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Saturday, 29 November 2008

Sick, sick, sick

I'm lying in bed feeling sorry for myself. I'm good at that.

Someone in my family I thought I could rely on has let me down badly - more on that when I overcome my rage. But the real problem is November. After ten speeches and seminars in sundry places around Europe, plus the usual amount of copy to write, I've ended up with a filthy cold.

I think it was the snow and wet in Latvia, where I croaked away for five hours - but amazingly 99% enjoyed it say the reviews. They must like a good laugh over there.

But have you noticed how your mind makes strange connections when you're a little feverish? Mine did when over a 24 hour period I saw a piece about Hutch, the suave 1930's pianist from Grenada who had an affair with Edwina Mountbatten and then news of the dreadful slaughter in Bombay (which is, by the way, what many locals still call it).

I stayed in the Taj hotel every time I visited India. It really deserves the name Palace - magnificent. I used to do laps of the pool before I started work each day.

But why the carnage? You might blame Edwina's husband, Lord Mountbatten (sometimes called Mountbottom - can't think why), who presided over the handover that led to partition and the creation of Pakistan. Or maybe Nehru (with whom Edwina also had an affair, busy girl) or Jinnah, the Muslim leader. What is certain is that up to a million died in the massacres that took place - which puts the current drama in perspective.

You can certainly blame the fact that at partition the state of Kashmir with nearly 80% Muslim population remained under Indian control. This crazy arrangement caused predictable enmity between the two nations and has inspired most of the terrorism including the latest outrage.

And if there were British terrorists, you can blame the way our government encouraged so many to immigrate from Pakistan, just as with the West Indians, only for the locals to greet them with racism. Yes, they've been encouraged by religious fanatics, but this would never have worked if they weren't alienated to start with.

The older I get the more I hate religion, race and patriotism. They cause almost all the world's miseries, and always have.

That's enough gloom for today, but as a footnote, Hutch also had an affair with Cole Porter. Why do so many people imagine promiscuity began in the '60s? Because they're not educated, that's why.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Good advice, good food - and a little light music

Back in September my friend Rowan Gormley said a couple of things worth remembering in his hilarious talk at our EADIM seminar in Brussels.

1. Never fall for other people’s bullshit
2. Never fall for your own bullshit

The first comes in handy when some Iconic/Legendary/Superstar /Wunderkind (delete whichever doesn’t apply) promises all you have to do to get disgustingly rich while you sleep is buy a course/set of DVDs/be “mentored”/attend a seminar etc., etc.

The second comes in handy whenever you start feeling pleased with yourself, which happened to me in Warsaw this week. It was at the leading Polish business school, and apparently I got the biggest crowd they’d ever had.

This was not because of me – but because three students did a great marketing job. So I don’t feel that smug, but I do feel grateful. Thanks, Kamila, Rafal and (I never got the other name – shame on me).

Rowan, by the way, is the man who set up Virgin Money, Virgin Finance and Virgin Wines with Richard Branson. Besides being a brilliant speaker, like many good folk he is also an excellent copywriter. But I’m biased.

On an entirely different topic, yesterday my partner cooked an amazing meal. It is a speciality of Puglia: mussels with cannellini, tomatoes and garlic. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Over dinner I heard a recording of Moody’s Mood for Love by Amy Winehouse. I was once very unkind about her in this confessional. I apologise. She may be a foolish, sad girl, but she sure can sing – and she knows her jazz.

Moody’s Mood is fiendishly difficult to do. I first heard it in 1964, sung by King Pleasure – a forgotten name who was one of the pioneers of vocalese – singing words to well-known jazz solos. Another great exponent is Annie Ross, of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross – incredibly, still singing in her mid seventies.

I will never forget when I was about 18 I went to hear her sing in the local dance hall in Ashton under Lyne. She sat and talked to me right through the interval when she wasn’t on. God, she was beautiful –and how kind to spend time with star-struck teenager.

Funny how thoughtful gestures like that stick with you all your life.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Thick? Callous? No shame? Clueless? Can’t accept responsibility? You should do well at stalag Haringey - or maybe in the government

If you're unfamiliar with what's going on in Britain I should explain that a 17 month old baby - called "P" - was tortured to death by his so called mother and lovers (one of whom was a Nazi fan) in Haringey, a North London suburb.

