Saturday, May 31, 2014

Finding Aristotle at CityLit

Today I further exercised my interest in Philosophy with an introduction to Aristotle at the City Lit in Keeble Street The day long session was called Philosophy and the Ancient Greeks: Aristotle and the Tutor was John Goff.

It really is amazing to be reminded of what Athens produced in the way of pioneering thought over two and a half thousand years ago - Aristotle was a part of a continuum that covered Thales, Socrates, Plato and which continues to cast a shadow over the so called ' modern' philosophers.
Nice quote from Aristotle
Aristotle who had been Plato's star pupil at the Academy was of a scientific persuasion with a deep interest in Marine Biology, he pretty much invented Meteorology and has left around 30 books to show the amount of work he completed in his 62 years.

Although there are of course areas that have been refined by other thinkers his work offers a beacon to areas worth of investigation across Theory, Phronesis and Techne - his central thesis was that we (man) pursue happiness, but happiness here is more about flourishing than a simple hedonistic pleasure.

It was nice to see that CityLit does not have only one great presenter on Philosophy ( - John's style was different from Scott who taught  a  course I attended earlier in the year but was equally engaging and straightforward (as it could be considering the subject)

Here's a link to the slides that were the basis of the session and below is a 3 minute excursion

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rothko, Art and Technology

On Wednesday I took the chance I had while in town to look at the returned Rothko (the 'Black on Maroon' that was  vandalised about 18 months ago ) in Tate Modern, it looks good and it's pleasing to see what a fine job the restoration team has made to the damage inflicted.
Along with a view of the Robert Mapplethorpe  photo's that are currently  on display it was a highlight of my all to brief visit.

When one looks at an academic  subject  there are generally  a few approaches that one can take, you can talk about it, do it or look at the history of it- well often with art we favour the first two but there is a worthwhile exercise in looking at the evolution of Art as a discipline which has reflected the times it is is practiced in.

Let's face it the Artist is a relatively new career creation  before that it was a craft job that an artisan did to  produce sculpture and other works. Look at how photography pulled the rug from under those practising realist representation - like the bar jukebox had for many a troubadour.

Thinking more about the Rothko works and the general visual arts materials it is hard to avoid the fact that
The 'bubble' art created by these guys near Tate Modern
 is still  hard to replicate by modern technology.
the owning and curating of works will change.

Just as the rise of easy to use materials and colleges where art is taught has democratised production  so the new technologies of high quality display and printing will further dilute the power of elitism.

 Often on seeing the original I have seen detail and texture unavailable on-line or in reproduction but digital technologies can now address this.

Why when one can see a fantastic image on an Ultra High Definition screen is the original so essential?
Will 3D printing mean that we can all have great artifacts to cover our home shelves?

There is by the nature of too many things and not enough time a need to choose the 'best' but why shouldn't I have the Richard Hamilton retrospective in my own living room?

Is there something about the shared experience which galleries and museums provide that means more?

Why when we can hear fantastic music by the best musicians in the world do we choose (some of us) to go to a field or uncomfortable concert hall to hear a lesser performance?

(By the way the returned Rothko looks nothing like the images seen in the news coverage.)
A panorama view  outside Tate Modern

TV technology session at London RTS

The overwhelming impression I had from the presentation called 'The Future of Innovation in Television Technology' or FITT for short  given by  Richard Lindsay-Davis, Director-General, DTG and Peter Sellar, Programme Manager, DTG  at the final RTS London session of the season was that Britain had moved even further from the engineering production of high technology broadcast systems to the deployment and joining up of systems - we're advanced in watching TV but not so great at making the bits that enable it- shame.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lisson Gallery (Ai Weiwei & Richard Long) and the delights of the area.

Ai Weiwei

Take a seat
Yesterday I was quite excited at the prospect of seeing more off the work of Ai Weiwei I'd been intrigued by the documentary shown on BBC 4 about his run-ins with the Chinese authority and expected great things of him - needless to say I was initially disappointed, a series of photographs of the artists hand - selfies with Ai Weiwei giving various institutions around the world the 'finger ' (for example London's Houses of Parliament) .
Joseph and the bicycles

Also in the exhibition were assemblages of cycle parts, and marble chairs made to look like DFS sofas - perhaps Ai Weiwei's art is himself? (as depicted in a film there- he did study first at the Beijing Film Academy ), I'm not sure an important figure perhaps but maybe not an important artist .

Richard Long 

After Ai we went across the road to 52 Bell Street to look at some of the offerings of the Walker artist  Richard Long - I saw an exhibition related to this genre in Ealing some time back (called Walk On: 40 Years of Art Walking) and it's an area of life that an artistic investigation into  does have some merit but unlike much art it is not easy to monetize.
Long seems to be a part of British tradition allied to the arts and crafts movement about a bygone idyll as was clearly reflected in the crafts approach that could be seen in the work displayed.

