Sunday 28 June 2009

I was born, in a crossfire Hurricane

I have actually seen this movie, though right now it crosses over nicely from something I discovered THIS MORNING. It was my 40th birthday YESTERDAY. Which Means I've inadvertantly and serendipitously skipped the whole event. This pleases me no end as firstly, every day is my birthday (close friends will testify) and also I'm still waiting for 21st century banking to hire faster pidgeons because even though speculators can crush whole economies in minutes like George Soros did (and then went on to sancitimoniously lecture the oil speculators -  greed anyone?), when it comes to normal people like you and I; we have to wait. Which is why I left this comment over at Neils because there has to be a reason why the banks don't want us to have micropayments. It's not rocket science or brain surgery.

In any case it was not only my birthday but also the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots because we both belong to 27 June 1969. Anyway in my opinion it was the cops that night who were rioting again, by busting into the Stonewall Inn and using their violence to break up people who are traditionally portrayed as pretty flimsy at physical aggression - pansies I've heard them called.

It was however in the time when same-sex hand-holding was illegal but you know how those ultra homophobic heterosexuals are......They're invariably homosexuals in denial which is just logical if you think it through and if it's too uncomfortable for you, then here's the research for it.

So now that I've given the Hong Kong police force a verbal ticking off for gay policework as in; "You go first", "No you go first", "No you go first, I need to tuck my uniform shirt in". I'll leave you with a picture of the night in question, because New York is on the map and I'm going to take my time rather than go American Express. Or do we tolerate the deniers?

Thursday 25 June 2009

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

I'm still on the back foot till the funds arrive, and while I was really having a rant at the authorities you took the bull by the horns and did what I needed. You've been brilliant, and I'm humbled by your kindness and generosity.

Now what are all these contextual ads for flights to Tuscany doing in my mail?

This is just a small sample of your Twitterpower and forgive me if I've neglected to respond properly yet in the comments or in my mail as I've tried to be diligent but at one point I was swamped by Disqus. Sam who has been brilliant, at doing, not talking is taking care of money administration over here and I will blog every penny I spend so you can see how it's working to get me out of this situation. I may be broke for a wee while but through your collective kindness, I  believe I'm a rich man that no bean counting can every quantify. Thanks so much again and again.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Hong Kong CID

I'm hoping you might learn that any expectations of high standards from dealing with the Hong Kong Constabulary or the sneaker wearing, high fiving Plain clothes Criminal Investigations Department (apart from two individuals who were cool) will only disappoint you if my experiences are typical.

Last Friday night I caught a taxi with all the important stuff in a suitcase. Usually things like mobile phones, wallets, computers, passports and so forth are separate but in this instance they were packed in various suitcase pockets for reasons such as picking up my laundry on the way. Unfortunately for me the Taxi driver I caught would not listen to my instructions such as "stay here please" and on each successive occasion ignored me until I concluded he was being uncooperative.

I wanted Hong Kong police to deal with him and not me. I said to myself if the police feel I'm being unreasonable I'll pay the fare and accept their judgement. An hour lost is a small price to pay for not getting into an altercation over a fare with a cabbie. (I have to say all of them on Hong Kong apart from the bad person I got have been brilliant and helpful)

Once I finally conveyed to the driver there was no hotel we were going to and I wasn't putting up with feigned stupidity (I was visiting a friend) he took me to the Police Station and I leaped out, pleading with the desk officer to come out and talk to the taxi driver. The desk officer wanted to ask me questions that were beyond irrelevancy and so the taxi driver drove off without payment, and with my suitcase. Fortunately I noted the last four digits of the number plate.

The Police said to me "Don't worry, we will try to return your belongings". While being interviewed by CID I realised that only one officer present grasped I was a victim and that it wasn't a case of an absent minded taxi driving off.

I hadn't paid my fare. Sheer procrastination on the Police's part had led to an even worse scenario.

I'm a resilient character and loss of property doesn't grieve me as much as it does others. Read this to see why. I could howl about the Chanel shades, my Macbook Air the large amount of cash, and the like, but the truth is, some of you have left comments here that have delighted me more than any atoms ever could. Even the emails I'm getting now from the few who know, have been brilliant, including one pal I've only met once in Beijing, who comes from Hong Kong and offered to lend me money, while we laughed about how it was karma for writing my luxury posts including all the luxury shopping which is now stolen. We laugh at the trivial. We value each other. Long may you prosper.

I'm lucky that I still have enough money to do with my life as I wish, but without my wallet and cards; I had 18 HK Dollars in my pocket (1.6 Euros) and the EMERGENCY number for the British Embassy they gave me was a recorded message giving the office hours.

