rashbre central: May 2012

Thursday 31 May 2012

impactful* ups and downs of an enquiry

Leveson Enq - Jay
I've been watching some of the Leveson enquiry today, with Jeremy Hunt in the hot seat.

I can't help thinking that there's an extended code used on some of the interactions being discussed, a bit like the way 'Yes, Minister' works.

Also trying to spot the bits where there's been some preparations of responses (i.e. "I'm glad you asked that question etc." vs the pieces where its genuine question and answer.

Also trying to work out which extracts refer 'upwards' vs 'downwards'. Along the lines of whether to push things towards junior special advisor Mr Smith or ever closer towards Prime Minister Cameron.

I can't help thinking that they fired Vince Cable who was against the merger and then Cameron appointed a declared pro-merger politician to run the independent quasi-judicial process.

There was an dryly humourous part about Rebekah Brooks resigning because of partisan interest during the review of News International and Hunt without noticing the irony saying 'its about time.'

And some impactful* phrases:

  • Looks on the surface like a strong UIL
  • No idea that Mr Smith was getting so many messages from Mr Michel
  • I didn't know about these discussions between Mr Smith and Mr Michel
  • Almost game over for the opposition
  • Satisfy media plurality concerns
  • JH believes we are in a good place tonight
  • JH does not mean Jeremy Hunt
  • We just need space (not a JH statement)
  • No legal wriggle room
  • Lets see what the morning coverage brings
  • What we see here {...in these dozens of messages...} does not reflect your opinion?
  • Keen to get to the same outcome
  • I can't remember
Leveson Enq - Hunt
* I know, impactful isn't a real word

Sunday 27 May 2012

cycling towards targets

cycling targets
Maybe a little unstructured cycling this afternoon, in this hot sunshine.

I see I'm close to a couple of my targets, which I'd originally set for the whole year. I deliberately made them achievable, but I've slightly surprised myself that there's still more than 200 days to go on each.

I'm pretty sure I can hit the mileage one this afternoon, but the calories will take a little longer, even if I head out towards a couple of the little hills around here.

Update: I did 17.x miles which has cleared the mileage target, but the Calories will have to wait.

target acquired

Saturday 26 May 2012

ticky tacky time

It's a sort of guilty pleasure to be viewing my way through early season Weeds on Netflix catchup.

To the extent that if I've had it on the main telly there have been occasional comments along the lines - "Is this a real show; are they allowed to say that kind of thing on American television?"

The section I've been watching is set in 2006, but I'm only on the early seasons which are set somewhere a bit like my own one-time American home in a gated community. All little boxes made of ticky-tacky plus in Weeds a mom who is also the local cannabis dealer.

It's got a single-camera look to production, some whip smart dialogue and a good smattering of brilliant one liners. It seems wrong on oh so many levels, but usually with a sparkle in the eyes.

These whole series time-shifts fix the dilemma of missing the first few episodes of a series and having to either join part way through or wait for the DVD.

I'm not so fussed about the ownership of these things, but the access to the back catalogue is very useful and makes this type of 'watch all the episodes' project very convenient.

Whether it's addictive is a whole other discussion.

Friday 25 May 2012

another week without the truth

Good times lie ahead
I was watching the television on Friday evening when I realised I'd somehow missed nearly a whole week of the news.

That the G8(?) had got together and belatedly compared spring knitwear.

That there are now enough draft versions of the New Drachma to mean that De La Rue won't need to print any.

That those light weight pound coins I sometimes get must be part of the one in thirty forgeries in circulation.

That the newly issued pound coins do actually feel and look a bit like forgeries.

That an oppressive oil-rich regime is staging this year's kitch European song-fest.

That it's not about the music, it's all about the bloc-vote (I knew that anyway).

That the UK is probably the largest foreign investor in this Caspian oil pool.

That absolutely everyone in UK Government was completely unaware that the person put in charge of the Sky bid may have pre-judged it's outcome.

That the top guns under investigation in the Leveson enquiry are all being stacked up for the Jubilee weekend - papa, buddy, the boss.

That the use of the nicknames and initials add an extra layer of deniability.

That the list of awkward attendees to the Games is now arriving on William Hague's desk. Should Syrian Generals and other figures running oppressive regimes be allowed?

That the flame is already in Wales.

And, finally, that photo-sheik will become an accidental fashion craze as paps swarm to Broadway Market to snap cool east Londoners who've already gone to Borough to avoid the scrum.

