January 31, 2013

Horse 1433 - One Day in September

They say "politics is a funny ol' game",
Why isn't Tony Windsor laughing?
Wake me up, when September ends.
- apologies to Green Day.

The date of September 14 has been picked for a time so deliciously strange, it immediately makes me think that some real statisticians were consulted.
With a variable term parliament, one if the distinct advantages that the government of the day has us that they can call the dates that elections are to be set. Sitting governments can call elections early if they think that the tide of public opinion is such that they'd be returned to power and they can also delay the date if they think that the public is against them.
This particular advantage of government and the converse disadvantage of the opposition, means that there is a natural tendency for governments to have more stable leadership and for oppositions to change their leaders more often.

The average life expectancy for an Opposition Leader in Australia is 11 months. Parties in opposition are more subject to leadership coups and takeovers than parties in government. I also did some checking and found that since federation, the ideal length of time that an opposition leader to be appointed before an election so that they lead the party to government is only 5 months; this usually causes a wave of popularity and the hope of genuine change, before the public wakes from their collective amnesia and realises that they're still just another politician.
Usually elections are pushed right back as far as they'll go in the window, they're also usually announced 12 weeks before the election day which is just short of the ideal time frame for a party leader in opposition to lead the party to government.
This time around, Tony Abbott has been the Opposition Leader for 38 months which means that he's been there rather a long time indeed, although on an ideal statistical basis, he'd need to be and replaced in mid April; since the party probably wouldn't pick Hockey who'd be more palatable as a leader of the nation, or Turnbull who quite frankly is the most skilled politician of this generation, the Opposition is stuck with a leader who even failed to swing five MPs to his cause. Come September I don't think that that set of circumstances will present itself a second time. Either Labor stinks so much that they'll be turfed out on their ear, or the Liberal-National coalition will win through with a statistically unfavourable leader.

I could be wrong about this but I think that such a vast lead time before an election in variable term parliaments in Australia is unprecedented. The longest previous distance that I could find that an election was called in advance, was a Menzies Government which called an election 6 months in advance in 1958 and won it handsomely.
In that respect, I just don't know why this Gillard Government has called the election 7.5 months in advance. Are the terms of the Independents and Green too burdensome? Is this deliberately designed to cause "election fatigue" in the electorate so that they'll return the incumbent government to power? Maybe this has something to do with the International Day Of Democracy which follows on September 15? Maybe it has more to do with the final few sitting weeks in parliament and ensuring that MPs get a decent holiday. Even if there is complete and utter gridlock of legislation on the floor of the house in December, they'd be able to go on holidays quite easily because no supply bills would need to be presented until May of 2014 (assuming of course that the 2013 budget was settled, which would be more than likely well before a September election).
Ms Gillard said that it fixes a date so that it is fair for both sides. This might sound noble but fairness doesn't immediately spring to mind when you're fishing in the mucky waters of politics.

I do wonder though about all the dark horses which might start running. Announcing an election this far in advance gives everyone ample opportunity to register new parties, to develop campaigns and for the minor and micro parties to make their voices heard.
I personally think that this election will see a majority for one of the majors to form government without the help of independents and minors but if the public is sufficiently disappointed with the two majors, we may see more than a mere half dozen independents on the post September floor.
A week is a long time in politics, nine months is enough time to have a baby in. Whatever the outcome in September, you can bet that the new parliament that will be born will come kicking and screaming.

The weather here is as nice as it could be,
Although it really doesn't matter much to me,
With pollies hawking, every day's a rainy day,
So it might as well rain until September.
- apologies to Carol King.

January 25, 2013

Horse 1432 - 86 Isn't Smart

The Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ has been named car of the year by a number of motoring magazines and newspapers but I'm just not sure about it. Most motoring writers get to drive a vast array of cars over the course of a yea; I only get to drive something if I ask someone who has one and even then, only if I ask nicely.
I didn't have far to go with the 86 but I suspect I took it on a test that doesn't occur to the professional writers: I drove from East Sydney to Mosman in peak hour traffic.

