Turn Out the Lights - The Lost Art of Conversation

Do What You Can


I thought I would start off with something positive today. I created the typography above in a new iPad app, Retype from Sumoing the creators of Repix, Camu and that other new app, Relook, which is almost a portable photoshop beater for airbrushing work.

Retype is available from the Apple App Store for $2.99 in the U.S. and £2.29 in the U.K. But, is it a great app? The verdict is that it isn't bad. It does need some updates if it is to compete with the hundreds of typography apps that already flood the App Store. Namely in that if you want to create multiple text entries, you need to save the work each time you want to add in some additional text, and then reopen the work to continue.

Easy Tiger have managed to get this functionality almost right, you can add a small number of additional text elements, but still not too many. Probably more a restriction of the iPad than the app, but it seems to flow much easier than Retype. That's not to say that Retype is a bad app. It's not. Far from it. You can pick layered text elements and circle through different styles with a tap, you can also add filters to the work.

The app also gives access to some public domain photography which you can use, or you can use your own photo's to create your next typographic master. There is a wide variety of motivational word elements, and you can also edit or add your own. The jury is out for now on wether or not this will be a Word Swag and Typic+ killer, it needs more updates. What we do know is that Sumoing do release regular updates to all of their apps. Repix for example is a completely different best to when it was first released.

In summary, if you need a typography app, there are better choices for now, but if you're thinking of holding on, this might just turn into the default typography app on the App Store, but it might take some time.



Trafalgar Square London

Everyone who has visited London, knows about the Bronze Lions in Trafalgar Square, but few are familiar with the eccentric story behind them. Sir Edward Landseer was commissioned to design the sculptures in 1858. The problem was that he worked so slowly that four years on, he had still only completed some sketches. I know how the poor chap feels. I have been trying to find my car keys for the last hour, and have got nothing done.

He spent hours at London Zoo studying the habits of lions, and then asked for a dead one to take home so he could keep it in his studio. This my friends was clearly a government contract. The problem was that he then had to spend another two years waiting for one to die. When the creature finally went to the savannah in the sky, it was put in a cart and delivered to Landseer’s studio.

Landseer put the lion in various poses, making more sketches and small sculptures. Landseer’s next problem became apparent when the lion decomposed before he had a chance to finish his work. Improvising, Landseer who by this time still had the lion’s paws to complete, had to improvise and decided to give the lions the paws of cats, rather than a lion’s paw. It wasn’t until 1867 when the installation was completed. Not far down the road, a pair of Sphinxes which are supposedly in place to guard Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment, are in fact facing the wrong way. This my friends is exactly why you need me in a pub quiz. More on pubs in a while.


According to Wikipedia's own entry, there are more than 4.8 million articles and counting in the English version alone, making it one of the most exhaustive and ever-expanding resources on the web.

Now, one artist is attempting to achieve the seemingly impossible – and print the entire thing out. In his exhibition From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!, currently showing at the Denny Gallery in New York, interdisciplinary artist Michael Mandiberg is showing work from his Print Wikipedia series, described as "both a utilitarian visualization of the largest accumulation of human knowledge and a poetic gesture towards the futility of the scale of big data". One can only hope he has plenty of ink for his printer.


In a rare turn of events, Christie's has formally withdrawn the seven of the Russborough paintings that were due to be auctioned next month. A spokesperson for Christie’s Auction House in London told TheJournal.ie that "six pictures scheduled to be sold in Christie’s 9 July Old Master & British Paintings Sale (lots 18-23) and the one picture scheduled to be sold in the Old Master Drawings Sale on 7 July (lot 53) on behalf of the Alfred Beit Foundation have been withdrawn. The seven pictures, include works by Rubens and Guardi, had a total estimate of €7 million to €10 million.

Richard Mellon Scaife certainly had the means to buy some of the worlds finest things, and thankfully also had good taste. When he bought furniture, china or decorative arts objects, demonstrated a discerning eye. Aged 82 years old, Scaife passed away on July 4th, 2014. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Christie’s in New York will auction furniture, china, art objects and even railroad signs that the late newspaper publisher collected during his life.

Among the lots are a silver-gilt dinner service made by Gorham and delivered in August 1889 to Washington Augustus Roebling, a civil engineer who was responsible, along with his father, John, for building the Brooklyn Bridge. The estimated sales price is $200,000-$300,000. I have a feeling that we'll see some serious bidding from the States, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the final bid doesn't even go slightly over the higher end of the estimate.



