Bruce Stainsby's Blog: Muttering from the mo

And now for something completely different.

November 28th, 2020

It’s been ten years since I started blogging and what a tenth year this has been.

With too much time on my hands I decided to do something different and learn some new skills.

Computer drawing was one area I hadn’t had much experience or confidence in doing.

Drawing Australian animals became the theme. 

I should have used Illustrator, but I’m much more proficient at InDesign, so I bent the rules and used that instead.

(This is a disclaimer) I used a combination of Google photos and illustrations as a basis for my own illustrations. This means that they are not entirely original, but an amalgamation of styles.

 

Now the craft is in the label.

October 31st, 2020

I love craft beer.

So much so that when we travelled across the US, from west to east and visa versa, we always looked for a brewpub first for the evening meal.

These places not only had great beers but also excellent wines and food. Their food and drinks were well priced, and they weren’t a slave to the US practice of tipping.

Most of the owners paid their staff a good basic wage and therefore they weren’t reliant on a tip to survive.

Most craft breweries have a very different approach to creating and marketing their products. Especially compared to the big breweries, who are just after volume and usually develop beers that are basic and designed not to challenge the drinker in any way – they don’t want to offend.

Over the last few years I have seen a profound change in the design of beer labels.

The craft breweries’ strategy of creating a unique product now extends to their labels as well.

The first craft beer that I discovered, with a very different marketing approach and attitude, was BrewDog. This Scottish brewery has become international with manufacturing in the USA, Europe and now Australia.

However their labels were nothing to brag about. Their point of difference was their attitude and they did go out of their way to offend in as many ways as possible.

It certainly didn’t damage their sales.

As the craft beer market, both in Australia and around the world has becomes more crowded, brewers needed to find another edge.

Now the label has become a tool to express their point of difference.

Below are a few that I have discovered.

BrewDog (the original) from Scotland. Brio from Berlin, Kaiju from Melbourne, KCBC (Kings Country Brewing Collective) from New York, Mikkeller from Copenhagen and the very minimalist designs of Singlecut, again from NYC.

 

 

We have just spent three weeks in France
during our lockdown in Melbourne.

September 21st, 2020

For three weeks of our second COVID-19 lockdown we managed to escape, not only from Melbourne, but from Australia, and tour France. 

Thanks to SBS and the Tour de France. 

Starting in Nice on Saturday August 26 and finishing on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday September 20 we traversed some amazing countryside. We experienced coastal vistas, river valleys and alpine passes.

A great part of the enjoyment is seeing France from the air. The helicopter, or possibly drone, shots capture the majesty of the French countryside and rural villages. 

One disappointment of the broadcast was that the commentators didn’t do the usual descriptions of the castles and chateaus we passed along the way. That could have been because the route the tour took might not have been in architectural heritage country. 

This aspect did improve as the tour continued but it certainly wasn’t delivered with the enthusiasm that we have experienced in past tours.

We have always watched the SBS telecast of the tour, that’s when we’ve been home in winter, but this year it was especially welcome. 

Like many in the ‘Couch Peloton’ we don’t have a huge interest in the actual bike race, but the travel was a great distraction. 

And it was surprising just how quickly the three weeks passed. 

Thanks again SBS.

 

Good news for dogs in Deutschland.

August 23rd, 2020

German Agricultural Minister Julia Klöckner

The German Agricultural Minister, Julia Klöckner, has just announced a set of new rules that apply to dog ownership in the country.

These new laws, if approved, will greatly improve the quality of life for the average German pooch.

They include that dogs must be walked at least twice a day, for a total of no less than one hour. Dogs will no longer be able to be left alone all day or tied up for long periods of time.

There are also other rules that apply to living conditions and breeding programs.

In Germany there are over 9 million dogs, with one in five homes owning a canine companion.

Last year, when we were living in Berlin, we were very impressed by how well dogs were treated and how much freedom they have.

