Downton Abbey, Japanese Toilets, & The Appalachian Trail

DOWNTON ABBEY

Downton Abbey fans will be both looking forward to the next series, but at the same time will be looking at the series with some sombre thoughts, the sixth series will be its last. After six years of filming the cast and crew have become very close, and it has been reported that tears were shed in the last days of filming.
The worldwide success of the show has meant that job offers have been flooding in for the cast. Joanne Froggat, who plays ladies maid Anna Bates, only had a weekend off after the end of filming on Downton before starting work on a new ITV drama Dark Angel, where she plays the Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton.
As for the fans expectations of the final series, let’s hope that it is left with a possible opening for more in the future. Perhaps Downton twenty-years on, although I really wouldn’t hold my breath for any return of the popular show. Downton Abbey Season six starts airing in the UK on Sunday 20th September 2015, on ITV.

GOOGLE

So we have lived with the new Google logo for a few weeks and to be honest, no one has had much to say. Usually with logo changes, social media is awash with cries of “oh no what have you done”, or, “it’s just not the same since they changed their logo”, but this time, the chat is subdued. To be honest, I haven’t noticed. It kind of looks the same, it’s still the same branding, just a modern twist to a font.
Google all rights reserved
Have you actually noticed?
It seems though that in today’s combative and critical social media climate, a neutral response is a win. As with most issues of combined strategy and graphic design, industry reaction to the change was mixed, with neither side being violently enamoured with or opposed to the new logo.
Brands do change their identities every so often, and generally everyone has an opinion. It’s just that the change of the Google logo. Those that did notice the change were primarily within graphic design circles, but I am surprised that there were not many cries of distaste from the general population.
Some logo updates draw only brief murmurs of objection via social media, while some evoke enormous backlash, like Tropicana’s 2009 brand and packaging overhaul. The negative reaction to Tropicana’s new logo and packaging was swift and vicious and accompanied by a 20% drop in sales so it was no surprise that the company reverted back to the original brand identity within a matter of weeks. But it seems that with Google’s change, no one has really noticed, and if they have, they are neutral about the whole thing.
So would I be correct in my thinking that no one is actually bothered by the change? It would be great to hear your views, and if you feel moving from old to new has had an impact.

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Ever since reading Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods, walking the Appalachian Trail has been something I really want to do. It’s up there on the bucket list with visiting the base camp at Everest, and walking over the invisible line at Area 51. But living in the UK with a family and a day job, makes things a little difficult.
Concerns are now being raised that the trail needs a limit to be placed on the number of hikers walking through it each year. This was done on the opposite side of the U.S when the Pacific Crest Trail had limits applied by the Trail Association.
Now with the release of a film based on Bryson’s work (A Walk in the Woods 1998), there is some concern that the Appalachian Trail might see a further visit in through traffic. Some people have even said that it is already like a month-long frat party.
In the 1970’s the numbers attempting the hike were in the region of 775 people, and in the 1940’s only three hikers completed the trail. Compare this to 2014, where more than 2,800 thru-hikers started the trail, and an estimated 3-4 million people walked at least a section of it, the numbers look very different. The release of the new movie, and a probable interest in re-reading Bryson’s book, will no doubt inspire a few others to join the hike.
The entire trail is some 2,168 miles, and there is real concern that many of the new hikers will break the rules. There is already growing evidence that hikers are carrying open containers of alcohol, illegal camping, and some even forge service-dog papers so that they can bring their pets with them.
Regional organisations are preparing as best they can for the added numbers that will no doubt come along and attempt the trail following the new movie. However, that might not be enough to counteract the potential damage caused by too many hikers. It seems that the days and years where hiking was a solitary activity have now transitioned to an activity that has little regard for the protection of such a beautiful trail. I just hope I get to do at least a part of it before it’s too late.

ONLY IN JAPAN

The place I call my sanctuary, the washroom/toilet/loo, depending on where you are in the world, will be immortalised in a new museum celebrating the toilet in Kitakyushu, Japan.
The toilet museum will be operated by a company called TOTO, who by their own admission have revolutionised bathrooms, and are Japan’s leading toilet manufacturer. Japan is renowned for its technical toilets, and Japanese visitors to the UK and the U.S must surely be disappointed to find ceramic basins that do one thing, they flush away waste without literally the bells and whistles of the Japanese loo.
Japanese toilets are way more advanced, they offer water jets, deodorisers, and temperature controls, and from what I have seen, many other features that I am not brave enough to attempt, because I simply cannot read Japanese very well. Allegedly 76% of Japanese homes have an electronic toilet seat.
Japanese Toilets
Have you got this button too?
Visitors to the museum will be able to take a trip to the toilet museum and view recreated bathrooms from different eras. The company’s first bidet-equipped toilet seat, and other sanitary highlights.
The cost of admission to the museum will be free, a bargain compared to the thirty-pence required for a short visit to the toilets at the railway station in London.