To convey the Kafkaesque nature of the Peter Sellers team let me give you a taster of the conversation I had around 11 PM in the evening while I weighed up my options.

Me: "The Consulate number isn't working. What time is the last ferry please" (thinking I might walk to Central about 40 minutes away and beg for two dollars to make it across the water.

Desk Sergeant (Calls a number) "There's no one answering, have you tried the Consulate?"

So I slept in the waiting room on those ridged seats in viciously cold air conditioning and shorts while drunken and needlessly loud voices pressed charges or had charges pressed against them through the night in what I can only describe as a scene reminiscent of those god awful passages from the Clergy Man's daughter by George Orwell. I shuddered reading it and I shuddered as I awoke each time in the night.

Anyway a week later and basically the British Consulate don't want to know. I'm living off the good will of people I don't really know, while a good friend recuperates from a back operation and I've been calling CID to find out if they've even apprehended the taxi driver of the number plate I gave. I've no money, no Passport, no FAGS, few clothes, no mobile and no computer.

I'm an ILLEGAL alien, with no way of getting my money, and the only people who want to help are my social media gang, most of whom I've not even met.

It's unbelievable, and Hong Kong CID have just put the phone down on me when I asked for the second time today on progress, and how to give them a few more clues like the very memorable T Shirts I have, one of which I wore in San Francisco here and which might be lying around somewhere in the culprits apartment. I don't think they've even followed up what happened last week and now I want to make an official complaint about the police. Probably I'm wasting my time there too.

Hong Kong CID. Is the C for clueless? You suck and you know it. You just don't care. You should have been knocking on the culprits door within 24 hours because by now if he's got any sense he would have SOLD everything I own not on the grounds of GREED but on the grounds of LOGIC.

I hold the police responsible for dawdling at the front desk, dawdling on the investigation and now dawdling and dissembling with EVERY phone call I've made. They just don't care if they've done anything at all. So all I can say to you folks is one thing.

I really like Hong Kong but .......... I've never meet a more feeble, lethargic and unresponsive Cop outfit towards a guest (and I think high spending visitor) as the one I have encountered, and that it's better to take the law into your own hands than report it.

If I'd have done that; I wouldn't be writing this post now and thinking about how I'm going to get a passport and some cash to get back on with my life which means India is definitely off the cards (so sorry about that folks -I'm really sorry)

I'd appreciate any of my readers thoughts on this because right now I'm jumping through hoops with a British Consulate that wont even issue me with a Passport that I need in order to regain my life via banking and so forth, and a Hong Kong CID that wont answer my questions about progress nearly a week later.

Apparently the Consulate says I'm good for 50 quid which wont even cover the cost of a passport or even doing a photo run to apply for one. I'm afraid my winning smile isn't working very much at the moment. But you know what. I still said a little prayer to God and thanked him for all the good stuff I've been given in life because there's been loads and loads of it. Look at that Green revolution kicking off on Twitter logos.


Cigarette Packaging

Impending legislation may mean that cigarette packaging for Marlboro could end up looking like this. I guess people like Emigre will have a field day with the font as key design feature. Via Influx Insights and Ed's Photo Stream.

However as a lapsed non smoker (I should work in PR) I always thought the Thai health warnings are the most punchy I've seen, and yet that never worked for me. It's possible that as a word man I might find Pentagram more effective. I guess I'm not the market segment being spoken to as one would hope that it's the younger ones who are put off ever trying.

This is one of the milder ones although you can see more over here. Frankly the following effort by Pentagram is just cool and precisely the reason why so many take up smoking in the first place.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

My Little Pony - Double-Cat-Claws Puffy-Cheeked Pose

I've got some serious posts coming up on the subject of social media, paper versus digital media, attention spans and bloody Malcolm Gladwell (over bloody rated frankly, but lovely timbre of voice) so I thought I'd get this amuse gul out of the way as Mary kindly sent me this pic which I'm happy to confirm is empirical evidence that the Muji Green Scarves work big time. Note his and hers matching O.D.M. watches which are pretty much all I have left after a disastrous friday night that is about to get some exposure if the British Consulate and Hong Kong CID don't pull their fingers out.

Update: As if from nowhere that Muji Embed I was playing around with has appeared below. Feel free to do as you please because there was no suggestion it was working in the preview.

Opinionated Sod

I went to a reasonable amount of effort to ensure that Rob was made the number one Opinionated Sod in the world through the Google Juice Ranking System. So imagine my confusion when, as I always do, I Googled it to get on his blog and found that I had taken his place (see below). I don't know why but I've done some "neutral tests" and it's just my personal algorithm. Until he denies it I'm assuming it's his "relationship" with the Google boys in Mountain View that is responsible for all this.

