Archive for the ‘Grumbling’ Category

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

Sunday, 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.

Is the Coca Cola Company clutching at straws?

Saturday, 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.

We must take the politics out of climate change.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020
Joel Pett USA Today 2009

Joel Pett USA Today 2009

 

Expecting that world leaders will adopt meaningful strategies to halt climate change is wishful thinking.

In the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Madrid, Spain, the majority of delegates came from the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This group consists of 197 parties and 165 signatories and they are sourced from existing governments.

There in lies the problem.

With popularism on the rise, so comes nationalism and an: “It’s all about me” approach to world issues.

Take Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy as an example.

Politicians aren’t concerned about the future of the world, only their own future prospects at the next election.

As Todd Stern — the US Climate Change envoy has said: 

“Climate change is not a conventional environmental issue … It implicates virtually every aspect of a state’s economy, so it makes countries nervous about growth and development. This is an economic issue every bit as it is an environmental one.”

A possible solution would be to take the power of these decisions away from the politicians and give it to the scientists. Both sides of parliament would, in a bipartisan election, vote for a group of eminent scholars. This would be the group that would devise the strategies and goals for our future wellbeing. 

They would be unencumbered by political divisiveness and bring a rational, science based logic to  the plan moving forward.

Obviously if this idealistic system was to work it would have to be adopted on a world wide basis.

I doubt that this could ever be achieved.

The other alternative is for people power to decide and that means that there needs to be more climate change activists and increased demonstrations – in other words revolution.

This may well work as has been seen by the reaction to seventeen year old Greta Thunberg’s growth of influence. She and her ‘School strike for climate change’ movement must be doing something right to have scared conservative world leaders and political commentators to the extent she has.

On December 12, 2019, Donald Trump, in reaction to Greta being named Time’s Person of the Year, tweeted:

“So ridiculous,” then followed up with, “Greta must work on her anger management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

So this so called world leader’s approach to climate change is to ridicule a teenager for having an opinion that differs from his.

Given the right incentive this people’s revolution could also extend to involving sport’s lovers.

On December 27th the ABC wrote:

“Extreme heat due to climate change could send cricket’s Boxing Day Test into extinction, researchers say.”

This article warned that if temperatures continue to rise, sporting events like the cricket would have to be greatly modified or even moved to another season.

There were crowds of over 200,000 at the Boxing Day test in Melbourne – they would not be pleased.

Then there are the other international public summer events like tennis, golf and the Grand Prix.

A sure way to put the average Australian offside is to threaten their sporting fixtures.

And there is the participation in summer sports by the Aussie sports lover. Just imagine the outcry if venues were to be shut down on days of extreme heat due to health risks. Tennis, basketball and netball courts closed while athletic fields, golf courses, cycle paths and even beaches would all be off limits on days when the air quality was poor.

It’s therefore no wonder that the authors of this particular article, the Australian Conservation Foundation, were encouraging Cricket Australia to take stronger climate change action.

I started to write this blog in December, before the full extent of the early bushfire season was evident. Since then, as the fires rage and spread from state to state, more news about the effects of climate inaction are hitting the headlines.

On January 9, 2020, news.com wrote this article:

“Australians believe there’s a climate emergency and want the country mobilised like it was during the wars.”

This introduced a research study, carried out by the Australia Institute, and done in November, 2019, before the bushfire crisis. It pointed out that almost two thirds of Australians want action on climate change.

Also on January 9, the ABC wrote:

“Australia suffers tourism blow from bushfires and air quality as US Department of State updates travel advisory.”

This was just a week after Tourism Australia launched a lavish television campaign, staring Kylie Minogue, aimed at getting more tourists to visit.

Then the next day, on January 10, the ABC’s TripleJ Hack wrote:

“Are we looking at the end of summer music festivals as we know them?”

This was as a result of four music festivals, Lost Paradise, Falls Festival, Day on the Green and Rainbow Serpent, either being cancelled or postponed due to bush fires or poor air quality.

