For a number of years this blog has reported, as irreverently as possible, cigarette advertising in Germany. Germany is one of the few places in Europe where it is still possible to advertise cigarettes. The contrasting campaigns are a source of endless fascination as the brands pit themselves against one another.
However, cigarette advertising is one thing, the continuation of the industry more generally is now in some doubt. I say this after reading an article in the Economist magazine (link below). Apparently, it is fifty years since the US Surgeon General declared smoking to be a ‘health hazard’ requiring appropriate ‘remedial action’. This remedial action led to a decrease in cigarette consumption from 43 to 18 per cent in the American adult population. Still, 20 million Americans have died from smoking-related diseases since then. The current Surgeon General has declared smoking deadlier than previously thought and has promised ‘end game strategies’.
What does this mean for the tobacco companies? Traditionally, they have found new markets, particularly in Asia. But here, also, the regulatory environment is becoming hostile. Arguably, too, the firms have not seen the e-Cigarette phenomenon coming – dominated at the moment by new firms, a selection of which are represented on the panel (left). Perhaps they have failed to understand fully what is their business? The customer craves nicotine, not tar: e-cigarettes seem to be efficient deliverers of nicotine, and less riskily. Though this may well be scrutinised closer in coming months and years.
Another approach seems to be cigarettes that do not actually burn the tobacco. Rather they heat it to deliver their nicotine payload.
Marius, the 18-month old giraffe captive in Copenhagen Zoo was killed yesterday and fed to the captive lions. In the public gaze. A bizarre spectacle from a British perspective, but not necessarily elsewhere. The justification for the killing was, scientifically, logical. Captive animals tend to breed with one another and this puts pressure on the gene pool.
It also seems not helpful to Copenhagen Zoo for alternative homes to be offered. The ‘value’ of the animal had been calculated. First of all it was valuable as an attraction when it was young. Baby animals are much more remunerative than older animals. Essentially, they are cute. It also seems clear that the animal’s body – in terms of meat – had been factored into the calculation. There are some hungry lions nearby who infrequently eat giraffe. The costs associated with moving the animal far outweighed its immediate value as a food source for the lions.
And there is the problem. Animals are commodities. They have value and no value at different times in their own lives. Just like farm animals. The problem is not what the Danes did to Marius. The problem is zoos.
Finally, some good news for UK manufacturing. Bombardier, the Canadian engineering firm, which owns the former British Rail train factory in Derby, has won the competition to supply 66 units to Crossrail opening in 2017 (impression, below right). They beat off competition from Siemens and Hitachi. The former recently won the contract to make the Thameslink trains. Hitachi trains can be seen running on HS1 between St Pancras and Dover.
Whilst I understand that competition is necessary when placing orders for expensive long-lived kit to ensure some degree of value-for-money and quality (British Rail supplied to itself a lot of over-priced un-tested stock in the 1950s that very quickly found itself decommissioned), I despair at the ease with which much of the UK’s supply comes from abroad. The train building capacity and capability in the UK has been lost.
I despair even more, however, at the madness that the structure of the railway industry in the UK. This week, we learned who were the preferred bidders for the re-privatisation of the East Coast Mainline ‘franchise’ between London, the North of England and Scotland. The current operator, Directly Operated Railways (DOR), has been running the route successfully and profitably since National Express handed back the keys, so-to-speak, in 2009 after they failed to deliver the returns to the UK Treasury pledged in the contract (DOR has returned some £600m to the Treasury so far). National Express replicated the error made by its predecessor operator, GNER, that equally over-stretched itself and delivered those very same keys back to Department for Transport a couple of years earlier.
Three private-sector charlatans will slug it out in a race to the bottom. Here they are:
East Coast Trains Ltd/FirstGroup the very same that submitted an unsustainable bid for the West Coast route leading to a collapse in the bidding and its re-run at our expense (see post, 15 August 2012) .
Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited) – a nice little pairing of the soon-to-be-sold off British bit of Eurostar – the remainder is SNCF oddly publicly owned but allowed to run trains in the UK – and Keolis, a global French-owned public transport operators that ‘thinks like a passenger’. Apparently. They have a stake in the Southern Franchise that I use. If that is thinking like a passenger, this route is destined for exemplary bad service.
Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited) – ah yes, Richard Branson who is currently carving up a nice slice of the UK National Health Service for his ‘health’ business as well as good at picking up cheap banks that once were mutual (now Virgin Money). A favourite of a succession of UK governments. And the brother and sister partnership of Brian Souter and Anne Gloag (right), the Perth-based tycoons who peeled off (allowed by the UK Government) much of the UK bus industry when it – or rather the land that housed depots, workshops and bus stations – was given away in the 1980s. It’s not their fault, we invited them to do it. But should they win, they will control all services to north of Border as they already command the rails on the parallel West Coast, at least for the time being.
Readers interested in DOR’s performance can get a summary here
Pictures: Bombardier Trains: www.crossrail.co.uk; East Coast trains: www.rail.co.uk; Souter/Gloag: This is money: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-1201254/Stagecoach-pair-18m-court-battle-disappearing-fortune.html
In my search for cigarette advertising today in Munich, I had the mis-fortune to come across this explicit piece of advertising for a local radio station. Just in case any readers are wondering what it is, it is a naked woman with her breast covered by the hand of some disembodied man. The strapline, I think, translates as ‘close-up on the hearing’.
I do not know this radio station. A quick visit to the website suggests it is a subsidiary of a group of stations with the same name in various cities pumping out pop music – old and new - and news. This photo was taken at a busy transport interchange in Munich! It is difficult to explain to adults what this is about. I’d be hard pressed to say much to a child who might notice it.
The winning spring cigarette advertising campaigns in Germany are Vogue ‘made for women’ (pictured left – see also post 7 December 2013) and new to the competition, Camel, with their curious descent into primary colour packaging (below right). The recent Lucky Strike campaign is clearly having an interregnum.
Camel’s slogan translates literally, I think, as ‘now becoming colour’; though it may better translate into ‘now colourful’ with red, orange, yellow and green packets. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what the colours represent – they could be random colours or relate to a blend (I think it is the former). I suggest, however, that the packaging relates to how quickly or nastily the content will kill the consumer – with red being acute and green giving the smoker more time alive, though enjoying chronic ill-health?
He is an inveterate collector of prints, a selection of which greet the visitor on arrival (see left). I tried to establish a theme for the prints; it is an eclectic mix. Bicycles are very much part of his life as is Patti Smith (unrelated). Colour (even a photo of post-it notes make it), music (particularly the Beatles and David Bowie), dogs (his wolf hound was a feature of his first shop), travel and romance (his wife, Pauline, is consistently credited). His camera goes everywhere with him. His favourite places are street markets.
There is also a studio space filled with materials – fabrics – and patterns for suits and dresses (below left). Much more ordered than the office and with a selection of Mac computers, clearly his favoured brand.
I am not personally convinced by his clothes – one gallery is dedicated to his clothes. He is more than a tailor. The trademark stripes have been applied to a number of familiar objects such as the mini (below right) and a teapot (Thomas Goode fine bone china, below left). He also designed the case beautiful for a limited edition Leica digital camera. Finally, to cement his British credentials, he put the stripes on to the label for HP sauce for Harrods.
Naturally, this exhibition is a huge marketing exercise for Paul Smith. There is a small gallery devoted to his shops. Each one is different. This potentially has the effect of turning them into tourist destinations in their own right. Unfortunately, one could clock up a huge carbon footprint visiting them. Destinations would include Tokyo, New York and Nottingham, to name but three.
Elsewhere, there is a wonderfully produced and presented HD film of one of his Paris menswear catwalk shows. He says that he does not like shows but they are a necessary part of the business. The media and industry buyers use them. Watching the film, one gets the impression that he makes the best out of it.
The artefacts are beautiful and worthy of exhibiting. However, visitors also get insights into creativity and the business of creativity. I will iron my partner’s Paul Smith blouse now with a little more care.
The photographs are all mine. Apologies for the poor quality. I was not able to use my camera because I had not charged it! I had to use my phone. The results are not so good.
This blog has been a shade quiet since Christmas. I really did not want to reawaken with this post, but the image on the left has been haunting me since I saw it yesterday. My earlier years were dominated by my campaigning against animal abuse. Large aquatic mammals, especially. I even bought a Praktica SLR camera rather than support the Japanese optics industry back in the 1980s when the Japanese persistently blocked a moratorium against whale hunting; particularly humpbacks that were endangered at the time.