On the Haringey website it says: "The safety of children and young people is a matter for everyone - not just those who work in the child protection service.

If you are worried about a child for any reason, contact us and talk about your concerns. Please do not keep your worries to yourself."

This is a mistake obviously. What they meant was "The safety of children and young people is a matter for everyone - except those who work in the child protection service.

If you are worried about a child for any reason, don't waste time talking to us because our boss doesn't think it's any of her business. Keep your worries to yourself."

You see, this little baby died from repeated beatings despite being on Haringey's "at risk" register. By the sound of it, I imagine, you just have to move there to get on that list - and get the help of "social workers".

Mind you, you're not much better off further North. This happened two days after social workers in West Yorkshire were criticised for failing to save four-year-old Leticia Wright, who was tortured to death by her mother, Sharon Wright, and her boyfriend, Peter McKenzie-Seaton

Social workers had, it seems, 60 chances to spot and stop the torture of baby P – and did nothing. The Director of Haringey’s Children and Young People’s Service since April 2005, Sharon Shoesmith, refused to apologise or resign over the baby’s death.

She said she was just a “facilitator”. Of what? Torture, apparently, since the department she so clearly fails to run did nothing to stop it.

When sixty years ago the Nazis defended themselves against slaughtering millions in their holiday camps they said they were just following orders … it was never their responsibility.

People nearby would say they didn’t know what was going on. They had excuses, too - and one was very compelling. They would say it was nothing to do with them; but more to the point, they couldn’t have stopped it if they tried, which would have been very dangerous anyhow.

But what about people who are paid to stop appalling cruelty, and can't be bothered, or even say "it's nothing to do with me"? At least the people who turned a blind eye in Germany were not employed to prevent it.

But Sabah al-Zayyat, consultant paediatrician was. She - the last doctor to see Baby P alive, two days before his death - didn't notice a broken back and ribs. She thought the baby had a cold. And the examination "could not be completed" because the baby was “miserable and cranky”. What a surprise, and how awful that a doctor should have to deal with cranky babies. It shouldn't be allowed. Sabah used to have a senior job at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, by the way. Bit of a worry.

Then there is Maria Ward appointed social worker for Baby P on February 2, 2007, and making her first visit 20 days later. Baby P’s mother reassured her that she was OK. Four days before Baby P died, Ms Ward found him in his pushchair with chocolate all over his face and hands.

The chocolate was to cover up the bruises. Ms Ward was happy to leave the boy with his mother because she appeared to be "co-operative and properly supported" whatever that means. She still works at Haringey Council.

And how about Paulette Thomas, the health visitor who saw the boy only four times in six months but did a one-year check and reported “no concerns”. Gilly Christou a “team manager” – what a team! - at Haringey Social Services, reported in March that the baby “appears to have a high pain threshold”.

She said: “It is concerning he does not seem to react to danger or pain. Only his mother can stop him, he does not seem to stop himself”

What a dreadful bunch. Are they graded for stupidity before being taken on?

You just know, don't you, that those responsible at higher levels were warned, but did nothing. A lawyer acting for M/s Nevres Kemal, a former social worker at Haringey, wrote to then health secretary Patricia Hewitt - and three other ministers in the shambles she ran - calling for an investigation into the authority's failings in dealing with child abuse cases.

"Statutory child protection procedures are not being followed. Child sex abusers are not being tackled," said the letter sent to Ms Hewitt last February. Did Hewitt do anything? A glance at her record will give you a sure-fire answer. Like a good Bliar Babe, she ordered an enquiry, and all those bodies with meaningless initials that clog up the running of this country started passing the parcel.

The letter was passed to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), which wrote back suggesting the matter should be referred to the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) which regulates social care in England.

"Our records show that we received a letter dated February 16th 2007 that was forwarded to us from the Department of Health, detailing an employment tribunal issue with Haringey Council, and containing an allegation that child protection procedures were not being followed in Haringey," the department said. (Who the fuck pays all these useless minions? We do.)