The first shortcoming of the vehicle made itself known before I even stepped in. We had to move archive boxes from the client's address to our premises. I guess that a cramped and awkward boot space is typical for a sports car but I've made similar journeys with documents in Ferraris; although the memory does blur, I still don't recall even a Ferrari being so difficult to get boxes into.
The other immediate thing you notice when you sit in the driver's seat is that the view of the front of the car disappears beyond roughly where the front wheels are. It is nowhere near as terrible as the VT-VZ in Commodore which you could only ever see the window line but the bonnet stretches out in front of you like some vast plutonian shore.

There is a nice sort of kick in the bum when you extend your right foot, as all four wheels bite the pavement all at once but it isn't as nice or as savage as a WRX which because it is balanced front-rear, doesn't want to wobble like a pendulum the way that the 86 does.

Then the is the bone-shaking stiffness of it all. I usually like a car with a harsh ride and I don't know if this particular example was set up for track days, or if it's just because this particular car is still too new, or if it's a thing common to all 86s but going over the cracks on the Sydney Harbour Bridge wasn't pleasant; the run down Military Road with its big cats' eye tidal-flow things wasn't pleasant either.
Sitting so low in the car does give you a feeling of speed though, even when doing 35km/h through a school zone. I also confess to feeling a wee bit claustrophobic and small as a Volvo B12R bendy-bus went past in the left lane too.

In short, I don't think I'd buy an 86 despite the motoring reviews. A hatchback or a ute with too much power is more my thing because the practicalities of such a car would make them both more useful. An 86 is more for those people who like to think that they look cool. I have never been cool. Give me an RS Fiesta hiding under the panels of a base model CL any day, or just give me a CL Fiesta, it'd be more fun to live with than an 86.
Just like Maxwell Smart who was Agent 86, the Toyota 86... missed it by that much.

January 24, 2013

Horse 1431 - Dawkins and the July Turkey

One of the philosophers I happen to like is Karl Popper. A lot of what he wrote concerns that which can properly be known and which can not for absolute certainty be known, a sort philosophical empiricism if you will. Among many of his ideas, Popper theorised that science since about 1800 had gone from a state of being open to ideas and then fitting them into new theories which were malleable and replaceable, to a place where because the results led to financial implications theories were put forward as being correct until proven false.
If this is indeed the case, then this has two very large implications. But before we arrive at either of them, I have two illustrations.

Imagine you are a turkey. Every morning you stick your head out of the turkey house and the farmer gives you some lovely corn to eat. There is of course nothing in the world of a turkey to suggest any impending doom whatsoever but those of us who aren't turkeys know that come December, the world of the turkey will be radically different. Some turkeys have a particular date with destiny which is life-changing.
A turkey has no knowledge in its world in July which would lead it to believe anything other than when it sticks its head out of the turkey house in the morning, it will get fed. The one vital piece of knowledge which might change its behaviour, is not only unknown but completely unknowable. The implication that what you don't know and also what you have no way of even knowing or deducing, might have serious implications on your well being, happiness and even life itself, is scary.

Likewise, even if every raven you have ever seen in your life is black, even though you have no reason at all to suspect that there is such a thing as a white raven, to categorically deny the existence of a white raven with certainty, requires you to have met and catalogued every raven that ever existed. If this sounds silly, then think of white swans. The absolute unthinkable happened in Western Australia when lo and behold, black swans were found in abundance.
For a thing to be categorically classified as non-existing, requires that it be proven for all cases not to exist. It is easier in the world of mathematics to prove such a statement but as soon as you move to a subject with more parameters and far more variables where black and white do not hold, then a hard position is futile.

The reason why I even make mention of this is that SBS1 is running a series by evangelistic atheist Richard Dawkins which has been billed as being about Sex, Life, Death and The Meaning of Life. I tuned in to have a look but the truth is that I found both his arguments and his logic, incomplete and almost deliberately so. In consequence he sounds forceful, which means that many people never worry about thinking for themselves.
Dawkins likes to wantonly ignore the possibility of religion because he thinks that the idea of a God/gods/force/karmic system (whatever) is silly. By taking a hard position and hoping that others do likewise, he is very much inviting people to enter and live the way of the July Turkey.

