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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Three charity lessons from Scrooge Bird before the New Year begins

An hour ago I was stopped outside Heals on the King's Road by a guy collecting for the Painted Children Charity.

"Sorry," I said, "I've already given. You lot are everywhere."

This is true - they've been doing an amazing job. He was not put off, though, and in what sounded to me a heavy Slavonic accent said, "Ah, but you must give. This is your last chance."

Being insatiably curious, I asked, "Where are you from?"

"Guess," he replied.

"I looked at his name tag. "Armenia," I said.

"No," he responded. "If you cannot guess you must give £10 donation. This is last chance of year, last chance of decade. You should give."

I looked again at his name. "Georgia," I said.

"You are right," he replied.

I said, "Never mind, I'll give you some money anyhow."

"Not good English," he said, "but good at fundraising."

Giorgi - that was his name - knows that any reason, even an illogical one, is better than no reason if you want people to cough up. He understands the power of likeable persistence, and knows that people like to play games.

He knows a lot more than many people who get paid good money for charity fundraising

A good man.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Great Elmer Gantry tradition lives on

Many of us, I am sure, have heard the story about the founder of Scientology.

Half jokingly perhaps, he said at a meeting of fellow science fiction writers over half a century ago that if you want to make real money you should start a religion. This, of course, he then proceeded to do.

The relationship between wealth and religion seems to go back as far back as history itself. I am forcibly reminded of it every time I go the New Jersey to see my daughter, as her mother is deeply religious in a rather bizarre way and watches all the TV evangelists, all of whom seem extraordinarily well - or rather expensively - dressed for people who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ which I seem to recall rather frowned on the rich.

The best dramatic expose of this sort of thing was probably in the magnificent Elmer Gantry film, starring Burt Lancaster, but it also has close links with direct marketing. One of my early mentors was a lovely man called Gene Griffin, who died a few months ago, and I always recall him telling me gleefully about some people - in Texas, I think - whose main daily activity was not selling anything but opening envelopes with cash in them, sticking it in the bank and living the life of old Riley.

They achieved this by running ads with headlines like "God, I am worried" which then went on to tell the readers that if they were worried all they had to do was send in their name and address, and the people at this establishment would pray for them. They also said, "You don't have to pay us for this at all, but if you'd like to send in a dollar or two, then by all means do." And to add a little encouragement they would tell stories of people who had been worried, but had been helped by prayer.

It worked a treat, and still does. If you're feeling low and a girl comes up from the local Scientology Centre to give you a "stress test" using two tin cans and a piece of string you're less inclined to believe it's a complete load of old bollocks because Tom Cruise believes in it all. There are many variations on this way of gaining belief. The one most popular among people selling those "You can be rich as me in two shakes of a dog's tail through Adwords/speechmaking/copywriting/journalism/synchronised masturbation" courses is the example of Bill Bloke who was down to eating his last pair of old shoes a year ago but now lolls around on the beach in Surfers Paradise being fed Daiquiris by scantily clad bimbos because he sent off for this free video which 5,000 other fools each paid $1,000 for.

Now you're probably thinking I'm about to say all this stuff is rubbish. It is not. It is by no means in the depraved class of, say, Benny Hinn, who may be the world's most successful religious charlatan, making a good $100 million a year out of poor, worried people. The truth is, you can make pots of money out of all the things mentioned, except perhaps the synchronised one, which was my little jest. And there are many people who have done so, because much, though not all, the advice you get is good. I believe there never has been so much sound business advice - much of it free - as you can get online.

The thing nearly all thse people tend to skate over lightly is the fact that you have to WORK at it. It doesn't just happen. Oh, and by the way, before you do buy advice or training it's a good idea to check out the people giving it. If you see that the only business they've ever had is one giving advice to other people - well, draw your own conclusions.

I actually heard the other day about a man who is apparently making millions advising people on how to do direct marketing -without ever having done it himself, or indeed for anyone else - except to sell courses. As far as I can make out he just went to the U.S., took a course or two, and learned how to sell stuff to the gullible masses. I really must check out the times of the next flights to Bullshit City.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

The unexpected joys of Spam ... now that's what I call a pair of kneecaps

I think I mentioned the other day that Steve, who arranges these matters for me, has reset our thing-a-me-bob machine to allow a deluge of spam to come flooding in. This makes life pretty tedious, but there are small compensations in some of the messages.

Now I have to confess having spent many a day, night, week, month and year in dedicated search and reverie related to bizarre sexual frolics of one kind another.

For the most part my time was wasted, which is probably just as well. All the same,I believe I have developed as vivid an imagination as anyone about the esoteric side of these matters. Nevertheless, nothing in my wildest dreams can cope with the picture conjured up by something that came whizzing my way an hour or so ago.

Its subject line read "Ebony Girl With Big Booty On Her Knees". How the hell can the poor girl walk without falling over? And if you wanted to get friendly with her, where exactly would you find the right opening?

It really makes me wish I had paid more attention in my anatomy lessons all those years ago.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The new black market: don't get caught holding the sardines

After the second world war, when I was already middle aged, ha! there was a joke going round about a crate of sardines.

One of the boys on the black market liberated them off the back of a lorry, and sold them on to a pal, who sold them on to his pal, and so on. Eventually one guy opened a can to see what they wee like.

They were rancid, foul, inedible. He rang his friend to complain. "Have you tasted these bleeding sardines? They're foul, disgusting. What a liberty!"

He was greeted with roars of laughter. "What are you playing at? Are you insane? They're for buying and selling, not eating, you schmuck."

And that, friends, is a brief parable that explains why the world's economy is now in shit.

It is also highly relevant to the way so many people are persuaded to buy miracle courses on how to sell when they have nothing to sell, and nobody to sell to.

I was talking to Ken McCarthy about this a couple of weeks ago over lunch. He does give advice on what to sell before his system seminars, and I now recall that I give a long list early in my book Commonsense Direct and Interactive Marketing.

That book is a constant puzzle, mingled blessing and curse to me. Year after year it keeps going, which is good, but year after year I have to keep revising it. Aaargh.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Is there a greater curse than fanatical religion? I sometimes wonder

The greatest pain for me in the last few days has been a plague of spam.

Recently a few people have had their messages to me bounce, so one theory was that this was caused by the Spam filter, which was reset to let everything come through.

I don't think it's solved the problem, to be honest, but I am mystified by a couple of things. First, there seems to be an obsession with "designer" watches; and second nobody offers to lengthen my penis any more. This is a sad state of affairs. Do these people know something about my sex life that I don't?

My son Nick who is next to me just asked, "What sex life was that, then? Anyhow I get exactly the same e-mails. I wouldn't mind, but most of them are from my girlfriend."

But these are petty problems indeed compared with what happened to the two Shiite pilgrims and eight bystanders killed in a roadside bombing in Baghdad on Saturday afternoon.

Whose God was pleased by that, do you suppose?

Which reminds me that the man who finally ended the great Global Warming Pantomime in Copenhagen by comparing the proposed plan to the Holocaust was a Sudanese. We English are supposed to be masters of the hypocritical, but some of these shameless bastards leave us in the shade. He represents a murderous regime that has been conducting its own little holocaust for years, slaughtering Christians by the thousands.

The sad thing is that the evil wretch has a point. It must be very hard for the U.S. , which guzzles more fuel and creates more pollution than anyone on the planet to tell others what to do. Nor have us Brits done much of a job, for that matter, despite the Great Posing Toad's bullshitting on the subject.

A little bouquet of Christmas Nightmares

You don't need to tell me Christmas can be stressful.

39 years ago the lady I was then with sat on the banister outside our flat in Harley Street on Christmas morning and threatened to jump if I didn't marry her.

Since the flat was a penthouse, this was a compelling argument. Nevertheless, horrified by the madness of it all, I left the house and rushed off to Euston to take the train home to Mother. Right strategy, maybe, but wrong tactics -- there are no trains on Christmas Day.

When I got back it turned out she hadn't jumped and about a year later we did marry. Then followed dreamlike years of ecstatic happiness - we were madly in love with each other - punctuated by nightmares, because every few months she would try to kill herself. Although I was no model citizen this was not an ideal menage.

Eventually she left me for a Swedish lawyer with transvestite inclinations, then came back, then left, then came back, then vanished. I regularly search for her on the internet - though I don't know quite why.

When I began this blog I planned to tell stories like that about my life, but somehow I got side-tracked, then sidetracked again - and so on. Rather like my present (and I pray last) partner who eventually flew off to Rome with BA on the 23rd after giving up on Alitalia.

Her plan was to take the train home - but there was no train, so she caught one to Naples where she stayed the night with a friend before being driven across the peninsula back home.

On Christmas Day she was rushed off to hospital with a virus. Not much cheer there either.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

In case you didn't get my "I love London" Christmas card ... plus one that made me laugh

I sent this to a few thousand people, but if you didn't get it, here it is. There's music, so turn up the volume.

Here's one I like from Neil Heywood in New Jersey

Early Dismissal

Christmas is near. The students have turned in all their work and there is really nothing more to do. All the children are restless and the teacher decides to have an early dismissal.

Teacher: "Whoever answers the questions I ask first and correctly can leave early today."

Little Johnny says to himself "Good, I want to get outta here. I'm smart and I'll answer the question."

Teacher: "Who said 'Four Score and Seven Years Ago'?"

Before Johnny can open his mouth, Susie says, "Abraham Lincoln."

Teacher: "That's right Susie, you can go home."

Johnny is mad that Susie answered first.

Teacher: "Who said 'I Have a Dream'?"

Before Johnny can open his mouth, Mary says, "Martin Luther King."

Teacher: "That's right Mary, you can go."

Johnny is even madder than before.

Teacher: "Who said 'Ask not, what your country can do for you'?"

Before Johnny can open his mouth, Nancy says, "John F. Kennedy.."

Teacher: "That's right Nancy, you may also leave."

Johnny is boiling mad that he couldn't answer any of the questions.

When the teacher turns her back Johnny says, "I wish these bitches would keep their mouths shut!"

The teacher turns around: "NOW WHO SAID THAT?"


Politically correct idiocy at Heathrow - plus the usual Alitalia bollocks

Well, at 4:30 this morning the love of my life went off to Italy, having parted with an arm and a leg to fly Alitalia, who have the rare distinction of being the worst airline in Europe with among the most overpaid staff - and have been bankrupt for years.

Could these matters be related, one wonders? Anyhow, Alitalia cancelled their flight - even though BA were still flying there. So it seems Alitalia also have cowardly pilots (who are chauffeur driven to the airport, by the way).

While waiting and praying with other stranded travellers, one girl fainted. So everyone - except the BAA staff - rushed to help. They put her on the ground with her legs up in the air. Finally the BAA staff intervened. Not to help, but to put a screen round her lest other passengers be shocked by her disarray.

When the other passengers wanted to seat her on a chair, they were told it was against health and safety regulations.

How is it possible for grown up people to concentrate with such manic intensity on all the wrong things whilst ignoring the right ones? Even at Christmas, fuckwits rule everything. Which reminds me: the last time I checked the boss of BAA was an ex advertising man, like the twat who gets paid a million a year for failing to run the Royal Mail.

Angels and Ministers of Grace defend us!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

From the friend whose apartment I nearly burnt down

Five years or so back I was staying with my friend George Machun, who is some sort sort of professor at San Francisco State.

I managed the unique feat - remarkable even for someone as technologically asinine as me - of trying to boil water by putting a light under an electric kettle. I nearly burnt the place down.

George forgave me, and sends a regular flow of good jokes and vitriolic political comment.

I liked this one.

A man boarded a plane with six kids.

After they got settled in their seats a woman sitting across the aisle from him leaned over to him and asked,

"Are all of those kids yours ? "

He replied,

"No. I work for a condom company. These are customer complaints.. "


Friday, 18 December 2009

A revealing contrast in the "unnoticed" - but don't these people really take the piss?

My paper this morning gave me not one, but several good laughs.

First there was a picture of Her Majesty the Queen getting - "almost unnoticed" it said - on the train at King's Cross to go to Sandringham.

Unnoticed by whom I wondered? By the photographers who had sod-all to do yesterday, so thought, "Tell you what, guys, we've got nothing much on, so let's just go down to King's Cross Station round about 11.30 just in case something interesting happens."

God, the media make you puke, don't they?

But they're just taking us all for idiots; a revealing contrast with the Copenhagen antics of The Obscene Toad who yesterday gaily gave away £6 billion of your money and mine to poorer countries so they can fight global warming and he can feel good.

What a financial wizard the man is! Here we are, the worst placed of all advanced economies because of him, pissing away money hand over fist, printing banknotes, in danger of losing our AAA credit rating ... and what could be more sensible than to throw another few billion in the direction of countries run by people whose main skill is stealing money from stupid Western Aid donors?

