Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Buying White Goods & Reflecting on Media Technology -Where I am now (Part 9) +

I suppose we can not expect white goods to last forever and the washing machine we have and Fridge/Freezer both purchased about 10 years ago are showing signs of age - so we decided to get a replacement Fridge/Freezer  and also check out the Washing Machines. Having found that Currys on the great West Roads no longer exists  we went  to  PC World  (or is it  Curry's ?) just across the road, it  had a good selection on display but nothing that they could deliver until the latter part of January 2014 - they were also unable to make buying both a washing machine and the Fridge/freezer together attractive so as the delay on the Fridge was not something we wanted to have we decided to look elsewhere.
Somewhat surprisingly (to me) John Lewis had far better availability of the same Bosch unit (at the same price) we had seen at Curry's so it's now ordered in a bit of a reversal of the norm where one views at John Lewis and buys somewhere else.
The merged store
Having looked I certainly hope that John Lewis Partners have a better time than that described as the fate of the Curry's PC World employees after the two Dixon Group retail entities merged.

Reflecting on Media Technology -to the Present

So this post will end the series  on my own personal media use through the years - I will though amend and reference the recollections  as I think of other things, tomorrow will start the business of 2014 and time will tell on how the media and technology impacts on this.
Away from the workaday routine I have continued my interest in the burgeoning world of media, for many now the tools and technologies dominate their everyday lives who of us don't know someone who can not manage even a few hours away from their smart-phone or are lost when unable to update their Facebook status?
For me I find some trends concerning, where for example people neglect their physical companions for those who are in another location - still we can not un-invent the environment that has evolved and we should take what benefits we can from mans ingenuity.

Facebook Status
 In the last year I have taken an interest in  Video-blogging  and capturing all of one's life (I consider it somewhat imagine in the Turner Show here's an interesting description of lifecasting ). At home I have had an upgrade from Broadband to BT's own superior Infinity and therefore been able to enjoy some of the benefits of further TV choice.
Personally even though RIM as a company has big issues I have enjoyed (greatly) the use of a Blackberry Playbook mainly as a source of radio and podcast catchups but also to receive emails and to research odd topics .
Playbook -great for radio
This autumn I bought for the very low price of £10 the Now TV box which I've added Plex and have the free Plex media server on my PC combined this allows for a greatly expanded collection of catch up services as well as allowing big screen viewing of  content  downloaded  to my PC.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology - Gardening Leave and Discovery! (part 8)

After around 18 months at Pilat Media, my feet began to itch quite severely work-wise, I don't know if it was as a result of things happening very slowly at the BBC, or the Deja Vu I was experiencing as part of a team of outside contractors working in a very uneven (in terms of size) relationship (I'd had a touch of the politics when I'd been at Basys who struggled with introduction of a multi-lingual news system at World Service radio) - for some reason Horticulture was calling me and In September 2007 I  started a full time course at Capel Manor, Gunnersbury (Could I get further from technology Media?) the course was a full time BTEC and it was an eye opener to lots of things I wasn't doing - a chance to stop and smell the flowers.
The course had challenges for me mainly being remembering the names of plants, trees and parts of the same but actually doing things and getting to grips with cultivators, hard landscaping and the other people on the course (all younger than me) was a great tonic.
I suppose in my mind was either having a small business or being part of one but the timing corresponded with an economic downturn and nothing jumped out of the bushes at me so after an approach and successful interviews from Discovery I joined the company in June 2009 as a Distribution Manager (Operations) conveniently Discovery in Chiswick  was only a longish hop and jump (about 4 miles I reckon?)  from my).
Discovery at Chiswick Park
home in Ealing so it was difficult to resist the lure of a steady job (I could steal but I could not rob )

