Monthly Archives: October 2018

Time to watch Blade Runner again

Like all science fiction fans, I am partial to a bit of Dick. That said, it was the stunning Ridley Scott neo-noir cinematic realisation of the future in the 1982 movie Blade Runner that shaped, nay, warped my teenage mind, not the 1968 text. To teenage Ian, the film is how the century ahead would be: the night-time skyscape – and it was always night-time – seared my impressionable brain with a vision. Fast forward to 2018 and whilst androids are not yet dreaming of electric sheep, this evening, for a moment, I feel like I have been transported.

There are detail differences between Scott’s classic and this Dubai night: it is dry here for starters and the sky is not filled with autonomous giant led-screen blimp drones (more’s the pity). As for the presence of “skin jobs” – that’s replicants or synthetic humans to you- the jury is still out because I have seen a few sights. I feel very much the stranger in a strange land with some impossible looking specimens of the human race thronging the Dubai Mall.

What really made it strikingly as if it t’were Ridley Scott himself directing my evening is the evidence in video below.


Okay, okay, the music is not Vangelis, but it is a dramatic soundtrack playing in stunning hi-fi around a giant artificial desert lake (in a desert) as thousands gawp to the heavens at the monumental Burj Khalifa lit up in truly spectacular fashion.

Then it strikes me: I am at once astounded, transported and dismayed.

Astounded? How could you not be by the stunning precision visual display and vast scale of the illumination. The animation made incredible use of the building as a canvas with great sound to boot.

Transported? I genuinely felt like a pre-pubsecant again for a second and gasped to catch my breath. How so? Because it was – for a fleeting moment – like being back inside the Blade Runner universe of my youth. I was dizzied by the sensation.

Then… Dismayed? Because it’s a bloody advert.

Dear reader, my reverie bubble was well and truly popped as the brilliance of the production revealed itself to be a promotion for a (Chinese) smartphone. Paradoxically, this makes it all the more Blade Runner-esque because the floating screens of that fictional future were little more than giant billboards (moodily ignored in the movie by the troubled anti-hero Deckard).

If you do get to see the video above, you’ll hear my disdain which I found impossible to keep to myself. You may also – rightly – accuse me of being a bit slow on the uptake. I was so away with the fairies that it took me a good few seconds to cotton on to the message. Ridiculous, because there is surely no more commercial a place on earth than here? I finished recording at that point. (What a rubbish cameraman I’d make, judgmental, fickle, easily bored.) This means that you are not treated to the whoopin an a hollerin that follows the conclusion of the AV show. You are also spared the sound of a forty nine year old curmudgeon exclaim an audible holier-than-thou tut. Again, ridonculous because it’s all a sponsored show right? I’ve not paid an entry fee. The backers are entitled to push their message: they’ve paid for it. Kudos too to the production company: you know your stuff.

The future is here, that much is clear. It’s just that I’m not cool with it [sigh].

Ho hum, better watch Blade Runner again. One of the seven versions…

PS: Another witness has made a longer video which captures the crowd response: I also note Samsung have also used the building this year for their S-whatevs launch. So this advertising thing works then, because I’ve just shared a video or two. D’oh!

PPS: BladeRunner is REAL in Dubai. Just not as you might expect. Click here.

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Small World Take 4: Dubai John

My first time in the middle east: Dubai.

A new client, new programme, new timings, their schedule (where we are unexpectedly helping out due to sharp turn in circumstance). We were supposed to go out last night following class to do our research work, but a number of the team couldn’t make it, so we re-scheduled for tonight at the last second.

We take a car to the hotel, idle in traffic, wait an extended time for one of the party to freshen up and then – purely when the whole mini-caravan is ready – ship out with a stroll to the venue. A research trip it most definitely is. (Admittedly it might appear more like air-quotation and theatrical wink “research.” Like “testing” the “all you can eat” buffet. Or seriously exploring if “Happy Hour” really is enough to make one cheerful.) So here we are in the fully-paid-up-bonkers – in so many ways – Dubai Mall in the name of work. We wander discreetly among the hoards with firm mission, strong intent but sans schedule.

Presently we corral at the plush sofas on the gently rarefied concourse near to the Burberry store to compare notes on luxury brand performances, our interpretations, reflections and conclusions.


