Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Independent Coffee Book: London review

I know nothing about the art of making coffee, but lately, thanks to the influence of a select few Foursquare friends, I've come to appreciate good coffee. After years of sipping rubbish coffee from chain shops, it's like discovering a whole new world of caffeinated delight.

The Independent Coffee Book is the ultimate companion guide for anyone who wishes to start the journey on discovering the many specialty coffee shops and carts dotted around London. Each coffee shop, listing includes detailed information such as the opening hours, historical perspective of the shop, Wifi availability, bathrooms, loyalty card programme and even the espresso machine used. There are also sections dedicated to the roasters Square Mile, Monmouth, Nude Espresso, Dark Fluid and Climpson & Sons.

Perhaps less useful for some customers but no less intriguing and interesting for coffee lovers are the inclusion of several pages detailing the history of the coffee trade in London. You will also find guides on coffee tasting, ethical trading of coffee beans, a short guide on coffee roasting and the different brewing methods. On the back you will find useful a useful fold out map detailing select coffee shops and their locations.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thames Cable Car (Emirates Air Line)

Yesterday was our first visit to the new Thames cable car tourist attraction in London. When the project was first announced, I was one of the original skeptic of what I would dub as a vanity project. In fact I still and I will explain why in a moment.

But I also love it.

The Thames cable car service is operated by Transport for London and comprises a 0.62 mile gondola line that crosses the River Thames between dilapidated Greenwich Peninsula to Royal Victoria Dock. It is officially known as the Emirates Air Line for sponsorship purpose, but like every sponsored infrastructure in London, the original name sounds better.

My thoughts on Apple vs Samsung

I wrote this in the early morning of Saturday (2am to be precise), back from a birthday party and slightly tipsy and also possibly angry or annoyed. I decided to sit on it (thankfully), and since forgotten about it. I've since edited the tone down a bit (removing no less than eight cusses), but the content is the same.

You may have heard the big result. Apple has won its lawsuit against Samsung in the US. Now, I don't like Apple. I really don't. But this verdict against Samsung is the right one. Do not get me wrong, I am not celebrating either. I think the patent system in the USA is messed up. But that doesn't mean this verdict isn't the right one. It just happens that I think Apple is the lesser of two evils, in this case at least.

Samsung isn't without their faults - they practically asked for it. So yes, this verdict might not be what some of you may have wished for, and yes the patent system is screwed but it's also the law. A stupid law it may be, but I have no sympathy if a multi-billion dollar company who aims to make billions more out of us can't follow the letter of the law. I love the Galaxy S2, even commenting that the design was nice in my review, but even I can see the similarities in the design. It doesn't take a law degree, just common sense and a working eye ball.
This is an Android phone. It is different.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tino Sehgal: These Associations at Turbine Hall, Tate Modern review

Four years ago, the first storyteller went on a trip to South Africa. On route the plane landed in an unnamed country, one of which I've forgotten. The storyteller was on transit in a city which is known for its bleak and desolate past and present. He could of course not leave the airport because it was a transit flight. So when the flight departed, the one memory he has of the city was the orange skyline that was coloured by the departing sun. After a few more exchanges, the first storyteller left and joined his companion as they circled me.

A few years ago, the second storyteller was camping in Doha with her friend. She talked about walking the sand dunes and ridges of the great Safari desert. The conversation steered towards dreams and we talked about human souls, dreams as an escape of reality, human's impact on earth and how the earth doesn't even feel us and finally human's desire to conquer the space time continium to time travel. We talked about London and the Thames and how just 5000 years ago there were no traces of humans. If we humans would disappear, it would only take a thousand years for nature to wipe all evidence of us. A blink of an eye in earth's history before she abruptly left.

These are two examples of the intimate stories that were exchanged between me and two storytellers in Tino Sehgal's These Associations. The installation or participatory exhibition as I wold have called it, was surreal, imaginative, eerie and scary at the same time. Rarely has any of the past passive exhibitions at the Turbine Hall gave me any sort of emotions, let alone four. It may be an example of 'pretentious art' and the stories may be true or otherwise, but it was no less compelling.

Tino Sehgal's These Associations is part of The Unilever Series at Turbine Hall, Tate Modern and will last until 28 October 2012. It is the first live exhibition in the series.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Tanks: Art in Action at Tate Modern

On Sunday while the rest of London were treated to the best and worst of Britpop, we visited Tate Modern's newest exhibition space, The Tanks, for the second time. Thanks to their late opening hours, we were able to wander around the hall and drum galleries unhindered, taking in the installations with only the eerie silence or whatever soundtrack attached to certain installations as accompaniments.

The Tanks were once three abandoned underground oil tanks, originally used by the former Bankside power station. It lies just by the south side of the Turbine Hall. It has recently been refurbished for use as a gallery and will now a permanent location for live and video art installations. A new building is currently being constructed above The Tanks in a redevelopment called the Tate Modern Project, which will see the creation of a new exhibition wing.
While The Tanks's Art In Action will be a permanent feature to the new wing of Tate Modern, it will only be opened to the public in intervals from October while construction of the new building goes on above. While initially skeptical about how the raw, cold interior and brutalist architecture of The Tanks, which used to hold five millions of oil, would fit with live art, the dark echo chambers were brilliantly utilised.

So far 40 artists has been commissioned to provide live work of art at The Tanks. Both semi permanent and limited live exhibitions such as Tania Bruguera's Immigrant Movement International and Haegue Yang's Dress Vehicles will be free.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Channel Islands travelogue

A trip to the Channel Islands was always on the card, but it was only two weeks ago that we were able to realise it. It was our first proper holiday in years, in that it doesn't involve camping or hosteling. We decided to treat ourselves a bit.

It was unfortunate we picked a peak season to visit but after much searching, we found a lovely self catering cottage in St Martin's Parish, just 20 minutes walk from St Peter Port in Guernsey. We choose a one bed maisonette from independent Tree Tops. For £475 a week, it came out at £68 a night - about half of what it would cost us if we went for a hotel or B&B. And because it has a fully equipped kitchen, we saved a heck a lot more money through home cooked meals.
Castle Cornet, St Peter Port, Guernsey
Richard, who runs Tree Tops, is a fantastic bloke. He has a wealth of knowledge of Guernsey and is funny to boot. A heck a lot funnier than Jimmy Carr in fact, who happened to have chosen the Channel Islands as his favourite tax haven. Richard also has a stable of bikes, including European-style bikes, which is available to residents, because he can't ride them all as he 'is old', as he puts it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Blackberry Playbook review

For a couple of months now, I have actually been toying around with the idea of getting a cheap small tablet. It's just one of those geeky moments I regularly have when I just want something new to play. I had a brief stint with an Android tablet, where I was convinced that 10" tablets did not belong in my life. So when the fine folks at Phones4U asked if I would like to review the Blackberry Playbook, I didn't think of saying no. Welcome readers, to my first ever review of a RIM Blackberry product.

RIM no doubt makes some great business-class devices, but they have never been on my radar purely because I am not part of their target market. But as the Playbook is the first ever RIM/Blackberry/QNX product I ever review, it is actually refreshing to test something with a clean slate point of view. My only experience with anything Blackberry is whatever I see in shops.