Thursday 24 May 2012

leveson - impactful diagram of what everyone else in the room does

Fascinating viewing. Would be interested to get a room diagram with roles.

n.b. UIL = Undertaking in Lieu. - a.k.a. Promises to organise affairs in a manner to avoid the need to go to competition commission.
Update: I found a room layout diagram...
who sits where in the leveson room

Monday 21 May 2012

triangles, squares and circles

Bauhaus shapes
I'm still an 'orange' member of the Barbican and decided to pop along to that Bauhaus exhibition that's running at the moment. Like many, I've owned the tubular steel cantilever chairs and recognise the underlying Bauhaus nature of corporate communication diagrams derived from PowerPoint.

Even my own novels tip a small hat to the Triangle, Square and Circle that riffs through Bauhaus functional modernism. But I found it to be the people behind the original art school movement that really made this exhibition interesting.

Like earlier communities of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose Taliesin West I visited last year, we here see into masked balls, kite building competitions and a general eclecticism somewhat at odds with what became the harshness of glass walled skyscrapers.

A fascinating and surprisingly diverse show, with many of the smaller items holding a real interest and for me a few "Ahah" moments as I spotted items whose origins have now become clearer. Erich Consemüller also photographed some of the original artist/designers, so here's one of Marcel Breuer (he of the boingy chairs) with some of his friends.

Marcel Breuer

Saturday 19 May 2012

tales from a suitcase

living out of a suitcase
I'm fairly used to living out of a suitcase, as a result of being away from home on business fairly often. Sometimes I'm 'based' somewhere else, other times it's just a day or two.

In just the last month, its probably been about 10 days away. It means you get very used to the rhythm of hotels, check-ins and check-outs. As well as the sometimes brilliant upgrades, I've had those situations where there's no room available or they send me to a room with someone already in it. And that regular annoying situation where you go to a room and then find the electronic key doesn't work.

I've also visited a place in Europe where the hotel turned out to be chalets and I arrived late and had to sort of break in to the room. Actually I've just remembered another situation in France, where the place was unsupervised and we had to guess the right accommodation by a key left in the door.

I don't stay in London hotels very often because of where I live, but it's still London where I seem to have the most challenges. No room, room not ready, sultry service. It's just happened to me again, when I wanted to book into a particular hotel at the right check-in time and was told there was no room ready. I'd have to wait another hour - which really didn't fit with the plans.

I realised that even as a Londoner I was being processed as a 'tourist' in this smart London venue.

I moved into complaint mode, and it was grudgingly resolved, but it's reinforced a nagging thought that London's hospitality will need to be on best behaviour for the upcoming events.

Friday 18 May 2012

understand both sides of the sky

I was looking at that Facebook launch on the telly. The amount the company is worth now is about the same size as the Greek debt.

Throwing virtual sheep appears to have a similar value to raising real ones.

I also noticed the recent withdrawal of General Motors from Facebook. They've reduced their annual spend from $40m to $30m with Facebook. So I decided to invent a little sum. Suppose GM is one of the top 100 advertisers on FB. Maybe it spends the average amount. So 100 times $30m = $3 billion income from top advertisers.

Then assume everyone else advertising is a long tail of equivalent size to the top 100. That's another $3 billion of income. So now we are at $6 billion. And Facebook is capitalised at $110 billion. That's about 18x earnings. Remarkably its in the same 18x earnings territory inhabited by Google.

Except I know my sums are wrong. They are massively optimistic. Facebook's earnings last year were on a 100x multiple. So it needs to work 5 times as hard to get to Google's results.

Remember, there is no 'R' in Geek debt.

Wednesday 16 May 2012

a new identity

I've just had a call from the people who do the passports to say that my new one is on its way. It's one of those infrequent occasions where you have to be extra careful with the paperwork and remember to use the right colour ink and so on.

I took mine to the Post Office to be checked to avoid any awkward moments. I'd actually got two separate passports because some of the countries I'd travelled to were sort of incompatible with one another.

This time I've only applied for one replacement, which feels altogether more normal (although the replacement is the so called 'jumbo' version because of that increasing use of those whole page sticker Visas instead of the little stamps).

Tuesday 15 May 2012

mono thoughts

I've been sent some information about a new and somewhat expensive camera. It's okay though, I'm not about to rush out and acquire one. It's the new Leica M9M. This is the third edition of their camera that supports a full size 35mm image digitally.

The other two are both still available, there's the least expensive one- the M9, which doesn't have special glass to protect the screen on the back. The middle priced one called M9P adds the scratch resistant glass and removes a red dot logo from the front for around an additional £400. Then there's the new and most expensive one, which strips away all of the logos and provides a Monochrome only capability. Yes - no colour.

It's set my mind whirring a little bit. I can understand that 18 Megapixels dedicated to black and white pictures can probably increase the tonal range of the pictures.

