Fun theory, musical stairs and ever so subtle PR

Some things I come across and know immediately I want to put on my blog. This is one of them:

What a fantastic idea, mixing fond memories of Tom Hanks in Big and the public voyeurism of Dom Joly’s Trigger Happy TV in a pseudo-sociological mish-mash. The only thing that sours it is the sudden revelation at the end that you have, effectively, been watching a VW advert. Sure it’s only ‘an initiative of Volkswagen’, but this implies that they have funded it and therefore expect their brand image to be enhanced by association with a fun project. Just like we may have to get used to product placement, corporate sponsorship is, no doubt, here to stay. Admittedly, their involvement doesn’t make the project any less enjoyable to watch but still, I can’t help but wonder whether VW could have spent their money more wisely (on green technology, for example).

My main criticism of fun theory, though is that fun is transient. People get bored. Sure, the musical stairs are fun now, but that enjoyment will start to wane pretty quickly for everyone over the age of 10. This video may prove the theory that fun can lead to better habits, but sustaining that fun is much harder on a practical, day-to-day basis.

(Hat Tip: Comment Central)

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Blog’s First Birthday

cupcakeWhat a difference a year makes! This time last year I reluctantly began this blog, not really expecting much, but it’s become surprisingly addictive. As with any publication, this blog is nothing without an audience. 5,500 hits and 104 comments so far is very encouraging, so thanks for reading.

Self indulgence aside, I’d really appreciate some feedback on the content so far. Positive or negative, I honestly don’t mind. What should I write more/less about? Are you sick of Zimbabwe/Obama/Spotify/Ferrero Rocher? Should I include more embedded YouTube videos or polls? Does the design need a rethink? Is the ‘I’m Reading…’ column worthwhile? Or should there just be more photos of cake?

Barack Obama doesn’t deserve to win the Nobel Peace Prize… just yet

A distinctly modest looking Obama, back in July 2007 (flickr user: Llima)
A distinctly modest looking Obama, back in July 2007 (flickr user: Llima)

The announcement that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize today came like a bolt out of the blue. How can a man who has been in office just nine months warrant such an accolade? Whilst I am completely pro-Obama, and think he’s getting an undeservedly harsh time in America over health care reform, this prize does seem absurd.

Obama had only been in office for two weeks when he was nominated for the award, and since then he has refused talks with the Dalai Llama (an earlier Nobel peace laureate) for fear of angering China. This is hardly the kind of behaviour that will bring about world peace. Obama has been  greatly ambitious in his aim of global nuclear disarmament, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about this, but so far (and I have to agree with the Saturday Night Live critics here) it is more talk than action.

Given three more years in office, Obama may well merit the Nobel Peace Prize. But giving it to him now, just as the honeymoon period wanes in the States, is surely evidence that the world is still celebrating him, whilst his electorate have started to see past the wave of hollow optimism which ushered in his presidency.

Obama becomes the fourth American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and by far the fastest. Previously Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter have won the prize, but they had to wait five, six and 25 years respectively after their inauguration before becoming laureates. This context makes Obama’s nine months to win the prize all the more ludicrous. I am certain that the smooth-talking president will come out with a statement of modesty, and so he ought. His work to bring about world peace has only just begun.

Kingsnorth is dead, long live Nuclear

Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire: a Victorian relic
Drax coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire (Flickr user: Jonobass)

Great news today for eco warriors everywhere – E.ON have pushed back their plans for the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant by three years. As a result, the project will not be completed until 2016, if at all. The German electricity company cite the state of the economic market as their reason, but they are callous not to acknowledge the impact of Green protest groups such as Greenpeace and Climate Camp.

Kingsnorth has long been seen as a symbol of backward-thinking policy, and this delay will be celebrated as a huge victory, mainly because it makes the project all the less likely to ever be completed. If E.ON think the conditions for building a coal-fired power station are bad now, then enthusiasm for burning fossil fuels is unlikely to improve in seven years time as we approach peak oil. For Green activists, this should be seen as evidence that protesting and lobbying does work and can make an impact on multi-national corporations, just don’t expect them to admit that you’ve won.

Many will be sceptical of the impact that Greenpeace and Climate Camp have had and claim that global economic factors play a much larger role  in these decisions. Even if this is true, it should still provide encouragement for environmental protesters. Recent predictions suggest that the recession has resulted in a 3% global reduction of greenhouse gases. There has never been a better time to drive home the point that there are cheap, workable and cleaner ways of producing electricity. The time and effort spent on Kingsnorth could have been much better spent researching alternatives. E.ON claims to be leading the charge in developing Nuclear power to tackle the global threat of climate change (their words, not mine), now they need to put their money where their mouth is and give up on Kingsnorth for good. Coal is dead and should be resigned to the Victorian age.