Cult of Apple? Cult of Freebies, more like.

The wife told me it would be chaos, but I wanted to go down and see the new “Grand Arcade” shopping precinct in Cambridge which opened fully today. When I got there, it was busy, but not chaotic, except for one thing: a massive queue snaking down back into the old Lion Yard precinct next door. There were hundreds of people, young and old. What were they queueing for? Entrance to the new Apple Store, it turned out.

Now, I know Apple stuff is trendy and all that, but these people didn’t look like the sort that were about to drop £1500 on a MacBook Pro. I asked a few at the back what they were queueing for. Now, this is far too small a sample to be a scientific poll, but here are the answers I got: [1] “I’m not sure, there are a lot of people in the queue, so I hope it’s good”; [2] “They’re giving away free T-shirts”; and [3] “They’re giving away free T-shirts”.

The queue was about half an hour long. For a free T-shirt (or worse, just for something unknown which they hoped would be good). Blimey. There’s a lesson to every retailer. Mind you, being applauded in by the Apple Store staff evangelists was an amusing, if slightly alarming, experience.

Anyway, I filmed the sheep (above) and returned later when the queue had, not surprisingly, disappeared. The Apple Store was packed, and I’m sure they did plenty of business, even though you could buy the iPhone in the O2 Store 100m away, iPods in John Lewis 50m away, and Macs at Cancom, 500m away, all in much less frantic surroundings. It’s just like a miniature version of the Apple Store in Regent Street, the only other one I’ve ever visited, so like that store, it’ll be permanently busy with foreign students checking their Hotmail for free. In fact, come the summer, I suspect the queues will be back. Do they actually know how many thousands of overseas students we get in Cambridge every July and August?

The Grand Arcade is very nice, by the way, although it’s “grand” in terms of “plush”, rather than “grand” with a French pronunciation, because they ain’t ever gonna squeeze a large shopping mall in the centre of this city.

Yay! CSI: Ambleside!

half-man-half-bsicuit-csi-ambleside-cd-cover.jpg

Fantastic news – the new Half Man Half Biscuit album is on the way (end April) now out, and it’s called CSI: Ambleside. They did a couple of new songs – On the ‘Roids and Bad Losers at Yahoo Chess – on the BBC Radio Merseyside session last September. I’ll get the lyrics to these on my Half Man Half Biscuit site in the next day or two.
UPDATE: All CSI:Ambleside lyrics now present and correct

Meanwhile, here are some linkies:

Order CSI:Ambleside at the Probe Plus Store
Order CSI:Ambleside at Amazon UK
Order CSI:Ambleside at Play.com

Half Man Half Biscuit at eMusic
Half Man Half Biscuit at the iTunes Music Store

Here’s the first CSI: Ambleside review out in the wild so far (thanks Jeremy)

Nintendo Wii Fit: review and UK pre order

Nintendo Wii Fit screenshot

The UK arrival of the Nintendo Wii Fit has been set for late April is here, and almost everywhere has sold out. If you find someone who’s got one, buy it straight away, as any new allocations will go in minutes. Don’t wait for discounts (why would anyone give them?) but despite the demand, do not be ripped off either. The normal price is £69.99 in the UK, or $89.99 MSRP in the USA. Be suspicious of anyone charging over the odds. It’s your money.

Here are links to the Wii Fit page at some of the biggest online retailers. Best of luck.

Wii Fit at Amazon UK
Wii Fit at Play.com
Wii Fit at Toys R Us UK

NEW Wii Fit at Amazon USA

Meanwhile, if you want some early thoughts on the Wii Fit, here’s the Wii Fit review from The Times, and here’s a good piece from MTV about the engineering of the Wii Fit and the Balance Board and here’s another background article on the Wii Fit from Nintendo itself.

Personally, I can’t wait. My young son and I already spend a few minutes at the end of each day doing “calf-stretching” exercises, as we seem to have hereditary shortened calf muscle problems, and this simple task makes us both a lot more flexible (and less restless at night). So just as a replacement from the boring task of standing on an angled board, Wii Fit should be worth getting. I think it’ll be a lot of fun too though. Over a million sales in Japan can’t all be wrong.


UPDATE – our Wii Fit arrived today and it’s obsessively fun. Of course you can do some (most?) of the exercises without any of this equipment, but actually, it brings a whole new dimension to some of them. Take the “yoga” exercises, for example. A yoga teacher can look at you and make a fairly good assessment of your balance, but standing on the Wii Fit Board, the Wii can measure your balance far more precisely. And it does – there’s no hiding place! The jogging exercise doesn’t even use the Board – you put the Wiimote in your pocket and it records your movement like a pedometer. This is truly an imaginative and well-thought-out piece of kit.

Here’s a great Wii Fit review from someone who really didn’t want to like it!

Some of the images we use to indicate our commitment to “green”

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Someone’s going to get an interesting letter in the post on Monday morning. The Beyond Petrol site is a pixel-perfect spoof of the BP site, which falls just far enough the right side of silliness to make you take a second glance to check that it really is a spoof. Old and new communication techniques are permitting oil companies to communicate “green” while delivering the same huge value to stockholders, declares the front page. Those who are expecting the normal corporate PR snoozarama might not take in what spoof statements like that actually mean. Great stuff.