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Wrestling with Sass

Sassy commentary from a failed journalist

Friday List #7

  • If you’re like me and are obsessed with nice looking interiors you’ll never implement because you’re a shitpig of a human being then you’ll like This Old Apartment Tumblr. 
  • I needed a general stock image of a sign recently and ended up pursuing Unsplash’s collection of sign photography, pretty rad. Explore here  
  • Discovered another new phrase in an Alan Patridge episode of all places. ‘Noblesse oblige’  literally meaning “nobility obligates”. It denotes the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and requires the person who holds such status to fulfil social responsibilities, particularly in leadership roles. Read about it here.

Friday List #6

  • Did you know Black Flag did a bunch of sea shanty classics for the Assassin’s Creed 4 game? I didn’t, listen here. 
  • The Bielefeld Conspiracy (German: Bielefeldverschwörung or Bielefeld-Verschwörung) is a conspiracy theory that originated in 1994 in the German Usenet as a satirical look at conspiracies, which claims that the city of Bielefeld does not actually exist. Read more here.
  • Nikelab has smashed it again with the Dunk Lux Chukka x R.T. I need these in my life please.
  • Love this tapestry. While pretentious I would happily have Urban Outfitters decorate my house.

Friday List #5

  • In vino veritas translates to “in wine, truth” which suggests that when you drink you end up telling your truth even if you don’t want to. It’s something I’d like to say in conversation at some point and people would think I’m as smart as Hannibal. Read more.
  • Binging with Babish is one of my favourite YouTube series, he cooks famous dishes from TV and film and makes me inordinately hungry at lunch. Check his video on Kevin’s Famous Chilli from one of my favourite scenes in the office. Watch here

Friday List #4

  • Some really cool looking UI examples are compiled by CodeMyUI.com, lots of nice design. Read here
  • I wrote an article about pizza in Bristol for Buzzfeed, you can comment about how Flour&Ash isn’t on there here. Read here.
  • The Arnolfini in Bristol has a lot of cool looking School of Life products, founded by Alain De Botton who wrote one of my favourite books ever Essays in Love. I liked the ‘Calm’ prompt cards. Look here.

 

Friday List #3

  • If you’ve ever played Firewatch I’d recommend reading Philip Connor’s long read about working in one of the last few remaining watchtowers in America – read it here.
  • The Dinorwig Power Station is buried within Snowdonia National Park and provides a short-term rapid response to power change within the UK’s electrical grid. Basically, it’s the grid for the ‘TV Pick up’ when a popular TV has a commercial break and everyone in the UK goes to make a cup of tea – I think it’s beautiful.
  • The British Library has a Flickr account where you can look at lots of historical and archival images – have an explore.

Friday List #2

  • I went into a 90’s dark-hole a few nights ago and ended up watching lot’s of old interviews with Marilyn Manson. Having read his autobiography it’s obvious he’s a real piece of shit, but an interesting and intelligent one. Check him out of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher (Oh the 90’s were an odd time)
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  • Watch OJ: Made in America the documentary TV series tipped for an Oscar, even though it’s five 1 1/2 hour episodes rather than a movie, which The Atlantic covered in December as a changing TV/Film model for Hollywood. 
  • In March I’ll be walking up  The Pap of Glencoe in the Highlands, I’ve only done a big walk once and it nearly killed me so potentially once I get up there I’ll never come down. Pap means ‘this hill looks like a tit’ which led me to the excellent Wikipedia page Breast-shaped Hills – not dick ones tho.
  • An old article from Games Radar, but this documents the propaganda within Bioshock Infinite, one of my favourite games. Need to get some of these tattooed on me soon.

Friday List #1

Every Friday I’m going to do a round-up of some of the stuff I’ve found on the internet that I like, an ode to swiss-miss if you will.

  • I went to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and saw Jean Tinguely’s Machine Spectacle, watch his famous Homage to New York self-destructing spectacular that didn’t self-destruct.

Jean Tinguely – Homage to New York (1960) from Stephen Cornford on Vimeo.

