Saturday, May 10, 2003
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Now I understand the film Bend it Like Beckham is sweeping the States by storm, even though the majority of that nation have no idea who David Beckham is, and that is why, perhaps, his recent appearance, on an American T.V. chat show, with his more famous, stateside at least, wife Victoria ( Posh Spice Girl) Beckham was a tad embarrassing. David is our Joe DiMaggio,if you will, our Michael Jordan, our Mohamed Ali, and is one of the best known names in world football.(soccer)
David Beckham is now, officially, the world's highest paid player, and he also heads our national Sporting Persons Rich List as he earns fortunes off and on the football pitch, with for example, very lucrative product endorsements and now more general, global T.V. ad campaigns. David is a very good sportsman ; very sporting in the 'cricket' sense of the word, embracing fair play, decency and magnanimity towards his opponents on the field of play whether in victory or defeat. David is not famous, however for saying a lot, and as I have previously mentioned, he is unjustly knocked for his perceived lack of intellectual prowess in conversation.
Whilst being so incredibly rich has been the downfall of so many celebrities, David still has his feet on the ground and remains as genuine as he was before fame changed the public side of his life for good. A trip to the local supermarket gave me this priceless image of him ; David has agreed here to dress up as Clint Eastwood, and only appears (trust me on this one) to have sold his soul to one of the two biggest business tricksters on the planet. (Hint :These are two global companies with the audacity to market water and sugar in cans and are prepared to spend vast sums of money in advertising wars , each wanting to claim the soft drinks world market leadership.)
Now, to me , David doesn't take himself too seriously and has survived on that basis. Here he looks totally ridiculous and at risk of being seen as a real-life cardboard cut-out. This image must surely be the work of the world's most banal and intellectually bankrupt ad designer. The ultimate joke is, that the store are raffling this cardboard cut-out of David for a community charity. That in itself is a laudable use for this silly piece of ephemera and who wouldn't want this image of such an upstanding individual in their home ? Certainly, it appears David is no fool, but whether he knows he looks ridiculous we can't know for certain. Clearly though, he is not the kind of fool who'd turn his nose up when offered a king's ransom for dressing up as a cowboy for a few minutes.
johncoxon 5:04 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
Friday, May 09, 2003
THE PHILOSOPHY OF POOH
At University, my Philosophy professor, whose name I can't recall, had a neatly tailored grey beard. He had an amicable, calm, smiley face and spoke softly in measured language as he lectured. (You'd imagine that, even when he was on the toilet, he'd adopt a philosophical posture. I dimly remembered him talking about epistemology, Plato, ( who helped me describe all my early relationships when sex still terrified me) Socrates ( who famously proved that thinking too much can be fatal) and Aristotle ( no relation to Jackie) and the concept of 'universals', something to do with differences of opinions about the reliability of abstract ideas and what they represent.
Philosophy was the easiest exam I've ever taken. You could write pages of twaddle, and that was O.K., or if, say, your were an Existentialist, you could leave the page blank and still pass. I did learn that even the simplest thing is complicated by thought. We can't split hairs, I learned, until we decide whether or not we are split on what we all mean by hairs. If in fact hairs exist, or we exist, then in what sense, if any, can we know with certainty that we exist and, can we then split hairs at all?
Most philosophers lead unproductive lives ; they make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. Facing a courtroom for jumping the traffic lights, for example, he or she would construct a fruitlessly long-winded defence based on what we actually mean by red when we say 'the light was on red.' Philosophers invariably lose the case and rightly have to pay extra for contempt of court and time-wasting.
( It just occurred to me, by the way that, in a court, after a judgement, how funny it is that a sentence is imposed , when trials are mostly language games , where smart-talking legal people are paid to argue about single words within their opponent's sentences and it is someone else's job to complete a sentence without interruption.
FROM UNIVERSAL TO PARTICULAR POOH
I didn't realise, when I sat in front of this non-toga wearing reincarnation of Socrates, that I would be making my living as a sort of classroom purveyor of low-level Platonic universals. In teaching French to children whose native tongue is a version of English, I have to be able to represent key French language in a recognisable graphic form, (so that I can physically manipulate it for them and with them.) Initially I do this with high-energy A4 flash-card games. Over the years I have built up a considerable library of black-and-white conventional line drawings to represent, for example, things you'd buy in a café, at a market and also pictures representing short phrases for different types of weather or, say, symptoms of illnesses and so on.
