Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Emirates and the London Underground

So, Emirates airline has invested £36m on a cable car across the Thames between the O2 and the ExCel Arenas. Notwithstanding the fact that at the moment there are unlikely to be too many passengers for this piece of public infrastructure (the property of TfL) on the basis of price (£3.60 with an Oyster card) and, more significantly, a shortage of population between these two points. Though it may have some utility during the Olympics as both arenas are hosting events.

More worrying is the concessions that go with this £36m. Seemingly, Emirates can now tag their logo with the Underground map. This corporate image creep – which Emirates Airlines seems to be particularly good at – should have its limits. As a clean work of art, that map should not be besmirched with any other logo other than the Roundel.

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Barclays and the LIBOR

On 6 November 2011 (see below), I reported on Bob Diamond’s Today lecture and his subsequent appearance on the programme the following day (that interview was uploaded to this blog). Well, now we find that Barclays made a lot of money from manipulating the inter-bank lending rate at the expense customers and citizens. The corporate price to pay is roughly £290m with £60m as a straight fine. Job done!

Well, not quite. Was this illegal? The suggestion is that this practice was systematic; i.e. orchestrated by the senior managment of the bank in which CEO Bob Diamond, at the time, was certainly a player. If so, surely it is time for a criminal prosecution? Giving up a bonus will not do.

Some of the reporting from this morning’s Today Programme, including a clip from Bob Diamond’s lecture on corporate culture, an interview with a former Barclays CEO, Martin Taylor, and the inevitable Robert Peston comment can be heard here.

Cigarette advertising, Summer 2012

On this ongoing topic, two new players have entered the advertising space with two different types of campaign. First the Parisien brand goes for the wacky, happy, let the packets say it all approach (left). Parisien is one of the British American Tobacco brands which is particularly popular in Switzerland. The advertising reflects the brand’s alignment with non-mainstream film directors such as Jean-Luc Goddard, David Lynch and the Coen Brothers. (Most of this detail is drawn from Wikipedia as I had never come across the brand before. I will see what else I can find.)

The second new brand has a very male image. This image shows five men enjoying themselves in some indoor dark place, perhaps some bar or club. Though there is light suggesting that they have come from a bright outside to be there. However, the headlines defy my german. Normal ist Montags Mädelsabend. Normal kann jeder. My translation would have it that Monday is girls’ night. Perhaps there is an accompanying campaign that would make the whole thing clearer as the Malboro ‘Maybe’ campaign has become?

Wikipedia notes that L&M is a product from the Altria Group, Inc., formally Philip Morris. It is an American brand that is very popular in Asia. It clearly has remarkable properties if this youtube advertisement from 2009 is anything to go by: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoFlb3UsMJk Oddly, terminal cancer is not mentioned.

The best of British design and the Olympics

It is starting to get a little bit tedious, the constant references to the past in terms of design: Pillar boxes, buses, etc. These posters, moreover, are embarassing. Does Richard Branson really equate with being Great?

It is also unfortunately very true now that what makes cities distinctive now is their past. The present and maybe future in terms of artefacts – buildings, products – are generic and global. The same artefacts appear in many of great cities across the globe. BBC Radio 4 seems obsessed about this point, and are discussing it at length. This is the debate’s latest instalment.

University of Brighton degree show, 2012

This is always a great event with lots of excitement from students and visitors alike. It takes a lot of organising with stress all round that is dissipated once the doors open. I sensed some conservatism this year, not least reflected in this work by Dean Mills (right). The flowers are fantastic; against the backdrop of an entirely different style in the form geometry, doubly so. These two familiar forms are both conservative and innovative at the same time. The work of Kate Longdon (left) uses colour to counter the pessimism in life and death cycles. There are the natural and human worlds, space and time in there somewhere.

So, next on my list of highlights is the work of Julia Arabadji. Arabadji provides the ‘glamour’. The picture (right) is stunning in the flesh, though I’m not so sure about those shoes. But the colours, contours and sheer size of the picture just say indulgence. There is real menace, however; the titles of Arabadji’s painting suggest that our woman is part of an undesirable set: Money Laundering, Euro up the Ass and Mind Games!

Next on the wow! list is a collage by Lucy Mazhari. Mazhari is a fine art printmaker. This one goes under the undistinguished title of Scroll #2. The cinemascope presentation gives it a voyeuristic quality that means one has to look and look closely not to miss anything. It is so busy.

