Given the enormity of the situation surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes I’d have thought that even us in the world of advertising night have found some level of sensitivity.
Apparently not.
On the BBC site there was a story about a poster promoting the new De Niro and Pacino film. The film was called ‘Righteous Kill’ and unbelievably the tag line read “There’s nothing wrong with a little shooting as long as the right people get shot.”

righteous-kill1

Now I’m not sure where to start with how wrong this is. Does no-one care about the feelings of the poor man’s family? Does no-one bother to go out and check how postings actually look nowadays? If not, why not? Surely we shouldn’t trample on people’s feeling with quite such gay abandon?
I know that everyone will agree that this was crass and stupid. But collectively we (as the advertising community) have to try and improve our image. Otherwise we’ll end up even more hated than lawyers. And that’s saying something.

Judging from the look of these ‘Chain Surfing’ videos, this looks even more tricky than surfing on waves. I’m sure it’s not (before all the surfers I know email and complain), but this still looks amazing.
In short, these guys must be pretty awesome surfers, with a terrific sense of balance.
They basically jump onto a chain-link fence and then surf on it as their weight and balance throw them around. Best not bother reading my poor attempts to make this sound as interesting as it looks, just watch the video below. This first one looks like it’s shot in the UK.

And this second example is, I reckon, from Europe. The guy takes a running jump to get himself started, and he gets some pretty good moves going. It includes a snippet of the first clip above, and then jumps back to our second bloke. Again, it’s hugely impressive.

I find surfing intriguing and am keen to try it before I get too old for it. One of the guys I play football with is a surfer, so I’m angling to get an invite along at some in the new year. I’ll keep you updated and let you know how badly I get wiped out. With photos if I can organise it.
Here’s how it should be done, by the pro’s at the O’Neill Highland Surfing Championships. This footage is from the 2008 competition, but you can catch them every year, towards the end of April in a small town at the very north of Scotland, called Thurso.

Thurso’s about as far from the central belt of Scotland as it’s possible to get. But, as we’re quite a small country, it’s easily do-able in a day. It’s got a great reputation for some excellent swell and also for some excellent partying. So go along and show them your new chain surfing skills.

In the last year that figures are available for bonuses and dividends paid out by Lehman Brothers (2006) they paid out $8.7 billion.
When they filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2008 they had losses of $6.6 billion. [Private Eye, 19th September 2008]
Even a kid in second grade maths would be able to work out that paying out bonuses and dividends of that size was not only unsustainable, but also morally corrupt.
Since the UK banking market has been deregulated there has been a ‘snouts in the trough’ mentality. Grab as much as you can and to hell with the consequences.
Well, how about we make them pay it back. They were happy to line their own pockets when the market was buoyant. So they should be forced to return some now that the inevitable has happened.
If they don’t have the foresight to realise that the audience of the Jeremy Kyle show are not going to be the most able of mortgage holders they don’t deserve any sympathy. What about the thousands of lower-level workers who never saw the huge bonuses, but are now seeing redundancy notices?

What do you mean you can't make the repayments?

What do you mean you can't make the repayments?

And the fact that no government anywhere in the world seems able to control effectively how the markets work. So they are all open to being manipulated by anyone with deep enough pockets.
Don’t be under any illusions – it was not bad luck that brought the current credit crunch to our doors. It was sheer, utter, naked greed. And sadly those responsible are not the ones who’ll pay.
So next time you hear a rich banker bemoaning his lot, call him something that rhymes with his job and tell him to think about those less well off than himself. For a change.

I went down to Bristol last Friday morning to attend the Encounters Short Film Festival. It’s now in its 14th year, and it still feels as fresh as the first time I went.
I went down with Adrian from mightysmall, and we crammed a huge amount of films into the two days we were there. At a conservative estimate I reckon we saw somewhere in the region of 90 films. They varied in length from 90 seconds up to 30 minutes, and they varied in quality too. There were some absolute gems, a lot of very good films and a small number that I’m going to be kind about and say I didn’t get.
You can visit the Encounters site here and see some of the films through their website. You can also see some great films that are all 90 seconds or less at the DepicT! site.
There were a high number of great films. Some of them will appear on YouTube, given time, and others will appear on sites like Babelgum, 4mations, Mini Masterpieces and the BBC Film Network.
I’ll give you a quick run down of my highlights of the festival, plus a brief synopsis of each of the stories.
Stand Up, directed by Joseph Pierce, UK. 2008:
A comedian who seems to love booze more than his act is seen to unravel in front of the audience whilst he’s on stage. It’s a tragic comic performance that leaves the audience unsure how to react.
See it here.