Effectively, then, you find me sat on a random couch, outside a place I’d usually not visit, at a random time, in a random place on – to me – a new, random continent.

Within seconds of taking the weight off, I arise, take all of 10 steps forward, tap a fella on the shoulder and as he turns I quietly say…

“Small world eh John?”

“Mister Beer… Let me introduce you to _____ _______ from _______.”

My experience of John? Always the calm, collected character, with that wholly admirable grasp of situations. Understated and measured. Cool. So naturally he greets me like we saw each other last Tuesday and swiftly includes me in conversation with his client nary skipping a beat.

John: you’ve not lost it.

Especially since we consider the facts. I last saw John around five years ago for a quiet early Tuesday curry in Rusholme, Manchester, planet England (near where he resides). We worked together at the turn of the century and stayed in touch for many years.

We converse for a few moments, with John informing his dinner partner that I have recently been to India of late and am in the UK as infrequently as he is. (The other side of John: social media stalker.) We agree to – genuinely – catch up and that’s it: I go back to my team, John & co take a table at a nearby restaurant.

Whilst this seems an unlikely story, let me tell you: this kind of thing happens more often than you think…

New Zealand

New York

Kanazawa (Japan)

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Dubai. It’s just not Delhi is it?

Coming up to 24hours in the UAE and I can’t help noticing it’s most definitely Dubai.

I mean obvs, it’s not Delhi. But seeing as that was the last long haul city I visited earlier this month… it is, therefore, an accidental yardstick. Even if this is a work trip. I have had the luxury of a day to normalise after arriving in the small hours. Unfortunately, this has had the unintended effect of rocking me on my heels.


The view as I entered the hotel last night

If you’ve not been here, then a written description is going to fall short. As a scene setter how about we take the following ingredients:

  • 1 X Las Vegas – scale, desert climate, sheer chutzpah. (Discard the gambling.)
  • 1 X Emirate – muslim heritage, laws, huge oil wealth, middle eastern culture and a taste for bling
  • A big bunch of apparently every flavour of extreme architecture mankind can currently muster, with some radical, comic-book structures. (Like CGI of an alien, technologically utopian planet from a Marvel movie.) A Shanghai/Manhattan/Singapore mashup.
  • 1 X blind eye: for the origins/conditions of labour that built it all, means of electricity generation, the amount of pollution and waste. (Where does all the water come from?Where does all the sewage go?)

Mix well, leave to marinade against the backdrop of whatever meandering trajectory the global economy is heading on.

Wandering is a great way to learn a new place, don’t-cha-think? I have walked and walked today. In 35C? Well, outside it may have been, but the Dubai Mall and walkways to the metro are all air-conditioned. (Plus the desert heat is less oppressive; now it’s late October. Bearable, even at midday.) From the chilled metro carriages raised above the city sprawl we barrel along a full 25km to Dubai Marina. Huge roads pass beneath us. So very many cars. So many high end motahs: Rolls’, Lambos’, Ferrari’, McLarens and – heavens – even the occasional Porsche. Ringed by vast condos, the marina itself is filled with glistening motor-yachts. Pausing for a delicious Lebanese lunch, I get a mini-lecture from the proprietor about the evils of sugar in Pepsi. (Imagine if it was beer I washed the shwarma down with!?) I stand at the head of the carriage on the return trip – no driver to block the view – and boggle at the cityscape as it envelops our train. (Have seen Tomorrowland with Clooney?)

The overhead corridor to Dubai Mall is hundreds of metres from the station. It is cool, wide and thronging. If you kneel at the temple of retail, this place is surely a global shrine judging by the vast number of disciples herein. Outside – 8PM – the Dubai Fountain dances to pulsating music with light and the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa. (The structure manages to look impossibly tall and unimposing at once. It will visually rhyme with the coming-soon Dubai Creek Tower which is similarly nuts. Dial crazy settings to batshit.) How many thousand marched in London today against Brexit? Well, many thousands marched here too, firm in their intent to oooh-ahh at fountains, get dinner and buy expensive impractical shoes.

Rocked on my heels then by jetlag, arid heat, scale, unhindered consumerism, architectural egotism and conspicuous wealth. Worlds away from Delhi in one direction. A world away from rural Wiltshire in the other.

Hey ho, off to work tomorrow. How long before this all feels normal?

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