Monday, 29 June 2009

Summer's here!!

That's it really... just thought I'd remind everyone

I love London in the summer. The city itself just looks completely different when bathed in sunshine. People are resolutely cheerful and break out their most colorful Sunday best. The parks are stunning and what could be better than warm Pimms filled afternoons spent picnicking and people watching?

Mai - I know it's been summer for you for months now and you're over it BUT we have had consecutive sunshine here for something like 7 days now. AMAZING! Really hoping it continues*.

Also... great Wimbledon weather

Anyway, if you need me - I'll be outside...

* Three hours later and it is now raining... and play at Wimbledon has been suspended... poo...

Thursday, 25 June 2009

New York Part One

I can’t believe that up to 4 days before flying to New York, I was considering canceling my trip. It’s been an incredible journey, with so much to do, and left me only with the desire to return to take in more of what it has to offer . In the past 2 weeks, I’ve had very little sleep. Functioning on pure adrenaline, roaming the streets of Manhattan in the early hours of the morning and spending the days enjoying the parks, museums and the company of great friends.

I will have to do a separate post about the 140 Conference. Although I understand that in the world of Twitter and Tweeple, posting about it more than a week later is utterly redundant. Especially considering all the other conference characters have already posted pics, videos and blog posts. But I will anyway!

The Holiday first though. Starting with my first touristic visit, ironically outside New York/USA territory – the United Nations headquarters. The place is, unfortunately, as bland and unimpressive as the organization it represents. It was an interesting experience to walk through it, and see where all the big talkers of the world congregate, debate, discuss, condemn and support. The most important chatter room of all, the UN Security Council, was closed for renovation. The highlight of the tour is the display of gifts given by different countries to the UN. The most impressive of all, the UAE’s gift:

100% pure gold wind tower, representing clean air and sustainability. Irony at its best.

Bryant Park – a 2-minute walk from my hotel.

Guys & Dolls
This was the only show I got to see on Broadway, at the Nederlander Theater – and although i’’m not a huge fan of musicals this was quite the performance. And the fact that it was closing on June 14th motivated me to take the opportunity. Starring Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit and Lauren Graham as Miss Adelaide.

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) & the Metropolitan Museum
Ok, let’s get one thing straight, and no offense to art connoisseurs, but some of this stuff is utter B.S. Someone please explain to me how piling up torn pieces of blank white paper is art. If any form of self expression is art and worthy of being exhibited at the MoMA, provided someone offered an elaborate explanation on the context and the intention of the artist, then I wish I’d saved all my doodles from my student years. Of course the works of Picasso, Salvador Dali and other genius talents takes your breath away.



The Apothecary
I wish I had a picture of this. Jen discovered this obscure little cocktail lounge in the backstreets of China Town. So we took a cab, got to the right address, got out in a quiet, dark, deserted alley and looked around for a big loud sign that says “The Apothecary” or “Bar”or anything conventional like that. Instead, a little incomprehensible Chinese man kept pointing at the “Gold Flower restaurant”screaming “bar , bar, you want bar, here bar”and we just stood there looking at each other and thinking, “nope, definitely not." Until Jen & Fadi walked up to us, laughing at the out of towners for not knowing about this 'discrete' policy of cool New York bars. So yes, Apotheke, as it turns out, is a super lavish cocktail lounge that hides behind the red Chinese restaurant sign.

The End of Part One. More when recovered from jet lag.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Ah, the good old days

I love me a good advertisement. I feel like it’s the least we should be expecting from what is essentially a highly manipulative way of promoting goods and services (gotta throw in the token anti capitalism bit somewhere).

There have been some awesome ones as well. When done well, advertising is incredibly powerful and the emotional bond it can create between brand and consumer is strong. Some ads stick with you because they made you laugh, maybe even cry or just rethink something you thought you knew. Some of them stick with you simply because of the sheer genius of the approach.

I haven’t seen that many good ones lately though so I figured hey – what better time for a retrospective compilation of some of my favourites?

Some interesting facts first? Sure:

* By the year 1861 there were twenty advertising agencies in New York City

* In 2007, spending on advertising was estimated at over $150 billion in the United States and $385 billion worldwide

So, in no particular order:

* Nike’s tag ads – gotta love it

* Durex’s creative approach to contraception

I love the way the tone is set for this ad – reminds me a little of the ‘Priceless' Mastercard ads

Who doesn’t love balloon animals?

