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Monday, 29 December 2008

Marta’s little adventure – or lessons for people in the “hospitality” industry

Here are some hotels to avoid in Turin – and one to visit.

My partner Marta went home for Christmas, as she always does, to Lecce in Puglia.

It was quite an undertaking, as it often is – especially since Alitalia, which has been going broke since the Middle Ages (and richly deserves to – whoever heard of pilots in a bankrupt firm being chauffeur-driven to the airport?) was cancelling flights at random.

So after a nightmare work week and no sleep for 27 hours she flew from Stansted to Turin to wait there all day before catching the train for a 13 hour trip in the evening.

Still having work to do, she set out to find a hotel with a wi-fi connection.

At the Jolly (comically misnamed) she was quoted a price of €5 per half hour – and you have to log in and out every half hour. No thanks.

At the 5 star (awarded for rapacity) Majestic, €35 an hour. A joke, surely.

Why should Best Western be rebranded Worst Western? “This service is only for hotel guests,” said an amazingly rude cretin who didn’t even want to take her money.

Finally at the little Mercure Stefania and friends made her welcome –and charged her less. They apologised that their lobby wasn’t big enough, fed her with biscuits and coffee and hoped she would come back. So she went and bought them some chocolates.

Bravo, Mercure – and let’s hope the recession throws the rest of you out in the gutter – your natural destination.

Marta was also lucky at the station – two chivalrous heroes risked life and limb by jumping onto the train before it stopped to make sure she got a seat – but not so lucky at Bologna: a one and a half hour delay.

When she got home she had just enough time to shower and freshen up before going to see a client. What a girl!

If any of you are going to Turin- or you know anyone who is - now you know where not to stay.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The Heaviest Element Known to Science

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science.

The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2- 6 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of morons promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

That's from a site called Disaboom, sent to me by Alain Pierre.

I will save another excellent joke in bad taste for after Christmas as it doesn't go well with that one.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Countries get the rulers they deserve.

Between them the great Bliar and the Bloated Haggis managed something extraordinary.

In the eleven years since they took over, besides transforming a massive financial surplus into our greatest burden of debt since the end of the second world war (twice as big as that of any other European country but concealed by financial chicanery) they managed to spew over 3,600 laws. Almost one every day.

This achievement is all the more impressive as at the same time the only laws any of us give a damn about - the ones aimed to deter thieves, catch murderers and so on - are being flouted as never before.

Up and down the country the guardians of justice have set about discouraging Carol Services, protecting terrorists, hounding market stall holders, fining motorists and taking care of all those other things dear to the politically correct and scorned by the sensible.

At the same time countless new bodies have been set up - like one of the Haggis's most brilliant "initiatives" - the ludicrously incompetent Financial Service Authority. This priceless exemplar of bureaucratic buffoonery, which totally failed to predict or prevent the financial catastrophe we will all be paying for indefinitely (except me because I'll be dead long before the bill is settled) has reported that its fees could rise by almost £100m to around £400m in 2009 as it "improves supervision of banks".

Very droll. They couldn't supervise a piss-up in a brewery. In fact the total bill for supervising the financial services industry will almost triple to £900m next year. And this is just one of the countless similar bodies set up to supervise all manner of things badly and provide jobs (with pensions) for parasites.

And what does the British Public think about this sort of performance? They think Gordon Brown is a good man to steer us through troubled times.

The man who left "New" Labour such a massive financial surplus to piss away on failing to achieve anything except debt, worse education, more crime, and a couple of unwinnable wars was that old fool John Major.

Remember him? To me he looks like a genius by comparison. Not known for his wit, he commented on Brown's current popularity rather aptly a few days ago, more or less as follows:

"You don't hire the man who just burgled you to come back and fix your alarm system."

Oh, but you do if you're the British voter.

God help us all. Another eleven years and we'll be worse off than Romania. (Where incidentally I met a lot of pretty smart, educated people earlier this year. Here I see that half the kids can't read and write.)

