Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cucumbers & Caramel

Here’s a great little article from Sasha Wyatt-Minter on 13 magical uses for cucumbers. This goes way beyond vitamins to include tricks ranging from de-fogging mirrors and erasing ink through to shoe shining and breath freshening. And while we’re on fruit and vege, for all the guys whose range extends to frying pan, roasting dish or BBQ, here’s some caramel to round out the ribs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fighting The Bottle

Binge drinking is a problem which can have devastating results, and it seems to take particular hold in cold dark climates. The Scottish Government has proposed the radical step of a minimum price per unit, which would make it the first country in Europe to take this step.

On the communications side, AdAge reports on a recent Kellogg study of the impact of public-service ads relying on “self-conscious” emotions like guilt and shame to change habits. Messages of this kind were instinctively resisted and even led to more drinking.

Social advertising is about the power of a simple but unexpected idea to connect in a sea of clutter. It is not about using shock tactics for the sake of shock, but – studies recommending positivity notwithstanding – I believe there are times when it takes a serious jolt to make people think and act, and I do mean “serious”. Here’s a different and surprisingly obvious approach, this one for drink driving in Germany.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Who Needs Information?

Roger Waters asked rhetorically “Who needs information?” in 1985 on his album Radio K.A.O.S. The answer is, sadly, one fifth of the workforce, who keep their Blackberries on at all times, night, day, weekend and wedding anniversary. I’m all for sight, sound and motion, and the enhancement of the screen to become a force for good in the world, but not at the expense of the world itself.

Enhancement doesn’t mean dominating your time, it doesn’t mean taking all of your focus. It should be about providing extra joy, happier attention, useful solutions – none of these are time dependent.

Some studies suggest that UK workers are doing an extra 10 days work a year just checking their handhelds. The quality of that work is likely to be substandard – staying informed doesn’t necessarily mean making good decisions, or making any decisions at all. And if you don’t have to make a decision, what are you checking for?

What’s ironic is that buyers of these smartphones are not even happy with the phones they have in their hands. Apparently "57% of smartphone users are disappointed with handset and application performance." Which goes to show that it takes more than technology to make the screen come alive – it’s about how consumers feel about what they are interacting with. You can hardly blame a manufacturer for wanting to make a good phone with good features though. The responsibility lies with ourselves.

So turn your screens off every now and then, read the bus timetable at the station rather than asking your app for it, talk to the person next to you without wondering when the next work email is coming, and what will be in it, and enjoy every minute of your life that you can (and men, I’m looking at you, you’re even worse at switching off).

The result? When you turn on your screen, you’ll be fresher, more decisive, more certain of whether an app or a feature will work for you, more delighted with the innovation in front of you. The information will jump out, and it will probably be the information you’re looking for.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Global Well of Lovemarks

Dipping into this week’s well of Lovemarks stories from around the world…

Tokidoki
“This Japanese fashion brand is fast becoming a social phenomenon amongst youth...driving preference for it in fashion stores despite it being on the pricey side. The designs are edgy, relate to the world of youth, and new designs quickly hop onto the bloggosphere of fans.” Junktuner

Tarina Tarantino
“I was in LA with a friend who lives there and it was her 30th birthday. We went along that main drag with all the stores, buying something cute from each to mark her day. When we came to Tarina Tarantino, we wanted everything. It was cute and girly yet you know it would be with you forever. It is a juxtaposition in style and I love it.” WooTime

Bobbi Brown
“I love all the products! The texture of the bronze, eye shadow, lipstick, and everything is perfect. The result is also satisfying. The packaging of each products are elegant and nothing can compares to this brand. Love Bobbi Brown so much! Especially the brush, the small brush, the shape is perfect and unique, nothing can produce a brush like Bobbi Brown." Tesa

My Name Is Khan
"It's a journey of a simple man trying to prove a point, that we all are classified according to our deeds not according to nationality, color or most importantly Religion. A journey motivated and achieved by love. This movie carries lots of emotions, lots of messages, that it's difficult to watch through it without becoming emotionally attached with it. Shahrukh proves that he is a top scale actor not only in India but worldwide. This movie is a classic that would come down in history for everyone involved in it, and I'm proud to say that I lived and saw this movie." Noha

Twitter
"Tweet, Tweet! Most convenient and fastest way to communicate in real time. Following your favourite and getting advanced information in 140 characters make your life easy. Twitter is an online reference tool for me. Love it." Unnikrishna

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good News Travels Faster

Debate on the upside and downside of the Internet continues to rage, and won’t be settled any time soon. I’m an upsider, and take the view that powering forward imperfectly beats staying still or rolling back perfectly. The liberating and involving nature of the Internet cuts creativity loose on such a fantastic scale, that I think we’ll have the capability to fix the flaws as we go.