Frequently I introduce the language of a new topic by a simple white board game. Using a marker, I draw something, making it at first ( for fun), as cryptic as possible, and challenge the kids to guess what I am drawing. The range of their yelled-out English answers gives me an insight into their existing vocabulary for that topic. Even though a picture paints a thousand words, it isn't always easy to design a simple graphic that represents a noun, for example, that is unambiguous. Most teachers of younger kids are familiar with making work resources illustrated with such simple pictures and the headache of finding them.
In an ordinary school setting, it probably wouldn't be necessary to establish first whether the flash card pictures you are about to use are recognisable to the pupils as the image of the thing you intended. According to the mind-mapping education theorists, the language process involves matching images received by the ears, seen by the eyes or constructed from the words the teacher uses, with those already stored in their brain. Trouble is if the image you present to our kids verbally or graphically doesn't set the thought-association train running, you have to start further on another track. Where there is some accidental ambiguity, for example a rat can look pretty much like a mouse, we can agree that that picture represents the thing and then proceed. Even after all these years, I am still surprised that, occasionally my least ambiguous pictures draw a blank. The latest example saddened me. A twelve year old girl, with relatively good language skills, and an avid reader, had no idea, sadly,that this was a rabbit or what a rabbit was.
MORE REAL POOH
And now to the picture which triggered all this wordage off. Traditionally, we are a nation of animal lovers and sadly here, our animal charities do better than human ones. There are a hoards of pet dogs in Britain, (far fewer in France for example, impractical where so many people there live in apartments) Up till very recently, dog owners, walking their pets here would select a convenient grass verge, or park area turf, ( but essentially not their patch of grass ), turn their head away, allow their dogs to dump and then casually walk on. Nowadays, this has become increasingly a tad anti-social and you will see the occasional, responsible owner, religiously collecting their precious pet droppings in a thoughtfully carried small plastic bag, one brand, incidentally marketed under the incredible name superdoopooperscooper. The verb 'to foul' has now come into common usage as the euphemism for the what doggies do naturally
Allowing your dog to pooh in public is now a crime against society. Our local municipality has a new service, where, presumably, the less bashful pet owners can get free wads of little black plastic bags, on request at the town hall, for collecting their pet poohs. The council has someone, somewhere who was given the delicate brief to design a no-pooh street warning to errant pet owners. Here is the matter-of-fact text, which appears on our street signs.
The accompanying graphic is, to my experienced eye, a truly classic Universal and I particularly like the simple use of wavy lines to denote freshness of offence. Try and draw an unambiguous image to accompany the dog fouling warning notice and then click on this image to compare your effort to the elegant official signage.
johncoxon 3:10 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
CIGARETTE CARD HERITAGE SITE !
This, amongst a lovely set of other modestly priced, authentic cigarette cards, from a recent on-line purchase, arrived through the post this afternoon. My discovery, whilst ripping out a fire place in an upstairs room, of an empty, old packet of the now discontinued,Kensitas Cigarettes, whose by-gone graphics I loved so much, I framed put me in reminiscent mode. It made me feel nostalgic for the days when it was common for we boys to collect and swap cigarette cards.( That brand name links to my Blog entry which speaks of this and shows the framed packet)
I was worrying recently about the shaky future of one of our local, historically legendary, football teams, ( nicknamed the 'Trotters') who, tragically, because of a mathematical, end of football season, turn of fate, (rather than their lack of effort) , may soon be relegated down to the First division and out of the U.K. Premier Football League ( of which Manchester United are this year's champions.)
I searched the Internet to try to find the old Bolton Wanderers' emblem and why they are known as the 'Trotters', and I stumbled on an historic treasure house of nostalgia and U.K. cultural heritage. It provided me with the answer, on the back of a lovely cigarette card graphic I bought, but much more.
The web site, Gdf Cartophilyshould be awarded a national heritage prize ! Within this remarkably comprehensive site are thousands of original examples of a virtually defunct miniature-masterpiece art form, the cigarette and trade card. Each now historic card is represented within themed sets in well-organised on-screen albums (in thumbnail form, which expand, on a click, to full-size so you can see the fine detail.)
