360 degree video

360 degree video

360 degree video

I’m starting to hear about 360 degree video cameras and I think this is what Google may have used to record their street view images. Check out this 360 degree video of the hockey riots in Canada. Click the play arrow down bottom right and then use the mouse to look around. Look left, right, look backwards as the camera moves or even look up. Amazing!

Now a company named Kogeto have created a tiny 360 degree camera called Dot for the iPhone.

The Snog

Canadian Snog

Canadian Snog

In Greece they riot about the economy, in England it’s globalisation, while in Canada…….it’s Ice Hockey. Yes, thats right, the nicest country in the work have just had horrendous riots over an Ice Hockey game. Odd that the world view of Canada is generally fairly positive but rioting over Ice Hockey? This puts them in league with English football supporters.

However, something else occurred during the recent riots. Either a wonderful photographic moment or a cynical example of how the media manipulates us all.

Robert Doisneau's kiss

Robert Doisneau's kiss

In 1950 Robert Doisneau created an iconic photograph of a couple kissing in Paris. Fantastic! Yet in the 1980s he revealed that the photograph was, in fact, posed – What a let down.

Now, in Canada, a wonderful photograph has emerged by Richard Lam depicting a couple lying on the ground in the middle of a riot – kissing.

But is it real? – The rumours are already percolating through the International press.

I find painting and photography a phenomenal art. Take an oblong of flat space and splash some colours over it. Surely there can only be so many patterns? So many images? But no. The patterns and images are endless. In fact there are an infinite number of patterns but more than that there are an infinite number of  ways to interpret the image. The iconic aspect of photography is  interesting. A photograph can grab the public imagination and crystalize an idea or an attitude. Think of the photo of the nakend Vietnamese girl injured by napalm by  Nick Ut or the picture of Saint Paul’s cathedral amidst the smoke of the London blitz by Herbert Mason or even the recent photo of President Obama and other United States leaders watching the demise of Osama Bin Laden.

These images are burned onto the global retina and yet, like a painting, if these images are shown to be fakes then they somehow debase the very subject they depict.

Let’s hope the Canada Kiss is authentic.

When Labour call for tax cuts you have to be suspicious

Cut taxes? Labour? With their reputation?

Cut taxes? Me? With my reputation?

I just watched Ed Balls on Channel 4 News calling for VAT cuts. Labour’s argument is that they agree that they need to bring the deficit down but not so fast. Recently I heard Labour talking about the National Health service. Once again they agree that change is needed but not the change that the government are pursuing.

It’s easy being in opposition. All you have to do is disagree with the government. I don’t think many of us have enough understanding to know whether the governments fast track to deficit reduction is better than Labour’s ideas for going more slowly.

We do know that the opposition are bound to disagree with the government. The truth is that Labour have no alternative and so they are forced to criticise the speed of the process rather than the process itself. This is not surprising since the Labour leadership are a bunch of nobodies.

Both Millibands and Balls have never had proper jobs. They all worked as media monkeys for New Labour before being shoe horned into safe seats. They perform so lamely in opposition because they have no policy ideas of their own. They only know is how to present ideas, know how to play the media. Remember that idiotic attack on Ken Clark a few weeks ago? Any sensible person who listened to Clark’s arguments could not have believed that he meant to make light of rape yet Ed Milliband picked it up and was banging on about it during PMQs the very same day. This was nothing but spin.

I have heard several times in the news that Ed Balls is a “considerable intellect” and that he is generally well clued up on the economy. Last week The Telegraph released transcripts of some of Mr. Balls documents from when he was working for Gordon Brown. I read the document entitled Project Volvo where Mr. Balls lays out his ideas for getting Gordon Brown elected.

Not much evidence of a great intellect there.

In fact, project Volvo was no more than an off the shelf marketing campaign which could have been put together by any marketing graduate. The same approach could have been used to sell magazines or margarine.

I realise that this marketing stuff works and therefore political parties are forced to hire marketing staff. I guess this took off in the UK when Margaret Thatcher hired Saatchi and Saatchi but Thatcher was never so stupid as to confuse marketing staff with politicians. Labour’s mistake was to allow the marketing men to run the party.

You have to be suspicious when you hear that Labour want to cut taxes. So when I heard, this evening, that Ed Balls wanted to cut VAT I did not think that this was part of  a well thought out economic strategy. I thought that he was TALKING BOLLOCKS! Balls knows that reputable bodies such as the IMF and the EU do not agree with him and he knows that the government will ignore his calls. But that is not the point.

Mr. Balls does not expect the government to follow his advise. His call for a VAT cut is merely headline grabbing fluff to cast the Tories in a bad light. More spin. More marketing.

Under Tony Blair the marketing men worked too closely with the leadership. In today’s Labour party the marketing men ARE the leadership. I am even starting to hear of yet another rebranding attempt, this time to be entitled “Blue Labour”.