Recent research at the University of Pennsylvania through the New York Times is encouraging. It turns out good news travels faster than bad and that the positive emotion of awe travels fastest. Large scale awe-inspiring stories that make us see the world in a different way catch fire.

Make what you will of this, but “emotional communion” of this kind suggests that people move towards positive change, and will get in behind it when it counts. A booster for the case that “the glass half full” holds plenty of water.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Fine Consollection

History is always in our hands, and everything we touch instantly becomes part of our cultural memory – often shared. In times gone by, people collected coins, dolls … train numbers – and some still do.

These days, new inventions become normal and standard in a generation. There are kids now who’ve never heard of The Beatles, and can’t conceptualise the world without the Internet. They’ve created their own history, a world of hardware and software being constantly refined, reduced in size, expanded in capacity.

Consollection is a history of the (video) games console: from Apple’s Pippin Atmark (not one of their greatest hits), Atari’s game-changing (at that time) VCS 260 through to the Sony Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii. If you’re between 5 and 40 years old, you’re going to remember one of these consoles as your first. They have at times hit right in Lovemark territory – they’re very sensual, intimate devices. They’ve become designed to better mould to your hand, and allowed your imagination to take flight on screen.

More buttons were added, controls became more complex, and then were slowly taken away, and we’re moving today to a future where our bodies do the interacting; where we are the console.

These now historic items, collectable physically or in cultural memory, have always been supported by advances in software; bringing the Streetfighter & Grand Theft Auto series to life, just as they did with early games like Pacman, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Going right back you might remember the earliest Tennis games (two blocks and a moving square ball going from side to side!)

As the console becomes the body, I think going online will be more intimate than ever before. With the right parameters, we’ll be able to go deeper into experiences and integrate them into our body’s physical memories too. What a development.

Future generations will look back on our manual control systems with a mixture of amusement and nostalgia. Somewhere, there’ll be collections with coins, stamps, and computer game consoles.

Technology works when we embrace it fully. We can’t hide under a rock, we’ve evolved. We can use digital experience for our analogue pleasure. And now The Beatles are on Rock Band, digital can reintroduce us to our glorious past.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Steps To Happiness

New York magazine had a recent feature 50 Steps to Simple Happiness. There's lots of interesting advice – quite a mixed bag – and some of the nuggets include:
  • Collect visual memories of moments when you were incredibly happy.
  • Start an old-fashioned (hand-written) correspondence with a friend.
  • Surround yourself with things that smell like green apple or cucumber (or visit a Jo Malone store!)
  • Carry yourself more erect. You can improve your outlook and confidence simply by improving your posture.
  • Forget the brown rice sushi. The Japanese are some of the most long-lived people on the planet, and they only eat white rice.
We each develop our own strategies for preventing and relieving stress and promoting joy and contentment in our lives. The key for me, as I’ve previously noted, is the idea of work / life integration. This is different to work / life balance that is so often talked about – the notion that happiness depends on making a series of trade-offs: home versus office, work versus family. To me, this approach of sacrifice and subtraction is all wrong. My philosophy is to bring each aspect of my daily life together into a satisfying whole. If we're happy in our personal life, work sits lighter on our shoulders; if work is stimulating and enjoyable, that will happily infect our life outside the office.

One way to achieve work / life integration is to be diligent about your happiness. Think about what brings happiness to your life, and make time for it. Plan for it and prioritize. I love playing tennis, and I sometimes arrange tennis matches with friends six months or more before we hit the court. Big sporting events bring me untold joy, and I make sure to organize my time so that I get to enjoy them (watching USA Rugby team's first World Cup match in Wellington September 23 2011 with my New Zealander rugby mates, Spiro Zavos from Sydney and Bill Middleton from New York, has been in the diary since minutes after the draw!).

Treat time to breathe and to enjoy life as vital and urgent priorities. Don't relegate or postpone. Your life – and work – will suffer if you do.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How To Make A Lovemark

Here’s a story from the irresistible gelato entrepreneur Gianpaolo Grazioli whose store I blogged about last year. The setting is Omaha New Zealand, chief character is a banker turned organic blueberry farmer, the shoot features low-flying indoor bird strikes – and then back to Giapo’s place in Auckland for a magic mix into the ice-cream machine. Way to make Lovemarks, Gianpaolo!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Up Where They Belong

When Geoffrey Canada's extraordinary and uplifting 'Harlem Miracle' one day makes it on to film, it might be tough to sell as a true story. But as an inspirational teacher movie, it will blow you away.