I particulary loved this image of the iconic English F.A. Cup, the trophy that so many football-crazy boys, over the years, have dreamed of lifting at Wembley, ( which was the 'holy ground' of English football and the traditional site of national football and the F.A. cup final.) All clubs within our Football Association,(F.A.) whatever league, annually play each other, throughout the football season, for this famous prestigious trophy. There is always the romantic prospect of 'giant killing', that is the lower league clubs taking the scalp of a team in a much higher division. The final was always played at Wembley and is such a popular national spectacle that cup final day ought to be declared a national holiday, but alas, in this regard, it is played on a Saturday. (Currently all such glory footballing dreams are on hold ; the venerable stadium has been demolished to build a new one. )
Bolton Wanderers have had their famous F.A. Cup victories and one notable win is as old as this card, adding value and poignancy to owning it. Angela's grandfather was one of many working class northern men from the area who actuallywalked from Manchester to London for that famously dubbed , 'White Horse final' ( That event was the first televised F.A.Cup final, in black and white of course, and featured a white police horse; hence the name.
Cigarette card collecting, given the relatively modest pricing of all the cards on offer at this site,( compared to most other authentic memorabilia) makes it possible to either painlessly indulge in nostalgia collecting or to buy a beautiful, selective item (or set of items) as a thoughtful but inexpensive present, it seems to me . (The facility to buy individual framed cards is available from the site.) Since all of Angela's family are fans of the 'Trotters' , I bought several cards as presents for them, each were a mere U.K. pound Stirling. I thought that was great value.
Gary's, the owner, web site business is, deservedly, doing remarkably well I can imagine. The catalogue of cards that are available to buy on line is broad enough to give the casual browser priceless images that offer a unique insight into UK culture and actually buy a small piece of it without guilt. Not all the cards on sale are exclusively on UK topics. American football, for example, is included amongst a long list of sporting themed sets. Themed sets include Dogs, Football, Cricket, Cars, Wild Animals, Railways, Militaria, Places in Britain , Literature, Film and Theatre and many more. < br>
As a lover of English literature, I was drawn, on this occasion, to the album pages of cards representing Dickens characters, many of which were made in the early 1920?s by the British John Player cigarette company.
I shall soon be going back to the site, now a firm favourite of mine, to gather together, perhaps, this time, a collection of Dickens's characters with which I know will be able to make myself a beautiful framed set, and it won't cost a small fortune. I can see that Christmas and birthday presents are not going to be the cause an annual headache anymore.
johncoxon 7:13 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
THE ART OF TELEPHONE BOX VANDALISM
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Now in areas less frequented by the wanton urban Nike airborne troglodyte artist, returning aggressively-unsteady at no one in particular from the mandatory unhappy night out of over-indulgence at a pub, telephone boxes are relatively pristine shrines to public technology with real glass panels you can actually see through. There is no 'street art'
in such vicinities.
But telephone box safety glass isn't
that tough. Not at least for lone late-night drunken cookies, gone astray,and is designed to shatter. It explodes, like a car windscreen, and doesn't break into large, lethal shards that could be used as a weapon or impale a person mischievously.
Should the odd rogue Neanderthal be passing through, on foot, and decide to vent his dismality on that increasingly rare species of public facility, the virgin-intact phone box, he will probably take this chance for self-expression.
The box has the essential virtue, for him, that it will not fight back, even under unprovoked attack. Ah the untouched phone box! Here is the virgin surface of preference, beloved, by the lone, opportunist pavement artist from the Minimalist School of Art and Lack of Design. This is a talentless, palette-less genre, whose adherents invariably spill their sickly colours somewhere on the street and pavement weave homeward. Essentially, they carry neither charcoal, brush or canvas, bent on making an artistic impact on street furniture with the tools available. This artist knows that with one crack of a discarded lager bottle or convenient house brick he can render the square metre pane into thousands of sparkly rough-cut glass diamonds and thus transform the otherwise dull urban pavement with a his random mosaic at minimum effort. Artistic expression of this nature has undergone a witch hunt where it is increasingly difficult for these artists to operate.
Traditionally, even with the old bright, ever-so-British icon ( the legendary small windowed K6 telephone kiosk) the phone company, the GPO( the General Post Office as it was then) and now B.T. (British Telecom) have turned to chemists to provide more resilient replacement glazing at phone box sites prone to frequent art vandalism. Their material of defensive choice is plastic, or more correctly transparent acrylic thermoplastic.It has incredibly, been around since the thirties. While there are a number of variants, polymethylmethacrylate is the most popular and well know, under its more user friendly trade name Perspex ( probably from the Latin for look / see through .)