I am of course reminded of Pascal's Wager. If God exists, then belief in Him is a rational construct, if He does not, then although that belief is futile, to have lived a virtuous life in the light that everyone's life was also futile, is at very least an apt consolation.
Either God is, or He is not.
Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.
The difference being that Mr Dawkins still requires a very strong position of faith to stand where he does and to never admit that is again dishonest. Science itself can not account for more than 95% of the universe, it still has no proper or probable definition of where conscience resides and I happen to find it curious that there has never at least to the best of my knowledge, been discovered any atheist tribe on the face of the earth. I don't know if that indicates something innate but it is curious.

Naturally, Dawkins dismissed the idea of the existence of the human soul but he kind of inadvertently provided a possible proof that he could be wrong about this.
Every cell in the human body is replaced roughly every 7-10 years; thusly the five year old Richard Dawkins in his words "is dead" according to him. Yet without clarifying how the 71 year old Richard Dawkins can possibly be the same person as the five year old Richard Dawkins, despite every single component part being replaced, he moved on to speak about DNA, genes and chromosomes, without even so much as touching on the subject ever at all. Again there's probably something to be said about the residence of conscience but the how, why and what of this was never explored.
It is all very well to dismiss the existence of the soul but without proof, at some point you're back to standing on that same murky concept of faith. The difference between Karl Popper and Richard Dawkins though was that Popper knew where the edge of his reasoning lay, whereas Dawkins is incredibly condescending and openly admits to feeling "sorry" for anyone who displays an air of faith in that which can not be seen.

Popper's position that:
"I don't know whether God exists or not. ... Some forms of atheism are arrogant and ignorant and should be rejected, but agnosticism—to admit that we don't know and to search—is all right" and that "Although I am not for religion, I do think that we should show respect for anybody who believes honestly" is a more apt, noble and honest position for someone to take. Fair enough, Dawkins firmly believes that there is no God but for a scientist to hold it out with such conviction, is like the July Turkey who thinks that it will always get fed, or the Black Swan fallacy.

January 23, 2013

Horse 1430 - Del Piero, Le Mans And I hope Holden

Sydney superstar Alessandro Del Piero might be one of the world's best known footballers, but the veteran playmaker also, it seems, has a real need for speed.
So much so that he is joining forces with Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey to set up a motor racing team that will try to win one of the world's most famous car races, the Le Mans 24 hour, later this year.
The squad have informed Le Mans organisers , the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), that it plans to compete in the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans and also field a minimum two-car effort in the 2013 American Le Mans Series.
- Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd Jan 2013

The above article in the Sydney Morning Herald which suggests that Alessandro Del Piero would like to compete in the Le Mans 24 Hour sports car race. If I were the Grand High Poohbah and Lord High Everything Else at Holden, I'd be doing my utmost to make this a reality.

The Bathurst 12 Hour race has been held semi-sporadically now since 1991 and in various incarnations. For two years though in 2003 and 2004, the race was extended to 24 hours. This sadly was an exercise in cynicism by Holden who somehow convinced the organisers of the category to allow a car with a total production of 3 into an event against other production and GT cars (the cars were built by Garry Rogers Motorsport). Naturally the 427 Monaro won both 24 hour races, which in part probably led to a souring from other competitors and the 24 hour race was never held again.
Despite this, it did prove people in Australia were certainly capable of building a race car to go 24 hours and the next logical step even in 2005 should have been an assault at the Le Mans 24 Hours itself. Sadly, this never happened.
Won the Bathurst 24 Hours twice; never fully reached its potential

If Del Piero would like to race in Le Mans, then I think that it would be brilliant if someone could prep a slightly modified V8Supercar with taller gearing, bigger brakes, bigger differential etc.
The car would already be FIA certified and although even expecting a Commodore V8Supercar to win against a purpose built Audi Audi R18 E-tron Quattro Le Mans Prototype would be like waiting for a cat to lick its own ear, it might do surprisingly well in a lower class against GT3 Porsches, Corvette C6s and BMW M3s. Instead of Holden being the biggest fish in a very small pond, it would be a fish competing against salmon against the current.
Mal Rose has competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hour and Spa 12 Hour races, running privately run Commodores now since 2005, so it's not like the sounds of an Aussie V8 Commodore are completely unknown in Europe.
There are any number of outfit like the HRT, Triple 8, Perkins Engineering etc. who I'm sure that provided Holden threw their hat into the ring could easily prep and run the car and more importantly make it go 24 hours.