That's enough rubbish for today, folks, before I throw up.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

TanishaBrewer is following me on Twitter - and other random thoughts

This has been a funny old day. Actually, a funny old month, mostly spent scrambling desperately to do all the things I've stupidly agreed to do.

This is not a new state of affairs. I'm always agreeing to do more things than any sensible person, let alone one of my advanced years should, then spending days and nights trying to catch up.

So today first I did a webinar on the old Guinea Pig Trail which went down a treat according to the delegates. Then I did another which was an utter catastrophe as NOTHING worked the way it did when it was tested last night. Utter humiliation.

God, I hate technology.

However, things seemed to be looking up when I heard that TanishaBrewer is following me on Twitter. Now what made me think someone with a name like that might be young enough to be my grand-daughter and have silicone tits? I don't know - second sight maybe - but so it proved. I see little future in our relationship, though. Can't stand silicone.

On another matter, my friend Denny Hatch sent me to http://www.dailyexpress.co.uk/posts/view/146138 which does a good old demolition job on the climate change loonies. I know little about climate change, except that 35 years ago I was paid to write part of a book about it which was mainly concerned with the likelihood of a new Ice Age.

What I do know is that the whole thing seems to be little more than an excuse for a lot of wankers to spend millions of our money to go posturing. And what concerns me far more is that we've made a dreadful mess of our countryside. There aren't as many birds, butterflies, bees and such around as there were - anyone who remembers will agree - because the country has been filled up with the most dreadful rubbish.

Talking about dreadful rubbish, last week when I was in New York I saw a poll revealing that members of Congress are regarded as being even less trustworthy than used car dealers. I imagine the same would be true here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

File with venom under "Who gives a shit" ... and something for the holidays

I just read that a choreographer called Freidman, "fears X-factor winner Joe Elderberry's debut single The Climb could lose the Christmas number 1 spot to the re-released Killing in the Name by Rage against the Machine. "It could happen," he warned.

How d'you vote, folks? If this tragic event occurs you can choose between a National Day of Mourning and a bucket of cold tripe poured over Simon Cowell.

Meanwhile, for those of you who read books, here are two that gave me great joy in the last week.

"Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris is the story of a Chicago ad agency going broke in 2001. Sounds depressing, but is actually hilarious, and a far, far better picture of the real world of advertising than Madmen. You get a very good understanding of why so much advertising is crap, too.

What really surprised me was that nothing seems to have changed since 1966, when I was one of the creative group heads at an agency called PKL. I got my job because Charles Saatchi wanted more money than me. Other rather more talented people than me there were Alan Parker and Peter Mayle.

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" by Paul Torday is equally good. It's funny, touching - and contains a wonderful description of a government that is quite clearly based on the Bliar's. There is an odious press secretary, and the end is most uplifting when the character in that role gets killed as a result of a lunatic photo-opportunity. If only ...

The other reading that is giving me great pleasure is quite different: it's the relaunched, free Evening Standard. I freely admit I got that one wrong. I thought it would go down the pan, but it really is excellent; better than I can ever remember. It's a heartening reminder that even in the tawdry age of Big Brother and the X-Factor a superior product can find an audience.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Who's screwing who now?

Readers may be astonished to know that in my fiery youth I came close to being a communist.

One of my mentors was a wonderful man called Rufus Leven who had been on the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and I was greatly moved by "The Common People, 1746-1946", by G. D. H. Cole and Raymond Postgate**.

This book described how ordinary people in this country had been right royally, disgustingly and comprehensively screwed for centuries by the upper and mercantile classes.

What has changed? Today everyone is being screwed again, but the positions have changed. I am not referring to the obscene and murderous Bliar or the Fatuous Toad, now off to Denmark to save the world, the conceited buffoon. No: I decided this after watching the man who leads a union laughably called Unite (clearly a misspelling, as Dis is missing from the start of the word) explaining why his British Airways members are going to strike over Christmas.

The point at issue is that they refuse to agree to changes at Heathrow which they have already accepted at Gatwick.

His reason is that these changes were "imposed" upon them by management. This is just linguistic sophistry and - far worse - stupid.

What is this man doing? He is mortgaging his member's futures to make a point. It is quite similar to the situation at the Royal Mail, except that the Royal Mail is badly run by overpaid, clueless idiots, and the union leader there is fatter and uglier than the man at Unite.

But both are screwing their members and neither has to worry about his future, because their pensions are secure.

**Small world: Postgate went on to found
The Good Food Guide, which did so much to transform British cooking. I have always been proud that my parents' pub restaurant was in it from the very first edition in 1952.

Monday, 14 December 2009

The insanity of Twitter

So there's this guy who's "following 5130 people".

Oh, really? Has he invented the 52 hour day?

Latest despatch from the wonderful world of Google - plus monkeys reveal why social networks are so popular

I feel like shit today after whizzing over from the Land of the Free, but I was amused when I read this phrase from David Naylor about Google's new “real time search”: "I don’t think ‘clusterf**k’ is too strong a word" - see the rest at http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/google-real-time-search.html

This was brought to my attention by Michael Rhodes, who showers me with good stuff - in fact if you go to his blog you'll see a hilarious piece about an unbelievably smug, condescending Australian bank commercial. That's at http://www.happydude.co.uk.

My last little nugget before dat ole jetlag gets me in its spell came from KenMCarthy over lunch yesterday in Montclair, Noo Joisey. It seem someone did some research with monkeys which revealed that they preferred snorting cocaine to attending to what they should be doing. No surprise there; they would do well in advertising creative departments. Then when the beasts were given a choice between drooling over pictures of very good-looking monkeys (as seen in the simian equivalent of Hello or Grazia) they preferred it to doing coke.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

It's official! I'm an ass ... but I should be feeling a lot worse than I do

Two people in the last 24 hours have told me that whoever among my motley crew does the optimising has got me down as Drayton Bird Ass.

Quite right too, and after my son Phil's annual Christmas Party last night I should be feeling a lot more asinine than usual - but I'm not, even though I drank too much as usual.

The secret is my terpsichorean prowess, about which I have kept quiet. I feel more or less OK because of four hours' solid of getting down with it.

This little talent is something I normally keep quiet about, but my performance as Elvis Travolta, complete with white suit with flares and ludicrous wig at an Awards do a few years ago is still spoken of with reverence, only to be compared with the day I danced across the stage at Shanghai to the astonishment of the Chinese three years ago.

