Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog
GeneralFriday, December 25th, 2015, (9:00 am)

Christmas Card 2015

And a Happy New Year too! :-)

GeneralTuesday, December 22nd, 2015, (6:00 pm)

It’s Christmas time again, and while for the last few years that has usually meant hot summer days for me in Australia or New Zealand, this year I am spending Christmas in Paris. So with the season in mind, I decided to take a look at a few alternatives ideas and innovations on our beloved Christmas tree, surely the essential component in any Christmas decorations.

Christmas Trees

Back when I used to live in the UK I had a Christmas tree that stood at about about knee height. It came pre-decorated and just needed to be taken out of the box and plugged in. It was quick and simple and required no effort or imagination. Perfect for me because while I love Christmas, I’m not a big fan of time consuming decorating.

Christmas Trees

When I was a kid, before my sister fiercely took over decorating the Christmas tree as a task only she was allowed to perform, my Mom and Dad used to do the honors. The house would fill with the smell of the pine needles that would herald the beginning of another holiday season.

Dad would decorate the rest of the house while we were upstairs in bed, and thats when I would learn all those wonderfully fizzy swear words that I’d hear him saying as the paper lanterns he carefully pinned to the ceiling would fall down one by one.

I’m glad we had a real tree. I like the trendy and imaginative alternatives, but a tree made of books, bottles, or palm tree leaves doesn’t have the same aroma as those giant trees I used to sit by as I tried to guess the contents of the presents beneath its needles branches.

Christmas Trees

Of course, there are many alternative ways to create a Christmas tree. Just the other day I saw a giant tree made entirely of disney character soft toys. As much as I like a real Christmas tree, I also like alternative Christmas trees that show a flare of imagination.

Christmas Trees

Weirdly enough, Christmas always seems to be a time when good taste can be briefly put aside. People take pride in doing terrible things to the outside of their homes with fairy lights and displays of electrical nonsense that would be almost unforgivable at any other time of the year. But what about the taste violations taking place inside homes across the land?

A friend of mine once proudly displayed a large pink and glittering Christmas tree that twinkled like the sparkles on drag-queens make-up. But even that cannot compete with the terrible rainbow Christmas tree that has surely caused as many gasps of horror as it has delight.

Christmas Trees

In my own apartment I tended to go for a more low budget approach to Christmas trees. But low budget doesn’t mean low imagination as these budget Christmas trees show us.

Christmas Trees

Christmas Trees

Then again, some people are just lazy!

Christmas Trees

However, there is always that showy person in your neighborhood who has to create something so absolutely ostentatious that people come from miles around to see it. Like this example of the most over the top Christmas tree I have ever seen, and it’s right here in Paris.

I mean come on, did it really need the search lights on the top?

Christmas Trees

Creative Media and TravelTuesday, December 8th, 2015, (5:00 pm)

So I have this idea I want to run by you. I want your opinion, your honest opinion, about a podcast idea I have. You can leave those opinions in the comments section, and really, I do want to hear what you have to say.

5 minutes of somewhere

So lets start with a little background. Back in 1999 I recorded an ‘online radio’ series called ‘Reality Radio.’ This was before the days of podcasting and iTunes. I used a handheld tape recorder to capture key moments in my trip to the States that year.

At the end of each day I used a cumbersome setup to get the clips from tape to my hefty laptop, then edited the clips and compiled an episode which I released the following day. The reason for recording audio wasn’t because I was particularly keen on radio, but instead because I couldn’t afford a video camera.

The resulting episodes of Reality Radio are so much more valuable to me than the hours of video tape that I might have recorded on a video camera. Those video clips would likely never see the light of day, and would more likely have become lost in time as video tape quickly became outdated.

Of course, like most of us, my recorded memories are primarily captured in photographs, fragments of time frozen in two dimensions. But back in 2012 as I sat on a cliff in Indonesia watching golden waves roll into shore beneath me and a setting sun, I was struck not just by the sight of those rolling Indian Ocean waves, but by the the sound too.

