Alchemy by Rory Sutherland – Quote

I went yesterday evening to hear Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of ad agency Ogilvy in the UK, speak in Conway Hall, Red Lion Square about his new book Alchemy. I have had the good fortune to meet&chat with Rory on a number of occasions and it is never less than fascinating. He kindly contributed to the (finished) chapter on Paul Arden in my (unfinished, as yet) book When Sparks Fly.

Rory sutherland conway hall how to academy 17th April 2019 talk red bull

Rory grabbing the Bull by the horns

In view of the fact I’ve recently started working at Red Bull Media House (as a Commissioning Editor), I loved that he used Red Bull as a striking case study in this talk (as well as in the foreword of his book which I started reading today).

I liked this quotation on the value of Big Data from today’s reading:

It’s important to remember that big data all comes from the same place – the past.

Rory is a big advocate of evolutionary psychology and behavioural science (with all the irrationality those expose) as opposed to economics and other data-driven activities. He’s not against logic and hard facts, just in favour of suspending rationality from time to time in favour of creative magic or alchemy.

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Coincidences No.s 277-284

No. 277 Re-righting

weebles wobble but they don't fall down

6/4/19 (Norway)

I am listening to an episode of the BBC podcast ‘Only Artists’ featuring the film composer Debbie Wiseman and the TV director Peter Kosminsky. Peter (who I knew a little at Channel 4 but I think I cheesed off because I disagreed with a cultural boycott he put his name behind) talks about how he guided Mark Rylance to play Thomas Cromwell in ‘Wolf Hall’ – “low centre of gravity” – and mentions those toys that bounce back up.

Six days ago (London)

I am watching a TED talk on YouTube featuring a consultant who lives in my neighbourhood and is currently close to death. A few months ago he did this talk, knowing that he had a terminal cancer diagnosis. He and his speaking partner – it is a two-hander, both psychologists – present 8 tips for being resilient. In one he links the tip to the toys with weighted bottoms that re-right themselves always. He reminds us of the name (Weebles) and the strapline from the TV ads (which I still remember without prompting) “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. He champions the idea that we should recognise the wobbling as a part of our condition and allow ourselves to experience it without shame or guilt. I haven’t thought about Weebles for years and only knew them from the telly.

 

No. 278 Dried Cod

dried cod

4/4/19 (Trondheim)

Straight after a workshop on Short Form Video I am doing at the ISAK cultural centre in Trondheim, Norway for the MidtNorsk Filmsenter (a regional film fund) I walk down to the nearby fish market, the start of a guided tour of the city by my host, Line. She points out, for some reason, on the fish stall the dried cod.

1/4/19 (Trondheim- Oslo)

I get a message from my Norwegian friend, Hanna (who works at NRK, the public service broadcaster of Norway), which suggests what we might do on Sunday afternoon when I will be staying with her in Oslo, where she lives. “me and two friends Bente and Jan are having our first ‘spring meeting’ Sunday afternoon, planting a few seeds, drinking some wine, and me: making a nice bacalao (one of my specialities, with Norwegian dried cod).” I have never come across dried cod before.

 

No. 279 M&S

open city documentary festival poster

30/1/19

An email comes in reminding me about an MA Graduate Screening I am due to attend at Bertha Dochouse/Curzon Bloomsbury, London from the Open City Docs team at UCL. It includes a timetable item: 10.30 – Screening starts, introduced by Open City Docs Director Michael Stewart.

 

The next email that comes in is from (a different) Michael Stewart, an old friend of mine from Toronto, wishing me a belated Happy New Year. We exchange emails very sporadically.

 

No. 280 Golders Green

golders green clock tower

13/3/19

I drop my wife at our nieces’ place in Trellick Tower and drive home via Golders Green to post some VAT documents into my accountant’s closed offices around 11pm. As I walk away from the offices I notice various notifications on my phone and decide just to return one call – the one from my younger son. I normally might not have bothered calling back immediately but he’s been on a trip to Prague with his girlfriend so my instinct was to respond despite the late hour.

 

My younger son picks up my call. He says he is in Golders Green, just off a coach from Luton Airport and has ordered an Uber home. I ask him exactly where he is right now. I let him know that if I had a handy stone I could hit him from where I am currently standing. He cancels the Uber and I drive them home.

