Saturday, June 28, 2014

How good are your WW1 connections?

On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there's inevitably a lot of reflection on the 'great' war of 1914 -1918. Virtually every British publication has been preparing its own tribute or analysis. The Richmond Magazine is no exception.

The glossy freebie, already familiar to readers of Washed and Ready to Eat, normally survives on a staple diet of articles from local divorce lawyers and ads for preparatory schools. In the latest edition, however, they have gone to town in commemoration of centenary of the European conflict. 

Who better to ponder the implications of WWI than the great-granddaughter of the Archduke whose death kicked the whole shooting match off? 

It goes without saying that Her Serene Highness Princess Marie-Therese von Hohenberg is herself a recipient of The Richmond Magazine, living as she does in the upmarket south-west London district of St Margarets. We are introduced to her husband, the 'interfaith campaigner' Anthony Bailey OBE (apparently described by The Observer in 2007 as 'one of the most influential men you've never heard of'), and their son, Maximilian. 

In typical style, the prose of the interview is just a little overblown. 

"From the soil of calamity darker flowers sprang," writes magazine Editor Richard Nye, when he refers to the seeds of Hitlerism sown in the Treaty of Versailles and ultimately traced back to that 'tumultuous Balkan morn' of the assassination. 

There's much talk of the couple's religious beliefs - 'faith is not a fortress to keep the infidel out; it is a bridge to believers on other shores' - as well as their welcome support for the beleaguered EU. 

"Vienna may have lost its throne," comments Nye, "but deep within its melancholy ashes the European dream lives on."

Indeed it does. So much so, in fact, that Mr Bailey is pictured wearing what looks like traditional Austrian garb, despite the fact that he was born in London. He's really entered into the spirit of the thing. And the Princess? According to the editor, she brings the 'aroma of a vanished court'. 

The gauntlet has been thrown down. If your local rag tries to fob you off with the tale of some anonymous Private Baldrick, point them in the direction of Richmond.

Rumsfeld visits moon to reward brave space warrior

There are probably a large number of people who’d quite like to see former US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld sent to the moon. What they may not realise is that the eccentric octogenarian has already been there. At least if we believe ‘Captain Kaye’, a former military operative who’s been busy fighting to protect the human colonists on the red planet.

The Mirror reported recently that Kaye (a pseudonym) had served in a secret, multinational fleet, dedicated to battling Martian life forms. After 20 years, the brave space warrior was given a fitting retirement party on the moon, which was attended by a number of VIPs, including Rummy.

The hawkish politician is perhaps best remembered for his musings about Iraq, in which he distinguished between known knowns (things we know we know) and known unknowns (things we know we don’t know).  Up until a couple of days ago, his lunar connections fell into his third category of unknown unknowns. We didn’t know we didn’t know.

Now that we’re aware of the Martian conflict, it’s only a matter of time before there will be a clamour for our boys to withdraw. Especially when the stuff about the CIA ‘dark’ prisons on Saturn comes out.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The It-Phrases for Die neue Generation

We’re used to foreigners borrowing English words and phrases. After all, we just have a way with words in Blighty and it’s hardly surprising that others want to snaffle them. I was slightly surprised, however, on a recent business trip to Germany, to see quite how far the phenomenon has gone. Picking up a copy of self-styled ‘fashion magazin’ Mädchen Style as a gift for my teenage girls, there’s evidence of a completely bizarre hybrid language which is neither fisch nor fowl.

“Kann mann diese Hosen nur zum Sport tragen?” the mag asks its readers. The answer is a resounding “Nö!”  It becomes clear that ‘Stars und Fashionistas’ have judged this particular pair of jogging bottoms to be an absolute ‘It-Piece’ – not only ideal for running around the block, but also well suited to a catwalk promenade.

On some pages, the headlines are written in English, while the body copy that follows is in German. And we’re then treated to a selection of colourful phrases that owe something to both languages.

Hyphenation is the order of the day.

Design-Stars tell us about 2014’s Must-Haves and Key-Items, which might be eine kleine Clutch or a pair of glasses that are part of the current coolen Streetstyles.

Some girls go for the grunge-like Trashy Used-Look.  But what if you were into the ultra-hot Hippie-Look instead? Well, you’re in luck, as “It’s Festival-Time!” and today’s coolen outfits are all a reminder of the legendären Woodstock-Festival.