Our government is even copping flack from overseas politicians, as seen in this Age article from January 10:

“British MPs attack Australia’s climate change efforts as bushfires rage.”

Australia’s emissions reduction targets were criticised as being inadequate and the Morrison government was urged to lift its game on climate change.

As British Labour’s spokesman for peace and disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, put it: 

“Any group of individuals who can look at those figures and continue to deny that global warming and climate change are real issues are equivalent to those people who still insist that the world is flat.”

He went on: 

“Yet, sadly, such individuals include the current President of the United States, Donald Trump; the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and – I say this with great regret, given what his country is currently experiencing – the current Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.”

Even the European press is having a go at our government’s policies. This article in Deutsche Welle, the German state owned newspaper, wrote on January 10:

“The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index ranked Australia last out of the 57 countries for its climate policy, describing Morrison’s conservative government as a ‘regressive force’.”

Our politicians aren’t just being lambasted overseas but here in Australia. That’s if the latest opinion polls have any bearing on the matter.

This headline was in news.com.au on January 13:

“Scott Morrison suffers a brutal poll setback as another firefighter dies amid the Australian Bushfire crisis.”

The revolution has already started, with both the Liberal party and Scott Morrison taking a hit in the polls. And there is one thing that governments, on both sides of the floor, agree on and that’s public opinion.

Rupert Murdoch has suddenly found a conscience by pledging $5 million to the bushfire appeal. But whatever you do, don’t mention ‘climate change’.

And now his son, James, has come out and strongly criticised News Corp’s stance on the climate crisis denial. 

The future of the world shouldn’t be decided by ‘Old Farts’ like me but the people that climate change will really effect – the next generation. 

And if the effects of climate change play out, as they have so far this year, then that change will come sooner, rather than later – despite what the politicians think.

“You’re welcome”

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Tray with receipt and cash

The US tipping phenomenon effects everyone.

In Eastern Europe, especially in the more remote places, if you speak English, you must be American.

Therefore you tip and tip well.

However there is often no service and in many cases a total disdain for actually serving you at all. This reflects their recent Russian heritage.

There has to be a happy compromise.

As I have bleated about before, the service industry in the US is a result of a corrupt capitalist ideology. It believes that it’s the customer’s responsibility to pay staff wages, as well as your food, not the restaurants.

This results in most Americans tipping when overseas at the same ridiculous rate that they do at home.

Something between 18% to 35%.

This ruins it for the rest of us and creates a false expectation within the service industry in these countries.

On the bright side there is little waste, as there is in the States, due to the use of proper washable crockery an cutlery.

When we do get great service, we don’t mind rewarding the staff – with about a 10% gratuity.

Then it’s a real reward not part of their salary.

Democracy is dead.

Friday, September 15th, 2017
Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy

Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy

It’s been high jacked by the ‘popularists’

The democratic process was designed so society could move forward, towards a better future, by voting in people with vision, compassion and a willingness to selflessly serve society.

We now have candidates running for office who are more interested in remaining in power than doing anything positive.

No sooner do they win an election than they put all their resources into being re elected and remaining in power.

Their only strategy is to win the next election and their only policy is to pander to their electoral base.

Any media who is against them is considered ‘fake news’, any opposition organisations are regarded as ‘terrorists’ and any inquiries into their behaviour is a ‘witch hunt’.

They try to divide the citizens into good and bad.

This phenomenon isn’t restricted to crackpots and political minions like Pauline Hanson or Jackie Lamby in Australia. It’s playing out on a world stage, at a very high level.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Beata Maria Szydło in Poland, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Hun Sen in Cambodia and even, as unlikely as it may seem, Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, who has turned a blind eye to the ethic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.

The list goes on.

And let’s not forget, Donald Trump in the USA.

They all claim that they have a mandate and are doing if for the ultimate good of the people.

Foreign policy is even used as tool to promote the local popularist agenda.

The increased US sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea will do nothing to solve the issues. They will however pander to Trump’s electoral base.

