Here comes the sun… and I say… its alright.

It’s a funny thing the weather. It affects our planet, it’s life, it’s death, it’s unpredictable, its an ice-breaker, it’s hot, its stormy, it’s cold, it’s cloudy, it’s warm, chilly, sunny… it’s what I wear every morning, what I eat every afternoon and how I travel home each night. It’s winter-blues and happiness. It changes with each year, each season, each month, week, day, hour, minute…

I think we underestimate the weather sometimes and at other times we are reminded of its power.

I love most types of weather. The rain soothes me, the wind makes want to stay indoors, the snow evokes my childhood and the sun makes me smile. It always seems to be on my side.

Today, feeling exhausted, drained and stressed – I looked up and saw the sun peering through the clouds, shining down on my face and at that moment I felt warmth, satisfaction and an array of bursting emotions. So rare it is to see the sun these days that you saviour every little moment you can get and as with most good things – you always miss it when it’s gone.

I leave you in the entertaining hands of the Beatles.

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20th Century Philosophy meets a 21st Century Reality

At some point, in my attempt to understand the world and all that it entails, I turned to philosophy and discovered the great Theodor W. Adorno. Belonging to the Frankfurt School of thought, he (and Max Horkheimer) was responsible for the Dialectic of Enlightenment, and I consider him to be a true visionary. In my opinion, his 20th century social criticism can be easily applied to the 21st century,  no matter how different things are today.

As an homage to him, I have tried to do something a little bit different. I took some of Adorno’s random quotes and stitched them together to build up my own cluster of collective thoughts. The only writing in the piece that is mine are those words that bind the quotes to make them a sentence (and to ultimately make sense) and the punctuation. Each quote is clearly marked with quotations, so anyone that’s interested can see where Adorno’s thoughts begin and end.

In the age of the individual’s liquidation, the question of individuality must be raised anew where lies are told only to convey to someone that one has no need either of him or his good opinion. Life has become the ideology of its own absence and it can be said that love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar. Modernity is a qualitative, not a chronological, categorywhere the human is indissolubly linked with imitation: a human being only becomes human at all by imitating other human beings. This idea leads us to think that not only is the self entwined in society; it owes society its existence in the most literal sense thus there can be no emancipation without that of society.

The individual mirrors in his individuation the preordained social laws of exploitation, however mediated”,  “because thought has by now been perverted into the solving of assigned problems, even what is not assigned is processed like a problem. Today, self-consciousness no longer means anything but reflection on the ego as embarrassment, as realization of impotence: knowing that one is nothing and true thoughts are those alone which do not understand themselves.

The task of art today is to bring chaos into order, during a time where happiness is obsolete: uneconomic and art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different, and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane. But is it true that quality is decided by the depth at which the work incorporates the alternatives within itself ?

Finally, the almost insoluble task is to let neither the power of others, nor our own powerlessness, stupefy us and to accept that in the abstract conception of universal wrong, all concrete responsibility vanishes. In the end, glorification of splendid underdogs is nothing other than glorification of the splendid system that makes them so.

You can find all the quotes on various quote sites and the Dialectic of Enlightenment on Amazon.co.uk

The Trafalgar Pub

I’m on the Kings Road, sitting in Starbucks, sipping a far-too-milky latte even though it’s about a million degrees outside. There is an informal interview taking place before my eyes, and if I were on the hiring end, this girl would get the boot. It’s not my concern though, so I’ll just go back to my own thoughts.

In honor of being on Kings Road, I’ve decided to review a place on this very road, in the heart of Chelsea. Recently renovated (I think more than a year now); The Trafalgar Pub definitely has its own unique personality. It’s also a massive waste of a perfectly good spot on this famous road, where someone with half a brain could start up a really great pub in its place.

Before I go on, I have to mention that my criteria for a good bar/pub do not revolve around price.  My critique stems from an extensive background in the Hospitality Industry, where I’ve held every job under the sun. Hence, my judgment is not clouded by fancy patterns on the carpet or cheap drinks, but is focused on the level of professionalism possessed by all the members of the staff.