In marketing terms Labour is now a tainted brand and repairing a brand is a very big job requiring going back to honesty and principles. The product itself must have intrinsic value.

While Labour remain a party led by nobodies like Ed Balls even Saatchi and Saatchi couldn’t repair it.

Poppies

The poppies are out up near Devils Dyke. Millions of them! A few years ago they seemed to spring from nowhere and then last year I noticed that the fields appeared to have been covered in lighter coloured earth and the poppies did not appear. I wondered if the farmer had tried to kill them off. I guess that farmers do not want millions of poppies in their corn field but then what do I know about farming? Anyway. One morning on the way to work I stopped and took this  bit of video.

Mass tourism – scourge of the urban environment

Tourism

Tourism

The people of Berlin are protesting about the large number of tourists who visit their city and I have every sympathy.

Mass tourism is a scourge on society. The enormous buses clog our streets obscuring the very views that the tourists have come to see and eventually the local culture is displaced by an international tourist culture of burgers, beer and bullshit. Local charm is replaced by shops selling plastic beefeaters and pictures of how things used to be before mass tourism.

We all love to travel and from the tourists point of view mass tourism is a boon enabling us to see the world. Without mass tourism many of us would have no experience of anything outside our immediate vicinity.

But mass tourism destroys the thing it loves. A herd of tourists cannot visit a city without damaging it like some socio-economic version of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

When a person reads of the Left Bank in Paris he learns of Picasso, Matisse and Hemingway. He thinks that he too must experience this seminal environment and he buys his ticket. But the locals have seen him coming. They know that the age of art has passed and the age of commerce is upon us. So they open themed cafés, bars and restaurants with names like Bar Les Artistes or Le Lucernaire.

When our gallant traveller arrives he finds that he is not rubbing shoulders with writers or poets but engaged in a drinking competitions with a IT Administrator from Milton Keynes. Our intellectual explorer is now in the minority. The majority of the clientele are not interested in culture but feel they should “take a look while we’re here”. They have been sold culture in the same way that they are sold breakfast cereal and aftershave.

Our cities become caricatures of themselves, Ko Samui becomes Blackpool and an Indian tourists sits and enjoys the ambiance of Paris while eating a Big Mac.

The tourist industry markets travel as a liberating experience but mass tourism is not so much a manifestation of freedom as of greed, globalisation and hyper-commercialisation.

The population of Greater London is estimated at approximately 7.7 Million people. Wikipedia considers that London receives 15 million tourists each year and it is a safe bet that the vast majority of these concentrate their activity in central London. At the moment, the tourist industry sees no limits on how many people it can push down the subway at Oxford Circus. This has been detrimental to the quality of life of Londoners and no doubt Berliners suffer similarly and so are right to object.

Industry and commerce have long involved the appropriation of commonly held land for exploitation by self appointed “owners”. Communism recognises this when it declares that “property is theft”. We generally consider this property to be land used for homes, farms or factories and we assume that this confiscation means exclusion of the public but we neglect the public space in between private property. We neglect the commons.

This common space is owned, used and valued by all of us yet government and commerce now seem hell bent on exploiting it to herd around disinterested tourists in such wretched conditions that their goal, once they emerge from their air-conditioned packaging, is to take a piss, grab a burger and get back on the bus.

The scourge of mass tourism is as an example of The Tragedy Of The Commons (TTOTC).

The Tragedy Of The Commons may sound like a Thomas Hardy novel but is, in fact, a concept used by economists. To quote Wikipedia: “The tragedy of the commons is a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”

The scenario usually given is where common land is used by multiple individuals to graze their cattle. It is in the interest of each individual to graze as many cows as possible yet this will eventually ruin the grazing land to the detriment of all.

One solution often proposed is that the commons should be privatised and access restricted to those with the ability to pay. The owner would then work in his own self interest to ensure that the asset was maintained in good condition. This could mean that the owner would limit access but this is, by no means, certain.

Intuitively I am against the continued expansion of the private sphere and I find modern shopping malls a poor replacement for a thriving high street.

Another way of addressing TTOTC is intervention by local government. Legislation could be implemented to limit use and protect the asset. In the case of mass tourism this might mean metropolitan rules restricting the number of Bulk Tourist Deliveries (BTDs) in a given period.

However, local government derives a lot of revenue from allowing companies to graze their tourists in city streets and officials often see their role as maximising revenue. According to Wikipedia “The Government Office for London states that tourism revenues constitute 10 per cent of London’s gross value added and contributes to the employment of up to 13 per cent of London’s workforce. According to the London Development Agency, visitors to London spend around £15bn each year.”

