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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

What are you lot so pleased about?

Well, George Orwell put it best in Animal Farm. "Some animals are more equal than others."

They are all pleased because we are all paying.

They are all pleased because they will achieve the square root of fuck all at yet another global boondoggle, but they won't have to face the consequences.

Berlusconi is extremely pleased because he should have been in jail years ago for being funded by the Mafia but like his friends Andreotti and Craxi he's managed to rig the system so he'll never get locked up.

Brown is pleased because he thinks sticking his tongue up Obama's arse will make people take him seriously. Silly bugger.

Merkel is either grinning out of embarrassment at being sat next to two such ghastly plonkers or with delight because Silvio has just offered to give her a blow job.

Sarkozy is grinning because he won't have to.

And of course they are all as happy as Larry because they don't have to worry about how to pay the mortgage or who's going to fund their pensions - and they have absolutely no shame.

Incidentally, reverting to our Home Secretary's wanky husband, serious questions of principle have been raised in our office.

Why did he waste £10 of taxpayers' money on two videos? For about the same price he could have downloaded oceans of filth for a whole month. Does living with a politician lead to stupidity by association?

Monday, 30 March 2009

Why is this man still being paid? And other scandals

The man with the visionary expression and the weak chin is “Rick” Wagoner, in charge of running General Motors into the ground for the last nine years. The photographer had a tough job making him look anything but a wanker**.

You might call Rick the car industry’s answer to Gordon Brown.

The U.S. taxpayer is about to cough up another avalanche of dosh to keep them all tottering along. Over 20 years ago the late Everett Dirksen observed of another act of government largesse, “A billion here, a billion there. Pretty soon it adds up to real money.”

You may wonder how somebody so manifestly useless got the job in the first place. It shows how being able to climb to the top of large corporations has nothing to do with knowing how to do the job and everything to do with low cunning. The last boss of GM – Roger Smith - was just as bad.

It’s like politics, really. The Bliar was useless, but a brilliant bullshitter; the Toad is useless even at bullshitting.

Daniel Hannan did a wonderful demolition job of Brown – so good I see my friend Clayton Makepeace has put it on his site, but then Harold Wilson repeatedly tore the conservatives to bits forty odd years ago – then proved a woefully bad Prime Minister.

** On the subject of wankers, half the country is giggling about the Home Secretary, "Jacqui" Smith's latest little problem.

Just to put it in context, she's responsible for things like crime and has been busy lately trying to explain away why she got found out fiddling her housing expenses. But now it turns out that her husband who she pays (with our money) as a parliamentary aide has been spending his time masturbating furiously over porn videos bought on her expenses (with our money).

To add to her misfortunes the Great Bloat has defended her for doing "a great job". How the hell would he recognise a great job? And where exactly has she been doing it? In the bedroom? Certainly not as home secretary, where she's spent most of her time with her foot rammed firmly halfway down her throat.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

One law for them; one for the rest of us?

A friend sends me pretty good jokes at regular intervals.

He is what they now call "gay" but used to call all kinds of things.

The line under his last one read: Kentucky, five million people, 15 last names.

That's quite funny though not that much, and I doubt if anyone is going to haul him up before the law for it.

There are lots of jokes like that about the Irish, the Poles, the Jews, the Belgians and so on depending where you live

But imagine if it had been about gay blades? Or black/brown/muslim/anyone politically correct arseholes cherish.

There is a massive industry funded by the Gordon Brown Fund for Pissing Away as Much of Our Money as Possible on Useless Shit devoted to teaching the police and various other public servants how not to offend people who should know by now that real life isn't for sensitive flowers and you'd better get used to it, pal.

Bring back the days when you could take the piss out of everyone.

Except for elderly English scribblers, of course.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

He must be spinning in his grave

This is John Maynard Keynes, the great economist, whose most famous put down may have been, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?"

Of course, if he'd been talking to the Gordian Twat the reply would have been, "Not me. I just keep spending. When you're in a hole, carry on digging".

