The world of advertising is an odd one. However it seems that when you can advertise yourself though your own media then even the normal rules don't apply and it all starts getting surreal. I started thinking about this the other day when I saw this self-promotion on the back of a bus:



Yes, I know it's a quote from Little Britain, but I don't understand the relevance to the Park & Ride scheme. Am I being obtuse or does it just make no sense? Did the advertising "creatives" get stoned and watch a Little Britain DVD? I suppose we're just lucky that we didn't end up with:

"Park and Ride...
The only gay in the village"


It gets weirder when you get on the bus though - that's when you come across the posters inside. Originally they used stock photography of middle aged men and women photoshopped into a bus driver's uniform. The same bus driver's uniform. Which was boring and not particularly well done, but not really that odd. However a few years ago they changed tack and began to use anthropomorphised representations of buses and other things.

It's all rather sinister. Huge faces on vehicles. Imagine crossing the road with that lot bearing down on you. And how do the drivers see out with the eyes in the way?



The anatomy of these bizarre creatures is very inconsistent. In the one above, buses have just one arm - the right, which has three fingers and thumb on it. Trains and coaches have no arms.

However, in the one below the bus has no arms at all! What's more the humans in this picture are rather odd - the woman has four fingers and a thumb on her right hand, whereas the man has just three fingers and a thumb on his left. The woman also has very oddly placed eyelashes which make her look insane:



But it all changes very quickly. Suddenly the bus has two arms! And yet it has different numbers of fingers on each hand. And seems to have lost its nose:



Next we have a six-foot cigarette, which oddly enough doesn't look particularly evil, more sympathetic. It's obviously a relative of the bus in the last picture, as it too has different numbers of fingers on each hand:



Whose is the huge hand blocking the doorway? Is this some kind of extra internal arm that the bus has? Does the driver simply have a huge hand albeit with only three fingers and a thumb on it?

Finally, we have probably the oddest of the bunch. What on earth has happened to make this bloke so red with fury? Why does the bus look so embarrassed? There's obviously a lot more going on here than delays and cancellations:



The only thing I can think of is that the man (who is obviously a bit of an officious prick - there's something of the jobsworth Nazi caretaker about him, what with the little moustache) strolled round the corner near the bus garage and caught the bus masturbating over vehicular porn (HGVs Only). Whatever it is, the bus is probably about to lose its job. In a minute it's going to stop being embarrassed, panic, lose control and bludgeon Mr Jobsworth over the head with its single right arm. And then have to go into hiding.

However, the final proof that the ad men behind the buses aren't playing with a full deck came on the back page of the Winter 2005/Spring 2006 timetable:



Doesn't look that unusual at first glance does it? But have a closer look at the quotes - the one from Darryl Marks in particular:



!

(Still they can't be all bad - they managed to get a quote off someone called Nimrod Ping! Great name)

Phobile MoansIt's not that long ago that the possession of a mobile phone was still relatively unusual, but it's surprising just how indispensable they have become over the past seven years. Accidentally leaving the thing at home is almost like having your left arm cut off. And yet, despite their twenty-first century ubiquitousness, there's still a surprising amount of negative feeling towards them and their users.

Of course you can understand where this antagonism originated. In the 1990s many a smarmy sharp-suited businessmen used his leatherette-encased-brick-a-like mobile as a status symbol, showing off in public by bawling into the mouthpiece that he was on the train but would be home in five minutes. Who wouldn't get annoyed with that sort of behaviour?

However, the tenacity of this mobilephobia - hanging around into an age when we've all got one and have all had to use it in public - is totally bizarre. It's not as if you even need to shout into the things any more. And yet sure enough, if a friend should happen to call you when you are on public transport and asks you where you are, your answer is bound to provoke hoots of derision and scoops of steaming ridicule from some smartass on the bus. I've actually taken to saying:

"I'm in the observation module of the International Space Station. Well actually I'm not, I'm on the bus, but if I'd just come out and said that in the first place no doubt some self-important wanker in the back seats would have used it as an excuse to start loudly taking the piss to impress the girl he's sitting next to. I'll be home in five minutes."
The most extreme form of mobilephobia is when it actually passes into the domain of officialdom. Yes, I'm talking about the so called Quiet Carriages on trains. Have you ever been in one of those? Bellowing babies, whinging children, drunken louts droning on about football and raucous-laughter-as-a-substitute-for-personality are all apparently perfectly fine. Talking on your mobile is not.

Novelty ring tones, however, remain the work of the devil.




I try to cycle in to work; mostly because it's likely to be the only exercise I get all day what with the largely sedentary day-job which has me sitting in front of computers from nine to five. OK, so there is a gym here but it's at the top of a hill for god's sake!

Unfortunately, when you cycle you somehow end up becoming a third class citizen of the streets, sworn at and abused by car drivers and pedestrians alike, despite the myriad roadcrimes they themselves commit. This is even if you stick to the cyclepaths.

Car-drivers seem to assume that cyclepaths are intended for use as additional parking space, meaning that you have to swerve past them into the motorised traffic - and get sworn at by the other drivers for your trouble. This gets even worse when they park in the cycle lane and then open their door into your path when you're already swerving to avoid them (and getting sworn at by the other drivers for your trouble). Then there are the drivers emerging from the side streets who use the cyclepaths on the main road as a way of edging forward a few extra feet, meaning that you have to swerve past them into the motorised traffic - and get sworn at by the other drivers for your trouble.

Don't even talk to me about buses; suffice to say I'm not happy about them letting passengers step off the bus directly into your (cycle)path with the result that you end up with a broken arm...

