LETTERS FROM LONDON
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
28 June 2015
Don't Mind the Gap
  
Ah a Gap on every corner. Perhaps not. Evidently with the gradual rejection of
American mall-life and the decimation of department stores, the ubiquitous Gaps
are shutting down shop. I’m hearing a cheer followed by applause. Let’s hope
the high street shops follows.

Think about it; how often do you rush to splash the cash on a boring, ill-fitting,
over-priced item at the Gap? Possibly not as often as you think. Hopefully.

The company announced last week that it would close a quarter of its 675 US
stores over the next few years. We can finally be free of logo-featured-look-at-
me-clothes. Hurry, please.

Ms. Davidson Hudson, of the Editorialist said: “There’s no creative direction,
there’s no creative identity and the shopper can perceive that”. We have for
years.

It’s basic. The samples of Gap basics are clearly never actually tried on a
human – or even robot (so 2015) body. The clothing simply doesn’t fit properly.
But if you have been seduced into trying to get the ‘I’m a Gap-wearing American
and proud of it’ look, the items you’ve bought for ridiculously high prices won’t
last. Threads will unravel, seams will separate, holes will appear, even buttons will
be too big for button holes and you’ll say, “But I just bought this a month ago!
How can I look cool now?”

Let’s not even go to the lack of design problem. Their clothes are simply boring,
repetitive, unimaginative, poorly designed and poorly manufactured. Sales have
fallen for the last 13 months. Fewer Gap stores – no loss there.

Gap’s brand, Banana Republic, has not fared well either. American Eagle, J
Crew (175 jobs gone), Abercrombie & Fitch have all suffered. It has been
reported that sales at Abercrombie & Fitch have fallen for three (oh dear)
straight years, although this week the overhaul in progress promises an upward
trend. No more naked-chested models (male you realise) outside the shops to
entice customers. Thank you.

With the gorgeous Regent Street having been taken over by American
sportswear brands, I’m wondering for how long, although the reports say it’s
where tourists rush to when they want to look American while in Britain. As you
do.

So we’re left with fast-fashion (fast to design and fast to manufacture): H&M –
cheap and fun, well perhaps not quite as fun as it used to be but nevertheless,
not the Gap…Zara – not cheap, not always perfectly manufactured and now this
should stop you in your tracks(uit): Brits pay two-thirds more, yes two-thirds
more than the Spanish, not very nice is it…Uniqlo – the best really – well made,
inspired, fab technologically engineered fabrics, cheaper price points and oh
joy, celebrity and designer designers…and COS for comparable US sportswear
brands – brilliant designs, great sales – you know it’s the high-end of H&M.
American fashion – so over for so long really. Button-down shirts – why….

Primark is coming to the US. 20 stores to open. Oh dear. Fun, cheap, cat-walk-
inspired clothes. The Gap should be afraid, be very afraid.


Mind Control

A researcher’s team at the Defitech Foundation Chair in Brain-Machine
Interface (CNBI) has created a revolutionary way to remotely control a robot
from home with one's thoughts by putting on an electrode-studded hat capable of
analysing their brain signals. 19 people tested, 100 percent success. Brilliant for
the disabled.

Annoyed when having to search for your remote just as your favourite
programme is starting? BBC promises a solution to remote-rage. You will be
able to choose what you want to watch by thought control.

Excited? A prototype app designed with This Place for the BBC iPlayer can be
used to select a favourite programme by focusing thoughts. You can choose the
‘attention’ or ‘meditation’ mode. Huh? You can concentrate or relax when making
your decision. While in “very early days”, when tried by 10 BBC staff, success.
Again, brilliant for the disabled. But what if you’re indecisive or if family
members can’t agree. “
The Jeremy Kyle Show!” “No. The Wright Stuff!” “Augh!
Neither! Never! Stop those thoughts!”

The latest mind-bending programme,
Humans, a remake of the Nordic Real
Humans
, has received not so good and very good reviews. Hmmm. It could be
because science fiction isn’t my genre of choice, or it could be because it has a
plot full of holes yet it’s ironically obvious or because it isn’t fun, fascinating,
frightening enough. I won’t need to think ‘change the channel – now!’


Nothing to Hide; Nowhere to Hide

Did you know that Facebook has a database that can actually recognise you
when your face is hidden or you’re hiding your face from them?

Your ‘friendly’ Facebook has developed an experimental algorithm that also looks
at your hairstyle, favourite Gap-logo hoodie, your body shape or the way you
cross your legs, stand with arms akimbo – or - you get the point.

Facebook’s head of artificial intelligence, Yann LeCun said: “People have
characteristic aspects even if you look at them from the back.” (No really?) And
Facebook is 83% accurate – so far. As you know, their picture application,
Facebook Moments, can tag anyone it recognises as a Facebook friend at any
event (I’m feeling queasy here). This alone should make you quit the fascistic
Facebook really.

Their competition? The FBI has a criminal facial recognition system in the
millions. Google’s new photo app that can identify you from your childhood
photos. You surely are saying “Oh my God!” now if you didn’t already realise
they know every move you make, every face you make and they’ll soon know
every thought you have…and every channel change surely.

Where are you being seen and recorded? Music festivals, sports venues and
churches. No, really. Churches. Why you wonder? I certainly did.

Moshe Greenshpan, CEO of Israel/Las Vegas-based facial recognition software
company Face-Six. Curious combination.

Moshe says there are 30 churches around the world using his Churchix
technology launched just four months ago. Why oh why? Oh so that they can hit
you up for donations. Aren’t most churches incredibly rich already?

Wait. Now you can get paid for your online micro-contributions they are all
following. CompuMan is a new blockchain app from the Human Computation
Institute. It will track all your shares and likes, comments and feedback, images
and video. Pietro Michelucci tells us: "Our potential to dramatically change the
world is in our hands, provided that human cognition can be efficiently
harnessed on a global scale. Think of it as Uber for your brain; and sign up
now”.

Where you go, what you wear, what you like, what you say, what you think,
what else? ‘They’ are everywhere. Next they will be sharing your sofa as you
think “
Black Work or Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell tonight?” Oh. They’re
already wondering “Why not
Humans then?” aren’t they. Hack-able Samsung’s
latest ‘smart’ TV knows what you are watching in your Gap pyjamas. You can
run but you can’t hide. Clearly.


Back to the Future

“I’m going to say this tonight because 20 years from now, 30 years from now,
40 years from now, I might not be able to say it, but I can say it tonight…you
are now watching the greatest living rock star on the planet!”

Oh come on now. You know it was ‘Jesus’ himself – or did he say he was ‘God’?
Or both. It’s you know – like messianic – it’s like – Kanye. Must I add the West
bit? I didn’t think so.

He ended his performance by repeatedly shouting “I am the greatest living rock
star on the planet!” And his greatest living rock star performance? Kanye does
minimalist 70’s performance art – for hours?

Well, now you’ve been and heard the future and it looks – pretentious,
repetitious, unoriginal and technically enhanced and like, you know, man, like  –
borrrrrring. You know you’d rather Substitute, so be Happy, the Mothership
returns….
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