The day in question was St. Patrick’s Day and the bar was quite full (it usually is). We managed to get a table over in the “restaurant” section, and sat down to wait for another friend. Immediately, I noticed that the table was stickier than flypaper. After looking for the waitress for about 20 mins, I called her over and asked her to collect the dirty glasses, and to wipe down the table for us. She said, “OK”, and vanished. I held down the fort while my friend went to get drinks, and when she returned she was laughing at the fact that the barwoman didn’t know what Weiss bier was and kept telling her that they don’t serve “Rice”….. :O

Our friend finally arrived, but the waitress that was supposed to clean the gross table must have gotten lost somewhere on the way. Finding her had now become essential because my friend was hungry and wanted to order food. Found, captured and reeled in, the waitress finally came to the table. Her first order of business was to clean the table…which she did, badly, because it was still sticky after she finished. Bored and puzzled she then took the order:

Prix Fixe Menu two courses – £9.50 – Starter: Salt and pepper squid with lime mayo – Main: 8oz West Country beef burger with smoked bacon and cheddar served with chips

I usually advise against Prix Fixe Menus but there was no other choice at that time. Knowingly, I didn’t expect much…the hungry person was hopeful. While we waited for the food, we went to the bar to order drinks. There was a lot of confusion at the bar and an extremely clueless barwoman tried to take orders from the thirsty customers. She skipped us a couple of times, and as I was about to make myself noticeable (not in a good way), the manager came and asked us what we wanted. I did my usual “Let’s talk ales” number, and the manager was amused, so I tried a couple and decided on Franziskaner on tap, a Weissbier that is usually my Plan B when available. Happy and stocked with alcohol, we returned to the table.

The food was not there when we returned but came soon after. The appearance of the squid served on a wooden board was appalling and the burger had the familiar “rustic” look, served on another identical wooden board. The grease was already saturating both boards and I was very reluctant to try, but I bit the bullet and went for it. The squid successfully coated my mouth with oil, bad oil, and being Greek, I felt aggravated. I tried a chip from the burger board and of course it was brown solidified oil, so that was the end of that. I didn’t try the burger that was falling apart after one bite, but my friend was not impressed either.

Summary so far : Food sucks, service is non-existent, waitresses and barwomen are on different planets and the whole place looks like a college kid’s dorm room because no1 taught the staff to pick up & clean dirty tables. Great…

I was getting bored with the situation and my last stop before departure was a trip to the toilet. I entered and found the clueless barwoman resting on one of the sinks, rapidly tapping away on her blackberry. She looked up…and then looked down. I went to wash my hands and she didn’t want to move, but had to so that she wouldn’t get wet. I found all this extremely funny, and so I went to tell my friends… We left soon after, crossed the road and waved “Goodbye” to a confused, unorganized and indifferent Trafalgar on Kings Road in Chelsea.

The Trafalgar Pub Chelsea – 200 King’s Road, SW3 5XP (The Trafalgar is a trading name of Mitchells and Butlers Leisure Retail Limited)

Just a Lazy Sunday on a Google Maps Walk…

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be able to go on a walk through my computer, I would think you were insane. It’s very uncommon for me to do things like this because I prefer to explore the world physically and outside, however today was a very very lazy day….

After waking up late, it took about an hour to decide on what to eat. My freshly brewed Bialetti espresso was taking its toll on my stomach, so it was time to “feed”. The meal was simple : Scrambled eggs with chives + parsley, grilled beechwood smoked frankfurters and some buttered toast on the side! With a full belly, “lounging” was the action of the day….

While doing my usual browsing, I came across the www.kingsroad.co.uk Facebook page and one of their posts gave a link to a site called Soundmap. Here I found my activity for the day : an audio tour designed around walking through famous London areas which I decided to experience virtually from my couch! Accompanied by the soothing voice of the tour guide and with the help of Google maps  (Street View) – I took a virtual walk through the historical streets of Soho and learnt a couple of fascinating things!

Who knew that Karl Marx lived on top of Quo Vadis restaurant on Dean Street? Or that Mozart once resided in the building opposite from Ronnie Scott’s? As a person who didn’t grow up in London, I was unexpectedly slapped in the face with a new-found respect for this city. Next time I’m in Soho, I’ll definitely be looking up for those blue commemorative plaques…

The day is coming to a close and my green lentil soup with herbs, spices & tomatoes will be eaten with an oozing grilled cheese sandwich on the side. I’ll end this post by saying that I HIGHLY recommend the audio walks on Soundmap (or any other ones you can get a hold of) , which would make an interesting & educational activity for any boring weekend. I love you Google Maps, but my next walk will definitely be a real one.

So…Red

Greetings fellow bloggers, this is Red – glad to be joining as a contributor to The Critical Eye‘s blog… So why Red? Other than being my favorite color, it just stands for so much more. Let me explain:

About a year ago, I saw one of the most captivating plays on the London Stage – a play about Mark Rothko called RED, written by John Logan. Being an avid theatre goer, this was a must see for me. The play was sold out but I somehow still managed to get standing tickets for the closing night performance.. let me just say it was definitely worth every uncomfortable second I stood leaning over the bar, mesmerized by each word that came out of Alfred Molina‘s mouth. It was one of those raw, beautiful experiences which you can only get from live theatre. Brilliant performances & brilliant writing. See below extract from the play:

ROTHKO: What does ‘red’ mean to me? You mean scarlet? You mean crimson? You mean plum-mulberry-magenta-burgundy-salmon-carmine-carnelian-coral? Anything but ‘red’! What is ‘RED’?

KEN: Sunrise is red and red is sunrise… Red is a heart beat. Red is passion. Red wine. Red roses. Red lipstick. Beets. Tulips. Peppers.
ROTHKO: Arterial blood.
KEN: That too.
ROTHKO: Rust on the bike on the lawn.
KEN: And apples…And tomatoes.
ROTHKO: Dresden firestorm at night. The sun in Rousseau, the flag in Delacroix, the robe in El Greco.
KEN: A rabbit’s nose. An albino’s eye. A parakeet.
ROTHKO: Florentine marble. Atomic flash. Nick yourself shaving, blood in the Barbasol.
KEN: The Ruby Slippers. Technicolor. That phone to the Kremlin on the President’s desk.
ROTHKO: Russian flag, Nazi flag, Chinese flag.
KEN: Persimmons. Pomegranates. Red Light District. Red tape. Rouge.
ROTHKO: Lava. Lobsters. Scorpions.
KEN: Stop sign. Sports car. A blush.
ROTHKO: Viscera. Flame. Dead Fauvists.
KEN: Traffic lights. Titian hair.
ROTHKO: Slash your wrists. Blood in the sink.
KEN: Santa Claus.
ROTHKO: Satan.

ROTHKO: So…red.

Awesome Advertising. NOT.

When I was young, I remember watching all the commercials on TV in awe, thinking, “When I grow up, I wanna make ads too”. That of course was a time when advertising wasn’t vulgar, uninspiring or unintelligent. If you think back to series of ads/campaigns like Kelloggs Froot Loops , Jell-O, McDonald’s or Coca Cola, what is most evident is, that back then brands made a point of interacting with their customers. Twenty first century advertising doesn’t function like that. Both the ad agency and the brand focus on irrelevant factors like hiring famous people to make fools of themselves on screen, or producing ads that make no sense, with the main purpose of just looking “cool”. To be fair, advertising varies according to country, and some do it better than others, but I think there is definitely a general lack of creativity and depth worldwide.

In this post I will tackle the world of advertising in the UK and talk about some recent ads, in no specific order, that really get under my skin. It’s a shame when it becomes painfully obvious that people shouldn’t be where they are today. I don’t know what the criteria are when ad agencies in the UK are looking to hire employees. Is it a matter of networking? Looks? Sexual favors? whatever it is, it’s definitely NOT talent.

1. Swiftcover’s “Get a life. Get Swiftcovered” Campaign – I’m not sure where to begin talking about this one. I’ll start by saying that I feel sorry for 800 year old Iggy Pop for stooping so low, and at the same time I want to point a finger and laugh at whoever came up with the concept for this campaign. I like to think of it as a joint failure, made up of a team of “experts” from ad agency MWO and of course the Swiftcover.com Marketing Team. To further enhance the ridiculousness, they launched a new batch of ads starring Iggy and “little Iggy” which only cost £30million to make….! Verdict: STOP these ads before people’s heads start to explode……oh and Iggy, PUT YOUR SHIRT BACK ON (video)