The last country that achieved what this lot have managed was Argentina in the '40s. Juan Peron took the fourth richest country in the world and beggared it. His creed was fascism. Gordon Brown's creed is Get Gordon Brown elected. That will do just as well.

Which begs the question, what is Cameron's creed? Get Cameron elected.

Enough spleen for today. Happy Christmas everyone.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Watch out, jerks about!

"You will want to discover cutting edge knowledge from two thought leaders," was the message I just got from somebody called Spindelman on Facebook.

This asinine piece of patronising jargon was "sent to the members of ZnaTrainer Saturday Blog Radio Interview's The Flow Doctor."

I don't recall signing up for this, which must be something to do with blocked toilets.

It went on to threaten me with losing my job and the assassination of my business as follows:

"Find out what Applicititus is and why it can kill your business and get you fired.

Be There Or Not - The Choice Is Yours.

The Ones Who Are, Will Be Out Of The Recession Before You."

This barrage of tripe was signed

Warmest Regards,

Michael & Zna

I don't believe I want to discover anything from people who can't write decent English, but I must admit I never heard of anyone called Zna before.

As I haven't got a job, and I'm as busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest - which always happens when recessions occur - that barrage of mindless tripe didn't really hit the spot.

And Applicititus is an invented name designed to appeal to gullible psycho-inadequates.

So, no I don't think so. You didn't have to send me the message twice. And please don't send me warmest regards. I've never met you.

Just as a postscript to my piece about airport advertising lunacy, when I got back to Heathrow last night the place was festooned with posters for the Guaranty Bank, with the line: Proudly African. Truly International.

Then it listed the countries involved, which included Nigeria, famed for being the most corrupt place on earth and Sierra Leone, famed for being a good place to have a civil war, with the line "Wouldn't you rather bank with us?"

Are you out of your mind, you lunatics? I'd rather bank with Northern Rock. And certainly not with a bank that pisses away its depositors' money on posters like that.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Do I detect somebody being “creative”? Oh dear.

Life is full of laughable little details.

I’m writing this in Zurich en route from New York to Vienna where I hope not to bore some bankers to tears.

The high point of my trip so far was on one of those little trains that whiz you from one terminal to another. There I was, standing morosely in a jet-lagged haze, when just before we jolted to a stop there suddenly came the amplified blast of an Alpenhorn – you know, like an ordinary horn but MUCH louder. This certainly got my attention, especially as it was followed after a brief pause by a very loud burst of choral music and then, just as I was recovering, the amplified sound of a cow mooing.

There was no explanation for this cacophony. I decided it was either a huge practical joke or some sort of Swiss welcome. But at 11 in the morning after a seven hour flight, I can tell you this sort of thing does nothing for the equilibrium.

You can just see how it came about, though, can’t you? The airport people, not content with doing their job by providing a little box that takes you quickly and quietly from one terminal to another probably decided they should do something to symbolize Switzerland. So they called in some denim-jacketed creative consultants who, after a number of demented meetings, came up with this surreal idea – cows, alpenhorns, a burst of loud choir music – then after handing the airport people a handsome bill left smiling in search of the next mug.

This is on a small scale how those scamps at Wolf, Olins managed to rip the London Olympics people off with that hideously ugly logo; but the utterly pointless and airlines somehow seem to go together.

Before boarding at JFK whilst knocking back some Sam Adams beer I saw a poster for Lufthansa. It featured a man smiling vaguely, the way you do when the photographer says, “smile”. The words accompanying this were: “Speaking the international language of international connections. All for this one moment.”

“What moment?” I wondered. The one where you realise you’re at the wrong terminal? The one where you get a dry sandwich wrapped in plastic that you can’t get into? The one where they tell you the flight’s an hour late?

As if this drivel were not enough, there was another line: “There is no better way to fly than Lufthansa”. And in the good old fashioned way, from those neanderthal days when they thought repetition was a means of persuasion, the Lufthansa name was displayed four times in the poster. Probably the sad sods think this is how you build a brand. Not really, mein herren.

