Tag Archives: Society

Nowhere to lay your head or park your bum…

Today, I had a fantastic day with my wife and daughter. We got a train to Oxford, which in itself is a real treat. I forget the countryside that I am surrounded by in Reading, and seeing it all fly past the window is just fantastic. And I love all the little train stations on the way, that feel like they are still in another period.

We had one of the nicest days we’ve spent together; buying stuff for mountain walking, getting a penny whistle and jaw harp in a toy shop, watching the new Nanny McPhee film – (which is brilliant by the way!). All awesome stuff.

I have one complaint about Oxford though, and it’s not something peculiar to Oxford but it was really annoying to me when I noticed it and thought about it today.

Why bother...

These stupid seats are beginning to pop up all over the place, replacing normal seating and I really don’t like what they are about. You can’t sit on them for a start – although the above pic shows a rainy day it was dry in Oxford today and no-one was using any of the ‘seats’. You can only perch on them or lean against them.

But there is a point to this – wino’s can’t use them during the day, homeless people can’t sleep on them at night. It’s why bus stops have started having this pointless seating put in:

Wedgie maker

If you’ve tried sitting on these stupid benches then you’ll know three things:

1) Kids can’t stay on them because their legs don’t reach the floor.

2) If you have to wait any length of time for your bus, you get tired legs and a numb backside from having to physically try and keep yourself on a seat that only accommodates about half your bum cheeks, and

3) The cycle of starting at the back of the seat, sliding forward, sitting at the back and sliding forward again… is perfect for the creation of a wedgie.

And this because ‘we’ don’t want the homeless using our seating and shelters to sleep on…

The thing is, with the anti-sit seats, no-one wins. The elderly don’t get to sit and rest, pregnant women can whistle, kids can just wait until they’ve grown a bit more. In Oxford, with all it’s beautiful buildings and diverse people, what a shame that you’re not encouraged to sit and watch the world go by. How crazy that decision makers are so concerned with keeping messiness and the margins of society away from the centres of our towns and cities that everybody’s enjoyment of open spaces is reduced.

In researching these seats and looking for the above pics, which both came from here, I also read of someone who is going out and making cardboard benches to put by these stupid things in their town each night, so that those who have nowhere to go at least have somewhere to lie on. May that person never have another wedgie in their life – what a beautiful thing to do.


Minimum Wage Machine

Very clever. Check it here.

You’re one in 6.5 Billion…

….ever wondered what that looks like?

Find out here.

Charity is more comfortable starting at home…

My local supermarket, Waitrose, has this great scheme where once you have paid for your goods, they give you a green token. On your way out, there are three boxes in which you can place your token. Each box represents a local charity and after so many weeks, the charities are changed. The tokens inside the boxes are counted and each charity gets an amount of cash proportionate to what was left in the box. It’s a great idea and should mean that local charities are benefiting from local people.

But that’s where it fails. Waitrose, being a ‘finer quality’ store is too pricey for a whacking great number of residents in my community. Most people I know don’t go to Waitrose as we have a Tesco and Asda nearby as well. I would guess that the average consumer at Waitrose is middle class, white and middle-aged upwards.

Even if I never entered the store, you can tell this from the boxes of green tokens and how the tokens are distributed. Today for example, there is a box for arthritis sufferers, dementia sufferers and a box for volunteers teaching young children to read. Both the first two boxes have double the amount that the third has and this has been repeated time and time again. Charities that work with children and  young people, especially teenagers,  have done badly against the charities that I guess the shoppers can see themselves needing at some point! Which seems to me as taking some of the ‘charity’ out of the giving.

I’m not saying that arthritis sufferers don’t deserve a lot of help – they do. What Iam questioning is whether this scheme is flawed because what may be a priority for the local community might not be reflected in this system because waitrose draws in people from a huge area and they are mostly of a different social class to the local area.

I am trying to work how whether this can be improved. I don’t think it’s a bad scheme at all – in fact, I think it’s very good. I don’t know whether they should place similar charities together so every now and then at least one young people’s charity will do well – any suggestions would be lovely as I think I might pass them on to Waitrose.

Any ideas anyone?


The Power of Visuals (Part II)

This guy, Chris Jordan, confronts us with statistics about modern life in a graphical way. Maybe not the first time it’s been done, but probably few other methods have been executed quite as well.

In his own words:

Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on. My hope is that images representing these quantities might have a different effect than the raw numbers alone, such as we find daily in articles and books. Statistics can feel abstract and anesthetizing, making it difficult to connect with and make meaning of 3.6 million SUV sales in one year, for example, or 2.3 million Americans in prison, or 32,000 breast augmentation surgeries in the U.S. every month.

This project visually examines these vast and bizarre measures of our society, in large intricately detailed prints assembled from thousands of smaller photographs. Employing themes such as the near versus the far, and the one versus the many, I hope to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.

~chris jordan, Seattle, 2008

Here’s a sample of some of his work:

Light Bulbs, 2008

Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.). Light1

Ok. Let’s zoom in to get an idea of numbers:


And again:


Still more:




So – just to remind ourselves, that’s EVERY MINUTE in the States alone.

What about this pic:

Plastic Bottles, 2007

Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.


Zooming in:


And right in for the detail:


Wow. Five minutes worth of plastic bottles.

It gives me some sort of sense of just how big the world is but at the same time a sense of shame at my contribution to this junk.

This guy has done quite a few more like this, but kids PLEASE DO NOT FOLLOW THE LINK. There are some upsetting images that you don’t need to see.


The Power of Visuals

I recently stumbledupon  two artists. I was waiting to post the first artist and before I did, I found the second. Both have produced really powerful images that speak of today’s culture, society and injustice. They both use what are essentially simple ideas to convey massive statements – in a way that anyone should be able to understand.

The first artist is Icaro Doria and I found his stuff here. This is a series called meet the world, using a country’s flag to convey statistics about that country. I’ll add the second artist in my next post: