Sunday, July 24, 2005

National Costume

The idea of a "National Costume" is an odd one that appears to be evaporating rapidly in many Asian, Arabic, African and South American countries - and its disappearing faster than you can see in many parts of Eastern Europe also. In Western Europe its long gone - totally disappeared without trace. French National dress? I think not. Swedish Traditional clothing? Naaah. A Belgian Outfitters ? Absolut-a-mundo Non.

Except in Germany and Austria. Where even today not only can you see numerous people swanning around Barvaria and Salzburg wearing traditional "Tracht", but it has apparently even recently "inspired a new fashion style" . In Austria the production of dirndl and lederhosen is a thriving commercial business, with Sportalm, Geiger or Tostmann being favourite brands.

So, everywhere else in the West seems to have ditched it. But in Germany & Austria its not only still alive, but actually worn in everyday life right now, and being regarded as a growing fashion to be followed...

Hmmmm... Makes you think, doesn't it?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Politicians & Hotels

Recently I stayed at the ITC Sheraton Windsor & Towers Hotel, Bangalore.

Or to give it it's full title - according to every cabbie, waiter, barman, bellboy, business acquaintance and street urchin in Bangalore:

"The Sheraton Windsor Where Your Mr Tony Blair Stayed For Two Nights Two Years Ago"

Imagine - maybe old Tone had been secretly hoping for maybe a quiet cul-de-sac on a new housing estate somewhere in County Durham , or a tapas bar in Upper Street to bear his moniker sometime in the future - but he's already immortalized in the southern Indian IT & Aerospace metropolis, without even having to do any more than just stay a couple of nights and neck a beer or two by the pool!

However the most impressive performance comes from Bill Clinton. The number of hotels around the globe that proudly bear as part of their name "..and Bill Clinton Stayed Here Back in 1998" is now so many they have their own "Billy-boy" branded loyalty card scheme. Stay 4 consecutive nights and you get free dry cleaning on an item of clothing of your choice.

Dresses seem to be the most popular.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Airport Security Questions

"Have you packed these bags yourself sir?"

"Could anyone have interfered with them at any time?"

Come on - who's actually listening anymore ? And is asking a obvious, repetitive, predictable questions really going to outwit the average terrorist or master smuggler?

And most stupid of all - "would you like a Window or Aisle seat sir ?"

Lets face it, where you want to sit is actually of no concern to Mr or Mrs "I'm Too Butt Ugly to be Cabin Crew But At Least The People On The Bus Think I Have Got A Glamorous Job"- there are 350 people on the plane, 348 of them got to the airport before you, and you are getting the middle seat, aren't you?

(Unless of course you ask for it...)

So, why not combine these two painful yet utterly pointless experiences and use the opportunity to ask some really useful questions? Questions that could make your flight experience not only safer - but more pleasant and enjoyable too?

How about:

"Have you a particularly weak bladder?"

"Have you ever been prone to bouts of excessive fidgeting?"

"Do you generally dribble to the left or to the right when falling asleep in a high backed uncomfortable chair?"

or, worst of all..

"Have you ever laughed loudly and inappropriately at 2nd rate mildly amusing romantic comedy dramas whilst wearing headphones?"

Then the airlines would have some REALLY useful information to allow them to seat people sensibly...

(if you have any of your own questions you'd like to hear asked, please post them as comments)

Seatback Video Display

BA's latest seatback interactive map display proved of limited value above 34,000 feet

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Docklands for Dummies

Whenever there is a redevelopment of a city docks, usually for upscale housing for "young professionals", have you noticed how they always leave the cranes. London, Liverpool, Manchester - every one jam packed full of cranes, all lined up, not one working - but repainted and rustproofed, presumably at great expense by the developer nonetheless.

But Why?

Who needs a crane ?

All the docklands-dwelling yuppies live in minimalist Bose-friendly micro-apartments anyway, so no-one is going to be unloading any massive pieces of furniture off a barge anytime soon, even if the damn cranes did actually work ?

But a non working crane is just a big bit of rusting iron - they don't provide much shade compared to, say, a tree - which looks a lot nicer anyway. And I haven't even seen anyone set up a bungee jumping business with a constant stream of Australians leaping from it after one to many Boags - nothing so potentially damaging to the house prices oh no sireee...

So, why clutter up the place with these decaying monoliths to a wasted industrial heritage at all?

The only thing I can think of is that they are there to create atmosphere - to remind people that they are living in a "dockside" development, thats far more exclusive. No, it's definately not just any old Barrat-built identikit ghetto on a re-developed industrial site still seeping chemicals and effluent up from the subsoil to eat away the foundations. Yes, "just look at those cranes - it shows that it's a "docklands" apartment dah-ling, very exclusive..."

Don't know about you, but personally I'd have thought the proximity of the water was enough of a giveaway myself.... but then again, I've never paid over the odds for a 20m2 flat with shared parking for my ragtop in a seagull-crapping target range, and the smell of rotting fish after every stormy day either..