 

No. 281 Joy Division

unknown pleasures LP record vinyl cover

24/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am having breakfast in Copenhagen with Mike Christie, director, who I became friends with while at Channel 4 (he directed ‘Jump London’, one of my two favourite things made at C4 during my 13 years there), and Bernard Sumner, guitarist of Joy Division and singer of New Order – as one does. Bernard is in town, like Mike, for a screening of ‘Decades: New Order’, Mike’s excellent film for Sky Arts about a brilliant show the band created for the Manchester International Festival and a subsequent short European tour. Suede’s Brett Anderson, star of another of Mike’s films playing at the CPH:DOX film festival, comes by to bid farewell and we shake hands. Not your average breakfast. I say to Bernard that the last time I saw him in the flesh was at the Lyceum, London when Joy Division were supporting Buzzcocks. “You’re a big fan then” he responds with dry Mancunian style. “He really is a big fan” my son pipes up “he’s always wearing his Unknown Pleasures T-shirt”. This shifts the conversation onto that design and I confirm “You found that image didn’t you?” He explains how he found it in a library book about astronomy and after a while tells me about a related coincidence. I didn’t fully grasp the science but the gist was that by chance the frequency illustrated in that famous graph (reversed out of black by Peter Saville, originally black on a white background in the book) is the same as a 45 rpm vinyl single. This is something Bernard found out a good while after the release of ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

 

No. 282 Time

nick drake singer

20/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I am putting the finishing touches to my PowerPoint presentation for Documentary Campus Masterschool I am due to deliver the next day in Copenhagen. It doesn’t have that many words, being composed mainly of pictures as is my wont, but I am adding the word “Time” to a list.

 

As I type the word “Time” Nick Drake sings “Time”. I am listening to Spotify, returning to Nick Drake because I have been reminded of him by Jamaican writer Marlon James on his Desert Island Discs earlier today. The song is ‘Time Has Told Me’.

Time has told me

You’re a rare, rare find

A troubled cure

For a troubled mind

 

No. 283 Polar Bears

polar-bear

21/3/19 (Copenhagen)

I wake up early and listen to the radio. On Radio 4 is ‘IPM’ in which a mother describes her teenage son and then how she lost him suddenly. The story of his death comes out of the blue, shockingly. He is on an adventurous camping trip with a group of friends somewhere frozen, I forget exactly where, Greenland or similar, and he gets attacked in the early morning by a polar bear while sleeping in his tent, mauled, killed.

 

Later in the day I am listening to a feature documentary pitch at Documentary Campus Masterschool in a community/youth centre in a Copenhagen backstreet. The pitch mentions being eaten by polar bears.

 

No. 284 Presqu’ile

Peninsula-Papagayo-wide-aerial-shot

6/4/19 (Oslo)

I am walking through Oslo city centre with my friend Hanna Førland and we are discussing the geography of the city’s coastline. We are talking about a peninsula but neither of us can think of the word however I can recall the French word for the geographic feature, “presqu’île”. We met 36 years ago studying French in Savoy/Savoie, South-East France.

7/4/19

Hanna and I meet up with a third friend from Chambéry, Marit Kolberg (also of NRK). We have brunch at Marit’s house in the suburbs just west of Oslo and we are discussing Cuba and a peninsula Marit visited there recently. She can’t think of the word in Norwegian or English but uses “presqu’île” in lieu.

Story Snippet – Trondheim train

I find myself sitting next to Sissel on the six-hour train journey from Trondheim to Oslo. She is an elegant elderly lady with a wicked laugh. A native of Trondheim, she used to be the projectionist at the Cinemateket where I delivered my lecture on Thursday. She is on her way to Oslo airport heading for Berlin, her first visit there since 1977. The last time she went she tried to call David Bowie and Iggy Pop. She found the phone number of their flat under James Osterberg (Iggy’s non-stage name) in the phone book. She rang but a woman answered and said they were out.

david bowie iggy pop berlin

The Empathy Podcast with Oisin Lunny

the empathy podcast oisin lunny adam gee

I can’t recall exactly how or when I first met Oisin Lunny – it was through digital media/multiplatform circles. But I do clearly (that is, as clearly as was possible in the circumstances) recall listening to his band in a rowdy basement in Watermint Quay, Hackney on big nights among the London Irish Murphia – they were called Marxman, a pioneering Celtic hip-hop band that used the bodhran, the traditional Irish drum, for their beats. The band was on Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label (alongside the great Young Disciples among other footstomping acts which defined the 90s). They had the distinction of having their first single banned by the BBC and their third one performed on Top of the Pops. Oisin making his marx in music is no surprise given his heritage – his da is Donal Lunny, Irish producer extraordinaire and member of seminal bands Planxty and Moving Hearts (with the likes of Christy Moore). Oisin has moved the family on from the bouzouki to all things digital and mobile (but with a healthy respect for the bodhran and the Irish songbook).

marxman Oisin Lunny

Oisin in Marxman (left)

Among his digital marketing related activities Oisin produces a podcast about Empathy called The Empathy Podcast. He recently recorded an episode with me in which we discussed the relationship between Empathy, Creativity, Connection and Networks. Here is the programme [Running Time: 22 mins].

oisin lunny

Another Marxman on Simple Pleasures.