I knew that the Japanese had an annual barbaric killing of pilot whales, but this slaughter of dolphins had escaped me. It is the dolphin on the left that haunts me. It will soon be speared by the ‘fisherman’. It will drown. At the risk of anthropomorphism, I ask myself what is going through its head. On the one hand, it knows what its fate will be. But as a higher mammal with quite developed communication, not only is it trying to communicate with its rapidly diminishing peers, it is saying to humanity, ‘why are you doing this to us?’
The process is not random, it seems. The dolphins are rounded up and herded into coves. They are left for four days and then released. In the video, men in wetsuits are seen in the water securing the animals by their tails before they are speared. And so orchestrated is this slaughter, the ‘fishermen’ have built a very large screen to keep away the cameras.
This is not to feed people who are hungry. It is not even fishing. This is a crime against nature. And it breaks my heart.
It is not often that I judge travel options well. But I think this year I got something right. I write this sat on ICE611 heading to Munich (picture left) having escaped on the 0858 Eurostar London to Brussels this morning and then joining a slightly delayed Thalys from Brussels to Köln. I took the decision on Sunday evening to abandon my plan to travel to London on the 0620 Victoria bound train this morning and book myself into a Travelodge hotel close to St. Pancras station in London. On waking up this morning I discovered that all trains into London from the South Coast are subject to cancellation arising from a landslip near East Croydon, amongst other obstructions caused by a major storm that crossed the UK during Monday and into Tuesday with considerable force.
I’d like to thank those people who helped me get away yesterday evening. As a regular flyer to Munich, I can sympathise with those people stuck at Gatwick Airport suffering from severe delays and cancellations due to a weather-related power failure. This is the second year that I have taken the train to Munich for my Christmas visit having suffered previously from delays and cancellations caused mainly by fog. And airlines.
Ryoji Ikeada is a Japanese digital artist now based in Paris. Datamatics is an ever-developing piece fusing visuals and sonics derived from ‘data progress’. The presentation has two extremes. Visually, the projection (onto a curiously creased white screen located on the stage) is black and white with a few red and/or blue ‘accents’; sonically, it is loud, very loud. In fact, the venue offered free ear defenders against the 100 db plus soundtrack. They were needed.
This is a performance that splits its audience. It is clear from the Twittersphere that it was well received by the digital community in Brighton. For those of us on the periphery, making sense of it was not easy, even if there is sense to be made of it. The accompanying leaflet, some of which I have quoted above, was not helpful. Here is another extract: “Driven by primary principles of datamatics, but objectively deconstructing its original elements – sound, visuals and even source codes – the new work creates a kind of meta-datamatics. Ikeada employs real-time programme computations and data scanning to create an extended new sequence that is a further abstraction of the original work. The technical dynamics of the piece, such as its extremely fast frame rates and variable bit depths, continue to challenge and explore the thresholds of our perceptions.”
At 55 minutes it is over-long. The first ten minutes are thrilling – like anticipating being on a roller-coaster. The extreme sonic and bright visuals shock the body. Then it merely becomes boring, though no less stressful for the body through the senses.
I might have anticipated Ikeada appearing from behind the screen at the end. No show. Read into that what you will.
Ryoji Ikeada: http://www.last.fm/music/Ryoji+Ikeda/+images/71046212
Datamatics ver.2.0 Brighton Dome – http://www.ryojiikeda.com/
Planningtorock is the stage name of Jam Rostron, Bolton born and Berlin-based. This set was largely based on her 2012 album, ‘W’, and peppered with some new songs that will debut on the forthcoming album (see below).
Rostron was supported on stage with an unnamed musician commanding the Apple computer and electronic drum kit. Rostron herself was mostly in shadow against a backdrop of video images from what I assume were earlier sets typically featuring her prosthetic nose (now gone), maybe to facilitate the comfortable wearing of her sunglasses. Or rather to presage a new musical period.
And what a noise. Much of PtoR material is experimental and often hard to listen to. For a Thursday evening, the audience was invited to dance and share the most accessible tunes in the repertoire and a number of others promised on the tracklisting of the new album, ‘All Love’s Legal’, due in 2014. She concluded the relatively short set with ‘Living it Out’, a clear favourite with the audience, a number of whom took to the stage to demonstrate their pleasure. Rostron was also overwhelmed when one of the stage dancers kissed her.
We also enjoyed the eponymous ‘Janine’, ‘Doorway’ and ‘The One’. All great tracks dispatched with energy, passion and some emotion. The new album and February tour will be events in their own right.
Another reviewer (link below) clearly has more knowledge than I do about PtoR. Worth a read.