Skhizeik, directed by Jeremy Clapin, France, 2008:
A surreal little film about a man who is struck by a meteorite and ends up inhabiting a space that is actually 91cm from his body. Weird and beautiful.

skhizein

See a clip from it here: (click on Bande-Annonce to view the trailer)

Next Floor, directed by Denis Villeneuve, Canada, 2008:
A superb film. Watch out for this one worrying them at the Oscars – that’s how good this is. It has a great, simple idea that cracks along and keeps you right on the edge of your seat. The cast is excellent and leaves the audience in no doubt as to the desired outcome for the table of glutinous horrors. The technique used is great and builds towards an earth-shattering finale.
See a clip here:

The Contract, directed by Konstantinos Fragkopoulos, UK, 2008:
A lovely little twist that is hugely unexpected. We open on a little old man sitting on a bench in a park. He seems almost invisible as he feeds the pigeons. Then he stands and starts to walk. As he moves we see him become slightly less fragile and a little more bold. We then see him carry out a hit on a bloke, where he stabs him and then places him down on the bench, as if he is sleeping. He then gently wanders off on his way. Brilliant. (I couldn’t find a link to this film. Yet. Once I do, I’ll post it here)

This Way Up, Directed Smith and Foulkes, UK, 2008:
Another great film, this time a claymation animation that sees a father and son undertakers attempting to lay a coffin to rest with a bit of dignity. Fat chance. It all starts to go wrong as the hearse is crushed by a rock (in a scene reminiscent of the Honda ‘Cogs’ advert). We then see all manner of catastrophes as they try to lay the deceased to rest. This was commissioned by the BBC, so watch out for it on a TV near you. These are the two geniuses who created the “Hate something/Love something” Honda ad. Pretty talented blokes, I guess. Watch the film on the BBC Film Network here.

this-way-up

There is also a competition within the competition in the form of a micro film competition, where the only rule is that it must be under 90 seconds in length. Which, for those of us with an advertising background, seems like quite a long time.
Each year there are a mix of great films and some truly strange films that make the final shortlist in the DepicT! competition.
My favourite three this year were:
In the Name of God, directed by Hamed Knobari, Iran, 2007
We see a young boy sitting an exam. We see him keep stealing furtive glances at the palm of his hand. This is intercut with the teacher walking round the room. We assume that the kid is cheating. The teacher stalks up from behind and makes him open his closed fist. Then we see that what is actually written on his hand is “In the name of God. The compassionate. The merciful.” in Arabic. This was a great little film that left me with a warm smile on my face.

What’s Virgin Mean, directed by Michael Davies, UK, 2008
A mum and her young daughter are in the kitchen. The young girl doodles as her mum makes the tea. Suddenly the daughter asks her mum: “What does virgin mean?” We then see the mum squirm a but and then rise to the task of explaining this mystery term to her daughter. The rug-pull is then that the daughter asks: “So what’s extra virgin?” and it turns out that she’s been reading from the label of an olive oil bottle. Nice, but I guessed the pay off after about 5 seconds.

Enough, directed by Tor Kristofferson, UK, 2008
Another film with a great reveal. We see an elderly man sitting in his house as youths bully a kid on the street. We see the elderly man sink a tumbler of whisky, before grabbing a truncheon and heading out to confront the youths. We see him approach the youths, and them scatter. He grabs one of them and asks him what he thinks he’s doing. The kid shouts at him to get off. One of the other kids then stabs the elderly man. At which point the youth he’s holding cries out: “Dad!” Like I say, an amazing reveal. And a seriously powerful piece of film making.

You can view all of the DepicT! shortlisted films for 2008 by clicking here.

I was also lucky enough to catch a showing called Blank Slate, by a collective called B3 Media.
They’re always on the look out for creative talent to nurture from communities that are underrepresented by the mainstream. They had a screening of ten short films, from all sorts of different perspectives.
There was a great little film called ‘Preacher’ which had a kung fu inspired preacher ridding the neighbourhood of all the bad cats. Another brilliant film was ‘Souljah’ which won best film at the Soho Rushes film festival. It shows an unexpected side to a cross-dressing asylum-seeker when his mum is pushed around by the local hoods. And a great, funny film about an old-school comedian who plays a club in a black part of town. He initially dies on his arse, but he manages to bring the audience round with a bit of self-deprecation. It’s a lovely little tale, that’s well shot and nicely told. Check out their website and see their latest offerings.

All in all it was a brilliant 2 days. Bristol itself is a beautiful city with lots of shops for a self-confessed book and record addict to enjoy. There are some great restaurants and bars, and the harbourside where the film festival is held is a great spot for soaking up the atmosphere.
So if you love film, then spend a few days in Bristol at the end of November. You just might catch an early film by the next big thing.

I might have known that some academic mentalist in the States would use the terrorist atrocities in Mumbai to try and justify the carrying of weapons. Or, to be more precise, concealed handguns.

And it’s this that really gets on my wick. They’ll stand up and say that it’s their right, as handed down by the Constitution. If they stopped for just one second and actually read the Constitution they’d realise that it “recognises” the right to keep and bear arms, but it does not (I’ll repeat that, not) “establish” the right to do so. The Constitution was also written some considerable time ago, when society was far less civilised, and people in isolated areas would feel the need to be able to organise themselves into militias to (and here’s the important bit) protect the state. Just for those of the slow-thinking variety, here’s the direct quote:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” (Second Amendment to the Constitution.)

