Wednesday, 24 February 2010

White Collar Pikeyness

Following on the the previous post 'Ignorance isn't bliss', here is a slightly different take on the subject that I put together.
A nightmare vision, when two worlds collide. 
The white collar buzz word bonkers business man and the pig ignorant pikey. 
Could it happen? Surely not. Pray to God it doesn't.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Ignorance isn’t bliss

Have you noticed that there are some seemingly very clever people who appear incredibly stupid?  And how strange it is that certain people get more stupid the more they read. They leaf through the right magazines, the right books and the right online articles and all it does is give them a whole host of phrases they can trot out at will, without having the first idea what they’re talking about.

We are left with a whole generation of pseudo intellectual sheep bleating along with the latest buzz phrase or hot topic.

“Hey John, let’s take a helicopter view of our enterprise skill set?”


“I like it John, a goal orientated resource repurposing structure is a great idea. I’ll set up some face time.”


But it’s only the white-collar set that feels the need to hide common sense in a stew of bullshit. You don’t get your local mechanic telling you they’ve had some blue sky thinking and they’re pretty sure your gear box has failed it’s performance management appraisal.  The local fish and chip shop doesn’t ask if you’d like to downsize your cod. So why does business feel the need to wrap everything up in gibberish?

The other day I heard somebody say they that they were trying to humanise analytics. Humanise analytics? What the bloody hell does that mean? Absolutely nothing, that’s what it means. In an act of constructive criticism I immediately set fire to him. Apparently this is wrong, but I was only trying to humanise pyrotechnics! What’s the problem?

So why is there this need to replace original thinking and simple, solid ideas with nonsense? Do we really need to lock ourselves away in the ‘Conception Lab’ to hypothesise about distributed possibilities, or do some empathic research into products suffering from featuritis?

Personally, I would like to see a paradigm shift away from the globalization of knowledge process outsourcing, and a return to a proactive sea change that can only be empowered by traditional out of the box thinking and inevitably lead to a long tail, circle back, next level, state of the art, value added, upstream, win-win scenario.

And I don’t think I can be any clearer than that.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The cost of living

Contrary to my last post, I am starting to think that modern life is a big pile of poo. Here I am, careering towards the inevitable bad party that is middle age, having passed the first flush of youth some time ago. I work hard, and I have a reasonable job, earning a reasonable salary. My wife also works hard and has a reasonable job earning a reasonable salary. We have a reasonable house, a reasonable car, a reasonable family pet and reasonable children. We are at that point in life where we should be on the home straight.

So why is it that at every turn there is a big shitty stick waiting to give us a large whack in the knackers?

Out of our reasonable salaries must come our unreasonable mortgage payments, water, gas, electricity, council tax, credit card payments, child-care and any number of other outgoings that would test the financial prowess of Simon Cowell. By my calculations an average couple would need to earn somewhere in the region of twelve and a half million pounds a year to simply earn enough to get through the month and enjoy a guilt free tub of Haagen-Dazs at the weekend.

Even if you manage to scrape through the month without the weight of the British banking system bearing down on you with it’s collective ‘tut tut,’ there will always be something, anything, that will pull the rug from under you. The butter side down principle of finance. For me, this month it’s our car. This two-ton spite mobile, held together by hate and venom for its owner, decided to break down at the worst possible moment, practically and financially. While I used every trick at my disposal (i.e. shout at it and call the RAC) it sat choking away like a spoilt child trying to blag the day off school. ‘I’m not going anywhere you bastard. I’m happy where I am, and I want a little TLC at the local garage.’ There were any number of other locations and occasions that would have been less problematic, but no, this delinquent heap of rust infested junk decided to wait until it was good and ready and could cause the most problems.

Of course it doesn’t have to be a car. It could be a broken boiler, a flooded bathroom, an unexpected vets bill, projectile vomiting children ruining your carpet in the dead of night or a meteorite landing on your new greenhouse. Anything. The only certainty is that it will happen at the worst possible moment.

But going back to my original point, these things should be easily dealt with. I should be able to draw on the large cash reserves that my hard work surely warrants. I don’t spend the vast majority of my life either at work or travelling to work, just so a large financial corporation can line their pockets from that evil little piece of plastic in my pocket.

But no, I have to get the vile vehicle to a garage and then drop to my knees in prayer, hoping against hope that just this once it will be okay. Knowing, of course that a large greasy man with tattoos and an ‘I’m so much cleverer than you’ attitude will eventually phone me and, starting the conversation with a sharp intake of breath, give me a whole load of flannel that basically translates to it’s fucked.’

And because I live in the modern world, which is only geared up for millionaires and politicians, I shall have to plunge myself deeper into debt, in the hope that the next financial, emotional or physical breakdown can wait another month.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

There’ll never be a band as good as the Beatles they say. Never be a boxer like Ali, and never be a footballer like George Best. There will also never be an actor in the same class as Olivier, never be a car as good as the E-Type Jag and never be a decade like the sixties. Or seventies, eighties or nineties depending on your age.