Going back to full time office work after 2 years was a hell of a shock - The Blackberry was now the instrument of torture and working for a US company with it's hardball attitude made a change from pottering around in the Gunnersbury Park environs but the team I worked with was a good one and they definitely had money to spend on ensuring maximum availability of our services using the best in technology.
Cranes were used to get this baby up on the roof.
During my time at Discovery a number of initiatives came to fruition and it was a change to see work being in-sourced as a reaction to what had been  happening in most of the broadcast world of late.
We added an NMS ( Skyline were the supplier of the Dataminer  Network Monitoring System) and increased the number of off air decoders as new channels and territories were added.
During my time at Discovery work was building work was done on our neighbours house and this obsured the satellite reception for the Sky/Freesat services so we had a new mini dish fitted to our chimney, so far very good reception.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology moving on from BT London (part 7) and When I was 64

Pilat were on the 19th Floor of this!
BT suffered many exercises in downsizing and technical advances meant that the company at large needed far fewer staff to accomplish the same outcomes, during one of the 'restructures' I decided to take the opportunity to change my work. As when I left ITN quite a few years earlier the company kindly provided me with cash and I took some time to find full time employment, I initially worked on a part time basis to help a group of Somalians living in Europe evaluate a broadcast TV channel (at the time it was Univ TV).

The Somalian population in Europe is generally overlooked and like many groups of immigrants suffers poor life opportunities often with the jobs and housing that others do not want. The idea of supporting this group of people and also being a part of the nation building for them 'back home'  was appealing to me but there were (of course) issues around funding and tensions within the groups looking to form alliances and as I spent more and more time hustling for my pay I knew that this was not a long time job.

After about 6 months I took up a job with Pilat Media a software company that supplied scheduling software to broadcasters, Pilat needed someone who had distribution experience to help develop  a satellite capacity scheduling module for the BBC World Service.
BBC World Service's Old home


The work role  at Pilat was described as Business Analyst and I came into contact with a new set of disciplines and learnt of the benefits of 'straw men' and meetings to find out how teams worked. Quite a bit of my time was spent at Bush House which was the home of BBC world Service for about 60 years (they're now with the rest of BBC radio in W1) which was a nice place to work.

Dr Harry Steinberg 

The Beatles Ukulele project is often worth a look and I had a listen to 'When I was 64' the version's okay but what is amazing is to learn about the man who performed it  (Dr Harry Steinberg)  if only more of us lived life the way he has

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology at BT London (part 6) and 2014 will see a new wave of eateries in Ealing

After joining BT (British Telecom) Broadcast services I realised a little about  what my new job was and how BT was a fundamental part of the broadcasting world joining together the various elements in OB (outside broadcasts), Studios and Transmitters.
One of the things that attracted me to my new job was that part of the job advert (which didn't mention that the job was with British Telecom) was that a joke was required (in hindsight a bit odd) - I did one about Surprise/Supplies which still makes me laugh when I think about it.
I was initially based in offices in Shaftesbury Avenue but we did after a while move to BT Tower which was a hub for the TV services with the biggest router (a  massive video and audio switch) in Europe at the time.
BT was undoubtedly the biggest organisation   I had worked for this could have been intimidating but the team I worked with was a tight group of really nice people and I was made to feel very welcome.
BT Tower used in Broadcast
My work involved me in providing technical  support to various broadcasters principally with provision of Satellite services, customers were both existing broadcasters and new entrants including quite a few shopping channels using access to Sky viewers to sell their wares.
BT (the post office at that time) had been an early adopter of satellite technology and had uplink sites in London as well as Martelsham and Goonhilly, it also had connectivity via fibre and microwave which put it i a very strong position in being able to support broadcasters.
The work I undertook enabled me to visit various countries which included Jordan, USA and the Netherlands.
I continued to take photographs with film and also bought a Canon semi pro Digital Camcorder.
Also during my time at BT and after I started making contributions to an online technical/consumer site run by Simon Perry it was called Digital Lifestyles and I found it fun to review on 'techie items' and provide my own insights, Simon is now running a Digital local site on the Isle of Wight, as you can see Simon is not the sort of guy who goes for a quiet life.

I had mucked about with basic satellite reception at Highview Road (current home) but first working with NDS I got free Sky subscription (analogue days) and then being in the satellite part of BT I felt it incumbent on me to get a better installation and I got a multi-satellite steerable reception dish.