Marxman with Sinead O’Connor:

“Ship Ahoy” by Marxman from Oisin Lunny on Vimeo.

The Casting Game No.s 102 & 103 – Triple Frontier special

 

Triple-Frontier-Charlie-Hunnam-actor

Charlie Hunnam

as

jonny wilkinson rugby player england

Jonny Wilkinson

and

oscar isaac actor third frontier

Oscar Isaac (in Third Frontier)

as

Ian McShane actor

Ian McShane (in The Battle of Britain)

The Casting Game No. 101

Dean Martin

dean martin rio bravo cowboy movie

Dean Martin in Rio Bravo (1959)

as

Victor Mature

victor mature my darling clementine movie cowboy

Victor Mature in My Darling Clementine (1946)

understudied by Sylvester Stallone

Rambo-5-Last-Blood-Sylvester-Stallone movie

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo V: Last Blood (2019)

 

The Casting Game No. 100

Eric Ambler author writer spy books

Eric Ambler

played by

michael caine actor

Michael Caine

Lost Postcard No. 5

The last of the re-found batch of postcards as explained here.

old postcard

This one is the most impenetrable. Very few clues. I can’t even tell if it’s a mass-produced card or a one-off/short run for a family or individual. The girl looks pretty young – perhaps 16 or less. No clues in her clothing – a simple white smock with a little detail or perhaps piece of jewellery centrally at the neck.

On the reverse the printed words are: Post x Card, Correspondence, Address Only. No stamp. In the stamp space a logo: TIC in a horseshoe.

But thanks to the internet, it turns out that actually enables us to date the card. TIC stands for Thomas Illingworth & Co.

On vintage British postcards the postage stamp square is where the manufacturer would commonly place their brand mark or logo. Thomas Illingworth & Co. were a paper manufacturer founded around 1904. TIC manufactured the Horse Shoe Brand of photographic paper in London NW10.

The large photographic supplies company Ilford bought a controlling interest in TIC in 1919.  The business was fully absorbed into the Ilford Group around 1930. During this period (1919-30) date coding appears on TIC Horse Shoe postcards. A conscientious, dogged amateur, Geoff Caulton from Norfolk, had a stab at decoding these symbols around 2010. Here’s what he worked out:

TIC horse shoe postcard date codes symbols

My card has a single tiny X between the words Post and Card. So 1920 by Caulton’s calculations.

The Norfolk man explains: “I have included the Horseshoe brand in this decade because after checking hundreds of dated photographs with this mark I have yet to see one dated outside the twenties.
Correction ‘except one or two dated 1919 and one or two dated 1930’.
Unless there is evidence to the contrary I would date any card with this mark to the 1920s.”

Caulton surmises that these date marks serve a quality control purpose for the photographic paper/card on which the postcards are printed.

Parenthetically, my maternal grandfather, Ian Harris, would love this one – he was a scientist who specialised in printing photographic images. He worked for Picture Post and Metal Box among others. His Picture Post story is covered here. I have memories of him using Ilford products.

Caulton’s theory is this: “All Real Photographic postcards started life as a pre-printed sheet of photographic sensitive card. Each photographer’s stock of photographic paper postcards had a shelf life.
If you look between the two words POST and CARD on a T.I.C Horseshoe card you should see a symbol. These symbols could be taken as typographic decoration. However I believe they have a purpose in what would now be called quality control. I suggest they represent the manufacturer’s date of production, possibly a span of six months.
There is an identifiable pattern. For example in my own collection of T.I.C horseshoe portraits I have four unrelated portraits, each dated 1922. All four have the ‘double dagger’ symbol between the words Post & Card. This cannot be chance or coincidence.
I would not be bold enough to suggest that a card can be precisely dated using these symbols but they can certainly be batched into early, middle and late twenties. I have extracted the dated portrait cards from my collection and found a very significant clustering of dates for certain symbols. There are of course stray cards which were probably inscribed many months after they were printed and other inscriptions may be inaccurate but there are enough clues to indicate there is information of value here.
My instinct tells me that a single symbol represents the first half of a year and a double symbol the second. It is only a theory but the evidence is strong and I am convinced I am on the right track.”

That’s what’s great about the Web. It gave birth to an age of the Amateur, in the true sense of the word, “a lover of something”. True expertise lies in such people as Caulton in the Internet era.