Apart from Formula One, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is easily the biggest and most impressive single event on the motor racing calendar. I think it'd be great if Holden stepped up and competed on the world's biggest stage; Alessandro Del Piero might be a big enough name to finally send them there.

January 18, 2013

Horse 1429 - 200 Years Hence

It is with much understatement that I say that the world will be very different in 2213. The world of 200 years hence will more than likely be a nastier, more unpleasant and more uncomfortable place to live, save for the upper 14% of the richest population of the world. Yet it is frightfully easy to suggest the overall trend and reason as to how and why it will get there, even if it is impossible to say what the world of 2213 is physically going to look like.

One of the biggest trends of the past 500 years has been the elimination of costs associated with labour. How can we either make things more efficiently per unit and not pay wages, or how can we find new sources of outright cheaper labour? This more or less single handedly explains the rise of Holland and the windmill, steam power in the industrial revolution, the dawning of the electric age in the late 1800s, the rise and eventual fall of the slave trade, and more recently the rise of China in particular and South East Asia as a manufacturing powerhouse in the late 1900s to date.
With this in mind, the 2000s and 2100s are pretty easy to work out.

On the labour front, as incomes rise across South East Asia, labour will become comparatively less competitive. At the same time, as happened in Europe during the 1800s and 1900s, rents will begin to rise, thus driving labour to demand higher wages simply in order to keep a roof over their heads.
Manufacturers will begin to look to Africa and South America as the newest and cheapest source of labour.
I think I'm pretty safe when I suggest that from 2050, Africa will begin to emerge as the new economic powerhouse, whilst wages across North America, Europe and Asia (Australia included) are eroded. I think we can expect to see a new wave of slums appearing in urban areas across the old world but this time around, without any religious fervour to see people's lives improved, the monied classes will turn inwards and ignore the great poor mass. I think that we will also see a return to the attitude that poor people deserve to be in a pitiful state. I'm pretty sure that this process is already underway.
The late 2000s and most of the 2100s will see the process repeated across Africa and South America as labour is first employed then discarded.

2213 then will be a place where labour across the world has probably reached the state of maximum interchangeability and thus the rather appropriately named concept of "commodity hell". At the same time, another 200 years of unbridled industry, environmental destruction and exceptionally scarce resources will mean that the planet itself will be beyond a nice, comfortable state to live in.
I can imagine mass epidemics of flu taking out large numbers of people and unscrupulous knaves releasing things like polio back into society.
It is fitting that 1969 will remain mankind's year of greatest achievement, with Concorde, the Jumbo and a bloke kicking the moon but I seriously don't think that anyone will ever go back, a Mars trip will never happen and in 2213, even air travel itself will be more than likely a thing of the past.

I still don't think that God will have called "time" by 2213. I would wager that the world needs to get considerably more uncomfortable for that to happen.
Even if you don't believe in the existence of God, you and I and everyone you know will have long since shuffled off this mortal coil but the people of 2213 will not look on us favourably. The rich will be too concerned about eking out their own happiness on the degraded planet and the vast numbers of poor people which will exist will be too sick, stupid and illiterate to know that we even ever existed.

January 17, 2013

Horse 1428 - The Queen And The Power to Veto

Whitehall papers prepared by Cabinet Office lawyers show that overall at least 39 bills have been subject to the most senior royals' little-known power to consent to or block new laws. They also reveal the power has been used to torpedo proposed legislation relating to decisions about the country going to war.
- The Guardian, 15th Jan 2013

In response to an article in the Guardian, Mark Colvin asked the question about veto powers that the Queen has with regard Australian legislation. The answer in black and white is yes, she has explicit powers under s.59 of the Constitution of Australia Act 1900 to refuse assent to bills within one year of them passing the parliament. The much broader question of whether she would though is entirely another matter.

