Mon 21 – Sun 27 Nov 2016
The title of this blog represents my opinion of the latest big exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, ‘You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970’. Last week, Fri was my main (only?) day off work and Dave took TOIL for all his time away overseas. We decided to check out the V&A as Dave is a member, having got that to enable him access to the sold out Alexander McQueen exhibition. I didn’t attend that one, I get very bored looking at frocks. But I love the V&A generally with its beautiful galleries.
V&A misses a big opportunity and goes for the lazy option
The strap-line of the exhibition was ‘How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?’ I would argue that sticking up lots of LP covers and photocopied posters plus some imitation objects (such as Vidal Sassoon’s hairdressing chair) goes no way to achieving this. A bit of honesty is called for, this is an exhibition to pull in the punters who could look around and think ‘I remember this’. Indeed there were lots of older people there many of whom were struggling with the audio guide. No analysis or consideration why the generation of Woodstock grew up to vote for Brexit and Trump in huge numbers thus saying ‘screw the world’. The irony as well of Dave being told not to film anything on his phone – talk about a revolution?
Better but a bit samey
With Dave’s get out of jail free card we moved onto the next door paid exhibition ‘Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery’. This represented the English embroidery of the middle ages that was traded across Europe. Unfortunately most of the surviving garments were for religious purposes and very safely stored. Thus one got a bit tired of looking at religious wear with the same images. Some amusing things though including the London Fishmongers’ Company’s coffin cover, garments belonging to the Black Prince, and a tiny but beautiful swan piece of jewellery. Amusing how many garments showed the life of the Virgin Mary. This from the time when 99% of people weren’t given access to the bible but hero-worshipped the Virgin. Only to find out when the bible was given to them post-Reformation that the Virgin’s mentions are fleeting and insubstantial.
More of the same to come
I love the V&A and can forgive it such exhibitions that feel like wasted opportunities. Though their slavishness to the baby boomers seems to continue with the next exhibition which is about Pink Floyd! Would it not be good to do something that celebrates modernity and appeals to people under 30 years of age? Using Dave’s card we also popped in for a coffee at the Members’ Room on the fourth floor. Perfectly decent though quite small and nothing very special.
Politics: a dictator is dead – hooray!
The death of Fidel Castro is a good thing. I am not one of these like Jeremy Corbyn who adores the great ‘socialist’ dictators like Lenin, Mao and Castro. Indeed there is little difference between them and Kim Jong-un, Mugabe, and Assad. It’s like trying to choose between Stalin and Hitler. No-one doubts that pre-Castro Cuba had problems and some things got better for much of the population like educational attainment and the health system. But Cuba was, and still is, a non-democratic state that controls its people via the use of legal and (secret) police repression. Indeed tens of thousands were murdered. I can’t understand why those who love such leaders don’t go and live there. Me, I like living in a liberal parliamentary democracy – call me old-fashioned if you want to.
M-ITI and research on the Social Tech Ecosytems of Sub-Saharan Africa
I don’t normally work on Mondays but did last week. Comic Relief, Nominet Trust and Indigo Trust have joined forces to get research done on Social Tech Ecosystems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). M-ITI have been appointed to do this; Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute. And last Mon the team from M-ITI flew in to spend the day with us at the ‘bootcamp’. Lots of questions asked and views exchanged to get to a situation where we are clear on what needs to be done. I love digital but I acknowledge some things are better done face to face. Although we also had people joining us via Skype. The final report on how to stimulate and sustain social tech / tech for good in SSA should be available by April 2017.
Tech for Good in Manchester
Tues it was up to Manchester for an evening Tech for Good engagement. A good train journey in that Virgin’s paid-for wi-fi actually worked to an acceptable standard. But it was a very busy train as I think at least one train before had been cancelled. Spent the afternoon chilling around a dark and drizzly city primarily keeping up to date with work emails.
I was invited up to be part of a panel speaking about Tech for Good. The invitation came via Reason Digital who manage the Tech for Good monthly meet-up in the city. On the panel with me was Kieron from CAST, Ed from Reason, and Jessica from Bethnal Green Ventures. A nice mix of people who fund and implement TfG. Good attendance of about 50 people and we went out on Periscope and Facebook Live. There should also be a podcast coming. Twas a very candid conversation, not much point in doing these otherwise. I hope I didn’t pontificate too much and think I could have been less serious. Back to the hotel for a glass of wine in the bar and some reading before bed.