Uluwatu, Bali : From

It was a standout moment, in a year full of standout moments, but it also got me thinking about how sound is somewhat overlooked in our rampant sharing culture. We share billions of pictures and millions of videos, but sound on its own is a rare format. That’s a little strange really when you consider that the world we live in is anything but silent.

Now I don’t really know anything about capturing sound in the most effective way, but nonetheless I got myself a professional grade sound recorder. I took it along with me and just started recording moments in a similar way to how I had done back in the 90’s with that old $30 tape recorder I got from RadioShack.

This time, however, I was recording the background sounds, no narration, no explanation, just sounds. I’ve recorded all kinds of things including storms in the Himalayas, cafes in Melbourne, singers in the Parisian Metro, humming birds in Colorado, and even the audio assault of Japanese gaming arcades.

The thing is, while I was collecting the clips, I had no idea what I wanted to do with them. A podcast perhaps, but about what?

So here’s my idea, and in all honesty, I am not entirely convinced its a good one. I can always come back to the sound clips at a later date and do something a little more creative, but for now I am thinking about creating a podcast series called ‘5 minutes of somewhere.’

A younger me in the days before podcastingThe premise is pretty self explanatory. I’ll briefly introduce a five minute clip of somewhere and then that’s pretty much it. The listener can just sit back wherever they are, close their eyes maybe, and just listen to 5 minutes of somewhere.

We’re so used to Youtube clips, 24 hour news coverage, and moments we capture using our smart phones, but really, how often do we just listen? How often have you stood somewhere and just listened to everything going on around you?

Maybe that sounds like a boring endeavour, but ask yourself this; If those moments you chose to photograph had been stripped of their sound, how would that have changed your experience of them?

I’ll make a website to accompany the episodes, maybe include a picture or two for those who wanted to get some visual context. I suppose a Google street view link might be cool where relevant, but on the whole this would be about the sound itself, and pretty much nothing else.

So what do you think? Does that sound like a boring idea? Would it be something you might listen too? What would you do differently? I’m honestly interested to hear your opinions. Check out the two minute sample I’ve compiled below. They’re clips I’ve recorded, offering a taster of what’s to come. You can leave a comment below.

GeneralTuesday, December 1st, 2015, (1:38 am)

Back in 2006 when I started this blog, the iPhone didn’t exist, there was pretty much no facebook, and Tweeting was still something only birds did. The cool people talked about their Myspace and platforms like Xanga and were hives of textual activity. People weren’t afraid of reading the ramblings of strangers from the internet, the idea of ‘texting’ someone just sounded strange. Now, nearly ten years later everything has changed.

Hello Strangers

Of course, today nobody reads blogs posts much anymore. Instead they “Like” things they see on facebook, a platform that turned blogging into posting in the same way fish are turned into fish fingers. Easy to produce, easy to consume, and easy to forget.

Of course, I can’t very well complain that nobody takes the time to read my blog when I have clearly all but abandoned this place, despite my good intentions. Trust me, there have been many times when I have sat here, a ‘blank page’ before me, wondering what to write in the same way you might wonder what to say to that person you should have called so long ago.

So I’m just going to say “Hello Stranger,” and pretty much leave it at that. If you’re out there maybe you’d like to say hello back?

GeneralFriday, June 19th, 2015, (2:57 pm)

It’s surely a long accepted fact that banks are pretty much evil? They caused the global economic crisis then held their hands out and demanded huge bailouts without showing a hint of shame, regret, humility or even embarrassment. Who among us hasn’t felt at least a little screwed by a bank at least once? If only we could charge them dumb fees like they charge us, right? Well, I think we can, in fact I have, and they’ve paid!