Obviously cities will not wish to give up this revenue but at the moment we are sacrificing our environment for short term profit. Reversing this trend and protecting our cities will make them better places to live and ensure that they continue to attract tourists well into the future.

The concept of tourists destroying what they visit is not new and was deftly described in a 1975 Science Fiction story by Garry Kilworth named “Let’s Go to Golgotha”. To quote Wikipedia: “In the future period where the story takes place, time travel has been invented and made commercially available. Among other historical events, tourists can book a time-travelling “Crucifixion Tour.” Before setting out, the tourists are strictly warned that they must not do anything to disrupt history. Specifically, when the crowd is asked whether Jesus or Barabbas should be spared, they must all join the call “Give us Barabbas!”. (A priest absolves them from any guilt for so doing). However, when the moment comes, the protagonist suddenly realizes that the crowd condemning Jesus to the cross is composed entirely of tourists from the future, and that no actual Jewish Jerusalemites of 33 AD are present at all.”

George Shaw at the South London Gallery

George Shaw

George Shaw

I’ve been looking out for an exhibition of the work of George Shaw for some time and finally found that an exhibition at the South London Gallery.

The exhibition is entitled The Sly And Unseen Day. Shaw paints pictures from his youth growing up on a housing estate in Coventry. He uses Humbrol paints which are more normally associated with the painting of airfix model kits which many young boys will remember from the 1970s.

His pictures are devoid of people and I find them strangely haunting and reminiscent of my own youth. I have heard it suggested that Shaw’s pallet is predetermined by the set colours of the paint. I doubt that he mixed the paint. Up close the effect is almost metallic and each brick in a brick wall seems individually to spring out of the canvas. His control of light is excellent and shows up in the shadows of trees cast on buildings and the reflections from large rain puddles.

The gallery is an impressive old building on Peckham Road, admittance is free but they request donations. I found it easy enough to park in a side road.

The South London Gallery

The South London Gallery

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Rose

Green Rose by Nigel Chaloner

Why is the sky blue?

Why?

Why?

Years ago the search engine did what it said on the tin but these days the owners have realised that it’s where we often start our browsing and therefore a great place to offer functionality or content. Google has been evolving fairly surreptitiously to the average user. Without cluttering up the page they have now added quite a lot of extra goodies. Currency converter and language translator for example.

Most of us will have noticed Google Instant by now. This is a feature of the Google search engine which reads what we are typing as we type and displays results immediately rather than waiting for the return key to be hit. In general this is pretty good though, on slow connections, it can be more or less unusable. Fortunately Google have allowed us to switch off Google Instant.

Google Advanced Search can be useful if we want to refine our search as it allows the exclusion of key words as well as restricting the search to a specific time period.

Another feature of Google which is interesting is Google Suggest. This is where Google suggests the most common search phrases as we type. So, for example, if we type “Talking” into Google it will suggest “Talking Heads”, “Talking Tables”, “Talking to the moon lyrics” and so on. No mention of TALKING BOLLOCKS I see, probably because they ignore what they consider to be expletives.

Google Suggest can be useful as, if an appropriate search phrase appears, we can quickly select it and not have to enter the entire phrase. A side effect of this is that we can see the most popular search phrases used by others and this is interesting too.

I entered some common question words such as “why” and “who” and found that many people are asking fairly uplifting questions. They are interested in the environment, their partners or their new child. It is not all peace and love however, when asking questions of themselves people seems worried about their weight or appearance or sexuality.

I’ve listed a sample of the phrases which I found below but you can try it yourselves.

Why

Why is the sky blue?
Why do we yawn?
Why is a raven like a writing desk
Why do you want to work for us
Why do we dream?
Why am I always tired
Why buy new
Why do cats purr
Why did the chicken cross the road
Why does Easter move

When will I

When will I die?
When will I ovulate?
When will I feel my baby move?
When will I see you again?
When will I get my state pension?
When will I see you again lyrics
When will I get my p60?
When will I get my pension?
When will I get married?
When will I go into labour?

Who will I

Who will I marry?
Who will I marry quiz
Who will I marry quiz for girls
Who will I marry name generator
Who will I be
Who will I be demi lovato lyrics
Who will I marry in the future
Who will I find in baker street
Who will I get married to
Who will I marry name

How can I

How can I make money
How can I lose weight fast?
How can I make money fast?
How can I lose weight?
How can I keep form singing?
How can I tell if I’m pregnant?
How can I speed up my computer?
How can I download youtube videos?
How can I stop my period?
How can I help Japan?

Why am I

Why am I always tired
Why am I so tired
Why am I so ugly
Why am I always cold
Why am I always hungry
Why am I not losing weight
Why am I gay
Why am I single
Why am I so fat
Why am I here

Why are

Why are we here
Why are people racist
Why are pandas endangered
Why are tigers endangered
Why are flamingos pink
Why are polar bears endangered
Why are people gay
Why are black people black
Why are there protests in Egypt
Why are people protesting in Egypt

Helsinki

Helsinki Station

Helsinki Station

On Sunday I flew to Finland. Helsinki? No I went of my own accord. It was never a good joke in it’s original form and obviously my rendition is no better.