It’s familiar, comforting even, imagine a scene from any pub in any city, where local people come to shoot the breeze and wind down after a long day. It’s a picture of tranquillity, of community, but most of all, of conversation. I think back and I can still hear the conversations of not only me and my close friends, but also the often entertaining conversations of others during many hours in pubs when I was far too young to understand that me and alcohol don't really get on. Today, a pint of Shandy Bass would have me on my back for a week.

I even considered writing a book once, "Listen to the bar", of course those were also the days where data protection laws didn’t really exist. If I were to write it today, or more importantly, publish what I had started, then I dare say I would be hung for data treason. I can’t wipe the disk of information as it is currently stored in my head. For those in charge and who read this blog, please don’t go there and ask for brain data wiping in your next policy meeting. Seriously, you will find stuff in my head that would keep a therapist in work for years.

It’s that last magic word, more than the pints, the people, and the long wooden bar that makes the scene so special. Conversation. Where once the air was full of it, now there is only silence. I sat in Nando’s tucking into my extremely mild, plainish butterfly chicken breast in one of the busiest areas of London just a few days ago. The restaurant was full, yet there was an eerie silence.

Headphones are stuck into ears as the front door shuts behind us, and remain in throughout our day: walking to work, eating our lunch, in the gym, on the sofa, and obviously when having a bite to eat in Nando’s. We remain in our sound-clouds for as long as our desire and batteries hold out, and more and more of us are choosing to do just that. According to a recent Ofcom survey, 43% of the UK population own an MP3 player of some description.

Bus stops, train stations, waiting rooms and even hospitals – wherever you go, it’s always the same. Heads down, fingers tapping, we while away our time listening to our distraction of choice – and worse, forcing others to do the same. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on a train from Birmingham to London with only the sounds of One Direction squawking out from the earphones of the girl in the table seat opposite. Irrespective of the damage that it’s doing to her eardrums, it disturbs the peace and quiet of those around (unless, of course, they’re similarly plugged in too).

At best it’s antisocial; at worst, it’s just plain rude. Actually, listening to One Direction, or more specifically having that racket leaking from a pair of Beats is also classed as torture in this modern age. No doubt my pre-pubescent readers who happen to be 1D fans will disagree, as will my wife, but really? One Direction? No. Just no.

But it’s not just music players (when will oldies stop saying that? I think they're actually called Walkmans, but with a phone) which are at fault. The advance of mobile technology means that we have the world at our fingertips, all day, and every day. Our phones and tablets are stuffed full of apps which allow you to interact with someone on the other side of the world yet prevent us from communicating with the person next door. I purposely leave my suitcase bag on the adjoining seat on a train if other seats are available, not that I want to tune in, I just don’t really have an appetite to make small talk for 2 hours at 5am.

OK, I leave it on the seat when the trains full too. Want more? I have also been known to take a case when I'm only travelling for the day. When UK train operators stop running eight, First Class carriages, and two standard class, then I will move my case. For those who are familiar with my latte experience, and when the lift at the station broke my ribs, you'll understand that my love of the UK's rail network has bottomed out of late.

The steady buzz of conversation has been replaced by the tinny rings of notifications, messages, invitations to play games involving sweets, farm animals and busy roads – to name but a few. Now I also see people glaring at their Apple Watch, getting the latest Candy Crush notifications on their wrist. It kind of makes you want to rip the thing off their arms and make them respect the tech.

Wherever we go, our technology follows, or arguably even leads. We chart our dog walks, tag our locations, take photos of our food, and all the while remain so intent on capturing the moment that we miss what’s in front of our noses – unless, of course, it’s on a little square screen. Yes, I am guilty. I often walk down the Embankment next to the Thames when I am staying over in London, blissfully unaware that hundreds and hundreds of years of history is just a glance to the left or right.

Gone are the days when you could jump on a bus and have a quick chinwag with the person beside you, or exchange familiarities with someone in the queue for a coffee. They’re too busy liking a status to notice or even care. Then when you reach the front of that queue, the Barista asks your name, Mark with a K, and then the person further down the line delivering the steaming hot espresso shouts, Kark.

So can we ever recover the lost art of conversation? We might be too far gone, the only hope would be to turn the lights out, not recharge the device, and then we might find out that our families actually seem like nice people. Or, the social media bubble could eventually burst. A technological backlash could ensue, as people tire of being overly connected. Life, even my internet of things, fridge has an opinion on what I should buy and eat next.

Earlier, when I spoke of the scenes in bars, there’s a little reassurance that we remember the age of conversation, the good times, the listening to other people, and a jukebox in the background playing something by the Eagles. The pub is one of the last bastions of communication, it’s just a pity that so many are closing their doors, draining their kegs, or being sold to huge venture organisations more interested in selling microwaved food at overly inflated prices, and trendy bottled beers that are three times the price of real ale.


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