This weird new world of English-Speak hasn’t unfortunately made its way into adult conversation in Germany. When I tried it out on taxi drivers in Hannover, they were having none of it. Back to the drawing board for Washed-And-Ready-To-Eat.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

A glassy-eyed audience eyes up Glass

Resistance is futile: Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford models Google Glass

Google Glass might as well be rebranded Google Gold Dust.

Attending a masterclass in London sponsored by The Guardian newspaper, I soon discovered that the sexiest wearable tech in the world isn’t available to everyone. The duo hosting the show on 3rd June – video production experts Michael Rosenblum and Lisa Lambden – had got hold of their own device from a nephew’s colleague’s roommate.

A couple of the participants had somehow got hold of their own Glasses too.

Glasses? I have a hunch that the plural of Glass may actually turn out to be Glass.

Anyway, one of the owners, who seemed to be connected to the UN and was responsible for protecting rhinos or something, wore his set throughout the session. If he’d let go of his x-ray specs, he’d probably never have seen them again, so desperate was everyone to get a selfie of themselves wearing them. My suspicion was that most people there already knew very well what Glass was all about, but wanted to see the bloody thing in real life and show off to their friends on Facebook and Instagram. That was certainly my own motivation.

Rosenblum, a bullish New Yorker with a sense of the theatrical, told us he was taking us back 500 years in time. He then informed us that we were back in the 15th century. I’d had a glass of wine courtesy of The Guardian, so could easily have quibbled with his maths, but because I’d had a glass of wine, I wasn’t so confident of my own. He was talking about Gutenberg and the printing press and Martin Luther and the reformation. And apparently live streaming from Glass is on a par with all of this medieval stuff.

Someone from the audience pointed out that most of the functionality of Glass is already there in smartphones. It was certainly true that when Rosenblum showed us a video in which he wandered the streets of NYC, it was very much, ‘Glass, take a picture’ and ‘Glass, take a video’. And some of us were like yeah, yeah, right, whatever – thinking that we can do all this with our iPhone without jerking our heads in strange ways. And there was a LOT of jerking around, prompting sniggers from those of us who’d been on the Pinot Grigio. Believe me, Glass will not catch on if it makes people look as if they have a neurological condition or are in urgent need of an osteopath.

The fact that it’s less visible than a smartphone is a change, of course. Our tutor had crept into a New York museum with the Glass over his prescription lenses and hadn’t been stopped. His cameraman, on the other hand, was barred from entry.

And this was the picture that was painted of the future. People happily Glassing their way into sporting events and streaming stuff from every imaginable angle. It’s a fundamentally disruptive technology argues Rosenblum, as broadcasters who’ve paid billions for sporting rights will be outmanoeuvred and found that they’ve wasted their money.


Or another scenario is that everyone is stripped of their wearable tech before entering the stadium. Boxes of confiscated Glasses, carefully guarded by TV companies and sponsors.

The broadcasters needn’t worry too much right now anyway, as the battery power of Glass would – according to the hosts – not last long enough to let you stream the second half of a Premier League football match. Which would we prefer, do you think? The full 90 minutes in high definition or 3D on Sky Sports? Or picking up the authentic, live, jerking stream of a Glass enthusiast who runs out of juice in the stadium toilets at half time?

Don’t get me wrong. I think ‘wearable’ is indeed going to be big in the future. And the live streaming capabilities of Glass certainly do have some application in the crowd-sourcing of news reports. But I don’t see that as being a challenge to properly edited and curated content of the type produced and distributed by TV networks currently. The two things will quite happily co-exist. Radio never disappeared because TV came along.

The discussion started to drift towards privacy issues and so-called 'Glassholes', who might choose to abuse the technology. One participant ventured that people would be using jamming equipment soon to stop people spying on them covertly using Glass.

Lisa, a Brit (who was a little more sanguine about the technology than her enthusiastic American partner), revealed that she’d recently been in a New York cab in which the driver was Glassed up. If he’d been videoing people in the street as he drove, they’d have been none the wiser.

I started to think of London cabbies equipped with the technology.

"Where was that, guv? Glass, can you give me directions to North of the river?"