They’re Like Huge Seed Pods


This isn’t an exact quote, having been dredged out of some dank corner of this derelict hamster-wheel-and-rubber-band contrivance I use for a mind, but it’s stuck with me so long after other little bits of information about things like dressing properly or interacting politely with others has been forgotten, so I might as well put it to some use. It goes like this: a decade or so ago in a televised interview Harry Knowles of “Ain’t It Cool News” answered a question about the Secrets of Hollywood with “…the big secret of Hollywood is that everything’s great, always. In fact you can be fired from a project for not showing sufficient enthusiasm for it. And in that environment, nobody is going to be able to tell you that you’re turning Batman And Robin into one of the worst movies in the history of western cinema.”

Hold that thought.

So I mentioned earlier that the top four or five tiers of whatever department is responsible for Microsoft’s brand management should be fired immediately, but the problem is worse than I’d thought. If you’ve followed the tech media in the last few weeks you’ve already seen the videos Microsoft is making to help you plan your own Windows 7 launch party at home, as though any human anywhere would ever do that. If you haven’t, for the love of God don’t look but, you know, kind of look; it’s honestly like watching some sort of beautiful ethnocultural car accident.

I had two thoughts watching it myself; first of all, this is clearly evidence that the Body Snatcher problem is an ongoing issue. These all look like people, you know? But they’re not acting like people, as though whatever controls those bodies has been very careful to learn as much as they can about these humans and their strange rituals, but can’t quite carry it off themselves. Normal humans just don’t act like that, but here we are on our slippery slope drifting backwards into the Uncanny Valley, and urk.

The second thought isn’t one I’m particularly proud of, but I swear I thought the black guy was going to get killed. With the horrific, tacky, snatched-body-pantomime way the first half of that video went, I would have sworn on a stack of twenties that it was inevitable. I kept wondering, how long can they fight those crappy-eighties-movie reflexes? We’re halfway through this, and he hasn’t so much as gotten a syllable in edgewise. That guy is going to say something sort of funny and then something is going to reach in the window and rip his head off, that’s just how these movies work.

I was actually a little bit let down when that didn’t happen, because as terrible as it sounds, it would have improved this video immensely. Cabel Sasser’s bleeped-out parody would have been a distant second to that, guaranteed. And the suspense was just destroying me.

But the worst part of this is that lots of somebodies right up the MS chain of command (the rumors say all the way up to Steve Ballmer) looked at this and said “yes, this is a good idea, a great idea. This will work.”

It’s hard for me to imagine how the entire heirarchy of a company could be so completely detached from normal human discourse that this could happen, but I’m calling it: this is prima facie evidence that, after Microsoft’s brutal last two quarters and the first layoffs in I think ever, the aforementioned culture of terrified enthusiasm has set in and now everything’s awesome. There’s just nobody left who’s got the eyes to see what’s wrong and the spine to stand up to it. Maybe because the shit that is going to roll downhill if they try is going to have a lot of momentum after starting at the very top of the org chart.

Or maybe because all of their bodies have been snatched. Either theory works for me.


  1. deb
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Part of me wants to believe that it’s just some really quite brilliant self-satirization architected for maximum viral-ness…but I don’t.

    My actual reaction (after I got over the initial brain-can’t-cope-must-shut-down wide-eyed paralysis) was along the lines of “who the frak actually signed off on that, and did they actually tear the very fabric of spacetime in their rush to fire him (or her) as quickly as humanly possible?”

    But then the video didn’t go away! And then I realized, “holy crap they did this on purpose!” And then I sort of got sad for a while because I really don’t want Microsoft to just collapse under the weight of its own incompetence. I mean, I hate every shred of their software I touch, but…come on. Apple makes pretty things, but competition is good! It’s healthy!

    Anyhow, yeah. The video is just astonishing.

  2. Stephie
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I only made it 41 seconds into the video before I couldn’t take it any more. It was sent to me by a friend who will be hosting one of said parties. Shamefully, I may attend, and hope to have a great story or two to tell later. It will no doubt be a big group embarrassment-fest, but then again, what are friends for, right?

  3. mhoye
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    There are some things friends don’t let friends do.

  4. bella anti matter
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I lasted a minute and a half… it hurt… and ALL of them have that “It’s a big paycheque” look in their eyes…

  5. bella anti matter
    Posted September 30, 2009 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

    also: rules of continuity… never use real ice… or beverages at all..l watched it again and played “watch the blue glass”

  6. deb
    Posted October 1, 2009 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Watch the digital clock on the oven. Spoiler alert: it advances more than six minutes.

    That’s really what made me think that perhaps it was a parody — who…does that? How unbelievably oblivious do you (and your entire team) have to be for that to make it, not only all the way through shooting, but all the way through editing, without someone saying, “oh hey, the clock…that’s going to be a problem.”

  7. Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Remember back in the ’90s when UBUNTISTS would be all, “Micro$uck makes shitty products, and the only reason they’re so popular is because of their great marketing”? That always makes me laugh.

    I tend to think of Microsoft’s inept marketing as being like T. Rex’s tiny little arms — when you have monopolies with guaranteed sales like Windows and Office, which can pierce and crush the skulls of your competitors, who needs little marketing arms?

    (That said, Microsoft’s game marketing division is brilliant. They should just hire whoever makes the ads for Gears of War and Halo and turn them loose on the rest of the company.)

  8. Posted October 1, 2009 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I think this just is another case of “hipness cannot be bought or manufactured, it must be bestowed” — something Microsoft has steadfastly refused to recognize.

  9. Jamie
    Posted October 2, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Do they have any advice on how to host a Windows 7 party on my Macbook Pro? Just checkin’. :)