I don't get to trip the light fantastic that much nowadays, but the two things that made me happy last night besides the Pol Roger champagne were the fact that a few people came up and told me how much they like the blog, and the girl I was dancing with who asked who taught me to dance like that. (Nobody; I picked it up in the shady side of Manchester over 50 years ago).

Heavily censored pictures will be available for a small fee.

(Signed) The Ass in Associates

Friday, 11 December 2009

How to write stuff people read

A friend wrote (very amusingly)about the blog written by someone close to her - and asked me what I think he should do - as follows.

He has been writing what he thinks - and as she put it -

It has landed him not just in hot water but in a scalding vat of oil.

He has managed to get himself barred from his local pub, alienated half the local female population (admittedly not hard, given the touchiness of this breed of woman), embroiled himself in somebody else’s employment tribunal and, last but not least, have the editor of the local newspaper phone and scream ‘Libel’ down the phone (he just expressed the very valid opinion that this particular rag was a pile of steaming crap).

Yet if you read the articles, you would think them fairly harmless.

One good thing – he is getting plenty of traffic in his infamy.

However he is quite bewildered by the buckets of vitriol being chucked at him from different corners.

Does he continue to basically say what he really thinks and hang them all? Or should he adopt a more anodyne, a milder approach and stick to subjects such as bronze age monoliths (where the only people you could offend have been buried for 3000 years in stone cairns)?

As you can all imagine, I was flattered to be asked. My view is that if there is nobody he has his eye on among the local witches and the pub is nothing special he should take the advice given by Polonius in Hamlet: This above all: to thine own self be true.

He should do what he thinks is right. And it certainly will continue to get him more and more readers, which I guess is why he is writing.

My view is that if you're not offending someone you're probably boring everyone. Which is why most blogs are not read.

I really am getting too old for this shit – but here’s the name of a surprise good restaurant

Yesterday started at 4 am and finished at 2 am today, if you see what I mean.

I woke at 4 am, all too keenly aware that I had no idea of how to get to La Guardia from Brooklyn. Panic, panic. (I’m good at that).

Got on the internet and found I could go there for $2 on the subway and bus. Yippee! It did take an hour and half though ... then an hour waiting to take the flight to Charlotte, N.C., then another wait to catch the plane to Ashville... then a cab to the Biltmore Hilton.

Things improved as I waited to see the lady I was to meet. I had lunch in the Roux restaurant. Nothing to do with the famous French chefs, but - guess what? – the food would not have disgraced them. Though they would NEVER charge as little as $30 for a light meal with wine.

I cheered up no end, and cheered up even more during my meeting. This is a smart lady I am doing some work with for my Commonsense Marketing, and she talks real sense. Also she agreed with me a lot. I like that in a woman.

But then began the journey back, with a long stopover at Charlotte ... and half a rack of excellent ribs at the airport ... and me missing my first flight because of the misleading signs ... then arriving at Newark after midnight ... and finally Brooklyn and bed.

What was all that about? Just another day in Paradise? Relief at having survived?

Anyhow, now you know where to eat in Asheville.

Later, I'll tell you about my longest day - but first, this made me laugh

Before I lay me down to sleep,

I pray for a man who's not a creep,

One who's handsome, smart and strong.

One who loves to listen long,

One who thinks before he speaks,

One who'll call, not wait for weeks.

I pray he's rich and self-employed,

And when I spend, won't be annoyed.

Pull out my chair and hold my hand.

Massage my feet and help me stand.

Oh send a king to make me queen.

A man who loves to cook and clean.

I pray this man will love no other.

And relish visits with my mother.

I pray for a deaf-mute gymnast nymphomaniac with
big tits who owns a bar on a golf course,
and loves to send me fishing and drinking. This
doesn't rhyme and I don't give a shit.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

New York, New York ... well, Brooklyn, actually. And are you being ripped off?

This is here just because it's a good shot of two shits. The one on the left is Alistair Campbell, Spin-Meister in Chief to the grinning slime-bag on the right. I'll come to him in a moment.

Anyhow, I'm here staying with my eldest in Brooklyn - for my youngest's birthday - and to do a little business re the launch of The Great Guinea Pig venture.

It's freezing, plus dat ole jetlag got me in its spell, so I woke at 5 am ... to read an alarming report from Denny Hatch about a massive internet scam.

Go and look! http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/newsletter/bcs. Then check your credit card statements. I am always astounded at how much good research Denny does. Compared to him I'm a slapdash oaf.

Talking about shits, will the Bliar ever be brought to justice?

Sir John Scarlett who was the intelligence boss at the time - and had the grace to look guilty himself yesterday - says The Grinning Turd's claim that spies had 'established beyond doubt' that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction was 'quite separate from the text of the dossier itself' and that he 'sexed up' the strength of the intelligence with an 'overtly political' foreword making the case for war.

What came out of this? Well, £15 million and counting for Tone and Cherie. Countless thousands dead, troops betrayed by general incompetence and the Monstrous Toad's unwillingness to spend money on what was needed - as opposed to what is not. Also counting.

The shamelessness of these wretches almost defies belief. In earlier times they would have been beheaded. Now they get paid squillions for autobiographies, lectures, consultancies and so on. Mind you, the Turd's autobiography will be filed under Fiction in the Obscene Publications section

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Amanda versus the the Bliar's Mafioso friend

An friend who works for RAI - the Italian equivalent of the BBC - commented on how they bury news over there.

A news broadcast of 30 minutes devoted almost its entire length to the farcical Amanda Knox trial with about one minute given to the kind of item that in any normal civilised country would have been headline news everywhere.

A Mafioso Pentito - that is someone who has repented - revealed that one of the people who commissioned the murder of Judge Falcone was Berlusconi.

(If you don't know who Falcone was, he was a heroic figure who fought the Mafia in Sicily until his car was blown up).

Imagine the equivalent here! That the Prime Minister could have been involved in the killing of a national hero? Would that have been front page news, or what? But then every thinking Italian knows where Berlusconi got a lot of his money from.

One of the reasons I have great reservations about Europe, besides being governed by unelected bureaucrats is the astonishing degree of corruption there at every level - and not just in Italy. Chirac was a crook. Mitterand was a Nazi stooge. Sarkozy doesn't bear thinking about. And what will the future bring, with countries like Bulgaria, where murderers get elected to parliament so as to avoid prosecution.

But then again, a very significant percentage of Indian politicians are convicted criminals. And we all know about the Chinese.