I have been astounded in the last week by seeing Brown wandering around the world at my expense giving lectures on what must be done; and even more astounded that his audiences, instead of laughing fit to bust, courteously pay attention.

Getting this man to advise you on economics is like selecting the village idiot as Lord Mayor.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

See the world's most watched clip - and rejoice

Bloody hell! I go away for five days, come back yesterday - and nothing's changed.

Yet another Minister is found to have been been fiddling his expenses.

An article reads "Cameron talks of the pain of losing his son" which no doubt he felt he should share with us all, not thinking for a second that it might influence people's votes one day.

And the Great Bloated Toad - so long acclaimed as a financial genius by all the experts - is told by the Bank or England that he can't count. Not a good qualification for tell the world how to sort out its economies, is it?

As a headline in the Daily Mash puts it: THERE'S NO MORE MONEY, SAYS MAN WHO PRINTS ALL THE MONEY.

One thing we can all be sure of: however much or little money, it will all be provided by us. Every penny.

This morning, though, I was immensely cheered up by what is the currently the world's most watched clip on U Tube.

It's Daniel Hannan, a Member of the European Parliament eviscerating the Toad in Brussels.

See it it at http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/daniel_hannan/blog/2009/03/24/so_i_said_to_gordon_brown_i_said ... and rejoice.

Then worry, because the one-eyed git seems to think it's funny.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

At last! Ready-made advertising drivel. One small lurch backwards for mankind

Do you get my helpful marketing ideas, dear reader?

I know many of you do, and I am not trying to sell them to the rest of you, as they cost nothing.

Anyhow, one of the joys of sending them out is the replies - often amusing and sometimes instructive - that I get from readers.

Yesterday Stewart Turton told me about a wonderful thing called ad generator - www.theadgenerator.org - which proves once and for all that you don't need a brain to work in advertising. This was described by its ingenious inventor as follows:

The ad generator is a generative artwork that explores how advertising uses and manipulates language. Words and semantic structures from real corporate slogans are remixed and randomized to generate invented slogans. These slogans are then paired with related images from Flickr, thereby generating fake advertisements on the fly. By remixing corporate slogans, I intend to show how the language of advertising is both deeply meaningful, in that it represents real cultural values and desires, and yet utterly meaningless in that these ideas have no relationship to the products being sold. In using the Flickr images, the piece explores the relationship between language and image, and how meaning is constructed by the juxtaposition of the two.

This idea came from Alexis Lloyd as part of his MFA thesis project in the Design and Technology department at Parsons The New School for Design. I imagine that explains the pompous way he describes it. Academics hate simple language.

As I told Stewart, I agree on the "utterly meaningless" but not the "deeply meaningful, in that it represents real cultural values and desires".

Mostly it represents the square root of sod-all. How interesting it is to reflect that all over the world even in the depths of economic chaos idiots are sitting in claustrophobic meeting rooms discussing fatuous lines like "We're better, connected" in the delusional belief that any of their customers give a flying fuck.

Actually, we'd all be a whole lot better spending our time trying to improve our service. And whilst I thoroughly applaud Alexis's splendid endeavour, which demonstrates with admirable clarity what inane rubbish most slogans are, the random bullshit generator - http://dack.com/web/bullshit.html - is far better.

First, it is hilarious; and second, it really demonstrates what tripe most business talk is.

Go and spend a few minutes playing with it. Then reflect on how many overpaid, underemployed executives are passing those very same minutes playing with themselves.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Why so many marketing studies don't pay off - and what to do

Several people commented on my last piece, and I agreed with much of what everyone said. God, what a spineless creature I am.

In that piece I also meant to comment on what Rezbi wrote in his blog where with admirable honesty he confessed to having practically beggared himself by buying lots of courses on marketing.

