Monday, 21 August 2017

FASTER

“You’ve got to be faster, cheaper and better” - but the greatest of these is faster

In the world in which we live this mantra has the joint distinction of being both true and fantastically annoying. It’s on the lips of all Management Consultants and MBAs. Because in 2017 tortoises don’t win; they get run over.


But speed contains its own perils like prosecution, fatal collisions and blinding headaches. In Britain, as we are demonstrating in our preparation for Brexit, speed is not our priority because when we attempt to rev up we become like Lord Ronald in Stephen Leacock’s “Gertrude the Governess” - one of his Nonsense Novels:

“Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”



Our great trophy - HS2 - will cost £56 billion give or take and save 30 minutes on the journey time to Birmingham. If the money were spend instead on increasing broadband speeds and improving mobile reception this would improve our lives and the speed at which we operated in a much more relevant way. What sort of country Lord Ronald, we ask, do you want Britain to be? Currently we are 31st for broadband speed in the Global League Table. 17 of the EU countries come ahead of us. But (zut alors) we come ahead of France on whose slow broadband we contemptuously spit.

Presuming that we wish in our post Brexit lives to remain a green and pleasant land but also be supremely fit for international business for the next generation, speed in the right area rather than on a slightly quicker trip up north would seem the smart thing to do. But presumably we’ll push on with HS2 because we said we would.


Our second mission in speeding up our lives is to stop wasting our time. I have had a run-in with BT (yes them again) for several months over our defective landline. It hasn’t worked except for odd moments. Dealing with them is made harder by most of the conversations irritatingly being online or with a computer. Worst of all I’m wasting your time by telling you all this. (Breaking news…..Trevor from BT just fixed it and was mystified it had taken so long…)

By trying to make things simpler we’ve complicated processes so trying to fix anything takes a very long time. Today it took a very accomplished workman 3 ½ hours to fix one kitchen tap and conclude that another one was defective. The way they were assembled made this process incredibly longwinded.

We have too much bad design, too much choice, too many applications. We are wasting our energy being busy. In the recent Great British Menu one of the contestants produced a brilliantly complicated confection. The judges started at it and concluded “There’s a lot going on here…far too much”


So the greatest word is not faster.

It’s simpler.

Being less elaborate and more effective should be our mantra.

Monday, 14 August 2017

STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF!


This was the name of a 1966 musical. It’s how most of us seem to feel right now. In common with millions I have the strangest feeling that I’ve left something somewhere but I can’t remember what. The old certainties have gone.

It’s very much not a time as described by Robert Browning in his poem ‘Pippa’s Song’:
“The lark 's on the wing;
The snail 's on the thorn;
God 's in His heaven—
All 's right with the world!”

Not only can I not get off this crazy world, I can’t get away from my e-mails, texts and constant phone calls from people I don’t know calling and asking “What arrangements have you made about your Health Insurance…?”. Just hearing that brings out the hypochondriac in me - an alter ego groaning wistfully just below the surface.


It was time for a holiday. A long one. In our favourite place. Venice.

A time of quiet, artistic inspiration, beauty and certainty. All around the architecture is a confident 500 years old.

And something other worldly happened there.

I learned to read again. Suddenly the contemplative, written world became an essential part of my daily life. Books and especially novels replaced e-communications.

I learned to relish the ceremony of food, not just the taste but the going out and having time to munch my way slowly through gnocchi made in heaven. Meals that made me giggle with pleasure.


And something else strange. Spritz. In the British climate there’s one drink that has me squirming with distaste. Campari. It’s bitter. It’s red. It’s horrid. It has an improbable 86 mystery ingredients including chinotto (a small bitter orange type fruit) and cascarilla (Sweetwood or Croton bark from the Caribbean. It has narcotic properties.  We are warned darkly by doctors it has “side effects”).

In Venice as the heat built up I lived on those “side effects”. It was delicious, refreshing and saw me though the pitiless heat of Heatwave Lucifer. Lucifer racked up temperatures of 40C and humidity up to 70%. Between the heat and Campari I was anaesthetised for almost a month


So I got off the world.

A world of catastrophic Brexit negotiations, British politics dominated by people like Corbyn and Rees Mogg, world politics dominated by Trump and Kim Jong-un. Our destinies are being determined by buffoons. Getting off the world was good for me but now I’m back.

I recently learnt the key to our happiness, as as determined by the Japanese, is “Ikigai” - it’s our reason for getting up in the morning. The keys we’re told are taking pride in what we do; focusing on small things that bring us joy; getting up early and starting the day well and about being fully absorbed in everything we attempt.