The environs

As is my habit I try and arrive early for meetings particularly if it's an area I'm unfamiliar with - so yesterday I
was in good time for our planned meet at the Lisson Gallery in Bell Street near Edgware Road so I went and did a little explore.

Near Edgware Road is an area known as Little Venice and here at  No. 2 Maida Hill West  I came upon the former home of Arthur Lowe- he was the iconic Captain Mainwaring in the ultra successful BBC Comedy Dad's Army - the house is an impressive one overlooking the canal and a long way from another character Arthur played in the long running soap opera Coronation Street  (as the  almost  husband of Emily Bishop).

Not far from  Marylebone flyover I saw the delightfully named Joe Strummer Subway (he of the Clash) - it's a somewhat  odd way to commemorate a posh-boy figure from the punk world - but as they probably would say 'it's what he would of wanted.'

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Death and the Obituary and the future of Domestic Smart Energy Metering

Sad to read that Clive James is nearing the end of his life but pleased to see that looking back  he's able tohe's got a fine website which he's  spent a lot of time curating most effectively over recent years - James is 74 which these days in the West seems tragically young to die- I remember mu Uncle mentioning to me on reaching 70   that when he was younger he felt this was a reasonable age corresponding with bible's estimation of a life as 'Three score years and Ten' but having reached it he was keen to have more!
Clive James -still working
be positive about how it went and what he  has done -

Well as well as the length one should perhaps judge the time on earth by quality and I was interested to read this week's Economist Obituary of Clyde Snow (the Economist obituaries generally make a good read but  here's the Telegraph's version not behind a pay-wall!) - what a balanced and worthwhile life he seems to have led (and he reached 86),  reading about him it seems there's something of the Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones films about him the mix of academia and real life which many of us strive for..

Smart Energy Metering will come soon

I recall when I worked at BT that Smart metering was already on the cards - well it's getting nearer and it's potentially another opportunity for the energy companies to differentiate themselves from one another, a method of evening out supply and demand and something that'll confuse many.

A smart meter sir?
The idea is that smart devices can look at the best time to run (say a washing machine) - the idea has been around for some time with Economy 7 but distributed intelligence in devices and connected metering can move this forward.

OFGEM is going to have to look again at its efforts to regulate the market fairly - having reduced the number of tariffs there's potential for an infinite number of smart tariffs that will be turning appliances on and off through the night and maybe switching between providers - look here at what the smart meter website reckons.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Election 2014 thoughts

Election 2014

Well the election results are pretty much in and various commentators and 'experts are digesting and
This sculpture at Kew Gardens  by Eduardo Paolozzi
 a British artist, the  son of Italian  immigrants

pontificating about what the mean.

Here are my thoughts and musings and some views ahead of the UK general election less than a year away.

Council elections

The playing field of the elections has not been as we might normally expect – the Westminster effect on freezing Council Tax has meant that it has been largely about national issues unless (like Tower Hamlets) there have been very particular effects.

UKIP have benefitedfrom a protest vote (that the Liberal Democrats were the traditional beneficiaries of prior to their entry into Government) – UKIP have no competencies (apart from a few former councilors changing parties) in Local Government – any policies that they have are likely to rely on the UK leaving the EU –e.g. improving local peoples access to affordable homes.

The idea of a UKIP run local council does not appeal to me personally - expect more stories to emerge about Farrage and his motley crew over the next months as they seek to grow into an electable party.

Ealing Council

Interestingly in myhome ward that has 'normally returned 3 conservative councillors we have 2 Labour and one Conservative returned (there were no UKIP candidates) The Labour council has increased its majority (Labour vote up 13%) and Labour did well across the capital, better than in much of the UK.

Some believe that the younger and more cosmopolitan population sees more advantage in free (er) movement of individuals and is more open to change.

European Elections UK

Watching some of the TV coverage I was pleased to hear one commentator mentioning how lucky/fortunate we are in the UK, we do not have violence can easily exercise our democratic rights and even those parties we disagree with are pretty much unreservedly committed to the freedoms and rule of law most of hold early – In France the Front National has made great gains it is far less acceptable (to me) than UKIP – in other parts of Europe there are plenty of parties (winning votes) far more extreme that the French right wingers.  

The regional effect

As before London is non typical and more and more seems like a city state – but regional variations abound, Wales which has won funds by the nature of its 'impoverishments' has more cause to appreciate the benefits of European integration than some parts of the country and UKIP has not got such a share of the vote.
Scotland leader Alex Salmond will not be buoyed up by the vote his Nationalist party does not look to be gaining momentum ahead of the independence vote and some voters there have selected a UK based protest party to register (some sort) of disapproval.