Why is this? Nostalgia; the simple utopia of everyone’s memory.

Whilst taking nothing away from the aforementioned, every example is either subjective or impossible to measure. It’s simply that a golden memory is always better than a grey present day.

Whatever went before is nearly always considered better than what we have now.

‘In my day, you knew where you stood.’ They say. ‘Criminals were gentlemen. You could leave your door unlocked. Music had tunes. There was no traffic jams. Kids played outside all day. Cheese and onion crisps came in green bags. The first division was the first division, three channels was all you needed and you tied a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree.’

Clearly the past had a lot going for it, whatever period your past happened to be. However there are far more areas where life is now infinitely superior. The opportunities for education are far better now than ever. The Internet has made information and entertainment available at the click of a mouse. Choice in every area of life is beyond recognition to twenty years ago.  The advent of mobile phones, whilst annoying when you’re sat next to someone jabbering away on a train, has meant that this generation need never be out of contact with a loved one. Terrestrial TV is by no means great, but with the multitude of channels and methods of recording, there should always be something to watch.

So perhaps those people who insist that they lived in the greatest period, had the best music, the best sportsmen, the best mates, the best of everything should try being a little more open minded. They may have had rolling green fields where the multiplex is, or a bobby on the beat. But they also had scurvy, a choice of three warm beers in the pubs and Showaddywaddy.

All in all then, I would propose that we all stop looking back at what we remember, and start concentrating on what we’ve got and look forward to what we’ll have in the future.

Apart from cheese and onion crisps. They should definitely be in green packs.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Train Etiquette

Some simple rules to follow if you get a train regularly:
  •  If I’m waiting on the platform. I’m in this spot for a reason. Don’t stand in front of me; I may push you onto the track.
  •  When you get on the train, and there is a queue of people behind you, don’t stop at the first seat, take your coat off, fold it neatly, place it carefully on the rack, get out your laptop, close the case and then put that on the rack, clean your glasses, take out a chewing gum, blow your nose, meditate or indeed any other time consuming activity. Move down the carriage and let the rest of us find a seat, before the crowds from the other end take them all.
  • I don't pay several thousands of pounds a year so your Targus briefcase can enjoy a seat at my expense. It does not need to relax and take in the view, it is an inanimate object. Move it please.
  • You don’t need both arm rests, leave one for me.
  • If your ears are hurting slightly, I can hear your iPod. Turn it down.
  • If you have a broadsheet newspaper, fold it over. Otherwise I will lean over and read it with you.
  • If I have a newspaper, it’s folded, don’t lean over and read it with me.
  • Take your finger out of your nose. We can all see you.
These are all very simple and easy to follow rules, and ultimately better for all of us. If there are any travellers who don’t wish to comply, please note I shall be adopting a name and shame policy.

For example:

Mr Marcus Theakston from seat 32 B last Wednesday. You not only used both armrests, but had your iPod turned up to 11. On top of that, you were listening to N-Dubz.

We may have to kill you.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Going crackers in Caracas