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Koreas Tourist Initiative

An article in the Daily Telegraph travel section this Saturday said that as part of an initiative to boost tourism, South Korea has decided to remove large amounts of barbed wire (used to prevent North Korean spies infiltrating the country) from a number of their beaches.

Clearly the South Korean tourist authority has recently added some pretty switched on people to its current payroll. Imagine the interview:

"..and finally, could you tell us of one specific idea you have in mind that you think would make Korea a more attractive destination for tourists, and why yoo think it will work in practice?"

"Yes. There is an idea I have in mind. And I'm pretty confident it will work. Let me explain ....."

(30 seconds later)

"Thats Brilliant! You've got the job!"

Now they just have to work out how to stop all the North Korean frogmen hogging the deckchairs ....

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This is For Real...

Musical Madness!

When I saw this I was desparately looking for the hidden cameras.

And how embarassing to be seen even picking the flier out of the display in my hotel reception ??

Apparently it happens all over the US as well*.

Note to Mel Brooks - time to retire. Your work here is done.

(* the musical)

The Olympics - Thank You France!

If Britain had squeezed out Moscow, or New York, or Madrid in the last 2 to "win" the 2012 Olympics, things would be different.

Right now we'd all be muttering darkly into our pints of warm beer, moaning about the cost to the taxpayer, complaining that our journeys to work (for 1 month) 7 years from now would be a total nightmare, wingeing that house prices in our area will drop as "everyone moves into the East End to be near the Olympics" / "everyone moves away from the East End to avoid living in a 7 year-long building site", and all looking forwards to a classic, embarrassing half-hearted over-budget Best of British right royal cock-up.

But, it wasn't Madrid.
Or Moscow.
Or New York.

It was Paris.

Which means we beat the French!

So everyone in the whole country is deleriously is happy, and the whole thing is bloody brilliant!

Thanks a Billion Mr Chirac !

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Why Stick Insects can't join the SAS

Stick Insects haven't really thought things through, have they?

Their camouflage is brilliant - they do look just like sticks, and when it comes to hiding in trees, your average stick insect is the SAS award winner for "Mr Camouflage 2005" - however I suspect that it really isn't helping them all that much. Here's why:

The whole camouflage thing - as far as I can see, there are 2 main reasons for camouflage. It allows you to sneak up on stuff and eat it - and it allows you to hide from things that want to eat you.

So, the orchestra plays the creepy music, the tension mounts, and Mr Stick-ey sneaks silently,slowly, totally unnoticeable through his tree - and then (with a crescendo of drums and cymbals) pounces on his prey.... Which, lets face it, is going to be a leaf, isn't it. Not the most difficult thing to creep up on. "The Leaf" generally isn't noted for its hair-trigger reactions, its powerful running style, or its ability to retreat instantly into a protective burrow, drawing down a lid made out of its own droppings and saliva? You don't really need camouflage to catch a leaf - in fact, you don't even need to climb the tree - just sit underneath, wait until Autumn and you will have more than you can possibly imagine, no problem at all.

So - The Stick Insect clearly doesn't need the camouflage for "eating stuff". So, it has to be so it will "not be eaten" - presumably by birds and stuff. And again, at that its pretty good. Your average bird comes along, sees a stick insect, thinks "nope, I'm not hungry enough to eat a stick - lets go find a nice juicy caterpillar instead". So, so far Mr Stick-ey and his SAS-like skills are working just fine.

But what happens in springtime? When Mr Bird comes along, thinks "nope, still prefer eating caterpillars....But heeeey - that stick would look really good fastened to the edge of my nest!".

All of a sudden Mr Stick-ey isn't quite so clever now, is he? Eaten, no, bitten in half, carried up a tree, woven into the foundations of some bird house - yes. Net effect - still dead. Doh!

Translate it back to the SAS - your average mujahadeen warrior is walking down the road, looks at the roadside and thinks "Hmmm - I've not seen any of these SAS soldiers anywhere at all, but hey, isn't that a Habitat 6 place dining suite with fold out table leaves in brushed oak, next to an aluminium double glazing unit for a 8' by 5' bay window? - that'd look great in my mud hut!" Camouflage as household objects and building materials , it's not that effective. is it....

Hand back the SAS "king of camouflage" total Mr Stick-ey - you need to think again...

Friday, July 01, 2005


Just cleaned out our fishtank, which involved moving the fish out into a saucepan for a while, emptying the water and then cleaning the various rocks and plastic plants in the gravel at the bottom of the tank.

Must be an odd sensation for the fish, but one that doesn't quite translate into our world. Someone kidnaps you from your home by pulling you out of an upstairs window, then locks you in a small dark cell for about an hour. They then take you back home, let you back in through an upstairs window. The only difference you notice is that the entire house smells of air freshener, but its only when you go downstairs do you realise the kidnappers have also cleaned the carpet and rearranged your furniture - but only those pieces that that stand less than 3 feet tall.