Then there is the work of Richard Willan. This was the spookiest piece. These Dalek-like creations are erected in a black space but investigate visitors as they enter the cubicle. This investigation is accompanied by an appropriate noise. They could be friendly and they are made of familiar materials (mainly CDs). But anyone who has seen ‘Prometheus’ knows not to trust such unfamiliar ‘creatures’. The piece is called Auto-Form; unfortunately, I cannot upload my short video.

Finally, the conservativism and pessimism this year come out in the work of Jessica Illsley. Three young women are depicted as the Dagenham Belles oil on canvas. Forgive my photography, but there is not much fun going on here.

Tandem now in Hove

Yesterday I brought it from Gargrave where it was assembled to Hove where it will start its journey to Munich. It is pictured here with me prior to being loaded into the van. However, prior to doing so, I stayed overnight in Malham and visited a rather dank but spectacular Malham Tarn. Recommended.I’ve uploaded a few pictures below.

   Limestone pavement, Malham Cove
Self portrait on limestone pavement
At the base of Malham Cove on the bank of the river. Climbers can be seen in the background.
Malham Tarn on a bleak Monday morning

The BBC and the Jubilee

I thought that I’d said enough on this subject, however, this morning’s discussion on the Today programme on Radio 4 demands comment. Where I and others thought the problem lay was in the BBC’s uncritical coverage and subsidy (the concert was funded by the BBC it seems at least until the rights were successfully sold). But alas not. Actually, the issue was about the innanity of the coverage, particularly over the flotilla on Sunday. Seemingly, no attempt was made to explain the makeup of the flotilla – why particular ships were historically significant vis-a-vis others, for example. Viewers were treated to more parochial comments from observers on the banks of the Thames at the expense of historical enlightenment. The flotilla, therefore, was not treated as a Dimbleby event, but rather as a reality TV event.

Now, I did not watch any of it, so I cannot comment on the specifics, but the clips I heard on Radio 4 this morning did suggest that it was pitched a bit low. But what if the BBC got it right? Maybe this was not about history necessarily. Rather it was just a spectacle that did not really need additional commentary. The festivities – with the exception of the the service in St Paul’s – was not about history or even the queen. It was about those people who stood in the rain to watch the spectacle. Their hardships, stories and aspirations. Innane though it may have been, maybe it was spot on. The feelgood factor this morning after the long weekend of festivities is palpable. Isn’t it?

The Guardian

I have very mixed feelings about the Guardian newspaper. Since the BBC destroyed its website, the Guardian has been my homepage for news updated at an alarming frequency during the day. An article in this week’s New Statesman suggests that the newspaper is in trouble, having lost in excess of £70m over the past two years. Peter Wilby ‘interviews’ the enigmatic editor, Alan Rusbridger, and uncovers some of those bizarre decisions that have implications for the viability of the business. These include buying (now idle) printing presses that can do the ‘Berliner’ format and moving to new rented accommodation near Kings Cross and vacating the Farringdon premises which the Guardian owned.

Well worth a read.

You can see an extract here (ironically, the whole article is behind a paywall); http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/media/2012/05/exclusive-alan-rusbridger-profile-peter-wilby

Cigarettes and the good life

Gauloises – the iconic french brand – is copying Pall Mall and, to a lesser extent, Marlboro. Again, only one of the people in the picture is smoking, but equating smoking with some kind of idyll seems to the the theme of the moment. Equally, though without a hint of irony, cigarettes without additives, are something to be celebrated.

I have also taken a photograph of a cigarette machine, typical of those one encounters on street corners in Munich. They do seem a shade incongruous.

The Jubilee 2

So, today it it the turn of the musicians to fawn. And beacons (of what?).

Who is not performing? No sign of Jarvis Cocker. Chumbawamba, Neil Hannon (aka The Divine Comedy). Kate Bush is probably doing her laundry. But then, I can be reassured about those who are there. Elton John, no surprise. Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, etc. Not sure what Stevie Wonder was told when he was booked. Actually, come to think about it, is that the best they could do? Where is Adele? Where are Rihanna, Coldplay, Florence and the Machine, The Cure, Midge Ure/Bob Geldof, David Bowie, Paul Weller, Morrissey, Gallagher Brothers, Blur, Stone Roses etc.? And then those who have left us. Would Freddie Mercury have been there (I know Brian May will play the national anthem from some vantage point)?

Can’t wait.