I also understand that there's a different way to take monochrome pictures, to get to the essence of the scene. I'm also very familiar with only having a black and white film (usually Ilford) in my camera.

The difference is that the film camera can be swapped between mono and colour for the price of the film and its processing. This Leica camera is around £6k plus lenses and only shoots mono. For some reason, the adverts for it are in colour too.
M9 M
Now I've mused about the advantages of simple camera controls in the past, instead of the increasing layers of computer software and menus we routinely get. I still mostly stand by that ability to return to simple ways to take the pictures. I also enjoy the ability to flip my little Lumix camera into mono mode and snap away in that mode for street photography.

So this Leica idea seems to me to be at a somewhat rarified level and I wonder how it will catch on?

Monday 14 May 2012

the dealer smiles all the time

I don't pay enough attention to the detail of the FTSE, DAC, NYSE and -er- the CAC, but it's sometimes helpful to keep an eye on the big numbers.

A few days ago the FTSE was around 5800 and slightly drifting north. Tonight it is around 5400 in my rounded out way of looking at things.

Of course, it's the €uro that's causing the turbulence and Greece as the catalyst for whatever happens next. A new French prez visiting Angela Merkel whilst George Osborne wrings his hands and points to the continent won't hack it.

They all know its more more pernicious than the specifics of the Greek situation. The banks continue to roll on the turn from everyone else's losses. They won't catch the falling knife, instead they'll cynically think about where to dump the problem.

In departmental budgeting there's that saying that deficit migrates to the least well managed area. Like playing poker and knowing who is the sucker. And if you don't know then it's probably time to get out.

The trouble with the €uro is that the politicians know that poker thing too. But it's their deck as long as they stay close to the bankers, so they can push the casualty beyond Greece, Spain and maybe Italy and back onto all of us.

Sunday 13 May 2012


Team GB goody bag
I had a free goody arrive in the post yesterday. It was a sort of hand grip attachment for the Olympus OM-D camera, and it was part of an 'early adopters' incentive.

Remarkably well-engineered, it completely transforms the nature of the OM-D, which I'm already enjoying as a workman-like and svelte SLR-type camera, but with this extra set of controls it can become a somewhat chunkier format well suited to portrait format as well as landscape.

My quick test shots are a variation of those strange pictures and videos that some people take of unpacking things. My style, as when unpacking this device, is more to turn the box upside down and shake out the contents and then check that there's nothing left behind.

So as an experiment, I decided to unpack the goody bag from the Team GB concert.

First, an inevitable programme.
Team GB goody bag
And then, some magazines including a copy of Hello. Not really sure what that's about nor that I'll wade past the pictures of celebrity weddings to find out.
Team GB goody bag
Then, a collectibles album and some medals to put in it.
Team GB goody bag
There's also the well bound guide to the silent auction, which seemed to raise well over £120k on the night, plus a separate live auction where each lot generally started at about two grand and mainly topped out at about £30k. This included things like a selection of hard to get finals tickets and some side trips to New York for shopping. We kept the silver bidding pom-pom on a very short leash for this one.
Team GB goody bag
And then some attractive scarves, which most people displayed during the evening, although we seemed to get some extra ones in the bags.
Team GB goody bag
Not forgetting the chocolate (although it seems to have been eaten), the Team GB badges, an invitation to a spa, pens and a marker from writing a postcard to an athlete.
Team GB goody bag
There. Unpacked.

Saturday 12 May 2012

attending the team gb evening

My lords ladies and gentlemen
We found ourselves at the kick off event for Team GB at the Olympics and rubbing shoulders with a few of the great, good and -er- very fit.

A black tie occasion complete with red carpet and actually my second brush with royalty this week.

When I spotted the Queen a few days ago, for Parliament's opening, I did that rooftop thing where I looked around and could see a few strategically positioned men in special uniforms up on high.

For this one, we'd all been told to bring passports or driving licences as additional I.D. in order to get in. The procession of dinner jackets and fancy frocks past similar looking special uniforms was speedily handled, but also a reminder of the vigilance at these occasions. Untitled

This time the event was with William and Catherine, what with them being patrons for the GB team and all.

We'd actually seen them a little earlier in the day as well, whilst around Belgrave Square where a policeman on particularly sleek and smooth running motor cycle had stopped traffic. As a fleeting moment we'd seen the entourage whisked through the quiet streets away from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's London residence.

We were still outside the Royal Albert Hall when the royals arrived, with the inevitable flurry of attention for Kate's latest hairstyle, the teal? dress and even discussion of the shoos. Of course, for this occasion, complete with its fancy dinner, we had a proper 'Now be upstanding' moment to welcome them into the Royal Albert Hall, before the main evening kicked off.