It is important also to note the effect of a proportional representation system where borders and representatives are not something most of us can feel emotively linked with which is what the MEPs in UK are elected by.(The areas are big the MEPs role unclear)
Voter turnout

Don't forget that the voter turnout was around 33% that means for every eligible voter who voted there are two who didn't bother – this is worth keeping in mind.


The Liberal Democrats have been the big losers if UKIP is taking voters more from the Tories than Labour the Ed Miliband needs to worry, many at the UK general election will think more carefully and there'll be a bigger turnout.

The idea of retreating from the EU is unrealistic immigrants from Poland, Italy and France (for example) are embedded – many UK nationals have retired to Spain, have second homes in France and a myriad of linkages to Europe (a civilised war free continent with much to celebrate)

Be careful what you wish for – a UK away from Europe is likely to be a sadder poorer place.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

retail - TVs at John Lewis and another coffee shop in Ealing

During the week I found myself early for a meeting and decided to visit the Oxford Street branch of John
John Lewis
Lewis, I'm not sure how long it is since I've been there but there's been a major revamp -I'd say  it's now on a par with Selfridges for wow factor with the long walkways leading into escalators and a glass ceiling that makes it very light and airy.

What impressed me even more was the gadget department at the top of the store - the modern TVs there  are incredible - the image quality is staggering with some enormous   4K displays and even the screens that are 'only' HD showing really great pictures- prices not  that high, the challenge is choosing a screen that is not too big for a normal English living room.

If you're thinking of getting a nice new telly I reckon you could do worse than buy from JL (never knowingly undersold).

Another coffee shop

In Ealing for a long time the gentleman's outfitters Alfred Sayers closed at the back end of last year - well it seems it's
It used to be a clothes shop for men
 going to be a coffee shop (yeah we need more of those), now it's better to have this than an empty shop but really - I'm much like most of the population in that I like a cup of coffee after shopping/going to the bank, getting the dry cleaning  etcetera but the scenario we're getting is going from one coffee shop to another - be really nice to have a butchers or a greengrocers but I suppose that's not realistic...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Election 2014 more to come..

An Ealing voting Station
So the results of the local elections are still coming in (around a third declared at time of writing) but the results look to be pretty mixed with UKIP creating waves across the country (although of course no Councils will be run by them).
 I expected Labour to do badly and they have not made the gains they hoped but they have won control of Hammersmith and Fulham gaining 11 seats on the council there, this will have I expect an impact on residents of the Borough  and indicates a successful campaign by supporters there.

Undoubtedly there will be lessons to be learnt by all the major parties (including the Liberal Democrats) and along with the  Scottish Independence vote an air of uncertainty is likely to settle over the UK Stock market for the summer (at least).

Have the people spoken or is this merely a protest - are there any easy answers (like pulling out of Europe) or do we need to keep doing what we've done?

It's interesting to see that more places of worship are now used as voting stations meaning less schools closed due to elections.

European election results will not be out until Sunday so expect more conjecture from people who do it for a living.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Artist Ged Quinn and Please Vote today (UK) - I reckon the results will be very interesting

You may well  have heard phrases in the art critiques of newspapers and magazines  describing the 'active viewer' and what you 'bring to the work' well I suppose these terms are even more the case when you experience  works of art  as a group - initially the dynamics of a group are almost intangible but as time moves forward roles are given and taken - one can almost predict the reaction from some.

So yesterday as a group interested in Contemporary art we spent some time at the Stephen Friedman
Ged from The  Independent newspaper  article
Galleries in Old Burlington Street looking at works by the British artist Ged Quinn and as a visit to look at works by a knowingly post modernist artist it is significant what the group brought to the show.

Looking at the Wikipedia entry on Ged one can see he's an interesting guy having co-written a pop hit and studied at some impressive institutions.
Now on to what I thought/we thought of the works in the exhibition, well the first paintings  we saw were  big ones  (and as time goes by I now  realise this big is not necessarily a good thing with paintings) the works were Tarsus, From a Distance (2013) and Ava Gardner Loves our Country (2014).

The works also appeared to me as  pastiches (but this I'm told is/can be  a description of post modern works) the influences were immediate Magritte, Dali but also the British  Romantics of the 19th Century like Sir Charles Lock Eastlake ( Byron's 'Dream' and  The Colosseum for examples).

In hindsight and having looked at more of thew works I now think that Ged is not only a technically proficent artist but also saying some interesting things and producing work that repays some effort- I wouldn't say that I have achieved an understanding of what he is doing and I am conscious of the danger of feeling that I''m being 'privy' to some knowledge by my experience which may be illusory and in itself detracts (perhaps) from the 'value' of the work.