There were always dogs walking with their ‘humans’ in the parks and on the streets. Also dogs are allowed just about anywhere: restaurants, bars, public transport and shops, except grocery stores.

However these new rules must be put in the context of how and where the average German lives.

This is a country of apartments, not quarter acre blocks, therefore dogs don’t have a large house or a back yard to run around in, so daily exercise is essential.

There is some criticism of these new rules, but one thing is certain, if they pass, it will be anything but a ‘dog’s life’ for the average German hund.

I can only assume by these actions that Minister Klöckner is a dog lover.

Hagia Sophia – what’s good and bad about Turkey.

July 12th, 2020

After 85 years the conversion of Hagia Sofia, from a museum back to a mosque, marks a turning point for modern Turkey. 

The basilica of Hagia Sophia, built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian 1, was inaugurated in 537 and apart from a few changes, especially to the dome, is largely intact.

The emperor had building material brought from all over the empire, including Hellenistic columns from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus.

It held the title for being the world’s largest cathedral for nearly 1,000 years and was a marvel of architecture and engineering.

Following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, four minarets were added to the exterior.

As part of the secularising of Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1935, the basilica was tuned into a museum. 

This UNESCO World Heritage site is the most popular tourist destination in Istanbul. In 2014 over 3.5 million people visited the museum. Since then numbers had dropped off, due to terrorist concerns, but have steadily risen again with 3 million visitors in 2019.

It has been a wonderful example of how Turkey spans both the east and west, faiths and cultures.

This retrograde step is yet another move by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative, popularist government to turn back the clock on history. It’s a rejection of the secularism that has made Turkey such a diverse and interesting country.

Isolation.

June 16th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and in an effort to ‘level the curve’ we have gone into social isolation.

From a personal point of view there are good and bad aspects in being forced to become a hermit.

The case for:

If you are a recluse like me, isolation is rather welcome – now I have an excuse not to socialise. 

Our years of travel, especially in countries with a foreign language, have taught Thea and me to become dependent on each other’s company. We may have been in bustling cities like Barcelona, or Bucharest but in essence we were on our own.

Teaching myself new skills has been a lot of fun. 

I love T-shirts and except for the rare occasion, wear one every day. 

I also like to create my own bespoke designs, with graphics that are verbal, visual and hopefully amusing. 

In the very early days of the lockdown I started to develop a range of tees featuring the facets of our new norm. No hand shaking, no touching and lots of hand washing. 

Developing the graphics for these was challenging and rewarding and taught me a lot. See my previous post ‘It’s gone viral’

Trying to help some of my Bravo Tango Bravo (BTB) clients, to weather this pandemic storm, has also been a bit of fun and stretched the mind.

Also through BTB I re-engineered the T-shirts and they were presented to a poster company. The ideas were offered free of charge with the suggestion that they run them as a community service.

I have even approached some new businesses to see if I could help. A hand sanitiser concept for Bad Shepherd, a local craft brewer and a repurposing of reusable coffee cups for Think Cups in Sydney.

 

They all fell on very deaf ears.

My brother-in-law Mark, not a man to sit around and do nothing, decided to distil some 100-proof alcohol while in isolation. From this he is making Limoncello and a Botanical Gin.

Naturally he needed some labels.

I modified my own Limoncello label for him and designed a new one for the Gin.

In researching the history of Gin I discovered an interesting story.

During the Eighty Year War (1568–1648) in Holland, English soldiers drank it to calm their nerves, this gave rise to the name, Dutch courage.

This surprising fact naturally found its way onto the label. After all, everyone loves a ‘I didn’t know that’ moment.

Our holiday house at Sorrento has always been an enjoyable retreat. Over recent months, since our last overseas trip, we have been spending two to three days a week there. 

Now it’s almost become our home. 

The roles have been switched between Sandringham and Sorrento.

We are truly isolated there. 

The house is open, spacious and on a large block of land. There are only a couple of neighbours and they are a fair distance away. 

