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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

House music producer Roy Davis Jr put together an amazing mix for Phonica Records and I have been vibing off it for most of the week.

Roy Davis Jr for Phonica Records

An old, but good music video put together by my long time colleague Haruka. It’s a mix of found footage and painting done on 16mm film.

Gates to the city by Haruka Ikezawa

I’m not so sure if it was the best portable stereo; but the JVC / Victor RC-M90 was an archetypal boombox of the 1980s beloved by hip hop fans and gadget lovers. Techmoan does a good tour of the device. What’s interesting is how quality seems to have reached a peak in the late 1970s, early 1980s in hi-fi equipment. Quality seems to have declined as more overseas manufacturing was undertaken by the Japanese brands.

If you are buying a major Japanese brand like Sony etc; try to buy a ‘Made in Japan’ product is still a great rule of thumb. More gadget related posts here.

Leo Burnett did a great advert for McDonalds. It tells the story of story of a single mum trying to get her son into the Christmas spirit. However, she faces an unresponsive child; until his inner child wins out. The Drum did a walk through of the ad with the creative team who worked on it at Leo Burnett here.

Leo Burnett for McDonalds UK

Finally, the IPA did a three hour webinar A New Way to Track Consumer Demand, that is now available online.

Finally Sony launched the PlayStation 5 in the UK this week. As I write this, there is a strong secondary market at three times the original retail price of the consoles. They’re the hot item for Christmas.

This was supported by buzz marketing with a takeover of London Underground signs at Oxford Circus station. The square logo (all the shapes are from the PlayStation controller) contrasts with the closed Microsoft store behind it.

Social media spread images of the signs and it was all very nice. I think part of its success was the counterintuitive aspect of a stunt in a high footfall area in central London – during the COVID19 lockdown, when other brand marketers are spending their budgets online…

playstation5 taken by Ian Wood
London Underground sign photo by Ian Wood

Bonus content: Clifford Stott is an expert in policing. He walked away from a Hong Kong government review into the 2019 protests. He goes into failings of the review and everything that went on in this report: Patterns of ‘Disorder’ During the 2019 Protests in Hong Kong: Policing, Social Identity, Intergroup Dynamics, and Radicalization by Clifford Stott, Lawrence Ho, Matt Radburn, Ying Tung Chan, Arabella Kyprianides, Patricio Saavedra Morales.

He talks about his findings with the Hong Kong Free Press.

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The Bhutto Dynasty – The Struggle for Power in Pakistan by Owen Bennett-Jones

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Before reading The Bhutto Dynasty I knew very little about Pakistan. The story of the Bhutto family is a story of fierce ambition with bursts of hubris. But it is also the tale of the moghul empire of pre-Raj India, British rule and post-colonial Pakistan.

The Bhutto Dynasty
The Bhutto Dynasty

The Bhuttos have been at the centre of Pakistan government. It is an interesting parallel to the Nehru-Gandhi family in India.

The author Owen Bennett-Jones has had access to the family and its wider circle of friends in writing this book. Combining that with a long time covering Pakistani current affairs for the BBC and you end up with an informative book.

The Bhutto family power base comes from being land owners and being able to rely on a block of local voters. The feudal nature of their power base was important before, during and after British rule. These votes were often achieved through means, rather like the British rotten boroughs.

A second aspect of their success was their ability to change and adapt. Bennett-Jones talks about how they adapted and thrived using the British legal system. They also shifted their allegiances to match where Pakistan was going. Being recognised for their support to the British Empire to supporting Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Or from founding a political party that engaged with China, to becoming a centre right party.

I would have liked to know more about the Pakistani effort to develop nuclear weapons. As an outsider, this was the biggest event since independence for Pakistan.

It was fascinating how different members of the Bhutto family consistently under-estimated rivals. This was usually because they had a blind spot for clerics, the uneducated and of lower social standing.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto grossly underestimated his own choice for chief of army staff. General Zia went on to depose Bhutto and bring in ten years of military government.

He compromised on laws sought by muslim clerics and was surprised when they were back demanding more, instead of appreciating what he’d given them. His daughter Benazir Bhutto underestimated the risk of her religious opponents and was assassinated by suicide bombers prepared by the Taliban.

I found The Bhutto Dynasty as a good introduction to South Asian history; rather than just a family biography. There are a number of aspects that I would like to understand more about. In particular, the rise of extreme political Islam, the India – Pakistan conflict, Pakistan’s relationship with China and the Pakistani nuclear programme. More book reviews here.

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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This project among older Irish people in the UK caught my eye Dementia and Music | Comhaltas in Britain.

Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (to give it its proper name) is an Irish based organisation with international branches that promotes Irish traditional music. It puts on grass roots sessions in local communities, trains young musicians and organises touring parties of musicians from Ireland around the world.

As a young child the Comhaltas tour of Britain meant a night out in the then packed Irish centre. There was the stress of getting ready; seeing my parents getting into their Sunday best (which has become less formal over the years) and my Mum never being able to find the shoes she wanted.

I would be wearing scratchy formal wear listening to Irish comedian / MC, mournful sean-nós singing and the lively céilí music with the occasional puirt à beul accompaniment.

A YouTube video with classic Irish tunes like these take me back playing records on my Granny’s turntable as a child; or my Uncle, Granny and I dancing like dervishes around the Marley tiled farmhouse floor as we whooped and clapped.

So the fit with Comhaltas and dementia made a lot of sense given the long term memories that would be likely accessed. And its amazing that something like this is specifically developed for the Irish community in the twilight of their years. Other organisations have looked to build something similar, such as Boots’ multi-sensory box. But this lacked the same degree of cultural relevance.

I loved Akira from the first time I saw it at an arthouse cinema in Liverpool in the early 1990s. It mirrored the cyberpunk culture I had loved since I originally watched Blade Runner. Akira had a quality and visual style way beyond what I had ever seen before. I’ve watched it many times since. But this video by an animator, going through a small section frame by frame was a revelation to me. The clever hacks that the animators did were amazing.

While we’re back in the 1990s, here’s Public Enemy live at Brixton Academy. Yet in 2020, Chuck D’s monologues feel even more relevant now than they did in 1990.

TikTok could be used for more than repeatable dance moves like BlackPink’s Samsung #danceawesome routine collaboration or Dettol India’s hand washing meme. This is a great video on publishing ‘serious content’ based on the experience of the World Economic Forum.

Google has launched a new workflow tool in the US. It looks interesting, here’s a YouTube walkthrough of it.