As with my previous job I was supplied with a 'work' mobile phone.
During my time at BT I completed the MA in Mass Communications that had been started while I was in Hong Kong  and I  started studying for an MBA (also Leicester University)

New Café/Eateries to battle for customers in Ealing 

Maggie's 'Opening Soon'
Across the road is Bill's 
I suppose there's a logic in maximising the business trading hours for restaurants - the new wave of chain eateries appears to be working to these ends, being a coffee shop, a lunch time café as well as an evening hangout for food and drinks.
In Ealing this January Maggie's  and Bill's will both be opening new businesses and time will tell how good their judgment of what the punter wants is.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Retail battles on and Reflecting on Media Technology (part 5 back to Blighty)

News headlines are saying the Boxing day sales are hitting records I guess it will be some time before a full analysis of the UK retail spend for Christmas and New Year but what is becoming increasingly apparent is the move from retail to on-line - men particularly seem to prefer to buy at a discount from their PCs or tablet devices rather than battle high street crowds and negotiate bumper to bumper road conditions to find over priced car parking spaces.
Ealing Christmas Eve

Ealing shoppers December 22nd  2013
High streets have responded with pre-Christmas discounts and  leveraged their own delivery to high street off shoots (in the case of John lewis/Waitrose) or used internal distribution networks in the case of  the larger out of town Superstores (for the likes of Tesco) - personally I'm not sure how genuine the  results so far reported by retail commentators in the media are but the late bad weather in the festive run-up will not have helped the Town's and City's retailers.

My own reflections on Media Technology (part 5)

The news service of Reuters TV (Asia) was now digitised and the DVB satellite distribution was fast becoming the norm for multi-channel platforms (a way of providing Digital Channels that could be easily navigated by the consumer).  
Having decided a move to Singapore with Reuters was not something I wished to do I was lucky enough to find employment with NDS (News Digital Systems)  in the first instance the work was attached to Star TV in Hong Kong then moving back to our Ealing home with work at Heathrow Boulevard in  London meant that the return to the UK at the end of 1997 (shortly after HK was handed back to the landlord China) was manageable.
NDS was a vehicle for The News Corporation to handle encryption, automation and with the acquisition of what had previously been part of the IBA's technology off-shoot (and is now part of Ericsson Television) they had the wherewithal to provide full digital systems - I was employed as systems specialist/Project engineer at a busy time when Digital Terrestrial Television was being rolled in the UK out and NDS was virtually the only show in town.
So what was once a niche system for delivering content at a wholesale level was now the mass technology for TV to take the next step and replace the 50 Plus year old  analogue system that had provided consistent broadcast TV services around the world.
The NDS money spinner and key to the pay TV service was Encryption which was run out of Israel with near Mossad style security the other technology used for Streamserver (Automation) and the compression/Multiplex was more open but still very bespoke and specialist.
The NDS Former West London home
After some work abroad working at Star TV Indonesia during some of the counterpoise's  civil disturbances  and with the weight of commuting many miles to the Southampton manufacturing facility I decided to look for work closer to home and found it in British Telecoms Broadcast Services Division (to be continued..)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology (part 4 life abroad)

ITN building in Gray's Inn Road
By the time I left my employment at ITN after the completion of the move from Wells Street to Gray's Inn Road in 1991  The media landscape in the UK was a different beast . After a rocky start Direct to Home Satellite in the shape of 'Sky' had started to establish itself as a new media delivery system based on it being  the home of Movies and Sport. Land based Commercial Radio was now an accepted part of the radio  listeners choice. In my next job I was very much involved in the Unix/Ultrix multi user newsroom computer system  business working with large European Broadcasters (as customers) who used the Basys  systems to compile their news bulletins.
Oddly enough even while at Basys I kept my hand in at ITN operating the Odetics cart machine for Channel 4 News early Saturday morning bulletins from their new GIR HQ.
As I was required to, on a rota support broadcasters during 'out of hours' I was provided at these times with a portable(-ish) phone and a home vdu with modem to enable me to dial in to customer sites  and fiddle around fixing problems, I suppose this was unusual at the time but this type of engagement with work is now a feature of modern employment in many fields.

