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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Woe! Cliché and jargon pollute the world

About 60 years ago George Orwell wrote a fine essay called “Politics and the English language” which was an attempt to explain why politicians’ speeches were so boring.

Nothing much has changed since, except that now almost everybody seems to have caught the politicians’ nasty habits

Orwell gave six rules for better writing, which included:

It you can cut a word out, do so.
Never use a long word if a short one will do.
Avoid cliché and jargon.

One of my clients is a compulsive jargon-meister. I keep reminding him of these simple rules - I even run a regular seminar for him on the subject - but it doesn’t help since he doesn't attend. Today he ruined my appetite for breakfast by sending me a piece that described someone as a “delivery vehicle”.

Then my old friend Glenmore Trenear-Harvey, bon viveur and intelligence expert, compounded the problem by sending me something so bad it is almost farcical. It is part of a message from the Henry Jackson society. Almost every word is a cliché.

It reads:

Choppy waters ahead for Brown

Gordon Brown's beleaguered government recently greenlit a new £4bn aircraft carrier project. However this should not detract from the fact that the British military remains chronically underfunded.

The nastiest thing in that, perhaps, is "greenlit" for "approved". The man who wrote it should be taken out and shot for vile, unnatural cruelty to the English language.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Want to save the environment?

I often quote Lord Salisbury, one of more lugubrious of Queen Victoria’s prime ministers, who said: “One thing long experience of life has taught me is that you never should trust experts.”

This maxim applies with special force to do-gooders.

Take recycling. Next time you see a piece bearing some pious message about “this was printed on recycled paper”, take the article in question and wipe your arse on it.

The processes (especially the bleaching) used to recycle are far more damaging to the environment than the alternative.

And I might add that for every tree used in Scandinavia to produce paper, two or three more are planted. It’s the law, and I imagine the same applies in Canada.

That’s just a snippet I learned from a printer the other day. It’s true.

The most damaging thing for the environment is the hot air produced by experts who fly at vast expense to exotic spots where they get together to pollute the surrounding area - and the minds of those who listen to them

Friday, 23 May 2008

Thieves, sloths and drones are out to get us

First, sorry about my spelling in the last piece. Besides having the intelligence of a cat, I have the manual dexterity of a two-bottles-of-tonic-wine drunk.

But second, let me ask you how you felt when you learned that the property slump means estate agents are closing down in the hundreds. Was it rather like the way people felt when it was announced Hitler had died?

I thought so.

What a bunch of villains. I am just having our flat valued for the divorce. It is about 800 square feet. Those thieving bastards at John D. Wood claim it will take 6 - 8 hours to do this job - and want to charge around £2,000. A blind man could do it in 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I want to get some electricity reconnected at another property in Bristol. The people at British Gas employ Siemens to do this exacting task which takes about 10 minutes - and charge about £500 for doing so.

Well it would take ten minutes, except the idle sods went there, couldn't park easily and just left. Meanwhile I was paying for someone to sit there and wait all day. My P.A. has been on the phone for about three hours trying to get sense out of anyone about this.

I imagine the boss of British Gas gets paid a handsome six figure sum for this farcical incompetence. And likewise Gauleiter Siemens.

It's true. Shits do rise to the top.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Ever wondered just how very, very clever you are?

Me too.

And now I know, because last Sunday, just before I set out on a quick whiz to dio soine talks in Slovenia and the Czech Republic, my partner and her sister decided to subject me to an intelligence test.

It was one of those online things where you have a certain number of seconds to answer questions involving multiple choice. The sort of thing ten year olds (and Italian women, it seems) do in their sleep.

I took it and it did no good to my self-confidence at all. It turns out that I am about as stupid as you can get. I have the intelligence of a cat.

I suspect that is abiout as thick as you can be - though maybe they have lower categories for goldfish or centipedes.

My partner, conversely, got just about the highest marks you can get. She is as intelligent as a space man, apparently.

All this goes to show that I have been right all these years in claiming that my secret weapon as a marketer is innate stupidity.