The Harlem Children's Zone began life in the 1970's as an anti-truancy program. In those days, Harlem – Northern Manhattan, population today about 126,000 from a peak of about double that in the 1920s – was perhaps the toughest, most violent neighborhood in the world. Educational attainment was way down the list of priorities for a community and families under siege: poverty, drugs, guns, a culture of learned helplessness. Kids weren't learning to read or write; they were just clinging on.

Enter Geoffrey Canada, himself a child of the inner-city. He became President and CEO of the HCZ in 1990. In two decades, he has built a network of educational, social and medical services that takes care of kids from cradle to College. Canada's 'whatever it takes' philosophy is all about outcomes. If teachers are not advancing student achievement, Canada will exit them. Students who are not reaching their potential are required to spend twice as much time at school as the average New York student; even high-achieving kids attend 50% more. It's all about Math and Reading, all the time. No excuses.

The New York Times said, "The objective is to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood just can't slip through."

How are the results? They appear astonishing.

In Math, Canada's Promise Academy has lifted achievement among its poor and minority students to the same level as middle class suburban kids. This has been the most intractable achievement gap in education. Middle-schoolers start at the Promise Academy behind 60% of the State in English; within two years, they are in the top 25%. Ninety percent of its High School seniors go to College.

Canada's vision is infectious. Harlem has become a case story in education innovation across the board. In 2009 the Harlem Children’s Zone and Zone Project served over 18,000 children and 13,400 adults. Locals have formed Harlem Parents United to help make the most of this new abundance of choice and opportunity for their children. Their annual Harlem Education Fair, expected to attract 10,000 eager parents, was held last weekend. In 2009, 64% of its funding came from almost $40 million in donations from corporations, foundations and private citizens. Big effort here.

President Obama is funding 20 projects based on the Geoffrey Canada model. City educators everywhere shouldn't wait for the movie. To me, Geoffrey Canada’s education ride feels appropriately wild and exciting.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Make Do Design

In the post-crunch economy, people are in save-and-make-do mode rather than spend-spend-spend mode. Here’s a nice direction from Australia that combines the unreasonable power of creativity with recycling, play and good old-fashioned fun. All it takes is makedo’s reusable connector system, some everyday materials, imagination and a light heart. You can make anything from toys and furniture to a car or boat. And if you need building plans, help is at hand on-site. Start with the two minute tour de makedo. Making, made easy.


how to makedo - extended version from MAKEDO.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Introducing Red Rose Music



As you know I'm a big believer in work/life integration. And music is a big part of my life. For the last year or so I've been working on a new business with my youngest son, Danis. Here's the latest from him:

There use to be a time, not too long ago, where you would get excited by an album release. Where you would study every inch of the album art work and sleeve notes. Where you would get together with your friends to listen and share an album for the first time. Then Napster came around and changed everything. They say the Internet is a great way to connect with others and while this is true in most situations, it is killing the music industry financially, but more importantly, emotionally.

This is where Red Rose Music comes in.

Red Rose Music is a young company based in London that KR and I have recently started. And our first goal is to reignite music retail and provide music lovers with their dream environment for discovery and rediscovery.

We are setting up ‘themed’ pop up events to sell music. We will embrace the future while respecting the past through vinyl, digital and everything in between. We will have memorabilia and magazines, art and photography. If it relates to music, we will have it. The events may be themed by genre or label, curated by relevant personalities, or partner with existing brands. We want to revive the communal spirit music once had, to make music retail exciting again.

We are a couple of months away from our opening event. We have a blog where you can follow our progress and also listen, watch and read about great music both new and old. Join the party.

www.redrosemusic.co.uk

Danis

Friday, March 12, 2010

Endless Love?

Romance and science aren’t the most traditional bedfellows – perhaps with the exception of that ultimate first date make-or-break, ‘chemistry’. However a recent LA Times article revealed that increasingly scientists are finding the chemistry concept isn’t just a metaphor for the sparks that fly (or fizzle) when two people meet.

Love and attraction causes real changes in the brain, releasing high levels of the chemical dopamine which provides that first buzz, and then later bonding hormones like vasopressin and oxytocin. And researchers are using MRI machines to observe and measure these effects, with some surprising results.