Wonderful stuff acrylic plastic; tough, flexible, mouldable, cheap to make, and comes in a range of colours, and Perspex can be a great lightweight glazing substitute as long as it is used in a context (where nothing and nobody is likely to actually touch it or lean against it.) It is not, therefore ideally suited for public phone box windows because of this one fatal design flaw. It simply cannot maintain its optical transparency over time. You can scratch it and scuff it to the point where it becomes scruffily translucent and BT seem in no hurry to replace the mess they are responsible for.
Now Perspex simply ruins the sport of the phantom telephone window breaking artist but, conversely, encourages that other breed of public nuisance; the phantom Perspex street etcher.
Could this art form be the exclusive domain of the few resentful oppressed; that small percentage of the population left who don't actually own a mobile phone and thus, occasionally need the public phone box?
THE RETRO-WAYWARD SCHOOL OF ART
In the absence of late-night flower stalls and the lack of proximity of a railway station clock, the local telephone box is the place, this year, as ever , for the disaffected teen psycho-etchers to meet and congregate. These are probably kids who won't be missed by their parents at home. Now I think, instinctively, that al fresco Perspex etching is not a solitary art form. I believe it has no appeal unless one, at least, of your equally deviant peers is watching on. This is graffitti in its purest form , word lovers, as the Latin word origin is literally to do with 'scratching on' something, and that amateur art form is as old as history itself.
Perspex phone box etchers belong to the Retro-Wayward School and are completely devoid of artistic talent. Thus they simply repeat the one thing they have learned to spell and record correctly, usually their own name and sometimes, if they are really ambitious, someone else's name, as long as it is short. (The more able may add a plus sign if they are primitive mathematicals as well as semi-literates.)
For the student of the Retro-Wayward School of Art, polymethylmethacrylate is the considered medium of choice, a surface they have learned, from experience,( not lessons in school of course), on which they can scratch with any pointed object.
B.T. had this angelic emblem of communication; the horn blowing messenger, etched on its glass and graffiti blurred perspex windows. He looks culturally alien, like the a Pied Piper, who stands no chance of leading these etching kids away to better things. They are already lost to us. There mindless invasive doodlings obscure the sky and lay testament to their limited self-defeating vision and lack of art and aspiration. They have nothing constructive to offer, at this stage of their lives and are inclined to the blurred view of all things.
johncoxon 1:03 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
A STROLL THROUGH SWITZERLAND
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Switzerland has always maintained political neutrality, very possibly because it is, basically, not worth fighting over; one big mountain of a place, not worth the hassle of invading, and too much like hard work to want to walk all over. It is something, essentially, that gets in the way of a hike from Germany into Italy. Ah Switzerland !, land of too many idyllic postcard views. Just too self-consciously touristy pretty for my liking, Switzerland!
Home of the over-grown boy scout knife, Gnomes hiding people's huge wads of ill-gotten gains in secret big bank accounts, cuckoo clocks and watches , cows and goats with out-of-tune bells on, really big dogs that carry their own alcohol supply ( you wouldn't want to try and get off them ), and the beautiful, always snowy-topped mountain peaks and verdant pastured valleys. Here a postcard view, there a chocolate box lid or glossy calendar photo- opportunity. Yawn !
I really didn't like Switzerland mainly because I was once forced to walk through most of it: I am not sure whether it was the pristine place itself that made me twitch, or the fact that, in the late sixties, the Swiss were, in my experience, the very meanest European nation on earth when it came to picking up hitch-hikers especially as then, it was often getting dark and very cold. They have all this, so much and yet they are not prepared to give me a little, I mused through clenched, grimacing teeth, as each empty expensive car sped past me, eyes front, on the way to après ski or was it a rendezvous with a goatherd or goat?
As I walked out of Altdorf, I think it was, , a huge bronze statue of Richard Greene, or was it William Tell, looked down on me, and I swear he mocked. I would never accept the offer of an apple from this kind of person, even if he was my own father. Like his cross-bow, there had to be a catch. I had, mercifully come well-prepared, even though I hadn't much money. It was Easter and still very cold, even though it was really sunny. I had a well-stocked rucksack, eider down sleeping bag and a small gaz stove as well as other essentials. I always tried to look better than the average road bum, maintaining a bit of class with my brown corduroy jacket so I looked a safe bet and worth the risk of stopping for. I also had some good Michelin maps of my route to Rome. They at least were reliable, or so I thought until the Alps reared up on the road ahead.