No doubt our lot will catch up. I see the great Toad announced yesterday for the umpteenth time that "he" is going to wage war on benefit frauds. No, he's not. It's another ludicrous case of mistaking an announcement of intent for action. When the tax and benefit system you have created means it pays people not to work, what do you expect?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cherie "never stops worrying about money". Where it came from? The Bliar's ingenious tax arrangements? What?

The Bliar's friend Berlusconi was, as all the world knows, funded by the Mafia, employed at least one Mafioso killer, works hard to frustrate the astonishingly courageous work of the Italian magistracy to fight the Mafia and only stays out of jail by changing the law at regular intervals.

Of course, he is not as responsible for as many widows and orphans as his friend the Bliar, but I wonder what they used to talk about when Tony and Cherie stayed with him? Tax evasion? The Guardian - not exactly a right wing rag - has offered a prize to anyone who can fathom the "byzantine" tax arrangements of the man who did so much, so quickly to destroy our society.

Would a Tory government be any better? Lord Ashcroft, the party's chairman, pays no tax here - Cameron says it's nothing to do with him.. "Zac" Goldsmith, another Cameron crony, has also managed to keep the millions he never earned out of the country. George Osborne, the cupid-lipped sweetie who would be in charge of money if Cameron got his hands on the country got us to to fund his big house.

And the unspeakably vulgar, slimy Bercow's first act as a "clean hands" Speaker in Parliament was to piss away £45,000 of our money tarting up his residence.

What a shameless bunch of hypocritical creeps we have allowed to run things here. Anyhow, what kind of fucking name is "Zac"?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

"Here is the nine o clock news"

That was what they used to say on the dear old BBC before the corporate buffoons ruined it.

But I just put it up because 9 tonight marks the deadline for all who yearn to be Guinea Pigs in the Commonsense Marketing thingamybob - www.draytonbirdlearning.com.

We need two diamond geezers and one gold to have a full complement. Then I can start improving it.

The word "newsreaders" reminds me that we used to use one for the Readers' Digest TV ads. He was so old that each year we worried lest he might pop off while we were filming. But what credibility!

A wonderful example of public idiocy. Just because a man reads the news people think he can be trusted. Weird!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Chaos, misery, catastrophe - but room for four more little furry creatures

This is just to thank all of you who took the trouble yesterday to wade through the techno-chaos at www.draytonbirdlearning.com...

And an even bigger thank you to the 20 'live' guinea pigs who signed up yesterday on top of the original six. I very much I appreciate your help – especially those of you who suffered from sign-up hell - and will make sure you get a little something for doing so.

I just have room for four more on top of the original six, then the site will be "turned off" on Sunday evening. I don't understand all this, but it seems you'll still be able to see it, but you won't be able to join. I don't want to inflict too much of this cruel and unusual punishment, but if you fancy being one of the last four sacrificial rodents, just go to www.draytonbirdlearning.com... and sign up.

You will not be charged for 28 days, and the money back guarantees apply if you want to quit at any time. It won't cost you a penny unless you decide to go ahead, but you must sign up in the normal way so I get your views, warts and all. They'll mostly be warts, as you won't believe how many crass errors we've already uncovered.

That's enough piggery, so why not have a giggle at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A typical example of Marketing Dross, clearly written by a corpse

Every day we are all subjected to small irritations ... like my bloody Drayton Bird Learning site which would have me tearing my hair out if I had any left.

They don't really matter that much. They're just needless and a waste.

Like the dreary email I got today from the semi-literate person who is, when not making tea, amazingly paid to write the messages that sell railway tickets,

It read:

Dear Mr Bird, go further with your Senior Railcard.

Get into the festive spirit this year with a trip to one of many Christmas markets using your Railcard. As well as finding some unique presents, you'll be able to listen to carols, roast some chestnuts and sample some delicious mulled wine.

Alternatively take a winter walk and discover some of our beautiful countryside.

With the 1/3 of all Standard and First Class rail fares - including Advance fares, you can afford to treat yourself this Christmas.

I appreciate this is one of the bi-products of the great Bliar's commitment to "education, education, education". It didn't make me throw up - just cast a pall on my life for a few seconds, just as every sight of words like " iconic", "robust", "holistic"," strategic" and "vision" do.

And goodness knows it's not a big deal compared with the misery we'll all face in the years ahead because of the despicable reptiles who run the banks and our lives - but if you're going to do a job, why not do it properly?

I have found that rewriting little messages like that can actually double sales ... thus, in the end, getting more out of the money spent on marketing ... and, I suppose, keeping those fares down.

These are small things, rather like cleaning toilets, that nobody thinks about, do they?

But they matter. Because if you get the small things right, you may just - barely - have a chance of sorting out the big ones.

Nice one from Rick Fitgerald of Oz

A London Lawyer runs a stop sign and gets pulled over by a Glasgow Copper.

He thinks he is smarter than the Cop because he is a lawyer from LONDON and is certain that he has a better education then any Jock Cop. He decides to prove this to himself and have some fun at the Glasgow Cops expense.

Glasgow Cop says, 'Licence and registration, please.'

London Lawyer says, 'What for?'

Glasgow Cop says, 'Ye didnae come to a complete stop at the stop sign.'

London Lawyer says, 'I slowed down, and no one was coming.'

Glasgow Cop says, 'Ye still didnae come to a complete stop. Licence and registration, please.'

London Lawyer says, 'What's the difference?'

Glasgow Cop says, 'The difference is, ye huvte come to a complete stop, that's the law, Licence and registration, please!'

London Lawyer says, 'If you can show me the legal difference between slow down and stop, I'll give you my licence and registration; and you give me the ticket. If not, you let me go and don't give me the ticket.'

Glasgow Cop says, 'Sounds fair. Exit your vehicle, sir.'

The London Lawyer exits his vehicle.

The Glasgow Cop takes out his baton and starts beating the f*ck out of the Lawyer and says 'Dae ye want me to stop, or just slow doon?'

Talking about slowing down, my Commonsense Marketing site had some glitches yesterday -- but should be up today. Still not perfect, but that's why I want little furry animals ...

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Is our world coming to an end?

This morning I nearly got run over by a police motor cyclist who was racing down the wrong side of the street to stop the traffic so some high-up's car could be given precedence.

I had just been reading about a dire, slapdash "modern" production of Handel's Messiah.

These two events started me thinking about the collapse of the Roman Empire - which few nowadays know about as history has been banned from most schools.