There is a danger of playing spot the  reference - I think I saw a touch of the Mondrians (The Tree A ?)  in Happy Unbirthday Margerete (2014) but  with a title like that you can be sure there's some painterly equivalent to  'sampling' going on.

As a former band member of various rock/pop groups  I suppose that Ged is bound to indulge a magpie like picking from others - if you get a chance do take a look at what Ged is doing, I think he is ploughing his own
The Sun
furrow and this in itself is meretricious.

If you are near the Friedman Gallery you might take a look at this it's called 'The Sun' and is in Berkeley Square it's by Dale Chihuly

Talking of paintings I remain grateful to Nick Pearson for highlighting  another British artist Patrick Caufield - I often find life reminding me of his work - I suppose an interest in Art can help you observe and enjoy the everyday. this photo felt like something in Caufield's works to me (perhaps Entrance 1975.....
After Entrance 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Planting out and Citizens Advice Meeting + Badfinger docu

Of course there's plenty of activity on the allotment - having bought some bean/pea supports at the end of last year - when garden centres are reducing and clearing their shelves I have now installed.

Peas supported.

The hot weather means that I'm watering regulalry and trying to keep things in the greenhouse moist- I think I need to provide some shade in there too.

Sweet corn prefers to be in a grid
It might be that I'm only providing food for mice and birds but I've decided to stick with the sweetcorn, the recommendation is that it is planted in a grid - I do think it looks quite nice too.

 I have also planted out half a dozen cabbages and there's more too come too.
A home for my cabbage patch cabbages

Every second  week there's a liquid  feed to the growing vegetables  although I'm not too sure how effective this is - biggest challenge seems to be the melons growing from seed only one that is hanging on now.

Citizens Advice looks to the future

Yesterday I finally made it to a CAB meeting (how does London Transport define short delay- 30 minutes means nothing in their parlance?)
The meting was an education in many ways, first a speaker who explained the nature of Loan Sharks, they
Don't forget it's a Charity
exist of course because there's a need, as they operate under the radar many of the rules do no apply.
A loan shark can appear benevolent at first, friendly and wanting to assist but as there is typically no contract then anything can happen with the loan interest.
People are caught but many get away with it - they are the lenders of last resort and best avoided but if you have an issue then do seek advice, some tips here.

We also learnt of how the Citizens Advice Bureaus are being seen increasingly by councils as a method of delivering services and are required to tender business plans to address the needs of the councils (and hopefully their residents).

This has (of course) a down side, advice is being targeted and outcomes measured but it is important (I think) to keep focus on those who need help, the CAB remains a charity and the vulnerable are more and more marginalised in modern life be it by health issues or digital exclusion.

The CAB also has the challenge that many of those providing services are volunteers and their motivation is either  about satisfaction with their roles and results or about getting experience that will help them with obtaining the skills needed for paid work.

Another development is the 'suggestion' from councils that Voluntary sector charities should work together to deliver services CAB are doing this with Tendis who have expertise in moving people back to work.

If they don't find the 'work' worthwhile be it  enjoyable and sociable or good training they may stop doing it which is bad for 'clients' and the wider community.
Ahead of local elections votes  in London  the CAB is on hold for much of its future funding  but as councils continue freezes on spending there will be challenges. (Those elections are going to be interesting at European and local level giving a reading on the feelings of the UK electorate about one year ahead of the 2015 General Election. )

Interestingly having asked those standing for council elections in my ward about a CAB in Ealing (unlike other London Boroughs we don't have one) the only proper answer I have so far is from the Conservatives who appear to be interested in examining this in the future.


Watched a great TV programme about Badfinger - they were almost the new Beatles but tragedy became their companion
Great songs by them included Without You (later covered by many including Mariah Carey) and my favourite Day after Day (below) the show is here..

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sunday at Kew and Bird poo not so lucky..

The Japanese Garden at  Kew
Later this summer we'll be making a trip to see Jools Holland in Concert in the delightful setting of Kew Gardens,  I rather doubt that the weather will be any better than that which we had on Sunday when we took a walk  around.

Kew seems to be very much on the Tourist map for those visiting London and it has a really cosmopolitan feel with many languages being spoken.

What a shame that the valuable research which is a substantial   benefit to UK PLC has (we're told) to be  cut back..

Bird Poo (on me)

Today as I walked down the road thinking all was well I got an almighty shock when going under a tree a bird evacuated its inners and it landed on me (mainly my head and shoulders) it was warm,m dark and not smelly but I rushed home changed and washed.
Well I've heard that there's a superstition  (this guy has had it happen thirteen times which seems excessive)   that it's lucky - will let you know if it proves to be true (if I detect it).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Vik Muniz, Allotment, Panoramas and funding for a film project

The TED talks on various subjects are a source of stimulus, information and entertainment - today I enjoyed A J Jacobs talking about his life experiment following biblical rules good points made with humour.