The Euronews Lyon HQ
During my time at Basys I was interviewed and accepted for a job in Lyon (France) as part of a new pan European, multi-lingual alternative to the US's CNN which had wielded so much influence during Gulf War I  this was Euronews and at the new station I worked both in
1990s Production at Euronews
 production and Computer systems roles. The station at that time used a professional  Beta format for editing the news inserts which were then  played back via an Odetics Cart Tape Player, Fixed position satellites were  used for the service distribution across Europe. Satellite TV to the home was at this time 'analogue' and although offering more services than had previously been available the choice was clearly finite.
Euronews was breaking new ground in transmitting so many (5 at start) different audio language tracks to cater for its diverse audience.
During my time at Euronews I got my first IBM compatible windows PC complete with modem (a quick 14,400 baud at the time) and a CD drive too).
Working outside the UK in a multicultural workforce was a great experience for me and the impression that I got was that in France the media was not as important as it had been in England.After a little over 2 years in which the service had become professional and well known to viewers I took up an offer of work in Hong Kong with Reuters TV.
Reuters TV was an evolution of what had been the Visnews agency which had been an international  news agency  part owned by amongst others the BBC .
Coincidentally Reuters TV in the UK was based in ITN's  Gray's Inn Road Building.
GIR was home to Reuters TV 
Reuters TV became integrated into Reuters newsrooms around the world (print and photo') and supplied  international  news 'footage' to broadcasters  in a mixture of paid and barter arrangements, typically the feed of these news events and 'ad hocs' was distributed by using occasional satellite space booked from various operators - during the late 1990s distribution was moved from analogue to the far more efficient digital transmission which meant that Reuters were able to justify permanent satellite distribution channels. While at Reuters part of my work was helping make this new digital distribution happen technically with the introduction of new reception systems to our clients and head-end equipment in Hong Kong. The distribution used a pre-DVB  system that was far less efficient than the MPEG2 and MPEG4 systems in use now. The equipment was great deal bulkier than that used now too.
During my time based in Hong Kong I got to visit news operations around the Far East in places that included Japan,  Taiwan, China, Macau and India - the diversity of operation was wide at around the same time to help me distill my knowledge and experience I started a course of study for an MA in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology (part 3) and the phenomena of 'Gaslighting'

So having left the factory environment of Marconi in Essex in 1979 I became an engineer (Trainee) at ITN the news provider for commercial TV and here it was all about technology and Media, initially when I started
A bit like being in the Young Ones

the News was invariably gathered using 16mm film which was then processed, edited and converted to TV by using Tele-cine Machines.
News copy and scripts were written on typewriters and the only computers were those used to provide the 'Election Graphics'

A Newsroom VDU
First House Aspen Close, Ealing

By the time I left 13 years later News was gathered using ENG(electronic and tape), scripts and autocue were driven by computer newsroom (BASYS subsequently acquired by U.S. technolgy firm Avid) systems and computer graphics and electronic effects were every day technologies. Computers were also starting to be used for library systems and audio was increasingly digitised.

During my time at ITN as well as being involved in the industrial turmoil the industry went through I was an early user of mobile phones (the big grey Motorola I think) which used to have despite their enormous size about a half hour of useful battery life in a very restricted area.
When I was  at ITN I moved from a slightly bohemian life of shared flats and houses to my own home in W5, noticeable at this time was how long I had to wait for a phone to be installed (I think it was 6 months) and also at this time I started a course at University of London dept of Extra Mural Studies, I bought a Canon electronic typewriter with some rudimentary word processing which allowed me to complete essays and do my own home conveyancing.
I did have my first home cordless phone (not BT approved at this time) and also got telephone answering machines that enabled me to be more easily contactable.