I don’t even know why I’m bothering with this. The mentalists believe that heavily arming themselves will protect them. I’m not sure if they’ve seen the statistics, but you’re far, far more likely to be a victim of gun crime if you carry a gun (and that’s not exactly rocket-science for the thinkers amongst us).

And whilst I’m on a bit of a rant, I reckon there’s something in the American psyche or way of life that doesn’t help. Sweden has traditionally had the highest gun ownership per capita in the world. This was due to the fact that every male (and many females) had to carry out military service. So each person doing so was issued with a handgun and also an assault rifle. And they were taught how to use them. And they stored them at home, in secure cabinets. So it seems a little strange that we never hear of a Swede going radio rental in a place of previous employment/ex-girlfirend’s house/college/school. There are not now the same numbers of people carrying out military service in Sweden, but the point still holds. What is it about Americans that makes them so gung ho? I realise that they think that they own the world, and the rest of us are just here to make up the numbers, but surely they can see that guns are bad. And the argument about not being able to defend yourself? Stop giving people a reason to hate you and then you might stop feeling so paranoid.

I’m going to put a link here (which may be a big mistake, as I may bring down upon me the wrath of the mentalists) to show you what an Author/Senior Research Scholar at the University of Maryland (Mr. John R Lott) thinks about gun control. When I read the headline “The Life-And-Death cost of gun control” I thought that it might have got the right end of the argument (for a change). Sadly, it was more of the same “It’s my right” behaviour. See the madness for yourself here.

For me, the argument of “It’s my right” is on the same level as a kid who turns up to play football and when things don’t go his way he grabs the ball and goes home in the huff with the immortal words: “It’s my ball. My rules or we don’t play.”

If you are pro-guns, then go away and don’t bother me. Give me a shout when you’ve grown up and can have a proper discussion, rather than just tossing your rattle out the pram at every opportunity.

Because guns don’t kill people, idiots do.

Here’s one of these brilliant little photo shoots that you can’t imagine how they managed to persuade the stars to take part. It is, basically, famous stars from the 70’s with their parents. How very rock and roll.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for families being close and sharing their lives with each other. But you have to draw the line somewhere. And that somewhere has surely got to be before you start taking shots like the one below.

Kick back and relax. Zappa style.

Kick back and relax. Zappa style.

You can see a few more stars looking uncomfortable by checking out the original article on agreat website called Apartment Therapy. Their strapline is “Saving the world, one room at a time.” I like their sentiment. You’re more likely to love the stiff, wooden poses and the acres of Paisley pattern materials. Enjoy.

Jorn Utzon died last weekend. He was the Danish visionary who gave the world the fantastic gift that is the Sydney Opera House. His story is tainted with sadness and his crowning glory became a nightmare from which he never really escaped. Read more about him here on wikipedia.

He won a competition to design the Sydney Opera House, and the story of doing that is one that I’ve told many of my clients over the years. This tale is from a stellar book called ‘Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite’ by Paul Arden. So here’s a neat little story from his book, that reinforces the idea that simplicity is what wins through.

“What I find interesting about the Sydney Opera House is how the architect Jorn Utzon sold his outrageous and what was then unbuildable design to Sydney’s city fathers.

When presenting his plans he referred to the building as a sail.

Once the committee had the image of sails on the water, no other entrant in the architectural competition stood a chance.

He summed up his concept in one word.

Sail.

Brilliant.”

And that’s why I love the curious tale of the Dane who won this huge, prestigious competition. He thought smarter than his fellow entrants, and that’s why he won the day. It doesn’t always follow that the best idea will always be picked. But if you keep it simple, you’ve got a much better chance.

Sadly Jorn’s tale is not always a happy one. He was subjected to some outrageously poor treatment from the Australians. There had been a huge change in the political landscape from the days of Jorn winning the competition and the start of construction. The new city fathers seemed to care very little for what is now one of the world’s most recognisable buildings. Have a look at the Wikipedia link to see how badly he was treated by State Governor Robert Askin and his head of public works David Hughes. They effectively removed him from the project by stopping paying him. He couldn’t, therefore, afford to pay his employees and was shunted sideways off the project.

When the Queen opened the building in 1973 he was not invited, nor was his name mentioned in the ceremony. He took this insult with great grace, and never once bemoaned the outcome. He never visited the completed Opera House. He did, with his son, design a new wing that was opened in March 2006. His son attended the opening ceremony. Sadly Jorn did not. His son said at the time that his father: “is too old by now to take the long flight to Australia. But he lives and breathes the Opera House, and as its creator he just has to close his eyes to see it.”

Which is how it should be. Australia did try to redress the balance by bestowing accolades onto Jorn at the end of his life. But they should stand shame-faced today as they realise how badly they treated the man who has put them on the world map.

Just in case you don’t have as vivid an imagination as Jorn, here’s his Opera House in all its glory. I like to think that this angle does justice to Jorn and his dreams of “sails”.

Jorn, but not forgotten.

Jorn, but not forgotten.