Section 59 - Disallowance by the Queen

The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor‑General's assent, and such disallowance on being made known by the Governor‑General by speech or message to each of the Houses of the Parliament, or by Proclamation, shall annul the law from the day when the disallowance is so made known.


In all Westminster Parliaments that I know of, which includes national, state and provincial parliaments across the Commonwealth, the relevant Governors or Governors-General will meet with their respective Premiers or Prime Ministers weekly to discuss the business of the parliament. The thing is that although relevant Governors always seem to carry certain reserve powers, they only really seem to act, if at all, on the advice of their Ministers.
This is important to note in the first instance as it frames the entirety of any discussion that might be had when it comes to what the Queen or her representatives are even likely to veto.

Try as I might, to even find any instances of veto or reserve powers by the Monarch or their representatives is a difficult thing to pinpoint.
The only real pinch points which seem to cause "constitutional crises" are either when parliaments are unable to secure monetary supply (ie failure to pass budgets) or when the power or person of the monarch themselves are called into question. The King-Byng Affair of 1926 in Canada is of particular note because it involved a refusal by The Governor-General, Viscount Byng of Vimy, to dissolve parliament following a loss of confidence in the Canadian House of Commons.

The 1999 veto which this Guardian article speaks of, happens to relate to the removal of reserve powers from the Queen and placing them into the hands of the parliament. Given the fact that within five years, Britain still went to war in Iraq despite the United Nations ruling it illegal, it suddenly made the Queen's refusal to give Royal Assent to the bill look incredibly sensible.
Also when you take into consideration, the MP expenses scandal followed by the Leveson Enquiry into the ethics of the media and the role that politicians played in that, I start to think that the Monarch stands in the role of the one sane person in the system.

The article also deliberately blurs the line as to what a veto actually entails. The Queen in an official capacity has the power to refuse Royal Assent legislation. The truth is that bills which either never escape the parliament, or were withdrawn from the process, aren't really vetoed in any real sense. If a bill is pulled before it passes through the House of Lords, then if there was good enough reason for it to be abandoned, the chances are that it will have already been discussed in the normal course of business between the Queen and her Ministers. It is also worth pointing out that the Queen by virtue of being monarch, actually owns the parliament. They are called Her Majesty's Government and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. I wonder if maybe The Guardian has a hidden agenda and in this case is letting republican undertones fester, or trying to ensure they do.

The question of whether or not the Queen would even veto Australian legislation is almost so irrelevant as to be an exercise in futility to even ask it.
Unlike the UK, the Queen's representative in the person of the Governor-General consults with the parliament. She has enough to be going on with, with the running of that country. It would require the Queen to take an active interest in the rumblings of the Parliament of Australia and considering that it is beyond a lot of people in this country to even name who say the Finance Minister is, to expect that of someone 10,000 miles away is absurd. There is also the matter of Canada, New Zealand, the other Commonwealth countries and all the states and provinces with Westminster parliaments which would also vie for attention if such a proposal were to crystallise.

Really the only possible things that I can conceivably think of that the Queen herself would refuse Royal Assent to that came out of the Australian Parliament would be some bill which would affect the reserve powers of the Governor-General, or perhaps something to do with her capacity as head of the Church of England. I don't think that even an act for Australia to become a republic would be refused Royal Assent; it is possible that maybe that might have been the case in 1911 but even when Edward VIII abdicated, I still doubt that George VI who followed him would have refused it; Certainly Elizabeth II would not.

So then:
Can the Queen exercise veto power? Yes and explicity so.
Would she, or indeed any future monarch? Most likely not.

January 15, 2013

Horse 1427 - Sydney FC and The Finals Series (there is still hope)

Even I'm aware that 9 rounds until the end of the season is a long way to go but that is precisely the reason why Sydney's season is far from over.
As the table stands, Sydney is second last but on 17 points. In contrast, Newcastle is sitting in 5th but only 3 points ahead. This means to suggest that the entire of the league from 5th to last, swings on just two fixtures.

