On this clear, sunny Friday, the weather belies the fact that the UK has undertaken an unprecedented and improbable act of self-harm.
Tomorrow is the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. I’ve wanted to write about this for some time, but I’ve delayed and delayed in the hope I could offer a tidy summary and clear reasoning behind my decision to remain. The question on the ballot paper demands a simple black or white answer, yet a study of the issues only offers shades of grey.
If the Conservative Party wasn’t already rigging the system in its favour, be that by redrawing consistency boundaries (gerrymandering by any other name) or reforming party funding, it turns out they may have broken campaign spending rules as well.
A Channel 4 News investigation has uncovered evidence suggesting large-scale and systematic abuse of spending limits, both at last year’s general election, and during three key by-elections in 2014:
Our investigation has uncovered hundreds of pages of receipts for more than 2,000 nights of hotel stays. In each of three by-election campaigns, we found a pattern – luxury hotels for senior staff, while junior campaigners were put up cheaper rooms – usually the local Premier Inn.
The campaign spending was similar in other ways: 770 rooms were booked in the name or home address of one Conservative staffer - Marion Little - while others appeared under the name “Mr Conservatives”.
None of these hotel receipts seem to have been declared by the party.
This is nothing short of a scandal, yet one helpfully suppressed by the current EU Referendum campaign. All this, revealed on the same week David Cameron hosted the international Anti-Corruption Summit; maybe we need to focus on the corruption taking place a little closer to home, first.
Beyond the depressing particulars of this story, as someone who worked on an earlier design of the Channel 4 News website, I found the presentation of this story to be encouraging, not least because of its uncluttered layout, digestible content and accessible data visualisations. As a news team renowned for its in-depth reporting and investigations, I hope this article is a sign that we can expect more of its online coverage to meet those same high standards.
It’s been just over a year since I started working for myself, and during the last 12 months I’ve learnt a lot, both about the work, and myself. Having reached this milestone, time to take stock and review my goals for the year ahead.
Ecclestone is no ignorant newcomer to the sport but he has always treated traditional fans with contempt. Now so many of them are fed up with the squalid political shenanigans and bare-faced cynicism, with the endless rows and constant changes to the contrived and artificial regulations, and with the spectacle of obscene and meaningless waste, that the sport’s declining reputation is in danger of reaching critical mass.
For many, the switch to Sky could be the last straw. As Ecclestone parades with President Aliyev on the grid in Baku in June, his CVC bosses will count the money and feel that his methods are justified.
Others – and now they even include the heroes of the spectacle – fear that his full-throttle pursuit of profit risks leaving the sport in the same state as Fernando Alonso’s crashed McLaren in Melbourne a fortnight ago: an unrecognisable pile of junk, fit only for the breaker’s yard.
Bernie, it’s time to go.
Easter Island lives as an example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. However, some anthropologists are now suggesting that the island’s ecological destruction might not be the fault of humans alone, but their imported population of Polynesian rats:
The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn’t disappear. They adjusted. They had no lumber to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn’t have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.
In this article, Robert Krulwich argues that this success story provides a gloomier example for us to learn from:
Humans are a very adaptable species. We’ve seen people grow used to slums, adjust to concentration camps, learn to live with what fate hands them. If our future is to continuously degrade our planet, lose plant after plant, animal after animal, forgetting what we once enjoyed, adjusting to lesser circumstances, never shouting, “That’s It!” – always making do, I wouldn’t call that “success.”
People can’t remember what their great-grandparents saw, ate and loved about the world. They only know what they know. To prevent an ecological crisis, we must become alarmed. That’s when we’ll act. The new Easter Island story suggests that humans may never hit the alarm.
The boiling frog anecdote offers a similar conclusion.
With a New Year resolution to get out more, I share a few events I’ve recently bought tickets for. Who knows, you might be interested in them too.
I wasn’t going to write about 2015, but reading a few end-of-year reviews has encouraged me to attempt the same, so here goes…
Canadian design super-duo Hulse&Durrell, worked on what could only be described as my dream project. Researching 120 years of Olympic design heritage, they then documented and digitised hundreds of assets for use on officially licensed merchandise:
Beginning with the core elements of each Olympic Games identity (emblems, pictograms, mascots, and official posters), we set out to find their most authentic sources. The journey took us from the Olympic Museum archives in Switzerland to Olympic historians, private collections, and past-Games design directors around the world.
Where possible, emblems, mascots, and pictograms were re-created with the original techniques of their time. Design manuals originally intended for use with protractors, compasses and paintbrushes became blueprints once again – this time with a digital toolset in mind.
For wordmarks, classic typefaces like Univers, Helvetica, Times, and Futura were adapted to reflect the movable type printing process of their respective times and places. Physical artifacts were also referenced against the modern Pantone colour matching system to ensure tonal authenticity.
The result is the most comprehensive, authentic Olympic art and design collection ever created.
Jealous? I’m green with envy.
Chris Lockie puts forward the case for why Londoners should support black cab drivers this Christmas, even if it means paying a little extra:
Black cabs are fighting back, but without the support of the people of this city we are going to lose a fine service that is doing everything it can to keep up with the terrifying march of modernity. Give black cabs time to adjust to the Age of Cheap, and eventually you’ll come to appreciate their solid, dependable service.
If you don’t, black cabs will die, an honest occupation will go with it, Uber will put their prices up immediately, and the moment driverless cars become a reality they’ll be all over it like Cameron on swine (because if you think Uber cares about their drivers, you’re way off).
This article pretty much sums up my feelings regarding Uber: avoid at all costs.
Justin Avery, who curates Responsive Design Weekly, asked me to revisit the four questions I answered as part of an interview series in 2013. Here are my answers.