But best of all there are many more places to walk and the tracks are varied and very often almost empty. 

We have got to know the back streets of Sorrento and Blairgowrie very well and seen parts of the amazing coastline we didn’t know existed.

Before we made the move to Sorrento we were also finding interesting new walks in Sandringham. This was in an attempt to keep away from the crowds that were now overrunning our favourite beach paths.

These walks were made more interesting by trying to spot rainbows and teddy bears.

As part of a British idea to keep kids occupied, while in lockdown, they were encouraged to create rainbows and put them up in their windows or draw then on the footpath outside their houses. They then had fun finding them in their neighbourhood when they were allowed out for a walk with their parents.

Another similar idea, this one from New Zealand, was to put teddy bears up in places so they could be again spotted by the local kids.

I did spend some time drawing a teddy and a rainbow so friends could print them off and put them on show.

While in Sorrento I have been forced to become a handyman, or sorts, making repairs rather than having it done for me.

In Sandringham I even helped a new owner install a key safe. She thought that I was very good, while I was just happy that I didn’t stuff it up.

The downside to this is my toolbox is rather meagre, so every new task I undertake seems to require a new piece of equipment.

Fortunately hardware stores are still open.

Usually when were at Sorrento we would visit the video shop, in the cinema, and get a DVD for the nights entertainment.

Yes, there is still a video shop in Sorrento.

Due to the pandemic the video shop closed so we were forced into buying a new ‘smart’ TV, in order to avoid watching ‘Free-to-air’. Now we can, almost seamlessly, continue watching the same series we were watching in Sandringham.

I say “almost seamlessly” as the TV we have in Sandringham operates on Apple TV while the new one in Sorrento is an Android.

One is a Mac and the other a PC – how ironic.

Reading is another boost to my entertainment format.

I have been through about six novels since lockdown, not all of them great, but they do help to fill in the day and night.

Owning a Kindle means that as soon as one book is finished, I can easily download another one – without ever leaving the house.

It’s the perfect quarantine library.

I get more BBQ time at Sorrento.

The grill is on the back deck and out of the weather. So most nights, when it’s not raining and the menu requires it, I BBQ.

We even invented Scarborough Fair Chicken. Naturally it’s stuffed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, all of which are now grown in our ever expanding herb garden.

I no longer carry cash. 

With so many businesses rejecting hard currency, I’ve gone digital. I’m now using an app to pay most bills – large and small. 

I’ve had $25 in my wallet for at least nine weeks. 

As international travel is off the agenda for the foreseeable future, I have started to revisit some of our past adventures.

In recent years, as we have done so much travelling, my blogs have become an electronic diary rather that an expression of my thoughts, attitudes and ideas. 

Now is the perfect time to reflect on what we have seen and done. So I have been going through many of my blogs and updated them with dates to make them more succinct.

The case against:

For a time there, when we were walking, people didn’t like you touching their dogs. This was rather a bore, especially when you are a ‘serial dog patter’ like me. 

Living 30 metres from a supermarket makes you complacent about planning your shopping. 

If we needed anything we could just walk over the road and get it. 

Now when we are in Sandringham we are trying to restrict time spent out of the apartment, so we have been forced to plan our menus. This isn’t easy, when most of our shopping has been on impulse. 

At Sorrento we are limiting our shopping to once a week, rather than four or five times per day as we have done in Sandringham. This has forced us to plan a menu rather than just come up with something on the day.

What a strange time it is.

In December I got the VicEmergency app because of the bushfire danger. Then, come April, I’m downloading COVIDSafe, for obvious reasons. 

As I have mentioned I welcomed social distancing, as it was a confirmation of my nomadic tendency. 

Then everyone discovered Zoom.  

Now People are meeting more than ever, even if it is in the cyber universe.

Many have found comfort in daytime TV and discovered programs that they would have never seen before.

Sadly, the only daytime TV we watched was the live streaming of a funeral. 

The advertising and marketing industries have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 and Bravo Tango Bravo is no exception.

