An Open Letter to the Greek Chamber of Commerce


Picture by James Bird


Dear Greek Chamber of Commerce,

I am aware that your members are currently under enormous economic duress, and I applaud their extra determination to get as many customers to enter their premises to aid the ailing Greek economy. Nevertheless, being bombarded every 5 meters by another hawker with ‘come in: nice food, cold beer’ for hours without end actually steels my resolve not to enter those exact premises that are aggressively trying to lure me in by standing in my way.

So, in the name of all the tourists visiting your lovely country, please tell your members that hawking inevitably will lead to another bail out.




It’s only Windows, but what can you do

I have what you would call a heterogenous network at home: there are two Apple laptops, an AppleTV, one Windows gaming rig, a few Linux based Wifi-radios, a RaspberryPi, an OpenBSD server, a Wii and an Apple Yimecapsule. All are living in perfect harmony, just like ebony and ivory, on my keyboard. Nothing ever breaks, stops suddenly working or behaves weirdly. Everything but the Windows machine. Now I don’t want to say that I am not happy with Windows 7. Compared to XP 7 is a wonderful OS, where everything always works and the GUI is (almost) fun. The games available via Steam are brillant, and AMD’s hardware makes the whole thing a delight to use.


Every so often (every 6 months?) Windows decides to stop playing ball. A boot might not be successful, the registry starts making funny noises, the control panel might not respond, etc. ‘Virus’ you might suggest. My idea exactly, but Mr Kaspersky is keeping a pretty good watch, the machine is being scanned, and I don’t venture on ‘those’ websites. Nope, it’s just Windows that decides to break down after a certain number of months. How many times  I had to reinstall the bloody thing I don’t know, but it’s certainly nothing I have ever had to do with OsX. So today I am sitting again in fron of the bloody screens, armed with numerous DVDs and have to wait until all the drivers, utilities and  games have downloaded. And all that on a rural broadband connection.

Time to play the bass and listen to some music.

Constant Communication Conundrums

It is rather interesting that the biggest problem the passengers camping in Heathrow Airport were having wasn’t the lack of flights, food or featherbeds but the complete absence of reliable information from staff. None of the passengers had any idea whether their flights were cancelled, postponed or boarding. The same thing happened last night to me, standing on an icy platform of a large East London station. I was wondering where all the trains were gone that were promised on the information board, as no cancellations were announced, when a northern, grumpy voice said over the tannoy:

“There will no main line services running until 9pm. Main Line services after 9 pm will be running sporadically and will be severely overcrowded. There is no guarantee that any trains will be running at all, though”.

Helpful, ay?

Fortunately I knew that my particular train was running on a branch line, but all the punters around me just shook their head and didn’t understand any of this. I just hope that they haven’t ended as icicles on a train platform in East London.

Swineflu is taking over. Especially in the press.

The place were I earn my money is broadly speaking in the healthcare business: folks call us or walk through the door, get some advice or some medication and leave the premises (hopefully) soon feeling better. Over the last 3 weeks the amount of people me and my workmates have been seeing and given advice over the phone has broadly quadrupled. The amount of fear and misinformation that is out there in the community is incredible. The relentless pounding of sensationalist headlines by the English red tops into the psyche of its readers has turned this normally relaxed and good natured country into a collection of existentially frightened humans fearing for their lives. That it compares favourably to other influenza epidemics doesn’t seem to be registered. The amount of misinformation doesn’t help. Daily changing guidance from a plethora of different agencies and quangos only adds to the confusion.

Stay calm. If you have flu like symptoms, stay at home until you’re better. If you have long term health problems, call your GP or one of the numerous helplines. Have some paracetamol, they will help make you feel better. Don’t watch day time television: it’s very bad for your brain.

See, that wasn’t hard, was it?

Marcel Berlins is bad-ass avantgarde. And such lovely hair! And exquisite features! I want to meet him and bow to him! Express my delight at his opinions!!

“Marcel Berlins is a lawyer turned journalist. Apart from his two weekly Guardian columns, he is a university law lecturer, reviews crime fiction for the Times and is a frequent broadcaster.”

He is also rather pompous with elitist views on the accessibility of art.  His latest comment in today’s Guardian bemoaned New York City’s Musem of Modern Art’s policy of allowing the public to take pictures of the exhibits. How dare they?

“I was being jostled and pushed not by people anxious to get a better view of the art on show in one of the world’s great museums, but by mobile phone owners rudely trying to ensure no one blocked their desired camera angle. They were there not to see and be inspired by artists of genius, but to take snaps to prove they were there.”

As it happens I was visiting the MOMA last week as well and I can’t remember any jostling going on. On the contrary, the members of the public taking pictures did this with a certain awe.  Just like Monsieur Berlins I wondered about the museum’s policy of allowing the public to take pictures, but in stark contrast to him I was actually delighted (so was the best girlfriend ever). I even asked one of the delightful attendants and she said the policy in place because the musum is ‘modern’. Good on her. Signore Berlins obviously isn’t. You see, I’m  just a middle -class bog standard academic with middle class income, so I can’t afford to have a Seurat hanging in my guest toilet.

I was quite happy to have the chance of taking some well-lit pictures with a proper camera of some outstanding art work. I don’t make it that often to New York and I will now relish the chance of being able to gaze lovingly at my favourite Klees and Feinigers. Marcel nevertheless doesn’t like this, because:

“Photography in museums ought to be banned, but I also have a less drastic solution. Anyone wanting to snap an exhibit ought to be forced to look at it first, for at least a minute. If they don’t, they should be fined for each second of non-inspection. The scheme will, of course, have considerable technological, financial, logistical and manpower implications. But it will be in the cause of art.”

In the cause of art I am actually delighted that MoMa uses photography to make art viral: the more these precious paintings, sculptures and installations can be cherished by an ever expanding pool of viewers (be it on  a computer or in a museum) the more art wins. Making musems and their content more accessible to a wider audience (so the plebs can show their pictures to their plebeian friends) will democratise art.

Even our pompous little art critic must cherish that thought. On the other hand, he probably prefers to have the galleries to himself, scratching his chin and possibly muttering into his beard.