Archive for the ‘government’ Tag

Can A Monkey Snap That?

You can’t take pictures at Spitalfields, a funfair or a Disneyland car park.

You’re on shaky ground if you want to take pictures of children. (Though some are still doing it spectacularly.)

Should I have taken this picture?

I didn’t use a flash – no flash photography on the Underground. Just a straight, clear shot of another solitary person.

But I didn’t ask his permission.

And neither did the CCTV camera up high on his shoulder. Nor did it ask my permission on the way down the escalator.

Still, I could feasibly have been swept off on the grounds of “acting suspiciously and taking pictures“, and I wouldn’t be writing this now. They’re would be CCTV footage if it went to court, and a new government policy to back it up.

What does all this say about us? How does it affect the way we see each other?

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The Bin is the Star

Two scraps of bin magic on the way home from work today. First up, Will Self’s new novel gets the contextual marketing treatment. People (should) put cigarette butts in bins. This is a bin. The novel is called The Butt. Straightforward enough. Did this get Bloomsbury‘s blessing? I don’t know. But as this is a bin on the corner of Brick Lane it’s sure to recycle hot air into conversation and back again. Hipsters can still casually toss their fag ends to the gutter, safe in the knowledge that even though they’ve seen an ad for a novel, there’s no threat they’ll ever have to read one.

Which leads me to wonder, who’s the real star here? Every Sunday, art students and Bohemian nomads hawk bric-a-brac on Brick Lane. There are some literary left-overs on offer, but they’re sold more as material to be mashed up in mixed media pieces than something to read. We’re looking at trash fetishism. Which is exactly what I saw just down the road. 

The Keep Britain Tidy logo gets a remixing. Again, I don’t know who’s responsible – but the conscientious litter dispenser is the star. So, confusingly, is the rubbish itself (you might have to look at the enlarged photo to see what I’m talking about). Are we all heroes in the vast daily consumption of packaged products and the disposal of said packaging?

Well, here’s the London rub. In most built-up areas, there aren’t many bins. Sometimes there aren’t any at all. Bins were the silent victims of terrorism. People put bombs in bins, so the government got rid of them. Leaving us often with nowhere to get rid of our rubbish.

Now the bin star is once again rising, we should take the example of Scotland. I was living in Edinburgh when the smoke ban came in during 2006. The City of Edinburgh did some pretty uncompromising advertising under the banner of “Aye Butt. Nae Butt“, backed up by a bottom-line: smokers who chucked their butts would be fined.

Public information threats haven’t worked on people who still smoke. But Edinburgh gave something more than a threat. They added silver stub-trays to the tops of most bins.

They gave smokers a design solution, and genuinely made the bin the star. However you perceived the threat, there was absolutely no reason to take the risk. Law-abiding had been made a no-brainer and you’d be worse than a labotomised hipster to eschew it. (And no, “ironic” is not an excuse).

London just needs to take another good, long stare at its most important constellation.