Brand Haze

Staring at nothing in particular whilst sitting in the barber-shop waiting to get my haircut this morning. My mind randomly wandered back to the few days spent in Sweden a couple of weeks ago. In particular I recalled a moment whilst we were driving along an urban motorway in Stockholm – and I spotted a Volvo estate car. OK – so that’s not too hard to do in Sweden – there are Volvo’s everywhere – but there was something strange about this particular one.

As it overtook us it suddenly clicked: although it was obvious that it was a Volvo – there were no brand markings on it. No Volvo badge – no style badge. Not even the usual sticker you see on the rear window advertising Volvo’s Side Impact Protection System (SIPS). It was almost as if the owner had gone to great lengths to remove all brand markings from the car.

I pointed out this strange car to our Swedish host – but he said something like: “Here in Sweden – some people do like to unbrand their cars.”

Back in the barber-shop. This got me thinking. Imagine if we tried to get rid of all “branding” in our lives. What would it be like? How much effort would it take to convert all our worldly objects into unbranded generic objects?

When I got back home I spent a few minutes going around the house with my digital camera – taking a few random pictures of everyday household objects with brand identities – in situ. It’s amazing how much “brand” there is in our lives – and how often we take “brand” for granted. I’m sure the world would be a less emotional place without them.

Click on the green button below load a Shockwave Flash presentation of some of the brand haze in my home. It’s about 4 megabytes in size – and should only take a few mins to load if you have DSL/Cable or other high-speed Internet connection. I’ve added a high-quality musical accompaniment – it’s a song that I found on a too-cheap-to-be-true (unbranded) music CD I got from a street-seller in Southall Broadway a couple of months back. It’s a modern Indian song, probably produced in the UK – but I have no idea what the song is called, who the artist is, or what album it’s from – but it is a beautiful song. Turn up the volume and enjoy.

Back in town!

A series of meetings in Central London finishes of my turbulent week. And once again, as many times I have done before, I note how the statue of Eros stands centre-stage and proud at Piccadilly Circus in the heart of London.

Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus

After a couple of weeks roaming Western Europe, it truly is great to back on home turf. The Route 79 bus awaits my return to normal life on Monday morning – and I am truly looking forward to it.

Lost my phone in Rome

Been spending too much time in international airports lately. Went to Rome yesterday. And left my mobile phone on the back seat of a taxi last night. It was seriously depressing in the hour or so afterwards. The concierge at the hotel tried all he could to trace the taxi driver – but couldn’t.

I paced up and down my hotel room wondering what on earth I should do. Called my mobile phone several times in the hope that the taxi driver would see the phone glowing on the back seat (I had left in silent-vibrate mode you see) – but to no avail. I had no choice but to call up the network operator to get the SIM disabled – and this was a challenge, as I had no idea what number to call – and in fact I had no idea of ANY numbers to call because they were all in the memory of my phone! This was the most distressing thing – as it was only at a time like this that I realised how utterly helpless I was without my mobile phone; I didn’t know ANY telephone numbers except my own mobile and my home landline phone! I didn’t even know what the number for International Directory Enquiries was!

In the end – I connected my laptop to the hotel room’s high-speed Internet connection – and went on the network operator’s website to get hold of the 24-hour “lost and stolen” number – and they disabled the phone for me. Luckily I had another mobile phone with me – so I wasn’t incommunicado – but it was practically useless – as it didn’t have any of my contact numbers in the address book – and nobody knows the number of that phone anyway. Totally useless. It was an anxious couple of hours – but I finally resigned myself to the fact that I had actually lost my phone for good. This is the first time this has happened to me – and it certainly has been an experience.

On the way back to London this evening I took a picture of the view outside my aeroplane seat window:

The Swiss Alps – from the skies above and not too far from Geneva.

It’s not losing the phone that bothers me – it’s losing the SIM – its memory was packed full of 250 contact phone numbers of friends and associates – carefully built up and pruned over 10 years. It will be hard work to rebuild this – and I may actually lose some “friends” along the way. That’s frightening isn’t it? I had only just “cleansed” my phone book memory the other day – and hadn’t made a backup. And so I have learned a very important lesson the hard way: backup your phone book memory frequently!

Swedish Forest

Spent a couple of days in Sweden. A forest about 100km West of Stockholm. Went picking wild mushrooms in the forest. Looked out for wild boar that might charge at you. Did very hot sauna fired by chopped wood. Showered outside in water from a natural well. Cooked mushrooms. Ate them (very tasty!) Cooked Indian-style feast on wood-burning stove. Got bitten by mosquitos. Gazed at the Milky Way in the pitch black sky. Heard deer and moose barking in the dead of night.

But I missed my bus – sorely.

Lived the simple life for a couple of days in a forest in Sweden.

It’s quite an experience for a city boy to live the simple life in the middle of a Swedish forest. But I kind of enjoyed it.

Uptown Munich

Ever since coming back from Paris – I have spent most of my days in Slough – and not enough time in London. Actually – since I live in London – this cannot be true. But I’ve not been using my quality cam nearly enough (mobile phone camera doesn’t really count) – so I have relatively few images of London to share here. But I did spend a day or so in Munich last week … (again)

Uptown Munich” tower – completed 2004. Still empty.
(But it looks really impressive though)

This is an upward-viewing picture of the tallest building in Munich. Actually – it’s the tallest building in the whole of Bavaria. At 146 metres, 38 floors – and a slick, greenish glass finish – it does look rather impressive. It was completed last year – and stands in an office location called “Uptown Munich” in the OlympiaPark district.

The sad thing is that it’s empty. As in unnocupied. That’s according to my taxi-driver anyway. Since our Munich office is located right next to it – I took a stroll in the ferocious sunshine (28 and rising) to check it out closer up – and it sure did look empty. Just a few maintenance types watering the plants in the ground floor lobby. It seems that the slump in the German economy lately has meant that there are no takers for the office space – and the building has become a bit of political talking point recently. One interesting (and possibly fictional) factoid from the taxi-driver was a story about the only offer to occupy the building coming from a famous “madame” of Munich – who wanted to take the very top floor and create a “Gentlemans Club” (strip joint) up there. Apparently – the planning permission was refused. And so this really smart building remains empty.

Alonso, Renault, F1 and i-mode

In terms of origin – the driver is Spanish, the car is French, the contest is British and the logo is Japanese. But what do they all have in common?

It has to be speed. Surely?

To those of us in the West – the least recognisable is probably the logo. To the more “ordinary” of us anyway.

At this stage of the Formula 1 season – it looks like Alonso will take the Driver championship – and Renault seem to have a good chance to take the Constructors title.

So what exactly is “i-mode”?

i-mode logo on the Renault Formula 1 racing car
(Picture taken whilst on vacation – in the Renault F1 store on the Champs-Elysees in Paris)

(It’s a trick question by the way. I know the answer – but I’m kind of intrigued to know if anybody else does!) [And no searching Google for the answer either!]