In England it is pretty mild by the time Easter comes , but I forgot that Switzerland is high up and doesn't obey the normal rules of climate. The Swiss have to be congratulated for overcoming the engineering problems of being so mountainous and all those people wanting to drive through it to get over or under their mountains. Tragically for me, the route I had chosen, via the St. Gotthard Train Tunnel, was closed. to traffic as I got to it.
Thus, map in hand I foolishly decided to risk the scenic route. It was a nice day. There are two features of these high mountain roads, apart from the way they curve here and there ridiculously. There is the tunnel and then the terrace. The former enables the road to bore through the rock for stretches and the terraces are a kind of roof over the road to protect montain road travellers from rock falls. As I got further up, there were the reassuring tracks of skis, and as I climbed there were handy metered posts to show where the road was and how deep the snow. I kept to the ski tracks but never saw a soul. Under the terraces, the road was a frozen river of melt water. The short road tunnels were clear but floored with ice too. I moved on, because, according to my map, there was a small town or village above me. I looked forward to warming my feet in a bar as the day wore away.
Now I hear the Eskimos have a really big vocabulary for types of snow, but to me it all looks the same. Whitish and uncomfortable to walk on. But this white stuff got deeper and deeper and when it was up to above my knees, as I may have lost the road, I got a tad worried.
Up ahead was a rickety looking workman's hut, the old timbers bleached by the bright reflected sun. I had stumbled upon the only unpicturesque hut in Switzerland. I needed to get dry and survive. I was getting quite frightened by now. I knocked the pad lock off the door with a rock and found a paraffin heater and lit it, dried and warmed myself , then pressed on while it was still light, ( first wrapping my feet in plastic sheeting abandoned in a corner of the place) , with that small village in mind. I really wished I'd packed my snow shoes or couple of tennis rackets. I stepped forward, and disappeared nearly up to my hips in snow, but got to the 'road' again after floundering a half a mile in 2 foot deep snow . I'd thought of turning back, but ah, there were the village buildings for the first time and I quicken my pace.
Alas, it was a snow mirage. When I reached the first building, nothing, in fact the place a ghost town, closed for the extended winter. This was very inconvenient. I was going to complain to Michelin when I got home for false pretences. A village name on a map should mean people actually live there. I must have been pretty thick to have thought that anywhere would be open way up there and that it was just a fair weather ski resort. It was just after midday and I examined that reliable Michelin map suspiciously now as it had already lied to me. A few kilometres to go, one more long dark tunnel and Italy, it promised. I pressed on, and entered the tunnel with eager expectation and a dwindling set of batteries in the ill named 'Ever Ready' Torch I carried. It was about a kilometre long ( the tunnel not the torch.) Then. Aggh ! A steel door.
THE DOOR TO ITALY
The tunnel was closed to stop Italians coming in when it was too cold for them i guessed. Just about to turn round and try not to cry at the prospect of a very long walk back when I looked up. A little door, very high up, at the top of a steel ladder. So that's why they talk about the light at the end of the tunnel? I climbed it hesitantly. Hey presto, sunlight ! A pile of snow to jump onto and then beyond, was that real black roads completely snow and ice free roads? I could see for miles below and not a mountain to block my view. Paradise.
I picked up my feet and strode cheerfully forward in the general direction of Rome, where all roads lead to, veryone knows and this was the only road. An Italian military fort came into view and magically an army vehicle pulled out of it. Two bewildered looking Italian soldiers beckoned me in and we set off down the mountain. They made a lot of rude gestures to indicate that I was completely crazy, and they were right. An unshakable belief in myself and optimism kept me going and I had never realised just how dangerous what I had done had been, but I made it over the Alps on foot, by myself. I was euphoric until I discovered that people living in the Italian alps are nearly as mean to hitch-hikers as the Swiss. I calculated that I actually walked a staggering one hundred and fifty kilometres before I got my next lift. What a way to see a country. I can't look at a pizza these days without getting sore feet and an achy back. It seems crazy, what I did back then, but then again, some Roman did something even crazier. I mean elephants?