Tech for Good in London
I skipped dinner the night before so got up early on Wed and went down to take advantage of the buffet breakfast. This included cooked which is unusual for me. I haven’t had a ‘full English breakfast’ for ages as I normally feel too full-up from the night before. Virgin train back was equally packed (why?) and the wi-fi had returned to its normal crap self. Straight into work for a meeting about the 50-ish videos we have chosen as the longlist from our latest Tech for Good applicants. We will be publishing these online to foster collaboration, inspire others, and encourage more funding of this work. Should be live by early Dec here.
Getting to the top 20
Then on Thurs morning we had the big meeting of shortlisters (internal and external) to decide the final 20 Tech for Good applicants to be invited to submit a stage 2 full written application. This was a busy meeting of about 15 people where we went through the firm ‘yes’ chosen via the shortlisting process and then the pile of ‘maybe’. We had to make some tough decisions but got there in the end and within the two hours of our meeting. Me and job-share Nissa are now working with our Grant Ops colleagues to finalise the stage 2 application form and guidance notes to go out in about a week’s time. Indeed spent time during the weekend querying the form to make sure it works.
Friday day off and the weekend
So Fri came and I really should have gone to the gym or swimming. But I felt knackered. I spoke to Dave and, as you know, we had a day-off together. I was up early as usual and decided to do some long purposeful walking which led me to the V&A to see the disappointing exhibition this blog started with.
Some significant fitness stuff on Sat and Sun – see below. Met up with Dave for lunch on Sat after he had been to the St Mary Abbot’s church Xmas fete with our friends Patrick and Stephen. It was apparently busy but good with loads of secondhand books. Oh well, the last thing I probably need is more books. Coffee shops and time spent at the ICA which I love for its atmosphere and great wi-fi. The Bloomberg Contemporaries show is on there at the moment. Mostly crap but a good 15 minute documentary ‘Val’s Gym’. Finally spent time sorting through stuff to get thing together for my holiday. I really think one of the most therapeutic things is to select a space you don’t normally go-through (such as an old drawer) and discover stuff you haven’t seen for ages.
Health and efficiency
Last week was a bit of an exercise-free zone. Work and travel left little spare time and Fri came but I was knacked. I was not sure about my jog-run on Sat particularly as my left achilles was playing up. But I won’t be able to do it next Sat as I will be away. So I went for it and it went OK though not the best ever (third best ever according to the records I keep on the Exercise and weight page of this website). An early-ish night on Fri then up at 7 for coffee before my jog-run began at 8. I was wrapped up better than last week but it still took a while to warm up. OK in the end though aching joints afterwards.
A decent enough jog-run pic.twitter.com/lNpuqLQQlZ
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) November 26, 2016
I did get to the gym on Sun to stretch and gently exercise my aching legs and joints after the jog-run. Weighed myself on Tues to find that I had put on a pound.
Books and reading
‘From the City, From the Plough’ by Alexander Baron
Another book picked up at a charity shop for 50p. Written in 1948 it is the fictionalised but true adventures of a group of soldiers before they were posted to Normandy just after the landings and then their subsequent fight to make progress against the Nazis. A great book that demonstrates the reality of war rather than the glorified version of it that was very current after WW2. It is incredibly sad the way people die suddenly, quickly and so unfairly. The book is also very good at portraying men together. Both the good stuff (camraderie, loyalty, caring, the jokes, the smell) but also the bad stuff (obsession, cruelty, selfishness, cowardice, the smell).
Doctor Who audio-adventure
‘The Mind’s Eye’ (fifth Doctor Peter Davidson + companions Erimem & Peri)
Only time to listen to one this week but it was a good one. The Doctor and his companions find themselves trapped in their own dreams they think are the real world. That old conundrum of ‘what is reality?’ Much like people who say facebook friends aren’t like real friends, this is complete bullshit. And a mini-story about the importance of forgetting things. Extras included an interview with Peter Davidson which managed to destroy much of the mystique of him as the Doctor. For instance, telling us about not bothering to read the script before performing and how he enjoys theatre more.