* There’s a fine line in comparative advertising between clever and bitchy – this is, in my opinion, one of the better examples

* This Heineken ad is more recent but I love the hysterical man screaming at the end

* Last but certainly not least on this list is a campaigning advertisement by Amnesty International on the power of petition. Absolutely stunning

* Alright... one more brilliant contraception ad just for kicks and giggles

There are, of course, many many more...

Happy viewing!

Friday, 12 June 2009

First impressions of NYC

It is now 10:30pm New York time (6:30am Dubai time) and the exhaustion of the journey is just starting to kick in.

14 hours is a looooooong flight. I watched 4 films, 5 episodes of Family Guy, slept for 2 hours and chatted to the EK staff for an hour. (During which they all whined about how much they hate this flight and hate their job and wished they could have a regular 9 to 5 and want to leave Dubai because everyone there is rude, etc etc). Anyway.

Finally landed in JFK at around 3:15pm local time, to be greeted by a charming immigration officer who joked about my birthday being on February 14th, and how I should never, ever get married because it's a waste of time and energy.

Walked out of JFK to find overcast skies, a chilly wind and drizzle. Not the warm welcome I was hoping for, but still, I was in New York finally and excited. Anxious now to check in to my hotel, fingers crossed it turns out ok and nothing like the few negative reviews I had read. So far, so good. The Hotel at Times Square seems to be a great choice for a) location and b) cleanliness and c) room size.

I had, however, completely forgotten about the electricity/ voltage issue, and also the plug pins look funny here. They're thin and flat 2-pins. I managed to get an adapter for my laptop, which means I can also charge my mobile and my iPod via USB. But my camera charger and GHD hair straightener don't work here. Which really, really sucks. I might try and find a converter or something tomorrow.

Times Square is INSANE. I've never seen such a crazily busy, manic, crowded place with flashing neon lights everywhere. Very cool to checkout Broadway, spot places like NBC studios and The Wall Street Journal HQ. We walked around for a good couple of hours, but it felt like we've been running for 6 or more. Possible because I'm also so tired from the journey. I'm going to give it another try another day when I have more energy. Because I watch way too much Hollywood films and American TV shows, it almost felt like walking into a set. A bit strange to actually recognise shops and street names that you've never really seen before. A sense of familiarity towards things developed purely out of CSI New York, Sex and the City and Law & Order.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Journey to NYC begins

I tried really hard not to sleep all night before flying 14 hours to New York. (I can't get the Sinatra tune out of my head by the way). I thought that would eliminate the possibility of jet lag. But I failed, and here I am, 8am Dubai time, wide awake and waiting to board flight EK 201. It's a Boeing 777, which is somehow comforting. I hope their speed sensors are up to date. They were also out of window seats, apparently. Weird, because I got here more than 2 hours before departure time, how could they already be out of window seats on a 777? Highly unlikely that I could fall asleep in in aisle seat.

My mother has been nagging me to wear protective masks during my trip. I won't because a) they look ridiculous and b) I don't think they're that protective from H1N1 anyway. But the weird thing is, sitting here at the airport, everytime someone sneezes or coughs, I jump. It's funny, but I think people look around as well and try to steer clear of the culprit.

Hmmm...Passenger just asked EK staff member "It's a 14 hour flight, right?" EK Staff: "It depends, sometimes it is, yes. haha." Not sure what to make of that!

Oooh look how cute the Japanese tourists are all stretching and doing exercises before getting on the plane. I might go join them!

I'm so glad there's wireless here. Airport waits are extremely boring. Also, I left the critical entertainment given to me by Alec - Family Guy Season One. I can't believe I left it!

I think I'll go to my book now. This journey's companion is Louis de Bernieres' first novel - The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts.

It is now 8:24am. Departure time is 8:30am. I don't think so, EK.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Obama in Cairo

I believe by now most people have watched, read, heard, discussed and debated the speech of President Barack Obama from Cairo University. Spoken eloquently, impressive delivery and inspiring words. Overall, yes, Obama delivered. He seemed to start off with the usual broad and vague-ish shpeel about unity, peace, etc. But when it got down to specifics, there was no ambiguity there. Never before has a US administration taken a stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that instigated this kind of reaction from the Israeli government. Did Obama's words physically stop the violence and settlements? No, not yet. And anyone expecting them to achieve that overnight is naive and frankly, not unlike a high-maintenance, demanding wife that is never pleased.

I'm not too surprised at the cynics and critics. They always make things interesting. But beyond the negative comments, just like there is a demand for 'actions', it would be useful to see specific 'requests'. What do you want? What were you expecting? Whatever it was, those who were unsatisfied by this speech, will never be satisfied.

They are so focused on asking for change, waiting for change -- wake up. Haven't you noticed?

This IS change.