What were the symptoms?

Corrupt, incompetent leaders, divorced from and having lost the respect of the people.

A loss of belief in the values of the civilisation.

Infiltration, sometimes invited, sometimes not, by alien hordes who had great self-belief.

A decline in learning.

Shoddy craftsmanship - evident in architecture and the arts.

A vast and growing population of idlers, subsidised by ever growing taxes on those who worked, and kept entertained by vicious spectacles.

A debauched currency.

The worship of singers, charioteers, gladiators and similar figures.

Recognise anything familiar?

Oh, and who's the chap in the hat? The philosopher, George Santayana, who said "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I often quote him.

Monday, 30 November 2009

I lied ... but not as much as these two bastards

I swore I'd be asking for real live, loveable guinea pigs today ... but relax: it'll be tomorrow. Sod the internet.

Meanwhile, now we know for sure that two lying shits caused the deaths of over 100,000 Iraquis and quite a few of ours too, here's something they even found funny when I was in Peru: http://www.draytonbird.net/draytons_blog/mylove.wmv

Turn up the sound, and shed a silent tear.

Friday, 27 November 2009

My idea of hell

I just got one of those emails that remind me how glad I am I don't work for an "organisation". It gave "details of our guide to holding reviews for your executive team."

It only takes the words "executive team" to start the nausea. Then the message went on:

Topics covered in the Video Seminar include:

- Suggestions for how to structure the reviews
- The step-by-step process
- Key questions to ask each member of the team (CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, COO)
- How to encourage excellence in the executive team
- Case Study

Samples of the types of questions answered in the video seminar include:

- What are the most crucial aspects of the CEO's role in performance reviews? Who else is involved in developing and issuing the review?
- What are the most commonly cited benefits of performance reviews? What are the disadvantages?
- Which aspect of the review process do CEOs find the most challenging?
- What are the basic components of a well organized review process? Which criteria are used for reviewing members of the executive team?
- What is the best format for discussing the review with the executive? When is a group or peer-review process appropriate? How is this conducted?
- What leadership skills can CEOs use to encourage excellence in the executive team? What leadership skills do you like to see used by the executive team?
- How does the review process help to establish personal or career goals? Why is this important to developing excellence?

And so on. Great if you're a CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, COO, TWAT or some other set of initials. But what if you're a human being? Sounds like hell to me. The polar opposite of what I think most people look forward to - and I will offer.

What never fails to make me laugh is all this guff about "leadership skills".

When December, season of alcohol, remorse and let's hope we survive next year approaches, I shall cut down on the commercials and dial up the bad jokes.

The great Guinea Pig search begins on Monday

I'll explain that festive Guinea pig in a moment, but this is your chance to exercise your right to democracy, folks.

You may never had the chance to vote for the demented Haggis who has ruined us all. You may never have had the chance to vote for the Belgian who will be telling us where to stick our Euros. You'll certainly never have the chance to decide which country we invade next. But you do have the chance to vote on whether I'm mad or not.

That inspiring preamble relates to what I wrote last week about my new Commonsense Marketing Programme. I asked people to say maybe if they were interested and also started emailing everyone on my database - so if you read this and are on that you'll have heard from me twice. Sorry to be a bore!

The reaction to all this has astounded me, to be honest. Hundreds and hundreds have replied - about 10% and as much as 24% open rate, if these things interest you - and we haven't finished counting. A few have just said "I'm in" before I've got the ordering process sorted out. But I should admit that this is not an idea that popped into my mind. I've been agonising over it for over two years.

The big problem was, as ever in marketing, positioning. I didn't want to offer yet another "Dream yourself rich in 11 minutes just like truckdriver Irving Buttswoggle did last week" load of drivel. But I didn't want to do one of those dire corporate things that induce catatonic trance within 20 minutes. I just wanted to do something like what I've been doing for umpteen years that would work for everyone from the lonely entrepreneur to all those poor buggers trapped in the great corporate desert who want to make things happen. In other words, make it practical, make it entertaining and make it relevant to everyone from top to bottom

And if you're reading this and wondering what the hell I'm talking about, go here and you can vote on the three elements of my idea
If you have trouble, write to my resident webloon, Al@draytonbird.com - we have had problems with folk on G-mail

Anyhow, next Monday I shall be asking for real live Guinea Pigs who want to try it for 28 days free to see what they think. I've already learned a ton from the comments of everyone who saw the videos - two people said things today that have made me change my mind. But I'm sure I'll learn even more.

So, thanks a million to all of you who took the trouble to vote.

This is for my old friend ... he knows who he is ...

This, which is apparently a Russian wedding photo is one of the most watched images lately. I can't imagine why. The girls in the office thought it was horrible, but the guy in the picture seems to be smiling for some reason. Maybe it's the champagne

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Jeremy Clarkson they wouldn't print … I LOVE it!

This is the one the Sunday Times wouldn’t print. Maybe because it says what we all think?

"Get me a rope before Mandelson wipes us all out"

I've given the matter a great deal of thought all week, and I'm afraid I've decided that it's no good putting Peter Mandelson in a prison. I'm afraid he will have to be tied to the front of a van and driven round the country until he isn't alive any more.

He announced last week that middle-class children will simply not be allowed into the country's top universities even if they have 4,000 A-levels, because all the places will be taken by Albanians and guillemots and whatever other stupid bandwagon the conniving idiot has leapt onto.

I hate Peter Mandelson. I hate his fondness for extremely pale blue jeans and I hate that preposterous moustache he used to sport in the days when he didn't bother trying to cover up his left-wing fanaticism. I hate the way he quite literally lords it over us even though he's resigned in disgrace twice, and now holds an important decision-making job for which he was not elected. Mostly, though, I hate him because his one-man war on the bright and the witty and the successful means that half my friends now seem to be taking leave of their senses.

There's talk of emigration in the air. It's everywhere I go. Parties. Work. In the supermarket. My daughter is working herself half to death to get good grades at GSCE and can't see the point because she won't be going to university, because she doesn't have a beak or flippers or a qualification in washing windscreens at the lights. She wonders, often, why we don't live in America.

Then you have the chaps and chapesses who can't stand the constant raids on their wallets and their privacy. They can't understand why they are taxed at 50% on their income and then taxed again for driving into the nation's capital. They can't understand what happened to the hunt for the weapons of mass destruction. They can't understand anything. They see the Highway Wombles in those brand new 4x4s that they paid for, and they see the M4 bus lane and they see the speed cameras and the community support officers and they see the Albanians stealing their wheelbarrows and nothing can be done because it's racist.