In terms of goals scored, all of the clubs from 5th to 10th are sitting within 3 goals of each other.
Everyone from 4th downwards has managed to score about 20 goals this season; including Sydney. This means to suggest that scoring isn't necessarily an issue. Even at the very top of the table, we're still only looking at less than 30 thus far which is the equivalent of half a goal a game.

Sydney's chronic problem this season is betrayed with one single figure - goals against. At 33 which is five more than Newcastle who are four places ahead, that's where the real story lies.

On the face of it, Sydney play a 4-4-2 like most clubs in the A-League. It seems to work most of the times; for most clubs. Sydney though has a distinct problem with playing this formation. A great many goals have come because, playing a flat back four, they've parted in the middle and have let lone strikers through on the keeper. Otherwise they've been driven defensively deep into their own corners and midfielders haven't fallen back enough to cover the attacking push.
On the occasions where Sydney has had a striker short, they've played 5-4-1 and whilst they don't score as many goals, they don't concede as many either.
The solution to the problem then, is to probably play a 4-5-1 with the central midfielder playing defensive to plug the hole in the centre. They could play a diamond set of backs but that tactic tends to leave wings exposed, which is already a cause of Sydney's leakiness.

Whatever tactical decision is finally settled on, at this stage; with only 3 points to 5th spot, the season is far from over.
The way the finals system is set up, 3rd v 6th and 4th v 5th with 1st and 2nd playing the semi-finals against the winners and the final the week later, a side only really needs to shoot for 6th in the table and then play three blinders of matches after that.
Since coming sixth is a relatively easy task from this point, it's still way too early to discount any finals' hope for anyone as yet, and if there's one thing that's true with any club, if there's still hope, sides play better.

January 14, 2013

Horse 1426 - 15 Items or FEWER

I don't really mind if people verb a noun or noun a verb. I don't even mind if people adjectivise nouns or verbs. People have been tabling meetings, hammering nails and going for a walk for quite some time now; I have no problems for instance if something is described as chocolatey, but the thing that really sticks in my craw, gets my hackles up and my blood curdling, is when people and companies who should know better, do not, or if they do, perpetuate wrongness.
Of course you and I and everyone knows exactly what is meant by "15 items or less" but because this is a matter of pedantics and because I have a vested interest in this sort of thing, having bothered to learn grammar and thus have time and effort invested in the subject, then it makes the perfect subject for one of these little discourses.

"Less" and "lesser" should be properly applied to uncountable things. You can talk about less noise, less salt, less fuel etc. because although these things can be measured in discrete units, like decibels, grams and litres, it makes little to talk of them as countable things. As soon as you talk about 'some' noises, you immediately imply that there are different noises, but if it is just 'some noise' (in the singular, ie as an uncountable concept), there can be more or less of the generic thing we call noise going on.
I should also point out that when we say that 14 is less than 15, we refer to the uncountable concept of number, even though we do count it off; usually in discrete units of integers*.

"Fewer" on the other hand, refers to things which are countable - There are 9 boxes, 23 children, 6 pies. Each unit whilst they might be unique, have been counted as individual items which are assumed to be of the same class of thing; in this case, boxes, children and pies.
Most properly there are 5 fewer pies than there were yesterday, not 5 less. There were 4 fewer children in class today. There were 3 fewer boxes last week. These things are countable and counted.

So when I see a "15 items or less" in the supermarket, I cringe just a little. I know that all items for sale in the supermarket are countable because things are packaged as discrete items. Even when you order more or less luncheon meat from the deli, they still give it to you wrapped up as a single item to take it through the checkout counter, which immediately turns some luncheon meat into a single item which is countable. Unless of course you happen to be in an older sort of general store, in which case more or less flour might be perfectly acceptable but not discretely countable.

*Bonus Section - Warning Maths Ahead

I'm even wondering about whether the concept of more or less or lesser or greater even makes any sense in the realm of imaginary numbers. Is a complex number like 5i + 8 greater or lesser than 8i + 5? Is 5i less imaginary than 8i? Is -1 more imaginary than i because i² is defined as -1?