Portable Social Graphs

I was talking about these in Beijing around the time I wrote this. A few of you will no doubt remember from Skype conversations.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Yo Momma Gotta A Wanta?

I remember a Dutch (and emotionally liberated) friend who traveled the world in business class as a consultant, and who shared with me the female business traveler top-tip of pocket rocket. Perhaps I've been a little slow getting to grips with toy culture but this post has prompted the Polish girl I'm staying with and her just arrived Czech friend on holiday to casually meander into the room and there's a buzzing sound being emitted with what I assume is gossip about features and benefits. (They said I could mention it in the blog post when I asked if it was what I think it was).

Welcome to my life.

I'm also delighted by the clever media buying underneath the ad. Props to HK magazine for running a thoroughly modern ad and of course Wanta for the naked communications strategy. For the male version of this theme check out the DIY fleshlight post.

Brilliant. Go Fuck Yourself.

Friday 19 June 2009

The Future's Bright

I'm quite pleased with this shot because getting the scrolling message on it correct involved two MTR underground rides to Tsim Tsa Tsui in Kowloon, a bit of shouting because the machine to programme the watch wasn't there, some more shouting because the watch model didn't programme like they advertised, some TLC to the shop assistant who needed to know I was putting on the rage a bit so that they did something like upgrade the watch to the one that does program at no cost and then the Star Ferry across the harbour to central. It's such a beautiful thing to do and I can't tell you how magic it is to do a little bit of history as a commute/trip. I'm so lucky.

Anyway, she still looked nervous after my cheesy grin pulling, so I'll go back and lay some more love on her next time I change the message. It's an O.D.M watch and the aficionados will recognise that the orange strap doesn't come in black face but that's what needed to be sorted out as part of the scrolling message thing. It's not as stupidly expensive as the IWC which I'm waaay more open to given the fab service at the Schaffenhausen boutique but anyway it's still a pure fashion accessory because I don't need it really. My mobile phone as does yours, tells the time if we're honest.

This lovely young lady was a good sport because it's the orange watch that get's the puff cheeked, double cat claws acion. I hope I hear from you because your T Shirt Idea is something I've been kicking around for a while in my head. Wanna do a small fashion thing together?

Aunty Viv would have been proud of what I told the staff who tried to prevent me taking this photograph. I think they should read her biography here, definitely (no exceptions)  watch this and then we can talk about that belt you should give me the most awesome discount on OK? I only want the accessories because let's face it. To really get away with Vivienne Westwood it's about affording it. Clothing for heroes? (Check) Budget? (Not yet)

Truly a privilege to live in the same century. (Absolutely no chance of working with them though given that superstar is holding their hands. Anybody know any Triads? (OK that's a pretty funny Hong Kong advertising gag but nobody EVER comments on my puns so I gotta highlight them now)

Must dash because the owner of the luggage store I mentioned here is opening his shop tonight and I'm going to be very rude and try and get a sweet deal on the Camel Leather number that is going to push me into living in a bus shelter as the best looking vagabond on the planet. The Bothos website is here if you want to know what style of leather bag turns me on but the drop down always in beta thing fucking cracks me up because it's just spot on and I think they don't know how 2.0 it is although I will ask.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Asian Poses (cont)

I managed to hook up with the worlds most opinionated sod for lunch today and as he managed to snap me looking tres pimp outside The Oriental in Bangkok last time I thought I'd take a picture for posterity too.

Before I knew it he was doing that puffy cheeked V signed shit that is all the craze with school girls across Asia, and that he claimed he picked up from doing some bollocks he calls distributed digital ethno but which sounds suspiciously like surfing the net to see what J Girls put up on their bedroom shelves.

I thought it was all a bit 'last week' and that everybody knew it was puffy cheeks PLUS double cat claws this week, but it's hard to keep up with these things after 15, so I cut Rob some slack and just had a terrific lunchtime rambling chat, with one of the best in the biz.

Read his blog regularly because it's one of a kind and has a lot of common sense in it which we all know isn't that common, and it's also a piss taking, best one liners in the comments section, provider-of-laughs you'll find on the net, if you keep a regular eye on it.

You'll learn something too.

Challenging Conventions

The Telegraph posted this trailer for Coco Chanel and I thought maybe a few of you would know if it's your sort of thing if my review was rubbish but the embed conveyed the style a bit better than I was able to explain.