The same goes for the right wing Polish government’s demonising of Lech Wałęsa, a pivotal figure in the Solidarity movement.

And now, Erdoğan is encouraging the Turks, living in Germany, to vote against Angela Merkel because of her opposition to his draconian measures.

History has also had its fair share of those seeking the popular vote.

Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, Tito in Yugoslavia, Franco in Spain. And more recently Frank Bainimarama in Fiji.

They are just a few who have come to power with a popularist agenda. Which usually involves marginalising some part of their society.

Then there are the countries that have tried to avoid popularist politics by holding a referendum on divisive issues.

That didn’t all go well for the Conservatives in the U.K.  Now they have Teresa May and Brexit to contend with.

There’s also trouble in the UK, north of the border, with Scotland wondering how they will survive when they are out of the EU.

Closer to home we have Malcom-in-the-Middle wondering what to do with an ex PM who seems to want to grab onto the popularist mantle and do a Lazarus, back to the top spot.

Abbott is also playing a sly hand with branch politics within the Liberal Party – some might even call it ‘branch stacking’.

All this back room politicking is happening in Australia, while housing is becoming unaffordable, infrastructure needs replacing, banks and aged care facilities are screwing their customers, climate change and aboriginal rights are being politicised, and farmers are being sidelined by the supermarket chains.

Now same sex marriage has gone to a postal vote, because the politicians don’t have the guts to have a ‘conscience vote’.

Basically no one is looking to the future.

The collective eyes are most definitely off the ball.

Many Australians seem to share my view about the demise of the current political system.

According to research, commissioned by the Museum of Australian Democracy in 2016, satisfaction with democracy has halved over the last decade.

The same research also found that federal governments, of any persuasion, were incapable of solving current issues.

The Athenians, led by Cleisthenes, established the first democracy in 508 to 507 BC.

Democracy has always been considered as the answer for social justice and equality. A system that allows all members to have equal say and power. (However this form of ancient democracy did exclude women, slaves, men under 20, foreigners and non-land owners.)

The Greek meaning of democracy is ’the rule of the people’

Popularists polarise and try to convince the electorate that only they have the answers.

If you’re not with them, you are the enemy of the people and therefore against everything that they believe is ‘good and just’.

Articulation is the answer, the ability to convince people that there are alternatives.

Not a popularist way but a way forward – one that delivers benefits to all of society.

Not policy on the run at 120 character bursts of incongruity.

There is hope and it comes from North America, Europe and across the ditch in New Zealand.

Emmanuel Macron in France, Justin Trudeau in Canada and Jacinda Ardern in NZ are offering sane, sensible and rational alternatives.

They are seen as a ray of hope, in a world of turmoil.

It will come down to how well these young, new wave, politicians can articulate their vision for the future.

Let’s hope that more politicians can move their countries forward, not just push their own agendas.

This will only happen if they can get society involved in the debate and participate in the decision making.

Then democracy may yet survive.

Whatever happened to service?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

This is where the service has gone

Ever since the post Second World War boom in consumerism, the customer has always been placed first in the US.

“The customer is always right”, was the catchphrase

Now, “Put profit first”, takes that mantle.

Auto manufacturers lost the plot in Detroit during the 80s by building cars they wanted, and ignored their customers needs. Now the service industry has done the same.

Service appears top of mind when you are in restaurants and hotels but it’s very far from reality.

Everything is done for the convenience, and profit, of the establishment, not for the benefit of the customer.

If you don’t order enough you’re frowned upon. At the Biltmore Estate we were literally scowled at for not ordering a full meal each. Thea had a side-salad and soft drink and I had a coffee, as I don’t usually eat lunch.

Their issue was the bigger the bill the greater the tip and we therefore didn’t warrant the effort.

In most Brewpubs we visited in the eastern US, you couldn’t carry your bill from the bar to the restaurant. Why? Both the bar staff and the ‘wait staff’ need to have their separate tips.

The same happens at the end of a shift. You are rushed to finish your meal so the staff can close your account and get the tips earned during their shift.

