20 August 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

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Ernest Hemingway once bet his friends that he could write a story in a mere six words. Is it possible to come up with a whole story line, introduce characters, and lean on the emotions of the reader with such tight constraints? This is what he came up with: 

For sale: baby shoes, never worn. 

It’s been shown time and again that working with creative constraints can actually change the way one thinks of a project to produce a breakthrough piece of work. It’s the opposite to the paradox of choice. I don’t know if Christopher Nolan consciously made the decision to severely curtail the amount of dialogue (you could probably fit all dialogue onto four sheets of A4), but the decision to do so has had a stunning effect. 

With such a constraint in place how is it possible to tell the true story of 400,000 men becoming stranded and subsequently rescued from a French beach? I don’t pretend to have the answer to this. Nolan clearly does, though, as Dunkirk is an absolute masterclass in storytelling. From the aforementioned lack of dialogue, to the fact that he’s managed to seamlessly stitch together events from different perspectives (land, sea and air) that took place over different time scales (one week, one day and one hour, respectively) without the viewer getting lost or overwhelmed. I’ll be watching and analysing this film over and over again when I get the chance. 

I don’t think there was an emotion that Dunkirk didn’t toy with at some stage. I was in equal parts thrilled, excited, scared, anxious, saddened, delighted and moved. It took me the best part of a hour to reintegrate back into reality after the film had finished. 

The stand-out performance goes to Tom Hardy who, wearing a flying cap and mask for 99% of his time on screen, manages to take you on a journey of bravery and self-sacrifice - and all the toil and troubles involved - with only his eyes and eyebrows.  

The cinematography and effects are stunning. The set is spectacular, and the score by Hans Zimmer is simply breathtaking. 

Watch it at the cinema while you still can. A work of true genius. 

by Nino Rosella
19 August 2017

The churn initiative

What are the best type of customers for you to have?

Not pissed off ones, that's for sure. Not customers who think you're constantly trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Not the ones who watch you swiftly forget about them and get excited by the shiny new, incoming batch. 

The best customers are loyal ones. The ones that feel valued and tell their friends about you.

Why then, is it impossible to buy a mobile phone, TV or Internet package without the price increasing after the first year? Just because it's difficult to swap providers doesn't mean that you should take advantage of it. 

So, how about for every year I'm a customer I get a small discount as a thank you? I still won't be going anywhere in a hurry, but I won't resent you either. 

by Nino Rosella
18 August 2017

Real friends

How many friends do you have? I’m not talking about Facebook ‘friends’. I’m talking about people who you can call up right now and have a meaningful conversation. Someone who you meet in real life - that’s engaging and you have a real connection with. 

I have a few, sure. But I have one friend that takes it to another level. I’ve never known anyone with so many real friends. 

He’s constantly meeting up with mates from all over the place. You know when you make friends at uni or away travelling and then swiftly forget about them when you move on? Not this guy. He’s genuinely charismatic, likeable and will put his phone away and look you in the eye. 

All this and he's never had a social media account. Go figure. 

by Nino Rosella
17 August 2017

The problem with being vulnerable with a woman

Is that they badger us men to open up, to share, to let it all hang out so that we can truly be connected with one another. 

Well, that's what they say

When we actually do it they run a mile. What gives?

by Nino Rosella
16 August 2017

She made me wash my hands

Sometimes I don't wash my hands after going to the toilet. 

There, I said it. Judge me however you like, but it's true, and I know I'm not alone. But today, in the most unlikeliest of places, I've never felt more obliged to give my hands a damn good seeing-to in a sink. 

I was in one of the McDonald's restaurants (again, don't judge) on Oxford Street today using the toilets. They have this new European-style set up where the sinks, mirrors and hand dryers are in a communal area servicing both the male and female toilets. 

After using the toilet I was in a hurry and planned on doing my familiar splash and dash. So, out of the toilet and into the communal area I strolled making for the door when all of a sudden I locked eyes with a woman waiting to get into the ladies. 

It was only for a split-second but she conveyed all she needed to: "Don't even think of walking out of here without washing your hands you grubby son-of-a-bitch. You're everything I don't want my son to be and the exact kind of wretched soul my daughter should stay away from."

It worked. I washed my hands thoroughly. With soap. 

How many other behaviours could we change with this kind of social pressure? It reminds me of that Australian advert that ran a few years ago where hot girls insinuated speeding drivers (who are usually young males) had tiny dicks. A survey revealed that some 60% of young guys said the ad made them think of how they were driving. 

Rules and regulations only help change behaviour so much. It's culture that makes the real difference, that makes us level up and become the best version of ourselves. 

by Nino Rosella
15 August 2017

The Garden Bridge has fallen down


I read today that plans for the £200m Garden Bridge that was due to span the Thames from Temple to South Bank have been abandoned and the project will no longer go ahead. Good. 

The 366-metre bridge that was first proposed by Joanna Lumley was meant to provide a brand new green space right in the centre of London. One that would “...bring us together, to soothe weary souls, to help people move around and to ease congestion…” A very noble aim, apart from the fact that London already has some big parks that fit this bill just perfectly. No, this was nothing more than an unnecessary vanity project, a game of Keeping Up With The Joneses. Sure, New York City has the Highline, but so what?  

Now, this isn’t to say that London doesn’t need more nature because it absolutely does - there's far too much soul-sapping concrete and tarmac in this city. How about spending some of that £200m planting trees in the streets and sticking some hanging baskets on lamp posts so that the whole of London can enjoy some nature on the way to and from work? 