At long last Terminal Three at Heathrow seems to have been tarted up and there was room to swing a cat. Sadly, there were no swinging cats there, just we motley collection of tourists and jaded business travellers.

I am being too cynical. In fact Heathrow is better since the renovation though I still protest every public space in England being transformed into an over priced shopping mall. The “luxury brands” swarm like bloated maggots around departure lounges though why any marketing wallah should think that having the name of Harrods suspended over a shop selling tatt to the masses would do their brand image any good I don’t know.

I’ve heard stories of luxury brands, such as Louis Bloody Vuitton, destroying their merchandise rather than let unsold items appear on the market at knock down prices and I had imagined that this was driven by a determination to artificially maintain exclusivity. But these days the luxury brands appear to be targeting both the toffs and the chavs and I suspect that in a few years time they will have completely destroyed their brand name. In fact I heard that Burberry have hit this exact problem and are now trying to claw there way back to exclusivity. If they’re not careful it will be Robinson’s Barley Water all over again.

I used to drink RB and had bought it fairly regularly over the years. However, a while back I noticed that they had not only changed the bottle to some misshapen plastic abomination but had also brought in a lot of other concoctions which they are flogging under their brand name. I mistakenly picked up a bottle of some rubbish which proved to be undrinkable. I continued to by the stuff for a while but the plastic bottle somehow makes the stuff irksome and it spends it’s days at the back of the shelf with all the supposed goodness gradually settling out until I notice just how foul looking it has become and throw it out.

I stayed at the Sokoto Presidentti in Helsinki which was satisfactory. The bathrooms have an almost medial appearance with their over engineered shower apparatus but the Spanish restaurant delivers a very good pepper steak and crème brulee.

The Helsinki natural History Museum

The Helsinki Natural History Museum

In the evening I stood outside the hotel, my view of the Natural History Museum obscured by an unending procession of tour buses disgorging Japanese tourists. I’d read somewhere that Berliners are up in arms at the number of tourists who clutter up their beautiful city and I sympathise.

Despite the concentration of tour buses at the hotel, Helsinki seems not to suffer the scourge of mass tourism. Wandering the streets in the evening I found them almost deserted. Even at Helsinki Cathedral there were just a few local people sitting on the steps enjoying the evening.

Hypocritically I travel quite frequently and my impression of the UK is that it appears fundamentally different from continental Europe. Northern Europe has a certain uniformity engendered by common street signs for “Centrum”, yellow trams and tall warehouses. Possibly multiple forcible attempts at unifications by megalomaniac dictators resulting in massive loss of life also have something to do with it – Northern Europe has a more communal feel to it.

One evening I visited the Sokos Helsinki restaurant overlooking the railway station for a delicious steak sandwich. From the balcony it is possible to look out over Helsinki station and the trams, one of which appeared to be a travelling bar – What an excellent idea!

Many people in Helsinki ride bicycles but seem not as obsessed with having the right gear as the cyclists in England. The young men seem to be heavy metal enthusiasts and wear jeans, studs and beards. One motorcyclist sported two enormous cow horns on his crash helmet. All a bit Viking which is odd as I am told that their language is unrelated to Scandinavian languages and instead shares it’s history with Hungarian.

About 11pm, when it was still broad daylight, I discovered a video and sweet shop. Numerous videos and numerous types of sweet all in tall jars including the a suspicious brand named Tyrkish Peba. Which I love but which, I suspect, was originally invented as some kind of chemical warfare agent as it is composed partly of Ammonium chloride.

Returning to the hotel I found it overrun by youths who continued to race around the corridors until the early hours creating a sort of carpeted, indoor version of the Bronx.

On the flight home I got talking to a girl who was publishing a book to be named “No Fear” on the changing face of business leadership brought about by globalisation and technology. An interesting discussion though difficult, given the incessant announcement over the tannoy. In an effort to cover themselves and sell us more stuff, corporations bombard us with advertisements and inane safety warnings. We get this on aircraft, on the London Underground and in those imbecilic, and legally questionable, online “agreements”. Corporations will claim that they need to communicate with their customers but this is a very one sided form of communication. I don’t care about the ground speed, the height or their selection of duty free items. I especially don’t care to hear it in multiple languages one after the other at full volume from a loudspeaker positioned 12 inches from my left ear. I sometimes feel like taking a megaphone onto an aircraft and retaliating. I recall a friend who tried this in the back of a taxi once and got thrown out at Trafalgar Square….but that’s another story.