This isn’t about you, but all about the staff making tips and the restauranteur making profit.

The tipping regime is out of control.

Most ‘wait staff’ get the standard rate of $2.13 per hour – this is below the poverty line. They ultimately hope to make about $25 per hour, which comes from tips.

In effect you are paying their wage, not their employer.

Most restaurants include a ‘suggested tip’ on your bill this starts at 18% and goes as high as 35%.

Then taxes are included before the tip is calculated.

Your hotel room won’t get serviced, unless you ask. There are no longer, ‘Please clean my room’ hangers to put on the door.

The excellent concept of not changing sheets and towels every day has been extended to no service at all. Beds aren’t made, floors aren’t vacuumed, even the bathroom isn’t cleaned.

This has nothing to do with the environment, they do this to cut down on staff.

Everything is plastic and disposable.

Most cafés don’t offer anything but disposable cups, plates and cutlery, which you are expected to clear away when you are finished. However the counter staff still expect a tip.

The cost of the disposable crockery and cutlery is offset by not having to employ staff to clear tables and wash dishes, at $2.13 per hour.

Again the customer loses out.

At breakfast, In most hotels and motels, even the milk for your coffee only comes in half pint (236ml) containers.

Most people only use a fraction of the contents, the rest goes in the bin.

In effect service has gone into the trash, along with everything else.

Now I know it’s time to retire.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

AI-CD β

The world’s largest advertising agency, McCann Erickson, has just hired an artificial intelligence (AI) creative director (CD) – his name is AI-CD β.

This has got me worried.

AI-CD β is designed to work alongside the humans to develop the look and feel of the advertising. It is automated to troll through award winning commercials, that have been tagged as relevant. From that data it develops a brief, of what the commercial should look like, then humans take over and come up with a creative concept.

AI-CD β has a physical presence and is capable of writing the brief for the human creative team. As this bot was developed by McCann Ericsson in Japan, the brief is written in Japanese calligraphy.

To my mind this process is back-to-front in two ways.

Firstly, the look of the commercial should be driven by the idea, which should come first. The creative concept should contain the hook, or idea, that gets the consumer involved and then gives the commercial relevance and memorability.

Secondly, great creative thinking doesn’t come from copying another idea but from creating something that is uniquely different.

There is however another aspect to this use of an AI-CD that’s of more concern.

And that’s if this concept takes-off, and bot creatives become the norm and are successful, who will go up to the podium to collect the awards?

http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/future/article/2016/04/26/when-new-guys-robot

All’s not well in the Spamasphere. 

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Disaster_strikes

There has been a strategy shift in the spam I get – it’s moved from greed to fear.

I receive up to six spam emails a day, and until recently they have all played on the greed factor to try and get me to respond.

I have won competitions, had thousands of dollars put into my account and been offered amazing money-making schemes.

All I have to do to unlock this wealth is to ‘Click here’

I know that they more than likely contain malware or are using ‘phishing’ to get personal information – I have therefore never clicked on anything to find out.

They seem to get around the text-based junk mail filters by disguising the content using numerals instead of letters and inserting punctuation in the middle a word.

‘The first thing you need to do is c0llect your c0mmissi0n ch.eck of 6,492.94. Set up your details here:

This has suddenly all changed.

I am now getting, with equally annoying regularity, a different form of spam. These all relate to impending disasters that will be unleashed on the USA, changing the American way of life forever.

And I don’t think they are referring to Donald Trump.

Subjects like: ‘The Imminent Danger From Within Our Borders’ and ‘The Worst Crisis Within US History is Almost Here’ now grace my inbox.

The ‘Click here’ relates to viewing secret reports or videos that will reveal these dastardly plots.

Conspiracy is now the new reason to ‘Click here’

Also to be found at the base of these emails is another link:

‘If you want to unsubscribe from our list. Click here

By clicking to unsubscribe you are actually verifying your email address.

Of course the spam will continue – that’s unless disaster strikes first.

