Archive for October, 2006

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

How to interest people in accountancy (not)

This video by Hong Kong accountants is a brave, noble and sadly awful attempt at correcting people’s misconceptions of the profession.
So here’s a new challenge (or ‘meme’ if you will): produce a rap video that shows your own occupation off as a hip ‘n’ happening way to spend the years before retirement…

The bigger the bill, the harder to swallow the meal

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Eating out in London is expensive – you always get a big bill. Of course it helps if you bring your own, I suppose.
This rather horrific photo was captured by Cathal McNaughton in St Jame’s Park, London, and shows a pelican trying to swallow a (strangely calm-looking) pigeon.

I thought it looked odd, and wondered how the photographer happened to be in the right place at the right time. A quick Google search suggests that it’s not as rare an occurrence as you might think, as this video from a few days ago makes clear:

Pelican Eats Pigeon – video powered by Metacafe

Brighton’s West Pier

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

This is a quick video I did of Brighton’s West Pier. The photos of it blown down are by me, those of the fire by my former colleague Paul Clark (I was sitting on the beach watching it).

The music is from ‘Two Piers’ by me too 🙂

Anna Russell dies

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Most people below a certain age probably won’t know who Anna Russell was. A few years ago on a music summer school I heard a recording of her marvellous Wagner spoof. She was, in her day (1950s), a remarkably popular entertainer and also an excellent singer, but she produced the most cuttingly accurate skits on the music world.

Among her best, were her concerts and famous recording of The Ring of the Nibelungs (An Analysis), an amusing 30-minute synopsis of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, and (on the same album) her parody, How to Write Your Own Gilbert and Sullivan Opera. Russell also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and in a number of plays and television episodes. (from ABC in Australia

Since first hearing that Wagner sketch I tried to remember who she was and hunted down a recording of it, but it took a feature last month on Radio 4 for me to finally get hold of ‘The Anna Russell Album’ (MDK 47252) and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a music fan.

Sadly she died on 18 October in Australia where she’d been living for the last couple of years. She would have been 95 in December.

Here’s her 20-minute Wagner spoof.
A very funny lady.

The Daily Show – Pancakes & Sausage On A Stick

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

I saw this on TV a few minutes ago and I have to say, Foley scandal, Iraq, Fox News, Bush in general… they all have nothing on the sheer horror I felt when watching Jon Stewart tell me about this new snack.

Anyone who buys one of these should be escorted from the premises by security and taken to a safe and welcoming institution.

Mind you, if they brought out a mint-flavoured one I might consider it.

New music: Inverted Handel

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

This is a piece of music I wrote about seven or eight years ago that I keep thinking I should do something with (least of all a new title).
It’s actually a piece by Handel but inverted to produce a completely new work.

The file should play in iTunes or download automatically to your RSS reader if you’ve got that option enabled.

Inverted Handel

Coincidence Number 2

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Back in July I blogged about how I rang British Telecom to inform them of my move to Scotland and, by a bizarre coincidence, ended up talking to someone who’d just moved in to the same street I was going to.

Well blow me down if it didn’t happen again: I rang my bank recently to ask for some deposit envelopes and, out of the hundreds of operators I could have spoken to, in a call centre several hundred miles away, I got through to someone who, it turns out, used to work in the pub at the end of my road!

Try telling me that isn’t spooky?

The secret of success

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

I went to a talk by two university alumni today, organised by the students’ union (a great initiative, incidentally – I spoke to the President and VP afterwards and they were really switched on to the role the union has to play in the future of their members, not just their alcohol intake).
Anyway the two designers in question had been out in ‘the real world’ for a number of years and spoke about what had happened to them since, and how they got where they are today.

And there was a common theme to both their talks: social capital.
Neither made a really big play about talent or skill, but both talked about chance encounters, meetings with people who introduced them to other people, building relationships, the importance of personality…

In other words, while the design industry pressures higher education to squeeze the curriculum with yet more ‘business skills’ like how to use a spreadsheet, how to answer the phone, how to do accounts, how to fix a Mac, how to sew on buttons, how to turn a seam, how to create a rollover blah blah blah, the skills that industry actually uses itself at any level above Mac Monkey and seamstress are exactly the sort of social skills that going to university used to provide but is in danger of losing as the ‘skills agenda’ takes over.

We’re in danger, I think, of producing design graduates who can work out the figures that show they’re about to go bust because they haven’t developed the social skills and the personal assurance and identity that they really need to get on.

There was a telling comment at the end when the graphic designer was asked about the role of technical skills. He’d been asked what he looked for in someone applying for a job: personality, communication and imagination were the top three if I remember correctly. For Mac skills, he said, while they were important to his business, he tended not to look to art school graduates for those.
This is the difference – or should be the difference – between a designer and an artworker. A degree in design isn’t about acquiring technical skills but about understanding the discipline, the people design affects, the role it has to play in society, in business, in the wider world, and – for want of a better phrase – growing up. What he was basically saying was someone who knows their subject, is communicative and enthusiastic about it, will make a far better designer than someone who can work in Photoshop without breaking a sweat but is crap at talking to clients, colleagues or so focussed on learning new shortcuts that they rarely manage to read a book that isn’t about their favourite program.

Moreover, it should be about being a graduate – articulate, knowledgeable, able to grow and continue to learn. Being at university is a rare opportunity to change and thrive; you can learn Photoshop anytime, but as much as society’s attitude to age is changing, your youth is still the best place and time to have fun, travel, experiment learn and think.

The skills agenda being pushed by so much of the design industry is shortsighted in that it threatens to produce mindless graduates far less able to grow their business than is currently the case, but it’s also immoral in that it assumes young people go to university, spend three or four years of their lives and tens of thousands of pounds purely for the benefit of accountants and directors.
University should be fun, relaxed and nurturing, not unpaid labour and cheap training for any industry. Who benefits from that?