+ Exploring with Google Maps

There's so many apps/websites utilising Google Maps in inventive ways. One example is Red Bull Street Art View, which describes itself as a "collaborative collection of Google's Street View locations showcasing Street Art all over the globe." I love the fact that technology makes it so easy for us to zoom in on a pavement thousands of miles away! Here's a selection of some of the street art I've seen around my own area and recent places I've visited:

Other uses of Google Maps

• The Museum of London's iPhone app Street Museum is such a great idea, bringing to life historical London using geotagging and images of the city in days gone by. Watch the video below for a demonstration of how the app recognises your location and overlays a historical image of that exact spot!

MapDango is an amazing map mashup for U.S. National Parks that allows users to learn more about some of North America's natural treasures. I wish there was something similar for the UK!


• My personal favourite is the Art Project, powered by Google. It allows users from all over the globe to explore museums and zoom in on hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels.


+ The Modern Dilemma

At a house party last night a few of us got chatting about how much has changed since our parents' generation in terms of opportunities.

It's now almost a given that after A-levels you work your way through university, get a career and focus on making money, and lots of it. People married younger, mortgages were easier to come by then, and so at my age my mum had her feet comfortably under the table in her marital home knowing exactly what was on the horizon for her.

I'm not saying this is a rarity today, but from my own experience the majority of my friends do not envisage 'settling down' for five years at least. We all have our sights set on other options, such as relentlessly climbing the career ladder, working abroad for a few years or enjoying a lifestyle where our sole concern is self-fulfilment. These options tend to be, on the whole, incompatible with marriage, mortgages and monogamy.

But how does this set us apart from previous generations? If we're marrying later, going abroad for longer and renting for what seems like an eternity, can we still be safe in the knowledge that one day out lives will mirror the same secure and settled pattern that our parents took?

I am the first to profess my gratitude for being able to experience opportunities my mum and my nan could only have dreamed of, but I see around me seas of supposedly liberated young women anxious about their futures and disillusioned by the non-committal behaviour of men their own age.

One of my friends in her early-mid twenties has her own flat, a fulfilling job and has been seeing the same guy for nearly a year, who she is yet to gain the official label of his 'girlfriend'. You might say this is a win-win situation as she has the benefits of a relationship without the claustrophobic trappings a steady, monogamous arrangement. But then why does she worry about her biological clock ticking and feel as though her current situation is so unsettling?

It's clear that the most telling change in the 'rules' of relationships is that there really isn't any these days. Marriage was once seen as a non-negotiable step in adult life, but more than ever people are making decisions that are the best for them rather than approaching life with a how-to manual written by previous generations.

If anything, we have more freedom than ever to choose whatever we want, whenever we want. While writing this on the Tube I came across an article by Tony Parsons in GQ magazine about 'the modern dad's dilemma', notably whether to delay fatherhood as late as possible or not. Having become a dad at 25, he believes that 'staying childless would have made me more selfish, shallow, obsessed with my own little pleasures and fulfilment. Becoming a dad in my twenties made me grow up. And it was time to grow up'.

I think the major question for my generation is how much they value their autonomy and want to delay the point at which they wave goodbye to it forever and begin living for others.

+ What Women Want

Women’s increased participation in the workplace is seen as evidence that with every passing day, women draw closer to fulfilling their potential. Yet the cheering and applause drown out the reality: this is not what women want. Most women don’t aspire to the kind of lives that their supposed champions are busily engineering for them.

I stumbled upon Cristina Odone's report What Women Want the other day, and it raises some interesting questions about how we find fulfillment in today's environment of career culture. The report claims that the overwhelming majority of women would prefer to opt out of a career and being financially independent. It's never ocurred to me to aspire to anything other than become successful, work my way up the career ladder and earn my own money to dictate my own life. So I was really surprised to read in this report that, actually, most women don't buy into the philosophy that we should aspire to a successful career as well as being mother/wife/homemaker. If anything, the more I read about the topic the more it seems that actually, NO, if you're a woman you cannot expect to bring up a family, run a perfect home and achieve highly in the workplace all at once! Rather, you must make a choice between one or the other role, as it's nigh on impossible to do it all simultaneously.

I don't know many women whose sole life goal is to become a housewife, but then again I don't particularly know many women who are ruthlessly driven to climb the career ladder at the expense of other areas of their life. The consensus around reports such as Odone's is that women cannot expect to have a perfect family life and career simultaneously. I want to have a successful career and have a family one day, but are they mutually exclusive?

Maybe this isn't a gender issue, but more of a lifestyle issue for both men and women. After all, who wouldn't want the perfect balance between a fulfilling career and a home life as well? For me, I think building a successful career at the expense of having a family is just as scary as giving my life away to have children and never achieving anything else outside of that. I can't wait to have my own family one day, but at the same time I know I could never be content to merely live my life as a homemaker.

I'm currently reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything and there's a section which goes right to the heart of how women find a purpose in life these days; if not, through children, then how does one find meaning?