Many people are doing this. It is natural to want to improve - and there is a great deal of excellent advice out there. I can think of at least 12 people whose stuff I read and often learn from - including Perry Marshall and Michel Fortin, who commented yesterday.

But besides my extreme antiquity there is a difference between me and many - in fact most - of those who read all this "become a marketing/copywriting genius in six painless weeks" stuff.

The difference is that too many quite simply don't know what they're trying to improve. They seek to do handstands and double somersaults before they can even crawl, let alone walk. They lack the grounding.

After countless bruising, costly lessons and a great deal of study, I understand a little bit about the realities of business and a great deal about almost every aspect of marketing.

Unless you understand the context of what you are doing, it is almost impossible to succeed. I am constantly astonished at how people come into marketing or copywriting without studying.

For example, a couple of months ago a lady running a stall at Willowbrook Mall in New Jersey said she wanted to "get into international marketing" - whatever the hell that is. When I talked about studying she said, "Oh, you're like all the rest."

My Australian partner Malcolm Auld and I were discussing this problem the other day, when reflecting on the extraordinary stupidity of some clients - usually those working in large organisations.

He made a very perceptive remark.

"I think it is because marketing is not a vocational occupation. That is, if you are a plumber you have to know how to fix a pipe - there's no grey area, it's either fixed or it's stuffed. But so much of marketing is about opinions not facts - everyone's an expert and nobody values expertise."

100% true.

Another problem is that so many people follow too many experts all at the same time, and never know which to follow; and a third is that many of these courses give you everything you need except the two essentials: something good to sell, and lots of people who need it - a hungry crowd, as the late Gary Halbert put it.

That is one reason why last year I had a go at trying to educate people formally, through an a academy called EADIM (I've been doing it informally for well over 30 years now).

What happened reminded me of Oscar Wilde's remark after one of his plays was badly received. "The play was a success. The audience was a failure."

The students (two came all the way from Australia, one from South Africa) loved it. One -the head of a direct marketing association in Europe - said it was the most valuable week since he learned to read and write.

I lost a fortune on it, though.

Another two lessons learnt: first I believed in over-optimistic projections from a lot of other people - my fault - and second, as a result the Marriott Hotel in Brussels screwed me into the ground. However, I now know what to do, so we're repeating the course in October this year.

So if you really want to know what the direct marketing business is about and you know it won't happen for you in six easy weeks, go and have a look at www.eadim.com.

And when you get there, besides telling me one of the dates is wrong and I should be promoting the damn course everywhere, tell me what you think.

If it interests you, I should tell you two things: one, we've already got about 20% of the places filled. Two, I'm thinking of doing something in the U.S. to introduce people to some of the cleverest people I know - most of whom you'll never have heard of.

One has been a partner of Sir Richard Branson three times. Another has helped sell $6 billion of stuff for big firms in the last two or three years - and is an expert in the one thing you need to be able to do - which most people (especially marketers) are abysmal at. A third masterminded the marketing behind the world's biggest wine club. And so on.

Now I have to go and write some copy for hearing aids. As usual, I'm sure I'll never have an idea, but at least I have the advantage of being half deaf.

Tax the bastards or not?

I'm still in Brooklyn, but it's not snowing. Just cold. So that's my twittering out of the way.

(Do you think twittering is a good idea? I'm not sure I really want to know the deeply dull minutiae of other people's lives; and unless you're very, very clever indeed it's hard to say anything interesting very briefly.)

As a matter of fact it's hard to say anything interesting at any length - and I am often surprised at what you gentle readers will react to. Which brings me to the comments on my last outburst.

Bertrand Russell remarked that "what men seek is not knowledge, but certainty." Among my many faults is a love of the sweeping (sometimes unkind) generalisation which I later regret.

"Tax the bastards" is one that I do not regret for a minute.

I agree: retrospective legislation is bad as a rule; Gordon Brown aka The Great Bloated Toad stole half my pension and pissed it up against the wall by legislating retrospectively.