johncoxon 2:49 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
LIKE FATHER LIKE SON
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Dad had and still has this personal code , the old sense of honour and pride in oneself and he passed it on to me. Most things that tradesmen can do, for example, I can do for myself because of the example my Dad set me. I am pretty devastated that Dad knows how to, but can no longer do all the things he could do. I can't begin to know what that must feel like to him ; to be so dependent for the first time . Aging is a very cruel process, but , fathers and mothers pass on so much and yet they don't seem to be aware of the way in which they build their children up and enable them to feel so very positive about themselves and the future. I think I have a real job on my hands, trying to convince my Dad, particularly , what a big part he has to do with how I feel about myself and how I feel so capable of achieving anything I set myself up to do. Dad and Mum are remarkable people, and it took me too long to appreciate it.
johncoxon 1:12 AM - [Link] - Comments ()
Le billet électronique. Quelle bonne idée ! (en principe )
If you have ever travelled all the way to the airport, only to discover you left the tickets on the kitchen table at home and it's too late to go back and get it? Then the electronic ticket ( E-ticket, billet électronique ) is probably for you. There is not a chance of losing or forgetting what you do not possess. Up to arrival at the airport, your possession of an E- ticket is completely theoretical, or at least that's the way it feels the first time you buy one on-line or by phone.
You have to have faith in technology to E-ticket travel. Physically having one of those typical multi-page real flight tickets, that come in the handy plastic wallet through the post, is reassuring. You don't physically ever possess an E-ticket in the true sense , up till departure , just a shaky confidence, when you book this way the first time, in a reference number they give you by phone. It is only when you give your name and the number at the check-in, it has been tapped into the airline computer, and its printer breaks the nervous silence , feeding out a sort of invoice, that you can begin to have faith in the new E-ticket technology. Now you can relax on your plane and start to feel smug about being twenty-first century travelling person, travelling with those low-tech passengers clutching their old fashioned ticket stubs.
My first experience of Le billet électronique was an attempt to get to Paris, from Manchester , with Angela, and cut out the middlemen high street travel shop. (Loosely grouped under the misleading title of travel agents as most of them, including the big high street names use the same shoddy marketing tactic.) I don't do package holidays and I don't pre-book and don't ever want to, but you can see those holiday styles appeal.
Travel shops know that airfares in Britain are far too high, and that most travellers look for deals and are very price conscious. Everyone wants a bargain flight and especially not to pay scheduled rates.
Ocassionally you see a plastic board in their windows, listing city destinations and with adaptable numerals to show the 'latest' bargain price.
Can you spot the word from next to each price ? (hint: hidden over the £ sign.) These shops more often try to seduce you to come inside with temporary looking cards, bearing a bargain price, in that just-hand- scribbled bold font designed to suggest an amazing deal has just come in. You barely noticed the carefully very small printed addition again here of the universal trading 'get out' word 'from' next to the price as you rush in and try to book.
Now the agent, trained to appear to be working in your best interest but on a personal mission (read 'commission') , earnestly looks at the computer monitor and emits a well-rehearsed intake of breath. Suddenly, those bargains have mysteriously all been taken , he or she explains pseudo- apologetically, and they offer you a range of alternative 'attractive' flight ticket prices, scrolling reluctantly from most expensive ( £400 per person) and ever downwards each time you nod your head. Curiously, the bottom line is always double the deal that was in the window.
After the discouraging circuit of these shops, I bumped into a friend who regularly flies to Paris and he suggested ringing an actual airline at the airport. I phoned AirFrance on a number from their web site and they offered me un billet électronique to Paris on the near-distant dates I wanted and, would you believe it, cheaper than all the quotes on the high street and even undercutting the lowest window 'bargain'. We very much enjoyed the flight and were impressed with the ararngements, courtesy and professionalism of all their staff. Next time, I said, it has to be AirFrance again. Love at first sight, or as they put if giffingly on their web site like this ,
Being really impressed by animated gifs at the moment, I thought I'd add in this one from AirFrance so you could click on it and go to their web site. (That way I might avoid prison for infringing their copyright.) It illustrates their mission statement and the gif enables that message to be delivered in different languages. Neat!
THE McDONALD's EFECT
PAUL(Click here to visit)
his newly relocated,refreshingly original Blog, 'Blogging with Dr.P...' has a salutary tale to tell about his latest billet electronique experience, which has made me doubt my love for AirFrance and the E-Ticket. His experience is also courtesy, or more strictly, lack of courtesy on this ocassion, of AirFrance.