And they see Alistair Darling handing over £4,350 of their money to not sort out the banking crisis that he doesn't understand because he's a small-town solicitor, and they see the stupid war on drugs and the war on drink and the war on smoking and the war on hunting and the war on fun and the war on scientists and the obsession with the climate and the price of train fares soaring past £1,000 and the Guardian power-brokers getting uppity about one shot baboon and not uppity at all about all the dead soldiers in Afghanistan, and how they got rid of Blair only to find the lying twerp is now going to come back even more powerful than ever, and they think, "I've had enough of this. I'm off."

It's a lovely idea, to get out of this stupid, Fairtrade, Brown-stained, Mandelson-skewed, equal-opportunities, multicultural, carbon-neutral, trendily left, regionally assembled, big-government, trilingual, mosque-drenched, all-the-pigs-are-equal, property-is-theft hellhole and set up shop somewhere else. But where?

You can't go to France because you need to complete 17 forms in triplicate every time you want to build a greenhouse, and you can't go to Switzerland because you will be reported to your neighbours by the police and subsequently shot in the head if you don't sweep your lawn properly, and you can't go to Italy because you'll soon tire of waking up in the morning to find a horse's head in your bed because you forgot to give a man called Don a bundle of used notes for "organising" a plumber.

You can't go to Australia because it's full of things that will eat you, you can't go to New Zealand because they don't accept anyone who is more than 40 and you can't go to Monte Carlo because they don't accept anyone who has less than 40 mill. And you can't go to Spain because you're not called Del and you weren't involved in the Walthamstow blag. And you can't go to Germany ... because you just can't.

The Caribbean sounds tempting, but there is no work, which means that one day, whether you like it or not, you'll end up like all the other expats, with a nose like a burst beetroot, wondering if it's okay to have a small sharpener at 10 in the morning. And, as I keep explaining to my daughter, we can't go to America because if you catch a cold over there, the health system is designed in such a way that you end up without a house. Or dead.

Canada's full of people pretending to be French, South Africa's too risky, Russia's worse and everywhere else is too full of snow, too full of flies or too full of people who want to cut your head off on the internet. So you can dream all you like about upping sticks and moving to a country that doesn't help itself to half of everything you earn and then spend the money it gets on bus lanes and advertisements about the dangers of salt. But wherever you go you'll wind up an alcoholic or dead or bored or in a cellar, in an orange jumpsuit, gently wetting yourself on the web. All of these things are worse than being persecuted for eating a sandwich at the wheel.

I see no reason to be miserable. Yes, Britain now is worse than it's been for decades, but the lunatics who've made it so ghastly are on their way out. Soon, they will be back in Hackney with their South African nuclear-free peace polenta. And instead the show will be run by a bloke whose dad has a wallpaper shop and possibly, terrifyingly, a twerp in Belgium whose fruitless game of hunt-the-WMD has netted him £15m on the lecture circuit. [Obviously written before Rumpy Pumpy got the job].

So actually I do see a reason to be miserable. Which is why I think it's a good idea to tie Peter Mandelson to a van. Such an act would be cruel and barbaric and inhuman. But it would at least cheer everyone up a bit in the meantime.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

What two great writers had in common with grandpa Bird

How many modern writers have given as much pleasure as P. G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler?

Chandler was perhaps the best crime novelist ever; and he had a huge influence, inspiring films like Chinatown and many others. Wodehouse began as a writer of musicals, which may be why his stuff works so well on TV.

A while ago I learned to my childish pleasure that both went to Dulwich College at the same time as my grandfather. And this summer I was thrilled to bits when one of my relatives gave me this picture. In the middle holding the cup is P .G. Wodehouse (though with his name misspelt) and second on the top right is Grandpa.

Their Headmaster, A. H. Gilkes - clearly a great teacher – must have influenced the boys considerably. He gave no quarter to "word sophistry or posing" according to Chandler's biographer Tom Hiney. Maybe that is why both these great writers have such a satisfyingly simple style.

Conversely you will notice that word sophistry and posing are de rigeur for the marketing drones who fill meetings and documents with turgid oceans of polysyllabic tripe. Maybe they help in getting ahead and extracting money from weak minds, impressed by what they don’t understand. Look through almost any marketing document and you find that for wordy drivel it is in the same class as any politician's speeches. This is a shame, as many who do not have weak minds care a lot about clear writing.

In a survey some years ago, US business leaders were asked what change they would most like to see. They didn't talk about accounting or strategy. Mostly they pleaded: "can't someone teach people to write better?"

Since neary all business writing is aimed, one way or another, at clarifying or persuading someone of something, this is important. Good writing is not easy - I've been struggling at it for decades - but it is simple.

Here are seven pointers.

  1. Never use a word more than you need.
  2. Don’t use a long word if a short one will do.
  3. Don’t use jargon.
  4. Don’t use clichés.
  5. Edit at least five times.
  6. Read out loud for sense.
  7. Study Chandler and Wodehouse to see how it’s done.

File this under "Who gives a fuck": another total wank from Wolff, Olins

Those of you who are connoisseurs of ugliness will know that a few million have been pissed away on the astoundingly ugly British Olympics logo, which is the visual equivalent of dog shit.

Now I see the corporate idiots who mismanage AOL (fondly known to those who have suffered from their service as Arseholes On Line) have found their design soul-mates by getting the same firm to design a new logo.

You can just see what masquerades as thinking behind this. Quite simply, some boardroom monkey got sold a bill of goods under the heading of "rebranding". CorporoTwats just love rebranding because it calls for so much less thought or effort than trying to produce a better service than their competitors. You just pay some wankers in ponytails to do a new design and - hey, all the punters are just bound to say - "Ah. AOL have a new logo. Let's all forget about the shit service they gave me and switch back to them." Right? Wrong.

This little piece of witless marketing masturbation was announced as follows. "To coincide with its de-coupling from Time Warner and its shares being offered on the NYSE, AOL is unveiling a new logo. Designed by Wolff Olins, the new ID re-imagines AOL as Aol.".

Re-imagines? Re-imagines? What utter bollocks. Anyhow, the period in "Aol." is part of the logo, not just to tell you that a sentence has ended; and the lower case letters "are designed to be viewed against a backdrop of different images."