Around the time telecommunications were being deregulated (perhaps more accurately re-regulated), Satellite to home (DTH) was becoming a successful means of enabling new channels to reach consumers/viewers and home computers were becoming part of the educational landscape (Spectrum and BBC Micro for example).
Personally I continued to take photo's and also started to use the new small format VHS-C tapes with a camcorder (JVC I think) I bought from a friend two 2" helical scan VTRs that were made by Ampex although only balck and white they werequite impressive and noisy.
Additionally another game changer in the Media industry was the VHS (or Beta Tape for the technically superior) device which became  a must have for the modern family who wanted to catch TV for those 'even when they were out times!' (or to enable you to catch the 'other' channel when you were watching something else).
A typical early home 'Micro'


One of my favourite writers and one who I often feel is overlooked by the literary establishment is Patrick Hamilton, as well as novels like The West Pier (which became The Charmer on TV) the troubled author wrote plays Rope (a strange and groundbreaking film for Hitchcock) and Gas light are examples you might enjoy.
Gaslight (sometimes it's called Gas Light and the play is known as Angel Street in the USA) too was filmed and was a big Hollywood hit for Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman . Charles Boyer plays in the film a
A film poster for Gaslight
character Gregory, who does everything he can  to convince his wife Paula that she is going crazy, he has of course an ulterior motive.
Subsequently the behaviour shown in the film has been used to describe the manipulative act of making another believe that they are going mad 'Gaslighting' there's even a book by Victor Santoro (1994) the book is called Gaslighting: How to Drive Your Enemies Crazy and is about using the technique to exploit the phenomena.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nigella's Not like us? and Reflecting on Media Technology (part 2)

What is slightly surprising is that one of the 'News' stories which is hitting the UK press to the max is the Grillo Sisters versus The Saatchis. Why is is that the press proprietors and their appointed editors think that at a time of turmoil we should want to read about this?
My theory is that:
1) It satisfies something in their (the media titans) desire to point the microscope  on a small privileged elite of which many in the worlds of  media, politics  and celebrity flourish so that they can use their personal contacts and context.
2) It provides a story that shows even if you are rich, attractive and successful it doesn't mean you'll be happy - we all have feet of clay

For my part I see that it shows (again) what a friend of mine pointed out about a particularly well known dedicated left-wing politician cut from patrician cloth - they seek to relate to the mass but think 'they're not like us' - this is crystal clear to me from the exclusive interviews and the beseeching of the  friends and family of Nigella.
Nigella in happier days

Because she doesn't come from a  background that includes run-down housing and poor education  there seems to be an assumption that the law of the land with respect to Class A drugs works differently and that she can maintain her position as a 'domestic goddess'. I do not believe as an individual  that the present drugs laws  are providing troubled users within society with the framework they need to deal with life but I do believe that Nigella is at least as  responsible  for her actions as a mother on a 'sink' housing estate.
Let's see how this all pans out (forgive the pun).

Reflecting on Media Technology (part 2)

Yesterday I ruminated on how technology had been such a large part of my formative years.. let's move on to my time at university and my first full time job.
My A level results meant that I was able to continue in full time education at the time I was doing this Degree level education was not something that was as all pervasive as it is today, I was luck enough to get all fees paid as well as a local education authority grant towards my 'maintenance'.
The A levels I took (Maths, Physics and Technical Drawing) were well aligned with thew study of engineering  and I took my place at University in Cardiff of an Electrical and Electronic Engineering course.
The course I took was very much an engineering course with an emphasis on mathematics and physics -the experience of living away from home and making new friends was a good one for me.
UWIST building
In hindsight if a course with a more 'creative' element would probably have suited me well but I'm not sure that such courses existed at this time (I think courses like those now available  at places Ravensbourne College would have been great for me).
The background of the technology at this time (the mid to late 70s) was one where microprocessors were beginning to become part of everyday life and satellite communications were maturing.
The technological industries were still dominated by large private and public companies and the value of entrepreneurs was unappreciated (Clive Sinclair and Alan Sugar were though starting to make their mark).
As a student my life was dominated by socialising, music and thinking I knew everything, after graduating my first employment at Marconi Radar in Chelmsford was something of a shock - I didn't know everything and was answerable to people who (at the time) seemed to have a different life view to my own.
Marconi's used to dominate Chelmsford.
In work I did learn how to diagnose fault situations and came into contact with early automated testing methods - during my time at University I had thought that I'd be working at recording studios and working in a factory did not provide the same glamour - I was looking for something more gratifying pretty much from my first day at Writtle road  as well as looking for more interesting work I did look at the possibility of further study in the USA to become part of the microprocessor revolution  ..(more to follow)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reflecting on Media Technology (my early years to about 18)