What if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? [...] How do you mark time's passage without the fear that you've just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant?

Ironically, I read another article this week which seems to declare that it's not just the pursuit of a career and a home life that's impossible to attain. Apparently high-achieving women are at a bigger disadvantage than ever when it comes to dating and relationships as well:

Women [...] outnumber men in college and they are out-earning their male peers when they first enter the work world ... This success has come at a great cost to women's sexual bargaining power. When it comes to relationships, they say men are calling all the shots -- which means less commitment and more sex.

Wow. If you believed all of these opinions about what today's women can realistically aspire to, it all seems pretty bleak. The article mentioned above seems to suggest that the only way for young women today to end up with the right guy is by curbing your sex drive and holding out just so you up your market worth among the 'good guys'.

The article goes on to say that: "Presuming that people are attracted to people who are like them educationally, it means looking for secure relationships becomes challenging because the sex ratio is so imbalanced." The main gist of it seems to be that women can only get the type of relationships they apparently crave if they keep their legs shut, and men only want sex but will commit to someone ONLY if she shows her self-respect through abstinence. It's definitely a controversial but not entirely unfounded point if you read the various comments of the article!


+ The Hedonistic Harry and Caresse Crosby

harry crosby

  • He had gifts that would have made him an explorer, a soldier of fortune, a revolutionist: they were qualities fatal to a poet.
    --Malcolm Cowley’s summary of Harry Crosby
  • Having studied the works of the likes of Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, and James Joyce at university, I was really surprised that I hadn't heard of their mutual friends, Harry and Caresse Crosby earlier. I'm currently reading Lucy Moore's Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, a portrait of American society in the 1920s, and it introduced them as a unconservative couple who emigrated to Paris, where they launched their own publishing house, the Black Sun Press. Lucy Moore's book really drew me into their hedonistic, scandolous and unrestrained lifestyle in Paris, where they had lived from 1922 onwards. Harry Crosby's life came to a premature but self-imposed end with an apparent murder-suicide pact aged just thirty-one - his body was found alongside his mistress Josephine Bigelow on the twenty-seventh floor of the Savoy-Plaza Hotel, their temples adorned with bullet-holes.

    After reading about him I felt compelled to write a post about him, not so much for his contributions to literature but just purely because he seems to be such a fascinatingly enigmatic character. I wanted to write a post to capture his unrelenting quest for adventure and his rare approach to living. As his friend Stuart Gilbert commented, Harry 'feared the terre à terre, the normal, as most of us fear celestial heights'. He believed life was 'futile' and that 'passionate memories are the utmost gold; poetry is religion [for me]' and 'one should follow every instinct no matter where' it led.

    His suicide might be seen as the ultimate symbol of his defiant grab on his own destiny, a fearless desire to experience in the life after death he so vehemently believed in. Below are just some of the interesting details I've read about the couple... I had to share them in their entertaining glory:

    • On a whim, Harry once hired four horse-drawn carriages and raced them through the streets of Paris.
    • At one of the annual Beaux Arts costume ball, Harry, naked to the waist, wore a string of dead pigeons around his neck. Caresse went topless and sat astride a baby elephant. She led the parade down the Champs after the ball.
    •Caresse Crosby held a surrealist picnic that included Henri Cartier-Bresson snapping pictures, random gunshots, and a symbolic suicide by painter Max Ernst.
    •Interestingly, under her real name Mary Phelps Jacob, Caresse Crosby patented the first modern bra!

    I'm definitely going to read up more on the 1920s literary scene in Paris in the future. As well as that the internet is full of recommendations for Geoffrey Wolff's biography of Harry Crosby, and his published memoirs Shadows of the Sun, said to have been written in syntax inspired by James Joyce's Ulysses.

    + The Marketing of Cigarettes

    The UK government is considering introducing plain packaging to tobacco packs, in an effort to deglamourise smoking to children. According to health secretary Andrew Lansley, "The evidence is clear that packaging helps to recruit smokers, so it makes sense to consider having less attractive packaging".

    It's all a far cry from tobacco's consumerist heyday in the 1950s! The news coverage surrounding the proposed changes to tobacco packs got me thinking about the alluring adverts created by tobacco companies in the past, so I thought I'd post a few examples:


    Vintage Catalog features some interesting smoking adverts, including an advert featuring Amelia Earhart, and another personifying the Earth as a 'happy customer!

    Photobucket  Marlboro advert


    Personally, I don't think that changing the packaging of cigarettes will deter young people from lighting up for the first time, but it's worth a shot. In contrast to the smoking adverts above, an article featuring the top 45 creative anti-smoking advertisements from The Design Inspiration shows how the power of the visual can potentially prevent people from smoking in the first place! One example is of this
    Anti-smoking advert

    Here's some more articles about the murky world of smoking, fashion and advertising:

    + Do Fashion Blogs Glamorize Smoking? from The Coveted
    + Marketing Cigarettes to Women from World Profit.
    + The screen stars who can't kick the habit from The Times Online