And once inside it immediately moved from process to hospitality and became a bit of a champagne do, positively signalling the start of the last part of the countdown.

And much later, as we emerged for carriages at around one a.m., we could smile at the large number of well-groomed people wandering around SW7 carrying their heavily laden goody-bags away from the event.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

my walk in London is disrupted

Queen's Speech - Westminster
Another disruption today, in Central London.

I'd just come out of a meeting and back into the street, when I noticed it had changed somewhat since the time I'd gone in.

There were new barriers everywhere and a noticeable police presence. That's when the marching band appeared from behind one of the major monuments.

Then I noticed the sawdust on the ground just as the clop of hooves denoted the presence of the Household Cavalry.
Queen's Speech - Westminster
Of course, if the Household Cavalry were out in all their finery, then you could be sure that someone significant wouldn't be far behind.
Queen's Speech - Westminster
I spotted the shiny coach being pulled by white horses. And then I noticed the crown.
Queen's Speech - Westminster
Yes, it was the Queen passing by, on her way to the Royal Opening of Parliament.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

hourly samples

hourly samples
Sometimes it's so busy that I don't have time to write a proper blog post.

Other times I have a stack of ideas and then plan to spread them out over several days, but in the interim something else comes along. I think I noticed that there's about 200 draft posts in rashbre central that won't ever see the light of day.

I'm pleased it's remained something of an experiment as I flip into yet another year of blogging with its sprinkling of other weird sub-projects including various social media streams and lovely links.
llib llik
And I'm still not sure whether a backwards movie poster or a picture of a London bus will get the greatest number of hits.

But I do know it's still fun to put ten minutes aside to post a picture and some words.

Monday 7 May 2012

tasting the tactical nuclear penguin

Tactical nuclear penguin and sink the bismarck

Somewhere along the way we decided to drop into the fairly new Brewdog bar. I'd spotted it a couple of days ago and wondered whether they'd sell tactical nuclear penguin.

My accomplices were not familiar with this particular beverage, nor indeed with the more modest 'Tokyo*' which was actually available in pint glasses.

We decided to order the TNP and also some 'Sink the Bismarck', which was a slightly stronger ale. It was the result of a competition between the breweries, where Brewdog produced TNP at 32.5% and then a German company upped the game with some kind of ice-pilsner. That led to the 41% Sink the Bismarck.

A later beer called 'End of History' was also produced at 57%, but only 12 bottles were ever made.

So what does Tactical Nuclear Penguin taste like?

Imagine a treacle mining expedition towards the centre of the earth, perhaps with a peat smoke wafting through the bore holes. You get the idea.

I was in the minority in our group in sort of preferring the Penguin to the ship, which had an even more intense flavour but for which the extra 9% alcohol didn't seem to advance the cause more than to beat the other brewery.

Interestingly, neither the Penguin nor the Bismarck were displayed on the wall behind the bar and we had to furtively ask for them.

*Tokyo is around 18% ABV

Trashed Organ Fringe: Rob Heron and Tea Pad Orchestra

Sunday saw us along at the Cumberland Arms, which was running its ten year birthday celebration. A packed and lively scene, which included a wide range of musicians performing.

Here's Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra, although we've cheated slightly and included a number from their set at Trashed Organ.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Trashed Organ Fringe : Lizzie Whyman

A short extract from Lizzie's set, from the Trashed Organ 'We're all mad here' readings at the Central.

You'll see from the video that Lizzie also has a book 'Touchpiece' published and available on Amazon here

Saturday 5 May 2012

I visit Elizabeth Price - Here

Friday's weather changed as I moved from upstairs to downstairs, to the extent that I changed my plan as I walked through the revolving doors.

Instead of left, along the river, I flâneured straight ahead and soon found myself in the gallery where one of the Turner candidates has a show.

It's Elizabeth Price's show called 'Here' and the entrance was completely dark, leading into various large rooms of shadowy figures.

Elizabeth's work is immersive large format video, mainly featuring objects, sharp soundtracks and an overlaid textual narrative.

I watched three - one about the car transporter that sank bearing its cargo of 2500 Volvo cars. Another was called 'Choir' and referenced the area of a church, the singing ensemble and the quire of paper. And third was a piece entitled 'User Group Disco', which described taxonomies for consumer artifacts, with often kitsch qualities.

I came in on Choir, which in its first sequences featured a percussive handclap as a soundscape accompanying fast cut images and slower messages. This worked well and introduced some of the secular and bawdy aspects of church carvings. There was a section describing the three dimensional geometry of church spaces, which also played to my disorientation in the dark space I'd entered. The piece later developed into curves and linked hand gestures, then via lo-fi re-filmed singing from the Shangri Las and then towards a major store fire that occurred in Manchester but where the same gestures could be seen.