I was intrigued by one study which showed feelings didn’t have to fade over time. Bianca Acevedo at UC Santa Barbara took the brain scans of people still blissfully happy together after twenty years of marriage, and compared them to the brains of love-giddy new couples. Surprisingly, she found they shared those same chemical patterns – that it is possible to maintain long-term the thrills of first love, rather than face an inevitable slide into happy-but-boring attachment.

Nice to know, and tips from researchers like Acevedo on building romance work across all relationships, from personal friendships to billion dollar brands:

  1. Keep things exciting – Surprise people in creative ways, stimulating the senses and take them back to the romance of the first time,
  2. Be thoughtful – Don’t become complacent about your most loyal customers, celebrate them and remind them every day why they chose you in the first place.
  3. Be empathetic – Listen, share, support and encourage involvement with you.

Simple stuff, and in commerce often forgotten by marketers who pour energy into new relationships, assuming old ones will stay true no matter what. Don’t fall into that trap – keep the love alive.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

There Is No Cure For Curiosity

Before the Internet, most of us read the same newspaper in the morning and sat down to watch the same TV news over dinner. There was a good chance we’d be exposed to people, ideas and opinions that challenged us … arguing with (or at) the television was a common occurrence. Workplace banter often revolved around news reports we had all read or seen and affected us in different ways.

That doesn't happen as much now because people often only consume the news and information that upholds their existing worldview. This, in turn, leads us to an ever-expanding galaxy of like-minded websites, blogs, video, and Twitter and Facebook pages that construct a kind of virtual cocoon. We may think that this cascade of information is making us smarter, but because of this filter effect – it brings with it the risk of narrowing our minds.

Bigthink.com is a great antidote for this kind of complacency. The site features video interviews with a truly impressive roll-call of experts and entertainers, authors and auteurs: John Irving on advice to aspiring novelists; Chris Anderson on the power of the consumer; Eliot Spitzer on redemption; Ariana Huffington on what keeps her up at night (“that we are the next Pompeii”), Richard Florida on urban theory. There is an incredible array of physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, business innovators and gurus of all persuasions. The interviews, which are presented in full along with transcripts, are long, in-depth and always thought-provoking. They are a great respite from the sound-bite saturation of the daily news cycle. As food for thought, bigthink.com is an all-you-can-eat buffet.

This is a great place to spend some time, to delve deep, discover new ideas and challenge old ones. The site features a quote from Dorothy Parker that sums it up: "Curiosity is the cure for boredom. There is no cure for curiosity."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ball You Kick Twice

Tackling climate change is too important to leave to politicians! It's a job for the inventors, the innovators, the radical optimists. Because of them, the clean energy revolution is already underway, in big ways and small. I stumbled across this amazing idea, and I wanted to share it with you.

Meet the Soccket, a "fun, portable energy-harvesting energy source in the form of a soccer ball". That's right – it is a football that captures the energy of each kick, throw or header to be reused later as a tiny power generator. For each 15 minutes of play, it generates enough energy to power an LED light for three hours.

The Soccket has been trialed successfully in Durban, South Africa – home to this year's Soccer World Cup, as well as to millions of young people who love nothing more than to kick a ball around, often in communities with not enough safe, reliable sources of energy. The inventors see it as a community builder and public health tool as well as being, well, a soccer ball. They plan to develop a high-end version for sale in the US and Europe. An inspired and inspiring idea!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh Canada

I lived in Canada for a couple of years in the late 80’s running Pepsi-Cola. During that time my eldest son Ben became a Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey fan and we all got quite caught up in Canada’s national sport. I watched the epic Winter Olympic final between the USA and Canada on February 28 – a fantastic game between the two top hockey nations and, of course, the two closest rivals.

What a game it was. Canada two nil up, then two – one, then the USA equalized with 15 seconds to go. Extra time in hockey is very sensible. They clear the ice, dropping 6 players to 5 and it’s sudden death. Sporting tension of the highest degree. Canada edged it and the 20,000 crowd in Vancouver went wild. The pride of the small nation winning against its much more powerful neighbor is one of the great experiences and stories of life. This was sporting theater at its best with the good natured Canadian crowd belting out “Oh Canada” making the rooftop rise. Let’s hope this is a precedent for New Zealand with the All Blacks in 2011.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Gift Shop And The Graffiti Artist

I’ve written about Banksy before, and he remains an enigmatic and mysterious figure. Plenty of people out there think they know who he is, and some have even named a middle class chap from Bristol as Britain’s most notorious, and successful street artist. This is the guy who has done everything from Blur album covers, to decorating the West Bank wall, gate-crashed Disneyland in a protest against Guantanamo Bay, and famously gave Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta bananas instead of guns – prompting a clean-up campaign from London Transport who famously said their cleaners were just that, professional cleaners, not professional art critics.