Male them pay

I’ve not lived in the UK now for some years, but I still have a UK bank account just because it’s handy. I use Smile, the internet bank of the Co-op. I chose them because out of the collection of slippery not-to-be-trusted UK banks to choose from, they seemed like the least evil.

Truthfully, if I had planned my exit from dreary shores of the United Kingdom a little better, I would have picked another bank, one whose overseas card usage and currency conversion charges weren’t as objectionable, but I’m rather stuck with them now.

Over the years since I’ve left Smile have given me little reason to smile at all. Banking isn’t exactly something any ordinary person finds reason to look happy about. Dealing with your bank is rather like dealing with your need to use a toilet. It’s just a fact of life and there’s no need to dwell on it, so to speak.

Bank chargesI travel a great deal, and I’ve managed to train my bank not to constantly block my cards, which they have done many times, sometimes leaving me in really quite awkward situations. However, my recent arrival in India set off some program somewhere that immediately stopped my bank card.

Now I know, this is hardly the end of the world, but its annoying a time consuming to remedy, especially since I had gone to the trouble of writing to them informing them of my travel itinerary and I had also called them prior to my departure.

So this time I did what I’ve taken to doing with companies that levy charges against their customers. I charged them!

In a secure message I informed the bank that they were already aware of my travel arrangements, and as such I would be charging them a £25.41 inconvenience fee.

This is not the first time I have done this. I’ve charged my car insurance a processing fee for when they made me refill a form I had already done, I charged my gas supply company rent for putting their gas meter in my living room, and I charged another bank a handling fee after they deposited a large sum of money in my account by accident some year ago.

They all paid! To be clear, not one of them accepted the charge. However, all of them made a ‘gesture of goodwill’ to the same amount, or very close to the amount, of my fee.

I even called out Qantus for their ‘convenience fee’ when I paid online for a flight using a card. This was in addition to the already high card processing fee! It was the only way I could pay, so it wasn’t like there was a more inconvenient choice for me. I pushed them on this and they simply dropped the fee.

Why should bank charges be a one way street. Not long ago I stood in line at my bank in Melbourne, the single bank teller was having a friendly conversation with the lady at the counter while others stood anxiously in line anxiously watching their lunch hour slide away into that bottomless pit of admin.

As I stood there I pondered for a moment what might happen if everyone in line charged the bank for their time in the same way the bank often charge for a ‘counter service.’ When the teller told me there would be a $6 counter service fee I told him that my fifteen minute wait was chargeable. He looked at me and laughed, then waived the fee, “this time.”

So while this might not be the most interesting blog post ever, I just wanted to use this platform to encourage you to apply a fee to your bank, insurance company, or whatever greedy organisation causes you to have to go out of your way to address something. Its your money were talking about, you might as well try!

Found on the web and MoviesSaturday, January 17th, 2015, (2:34 am)

My friend Madeleine has a poster on her wall that is often the focus of conversation and debate. It’s the alphabet of architecture by British designer, Steven Wildish and it’s just one of many such alphabet posters he’s designed. So, just for fun, I thought you might like and see how many movies you can guess in these two alphabet posters.

Alphabet of movies

I didn’t do that well with this one, scoring just 10 on my first attempt. How many can you guess? I’ll give you a small clue, there are a few James Bond films in there and that proved difficult for me. I was never really a fan of 007. His cars are cool, and the ladies in his life are fine, but there’s only so many times I can forgive a character for completely changing.

If action movies aren’t your thing then maybe you’ll do better guessing the alphabet of romantic comedies?

Alphabet of movies

I’m not a huge fan of ‘rom-coms’ and as a result I was only able to identify 3! I tend to avoid films in this genre, or any movies that star Jennifer Anniston or Drew Barrymore (same same, right?).

Wildish has done other movie alphabets with his lists including sci-fi movies, war movies, horror films, comedies, and superheroes.

If you want to see the answers, why not test your knowledge first, then check in the comments for the answers and see how many you got right. Can you beat 10? Surely you can beat 10!

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