For as long as I can remember my life has been connected with technology and as I cast my mind back I can see some pretty amazing changes - here's how they've been experienced by me.
As a child my father who was an electronics engineer made me a crystal radio used to have various electronic  odds and ends having himself been an enthusiastic radio constructor before the war (World War II).
As a child at primary school I had a small portable radio at the time of the offshore Pirate Radio stations and we also had a succession of other radios, tape recorders and of course a radiogram. My Uncle Len used to pass on various radios to my dad when they were no longer wanted and/or broken and he'd fix them and we'd then have them.
In Braintree where I lived from the age of about 10 there was a shop that used to sell various 'army surplus' goods  here you could get phone handsets, batteries and old circuit boards - I often spent my pocket money there. 
One of the uses of the home tape recorders was to record family get-togethers - playback used to invariably focus on how we didn't sound like that

Typical 60s AM/FM radio

Clarion Tape Recorder

As well as radio TV was a fascination and at secondary school I became friends with other like minded boys and got to collect old TVs, aerials and components - even advertising for unwanted items with postcards in newsagents. The first TV I got was a Pye 12" - the tube was well worn and when this happened the TV would give a negative picture - the only show that this worked for was Top of The Pops.
We also used to make small AM radio transmitters (illegal) and also I remember Graham Flynn getting a small FM radio bug. 
Something like my first TV
Having spent early childhood in modern houses in 'developments' some time in the early 70s we moved to a much bigger house more in the country and here I had a converted stable which I called a 'workshop' - then I was able to play music loud and have old TV sets as well as a Photographic dark room of sorts.

At this time computers were just becoming a practical usable technical element that was used in education and featured in some entertainment.
At my school we had a device for creating computer input on punched paper tape, the tapes would then be taken to the University of Essex - I'm not too sure to what effect.
As I became a sixth former I got involved in the sound and lighting team there- we did a school disco or two and helped on lighting for shows.
Also as a teenager I used to spend time with my cousin Tom (Tom Artrocker)  who was a trombonist with wide music taste influenced by Roxy Music and other way out artists we used to make some strange electronic noises during our summer holidays using audio oscillators in the Eno style (we thought).
It is hard to believe how little telephones were used communication was either face to face or by written word - there was a subculture around Radio Hams and Morse but this was incredibly tightly regulated  and restricted.
In the early 70s TV was BBC and ITV only, no early morning TV or late night. At School we had an early video tape recorder which was used for showing educational material (generally as I recall stuff warning us about the dangers of sex and drugs).
I had started taking photographs at an early age (around 7 I think) using a very simple fixed aperture and fixed focus camera the Kodak brownie the format was a 127 film, at secondary school quite a few people were interested in photography and I graduated to a Cosmos 35 camera which had variable focus and aperture. I was liicky enough to have another  uncle (Harry) who was Art editor on the Leicester Mercury, Uncle Harry helped me with fast film and some accessories like a flash gun.
At the age of 16 I got my first paid work (during school holidays) it was labouring work in a factory (Technical Panels) and meant for my remaining time at school  I had money with which to indulge myself and I got a Fidelity Stereo record player (plastic) it gave 2.5 watts per channel and I loved this, it also had (I think) a 5 pin din input socket that enabled other items to be played through the amp. (It's fascinating to see that as a vintage item such a record player gets £140!)
 Just like the record player I had


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A time to visit -Locking Piece and Tate Britain

Henry Moore's Locking Piece
One thing I've learnt (amongst a few) in the last year is that  there are good and bad times to visit public institutions such as Galleries and Museums, perhaps somewhat counter intuitively good weather draws in the crowds.
Well the last day of a school term means there could be fewer planned student visits and as we run up to Christmas the first place many people visit is the shops - so I found yesterday was a really good opportunity to take a look at Tate Britain again (and have a cup of slightly luke warm cappuccino with a pleasant  piece of Carrot cake in the Members Room).
Again I was drawn to a painting by enlightenment artist (was there ever a better recipient of the name?) Joseph Wright of Derby titled The Iron Forge
the way that the detail and light is captured is breathtaking and the fact that it was completed nearly 250 years ago is astounding. If you want to see th actual thing visit the Gallery or you can   take a look here but the experience is not the same although you will see an interesting  story unveiled around the subject of the  painting by an expert in Iron Forges.
Airy spaces