But the guy who stood out as a creative was Vik Muniz, his  story how he succeeded as a  Brazilian artist working (now) mainly in photography was awe inspiring  but such a descriptions short changes his achievements,  take a look.

On the subject of Photography ..

I've been planting on the allotment, beetroot, beans and Kohlrabi transfered as seedlings, plenty more to follow but looking good.
A view towards the shed and Northfields Road
It's a challenge to capture on camera some views - there's a neat little package that lets you stitch together several views taken from the same spot.
The software is ICE a fee package from Microsoft  and the pictures above are composites of 3 or 4 pictures taken from the same point but moved through about 30 degrees at each point - the computation is then made to create anew view with the joins not immediately apparent
A view from the same spot  (east)

Kickstarter Film

A friend of mine is working on a project to make a film about a method of  helping people to heat their homes more efficiently by using  what's known as Airtightness - the project is being funded by Kickstarter if you want to help look here.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The active citizen

Thames Water 

It's all too easy to step back from the people we live amongst and to take what big organisations do to us
They arrive at a different figure to me.
without engaging.
When I get a letter from the utilities I tend to give it little more than a cursory glance but I did notice when Thames Water wrote telling me that they'd be revising my payment plan - okay I thought fairly routine.
Looking at it more closely I saw that the payments would double - this didn't seem right so I emailed asking why the big change?

The first reply was to the effect that with the current plan I'd underpaid last year (by about £2 per month) and stating what they based the new payment plan on - I pointed out that I thought this was too high if the increase was 4.1% and that I was a metered customer they have subsequently come back with a new plan but this is still at 50% higher than 2013/14  payments still excessive - I hope that they are able to provide a more realistic monthly plan.

To be fair to Thames Water they have responded to my questions quite promptly but they have not explained how their figures were arrived at or indicated that thwey might have made a mistake with thewir estimate.

I realise from talking with other people that Thames Water are doing similar things to other users, they are a monopoly and I am not sure their behaviour is as it should be. Please do keep an eye on your bills and if something does not look right query it, people living alone without meters should see if lower tariffs apply.

Local and EU elections

Democracy as we experience it is not perfect but at times of an election you might get answers from those standing to be MP, Councillor or MEP.

In London as well as the EU vote we are selecting councillors and here at our home in Ealing we have had visits and paper leaflets on policies and plans from the various parties.

My fear is that the only real proposal from those standing is to hold down costs - I think that the council
We're not all Tories
needs to be more ambitious (The current Council is Labour controlled).

I have taken the opportunity to ask the Conservatives, Lib-Dems and Labour about two local issues, they are:

Do they /how would they support OPEN Ealing (a local arts organisation) ?
Why does Ealing not have a Citizens's Advice Bureau? (unlike most London Boroughs Ealing does not seem to support the CAB).

I am happy to say I have so far at least had interest from the Conservatives, I  hope for responses from the other parties and might also ask UKIP and The Green Party.

When I get answers form others I will let you know what they say.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Artists of note - Robert Muntean & Hannah Wilke

On Wednesday the CityLit traveling art tour was again in London's West End and looking at two very different artists.

Robert Muntean  

We kicked off with the young Austrian painter Robert Muntean at the delightful Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery in Rathbone Street.
Muntean's work on display covered an interesting area somewhere between naturalistic and abstract - figures were generally represented  but there was more to these works than just  painterly technique, sopme of the group saw a link to Cinema in his images

The group noted that the artist seemed to restrict his palette somewhat but generally felt that his works were 'multi-layered' as described by the blurb. I personally liked the paintings exhibited and found them unpretentious - to me it was contemporary but not merely fashionable it was accessible which I think in this case does not mean superficial.

The gallery was a real pleasure and although compact the access by front and rear meant that the space felt airy and light.

Hannah Wilke

After seeing the paintings of Muntean it was a mere hop, skip and a jump to our next stopping off point the Alison Jacques Gallery in Berners Street.
The work of the two artists considered here are very different and not really comparable but as result of seeing the artists works sequentially I will nonetheless compare my own  reactions to the two visits.

For me the work of  Wilke  (mainly three dimensional and often ceramic)  was somewhat less accessible than that of Muntean and very much of 'a time' that being the 60s & 70s.

As I mentioned recently there is a view that women's contribution in modern/contemporary art has been overlooked and this is now being revisited- some critics would say that this is true of the contribution that Hannah Wilke made and that female artists who came after her owe he a debt (Tracy Emin's work  was noted as having  been influenced by Wilke).