"The permanent secretary of the DCSF has looked at the reply and is confident that the proper procedures were followed." Well, that's OK, then. If the procedures were followed, how could anything go wrong.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) said it raised the allegation directly with Haringey at a formal meeting and was satisfied the council had dealt properly with the case.

The rot clearly infests Haringey, because this the second such case in 8 years. There was a dreadful scandal after eight-year-old Victoria Climbie was maltreated and murdered by her guardians in 2000, and everything (the procedures, anyhow) was tightened up. Or not, as the case turned out.

Good to know that those of who work in the real world will be helping to pay the guaranteed pensions of creatures like Shoesmith. Dare we hope that if by some happy accident someone gave her a good slapping a nearby policemen will say "Sorry, Miss, I'm just a facilitator."

Sorry, Rich, you're wrong about Obama

A few years ago I did a seminar for Kendall-Jackson, the big wine-maker.

The attendee who paid most attention was Jess Jackson, the firm's 70 plus billionaire boss.

Before that, in my first board meeting at the Ogilvy group, I noticed that David Ogilvy took more notes than anyone else.

There's a moral there. The best people study more.

I may not be an Ogilvy or a Jackson, but I try to keep learning, especially about the new media.

This morning I read that Rich Schefren claims that the real reason Obama won was better social marketing. I quote:

Since the conventions, blog posts mentioning Obama outnumbered those referencing McCain by more than 3 to 1.

--Obama's number of MySpace friends grew steadily over the past few months while McCain's remained relatively flat. By election day, Obama had almost 4 times the number of friends McCain had

--While those MySpace figures are remarkable, the Twitter stats are even more eye-popping. Obama had nearly TWENTY FOUR times the amount of followers that McCain had.


And it doesn't end there. I found similar numbers for FaceBook and YouTube usage as well, with Obama clearly outpacing McCain.

Obama's tactic was a masterpiece--targeting the younger, more technically literate crowd (many who had never voted or even bothered to register) and hit them right where they live--on social networking landscape.

The subsequent result was a MASSIVE following that grew larger and larger by the day. And those same people made a huge impact at the polls.

So what does this all mean? ...

Well, what it means, as usual, is that good ole Rich is about to sell me something - which comes as no surprise.

But what it also means is that Rich is appealing to all those simple folk who like to think there is a nice easy pat answer (and solution) to everything, and who keep buying all these "I'll make you rich" nostrums.

Of course, Rich will give you very good advice, as do most of the others like him. But sorry, nothing in life is that simple. Not even remotely.

First of all, it was not just the "younger, more technically literate crowd (many who had never voted or even bothered to register" that swung it. It was also the older, black, not very literate crowd - like the 103 year old man whose example was often quoted.

And it was not just social marketing. It was overwhelming TV advertising. It was being black but not too black. It was being a better speaker. It was "the economy, stupid". It was reaching into neighbourhood churches. It was not having Sarah Palin. It was guilt about race. It was many things.

By coincidence, last week I did a one hour webinar for my Eadim students called "Your army" which dealt with the way so many people think one weapon will win a war. I didn't mention Obama. I started by quoting Sun Tzu and suggested 10 different weapons you can use to achieve your ends, to a variety of audiences.

The real problem with most marketers was well put by Neitszche. "To a man with hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Bliar's friend does it again

I must apologise.

I was going to write about the £12 million the great Bliar has earned from making speeches since he left this country in the shit and in the gentle care of the Prudent Haggis.

I was thinking of likely titles. "How Dubya and I found victory in Iraq and Afghanistan" seemed a runner. Or "Cherie is right. I really am a better leader than Winston Churchill" and perhaps "Why Silvio always gives me a big wet goodnight kiss when we stay at his villa".

Then of course Silvio Berlusconi spoilt my plan rather as he is busy running what's left of Italy by excelling himself, with his remark about Obama being "good-looking, young and tanned". This is what passes for wit amongst racist ex-cruise ship crooners and it produced a wonderful riposte in the form of a banner carried by one of the many thousands who marched in protest: "Better young and tanned than a bald dwarf."

Nobody knows where Tony's friend got his money from, but everybody knows that each time he gets into power he passes laws to prevent himself being investigated and prosecuted. Poor Italy.