It doesn’t really matter who Banksy is. For some he’s a common graffiti artist and vandal, for others, an example of a true visionary artist the type that we now celebrate, looking back to unusual types such as Dali. One thing is certain: he’s asking questions of us all the time.

The latest question comes out very soon around the world, and has already debuted to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival – Exit Through the Gift Shop is Banksy’s first film. This will be worth seeing, even if you don’t end up seeing who Banksy is in the film (he is said to appear).

What comes shining through to me about this artist and film-maker is the sense of functioning creativity, an artist in flow, and a supporting movement of fans across the world who are happy to see Banksy’s work as a reflection of how they feel.

The LA Times calls Exit Through the Gift Shop “a film-within-a-film that begins as a chronicle of guerrilla art and its most prominent creators but morphs into a sly satire of celebrity, consumerism, the art world and filmmaking itself … a nearly impossible work to categorize”.

That sounds like a perfect fulfillment of David Bowie’s definition of creativity: “something I haven't seen before”. Get to the cinema and see for yourself.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Blippy On The Social Media Landscape

This is still Year One of the Internet Age, and social media is an infant. We are in the midst of a great era of experimentation and unpredictability. At their first investor pitch meetings, the founders of Twitter – who seem like geniuses in hindsight – would have been lucky to reach 140 characters before they were shown the door.

In this brave new cyber-world, winners rise fast and others fall hard. People made fun of CNBC's Jim Cramer two years ago when he put the value of Facebook at $1 billion. No-one's laughing now, with Forbes.com estimating it could attract up to eleven times more than that if it lists on the stock exchange later this year. Reaching 400 million users recently – a network size big enough to be the world’s third largest country – Facebook, according to analysts, seems to have reached a critical mass" allowing its momentum to vault it continually higher."

No-one would challenge for the moment Facebook's supremacy, or the appeal of Twitter which turns out to be a great way to keep in touch with public sentiment (which is why politicians and celebrities can't stop Tweeting).

The web has become home to great intimacy. Ten years ago, spending a lot of time on computers was considered proof you didn't have many friends – now it is the opposite. When it comes to sharing and connecting, nothing is off-bounds: thoughts, hopes, dreams, loves, hates, love to hates; things that inspire, amuse or irritate; the seemingly trivial, the grandiose and everything in between.

Does Blippy.com test the limits of our social media endurance? This Twitter look-alike site invites users to upload their credit card details so that their purchases are displayed on Blippy for the edification of fellow members. (I can tell you, for example, that Ashvin, a co-founder of the site, spent $30.55 at a Shell gas station moments before I wrote this.) The site has attracted a fair amount of buzz; Stephen Colbert sent it up last week. There is likely to be some capital in play, and social media analysts are watching closely. The idea is to find out what your friends and your friends’ friends are buying these days.

Blippy.com is an example of the out-there innovation – or weirdness – that is flourishing in the social media space. Let’s see if it finally resolves the question, "how much is too much information?"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Coulson Macleod - A Simple Little Love Story

A few weeks ago, I discovered Coulson Macleod, an art business making waves from Kettering, Northamptonshire. It’s the creation of Mark Coulson and Hannah Macleod, a couple who share a striking design aesthetic, radically positive ambition, and, most importantly, love.

I’ve bought several of their pieces, which are all hand-finished in limited editions. The works in the Love Collection are favorites of mine – bold typographic designs featuring declarations of feeling and famous romantic lines from classic movies. Other collections celebrate the pop culture of decades past, the icons of music history and the spirit of Cool Britannia – all topics close to the heart.

After I sent the team a note of encouragement, Hannah Macleod shared the company’s “simple little love story” with me. It’s also a story of smart, down-to-earth entrepreneurship. After falling in love, the couple began working together. Wanting new art for their home, but not able to afford high-end prices, they decided to design their own rather than deign to buy mass-produced prints, and thus Coulson Macleod was born.

Starting small in March 2009, Hannah and Mark didn’t have big dollars for promotion, but built their own website and showcased their designs online. The work spoke for itself, and with growing sales they could soon begin advertising in top interiors magazines. Now, Coulson Macleod fields orders from all over the world, and tracks the buzz on their blog. Brides-to-be have contacted them to ask if they can read out the quote from the “What Is Love?” piece at their wedding – a special request as this was written by Mark.