2. Moneysupermarket.comWhat can you get for a mere £15 million? Answer : A series of 30-60 second videos starring “comedian” Omid Djalili trying to be funny in his approach to criticize the British cultural norm of ‘not haggling on price’. I understand the concept…..I hate the way its been dealt with. The whole thing is crass, tacky and unrefined. Hats off to ad agency VCCP for giving the world Aleksandr Orlov the meerkat, and pants down to ad agency MCDB for going the complete opposite direction and proving once again that some people in their office should go work at Tesco.(video 1) (video 2)

3. Birds Eye Polar Bear – Well, we knew there was something wrong with Willem Dafoe when we tried to wrap our heads around the movie Antichrist (2009), but I don’t think anyone expected him to turn into a polar bear. He sounds like a perv, and the script is meaningless. Apparently, no one likes to cook chicken…?!#$? (video). Once again a “good” concept is butchered, proving that Mad Men really don’t exist anymore. I guess the kids over at AMV BBDO took the £9 million+ for the campaign and hit the pubs on what probably turned out to be a great night.

4. Virgin Atlantic “Your airline’s either got it or it hasn’t” – I will never travel with this airline just because of this ad. The part that gets me the most is the end where they ask if “that’s Linda”….why?! A failed attempt to produce a James Bond themed campaign has set Richard Branson back an insignificant £6 million. The creative team at ad agency RKCR must be saturated with ideas for now, but even so, my advice for their next project is to put their thinking caps back on…or just on. (video)

5. UK Snickers Ads featuring Mr T…..?!@#$ BA Baracus (A-Team) has been MIA for a while now and I doubt anyone ever expected him to have a glorious comeback. Where on earth did Ad agency AMV BBDO get this mind-blowing concept from?! I love Snickers bars but I just don’t get this. This ad was never aired in the USA. Here’s a video and an article on why it was pulled Click here

6. Churchill’s Car Insurance – ‘Despise’ is not a strong enough word to convey my feelings for that dog. It’s an overall weird, obnoxious and creepy character that cant stop saying “Oh Yes…”. The ads themselves are unappealing and ad agency WCRS has manged to annoy rather than ‘advertise’.  The agency didn’t do their homework when conjuring up this masterpiece. The ad claimed that customers could “make a claim without filling out a form,” which  later on proved to be misleading. Every time the ad plays on TV, I either mute the volume or simply change the channel.  (video)

7. JLS Wii Party – I don’t wanna talk about it…(video) Ad agency : Karmarama (campaign includes more celebrity cameos)

8. “Goo Dares Wins” Cadbury Creme Egg – is there anyone out there that actually likes this 20 second spot? Nothing good comes to mind whenever I watch this….and I definitely don’t want to eat a Creme Egg at the time either. It’s part of Cadbury’s Spots Vs Stripes Campaign (which isn’t amazing) but I think it’s been done really badly. Cadbury is working with agencies Fallon, PrettyGreen, PHD and CMW. Fallon is responsible for this specific one with the Creme Eggs. I get the idea, I hate the execution and that ANNOYING voice in the end…. (video)

9. 118 118 “Who you gonna call?” – TACKY, OUTDATED, CHEESY, GROSS …I can’t believe The Brooklyn Brothers (ad agency) actually thought this idea was anything more than an office joke. Who comes up with this stuff?!?! (video)

10. GoCompare.com “Opera Singer” – ……………….nonsense and noise (video)

 

With a background in Communications, I can assure you that I’ve completed University projects that are more intelligent and FAR MORE creative than some of the work that these agencies spit out every now and then. Does all this mean that UK Ad Agencies are just a false reality of flashy websites, a plethora of shallow promises and stagnant teams of people with no depth? I think this will be the topic of a post in the very near future…..

‘Bruma’ @ 20 Projects

Tonight, I’m off to Hoxton for a private viewing of this exhibition at 20 Projects. Here’s some info on what’s on (this is their Press Release):

BRUMA
Presented by Alexander Dellal and Revolver Gallery, Peru, With the support of Mario Testino
At 20 Hoxton Square | 24th March 2011

A group show exhibiting emerging artists from Peru, selected by Revolver Gallery in Lima and introduced to London by Mario Testino.

“…has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions. I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality.” Herman Melville. Moby Dick, 1851

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