However, when something is clearly wrong I think such legislation is justified. Someone said that it is hard to define beauty, but we recognise it when we see it. In the same way, we recognise patent injustice when we see it. It is unjust that the reptiles at AIG or the Royal Bank of Scotland should walk away with millions while those they failed suffer.

In fact when I studied law there was a concept called equity, which could be celled fairness. We can see that what has happened is not fair. In just the same way - referring to pensions - I do not think it is fair that people like me who create wealth or knowledge or employment should have our pensions diluted by inflation whilst the Toad, his Toadies and the army of public servants we fund should not.

If there is one thing I would recommend to Mr. Cameron and his friends, and for that matter to the Republicans who are actually more responsible than anyone else for the current mess - it was created on their watch, under their President - it is, promise to sweep away what is clearly unfair in society.

Michel Fortin referred me to a very good piece by Perry Marshall, who is much cleverer than I am. He says you have to pay people a lot of money to get the best. Well, as my old boss Martin Sorrell was wont to say, "It's a point of view."

Sir Martin certainly is highly motivated by money. David Ogilvy was. Many of us are. But there are other things more important. W. S. Churchill was broke all his life. Gandhi was not motivated by money. if my memory serves me right(I am very old) G. Washington left office poorer than when he entered it.

Lee Iacocca, whom Perry quotes, is not - to me anyhow - a great exemplar. He did not save Chrysler. He gave it a breathing space. He did not cure them of the besetting sin that has ruined the U.S. auto industry, which is heavy reliance on discounts allied to appalling advertising.

Incidentally that is the same mistake that Dell are making with such lamentable enthusiasm.

But that is another subject.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Here's a great idea. Tax the bastards

I'm in Brooklyn, where it's snowing.

But I was cheered up by seeing that Congress here has passed a bill taxing the bonuses of the thieves in firms that were bailed out by 90%.

Why not in the U.K.?

And why only 90%? At one point in Sweden they were taxing people by more than 100%. Why can't these wretches be made to disgorge the money they stole before that?

Monday, 16 March 2009

On that basis, why not give a knighthood to Bin Laden?

One incensed Scots reader has objected to my comparing The Great Toad to an excellent dish - the Haggis - which has unlike the the Toad brought pleasure to millions.

So I will say nothing about haggis.

But The Bloated Toad has decided to confer a knighthood on Teddy Kennedy. This is the man who will chiefly be remembered - if anything - for leaving a young girl to drown at Chappaquiddick and getting away with it.

And also the man who for decades consistently, enthusiastically supported groups whose sole objective was to slaughter as many people as it takes to to change the status quo in Northern Ireland.

Whether the good people there should be allowed to decide their own fate or be driven to decide on the basis of which set of bestial thugs kills most innocents is another matter. And whether the Unionists or the IRA are more obnoxious is also another matter.

But one thing is clear. Accessories to murder should not be honoured. On that basis, why not knight Osama Bin Laden? Or give Adolf Hitler some sort of posthumous recognition?

But then again, when you've been party to policies that sent so many - British soldiers and Iraqi civilians - to their deaths on the basis of false evidence and inadequate equipment, I doubt if such considerations count.

Seamless bollocks: real life versus corporate life

Twenty years or more ago, David Ogilvy sent me the draft of a speech he was planning to make in France.

It contained more or less the following.

"Our world is divided into two warring camps. Those who have no idea what their efforts produce. And those who know to penny. Those who measure. And those who do not."

I have long believed there are two other warring camps. Those who write down-to-earth English that can be understood; and those who write business gobbledygook.

Those who get on with things because they realise they have to get results - or else. And those who think more about whether the corporate guidelines are being followed.

Real people - and the rest.

One reason the Financial Services Authority failed dismally to do its job is that they were all so busy fucking around with people's copy to ensure "compliance" - and still are - to notice that the financial world was infested with unqualified crooks.