Something that worked well was the way the very dark space was lit by the often dark high resolution images. A kind of HAL/Alien/Silent Running space freighter image flicked through my mind for two of the exhibits.

The final image of Choir was of burning furniture. As I left to enter another space I found myself testing the gallery boundary with outstretched hands in case I was crossing via a barrier of glass or netting.
we know
The User Group Disco used a lot of 'Business PowerPoint talk' about core mechanisms, strategic imperatives and flows. Words we all know and can assemble into clever diagrams but still need to write down to remember the models. We were being talked to through the images and text, like a sort of machine communication. It talked in the 'We' and 'You' format. Another reflection of a HAL, maybe? I wondered who the 'We' was that was creating these messages. I mused whether the text should have been reversed so that we could actually be inside the head of the mechanism projecting to us - a sort of play on the 'Here', but maybe people would just think the projector was malfunctioning.
walk into the flame
The accompanying visuals were moodily shot artifacts from a kind of 'Ideal Home Show' living supplement. Banana racks, egg whisks and other shiny shiny gadgets.

But we were also told that the museum holding these items still contained monsters.

Maybe my space freighter thoughts were right after all?
close the gaps

Friday 4 May 2012

Trashed Organ Fringe : Ged Robinson & Degna Stone with Adam James Cooper

An extract from the Trashed Organ Fringe collaborations - "I don't think we've met?" - this time with poet Degna and musicians Ged and Adam collaborating.

Trashed Organ plays right to the curfew

A short jazzy extract from Day Four of Trashed Organ's brilliant Fringe NCLA Festival of Belonging. Thursday's theme was "I don't think we've met" and all of the pieces were collaborations.

In addition to the individual performances, the evening featured Fiona's Jazz Express, who are seen playing here right up to the performance curfew.

We've oodles of other videos and dozens of lovely pictures from Jonathan Parker's Spurious Nonsense, so expect a few more postings about the event over the next few days.

Unless I get trapped in an Italian restaurant or another bar full of musicians or even a play about a Geordie Sinatra (for example).

Thursday 3 May 2012

Kalagora at the Festival of Belonging

kalagora Kalagora arrives in New York and is given a hard time by Homeland Security. We latch into a fast moving story which flashes back to the whirling colours of Mumbai. Drama in a cigarette purchase for a wide eyed out of towner.

Then later and past the immigration officials to hedonistic living large in New York. Made up social security numbers and different type of spin surviving not as homeless, but maybe as an experimental lifestyle.

Before time in the cultural mix of London's east end. Hackney, Mile End, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green.

It's an energy packed show, written and performed by Siddharta Bose and this time in The Central, where we'd tried to create the slightly makeshift impression of a hybrid of Mumbai, Manhattan and Brick Lane.

This was a tight script. Fast paced, bursting with ideas, with rich impressions and still telling a roller-coaster story. I was there. This was a conversation.

Ingenious and unforgettable.

Check out Jonathan Parker's beautiful pictures from the event at Trashed Organ.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

flâneur a while with the trashed

It's a few days of sensory overload at the moment, with the Trashed Organ Fringe event in full swing. It was also mentioned in the Guardian on Tuesday, where it features as part of the wider Festival of Belonging.

I arrived on Monday evening and it was one of those high speed hotel turn arounds where I had eight minutes from arriving in the room to the point where I had to meet outside a certain theatre at a designated time.

I made it, but the bag wasn't unpacked.

Then it was full on until about one o'clock in the morning and a similar process repeated on Tuesday.

We even managed to get back to the local Chinese take away after it had closed. Almost unheard of.

When I get a few more moments I will post something about the event. Suffice to say it's getting well received critiques from most attendees and some have already been back for extra helpings the next evening.

Monday was 'We're all mad here' - not a stretch for some of us and then Tuesday was a relatively sober themed and enthralling evening encompassing 'Castles, Collieries and Coastlines' mixed with some flâneur.

Today I took off for a while to wander myself both through the city and also the rugged areas described in yesterday's sessions, including the deserted shipyards, a busy North Sea cable plant, part of Hadrian's wall, the fish quay area of North Shields and the lighthouse at St Mary's Island.

And in another hour or so the next evening starts, with us preparing for Siddhartha Bose's Kalagora which is about journeying from the street surrealism of Mumbai to London’s East End via Manhattan. That's at 7pm, ahead of the Trashed Organ event.

Tonight its "Anywhere I lay my head" - a Tom Waits reference, and entirely appropriate.