Thomas Illingworth, founder of Thomas Illingworth & Co. Ltd., was the son of a photographer also called Thomas Illingworth,  whose firm was based in Halifax, Yorkshire and also eventually had studios in Huddersfield (Bradford Rd.) and Bradford (128 St Stephen’s Road, West Bowling). Thomas Illingworth Senior was born in Oldham in 1838. He learnt the photography trade in the studio of his maternal grandfather, John Eastham, who was based in St Ann’s Square, Manchester.

Bear in mind that the first photograph (i.e. the earliest known surviving photo made in a camera) dates from 1826 or 1827 so Eastham is pretty early to the business. Eastman took Daguerreotypes and was a “Photographer to the Queen” (Victoria).

the first photograph ever earliest known surviving photograph

Here’s that first photo – taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the view from an upstairs window at his estate, Le Gras, in Burgundy, France.

Thomas Illingworth Snr. married Amelia Oates in 1859. They had seven children – Thomas Jnr. was the only boy, born in 1867.

Thomas Illingworth & Co. Huddersfield photographer

Thomas Illingworth & Co. Huddersfield photographer

Snr.’s studio work

Jnr. went to London aged 19 and set himself up as a photographic printer and dealer at 38 Sherriff Road, West Hampstead. That’s four and a half miles from where I’m writing this (at home).

Two years later he moved to larger premises at Ruckledge Avenue, Willesden. Then in 1896 he opened a showroom at 5 Soho Square (or Street), W1. In Willesden he got increasingly involved in the manufacture of photographic paper.

The catalogues of the annual exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society (of which my Picture Post grandfather was a Fellow) list addresses for Thomas Illingworth & Co.:
1898 – 5 Soho Street; and Oxford Street, W. [a route I take often to cut through Soho Square to Frith, Greek and Dean Streets]
1900 & 1901 – The Photo Works, Willesden Junction, N.W.

His business continued to thrive so moved to a new factory in Cumberland Avenue, Park Royal. The foundation stone was laid on 4th September 1912. Between 1911 and 1914 the Manufacturing department trebled in size.

Jnr. married Marta Ann Midgely in 1891. They had six children. Their eldest son, yet another Thomas Illingworth (Thomas Midgely Illingworth), took over the firm when Jnr. retired in 1922, going to the big dark room in the sky in 1923, three years after my postcard. Jnr. Jnr. (i.e. Thomas Midgely Illingworth) took the business closer to Ilford until it was finally amalgamated, with him becoming a Director of Ilford in the process.

I’ve found a few other Horseshoe cards online:

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

The date code (1922)

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

The logo

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

Blank reverse of a TIC card (1919)

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

Front (1919) – not my one

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

Is the dark shadow at the bottom some kind of modesty? or a mistake?

Back to my card…

TIC postcard markings logo mark brand

On the reverse of mine is a short lightly pencilled message:

Doff

With fondest

Love

Danny

So from meagre clues we have come some way. Who Doff, Danny and the girl on the front are, we’re unlikely ever to know. But who knows – this is the Internet…

tennis TIC vintage postcard reverse

1928 (reverse of tennis portrait below)

postcard TIC

another pencilled message

TIC thomas Illingworth postcard

I found a fascinating collection of 67 TIC cards here https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/sets/72157645197389979/ gathered by Alwyn Ladell. He has captioned this one: Women’s Ward, Boscombe Hospital, Shelley Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset
T.I.C. (Thomas Illingworth & Co.) Bailey, 228a Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth.
Postally unused (c.1923).

 

 

Quote of the Day: Going Gaga

Today the Internet Association (UK), as led by my former Channel 4 colleague Daniel Dyball who spoke for them on BBC Radio news this morning, is presenting to the UK Parliament their suggestions for regulation of social media from the big tech firms including Facebook and Twitter.

On Sunday night Lady Gaga performed an intense version of what proved to be the Oscar-winning original song, Shallow from A Star is Born, with Bradley Cooper.

 

Lady Gaga said of online rumours of a love affair between herself and her co-star based on the performance:

social media, quite frankly, is the toilet of the Internet

Nice, concise turn of phrase.

In full: “…social media, quite frankly, is the toilet of the Internet. I mean, what it has done to pop culture is abysmal.”

 

The Casting Game No. 99

Kenneth Branagh played by (hello!) Jason Isaacs

all is true poster kenneth branagh film movie

Kenneth Branagh (in his latest movie)

played by

Captain-Hook--jason-isaacs actor movie

Jason Isaacs (who took the Edgware coach to school with me back in the day)

 

 

 

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