Monday, 25 February 2013

Tate Expectations

Last Saturday I decided to seek refuge from the bitter cold in the Tate Modern. I love visiting galleries as I enjoy many forms of art; sculpture, architecture, portrait, abstract, installations etc. In short, I am open minded to all methods of creativity and expression.

I haven’t been to the Tate Modern for years so I was dubious because I know what can pass for art these days. Here are some examples of pieces that had people crowding around, staring, analysing and debating….



Mona who?

Stunning (my favourite)

I’m not going to go on about this because you can probably sense my prickly sarcasm already and I have spoken about my hatred for pretentious art in a previous post, but come on! You can either be drawn into it, which many people were, or can you see things for what they are and laugh.

I love abstract art and subliminal messages as much as the next person, but don’t paint a blue square and tell me it’s about the socialist movement attempts to forge solidarity between male and female workers in a common struggle against capitalist exploitation. Pfft.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Black Mirror - dependence on technology

Charlie Brooker’s exceptional ‘Be Right Back’, the first episode in the new ‘Black Mirror’ series, aired last night. If you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you do.

Ash and Martha are a normal couple; one minute laughing, next minute arguing, rounding off with some below average sex. She is an illustrator working on a large interactive touch screen, and his head is always in his phone; tweeting, posting videos, updating statuses – nothing unusual there.

When Ash dies, Martha is beyond devastated, and worsens when she finds out she is pregnant. Her friend signs her up for some sort of online grievance programme which collects all social media and online interaction of the deceased and combines it to mimic that person via instant messenger. ‘Hi it’s Ash’, is the first pop up message on Martha’s screen, and quite rightly she freaks the fuck out. Her overwhelming grief makes it too hard to resist; she talks back to him. It's therapeutic, but she wants more.
"The more it has, the more it's him."
She uploads all videos of him and gives the programme access to his email and accounts so it’s more like him. The programme puts together his voice and they can speak on the phone. Obviously this is where you realise that they are not in 2013 but at the same time, eerily, it doesn’t seem that far into the future.
Martha locks herself away, cancelling calls from family and friends, living this secret life and becoming completely dependant on iAsh.

All of this was making me feel weird and sad. The story so far was realistic, this could happen. As I tweeted about the programme during the break, I thought how I hope we don't become so emotionally reliant on technology (how’s that for an ironic sentence?). Life says that we can't always get what we want, but science and technology are telling us otherwise, giving us answers that should finally make us happy. In this greedy generation, we are vulnerably open to these answers because we don't want 'c'est la vie' anymore, we want 'this can be fixed'.

Obviously craving more, the next step was a real life replica of Ash. All she needed was a rubber mannequin marinated in nutrient gel, with a sprinkle of electrolytes, leave to simmer for a few hours in the dark and voilĂ ! Her very own walking, talking, sexually active human doll. At this point I found it hard to imagine this would work, but the constant heartfelt moments and an understanding of grief stopped me detaching from the story.

At first, iAsh was enough because he was there. But when cracks start appearing and he doesn’t act the same way that the real Ash would have in certain situations, she loses it. Every day it hits her more that he is not the real thing and that he never will be, but the desperation is palpable; if she lets him go, she’d eventually have to face her grief.

When technology offers you a solution where you don’t have to face your grief, why would you choose the sadder option? Would you prefer to hold on to something that wasn’t real just because it meant you didn't have to deal with a more painful truth? Is ignorance really bliss?

I felt that the final scene was ominous - a big gaping hole of helplessness and submission to a system that had been her crutch for too long.

Perhaps this ‘machines taking over the world’ prediction that is depicted dramatically in films may not consist of ginger robots exterminating us all, but that we will end up depending so heavily on technology, to the point where we are unable to cope without it and the way it makes us feel.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Present Wrapping

Usually my friends tell me exactly what they want for their birthdays. After a few years it got a bit boring; no element of surprise or excitement, no childlike joy.

So a year ago, my friend had asked for Ray-Bans. I pretended we were not getting her Ray-Bans and we were in fact getting her a swan. Obviously this was a really lame joke but I thought I should at least follow through in a way, so I wrapped her Ray-Bans up to look like a swan.