The Wikipedia entry on Wilke  provided me with  a useful background to the artist who after serious illness died at the early age of 52.

All artists (to me) walk a line between innovation and arriving at their own 'voice' - I found the innovation and
Sweet 16 from
development of Wilke somewhat limited but there might be something here about a male eye perhaps?

The Alison Jacques Gallery like that of the  Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery was split across two floors but the upper level was rather claustrophobic and the works there were not sympathetically lit.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mike Lynch talks at The Royal Society and Rothko's back at The Tate Modern

I should admit that one of the reasons that I accepted the invitation for the joint  Royal Television Society and IET lecture by Michael Lynch was the venue in what is one of the true  the prime areas of London.

I don't think I've been to the Royal Society before if I have it is some time ago, looking at the portraits before listening to the Lecture I realised what an impressive institution it is with pictures that included those of Locke and Hobbes and artists that included Hogarth there was quite a tradition for  Mike Lynch OBE to live up to.

The talk was called  “Prediction is very difficult, particularly about the future”

Mike wasn't sure about the true ownership of the phrase (was it really Mark Twain?) but this did not stop him taking us on a 'journey' around the phrase of course highlighting how technology was driving forward change in so many things-  there's quite a good blog that went with the presentation.

Lovely London's Carlton terrace area

As part of the experience Google Glass was demonstrated as well as a Samsung watch and Apple App showing how the real time processing can be leveraged into a real time experience - the hope was that this might be of interest to some of the TV practitioners there from the RTS - quite something and definitely some monetizing opportunities to come (sad to say). 

Mike Lynch  is the founder of Autonomy (controversy remains over the HP deal  that's the purchase by Hewlett Packard)  and he  remains a  visionary figure within the technology world-  as well as having a formidable intellect, he's a very good speaker and also exhibited the virtue of not being a politician and was thus happy to give an honest view on the proposed AstraZeneca  takeover  of  Pfizer.

Tim Davie of BBC Worldwide (he also acted as BBC DG between the removal of George Entwistle and the arrival of Tony Hall) acted as a good host and was a more than capable Master of Ceremonies.

As well as a great speech I managed to catch up with a couple of people including one  of ITN's greats of the field -Cameraman  Peter West.

Rothko's Black on Maroon is back at Tate Modern

On Sunday I mentioned that the Tate Modern was not showing the Mark Rothko 'Seagrams'  at present the reason has become clear as Rosemary Lynch (no relation of the above I guess) told me (and others) by e-mail that following an attack on one of the paintings   (Black on Maroon)  by a troubled young man,   Wlodzimierz Umaniec   the work is now back after the 18 months it took  to restore it so that it can again be displayed.. here's what Rosemary said

 I’m delighted to announce that the conservation work is complete. From today this beautiful piece is back on display at Tate Modern. I hope you enjoy visiting the collection at Tate Modern and seeing this work back in it's rightful place, alongside Rothko's other works.

Black on Maroon

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Thinking about Cameras

I have been  thinking quite hard about getting another camera but not sure if I will get one and which way I’d
Only about £5 new.
go - my first camera was a Kodak camera using 127 film, it had  fixed focus and aperture (I think I was only about 7) from this I went to the Cosmic 35 a bit of a masterpiece of Soviet Russian workmanship, really liked this and at this time started doing my own printing with a Johnsons fixed focus enlarger - a sort of metal box that you wiggled an electric light across.

It was used for making prints

At this time my Uncle Harry was Art editor on a local evening newspaper (Leicester Mercury) and gave me lots of Ilford films, and accessories (like a flash gun and a light meter) and photography was quite a popular  hobby at school amongst my friends too.

After this when i got some money I got an SLR (I think a Canon) and lenses etc. but the carrying around of everything meant I sometimes either didn't take the ‘kit’ or I spent more time looking through the viewfinder than enjoying the trip.
When I went to do a horticulture class (nearly 7 years ago) I got my first proper digital camera and it really makes photography pleasurable again.
My current IXUS 75 (from Canon -similar models are now around £75 ) is working well at almost 7 years old and is  very much point and shoot but seems to give fairly good results, seeing the picture when you've taken it means you can often take another to rectify mistakes.

Having though about it I reckon my next camera  will be another compact and am thinking about the Canon SX280HS powershot it’s about £170 and has some amazing features (like GPS, 20x optical zoom, full HD video at 1080! and Wi-Fi) - and is still very easy to carry around - useful youtube review below .

Some question about the battery charge life but I’ll perhaps a get a spare?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Matisse and more (plus another view of The Shard)

Don't Cut This Out
On Saturday I watched a very illuminating BBC 2 Culture Show Special which produced a well over-due reappraisal of some of the key Women artists who were involved in the Pop art movement which peaked in the 1960s in the USA and Europe.