January 11, 2013

Horse 1425 - Retro Soft Drink

Coca-Cola have decided on a "new" marketing trend with retro labelling on Sprite, Fanta and rebranding Lift as Mello Yello for the summer. I think that this is a brilliant idea but with the proviso that they never ever go back to their "modern" designs.
With a product as interchangeable as fizzy sugared water, the only major difference between this and something that PepsiCo, Schweppes or a store own brand is precisely that, the branding on the outside of the package. Coca-Cola of all companies who built their reputation during WW2 by being everywhere, especially should have realised that having a strong brand is what wins sales in this business.
The Coca-Cola logo which appears in Spencerian Script remains practically unchanged since John Pemberton's bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, came up with it in 1885. Other companies which use a script type logo include Ford Motor Company who registered their script logo in 1909 and finally placed it in the blue oval in 1927, General Electric's swirly GE logo dates in its current form from about 1900.

If you keep a logo around for long enough, it becomes part of the furniture, part of the landscape and part of people's embedded unconsciousness. Sprite's logo on the left is a reimagining of the logo used from 1961-1970 and the Fanta logo dates nominally from 1970-1995. The point being that because they'd been around for so long, they build up a resonance with the public; hence why they still speak to consumers.
Logos like BP's shield, Pan-Am's blue globe, the Bell Telephone signs, the BOAC Speedbird and even British Leyland's swirly thing, continue to live in the memory well after those companies have passed on.

I have made the point before in Horse 1375 that to sell any given product or service in question, the graphics have to communicate a message effectively and more importantly, simply. These retro logos used on Sprite and Fanta also tap into something else, memory.
Behavioural psychologist BF Skinner wrote about the concept of positive reinforcement when it came to altering behaviour as early as 1961. Since the entire of advertising is about changing the behaviour of consumers so that they will purchase and continue to purchase your goods and services, positive brand reinforcement and especially through the process of familiarity is one reason why a retro package like these two pictured, works. It also explains why the Coca-Cola logo itself is still pretty much basically unchanged since 1885.
It is curious that the best argument that Coca-Cola should go back to using these retro designs forever comes from Coca-Cola. Let's hope they heed their own message.

January 08, 2013

Horse 1424 - The Radio, The Post and An Unexpected Story

Our story begins on the 6th of December last year:

The comedian Mark Steel has a show on BBC Radio 4 in which he visits towns and suburbs up and down the United Kingdom and then presents a sort of lecture about the town. Called "Mark Steel's in Town", each comedy lecture attempts to describe the town and perhaps explode myths, unearth interesting morsels of info and show off the colours and people of the town.

Episode two of the current series, saw him on the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides and the small town of Tobermory, which probably lent its name to a Womble.
The town of Tobermory is so small that Mark suggested that you could write a very very vague address and because the local post office knows everyone, they would probably deliver it.
In this spirit I sent the following letter in which I explained the frivolous nature of the experiment and wondered if it a) would be delivered and b) be replied to:

As you can see, there is no postcode, no proper address and only a sort of very very vague description as to who this was to be sent to.
To my surprise, after I returned to work following the Christmas holidays, I received the following email:

Hi Andrew

Thank you far your letter regarding Mark Steel's comments in his Radio 4 programme! Your letter was delivered to me today, which says a lot for our Royal Mail delivery service!
In fact I have also received a Christmas Card from Sheffield, England, addressed in the same way!
It was good to hear from Sydney: one of our sons lives in Annandale, and we have friends who used to live in Mosman, so I know the area fairly well. We visit every 2 or 3 years -last time was just a year ago, when I sang at a Ceilidh (in Gaelic, of course).
Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Mhath Ur (which means "All the best for Christmas and New Year")


This is where even I concede that the world is an amazing place.
Firstly, all thanks and best wishes to Janet who was an unwitting participant in this. I bet that no-one would actually expect to receive mail from the other side of the world, in a country that doesn't even broadcast the show. I'd like to thank Janet especially for her good humour in all of this.
Secondly, I find it a little daft that a letter as poorly addressed as this would pass through the hands of both Australia Post and the Royal Mail in the UK and yet still arrive in a small town on an island. This ill addressed letter has traveled half way round the world and yet still ended up where it was supposed to go.

Things like this make the world seem a little kinder. The daftest things in life usually are the best.