This unseemly outburst is prompted by the way the serene calm of my morning toilette was shattered when I saw a message selling a CRM seminar that contained the following:

Envision a sustainable CRM solution specially tailored to the unique needs of your company. A technology that is not afraid of growth and change. A solution intuitively capable of delivering efficiency and sales optimization in order to bring your business to the next level. At Intelestream, we believe in the simple truth that technology will seamlessly increase effectiveness and performance when properly implemented and administered. We believe your CRM solution should work for you.

Intelestream Inc. is a Chicago based consulting firm that delivers solutions to clients seeking enhanced sales, marketing, and customer support related business processes. The company specializes in enterprise resource planning (ERP), and all customer relationship management (CRM) related workflows. Intelestream’s development team builds custom tailored solutions for organizations, industry verticals, and plugins for open source software applications. The company’s team of consultants deliver an unparalleled quality of service and support. Intelestream’s leaders previously held executive positions at Fortune 500 companies, founded successful technology firms as entrepreneurs, and have expertise developing strategic customer focused business processes. If your company is evaluating a new enterprise application, looking to replace an expensive legacy system with a more affordable enhanced solution, or considering developing a new web based internal application, contact Intelestream.

Would you buy anything from a firm that talks such pretentious tripe? Can you imagine anyone not off their rocker "envisioning" a sustainable CRM solution?

Unfortunately plenty of people do fall for this stuff. They think if they can't understand it, it must be clever. They think that some magic bullet will solve their problems, removing the need for hard graft. And they deserve whatever they get.

In the case of CRM the only figures I have seen - from Gartner - show what they get is, on average, bad results, chiefly for three reasons.

1. Many buy CRM programmes - but never use them, train people properly or explain to everyone why they matter.

2. To build a customer relationship you must care about customers. Most people in large firms care more about promotion. As Jack Welch put it, people have "their heads facing the chairman and their asses facing the customers". That is why so many arseholes end up running big firms.

3. No computer programme can think. It will never be able to write words that charm customers and make them believe they are valued; and if you think starting with the deadly phrase "As a valued customer" will do the trick, believe me: it won't.

Having got that off my chest, my heart goes out to those of you trapped unwillingly in the great corporate quagmire. Fight back! Instead of doodling in meetings, think of ways to start your own thing. Stick subversive messages on the notice boards. Take the piss. Cause trouble.

By the way, I see this witless government is planning to track and record everyone coming in and out of the country. If they do this in their usual manner, the information will be automatically forwarded to every burglar in the country.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

PM overtakes Becks as dullest speaker

Thanks to Georgia Kennedy of Western Australia for passing this one on. I knew it, but never knew everyone else agreed.

A new poll rates Gordon Brown as Britain's most boring speaker, ahead of footballer David Beckham and actress Kate Winslet.

Brown's "cerebral style" placed him ahead of Beckham. Brown once used the phrase "post neo-classical endogenous growth theory" in a speech.

The phrase he should try is "I'm fucking useless and I'm leaving". His ratings would shoot up instantly.

The real difference between the Great Lying Haggis and Becks is a) Becks is good at what he does and b) he's a nice guy.

Some curious paradoxes – and one moral

I am not quite old enough to remember the days when the German Mark was so devalued that you needed a wheelbarrow-full to buy a loaf of bread.

But I do know that it all started with printing money – Mugabe economics – which is what Gordon Brown has resorted to

The Daily Mash came out with a good take on this the other day.

“So the Bank of England will today start pumping £75 billion of brand new cash into the economy. It's going to do this by giving it to the high street banks we already own so they can lend it back to us with interest.

Many economists have written long, complicated articles explaining why this is a good idea, but no-one has, as yet explained, why it's a better idea than just giving each of us twelve and a half grand of free money to spend on cars and gin.

Well, Mr Economist?”

As I mentioned, two weeks ago I did a talk for the Market Research Society. Much of it revolved around something said by the gent above, Leo Burnett, for whom I worked in the early 60’s in my first job in London.