It then occurred to me that while I was visiting other less mainstream Contemporary Art galleries there was a danger that I'd miss out on the really big ticket events going on - I'd seen the  Richard Hamilton retrospective but even though I had heard good things about the Matisse Cut-Outs I had not got around to seeing it, so on Sunday (yesterday) I decided to put this right.

Well the first thing to say is that there's a lot of it- for someone over 80 with health problems it's pretty amazing in terms of quantity alone.
Having highlighted the quantity I would not wish to detract from the quality - some of it is amazing - I'm reminded of what Nick Pearson tole me (and others )  at OPEN Ealing  to paraphrase Artists find a problem and look to solve it - I think this is one good explanation anyway - what Henri did in his cut out phase was solve several, the cut-outs are very much about the composition 'question' (as well as the health question) - how Matisse manages to make cut outs also appear 3 dimensional is impressive to say the least.

To see the iconic Blue Nudes and The Snail amongst others was both a treat and a privilege, I will try and visit again at a time when the crowds allow for more contemplation.
Extending but not soon enough

Generally when I'm at Tate Modern I take a look at the Mark Rothko 'Seagrams' sadly this is not possible at present (some work going on) but this did give me the chance to enjoy a couple of things I'd not seen before.

One was a pioneer/forerunner of Pop Art Alex Katz, I particularly like the Full Moon (1988) - Katz has noticeably influenced YBAs like Julian Opie I also saw a knowing  Video  by Omar Fast called The Casting

Still on balance it will be good when the Tate Modern extension comes online.

Shard View

It's amazing to see this architectural statement  on London's historic skyline - what does it say about London?- I'm not sure, but it does not shout decline that's for sure..

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Great Mystery of the Central London Group Grill Bar (Northfields Avenue)

Perhaps a coat of paint?
Most weeks I walk past the building shown on the left if you're in the area take a look.

I suppose it's almost an urban legend to people in the Northfields area of Ealing, I think that ever since I've been living around here (on and off for over 30 years) it's looked the same and it is a bit of a waste when London property is at such a premium.

If we go back to November 2008 the story seemed to go something like this (from West Ealing Neighbours site)...

"Apparently, the couple who own and live above it used to argue a lot about the café and haven't spoken to one another for 20 years or more.
Indeed, one of the those who posts is 49 old and says it's been closed ever since she was a child. I must admit we've lived here for 30 years and I can't ever remember it being open. I guess nothing will happen until one of them dies or they move away - all very odd."

and from a 2007 posting at  Brentford TW8 site  Maggi Howells notes

"Next to the SAAB garage on Northfileds Avenue; I have lived here since 1976 and it has never had any customers!"

The nature of the state of the  building has been questioned  here and there's someone who has taken more of a look here.

It would make an interesting study/film (fact or fiction)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

3rd time lucky - Picture of the Week again..

I've another  photo published in this weeks Ealing Gazette - I'm beginning to think there's not too much competition for the  Picture of the Week accolade -  my third one in as many months..

But the lack of a Cinema in Ealing  really irritates me and perhaps others will join me in thinking that late 2017 for a start on this project is just not good enough - if the plans have been agreed what's the delay?

There's a petition here if you'd like to add your name.

Bath Time

Good to see that like Douglas Adams the writer/philosopher  Alain de Botton sees the value of a bath - why shower when you can luxuriate in your own world?

Archimedes had his Eureka moment in one - so can you (And if you worry about the bad publicity baths have for water and energy don't -power showers are just as bad The Daily Mail says so).

Friday, May 09, 2014

The Fascination of Blue Plaques, BBC needs new chair and Chatting and Meeting in West Ealing

When I was in town on Wednesday I spotted another Blue Plaque, this one to Stella and Fanny famed at one time as  Victorian  Cross Dressers - what a fascinating story  lies behind it.

It seems that Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park were the real life Hinge and Bracket of their day, 'performing' as a couple of ladies before being brought to court and charged "with conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offence".

How great are these London Plaques?- Each one tells a story of intrigue and brings history to life - let's have more!

Lord Patten Steps Down from BBC Chair

The news that the head of the BBC Trust has stepped  after major hear surgery has given Sajid Javid the new DCMS minister his first major challenge in the new job.
After something of a lacklustre 3 years in post Lord Patten has been told to take it easy and perhaps now is the time for a more active figure to shake things up at the BBC, Lord Hall the current DG is a majorly  establishment type and it could be that it's time for a bit of grit to be introduced into the top tier of the UK state ordained media monolith?