First off this isn’t a rant at all, rather a diary of my time in Caracas. I know that it’s not in keeping with the spirit of the blog, but as an old teacher of mine once practiced: What is a spirit for if not to be broken.
The trip started well; a trouble free, if early flight to Madrid and then after a short wait, off to Caracas. On both flights I had no one sat next to me and so managed to spread out in comfort. So far so good. On arrival I was to be met by a driver. Unfortunately due to some bizarre airport politics he wasn’t allowed to wait at the arrivals entrance or carry a card with either my, or his name on it. Clearly this made life a little tricky, and for the first time, but certainly not the last, my lack of Spanish proved to be somewhat of a hindrance.
Eventually reconciled we headed off to the hotel. The drive brought home the realities of life in South America as we passed the burned out cars, mountainside slums and gatherings of men around small fires by the side of the road. To the west of the city are the 'Barrios', the very poor neighborhoods in the hills, which I was advised was not a place for an alabaster white tourist to go wandering around asking if anyone has an iPhone charger they can borrow. 
All of this witnessed as we whizzed past at 100mph weaving in and out of traffic. 
I was to learn that there are a few rules to driving in Caracas that are adhered to by all drivers:
Drive as fast as you can at all times. A green traffic light means Go. A red traffic light means Go. Cars crossing an intersection in the opposite direction means Go. Indicators are used on a ‘you don’t need to know basis.’ If you are forced to stop, then honk your horn until you are moving again. In Britain it is against the law to speak on a mobile phone whilst driving. No such namby pambyness here. Not only is speaking on a phone allowed, but texting, emailing, taking pictures, uploading videos onto youtube or anything else you can do with a phone.
On arriving at the rather splendid hotel, I checked in, quickly unpacked and headed back downstairs to speak to the concierge as I was keen to hit the bars.
“Where can I walk to for a few drinks?” I asked.
“Walk?” Said the incredulous concierge. “You can’t walk anywhere sir. At anytime. Don’t walk, don’t wear jewellery. Don't wear watches. Don’t carry credit cards. Only carry a minimal amount of money. Don’t carry any reference to your hotel room number and don’t get in unlicensed taxis. Welcome to Caracas.”
I immediately ensconced myself in the bar and checked all the hotel door locks.
The following day I attended a meeting, and as I left was told that there were protests throughout the city, and it was more dangerous than usual. It’s probably best if you don’t leave the hotel said my helpful client. What a great trip this was turning out to be. By 8pm I could take no more. ‘Tell me the name of a good bar, and I won’t take no for an answer’ I boldly said to the bemused hotel bar man. I then hopped in a taxi and headed down town, where I was dropped off at La Rossalinda, a bar in the Las Mercedes district. Now at 3am this place is probably jumping, but at 8.30pm it’s crushed velvet curtains, dance floor, mirror ball and over priced whiskey menu were all a bit too much for myself and the other two customers. As I was in the middle of God knows where, with no immediate means of transport, I couldn’t simply walk out so had to endure a rather lonely and expensive hour before sheepishly returning to the hotel bar.
The reason for my trip was to attend a photo shoot. About 18 months ago I art directed a shoot in Cape Town and now an agency in Caracas were doing some photography for the same client that needed to fit in with that shoot. The client insisted that ‘someone from the London office’ be present, and so I volunteered quicker than a quick thing. The down side to this is that there would already be an art director here, and to them my presence would be about as welcome as swine flu.  Not to worry, we’re all adults I thought, and I was sure it would be fine.
Unfortunately the art directors English was as good as my Spanish, and when she arrived late and found out that I had completely changed the set up of the first shot, I could tell by her eyes that we were not going to be lifelong friends. However, worse than that was her friend. I never found out what her role was, but I think it was simply to be her friend. Every time I spoke she would leap to her defence and explain why my suggestion was an utterance of lunacy. When I insisted that something was changed, the friend would then call the art director outside and give her a big hug and tell her the big, bad man would soon be gone. I never found out the name of the friend, but I did have a very special name of my own for her. One that was Concise. Unapologetic. No-nonsense & To the point. After 14 hours all the shots were taken, and no one had been hurt. As I bade farewell to the crew there was no social kissing conundrum for the art director and the Concise. Unapologetic. No-nonsense & To the point person, a simple wave was all that was required. The rest of the team however were lovely, warm and friendly and made me feel very welcome.
The highlight of trip was a cable car trip to the peak of El Avila, 3000 metres above sea level. 20 minutes hovering hundreds of feet above the ground in an oversized match box. At the top I was treated to great views, a nice lunch and some interesting company.
All in all, a strange, interesting, frustrating but eventually enjoyable trip. Would I return? Probably not, certainly not on my own. But I have developed an interest in South America, and given the chance would love to explore further. I shall just have to work the Angel Falls or the Estaiada bridge, Sao Paulo into my next ad for gravy or flea treatment. Not easy, but give me time.

Monday, 1 February 2010

To kiss or not to kiss?

Can somebody please establish a set of guidelines for the etiquette of social kissing? Whether at a party or work meeting, the moment of decision can be an excruciating time. There is no clear directive, and this inevitably leads to many moments of extreme embarrassment.

I have lost count of the number of times I have either gone to shake the hand of a woman who was zoning into my cheek for a kiss, leaving an awkward moment worthy of a Borat movie, or have gone to kiss the cheek, only to have the woman look at me like I’m about to assault her and give grounds for a mace retaliation.

Then there’s that awful moment when both heads go in same direction and you end up weaving from side to side like a pair of cockatoos. Equally painful are those times when you are lining up at a business meeting to say goodbye to somebody that everyone except you knows. One by one they plant a smacker on the cheek, whilst you wait your turn not knowing what to do. You’ve maybe known each other for an hour in a formal setting which is not really the grounds for a physical relationship, but yet you don’t want to seem rude and be the only person to keep their distance. What do you do? Shake hands, single kiss, double kiss, air kiss, right cheek first, left, faint, run away?

Of course the Mediterranean culture has had a big influence, so there are people who will kiss both cheeks and maybe even go in for a hug. I have even witnessed occasions of a quick kiss on the lips, but for God’s sake, where does it stop? Will there come a time when it’s de rigueur to perform French kissing followed by a bear hug, a breast grope or even a little light cunninglingus?

We need a set of simple to follow rules so we all know where we stand. Any thoughts welcome.

Mwah Mwah!