The country reminds me of the famous saying about another country - Mexico - also full of wonderful people betrayed by corrupt politicians and unbelievably vicious criminals. "So near to the United States, and so far from God".

By the way, have you seen "Gomorra" the absolutely wonderful film about the Camorra in Naples? Those are the kind of people Berlusconi appears to favour. As soon as he got into power the first time he dismissed the heroic (and often fatal) efforts of the honest magistrates of Italy. What an utter shit. When you mix with people like that it says something about you.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Nouns into verbs ... good enough for Shakespeare

Here's a bit of trivia for you.

My partner was just taking the piss out of something she was reading, which ran: "When I chaired my first session, I tabled a resolution ...."

Then she burst out laughing and said, "And did they then wardrobe something and desk something else?"

I took her to task instantly, pointing out that we work in an industry where people don't try anything, they "trial" it.

I don't know why I find this habit of turning nouns into verbs irritating, because Shakespeare did it all the time.

I just got that off my chest because I've been writing all day long and my brain is frying.

My next piece will be about the Bliar's £12 million and how he earned it ...

Saturday, 1 November 2008

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

That is from Emerson, and occurred to me because after being so rude about religion, I found something a month or so ago, by a bishop whose name, I shamefacedly admit I did not note.

But The Church of England comes out with so much politically correct hogwash today that it was a blessing to find something not just good, but inspiring.

Here it is. I think very appropriate for these troubled times. I was very moved.

A COUPLE of years ago I was due to lead an assembly at a Church of England comprehensive school that I visited regularly. This is a tough gig: seven or eight hundred adolescents, crowded into a hall first thing on a Monday morning and forced to endure a hymn, a prayer, a worthy talk and, usually, a ticking off.

On this occasion my anxiety levels were particularly high since I had not really prepared anything much to say. It was the beginning of Lent and I had a vague idea about encouraging them to take something up rather than give something up, but as I walked to the school I became all too aware that my situation was similar to driving in the fast lane of the motorway, with no petrol in the tank, and realising you’ve just gone past the services.

But these moments of panic can also be moments of prayer, moments when we are more open to the wiles of God. And it was almost as I got up to speak that a crazy idea was suddenly born within me. I stood up and found myself saying something like this:

‘We live in a crazy, frantic world. Our world is full of movement and noise. Even this morning, in the few hours since you woke up, you have probably filled your time with the radio, the TV, the computer, the PlayStation; you’ve probably phoned someone and texted half a dozen others. As you got dressed, washed, showered, ate your breakfast and came to school, noise and busyness have accompanied your every move.

I believe many of the world’s problems are caused by our inability to sit still and to be quiet and to reflect. I believe that, in this season of Lent, we should try to give upbeing so frantic, and we should take on some moments of stillness.’

Then I stopped, as if I had lost my thread (actually, it felt as if the thread were being handed to me inch by inch, and even I was not aware what was at the end). And I said to them, ‘Hey, you don’t know what on earth I’m talking about, so let me give you a demonstration. Let me show you what I mean. This is what I’m suggesting you do, each day in Lent, for exactly one minute. It will change your life.’

I then picked up a chair, placed it in the centre of the stage, and slowly and carefully sat down upon it, with my feet slightly apart and with my back straight and with my hands resting gently on my knees. And, for a minute, I sat still. I didn’t say anything, and I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t even consciously praying. I was just sitting there. And I breathed deeply, and I thought about my breathing. And when I reckoned the minute was over, I stood up.

But before I could say my next bit, there was a huge, spontaneous round of applause. Now, I had done lots of assemblies in that school. On many occasions I had slaved over what I would do or say to capture the imaginations of young people. But I had never had a response like this. In fact, in the days that followed, I was stopped in the street on several occasions by parents who told me that their child had come home and told them about the priest who took assembly and just sat on the stage in silence for a minute and then suggested they might do the same thing.

Because, when the applause died down, that’s what I’d said. I just suggested that sitting still, being silently attentive to things deep within ourselves and things beyond ourselves, would make a difference. You didn’t need to call it prayer. You didn’t need to call it anything, because it would be in these moments of sedulous stillness that God could be discovered.