“The public does not know what it wants … there is no sure way of finding out until the idea is exposed under normal conditions of sale. If people could tell you in advance what they want, there would never have been a wheel, a lever, much less an automobile, an airplane or a TV set.”

I was reminded of this when reading about a self-serving piece of research in the Aussie trade rag, B & T. which claimed that outdoor branding advertising would save the banks, and that the least effective way of banks gaining the public’s trust is on-line.

Immediately below this an equally self-serving piece said that PR is better than advertising.

Ignoring the fact that both pieces of research were probably conducted among 23 resident marsupials of Rottnest island, and the fact that almost all bank advertising is meaningless pap, and the fact that everybody and his mother is an instant advertising expert, what is a body to do?

Especially when yesterday I also read that for the first time in 60 years, US direct mail volumes are down, whilst online continues to thrive. What is a body to do?

Here's a hint. Among the people who are coining it online by the million, the online entrepreneurs I was talking to two and half weeks ago in Washington, the smartest are looking at direct mail.

They realise, unlike so many of the cluckheads rubbing marketing departments, that there is no one-weapon answer.

They realise, unlike the big-firm know-nothings whose lives are governed by corporate guidelines and interminable, pointless meetings**, that you just have to go on what works.

So THAT is what a body has to do. Go on results. Not on phoney research. Not on the current fad in marketing La-La land.

I am off to Warsaw today, where I shall say what I have been saying for a long time, even if one half of the people weren't listening and the other half were busy rewriting their wanky "strapline".

Focus on three things – only. Get more customers. Get them to buy more. Keep them longer.

There are no other ways to make more money. If what you plan does not do at least one of them, save your money. You're going to need it.

** Not long ago I was in a meeting where 12 people - TWELVE - were discussing a direct mail campaign. There's a lot of corporate flab to be cut away yet, friends.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Avert your eyes, sensitive readers

My ex-partner Glenmore Trenear-Harvey is an intelligence expert who appears fairly regularly on screen . Here he is on Russian TV, looking as though someone had just made an excessively obscene suggestion.

To me, though, his most agreeable speciality has been a never-ending fund of jokes.

The latest is about the man who walks into a library and asks for a book on
Tourette's. The librarian says, "Fuck off, you cunt."

The man says, "Yep, that's the one."

This is the more polite of the two jokes I have on Tourette's. Another one is unspeakably obscene, and never fails to convulse me with laughter. I did warn you not to read this if you're easily shocked didn't I?

You can blame my son Nick the musician for this one.

An out of work pianist with Tourette’s Syndrome is strolling around the streets and bars of Soho one unemployed afternoon.

Walking down Dean Street he sees a lounge bar with a sign in the window 'Pianist wanted for evening performances'.

'Fucking get in there, you cunt!' he says to himself and goes enters the bar.

'Get the fucking manager of this pig-shit middle class wankhole please, you cunt', he says to a somewhat startled barman.

The barman however obliges - and his manager comes upstairs. 'Can I help you, sir?' he enquires

'Yes you can, you fat piece of shit, I saw your poxy advert in the cunting window and I'm here to audition – wanker!'

The manager is naturally put off by the man's abrasive manner, but his dire need for a top class pianist forces him to agree to an audition.

The first tune the Pianist plays is an uplifting jazzy number - not too involving, yet utterly melodic.

At the end the thrilled barman cries, 'Wonderful, wonderful. What was that called?'

'That song, you big-nosed twat, was called "Excuse me, prime minister, but I just jizzed in your daughter's eye, and now the cunt's blind”

'Oh' says the manager. 'Er, can you play me another? Something a little less "lively".

'Wanker!” interjects the pianist before launching into a powerful ballad which leaves the manager in tears.

The manager, through his salty teardrops, asks him the title. 'That little number was called "Sometimes when you do a bird up the shitbox you get crap on your bell end.'

'I see' says the manager, 'Have you any songs with less offensive titles?'