The general 'vibe' of the revitalised Tate Britain is great with plenty of room for the works to breathe and loads more sculpture around while there on Friday  I also noted work by Richard Sickert (Brighton Pierotts) Half Box Green by Michael Craig-Martin who as a Tutor at Goldsmith's (London) was the guiding light behind many of the artists who became collectively known as YBAs.
Amazing work

Another interesting display that has been daemonised by some sections of the UK  press that I experienced was by Turner prize winner (2001) Martin Creed, Martin's works are to a great extent thought provoking and on the surface offer few connections to the work of Joseph Wright of Derby.
The work that I saw was The lights going on and off the work is described by  Maurizio Cattelan here and it is interesting to consider how this contemplation is at variance with other ideas on what it means.
Noted too quite a few examples of Eric Gill's sculptures - Eric is famous for the work at BBC Broadcasting House (Prospero and Ariel), as well as being a bit of a Renaissance man in the arts, after his death it was revealed that he was something of a child abuser - which raises the question of how this should be dealt with in hindsight.
A lovely Main Entrance

I also was able to study some of Hogarth's work that was on show particularly the 'knowing' self portrait The Painter and his Pug this has made me realise and appreciate a little more how underrated he is and how much more he than a mere cartoonist he was (I hope that does not offend cartoonists).

Hogarth (always) showing humour

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Art continues in self referential mode, Robert Kett and finding Joe Meek

The Gallery 2 show
I've noticed over a few of the visits I've made what seems to me to be a bit of a trend around an examination of exhibitions, while I recognise the significance of curating as part of the process of display I wonder if it points towards something of a lack of confidence or a vacuity of exciting ideas.
Today I was at the Whitechapel Gallery and and the Kadia Atter showing in Gallery 2 reminded me of both Ealing's Wundercamera and the Meschac Gaba shown at the Tate Modern this summer.
I liked the display which referenced the fact that the gallery was formerly a Library and looking at it I did want to start browsing the eclectic volumes shelved around a central podium- attached to which were a series of steps which led to a somewhat disappointing reflective surface (As I looked at this I did note that I was looking particularly old).

Robert Kett

In other galleries there was a selection of works including a varied bunch of paintings, photo's and artifacts reflecting a rebellious streak in the East of England - here I was strongly attracted to the Story of Robert Kett - who championed the cause of common land - Kett was a Norfolk landowner who in 1549 at the age of 57 took common cause with peasants and helped them in their attempts to advance (what seems to me) their legitimate demands.

Meek did not inherit the earth 
Joe's former studio is a walk from the station

I've just started reading a biography of one of England's somewhat neglected Pop pioneers, Joe Meek, the book is called  The Legendary Joe Meek- The Telstar Man and so far it is holding my attention - as part of my research I've found that Joe completed most of his legendary recordings in Holloway Road.
 The fruit shop at the ground floor
The building now has a fruit shop at the ground floor level but there's a plaque to Joe on the building.
Some facts about Joe, he turned down The Beatles (to record not as he listened to them  on his radio) and worked with Johnny Leyton (Johnny remember me) and of course he'll (probably) always be remembered himself for Telstar .

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

UK economy improves and Bye-bye Sayers of Ealing

Good News on the Economy

Well I'm not going to be a misery about what is good news on the economic front (unemployment drops), being able to survive in economic terms is not the 'be-all and end-all' of everything but the chance of a regular income is for many families crucial to a half way reasonable way of life - as well as providing the extras that other families have it tends to create a virtuous circle with impacts on neighbour-hoods and communities.
Forgive me if I think that any improvement is as a much despite the governments policies as because of them.
As I expect you have noticed politicians of all hues tend to  take credit for things that go right and blame factors beyond their control for what's going wrong.
On the subject of politicians isn't it amazing how Lord Hanningfield is behaving - the peer appears to have the skin of a rhinoceros having previously being gaoled for his abhorrent behaviour he continues to bring politics further into public disapproval.