I've been totally four nelsoned on the shopping here in Hong Kong. Most of 'yall know that really I'm a wannabe flaky hippy. I fly as little as I can, switch off lights and appliances religiously, use a fan instead of air conditioning even if it's a little bit uncomfortable, want to grow my own vegetables and have my own chicken coup I'm struck that I could probably fish for my tea while I'm on Fantasy Island.

Anyway that doesn't mean I'm anti wealth creation at all. We need to create value or utility in our lives (preferably both) and that is extended through the media of money and it's systems operations of banking with cash or the more sophisticated credit constructs should you want to borrow it. This isn't the time or place to go into money as media which is a really interesting construct when the penny drops which it will do if China get their mojo in place, and the United States blinks over the whole optimism or die philosophy which in itself is a lot more powerful than I ever thought and up there with a sort of Nietzsche Will to Power sublimation of virtue.

However, I love beauty. I frequently duck into designer shops and invariably check out the female ranges because I always walk out with an elevated sense of the human spirit when I see how beautiful some stuff is ( In the last week it's been Miu Miu Greek Mosaics, The Prada White Cotton smock tops, The Dior Boots, The Prada low key distressed leather bags (impeccable inconspicuous consumption timing), The latest Kenzo range (quite a departure) and blah blah blah you get the drift.

It also applies to the baubles of male accessories such as glasses, bags and watches as I'm not really into men's designers per se. It contravenes my code for self indulgence which is entirely paradoxical with my propensity to buy the accessories I've just mentioned but hey; each to his own and anyway that American Starred D&G jacket is whistling each time I pass there IFC outlet.

I thought I'd hauled in all that conspicuous consumption because apart from some Chanel Shades I bought in Beijing last year and two dirt cheap kettles I burnt through neglect, I've hardly bought anything that I thought was wasteful. Anyway I've  been having a complete fucking nightmare with PCCW who are just the ultimate time wasting idiots in the telecommunication business this side of Kowloon.

They fail to recognise the lose-lose logic output of their business because they waste both their time and mine. I ducked into Sunglasses Hut to convey that to them after twenty minutes of being put on hold five or more times that they were trying my patience and I was immediately aware while entering the quieter public space of the shop that I was using their space to conduct my business, but being a cheeky sod, I still asked for a pen to make a note.

When I was finished they cunningly asked me if I'd like to look at some sunglasses. Well the answer was no, because I have the glasses I love very much, I lose stuff all the time and it's expensive buying expensive shades or rather doubly so for me. However acutely aware that I was both using their premises ostensibly to sort out a 20 HK dollar problem (a few pounds) and that they had the Ferragamo shades I'd long been in love with since Beijing (that were on sale for half price at over a thousand HK dollars), I began to repeat over and over to myself that I didn't need them, couldn't afford them, would lose them or spill superglue on them in the cinema like the Chanel shades (don't ask). 

But the sheer patience of the staff in dealing with me, their manners, their small kindnesses and gentle chiding that the Ferragamo looked great of me (sweet mouths you) and before I knew it I was pulling out my card and getting the shades which are super super thin and lightweight, and so hardly no carbon footprint at all, but in any case I made it clear to the staff that they had proatively sold me the product and that I had enjoyed the experience. 

That's how I am. I try to save 20 bucks with my useless PCCW phone operator and end up spending well over 50 times that amount because I love good manners, good design and kindness.

The point came home to me again the next day because I met up with Noah, and while browsing a few shops ambled past the new IWC flagship store that had just opened. They make those Schaffenhausen watches which are v. popular in Asia, and being as Noah is a watch watcher's son (ha ha) we both went in. 

Well the first thing I noticed was a fragrance that I liked, and the lady greeting us said it wasn't for sale as it was the boutique fragrance and piped around what looked like a mid 19th century modestly wood panelled study with some very expensive watches; the most expensive more than a million.

Anyway the service was impeccable and really friendly. I liked the way they didn't look down on us, dressed in our hard to determine, how wedged-up we were, kind of way. And that's the critical point about luxury sales. I've spent enough time in luxury shops to know when the sales staff are being arseholes making sniffy comments, adjusting everything I touch or even just looking at their own watches which is a universal language for your wasting my time. Which isn't true if they know me but waaay to many luxury brands just don't get it that not all lovers of beauty dress like ostentatious pricks all the time. 

We like nice things and frankly I like second hand or used things too. Style is a matter of taste, not money but to be dripping in branded goods just shows a lack of imagination and there should always be something that isn't OBVIOUS.

 So moving on I have to admit that I don't really like the IWC Schaffenhausen watches. They are too big and just not my cup of tea. I wasn't adding potential candidates to my consideration set which is more of a fantasy league than anything. But anyway, Noah spotted that among the cool merchandise and social objects in the newly opened, and worldwide flagship store that they had a flight simulator cockpit for a spitfire, complete with video screen to play on. I'm way to British to ask to use these things but one thing I like about Americans is the relaxed way of inquiring about using stuff that seems to more often in the affirmative than if I had tried. So he got into the cockpit and proceeded to crash the plane repeatedly; thus losing us the second world war and obviously the liberation of Europe :P

While Noah repeatedly nose dived the flight simulator I was offered a glass of champagne which frankly I'm always up for but felt it would be misleading to drink. Once again the highly professional and admirably persistent sales assistant (Kam Fok) ignored my reservations, and delivered two glasses of Poo while I was given the only watch in the place that I would even vaguely consider. Still, it felt dam good on my slender wrists.

My stupid first thought was that it could be used in a backward clenched fist wrist to face defense manoeuvrings on some fictional assailant, which might sound aggressive and that I watch to many Chuck Norris movies, but I was informed that it was the official watch for the US Air Force a year or two ago, and is built to withstand the usual thermonuclear warfare as well as convert into a Swiss knife and portable Smeg Kitchen at the press of a button. 

But the line in the sand for me was it was called Top Gun and without even expressing my disdain for Hollywood approved merchandise it was conveyed to me by Mis Fok, that Top Gun was all about the military terminology, and is approved by the USA, but also nothing to do with the movie which is obvious when we think about because the movie is about real life and not the other way round. Sheesh anyone would think I've only been here three months instead of close to 15 years of pretty deep Asian immersion I've touched upon over here , here and here.

So the magic of this process is that even though I'm not a Schaffenhausen IWC fan. If I ever go down the route of a chunky luxury watch I'm half inclined to go down to the boutique and try that sucker on one more time because it felt so good. That's how sales are made and the old mistaken trope that snobby service is how discerning people like to separate there affluent wheat from the fiscally diminished chaff is just retarded. The luxury stores that know how to swing a sale from the likes of me and quite a few others I know is to be human, treat us like humans and you know. Try and enjoy your job which means making it a challenge to find a way to make a good impression. Social media might give us a second chance to make a first impression but real life is still about old fashioned intelligence, courtesy, humour, effort and swinging the impossible sale. It can be done.

Anway, this post has reiterated the indulgence I have been shamefully shopping in, and I've been promising it to Musa for a few days so rather than go into the social media opportunities for luxury brands I'll wrap up on my last Hong Kong luxury retail experience that prompted me to start writing.

After yet another wonderful fly up near The Old Bailey our gang of four descended the hill towards H&M to get a hat for Sherri. Chris paused at the lights and noticed that a new luxury baggage shop had opened. Let me dig out the card.

Bothos Flagship Store. OK, so I tailed Chris in and noticed one bag that really was a lovely beast of tan and white leather breezy travelling beauty and functionality. I know what I like and it was working. I immediately assesed its price around 5-10 K Hong Kong Dollars and parked the notion of buying it. However I was stunned yet again that Fillipo Perricone and his partner made more than an effort to explain the craftsmanship of the bag which I learned was made from Camel leather and makes for an interesting provenance story I thought. 

But you know it wasn't the willingness to explain the bag in a newly opened store. I'd expect that but I felt there was genuine interest from the owners towards someone who was genuinely interested in that bag. Polite conversation and a sort of matched agenda of people who know about making great luxury leather products and someone who actually has a bit of a bag fetish though usually for products out of his budget.

Then for the second time in my life and also in two days Phillipe offered me a glass of wine which I'd have definitely gone for but noticed that the original reason for popping into the shop was now standing around waiting politely for me to finish chatting (thanks guys. I appreciated it because I was off on luxury marketing for the third millennium at that point and most touched by some simple words by Phillipe that he didn't want to sell me anything but wanted to make friends. The wine was a gesture in that direction and though I was short on time, I felt the authenticity of the notion of making a sale from relationships that are allowed to evolve in their own sweet time.

I'll be popping back to that shop to get to know them a little better because like the staff at Sunglasses Hut and Schaffenhausen, Phillipe knows how to turn a glimmer of a prospect into an actively involved consideration set luxury brand future customer.

Maybe its just Hong Kong but these guys know how to keep a smile on my face while relieving me of money that can never match the enjoyment that comes from beautiful things...well not while I can afford to clear the essentials anyway.

So anyway, I'm coming out of retirement folks. I'm back and I'm hungry to work. Or I have to find a way of staying on fantasy Island and well away from an endless supply of beautiful goods with pockets of service culture that may cultivate more than just the transactional value of a sale because I always like to make friends with whoever I come into contact with. 

If they can put up the idiosyncrasies.


I got talking to a creative friend of mine who has just finished a big shoot in China, and we veered onto the subject of dross-quality Chinese advertising in mainland PRC. But don't let me shape your opinion go to Youtube or Youku and see if you can dig out something that has anything to say. 

It's pretty much all pants, which for a nation of 1.3 billion people and a LOT of ads says something doesn't it? I talked about it bluntly over here, but there's a few more reasons why "safety first" is king of the mill. You might also find something in my Asian research posts over here, here and here.

In any case we got talking about a particular BBDO style of blockbuster commercial that uses a method I don't want to specifically mention here but which was researched by the client in China and amazingly the answer was that it wasn't as effective as real ideas.

Well of course we know that but it's amazingly hard to prove this because one would need a parallel universe and an A/B split to see which one is most effective to prove beyond doubt which is more effective but in any case I thought that it would be wise to point out that we can make research prove anything if we want and in the case of quantitative methodologies it's nothing more than a cloak for mediocrity to rule.

This Youtube clip is not new but I want to bookmark it for future reference on my blog so I can just share it with people who aren't convinced by what I'm trying to say in the hope that they will take the road less travelled. It's riskier but not if a proper conversation about how to solve any fears takes places. But that's a conversation that takes both time and courage. I'm also not anti research but a cookie cutter approacher gives cookie cutter advertising.

Tuesday 16 June 2009


This is such an overdue response to a post I wrote over here to Andy from New Zealand but it's an important topic on what we mean by community on the net. Here's some of what I think for what it's worth. I want to get into the video responses a lot more so do add me on seesmic if you wish. 

Also I've added intense debate to my tumblr blog and you can get stuck in there because I'm using that as a social media sandbox more and will eventually strip this down to the minimum for faster loading and do that redesign it's badly in need of. 

Human is the new black
but what colour is that for my blog? I need to know. ;)


My land speed record when I used to drive cars ,which was a long time ago (I take a taxi if I really need to now), was 156 mph down the German Autobahn in a Brand new 1993 Corvette, notable for it's incredible torque during acceleration with a 405 break horsepower 5.7 litre V8 engine, platinum tipped sparkplugs, power inflatable adjustable leather recarro seats and most importantly the digtal speedometer readout which explains the exact speed rather than rounding it up to 160 mph which is what I'd normally do as an advertising professional referring to an analogue display. 

This all took place on the Autobahn between Giessen and Hanau on a beautiful crystal clear early Sunday morning. The traffic was quiet, there was no speed limit and my mate the General Motors dealer Geoff Sanders, who I believe still lives in Germany but may have since changed his name for reasons of privacy loaned me the keys for once. 23 years old and and an all American muscle car is a very heady intoxication I can tell you. I feel young just thinking about it.

Anyway it was quite unusual for me to get those keys because between him and the other member of the Giessen Airborne Division (so named because we always took off, literally flying ,over a hump back bridge on the way down to Frankfurt), I was the youngest of the troika, and had to wait my  turn for everything including the Suzuki Vitara which was the preferred Sunday evening cruise-about-town and which because of the removable top  and being an early SUV was quite a chick puller when we pulled up at Der Zwiebeln Pub for an evening of German cultural studies.

I say that tongue in cheek but actually I did attend the Volkshochschule classes which are evening language studies. I wanted to try my very best for a country that I was not only born in but have come to love very much. I also want to come back to that SUV and I will because out of the Troika I mention, it's only me that has not disappeared into the mists and yet only in Bangkok a few weeks ago I spotted someone who I hadn't seen for thirteen years and who I tipped heavily because I wanted them to know how I felt the mighty had fallen. And I also realised staring at that face which had aged exactly as I would have imagined, that I really endured quite a lot around that time.

Anyway getting back to cars, it is with some authority that I can say, of all the visceral and thrilling experiences of my life including say, sex or the youthful folly of pharmaceutical recreations where I left no stone unturned, that the most thrilling feeling I've possibly ever had was that Corvette barreling down the longest and straightest stretch of German motorway heading south until I'd lose my nerve because the horizon catches up in seconds at a certain velocity. Even though it was unlikely I couldn't handle the thought of the next car, in the middle lane, far away in the distance suddenly pulling out for unexpected reasons. I'm OK about dying, but at 23 years old with 405 bhp on the accelerator I was always much more about living. I still am, but the point I'm trying to make is if there is a war on drugs that really needs to be thought about it's the addiction to cars because there are quite a few powerful ways that car culture is addictive and speed is only one of them.