Not even the most moronic customer is thicker than me. I really understand them, believe me.

Next Sunday I'm off again to Slovenia and Croatia.

You may reasonably ask why I am going back to the same country - Slovenia - again almost immediately. Well, what can you expect from a stupid sod like me?

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Communism or capitalism? Not as much difference as you think

I’m running around Europe this month promoting a rather nifty new idea my partner had. You can see it at www.Eadim.com, if it’s up.

(That’s the first overtly commercial statement I have made here, I think - but don’t worry; you may not be in the market).

Anyhow we were both speaking in Bucharest on Thursday, where we had a chat with a most entertaining lady who runs a fulfilment house. Besides having a very interesting background – one quarter Turkish, two thirds Tatar, and being very funny - Ilchian Omer is also very smart.

She said something about one of our most-loathed species - bit, fat, dull, stupid, slothful clients – which I thought amazingly perceptive; at any rate, it hadn’t occurred to me.

“We have no trouble at all with them,” she said. “After all, we grew up under communism. They are exactly the same.”

This stuck me like a bolt of lightning.

Of course: it’s all amazingly slow, everyone is afraid of making decisions, they all have to consult someone else, there are about seventeen layers, endless meetings decide nothing, more concern with rules than results, promotion through arse-licking rather than merit, don’t rock the boat, stick around for your pension, toe the corporate/party line, screw the suppliers, the people at the top get all the perks, everyone else gets buggered around, the official language is incomprehensible, the boss goes around boasting in dull speeches, all his cronies are on the board, nobody except them really likes their job – identical.

That is the reason why despite the expected economies of scale, larger organisations don't work, and are often beaten by smaller, niftier ones where everyone knows everyone else. It is the reason why the U.S.army gets clobbered by guerrillas; it is the reason why the National Health Service (world's second largest employer after Indian railways) is a shambles.

Interestingly, Gordon Brown’s approach has always been communist – “ We know what to do with your money better than you do - and we'll waste it on things that don't work until one day everything falls to bits."

The best organisations trust their people. The worst don't. And it doesn't matter what the ideology is. People first!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Am I missing the plot here, or what?

Economics was described by some wit as “the dismal science.”

I just read some lugubrious economist predicting dire things if the Bank of England doesn’t act swiftly.

The "downturn" is, he said, going to be worse.

It seems GDP is likely to “plunge” from 3% to just 1.7% growth, which reminds me of another remark to the effect that statistics are a way of stating half-truths inexactly.

Those figures beg one or two questions in my simple mind, the first being why can't this man speak plain English?

If growth is a downturn, what is the opposite? Is a slump an upturn

What perverse logic dictates that anything less than growth is a disaster? Who says things always have to get better?

Would it be the end of the world if they didn’t? Since the great and good think we’re using up too many natural resources, wouldn’t it be a good thing?

Anyhow, I started a business with two partners in the middle of a downturn in the late '70's. We had our own personal little downturns, too. None of us had any money and I owed £10 grand to the taxman - a lot then. Eight years later I managed to foist the whole thing on Ogilvy and Mather for quite a lot, which considering I am an abysmal business man is quite amazing.

While we’re on the subject of the improbable, how the hell did the Bliar/Brown team manage to increase taxes 50% without improving anything the Bliar promised eleven years ago? Not the schools, not the hospitals, not the transport system, not housing, not crime (another teenager murdered on Saturday), not defence. Nothing.

That really is remarkable. Mind you, there is some poetic justice since as the pied piper skips off into the distance buying up multi-million pound properties left and right and getting paid tons by the gullible, the miserable old grouch who stopped him spending is left holding the bag.

Actually, that's not quite true: the Bliar is still stuck with Cherie baby.

    Saturday, 10 May 2008

    I'm so glad you asked

    Long ago when the U.S. had real presidents rather than performing seals running things, Thomas Jefferson said that the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.

    This occurred to me when yesterday I saw the headlines about that poor barrister who got shot.