The good Lord

Retailing Trends

From the last century
After  more than 100 years Sayers of Ealing, Gentleman's outfitters  is just about ready to close its doors for good.
Up and down the high streets of England it's a similar tale with independent retailers of all sorts finding they can't compete with the multiples (those retailers with chains of shops who can lever their buying power and can afford to advertise).
When I was a youngster these sort of shops had arrangements with secondary schools which required pupils to have uniforms supplied and a certain sort of man used to be a loyal and regular customer - now such traditions have ceased.
Now don't get me wrong this sort of shop was often outrageously expensive with lines that anyone with a hint of fashionable awareness would run screaming from.
But what they did epitomise was  continuity and manners - not something you'll find at Primark and the other budget stores.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas shopping (different each year)

Out Shopping over the last few days like so many others, and in Kingston upon Thames today saw this air pump for Cyclists - from what I remember when I was a regular bike user this  seems like a very good idea and hopefully other boroughs will be adding these to further encourage the healthy travel option.  What I'm noticing when shopping is how many stores are offering reductions, traditionally sales have begun after Christmas but seems that there's discounting ahead of the holidays now, I suppose once one or two of the major retailers start this it's difficult for the others to resist. 
Other things we've noticed are the number of Calendar selling concessions (nice mark-up on these).
The sales figures for the UK High Street are key to showing what the British economy is doing, there now seems little doubt that any recovery will start with increased confidence and thus borrowing/credit by consumers and the purchases of goods and services as the housing market heats up. Any idea that Chancellor George Osborne has made serious inroads into 're-balancing' the industrial manufacturing base should be taken with rather a large pinch of salt (as The Engineer agrees here).
In fact one of the worrying things I am seeing (in London) is that there are many more people who need to sell The Big Issue or ask those with money for a £1. 

Bentall's Centre Kingston

Westfields White City- Well over the top

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Michael Palin the explorer and new BBC HD Channels

Now Michael Palin has been hitting the headlines because of a series of 2014 reunion gigs with his comedy crew (Monty Python's Flying Circus). Now I'm not sure that the idea of a group of seventy plus performers re interpreting their day in the sun really works apart from an opportunity for people to say 'We saw Monty Python live' - for me comedy isn't the new rock 'n' roll and there's probably too much nostalgia on stage these days too.
Feel the anticipation?
Anyway what was perhaps most noticeable at yesterday evening's London Centre Royal Television Society lecture given by Michael was how politely the audience were in not asking him about the millions of pound it will deliver to him and his colleagues - I don't think that money can be the main motivation but of course it is the main headline.
In fact Michael stuck to his brief of '25 years on the Road' (this being longer in fact than his time as a comedy performer/writer/actor) his was a relaxed stroll down the memory lane that had circumnavigated the globe and then gone pole to pole, he amused with stories that included a trip to a Japanese replica Dutch town  ( the place is called Huis Ten Bosch  it's in Nagasaki if you want to find out more ) here a group of clog wearing musicians had delivered a version of Bohemian Rhapsody from their bicycles and he also described the pleasure of traveling on the top of trains in Khartoum.

I had heard that Mr Palin was not the first choice for 'Around The World in 80 Days' but he revealed the fact which was new to me was that Noel Edmonds had declined the opportunity to do the first of the travel shows that now seem so natural for him (perhaps not a bad thing for all of us Noel included).
Still happens on some trains today
New BBC home - short of dosh?

New HD channels from BBC

so it's nice to able to report (although if relevant you probably know) that the High Definition channel versions promised have arrived and they're ahead of the 2014 delivery signposted .
Well done BBC now HD on BBC TV 3 and 4 as well as News24 and the kids channels - I wonder what they would have done with the money if they'd got a better licence fee settlement?

The Why Factor (BBC Radio)

Also on the BBC - radio this time I've fould a nice little gem of a programme called 'The Why Factor' the first one I listened to was about Optimists versus Pessimists (characterized by the question Is the glass half full or half empty?) - there's a hole archive of similarly curious questions with an 18 minute investigation .
Michael Williams is the man who presents.-