Thursday, July 24, 2008

No book + Delayed tube journey = idle inspiration

Stressed and without reading material but determined to make the most of a delayed tube journey, on Wednesday evening I found some pleasure in discovering the following:

1) A book with an online trailer
The Last Exile (trashy looking book) tube carriage ad implores the reader to watch the trailer and buy the book at Very occasionally I've seen books advertised on TV but since when did books get online trailers? Am sorry to say it's completely impossible to find when you go to the Borders site, however - if you're throwing yourself into multi-platform madness you better get some decent information architecture behind you.

2) A man with odd shoes on the platform at Camden
Odd as in mismatched, but not wholly; same style but one black, one white. I was impressed by his simple fashion grab but have decided it's not a look for me despite it necessitating extra shoe purchase, something I'm always on the look out to legitimate. He was Spanish - anyone know if it's a Spanish thing?

3) The first person (matching shoes) I've ever seen using a tube Help point.
He just asked when the next Edgware train was and why there was a delay, which prompted a platform announcement with explanation. I always thought those big round things were reserved for blood-spattered crime victims so was starting to doubt his sanity when I saw him approaching it without any obvious source of distress. Then I noticed the blue "information" button under the green "emergency" button. Good on you nasal-voiced, check-shirt man, you've taught me something new.

I can't help wondering whether I'm late to the party with all these observations, however, my bookworminess rendering me a public transport Rip van Winkle, awake to my surroundings for the first time in years.

Ultimately I was most inspired by the bold use of the help point on the platform and then decided that I would like it to be a source of any information I might want when on that platform - like an AQA type of thing you could ask "Where's the best kebab shop nearby?" or "When's the next lunar eclipse?" etc. - that definitely would have made my delay even more bearable.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Note to self: say my name, say my name (both of them)

The first time it happened I was a young, drunk twentysomething swimming out of her depth with the soaks in the Colony.

"And you are ...?", the older, drunker, posher woman drawled, sprawled across the lap of someone related to the famous and talented.

"Louise." I answered.

"Louise who?" she hooted back, irritated.

"Brown" I mumbled, befuddled not just by the large gins I'd been necking for, ooh, about six hours that evening. Did she want to write a letter to me? Fill in a form? Write a cheque?

She shook her head with a disconnected smile and went on with her conversation without me, leaving me to stew in what I assumed was my own jus de social faux pas.

Was it a class thing, I wondered, would she think she might know my family, "Ah, the Dagenham Browns, aren't you related to Madge from the Tote?" Not likely.

Years later I read an article by someone like Alison Pearson where she opined on the habit of young women who only ever introduced themselves as "Samantha" or "Tara" wilfully omitting their last names.

Alison (can't have been Julie, surely?) decried this as the habit of the vain and the vacuous, reducing themselves to a page 3 cartoon caption "Keeley likes Jeffrey Archer novels and chipmunks, and doesn't agree with ecomonic monetary union". She may even have quoted a fine example of this type, the brilliant spokesmodel character SanDeE* played by Sarah Jessica Parker in L.A. Story.

I'd finally got it. The woman in the Colony (can't remember her name - first or last) thought I was being dumb and cute whereas I knew that there was absolutely no chance she would have heard of me and didn't even consider that it might be useful in future for her to know I was a Brown.

To this day I have friends (admittedly not all that close) of whose surnames I have no idea, any confusion with the similarly monikered clarified by their distinguishing features. For example, two of my mum's golfing chums will always be known to me as Big Doreen and Little Doreen and a beautiful, sweet friend of a friend known affectionately as Suzy Boobs.

But I was caught out again on Thursday night when a fellow media industry worker (who shall rename nameless, I bear no ill will) said,

"I didn't catch your name"

And I answered simply "Louise".

This time he was left to physically implore me with an upturned face and outstretched palm to finish the job.

"Oh - Brown, Louise Brown."

Again a shake of the head and a move swiftly on - transporting me right back to that smoky room of my youth.

So really all this post, nestled alongside my various media-related mental meanderings, is, is an elaborate note to self: you are 35 - not 5 - and in social situations it is useful to hear your full name for any number of reasons - professional and personal.

I suppose the likes of Facebook have changed this quite a lot for folks younger than I - you end up knowing people's surnames as well as their inside leg measurement with the click of a mouse - and, scuse me while I adjust my chip, I'm sure there is a little bit of socio-economic change in there somewhere; my Great Aunt Madge never had to network for starters.

Most significantly, in a world where we now know so many freaking people in so many shallow ways (206 Facebook friends, 200 personal email contacts, 121 LinkedIn connections etc. - and that's with no massive outreach effort), the need for a full, distinct name becomes all the more useful. I've even considered the Googlability of my future offsprings' names as a determining factor in their nomenclature given that I'm saddled with the top slots taken up by the first test tube baby.

To think people ask me why I haven't changed my last name since I've got married - I have enough trouble recalling the first one I was given, for heaven's sake.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Families, Pacificists, Jingoists and Philatelists Unite

Watched The Culture Show last night on BBC Two and saw a piece on Steve McQueen's latest works.

The big feature was Hunger, his first feature film about the IRA Hunger Strikes of the early 80s (if you haven't read Bobby Sands' diary of that time, I suggest you do, it's very moving). I haven't seen it so far, but trusted reports so far sound good.

But my call to action is to support the work (also featured in the programme) and campaign started in March by McQueen "Queen and Country".

McQueen has created "a cabinet containing a series of facsimile postage sheets, each one dedicated to a deceased soldier". But the work is not complete until the Post Office actually choose to issue the stamps so is accompanied by a petition - both alongside the work and online - in order to try to make this happen. I think this both honours those who have lost their lives and keeps us questioning the motives and ongoing presence of our forces abroad. You can see the work at the Barbican until July 27th.

(Come on, if we can bring a chocolate bar back ... register your support here.)

Later note: More just in from Adam on Hunger.