    One paper, using the most shopworn cliché to hand, said he was shot down in a “hail of bullets”. Others asked one of the more stupid questions I have seen lately outside the exchanges between Clinton and Obama: why was he killed with five bullets?

    Whilst I am not a trained marksman, I think I can work that out for the benefit of the morons who asked. When a team of you are shooting at someone, you don’t politely turn to each other, bow politely, and say, “After you.” You shoot as quickly and accurately as possible. If there are several of you and you aim properly, more than one will hit the poor target.

    Is that clear? The only question remaining is why it took a small army to do the job. Probably because getting in a bit of target practice against one poor drunk in Chelsea is more fun and less dangerous than stopping posses of 14 year-olds shooting at each other (and anybody who gets in the way) with rocketlaunchers outside hip-hop clubs in Peckham.

    Next week I shall be discussing other tricky questions like how to wipe your arse.

    Friday, 9 May 2008

    Right idea, wrong corpse

    Maybe I should be careful what I say here, because one of my best friends is an eminent divorce lawyer, but …

    Just down the road from me in Chelsea they had a shoot-up a couple of days ago.

    Everyone in England has probably read about it, but for those of you who live in far off places where they shoot people every day - or alternatively they live in blissful harmony - I should explain.

    This is not a snide remark – kids shoot each other here all the time either on purpose or by accident, usually over drugs or “disrespect”, a brilliant concept imported from the wonderful world of rap.

    A divorce lawyer had a row with his wife, also a divorce lawyer then started shooting at people from the window of his £2,200,000 Chelsea apartment. The police were called in and a gun battle took place.

    The sad ending was summed up in a sign I saw outside a newspaper vendor’s stall yesterday: “Why did they kill my son?” – lawyer’s mother. To which the answer, I’m afraid, must be “Because he was shooting at people, dear, and wouldn’t stop”.

    The lawyer was described as “high flying” in the papers – which seems somewhat of an understatement considering the way he carried on. He was certainly an alcoholic. All bad news, especially for my partner’s sister, Maura, who saw some of it and feels she was the only person around who wasn’t interviewed.

    All this brings me to a confession I have avoided making in these rambling pages, but now is the time. I am in the middle of a long-running divorce, and I can easily think of one lawyer I would happily see shot – the patronising rapacious smoothie who represents she who must be paid off.

    My own lawyer commented to me a couple of months ago that the U.K. is the world’s divorce playground for women. I suspect he is right – but see what you think.

    When my soon-to-be-ex and I got together she was living in a rather squalid flat in a rundown council estate – what you call a project in the U.S. She had two daughters of 12 and 15, three babies under the age of 2 and no income.

    Over the years that followed I provided for them, adopted the young ones and gave them a private education which was more than I could afford for my own older children. In fact life was, to say the least, rather different to the one I found them in. Like trips round the world, for instance, three houses, and at one time no less than five vehicles of one kind or another (strange, as I don’t drive).

    Having done all this as the law stands it is apparently reasonable for me to give her all our jointly-owned property. This is because regardless of the reason why she ever came to enjoy it in the first place (me – since she never worked) the law says she must continue to have the life she is used to – though she only became used to it because I provided it. A bit circular, wouldn't you say?

    Is this enough for her? No. She would like an income, too. Although she has never worked, she feels I should carry on doing so. And since I have continued supporting her in the four years since we parted, she is in no hurry to come to court. Why should she be?

    As far as I can see, by the way, the law says nothing about my right to carry on having the life I am used to.

    As some wit once remarked, "No good deed shall go unpunished".

    I believe many lawyers feel this kind of bias in favour of the wife has gone too far. You could say that, couldn’t you?

    Anyhow, I decided this morning that one person who really should be shot, even if only a little, is whoever at London Underground authorised a fatuous recording to tell passengers they should carry bottles of water in this warm weather.

    What patronising wankers. They should stop talking to us as though we’re all witless seven year olds and worry more about the trains running on time.

    That message sums up one thing seriously wrong nowadays: total, nitpicking obsession with what doesn’t matter at the expense of taking care of things that do.