Amongst the on-line memoirs he has been amusing us with was his recent business trip to Versailles, via Charles De Gualle aeroport, Paris, he describes for us what I'd call an example of the McDonald's effect. McDonald's ( known as McDo's in France; as in Homer Simpson's Doh! ) McDonald's is an example of an organisation with an electronic policy based customer system. They a have a carefully calculated meal 'deal' policy and the system is unable to allow any deviation from the set-meal pieces because it and the staff do not understand the idea of choice and thus is unable to cope with the unexpected. When in doubt defend the system and don't give in to unwelcome demands like 'give me what I want, not what you want me to want'. You may not be able to manage half a gallon of milk shake, or worse Coca Cola, along with your sponge flavoured burger and luke warm,very thin, not quite the size of US Freedom Fries,but you have to have one because the till doesn't allow you not to.
As Paul explains, he was refused the flight he had paid for, even though he had an E-ticket valide because the electronic ticket bore his previous passport number, the one he had when he booked, and not the number of the one he was now carrying! He had to buy a new ticket four times the price of the one he had but wasn't allowed to use. It seems incroyable, that a company that trades as one of the best and has a speedy high-tech cost-cutting approach to its affairs, can't even manage to electronically change a bloody passport number. That is pathétique. Refund the man immediately, AirFrance or I will never fly with you again! This is so bizarre. It may even require the drastic step of revamping the names of certain food products to make the point. the French stick loaf , may have to be re-dubbed the 'Taking Liberties Stick', Champagne might henceforth be known as Big-Bucks Fizz, and in the spirit of tell-it-like it-is, Camembert cheese might simply become "Bad-Pong-In-A-Box" cheese.
johncoxon 11:54 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
Copying photographs taken with a 35 mm camera:-
Sometimes I need a Blog illustration or want to send a picture as an E mail attachment, but the only one I've got was taken, before I got a digital camera, with a 35 mm, SLR camera and is either in one of my photo albums or has been framed and hanging on the wall.
If you do have a favourite photograph like this on my wall, ( lovely Angela, taking a grand crème at a Paris pavement café) it is easy copy, by simply taking a snap of it with your digital camera, and, if it has a macro facility even better,in some cases.
You can transfer that picture file into your computer E mail it or do what you will. If the picture is in a frame, even though most of my pictures are gloss finish, I sometimes temporarily remove the glass, and leave the photo still in its frame to minimise unwanted reflection.
The beauty of an LCD screen is that you can see whether the flash has caused a flare on the image.
Unwanted flash glare:-
You can afford to take as many shots as you like at slightly different angles until you get it right( free of unwanted flash glare.) Taking the photograph outside may help if the light is good.
Photographing solid objects:-
When it is a solid 3D object, like a die cast car or a cheese box, I put the object on a plain matt background, like a dark coloured bath towel or other fabric (or frequently, one of my already ironed blue shirts ) with a flat board underneath to create an even surface. That way there is no reflection, although you need to watch out for reflective glare on some objects, like packaging labels.
If possible I brace one of my arms on a solid surface so that the image isn?t blurred and out of focus through camera shake or too much wine. Maybe it is time I brought a tripod !
The finished picture file:-
johncoxon 2:32 PM - [Link] - Comments ()
WINNIE ( THE REAL POOH )
In writing enduring classic stories and poems for young kids A.A.Milne can only now be revealed as an allegorical social commentator. With prophetic wisdom, he uses his son Christopher's nursery toys each to represent a shade of the modern human condition. Social stereotypes are masterfully disguised. Milne's stuffed hero is a cutie-pie, plump, fluffy, hunney- (sic) eating bear with an eating disorder ( bowdlerised here as plain Winnie , the reason for which I will explain later)
Winnie is a sugar junky whose diet choices symbolically typify those of any modern child given total freedom, all of whom would elect to live solely on sugar based foods if the chance arose. Christopher Robin Milne, aged one, owned the original bear bought for him, in 1921, from Harrod's in London , long before Mohamed Al Fayed established citizenship and began the tragically fruitless search for a British passport. Tigger, is one of Winnie's pals( only an extra 'g' disguising it from the real-life endangered animal and here toy-symbol of the ever-diminishing number of people who have the balance in their lives and bounce everywhere for the sheer joy of life, and remain refreshingly eccentric.
Eeyore, a sad, tragically disfigured grey donkey, represents the depressed amongst us with little to cheer them.We then have Piglet, the pink, cute little vulnerable one always in need of rescue , representing life's victims ( and essentially the focus of the plots)
Owl, represents , well, an owl , perhaps symbolic here of parental wisdom, who dispenses it from above, as always to the innocents below, from the safety of a nearby tree ( representing knowledge.)
