Fringe benefits

1217219024_84e74c1d3aSometimes the big things in life come with unexpected smaller side-effects. Take my job, located in between Southwark and London Bridge. It’s a great location, close to the river, but most of all, close to Borough Market which is an unintended, but very welcome side effect. Every Friday I roam the market at lunchtime (or preferably slightly later when it’s less busy). I know there’s a lot that true-blue foodies can say about Borough Market (it’s expensive, it’s snobbish at times, overcrowded with tourists at times), but I still love it passionately. I love the sights and sounds, the wonderful products (Polish sausages, chocolate and real truffles, more butter you can swing a stick at, meat (it’s the rabbit season at the mo’), scallops, tomatoes, garlic, jams, and of course my usual lunch: German Bratwurst (with curry gewurz ketchup in my case, reminds me of home), and a ton more foodie-goodies I’m forgetting to mention. Reading a book this morning (Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World) where the author talks about the gift economy reminded me of another reason why I love the market: because every purchase is a little bit of a gift. It’s much more human buying something off a vendor of the market than in the anonymous supermarket. You chat, you talk about the produce, you banter, and occasionally you haggle. Try that at Tesco. Buying something off the market feels like a gift, not a chore. It’s something you want to do, rarely something you need to do. Which as soon as I wrote it down made me feel snobbish. I give up, no more excuses or explanations. I just love the place.

Another book which was delivered by my friendly Amazon delivery guy was A Technique for Producing Ideas, which yielded some useful advice for people working in advertising, which I think has a relevance far beyond advertising too:
‘This then is the whole process or method by which ideas are produced:
First, the gathering of raw materials — both the materials of your immediate problem and he materials which come from a constant enrichment of your store of general knowledge.
Second, the working over of these materials in your mind.
Third, the incubating stage, where you let something beside the conscious mind do the work of synthesis.
Fourth, the actual birth of the Idea — the ‘Eureka! I have it!’ stage.
And fifth, the final shaping and development of the idea to practical usefulness.

The principle of constantly expanding your experience, both personally and vicariously, does matter tremendously in any idea-producing job.’

[note: the above image is of my friendly Bratwurst guy, but not at Borough, he’s at the Covent Garden Night Market which was held in August.]

What’s on my mind

1724254997_4a2847671f_b… what the Fonz was doing in our office building this week. And why did the Innocent guys talk about him on their blog at the same time. Is there a Fonz revival? If there’s not, there should be one. Let’s hear it for the Fonz!!!

… why marketers insist on making products targeted at women pink? Don’t get me wrong, I love pink, but not for everything. I’ve had this bottled up inside for a while, ever since I read this in the Guardian.

… why life is so chaotic and confusing at times. I suppose because it’s life.

… why I didn’t come up with the idea for Facebook.

… on the Facebook note, would it be better for a company/charity to have a profile on Facebook, or a group? I think my preference now goes out to a profile. Makes it easier to follow what they do, since it’ll show up on the feeds on my Facebook homepage. I still haven’t figured out how (if) to get the changes on my groups on my RSS feeds.

… how I like the new Wolff Olins site, which looks like they’re walking their talk (and here). Let’s hear it for interactivity.

… how there are very little cool museumshops online. And how little most museums do with digital. There’s a huge opportunity here!

… how cool this new project (the World Beach Project) at the V&A is.

… how interesting it is that Ebay is copying Kiva‘s idea at their new website Microplace (hat-tip to Marketingfacts, who point to this article in Businessweek).

… how I can’t help but think British Airways is a neat airline (I know, people will send me a barrage of emails about how their suitcases always get lost, how they don’t like the air hostess’ uniforms, and how crap the food is. I don’t care. I love how they serve my tea with milk and a smile.), have a peek at this. [and yes, to avoid a conflict of interest, I have booked return flights to NL with BA in a few week’s time]

… where should I go on holiday? Before the loan repayments kick in, I’ll have a little bit of cash to splurge on a holiday. Dallas (home of mr and mrs M)? Canada? Japan? Transmongolia Express? Interrail? I can’t decide.

[edit to add this: my housemate spotted a cool blog: LadyGeek, which talks about pinking up is dumbing down.]

Of friezes and tattoos

1558798021_ea2385c488After a nice week at work (we pitched on Monday and found out on Thursday we won the job! I can’t out of reasons of confidentiality say who the client is, but I’m very very excited!!!), it was time to let my hair down on the weekend a bit. What better than some real art and fake tattoos?