I confess also to feeling both ashamed and smug. The Corvette, a showroom new vehicle started to make a serious crankshaft banging noise at about 125 mph because as I later learned, brand new engines are supposed to be broken in slowly (and baby I ran that bitch ragged) before quietly returning it to Geoff's lot to be sold I think to a Staff Sergeant (E5) who memorably wanted to drive it to London but flipped out when we advised taking a ferry (before Euro Tunnel days) because he didn't now there was any water between the European continent and the British Isles. 

An E5 is responsible for up to twelve soldiers lives in a war situation and I don't know why they don't pull out a globe for middle ranking enlisted soldiers but that's just the way it is.

Anyway here's some car porn. It's very good and makes me think DC Shoes and Subaru have got it going on.

Via marketear

Monday 15 June 2009

Car Logic

This piece of film is possibly as good as it gets in being controversial, inspirational and compelling.

It's via
Faris and it's awesome. Will it do the trick? That's up to us not the corporations. It's about personal decisions to run, walk, cycle or take public transport if the car or more accurately the internal combustion engine is ever to be sidelined as the single most extravagant commitment to our own demise in the history of history and remainder of future.

What is Honda doing about this? They're making provocative film, which is to be applauded because it does at least encourage people to reframe their relationship with 20th century technology that is mostly stationery (parked) and then when being used is mostly empty.

So we're stealing from our children. But they may not have anything to look back at and moan about if that pricks your conscience.

I don't know if we have 80 years because the whole point of the Long now project is we stopped dreaming about the future as we may have tipped the carbon scales against us while snorting the fossil ones that are evidently so addictive.

But I tend towards optimism. 

In any case like I wrote back here, we built our cities around cars instead of around people and it seems like Honda have recognised that's a bad thing although they could start by mentioning the Toyota Winglet if they weren't so self obsessed. No doubt Toyota would be just as solipsistic. It's how greed works.

But I'm also somewhat pessimistic  when it comes to specifically car culture because even though there are clearly some awesome dudes in this piece of film (the Alpha male? - you rock) the best way Honda et al could change the world would be for the automobile manufacturers to collectively lobby government in a self imposed manner and clip their wings by imposing HUGE penalties unless they make standard, low emission, tax incentivised hybrid plus NPD mobility. 

But that's a bit like the collective self determination of many Japanese males (XX Generation) recognising that the future of the salary man was a bit of an intellectual con job that largely fostered a culture of bullying against women. XX Generation decided to disappoint their fathers and now still live with their longer living mums and wear lipstick for reasons that seem related to their rejection of getting laid. I've made that up of course. Or have I?

It's a collective decision for the better in that example, (and historically not exceptional). Yet any cretin can see that the corporation is all about those fathers, maximising the quarterly report for ever quicker and larger earnings velocity without really addressing the urgent and pressing issue that it only hastens us faster and faster and faster towards our own demise. (There is a role for socialised communications in all this by the way)

Top of mind as a throw away solution for a disposable society is slowing down the Corporations quarterly report to a bi-annual one. I'm sure you can think of better one's, but the greedy guys at the top aren't going to dig that are they? They're too busy digging our own graves.

So anyway, even though the environment singularity (where nature teaches us a big lesson) is tumbling ever closer and ever quicker than the insanely quick technological one, demanding we need tomorrows consumption today; we're still kind of relying on the stone age equivalent of fossil fuel combustion to be moved around, which I can't help but think is about rubbing two sticks together while surrounded by powerwindows, a sense of empowerment through acceleration and some decent subwoofers to drown out the drone of other cars ouside, because it isn't noisy kids that anymore and that's not because of the paedophiles but because of the car.

All that pace of change and we're stuck with corporate Cro-Magnon. You should watch this movie, but if you rely on Honda to get it right in 80 years time you might as well be honest and sphyxiate your children now.

You probably are if you're dropping them off at school.

Coco Chanel

I haven't watched television in years really apart from a little Olympics in Beijing I guess and since I've removed the box from my last few places of dwelling it's the first annoying thing I notice in other people's houses. A big blaring screen that disturbs conversation and if it's pumping out that Fox news sewage I find it quite upsetting in so much that it's a pretty good hate making machine. Not that I can tolerate the banal faux authority of CNN either. (Sorry Guys, I know some of you read my blog)

Anyway, I used to have BBC World on in the background for years, so I'm not trying to be too judgmental about television per se, but I really notice the whole monologue engagement media process. If I sit and watch something without commenting on it via crowd curation or just community utility then invariably it's really good by my subjective engagement metric(s).

I'm really fussy about Hollywood and think most is just rubbish and don't mind walking out of a cinema if I've made a mistake or indeed I have a 3 minute rule that if a gun is pulled out in any script within that time it's definitely a shit movie because good screen writers don't rely on rubbish tactics. Actually a gun in 15 minutes is unacceptable but less than that means it's unwatchable.