This brings us to pedestrians, who are even worse. Where cyclepaths are on the road, pedestrians seem unable to see bikes and step out directly into your path, almost as if the mere fact of riding a bicycle renders you invisible. It would be interesting if that were indeed the case - you could just invade a country by putting all your soldiers on bicycles and they could ride into the capital without being noticed.

Then there is the behaviour of pedestrians when cyclepaths are on the pavement. Starry-eyed couples amble hand in hand down the section of the pavement reserved for your bike, oblivious to everything but their mutual love - and then tsk at you (or worse) when you have the audacity to ring your bell or say "Excuse me"... In this and other similar instances it seems that the cyclepaths themselves are rendered invisible, resulting in self-righteous indignant rants from the inhabitants of the sidewalk about how irresponsible you're being for cycling there...

Of course there are those cyclists who give all the rest of us a bad name. Cycling the wrong way down one-way streets, mounting the pavement, no helmet, no reflective gear, no lights at night, the assumption that they can just shoot through red traffic lights. These people are equally as deserving of your contempt as the aforementioned drivers and  pedestrians, in fact more so as they're the cause of a lot of the ill feeling that the non-cyclists bear towards us.

But what can you do?
Link: Critical Mass Brighton

The problem these days is that there are so many separate online services to sign up for that your online personality ends up shattered with bits of yourself scattered all over the internet...

You know the kind of thing you mean. You have a MySpace account, but then one of your mates has one on Friendster so you join that too. Then you get an invite from a friend to join them on Hi 5 and another to start mapping your friends on Frappr. In the meantime you're uploading all your photos to Flickr and collecting all your favourite links on del.icio.us. You have a blog at Blogger, but then again all these other services offer them too...

Some of these services are new and innovative whilst others are attempting to emulate the ones that are. But how can you tell which is which? You have to sign up for them all and end up with your identity schizophrenically splintered across cyberspace.

I'm going to try to do something to gather my online self all back together by creating a portal to all of them. I'm not technically skilled enough to manage all the cunning stuff with APIs that the Web Illuminati do in their sleep (although I'd love to learn), but I'll do what I can.

Watch this space...

The first in an occasional series when I can remember and be bothered to record them.

Somehow I had got Siouxsie and the Banshees to do a gig for my birthday on the top floor of Dream RIBA. They'd also stayed at my flat the night before and in honour of that they ad libbed a song about my cat (the lyrics of which just consisted of Siouxsie making cat noises).

Some of this appeared to be happening in Dream Central London. At some point soon I'll expound on my observations of Dream locations and landscapes .and how they're consistent from dream to dream - but remarkably different from their Waking World equivalents. Also about how there seems to be dream continuity - someone in one dream can refer to an event in a previous dream and it makes perfect sense as it happened in the same "world".

Lots of other stuff about packing up the band's equipment and a related segment which also took place in Dream RIBA - me and several colleagues from my current place of work making an undercover raid on Dream RIBA, which ended up with us just about getting away, but with one of us having been killed. Vaguely similar to Reservoir Dogs. We escaped through the streets towards the Post Office Tower. Still standing as opposed to the half-collapsed version that has appeared in several dreams over the past year.

This is something that has been annoying me for a while; however my recent return from LA where I used the buses quite a bit has brought it to the fore again.

In my local area there's a flat fare for a bus ride. It's rather high - 1 pound 50 pence1 - but fair enough. In addition, they also use driver-operated buses. This means that it is impossible to get on the bus without either paying your fare or having a valid pass. Again, fair enough! The corollary of this situation - namely the combination of the driver operated buses and the flat fare - is that it is completely impossible to fare dodge by riding too far on your fare.

Why, then, do they employ ticket inspectors? And they do - I've been on more buses troubled by a ticket inspection in the few years I've been here than I have in decades living in London. Don't they trust their drivers to do the job properly? If I was a driver for this company I'd be insulted by the implication of employing ticket inspectors. Surely the money spent on inspector wages would be better spent on, say, reducing the fares (or perhaps compensating someone whose arm they've broken rather than lying about it).

In LA you pay the driver and get on - and that's it. No ticket (which is greener in the long run) and no inspectors. And far cheaper too - $1.25 which is currently equivalent to 68p.


even this cartoon ticket in their own poster is confused by the ticket inspector policy

Just to finish off a short account of my week in Los Angeles.

Sunday. Drove with Samantha, kids and D&G to Snow Mountain for sledding and general cold white activity. Impressively high up and deceptively ultraviolet; it was cloudy and so I didn't wear sunblock. As a result I ended up with bad sunburn. At least it's physical evidence I've been away somewhere climactically different. After a while the snow started vanishing. Still an impressive scene though.



Monday I got the bus all the way to Santa Monica. I'd been before, but this time it seemed more crowded. Despite being basically a tropical beach it had something of Brighton about it, despite everything being ten times bigger. I visited the pier, the beach, the pub and Borders bookshop. All of which of course you can indeed do in Brighton. But it was more interesting doing it here.



Tuesday was generally a chilling out ish day. Met Samantha for lunch and then went to watch Darcene's ASL lessons for the children at Wednesday and Alex's school. Followed by a visit to the library and then waiting for a while before meeting Zamantha from work.

Wednesday I flew home - Samantha dropped me off at the airport at around 9am. I arrived back at Gatwick (via Philadelphia) at 9am the next morning. Trains were cancelled. I must have eventually got home late morning. Have been confused and jet-lagged ever since...