    Thursday, 1 May 2008

    Ah, now I know what’s wrong. It’s sex addiction

    I have just been reading an article in The Independent which explains something that has been dogging me (if you’ll excuse the pun) all my life.

    I am suffering from sex addiction. You can read about my sad state in http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/features/sex-addiction-the-facts-from-the-fruity-fiction-817896.html.

    This discovery has come as a huge relief to me (if you’ll excuse another pun) after over 50 years of pain. It all started at my prep school, doctor, when I discovered the joys of mutual masturbation, pretty much by accident.

    The first time I came I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Some terrible urge I couldn’t resist made me want to repeat the sickening experience - not just once, but many times. I found that pictures of ladies who had forgotten to get dressed made it even more fun.

    It seems, according to researchers who want to study something sexy, that 3 to 6% of the population suffer from this appalling condition, most are male, and it’s not doing their marriages much good. It also seems that by coincidence many, probably most addicts are very rich, famous and have just been found out by their wives.

    Michael Douglas was one famous case I recall. What could possibly have led him to fall for Catherine Zeta Jones? Sex addiction. Tony Curtis, who once tried to pinch my beautiful second wife's pert little derriere had problems too, I think. And although the researchers say it seems to afflict males mainly, I wonder whether the Danish film actress who, one night years ago when I was still attractive, grabbed my crotch, was just a helpless addict, poor thing. I also know two girls whose hobby used to be seeing how many blow jobs they could give to helpless males.

    This dire problem has been around for a long, long time. There is the case of King David and Bathsheba in the Bible, for instance. Solomon in his wisdom even wrote a song about it. Come to think about it, what about Potiphar's wife?

    Every time I go to my dentist in Harley Street I look at a picture of the Victorian Prime Minister, Gladstone, who used to live in the house, and recall that he had a compulsion to go and spend time helping prostitutes, the saintly fellow. I am glad I have been too cheap to bother except once years ago when drunk in the Rue St. Denis.

    This made me reflect on another politician suffering from an addiction. The former Deputy Prime Minister of this country Mr. John Prescott has revealed just before his biography comes out that he was suffering from bulimia when he was so signally failing to do an even halfway good job.

    That explains everything. He was not, as we all thought, a flabby, lazy, greedy , utterly useless, overpaid bully who never achieved anything useful; and he surely wasn’t hoping to arouse a flicker of interest in his wretched apology for a life story, was he? No, the fat bastard was suffering.

    The symptoms of sex addiction are painful, but easily spotted – a constant desire to get into bed with attractive women, often more than one at a time if possible; looking at girls constantly; thinking about sex every few seconds; a keen interest in pornography – which again, seems to have been around since ancient times – and so on.

    If you are male and suffer from these symptoms, make your way quietly and without fuss to a therapist. Most large cities have them. If you are a woman and even vaguely attractive, don't worry, most males will oblige after three drinks. That's the way they are - helpful.

    Maybe these poor addicts are just bored with what they get at home. Maybe it is because of the phenomenon other researchers have discovered, that women tend to go off sex when it isn’t linked to reproduction. Who knows?

    Actually, come to think of it, I am surprised this problem only afflicts such a small percentage of males, as practically every man I know seems to be battling with it one way or another. Maybe I just have the wrong kind of friends.

    I am obviously a curious case - the other day after I’d been making a speech in Earl’s Court a striking young lady came up to me and told me she enjoyed my helpful marketing idea which she found sexy. I must have misheard or the subject has depths I was unaware of.

    I am just grateful that I am not addicted to heroin, train-spotting, golf, football, poker, politics or buying shoes – though I do love a pair of high heels.

    Anyhow, I have learned to live with my addiction, and I don’t moan about it because I am not rich and famous and am extremely happy with my present domestic arrangements, thank you. And actually, I rather enjoy thinking about sex all the time.

    As my late father in law, Lee V. Richardson used to say to his wife, “Girl, you start worrying when I stop looking.”