Jubilee Britain, Outdoors, Society

The Greatest Marketing Opportunity on Earth

English: Commemorative stamp of Greece, The Fi...

English: Commemorative stamp of Greece, The First Olympic Games (1896), 2 lepta. Русский: Марка Греции. Первые Олимпийские игры, 1896, 2 лепты (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone once said “the revolution will be televised”, in that case it will almost certainly also be heavily sponsored.  In Britain as “London 2012” looms large on the horizon it’s jagged magenta shards casting a great shadow upon our capital.  Ahem, sorry.  As the games draw close our commercial TV channels are increasingly packed with adverts from the official sponsors/supporters/partners.  British Airways encourages people to not use their services to fly abroad but to stay at home instead and support Team GB (by all means use BAs internal flights of course).  The athletes will be able to have a pre-event snack on the official cereal bar of the olympic games though Nature Valley’s adverts are the most light hearted and least sentimentalized of the lot.  According to their ads P&G have the competitors every need seen to from keeping their kit pristine with washing powder, their hair clean,  right down to essential “feminine hygiene products” to keep Mother Nature at bay.  If they eat at the Official Restaurant of the games, Maccy D’s, then they won’t need the Fairy washing up liquid much though.  If consolation is needed then a losing javelin thrower can skewer a Dairy Milk from the official treat supplier of the games.  They can pay on their olympic Visa cards.

Joking aside the games sponsorship has received criticism in many areas including the heavy levels of sponsorship from fast food and drink companies; the fact that spectators are not allowed to use any device that is capable of recording video (must watch the footage on Sky/BBC coverage of course); and the fact that their terms for the torch relay advised that runners should wear “comfortable, unbranded or Adidas shoes.”  One commenter suggested simply running barefoot.  Apparently one mum in Kent was told she couldn’t wear a Help for Heroes wristband.

Then there’s the food and we return to the Official Restaurant, mine’s a Big Mac, thanks.  In McDonalds’ sponsorship deal it is specified that they can have the monopoly on selling chips or french fries unless sellers jump through the loophole of them being part of a Fish and Chips package and even then LOCOG had to ask McDonalds for permission to allow our traditional combo.  In the same article The New Statesman reminds us that T-shirts with logos of companies that aren’t official sponsors have been banned from the Olympic Park.  Some credit though goes to the LOCOG catering team who are trying to provide an interesting selection of food for visitors.

Companies and organisations not officially linked to the games have been referring to “the events this summer” for fear of getting into trouble for mentioning the word “Olympics” due to restrictions to control “unauthorised association” with the games – a concept which has even been enshrined in law especially for the games.  If you do say anything about LOCOG that they consider is in a “derogatory and objectionable manner” then you can’t link to the Olympics site, Mike Masnick at Techdirt linked anyway here.

I’m far from alone in my view of the Olympics sponsorship, while preparing this entry The Independent also launched a debate on the subject as have the BBC whose piece includes the story of a butcher who was told to remove a 2012 themed display of sausages, an old lady who couldn’t sell a £1 knitted doll in a olympic kit, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet who were forced to change the name of a production from “Faster, Higher, Stronger – the Olympic motto – to Faster”.

I’m not a fan of the Olympics as such but as it’s in our country I do hope that the sports will take centre stage from next friday and it’ll be an event to remember for the right reasons.

Bag Fiend, Tech

Bag Fiend: Woz’s Backpack Edition

Steve Wozniac

Steve Wozniac (Photo credit: bbriceno)

I thought I had a lot of stuff in my laptop backpack when I travel, you know, laptop, PSU, Mio PDA/GPS (I know, Windows Mobile how 2007, pah), MP3 player, leads, mouse, adaptors etc…

Gizmodo though have had the opportunity to rummage through the contents of the backpack that Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) carries when travelling.

See the picture and a full list from the man himself here.

[Gizmodo UK]

Bag Fiend, Tech

Bag Fiend: King Arthur’s Messenger Bag

I haven’t bought this bag myself but the React Messenger from Travelon uses a mixture of old and new technology to protect your stuff from sticky fingers – and I don’t mean it wipes clean after someone’s been eating a doughnut.

The bag has an outer skin made from a kind of chainmail which provides a slash-proof layer while the shoulder strap is constructed with an integral cut-proofing like the Pac Safe strap that protects my DSLR.  Additionally the main compartment is kept closed by locking carabiners and the whole thing can be locked to a chair or other more immovable object of your choice.

Perfect for protecting your precious tech and/or secret government documents.  Just don’t leave it on a train or somewhere.

[Travelon via Gizmodo UK]

Architecture, Cars, Design, Health, Jubilee Britain, Meta, Psychology, Tech, Transport, Typography

Old is the New… New

Alfa Romeo Duetto

Alfa Romeo Duetto (Photo credit: lewong2000)

It seems that the more we step forward into the blinding light of our techno future the more people seem to be looking back.  Retro is still with us and is increasingly seen as a mainstream design choice.  As I see it the reasons are varied and often depend on the product.