'Well, there's my jazz number "Do you want me to split your ringpiece", or there's the epic "I don't care if you're older, my dear, you've still got gorgeous jugs".

'Look' says the manager interrupting, 'I think you're a superb pianist, but the titles of your songs are a little "racy". I will hire you on condition that you do not introduce your songs or speak to the audience.'

‘Fuck it' says the pianist 'Why not?'

On his first night everything is going superbly; the crowd is lapping up his repertoire and his silence is being perceived as modesty.

The only thing putting him off is that in the front row there is a gorgeous blonde in a black evening dress with a split up the side revealing the tops of her stockings, and a plunging neckline which boasts a proud and inviting cleavage.

During the interval the pianist has such a stonking hard-on that he decides to go to the bog and knock one out.

Just as he has shot his muck he hears himself being re-introduced over the tannoy, so he rushes back to the stage and finishes his act.

After the show he is at the bar relaxing when the blonde approaches him. 'Hi' she says in a sultry voice.

'Hello' he winces, struggling to hold in the expletives.

She leans over and whispers in his ear, 'Do you know your cock is hanging out of your trousers, and spunk is dribbling onto your shoes?'

'Know it?' says the pianist putting his beer on the bar confidently …

'I fucking wrote it’.

Friday, 6 March 2009

So what are you REALLY doing now?

Yesterday I had lunch with my partner in a firm that runs events in a few countries, together with a lady friend he wanted me to meet.

The excuse was to discuss an idea she has had for an online community which I think is frankly brilliant. So we met at the Frontline Restaurant off Praed Street, which I thoroughly recommend. The wine list is superb, the food excellent.

The restaurant has fond associations for me, because across the road in one direction is the office where 40 odd years ago I got much of my education in direct marketing and a few other things, whilst in another is a porn shop whose owner at around the same time asked me if I'd like to pose for some dirty photos.

I refused because I felt I wouldn't be able to rise to the occasion. At the time I thought it was a great career opportunity lost, but I was quite right. I can tell you from subsequent experience that it's very, very difficult. Anyone who can get a stiffy to order without chemical assistance when someone says "lights, camera, action" gets my complete admiration.

Anyhow, being not only startlingly attractive but clever, my partner's friend had taken the trouble to read this blog before meeting, and when I admitted that many of the entries are written at highly unsociable hours, she said, "I can tell!"

So that is why there are so many typos, gentle reader.

But this entry was prompted by that question they have on those social networking sites that says, "What are you doing now?" I have no idea why so many of us are prompted to tell this to the world, especially as for the most part the answers are unspeakably banal and clearly omit many of the most common human activities, as in "Having a wank" or "About to take a dump" or "Farting uncontrollably" not to mention "Picking my nose",

Apart from all the above, what I have been doing recently is reading a biography of Silvio Berlusconi, Mr. and Mrs. Bliars' good friend. He is the chap who runs and owns a fair percentage of Italy. Every time I moan about the Fat Haggis or the Bliar my radiant partner who is Italian only has to say: "Berlusconi" in a menacing way to shut me up.

The book really does make the point that compared to Silvio our lot are a bunch of boy scouts (those are the people Obama had more time for than the Haggis yesterday). Berlusconi was clearly closely associated with, helpful to and funded by the Mafia to the tune of at least three hundred billion lire - either that or he found the money in a paper bag someone left in a public toilet by accident.

He's only running Italy instead of being in jail because he's repeatedly managed to rig the law in his favour, and his skill at bribing judges is one reason why Mr. Mills, "estranged" husband of our Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowls, has been sentenced to jail. I bet he never serves a day.

Incidentally, for those of you who think I'm really a secret agent for the Tory party, I spent a fair bit of time over the last few days reflecting on how all those mawkish pictures of David Cameron cradling his dead son got into the papers. Is there nothing politicians won't do to win votes? And why do our crapulous media make it so easy for them?