EYES IN ART

There is a reason why so many security companies feature a pair of eyes in their logo designs and adverts, according to various reports, just seeing a pair of eyes on a poster can make people act differently.
For animals, knowing that something or someone is watching can make a difference between life and death, and whilst humans don’t have many natural predators these days, that instinct still lingers in the human mind.
Neurological studies have shown that there are special brain cells that fire when a person is being stared at, and this is something that even I have noticed. If I catch a glimpse of someone I think I know, it always seems that the person takes a look back at me. Not that I am into staring at people, well not in a stalker/sinister way, I just find people fascinating, and I meet many people in my work.
Apparently this phenomenon is called “gaze detection”, and while we initially had this ability to spot predators, some law enforcement agencies believe that it might help to deter some crimes.
Police in the West Midlands, UK, have been using eyes in their posters as part of “Operation Momentum” for almost a decade. More recently however, Police in Nottinghamshire (UK), have reported that crimes like shoplifting dropped almost 40% after deploying signs with gazing eyes in 2013.
It is plausible that if we think we are being watched we will behave, what we do know is that the eyes capture visible attention. So with this in mind, would the same thing apply to art as well? I have created a few pieces of work using eyes, and you can see them in the galleries on this site, and collectively on my Fine Art America site. Who knows if you buy one whether or not it might deter burglars, but probably worth a try!

IS THIS ERA OF TECHNOLOGY COMING TO AN END?

When I think back to past episode of Star Trek, and I mean the real original Star Trek, not this stuff of late, one thing that they did do very well was to predict the technology of the future. We saw flip phones many years before they were a reality, even Google glass turned up in a few episodes many years ago. Recently Tesla managed to do something that no other car manufacturer has ever done to date, they scored 103 out of 100 in an American consumer report. Quite how they did this is beyond my simple mind, but having sat in a couple of Tesla vehicles, I really, and I mean really, want a Model S.
But today we are at somewhat of a point. A crossroads, a time for decision before we can move on. This blog has to date been bubbling along nicely for now over 9-months. In blogging terms that is supposed to be ground breaking. Apparently many stop when they realise that they are not getting readers, not being paid millions in advertising revenue, and realise that even a couple of posts per week is actually hard work. I have said it before, just writing a blog post of 2000 characters can take me a good four to five hours, and research can take sometimes even longer.
One of my upcoming blog features on creating a conspiracy theory has taken me exactly 29-hours to date, and it is nowhere near complete. It seems some bloggers just give up. Believe me when I say it is something that I thought about in the first two weeks of starting this blog, and pretty much every day since, but I am as they say persistent, and I see the blog and a future website as being integral to my long term strategy and something much more enjoyable than my day job.
So back to subject, the signs of the end of this era are clearly visible. Celebrities are walking away from their social media accounts, paying for news is something that we no longer have to do. In fact I cannot remember the last time I looked at a newspaper that was made out of paper.
So where does it leave us? The current strand of technology may have hit a crossroads, but we can guarantee that something new will come along very soon. It seems like technology is a merry-go-round of innovation. The ride stops briefly and someone new joins the next ride. What technology needs next is uniqueness, and that’s something we haven’t seen in a while. What we need now are a new set of innovators.
What do you think the next wave of technical innovation might be? It would be great to hear your comments and I will feature the most out of the box with a possibility of becoming real ones in a future post!

ART MARKETS ARE BOOMING

It appears that the success of the art markets current rise is in the news once again. Many of the world’s elite are putting together world-class private collections as an investment. These wealthy collectors though are not just assembling vast collections purely for investment purposes, they are putting together art collections for protection of pieces, or so they say. What is really at the heart of the collections is something called wealth management.
They are creating strategies for purchasing art, and there are a growing number of businesses that are eager to assist in forming the strategies. These organisations not only create a strategy, they also create succession plans for ownership, and plan advanced strategies for selling or gifting artwork to take advantage of tax rules. In some cases private museums are created enabling families to create an enduring legacy.
Captive insurance companies offer art buyers the opportunity of customise the needs of the insurance policies to make sure that they fit with the collector, and make sure insurance gaps are closed. Captives also allow collectors to provide remedies in the event of anything adverse happening to the art.
It seems that it’s not just the art world that is benefiting from the current upward trends in retail, but a plethora of supporting businesses are benefiting too. My only hope is that private collections are occasionally opened to the public. Art really should be seen.
To lend some context to this, affordable art is also becoming a bit of a thing. Quite a number of affordable art fairs are starting to appear, although if you read releases from Christie’s, their publicity machine is gearing up to promote a Modigliani nude that will headline its next auction of modern and contemporary art works in November. The price tag for the 1917 oil is estimated to be at least £100million. Not quite the affordable art that most of us would like to collect.
So, even if you missed last week’s Affordable Art Fair in New York – or weren’t even aware that it was taking place – it’s worth remembering that artists like Koons, Hirst, and Takashi Murakami are the exception rather than the rule. There are thousands of lesser-known artists struggling to make a living. And it’s at fairs like these launched in the UK in 1999 and now taking place at art-world hubs like Maastricht, Hong Kong, Milan and Singapore, as well as New York – that ordinary art lovers and wannabe collectors on a more limited budget can pick up those artists’ work.




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