Put the magic back into advertising.

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

rabbit_and_hat_6

The only way a client will buy an idea is if it’s sold to them.

These days they just don’t buy it without a solid, business based, rationale.

In the past an ad agency was a magnet for clients. They were drawn there because it was a wonderful world of clever thinking and creativity.

Yes, there was booze, long lunches and pretty girls but there were strange people who dressed differently and, more importantly, thought differently. They were challenging, aggressive and they had ideas that were beyond the client’s grasp but, strangely, they seemed to work.

Clients trusted the agency to create solutions that would help their business grow.

So why did the clients suddenly decide they could do it all themselves?

It wasn’t sudden, it took years, because over time we abrogated our responsibility.

We took the path of least resistance.

We failed to quantify the ROI that good creativity can deliver and settled for delivering ‘what the client wanted’ rather than ‘what the client needed’

In other words it was easier to capitulate than fight. This resulted in the client believing that he was right.

Once that happened it took the magic out of advertising.

The client then believed that they could come up with the ideas and they could make the ads. All they needed was a Mac and a technician.

The rest is history.

They now have the Macs, the technicians and a belief that agencies are nothing but a cost centre that they can probably do without.

There is also a belief that the media is the message.

Success won’t come by simply having a presence on Facebook or YouTube. These messages still need to have an idea, one that will catapult them beyond being just a public announcement.

We have to put the magic back.

This will only happen once we give our clients something that they can’t do themselves. And that is still clever creative thinking.

However there is no magic wand that we can wave to return the status quo. We now have to ‘prove’ our worth by justifying the value of that creativity.

This will come down to statistics and the ability to quantify how a creative approach is worth the perceived risk.

It will also come from reintroducing the idea that a creative solution is also better value for money than a mediocre one, or no idea at all.

Creativity sells, it always has done and still does now.

Agencies once promoted themselves as being the conduit between the client and the consumer – we have forgotten how important that is. By connecting the client and consumer, through great advertising ideas, we can again prove our worth.

Short term thinking and instant rewards are no excuse for taking the easy way out. Clients need to look seriously at their brand, its lifecycle and then be made aware of how important building a sustainable, long term, brand image is.

We must educate them to be able to articulate the importance of their brands to their senior managers.

In most cases we are not dealing with decision makers within our client’s business. At best we are talking to the people who have the power to say “Maybe”.

Arming the timid marketing person with the arguments to sell strategies and great ideas must be part of what we do.

Great work isn’t bought by clients, it’s sold by agencies. Advertising is the art of selling and great ideas need to be sold.

Niagara Falls, one of the un-natural
wonders of the world. (August 2015)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

DSC07061

We wanted to see Niagara Falls and were told that the best views were from the Canadian side. Both the American and Horseshoe Falls can be seen from the western side of the Niagara River and this is in Ontario, Canada.

We arrived mid afternoon and as our motel was a fair distance from the attractions we decided to walk down to the falls and stay there for dinner.

Visiting Niagara Falls is like seeing one of the Wonders of the Natural World on a wide screen TV.

Apart from the falls themselves there is nothing natural about the surroundings or experience. They are the pinnacle of commercial exploitation of a natural phenomena.

Hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, casinos, shopping centres and viewing points dominate the scene.

Then after dark the falls are bathed in an un-natural spectacle of coloured flood lights with a fireworks display on Friday and Saturday nights.

To compound the influence tourism has had, the water is regulated to flow less, after dark, when the tourists aren’t around. This is primarily to allow more water to be diverted for hydro electricity generation – it’s still screwing with nature.

The falls are spectacular, if you look beyond the commercialism, but it is a strain on the imagination.

This however isn’t a new phenomenon with world acclaimed tourist destinations.

The view of the Golden Arches (AKA McDonalds) behind the pyramids of Giza, is testament to this.

The first recorded siting of the falls, by a westerner, was by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604. I am sure that what he viewed with amazement back then, looks nothing like what tourists fall over themselves to see today.