I went to the Frieze Art Fair with two friends and found it a bewildering experience (much like the last time I went). I appreciate art most when there’s an element of the artisinal, of skill, in there. Something that I couldn’t do. Or think I could do. And to be honest, I’m not clever enough for some of the art at the Frieze. The best part for me was looking at the people that were there, what they are wearing, eavesdropping on their conversations.

After trekking home, going for a run, a quick shower and change of clothes it was off to Regent’s Park again, this time for Tattoo (see my account of my first ever Tattoo here) which is a celebration of all the diversity at LBS held annually and which comes with a lot of gratuitous fake tattoos. I missed last year’s (that and missing the Santa pub crawl were my biggest regrets of going on exchange in autumn) and wasn’t going to go this year. I’m an alumn now, feel I should leave the partying to the new batch. But Wince, bless his heart, thought otherwise and convinced me to come and boy was I glad I came. We had a blast, there were a good number of 2007s there, it was great to see some of my 2008 friends and make a whole bunch of new 2009 acquaintances. I met the guy who writes this blog (check it out if you know anyone that knows anyone that knows anyone that knows Steve Jobs please!) and promised I’d put a plug in for it, here you go.

Now, where’s my nailpolish remover…if you’ll excuse me, I need to remove a few tattoos :-)

Music courtship

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I bought a new pair of headphones (actually, to be somewhat technically anal
about it which I gather is de rigeur in headphone cycles: in-ear
phones) the other week, which meant that my iPod is going through
somewhat of a Renaissance. Now I can actually listen to my music on the
Tube; with the standard-issue headphones I couldn’t turn up the sound
loud enough to hear anything and not get a million angry looks my way
for being a tad too social with my somewhat eclectic musical taste
which not everyone seems to appreciate. I’m rediscovering the music on
it again, listening to more podcasts than ever and enjoying it lots.
How could I have forgotten about the genius of The Black Crowes? Or
Aretha Franklin? And Geert Mak has me glued to my earphones with his
rendering of his book In Europe.

This
new listening-revival made me think back to other times when I was
heavily into listening to music, which more often than not coincided
with being in a love with a guy. Inevitably, the guy would make tapes
(and later on CD’s), which would be slipped into my hands with short
notes confessing endless undying love. I discovered Pink Floyd this
way, have good memories of Lenny Kravitz, discovered a love of Lynnyrd
Skynnyrd that endures to this day. That lead me to wonder, what do
youngsters nowadays do in terms of musical wooing? Burn CD’s? Buy each
other songs on iTunes? Make a personalized Myspace page? Make a
playlist on Last.fm or Pandora? Anyone have any idea how the musical
wooing / courtship takes place in 2007?

I admire

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Whilst I’m good at a great number of things (sniffing out good bargains
at H&M, buying terribly good chocolate and finding any bookstore or library in a 200m radius of wherever I am with my eyes closed come to
mind) I’m also pretty darn good at admiration. I admire the girl
sitting next to me on the Tube this morning for her imaginative outfit (think Beth Ditto meets The Puppini Sisters with dashes of bright
red and patent leather in all the right
places). I admire the gentleman behind me at the Tube station this
morning for elbowing his way into the final seat just before I could
get to it (where on earth have good manners gone?). Of course I adore
and admire various celebrities, although I don’t read Hello magazine or
the Daily Mail frequently enough just quite who’s in vogue to admire
right now so my admirations might be a bit stale  (is Posh still
around?). And I do admire mothers with toddlers, even if only for the
sheer amount of stuff they must remember to bring every time they leave
the house, making it akin to hiking up the Mont Blanc in my eyes. And of course there are plenty of people that I’m forgetting to mention right now who are eminently admirable.

Most
of all however, I admire (envy?) columnists. There is something about being
able to write a relatively short, pungent and topical comment on an at
first glance ephemeral subject which on second reading (does anyone
ever read a column twice? Or is that just me?) reveals more about the
state of our society than its initial contents led you to believe.
Snapshots of current culture. Taking the pulse of a society. Slapping
it in the face to wake it up to then hold up a mirror to show it its weaknesses
and hilarities. My favorite of all columnists is Mrs Moneypenny (is it a coincedence that she too is an LBS MBA? :-) The
only reason I subscribed to the FT whilst in b-school was to read her
column in the Weekend Supplement. I have been known to walk over to LBS
specifically to pick up the paper so I could read it (yes, I take both
my reading and my admiration very seriously). Now that my presence no
longer graces the LBS grounds I have reverted to reading them online,
where they have a nice back catalog as well. Witty and irreverent,
she’s the aunt or mentor you never had but wish you did. She’s the
voice in your head you would have if you had a witty sense of humour.

[image: London last week on my lunch break, in what is one of my favorite views: St Paul’s.]