This turned out to be quite amusing and brought a bit of fun to the predictable present opening.

So I continued....

Make up and creams in a baby for my pregnant friend

Perfume in a wine bottle

A sat nav in a giant cupcake

Friday, 8 February 2013

Not-so Super Bowl ads

I can just about feign interest in the football matches of my own country, let alone America's version of the sport. However, I'm known to succumb to a little Super Bowl spirit by way of eating fried stuff with cheese on the Sunday, then after a good 8 hours sleep I YouTube the half time performance and the ads. No one can say I don't care about the Super Bowl.

Now, you can probably tell from this post's title what I thought of the ads that were shown during the match. They weren't awful really... just thought they were pretty average. A 30 second ad shown at the Super Bowl will cost the brand a cool $4million; so forgive me for thinking they would knock my socks off, but these ads could have been shown during the break of Corrie and I wouldn't have known the difference.

I won't go through them all, there are plenty of other writers who have got there before me making higher standard jokes and put downs, but I will go through some I like and dislike if you're interested...

Doritos - Hungry Goat:

What's funnier than a plastic hoof smashing a photo? Made me want Doritos.

Go Daddy - Perfect Match

Literally just barfed on my keyboard. I use Go Daddy on a regular basis for work... this has nothing to do with hosting. But yes, for attention it's good and yes, for the Super Bowl it's good, but a lot of these kind of ads I feel just have sold out to the whole sex/shock/cringe sells. Meh..

 Ram Trucks - God made a Farmer

Oooh made me feel all proud to be a farmer. 
I like the reading and the cinematography, the pace and the characters. It was wholesome and American. Classic, like the truck, and it seems like it would have felt totally right to watch during the match.

Wonderful Pistachios - Cracking Style

I'm all for a dancing pistachio, but Gangnam Style has been done to death. I was expecting to see something more fresh, more 2013. Seems this was done more for entertainment value than really selling their product; the brand name was overshadowed. Looks quite cheap and low budget, and I thought a company would shell out more for such a huge event and costly spot.

Samsung - Next Big Thing

A great comedy duo, fast paced, witty, keeps your attention, mentions Samsung a million times, shows off the phone and a couple of apps, and having the quick fire ideas in the boardroom kind of felt like you'd experienced them already. 

Mercedes Benz CLA - Car Wash

'Kate Upton washes a car!' ....what a tactic to make you watch the ad all the way through! Never seen that before! So she doesn't wash the car. And when the men are washing the car, I doubt anyone is looking at the car, they are straining to see boobs on a window. At the end it says 'to see more visit the Facebook page'. 'WOOOO I'm gonna see Kate Upton all soapy!' Wrong again. It's to see more of the car. So you have just built us up and let us down. HOWEVER, I do like the social media continuation. It gets people liking the page, even though they wouldn't normally, and does draw some attention to their site.

I noticed many of the ads, even the bad ones, had some kind of social media follow up or 'to be continued'. In 2013 this addition seems even more important than the ad itself, probably because online interaction proves to be a more successful way of getting customers; if you get their involvement, you have their attention. A simple hashtag to get involved in with on Twitter is a great and easy way to generate some buzz around your campaign. The 'Speed Stick' ad, which I disliked, had a "What's Your #handleit Moment". I thought was a good idea, but with 100's of hashtag topics a day, you really need something extra to stand out, to put yourself above the rest; and something that will last. That's the problem with hashtags and Facebook likes, they have no longevity or sustenance.

So I guess my point is: put more effort into the ad. Whether it is costing you $4million or a tenner, why wouldn't you want to have the coolest, funniest, creative, innovative ad out there? Why would you want to fade into the background with all the other mediocre sex jokes and dancing peanuts?  Even if your brand is the best selling of it's kind and you don't really need to advertise it, (take note, Coke), a lazy ad doesn't do you justice when you have so many popular brands that do it well. Show some pride in your brand, show that you know your audience, and make an impression long lasting enough to make them remember you forever.