This poster was all over the place, and is all over the world. What folly. Does it give a single coherent reason for choosing Lufthansa? Who thought it up? Who approved it? Who sanctioned such a waste of money? Isn’t there a recession in the airline business? Why not use the money to bribe their stewardesses to smile? God knows they ought to try to occasionally.

Now we’re on the subject of stupid advertising I haven’t the patience to go into that pompous drivel from HSBC about how the world would be so much worse if we all agreed about everything (good reason to choose a bank, right?) but this sort of bollocks at airports reminds me of one of Dr. Johnson’s better insults about Sheridan:

“Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken a deal of effort to become as we see him now. Such an excess of stupidity is not in nature”.

All this nonsense is indeed stupid, ineffably stupid; but it takes a great deal of effort to piss away money in so many pointless ways.

Interestingly, one firm that doesn’t indulge in it is Ryanair. They are obsessed with a) making their planes on time and b) selling things. They don’t waste a penny on branding. They appear to be doing quite well.

By the way, the girls on Swissair do smile. Thank you, ladies.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Aren’t you a genius yet? Shame on you!

How fortunate we all are to live in a period when giants stride the earth, I thought this morning.

I was sitting here in Brooklyn’s fabled** Butler Street writing some copy for a client when I heard that “plink” that denotes the arrival of an e-mail.

What was it? It was an invitation to learn from a “world-renowned” copywriter. I get them every day, sometimes more than once. Many of them invite me to have something free, which is nice. And every now and then I learn something I never knew.

Of course, these helpful folk are not ALL world-renowned. Some are world famous, which means the same, I suppose. Many are superstars. A few, more modest, are ”A-list”. A surprising number make millionaires with a rapidity and frequency one can only marvel at. A fair number are legendary, though I have yet to come across one who is mythical. A strange omission, because that often seems to fit the promises made.

On top of all that, the level of inspiration in our ranks is such that a surprising number are geniuses. Even I have been called a genius, which gives you an idea of how devalued the word has become since the days of, say, Shakespeare or Mozart.

All this stuff is what my old boss David Ogilvy stigmatised as “flatulent puffery,” and I date the start of it to the day some twenty years ago when some silly woman came up and addressed me as a guru. I told her I was a pundit, though I doubt if she knew the difference.

But these ludicrous overclaims about a fairly simple skill whose value grows in inverse proportion to educational levels – certainly in the U.K. and U.S. – make it very hard to talk convincingly about what one does.

I have just started working on a little venture with a long-time partner who has won so many awards that about ten years ago when I asked him how many he had, he said he stopped counting after 150.

What the hell level of genius do I put him at? Intergalactic superstar? He is just very, very good and quick. How do I position what we offer without sounding mentally deranged?

I guess I have to settle for being a cherished antique. Maybe I should point out that Verdi wrote one of his best operas at the age of 80 - and sell by analogy. But many readers don't know who Verdi is, let alone what an analogy might be. And then I remember my friend Herschel Gordon Lewis who is even older and more talented than me.

Tough stuff. But I find that recessions always drag the clients blinking out of the woodwork into the harsh light of the real world.

** Very ordinary and almost unknown. You can get crack at the end that is nearest.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Medical miracles

As I'm lying sick in bed, I found this very helpful this morning.

At a medical conference, an Israeli doctor boasted, 'Medicine in my country is so advanced, we can take a kidney out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in six weeks'.

A German doctor said, 'That's nothing! In Germany, we can take a lung out of one person, put it in another, and have him looking for work in four weeks'.

A Russian doctor said, 'In my country medicine is so advanced, we can take half a heart from one person, put it in another, and have them both looking for work in two weeks'.

The English delegate, not to be outdone, said 'Hah! We can take two arseholes out of Scotland, put them in 10 & 11 Downing Street and have half the country looking for work within twenty-four hours'