27 Jul 2008

Advertising sense

In Spain there is a famous anisette drink which rose to advertising glory at the beginning of the 20th. century.
In order to sell more of their alcoholic concoction the Bosch family from Badalona, Barcelona, put their drink into a suitably enlarged perfume flask design and depicted their pet monkey on the label. The unusual feature of this representation is that the monkey has a human face. A closer look reveals a striking likeness to Charles Darwin.

Taking advantage of the then hotly debated theory of evolution Bosch commissioned the drawing to figure on the bottle of spirits. The interpretation of this representation is still open to question: was it an attempt to scorn Darwin and his theory or a statement that this anisette was the most evolved one?

Whichever you choose to believe there still remains a rather bittersweet taste in the mouth


23 Jul 2008


My website editor would have me believe that 'What you see is what you get'. This is akin to asking me to believe that the website will be exactly like the model I build with my editor. This is not always true and I have to check the similarities and differences by actually uploading and viewing it online after editing.

The WYSIWYG belief is, I believe, spread across the net. We tend to accept what we read on the web as true. Google gives us access to boundless information sources that easily overwhelm our critical faculties and we end up by accepting that what you see is what is true. Doesn't the same habit kick in when consulting Wikipedia?

In fact we cannot always believe our senses. The camera does sometimes lie, or rather the photoshop editor always allows manipulation. Here's a spectacular example:

This photo is a composite of 4 pix: the sky, the background, the Antartica iceberg on top and the Alaskan berg, shot and flipped to fit underneath.

What you see/hear/smell/taste/feel is not always all there is.


21 Jul 2008


The prevalent Christian representation of the cross is the depiction of a crucified dead man. There is often plenty of blood, always nails through flesh and a couple of weeping onlookers. No hint of eternal life or resurrection. It is a symbol well suited to the hellfire and brimstone negative message of Western Christianity.
Not much hope there.

However, in the Eastern tradition a slightly different perception of the same crucifixion scene evolved. This was taken up by western European artists in the Romanesque period. One example is that of Italian artists in Tuscany who painted crucifixion scenes on wood. These show a brightly coloured picture of Christ in glory, well robed and with a serene expression. Here, instead of morbid death, there is hope of a resurrection, a pointing towards a better future, a positive outlook on life.

For example the Pisan master painter created this visual sense of hope for those who wish to believe:


1 Jul 2008

Hard and soft

In a recent interview Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun systems for 22 years, said that he and his company were fully behind the promotion of open source software. Now that sounds like music to the ears of those who want something for nothing. It makes Sun sound like a quasi-charitable organisation, all for the people, a sharer in the competitive society.

McNealy is no romantic computer scientist. In fact he was trained in the business field at Harvard University where he graduated with a BA in Economics. So you wonder how he could head such a free download company.

A closer look reveals that Sun's principal product is computer hardware, especially servers. So what Sun is really promoting is free software to run on their expensive hardware. The more information and gratuitous software available the more hardware needed to run it. Google knows that - it manages information searches using server farms full of hardware. Sun's motto "The Computer is the Network" has a harder look about it, somehow.

However, what is hard can be dressed up to look like soft for the occasion.