Friday 29 February 2008

Year of the Rat

Way back last year I met a really nice guy at the Breakfast Club for a Likemind event/Russell's coffee morning crossover who listened while I waffled on about how the internet gave us an opportunity for the planet to voice its opinion and instead of smiling as most people do when I blather on about this subject he fully agreed. Well he emailed me this morning about a project for the world to participate in the forthcoming U.S. elections and break down each countries votes for issues like say Iraq.

Rob has very kindly posted about it over here. I hope we all get a chance to say more about things like this in the future. If you know a way that you can contribute or spread the word that would be great because there is going to come a time shortly when it will be difficult to ignore people's opinions on the internet. Its happening already and I hope the developer of 10 questions gets this off the ground. Your support in publicizing it would be terrific.

Thursday 28 February 2008

Spring is in the air

I managed to slip out of the office yesterday for a very quick lunch and on the way I finally got to walk past the recently opened Beijing Opera House or officially titled National Centre for Performing Arts. It's surrounded by a moat like affair, giving the arts a sense of protection for which Beijing's reputation kicks Shanghai's dollar loving ass over. So forgive me if I slip a couple of pics from the Nokia N95 in because I've dropped this baby a couple of times now and it's miraculously past the flying battery and spinning battery-cover test which is always received with gratitude when it survives that particular tumble, and is indeed the first quality about Nokia that really turned me on to the brand. That and the banana shaped ones that we first got at HHCL which were iconic and still are in a retro way. But really, Its not meant to survive this kind of abuse so its like a second life for me which is worth a few hundred euros in reality.

But what I wanted to say is that even though I cannot bear the cold, I moved to Beijing knowing that I need to sacrifice some things to achieve others. However, even though there will be cold days ahead, spring has definitely sprung and there is a whiff of fast paced tarting up going on in Beijing in the last days before the entire planet thinks more about China than it has ever done in the history of this incredible country destined for a legacy that is even larger than its geographical size or population, because that is exactly how the numbers game works. Here are the flowers being planted in time for the arrival of the sun.

And many of the boulevards are going through intense tree planting each morning with entire sections of previously tundra like frozen mud now being dug up and prepped for beauty. China knows how to throw a few hundred thousand workers at a project. Like no other.

This is no time to go into the whole construction boom thing versus planning a city for 2050 but I will do at some point. There's something interesting going on here and I haven't quite found the words to embrace all of it.

Tuesday 26 February 2008

The Office (Party)

Well you live and learn. I've always had a problem with planned entertainment. Spontaneity makes me happy and when I was informed that we were having our office party some weeks in advance and that a 'committee' was being formed to organise entertainment skits for different account teams I thought it was going to be more of that teeth pulling obligatory presence that I put up with a couple of months ago at the 4A's advertising awards in December.

I filmed that particular fanfare they put us through for each award, including say best banner ad in B2B public infrastructure project tenders - you get my drift. Here it is because you can't make this stuff up when it comes to the levels of delusion in the advertising business.

So that's my view on organised fun. However our annual party morphed into everything I could have wished for. We headed for the great wall of China via coach and stayed in some architecturally really interesting lodgings called the Kempinski Commune. The proceedings began after a meal that was perfectly balanced and proportioned for an event of this nature (I loath wasted food at events) and then the skits began. As a rule we Brits have to get lathered up on the juice to have a good time but in general the Beijingers know how to have really good fun with just a glass or two to help things along, and this they did promptly with all their entertaining.

I expected amateurish good humoured attempts to entertain but what I saw was a transformational effect both by and of the people who I work with on a daily basis. It was pure planning porn and that included the film parody of the Hong Kong star who kept pictures of naked starlet conquests that were subsequently discovered by those guys who fix broken notebooks. So I learnt lots and had heaps of fun too. There was some senior management dough giving ritual thing that I didn't fully understand but that too turned into a kind of competitive egalitarianism and I was close to giving it all away right there and then, because I loved my colleagues so much in that moment being an emotional sort. You can't buy that kind of passion even if you neck a Red Bull or Three.

So at the end of it all my colleagues started to sing this song and I don't know why but it was sung with the sort of pride that is not about solipsistic nationalism but about a collective and mutual respect for each other and an optimism for the future. Well that was the feeling of it for me and I'm sure there is more but it just felt good and I got it on Qik so here it is if you don't mind me giving you a quick slice of Beijing life which has so much more substance than Shanghai in many ways.

Sorry about the sound quality but that is live to the net streaming so it's still being improved. I've got lots of footage of the entertainment skits but I'd like to leave you with what really is the moment that sinks in deeper than any other so far which is The Great Wall of China. The folks after the descent told me that you aren't a man until you've visited it, but I was unaware of that when I arose early to climb a section of it where it's evident that despite stiff competition from Bagan in Burma, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobodur in Indonesia is easily the most lasting and physical testament to what a people can achieve with brute force, vision and resources that put the goal way ahead of the cost of its execution. I look forward to the day when we collectively apply that determination to reducing consumption, applauding frugality and worshiping that which we are blessed with for an infinitely short time in the big scheme of things. The chance to live a life on this speck of a seemingly lonely planet. So here is the Great Wall and Great it really is.

He shoots. He scores.