This adventure is refreshingly set in non-typical, benign woodland habitat , directly contrasting with the deep-dark forest normally the preferred domain of sadistic parents who like to use fear to instil discipline and obedience . The dark, dark woods more usually are the no-go area in early children's book storylines, where if you so strayed, traditionally things would go seriously amiss and you might risk falling prey to child eating witches, ( especially if you had foreign sounding names) a lone errant, transvestite wolf, masquerading as your grandmother, or worse.
The relatively modern cartoon version, of Milne's opus major delightfully Disneyfies E.H. Shepard's original illustrations of the characters and their imaginary world , and is respectfully faithful to the original in all but one important detail. There is that questionable deviation in the choice of voice-over in the role of the hero. I heard a whisper that the entire, sentimental, Old World Milne fan-base was mortified when the cartoon bear spoke for the first time. Up to that point, no one had realised that the bear was an expatriate American.
Clearly , the one human in the stories, Christopher Robin, typifies the social isolate, forced to make his toys a series of imaginary friends. A contemporary school child joke helps explain Christopher' solitude and force this article to stretch itself further down the page, as usual, on a bit of a tangent.
"Why has Christopher Robin not got any friends ?"
Becuase he is always playing with his Pooh." British readers can go and maybe make a cup of tea, and if you don' get the joke , read on .
THE REAL MEANING OF POOH
Most of the humour of the young male here is cloacal , from the latin, cloacus, a sewer. Yes toilet, lavatory, or bathroom humour according to whether you go to the John as a room for performing bodily functions or use of a number of other euphemisms for where you dump and slang terms for what you dump . I am the John, this is my Blog, (not Bog, slang for the toilet ) although that depends the relative value you put on my prose. Now different countries and cultures have different taboos , and sex and the toilet are sensitive cultural areas in some.
Where English is spoken there are a number of different words for, how can I put this delicately, human solid waste ,i.e. shit,
from was it, the Anglo Saxon shitten meaning dirty wool and ironically not originally a rude word, merely a descriptive one.
Funny that a whole nation goes to the bathroom but shit isn't a swear word there, it just occurred to me.
Pooh is a baby talk for the human stool or the action of doing one.I am not sure sure whether in A.A. Milne's writing days, Winnie-the-Pooh was a name that sent all male kids at least into fits of incontrollable giggles . I like to think it probably was a deliberate choice. I am not sure how the Winnie-the-Pooh joke translates, but it is curious how the same word can mean different things depending on where you lie. Crap is an example. Going for a crap, in US parlance, I heard derives from a dice game, where you crap out if your numbers don't come up.
In England crap also means rubbish and that human waste thing, but for another reason that doesn't depend on the throw of dice in Las Vegas and elsewhere. The flushing toilet is a fairly recent luxury historically speaking, and was a major leap forward in terms of sanitation. Step up, London sanitary engineer, Thomas Crapper. His flushing John, toilet, (bog) was a revolutionary god-send , but like all new things, at first the exclusive privilege of the wealthy. Stately homes had Crapper's toilet first and you just had to announce your intention to visit the Crapper to impress the others in your elite at social gatherings in your home.
Crapper got abbreviated in time to crap, and the rest is history, and now, in England,at least,crap means rubbish, but also is what you dump in the bog or John.
Angela and Naomi are real fans of Winnie-the Pooh , and just then, knowing what I was writing, Angela came over to me and pressed one of her toy Pooh bears. ( She is in her late forties for god's sake but had a deprived childhood so I can bear it ) Her Pooh toy nose moves and it says, in that American accent it has "The only reason for bees making Honey is so that I can eat it."Alas , we have Pooh all over the house, you know what I"m saying? But Angela is a Tigger freak, expressing as it does her bounce , and wild love (of life) and which is something we both share.
Thanks to altruistic on-line Austrialian Wiinie the Pooh fan, Wendy, (a.k.a. Louanne) LOUANNE whose honeypot animation I was so grateful to be able to borrow because I can't animate gifs like she can yet. Check out, also, the Pooh/Milne grandaughter copyright legal battle for, sadly, merchandising rights and royalites, at MONEY FOR OLD POOH Ah! , so much for childhood innocence.
johncoxon 1:12 AM - [Link] - Comments ()