I do miss the work I get from BTB, it has always been stimulating and an opportunity to develop new skills and keep up with contemporary marketing trends. Over the years I have worked on a variety of interesting clients and have learnt a lot about trucks, tradies, machinery and engineering.

Social distancing has forced the closure of sporting venues, bars, restaurants, schools, factories and a myriad other places, including airlines and even counties.

I must admit that I am missing the Friday night drinks we used to have at Hobsons in Sandringham and the odd meal out at a local restaurant.

However the biggest negative to this whole disaster is not being able to travel.

Again this year we had planned to spend several months in Europe and the US, starting in May. This new adventure was built around the wedding, in Italy, of a mate’s son and his partner, plus celebrating our granddaughter’s first birthday in Granada. This has now been cancelled and we have no idea when we will be able to reschedule our trip.

But to be very honest, this is a first world problem and we must consider ourselves very fortunate to be able to live the way we do.

There are millions around the world who aren’t as lucky and will be effected in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine.

It’s gone viral.

May 21st, 2020

As part of our forced isolation, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I have been teaching myself new skills on the computer.

Part of this has involved developing a suite of T-shirts that dramatises the new ‘social responsibilities’ that have now become the norm. 

I already had a range of Tees designed and ready to print. These were having a go at the Federal Government for its lack of action regarding Climate Change and last summer’s disastrous bushfires. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has overshadowed these events and these Tees now sit on the back-burner as unfortunately do the issues.

A catalyst for developing the COVID-19 Tees, was a ‘Call to action’ to the world’s creative community from the United Nations. The article was published in the US marketing and advertising magazine AdWeek. It was seeking submissions from around the globe for creative people to come up with ways to promote social safety and a resolve to stop the pandemic.

I felt that T-shirts were a logical platform to express these ideas, especially if they had simple graphics done with a sense of fun. 

After all, humour has always been a great way of making a serious message memorable.

I had already designed three Tees and had them printed at Tee Junction, so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a few more and make a complete set.

I have also offered all these designs, free of charge, to Tee Junction and hope that they will promote and sell them on their website. I have asked them if the profits could go to a community charity supporting the effort of the First Responders.

As another initiative, I have taken the ‘It’s gone viral’ idea and developed a range of posters. Through Bravo Tango Bravo these have been offered to a poster company in the hope that they run them to promote social responsibility.

Let’s see what happens.

It’s sad but true and also very very funny.

April 24th, 2020

 

In the midst of all the plethora of pandemic pandemonium around COVID-19, we have been bombarded with a lot of rather humorous stuff.

I first saw this on Facebook and few weeks ago and laughed at it’s poignancy. As the weeks went on and more and more finger-pointing, back-stepping, back-stabbing and lunacy emanated from the White House, I kept on thinking back to this cartoon.

Sometimes political cartoons are the funniest and that’s because truth is often stranger than fiction.

Priceless.

March 11th, 2020

In the midst of all the gloom and doom, resulting from the Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s refreshing to see someone with a sense of humour. Especially when it’s taking the piss out of all the idiots hoarding truck loads of toilet paper, in the slim chance that they are going to be put into quarantine.

I spotted this wonderfully improvised poster in a Sorrento fish and chip shop window last Saturday.

It was a long weekend and judging by the giggles from the many passers-by, it was having the right effect.

Is the Coca Cola Company clutching at straws?

February 29th, 2020

On our most recent trip to Berlin, I was surprised to see this street poster for Coke.

Roughly translated it proudly proclaims: ‘For serious pizza serve the original.’

I fully understand food and wine, matching, even food and beer matching, but food and Coke is just silly.

While the uptake of bottled water is growing worldwide, Coke’s market share, especially in Germany, is on the slide. Their worldwide business has shrunk by 2% per annum over the last ten years.

So it’s no wonder that they have adopted the rather bizarre strategy of trying to make a fizzy, sugar laden soft drink match with food.