Just before I got shipped outta London to Beijing I met up with some great guys from TBWA/RAAD who were talking about some very attractive Middle East planning action that would have meant a gold plated Royce, a Vertu mobile and a dental plan to force people at 100 paces to wear secret-service dark shades to protect their iris from my egregiously shiny white teeth. Sadly I couldn't take them up on their exploratory offer because of my commitment to move to China, but they did ask if I knew anyone I could recommend.

Which got me thinking!

It had to be someone who was into digital and I also thought international which isn't for everyone so it was a toughie. But one of my thoughts was Sam Ismail. I suggested it might be worth hooking them up. They asked me why I wasn't charging a fee for this but then disintermediation, reputation management and network nurture aren't easy ingredients to whisk-up into a sound bite on the spot so I just told them I'm nice because I needed the love right then. Anyway, as was the case with Famous Rob who landed a number oop North from an introduction I talked about back here I'm pleased to say that Sam is going to be a big planning Kahuna in one of the most dynamic and culturally rich places on the planet too. Fresh out of a psychology degree and straight into the world of marketing communications. It's an experience that will make him grow and I'm looking forward to the Middle East cracking out some innovative numbers because Sam is most definitely capable of delivering welcome surprises. All he's gotta do for this gig is kick back a little and let people get to know his heart of gold first and give them time to dig his burning intelligence second. He says the job thing is a lot down to me but like I told Famous Rob they should thank themselves (and their parent's genes).

That and the guy who started off the whole planning blogging gig in the first place because there was a generosity of spirit which not so long back was rare to find in the previously often pious world of planning. One that is increasingly now benevolent and collaborative.
Vive L'internet folks. I feel we're just scratching at the surface of its potential and it's not about the electronics. It's about the potential of the human spirit, which for whatever reason needs nurturing and given every chance. Everyone needs an ounce of luck in this world and if you do get some, try to find a way to pass it on because karma is, in its own way, an investment in our collective future. As long we expect nothing from it. Another philosophical paradox folks but well done again Sam. I'm very proud of you and here's a dirty mug shot before the gay crew-cut look you've recently adopted to let you know I got it all on file ;)

Sunday 24 February 2008

Nonsense London

I wrote back here that the cost of buying cheap goods is way too high for those people who work hard, are paid inadequately and struggle day in and day out, so we can collectively brag about how cheap T Shirts are made. I've a post about that some day because vintage T Shirts interest me a lot after a spell living on Melrose and snapping up the coolest cheese on the planet. I digress. Rob Mosely who is a bit talented like has client with similar values and has created a sticky viral thing that is a great example of how to make communications slip in neatly with social media. So here is my attempt which was a doddle and fun as well, all done with charming cheekiness I would expect from those chaps at Nonsense London. Who also have a blog now I hear.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Destination or Journey?

More N95 edited on the fly in-phone

As for the camera I can't push it where I want to. I think Sony or Samsung might be tipping the scales for response, manipulation, speed and resolution in this respect.

Interesting and nice guy. Jewelery and clothes used to mask the scars incurred in Iraq I believe.

I don't feel it's fair to belittle a chap who manages to hobble his way to a Go Go bar on crutches. That takes a fair amount of commitment.

Not sure where to start with this character who sits on Silom, but think about the guy on Oxford Street some years back who warned us all against the perils of protein consumption and its inevitable conclusion of sexual congress.

Anyone for a Cashew?

I always advocate working girls engaging in a bit of Vonnegut before making the rounds. Breakfast of Champions in this instance.

Its all bit William Gibson dystopian on occasions is the city of angels at night. Paradoxically the Skytrain pictured below is a model of harmonious public transport infrastructure during the day. Looks can be deceiving.

I'm convinced Mary Shelley was inspired for her best novel from seeing something akin to this lady who without wishing to be brutal had an aura that the exorcist would have tip-toed around.


So we had this Goldfish in our tank with a propensity for swimming upside down. Now I know that's usually a sign for impending demise but in this instance my colleagues assured me that this was our fish's preferred method for over a year now. Personally I think he liked to show-off but then why not? A Goldfish's life isn't all that remarkable after all. Sadly he got stuck in the water filter later on the day of filming and is now floating in a different celestial current.

Then there was spice

Spice is one of those places where although they play nosebleed Euro Techno that hasn't progressed any further than a Josh Wink 'raised hands' volume platform circa 1995, the DJ's do take pride in their innocent enjoyment of a long dead genre of music and tweak a bit with care. I can't bear it really unless I've sunk a few B52's but I had a funny argument with my partner for the evening debating the merits of Lo-So versus Hi-So and in fairness she won. But only because I waited for the hot pop chicks to do their dance routine and subsequently slowed it down on the N95 while adding something more musically tasteful. Spice can be found in the basement of the Rembrandt Hotel on Soi 11, Sukhumvit and is not to be confused with Spicy in Ruang Muang, Soi 1 which is altogether a much more freakish affair.

Friday 15 February 2008

Union City Blues

I know I've been a tough critic of the Nokia N95, but over the Chinese New Year I've been giving it some real punishment and putting it through its paces on the multimedia. I'm particularly impressed with the ability to edit in-handset with music, merge, add text, filters and lots of other functions. So here is a taster of my CNY trip to Bangkok. The N95 has a few reboot quirks that are annoying, its still slow, the battery isn't great, but now I've had the chance to explore more of the functions I'm sold on the ability to make engaging media content. But I'll let you decide.