This sounds more promising than mindfulness or hygge.

So I’m not going to get off the world. I’m just going to make my own, small world a place of greater joy.

Monday, 7 August 2017

WILL YOU BE GLAD TO BE BACK?


  1. I always want to see my friends and family
  2. I love Brighton
  3. I still wish we were European


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

DO YOU REALLY LIKE ITALIAN FOOD?


  1. Does the Pope have flat feet?
  2. If you had Panna Cotta like they make in La Bitta you wouldn't ask that question
  3. Simple, divine and yummy.
Richard Hall is spending a few weeks on holiday in Italy

Monday, 31 July 2017

WHAT IS ART?

You’ll spend most of the day at the Venice Biennale asking this question and not getting a very satisfactory reply. Pity the poor punter – and there were remarkably few of these there - who’s confronted with reflections, for instance, on the dreadful Romanian exhibition celebrating “multiple hypostases”. Nicely laid out we conclude. But is that art…a nice, tidy layout?

Here’s the advice

Start in the Arsenale not the Giardini and spend 2/3 of your time here. It’s fresher, younger and more fun. Better art too. Spend most of the rest of your time in the Giardini, (where the big boys exhibit their heavyweight pretentious assemblies), on the Korean stand.  Give each member of your group a Strictly-Come-Art-Reviewing card and mark each thing you visit out of ten.

Some Arsenale highlights:

  • You start with Charles’ Atlas; “The Tyranny of Consciousness” and Lady Bunny singing “What the fuck is wrong with me?” “It’s the Biennale mate” we replied. Good fun this song though.
  • The Crossroads Community (aka “The Farm) from San Francisco – worthy and heart-warming.
  • Teresa Lancasta’s colourful carpets
  • Yee Sookyung’s amazing Dragon in Wonderland “translated vases”

And then some great national exhibits

  • Argentina – a giant horse and small girl – benevolent nature fights back …great stuff (a 9)
  • Chile – Chilling display of masks on poles (an 8)
  • Georgia – war-torn, flooding house…eerily brilliant (an 8)

Some Giardini highlights

  • The stand out brilliant stand was Korea. Worth spending an hour there at least. For anyone about to visit China it’s mandatory. We thought it got a straight 9 ½.
  • Greece was interesting and provocative – “The Laboratory of Dilemmas” based on Aeschylus’ Ikidites. We gave it a 6 or 7.
  • Australia – again a 6 or 7 for a brilliant little film about refugees that was a must-see.
  • Russia got a 5. Some brilliant modelling and depiction of everything we fear and hate about communism. The lack of colour, the cloning and the violence

The rest

  • There must be people (or something) that loves Phyllida Barlow – her cat perhaps but even her cat would have reservations. It was (literally) rubbish. 
  • The USA vied with Phyllida for weird, abstract nonsense. Both got a 1.
  • As did France. Empty recording studios. “Are there normally people there?” I asked. “they’ve gone to lunch” was the scornful reply. It was a meaningless effort.
  • Romania -see above - got 3.
  • Germany (the winner of best stand and the only queue we saw all day) has Dobermans in cages outside – now where did I last see imagery like that – and inside glass floors and walls behind which actors with expressionless faces do expressionless things. Too crowded to see much, too dull to care much. Give it a 4.
  • Canada a nice cool fountain out of piles of old 2x4 off-cuts…a 5 for not annoying us.

The bar outside the entrance of the Giardini was excellent. Good loo too.  The loos inside near the Greek stand got a zero, a plain 0. GO TO THE LAVATORY BEFORE YOU ENTER THE GIARDINI.

Conclusion

Rage, despair and bemusement? Most of this is not art so much as “conceptual” constructions. For conceptual read “not having a real idea and then not doing it properly”. But there are exceptions. It would be worth coming to the Biennale if all you saw was the Korean stand. You’d also learn a lot about ten Asian countries.

So it’s a great day full of good, bad and ugly stuff. It may fill you with rage, despair, bemusement.

Boredom certainly not.

Ciao.

Monday, 24 July 2017

WHAT'S BRITAIN LOOK LIKE FROM VENICE?


  1. A faraway small island
  2. Confused and grumpy
  3. Lonely and lost
Richard Hall is holidaying in Italy for a few weeks

Monday, 17 July 2017

WHY DO I GO TO VENICE SO OFTEN?


  1. To feel European
  2. To wash my brain
  3. To read, write, sleep, eat and wonder at wonders
Richard Hall is on holiday in Italy for several weeks.