Aol. says its new logo is "a simple, confident logotype, revealed by ever-changing images. It's one consistent logo with countless ways to reveal." To reveal what? Probably the vast, echoing vacuum that passes for strategy in their business.

Angels and ministers of grace defend us from such tripehounds.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

This picture says all you need to know about this wretched poser and the troops he betrayed

Not all MBAs are evil ...

If only more people listened to the advice of "Not hiring MBAs" began one comment I got yesterday. It was from Phillip Burmeister who told the story of a mine in South Africa that had to close thanks to bunch of newly employed MBAs screwing it up. They never thought they needed to include driveways for trucks to the extract the ore... That was after they fired all the mining engineers because the engineers didn't know enough about business.

The second from Brian Steele told the tale of the MBA boss in the West Country who was so “busy pouring out spreadsheets by the dozen that he missed the fact that the company was losing money hand over fist and after a blazing row I left as did most of my team. Just six months later the business went into liquidation with almost 80 good people losing their jobs. As you might imagine I'm not over keen on MBAs although I'm sure there are a few good ones about.”

He’s right there. My old boss Sir Martin Sorrell has a Harvard MBA, if my memory serves me right. But that is not what impressed me about him. He has three far more important characteristics besides native talent. First, he never gives up even when most people would go into a corner and curl up. Second, he works astoundingly hard. Third, he always replies almost immediately to messages - or he has to mine - which is astounding in someone so busy running round the world.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Watch out, Google’s about. Keep an eye on this … or risk failure

The picture has nothing to do with Google. It's me in the Old London bar in Minsk last Sunday, and it's there just because I like it.

Now to business, with a statistic for you.

The penetration of mobile phones in Romania is 130%. Yes. More mobiles than people.

How about home computers? A fraction of that.

Don't think Romania has nothing to do with you? It’s the same everywhere. More mobiles than computers. Usually a lot more.

While you think about that, here’s a little quiz.

1. Which is easier to use? A computer or a phone?

2. Which is quickest to turn on?

3. Is it easier to respond via text or via e-mail?

4. Are you always as close to your computer as you are to your phone?

5. Can the mobile now do many things a computer can?

6. How soon before it can do all – and more?

The answers to those questions explain why last week I did a video interview with Henry Cazalet whose business is text marketing.

I think anyone who misses the boat on this will end up like a lot of those who failed to realise the implications of the internet. On the street.

I was greatly intrigued by what Henry said - especially the figures on what happens if you add text response to your ads, and I will be putting the interview out as part of the Commonsense Marketing Programme I mentioned on Friday. These interviews are all with people who can help you do better - or avoid doing worse.

Now, here's what my friend Glenmore told me about Google’s latest venture, which is relevant, to say the least.

They’re going to launch a system offering free calls - along with what sounds like a hell of a handset.

For the first time, one company will control everything from the software in users’ phones to the services they use to make calls and surf the web.

The Googlephone will have a large touchscreen display and a processor almost twice as fast as Apple’s iPhone 3GS.

Interesting times.

And thank you again for so many replies to my Friday blog. I e-mailed the oldest part of my helpful ideas list and got a very high response.

Many of you wanted a clearer idea of what I was on about. You can do so if you go to http://www.draytonbird.net/dbl/index.asp. You will see 3 very short videos there If you vote, you'll then get more details.

Then if you're still interested, well, I will be looking for a few real live guinea pigs soon** I should say that we already have a few people who want to ahead anyhow, so let me know if you're interested.

** When I was lecturing in Peru a few years ago I discovered that the national dish is guinea pig. Like a cross between chicken and rabbit. Not bad, but I wouldn't make a habit of it.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Tales of Minsk, plus a golden oldie from that fount of jokes, GTH

First of all, thanks to everyone who responded to my little plea yesterday. And if you were thinking of doing so but didn't get round to it, please do. All contributions gratefully received.

Enough of that. When I got to Minsk on Friday the greeting at the Visa office reminded me of my first visit to the old USSR 29 years ago, when the very idea that the customer might be right was anathema.

A deeply unpleasant little bureaucrat who clearly hadn't had sex with anything except unwashed domestic animals for many months told me that the document I produced was the wrong one, and I had to pay lots of money to come in and "this is very bad".

He was unmoved by the fact that the said turgid form was downloaded from their own consulate's website and there was a facsimile posted not twenty yards from where his skinny little arse was plonked. My worries (am I going straight back to London without making a speech?) only subsided when the lovely Olga Parkhimovich came in with some dollars to rescue me.

The first night was a drinks get-together chiefly notable for the astonishing quantities of brandy two local businessmen on my table managed to get through. It reminded me of Dr. Johnson's adage. "Claret is for boys, port is for men: but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy".

The audience yesterday was amazingly enthusiastic, except for one or two professors from business schools who were furious because I always make marketing seem simple, when their entire racket is based on making it seem complicated. Neither of the two most famous business schools I have spoken at could promote or run a seminar properly. One I have been dealing with recently (allegedly one of the world's top three) can't even manage to arrange a meeting as far as I can see.

At a press conference yesterday someone asked what three pieces of advice I would give to local businessmen. I said: 1. Measure everything. 2. Ban meetings. 3. Never hire MBAs.

Someone asked me about the last bit, which I confess is a little extreme. I said, "Because they are taught to run things before they have done them."

But leaving that aside, here's an oldie my pal Glenmore sent me.

A father walks into a market with his young son. The kid is holding a 50 pence coin. Suddenly, the boy starts choking, going blue in the face.
The father realizes the boy has swallowed the coin and starts panicking, shouting for help. A well dressed, attractive, but serious-looking woman in a blue business suit is sitting at a coffee bar in the market, reading her newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee.

At the sound of the commotion, she looks up, puts her coffee cup down on the saucer, neatly folds the newspaper and places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way, unhurried, across the market.. Reaching the boy, the woman carefully takes hold of his testicles and starts to squeeze, gently at first and then ever more firmly.
After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and coughs up the coin, which the woman deftly catches in her free hand. Releasing the boy, the woman hands the money to the father and walks back to her seat without saying a word.

As soon as he is sure his son has suffered no lasting ill effects, the father rushes over to the woman and starts thanking her saying, "I've never seen anybody do anything like that before, it was fantastic.. Are you a doctor?" No," the woman replies, "I work for the Income Tax."

I suspect that as we spend the next few years coughing up to pay for the Brooding Toad's awe-inspiring hubris and incompetence that little joke will take on a certain poignancy. And of course, the higher tax rates will themselves discourage entrepreneurship.