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Friday, 27 July 2012

Malcolm Gladwell

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I am a big fan of the writing, talking, social commentary and hairstyle (possibly no longer extant) of Malcolm Gladwell.
He is a UK-born Canadian who now lives in New York where he has been a staff writer on The New Yorker magazine since 1996. He father was an English university lecturer and his mother a Jamaican psychologist - perfect credentials for his work! His most famous book is probably The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference . I don't know if he coined that phrase but he certainly brought it into popular usage since 2000 when the book was published. It deals with the way very small changes can have big impacts in areas such as epidemiology (the study of the spread of and control of diseases in populations) and crime rates. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking deals with the ways in which gut instinct can provide better results that use of huge amounts of information. Pearl Harbour has been cited as an example of this. The US military had a phenomenal amount of 'intelligence' available and yet did not act; if they had simply read what journalists were writing in the weeks and days before the attack and acted on that, the disaster may well have been avoided.
Outliers; The Story of Success looks at the way many people achieve success in a way that is definitely counter-intuitive. In it he explains why star ice hockey players are usually born in the first three months of the year!
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures is a collection of his best work from New Yorker magazine.
His books always make interesting reading but there has been academic objections to his style by some, such as Stephen Pinker, who claim he uses poor research and has 'links' to commercially interested parties. I don't know if any of that is true but it does not detract from the huge entertainment and usefulness of his writing.
Click here to see and hear Malcolm in action on Ted Talks

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Olympic Flame

The Flame passing by. This lady was not actually running but walking with it. And why not?
The Olympic Torch was carried through our district this morning just a few yards from Chez Bazza. Huge crowds lined the streets with a procession before and after and loads of police motorbikes preceding the 'runner'. A carnival atmosphere prevailed with the police motorcyclists giving high-fives to anyone who cared to! We invited a bunch of friends and family back to us for breakfast after the event, which passed by at 8:15am in brilliant sunshine.
The twins, Jacob & Zack, foreground, waiting for the Flame to arrive.
The procession just before the flame.

Arriving at Valentine's House, a local mansion, just after we saw it.
.....and home for breakfast!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

London Monopoly (12): Marlborough Street

This is the second property in the orange set in my tour around the London Monopoly board.
The Liberty store in Great Marlborough Street, London
This is really called Great Marlborough Street in an exclusive part of London's Soho. It was named after John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) an ancestor of Winston Churchill. It's current claim to fame is as the location of the world-famous store Liberty. The design of the building dates from the fashionable Tudor-revival period of the 1920s although the store was founded in the nineteenth century.
It was famous for exclusive sales of William Morris's Arts & Crafts fabric and wallpaper designs. It is now best known for fashion but to this day, they still sell those designs.
A small turning running off from Great Marlborough Street is Argyle Street where the London Palladium theatre is located.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Painting of the Month (31): Cindy Sherman

As I am unlikely to start a series called 'Photographer of the Month' I thought I would slip the wonderful Cindy Sherman into this series.
Cindy Sherman is a photographer who specialises in female portraits emulating various iconic images of women. Often they are of famous women and have the deliberate look of being movie-stills based on well-known images. The black and white picture below looks very Hitchcockian to me and the second one is like Doris Day or Debbie Reynolds. I'm not sure about the first one.

She has also produced images parodying historical portraits, centre-folds and publicity shots. They are deliberately clich├ęd. She is a true artist in the sense that she creates images which reflect the society we live in and holds up a mirror for us to examine our values. I don't think there is meant to be deep meaning in these photos and one should avoid 'reading-in' too much meaning in them. Just enjoy them!

In case you had not realised every one of these photos is a self-portrait of the artist!

Friday, 6 July 2012

London Monopoly (11): Bow Street

The first property in the 'Orange' set in my journey around the London Monopoly board.
The former Bow Street Magistrates Court
To most British people the name of Bow Street will be synonymous with Bow Street Magistrates Court which, from 1740 until it's closure in 2006, was the most famous magistrates court in Britain. Being located in central London it was often the first court appearance of infamous criminals and politicians (assuming there is a difference between the two!). Among the famous defendants who have appeared in the dock are Giacomo Casanova, Oscar Wilde, General Pinochet, The Kray Twins and Dr Crippen. The building was supposed to be transformed into a boutique hotel but I don't think it's happened yet. The street is also the location of the magnificent Royal Opera House. The whole area is steeped, or even drenched, in history. 
The Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden
The Bow Street Runners, the first official 'police force' were established there in 1749 by Henry Fielding, the jurist and author of Tom Jones.
As early as 1632 the Drury Lane and Bow Street area became known as 'thieving alley' and, apparently, was increasingly  "Troblinge the adjacent areas... by lewdest Blades and female Naughty-packs" I will draw a veil of modesty over that!
The bow-shaped street was set out in 1637 with high-class housing but after the English civil war many fine houses, formerly owned by Royalists lay empty and the area deteriorated once again. After the Battle of Naseby Oliver Cromwell himself moved to live in Bow Street. After the Restoration (of the Monarchy) it became an area where the literati and low-life criminals intermingled in the newly-established coffee-houses.
Next in this series: Marlborough Street