I had a long conversation with Noah yesterday about many things including veg-out stuff, which I aim to write up here as currently I'm really really enjoying watching Family Guy (made by Fox, remember what I said about binary thinking) on my iPod on the ferry over to Hong Kong Island from Fantasy Island where I'm staying. It's really funny and I'm making a fool of myself laughing out loud at some of the heavily contrived but beautifully animated jokes. The best one yet is the Moose that get's into the car while visiting a natural beauty spot and pimps himself to the driver saying "I can do Moose things like stand outside and you can take photos or (nice pause) we can have sex" Peter opts for Moose sex and I think it's wonderful that we can laugh at these things even though it's clearly a deviant idea. I'd also like to share the Bill Clinton "boy you are really good" lines but I should get back to the movie.

So after my impromptu Ferragamo shopping thing which is worth a post in itself to see how luxury brands need to work to sell me stuff (not the way 95% of you patronizing bastards think you do in the luxury branded goods sector) I passed a poster for the Coco before Chanel movie and I'm aware that she shut down the house for the war years. Also aside from Prada I think Chanel is one of the most distinctive and beautiful fashion houses while currently under the masterful direction of Karl Lagerfeld, although everyone thinks that so I'll write about who is kicking ass in the fashion world elsewhere at some point too

I lucked out as the movie was just starting so I bought a ticket thus preventing me from spending more money on stuff I don't really need but at which Hong Kong is brilliant for tempting me with.
The movie starts of with her life as a seamstress or pattern cutter in a small shop with a sideline in what I'd describe as semi penny opera French cabaret. Quite bawdy for it's time and it quickly becomes evident that by the standards of the day Coco (or Gabrielle) Chanel is what we now call a liberated woman which is actually an unfair moniker for a woman who chooses not to settle for any man she meets but likes. Guys are allowed to be promiscuous and woman aren't but of course it's a nonsense to suggest that there is an imbalance in activity. Mainstream gender interdependency logic sorts that one out.

Moving on the movie is in French so it kind of scored a few points just being foreign for me  and I even quickly got to the point where I didn't really need to read all the subtitles, but  anway it's a classically and delightful, poignant, quintessentially French style that I haven't seen since La Chambre des officiers which is a must see movie about the early experimental years of plastic surgery for injuries incurred in the First World war by French officers. Tragic and compelling.

Actually the movie is hardly about clothes and it was just delightful watching a portrait being painted of a woman who left her mark on the world. Even more unusual is the somewhat low involvement in the whole clothes thing. One get's the impression that Coco Chanel would have been brilliant at whatever she chose to apply her unusual vision to. I liked her. She was sexy, beautiful, unconventional, difficult bordering on truculent at times and wonderfully portrayed by Audrey Tatou who has that ability to convey authentic happiness with eyes that shine beautifully unlike the jaded and ill informed spinsters of modern corporate life.

Coco, is convinced that love is not for her and so is qualified to have sporadic relationships based purely on sexuality which I'm sure was heresy for the time but seems reasonable to me now. I had no idea that she eventually does find love in the shape of a wealthy French aristocratic figure who plays a man that is both patron to her intelligence and increasingly aware of his growing feelings for her as she drifts away from socially imposed neglect. Coco also falls in love with a remarkable English character who for reasons I wont spoil both inspires her work and wraps up the movie. Who knew the English played such an important part of her life?

Here's the great thing though. Coco has a certain style throughout the movie. At first it's unremarkable but different. Puritan, simple, unfussy and there's some playfulness as she dismisses the ugly and extraneous feathers that festooned the dresses and hats of the era. I could go on about women that dress appallingy because unlike men there's so much more opportunity to look really good and yet I'm shocked how many woman really get by on what's underneath than the style on top. But that's another post. What makes this movie really good are the costume changes where it becomes evident that outside of the hats that Coco develops a reptutation for excelling at, her idiosyncratic style emerges in a deliberately drawn out and visually punctuated manner until the denouement of a post war Chanel house complete with walls of mirrors and refreshing sparkle of light bounces around the fashion house while she takes the applause from the models of her latest collection in a modest manner. It's a great ending that we are more used to seeing from movies of that era. Abrupt but happy. They work for me but might not for everyone.

Without mentioning brands or even really talking about clothes it's exactly what separates a spreadsheet business from one that is about outcomes and not incomes. Go see it and figure out why it's people that make up Brand DNA and values not the bullshit that passes for link testing and lowest common denominator safety and predictability.

Bravo Coco.