As Hannah described it to me, the company is “built on love and driven by passion”. The world needs more entrepreneurs like this. Here’s to spreading the Love.

Coulson Macleod – Love Makes The Ride Worthwhile

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leatherface, Arnold Schoenberg, and the Reinvention of the Musical Scale Based On Emotional Resonance

Guest post from my friend Rich Robinson from EMI Music in the UK.

As it is with the joys of a good iPod song shuffle, every now and then a song you've not heard in a long time can pop up and grab you by the throat again. Last night, 'Springtime' by Leatherface was that song, the largely overlooked Sunderland punks' most battered and beautiful track. With its heavy guitars, grizzled vocals sung through gritted teeth, it's probably not what people might traditionally define as 'beauty'. But that's what really makes it resonate for me, the imperfect heart of it. The sincerity.

Despite a dedicated following stateside, Leatherface were largely unknown in their own town let alone country. Perhaps, on first listen it is aggressive and messy, but it remains a rare and genuine punk rock treat, impassioned, intelligent and emotive. Leatherface were telling stories of working class struggle and northern humor long before the Arctic Monkeys had even been born.

Amongst the new romanticism and hair metal of the 80s they went against the grain, unconventional musicians pushing their own boundaries, flouting power chords for made up melodic arpeggio's and song structures which from the underground up formed part of a scene that contributed to modern melodic rock as we know it now.

Pretty much exactly as the track finished, I happened to catch a quote on a television documentary about the composer Arnold Schoenberg, how he re-invented the musical scale. Schoenberg was different type of musician that also went against the grain. He was the Director of a Master Class in Composition at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin, until the election of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933, when he was dismissed and forced into exile. It was against the backdrop of this struggle and his relocation to America that he developed the twelve-tone technique.

Under-appreciated in his time, it was only later that Schoenberg would come to personify pioneering innovations in atonality that would become the most polemical feature of 20th-century art music. He was considered too radical at the time; some audiences even rioted at his concerts. Even his fellow composers thought he was mad, but Schoenberg was an innovator.

A massive influence on jazz and expressional music, Schoenberg's ideas were based on an emotional resonance, he was the first modern composer to embrace ways of developing motifs without resorting to the dominance of a centralized melodic idea.

It seems we're in great debt to Arnold Schoenberg for pushing the boundaries, and making rules that others might be brave enough to break. It's a lovely cycle in music, much like world records, someone sets the pace for others to come crashing though. And you never get remembered for following what's already there.

It's not a revelation that those go against the grain always create the best art, and in fact, not much has changed between Schoenberg and any modern musicians really, it's simply about the emotional power that's channelled through sticking to your guns and making art right from the heart.

The question is who is brave enough to be next? Can't wait to find out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

On Cloud Nine, Together

Innovation comes from the edge. For most European travellers the edge of the world is New Zealand. That means a 24 hour flight, and there are plenty who don’t want to part with a huge amount of cash for business class – where you can get a real sleep. So congratulations to Air New Zealand for putting on their thinking hats and solving some of the negatives of long haul travel. Skycouches on their new Boeing planes mean that three seats form one bed, with an extra panel raised from the footrest area to give space for two to sleep in what they’re calling “cuddle class”.

Economy/coach class can be a tough ride, so the opportunity to lie flat with your partner and sleep off the miles will be too good to pass up. There’s little mystery on a flight like this, and sensuality takes a back seat unless you’re prepared to pay more, so adding a little bit of intimacy to the mix seems like a great solution to me. You arrive at your destination, not prodded by stranger’s elbows and plenty of sleep interruptions, but after a sleep, a meal, and lesser chance of DVT. It costs a little more, so let’s see how it goes. While Air New Zealand are ahead of the game in solving a long distance issue – there must be plenty of ways other airlines can innovate for shorter flights.

I won’t bother challenging the major US airlines, who need a whole culture change before they can come close to getting this far (JetBlue and Virgin America being honourable exceptions), but I’m sure other carriers can continue to innovate, push the boundaries for economy as well as business and first class. Everyone is on the same plane together! Perhaps they can look at the other innovation from my national carrier – Spaceseats. Two abreast and designed to shape in to allow couples to dine together. You choose – the back of a seat, or at best a small TV screen, or the smile of your loved one facing you. And for those who are not couples, who knows? You might even make a new friend.