For some the appeal of retro design comes from the feeling that designs from the fifties and sixties were crafted with more care and solidity, with metal rather than plastic, with levers and cranks that moved with a reassuring smoothness, clicked and whirred precisely giving a sense that they’d last forever and that you were getting what you paid for.  Such is the case with cameras such as Digital Leica rangefinders that remain true to their film predecessors’ styling and construction; Fujifilm’s X100, X1 and X-Pro1 cameras which are also built from metals and leather patterned plastic; and my favourite the Olympus OM-D E-M5 digital system camera which from most angles looks as solid, sleek and minimalist as the old OM series cameras – it’s only round the back that you see the array of buttons and the large screen that betray it’s 21st Century innards.  It is true that these cameras are relatively expensive and for many that will be the reason they’ll buy them but there is also another reason for products like these: to look longingly at what is often perceived as a better time in society as well as manufacturing.

Many retro products aim squarely at a time before bling when cool meant understated presence, celebrities and celebrity photographers used Leicas, drove E-type Jags and Alfa Duettos – the latter cars also currently being reborn with new century tech and tweaked, sharper lines to again bridge the gap between the past and the future.  There are hints of the rejection of overt showiness and loud celeb culture beginning to emerge.  In fashion and advertising the likes of TV shows such as Mad Men are having an effect for the same reason.  Stella Artois’ current campaigns have an obvious fifties-sixties style to associate the brand with what is seen as classic cool.

Instagram and Hipstamatic photos flood daily into Facebook and while the low-fi style of these is fun and interesting too many of the people taking the shots take the whole thing too seriously telling people that their pictures are more “authentic” because they look like old photos taken with film cameras, this kind of retro though is not strictly accurate though as film hasn’t had the kind of graininess and vignetting applied by these apps for most of the last fifty years, unless you had a really cheap camera, like the ones that you can now buy imitations of to deliberately get the poor quality – because it looks cool, of course.

So retro is either a desire to emulate a seemingly better time before our throwaway society and our transient carbon-copy celebrities, or it’s a fad to show how unconventional you are, or it’s a way to say how well off and tasteful you are, or it’s a case of designers taking cues from a time where form and function both mattered and subtlety had more impact than in-your-face showiness to create something truly stylish and often beautiful.

To create the future it is often useful to reference the past, both for its mistakes and its triumphs.


Declining Writing

We have a paperless office but I still have my...

(Photo credit: Arvid)

The paperless office is still a way off for many companies, at ours we produce invoices, jobsheets, delivery notes and of course orders, most of which I still write out, by hand on paper with a Parker Slinger pen that hangs round my neck like some kind of modern silver and lime talisman (though it is really there so I don’t forget where I’ve put it down, and also so nobody wanders off with it).

At home too I write, between me and my monitor right now is a notepad that I scribble things on when the computer’s not on or if I really need to remember them.  Like many people I find that the act of physically writing something down helps with processing and remembering the information.

It seems though that, according to online stationer Docmail that I’m becoming part of a minority.  In a survey they found that on average people, on average, wrote only every 41 days.  One in three only wrote something once in six months – usually along the lines of “Happy Birthday, lots of love xxx”.  Possibly even with a smiley face to make it feel a bit more like Twitter or Facebook.  LOL.

Saving paper is one thing, though much paper comes from renewable and recycled sources today, but could people one day actually lose or not even bother to learn how to communicate text without a computer?  Perhaps only if technology becomes so ubiquitous and user-friendly that you could replace every use of pen and paper, right down to the scribble pad by the bed that you use to jot down the thought you had just after you switched out the light.  Until then my extensive collection of pens is safe.

[Gizmodo UK]

Science, Tech

I’ve Seen The Future And… It Likes Cats

Cat bliss

Cat bliss (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

People have for many years worried about computers and robots becoming self-aware and somehow overthrowing us but it seems perhaps we don’t need to be quite so concerned; our weapon in ensuring that the global hypercomputer grows up to be nice?  Cats.

Ok, bit of an exaggeration.  We’ll need more than cats.

But anyway, Google have again created something impressive in its research labs; a virtual neural network that turned out to be like a simplified version of the human visual cortex and when it was presented with a data set consisting of images from YouTube it decided, with no training or input from programmers, to learn how to identify and define a cat and was able to generate an image of a cat based on general features.  The result is influenced by our love of filming our feline friends and sharing their antics with the world but is still a great achievement in the field.

In the future computers based on virtual neural network type structures like this would be able to intelligently search and process the vast stores of information we have and will continue to pour onto the internet.  Look forward to the day when you ask your computer for directions to Bedford and it replies “later, can’t you see I’m having a really bad day”.

[Gizmodo UK]

It should be noted here and now that I reserve the right to use a cat picture to illustrate any article on this blog where there is even a vague relevance.