Ex Sony Boss Howard Stringer has the right credentials and experience and Peter  Bazalgette would be another possible if he wasn't doing such a good job at The Arts Council - be interesting to see if a woman is in the running too (Marjorie Scardino has been spoken of as a possible candidate too).

 OPEN Ealing adds a  Chat and Meet 

I have often sung the praises of OPEN Ealing's art prgramme masterminded by Nick Pearson  and after a quiet period the facility  has  been reactivated by the addition of a daily coffee shop.
Chat and Meet is at  13 Drayton Green Road  it's being run by Geoff and Gita and is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 to 4:30 for hot beverages and conversation.   

Chat and Meet  has  hot drinks at affordable prices and the plan is to run classes including art, personal skill building, poetry reading, and book clubs - they're after ideas . Come in and  discuss with them  ideas for events to run at Chat and Meet. 

Coffee houses can epitomise a public sphere as Habermas envisaged, they don't have to be just a  bland money making machine with multi-national owners who  avoid paying taxes(like Caffé Nero).

For Further enquiries,  please email Gita and Geoff 

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Julian Schnabel at the Dairy

This weeks art visit was to a 'space' out near Russell Square called 'The Dairy' it's a fairly recent addition to the gallery world and was set up by collectors/dealers Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm as you might imagine the gallery is a former Dairy.

The show we were interested in was Julian Schnabel's  Every Angel has a Dark Side and on first encountering the works it was challenging (for me) to find anything that justified his reputation and the high costs of his works.
Strangely since bursting onto the arts scene in his early thirties he has run a career of several strands including successful film directing (an acclaimed realisation of  The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is on his CV) but he returns to painting and for many his work does not develop or improve.

Many of the paintings on show were of an artist at work (often self portraits) and it seems that Schnabel is not without ego - much of the discussion amongst our group was about the frames and I'm not sure that this is as it should be (even if they are signposting something) also many of us felt the use of Resin to coat the works was not altogether successful.
Dairy gallery

References to art history were decoded (like Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Old Battersea Bridge) but overall the humour (if there was any) was drowned out be the size and lack of technique and care.
The tour did create discussion and we were lucky enough to have one of the gallery staff adding some more positive readings of the collection.

Part of Julian's rise was as a result of his so called 'Plate Paintings ' here he is talking about one of these and he does appear far more engaging than I anticipated or as some reviewers seem to present him.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Bookshops Closing, high streets change, get over it?

Northfields  Ealing has lost its bookshop (it's not alone in this)- the business model of Amazon has all but destroyed the high street bookshop, Waterstones is hanging in there and W H Smith and the big Supermarkets manages to stock the TV tie-ins and some popular fiction.

Music shops be they vinyl, CD or sheet are becoming a memory for some and the pleasure of flicking through albums is one that will never enjoyed by many.

So earlier today I was thinking about how when I was still in short trousers my older brother used to take me on walks of discovery across Leicester visiting small cafés little more than downstairs parlours where we used to have a Vimto to drink (goodness how much these used to cost), well those  establishments are long gone. 

Now in the local Town centre the dominant players are the coffee shops and banks - the days when a town would have 5 or 6 shoe shops and a plethora of Newsagents has passed but is this something to worry about?
Pubs are it seems in terminal decline apart from those that are almost ironic in their thematic horror, Wine bars were all the rage for a while but now a part of 90s mythology.

Well retailers might rail about how they provided a service but without customers it is a service that's not needed - Nostalgia it's not what it used to be.
Closed bookshops - progress?

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Radio 4's 'The future is not what it used to be' and Cauliflowers go out

This morning I listened to a thought provoking radio documentary on the shifting economic backdrop as it's experienced today.
The guy asking the questions was Martin Wolf, who has a day job as the chief economics commentator of the Financial Times as you'd expect from a FT journalist the analysis was very much around standards of living and economic growth - what I came away with was that the economies of the UK and USA are for the foreseeable future  'flat-lining'  as no doubt Ed Balls  would delightedly gesture (I've a gesture for him).
Ed's gesture

My view is that this might be worrying but is doesn't necessarily  have to be, much was made of the improvements that have been brought to our lives by things like Google, Facebook and Wikipedia  all of which cost us nothing to use (there's an argument to be had here of course but the point is they don't  necessarily appear in some measures of economic  activity).

There are also many 'Apps' now and in the future which will/can enhance lives - are these being overlooked?

While many young people will not see year on year improvements the way that their parents generation did we are (I would say) fairly well provided for in material terms and the upcoming crises are about over supply and obesity - so perhaps the future is rosier than some commentators would have us believe.

The subject matter is definitely worthy of thought -you can follow this link to  listen to the programme.

On the plot

Cauliflowers 6 I think) planted out today, they're protected so will water them and care for them until they are well established.