An even better use of the money would be to buy everyone that works in an office a desk plant. A 2014 study by psychologists at Cardiff University found that adding plants to previously austere offices boosted the productivity of workers by 15%. No, that’s not a typo - fifteen bloody percent! I just had a quick look on Homebase and you can buy a nice indoor plant for £2.99. That’s almost 67 million plants. Forget London; that’s enough for every UK office worker a few times over. 

If we really want to stick with the bridge theme then why don’t we use the money to build some truly useful bridges; ones that can carry cars, lorries, busses, cyclists and pedestrians around with greater ease than at present? Easing congestion is one of the best things you can do to reduce pollution. 

“Let’s get on and build something that we can all be proud of and that the rest of the world can admire,” quipped Lord Davies, the chairman of the project, in a recent article. 

Yes, let’s. 

by Nino Rosella
14 August 2017

Go through it

I picked up a strange affliction the other day: crippling foot pain. 

I don't know what caused it, or even what it is. All I can tell you was that the heel of my left foot sent the most excruciating jolt of pain up my leg every single time I stood on it. Even worse is the fact that my job consists of ten hours of walking every day. 

Luckily, it was the weekend. This meant that I did what any denizen of the 21st century would do: I sat and rested it. I hopped around my flat. I took some painkillers. I even considered going for a foot massage. Anything that would help alleviate, and ultimately, avoid me having to endure any pain or hardship. 

Accept it didn't work. Come time for work yesterday I still couldn't put any weight on it and I limped all around London. Soon, I had developed a huge blister in the ball of my foot from having shifted all my weight forward, and my shins were on fire. It got to the point where limping around to avoid the pain in my heel was actually more painful than just walking on the damn thing. 

So I started walking on it. The pain was almost unbearable. Step after step of the most agonising pain searing through my leg until... the pain started to die down. What?

After about an hour I was walking without a limp. Sure, there was still a bit of pain (still is today), but it was only a fraction of what it was. I don't have a clue what the medical reasoning behind this is - if there even is one - but my foot got better by going through the pain. Who'd have thought it?

This got me thinking. How many other occasions have there been when I given up too soon, where I wasn't willing to endure a bit of pain and suffering to break through the other side?

We live in the age of the shortcut and the quick fix. The age of instant gratification and avoidance of anything uncomfortable. 

Well, it turns out that the shortcut is actually going the long way around. Ryan Holiday was right: the obstacle really is the way. Literally. 

by Nino Rosella
13 August 2017

I love what bookshops have become

Even though it's people like me that are to blame for more than 550 independent shops being erased from existence over the past ten years.  

Not the Charing Cross Road branch of Foyles, however, with its 220,000 books spread over four miles of shelves. This flagship store, opened in 2014, is a book-lovers paradise, which is why I found myself strolling through the doors, open-mouthed with awe at 9:30 sharp on a Saturday morning. 

These super-sized bookshops (Waterstones has a similarly impressive flagship on Piccadilly) are morphing into more than just somewhere to sell books; they're becoming destinations.  

I remember what most bookshops were like ten years ago. They were a bit shit. It was always hard to find the book you wanted, the staff were run-of-the-mill retail assistants and most of the time you couldn't even sit on a chair to flick through a book. 

Now, though, everything has changed. With the rise of Amazon it had to. I just had a quick look at the careers section of the Foyles website and you can expect the shop-floor staff to have a degree or special interest in the section in which they work. You don’t get that at Topshop, Ikea or Tesco. 

So, why am I to blame for the traditional bookshop’s demise? Because I’m a devout Amazon customer. It's still easier, cheaper and more convenient to buy books online and I don't plan on changing my purchasing habits. Seth Godin talks extensively about price being the last refuge of a marketer, that if all our wants are met by both companies then we’ll end up buying the cheapest. 

But the bookshops with half a brain know this, which is why they’re playing to their strengths. They're selling the experiences around the outside of the book industry such as events, book signings, talks, and stocking the kind of items where it really pays to pick it up and feel it like specialist writing pads, pens and other assorted book-related paraphernalia. I came extremely close to buying a book I wasn’t even interested in simply because it was a first edition signed by the author. They have plenty of chairs and the super knowledgeable and helpful staff don’t care if you sit down for an hour thumbing through a book from the shelves. The have cafes.  

This strategy is clearly working. Folyes is in profit and looking to buck the trend and open more stores. 

By becoming more of a destination these new-style bookshops are redefining an industry. I love it. 

by Nino Rosella
12 August 2017

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is to Brits as fat people are to America. 

As I lay here half-dead on my sofa after a heavy night on it I can't help but wonder why we binge like we do. 

I blame it on the stiff British upper lip. 

We go through the whole week suppressing each and every emotion (besides anger). We frown upon being vulnerable, and we covet reserved personalities. 

It isn't natural. That's why we scrape through to Friday night when we can stick 7,279 units of alcohol in us and let it all out like a Mentos in a Coke bottle. 

Anyway, back to work tomorrow. Already looking forward to next weekend. 

by Nino Rosella
11 August 2017

Quitting at the top of his game

Earlier this week, in his swan song 100m race in the World Championships, Usain Bolt stunned pretty much everyone by taking bronze. He lost out to Justin Gatlin and some other bloke, whose name escapes me. 

This prompted much chatter between colleagues and friends. 

“He should’ve quit while he was ahead.” 

“He could’ve gone out at the top of his game. He didn’t need to run that race.” 

But how do you know when you’re “ahead” or at the “top”, and there's no wins left in the tank? It’s easy to know with hindsight, but what about in the present? Is it a case of being more self-aware? Or is it a case of putting one’s ego to the side? Answers on a postcard.  

It wasn’t all losses though; he managed to chalk up another win (at least in my book) by being truly gracious in defeat. There’s a lot we can all learn from this. 

by Nino Rosella