  • I’ve been craving a Sea Breeze for a while now, I recommend you make one after a long day at work.
  • The Critics Choice nominated the 18 Best TV shows of 2016 and I’ve only gotten round to watching half of them
  • I know Hershel backpacks are kind of done, but I need something more versatile than my Eastpak for travelling, I need this, please.
  • Not going to the Women’s March but want to feel like your helping? Come to Dear Harry/Spock , a night of fan fiction fun which donates all of its proceeds to Planned Parenthood – or join Sisters Uncut for more direct action.
  • The CIA published a lot of declassified documents this week looking at things from psychics, aliens and what looks like a lot of boring meeting notes. Have a gander.

An ode to Future Advertising in Film

The 2001 movie Spy Kids is a masterpiece for many reasons.

It inadvertently created the blood-bath revenge-porn film Machete with veteran actor Danny Trejo, one of the main characters says ‘”shitake mushrooms” instead of ‘shit’ in one scene and it also features one of my favourite uses of futuristic movie advertising ever.

It’s not a major plot point that this movie is set in the future, I mean yeah there are evil villains that are just fucking thumbs, but no other future tech. But somehow one of the main characters sorts through non-branded packaging pops it in the ‘rehydrator’ and BAM Big Mac and Fries – no sauces or drink though so I assumed they eventually died of thirst.

Seriously what the fuck were these?

Perhaps you remember it because you were awed by its inventiveness and in-you-face attitude, or maybe like me you were a bit fat when you were a teenager and anything that involved a machine produced McDonalds whenever you wanted was pure genius.

I don’t want subtle, I want in your face

Obviously, there’s a bit of a backlash to advertising in movies, but as long as it fits comfortably in the film, then who cares? Even the part of Fight Club where they smash a brand new Volkswagen Beetle was advertising to some extent, it just fit with the tone of the movie.

That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the advertising that’s screaming in your face. This is especially true for movies set in the future, this gives advertisers the chance to do something cool and interesting.

There is something beautiful about how obvious in-film advertising is – a special breed that creates an alternative universe where it totally makes sense to create a futuristic microwave that pumps out junk food because it’s a the only logical way to get it into the film naturally. Personally, I love films where someone hasn’t just had a fleeting mention to something but has had to create an entire plot device to segue it in.

Demolition Man

Demolition Man is the prime example of this. After a recent re-watch of this film just because I really didn’t understand the sex scene when I was 13 and I needed to watch it as an adult and see if it made any more sense. SPOILER ALERT: It didn’t what the fuck was going on, how do babies get made.

Taco Bell being the only restaurant left in the future is a pretty famous example of pushing the advertising into the plot of a film, but it’s an excellent one. Did the screenwriter have ‘insert highest paying bidder’ here in the screenplay or were they going to a futuristic restaurant with futuristic food anyway, a la Firefly Ice Cream Planets? It’s also worth noting that we don’t have Taco Bell in the UK (why don’t we lads) so Pizza Hut was badly dubbed in to cover that.

Minority Report

If you work in advertising and marketing, I just heard your collective groan.

Okay, I get it, I heard you.

Most advertisers will have heard the Minority Report analogy probably 100 times over. Whether it’s the haptic technology John uses when he’s predicting future crimes, which is pretty cool but has been in TV shows like CSI for a while now. The ‘hot take’ I’m referencing is one you’ve probably read is around the personalised advertising that happens in the shopping mall.

Typically anything that horrifies the general population, we call you ‘consumers’ in the biz, delights and intrigues advertisers. When I first saw Minority Report I was fairly horrified at the prospect of walking into Budget Booze and a pretty model asking me “Back for more cider you fucking lush?” After a few years of taking photos of every inch of my face and tagging myself in every location the idea of my personal freedom and autonomy is now pretty “meh, who cares, we’re all dying, I don’t care if the  cyborg in Tesco reminds me I need to by onions.”

I, Robot

What was this film? I vaguely remember it. It came out in 2004. It was good? No, it was bad? It had Alan Tuydk in it, so it was probably good? But it had Will Smith in his 40-year-old teenage role right? I think I half watched this movie five times when it was on Sky Movies and I was at a loose end on a Saturday night because I had written my Harry Potter fan fiction already.

One of the main offenders for product placements as it was discussed heavily in pretty much every review of the film. But the one that really sticks out is the Converse All-stars conversation.

  1. Those shoes look fucking awful, are those canvas? They look leather and shiny and awful?
  2. This is set in 2035. Those are 2004 shoes. That old woman is what? 80? She must remember what fucking shoes looked like?!
  3. This is only 31 years in the future, I don’t see people wearing platforms from the 1970’s and scream
  4. WHAT DO SHOES LOOK LIKE NOW? I DON’T SEE ANYONE ELSES SHOES AT ALL ARE THEY WEARING LIKE PLASTIC BAGS OR ARE THEY HOVERING ABOVE THE GROUND ON TINY ROCKETS? ALL THEIR CLOTHES LOOK THE SAME?

I like the idea the screenwriter was on set and someone came up to them and was like “Look listen, Will has this idea about shoes, he just got some new Converse, he’s really into it. Can you write something about him showing them off? I know you had that whole soliloquy about the futility of man and artificial intelligence being a silent killer but can you scrap that and pretend nobody knows what shoes look like? Cheers lad”

Final thoughts

Perhaps it’s just nostalgia speaking but there was something special in 90’s about crappy advertising penetrating our everyday life. Whether it’s in films, or in the real world.

When I was thinking about this blog, I remembered one of the greatest places that ever lived. If you lived in London, or nearby like I did in the hellhole of Surrey, then there’s a chance you might have visited heaven on earth that was a celebration of gross 90’s over-advertising and futuristic world-building come to life.

Segaworld at the Trocadero was everything future advertising in films had promised me. It was perfect in every way, dark and only lit by garish neon, filled with over enthusiastic teenagers queuing to place the heavily advertised Sonic the Hedgehog games or trying to get onto the Pepsi Max, a themepark ride in the middle of the arcade. To play some of the machines you could enter ‘Sonic’ tokens while you happily sipped on a Slush Puppy.

I have fleeting memories of this place, I speculate that it may have been renamed Funland when I went as eventually the Hedgehog bucks ran out but the rides and the advertisements stayed the same. You took an escalator named Rocket to the top of the six floors of pure unaltered fun while 90’s trance music blared around you.

If the future of advertising is going to futuristic flights of fantasy into AI, chat bots and data mining. Can it be less slick? I’d like AirBnB to know less information about me, but I’d happily spend all day in an Ikea style showroom of apartments I could possibly stay in all around the world. What I’m clumsily saying is, if it’s true that millennial’s are pretty much done with products and owning things and having loyalty to brands and what they really want is the ‘experience’ of a product – then can we get back to basics? Can we have more in your face advertising that’s trying to desperately garner the positive sentiment of young people? Can they do that with lasers and neon and self-lacing shoes again?

What I’m really saying is, can we have Segaworld back please? I never got to go on the Pepsi Max drop because I was too short.

The case against homeopathy in Bristol

In a recent report by Buzzfeed on NHS funded homeopathic care in the UK, Bristol and London were revealed to be the last two places patients could receive homeopathy from the National Health Service.

Bristol and London are the two hold-outs in the entire UK, after Wirral Clinical Commisioning Group voted to end its funding this month after a public consultation showed overwhelming that the public agreed that homeopathy shouldn’t be funded by the NHS.

You may remember that in October last year, Bristol’s Homeopathic Hospital ceased offering homeopathic services. This was, in part, thanks to Good Thinking Society’s campaign to end all NHS funded homeopathic treatments in the UK. Previously the annual spend at the Homeopathic Hospital exceeded £250,000, but in 2015 the referral rate from doctors decreased meaning the total spend amounted to £32,324. A big drop, but still over 200 patients were referred by their medical doctors to a pseudoscientific center.

Bristol still funds homeopathic treatment though. Since the Homeopathic Hospital closed, the NHS passed the contract onto Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine. The PCIM describes itself as “an employee-owned social enterprise, combining the best of conventional and complementary healthcare”. Offering a mixture of private and public services, this is the place Bristol residents will go if they are offered/ask for homeopathic treatment.

The problem with homeopathy

There is overwhelming evidence that homeopathy is not as affective as conventional medicine. In 2010, a House of Commons report found that homeopathy works no better than a placebo. It also mentioned that principles on which homeopathy is based on, which is diluting agents until there are no molecules left, is “scientifically implausible”.

In fact, a few years ago an event run by the Merseyside Skeptics called the 10:23 challenge sought to prove how useless homeopathic medicine was by publically attempting to overdose on it. I’m happy to say that all participants felt no adverse effects from the challenge, in the fact they felt no effects at all.

So if we accept that homeopathy is unscientific, useless and provides no benefit to anyone. Why is the NHS still funding it, why is Bristol one of the last cities to realise what the rest of the UK clearly realised a long time ago?

The Portland Centre for Integrative Medicine has a very interesting statement on their website, “We are pleased to be able to continue to deliver the NHS Homeopathic Service, which has been part of Bristol’s healthcare for over half a century.” One of the reasons people give for maintaining homeopathy, not just as an NHS funded exercise, but as also a staple in mainstream western society – is that it’s been around for such a long time, it’s not doing any harm?

If something is earth based, plant based, has the words ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ doesn’t necessarily make it better than something that isn’t anything of those things.

When I’m taking antibiotics for an infection in my tooth, I’m not sure I care that much about it being ‘natural’ or ‘chemical-free’ – I mostly want to my face to stop feeling like a demon is trying to rip off my jaw. But I can also see someone would opt for something ‘natural, chemical-free, soil based’ if I was feeling mildly anxious and I was concerned about the side of affects of an anti-anxiety or I couldn’t wait to see an NHS counsellor – it’s totally understandable.

The problem lies in that the treatment may make you feel better, but it’s has been proven time and time again that the placebo affect also works. It’s even a page on the NHS website about complementary medicine and the placebo affect. So instead of having acupuncture, or being given lavender balm to rub on your elbows, a sugar pill would have sufficed to take away whatever was ailing you.

Unless it was something that needed real treatment, then you may have prolonged your own suffering or possibly made something minor, into something major. Do you want to take that risk? By taking something that has no reward? The harm comes when you may have opted for something that sounded nicer, rather than undergo treatment that would have helped you in the long run.

Another issue that comes up when people discuss homeopathy and its benefits is that there are lots of structures that legitimise homeopathy. There are lots of practices people don’t consider homeopathy such as acupuncture and chiropractic treatment – even though these are listed as complementary treatments by the NHS. I recently wrote an entire blog about how Chiropractors are legitimised by society, even though there is no robust evidence to prove its effectiveness over conventional treatment. Even though there are structures holding up homeopathy as a legitimate medical option, there is probably double the amount of damning actual evidence to the contrary:

• There are currently no universities that offer homeopathy as a course.

There is no legal regulation of homeopathic practitioners in the UK. This means that anyone can practise as a homeopath, even if they have no qualifications or experience.

• Homeopaths cannot advertise that any of their practices actually treat any medical conditions including social media, websites etc.

So why are we still holding out? Why are still propping up ancient institutions that don’t help people with their conditions, or if they do it’s as affective as a sugar pill? When we discovered the world wasn’t flat, did we persist in funding treatment for those who felt anxious about falling off it?

The simple answer is anecdotal evidence. All my reports, studies and quotes from people far smarter won’t change the opinion of someone whose taken holistic medicine or has seen others taken it and improved. No matter how many times you scream, “correlation doesn’t equal causation” or “the placebo effect is real” – if someone truly believes in something, it will take a lot more than facts an evidence to change their opinion.

And that’s fine; you can believe that sticking needles into your chakra will stop your migraines, or that clicking your neck will somehow stop you back pain. The difference is that I don’t want to pay for it, and Bristol shouldn’t have to pay for your indulgence because that’s really what ‘complementary medicine’ means – it means its not really needed.

 

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