they send email updates to nominated friends, order refills and send a monthly report to you and your doctor.


This one is at concept stage at the moment, but if it ever gets made, it’s another great example of one of those small things that makes a lot of people’s lives easier. Described as a ‘Star Trek’ style medical device, the PiOna addresses the problems of women undergoing in-vitro fertilization; namely the painful daily injections of progesterone in oil.

The PiOna is a device that not only hides the needle (sight of the needle itself being, psychologically, a big part of the stress behind self-injecting), but provides feedback about when the needle is ready to use and hand-holds the user through the process through audio and visual signals.


Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most effective. The JettPak (again, at concept stage at the moment but hoping to be marketed this year) is an adjustable nebulizer, pure and simple. Children with asthma often need treatment with a nebulizer, but this involves wearing a mask and remaining upright – making it a worrying experience for children and one that, despite often being advised to the contrary, is impossible to administer while sleeping.

The JettPak, a sort of classic desk-lamp looking thing, is an adjustable nebulizer with a nozzle on the end, rather than a mask, meaning that kids can lie down and relax whilst the medication is administered.

To some, this kind of innovation can come across as gimmicky, or lazy, or unnecessary. This simply isn’t the case – for many, many people around the world, the problems that these products address can be truly debilitating, as small as they may seem to those of us lucky enough not to have to stick to healthcare regimes. Forgetting medication is something everybody does, but for some, forgetting a pill can be dangerous or even life-threatening. People who need to self-inject daily often register depression levels commensurate with people with cancer or HIV. And any product that improves the life of a child who needs at-home medical attention is a good thing.

The desire to push technology further is often prevalent in healthcare, but sometimes the focus can be on the bigger things, rather than the everyday. In health, as in communications, sometimes those little technological tidbits make far more of a difference.

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Mid-to-Late January New Year’s Resolution

Again, it’s been some time. I’m going to do this properly from now on as an outlet for the posts I’ve been writing for a blog that doesn’t exist and is unlikely to in the near future. So, if you see the same content on the upcoming (ha) blog from a certain ad agency in EC1, just remember – you saw it here first.

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